Slated for a February 1, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings, the acclaimed London-based indie trio White Lies, comprised of Harry McVeigh (lead vocals, guitar), Charles Cave (bass, backing vocals) and Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums) will be marking their tenth anniversary as a band — and interestingly, the album reportedly finds the band pushing their sound and aesthetic in new directions with the addition of personal, and at times deeply intimate lyrics written by the band’s Charles Cave. Unlike the preceding albums, the writing and recording process was a Transatlantic one that included a trip to Los Angeles, where they worked on new material with Ed Bueller, who produced the band’s chart-topping debut To Lose My Life and their third album Big TV. Throughout the process, the band enlisted past associates and collaborators to assist on the proceedings including engineer James Brown, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters; the renowned producer Flood, who contributes synths and keys on a couple of tracks; and Grammy Award-winning Alan Moulder, who has worked with Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and The Killers to mix the album.
Clocking in at a little over 7 and a half minutes, the album’s latest single “Time to Give” may arguably be among the most ambitious songs the band has released, as the track is centered around a lush yet moody arrangement of shimmering synths, a sinuous bass line that’s part of a propulsive, motorik groove and soaring, arena rock-friendly hooks paired with McVeigh’s sonorous baritone. And while nodding a bit at Snow Patrol and others, the song seems to focus on a dysfunctional and abusive relationship from a real an lived-in place; in fact, it’s so real that as a result, the song bristles with bitterness, confusion and hurt.
Last month, I wrote about Evalyn, an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter whose soon-to-be released Salvation EP thematically explores the seven deadly sins, while also being centered around the concept of trying to find something to save you from yourself and the world — whether it be a religion or a cult or anything else you might worship. Now, as you may recall, EP single “Big Bad City” featured an arena rock-like production consisting of thumping beats, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook. And while possessing the emotional heft of an old school spiritual, the song was one examination of pride — in particular, an unapologetic passion for a sinful, greedy and vapid way of life.
Interestingly, the EP’s latest single “A Pill to Crush” reveals an artist who readily experiments with her sound and songwriting as the track manages to subtly hint at 60s psych pop as its centered around a trippy production of bubbling and wobbling synths, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar chords paired with the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s dreamily distracted vocals (which are distorted at various points). And while the song is arguably the most expansive and mind-altering of the up-and-coming artist’s growing catalog, the song lyrically finds its narrator bitterly describing a relationship in which the other person treats you like a pill they can crush and eventually discard — and the feelings of wrath that being rejected and treated poorly can engender.
Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve written a quite a bit about Ron Gallo, a Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman […]
Last month, I wrote about the Sudbury, Ontario, Canada-based punk act Tommy and the Commies, and as you may recall, the band, which is comprised of Jeff Houle, best known as the creative master mind of Strange Attractor; Jeff’s brother Mitch, with whom he’s played in power pop act STATUES; and frontman Tommy Commy can trace their origins to when Commy dragged Jeff Houle into a punk rock venue bathroom stall to play an inaudible demo on his phone. And as the story goes. the Houles decided to collaborate with Commy, after being impressed by his vocals.
The trio’s full-length debut, Here Come . . . is slated for release later this month through Slovenly Records, and “Devices,” the album’s first single revealed a band that specializes in a furious and blistering mod punk that recalls power pop and The Ramones on speed, while centered by an incisive criticism of our addictive obsessions with our electronic devices. “Suckin’ In Your 20s” the Canadian trio’s latest single off their full-length debut continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its an angular bit of breakneck power pop-influenced punk with enormous, rousing hooks that manages to be reminiscent of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO-era DEVO; in fact, the song seems underpinned by an anxious nihilism that evokes our socioeconomic moment.
I’ve written a bit about the newest act in the Daptone Records Universe over the course of the summer, The Sha La Das, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of the the Staten Island, NY-based Schalda Brothers, Will (a.k.a. Swivs), who played keys for Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires; Paul, the creative mastermind and guitarist with his Paul and The Tall Trees, as well as a member of Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries; Carmine; and their father Bill can trace the origins of their passion for music to growing up in a rather musical home — as a teenager, Bill was a member of Brooklyn-based doo wop act The Montereys in the early 60s, an act that played neighborhood clubs and bars, eventually playing at the 1964 World’s Fair before putting his musical career on hold to raise his family; however, Bill made sure that he taught his sons what he knew. As the eldest son Will recalls in press notes, “He would bring us out on the stoop on Staten Island, and we would teach us parts of say, the Sesame Street theme song. We were his backing group early on and that was a lot of fun for us growing up.”
Officially though, the origins of The Sha La Das can be traced to when The Schalda Brothers had come into the studio to record background vocals on Charles Bradley’s sophomore album Victim of Love. And as the story goes, as soon as Daptone Records/Dunham Records producer and guitarist Thomas Brenneck first heard The Schalda Brothers’ close harmonizing, The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys immediately came to his mind — and from that point, Brenneck knew that he had to work with them as a separate project. The Sha La Das’ Thomas Brenneck-produced full-length debut Love In The Wind is slated for a release next Friday through Dunham Records, an imprint of Daptone Records, and the album which was co-written by Brenneck and Bill Schalda finds the group taking their sound and approach outside of doo wop and “to take the whole vocabulary of doo wop harmony and reapply it to soul, so you get so you get super soulful harmonies along the lines of The Manhattans and The Moments,” as Brenneck explains in press notes. Unsurprisingly, the album was a family affair — both biological and within the Daptone Records Universe, as the Schaldas are backed by a modern soul All-Star backing band featuring Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss, Dave Guy, Leon Michels, Nick Movshon and Victor Axelrod.
The album’s first single was the achingly tender and yearning ballad “Open My Eyes” centered around an atmospheric and unhurried arrangement consisting of a bluesy guitar line, plinking keys, dramatic and gently padded drums, soaring strings and the Schaldas’ soulful harmonizing. The album’s second single “Just For a Minute” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor but centered around a jangling and old school soul-like arrangement that recalls The Everly Brothers and others, complete The Schaldas tender vocalizing. The album’s third and latest single “Okay My Love,” continues to highlight The Schaldas effortless, blue-eyed soul harmonizing but within a trippy and somewhat moody arrangement that recalls Scott Walker’s “It’s Raining Today” as much as it does old school soul, but while possessing a swooning urgency.
Now, throughout the the bulk of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed New York-based dance music outfit Escort,which features their indomitable frontwoman and bassist Adeline Michele, and as you may recall she released a solo album a few years ago — but her forthcoming self-titled, full-length effort slated for a November 9, 2018 release is something of a reset button; in fact, the Morgan-Wiley-produced “Emeralds” found the Escort frontwoman’s sound moving towards slinky 80s Quiet Storm-inspired synth soul reminiscent of Prince and others, centered around a sinuous bass line and Adeline Michele’s sultry vocals.
“Before,” the self-titled album’s latest single is centered around a funky, disco-like bass line, twinkling keys, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Adeline’s effortless and self-assured pop superstar vocals — and while the song sonically nods at Chaka Khan and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,” Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy,” Patrice Rushen‘s “Feels So Real” and classic Chicago house music, it possesses a soulful and disco-like ecstasy.
Comprised of founding member, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mathew Ajarapu, Khayle Hagood (bass), Khori Wilson (drums) and Cam Cunningham (guitar), the Chicago, IL-based soul outfit The Devonns (pronounced De-Vaughns) can trace their origins to when Ajarapu dropped out of med school, and found himself unemployed and aimlessly drifting through his life. As the story goes, at the time, Ajarapu was listening to music constantly and found himself drawn to the classic soul sounds of the late 1960s-early 1970s, best known for steady grooves, carefully crafted songwriting, impeccable production and gorgeous arrangements.
While sonically and aesthetically drawing influence from the work of The Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Bar-Kays, Carole King, Raphael Saddiq and Jamie Lidell, the band’s primary focus was on exploring the elements of songwriting, arrangement and production made popular from about 1965-1973 or so. The act’s debut single “Come Back” was released earlier this year through Italian soul label Record Kicks Records — the label home of Hannah WIlliams and the Affirmations, Marta Ren and the Groovelets an others, and was reportedly written in 10 minutes on a $300 Danelectro singlecut guitar. Recorded at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs, the track features arrangements by Paul Von Martens, who has worked with Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney, and Elton John, and the guitar work and percussion of multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow, who has worked with R.E.M. “Come Back” received attention across soul music circles, and building upon a growing profile, the Chicago-based soul act’s latest single “Think I’m Falling in Love,” is breezy and up beat track centered around a gorgeous string arrangement, a bluesy guitar line and a classic horn line, and while the song and its arrangement is heavily y indebted to Smokey Robinson, The Impressions and Leroy Hutson, the song also will remind some listeners of Mayer Hawthrone. According to the band’s Mathew Ajjarapu, “The song actually came to me pretty quickly; I was driving to work one day and suddenly the entire guitar lead riff popped into my head, along with the bass line and chords. I instantly knew it was kind of special.”
Currently, the band is in the studio with Paul Von Martens working on their highly anticipated full-length album, which will also be released through Record Kicks next winter.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based quintet Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for a lush, forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and difficult to pigeonhole sound that seamlessly incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop, experimental pop and soul. And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based quintet has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and Bermuda Triangle, and they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.
Slated for release next Friday, the act’s soon-to-be released SALT AND SOAP EP is reportedly inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you;re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Along with that, the band stumbled upon a new and very different creative and songwriting process that incorporated an unusual sampling method: the use of grainy phone recordings of the act’s drumming eventually became the bedrock for each song of the EP — and in turn, their forthcoming full-length album The Mystic. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent. And as you’ll hear on the EP’s latest single “Downpour,” the result is something that manages to be paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lysergic yet groove-driven, lush and enveloping but while revealing a band radically reinvented its sound and approach in a way that recalls (to my ears at least)Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu simultaneously.
As the band says in a statement: “Growing up it seemed like it was important to hold so many things as secrets, some of which are at this point laughable, some still heavier.
These secrets often gave the sense that there was something wrong and unusual about me or that part of my life. They also gave the sense that if there was actually something difficult it wasn’t necessary to let anyone outside of it know.
This led to a lot of creative improvising and getting used to being a little less like myself.
Eventually I started to ask “what would be the consequence of sharing versus the weight of holding?”
The track Downpour is about at first getting used to living in a secret, but then facing a growing unease of having to continue to tuck yourself away.”
The band will be embarking on a West Coast tour during the fall. Check the tour dates below.
Bells Atlas Tour Dates:
9/20 Oakland – New Parish w/ Chanti Darling
10/4 Los Angeles – The Satellite
10/6 Joshua Tree, CA – Joshua Tree Music Festival
10/7 San Diego, CA
10/11 Portland, OR Holocene w/ Chanti Darling
10/14 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/ JusMoni
10/16 Boise, ID Neurolux
10/20 Basalt, CO The Temporary
10/21 Denver, CO Globe
10/23 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s
10/24 Chicago, IL Hideout Inn
11/18 Palm Springs, CA Ace Hotel