Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Downbeat, Premier Guitar Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, The New York Press, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

New Audio: French Singer-Songwriter Laure Briard Releases a Breezy and Bittersweet New Single

Throughout the course of last year, I wrote a bit about the rising Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter Laure Briard. Briard has had an uncommon path to professional music: the French singer/songwriter bounced around several different interests and passions, including studying literature and criminology, and even doing a bit of acting before concentrating on music full-time on music back in 2013.

The Toulouse-based singer/songwriter initially signed with Tricatel Records, who released her debut EP. After the EP’s release, Briard met with Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on what would become her attention grabbing full-length debut, 2015’s Révélation, an effort inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan that featured a very modern and poetic lyricism. She then signed with Midnight Special Records, who released her sophomore album, 2016’s Sur la Piste de Danse.

Since Sur la Pisa de Danse, Briard’s work has increasingly been influenced by Bossa nova: 2018’s Coração Louco, featured lyrics written and sung in Portuguese — and a guest spot from acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays and Latin Grammy Award nominated act Boogarins. 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit, which was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States continued Briard’s ongoing love affair with Bossa nova and Brazilian music.

Slated for a February 19, 2021 through Michel Records in North America, Dinosaur City Records in Australia and Midnight Special Records in Europe, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s forthcoming EP En Voo sees Briard continuing her successful collaboration with Boogarins, as well as with her longtime collaborators Vincent Guyot, a.k.a. Octopus and Marius Duflot. If you were frequenting this site over the course of last year, you may recall that I wrote about En VOO’s first single, EP title track “En Voo,” 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM radio rock-like take on Bossa nova, featuring Briard’s ethereal vocals cooing in Portuguese, twinkling Rhodes, shimmering guitars and jazz-fusion that evokes the swooning euphoria of reuniting with a long-lost love.

“Supertrama,” En Voo’s second and latest single continues in a similar vein as its predecessor: 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM rock featuring twinkling piano, shuffling jazz-like drumming, a sinuous bass line, a regal horn arrangement, angular bursts of guitar and a soaring hook within an expansive yet breezy song arrangement. But just underneath the breezy surface, the song evokes a familiar bittersweet ache. The track can trace its origins to a piano melody that Briard wrote in France. She then took the track too Brazilian musician and composer Giovanni Cidreira, who helped write the song’s lyrics. The track, along with the rest of the EP was recorded in São Paulo-based Dissenso Studio with Boogarins as her backing band.

“I met Giovani through the Boogarins, who he both collaborates and shares a friendship with,” Briard says of her collaboration with Cidreira. “I admire Giovani’s voice, his words, his stories, and the possibility of working with him one day quickly became a reality. Once I’d written the melody of ‘Supertrama,’ I took the plunge and asked Giovani if he would write the lyrics with me. He took the melody and wrote lyrics which don’t quite tell a story, but rather feelings, impressions, and memories. Just like the rest of the EP, the arrangements were made in real time in the studio. Pieuvre Convex was responsible for the final modulation of the track – he’s a king in that area!”

New Video: Canadian Art Rocker Art d’Ecco Releases a Flashy VIsual for Shimmering Glam Inspired Strut

Although he’s a grizzled Vancouver music scene vet, who once played in a band with acclaimed producer and ACTORS frontman Jason Corbett, the mysterious and enigmatic British Columbia-based singer/songwriter now known as Art d’Ecco emerged as a dark bobbed hair wearing, androgynous and charismatic glam and art rock-inspired presence with the release of 2018’s critically applauded, full-length debut Trespasser.

Since the release of Trespasser, the Canadian art rocker has played a live sessions for Seattle’s KEXP and played more than 75 clubs and music festivals across North America. Last spring, opened for acclaimed UK-based psych rock act Temples before the pandemic struck. “Trespasser was the start of a two-yeah r ride taking me to all sorts of places I’d never been to,” the acclaimed British Columbia-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Seeing how different cultures interact with entertainment was the genesis for In Standard Definition. A lot of this record was actually written on the road late at night in motel rooms – with the flickering light of a television in the background.”

Sonically, the forthcoming, Colin Stewart-produced In Standard Definition was recorded on 2-inch tape with a handpicked, rotating cast of musicians that featured jazz and blues-trained horn player, Victoria Symphony Orchestra string players, soul singers and his backing band on a 50 year old console at The Hive. Sonically, the album will reportedly find the acclaimed Canadian art rocker further establishing a sound that some critics have described as neo-glam. Although interestingly enough, the album’s overall sound and aesthetic draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including elements of 50s pop, psychedelia, Velvet Underground-like art rock, Grimes-inspired electronics, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and Brian Eno among others. “I’m obsessed with tape, film, and sounds of yesteryear, so recording could only be analogue – in standard definition – the way entertainment was once created,” d’Ecco explains. “I wanted to go back in time, exist in a different era and breathe my creativity through it.”

Thematically, the album holds up a mirror to pop culture and explores our obsessions with entertainment and celebrity. “No matter where you live or what language you speak, there’s an entertainment god for you,” d’Ecco explains in press notes. “Whether on TV or writing the books you read, it’s an odd sense of purpose we allocate to these humans whose talent is in distracting us from the doldrums of daily life. We’re constantly searching for something… glued to our phones… consuming various forms of entertainment. We feel less close with each other, and closer to the strangers who make us feel good.”

In Standard Definition’s first single, the infectious “TV God” is a shimmering glam rock-like strut featuring twinkling piano stabs, punchily delivered lyrics, soulful backing vocals, an angular bass line, a scorching guitar solo and blasts of squiggling synths that sonically feels like a slick synthesis of ’77 punk, Ziggie Stardust-era Bowie and Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, centered around anthemic hooks.

The recently released flashy video features the acclaimed Canadian rocker and his backing band performing the song in a smoky studio — and all of them, especially Art d’Ecco serves up some fierce as fuck looks with swaggering self-assuredness

Singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Christopher Goett may be best known for his work in Silo Halo. And after a decade stint in Washington, D.C., Goett returned to Los Angeles — and he quickly amassed a growing collection of songs. Interestingly, Goett credits his longtime friend, Sleepmask’s and Dreamland’s Adam D’Zurilla with encouraging him to further explore and expand upon those early song ideas. The end result is Goett’s latest project, the post punk/shoegaze act Blackout Transmission

With the addition of Kevin Cluppert (bass) and Teenage’s Wrist’s Anthony Salazar (drums), the band’s lineup was solidified, and their sound and arrangements were fleshed out. Late last year, the members of Blackout Transmission started playing shows, developing and harnessing their live chemistry before they went to Long Beach-based Dream Machine Studio to record most of their Scott Holmes co-produced, eight song, full-length debut, Sparse Illumination. “Scott pushed me in the best way to reimagine elements of my approach” says Goett, “as such we captured the vibe and feel that I was seeking with these songs.”

As a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Goett was forced to finalize his overdubs at his home studio, Twin Dragon West, where he wound up writing and recording two of the album’s eight songs. Despite where the material was written and recorded, the end result is an album that finds the band crafting material that’s a seamless lysergic journey seemingly influenced by Echo and the BunnymenThe Verve, and others. 

Late last year, I wrote about Sparse Illumination‘s first single, the brooding and expansive “Portals,” a track centered round a sinuous bass line, thunderous drumming, swirling reverb and delay pedaled guitar that possessed the painterly and lysergic textures of The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven. The album’s second single “Heavy Circles,” continues a bit in the vein of its immediate predecessor — brooding and shimmering atmospherics paired with dramatic and forceful drumming; but while having the sort of dusty, desert road quality that reminds me of Starfish and Gold Afternoon Fix-era The Church.

Sparse Illumination is slated for a February 19, 2021 through Etxe Records.

New VIdeo: Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes Release a Surreal Visual for Enormous “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again”

oAs 2020 mercifully came to a close, I wound up writing a bit about the acclaimed acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated Montreal-based indie rock act The Besnard Lakes. The Canadian sextet — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003, and since their formation, the band has released five albums of atmospheric and textured shoegaze that some critics have described as magisterial and cinematic.

After the release of 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, the members of the acclaimed Montreal-based act and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar mutually decided that it was time to end their relationship and go their separate ways. And although the move was amicable between both parties, the band began to question whether or not it made sense to even continue as a band. But fueled by their love for each other and for playing music together, the members of The Besnard Lakes settled in to write and record what may arguably be considered the most uncompromising effort of their catalog to date, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings.

Unlike their previously released material, the members of the Montreal-based went with a much more patient creative approach, taking all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Interestingly, some of the album’s songs are old and can trace their origins back to resurrected demos that they had been left on the shelf years prior. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek’s and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch, with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.

Thematically, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings finds the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side, and coming back from the brink of annihilation. And while touching upon the band’s own story, the album also is a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — particularly Lasek’s father, who died last year. From what Lasek observed of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense psychedelic trip of anyone’s life” at one point Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket, with “a carpenter inside of it, making objects.” All of this manages to imbue the album’s material with an almost fever dream-like quality.

So far I’ve written about two of The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings’ singles:

“Raindrops,” a slow-burning shoegazer with a painterly attention to gradation and texture, centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and a euphoric hook.
“Feuds With Guns,” a dream pop-like synthesis of Prince and Beach House featuring thunderous drumming, anthemic power chord-based riffs, twinkling keys and a soaring hook.

The Besnard Lakes begin 2021 with their forthcoming album’s third and latest single “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again.” Clocking in 6:39, the expansive song is centered around two alternating sections: a slow-burning and atmospheric section featuring ethereal female lead vocals, glistening and atmospheric synths that slowly build up in intensity with the addition of chugging power chords, thumping tribal-like drums and layered choral-like vocals. The end result is a song that’s a prog rock meets Beach Boys-like take on shoegaze that feels oceanic.

“The track started as an Oggy Film Song,” the band shares in press notes. “A skeletal version of the song had been in the Besnard vault for several years after we initially rejected it for a film soundtrack. It went through a couple drafts before we tore it apart, rejiggered some parts and resurrected it to its new form. The song is an ode to logic and intuition and being able to learn from the past.”

Directed by Dr. Cool, the recently released video for “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again” is an animated and lysergic fever dream that features divers projected onto city buildings, electrical outlets turn into signing houses moving across the horizon and a horse runs across the changing skyline. It’s a mind-bending and gorgeous visual.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is slated for a January 29, 2021 release through Fat Cat Records here in the States and through Flemish Eye in their native Canada.

The Besnard Lakes have announced 3 livestream shows in support of the forthcoming album. Hosted by Noonchorus, the band’s live streams will be February 5, 2021; March 6, 2021; and April 3, 2021. The streams will go live at 7:00pm EST for each show and tickets are available here: https://noonchorus.com/the-besnard-lakes/