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.

Last year, I wrote a bit about the rapidly rising Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, Luna Shadows.  The Los Angeles-based pop artist began her career as a touring member of the acclaimed New Zealand-based synth pop act The Naked and Famous— but Shadows went solo, because she felt she had a voice that demanded to be heard on its own terms.

Since leaving The Naked and famous, Luna Shadows has developed a reputation for a staunchly DIY approach frequently writing, performing, producing, engineering and editing every single note of her work — and for crafting sultry, melancholy pop that Billboard has called “. . . refreshingly soulful and haunting .  .  . ,” and compared by some critics as Lana Del Rey taking Lorde to the beach. Adding to a growing national profile, the Los Angeles-based artist’s work  has amassed well over 35 million Spotify streams with tracks landing on tastemaker playlists like New Music Friday, Indie Pop, Weekend Beats and Weekly Buzz and landing as high as #7 on the US Charts and #18 on the Global Viral Charts.  She’s also received airplay on a number of radio stations  globally including KROQ, BBC Radio 1 and Beats 1 — all without the support of a label.

Last year saw Luna Shadow begin an ongoing collaboration with Now Now‘s Brad Hale and The Naked and Famous‘ Thom Powers to help shoulder the production and editing load — and she signed to +1 Records, who released three attention grabbing attention: “lowercase,” a track imbued with the bitterness, heartache and confusion of a dysfunctional relationship full of power plays, recriminations and accusations paired with a sleek and hyper-modern, trap-leaning production, “god.drugs.u” which continued in a similar vein as “lowercase” while possessing a plaintive and unfulfilled yearning and lastly. “practice,” a rumination on love and loss featuring Stevie Nicks‘ “Stand Back“-like synth arpeggios and Shadow’s plaintive vocals.

Shadows begins 2020 building up to the release of her highly-anticipated sophomore album with the release of her latest single “millennia,” which was cowritten with Chelsea Jade and continues her ongoing collaboration with Brady Hale and Thomas Powers. Centered around a pulsating and thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays achingly plaintive vocals, the track seethes with an irritable frustration, as it captures a narrator who’s worn out by the passive aggression and mixed messages of a love interest. She’s tired of being left in the dark and being confused as to what’s going on, and as a result the song captures a particular sensation that’s familiar to all of us: being left in the dark by someone we care about.

Shadows elaborates, “”millennia’ is essentially about different styles of dispute and communication. There are some people who prefer to confront things right away and talk until resolution is reached; conversely, there are others who run in the opposite direction and avoid confrontation all together. I personally find that the silent treatment tends to be more painful than confrontation.”

 

 

 

 

 

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New Video: Greg Dulli Pays Homage to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” in Cinematically Shot Visual for “Pantomina”

Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

So Dulli returned to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

“Pantomina,” Random Desire‘s swaggering and self-assured first single is centered around layers of buzzing power chords, a handclap-led hook and lyrics that alternate between sardonic, desperately lonely, and triumphant — often within a turn of a phrase.  Much like his acclaimed work with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, the new single delves into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator with fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but there’s also a hard fought, world-weary wisdom at its core.

Directed by longtime Afghan Whigs visual collaborator Philip Harder, who stars as Bob Fosse, along with dancers, Paula Vasquez Alzate, Desare Cox, Elayana Waxse, Maggie Zepp, LaTanya Cannaday, Karen Yang, Mia Bird and Reyona Elkins, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “Pantomina” captures the life behind-the-scenes and on-stage with an intimacy and familiarity of  performer, before going to the frenetically shot performance and the collapse, then death of its hard-living, harder working choreographer protagonist. As Greg Dulli says in press notes. the video “is a homage to the movie All That Jazz. ‘Pantomina’ feels like a show tune to me.”

Bad Dylan is a Montreal-based synth funk/electro pop outfit, comprised of T-Spoon (bass, synth), Jalouse (guitar, synth) and Dr. Fill (drums).  Formed back in 2015, the act has developed a genre-defying take on retro-futuristic funk that draws from the ’70s, the ’80s, the 90s’ and 2000s, synth pop, krautrock, Daft Punk, elevator music, spa music and more. The Montreal-based funk/electro pop outfit starts the new year with Astrology, a public, pre-production exercise in which the trio shares their creative process with their audience while challenging themselves to write, record and release a song every month, revealing both the good ideas and the bad ideas.
They’ll then rework each piece — focusing on the good ideas — and compile the results into the best album they could make. The album will also be accompanied by an art book, done in collaboration with visual artist Alexandra Bilodeau.
Centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and found vocal samples, Astrology‘s latest single “Bourritos” which features additional synths and effects from Gary Cobra, is a slow-burning, strutting pimp walk of a track that brings JOVM mainstay Dam-Funk and others to mind.

New Audio: Nottingham, UK’s Hurtsfall Releases a Joy Division-Inspired Single

Featuring current and former members of acts like The Death Notes, In Isolation, Gossamer Veil, Dick Venom & the Terrortones, The Midnight Circus, Every New Dead Ghost, Arcane Winter and Tenpole Tudor, the Nottingham, UK-based post-punk act Hurtsfall — founding members Mike Sinclair (bass), Jamie Laws (keys) and Dave Perkins (drums), along with Sam Harrison-Emm (vocals) — can trace its origins back to 2017, when its founding members started a new band. The emerging British act solidified their lineup when they found Harrison-Emm after a lengthy and exhaustive audition process in 2018.

Since the band has solidified their lineup, the members of Hurtsfall have established their own sound, which pairs goth overtones with synth pop sensibilities while developing a following centered around an energetic live show. So far, the le Nottingham-based band has opened for Strange Circuits, one of the first acts to sign with Wax Trax! Records — and building upon a growing profile, the band’s recently released their latest single “12 Long Years.” Centered around angular and propulsive bass chords, forceful yet mathematically precise drumming, shimmering and atmospheric synth flourishes and Harrison-Emm’s Ian Curtis-like baritone, “12 Long Years” will immediately recalls Joy Division, as well as more contemporary acts like ACTORS and others — and while murky and brooding, the track manages to be dance floor friendly.  

Earlier this month, I wrote about JackLNDN, a rapidly rising London-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, who can trace the origins of his music career to when he was a boy: he grew up in a hone in which his family almost exclusively to jazz, funk and classical music in equal measure. When he was 7, he sang in professional choirs — and by the time, he was 10, he had met Queen Elizabeth and recorded material at Abbey Road Studios.

With the release of attention grabbing tracks like “The Feels,” “Never Get Enough,” “Start Over Again” and “All I See,” the British electronic music artist and producer established a unique sound and approach in electronic music/deep house: he contributes his own vocals to his productions, which are frequently indebted to jazz and house music. Building upon a growing profile in electronic music circles, the British artist and producer released his full-length debut Thoughts last year.

Now, as you may recall, since the release of his full-length debut, JackLNDN enlisted two of his favorite electronic music artists and producers — Fluida and Frameworks — to remix two of Thoughts songs. Fluida’s euphoric, drum ‘n’ bass-leaning remix of “With You” was centered around propulsive tribal beats while retaining the shimmering synth arpeggios, gorgeous melody and sinuous hook. Thoughts track “Unknown” was centered around shimming and arpeggiated keys, thumping polyrhythm, a trippy vocal melody and a crowd pleasing populist vibe. Interestingly, Frameworks’ remix of “Unknown” features layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, chiming percussion — and while retaining familiar elements of the original, it gives the song a mediative, world music feel.

 

 

Sotomayor is a rapidly rising Mexico City, Mexico-based sibling electro pop duo featuring arguably two of their hometown’s most accomplished musicians: Paulina Sotomayor (vocals), best known for her work as a drummer in local rock/folk act Jefes del Desierto,  and Raul Sotomayor (production), best known for his work as one-half of award-winning jazz/funk duo Beat Buffet and for creating DayOff, a Sunday afternoon party that presents global bass acts rom around the world. Paullina Sotomayor and Raul Sotomayor founded Sotomayor back in 2015. And although it’s their first project together, the act which has released two album’s — 2015’s Salvaje and 2017’s Conquistador — has received attention from Vice, MTV and KEXP for a sound that meshes elements of cumbia, Afrobeat, dancehall, Peruvian chicha and merengue with modern electronic production and rock ‘n’ roll-like urgency. Adding to a growing profile, the act has toured across the UK, the States and Colombia.

Recorded in studios in Puerto Rico and Mexico, the duo’s soon-to-be released Eduardo Cabra-produced, third full-lengh album Origenes is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Wonderwheel Recordings. Reportedly, the rapidly rising Mexico City-based act’s third album finds them continuing to draw their sound and aesthetic from the sounds of Latin America’s clubs and streets.  Possessing a strong sense of tradition, the material further cements the sibling duo’s reputation for an unerring knack for melody paired with a rock ‘n’ roll-influenced urgency — but unlike their previously released albums, Origenes finds the Sotomayors exploring and adding Afro Caribbean percussion to the mix.

“Meneate pa’ mi,” Origenes’ second and latest single is a decidedly upbeat, track centered around Raul Sotomayor’s thumping, club thumping  production featuring a chopped and looped horn sample and tweeter and woofer rocking beats paired with Paulina Sotomayor’s self-assured half-sung, half rapped vocals. Much like JOVM mainstay El Dusty, the Mexico City-based duo’s newest single envisions a globalized, genre-free world, a world as the great George Clinton once sung that’s “one nation under a groove.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(New York, NY) — The Mexican brother-sister duo Sotomayor are back with their second single from upcoming album “Orígenes” (February 14, 2020). “Menéate pa’ mí” sees the group heat things up a notch from their last single (“Quema”) with Paulina Sotomayor’s vocals somewhere in between rapping and singing over brother Raul’s uptempo beat of horn samples and a driving kick drum. Additional production work from Eduardo Cabra (aka Visitante of Calle 13 fame) solidifies the record in the Latin-meets-electronic style the group is known for. The new single is out now and is available everywhere you stream music.

 

Sotomayor is due to release their third album Orígenes through the NY based label Wonderwheel Recordings, on February 14th. On Orígenes, Sotomayor performs Latinx electronic music that is as bold, thrilling and alive as any street party, with a strong sense of roots or tradition. Yet it is also music that is defined by the duo’s qualities as songwriters, with a clear knack for melody and dynamics that add a sense of rock ‘n’ roll urgency.

They are aided on the album by co-producer Eduardo Cabra (“Visitante” of the much-missed Puerto Rican rebel rousers Calle 13), who has recently helped push Latin singer/songwriters like Jorge Drexler, iLe and Vincent Garcia into making ground-breaking fusions of Latin tradition and modern musical forms, and won two Latin Grammy Producer of the Year awards in the process. The trick appears to have been rung once more. Sotomayor are creating their own unique musical universe, fuelled by the sounds of Latin America’s clubs and streets, with a level of songcraft and production know-how that only seems to keep on growing.

The forthcoming album was recorded between Mexico and Puerto Rico, and was produced by the 28 times Grammy Winner Eduardo Cabra aka “Visitante” from the legendary band “Calle 13”. In this production Sotomayor explores a new Afro Caribbean vision in the music, much more dance floor focused, and highly influenced by percussion.

So far the new album Orígenes, has received accolades from FADER and The New York Times with their lead single “Quema,” out now. “Quema” lets you know what it is straight-away: the “chuck-chucka-chuck” rhythm of the scraper (guira), the rising bass line, the keyboard that appears to be sending out an alarm signal. This is clearly cumbia, but it isn’t recognisable for long. A pounding bass line takes over, a beat is set and then Paulina Sotomayor’s voice enters, guiding the track. At first she is slow, assured, but then the chorus hits and there’s a release, a soulful higher-pitched melody as new synth lines bubble below. Elements of that original cumbia beat return in new ways, adding urgency, rhythm and detail, as the song continues to reinvent itself and play with ideas of what global bass and cumbia should sound like, all the while giving full focus to the song itself, to telling its story.

The cherry on top is the guest appearance of Totin “Arará” Agosto, one of Puerto Rico’s most loved singers and composers, and a man pivotal in putting Puerto Rican bomba back on the map. He adds joyful second vocals, seemingly losing himself in the music. His presence is a reminder that the musica callejera (street music) he plays does not have to be so different to club music. This is music to dance to, to revel, to telegraph delight.

Sotomayor are the brother/sister duo of Raul and Paulina Sotomayor. They formed in 2015 after years of activity in Mexico City’s emerging indie scene, playing in bands such as Jefes del Desierto and Beat Buffet. Orígenes is their third album following Salvaje (2015) and Conquistador (2017).

“Sotomayor’s bold take on Latinx electronic music mixes up innovations in the genre with traditional cumbia rhythms, creating something familiar yet refreshing.” – Fader

“n “Quema,” Sotomayor — the duo of Mexican siblings Raul and Paulina Sotomayor — gestures briefly toward traditional percussion, then rolls in 1980s-flavored synthesizers, with a drum machine, a fuzzy bass line and bubbly arpeggios.” – New York Times

” Origenes due out early 2020, will be co-produced by two time Latin Grammy Producer of the Year winner, Eduardo Cabra (aka Visitante of the Puerto Rican giant, Calle 13). That alone places this release into the upper echelon of the Latin music stratosphere. And, quite merited, from what is heard on their first single.” – KCRW

Ben Williams is an acclaimed Washington DC-born and-based singer/songwriter, bassist, composer, bandleader and highly sought-after collaborator. Williams graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Michigan State University and The Juilliard School, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition(now known as the Herbie Hancock  International Jazz Competition) back in 2009 and a Grammy Award as a member of Pat Metheny‘s Unity Band. He has collaborated with an impressive and remarkably diverse array of artists including Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Maxwell, Robert Glasper, Pharrell and a long list of others. (He also appeared in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.)

As a bandleader and composer, Williams has released two albums through renowned jazz label Concord Records — 2011’s State of Art and 2015’s Coming of Age. Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Jose James‘, Talia Billig‘s and Brian Bender’s Rainbow Blonde Records, Williams third album I AM A MAN references Memphis‘ historic 1968 sanitation workers’ strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read “I Am A Man” in a boldface type. “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing — there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite and inspire activism today, such as the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. But there’s multiple subtle meanings to the album’s title: as Williams said during his performance at the Rainbow Blonde Records NYC Winter Jazz Fest last week the album wasn’t a typical protest album; that it was thematically an exploration of the black male psyche.

Sonically, the album reportedly meshes past, present and future, as it seemingly draws from The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D’Angelo, Common, Roy Hargrove‘s RH Factor as well as Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On, Curtis Mayfield and others.

Williams plays both double bass and electric bass throughout the album’s material, singing lead vocals on almost every single song on the album. He’s joined by an accomplished backing band of collaborators that includes Kris Bowers (keys), David Rosenthal (guitar), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Bendji Allonce (percussion), Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Jamire Williams (drums) and Justin Brown (drums). The album also features a handful of songs with  string arrangements performed by a string quartet — Justina Sullivan (cello), Celia Hatton  (viola), Maria Im (violin) and Chiara Fasi (violin), and vocals from Kendra Foster, Muhsimah, Wes Felton and Niles.

The album’s first single is the cinematic “If You Hear Me.” Centered around an spacious and cinematic arrangement featuring a shimmering and soaring string arrangement, African polyrhythm, Williams’ plaintive and soulful vocals, the track manages brings to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Landing on a Hundred-era Cody Chesnutt to mind. The album’s second single, fittingly released today is an atmospheric rendition of the civil rights-era classic “We Shall Overcome” that places the song’s timeless struggle and hope for a far better, more just world into a contemporary context:  reminding the listener that the struggle of MLK, Malcolm X,  The Black Panthers and others,  is the same struggle as Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Williams will be embarking on a handful of live dates that includes a February 8, 2020 album release show at Nublu 151. Check out the live dates below.

 

Tour Dates
2/8: New York, NY @ Nublu 151 (Album Release Show)
3/19: Washington, DC @ City Winery

New Video: Dutch Indie Act The Homesick Release a Surreal, Animated Visual for Expansive Single “Male Bonding”

With the release of 2018’s full-length debut Youth Hunt, the Dokkum, The Netherlands-based trio The Homesick — Jaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma — were quickly typecast as being resident tricksters, shrewdly courting spirituality under their own nonconformist whims. For outsiders, it was hard to tell whether the band was being ironic and taking the piss out of things — or genuinely unraveling themselves as starry-eyed romantics. Interestingly, even the album’s production values were quixotic and highly unusual: Elgersma and Van der Velde’s vocals were drenched in reverb  and paired with warped synths and distorted guitars within hook-driven guitar pop.

Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Sub Pop Records, the Dutch trio’s forthcoming sophomore album The Big Exercise derives its title from a passage in acclaimed singer/songwriter Scott Walker’s biography Deep Shade Of Blue, the album reportedly is a concentrated effort by the trio to explore the physicality of their music in fresh ways.  “When we were on tour in 2018, I bought Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music in Switzerland,” Van der Velde says in press notes. “Elias and I have been completely immersed in her music ever since. But also the work of Joan La Barbara for example, who also did things with extended vocal techniques, that was also quite vital to us. We discovered that the human voice offers so many beautiful elements that can still feel very physical and intrusive.”

“That’s also a  phenomenal aspect of the position we’re now in as a band,” Van der Velde adds. “I consider The Homesick a pop band first and foremost. If you’d introduce a late-era Scott Walker-record to a layman, it would likely fall on flat ears. But put it in the right scene of a good movie, and that person may finally understand its potential. The Homesick is allowed to play around in that pop framework, and the goal is to explore what’s possible within it. You can do super radical and weird things, and at the same time convey it all as straightforward pop music. With this album, I hope people will hear things anew after multiple listens.”

Additionally, the album finds the members of The Homesick second-guessing their long-held core chemistry as a live unit, adding baroque instrumentation like piano, acoustic guitar, percussion and clarinet to angular post-punk arrangements. “It’s the opposite of trying to translate recorded music to the stage,” the band’s Elias Elgersma says in press notes. “We were already playing these songs live for quite some time, so for this album, we wanted to unlock the potential of these songs further in the studio.”

Youth Hunt thematically touched upon a quest for belonging, roots and provenance; however, The Homesick’s sophomore album is centered around a headstrong wanderlust, which is fitting for a small-town Dutch band, anxious to take over the world while featuring meditations on family ties, alternate realities and commonplace encounters. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Male Bonding” is a galloping genre-defying track that possesses elements of angular, Gang of Four-like post-punk, 90s grunge, Devo-like New Wave and hints of psych folk placed within an expansive, breakneck arrangement that’s wildly eccentric yet mosh pit friendly.

Directed by Karlos Rene Ayala and featuring work by Skinner Illustration andMatt Brown 3D Animations, the recently released video is surreal sort of a Dada-esque nightmare that pulsates with the song’s chugging, motorik-like groove.

New Video: Brighton Psych Act Wax Machine Releases a Gorgeous and Mind-Bending Animated Visual for “Shade”

Led by its Brazilian-born founder Lau Ro (vocals, guitar), who spent time living in Italy and England, along with Isobel Jones (vocals, flute) and Toma Sapir (drums), the Brighton, UK-based psych rock act Wax Machine draws heavily from its founder’s international’s upbringing. With a handful of EPs under their collective belts, the band has developed a reputation for drawing from a number of disparate genres and styles.  The Brighton-based act’s forthcoming Go Kurosawa-produced album Earthsong of Silence will further cement the Brighton-based act’s growing reputation for a genre-defying, anachronistic sound, as the album reportedly finds the band incorporating elements of spiritual jazz, krautrock. tropicalia and library music filtered through a psychedelic lens.

Slated for a March 20, 2020 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records, Earthsong of Silence continues where “Mind Palace,” off their last EP, Mind Palace left them — exploring English psych folk but while also touching upon the sunny tranquility of West Coast psych. As the band’s Lau Ro says in press notes, the album thematically “is an exploration into paradoxes, meditation and magic, predicated on the underlying idea of becoming one with nature and in harmony with the environment.”

“Shade” Earthsong of Silence’s latest single is a lysergic and seamless synthesis of Nick Drake-like folk, Haight-Ashbury-era grooves and vibes, Brazilian tropicalia-like breeziness and free-flowing jazz-tinged improvisation that manages to sound decidedly anachronistic — as though it could have been released sometime between 1967-1969 or so. The song — to me, at least — manages to evoke an easygoing summer afternoon, observing nature under the influence of hallucinogens.

The recently released animated video for “Shade” is fittingly mind-altering: in the background the viewer will see leaves fluttering in the wind, the rippling of water. But superimposed over that are gorgeous line animations of the band performing the song, with equally hallucinogenic imagery.

New Video: Moaning Release’s a Surreal and Uneasy Visual for “Ego”

Back in 2018, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles-based indie rock/post punk trio Moaning.  Comprised of Sean Solomon (vocals, guitar), Pascal Stevenson (keys, bass) and Andrew MacKelvie (drums), the members of Moaning have been friends and collaborators in Los Angeles’ DIY scene for the better part of a decade through music and other creative pursuits in different media — Solomon is also a noted illustrator, art director and animator while Stevenson and MacKelvie have played in or produced and engineered acclaimed and rapidly rising acts like Cherry Glazerr, Sasami and Surf Curse.

With the release of 2018’s self-titled full-length debut, the Los Angeles-based trio received attention from a number of nationally and internationally known media outlets including  The Fader, The Guardian, DIY Magazine,Stereogum, and others for a moody and angular post-punk sound that seemed to recall Joy Division, Interpol and Preoccupations. Building upon the success of their self-titled debut, the trio’s long-awaited sophomore album Uneasy Laughter is slated for a March 20. 2020 release through Sub Pop Records. Interestingly, Moaning’s Alex Newport-produced and engineered sophomore album is a more collaborative effort that finds the members of the band brightening the claustrophobic and uneasy sound that first won them attention — mainly through trading guitars for synths and beats. Thematically, the album focuses on the everyday anxieties of being a somewhat function human in the madness that’s this current century — with the material touching upon the personal and universal. “We’ve known each other forever and we’re really comfortable trying to express where we’re at. A lot of bands aren’t so close,” the band’s Andrew MacKelvie says in press notes. Sean Solomon, who celebrated a year of sobriety during the Uneasy Laughter sessions adds “Men are conditioned not to be vulnerable or admit they’re wrong. But I wanted to talk openly about my feelings and mistakes I’ve made.” 

Uneasy Laughter’s first single, the brooding “Ego” will further cement the trio’s long-held reputation for crafting moody material — and while featuring guitars during a blistering solo, the song is primarily centered around shimmering synths and a soaring hook. Although “Ego” finds the band’s sound boldly moving in the direction of say, 80s New Order, the song thematically finds its narrator desperately taking stock of himself and his relationships to others with an unflinching honesty. Interestingly, the initial demo was slower and was written in what the band’s Stevenson calls “a strange time signature,” which at the time stymied Solomon’s attempt to write vocal melodies. Borrowing a MacKelvie drumbeat from a demo of a different song, Stevenson found that it fit his original song perfectly. The track was fleshed out further in practices and through passing demos back and forth, with the result “perfectly capturing every idea we wanted to play with,” says MacKelvie. “I don’t think we would have been able to approach writing a song that way before,” adds Stevenson. “We purposely avoided the impulse to add guitars to everything, letting the melodies of the synth and vocals be the focus. We wanted to embrace the songs ability to slip between genre lines.

“The lyrics are about letting go of your own bullshit to help other people. Wanting to love yourself to love others. The ego can make you feel like you’re the greatest person in the world or the worst.” stated vocalist Sean Solomon. It makes you think your problems are abnormally different which is isolating and rarely true. The song is a reminder that listening to other perspectives is important and beneficial to both parties involved.”

Directed by Ambar Navarro, the recently released video for “Ego” features the members of the band in a variety of different costumes — but at its core, the video’s protagonist takes stock of himself, his life and how he relates to others.