Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in 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.

Flora Hibberd is a rapidly rising London-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter — and with the release of “The Absentee” and “In Violence” off her recently released J.C. Wright–produced debut EP, The Absentee, the London-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter, who cites Nick Cave, Joan Baez and Jacques Brel among others, has already had her early work described as “intelligent and measured . . ” and her songs “deeply rooted in the timeless lyricism of Dylan and Cohen.”

Interestingly, as Hibberd says in press notes. “‘The songs of this EP emerged over months and years, and were refined in bars, apartments and on the streets. ‘The Absentee’ was written fifty metres below the English Channel, three years ago. ‘In Violence’ was written in 2017 in the garden of the Musée Rodin. Their influences are too many to name; random encounters with poetry, art, music and language in all its forms have bled into my writing in ways of which I am often unaware. They are about real people and real events. But they are also about impossible people, and impossible events. My hope is that they find you here, on the blurred edge between reality and dreams, in the half-awake place where the familiar merges with the unknown.”

“As Long as There Is Night,” the EP’s latest single is a gorgeous song centered around a spectral arrangement of shimmering and soaring strings, strummed acoustic guitar and Hibberd’s mesmerizing vocals. And while clearly drawing from a timeless folk tradition, “As Long as There Is Night” manages to simultaneously evoke a lingering and bittersweet fever dream and an aching longing for those things, places you can never get back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Absentee EP is out November 1st, on ClearLight Records / Declared Goods

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I’ve written quite a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse over the past couple of years — and as you may recall, the act, which features core duo, singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon has received attention from this site and elsewhere for crafting infectious, hook-driven material centered around dark and heavy grooves. But with each successive single, the do has managed to subtly expand upon the sound that captured this site and the rest of the blogosphere.

Interestingly, the duo’s latest single “Lover’s Calling” continues a run of hooky, synth-driven tracks, centered around atmospheric synth arpeggios, blasts of shimmering guitars, Arango’s plaintive vocals and a chugging rhythm — and while seemingly drawing from 80s New Wave and pop, the song is actually about a deeply personal yet universal, lived-in experience. “I was restless when I wrote this song,” Rebeca Arango says in press notes. “Change was inevitable, but I was afraid to act. I imagined all sorts of destructive consequences—hurt feelings, loss of status, judgement, stability—none of them real. In avoidance, I went numb for a while. Then one night came a full moon, a new experience, a new flirtation. It was just enough of a taste, of a fuller, deeper, mountaintop connection, to remind me that I still had life in me and something better was waiting. So I stopped clinging and let the cards fall. Because no one wants to be on their death bed wondering “what if?”

 

 

 

 

Eva Lawitts is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has been both a session and touring musician for the likes of Vagabon and Princess Nokia — and she’s also known as one-half of the production and engineering team at
Brooklyn-based Wonderpark Studios.
Lawitts’ recording project Stimmerman finds the New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer stepping out into the limelight as a solo artist — and as a musical force to be reckoned with. Her Stimmerman full-length debut Goofballs is slated for release at the end of the year, and as Lawitts explains in press notes,  “the album is more or less about loss and survivor’s guilt: it’s a meditation on a friend’s fatal overdose at a young age through that lens. Side A of the album focuses on looking back at the environment in which our friendship started — pressures imposed on chidden to be successful, growing up too fast in all the wrong ways, and the often debauched nature of our great and terrible adolescence here in Brooklyn. Side B centers me more as an unreliable narrator, and features songs about grief and culpability in a close friend’s death, some of which are, I believe, misguided.”
“The name ‘Goofballs’ is twofold,” Lawitts continues. “I think this album recaptures some of the sense of humor my other projects have had that the first Stimmerman EP lacked, and of course, there is the drug allusion — ‘Goofballs’ meaning barbiturates or any cocktail thereof.” 
Now, as you may recall, earlier this month I wrote about album single “It Shows.” Centered around a classic, grunge rock song structure — alternating quiet verses and loud choruses — the song features enormous, arena rock friendly power chords, thunderous drumming and howled vocals. And while bearing a resemblance to Bleach-era Nirvana, PJ Harvey and others, the song evoked the uneasy internal struggle of its narrator, a character, who simultaneously strikes out against themselves and others, to no avail or satisfaction. Interestingly, the album’s third and latest single “Dentist vs. Pharmacist” is centered around a expansive, mind-altering arrangement that vacillates between dense and explosive math rock in which the listener is pummeled by thunderous drumming, muscular power chords and howled lyrics, shoegazey dream pop and experimental jazz. But at its core is a seething frustration that comes from being pinned in and forced to be and accept things you can never do.
“I wrote this song directly after having lunch with a friend fm one who went to middle school (Mark Twain) and high school (Laguardia) with me,” Lawitts explained in an interview with Audiofemme,” and it was directly influenced (stolen? I don’t know) by a conversation we had about this kind of half-joke about modern Russian fatalism, which was that so many of the kids we went to middle school with were raised with only two possible tracts they could follow into adulthood — they could become a dentist or they could become a pharmacist. This is the highest achievement you could attain. This was the gleaming dream of our Russian and Jewish cohorts of yesteryear. We were being silly about it, but within that silliness are many real wounds about the expectations of our own parents, their parents, and an examination of how we can possibly honor the sacrifices made by our families while still attempting to function in a world that is basically incalculably different than anything they could have possibly conceived of when they made those sacrifices. Fuck! And also I just wanted to scream.”

 

New Video: Rising British Pop Artist Jordan Mackampa Releases a Symbolic Visual for “Parachutes”

Jordan Mackampa is a rising London-born and-based Congolese-British singer/songwriter. With the release of “Under” earlier this year and 2016’s Physics EP, and 2017’s Tales From The Broken EP and Live from the Grand Cru EP, Mackampa has received critical praise from NME, The 405, The Line of Best Fit, Clash, Indie Shuffle, Wonderland and others — with all of his previously released material amassing over 50 million Spotify streams.

Mackampa’s work is inspired by his Congolese roots and his mother’s love of legendary soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. And much like his influences, Mackampa has a developed a reputation for pairing an old school singer/songwriter soul-like vocal delivery with earnest songwriting and catchy melodies with a modern approach. Building upon that momentum, Mackampa’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Foreigner is slated for a March 13, 2020 release. Along with that the rising Congolese-British artist is currently on tour opening for Amber Run  and he has been confirmed to play at next year’s SXSW.

Mackampa’s latest single, “Parachutes” is a breezy yet deliberately crafted track centered around a radio friendly and loose arrangement of twinkling keys, shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and propulsive drumming. But the star of the show is Mackampa’s easygoing and expressive vocals — in this case, Mackampa’s voice evokes the soaring high of being in love and the embittering low of heartache and betrayal within the turn of a phrase.

“‘Parachutes’ encapsulates those situations with people you’ve come across in life; who aren’t who they pretend to be and the person they are with you, isn’t someone you want to be around,” Mackampa explains in press notes. “However because you love them, either platonically or romantically, you’re conflicted by your feelings for them until it gets to a point where you don’t want to be hurt anymore… Nobody is perfect, but if you were trapped in an airplane with them and they had a parachute but you didn’t you would jump out regardless, because any pain you would experience afterwards, won’t be as bad as what you’ve already gone through.”

Directed by Tom Ewbank, the recently released and deeply metaphoric captures the psychological and physical battles of any relationship — essentially saying that sometimes other people can be hellish and torturous. “I wanted this video to capture the mental, and sometimes physical battles we go through in relationships, whether they are platonic or romantic with people in our lives,” Mackampa explains in press notes. “It can sometimes feel as though you’re dealing with two different people, but no one else sees the other person you encounter who brings you pain and hurt, rather than joy. You become inwards within yourself until you can’t take it anymore and have to walk away from them, even if it’s hard.”

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the rapidly rising Brighton, UK-based indie rock band Thyla. The act can trace its origins back to when its founding trio — Millie Duthie, Danny Southwell and Dan Hole — met while attending college. Bonding over shared musical interests, the band’s founding trio started writing material together. But with the addition of Mitch Dutch, the band began to reimagine their sound and aesthetic, centered around a general distaste of what they felt was the stale and boring state of the British recording industry.

Interestingly, during that same period of time, the members of Thyla have helped establish and cement their hometown’s reputation for production a music scene that features some of England’s hottest emerging acts — while playing shows with the likes of Dream WifeLuxury DeathMatt Maltese, YonakaHusky Loops and Lazy Day. They’ve also shared bills with  Sunflower Bean, INHEAVEN and Fickle Friends while being spotlighted alongside Pale Waves, Nilüfer Yanya, and Sorry in NME‘s 100 Essential Acts for 2018.

They’ve continued on the remarkable momentum of last year with their debut EP What’s On Your Mind, which was released earlier this year to reviews from Pitchfork, Stereogum, NME, The Line of Best Fit and Dork. The EP also received airplay from BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6, Radio X and KCRW. Building upon a growing national and international profile, the band has spent a portion of this year on the road opening for Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, played attention-grabbing sets at The Great Escape, Live At Leeds and Hit The North. And adding to a massive year for the band, they also went on their first national UK tour, which included their biggest show to date, at  London’s Electrowerkz.

And while it’s been an extraordinarily busy year for the band, they’ve managed to work on new material, which will compose their highly-anticipated sophomore EP slated for release early next year. Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about the EP’s first, official single, the boldly ambitious “Two Sense,” a single centered around a rousingly anthemic, arena rock friendly hook, explosive power chords, thunderous drumming, earnest vocals and a slick, modern production that emphasizes a band that has grown more confident and self-assured. But along with that the song, featured a purposeful and defiant message about claiming your right to self-determination.

The EP’s second and latest single “Lenox Hill” continues in the same sonic vein as its immediate predecessor, as it features a driving groove, shimmering and angular guitar lines and a rousing hook. And while continuing a run of remarkably self-assured and ambitious songs — it may arguably be the most personal song they’ve written in some time, as it’s an honest and triumphant coming-of-age story that touches upon finding oneself again to figure out where you need to be and need to go.

Lenox Hill is the hospital I was born in, with the track inspired by my early years as a kid living in New York City. It’s an honest and emotional coming-of-age tale,” the band’s Millie Duthie explains in press notes. “Life can take so many turns and you can forget where you came from and what makes you you. The important stuff like family can get set aside in the pursuit of whatever it is that drives you. ‘Lenox Hill’ is about realising you’re lost and deciding to go back to your roots to find the way again.” 

Marika Wittmar is an emerging Swedish singer/songwriter, whose work is inspired by folk, world music, blues jazz, 70s prog rock and Buddhist meditation and female mythology. Her debut EP, Underneath Your Hands was recorded at Gothenburg-based Grammofonstudion earlier this year and the effort, which was reportedly inspired by Wittmar’s life, nature and folklore.

The EP’s latest single is the atmospheric and brooding “Ghosts.” Centered around twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitar lines, a soaring hook and Wittmar’s gorgeous vocals, the track possess a mesmerizing quality reminiscent of Kate BushTales of Us-era Goldfrapp, Melanie De Biasio and Portishead.

 

 

 

November will be a rather busy month: I was just in Syracuse for a wedding — and in 10 days I’ll be in Montreal for the M for Montreal Festival. So I’ll be doing the best I can while on the road with posts. But in the meantime, let’s get back to the work at hand: Kyshona Armstrong is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, who writes and records under the mononym Kyshona. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her musical career to her day job as a music therapist. Initially writing some of her first songs with her patients — the students and inmates under her care, Armstrong felt the need to write independently and find her own creative voice. This endeavor led her to Nashville’s songwriting scene — and since then, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter has learned how to balance her music career with her passion to heal the hurting.

The Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s latest album, the Andrija Tokic-produced Listen is slated for a February 28, 2020 release. Recorded at Tokic’s studio, The Bomb ShelterListen finds Armstrong pairing a sound that effortlessly meshes roots, country soul, country, soul, roots music, rock, R&B and folk with lyrics specifically meant to do two things: uplift the marginalized and to bring awareness of the plight of the marginalized to the masses.

Co-written with her brother Kelvin Armstrong, Listen‘s latest single “Fear” is a strutting, swampy and slow-burning  12 bar blues centered around Armstrong’s effortlessly soulful, powerhouse vocals, twinkling keys, strummed acoustic guitar, blasts of shimmering slide guitar and an enormous hook — and while being both radio friendly and carefully crafted, the song features an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting message.

“Fear is that boogieman that sits quietly in the corner of our minds that can paralyze us the moment confidence enters the picture,” the Nashville-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Rather than listen to that voice that’s telling you why change isn’t possible, call it out. Recognize the fear and move past it. It’s just another wall to be knocked down. We can’t let fear rule our every move. Fear is what has kept us so divided.”