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: Weeknight’s Anthemic Take on Post-Punk

Initially formed as a duo featuring founding members, longtime partners an co-frontpeople Andy Simmons and Holly MacGibbon, the Brooklyn-based dark pop/post-punk act Weeknight received attention with the release of 2014’s full-length debut Post Everything.  And as the story goes, after playing hundreds of shows to support Post Everything including touring with Phantogram, Bear in Heaven, Frankie Rose, Moonface, School of Seven Bells, and Crystal Stilts, the duo returned home and began to write the material that wound up eventually comprising their forthcoming sophomore album Dead Beat Creep, which is slated for a February 1, 2019 release through Dead Stare Records. 
Written at the duo’s Bushwick home studio and recorded during the bleak winter of 2017 at House Under Magic Studios with co-producer and engineer Danny Taylor, the recording sessions for the album found the band expanding into a quartet with the addition of Russell Hymowitz (bass) and Jasper Berg (drums). And while inspired by the disillusionment of the 2016 election and profound loss and grief, the album’s material finds the band imposing limitations as they were writing and recording, as the band’s Andy Simmons explains in press notes: “We would only use analog gear and we would only write parts that we would be able to play live.” 

Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Holes In My Head” manages to bring classic 4AD post-punk to mind as the track is centered around a moody arrangement featuring shimmering and arpeggiated synths, an angular and propulsive bass line, delay pedal effected guitars, dramatic drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook –with a clean, studio polish. However, the song was written for Holly MacGibbons’ father, who died last year after a decade struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. It was written from his perspective, and says what I imagined he would have wanted to say to me if he was able to,” the band’s Holly MacGibbons explains in press notes. 

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Comprised of Joe Parella, Jon Rodney, Joe Cowell and Chris Donofrio, the Asbury Park, NJ-based indie rock band Deal Casino formed back in 2013, and as you may recall, the band released a series of EPs before releasing their full-length debut last year to praise from the likes of Stereogum, New Noise and others. Building upon a growing profile, the Asbury Park-based quartet’s sophomore album LLC is slated for release this month, and from album single “Happy People,” the band has expanded upon the sound that has won them attention as the single was centered around jangling guitar chords, a chugging and propulsive rhythm section and wobbling and droning synths. And while infused with a Wes Anderson soundtrack-like quirkiness, the song is bitterly ironic, as its narrator openly questions how people can be happy with themselves and the world around them when so much is dreadfully wrong — and although these happy people may seem superficially content, the song’s narrator points out that he’d rather not put on the happy mask that erases reality; even if it’s absurd and painful.

LLC‘s latest single is the breezy yet bittersweet “Baby Teeth,” which the band explains in press notes is about growing up and coming to terms with your own life. They add that the song “. . . touches upon wanting to takes control and then realizing that in order to progress, grow, and be happy in life you have to be able to rely on other people. ” Interestingly, the song sonically finds the band carefully walking a tightrope between a clean studio sheen and an old-timey lo-fi, as the band recorded the song with some unusual accents like mic’ed up trash bags, bells and vintage modular synths paired with a traditional rock instrumentation — and the end result is a song that manages to be imbued with both a sense of gratefulness over having people that give a damn about you and your well-being.

 

 

New Video: Balthazar Returns with a Breezy and Anthemic New Single

Over the past couple of years of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about Maarten Devoldere, a Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known for being the frontman of the internationally acclaimed acts Balthazar and JOVM mainstays Warhaus. Warhaus was a bit of a sonic departure from Devoldere’s work with Balthazar, as the project’s sound was atmospheric, jazz-inspired art rock the brought to mind The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen — all while paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.

Unsurprisingly, Warhaus’ debut We Fucked a Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawerence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover — and the album’s material thematically focused on lust, desire and the inscrutably of random encounters with a deeply personal almost confessional nature. However, Warhaus’ self-titled, sophomore album found the material thematically moving away from sin, lust and decadence and towards sincere, honest, hard-fought and harder-won love, as much of the material was inspired by Devoldere’s romantic relationship with backing vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album were also a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by  Dr. John‘s The Night Tripper period — with the material leaning even more towards jazz while hinting at voodoo rhythms.

While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in  Kyrgyzstan, his Balthazar songwriting partner, co-frontman and longtime friend Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. During Balthazar’s hiatus, the band’s songwriting duo found the ability to indulge their whims and follow their creative muses in different directions — while receiving boy commercial and critical success to be liberating. But it also created an undeniable urge between the two to write together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for real other’s work. 

When the members of Balthazar reconvened, they did so without any particular plan, just a desire to better their previously released work and to further the band’s story. Interestingly, the duo of Devoldere and Deprez agreed that the material should have an overall less serious, less melancholy feel, leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound — while retaining the hook driven quality that they’ve long been known for. And the end result is the band’s forthcoming full-length Fever, which is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Play It Again Sam Records. Now, as you may recall, the album’s first single, album title track “Fever” was a slinky and sultry track, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a twinkling bridge and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone. Interestingly, the single finds the band crafting swaggering and infectious pop that’s accessible, carefree, and flirty. 

Fever’s second and latest single “Entertainment” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its remarkably upbeat and downright playful but centered around a swaggering and strutting vibe and an anthemic hook — and while sonically the song at points nods at The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” as the Jinte Deprez-led song features Afro pop-like polyrhythmic percussion, a buoyant bass line and a strutting guitar line while Devoldere contributes equally playful harmonies. As the band explains “‘Entertainment’ was written at the end of the album recordings as one of the last songs, functioning as the loose, uplifting tune, celebrating a carefree take in the entertainment business. We wrote an ambitious album but tried not to take ourselves too seriously, sure it’s an outspoken singalong chorus, but there’s a rambling playfulness to it which we love.” And much like its predecessor, the new single is a razor sharp take on how much the entertainment business manages to influence every aspect of our lives — and how so many people get into the entertainment business to get laid. And much like its predecessor, the song reveals an incredibly smart band crafting a truly unique sound and aesthetic. 

Directed by Wouter Bouvijn, the recently released video captures the band jamming in their performance — and having a helluva time doing so further emphasizing the song’s breezy and playful nature. Interestingly, the video features the band’s newest member Tijs Delbeke, who joins as a replacement for Patricia Vanneste, who left the band. 

 

Brad Byrd is a Los Angeles-based indie rock/indie folk singer/songwriter, who after years of suffering through alcohol addiction and depression, started his music career in earnest in 2003 and since then he’s received attention both locally and nationally with teh release of his first two full-length albums — 2005’s The Ever Changing Picture and 2011’s Mental Photograph. Building upon a growing profile, Byrd released a string of singles collaborating with Warren Huart, and he had his music appear in TV shows including  The New Girl, Happy Endings, American Housewife, Ben & Kate, and Keeping Up with the KardashiansAdditionally, he’s shared stages with Bobby Long, Mike Doughty, Son Volt‘s Jay Farrar, Jurassic 5 and others. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you may recall that I wrote about “1000 Pink Balloons” off Byrd’s third, full-length album Highest Mountain, a soulful and introspective that focuses on self-discovery and the strength of letting go centered around a catchy hook that sort of recalled The Church.

Interestingly, the first bit of new material from Byrd since the release of Highest Mountain is a slow-burning, atmospheric take on one of my favorite Cure songs “Lovesong” that manages to retain the song’s aching longing while giving it a subtle country vibe.

 

 

Live Footage: Charlotte Lawrence Performs “Sleep Talking” on Vevo DSCVR

Charlotte Lawrence is an up-and-coming, 18 year-old, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and model who quickly rose to national prominence with the release of her debut single last year, which amassed over 16 million streams. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Lawrence released her debut EP Young which she followed up with a tour with Lauv, viral hit collaborations with Nina Nesbitt and Sasha Sloan.

Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt,James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. This past year has seen Vevo DSCVR inviting up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish, Bülow and Donna Missal — and continuing with a big year, they recently invited Charlotte Lawrence, who performed “Sleep Talking,” a mid-tempo pop song in which its narrator discovers that her lover has been messing around on her — by talking in his sleep. At the core of the song is a bitter sense of heartache and betrayal, wrapped around a slick and infectious hook. 

 

Over the past couple of 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 can trace their origins to when they met at a party. Bonding over their experiences playing in a number of London-based bands in which they felt as though there was pressure to fit into a particular scene through a way of playing or a certain way of looking, and they hated it, as they felt it was unnatural and unnecessarily labored. They became busking partners, playing in the London Underground. And in those days, they enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. They noticed a profound simpatico and 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 rousingly anthemic hooks, their sound is often difficult to describe as it possesses elements of the classic Manchester sound, Brit Pop, electro pop, contemporary indie rock and 70s AM rock.

Moorhouse and Duncan then spent the 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 FoalsDepeche ModePetite Noir, and Anna of the North— and mixed by Craig Silvey, who has worked with Arcade FireFlorence & 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.

The album’s second single “Won’t Happen” was centered around jangling guitars, a bouyant groove and a soaring, arena friendly hook while Duncan laments and repents for his past indiscretions — although it’s difficult to determine who he’s repenting to: is it a lover? or to himself? But one thing is certain, there’s a sobering sense of the passing of time and what it means to get older, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser. “No Night Lasts Forever” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s third and latest single is an atmospheric track that hints at New Order and Unforgettable Fire-era U2 — but with a soaring, 70s AM rock-inspired hook; however, emotionally the track may arguably be the most ambivalent and uncertain they’ve ever written. As the band notes “There was a debate when we were writing the song as to whether that’s an optimistic or a pessimistic statement. But we decided we liked the ambiguity — that it didn’t have to be one or the other.”Interestingly, much like its immediate predecessor, the track is imbued with a the sense of time rushing by and not quite knowing if you’ve spent it well or if you’ve pissed it away. And while sobering, all experiences whether good or bad are part of the story of a life lived.

The band will be embarking on a Stateside tour to support their highly-anticipated sophomore effort and it’ll begin with a March 19, 2019 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates
19-Mar, NY,NY, Bowery Ballroom
20-Mar, Allston, MA, Great Scott
21-Mar, Philadelphia, PA, Milkboy
23-Mar, Toronto, ON, The Drake Hotel
27-Mar, Detroit, MI, Magic Bag
28-Mar, Milwaukee, WI, Colectivo
30-Mar, Chicago, IL, Schubas
31-Mar, Minneapolis, MN, 7th Street Entry
02-Apr, Denver, CO, Globe Hall
05-Apr, Phoenix, AZ, Valley Bar
06-Apr, Las Vegas, NV, The Bunkhouse Saloon
07-Apr, San Diego, CA, The Casbah
09-Apr, Los Angeles, CA, Troubadour
11-Apr, San Fran, CA,The Independent
13-Apr, Portland, OR, Doug Fir Lounge
14-Apr, Vancouver, Biltmore Cabaret
15-Apr, Seattle, WA, Barboza

 

 

New Video: Deal Casino’s Quirky and Playful Visuals for the Bitterly Ironic “Happy People”

Comprised of Joe Parella, Jon Rodney, Joe Cowell and Chris Donofrio, the Asbury Park, NJ-based indie rock band Deal Casino formed back in 2013. The band cites Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, The Band and Led Zeppelin as some of their influences but more importantly, since their release the band has released a series of EPs before releasing their self-titled, full-length debut last year to praise from Stereogum, New Noise and others. LLC, the Asbury Park-based quartet’s sophomore album is slated for release later this month and its latest single “Happy People” is centered around jangling guitar chords, a chugging and propulsive rhythm section and wobbling and droning synths.  Infused with a Wes Anderson soundtrack quirkiness, the song is actually bitterly ironic, as its narrator openly questions how people can be happy with themselves and the world around them when so much is dreadfully wrong — and although these happy people may seem superficially content, the song’s narrator points out that he’d rather not put on the happy mask that erases reality; even if it’s absurd and painful.

Directed by Anthony Yerba, the recently released video is centered by an ironic juxtaposition. Shot with a fish eye lens,  the members of the band goofing off and being playful during rehearsals and practices. Initially bearing fake smiles, the smiles frequently become real smiles or wild bursts of laughter as the camera zooms up for extreme close-ups, capturing the band within their own natural habit — all while pointing out the irony within the song.