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.

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed, Atlanta-based JOVM mainstay act The Coathangers. Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay act can trace their origins back to 14 years ago, when four young women — Julia Kegel (vocals, guitar), Stephanie Luke (vocals, drums), Meredith Franco (bass, vocals) and Candace Jones (keys) — without prior musical experience or lofty aspirations decided that they were going to pick up instruments and start a band, so that they could play a friend’s party.

That particular house show led to more shows around town — and those raucous and fiery live sets wound up comprising the band’s self-titled, full-length debut. Recorded during a graveyard shift at a local studio and mixed the following night, the Atlanta-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length debut was a raw, rowdy, revelrous affair. What the album lacked in polish, it made up in energy, charisma and brassy moxie. “We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it,” The Coathangers’ Julia Kegel recalls. “We knew our friends in Atlanta would get it, but we didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. We were just excited to make a record.” Little did Kugel or her bandmates know that their scrappy house show anthems would catch on, leading to several years of successful international attention and a handful of critically applauded albums, including their out-of-print full-length debut, as well as a number of singles.

I think that the members of The Coathangers could never have imagined that their longtime label home would re-issue their long out-of-print, full-length debut as a deluxe, re-mastered version with a handful of extra tracks. Interestingly, the re-issued full-length debut, should remind listeners and fans of the band’s mischievous genre-fluidity. The band’s multi-faceted approach and diversity is a direct result of having multiple songwriters, who have brought their unique tastes and styles to the collective table. “It’s cool to to see how genre-fluid we‘ve always been,” The Coathangers’ Kugel says in press notes. “We got labeled as punk, and that was cool because that set us up as being against something, going against the grain. But it’s always been a weird dynamic of different tastes, and it still ultimately comes across as a bunch of girls having fun.”

Of course, the album is a bit of blast from the past, with the material possessing a spontaneity and careful spirit that’s invigorating, inspiring — and perhaps more necessary now than ever before. “We were just brash and making fun of things,” Kugel says. “We weren’t thinking about lyrics. We weren’t thinking about the industry. There was no thought about ‘making it’ or how people were gonna perceive it.” And as a result, the album was viewed as a private conversation between close friends, full of in-jokes, references and frivolities that reflected the band’s insular audience at the time — and their casual approach. “With this band I’ve felt like we have to speak for all woman-kind and as the records went on it became more and more at the forefront, but with the first record it was more like ‘ugh, these fuckin’ haters!’ It’s stuff we thought was hilarious and that felt really good to say because we felt safe. We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it.” Lyrically, the album finds the band at their most unfiltered. Essentially, the album celebrates being young, brash, independent and full of joie de vivre as they say.

The re-issued edition of the self-titled album features the bonus track “Wife Eyes,” is grimy and sweaty bit of garage punk with a mischievously winking sense of humor with the song’s title and chorus being a play on words that’s partially being a tongue-in-cheek jab at the patriarchy and gender roles, and the paranoia of constant connection. It’s goofy fun — but it’s full of a freewheeling energy that seems largely missing right now.

“We have always encouraged each-other to explore other instruments.  For us, switching instruments was a way to explore our creativity and expand our sonic landscape.  Plus it allowed everyone to take a turn at the mic!  You’re breaking up the standard (sometimes stagnant) structure of onstage dynamic and it feels exciting to both the audience and the people on stage,” Kugel says. “We have been told that watching us change instruments is empowering to people as well! It’s like ‘Hell ya! I can do that too! I can play the drums!’ The playfulness of switching sort of takes the pressure off of being so serious or possessive of a certain role or instrument.  It also gives you greater appreciation for each other’s skill sets. I think some of our most creative songs came out of the practice of switching instruments and ‘Wife Eyes’ is one of our earliest recorded songs where we switched instruments: Candice plays drums and Steph the keys.

“The title is an obvious play on words-inspired by a joke on 30 Rock that lent itself well to speaking on the roles of technology and patriarchy in our culture. It’s amazing to see that we are still dealing with these issues today.”

The re-issued self-titled debut album is slated for December 4, 2020 release through Suicide Squeeze.

Live Footage: Palace Winter’s Tennis Court Sessions

The Copenhagen, Denmark-based pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter — Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager — built upon a rapidly growing profile regionally and internationally, with the release of their sophomore album 2018’s Nowadays.

Nowadays found the Danish pop duo expanding around the sound that had already won them praise: breezy and melodic, radio friendly pop centered around heavy thematic concerns and lived-in songwriting. Thematically, the album touched upon adulthood and the loss of innocence; the accompanying tough and sobering life lessons as you get older; the freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny and so on.

Palace Winter’s highly anticipated third album . . . Keep Dreaming, Buddy dropped today, and unlike their previously released material, the album was written through a long distance correspondence as Carl Coleman was residing in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. “Caspar was sending me these synth hooks and drum loops from Denmark, so I started coming up with melodies and lyrical ideas to record into my phone,” Coleman says of the writing sessions. While Coleman’s lyrics were inspired by Tenerife’s unique landscape, they also draw metaphorical parallels between Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano, which also is one of Spain’s tallest peaks, and the looming fear of a relationship disintegrating, Hesselager’s instrumental parts were inspired by Copenhagen’s landscape. And as a result, the album’s material is literally a tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states.

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written about four of the album’s released singles:

Top of the Hill,” was a great example of the album’s overall tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states. Featuring shimmering and icy synths, thumping beats and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook paired with Coleman’s volcanic imagery-based lyrics, the song captures the bubbling dissatisfaction, boredom, frustration and distrust of a relationship about to boil over and explode.
“Won’t Be Long,” . . . .Keep Dreaming Buddy‘s second single was an expansive song that featured elements of arena rock, glam rock and synth pop, complete with a rousingly anthemic hook, a crunchy power chord-driven riff, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar. But interestingly enough, the song is actually deceptively and ironically upbeat as it tackles the anxiety of anticipatory grief, as it focuses on a narrator, who is preparing for the inevitable loss of a dear, loved one. Loss and despair are always around the corner, indeed.
“Deeper End,” the album’s third single was a decidedly genre-defying affair that found the duo pushing their sound in a new direction without changing the essentially elements of the sound that has won them attention internationally. Featuring an infectious hook, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar, the breezy song is one part synth pop. one part 70s AM rock, one part country — but while centered around an unusual juxtaposition: the song as the band’s Carl Coleman explains is “a story about a bad trip at a weird house party I went to with my sister.” Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle contributes a guest verse to the song, a verse in which his character dispenses harsh yet very trippy truths to the song’s hallucinating and anxious narrator.
“Richard (Says Yes),” a playful, thematic left turn that finds the duo writing a big, upbeat party them — but while pushing their sound in a new direction. Centered around their unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, “Richard (Says Yes)” is a remarkably proggy take on their sound.

Earlier this year, the duo — with their backing band — filmed a live session from a Copenhagen tennis court. The session featured live versions of two of my favorite songs off the new album: “Top of the Hill” and “Won’t Be Long.”

New Video: New York-based Artist Kinlaw Releases a Cinematic and Dramatic Visual for Slow-burning “Blindspot”

Kinlaw is a New York-based composer, choreographer, multimedia artist and singer/songwriter who is known locally for her solo work and multimedia productions that feature as many as two-hundred performers and contributions from Devonte Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange), Caroline Polacheck, SOPHIE, Dan Deacon and others, as well as a number of renowned dancers and performance artists.

The New York-based artist’s full-length debut The Tipping Scale reportedly finds her showcasing her work in a new light. The album’s lyrically bridges the deeply personal with universal themes revealing a songwriter bravely exploring loss, regret, confusion, strength, identity and change. She explains that The Tipping Scale is an ideal metaphor for the record, the idea of an ever-present slipping in and out of change, and an acceptance of this kind of change.

The Tipping Scale finds her unifying her multidisciplinary practice. Writing with the goal for finding entry points for storytelling that felt honest and authentic to her practice, she often saw her music relating to motion. “I would start with a gesture and let it build into something until a memory attached itself to it,” the New York-based artist says. “The memory would become a story and the story would reveal itself as something important that needed to be expressed in this album.”

Sonically speaking, the album’s material features ornate flourishes, dance floor ruminations and slick production with a refined, compositional sensibility. The album’s first single “Blindspot” is a slow-burning, tense, and dramatic track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, stuttering beats and Kinlaw’s ethereal crooning that reminds me of a atmospheric, synth-based take on Softspot’s dreamy Clearing — with a dark and brooding air.

Director by Kathleen Dycaico, the recently released cinematically shot video shows the adult Kinlaw in a futuristic enclosure, reckoning with her much younger self through an incredible series of dramatic choreographed moves — with the initial interaction being aggressive and forceful before going through a tender acceptance and acknowledgement between the adult and child.

“‘Blindspot’ is an excavation of the psychological mind that analyzes the link between our relationships with the people around us and our acceptance of self,” the New York-based artist explains in press notes. “I started doing a really cool therapy called EMDR while in process of developing this video with director Kathleen Dycaico and was able to recognize that the refusal to accept time, mainly myself during some of those times, was reflected in the way I was speaking about relationships. Our child selves are so brilliant — they are resilient, tricky, explosive, expressive. I needed to start off this album by giving a nod to the dynamic ways we perceive not only the people around us, but our integrated self.”


Mathieu Cetta is an emerging Southern France-based producer and DJ. Cetta has developed a reputation for crafting DJ sets centered around melodious, sensual and joyful deep house in clubs across the Montpelier region, Paris and luxury hotels in the country’s 3 Valleys region.

Earlier this year, the Southern France-based producer and DJ signed to Electric Friends Music, who released his latest single, the sensual yet ebullient “Obsession.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, an enormous, anthemic hook and plaintive vocals. “Obsession” captures the swooning and euphoric pangs of new love, when you want to spend every single moment just around your love interest. It’s a certifiable banger that features elements of classic house but with a slick modern production sheen.

New Audio: Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records Release a Grungy Jam off Their Soon-to-Be Released “Brown Acid: The Eleventh Trip”

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, Brown Acid, Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records‘ ongoing collaborative proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilations from the 1960s and 1970s have become a regularly occurring biannual feature. Each individual edition of the series is based around RidingEasy Records’ founder Daniel Hall’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time tracking down songs’ creators.

Frequently, those bands haven’t written, played or recorded together in more than 30 years — but they encourage the bands to take part in the compilation process. “All of (these songs) could’ve been hits given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten,” Lance Barresi explained in press notes for the previous editions of the compilation. “However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”

Of course, having the original artists participate as much as possible in the compilation process can give the artists and their songs a real second chance at the attention they missed all of those years ago. And for critics and fans, the songs on the Brown Acid compilation series can often fill in the gaps within the larger picture of what was going on in and around both regional and national underground scenes at the time. The eleventh edition of the Brown Acid compilation series, Brown Acid: The Eleventh Trip is slated for release on October 31, 2020;

Much like its predecessors, the eleventh edition of Brown Acid finds Barresi and Hall digging even deeper into the well of material reduced to obscurity to find new jams we should all know and love. Brown Acid: The Eleventh Trip’s latest single, “Something Else” by Tacoma, WA-based act Adam Wind was originally released in 1969 — and the track, which sounds a bit like Jimi Hendrix Experience with is centered around Leroy Bell’s groovy crooning. propulsive cowbell-driven drumming and fuzzy power chords and a scorching acid-tinged solo. In some very small way, the track seems to presage both Mudhoney and Pearl Jam.

New Video: Acclaimed Canadian Indie Act Besnard Lakes Release a Surreal and Feverish Video for Slow-Burning “Raindrops”

Deriving their name Besnard Lake in North Central Saskatchewan, the acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated Montreal-based indie rock act The Besnard Lakes — 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 MacArthuer (guitar) — formed back in 2003. And since their formation, the Canadian indie rock sextet have released five albums of atmospheric and textured shoegaze that some critics have described as magisterial and cinematic.

After the release of their fifth album, 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, the members of The Besnard Lakes and Jagjaguwar, their longtime label home, decided it was time to part and go their separate ways. Naturally, that lead to the band to question whether or not it made sense to even continue together. But fueled by their love for each other and for playing music together, the members of acclaimed Montreal-based act wound up writing and recording what may arguably be their most uncompromising album of their catalog, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings.

Dispensing with a timeline, the members of The Besnard Lakes took all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Interestingly, some of the songs are old, tracing their origins back to resurrected demos left on the shelf years ago. Others were woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek and Goreas Riguad Ranch — with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound. Thematically, the album finds the band contemplating the darkness of dying , the light on the other side, and coming back from the brink: while it touches upon the band’s own story, it’s also remembrance of dear loved ones — particularly Lasek’s father, who died last year. (On vinyl, the album will be a four-side double LP: Side 1 is titled “Near Death.” Side 2 is titled “Death.” Side 3 is titled “After Death.” and Side 4 is titled “Life.”)

From what Lasek observed of his father’s experience, 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.” Interestingly, as I read that, I thought of what were Steve Jobs’ last words before dying — him looking past his loved ones and simply saying repeatedly “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” And as a result that surreal and ethereal quality pervades the album’s sound and aesthetic.

“Raindrops,” the album’s first single is a slow-burning song and patient song with a painterly-like attention to graduation and texture, centered around shimmering reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and a euphoric hook. Along with the release of The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warning’s cinematic first single, the band announced that the album is slated for a January 29, 2021 release through Fat Cat Records here in the States and through Flemish Eye in their native Canada. Additionally, they released a surreal, fever-dream of a video directed by Joseph Yarrmush.

“This song and video details a psychedelic flight through the mind while deep in an altered state,” The Besnard Lakes explain. “The song lyrically references the death of Mark Hollis from Talk Talk (‘Garden of Eden spirited’) and also describes the idea of evolution determining the story of the Garden of Eden.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Joe Wong Teams Up With Fred Armisen on a Lyrical and Trippy Visual for “Nite Creatures”

Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Joe Wong. Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer — but he has made a name for himself for his scores for a number of acclaimed TV series, including Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Earlier this year Wong released his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, and so far I’ve written about four of the album’s previously released singles — including: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” the Scott Walker-like “Minor,” and “Day After Day,” a sobering exploration of free will versus fate that doesn’t have easy answers. Continuing an incredible run of stunningly lush yet brooding material, the album’s latest single, album title track “Nite Creatures” is a slow-burning and deliberately crafted track focuses on existential dread with a rapturous and swooning psychedelia. If Wong wasn’t a contemporary artist, you might mistakenly think that “Nite Creatures” was released sometime between 1966-1970.

Directed by Fred Armisen, the recently released video follows a brooding Wong as he enters a vaguely Eastern-styled house. As he wanders through the house, we see some deeply kaleidoscopic and psychedelic effects happen to him and to his surroundings, suggesting that Wong was going through a deeply spiritual awakening of some sort. Much like the song itself, it’s a slow-burning and gorgeously shot fever dream — but with something dark and murky on the fringes.

Interestingly, the collaboration between the duo can trace some of its origins back to the 1990s: Armisen was the dummer for Trenchmouth and Wong was a high-school kid in a math rock band named after an extremely obscure Dune reference. Wong wound up reconnecting with Armisen in 2013: Wong was drumming for Marine Stern. A few years later, Armisen asked Wong to help produce his first comedy special Standup For Drummers.

“It was inspiring to witness how he’d evolved from the drummer I met over twenty years ago to the singular talent he is today,” Wong says. “When I decided to make a video for ‘Nite Creatures,’ I thought Fred would be the ideal person to direct. Because of his sense of narrative rhythm (we’re both drummers, after all), surrealist aesthetic, and ability to make creative decisions on the fly, he proved himself the perfect director, indeed.”

“I love Joe’s album,” Armisen adds, “so when he asked me to work on the video, I was like, ‘YES!’ The song is so sonically rich, I think it makes dreamy videos in everyone’s mind. I just wanted to try to match that feeling.”

Throughout the course of their wildly successful 20 year run together, which included the release of seven full-length albums — 2002’s Dap Dappin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 2005’s Naturally, 2007’s 100 Days, 100 Nights, 2014’s Give the People What They Want, 2015’s It’s a Holiday Soul Party! and 2017’s posthumously released Soul of a Woman — the acclaimed soul act Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings built a reputation for being one of the world’s best bands live — and in the studio. (I had the pleasure of seeing them live three times, including a powerfully uplifting night at The Apollo. They were one of the best soul acts in the entire world.)

Although the acclaimed soul act have a lengthy and prolific catalog of originals, they have made forays into covers numerous times. Some of those covers were contracted or use in commercials, movies, TV shows and even samples, while others were recorded of their own volition and desire. Their earliest covers included a completely re-invented rendition of Janet Jackson‘s “What Have You Done for Me Lately, which convinced more than a few fans that Jones’ version was in fact the original after a counterfeit news article surfaced claiming that Jones was suing Jackson for copyright infringement.

Slated for a Friday release, the act’s soon-to-be released album Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Rendition Is In is a compilation of both previously released and previously unreleased covers, which showcases the act’s eclectic tastes and musicality. Sadly, the album is the second album of material posthumously released after Sharon Jones’ 2016 death from pancreatic cancer.

Three singles have been released off the album so far, but I wanted to specifically call your attention to two singles off the album: a sashaying cover of Dusty Springfield‘s “Little by Little,'” was originally recorded for a tribute album to the legendary British soul vocalist — and a strutting cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” While both covers are fairly straightforward, they manage to be deceptively period specific while revealing the dynamism and ebullience of the act’s incredible frontwoman Sharon Jones and the band’s subtle yet deft touch.

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