Tag: Milagres

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.

 

 

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Fake Shape is an emerging Hamilton Ontario-based indie quintet that formed back in 2018. Each of the band’s five musicians offer their own unique aesthetic into the mix — and as a result, their sound features elements of indie rock, pop, ambient electronica and others. Over the past few months, the band has been holed up at Hamilton’s Fort Rose Studios writing and recording material that would eventually comprise their forthcoming debut EP Night Swim.

“It’s Easy,” Night Swim‘s first single features an expansive song structure begins with an ambient and brooding intro before quickly morphing to swaggering prog rock and prog jazz-inspired pop centered around plaintive and expressive vocals, shimmering and atmospheric synths arpeggios, slashing guitars, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. And while recalling Radiohead and JOVM mainstays Bells Atlas and Milagres, the song drifts and effortlessly glides through contrasting mindsets and feelings, accurately capturing feelings of dread, unease and uncertainty with a psychologically precise attention to detail/

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New Video: Introducing the Hazy Psych Pop of New Zealand’s Richard Dada

Richard Larsen is a Ōtautahi, New Zealand singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a founding member and creative mastermind behind the Wellington, New Zealand-based dream pop act Glass Vaults. The Kiwi singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s latest solo project Richard Dada finds Larsen crafting dreamy, lo-fi psychedelic music. Deriving its name from the early 20th Century avant-garde art movement, Larsen’s Richard Dada project is also anti-art, anti-war, anti-nationalism and rejects logic and capitalism for the expression of nonsense. 

Larsen’s latest Richard Dada single “Rose Quartz” is a slow-burning and swooning bit of psych pop centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths and Larsen’s achingly plaintive vocals singing surrealistic lyrics. While sonically bearing a bit of a resemblance to JOVM mainstays Milagres, the song is a feverish and lingering dream imbued with longing, vulnerability and desire. 

Directed and edited by Martin Sagadin, the recently released video features Larsen performing the song in flowering fields and the forest, before we see him dancing in front of some psychedelic lighting. It’s appropriately lysergic — but while further emphasizing the song’s longing and vulnerability. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Balthazar Return with a Deceptively Straightforward Rocker

Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere, best known as the frontman of two critically applauded, internationally recognized acts and JOVM mainstays Balthazar and Warhaus, which was a side project conceived during a lengthy hiatus. Interestingly, Devoldere’s work with Balthazar was a sonic departure, as the project’s sound could be described as atmospheric, jazz-inspired art rock that may remind some listeners of The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen — paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.

While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in Kyrgyzstan, his longtime friend, songwriting partner and Balthazar bandmate Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. And during their primary gig’s hiatus, Devoldere and Deprez enjoyed the ability to indulge their whims and follow their individual creative muses — while individually receiving commercial and critical success to be liberating. The duo also found that the time apart created an undeniable urge to work together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for each other’s work. 

So when the members of Balthazar reconvened, they did so without any particular plan, just a desire to improve upon their previously released work and to further the band’s story.  As they were beginning to write material, Devoldere and Deprez agreed that their new material should have an overall less serious, less melancholy feel while leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound that retained the hook driven quality that won the band national and international attention. “Fever,” the first single and album title track off the band’s recently released Fever was inky and sultry track, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a twinkling bridge and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone to create a song that was playful and infectious.  “Entertainment,” the album’s second single continued in a similar vein as its predecessor but was centered around a swaggering and strutting vibe and an anthemic hook. Sonically, the Jinte Deprez-led song nodded at The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy for the Devil, but with some Afro pop-like polyrhythmic percussion. “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again,” the album’s third single was a slow-burning, Jinte Deprez led Quiet Storm-like jam that reminded me of Milagres’ “IDNYL” and classic Hall and Oates. As Deprez explained in press notes, “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again’ is a breakup song with a twist, a groovy soul ode with a synthesizer, a chorus with a Bee Gee touch. It’s shaking it off, wherever it stuck.”

“Wrong Vibration,” Fever’s fourth and latest single is a Maarten Devoldere song is a  superficially a sultry come-on that slowly reveals frustration and confusion over mixed signals. Much like its predecessors, the song is centered by an infectious and breezy hook, a sinuous yet propulsive bass line while being arguably one of the more straightforward rockers on the album. 

Directed by Benny Vandendriessche, the recently released video for “Wrong Vibration” features the band’s creative duo in a dramatic, slow-motion theatrical stage performance, seemingly rooted  in a series of mixed signals and miscommunications. 

Over the past couple of years of this site’s almost nine-year history, i’ve written quite a bit about the Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere, best known as the frontman of two critically applauded, internationally recognized acts Balthazar and JOVM mainstays Warhaus. Now, as you may recall, Warhaus is a sonic departure from Devoldere’s work with Balthazar, as the project’s sound was an atmospheric, jazz-inspired art rock the brought to mind The ChurchSting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the SunEdith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen — all while paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.

While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in  Kyrgyzstan, his Balthazar songwriting partner, co-frontman and longtime friend Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. During Balthazar’s hiatus, the band’s songwriting duo found the ability to indulge their whims and follow their creative muses in different directions — while receiving boy commercial and critical success to be liberating. But it also created an undeniable urge between the two to write together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for real other’s work.

When the members of Balthazar reconvened, they did so without any particular plan, just a desire to better their previously released work and to further the band’s story. Interestingly, the duo of Devoldere and Deprez agreed that the material should have an overall less serious, less melancholy feel, leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound — while retaining the hook driven quality that they’ve long been known for. And the end result is the band’s forthcoming full-length Fever, which is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Play It Again Sam Records. Interestingly, album title track and first single “Fever” was a slinky and sultry track, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a twinkling bridge and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone. Interestingly, the single finds the band crafting swaggering and infectious pop that’s accessible, carefree, and flirty. “Entertainment,” Fever‘s second single continued in a similar vein as its predecessor, as it was upbeat, playful and careful but centered around a swaggering and strutting vibe and an anthemic hook — and while while nodding at The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy for the Devil, the Jinte Deprez-led song features some Afro pop-like polyrhythmic percussion. “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again,” Fever‘s third and latest single is a slow-burning, synth-led Quiet Storm R&B-inspired song led by Jinte Deprez that sonically and thematically reminds me of Milagres’IDNYL” and classic Hall and Oates. As Deprez explains in press notes, “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again’ is a breakup song with a twist, a groovy soul ode with a synthesizer, a chorus with a Bee Gee touch. It’s shaking it off, wherever it stuck.” Admittedly, Balthazar’s forthcoming album is something I’m looking very forward to; but perhaps more important, from the album’s first three singles, the band reminds listeners familiar with their sound that they’ve always had an uncompromisingly intellectual band with an accessible approach — all while possessing one of the most unique aesthetics I’ve come across in some time.

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Milagres Returns with Gorgeous and Plaintive “Are You Lonely”

With the release of 2014’s Violent Light, the Brooklyn-based indie band Milagres developed a reputation as a hard-working, up-and-coming act that had released work that had been critically praised by NPR, The Guardian, and the BBC, and had opened for the likes of Low and others. Shortly after playing a sold-out headlining show at Bowery Ballroom, a major career goal for the members of the band, the upward trajectory of the band stalled as their personal lives caught up with them. Two members of the band left to pursue outside creative endeavors, and around the same time the band’s founding member and primary songwriter Kyle Wilson was diagnosed with a rare skull base tumor, which revealed the cause of the slow onset of one-sided deafness he’d already been experiencing since the band’s inception. Unsure whether his tumor would threaten incapacitation or worse, Wilson’s writing slowed to a crawl. His health and the future of the band were uncertain at best. 

A difficult year passed and after being treated with Gamma Knife Surgery, a high-tech and relatively new radiation therapy, Wilson’s prognosis seemed a bit more clear — permanent one-sided deafness. So understandably, when he and his longtime bandmate and producer, Fraser McCulloch stumbled into a musty choir loft in a cavernous Brooklyn church, Wilson began celebrating a newfound appreciation for life by working on new music. Next to massive, dilated stained glass murals of gods, the duo immediately set to work — but with a radically different creative process. In the past where one had written and the other produced, they found their roles opening up and overlapped, inspiring a deeper collaboration between the two. 

Released earlier this year, through their long-time label home Kill Rock Stars, the duo’s third full-length album Ziggurat marks not just their album as a duo, it’s an evolution in their sound and approach, as the material is much brighter, more direct and focused on exploring present reality than the dark, surrealistic Violent Light. Although, if there’s one thing that’s consistent throughout their growing catalog is that they’ve long focused on melody, craft and razor sharp hooks; however, Ziggurat finds Wilson and McCulloch focusing on a pop-leaning accessibility.  Thematically, the album’s material focuses on the attempt to connect with others, who feel lost in what may arguably be one of the loneliest eras of human civilization.  

The album’s first single, the somewhat more up-tempo “Are You Lonely” manages to sound like a sunnier amalgamation of Glowing Mouth and Violent Light to me, as it’s centered around Wilson’s plaintive and yearning vocals, soaring synths,  a propulsive rhythm section and an infectious hook. There’s brief bursts of twinkling piano keys, and a buzzing, power chord-based guitar solo as well. But at the core of the song is a common desire that many of us have felt at some point, a desire to find and connect with someone who’s loneliness is the same as ours. 

Directed and edited by Grant Slater, the recently released, black and white video for “Are You Lonely” was shot at Rockaway Beach, Queens and stars the band’s Wilson and McCulloch, along with Shirel Kozak, Chris Frierson, Stanley Kozak manages to evoke the song’s cinematic nature while following a series of lonely people as they walk along the beach in their own thoughts. At times, the video which was shot at point using a drone, makes the individual drama and people seem very small yet universal. 

Over the past couple of months on this site, I’ve written a bit about the  Oklahoma City, OK-based indie rock/psych rock quartet SPACE4LEASE — and as you may recall, the band, comprised of primary songwriter and founding member Grayson Hamm (keys, lead vocals), along with Walt Blythe (guitar),  Brandon Brewer (bass, vocals) and Wes Belk (drums), can trace their origins to when Hamm, Blythe, Brewer and Belk met while they were all attending the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Although each member comes from a vastly different musical background and influences, their sound manages to be a seamless convergence of their influences including Tame Impala, My Morning Jacket, Big Thief, Andy Shauf and others, while thematically their material focuses on lost love, heartbreak, the unknown and inevitable life experiences.

With the release of their debut EP Hiraeth, an effort that focused on the complicated process of self-discovery, the members of the Oklahoma City-based quartet toured extensively across the Midwest last year, eventually winning the praise of The Flaming Lips‘ Derek Brown, who described them as  “Fellow Okies that wonderfully mix the blissfulness and melancholy of the great wide open.” Building upon the buzz the members of Space4Lease have released a batch of singles off their forthcoming EP Drifting: Must Be Something” one of the first singles I wrote about, was a lush single reminiscent of  JOVM mainstays  Caveman, Los Angeles-based indie rock act Hands and others but bristling with a sense of endless possibility  that can only come from being on the road, and seeing the world open up before your eyes. “Lately,” struck me as drawing from classic, Quiet Storm-era R&B, blue-eyed soul and indie rock in a way that reminds me of Milagres’ exceptional first two albums Glowing Mouth and Violent Light — and much like the material off of those albums, there’s the push and pull of infatuation, lust, love and heartache at the core of a confusing relationship.

Drifting‘s latest single “I Tried Calling” is a slow-burning track that pairs Hamm’s plaintive vocals paired with a lush and haunting arrangement featuring twinkling keys, guitars fed through a series of atmospheric effects — and much like the preceding singles, it’s a deeply personal song that focuses on the frustrating yet necessary ups and downs of a maintaining a relationship and the lingering ghosts of the person you’re no longer with, and of the relationship that’s over.  But what makes the song interesting is that it comes from the perspective of someone, who has a lot more to say to a partner (or ex-partner in the case), who doesn’t seem all that interested in hearing it, and as a result, the song has an underlying bitterness — the bitterness that comes from having a relationship fail and not knowing how or why it happened.

Last month, I wrote about the  Oklahoma City, OK-based indie rock/psych rock quartet SPACE4LEASE. Comprised of primary songwriter and founding member Grayson Hamm (keys, lead vocals), along with Walt Blythe (guitar),  Brandon Brewer (bass, vocals) and Wes Belk (drums), the Oklahoman indie rockers can trace their origins to when Hamm met his bandmates while they were all attending the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. And although they all had vastly different musical backgrounds and differing musical tastes, the band’s sound manages to be a convergence of all of their influences including Tame Impala, My Morning Jacket, Big Thief, Andy Shauf and others; however, unlike their eclectic influences, their material lyrically focuses on lost love, the unknown, and inevitable life experiences. With the release of their debut EP Hiraeth, an effort that focused on the complicated process of self-discovery, the members of the Oklahoma City-based quartet toured extensively across the Midwest last year, eventually winning the praise of The Flaming Lips‘ Derek Brown, who described them as  “Fellow Okies that wonderfully mix the blissfulness and melancholy of the great wide open.”

And as you may recall “Must Be Something” was a moody and atmospheric bit of psych rock that featured some lush, shimmering guitar work, a sinuous and propulsive bass line and a rousingly anthemic hook that reminded me of JOVM mainstays  Caveman, Los Angeles-based indie rock act Hands and others but inspired by the endless possibility of the road, of the profound sensation of being “a man from far away,” seeing, eating, experiencing things you’d never expect and how it can change and influence your life. As the band’s Grayson Hamm explained in press notes, “Coming from a small town, I never had the experience of the big city life, but surprisingly it wasn’t these destinations that intrigued me the most. It was the journey, and the miles, and time it took to get there. Once we were out on the road all by ourselves just driving and seeing the countryside, this quest of finding myself really started to take effect. This is where the premise of the chorus let alone the whole song comes into play. ‘There must be something in the way how, there’s nothing standing in our way now.’ I started to realize that the only barrier that was standing in the way was myself. The world was just waiting for me.”

The band’s latest single “Lately” finds the band drawing from classic, Quiet Storm-era R&B, indie rock and blue eyed soul in a way that reminds me of Milagres’ exceptional first two albums Glowing Mouth and Violent Light — and much like the material off of those albums, there’s the push and pull of infatuation, lust, love and heartache at the core of a confusing relationship that at times is unrequited and other times is requited; but as the band’s primary songwriter Grayson Hamm notes, there’s also an underlying questioning of one’s own worth, which love can make you do on occasion. As he explains in press notes,  “The lyrics came to me one day after experiencing the all-too-common feeling of falling for someone without reciprocation. The truth is, I didn’t know what I was getting into and probably will never fully understand it. We have all experienced that uncomfortable moment in which we have stronger feelings for someone than they have for us, even if we refuse to admit it out of embarrassment or shame. I’ve reached the point multiple times in my life where I ask the question, ‘Who I am to you? How does this person see me compared to how I see them?’ This cyclical pattern is emotionally exhausting, so I decided to channel these feelings the best way I know how: though the process of songwriting. ‘Lately’ is all about asking these difficult questions. Sometimes it is more helpful to look introspectively rather than to direct the questions toward the one we might be falling for.”

 

Julian Japser is a San Diego, CA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has publicly describes his own sound as being a 21st century Steely Dan or a lapsed Todd Rundgren after he had crossed paths with Ariel Pink — and although maybe to some that may be true, to my ears “2AM,  Chinatown” and “I Don’t Mind,” the first two singles off his forthcoming 2AM, Chinatown/I Don’t Mind EP remind me quite a bit of Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT, Tame Impala and Milagres as both singles possess soaring and infectious hooks, swaggering strutting vibes and a funky bass line; however, both singles thematically focus on a desperate and gnawing loneliness and isolation — in particular “2AM, Chinatown” has its narrator reminiscing over a lover he hasn’t seen or spoken to in some time, and as a result, the lonely narrator of the song is desperate to connect with that lover or with anyone really, as long as he felt some connection with someone, even if it were brief. “I Don’t Mind” possesses a funky, 70sAM rock feel that evokes a lazy morning with a lover — the sort in which limbs and sheets are hopelessly entangled and entwined, and you spend much of the day making love and chatting about all manner of things big and small. And as a result, it’s the sexiest song of the two; but underneath the surface there’s this sense of all things coming to its inevitable conclusion. All things lead to the same result — the endless search to not be as lonely as you were before, and both songs capture that with an uncanny verisimilitude.

 

 

Comprised of founding members Victor Martinez and Nick Mariotti, along with Steven Doman, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock trio Paloma can trace its origins to when  both its founding members started the band in a small, bedroom studio deconstructing ideas over and over and over again while the duo had been balancing the need to make ends meet while expressing their irrepressible need to be creative; however the band’s sound and aesthetic didn’t coalesce until they recruited Steven Doman to fully flesh out their sound.  And with the band’s forthcoming debut EP Luna, the band’s sound draws a bit from the classic Southern California sound, as well as a variety of renowned artists including Beach House, Daft Punk, The Weeknd, Tame Impala, Pond, Gum, Dumbo Gets Mad, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Earth Wind and Fire — although with “Touch,” the EP’s latest single finds the band pairing a propulsive and sinuous groove, a brooding New Wave-like moodiness and achingly plaintive vocals, creating a sound that reminds me a bit of Hands‘ dreamy and excellent 2012 EP, Massive Context and Milagres‘ impressionistic 2011 debut Glowing Mouth. In a similar fashion to those albums, the song manages to be emotionally ambivalent and confused, capturing the vacillating thoughts and emotions of its narrator.

As the members of the band explain about their new single, the song is about a diamond in the rough, a somewhat tramp-like sort, who doesn’t quite know how to believe in themselves until he meets a princess – – for him, at least — that did believe in him. When they both turn to real life, there’s a part of him that’s banking on the idea that in some ay they’re only halfway through the film, that the story isn’t finished yet. And as a result, the song possesses an unresolved tension.