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.

New Audio: Dunham Records Release a Stomping and Swooning Love Song off the Soon-to-be Released Posthumous Charles Bradley Album

Throughout a significant portion of this site’s 8-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about JOVM mainstay, Charles Bradley, the late, Brooklyn-based soul singer. Now, as you may recall, Bradley led a remarkable life, overcoming unimaginable adversity to achieve success and international acclaim late his life  — thanks in part to the release of documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America, three full-length albums 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, 2013’s Victim of Love and 2016’s Changes, and a powerful, heartfelt live show.  Interestingly during his relatively short recording career, Bradley wound up playing a larger-than-life role in pop culture: Bradley was a prominent figure in the Daptone Records live documentary, Living on Soul filmed during the Daptone Records Soul Revue shows back in 2014 at the legendary Apollo Theater; performed on Netflix’s Luke Cage; was the signing voice of Minstrel Krampus on American Dad; and he had tracks featured on a number of films and TV shows, including the title tracks for Netflix’s Big Mouth, HBO’s Barry and more.

And although those successes came late in his life, none of them should be surprising because what drew so many fans, critics and others towards him was the fact that for him, Bradley and felt and understood that the great pain and tribulations of his life were a cry for  universal love, brotherhood and empathy. He preached it passionately and constantly — and as many would say, it seemed that he believed that if he loved harder, more passionately, and just more — if we all just loved each other a bit more — we could make the world a much better place. Certainly, in a seemingly dark and cynical world in which humanity is inching towards its annihilation, we could use more Charles Bradleys, more Sharon Joneses, too.

November 5, 2018 would have been Charles Bradley’s 70th birthday and in celebration of the man, his life and his music, Dunham Records will posthumously release his fourth and final album Black Velvet on November 9, 2018.  Featuring 10 tracks lovingly curated by his friends, bandmates and family, the album chronologically spans Bradley’s recording career — but instead of a greatest hits-like anthology or a rehashing of say, several different versions of known and beloved songs, the album focuses on deeper, mostly unreleased cuts recorded during the sessions from each of Bradley’s three albums. The album will include highly sought-after and beloved covers including his takes on Nirvana‘s “Stay Away,” Neil Young‘s “Heart of Gold,” Rodriguez‘s “I’ll Slip Away,” and an alternate full-band electric version of “Victim of Love,” among others.

Of course, in many ways, the album documents the friendship and collaboration shared between Bradley and longtime collaborator, producer and co-writer Tommy Brenneck. As Brenneck explains, Black Velvet‘s first single “I Feel A Change” was recorded during the Victim of Love sessions. “Horns and organ were recorded later adding a haunting beauty to the otherwise a cappella intro. The lyrics are 100% Charles. Personal yet abstract. Directly from the heart. He truly loved the expression ‘going through changes’ and this was a few years before we would record our rendition of Sabbath‘s ‘Changes‘ with the Budos. Sadly Charles never got to hear the finished version of this beautiful song.” “I Feel a Change” was classic Charles Bradley — the Screaming Eagle of Soul’s imitable vocals passionately expressing desire, frustration and heartache within a turn of a phrase, pleading in a deeply confessional fashion to you. Of course, Bradley’s vocals are paired with a slow-burning, sensual arrangement that feels eerily spectral yet urgent and necessary.

Interestingly, while searching for material to include on Black Velvet, Brenneck stumbled upon the album’s latest single, having forgotten that it had even existed — although the track was recorded around 2007 during the recording sessions for Bradley’s No Time for Dreaming. Featuring members of the Menahan Street Band, the single is a revealing look into the Bradley’s early sound while being a stomping, two-stepping love song centered around sweet, old-school lyrics and Bradley’s heartfelt vocals.  As Brenneck notes, “For some reason I always thought we hadn’t finished the vocal track but, to my surprise, not only was it finished, it was a powerful performance by Charles and the band is on fire to boot… Why it didn’t make No Time For Dreaming? I have no idea.” With every single off the new album, I’m reminded of the fact that although the man may no longer be with us, that his spirit is still vital and with us when he need it the most. Long live Charles Edward Bradley, y’all! Long live Charles Edward Bradley!

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With the release of her debut single in late 2015, which she promptly followed up with at the release of a critically EP and full-length debut, the Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Mira Aasma quickly received attention across both Scandinavia and elsewhere; in fact, as a result of a growing profile. Aasma played sets at some of Europe’s largest festivals, including Denmark’s Spot Festival, Scotland’s Xpo North and a residency at Berlin’s Red Bull Music Academy. Building upon a growing profile, Aasma’s forthcoming Nighttime Memos may arguably be one of her most deeply personal and haunting efforts to date, as the production throughout the album is sparse and meant to focus on Aasma’s vocals and lyrics — while backed with instrumentation full of unique angles and percussion made from materials outside the recording space.

Album single “Witches,” which was released earlier this year was a politically charged song that demanded gender equality; however, the album’s latest single “Sunday” is a much more introspective song featuring an arrangement of Hammond organ, mournful saxophone, twinkling keys paired with Aasma’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the song evokes a few things simultaneously — the sensation of a vivid yet half-remembered dream, moonlit strolls with a lover on a chilly early autumn night while recalling Young Americans-era David Bowie and Quiet Storm soul.

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Limiñanas Team up with Peter Hook on the Shimmering “The Gift”

Over the past couple of years I’ve written a bit about the Perpignan, France-based psych rock duo The Limiñanas, and as you may recall the duo have become one France’s most renowned indie acts, thanks in part for a sound that draws from psych rock, shoegaze, and yé-yé, centered around arrangements featuring fuzzy, distorted power chords, reverb heavy hooks and effortlessly cool vocals. And much like fellow countrymen La Femme, their sound is heavily indebted to 60s American guitar rock and psych rock — while managing to capture something  quintessentially French.

The last 18 months or so have been very busy for the French duo, as they released the Istanbul Is Sleepy EP, an effort that was initially recorded at their home studio and finished it at Anton Newcombe‘s Berlin-based studio. Of course,  The Brian Jonestown Massacre founder and frontman,contributed his imitable vocals and guitar playing to the scuzzy, garage rock stomper and EP title track “Istanbul Is Sleepy” which was reportedly influenced by Rain-era The Cult. Earlier this year, the duo released the Shadow People LP and the album finds the renowned French duo collaborating with a number of folks including French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and Renaud Picard, the frontman of Hair and the Iotas on the meditative and hazy “Shadow People,” Bertrand Belin on the chilly and menacing, synth-based  “Dimanche.” Adding to a very busy 18 months, Because Music will be releasing I’ve Got Trouble in Mind, Vol. 2, The Limiñanas’ second collection of rare recordings, 7 inch singles and unreleased material on November 16, 2018; but in the meantime. the duo released a video for “The Gift,” off Shadow People, a single that features the imitable and unforgettable bass playing of Peter Hook.  Interestingly — or perhaps I should say unsurprisingly — the track sounds like the perfect amalgamation of Hook’s most beloved New Order work with the renowned French duo’s effortlessly cool take on psych rock. “We wrote and recorded ‘The Gift’ at home in Cabestany and then finished it Berlin at Anton Newcombe’s studio,” explains Marie. “I’m pretty sure you’ll recognise Peter Hook’s lead bass. He’s been one of our heroes for a very long time.”  (I’ve Got Trouble in Mind, Vol. 2 features Anton Newcombe’s mix of the song, so in some way this video is something of a teaser for the compilation.) 

Directed by longtime collaborator Aurélien Richter, the recently released video is decidedly French New Wave-inspired and continues a run of incredibly cinematic accompanying visuals. Unsurprisingly, the video features Foulke de Boixo in a prominent role, and as the duo explains “The video reflects on high school years in gangs; the mods, the skins, the rockabs and the rudeboys smoking cigarettes while hanging in the schoolyard. ‘The Gift’ looks at what’s happened to two of these people over the years and how they may have missed out on a lifelong love story.”

New Video: Dire Wolves’ Ambient and Trance-Inducing Sounds and Visuals

During the early part of last year, I wrote a bit about the Bay Area-based psych pop/free jazz/indie rock quintet Dire Wolves, and as you might recall, the band, which is currently comprised of Sheila Bosco (drums), Brian Lucas (bass), Kelly Ann Nelson (vocals, wooden flute), Jeffrey Alexander (guitar, wooden sax), Arjun Mendiratta (violin) and Georgia Carbone (vocals) have developed a reputation for both being remarkably prolific as they’ve released 12 full-length albums since forming back in 2008 — and for crafting deeply hypnotic music with a lysergic tinge. 

The Bay Area-based collective’s forthcoming album Paradisiacal Mind is slated for release in November — and the album’s latest single “Unfettered and Alive” is a free-form and improvised track centered around winding guitar lines, angular string arrangements and vocals meant to induce a trance-like state. Naturally, the track will further cement the Bay Area-based band’s reputation for crafting gauzy and trippy material meant to encourage you to delve deep into your mind’s eye. 

Directed by Andy Puls, the recently released video features trippy concentric and psychedelic patterns meant to push the viewer towards tripping out. 

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe, and as you may recall, the act, which was initially comprised of founding members and primary songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan, the duo won national and international attention for pairing their distinct writing styles and voices into a unique sound. Moorhouse and Duncan had played in a number of London-based bands in which they individually felt as though there was pressure to fit into a particular scene, whether through a one way of playing or a certain way of looking, and it was something they felt unnatural and unnecessarily labored — and they deeply reviled it.  As the story goes, the duo met at party and became busking partners in the London Underground. In those very early days, they enjoyed the very simple pleasures of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. Coming from a place of pure joy, they noticed a profound simpatico, and they began to play their own original material. “We had a very clear idea of what we wanted. For things to be simple, based around songs that are unashamed in their directness, and that we love: The CureU2Springsteen and The Stones. We’d spend years playing through these on the tube, realising you don’t need to break the mould. Its best to ignore all the voices telling you that you need to for the sake of it, and go for something deeper,” the duo explained in press notes.  And with Ten Fe, Moorhouse and Duncan wanted to focus primarily on the song with style serving the song — and while centered around anthemic and downright arena rock friendly hooks, their sound is difficult to describe and even more so to pigeonhole, as it possesses elements of the Manchester sound, Brit Pop, Americana, electro pop and contemporary indie rock. They manage to do this while balancing careful, deliberate attention to craft with soulful earnestness and bombast.

Moorhouse and Duncan then spent the next two years, writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, which included prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s dad’s house in Walsall, UK, relentless busking, hustling and saving, and an impossibly lengthy list of band members and producers before they signed a publishing deal and briefly relocated to Berlin, where they recorded their Ewan Pearson-produced full-length debut effort Hit the Light. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo Duncan.

After spending 18 months touring to support their critically applauded full-length debut effort Hit the Light, the project officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums). As the story goes, the members of the band felt a renewed sense of confidence when it came to preparing to write and work on their follow up effort Future Perfect, Present Tense. They set up shop in a vacant driving license office in East London, where the majority of the writing was done, and as they were nearing the end, they went to Oslo, Norway where they tracked the material before returning to London to finish the album with producer Luke Smith, who has worked with Foals, Depeche Mode, Petite Noir, and Anna of the North — and mixed by Craig Silvey, who has worked with Arcade Fire, Florence & The Machine and Amen Dunes.

Thematically, the material reportedly is a mediation on everything that has brought them all to the point of their sophomore album, and everything they’ve willingly (and perhaps unwillingly) left behind in actually getting there. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “Won’t Happen” is centered around a buoyant groove, jangling guitars and a soaring, arena friendly hook while the band’s Duncan laments and repents for his past indiscretions — perhaps to a lover or to himself. Sonically, the song will further cement the band’s reputation for being uncompromisingly genre-defying as the song seems to draw from 70s AM rock, Brit Pop and arena rock simultaneously; but with a decidedly individualistic take that has them sound unlike any other contemporary act I can think of.

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New Audio: Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records Release a Bluesy Stomper off Their Seventh Brown Acid Compilation

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d likely be extremely familiar with Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records collaboration on their increasingly expansive series of proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilations Brown Acid. Each individual edition of the compilation is centered 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, most often bands that haven’t written, played or recored together in 30 or 40 years, and then encouraging them to take part in the compilation process. As Permanent Records’ Barresi has explained in press notes regarding the previous editions of the compilations “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. However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”

Naturally, by having the original artists participate as much as possible in the compilation process, it can give the artists and their songs, a real, second chance at the attention and success that they originally missed. Additionally, these songs can help fill in the larger picture of what was going on in and around the underground music scenes during the 60s and 70s. Following the critical and commercial success of its first six volumes, RidingEasy Records and Permanent Records’ sixth volume of 60s and 70s proto-metal and pre-stoner rock Brown Acid: The Seventh Trip is slated for an October 31, 2018 release continuing what I hope will be a bi-yearly tradition. Much like the preceding editions, the seventh continues Barressi’s and Hall’s exhaustive, painstaking research and curation that has fond them digging ever so deeper in to the well of hard rock, psych rock and proto-metal from the 60s and 70s. Interestingly enough, Youngstown, Ohio was a hotbed for these 45s and for a town of about 150,000, an overwhelming majority of the 45s Barressi and Hall found were by bands who hailed from there — and much like the predecessors, the seventh edition features songs from mostly American bands, although there’s the inclusion of a French band and a Swedish band to round it all out. 

Brown Acid: The Seventh Trip’s latest single is C.T. Pilfherhogg’s 1973 bluesy stomp “You Haul,” a single that brings Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” but with Echoplex-effected laughs to give the song a maniacal vibe, centered around arpeggiated organs, enormous power keys and a hard rocking hook. During their day, the band was touted as “Southwest Virginia’s Finest Boogie Band” but from this single, the band kicked ass and took names. 

New Video: Public Service Broadcasting’s Thoughtful Tribute to the RMS Titanic

Initially begun as the solo recording project of its founding member J. Willgoose, Esq. (guitar, banjo, stringed instruments, samplers, synths) back in 2009, the London-based instrumental prog rock act Public Service Broadcasting expanded to a duo with the addition of Wrigglesworth (drums, piano, electronic musical instruments) — and as a duo, they released an EP, 2012’s The War Room, and two full-length albums, 2013’s Inform-Educate-Entertain and 2015’s The Race for Space, which established their sound — expansive prog rock centered around sampled news programs, field recordings, found footage, old movies (particularly from the British Film Institute archives) and the like; in fact, the band’s The Race for Space, which thematically focused on the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s may arguably be their most critically and commercially successful album — the album charted at #11 on the UK Independent Charts, before reaching #1 later that week.

The band’s third, full-length album, last year’s Every Valley found the band expanding to a trio with the addition of JF Abraham (lugelhorn, bass guitar, drums, vibraslap and others), while featuring guest vocals from Camera Obscura‘s Tracyanne Campbell, and thematically the album’s material focused on the coal mining industry’s rise and fall in the Welsh Valleys between the 1950s and 1980s. Now. if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that earlier this year, the newly constituted trio was commission by the BBC to write and record four new pieces, centered on the story of the RMS Titanic, which led to their soon-to-be released EP White Star Liner.

Slated for an October 26, 2018 release through Play It Again Sam Records, the EP thematically and sonically tells the story of the Titanic from its construction to its early, tragic, demise. Focusing on the perspectives of those who built and salted her, the EP will further the band’s reputation for crafting a unique audio-visual experience that provides a new and very different perspective on well-known events. As the band’s J. Willgoose, Esq. says in press notes “I thought it was an interesting challenge to tell the story of the ship’s construction as part of Belfast’s proud industrial history, the spirit of optimism of the pre-war age that she represented, and then an abstract and, I hope, respectful depiction of both the sinking of the ship (represented by the repeated Morse code distress call, C – Q – D) and the discovery of the wreck in 1985.”

The EP’s first official single is the breezy and hopeful motorik-like “White Star Liner,” which captures a sense of hopeful excitement as the completed ship is just about to set sail for America. There’s the sense of a world slowly unifying after a brutal war, of the possibility of increasing world travel meant for the economies of cities like Belfast and others, as larger and larger ships were built. And for a brief moment, the future seemed glorious and full of possibility. The recently released video features the band performing live, cut with the stock footage they use during their live shows. 

New Audio: Renowned Aussie Folk Duo Oh, Pep! Returns with a Jangling and Hook-Driven Take on Americana

Comprised of Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs, the renowned Melbourne, Australia-based folk duo Oh, Pep! can trace the origins of the group to when they met while they were were both studying at a music secondary school, and as the story goes as soon as the met began writing music together. Now, as you may recall with the release of three critically praised EPs, the duo received a rapidly growing national and international profile — they played a series of attention-grabbing, widely praised at the CMJ Festival, which were praised by  KCRW, and NPR’s Bob Boilen, who later invited the duo and their backing band to perform a NPR Tiny Desk Concert set. The duo also made appearances at a number of prominent folk festivals, including The Woodford Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, The National Folk Festival in Canberra, and Folk Alliance International, Kansas City, and at the 2014 The Age Music Victoria Awards, the duo was nominated in the Young Folk Performer of the Year and Best Folk Roots Category, winning the nod for Young Folk Performer of the Year.

2016’s Daniel Ledwell-produced full-length debut Stadium Cake found the duo subtly expanding upon the songwriting approach and sound that first won them national and international attention — their uncanny ability to write buoyant and ethereal pop with an underlying bittersweet sadness, centered around fully-fleshed out characters, who suffered from self-doubt, heartache, confusion, crippling indecision and a seeming inability to figure out how to move forward with their lives, all while their cohorts rush past them with successful lives. 

The duo’s soon-to-be released sophomore album I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You . . . is slated for an October 26, 2018 release through ATO Records, and the album reportedly finds Hally and Emmerich exploring the melody-rich expanse between indie pop, alt-folk and folk but through the prism of a women who have both come of age and have seen quite a bit of the world. They’ve accomplished most of their goals and dreams rather quickly  — and when that happens there’s this overwhelming sense of “Well, now what? What’s next?” And typically, there are two responses: you contently sit back and rest on your laurels — or you push yourself out of comfort zone. “This album is a darker form of pop than we have played before,” Pepita Emmerich says in press notes. “Basically Liv wrote a bunch of hits.” 

After touring to support Stadium Cake, Olivia Halley had become an in-demand songwriter. “With this album, in particular, I did a lot of sessions with other people. They weren’t necessarily sessions that were for the album. But every now and then, I’d be writing a song and take a fancy to it, then Pep and I would Oh Pep!-ify it together,” Halley says of the album that was written in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles and Melbourne and was largely inspired by her travels over the course of 2017 and 2018.  Interestingly, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You . . . ‘s third and latest single, the jangling and anthemic  “Your Nail and Your Hammer” was inspired by words written on her wall in Nashville,  and the city’s long-held reputation for being the home of country and Americana — with a pop leaning, hook-driven sensibility; but while further cementing their reputation for breezy and infectious songs, the song evokes the sensation of someone’s mind whirring and grinding with the obsession over a brief and perhaps fleeting moment with another that leaves you wondering for weeks afterwards.

Emerging Swedish industrial synth pop act LINES can trace its origins to when its founding trio — Erik, Fred and Nisse — traveled to Berlin, with the expressed purpose of losing themselves in that hedonism of its nightlife. As the story goes, as though under the influence of a higher power, lines were drawn and blueprints made of the sort of music that they wanted to create. Although the band was born in Berlin, the band’s roots are in Stockholm‘s indie scene. Interestingly, they manage to continue a long-held tradition of high-powered synth-based and hook-driven synth pop pioneered by the likes of The Knife, Teddybears and others but thematically centered around isolation, escapism and what the band calls “obsessive and destructive love” — and they do with some subtle political leanings. “We’re not Rage Against The Machine in our police, but we try to express some kind of social commentary between the lines.”

Along with crafting politically charged material, the trio are boldly and defiantly DIY — writing, producing and mixing their own work in their self-built studio. They’ve also self-directed and produced the bulk of their videos and thrown their own 24 hour release parties; however, the band is ambitious and they have their sights set on using their non-conformist pop to make a connection with audiences in their native Sweden and beyond.    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the band’s the band has a growing national and international profile — their single “You” has amassed more than 6 million streams, and renowned Swedish pop artist Tove Lo has championed them.

The trio’s latest single “People,” which finds the trio collaborating with Adele Kosman is centered around lush layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats and an infectious, sing-along worthy, anthemic hook that I can envision people shouting along to, while having their arms draped around their friend’s shoulders. The track will further cement the Swedish trio’s growing reputation for wildly euphoric and futuristic synth pop.