New Video: Married, Art Pop Duo, The Parlor Releases a Thoughtful Meditation on Grief

With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.

Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”

Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.

Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.

As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”

The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.

Throughout the bulk of this site’s almost 8 year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Detroit, MI-based proto-punk/punk rock band Death, and as you may recall, the band which featured The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — formed back in 1971, and initially they were an R&B and funk-based act  — until The Hackneys caught The Who and Alice Cooper live. As the story goes, after those concerts, David, the youngest of the siblings pushed his two older brothers towards a more hard rock-leaning sound; a sound that interestingly managed to presage punk, post-punk and the Afropunk movement while necessitating a name change. And from that point forwards the band went by Death. As Bobby Hackney famously explained in a 2010 interview that David’s concept was to spin death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell,” Bobby Hackney recalled.

In 1975, the Hackneys went into Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti to record a handful of songs written by David and Bobby, and according to the Hackney family Clive Davis funded the recording sessions; but while doing so, he had repeatedly implored and cajoled the band into changing their name into something more commercially palatable.  David refused, and his brothers while initially okay with a name change went along with their brother’s vision. Davis pulled out his financial investment, leaving the band with seven of the twelve songs they had planned to record. 1976 saw the extremely limited release of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, which was recorded during the United Sound Studios sessions and their full-length, which was released to very little fanfare.

By 1977, the Hackney Brothers decided it was time to end Death, and then relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two gospel rock/Christian rock albums in the late 70s and very early 80s as The 4 Movement. However, by 1982 David Hackney had returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming a reggae band Lambsbread. From what I understand there was a point where The Hackney Brothers had discussed reforming Death but unfortunately, David Hackney died of lung cancer in 2000. However, as the two surviving Hackney Brothers claim, David told them shortly before his death that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their day, history would prove them and their work together as being truly revolutionary — but that it would mostly likely be after his own death. In a wild yet very true spin of serendipitous fortune that seems as though it were written by a screenwriter, Bobby’s sons had stumbled across the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic, several years after David’s death. Bobby’s sons were impressed by their father’s and their uncles’ work that they began covering Death as a loving homage that began to receive attention both nationally and internationally.

As a result of the growing buzz around the band, Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release, and from those recordings the material proved David Hackney correct, revealing that Death’s sound and aesthetic managed to be 3 years ahead of the punk revolutionary while simultaneously playing an important role in Black music history, as they managed to fill in the gaps between Parliament Funkadelic, Bad Brains and Fishbone, while presaging the likes of Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince,  Unlocking the Truth and a list of others. Since the re-issue of their early demos and their full-length, Death with its current line up featuring the surviving Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis Hackney (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar), have had a documentary about their incredible story, released new material and spent time touring and playing on the festival circuit, including an incredible Afropunk Festival set, which has introduced the trio, their story and their sound to eager and appreciative new audiences.

Death’s latest single “Give It Back” was originally written by the band’s Bobby Hackney in 1979 and re-recorded last year but interestingly enough, the song concerns itself with persistent and troubling social and environmental issues that he saw almost 40 years ago, from increasing political, racial and social animus and disarray, global warming and the pollution of our water and air, and a growing sense that dreams and hopes you once had have been lies created by larger powers to keep you involved in a sick and demented system that exploits and destroys human lives and the only home we’ll ever know. The overall theme of the song is as you’ll hear in the lyrics “We’ve taken from this world, now it’s time to give it back” suggesting that there’s only one time to get it right, before we fuck it all up royally — and they pair that with a classic, Detroit rock ‘n’ roll groove that immediately brings The Dirtbombs to mind.

 

 

Comprised of founding trio, twin brothers Reid and Blaze Bateh and their childhood friend William Brookshire, JOVM mainstays Bambara initially formed in Athens, GA and as you may recall, after they relocated to Brooklyn, where they recorded their full-length debut DREAMVIOLENCE, the trio exploded into the national scene, thanks in part to a punishing, shoegaze and noise rock-inspired sound that drew comparisons to A Place to Bury StrangersWeekend, and others. However, with 2016’s sophomore effort, Swarm, the trio’s sound increasingly incorporated elements of stark, New York hardcore punk and thrash punk centered around Reid Bateh’s lyrics describing life in a stark, grimy, merciless city, full of neurotic, unhinged and deeply unstable characters trying to survive with whatever dignity, decency and shred of their own sanity they have remaining. And as a result, the album’s material possessed a tense, bristling fury.

Slated for an April 6, 2018 release, the Brooklyn-based trio’s forthcoming, third, full-length  Andy Chugg-produced Shadow on Everything is their first for Wharf Cat Records, and it reportedly represents a decisive step forward with the band transcending the early noise rock and post-punk that has long inspired them — with the new album being a Western Gothic concept album. And while the musical center still remains the trio’s tight rhythm section featuring Blaze Bateh’s frenzied yet metronomic drumming and Brookshire’s sinuous bass lines, which allow space for Reid Bateh’s squalling, feedback tinged guitar and howled vocals; however, where Reid Bateh’s vocals were buried in the mix for their previously recorded output, Shadow on Everything finds his vocals pulled towards the front, symbolically placing the damaged characters and seedy locales of his lyrics directly on the proverbial center stage. Additionally, the album finds the members of Bambara expanding upon their sound and instrumentation as it features violin and cornet arrangements with the material interspersed with ambient noise loops distilled down from hours of manipulated vocal collages the band shifted through to find the perfect texture.

Although “Jose Tries to Leave,” Shadow on Everything‘s first single features shimmering, almost Spaghetti Western-like guitar work paired with a propulsive and forceful rhythm section consisting of Blaze Bateh’s metronomic and thunderous drumming and Brookshire’s angular bass chords but unlike any of their previous work, the new single has a cinematic (and dramatic) air, capturing the lives and thoughts of desperate and seedy souls with both a novelist’s attention to psychological detail and empathy — but just underpinning the whole affair is a murky sense of menace and murder just around the corner.

Live Footage: Alice Merton Performs Viral Hit “No Roots” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

Alice Merton is a Canadian-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Of course, music was a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth she was; she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five and by the time she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. As the story goes, after spending the better part of a decade being classically trained, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And from that point forward, she went on to study songwriting and began pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

Naturally, while in school Merton would up working with a number or producers on projects and as you can imagine, finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator is a rarity. And when she met Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she finally found her musical match; in fact, the duo have managed to specialize in an anachronistic  sound that features Merton’s soulful pop belter vocals over a slick production consisting of analog synths, classic soul music-inspired instrumentation paired with hook driven, contemporary songwriting. 

Merton’s swaggering and bluesy debut single “No Roots,” features Merton’s self-assured and soulful pop belter vocals paired with a Rebscher production that features enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line, brief blasts of funk guitar, squiggly blasts of synths and a rousingly anthemic hook that nods at Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Taylor Swift and others but while managing to feature a narrator that simultaneously expresses a wizened and resilient spirit; but just underneath there’s a visceral ache over a life frequently thrown in disarray with sudden moves before the narrator could get adjusted to a new place, and the realization that she’s never quite belonged. 

Already “No Roots” has won the up-and-coming Merton an immense amount of attention across the European Union, Stateside and elsewhere, as the song has already seen millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has recently been added to the playlists of several Stateside Adult Alternative Album radio stations, including stations in Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, the NYC area, as well as Sirius Alt Nation. Adding to a growing profile, thanks in part to the success of her debut single, Merton recently signed to renowned indie label Mom + Pop Music. Recently Merton, along with her backing band recently made their national television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she performed her viral hit. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays WINDHAND Return with a Lysergic and Epic Doom-Laden Dirge

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past three years or so of its almost eight-year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring the Richmond, Virginia-based doom metal band WINDHAND. Currently comprised of Dorthia Cottrell (vocals), Garrett Morris (guitar), Parker Chandler (bass) and Ryan Wolfe (drums), the Northern Virginia-based metal act formed back in 2009 and with the 2010 release of a self-recorded two track CD, the band quickly garnered comparisons to Electric Wizard, The Devil’s Blood and Black Sabbath.  Building upon a growing profile, their 2012 self-titled debut became an underground hit and sold out multiple vinyl pressings within a few months.

2013 saw WINDHAND sign to Relapse Records, before collaborating with Richmond, VA-based band Cough on a split single “Reflection of the Negative,” which was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork and others. WINDHAND promptly followed that up with the release of their critically applauded sophomore effort Soma, an effort that received praise from Stereogum, Spin, LA Weekly, Revolver, Invisible Oranges, MetalSucks, Metal Injection, Rolling Stone and NPR — with Pitchfork naming the album as one of the third best metal releases of the year. Adding to a breakthrough year, the members of the Richmond, VA-based doom metal band had spent the bulk of 2013 and 2014 touring North America, the European Union, and Australia with Sleep, High on Fire, Dead Meadow and Kvelertak, as well as the festival circuit, wth appearances at Roadburn, SXSW, Scion Rock Fest, Day of the Shred and Maryland Deathfest. They closed out a breakthrough and breakneck period with a critically praised split album,in which they collaborated with Swedish doom metal act Salem’s Pot.

2015’s Jack Endino-produced, third full-length album, Grief’s Internal Flower featured album singles Crypt Key.” and “Two Urns” which unsurprisingly managed to further cement their reputation for crafting sludgy, murky, punishing and downtempo dirges.  At the end of last year, the members of the band announced that they would be releasing a split album with fellow Virginians Satan’s Satyrs, which Relapse Records will release on Friday, and as you may recall, the album’s first single “Old Evil” was a mosh pit worthy sound that featured some impressive psych rock meets metal god guitar work and an anthemic hook that belies the lurking evil within the song. The split album’s latest single “Three Sisters” is an epic, slow-burning and lysergic dirge with a scorching and smoking guitar line, explosive burst of organ and wobbling bass over which Cottrell’s vocals ethereally float over, like a feverish dream-like portent.