Tag: art rock

Starlight Girls · Teenage Crime

Brooklyn-based indie rock act Starlight Girls can trace their origins back to 2011, when Christina Bernard (vocals), an Ohio-born megachurch chorister turned rocker and Shaw Walters (guitar), a San Francisco-born, guitar savant and tech wizard met and decided to start a band. Bernard and Walters found their bandmates — Sara Mundy (keys) and Isabel Alvarez (backing vocals), two Long Island-born theater junkies, Tysen Arveson (bass), a Seattle-born, Hawaii-raised art freak and Josh Davis (drums), a University of Michigan educated jazz drummer through Craigslist.

The band initially emerged into the public eye through a wildly successful April Fool’s prank: they recorded an impression of acclaimed artist Joanna Newsom covering one of their songs and a handful of blogs took the bait, covering the song with rapturous praise. Unsurprisingly, as a result, Starlight Girls quickly became a buzz worthy band, eventually releasing an EP that they supported with a handful of national tours — including an opening slot for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Building upon a growing profile, the Brooklyn-based at played one of Europe’s biggest festivals, and they followed that up with their noisy and attention-grabbing Jamie Stewart-produced 7 x 3 EP.

2016 saw the release of their enigmatic and cinematic, full-length debut Fantasm, which they supported through tours with an eclectic array of artists including Kate Nash, St. Lucia, Tilly and the Wall, Nick Waterhouse, Total Slacker, Crystal Fighters and Lucius. Since then, the members of the band have ventured outside of music and outside of Brooklyn in a variety of different creative projects: Christina Bernard has delved into film and directing, directing a self-penned short film shot in California, which will be released later this year. Shaw Walters has become a rising star in the tech world, traveling around the world creating holographic augmented reality projects for performers and artists, including a mixed-reality collaboration with acclaimed artist Marina AbramovićThe Life, which has become a lightning rod for alt-right conspiracy theorists. The rest of the band has continued to solider on as musicians, during what may be the most difficult time for artists and creatives in recent memory.

Interestingly the band’s Christina Bernard-produced EP Entitled was recorded at Upstate New York-based Marcata Recording— and the material is a dark yet upbeat come-on to an unknowable future while evoking a sexy freak-out from the edge of oblivion. That sounds and feels familiar, doesn’t it? Last month, I wrote about Entitled‘s expansive first single “Get Right,” a kaleidoscopic and cinematic track that possesses elements of shoegaze, art rock, goth rock, psych rock and 70s AM rock — all while being one of the sexiest songs they’ve released to date.

“Teenage Crime,” Entitled‘s second and latest single is a slow-burning and atmospheric single centered around reverb and pedal effected guitars, twinkling keys and a soaring hook — and while reminding me a bit of Slow Air-era Still Corners and Stevie Nicks, the track’s lyrical themes, as the band’s Christina Bernard explains touches upon spiritual exploration, hope for the future and reconciling the past.

“As far as songwriting goes, most of the music came together spontaneously during rehearsals,” Bernard says of the EP’s creative process. “There was a lot of change happening for us around the time we wrote it—a lot of times when we played we didn’t know when our next time playing together might be. So the energy was insane every time we played.

“We’d gotten really in sync as a band through playing live so much, so someone would pull a riff out of the air in rehearsal and we’d just run with it full speed for four minutes and that would be the song. I’d always record rehearsals in case magic happened, and it did a lot. Then I would write lyrics (if I hadn’t already written them on the spot) and later we’d recreate what we’d played.

The only song that didn’t happen that way was Teenage Crime, which I wrote one night in my room. The guys in the band hated it at first because it’s like the slowest thing we do. But when we played it live all the ladies started swaying and I think that’s when everyone changed their minds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our influences are hard to pin down. We all listen to really different music and I can’t remember what we were each into while recording. I personally was out dancing a lot to some pretty out there international drum circles. I was getting into the idea of music as a ceremonial thing—repetitive and rhythmic and visceral—so I was influenced by that, and how those ideas would translate to rock.

 

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I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. And as you may recall, the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay’s career began in earnest at a very young age:she began playing in bands when she nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. Years later, as an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music in her native Sweden, developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says about her approach in press notes.

Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, BoredomsFree Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia LunchIkue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others.

Härdig’s recently released, fourth album This Big Hushfinds the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,” Härdig says of the recording process for This Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

Infatuation,” This Big Hush‘s fist single was written to pay homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and the Banshees — but the decidedly riff driven song seemed to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook. “I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay said in press notes of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

Radiant Star,” This Big Hush‘s second single was slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Pretenders and the aforementioned Patti Smith to mind. “It was made during many endless nights,” Härdig says in press notes, “on my own and in my studio and also with the band on some more hectic days. Then a lot of other endless days and nights in the studio producing it. My own take of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’; a song I learned as a 3-year old on the grand piano we inherited from my grandmother.”

“Silence,” This Big Hush‘s third and latest single is a slow-burning, lush song that recalls the emotional intensity and lyricism of Patti Smith and Nick Cave with an enormous arrangement centered around jangling guitars, twinkling keys, dramatic drumming, a soaring hook and a gospel-style backing vocal section and what may arguably be one of  Härdig’s most emotionally direct vocal performances in some time.

Centered around the friendship and collaboration between its found members — Steven van Betten (vocals, guitar), Gregory Uhlmann (guitar, vocals), Marcus Hogsta (bass) and The Americans’ and HAIM’s Tim Carr (drums), the Los Angeles-based art rock/post-punk act Fell Runner has developed a reputation for a unique take on guitar rock. Imbued with a literary sensibility, the band pairs vibrant vocal harmonies and expressive polyrhythms influenced from their studies with Ghanian drum master Alfred Ledzekpo with an urgent and uninhibited air that comes from the improvisational nature of much of their work.

The Los Angeles-based band’s recently released sophomore album Talking finds the band branching out a bit from their initial influences, while crafting material that thematically touch upon themes of frustrated communication, failed language and dealing with one’s own shortcomings. Tracked live to tape in Tim Carr’s bedroom, the album also finds the band attempting to accurately capture the spontaneity and improvisational nature of their live sets.  Talking‘s latest single “Same Way” is centered around a breezy, tropical-influenced arrangement centered around fluttering electronics, propulsive polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and angular bursts of guitar — and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, the song possesses a breakneck, improvisational quality in which after repeated listens, you feel that you can’t quite predict where the musicians will go next. Honestly, it’s one of more unusual and exciting indie rock songs I’ve heard in several months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of founding trio Jack Lantern (vocals), James Burgess (guitar), and Tom Pitts (guitar) with new additions Victor Jakeman (bass), Tom Pitt (drums) and Sev Black (keys), the London-based punk act Claw Marks can trace their origins to when its founding trio were in Austin, TX for SXSW with different bands back in 2013 — Lantern and Pitts were members of Human Hair, while Burgess was a member of Boneyards. As the story goes, Lantern, Burgess and Pitts got lost waling down a highway in the Texan desert when they came to the realization that they wanted to make something much more aggressive, that would channel the likes of Swans and The Birthday Party, but while maintaining the pop sensibility that won Human Hair attention. Ultimately, they felt the need to prove that you can make records that could sound like The Jesus Lizard or The Pop Group — without taking yourself too seriously.

For several years, the band primarily existed as a live outfit, playing raucous, riotous shows across their native London — including a memorable 3am first gig at an abandoned pub. “It was my birthday, and intoxicants may have been involved,” the band’s Jack Lantern recalls. “The show cemented us as a band, because we were playing in the confines of a place that was so similar to the spine of what we were trying to put across. The place was dilapidated, the walls were falling down, and when we started playing, the ceiling started shaking, and dust was raining down on us. And then somebody let off a fire extinguisher halfway through the set, and we were covered in dust and foam.”

With the addition of Jakeman, Pitt and Black, the band continued to develop their overall aesthetic, balancing a chaotic live, stage presence with very specific ideas about lyrical imagery and content. “It’s abotu putting weird images to song,” Lantern, who is also a poet says in press notes. “Usually, they’re a bit disgusting – an armpit full of lice, for example. Or a crab covering your arsehole and stopping anybody from trying to climb in there. We’ve got one song about evil, silent cops staring us down while rubbing their truncheons in their mouths. You know, that kind of thing.”

However, their debut album together has taken five years to write and record — with some of the songs dating back to when the band first started. The members of the band kept returning to East London’s Sound Savers Studio, where they were afforded time and space by co-owner Henry Withers, who was a former bandmate of Lantern’s, to continually refine the material, and eventually their overall sound. In fact, every time they returned, the songs evolved in a rather unpredictable fashion. “I’ve been telling people that the album aged like a fine wine, because it took so long to come together,” Lantern says. “But actually, I’d liken it more now to a slab of rotten meat. We allowed it to fester, and every time we came back to it, there’d be more flies buzzing around it, and this new form of bacteria growing on the chords.”

Ultimately, Claw Marks long-anticipated full-length album Hee Hee reportedly is an unapologetically and nasty collection of punk rock songs that thematically speaking range from the absurd to the political — but much like Tom Waits, the songs having a fucked up, off-kilter, whiskey-fueled vibe. “Swallow U,” Hee Hee‘s latest single is noisy and furious punk rock centered around distortion bathed guitar chords, forceful drumming and howled lyrics and while sonically, the song brings to mind Rollins Band‘s Weight and Get Some Go Again but with an absurdist bent, as the song according to the band is literally about a man who walks down the street, eating everything in his path. What makes the track intriguing to me is the fact that it effortlessly meshes art rock with furious, mosh pit friendly punk.

 

New Audio: The Stark Visuals and Sounds of FACS (Ex-Disappears)’ “Skylarking”

Despite the fact they had gone through a few lineup changes, the Chicago, IL-based post-punk act Disappears since their formation in 2008 received attention for crafting music that thematically explored how difficult it can be to relate to others, how we seek out meaning and attempt to make sense of our surroundings despite the fact that relationships fall part, patterns grow into habits and that our world can shift so rapidly that it’s unsetting and completely unrecognizable. And as a result, their sound generally evoked our contemporary condition — the creeping, anxious dread of venal and vicious world that possesses its own lunatic logic. 

Now, as you may recall I wrote about the band quite a bit back in 2013 as they released two similar and yet very different efforts — the atmospheric and tempestuous Kone EP and the tense, raging Era, an album that felt like the interior monologues of Underground Man in Notes from the Underground or of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment as the album featured a narrators, who rapidly vacillated between anxiousness, dangerously unhinged obsession, self-loathing, envy and undulated rage directed both at oneself and at everyone and everything, capturing the dark and frightening recesses of wounded psyche — and a furious roar into the indifferent void. 
Early last year, Damon Carruesco (bass) left the band, and the remaining members of Disappears, founding member Brian Case (vocals, guitar) along with  Noah Leger (drums) and Jonathan van Herirk (guitar) initially decided to put the project on hold; but ultimately, they decide to carry on, boldly pushing their sound and aesthetic towards new directions with their newest musical collaboration FACS. Musically, Case, Leger and van Herik head in a similar direction as their previous collaboration together but their approach towards the stark, downright menacing post-punk goes finds them taking up much more abstract, rhythms; in fact, “Skylarking,” the first single off the new project’s forthcoming full-length debut Negative Houses features Leger’s tribal and motorik-like drumming at the forefront of the song, with van Herik alternating between slashing and dissonant ambience and forcefully percussive guitar. While Case retains vocal duties, he switches from guitar to playing bass, with an economical yet equally forceful throb — but the major difference between projects is that  while retaining the tense and menacing vibes of their preceding project, FACS leans towards a minimalist and downright creepier take. 

Directed by Robert Stockwell and featuring choreography by Robyn Mineko, performed by Andrew Murdock, the gorgeous and cinematically shot black and white video features a man, who seems to be battling his own demons within stark environments — an abandoned factory and on its roof. It’s an appropriately moody and unsettling meditation on our own vulnerability and frailty. 

New Video: The Startling Visuals for Superet’s Arena Rock Meets Art School Rock Single “Receiver”

Comprised of long-term friends and musical collaborators Matt Blitzer (vocals, guitar), Alex Fischer (keys), Sam KS (drums), Patrick Kelly and Isaac Tamburino (guitar, keys, percussion), the Los Angeles-based indie rock quintet Superet officially formed on Valentine’s Day last year, and the long-time friends view the band as the culmination of a  longstanding creative kinship that’s been fostered through a series of bands and projects. Interestingly, the band derive their name from the facade of a decrepit Los Angeles area church, known for housing a cult — with superset being Latin for “may it overflow,” which from my understanding may be a very apt description for a band that spent the past year reclusively writing material that the band has been quietly releasing since the early part of this year.

“Receiver,” the band’s latest single was mixed by Dave Fridmann, who has worked with Spoon, MGMT and Tame Impala is a hook-driven song that features shimmering guitar chords, an angular yet propulsive rhythm section, loads of guitar feedback and buzzing power chords paired with crooned vocals within a prototypical grunge rock-like song structure: alternating quiet and loud sections. And while possessing an apt arena rock bombast, the song manages a mischievous art school rock sheen, as it’s a guitar rock anthem — from the outer reaches of the known universe.

Directed by the band’s frontman Matt Blitzer, the video’s main concept was to pair a visual component with the song that was “simple and unsettling,” and in this case, the video features members of the band in front of a black background rubbing their faces as to clean them; but managing to reveal another band members’ face just underneath the surface to create something that’s creepily nightmarish. 

New Video: Warhaus Returns to Cement Their Reputation for Crafting A Boozy and Decadent Late Night Soundtrack

Over the better part of this year, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring Belgian singer/songwriter and guitarist Maarten Devoldere. Perhaps best known as the frontman and primary songwriter of the Belgian indie rock act Balthazar, an act that features members, who hail from Kortrijk and Ghent, Belgium; however, Devoldere has started to receive both national and international attention with his solo, side project,  Warhaus, which has further cemented his growing reputation for deftly crafting urbane and hyper-literate material with an accessible, pop-leaning sensibility with his work managing to simultaneously nod at the surrealistic and moody art rock of The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and the poetry of William Blake, complete with a decadent and boozy slide into sinful ruin. Unsurprisingly, one of his earliest Warhaus efforts We Fucked a Flame Into Being was derived from a line in DH Lawrence’s classic, erotic novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and the material thematically focused on lust, desire, the profound inscrutability of random encounters — with a decidedly European decadence and a deeply personal, confessional nature, as you would have heard on the slow-burning and sensual “Machinery.” 

“Love’s A Stranger,” an equally slow-burning rumination on love’s fleeting and impermanent nature and on adultery was interestingly enough, the first single off Devoldere’s sophomore Warhaus album, a self-titled effort slated for release on October 13, 2017 through [PIAS]  Recordings.  The material on Delvodere’s sophomore Warhaus effort was written largely on the road, as well as on a remote Kyrgyzstan retreat with only a local shepherd for company, and was recorded back home in Belgium. But whereas his previously recorded efforts focused on sin, lust and love — with a bittersweet aftertaste, reportedly, there’s at points where the worldly cynicism gives way to sincere, honest love; while pairing his boozy baritone with the gossamer vocals of his backing vocalist and girlfriend Sylvie Kreusch throughout. “We’ve very different people,” says Devoldere. “She’s this natural force which I don’t understand at all and I’m the guy who thinks everything through. It’s an interesting combination.”

Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album was a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by Dr. John’s legendary The Night Tripper period, as you’ll hear hints at voodoo rhythms and hints at jazz — and although his touring band, aren’t technically known for being jazz musicians, as Devoldere says of his band, “they’re good at faking jazz.” And with “Mad World,” the album’s woozy and boozy, late night shuffle of a second single, the backing band pair lush and atmospheric strings, voodoo and jazz-inflected rhythms with Devoldere’s boozy baritone. And while evoking something of a late night, drunken stumble, the song focuses on desperate, unfulfilled lust and desire but within an angst-filled world that’s gone mad — and Delvodere does so in a way that feels and sounds like a charmingly roguish and nasty come on. 

The recently released video for “Mad World” was directed by frequent collaborator and friend Wouter Bouvjin and Benny Vandendrissche and shot in one continuous take by Jeronimo Fantini Foradellas during some nighttime escapes in Magaluf, Mallorca, a city known for wild parting, boozing and casual sex  — and the video features Maarteen Devoldere initially dancing in neon-drenched street by himself before random pedestrians join him or jump in front of the camera. Personally, while watching the video, I was reminded of walking out of the Sugar Factory nightclub in beautiful Amsterdam at 4:00 in the morning, and as I was heading back to my hotel room near the Museumplein, I came across a group of rowdy and fun-loving kids who were dancing and chanting in the street. And although I was alone and far away from home, there was something strangely comforting and warmly ridiculous at that moment, perhaps because we were all trying to escape our own loneliness?