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: Up-and-Coming Aussie Electro Pop Act Haiku Hands Release a Cinematically Shot Visual for “Dare You Not To Dance”

Featuring a core trio comprised of Claire Nakazawa, Beatrice Lewis and Mie Nakazawa, the Australian indie electro pop act Haiku Hands is split between Melbourne and Sydney, and together the members of the act, who are influenced by hip-hop, pop, electro pop dance music and others, curate, perform and work as part of a larger collective that engages with and explores social norms with their lyrical, musical and visual content. Last year was a big year for the Aussie electro pop act as their previously released, high-energy bangers “Squat,” “Jupiter,” and “Not About You” amassed over 3.5 million streams — and as a result, each single landed spots on iTunes charts across the globe; in fact, “Jupiter” was included on Matt Wilkinson‘s Best Songs of 2018 So Far list, and received airplay on BBC Radio 1 and Radio X.

Earlier this year, the Aussie electro pop act went on a month-long North American tour with CHAI that featured stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and the Market Hotel, as well as an opening date for Cupcake in Chicago, along with appearances at a handful of SXSW showcases.

Building upon a rapidly growing national and international profile, the Aussie electro pop act are about to embark on a month-long tour of North America with CHAI that features stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and the Market Hotel, as well as an opening slot for Cupcake in Chicago, and along with that they had a busy SXSW, making appearances at a number of showcases, which have helped expand their profile internationally. But in the meantime, the act’s latest single is the brash and infectious “Dare You Not To Dance,” which will further cement their reputation for crafting club bangers that mesh elements of riot grrl punk, hip-hop, house music, drum ‘n’ bass, EDM and trap music with enormous, shout along worthy hooks in a way that brings M.I.A. and Gwen Stefani to mind.

Directed by Nathan Lewis, the recently released, incredibly cinematic video follows a collection of different young people, enthusiastically dancing in public — and in some cases while they’re supposed to be working or some other moment; and unlike the occasional passerby, these dancers are completely unguarded and free. 

New Video: Chennai India’s The F16s Return with Feverish and Sensual Visuals for Doo-Wop Inspired “My Baby’s Beak”

Earlier this week, I wrote about the up-and-coming Chennai, India-based indie rock act The F16s, and as you may recall, the act which is currently comprised of Abhinav Krishnaswamy (guitar), Harshan Radhakrishnan (keys), Joshua Fernandez (vocals, guitar) and Sashank Manohar (bass) can trace their origins to when its founding trio met while attending college in 2002. With the release of their debut EP Kaleidoscope, the Chennai-based indie rock quartet received national attention — with the band being named one of Rolling Stone India‘s Artist to Watch For. Since then, the act has released another EP and their full-length debut, 2016’s Triggerpunkte both of which have helped expand their profile nationally and internationally; in fact, the band has managed to play at some of their homeland’s biggest festivals — and recently, they’ve made strides into Southeast Asia with a growing six city tour across Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

The up-and-coming Indian indie rock act recently signed to Oxford, MS-based indie label House Arrest, who will be releasing the band’s WKND FRNDS EP later this week. ”We were fascinated to discover The F16s writing and performing such relatable pop-rock songs so many miles away. We had to reach out to see what their story is, which eventually led to us working together, ” the label says in press notes. “Their new EP WKND FRNDS is a big step for The F16s and we’re excited to see the reaction in both India and over here in the US.”

“Amber,” the EP’s previous single was centered around glistening synths, Fernandez’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, shimmering and jangling guitars and a soaring hook — and sonically, the song found the band seamlessly meshing elements of dream pop, bedroom pop and indie rock with a swooning yearning for a complicated and uneasy love that’s just ended. “My Baby’s Beak,” WKND FRNDS latest single is a slow-burning, doo-wop meets Beach Boy-era psych pop-like “My Baby’s Beak,” which continues a run of swooning yet deceptively uneasy love songs; in this case, the song details a contradictory and confusing push and pull between two especially damaged partners. Comprised of hazy stock footage, the recently released video is an ecstatic fever dream that manages to be both trippy and sensual, evoking a desperate and urgent longing. 

Deriving their name from Wallace Stevens’ 1934 poem “The Idea of Order at Key West,” in which Stevens examines the creative powers of the human mind, and “to what extent artists are capable of creating, redefining or mastering the natural world around themselves,” the up-and-coming Brooklyn indie rock act Pale Ramon features two grizzled, New York scene vets — Emanuel and The Fear‘s Emanuel Ayvas (vocals, keys) and former Monuments and Oceanographer Kevin Plessner (guitar).

The duo’s self-titled debut is slated for release next Friday, and the album’s first single,  “Beat Punk” is a fiery call for young people, artists, academics, Progressives, Liberals and Lefties to get off their asses, stop tweeting and get to work towards fixing what’s wrong with the world before it’s too late — and as a result, the song is an ardent an urgent, politically charged rock anthem centered around a breakneck motorik groove, rousing hooks that sonically brings Radiohead and Who Are You-era The Who to mind.

The band’s Plessner wrote to PopMatters that the song is a “melt your face rock song,” adding that “it’s a response to everyone who says, ‘They’re just tweets, don’t take [Trump] literally’ and ‘That’s just how he talks.’ It is an expression of anger and fury at political distortion. It’s about demanding civility and truth.” Ayvas concurs, while also clarifying that he and Plessner are trying to be “objective” with their social commentary. “In this song, we’re more in the narrator’s seat, looking at things playing out and describing the two sides of big emotions going on in the country than preaching from a particular sideline,” he notes.






New Video: Up-and-Coming Swedish Psych Rock Act Phogg Releases a Surreal and Post Apocalyptic Visual for “Three Shirts”

With the release of last year’s full-length debut Slices, the Stockholm, Sweden-based indie act Phogg quickly emerged into the Swedish psych rock scene with a sound that’s been compared to the likes of Ariel Pink and Unknown Mortal Orchestra — and as a result. they’ve received airplay on Sweden’s P3, and praise from the likes of HYMN, Nordik Simit and Born Music Online among others. 

Building upon a growing national profile, the up-and-coming Swedish psych rock act’s sophomore album Mofeto: Mashine Adamkosh is slated for a fall release through Ouyee Bayou Records. Mofeto: Mashine Adamkosh’s trippy, first single “Three Shirts” is centered around a motorik groove reminiscent of Join the Dots-era TOY, Evil Heat-era Primal Scream and Flamingods’ forthcoming Levitation paired with jangling guitars, blasts of shimmering synths, a rousingly anthemic hook and some blazing guitar solos. Interestingly, the recently released video for “Three Shirts” is a surrealistic romp that owes a debt to 60s and 70s promotional videos, as it features the members the band in a post-apocalyptic quarry. It begins with the lead singer, showing up to an old computer with a cup of coffee, as though he’s going to work. We see the other bandmates riding around on motorcycles; at points his bandmates interrupt the frame or do some other odd thing to disrupt the goings on. There’s no rhyme or reason for anything — and yet it’s trippy and pretty hilarious. 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Yola Performs “Faraway Look” on “CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions”

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the rising Bristol, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Yola. And as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay has led a rather remarkable life; the sort of life that I think should eventually be made into an inspiring biopic: Yola grew up extremely poor; but she was fascinated by her mother’s record collection, and by the time she was 4, she knew she wanted to be a performer. Unfortunately, she was actually banned from making music, until she left home. Additionally, she has overcome being in an abusive relationship, stress-induced voice loss and literally being engulfed in flames in house fire, all of which have inspired her Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, which was released earlier this year through Easy Eye Sound.

The up-and-coming British singer/songwriter has received praise from a number of media outlets both nationally and internationally, including NPR, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, The Tennessean, Refinery 29, Billboard, American Songwriter, BrooklynVegan, Nashville Scene, Paste and Stereogum. But perhaps much more interesting she has opened for 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.  

Now, as you may recall, album single “Ride Out in the Country” was a Muscle Shoals-like take on honky tonk country that to my ears recalled Sandra Rhodes’ under-appreciated Where’s Your Love Been. Centered around twangy guitar chords, lap steel guitar, some Rhodes electric organ, a soaring hook and Yola’s easy-going and soulful vocals, the song is an achingly sad breakup song, written from the perspective of someone reeling from a devastating breakup, complete with the recognition that your former lover has moved on and that maybe you should be doing so too — even if it’s profoundly difficult for you. Walk Through Fire‘s latest single is the slow-burning, swooning, Phil Spector Wall of Sound, meets classic Motown Records-like “Faraway Look.” Centered around an old-school arrangement and a soaring hook, the song is roomy enough for Yola’s incredible vocal range to shine. Interestingly, the song is about that precise yet profound and deeply awkward moment when it’s so obvious that you’ve fallen in love with someone that everyone else notices, including your object of affection. And in that peculiar moment, it’s now or never. 

So far this year has been a huge year for the rising Bristol-born, London-based singer/songwriter: she made her New York debut earlier this year at Rockwood Music Hall, played a breakout performance at this year’s SXSW — and she’ll be opening for a number of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates, which will include performances Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Brandi Carlile’s Girls Just Wanna Weekend in Mexico. She also made an appearance for Mavis Staples rotating birthday celebration tour. And earlier this year, she made an appearance on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions, where the rising JOVM mainstay and her backing band performed a gorgeous live version of “Faraway Look.”

New Video: Big Eyes’ Brooding New Video for “Nearly Got Away” Follows a Serial Killer

Over the course of their decade together, the New York-based indie rock act Big Eyes, which is comprised of Kait Eldridge (vocals, guitar), Paul Ridenour (guitar, backing vocals), Jeff Ridenour (bass) and Scott McPherson (drums), have explored nearly all corners of guitar-based music, eventually landing on a sound that meshes elements of hard rock, punk and grunge paired with introspective lyrics focusing on their shifting residencies between the Pacific Northwest and New York, as well as their own interpretations of current events. 

The band’s latest effort Streets of the Lost was released earlier this year through Greenway Records, and the album’s latest single the brooding, grunge rock-like”Nearly Got Away” is centered around fuzzy and distortion pedal-fed power chords, thunderous drumming, a rousingly anthemic hook and Eldridge’s ironically delivered vocals — and while recalling 120 Minutes-era alt rock, the track is imbued with an uneasy tension. 

Directed by Kait Eldridge, the recently released video for “Nearly Got Away” stars the band’s Eldridge as a lonely woman, who becomes a serial killer, something that the band’s frontwoman has long been fascinated by and has spent a lot of time studying. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Aussie Singer-Songwriter Gena Rose Bruce Releases a “Twin Peaks”-like Visual for “Rearview”

Can’t Make You Love Me is the highly-anticipated full-length debut of Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Gena Rose Bruce. Slated for a June 28, 2019 release through Dot Dash Records, the Tim Harvey-produced effort took roughly three years to write and record and features a notable guest spot from multi-instrumentalist Jade Imagine, who plays bass and guitar on the album — although fans have received glimpses of the album with its first two singles “Coming Down” and “The Way You Make Love” being released independently last year. 

The album’s latest single “Rearview,” which is the second single that Dot Dash has released this year, is centered by a sparse arrangement of atmospheric synths, shimmering guitars, propulsive and pulsating drumming and a smoldering vocal performance by Bruce imbued with longing — and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mazzy Star and JOVM mainstays Still Corners, the song as Bruce explains “is a conversation I could never have with this person, it’s about accepting failed love. I was angry at the time but I didn’t have the energy to stay angry or feel sorry for myself.” 

Directed by Alex Badham, the recently released video has a weird, fever dream-like logic as it begins with Bruce standing in the forest, and spontaneously jumping into the backseat of a driverless car. Throughout her ride, the car and her are confronted by a number of equally weird, unexpected guests, who join her as she takes control of the car. 

New Video: The Soft Cavalry Releases a Meditative and Cinematic Visual for Swooning and Slow-burning Album Single “Dive”

Formed by husband and wife duo Steve Clarke and Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, The Soft Calvary is a new project, and their self-titled full-length debuts slated for a July 5, 2019 release through renowned indie label Bella Union Records. For Clarke, the album is equal parts labor of love and long-held dream finally realized — and perhaps more important, the first album that he has masterminded from start to finish with the assistance of his wife and his brother Michael, who produced the album.

Reportedly, the album’s material radiates both midlife crisis and elation — the sigh of finally finding real contentment and peace after living a messy life, full of heartache and confusion. And as Clarke emphasizes in press notes, an album that he “needed” to make, as it can also be seen as a way of rewriting his own narrative: Divorced in 2011, Clarke admittedly spent the next three years in a haze. He had played bass and sung backing vocals in bands as a session musician and as a touring member since the late 90s, while also working as a tour manager.

At one point, he began working as a tour manager for the reunited Slowdive. “I was hungover in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band’s gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I’d played in London the night before,” Clarke recalls in press notes. “The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!” Coincidentally, that same day Clarke was introduced to Goswell. A year later, they were living together in Devon, before marrying last year. Rachel not only turned his world “upside-down,” as he recalls, she also unwittingly produced “the catalyst” for the new project. “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says in press notes. “I wish that I could have done this fifteen years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”

The album in many ways is an exercise in creative and personal therapy. The first songs Clarke wrote specifically for the album are Goswell-inspired paeans to fate, love, new beginnings and hope. But as he began to open up, the past found a way to seep in — the years of frustration, confusion, anxiety, heartache. If there’s a theme to the material, reckons Steve, “it’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience.’ With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through and find a level of hope.”

Interestingly, the writing sessions were in some way an extended conversation between the couple. Clarke, as Goswell says “is always writing, his head always full of lyrics.” Goswell, as Clarke says “reins me in when I get obsessed. She’s a good editor. She says my songs can still work without sections of words, that leaving spaces is OK.” As Clarke began to assemble songs, he invited a handful of dear friends including Mercury Rev‘s and Midlake‘s Jesse Chandler (keys), Tom Livermore (guitar) to assist with the album’s overall sound and tone. “I’d grown up with guitar bands and I didn’t want it to be overly guitar-y,” Clarke says. “We evolved things by trying out ideas. We’d be build things up, and then stripe them back and build them again.”

Interestingly, as the album progressed Goswell formed Minor Victorieswith members of Mogwai and Editors while all of those bands had gaps in their schedules, eventually writing and recording an album, which Goswell and Clarke contributed vocals and lyrics for. “It got the cogs turning on a writing and lyrical level, and gave me a certain amount of self-belief,” Clarke recalls.

After completing their album together, Clarke found a name for the band and the album, seemingly out of thin air — The Soft Calvary. “I can’t explain its literal meaning,” he says. “It just made sense.” Might Rachel be the calvary? “Maybe! it would be subconscious, but that makes sense too, strangely.”

The album’s first single is the cinematic yet ethereal “Dive.” Centered around towering layers of shimmering guitars, a propulsive backbeat and Clarke and Goswell’s gorgeous harmonies, the track is one part contented sigh, one part sweetly, romantic swoon — but underneath all of that is a creeping sense of everything being a fleeting dream. “How long will this wondrous dream last?”  

Directed by Handheldcineclub, the recently released video is a meditative and lyrical experience that follows a middle-aged man, as he arrives at his local pool. He changes his clothes and heads to the pool. We see his as he climbs up the stairs of the pool’s Olympic-sized diving pool and as he approaches the third level, the man becomes visibly uncertain and by the time he reaches the diving board, he’s terrified — to the point that he eventually climbs down, appearing self-conscious and foolish. After seeing a fellow swimmer successfully dive, we see our protagonist with a newly acquired bravely, climbing up the stairs and about to dive off the board. While literal in some sense, the video suggests that sometimes we need to be inspired and gently pushed out of out comfort zones to take leaps of faith.