Category: indie rock

 

Casey Meehan is a Chicago area mainstay best known for his work with Chicago Mixtape, a weekly curated playlist of the best music shows happening in and around the Chicagoland area. Over the past month or so, I’ve written about Meehan’s latest music project Sy Somebody, and as you mayrecall the project can trace its origins to a a conversation he had with Father John Misty‘s David Vandervelde. Vandervelde introduced Meehan to his bandmate Eli Thompson and the trio began discussing the possibility of making a record together.

As the story goes, Meehan eventually began sending demos to Vandervelde. Those demos thematically contemplated the mysteries and complexities of the human condition within the larger cosmos — but written as though an omnipotent, unseen person or narrator was in control. Writing material in such a fashion, actually inspired Meehan to name the project Sy Somebody.

Meehan, Vandervelde and Thompson then recruited an All-Star cast of collaborators including Jeremy Enigk‘s and The Intelligence‘s Kaanan Tupper, Richard Swift’s The Weepies’, Everest’s and Pedro The Lion’s Frank Lenz, Bobby Bare Jr.’s Mr. Jimmy, The O’My’s, and Chance the Rapper‘s Maceo Haymes and Chance’s Social Experiment’s and Santah‘s Vivian McConnel to flesh out the material that eventually coalesced into the project’s soon-to-be full-length debut Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends, which is slated for release on Friday.

Zookeeper,Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends‘ second single was a grunge-like track, centered around fuzzy power chords, a propulsive rhythm and Meehan’s world-weary delivery, rooted in the frustrations and pressures of adult life. “Idle Minds,” Life is Cruel, Let’s Be Friends’ third single was a disco-tinged affair featuring The O’My’s Maceo Vidal-Haymes that recalled The Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue,” but while deceptively capturing the neurotic obsessions of a lonely and anxious man, who endlessly replays his mistakes in his mind — with the realization that he’s always been at fault. “Ready To Go” is the shimmering final single off the soon-to-be released album, centered around atmospheric synths, layers of shimmering and distorted power chords, dramatic drumming and Meehan’s plaintive vocals expressing a desire to escape — whether it’s someplace tropical, in your rosy, nostalgia-tinged memories or to another planet. Being a human is often a weird and shitty experience, and if you haven’t felt the desperate desire to get off the spinning wheel of insanity, desperation and bullshit, maybe you need to talk to someone.

Advertisements

Sunbather is an emerging Brisbane, Australia-based dream pop duo featuring OKBADLANDS‘ Sally Latter (vocals, bass) and Mike Todman (guitar) that can trace its origins to when its core duo — and housemates — started sharing small ideas in the converted basement studio of their windowless, mostly soundproofed apartment. Experiments with guitar layers for melodic texture and vocal harmonies were initially meant to encourage each other in different roles from the previous work, and eventually led to the material which would comprise their Aidan Hogg-produced five song debut EP, Brown Bread slated for release later this year.

“Softly Spoken,” the duo’s woozy debut single and the EP’s first single features Good Boy‘s and Future Haunts‘ Stu McKenzie (drums). Centered around shimmering layers of guitar, Latter’s plaintive vocals, a sinuous bass line, propulsive and upbeat drumming, and a soaring hook, “Softly Spoken” is a lush, shoegazey take on dream pop with a cinematic quality that reminds me a bit of Still CornersSlow Air and Soft Calvary’s full-length debut.

“The lyrics to the song explore the small details that make up a life shared and are a reflection on the need to be gentle with one another,” the band’s Sally Latter explains in press notes.

Steve Smith (guitar, vocals) is a Sydney, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has earned a reputation for crafting a good tune, abrupt disappearances at inopportune times and for pulling together some of his hometown’s finest musicians and producers to bring his songs to life, writing and recording five albums with Fallon Cush — 2011’s self-titled debut, which introduced the band’s signature breezy and jangling 70s AM rock-like sound; 2012’s April, which premiered on American Songwriter; 2016’s Bee In Your Bonnet, which revealed a tougher alt-country leaning song and led to the band opening for Son Volt; and 2017’s Morning, which reportedly threatened the band’s future. “By the time we’d finished the last record, Morning, I thought that’d be the end of it. It was really quite difficult getting that record finished for a number of reasons,” Steve Smith says in press notes.

Produced by the band’s Steve Smith, the band’s latest album Stranger Things Have Happened was released last November through the band’s Lightly Toasted Records and was recorded and mixed at Endomusia Studios, near Australia’s Blue Mountains by Josh Schuberth with additional recording by Michael Carpenter at Love Hz Studios in Sydney. Featuring a backing band consisting of Suzy Goodwin (backing vocals), Casey Atkins (guitar, backing vocals), Tim Bryon (keys), Peter Marley (bass, backing vocals), Russell Crawford (drums) and Josh Schuberth (lap steel, percussion), the album’s material finds the members of the backing band drawing from a wider sonic palette while continuing to display Smith’s unerring knack for crafting a tunes that frequently get compared to Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Wilco and The Jayhawks among others. “This record feels like a bit of a fresh start, there’s an energy around it. It’s a good feeling. Strange but good,” Smith says about the new album

Stranger Things Have Happened‘s latest single is the bittersweet “The Key.” Centered around shimmering and jangling guitars, razor sharp hooks and earnest, a twangy guitar solo and 70s AM rock-like songwriting, “The Key” is the sort of song you’d expect to hear late at night in darkened dive bar or old-timey honky tonk: the song captures a ruminative sense of regret over the mistakes and failures of one’s life — and how they manage to reverberate in your life as time passes. As the band says in a statement, the song “features Casey Atkins’ twangy lead guitar throughout. Casey’s a renowned and in-demand player in Sydney, and an integral part of our sound. His parts on this were his first pass. When it came to the mix, we didn’t bother looking for any other takes.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Introducing the Motorik Groove Driven Psych Rock of Paris’ MAGON

MAGON is an Israeli-born, Paris-based psych rock singer/songwriter and producer. His latest album Out in the Dark was released last October through December Square/Differ-Ant Records. And with the release of the album’s first single “The Streets,” the Israeli-born, Paris-based artist quickly established a unique sound, which he has described as urban rock on psychedelics. 

Out in the Dark’s latest single is the decidedly cocaine fueled, glam rock-like “My Reflection.” Centered around a chugging motorik groove, angular and slashing guitars and MAGON’s ironically detached vocals, “My Reflection” may remind some listeners of The Strokes — but with an unvarnished sense post-modern self-awareness. “‘My Reflection’ is one of the most introspective songs on the album,” MAGON wrote to me in an email. “It resumes my life up and evokes my life philosophy. it’s also one o the rare songs for which I wrote the lyrics fully before composing it.” 

Shot on a grainy VHS-like film, the video which is set in a rainy European town, follows a beautiful woman as she vamps, runs, smokes and generally pisses away her time. It’s purposefully DIY — but while possessing a mischievous sense of humor: it evokes what bored, self-aware and yet cool young people do all over the world. “I shot the video one day in December in Bucharest with my girlfriend Alexa and her sister Yvonne, who are natives of the city,” MAGON explains in an email. “We used an old DV camera that my bassist Gauthier gave me, which has a great vintage look, and in post production, we really had fun grading (mainly to b&w) editing and superimposing the footage. Yvonne, who is 17 was really happy with the final result, although she was quite worried it would turn out to be shit. I would like to keep on making videos with Alexa because she’s super talented and intuitive with visual arts.” 

New Video: Tel Aviv’s Cherie and Renno Release an Old-Timey Visual for Stomping and Strutting New Single “Be My Baby”

Cherie and Renno are an emerging Tel Aviv, Israel-based indie rock act founded by its core duo Ran Shem Tov (vocals, viola) and Shiri Hadar (vocals, keys, bass), with Guy Ben Ami (drums). Interestingly, the rising Israeli act can trace its origins to when its core duo of Shem Tov and Hadar were members of acclaimed act Izabo — but with material centered around a wooden, electronic multi-synth viola that has been built from collected vintage parts. 

“Be My Baby,” the Israeli act’s latest single is a strutting and self-assured track that possesses elements of indie rock, the blues and rockabilly paired with anthemic hooks — and the end result is a mischievously anachronistic sound that’s one part Odelay-era Beck, one part Sun Records, one 60s psych rock and 60s pop. Co-directed by Nissim Farin Shtamper, Lioh Sadeh and Eliran Peled, the recently released video for “Be My Baby” is  fittingly anachronistic visual: shot in an old-timey black and white, the video features stock footage of stock footage of a 60s dance show split with footage of the members of the band performing the song and some low-budget, Twilight Zone-like imagery.  

The members of Cherie and Renno have developed a reputation for their award-winning music production company, The Sound Makers Productions, which specializes in original compositions and scores for film, TV and commercials. They recently wrote the soundtrack for Uri Zohar Returns, a documentary on one of Israel’s biggest cultural figures, including “Summer Smile” based on the film’s theme song.  

Over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to write a bit about JOVM Matthew Messore, who’s an Orlando, FL-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. best known as the creative mastermind behind the rapidly rising bedroom recording project Cathedral Bells. Since the release of 2018’s self-titled EP, which received support from David Dean Burkhart and praise from The Line of Best Fit, Messore has released a handful of singles from his highly-anticipated Cathedral Bells full-length debut Velvet Spirit, which is slated for a March 6, 2020 release through Good Eye Records.

The JOVM mainstay begins 2020 with “Disconnected,” the latest single off his forthcoming debut, and much like its predecessors, the new single continues to cement the sound that has won the attention of the blogosphere, including this site: centered around Messore’s ethereal vocals, delicately shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and a motorik groove, “Disconnected” is a shoegazer-like take on New Wave that recalls early 4AD Records and others but while possessing a swooning urgency.

 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Black Pumas Perform “Colors” on “The Ellen Show”

Throughout the course of last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act, Black Pumas. The act which is led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton can trace its origins to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he met Quesada.

Last year, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays released their critically applauded, commercially successful, full-length debut, and since its release, album single “Colors” saw breakthrough success when a live version of the song managed to amass over 4 million YouTube views — with the song at one point being one of the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAA) Radio. That shouldn’t be surprising:  “Colors” is a decidedly old-school singer/songwriter soul track centered around a looping 12 bar blues guitar line, twinkling Rhodes, some gospel-like backing vocals and Burton’s incredibly soulful and expressive vocals, which manage to express hurt, yearning, pride and awe simultaneously. As Burton, Quesada and company explained to The Fader by email, “‘Colors’ was written while the sun was going down on a rooftop in New Mexico. Finding inspiration in the multicolored hues of the night sky. The song is a message of togetherness, but there’s awareness of mortality mixed in . . .”

The band has developed a reputation for a a relentless tour schedule that has brought their incredible live show across North America and the European Union. Last year  alone, the band made three separate stops in New York: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live. 

The members of Black Pumas have continued on the massive momentum of last year with an extensive bit of touring that started off last night. Their tour finds them bouncing back and forth between North America, the UK and the European Union and it includes an October 22, 2020 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Feel free to check out the tour dates below, and if they’re stopping at a venue near you, get a couple of tickets and bring a friend. But in the meantime, the band played “Colors,” which is quickly becoming their signature song on The Ellen Show. 

New Video: Greg Dulli Pays Homage to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” in Cinematically Shot Visual for “Pantomina”

Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

So Dulli returned to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

“Pantomina,” Random Desire‘s swaggering and self-assured first single is centered around layers of buzzing power chords, a handclap-led hook and lyrics that alternate between sardonic, desperately lonely, and triumphant — often within a turn of a phrase.  Much like his acclaimed work with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, the new single delves into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator with fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but there’s also a hard fought, world-weary wisdom at its core.

Directed by longtime Afghan Whigs visual collaborator Philip Harder, who stars as Bob Fosse, along with dancers, Paula Vasquez Alzate, Desare Cox, Elayana Waxse, Maggie Zepp, LaTanya Cannaday, Karen Yang, Mia Bird and Reyona Elkins, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “Pantomina” captures the life behind-the-scenes and on-stage with an intimacy and familiarity of  performer, before going to the frenetically shot performance and the collapse, then death of its hard-living, harder working choreographer protagonist. As Greg Dulli says in press notes. the video “is a homage to the movie All That Jazz. ‘Pantomina’ feels like a show tune to me.”

New Audio: Nottingham, UK’s Hurtsfall Releases a Joy Division-Inspired Single

Featuring current and former members of acts like The Death Notes, In Isolation, Gossamer Veil, Dick Venom & the Terrortones, The Midnight Circus, Every New Dead Ghost, Arcane Winter and Tenpole Tudor, the Nottingham, UK-based post-punk act Hurtsfall — founding members Mike Sinclair (bass), Jamie Laws (keys) and Dave Perkins (drums), along with Sam Harrison-Emm (vocals) — can trace its origins back to 2017, when its founding members started a new band. The emerging British act solidified their lineup when they found Harrison-Emm after a lengthy and exhaustive audition process in 2018.

Since the band has solidified their lineup, the members of Hurtsfall have established their own sound, which pairs goth overtones with synth pop sensibilities while developing a following centered around an energetic live show. So far, the le Nottingham-based band has opened for Strange Circuits, one of the first acts to sign with Wax Trax! Records — and building upon a growing profile, the band’s recently released their latest single “12 Long Years.” Centered around angular and propulsive bass chords, forceful yet mathematically precise drumming, shimmering and atmospheric synth flourishes and Harrison-Emm’s Ian Curtis-like baritone, “12 Long Years” will immediately recalls Joy Division, as well as more contemporary acts like ACTORS and others — and while murky and brooding, the track manages to be dance floor friendly.  

New Video: Dutch Indie Act The Homesick Release a Surreal, Animated Visual for Expansive Single “Male Bonding”

With the release of 2018’s full-length debut Youth Hunt, the Dokkum, The Netherlands-based trio The Homesick — Jaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma — were quickly typecast as being resident tricksters, shrewdly courting spirituality under their own nonconformist whims. For outsiders, it was hard to tell whether the band was being ironic and taking the piss out of things — or genuinely unraveling themselves as starry-eyed romantics. Interestingly, even the album’s production values were quixotic and highly unusual: Elgersma and Van der Velde’s vocals were drenched in reverb  and paired with warped synths and distorted guitars within hook-driven guitar pop.

Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Sub Pop Records, the Dutch trio’s forthcoming sophomore album The Big Exercise derives its title from a passage in acclaimed singer/songwriter Scott Walker’s biography Deep Shade Of Blue, the album reportedly is a concentrated effort by the trio to explore the physicality of their music in fresh ways.  “When we were on tour in 2018, I bought Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music in Switzerland,” Van der Velde says in press notes. “Elias and I have been completely immersed in her music ever since. But also the work of Joan La Barbara for example, who also did things with extended vocal techniques, that was also quite vital to us. We discovered that the human voice offers so many beautiful elements that can still feel very physical and intrusive.”

“That’s also a  phenomenal aspect of the position we’re now in as a band,” Van der Velde adds. “I consider The Homesick a pop band first and foremost. If you’d introduce a late-era Scott Walker-record to a layman, it would likely fall on flat ears. But put it in the right scene of a good movie, and that person may finally understand its potential. The Homesick is allowed to play around in that pop framework, and the goal is to explore what’s possible within it. You can do super radical and weird things, and at the same time convey it all as straightforward pop music. With this album, I hope people will hear things anew after multiple listens.”

Additionally, the album finds the members of The Homesick second-guessing their long-held core chemistry as a live unit, adding baroque instrumentation like piano, acoustic guitar, percussion and clarinet to angular post-punk arrangements. “It’s the opposite of trying to translate recorded music to the stage,” the band’s Elias Elgersma says in press notes. “We were already playing these songs live for quite some time, so for this album, we wanted to unlock the potential of these songs further in the studio.”

Youth Hunt thematically touched upon a quest for belonging, roots and provenance; however, The Homesick’s sophomore album is centered around a headstrong wanderlust, which is fitting for a small-town Dutch band, anxious to take over the world while featuring meditations on family ties, alternate realities and commonplace encounters. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Male Bonding” is a galloping genre-defying track that possesses elements of angular, Gang of Four-like post-punk, 90s grunge, Devo-like New Wave and hints of psych folk placed within an expansive, breakneck arrangement that’s wildly eccentric yet mosh pit friendly.

Directed by Karlos Rene Ayala and featuring work by Skinner Illustration andMatt Brown 3D Animations, the recently released video is surreal sort of a Dada-esque nightmare that pulsates with the song’s chugging, motorik-like groove.