Tag: Bon Iver

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Ivan Howard a prolific singer/songwriter,who has spent extensive stints writing, recording and touring with The Rosebuds, fronting the acclaimed indie supergroup GAYNGS, releasing material with his alter-ego Howard Ivans — and writing for Kanye West and Bon Iver. Late last year, Howard wound up in his Portland home with an unusual quiet patch in his schedule. However, as the story goes, that quiet patch didn’t last very long.

Howard found himself reconnecting with longtime friends Robert Rogan and Brian Weeks. “We met my freshman year of college. Brian heard I could sing, and cornered me in a stairway til I sang “Let Love Rule.” We ended up in our first band together, and he helped me realize that life wasn’t all basketball. I might be ok at music, too.” Howard recalls in press notes. Weeks introduced Howard to Rogan, and the three became close, with Weeks eventually joining Ivans in The Rosebuds as a touring musician, in between stints in Wilmington indie bands with Rogan. Coincidentally, around the same time that Howard reconnected with his old friends, Rogan and Weeks had begun working on a new project together. “We recorded 11 songs with scratch vocal tracks, but neither Robert nor I were completely comfortable singing on them,” Brian Weeks says in press notes. Rogan and Weeks decided to send the tracks they worked on to Howard — with the hopes of getting his take on the material.

“When they asked me to sing on ‘Run,’ I originally said ‘You don’t need me, just get Robert,’ admits Howard. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I liked Robert’s voice. But they kept pushing and I figured, it’s just one song.” Of course, it’s rarely just one song.  Once Robert heard Ivan’s take, he insisted he sing them all. “It was like somebody said ‘Here’s a CD of Greatest Hits of this genre of music without vocals that no one’s ever heard,” Howard explains. “Surprise! You get to sing them!’” The end result is the trio’s latest collaborative project together De La Noche.

De La Noche can trace its origins to Rogan and Weeks’ adopted hometown of Wilmington,  NC. During the middle of 2015 Rogan found himself rudderless. He had gone through a divorce and found that he had a lot of time on his hands — with few distractions. He began playing around and writing material. Feeling isolated, Rogan contacted his pal Weeks to collaborate on material that they wanted to feel closer to the 80s synth pop they’d grown up adoring than the guitar-driven indie rock bands they’ve long played in. Unsurprisingly, Howard, whose solo work also draws from 80s synth pop and soul, found it easy to slip his imitable vocals into the material Rogan and Weeks had been working on. “I tried to let the music dictate the sentiment of each song and just created a character that could fill all these melodic parts,” Howard explains in press notes. 

When asked about how De La Noche differs from his other projects, Howard says that ‘with most of my other projects, I’m the one that usually starts the song, travels with it the long road, and grinds it out ’till it’s finished. By the end, even though I love the songs, I still get tired of them — or they take on a different meaning from the struggles I was going through at the time. With the De La Noche, I just came in 2/3 of the way there. The songs were already written, and Matt Douglas of The Mountain Goats fame had already played his guest sax licks all over it. All I did was just sing them with my slant.” That slight bit of emotional distance from the material reportedly allowed Howard to take a far more adventurous approach in his vocal delivery. 

The project’s full-length debut Blue Days, Black Nights is slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Get Loud Recordings, and as you may recall, last month I wrote about the album’s slinky opener and first single “Avenues,” a track that to my ears was one part Quiet Storm R&B and one part Manifesto and Avalon-era Roxy Music. “Dreams,” Blue Days, Black Nights‘ latest single continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — slinky and sultry Quiet Storm R&B-inspired pop  centered by shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, twinkling keys, thumping beats and Howard’s plaintive vocals. And the addition of vocoder effected vocals on the song’s hook completes the retro vibes.

Interestingly, the song may arguably be the most emotionally ambivalent of the album’s singles so far — while seemingly upbeat, there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty, bitterness and loneliness that gives the song a razor sharp edge. “This song was written during the darkest period of my life,” De La Noche’s Robert Rogan recalls. “It was like someone muted the sun out just over top of me. Like, ‘Fuck you, Robert.’ The only time that was really bearable was when I was unconscious and dreaming. I hated waking up. The fact that the song sounds upbeat and optimistic is intentionally ironic. Which in turn actually turned the song into something more positive in the end. Maybe I was subconsciously telling myself to hold on? Actually now I look forward to getting up every day. I just went back to daydreaming now like I used to do before that long winter.”

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Live Footage: James Blake Performs “I’ll Come Too” on KRCW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

Born the son of musician James Litherland, James Blake is an acclaimed London-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who showed an interest and aptitude in music at a very young age: he received classical piano training as a child, eventually attending Goldsmith, University of London, where he received a degree in Popular Music. While attending Goldsmith, Blake and a friends hosted a series of Bass Society music nights that featured British artists like Distance, Skream and Benga. 

Blake first received recognition for a series of EPs in 2010 — CMYK EP and Klavierwerke and his 2011 self-titled debut, all which were released to critical praise. His sophomore effort, 2013’s Overgrown won that year’s Mercury Prize and a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. 2016’s The Colour in Anything further established Blake’s unique sound and approach, which draws from electronic music, electro pop, R&B and blue-eyed soul. 

Throughout his career, Blake has managed to collaborate with a wide and eclectic variety of contemporary artists including Mount Kimbie, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Vince Staples, Rosalia, Jay-Z, Oneohtrix Point Never and Frank Ocean — and for his remixes under the moniker Harmonimix. His most recent album, the critically applauded Assume Form finds Blake collaborating with Travis Scott, Metro Boomin, Andre 3000, Moses Sumney, and Rosalia.

Recently, Blake was invited to perform the first-ever live session at KCRW’s brand-new Annenberg Performance Studio. The session aired on KRCW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic hosted by the station’s Musical Director, Jason Bentley.  Joined by his bandmates Rob McAndrews and Ben Assiter, Blake performed material from Assume Form, including the album’s title track, “Barefoot In The Park,” “I’ll Come Too,” and “Don’t Miss It,” as well as a live version of his song “Retrograde” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” “I’ll Come Too” is a slow-burning and atmospheric track centered around Blake’s ethereal and plaintive vocals, shimmering synths, stuttering beats and a soaring hook — and while   bearing an uncanny resemblance to classical music, the track finds Blake expressing an achingly passionate yearning and vulnerability. 

New Video: Follow an Astronaut in Search of the Happiest Planet in the Galaxy in Adorable Animated Video for Mind of Max’s “Lost in My Love”

Max Weiner is an American-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist. His visual art is influenced by the folk and psychedelic movements of the 60s and 70s, as its centered by a bold and trippy vibrancy, while his music with his solo recording project Mind of Max has been comparably to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon, and Bon Iver.

Following the release of his second EP, 2013’s Seasons, Weiner was invited to The Netherlands to open for Dutch folk rock act AlascA on a two-week tour of Germany and Holland. While driving to Amsterdam, AlascA’s Frank Bond played an album by the country folk act Plainsong. And as the story goes, Weiner was hooked by the melodic bend of the pedal steel, the delicate slide of the dobro and the close knit vocal harmonies of the band.

Returning home from the tour, Weiner began writing and recording demos influenced by the sounds he’d heard while on tour; in fact, he purchased a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play in a style that he felt would compliment his new sonic direction. Those demos would eventually inform the material on his full-length debut The Key.

Unable to secure a producer that felt right for the album, Weiner produced and performed the songs on the album by himself. Four years later, the album was finished. “Recording an album on your own can be a brutal process,” Weiner says in press notes. “At times, I felt like I was losing my mind and I wanted to call it quits. But I’m so proud of the work I’ve done on this record. I’ve grown in my ability to serve the song and not my ego. Above all else, I’ve learned to believe in and trust myself as a musician and producer. I’d like to feel that everyone can find something within these songs that identifies with their struggles as well as their triumphs. We’re all on a similar path in this world, and I hope you feel a bit of peace knowing you’re not alone on your journey.”

The Key’s latest single is the breezy, Crosby Stills and Nash-like “Lost in My Love.” Centered around twangy, country folk-like guitars paired with some gorgeous layered harmonies, the song is a tale of being so infatuated with the idea of having someone in your life that you miss the obvious red flags — and learning from it so that the next time you’re in that situation, you see it with clear eyes.

Featuring bold and colorful animation from Aishwara Sadasivan, who wrote the video’s story in partnership with the folks at The Wild Honey Pie, the recently released and adorably sweet video follows an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest planet. “We pulled from design elements used on my album cover and Aish’s vibrant, colorful creatures and world building brought a real sense of whimsy and magic. Her unique narrative of an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest player was a fresh approach and I’m thrilled to see it all come together so well.”

Interview: A Q&A with VALLEY’s Michael Brandolino

The members up-and-coming, Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock/indie pop act VALLEY Rob Laska (vocals), Karah James (drums), Michael Brandolino (guitar) and Alex DiMauro (bass) played in a number of various bands, initially playing in high school bands covering some of their favorite artists before getting serious enough to write their own material.  Interestingly enough, the members of the up-and-coming Canadian act can trace their origins to when the members’ previous projects were accidentally (and perhaps serendipitously) had their recording sessions double-booked at a local recording studio. The studio encouraged the band to try playing together — and as the story goes, instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth, each individual person decided to work together, eventually developing their self-produced and acclaimed debut EP, 2016’s This Room Is White, that amassed 10 million streams, partially as a result of the EP’s smash hit track “Swim,” which received airplay internationally and garnered placements on a number of TV shows. 

Last year, the members of VALLEY released the Maybe Side A EP, which featured “There’s Still A Light In The House,” a track that amassed over 1 million Spotify streams and received airplay on US College Radio. Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming Toronto-based indie quartet will be releasing their full-length debut Maybe through Universal Music Group later this year, and the album’s Andy Seltzer co-written and co-produced first single “Closer To The Picture”  thematically deals with the vacillating and inherent cycle of anxiety and self-reflection in the deafening digital noise of 21st century living.

VALLEY’s latest single, “A Phone Call In Amsterdam is a slickly produced bit of anthemic, radio friendly pop featuring shimmering synths, a rousing hook and a tight groove that sonically reminds me Plain White T‘s “Hey There, Delilah” and St. Lucia — while thematically focusing on an experience that should be familiar to most of us — that moment when you realize that you have feelings for a dear friend, who you desperately want to tell; but you’re afraid of rejection and ruining a good relationship.

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The up-and-coming Canadian band is currently touring with up and coming singer/songwriter and fellow Canadian Lennon Stella to support their most recent EP and new single, and the tour includes a stop tomorrow night at Irving Plaza, arguably their biggest area show to date. I recently spoke with the band’s Michael Brandolino via email about their new single, their tour, their influences and more. Check out the tour dates below, and the interview below the jump.

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MON 25 MARCH
Theater of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA, US
TUE 26 MARCH
Irving Plaza New York, NY, US
THU 28 MARCH
Metro Chicago, IL, US
FRI 29 MARCH
The Rave/Eagles Club Milwaukee, WI, US
SAT 30 MARCH
Fine Line Minneapolis, MN, US
MON 1 APRIL
Bluebird Theater Denver, CO, US
WED 3 APRIL
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
THU 4 APRIL
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
FRI 5 APRIL
August Hal lSan Francisco, CA, US
SUN 7 APRIL
Wonder Ballroom Portland, OR, US
MON 8 APRIL
Neptune Theatre Seattle, WA, US
WED 10 APRIL
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
THU 11 APRIL
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
TUE 16 APRIL
Top Cats Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH, US
WED 17 APRIL
The Auricle Canton, OH, US
THU 18 APRIL
Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL, US
FRI 19 APRIL
Fubar St Louis, MO, US
SAT 20 APRIL
The Kio House Memphis, TN, US
MON 22 APRIL
The End Nashville, TN, US
FRI 14 JUNE
– SAT 15 JUNE
Liquid Arts Festival 2019 Hamilton, ON, Canada

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WRH: As the story goes, the members of the band met when a recording studio accidentally double- booked sessions and encouraged y’all to play together. Curiously, how does your previous project(s) differ from Valley? And when did you recognize that you had a musical and creative chemistry that couldn’t and shouldn’t be denied?

Michael Brandolino: The projects we worked on before Valley were kind of the stepping stones we needed to find our sound I’d say. We spent the years before Valley covering our favourite bands in high school and collecting our favourite sounds for the future.

WRH: How would you describe your sound?

MB: I’d say it’s very much a combination of our parents records and records that we discovered in the most formative years of our life. We’re always thinking about the overall story and how to tell it in the most honest way. We believe a lot in honesty and a freeing dynamic, while blending a lot of different sonic textures. For example, on this record we did a lot of acoustic guitar panning that sit quiet and create pads that sit under blanket under the song, which is something we learned from Coldplay but then we contrast that with a ton of drum machine samples from the 80s and 90s that glue these two different worlds together. We’re always thinking about bringing stuff like that into one headspace. It’s really important to us when shaping a record.

WRH: Who are you influenced by?

MB: We definitely have a very diverse list of influences ranging anywhere from John Mayer to Coldplay to Bon Iver and Ariana Grande. All those artists have put out records that have marked really important periods of growth for us as a band and personally. Super thankful to be living in an age where they exist.

WRH: Who are you listening to now?

MB: Currently really into Lorde’s latest record, love Bon Iver, Still Woozy, Lennon Stella of course, The Japanese House record, Fleetwood Mac, Ariana Grande! We’re all over right now. So many great albums have been put out this year.

WRH: Is there anyone in the Toronto scene, who we haven’t heard about in the States that we all should be hearing about?

MB: Hands down this band called Babygirl. They’re good friends of ours and we look up to them so much. Incredible story tellers and songwriters. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing about them soon…

Recommended first listens: “Overbored,” “Soft,” “Wish I Never Met You.”

 

WRH: You’re currently on tour with Lennon Stella. How has the tour gone so far?

 MB: This tour has been absolutely incredible. We feel so lucky and fortunate to be on this run with Lennon. It’s our first major U.S run and we’ve been learning a ton. Watching Lennon every night and seriously has one of the most beautiful voices out there right now. Her songwriting is way beyond her years in so many ways and cannot wait to see her career unfold. So lucky to be a part of her humble beginnings.

WRH: Speaking of your tour, it includes a March 26 stop at Irving Plaza. Is it your first-time playing NYC? And what should NYC music fans expect from your set and from the show?

MB: We’ve played Rough Trade in Brooklyn before, but this is definitely our first time playing the Plaza right in the heart of the city. New York is so damn special to us. We wrote a lot of Maybein the city and lots of lyrical and production soundscapes take place throughout the album. It’s gonna be a special night, we can feel it.

WRH: Your self-produced, acclaimed EP, 2016’s This Room Is White amassed over 10 million streams – perhaps a result of “Swim,” receiving placements on radio and TV. Building upon rapidly growing buzz around you, your full-length debut is slated for release later this year. So far, the album’s first single “Closer to the Picture,” which was co-written and co-produced by the band and Andy Seltzer has received over a million streams and US College radio airplay. How does it feel to attain that kind of attention in such a relatively short period of time?

MB: It’s a pretty cool feeling, although we always feel like we could do better. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that every release does better than the last. Closer to the picture now one of the smaller songs on MAYBE according to Spotify analytics. Our most recent single “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” has performed the best, and we’re brainstorming ideas on how to exceed that number with our next single titled “Park Bench.” We feel blessed with any success we’ve had but always are looking to do better. There’s always room to grow!!

WRH: Your latest single “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” reminds me a bit of Plain White T’s and St. Lucia. What influenced the song? And what’s the song about? 

MB: “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” was one of the earliest songs that we wrote for Maybe. I remember the initial idea was conceived around July/August of 2017 around the same time we also wrote “There’s Still A Light In The House.”

“A Phone Call in Amsterdam” in terms of concept came later. This one we really wanted words and feelings to flow freely in its early conception. Subconsciously the meaning came out of nowhere which kinda made me go “oh that’s what I’m writing about I know exactly where this is coming from in my life.”

It’s very much a love story set in a time and place from the perspective of a dear friend of ours. Though it’s wrapped up in distance, both physically and emotionally. The paradox of wanting someone in your life and being scared to tell them how you really feel but also not wanting to ruin something that is already good the way it is, by saying the wrong thing.

Your most current tour has you on the road for the better part of the next month, before a big festival date. After you’ve completed the tour, what’s next?

We’re planned to release another single, two music videos, and then the second half of our record MAYBE. We’ll be doing another hometown album release show in Toronto, date to be announced! We have some festivals lined up but we are also very eager to start writing and demoing again so will probably run away for a month in the summer and write.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Hearts Hearts Release Symbolism-Filled, Animated Visuals for “Sugar/Money”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Vienna, Austria-based indie rock/experimental rock band Hearts Hearts, and as you may recall, with the release of  “I Am In” and “AAA” off their critically applauded debut album Young,  the Austrian act, comprised of David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer, and Peter Paul Aufreitet, initially developed a reputation for crafting brooding, slow-burning and elegiac electro pop that drew comparisons to the likes Sigur Ros, Flying Lotus, The Darcys and Radiohead from critics and media outlets internationally. 

As the story goes, after the release of Young, the band’s Peter Paul Aufreiter and Johannes Mandorfer sent two radically different sound snippets to their bandmate David Österle — an aggressive and jazzy piano loop titled “Phantom” and an electronic drum take recorded overseas titled “Island,” which interestingly enough is the German word for the country of Iceland. Upon receiving those two sound snippets from his bandmates, Österle frantically began attempting to put these disparate pieces together; to synchronise what was never meant to be unified, and then started singing over the results. Goods/Gods, the Austrian act’s genre-defying sophomore album reportedly draws from the work of Bon Iver, Jamie XX and Son Lux while taking its thematic cues from the in between spaces and undefined borderlines in meaning, symbolized by the slash in every title on the album. And as a result, the material finds the band exploring emotional and moral ambiguities, and the ineffectiveness and confusions that the dichotomies and borderlines that define modern society. As the band’s Hämmerle says, the band prefers to think “think in options,” seeing the slash as representing an openness and flexibility in meaning; in similarities as much as in difference.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the aforementioned album single “Phantom/Island,” a wildly experimental track that possessed elements of jazz, electronica, indie rock and experimental pop in a way that brings to mind Kid A and Amnesiac-era Radiohead, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington— but while conjuring a mix of anguish and ecstasy, yearning and desire within a turn of a musical phrase. “Sugar/Money,” the  album’s latest single is a bit more straightforward than some of its predecessors as the song finds the band drawing from early 80s New Wave, ambient electronica and indie rock in a way that feels dimly familiar but not quite, while focusing on an accessible and infectious hook that gives the song a sense of immediacy. As the band’s frontman David Österle says in press notes, “Living sometimes seems to be a permanent process of self-discipline. We are all constantly running for a jam tomorrow. Sugar keeps us highly energetic. Life doesn’t encourage us to experience the future as a blind joyride. Let’s catch some moments of exhilaration, damn, let’s feel the thrill of immediateness.”

Created by Shorsch Feierfeil, the recently released video for “Sugar/Money” employs the use of incredibly fluid line animations that quickly morph into different arrays of symbolic imagery  that further emphasizes the song’s longing. 

New Video: Austria’s Hearts Hearts Release Gorgeously Shot Surreal Visuals for Album Title Track “Goods/Gods”

With the release of “I Am In” and “AAA” off their critically applauded debut album Young, the  Vienna, Austria-based quartet Hearts Hearts, comprised of  David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer, and Peter Paul Aufreitet, initially developed a reputation for crafting brooding, slow-burning and elegiac electro pop that drew comparisons Sigur Ros, Flying Lotus, The Darcys and Radiohead among others. Thematically, Young focused on tension and release — in the sense of someone desperately attempting to break through and out of the familiar and debilitating patterns of their own life.

After Young’s release, the band’s Peter Paul Aufreiter and Johannes Mandorfer sent two radically different sound snippets to their bandmate David Österle — an aggressive and jazzy piano loop titled “Phantom” and an electronic drum take recorded overseas titled “Island,” which interestingly enough is the German word for the country of Iceland. Upon receiving those two sound snippets from his bandmates, Österle frantically began attempting to put these disparate pieces together; to synchronise what was never meant to be unified, and started singing over it. It resulted in the Austrian act’s highly-anticipated, genre-defying sophomore album officially drops today, and the album reportedly finds the band drawing sonically from Bon Iver, Jamie XX and Son Lux while thematically focusing on the in between spaces and undefined borderlines in meaning, symbolized by the slash on all of the album’s song titles. Interestingly, the material finds the band exploring emotional and moral ambiguities, and the ineffectiveness and confusions that dichotomies and borderlines that define modern society. As the band’s Hämmerle says, the band prefers to think “think in options,” seeing the slash as representing an openness and flexibility in meaning; in similarities as much as in difference.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Phantom/Island” a genre-mashing and genre-defying track that possessed elements of jazz, electronica, indie rock and experimental pop in a way that brings to mind Kid A and Amnesiac-era Radiohead, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington  and “Sugar/Money,” Goods/Gods’ most straightforward track as there’s a decided focus on accessible and infectious hooks while nodding at early 80s New Wave. Goods/Gods’ latest single, album title track “Goods/Gods” is centered around stuttering beats, an arpeggiated synth loop, some industrial clang and clatter, while revealing soaring hooks and a tight groove within a song that sounds deeply indebted to Flying Lotus. 

Directed by Rupert Höller, the recently released video for “Goods/Gods” continues a run of gorgeous and cinematically shot and surrealistic visuals — in particular, the new video balances a hypnotic vibe with a contemporary sense of isolation and anxiousness. 

Live Footage: Hearts Hearts Perform “Sugar/Money” at Hotel am Brillantengrund, Vienna

With the release of “I Am In” and “AAA” off their critically applauded debut album Young, the  Vienna, Austria-based quartet Hearts Hearts, comprised of  David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer, and Peter Paul Aufreitet, initially developed a reputation for crafting brooding, slow-burning and elegiac electro pop that drew comparisons Sigur Ros, Flying Lotus, The Darcys and Radiohead. Thematically, Young focused on tension and release — in the sense of someone desperately attempting to break through and out of the familiar and debilitating patterns of their own life. 

As the story goes, after the release of Young, the band’s Peter Paul Aufreiter and Johannes Mandorfer sent two radically different sound snippets to their bandmate David Österle — an aggressive and jazzy piano loop titled “Phantom” and an electronic drum take recorded overseas titled “Island,” which interestingly enough is the German word for the country of Iceland. Upon receiving those two sound snippets from his bandmates, Österle frantically began attempting to put these disparate pieces together; to synchronise what was never meant to be unified, and start singing over the results. Goods/Gods, the Austrian act’s genre-defying sophomore album reportedly draws from the work of Bon Iver, Jamie XX and Son Lux while taking its thematic cues from the in between spaces and undefined borderlines in meaning, symbolized by the slash in every title on the album. And as a result, the material finds the band exploring emotional and moral ambiguities, and the ineffectiveness and confusions that the dichotomies and borderlines that define modern society. As the band’s Hämmerle says, the band prefers to think “think in options,” seeing the slash as representing an openness and flexibility in meaning; in similarities as much as in difference.

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about the trippy album single “Phantom/Island,” a genre-mashing and genre-defying track that possessed elements of jazz, electronica, indie rock and experimental pop in a way that brings to mind Kid A and Amnesiac-era Radiohead Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington — but while conjuring a mix of anguish and ecstasy, yearning and desire within a turn of a musical phrase. “Sugar/Money,” the soon-to-be released album’s latest single is a bit more straightforward as the song finds the band drawing from early 80s New Wave, ambient electronica and indie rock in a way that feels dimly familiar but not quite, while focusing on an accessible and infectious hook. 

New Video: Hearts Hearts Returns with Feverish and Surreal Visuals for Genre-Defying Single “Phantom/Island”

Comprised of David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer and Peter Paul Aufreitet, the Vienna, Austria-based quartet Hearts Hearts developed a reputation for crafting brooding, slow-burning and elegiac music indebted to classic musical and electro pop that drew comparisons to Sigur Ros, Flying Lotus, The Darcys and Radiohead as you would have heard on “I Am In” and “AAA” off their critically applauded debut album Young, an effort that thematically focused on tension and release — in the sense of someone desperately trying to break through and out of the familiar and debilitating patterns of their own life. 

During the release of the Austrian act’s debut Young, the band’s Peter Paul Aufreiter and Johannes Mandorfer sent two radically different sound snippets to their bandmate David Österle — an aggressive and jazzy piano loop titled “Phantom” and an electronic drum take recorded overseas titled “Island,” which interestingly enough is the German word for the country of Iceland. And as the story goes, Österle frantically began attempting to put these disparate pieces together; to synchronise what was never meant to be unified, and start singing over the results. The genre-defying album reportedly draws from the work of Bon Iver, Jamie XX and Son Lux while taking its thematic cues from the in between spaces and undefined borderlines in meaning, symbolized by the slash in every title on the album — with the band exploring both emotional and moral ambiguities, the ineffectiveness and confusions that the dichotomies and borderlines that define modern society. As the band’s Hämmerle says, the band prefers to think “think in options,” seeing the slash as representing an openness and flexibility in meaning; in similarities as much as in difference. 

The album’s first single “Phantom/Island” offers a heady and trippy taste of the overall aesthetic and sound of the album, as the band draws from jazz, electronica, indie rock, experimental pop in a way that immediately brings Kid A-era Radiohead, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington — and while being at their most sonically expansive and genre-defying, the track finds the band conjuring a mix of anguish and ecstasy, yearning and desire within a turn of a musical phrase, as you’ll hear a propulsive, almost dance floor friendly motorik groove during the song’s verses and a soaring, cinematic hook that conveys yearning and ache. The song finds the band at their most intimate yet cinematic,  experimental yet accessible, feverish and frenetic in what is arguably one of the most gorgeous and transcendent songs I’ve heard this year. 

Filmed and directed by Austrian artist Gabriel Hyden, the breathtakingly gorgeous visuals are a surreal and feverish dream inspired by Iceland’s equally surreal and gorgeous landscapes.  

New Video: Britney Spears, Boy George, and Nicki Minaj in Auditioning for a Gig in New Visuals for Hook Laden, New Track by Up-and-Coming Leeds-based Electro Pop Duo Krrum

Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-an-coming Leeds, UK-based, indie electro pop production and artist duo KRRUM. Comprised of Derbyshire, UK-born Leeds, UK-based producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex, who grew up on punk rock and ska and Leeds-born and-based singer/songwriter Harrison, who’s largely influenced by Bon Iver, Radiohead and Thom Yorke. And as you may recall, the duo can trace they their origins to when they met while studying at Leeds School of Music. Within a relatively short period of time, the duo has seen both commercial and critical success — the duo has  had singles land at number 1 on Spotify’s Viral Chart, Hype Machine and Shazam, received regular airplay on BBC Radio 1 and Beats 1, collaborated with with salute and Lao Ra, and have performed at last year’s Pitchfork Paris Festival.

“Moon,” the Leeds-based duo’s first single of the year, found the duo pairing a club banging production featuring enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, stuttering and glitchy electronics, a soaring hook, chopped up and distorted vocal samples with Harrison’s plaintive and soulful vocals giving the song a thoughtful, fatalistic sort of introspection; that shouldn’t be surprising as the song “deals with the ritual of wanting to pursue a relationship withs someone, but not wanting to jump the gun and ruin it. It’s an uncomfortable place to be because you have no control and you’re probably gonna mess it all up, like you always do.” 

Interestingly enough, the duo’s first single “Evil Twin” was their first single and although it caught on virally, the duo reworked and fleshed out the song in a way that makes them feel as though the song is finally completed; in fact, the song features a production consisting of a cinematic, looped horn arrangement, a chopped up, soulful, house music-like vocal sample, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and Harrison’s vocal taking on a gravelly ache. And while the song is rooted upon a  swaggering hook, it possesses an underlying aching uncertainty — the sort of uncertainty of someone who’s swaying between a good life, and a life of sin and vice. Sonically, the track manages to further cement their reputation for crafting hook-laden pop but while gently pushing their sound in an avant-garde leaning direction while remaining playfully accessible. 
As the band’s Alex explains of the song, the song toys “with the duality of wanting to be healthy, productive and find some long-term stability, but wanting to throw all of that away and indulge your vices. Individually, they are comforting but they are always competing with each other to come out.”

Directed by Camille Summers-Valli, the video as the duo’s Alex notes is a strange realization of the competition between one’s good, healthy side and one’s vice-loving, trouble-seeking side, as it stars Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Boy George and Michael Jackson lookalikes auditioning for a gig for Krrum’s lead producer and co-vocalist Alex, who appears both unimpressed and confused. Interestingly, the visuals give these world famous superstars a desperate and ridiculous humanity, as they’re auditioning for a role they don’t fit for.