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 Video: Winona Oak Releases Feverish Visuals for Soaring Ballad “Break My Broken Heart”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-and-coming, Solleron, Sweden-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Winona Oak. And as you may recall, Oak who was born Johanna Ekmark has a rather unique backstory: Growing up  on the small, Swedish island known to Swedes as the Island of the Sun, the up-and-coming Solleron-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist spent much of her childhood encountering more animals than people. As the story goes, she grew up as a trained horse acrobat and because she grew up in a musical home, she was encouraged to pursue creative endeavors as much as possible: Ekmark began playing violin when she was 5, piano when she was 9, and she wrote poetry and songs at an extremely young age. 

Ekmark eventually moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in music, but a leap of faith that had her attend a Neon Gold Records writing retreat in the Nicaraguan jungle led to her to meet Australian-born and based hit making producer and pop artist What So Not. And from this serendipitous meeting, she went on to co-write ““Better” and “Stuck In Orbit,” before stepping out into the spotlight as both the writer and featured artist on the Aussie producer and pop artist’s “Beautiful,” which was released last year.

Adding to a busy 2018, Ekmark covered HAIM‘s “Don’t Save Me” for Neon Gold Records’ 10th anniversary compilation, NGX: Ten Years of Neon Gold. She then closed out the year with a co-write and vocal contribution of The Chainsmokers viral hit “Hope,” a track that has amassed over 250 million streams across all digital platforms globally — including over 100 million streams on Spotify. And as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Oak signed to Warner-Chappell Music Publishing and to Neon Gold/Atlantic Records.

Oak’s long-awaited debut single “He Don’t Love Me” revealed an ambitious songwriter, who has an uncanny knack for a sultry and infectious hook paired with a sleek, hyper modern production and an achingly bittersweet air. Her latest single “Break My Broken Heart” is a slow-burning and anthemic ballad featuring shimmering and arpeggiated synths, Oak’s yearning vocals and a soaring hook. And while the track sonically manages to recall the atmospherics of JOVM mainstay ACES, it’ll also further cement Oak’s reputation for crafting earnest pop with enormous hooks. “You have to be brave to love someone with all of your heart,” Oak says. “But the biggest risk is not to take any risks at all. As long as we’re breathing, what’s one more scar?”

Directed by Andres Ohman, the recently released video for “Break My Broken Heart” continues their ongoing collaboration, it continues a bit in the vein as its predecessor — cinematically shot but while evoking a feverish dream. 

True Moon is a Malmo, Sweden-based post-punk/dark wave quartet, comprised of founding members Karolina Engdahl (vocals, bass) and Tommy Tift (guitar) — both of whom are former members of Swedish Grammy-winning act Vånna Inget, along with Linus Segerstedt (guitar) and Fredrik Orevad (drums). The Malmo, Sweden-based quartet can trace their origins to when its founding duo of Engdahl and Tift felt a desire to create something more raw and visceral than the material they were working on with their then-primary gig. “Karolina and I are bored with the Swedish music scene at the moment,” Tift explained at the time. “It feels like everyone has the same blueprint, like there’s an industry rulebook now for how bands must sound. We wanted to do something different.” Vånna Inget’s 2013 full-length effort Ingen Botten found the band sonically exploring New Wave and dark wave, and as Tift went on to say they felt a need to explore it more themselves.  “It was like an urge and we just had to do this,” True Moon’s Engdahl adds.

“We were listening to artists such as Joy Division, Killing Joke, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and early Cure. There is a purity and honesty and integrity to that music that’s missing from the current scene,” the band’s Tift said back in 2017. “Those bands weren’t making music to be pop stars or rock stars, it is pure expression and pure art, and that’s the aesthetic we were pursuing.” Segerstedt and Orevad were recruited to complete the band’s lineup, and they began working on their 2016 self-titled debut, an effort that received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for crafting material that actively went for the sort of raw, urgent and unpolished feel and sound reminiscent of Martin Hannet‘s work with Joy Division.

As a result of attention they received from their self-titled debut, the Malmo-based post-punk act played shows across Sweden, the UK and the States, opening for Killing Joke, King Dude, MCC, Against Me! and a number of others. Building upon a growing national and international profile, True Moon’s highly-anticipated sophomore album II is slated for a November 1, 2019 release through Lövely Records —  and the album finds the band continuing their ongoing collaboration with with producer Jari Haapalainen, who also contributes guitar to the proceedings. Interestingly, the album’s first single “Poison” continues the raw and urgent aesthetic and feel of their full-length debut — and while clearly being indebted to Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others, the track reveals some ambitious songwriting, as it possesses an enormous, arena rock-like quality.

 

 

 

 

e

 

 

Over the last few months of last year, Liam Brown, an up-and-coming songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and electro pop artist, best known as pizzagirl quickly became a mainstay on this site. And as you may recall, with the release of last year’s An Extended Play EP, Brown was championed by Huw Stephens, Annie Mac and Lauren Laverne, and received praise from DIY, Highsnobiety, Wonderland, The Line of Best Fit and others for an 80s synth pop inspired sound. Brown also opened for the acclaimed — and all too tragic — British indie act Her’s, during one of their last UK tours.

Building upon a growing profile, the release of his sophomore EP, season 2 further cemented Brown’s reputation for crafting swooningly heartfelt, shimmering synth pop with a decidedly anachronistic sound and feel. But 2019 may be the JOVM mainstay’s biggest year to date, as his highly-anticipated full-length debut, first timer is slated for an October 11, 2019 release through Heist or Hit Records, the label home of the aforementioned Her’s, Baywaves and Honey Moon among others.

first timer‘s second and latest single “ball’s gonna keep on rollin” is a hook-driven, 80s synth pop bop with shimmering synths, explosive blasts of horns, dramatic drum rolls and Brown’s pop star vocals — and while sounding as though it could be part of the soundtrack of Stranger Things, the track details the journey of a showbiz wannabe — from wide-eyed, hungry and humble origins to buzz-worthy artist to superstar to broke, washed up and bitter former star. In many ways, the success that the song’s protagonist desperately wanted to attain was his worst nightmare.

“It’s a Twilight Zone-type of tale of hunting for the big ‘success’ whatever that may be,” Brown explains in press notes. “Anyways, just remember that if the grind is getting you down, that ball’s gonna keep on rollin.”

 

 

 

 

 

Last month, I wrote about the up-and-coming Sydney, Australia-based dream pop/garage rock act Sunscreen. And as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Sarah Sykes, Alexander McDonald, Hugo Levingston and Oliver Ellis quickly developed a national profile with the release of their attention-grabbing debut EP 2017’s Just A Drop. As a result of the buzz surrounding the band, they opened for the likes of DMAs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Jen Cloher and Ali Barter and played sets at Farmer & The Owl and Grampians Music Festival.

Slated for an August 23, 2019 release, the Sydney-based dream pop/garage rock quartet’s Simon “Berkfinger” Berkelman-produced sophomore EP High Over Love reportedly finds the band crafting material that reflects the psyche of a romantically confused young person, desperately trying to survive in the big city. Written over the course of the past couple of years, the EP explores and touches upon romantic idealization, heartache and self-possession with a frank and earnest vulnerability. “High Over Love,” the EP’s first single and title track was a shimmering and hook-driven bit of guitar pop that’s one nods heavily at The Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde — but while focusing on a narrator, who’s reeling from a confusing and uncertain love. Interestingly, “Think About You” is a swooning and propulsive track that continues a run of hook-driven and earnest guitar pop singles — and while bearing a resemblance to The Smiths and The Pretenders, the song as the band’s Sarah Sykes explains is “Sunscreen’s love song. It’s about thinking about someone all day. This song is reminiscent of all things new, bright, and exciting — the feeling when you just can’t get close enough to someone.”

 

.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a couple of posts on the up-and-coming Brisbane, Australia-based indie rock quartet Future Haunts, and as you may recall, with the release of their debut EP Rubicon and its follow up single “Make Time,” the Brisbane-based quartet exploded into their homeland’s national scene, landing opening  slots for Middle Kids and Horror My Friend, Hockey Dad, as well as a set at Hidden Lanes Festival.

After making a handful of live appearances last year, the members of Future Haunts spent the bulk of the year writing and self-recording new material at Plutonium Studios that included the anthemic 120 Minutes-like “Weather Vane.” Interestingly, “Fall In Line.” the Aussie indie rock act’s latest single continues a run of hook-driven and anthemic singles — and in this case, while the latest track sonically may remind some listeners of Arctic Monkeys and The Drums among a long list of others, the song may be the most politically charged songs the up-and-coming band has written to date, as the song is directly influenced by recent events in their homeland.

Over the past couple of years in both Sydney and Brisbane, strict lockout laws — laws that force bars, pubs, clubs and music venues to refuse new customers from entry at 1:30AM with a last call at 3:00AM were passed with an objective to reduce and curtail alcohol-fueled violence. While some of the recent data complied by officials in both of those cities have shown that alcohol-fueled violence has decreased, many people, who are involved in nightlife have raised concerns about the impact on the economy and their businesses. “‘Fall In Line’ was written around the time lockout laws were being introduced in Sydney and Brisbane,” the band’s Ben Speight explains in press notes. “The live music community in Brisbane has worked extremely hard to develop one of the best places to go and engage with artists, and there really was a lot of uncertainty what consequences this would have on live music and the broader nightlife scene.

“The song’s a bit of a nod to all those who work hard to create and nurture a positive culture and to keep pushing on no matter what. The message behind the song is still just as relevant today, in the context of other knee-jerk decisions made to placate a few very loud voices in very high places,” Speight says.

 

 

 

New Audio: Acclaimed Punk Act Ceremony Releases a Shimmering Post-Punk Inspired Single

Currently featuring Ross Farrar (vocals), Anthony Anzaldo (guitar), Justin Davis (bass), Andy Nelson (guitar) and Jake Casarotti (drums), the Rohnert Park, CA-based punk act Ceremony can trace their origins to 2005, when they formed as a sextet with Farrar, Anzaldo, Davis, Nelson, Casarotti and Ryan Mattos (guitar) under the name Violent World before eventually changing their name. 

With the release of their earliest work — in particular, 2005’s Ruined EP and Violence Violence, 2008’s Still Nothing Move You, the band quickly developed a reputation for a relentlessly brutal and bruising hardcore punk sound compared to the likes of Infest and others. Building upon a growing profile, the Rohnert Park, CA-based punk act toured across the world with bands like Blacklisted, Converge, and AFI before releasing 2010’s Rohnert Park. 

Shortly before they signed to Matador Records in 2011, the band went through a lineup change with the departure of Ryan Mattos. The following year saw the release of the band’s fourth album Zoo, an album that was a radical sonic departure from the band, as it saw them moving from the bruising hardcore sound of their earliest efforts towards a pre-hardcore, post-punk inspired sound much like Pink Flag-era Wire. 2015’s The L-Shaped Man found the band sonically moving further towards post-punk with a sound that was compared to the likes of Joy Division and others. 

The band’s soon-to-be released sixth album In The Spirit World Now is slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Relapse Records and the album reportedly finds the band’s sound further pulling from the post punk influences that’s driven their last couple of albums — but there’s also a bit of a rock influence. And unsurprisingly, the band has managed to evolve their sound while remaining true to themselves as songwriters and artists.  Interestingly, the album’s latest single, the hook-driven “Presaging the End” is centered around shimmering and slashing guitars and a motorik-like groove, the song finds the acclaimed punk act sounding much more like The Fixx — in particular “The Sign of Fire” and “Red Skies” but while retaining a punk rock intensity and earnestness. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Death Valley Girls Release a Hallucinatory and Menacing Visual for “Dream Cleaver”

Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock/proto metal act Death Valley Girls, and as you may recall the act which is currently comprised of founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps Laura Kelsey can trace their origins to when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums). 

Although they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes, the band’s sound and overall aesthetic throughout their recorded output has largely been influenced by The Manson Family and B movie theatrics while thematically their work has touched upon the occult. Last year’s Darkness Rains may arguably be among the most menacing and darkest of their growing catalog. The band has been busy touring over the past year or so since the release of their third album, but they’ve managed to set some time aside to write and record — with their latest single “Dream Cleaver,” being the first batch of new material from the act this year. 

Interestingly, the hook-driven new single finds the band’s sound subtly moving to a New Wave-like sound along the lines of The Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen, as you’ll hear brief blasts of bluesy saxophone floating over jangling guitars, gorgeous girls group-like harmonies paired with a motorik-like groove. And while possessing a newfound sheen, the manages to retain the menace and unease of their previously released material. 

Directed by Casey Rup, the recently released video for “Dream Cleaver” is a nightmarish and anxiety-including hallucination that follows three murderous witches as they search for materials for a neon-colored and bubbling potion. 

New Video: Sylvia Black and Lydia Lunch Team Up for a Sultry and Noir-ish Visual for “Walking With Fire”

Born Sylvia Gordon, the New York-based singer/songwriter, bassist and producer Sylvia Black may be best known for her work as the frontwoman of the internationally acclaimed electro pop act K.U.D.U, as well as collaborations with the likes of The Black-Eyed Peas, Moby, William Orbit, Kelis, Spank Rock, The Knocks, and Telepopmusik.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Gordon’s solo side project Betty Black, a project that received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that drew from an eclectic array of genres and sources including garage rock, Southern gothic blues, Ennio Morricone soundtracks and ambient electronica while thematically exploring love, lust, longing and obsession. 

The restlessly creative Gordon has also released material as Sylvia Black and her forthcoming Sylvia Black album Twilight Animals (Originals and Covers for Tortured Lovers), which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release find Gordon effortlessly hopping from electro pop, noir-ish jazz, Texan blues and twangy country and the sounds of Morocco and India. The first half of the album reportedly evokes a mysterious scene from a David Lynch film full of hazy and hallucinatory paranoia and unease while the album’s later half evokes the campiness and weirdness of a John Waters film. Overall the album is a mix of unique covers and interpretations of songs from the JOVM mainstay’s favorite artists including Fat White Family, JOVM mainstays The Horrors, Psychedelic Furs, Van Halen and Huey Lewis and the News among others. Of course, there are a bunch of originals — and some of the album’s original tracks finds the New York-based JOVM mainstay collaborating with the legendary No Wave artist Lydia Lunch. (In fact, the duo’s collaboration was so fruitful that they’ve also worked together on a full-length album.) 

Twilight Animals (Originals and Covers for Tortured Lovers)’ latest single is the slow-burning and noir-ish “Walking Through Fire,” a collaboration with the aforementioned Lydia Lunch that manages to evoke the work of David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino — or in other words, it’s all doomed detectives,  hazy cigarette smoke, femme fatales, double-crosses and triple-crosses and sultry, late night saxophone solos. Unsurprisingly, the recently released video, which was directed and shot by Sylvia Black is an equally sultry and apt take on the song; in fact, it looks like the opening credits for a classic film noir. 

New Audio: Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno Releases a Club Friendly Bop

Currently comprised of founding trio Tom Meighan (vocals), Serge Pizzorno (guitar, vocals) and Chris Edwards (bass) along with Ian Matthews (drums) the Leicester, UK-based act Kasabian derive their name from Linda Kasabian, a member of the infamous Charles Manson cult. As the band’s Chris Edwards explained in an interview with Ukula, their former guitarist Chris Karloff had been reading up on Charles Manson, and the name Kasabian just stuck with him. “He thought the word was cool, it literally took about a minute after the rest of us head it . . . so it was decided.” And since their formation, the act has become one of the more commercially successful acts in British music history: the last five consecutive of their six full-length albums have hit the #1 spot on the UK Albums Charts, a feat accomplished by only a handful of artists. Adding to their accolades they’ve been nominated for nine BRIT Awards, winning Best British Group in 2010; they’ve been nominated for 13 Q Awards winning four including 2009 Best Album for West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, 2014 Best Live Act and Best Act in the World Today and 2017 Best Track for “You’re In Love with a Psycho.” 

Perhaps best known as Kasabian’s creative mastermind during their enviable and unprecedented run, the band’s Serge Pizzorno has gone the solo route with his new recording project The S.L.P.  Slated for an August 30, 2019 release through The Orchard, Pizzorno’s solo debut, The S.L.P. reportedly draws from hip-hop, psych funk, New Wave, EDM and electro pop and others — and finds Pizzorno collaborating with an eclectic array of artists including the acclaimed London-based rapper Little Simz. “Moving forward, I’d like to collaborate more and open that door more,” Pizzorno says of his new project. “The S.L.P. project will become this sort of place I can go and just do whatever. It’s so important to have that.” Continuing he says “My life in the band and my boys, that’s part of me that will be there forever, but then there’s something else I have to get that out or I won’t be able to move forward.” 

The S.L.P.’s third and latest single “The Youngest Gary” initially seems like an extension of Pizzorno’s work with Kasabian — distorted guitar riffs, a motorik groove, boom bap drum programming, a sinuous bass line and Pizzorno’s imitable vocals —  and while the stadium rock bombast is turned down quite a bit, the track manages to be a hook-driven club friendly bop.