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.

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that. We’re collaborating with a talented Brazilian artist named Karla Caprali. She has created the song art, and is working on a powerful visual (animated video) to go with the track. We’re staying hopeful for the future. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.’”

With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national based shoegazer/dream pop act The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility. 

The band, which features members split in LondonLos Angeles and San Diego returned to the studio with Mark Rains to write and record their upcoming third, full-length album The Long Now. Deriving its name from a phrase coined by the legendary Brian Eno, the title refers to a long-term way of perceiving time, that’s an alternative to the accelerated way we often experience our lives. Essentially, viewing our lives this way allow us to make sense of our brief and noisy time together, by understanding our place in a much larger timeline with history playing its own course. Slated for release next week through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets, the 10 song album  thematically sees the trans-national septet imagining a blurred horizon that lies between light and dark and the fleeting nature of — well, everything. 

I’ve managed to write a quite a bit about the trans-national shoegazer/dream pop act over the past handful of years — and recently, I’ve written about two of The Long Now‘s released singles: the anthemic and breakneck “2:22,” a track that further cements their sound and approach — lush soundscapes paired with ethereal vocals. But a subtle bit of grime and grit gives the song an emotional wallop, which shouldn’t be surprising as the song tackles the overwhelming and confusing array of emotions that being constantly plugged in evokes. The album’s second single, the rousingly upbeat “The Morning After,” which features the band’s Betsy Moyer taking up vocal duties is a jangling, hook-driven track that thematically focuses on renewed possibilities the hopes of new beginnings. And as a result it’s a much-needed bit of hope in our dire time.

“Mourning Moon” The Long Now‘s third and latest single is a jangling and hazy shoegaze, centered around reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming, breathy and ethereal harmonizing and a soaring hook. And while continuing a remarkable run of lush yet anthem material, “Mourning Moon” may arguably be one of the more brooding tracks on the album. While featuring fairly vague lyrics, the song was written to conjure memories that are often vague and highly ambivalent — in particular, fundamental disagreements with a dear friend over a history between you that can’t be unwritten. And in many ways, the friendship may be on the line.

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New Video: Emerging French Emcee KZ Releases a Club Banger

KZ is an emerging French emcee. His latest single “Kiesta,” which derives its title from the French slang word that translates to “What’s Up?” is a slickly produced, club banger centered around shimming synth arpeggios. subtly Arabic instrumentation, thumping beats and thumping beats. And while sonically bringing JOVM mainstay Omar Souleyman to mind, the track prominently features the emerging emcee rhyming in a dexterous and self-assured French.

The song, as the French emcee told me in an email, is all about having fun and trying to spread great energy to everyone. And as a result. the recently release video, which was directed by KZ, is a brightly colored and surrealistic fever dream that takes place during a wild house party. He went on to tell me that because times are so difficult for everyone, it’s his wish for the song to help people escape from their worries — even if it’s just for the length of the song.

Live Footage: METZ Perform “Parasite” at The Opera House Toronto

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink covering the Toronto-based punk trio and JOVM mainstays METZ. And as you may recall,. the act’s fourth album, Atlas Vending was released last week through their longtime label home Sub Pop Records.

Their previously released material found the band thriving on an abrasive relentlessness but before they set to work on Atlas Vending, the Canadian punk trio set a goal for themselves and for the album — that they were going to make a much more patient and honest album, an album that invited repeated listens rather than a few exhilarating mosh-pit friendly bludgeonings. Co-produced by Uniform’s Ben Greenberg and mastered by Seth Manchester at Pawtucket’s Machines with Magnets, the album finds the band crafting music for the long haul, with the hopes that their work could serve as a constant as they (and the listener) navigated life’s trials and tribulations.

The end result is an album’s worth of material that retains the massive sound that has won them attention and hearts across the world — but while arguably being their most articulate, earnest and dynamic of their growing catalog. Thematically, the album covers disparate yet very adult themes: paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia and the restless urge to just say “Fuck this!” and leave it all behind. Much like its immediate predecessor, Altas Vending offers a snapshot of the the modern condition as they see it; however, each of the album’s ten songs were written to form a musical and narrative whole — with the album’s song sequencing following a cradle-to-grave trajectory.

Naturally, the album’s material runs through the gamut of emotions — from the most rudimentary and simplistic sensations of childhood to the increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys of adulthood. And in some way, the album finds the band tackling the inevitable — getting older, especially in an industry seemingly suspended in perpetual youth. “Change is inevitable if you’re lucky,” METZ’s Alex Eadkins says of the band’s fourth album Atlas Vending. “Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.”

I’ve written about three of the album’s singles so far: the album’s first single, album closing track “A Boat to Drown In,” one of the most expansive and oceanic tracks of their catalog; “Hail Taxi,” an explosive and deceptively prototypical METZ track that’s centered around a deeply adult sense of regret, as the song features a narrator, who desperately attempts to reconcile who they once were with what they’ve become; and “Blind Industrial Park,” a rapturous and euphoric METZ-styled ripper that’s actually an ode to the naivete of youth and the blissful freedom of being unbranded by the world surrounding you.

To celebrate the release of Atlas Vending METZ played a special livestream at The Opera House in Toronto. Last night’s set found them playing Atlas Vending in its entirely with an encore that featured fan favorites ‘Negative Space” and “Wet Blanket” off their self-titled, full=length debut.. The band released a frenetically shot live footage of pummeling new ripper “Parasite.”

You can still get tickets for the live stream of night 2 at The Opera House, which will air at 3PM ET, Noon PT, 8PM BST, 9PM CEST, 8PM AEST. Tickets available here: tickets.

New Video: Oakland’s Strangelight Releases a Pummeling New Ripper

Strangelight — Nat Coghlan (vocals, guitar), Tony Teixeira (guitar, vocals), Ian Miller (bass) and Julia Lancer (drums) — is a Bay Area-based punk All-Star band featuring members of Transistor Transistor, Kowloon Walled City and a slew of other notable local bands.

And although the band is relatively new, the band’s origins can trace its origins back to the early ’00s: New Hampshire-born Nat Coghlan met The New Trust’s Julia Lancer while touring California in the early ’00s and the duo bashed out a handful of demos together. About fifteen years later, they reconnected in Oakland, unearthed those early demos and recruited their friends Tony Teixeira, who has played with Swingin’ Utters, Cobra Skulls and Western Addiction — and Ian Miller, who has played with Kowloon Walled City and Less Art to flesh out the demos.

The end result is the quartet’s full-length debut Adult Themes, which was recorded in three days at Shark Bite Srudios by Kowloon Walled City’s Scott Evans, the week that the local and national governments began locking things down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing in the reputation of the individual band member’s previous work, Adult Themes’ 10 songs rage — and rage hard; but with the world-weariness, disappointment and discontent of 40 somethings, who have had lengthy careers. “The album is called Adult Themes because the lyrics deal with the monotonous aspects of life as an adult,” Coghlan says in press notes. ” “I don’t pretend to have any great insight into the human condition. There are songs about mortgages, there are songs about retirement plans. And since it was all written and recorded before the pandemic, it’s kind of a weird snapshot of life as it was, for better or worse.”

Adult Theme’s first single “Walks into a Bar” is a furious and pummeling aural assault, centered around Coghlan’s howled vocals. fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming and mosh pit friendly hooks, the song evokes the frustration of life — whether personal or professional — at a standstill. In some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that “Walks into a Bar” sonically brings JOVM mainstays Hot Snakes to mind. “I distinctly remember being in high school, driving to band practice, and hearing Hot Snakes’ Automatic Midnight for the first time,” Nat Coghlan recalls in press notes. “I was floored. In some way or another, I’ve been doing my best approximation of Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt ever since.”

The recently released video for “Walks into a Bar’ features artwork by the band’s Tony Teixiera.

New Video: Montreal’s Sébastien Lacombe’s Surreal Quest to Find His Old Hoopty

Sebastien Lacombe is a Montreal-born and-based bilingual singer/songwriter. And over the past decade, Lamcome has released four critically applauded solo albums, which he has supported with extensive touring across Canada, the States and Europe. 2005’s debut album Comme au Cinéma began a run of remarkable commercial and critical success — with the album being released to praise, while featuring three top 10 BDS radio hits.

The following year, Lacombe was selected as one of seven top French-Canadian artists to appear on CBC’s Sacré Talent. Building upon a growing profile, Lacombe’s sophomore album Impressions Humaines featured his fourth top-ten hit, which led to sets at a number of the province’s most prestos festivals, including Les Francofoiles de Montreal — and to a bevy of award nominations.

2011 proved to be a definitive and transformative turning point for the Montreal-born and-based singer/songwriter both personally and artistically: he spent the year living in Senegal, discovering and immersing himself in a new cultural landscape. He was touched by the people he met and their stories — and inspired by the griots he would catch perform. By the time, he returned back to Montreal, Lacombe had a different way of seeing music and life, which wound up inspiring his third album, 2012’s Territoires. The album’s material showcased a new sound and approach through the incorporation of traditional African instruments like the xalam paired with lap steel and acoustic guitar. Additionally, the album featured a guest spot from Dakar, Senegal’s Oumar Sall.

Territoires was released to critical praise and was supported with touring across Quebec, France, Switzerland and a stop in Africa for 2012’s Sommet de la Francophonie. The album’s material also received airplay from French CBC. Capping off a big year, the album received a Critic’s Choice nod from La Presse — and from Le Devoir for his set at 2013’s Francofoiles de Montreal.

Coincidentally, Lacombe was in the middle of a French tour when the shocking and appalling terrorist attacks across Paris and Saint Denis, which also included the infamous attack at The Bataclan in which 90 concertgoers were killed. Lacombe returned home with the desire to write new songs that communicated what he believed was a much-needed message of resilience and unity. And as a result, his fourth album, 2016’s Nous serons des milliers is a response to the increasing violence and divineness that he believed was destroying humanity.

Having grown up in an anglophone neighborhood with francophone parents, Lacombe was naturally drawn to writing and singing in French and English — and while he was initially releasing material in French, he was quietly working on material in English. Interestingly, that same year, he was cast as Pink in the musical The Wall Live Extravaganza. After spending two years in the role, performing in over 100 shows across Canada and the States, Lacombe was at a crossroads both personally and professionally, which led to the beginninig of a collaboration with Erik West Millette, who has worked with West Trainz and Dr. John.

Lacombe and Millette worked together on the writing of Lacombe’s fifth album FLY, which was recorded at Studio B-12 in Valcourt, QC and Montreal’s Lobster Tank Studios and released earlier this year. The album’s material thematically focuses on the universal ideal of freedom: the freedom to truly be your entire self, the freedom to try to achieve your wildest dreams — while overcoming the sturm und drang and sorrows of our lives to the best of your abilities and lastly, of renewal and hope once you’ve gone through the wringer. The album’s material also touches upon love, longing and the desire for independence.

“My Thousand Dollar Car,” FLY’s second and latest single is an anthemic track, centered around jangling electric guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering lap steel, a propulsive rhythm and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure. But much like Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” “My Thousand Dollar Car” is imbued with the aching nostalgia of a seemingly simple past that you can never get back. In the case of “My Thousand Dollar Car,” Lacombe’s narrator tells a tale of trying to find his first car, a beat up ol’ hoopty that brought him a sense of freedom, joy — and memorable experiences.

Directed by Alejandro Cadilla Alvares, who has worked on CBC’s Offkilter and ARTE’s Disportrait, the recently released video was shot in the Montreal area over this past summer. The video follows Lacombe on a lengthy and surrealistic quest across town to find his shitty, beat up ol’ rust bucket. And when he does, it’s like having reunion with a dear old friend.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay LutchamaK Returns with a Shimmering Techno Banger

Over the past year or so, I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering the rising French electronic music artist and producer LutchamaK. Now, as you may recall, the French JOVM mainstay’s work is deeply influenced by — and generally draws from — techno, but while reflecting his lifelong devotion to and love of eclecticism: his work generally possesses elements of techno, deep house and EDM among other electronic music genres and subgenres.

Interestingly, during that same period, LutchamaK has been frenetically prolific, releasing new material through an increasingly number of EPs, standalone singles and a couple of albums. He recently released another EP, the three track nani. The EP’s first single “October (U Should Try)” is a straightforward yet futuristic-like techno banger, centered around thumping and stuttering beats, glistening synth arpeggios and vocodered vocal samples that reminds me quite bit of Tour de France-era Kraftwerk but at a faster tempo.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Beacon Release a Driving New Meditation on Desire

Throughout this site’s 10 year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering New York-based electronic music duo and JOVM mainstays Beacon. Now,. as you may recall, the act’s third album, 2018’s Gravity Pairs found the duo — Thomas Mullarney III (vocals) and Jacob Gussett (production, keys, synths) — writing material that was a sonic left turn from their previously released work.

As they continued, they expanded upon some songs and pared others band. Much like the bending of light through a prism, the abstract, patient and almost painterly creative process of Gravity Pairs eventually turned the material they wrote into a space in which wildly different colors, tones and textures — in this case, minimalist ballads, elaborate pop spirituals and driving dance tunes — can coexist simultaneously and at different speeds. With each iteration, the duo discovered they could easily expand upon how they presented the material within a live setting: they could play the same material in a straightforward fashion — or they could play the same material in a different fashion that added or subtracted color and shading, depending on the circumstances, their moods and their desires. And while Gravity Pairs pushed the JOVM mainstays sound and songwriting approach in an adventurous new direction, the album’s material remained imbued with a vulnerability and aching yearning.

Since the release of Gravity Pairs, the members of Beacon have been extremely busy: Last year they opened for Nick Murphy. during his North America tour, which included a stop at Brooklyn Steel. They shared a series of stripped back, live studio sessions and they released a remix album, which featured edits by Elkka, Helios, and CRi. They began 2020 with a meditative, piano-led take on the Pixies‘ “Wave of Mutilation.” Inspired by the slower tempo and phrasing of the UK Surf B-side, which showcased the original’s mutability — and then they went off on a headlining European tour, which stopped in my second favorite city in the entire world, Amsterdam.

“Feel Something” is the first bit of new, original material from the JOVM mainstays since Gravity Pairs and the track finds the duo continuing to prioritize discovery and experimentation in their songwriting approach. Centered around blown out boom-bap beats, a sinuous bass line, atmospheric yet menacing electronics, jagged synth arpeggios, shimmering guitar lines, a motorik-like groove and Mullanary’s plaintive falsetto, the song’s lyrics paint a surrealistic and disturbing vision of desire and control. offering an almost lived-in perspective of a codependent and dysfunctional relationship.

Beacon have released an accompanying visual featuring a kaleidoscopic and undulating array of colors, moving along to the song’s motorik-like grooves. Without touring on the horizon as a result of the pandemic, Mullarney and Gussett teamed up with their friends at inlet.tv to create a 24/7 steaming channel featuring live visuals from the band’s extensive and lengthy touring history, which you can check out on their website — https://www.beaconband.tv. The channel is also syndicated on YouTube, where users can engage in an active chat.

Each week through the duration of the pandemic, the members of the JOVM mainstays will be releasing a new live visualizer from their archives to the channel and will utilize it going forward to broadcast studio sessions, Q&As and premiers, leading up to new music in 2021.