Category: Single Review

With the release of “Blue Hell,” the lead single and album opener off their full-length debut effort, Uncontrollable Salvation, the San Francisco, CA-based punk rock/indie rock quartet Pardoner quickly received attention for angst-filled, power chord-based, mosh pit-friendly rock. And unsurprisingly, Uncontrollable Salvation‘s second and latest single, album title track “Uncontrollable Salvation” will further cement their reputation for crafting 90s, inspired slacker rock full of buzzing power chords and rousingly anthemic hooks, and while the song has garnered comparisons to Polvo and Dinosaur, Jr., which are fair, I also hear elements of the beloved, Seattle grunge sound.

The Jack Shirley-produced Uncontrollable Salvation is slated for a September 8, 2017 release through Father/Daughter Records. And to build up buzz for the album, the band has two Bay Area shows in August. Check out live dates below.

Live Dates

August 5 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe du Nord (w/ Alex Napping)
August 30 – Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club (w/ Froth)

 

 

 

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Perhaps best known as a founding member, vocalist, pianist and primary songwriter of Los Angeles, CA-based indie quintet Local Natives, an act that’s received attention nationally for a sound that has been compared favorably to the likes Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear, Kelcey Ayer steps out from behind the auspices of a band for his solo side project, Jaws of Love. Unsurprisingly, Ayer’s new project reportedly sees Ayer honing in on what he’s best known for — sparse yet emotive piano ballads, as highlighted on his primary gig’s critically applauded sophomore effort Hummingbird.

 

Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, Ayer’s Jews of Love. debut takes was named by Ayer’s wife, who named the album after the their dog, Tasha — and the album is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through House Arrest Records, and Ayer’s Jaws of Love. debut single, the eponymous “Jaws of Love,” begins with a spectral arrangement in which he accompanies his plaintive and aching vocals with a gorgeous and mournful pianos before turing into a moody, and ambient synth pop track seemingly inspired by Narrow Stairs-era Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service and Brian Eno; but at its core is a sweetly swooning love song that reveals a visceral vulnerability as the song, much like the rest of the album’s material, focuses on love’s trials and tribulations, with the recognition that love may arguably be one of the more difficult, insane and absolutely necessary things in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past two years or so of its seven year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on the Grand Rapids, MI-based psych rock quartet HEATERS. Formed back in 2014, the Grand Rapids-based quartet began to make a name for themselves with the release of a handful of homemade EPs, a couple of split records and an attention grabbing appearance on Stolen Body‘s Vegetarian Meat psych rock compilation. Building upon a growing profile, the band’s Solstice EP was released through Dizzybird Records and they quickly followed that up within the following year with the “Mean Green” 7 inch and their full-length debut Holy Water Pool both of which were released through renowned, Brooklyn-based indie label Beyond Is Beyond Records.  And with each of those efforts, the band receive greater and greater acclaim — as well as a growing international profile — for a spacey, motorik-like take on West Coast, 60s psych rock and garage rock.

After the release of their sophomore full-length release Baptistina the band went through a massive lineup change in which the band’s founding members Nolan Krebs and Joshua Korf are paired with newest recruits Ryan Hagan and Ben Taber. And you’ll hear on “Seance,” the first single off the band’s forthcoming, third full-length Matterhornthe band retains the gorgeous and shimmering guitar lines and propulsive, motorik-like groove and enveloping sound that first caught the attention of the this site and the rest of the blogosphere; however, there’s a noticeably different energy and vibe to the material: a swaggering self-assuredness rooted behind an even larger, oceanic-like sound within expansive and ambitious songwriting.

 

 

 

As a mixed-race daughter in middle America — small town Ohio to be precise — the Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter Becca Richardson has always lived with the surrounding questions of what it means to belong and connect with others, and because she grew up with the constant reminder of being different than her counterparts, she found an immediate connection through music; in fact, she grew up in a rather musical home in which Fleetwood Mac, Phoebe Snow and Cat Stevens were on heavy rotation in her home.  After learning piano, guitar and to sing, she discovered a deep passion for songwriting, which still manages to be a powerful tool for discovering herself and carving out a space in the world.

As a young adult, Richardson went to study at Stanford University while honing her overall sound and songwriting approach. After spending a few years playing and hustling in the Bay Area music scene, Richardson relocated to Nashville, where she began work on her Roger Moutenot and Courtney Little-produced full-length debut We Are Gathered Here. “Wanted,” the album’s lead single, thematically explores womanhood, otherness and autonomy — but in a way that captures the innermost thoughts and desires of a modern woman; the sort of woman you’ve befriended, dated or even gone to work with. Sonically speaking, the song paris Richardson’s coolly self-assured and sultry vocals with an slick and ambient-leaning production consisting of blasts of bluesy guitar chords, a sinuous bass line, gentle layers of shimmering and undulating synths and soaring yet tight hook to create an overall sound that’s incredibly crafted and thoughtful while being rather radio friendly.

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Now known as the Federal Republic of Somalia, most Westerners view the country as being a lawless, dysfunctional and broken country, split and reeling from a brutal and bloody civil war between two or three different factions — and while that has been true over the past 25-30 years, what Westerners and others have sadly forgotten is that because of its location,the Eastern African nation for known for more than a millennium for being a major trading post, with several powerful Somali empires dominating regional trade, including the Ajuran Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate, and the Geledi Sultanate. And as one of antiquity’s major trade posts, the cultures and peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, India, Southeast Asian and China found a way to influence and slowly work their way into the region’s unique musical culture and sound.

In the late 19th century, the British and Italian empires through a series of treaties with Somalia’s historical empires and sultanates gained greater control of parts of the country’s coastline, establishing the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland while Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State fought and defeated the British four times before a crushing defeat by the British in 1920. Italy, then acquired full control of the northeastern, central and southern parts of the country after defeating the Majerteen Sultanate and the Sultanate of Hobyo — and their occupation of the country lasted until 1941 when the British took over with a military administration. British Somaliland would remain a protectorate of the British while Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trusteeship under Italian administration, the Trust Territory of Somaliland.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, independence movements across Africa helped to redefine the map; in fact, by 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland united in 1960 to form the Somali Republic under a civilian and democratic based government. Sadly, democratic government didn’t last long; by 1969, the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by authoritarian Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and established the Somali Democratic Republic.

Now that I’ve gone through roughly 1000 years or so of Somali history in a couple of hundred words, things musically for us begin in more contemporary times — 1988. You see, back in 1988 on the eve of a bloody, two-decade civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern region, known known as Somaliland in an attempt to smash a growing independence movement within that region of the country.

Musically speaking things for us begin in relatively contemporary times — 1988. On the eve of a bloody, two decade plus civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern section, now known as Somaliland in an attempt to squash a rumbling independence movement within the region. Unsurprisingly, one of the targets Said Barre targeted for airstrikes was the regional radio station Radio Hargeisa, as a way to prevent the organization of further resistance. Knowing that an attack on their radio station and their hometown was imminent, a handful of radio operators, tastemakers and historians recognized that they needed to preserve more than 50 years of modern Somali music as quickly as possible — and it meant finding a way to remove thousands upon thousands of cassette tapes, records and master reels and then dispersing them to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia — or in many instances, burying the tapes deep underground to protect them from theft, airstrikes, fire and so on.

The Somali Civil War broke out in 1991 and it resulted both the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s government and a number of armed factions fighting for influence and control throughout the country’s southern region. With the absence of a central government, Somalia quickly began to known as a failed state with residents returning to customary and religious law in most regions, along with a couple of autonomous regions — namely Somaliland and Puntland. But interestingly, the early part of the millennium saw the creation of several fledgling and sputtering federal administrations, including the Transitional Federal Government, which in 2004 reestablished national institutions such as the military. And with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, the Transitional Federal Government assumed control of the country’s southern conflict zones, beating back the Islamic Courts Union, which eventually splintered into a several radical Islamicist groups, including Al-Shabaab, a group that continued an ongoing battle with the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for control of the region and its territory.

By 2012, insurgent groups had lost most of the territory they had seized, and a political process that provided benchmarks for the establishment of a permanent democracy  — and it included the drafting of a provisional constitution, which reformed Somalia as a federation. At the end of that lengthy process was the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent government in the country in well over 20 years, followed by a period of necessary and hopeful reconstruction in Mogadishu.

Remember those audio recordings that the engineers, programmers, historians and tastemakers dispatched to Djibouti and Ethopia and buried in various locations across the region? Interestingly enough, those recordings were recently excavated from their shelters with some of those recordings being kept in the 10,000 cassette tape archives of the Red Sea Foundation, the largest known collection of Somali music and cassettes, located in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. (Yes, things do and can come full circle.)

Ostinato Records, best known for the preservation, digitalization, and distribution of obscure world music was able to digitized a significantly large portion of the Red Sea Foundation’s archives, choosing 15 songs as part of their latest compilation of African music Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. And while revealing the diversity of styles and sounds of Somali musicianship, the compilation also provides a glimpse of life in Mogadishu in the 1970s and 1980s, when the coastal capital was referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” At the time bands like Iftiin, Sharero and Dur Dur played at some of East Africa’s glitziest nightclubs, while Waaberi Band played packed to the rafter sets at the national theater.  Nightlife, music, culture and art were enormous — and interestingly while there were renowned male vocalists like Mahmud “Jerry” Hussen, Somali music of the 70s and 80s were best known for beloved female vocalists Faadumo Qaasim, Hibo Nuura, Sahra Dawo and a collection of truly empowered, prolific women; in fact, half of the compilation features songs sung by and written by women.

This cultural and musical golden age occurred under a socialist, military dictatorship, which effectively nationalized the country’s music industry. The state owned a thriving scene and essentially music was recorded for and by national radio stations, and it was distributed and disseminated through public broadcasts or live performances. Privately owned labels were non-existent and the work of a generation of artists was never made available for mass release in the way it is elsewhere — and until recently, hadn’t been heard outside of Somalia or its immediate neighbors. Most of that period, Somali music was largely influenced by the cultures and people who traveled to the region throughout its history as a major trade port; however, during the height of the Cold War, Somalia had periods of financial and logistical support by both the Soviets and the US in the Ethio-Somali War — and with about a decade of US backing, American soul, funk and hip-hop captured the imaginations of Somali youth, adding to a unique element to the country’s musical culture and sound.

While compiling the tracks on Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa, members of the Ostinato Records team spent the better part of a year traveling back and forth between Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Djibouti and across the Somali Diaspora in parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East to track down the musicians, songwriters, composers, government officials, scenesters, radio personalities and other folks, who had played a role during the 1970s and 1980s and got their stories down in a detailed, 15,000 word liner note booklet.

 

As the folks at Obstinato Records explain in press notes “Along side the story of Somalia’s music before the civil war, the selection is also focused on the pan-Somali sound. Spread over much of the Horn of Africa, Somali language and culture transcend arbitrary borders. Somali singers from Djibouti were at home in Mogadishu.” They add that “this compilation  seeks to revive the rightful image, history, and identity of the Somali people, detached from war, violence, piracy, and the specter of a persistent threat.”

Now, as you may recall, the compilations’ first single Danan Hargeysa’s “Uur Hooyo (Mother’s Womb)” feat. Mohamed “Huro” Abdihashi was recorded and released back in 1987 and the breezy confection nods at the trippy psychedelia of dub and dubstep as the collaborators pair a shuffling, two-step-like rhythm with explosive blasts of horn, shimmering synths, Nile Rodgers-like guitar and a strutting bass line, and while revealing an obvious reggae and calypso influence, the song possesses an undeniably sunny and funky vibe. Recently, the folks at Ostinato Records released two more singles from the compilation, Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” and Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan in anticipation of its official release on August 25, 2017.

Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” is an achingly gorgeous and slow-burning lament of a song that pairs Camaari’s ethereal and plaintive vocals with a lush and soaring Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired string arrangement and percussion and Casio synthesizer-like beats that dimly reminds a bit of Omar Souleyman, The Bombay Royale and JOVM mainstays Tinariwen while being absolutely unlike anything I can quite describe; but at its core is an an ancient and timeless ache. Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan is a swaggering and funky track that manages to sound as though it drew influence from Afrobeat and American soul and funk; but much like the preceding single, it features the ethereal and plaintive vocals of Xawaoo Hirraan, which give the song a similar ache.

Certainly, all three tracks from the forthcoming compilation evoke a far simpler time full of laughter, flowing beer and wine, of dancing until the sun came up and walking home in a drunken and elated shuffle, with arms draped over the shoulders of a companion or two, softly singing — and of sad love songs that speak directly to the lonely heart. No matter the language, it’s the sound of fleeting youth and swooning hearts before life’s ambiguities and horrors.

 

With the release of her 2013 debut effort (Songs from) The Sandbox, Dutch singer/songwriter Tessa Rose Jackson quickly received attention nationally and Stateside for upbeat, happy-go-lucky, infectious pop; in fact, unsurprisingly several singles from the album received quite a bit of airplay back in The Netherlands, and were placed in a number of TV shows and commercials, including Fox‘s acclaimed series New Girl. However, as Jackson was beginning to write the material for her highly-anticipated sophomore effort, she felt as though the river had run dry. Several years had passed from her debut and she was older, wiser, and as she discovered far more interesting than the teenager, who wrote The Sandbox. Along with that, three years working as a composer for TV and feature films found Jackson growing as a songwriter and producer, who took on broadening influences and techniques, as well as a growing, dusty synthesizer collection.

With her songwriting and creative approach taking on a different direction, Jackson felt it was a perfect time to start anew. Explaining how she came about with Someone, her latest musical project, Jackson explains  I wanted a name that meant: Don’t worry about who I am. Just check out what I make. I make a lot. Some you may like, some you may not. But I’ll like it. And you know what, I’m someone too.” While still possessing the anthemic hooks that first caught the attention of the blogosphere, “Say Something,” Jackson’s latest Someone single manages to nod at several disparate things — guitar pop and indie rock with subtle, ambient, electronic flourishes; but the song manages to reveal a cool, swaggering self-assuredness with some ambitious, pop-leaning songwriting. Simply put, it’s a radio-friendly track that has an arena rocking feel.

 

 

Comprised of Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife duo Bridgette Moody and John Seasons, both of whom share songwriting duties, Haunted Summer have developed a reputation for crafting dreamily hypnotic and lush material complete with string arrangements and sultry electronic textures; in fact, their previous EP, Something in the Water paired their gorgeous sound with a material that lyrically focused on a nostalgic world of young love and long-forgotten memories. Adding to a growing profile, the Los Angeles, CA-based husband-and-wife duo have toured with Taken By Trees, Deafheaven, The Polyphonic Spree, Coeur de Pirate, Olafur Arnalds, Carla Morrison, Meiko, Basia Bulat, JOVM favorite Geographer, Bauhaus‘ David J and others.

Spirit Guides, the duo’s forthcoming full-length effort was written while the duo was touring and was recorded in several different studios including Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, CA; Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, CA; Comp-ny LA and studios owned by Eugene, OR-based Ninkasi Brewing and features guest spots from Eagles of Death Metal’s Dave Catching and Masters of Reality‘s Chris Goss. And the album’s latest single “Every Step” finds the band playing anthemic, 90s-inspired alt rock, complete with fuzzy power chords, a rousing hook and a gorgeous melody before a dreamy, Mazzy Star-like coda closes out a song that reminds me quite a bit of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, Silversun Pickups and others but with a swooning earnestness.

The duo will be embarking on a West Coast tour throughout July and August. Check out tour dates below.

 

TOUR DATES
07.29.17 – Los Angeles, CA @ Autry Museum
07.30.17 – Phoenix, AZ @ Trunk Space*
07.31.17 – Tucson, AZ @ Sky Bar*

08.01.17 – San Diego, CA @ Blonde Bar*
08.02.17 – Boulder City, NV @ The Tap*
08.03.17 – Redding, CA @ The Dip*
08.04.17 – Salem, OR @ The Space*
08.05.17 – Eugene, OR @ Whiteaker Bloc Party*
08.06.17 – Portland, OR @ Rontoms*
08.07.17 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project*
08.08.17 – San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room*
08.09.17 – Merced, CA @ CASA*
* = w/Avi Buffalo

With the release of their critically acclaimed album Hide Before Dinner, the Melbourne, Australia-based electronic trio F INGERS, comprised of Samuel Karnel, Carla dal Forno and Tarquin Manek, have quickly become one of the Southern hemisphere’s most exciting and visionary electronic acts, as that album’s material were meant to evoke the thrill, and casual cruelty, of unsupervised childhood summers – a suburban gothic of grazed knees, hide-and-seek, nettle-stings; however, as you’ll hear on “All Rolled Up,” off the trio’s forthcoming album Awkwardly Blissed Out, the material’s sound is meant to evoke deeper, much more adult anxieties and fears — the daily struggles with passing time, of ghosts looming larger and lingering in strange and unexpected ways, of perpetually creeping dread and unease. And while retaining a chilly minimalist sensibility, the new material also manages to possess a slow-burning, almost painterly quality as gentle layers of swirling electronics, undulating synths form an icy surface from which ethereal vocals float over.

 

New Video: Beliefs Dark and Moody Cabaret-Inspired Visuals for “1994”

Although they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes and are currently constituted as a duo featuring its founding members and primary songwriters Jesse Crowe and Josh Korody, the Toronto, ON-based indie rock duo Beliefs have released two well-regarded full-length albums over the course of their seven years together — 2013’s self-titled debut and 2015’s Leaper; but the band can trace their origins to a shared love of late 80s and early 90s noise pop and shoegaze. Interestingly, the Canadian duo’s forthcoming third full, length effort Habitat was produced and engineered by the band’s Josh Korody and mixed by Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh, who’s also mixed albums by Preoccupations, Alvvays and METZ, and features Leon Tahenny, who’s played with Austra, Death From Above 1979 and Owen Pallet on drums, finds the band completely destructing, remaking and remodeling their self-conscious shoegazer-like origins in pursuit of an uncompromising new sound in which the duo has stopped being defined by the sum of its influences and finds their own unique voice and sound — and that period can often be one of most exciting and pivotal periods for a band. “I hope that’s the case,” says Crowe. “That’s always how I feel about bands, too – when you listen to something and it seems like it’s leading to a whole other element of a band, when you feel like you’re in the hallway about to open the door to a whole other space that this band is creating. And I hope that that’s what happens with us. We have no real plans at this point. We don’t want to be a ‘shoegaze’ band anymore.”

Interestingly, Habitat was the first time that the band’s founding duo had written an album together, and as Crowe continues, “and we wrote 80% of it in a room in four days wth no previous material. It’s as spontaneous as can possibly be” — with material being derived from extensive jam sessions. Adding to the spontaneous nature of the material, the album was recorded and tracked in 16 days and was recorded with no grand design or plan at play; however, interestingly enough the material manages to be influenced by each individual member’s unique interests and obsessions while gravitating towards unfamiliar instruments and instrumentation. Lately, Korody has had an increasing interest in modular synths and avant industrial  sounds, partially influenced by his solo recording project Nailbiter while Crowe had been listening to a great deal of 90s hip-hop — in particular, Portishead’s Third.  “It’s a dark record, for sure,”  Crowe says of their new album. “I feel like we were drawing a lot more from, like, me being a Goth teenager and Josh only wanting to listen to Aphex Twin and me only wanting to listen to Portishead’s Third for the last year and stuff like that. But also it was time to embody the elements of being a ‘wall-of-sound’ band with some space and the idea of being able to be quiet when you should be quiet, and you can’t do that with three guitars. There’s no space. It just becomes all push and no pull.”

Habitat, the band’s third full-length effort is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through Hand Drawn Dracula Records and Outside Music and the album’s latest single “1994” is reportedly a sort of sequel to Leaper’s “1992” and is a sleek and atmospheric track featuring ominously cascading synths, shimmering and angular guitar chords and propulsive drumming — and while allowing enough room for Crowe’s husky vocals to float and dart around the mix, the track sonically reminds me of Xiu Xiu, Antics-era Interpol, and others but with an eerily spectral vibe; as though the track was possessed by the lingering ghosts of one’s life. And they manage to do so within a song that eschews discernible or traditional song structures; in fact, much like Antics, the song is focused on creating and sustaining a particular mood than whether a chorus should be placed in a particular part of the song or not. 

Produced and edited by Christopher Mills, the video features Crowe and Korody performing in a dark room cabaret style –but the video manages to bear the appearance of old VHS tape, as it possesses a grainy quality in between cuts, nodding at the quality of the video for “1992.”

Over the past month or so, I’ve written a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock duo Umm. Comprised of Stefanie Drootin, best known for stints in The Good LifeBig Harp and in the backing bands of She & Him and Bright Eyes, and her Big Harp bandmate (and her spouse), Chris Senseney, the Southern California duo specialize in a decidedly 90s, alt-rockinspired sound, full of fuzzy power chords, plaintive and swooning harmonizing and anthemic hooks reminiscent of The BreedersThe Posies and others. And in that same month or so period, you may recall the 120 Minutes-like “I’m in Love,” and the dark yet breezy “Black Summer” off the duo’s soon-to-be released debut together, Double Worshipper.

Double Worshipper‘s third and latest single is the slow-burning and moody ballad “Yeah I Want It,” and while further cementing their growing reputation for crafting anthemic, 90s alt rock-inspired tracks with rousing hooks; but what makes this particular track different is its emphasis on swooning boy-girl harmonies and a dreamily wistful melody, which makes the song the most summery, if not most dream pop-leaning song they’ve released to date.