Category: New Audio

Corridor is an acclaimed Montreal-based indie rock JOVM mainstay outfit that has a long-held reputation for being earnest DIY enthusiasts: they design their own merch and create mind-bending animated videos for their incredibly catchy material.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you probably have picked up on the fact that I’ve had an obsession with French indie rock, French hip-hop and French pop that has been sparked into overdrive after spending time in Montreal for M for Montreal. During that same period I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering the Montreal-based JOVM mainstays.

With the release of their sophomore album 2017’s Supermercado, the band exploded into the international scene with the album receiving rapturous praise from NPR and from Vice, who wrote that 2017’s sophomore album  Supermercado was “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ” Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Francophone indie rockers spent the following year supporting the album with touring across Europe with stops at  London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival, before making their Stateside debut with stops at SXSW and Northside Festival. They capped off a busy year or so, with a sold-out Stateside tour with Crumb.

Corridor caught the attention of Sub Pop Records, who signed the band, making them the first Francophone act on the label. Their third album, and first for Sub Pop, 2019’s Emmanuel Ethier-produced Junior is fueled by a special sort of je ne sais quoi? that comes from self-imposed restraints: Although at the time, the band had just signed to the label, they had a firm commitment to releasing a new album every two years — and they had every intention on going through with it.

When the band informed Sub Pop of their intentions, the label gently informed the band that if they wanted to release new material that fall, they would have to send the label a finished album in early May. With the ink barely dried on the contract, and a deadline looming, the band — Jonathan Robert (vocals, guitar), Dominic Berthiaume (bass, vocals), Julian Perreault (guitar), and Julien Bakvis (drums) — went into the studio, furiously writing and recording material, never stopping to second guess themselves.

Six of he album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend, with the album closer “Bang” written the night before they were going to start recording. Because of the quick nature of the Junior sessions, the album features fewer expansive jams and less reliance on overdubs.  “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Dominic Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions. 

Sonically, the album is intimate yet immediate while revealing a band with a mischievously genre-defying approach: the material draws from post-punk, Komische Musik, jangle pop, dream pop and indie rock while being completely their own.

Junior was released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of BrooklynVegan, Clash, Paste, Stereogum, Exclaim! and a long list of others. The band supported the album with tours across Europe and North America that impressed fans and the cognoscenti, helping to establish the Québécois act as one of genre’s newest must-see acts. The tour and its shows went so well that they decided to make Samuel Gougoux, a live collaborator for the Junior tour, a full-time member.

The JOVM mainstays have returned with a new single “Et Hop,” their first bit of new material since Junior‘s release. Originally written during the Supermercado sessions, “Et Hop” was gathering dust in the band’s musical vault. Interestingly, when CISM, the student-run radio station at the University of Montreal asked if they wanted to release a song to celebrate the station’s 30th anniversary, the members of the band gave them “Et Hop,” a bit of old-timey jangle pop centered around the band’s unerring knack for gorgeous melodies paired with razor sharp hooks. But pay close attention! There are subtle nods to 60s psych rock and post punk throughout that should serve as a reminder that they never do anything in a straightforward fashion.

Corridor will be capping off the year with two previously announced shows in Montreal and Toronto in November. They’ve also added a handful of headlining Stateside dates in Spring 2022 that includes a March 31, 2022 stop at The Sultan Room. Check out the tour dates below.

Fall 2021
Fri. Nov. 19 – Montreal, QC – Fairmount Theatre
Fri. Nov. 26 – Toronto, ON – The Garrison
Spring 2022
Thu. Mar. 31 – Brooklyn, NY – Sultan Room
Fri. Apr. 01 – Philadelphia, PA – Milk Boy
Sun. Apr. 03 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
Fri. Apr. 08 – Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay MUNYA Tackles The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight Tonight”

I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the rising Québec-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Josie Boivin, the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded recording project and JOVM mainstay act MUNYA over the past couple of years.

And if you’ve been frequenting this site over that same period, you may recall that when Boivin was asked to play at 2017’s Pop Montreal, she had only written one song. Ironically, at the time, Boivin never intended to pursue music full-time; but after playing at the festival, she quickly realized that music was what she was meant to do. So, Boivin quit her day job, moved in with her sister and turned their kitchen into a home recording studio, where she wrote every day. Those recordings would become part of an EP trilogy with each individual EP named after a significant place in Boivin’s life: Her debut North Hatley EP derived its name from one of Boivin’s favorite little Québecois villages. Her second EP, the critically applauded Delmano EP derived its name from Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based bar Hotel Delmano. The third and final EP of the trilogy, Blue Pine derived its name from the Blue Pine Mountains in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Since the release of her critically applauded EP trilogy, the Québecois JOVM mainstay has released a string of singles including the Washed Out-like “Pour Toi,” a single centered around the aching and unfulfilled longing of being forced to speak to a loved one from a distance. Boivin has also been busy working on her highly-anticipated full-length debut Voyage to Mars

With a background in opera and jazz, Boivin’s life has been centered around two big dreams: to be a musician — and to go to Mars. “I love space. I love aliens. I love thinking that we’re not alone in this big strange universe,” she says. “Those things give me hope.” Naturally, that hope led to Voyage to Mars, an album that derives its title from Georges Méliès’ classic silent film Le Voyage dans la Lune. Slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Luminelle Recordings, the album’s material feels beamed in from another, more beautiful and whimsical world. 

Last month, I wrote about Voyage to Mars‘ first official single “Cocoa Beach.” Deriving its title from the name of a Florida town, located about 15 miles from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the song features a driving and funky bass line, four-on-the-floor, squiggling Nile Rodgers-like guitar, glistening synth arpeggios and Boivin’s dreamily coquettish vocals singing lyrics in English and French. The song is centered around the JOVM mainstay’s unerring knack for crafting a razor sharp, infectious hook — and fittingly, a ton of space and space travel-related imagery.

“’Cocoa Beach’ is a song about being fearless, about finding your inner force and embracing failure as your path to happiness,” Boivin explains in press notes. “It’s about pushing yourself over your limits and accomplishing the impossible through sheer force of will. It takes courage, dedication and many failures to reach your dreams…and that is the origin story of MUNYA.”

Voyage to Mars‘ latest single is a slow-burning cover of The Smashing Pumpkins‘ “Tonight, Tonight.” The cover sees the JOVM mainstay stripping some of the original’s bombast away for an intimate, bedroom pop-like production centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars and skittering beats paired with Boivin’s ethereal and plaintive vocals. But what the MUNYA covers does is retain the song’s melancholy and wistful air within a breezy, hook driven framework.

“My sister shared the ‘Tonight, Tonight’ video with me at a very young age, I vividly remember feeling certain emotions for the first time: longing, sadness and a hopeful melancholy,” Boivin says in press notes. “In a weird way it was also my introduction to exploring space and the infinite possibilities that humans can achieve if they embrace the urgency of now. With everything going on, I felt like it was time to share my love for this song and hopefully inspire a new generation to realize life is a galaxy of endless possibilities, as long as we don’t hesitate and act now.” 

New Audio: Deep Sea Diver and Damien Jurado Team Up to Tackle an Alanis Morissette Smash Hit

Led by highly accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, Seattle-based indie rock outfit Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints  playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including BeckConor OberstSpoonYeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobson wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with. Atlantic Records shelved the material and ultimately dropped her from the label.

After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. The band then went on to release two albums and an EP — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets.

Last October saw the release of the band’s critically applauded third album Impossible Weight through High Beam Records/ATO Records, and the album followed a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. Sonically and thematically, the album stemmed from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after Deep Sea Diver finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”

Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”

Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of JusticeImpossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.

For Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry went hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explained in press notes. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old.  “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”

With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”

If you were following this site last year — bless you for that, seriously — you may recall that I wrote about a couple of the album’s singles:

  • Lights Out,”  a track that contained multitudes, as it was deviant and anthemic yet delicate. Centered around Dobson’s expressive guitar work, a thunderous rhythm section an enormous raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worthy hook and Dobson’s equally expressive vocals, the song featured a bold and fearlessly vulnerable, who seems to say to the listener “It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay and that you may need some help to get you out of life’s dark places.” 
  • Album title track “Impossible Weight,” a track that’s one-part New Wave and one-part arena rock with enormous hooks, twinkling synths, Dobson’s expressive and explosive guitar work rooted in heart-fully-on-sleeve songwriting. And while revealing Dobson’s unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, the song captures a narrator on the emotional brink with an novelistic attention to psychological detail. A guest spot from Sharon Van Etten, managed to add an additional emotional punch. 

Deep Sea Diver is currently on tour to support Impossible Weight. They started the tour with handful of dates opening up for Northwestern indie rock legends Death Cab for Cutie before going on a headlining tour that includes a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Diane Coffee. They’ll head to California for four dates opening for Aussie indie rock act Middle Kids before ending with a sold-out hometown show at Seattle’s The Showbox. Tour dates and ticket information as always will be below.

But in the meantime, Dobson and company teamed up with Damien Jurado for a cover of one of my favorite Alanis Morisette songs “Hand In My Pocket.” Instead of a straightforward cover Deep Sea Diver and Jurado make the song their own by placing the song in a completely different arrangement with the song beginning as a sort of slow-burning lullaby centered around strummed guitar that slowly builds up into some blazing, guitar pyrotechnics before gentle coda.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to cover a larger than life song and try and make it my own,” Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson says. “Growing up in the 90’s, Alanis was one of the only female artists in the rock world that I had to look up to. I’ve always felt like someone that never finds a home in the middle. ‘Hand In My Pocket’ is a song that so perfectly captured the many juxtapositions in life while making me feel like it was completely fine to be whatever I wanted to be. This cover was recorded in my home studio and I asked Damien Jurado to sing with me on it because I’ve always loved the emotion in his voice. This year marked the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill and I wanted to honor this incredible song and I hope I did it justice. Much love to Alanis!”

Mexico City-based psych pop act Petite Aime was founded by Little Jesus bassist Carlos Medina. Last year, Medina (guitar) was joined by Aline Terrein (vocals), Isabel Dosal (vocals), Santiago Fernández (bass) and Jacobo Velazquez (guitar) to write and record the project’s self-titled full-length debut. 

Slated for a Friday release through Park The Van/Devil In The Woods, the Mexican psych pop act’s self-titled debut reportedly finds the band crafting material that fluctuates between different genres and styles based on psych pop and psych rock while touching upon influences like The BeatlesPink FloydBig Thief, Magic PotionUnknown Mortal Orchestra and Crumb. Lyrically the album’s material is generally centered around an expression of the existential angst engendered by the search for the “self” in an increasingly impersonal world, where the line between what’s real and what’s virtual crystallizes. 

Last month, I wrote about “Elektro,”a dreamy yet club friendly bop centered around glistening synth arpeggios, a hypnotic, motorik groove and propulsive four-on-the-floor, ethereal vocals singing lyrics in French and a vocoder drenched coda. Sonically recalling From Here To Eternity-era Giorgio Moroder and JOVM mainstay MUNYA, “Elektro,” as the band explained was actually inspired by dreaming and dreams. “We tried to translate a dream where you don’t know exactly where you are going but you let yourself go,” the band explains. “Stars come down to Earth and transport you to another world and although you know you are enjoying it you’ll always miss the place where you come from.”

“Adiós,” the self-titled album’s latest single is a delicate and introspective song centered around strummed acoustic guitar, woozy synths, and Spanish lyrics delivered with a wistful nostalgia over something or someone that you can’t ever get back — but with the understanding that it may be for the best.

“It’s a ballad where we say goodbye to someone or something forever,” the band explains. “It’s a nostalgic and introspective song that allows us to accept that saying goodbye is a way of freeing oneself and letting be.”

New Audio: Palm Ghosts Returns with a Politically Charged, Dance Floor Friendly Bop

Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia.

After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety.

During a long prototypically Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. 

Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau TwinsPeter GabrielDead Can DanceNew Order,  The Cure, and others.

Much like countless acts across the world, Lekkas and his bandmates spent much of the lockdown being busy: The isolation of the lockdowns, plus socioeconomic and financial turmoil, protests and demonstrations fueled an immediacy and energy in the songs that Lekkas and company had been writing at the time.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you might recall that the band released their fourth album Lifeboat Candidate earlier this year. The album was a fittingly dark and dystopian effort, full of confusion, fear and dread, fueled by isolation, frustration, unrest and uncertainty. And while the world feels little changed since last year, the band’s fifth album Lost Frequency is a very different album.

Initially meant for release last year, the album hearkens back to the before, when things were somewhat normal — or at least seemingly less uneasy, which is what most of us are desperately clamoring for, after endless death and fear for the better part of a year. In a loose sense, Lost Frequency feels almost celebratory — and perhaps a bit more nostalgic, than its immediate predecessor. But the material lyrically brings confrontation to the forefront, reminding the listener that at this juncture, normalcy is devastating.

 Lost Frequency‘s first single “Bloodlight” continues a run of hook-driven material indebted to The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode and the like with the song being centered around tweeter and woofer thumping beats, shimmering guitars, hypnotic, motorik grooves, atmospheric synths and an enormous hook. And while dance floor friendly, the song lyrically is a seething indictment of humanity and its treatment of Mother Earth.

“‘Bloodlight,’ the album opener, is a dark dance track that compares the  climate crisis to a crime scene,.” Palm Ghosts’ Joseph Leekas explains in press notes. “Luminol is a chemical commonly used in  forensics for the detection of blood stains. Nothing vanishes without a trace  and particles of blood adhere to surfaces for years.  

“The same applies to what humans have done to the earth. The damage will remain long after we are gone.”  

Milan-based punk rock outfit The Gluts — Claudia Cesana (bass/vocals), Bruno Bassi (drums) and Nicolò Campana (vocals, synths) and Marco Campana (guitar) — derive their name from an age-old term often used to denote unsold, surplus goods. For the Milanese quartet, they’ve taken it to symbolically express a surplus of energy, much like the energy that has long driven their own work.

Interestingly, since the band’s formation, the Milanese punks have established and honed an explosive and psychedelic-leaning take on noise and thrash punk with the release of their first three albums, 2014’s Warsaw, 2017’s Estasi and 2019’s Dengue Fever Hypnotic Trip.

The band’s Bob de Wit-produced fourth album Ungrateful Heart is slated for an October 8, 2021 release through Fuzz Club. Reportedly, the album sees the Italian quartet making a decided sonic departure from their previously released work. Ungrateful Heart‘s material is deeply indebted to 70s punk, 80s hardcore and post punk — in particular, FugaziGang of FourSex PistolsPublic Image, Ltd. and the Campana brothers’ obsession with Italian and American hardcore punk.  

Recorded over a tireless week in which the band and their producer essentially lived and worked side-by-side in the studio around the clock, the Ungrateful Heart sessions were fueled by a forceful intensity and uncompromising fierceness. “Bob’s contribution to this album was essential. He pushed us beyond our limits. It was difficult, we can’t hide it, but it really was worth it,” the members of The Gluts say in press notes. 

In the lead up to the album’s release, I’ve managed to write about two album singles:

  • Love Me Do Again,” a slick and uncanny synthesis of Never Mind the Bollocks-era Sex Pistols and Mission of Burma rooted in unadulterated hedonism. Written by the band’s Bruno Bassi while in pandemic-related lockdown, the song was “inspired by the different versions of the myth of Dionysus (the Greek god of wine, pleasure, madness and frenzied ecstasy) and an unexpected excitement caused by imagining how great it would be to be all together again,” the band explains. 
  • Mashilla” is a furious and muscular aural assault featuring scorching and angular riffage, thunderous drumming and vocal cord ripping howling. And while indebted to 70s punk and 80s hardcore, the song is centered around an alternating grunge rock-like song structure featuring hypnotic verses and ferocious mosh-pit starting choruses. 

Ungrateful Heart’s third and latest single  “FYBBD” is a furious, old school hardcore punk ripper reminiscent of Dead Kennedy‘s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” centered around enormous power chords, and an urgently snarled mosh pit friendly mantra. Play loud, jump into a mosh pit and tell some fascists to fuck off. The song features a guest spot from Radio Days’ guitarist Dario Persi.

The Milanese punks describe the song as “a burst of anger towards any form of alt-right thought and praxis, featuring a concealed quote to a very famous Italian Antifa hip hop song.”

New Audio: Seattle’s Fotoform Returns with a Brooding New Single

Deriving their name from a mid-century avant-garde photography movement, Seattle-based post punk outfit Fotoform — longtime collaborators and married couple Kim House (bass, vocals, synths) and Geoffrey Cox (guitar), along with newest member, Michael Schorr (drums), who has had stints with Death Cab for Cutie and The Long Winters  — can trace their origins back to the formation of a previous project, the goth-adjacent dream pop act C’est la Mort, which formed shortly after House and Cox married. 

Specializing in what they dubbed “pointy-shoegaze,” C’est la Mort released their full-length debut through their own Dismal Nitch label, as well as various compilation tracks, including a limited split 7 inch with Stars for American Laundromat‘s The Smiths‘ tribute Please PleasPlease. After a series of lineup changes, House and Cox re-emerged as Fotoform in late 2016. 

House and Cox released their Fotoform self-titled debut in 2017. Supported with tours of the West Coast and Europe, the album received airplay and praise both locally and nationally: Album single “I Know You’re Charming” was featured as a KEXP Song of The Day. The self-titled album was voted as one of KEXP Listeners’ Top 90.3 Albums of 2017 and it landed on several year-end lists, including The Big Takeover and Part-Time Punks.

Building upon a growing profile, the band followed up with 2018’s Part-Time Punks EP, which was selected as one of The Big Takeover’s EPs of 2018. Michael Schorr joined the band in 2019 and they started last year with two benefit singles “Yves Klein Blue,” which was recored for voter outreach and the Christmas-themed “They Say It’s Always Lonely” to benefit local food banks. Both singles found the trio expanding upon their sound with the addition of synths.

The trio then went into the studio with Evan Foster to record the material for their forthcoming sophomore album Horizons in early 2020. But as a result of pandemic-related quarantines and restrictions, the Horizons sessions resumed a year later with Foster — and with Matt Bayles recording drum parts.

Horizons, which is slated for an October 15, 2021 release, reportedly finds the band pivoting even further from the towering wall of guitars-based sound of their previously released work and towards a much more nuanced sound drawing equally from shoegaze, dream pop and post-punk. Continuing to pair synths with layers of guitars and driving bass, the album’s sound may bring the likes of The CureSiouxsie and the BansheesThe ChameleonsCocteau TwinsSlowdive and others to mind. 

So far, I’ve written about two of Horizons‘ singles”

  • The Garlands era Cocteau Twins meets Souvlaki era Slowdive-like “Running,” a track centered around atmospheric synths, swirling guitars, soaring hooks and a forceful motorik pulse paired with House’s ethereal vocals.
  • Too Late,” the first single to feature the band’s Kim House on guitar. Arguably, the most dynamic single off the album the single sees the band further establishing their painterly and textured approach but while featuring a fed-up narrator, who spends the song telling off someone who has grievously wronged her.

“You Set Fire to the Sun,” Horizons‘ latest single continues a run of brooding, Cocteau Twins-like material centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, thunderous drumming, ethereal vocals and enormous hooks. But unlike its immediate predecessor, “You Set Fire to the Sun” is a swooning ode to desire and longing.

Besides the new album, the trio — much like the rest of us — is looking forward to getting back to live shows and touring. They’ve also been writing and working on new material, including a split 7 inch with Savage Republic

The band has an pre-order for the album:

With the release of their Jeff Berner-produced full-length debut, last year’s Unmask Whoever, the rising experimental/krautrockff act Activity, which is split between New York and Philadelphia — Grooms‘ Travis Johnson (vocals, sampler) and Steve Levine (drums), Field Mouse‘s Zoe Browne (bass) and Russian Baths‘ Jess Rees (guitar) — received attention across the blogosphere for an eerily minimalist and uneasy sound that saw the band pair modern production, electronic instrumentation and organic instrumentation. Thematically, the album’s material touched upon paranoia, exposed character flaws and the broader capacity for growth when an uneasy truth is laid bare.

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about there of the album’s released singles:

Sadly, Unmask Whoever was released within the first full week of pandemic-related lockdowns and as a result, the band wasn’t able to support their effort with a proper tour. But after a lengthy delay, the members of Activity will be embarking on a North American tour, which begins October 6, 2020 at Mercury Lounge. Tour dates are below — as always.

Along with the tour announcement, the JOVM mainstays released a new single, the eerily spectral and expansive “Text the Dead.” Centered around Travis Johnson’s achingly plaintive vocals, layers of percussive, almost polyrhythmic beats, mutilated samples, and atmospheric synths, the new single swoons from the weight of despair and inconsolable loss — with the tacit understanding that ghosts do linger, and that grief often comes in waves.

“My mom passed away in February. We had 24 days from when we found out she was sick with pancreatic cancer until she died. I still can’t process it honestly,” Activity’s Travis Johnson explains in press notes. “I remember her telling me over the phone, when I was losing it, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.’ I knew how awful the diagnosis was but I didn’t want to tell her and I really tried to cling to her telling me that. Throughout the day, still, I’ll catch myself thinking ‘I should tell mom about this or that’ or ‘I wonder how my mom is doing’ and get out my phone to call or text or email her before I realize that I can’t talk to her, and that I can’t talk to her about how I can’t talk to her. Knocks the wind out of me and makes me feel insane every time. That’s a picture of her when she was probably about my age on the cover. It was built on samples I’d put together and really mutilated a long time ago and forgotten about. I was going through old stuff and found it and started singing the verse melody. Then we all added our parts and subtracted others, etc. It’s not a very ‘live’ song but we all came together on it still.”

10.06 New York NY @ Mercury Lounge
10.08 Boston MA @ Cafe 939
10.09 Philadelphia PA @ Ortlieb’s
10.10 Toronto ON @ Drake
10.11 Cleveland OH @ Mahall’s
10.12 Chicago IL @ Schubas
10.13 Minneapolis MN @ 7th St Entry
10.15 Milwaukee WI @ Cactus Club
10.19 Atlanta GA @ Masquerade
10.20 Carrboro NC @ Backroom Cat’s Cradle
10.21 Richmond VA @ The Camel
10.23 Lancaster PA @ Tigh Mary
10.24 Washington DC @ Pie Shop

New Audio: Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records Release a Party Starting Anthem off Their Forthcoming “Brown Acid: The Thirteenth Trip” Compilation

Throughout the course of this site’s 11-plus year history,  Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records‘ ongoing collaborative proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilation series from the 1960s and 1970s, Brown Acid have been regularly featured. Now, as you may recall, each individual edition of the ongoing series is centered around RidingEasy Records founder Daniel Hal’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time attempting to track down the artists behind these great yet sadly under-appreciated tunes. 

Frequently those bands haven’t written, played or recorded together in 30 or 40 years — but Barresi and Hall encourage the bands to take part in the compilation process. “All of (these songs) could’ve been hits given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten,” Lance Barresi explains in press notes. “However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”

Having the original artists participate as much as humanly possible in the compilation process can give the artists and their songs a real second chance at the attention they had the misfortune of missing all of those years ago. And of course, for critics, audiophiles and fans alike, the material on the Brown Acid series will do three very important things: 

  • introduce listeners to some great, sadly under-appreciated tunes that fucking rip or will melt your face right off 
  • fill in the gaps of what was going on in and around regional, national and even international underground scenes during the 60s and 70s
  • push the boundaries of proto-metal, proto-stoner rock, metal and stoner rock in new directions. 

The 13th edition of the Brown Acid series, Brown Acid: The Thirteenth Trip is fittingly slated for an October 31, 2021 release. Continuing in the path of its 12 predecessors, The Thirteenth Trip sees Barresi and Hall somehow digging even deeper into a very deep well of material recorded throughout the 60s and 70s — and discovering tunes still rip and rip hard.

Last month, I wrote about The Thirteenth Trip‘s first single, the hard charging and groovy, arena rock friendly ripper “Run Run” by  Montreal-based outfit Max. Technically credited as Gary Del Vecchio with Max — not the band from Montreal — the compilation’s second single “Buzzin” begins with what sounds like an in-studio party full of guffaws, yelps and chatter and is centered around a Led Zeppelin Heartbreaker“-like funky blues riff, rollicking rhythmic changes and a chugging bass line. Simply put “Buzzin'” is a party-starting anthem.

Rising Jakarta, Indonesia-born and-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Afgan was raised listening to Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Brian McKnight — and as a very shy boy, he found solace in music, slowly gaining confidence in quiet karaoke rooms. Interestingly, for the Jakarta-born and-based artist, music has always been an equal synergy of far-flung global inspirations paired with a devotion to proudly showcasing his heritage through nods to Indonesian pop.

Since the 2008 release of his full-length debut Confession No. 1, the rising Indonesian pop artist has released five solo albums, countless number one hits and has amassed over 44 million Spotify streams with over 1 million listeners across 79 countries — just in 2019. In the past three years, Afgan has played sold-out shows across Southeastern Asia including a set at Korea’s Yuseong Hot Springs Festival in front of 30,000 and an appearance at Singapore‘s Hyperplay Festival alongside Nick Jonas. The rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has managed to score a bevy of industry awards — and building upon a growing profile, he made his Stateside debut at a Sofar Sounds show in San Francisco.

Released earlier this year, Afgan’s sixth album Wallflower sees the Indonesian pop artist making a foray into the global scene. The album derives its title from his favorite movie, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and his deep connection to the film’s soft-spoken protagonist Charlie, played by Loghan Lerman. Afgan told NME, “I just relate so much with the main character and felt like my personality had a similar quality with him.” He continues “I looked up the meaning behind the word [wallflower] and felt like okay, that’s actually a good description of me and I want to own that part of myself.”

Thematically, the album, is influenced and informed by the rising Indonesian pop artist’s own tumultuous relationship and battles with his mental health. Much of the album lyrically is inspired by some of the self-help books that have helped him in drier times. “I‘ve been battling anxiety and panic attacks for years, so I wrote “Hurt Me Like You” about it,” Afgan explains. “Nobody can hurt me more than my own self. I really want to change the stigma around mental health, and in Indonesia, it’s still considered a taboo to talk about it. If we became more happy and at peace with ourselves, I think everything would be better.”

Adding to a growing global profile, the album features “M.I.A.,” a collaboration with Hong Kong-based multi-hyphenate Jackson Wong. The collaboration can trace its origins to a chance meeting between the two artists after Afgan played at 2019’s V Live Awards in Seoul. But in the meantime, the rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has released a remix of the sultry Quiet Storm-inspired, Troy Taylor-produced “Touch Me” that features a guest spot from Robin Thicke while retaining the swooning yearning at the core of the song.

`”‘Touch Me’ is a song with a dark and sexy beat that tells the story of one’s physical attraction at first glance, and how that touch may trigger a series of feelings,” Afgan explains. “Usually, these kind of messages are hard to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, so this is my first time translating these feelings into a song as I’m now singing in English. This was a challenge for me but I am relieved and happy with the result.”