Tag: indie rock

James Clifford is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and creative mastermind of the recording project Primaveras, which was once known as Modern Howls. As the story goes, Clifford grew up in a rather musical family; in fact, Clifford began playing guitar in his early teens and throughout his high school years, he played in a number of garage bands. Foregoing a formal musical education, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is largely self-taught with his passion for playing and writing stemming from a lifelong passion for everything music, as he’s been known to scour music stores for vintage guitars and synths or to stay up into the wee hours listening to records. Unsurprisingly, Clifford has cited the likes of David Bowie, Prince, The Clash, Funkadelic, Chic, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Steely Dan, and The Beach Boys as some of his greatest music inspirations.  Thematically, Clifford and Primaveras draws influence from the stretch of the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica — warm breezes through cracked car windows, the soft sound of waves crashing and receding into the Pacific, and the silhouette of the Los Angeles skyline. For many it’s timeless and almost dreamlike; but those who haven’t stuck around long enough fail to notice the effects of salt air on the surroundings — in the form of rust and erosion. In some way, it evokes faded dreams and hopes of a paradise that never really was there in the first place, and in another sense, the faded surroundings evoke a lonely introspection. Clifford’s Primaveras debut Echoes in the Well of Being was written in a way to embody that dualism — with the album’s material generally being sunny psych pop yet possess an underlying longing and introspection.
Interestingly with Clifford’s previously released material and Echoes in the Well of Being‘s latest single, the shimmering and strutting “Better Off,” his sound has been compared favorably to the likes of Tame Impala and Phoenix — and while that is definitely fair, I also hear a subtle nod at Avalon-era Roxy Music as the song evokes bright neon lights, evening faces, Jack and Cokes, the buzz of a coke high and a desperate escape from one’s loneliness and regret. But interestingly enough, Clifford pays loving  homage to The Isley Brothers’Footsteps in the Dark, Parts 1 and 2” with the song’s intro drum break, which not only ties the song to classic R&B, but gives it a subtle sensuality.
As Clifford says of the song, “While most people will immediately interpret as a breakup song, I see the core sentiment as trying to grow up and move on from any sort of worn-out relationship.”
 
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Patrick Phillips is a Portland, OR-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, and creative mastermind behind the dream pop/indie pop/psych pop recording project Water Slice. And in some way, the project can trace its origins back to when Philips realized that his life in Portland was beginning to closely resemble an unending Portlandia sketch — he worked at a hip gastropub, played packed local gigs and DJ’ed obscure African music. When he realized what his life had become, Phillips decided that it was time for a change, and he eventually related to Los Angeles. In 2014, he moved into an idyllic artist house located in the hills of the Echo Park section — and as the story goes, Phillips would spend a great deal of time on the house’s rooftop, overlooking the city’s landscape in the shade of a  giant rubber tree, contemplating life and writing songs, partially influenced by his surroundings.

During his first month in town, Phillips met James Supercave‘s Joaquin Pastor and spent the next 2 years as that band’s bassist. After leaving James Supercave, the Portland-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had time to process his past life in Portland and to dive back into his record collection of power-pop, post-punk and world psychedelia — and this period was for him, the definitive spark that led him to write his own material under the moniker Water Slice. Of course, the material he had begun to write drew deeply from his own personal experience — particularly, a lengthy romantic relationship that dissolved and friendships that fell by the wayside (as many do), and the lingering ache and confusion of a past that’s continually just out of reach and the acceptance of a present that barely makes sense.

Now, as you may call, Philips’ Water Slice self-titled, debut EP is slated for an August 10, 2018 release and with the release of “This Way,” the first single off the effort quickly received attention for a sound that pairs buoyant and breezy grooves with dark lyrical content. As Philips told Ones to Watch, “Many of my favorite tunes, whether post-punk, power-pop, or reggae, are stories of suffering, while staying undeniably groovy. I love this contrast of heavy lyrics with otherwise sunny music, and I kept this tradition in mind when writing ‘This Way.’ At the time I was stuck deep in a rut, ‘This Way’ is about accepting my flaws and pushing into the future with the people I love.” The EP’s Gus Seyffert-produced second single “Please Remember” managed to further cement Philips’ growing reputation for crafting breezy and buoyant pop with a wistful and nostalgic air; but underneath that an acceptance and celebration of how life seems to constantly shift around you, forcing you to shift lanes, change direction  or stop whatever it was you were doing In the first place. After all, no one really has an answer to anything and nothing really works the way it’s supposed to — and yet, we usually find a way.

The EP’s latest single “Write Back” is a decidedly 60s psych pop stomper, centered around shimmering and swirling guitars, a propulsive rhythm section and an incredibly infectious hook — and while breezy and wistful, the track reveals a songwriter and artist with a careful attention to craft. As Philips explains in press notes, “The song’s about facing the fact that you’re not always where you thought you would be in life.” He adds, “But instead of freaking out about it, it’s important to remember what and who grounds you, to keep moving forward or dig deep and turn everything around.” Certainly, when things aren’t right (and that seems more often the case than not), having someone say this so clearly is not just affirming but absolutely necessary.

With the release of their 2015 debut Rapid Rewards, the Chicago-based trio Clearance,  comprised of Mike Bellis, Kevin Fairbairn, and Arthur Velez, have developed a reputation for witty and observational indie rock that draws inspiration from 60s bubblegum pop, jangling ’80s New Zealand indie rock, 90s slacker rock and even contemporary acts like Omni, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and others. The band’s sophomore effort At Your Leisure is slated for a July 27, 2018 release through Topshelf Records and the album thematically draws a bit from the trials and tribulations of an indie rock band in the today’s music industry — with the album’s title being a joking play on the glacial pace of the the album release cycle; but the album is also reportedly the culmination of a number of long tours, breakneck writing sessions and the bandmembers evolving friendship as they’ve become older and wiser.
Sonically speaking, At Your Leisure is a love letter guitar pop and the guitar pop song; in fact, the majority of the album’s songs came about after Bellis made a trip to New Zealand back in 2016. And as a result, the songs are reportedly breezier, more propulsive and with razor sharp hooks; in fact, the album’s latest single “Haven’t You Got The Time” features jangling and shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section and an infectious hook  — and while displaying a winning, radio friendly sound, the song manages to be far darker and cynical than it’s initially sunny vibe, as it was written during the messy and bittersweet disintegration of a relationship. Unlike most songs of its ilk, the song’s narrator recognizes that his partner has emotionally left some time ago, and is looking for a way out and away from him, and it gives the song an old and familiar ache.

 

 

Currently comprised of Charley Williams (guitar, vocals), Mike Cathcart (drums) and newest member Sam Greenspan, the indie rock trio Stoner Control initially began in 2013 as a temporary side-project that eventually became a full-fledged band that quickly received attention for high-energy pop punk sound with a lo-fi aesthetic paired with earnest lyrics. The band’s forthcoming sophomore Hutch Harris album Alone in the City is slated for an August 31,2018 release and the album reportedly finds the band moving away from the lo-fi sound of their debut and towards a jangling, classic 60s rock ‘n’ roll-inspired sound while lyrically, the album is a shift from the highly personal towards a more open-ended approach — while retaining a playful melancholy.  Interestingly, Alone in the City‘s latest single “Hollywood Hills” sounds as though it could have been released sometime in the early 80s as jangling and shimmering guitar chords are paired with an anthemic, raise-your-beer-in- the-air-and-sing-along-lustily hook; but underneath all of that is a bittersweet wistfulness over what once was and can never be again.

 

Over the past three years or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Tucson, AZ-based quintet The Myrrors, and as you may recall the band, which is currently comprised of Nik Rayne, Grant Beyschau, Casey Hadland, Kellen Fortier, and Miguel Urbina have developed and maintained a reputation for crafting ominous and expansive psych rock centered around trance-like grooves. Interestingly, the JOVM mainstays forthcoming album Borderlands which is slated for an August 17, 2018 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records nominally references the collective, self-made boundaries we draw, while offering a soundtrack for setting forth strategies that either ignore or erases them.

As the band explains, the album’s latest single “The Blood That Runs the Border,” “is actually an old live standard that for whatever reason never translated into a recording until now, a time which the issues of manufactured frontiers and the human cost of xenophobic immigration controls are perhaps more immediate than ever before. Destroy all borders, tear down all walls and the governments that build them! In a sense the track actually sowed the seeds for the entire record, from its subject matter to our conscious effort to more accurately capture the sound of The Myrrors in its current live incarnation.”  Thematically it may overtly political song they’ve ever written, the expansive song is centered by a propulsive, trance-inducing groove over which shimmering, mind-bending guitar work and reverb-drenched covers ethereally float over; but as a result, it has a deeper and heavier emotional heft — crestfallen and exhausted, resolute and determined. And while still evoking a dusty, desert vista, the song evokes our murky and uncertain world in a frightening fashion.

 

 

 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Portland, OR-based indie rock quintet King Who, and as you may recall, the band, comprised of  Michael Young, Ryan Hayes, Ryan Cross, Glen Scheidt and Travis Girton will be releasing their Hutch Harris-produced sophomore full-length album Giant Eye through SELF Group on August 17, 2018. Reportedly, the album finds the band expanding upon their sound as they increasingly incorporate elements of New Wave, post-punk and dream pop  while retaining the heavy bass of their full-length debut Us Lights; in fact, Giant Eye‘s first single, the slow-burning “Ice Cream” sonically finds the band drawing from shoegaze and dream pop as the song is centered around shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section, a soaring hook and Micheal Young’s plaintive falsetto, sounding though as it were recorded during the era of 120 Minutes-era alt rock.

Interestingly, Giant Eye‘s second and latest single, “Crying Shame” is centered around a motorik-like groove, four-on-the-floor drumming and Young’s plaintive falsetto, and as a result the song may arguably be the most New Wave-inspired song off the album, sounding as though it were drawing from Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the BunnymenEvil Heat-era Primal Scream and Luminous-era The Horrors, thanks to one of the funkiest rock bass lines I’ve heard this year.

 

Currently comprised of founding duo Dennis Ponozzo (bass, vocals), a former member of Below the Sound and Scott Udee (guitar), with Gabe Johnson (drums), the Madison, WI-based post-punk/noise rock trio Sinking Suns initially formed in 2007 as a duo, and after a series of basement recordings, the band expanded into a full-fledged live band with the addition of Gabe Johnson, who joined the band in 2009. Since then, the band has released several highly touted albums and singles while touring across the Midwest, playing a sound that features a unique blend of post-punk, noise rock, surf rock and thrash punk.

Slated for a July 27, 2018 release through Reptilian Records, Sinking Suns’ soon-to-be released full-length album Bad Vibes will further cement the band’s reputation for a scuzzy and bruising sound, as you’ll hear on the album’s mosh pit friendly new single “Remember You Will Die”– but the album thematically and sonically is centered around deeply personal tales of struggle, survival and mourning; in fact, as the band’s Dennis Ponozzo explains, the song was inspired after he had been reminiscing about the last time he saw his brother, before his death. “I was looking at old photos of him and remembering when we drove to a local “ghost light” in Michigan one night called The Paulding Light. It was a warm summer night. Looking at the photos I thought to myself how he was clueless in the photos that his number would soon be up. I was clueless. We all were. It’s mainly a reminder of all of our mortality. ” As a result, the song is a urgent and plaintive howl into an unceasing and uncaring void.

 

Initially formed back in 2010 as a trio, Cincinnati, OH-based punk rock act Vacation quickly released a slew of tapes, singles and albums through a number of DIY labels while playing pop-inspired punk shows throughout the Midwest and the rest of the country. Since their formation, the band has expanded into a quartet while managing to balance prolificacy with a relentless touring schedule that has had the Cincinnati-based punk rockers opening for the likes of The Breeders, JOVM mainstays Screaming Females, The Black Lips, and others.

Back in 2016 Vacation recorded a two-part album Southern Grass: The Continuation of Rock ‘n’ Roll, a miscellaneous collection of basement punk ephemera, and by the time of the album’s release that July, the members of the band had returned to the studio to write and record their latest album Mouth Sounds #2699 slated for a release through Bloomington, IN-based Let’s Pretend Records later this week. Engineered by The Afghan Whigs‘ John Curley at Ultraseude StudioMouth Sounds #2699 reportedly finds the band at their most experimental with songs that nod at Tom Petty, krautrock and punk rock; in fact, the album’s latest single “Deflector Head” is a prime example of what the band specializes in — ragged, gritty and rousingly anthemic punk with decidedly Cheap Trick-like power pop leanings. It’s the sort of song that you should raise your beer as high as possible and shout along lustily to the hook — as rock ‘n’ roll should make you do.

 

New Video: Introducing the Swaggering Arena Rock Friendly Sounds of Scotland’s The Rah’s

The Rah’s are an up-and-coming Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland-based quintet, comprised of founding members Jack McLeod, Jordan McIntyre, Neale Gray and Andrew McLeod, along with newest member Lee Brown, who have cited Jimi Hendrix, Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones — and while regionally, they’ve developed a reputation for an energetic live show, over the past few years they’ve been experimenting with their sound and songwriting approach with the result being their anthemic, 90s Brit Pop “Survival,” a massive power chord-based single that sounds inspired by the likes of Kasabian, The Hives, and Foo Fighters.

Filmed and edited by Carousel Films, the recently released video for “Survival” features the band performing over superimposed stock footage of political and social unrest, war, climate change and destruction — all of which echo our current world in an uncanny fashion.

New Video: United Ghosts’ Trippy Visuals for Their Shimmering 4AD Records-Inspired New Single

The Los Angeles-based dream pop duo United Ghosts, comprised of Sha Sabi, who came to Southern California after stints in New York and San Francisco; and German-born Axel Ray, who spent a 12 year stint in London before relocating to the States — although on some level, it’s a bit of a misnomer, as they’ve received attention for a classic 4AD Records-like sound centered around boy-girl harmonizing and draws from dream pop, psych rock, shoegaze and krautrock.

The duo’s 2013 full-length, self-titled debut and its follow up, Dear Electric Sun EP received airplay from BBC’s Steve Lamacq and Lauren Laverne, KCSN’s Nic Harcourt, KLOS’ Mark Sovel and XFM’s John Kennedy and a number of others. And after three successful UK and European Union tours, a number of Stateside dates that included CMJ and SXSW, followed by an L.A. residency, the duo of Ray and Sabi returned to the studio to work on their Mark Rains and Axel Ray co-produced sophomore album, Saturn Days, an album that thematically and lyrically explores modern life, love and disconnect in a world that’s equally dystopian and beautiful, in which hope is laced with paranoia and where dreaming your way out might be the only chance to survive.

Saturn Days’ latest single “Waves,” will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting material 4AD Records-era dream pop, the prerequisite shimmering guitar chords, motorik grooves, enormous power chord-based soloing and dreamy boy-girl harmonies — but with a subtly modern touch,.

The recently released video for “Saturn Days” is comprised of performance footage of the members of United Ghosts with their live band shot by Arian Soheili with superimposed drone footage by Steve Payne, underwater footage by Alex V. and images of Saturn courtesy of NASA and the Saturn Cassini mission.