Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Premier Guitar Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, The New York Press, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

New Audio: Acclaimed British Act White Lines Release an Earnest Power Ballad

Five, the acclaimed London-based indie trio White Lies’s forthcoming, fifth full-length album is slated for a February 1, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings, and the album marks their tenth anniversary together — and instead of resting on their laurels, the members of the trio decided that it was the perfect time to push their sound and aesthetic in new and adventurous directions. Along with that, the trio’s bassist and primary lyricist Charles Cave wrote what may arguably be the most deeply personal and intimate lyrics of the band’s entire catalog. 

Unlike its predecessors, the writing and recording process was Transatlantic, and included a trip to Los Angeles, where they worked on new material with Ed Bueller, who produced the band’s chart-topping debut To Lose My Life and their third album Big TV. Throughout the process, the band enlisted past associates and collaborators to assist on the proceedings including engineer James Brown, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters; the renowned producer Flood, who contributes synths and keys on a couple of tracks; and Grammy Award-winning Alan Moulder, who has worked with Smashing PumpkinsNine Inch Nails and The Killers to mix the album.

Now, as you may recall, the Snow Patrol-like album single “Time to Give,” was an ambitious song that clocked in at a little over 7 and a half minutes, and was centered around a lush yet moody arrangement of shimmering synths, a propulsive motorik groove, Harry McVeigh’s sonorous baritone and an arena rock-friendly hook — but underneath the enormous hooks was a song that focuses on a dysfunctional and abusive relationship from a real and lived-in place; so real, that the song bristles with the bitterness, confusion and hurt that comes from being in a relationship that leaves you fucked up and broken. Believe It” continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor  — full of the enormous, arena rock friendly hooks that have won them acclaim; but sonically speaking, it manages to bear a resemblance to Pet Shop Boys, Tears for FearsJef Barbara and Joy Division/New Order, as the song is centered around big power chords, shimmering and twinkling synths, a forcefully propulsive rhythm section and McVeigh’s baritone.

“Finish Line,” Five‘s latest single is a slow-burning, power ballad featuring an ambitious and expansive song structure with the song moving from Roxy Music-like atmospherics to big power ballad and arena rock-friendly hooks bolstered by powerfully earnest sentiment. But at its core, the song is about a young couple’s breakup negotiations, complete with bitter accusations and recriminations, regret, heartache and uncertainty. Interestingly, the song is a band favorite and as the band’s Charles Cave mentions in press notes. We are all hugely attached to this song, and really excited to share it prior to the album being released. Much like album-opener ‘Time To Give’, the track has an ambitious structure – one emanating from our love of Prog. At its heart, it’s a simple song about a young couple’s break-up negotiations, I like to hope the music itself takes the listener through the emotional ups and downs. It’s up there as one our best songs and we hope our fans think so too

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Live Footage: Up-and-Coming British Singer-Songwriter Sam Fender Performs Two for Vevo DSCVR

Over the past two years or so, the up-and-coming Newcastle, UK-based singer/songwriter Sam Fender has received attention both nationally and internationally for crafting rousingly anthemic material that broadly focuses on hard-hitting social issues, broadly drawing from his own experiences growing up in Northeastern England. Unsurprisingly, the Newcastle-based singer/songwriter was featured on BBC Sound of 2018‘s shortlist, which he promptly followed up with a sold-out headlining UK tour. 

Fender built upon a rapidly growing profile with the release of his highly-anticipated EP Dead Boyslast month Polydor Records and EP single “That Sound” is centered around rousing, power chord-based arena rock, centered around enormous, raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worthy hooks, soulful vocals and a bluesy vibe that sonically brings  The Black KeysSlavesRoyal Blood and others to mind. As Fender explained in press notes at the time, “Simply put, ‘That Sound’ is a celebration of music, but it’s also a not-so-subtle middle finger to the naysayers that tend to rear their heads as soon as things start to work out for you, especially back at home. It’s about finding strength to ignore it all, and keep doing your own thing.”

“Play God,” Fender’s attention-grabbing debut single established the Newcastle-based singer/songwriter’s song and overall aesthetic — rousingly anthemic hooks and enormous blues power chords paired with his soulful vocals; however, unlike “That Sound,” the song is centered around politically-charged, conscious lyrics that belie the British singer/songwriter’s relative youth.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on Vevo’s Vevo DSCVR series. Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s curated, emerging artist platform, meant to promote the best up-and-coming artists that the video sharing site believes will have a significant impact on the future. Vevo invites the artist to perform some of the best video in a live session and throughout its run, Vevo has featured an impressive and eclectic array of artists including Jack Garratt,James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. This past year has seen Vevo DSCVR inviting up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish, Bülow, Donna Missal and Charlotte Lawrence. Interestingly as the year is quickly come to a close, Vevo has been busy announcing their Artists to Watch 2019 list, which included the Mobile, AL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based Elley Duhe, who performed “Savior,” the aforementioned Fender and a lengthy list of others. Recently Fender was invited to perform live version of “That Sound” and “Play God.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Czarface, a collaborative project featuring renowned, underground hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric and the Wu-Tang Clan‘s Inspectah Deck. The act derives its name from a character they created that’s patterned after both comic book villains and aspects of each of the individual members. Now, as you may recall, the act can trace its origins to when the trio together, which lead to “Speaking Real Words” off 7L & Esoteric’s 2001 album, The Soul Purpose and “12th Chamber” off their 2010 album, 1212, and a number of other singles. And since the group’s formation back in 2013, they’ve released four critically applauded albums — their 2013 self-titled debut, 2015’s Every Hero Needs a Villain, 2016’s A Fistful of Peril and their collaboration with MF DoomCzarface Meets Metalface, which was released earlier this year.

Czarface follows their critically applauded collaboration with MF Doom by teaming with Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Starks on their forthcoming collaborative effort Czarface Meets Ghostface. The album’s first single “Iron Claw” features dope emcees trading swaggering bars about running crime syndicates, taking over the world, being the dopest around and more over a thumping and menacing production featuring enormous 808-like beats, a chopped up vocal sample and arpeggiated organs. Simply put this one is straight fire, as it features some of the world’s best emcees challenging each other to push their talents and skills in a new, exciting directions.

 

 

 

Over the past few years of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Psychic Love, and as you may recall the act, which features Laura Peters (vocals), Max Harrison (guitar) and Liam McCormick (bass) has described their sound as “dream grunge” and “as if Nancy Sinatra had a love child with Frank Black.” Up until the release of “Go Away Green,” a song that both derives its name and its influence from a very odd yet very true fact — that at Disney them parks, the things they don’t want patrons noticing are painted in a shade of green that they’ve dubbed “Go Away Green.”

Sonically, that single was a decided expansion of the sound and songwriting approach that first caught my attention as the song was a shape shifter that began with a cacophony of noise that recalled Pearl Jam’s Vs. before quickly morphing into a slow-burning and atmospheric track with a rousingly anthemic hook that recalls Concrete Blonde and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse. The band closes out 2018 with their newest single, “One & Two,” which sounds indebted to Ennio Morricone soundtracks as its centered around reverb-drenched, twangy guitars, dramatic drumming, a gorgeous horn arrangement and a soaring hook. And while the song may arguably be the most cinematic song in their growing catalog, it manages to recall Still Corners’ gorgeous Slow Air. Interestingly, as the band explains, their latest single “is a restless song about how communications bend and warp, especially in this new frontier, where nothing is as it seems.”

 

 

 

 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Singer-Songwriter Allan Rayman Releases Steamy Visuals for the Sultry Album Single “Crush”

Allan Rayman is a rather mysterious yet up-and-coming singer/songwriter and although not much is currently known about him, he has released three full-length albums and an EP — 2016’s Hotel Allan, 2017’s Roadhouse 01 and Courtney EP and Harry Hard-on, which was released earlier this year. With those releases, Rayman has played sold out headlining tours across his native Canada and the US, including sets at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Ohana, Austin City Limits and Osheaga Festivals. And as a result, the up-and-coming singer/songwriter has built up a cult-like following. Building upon a growing platform, Rayman is about to embark on a European tour that includes a stop at my second favorite city in the world, Amsterdam; but before that, Harry Hard-on’s latest single is the sultry and bluesy “Crush,” which is centered around Rayman’s expressive vocals, which convey vulnerability and aching need, buzzing power chords, a sinuous hook and boom-bap like drums.

Sonically  speaking, the track will further cement Rayman’s growing reputation for a sound that slickly meshes elements of 90s grunge, blues, contemporary indie rock and hip-hop with the self-assuredness of an old pro. Thematically, the song focuses on lust and desire — and possesses a forceful, desperate urgency. 

Directed by longtime collaborator Steph Verschuren, the recently released video for “Crush” takes place in a strip club, where the viewer and the patrons watch a stunningly beautiful exotic dancer vamp, strutting and doing her thing. And it isn’t surprising that she commands the stage and everyone’s attention. Interestingly, the video manages to emphasize the urgent lust at the core of the song. 

New Video: Mother Feather’s Ass-Kicking Death Match Visuals for “Red Hot Metal”

Comprised of Ann Courtney (vocals), Elizabeth Carena (vocals, keys), Chris Foley (guitar), Gunnar Olsen (drums), and the band’s newest member Seth Ondracek (bass), the Brooklyn-based rock/heavy metal act Mother Feather quickly emerged into the national spotlight with their 2016 self-titled, full-length debut. The Brooklyn-based metal quartet played 41 dates of that year’s Warped Tour, went on a series of sold-out UK dates, which featured a live session for BBC Radio 1 Rock Show, played sets at Rock On The Range and Carolina Rebellion — and they opened for The B52s.

Building upon a growing national and international profile, the Brooklyn-based metal quintet’s sophomore album Constellation Baby will be officially released on Friday through Metal Blade Records and Black Light Media. And interestingly enough, the album finds the band expanding upon their high-energy “pop cock rock” in an ambitious, kicking ass and taking names fashion while retaining the raw, playful and feminine energy that won them attention. Of course, upping the ante isn’t a small feat. As the band’s Ann Courtney says of the album and its writing sessions “All I knew was that I needed the new album to be awesome. ‘Mother Feather’ is such an empowered album, and when I began working on the new material, I was really struggling to feel that way. I knew this album needed to be even better than the first, and to capitalize on its momentum it had to happen quickly. It was a tremendous amount of pressure to put myself under, and it was a dragon I knew I wanted to slay alone – at least at the beginning.” So Courtney locked herself away to write, to face her depression and stare down some deeply uncomfortable feelings. “Truthfully, I went to some very dark and lonely places. But once I let myself go there, that’s when the album started to take shape. There’s a lot of fever and intimacy in those songs. I laid myself bare.”

With her bandmates assisting Courtney to fully-flesh out and realize the album’s material, the end result is reportedly a collection that’s cathartic and exuberant. We are diving way deeper into the question, ‘Who is Mother Feather?'” Courtney says, “and I think that the answer is extremely emotional. It’s eclectic, but it all sounds like Mother Feather. This album will definitely expand what that means.” Adds Courtney, “It definitely wasn’t a given that things would come together though. It was hard won, even back to the writing. Everyone in the band went way out of their way to make it happen because we wanted it to happen. Everyone had something to say. Ideas were pushed to the limit and the result is the collective combination of those forces of energy. We were extremely vigilant about working through ideas. Stuff got worked, and it got worked again. In spite of the challenges — personal, financial, artistic — we all tried really hard to work together and create the thing that everyone meant, collectively.”

Album single “Red Hot Metal” is centered around power chord-based riffs, thunderous drumming, enormous, raise-your -beer-to the-sky-and-shout-along, arena rock-friendly hook sand pop belter harmonies delivered by Courtney and Carena. Sonically, the song recalls Heart, Lita Ford and 80s hair metal, complete with the swaggering confidence of old pros, whose songs have a bigger purpose. 

Directed by Michael Thackray, the recently released video for “Red Hot Metal”  stars wrestlers Maria Manic and Matt “The Bulldozer” Tremont grappling in a sweaty and bloody death match. For a significant portion of the match, Manic looks as though she’ll lose — until she gets help from the members of Mother Feather. 

The Brooklyn-based metal quintet is playing a record release show later tonight at The Knitting Factory and it looks like it’ll be a helluva time. 

New Video: Introducing the Earnest and Anthemic, Hook-Driven Rock of Joshua Speers

Joshua Speers is an up-and-coming Delaware-based singer/songwriter, who has spent the past few years honing an honest, anthemic yet intimate sound and songwriting approach  playing gigs across the Northeast, frequently sleeping at rest stops after the gig before heading to work. “Bad Nights” Speers’ Lars Stalfors-produced debut single is a carefully crafted bit of singer/songwriter rock centered by arena rock friendly hooks and an increasingly rare, lived-in earnestness. As Speers says in press notes, about the song “‘Bad Night’ is about embracing anxiety and fear in order to overcome that darkness.  It’s a loud, windows-down response to my demons–daring them to bring me down.”

Directed by Fraser Jones, the recently released video for “Bad Night” was shot at a motocross rally at Calhoun Motocross, just outside of Atlanta, and captures the drama of the day in an intimate yet cinematically shot fashion. At one point, we see Speers watching like his fellow spectators before dancing and running around the course. 

 

With the release of their debut single “Fourteen,” earlier this year, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based trio Beverly Kills quickly received attention for a decidedly post-punk inspired sound. However, with “Melodrama,” the band’s sound moved towards the shimmering dream pop of 4AD Records with a subtle post-punk take. The up-and-coming Swedish trio end 2018 with “Dreamless,” which continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — shimmering guitar-led dream pop with enormous, rousing hooks.

 

 

New Audio: Introducing the Synth-Led Funk of Sydney’s Winston Surfshirt

With the release of their full-length debut Sponge Cake, which featured their recently gold-certified debut single “Be About You,” the Sydney, Australia-based sextet Winston Surfshirt was championed by Beats 1 Radio host Zane Lowe, KRCW’s Jason Bentley, BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Phil Taggart, BBC Radio 6’s Lauren Laverne and Elton John, thanks in part to a Australian sextet’s unique and slickly produced blend of synth funk, soul and hip-hop. Adding to a growing profile, Sponge Cake was named a Triple J feature album. 

Building upon a growing national and international profile, the up-and-coming Sydney-based act end 2018 with a new track, the chilled out yet swaggering funky synth-led “For The Record,” which pairs a sleek hip hop-tinged production of thumping beats, arpeggiated synths, crooning horns and neo-soul like vocals. Sonically, the song brings a number of different artists — Thundercat, Timbaland and Dam-Funk immediately come to mind. “‘For The Record’ is a song written for anyone from the perspective of their loved ones, family or friends,” the members of the band explain in press notes. “When you’re feeling down there’s always people who love you and would do anything to make you feel better and be there when you’re in a bad headspace.”

New Video: Silverbacks Release Hallucinatory Visuals for Gang of Four-like “Just In The Band”

Initially begun as a bedroom songwriting project of primary songwriters, founding members and brothers Kilian and Daniel O’Kelly and eventually expanding into a full-fledged quintet, the Dublin-based art punk band Silverbacks specialize in an angular, and furious post-punk centered around a triple guitar-led attack, lead singer Daniel O’Kelly’s dryly humorous lyrics and infectious hooks. The Irish quintet’s Daniel Fox-produced single “Just In The Band,” will be released through the band’s PK Miami Records early next year, and while the new single continues a run of uneasy, downright anxious singles, it has a Gang of Four-like muscular groove that reveals a young band expanding upon their sound.

Filmed and edited by Stephen Connelly, the recently released video for “Just In The Band”  features the band performing the song in a small room — but shot with double exposures, which gives the visuals a hallucinatory air.