Tag: Beach House

Musings: A Decade of JOVM

I started this site 10 years ago today. . .

There aren’t many things in my life that I’ve done for every single day for a decade that I’ve loved as much as this very unique little corner of the blogosphere. When I started this site, I  didn’t — and couldn’t — imagine actually having readers, let alone readers across the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia and elsewhere. After all, this sort of work is deeply rewarding and yet strangely isolating.

I couldn’t have imagined the over 1,000 shows I’ve covered all across the New York Metropolitan area. I definitely couldn’t have imagined it being possible for be to cover shows for JOVM in Chicago while on a business trip for a day job; nor would I have dreamed of the possibility of covering M for Montreal last fall.

I couldn’t have imagined being a panelist on a Mondo.NYC Festival panel on PR and promotion for indie artists.

I couldn’t have imagined having a cameo in a JOVM mainstay’s video several years ago. (It’s a noticeable and prominent spot towards the end of the video, too. No one has called me up for acting gigs, so I may need more work on that. Or I need to stick to the writing and photography!)

I couldn’t have imagined photographing Patti LaBelle, Snoop Dogg, Charles Bradley  Sharon Jones, Nile Rodgers, Roky Erickson, Philip Bailey and so many others, as well as this site’s countless mainstays.

What will the next decade hold? I don’t know. If you asked me that question last November, I’d probably discuss my the very real possibility of repeated visits to Canada for festivals like Canadian Music Week, Montreal Jazz Fest and M for Montreal — with the hopes of building a deeper Canadian audience. I’d talk about my interest in music from across the African Diaspora. I’d spend time talking about my interest in covering acts outside the US. I’d also speak about my interest in wanting to cover more artists across the diverse LGQBTIA+ community  — particularly those of color. I’d probably also mention my deep and abiding interest in covering women artists and women led acts.

Live music won’t be a thing for quite some time to come. And whenever it does, the landscape will be different — and something we’ve yet to envision. So far, beloved venues have been forced to close because of economics. That will continue for the foreseeable future. What will happen to bands, who no longer have a place to play, where they can hone their sound and their live show? Who knows? After watching an industry-based panel, I don’t feel particularly optimistic about things in the short term. Some of us will figure out a way to adapt and survive; others sadly, won’t.

But in the meantime, JOVM will continue. It’s only the first decade, as far as I’m concerned!

**

I also wanted to talk a bit about some of my favorite albums of the past decade. This is by no means a comprehensive list; but I think that they might give some insight into the inner world of JOVM. And

Montreal-based DJ, production and electronic music artist duo The Beat Escape — Addy Weitzman and Patrick A. Boivin — can trace the project’s origins back to a short film they collaborated on when they were both in college. “We made a short oddball work; a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream,” the Montreal-based said of their initial collaboration together in press notes. Interestingly, since that collaboration, Weitzman and Boivin have continued working together on a series of creative endeavors that have combined their interests in music and visual art, including a lengthy local DJ gig, which eventually led to the creation of The Beat Escape.

Released in early 2018, the Montreal-based duo’s full-length debut Life Is Short The Answer’s Long thematically and sonically found the duo returning to their origins — somnambulant, atmospheric art that feels like a half-remembered waking dream. Personally, the album’s material evokes a weird two-and-year period of international and domestic travel, in which I’d wake up in a hotel room and briefly wonder where I was, what time zone I was in and if I was even in the right place. Additionally, it evokes that weird sensation of everything being the fundamentally the same, yet different. If I’m in Grand Central Terminal, I think of Frankfurt-am-Main Hauptbahnhof and of Amsterdam Centraal Station. If I’m traveling underneath an elevated train, I’m reminded of the Chicago loop and so on.

I obsessively played Life Is Short The Answer’s Short through my time in Montreal. And now whenever I play it, I can picture specific locations, specific paths I took to get there, certain Metro stations with an uncanny precision.

Throughout the course of the site’s decade history, I’ve written quite a bit about Superhuman Happiness. The act has managed to survive through a number of different lineup changes and sonic departures necessitated by those lineup changes — and from the act’s core members following wherever their muses took them, Hands though is a joyous, mischievous yet deeply intelligent work that will make you shout and dance. Considering the bleakness of our world, this album may be much more needed than they ever anticipated.

Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a traveler, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spend his life then but who cruelly  gets dragged back to brutal reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake — currently 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 2014’s self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that firmly established the act’s uniquely sound: deeply influenced by and indebted to  Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, the Irish act pairs McAuley’s tender and soaring falsetto with cinematic arrangements and expansive song structur es.

Released in 2018, the act’s Rob Kirwan-produced debut Malingerer is an ambitious, challenging and breathtakingly beautiful work that’s part film score and part cosmic meditation, full of aching yearning.

A couple of years ago, I caught the Irish act play at Rockwood Music Hall, as part of the Lower East Side venue’s monthly Communion showcase — and their set was met with awed and reverential silence.

Stockholm, Sweden-based garage punk outfit Sudakistan — Michell Serrano (vocals), Maikel Gonzalez (bass), Carlos Amigo (percussion) Juan Jose Espindola (drums) and Arvid Sjöö (guitar) — have one of the most unique and perhaps most 21st Century backstories of any band I’ve ever written about: four of the band’s five members emigrated to Sweden from South America with the remaining member being the band’s only native Swede. With the release of their debut album, 2015’s Caballo Negro, the members of Sudakistan received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for crafting material that draws from Latin-tinged garage punk rock with lyrics sung in English, Spanish and Swedish. Interestingly, the alum is arguably hardest and most mosh pit friendly of the band’s albums to date, the album’s material found the band expanding their sound through the incorporation of non-traditional punk rock instruments — seemingly inspired by the band’s desire to make each of their individual roles to be much more fluid. . “It was much more of a collaboration between the five of us,” the band’s Michell Serrano explains in press notes. . “Things flowed differently. Carlos sings on two or three songs, and Mikael sings on one. We swapped instruments quite a lot, and because we had access to everything in the studio, we were able to use some piano, some acoustic guitar and some mandolin, too.”

Additionally, the album’s lyrical and thematic concerns draws from the band members’ everyday reality with each individual member contributing lyrical ideas. “Our first album was made over five years, rather than five months, so the themes on it weren’t as heavy as this. Now, we’re talking about a lot of the things that we’ve gone through together since we started the band, as well as personal things – like, why do I keep repeating the same mistakes. We talk about pursuing our own Swedish reality, but that’s just because we’re living in Sweden – it’s relatable in any other country, I think,” Maikel Gonzalez says in press notes.

The album’s material resonates in an age of divisiveness, xenophobia, fear mongering and strife because its an urgent and passionate reminder of what’s possible with cultural exchange, empathy and curiosity —  bold new ideas, new takes on the familiar, as well as equality for all with everyone’s story behind heard, understood and championed. One day that will happen but we will have to work our asses off to get there.

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New Video: I Break Horses Releases a Brooding and Lonely Visual for “Depression Tourist”

Led by frontwoman Maria Linden and featuring Fredrik Balak, the Stockholm-based indie act I Break Horses have released two critically applauded albums: 2011’s full-length debut Hearts received praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for material that possessed a luxurious grandeur and 2014’s Chiaroscuro, which found Linden crafting ambitious material with a cool, self-assuredness. Building upon a growing profile, Linden and Balak toured with M83 and Sigur Ros— and U2 played “Winter Beats” before their stage entrance during 2018’s Experience + Innocence tour.

Released yesterday through Bella Union, I Break Horses’ long-awaited third album Warnings was centered around Linden’s desire to take the time to make something entirely different — crafting martial with a strong emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music.  Much of the album’s material can trace its origins back to Linden watching a collection of her favorite films on her computer with the sound muted. As she did so, she began to make her own soundtrack sketches — and those initial sketches gradually evolved int songs. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” Linden says, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.

Sonically, the album’s material consists of lush and sumptuously layered soundscapes featuring dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analog synths and layered vocals meant to create an immersive, dramatic tension on multiple levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album’s creative process was also centered around several different dramas of its own:  “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…” Linden says in press notes.

Warnings also finds Linden collaborating with producer and mixing engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House and TV on the Radio. But his experience and expertise with dense and cinematic sound wasn’t the only reason Linden recruited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

“Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén adds. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient.’ I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about “Neon Lights,” Warnings third single, a lush and cinematic track that managed to recall Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and the Stranger Things soundtrack with a much-needed we-re-all-in-this-together air.  “Depression Tourist,” Warnings’ latest single is an eerie and atmospheric track, centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering and ethereal synths and Linden’s voice fed through vocoder and other effects. And as a result, the song feels intimate and lonely, yet otherworldly. 

“I wanted this song to sound as if it was broadcasted from space, the loneliest place I could imagine,” Linden explains. “As I obviously couldn’t perform it up there I filmed this version in the loneliest field I could find in Malta.” Shot in black and white, the recently released live session features Linden and a synthesizer in the middle of a windswept corn field. The concept my be simple but it’s gorgeous and evocative. 

CHAD · Isolation

Emerging Portland, OR-based indie act CHAD  — founding members Sarah Lane and  Trevor Greely along with Zach Whiton and Alex Widner — can trace its origins to the split up of its founding members’ previous band. Now, as you may recall, the Cameron Spies-produced “I Got Time” found the band quickly establishing a signature sound with Lane’s gorgeous vocals effortlessly weaving through layers of shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and boom bap-like drumming. Of course, beyond that, the song was centered around a delicious and playful irony: the song’s narrator may be saying that she has time but in there’s a tacit recognition that in reality, she doesn’t; time is rushing by — and she’s sort of dithering around.

“Isolation,” the Portland-based act’s latest single is a slow-burning bit of 80s inspired,  dream pop centered around shimmering and and arpeggios synths, a sultry, Quiet-storm like bass line and Lane’s come-hither cooing. And while revealing a band that has been expanding upon their sonic palette in a way that recalls Beach House, the song as the band mentions via email is “the social distancing ballad we didn’t know we needed” — with the song evoking the unease and profound loneliness that so many of us are suffering through right now.

 

New Audio: Los Angeles’ The Know Covers The Jesus and Mary Chain

Los Angeles-based dream pop/shoegaze duo The Know, married couple and collaborators Daniel Knowles and Jennifer Farmer, can trace their origins to late 2018, when Knowles suggested to Farmer that instead of traveling home for the holidays — the UK and Texas respectively — that they stay put in Los Angeles and try to write music together, just the two of them. And the material they would write would be their gift to themselves.

Over a couple of weeks, they isolated themselves in their home studio with no real plan but they shared a mutual love of Beach House, Julee Cruise, ye ye, The Jesus and Mary Chain, 60s girl groups, Patsy Cline and The National. Interestingly, the first batch of material they wrote together, included their debut single “143.” Inspired by Tom Waits‘ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” “143” found the duo meshing the autobiographical with the fantastic: focusing on the hazy half-remembered recollections of a wild night out paired with an instrumental arrangement that seemed indebted to Beach House and 60s girl groups.

Their second single “Hold Me Like You Know Me,” a personal account of the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation that the band’s Farmer felt over the past year, received favorably comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound production.

Both of those singles will be included on the duo’s forthcoming debut EP, wearetheknow. Slated for a May 18, 2020 release, the EP finds the duo fully embracing a DIY ethos: the EP was produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s Knowles with Farmer handling the band’s visual side, including their videos and visual content. And as a result, the duo ensure that they have complete creative control over what they do. Thematically, the EP delves into the duo’s personal lives with the material touching upon their relationship and their experiences  — paired with a kaleidoscopic soundscape. 

Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about “Someday Maybe,” a track that continued a run of material based on their personal experiences while sonically meshing Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with The Stone Roses and others as it featured swooning boy-girl harmonies paired with layers of swirling and buzzing guitars and pedal effects.  Interestingly, the duo’s latest single, a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always” was inspired by quarantine-induced boredom — and was initially just intended for their own amusement and ears. After completing the track, the duo liked the way it came out, so they sent it to their CLUB 143 fan club an exclusive listen and feedback. The feedback was so positive that the and decided to squeeze in another single before the release of their debut EP. 

The Know’s cover of “Sometimes Always” the first song in which Knowles takes on lead vocal duties — but the cover is a deceptive, sonic detour with the duo taking one of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s more pop-leaning songs and playing it in the style of the influential act’s psychedelic leaning material.  And yet, it still manages to hew closely to the spirit and overall vibe of the original. 

New Video: The Know Releases a Wistful and Nostalgic Visual for Swooning “Someday Maybe”

Los Angeles-based dream pop/shoegaze duo The Know, married couple and collaborators Daniel Knowles and Jennifer Farmer, can trace their origins to late 2018, when Knowles suggested to Farmer that instead of traveling home for the holidays — the UK and Texas respectively — that they stay put in Los Angeles and try to write music together, just the two of them. And the material they would write would be their gift to themselves. 

Over a couple of weeks, they isolated themselves in their home studio with no real plan but they shared a mutual love of Beach House, Julee Cruise, ye ye, The Jesus and Mary Chain, 60s girl groups, Patsy Cline and The National. Interestingly, the first batch of material they wrote together, was their debut single “143.” Inspired by Tom Waits‘ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” “143” found the duo meshing the autobiographical with the fantastic: focusing on the hazy half-remembered recollections of a wild night out paired with an instrumental arrangement that seemed indebted to Beach House and 60s girl groups. 

Their second single “Hold Me Like You Know Me,” a personal account of the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation that the band’s Farmer felt over the past year, received favorably comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production. 

Both of those singles will be included on the duo’s forthcoming debut EP, wearetheknow. Slated for a May 18, 2020 release, the EP finds the duo fully embracing a DIY ethos: the EP was produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s Knowles with Farmer handling the band’s visual side, including their videos and visual content. And as a result, the duo ensure that they have complete creative control over what they do. Thematically, the EP delves into the duo’s personal lives with the material touching upon their relationship and their experiences  — paired with a kaleidoscopic soundscape. 

Interestingly, the EP’s third and latest single “Someday Maybe” finds the duo continuing  a run of material that thematically is based on their personal experiences — while sonically meshing Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with The Stone Roses and others. In other words, swooning melodies with layers upon layers of swirling and buzzing guitars, and pedal effects. As the duo explains the song “is about the potential you feel when you first meet someone you connect deeply with.” 

Directed by the band’s Jennifer Farmer, the recently released video stars Los Angeles music scene personality Howard Mordoh as The LA Rocker, along with the members of The Know as themselves, Kris Correa, Lauren Womack, Skylar Francise and Colin Coleman — and is set at barbecue/backyard party.  Of course, the video has me dreaming of the day that we all can get together at a party, drink tons of cheap beer, dance and listen to music all day and night. 

Lyric Video: Stockholm’s I Break Horses Releases a Shimmering and Cinematic New Single

Led by frontwoman Maria Linden and featuring Fredrik Balak, the Stockholm-based indie act I Break Horses have released two critically applauded albums: 2011’s full-length debut Hearts received praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for material that possessed luxurious grandeur and 2014’s Chiaroscuro, which found Linden crafting ambitious material with a cool, self-assuredness. Building upon a growing profile, Linden wound up touring with M83 and Sigur Ros– and U2 played “Winter Beats” before their stage entrance during 2018’s Experience + Innocence tour. 

Slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Bella Union, I Break Horses’ long-awaited third album Warnings is reportedly centered around Linden’s desire to take the time to make something different — by crafting material with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of her favorite films on her computer with the sound mute, she began to make her own soundtrack sketches, with those sketches gradually evolving into songs. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

Sonically, the album’s material is centered around lush and sumptuous soundscapes — dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analog synths and layered lyrics paired together to create an immersive, dramatic tension on multiple levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”  Interestingly, the album’s creative process involved several different dramas on its own right: “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…” Linden says in press notes.

Warnings also finds Linden collaborating with producer and mixing engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House and TV on the Radio. But his experience and expertise with dense and cinematic sound wasn’t the only reason Linden recruited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

Adds Linden, “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

“Neon Lights,” Warnings’  third and latest single is a lush and cinematic track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a motorik groove, thumping beats, a rousingly anthemic hook and Linden’s plaintive and expressive vocals. And while recalling Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and the Stranger Things soundtrack, the song has a much-needed we’re-in-this-together air. The track as Linden explains is “anthem for all of us who have ever felt like we didn’t fit in. It is trying to give a glimpse of hope to all outsiders who feel like they can’t find their way and to show the world that being a ‘misfit’ is a beautiful thing, not something to be pushed aside.”

Live Footage: Newcastle’s Lanterns on the Lake Perform “Swimming Lessons” at Blast Studios

Over the past month or so I’ve written a bit about the critically applauded Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based indie rock quintet Lanterns on the Lake. Currently comprised of founding trio Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar, piano), Paul Gregory (guitar, production) and Oliver Ketteringham (drums, piano) with newest members Bob Allen (bass) and Angela Chan (violin, cello, viola), the band was founded back in 2007. And as you may recall the band self-released two EPs and a single, which caught the attention of Bella Union Records, who signed the band in late 2010.

Shortly after signing to Bella Union, the band contributed a track to the label’s Christmas 10″ EP compilation, which featured tracks from Peter Broderick and Radiohead‘s Phillip Selway. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding, the band’s self-produced and self-recorded full-length debut effort, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was released to critical applause in 2011.  During that period, the band opened for Explosions in the Sky, Low, and Yann Tiersen.

The band’s sophomore album 2013’s Until the Colours Run was released to critical praise, with most reviewers making special note of the material’s sociopolitical thematic concerns and undertones. The band then supported their sophomore effort with extensive touring across the European Union and their first Stateside tour that went on through the following year.

Interestingly, the Newcastle-based act’s third album, 2015’s Beings continued a run of critically applauded albums with Drowned in Sound calling the band “one of Britain’s most crucial bands of the present moment” and DIY Magazine describing them as “virtually without equal.” Lanterns on the Lake supported the album with extensive tours across the European Union and the UK, playing their largest hometown show to date, at Sage Gateshead, where they were accompanied by Royal Northern Sinfonia, performing orchestral arrangements by Fiona Brice.  The show was recorded and released as a 2017 live album, Live with Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Adding to a growing profile nationally and internationally the band has played sets across the international festival circuit, including End of the Road Festival, Glastonbury Festival, SXSW and Bestival.

The Newcastle-based indie act’s fourth album Spook the Herd dropped today. And as you may recall, the album’s title is derived from a pointed comment at the manipulative tactics of ideologues. Naturally, the album thematically is inspired by, and draws from our turbulent and uncertain time, with the album’s nine songs touching upon our hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief, the climate crisis and more.

Interestingly, their latest album marks the the first time that the band left their native Newcastle to record in a studio — Yorkshire‘s Distant City Studios, where the album was engineered by Joss Worthington. Doing such a thing shook up the comfortable mindsets they’ve developed during their relatively young careers. “We are a pretty insular band in how we work, and trusting other people enough to allow them to get  involved is not always easy for us,” the band’s Hazel Wilde admits in press notes.

Recorded live as much as possible, the band’s sound still draws from dream pop and post rock — but with a stripped down approach, which gives the material a stark urgency and immediacy. And it reportedly may be the most intimate feeling album of their growing catalog with the material feeling as though you were in the room with the band. So far I’ve written about two of the album’s released singles: the Portishead meets Beach House-like  “Baddies,” and the Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp-like “When It All Comes True.” 

To celebrate the release of their latest album, the acclaimed British indie act released the album’s fourth and latest single, the shimmering and cinematic “Swimming Lessons.” Centered around a gorgeous string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, an enormous hook — and while continuing an amazing run of cinematic singles, the track is a breathtakingly earnest songwriting. 

The recently released video is centered around gorgeously shot black and white live footage of the band performing the song for  The Spook Sessions at Newcastle’s Blast Studios, which was directed, edited and filmed by Ian West.

Live Footage: Newcastle’s Lanterns on the Lake Performs “When It All Comes True” at Blast Studios

Lanterns on the Lake are a critically applauded Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based indie rock quintet, currently comprised of founding trio Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar, piano), Paul Gregory (guitar, production) and Oliver Ketteringham (drums, piano) with newest members Bob Allen (bass) and Angela Chan (violin, cello, viola).  Founded back in 2007, the band self-released two EPs and a single, which caught the attention of Bella Union Records, who signed the band in late 2010.

Shortly after signing to Bella Union, the band contributed a track to the label’s Christmas 10″ EP compilation, which featured tracks from Peter Broderick and Radiohead‘s Phillip Selway. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding, the band’s self-produced and self-recorded full-length debut effort, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was released to critical applause in 2011.  During that period, the band opened for Explosions in the Sky, Low, and Yann Tiersen.

The band’s sophomore album 2013’s Until the Colours Run was released to critical praise, with most reviewers making special note of the material’s sociopolitical thematic concerns and undertones. The band then supported their sophomore effort with extensive touring across the European Union and their first Stateside tour that went on through the following year. 

Interestingly, the Newcastle-based act’s third album, 2015’s Beings continued a run of critically applauded albums with Drowned in Sound calling the band “one of Britain’s most crucial bands of the present moment” and DIY Magazine describing them as “virtually without equal.” Lanterns on the Lake supported the album with extensive tours across the European Union and the UK, playing their largest hometown show to date, at Sage Gateshead, where they were accompanied by Royal Northern Sinfonia, performing orchestral arrangements by Fiona Brice.  The show was recorded and released as a 2017 live album, Live with Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Adding to a growing profile nationally and internationally the band has played sets across the international festival circuit, including End of the Road Festival, Glastonbury Festival, SXSW and Bestival.

The band’s highly-anticipated fourth album, Spook the Herd is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Bella Union. Deriving its title from a pointed comment at the manipulative tactics of ideologies, the album thematically is inspired by and draws from our turbulent and uncertain times in which we’re on the brink of our own annihilation — with the album’s nine songs touching upon our time’s hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief, the climate crisis and more.

Spook the Herd marks the first time that the band left their native Newcastle to record in a studio — Yorkshire‘s Distant City Studios, where the album was engineered by Joss Worthington. Doing such a thing shook up the comfortable mindsets they’ve developed during their relatively young careers. “We are a pretty insular band in how we work, and trusting other people enough to allow them to get  involved is not always easy for us,” the band’s Hazel Wilde admits in press notes.

Recorded live as much as possible, the band’s sound still draws from dream pop and post rock — but with a stripped down approach, which gives the material a stark urgency and immediacy. And it reportedly may be the most intimate feeling album of their growing catalog with the material feeling as though you were in the room with the band. Last month, I wrote about Spook the Herd’s second single “Baddies,” a track that found the acclaimed British act balancing a widescreen cinematic bombast with a balladeer’s intimacy with the track centered around soaring strings, dramatic and forceful drumming, shimmering guitar lines and Wilde’s gorgeous and expressive vocals. The end result is a song that sonically recalls Portishead-like trip hop, Beach House-like dream pop and post rock with a narrator making a desperate, last stand against hatred and polarization. 

The album’s third and latest single is the incredibly cinematic “When It All Comes True.” Centered around a soaring hook, Wilde’s gorgeous and expressive vocals, shimmering strings, twinkling keys, forceful drumming, “When It All Comes True” — to my ears, at least — brings Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp to mind, but with a darker, more uncertain undertone. 

“Sometimes when you write a song you are creating a world in the same way a film maker or an artist painting a scene would,” Lantern on the Lake’s Hazel Wilde explains in press notes. “This is a twisted coming-of-age love story where we’re let in on the thoughts of what seems like a deranged narrator with a premonition. They’ve been trying to warn everyone around them of what is to come but nobody takes them seriously. At the time I was writing this one there was a lot of awful stuff on the news about shootings in America and elsewhere and some of that seeped into the story. At the end our narrator promises: ‘through the empty streets in the searing heat I’ll keep my word for you, when the sirens cease and my pulse is weak, I’ll keep my word for you.’”

The recently released video features live footage of the acclaimed British act performing the song for The Spook Sessions at Newcastle’s Blast Studios, which was directed, edited and filmed by Ian West. 

New Video: Lower Dens Releases a Psychedelic Visual for “Hand of God”

Formed back in 2010, the acclaimed Baltimore-based dream pop act Lower Dens can trace its origins to when its primary songwriter and founding member Jana Hunter had grown tired of touring and decided to take a hiatus. For what was supposed to be their final tour as a solo artist, Hunter recruited a backing band which featured Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams. Finding that playing with a band was much more enjoyable to them than playing as a solo artist, helped Hunter form Lower Dens. “During that tour, I realized that it wasn’t the touring life that I hated, but more so that the kind of music I wrote as a solo artist wasn’t something I felt entirely comfortable sharing in performance setting. Lower Dens then was the eventual result of the decision to make music with the specific intention of sharing and enjoying it with others,” Hunter said at the time.

Lower Dens’ full-length debut, Twin Hand Movement was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork, who compared Hunter’s vocals to those of PJ Harvey and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Dusted Magazine, who praised the album’s lyrics for being “delivered without irony, yet self-aware enough to appreciate the obviousness.” While touring to support Twin Hand Movement, the band began writing on the road — but the limitations of writing on the road forced Hunter to work through a laptop and keyboard rather than a guitar, which lead to an increasing presence of synths on what would become their sophomore album Nootropics.

After they completed the tour to support Twin Hand Movement, the band chose to record their sophomore album at The Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor, MI.  Hunter cited the studio’s remote location as an imperative part of the writing and recording process. Geoff Graham added that the amount of time spent in the studio allowed them to add extra dimensions to the material to make it lusher and thicker. Largely influenced by Kraftwerk‘s Radioactivity, Fripp and Eno and David Bowie‘s production on Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot, Nootropics was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork. Rolling Stone and Spin. 

Building upon a growing profile, Lower Dens opened for Beach House and indie rock legends Yo La Tengo at the Baltimore stop of the legendary act’s  2013 Fade tour. The following month, they released “Non Grata” on a split 7″ with Baltimore-based band Horse Lords, an effort that was released as part of the Famous Class LAMC series, which benefited VH1’s Save The Music Foundation. 

2015 saw the release of the band’s third album Escape from Evil, which continued a run of critically applauded albums. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes — with the band now being a duo featuring its founding member and primary songwriter Jana Hunter and Nate Nelson. And during that period, the members of Lower Dens had been working on their highly-anticipated follow up to Escape from Evil, The Competition.

Released last September through their longtime label home Ribbon Music, the album is a pop album with an emotionally and politically urgent concept at its core. Competition, by design is the driving force of modern capitalism and the title is Hunnter’s term for a socio-psychological phenomenon that competition generates — a kind of psychosis that accelerates and amplifies our insecurities and anxieties to the point of overload. And as a result our intimacies, our communities and even our senses of self are corroded and distorted. “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset.  I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”

Last year, the members of Lower Dens opened for hit-making act Of Monsters And Men, and they’ll begin this year with a headlining tour to support the album that starts on February 13, 2020 and includes a March 19, 2020 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. (You can check out the rest of the tour dates below.) In the meantime, the album’s latest single, the glistening and propulsive “Hand of God” is centered around Hunter’s achingly expressive vocals, shimmering synth arpeggios and four-on-the-floor drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook. Sonically, the song bears a subtle resemblance to Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” and Songs from the Big Chair-era Tears for Fears — but centered around feelings of arrogance, humility and shame. 

“It’s like Cowboy Krautrock,” Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter says about the song in press notes.  “Imagine a wild west adventure, like City Slickers with the star, a wealthy white man. He’s devised a way to conquer God. He has some kind of vaguely dangerous journey, then comes upon God and declares victory. In his hubris, he goes to shake God’s hand, at which time he is psychedelically humbled, his little brain imploding.”

Directed by Aaron Brown and Robby Piantanida, the recently released video, manages to employ a decidedly DIY approach with a bright psychedelic colors — with Hunter seeing the hands of God. 

New Audio: Newcastle’s Acclaimed Lanterns on the Lake Release an Urgent Call to Resist Hate

Lanterns on the Lake are a critically applauded Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based indie rock quintet, currently comprised of founding trio Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar, piano), Paul Gregory (guitar, production) and Oliver Ketteringham (drums, piano) with Bob Allen (bass) and Angela Chan (violin, cello, viola).  Founded back in 2007, the band self-released two EPs and a single, which caught the attention of Bella Union Records, who signed the band in late 2010. 

Shortly after signing to their label home, the band contributed a track to Bella Union’s Christmas 10″ EP compilation, which featured tracks from Peter Broderick and Radiohead’s Phillip Selway. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding, the band’s self-produced and self-recorded full-length debut effort, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was released to critically applause in 2011.  During that period, the band opened for Explosions in the Sky, Low, and Yann Tiersen. 

The band’s sophomore album 2013’s Until the Colours Run was released to critical praise, with most reviewers noting the material’s sociopolitical thematic concerns and undertones. The members of Lanterns on the Lake supported their sophomore effort through the following year with extensive touring across the European Union and their first Stateside tour. 

Lantern on the Lake’s third album 2015’s Beings continued a run of critically applauded albums with Drowned in Sound calling the band “one of Britain’s most crucial bands of the present moment” and DIY Magazine describing them as “virtually without equal.” The Newcastle-based act supported the album with extensive tours across the European Union and the UK, playing their largest hometown show to date, at Sage Gateshead, where they were accompanied by Royal Northern Sinfonia, performing orchestral arrangements by Fiona Brice.  The show was recorded and released as a 2017 live album, Live with Royal Northern Sinfonia. 

Adding to a growing profile nationally and internationally the band has played sets across the international festival circuit, including End of the Road Festival, Glastonbury Festival, SXSW and Bestival. 

The band’s highly-anticipated fourth album, Spook the Herd is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Bella Union. Deriving its title from a pointed comment at the manipulative tactics of ideologies, the album thematically is inspired by and draws from our turbulent and uncertain times in which we’re on the brink of our own annihilation — with the album’s nine songs touching upon our time’s hopelessly polarized politics, social media, addiction, grief, the climate crisis and more. 

Interestingly, Spook the Herd marks the first time that the band left their native Newcastle to record in a studio — Yorkshire’s Distant City Studios, where the album was engineered by Joss Worthington. Naturally, this shook up comfortable mindsets they’ve developed during their relatively young careers. “We are a pretty insular band in how we work, and trusting other people enough to allow them to get  involved is not always easy for us,” the band’s Hazel Wilde admits in press notes. 

Recorded live as much as possible, the band’s sound still draws from dream pop and post rock — but with a stripped down approach, which gives the material a stark urgency and immediacy. And it reportedly may be the most intimate feeling album of their growing catalog with the material feeling as though you were in the room with the band. The album’s latest single “Baddies” finds the acclaimed British act balancing a widescreen and bombastic cinematic air with a balladeer’s intimacy, centered around soaring strings, dramatic and forceful drumming, shimmering guitar lines and Wilde’s gorgeous and expressive vocals. And while being breathtakingly beautiful, the song which seems to recall Portishead-like trip hop, Beach House-like dream pop and post rock is its narrator’s desperate, last stand against hatred and polarization; one that has its narrator actively seeking the universal to bring the little people of the world together. 

“Baddies is a song about the rising tide of anger and hate in the world that seems to have been unleashed over the last few years, with those in positions of power and influence actively encouraging it for their own ends, and the polarization of society as a result,” Hazel Wilde explains in press notes. “It is about the need for the individual, the underdog, to stand up to it, but the fact in doing so we become part of it. We become someone else’s baddie.”