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.

2017 has been a breakthrough year for the Reykjavik, Iceland-based indie rock/post-punk trio  Fufanu.. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of this past year, you’d recall that the band, currently comprised of founding members Kaktus Einarsson (vocals, guitar), whose father Einar was a member of The Sugarcaubes and Guðlaugur “Gulli” Einarsson (guitar, programming) (no relation, by the way) along with newest member, Erling Bang (drums) can trace their origins to when the band’s founding duo met while at school. And according to the band’s founding duo, Katkus had glanced at Gulli’s iTunes and noticed that they had listened to a lot of the same techno and electronic music. After quickly bonding over mutual interests, the duo went into a studio and began writing and recording electronic music under the name Captain Fufanu. Interestingly, within a month of their formation, Kaktus and Gulli had started playing shows in and around their hometown.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the duo went into the studio to record what would be their full-length debut as Captain Fufanu; but in a strange twist of fate, the studio where Kaktus and Gulli had recorded the album was burgled. Naturally, everyone involved in the process presumed the album was lost. While many bands would be devastated by losing their life’s work in such a shitty fashion, Kaktus and Gulli put a positive spin on the ordeal, viewing it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and their sound, as they were developing a growing technical and musical prowess. Coincidentally, Kaktus Einarsson had been spending time in London working on Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots and touring with the late and legendary Bobby Womack when he began writing lyrics. Simultaneously, Gulli had started to craft a completely revised sound, which according to Kaktus managed to convey exactly what he had been thinking and feeling at the time. The result was the duo pairing Kaktus’ brooding and ironically detached vocals with an arrangement that featured guitar, bass, drums, synths and other electronics. Armed with a new sound, the duo renamed the project Fufanu.

Fufanu’s first live set as Fufanu, with their new sound and material was at 2014’s Iceland Airwaves and they quickly became one of the most talked about bands of the entire festival. Right after the festival, they went into the studio to record their full-length debut, A Few More Days To Go, which was released to applause both nationally and internationally; in fact, with an even bigger profile, Fufanu toured with The Vaccines and others, and played some of Northern Europe’s and Scandinavia’s largest festivals, including the aforementioned Iceland Airwaves, JaJaJa Festival and others.

Released earlier this year, the band’s sophomore album Sports finds the band going through some significant changes — Kaktus and Gulli recruited Erling “Elli” Bang (drums) to further flesh their sound out, with the newly constituted trio refining their material’s sound and thematic concerns, represented through album title track  “Sports,” which retains the synth-driven sound of their debut while nodding at CanNeu!  Joy Division and early ’80s Peter Gabriel,  the slow-burning and moody  “Liability” and “White Pebbles.”  However, the highly buzzed about Icelandic trio begin the holiday season and close out the year, with “Top Of The Queens,” a track that was recorded during the Sports sessions and didn’t make the cut.

Of course, what makes an the release of a previously unreleased album track intriguing is the fact that they frequently give the listener — if they’re familiar with the album in question — some insight into the complex editorial decisions that comprise the making of an album. In some cases, you can immediately tell why a particular song wasn’t included — it just didn’t fit the tone and vibe of the album. In other cases, it’s not apparent. Sometimes, it’s a matter of a song floating around for a while and the band just is tired of the song or it’s an issue of not having a whole lot of time and something has to get cut — or a variety of other issues. Interestingly enough, “Top Of The Queens” manages to continue in a similar, anthemic hook-laden, synth-based rock vibe but it has a rougher, punk rock band in a dive bar edge to it.

 

 

 

 

Comprised of Jordan Wilson and Benjmain Riley, the acclaimed, Sydney, Australia-based duo Georgia Fair can trace their origins to when the duo met in high school. They began playing and writing music together and would continue to do so in a number of bands until settling on their current project together Georgia Fair, which reportedly derives its name from a venue mistakenly billing the duo then known as Jordan and Ben as Georgia Fair due to a bad phone connection.

Their 2011 debut effort All Through Winter was recorded with Band of HorsesBill Reynolds in studios in Asheville, NC; Austin, TX; and Atlanta, GA, and the album peaked in the Top 100 of the ARIA Albums Chart and reached #1 on the ARIA Hitseekers Albums Chart. The duo’s 2013 sophomore effort, Trapped Flame was recorded in Los Angeles with Ted Hutt and featured musicians, who were part of the backing bands of Ryan Adams and PJ Harvey — and much like its predecessor, it was a commercial success as it reached the ARIA Top 100 Chart.

After the release of their sophomore effort, the duo relocated to London where they spent time exploring their roots while trying to incorporate new sounds. As Georgia Fair’s Jordan Wilson explains in press notes, “That trip and the intensity of living in London helped us get out of our own way.” And the result is the duo’s third full-length effort The World’s Awake, which reportedly finds the duo capturing their live essence and sound.  In fact, the album’s first single “Slave to Nothing” finds the duo at what may arguably be their most sparse and restrained while nodding at an arena rock blues sound reminiscent of The Black Keys and others; however, at its core is a slow-burning heartache rooted in betrayal, confusion and lingering regret.

 

Hans-Christian Søgaard Andersen is a Søro, Denmark-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who was best known as a member of renowned Danish band Racetrack Babies. As Andersen explains in press notes, “that band broke up as we were working on this album, so I thought it would provide some continuity to our fans. During the recording, our drummer Henrik Svendsen started calling me the captain of sorrow, because the songs were full of melancholy, so that became the name of the new band.”

Andersen and his new, Captain of Sorrow collaborators, which included Søren Hansen (guitar), Hans Madsen (bass) and the aforementioned Henrik Svenden (drums), wrote, recorded and produced their debut album Racetrack Babies in a wild burst of spontaneous creativity — and as the story goes, Andersen and his collaborators wanted to capture the diverse sounds that Andersen was hearing in his head. “Every song has the title of a band I once considered using, so I wanted them to sound different, as if it were 11 different groups.” The quartet started the album with some free form jamming and as Andersen recalls, “we listened to each song once, played it three or four times, then recorded it live. I gave them [the backing band] a free hand to crate their own arrangements but didn’t let them get too familiar with the songs. I wanted a rough sound, so you would know it was human beings playing the music.”

“Park the Van” Racetrack Babies‘ first single is a noisy and sprawling arrangement that finds Andersen and his bandmates nodding at noise punk, grunge and indie rock simultaneously as the band pair power chords, sinuous bass chords, stuttering and thundering drumming and anthemic hooks within a classic grunge rock song structure featuring alternating loud and quiet sections; but the major difference to me is that the band manages to add a mournful yet oose, jam band-like take to a familiar sound and aesthetic.

Comprised of Nye Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamely, the Edinburgh, Scotland, UK-based indie pop act The Spook School derive their name from the famous Glasgow School of influential artists and designers that began to coalesce in the 1870s and flourished between 1890 to roughly 1910 or so. And within the The Glasgow School there were several groups responsible for creating the distinctive Glasgow Style — The Four (also known as The Spook School), which featured painter and glass artist Margaret MacDonald, acclaimed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (McDonald’s husband), MacDonald’s sister Frances Macdonald and Herbert MacNair — all of who made strides in the definition of Art Nouveau; the Glasgow Girls; and the Glasgow Boys. As for their modern counterparts, the members of the Glasgow-based indie pop act have developed a reputation for songs that lyrically explore gender, sexuality and queer issues while thematically focusing on gender fluidity and the lack of the gender binary.

The Spook School’s latest single “Someone to Spend Christmas With” is an incisive and anthemic, ambivalent Christmas song that features a rousing hook, soaring synths, shimmering guitar chords and propulsive drumming — and while sounding as though it simultaneously draws from 60s pop and 80s New Wave, as the band’s Anna Corey explains in press notes, “This is a song about figuring out how you want to conduct your own relationships when it feels like the world is full of conflicting advice about the ‘best’ way to do it, whether that be monogamy, polyamory, or something else entirely. The refrain relates to the ideal of having one important person in your life with whom you’ll always spend your special occasions.”

Along with the release of their new Christmastime single, the Scottish quartet announced an early 2018 North American tour, opening for Diet Cig that will include a March 1, 2018 stop at Brooklyn’s newest music venue Elsewhere. Interestingly, the tour will also coincide with the release of the band’s highly-anticipated third full-length effort Could It Be Different? on January 26, 2018 through Slumberland Records here in the States and Alcopop! Records in the UK. In the meantime, check out the tour dates below.

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR 2018

01/29 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place # ^
01/30 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison # ^
01/31 Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar # ^
02/01 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge # &
02/02 Madison, WI @ University of Wisconsin # &
02/03 Minneapolis, MN @ University of Minnesota # &
02/05 Lawrence, KS @ White Schoolhouse #
02/06 Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge & #
02/07 Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge #
02/08 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court #
02/09 Boise, ID @ Neurolux # &
02/10 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt # &
02/11 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey #
02/12 Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater #
02/14 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop #
02/15 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst # &
02/16 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room #
02/17 San Diego, CA @ You Are Going To Hate This Fest 3 #
02/19 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress # &
02/21 Austin, TX @ Sidewinder # &
02/22 Dallas, TX @ Three Links # &
02/23 New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge # &
02/24 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade # &
02/25 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight # &
02/26 Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre # &
02/27 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle # &
02/28 Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel # &
03/01 Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere # &
03/02 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall # &
03/03 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church # &

# = w/ Diet Cig
^ = w/ Lala Lala
& = w/ Great Grandpa

New Audio: Aussie Sibling Quartet Stonefield End 2017 with a Prog Rock-like New Single

Over the past few months, I’ve written about the Darraweit Guim, Australia-based sibling psych rock quartet Stonefield, comprised of Amy (drums, lead vocals), Hannah (guitar), Sarah (keys) and Holly Findlay (bass). And as you may recall, the siblings began playing together when they were all at a rather young age — with the youngest being seven and the oldest being 15. The band’s eldest member Amy recorded their first song “Foreign Lover” for a school project, and then reportedly she entered the song into Triple J’s national, unsigned band competition for youngsters Unearthed High as an afterthought; however, much to her and her sisters’ surprise, Stonefield wound up winning the contest. Within an incredibly short period of time, the Findlay sisters had two singles receiving regular airplay on Australian radio and an invitation to play at the Glastonbury Festival.

Since then, the members of the sibling quartet have released two EPs, their self-titled full-length debut and their sophomore effort As Above So Below, which was released earlier this year through Rebel Union Recordings/Mushroom Records. And adding to a growing profile, the Aussie, sibling quartet have opened for a variety of internationally renowned touring acts including Fleetwood Mac, Meat Puppets and a Stateside tour with countrymen and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard earlier this year. Interestingly, the Findlay sisters end 2017 by signing to Flightless Records, the label home of the aforementioned King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and The Babe Rainbow, and to celebrate that announcement, the band’s first release on their new label is “Delusion,” the follow-up to their sophomore effort. 
“Delusion” finds the Findlay sisters moving away from the heavy psych rock and psych pop of their earlier releases towards a dirge-like, 70s prog rock and metal sound as the song finds features some down-tuned power chords, dramatic, twisting and turning synths, tubular bells, some sinister mellotron and an enormous, arena rock-friendly hook within a sprawling and hypnotic song structure that features changes in key and mood. As the band explains in press notes, the song is inspired by the “overwhelming feeling of knowing you are a speck in the universe, getting lost in your mind.” 

New Video: The Presets Return with an Anthemic Festival Banger Paired with Wild, Psychedelic Imagery

Comprised of Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes, the Sydney, Australia-based electronic music production and artist duo The Presets can trace their origins to when the duo met while studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Hamilton and Moyes quickly became recognized for crating a sound that electronic dance music with an arena rock energy and vibe — and as a result, the duo signed with renowned Australian dance music label Modular Recordings, who released their first two EPs and their 2005 debut, Beams.

2008 saw the release of the duo’s critically and commercially applauded sophomore effort Apocalypso, an effort that went Triple Platinum in their native Australia and featured four smash hits, including “My People,” one of their biggest songs. And adding to a breakthrough year, Hamilton and Moyes won 5 ARIA Awards — including Album of the Year, 2 ARIA Artisan Awards, the J Award, the FBI SMAC Award for Album of the Year, and they shared the Songwriter of the Year at 2009’s APRA Awards. 

The duo’s third, full-length effort, 2012’s award-nominated Pacifica featured Rolling Stone Australia’s Song of the Year, “Ghosts,” and was nominated for an ARIA Award, shortlisted for the AMP Award, the J Award and was named the Herald Sun’s Album of the Year, the Daily Telegraph’s Album of the Year and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Electronic Album of the Year. And although, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the acclaimed, Aussie electro pop duo, the duo have been busy collaborating with a variety of artists —Hamilton cowrote Flume’s “Say It” and contributed tracks to albums by Flight Facilities, Steve Angello and Meek Mill, while Moyes produced the DMA’s latest album, remixed tracks by The Drones and The Jezabels and started an underground techno label Here To Hell.

“Do What You Want” is the first single from the duo in over four years, and it’s also the first single off the duo’s highly-anticipated fourth, full-length album slated for release sometime in 2018  — and unsurprisingly, the new single will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting festival bangers with enormous, crowd rousing hooks and thumping beats; but interestingly enough, the new single features a looped, glitchy sample reminiscent of Boys Noize’s “ICH R U,” while also nodding at Tweekend-era The Crystal Method and Come With Us-era The Chemical Brothers. 

Directed by Kris Moyes, the recently released video is a wild, psychedelic homage to doing whatever the fuck you want, as long as it floats your boat, doesn’t harm anyone and is relentless and ridiculous fun. 

New Audio: Up-and-Coming British Duo Gold Fir Releases Vibrant and Surrealistic Visuals for New Single “Sirens”

Gold Fir is a London-based electro pop act comprised of a rather mysterious duo known only as James and Mabel, and if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that that the duo have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that draws from 80s synth pop, classic electronic dance music and classic course music; in fact, “Night Walk”, which was released earlier this year, reminded me quite a bit of a dance floor friendly meshing 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.”

The mysterious British duo end 2017 with their latest single “Sirens,” a track that the duo says is”about welcoming different aspects of yourself to the dance floor,” sounds as though the duo was drawing from the likes of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” and “Get A Life,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and others as Mabel’s effortlessly soulful vocals are paired with a slick, house music-influenced production featuring layers of arpeggiated synths and twinkling keys, boom bap-like beats and an infectious hook. And while warmly nodding back at the sounds of the 80s and early 90s, much like contemporaries GL and others, they do so with a subtly modern take.

Directed by Tegen Williams, the recently released video continues the duo’s reputation for pairing their slick and soulful productions with strikingly surrealistic imagery — in this case, the viewer enters the mind of a music listener, and once instead we’re introduced to a pink-haired dancer, who first dances in an empty and darkened space before meeting some humanoid creatures. But much like its predecessor, there’s live action and hand drawn animation to evoke a dream-like state. As the duo says of the video treatment, “in life you’ve got to be whoever you want to be and the video was an ode to that sentiment; life is a dance like that.”

Live Footage: Royal Blood Performing “I Only Lie When I Love You” on “Conan”

Comprised of Worthing, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Mike Kerr (vocals, bass) and Rustington, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Ben Thatcher (drums), the British rock duo Royal Blood first met when the duo were briefly members of a local rock band, Flavour Country, in which Keer played keys and keytar; however, their collaboration together can officially traced back to a sabbatical Kerr spent in Australia, where he had started Royal Blood with Matt Swan on drums. And as the story goes, when Kerr eventually returned to his native England, his former bandmate Thatcher had picked up from the airport, and they immediately decided that they should start a band together. According to Kerr, the British iteration of Royal blood initially had a difficult time landing gigs and they wound up playing a lot of open-mic nights with acoustic singer/songwriters. 

After further developing their sound at Brighton Electric Studios, the band was signed to Warner/Chappell Music and the same management company that managed blogosphere darlings Arctic Monkeys, the duo began to receive a steady amount of buzz before the release of their first official single. Now, as you may recall, the duo released their sophomore effort How Did We Get So Dark? earlier this year to critical praise from USA Today, Rolling Stone, NME, Entertainment Weekly, and Forbes. Unsurprisingly, the album has also been a commercial success — it debuted at #1 on the UK Charts, as well as garnered over 30 million streams across Spotify and Apple Music and has sold over 250,000 copies. Adding to a breakthrough year for the British duo, they played at this year’s Outside Lands Festival and are finishing up a string of opening dates for Queens of the Stone Age throughout 2017 and 2018. (You can check out those remaining dates below.)
You may also recall that the swaggering, power chord-based arena rock friendly, album single “Lights Out”  reached #1 on the Rock Radio Charts as the #1 Gainer, marking the second time the band has reached #1 in their relatively young careers together. The duo were recently on Conan where they played the bluesy and scuzzy, power chord-based, ZZ Top-like “I Only Lie When I Love You,” which will further cement their reputation for crafting bombastic arena rock. 

New Video: The Sensual Visuals for Bryde’s “Desire”

With the release of “Help Yourself” and several other singles the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarah Howells, best known as Bryde quickly exploded into both the British and international scene as she received praise from Nylon, The Line of Best Fit and Earmilk and airplay from BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Wales, Radio X and Huw Stephens’ BBC Radio 1 show for a sound that’s been compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard and London Grammar while thematically focusing on complex, ambivalent, and hopelessly entangled relationships.

Now, as you may recall Howell’s “Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good” was a boozy and woozy dirge in which the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s aching vocals are paired with bluesy yet shoegazer-leaning power chords reminiscent of  PJ Harvey. Howell promptly followed that up with “Less,” a single that not only continued her ongoing collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Bill Ryder-Jones but was rooted around a forceful 90s alt rock-leaning song structure, while further cementing her growing reputation for writing unflinchingly honest and vulnerable lyrics.

Howell’s latest single “Desire” was produced by Chris Sorem and mixed by CJ Marks, both of whom have worked with Wolf Alice, PJ Harvey and St. Vincent — and while continuing along a similar vein sonically, as it nods at the blues and 90s alt rock, complete with an anthemic hook, the song manages to possess an urgent yearning, punctuated with the use of a baritone electric guitar.  As Howell explains in press notes, “‘Desire’ is about lust, our need for instant gratification, about desire’s addictive qualities and how they can make us behave.  I was inspired both by the way people have treated me and how I’ve treated others and how I’ve become unrecognisable to myself in the past just to appeal to this side of someone else’s personality.”

Directed by Furball Films’ Rhys Davies and starring Jade Perraton and Kyle Telford, the video features its two actors covered in syrup in a slow dance that vacillates between lustful desire and physical need — but while having a weird push and pull between regret and uncertainty. As the Howell explains in press notes, the video’s concept was inspired “by the symbolism of certain scenes in the movie Under the Skin, where the alien’s victims walk of their own free will into a thick, dark oil and to their demise. When writing the line ‘smother everything,’ I was actually imagining these temptations as a kind of veil that can leave us blind to what’s right and stuck in a cycle,” the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist continues. “We’re drawn to sugar coated things that are underneath bad for us. It’s about desires as things or people we want and can’t often resist, despite knowing that they will bring us nothing but regret.” 

Deeply influenced by The Breeders, T-Rex, punk rock, psych rock and New Wave, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Grace Vonderkuhn has received attention for a sound that meshes elements of psych rock, garage rock and guitar pop; in fact, back in 2015, I wrote about Vonderkuhn’s slow-burning, brooding, and lysergic cover of The Psychedelic Furs‘ “Love My Way.” Adding to a growing profile, over the past year, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and her backing band, which features Brian Bartling (bass) and Dave Mcgrory (drums) has opened for the likes of Titus Andronicus, Lower Dens and blogosphere darlings Sheer Mag among others.

“Worry,” the first single off Vonderkuhn’s forthcoming full-length album, slated for a February release through Egghunt Records features some muscular and self-assured power chords paired with angular and driving bass chords, forceful drumming within a 90s alt rock song structure —  alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, arena rock friendly hooks, an explosive and cathartic bridge and a fade out into the song’s coda.  Though it clearly owes debts to the aforementioned Breeders, Veruca Salt and others in the 120 Minutes-era MTV universe, the song, as Vonderkuhn explained to the folks at GoldFlakePaint is an “anthem for over-thinkers” with the song’s narrator attempting to  act as a calming counterweight, as she constantly reminds herself that maybe she shouldn’t be worrying as much as she does about everything, that some things are just beyond your control. And as a result, Vonderkuhn’s latest is a deceptive and mischievously modern take on a beloved and familiar song and aesthetic.