Category: Single Review

With the release of their full-length debut, Before It Gets Dark, which was released through German label AdP Records in Europe and BonFire Records in North America earlier this year, the Berlin-based pop duo Wolf & Moon, comprised of Dennis and Stef, received attention across Germany and elsewhere. They made appearances at  SXSW and Reeperbahn Festival, where they received a Best Newcomer Award nomination at the festival’s VIA Indie Awards. Adding to a growing profile, the act has received airplay on several Dutch radio stations including 3FM-FX, ZuidWestFM, BredaNu, A-FM and Indie XL, Chicago’s WGN, and German radio stations like Sputnik, DETEKTOR FM and SWR3. They’ve also been featured in The Guardian.

While establishing a sound that the duo have described on their Facebook Fan Page as “somewhere between the folky sound of Angus and Julia Stone and the electronic influences of The xx . . .,” the duo have developed a reputation for relentless touring with a minimalist live set up — generally, a travel guitar, electronic drum machine, a mini Casio keyboard and their voices. Building upon a growing international profile, the Berlin-based pop duo recently were approached an export grant from the Dutch Music Exchange and will be releasing their highly-anticipated sophomore album next year.

But in the meantime, the duo’s latest single “Situations” is a deliberately crafted, hook-driven pop confection centered around shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and the duo’s hushed boy-girl harmonies — and while bearing a resemblance to thee breezy pop of JOVM mainstays Geowulf and Moonbabies, the track as the band explains is about grappling with what to do when you’re stuck in a bad place, whether it be political or personal.

 

 

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Up-and-coming Oslo, Norway-based indie pop act Hollywood is comprised of a trio of accomplished solo artists and friends — Billie Van, Jonas Alaska and Mikhael Paskalev.  And while each individual member act has seen a fair share of success in their native Norway, they’ve managed to contribute to each other’s recorded output. Their newest collaboration together find the trio further blurring the boundaries between each other’s individual work — and discovering a bolder, more playful approach to their songwriting.

The trio’s self-produced full-length debut Close to You was released today, and the album which was written and recorded over a two year period is reportedly finding the trio’s sound morphing and twisting between several different styles of songwriting and production in a cohesive way — while being generally inspired by 80s and 90s pop. “Parachute,” Close to You‘s latest single is a slow-burning and atmospheric bit of synth pop featuring twinkling keys, achingly tender vocals expressing longing and desire with an aching vulnerability, a soaring hook and a swaggering Timbaland-inspired bridge. Interestingly, the trio mesh slick production, forward-thinking and ambitious songwriting with a heartbreaking earnestness that ensures that the material isn’t purely seen as homage to its influences.

 

 

 

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New Audio: Montreal’s Corridor Releases a Breezy Genre-Defying Jam

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

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

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

Last month, I wrote about Junior’s first single “Topographe,” a crafted, breakneck gallop centered around jittering and jangling guitars, propulsive drumming and reverb-drenched call and response vocals creating a muscular swoon that seems to evoke the fluttering pangs of love. “Domino,” Junior’s second and latest single is a breezy and infectious track that’s one part New Zealand-styled jangle pop and one part explosive, motorik groove-driven jam, with a tight hook. And while revealing a band with a remarkable ability to craft an infectious tune, the band manages to balance deliberation and order with a wild, unadulterated frenzy.

“People are often glorifying what being an artist or a musician can mean. Art doesn’t necessarily make you a better person,” the band’s Jonathan Robert says in press notes. “There can be angst, stress and so on. It can have a negative, direct impact on the people closest to you. ‘Domino’ is about navigating just that. It is the first song out of Junior that we’ve composed and we’ve played it live quite a few times already.”

New Audio: Julien Chang Releases a Shimmering and Nostalgic Synth Funk-Driven Single

Over the past couple of moths, I’ve written a bit about the rapidly rising, 19-year-old Baltimore-born multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer and current university student Julien Chang (pronounced Chong). Chang surprised his peers when he quietly began releasing original music during his senior year in high school. Initially only thought of just as a trombone player, the Baltimore-born, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s earliest material found him playing multi-instruments while meshing pop-leaning melodicism, psych rock and jazz fusion-leaning experimentation and improvisation with a sophistication and self-assuredness that belied his relative youth. 

Now as you may recall, those early releases caught the attention of Transgressive Records, the label home of SOPHIE, Let’s Eat Grandma and JOVM mainstay Neon Indian, and the label will be releasing Chang’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Jules on October 11, 2019. So far I’ve written about the album’s first two singles — “Of The Past,” a sleek, early 80s-like synth funk-based track centered around dexterous musicianship and pop melodicisim and the slow-burning, Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Butterflies from Monaco.” Interestingly, the album’s third and latest single “Memory Loss” is centered by syncopated blips and bloops, a sinuous bass line, shimmering synths and Chang’s plaintive falsetto and a yearning for an unreachable and halcyon-tinged past. And while  seemingly influenced by 80s synth funk, the song continues a run of incredibly self-assured singles featuring some dazzling musicianship and big hooks. 

 “A worsening memory is something I’ve always been worried about,” Chang explains. “The song was made with a kind of structural rigidity in mind, and about memory’s natural lack of it when having trouble putting faces to names, for example. It’s easy to be frustrated by that feeling, but being left with a sudden emotional reaction sparked by some stimulus for an unclear reason can be as lovely as it is disorienting.”

Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written about and championed a number of acts from across Northern Africa — in particular, Mali. During that same period of time,  Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between several different factions. In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) took control of Northern Mail; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law: cigarettes, alcohol and music were banned across the region. And as a result a large number of the country’s acclaimed musicians including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate south to Bamako, the country’s capital.

As the members of Songhoy Blues have said, the band was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.”  The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans.  Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes. 

Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards.  The quartet has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.

Building upon a growing international profile, the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Resistance was released to critical praise, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the best albums of that year. Since then, the act has been busy touring, including a stop at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder last year — and the writing and recording of their forthcoming EP Meet Me in the City, which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release.

The effort finds the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti. Interestingly, the EP’s first single, the Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues co-written “Time To Go Home” may be the most electronic-leaning they’ve released to date, it still retains some dexterous and trippy guitar work and the hypnotic grooves of the Desert Blues. And interestingly enough, it finds the band ambitiously desiring to pass the messages at the heart of their material to a much larger, international audience. (There are two different version of the track. One mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Blake Mills and one mixed by David Ferguson.)

Songhoy Blues says, “We’re really happy to introduce this new EP and our English-language debut on the song ‘Time To Go Home.’ Please enjoy it and get ready for a heavy new album coming up very soon.”

Matt Sweeney adds, “I think it’s safe to say that the brave poets of Songhoy Blues have a different idea what a ‘bad day’ is than pretty much all other rock bands. Their music and singing are powerful beyond words. Making a new song with them was a humbling honor and an unforgettable joy.”

On PBS’ American Masters, Will Oldham spoke of working with Songhoy Blyes, saying, “They are a Malian band that’s really trying to make sense of what they’ve been witnessing, what they’ve been experiencing, and create or transmit a message to people about what they’re seeing and how they’re trying to understand it and make change…And to think, well I want them to know that I’m trying to listen and trying to understand, and if I can give voice to some of what they’re experiencing, that they might be emboldened by this musical connection.”

Songhoy Blues will be embarking on a month long Stateside tour that includes two NYC area dates — September 22, 2019 at The Great Green Wall at The United Nations and October 24, 2019 at Baby’s All Right. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

09.21 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
09.22 – New York, NY – United Nations | Great Green Wall
09.23 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
09.24 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
09.26 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
09.27 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
09.28 – Austin, TX – Antone’s
10.01 – El Prado, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
10.04 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
10.05 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone Berkeley
10.06 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
10.09 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
10.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10.11 – Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
10.12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
10.15 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10.17 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10.19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10.22 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Great Hall
10.24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
10.25 – Easthampton, MA – New City Brewery
10.26 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
10.27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

Toronto-based electronic act Holy Fuck — Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schultz — have developed a long-held reputation for playing by their own rules, frequently using miscellaneous instruments and non-instruments including a 35mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns to achieve electronic-sounding effects without the use of laptops, programmed backing tracks, splicing and so on. And perhaps more important, the act has never been overly concerned about chasing the limelight or any genre-based trend.
“Luxe” is the first batch of new material from the acclaimed Canadian electronic act since the release of 2017’s Bird Brains EP and interestingly, the single was born out of the quartet’s desire to revisit old and trusted methods of creating new material — primarily by experimenting live on the stage. Centered around a pulsating, minimal synth loop, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping kick drum, the expansive song, which clocks in at a little over six minutes and bears a bit of a resemblance to Tour de France-era Kraftwerk can trace its origins back to a spontaneous encore jam at Luxembourg, Belgium. As the story goes, once they had the early elements of the track worked on in the studio, they sent it to to their good friend and casual musical mentor Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, who picked the early version of “Luxe” as a standout. The Canadian quartet then invited Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to contribute vocals. Taylor not only jumped at the opportunity but went to Jack White‘s Third Man Studio in Nashville to record his vocals on White’s 1947 Voice-O-Graph.

“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore'”.

The next moment of discovery came when Graham suggested the band scrap Brian’s vocals and give it to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. When we presented Alexis with the concept our reference notes to him, based around Brian’s temporary vocals, were ‘like an old sample you’d dig up off an old folk record… and approached more like a classic house track’. He responded, ‘We could try to record the vocal in a Voice O Graph booth (an obsolete 1940s coin operated phonograph booth) if we can access one…’. As far as we’re aware, there are only two in the world – one in Liverpool (that apparently doesn’t work anymore) and the other at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville. And that is where Alexis sang ‘I’d like to scrap all of this and start over again.’ Fittingly, it was New Year’s Eve.”

With the release of their debut single “Visions of You,” feat. Electric Youth, the up-and-coming Stockholm and Los Angeles-based electronic production and electronic music artist duo ROOM8 — Ezra Reich and Nic Johns — quickly established a reputation for crafting a sound that draws from electro pop, electronic dance music and film soundtracks. Building upon a growing profile, the duo produced, wrote and/or cowrote a series of attention-grabbing singles including Electric Youth‘s “Without You” which was praised by NPR, as well as “No Hard Feelings,” feat. King Deco and “This Place Again,” feat. Polina, which received praise form Neon Gold, Huffington Post, Noisey, Blackbook, Flaunt and elsewhere. “Better Than Music,” a collaboration with acclaimed British electro pop artist Little Boots premiered on Billboard.

Now, as you may recall, this year has been an incredibly busy and productive year for the duo: they produced the score for the forthcoming motion picture Cuck and their latest album Transduction is slated for an October 11, 2019 release. Earlier this year, I wrote about the atmospheric and slow-burning “Only You.” Transduction‘s latest single is the shimmering and nostalgic “Jasmine Nights.” Centered around pulsating mini-moog basslines, shimmering synths and Jesika Miller’s delicate vocals and a soaring hook, the uptempo song manages to be cinematic while nodding at Stevie Nicks’Stand Back” — but at its core is an expression of devotion to a loved one in there time of need.

“‘Jasmine Night,’ was written at a time when a family member was battling a serious illness. Sometimes in Los Angeles, while you sit out at night, there is an incredible scent of jasmine that drifts through the air and canyons,” the duo explains.

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig. Härdig’s career began in earnest at a very young age: she began playin in bands when she was nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. As an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music, while developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says in press notes.

Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, Boredoms, Free Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia Lunch, Ikue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others. 

Slated for a November 5, 2019 release, Härdig’s fourth album This Big Hush find the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,Härdig says of the recording process for The Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

While reportedly paying homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and and Banshees, The Big Hush‘s latest single “Infatuation” is a decidedly riff-driven track that sounds — to my ears, at least — like it was indebted to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook.

“I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay says of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

 

The up-and-coming, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK-based psych pop act Moreish Idols — comprised of Caspar Swindells (bass), Jude Lilley (vocals, guitar), Dylan Humphreys (sax), Sol Lamey (drums) and Tom Wilson Kellett (keys, guitar, percussion) quickly emerged into both the local and national scenes with the release of their debut EP, a genre-defying affair influenced by early Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, Tame Impala, and Atlas Sound among others, and an extensive series of high energy gigs across Southeast London’s DIY and grassroots venues. Since the release of their debut EP, the members of Moreish Idols have been busy working on various creative projects, as well as new material — including their latest single “Mobile Phone.”

Clocking in at a little under five minutes, the Falmouth-based act’s latest single is one part atmospheric and breezy Steely Dan-like yacht rock featuring shimmering guitars, whispered vocals and mournful horn lines that turns into a dance punk, disco-tinged, four-on-the-floor, driven freakout reminiscent of Echoes-era The Rapture. And while meshing two distinct moods — a meditative pensiveness with restless anxiousness — the track thematically focuses on escaping from technology to take time out from emotionally draining relationships. “We like to think of the song as a transition for us and a cathartic representation of the big life change we’ve just made,” the band says in press notes. “We move from the slower dream-pop sound of Falmouth in the first half of the track and accelerate into the hectic aesthetic of south London for the second half.”

As the band’s Jude Lilley says of the song in press notes ,“I was reflecting on a time in which I felt suffocated in my relationships with people and my family, and having a phone didn’t help that. It wasn’t until I was living the slacker dream in Cornwall that I realised that this was such a problem. Anytime I’d want to escape and get away from it all I’d never be able to fully isolate myself with my bent iPhone 7 still in my pocket.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Nashville’s Twen Releases an Anthemic New Single

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Nashville-based indie rock act Twen.  The act, which is led by founding members Jane Fitzsimmons (vocals) and Ian Jones (guitar) can trace their origins to their involvement in Boston’s DIY scene, and as you may recall, the duo since their formation have been actively been redefining what a touring band should be and should be in the streaming age. Initially releasing only a live EP recorded from the band’s live debut in a Boston basement, the band has toured non-stop, honing and perfecting a live show that’s been described by critics and fans alike as raw and mesmerizing. 

Continuing to proudly ascribe to the DIY ethos that has influenced and sustained them, Twen’s core duo have run AirBNBs while touring, played in exchange for skydiving, screen printed self-designed merch items by hand and book their own tours. The duo emerged into the national scene with the release of their attention-grabbing single “Waste,” which received praise from the likes of NPR, Stereogum, Paste Magazine, BrooklynVegan, Uproxx, Under The Radar and others. Earlier this year, the duo opened for the acclaimed Louisville-based JOVM mainstays White Reaper — and they released the slow-burning and shoegazer-like “Holy River,” a track that to my ears would likely draw comparisons to classic 4AD Records, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve and Beach House — but with a yearning, dream-like quality that gives the ethereal track a subtle bit of emotional weight.

 Building upon a growing profile, the buzz-worthy, Nashville-based duo will be releasing their full-length debut Awestruck through Frenchkiss Records on September 20, 2019. I also wrote about the album’s first official single “Baptism,” an atmospheric and shoegazer-like track centered around shimmering guitars, propulsive drumming, Jane Fitzsimmons’ enormous, room-filling vocals singing impressionistic lyrics full of a yearning desire to be born, becoming and re-born. The album’s latest single “Make Hard” is centered around jangling, reverb-soaked guitars, propulsive drumming and rousingly anthemic hook — and while bearing a bit of a resemblance to Fleetwood Mac, the song is rooted in lived-in, personal experience that gives the song an emotional weight. 

“The song was rewritten and arranged very late in the recording process,” the band explained to DIY. “Another one of our earliest tunes, the second verse was a response to the growing pains we were going through at the time, transitioning from part-time rockers to full-time road warriors. The lyrics have come to symbolize the dynamics and relationships within a band as it grows, through the transformation of defined roles and how they change over time.”