Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written quite a bit about Marlene Oak, a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up on a small island outside of of Stockholm, where she turned to music as an escape. Oak spent her teenage years busking on the streets of Stockholm’s Old Town, and was serendipitously discovered by someone, who just happened to pass by and catch her playing. After releasing a couple of singles, which helped to develop a reputation for a sound and approach that’s influenced by Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, the Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist built a following playing shows across her homeland at pubs, clubs and elsewhere, opening for the likes of Miss Li, Whitney Rose and Susto, as well as playing sets at Way Out West Festival, STHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen.
The Stockholm-based singer/songwriter’s “In The Evening” was centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement featuring Oak’s soulful and plaintive vocals, accompanied by a strummed, electric guitar fed through gentle amount of reverb. Naturally, the sparse arrangement forces your attention on Oak’s vocals and lyrics — with the song thematically focusing on heartbreak, sorrow, achingly lonely nights and desperately figuring out some way to move forward with your life. Recorded in one take, the song possesses a you-were-there immediacy which helps pack a walloping emotional punch. “When I recorded ‘In The Evening’, I wanted to record everything on one take — without a click. And that’s what I did,” Oak says in press notes. “I aimed for keeping the same feeling to the song as I had when I wrote it, and I wanted to sing the words as if they were my last.”
Now, as you may recall Oak is building upon a growing national and international profile with the release of her latest EP Silver Moon, which is slated for a February 15, 2019 and the EP’s latest single “Coming Home” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor “Slip Away,” as the new single is a swooning and plaintive love song. The song, which is both an aching lament and contented sigh centered around an arrangement of shimmering guitars, gently padded drumming, a regal horn arrangement, a soaring hook and Oak’s gorgeous vocals, and in some way the song manages to sound as though it were indebted to classic, 1950s era ballads — but with an immediacy that packs an emotional wallop.
“‘Come Home’ is about a lifetime of seeking for that one soul that you’ve always been longing for” Oak says in press notes. “It can be frustrating and sometimes painful to wait for that person. But once you’ve found each other, it’ll feel like coming home. When you find that missing part, it will make everything feel complete. The song is also about the flip side to loving someone that deeply.”
I’ve written quite a bit about London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe over the course of this site’s nine-year history, and as you may recall, the act, which was founded by primary songwriters and founding members Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan can trace their origins to when they met at a party, where they bonded over their experiences playing in a number of local bands in which they felt as though they was pressure to fit into a particular scene through a certain way of playing or looking — and they hated it immensely, feeling that it was unnatural and unnecessarily labored.
Moorhouse and Duncan became busking partners, playing in the London Underground. And in those days, they enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. They noticed a profound simpatico and began to play their own original material. “We had a very clear idea of what we wanted. For things to be simple, based around songs that are unashamed in their directness, and that we love: The Cure, U2, Springsteen and The Stones. We’d spend years playing through these on the tube, realising you don’t need to break the mould. Its best to ignore all the voices telling you that you need to for the sake of it, and go for something deeper,” the duo explained in press notes. And with Ten Fe, Moorhouse and Duncan wanted to focus primarily on the song with style serving the song —and while centered around rousingly anthemic hooks, their sound is often difficult to describe as it possesses elements of the classic Manchester sound, Brit Pop, electro pop, contemporary indie rock and 70s AM rock.
The pair spent the next two years writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, including prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s dad’s house in Walsall, UK, relentless busking, hustling and saving, and an impossibly lengthy list of band members and producers before they signed a publishing deal and briefly relocated to Berlin, where they recorded their Ewan Pearson-produced full-length debut effort Hit the Light. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo Duncan. After spending 18 months touring to support their critically applauded full-length debut effort Hit the Light, the project officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums).
As the story goes, the members of the band felt a renewed sense of confidence when it came to preparing to write and work on their follow up effort Future Perfect, Present Tense. They set up shop in a vacant driving license office in East London, where the majority of the writing was done, and as they were nearing the end, they went to Oslo, Norway where they tracked the material before returning to London to finish the album with producer Luke Smith, who has worked with Foals, Depeche Mode, Petite Noir, and Anna of the North— and mixed by Craig Silvey, who has worked with Arcade Fire, Florence & The Machine and Amen Dunes. Thematically, the material reportedly is a mediation on everything that has brought them all to the point of their sophomore album, and everything they’ve willingly (and perhaps unwillingly) left behind in actually getting there.
The album’s second single “Won’t Happen” was centered around jangling guitars, a bouyant groove and a soaring, arena friendly hook while Duncan laments and repents for his past indiscretions — although it’s difficult to determine who he’s repenting to: is it a lover? or to himself? But one thing is certain, there’s a sobering sense of the passing of time and what it means to get older, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser. “No Night Lasts Forever” the album’s third was an atmospheric track that hinted at New Order and Unforgettable Fire-era U2 but with a soaring hook; however, emotionally the track may arguably be the most ambivalent and uncertain they’ve ever written. As the band notes “There was a debate when we were writing the song as to whether that’s an optimistic or a pessimistic statement. But we decided we liked the ambiguity — that it didn’t have to be one or the other.” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s fourth single “Echo Park” was a breezy yet mournful track that seemed indebted to 70s AM rock. Centered around a conversation between two old friends, in which the song’s narrator spends the song offering his lovelorn friend advice, the song can also be read to be about the members of the band, who finally made it to California, after years of busting their asses. And while everything is painfully lonely and surreal, the members of the band share a unique and profound bond, a bond rooted in its very oddness.
“Coasting,” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s latest single is a upbeat and sprawling track centered around jangling guitars, shimmering synths and a soaring hook and much like its immediate predecessor, the track draws from 70s AM rock — and a bit of Brit Pop; but with an airy simplicity unlike anything of they’ve released to date. As the members of the band say is a “celebration of new love.” They explain that “it’s a simple statement — ‘when i’m with you, I don’t need anything or anyone else. This feels easy, it feels like a fresh start: I’m coasting.’ Musically we kept it really simple too to reflect the sentiment. We wanted it to feel rootsy like The E Street Band and CCR and also channel a Britpop directness.”
The band will be embarking on a Stateside tour to support their highly-anticipated sophomore effort and it’ll begin with a March 19, 2019 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
17-Mar, Washington, DC, Songbyrd
19-Mar, NY,NY, Bowery Ballroom
20-Mar, Allston, MA, Great Scott
21-Mar, Philadelphia, PA, Milkboy
23-Mar, Toronto, ON, The Drake Hotel
24-Mar, Ottowa, ON, 27 Club
25-Mar, Montreal, QC, Bar Le Ritz PBD
27-Mar, Detroit, MI, Magic Bag
28-Mar, Milwaukee, WI, Colectivo
30-Mar, Chicago, IL, Schubas
31-Mar, Minneapolis, MN, 7th Street Entry
02-Apr, Denver, CO, Globe Hall
05-Apr, Phoenix, AZ, Valley Bar
06-Apr, Las Vegas, NV, The Bunkhouse Saloon
07-Apr, San Diego, CA, The Casbah
09-Apr, Los Angeles, CA, Troubadour
11-Apr, San Fran, CA,The Independent
13-Apr, Portland, OR, Doug Fir Lounge
14-Apr, Vancouver, Biltmore Cabaret
15-Apr, Seattle, WA, Barboza
Born from the partnership between Hannah Gledhill (vocals, guitar) and Marcus Browne (guitar), the London-based post punk quartet H. Grimace also features Corin Johnson and Diogo Gomes. And with the release of last year’s In The Body, the British band received attention for crafting material that’s dark, enigmatic and possesses elements of shoegaze and psych, drawing comparisons to Savages and Sister-era Sonic Youth.
Building upon a growing profile, the members of the up-and-coming British post punk outfit will be releasing the “She’s In A State”/”In The Body” 7 inch through Living Waters Records later this month.The band’s latest single “She’s In A State” features a jangling and shimmering guitar chords, a chugging rhythm section, Gledhill’s ethereal crooning and infectious hook — and while sonically bearing a resemblance to Finding Meaning in Deference-era The Mallard and 120 Minutes-era alt rock, the song draws from text for a performance by Vivienne Griffin, a collaborator on “2.1 Woman” off H. Grimace’s debut album. “The title of the song ‘She’s In a State’ was a meditation on her acute sense of irony, and the impossibility of this notion.”
London-based indie trio White Lies’s aptly titled, fifth, full-length album Five is slated for a February 1, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings, and while marking the trio’s tenth anniversary together, the album reportedly finds the British pop trio pushing their sound in new and adventurous directions paired with arguably some of the most deeply personal and intimate lyrics of the band’s entire catalog. Unlike its predecessors, the writing and recording process was Transatlantic, and included a trip to Los Angeles, where they worked on new material with Ed Bueller, who produced the band’s chart-topping debut To Lose My Life and their third album Big TV. Throughout the process, the band enlisted past associates and collaborators to assist on the proceedings including engineer James Brown, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters; the renowned producer Flood, who contributes synths and keys on a couple of tracks; and Grammy Award-winning Alan Moulder, who has worked with Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and The Killers to mix the album.
Now, as you may recall, the Snow Patrol-like album single “Time to Give,” was an ambitious song that clocked in at a little over 7 and a half minutes, and was centered around a lush yet moody arrangement of shimmering synths, a propulsive motorik groove, Harry McVeigh’s sonorous baritone and an arena rock-friendly hook — but underneath the enormous hooks was a song that focuses on a dysfunctional and abusive relationship from a real and lived-in place. In fact, the song feels so lived-in that it bristles with the bitterness and hurt that comes from being in a relationship in which you’ve left broken, fucked up and confused. “Believe It,” continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor as it’s full of enormous, arena rock friendly hooks while bearing a resemblance to Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Jef Barbara and Joy Division/New Order.
“Tokyo,” Five’s latest single continues a run of rousingly anthemic singles centered around enormous hooks, arpeggiated synths, razor sharp grooves and McVeigh’s inimitable vocals. And while the song reminds me of Tears For Fears’ “Shout,” “Change” and “Everybody Wants to Rule The World,” the song will remind the listener, that the British trio have an unerring and uncanny ability to write a triumphant, arena rock-like song.
The recently released, gorgeously shot video for “Tokyo” was directed by long-time visual collaborator David Pablos and was shot back-to-back with the video for previously released single “Believe It,” in Tijuana, Mexico late last year. As the band explains in press notes “Once again we were lucky to work with David in Tijuana to create what is our best video since ‘Death’. His unique knowledge of the area affording us access into some of the city’s most stunning and bizarre locations helps bring to life his vision of stories of love and loss. Where in the world would you be able to film a scene of the band sat on a 4-story high nude woman? Tijuana, that’s where apparently and resulted in our favourite collaboration with him yet.”
Pablos adds “As soon as I heard the song I knew I wanted to shoot the video during night time. Everything starts with us seeing scenes of life through windows from the outside, but once we go inside we discover nothing is exactly what it looks like or what it appears to be. Each window is a metaphor; more than a real space it is a representation of a mental state. But more than portraying the city, what was important was the human face and to capture the personalities of each one of the characters.”
Comprised of founding members Danny Arakaki (guitar) and Tom Malach (guitar), Derek Spaldo (bass) and Cesar Arakaki (drums) and newest member Pat Gubler (keys), the Rutherford, NJ-based indie rock act Garcia Peoples can trace their origins back to about 2011 or 2012, depending on who and when you ask them. Since the release of their debut, last year’s Cosmic Cash through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records, the band has been ridiculously prolific, reportedly writing and composing several albums’ worth of material, too quickly to record; in fact, during a weekly residency at Brooklyn’s Wonders of Nature, the band barely repeated a song with some local tape recorders noticing newly evolving material.
Natural Facts, which is slated for a March 29, 2019 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond is the second album from the New Jersey-based act in a year, and the sophomore effort purportedly serves as an extended introduction to their unique and cosmic take on Americana, a take that bridges indie rock, jam band rock and classic rock — but the album also finds the band sound and approach evolving. Interestingly, Natural Facts‘ latest single is the shaggy, 1974-like psych rock scorcher, “Feel So Great.” Centered around Arakaki and Malach’s impressive two guitar approach, thundering drumming and an expansive and trippy jam-band like song structure, the song captures a bunch of good friends, who spent years jamming, bullshitting, playing records, catching bands and coming into their own — with a passionate, muscular, urgency.
01.10.19 – Bellingham, WA @ The Firefly Lounge*
01.11.19 – Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern*
01.12.19 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir*
01.13.19 – Bend ,OR @ Volcanic Theater*
01.14.19 – Reno, NV @ The Loving Cup*
01.15.19 – Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s*
01.16.19 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah*
01.17.19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo*
01.18.19 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst*
01.19.19 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent*
*w/ Howlin’ Rain
02.26.19 – Boston, MA @ ONCE Ballroom#
02.27.19 – Port Chester, NY @ Garcia’s#
02.28.19 – Washington, DC @ Gypsy Sally’s#
03.01.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl#
03.02.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl#
03.03.19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ardmore#
#w/ Grateful Shred
Tessa Rose Jackson is an Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and multi-disciplinary artist, best known among indie circles as Someone. Her debut EP Chain Reaction was an ambitious creative undertaking that involved an accompanying short film. Jackson’s forthcoming EP Orbit finds Jackson exploring the intensity with which art and music can be fused, and how they can fully enhance themselves. And interestingly, the Amsterdam-based multi-instrumentalist, producer and multi-disciplinary artist crated an interactive augmented reality exhibition that combines her music with cutting edge technology and hypnotic art, which use elements reminiscent of space and planets. The exhibition will be presented in gallery spaces in Amsterdam, London, Berlin, and Paris.
When viewed through a tablet or smartphone, the artwork comes to life and the song linked to that particular piece will be played through the viewer’s headphones. The artworks each react differently and react to the music, dynamically building as the songs progress. They will also react to touch from the viewer on their tablet screens, allowing full interaction and immersion. Trippy, huh?
The EP’s material thematically comments on our overstimulated, digital age, suggesting that we spend so much time on our phones and on social media being constantly exposed to external distractions that we’re essentially orbiting around each other and our passions, rarely touching, resting or even focusing long enough to truly connect to anything or anyone.
Orbit‘s first and latest single is the dreamy and ethereal “Get It Together,” a track that’s centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping hip hop-like drumming, buzzing power chords and a soaring hook. And while clearly being indebted to Tame Impala and Air, the track also nods at classic, bubblegum pop and 60s psych pop — but with a soaring and infectious hook.
With the release of their full-length debut, 2015’s Last Forever, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based rock act Westkust received attention across the blogosphere for infectious and layered dream pop. However, since the release of their debut, the band has gone through a a massive lineup change that has resulted in vocalist Julia Bjernelind assuming guitar duties alongside Brian Cukrowski (guitar), Philip Söderlind (drums) and the recently added Pär Karlsson (bass).
The band’s long-awaited, self-titled, sophomore album is slated for a March 1, 2019 release through Run For Cover Records, and reportedly the bandmember’s longtime friendships provide much of the upbeat undercurrent to the album’s material. “We wanted to make songs that just feel good to listen to,” Julia Bjernelind says in press notes. “The thing that holds this band together is the friendship we’ve had for several years. We love playing together and enjoy each others company which still makes it fun.” The album’s first single, the breakneck “Swebeach” finds the band pairing towering layers of shimmering guitars and pummeling drums, Bjernelind’s cooly crooned vocals and soaring hooks — and while sonically drawing from shoegaze and surf rock, the song brings about thoughts of summer days, hanging out with friends, of sun-kissed skin and long, lazy afternoons. It’ll be here faster than you can imagine.
Comprised of founding duo Jocke Åhlund and Frans Johansson along with Frans Johansson and Martin Ehrencrona, the Stockholm Sweden-based indie rock act Les Big Byrd features a collection of their hometown’s most accomplished indie musicians. Åhlund co-founded cult Teddybears with his brother Klas in 1991. Åhlund went on to play guitar in Caesars — and formed Smile, with Peter, Björn and John’s Björn Yttling. And in that insanely busy period, Åhlund managed to find time to write for and produce the legendary Giorgio Moroder and renowned Swedish pop artist Robyn. Johansson, meanwhile, was a bassist in Swedish Grammy Award-winning act Fireside since the early nineties and worked as a touring bassist with The Soundtrack of Our Lives.
As the story goes, by 2011 Åhlund and Johansson had become increasingly disillusioned with their primary gigs and they began to collaborate with each other, frequently bouncing musical ideas off one another; the band’s founding duo quickly recruited two fellow grizzled scene vets, keyboardist Martin ‘Konie’ Ehrencrona and Caesars drummer Nino Keller to finalize the band’s lineup.
The band’s debut, 2014’s Back to Bagarmossen EP was an atmospheric, guitar driven effort that found the quartet receiving attention from Swedish national TV. Interestingly, with a growing national profile. the members of Les Big Byrd ran into The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe at a local record store, and after hitting it off with him, the band headed to Newcombe’s Berlin-based studio to jam with him — and the end result was a handful of tracks which eventually appeared on their critically applauded Åhlund-produced full-length debut, They Worshipped Cats, an album that was a decided left turn into trippy space rock.
In the winter of 2015, 18 months after the release of They Worshipped Cats, Åhlund was looking forward to working on new material; however, unlike their debut, he was determined to bring in an outside producer to allow him to focus just on the songwriting and playing. With much of their material drawing heavily from psych rock and drone, while retaining a pop sensibility, the band recruited Spacemen 3‘s Sonic Boom (a.k.a.Pete Kember) to produce the album as the band loved his work on MGMT‘s 2010 sophomore album Congratulations. The initial sessions with Kember quickly went awry; Kember clashed with Newcombe, who also headed to Sweden to work on some ideas for the record with the band — and Åhlund eventually found himself taking up the production role, he didn’t want and wasn’t seeking.
Burned out by the experience, the band shelved the second album for a while. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed to get some distance from it,” Åhlund says in press notes. “It was only after a while that I was able to go back and realise that there was a really good album in there.” The members of Les Big Byrd spent the bulk of last year remaking and re-imaging the material in their own image — with Kember and Newcombe’s contributions being limited. Recorded between two Stockholm studios — Åhlund’s own and Ehrencrona’s Studio Cobra — the band’s sophomore album Iran Iraq IKEA derives its title from a slogan that Åhlund’s saw printed on a tie while in Berlin years earlier and wanted to use for years; in fact, Åhlund felt that it suited the album, “because it gave it all some kind of subtly poetic intrigue.” However, the album’s politics — if you really want to call it that — are rooted within the personal, As Åhlund says in press notes, “It’s about classic topics like love and failure. And about being older and feeling like you’ve pissed your life away, It’s about regrets and wishing you’d done things another way,”
The band’s Åhlund takes up production duties again, but with the admission that maybe it was something he never really wanted to give up — and sonically speaking, the band reportedly have reinvented themselves and their sound but while retaining elements of the sound and approach that first won them national and international attention. “I still love my krautrock, and space rock, and experimental, improvisational stuff” says Åhlund. “But I also have a strong love for psychedelic sixties pop music, and I love reverb-drenched guitar with a lot of tremolo on it. All of those things make it on to Iran Iraq IKEA, but the lines are blurred – there’s a lot of electronics, and you can’t always tell where each individual sound is coming from. Hopefully it’s suggestive, a little bit uncertain and unpredictable, at least that’s what I wanted.”
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’d recall that Aarhus, Denmark-based recording studio Tapetown Studios in partnership with Sound of Aarhus have been inviting national, regional and internationally recognized touring bands to come into their studios for a live session, which they film and distribute through all of your favorite social media sites. So far they’ve inited British indie rockers Ulrika Spacek, Gothenburg, Sweden-based trio Pale Honey, the Bay Area-based JOVM mainstay Tim Cohen and his The Fresh & Onlys, renowned British psych rockers The Telescopes, Malmo, Sweden-based punk rock act Sista Bossen, Copenhagen, Denmark-based indie rock quartet ONBC, and up-and-coming, Los Angeles-based post punk rock act Moaning. Recently, the members of Les Big Byrd stopped by Tapetown Studios to perform the bittersweet lament “A Little More Numb.”
Over the past handful of years of this site’s almost nine-year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically acclaimed indie pop act Pavo Pavo. And as you may recall, the band, which derives […]