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: LOO & MONETTI Release a Trippy Visual for Brooding “Talk to me”

Initially starting his music career in the 1990s as the frontman and drummer of French alt rock act STICKBUZZ, French-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, drummer and vocalist Christophe Menassier has composed scores for TV, commercials, movies and online features since 2001. And as a result of his work, he has worked with some of the world’s most prestigious and well-regarded brands, including Louis Vuitton, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Bulgari, Yves Saint Laurent and others. 

Over the past two decades, Menassier has been prolific: In 2003, he founded COLLECTIF K, a ten member band, which released one album, Resurrection. The following year, he released his solo debut, Marseille Marseille, a ten song album featuring compositions that were written to evoke life in the French Mediterranean city. 2008’s Picture Shop, a collaboration with Quentin Leroux that was inspired by American movies and it further established Menassier’s sound and aesthetic.

Back in 2011, Menassier and his spouse Ann Wisely founded LOO & MONETTI, an electro pop act that has released two albums:  2012’s Marla’s song and last year’s Broken Inside, as well as a handful of EPs and one-off singles. As a band, Menassier writes the music, using synths, keyboards and drums while Wisley writes lyrics and vocal melodies and contributes vocals — and although they have wildly varying tastes, their collaboration finds the duo effortlessly meshing their various tastes and interests. The French duo’s latest single “Talk to me” is centered around twinkling and arpeggiated keys, atmospheric electronics, thumping beats and Wisley’s plaintive vocals — and while being a brooding track, it may arguably be the most trip-hop like track in their catalog, with the track bringing Portishead to mind. 

The recently released video features old home movies and footage of people dancing and rocking out at shows. In many ways, the video is an eerie of the small joys we can’t have at the moment. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Mayflower Madame Release a Gorgeous and Trippy Visual for Menacing “Sacred Core”

Mayflower Madame — Trond Fagernes (vocals, guitar, bass), Havard Haga (guitar) and Ola J. Kyrkjeeide (drums) — is a rising Oslo Norway-based psych rock/post-punk act that can trace its origins back to 2011. The band’s hazy and smoky sound was conceived in and inspired by the band’s gritty surroundings: their first rehearsal space was a desolate, industrial building, which they shared with a local carwash company. After their formation, they quickly recorded a four-track demo. which led to the band being named “Unsigned Band of the Week” on one of Norway’s biggest radio stations. 

Shortly after their four-track demo, the band then spent the next few years touring and playing shows across Scandinavia, carefully honing their sound along the way. The band’s full-length debut, 2016’s eight track Observed in a Dream was brooding and icy psych rock with a dark romanticism. Based on the success of their full-length debut, the Oslo-based psych rock band toured across North America and Europe to support the album. The band followed Observed in a Dream with 2018’s Premonition EP,  four songs of apocalyptic love songs. 

Building upon a growing profile. Mayflower Madame supported Premonition EP with more touring, including the European festival circuit with stops in France, Germany, the UK and Eastern Europe. And as a result of the band’s touring schedule, they’ve shared stages with an impressive and growing list of artists including Killing Joke, Moon Duo, Night Beats, Psychic Ills, Froth, The Underground Youth, Crocodiles, Cosmonauts and La Femme. 

Released earlier this year through a collaboration between French label Only Lovers Records, Portland‘s Little Cloud Records and Parisian label Icy Cold Records, Prepared for a Nightmare, the Norwegian psych rock JOVM mainstays’ latest album finds them further developing their unique blend of psych-noir and post punk with elements of shoegaze and noise rock. So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles — the shoegazer yet menacing “Vultures” and “Swallow” — and while both tracks may bring The Black Angels, My Gold Mask, and Chain of Flowers to mind, they also evoke the dread and despair of our horrible sociopolitical moment. 

“Sacred Core,” Prepared for a Nightmare’s third and latest single continues a run of brooding and menacing psych rock, centered around swirling, shimmering and hypnotic guitars and a propulsive and muscular beat. Unlike its immediate predecessors, which were subtly shoegazer-leaning, “Sacred Core” is even more menacing, recalling The Black Angels’ Directions to See a Ghost while still being atmospheric. “‘Sacred Core’ is a song about getting lost, drifting away and trying to find the way back to your safe haven — guided by swirling, hypnotic guitars and an insistent heavy beat,” the band’s Trond Fagernes says in press notes. 

Continuing their ongoing collaboration with director Astrid Serck, the recently released video for “Sacred Core,” is centered around motion and stillness — and as a result, there’s gorgeous black and white footage of beaches and churches, movement in and around an old house, blinding sunbeams and footage of the band playing shows in Oslo and San Diego. “To me, the song is like an open landscape – it’s grounded, but at the same time moving. I wanted to capture that feeling visually with footage from windmill fields and beaches, where there’s constant movement — like a rhythm, as opposed to the solid ground. A contrast between motion and stillness. Something to hold on to as well as something loose and vibrating,” Astrid Serck says in press notes. 

“The core is what you hold on to. The motion is what you can let go. The sunbeams are blinding you, like a sacred light. The ceiling of a church is another symbol for sanctity. The moon is dancing, in disturbing ways, on the screen. In the video there is also an abandoned house, left with the door open. It´s a metaphor for the feeling of something that is lost, you can go back there, but only the memories are left. In addition there’s live footage of the band filmed from shows in Oslo and San Diego.”

New Audio: Corridor’s Jonathan Robert Releases a Shimmering New Single with Solo Project Jonathan Personne

Jonathan Robert is a Montreal-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known for being the co-founder of the internationally acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Corridor — and for his work as an animator and visual artist. With his solo recording project Jonathan Personne, Robert released his full-length debut, last year’s Histoire Naturelle, which was  thematically  inspired by the potential end of the world and drew from desert dream pop, Western spaghetti rock and jangle pop. 

Robert’s Jonathan Personne sophomore album, Disparitions is slated for an August 28, 2020 release through Michel Records and the album reportedly finds Robert continuing with intimate and sensitive songwriting — but this time inspired by a moment when music became a source of disgust for him: “I spent a lot of time touring away from home. Towards the end I felt like I was reluctantly going to do something that I had longed wished for,” Robert says in press notes. 

Subtly recalling his work with Corridor, “Springsteen,” Disparitions’ first single sees Robert boldly drawing  from and then meshing several different eras of rock music: glistening  psych rock through the use of a looping and shimmering 12 string guitar line, 70s AOR/radio rock through the use of bluesy guitar soloing, glam rock-like four-on-the-floor and a soaring hook paired with Robert’s plaintive falsetto. And much like his full-length debut, “Springsteen” is centered around observations and feelings about the seemingly inevitable end of the world as we know it. 

New Audio: French Singer-Songwriter Laure Briard Releases a Breezy 70s AM Rock-like Bossa Nova Cover

Laure Briard is a Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter, who bounced around quite a bit before fully delving into music: before starting her music career in earnest in 2013, Briard studied literature and criminology and even did a little acting. 

Signing to Tricatel Records, Briard released her debut EP. A short time later, she met Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on her full-length debut, Révélation, a pop-rock leaning album released through 2000 Records. And with Révélation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter began to receive attention for a sound inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan paired with modern and poetic lyricism. 

2016 saw the release of her sophomore album Sur la Piste de Danse through Midnight Special Records. But during the subsequent years, Briard’s work took on an increasing bossa nova influence — and with 2018’s Coração Louco, which featured acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays Boogarins, Briard began writing lyrics in Portuguese. Building upon a growing reputation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s third album, 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States. 

Continuing her ongoing love affair with Brazil and Brazilian music, Briard’s latest single  find her tackling the São Paulo, Brazil-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sessa’s “Grandeza.” While the original was centered around a sparse arrangement of looping acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and call and response vocals, it’s a dreamy song full of a wistful and bittersweet ache. 

Collaborating with Vincent Pieuvre and Emmanuel Mario,  Briard’s take on “Grandeza” retails the wistful and bittersweet ache of the original while pairing it with a breezy, 70s AM rock-like arrangement featuring twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line and shimmering guitar and Briard’s plaintive vocals. In some way the song is a wistfully nostalgic ode to the lives and the things we can’t have right now; and probably will not have for quite some time as a result of COVID-19. “I was deeply moved by the beautiful dreamy lyrics of the song, the fearless statement made with vivid imagery yet remaining mysterious and abstract in a way which people can relate to on different levels.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Palace Winter Release a Lysergic Visual for Anthemic New Single “Top of the Hill”

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Copenhagen, Denmark-based pop duo Palace Winter — Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager — over the past few years. The act can trace its origins to the duo’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work throughout a number of different projects. Naturally, that mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work, led to the duo working together. 

Coleman and Hesselager released their Palace Winter debut single in 2015 — but the following year was a breakthrough year for the Copenhagen-based duo: they released their EP Meditation and full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn to critical praise from The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRW, KEXP, Norway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Sziget Festival, Latitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Coleman and Hesselager released their sophomore album, 2018’s Nowadays. Arguably one of my favorite albums of the year, the album’s material found the duo expanding upon the sound and songwriting approach that won them praise, as they paired breezy, melodic, radio friendly pop with dark thematic concerns — in particular, the loss of innocence as one becomes an adult, with its accompanying tough and sobering lessons; the freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their live and destiny. But this was all underpinned by the inconsolable grief of profound loss. The album suggests a couple of things that I’ve learned about life in my 41 years : Life is ultimately about accepting immense, inconsolable loss as part of the price of admission, and somehow you have to figure out some way to move forwards, even its in fits and starts. And that a significant portion of our lives will be spent maneuvering the confusing push and pull between love and lust, with the prerequisite remote, anxiety, bitterness and loathing. Life is never easy and there’s never easy solutions. 

Palace Winter’s highly anticipated, third album . . . Keep Dreaming, Buddy is slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Tambourhinoceros Records — and unlike their preceding albums, . . .Keep Dreaming, Buddy’s material was written through a long distance correspondence as the band’s Coleman was residing in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain:“Caspar was sending me these synth hooks and drum loops from Denmark, so I started coming up with melodies and lyrical ideas to record into my phone,” Coleman says of the writing sessions. While Coleman’s lyrics were inspired by Tenerife’s unique landscape, drawing parallels between Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano, which also is one of Spain’s tallest peaks and the looming fear of a relationship disintegrating, Hesselager’s instrumental parts were inspired by Copenhagen’s landscape. And as a result, the album’s material is literally a tale of two cities.

“Top of the Hill,” which features a guest spot from Lowly is a perfect example of the album’s literal tale of two cities: shimmering and icy synths and thumping beats and an enormous, arena rock hook are paired with Coleman’s lyrics, which feature volcanic imagery to describe the broiling and bubbling feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration, deceit and distrust that come up in a failing relationship. And yet, throughout there’s the dim chance it could survive — even if it shouldn’t. 

Starring Carla Viola Thurøe, the recently released video follows the actor on a lysergic-tinged walk around Copenhagen’s parks and streets — and we see Thurøe’s attentive gaze shift from crystal balls to flowers, with the Danish actor carefully examining them and their texture. In many ways, the video mirrors Hesselager and Coleman’s writing process with Hesselager walking around Copenhagen figuring out the unfinished instrumentation and beats ins head and how they fit with Coleman’s phone recordings. 

HHBTM Records · Wesdaruler – Fuck Trump America

 

Wesdaruler is an emerging  Athens, GA-based producer, beatmaker and emcee. His latest single “FUCK TRUMP AMERICA” finds the Athens-based artist teaming up with Linqua Franqa, Dope KNife, and Louie Larceny on a fiery, anti-Trump anthem: each emcee spits defiant and boldly pro-Black verses that tell Trump and his supporters to go fuck themselves over a minimalist production around a swinging double bass line and boom bap beats. Every day I feel this way — and you should too: Fuck Donald Trump! Fuck Trump America!

“We didn’t push for any big exclusives or anything like that,” the Athens-based artist explains. “This track just needs to be shared and posted. The message is loud and clear in the lyrics, no statements need, the track is the statement.”

 

 

New Audio: Joe Wong Returns with a Lush and Orchestral New Single

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast.

Over the past few months Wong has released material off his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, which is slated for a September 18, 2020 release, including two singles I’ve written about so far: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away” and the a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow.” “Minor,” Nite Creatures’ third and latest single continues a run of incredibly lush material, but it’s arguably the most orchestral of the album’s singles, and as a result it reminds me a bit of the late, great Scott Walker’s work — brooding, achingly lonely and breathtakingly gorgeous.