Category: indie rock

 

Initially begun as the recording project of Cincinnati, OH-based singer/songwriter and guitarist James Bishop, LIGHTWASH continues Bishop’s growing reputation for crafting jangling guitar pop that manages to be remarkably anachronistic — as though it could have been released in 1966, 1982 or just last week — and their latest single, the easy-going “Thunder” off their forthcoming full-length effort Half Hung manages to reveal a songwriter who walks a careful tightrope between effortless simplicity and deliberate attention to craft.

 

 

2017 has been a breakthrough year for the Reykjavik, Iceland-based indie rock/post-punk trio  Fufanu.. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of this past year, you’d recall that the band, currently comprised of founding members Kaktus Einarsson (vocals, guitar), whose father Einar was a member of The Sugarcaubes and Guðlaugur “Gulli” Einarsson (guitar, programming) (no relation, by the way) along with newest member, Erling Bang (drums) can trace their origins to when the band’s founding duo met while at school. And according to the band’s founding duo, Katkus had glanced at Gulli’s iTunes and noticed that they had listened to a lot of the same techno and electronic music. After quickly bonding over mutual interests, the duo went into a studio and began writing and recording electronic music under the name Captain Fufanu. Interestingly, within a month of their formation, Kaktus and Gulli had started playing shows in and around their hometown.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the duo went into the studio to record what would be their full-length debut as Captain Fufanu; but in a strange twist of fate, the studio where Kaktus and Gulli had recorded the album was burgled. Naturally, everyone involved in the process presumed the album was lost. While many bands would be devastated by losing their life’s work in such a shitty fashion, Kaktus and Gulli put a positive spin on the ordeal, viewing it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and their sound, as they were developing a growing technical and musical prowess. Coincidentally, Kaktus Einarsson had been spending time in London working on Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots and touring with the late and legendary Bobby Womack when he began writing lyrics. Simultaneously, Gulli had started to craft a completely revised sound, which according to Kaktus managed to convey exactly what he had been thinking and feeling at the time. The result was the duo pairing Kaktus’ brooding and ironically detached vocals with an arrangement that featured guitar, bass, drums, synths and other electronics. Armed with a new sound, the duo renamed the project Fufanu.

Fufanu’s first live set as Fufanu, with their new sound and material was at 2014’s Iceland Airwaves and they quickly became one of the most talked about bands of the entire festival. Right after the festival, they went into the studio to record their full-length debut, A Few More Days To Go, which was released to applause both nationally and internationally; in fact, with an even bigger profile, Fufanu toured with The Vaccines and others, and played some of Northern Europe’s and Scandinavia’s largest festivals, including the aforementioned Iceland Airwaves, JaJaJa Festival and others.

Released earlier this year, the band’s sophomore album Sports finds the band going through some significant changes — Kaktus and Gulli recruited Erling “Elli” Bang (drums) to further flesh their sound out, with the newly constituted trio refining their material’s sound and thematic concerns, represented through album title track  “Sports,” which retains the synth-driven sound of their debut while nodding at CanNeu!  Joy Division and early ’80s Peter Gabriel,  the slow-burning and moody  “Liability” and “White Pebbles.”  However, the highly buzzed about Icelandic trio begin the holiday season and close out the year, with “Top Of The Queens,” a track that was recorded during the Sports sessions and didn’t make the cut.

Of course, what makes an the release of a previously unreleased album track intriguing is the fact that they frequently give the listener — if they’re familiar with the album in question — some insight into the complex editorial decisions that comprise the making of an album. In some cases, you can immediately tell why a particular song wasn’t included — it just didn’t fit the tone and vibe of the album. In other cases, it’s not apparent. Sometimes, it’s a matter of a song floating around for a while and the band just is tired of the song or it’s an issue of not having a whole lot of time and something has to get cut — or a variety of other issues. Interestingly enough, “Top Of The Queens” manages to continue in a similar, anthemic hook-laden, synth-based rock vibe but it has a rougher, punk rock band in a dive bar edge to it.

 

 

 

 

Comprised of Jordan Wilson and Benjmain Riley, the acclaimed, Sydney, Australia-based duo Georgia Fair can trace their origins to when the duo met in high school. They began playing and writing music together and would continue to do so in a number of bands until settling on their current project together Georgia Fair, which reportedly derives its name from a venue mistakenly billing the duo then known as Jordan and Ben as Georgia Fair due to a bad phone connection.

Their 2011 debut effort All Through Winter was recorded with Band of HorsesBill Reynolds in studios in Asheville, NC; Austin, TX; and Atlanta, GA, and the album peaked in the Top 100 of the ARIA Albums Chart and reached #1 on the ARIA Hitseekers Albums Chart. The duo’s 2013 sophomore effort, Trapped Flame was recorded in Los Angeles with Ted Hutt and featured musicians, who were part of the backing bands of Ryan Adams and PJ Harvey — and much like its predecessor, it was a commercial success as it reached the ARIA Top 100 Chart.

After the release of their sophomore effort, the duo relocated to London where they spent time exploring their roots while trying to incorporate new sounds. As Georgia Fair’s Jordan Wilson explains in press notes, “That trip and the intensity of living in London helped us get out of our own way.” And the result is the duo’s third full-length effort The World’s Awake, which reportedly finds the duo capturing their live essence and sound.  In fact, the album’s first single “Slave to Nothing” finds the duo at what may arguably be their most sparse and restrained while nodding at an arena rock blues sound reminiscent of The Black Keys and others; however, at its core is a slow-burning heartache rooted in betrayal, confusion and lingering regret.

 

Hans-Christian Søgaard Andersen is a Søro, Denmark-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who was best known as a member of renowned Danish band Racetrack Babies. As Andersen explains in press notes, “that band broke up as we were working on this album, so I thought it would provide some continuity to our fans. During the recording, our drummer Henrik Svendsen started calling me the captain of sorrow, because the songs were full of melancholy, so that became the name of the new band.”

Andersen and his new, Captain of Sorrow collaborators, which included Søren Hansen (guitar), Hans Madsen (bass) and the aforementioned Henrik Svenden (drums), wrote, recorded and produced their debut album Racetrack Babies in a wild burst of spontaneous creativity — and as the story goes, Andersen and his collaborators wanted to capture the diverse sounds that Andersen was hearing in his head. “Every song has the title of a band I once considered using, so I wanted them to sound different, as if it were 11 different groups.” The quartet started the album with some free form jamming and as Andersen recalls, “we listened to each song once, played it three or four times, then recorded it live. I gave them [the backing band] a free hand to crate their own arrangements but didn’t let them get too familiar with the songs. I wanted a rough sound, so you would know it was human beings playing the music.”

“Park the Van” Racetrack Babies‘ first single is a noisy and sprawling arrangement that finds Andersen and his bandmates nodding at noise punk, grunge and indie rock simultaneously as the band pair power chords, sinuous bass chords, stuttering and thundering drumming and anthemic hooks within a classic grunge rock song structure featuring alternating loud and quiet sections; but the major difference to me is that the band manages to add a mournful yet oose, jam band-like take to a familiar sound and aesthetic.

Comprised of Nye Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamely, the Edinburgh, Scotland, UK-based indie pop act The Spook School derive their name from the famous Glasgow School of influential artists and designers that began to coalesce in the 1870s and flourished between 1890 to roughly 1910 or so. And within the The Glasgow School there were several groups responsible for creating the distinctive Glasgow Style — The Four (also known as The Spook School), which featured painter and glass artist Margaret MacDonald, acclaimed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (McDonald’s husband), MacDonald’s sister Frances Macdonald and Herbert MacNair — all of who made strides in the definition of Art Nouveau; the Glasgow Girls; and the Glasgow Boys. As for their modern counterparts, the members of the Glasgow-based indie pop act have developed a reputation for songs that lyrically explore gender, sexuality and queer issues while thematically focusing on gender fluidity and the lack of the gender binary.

The Spook School’s latest single “Someone to Spend Christmas With” is an incisive and anthemic, ambivalent Christmas song that features a rousing hook, soaring synths, shimmering guitar chords and propulsive drumming — and while sounding as though it simultaneously draws from 60s pop and 80s New Wave, as the band’s Anna Corey explains in press notes, “This is a song about figuring out how you want to conduct your own relationships when it feels like the world is full of conflicting advice about the ‘best’ way to do it, whether that be monogamy, polyamory, or something else entirely. The refrain relates to the ideal of having one important person in your life with whom you’ll always spend your special occasions.”

Along with the release of their new Christmastime single, the Scottish quartet announced an early 2018 North American tour, opening for Diet Cig that will include a March 1, 2018 stop at Brooklyn’s newest music venue Elsewhere. Interestingly, the tour will also coincide with the release of the band’s highly-anticipated third full-length effort Could It Be Different? on January 26, 2018 through Slumberland Records here in the States and Alcopop! Records in the UK. In the meantime, check out the tour dates below.

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR 2018

01/29 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place # ^
01/30 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison # ^
01/31 Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar # ^
02/01 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge # &
02/02 Madison, WI @ University of Wisconsin # &
02/03 Minneapolis, MN @ University of Minnesota # &
02/05 Lawrence, KS @ White Schoolhouse #
02/06 Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge & #
02/07 Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge #
02/08 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court #
02/09 Boise, ID @ Neurolux # &
02/10 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt # &
02/11 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey #
02/12 Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater #
02/14 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop #
02/15 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst # &
02/16 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room #
02/17 San Diego, CA @ You Are Going To Hate This Fest 3 #
02/19 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress # &
02/21 Austin, TX @ Sidewinder # &
02/22 Dallas, TX @ Three Links # &
02/23 New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge # &
02/24 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade # &
02/25 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight # &
02/26 Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre # &
02/27 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle # &
02/28 Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel # &
03/01 Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere # &
03/02 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall # &
03/03 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church # &

# = w/ Diet Cig
^ = w/ Lala Lala
& = w/ Great Grandpa

New Audio: Aussie Sibling Quartet Stonefield End 2017 with a Prog Rock-like New Single

Over the past few months, I’ve written about the Darraweit Guim, Australia-based sibling psych rock quartet Stonefield, comprised of Amy (drums, lead vocals), Hannah (guitar), Sarah (keys) and Holly Findlay (bass). And as you may recall, the siblings began playing together when they were all at a rather young age — with the youngest being seven and the oldest being 15. The band’s eldest member Amy recorded their first song “Foreign Lover” for a school project, and then reportedly she entered the song into Triple J’s national, unsigned band competition for youngsters Unearthed High as an afterthought; however, much to her and her sisters’ surprise, Stonefield wound up winning the contest. Within an incredibly short period of time, the Findlay sisters had two singles receiving regular airplay on Australian radio and an invitation to play at the Glastonbury Festival.

Since then, the members of the sibling quartet have released two EPs, their self-titled full-length debut and their sophomore effort As Above So Below, which was released earlier this year through Rebel Union Recordings/Mushroom Records. And adding to a growing profile, the Aussie, sibling quartet have opened for a variety of internationally renowned touring acts including Fleetwood Mac, Meat Puppets and a Stateside tour with countrymen and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard earlier this year. Interestingly, the Findlay sisters end 2017 by signing to Flightless Records, the label home of the aforementioned King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and The Babe Rainbow, and to celebrate that announcement, the band’s first release on their new label is “Delusion,” the follow-up to their sophomore effort. 
“Delusion” finds the Findlay sisters moving away from the heavy psych rock and psych pop of their earlier releases towards a dirge-like, 70s prog rock and metal sound as the song finds features some down-tuned power chords, dramatic, twisting and turning synths, tubular bells, some sinister mellotron and an enormous, arena rock-friendly hook within a sprawling and hypnotic song structure that features changes in key and mood. As the band explains in press notes, the song is inspired by the “overwhelming feeling of knowing you are a speck in the universe, getting lost in your mind.” 

New Video: The Sensual Visuals for Bryde’s “Desire”

With the release of “Help Yourself” and several other singles the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarah Howells, best known as Bryde quickly exploded into both the British and international scene as she received praise from Nylon, The Line of Best Fit and Earmilk and airplay from BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Wales, Radio X and Huw Stephens’ BBC Radio 1 show for a sound that’s been compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard and London Grammar while thematically focusing on complex, ambivalent, and hopelessly entangled relationships.

Now, as you may recall Howell’s “Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good” was a boozy and woozy dirge in which the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s aching vocals are paired with bluesy yet shoegazer-leaning power chords reminiscent of  PJ Harvey. Howell promptly followed that up with “Less,” a single that not only continued her ongoing collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Bill Ryder-Jones but was rooted around a forceful 90s alt rock-leaning song structure, while further cementing her growing reputation for writing unflinchingly honest and vulnerable lyrics.

Howell’s latest single “Desire” was produced by Chris Sorem and mixed by CJ Marks, both of whom have worked with Wolf Alice, PJ Harvey and St. Vincent — and while continuing along a similar vein sonically, as it nods at the blues and 90s alt rock, complete with an anthemic hook, the song manages to possess an urgent yearning, punctuated with the use of a baritone electric guitar.  As Howell explains in press notes, “‘Desire’ is about lust, our need for instant gratification, about desire’s addictive qualities and how they can make us behave.  I was inspired both by the way people have treated me and how I’ve treated others and how I’ve become unrecognisable to myself in the past just to appeal to this side of someone else’s personality.”

Directed by Furball Films’ Rhys Davies and starring Jade Perraton and Kyle Telford, the video features its two actors covered in syrup in a slow dance that vacillates between lustful desire and physical need — but while having a weird push and pull between regret and uncertainty. As the Howell explains in press notes, the video’s concept was inspired “by the symbolism of certain scenes in the movie Under the Skin, where the alien’s victims walk of their own free will into a thick, dark oil and to their demise. When writing the line ‘smother everything,’ I was actually imagining these temptations as a kind of veil that can leave us blind to what’s right and stuck in a cycle,” the Welsh-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist continues. “We’re drawn to sugar coated things that are underneath bad for us. It’s about desires as things or people we want and can’t often resist, despite knowing that they will bring us nothing but regret.” 

Deeply influenced by The Breeders, T-Rex, punk rock, psych rock and New Wave, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Grace Vonderkuhn has received attention for a sound that meshes elements of psych rock, garage rock and guitar pop; in fact, back in 2015, I wrote about Vonderkuhn’s slow-burning, brooding, and lysergic cover of The Psychedelic Furs‘ “Love My Way.” Adding to a growing profile, over the past year, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and her backing band, which features Brian Bartling (bass) and Dave Mcgrory (drums) has opened for the likes of Titus Andronicus, Lower Dens and blogosphere darlings Sheer Mag among others.

“Worry,” the first single off Vonderkuhn’s forthcoming full-length album, slated for a February release through Egghunt Records features some muscular and self-assured power chords paired with angular and driving bass chords, forceful drumming within a 90s alt rock song structure —  alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, arena rock friendly hooks, an explosive and cathartic bridge and a fade out into the song’s coda.  Though it clearly owes debts to the aforementioned Breeders, Veruca Salt and others in the 120 Minutes-era MTV universe, the song, as Vonderkuhn explained to the folks at GoldFlakePaint is an “anthem for over-thinkers” with the song’s narrator attempting to  act as a calming counterweight, as she constantly reminds herself that maybe she shouldn’t be worrying as much as she does about everything, that some things are just beyond your control. And as a result, Vonderkuhn’s latest is a deceptive and mischievously modern take on a beloved and familiar song and aesthetic.

 

 

New Video: The Psychedelic and Lynchian-like Visuals for Norma’s “S.A.D.”

Largely inspired by NEU! and Faust, as well as Spiritualized and Spacemen 3, the Stockholm, Sweden-based trio Norma, comprised Erik Vallin, Love Martinsen, and Petter Bendelin formed in a living room in 2007, watching David Lynch movies while experimenting with pedal steel guitars, vintage organs and synthesizers. As the story goes, after a while, the trio started rehearsing in a bomb shelter and eventually developed a bigger, heavier sound, which wound up on their debut effort Book of Norma. Several years later, the band followed that up with their 2013 sophomore effort, The Invisible Mother. Over the past few years, they’ve developed a reputation for being deliberate — and over a decade since their formation, the band will be releasing their third, full-length album sometime in 2018. 

“S.A.D,” the yet-untitled album’s first single features a prerequisite, chugging motorik groove paired with shimmering, pedal effected guitars and a soaring hook to create a song that reminds me quite a bit of Join the Dots-era TOY — but interestingly enough, the song is both about seasonal affective disorder and a character that the band has dubbed Neil, a figure that appears during the darkest season, and attempts to thwart you as you go about your daily life. As the band explains, “. . . We probably all have our personal devils, wherever we want them or not, it’s just about learning how to live with them. It may be quite difficult to get a daily life working as it is and it will not be easier to discuss economics, logistics or food when Neil creeps along your spine and says he’s going to shoot you in your leg.”

Edited by Frederick Stewart Holm and featuring photography by the band and Najda von Bahr with scenography, costumes and makeup by Emila Esping, the recently recently video for “S.A.D.” follows Neil, a vagabond-like character as he travels the countryside in a custom built jalopy to the kindergarten where he entertains kids as a clown/entertainer. Eventually, he disappears into a dream where he floats among planets, fishes and laser lights in a Lynchian and psychedelic nightmare.