Tag: Glastonbury Festival

Jean-Pierre “Jupiter” Bokondji is a Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-born and-based bandleader, songwriter and percussionist. Bokondji’s grandmother was a traditional healer, who got introduced him to music by having him attend religious ceremonies and funerals, which he later would play percussion. His father was a Congolese diplomat, who received a post at the Congolese embassy in East Berlin — and as a result, the family relocated to Germany.

While in Germany Bokondji started his first band Der Neger, an act that meshed the Mongo music of his native Congo with the European rock of his German-born bandmates. When his father’s post ended, the family returned to Kinshasa in the 1980s. Upon his family’s return, Bokondji traveled around the country listening to the music of the country’s different tribes, eventually developing and honing his own style and sound. In 1984, he formed a band called Bongofolk — and in 1990, he formed his best known and longest running band Okwess International, which currently features Staff Benda Bilili’s Montana (drums), Yendé (bass), Eric (guitar), Richard (guitar) and Blaise (vocals).

In the years immediately after their formation, the members of Jupiter & Okwess toured across Africa, playing a crowd-pleasing mix of Afropop, traditional Congolese rhythms, funk and rock paired with strong sociopolitical messages that Bokondji has dubbed “bofenia rock.” But unfortunately, as they saw increased popularity, a bloody civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some of the band’s members fled to Europe as a result of the war; however, Bokondji remained in Kinshasa. And as the war died down, the Congolese songwriter, bandleader and percussionist saw a resurgence of his popularity.

Bokondji was featured in the 2006 documentary film Jupiter’s Dance. The film brought him to the attention of British producers and musicians — and it lead to him joining the Africa Express tour and to major stops across the global festival circuit, including Glastonbury Festival and Way Out West. Adding to a rapidly growing international profile, the act released their long-awaited full-length debut, 2013’s Hotel Univers.

The Kinshasa-based act’s sophomore effort, 2018’s Kin Sonic finds the members of the band further expanding their sound outside of their homeland, incorporating elements of modern, contemporary music. As a result of the album’s popularity, Bokondji and company played 180 dates across the globe, including performing in the Paris production of Abderrahmane Sissako and Damon Albarn’s opera Le Vol du Boli.

Jupiter & Okwess’s latest EP Bolingo serves as follow-up to Kin Sonic while providing listeners a taste of what to expect for their forthcoming, third full-length album, slated for an April 2021 release. In the meantime, the Mario Caldato, Jr-recorded effort finds the Congolese act meshing a unique array of sounds across the African Diaspora from traditional African music, disco, jazz, New Orleans brass, samba and even soul while still remaining committed to sociopolitically conscious lyrics and a strong sense of purpose.

The EP’s latest single, EP title track “Bolingo” is a sonic departure from the bonefia rock they’ve established, with the band playing a shuffling and breezy samba featuring shimmering acoustic guitar, shuffling rhythms, soaring call and response vocals featuring Brazilian vocalist Rogê, and a gorgeous flute solo coda. Complete with infectious hooks, the song is centered around a simple yet very powerful message — love is our purpose. Material things don’t teach you anything about life; love does. And although, the Trump Administration’s miserable term is ending in a month, we all still feel like we’re in the end days — and we need to be reminded of the hope and power of love right now.

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.

Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the 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. By 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded songs as Soccer Mommy to Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about head off to New York University, 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. The Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal. After spending two years studying at NYU, Allison 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 through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection through Fat Possum Records. Her proper, full-length debut, 2018’s Clean was released to widespread critical acclaim, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Alison has wound up touring 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 COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was gearing up to be a massive year for the young and rising singer/songwriter and guitarist: she began the year by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and had joined a list of contemporary artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Allison’s highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical applause — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Nashville-based artist had been gearing up for a massive year: she was about to embark one a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance, along with that, she had lined up appearances across the global festival circuit that included a stop at Glastonbury. Additionally, she was supposed to make her late-night, nationally televised debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With touring being on an indefinite half for the music industry, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist recognized that this was a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas. Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend it. The concert was so popular, that her fans crashed the platform’s servers, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Allison has also performed a number of live streams events, including  NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork‘s IG Live Series. And she also recently released her own Zoom background images.

Recently, Allison and company embarked on a an Bella Clark-directed 8-bit virtual, music video tour in which the band plays some of the cities she was meant to be passing through — Minneapolis, Chicago,Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of virtually playing at the more common tourist locations or a traditional music venue, the members of the band are mischievously placed in unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto area subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge and more.performing album track “crawling in my skin.”

Continuing some wildly creative ways to maintain the momentum of her full-length debut, Allison recently launched a singles series, Soccer Mommy & Friends that sees some of her most accomplished friends and associates covering her work — and Allison covering their work. The singles series will see contributions from MGMT‘s Andrew VanWyngarden, Beabadoobee, Beach Bunny, Jay Som and a list others — with releases dropping every two weeks. The singles series first release finds the acclaimed Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed indie rock act Jay Som covering Soccer Mommy’s “Lucy.”

Interestingly, Jay Som’s take on “lucy” turns the jangling guitar pop anthem into a shimmering and brooding track, centered around atmospheric synths, thumping beats and ethereal vocals that to my ears reminds me quite a bit of Air’s ethereal remix of Beck’s “Heaven Hammer.” “I had an extremely fun time recording the ‘lucy’ cover,” Duterte says in press notes. “Sophie has such a special way of entwining catchy melodies and sometimes dark chord progressions. I feel very lucky to be a part of this comp!”

All net profits from Bandcamp sales from the series will be donated to Oxfam‘s COVID-19 relief fun. Oxfam is working with partners to reach more than 14 million people in nearly 50 countries and the US to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in vulnerable communities and support people’s basic food needs and livelihoods. As we’re all aware women and girls usually bear a disproportionate burden of care in a crises like COVID-19, and Oxfam has a proven record of helping women cope during and recover after these crises in ways that allow them to be safer and stronger than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Acclaimed Indie Artist Soccer Mommy Goes on a Virtual 8-Bit Tour

Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the 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. By 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded songs as Soccer Mommy to Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about head off to New York University, where she studied music business at the University’sSteinhardt 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 through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection through Fat Possum Records. Her proper, full-length debut, 2018’s Clean was released to widespread critical acclaim, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Alison has wound up touring 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 COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was gearing up to be a massive year for the young and rising singer/songwriter and guitarist: she began the year by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and had joined a list of contemporary artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Allison’s highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical applause — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Nashville-based artist had been gearing up for a massive year: she was about to embark one a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance, along with that, she had lined up appearances across the global festival circuit that included a stop at Glastonbury. Additionally, she was supposed to make her late-night, nationally televised debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With touring being on an indefinite half for the music industry, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist recognized that this was a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas. Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend it. The concert was so popular, that her fans crashed the platform’s servers, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Allison has also performed a number of live streams events, including  NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork’s IG Live Series. And she also recently released her own Zoom background images. 

Recently, Allison and company embarked on a an Bella Clark-directed 8-bit virtual, music video tour in which the band plays some of the cities she was meant to be passing through — Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of virtually playing at the more common tourist locations or a traditional music venue, the members of the band are mischievously placed in unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto area subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge and more. Interestingly, the video four features the virtual band playing the album’s latest single “crawling in my skin.” Centered around looping and shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line, shuffling drumming and subtly shifting tempos, the track reveals a remarkably self-assured young songwriter, who has an unerring knack for pairing earnest songwriting with an infectious hook. (Oh, and you’ll see the band adhering to social distancing rules while virtually performing!)  

“It’s really hard having our tour be postponed because I was really excited to play all of the songs on color theory for everyone, ‘crawling in my skin’ in particular,” Allison says. “I hope this little 8-bit performance can hold everyone over until the tour can happen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Huggins is an emerging London-based singer/songwriter, soul and R&B artist, who has had a lifelong passion for music. Although some of her earliest musical memories are of performing at school and at church, her roots in music may have even earlier origins: “My mother had a dream whilst she was pregnant with me,” Huggins explains in press notes, “and in it, she says that she remembers me being a baby, running across a large room to a white piano, where I started playing it. Perhaps this is why they wanted me to learn piano, who knows?”

Throughout her studies, the emerging London-based singer/songwriter, and soul and R&B artist performed across town, eventually founding a gospel choir. While studying music business and production and sociology at the University of Westminster, Huggins began to form her identity as a singer/songwriter and musician — and as a performer, with a stint as a backing vocalist for Billy Ocean and singing the National Anthem for Nelson Mandela.

Since then, Huggins has been extremely busy: she has been a two-time finalist in the BBC’s Gospel Choir of the Year competition, featured as a backing vocalist for DJ Vadim and Sola Rosa — and she has played at Glastonbury Festival, Green Man Festival, Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party, while finishing up a Masters of Arts in Culture, Language and Identity in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Huggins’ forthcoming EP Keep Dreaming is slated for release later this year. Inspired by and grounded in gospel, soul and jazz, Huggins’ solo work is centered around tales of love and aspiration, with the hopes of lifting and inspiring listeners. The EP’s first single “Take Control” was written after she made the decision to leave a stressful and unfulfilling day job to pursue her dreams. “It’s about acquiring freedom to express without inhibition,” the emerging London-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Sometimes we care so much about the thoughts of others we lose ourselves and momentarily become what others want or expect whilst suppressing who we really are.  I choose to fight and encourage people along the way.”

Keep Dreaming‘s second and latest single “Feels so Good” is a sultry, mid-tempo ballad, centered around a classic soul-inspired arrangement that’s roomy enough to let Huggins’ easygoing yet self-assured and soulful vocals guide the song forward. At its core, the song is a sweet and swooning, old-fashioned love song that sounds as though it could have been released during Motown‘s heyday — or on Daptone Records. “‘Feels So Good’ is an old-fashioned love story,” the rising London-based artist explains in press notes. “It’s an expression of love similar to that which would have been once shared in a love letter. Sometimes we admire people from a distance, and the other person never really knows how valued they are to someone else. If someone makes you feel good, tell them!”

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natasha Khan is a Brighton, UK-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed solo recording project Bat For Lashes — and for being the vocalist for Sexwitch, a collaboration with the members of British psych rock act TOY and producer Dan Carey. Born to an English mother, Josie and Pakistani squash player Rehmat Khan, Natasha Khan traces some of the influences of her musical career to attending her father’s and her uncle’s Jahangir’s squash matches, which she felt inspired her creativity: “The roar of the crowd is intense; it is ceremonial, ritualistic. I feel like the banner got passed to me but I carried it on in a creative way. It is a similar thing, the need to thrive on heightened communal experience.” Her father left when she was 11, and she taught herself to play the piano, which quickly became an important channel to express things, to get them out.

Khan’s debut single “The Wizard” was released digitally through Drowned in Sound Records and on seven-inch vinyl through her own imprint, She Bear Records. By 2006, she caught the attention of Echo Label, a record label owned by Chrysalis Records that acted as an incubator for emerging artists and assisting their careers while moving them to major labels. Echo released her debut, 2006’s Fur and Gold. The following year, Khan and Echo signed an international licensing deal with Parlophone Records, who re-released Fur and Gold that year. The album reached #48 on the UK Albums Charts and since its release, it’s been certified gold. Building upon a growing profile, the British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer played at Glastonbury Festival and toured across the States. The album was shortlisted for that year’s Mercury Prize, losing to Klaxons’ Myths of the Near Future, despite being critically applauded and named a heavy favorite to win. She won ASCAP’s Vanguard Award, which resulted in her performing at their “ASCAP Presents . .  .” SXSW showcase.

2008 continued an incredible run by the British singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist as she was notated for two Brit Awards — British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist. She opened handful of dates for Radiohead, and she released a cover of The Cure’s “A Forest,” which appeared on the Perfect as Cats charity album.

Khan’s sophomore album, 2009’s David Kosten and Khan-co-produced Two Suns was inspired by a trip she took to Joshua Tree, CA. The album focuses on her desert-born alter ego Pearl, whose personality she adopted while living in New York. Sonically, the material was inspired by the Brooklyn bands that had started to receive attention nationally and internationally at the time — in particular, TV on the Radio, MGMT, Gang Gang Dance and others. Interestingly, the album also found her collaborating with the members of Yeasayer, who contributed bass and beat programming. The album debuted at #5 on the UK Albums Chart and has since been certified gold as a result of “Daniel,” which peaked at #36 on the UK Singles Chart. “Daniel” later won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song and was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year. Additionally, Khan received her second Mercury Prize nomination and a second BRIT Award nomination for British Female Solo Artist.

Summer 2009 saw her play at Glastonbury Festival, Somerset House and the iTunes Festival, which was followed by a special edition of Two Suns, which was released ahead of her October UK tour an included a cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”

Khan’s third Bat for Lashes album, 2012’s The Haunted Man debuted at #6 on the UK Albums Chart, her second consecutive Top 10 album, an effort that has since been certified silver. Khan was nominated for her third Best British Solo Female BRIT Award and was nominated for two Ivor Novello Awards — Best Song Musically and Best Song Lyrically for album single “Laura.” That year saw her play at Coachella Festival. She also opened for Blur and Depeche Mode.

During a surprise 2015 Green Man Festival set in Wales, Khan debuted her collaboration with Dan Carey and TOY — Sexwitch. That September, the project released its self-titled debut through Echo and BMG, which featured six covers of 1970s psych and folk from different parts of the world.

2016 saw the release of her fourth full-length album The Bride, an album that was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Khan’s fifth album Lost Girls was released last fall through AWAL Recordings, and the album continues a run of concept albums: in this case, the material was centered around an off-kilter coming of age film, in which bands of marauding female biker gangs roam the streets — and teenagers make out on car hoods. The female characters throughout are parallel to the protagonists of her previously released albums — most notably, the street tough, darkness-driven Pearl from Two Suns. The album’s main character Nikki Pink, was one of the album’s central Lost Girls. And at its core, the album thematically is a loving and romantic homage to all things Los Angeles, being a child of the 80s and the films that influenced Khan. Sonically, the album found Khan mixing sounds she’s long loved — heavy bass lines, synth arpeggios, Iranian pop beats and cascading chorus which help evoke an achingly wistful air.

Khan recently released a four song live EP recorded at London-based venue EartH that features a stripped down versions of “Daniel,” “Desert Man” and “The Hunger” off Lost Girls featuring Khan accompanying herself on piano and organ. The EP’s first official single is a slow-burning,  stripped down, atmospheric cover of Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” centered around twinkling keys and Khan’s expressive vocals.  Khan’s Bat for Lashes cover retains the song’s awareness of the passing of time, the end of youthful innocence — of a darker, more uncertain adult world just over the horizon.

Interestingly, the EP comes just before Khan embarks on a Winter North American tour — and it serves as a taste of what fans should expect: intimate renditions of the material off Lost Girls, as well as never performed songs and some surprises.

 

Lyric Video: Gengahr’s Bittersweet “Icarus”

Deriving their name from Gengar, one of the original Pokemon, the acclaimed London-based indie act Gengahr — Felix Bushe, John Victor, Hugh Schulte and Danny Ward — can trace their origins to when its members met at the Stoke Newington School. Their debut single “Fill My Gums With Blood” caught the attention of BBC Radio 1‘s Huw Stephens — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up playing at the BBC Introducing Stage at 2014’s Glastonbury Festival.

Since then the band has released two critically applauded albums — 2015’s debut effort A Dream Outside and 2018’s Where Wildness Grows. Sanctuary, Gengahr’s highly-anticipated Jack Steadman-produced third album is slated for a Friday release through Liberator Music. Reportedly, the album finds the band ambitiously pushing their sound in a decidedly pop leaning director, while attempting to recapture the magic and vibe that the quartet felt while writing and recording their full-length debut. Interestingly, the album, which is largely influenced by Homer’s Odyssey, also reportedly finds the band’s primary songwriter Felix Bushe tapping into personal pain — but while throwing punches and fighting. 

Late last year, I wrote about the slinky and shimmering single “Heavenly Maybe.” Featuring  a funky, disco-like groove, “Heavenly Maybe” was imbued with a world weary ennui centered around the experience of partying as a way to distract oneself from their serious, real-life problems. “Icarus” Sanctuary’s third and latest single is a wistful, M83-like song, centered around a sinuous and propulsive bass line, a motorik-like groove, four-on-the-floor-like drumming and Bushe’s plaintive vocals. And while featuring some enormous, soaring hooks, the track is imbued with the awareness of the passing of time; that adulthood ain’t easy: it’s full of dashed dreams, compromises, disappointment and the awareness that nothing in this world works the way it should. 

““Icarus” is a song about growing up and coming to terms with the expectations of our youth. As a child we believe anything is possible but as we get older there is a crushing realisation as we begin to understand that the journey of life has its own uncontrollable trajectory.” the band explains in press notes. 

Directed by the band’s long-time visual collaborator Dave East, the recently released lyric video for “Icarus” was shot in Cape Town, South Africa and depicts a car driving down a mountain road at night, seemingly in search of another hill, another mountain to climb, another bit of road sliding by. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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