Category: Alt-rock

With the release of Oceans EP, Blonde Maze, the acclaimed recording project of New York-based singer/songwriter. electronic music artist and producer Amanda Steckler received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for slickly produced synth pop centered around earnest lyricism, documenting her experiences, feelings and thoughts. Since Oceans EP, Steckler has released a handful of singles including “Antartica,” “Thunder” and others to praise from Billboard Pride, DJMag, XLR8R, Impose Magazine and many others, as well as love and support from BBC1, MrSuicideSheep, and MTV Radar.

Adding to a growing profile, Steckler’s material has landed on several Spotify and Apple Music playlists, including Spotify’s US Viral 50, as well as landing at #1 on Hype Machine‘s No Remixes chart. LADYGUNN named her an “artist you should’ve seen at SXSW 2018″ — and she’s opened for the likes of The Shadowboxers, Elderbrook and Vallis Alps. During that same period of time, the JOVM mainstay also released collaborations with a number of established and up-and-coming electronic music producers including including the Iowa City, IA-born, Duluth, MN-based electronic music artist and producer Kyle Stern, best known as Attom. 

The New York-based electronic music artist, electronic music producer and JOVM mainstay begins her 2021 with a cover of Mazzy Star‘s beloved, 1993 smash hit “Fade Into You.” While replacing the jangling guitars, twinkling keys and tambourine of the beloved original with shimmering and atmospheric synths, synth click and skittering beats, the Blonde Maze cover retains both vocal melody and the swooning and urgent yearning of the original — but the end result is more of a contented sigh.

“IMO it’s kind of a blissful/happy take on the beautifully yearning original,” Steckler wrote to me in an email. “I’ve been listening to the original for years — probably a decade now — and still love it. Hope Sandoval and David Roback really created a gem.”

New Audio: Foo Fighters Release a Socially Conscious Anthem

Early last year, Foo Fighters — Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, and Rami Jaffee — finished work on what would eventually become their tenth full-length album, the Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters co-produced Medicine at Midnight. At the time, Grohl and company intended for the album’s release to coincide with a massive world tour that the applauded act was about to embark on to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary. But like countless other acts around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench into their plans.

Because of the uncertainty of the situation, the members of the band waited for a while, trying to figure out what their next steps were, but eventually they all came to the realization that music is meant to be heard, no matter“whether it’s in a festival field with 50,000 of our coolest friends or alone in your living room or on a Saturday night with a stiff cocktail,” the band’s Dave Grohl wrote in an letter accompanying press notes.

Now, as you may recall, Foo Fighters’ tenth album Medicine at Midnight is slated for a February 5, 2021 release through Roswell Records/RCA Records — and they managed to start off the New Year with the enormous arena rock friendly ripper “No Son of Mine,” a track that nods at Ace of Spades-era Mötorhead, Kill ’em All-era Metallica and Queen‘s “Stone Cold Crazy, complete with anthemic, raise-your-beer-in-the-air and shout along worthy hooks.

Medicine at Midnight’s third and latest single “Waiting On A War” continues a remarkable run of arena rock anthems — but in this case, the new single manages to pull from several different Foo Fighters eras — The Colour and the Shape, There Is Nothing Left to Lose and One By One in particular come to mind as a result of its song structure: Beginning with acoustic guitar and string arrangement driven verses and an enormous, rousingly anthemic hook, the song slowly builds up in intensity until the 3:15 mark or so, when the song turns into a cathartic explosion of power chords and thunderous drumming. Lyrically, the song manages to recall ’80s anthems like Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” Sting’s “Russians” and others, and it seems to suggest, much like the old saying, “the more things change, the more things remain the same.” Decades have changed, and we still seem to be on brink of our own annihilation . . .

Interestingly, as Dave Grohl explains in press notes, the song is inspired by personal events — and may be among the more personal songs in the band’s extensive catalog:

“Last fall, as I was driving my daughter to school, she turned to me and asked, ‘Daddy, is there going to be a war?’ My heart sank as I realized that she was now living under the same dark cloud that I had felt 40 years ago,” Grohl recalls.

I wrote ‘Waiting on a War’ that day.

Everyday waiting for the sky to fall. Is there more to this than that? Is there more to this than just waiting on a war? Because I need more. We all do.

This song was written for my daughter, Harper, who deserves a future, just as every child does. “

New Audio: Foo Fighters Release an Enormous, Arena Rock Ripper

Early last year, Foo Fighters — Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, and Rami Jaffee — finished work on what would eventually become their tenth full-length album, the Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters co-produced Medicine at Midnight. Grohl and company originally intended for the album’s release to coincide with a massive world tour that the applauded act was about to embark on to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary. Of course, much like countless acts and artists around the world, their plans were put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The members of the band waited for a while before coming to the realization that music is mean to be heard, no matter what the environment actually was, “whether it’s in a festival field with 50,000 of our coolest friends or alone in your living room or on a Saturday night with a stiff cocktail,” the band’s Dave Grohl writes in a statement. So, they start off the New Year with the the explosive ripper “No Son of Mine.” Centered around chugging arena rock friendly riffs that nod at Ace of Spades-era Mötorhead, Kill ’em All-era Metallica and Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy,” a propulsive rhythm section with thunderous drumming and mosh pit friendly hooks, “No Son of Mine” is the sort of song meant to be played at ear-splitting volumes, while dreaming of the day that we can be in arena or festival ground chugging beers and rocking out with each other.

“This is the kind of song that just resides in all of us and if it makes sense at the time, we let it out,” Dave Grohl explains, adding, “Lyrically it’s meant to poke at the hypocrisy of self righteous leaders, people that are guilty of committing the crimes they’re supposedly against…”

Just imagine how cathartic, how joyous, how fucking urgent that moment will be when the lights come on and your favorite artist/band gets on that stage, and it’s felt like you’ve waited a lifetime to be in that room or on the festival ground, Although I know that day won’t be for a while, I’ve been dreaming of a moment that I’ve missed and longed for with a mad desperation. But it’s getting me through. And I can’t wait to be there with all of y’all.

In the meantime, Medicine at Midnight is slated for a February 5, 2021 release through Roswell Records/RCA Records.

Gold Coast, Australia-based alt rock trio boWsER — Nathan Williams, Otto Miller, Jr. and Brad Weynton – formed well over a decade ago, and when its members met, they recognized an instant connection and a desire to make music that pushed each individual member in new creative directions while crafting an enormous, power chord-driven sound that drew comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures.

The trio quickly attained enviable and immediate success: After signing a worldwide publishing deal with EMI, they released their critically applauded debut mini album, 2007’s Modus Operandi, an effort that earned them The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Award nomination in the Rock category and a Q Song Awards nomination. Adding to a rapidly growing profile in their native Australia, boWsER were hand-selected by Triple J Unearthed to open for Eagles of Death Metal during their Australian tour.

The Aussie rock act ended a 13 year hiatus with the release of “People in the TV,” the first single off their forthcoming Steve James-produced sophomore effort Whispers From The Wickerman. The album’s second single “Supersonic” features a classic grunge rock song structure of alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, fuzz pedaled and churning power chord-driven riffs, a sinuous bass line, thunderous drumming and massive, arena rock friendly hooks that — to my ears, at least — reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf and Foo FightersOne by One and Wasting Light, delivered with a similar swagger.

New Video: Complicated Animals Release a Gorgeous animated Visual for Their Acoustic Take on Foo Fighters “Times Like These”

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that.”

The recently released video for the Complicated Animals “Times Like These” cover features some gorgeous, hand drawn and old-timey storybook-like animation by Brazilian visual artist and animator Karla Caprali. The video manages to capture some of the tragic and inspiring events of what may be one of the more difficult years humanity has seen in some time — from the fear, uncertainty and stress of a pandemic, the Black Lives Matter marches in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Armaud Arbury and others and more. And while we may have gone through so much together — and apart — it feels like there’s a cautious optimism that we can get things right for once.

“Brazilian artist Karla Caprali created this beautiful video to go with our track. She used a traditional animation technique, and drew each frame by hand,” the members of Complicated Animals explain. “She helped us to realize our vision, by featuring some of the major world events of this year. We have all been through a lot, and we could all use some healing.

New Video: Acclaimed British-born, Irish-based Singer-Songwriter Rosie Carney Tackles Radiohead

Acclaimed Hampshire, UK-born, Donegal, Ireland-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Rosie Carney began writing music inspired by the rugged and picturesque of her hometown. When she was 15, Carney left school to showcase her work in New York and Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter was signed to a major label. After performing on Ireland’s leading live music TV series Other Voices, the British-born, Irish-based artist experienced a rapidly growing profile, which led to sets at Bushstock Festival, Latitude Festival, Electric Picnic Festival, Seven Layers Festival and SXSW. Additionally, Carney opened for Haux on a 28-date tour of 12 countries that included stops in the US and Canada.

Without the ability to tour and with her career plans stalled as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, Carney much like countless other people across the globe found her mental health suffering as a result of forced isolation and boredom. Carney’s JMAC-co-produced The Bends finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter tackling Radiohead’s The Bends.

Slated for a December 11, 2020 release through Color Study, Carney’s forthcoming isn’t the first time that her own struggles with mental health have dovetailed with her love of Radiohead: Carney recalls seeing the band as a teenager and having an anxiety attack in the arena. She blacked out and woke up in the venue’s first aid room. And for the British-born, Irish-based artist, covering her favorite band has acted a much-needed form of therapy.

The Bends’ second single finds Carney releasing an atmospheric cover of “Black Star.” Centered around an arrangement of Carney’s achingly tender vocals, strummed acoustic guitar, brooding strings and gently padded drumming, Carney’s bare boned yet straightforward cover manages to pull out the bitter and uneasy heartache at the core of the song in a way that feels personal, lived-in and almost uncomfortable.

“One of my favourite things about this song is the non-sugar coated realness of it”, Carney explains in press notes. “It’s very bleak and sad when you start to realise a relationship is on its way out. I feel like everyone has been in that situation where you just kind of aimlessly fill your day with crap to distract yourself from thinking about someone (even though you are the whole time). Throughout the record I tried to keep as many songs in their original key as possible, but when I started learning Black Star, I wanted it to feel like I was almost talking in the verses, so I purposely lowered it to the point it was nearly uncomfortable for me to sing. The words are so direct and bleak and honest I didn’t want to risk them going unheard.”

Directed by Carney, the recently released video features intimate footage shot in Donegal that manages to fit the song’s brooding and uneasy aesthetic.

Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jason Hendardy is the creative mastermind behind the post-punk/alternative rock/noise rock project Permanent Collection.  Since Hendardy started the project back in 2010, Permanent Collection has gone through a series of different iteration: the project’s debut EP, 2011’s Delirium was a collection of home solo recordings, which he supported with a number of solo shows and tours.

With the release of 2012’s full-length debut Newly Wed, Nearly Dead the project expanded into a full-fledged band with the addition of Megan Dabkowski (bass), Brendan Nerfa (guitar), Mike Stillman (drums), who were in the band for close to two years. By the end of 2013, the band’s lineup became more fluid as the band featured a rotation cast of collaborators that included Terry Malts and Business of Dreams‘ Corey Cunningham (guitar). The project’s 2013 EP No Void was written and recorded as a trio and after a series of touring to support it, Permanent Collection went on a hiatus with Hendardy focusing on writing music for other bands and several different creative projects, as well as work in video and sound design.

Late last night, Hendardy started to focus his efforts on writing new Permanent Collection material, and the end result is his soon-to-be-released and highly anticipated album Nothing Good Is Normal. All June digital sales of the new record, Nothing Good Is Normal, are going to the Anti Police Terror Project.

Clocking in at just under 2 minutes,  album single “Breakaway” is a mosh pit friendly ripper full of the scuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, howled vocals and enormous hooks that brings JOVM mainstays A Place to Bury Strangers and The Jesus and Mary Chain to mind. Play loudly and mosh the fuck out. 

 

New Video: Scotland’s Close Lobsters Release a Meditative Visual for Jangling “Godless”

Formed back in the mid 80s, the Paisley, Scotland, UK-based alt rock/indie rock act Close Lobsters— Andrew Burnett, Bob Burnett, Tom Donnelly, and Stewart McFayden — first came to prominence with “Firestation Towers,” a track that appeared on NME‘s C86 compilation.

Shortly, after the release of that compilation, the Scottish alt rock quartet signed to Fire Records, who released their debut single “Going To Heaven To See If It Rains” in October 1986. Their second single “Never Seen Before” was released in April 1987 and the single managed to establish the act as one of the region’s leading emerging indie bands at that time. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on to release two albums: 1987’s Foxheads Stalk This Land, which was released to praise from Rolling Stone, who wrote that the album was “first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers” — and 1989’s Headache Rhetoric. 

By 1989, the band’s popularity on US college radio led to an appearance at that year’s New Music Seminar and an extensive Stateside tour. After successful tours across the UK, Germany, the States and Canada, the band went on an extended hiatus. Fire Records released the Forever, Until Victory! singles retrospective in October 2009. (Interestingly, the retrospective’s title is derived from the reputed last sign-off in a letter Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who wrote to Fidel Castro, “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!”)

After a 23-year hiatus, the members of the Scottish indie rock act reunited to play 2012’s Madrid Popfest, Glasgow Popfest and Popfest Berlin, which they followed up with 2013’s NYC Popfest.  May 2014 saw the band playing Copenhagen Popfest, and the release of the first batch of new recorded material from the band in 25 years, that year’s Kunstwerk in Spacetime EP, which featured the attention grabbing lead single “Now Time.” After releasing one more single in 2015, the band went back on hiatus.

Released earlier this year through Last Night From Glasgow and Shelflife Records in the States, Close Lobsters’ John Rivers-produced Post Neo Anti is the first full-length album from the Scottish indie rock band in 31 years.  Recorded between 2014 and 2019, the Roberts-produced album finds them collaborating with the producer of their 1986 debut — and in some way the long-awaited album is a sort of return to form. “Godless,” Post Neo  Anti’s second and latest single is a slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Starfish-era The Church to mind — in particular, Hotel Womb.”  Interestingly, the song manages to capture the desperate, exhausting, infuriating and uncertain air of our moment, but with the hopes that we’ll able to tour our morally bankrupt world into a better, fairer place. 

The recently released video is part lyric video, and part stylish and brooding mediation and part live performance footage with an eerie quality. Throughout there’s this sense of absence and longing. 

New Audio: Los Angeles’ The Know Covers The Jesus and Mary Chain

Los Angeles-based dream pop/shoegaze duo The Know, married couple and collaborators Daniel Knowles and Jennifer Farmer, can trace their origins to late 2018, when Knowles suggested to Farmer that instead of traveling home for the holidays — the UK and Texas respectively — that they stay put in Los Angeles and try to write music together, just the two of them. And the material they would write would be their gift to themselves.

Over a couple of weeks, they isolated themselves in their home studio with no real plan but they shared a mutual love of Beach House, Julee Cruise, ye ye, The Jesus and Mary Chain, 60s girl groups, Patsy Cline and The National. Interestingly, the first batch of material they wrote together, included their debut single “143.” Inspired by Tom Waits‘ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” “143” found the duo meshing the autobiographical with the fantastic: focusing on the hazy half-remembered recollections of a wild night out paired with an instrumental arrangement that seemed indebted to Beach House and 60s girl groups.

Their second single “Hold Me Like You Know Me,” a personal account of the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation that the band’s Farmer felt over the past year, received favorably comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound production.

Both of those singles will be included on the duo’s forthcoming debut EP, wearetheknow. Slated for a May 18, 2020 release, the EP finds the duo fully embracing a DIY ethos: the EP was produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s Knowles with Farmer handling the band’s visual side, including their videos and visual content. And as a result, the duo ensure that they have complete creative control over what they do. Thematically, the EP delves into the duo’s personal lives with the material touching upon their relationship and their experiences  — paired with a kaleidoscopic soundscape. 

Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about “Someday Maybe,” a track that continued a run of material based on their personal experiences while sonically meshing Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with The Stone Roses and others as it featured swooning boy-girl harmonies paired with layers of swirling and buzzing guitars and pedal effects.  Interestingly, the duo’s latest single, a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always” was inspired by quarantine-induced boredom — and was initially just intended for their own amusement and ears. After completing the track, the duo liked the way it came out, so they sent it to their CLUB 143 fan club an exclusive listen and feedback. The feedback was so positive that the and decided to squeeze in another single before the release of their debut EP. 

The Know’s cover of “Sometimes Always” the first song in which Knowles takes on lead vocal duties — but the cover is a deceptive, sonic detour with the duo taking one of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s more pop-leaning songs and playing it in the style of the influential act’s psychedelic leaning material.  And yet, it still manages to hew closely to the spirit and overall vibe of the original.