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.

I receive an overwhelming amount of email from bands, publicists and labels with links to multimedia files for potential posting on this site — and unsurprisingly, I’m often multi-tasking while going through all the files I receive. Every now and then I stumble upon something that just captures my ear. Currently comprised of founding member David Feck, a.k.a. David Christian (vocals, guitar) along with Rachel Evans (vocals, percussion), M.J. “Woodie” Taylor (drums, production), Anne Laure Guillain (keys, backing vocals, percussion), Ben Phillipson (guitar, vocals), the London-based indie rock act Comet Gain formed back in 1992. Interestingly, despite a series of lineup change, the band’s work has been influenced by post-punk, Northern Soul and New Wave among other things.

The London-based act’s eighth full-length album Fireraisers Forever! was released earlier this year. The album’s latest single, is the stomping, nihilistic anthem — with arguably the best title I’ve come across in some time, “We’re All Fucking Morons.” Centered around an enormous, power chord-driven hook, arpeggiated keys, an angular and forceful rhythm section and a sneering punk rock delivery. Considering how we’ve treated the only home we’ve ever known and how we treat our fellow humans, we really are some destructive fucking morons.

 

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New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Yumi Zouma Releases a Dance Floor Friendly Meditation on Acceptance and Closure

Originally formed in  Christchurch, New Zealand, the internationally acclaimed synth pop act Yumi Zouma, currently features members spread out across the globe with Josh Burgess (guitar, vocals) based in New York, Charlie Ryder (guitar, bass, keys) based in London and Christie Simpson (vocals, keys) based in Christchurch. Writing and recording by email out of necessity, the band wasn’t meant to be a live project — and yet, they received attention and praise for a breezy yet breezy yet bittersweet, 80s synth pop inspired sound centered around Christie Simpson’s ethereal and achingly tender vocals. 

The acclaimed indie electro pop act recently signed to Polyvinyl Record Co., and to to celebrate the occasion, they released their self-produced new single “Right Track/Wrong Man” through their new label home. And while continuing an extraordinary run of breezy synth pop, the new track is centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, Nile Rodgers-like guitar lines, a sinuous bass line, four-on-the-floor drumming and ethereal harmonies, the song is actually an upbeat, disco-tinged meditation on the closure gained by accepting that it’s time to move on and forward. 

“‘Right Track / Wrong Man’ comes from a place of uncertainty – of not knowing if you should stay in the comfort of a slightly unfulfilling relationship, or branch out and make the most of the youth you have left; meet new people, go out more, dance, live,” the band’s Christine Simpson explains. “In the last year or so I’ve found myself switching between these modes, unable to work out what makes me happier, left feeling a little lost – but I’ve always found solace in the knowledge that at least I’ve been going out more, meeting new people, dancing – and living. As Yumi Zouma we often write songs that we want people to dance to, and that we ourselves would want to dance to – this is our dancefloor anthem to the confusion of living through your twenties.”

Matthew Messore is an Orlando, FL-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. best known as the creative mastermind behind the rapidly rising bedroom recording project Cathedral Bells. Now, as you may recall since the release of last year’s breakthrough self-titled EP, an effort which received support from David Dean Burkhart and praise from The Line of Best Fit, Messore has released a handful of singles from his highly-anticipated Cathedral Bells full-length debut, Velvet Spirit, which will be released through Good Eye Records on March 6, 2020.

The album’s third and latest single “Ephemeral” continues a run of material centered around ethereal vocals., shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drum machine, a motorik-like groove and an infectious radio-friendly hook. And while clearly indebted to 4AD Records glorious heyday, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, Chain of Flowers and others, the song is a swooning and urgent fever dream.

 

 

 

Over the past 18 months or so I’ve written quite a bit about the Newcastle, UK-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Sam Fender. During that same period of time, Fender has received attention nationally, internationally and across the blogosphere for crafting rousingly anthemic material with a broad focus on hard-hitting social issues that generally draw from his own experiences growing up in Northeastern England.
Now, as you may recall, this year has been a breakthrough year for the Newcastle-born and-based JOVM mainstay: his full-length debut Hypersonic Missiles, which was recorded and produced at Fender’s self-built North Shields-based warehouse studio, with longtime friend, producer and collaborator Bramwell Bronte was released to critical applause earlier this year. Adding to a momentous year that included several American late night nationally televised appearances, and a wildly successful international tour that saw him play across North America twice, Fender’s debut album recently topped the British Album charts.
Interestingly, the Newcastle-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist closes out a huge 2019 with his latest single “All Is On My Side.” Although the song doesn’t appear on his critically applauded and commercially successful debut, “All Is On My Side” has been a regular fixture of his live set for the past few years — and a fan favorite. Interestingly enough, Fender officially released the stand-alone single after a committed online campaign by his fans to put it out. While centered around the sleek and slick production and arena rock friendly hooks that has won him international acclaim, the propulsive song finds Fender crafting a synthesis of 70s AM rock along the lines of Gerry Rafferty and 80s New Wave and rock reminiscent of Billy Idol, complete with a Eric Clapton Slowhand-era like guitar solo.
“’All Is On My Side’ is a real live favorite for me,” Fender says in press notes. “It’s been a mainstay in the set for a couple of years now and it’s nice to release this as a bit of a thank you to all the fans at the end of the year.”
Fender closes out the year with a sold out series of shows across the UK and Ireland. He goes back on the road in March with a series of sold out shows. Hopefully, he’ll return to the States next year. But if he’s in your town, catch him before he blows up — and say you saw him way back when. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates 2019:
10th December – O2 Academy Brixton, London SOLD OUT
11th December – O2 Academy Brixton, London SOLD OUT
13th December – Great Hall, Cardiff SOLD OUT
14th December – O2 Academy, Bournemouth SOLD OUT
16th December – Dublin, Olympia SOLD OUT
17th December – Ulster Hall, Belfast SOLD OUT
19th December – O2 Academy, Sheffield SOLD OUT
21st December – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT
22nd December – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT
Tour Dates 2020:
20th March – O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester SOLD OUT
21st March – O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester SOLD OUT
23rd March – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow SOLD OUT
24th March – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow SOLD OUT
26th March – Alexandra Palace, London SOLD OUT
27th March – Alexandra Palace, London SOLD OUT
30th March – De Montfort Hall, Leicester SOLD OUT
31st March – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff SOLD OUT
2nd April –First Direct Arena, Leeds SOLD OUT
3rd April – Utilita Arena, Newcastle SOLD OUT

M for Montreal: A Q&A with Vince the Messenger

M for Montreal (French – M pour Montreal) is an annual music festival and conference, which takes place during four days in late November. Since its founding 14 years ago, the music festival and conference has rapidly expanded to feature over 100 local and international buzzworthy and breakout bands in showcases across 15 of Montreal’s top venues.

300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers from over 20 different countries make the trek to Montreal to seek out new, emerging artists and new business opportunities  Last month, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to be one of those 300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers, who made the trek to Montreal for the four-day festival. (And yes, I had some amazing poutine and a smoked meat sandwich. After all, when in Rome, right?)

Friday, November 22, 2019 marked M for Montreal’s third day and night of the festival’s four days and for me, it was the busiest and most exhausting one of my time in Montreal, as I made several stops in completely different parts of the city, including a Music PEI (Prince Edward Island)-sponsored brunch showcase early that morning, which featured three of the Eastern Canadian province’s hottest, up-and-coming artists – Vince The Messenger, Russell Louder and Dylan Menzie.

By any music festival’s third or fourth day, you’re most likely a hungover, sweaty, sleep-deprived mess with aching feet and knees and maybe even a sore back. You have business cards from people you can’t remember meeting or having a conversation with – and those people you do remember, their names and faces have blurred. And despite being overstimulated and in complete discomfort, you’d do it over and over and over again because – well, you’re having the best possible life and you might be a bit of a sadomasochist. As for me, I was a bit sleep deprived and somehow managed to enter the wrong address into Google Maps for the brunch showcase. Naturally, this resulted in somehow walking almost three blocks past the venue and missing what seemed to be at least two songs of the opener, Vince The Messenger’s set. D’oh! But I was so impressed by him that I knew I wanted to interview him as part of my festival coverage.

The up-and-coming Etobicoke, Ontario-born, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island-based emcee Vince The Messenger’s solo career started in earnest with the release of last year’s full-length debut Self Sabotage, an effort that led to the Etobicoke-born, Charlottetown-based emcee being nominated for a New Artist of the Year Award and the album receiving an Urban Recording of the Year at this year’s Music PEI Awards. After catching the 22-year old Canadian emcee’s set last month, I can see why: his work is an effortless and seamless synthesis of golden era hip-hop boom bap, introspective and thoughtful lyricism based on personal experience and feelings and slick, modern production. And it’s all done in a way that – to my ears, at least – seems perfectly suited for Hot 97 and Power 105.1.

Vince the Messenger Press Photo

I recently chatted with the rapidly rising Canadian artist via email about a wide range of topics including Prince Edward Island’s music scene, being an emcee and hip-hop artist on the small Eastern Canadian province, his influences, M for Montreal and more. He’ll strike you as a thoughtful and interesting young talent – and I hope that we’ll be hearing more about him in the States. Check out the interview below. And then feel free to check out some of the Canadian artist’s work, too.

Self Sabotage Cover ArtAndroid Cover Art

 

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William Ruben Helms: While I have a number of Canadian readers, the bulk of my readers are from the States – primarily in and around the New York Metropolitan area. As you can imagine, many of us won’t know much about Prince Edward Island, let alone Charlottetown. Can you tell us something about the province that we should know but somehow don’t know? What’s the music scene like? Is it unusual to be an emcee out there?

Vince The Messenger: PEI is a province that moves at a comfortable pace. The island thrives off of its tourist industry, with a beach in literally any direction and an abundance of east coast cuisine, the island really booms in the summer months. The music scene is small and tightknit. The music scene is home to singer/songwriters, indie rock, pop-punk, blues, classical, jazz and everything in between. Being an emcee is most definitely a little unusual out here. PEI is definitely not known for its hip-hop, but with artists like myself and others, we’re working to change that narrative.

WRH: Besides yourself, are there any other artists from your province that listeners and fans should know about outside the province?

VTM: Absolutely, PEI is small, but it’s concentrated with bubbling talent. Niimo, Slime Da Garbage Mane, The Lxvndr Effect are a few of the artists that make up the current hip-hop scene in Charlottetown.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

 VTM: I got into music at a relatively young age. The idea of interacting with music creatively was first introduced by my father when I was young, maybe five or so. He used to play in a few bands during his younger adulthood in Toronto, so it wasn’t uncommon for him to have instruments around the house. We’d write songs together and record them on cassette, he’d play guitar and I’d sing. This foundation of interacting with music led me to take songwriting more seriously in my later school years. By junior-high I was recording and releasing my own music and performing at all-ages events around my city. Things really didn’t pick up for me until recent years when I developed a close working relationship with my DJ and producer Niimo. From that point on I put out my first album, began playing shows and festivals frequently and have tapped into my artistry on a higher level.

WRH: There’s quite a bit of that old school boom bap in your sound and work. How much has that influenced your work? Who are your influences?

VTM: The music coming out of the boom-bap era was incredibly real and raw. Hip-hop coming out in the following eras saw more commercialization and at some fault lost some elements of what made it genuine. I’ve always reached towards the golden age due to its rich substance, that’s always something I’ve strived to provide with my own music. Hip-hop being the most popular genre today a lot of what you see on the surface is heavily commercialized and can lack substance. Luckily with streaming and the power of the internet artists with alternative approaches to hip-hop are still alive and well and are able to get their music and message out to the masses. My influences range from artists like The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Das Efx, Biggie to more modern acts like Mick Jenkins, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Badass and Kendrick Lamar.

WRH: How would you describe your work? 

VTM: My work is an expressive take on my life, my experiences and my aspirations. I try to blend a sound that’s easily digestible with lyrics containing deeper meaning for those who seek it.

WRH: I managed to miss a song or two of your set during the Prince Edward Island-sponsored M for Montreal brunch showcase. I was sleep-deprived and managed to enter the wrong address for the venue and walked two and a half blocks past the place. D’oh! Thankfully, I still managed to catch most of the set. I saw a fair amount of rappers during the festival, including a late-night showcase at Le Belmont later that night. But out of the rappers I saw you were among my favorites. How did it feel to represent Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island in front of a bunch of national and internationally-based music industry types?

VTM: It felt great representing Charlottetown in front of a bunch of music industry types and delegates. It’s always been interesting representing Charlottetown as a rap artist mostly because when outsiders or even insiders for that matter think of the PEI music scene hip-hop/rap is not a genre that comes to mind. That’s slowly changing as myself and other Charlottetown artists bring more life to the genre and art style in the city. It presents a unique opportunity to showcase my music with minimal preconceptions of what rap music from my city should sound like, and when it’s received as positively as it is it feels even better.

WRH: Did you get a chance to see any music during M for Montreal? And if so, was there anyone you enjoyed?

Luckily, I was able to catch a few shows during the festival. I saw Montreal’s Maky Lavender open for Toronto artists Charlie Noir, Tremayne, and Sydanie at Bar Le Ritz. The energy in the room was high, I was hoping to catch some other rap acts during the festival so I’m glad I managed to see that show. I also saw the Libson Lux Records showcase featuring Paupière, Russell Louder and Radiant Baby at Casa Del Popolo. This was another highly energetic showcase with some powerful performances.

WRH: Your solo career started last year, and you’ve been really busy. You released your solo debut Self Sabotage last year. You’ve released a handful of singles this year – and you’ve had a bunch of collaborations and guest spots. I listened to some of your work before I landed in Montreal and again for research for this interview. “Mr. Sun” and “Menace” are two of my favorite tracks of Self-Sabotage. Those songs much like the rest of your material captures your innermost thoughts, experiences, and feelings in a profoundly intimate and personal fashion – that’s somewhat uncommon with hip hop. How much of your work is influenced by your own personal experiences?

VTM: The majority of my work is influenced by my own personal experiences in some form. Whether that be a report of first-hand events or observations I make from things happening around me. A lot of what I write comes from an emotive space – I write how I feel and use these lyrics as a method of journaling.

WRH: You released “Android” a few weeks before M for Montreal. To me, it’s an interesting track because it features you rhyming over a production that’s both atmospheric and glitchy. So what’s the track about?

 VTM: “Android” is a track that definitely sits differently in my discography. When Niimo sent me the beat I was skeptical about rapping on it initially just because of how different of a sound it was for me, but there was something about it that had me captured. The song doesn’t necessarily follow a strict theme from beginning to end, instead, it runs as a series of thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. What starts off as a braggadocious ballad turns into me airing out a list of concerns, but ending on the same braggadocious high note.

WRH: This isn’t really a question but that “Azucar Freestyle” you’ve got up on Spotify is fucking fire.

 VTM: I appreciate that. That song came out of my fandom of Earl Sweatshirt. I recorded over the instrumental of his song “Azucar” off of Some Rap Songs and instead of putting that up on its own Niimo flipped the same sample and recreated the beat under my acapella.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now? 

VTM: Right now, it’s been a lot of MAVI, Medhane, Frank Ocean and FKA Twigs.

WRH: What’s next for you?

VTM: Since releasing Self Sabotage I’ve been working closely with Niimo on my next album Trustfall. That’ll be out early in the new year accompanied by visuals and a series of other materials to complement it. Outside of the new music, you can expect to see me showcasing within North America and put out more and more content for my audience.

 

The People Versus is an Oxford, UK-based chamber pop quintet — currently comprised of Alice, Benedict, Danny, Jack and Sean — that can trace its origins to a spontaneously combination of each of its members previous collaborations and projects. Essentially, the project features four singer/songwriters and former lead singers, whose combined vocals and instrumental parts form a perfect vehicle for their lead singer, Alice’s vocals.

Interestingly, while centered on narrative songwriting, the band’s material thematically focuses on love, loss and dreams while drawing from Greek myths and Shakespeare. The up-and-coming British act’s latest single, the hauntingly gorgeous “Ground Opening” features Alice’s beguiling vocals, a shimmering arrangement of acoustic guitar, soaring strings,  a stunning multi-part harmony and a rousing hook that gives the song a cinematic air. To my ears, their latest single reminds me quite a bit of The Cranberries‘ smash hit “Linger” but with a folksy yet classical leaning. As the band explains, the song is a re-telling of the ancient Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, which explains the turn of the seasons but while touching upon love and power dynamics in romantic relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Sofi Tukker Releases a Wild Party Themed Visual for “Purple Hat”

Acclaimed New York-based electronic duo and longtime JOVM mainstays Sofi Tukker — Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern — have been widely celebrated for an inclusive, global take on electronic music that’s thematically centered around self-empowerment, unity and liberation. 

“Drinkee,” the duo’s debut single received a Grammy Award-nomination for Best Dance Recording — and they continued an extraordinary run of early successes with their full-length debut Treehouse receiving  a Grammy Award-nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Adding to a growing profile of success, the New York electro pop duo’s releases have gone gold or platinum on every continent on the planet — with the exception of Antarctica. They’ve also played sold out shows and festival stops across the planet, and performed on some of the world’s most popular late night talk shows, including Italy’s X-Factor, the UK’s Sunday Brunch, Russia’s Late Show and Japan’s BuzzRhythm, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and most recently Good Morning America.

Released earlier this year, Dancing on the People is Sofi Tukker’s much-anticipated follow up to their highly-successful full-length debut. “Purple Hat,” the EP’s latest single is a joyous and ebullient track with a breezy Brazilian/Tropicalia-like intro that quickly turns into a thumping banger centered around tweeter and woofer rocking low-end, a funky Nile Rodgers-like guitar line, Bhangra-inspired percussion and a rousing and enormous hook while Hawley-Weld and Halpern trade vocal lines about a wild party in which the attendees let go of all pretense and facades and let their freak flags proudly fly. And as long as no one is getting hurt, be yourself, “shake that ass and show ’em what you’re working with!” Considering the hatred, opposition, thievery and bullshit we’ve been inundated with during this current administration, the song is absolutely necessary. 

“We wrote ‘Purple Hat’ the day after our first Animal Talk party,” the duo explains. “We started throwing these parties to bring back the wild and inclusive dancing vibe to the nightclub experience. Tuck was literally wearing a purple hat and a cheetah print shirt, people were climbing on top o people, it was over-sold and sweaty, our favorite people were packed in the booth, everyone was loose AF and feeling themselves. It was wild. Every Animal Talk party since then has been like that, and we wanted to capture that raw feeling in a song. If there was a song that included everything we are about, this would be the one.”

Directed by Charles Todd, a frequent Sofi Tukker collaborator, who also filmed the videos for “Fantasy” and “Swing,” the recently released video for “Purple Hat” was filmed during the duo’s sold out, homecoming show at Avant Gardner earlier this fall. Naturally, the video is split between excited Sofi Tukker fans arriving in cheetah print and purple hat gear, live performance shots and the concert crowd getting sweaty and wild, which further emphasizes the song’s spirit and feel. “This song was literally written about the energy of the crowds at our shows so we wanted to literally capture that energy for the video too,” the duo says of the video.  “It’s always so special playing back in New York, where everything started for us and we thought it would be the perfect show to film the video at. We didn’t want to get actors and have a fake party to recreate the energy — we wanted to do it in real life with real people, like we do most nights of the year. Really happy to relive that night over and over again.”

Initially starting their careers as founding members of long-defunct genre-bending indie act Wildcat! Wildcat!, an act, which crafted the score of the motion picture  Fallen Stars, the latest musical collaboration between Michael Wilson and Jesse Carmichael, Kid Nobody, can trace its origins to when the duo reconnected during a chance encounter in Iceland, several years after the breakup of Wildcat! Wildcat! Interestingly, this particular chance encounter found the duo recognizing that they had a special creative connection — and that there was much more music they needed to make together.

With a sharpened point of view and a hard drive full of musical ideas, the duo’s latest project together Kid Nobody recently emerged with a string ambient-leaning yet hook-driven pop tracks, which will be followed by their debut effort as Kid Nobody, the forthcoming EP discretion. The EP’s material reportedly finds the duo pushing the boundaries of bedroom pop while exploring an aesthetic that’s not quite happy, not quite sad, not quite chill or upbeat — but attempts to find a place between indulgence and restraint.

discretion‘s latest single “ms. stress” is a radio friendly pop confection  centered around shimmering synth and piano arpeggios, hip-hop influenced swagger, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an enormous hook, and plaintive vocals. And while bearing an uncanny resemblance to St. Lucia, Midnight Juggernauts and a growing list of contemporaries, the song is a slickly produced and swooning balance between earnestness and ambitious songwriting seemingly rooted in lived-in experience.

 

 

 

 

Belau is a Budapest, Hungary-based electronic music production and artist act, comprised of core duo Peter Kedves and Krisztian Buzas. Their debut single was one of Deezer Hungary’s top hits — and as a result, the song appeared in a number of HBO Hungary series and in commercials. The video for the single amassed over 500,000 views while winning the Hungarian Music Video Festival.

The Hungarian electronic act’s debut album, which featured their attention-grabbing debut single won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album. But since its release, the act’s profile has expanded internationally: a single off their latest remix EP received airplay on BBC Radio 1 — and over an 18 month period, the act (which expands to a quartet featuring Kedves, Buzas and touring members Benji Kiss and Bobe Szesci) played over 120 shows in 19 countries across the European Union, including stops at Eurosonic Nooderslag, Reeperbahn, Sziget Festival, Untold Festival and even SXSW. 

The duo’s latest single “Natural Pool” is centered around stuttering beats, tweeter and woofer rocking low end, shimmering guitars, atmospheric electronics and chopped up vocal samples. And while seemingly inspired by 90s trip hop — in particular Massive Attack— the song manages to possess a cinematic quality.