If you follow me through my various social media accounts, you’d know that I’m now in Chicago on a business trip — and for some live music and hanging out with a few people I know in the area. So far, the trip has gone off on a fantastic start; but as you can imagine, I’ll be posting but somewhat sporadically as I’m running around town on various adventures, and will have work functions and so on. But let’s get to some business first . .

I’ve written quite a bit about the Chicago, IL-based psych rock band Secret Colours on this site, and as you may recall that throughout the band’s history they’ve gone through several lineup changes that have left founding member Tommy Evans as the sole original member. And with the band’s newest lineup which features Evans (guitar, vocals), Max Brink (bass) and Matt Yeates (drums), the band sound has been pushed in a slightly different direction as their latest album Dream Dream draws more from Brit Pop, guitar pop and garage rock — while at points, retaining elements of the 60s psych rock sound that first captured the attention of this site and elsewhere. Last year, I wrote about the XTC “Mayor of Simpleton”-like “Changes in Nature” and the 70s AM rock-like “Save Me;” however, the album’s latest single, album title track “Dream Dream” is more of a return to form, with the song being heavily indebted to both 60s psych pop and Brit Pop.

Directed and produced by Katey Meyer and featuring animation by  Becca Christman, the recently released video features the members of the band, playing on a brightly colored set, wearing retro glasses and sunglasses and of course, some prerequisite psychedelic imagery. It’s trippy yet mischievously so.

 

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Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a voyager, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spent his life there, before being cruelly dragged back to reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake, currently comprised of Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass), Brendan Doherty (drums), and a rotating cast of collaborators, friends and associates received attention with their 2014 self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that found the Irish pop act juxtaposing dark, despairing lyrics with a euphoric catharsis that’s largely influenced by the work of  Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders. Adding to a growing profile, the band has opened for touring acts such as GlasserLisa Hanningan and Ultraisa.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you’d recall that late last year, I wrote about the Dublin, Ireland-based act’s breathtakingly gorgeous Amnesiac-era Radiohead-like single “Bonfire,” and the cinematic, Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp and Ennio Morricone soundtrack-like “Twins” off the band’s forthcoming, highly anticipated-Rob Kirwan-produced debut album, Malingerer both of which prominently feature McAuley’s achingly tender falsetto. Slated for an April 20, 2018 release through Bright Antenna Records, Cloud Castle Lake’s full-length debut reveals an act writing their most ambitious and thought provoking material to date, making the album a gorgeous and transcendent statement of intent, and the album’s first official single, album title track “Malingerer,” which was released earlier this year is a cinematic and expansive track that draws from from the cosmic jazz explorations of John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Sun RaAmnesiac-era Radiohead and Sigur Ros — but with an unusual song structure that features several sections that manage to simultaneously be discordant yet flow into each other.

“Genuflect,” Malingerer‘s latest single continues in a similar, stunningly gorgeous and cinematic vein as its predecessors, as it’s based around McAuley’s aching and tender falsetto and an arrangement featuring shimmering guitar chords, an angular yet propulsive rhythm section, and a jazz-like horn section wailing along with McAuley towards the song’s cathartic conclusion. Certainly, this single will further cement the Irish band’s growing reputation for crafting transcendent (and otherworldly) material, centered around a unique and profound artistic vision.

 

Comprised of Rachel Ratner (vocals, guitar), Dave Ramm (drum), who’s best known as a former member of The Intelligence, and Matt Nyce (bass), the Seattle, WA-based punk band Wimps formed back in 2012 — an with the release of 2013’s debut Repeat released through End of Time Records, a 7 inch record released on the micro-label Help Yourself Records, and 2015’s Super Me EP, the Seattle-based punk trio quickly developed a reputation as one of the area’s best punk bands; in fact, the were voted Best Punk Band of the year, in a Best of Seattle Reader Poll.

Wimps’ third full-length album Garbage People is slated for a July 13, 2018 release through Kill Rock Stars! Records, and the album reportedly finds the band expanding upon their sound with the material employing the use of saxophone, keyboard and cowbell. Also, the album finds the band tackling much more serious concerns — gender pay inequality, the decline of bee populations as a result of climate change, insomnia and wanting to steal a pizza . . . but only if it’s these and so on.  Interestingly enough while expanding upon their sound and lyrical concerns, the album’s latest single, album title track “Garbage People” finds the band drawing influence from DEVO, The B52s, The Breeders and others in a way that feels anachronistic, as it sounds and feels as though it could have been released in 1979, 1999, 2009 or 2018, completing with a sneering, tongue-in-cheek irony.

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Sofi Tukker Releases Stylish and Glittering Visuals

I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed, New York-based electro pop duo Sofi Tukker over the past handful of years, and as you may recall with the release of their debut EP Soft Animals and a lengthy list of blogosphere dominating singles, including “Awoo,” a mischievous collaboration with vocalist Betta Lemme; as well as recently released singles “Energia,” “Fuck They,” international smash hit “Best Friend,” which received a Grammy nomination and was featured in an ad campaign for the iPhone X; and “Baby I’m a Queen,” which they performed on Conan. 

Building on a growing internationally recognized profile, the duo comprised of  Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern will be releasing their highly-anticipated full-length debut, Treehouse next week, and interestingly the album’s latest single “Batshit” finds Halpern taking up lead vocal duties within a swaggering house music production, which features tweeter and woofer rocking beats, blasts of disco-tinged guitar, subtle hints of tribal percussion and heavily arpeggiated synths — and while the song is a sinuous and seductive, it furthers the duo’s reputation for mischievous club bangers; but at the same time, the track finds Halpern introducing himself to the world as being absolutely out of his gourd. 

Directed by their now frequent collaborator, Mac Boucher, the recently released video for “Batshit” features Hawley-Weld and Halpern in bold, bright colors, injecting color and energy into the desolate surroundings of the desert. At one point, Hawley-Weld wields a hatchet and chases Halpern, who’s wearing multi-colored (and very large) platform shoes through the desert; at other points, Hawley-Weld sports a red sequined jumpsuit while playing the song’s funky guitar riff. Interestingly, the video not only further emphasizes the song’s mischievous vibe — while being incredibly stylish and shimmering. 

New Video: Foreign Air Releases Gorgeously Shot and Moody Visuals for “Chakra Daemon”

Last year was a breakthrough year for the Washington, DC/New York-based indie duo Foreign Air — their For The Light EP amassed over 20 million Spotify streams, their material was included in a Nike ad campaign, and building upon a growing profile, the duo opened for the likes of Phantogram, Aurora, BØRNS, X Ambassadors, Kevin Garrett and Lewis Del Mar, before heading to Seattle to record their forthcoming, Phil Ek-produced full-length debut, slated for release sometime this year. 

Their latest single “Chakra Daemon” will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for material inspired by heady subject matters — for this particular song, evolution, biomechanics and the ubiquitous email bounce back bot Mailer Daemon, as a comment on how much of one’s daily routine is heaped in negative, harmful and repetitive energy.  Sonically, the song follows along a similar vein as its predecessors — a murky and menacing production featuring layers of arpeggiated and pulsating synths, four-on-the-floor drum programming, bursts of buzzing guitar and an anthemic but pessimistic, post-apocalyptic-like hook that finds the duo nodding at the likes of Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode and others, as well as contemporary synth pop acts like Painted Palms.

As the duo’s Jordan Classen explained in press notes “We as humans are constantly looking for a connection. However, more often than not we fail to find that connection leaving one to feel lonely or even invisible at time. As humans slowly begin self evolving by integrating bio-technology, I imagine one day there will be a Chakra Daemon. This will be like an artificial subconscious. An enhanced intuition. Beyond the obvious implication of keeping us out of danger, I think it will also play a role in navigating us through relationships both platonic and romantic.”

Directed by Sabrina Reiter, the recently released video for “Chakra Daemon” was shot in Vienna Austria and stars Florian Tröbinger and Martin Brandner, who are both struggling in some way or another with the inner truths that must be spoken about ourselves — and in turn, while longing for connection that has long evaded them. As the duo explains of the video treatment, “We all struggle with fear at one point or another in our lives and must find ways to overcome; to put into the world the truth that we know is already in our hearts and in our minds. If we don’t learn to externalize ourselves as individuals then we will never know our true potential as a society.”

Over the past few months I’ve written a bit about the Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sam Himself, and as you may recall he first recieved attention with the 2017 release of his genre-defying EP Songs in D. Since then, the Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist has built upon the early buzz around him with the release of several singles off his forthcoming Nobody EP — the old-fashion, slow-burning“Out of Love,” featuring  denetia and sene’s denetia that struck me as nodding at Johnny Cash‘s and June Carter Cash‘s “If I Were a Carpenter” — but with a subtle twist, as the song according to the Swiss-born, New York-based artist “is a desperate promise to keep a lover from leaving.” Himself followed that up with with the synth and guitar-based “Nobody,” a song that brought Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run” “Born in the USA,” and “Glory Days” and Caveman‘s self-titled album to mind, as the song featured rousingly anthemic, fist raising hooks.

Nobody EP‘s latest single “Heartphones” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor:  it’s centered around soaring synths, an anthemic hook and thumping drums but underneath the song’s rousing uplift is a a vulnerable narrator, who is plagued by nagging doubts as he’s chasing his dream, especially when things seem bleak and uncertain. If you’ve ever chased a dream and bet the farm on it, you know the moments of deep doubt that come with true commitment,” Sam explains. “I tried to capture that experience of losing faith in your own pursuit, where you cross-examine yourself like a lover in crisis: How much are you willing to pay for the thing you can’t live without? How much will it cost you? Heartphones is a love song about doing what you love.”

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-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. Understandably, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth her and her family was; in fact, she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade of her life in classical training, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And as the story goes, from that point forward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

While in school, Merton wound up working with a number of producers on projects, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is a rarity. And when she met the Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the duo collaborated on Merton’s swaggering, hook-driven smash hit debut “No Roots,” a song that’s deeply influenced by her own nomadic youth. Speaking of smash hits, “No Roots” held the #1 spot for 2 consecutive weeks at the alternative radio charts here in the states, and held for 8 weeks in Canada. And as a result, she cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered the Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a growing profile, the song is synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign and was recently featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid — and earlier this year, she made her national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Building upon the buzz of her breakthrough single, Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” comes on the heels of her recently released No Roots EP, and much like “No Roots,” the Berlin-based pop artist’s latest single continues on the first-person perspective of its predecessor and the anthemic, hook-driven song focuses on a woman, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what you want, need and what you’re ready to fight for; to confidently answer your own needs in your own way.  And in some way, the song is an earnest, empowering feminist anthem.

Merton will be touring to support her debut EP and it’ll include performances on the festival circuit with appearances at Shaky Knees Fest, Hangout Music Festival and Governor’s Ball, and a tour opening for Vance Joy that includes a June 14, 2018 stop at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:
5/6 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Fest
5/15 Charlottesville, VA Spring Pavilion*
5/16 Columbus, OH Express Live!*
5/18 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
5/19 Portsmouth, VA Portsmouth Pavilion*
5/20 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest
5/22 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre*
5/24 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live*
5/25 Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre*
5/26 St. Louis, MO Fox Theatre*
5/27 Napa, CA BottleRock Napa Valley
5/30 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater*
6/1 St. Paul, MN Myth Live*
6/2 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom*
6/3 – New York, NY – Governors Ball Music Festival
6/14 Brooklyn, NY Prospect Park*
6/15 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
6/16 Hunter, NY NY Mountain Jam
6/14-6/17 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
8/4 Montreal, QC Osheaga Festival
8/7 Toronto, ON Echo Beach^
* W/ Vance Joy
^ W/ Tash Sultana

 

Best known as a member of Charles Bradley‘s backing band The Extraordinaries and Sharon Jones‘ backing band The Dap Kings, Lee Fields‘ backing band The Expressions, Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson and others, the Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since founding the label, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based artists including singer/songwriter, John Fatum, The Rad Trads, Michael Harlen, Patrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Last year, I wrote about a Dala Records split 7 inch single “Breathing Hard (Over You)”/”Honey Bee” featuring Camellia Hartman and its founder Aukstik, with both artists backed by the Dala Records house band, The Soulful Saints. And as you may recall, Hartman is an East Village-born and-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who as a child studied the Suzuki method on violin, bass and guitar at rock ‘n’ roll day camp, trombone in middle school and a cappella in high school.  Hartman’s latest single is the Billy Aukstik penned, “Return the Favor,” which is centered around the East Village-born and -based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s effortless and old-timey soulful vocals and an arrangement featuring twinkling keys, shuffling drums, and a loose, bluesy guitar line and a sultry horn line. Sonically, the song, which draws from Northern Soul production brings to mind the sounds of The Supremes and others, complete with a swooning and aching longing.