Category: indie rock

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Geowulf Releases a Shimmering and Self-Assured Pop Gem

I’ve written quite a bit about Geowulf over the past few years. Comprised of Noosa, Australia-born friends and collaborators, Star Kendrick and Toma Benjamin, have known each other since they were teenagers; however, their musical collaboration is a relatively recent development that can be traced to when Kendrick enlisted the assistance of her old friend to flesh out some of her early demos. 

The duo released a string of highly successful, critically applaud singles that included “Saltwater,” which received over 1 million Spotify streams and reached Hype Machine‘s Top Ten and landed at #4 on Spotify’s US Viral Charts; the Mazzy Star meets  Fleetwood Mac-like “Don’t Talk About You;” the  Phil Spector meets Still Corners “Drink Too Much;”  the jangling, 60s girls group pop-inspired single “Hideaway,;” and The Smiths-like “Sunday,” the JOVM mainstays released their Duncan Mills-produced, full-length debut, Great Big Blue last year.

Building on the growing profile, the duo’s highly anticipated sophomore album My Resignation is slated for an October 25, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings, and the album finds the Aussie JOVM mainstays collaborating with acclaimed songwriter and producer Justin Parker on a number of tracks. Reportedly, the album finds Kendrick writing arguably some of the most brutally honest lyrics of the duo’s growing catalog to date. In fact, the material thematically focuses on loneliness — in particular, learning how to accept it and love the space and self-awareness it can provide. But naturally, the material is written through the lens of a 20-something woman trying to maneuver the weight of the expectations put upon by others and herself. Along with that, the album also deals with heartbreak. Of course that all should sound familiar and it should because all of us have been there at some point or another. In other words, the album finds the duo maturing and attempting to maneuver the complexities and uncertainties of adulthood with their sanity and dignity intact. 

My Resignation’s fourth and latest single “Lonely” is an incredibly self-assured bit of radio friendly and sugary pop, centered around jangling guitars, atmospheric synths, thumping drumming and Kendrick’s sultry crooning, but the song finds its narrator coming to a profound realization — that it’s better to be lonely and find yourself than to be lost and lonely with someone else. The song’s narrator also seems to be growing more confident within herself and within her own skin. It’s arguably one of the most mature and adult sentiments the duo have put to wax so far. 

“In a way, ‘Lonely’ epitomizes a lot of what this album means to me . . .” Geowulf’s Star Kendrick explains in press notes. “A bold and welcomed acceptance of myself and my own company. Feeling less and less like I need the approval of others. That’s one of the many nice things about getting a bit older.” 

The recently released video was shot on grainy Super 8mm film and it features Kendrick is a sparsely arranged room, wearing a gorgeous red, satin gown with matching veil. As she sings the song to herself, she takes off the gown and completes the song in just a plain bra and pair of panties. Essentially, the video finds Kendrick disposing of superficialities to get to the heart of the matter — her growing comfort with herself. 

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Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada-based indie rock act Hey Major, comprised of sibling multi-instrumentalists Mickaël and Raphaël Fortin initially formed under the name Orange O’Clock — and back in 2015, competed against 3,000 Canadian acts in CBC’s Searchlight competition, eventually winning the contest with their single “Can’t Fight the Feeling.”  The following year, the Fortins traveled to Nashville and competed in the International Songwriting Competition, eventually landing second place with their song “Wax ‘n’ Wane.”

Adding to a growing national and international profile, the first single off Crazy Carnival was added to Grant Lawrence‘s monthly “Songs You Need to Hear” playlist — and was promoted on NPR, BBC Radio 1 and CBC music.

Earlier this year, the up-and-coming Canadian sibling duo went on a month-long Australian tour. And upon returning to Canada, the duo holed up at Montreal’s Indica Studios to finish their forthcoming Peter Edwards and Franz Schuller co-produced album  The Station.  Interestingly, the album’s third and latest single is the brooding “The Station.” Centered around a soaring hook, twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, dynamic and propulsive drumming, the Canadian duo’s latest track reminds me quite a bit of Danish JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, as the single finds the duo pairing an elegant and deliberate attention and to craft, and deep introspection with ambitious songwriting.

“This song is an introspective track, describing a moment between two people and what they could have been, but knowing deep inside that they will never be,” the Canadian sibling duo explain via email. “It’s a journey of change and enlightenment through love stories, struggles, encounters and wishes for humanity. That was the inspiration.”

New Video: RVG Releases Feverish and Surreal Visual for Anthemic “Alexandria”

In 2004, the Adelaide, Australia-born singer/songwriter Romy Vager left her hometown, a teenaged goth kid runaway drawn to Melbourne, Australia. Upon arriving in Melbourne, Vager’s first band Sooky La La wrote material centered around anger and discordance. They were misunderstood, never found a following and they routinely cleared rooms. Eventually, the band broke up and Vager committed herself to write songs that people would actually like and want to listen to — doing what countless other aspiring songwriters hope to do: match alienation and loneliness to melody and introspection to enormous hooks and refrains. 

For a while, she was living at The Bank an erstwhile recording, rehearsal and performance space that took over an old bank building in Preston, Australia, a suburb about six miles from Melbourne. The Bank was a scene unto itself: bands like Jalala, Gregor and Hearing all played there, practiced there and lived there. Living in an enormous house surrounded by musicians, who were constantly working and refining their work was profoundly inspiring to Vager. 

In September 2015, Vager launched a tape of solo material that hadn’t actually been pressed and landed her first solo show at The Bank’s downstairs performance space. She recruited Drug Sweat’s and The Galaxy Folk’s Angus Bell, her Bank neighbor, Gregor’s and Hearing’s Reuben Bloxham and Rayon Moon’s Marc Nolte to be a one-off backing band. But as the story goes, once they played together, they all realized — without having to actually say it — that they were a band. Initially forming as Romy Vager Group, the band shortened it to RVG. 

The members of RVG recorded their full-length debut A Quality of Mercy live off the floor at Melbourne’s beloved and iconic rock ‘n’ roll pub, The Tote Hotel. Initially released to little fanfare — no press releases, no music videos, no press photos of the band or any other industry standard press push, their full-length debut, featured material heavily inspired by the likes of The Go-Betweens, The Soft Boys and The Smiths and centered by Vager’s passionate and achingly vulnerable vocals. Much to the band’s surprise, A Quality of Mercy won them attention and praise across their native Australia and elsewhere. The band signed to Fat Possum Records, who re-issued A Quality of Mercy, which helped them achieve a growing international profile. And building upon it, the band has toured across the world with the likes of Shame and Kurt Vile.

While much has changed in the professional and personal lives of Vager and her bandmates, the world has become an increasingly dire and fucked up place with hate, pessimism, greater inequality and economic insecurity as part of an old, new normal. Artists across the world are responding in a variety of ways. Interestingly, RVG’s latest single, the Victor Van Vugt-produced “Alexandria,” was part of handful of songs that Vager wrote as a response in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and Trump. And as a result, the song is ardent and urgent. Centered around subtle layers of jangling guitars, pummeling drums, a rousing and anthemic hook and Vager’s plaintive and earnest howl, the new song gives the band a subtle studio sheen without scrubbing the material’s grit and emotional center — Vager’s earnest, gravelly howl. “Alexandra is a song which came together quickly, but which felt like it uncompromisingly needed to be recorded,” Vager told The Fader. “The lyrics, [which] describe a story of personal oppression at the hands of one’s community, [are] an allegory for the broader oppression marginalized people are subjected to.”

Directed by Triana Hernandez, the recently released, brooding and cinematic visual follows the shellshocked members of RVG drive to a local hotel, drinking copious amounts of tea, brooding in various hotel rooms and urgently performing the song in the hotel. It’s a feverish and surreal dream. 

New Video: Southern California’s Fellow Robot Releases a Disturbing Visual for New Single

Fellow Robot is a Southern California-based indie rock quintet, whose work is thematically centered around the dynamics between robots and humans. The band recently released their full-length debut, The Robot’s Guide to Music, Volume 1 and the album’s latest single is the anthemic “So What.” Built around an arrangement that features layers of guitar, propulsive drumming, a soaring, arena rock friendly hook and plaintive vocals, the song sonically speaking — to my ears at least — brings Pablo Honey and The Bends-era Radiohead to mind. 

Directed by Anjela Vega, the recently released video is one extremely long take of a dinner party that quickly becomes rather disturbing. And in our age of constant danger the video has a rather unsettling air. 

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the Brooklyn-based indie rock act Big Cheese. And since their formation back in 2012, the band has released two albums — 2014’s Loose Teeth and 2016’s Supersonic Nothing, which have helped them establish a reputation for crafting 90s alt rock-inspired fuzz pop ant=hems paired with sarcasm and irony soaked lyrics.

Now, as you may recall, the band’s forthcoming Oliver Ignatius-produced third full-length album, Wild to Be Born is slated for a September 13, 2019 release. Deriving its title from the untamed sentiment of the album’s material — and an overall feeling of being ravenous for some kind of awakened, the album, which was recorded at Holy Fang Studios reportedly finds the band expanding their sound with the material drawing from Amerciana, grunge and several other genres and styles. I’ve written about two album singles so far:  the anthemic “Golden.” a mosh-pit friendly bit of fuzz pop that brought Dinosaur, Jr., JOVM mainstays Dead Stars and The Colour and the Shape-era Foo Fighters to mind — and the grunge rock-inspired “Filthy Rich.” The album’s latest single “In This World” is centered by a propulsive and rolling bass line, thunderous drumming, slashing guitar lines and ironically delivered lyrics, making it the most post punk-like and forward thinking song off the album to date

 

 

New Audio: Acclaimed Dream Pop Act Cigarettes After Sex Release a Hauntingly Spectral Single

Currently comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Greg Gonzalez (vocals, guitar) with Jacob Tomsky (drums) and Randy Miller (bass), the acclaimed Brooklyn-based dream pop act Cigarettes After Sex can trace their origins back to when Gonzalez formed the band in El Paso. TX back in 2008. Their debut EP, 2012’s I received some attention when “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” became a sleeper hit of sorts, after it was licensed for use in commercials.

With the release of 2017’s self-titled debut, Cigarettes After Sex quickly became international sensations. Since its release the album as sold over 550,000 records to date, amassed over 360 million Spotify streams, 2.2 million monthly listeners and 350 million YouTube streams. They’ve been featured in a number of major media outlets including Vice Noisey, V Magazine, Interview, NPR’s Tiny Desk — and their music has appeared in The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve and in a Ralph Lauren ad campaign. Additionally, Taylor Swift, Kylie Jenner, Lana Del Rey, Françoise Hardy, Lily Allen, Busy Phillips and a long list of others have claimed to be fans of the band’s work. 

During the week of their full-length debut’s release, the members of the Cigarettes After Sex traveled to Mallorca, Spain. And naturally, each of the band’s individual members consciously let the striking location guide what was to become the initial sessions for their forthcoming sophomore album Cry. “The sound of this record is completely tied to the location for me,” Greg Gonzalez explains in press notes. “Ultimately, I view this record as a film. It was shot in this stunning, exotic location, and it stitches all these different characters and scenes together, but in the end is really about romance, beauty and sexuality. It’s a very personal telling of what those things mean to me.” 

While the instrumentation came about quickly — often improvised on the spot — it would be another two years before Gonzalez would attempt to complete the material’s accompanying lyrics. Slated for an October 25, 2019 release through Partisan Records, Cigarettes After Sex’s highly-anticipated sophomore album is influenced by a new, burgeoning romantic relationship, the films of Eric Rohmer and the work of Selena and Shania Twain. Thematically, the material is a cinematic and brooding meditation on the many complex facets of love — meeting, wanting, needing and losing .  . . sometimes simultaneously. But interestingly enough, Cry will find the band blending the carnal subtly of its predecessor with a warmer sonic palette. 

Cry’s first single is the spectral yet lush “Heavenly.” Centered around Gonzalez’s achingly tender and vulnerable falsetto, hushed and shuffling drumming, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook, the song sonically reminds me a bit of Mazzy Star’s smash hit “Fade Into You.” And much like  “Fade Into You,” “Heavenly” is a feverish, narcoleptic dream that expresses a wild, desperate, swooning longing — the sort that mixes devotion, obsession, love and lust into a confusing and wonderful blur.  Of course, the song finds the band managing to craft material that’s as intimate as whispered, sweet  nothings to a lover while possessing a cinematic (and larger than life) quality.  As the band’s Greg Gonzalez explains, the song was “inspired by the overwhelming beauty I felt watching an endless sunset on a secluded beach in Latvia one summer night…”

New Video: Montreal’s Corridor Releases a Hallucinogenic and Whimsical Visual for “Topographe”

With the release of 2015’s Le Voyage Éternel and 2017’s Supermercado, the Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor — longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar) and Julien Bakvis (drums) — quickly won attention across the Francophone world and elsewhere, as they received glowing praise from the likes of NPR and Vice, who referred to Supermercado as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ”  Last year, building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the Quebecois band toured across Europe and made their Stateside debut with appearances at SXSW and Northside Music Festival. Shortly after, they returned to the States, touring with British post-punk act Shame. 

This year, the band opened for Crumb on a sold-out Stateside tour, and they’ve already made appearances at the London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival. Adding to an already busy year, the band’s third full-length album Junior is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Sub Pop Records, making them the first Francophone band that the renowned indie label has ever signed.  Junior, which continues their ongoing collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Either finds the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity. Although the members of Corridor had just signed to their new label, the band firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album every two years. Sub Pop gently warned the band that if they wanted to release new material this fall that they needed material by May 10. 

So with the ink barely dried on the finalized deal, the members of Corridor went into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired blitz, finishing the album in mid-April. Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the lyrics to “Bang” written on the eve of the sessions, as the band’s Jonathan Robert began to panic. And as a result, the album’s material features fewer expansive jams, fewer overdubs. Even the album’s artwork came in the nick of time: in spite of other, meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received, Robert’s “shitty last minute collage” (of an egg saying hello) was the one his bandmates went for. “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions. 

Frequently, the songs that manage to be difficult to describe on on hand, yet remarkably accessible catch a hold on my ears and attention. Junior’s first single, “Topographe” is a breakneck gallop centered around jittering and jangling guitars, propulsive drumming,  and reverb-drenched call and response vocals. It’s a muscular swoon that seems to evoke the fluttering pangs of first love. And while being a remarkably urgent track, the song possesses a timeless quality because it’s a deliberately crafted bit of material that also liberally borrows from several decades of rock — particularly, jangle pop, shoegaze, psych rock and so on. 

Directed by the band’s Jonathan Robert, the recently released animated video for “Topographe” features the members band in a Wes Anderson meets Monty Python-like world that’s full of hallucinogenic and surreal whimsy. “While I’ve explored and mixed many different techniques in my past music videos, it’s the first time that I took the process this far, blending all of them together in one place,” Robert explains. “It’s a melting pot of stop motion, green screen, illustration, animation, collage, and live video. It’s the visual equivalent of the progression of the song, a simple idea that takes amplitude through repetition.”

New Video: Mark Lanegan Releases a Hallucinogenic Visual for “Night Flight to Kabul”

Over the past few years, I’ve spilled a fair share of virtual ink covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as the frontman and founding member of Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others.

As a solo artist, Lanegan has released 10 critically applauded albums that have seen a fair amount of commercial success. (Ironically, his solo work has seen much more commercial success than his work with Screaming Trees.) The Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay’s tenth solo album Gargoyle was a collaboration between him, British-born and-based musician Rob Marshall and longtime collaborator, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alain Johannes. That album’s material was both an expansion and refinement of the Krautrock-tinged blues of his two preceding albums  2012’s Blues Funeral and 2014’s Phantom Radio.

Somebody’s Knocking, Lanegan’s 11th full-length solo album is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Heavenly Recordings, and the album’s material finds the acclaimed singer/songwriter turning to some of his most formative musical influences and loves — electronic music. “I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan says in press notes. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Somebody’s Knocking came together during an 11 day session in Los Angeles, much of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including the album’s two other writing partners Martin Jenkins, who records as Pye Corner Audio and the aforementioned Rob Marshall, who contribute some newer, murkier forms. Reportedly, Lanegan approached working with each of the album’s writing partners from the perspective and lens of a fan and interpreter. 

Lyrically speaking, the album purportedly sets the listener down multiple rabbit holes, as Lanegan paints psychedelic pictures inspired by the music. “I feel like I write lyrics instinctively. I let the melody come first and then it tells me what the words are going to be and I write whatever feels appropriate,” Lanegan says in press notes. “That said, I’m also influenced by everything I’m into. I don’t usually like to talk about what a song means to me; I prefer that the people who connect with a song do so with their own interpretation. It never crossed my mind what Neil Young meant by After The Gold Rush, only the personal movie it created in my head. My entire life, all the music that I’ve connected to has drawn me in like that. Joy Division, Nick Drake, Son House, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Gun Club… all the music that meant the most to me, the music that saved my life was the music that told my own story back to me.”

Naturally, some aspects of the real world can’t help but seep their way into the album’s material. “It seems to me that the entire world is in a weird, precarious place right now,” the Ellensburg-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “I try to not be someone in a constant state of worry and alarm but watching the massive divide that is taking place and the political situations, especially in the US and UK makes me think, ‘what the fuck are these idiots thinking?’ The hatred, racism and all this other fear-driven shit, these ‘adults’ that continually drive the machine that perpetuates this ignorance to their own ends should all be in the prison cells instead of the non-violent drug “offenders” in them now. I can’t specifically say how any of this effects my writing but I know that most of the things that occupy my thoughts have a way of coming back out in a song.”

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about the bluesy-Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen-like “Letter Never Sent.” The album’s latest single “Night Flight to Kabul” may arguably one of  be the album’s more dance floor friendly tracks, as it’s centered around thumping, four-on-the-floor drumming, rumbling bass lines, shimmering and skronky guitars, a tight motorik groove and Lanegan’s imitable croon. In some way, the song will likely remind listeners a bit of a bluesy take on the likes of Gary Numan and New Order. But lyrically, the song evokes a hallucinatory and surrealist fever dream, in which things aren’t quite what they seem. 

Directed by Dean Karr, the recently released video for “Night Flight to Kabul” is a hallucinogenic and feverish dream. ‘“The artistry and genius of Dean Karr is what made this video happen,” Mark Lanegan says in press notes. “5,000 still photographs taken in eight hours were painstakingly put together to give the appearance of a strange wraithlike figure moving weirdly through the desolate landscape of the Salton Sea. My third video with Dean in three different decades and I have to say this was the best. The most artistically challenging and satisfying.”

“We had been talking about doing this video for ‘Night Flight to Kabul’ for a month or two and my only concern was how could I pull this off with such a challenging budget for my friend?” The video’s director, Dean Karr adds in press notes. “Being a photographer before I was ever a director, I decided to use my Nikon D810 still camera for the entire music video and turn it into animation throughout the entire clip. What a simple solution! There’s lots of post work involved, which was done by editor and FX artist Joel Nathaniel Smith. There’s alot to be said for the simplicity of working WITHOUT a crew, it was just Mark, myself and a fan of Mark’s (Jason Hall) who drove 3 hours out of his way to meet us at the The Salton Sea, CA to help us shoot a beyond unique video! I think this is one of the freshest looking things out there today and love the ‘melty’ moments, which remind me of doing hallucinogenics back in the day!”