Tag: Chicago IL

Live Footage: The Black Angels Performs “Manipulation” at LEVITATION Festival with Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dihr

Levitation Festival (formerly known as Austin Psych Fest) can trace its beginnings to a simple idea devised by the members of The Black Angels in the back of a tour van in 2007 — let’s invite all of our favorite bands and all of our friends for our version of a music festival.

The inaugural Austin Psych Fest was in March 2008 and by popular demand, the festival expanded to a three day event the following year. The festival quickly became an international destination for psych rock fans with lineups featuring up-and-comers, cult favorites, legendary and influential acts and a headlining set from The Black Angels. Renamed Levitation in honor of Austin psych rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, the festival has sparked an new, international psych rock movement while inspiring the creation of several similar events across the globe, including Levitation Festival events in Chicago, Vancouver, France and a SXSW showcase, as well as other special events in Europe and Latin America.

Late last year, Levitation Festival’s record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society announced the launch of a new live album series, Live at LEVITATION. Comprised of material played and recorded throughout the festival’s decade-plus history, the live album series specifically captures and documents key artists in the contemporary psych rock scene. Of course, many of these moments were also important moments of Austin’s live music scene.

The live series’ first album Kikagaku Moyo — Live at LEVITATION featured two different Kikagaku Moyo sets — their 2014 Levitation Festival set, which was one of the Japanese psych rock act’s first Stateside shows and their return to Levitation back in 2019, during a sold-out Stateside tour. Live at LEVITATION’s second album The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION features the festival’s founders The Black Angels. Comprised of material recorded at Austin Psych Fest 2010, 2011 and 2012, the album captures a rare glimpse of the festival’s early days — and for Black Angels fans, like myself, it also features six songs from their first two albums, Passover and Directions to See a Ghost.

The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION is slated for a March 26, 2021 digital and vinyl release through The Reverberation Society, and as The Black Angels’ Christian Bland explains in press notes, “Since the beginning The Black Angels were meant to be heard live. This record captures the rumble of the drums and amps, and the very essence of the way it should sound. Now future generations and new listeners can now hear how these songs were meant to be heard.”

The album’s first single is hypnotic and menacing live version of Passover single “Manipulation” that features a mesmerizing guest spot from Elephant Stone’s bassist, sitarist and frontman Rishi Dihr. The accompanying live footage was filmed at Austin’s Seaholm Power Plant.

Claudia Ferme is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the existential dream pop, solo recording project Claude. Ferme began crafting songs inspired by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood during her senior year of college in Bloomington, IN as a way to deal with the dread and fear she felt with being finished with school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.

The project became fully realized when she returned to Chicago during the spring of 2018. After meeting other musicians, Ferme decided to form a backing band for the project and started playing shows locally. And since 2018, Ferme’s music has landed on a number of Spotify and YouTube playlists, including Spotify’s Fresh Finds, The LazyLazyMe, BIRP, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hype Machine.

Ferme’s Claude debut, Enactor EP is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through Side Hustle Records/The Orchard. The EP’s second and latest single “Everything’s Great” coincides with the most recent impeachment hearings dominating the media landscape again — and it manages to tie back to the song’s origin: “I wrote this song after Trump got elected,” Ferme says in press notes. “It felt like the world was ending and I wanted to somehow poke fun at his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.” Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, gorgeous yet brooding strings and Ferme’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, “Everything’s Great” manages to tap into the deep in the soul exhaustion of the Trump Administration. The song is a gentle call for escapism as a form of self-preservation when everything is on fire — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “turn off your phone, so you can stop doom scrolling — and take a moment to daydream.” Maybe we should all take that advice every now and then.




New Video: Chicago’s Koalra Releases a 120 Minutes-Inspired Single and Visual

Formed in 2019, the Chicago-based indie rock quartet Koalra have quickly established a sound and songwriting approach that’s heavily indebted to 120 Minutes-era alt rock — i.e. The Cure, Dinosaur Jr., Ween, Sonic Youth, Boyracer, and The Thermals, as well as contemporaries like No Age, and Waaves.

Since their formation, the members of the Chicago-based quartet have been remarkably prolific: they’ve released two albums — 2019’s self-titled debut, last year’s Surprise Lights EP and The Wakes. Adding to their growing reputation for being prolific, the act will be releasing their third full-length album Into the Waves this year.

Koalra begin 2021 with their latest single off Into the Waves, “Water’s Push.” Centered around layers of shimmering guitars, a propulsive rhythm section centered around an angular bass line and rousingly anthemic hook, the breakneck “Water’s Push” finds the act firmly cementing the 120 Minutes-era sound that has begun to win them attention while expanding upon it with a subtle hazy, shoegazer quality.

Shot in hazy, security camera footage, the recently released video for “Water’s Push” follows a young boy as he drags a plastic skeleton around a variety of situations — and interestingly enough, the video is fittingly period specific.

New Video: Complicated Animals Release a Gorgeous animated Visual for Their Acoustic Take on Foo Fighters “Times Like These”

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that.”

The recently released video for the Complicated Animals “Times Like These” cover features some gorgeous, hand drawn and old-timey storybook-like animation by Brazilian visual artist and animator Karla Caprali. The video manages to capture some of the tragic and inspiring events of what may be one of the more difficult years humanity has seen in some time — from the fear, uncertainty and stress of a pandemic, the Black Lives Matter marches in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Armaud Arbury and others and more. And while we may have gone through so much together — and apart — it feels like there’s a cautious optimism that we can get things right for once.

“Brazilian artist Karla Caprali created this beautiful video to go with our track. She used a traditional animation technique, and drew each frame by hand,” the members of Complicated Animals explain. “She helped us to realize our vision, by featuring some of the major world events of this year. We have all been through a lot, and we could all use some healing.

James Fisher is a Chicago-based electronic music producer, best known as ALIGN. With ALIGN, Fisher has developed a reputation for crafting thought-provoking music for the everyday listener meant to be the soundtrack for your daily commute or a night out with friends. So far he has appeared alongside some of the brightest and biggest names of contemporary indie electro pop and EDM including Louis The Child, Illlenium, Autograf, Hayden James, Thomas Jack, SNBRN, GTA and a list of others. Adding to a growing profile, “All In Our Eyes,” a 2018 collaboration with fellow Chicagoan Mielo landed at #1 on the Hype Machine Charts.

Fisher released two singles earlier this year “Second Thoughts” and “Reflections” through well-esteemed electronic music tastemaker label Lowly Palace and a remix of PINES‘ hit single “Tell Me” for Kygo’s Palm Tree Records. Capping off a big year, Fisher’s last ALIGN single of 2020 “When I’m With You” finds him collaborating with vocalist Martina Lynn. Centered around ambient and textured synth arpeggios, skittering beats., and Lynn’s achingly vulnerable, sultry vocals, the upbeat confection “When I’m With You” manages to be both club and radio friendly. But underneath the slick studio polish, the song is a sweet declaration of longing and desire by a narrator, who has stumbled upon the true love that we all wish we have — the sort in which you can find sustenance and comfort in your lover’s presence and arms.

“I started writing this track by using some guitar plucks and experimenting with a soundscape,” the Chicago-based ALIGN says. “I wanted to create an ambient moment, then transition into more of a rhythmic beat. That soundscape became something that I could write chords on top of and develop a beat and melodies. I loved where it was going, but I knew it needed somebody’s story to accompany it. Martina seemed like the perfect fit for the vibe of this track.” 

“When I first heard the track, I was immediately intrigued to start writing and creating a melody for it because it was an upbeat, EDM type track that I wasn’t used to working with and I was up for the challenge,” Martina Lynn recalls. “My manager, Jeremy Gentry and I spent so much time writing, rewriting and recording all via video call, which was such a challenging, vulnerable process but it was so rewarding. When it comes to the actual writing process, we were both drawn to the idea of creating a healthy and happy story of love for the track, because those seem so rare lately. I think everyone can relate to the idea of only being able to think of one person when it comes to love and being in love and wanting them because of the comfort they bring.”

New Video: Soccer Mommy Releases a Creepy and Dread-Fueled VIsual for “crawling in my skin”

Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and creative mastermind behind the critically applauded indie rock project Soccer Mommy. Allison first picked up guitar when she was six — and as a teenager, she attended Nashville School of the Arts, where she studied guitar and played in the school’s swing band. In 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded sons as Soccer Mommy Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about to head to New York University (my alma mater, no less!), where she studied music business at the University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

While she was in college, Allison played her first Soccer Mommy show at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. She caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal — and after spending two years at NYU, she returned to Nashville to pursue a full-time career in music. Upon her return to Nashville, the acclaimed Swiss-born artist wrote and released two Soccer Mommy albums — 2016’s For Young Hearts released through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection released through Fat Possum. Allison’s proper, full-length debut 2018’s Clean was released to widespread critical acclaim, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based artist has toured with Stephen Malkmus, Mitski, Kacey Musgraves, Jay Som, Slowdive, Frankie Cosmos, Liz Phair, Phoebe Bridgers, Paramore, Foster the People, Vampire Weekend, and Wilco.

Before the pandemic, Allison was gearing up for this year to be a massive year: she started off 2020 by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and joined a lengthy and eclectic list of artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Her highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical praise earlier this year — and like countless artists across the globe, she was about to embark on a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance that included a Glastonbury Festival set. And she was supposed to be make her late-night, national TV debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With touring at an indefinite halt, Allison, like countless other artists recognized that this period offered a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas and new ways to connect with fans. Combining her love of video games and performing, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based artist had a digital show on Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend. The show was so popular, that the platform’s servers crashed, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Of course, Allison has also played a number of live-streamed sets, including ones hosted by NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork‘s IG Live Series. She also released her own Zoom background images for her fans to proudly show off their Soccer Mommy fandom.

Earlier this year, Aliison and her backing band embarked on a Bella Clark-directed 8 bit, virtual music video tour that had the act playing some of the cities she had been scheduled to play if the pandemic didn’t happen — Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. And instead of having the virtual shows at at a common tourist spot or a traditional music venue, the members of the band were mischievously placed in rather unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge. Of course, the video tour featured color theory single “crawling in my skin,” a song centered around looping and shimming guitars, a sinuous bass line, shuffling drumming, subtly shifting tempos and an infectious hook.

Allison recently released an Adam Kolodny-directed, fittingly Halloween-themed visual for “crawling in my skin” that’s full of creeping and slow-burning dread that reminds me of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price. “I’m excited to put out this video for crawling in my skin right at the end of spooky season. I hope everyone enjoys this video and their Halloween! 🎃“ Allison says.

New Audio: Paris’ Café Bizarre Releases a 90s Alt Rock Sounding Anthem

Café Bizarre — Fabien (vocals), Giles (bass, guitar), Jean-Michel (drums, percussion), Granlu (guitar, bass) and Jean-Marc (guitar) — is a Paris-based indie rock act that can trace its origins back to the 1990s. And since their formation, the Parisian indie rock act have largely been a musician’s musician band, and arguably one of the bigger influences of the indie music scenes of early 90s New York, Hoboken and Chicago.

As the story goes, Mark Ibold, who played bass on a number of Pavement and Sonic Youth albums in the 00s met members of the band in a Lower East Side bar. This chance meeting wound up cementing a deeply rooted 25 year friendship between the Parisian band and the members of Pavement. According to Café Bizarre, Pavement’s “Shoot The Singer” discreetly pays homage to them — but interestingly enough, the band says that the song was originally written the year, as a tribute to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.

The band’s first recorded output, 1995’s 13 song album Avenue A saw distribution through small shops and then disappeared from public consciousness — until a Télépopmusik fan came across the album on e-Bay. 1997’s four song EP Manipulate Men was originally distributed and sold through their local record store. Much like its predecessor, it disappeared until someone found some copies, 12 years later in a box in the store’s basement.

1998 saw the band’s lineup expanded into a quintet with the addition of a new member. And as the band joke, they continued their musical careers with personal funds and the logistical support of dear and steadfast friends.

1998 saw the band’s lineup expanded into a quintet with the addition fo a new member. And as the band joke, they continued their musical careers with personal funds and the logistical support of dear and steadfast friends. A few years later — 2001, to be precise — the Parisian band wrote and recorded a 3 song effort, aptly tired 3 that wasn’t distributed. By 2002, the band went on hiatus with its members spending time raising families and doing responsible, adult things.

In 2011, Café Bizarre released a CD-DVD boxed set of their Fallentfest Music Festival appearance at La Cigale. The following year, the band gave away the live album portion of the CD-DVD boxed sets to fans upon request.

After several attempts at self-production, the band recruited Mattéo Apher to produce the band’s first vinyl record, a 10 song effort released in 2017. The effort found the band blending 90s alt rock influences with loud, guitar-driven anthems. The album is available is also available digitally through Bandcamp.

Earlier this year,. the Parisian indie rock band released a 7 song EP Don’t Swim Tonight My Love , which boldly recalls 90s rock, complete with enormous hooks. The EP’s latest single, EP title track., “Don’t Swim Tonight My Love” is a shimmering rocker centered around Fabien’s plaintive vocals, a propulsive backbeat and a shout-along worthy hook that sonically brings Pablo Honey-era Radiohead and 120 Minutes-era MTV to mind.

Patrick Kapp is a Chicago-based signer/songwriter, guitarist and creative mastermind behind the solo recording project Midwestern Dirt. Since the project’s formation in 2017, the Chicago-based Kapp has written, recorded and self-released three full-length albums including his most recent, this year’s Sayonara.

Midwestern Dirt’s sound is informed by Radiohead, Deerhunter, Wilco, and Pavement: reverb-drenched guitars paired with propulsive drumming and lyrics that thematically concern themselves with both personal experiences and the world at large.

Sayonara was recorded last May in Atlanta’s Sleeping Partner Studios on 16-track tape machine. The album finds Kapp continuing to make Midwestern Dirt a family affair: “We recorded over four steamy days in Georgia on a 16-track tape machine with two of my wife’s other brothers playing bass and drums. This has essentially been our recording setup for all three Midwestern Dirt LPs to date,” Kapp says in press notes. Additionally, the studio was run by Kapp’s brother-in-law.

The album’s latest single “Black Lotus” is a slow-burning track centered around reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming, Kapp’s plaintive falsetto and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet structure and slowly builds up in intensity until the song’s euphoric coda. Sonically, “Black Lotus” reminds me The Bends-era Radiohead with a shoegazer-like quality to it. “The chords to this track were written the day after David Bowie died and sat around for awhile sans lyrics as a voice memo on my phone,” Kapp recalls. “Years later the words started to take shape. Musically, the verses have a meditative energy while the drums slowly build in expression, intricacy, and power as the song grows, with the final chorus being a burst of sonic euphoria.”

Los Angeles– based duo Complicated Animals— singer/songwriter Monica da Silva and multi-instrumentalist Chad Alger — specializes in what the duo have coined Indie Nova, a mesh of Indie Pop and Bossa nova. Complicated Animals can trace their origins back to 2008: the then-Chicago-based da Silva, who had been wanting to steer her music back to her Brazilian roots had stumbled across Alger’s Craiglist ad seeking someone to start a Brazilian music project with. The duo met during the winter and they survived the cold Chicagoland winter by drinking red wine and black coffee — and at some point, during that haze, Alger picked up a guitar and da Silva made up some lyrics. And the songs they began crafting transported them to the beaches of Brazil.

The duo collaborated on da Silva’s solo album 2010’s Bruce Driscoll-produced Brasilissima, which featured songs written and sung in English and Portuguese. Brasilissima‘s first single “Aí Então”, caught the attention of the blogosphere and Cumbacha Records‘ Jacob Edgar, who featured the track on Putunayo World Music‘s Brazilian Beat compilation. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s psychedelic “That’s Not The Way” pump dup crowds during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Written and recorded in a cabin in the Michigan woods, the duo’s Complicated Animals 2015 debut, the six song In This Game EP was released to critical praise by PopMatters, who called the effort “a 6 song masterpiece” and the “beginning of a new sound.” Since then da Silva released the haunting and cinematic “Soldado de Amor,” which was featured on the BBC TV dramatic series The Replacement . Last year, In This Game single “Phoenix” was featured in the Netflix’s Last Summer.

Complicated Animals’ latest single find the duo tackling one of my favorite Foo Fighter songs, and arguably one of their biggest hits “Times Like These.” Famously, Foo Fighters released an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” in which Dave Grohl accompanied himself on guitar and piano — and while leaning much closer to the acoustic version, the Complicated Animals cover is a breezier, folkier, Fleetwood Mac-like take on the song. In my book, “Times Like These” is the rare Foo Fighter song that works as an arena rock anthem and as an intimate singer/songwriter ballad, which is a testament to how well written the song is.

As da Silva and Alger explain, they gravitated toward the track, because the lyrics are in line with the events of this past year. “This year sure has been crazy. We’ve all had to slow down, and focus on familial relationships, and close friendships. We believe that these challenging times, are the times that shape us,” the Los Angeles based duo explain. “The most important thing we can do right now, is just be there for each other. We hope to inspire people with some positivity. The world needs more of that. We’re collaborating with a talented Brazilian artist named Karla Caprali. She has created the song art, and is working on a powerful visual (animated video) to go with the track. We’re staying hopeful for the future. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.’”

New Video: Brittany Campbell and Phil. Team Up on A Bold Declaration of Queer Love and Desire

Brittany Campbell is a Los Angeles-based R&B artist, animator and actor and activist. Joining the Metropolitan Opera at an early age, Campbell went on to act in and star in a number of Broadway productions including a little one by the name of Hamilton, where she met her girlfriend Candace Quarrels — and formed the R&B and folk duo Mermaid, whose forthcoming full-length album features production by Matt Otto and Sam Hoffman.

Campbell has also released material as a solo artist, releasing her full-length debut, 2018’s Stay Gold, which revealed a songwriter, who could craft earnest, lived-in songs paired with a self-assured vocal range. The Los Angeles-based artist, animator, actor and activist’s creative passion and curiosity led her to become a self-taught animator, who has created videos for supermodel/vocalist Shaun Ross, as well as for her work.

Born Philip Johnson-Richardson, Phil. is a Charlotte-born, New York-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor, who immediately upon finishing his degree in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music joined the cast of the Chicago production of Hamilton, where he eventually starred in the titular role. Since starring in Hamilton, the rapidly rising talent has managed to land a number of prominent acting gigs, appearing in TV shows like Chicago P.D., Proven Innocent, The Other Two and the the horror film Haunt. He was also cast as a series regular in the Sara Bareilles and JJ Abrams created Apple TV+ series Little Voice. And adding to a incredibly busy period, the Charlotte-born, Chicago-based singer, emcee, dancer and actor will be releasing his debut EP Different Cities, an effort that will help to further showcase his talents.

Recently Campbell and Phil. teamed up on the slickly produced and empowering pop anthem “Champion.” Centered around stuttering trap beats, shimmering and layered synth arpeggios, Campbell’s sultry vocals, an inspired guest spot from Phil., who quickly alternates between staccato spitting fire and achingly tender soul crooning and an infectious hook, “Champion” is a sensual and joyous ode to queer love, desire and devotion that was specifically released for National Coming Out Day. “I’ve written a few songs about making love but none that were inspired by making love to a woman,'” Campbell explains. “The song and video is my attempt at capturing some of the feelings it inspires in me. . . the euphoria and joy in making love.”

The brightly colored, intergalactic — and downright trippy — visual for “Champion” captures Black, queer love with a boldness that’s defiant yet tender, as it suggests that for the song’s narrator making love to her girl is a transcendent and otherworldly experience.