Category: Electro Pop

New Video: Austra Releases a Surreal and Dream-like Visual for Cinematic Album Single “Anywayz”

Katie Austra Stelmanis is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, composer and producer, and the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded electronic music act that takes her middle name, Austra. Over the past decade, Stelmanis has released three full-length albums 2011’s Feel It Break, 2013’s Olympia and 2017’s Future Politics, which she has written, performed and produced — and  has maintained a busy touring schedule both as s solo performer and with a backing band of rotating collaborators. All of this led to a devoted fanbase and countless sold-out shows across the globe; however, despite her growing success, Stelmanis had began to feel stagnant and uninspired. “I was losing faith in my own ideas,” the acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter, composer and producer explains in press notes. During that period. Stelmanis unwittingly got into a toxic relationship that was tearing her apart. 

It wasn’t until Stelmanis was ready to face her insecurities, that was she was able to see a path forward. “My creative and personal relationships were heavily intertwined, and i knew the only answer was to part ways with all of the people and comforts that I’d known for the better part of a decade and start again,” Stelmanis says. Along with making much-needed changes in her personal life, her fourth album HiRUDiN, which is slated for a May 1, 2020 release through Domino Recording Co. reportedly finds Stelmanis taking an entirely different and free-spirited approach to her songwriting and production: she took up a collage approach to sampling, arranging, writing and producing the album’s material. She also sought new collaborators, at one point booking three days of sessions in Toronto with improv musicians she hadn’t met: these musicians included two-thirds of contemporary classical improv group c_RL; Kamancello, a cellist and kamanche duo; Pantayoa, a kulitang ensemble; and a children’s choir. Additionally,  Rodaidh McDonald and Joseph Shabason were brought in to co-produce the album’s material with Stelmanis. 

Deriving its title from the peptide that leeches releases that’s the most potent anticoagulant in the world, HiRUDiN points inward, following a deeply personal and intimate journey towards regeneration and salvation, while touching upon the fallout of toxic relationships, queer shame and insecurity, letting go of harmful and hurtful influences, breaking harmful behavioral problems and cycles,  and finding the power and wherewithal to rebuild from scratch. Rooted in hard-fought and even harder-won personal experience, Stelmanis’ fourth album may arguably be the most introspective and forward-thinking of her growing catalog to date. 

“Anywayz,” HiRUDiN’s second and latest single is an expansive and cinematic track centered around twinkling keys, oscillating synths, four-on-the-floor-like beats, a rousingly anthemic hook and Stelmanis’ and achingly plaintive vocals, and sonically, the slickly produced  song — to my ears — seems to draw from Kate Bush, classical music, experimental pop and synth pop. The song “explores the fear associated with leaving someone, and the terrifying realization that without them in your life, the rest of the world will continue unscathed as if nothing has changed.” 

Directed by Jasmin Mozaffari, the recently released video for “Anywayz” continues an ongoing collaboration between the director and the Canadian artist — and the video employs a surreal and dream-like quality while being uneasy and chaotic, as we follow a protagonist, who’s pushed onward — even if she doesn’t initially want to.  “I wanted the video to feel as dramatic and chaotic as heartbreak can be, bringing this fear into fruition. The concept focuses on Katie as a heightened version of herself, sequestered inside a barren mansion that resembles a cage of her own spiralling thoughts,” Mozzaffari explains in press notes. “She resists moving on, yet as time persists and the outside world thrives, it eventually forces itself upon her.”

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New Video: Lyon, France’s Da Break Releases a Cinematic Visual for Hook-Driven and Funky New Single

Da Break is a Lyon, France-based funk and pop project centered around its core trio, producer Bruno “Patchworks” Hovart, vocalist Jen “Hawa”  Zonou and drummer Remy Kaprielan. The act’s 2018 self-titled full-length debut established the act’s swaggering and soulful aesthetic and sound — one that drew heavily from 90s hip-hop, hip-hop soul and R&B. 

Building upon the attention their full-length debut received, the Lyon-based funk and pop act released, their full-length debut’s highly-anticipated follow-up Burning EP. Burning EP found the members of Da Break expanding upon their sound, incorporating elements of jazz, reggae, G-funk and disco — while the act’s Jen “Hawa” Zonou boldly stepped forward as a powerhouse frontperson. 

Da Break begins 2020 with the sultry, hook-driven funk bop “Miss Rosa.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, some Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, Zonou’s self-assured and soulful vocals and a propulsive drumming, the track may arguably be the most ambitious and radio friendly they have released to date, while broaching more serious subjects in a way that brings  Crystal Waters smash-hit “Gypsy Woman,” to mind.

Directed by Arnaud Ly Van Manh, the cinematically shot video for “Miss Rosa” stars Lego Adilo, Nadine Charvolin, Nicolas Mondon, Bruno Patchwork, Julien Espinoza, Pierre Vadon and Antonin El Camino. Starting in media res, we follow a Black man being chased through the countryside by a Ku Klux Klan-like trio. The titular Miss Rosa, nervously waits for her boy to come home but we also see her make a cup of tea, pull out a shotgun and then shoot two of her boy’s tormentors. Not only is she a badass, but there’s something about racist idiots getting their comeuppance that’s entertaining to me. The video ends with an ironic yet well-deserved twist. 

Live Footage: Tame Impala Performs “Lost in Yesterday” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink over the past decade — yes, decade — covering the Perth, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Kevin Parker, the creative mastermind behind the critically acclaimed and commercially successful psych pop/synth pop project Tame Impala. Parker’s third, full-length album, 2015’s Currents was a critical and commercial breakthrough. Released to overwhelming and wide-ranging critical applause across the blogosphere and elsewhere, the album was Grammy-nominated, RIAA Gold-Certified effort that reflected a decided change in direction for Parker’s songwriting and sound: the material  featured some of  his most emotionally direct lyrics paired with an nuanced and textured sound that draw from psych rock, psych pop, prog rock, synth pop and R&B.

The Slow Rush, Parker’s recently released, fourth Tame Impala album conjures the feeling of a lifetime in a lightning bolt, of major milestones whizzing by you while you’re looking at your phone. Thematically, the album focuses on the rapid passing of time and the unending cycles of creation and destruction in life.  “A lot of the songs carry this idea of time passing, of seeing your life flash before your eyes, being able to see clearly your life from this point onwards. I’m being swept by this notion of time passing. There’s something really intoxicating about it,” Parker told the New York Times in a profile on him and the album.

Last year Parker released the first batch of new Tame Impala material in over four years — “Patience,” a decidedly upbeat banger that seamlessly bridged 90s house and 70s funk while being a thoughtful meditation on the cycles and phases of life and “Borderline” a blissed out, shimmering mid-tempo track with house music flourishes and a razor sharp hook. Unofficially, those two tracks were the first two singles off Parker’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated fourth album, The Slow Rush. Parker closed out last year with the release of “It Might Be Time,” a swaggering prog rock meets psych pop banger, centered around layers of shimmering  synth arpeggios, thumping beats,  an anthemic hook and Parker’s plaintive vocals.

The Slow Rush‘s fourth  “Lost in Yesterday” is a woozy and hallucinogenic  disco-tinged banger centered around a propulsive and sinuous bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a cathartic and soaring hook and Parker’s plaintive vocals. While sonically the song seems to continue a run of glistening and decidedly 80s inspired synth bangers, the song thematically finds Parker exploring time’s distorting effect on memories. Given enough time, nostalgia gives even the most embittering times in your life a bit of a rosy tinge, and a sense of purpose and meaning that you didn’t feel while experiencing it. At it s core, the song is a plea to break the urge to look back with rose colored glasses and live in the here and now.

Over the past couple of years of this site’s nearly 10 year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering Stockholm, Sweden-based multi-instrumentalist, electro pop artist, electro pop producer and Labrador Records label head Johan Angergård and his various projects including Djustin, Club 8 and his solo recording project The Legends.

Since the early 00s, Angergård has released six albums, including 2009’s self-titled debut, 2015’s It’s Love and 2017’s Nightshift, which was a decidedly From Here to Eternity/fFrom Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder-like affair.  Along with that, the prolific Stockholm-based multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer, label held and JOVM mainstay has released a number of critically applauded, blogosphere dominating singles. He’s currently working on his forthcoming seventh full-length The Legends album — but in the meantime, his latest single, “Fascinating” finds the JOVM mainstay collaborating with emerging, Taos, NM-based psych pop duo Tan Cologne, who will be releasing their full-length debut Cave Vaults on the Moon in New Mexico this year through Labrador Records.

Clocking in at 83 seconds, the decidedly lo-fi song is a breezy and infectious track centered around shimmering and swirling layers of guitars, thumping percussion and ethereal vocals that evokes the sensation of diving through warm water — and of being awoken from a surreal, feverish dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since their formation back in 2010, the Seattle-based indie electro pop act Jupe Jupe, which features My Young (vocals, synths), Bryan Manzo (guitar, bass, sax), Patrick Partington (guitar) and Jarrod Arbini (drums, percussion) have released four albums — Invaders, Reduction in Drag, Crooked Kisses, and Lonely Creatures — that have firmly established their sound: an infectious, dance floor friendly sound influenced by post-punk, synth pop and Americana among others. Adding to a growing profile, the act has collaborated with the likes of The Afghan Whigs‘ Rick G. Nelson, Lusine, Mike Simonetti, Erik Blood and a number of others on their remix album Cut Up Kisses.

The band’s recently released Matt Bayles-produced Nightfall EP was recorded at Seattle-based Studio Litho and continues their ongoing collaboration with Bayles, who produced and engineered their last album.  Meticulously written over the course of a year, the five song EP features five hook-driven upbeat yet simultaneously melancholy songs that thematically focuses on yearning and desire — with the addition of a saxophone to their sound.

The EP’s latest single is the shimmering, New Order-like “Leave You Lonely.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, angular guitar blasts, a propulsive bass line, four-on-the-floor drumming, My Young’s plaintive vocals and an infectious hook — and while being a decidedly ambitious and cinematic pop confection, the song expresses an aching yearning.

 

 

 

 

 

Picture One is the solo, synth pop recording project of Atlanta-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Thomas Barnwell. Slated for an April 3, 2020 release, Barnwell’s forthcoming self-produced, Picture One album Across The Depths of Seven Lakes is centered around self-aware 80s synth pop vibes and hook-driven analog synth melodies, chilly post-punk and New Wave soundscapes and Barnwell’s Ian Curtis-like vocals — but unlike his previously released material, the forthcoming album may arguably be the most pop-leaning and accessible he’s written to date. Thematically, Across The Depths of Seven Lakes navigates transcendence, resolve, magic and creativity and the turbulent waters of love and loss.

The album’s first single is the slow-burning, brooding and cinematic “Cycle of Belief.” Centered around, explosive, industrial-like beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and Barnwell’s detached baritone, “Cycle of Belief” simultaneously sounds inspired by early 80s Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears, and as though it could easily be on the Stranger Things soundtrack.

New Video: FORCES Returns with Another Dance Floor Friendly Bop

FORCES is a rising synth-based act, comprised of romantic couple and collaborative duo Jess and Dave. Although their latest project is a relatively new project, it’s centered around the 20+ year relationship and collaboration between its creative masterminds, who may be best known in their native Canada for their previous project, The Golden Dogs. With Golden Dogs, Jess and Dave wound up working with a virtual who’s who of contemporary, Canadian indie rock. including including the then-future members of Zeus, Wax Atlantic and Brave Shores, along with Taylor Knox and Stew Heyduk — while opening for Sloan, Feist, Bloc Party, The Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs, Thurston Moore and Roky Erickson.

Back in 2017, Jess and Dave went into the studio and began working on what they thought would be the next Golden Dogs album — although in some way, deep down they both realized that they kind of knew that it wasn’t. What they started working on was a decided and radical sonic departure from the driving rock sound they’ve long specialized in and were known for. In fact, they were increasingly drawn to the a number of different production styles — in particular, The Dead Pets, Liquid Liquid, New Order, The Cure‘s Close to Me and Timbaland. And as a result, the duo. which currently splits its time between Montreal and Toronto began to experiment with synths, beatmaking and funky rhythms.

At the same time Jess stepped up into the role of frontperson, taking on a sultry vocal approach paired with layered, punchy female-led harmonies. Simultaneously, Dave began to focus on guitar textures and melodies. Along with that, the material they started to write was primarily based around metronomic loop and electronics — instead of the drums-bass-guitar arrangements they had long relied on. Now, if you were frequenting this site late last year, you may recall I wrote about the FORCES’ debut single, the glittering dance floor friendly bop, “Stay On Me,” which was centered around a funky Nile Rodgers-inspired guitar riff, layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats, a propulsive club-rocking groove and Jess’ sultry vocals that builds up to a cathartic sense of release.

The Canadian duo’s second single “Step In A Sway” is ironically enough the first they recorded as FORCES, and the single finds them openly embracing straightforward pop. Much like its predecessor, “Step In A Sway” features a sinuous bass line, Nile Rodgers-like guitar work, twinkling synths and fluttering electronics but it manages to sound as though it were indebted to early 80s Madonna  — in particular “Everybody.”  “The song is an ode to all of those who are first on the dance floor giving the rest of us wallflowers the courage and inspiration to do the same,” the Canadian duo say. 

“The song was inspired by a simple drum lesson we gave to a good friend,” the member of FORCES explain. “As she struggled to stay in the groove, the goal was to get her out of her head and into a rhythm where her body danced with the music. Later, as we were writing  it, we realized her journey through that lesson — the struggle to get from panic to flow (or ‘sway’ as we call it here) — is a universal one, and it became an exploration of that them in both words and music.” 

The recently released video follows FORCES’ Jess playing out the song’s central theme, as we see her walking through the city with her headphones — literally being in her head — and finding that “sway” in the forest scenes, where she finds her inhibitions dissolving, moving along with the thumping beat. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays KOKOKO! Release a Cinematically Shot and Feverish Visual for Brooding Album Single “Zala Mayele”

Led by Makara Biano and prolific French producer débruit, the pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective KOKOKO! is inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among their hometown’s young people. Much like young people everywhere, Kinshasa’s young people have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society they perceive as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and much-needed change. The collective and their counterparts have done this with a fearless, in-your-face, punk-rock sort of attitude and ethos. That shouldn’t be surprising as the rapidly rising collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! — with the collective viewing themselves as the sound and voice of a bold, new generation defiantly and urgently banging on the doors and walls, and yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” 

Speaking of DIY, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled flotsam and jetsam and recovered junk. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, reclaimed wood and an old ping-pong table. Unsurprisingly, the act’s creative processes is centered round the notion that poverty and the desperately urgent need to survive often fuels creativity. Now,  as you may recall the Congolese collective exploded into the national scene with their debut EP 2017’s Tokoliana, a forward-thinking, urgent effort featuring a difficult to pigeonhole sound with elements of disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and the region’s traditional music that seemed to come from an alien yet familiar near dystopian future in which the ghetto and the club are intertwined. 

Tokoliana’s follow-up TONGOS’A EP further explored themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland, in which the average person may be forced on absolute certainties — the small, deeply human pleasures we, in the First World sometimes take for granted. 

Last year’s full-length debut Fongola was released to critical acclaim from the likes of NPR, The Guardian, Mixmag, Mojo, Dazed and i-D Magazine. The Congolese collective made their live, Stateside debut with a tour stop here in NYC, as well as an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which helped them gain a following here in the States.  

Building upon their rapidly growing profile, the Kinshasa-based collective start off their 2020 with the latest single off their critically applauded full-length debut, the percussive “Zala Mayele.” Centered around layers of thumping polyrhythm, a propulsive bass line, a looping sample of a gorgeous string section and distorted vocals, the track may arguably be the most brooding and atmospheric tracks on the entire album — while still being remarkably dance floor friendly. 

“‘Zala Mayele’s lyrics are about the dangers in Kinshasa’s streets (thieves, sorcerers, gangs, and more) and the importance of distinguishing what is what, what is hidden under what shape, in disguise and around the corner, in the shadows.” The cinematically shot video for “Zala Mayele” follows a young boy — Issa — as he wanders the streets of his hometown on his own. During his journey, he encounters and is threatened by a variety of dangers booth real and imagined that blind, titillate and confuse him. These dangers “little by little, he will be able to notice and take control with a trip on the other side of the mirror,” the band says in press notes. 

New Audio: German Darkwave Act NNHMN Releases a Feverish Visual for “Special”

NNHMN (pronounced as “nonhuman”) is a Berlin-based darkwave duo featuring Lee and Laudrag. Last year, the German darkwave duo released Shadow in the Dark, a six song album that received attention across darkwave and synth music circles for a sensual, propulsive and deeply emotional take on darkwave. Initially released digitally throughk-dreams records, Shadow in the Dark recently saw a vinyl re-released through Oraculo Records.  

To celebrate the vinyl re-release of Shadow in the Dark, the duo released the album’s latest single, the club-banging, early Depeche Mode-like “Special.” Centered around shimmering and rapidly oscillating synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, sultry vocals and an enormous hook “Special,” according to the duo tells the story of a borderline personality, who struggles with expressing love. 

Produced and edited by the members of NNHMN, the recently released cinematic yet feverish visual for “Special” draws heavily from Philipe Garrel’s 1972 film La Cicatrice intérieure, which features a similarly damaged main character. 

Perth, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jake Webb is the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded and commercially successful Aussie synth pop/psych pop act Methyl Ethel. Webb’s Methyl Ethel has amassed over 25 million Spotify streams globally — and after landing at #4 on Triple J’s 2017 Hottest 100, “Ubu,” was named an ARIA Accredited Gold single early last year. Also, his tour dates across Australia and the UK have regularly sold out since 2016. 

Although Webb has achieved commercial and critical success within a relatively short period of time, Methyl Ethel began as a sort of personal challenge. “I wanted to see if I could write, record and release some music before the band I was in at the time finished doing the same,” Webb says in press notes. “I did and subsequently withdrew from some close friends. Relationships were severed. I severed some even closer ones. This was all played out in such a public away, as it invariably does, so I withdrew more. My first album Oh Inhuman Spectacle became the ‘why me?/fuck you/sorry’ album that I wrote as a confused coping mechanism. It helped and I enjoyed it. I continued the introspective journaling with the follow-up, Everything is Forgotten. For me, that album said ‘who cares? all your emotions are irrational and meaningless anyway.'”

Webb’s most recent full-length album, last year’s Triage may be his most introspective and reflective effort to date with the material thematically, focusing on time and its passing, of getting older and occasionally becoming more mature, of the lies we have to tell ourselves and have to keep to keep on getting by.

Interestingly, Triage‘s follow-up effort, the forthcoming Hurts To Laugh EP, which is slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Dot Dash/Remote Control was recorded at the same time as Triage. Thematically, the five song EP touches upon the psychological difference between feeling and emotion. One is a conscious response to a set of circumstances, the other is the unconscious conditions of our very being that only occasionally surfaces through feelings — with the material probing ambiguities and paradoxes, implied by the effort’s title: you can laugh so hard that it hurts (joy) or you can laugh despite the pain (despair). 

Hurts To Laugh‘s first single, the stumbling and stuttering “Majestic AF” is centered around bubbling oscillator, analogue polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line, march-like drumming and a shimmering, slightly atonal synth melody and an anthemic hook paired with Webb’s plaintive falsetto floating over the mix. But at its core, the song manages to possess a dance floor-like energy while being earnest and uneasy.

Methyl Ethel will be embarking on aStateside tour to support his latest effort, opening for Peter, Bjorn & John during the Spring. The tour includes an April 10, 2020 stop at Webster Hall. Mid-April sees Webb returning to Australia for a solo tour at intimate venues across the country’s largest cities. Check out the tour dates below.

TOUR DATES
March 23 – Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA#
March 24 – La Santa – Santa Ana, CA#
March 25 – New Parish – Oakland, CA#
March 27 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR#
March 28 – Crocodile – Seattle, WA#
March 31 – Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT#
April 01 – Bluebird – Denver, CO#
April 03 – Amsterdam – St. Paul, MN#
April 04 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL#
April 05 – Loving Touch – Ferndale, MI#
April 07 – Johnny Brendas – Philadelphia, PA#
April 08 – Union Stage – Washington, DC#
April 10 – Webster Hall – New York City, NY#
April 11 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA#
April 15 – The Outpost – Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
April 16 – Nightcat – Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
April 17 – Mary’s Underground – Sydney, AUSTRALIA
April 19 – Goodwill Club – Perth, AUSTRALIA
# Supporting Peter, Bjorn & John
All tickets