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: JOVM Mainstay Sam Fender Performs “Hypersonic Missiles” on “CBS This Morning’s Saturday Sessions”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Newcastle, UK-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sam Fender, and as you may recall, Fender has received attention over the past few years for crafting rousingly anthemic, arena rock-like material that broadly focuses on hard-hitting social issues, while also drawing from his own experiences in growing up in Northeastern England.

2018 saw the Newcastle-born and-based Fender featured on BBC Sound of 2018′s shortlist, which he promptly followed up with a sold-out headlining UK tour. Building upon the rapidly growing buzz surrounding him, Fender ended the year with the release of the Dead Boys EP, an effort that featured the attention-grabbing “That Sound,” a power chord-based arena rock friendly track that featured enormous raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worth hooks, soulful vocals and a bluesy vibe that brought  The Black KeysSlavesRoyal Blood and others to mind — and “Play God,” a politically-charged song that openly talked about how special interests and the 1% really control the world as we know it, paired with an self-assured, ambitious bit of songwriting.

Interestingly, the rousing, Springsteen meets Modern English‘s “Melt With You”-like “Hypersonic Missiles” was the JOVM mainstay’s first bit of original music this year, and while centered around arena rock and classic rock-inspired hooks, reverb-drenched power chords, thunderous drumming and Fender’s urgent and impassioned vocals, the song is an unconventional love song about two star-crossed lovers making the best of whatever time they have left while the world burns down — and an incisive commentary on our apathy and confusion in the face of our self-destruction that cries to the listener “hey man, wake the fuck up and do something!”

2019 looks to be a breakthrough year for Fender — he made his US network TV debut, performing “Hypersonic Missiles” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier year, which he followed up by playing some of his first North American headline shows, which included stops at SXSWToronto, and a show at Rough Trade, which I covered. While Fender was in the country on his first North American headlining tour, he stopped by CBS This Morning‘s Saturday Sessions to perform “Hypersonic Missiles” — and in the background you’ll see JOVM mainstay Stuart Bogie playing the soulful sax solo. But adding to that, Fender’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, Hypersonic Missiles is slated for an August 9, 2019 through Interscope Records, so be on the lookout for that.

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New Video: Acclaimed Japanese Punk Act Releases Cinematic Visuals for Blistering “datsu hike no onna”

Over the past few months of this year, I’ve written a bit about the  Kyoto, Japan-based garage punk act Otoboke Beaver (おとぼけビ~バ~ in Japanese), and as you may recall the act which is comprised of Accorinrin (vocals, guitar), Yoyoyoshie (guitar, vocals), Hirochan (bass, vocals) and Kahokiss (drums, vocals) can trace their origins to when they all were members of Kyoto University’s music club.

Shortly after their formation, the quartet quickly received attention both locally and nationally for pairing incredibly dexterous musicianship with their frontwoman’s confrontational stage presence. Interestingly, when  Damnably Records released the Okoshiyasu!! Otoboke Beaver compilation, the Kyoto-based punk act began receiving airplay internationally from BBC Radio 6′Gideon Coe and Tom RavenscroftXFM’s John Kennedy, as well as praise from the likes of PitchforkNPRi-Dand The Fader.

Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, the members of the band made critically applauded and attention-grabbing appearances at SXSW and FujiRock Festival, played a sold out show at London‘s 100 Club — and their Love Is Short 7 inch charted in the UK for 4 weeks. Last year, the band went on a tour of the UK that was bookmarked by slots at Coachella.

The band’s newest album ITEKOMA HITS is slated for an April 26, 2019 release through their longtime label home Damnably Records, and from the album’s first three singles “Anata Watashi Daita Ato Yome No Meshi,” “Don’t light my fire” and “I’m tired of repeating your story” the Japanese band revealed that their specialized in feral and defiantly feminist rippers that drew from noise punk, no wave, prog rock and riot grrrl punk, centered around blistering power chords, rapid-fire chord progressions and tempo changes and shouted lyrics. The album’s fourth and latest single “datsu, hike no onna” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — furious, straightforward punk that bristles with discontent and frustration.

Directed by Haruka Mitani, the video for “datsu, hike no onna” marks an important first for the band — the first time they’ve collaborated with a female director. Shot in gorgeously cinematic 8mm film, the video focuses on a woman who is seemingly suffering from bipolar disorder — at one point manic and joyous, at another point murderous. Interestingly, as the band’s Accorinrin explains, the song “is a second woman’s song similar as my previous song’s themes. hikage no onna means woman in the shadows. It can be [a] metaphor for a mistress, an ‘illegitimate’ woman or a woman without a bubbly, outgoing personality. The message of this song is lamenting the oppression of being a woman in the shadows and about getting out from this suffering.”

New Video: Bobby Oroza’s Self-Directed Trippy Visuals for the Bitter Tell Off “Your Love Is Too Cold”

Bobby Oroza is a Helsinki, Finland-born and-based, Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter, producer and percussionist, who was raised by a family of musicians and artists. And as a result, a young Oroza was exposed to a wide range of music.  Family parties and get togethers frequently featured his Bolivian-born grandfather playing Latin and Cuban classics on his guitar or his parents playing album from their eclectic and diverse record collection, a collection that included early jazz and blues, Motown, gospel, doo-wop, soul, as well as Brazilian, African, North American and South American folk, and Nuyroican salsa, all of which influenced the music he began writing and working on.

Before completing high school, Oroza decided that he needed to experience and soak up the rhythmic source that inspired him the most, so he would up traveling to Santiago de Cuba, where he intensively studied percussion and singing. Since returning to Finland, the Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter, producer and percussionist has been busy producing, recording and performing music to make a living. He eventually teamed with Timmion Records’ house band/production duo Jukka Sarapää and Sami Kantelinen, best known as Cold Diamond & Mink, along with guitarist/composer Seppo Salmi, who have helped achieve his artistic vision — smokey, late night, lo-fi soul paired with Oroza’s plaintive tenor crooning over the mix.

Now, as you may recall, the Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter’s full-length debut This Love is slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Big Crown Records, and from slow-burning and ethereal album single “Deja Vu,” Oroza specializes in deeply anachronistic singer/songwriter soul with that particular track sounding as though it could have been released sometime between 1971 and 1974. Interestingly, the album’s latest single is the shimmering and mid-tempo “Your Love Is Too Cold.” Centered around Oroza’s ethereal and plaintive vocals, jangling and shimmering guitars, soaring organs, a punchily delivered hook, punctuated with oohs and ahhhs, and a propulsive rhythm section, the album’s latest track sounds indebted to classic Motown era soul — all while being a bitter tell off, in which the song’s narrator describes finally seeing their lover as indifferent, careless and abusive, and then gathering the strength and confidence to finally leave.

Directed by Bobby Oroza, the recently released video stars Oroza as a washed up karaoke singer in a tiny, sparsely attended bar singing and bopping around while the staff and the one or two drunks in the bar dance with him. The video ends with everything returning to normal — everyone being bored and wishing they were someplace else.

New Video: Black Mountain’s Trippy Lo-Fi Visuals for Sultry “Boogie Lover”

Stephen McBean is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who can trace the origins of his music career to when he became involved in the Victoria, British Columbia music scene, forming his first band Jerk Ward in 1981. In 1984, the band recorded a demo that was re-released in 2009 as Too Young to Thrash. Jerk Ward evolved into Mission of Christ (MOC), who recorded a split 7 inch in 1987 — but two years later, the band broke up and McBean relocated to Vancouver, where he started Gus, a band that released two singles, a split EP and a full-length album, 1995’s The Progressive Science Of Breeding Idiots For A Dumber Society, which lead to McBean’s first experience with extensive touring.

In 1996 McBean asked Radio Berlin’s Joshua Wells to join his new band Ex Dead Teenager. Much like his first band Jerk Ward, Ex Dead Teenager eventually morphed into Jerk With a Bomb. Signing with Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar, the band released three albums — 1999’s Death To False Metal, 2001’s The Old Noise and 2003’s Pyrokinesis, which featured Dream on Dreary’s Amber Webber contributing vocals.

While McBean and Wells were still writing, recording and performing as Jerk With a Bomb in 2003, McBean started to demo material that included “Black Mountain” and by the following year, the duo began working on demos under the name Black Mountain with contributions from Webber, Matt Camirand (bass) and Jeremy Schmidt (keys). Those early demos eventually led to their self-titled debut album and a split 7 inch with Destroyer that featured “Bicycle Man,” and was released by Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar Records.

Building upon a growing profile, Black Mountain toured across North America and Europe and by the following June, the band released the 12″ single “Druganuat”/”Buffalo Swan” in the US. In August 2005, the band opened for Coldplay during their Twisted Logic Tour.

2008 was a huge year for the band, their sophomore album In The Future was a finalist for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, and the album received a Juno Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. Additionally, “Stay Free” was featured on the Spiderman 3 soundtrack.

By 2010, McBean relocated to Los Angeles, where they wrote and recorded their Randall Dunn and Dave Sardy-co-produced third album, 2011’s Wilderness Heart, an album that was long listed for that year’s Polaris Music Prize and appeared on !earshot’s Top 50 chart.

2016 saw the release of their fourth album, the aptly titled IV. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes and now features McBean along with Arjan Miranda, Rachel Fannan, Adam Bulgasem and Jermey Schmidt. Interestingly, during that same period McBean got his first proper driver’s license — and for him, it was as though he essentially became a teenager again, discovering a new sense of personal independence and freedom.

In fact, the band’s forthcoming album, Destroyer, which derives its name from the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car, reportedly is imbued with the wild freedom and newfound agency, anxiety and fear that comes from one’s first time behind the wheel. Interestingly, the album’s latest single is the serpentine, slow-burning, whiskey fueled- boogie strut “Boogie Lover,” a track meant to evoke cruising down the Sunset Strip. Clocking in at a little over 6 minutes and centered by wah wah pedaled guitar, thumping drumming, sizzling synths, the track manages to draw from space rock, doom metal and stoner rock simultaneously — all while being incredibly sultry and apocalyptic.

Comprised of Nick Wisdom and AstroLogical, the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based hip-hop and electro pop production duo Potatohead People can trace their origins to when they first met in a high school, community baseball league in high school and bonded over their mutual love of J. Dilla and Madlib. In 2008 Wisdom and AstroLogicla began working together in the hip-hop collective Elekwent Folk; but soon after, the duo formed Potatohead People and began focusing on creating forward-thinking instrumental music.

After releasing a series of EPs digital through Vancouver-based net-label Jellyfish Recordings, the renowned New York-based label Bastard Jazz re-issued 2012’s Kosmichemusik EP and released a 7 inch, which quickly became collector’s item; in fact, the Vancouver-based production team’s association with Bastard Jazz helped land their song “Back to My Shit,” featuring Frank’n’Dank‘s Frank Nitty on a Powerade-produced Lebron James documentary. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have been championed by the likes of OkayPlayer, Kaytranada, Soulection, Nightmares on Wax, Pomo, Exmag, Big Boi and the late Phife Dawg among others.

Last year, the duo released their groundbreaking sophomore album Nick & Astro’s Guide to the Galaxy, an album that found them continuing an ongoing collaboration with Illa J, as well as a collection of other artists. Building upon the momentum of their sophomore album, the Canadian production duo will be releasing Nick & Astro’s Instrumentals, Remixes & B-Sides EP through Bastard Jazz Records on April 26, 2019 and the EP features a collection of instrumentals, B-sides and a handpicked collection of their favorite producers from around the world remixing their material. Additionally, the members of Potatohead People held a remix contest from which they picked one winner from an overwhelming number of submissions.

The soon-to-be released EP’s latest single is the New Jack Swing and Quiet Storm-inspired original track “Iced Tea.” Centered around a thumping, club friendly production featuring handclap-led percussion with thumping and shuffling beats, a sinuous bass line, layers of arpeggiated synths and a slick hook, the single reminds me of Cherrelle‘s “Saturday Love,” and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” and G-funk era hip-hop. giorgi and Radina Vee contribute sultrily delivered vocals that are part late night, come hither come on, part you’ve been friendzoned — but with someone who’s actually pretty awesome.

 

 

 

I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act and JOVM mainstays Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention across the blogosphere for a lush, kaleidoscopic sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro-pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the act has opened for Hiatus KaiyoteBADBADNOTGOODBilalMeshell NdegeocelloW. Kamau BellAngelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Last year, the act released the SALT AND SOAP EP, an effort inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for the EP and their full-length effort the mystic, which is slated for release later this week, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison’s drumming as the bedrock of the material.

With the writing and recording sessions focusing on spontaneity and even humor, the band aimed to craft music that managed to be cinematic yet deeply personal — all while allowing room to highlight each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole. Narratively and thematically, the album is a sci-fi fantasy of two first generation Nigerian-American women coming to terms with a mental health diagnosis — and at the same time, a universal exploration of how we make sense of reality. “It’s about a truth seeker and a skeptic trying to make sense of what’s mystical and what’s clinical,” the band’s Sandra Lawson-Ndu says in press notes. “The listener is made to consider the possibility of magic. Is it possible, for instance, that someone who navigates the world differently may have a deeper understanding of the universe? The mystic is a spectrum of deep emotionality, impulse, and even humour; a tool to explore the full dimension of our reality.” the mystic‘s latest single is the slow-burning and ethereal “Final Ceiling.” Centered around Lawson-Ndu’s dreamy cooing, shimmering synths and guitar and gently propulsive drumming, “Final Ceiling” evokes a hazy yet vividly remembered dream that lingers in your consciousness for hours.

The Oakland-based JOVM mainstays will be touring to support the mystic throughout May and June, and the tour includes a June 1, 2019 stop at C’mon Everybody. Check out the tour dates below.

TOUR DATES 

5.9 Los Angeles, CA The Satellite 
5.10 The Wayfarer Costa Mesa, CA 
5.11 Starline Social Club Oakland, CA 
5.16 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR 
5.17 Fisherman’s Village Festival Everett, WA 
5.18 Rhythm and Rye Olympia, WA 
5.19 The Auditorium Seattle, WA 
5.23 BSP Kingston Brooklyn, NYC 
5.24 Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar Nashua, NH 
5.25 The Diving Bell Social Club Montreal, CA 
5.26 Columbus Theatre Providence, RI 
5.28 State House New Haven, CT 
5.30 Milkboy Philadelphia, PA 
5.31 Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House Washington, DC 
6.1 C’mon Everybody Brooklyn, NYC 

New Video: Austin-based JOVM Mainstays Blushing Release Woozy and Hallucinatory Visuals for “Dream Merchants”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin, TX-based dream pop/shoegaze quartet Blushing over the years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of two married couples — Christina Carmona (vocals, bass) and Noe Carmona (guitar, keys) and Michelle Soto (guitar, vocals) and Jake Soto (drums) can trace its origins back to 2015 when after several years of writing material on guitar, Michelle Soto recruited her classically trained friend Christina Carmona to join her new project. Shortly after, Soto and Carmona recruited their spouses to complete the band’s lineup.

The then-newly formed quartet spent the following year or so writing and revising material before heading to Bad Wolf Recordings to record their debut EP Tetherwhich was released to positive reviews across the blogosphere, including this site. Building upon a growing profile, the Austin-based shoe gazers returned to the studio to record their sophomore EP Weak, which featured EP title track “Weak,” a track that further cemented their reputation for crafting material that was indebted to LushCocteau Twins and The Sundays while being a gentle refinement of the sound and aesthetic that first caught the attention of this site and the rest of the blogosphere.

Blushing ended last year with the release of the Elliot Frazier-produced and mixed “The Truth”/”Sunshine” 7 inch, which was released both digitally and on colored vinyl through The Nothing Song Records. “The Truth”/”Sunshine” 7 inch found the Austin-based JOVM mainstays expanding upon their sound with “The Truth” being one of the more muscular songs of their growing catalog while retaining the haziness that has won the attention of the blogosphere.

2019 may arguably be one of the biggest years of the band’s relatively short history: they’ve made their second SXSW showcase earlier this year, which they followed with their first West Coast tour — and their highly anticipated full-length debut is slated for release this summer. The full-length album’s first single is the woozy and swirling “Dream Merchants,” a track that continues in a similar muscular and feedback-filled vein as “The Truth” — and while centered around the dual, ethereal harmonizing of Christina Carmona and Michelle Soto, the track evokes the sensation of a vivid yet half-remembered dream. Unsurprisingly, the track is about the power of dreams and their premonitory value on waking life.

The recently released video is an acid-tinged hallucination that’s split between footage of the members of the band performing in front of a psychedelic background, the writing of the song fueled by an incredibly vivid dream and a brush with the occult. “The video concept came about because Christina had a dream about a dear friend who passed away. In the dream he was telling her to go to New Orleans,” the band explains in press notes. “A month later we were planning our trip back from Athens Georgia where we were playing Athens Pop Fest and realized we would be driving back through New Orleans. She decided she should get a tarot reading while there because of the significant coincidence. Unfortunately the tarot reading wasn’t able to happen but it did inspire the lyrics she sings during the bridge and the music video where we see her get a reading.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay TR/ST Returns with an Industrial House-Inspired Banger

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Toronto, ON-born, Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstay Robert Alfons, and his solo electro pop recording project TR/ST over the years, and as you may recall Alfons has released two critically and commercially successful albums — 2012’s self-titled album and 2014’s Joyland. Interestingly, Joyland was a decided change in sonic direction for the Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay as the album found him crafting pop orientated, muscular club bangers.

Five years have passed since Joyland‘s release, and during that time, Alfons had been writing and recording new material in a farmhouse in Southern Ontario and in Los Angeles, where has since relocated. Working with an all-star list of collaborators that included Austra’s Maya Postepski, with whom he collaborated with on his self-titled debut — with Postepski co-writing and co-producing six songs. Alfons also worked with co-producers Lars Stalfors and Damian Taylor to further refine the album’s overall sound.

During the writing and recording process for Destroyer, Alfons learned that patience would be a major ingredient and influence on his songwriting approach and the album’s sound. “The environment I work in has always guided me. But it took a long time to submit to the kind of patience these songs were asking of me. I was getting glimpses of what I wanted to achieve with the album,” Alfons says in press notes. “But it wasn’t feeling cohesive; things weren’t aligning in a clear direction. My first two records were put out so close to one another that I think of them as one. They just poured out of me.” With The Destroyer, the process was entirely different. “It was so much more careful. I found myself seeking spaces of absolute quiet; I needed them in order to hear what was going on inside.”

Destroyer 1‘s first single was the “Bizarre Love Triangle”-like “Gone,” a radio friendly and accessible track centered around a swooning and urgent Romanticism. “Unbleached,” the album’s second single, was a collaboration with longtime collaborator Maya Postepski was a decidedly industrial track inspired by the sound of rats running back and forth on the roof, complete with tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of arpeggiated synths and an enormous hook. The album’s third single, “Colossal,” continues his ongoing collaboration with Austra’s Postepski — and in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: a tweeter and woofer thumping, industrial house-leaning production centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, shuffling beats and enormous hooks that evokes early morning mist slowly rising in the horizon.

“Such a special collab with Maya, we wrote it together while in different parts of the world,” Alfons explains in press notes. “This song was written during long walks I would take in the middle of the night around the hills in my neighborhood, watching the mist rise as the sun came up.” Postepski adds “I was coming home on the train with my music on random when a TR/ST song came on from the first album we made, I started crying, it brought back so many memories. I sent Robert the sketches for ‘Colossal’ that night. He wrote back and we rekindled our relationship, so I find it deeply emotional every time I hear it. Had I not taken the chance and sent it who knows if we would be working together again. Overcoming fear and being brave have become the focus of my work and this song underlines that — if one is willing to look into the lion’s mouth the rewards can be astounding.”