BLVK IRIS is an up-and-coming Danish electronic music artist and electronic producer and his debut single single “Put It On” is a sultry, slow-urning, Quiet Storm-inspired pop song featuring a sinuous bass line, shimmering and wobbling synths, an anthemic hook and the warm, interwoven male and female vocals of New York-based vocalists Janelle Kroll and Jeuru. And while being an incredibly sensual song with both vocalists expressing a yearning and urgent sexual desire and longing, the slickly produced, swaggering song also nods at 90s R&B and contemporary R&B simultaneously.
Last month, I wrote about the Oklahoma City, OK-based indie rock/psych rock quartet SPACE4LEASE. Comprised of primary songwriter and founding member Grayson Hamm (keys, lead vocals), along with Walt Blythe (guitar), Brandon Brewer (bass, vocals) and Wes Belk (drums), the Oklahoman indie rockers can trace their origins to when Hamm met his bandmates while they were all attending the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. And although they all had vastly different musical backgrounds and differing musical tastes, the band’s sound manages to be a convergence of all of their influences including Tame Impala, My Morning Jacket, Big Thief, Andy Shauf and others; however, unlike their eclectic influences, their material lyrically focuses on lost love, the unknown, and inevitable life experiences. With the release of their debut EP Hiraeth, an effort that focused on the complicated process of self-discovery, the members of the Oklahoma City-based quartet toured extensively across the Midwest last year, eventually winning the praise of The Flaming Lips‘ Derek Brown, who described them as “Fellow Okies that wonderfully mix the blissfulness and melancholy of the great wide open.”
And as you may recall “Must Be Something” was a moody and atmospheric bit of psych rock that featured some lush, shimmering guitar work, a sinuous and propulsive bass line and a rousingly anthemic hook that reminded me of JOVM mainstays Caveman, Los Angeles-based indie rock act Hands and others but inspired by the endless possibility of the road, of the profound sensation of being “a man from far away,” seeing, eating, experiencing things you’d never expect and how it can change and influence your life. As the band’s Grayson Hamm explained in press notes, “Coming from a small town, I never had the experience of the big city life, but surprisingly it wasn’t these destinations that intrigued me the most. It was the journey, and the miles, and time it took to get there. Once we were out on the road all by ourselves just driving and seeing the countryside, this quest of finding myself really started to take effect. This is where the premise of the chorus let alone the whole song comes into play. ‘There must be something in the way how, there’s nothing standing in our way now.’ I started to realize that the only barrier that was standing in the way was myself. The world was just waiting for me.”
The band’s latest single “Lately” finds the band drawing from classic, Quiet Storm-era R&B, indie rock and blue eyed soul in a way that reminds me of Milagres’ exceptional first two albums Glowing Mouth and Violent Light — and much like the material off of those albums, there’s the push and pull of infatuation, lust, love and heartache at the core of a confusing relationship that at times is unrequited and other times is requited; but as the band’s primary songwriter Grayson Hamm notes, there’s also an underlying questioning of one’s own worth, which love can make you do on occasion. As he explains in press notes, “The lyrics came to me one day after experiencing the all-too-common feeling of falling for someone without reciprocation. The truth is, I didn’t know what I was getting into and probably will never fully understand it. We have all experienced that uncomfortable moment in which we have stronger feelings for someone than they have for us, even if we refuse to admit it out of embarrassment or shame. I’ve reached the point multiple times in my life where I ask the question, ‘Who I am to you? How does this person see me compared to how I see them?’ This cyclical pattern is emotionally exhausting, so I decided to channel these feelings the best way I know how: though the process of songwriting. ‘Lately’ is all about asking these difficult questions. Sometimes it is more helpful to look introspectively rather than to direct the questions toward the one we might be falling for.”
Last year, I wrote a bit about the critically acclaimed, Melbourne, Australia-based indie rock/indie pop act Teeth & Tongue. Comprised of New Zealand-born, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Jess Cornelius, guitarist Marc Regueiro-McKelvie, bassist Damian Sullivan and drummer James Harvey, the quartet initially began as a solo recording project of its founding member Jess Cornelius, and over the course of the four albums, the band developed a reputation for restless experimentation with their sound morphing from an ambient and textured sound to a wiry, dance floor-friendly post-punk inspired by Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ It’s Blitz!, as you would hear on Give Up on Your Health, an album that received attention both nationally and internationally — it was nominated for a J Award and the Australian Music Prize, named Album of the Week on 3RRR and Featured Album on Double J, as well as features in Rolling Stone, The Fader and Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter.
09/08: Pianos – New York, NY*
09/13: Arlene’s Grocery – New York, NY*
09/15: Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY*
With the release of the attention grabbing single “Rose Coloured Glasses” off their debut EP, Melbourne, Australia-based indie rock quintet Smoke Rings saw a rapidly growing national profile, thanks to airplay and praise from Triple J‘s Richard Kingsmill and Dom Alessio, along with airplay on Triple J’s sister station Double J and community radio stations. Adding to a growing profile, the band has played shows with a number of nationally recognized bands in their homeland including Northeast Party House, Moses Gunn Collective, Green Buzzard, Jarrow and Good Boy — and they have upcoming tour dates with Siamese and Ali Barter throughout September and October.
Produced by Malcolm Besley, who has worked with City Calm Down and The Creases, the Aussie quintet’s latest single “Happiness” off their double A side 7 inch “Go To Hell” will further cement their reputation in Oz for crating anthemic, power chord-based, Brit Pop-inspired tunes, complete with the same sort of swaggering bombast and bitter irony. And while being warmly familiar — the track will remind some folks of Blur, Oasis and others — the Melbourne-based quintet have a subtle yet unique take to it, as the song carries an earnest yearning within its core.
Perhaps best known for a stint in synth punk act POW!, Aaron Diko is an Indianapolis, IN-born, Bay Area-based electronic musician, who recently returned to his hometown to record a series of solo material and collaborations with longtime friends’ Creeping Pink‘s Landon Caldwell, Mitch Duncan and Burnt Ones’ Mark Tester in a recording project that Diko has dubbed DDCT.
DDCT’s self-titled full-length debut is slated for release Friday through Empty Cellar Records and Medium Sound, and the album’s first single “Tracks” features undulating and cascading layers of vintage synths paired with buzzing power chords and a motorik groove bolstered by four-on-the-floor drum programming, and while clearly drawing from Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, the composition and its resulting recording manages to nod at space rock but with free-flowing improvised feel, capturing a group of musicians playing and grabbing onto a groove with a “you-are-there” immediacy.
Over the past five or six years of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about the London, UK-based indie rock quintet and JOVM mainstays The Horrors. And as you may recall, the British blogosphere darlings comprised of of Faris Badwan (vocals), Joshua Hayward (guitar), Tom Cowan (aka Tom Furse) (keys and synths), Rhys Webb (bass) and Joe Spurgeon (drums, percussion), can trace their origins back to the early 00s, and to a shared interest in obscure vinyl collecting, DJ’ing, and a mutual love of 60s garage rock, and 70s and 80s New Wave and post-punk — in particular, The Birthday Party and Bauhaus. In fact, as the story goes, the band’s founding trio met during repeated trips back and forth between their hometown from their hometown Southend-on-Sea and London.
By 2005, the British indie rock band’s founding trio recruited Haywood and Spurgeon to complete the band’s lineup and began rehearsing, and reportedly their first rehearsal together featured two covers — The Sonics’ “The Witch” and Screaming Lord Sutch’s “Jack the Ripper,” interpreted in the tradition of previous garage rock covers such as those by The Fuzztones, The Gruesomes and others. Unsurprisingly, their 2007 debut, Strange House featured their garage rock take on “Jack the Ripper” as its opening track; however, it was the album’s first two official singles “Sheena Is a Parasite” and “Death at the Chapel” that caught the attention of music journalists, music critics and fans. And since then, each of the band’s albums — their aforementioned 2007 debut, 2009’s Primary Colours, 2011’s Skying and 2014’s Luminous — have garnered both critical praise and commercial success, as they have all charted within the UK Top 40. Along with that, Skying and Luminous received international attention, including attention from this site.
V, The Horrors’ aptly titled fifth studio album is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through Wolftone Records/Caroline Records and while being the band’s first batch of material in three years, the Paul Epworth-produced album finds the band experimenting and expanding with the sound that’s won them national and international attention over the past two albums; in fact, the album’s first official single “Machine” seems to have the British indie rockers incorporating elements of the Manchester sound — in particular, Evil Heat-era Primal Scream, the abrasive, industrial electronica of Nine Inch Nails and Earthling-era David Bowie while retaining the band’s rousing and anthemic hooks; but by far, the song may be among the most swaggering and assertive songs of their growing catalog.
“Something to Remember Me By,” V’s second and latest single is a propulsive and trance-inducing, dance floor-friendly track that features a sinuous bass line paired with shimmering and cascading layers of synths, four-on-the floor drumming and a soaring hook — and to my ears, the latest track seems to have the band drawing influence from late period New Order — i.e., Get Ready and Music Complete — with an underlying, swooning Romanticism, making it arguably their most instantly memorable song they’ve released to date.
Damocles is a rather mysterious Leicester, UK-based electronic music artist and producer, who according to his Twitter page, “uses technology to create different genres of music but with a coherent running thread.” His latest single “Entertainment Business Control” is a dance floor-friendly, classic house and 80s New Wave-inspired track featuring thumping 808s, cascading synths, and a looped, soulful vocal sample paired with PSA-styled vocals warning people that dancing is now against the law. And while sonically, the Leicester-based electronic music artist and producer’s sound manages to nod at Big Audio Dynamite — in particular think of “C’mon Everybody Beatbox” — but with a dry, winking, British irony.
Alice Merton is a Canadian-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Of course, music was a major part of her life, no matter where on earth she was — she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five and by the time she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. As the story goes, after spending the better part of a decade under classical training, Merton discovered songwriting through one of her high school courses while in Germany. And from that point forward, she went on to study songwriting and began pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.
Naturally, during her studies Merton worked with a number of producers and finding the right producer who both compliments and challenges a singer/songwriter in the way that a true collaborator — and in turn, a great producer — should do, is a rarity, and when she met Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the collaborative duo have specialized in pairing vintage, analog synthesizers with organic arrangements based around propulsive drum and bass. Unsurprisingly then, on Merton’s swaggering and (somewhat) bluesy debut single “No Roots,” Merton’s self-assured and soulful pop belter vocals are paired with a Rebscher production that features enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line, brief blasts of funk guitar, squiggly blasts of synths and a rousingly anthemic hook. And in some way, the song is a slick meshing of both the familiar and the unfamiliar, as the song sonically nods (a little bit) at Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Taylor Swift and a lengthy list of major pop star contemporaries; however, the song has a visceral ache, as it based on her own personal experiences, recognizing that her life was frequently thrown in disarray, she’s never been able to claim one place as a home.
Already “No Roots” has won the up-and-coming Merton an immense amount of attention both across the European Union and the States and elsewhere, as the song has already seen millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has recently been added to the playlists of several Stateside Adult Alternative Album radio stations, including stations in Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, the NYC area, as well as Sirius Alt Nation. And as a result of the action the single has seen, merton recently signed with Mom + Pop Music; but along with that, I suspect that over the next few months that we’ll be hearing this single quite a bit, and more from Merton, who seems destined to be a pop star.
Merton has a series of live dates across Germany throughout the end of August and the fall, and is planning stops across North America and elsewhere so be on the lookout; in the meantime, European friends, check out the live dates below.
08/25 Gamescon – Cologne, Germany
08/26 Laternenfest – Halle, Germany
09/9 Rennbahn Berlin Hoppegarten – Berlin, Germany
09/10 Lollapalooza Berlin – Berlin, Germany
09/14 SWR3 New Pop Festival – Baden Baden, Germany
09/15 NDR 2 Soundcheck Festival – Göttingen, Germany
9/20-23 Reeperbahn Festival – Hamburg, Germany
11/17 New Fall Festival – Düsseldorf, Germany
Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Grand Rapids, MI-based psych rock quartet HEATERS. Formed back in 2014, the Grand Rapids-based quartet began to make a name for themselves with the release of a handful of homemade EPs, a couple of split records and an attention grabbing appearance on Stolen Body‘s Vegetarian Meat psych rock compilation. Building upon a growing profile, the band’s Solstice EP was released through Dizzybird Records and they quickly followed that up within the following year with the “Mean Green” 7 inch and their full-length debut Holy Water Pool both of which were released through renowned, Brooklyn-based indie label Beyond Is Beyond Records. And with each of those efforts, the band receive greater and greater acclaim — as well as a growing international profile — for a spacey, motorik-like take on West Coast, 60s psych rock and garage rock.
Now, as you may recall, after the release of their sophomore effort Baptistina the band went through a massive lineup change in which the band’s founding members Nolan Krebs and Joshua Korf are currently paired with newest recruits Ryan Hagan and Ben Taber. And interestingly enough “Seance,” the first single off the band’s forthcoming third album Matterhorn retains the gorgeously shimmering guitar lines, propulsive, motorik-like groove and enveloping sound that first caught the attention of this site and the rest of the blogosphere; however, there’s a noticeably different energy and vibe to the proceedings — simply put, “Seance” reveals a band with a swaggering self-assuredness within what arguably may be their most expansive and ambitious songwriting.
Matterhorn‘s second and latest single “Thanksgiving II” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as it features the band’s propensity for crafting tight, motork grooves paired with shimmering guitar lines and ethereal vocals and while the song may arguably be the most trance-inducing and the largest, most arena rock friendly song they’ve written and released to date, the song slowly unfurls to reveal its creators’ ambitious and expansive songwriting, complete with a lysergic, power chord-based coda.
Michael J. Winningham is an Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who may be best known for a stint fronting indie rock act Gold Beach; however, his solo recording project Palo Duro is a radical sonic departure from his previous work with Winningham specializing in breezy, propulsive, funky, hook-laden synth pop reminiscent of Big Data and others, as you’ll hear on “Darken the Glow,” the latest single off his forthcoming album Ryou Cannon. But what sets Winningham apart from a crowded field of competitors is an deliberate and careful attention to craft paired with the swaggering self-assuredness of an old pro, who can make it look way too easy.
Edited by Cameron J. Smith, the recently released video for “Darken the Glow,” is a wild melange of Japanese television ads in which the album cover is quickly superimposed, and the result is an aesthetic that possesses the surreal logic of a fever dream while being a wildly mischievous take on commercialism and music as a prepackaged product to be marketed, bought and sold.