Tag: David Bowie

New Video: Video Age Releases a Playful Visual for Shimmering and Upbeat Anthem “Aerostar”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the New Orleans-based act Video Age, and with the release of their first two albums 2016’s full-length debut Living Alone and 2018’s sophomore album Pop Therapy, the band — founding members Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli, along with Nick Corson and Duncan Troast — received attention for crafting hook-driven material with a decidedly 80s synth pop-inspired sound.

Following the release of Pop Therapy, the band’s songwriting partners and co-founders Farbe and Micarelli were eager to write new material and continue upon the momentum they had just started to build up. The band convened at Farbe’s home studio to work on the band’s highly anticipated third album, Pleasure Line, which is slated for an August 7, 2020 release through Winspear, who recently signed the band.

Inspired by a vast range of influences including Janet Jackson, David Bowie and Paul McCartney, Pleasure Line finds the band crafting neon-bright 80s pop-like melodies to create an optimistic sound — with the material taking on a rosy hue.  “I’m often trying to create a more idealized version of the world I’m in,” Video Age’s Ross Farbe says in press notes. “In fact, some of that optimism may come as a result of both Farbe and Micarelli getting married this year — just a few weeks apart from each other. “We’re feeling the love,” Farbe says.

Written as a salve that protects against cynicism. the album’s material is meant to help the listener see and feel a world full of romantic potential. But the album isn’t centered around one-dimensional puppy love — it’s the sort of fulfilling love that’s complicated, confusing and never easy; but ultimately worth it. So far, I’ve written about two of the album’s singles — the dance floor friendly,  Tom Tom Club-like “Shadow On The Wall” and the slow-burning, Quiet Storm meets Prince-like “Pleasure Line.” 

Pleasure Line’s third and latest single “Aerostar” is a decidedly upbeat New Wave-inspired, bop centered around shimmering and squiggling synth arpeggios, propulsive four-on-the-floor, a sinuous bass line, angular guitar blasts and an infectious, dance floor friendly hook. Sonically, the track may remind some listeners of The Cars, Talking Heads, and others — but with playful references to cars and hitting the road with your buddies, playing tunes. “This song looks at the bright side of being on the road. We did a lot of touring for the last album and it’s something that really brought us closer together as a band,” the members of Video Age say in press notes. 

Directed by Zack Shorrosh, the recently released video follows the band and their adventures in their ’95 Ford Aerostar, shot in front of a green screen: we see the members of the band and the van as they travel throughout various locations, including the Grand Canyon, the desert and even space — and naturally, the video looks and feels as though it could have been released in 1985. “Once we found a green screen studio big enough to fit our ’95 Ford Aerostar, we hopped in and let the story unfold,” the band says. 

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New Audio: Joe Wong Returns with a Psychedelic Ode to Existential Dread

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast.

Wong’s full-length debut Nite Creatures is slated for release later this year, and as you may recall, I wrote about the album’s lush and ambitious first single, the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away.” Wong’s second and latest single “Nuclear Rainbow” is a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like track, centered around a lush and ambitious arrangement featuring soaring strings, regal horns, strummed guitar, hi-hat driven drumming and fluttering flutes — and while sounding as though it came out of the psychedelic late 60s, the track is centered around a deep existential dread that should feel familiar to all of us. 

 

Blinker the Star · Silent Types

I’ve written quite a bit about Jordon Zadorozny, the Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind acclaimed indie rock recording project Blinker The Star over the past few months. Zadorozny initially started the project as a solo project but by the time the  act signed to A&M Records, the project expanded into a full-fledged band for their first two albums — 1995’s self-titled debut and 1996’s A Bourgeois Kitten. During those early years, the band built up a profile nationally and elsewhere through steady touring.

In 1997, Zadorozny relocated from Montreal to Los Angeles, where he worked with Courtney Love, helping craft songs for Hole’s acclaimed and commercially successful album Celebrity Skin. While in Los Angeles, Zadorozny began soaking up new influences and became increasingly fascinated with production. Signing with Dreamworks in 1999, the band, which at the time featured Zadorozny, Failure’s Kelli Scott (drums), longtime bassist Pete Frolander and a rotating cast of Southern California-based session musicians recorded and released their critically applauded third album August Everywhere, which they supported with touring across North America with Our Lady Peace, Sloan, Failure and The Flaming Lips. 

Returning back to Pembroke in 2002, Zadorozny built his first commercial recording studio and began working with Sam Roberts, contributing drums and producing Roberts’ breakthrough debut EP The Inhuman Condition. Zadorozny also worked on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Chris Cornell, Lindsey Buckingham and others.

During the Winter of 2003, Zadorozny wrote and recorded Blinker The Star’s fourth album Still In Rome as a duo with Kelli Scott. Following a brief tour to support the album, the Pembroke, Ontario-born multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter quickly settled into the production side of the things working with an electric array of artists, including collaborative projects like Digital Noise Academy, SheLoom,  The Angry Moon, and others.

2012’s fourth album, We Draw Lines was the first Blinker The Star album that Zadorozny wrote and recorded as a solo recording project since he started the project over a decade earlier.  Interestingly, We Draw Lines began a rather prolific period that included 2013’s Songs from Laniakea Beach, a one-off single “Future Fires,” 2015’s 11235 EP, 2017’s 8 of Hearts and last year’s Careful With Your Magic.

After completing a short run of shows last fall, Zodorozny began working working on new material at his Skylark Park Studio. The solitude of his environment helped inform his forthcoming Blinker The Star album Juvenile Universe, which is slated for release this summer. So far, I’ve written about two of the album’s singles — the Station to Station-era David Bowie-like “Way Off Wave,” and the jangling, 70s rock-like “Only To Run Wild.” The album’s third and latest single, “Silent Type” is a decidedly 80s New Wave-inspired track, featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, glistening and angular guitars, a propulsive bass line and an enormous hook that reminds me a little bit of  Yes‘ “Owner of Lonely Heart.” But under the slick radio friendly production, the track continues a run of ambitious and deliberately crafted material.

 

 

 

Kidsmoke · The Bluest You (Radio Edit)

Rapidly rising, Wrexham, Wales, UK-based indie act Kidsmoke — Lance Williams (vocals, guitar), James Stickels (bass, vocals), Sophie Ballamy (guitar, vocals) and Ash Turner (drums) — had a massive year last year that included playing at SXSW, among a series of other highlights. Continuing on the momentum of last year, the band recently signed to Libertino Records, who released the band’s latest single “The Bluest You.”

Centered around swirling layers of shimmering guitars, a propulsive rhythm section, a rousingly arena friendly hook and Williams’ plaintive falsetto, “The Bluest You” finds the band bridging elements of dream pop, shoegaze and Brit pop with ambitious songwriting and a self-assured delivery. But just under the gorgeously shimmering surface, the song is a somber meditation on how mental health issues can affect loved ones rooted in empathetic and novelistic observations. Originally inspired by Low and Heroes-era David Bowie, the track was intended to be an instrumental but after intense rehearsals and the addition of some Matt Berninger-influenced lyrics, the song eventually morphed into its current shape.

This song is a live favourite of ours. It is a fly on the wall look into a household where one person’s depression is affecting everyone else who lives there,” the members of the Welsh band explain. “The song doesn’t address the feelings of the person suffering with depression, it is a sort of commentary from the viewpoint of the rest of the family.”

 

New Video: The Surreal and Psychedelic Animated Visuals for Joe Wong’s “Dreams Wash Away”

Joe Wong is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast. Interestingly, Wong will be releasing his full-length debut Nite Creatures this year and the album’s first single is the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away.” Featuring an arrangement of shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, soaring strings, thunderous drumming, a sinuous bass line, twinkling keys, Wong’s mellifluous baritone and an enormous hook, “Dreams Wash Away” is an ambitious and cinematic song centered around a hazily lysergic escapism and longing. 

The song is featured in the emotional season finale of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s and comedian Duncan Trussel’s Netflix original series, The Midnight Gospel, during the episode’s most emotional and important scene: a heartbreaking and intimate conversation between Trussell and his mother Deneen Fendig, who was dying from metastatic breast cancer at the time of the recording. Trussell describes “Dreams Wash Away” as an atomic blast of mystical sonic light!” And in many ways, the song encapsulates the episodes overarching themes of ego death and coming to terms with mortality — of both yours and that of your loved ones. 

The themes of the episode managed resonate very deeply with Wong, whose father died as The Midnight Gospel began production. “This project came into my life at precisely the right time. A few days after our first meeting, Duncan called me to discuss music as I was unexpectedly driving to the airport to say goodbye to my dad. Later, I came to learn that our experiences and philosophies around death mirrored one another. Working with this extraordinary team and writing ‘Dreams Wash Away’ helped me work through the loss.” 

Directed by Titmouse, Inc. and edited by Megan Love, the recently released animated video for “Dreams Wash Away” is centered around themes of ego death, mortality, reincarnation, family and love within alien worlds that closely resemble ours. It’s surreal yet gorgeous and heartbreaking simultaneously. 

A Q&A with Jennifer Silva

Jennifer Silva is a Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter. Influenced by Stevie NicksAretha FranklinTori AmosThe Rolling StonesFlorence + The Machine and Alabama Shakes, the Boston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter has received attention for bringing a sensual and soulful energy to her live shows — and for lyrics that explore universal and very human paradoxes — particularly, the saint and sinner within all of us.

Silva’s debut EP was an EDM collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13 under the mononym Silva — but since the release of that effort, her material has leaned heavily towards singer/songwriter soul, rock and pop with 70s AM rock references, as you’ll hear on her most recent album, the Reed Black-produced Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth.

Silva’s latest single “I Wash My Hands” is a shimmering and gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock-like song centered around a fairly simple arrangement of guitar, bass, vocals and drums that’s sonically indebted to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Interestingly, the song was originally written as a weary lament over a major relationship that has come to an end – but the song manages takes on a heightened meaning, reflecting on a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear, suggesting that maybe Mother Earth is attempting to wash her hands of us.

The recently released video for “I Wash My Hands” was created during the mandatory social distancing and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it features Silva, her friends, family, bandmembers and voice students, separated by quarantine but connecting through the song.

I recently exchanged emails with Jennifer Silva for this edition of JOVM’s ongoing Q&A series – and naturally, we chat about her new single and video, her influences –including her love of Stevie Nicks, and her songwriting process. Of course, with governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – particularly on small and mid-sized venues, and the touring, emerging and indie artists who grace their stages, has been devastating. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ll be talking to artists about how the pandemic has impacted them and their careers. And in this interview, Silva reveals that the much-anticipated follow-up to Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth has been rescheduled, with her and her backing band figuring out how to finish it with the use of technology. Then add lost gigs and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to play or promote your new work, and it’s a particularly urgent and uneasy time. But the dedicated will find a way to keep on going on for as long as they can.

Check out the video and the Q&A below.

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Photo Credit: Paxton Connors

Jennifer Silva_IWMH

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WRH: Much of the world has been in quarantine and adhering to social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. How are you holding up? How are you spending your time? Are you binge watching anything?

Jennifer Silva: The world is upside down right now and it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me.  Shock, depression, anger, acceptance — feels like the stages of grief sometimes! I really miss my friends and my social life. Playing shows, my band. The good news though, is that my family and I are safe, healthy and well stocked. We left Brooklyn right before it got really bad and headed upstate. So, I’ve been in the woods, pretty secluded, with limited cable news (thankfully) and some great outdoorsy vibes all around me.  I’m very lucky and I really can’t complain. I’ve been spending the time connecting with my family, homeschooling my daughters, cooking, knitting, reading and writing songs!  We’ve been living a simple life these days and that’s actually a great thing sometimes. I just started watching Ozark on Netflix, finally, which is perfect for this quarantine! I’m always down for an epic drug/murder/survival story. Oh, and wine.

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates. Most of the world has been on an indefinite pause. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?

JS: This has got to be the hardest part of it all for me. I’ve also had to cancel shows, but, most significantly, literally one week before the pandemic really hit NYC, I was in the studio with my band and producer (Reed Black of Vinegar Hill Sound) tracking my next record.  We spent two full days laying down all the music and scratch vocals for 10 tracks, and I was so hyped and excited for the next two months of recording all the overdubs, lead vocals, background vocals and getting that final mix completed. Now, we must wait. Luckily though, we have the rough mixes to listen to and some of my band members are working on and planning overdubs at home. It’s frustrating but I’m still so grateful to have had those days in the studio. What we have already, sounds amazing!

WRH: How did you get into music?

JS: I’ve been singing all my life.  My father played guitar around the house throughout my childhood, and so at a young age I was singing classic rock and soul music to my family. “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “Bring it on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke) and “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees) were my first covers!

I also went to Catholic school as a girl where the nuns always made me sing the solos at the Christmas and Easter performances. And of course, I was singing in Church every week. That really helped shaped me as a singer because I was taught to belt without shame because it was a “gift”, so I have always been a loud singer, haha. I’m not religious anymore (thankfully), but man, I love me some Church hymns! And there is nothing like the acoustics in a Cathedral.

WRH: Who are your influences?

JS: I have so many influences from so many different genres of music.  The Animals, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and all of Motown were early loves of mine.

Then I had a whole Neo Soul moment, falling in love with singers like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott. They definitely influenced me with their powerful female energy and style and the vocal choices they made. I also love 80’s and 90’s female badasses, like Tori Amos, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Hole, Garbage, Madonna and Annie Lennox. Artists with true points of view and the guts to say it.

I love Blues and Jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Ray Charles, Lead Belly. Their emotional rawness and vocal prowess has always been a guide.

Singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, T. Bone Burnett, Dolly Parton, Rufus Wainwright and Joni Mitchell have helped shape my lyric writing and storytelling. I love Lana Del Rey as well.

Vocalists like Amy Winehouse, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Stevie Nicks and of course, Aretha Franklin will always be the pinnacle of greatness for me. These artists INSPIRE me.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JS: There is so much amazing music out right now. The talent level in this industry can be intimidating actually! Right now, we’ve been listening to a lot of indie rock and singer-songwriters like Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, Töth, The Dø, Future Islands, Julia Jacklin, Sun Kil Moon, and Heartless Bastards.  And we are always playing The National and Arcade Fire. The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits are spun pretty regularly too around here. And of course, we’ve been listening to lots of John Prine since his recent passing from Covid-19.  What a loss.

WRH: I’ve probably referenced Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” more times than any other journalist in town. I think of a certain synth sound – and that song comes to mind. Plus, I love that song.

I know that Stevie Nicks is a big influence on you. What’s your favorite all-time Stevie Nicks song?

JS: One thing I really love about Stevie, which I read in her biography a few years ago (by Zoe Howe), and that I can totally relate to, was that she didn’t have any formal musical education. She just had her gorgeous melodies and emotional lyrics and really, just a simple catalog of basic chords.  Lindsey [Buckingham] would get frustrated with her because he’d have to finesse her songs so much to make them work. “Dreams,” for instance, only has 2 chords! But her songs were always their biggest hits. She tapped into an emotion and style and energy that people love and her voice is just absolutely unique and powerful. In a way, the reason she was so successful with her songwriting was because she wasn’t trapped in a musical box. She would write whatever she felt, and her uniqueness and melodies were memorable and beautiful. She inspires me so much! It’s nearly impossible to choose one favorite Stevie Nicks song, but I’ll go with “Edge of Seventeen.”  A close second is probably “Landslide.”

WRH: Your first release was an EDM-like collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13. Since then your sound has gone through a dramatic change. How did that come about?  How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your sound?

JS: After my old band broke up in 2014, I was searching for new musical collaborations on Craigslist. I connected with Sizigi over email and we decided to make a song together.  One song led to four, over the course of a few months. I knew going in, EDM wasn’t going to be my personal sound forever, but I was down for the challenge of writing to existing beats and learning to record all my vocals at home with GarageBand. I bought a microphone and set up a vocal booth in my closet with towels on the doors to pad the sound.  I learned to edit. I love my lyrics and vocals on those songs, and I am very proud of the work I did. So, ultimately, I chose to have the record mastered and to release the 4 song EP independently. It was a stepping-stone for me.

The music I make now is all me though. I pen all of the lyrics and write the melodies on guitar, or sometimes I use my Omnichord (a vintage electronic harp/synthesizer from the 80s, which is AMAZING) and then my band brings it all to life!  My sound can be described as indie rock soul. I love the Alabama Shakes so that’s a decent comparison, I hope. The lyrics are evocative and dramatic, and the music is organic rock, but I always sing with soul. I also love to explore the saint and the sinner in all of us and tap into themes from my Catholic upbringing — like with “The Convent” from my last record Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth and “Purgatory Road” which will be on my next record. I am inspired by elements of the occult (tarot cards, following your intuition, voodoo) and I use nature and other metaphors to write about complicated relationships.

WRH: Rockwood Music Hall celebrated their 15th anniversary earlier this year. Sadly, during this century, existing 15 years as a venue in New York time is like 149 years. Rockwood Music Hall invited an All-Star list of artists, who have cut their teeth playing the venue’s three stages to celebrate. The bill that month included JOVM mainstay Anna Rose, acts that I’ve covered like Eleanor Dubinsky, Christopher Paul Stelling, The Rad Trads, Mike Dillon, Melany Watson, as well as Jon Baptiste. How does it feel to be included with those acts?

JS: It feels amazing! I am so lucky to have played a small part in Rockwood’s incredible history. It was an absolute honor to play the stage that night, and to join that list of talented artists. Rockwood Music Hall was the first place I ever played in NYC. I remember getting an early Saturday afternoon acoustic slot with my old guitarist and playing to a mostly empty room. It was still so damn exciting to me, the opportunity to play that famous stage.  Fast forward a few years later to my packed record release show on Stage 1 and then my graduation to Stage 2, last year. Rockwood has supported me since Day 1 and to help celebrate their anniversary, on the very stage where it all began for me, made me so proud!

WRH: Your Rockwood Music Hall set included a cover of one of my favorite Lead Belly songs ever “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s one of those songs that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be covered a whole lot. So, what drew you to the song? And how much does the blues influence you?

JS: I have been listening to Lead Belly for a very long time. I only knew his version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and never actually heard Nirvana’s version until many years later, which is what I think most people think of when they hear that song these days. I used to love singing that song in the car with my boyfriend. We each took a verse. It always seemed so chilling and powerful and it really tells a story that leaves you wanting more. You are right though, it’s not covered a whole lot and when we first tried in rehearsal, we knew it would kill. Everyone really responds to that one.

I generally gravitate toward big singers. Full voices filled with heartache and soul and you get that in spades with the Blues.  The Blues are rooted in emotion and that kind of expression comes naturally for me. Lead Belly and Big Mama Thornton are definitely my favorite blues artists, but I also really dig Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Bessie Smith. I love how Bonnie Raitt, Larkin Poe and Gary Clark, Jr. are keeping that tradition alive and having success with Modern Blues too.

WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?

JS: I know a song is finished when I love the melody and lyrics enough to play it over and over again, day after day and when I can get lost developing the vocal runs. A good sign is when my family really responds to it as well. I also think nailing the bridge usually seals the deal for me. That’s when I write over my penciled lyrics and chords, in my black, Papermate flair pen and make it final!

I’m not a person who usually tinkers on a song for years though.  I write most songs in a few hours, or a couple of days or maybe, up to a week. I like to capture the emotion of a sentiment and get most of it right and then move on to the next song. In all honesty, the best songs write themselves in 10 minutes! I actually wrote my new single “I Wash My Hands” quickly like that.

WRH: Your latest single “I Wash My Hands” and its accompanying video officially drops today. It’s a gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock song, a weary lament of someone who’s desperate to move on from a relationship or some other major life tie. You wouldn’t have known this at the time, but the song has an eerie double meaning that reflects our current moment of uncertainty and fear. Curiously, how does it feel to have written something that initially was supposed to be about something specific that suddenly transforms into something altogether different?  

JS: Thanks. I think the lyrics are very relatable for anyone in a long-term relationship who understands that compromise and respect are needed for a couple to survive and more importantly, thrive. But in this unprecedented moment in our lives, that can also be said about humans and our planet. Fear of Covid-19 leaves us all washing our hands like never before, so now, this track also invokes Mother Nature’s demand for more respect. She is also washing her hands of our abuse, forcing us all to pause while she shows us just how powerful she is. It’s humbling.

WRH: The video for the song is pretty intimate almost home video-like visual, as it features a collection of loved ones, including family and friends lip synching along to the song – while they’re in quarantine. How did you come about the concept? And how did it feel to have your loved ones participate in the video?

JS: Last week, my brother Chris and I were talking on FaceTime, about the need for interconnectedness even while social distancing. We thought about how lonely people are, even though we are Zooming and chatting on the phone, more than ever.

We thought it would be really special if I could get some of my friends and family to lip-synch parts of this song and create a montage. Video production resources are limited here in quarantine, but everybody has a phone with a camera and time on their hands!

The video is like being on a Zoom call but this one makes me feel so happy every time I watch it! It’s all my favorite people singing my song. People in Brooklyn, California, Detroit, New Jersey, New England, and even as far as Kenya! Everyone just really came through and had fun with this project, including my voice students, family members and close friends. People I haven’t seen in two months or more! I don’t know when I’ll see them again frankly, but the video makes me feel connected to them and I think it makes them all feel connected to each other. I love it so much.

WRH: What’s next for you?

JS: While I’m quarantined, I’m going to keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep singing.

I’m also going to continue to work on my next album. Right now, the plan is to release it in the Fall, so I’ve got shows to book and all the pieces in between to plan. Follow me on Instagram (@sheissilva) for all updates, single and video releases and of course, details about the album release party and tour dates.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone. I’m sending vibes to you all. We will get through this. And I think we will be stronger for it. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands!

New Audio: Joe Wong’s Dreamy and Ambitious Debut Single

Joe Wong is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast. Interestingly, Wong will be releasing his full-length debut Nite Creatures sometime this year and the album’s first single is the David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away.” Featuring an arrangement of shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, soaring strings, thunderous drumming, a sinuous bass line, twinkling keys, Wong’s mellifluous baritone and an enormous hook, “Dreams Wash Away” is an ambitious and cinematic song centered around a hazily lysergic escapism. 

“Dreams Wash Away” will appear in the final episode of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s and comedian Duncan Trussel’s Netflix original series, The Midnight Gospel. 

New Video: Blinker The Star’s Glitchy and Trippy Visual for Anthemic “Only To Ruin Wild”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about the Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind acclaimed indie rock recording project Blinker The Star, Jordon Zadorozny. Initially started as a solo project. Zadorozny’s Blinker The Star expanded into a trio by the time they signed to A&M Records, who released the band’s first two albums — 1995’s self-titled debut and 1996’s A Bourgeois Kitten. During those early years, the band built up a profile nationally and elsewhere through steady touring. 

In 1997, Zadorozny relocated from Montreal to Los Angeles, where he worked with Courtney Love, helping craft songs for Hole’s acclaimed and commercially successful Celebrity Skin. While in Los Angeles, Zadorozny began soaking up new influences and became increasingly fascinated with production. Signing with Dreamworks in 1999, the band, which at the time featured Zadorozny, Failure’s Kelli Scott (drums), longtime bassist Pete Frolander and a rotating cast of Southern California-based session musicians recorded and released their critically applauded third album August Everywhere, which they supported with touring across North America with Our Lady Peace, Sloan, Failure and The Flaming Lips. 

Returning back to Pembroke in 2002, Zadorozny built his first commercial recording studio and began working with Sam Roberts, contributing drums and producing Roberts’ breakthrough debut EP The Inhuman Condition. Zadorozny also worked on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Chris Cornell, Lindsey Buckingham and others.

During the Winter of 2003, Zadorozny wrote and recorded Blinker The Star’s fourth album Still In Rome as a duo with Kelli Scott. Following a brief tour to support the album, the Pembroke, Ontario-born multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter quickly settled into the production side of the things working with an electric array of artists, including collaborative projects like Digital Noise Academy, SheLoom,  The Angry Moon, and others. 

2012’s fourth album, We Draw Lines was the first Blinker The Star album that Zadorozny wrote and recorded as a solo recording project since he started the it. We Draw Lines began a rather prolific period that included 2013’s Songs from Laniakea Beach, a one-off single “Future Fires” 2015’s 11235 EP, 2017’s 8 of Hearts and last year’s Careful With Your Magic.

After completing a short run of shows last fall, Zodorozny began working working on new material at his Skylark Park Studio. The solitude of his environment helped inform his forthcoming Blinker The Star album Juvenile Universe, which is slated for release this summer. Now, as you may recall, last month I wrote about the album’s first single “Way Off Wave,” a Station to Station-era David Bowie-like track with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook that according to Zodorozny “touches upon the things we do and think to ourselves after a period of great change: our impulse to seek out new external realities, while internally returning to stuck patterns and thoughts which inhibit growth and acceptance. It is almost a dreamlike state we find ourselves in trying to move forward while mentally sloshing about in the past, looking for new answers that will never appear.”

“Only To Run Wild” Juvenile Universe’s second and latest single continues a run of seemingly 70s rock inspired singles, centered around a jangling guitars, a shimmering and expressive guitar solo, a soaring hook and an unerring melodicism. But interestingly enough, it may be the most boldly ambitious Blinker The Star song I’ve heard. 

“There was a moment after New Year’s when the studio suddenly fell silent for the first time in weeks. I found myself pacing mindlessly so I sat down at my 1972 Heinzman upright piano and the first 4 chords that fell out are the first chords you hear in this song,” Zodorozny explains in press notes. “It is a paean to those who must live free and roam this earth alone, perhaps not fearlessly but with a stubbornness of will and imagination, all chips on the table, never to be caught in limbo or treading water. To flow like an eternal spring.”

The recently released video is centered around digitally massaged and trippy visuals by Victor Malang. 

A Q&A with Holy Boy’s Helene Alexandra Jæger

Helene Alexandra Jæger is a Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the rising recording project Holy Boy. Recorded at Ben Hillier’s London-based Pool Studios, Jæger’s 2017 Holy Boy self-titled debut was released to widespread critical acclaim with EP single “The Blood Moon” receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 while establishing her sound – a sound that takes cues from The Velvet Underground and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Suicide, the dark side of the 60s, vintage girl bands and West Coast hip-hop and she has dubbed “neon gothic.” Thematically, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s work focuses on “explorations in consciousness,” she explains in press notes.

Building upon a growing profile, Jæger performed sets at that year’s CMJ, NXNE and SXSW. She followed that up with the critically applauded single “Elegy,” which The Line of Best Fit described as being “at once eclectic and utterly immersive; smoky and classic, yet simultaneously futuristic.”

Much like the countless emerging artists I’ve covered on this site over the past decade, Jæger began the year with big plans to boost her profile and her career that included booked sets at this year’s SXSW, which would have corresponded with the release of the first single off her forthcoming 11 song, full-length debut, which is slated for release this summer. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was cancelled while countless other festivals, tours and shows were postponed until later this year. Interestingly, the album’s first single was released last month – and it turns out to be an eerily fitting and timely cover of The Doors’ classic “Riders On The Storm.” Centered around layers of shimmering organs, including Hammond, Rhodes, Optigan and Vox Continental, vintage 70s drum machines and 80s Casio synths, along with Jæger’s dusky vocals drenched in gentle reverb, delay and other ethereal effects, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s haunting and cinematic rendition retains the somber and brooding tone of the original while adding  that seemingly unending sense of dread and uncertainty that we’ve all felt in our lives over the past month or so.

The accompanying video is fittingly creepy and yet highly symbolic: it features a lo-fi, computer generated skeleton in space, walking up a never-ending staircase.

I recently exchanged emails with Jæger for this Q&A. Current events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found a way to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will likely reverberate for some time to come. Because she had plans to play at SXSW until it was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chat briefly about how the pandemic has impacted her and her career. But the bulk of our conversation, we chat about her attention- grabbing cover of The Doors’ classic tune, and what we should expect from her forthcoming debut. Check it out below.

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WRH: Most parts of the country are enacting social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in-quarantine for the better part of three weeks. It’s been tough – but it’s for the greater good. How are you holding up?

Helene Alexandra Jæger: I love New York, and it’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hope it turns around and that we all learn something from this that can save lives in the future and now. Here in L.A., we’ve been at home for three or four weeks — I can’t even remember — and most things have been shut since then. It’s been strict, but I’m grateful for that – better safe than sorry in this type of a situation.

I’m lucky as an introvert, I’m quite comfortable spending time on my own reading, exploring info online, creating and listening to music.

WRH: You were about to release new material at around the time that SXSW had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career at the moment? 

HAJ: The cancellation came so suddenly; the whole festival was shut down less than a week before I was headed there to showcase my album live for the first time. I feel the cancellation of SXSW was a turnaround, for the first time people started to realize how serious this outbreak might get…

Until that, most people I heard from thought the danger was exaggerated, and so I’m really glad the city of Austin made a firm decision, because I don’t know what the situation would have been like if 60,000 people had gathered for SXSW as planned, just a few weeks back.

Since this outbreak, I’ve been trying to manage the “Riders On The Storm” release that was too late to cancel — and somehow turned out to be more poignant right now than I’d ever expected.

I was planning to release my debut album this spring, was working on music video plans, and had live shows in the pipeline around the release, but that’s all on ice now. The good thing is, I get to create more and spend time making more music. I also have a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s given me time to focus on that and prepare for that release.


WRH: How would you describe your sound, for those unfamiliar to you and Holy Boy’s sound?

HAJ: This is always tricky. I feel like it’s a world where it’s dark, but there are neon lights on, and you can see the stars and the moon. There’s a dreamy quality to it, but it can also get gritty and sensual. I sometimes think of it as Moon in Scorpio, 5th house, that’s my placement. It’s a dark and deep place where there’s sometimes a feeling of being closer to space than earth. Musically, I call it Neon Gothic or LA noir, organ rock.


WRH: Who are your influences?

HAJ: I love all kinds of music, but for this coming album, I’ve been immersing myself in what felt like it resonated with the emotions in those songs. Songs like “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, David Bowie’s Blackstar album, “Nikes” by Frank Ocean, Suicide and songs by The Shangri-La’s, Johnny Jewel’s work . . .

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

HAJ: I’m really enjoying the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist where the algorithm presents you with music it thinks you’ll like, and I’ve been going on a deep dive based on doing research for a TV idea I’ve been working on… A beautiful and uplifting raw song I think everyone could benefit from right now is an old gospel type recording “Like A Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth for Christ Choir… I think it’s a really inspiring song for this time.

I’ve also been listening to demos and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions and it’s been such a revelation to hear how incredibly different the other takes were… To see how fluid his process was, that a song like “Like A Rolling Stone” ended up the way we know it, when the other takes were so different… There’s a real magic to it. Like listening into an alternate reality.

WRH: You recently released an eerie and ominous cover of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” I think if Jim Morrison was alive today, he would have really dug what you did with the song. What drew you to the song? Have the living members of The Doors heard the song? If they did, what did they think of it?

HAJ: That means a lot to me, thank you so much. I know he had an interest in the worlds beyond and the nature of life and death, which I personally resonate with, so it was a great experience to channel one of his/their songs . . .

One of the reasons I was drawn to making a cover of “Riders On The Storm”, besides being a huge fan of The Doors, is it feels like a seeker’s song, and it felt like a kindred spirit to the way I look at the world. A sense of not quite being at home and not quite belonging on earth.

From what I know, they haven’t heard it, but I really hope they would enjoy my version. I hope they are all safe and well, all four of them in this world and the other.

WRH: The recent video for “Riders on the Storm” features a computer-animated skeleton in space, walking up an infinite staircase. It’s fittingly ominous and as eerie. How did you come about this treatment – and what is it supposed to represent?

HAJ: When I saw Andrei/@dualvoidanimafff’s lofi retro futuristic animations online, I knew I wanted to work on something with him. For “Riders On The Storm”, I just saw this idea of a skeleton walking up a never-ending staircase in space… Like man’s ascension, our eternal human quest to become more or to rise out of the limitations of physical life, to reach this idea of heaven or perfection… It felt to me like a logical depiction of the song’s theme, “Riders On The Storm”… The impossibility of our pursuit, but also the beauty – that throughout history we’ve never stopped trying.

WRH: You have an album slated for a late August release. What should we expect from the album?

HAJ: My version of “Riders On The Storm” is definitely in the same world that the record takes place in. An otherworldly atmosphere built around Hammond/Rhodes/Optigan organs, Vox Continentals, vintage 70s drum machines and obscure 80s Casio synths. It’s definitely a nighttime record, it’s happening in the dark, songs that I hope can be cathartic in a time like this and what most likely lies ahead.

New Video: Rachelle Garniez Takes on a Beloved Della Reese Song

Rachelle Garniez is a highly regarded singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and grizzled New York cabaret scene vet, who has managed to work with an eclectic array of contemporary artists including Jack White and Taylor Mac. Garniez’s recently released album Gone to Glory chronicles her interpretation of songs written or made famous by a variety of recently departed, beloved artists. Interestingly, the album can trace its origins back to 2016r, a year that saw the deaths of David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen — and alongside feelings of immeasurable cultural bereavement, that year also saw an increasing climate of unrest and heightened irreconcilable division.

The first Farewell Party concert was conceived and performed at Pangea, known as NYC’s home to alternative cabaret performance. Crowds were starved for the chance to mourn with other fans and celebrate the lives of their favorite artists. The concert became so popular that it became an annual event. And while being a collection of covers, the album’s material is also about recovery and resilience, that reminds the listener that death may wreck our own, we still manage to survive to enjoy what’s been bequeathed to us.

The album finds Garniez tackling the work of Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Glen Campbell, Motörhead, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Della Reese, Sharon Jones, Mose Allison and Bea Wain — and while inhabiting the characters and worlds of each of those artists, the acclaimed cabaret artists finds a way to make the songs her own. Although she’s largely eschewed covers, she has found the album as a way to honor fallen musical heroes and to branch out into exploring other lives and characters. Interestingly, instead of choosing the most obvious songs — no “Hallelujah” or “Purple Rain” here — she makes more idiosyncratic choices.  “A lot of it has to do with if I can look at the lyrics and imagine becoming a character, or even just being my own self and being able to sing these songs,” Garniez  says in press notes. “I need to feel that I’m connected to the lyrics, that I can really deliver them in a meaningful way.”

Gone to Glory’s songs are centered around an emotional arc that deals with abject despair to acceptance. Death looms large and at points comedic. Monsters are everywhere. There’s alienation, self-delusion and even toxic patriotism. But love is seen as countervailing and multiform — hopeless and unrequited, romantic, lust, paradisal and so on. Garniez, who also contributes piano, accordion and guitar, collaborates with the Farewell Party band, Karen Waltuch (viola) and Derek Nievergelt (double bass) — with the material sonically reflecting Garniez’s eclectic influences: the material evokes klezmer, Cajun, doo wop, blues, R&B, Latin, jazz and show tunes with five of the songs featuring instrumental introductions that function as sort of mini-memorials, references Glen Frey, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Bernardo Bertolucci.

Gone to Glory’s latest single finds the acclaimed cabaret artist covering Della Reese’s 1959 hit “Don’t You Know,” an adaptation of a Puccini aria, “Musetta’s Waltz” from La Bohème. Featuring a yearning vocal, the song is centered around a slow-burning, understated arrangement consisting of French horn and twinkling keys, viola, harp, and double bass — Garniez’s rendition manages to nod at jazz standards, chamber pop and classical music simultaneously while aching with pride, heartache, and loss in a way that feels devastating. The recently released video by Lewis Klahr features collage-based animation that tells the song’s central story of unrequited love and loss — with pop art.