Category: Single Review

With the release of their first two singles “Brontos” and “Snowboy,” Emmecosta, a Gothenburg, Sweden-based electronic trio have quickly received attention across the European Union and elsewhere for a dreamy, jazz-based electro pop sound that evokes the sensation of being half-awake and walking home from the club as the sun is rising. And over the past few months, the Swedish electronic trio’s profile has been on the rise as they’ve received praise from several internationally recognized websites and publications including Clash Magazine, Vice’s Noisey and Complex — and they’ve seen increasing radio play from Scandinavian radio stations P3, P4 and YleX, as well as several others across the globe.

“Thousands of Me,” the third and latest single from the Gothenburg-based trio is a moody track consisting of handclaps, stuttering and skittering drum programming, sparse piano chords and a mournful horn line. Sonically speaking the song seems to draw influence from Portishead, Amnesiac-era Radiohead and Chet Faker — and much like the work of those acts, “Thousands of Me” has confessional and deeply personal feel, while delving deeply into the psyche of its narrator.

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If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that I’ve written about Brothertiger, the solo recording project of Brooklyn-based electronic musician and producer John Jagos. The project can trace its origins to when Jagos was a sophomore at Ohio State University. His debut EP, Vision Tunnels was released to critical praise from No Fear of Pop and Pitchfork. Building upon the early buzz he received, Jagos wrote and recorded his debut full-length Golden Years, which was released through Mush Records in 2012.

Future Splendors, the follow-up effort to Golden Years was a change in sonic direction as the material was reportedly his darkest and moodiest effort to date — and it was his first effort that he supported with a tour. Lagos’ forthcoming third, full-length effort Out of Touch is slated for a December 4 release and with the release of the album’s first single, album title track “Out of Touch” and its latest single “Beyond The Infinite,” Jagos is set to firmly put himself on the national map for an 80s synth-pop based sound that channels the likes of Tears for Fears as well as, contemporary artists such as St. Lucia and Washed Out.

In particular, “Beyond The Infinite” consists of layers of propulsive and cascading synths paired with four-on-the-floor drumming and rousingly anthemic hooks with soulful vocals in a song that’s plaintive yet remarkably cinematic. Much like the album’s previous single “Out of Touch,” the album’s latest single is informed by the Jagos’ desire to create an auditory journey through a metaphorical jungle of emotional states — tribulation, despair, fatigue, serenity, joy, tranquility, etc. In this case, the song focuses on the sensation of making a connection with someone and discovering that person has been deceitful and has betrayed you. And as a result, at the core of such a breezy, pop confection is the sort of heartache that should feel profoundly familiar.

At one point, comprised of Marko Nyberg (vocals and production), Antony Bentley (composer and musical director) and Johanna Kalen (vocals), the Finnish electronic music act Husky Rescue have developed a reputation across their native Finland and Scandinavia for relentless experimentation  — and for material that walks a careful tightrope between an anxious tenseness and a childlike innocence.

Their last album The Long Lost Friend is being re-issued worldwide as a double album — the first album consisting of the original album’s first eight tracks; however, since the initial recordings and release, vocalist Johanna Kalén has left the band because of health issues, and the second album consists of Husky Rescue’s most recent work between the duo of Nyberg and Bentley.

According to press notes, there is a real story of a long lost friend that informs much of the material on the first album. As the story goes, the long lost friend in question was someone Nyberg was particularly close to throughout most of his childhood — in fact, the two played music together and had a deep mutual understanding that comes from very close friendships. Sadly, the two friends lost touch with each other through most of their twenties, but while Nyberg was writing the songs on Long Lost Friend, he had regained contact with his dear friend. Reportedly, the material as a whole blends the literal and metaphorical, so the material manages to be about more than just one individual friendships — but varying states of emotional intimacy and how difficult and confusing it is to attain them.

Album single “Deep Forest Green” pairs Kalén’s smoky vocals with a sinuous bass line, propulsive drum programming, gently undulating electronics, and a looped whistling sample to create a song that’s tense and anxious and simultaneously breezy. It’s by far some of most eccentrically unique and yet accessible pop I’ve heard to date, sounding as though it owns a sonic and thematic debt to the work of Bjork, Talking Heads and others.

Best known by his stage name j. viewz, Jonathan Dagan is a New York-based songwriter, producer and visual artist, who has developed a reputation  for employing analog synthesizers, analog tapes, recordings of nature and sounds sent in to him from his fans to craft a sound that has frequently been described as nostalgic, intricate and detailed as well as collaborating with a number of guest vocalists, producers and musicians throughout his career. But perhaps just as important, Dagan has also had a long-held reputation for relentless experimentation — in fact, the New York-based multi-discipline artist gained attention for presenting a rendition of Massive Attack‘s “Teardrop” on an assortment of fruits and vegetables.

Eagan’s latest experimental project is the DNA Project, a website which, pulls the curtains open by presenting a step-by-step look at the making of his next album slated for release sometime next year — in real time. Fans and curious onlookers can follow Dagan’s creative process in its entirety, providing access to the people, places, and sounds that inspire each song, as well as exclusive videos of his writing process, recording sessions, and innermost thoughts during his creation of new music.

“Don’t Pull Away,” the latest single from the DNA Project and from the forthcoming and yet untitled album features guest vocals by Rhye‘s Milosh and production assistance from Gotye. (Check out some behind the scenes footage of j. viewz and Goyte collaborating together below. It’s actually quite a bit of fun.) The slow-burning track pairs sputtering, creaky and dusty-sounding electronics with soaring strings and gently swirling electronics with Milosh’s unhurried and sultry vocals — and in a way that’s particular reminiscent of Chet Faker‘s work (in particular “Gold” and his collaboration with Marcus MarrThe Trouble With Us“) as the single expresses an aching need and vulnerability.

Since their formation over four years ago, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Canadian roots trio Red Moon Road, comprised of Sheena Rattai (lead vocals, percussion, keys), Daniel Jordan (vocals, guitar, bass drum) and Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner (vocals, mandolin, banjo, guitar, lap steel, keys and delay pedals) have developed a reputation across their native Canada and elsewhere for a remarkably full sound that draws from a variety of influences including Canadiana, Manitoban country, folk music, gospel, soul, jazz, pop and Americana while pairing them with Rattai’s soulful, superstar-in-the-marking vocals, and for a live show that features each of the three multi-instrumentalists switching rapidly switching instruments throughout — with Péloquin-Hopfner known for playing banjo and organ simultaneously! (That’s something I’d love to see with my own eyes!)

L-R: Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner, Sheena Rattai and Daniel Jordan
L-R: Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner, Sheena Rattai and Daniel Jordan

As the story goes, while the Canadian roots trio was in tour in 2012, lead vocalist Sheena Rattai, broke her leg through a Frisbee-catch-gone-horribly-wrong accident that unfortunately lead to the trio being forced to cancel their tour. And as a result, Rattai spent several months recovering and writing, new material — most of which wound up comprising their latest album, Sorrows and Glories, which sees its Stateside release today. Co-produced by David Travers-Smith, a multiple Juno Award-winning, who has worked with The Wailin’ Jennys and Ruth Moody and renowned producer Murray Pulver, who has worked with Doc Walker and Steve Bell, the material on Sorrows and Glories is unsurprisingly, informed by the ups and downs of the healing experience and Canadian folklore — including a song that muses on Winnipeg’s Roslyn Square Apartment Complex, another that retells the tragic story of an 18th Century French aeronaut, as well as straightforward spirituals, while being reportedly being rooted in the sort of storytelling familiar to old school folk and country.

“I’ll Bend But I Won’t Break,” which I have the unique honor of premiering here, pairs Sheena Rattai’s soulful powerhouse vocals with upbeat and jaunty series of banjo chords, guitar played much like a bass guitar at parts, soaring organ chords and gorgeous three part harmonies at the song’s anthemic and powerfully encouraging hook in a song about resilience that’s deeply influenced by personal experience and hard-fought wisdom. As Red Moon Road’s Sheena Rattai explained to me by email, “I used to own this tiny little house in Winnipeg that I lived in all by myself. After a few years of trying to balance the upkeep of it with our rigorous touring schedule I realized that it just wasn’t working. I decided to make my best efforts toward grownup-hood and secure a tenant for the house. I got a tenant named Tom. Turns out, Tom was a terrible tenant! While this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, it actually ended up being a horrible experience that resulted in my having to sell the house. Needless to say, I didn’t much care for Tom at the time so I wrote an angry song that lyrically has nothing to do with Tom, but emotionally, has everything to do with him. It’s some self-encouragement that people like this that bring chaos into our lives won’t break us. I love the symbolism in how a tree survives a storm; grounding yourself and digging your roots deep.”

While I have to admit that I hope that Rattai doesn’t have any more terrible Toms in her life, the song is both a reminder of the age-old adage of that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that all things do pass in time. But it’s also an example of gifted and so rare songwriting — an earnest song that’s personable, richly visual and with an incredibly memorable hook that dozens of songwriters would kill for in any genre. And honestly, based on this trio’s sound, I’m amazed that they’re not bigger than what they are right now; but I think that will be rectified very soon.

Sameblod are a Stockholm, Sweden-based electro poo duo, who first came to international attention when Fuse TV named their previous single one of their “10 Best Dance Songs.” “Fade Out,” the duo’s latest single is a breezy and slow-burning bit of pop with anthemic hooks, cascading layers of synth stabs, rapid fire drum programming and achingly plaintive vocals. And although the duo has been compared favorably to the likes of MGMT and Passion Pit, this particular song reminds me — to my ears, at least — of Bear in Heaven‘s “Sinful Nature,” St. Lucia’s “We Got It Wrong” and the Cascine Records roster. In other words, it’s the same soaring and anthemic 80s-inspired synth pop, complete with a swooningly earnest, aching heart — and I suspect that you’ll be hearing quite a bit about this duo over the next few months.

F.Y.I,’s musical career began in the middle part of this past decade as the co-founder of Los Angeles-based rap act Those Chosen, with whom he recorded over 100 songs, a number of mixtapes and a critically praised EP, 5IVE, which was produced by Grammy winner IZ Avila best known for his work with Usher, Janet Jackson, and Gwen Stefani. And with the release of his debut solo effort, Yo! The Places You’ll Go, which featured a collaboration with Rass Kass and Ab-Soul, the Los Angeles-based emcee’s album landed at #1 on WPTS, which won an MTVu Woodie Award for Best College Radio Station. And as a result of sharing stages with renowned artists including The Game, B.O.B., Big Sean, Curren$y, Slick Rick, De La Soul, Pac Div, Dead Prez, Little Brother, Black Milk, Pete Rock and CL Smooth and Boot Camp Clik and playing at music festivals such as CMJ, A3C and the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, F.Y.I. has quietly developed a national reputation as an emcee to pay attention to.

The Los Angeles-based emcee’s debut sophomore effort, Age/Sex/Location was released earlier today and the EP’s latest single, EP opening track “One Thang” pairs F.Y.I.’s confident and dexterous flow, rhyming lyrics about looking bravely forward and striving and accomplishing your goals without fear and without doubt. And he does so over
over a glitchy and soulful production consisting of boom bap beats, distorted vocal samples, whirring electronics. It’s swaggering yet upbeat hip-hop which shows how influential Kanye West, Outkast and Common have been to contemporary hip-hop.

Over the past year Moonbabies, a Malmö, Sweden-based indie electro pop act comprised of husband and wife duo Ola Frick and Carina Johansson Frick have become something of a mainstay act on JOVM, as I’ve written about several singles off their impressive Wizards on The Beach, which was released earlier this year and have interviewed Ola Frick as part of the site’s ongoing Q&A series.

Although the Fricks have known each other since they were both high schoolers, they started writing and recording together in 1997. And with the release of their debut effort, the Malmo, Sweden-based duo had quickly developed a reputation for crafting an intricate shoegazer rock-based sound. However, by the time the duo had written, recorded and released their critically and commercially successful sophomore effort, The Orange Billboard the duo’s sound expanded and had become refined; in fact, many critics across Europe had compared the album’s sound favorably to Wilco‘s critically acclaimed effort, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. And as a result of the critical attention the album received, the duo embarked on an extensive European tour to support it. War on SoundThe Orange Billboard‘s follow-up effort was a critical and commercial success in Sweden and the album’s title track “War on Sound” won them greater international attention as the song was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy

As the story goes, the Fricks were busily working on what would be their highly-awaited, third full-length effort, the couple had begun to feel an increasing pressure to create and deliver songs that were commercially viable — to the point that that they had begun to feel as though they were drifting away from their initial creative vision and spirit. Recognizing that they were in a creative rut, the duo forced themselves out of the their comfort zone, relocating to Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin, they quickly felt in love with the city’s globally renowned EDM and house music scenes; in fact, as a result, the material they had begun writing began to lean heavily towards a more electronic-based sound. However, the duo did feel an entirely different pressure — the pressure of having to prove themselves in a much bigger, much more competitive scene, and after two years in Germany, the Fricks returned to their native country and started the recording progress again.

Upon their return to Sweden, the duo found the recording process to be both unsuccessful and frustrating, as they spent time forcing themselves to be push the process forward, scrapping it when the material didn’t feel exactly how they wanted it and then starting over, which according to the Fricks, they did more than 30 times. Interestingly, as the band has publicly noted, the birth of their son seemed to be the catalyst that breathed new life into their entire creative process and forced a change in approach. Their approach became much simpler – move past bad memories and associations, and focus on the songs that evoked a visceral sensation. As they were going through old material, they began to see things that they didn’t originally see within the material, and they found that ideas started to flow about naturally around it — and in a way that they hadn’t had in a while. And the end result was the duo’s aforementioned Wizards on the Beach.

Album single “24” pairs layers of shimmering synths, boom bap-like drums, acoustic guitar and industrial clang and clatter with Frick’s ethereal vocals to create a song that evokes the sensation of waking from a pleasant and yet half-remembered dream while subtly channeling the work of Jose Gonzalez and Junip. Recently, the London-based duo Glass Children remixed Moonbabies “24” as part of a unique remix exchange between both bands (you’ll hear about the band shortly), and their remix pairs Ola Frick’s vocals while an upbeat production consisting of layers of gently undulating synths, propulsive, tribal drumming that makes the song much more club-ready and yet trippy while retaining the dreamy feel of its original.

Comprised of David Fairweather and Daniella Kleovoulou, the London-based electronic duo The Glass Children craft dark, 80s inspired, upbeat electro pop consisting of lush production and ethereal vocals.  Their uptempo single “Undone” pairs layers of undulating synths, swirling electronics and Kleovoulou’s ethereal vocals in a song that sways and swoons with a plaintive Romanticism. Moonbabies’ remix pairs Kleovoulou’s ethereal vocals with swirling electronics and tribal-like percussion that actually makes the remix sound as though it could have been on Wizards on the Beach while retaining the original’s plaintive Romanticism — and of course, adding a dreamy fade out to the conclusion reminiscent of the ending of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”

I recently spoke to Moonbabies’ Ola Frick and The Glass Children’s David Fairweather and Daniella Kleovoulou via email about their unique remix exchange, their inspiration behind each band’s take on the other’s material and what’s next for both bands. Check it out below.

WRH: Moonbabies and The Glass Children recently remixed a single from their most recent full-length efforts — and both acts are releasing them on the same day as part of a “remix exchange” for lack of a better phrase. With Moobabies being based in Malmo, Sweden and The Glass Children being based in London, I wanted to know how did this collaboration come about? 

Daniella Kleovoulou: It was through Twitter actually. When “Undone” was released Moonbabies discovered the track through a blog review and tweeted about it. A bit later Ola [Frick] contacted us about remixing the song which we were really up for. I told him that David [Fairweather] played me “24” a while back from a BIRP playlist and we both loved the song so Ola asked if we’d like to remix it in exchange . . . and that’s how it all started.

Ola Frick: Both of us loved “Undone” when we first heard it, I guess it was back in January-February maybe. And since their other tracks also showed that they’re pretty extraordinary we wanted to get in touch and see if we could do a collaboration or remix exchange, and that was just what happened. Nice peeps as it seems!

L to R: Daniella Kleovoulou and David Fairweather of London's The Glass Children and Ola Frick and Carina Johansson Frick of Malmo, Sweden's Moonbabies
L to R: Daniella Kleovoulou and David Fairweather of London’s The Glass Children and Ola Frick and Carina Johansson Frick of Malmo, Sweden’s Moonbabies

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WRH: The Moonbabies’ remix of The Glass Children’s “Undone” retains Daniella Kleovoulou’s husky vocals but pairs them with a percussive yet very dreamy production consisting of undulating and swirling electronics before ending with chiming keys and a distorted vocal sample that evoke the sensation of waking from a dream. That remix sounds as though it could have been a B-side to Wizards on the Beach. Ola, why did you choose “Undone”? The remix manages to retain the original’s spirit while giving the song a different interpretation. What inspired your remix?  

Ola Frick: I’d say all my good studio work starts with a being filled up to the limit with a great feel/inspiration to begin with. Confidence, as well. And if you have it, it all goes smooth, happens fast and is driven by pure instinct. With this track I needed to have a complete blank canvas and just let it out. It happened very fast, 3-4 hours with some extra tweaks a day or two later, including mix/mastering. I just felt the song, and let it go in any way. And the first path it took (the big rhythm and thick vocals in focus) was the right. I’m very happy with it.

WRH: The Glass Children’s remix of Moonbabies “24”retains the Fricks’ vocals put pairs them with an uptempo, dance pop production — shimmering synths, skittering drum programming, swirling electronics, and the like. It sounds as though it’s both headphone-ready and club-friendly. And much like the Moonbabies’ remix, your remix retains the original’s spirit while giving the song a different interpretation. Why did you choose “24”? What inspired your remix?  

David Fairweather: It’s partly inspired by the same production ideas we had for our song “Undone”: a big bass and lots of 80’s analogue synths. We went for a melancholic feel but with some euphoric strings poking their heads in.  We wanted to keep the beautiful central riff the Moonbabies wrote on the guitar, but instead translate it to the piano.

WRH: What’s next for both bands? 

Daniella Kleovoulou: We’re currently working on our debut EP and organising some shows around London for the winter. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll also be streaming an electro cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra‘s “Some Velvet Morning” on SoundCloud.

Ola Frick: We have a few dancy Remixes we’ve done of tracks by the bands Blind Lake, Cantaloupe and The Land Below, that I guess and hope will be out before the end of 2015. And as you know we just released the Deluxe Edition Version of Wizards on the Beach with 12 bonus tracks. It sort of marks an end to a very long cycle for us. It feel great to get back into making something brand new, a complete fresh start, as were on a blank paper. Don’t know when something new will be out. One thing [that] stands out of the experience of working within the music industry 2015, is that we’re doing it straight out of pure joy, nothing else. We have set up our own imprint label Culture Hero, and no real pressure. My guess is a spring-time Moonbabies single or EP release. When something great pops up, we’ll capture it and release it. And I’m not lying when I say that I feel more confident and inspired than ever.

Born and reared in the Springfield, IL area and currently splitting her time between San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA singer/songwriter. guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie can trace her musical career to her childhood — during drives to and from town, a young Gillespie spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted pianist. When Gillespie was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had started writing to music. A local record clerk changed the young singer/songwriter’s life by giving her albums from three of the 90s’ most renowned singer/songwriters — Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin.

After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released the folk and alt-country influenced sophomore effort Light Year to a fair amount of critical praise across the blogosphere. As a result of Light Year‘s exposure, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with Robert Plant.

Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. And by the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.

Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazines Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming early next year through Narooma Records. Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison KraussRaising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album  reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.

“No Stone” Cure for Dreaming‘s first single pairs Gillespie’s husky and unhurried vocals with a spacious yet warm and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that feels as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at its core, is conversational lyricism that possesses a novelist’s attention to detail, as you can picture the woman who hides her face by the ocean, the cherry blossom trees in bloom, someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just starting her day — and a novelist’s attention to psychological detail. The song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push on. Interestingly, each time I’ve played the song I’ve been reminded of how Gillespie sounds so much like Joni Mitchell — it’s incredibly uncanny.

Comprised of John Gill (vocals, bass, guitar and synth), Greg Tebbano (lead guitar, lead synth and backing vocals), David Octal (bass), and Ben Patten (drums), the Saratoga Springs, NY-based post punk quartet The Black Ships derive their name from the Western vessels that sailed to Japan during the 16th to 19th centuries. And with the forthcoming release of their latest effort, Dead Empires, slated for a December 4 release, the Upstate New York-based quartet hope to prove that Saratoga Springs is the home of a burgeoning wave music scene  — in particular, a burgeoning shoegaze/dark wave/chill wave scene — as the town is best known as the home of blogosphere darlings Phantogram.

Dead Empires‘ latest single album title track “Dead Empires” sounds as though it owes a major sonic debt to Joy Division, The Cure and 4AD Records —  while also channeling contemporaries like The Harrow, Dead Leaf Echo and others, as the song is comprised of atmospheric synths, slashing, angular bass and shimmering guitar chords and four-on-the-floor drumming paired ethereal vocals. If you’re a child of the 80s as I am, the Saratoga Springs-based quartet’s sound will be familiar — it’s a darkly seductive and danceable sound. But interestingly enough, what will set the band apart from their contemporaries is the fact that the band’s frontman John Gill is a self-proclaimed avid history buff, and Dead Empires lyrics concern themselves with how history’s course and flow affects and influences everything. And as Gill explains in press notes “Looking back on historical events of the past adds a romantic tinge to things and a certain yearning for past times and traditions.” In some way, it gives the material a swooning Romanticism that belies its brooding nature.