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.

Stealth is an up-and-coming Birmingham, UK-based singer/songwriter. Citing influences such as Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James, the up-and-coming British singer/songwriter specializes in an old school bluesy take on pop and soul.  His single “Judgement Day,” was a viral hit that has amassed over 10 million streams on Spotify and YouTube combined, landed on the charts in 12 different countries and appeared on an episode of USA Network’s Suits — and as a result, his EP The Intro, which featured the song landed at #2 on the iTunes UK singer/songwriter charts and #3 on the iTunes US charts. His sophomore EP, Verse, featured “Real Life,” a track that was featured on ABC’s The Catch and E’s The Royals — and the track was also featured in a Kia Stinger ad campaign throughout Europe. Adding to a growing profile, the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter has opened for the likes of Seinabo Say, Jamie Woon, Zella Day, Tiggs Da Author, Vaults, Kaleo and others. He also received frequent airplay across BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and BBC Introducing — and was nominated for 3 Unsigned Music Awards before he signed to Ultra Music.

Since signing to Ultra Music as their first blues/soul/pop act, Stealth has continued to build upon a rapidly growing profile. His third EP, Chorus features “Gotta Stop Loving You,” a track with an accompanying Ryan Saradjola-directed video that has amassed over 1.5 million views on YouTube since its release; “Truth Is,” which was included on the official FIFA ’19 soundtrack alongside tracks from Barns Courtney, Billie Eilish, Broods, Childish Gambino, Death Cab For Cutie, Gorillaz, Logic and more.

Stealth’s latest single, the Stevie Wonder meets Fela Kuti and The Africa 70-like “Black Heart” finds the up-and-coming British singer/songwriter collaborating with the world famous funk and soul band The Dap Kings. Centered around a strutting bass line, a sultry horn line that only a few backing bands can provide, a twinkling organ line and Stealth’s soulful vocals, the track is full of bitter recriminations and accusations towards a deceitful lover — and by the end the song is a proud tell off to the same lover.

“‘Black Heart’ is all about noticing the little things a person does before they break up with you. They are saying one thing but their black heart says another,” Stealth says in press notes. “Had the pleasure recording this with the Dap Kings over in NYC and it was a dream come true. Obviously heard them on Back to Black and I’ve been a huge fan of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones who they also recorded and played with. To have the opportunity to meet and record with these living legends was unbelievable.”

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New Video: Acclaimed Antillean-French Singer-Songwriter Gerald Toto Releases a Sensual Video for “You Got Me”

Born in France, the Antillean-French singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gerald Toto’s parents were tax officials; however, they were ardent and obsessive music lovers and their vinyl collection, which featured American soul, Afro-Caribbean dance music, Congolese soukous and Cameroonian makossa was essential listening to a young Toto. By the time Toto was ten, he picked up guitar and bass. And by the time, he was in college, he used a student loan to finance the building of a home studio, with which he quickly became an intrinsic part of the French underground music scene, as a pioneering wold music artist and producer. 

Toto has collaborated with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including Algerian rai singer Faudel, Parisian act Nouvelle Vague and Middle Eastern electro futurists Smadi; but it was his breakthrough collaboration with French-Antillean singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona Toto Bona Lokua that led to two internationally applauded albums — 2005’s commercially successful, self-titled debut and 2017’s well-received Bondeko — all while each individual member was busy with their own diverse series of projects both solo and with other artists. 

Last year was a very busy year for the Antillean-French singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist: Toto Bona Lokua released their third full-length album and he released a solo album, Sway — both which were released through Nø Førmat. Now, as you may recall, album single “Away” was centered around a languid and tropical groove, gently strummed guitar, brief bursts of arpeggiated synths and an infectious hook paired with Toto’s yearning falsetto. Sonically speaking, the song further cemented the acclaimed Antillean-French’s reputation for crafting breezy and mischievously difficult to categorize pop that draws from Tropicalia, Bossa nova, 70s soul, Afro pop, French pop and folk, while encouraging the listener to slow down a bit to pay attention to the gentle sway of life’s natural rhythms.  Interestingly, the album’s latest single “You Got Me” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor —  breezy and infectious pop; but at its core, the song is thematically centered around desire, longing and profound loneliness. 

Created by Cannes-nominated French agency Temple Caché, the recently released video features sensual and humorous depictions of mundane daily gestures — cooking, sunbathing, a cat grooming itself, a young couple in a stolen moment in their car. But within these small moments, each character within the video is actually longing for something that they may not be able to receive. As Toto says in press notes about the video, “The sensualist acidulated video for ‘You Got Me’, through the depiction of seemingly anodyne daily gestures like cooking, sunbathing, a cat grooming himself; reveals the life of the inhabitants of a neighbourhood soaked with desire, pleasure & stolen moments, often in connection with nature. But under the luscious joy of the colours, humour & earthiness, surfaces a sense of longing and loneliness. As in cooking, love and the romantic relationship require generosity, presence and time. We must make ourselves consciously available, consent to the vulnerability of laying bare and let go.”

New Audio: Acclaimed Emcee Koncept Releases a Reflective Banger

Born Keith Michael Whitehead, Koncept is an acclaimed Queens-born emcee, who has led a remarkable life: while working at Fat Beats Records, he co-founded The Brown Bag AllStars with co-founders Soul Khan, Cold Codeine, J57 and The Audible Doctor in 2007. The collective have some rather humble origins — initially, Koncept, Soul Khan and Cold Codeine were writing verses and freestyling over beats made by J57 and The Audible Doctor at Jesse Shatkin’s studio. The collective’s 2009 debut mixtape The Brown Tape was released through Coalmine Records while the members of the act were working at Fat Beats — and they followed that up with an attention-grabbing appearance at that year’s Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. 

Building on a growing profile, the members of The Brown Bag All Stars released two EPs in 2010 — The Traveller and The Down Under Remixes. Adding to a busy year, Koncept released his debut EP Playing Life. 2011 saw the release of the first of their annual end-of-year A Year In Review compilations and Brown Bag Season Vol. 1, which featured guest spots from DJ Brace and Marco Polo. While the collective was beginning to receive a larger profile, Koncept’s 2012 full-length debut Awaken, which featured guest appearances from Soul Khan, JOVM mainstay Homeboy Sandman, Royce da 5’9″ and Sene with production from J57 and Marco Polo established the Queens-born emcee as a solo artist in his own right; in fact, as a result of the attention from his debut, Koncept received an endorsement by Red Bull that financed his 2015 critically acclaimed J57-produced The Fuel EP. After the release of The Fuel, Koncept went to Seoul, South Korea for a two-week tour sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft and Jameson — and those performances developing into more shows and bookings, and eventually a partnership with Sony Music Asia, who released his sophomore effort 14 Hours Ahead, an effort that thematically centered around envisioning your future and dreams, growing and believing in yourself every step of the way, and manifesting them into reality. So far, adding to a growing profile, the Queens-born emcee has also collaborated with the likes of Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, The Roots, Joey Bada$$, Green Day, A$AP Mob, Ghostface Killah and Joell Ortiz. 

Koncept’s third full-length album is slated for release next summer but in the meantime, he has released a one-off single, the Ray Hill-produced “Countdown.” Centered around an eerie production consisting of chiming synths and stuttering and boom bap beats, the track finds the Queens-born emcee, effortlessly changing his flow and cadences multiple times throughout while employing some mischievous wordplay and rhyme schemes; but the song finds him being both reflective and introspective, and while recalling many of his missteps and those who counted him out, he expresses a desire to keep moving forward towards the bigger and better things he’s just beginning to see right now. The song serves as a reminder that achieving your dreams requires you to sacrifice, bust your ass and believe in yourself even when things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped. And perhaps more important, there’s no such thing as overnight success. 

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe, and as you may recall the act, which was founded by primary songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan can trace their origins to when they met at a party, where they bonded over their experiences playing in a number of local bands in which they felt as though they was pressure to fit into a particular scene through a certain way of playing or looking — and they hated it immensely, feeling that it was unnatural and unnecessarily labored. Initially beginning as busking partners in the London Underground, the duo spent two years writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, including prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s father’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” the album’s third was an atmospheric track that hinted at New Order and Unforgettable Fire-era U2 but with a soaring 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.” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s fourth single “Echo Park” was a breezy yet mournful track that seemed indebted to 70s AM rock. Centered around a conversation between two old friends, in which the song’s narrator spends the song offering his lovelorn friend advice, the song can also be read to be about the members of the band, who finally made it to California, after years of busting their asses. And while everything is painfully lonely and surreal, the members of the band share a unique and profound bond, a bond rooted in its very oddness. “Coasting,Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s fifth single was an upbeat and sprawling track centered around jangling guitars, shimmering synths and a soaring hook and much like its immediate predecessor, the track draws from 70s AM rock — and a bit of Brit Pop; but with an airy simplicity unlike anything of they’ve released to date. As the members of the band say is a “celebration of new love.” They explain that “it’s a simple statement — ‘when i’m with you, I don’t need anything or anyone else. This feels easy, it feels like a fresh start: I’m coasting.’ Musically we kept it really simple too to reflect the sentiment. We wanted it to feel rootsy like The E Street Band and CCR and also channel a Britpop directness.”

The forthcoming sophomore album’s latest single “Here Again” continues a run of breezy, 70s AM rock-like singles, centered around jangling guitar chords, a soaring hook and a wistful yet introspective air — but interestingly, it’s a low-key yet sweet love song that suggests warmer and sunnier days are soon to come. 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

17-Mar, Washington, DC, Songbyrd

19-Mar, NY,NY, Bowery Ballroom

20-Mar, Allston, MA, Great Scott

21-Mar, Philadelphia, PA, Milkboy

23-Mar, Toronto, ON, The Drake Hotel

24-Mar, Ottowa, ON, 27 Club

25-Mar, Montreal, QC, Bar Le Ritz PBD

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

 

 

 

 

Off and on over the past handful of years, I’ve written a bit about the Austin, TX-based dream pop act and JOVM mainstays  Moving Panoramas.  The act is led by its incredibly accomplished founding member and creative mastermind Leslie Sisson (vocals, guitar), who has had stints in The Wooden Birds, Matt Pond PA, Western Keys, Black Lipstick, Black Forest Fire, Tanworth-in-Arden, and Aero Wave, has collaborated with The American Analog Set, Windsor for the Derby, Rhythm of Black Lines, RIDE’s Mark GardenerDan Mangan, John Wesley Coleman, Snowden, and Broken Social Scene, and has developed a reputation as a solo artist in her own right.

Now, as you may recall Moving Panoramas can trace their origins back to when  the then-Brooklyn-based Sisson returned home to Texas to be closer to the members of her previous band The Wooden Birds and to her family. She took a job teaching at School of Rock where she met Rozie Castoe (bass), who was in an 80s-themed show that Sisson directed. Interestingly, at the same time, Sisson took up a gig subbing in Black Forest Fire with Karen Skloss (drums), who was a long-time friend. When each of their various creative projects broke up, the trio started Moving Panoramas, rooted in their mutual love of shoegaze and released their full-length debut One. However, since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes that has resulted in Sisson collaborating with a rotating cast of previous bandmates and current bandmates Cara Tillman, Jordan Rivell, Jody Suarez and Phil McJunkins.

Slated for release next Friday through Modern Outsider Records, Moving Panoramas’ sophomore album In Two was recorded with engineer Louie Lino at Resonate Studio in Austin and the album reportedly finds the band expanding upon their sound and songwriting approach. Throughout the writing and recording process, there was a concerted effort to consider diversity in rhythm, volume and instrumentation; in fact, some of the album’s material incorporates pedal steel, a first for the band. Additionally, the album will feature guest spots from Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws, A Giant Dog’s and Sweet Spirit’s Sabrina Ellis and former bandmates Karen Skloss, Jolie Flink and Laura Colwell.

Last year, I wrote album single “Baby Blues,” a decidedly anthemic track centered around shimmering power chords, a propulsive rhythm section, ethereal vocals and a soaring hook. And while bringing to mind tracks off Sunflower Bean’Twentytwo in Blue, the track possesses elements of psych rock, shoegaze and 70s arena rock, performed with the easygoing self-assuredness of old pros. Earlier this year, I wrote about album single,  “ADD Heart” and much like its predecessor, it was an infectious and anthemic track centered around jangling guitars, Sisson’s ethereal vocals, a soaring hook and steel pedal guitar, which added an alt-country vibe to the proceedings. In Two’s latest single is the shimmering and moody “In Tune,” which features Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws — and while sonically bearing a resemblance to Dum Dum Girls, the hook driven song is centered by deeply introspective, narrative lyrics that focuses on self-doubt, uncertainty and confusion in a relationship that feels a bit off to both people involved.

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Cochemea Gastelum Returns with a Thoughtful and Gorgeous New Composition

Perhaps best known for a 15-year stint as a member of the acclaimed soul act and JOVM mainstays Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the California-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Cochemea Gastelum simultaneously has a lengthy career as a soloist, bandleader, musical director, composer and ensemble player — including releasing a critically applauded effort as a bandleader, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow several years ago. 

With both of his parents being musicians, Gastelum grew up in a rather musical home. And although the multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, musical director and composer can claim Yaqui Mescalero Apache Indian heritage — in fact, his name is Yaqui Mescalero Apache for “they were all asleep” — he grew up without knowing much about his own heritage. Ironically though, he has spent the bulk of his musical career writing, performing and recording various iterations of roots music. 

Slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Daptone Records, Gastelum’s soon-to-be released effort All My Relations find the California-born, New York-based former member of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings connecting with his roots through music.  “All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music,” the California-born, New York-based saxophonist, bandleader, musical director and composer says in press notes. “Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been (‘Sonora’) or a musical impression of ritual (‘Mitote’). I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.”

Originally conceived during Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings’ final year of touring, Gastelum along with Daptone Records head and producer Gabriel Roth cast a varied but familial set of local musicians to bring Gastelum’s ideas to life. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the album was created through improvisation and collective writing, where its  10 musicians created a melodic, percussive conversation. “It was a beautiful experience – people would start playing and we’d work up these arrangements on the spot, then record it,” Gastelum says of the recording sessions. Now, as you may recall, the album title track and first single “All My Relations” featured an arrangement of tribal percussion, chanting, ethereal flute, and a gently propulsive bass line that created a composition that feels ceremonial and suggests that the musicians were aiming for something much more profound and necessary — a connection with the infinite. 

All My Relations’ second and latest single “Al-Mu’Tasim” derives its name from the Arabic phrase “he who seeks shelter in God.” Sonically, the track is reportedly by Moroccan Gnawa music, and as a result the track consists of a composition centered around a looping and expressive horn line, a sinuous and bass line, tribal drumming and a chanted chorus. Sonically, the composition manages to recall the most gorgeous and thoughtful elements of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme — but with a tribal and ancient vibe. “This track features Gabe [Roth] on the Gimbre. He has some North African ancestry and had a Gimbre that his dad brought him back from Morocco. It’s influenced by Gnawa music from the region,” Gastelum says in press notes. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Sego Return with a Trippy Visual for the Post Punk Anthem “Neon Me Out”

Now, over the a significant portion of this site’s nearly nine year history,  I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Sego. Initially comprised of Mapleton, UT-born founding duo Spencer Peterson and Thomas Carroll, the band expanded to a quartet with the addition of Alyssa Davey (bass) and Brandon McBride (guitar, keys) last year.

As you may recall, the band’s long-awaited sophomore album Sego Sucks is slated for an April 5, 2019 release through Roll Call Records, and the album is partially inspired by  the band’s extensive touring across North America, Europe and the UK and by the addition of the band’s newest members. Unsurprisingly, both events have made the band’s sound and approach much more focused — while retaining a raucous and rowdy spirit. The rowdy and anthemic album single “Shame” was centered around a shout worthy series of hooks, buzzing and distorted guitars, thumping beats and pulsating electronics paired with ironically delivered lyrics. Sonically speaking, the song found the band moving towards a radio friendly, somewhat pop-leaning take on pop. Interestingly, Sego Sucks’ latest single “Neon Me Out” sort of continues in a similar vein — it’s centered around anthemic, sing along and shout along worthy hooks and a propulsive bass line; however, the song to my ears  is a seamless and mischievous synthesis of Odelay-era Beck and Gang of Four-like post punk. And while radio friendly, the song touches upon social media distortions and social media fame, boredom, phoniness, the desperate attempt to fit into a scene, and so on with a post-modern sense of ironic aplomb. 

Decidedly lo-fi, the recently released video is a lysergic-tinged trip, comprised of a series of collages of the band hanging out, fucking around and so on, the members of the band playing in front of a fun house mirror-like distortion. It creates a weird view of the band’s innermost world.  

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Rutherford, NJ-based indie rock act Garcia Peoples, and as you may recall the act, which is comprised of founding members Danny Arakaki (guitar) and Tom Malach (guitar), Derek Spaldo (bass) and Cesar Arakaki (drums) and newest member Pat Gubler (keys) can trace their origins to sometime between 2011 and 2012 — depending on who you ask and when you ask them. Interestingly, since the release of last year’s full-length debut, Cosmic Cash through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records, the band has been ridiculously prolific, reportedly writing and composing several albums’ worth of material at a rate too quick to set time aside to record it; in fact, during an attention-grabbing weekly residency at Brooklyn’s Wonders of Nature, the band barely repeated a song with some local tape recorders noticing newly evolving material.

Slated for a March 29, 2019 release, Garcia Peoples’ sophomore album Natural Facts purportedly serves as an extended introduction to their unique, cosmic take on Americana that finds the band bridging indie rock, jam band rock and classic rock — with the band’s sound and approach evolving quite a bit. Natural Facts‘ first single was the shaggy, psych rock scorcher, “Feel So Great.” Sounding as though it coulda have been released around 1974, the track was centered around Arakaki and Malach’s impressive two guitar approach, thundering drumming and an expansive and trippy jam-band like song structure, capturing a bunch of good friends, who have spent years jamming, bullshitting, playing records, catching bands and coming into their own — with a passionate, muscular, urgency.

Continuing on a similar vein, Natural Facts‘ second and latest single is the Southern fried rock-inspired “High Noon Violence.” Featuring an Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd-like, shimmering two guitar attack, twinkling keys and a propulsive rhythm section within a trippy and expansive song structure, the track has a slow-burning yet lysergic vibe with a free-flowing, bunch of good friends jamming together feel; however, unlike its predecessor, it has a darker, murkier undertone.

The band are currently in the middle of a tour to support their forthcoming sophomore album, and it includes two NYC area dates — March 1, 2019 and March 2, 2019 at Brooklyn Bowl. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:

02.26.19 – Boston, MA @ ONCE Ballroom#
02.27.19 – Port Chester, NY @ Garcia’s#
02.28.19 – Washington, DC @ Gypsy Sally’s#

03.01.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl#
03.02.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl#
03.03.19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ardmore#
#w/ Grateful Shred

New Video: Shawn Johnson’s Trippy Animated Visuals for Czarface’s and Ghostface’s Latest Single

Last year, I wrote quite a bit about Czarface, a collaborative project featuring renowned, underground hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric and the Wu-Tang Clan‘s Inspectah Deck. The act derives its name from a character they created that’s patterned after comic book super villains and aspects of each of the individual members of the project. Now, as you may recall, the act can trace its origins to when the trio toured together, which led to a handful of singles — including “Speaking Real Words” off 7L & Esoteric’s 2001 album, The Soul Purpose and “12th Chamber” off their 2010 album 1212, and a number of other singles. Since the act formed back in 2013, they’ve released four critically applauded albums: their 2013 self-titled debut, 2015’s Every Hero Needs a Villain, 2016’s A Fistful of Peril and their collaboration with MF Doom, Czarface Meets Metalface, which was released last year.

Interestingly, the acclaimed trio follow their critically applauded and highly-anticipated collaboration with MF Doom by teaming up with another legendary and beloved emcee, Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Starks on Czarface Meets Ghostface, which is slated for release later this week. “Iron Claw,” the album’s first single was a perfect taste of what hip hop heads should expect from the album — four of the world’s dopest emcees trading swaggering bars about running crime syndicates, taking over the world, being the dopest around and more over a thumping and downright menacing production featuring enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, chopped up vocal samples and arpeggiated synths.  The album’s second and latest single “Mongolian Beef” features each emcee making an insane array of pop cultural references with some of the most inventive word play and rhyme schemes I’ve heard in some time — and each emcee trades their dense bars over a wobbling yet cinematic production consisting of a thumping and stuttering beats, chopped up vocal samples, buzzing organs, a sinuous and funky bass line. It’s a track that manages to be trippy and yet full of the street shit that I love so much — and much like Strong Arm Steady’s “Premium,” the track finds the collaborative unit pushing their talents, skills and overall sound in a wild, new direction. 

Directed by Shawn A. Johnson, the recently released, collage-based animated video fittingly draws from comic books, anime and Japanimation and is as much of a trip as the song it accompanies. 

New Audio: Indie Rock All-Star Act Filthy Friends Return with a Searing Indictment of Unchecked Capitalism

Initially comprised Sleater-Kinney’s and Heavens to Betsy’s Corin Tucker (vocals, guitar),  Fastbacks’ Kurt Bloch (guitar), The Fresh Young Fellows’ Scott McCaughey (bass), R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (guitar) and King Crimson’s Bill Rieflin (drums), Filthy Friends featured some of the most accomplished, influential and beloved musicians of the past 40 years or so in an indie rock/alt rock All-Star act that in some way was meant to be a side project of sorts and a free-flowing collaboration between likeminded, long-time friends and colleagues.

Since their formation, the act released their attention-grabbing, critically applauded, politically-charged debut Invitation and were included on an anti-Trump protest compilation 30 Songs in 30 Days. Unfortunately, as they were about to begin touring to support Invitation, Scott McCaughey suffered a stroke, which curtailed the band’s tour plans. While McCaughey was recovering, Tucker wrote and recorded an album with the reunited Sleater-Kinney, which they supported with a tour — and Peter Buck collaborated with acclaimed singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur in Arthur Buck. And the band has gone through a lineup change with Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3’s Linda Pitmon (drums) replacing Bill Rieflin.  

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Kill Rock Stars Records, the band’s long-awaited sophomore album Emerald Valley finds the band of accomplished musicians crafting material that rages about and mourns over the fate of our planet and the people who inhabit it. Reportedly, the album’s core idea came from a demo Buck shared with Tucker, a grinding blues that eventually turned into the album’s title track.  According to Tucker, as soon as she heard it, it sparked something within her: “I had this long poem growing in my brain,” she says. “It turned into a sort of manifesto about the kind of place we are at as a country but also as a region. Just taking stock of where we’re at and feeling like I can’t believe we let things get this bad.” Interestingly, Emerald Valley’s latest single, the blistering and anthemic, 90s alt rock-like “Last Chance County” is a searing indictment of unchecked capitalism, in which the desperate and powerless get crushed by the powerful, the greedy and super rich. And at its core, the song demands that we gotta change things now — and if we don’t, we’ll fuck up things so badly, that we won’t be able to save ourselves.