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 Video: Introducing the Soulful Honky Tonk of London’s Yola

Yola is an up-and-coming London-born and-based singer/songwriter, who has led a rather remarkable life. She grew up extremely poor, and as a child was actually banned from making music. The up-and-coming British singer/songwriter has also overcome being in an abusive relationship, stress induced voice love and literally being engulfed in flames in a house fire, which inspired her Dan Auerbach-proudced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, which is slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Easy Eye Sound. 

Since then, Yola opened for the James Brown and joined renowned trip hop act Massive Attack before traveling to Nashville to work with Auerbach and a backing band that features musicians, who have worked with Elvis and Aretha Franklin.  Adding to a growing national and international profile, the up-and-coming British artist has received praise from NPR, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, The Tennessean, Refinery 29, Billboard, American Songwriter, BrooklynVegan, Nashville Scene, Paste and Stereogum. Additionally, she will be appearing on BBC’s Later . . . with Jools Holland New Year’s Eve edition, where she’ll be performing alongside Michael Buble, Jess Glynne and the legendary Nile Rodgers

Walk Through the Fire‘s latest single, “Ride Out in the Country” is a Muscle Shoals-like take on honky tonk country that recalls Sandra Rhodes’ under-appreciated Where’s Your Love Been as its centered around twangy guitar chords, lap steel guitar, some Rhodes electric organ, a soaring hook and Yola’s easy-going soulful vocals. However, at its core the song is an achingly sad breakup song, written from the prospective of someone reeling from a devastating breakup, complete with the recognition that your former partner has moved on and maybe you should too, even if it’s profoundly difficult. Of course, the song’s narrator feels she has only one option — to get into the car and drive, and experience some of life’s small pleasures: having the wind in your air, of being out in open space with your thoughts, memories and regrets. 

Directed by Reid Long and Kip Kubin, the recently released video stars Yola driving through the country in an old Ford truck — but to eventually bury the bodies of two people in a shallow grave. On one level, the video’s main character is essentially burying a part of her past in an attempt to quickly move on. 

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New Video: Pale Mara Releases a Sepia-Toned Bit of Nostalgia Focusing on the Passing of Time and Mortality

Earlier this year, I wrote about Pale Mara, an indie duo comprised of Lee Godleski and Allison Robinson. The duo’s soon-to-be released self-titled album is slated for release on Friday, and from “Bird,” the album’s first single, the duo specializes in an old-timey 70s AM rock sound — with the single recalling The Carpenters and Carole King and others.

The album’s latest single is the sepia-toned, nostalgic, “Not Like I Used To,” a track that focuses on life’s inevitable transitions — particularly, friends, family members and associates dying; of time rushing by and getting older; of uneasily facing your own mortality; and of dreamily looking back at “simpler” times of seemingly endless and careless youth.  Sonically though, the song finds the duo’s sound recalling The Band and others — and while possession a hazy, autumnal vibe, the song reveals a similar, careful attention to craft. 

Edited by Jeff Wenzel, the recently released video further emphasizes the song’s sepia-toned nostalgia as it features old album covers from jukeboxes, pictures of long lost family members and friends, while also capturing life on the road as a working musician. 

 

Ocean Potion is the Toronto, Ontario, Canada side project of Yukon Blonde‘s Jason Haberman and Zeus‘ Mike O’Brien.  Haberman and O’Brien met while their respective primary bands were touring Canada, and as the story goes they quickly bonded, beginning a bedroom recording project over the course of this year.  Initially, there were no actual songs, just extended free form jams based around looping riffs. As these loops took more of a song shape, a creative process began to emerge — Haberman would record a basic instrumental track, then send it over to O’Brien, who would add words and melodies. 

Throughout the summer, Haberman and O’Brien bounced tracks back-and-forth throughout the summer and after they felt they had a collection of 10 songs that represented the best of what they’d created, Haberman dove into the mixing process, shifting through the many layers of synths, woozy guitars and dreamy vocals to find the purest and best version of each song. 

“Lights Out,” the Toronto-based duo’s latest single will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for crafting dreamy and ethereal pop centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a simple backbeat, shimmering guitars fed through effects pedals and O’Brien’s equally ethereal vocals. Sonically, the song evokes a few things to me — lazy days, sitting around and playing music and driving around aimlessly on gloriously sunny days with music on your stereo. It’s all good vibes and enjoying the eternal now. 

With the addition of Forces’ Dave Azzolini and Brave Shores‘ Jay McCarol, Ocean Potion will be touring as a quartet throughout 2019. So be on the lookout for more. 

 

 

 


Currently comprised of Andrew Kissel (vocals, guitar, piano), Travis Pinkston (bass, vocals) and Brian Yurachek (drums, percussion), the New York-based indie rock act Valentin Marx originally formed in 2012. Shortly after their formation, they wrote, recorded and released their debut EP, which lead to shows at a number of renowned indie venues across town — including Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Berlin Under A and Pete’s Candy Store and others. Since their formation, the band has gone through a lineup change while retaining the sound that first won them attention locally. 

Interestingly, the lineup change has resulted in a much more collaborative approach to their songwriting and recording, utilizing the skills and life experiences of each of the band’s members.  Their new single, the jangling and anthemic “Made Up” recalls 120 Minutes-era MTV but as the band notes the song is rooted in the frustration and disappointment surrounding modern relationships. Despite the fact that we’re all constantly connected to each other with Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and online dating sites, no one is actually having an authentic and meaningful interaction. 

 

 

 

New Video: Omaha’s The Faint Releases Stylish and Menacing Visuals for Club-banging “Child Asleep”

Currently comprised of founding members Todd Fink (vocals) and Clark Baechle (drums), along with Graham Ulicny (keys) and Michael “Dapose” Dappen (bass), the Omaha, NE-based cyber-punk act The Faint can trace their origins back to the mid 1990s. Founded by Fink, Baechle and Joel Petersen, the band’s founding members spent time skateboarding in their free time — until Fink developed knee problems, which shifted their hobbies towards music.

Initially forming under the name Norman Bailer, the band also briefly included Conor Oberst, who left the band shortly after their formation. The band’s founding trio eventually changed their name and signed to Saddle Creek Records, their longtime label home. Interestingly, after releasing a handful of singles that didn’t sell much, the band added Matt Bowen, who was with them for the writing and recording of their full-length debut Media. After the recording of Media, the Omaha-based cyber punk outfit went through a number of lineup changes.

In late 1998, Jacob Theile joined the band, Bowen left and was replaced with Ethan Jones. And with a lineup of Fink, Baechle, Theile and Jones, the band toured across the US, playing the material that would eventually comprised their acclaimed sophomore album Blank Wave Arcade, an album found the band moving towards an electronic dance music and techno influenced sound. Before recording the album, the band went through yet another lineup change with Jones leaving the band and being replaced by Joel Petersen, who played bass and guitar during the album’s recording sessions. 

During the recording sessions for Danse Macabre, the band added Dappen, who was best known for being a member of LEAD. The band’s fifth album, 2008’s Fascination was released through the band’s own label blank.wav.  2012 saw the release of the deluxe and remastered edition of Danse Macabre, which featured bonus and unreleased tracks, a DVD of archival footage, live projections from that album’s tour and live footage. 

In 2016, the band went through another lineup change as Reptar’s Graham Ulicny replaced Thiele. The band’s long-awaited Egowerk is slated for a March 15, 2019 release through Saddle Creek Records. The album, which marks a return to the Omaha-based outfit’s longtime label home, thematically explores the Internet and its impact on modern society and the ego — specifically social media and its dark effects. The album’s first single, album opener “Child Asleep” is a thumping and twitchy industrial house-like club banger centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, rapid fire beats, and vocals fed through copious amounts of vocoder. And while the song manages to recall Tour de France-era Kraftwerk and Atari Teenage Riot, the song is centered around a simple yet profound message — that “if I were wise, I would see that I’m a child still asleep.” 

Directed and Edited by Nik Fackler, the recently released video manages to be tense, slickly stylish and absolutely menacing; or in other words, it seems to accurately capture our uncertain sociopolitical moment. 

Comprised of Joe Mantell, Rob Leishman and Dimitar and Karbov, the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based rock trio Boy Breaking Glass derive their name from the Gwendolyn Brooks poem. Interestingly, the Canadian trio have received attention for a sound that’s dark, cinematic and intense. 

The band’s forthcoming sophomore album Exceed is slated for release sometime next year and the album’s first single, “Masquerade,”is centered by Joe Mantell’s sonorous baritone, atmospheric synths, dramatic drumming. a soaring hook and a propulsive, arena friendly coda — and much like Roxy Music (which the song sonically and thematically recalls), the core of the song is a palpable heartache. In fact, unsurprisingly, the song was written by by the band’s Mantell towards the end of a long-term relationship. And as a result, the song follows two very different people, who recognize that they can no longer they can change themselves or their situation to make things right — and that their relationship ending is inevitable. 

 

 

Crywolf is the solo recording project of Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumetnalist and producer Justin Phillips. When he started releasing music, he was practically homeless, living in a room the size of a closet and subsiding on food stamps. Since then, Phillips has come a long way — he has amassed millions of streams, headlined the second largest stage at Electric Forest and has received praise from the likes of Consequence of Sound, Alternative PressBillboardNylon, Complex

Deriving its name from the Latin name of a small, carnivorous plant, Phillips’ latest Crywolf single “CEPHALØTUS” will further his growing reputation for sensual, enveloping and cinematic pop centered around a gorgeous and atmospheric production featuring shimmering guitar chords, Phillips’ reverb-drenched ethereal falsetto which expresses vulnerability and plaintive need paired with  dramatic bursts of industrial clang and clatter. The song possesses a surrealistic and painterly quality — while delving deep into the depths of its creator’s psyche.