Tag: indie rock

Starlight Girls · Teenage Crime

Brooklyn-based indie rock act Starlight Girls can trace their origins back to 2011, when Christina Bernard (vocals), an Ohio-born megachurch chorister turned rocker and Shaw Walters (guitar), a San Francisco-born, guitar savant and tech wizard met and decided to start a band. Bernard and Walters found their bandmates — Sara Mundy (keys) and Isabel Alvarez (backing vocals), two Long Island-born theater junkies, Tysen Arveson (bass), a Seattle-born, Hawaii-raised art freak and Josh Davis (drums), a University of Michigan educated jazz drummer through Craigslist.

The band initially emerged into the public eye through a wildly successful April Fool’s prank: they recorded an impression of acclaimed artist Joanna Newsom covering one of their songs and a handful of blogs took the bait, covering the song with rapturous praise. Unsurprisingly, as a result, Starlight Girls quickly became a buzz worthy band, eventually releasing an EP that they supported with a handful of national tours — including an opening slot for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Building upon a growing profile, the Brooklyn-based at played one of Europe’s biggest festivals, and they followed that up with their noisy and attention-grabbing Jamie Stewart-produced 7 x 3 EP.

2016 saw the release of their enigmatic and cinematic, full-length debut Fantasm, which they supported through tours with an eclectic array of artists including Kate Nash, St. Lucia, Tilly and the Wall, Nick Waterhouse, Total Slacker, Crystal Fighters and Lucius. Since then, the members of the band have ventured outside of music and outside of Brooklyn in a variety of different creative projects: Christina Bernard has delved into film and directing, directing a self-penned short film shot in California, which will be released later this year. Shaw Walters has become a rising star in the tech world, traveling around the world creating holographic augmented reality projects for performers and artists, including a mixed-reality collaboration with acclaimed artist Marina AbramovićThe Life, which has become a lightning rod for alt-right conspiracy theorists. The rest of the band has continued to solider on as musicians, during what may be the most difficult time for artists and creatives in recent memory.

Interestingly the band’s Christina Bernard-produced EP Entitled was recorded at Upstate New York-based Marcata Recording— and the material is a dark yet upbeat come-on to an unknowable future while evoking a sexy freak-out from the edge of oblivion. That sounds and feels familiar, doesn’t it? Last month, I wrote about Entitled‘s expansive first single “Get Right,” a kaleidoscopic and cinematic track that possesses elements of shoegaze, art rock, goth rock, psych rock and 70s AM rock — all while being one of the sexiest songs they’ve released to date.

“Teenage Crime,” Entitled‘s second and latest single is a slow-burning and atmospheric single centered around reverb and pedal effected guitars, twinkling keys and a soaring hook — and while reminding me a bit of Slow Air-era Still Corners and Stevie Nicks, the track’s lyrical themes, as the band’s Christina Bernard explains touches upon spiritual exploration, hope for the future and reconciling the past.

“As far as songwriting goes, most of the music came together spontaneously during rehearsals,” Bernard says of the EP’s creative process. “There was a lot of change happening for us around the time we wrote it—a lot of times when we played we didn’t know when our next time playing together might be. So the energy was insane every time we played.

“We’d gotten really in sync as a band through playing live so much, so someone would pull a riff out of the air in rehearsal and we’d just run with it full speed for four minutes and that would be the song. I’d always record rehearsals in case magic happened, and it did a lot. Then I would write lyrics (if I hadn’t already written them on the spot) and later we’d recreate what we’d played.

The only song that didn’t happen that way was Teenage Crime, which I wrote one night in my room. The guys in the band hated it at first because it’s like the slowest thing we do. But when we played it live all the ladies started swaying and I think that’s when everyone changed their minds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our influences are hard to pin down. We all listen to really different music and I can’t remember what we were each into while recording. I personally was out dancing a lot to some pretty out there international drum circles. I was getting into the idea of music as a ceremonial thing—repetitive and rhythmic and visceral—so I was influenced by that, and how those ideas would translate to rock.

 

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Black Pumas · Fast Car

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTube views —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

 

 

 

Kidsmoke · Layla’s Love

 

Last year was a momentum building year for the 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): they played at FOCUS Wales Festival‘s SXSW showcase. “Passenger” landed on NPR’s Austin 100 Playlist — and has since been featured on E4’s  Made in Chelsea along with “Rising Sun.” Additionally, “Take Me to the River” appeared in Netflix’s hit series Black Mirror. 

Continuing on the momentum of last year, the band recently signed to Libertino Records, who released the band’s first single of this year, The Bluest You,” which I wrote about last month. Centered around swirling layers of shimmering guitars, a propulsive rhythm section, a rousingly arena friendly hook and Williams’ plaintive falsetto, “The Bluest You” found the band crafting a song that possessed elements of dream pop, shoegaze and Brit pop with earnest yet ambitious songwriting — all while being a somber meditation of how mental health issues can impact the person suffering from them, and their loved ones.

“Layla’s Love,” the Welsh act’s latest single is a deliberately crafted yet upbeat guitar pop confection centered around shimmering guitars, a soaring hook and pretty boy-girl harmonies — and while bringing JOVM mainstays Husky and countless others to mind, the song features a narrator, looking back at a recent relationship with a series of “what ifs” about themselves, their actions and the relationship. But as the song ends, the song’s narrator comes to terms with the fact that the relationship has taught them about themselves — and has made them a much better person, which is something they can never lose.

“I’m a big fan of Prefab Sprout and love the way they utilise the male/female vocals; a dream-like section, when the main character is having an imaginary conversation with ‘Layla’ is my favourite moment on the album,” the band’s Lance Williams says in press notes. Kidsmoke’s Sophie Bellamy adds Layla’s Love’ took a little longer to come together than some of our other tracks. We were being pretty ambitious with the arrangement in the studio and wanted to make sure we got it perfect, as we knew it would be worth it if we nailed it.”

“The Bluest You” and “Layla’s Love” will appear on the Welsh act’s soon-to-be released full-length debut, A Vision in the Dark slated for a June 19, 2020 release.

 

 

 

 

 

Aztek · I’ll Be Waiting

 

Rising Aalborg, Denmark-based prog rock act Aztek — Benjamin Vestergaard (vocals), Michael Buchardt (drums), Rasmus Lykke (bass), Minik Lundblad (guitar) and Jeppe Søndergaard (guitar) — was formed back in 2015 as a result of its members bonding over their shared interest and love of experimental rock and prog rock. Since their formation, the Danish indie rock act have developed and honed an adventurous and accessible sound, centered around traditional rock instrumentation, atmospheric synths and Vestergaard’s plaintive vocals, which help imbue their material with a melancholy air.

The Aalborg-based indie quintet’s full-length debut, 2016’s Dream Dealer was an experimental and ambitious effort that led to the band playing some of the region’s biggest venues and festivals, including Way Up North, Nibe Festival and SPOT Festival. Building upon a growing national and regional profile, the act released their sophomore album, 2018’s Perfect Imbalance.

Last year, the members of Aztek released a couple of attention-grabbing singles that included “Darkest Hour,” an ambitious yet earnest song with rousingly anthemic hooks that recalled Pablo Honey and The Bends-era Radiohead with a bit of space rock while focusing on playing live shows and touring. Of course, much like the countless bands I’ve covered over the past decade of this site’s history, the Aalborg-based act had started writing new material for an EP as COVID-19 struck. So they were forced to record their forthcoming EP This Is Not Who I Wanted To Be virtually in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“I’ll Be Waiting,” This Is Not Who I Wanted To Be‘s first single is a slow-burning and cinematic track centered around shimmering synths, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook and Vestergaard’s plaintive falsetto within an expansive song structure. And while the song possesses an aching, Quiet Storm R&B air that recalls Violent Light-era Milagres. “‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is a single about dealing with isolation and insecurity following a break-up during the quarantine and about hoping for reconciliation,” the band explains. “This duality between hope and insecurity is depicted through gloomy textures contrasted with uplifting electronic elements and inticing [sic] grooves. Better times are slowly arriving.”

Look for the new EP later this summer.

 

 

New Video: A Place to Bury Strangers’ Dion Lunadon Releases a Power Chord-Driven Anthem for Our Time

Best known for being a member of internationally acclaimed Brooklyn-based noise rock titans and JOVM mainstays A Place to Bury Strangers, Dion Lunadon is a New Zealand-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and bassist, who had a lengthy career that can be traced back to a stint as a member of Kiwi-based act The D4 and a handful of other projects. 

During a short break in APTBS’ touring schedule back in 2017, Lunadon had a sudden rush of inspiration that resulted in what he described as a neurotic impulse to write and record a bunch of songs right there and then, with the end result being his solo debut EP,  Com/Broke, an effort, which was inspired by the bands that he loved as a youngster — in particular, Toy Love, The Gun Club, Gestalt and Supercar. A few months later, Lunadon  released his self-titled full-length debut, which featured the feral album singles “Fire,” and “Howl.” 

Interestingly, during  this period of confinement and quarantines Lunadon has been rather productive, furiously writing a bunch of material. “During these troubling times, I’m happy to be a New Yorker,” Lunadon writes in press notes. “Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love this city. For me, it’s like living in an amazing dream (although a bit of a nightmare at the moment), where ANYTHING is possible and the sense of community is strong. Over the last year or so, I’ve written A LOT of music and with the current situation, I have been inspired to write even more. I will be putting this music out in the near future and I plan on putting more of my focus towards this and other projects I have in the pipeline. It all starts today!”

Centered around fuzzy power chords, an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook and shouted boy-girl vocals, Lunadon’s latest single, “When Will I Hold You Again” is a grungy, Marc Bolan and Ace Freely-like stomper that’s perfect for strutting and dancing about in your pajamas while in your apartment. But at its core, there’s a real longing for human connection like we had before this. Lord knows when that will happen but when it does, it’ll be a wonderful thing. “Written and recorded during isolation, ‘When Will I Hold You Again’ is about what’s going down in all of our lives. Covid-19,” Lunadon says. “This is for and about all the people around the world that can’t be with the ones they love, for the people that live by themselves, and most of all, for the people of  New York City.

Adds Lunadon, “I asked my friend Kate Clover, if she would like to sing on the track, as I felt it would help portray the sentiment better. As soon as I got  her track, I was stoked! She helped take to the next level.” 

Directed, produced and edited by Lunadon, the recently released video employs a DIY ethos while being capturing people rocking out to the song in isolation — dancing with themselves. We’ve all done this at some point, so no need to be ashamed about it. “My wife said, ‘why don’t you get people to film themselves dancing in isolation and put together a video?’ For me, being in isolation is not so bad, as I have a creative outlet. I liked the idea of being able to give others the chance to also do something creative and get the blood pumping, so I put word out that I needed dedicated groovers for a video and the response was great!” Lunadon says of the new video. “Thank you to all the people that partook in it! Every one of the videos brought a smile to my face when watching them for the first time and wondering what to expect!”

“When Will I Hold You Again” is available for free on Lunadon’s Bandcamp page, and any donations will be split between Campaign Zero, who work towards ending police brutality in America and City Harvest, who help feed New Yorkers in need of food. Dion will also match the Bandcamp donations up to $1,000. So while it’s available for download and streaming elsewhere, if you got a few bucks and can spare it, donate to some worthy causes and listen to some music that kicks ass. 

New Video: London’s DG Solaris Returns with a Sweet Ode to Domestic Tranquillity

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the rising London-based indie act DG Solaris, a new project featuring Danny Green, an acclaimed singer/songwriter, best known for fronting the British folk pop act Laish, an act that released four critically applauded albums through French indie label Tailres, which the band supported with extensive touring across the UK, the European Union and the States. 

The project can trace its origins back to Late March, when Green met his wife, Leanna “LG” Green. By December, the pair married. For their honeymoon, the Greens decided to spend six months traveling across South America with a simple recording set up that they carried with them in a backpack. And that’s how their newest project together began.  “In between swimming with sea-lions, exploring sacred plant medicines and climbing mountains, we had been searching for beautiful spaces to set up our backpack studio,” DG Solaris’ core duo explain in press notes. “All of our recordings feature the sounds of birds, cicadas and crickets.”

Returning to London after their honeymoon, the duo recruited Tom Chadd, Matt Canty and Matt Hardy to help flesh out the material they wrote and demoed during their trip across South America. The end result is the act’s forthcoming full-length debut, Spirit Glow. Slated for a June 19, 2020 release, the album reportedly is a focused development of Green’s songwriting with the material drawing from and meshing elements of 70s psych pop, synth pop, krautrock and prog rock. Conceptually, the album’s material was written as a journey through different emotional realms. “We wanted to explore the idea of two voices, two spirits, two creative minds and see where this dynamic could take us,” DG Solaris’ Leana Green says in press notes. Danny Green adds, “It has been an incredibly inspiring trip. We came back with over forty songs and it has been a challenge to chose our favourites for this first album.”

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles — the woozy and expansive “Brother, I’ll Ask Her,” and the infectiously upbeat pop confection “Don’t Need to Tell You.” The album’s latest single is the sweet and swooning folk ballad and album title track “Spirit Glow.” Centered around a seemingly simple arrangement of twinkling keys, strummed acoustic guitar and gently padded drumming paired with Green’s heartfelt and gorgeous vocals and boy-girl harmonies, the song is a contented sigh of domestic tranquillity — of a quiet Sunday afternoon with a partner, listening to your favorite records, drinking coffee, daydream and feeling grateful for the small things. 

“‘Spirit Glow’ was written soon after I met Leana,” Danny Green explained to me in an email. “I was sitting in what is now our living room and surveying my surroundings and feeling very lucky to be there. I wrote the simplest of love songs, and it is one I never tire of singing. When we play it live, the final chorus often becomes a repeated mantra where the audience join us.”

Employing a necessary DIY ethos, the recently released video for “Spirit Glow” was shot in the Green’s home and stars their two cats. And even with the Greens in the video, there’s a sense of tranquility and love. 

The Mighty Orchid King · Swirling

Throughout its history, the St. Albans, UK-based psych rock collective The Mighty Orchid King — currently, Jonny Bennett (vocals, drums), co-found er Martin van Herdeer (12 string guitar), Matt Snowden (guitar), Marcelo Cervone (bass, sax) and Will Stephen, a.k.a June Logue (synths and production) — have been in a constant flux since its founding, with 20 members rotating in and out of its sphere at nay given time. And as a result, the project has simultaneously been a 60s psych rock jam inspired collective and a bedroom project focused on polyrhythmic exploration.

The band’s forthcoming full-length debut The Doctrine of Infinite Kindness was recorded at June Logue’s home studio, DIY bedroom vocal booths and Tom Hill’s London-based Bookhouse Studio — and the album reportedly finds the act weaving the various aspects of the band’s complex history together: the album’s more jam inspired material drift and sharpe into more meticulously developed solo work. Thematically, the album thematically concerns itself with eco-anxiety with the album’s lyrics at points being like Kerouac-inspired spontaneous prose with direct protest songs about the destruction of Earth. While sonically, the album sees the band drawing from 60s psych rock, samba, jazz and house music with arrangements that feature fuzzy guitars and synths.

“Swirling,” the first single off The Doctrine of Infinite Kindness‘ first single is an an expansive and decidedly 60s psych rock inspired track centered around fuzzy power chords and enormous harmony driven hooks. Sonically, the song brings San Francisco‘s  Cool Ghouls to mind — while bristling with an infectious energy of a bunch of friends jamming and creating something cool. But at its core is a desire to escape one’s current circumstances and the world itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.