Category: indie rock

Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig. Härdig’s career began in earnest at a very young age: she began playin in bands when she was nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. As an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music, while developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says in press notes.

Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, Boredoms, Free Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia Lunch, Ikue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others. 

Slated for a November 5, 2019 release, Härdig’s fourth album This Big Hush find the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,Härdig says of the recording process for The Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

While reportedly paying homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and and Banshees, The Big Hush‘s latest single “Infatuation” is a decidedly riff-driven track that sounds — to my ears, at least — like it was indebted to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook.

“I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay says of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

 

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New Video: Chicago’s The Hecks Release a “Flashdance”-Inspired Visual for Album Single “Flash”

Formed back in 2012 as a duo featuring founding members members Andy Mosiman (guitar, vocals) and Zach Herbert (drums, percussion), the Chicago-based indie act The Hecks recorded their 2016 self-titled debut with recording engineer and guitarist Dave Vetteraino. And by the following year, Vetteraino joined the band as a full-time member. 

Now, as you may recall the band’s forthcoming and long-awaited sophomore album My Star has taken three years to write and record. After recording an early version of the album in 2017, the band started playing live shows with Jeff Grauper (synths, keys). The members of the band found that Graupner’s synth playing added some welcomed heft and swagger to their new material. The band reworked and re-arranged much of the material they originally wrote in 2017 to accommodate Graupner. But while they were reworking the material, the band decided that to completely scrap the early recordings, eventually rebuilding the material to further incorporate Graupner and his skills. And as a result, My Star is reportedly a decided leap forward sonically for the band, as the album’s material draws from Manscape-era Wire, Paisley Park nu-funk, and abstract new wave and art rock.

Album single “So 4 Real” was a jagged bit of post-punk, centered around a motorik-like groove, squiggling blasts of synth and Mosiman’s plaintive vocals. And while nodding at XTC (“Mayor of Simpleton” specifically comes to mind) and Amoral-era Violens, the track was essentially a swooning and soulful love song that sounds as though it should be the part of the soundtrack of a quirky, 80s rom-com. “Flash,” My Star is an angular, neurotic take on XTC-like post punk featuring squiggling bursts of neon-tinged synths, propulsive syncopated drumming and lyrics delivered with an ironic sort of detachment. And yet, it evokes the rapid-fire heartbeat of the anxious and desperately in love.  

Produced by the members of The Hecks and featuring a video wall and lamination by Studio Super, the recently released video for “Flash” is a decidedly 80s-inspired, VHS-tape recorded affair as there are references to Flashdance and 80s MTV. It’s a feverish pop fantasy of a bunch of average white guys, who have big dreams — that sadly may never happen. “We stumbled through the whole thing and just leaned in on what was working. The end result reads like the contents of a VHS tape mailed to the president of Columbia Records from some kids from Valparaiso, Indiana, who got grounded right after filming because mom found an empty bottle of poppers in the basement,” The Hecks say in a statement. “Some forgotten relic of an aspiring nobody’s pop fantasy.” 

New Audio: Nashville’s Twen Releases an Anthemic New Single

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Nashville-based indie rock act Twen.  The act, which is led by founding members Jane Fitzsimmons (vocals) and Ian Jones (guitar) can trace their origins to their involvement in Boston’s DIY scene, and as you may recall, the duo since their formation have been actively been redefining what a touring band should be and should be in the streaming age. Initially releasing only a live EP recorded from the band’s live debut in a Boston basement, the band has toured non-stop, honing and perfecting a live show that’s been described by critics and fans alike as raw and mesmerizing. 

Continuing to proudly ascribe to the DIY ethos that has influenced and sustained them, Twen’s core duo have run AirBNBs while touring, played in exchange for skydiving, screen printed self-designed merch items by hand and book their own tours. The duo emerged into the national scene with the release of their attention-grabbing single “Waste,” which received praise from the likes of NPR, Stereogum, Paste Magazine, BrooklynVegan, Uproxx, Under The Radar and others. Earlier this year, the duo opened for the acclaimed Louisville-based JOVM mainstays White Reaper — and they released the slow-burning and shoegazer-like “Holy River,” a track that to my ears would likely draw comparisons to classic 4AD Records, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve and Beach House — but with a yearning, dream-like quality that gives the ethereal track a subtle bit of emotional weight.

 Building upon a growing profile, the buzz-worthy, Nashville-based duo will be releasing their full-length debut Awestruck through Frenchkiss Records on September 20, 2019. I also wrote about the album’s first official single “Baptism,” an atmospheric and shoegazer-like track centered around shimmering guitars, propulsive drumming, Jane Fitzsimmons’ enormous, room-filling vocals singing impressionistic lyrics full of a yearning desire to be born, becoming and re-born. The album’s latest single “Make Hard” is centered around jangling, reverb-soaked guitars, propulsive drumming and rousingly anthemic hook — and while bearing a bit of a resemblance to Fleetwood Mac, the song is rooted in lived-in, personal experience that gives the song an emotional weight. 

“The song was rewritten and arranged very late in the recording process,” the band explained to DIY. “Another one of our earliest tunes, the second verse was a response to the growing pains we were going through at the time, transitioning from part-time rockers to full-time road warriors. The lyrics have come to symbolize the dynamics and relationships within a band as it grows, through the transformation of defined roles and how they change over time.” 

New Video: Brooklyn’s Pom Pom Squad Releases a Decidedly “120 Minutes”-era MTV-like Visual for “Heavy Heavy”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Brooklyn-based grunge rock/punk rock-band Pom Pom Squad — Mia Berrin (vocals), Mari Ale Figeman (bass), Shelby Keller (drums) and Ethan Sass (guitar)  — and as you may recall, the act have quickly become a local DIY scene staple for a modern take on the 90s grunge rock sound that finds the band balancing solemnity and whimsy, old school punk aesthetics and emotional vulnerability, which they’ve dubbed Quiet Grrrl punk — and for a raucous live show that they’ve honed playing alongside the likes of Soccer Mommy, Adult Mom, Long Neck and others.

The band’s sophomore EP Ow was released last Friday. Now, as you may recall EP single “Honeysuckle” was an anthemic track, centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming and a big hook within a quiet, loud, quiet song structure that accurately captured the mindset and emotions of a modern, young woman. Now, as you may recall, “Heavy Heavy” received attention from Stereogum, Paste, Under the Radar, Highsnobiety and Thrillist, as well as airplay on SiriusXM Alt Nation, and as soon as you hear it, you’ll understand why: the band crafts mosh pit friendly, power chord-driven hooks paired with thunderous drumming and a unhinged, feral vocal performance reminiscent of Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 

Directed by the band’s Mia Berrin, the recently released video features Pom Pom Squad’s front person in a variety of guises — cheerleader, princess, angel that busts of out of those stifling roles through the destruction of a number of cakes. Of course, there’s also footage of a Doc Marten-wearing Berrin and her bandmates furiously performing the song. For any of you that have actually come of age during the 90s as I have, the video immediately brings 120 Minutes-era MTV to mind. 

New Video: Seattle’s Moon Palace Releases a Contemplative Visual for Shimmering and Dance Floor Friendly “Bold”

Last month, I wrote about the Seattle-based indie rock act Moon Palace. The act which is led by twin sisters Cat (guitar, vocals) and Carrie Biell (bass, vocals) and joined by Jude Miqueli (drums) and Darcey Zoller (cello, synth) can trace some of their origins back to the unique musical bond the Biell Sisters cultivated as the children of deaf parents. And with the release of 2017’s self-titled full-length debut, the band drew comparisons to JOVM mainstays to Beach House and Warpaint, as they crafted hook-driven material centered around sometimes discordant guitars and gorgeous dual harmonies. Along with receiving praise from the likes of City Arts Magazine and KEXP, Moon Palace has shared stages with Thunderpussy, Y La Bamba and Sera Cahoone among others.

Thematically, the Seattle-based quartet’s recently released sophomore album Shadowcast finds a balance between light and dark. “Shadow self and trying to be positive through interactions with people you love,” the members of the band elaborate in press notes. “Outer world to the innermost personal world. Balancing the sun sign and moon sign. Knowing your inner personal self within the context of the universe.” Throughout the recording sessions, band members would text each other songs by Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, Duran Duran and Big Thief, all of which inspired and shaped the album’s sound and overall aesthetic.

Now, as you may recall I wrote about the shimmering, Beach House-like “Who You Are,” a track found the band effortlessly balancing intimate emotions within an atmospheric and cinematic song. At its core, the song focused on navigating difficult and uneasy relationships and questioning whether the other is showing their true self or not. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Bold” is a dance-floor friendly take on shoegaze, centered around a propulsive, disco-like bass line, shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths ethereal vocals and a soaring hook — but as the band’s Cat Biell explains the song harkens back to that “nostalgic feeling to a time when you felt more care free.” And as a result, the song is imbued with a bittersweet air. 

The recently released video by Elope Productions stars Loren Othón  and Georgia Maxine, who contribute expressive and contemplative dance movements in a variety of different settings including a verdant field, urban rooftops and parking lots, which also helps to emphasize the nostalgia within the song.

I’ve written about and have photographed the Northeastern Pennsylvania-based shoegazers and JOVM mainstays The Stargazer Lilies quite a bit over the years. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of founding and married duo John Cep (guitar, bass, vocals, drums, production) and Kim Field (bass, vocals) and a rotating cast of live drummers can trace its origins to when Cep’s and Field’s previous band Soundpool broke up.

Although Soundpool had built up a national profile, touring with Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, A Place to Bury Strangers, School of Seven Bells, Black Moth Super Rainbow, TOBACCO, and a list of others, Cep and Field desired a change in sonic direction. With Stargazer Lilies’ full-length debut, We Are The Dreamers, the duo established a signature sound, which meshed elements of dream pop, shoegaze — but with a muscular forcefulness. Their sophomore album, 2016’s Door to the Sun firmly cemented their sound and approach while expanding upon it. Since the release of Door to the Sun, Cep and Field have been relentlessly touring as both an opener and headliner, frequently with JOVM mainstay TOBACCO and his Black Moth Super Rainbow, and a list of others.

Slated for a November 1, 2019 release through Rad Cult Records, the band’s long-awaited third full-length album Occabot finds the duo collaborating with their frequent tourmate TOBACCO (a.k.a Tom Fec). Interestingly, their collaboration with TOBACCO can be traced to a Stargazer Lilies show a couple of years ago. “It just hit me they were way heavier than they seem,” TOBACCO explains in press notes. “And that wasn’t translating in their recordings. Their old stuff is panoramic and smooth; I wanted 3D and bumpy.”

Wanting to help get the duo where they all felt they wanted to be, Fec signed the band to his Rad Cult Records imprint and agreed to work on their third album. But not right away though. He let Cep and Field work on the material in their own idiosyncratic image first.  When the members of Stargazer Lilies had completed things on their end with eight raw and primal tracks, Fec then stepped in to distort, bend and burn the material’s overall sound even further.

Cep likens the creative process behind Occabot to what Andy Warhol did with pop art prints and The Velvet Undgeround and Nico. “Lou [Reed] said Andy was the best producer because he basically let the group do whatever the fuck they wanted. Tom did a similar thing with us; he let us have complete creative control, then added splashes of color and made it rough around the edges. Those embellishments make his artistic stamp on the project unmistakable, but leave the essence of our music very much intact.”

“Living Work of Art,” Occabot‘s boundary pushing single finds TOBACCO scrubbing the song with sandpaper then mangling Field’s and Cep’s work in a blender and throwing it into an acid bath while still retaining the hazy shoegazer quality of their previous work. Sonically you’ll hear blasts of hi-hat driven drums skittering across a thick wave of heavily distorted guitars that sound like broken and fuzzy synths while Field’s vocals ethereally float over the mix. It’s shoegaze for the impending end of the world.

 

 

Led by its Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based creative mastermind, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist  Jordon Zadorozny, Blinker the Star initially began as solo recording project that eventually expanded into a trio that released two albums through A&M Records — 1995’s self-titled debut and 1996’s A Bourgeois Kitten. Throughout that period, the band toured steadily, building up a profile nationally and elsewhere.

In 1997, Zadorozny relocated from Montreal to Los Angeles, where he worked with Courtney Love, helping craft songs for Hole’s acclaimed Celebrity Skin. He also began soaking up new influences and became progressively fascinated with production. Signing with Dreamworks in 1999, the band, which featured Zadorozny, Failure’s Kelli Scott (drums), longtime bassist Pete Frolander and a collective of Southern California-based session musicians recorded and released their critically applauded August Everywhere. The band toured across North America with Our Lady Peace, Sloan, Failure and The Flaming Lips. 

Returning to Pembroke in 2002, Zadorozny built his first commercial recording studio and began working with Sam Roberts, producing and contributing drums on Roberts’ breakthrough debut EP The Inhuman Condition. The Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer also worked on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Chris Cornell, Lindsey Buckingham and others.

During the winter of 2013, Zadorozny wrote and recorded Still In Rome as a duo with Kelli Scott. Following a brief tour, he quickly settled into the production side, working on a number of collaborative projects including Digital Noise Academy, SheLoom, Abbey and The Angry Moon. He was also kept busy with production work with an eclectic array of artists.

We Draw Lines was the first Blinker The Star album that Zadorozny wrote and recorded as a solo project in quite some time. He followed We Draw Lines with Songs from Laniakea Beach, a one-off single “Future Fires” the 11235 EP and 2017’s 8 of Hearts. Continuing a run of recent prolificacy, Zodorozny’s latest Blinker The Star album Careful With Your Magic is slated for a September 20, 2019 release.

Careful With Your Magic‘s latest single is the  synth-driven and anthemic “Sweet Nothing.” Centered around a sinuous bass line, twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, blasts of shimmering guitars, a soaring hook and Zadorozny’s plaintive crooning, the song seems indebted to 80s synth pop — in particular Thompson Twins and Tears for Fears immediately come to mind. And while there’s a similar attention to craft, the song comes from a deeply personal and lived-in place, as the song’s narrator recognizes that they’re at a crossroads: do they grow up and take a chance on a relationship that could transform their life — or do they retreat back to single life? At some point, we all face this and the uncertainties of that decision.

“My new single ‘Sweet Nothing’ was written by myself and my good friend Bob Wilcox,” Jordon Zodorozny says in press notes. “The song started as an instrumental track that I completed where I was sort of aiming for a Thompson Twins vibe. Bob heard the music and immediately had melodic and lyrical ideas. Although Bob wrote all of the words, I feel he was tuning into some things that were happening in my life that made it quite easy for me to get behind when the time came to sing it.”

 

 

 

Earlier this year, I wrote about the New York-based rock/punk act Baby Shakes.  The act, which is currently comprised of Mary  (lead vocals), Judy (guitar, vocals), Claudia (bass, vocals) and Ryan (drums) was formed back in 2005. And since their formation, they’ve released a handful of one-off singles, a singles compilation, a 10 inch heart-shaped EP and three albums that have firmly established their sound and aesthetic — a sound that generally draws from Ramones, Chuck Berry, 60s Motown-era girl groups with melodic vocals, fuzzy and distorted power chords and enormous hooks within breakneck songs.

The members of the band have toured across the US, Japan, China, Ireland, the UK and the European Union and shared stages with the likes of The Romantics, The Boys, The Shadows of Knight, The Undertones, The Barracudas, Protex, Black Lips, Paul Collins’ Beat, Iggy Pop and a growing list of others. Now, as you may recall, Baby Shakes’ latest effort Cause a Scene is slated for release next week, and the album is reportedly inspired by and indebted to the original wave of punk — in particular, The Nerves, The Kids, early Bangles and The Go-Gos, The Runaways, as well as the Ramones.

Nowhere Fast,” the album’s first single was a breakneck bit of fuzzy, old school punk with an infectious power pop-like hook that reminded me of a seamless synthesis of Ramones and The Go-Gos. The album’s second single,  “Love Song In Reverse” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor: it’s all fuzzy and distorted power chords and enormous hooks. And while clocking in at a little over two minutes — roughly 2:25 in this case — the song manages to be an infectious mixture of sugary sweet pop confection and sleazy barroom rock.

 

 

 

I’ve written quite a bit about the Newcastle, UK-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sam Fender over the past 12-15 months or so. And in that same period, the rapidly rising British singer/songwriter and guitarist has received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for crafting rousingly anthemic, arena rock-like material with a broad focus on hard-hitting social issues — while also drawing from his own experiences growing up in Northeastern England.

This year may be a breakthrough year for the Newcastle-born and-based JOVM mainstay. His highly-anticipated full-length debut Hypersonic Missiles is slated for a September 13, 2019 relates through Interscope Records. Recorded and produced at Fender’s self-built North Shields-based warehouse studio, with longtime friend, producer and collaborator Bramwell Bronte, the album is reportedly fueled by Fender’s long-held belief that great guitar music with enormous hooks still has the power to influence people and change lives — and to even better themselves and change the world.

Hypersonic Missiles last official single “The Borders” continues an incredible run of pop anthems. While being slickly produced, the track is centered around deeply heartfelt and earnest songwriting and singing, shimmering guitars, a soulful horn solo, arpeggiated synths and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook. And while sonically the song is essentially one part Born in the USA-era Bruce Springsteen, one part Reckless-era Bryan Adams and Billy Idol and Rebel Yell-era Billy Idol, the song’s narrator tells a story about two boys growing up together as best friends and brothers-in-arms but who then go their separate ways. Throughout there are memories inferred and implied but not completely addressed, the wistful and halcyon-tinged nostalgia of people, places and times you can never get back. It’s a track that’s both personal and lived-in, yet universal and anthemic — and to hear that from a songwriter as young as Fender is a rare gift.

Fender will be embarking on a roughly month-long tour of the States. The tour will include an October 17, 2019 stop at The Bowery Ballroom. I saw Fender earlier this year at Rough Trade, and I can tell you that if he’s in your town, you should catch him. The guy is gonna blow up.

Tour Dates:
September 25 – Seattle, WA – Crocodile Cafe
September 26 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
September 28 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
September 30 – West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
October 3 – Dallas, TX – Dada
October 4 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
October 6 – Denver, CO – Globe Hall
October 8 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
October 10 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
October 12 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
October 14 – Montreal, QC – L’Astral
October 15 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
October 17 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
October 19 – Harrisburg, PA – Harrisburg University
October 20 – Washington, DC – U Street Music Hall
November 22 – Academy, Manchester SOLD OUT
November 23 – Guild of Students, Liverpool SOLD OUT
November 26 – Rock City, Nottingham SOLD OUT
November 27 – O2 Academy, Glasgow SOLD OUT
November 28 – O2 Academy, Leeds SOLD OUT
 November 30 – Dome, Brighton SOLD OUT
December 1 – O2 Academy, Bournemouth SOLD OUT
December 3 – Pavilions, Plymouth
December 4 – O2 Academy, Bristol SOLD OUT
December 5 – O2 Academy, Birmingham SOLD OUT
December 7 – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT
December 8 – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT
December 10 – O2 Academy Brixton, London SOLD OUT
December 11 – O2 Academy Brixton, London
December 13 – Great Hall, Cardiff SOLD OUT
December 16 – Dublin, Olympia SOLD OUT
December 17 – Ulster Hall, Belfast SOLD OUT
December 19 – O2 Academy, Sheffield SOLD OUT
December 21 – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT
December 22 – O2 Academy, Newcastle SOLD OUT