Category: New Audio

New Audio: Acclaimed JOVM Mainstay Amber Arcades Releases a Mournful 70s AM Rock Inspired Single

Over the past couple of years of this site’s history, I’ve managed to write quite a bit about Utrecht, The Netherlands-based singer/songwriter Annelotte de Graff and her solo recording project Amber Arcades. And with the release of her full-length debut, Fading Light, de Graaf quickly received attention for pairing crafted guitar pop with erudite thematic concerns — in particular, time and the relativistic experience of it, magic, jet leg and her own dreams, which have managed to influence a great deal of her personal and creative life. In fact, as the story goes, De Graaf used her life savings for a flight to New York and studio time with Ben Greenberg, who has worked with The Men, Beach Fossils and Destruction Unit, and a studio backing band that included Quilt’s Shane Butler (guitar) and Keven Lareau (bass) and Real Esate’s Jackson Pollis (drums) — both of whom she had specifically hand picked because she had dreamt of working with them.

de Graaf’s critically applauded Cannonball EP, an effort that landed at #1 on this site’s Best of List last year — with the gorgeous “Wouldn’t Even Know,” landing at #4 on the Best Singles list. Slated for a September 28, 2018 release through Heavenly Recordings,de Graaf’s forthcoming album European Heartbreak was recorded and co-produced in Los Angeles with Deerhoof’s Chris Cohen and in Richmond, Virginia with Trey Pollard, who oversaw horn and string overdubs from the Spacebomb Records crew. And the album sonically and thematically are reportedly a major step forward for the Dutch- born and-based singer/songwriter and musician — thematically, the album is about the nature of memory and the human tendency to over-romanticize the events of our lives. And while naturally focusing on the passage of time, there’s a disillusionment that’s been concealed just under the romanticized surface. Nothing in this life is what it really seems — and ultimately, everything can be a bit disappointing, alienating and downright strange. As Annelotte de Graaf says of the album, “If it were called ‘American Heartbreak,’ you wouldn’t bat an eye. Somehow calling it ‘European Heartbreak’ feels far less comfortable, almost like a statement in itself. I’m Dutch, hence European. The focus of the record is Europe. As for Heartbreak, for me a heartbreak symbolises any kind of falling apart of one of these concepts or stories we invent for ourselves, like romantic love, a sense of identity, nationality, an economic system. It’s kind of a universal thing in my mind.”

Sonically speaking, the material, as you’d hear on the album’s first single “Goodnight Europe” managed to be both sophisticated yet anachronistic as it finds her sound nodding at classic, late 60s and early 70s rock — in particular, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, T. Rex and Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be-era Beatles, as the song features some impressive and bluesy guitar work paired with a gorgeous string arrangement; but interestingly, the song is both a meditation on the current state of the European Union and of a dysfunctional and confusing romantic relationship, meshing the personal and the political in a way that expresses a concern over what it all means in the first place.

European Heartbreak’s latest single “Alpine Town” is a decidedly 70s AM rock-like song centered around shimmering guitar, twinkling piano, a sinuous bass line, a mournful horn and string arrangement and de Graaf’s ethereal vocals floating over the mix. The song evokes a deeper  disappointment — that an illusion that the song’s narrator once held as true has now been proven to be false. And as a result, the song is a world weary sigh while being someplace away from home. As de Graaf says of the song “I wrote this song exactly a year ago while on holiday in Guillestre, a small town in the French Alps. I was kind of in a sad place and my boyfriend had dragged me along to get away from all that, but I guess it doesn’t really work like that, ha. It just made me reflect on the sad part of the tourist condition as a metaphor for life, man.”

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Now, if you were frequenting this site back in 2016, you’d recall that I had written quite a bit about the Whittier, CA-based punk rock quartet Plague Vendor. Comprised of Brandon Blaine (vocals), Luke Perine (drums), Michael Perez (bass) and Jay Rogers (guitar) the band formed in 2009 and in a short period of time, they developed a reputation across Southern California for raucous and frenetic live shows. And through reputation, their live shows began stacking up and along with that their material. Unsurprisingly, those live shows led to their 2014 debut Free to Eat, an album that has largely been described as terse, dark and thrashing post-punk.

The Whittier, CA-based punk rock quartet’s 2016 Stuart Sikes-produced sophomore album Bloodsweat landed at #2 on this site’s Best of List that year, and from album singles like “ISUA (I Stay Up Anyway)“, “Jezebel” and “No Bounty,” was furious, frenetic and anthemic punk full of piss and vinegar and undeniable swagger. Two years have passed since the release of the impressive Bloodsweat and before joining renowned producer John Congleton to begin work on their untitled third album, the members of Plague Vendor, along with Brett Gurewitz and engineer Morgan Stratton entered Sunset Sound Studio 2, where they spent a furious two days writing, completing and recording two songs in two days — and the and and first single from that session is their first bit of new material since their sophomore album, the raw, volatile and stomping “I Only Speak in Friction.” Sonically, the song feels and sounds anxious, and to me at least, it evokes a desperation of men at the end of their rope.

As the band’s Luke Perine explains writing and recording “I Only Speak in Friction” helped to revitalized the band and restore their focus. “As a band, we grow anxious—often depressed to some degree—during our downtime,” says Perine. “Having these two days to get in the studio ahead of working on the next album released a lot of that tension. It became a more productive two days than we expected, as we were only planning on recording one song. I think we are reaching a higher level of focus together as we go into this next album.”

Plague Vendor has a handful of upcoming shows, including festival appearances at Ohana Fest and Aftershock. Check out the tour dates, below.
PLAGUE VENDOR TOUR DATES

Aug 14 Pomona, CA – The Glass House w/The Kills

Sep 29 Dana Point, CA – Ohana Fest

Oct 14 Sacramento, CA – Aftershock

 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Austin, TX-based trio Exhalants, and as you may recall the band which features Steve (guitar, vocals), Bill (bass) and Tommy (drums), a member of Body Pressure, the band can trace its origins to the break of Steve and Bill’s previous band  Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes. With the inevitable downtime that happens when a band breaks up, Steve spent his free time further honing his guitar playing before recruiting his former CSSS bandmate and Tommy to complete the project’s lineup.

Recorded and mixed by Ghetto Ghouls‘ Ian Rundell and mastered by Yeesh’s Greg Obis, Exhalants’ forthcoming self-titled debut is largely inspired by the likes of ShellacUnwound and Cherubs, while nodding at the work of contemporaries like MelkbellyKal Marks and A Dear A Horse — or in other words, the album’s material finds the band balancing pummeling heaviness; in fact, album single “Latex” was an an anthemic ripper with enormous “raise your beer in the air and shout along” hooks, arena rock-like power chords and deep low end. And while being deceptively simple, the song upon repeated listens reveals rapid tonal and tempo shifts that are barely held together by the explosiveness of the band’s playing. “Punishers,” Exhalants’ latest single is a furious and aptly punishing ripper, complete with angular guitar power chords, wild peals of feedback and forceful drumming. It may arguably be the most punk rock and mosh-pit friendly songs off the album so far — but they do so while nodding at 90s alt rock.

 

With the release of their debut single “Johnny,” the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock trio Basement Revolver, comprised of Chrisy Hurn (guitar, vocals), Nimal Agalawatte (bass) and Brandon Munro (drums) saw a rapid career trajectory as they received praise from the likes of DIY Magazine, The FADER and Exclaim! for a sound that draws from 90s alt rock and dream pop — but paired with deeply personal, yearning lyrics. Adding to a growing profile, the band released a handful of Hype Machine, chart topping songs which resulted in the Canadian indie rock trio amassing more than one million streams of their songs.

Recorded at TAPE Studio, where they recorded their first two EPs, their Adam Bentley and Jordan Mitchell-produced full-length debut Heavy Eyes is slated for an August 24, 2018 release through Fear of Missing Out Records and Sonic Unyon Records, and as the band’s Chrisy Hurn explains in press notes, recording in a comfortable environment allowed them to not only hone the sound that has won them international attention, it allowed them freedom to get heavy or more laid-back when the song required it; but perhaps more important, as Hurn says, “It also gave me the confidence as a writer to not take myself so seriously, to let myself get cheesy or goofy with some songs.”

“Dancing,” the buzz-worthy Canadian indie rock trio’s latest single finds the duo pairing buzzing and distorted power chords, propulsive drumming, a soaring hook and yearning lyrics within a song that sounds as though it were influenced by The Cranberries and PJ Harvey — and while subtly uptempo, it manages a buzzing and brooding nature. As the band’s Hurn explains of the song, When I’m feeling down, I like to borrow a car and drive until I am lost – it makes me feel better and distracts me a little. So, yeah, break out of your shell and dance… or get some fresh air.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born Zaakir Muhammad, Fullee Love, (formerly known as Soup) is best known for his work as a founding member of renowned West Coast hip-hop act Jurassic Five, and during their lengthy seven year hiatus, Muhammad struggled to make ends meet, working in retail. Naturally, during that period, Muhammad reflected on his life, where it had gone and what he needed to do. When Jurassic 5 reunited at 2013’s Coachella, Muhammad quickly recognized that it was sink or swim for him — and his solo recording project, Fullee Love was created so that he could continue his path in music.

Interestingly, with the release of his debut EP Still in Fullee Love, Muhammad’s Fullee Love project developed a reputation for a sound that drew from disco, soul, funk and synth funk — all of which he listened to and loved as a child. Muhammad’s Nick Green-produced Fullee Love full-length debut Free, White & 21 is slated for release this Friday, and the album’s latest single “Nile Rodgers (Git on Down)” finds the Jurassic 5 founder paying homage to one of the more prolific and influential characters of pop music — Nile Rodgers. Sonically, the song is centered around a shimmering, disco-like guitar line, a sinuous bass line, stomping percussion and an infectious hook, and it manages to be heavily indebted to Rodgers’ legendary mid/late 70s and early 80s output with Chic, the song also brings Daft Punk’Random Access Memories to mind — “Get Lucky” anyone?

And yes, while the track is a dance-floor and radio friendly track, there’s much more to it; the track finds Nick Green and Fullee Love aiming at the anachronistic, as the song sounds as though it could have been released in 1977, 1982, 2015 or last week but also in the sense that the duo are trying to capture something timeless. People will always seek  the safety, comfort, escape and freedom of strobe lights, thumping bass and sweaty bodies — and when the world seems so dangerously close to crossing the precipice of disaster, those few moments on a dance floor are seemingly heaven sent.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Still Corners Release Brooding Visuals for Slow-Burning Torch Song “The Photograph”

Last month, I wrote about the  London-based duo and JOVM mainstays Still Corners, and as you may recall, with the release of their first three albums, Creatures of an Hour, 2013’s Strange Pleasures and 2016’s Dead Blue, the British duo comprised of vocalist Tessa Murray and multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Greg Hughes, have developed a reputation for crafting incredibly atmospheric and moody dream pop/synth pop centered around Murray’s smoky vocals and shimmering atmospherics.

Slated for an August 17, 2018 release through the duo’s own Wrecking Light label, their fourth album Slow Air derives its name from the sultry summer days and nights they experienced during their time in Austin, TX, where they had written the album. Reportedly, the forthcoming Slow Air is a bit of a return to early form for Murray and Hughes, as the material learn towards arrangements that emphasize electric and acoustic guitars, live drumming and a minimal use of synthesizers. Recorded in a new studio designed by Hughes, the recorded sessions inspired a minimalist and fluid approach in which they used a variety of old and new microphones while making sure that they didn’t overthink the entire process as is the tendency of modern recording; in fact, they managed to keep the mistakes they recorded on the album, so as to remind the listener of the fact that living, breathing, feeling and imperfect humans made it,  while also making sure that the important thing was the material’s emotionality.

Murray and Hughes recorded and mixed the album in three months, the fastest they’ve ever done so far, and from album single “Black Lagoon,” the London-based duo managed to retain the shimmering and moody atmospherics they’ve long been known for but paired with an previously unheard urgency. As Tessa Murray says of the album in press notes, “we wanted to hear beautiful guitar and drums and an otherworldliness, something about indefinable, along with a classic songwriting vibe. We’re always trying to get the sound we hear inside of ourselves, so we moved fast to avoid our brains getting in the way too much. The name Slow Air evokes the feel of the album to me, steady, eerie and beautiful.”

The album’s latest single “The Photograph,” is the slow-burning, atmospheric, synth-based torch song that to my ears immediately brings Prince to mind — his “Nothing Compares 2 U” in particular, as the song is about a long lost lover, who’s only left an old, slowly fading photograph behind as a reminder of what the song’s narrator once had. The video, which was directed by the duo continues a run of gorgeous and evocative visuals — in this case, black and white video which features Murray’s lone figure walking down a desolate highway eternally searching for something beyond the frame. The visuals manage to evoke the song’s spectral and yearning quality — with the understanding that most things in our lives are rendered as memories, but with a bit of fuzziness and distortion around the edges.

 

Last year, the Northern Italian psych punk act Bee Bee Sea released their sophomore full-length album Sonic Boomerang to praise from NPRClash Magazine and others for a high-energy, fuzzy power chord sound with elements of garage rock and psych rock that’s generally been compared to Thee Oh Sees and King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard among others, earning the band attention and praise from outside of their small, industrial hometown. And once you’ll hear the furious and frenetic album single and title track “Sonic Boomerang,” it’ll no longer be a surprise as to why they’ve so quickly gained the attention of both European and American press —  fuzzy power chords, some explosive guitar pyrotechnics,  a forceful and motorik-like groove, shouted vocals and a rousing mosh-pit friendly hook.

The Italian psych rockers are in the middle of their first North American tour to support their critically applauded sophomore album. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

Tour Dates 

7/23 – Atlanta, GA – The EARL

7/24 – Memphis, TN – Hi Tone

7/26 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom

7/27 – Costa Mesa, CA – The Wayfarer

7/28 – Los Angeles, CA – Zebulon Café Concert

7/31 – San Francisco, CA – Elbo Room ( with DJ Sid Presley)

8/02 – Seattle, WA – Funhouse Seattle

8/03, 04, 05 – Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon

 

 

 

 

With the release of her first two singles “Gold Angel” and “Armour,” the London-born and-based based singer/songwriter and musician Minke(pronounced as to rhyme with the word “link”) quickly became a buzz-worthy artist: “Gold Angel” received airplay on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, was featured on Spotify‘s New Music Fridayand Pop Rising playlists and was a Hype Machine#1  — within a two week period. The track also received praise from the The Line of Best Fit for its “elements of pop, rock, soul and R&B,” and “guitar riffs, mingled with understated vocals like curls of smoke in a darkened bar.” Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming London-born and-based singer/songwriter and musician released “Armour” to praise from Billboard, who said the song was “a female empowerment anthem about letting go of your defenses and learning how to be vulnerable, especially with those closest to you.”
Minke’s latest single “Maybe 25” was co-written by the up-and-coming British artist and her producer Rory Andrew and the single which pairs Minke’s tender, ethereal and yearning vocals with twinkling piano, reverb drenched guitar chords, thumping beats, brief bits of industrial clang and clatter, and a soaring hook within a song that to my ears makes sonic nods to Adele and London Grammar but with a self assured, effortless yet soulful quality. Interestingly as Minke explains in press notes, the track was written about the emptiness and frustrations of online dating, and the hold technology has over us. “As I started to write, it became less and less about that, and more a general observation on connection. We’ve never been more connected by disconnected at the same time. It’s made us more insular, less open to having a conversation with a stranger and maintaining eye contact for more than a second without looking at your phone. So it’s about longing about something more than that, whatever that is. Something real in a seemingly disposable world. Questioning if that’s still possible. Questioning if it’s got the better of you.”
The up-and-coming British artist is currently working on her debut EP, which is slated for a Fall release, and there are plans for a North American tour to support it but before that I think we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from her.

New Audio: Diplo and Mark Ronson Team Up For Soulful and Slickly Produced House Music

Born Thomas Wesley Pentz, Diplo is a prolific and acclaimed Los Angeles-based producer, DJ and electronic music artist. As a solo artist, he’s managed to see a fair degree of commercial success with 2013’s Revolution EP, which debuted at #68 on the US Billboard 200 — and the EP’s title track was later featured in a Hyundai ad campaign and on the WWE 2K16 soundtrack. Diplo is also known as the co-founder and lead member of the electronic dancehall project Major Lazer, and one-half of electronic music production and artist duo Jack U with Skrillex. And as a producer, the Los Angeles-based producer, DJ and electronic music artist has collaborated with M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears, Madonna, Shakira, Beyonce, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Tripe Redd, Chris Brown, CL. G-Dragon and Madonna. 

Mark Ronson is a London-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, DJ, singer/songwriter and producer and although his debut effort, 2003’s Here Comes the Fuzz failed to make the charts, his sophomore effort, 2007’s Version landed at number 2 on the UK charts, thanks to the fact that the album had three Top 10 singles — and as a result, he won a Brit Award for Best British Male Solo Artist. Building upon a growing profile, 2010’s Record Collection peaked at #2 on the UK Charts.

Ronson also won Grammy Awards for Producer of the Year, Non Classical, Best Pop Album and Record of the Year for his work on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Back to Black. He also produced “Cold Shoulder,” off Adele’s critically applauded and commercially successful debut 19. Now, unless you’ve been living in a remote Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, Ronson’s first UK and US #1 single was his collaboration with Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk,” and as a result of the single’s massive commercial success, Ronson won the Brit Award for British Single of the Year, and Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The London-born and-based producer, DJ, multi-instrumetanlist and singer/songwriter’s fourth full-length album Uptown Special was his first #1 album in the UK and peaked at #5. 

Ronson’s and Diplo’s collaboration together Silk City can trace its origins to the duo’s long-time friendship, a friendship that dates back to the early 2000s. Their debut single “Only Can Get Better,” featuring Daniel Merriweather was released earlier this year, ahead of their Governor’s Ball set, and they’ll be making several other appearances across the international festival circuit with sets at Bestival and Treasure Island Music Festival among others.  The duo’s second single “Feel About You,” which features Mapei is a slickly produced and soulful track with arpeggiated synths that subtly nods at Robin S’s “Show Me Love” — but with a clean, hyper modern sheen. 

 

Currently comprised of founding members Austin Knecht (vocals, guitar) and Crysal Napoles (vocals, keys) along with Tamara Simons (guitar), Kai Dodson (bass) and Jonathan Palmquist (drums), the Los Angeles-based indie rock quintet Curtsy can trace their origins to when Knecht auditioned as a lap steel player for a country/folk band fronted by Napoles back in 2013. After bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and 90s shoegaze, the band’s founding duo began writing songs together. Eventually, Knecht and Napoles recruited Simons, Dodson and Palmquist — and with the release of their debut single, shimmering guitar pop “One Less Thing,” the Los Angeles-based indie rock act quickly received attention from the site and across the blogosphere for a sound that to my ears drew from 120 Minutes-era alt rock; but with a heart wrenching sincerity.  Adding to a growing profile, the single was included on Spotify‘s Fresh Finds Six String and New Noise playlists, and as a result, the track has amassed nearly 50,000 streams.

Building upon that growing profile, “A Better Pet” will further cement the band’s reputation for crafting shimmering and propulsive indie rock centered around rousingly anthemic hooks — and while owing a sonic debt to 120 Minutes-era alt rock, the song thematically focuses the apprehension, uncertainty and self- doubt that frequently plagues the insecure romantic. And they manage to do so with a psychological attention to detail that feels lived-in and real.