Category: 1980s

 

Several years ago Red Bull Music Academy invited the legendary electronic music artist ad producer Giorgio Moroder to speak in front of a small group of music students about music, his creative process and more — and to what was then-billed as his first ever live DJ set at the now-defunct Williamsburg, Brooklyn nightclub Output. Along with his long-time collaborator and musical director Chris Cox, Moroder played a 75-minute set of re-arranged and exclusive remixes of some of his massive hits, as well as a Google-commissioned song (because of course, Google would do that) and his collaboration with Daft Punk.

Moroder’s DJ set manages to be an encompassing and thoughtful primer on his work and imitable sound, as well as about 45 years of disco and electronic music that boldly reminds the listener that the Italian-born, Beverly Hills-based legend would be on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of all things electronic music — and that without his work and his fellow electronic music pioneers, that 3/4s of the things you’ve listened to since about 1976 or so wouldn’t be possible. Personally though, the Red Bull Music Academy set brings back a flood of memories of one of the most formative periods of my entire life: I can picture myself as a small boy watching my mother cleaning and signing along (terribly off-key) to Donna Summer‘s “Bad Girls,” “I Feel Love”Hot Stuff,’ and “Love to Love You, Baby” as though it were yesterday.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the years, you may recall that I’ve posted this DJ set, which in some way makes this sort of a re-post; but this is necessary because the electronic music pioneer celebrates his 79th birthday today and we should be dancing the day and night away in his honor.

 

 

 

 

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New Video: Humble Fire’s Dream-like Take on an 80s Classic

Currently comprised of founding members Dave Epley (guitar) and Nefra Faltas (vocals) with Xaq Rothman (bass) and Jason Arrol (drums), the Washington, DC-based dream pop quintet Humble Fire can trace their origins to when its founding duo met through another project that was formed through a Craigslist ad — although Humble Fire started in earnest around 2011 when Epley and Faltas recruited Rothman, who responded to Dave’s Craigslist ad seeking a bassist with a memorable manifesto. And although Arrol is the newest member of the band, joining in 2016, he’s a long-time friend and DC area DIY mainstay. Interestingly, the band’s current lineup finds the band celebrating the individual influences that each member draws from, including bluegrass, classical, punk. hip-hop and pop through a propulsive rhythm section, plaintive and vulnerable vocals, shimmering, pedal effected guitars and big hooks.

The DC-based dream pop quintet’s critically appalled sophomore album Builder thematically touched upon physical and emotional experiences around loss and reconstruction, including the deaths of loved ones, failed romances and the shocks and stresses navigated as a band. Through all of those experiences, the members of the DC-based dream pop act have come to appreciate that reconstruction isn’t something that you can tackle on your own; it frequently requires a team. And in some way, Builder is as much about the process of putting the pieces back to gather, as it is about the relationships that can either help or hinder that process. Additionally, the album found the band thematically asking questions about changing identities — particularly, “Who am I now, in this world without my parents in it?” and “How can I take care of others without losing myself?”

Interestingly, the band follows the release of their critically applauded sophomore album with a shimmering, dream pop take on Tears for Fears‘ classic “Mad World,” that retains the brooding dread, anxiousness and horror of the original; however, the Humble Fire take is a decidedly political take, meant to explore the outrage and despair felt by people, who want to make a positive change when everything has become a Kafkaesque nightmare. In fact, the band sees the lyrics as proof the the personal is always personal, with the song reflecting how systems of oppression can destroy the soul and humanity of individuals and communities. And although Tears for Fears wrote “Mad World” almost 40 years ago, it should be a reminder that a timeless song always finds a way to resonate while subtly changing for a new time and generation

Directed by Jen Meller and edited by Raul Zahir De Leon, the recently released, dream-like video follows the band’s Nefra Faltas wandering through a maze, struggling to find and reconnect with her bandmates. Through her journey, she encounters some surreal and disturbingly symbolic imagery, including her own death.

Lyric Video: The Dream Syndicate Release Trippy Visuals for Motorik Groove-based “The Way In”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about  Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate, and as you may recall the act, which is currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn, an accomplished and critically applauded singer/songwriter, guitarist and solo artist and drummer Dennis Duck, along with bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, can trace its origins back to the early 80s when Wynn along with fellow Dream Syndicate founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair founded and played in one of the area’s first new wave bands in the Davis, CA music scene, The Suspects. Wynn also recorded a single with another band, 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning.

After returning to his hometown, Wynn spent a brief stint of time rehearsing in another local band, Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members, Kelly and Kristi Callan — and while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had an answered an ad seeking a bassist. The two started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar. Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith and Duck (Mehaffey), who was a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joined the band to complete The Dream Syndicate’s initial lineup. (Interestingly, as the story goes, Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.)

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet UndergroundNeil Young and Television, complete with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. The members of the band signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and RosesRough Trade Records released their debut’s lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Smith left the band and joined David Roback in Opal — and she was replaced by David Provost.

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s break up, Wynn along with Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up with Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji‘s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward.

The band broke up in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released.  After the breakup, Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter and solo artist with a reputation or restlessly exploring a variety of different styles while leading a number of different projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3The Baseball Project and others.

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at an appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The BanglesThe Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows together.

Anti-Records released the band’s fifth full-length album How Did I Find Myself Here in 2017, which featured a lineup of Wynn, Walton, Duck and Victor with keyboardist Chris Cacavas. Recorded at Montrose Studios, the album’s notable final track “Kendra’s Dream” featured vocals and lyrics from Kendra Smith. Building upon the growing attention around the reunited band, the members of The Dream Syndicate recorded three songs, which were included on the compilation 3 x 4, a collection of tracks that featured new material from their Paisley Underground counterparts, The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands covering songs by the other bands.

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Anti-Records, the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times will be the second full-length studio album since the band reunited, and the album’s material is reportedly a subtle yet noticeable departure for the band sonically. “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same.’ You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn also changed up his lyric writing process for the album — instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all the material’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds.

The album’s first single was the atmospheric and surrealist dream, “Black Light,” a track built around a looped arpeggiated key and congo sequence, shimmering bursts of guitar, and a motorik groove comprised of a propulsive and sinuous bass line and a backing vocal section that sings “aaah” while Wynn’s vocals sing surrealistic and symbolic lyrics about how the night exposes our darkest and deepest inhibitions and fears. “Put Some Miles On,” the album’s second single continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor with the track featuring a chugging, motorik groove, blasts of feedback driven guitar, twinkling synths and Wynn’s languid, speak-singing vocals delivering surrealistic lyrics with a profound double meaning — with the song making references to getting older while being on the road and actually playing the influential work of Miles Davis.

“The Way In,” These Times‘ third and latest single is the album’s lysergic, Starfish-era The Church-like opening track. Centered around a chugging, motorik-groove, looping, feedback and distortion pedaled guitars, the song as the band’s Steve Wynn says in press notes is “the leadoff track, kind of a Rosetta Stone, decoder ring, instruction manual to light the way,” the band’s Steve Wynn says of the album’s new single. “It’s all about clearing the decks, dusting off, fastening the spacesuit and bracing yourself for what might come next.  It sounds like something we might have heard on the radio in 1981 when we were forming the band thinking, ‘Maybe we ought to sound like that.’”

Filmed on the vibrant streets of Madiera, Portugal, the recently released lyric video for “The Way In” is an aptly hallucinogenic visual that feels like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Shana Falana Releases a Lovingly Straightforward Cover of Depeche Mode’s “Stripped”

I’ve written and photographed the California-born, Upstate New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay Shana Falana quite a bit over the past few years — and as you may recall Falana can trace the origins of her music career to being a member of  San Francisco‘s D.I.Y. scene that included a stint in a local Bulgarian women’s choir. By 2006, she had been in New York for some time, and was struggling through drug addiction and financial woes, when she lost part of an index finger in a work-related accident.

Under most normal circumstances, the accident for most people would be considered extremely unlucky and tragic; however, the settlement money Falana received provided a much-needed period of financial stability and a desperately needed period in which she could get sober and find a new focus in her life and music. Her sophomore album, Here Comes the Wave was conceptualized and written during two different parts of Falana’s life — one part while she was struggling with drug addition and desperately trying to get sober and the subsequent years of sobriety. Naturally, the album’s material was rewritten and revised with the growing sense of perspective and awareness that comes when you’ve gotten older and perhaps even a bit wiser than what you once were before. Along with that, the album thematically touches upon transformation as a result of emotional and spiritual turmoil; the necessary inner strength, resolve and perseverance to overcome difficulties; the eventual acceptance of aging, time passing and of one’s own impending mortality.

A couple of years have passed since I’ve last written about the California-born, Upstate New York-based JOVM mainstay and as it turns out, Falana and her longtime collaborator and drummer Mike Amari have been busy working on the highly-anticipated follow-up to her critically applauded sophomore album — and it included a lovingly straightforward yet subtly atmospheric cover of Depeche Mode‘s “Stripped,” which retains the original’s plaintive and swooning romanticism. Directed by longtime collaborator Bon Jane, the accompanying video is centered around an extremely stripped down concept — the viewer sees Falana in a wardrobe and makeup by Anna Hafner signing the song in front of a projection screen with superimposed images of herself, which further emphasizes the song’s plaintive need.

New Video: Thievery Corporation Side Project The Archives Set to Release a Reggae Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron was a singer/songwriter, poet and multi-instrumentalist, best known for his influential work between the late 1960s and early 80s, which meshed jazz, blues, soul and funk with spoken word and poetry. Lyrically, his work focused on the sociopolitical issues of the Black community, delivered in a style that sort of resembled rapping; in fact, much ink has been spilled on how Scott-Heron’s breakthrough works Pieces of a Man (particularly, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” ) and Winter in America, have had a momentous influence on contemporary music, particularly on hip-hop and neo soul. 

Sadly, during the last decade of his life, Scott-Heron battled drug addiction and as a result  had several stints in and out of prison; however, he managed to remain to be a remarkably prolific artist, writing and recording when he was able. Just before he died, the legendary and influential poet and musician released the critically praised album I’m New Here and finished work on a memoir, which was published posthumously. Interestingly, before he died, he went into the studio and recorded extremely stripped down versions of some of his best known and beloved material, accompanied on piano with no overdubbing or extra studio production that was largely unreleased and unheard until XL Recordings released the material as Nothing New on what would have been the legendary artist’s 65th birthday.  

Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton along with Darryl “Trane” Burke started The Archives as a quest to explore the roots of reggae music. The project’s 2012 self-titled debut was released to critical acclaim. Seven years have passed since their debut, but Burke and Hilton have teamed up to co-produce reggae tribute album celebrating the work of Gil Scott-Heron and his longtime collaborator Brian Jackson that will be released through Hilton’s new label Montserrat House. So what’s the connection between reggae and Gil Scott-Heron, you may be asking? Well, Scott-Heron’s father Gilbert was a famous Jamaican soccer player, who wound up being the first Black player in Scotland’s Celtic League, so the album in some way celebrates the influential poet’s Jamaican heritage, while highlighting his still relevant reflections and thoughts on social justice and chance. “Like Gil’s compositions, reggae contains elements of jazz and soul,“ says Hilton. “It’s the perfect backdrop to Gil’s revolutionary pan-Africanist lyrics.” The album also will feature contributions from Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka; R&B soul singer Raheem DeVaughn; percussionist Larry McDonald, who was once a member of Scott-Heron’s backing band Amnesia Express; Addis Pablo, the son of reggae legend Augustus Pablo; Kenyatta Hill, the son of Culture’s Joseph Hill; and Brian Jackson, Scott-Heron’s longtime collaborator. 

Released on 1971’s Pieces of a Man, “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” may arguably be one of the most heartbreaking and chilling depictions of the hopelessness of life in the Black ghetto and the toll it takes on the song’s narrator and his neighbors. Centered around a brooding and strutting 70s singer/songwriter soul arrangement, the song fits in perfectly with its time, recalling What’s Going On-era Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers — but with a restless bitterness and disillusionment that should feel unsettling to those who are sensitive to the plight of their fellow humans. Seeing its release on what would have been Scott-Heron’s 70th birthday, The Archives first Gil Scott-Heron tribute album single “Home Is Where The Hatred Is,” is a shuffling and brooding reggae version of Scott-Heron’s famous track, featuring Thievery Corporation’s St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands-born vocalist Puma Ptah. And while putting a subtle spin on a familiar and well-known song, The Archives manage to retain the song’s still-relevant emotional weight — it’s bitter, disillusionment and frustration. While many Americans — particularly, Whites — may think reggae is all good times and smiles by the beach, reggae has always been protest music, describing the deplorable conditions, frustrations, hopes and dreams of some of the world’s proudest yet poorest people. Let both versions remind you of the dashed hopes, expectations and dreams of those in the South Bronx; Jamaica, Queens; Baltimore; Chicago’s South Side; Gary, IN; Newark, NJ; Camden, NJ; Ferguson, MO; and countless similar places across the country. Isla

The recently released video is split between footage of Puma Ptah walking through the abandoned apartments and dirty alleyways of the hood, and Ptah with the members of The Archives recording the song in the studio and performing it. 

New Video: Swervedriver’s Murky Yet Anthemic “Space Oddity”-like “Mary Winter”

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the renowned, Oxford, UK-based alt rock/shoegazer act Swervedriver, and as you may recall, the act which is primarily centered around their founding duo Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar, vocals) along with Mikey Jones (drums, vibes) and revolving bassists Mick Quinn and Ben Ellis can trace their origins back to 1989. During their initial run from their founding until 1998, the band released four full-length albums — 1991’s Raise, 1993’s Mezcal Head, 1995’s Ejector Seat Reservation and 1998’s 99th Dream — while going through a number of lineup changes, management changes and different labels. 

By 1993, Franklin and Hartridge teamed up with Jef Hindmarsh (drums) and Steve George (bass) and with that lineup, they developed a reputation for a heavier rock sound than their shoegazer counterparts — but over their last five years together, their sound slowly evolved to include elements of psych rock, pop and indie rock. And although Franklin, Hartdige, Hindmarsh and George were the longest tenured lineup in the band’s history, they went on a lengthy hiatus in 1998, in which the individual members went on to pursue a variety of professional and creative pursuits. Franklin embarked on a solo career that would rival Swervedriver’s creative output, including a stint fronting the experimental electro pop/electro folk act Toshack Highway, whose releases ranged from sextet ensemble works to four-track bedroom recordings and then with the more traditionally guitar rock-driven Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody. Hartridge founded a distribution company. Hindmarsh founded Badearth Management, a music management company that eventually managed Scottish rock act Terra Diablo and others.

In early 2005, Franklin, Hartrdige, Hindmarsh and George reconvened to collaborate with Castle Music to choose songs on what would be a two disc anthology Juggernaut Rides ’89-’98, a compilation that included 33 tracks remastered from the originals DATs. Half of those tracks were non-album tracks, along with four previously unreleased tracks — including the last recordings the band worked on in 1998, “Just Sometimes” and “Neon Lights Glow.” Released to critical applause, Juggernaut Rides ’89 – ’98 helped build up growing interest in the shoegazer pioneers’ work. 

2006 was a rather busy year for the members of the band’s longest tenured lineup. Franklin began collaborating with Interpol‘s Sam Fogarino in Magnetic Morning. Hindmarsh went on to publish Rider, which chronicled his experiences and observations on the road touring with the band between 1992 and 1998. Somewhat inspired by the wildly successful 2004 reunion tour of the Pixies, the band reunited for a world tour in 2008 that garnered the attention and acclaim that largely evaded them a decade earlier. 

2015’s I Wasn’t Born to Lose You was the first album of new, original material from the band in 17 years, and although they’ve managed to be consistent in their second run, they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes between the 2008 reunion tour and the release of I Wasn’t Born to Lose You. 

Now, as you may recall, the band’s second reunion-era album and their sixth altogether, Future Ruins was released earlier this year through Dangerbird Records. Future Ruins’ predecessor, was written and recorded immediately after an Australian tour and inspired by the results, the members of the pioneering shoegazer act decided to repeat the process after a lengthy Stateside tour in which they played Raise and Mezcal Head in their entirety. “That’s a good way to record,” Franklin says in press notes, “because you’ve literally just seen the whites of the audience’s eyes and you’re thinking, ‘If that audience from last night were here now…’ You can’t get too mellow. We came home with 30 different songs.” 10 more days of vocals and overdubs at Brighton UK‘s Seaside Studios with Grammy Award-winning engineer TJ Doherty quickly followed.

The material on Future Ruins finds the band retaining the escapist vibes that they’ve long been known for — but while generally being inspired by the uneasy tension and anxiety of our ongoing sociopolitical moment. Interestingly, the album’s second single “Drone Lover” actually predates the I Wasn’t Born recording sessions. As the band’s Adam Franklin explained in press notes, at the time, ““I have no recollection of where this tune came from. It’s a song that’s been knocking around for a few years, but for some reason had never been presented to anyone until we were in the studio this time and I clicked play on the demo while searching for something else. TJ and Mikey both went ‘what’s this?’ and then ‘so why aren’t we recording it?’ – and so we recorded it. The lyric mentions love but it’s really about war – remote war and killing from a distance whilst chomping on last night’s leftover pizza or something.”  The album’s third single, was the shimmering and wistful “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air.” As Franklin admits, the band was thinking of The Clash, “even though it doesn’t sound anything like them, but it’s like a punch on the nose from a velvet glove.” Oddly, as I have a day left of my 30s, the song seems to hit me in a personal way, as the song’s narrator thinks about all the directions his life may have taken, if he made different decisions at key points in his life. 

The members of Swervedriver are currently on a co-headlining tour with Failure that includes a Friday night stop at Warsaw. You can check out the remaining tour dates below — but I thought I should talk about the album’s first single, album opener “Mary Winter.” Arguably, the darkest single of the three they’ve released, the song is centered around fuzzy and jangling power chords, thunderous drumming and an anthemic hook — and despite the fact that the song sounds as though it could have been released in 1994, the song evokes an uneasy sense of foreboding while lyrically the song sounds indebted to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” as the song’s narrator is a space traveler, hurtling away from the world. Whether the narrator is escaping willfully or not, is left for us to decide. In the meantime, everything is fucked up — and while it may seem hopeless, we can’t just escape the planet. So maybe we should start asking ourselves, “What can we do to make it right?” Fittingly, the video employs the use of old space imagery, helping to emphasize a sense of weightlessness and helplessness. 

Born in Nashville, the acclaimed, Los Angeles-based indie pop artist Meg Myers spent her formative years in a devoted Jehovah’s Witness household, in which a young Myers dealt with strict restrictions on what she was allowed to listen to. After her parents divorced, her mother married a comic book artist, who moved the family to Ohio, where her mother and stepfather ran a cleaning business. When she was 12, her family moved to Florida, where she spent the bulk of her teen years — and during that period, Myers began singing and writing songs on keyboard, eventually teaching herself guitar. She also played bass in a band that she started with her brother, Feeling Numb.

A few days shy of her 20th birthday, Myers moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. Living in a studio apartment with her then-boyfriend, the Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist worked as a waitress at a Hollywood coffee shop and played show whenever she could land them. Although her romantic relationship ended, Myers met Doctor Rosen Rosen, who signed her to his production company. Rosen and Myers began writing songs together, including the material that comprised her first two EPs Daughter in the Choir and Make a Shadow and her 2015 full-length debut Sorry, which featured a number of Top 15 and Top 20 alternative radio hits.

Building up on a rapidly growing profile, Myers’ sophomore album, last year’s Take Me To The Disco debuted at #5 on the Current Alternative Charts and received praise from a number of media outlets including The New York Times, the Associated Press, NPR Music, StereogumBillboard and a lengthy list of others.  The acclaimed Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter recently played an NPR Tiny Desk session that included a fairly straightforward yet intense cover of Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” that brings the song to 21st Century listeners, who may have been previously unfamiliar with one of the great, dramatic pop songs of the 80s.

“Growing up, I was never really interested in covering other artist’s music.” Meg explains, “I always wanted to write my own songs because I knew I could only sing music and lyrics that were truly authentic, from my heart (and also would have to make sense with my deep voice). Well, then I discovered Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill,’ which for years has resonated with my soul like nothing ever before. What if we could experience role reversal? What would it be like living in each other’s shoes? I think we would find a lot more compassion for one another and a passion for kindness and truth. This song to me, represents an opening of our hearts and a possibility of acceptance for all. And to me, this is an important message for the world we are living in right now.​​​​​​​”

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Dream Syndicate Release Lysergic Visuals for J-Dilla Inspired “Black Light”

Currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn, an accomplished and critically applauded singer/songwriter, guitarist and solo artist and drummer Dennis Duck, along with bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, the Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate can trace its origins back to the early 80s when Wynn along with fellow founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair played in one of the area’s first new wave bands in the Davis, CA music scene, The Suspects. Wynn also recorded a single with another band, 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning. 

After returning to his hometown, Wynn spent a brief stint of time rehearsing in Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members, Kelly and Kristi Callan — and while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Karl Precoda, who had an answered an ad seeking a bassist. The two started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar. Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith and Duck (Mehaffey), who was a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joining the band to complete The Dream Syndicate’s initial line up. (Interestingly, as the story goes Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.) 

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet Underground, Neil Young and Television, completely with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. The members of the band signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and Roses. Rough Trade Records released their debut’s lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Smith left the band and joined David Roback in Opal — and she was replaced by David Provost. 

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s break up, Wynn and Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji’s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward. 

The band broke up in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released.  After the breakup, Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter and solo artist with a reputation or restlessly exploring a variety of different styles — and leading a number of different projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project and others. 

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at a festival appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows. 

Anti-Records released the band’s fifth full-length album How Did I Find Myself Here in 2017. The album which featured a lineup of Wynn, Walton, Duck and Victor with keyboardist Chris Cacavas was recorded at Montrose Studios — and notably the album’s final track “Kendra’s Dream” featured vocals and lyrics from Kendra Smith.  Building upon the growing attention around the reunited band, the members of The Dream Syndicate recorded three songs, which were included on the 3 x 4 compilation. The compilation also featured new material from The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands covering songs by the other bands. 

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Anti-Records, the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times will be the second full-length studio album since the band reunited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut and the album’s material is reportedly a subtle yet noticeable departure for the band sonically. “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same’. You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn also changed up his lyric writing process for the album — instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all the material’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds.  

The atmospheric and surrealistic dream Black Light,” is These Times’ first single and the track is built on a looped arpeggiated key and congo sequence, shimmering bursts of guitar, and a motorik groove centered around a propulsive and sinuous bass line and a backing vocal section that sings “aaah” while Wynn’s vocals sing surrealistic and symbolic lyrics about how the night exposes our darkest and deepest inhibitions and fears.  Directed by David Dalglish, the recently released video is an appropriately surrealistic and lysergic fever dream set during a desert night. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Piroshka Releases Politically Charged Visuals for “What’s Next”

Over the past few months, I’ve written quite a bit about the indie rock All-Star act Piroshka. Deriving their name from the Hungarian version of Little Red Riding Hood, the band is comprised of Lush’s Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar) and Moose’s KJ “Moose” McKillop (guitar), who are married, along with Modern English’s Mick Conroy (bass) and Elastica’s Justin Welch (drums) — and while each member may be known for their highly acclaimed projects, they’ve been long connected within a complex and knotted web: Berenyi and McKillop are considered shoegaze pioneers with a number of applauded and beloved releases before getting married and starting a family; with the release of their breakthrough, full-length debut, 1995’s self-titled debut, Elastica were rising Brit pop stars, and as  result, Berenyi and McKillop were familiar with Welch and his work; Conroy, was a member of Modern English and after that band broke up for a second time, he joined McKillop’s band Moose. Welch joined the reunited Lush in 2015 — and when they needed a bassist for what turned out to be their final show in Manchester, Conroy filled in. 

The Manchester show rehearsals are what laid the foundations for Piroshka — but I need to backtrack a bit: After Chris Acland’s suicide in 1997, his devastated and grieving Lush bandmates felt it was impossible to continue with the band, and the band broke up as a result. Berenyi was so devastated by Acland’s death that she quit music, spending the next 20 years as a working mother. Because of her personal and personal obligations, Berenyi didn’t agree to reunite Lush and tour again until 2015. I should add that Welch was a close friend of Acland’s, making him a logical choice to lovingly fill in.  Interestingly, as the story goes, Welch asked Berenyi if she’d up to doing something new after the final Manchester show. As Berenyi recalled in press notes, up until then she hadn’t made music outside of Lush and solo work never appealed to her. “I need someone else to motivate me, and in this case it was Justin. 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.’”

There are serial more layers 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 Brickbat demos and he quickly signed the band to the label. Raymonde’s former Cocteau Twins bandmate Robin Guthrie produced Lush’s debut album. Additionally, Raymonde’s current Lost Horizons bandmate Richie Thomas was a former member of Moose. In any case, Raymonde introduced Piroshka to Lanterns on the Lake‘s Paul Gregory, who mixed all but one track on the album — “What’s Next,” which was mixed by Alan Moulder. Lastly,  Fiona Brice, who was once a Bella Union recording artist, wrote string arrangements while The Higsons and Blockhead‘s Terry Edwards, who played on Lush’s final album played brass.

Now, as you may recall, Brickbat was released earlier this month, and while the album’s title is derived for a slang term for missile, it also manages to symbolically hit upon the fact that the material is a marked departure from each individual bandmembers’ known work — with the focus being on blue, forceful lyrics that tap into the fear, loathing, envy, spite and strife at the heart of our ongoing sociopolitical climate. Unsurprisingly, with some of the band’s members being parents, much of the material was written through the anxious prism of parenthood in a world gone completely mad. Brickbat’s first single “Everlastingly Yours” was centered by a devastating and profound fear — that you can’t possibly predict the evolving dangers of our world, and that you can’t completely protect your loved ones from them either. While built upon 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.” As a result, the song taps into deeper sense of powerlessness and helplessness. 

Brickbat’s latest single “What’s Next” continues in its predecessor’s footsteps as it’s centered around the urgency of our sociopolitical moment — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “Wait, hold up. What the fuck, man? Shouldn’t we want better?” And throughout there are references to people hitting the streets to protest, out of fear, concern and outrage.  “‘What’s Next’ started life as a guitar-and-drums demo from Justin that he’d called ‘Protest’ – the drums being inspired by the idea of a protest march. It’s one of the very first songs Piroshka worked on together,” Berenyi explains in press notes. “The lyrics are inspired by the shock and fallout regarding current political upheavals – how this finger-pointing and rage and blame are so damaging, how we need to get back some kind of solidarity if we possibly can because the divisions between us are playing into certain people’s hands. Funnily enough, the song was called Time’s Up when it was first recorded, but that title then got taken so we thought we’d better change it!”

Designed and directed by Bunny Schendler, edited by Jonathan Hodgson and featuring animation by Bunny Schendler, Sofa Umarik and Jonathan Hodgson, the video captures the anxiousness and righteous outrage of our political climate as its centered around political demonstrations, protests and skirmishes in the streets — while stressing that in the Internet age, it’s easy to stir up hatred, infighting and finger pointing. 

New Audio: Indie Rock All-Star Act Filthy Friends Return with a Searing Indictment of Unchecked Capitalism

Initially comprised Sleater-Kinney’s and Heavens to Betsy’s Corin Tucker (vocals, guitar),  Fastbacks’ Kurt Bloch (guitar), The Fresh Young Fellows’ Scott McCaughey (bass), R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (guitar) and King Crimson’s Bill Rieflin (drums), Filthy Friends featured some of the most accomplished, influential and beloved musicians of the past 40 years or so in an indie rock/alt rock All-Star act that in some way was meant to be a side project of sorts and a free-flowing collaboration between likeminded, long-time friends and colleagues.

Since their formation, the act released their attention-grabbing, critically applauded, politically-charged debut Invitation and were included on an anti-Trump protest compilation 30 Songs in 30 Days. Unfortunately, as they were about to begin touring to support Invitation, Scott McCaughey suffered a stroke, which curtailed the band’s tour plans. While McCaughey was recovering, Tucker wrote and recorded an album with the reunited Sleater-Kinney, which they supported with a tour — and Peter Buck collaborated with acclaimed singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur in Arthur Buck. And the band has gone through a lineup change with Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3’s Linda Pitmon (drums) replacing Bill Rieflin.  

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Kill Rock Stars Records, the band’s long-awaited sophomore album Emerald Valley finds the band of accomplished musicians crafting material that rages about and mourns over the fate of our planet and the people who inhabit it. Reportedly, the album’s core idea came from a demo Buck shared with Tucker, a grinding blues that eventually turned into the album’s title track.  According to Tucker, as soon as she heard it, it sparked something within her: “I had this long poem growing in my brain,” she says. “It turned into a sort of manifesto about the kind of place we are at as a country but also as a region. Just taking stock of where we’re at and feeling like I can’t believe we let things get this bad.” Interestingly, Emerald Valley’s latest single, the blistering and anthemic, 90s alt rock-like “Last Chance County” is a searing indictment of unchecked capitalism, in which the desperate and powerless get crushed by the powerful, the greedy and super rich. And at its core, the song demands that we gotta change things now — and if we don’t, we’ll fuck up things so badly, that we won’t be able to save ourselves.