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.

With the release of their first two singles, “Loveless” and “This Is It,” the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock trio Lo Moon, comprised off Matt Lowell (vocals, guitar), Crisanta Baker (bass, keys) and Sam Stewart (guitar), quickly became one of their hometown’s most buzzed about bands after receiving early praise from the likes of New York Times, NPR Music, V Magazine, KCRWLos Angeles Times, NPR’s World Cafe and others, and they’ve opened for the likes of Phoenix, Glass Animals, The Lemon Twigs, Air, London Grammar and others. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the band is currently finishing up their Chris Walla and Francois Tetaz-produced full-length debut; but before that, the trio’s latest single “Thorns” is a slow-burning and atmospheric track that sounds indebted to Roxy Music (think of “More Than This” “The Space Between” and “Avalon“), The xx and others.

The band is currently on a lengthy tour that includes a November 6 stop at Rough Trade and a December 15 stop at The Beacon Theatre for WFUV’s Holiday Cheer. Check out tour dates below.

Tour Dates
October 14: Buffalo, NY @ HRVST Festival (w/ Phoenix)
October 15: New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall (w/ Phoenix)
October 17: Manchester, UK @ O2 Apollo (w/ London Grammar)
October 18: Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy (w/ London Grammar)
October 20: Manchester, UK @ O2 Apollo (w/ London Grammar)
October 21: London, UK @ Eventim Apollo (w/ London Grammar)
October 23: Birmingham, UK @ O2 Academy (w/ London Grammar)
October 24: Edinburg, UK @ Usher Hall (w/ London Grammar)
October 26: Nottingham, UK @ Rock City (w/ London Grammar)
October 27: Bristol, UK @ Colston Hall (w/ London Grammar)
October 29: Newcastle, UK @ City Hall (w/ London Grammar)
October 30: London, UK @ O2 Brixton Academy (w/ London Grammar)
November 1: Dublin, IE @ Olympia Theatre (w/ London Grammar)
November 2: Belfast, IE @ Waterfront Hall (w/ London Grammar)
November 6: Brooklyn @ Rough Trade (headline)
November 7: Philadelphia @ Boot & Saddle (headline)
November 16: Los Angeles @ The Troubadour (headline)
November 22: Luxembourg @ Rockhal (w/ London Grammar)
November 23: Amsterdam, NL @ AFAS Live (w/ London Grammar)
November 25: Cologne, DE @ Palladium (w/ London Grammar)
November 26: Berlin, DE @ Velodrom (w/ London Grammar)
November 28: Hamburg, DE @ Mehr! Theatre (w/ London Grammar)
November 30: Zurich, CH @ Halle 622 (w/ London Grammar)
December 4: London, UK @ The Lexington (headline)
December 8: Stuttgart, DE @ Liederhalle Hegelsaal (w/ London Grammar)
December 9: Munich, DE @ TonHalle (w/ London Grammar)
December 11: Antwerp, BE @ Lotto Arena (w/ London Grammar)
December 12: Antwerp, BE @ Lotto Arena (w/ London Grammar)
December 15: New York City, NY @ WFUV Holiday Cheer at Beacon Theatre (w/ Jeff Tweedy and more)

New Video: The Psychedelic Visuals and Arena Rock Blues Rock Sounds of Shadow of Jaguar’s “Don’t Want to Die Here”

Comprised of Brian Hubbert (vocals, guitar) and Andrew Oakley (drums), the New York-based indie rock duo A Shadow of a Jaguar formed in early 2015 in Boulder, CO — and as the story goes, the duo of Hubbert and Oakley bonded over their mutual desire to write and make the kind of music they felt was sorely missing from their local scene. Within a few weeks, the duo began writing and recording original material while honing their sound and live set playing shows locally and throughout the country; in fact, their debut single “Mama Needs the Bottle,” and its follow up “Keep On Knocking” were received to praise from the likes of AXS and Live for Live Music. 

Since then, the duo have been touring and writing and recording the material that comprises their soon-to-be released album RAW, recorded, mixed and mastered in Denver, CO, by Todd Divel and Justin Peacock at Silo Sound. And as the duo explains in press notes, the album, which is slated for release later this month, was made “to stick a big middle finger up at all the fears and doubts that plague us. The goal was to force upon people the uncontrollable urge to scrunch their faces and nod their heads. ” RAW’s latest single, “Don’t Want to Die Here,” will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for explosive, arena rock-friendly blues rock, along the lines of The Black Keys and others, but complete with a swaggering and boozy vibe. 

Directed and produced by Wondering Works and the members of A Shadow oF a Jaguar, the recently released video for “Don’t Want to Die here” features dancer Cara Diaz expressively dancing to the song in front of projections of country roads, explosions, billowing smoke, and other psychedelic splashes of color. 

Comprised of frontwoman and guitarist Fatou Seidi Ghali, Alamnou Akrouni and Madassane Ahmoudou, Les Fillies de Illighadad hail from Illighadad, a secluded and remote, rural commune in central Niger, near the edge of the Sahara Desert that’s only accessible via a grueling drive through the open desert. There’s little modern infrastructure in the village, and the town lacks electricity and running water with the surrounding countryside supporting hundreds of shepherd families, living with and among their herds of livestock, as their ancestors have done for centuries.

The sound that has long defined rural Niger is known as tende which derives its name from a drum built from goat skin stretched across a mortar and pestle and is rooted in sparse arrangements featuring vocals, handclaps and percussion while thematically, songs focus on life in the village, love and praise of ancestors. And interestingly enough, it’s a genre and style largely dominated by women; in fact, long known as being both collective and communal, tende is a specifically a tradition for the young girls of the nomad camps — and typically, tende is played during celebrations and to pass time during the rainy season. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d recall that there have been certain genres of Tuareg music that have received international attention from music journalists and fans in the West and elsewhere — in particular, the desert blues, pioneered by acts like Tinariwen, Bombino and Mdou Moctar have become synonymous with Tuareg music and culture to the West; however, music rooted in the use of the electric guitar is a relatively recent phenomenon with exiled Tuareg living in Libya and Algeria, who had also been equally influenced by Western rock, funk and punk rock began using instrumentation to mimic female vocalists. Out of necessity they replaced traditional tende percussion with plastic jerrycans. Naturally when those exiles returned to their ancestral homeland, they brought their new sound with them, and in time the new guitar sound came to eclipse tende — especially in urban centers. With tende being primarily sung by women, the desert blues was the male counterpart, and the Tuareg guitar scene is largely dominated by men.

Interestingly Les Filles de Illighadad’s Fatou Seidi Ghali is an extreme rarity — she’s one of the only female Taureg guitarists in Niger. As the story goes, Ghali would sneak away with her older brother’s guitar and taught herself how to play, and while being groundbreaking within her culture, it’s also a bold way of reasserting the role of tende and of women in Tuareg music; but while employing the use of electric guitar, they manage to use the traditional drum and a calabash half-buried in water instead of the more contemporary djembe or drum kit.  The trio’s full-length debut effort Eghass Malan was recorded while they were on their first European tour — and after a handful of shows. And as you’ll hear from the album’s latest single and album title track “Eghass Malan,” the trio recorded the song and the rest of the album’s material with a sort of impromptu minimalism of a band jamming together, thanks in part to rather bare bone arrangements of twisting, turning and hypnotic guitar lines, multi-part harmonies, simple yet driving rhythms and handclaps but with a clean, effortless production sheen — and although recorded in the modern fashion, the song points to a much more timeless and ageless sound that goes back to our nomadic and tribal origins while pushing an entire culture in a new direction.

 

 

 

Live Footage: Up and Coming Portuguese Act Vaarwell Releases a Gorgeous and Eerie Cover of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”

Currently comprised of Margarida Falcão, Ricardo Nagy and Luís Monteiro, the Lisbon, Portugal-based indie pop trio Vaarwell, derive their name from the Dutch, vaarwell, which in English translates into farewell — and interestingly enough, the band can trace their origins back around 2014 to when the members met while studying music production. And with the release of their debut EP Love and Forgiveness, the Portuguese trio received attention both across their native Portugal and elsewhere for an minimalist and ethereal sound; in fact the trio has been included in 2015’s FNAC Best New Talent Compilation, named Tradiio‘s “Artist of the Week,” played at the renowned Portuguese music festival NOS em D’bandana and were commissioned by by French designer Philippe Starck to write and record a track for his exhibition at the Groninger Museum during Eurosonic Nooderslag Festival.

Building upon a growing profile, the trio released their highly-anticipated full-length debut Homebound 456 earlier this year, which received airplay and praise from the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, Stereogum and Crack In The Road among, and others Recently, the band released the third single off their full-length debut — and interestingly enough along with that, they also released a gorgeous cover of “Exit Music (For A Film) off Radiohead’s critically applauded, seminal album OK Computer, which emphasizes the song’s plaintive ache and dread while revealing a subtly different take on a familiar song, as the Vaarwell rendition is based around a somewhat fuller arrangement featuring ominous synths. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Summer Heart Returns with a Gorgeous and Symbolic Meditation on Time and Wisdom

JOVM mainstay David Alexander is an internationally renowned, Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, whose solo, electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart has received attention for a wistful and nostalgic sound that draws from  60s psych pop, 80s synth pop and lo-fi rock and has been compared favorably to the likes of  Caribou, Washed Out, In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy, Painted Palms and others, and for being considered among the first wave of Sweden’s equally renowned electro pop and dream pop movement, which also includes Moonbabies, The Land Below, Hey Elbow, Blind Lake and Emerald Park.  

Alexander’s latest Summer Heart album, 101 was released last month, and as you may recall I’ve previously written about album single  “Hotel Beds,” a swooning yet buoyant production featuring shimmering synths, stuttering house music-like drum programming, boozy blasts of guitar, Alexander’s dreamy falsetto and a rousing hook within a dance floor friendly song. However, underneath the buoyant and summery vibes of the song is a bittersweet and weary rumination on the life of a touring musician. 

101’s latest single “Follow” continues on a similar path as its predecessor as the song features a house music-inspired production consisting of arpeggiated and shimmering synths, chiming, Afro-pop-like percussion, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and Alexander’s dreamy falsetto with a soaring hook. And much like its immediate predecessor, underneath the buoyant and summery vibe there’s more than meets the eye — in this case, the song’s narrator expresses a plaintive, desperately unresolved frustration. As Alexander explains in press notes. “To follow your dreams, you must figure out what they are. ‘Follow’ is about that  moment when you think you have it all figured to, only to realise you’re not one bit wiser. Those things you do, which you imagine will change everything . . . when all is said and done, afterwards you feel exactly the same.”

Directed by Kyle Macfadzean, the recently released video features expressive, contemporary choreography by Amy Kent and Laura Ava-Scott, and stars Grace Macfadzean and Angela Downs. Shot in an lushly cinematic fashion, the video makes a connection between the young woman and her older, seemingly wiser doppleganger, emphasizing the song’s central theme with a powerfully emotional yet surreal wallop

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Thundercat Returns with Sunny and Redemptive Visuals for Collaborative Single with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past couple of years, you’ve likely been made familiar with the he critically applauded  bassist, vocalist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and as you may recall, within the past three years or so, Bruner has been remarkably prolific as he’s made attention-grabbing guest appearances contributing his imitable bass and vocals to Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly and Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. Bruner followed that up by releasing what arguably best may have been one of the best releases of 2015, The Beyond/Where Giants Roam. 

Last year, Bruner teased us with some more new material, including “Bus In These Streets,” a comedic and playful ode to our reliance and dependence on technology in which Bruner collaborated with the renowned producer, beatmaker, electronic music artist and filmmaker Flying Lotus contributing programming and Louis Cole contributing keys and programming. And as you know, Bruner’s third, full-length album Drunk was released earlier this year, and the album was written as a journey deep into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes very dark mind of its creator, who collaborated with an impressive array of friends and guests including the aforementioned Kamasi Washington and Kendrick Lamar, along with a few other folks you may have heard of, like Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell Williams, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. 

Drunk’s first official single “Show You The Way”is a smooth and soulfully jazz-like pop track in which arpeggiated synths, stuttering drum programming and Bruner’s dexterous bass lines serve as a shimmering and silky bed over which Bruner, Kenny Loggins and Micheal Donald trade soulful vocals to create a song that feels like a polished and effortless synthesis of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and Bruner’s signature funky, retro-futuristic jazz fusion.

Directed by Katarzyna Sawicka and Carlos Lopez Estrada, the recently released music video for “Show You The Way,” follows the characters and the storyline the directors began with the surreal and darkly comic visuals they created in “Them Changes,”  and while that video ended in a grim note with an armless and heartbroken protagonist, “Show You The Way” is a sunny contrast, offering a semblance of redemption, healing and love for our armless protagonist.  

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a handful of posts on the mysterious indie rock act Essx Station, and as you may recall the duo’s debut single “Can’t Go Back,” revealed a self-assured, hook-driven song that reminded me quite a a bit of Snow Patrol. Winter and Blunda, the duo behind Essx Station followed “Can’t Go Back” with the swooning and atmospheric “Awake or Dreaming,” a swooning and sincere track that still managed to sound as though it drew from Snow Patrol but with enormous, arena rock-like hooks. But underneath the slick production and big hooks of their two earliest singles, the duo reveals an uncanny ability to craft sincere, pop-leaning, radio friendly indie rock.

“Submarine,” the up-and-coming duo’s latest single, much like its immediately predecessors will appear on their soon-to-be released debut EP will further cement their reputation for sincere and enormous, hook-driven indie rock. But interestingly, it may be one of the more muscular and shoegazer-like songs they’ve released as shimmering yet angular guitar chords are paired with downtuned, rumbling bass chords, boom-bap like drumming, hand clap-led percussion, alternating boy-girl vocals and dual harmonies; in fact, the song strikes me as being a fair meshing of Snow Patrol, Pixies and Lightfoils with an overwhelmingly positive message. As the duo explained to me via email “like all the songs of the EP, this was written and produced by us and is about choosing to follow your own path and be who you are without listening to what others have to say. You disappear for a while into your own world, to figure out what you want and need. As the song says:


“We can be anything 
No one can see us dream
Float in a submarine 
Going underground”
Certainly for anyone who has been desperately trying to figure out what their place is in this world or who has at one point been desperate to figure out their place or face extraordinarily pressure to do something, to be a responsible, practical adult, this song will feel familiar — and it kindly suggests that sometimes the best thing is to go and follow your dreams and your own path to them.

Comprised of  founding duo Albert Kawmi and Calum Muir, along with four other collaborators, the Glasgow, Scotland, UK-based electro pop act Sun Rose, which specializes in what the act has dubbed “maximalist, melodramatic, funk-pop” can trace their origins back to about 2008 when they formed under the name Nevada Base. And during the period of roughly 2008 – 2013, the band, along with Gus Wemyss had been extremely active in Glasgow’s music scene, until the act’s founding duo got sidetracked with serious life issues — jobs and raising families.

As the story goes, the duo had begun recording an album in 2014 and the recordings had sat dormant for over year, until the act’s former member Wemyss returned to Glasgow and began to finalized many of the album’s arrangements and flesh out the material. When the act’s founding duo heard the completed album, they were so impressed that it needed to be released. As the band explained in an email to me, the completed album re-focused the members of the band to start over with a new name — Sun Rose. But despite the change in name, the band’s latest album, The Essential Luxury Album will further cement their reputation for crafting slickly produced, dance floor friendly synth pop; in fact, the album’s first single “Smirk,” will remind some listeners of mid 80s New Order, Cut Copy and No Zu, as a propulsive and sinuous bass line, shimmering synths and call and response vocals are paired with layers of percussion and enormous hooks. And while also subtly leaning at house music, the song manages to be arguably one of the most dance floor friendly songs I’ve come across this year.

Filmed by James Vincent Gillespie and Brian Sweeney on location in Sweeney’s kitchen and in the homes of many of the Last Night from Glasgow crew, the video employs fittingly 80s-inspired graphics and animations in a creepily psychedelic fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

If you had been frequenting this site earlier this year, you would have come across a post on the Brooklyn-based psych rock/stoner rock act Weird Owl. And since their formation back in 2004, the band comprised of Trevor Tyrrell (guitar, vocals), Jon Rudd (guitar), Sean Reynolds (drums), Kenneth Cook (bass, keys, synths, backing vocals) and John Cassidy (keys, synths), have developed a reputation for a sound that’s been compared to Deep Purple, Hawkwind, Neil Young, Pink Floyd and Spirit, for releasing a steady stream of new music, which they’ve supported through several tours of the US and UK. (Interestingly enough, their first two albums 2009’s Ever the Silver Cord Be Loosed and 2011’s Build Your Beast a Fire, which were self-released managed to catch the attention of   The Brian Jonestown Massacre‘s Anton Newcombe, who released the band’s 2013 EP Healing and 2015’s Interstellar Skeletal through his A Recordings, Ltd. — and as a result, the Brooklyn-based psych rock received a growing international profile within psych rock circles.)

Now, as you may recall, the band’s sixth full-length Bubblegum Brainwaves is slated for release Friday, and the album thematically is influenced by our weird and terrifying age as it touches upon cognitive dissonance, darkness, uncertainty, war and a world crumbling towards a dysfunctional dystopia, while reportedly finding the band pushing their sound towards new directions; in fact, Bubblegum Brainwaves‘ first single
You (Sometimes Not You),” featured shimmering synths and a catchy Summer of Love meets retro-futuristic synth pop melody paired with a soaring hook. The album’s latest single “Invisibility Cloak” may arguably be one of the album’s anthemic and forceful tunes — but it manages to possess a dark, foreboding vibe, reminiscent of JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard.