Tag: ATO Records

New Audio: Temples Release a Dance Floor Friendly and Kaleidoscopic Sean Ono Lennon-Produced Single

Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK-based indie rock/psych rock act Temples — currently founding members James Bagshaw (vocals, guitar) and Tom Walmsley (bass) with Adam Smith — can trace their origins back to 2012 when its founding members started the band as home-baed studio project, featuring two musicians, who had known each other through their hometown’s scene. 

Bagshaw and Walmsley uploaded four self-produced tracks, which caught the attention of Heavenly Recordings founder and label head Jeff Barrett, who signed the band and agreed to release their debut single “Shelter Song” later that year. Shortly after signing to Heavenly Recordings, Bagshaw and Walmsley recruited Samuel Toms (drums) and Adam Smith to flesh out the band’s live sound — and to complete the band’s first lineup. Since then the band has released two critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2014’s Sun Structures, which landed at #7 on the UK Charts and 2017’s Volcano.  Building upon a growing profile, the British psych rock act has made appearances across the UK, European Union and North American festival circuits. They’ve shared stages with the likes of Suede, Mystery Jets, Kasabian and The Vaccines among others — but over the past few years, they’ve transitioned into a headlining act that has also made Stateside national television appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

2018 saw a number of major changes for the band: Samuel Toms left the band to focus on his solo recording project Secret Fix, and later joined the equally acclaimed Fat White Family. Temples also left their longtime label home Heavenly Recordings and signed with ATO Records, who released last year’s Hot Motion, which they supported with a busy touring schedule that included a stop at the Desert Daze Festival. The members of Temples caught their labelmates The Claypool Lennon Delirium’s set and shortly after they found themselves chatting about music with them band’s frontman Sean Ono Lennon. 

Several months later, ATO Records asked the band about releasing a previously unreleased Hot Motion sessions track as a single, and they immediately thought of Lennon and asked him to produce the track. “We couldn’t think of any greater mind than his to create with on this track,” the band’s Tom Walmsley says.  “When I first heard the demo for ‘Paraphernalia’ I knew they had a great tune,” says Lennon, who enlisted Dave Fridmann to mix the track.  “Paraphernalia” is a slick and kaleidoscopic synthesis of psych pop and disco pop featuring a sinuous and propulsive, dance floor friendly groove, shimmering guitars, twinkling keys, soaring strings and an anthemic hook paired with Bagshaw’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the track reminds me of Fantasm-era Starlight Girls  but as the band explains the song is about the disconnect between reality and the online world. “In an age of constant distraction, we all strive to find focus and a sense of calm. ’Paraphernalia’ questions the depth of ‘real’ connections in a digital world,” the band says. 

New Video: Deep Sea Diver Teams Up with Sharon Van Etten on the Vulnerable and Anthemic “Impossible Weight”

Led by its accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, the Seattle-based indie rock act Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints  playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including Beck, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobsons wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with — and Atlantic ultimately shelved the material and dropped her from the label.

After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. Since then the band has released two albums — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets.

The band’s third album Impossible Weight is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through High Beam Records/ATO Records, and the album follows a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. The album’s sonic and emotional expanse reportedly stems from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after the Seattle-based indie quartet finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”

Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a  drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”

Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Impossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.” 

Interestingly, for Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry goes hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the band’s third album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explains. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old.  “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”  

With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”

Last month, I wrote about Impossible Weight’s third single “Lights Out,”  a track that managed to be defiant and anthemic, yet delicate and vulnerable, centered around a slick studio sheen, Dobson’s expressive guitar work, a thunderous and propulsive rhythm section, an enormous raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worthy hook paired with Dobson’s equally expressive vocals, which alternated between an achingly tender croon and a self-assured, courageous growl. And perhaps unlike many of the songs I’ve previously written about this year, the song features a bold and fearlessly vulnerable narrator, who seems to say “It’s perfectly okay to recognize and admit that you’re not okay and that you need help to climb out of dark places.” 

Impossible Weight’s fourth and latest single, album title track “Impossible Weight” continues a run of slickly polished material that nods at New Wave and arena rock with enormous hooks, twinkling synths, Dobson’s expressive and explosive guitar work paired with urgent, heart-fully-on-sleeve songwriting. While revealing Dobson’s unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, the song captures a narrator on the emotional brink with an uncanny psychological attention to detail. And the song features a guest spot from Sharon Van Etten, which gives the song an even bigger emotional punch. 

Co-directed by the band’s Jessica Dobson and Peter Hansen along with Tyler Kalberg, the cinematically shot visual for “Impossible Weight” features Dobson taking her light box, which is a big part of the band’s live shows to a variety of gorgeous and untraditional places — including the desert, the woods, a city rooftop, in front of a suburban house, as well as an empty concert venue. “For this video I thought, well… if we cant play shows right now then I’m going to take my light box (a prop we bring on tour that I stand on top of when I play guitar solos) and I’m going to bring it into a myriad of untraditional places,” Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson explains. “We wanted to create scenes of absolute beauty, of loneliness, of power—of the human spirit being fully alive, even in a time of sadness and uncertainty.”

“I chose The Neptune as the final shot because that is the venue in which I saw Sharon Van Etten play at the night before we recorded the song,” Dobson continues. “I’ve been a huge fan or hers for quite some time and I was deeply moved and inspired by that show. The next day, I literally said out loud as we were recording, “I wonder if Sharon would ever sing on this?” Having never met her, it was definitely a pipe dream question that somehow ended up working out and I’m eternally grateful for it. She brought so much to this song and brought it alive even more.”

Live Footage: Nick Hakim Performs “QADIR” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2. Armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn.

As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it, making the album feel like a series of different self-portraits. Much like Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad strokes, with subtle gradations in mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press notes at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare.

The JOVM mainstay released his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album’s material manages to be distinctly Hakim while being a tonal shift from its predecessor: his sophomore album reflects the ideas with which he grappled with while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shared the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

“QADIR” is a slow-burning and atmospheric single, centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals — and as a result, the track is a fever dream full of ache and longing, partially written as an ode to a late friend and an urgent reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. ”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Recently Hakim and his backing band performed a socially distant rendition of “QADIR” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which features Hakim singing the song on a cartoon-background that’s one part hood, one part Sesame Street. 

ATO Records, is a New York-based indie label  — and over their 20 years of existence, the label has released a diverse range of artists, whose work generally imparts messages of inclusivity, justice and equality. Music offers solace — and is most often an agent and vehicle for change. In that spirit, the label has assembled a compilation album Silence Is Not an Option (turn this up) that showcases the label’s roster while simultaneously showcasing some fo the tracks off their extensive catalog that explore themes and issues of identity, community, social justice and resistance.

The compilation also prominently features “See Me,” a brand new song by Grammy-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Emily King. The breathtakingly gorgeous track, centered around an atmospheric arrangement of twinkling keys and King’s soulful vocals was written just a few days ago in response to the Black Lives Matters protests all over the world.  “Feeling so moved by this powerful time,” says King. “Everyday watching the world demand justice. I wake up with sadness but also hope. Like people are starting to finally notice how deeply broken things are. Can you hear me now? Can you see me now? I started singing the words and they wouldn’t leave my head.”

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Other Lives Release an Intimate and Gorgeous Tribute to a Lost Friend

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed Portland, OR-based indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Other Lives. Initially formed in Stillwater, OK in 2004, the band wrote, recorded and released an album under the name Kunek but a decided change in sonic direction and songwriting approach necessitated a re-branding.  Since the band renamed themselves, they’ve released their critically applauded sophomore album, 2015’s Rituals, which helped establish their sound — a lushly cinematic and orchestral sound that frequently draws comparisons to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National and Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunnymen among others.

Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstays’ highly-anticipated, self-produced, third full-length album For Their Lives is slated fro an April 24, 2020 release through ATO Records. Deriving its title from one of the earlier songs the band wrote for the album, Other Lives’ third album reportedly finds the members of the band reconnecting with the rural life they had known as children. Before the writing and recording of For Their Lives, the band’s frontman Jesse Tabish and his wife Kim Tabish left Portland and rented a friend’s A-frame home in Oregon’s Cooper Mountain region, surrounded by towering trees — and no neighbors in site. “Something about the title feels both inclusive and also of a larger scene,” explains Other Lives’ primary songwriter and frontman Jesse Tabish. “The song also embodied the direction we wanted to take.”

Naturally, the bucolic setting wound up heavily inspiring the album. “My wife, Kim, and I moving to this house and making a new life and music together was a huge part of this record,” Jesse Tabish says in press notes. “I found there was too much distraction in Portland, but here we could dedicate ourselves to work. I found that I returned to my music vocabulary in a natural way, using certain types of chords or keys, and also the way I sing. Living with roommates in Portland, I was too shy to sing in front of them. But here, I felt free.” Interestingly, that sense of freedom and togetherness carried over to the way the album was written and recorded: the album is arguably the most collaborative effort they trio has written to date — and it includes contributions from drummer Danny Reisch, who appeared on Rituals and backing vocals from Jesse Tabish’s wife Kim. “We really set out to make a band record,” Tabish says.

As the album’s material came together, they went towards a much different creative approach than its immediate predecessor: the band avoided re-working and refining tracks, instead choosing to record different arrangements of songs “to capture the vibe of something more instant,” Tabish explains. “We were adamant that For Their Love would have no tricks and nothing to hide behind, which we’d been doing psychologically, as well as as musically. We wanted ten songs that held up by themselves.” This was partially inspired by Jesse Tabish’s personal efforts to emerge from “hiding” and re-engaging with the outside world by “getting real with myself.” as he puts it. Before and during the writing and recording sessions, the band — who are also lifelong friends — had a number of ongoing conversations about the current state of our world. And as a result, the album’s material thematically questions, observes, laments and hopefully finds the slightest hope in the individual and ourselves. “Characters sometimes venture into spiritual, religious or institutionalized endeavors — though I’ve personally found that self-worth is more important than any teachings or preaching,” Tabish says.

Last month, I wrote about the rousingly anthemic album single “Hey Hey I.” Arguably one of the most politically charged songs of their growing catalog, the song is a forceful commentary on our contemporary world: at the core is the realization that the American Dream that so many hard-working Joes and Janes have bought and sold for generations is a lie. For Their Love’s latest single “We Wait” continues a remarkable run of cinematic material, but centered around a fearlessly unadulterated intimacy. It’s one of many songs in which Tabish digs deep and gets uncomfortably real, with the song finding Tabish publicly confronting one of the darkest corners of his life for the first time. 

“When I was 15, I formed the All American Rejects. This was my high school band,” Other Lives’ Jesse Tabish writes in an statement on the song’s backstory. “Always there in our everyday life were Tommy and Jennifer, a member’s older sister and brother-in-law. Tommy was the older brother I never had. Kind and wise, he was my mentor and family to me. 

Tommy was shot and killed at the age of 25, on the morning of 30th November. Jennifer, his wife, had hired his murderer.

This event completely devastated and shattered my reality. I quit the Rejects and was very lost. I soon found the piano and started moving towards a deeper place inside, artistically, which has shaped me to this day. For many years, I had avoided this trauma and couldn’t touch the subject. I pushed it out, only for it to haunt me more recently.

Writing this song is the way for me to heal and remember my old pal, Tommy.” 

Much like Reliant Tom’s “Never Mind the Garbage,” “We Wait” manages to be more prescient in a way that its creators could never have imagined. These are dark and very dire times. Many of us are aware of the fact that the end result of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a new and terrifying reality of profound and inescapable loss, economic destruction and hopelessness that will force us to look deep within ourselves. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

New Video: Other Lives Release a Cinematic Visual for Anthemic and Politically Charged Single “Hey Hey I”

Initially formed in Stillwater, OK in 2004, the acclaimed Portland, OR-based indie rock act Other Lives wrote, recorded and released an album under the Kunek, but a decidedly change in sonic direction and songwriting approach necessitated a re-branding. And since renaming themselves Other Lives, the band has released critically applauded material, including their sophomore album 2015’s Rituals, which further cemented their sound, a lush, cinematic and orchestrated sound that would likely draw comparisons to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National and Ocean Rain-era Echo and the Bunnymen among others. 

Other Lives’ highly-anticipated, self-produced, third full-length album For Their Lives is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through ATO Records. Deriving its title from one of the earlier songs the band wrote for the album, the Portland area-based band’s third album reportedly finds the members of the band reconnecting with the rural life they had grown up. Before the writing and recording of For Their Lives, the band’s frontman Jesse Tabish and his wife Kim Tabish left Portland and rented a friend’s A-frame home in Oregon’s Cooper Mountain region, surrounded by towering trees — and no neighbors in site. “Something about the title feels both inclusive and also of a larger scene,” explains Other Lives’ primary songwriter and frontman Jesse Tabish. “The song also embodied the direction we wanted to take.”

Naturally, the bucolic setting wound up heavily inspiring the album. “My wife, Kim, and I moving to this house and making a new life and music together was a huge part of this record,” Jesse Tabish says in press notes. “I found there was too much distraction in Portland, but here we could dedicate ourselves to work. I found that I returned to my music vocabulary in a natural way, using certain types of chords or keys, and also the way I sing. Living with roommates in Portland, I was too shy to sing in front of them. But here, I felt free.” Interestingly, that sense of freedom and togetherness carried over to the way the album was written and recorded: the album is arguably the most collaborative effort they trio has written to date — and it includes contributions from drummer Danny Reisch, who appeared on Rituals and backing vocals from Jesse Tabish’s wife Kim. “We really set out to make a band record,” Tabish says. 

As the album’s material came together, they went towards a much different creative approach than its immediate predecessor: the band avoided re-working and refining tracks, instead choosing to record different arrangements of songs “to capture the vibe of something more instant,” Tabish explains. “We were adamant that For Their Love would have no tricks and nothing to hide behind, which we’d been doing psychologically, as well as as musically. We wanted ten songs that held up by themselves.” This was partially inspired by Jesse Tabish’s personal efforts to emerge from “hiding” and re-engaging with the outside world by “getting real with myself.” as he puts it. Before and during the writing and recording sessions, the band — who are also a lifelong friends — had a number of ongoing conversations about the current state of our world. And as a result, the album’s material thematically “question, observe, lament and hopefully find the slightest hope in the individual and ourselves. Characters sometimes venture into spiritual, religious or institutionalized endeavors — though I’ve personally found that self-worth is more important than any teachings or preaching,” Tabish says. 

For Their Lives’ latest single is the anthemic “Hey Hey I.” Centered around a cinematic arrangement featuring enormous sing and shout along worthy hooks, strummed guitar, shimmering and soaring strings, twinkling keys and xylophone and choir-like backing vocals, the song manages to be the most direct and forceful they’ve written to date, while retaining the cinematic quality that has won them attention. But while being anthemic, the song lyrically addresses the paradigm of the downtrodden and broken working class. At the song’s core, there’s the realization that the American Dream that hard-working Joes and Janes have been sold and bought is a lie. Certainly, with the impact of COVID-10 on countless people we know and love, that realization is coming in with a starkly dire focus. 

The recently released video for “Hey Hey I” is a gorgeously cinematic black-and-white visual shot at the A-frame studio in the Cooper Mountains, where the band recorded the album. “The video is a reflection of the recording process of the album, that took place in the A-frame in the woods,” says frontman Jesse Tabish. “We wanted to portray this process in a natural, organic way, without telling a story but rather showing glimpses of us working together as well as coming together with friends.” 

New Video: Joseph Releases a Shimmering and Bittersweet Ode to New Year’s Eve

Deriving their name from their grandfather Jo and the tiny Oregon town of  Joseph, OR, in which he was born and raised, the  Portland, OR-based sibling indie pop trio Joseph, comprised of Natalie Closner Schepman and her two, younger twin sisters Meegan and Alison grew up in a musical household — their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher. However, their collaboration together can trace their origins back to around 2014: Schepman who had been pursuing a solo career as a signer/songwriter, recruited her sisters to join her in a new project. When the Closner sisters began collaborating together, they quickly recognized an irresistible and undeniable simpatico.

The trio quickly developed a reputation for playing intimate house shows, in which the siblings accompanied themselves with acoustic guitar and foot drum. Interestingly, within their first year working together, the trio self-released their debut, 2014’s Native Dreamer Kin, which caught the attention of ATO Records, who signed the group the following year. After releasing 2015’s, ATO Sessions EP, an acoustic, two song, digital EP and accompanying video series, the sibling trio went on to release their Mike Mogis-produced, label debut 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not, which featured the smash hit “White Flag.” “White Flag” landed on Spotify’s US Viral Top Ten Chart within days of its release. By October, the track landed at #1 on the Adult Alternative Charts.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the trio made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Later . . . with JoolsHolland, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan, CBS This Morning and Today. They also opened for James Bay during a sold out, 2016 arena tour — and they made festival stops at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Sasquatch Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Outside Lands Festival, Pilgrimage Music Festival and several others.

Released earlier this year, the trio’s Christian “Leggy” Langdon-produced sophomore album Good Luck, Kid is the highly anticipated follow-up to their critically applauded and commercially successful label debut, and the album finds the trio pushing their sound in a grittier, more dynamic direction while retaining the gorgeous harmonizing and earnest vocals that won them attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere. “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life-recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” Natalie Closner Schepman says in press notes.  “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

I wrote about album single “Green Eyes,” a track that found the sibling trio meshing classic Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era pop with hints of old-school country and contemporary pop with an arrangement that featured twinkling piano, strummed acoustic guitar, dramatic drumming, an enormous hook and the Closner Sisters’ gorgeous harmonizing. And much like their previously released work, the single was a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection, centered around ambitious yet incredibly earnest songwriting: in this case, the song’s narrator recognizes that their relationship is at a crossroads — and that she will be forced to make a life changing decision. 

The album’s latest single, “NYE” is a shimmering slow-burn centered around strummed guitar, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, the Closners’ gorgeous harmonies and a soaring hook. But at its core, the song — to me, at least — may arguably be the most ambivalent and ambiguous song emotionally that they’ve released to date with the song managing to evoke the confusion swirl of emotions many of us feel when the New Year rolls around: the dashed hopes of a great night that’s gone horribly; the sense of relief that a difficult year or decade has come to an end; the bittersweet recognition that time is rushing by and that you’re getting older; the slow dance or the kiss you’ll hopefully get as the clock strikes midnight, if you have someone — or met someone cute that night; and the hope that the next year (and in our case, the next decade) will be better. 

Directed by Justin Frick, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “NYE” is appropriately set at a New Year’s Eve party with an enormous disco ball. And it accurately captures the ambivalent and ambitious emotions at the core of the song.