Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in 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 Video: Gorillaz Collaborates with Peven Everett on Their Most House Music-Inspired Track in Years

Created by Blur frontman and founding member Damon Albarn and renowned comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz is a virtual band, featuring animated characters 2D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (guitar) that exploded into with the international scene with the 2001 release of their eponymous debut. The BRIT and Grammy Award-winnng act has since released three critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2005’s Demon Days, 2010’s Plastic Beach and 2011’s The Fall and with each of their four previously released albums the act has topped charts around the world, receiving millions of streams, selling millions of copies and playing arenas, clubs and festivals from San Diego to Syria. Along with that the act has won the Jim Henson Creativity Honor and have been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act. 

Humanz, the virtual act’s fifth and latest album was released to critical applause last month and the album has continued the band’s incredible run of commercial successes with the album landing at number 1 and number 2 on the US and UK charts respectively, as well as topping the iTunes chart in over 60 different countries. Produced by Gorillaz, The Twilite Tone of D /\ P and Remi Kabaka, the album was recorded in studios in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Jamaica and has the members of the virtual band — er, Damon Albarn and company — collaborating with an eclectic and accomplished array of contemporary artists including Savages’ Jehnny Beth, Danny Brown, Benjamin Clementine, De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Anthony Hamilton, Grace Jones (!!!), Zebra Katz, Mavis Staples (!!!), Vince Staples, Popcaan, Pusha T., Peven Everett and others. 

Humanz’s latest single “Strobelite” features the members of Gorillaz collaborating with Harvey, IL-born, Chicago, IL-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Peven Everett, an artist whose work has spanned across R&B, jazz, hip-hop and house music.  The Harvey, IL-born, Chicago-based artist received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music when he was 17 before leaving to collaborate with the likes of Betty Carter, Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis. Since then Everett has contributed trumpet on a handful of jazz recordings, including Curtis Lundy’s Against All Odds while becoming a leading figure in Chicago’s house, soul and R&B communities, releasing seven solo albums. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Gorillaz collaboration with Everett is the most dance floor-friendly track they’ve released in several years — since, perhaps “Dare” off Demon Days, as the album’s  latest single features Everett’s soulful crooning singing uplifting lyrics over a club banging, Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles-era house music production featuring cosmic ray-like synths, twinkling keys and dance floor-friendly beats; it’s frankly the sort of song that’s so uplifting that you’d have to dance and smile — and if you didn’t there was something deeply wrong about you. 

Directed by Stoke, UK-native Raoul Skinbeck, the recently released video for “Strobelite” features Peven Everett with the members of Gorillaz and a multicultural cast of clubgoers tearing up a London nightclub and if there’s one thing that the video confirms in an increasingly unsettled and frightening world that it’s the things that remind us of our humanity that unite us — that music has the power to let us escape for a little bit, to have us fall in love, and to remind us of who and what we are; and that there’s freedom on the dance floor. 

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Earlier this month, I wrote about Joseph W. Salusbury, an up-and-coming Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has a number of songwriting and production credits including cowrites on Majid Jordan‘s “Something About You” and Illangelo‘s “Your Future’s Not Mine, and vocal production on Nelly Furtado and Blood Orange‘s “Hadron Collider;” however, earlier this year, Salusbury stepped out from behind the production desk with his solo recording project Joseph of Mercury and three singles “Without Words,” “Young Thing” and “Find You Inside.” And with this three early singles, Salusbury quickly established a reputation for crafting melancholic, slow-burning synth pop that draws from a diverse range of influences, including David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Future Islands and Lower Dens among others, paired with his aching baritone crooning.

Find You Inside, Salusbury’s Joseph of Mercury debut is slated for a September 1, 2017 release, and Salusbury celebrated the release announcement with a live, spectral rendition of EP single “Without Words” featuring the up-and-coming Canadian pop artist accompanying himself with guitar, and what makes this rendition so compelling to me is that it pulls out the raw, aching emotion at the core of the song in a way that nods at both Roy Orbison and Nick Hakim.

“Angel,” the fourth and latest single off the Canadian pop crooner’s soon-to-be released EP finds Salusbury meshing 60s pop and classic R&B, anthemic 80s arena rock and contemporary electro pop in a way that reminiscent of both the aforementioned Nick Hakim and Roy Orbison, and of Daughn Gibson — and much like the sources that influenced the song, “Angel” is a sweet, almost old-timey love song written in a way that his contemporaries frankly just seem incapable of doing. As a result, the song is a swooning yet slow-burning  and contemporary torch song in which the song’s narrator confesses his love and devotion with an visceral ache.

 

 

New Video: NVDES Returns With Another Off-Kilter and Anthemic Dance Punk-Inspired Track

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based collective NVDES, an act that I’ve written a bit about over the past 12-18 months or so. And if you may recall, with the release of 2016’s Life With Lobsters, an album consisting of glitchy, summery indie dance pop, the collective fronted by founding member and primary songwriter Josh Ocean received over 10 million streams across all digital platforms, landed on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart, and as a result of rapidly growing buzz, the project’s 2016 effort received praise from The Fader, Nylon and others.

You’ll also remember that I’ve written about the first two singles off NVDES’ recently released La NVDITÉ EP, the breakneck Sound of Silver-era LCD Soundsystem-like “Turning Heads” and the breezy, yet anthemic “Dancer From New York,” and of course, as a blogger, who has run this site for the past seven years, I can tell you that the blogosphere forces artists to strike while the iron is red hot and while the buzz surrounding them is at its apex. And to celebrate the release of the EP, Ocean and company released  La NVDITÉ EP’s latest single, the glitchy and angular “Sugar,” a track that continues along the lines of its predecessors thanks to a breezy yet anthemic vibe but interestingly enough, through the batch of singles they’ve released off the EP, the act have revealed themselves to specialize in off-kilter, global-spanning and genre-smashing yet danceable pop reminiscent of Gorillaz. 
Directed by Jenna Josepher and Guilia Marisco, the recently released for “Sugar” manages to smash the two artists’ unique and varying aesthetics in a way that’s mischievous and disturbing. 

New Video: The Film Noir-Like Visuals for Nadine Shah’s Politically-Charged “Holiday Destination”

Born to Norwegian-English mother and a Pakistani immigrant father, Nadine Shah is a Whitburn, South Tyneside, UK-born, South Shields, UK-based singer/songwriter and pianist, who received attention nationally and elsewhere with her Ben Hillier-produced debut effort, Love Your Dum and Mad, an effort largely inspired by the suicides of two very close friends of hers; in fact, her debut album focuses on the social stigmas towards those suffering from mental health illnesses with an unvarnished candor and empathy. Shah continued her collaboration with co-writer and producer Hillier, with her sophomore album, 2015’s Fast Food, an album that focuses on the ecstasy and agony of short, passionate relationships.

However, while Shah’s third and soon-to-be released album Holiday Destination seems directly influenced by the growing sense of uncertainty, instability, political chaos, polarization, racism and xenophobia of the past year, as the daughter of a Pakistani emigrant, the headlines of the past 12-18 months have played a significant part of her life, and as a result the material may arguably be the most politically charged she’s released to date, as the material thematically touches on the plight of Syrian refuges — in particular, the desperate refugees, who landed on the European and shores, only to discover unmitigated cruelty; her own experiences as a Pakistani woman in the world, and of course much more.  In fact, album title track “Holiday Destination” as Shah explains is press notes is “a response to this really harrowing news piece about migrants and refugees arriving on the shores of Kos in Greece by the thousands. There were some holidaymakers being interviewed, and they were talking about how the situation was ruining their holiday. Despite their total and complete lack of empathy, the thing which shocked me the most was their bold and unashamed stance of saying such things on national television. This is what we’re seeing across the globe: people proudly expressing this hate-fueled rhetoric. It’s like wow — some people really don’t care, and they’ll happily talk about how they don’t care. I just don’t get it.” And as a result, the song’s narrator questions the humanity and decency of the vacationers, who can’t seem to see anything beyond their own pleasure and gratification; but along with that, it leaves a larger, more troubling question for the listener — just whose best interest are at the heart of those in power? And is there a point where humanity trumps profit?

Shah’s latest single should continue to remind you that music is indeed a powerful weapon, as she pairs a fiery outrage with layers of jangling guitars and a motorik-like groove and atmospheric synths in a song that manages to nod at Berlin trilogy-era Bowie and PJ Harvey simultaneously.

Directed by Christian Stephen and produced by Nick Rosier, the recently released video for “Holiday Destination” is shot in a lush and cinematic black and white and follows a trench coat wearing Shah through the streets and alleyways of a decidedly British town, passing by oblivious revelers, street buskers and scenes of every day life.

New Video: The Animated and Psychedelic Visuals for Gordon Raphael’s “Savage”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the summer, you’ve likely come across a couple of posts Seattle, WA-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, and producer Gordon Raphael. As a producer, Raphael has worked with an impressive, who’s who list of contemporary indie rock and rock artists including  The Strokes, Regina Spektor, Damon Albarn, Ian Brown, The Cult‘s  Ian Astbury, Hinds and others; however, Raphael primarily sees himself as a singer/songwriter and guitarist.  “I love producing, but playing guitar and writing songs is what I’ve always done,” Raphael explains in press notes. “I wanted to show what I can do on the other side of the desk all the time, but producing kept getting in the way.”

Raphael’s full-length debut Sleep on the Radio was released last month and the album draws from Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Kimono My House-era Sparks, Frank Zappa and prog rock among others. Reportedly “View From Blue,” the album’s first single was part of over 1,000 songs he had written over the years; but it came from the most unlikely source — from a dream. In particular, “View From Blue” is a part of a selection of 12 songs that were carefully honed and perfected to the point that they were living, breathing and fully fleshed out songs that needed to be played, recorded and heard – – right now.  And as a result, while the song clearly nods at Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie — think “Queen Bitch,”“Panic in Detroit,” and others — the anthemic, hook-laden song possesses a forceful urgency underneath its boozy, free-flowing psychedelia.

“Savage,” Sleep on the Radio‘s latest single sounds as though it draws from Evil Heat-era Primal Scream, Brit Pop and 60s psych pop as twinkling synths, buzzing and whirring electronics are paired with blazing guitar pyrotechnics, an anthemic hook and a  spacey, psychedelic vibe that belies an incredibly sensual nature.  And much like its preceding single, Raphael’s latest reveals him to be a songwriter, who can craft an incredibly catchy hook and has an ability to have both a signature sound and aesthetic while being a musical chameleon, who can morph into any genre, any style at will.

Directed and produced by Marta Figuredo, the recently released animated video is set in a intricately detailed and drab world in which a Raggedy Andy-like Raphael carries a flower that opens up a brightly colored, wildly psychedelic universe. 

New Video: The Vibrant and Energetic Animated Visuals for Gold Fir’s “Night Walk”

Gold Fir is a London-based electro pop act comprised of a rather mysterious duo known only as James and Mabel, and the duo have quickly received attention both nationally and across the international blogosphere for a sound that draws from 80s synth pop, classic course and electro pop in a warmly familiar yet unique fashion, as you’ll hear on “Night Walk,” a track that will remind some listeners of George Michael‘s “I Want Your Sex,” Chaka Khan’s and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,” Chaka Khan‘s “I Feel For You,” and Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait,” but with a boldly self-assured and downright sassy air and an infectious, club-friendly hook. 

Featuring a vivid mix of hand drawn two dimensional animation paired with digitally filmed environments, the recently released video for “Night Walk” specifically celebrates the vibrancy and energy of the night, as well of nightlife, while mischievously nodding at 80s pop videos, thanks in part to some incredible dance moves by the animated figures. 

New Audio: Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions Return with a Sparse and Sublime New Track

Best known as the hauntingly ethereal voice of Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval has had a lengthy solo career, collaborating with a number of renowned artists including Massive Attack and My Bloody Valentine’s Colm O’Coisog in her long-running post Mazzy Star project, Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions. And if you had been frequenting this site last year, you’d likely recall that Sandoval’s Warm Inventions is a subtle yet decided departure from her Mazzy Star work in terms of overall theme, instrumentation and arrangement; whereas Mazzy Star’s sound is famously based around a sparse arrangement shimmering guitar chords paired with gentle drumming and Sandoval’s imitable vocals, The Warm Inventions sound while being based sound fairly sparse arrangements, draws from 70s AM radio — at least as you would have heard on the duo’s third full-length effort together Until the Hunter. 

Son of a Lady EP, is the highly anticipated follow up to Until the Hunter and the EP,  a which is slated for a September 15, 2017 release through Pledge Music as a 10″ with an exclusive track along with other exclusive items. As the members of Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions explain “‘Son of a Lady’ is a song we wrote and recorded some time ago and rediscovered it recently by chance. We worked with this really great upright bass player Damon Anderson, who we’d never worked with before and I believe it was the first time he’d ever played his bass over a cello part. He was really inspired by Ji-Young Moon’s exquisite playing. It’s a strange and lovely one; just the way we like it.” 

“Sleep,” the latest single from the Son of a Lady EP is a slow-burning, hazy and sublime dream of a song, in which Sandoval’s imitable vocals are paired with gently strummed guitar and twinkling percussion and much like the preceding single, it’s an odd yet haunting track. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the summer, you’d know that JOVM mainstay act Widowspeak will be releasing their third full-length album Expect The Best through Captured Tracks Records next week. And as you may recall, the album’s first single “Dog,” as Widowspeak’s Molly Hamilton told NPR is “about the compulsion to move on from things and places, even people when you’re not necessarily ready to. Sometimes I get caught up in ‘the grass is always greener’ mentalities or cling to an idea that ‘I’d be happy if . . .’ and make a drastic change. Then inevitably, I feel restless a few months later and it stars again.” While sonically, the song will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting moody and hazy guitar pop that channels Mazzy Star, the song possesses a restless and ambivalent vibe as it captures an easily bored and frustrated narrator, who desperately yearns for more and more and more.

Expect The Best‘s second single“When I Tried” is a slow, churning blues with layers of jangling, guitar pedal effect guitars paired with a propulsive yet simple drum pattern  which Hamilton’s aching yet ethereal vocals float over, and much like its preceding single, captures a bored and frustrated narrator, who yearns for more and more — and yet feels hopelessly stuck and confused. Interestingly though, as Hamilton explained to Stereogum “I didn’t go into this record trying to make every song about feeling stuck, or about self-doubt or anxiety. Those feelings aren’t really what you want to proclaim to the world or make a whole record about, even if it’s the truth. But, in the end, it ended up making more sense to be honest. ‘When I Tried’ is about when I was having a hard time starting things, or finishing them, maybe due to my own expectations of what it would turn into or maybe due to me doubting that I’d even be able to make it happen at all . . . I wasn’t sure what the motivation was anymore. Not specifically related to music, or creative work, but to everything. I wanted to get out and be social to take my mind off it, but I had a hard time keeping that up, too. It’s hard to keep up the effort of trying.”

“The Dream,” Expect The Best‘s third and latest single manages to continue with the permanently restless and unhappy vibe of someone who has picked up and left things behind with the hopes of something better, only to find that she can’t ever escape herself, and that perhaps as a result, things never really change; in fact, the song’s title, along with the album’s title possess an ironic duality — that being hopeful in a bleak world means expecting terrible things and knowing how to deal with them or to survive, and that dreams can become waylaid or averted. And yet, one has to keep on trying because — well, anything else is death, right? Sonically speaking, the song is a  lush and sublime, dream-like reverie of a song in which Hamilton’s ethereal crooning is paired with jangling guitars, twangy pedal; but right underneath the surface is a familiar ache of reality slapping you in the face yet again.

The band recently announced updated tour dates, which include a handful of new American dates and a European tour, which will have them stop at one of my favorite cities in the entire world — Amsterdam. And if you’re in NYC, they’ll be playing Rough Trade on October 13, 2017. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates
09/08 – Boston, MA – Great Scott
09/09 – Burlington, VT – ArtsRiot
09/11 – Toronto, ON – The Garrison
09/12 – Detroit, MI – El Club
09/13 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
09/15 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry
09/17 – Des Moines, IA – Des Moines Social Club
09/19 – Denver, CO – Hi Dive
09/20 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
09/21 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
09/22 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
09/23 – Seattle, WA – Barboza
09/24 – Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret
09/26 – San Francisco, CA – Swedish American Hall
09/27 – Visalia, CA – The Cellar Door
09/28 – Los Angeles, CA – Pico Union Project
09/29 – San Diego, CA – Space Bar
09/30 – Phoenix, AZ – Rebel Lounge
10/01 – Santa Fe, NM – Meow Wolf
10/03 – Austin, TX – Sidewinder
10/04 – New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa
10/05 – Birmingham, AL – Syndicate Lounge
10/06 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt
10/07 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
10/08 – Asheville, NC – The Mothlight
10/09 – Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
10/10 – Washington, DC – DC9
10/11 – Philadelphia, PA – Boot and Saddle
10/12 – Kingston, NY – BSP Kingston
10/13 – New York, NY – Rough Trade NYC
11/14 – Amsterdam, NL – Sugarfactory
11/15 – Utrecht, NL -Db’s
11/17 – Birmingham, UK -Actress & Bishop
11/18 – Glasgow, UK -Nice n Sleazy
11/20 – London, UK – Oslo
11/21 – Brighton, UK -The Hope
11/23 – Rotterdam, NL – Rotown
11/26 – Berlin, DE -Volksbühne
11/27 – Hamburg, DE – Hafenklang
11/28 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
11/29 – Stockholm, SWE -Obaren
11/30 – Oslo, NO – Revolver
12/01 – Gothenburg, SWE -Oceanen
12/02 – Lund, SWE -Mejeriet
09.08 – 10.13 (except 09.13) w/ Clearance
bold = newly confirmed

 

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the up-and-coming Norwegian/New Zealand-Australian indie electro pop duo Anna of the North, and if you may recall, the duo comprised of Gjøvik, Norway-born and-based singer/songwriter and musician Anna Lotterud and New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based producer Brady Daniell-Smith can trace its unlikely origins back to 2012. As the story goes, Lotterud was working in a shop in her small town, just outside of  Oslo, and was settling down with her first love, anticipating a life of routine, normality and banality when a customer came in and changed her life. Polite, well-groomed and worldly, this stranger began making daily visits, browsing the shop’s wares but never buying anything. One afternoon, this customer suddenly approached and implored Lotterud to abandon the traditional life she had planned to set out and expand her her horizons. This woman’s plea jolted something very deep in Lotterud, and in an act of rather uncharacteristic spontaneity she booked a flight to Australia, leaving her life and her partner behind.

The time Lotterud spent in Australia was both personally fulfilling and incredibly turbulent. She fell in love again, only to have her heart broken as suddenly and inexplicably as her decision to leave Norway and relocate to Australia was, but around act time, she met her future producer and collaborator Brady Daniell-Smith. At the time, Smith, who was also struggling with his own complicated relationships was performing as an acoustic singer/songwriter in Melbourne and in a serendipitous moment, Lotterud had managed to catch Smith performing at a local cafe, while she was with a group of friends.  Smith and Lotterud quickly became friends — with Smith encouraging his newfound friend and soon-to-be collaborator to find solace from her heartbreak in songwriting with the idea that by making music, they could both exorcise the ghosts of their past love lives. Interestingly enough, the project’s name actually derives itself from an in-joke between the two — Smith would frequently refer to Lotterud as “Anna of the North” and the name stuck.

Three years ago, the release of their debut single “Sway” began an incredible run of attention grabbing, blogosphere buzzing singles that have accumulated more than 60 million streams across all the streaming services, multiple number 1 spots of Hype Machine‘s charts and rotation on BBC Radio 1, Triple J and  Beats 1. And that shouldn’t be surprising as the duo manages to pair a brooding, Nordic-influenced, icy minimalism with a bright, buoyant, New Zealand and Southern Hemisphere-inspired synth pop — and they do so while being incredibly dance floor friendly.

Now as you may recall, Lotterud and Smith’s highly-anticipated full-length effort Lovers is slated for release on September 8, 2017 release, and the album reportedly focuses on heartbreak — in particular, the various emotional stages people typically feel after a relationship ends, including turmoil, grief, confusion, and the tentative joy in letting yourself start moving forward. Of course, along with that there’s the recognition that knowing love, including its inevitable heartbreak is necessary and wonderful because it opens up the possibility to know love once more. In fact, album single “Lovers” found the duo pairing a production featuring layers of shimmering synths, buoyant almost rubbery beats and a soaring hook with Lotterud’s tender and aching vocals, expressing a desperate an urgent longing that’s frustrated and can’t be fulfilled.

“Money,” the third and latest single from the duo’s soon-to-be released debut is a breezy, radio friendly pop track featuring shimmering synths and a soaring hook paired with Lotterud singing an impassioned take-down of people who are driven by material goods — and while being among the most decidedly warmest songs they’ve released to date, there’s a subtle, underlying snarl and venom to the song.