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.

Live Footage: Rising Parisian Electro Pop Act L’Imperatrice Releases a Slinky Disco Strut

Formed back in 2012, L’Impératice is a rising Paris-based electro pop sextet currently featuring founder Charles de Boisseguin (keys), Hagni Gown (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), Tom Daveau (drums) and Flore Benguigui (vocals), who joined the band in 2015. 

Since their formation, the band has been rather busy: they released their self-titled debut in 2012, their sophomore EP Sonate Pacifique in 2014 and their third EP Odyssée in 2015. Interestingly, a re-edited and remixed edition of Odyssée, L’Empreruer, a slower version of the original, inspired by a fan mistakenly playing Odyssée at the wrong speed was released the following year. An acoustic version, featuring violin, cello and acoustic guitar was released in 2017. 

During the summer of 2017, the band signed to Microqlima Records, who released their Séquences EP that year. Aussie pop act Parcels remixed some of Séquences’ material and released it that September. 

2018 saw the release of the band’s full-length debut Matahari. The album featured “Erreur 404,” which the band performed on the French TV show Quotidien. After two years of touring to support their full-length debut, the band released their first bit of new material since Matahari — “Exit,” and its French version “Fou.” The French electro pop sextet’s latest single “Voodoo?” is a slinky, disco-influenced strut centered around a propulsive groove, atmospheric synths, arpeggiated bass synths, jazz-like percussion, Nile Rodgers-like guitar and Benguigui’s sultry, come-hither vocals. 

The recently released video is centered around live footage of L’Impératice performing the song in a sparsely decorated studio. And it should give the viewer a sense of the band’s live set and sound. 

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Throwback: Happy 81st Birthday Mavis Staples!

Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for  2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”

She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy CenterHonoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Today is the legendary vocalist’s 81st birthday and I personally wanted to wish the national treasure a very Happy Birthday. May there be at least another 80 more!

New Video: Acclaimed Aussie Artist Peter Bibby Releases a Fiery Examination of Rural Australian Life

Peter Bibby is a rising and critically applauded Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, whose career started in earnest when he turned 19: he quit the unfulfilling job he was working at the time to busk, eventually landing a few paying gigs. Sometime later, Bibby landed a high paying job that he wound he losing because he would show up hungover from the gigs he’d play the night before. So, he wound up playing even more gigs with a series of different backing bands including Frozen Ocean, Fucking Teeth and Bottles of Confidence while developing a unique, rough and tumble sound and approach — one that many have described as being like Shane McGowan screaming at bleeding laudanum and typhoid hallucinations while his guitar playing has been described as being like a dog drunk on rum.

With the release of his first two albums 2014’s Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician and 2018’s Grand Champion, Bibby has been championed for being an inherently working class and wholeheartedly independent artist, further documented in greater detail in the 2018 film Chasing Palm Springs, which followed Bibby on a cross-country trip from Perth to Melbourne in a  temperamental van. Since then, the Fremantle-based artist has begun to build a growing profile and reputation as a must see act, as a result of a rowdy and raucous live set —  and through headlining shows and international festival circuit stops at Laneway, Falls and SXSW.

Earlier this year, Bibby released “Oceans,”  the first bit of new material since the release of Grand Champion. Featuring his latest backing band Dog Act — “Strawberry Pete” Gower (bass) and “Dirty Dave” Taylor (drums) — “Oceans” is disorderly, boozy and wobbly take on garage roc that’s full of spittle, fury and howled inventive, fuzzy and lurching power chords, thunderous drumming and drunken, shout worthy choruses that reminded me a bit of Johnny Thunders‘ “Born to Lose,”and John Cale‘s “Pablo Picasso”  — but much more unhinged. 

“Oceans” will be included on Bibby’s  forthcoming third album, Marge. Slated for a September 18, 2020 through Spinning Top Records, the album features Dog Act as his backing band. Reportedly, Marge, which derives its name from Dave Taylor’s grandmother Marge, and is an album of splintered, volatile Australiana written as a sort of soundtrack to a surf movie from hell — the sort where there’s blood in water; a dirt road leading to a dirt end; and everything is covered in diesel fumes and dust. “The Dog Act and I recorded this album in a week off in Perth between two Australian tours. We were match fit and full of beans,” Bibby says of the album. “It features a selection of songs, some fun, some completely bloody miserable. It was made better by the involvement of the fourth Dog, Mitch McDonald, who engineered the record and offered endless energy and ideas. I love this record.” 

The titular Marge is prominently featured on the album’s cover art,  smoking a cigarette on a beach in Darwin, Australia, seemingly watching her corner of the world go by.  “I felt there was no better image than a smoking nanna to be the face of this album,” Bibby says. 

“Whyalla,” Marge’s second single derives its name from name of a South Australian steel town that had been in decline for years. Centered around churning  power chords, thunderous drumming and an unhinged spittle and invective delivered vocal and a classic grunge rock song structure, the track is simultaneously a love letter and a fiery condemnation of rural Australia, pointing out the hopelessness, small-minded thinking and boredom of rural life in a way that feels full of the sort of lived-in hate, despair and abiding love you’d feel for a dysfunctional and fucked-up family member. The song’s spoken word bridge features Bibby telling some tall tales about some of Whyalla’s notable legends — but drenched with irony. 

“I wrote this song a few years back after my mate Racoo asked me to write a song for a road trip compilation she was putting together. I don’t think it saw the light of day. I had a lot of help from Wikipedia,” says Bibby of the track. 

Directed by Brendan Hutchens, the video is sort of a hitchhiker’s guide to nowhere in particular; the sort of nowhere in particular that somehow feels, well — American. We see Bibby getting up from camp, walking alongside a deserted road, hitchhiking until two guys — the members of his band — pick him up, They pull over to the side of the road to play and pay homage to Whyalla’s legends. Much like the video for “Oceans,” the accompanying video for “Whyalla” feels like a slow-burning fever dream. 

“We shot this thing out in Glen Eagle’s Rest, due to COVID 19 we couldn’t shoot it in Whyalla,” Bibby says in press notes. “It came together nicely with the help of great friends, a great crew and a weird toilet cleaner who hung around telling us strange and creepy facts about the location. He said he was disappointed that we weren’t shooting a porno.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Adeline Returns with an Intimate Visual for Slow-Burning “Just Another Day”

Since initially making a name for herself as the frontwoman of the equally acclaimed dance music/nu-disco outfit Escort, the New York-based singer/songwriter, bassist and producer and JOVM mainstay Adeline has developed a reputation as a solo artist of note, releasing her self-titled, full-length debut to critical praise from the likes of Vogue, NPR, Refinery 29, Rolling Stone, The Fader and many others.

The JOVM mainstay has opened for Anderson .Paak, Lee Fields, Chromeo, Big Freedia and Natalie Prass among a lengthening list of artists, which  which has helped to further cement her reputation for dazzling audiences with her beauty, her captivating live show and energetic presence. Adding to a growing profile as a solo artist, the Parisian-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and bassist, has made appearances across the national festival circuit, including Afropunk, Funk on the Rocks and Winter Jazz Fest. She’s also a member of CeeLo Green’s touring band, making her — arguably — one of the hardest working women in New York’s music scene. 

Officially dropping today, Intérimes EP, the highly-anticipated follow-up to her full-length debut features seven tracks that are a future-facing nod to old school soul, funk, R&B and neon that will include “Middle,” which she performed on CBS This Morning,  the sultry Quiet Storm-like “Twilight,” the disco-tinged Jonathan Singletary co-written “After Midnight,” the and the EP’s latest single, is a slow-burning, neo-soul strut “Just Another Day.” Centered around a sinuous bass line, the JOVM’s sultry vocals, her unerring knack for an infectious hook and some twinkling Rhodes, the track recalls Erykah Badu — but as the JOVM mainstay explains in press notes “‘Just Another Day’ is about questioning your place in the world, not feeling accepted, pretending to be in someone else’s shoes, so I wanted to show characters that exude confidence and self-acceptance as a message of hope for the LGBTQ people out there who feel rejected and misunderstood.”

The recently released accompanying video features the JOVM in a couple of stylish outfits and a bikini on the beach, playing her bass and three of her dearest friends — Yussuf, Gitoo and Bambi. Each of the video’s subjects reveals a bit of their personality and humanity in a way that’s endearing: one of the men has kind eyes and a mischievous smile, another is fierce as fuck, the other serves up moves — hard.  “The video features 3 beautiful friends of mine, Yussuf, Gitoo and Bambi. They are some of the people in my life who I look up to the most when it comes to confidence and style,” the JOVM mainstay explains. 

New Audio: Meridian Brothers Release a Chiptune Inspired Take on Cumbia

Eblis Alvarez is a Bogota, Colombia-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and forward-thinking recording project Meridian Brothers.  Alvarez’s forthcoming Meridian Brothers album  Cumbia Siglo XXI is slated for an August 21, 2020 release through Bongo Joe Records — and the album, which is the highly-anticipated follow-up to the act’s critically applauded (largely  acoustic) ¿Dónde estás María? continues the Colombian artist’s long-held reputation for relentlessly pushing his sound and approach in new and radical directions. 

Inspired by Cumbia Siglo XX’s experimentation with traditional cumbia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which led to a completely new form of the genre, Cumbia Siglo XXI sees Alvarez using a multitude of guitars, synths, algorithmic software, vintage drum machines and whatever tech that the acclaimed Colombian artist could get his hands on. And while the album’s material sonically seemingly to draw a bit from Kraftwerk, the album reportedly is a sonic blend of EDM “sidechain” techniques and traditional cumbia.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Cumbia Siglo XXI‘s first single “Puya del Empressario,” an infectious yet let field take on cumbia that sounded a bit like like eThe Man Machine-era Kraftwerk meets JOVM mainstay El Dusty — with a mischievous sense of adventurousness.  “Los Golpeadores de la cumbia,” Cumbia Siglo XXI’s latest single is a mischievous synthesis of chip-tune, electro pop and cumbia that sounds like came straight from the Island of Misfit Toys. 

The recently released Bibiana Rojas-edited video for “Los Golpeadores de la cumbia” features a split screen — the left-hand side of the screen we see a man, text people, receive a phone call and take selfies. On the right-hand side, we see some surreal drawings by Mateo Rivano. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays The Bobby Lees Release a Grungy Garage Punk Anthem

The Bobby Lees — Sam Quartin (vocals, guitar), Kendall Wind (bass), Nick Casa (lead guitar), and Macky Bowman (drums)  — are a rapidly rising, Woodstock, NY-based garage punk act have received attention for a feral and frenzied sound and and an unpredictable, high-energy live show. Adding to a growing profile, the act has opened for The Black Lips, Murphy’s Law, Boss Hog, Future Islands, Daddy Long Legs, The Chats, and Shannon & The Clams. 

The Woodstock-based JOVM mainstays’ Jon Spencer-produced full-length album Skin Suit has been pushed back to July 17, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic —but as you may recall, the album finds the band crafting forceful and self-assured material centered around some of the most blistering and dexterous guitar work I’ve heard this year. So far, the band has released a handful of singles off the album including the breakneck “GutterMilk,” a feral and gender-bending over of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man,”‘ that nods at George Thorogood, the  Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-like “Move,” the gritty, garage punk ripper “Drive,” and a grudgy and feral cover of Richard Hell & The Voidoids‘ “Blank Generation.”

“Wendy,” Skin Suit’s sixth and latest single is a garage rock track full of sneering, old-school punk attitude and sultry come-ons that will further cement the band’s reputation for crafting grungy and feral rock. 

New Video: Rising Hawaii-born Los Angeles-based Artist Lionel Boy Releases a Lysergic Visual for “Lately”

With the release of  critically applauded singles “Summer Fun” and “Lost” earlier this year, the rapidly rising Hawaii-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Lionel Boy quickly received attention for crafting a unique sound that mixes spacey synths and breakbeats with bedroom-produced pop.

Building upon a growing profile, Boy’s highly anticipated debut EP Who Is Dovey? was released last month through Innovative Leisure Records. The EP’s third and latest single “Lately” is a slow-burning and breezy, yacht rock-like track featuring twinkling synths, soulful horns, blown out backbeats, shimmering guitar and Boy’s plaintive vocals. But despite its nostalgia-inducing vibes, there’s something much murkier under its placid surface.

“Last year (2019), we had a week of rain in Long Beach. It was then that I wrote ‘Lately,’” Boy says in press notes. “I just begun learning how to incorporate samples into my songwriting, and ‘Lately’ was the first project I was able to complete doing so. There was gloom, smoke and a feeling of monotony in the air— I think that comes through in the music. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I was feelin some type of way.”

The recently released video features some cinematically shot and trippy footage shot while the rising Hawaii-born, Los Angeles-based artist were on a road trip to visit friends, and as result, it evokes the song’s wistful nostalgia — with a sense of doom just underneath it all. 

“Two summers ago, Casey (Lui Liu) and I drove up the Oregon coast to visit some friends in Seattle,” the Hawaii-born, Los Angeles-based artist explains in press notes. “We documented our drive with the intention of making a music video for a completely different project but the clips didn’t end up working. Nearly a year later, when I had just finished demoing ‘Lately’ from home, Casey decided to mess around with the old footage to the song. She threw up a 20-second clip on Instagram for fun that we pretty much forgot about until the single‘s release this past June. With not much else to do on lock down, we decided to play around one more time. We had all of these random clips of Casey running or kicking sand and I guess I spent 5 minutes filming a flying kite. When we found a way to fit them into the video, it was a really accomplished feeling. We were such different people on that trip and yet, I guess not much has changed. What we ended up with was a visual representation of the moments that make up a great trip.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Cinematic and Symbolic Visual for Shimmering “No Room”

I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumetnalist  Nana Adjoa over the past few years. And with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter received attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s singer/songwriter soul sound and approach that brought Bill Withers and others.

The Dutch-born JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to when she joined her first band as a teenager. At the time, she chose to play bass because “every other instrument had been claimed,” she recalls with a laugh. Unbeknownst to Adjoa, her mother had once played bass in a Ghanian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar.

Adjoa went on to the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material.

Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and its follow-up, Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who has crafted material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. Adjoa set out to write her full-length debut at the beginning of last year. Working in her own studio, she not only had the freedom to write and record songs nearly simultaneously, she had a wide palette of instruments at her disposal. The end result is her forthcoming full-length debut, the Wannes Salomé-produced Big Dreaming Ants, slated for a September 24, 2020 release. 

Reportedly lush yet delicate, intimate yet expansive and moody yet hopeful, the album’s material is features a diverse array of multi-layered tonal textures — including thumb piano, vibraphone and a vintage harmonium along with guitar, bass, vocals, etc. Although Adjoa — who, typically plays guitar on stage — handled, the majority of the album’s instrumentation herself, the album features a collection of Amsterdam’s finest players collaborating with her, including the members of her live band: Mats Voshol (drums), Daniel van Loenen (trombone), Tim Schakel (guitar), Jonas Pap (strings) and Eelco Topper (vibraphone). Thematically,  the album reveals a young artist poised to make a clear and concise artistic statement, in which she continues an ongoing search for identity while pondering life’s great philosophical questions. “For me,” she says, “music is a way to believe in something deeper.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single, the shimmering “Throw Stones.” Centered around a radio friendly hook, fluttering flutes, fuzzy synths, and a looping guitar line, the song features a narrator, desperately trying to calm themselves and their emotions in the face of internet trolls, digital clashes and overall uncertainty. Big Dreaming Ants’ third and latest single “No Room” is a decidedly trippy affair featuring  shimmering guitars, a strutting and sinuous  bass line, atmospheric electronics, twinkling blasts of keys, an expansive song structure, and Adjoa’s gorgeous vocals, the song may be the most expansive song of her career, as it has elements of shoegaze, indie rock and Afro pop. 

Directed by Rudy Aisbey, the recently released video for “No Room” is a cinematic and highly symbolic visual that make connections between Adjoa’s Ghanian roots and her Dutch upbringing, the passion for music that she can trace back to being small, the cultural misunderstandings between child and parent — especially when the child does something unusual. 

“The vision was to bring Nana’s duality in culture and music together,” Rudy Aisbey says in press notes. “Her name stands for so much more in Ghanaian culture. Nana means king/queen and Adjoa is her day name (Monday) which stands for peacemaker. For me, Nana’s music is a journey to finding the answers to life. Nana guides us with music to help us find those answers. I wanted to bring that journey to life in the visuals. In this video we see more of her Ghanaian culture and a journey to finding self— even though people want to put you in a box or want you to become someone else. In the end, she chooses herself. As Nana’s name represents, I hope her music guides people to choose for themselves, to learn more about their heritage in order to gain learnings from heritage and grow. Especially in these times, it is important to know where you’re from, in order to know where you’re going. We could all use a peacemaker.”

New Video: Go on a Night Out Across Suburban Sydney with Rising Aussie Act Abroad

Featuring members split between Sydney, Australia and Melbourne, Australia, the rising Aussie indie electro pop duo Abroad — Will Cruger and Jack Dawson — have managed to explode into the national and international electro pop scenes in a relatively short period of time. 2018’s London and New York, helped to establish the duo’s sound — a synthesis of organic, indie rock instrumentation and slick dance floor friendly production which amassed over a million streams.  Building upon a growing profile, the Aussie electro pop duo released two singles last year, “All I Want” and “Slide,” which also amassed over a million streams. Those two singles continued a run of material that’s informed and inspired by the duo’s experiences traveling and living overseas.

The rising Aussie pop duo has released material that has been featured on a number of popular, internationally recognized playlists including Front Left, Just Chill, New Dance Beats, The Local List and Indie Arrivals. Building upon a growing profile, the duo released “Home,” earlier this year, and the track has continued a run of attention-grabbing singles. Additionally, the band has opened for Boo Seeka, which may have led to Abroad’s Will Cruger co-written Boo Seeka’s latest single ‘Take A Look.”

The duo’s second and latest single of this year, is the euphoric and swooning club banger “Alright, OK.” Centered around a slick production featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, skittering beats, an enormous hook and achingly plaintive, multi-part harmony-led vocals, “Alright, OK” — to my ears at least — reminds me quite a bit of In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy and White Lies, if they managed to cover Stevie Nicks‘”Stand Back.”  Arguably, one of the most anthemic tracks they’ve released to date, “Alright, OK” is a decidedly ambitious track delivered with swaggering self-assuredness and a heart-on-your-sleeve earnestness.

“I think this is our best work yet,” the band’s Jack Dawson says in press notes.. “We are huge believers in taking people somewhere, whether it is a memory of a loved one, being in love with someone, or just dancing by yourself we want to cover all dem feels!”

Directed by Waymark Studio’s Bob Stewart, the recently released video follows it star Brittney McCallum on a night out in Sydney, dancing and rocking out across nighttime Sydney streets, seemingly carefree and wrapped up in the joys of new love. And of course, through the prism of love, there can often be a sublime beauty within the mundane and every day — if you pay attention. Interestingly, the video shows McCallum actively seeking something — the band — and not finding them until the end. 

“All through the clip, Brittney is searching for us and even though we walk right by her she doesn’t actually find us until the end. Partly inspired by our experiences being quarantined, the video is about taking a moment to reassess what’s really important, and whether it’s been with you all along,” the band’s Will Cruger explains in press notes.