Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in 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: JOVM Mainstays Beach House Release Gorgeously Cinematic Visuals for “Black Car”

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Baltimore-based indie rock act Beach House. And as you may recall, the duo, which is comprised of founding and primary members Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals) have released a number of critically and commercially successful, including 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were written and recorded within a two-and-a-half year period between 2012-2014. And while they were individual efforts, they were meat to be viewed as companion pieces that build upon similar themes and an overall  sound centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements of organ, guitar and Legrand’s ethereal vocals.

The Baltimore-based indie rock act’s seventh, full-length album 7 was released last month through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and the recording sessions found the band working with  Spacemen 3‘s Sonic Boom (a.k.a. Peter Kember) as a producer — but not in the traditional sense, as he helped the band in their attempts to start anew by shedding conventions and ensuring that the album’s material would be fresh, alive and protected from the tendency of overproduction and perfectionism.  Additionally, the album features Beach House’s most recent live drummer James Barone, who as Legrand and Scally say helped “keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs.”

“Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live,” Legrand and Scally explain. “On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.

“In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a ‘home’ studio, and began all of the songs there.  Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a ‘proper’ recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short.”

As the act admits, the societal sense of instability, uncertainty and chaos was deeply influential on the album’s material. “Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present.” They go on to say that in a general sense, “we are interested by the human mind’s (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny.”

So far, Beach House has released a handful of singles off the album — “Lemon Glow,” a jangling and atmospheric track centered around Legrand’s ethereal vocals; the shoegazer-like “Dive,” one of the most expansive and ambitious tracks they’ve released; and “Dark Spring,” a shoegazer-like single featuring woozy power chords, twinkling keys and a soaring hook. 7‘s latest single “Black Car” finds the duo pushing away from their well-known formula as its centered around twinkling and arpeggiated keys, atmospheric synths, paired with Legrand’s vocals.

Directed by Alistair Legrand, the recently released video for “Black Car,” fittingly features a black car — a Cadillac, I think — shot in a sumptuous and cinematic black and white, as it rides around desolate, late night streets. 

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Live Footage: Sunflower Bean Perform “Memoria” for Audiotree’s Far Out

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brooklyn-based psych rock/indie rock trio  Sunflower Bean, and as you can recall, the band comprised of founding members Nick Kivlen (guitar, vocals) and Jacob Faber (drums), along with Julia Cumming (bass, vocals) can trace their origins to when Kivlen and Faber were both members of Turnip King. At the time Kivlen and Faber had been spending a great deal of time away from their then-primary project jamming together, before deciding that that they should start their own project. Kivlen, who knew Cumming through mutual friends was recruited to join the band — although Cumming was a member of Supercute! with Rachel Trachtenberg.

The band quickly became a buzz-worthy act with a run of attention grabbing, critically applauded sets during 2014’s CMJ Festival, which they promptly followed up that year’s Rock & Roll Heathen EP AND 2015’s Show Me Your Seven Secrets EP —  and thanks to the success of singles like “Tame Impala” and “2013,” the band quickly rose to national and international prominence. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the trio toured across the US and the UK as a headliner, and as an opener for Wolf Alice, Best Coast and The Vaccines, before 2016’s Matthew Molnar-produced, full-length debut Human Ceremony. After spending the better part of that year with a roughly 200 date world tour, the members of the band initially planned to take a well-earned, extended break; however, by December, the trio wound up in Faber’s Long Island basement with song ideas that eventually became their Jacob Portrait and Matt Molnar co-produecd sophomore album Twentytwo in Blue, which was released earlier this year through Mom + Pop Records. Since its release, the album has been a commercial and critical success — the album debut in the Top 40 in the UK, hit #5 on Billboard’s Top New Artists chart, and earned praise from Paste, NME and others.

Coincidentally, the album’s release was 22 months after the release of their full-length debut, while marking when each of the members turn 22. The album’s first single “I Was A Fool,” revealed a radical change in sonic direction with the band leaning heavily towards 70s AM rock — in particular, Fleetwood Mac. The album’s first official single and second overall, the stomping and anthemic “Crisis Fest,” was arguably the most politically charged single the band has ever written and recorded, as it focuses on the uncertain and politically volatile period it was written, with the song being an urgent call to action to young people to get out there, get involved and make the world right once and for all. And goddamn it, it’s necessary.  “Twentytwo,” the album’s third single was a breezy feminist anthem, focused on fighting against society’s expectations and demands upon women as well as the abuses of powerful men.

Since their sophomore album’s release, the members of Sunflower Bean have been busy extensively touring and playing sold out dates both internationally and nationally, along with a run of appearances across the national festival circuit that will include stops at Voodoo Festival, Pickathon, SummerStage, XPoNential, before returning to the EU, the UK and Asia. The fall will see Sunflower Bean the band opening for Interpol; but in the meantime, the folks at Audiotree invited the members of Sunflower Bean to to perform the mesmerizing, Heart-like “Memoria,” a track that finds the band balancing a swaggering, self-assuredness with a wistful ache.

New Video: Introducing the Global, Genre- Blurring Sound of Up-and-Coming Benin-born, New York Artist Shirazee

Shirazee is  Benin-born, New York-based Afrosoul artist and singer/songwriter, who studied in Ghana, overcame homelessness and after spending a stint in Atlanta, relocated to New York to pursue his dream of being a performer and singer/songwriter. Since then, Shirazee has written for and collaborated with Afrojack, Sting, Ty Dolla $ign and Kiesza — and as a solo artist, the Benin-born, New York-based artist has received attention from Wonderland, OkayAfrica and Hunger Magazine, as well as millions of streams across Spotify and Apple Music for a sound that draws from Afropop, American hip-hop and contemporary electronic music paired with songs that possess underlying personal narratives.

The up-and-coming Benin-born, New York-based Afrosoul artist’s debut EP Make Wild finds him collaborating with the Brooklyn-born and-based hip-hop artist and producer SAINt JHN — and as the Brooklyn-based artist and producer says of their collaboration, “he’s a friend first and a rising star in his own right second. When he heard me playing Juju in Toronto and asked to jump on it, I thought he was kidding, until he insisted, ‘Juju issa vibe!’”

“Make Wild,” the EP title track and latest single is a breezy and summery track featuring thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering and looping guitar lines, and a sinuous and infectious hook — and while managing to be a slickly produced amalgam of African pop, Afrobeat, American electro pop and soul, the up-and-coming Benin-born, New York-based artist manages to do so in an incredibly accessible, crowd pleasing fashion.

Produced by WOVE, the recently released video employs the use of incredibly vibrant video, full of colors meant to evoke sunset over the Sahara Desert as Shirazae sings to a gorgeous woman just out of his reach. 

 

I’ll be pretty busy today, as I’ll be in Coney Island for an annual rite of summer here in New York City — The Mermaid Parade. I’m sure that there’ll be some Instagram posts until I actually get a chance to edit the photos — but in the meantime, let’s get to the business at hand, right? Now, over the past 18 months or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music.

After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers.  On an inspired whim, Baudry, took a trip to  Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here. I’m a songwriter and I’m looking for like-minded people to collaborate with.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

Baudry’s latest single is the folksy and effortlessly soulful “If Only,” and while being a fitting vehicle for her equally effortless vocals, the hook-driven track is centered around a loose, jam-like arrangement of  funky, Bill Withers-ike strummed guitar, twinkling keys and gentle yet propulsive drumming and a funky bass line and while being an incredibly self-assured track that reveals an artist who is expanding upon her sound and approach, the song evokes the swooning pangs of meet-cute first love, but from the perspective of a narrator, who is over it and too busy to care — or so she tells herself. In some way, the song’s narrator takes on a tough veneer to protect herself from the inevitable. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives and as a result, the song manages to be warmly familiar sonically and thematically.

 

Last year, I wrote quite a bit about The Babe Rainbow, and as you may recall, the act which is currently comprised of the Bryon Bay, Australia-born and -based founding members Angus Dowling and Jack Laughlan Crowther and newest members Lucas Mariani and Jessi Dunbar can trace its origins to when its founding duo met while in school, bonding over a mutual love of The Incredible String Band and Swing Mademoiselles among others. The band’s early singles caught the attention of Flightless Records, who went on to release their breakout single “Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest.” Eventually, the band then caught the attention of internationally renowned producer Danger Mouse, who signed the band to his 30th Century Records.

Their self-titled debut was produced by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Stu Mackenzie, and album singles “Johny Stays Cool,” and “Monkey Disco,” revealed a band that specialized in an especially quirky, off-kilter approach centered around decidedly lo-fi vibes. Now, as you’ll hear on “Supermoon,” the first single off the Australian band’s forthcoming sophomore album Double Rainbow, the band will cement their growing reputation for crafting an anachronistic, lo-fi sound, but unlike their previous album, the single finds the band going further back in time — to the 60s; in fact, the lysergic single sounds indebted to Yellow Submarine and Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival, thanks in part to a steady yet ethereal groove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Acclaimed Singer/Songwriter Eliza Shaddad Releases 120 Minutes-like Visuals for Mesmerizing New Album Single

With the release of her first two EPs Run and Waters, the London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Eliza Shaddad quickly rose to international prominence as she received praise from a number of major media outlets including The Fader, Nylon, Stereogum, The Line of Best Fit, The Independent, Clash, The 405, as well as airplay from BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra, Beats 1 Radio and countless others for a sound that some have compared to PJ Harvey, Cat Power and others. (Not bad company to be a part of, if you ask me!) Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I’ve written about the acclaimed British singer/songwriter, and as you may recall that Shaddad has arguably one of the more interesting backstories I’ve come across in quite some time. As the story goes, she’s the daughter of Sudanese and Scottish parents — and on her mother’s side, she’s the descendant of a long and very proud line of artists and poets that can be traced back to the 1800s; in fact, her great, great grandfather James Paterson, was a member of the Glasgow Boys, a group of extremely forward-thinking artists, best known for challenging the style and subjects of Victorian Scottish painting. She’s also spent time living in seven different countries and as a result, she speaks four languages. Along with that she’s earned a Masters in Philosophy and graduated from the Guildhall School with a degree in Jazz. Considering that background, it should be unsurprising that Shaddad’s work centers around constantly shifting and widening perspectives.

Additionally Shaddad has developed a reputation for pairing her creative work with significant causes. Along with fellow musician Samantha Lindo, she co-founded Girls Girls Girls, a female arts collective that has worked to empower women within the arts through special cross-disciplinary events across the UK. She has also raised awareness and funding for the anti-female genital mutilation charity Orchid Project.

The extremely busy Shaddad’s highly anticipated full-length debut Future is slated for release this fall, and the album, which will continue her ongoing (and longtime) collaboration with Chris Bond is slated for release later this year. The album’s second and latest single “My Body” is moody and hook-driven track centered around shoegazer-like atmospherics — in other words, shimmering guitar chords paired with Shaddad’s gorgeous vocals —  and trip hop’s dark and seductive grooves. The song evokes a plaintive  yet kind of uncertain need. Interestingly, as Shaddad explains in press notes, the song is about “Being betrayed by your body.  Knowing full well that you need to be alone, but doubting it every night.”

Directed by Joe McCrae, the recently released video was shot with several different cameras and employs the use of animation to show the transition between one’s conscious and subconscious while capturing the song’s — and in turn, its narrator’s — restlessness.

 

Currently comprised of founding members and siblings Victor Ziolkowski (drums, vocals) and David Ziolkowski (guitar) and newest member Alex Recide (bass), the Austin-based thrash punks Skeleton features members of several applauded Austin-based punk bands including Nosferatu, Residual Kid, Recide, Enemy One, Plax and Witewash. Since their formation back in 2014, the band has gone through several lineup changes — and initially, the band was deeply influenced by the local punk scene of the last decade paired with industrial and noise rock. Although they’ve generally been much darker than most of their peers, the band’s recent sound has been decided riff-heavy, as it’s been influenced by Kyuss, Dystopia, Bolt Thrower and 90s black metal.

The band has released two flexi disc EPs — I Hate I Skate and Breathing Problem Productions through Super Secret Records; however, their soon-to-be EP, which was recorded by OBN IIIs’, A Giant Dog’s and Bad Sports‘ Orville Neely III and mastered by Seth Gibbs will be their first proper 7 inch release, and reportedly, the EP solidifies a punk leaning sound as they move forward metal on their full-length effort. “War,” the EP’s latest single is a bruising and pummeling punk assault reminiscent of JOVM mainstays Ex-Cult and old school NYC hardcore, but with a furious, booze-fueled misanthropy at its core. And holy shit, does it kick ass, take names and pisses all over everything.

The members of Skelton will be touring throughout July and August with Skourge. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
07/25 – Houston, TX @ TBA

07/26 – Austin, TX @ The Electric Church +

07/27 – Dallas, TX @ TBA +

07/28 – OKC, OK @ 89th Street Collective +

07/29 – Springfield, MO @ TBA +

07/30 – Denver, CO @ 7th Circle +

07/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ TBA +

08/01 – Bosie, ID @ TBA +

08/02 – Portland, OR @ TBA +

08/03 – Seattle, WA @ TBA +

08/04 – 05 – Olympia, WA @ Olympia Hardcore Fest +

08/07 – Santa Rosa, CA @ TBA

08/09 – San Jose, CA @ TBA

08/10 – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA

08/11 – Fullerton, CA @ TBA

08/12 – Phoenix, AZ @ TBA
08/13 – El Paso, TX @ TBA
+ with Skourge

 

Austin, TX trio  Skeleton share the first track from their forthcoming EP today via Revolver Magazine. Hear and share “War” HERE. (Direct Soundcloud.)
Skeleton features members of other celebrated Austin punk bands Nosferatu, Residual KidThe Real Cost, Recide, Enemy One, Plax, and Witewash.
The band hits to road this summer for several dates, including a spot on the Olympia Hardcore Fest. Please see current dates below.
 
Skeleton was formed in 2014 by Victor Ziolkowski and David Ziolkowski in Austin, TX. Having had evolved from many different line ups and variations of the band, it’s now performing with Victor on drums and vocals, David on guitar, and Alex Recide on bass.
The band was originally influenced by the punk scene in Austin of the last 8 years, bands like Recide, Iron Youth, and Total Abuse also paired with industrial/noise vibes of Throbbing Gristle. They have always stayed on the more evil or dark end of the spectrum and incorporate dramatic live performances and stage set designs. The band’s more recent sound derives from riff-heavy bands like Kyuss, Dystopia, and Bolt Thrower with the atmosphere of early 90’s black metal.
Skeleton has released 2 previous flexi disc EPs on labels Super Secret Records, I Hate I Skate, and Breathing Problem Productions. This is the band’s first 7 inch release, and solidifies the punk sound of the group as they move toward the upcoming LP, which will be fully metal. The 7 inch was all written and performed by Victor Ziolkowski (on drums, bass, guitar and vocals) and David Ziolkowski (on lead guitar, and bass) Recorded in Austin by Orville Neeley (OBN III’s, A Giant Dog, Bad Sports) and Mastered by Seth Gibbs.
The 4-song EP will be available on 7″ and download on June 30, 2018 out via Super Secret Records. Available for pre-order HERE.
SKELETON TOUR 2018:
07/25 – Houston, TX @ TBA

07/26 – Austin, TX @ The Electric Church +

07/27 – Dallas, TX @ TBA +

07/28 – OKC, OK @ 89th Street Collective +

07/29 – Springfield, MO @ TBA +

07/30 – Denver, CO @ 7th Circle +

07/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ TBA +

08/01 – Bosie, ID @ TBA +

08/02 – Portland, OR @ TBA +

08/03 – Seattle, WA @ TBA +

08/04 – 05 – Olympia, WA @ Olympia Hardcore Fest +

08/07 – Santa Rosa, CA @ TBA

08/09 – San Jose, CA @ TBA

08/10 – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA

08/11 – Fullerton, CA @ TBA

08/12 – Phoenix, AZ @ TBA
08/13 – El Paso, TX @ TBA
+ with Skourge

Best known for stints as a member of post-punk acts DTHWBBA and White Fawn, the Halls Head, Western Australia-based singer/songwriter and producer Greg Weir has gone solo with his latest recording project UIU. Detonic Recordings commissioned Weir to provide two singles — “Wild and Innocent” and “Like A Doll” as the  fourth single in their Minimal Viable Product series, a monthly release featuring up-and-coming artists releasing A side and B side singles. At the end of the year, the entire series will be released as a comprehensive compilation. Interestingly, Weir is the first Australian to take part in the series so far — and that shouldn’t be surprising, as Weir’s UIU finds him drawing influence from  the likes of Futurisk, Suicide, Gary Numan, The Human League and others; in fact, the A side single “The Wild and Innocent” is centered around industrial-like drum programming, droning synths, a motorik  groove, a trippy yet ethereal sense of melodicism and  John Carpenter soundtrack-like cinematic bent.

Adding to the overall dark and murky vibes created by the sounds, the song thematically tells a tale of murder, loss and hopelessness from a woman’s perspective — but filtered through a murky, Blade Runner-esque lens.

New Video: The Gorgeously Cinematic Visuals for Uma E. Fernqvist’s Lush and Textured “For U”

Best known as one of the world’s most acclaimed professional dancers for more than 20 years, the Swedish-born dancer (and singer/songwriter) Uma E. Fernqvist has taken her love of movement and music to inspire her debut EP Reverse. Interestingly, the material on the recently released EP is largely inspired by Lamb, Massive Attack, and Portishead — and as you’ll hear on the hauntingly mesmerizing and lushly textured single “For U,” Fernqvist’s tender vocals ethereally float over a minimalist yet cinematic production consisting of pulsating and thumping beats, shimmering synths and atmospheric electronics; but under the chilly surface, the song trembles with a vulnerable, human need.

Directed by Joakim Envik Karlsson and Peter Svenzson and produced by  Nåck Creative, the recently released, cinematic video for “For U,” features Fernqvist and a diverse cast of dancers dancing in inky and murky shadows and brilliant sunlight, seemingly symbolizing a deeply human struggle.