Tag: indie rock

Lebanese-Canadian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Le Play quickly won audiences on both sides of the American-Canadian border with the release of 2019’s Oblique, an album that thematically touches upon feminist empowerment and environmentalism while sonically featuring hypnotic melodies, global percussion, hazy ballads and carnal rock ‘n’ roll.

Late last year, Le Play released her sophomore album Still Life. Inspired by the solitude, grief, frustration, uncertainty and devastating personal loss of a year of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, the album thematically is a meditation on our vitality, perseverance and drive. Sonically, the album finds Le Play pushing the sound she established on her debut in a much more atmospheric and broodingly melancholy direction.

Still Life‘s latest single “Have I Ever Been This Broken?” is a brooding and atmospheric lament featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a propulsive bass line, dramatic drumming and Le Play’s crooning vocals. And while sonically bringing PJ Harvey and Chelsea Wolfe to mind, the track celebrates human resilience, perseverance and our ability to stand strong against even the strongest wind and tide.

Live Footage: Dayglow Performs “Can I Call You Tonight” on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

20-something Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sloan Struble is the creative mastermind behind the rising, critically applauded indie rock/indie pop project Dayglow. The project aesthetically is centered around a hard-fought, hard-won yet palpably sincere optimism — and can trace some of its origins to Struble’s adolescence, growing up in a Fort Worth suburb that he has referred to as a “small football-crazed town,” where he felt irrevocably out of place.

Like countless other out of place young people across the world, Struble turned to music as an escape from his surroundings. “I didn’t really feel connected to what everyone else in my school was into, so making music became an obsession for me, and sort of like therapy in a way,” Struble said in press notes. “I’d dream about it all day in class, and then come home and for on songs instead of doing homework. After a while I realized I’d made an album.”

Working completely on his own with a minuscule collection of gear that included his guitar, his computer and some secondhand keyboards he picked up at Goodwill, Struble worked on transforming his privately kept outpouring into a batch of songs — often grandiose in scale. “Usually artists will have demos they’ll bounce off other people to get some feedback, but nobody except for my parents down the hall really heard much of the album until I put it out,” Struble recalled. With the self-release of 2018’s Fuzzybrain, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — with countess listeners praising the material’s overwhelming positivity.

In 2019, Struble re-released a fully realized version of Fuzzybrain that featured Can I Call You Tonight,” a track that wound up being a smash-hit lat year, as well as two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine.” With the two new singles, the album further establishes Struble’s reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only deeply resonates with listeners but while managing to make that emotional pain feel lighter.

Continuing upon that momentum, Struble kicked off 2021 with the infectious and sugary pop confection “Close to You,” a track indebted to 80s synth-led soul — in particular Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald‘s “On My Own” Cherelle’s and Alexander O’Neal‘s “Saturday Love” and other duets, but imbued with an aching melancholy and uncertainty.

Recently, Struble and his backing band made their national late night TV debut on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where they performed his attention grabbing single “Can I Call You Tonight.” Interestingly, the single reveals a young artist, who is self-assured beyond his years and can craft an infectious, pop hook paired with earnest, heart-on-sleeve lyricism and shimmering instrumentation. Interestingly, the live footage features a similar aesthetic to the “Close To You” video –including a soft, dreamy pastel color schemes.

Struble is currently working on his highly-anticipated Dayglow sophomore album, which is slated for release this year. Be on the lookout.

New Video: Dallas’ Nicole Marxen Releases a Feverish Loss-Fueled Visual for Cathartic “Tether”

Nicole Marxen is a Dallas-based musician and visual artist, best known for being a member of the acclaimed, avant-garde pop act Midnight Opera, an act that has been featured by outlets like BrooklynVegan, Impose Magazine, Tiny Mix Tapes, Daytrotter and The Observer — and QVC, who highlighted the act in an original docs-series on beauty and glamour. Additionally, the band was awarded “Best Group Act” by The Dallas Observer for their mesmerizing live show, which melds opulent set design, choreography and costumes.

Marxen steps out into the limelight as a solo artist with her forthcoming solo debut Tether EP. Recored at John Congleton’s Elmwood Studio with Alex Bhore, Tether is a meditation on grieving and loss, influenced and informed by the sudden death of Marxen’s mother — and the EP’s material may arguably be the most personal effort of the Dallas- based musician and visual artist’s career to date. “I used to think that my life wasn’t worth writing about,” says Marxen. “I hid behind the characters I created, the haven of the stage, the armor of costume. My art was elaborate escapism.”

Fittingly, “Tether,” the EP’s first single and title track is a dark and brooding goth-like track featuring layers of wobbling and arpeggiated synths, skittering beats, industrial clang and clatter, scorching guitars and Marxen’s achingly vulnerable, soaring vocals that evokes a brewing storm of uneasy and complicated emotions coming to the surface in ways that the song’s narrator can’t completely comprehend or predict.

“In many ways, it was a crucial first step in my own grieving process and self-discovery as a songwriter. Being so rooted in showmanship, I hadn’t explored such vulnerability in my work before,” Marxen explains. “When I began to shift my efforts inward, I found that my truth very much needed to be expressed. The song serves as a reminder to hold space for myself.”

Directed by Judd Myers, the recently released video for “Tether” is lustrously shot black and white fever dream of nostalgia, heartache and loss featuring old home videos, lonely black top and Marxen underwater. Each frame is much like a surrealistic painting full of intense cathartic emotion.

Live Footage: HAERTS Performs “For The Sky” on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Throughout the course of this site’s decade-plus history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink covering JOVM mainstays HAERTS. Tracing their origins back to a budding high school romance in Munich, the acclaimed indie pop act have evolved as its founding (and core) duo — Nini Fabi (vocals) and Benny Gebert (keys, guitar) — have evolved: HAERTS was formed when the duo met their now-former bandmates while studying at Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, the quintet relocated to Brooklyn, where they quickly built up a profile and released their major label, self-titled, Jean-Philip Grobler-produced. full-length debut.

After a series of lineup changes in which the band’s founding duo has remained, Fabi and Gebert relocated to the woods of Upstate New York, where they worked on and released their sophomore album, 2018’s New Compassion. Since the release of New Compassion, Fabi and Gebert have embraced their early international roots by splitting their time between Berlin and New York — and during that same period, they have been fueled by a renewed spirit of collaboration with musicians and visual artists they’ve long admired including Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and Julian Klincewicz, who they worked with on POWER/LAND.

As you may recall, the duo’s third album Dream Nationis slated for a March 12, 2021 release, and the album’s material is reportedly marked by a sense of urgent intensity: Fabi and Gebert wrote the album over the course of about a month — and as soon as they finished, they recorded most of the album with their touring band during a week-long, live recording session in New York. Then they went to Los Angeles, where they put the finishing touches on the album and collaborated with Ed Droste on the album’s first single “For the Sky.” (I’ll be getting to that one in a little bit.)

Sonically, Dream Nation will continue to draw their long-held comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and First Aid Kit, but with subtle nods at Portishead and Lamb. “We went into the studio without setting limits or parameters other than that we wanted to make a record that moves you emotionally and physically,” Fabi and Gebert explain. “We wanted it to feel like an invitation into the strange and fantastical night time world, like the songs they play just before the lights come on, when the party is almost over, and the polish is gone.”

Recently Fabi and Gebert were on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where they performed a gorgeous, acoustic version of Dream Nation’s first single “For the Sky,” a song that as Nini Fabi explained in press notes “came from a dream I had when I first found out that I was pregnant, which was the catalyst and beginning of writing new music.” Naturally, the acoustic version finds HAERTS stripping the layers of the studio version to leave the studs and beams — Fabi’s soaring vocals and the song’s heartfelt, lived-in lyricism.

The live footage was shot in a paradisal backyard and features HAERTS’ core duo with their gurgling, new baby. And admittedly while the live version of the song is just gorgeous, there are few things that I find myself drawn to:

This family is so adorable. They radiate love and happiness.
The kid is absolutely in love with mom’s voice.
Imagine this child being told that they inspired an album and its first single before they were even here; that mom shot a video for that same song, pregnant with you; and when you were finally here, they performed the song on Colbert with you in her lap.

New Video: Follow Balthazar on A Stylish Trip to a “Groundhog’s Day”-like Hell

Acclaimed Belgian indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Balthazar led by songwriting partners Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez went on a hiatus several years ago that allowed for the duo to pursue their own, critically applauded solo effects — Devoldere’s brooding, hyper literature Warhaus.and Deprez’s old school R&B-inspired J. Bernardt. And while Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to pursue their own individual whims and muses liberating, they also found the time apart sparking an undeniable urge to work together again, propelled a greater mutual respect for each other’s individual work and a much broader artistic vision.

When the members of Balthazar reconvened to work on 2019’s Fever, they did so without any particular plan. Their hope was to improve upon their previously released work, show deeper artistic growth, and to further the band’s story. Interestingly, when the band’s primary writing team began to write Fever’s material, they mutually agreed that the album would have a less serious, less melancholy tone. And as a result, the album’s material may arguably be among the loosest and most playful of their careers while maintaining the deliberate craftsmanship and razor sharp hooks that have won them national and international attention.

Balthazar supported Fever with a relentless touring schedule that included a stop at Baby’s All Right. Feeling invigorated from playing Fever on tour, Devoldere and Deprez started working on a new batch material that included the sultry, Quiet Storm-like “Halfway,” a track that found the band continuing where their last album left off — but while pushing the overall sound and aesthetic in an even more accessible, pop-leaning direction.

Interestingly, the JOVM mainstays’ fifth album Sand reportedly finds the band fully embracing the soulful alt pop/R&B sound of “Halfway” while crafting what the band believes is the most cohesive album of their careers to date. “There’s a theme running through these tracks, waiting, restlessness, not being able to live in the moment or putting your trust into the future,” Balthazar’s Deprez and Devoldere explain in press notes. “We’re at a point in our lives when we have to consider these aspects of life, that’s why the album is called Sand – after the sand in an hourglass.”

“The idea was always to drop another album as soon as possible after Fever. It was fun and we wanted to build on that,” Jinte Deprez says in press notes. “We did a lot of things that we haven’t done previously – we’ve never used as many drum samples or used bass synths before. So that was an exciting step for us. It was a very modern way of making an album, due to the constraints of the pandemic and we had to work remotely and converse electronically rather than in a studio.” “I can’t wait to play this album live because on the Fever tour we pushed the groove element further,” Maarten Devoldere adds.

So far I’ve written about two of Sand’s official singles:

“Losers,” a slinky, disco-tinged yet sophisticated track centered around Devoldere’s sultry baritone, shimmering synth arpeggios and an infectious hook, but at its core, the song captures the anxious uncertainty of our moment, a moment in which most of us feel as though our personal and professional lives have been in an indefinite stasis.
“You Won’t Come Around,” a slow-burning and cinematic, R&B-inspired track featuring shimmering strings, strummed acoustic guitar, skittering beats and Devoldore expressing a confusing yet familiar series of emotions: regret and heartache that a romantic relationship has ended, relief that the relationship has ended and guilt that maybe they’ve moved on a bit too quickly; or in other words, the gnawing sense that you might be a selfish, uncaring asshole.

Clocking in at a little under four minutes, “On A Roll,” Sand’s latest single finds the JOVM mainstays crafting a strutting and seamless synthesis of their pre-Fever sound with their recent R&B-influenced leanings with the track featuring buzzing bass synths, slinky guitar lines, glistening synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, a mournful horn arrangement and skittering beats, Deprez’s soulful crooning and falsetto.

Directed by Pieter De Cnudde, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video for “On A Roll” was shot at the NH Hotel in Bruges, Belgium, and follows Balthazar’s songwriting duo in a Groundhog’s Day-like hell.”The song and video is about the repetitive lack of control you have on situations, your life, your own ways,” Deprez explains in press notes. “Even for a moment when you think you can escape your own loop, you find yourself right back at the start again, finding out the changes didn’t change the outcome, or you.”

Sand is slated for a February 26, 2020 release though Play It Again Sam.

New VIdeo: Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes Release a Surreal Visual for Enormous “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again”

oAs 2020 mercifully came to a close, I wound up writing a bit about the acclaimed acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated Montreal-based indie rock act The Besnard Lakes. The Canadian sextet — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003, and since their formation, the band has released five albums of atmospheric and textured shoegaze that some critics have described as magisterial and cinematic.

After the release of 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, the members of the acclaimed Montreal-based act and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar mutually decided that it was time to end their relationship and go their separate ways. And although the move was amicable between both parties, the band began to question whether or not it made sense to even continue as a band. But fueled by their love for each other and for playing music together, the members of The Besnard Lakes settled in to write and record what may arguably be considered the most uncompromising effort of their catalog to date, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings.

Unlike their previously released material, the members of the Montreal-based went with a much more patient creative approach, taking all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Interestingly, some of the album’s songs are old and can trace their origins back to resurrected demos that they had been left on the shelf years prior. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek’s and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch, with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.

Thematically, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings finds the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side, and coming back from the brink of annihilation. And while touching upon the band’s own story, the album also is a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — particularly Lasek’s father, who died last year. From what Lasek observed of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense psychedelic trip of anyone’s life” at one point Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket, with “a carpenter inside of it, making objects.” All of this manages to imbue the album’s material with an almost fever dream-like quality.

So far I’ve written about two of The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings’ singles:

“Raindrops,” a slow-burning shoegazer with a painterly attention to gradation and texture, centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and a euphoric hook.
“Feuds With Guns,” a dream pop-like synthesis of Prince and Beach House featuring thunderous drumming, anthemic power chord-based riffs, twinkling keys and a soaring hook.

The Besnard Lakes begin 2021 with their forthcoming album’s third and latest single “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again.” Clocking in 6:39, the expansive song is centered around two alternating sections: a slow-burning and atmospheric section featuring ethereal female lead vocals, glistening and atmospheric synths that slowly build up in intensity with the addition of chugging power chords, thumping tribal-like drums and layered choral-like vocals. The end result is a song that’s a prog rock meets Beach Boys-like take on shoegaze that feels oceanic.

“The track started as an Oggy Film Song,” the band shares in press notes. “A skeletal version of the song had been in the Besnard vault for several years after we initially rejected it for a film soundtrack. It went through a couple drafts before we tore it apart, rejiggered some parts and resurrected it to its new form. The song is an ode to logic and intuition and being able to learn from the past.”

Directed by Dr. Cool, the recently released video for “Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again” is an animated and lysergic fever dream that features divers projected onto city buildings, electrical outlets turn into signing houses moving across the horizon and a horse runs across the changing skyline. It’s a mind-bending and gorgeous visual.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is slated for a January 29, 2021 release through Fat Cat Records here in the States and through Flemish Eye in their native Canada.

The Besnard Lakes have announced 3 livestream shows in support of the forthcoming album. Hosted by Noonchorus, the band’s live streams will be February 5, 2021; March 6, 2021; and April 3, 2021. The streams will go live at 7:00pm EST for each show and tickets are available here: https://noonchorus.com/the-besnard-lakes/