Throughout the past summer, I’ve written quite a bit about the Glasgow, Scotland-based synth pop act Free Love, and since their formation back in 2014 under the name Happy Meals, the act which is comprised of Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook quickly established themselves as one of Scotland’s most acclaimed, contemporary electronic music acts; in fact, their 2015 full-length debut Apero received a Scottish Album of the Year nod. And adding to a growing profile. the duo has opened for Liars and The Flaming Lips, and played sets at festivals in Austin, TXMoscow, and Bangalore.

With the release of “Synchronicity,” a track that may remind some listeners of Nu Shooz‘s “I Can’t Wait,” and New Order‘s “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle, the duo further cemented their reputation for crafting utopian-leaning and brainy dance pop centered around shimmering analog synths. As the duo explained in press notes, the song is breaking free from the binds of culturally dictated self-limitation, coupled with the vertigo of complete freedom. The Scottish synth pop duo released two more singles, the ecstatic Giorgio Moroder and New Wave-like “Pushing Too Hard,” and the acid-house-like “July,” which brought Come With Us-era Chemical Brothers and Tweekend-era Crystal Method to mind. The duo’s forthcoming EP Luxury Hits is slated for a November 9, 2018 release and the EP’s latest single “Playing As Punks” will further cement the Scottish duo’s reputation for crafting 80s inspired synth-based New Wave — in this case, much like “Synchronicity,” taking its cues directly from early New Order and early house music as the track sonically is centered around arpeggiated synths, industrial clang-like drum programming and an soaring yet infectious hook; but underneath the dance floor friendly vibes, the song focuses on being here in this very brief moment with the understanding and acceptance of the fact that it won’t last.

 

 

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Comprised of brothers Tim (guitar, vocals) and Cory Race (drums) with Wallace May (bass, vocals), the Brooklyn-based post-punk trio Big Bliss formed back in 2015 when the Race Brothers began collaborating together on a project with the aim of drawing from shared influences between the two — namely 70s punk and 80s post-punk. The Race Brothers recruited Brooklyn-based songwriter Wallace May to flesh out the band’s sound, and since their formation they’ve developed a reputation for crafting shimmering, jangling and energetic post-punk.

The band’s Jeff Berner-produced full-length album At Middle Distance is slated for an October 19, 2018 through Exit Stencil Recordings, and the album, which was recorded at mixed at Studio G and Thump Recordings in Brooklyn, is reportedly a major step forward for the band as the material find the band further refining and perfecting their sound with a deeply emotive quality. Interestingly, At Middle Distance‘s latest single, The Alarm and Starfish-era The Church-like “Duplicate” is centered around thumping and propulsive drumming, shimmering and jangling guitar lines, an angular bass line, a shout along worthy hook and Tim Race’s earnest vocals but while managing to evoke the sensation of being hemmed in, of being deeply frustrated and uncertain over the things they can’t have/aren’t allowed to have and can never really be — and as a result, the song has an emotional heft. As the band’s Tim Race explains, “‘Duplicate’ is the record’s thesis. It informed many of the other songs’ thematic content, as well as Ana Becker’s album art (reflection, duality.) The song centers on conflicting and frustrated identities. It’s so easy to value yourself based on self identity, like social constructs and occupation, but that’s a slippery slope. That will inevitably lead to comparing yourself to your peers to measure self-worth, that can be a painful, distorted way of dealing with life. One will only see what they can’t control or don’t have, leaving little space for basic gratitude and contentment.”

The band will be touring to support the new album and it’ll include two NYC area dates — October 20, 2018 at Alphaville and November 3, 2018 at Union Pool. Check out the rest of the tour dates.

Tour Dates
10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville (At Middle Distance LP Release Show)
11/03 – Brooklyn, NY @ Union Hall
11/27 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rock Room
11/28 – Detroit, MI @ Kelly’s Bar
11/29 Grand – Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
11/30 – Chicago, IL @ Burlington Bar
12/01 – Bloomington, IN @ Blockhouse Bar
12/02 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR
12/03 – Muncie, IN @ BHN
12/04 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups
12/05 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
12/06 – Boston, MA @ O’Brien’s

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, I wrote a handful of posts on the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Psychic Love, and because it’s been a while I think I should refresh your collective memories a bit: fronted by Laura Peters and featuring Max Harrison (guitar) and Liam McCormick (bass), the trio have described their sound as “dream grunge” and “as if  Nancy Sinatra had a love child with Frank Black.”

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio but interestingly, their latest single “Go Away Green” derives its name and is somewhat influenced by a very odd yet very true fact — at Disney theme parks, the things they don’t want patrons noticing is painted in a shade of green that they’ve dubbed “Go Away Green.” Naturally, Peters was fascinated by that fact, and began to observe that people frequently try to cover up unpleasant aspects of their personalities and character in as similar fashion. As the band’s Laura Peters says in press notes. “This is a song about the things and people hiding in plain sight. I often feel like I’m looking out from inside a body – a body, a face, a look, that is telling the world one thing, but inside I’m just you and you are me.” Interestingly, the song features novelist’s attention to psychological detail, as it captures a relationship in which both people aren’t being as honest as they say they’d like to — and they both know it.

Sonically, the song is a decided expansion of the sound and songwriting approach that first caught my attention — the song is a bit of a shape shifter, that begins with a cacophony of noise that recalls Pearl Jam’s Vs. before quickly morphing into a slow-burning and atmospheric section with a rousingly anthemic hook that recalls Concrete Blonde and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse, but while hinting at Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound of production and an increasingly ambitious songwriting approach.

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Bambara Release Darkly Surreal Visuals for “Monument”

Now throughout the eight-plus year history of this site, I’ve written a lot about the JOVM mainstays Bambara, and as you may recall, the trio, comprised of twin brothers Reid and Blaze Bateh and their childhood friend William Brookshire released their Andy Chugg-produced third, full-length album Shadow on Everything through Wharf Cat Records earlier this year, and the album is a decisive new, sonic direction for the Brooklyn-based band as they moved away from the noisy punk and post-punk of their previous two albums 2013’s DREAMVIOLENCE and last year’s Swarm to incorporate a Western Gothic-inspired take on punk rock. And while the music center remains the trio’s tight and forceful rhythm section featuring Blaze Bateh’s frenzied yet incredibly metronomic drumming and Brookshire’s propulsive bass lines, unlike their previously recorded output, Shadow on Everything finds the band placing Reid Bateh’s vocals at the forefront, symbolically placing the damaged characters and seedy locales of his lyrics at center stage, and in some way it captures something wholly and uniquely — well, American.

With album single  “Jose Tries to Leave,” the members of Bambara managed to retain the forceful yet nightmarish dynamism, while focusing on the lives and thoughts of desperate, fucked up, seedy sorts — with a humanistic and novelistic attention to psychological detail and empathy.  “Doe-Eyed Girl,” continued in a similar vein but was imbued with a sweaty and furious urgency, fueled by a seemingly manic, desperate obsession.  “Sunbleached Skulls” may arguably be among the murkiest and bleakest songs of the Brooklyn band’s growing catalog  as Reid Bateh’s dark imagery centers around buzzing flies around sun-bleached bones, rotting flesh, dirt and grime paired with Brookshire’s propulsive bass, Blaze Bateh’s mathematically precise, metronomic drumming and shimmering bursts of Western guitar figures, and while the song evokes writhing about in dirt, grit and grime, underneath the bleak air and foul stenches, there’s a strange sort of peace  — the sort that comes when strangers have found brief moments of companionship, tenderness and comfort in someone else, even when fleeting.

“Monument,” Shadows on Everything’s latest single is a forceful, unrelenting and malevolent thrasher of a track, that’s centered around pent up and unfulfilled tension, obsession and questionable intent. Of course, much like album’s preceding singles Reid Bateh’s Georgia drawl sings stream of consciousness-like lyrics that at points possess a surreal and nightmarish beauty.  Directed by the members of the band and filmed by Tim Ciavara, the recently released video is shot in a lush and cinematic black and white that brings Anton Corbijn to mind while emphasizing the song’s malevolent, fucked up air.

 

Planit Hank is a mysterious but up-and-coming, underground producer whose latest effort, the Night Before Purgatory EP is slated for release next month — and the EP finds Planit Hank collaborating with a who’s who of gritty, New York street shit hip hop, including M.O.P., AZ, Canibus, Chris Rivers, Styles P, Kool G. Rap, DJ Evil Dee and a few others. “Life in Crooklyn,” the EP’s latest single is centered by a production that’s equally soulful and mournful as it features an atmospheric and looped horn sample, tweeter and woofer rock boom bap beats and scratching by the incredible DJ Evil Dee. Jeru The Damaja, Buckshot and AZ all wax both nostalgically and heartbreakingly about their rough and tumble childhoods — Jeru The Damaja talks about all the people he knew and loved, who were tragically murdered, with the recognition that without music, he may have ended up much like those he remembered; AZ proudly rhymes about repping Brooklyn all day; Buckshot, arguably one of the best emcees ever manages to pay tribute to BIG, make a brief point about gentrification but while pointing out that gangster shit is still there — and always will be there. But along with that the song focuses on the lack of older heads giving guidance to young cats in the way that happened for these legendary emcees. What makes the track intriguing to me is that it manages to view things from an older perspective but without sounding like crotchety old men, screaming at the clouds and the young cats about how everything fucking sucks, and how the music the kids listen to these days is awful; nor is the nostalgia within the song maudlin. If anything, it speaks to how powerful music can be — that it save the lives of people in desperate circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about Copenhagen, Denmark-based electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, and the act, which features Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager can trace its origins to Coleman and Hesselager’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work in a number of different projects — and naturally, the duo were encouraged to collaborate together. 2015 saw the release of their debut single, but 2016 the duo saw critical praise from The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRWKEXPNorway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft with the release of the Medication EP and their full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn.  Adding to a growing international profile, Coleman and Hesselager have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown FestivalRoskilde FestivalGreen Man FestivalSziget FestivalLatitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.

Nowadays, the Australian-Danish duo’s sophomore album was released earlier this year and from album singles “Empire,”  “Come Back (Left Behind),” “Baltimore,” and “Take Shelter,” their sophomore album reveals an act that has managed to expand upon their sound and songwriting approach in a subtle yet decided fashion as the material is centered around Coleman and Hasselager’s penchant for pairing at times breezy, melodic and downright radio friendly pop with dark and sobering thematic concerns — with Nowadays, their material focuses on the inevitable loss of innocence as one truly becomes an adult; the recognition of the fear, freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny; the tough and sometimes embittering life lessons that get thrown in your way; as well as the inconsolable grief and confusion of loss. Interestingly, the Australian-Danish duo’s latest single “Acting Like Lovers” may arguably be one of the upbeat songs on the album as its centered by a production that manages to be simultaneously cinematic and intimate as it features strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove and their uncanny ability to craft breezy, 70s AM rock-like melodies. The song hints at a sense of closure — but with the subtle recognition that in life there is no such thing as closure, that life inevitably shoves you forward while you make every attempt to pick up the pieces and have some semblance of normalcy.

The single features two covers — the duo’s breezy, Junip-like take on Elliott Smith’s “Christian Brothers,” that feels like a subtle departure from the original, and one of my favorite songs by The Cars, “Drive,'” which manages to maintain the song’s moody and contemplative air. As the duo’s Caspar Hesselager explains, Elliott is someone who has influenced both me and Carl profoundly, and for me personally (growing up mostly with classical music and jazz) he became the guy that got me into listening to songwriters. We’ve often jammed his songs in the studio for fun and our cover of his song ‘Christian Brothers’ has been a favourite encore of ours on many shows. It’s from his second album ‘Elliott Smith’ which along with the debut album is him at his most lo-fi and raw. It’s almost ‘anti-produced’ but as always you can’t keep those songs from burning right through all of that.” The duo’s Carl Coleman elaborates on their cover of The Cars’ “Drive,” “This was a song that always followed me around growing up in the 80s and 90s. I’m a sucker for sad pop songs. I’ve just always been attracted to melancholy stuff and this song has it all. All that drama and mystery plus a beautiful simple melody. Hell, we couldn’t help but have a crack at it.”

 

 

 

 

Last year, I had written quite a bit about Holy Wars, led by Connecticut-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter Kat Leon, and as you may recall, Leon initially developed a reputation for writing material that focused largely on her obsessions with death and the occult as one-half the of the Los Angeles-based electro pop act Sad Robot. Leon’s critically applauded Holy Wars debut Mother Father was influenced by some of the darkest days of her life — when she was reeling from the sudden losses of her mother and father, who both died within months of each other. Building upon the attention she received here and elsewhere with Mother Father, Leon’s latest Holy Wars single “Born Dark” was produced by AFI’s Hunter Burgan, and while arguably being among the slickest produced singles she’s released, the arena rock friendly, hook-driven track is centered by propulsive tribal drumming, buzzing power chords and Leon’s pop star-like powerhouse vocals — and sonically the song manages to nod at Nine Inch Nails, Garbage and Siouxsie and the Banshees in a self-assured and ambitious fashion.

Interestingly, the track reportedly finds Leon going back to her roots — literally — as she explores the very moment of her birth, with the possibility that she may have been a bit of a bad seed, if not devilish, complete with a “don’t give a single fuck” swagger.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Eliza Shaddad Releases 90s Rom-Com Inspired Visuals for “Just Goes To Show”

With the release of her first two EPs Run and Waters, the London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Eliza Shaddad quickly rose to international prominence, receiving praise from a number of major media outlets including The Fader, Nylon, Stereogum, The Line of Best Fit, The Independent, Clash, The 405, as well as airplay from BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra, Beats 1 Radio and countless others for a sound that some have compared to the likes of PJ Harvey, Cat Power and others.

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed British singer/songwriter, and as you may recall, Shaddad’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Future is slated for an October 26, 2018 release through Beatnik Creative. Earlier this year, I wrote about Future‘s second single “My Body,” a moody track featuring shoegazer-like atmospherics and a dark, seductive, trip hop-inspired groove that evoked a plaintive and uncertain need. “This Is My Cue” the album’s third single continued in a similar vein as its predecessor — moody atmospherics but centered around a candid and ironically rousing breakup song.

Future‘s fourth and latest single “Just Goes to Show” continues a run of atmospheric tracks with a deceptively anthemic nature but much like its immediate predecessor, the track is deeply confessional and unabashedly honest description of the desperate, uneasy feelings of a breakup –but from the perspective of the person being left behind to deal with the aftermath. And while some have compared the song to The Cranberries,Wolf Alice and Marika Hackman, the song isn’t completely dire as it (subtly) suggests that life and one’s heart does go on after a while.

Directed by Patrick Taylor, the recently released video was shot in one of Shaddad’s favorite venues in London, specifically decorated to fit, along with some willing friends and family as extras “(My little (big) bro is in it, and my cousins, in fact it’s a repeat performance from one:) The costume and hair and make up teams worked total miracles on all of us and then we channeled our inner teenagers and the result is something completely and bananasly different for me.” Of course, the video features Shaddad at a painfully awkward and terrible 90s-like prom, complete with its attendees doing sad two-steps, while the video’s protagonist sit off to the side singing the song before being asked to dance — while capturing the innermost thoughts, desires and frustrations of teenagers. Interestingly, as Shaddad says, the “song has always felt like the kind of thing that would be playing in one of those terrible but incredible 90s movies prom scenes and so I was dying to make a video played on that.”