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: Clear Soul Forces Return with an Swaggering and Self-Assured New Single Paired with Slick Visuals

The Detroit, MI-based hip-hop quartet Clear Soul Forces, comprised of E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide, quickly developed a rotation for lyrically and sonically drawing from 70s street poets and boom-bap era hip-hop, adding their name to a list to exceptionally dope artists from the Motor City.  The quartet can trace their origins to a 2009 all-nighter at a Detroit recording studio. The four emcees scraped up the money to record material individually. Coincidentally, Royce Da 5’9″ was finishing work on his album Street Hop in the room next door, and the four emcees jumped at the chance to spit a few rhymes for him. As the story goes, the four young emcees then spent the next nine hours in an epic cypher in which each individual emcee traded bars while an impressed Royce Da 5’9″ intensely listened. Once they finished, the renowned, elder Detroit-based emcee suggested that the young quartet should become a group. 

By the following year, the members of Clear Soul Forces began making a name for themselves in Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene with the release of their debut mixtape Clear Soul Radio. The ended 2010 with the completion of their home studio The Complex, where they recorded The Departure EP. Adding to a growing national profile, the act played sets at A3C Festival, the 35 Denton Festival and SXSW, where they played the the Rappers I Know Showcase with Tanya Morgan, H.I.S.D., Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Talib Kweli and Freeway, and followed it up with videos for “The Greatest” and “Strangers In The Night.”

2012 saw the release of the Detroit-based quartet’s full-length debut Detroit Revolution(s), which was reportedly influenced by a large mural on the side of a local apartment building — and by the end of the year, they were selected by Red Bull as a featured artist in the beverage company’s Sound Select program. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve personally written about the act, but if you’re a true hip-hop head, you’d know that the members spent some time working on individual creative pursuits; in fact, you may recall that I wrote about a single off L.A.Z’s solo effort No Paperwork, “Celestial Vibes.” But interestingly enough, the act announced two things — their return and that they’d be releasing a new album, Still slated for a February 22, 2019 release. “They Shootin,'” the first single manages to be a bit of a return to form for the act as its centered around a warm 90s inspired hip hop production featuring a smooth and jazzy organ line and thumping beats that’s roomy enough for each individual emcee to trade bars. And while each emcee has a different flow and vocal range, they all manage to self-assuredly display incredibly dexterous wordplay and rhyme schemes. 

Directed by Xerox Vision, the recently released video for “They Shootin'” serves as a visual re-introduction to the group while effortlessly blending real-life violence with actual consequences with video game mayhem. As the act’s Ilajide explains in press notes, “The inspiration came from the stigma that when it gets hot the murder rate goes up,” he says. “Couple that with the fact that they always shootin’ in Detroit, it was perfect to spin it like a respawn in an online match on multiplayer video games.” His ba ndmates share the sentiment while noting that for all of them, it was natural reference video games and gaming. As children of the 90s, they all owned various consoles, played a ton of games — and were aware of the fact that crime was high and rampant, making the video and track an organic result of their shared experiences. 

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New Video: Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou Releases a Trippy 70s Inspired Single from Forthcoming Sophomore Album

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the Cape Town, South Africa-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phoebe Lou. And as you may recall, Lou grew up in a rather creative home — her parents were documentary filmmakers, who took the budding artist to piano lessons as a child. As a teenager, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist taught herself guitar. The summer she turned 16, Lou went to Paris to visit her aunt. Armed with an acoustic guitar, the young artist met a number of that city’s buskers and street performers — with some of them teaching her poi dancing. 

Upon completing her schooling, Lou returned to Europe, first landing in  Amsterdam, where she made money as a poi dancer. She then relocated to Berlin, where she became a well-regarded busker and developed a reputation for a fiercely independent, punk rock-like DIY approach to her career. With the release of 2014’s self-released debut EP, Lou began receiving international attention, eventually spending the following year performing at a number of TED events in London and Berlin. Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, Lou released her full-length debut Orbit in 2016. The album garnered a nomination for Best Female Artist at that year’s German Critics’ Choice Awards and a set at the 27th Annual Conference for the Professional Business Women of California, which featured keynote speakers Venus Williams, Judy Smith, and Memory Banda. She ended the year, touring on bills with Sixto Rodriguez, Boy & Bear, Allen Stone and Crystal Fighters, as well as three, sold-out multimedia events at the Berlin Planetarium. Those Berlin Planetarium shows were so much in demand that she added two additional planetarium shows to her 2017 itinerary. 

Besides touring, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has had the live version of “She” amassed over 4 million views on YouTube and was featured in the major motion picture Bombshell: The Heady Lamar Story — all before the studio version of the single was even recorded or released. Additionally, Lou spent time working on her much-anticipated, Noah Georgeson-produced sophomore effort Paper Castles, which is slated for a March 8, 2019 release. And as Lou explains, the album is “about nostalgia, about growing into a woman, about the pain and beauty of the past, about feeling small and insignificant but finding that to be powerful and beautiful, about acknowledging that childhood is over but bringing some of it with you.”

The album’s first single is a slow-burning, 70s AM rock and 70s soul-like “Something Holy.” Centered around a shimmering guitar line, hushed drumming, a sinuous hook, a psychedelic tinged bridge and Lou’s aching vocals, the song is a deeply introspective and unvarnished look into the narrator’s complicated relationships with sex, love, men and herself. As Lou says, the song reflects “the moment that I managed to get over the main hurdle of my past traumas with sex, with men and with my own deeper understanding of intimacy and what it means to be intimate.” Sonically speaking, the song reminds me quite a bit of Amber Arcades’ European Heartbreak. 

Made by Manners Studio is a heady mix of brightly colored, cinematically shot footage of young people brooding and looking bored in a stylish chamber room, animation and Lou earnestly performing the song. 

Comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Graham Brockmiller (vocals, guitar), Michael Pozzi (guitar). Tricky (drums) and Justin Ricard (bass), the Los Angeles-based indie rock act Yacht Punk can trace their origins to when Brockmiller’s previous band Great White Buffalo had broken up. As the story goes, Brockmiller was laying on the floor of his unfinished basement studio in the Beachwood Canyon section, unsure of what would or should come next. But he did realize that it was time to go off on his own — and he spent the next year holed up in his studio by himself, contemplating life, writing, collecting nude calendars of Eastern European women suggestively holding large trophy carp and experimenting with the raw recording skills he had taught himself. Eventually, he began exploring new sounds and textures outside the traditional rock and indie rock arrangements of guitar, drums, bass as a way to test his DIY recording chops, as well as a way to find a more interesting, moodier sound.

Graham was tinkering with early Yacht Punk demos when he had a chance meeting with Michael Pozzi at Davey Wayne‘s. Pozzi quickly joined the project after the studio and hearing the direction the music was going. Graham’s roommate Tricky joined, followed by Justin Ricard, which completed the band’s lineup. The quartet took those demos to Matt Wignall‘s Tackyland studio, where they recorded “Hang Me Out to Dry” — and Wignall pushed the band’s sound into new, stranger places. They then took the Wignall-produced tracks back to L.A. where Will Brierre mixed and engineered them.

The band’s previous single “Need a Reason” was featured on Spotify’s New Noise and Fresh Finds playlists. And with a growing buzz surrounding the band,  their latest single “New Wave Denier” will further cement their reputation for crafting incredibly self-assured, slick, pop-inspired indie rock centered around rousingly anthemic hooks and earnest sentiment. Although this particular song is fueled by a sense of youthful disillusionment. As the band’s Brockmiller explains in press notes, their latest single “is about disillusionment and being over mainstream music. I wanted to capture the feeling of being young and disillusioned by life, by love, and by current and/or popular music. The sense of being unable to relate to your peers, the sense of searching for something more meaningful, and ultimately finding identity and belonging in the music from a past generation.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Van Goose’s Twitchy and Neurotic Take on Post Punk

Shlomi Lavie is an Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and drummer, best known for stints in Habiluim, one of Israel’s most unlikely major label acts, an act that developed a reputation for pairing dark and subversive lyrics into a heady mix of punk rock, Balkan folk and klezmer music — and it eventually brought him and his bandmates to a Brooklyn recording studio. “I always felt like something was missing,” Lavie explains in press notes, “like there’s a whole world inside my head about to explode. That’s when I started writing my own music.” Lavie’s first post-Habiluim project was something like a manic theater piece with an electro-punk soundtrack rather than a proper band. “I was playing a character — wearing face paint and screaming in a raspy, Tom Waits-y voice,” he recalls. “We had people with gas masks handing onions to the crowd, dancers and a rubber rat. It felt oddly safe.” 

After that project’s run, Lavie pursued two entirely different paths — he joined the multi-platinum selling act Marcy Playground in 2008 and started his solo recording project Van Goose. Lavie’s Van Goose full-length debut Habitual Eater is slated for release early next year and from album single “Last Bus,” the Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter drummer specializes in a twitchy and propulsive, post-punk that recalls Freedom of Choice-era DEVO, early DFA Records and New Wave as its centered around lean yet throbbing bass lines, chintzy drum machine and processed beat, hollowed out, synth flashes and surrealistic, ridiculous lyrics. It’s dance music for hyperactive  nerds and those with severe neuroses. 

Directed by Van Goose’s Lavie, and starring Saki, Hitomi , Yoko, Gooch. Avery Brooks, Tsugumi Takashi, Eamon Lebow, Charlie McGrath, Freddie Nunez and Lavie begins with Lavie, his backing band and some random dancers squeezed into a small apartment before heading out into the streets. It’s surreal yet manages to bring early MTV to mind. 

 

Luvia is an up-and-coming Brighton, UK-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that she describes on her Facebook  page as a mix of Lana Del Rey, Mazzy Star and a hint of Stevie Nicks, brining together a tender ethereal, acoustic sound. Lyrically, the up-and-coming, British pop artist is inspired by spoken word poetry and story-telling — in particular, she’s been deeply influenced by stories of people, who have given into their guilty pleasures and have taken that proverbial walk on the wild side. Luvia’s latest single is the noir-ish “Love Lust,” centered around the young British artist’s achingly tender vocals and an atmospheric and slow-burning production featuring dramatic drumming, twinkling keys and a soaring hook. Sonically, the track bears an uncanny resemblance to JOVM mainstays ACES as it evokes a cinematic air, that recalls 80s movie soundtracks; but interestingly enough the song seems to capture

As Luvia explains in press notes, “’Love Lust’ is a reflection of what it was like growing up for me but also a lot of people I know. Lots of feeling numb and having a lot to deal with and doing things to feel something or anything. I think that’s where the main line ‘even if it kills me it makes us feel alive, even if it thrills me we might as well just try’ came from, an act of teenage thrill seeking perhaps. Although on the flip side the song is also about growing away from that and finding a way to come alive and wake up from the darker side of things and from the dull day to day.”

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Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-and-coming Northern Ireland-born, Dublin, Ireland-based duo Saint Sister. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntrye can trace their origins to when they met while studying at the University of Dublin. They bonded over their mutual desire to create music that represented both their friendship and their “us against the world” mentality. Building upon a growing national and international profile, the duo’s Alex Ryan-produced full-length debut Shape of Silence was released earlier this year, and from album single “Steady,” the duo showcased their ability to craft an atmospheric Portishead-inspired sound centered around the duo’s gorgeous and ethereal yet heartfelt vocals.

Recently, two of Dublin’s up-and-coming underground artistrs Irish DJ and producer Kormac along with Dublin-based emcee Jafaris collaborated with the members of Saint Sister on a subtle remix/reworking of “Causing Trouble” that’s centered around the same shimmering and looped harp sample; however, while the original features big, thumping beats, the remix relies on hi-hat and shuffling beats, which puts a greater emphasis on Doherty and MacIntyre’s gorgeous vocals and Jafaris’ swaggering yet sensitive verses. And it’s done in a way in which all three vocalists sit side by side without interference — and in a way that feels natural and unhurried.  As a result, the remix finds the collaborators pushing Saint Sister’s sound more towards the direction of Tricky and Massive Attack. Interestingly, the collaboration can came about when Three Ireland invited each artist to create visually stunning music videos for one of their songs for their #MadebyMusic initiative.

“It’s good to get out of your own head and collaborate with other people, and it’s something we really enjoy doing. This one felt like it really clicked, each individual voice brought something so different,” the members of Saint Sister say in press notes. “When Kormac first sent through the remix it was like hearing it in a new context with a new lease of life. Hearing Jafaris’ verses for the first time was another brilliant moment. And playing it live is the best part. They bring so much energy to every performance, it’s always a joy to stand beside them on stage.”

“I love the idea of blending two really different artists tonality together to create something a bit different.  Producing this one was a lovely challenge as it was all about creating a space where Saint Sister’s gorgeous melodies and harmonies and Jafaris’ vocals, his delivery could sit side by side,” Kormac says of the remix in press note. “The initial idea just came from playing my piano to a glitchy loop created from one of Gemma’s harp lines. From there, it was all about bringing the sub bass to the fore and creating a couple of drops to really announce Jafaris’ vocals when they came in.”

Neta Tia Ellis is a Tel Aviv, Israel-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, producer, visual artist and experimental pop artist, who has received attention for crafting eerily minimalist electro pop with her solo recording project Tesha. Ellis’ soon-to-be released debut EP Growing Pains II is slated for release later this week, and the EP’s latest single, opening track “Funeral” is an eerily haunted track centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, dirge-like drumming and Ellis’ ethereal crooning.    While possessing a cinematic air, the song is intimate and deeply personal in a way that brings Us-era Peter Gabriel to mind — but with a decidedly positive undertone to it.

Ellis admits in press notes that “This song is about my mom’s funeral. It was very sunny outside, and I knew she wanted me to laugh about this. She definitely didn’t want me to get stuck on the loss, but it hurt and it was also funny at the same time because I was comforting all of her devastated patients (which is why all the contrast in the lyrics exist).”  She goes deeper into the outcome of the song by stating “You might be down, deep in a shitpit, so deep that you can’t see anything positive. But these heartbreaks make us stronger and they will unveil their purpose with time.”

 

Live Footage: Elley Duhe Performs “Savior” on Vevo DSCVR

Elley Duhe is a up-and-coming Mobile, AL-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who was raised in the small Gulf Coast towns of Vancleave, MS and Dauphin Island, AL. Duhe grew up in a rather musical home — her father and uncle were musicians, who are connected to the New Orleans music scene. Her father bought her a guitar when she turned 14 and by the following year, Duhe had begun her music career in earnest, signing in coffee shops. She quickly graduated to playing gigs in bars, restaurants and private parties, gaining enough exposure to be booked to open for a number of national acts. The Mobile, AL-born singer/songwriter was also connected with songwriters in Nashville, Los Angles and Austin, where after dropping out of high school and getting her GED, she spent three years honing her craft. 

Duhe emerged as a solo artist of note in 2016 with the release of two attention-grabbing singles — “Millennium,” a collaboration with electronic producer Tarro that amassed 2 million streams of YouTube and 1.4 million streams on Spotify and “Immortal” which amassed 4.5 million streams on Spotify and nearly 1 million streams on YouTube. Adding to a growing profile, the Snakehips remix of “Immortal” amassed 770,000 Spotify streams. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, she released her ILLA and Cool & Dre co-produced single “Fly” last year. However, 2018 may be the biggest year of the Mobile-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s career to date: This summer saw the release of “Happy Now,” an attention-grabbing collaboration with Russian-German producer Zedd and “Tie Me Down,” a collaboration with Gryffin, as well her debut EP Dragon Mentality. 

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, and as you may recall, Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Throughout its run, Vevo DSCVR has featured and 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. Recently, Vevo invited the Mobile-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter to perform the swaggering and anthemic “Savior.” 

Next year looks be a big year for Duhe as she was added to Vevo’s list of 2019’s Artists to Watch. 

New Audio: Hamilton Ontario’s Ellevator Releases a Dramatic and Bittersweet New Single

Earlier this year, I caught the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock quartet Ellevator on a bill that featured JOVM mainstay Rich Aucoin. And as you amy recall, the band which is comprised of Nabi Sue Bersche, Elliot Gwynne, Michael Boyd, and Tyler Bersche specialize in a muscular yet meticulous take on pop centered around Nabi Sue Bersche’s raw lyricism and an incredibly cinematic sound.

2018 has been a big year for the Hamilton, Ontario-based quartet: they’ve amassed over a million streams across all the streaming platforms, and they’ve gone on a run of successful tours across North America opening for Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good and BANNERS, as well as a stadium show with Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs and Arkells. And adding to a successful year, Ellevator will be opening for Amber Run during their December North American tour, which includes a December 8, 2018 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You can check out the tour dates below. 

“The Storm,” the Canadian indie quartet’s new single is centered by Nabi Sue Bersche’s tender and aching vocals, an enormous, power chord-led hook, arpeggiated synths and a propulsive rhythm section and a deliberate attention to craft that recalls 70s AM rock — with a slick, contemporary vibe. As the band explains, the single is “an apology and an explanation. It’s the turmoil in our personal skies caused by ending the relationship. It’s a reminder that I care about you, and that you can’t seek comfort in me anymore. Trust that I know you well enough to rightly believe we’re not each other’s sun and stars – but don’t trust me – because I’m breaking your heart.” The song possesses the bittersweet air of a relationship at its inevitable end and an uncertain but necessary future. 

New Video: Members of Modern English, Elastica, Lush, and Moose Release a Slick Yet Trippy Visual for “Everlastingly Yours”

Comprised of married couple Lush‘s Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar) and Moose‘s KJ “Moose” McKillop (guitar), along with Modern English‘s Mick Conroy and Elastica’s Justin Welch (drums), the indie rock all-star act Piroshka derives their name from the Hungarian version of Little Red Riding Hood — and while each member may be known for their highly acclaimed individual creative pursuits, they’ve long been connected within a complex and oft-knotted web: Berenyi and McKillop have long been considered shoegaze pioneers with their own bands before they got married and raised a family; Elastica were considered rising Brit Pop stars, and as a result Berenyi and McKillop were familiar with Welsh. After Modern English broke up for second time, Conroy joined McKillop’s band Moose. Welch joined the reformed Lush in 2015. Interestingly, when Lush needed a bassist for what turned out to be their final show in Manchester, Conroy filled in.

It was those Manchester show rehearsals that laid the foundations for their current project. But I need to backtrack a little bit, because even the most boring backstories are often confusing — and there are details you need to know:  After Chris Acland’s suicide in 1997, his devastated and grieving bandmates felt unable to continue. Berenyi in particular felt that she had to complete get away from music; in fact, Berenyi spent the next close to 20 years as a parent with a full time job — and as a result, she didn’t agree to reunite Lush until 2015. Of course, adding to the six degrees of musical and creative separation, Welch was a close friend of Acland’s, making it easy to recruit him to fill in. As the story goes, Welch was the one, who asked Berenyi if she’d be up to doing something else, after the Manchester show. As she mentions in press notes, she had never made music outside of Lush and never wanted to do anything solo. “I need someone else to motivate me, and in this case it was Justin,” Berenyi recalled. “He sent drum tracks with guitar parts and odd words, so I wrote some vocals and lyrics, which became ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ and ‘Never Enough.’ When Mick added bass, it sounded great. When Moose added guitar and keyboards — I’d never written like that before, it was such good fun.”

“We sounded great!” Welch added in press notes. “Like a proper punk band. Mick brings a huge amount of enthusiasm and livens up the room, and I thought this is the kind of band I want to be in again.” Conroy agreed, adding “I’d seen Lush so many times, it was like playing with old friends. Miki agreed and it was good fun, too. And with Moose available, we thought, ‘let’s all have a bash, see what happens.’”

Adding to the entangled web of personal, professional and creative connections, Bella Union‘s label head Simon Raymonde was among the first people to hear the band’s demos for their forthcoming full-length debut Brickbat and after listening to them, he quickly signed the band — and as it turns out, his former Cocteau Twins bandmate Robin Guthrie produced Lush’s debut album. Raymonde’s current Lost Horizons bandmate Richie Thomas was a former member of Moose. Raymonde then introduced the members of Piroshka to Lanterns on the Lake‘s Paul Gregory to mix the album — with the exception of “What’s Next,” which was mixed by Alan Moulder. Fiona Brice, who was once a Bella Union recording artist, wrote string arrangements while The Higsons and Blockhead‘s Terry Edwards, who also played on Lush’s final album played brass.

Slated for a February 15, 2015 release through the Bella Union, Piroshka’s debut album Brickbat is derived for a slang term for a missile and reportedly, the title hits on how the album is a marked departure from each individual members’ known work; in fact, the material is centered by blunt, forceful lyrics that tap into the fear, loathing, envy and spite at the heart of our sociopolitical moment. Understandably, much of the material was written through the anxious prism of parenthood in a world gone mad. Similarly to JOVM mainstays Atmosphere‘s Mi Vida Loca, Brickbat‘s first single “Everlastingly Yours” is rooted in a very real fear — that you can’t protect your loved ones from the constantly evolving dangers of our world. While the song is centered around a shimmering and anthemic shoegazer-like arrangement featuring soaring synths, a propulsive, angular bass line, four-on-the-floor-like drumming and Berenyi’s aching and ethereal vocals, the song thematically as McKillop explains is “about school shootings and our reaction to almost being almost unable to take our eyes off twenty-four hour news and internet feeds.” And as a result, the song points at the vacillating cycle of disgust, depression and powerlessness that we all feel on a daily basis.

Directed by Martin Andersen and Chris Bigg, featuring design by Bigg, photography by Anderson and drawings by Mali, the recently released video focuses on  balances childhood innocence through the drawings of a first grader, with the darkness and uncertainty of adult life.