With the release of singles like “Stupid” the Careful Like You Cared EP, and 2017’s full-length debut It’s a Dare, which was released through renowned Swedish label Startracks, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based indie rock/noise rock quartet, Rome Is Not A Town, comprised of Kajsa Poidnak, Susanna Brandin, Caroline Kabat, and Emma Wättring, quickly received attention from both domestic and international music media; in fact, the leading Scandinavian music magazine Gaffa gave the band nods in three categories — Best Live Act, Best Band and Best Pop/Rock Act — at last year’s Gaffa Awards. Building upon a growing international profile, the band will be making their Stateside debut with a number of sets at this year’s SXSW; but before that, to celebrate the occasion, the band released the 120 Minutes MTV-like visuals for their latest single “21/27,” which manages to nod at Sonic Youth, The Breeders and others, as the song is centered around fuzzy effects pedaled power chords, an angular bass line and propulsive backbeat that explodes into burst of fiery noise.
Perhaps best known for lengthy stints in the backing bands for Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, as well as the horn sections of Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson, the incredibly accomplished Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter, composer, producer and vocalist Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded the Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since the label’s founding, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based soul and soul-leaning artists including singer/songwriter, John Fatum, The Rad Trads, Michael Harlen, Patrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.
Slated for an April 2, 2018 release, Aukstik’s solo debut EP Stay Strong was recorded over the course of two years between two different studios — the first being an East Village-based DIY space, where Aukstik’s only recording gear was a Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, and the second being his new, self-built Bushwick, Brooklyn-based studio Hive Mind Recording. As a result, the listener may hear a subtle yet noticeable change in texture and fidelity throughout the EP; but as Aukstik explains in press notes, “the compositions and arrangements are crafted in a way that make the transitions from song to song smooth and welcoming.” Aukstik adds that the “EP could be considered a concept record by its evolution in sound from track one through nine, as well as the underlying story that can be pieced together as each song goes by.” Unsurprisingly, the EP features contributions from members of Charles Bradley’s Extraordinaires, Antibalas and The Dap Kings — and from the EP’s first single “Oh, Emily,” Aukstik will further cement his reputation for crafting sweeping soul indebted to the late 60s and early 70s; in fact, Aukstik has long employed the use of the Maestro Rhythm King, a 1970s drum machine made popular by Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis. But more important, “Oh, Emily” is a sweetly swooning, old-fashioned love song with an elegant horn line that to my ears makes a subtle nod to The Beatles‘ “Martha, My Dear” — although about an actual human.
Currently comprised of frontman and primary songwriter TOBACCO (born Thomas Fec), keyboardist The Seven Fields of Aphelion (born Maureen “Maux” Boyle), guitarist Ryan Graveface and bassist Pony Driver, the Pittsburgh, PA-based experimental electronic act Black Moth Super Rainbow can trace their origins back to two previous projects that featured BMSR’s TOBACCO — Allegheny White Fish, which was active from 1996-2000 and satanstompingcaterpillars, which was active from 2000-2002 and released three albums, including their last album under that name, The Most Wonderfulest Thing before the addition of three new members Father Hummingbird, The Seven Fields of Aphelion and Iffernaut. And with the addition of new members, the band renamed themselves Black Moth Super Rainbow in 2003.
Over the past decade both Black Moth Super Rainbow and TOBACCO have recorded material that explored the periphery of evil and extreme color, rapidly alternating between absurdly bright beauty and murderously sinister with the end result being a woozy, psychedelic uneasiness. TOBACCO (a.k.a Thomas Fec) throughout his career has been a rather mysterious figure; in fact, if you Google images of him, most of them have his face obscured by a mask, a ball cap or a hood. Interestingly though, he’s known for patient and thoughtful interviews where he breaks down his creative process and the ideas espoused throughout his work while never revealing much about his personal life or about him. And in that sense, he’s been periodically visible but opaque, emotional but unwilling to exploit self-mythology; however, Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Panic Blooms, the first album from the band in six years, finds TOBACCO reportedly writing what may arguably be the most raw and direct lyrics of his entire career, inspired in some way by the current sociopolitical climate. As a result, the material is an account of depression and human frailty paired with their unique sound featuring gorgeous yet warped melodies. . .
The album’s first single “Mr. No One” features shimmering and twinkling synths, boom-bap drums and heavily vocodered vocals and while the song initially seems as though it has a dreamy and ethereal air, the song possesses an underlying murky and sinister vibe, which the band has long been known for, giving the song a desperate yet hopeful ache, a pleasant reverie within a feverish, waking nightmare.
Black Moth Super Rainbow will be on tour to support their new effort, and it’ll include a June 2, 2018 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
THU 5/31 WASHINGTON, DC Black Cat
FRI 6/1 PHILADELPHIA, PA Union Transfer
SAT 6/2 NEW YORK, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
SUN 6/3 BOSTON, MA Brighton Music Hall
THU 6/14 CINCINNATI, OH Urban Artifact
FRI 6/15 DETROIT, MI El Club
SAT 6/16 CHICAGO, IL Metro
SUN 6/17 COLUMBUS, OH Skully’s Music Diner
FRI 8/10 PITTSBURGH, PA Mr. Smalls
SAT 8/11 LOUISVILLE, KY Headliners
SUN 8/12 ASHEVILLE, NC Orange Peel
TUE 8/14 AUSTIN, TX Mohawk
WED 8/15 HOUSTON, TX White Oak Music Hall
FRI 8/17 ATLANTA, GA Masquerade (Hell)
SAT 8/18 NASHVILLE, TN Mercy Lounge
Initially releasing singles like “Seeing Is Forgetting” and “Half-Empty Happiness” under a decidedly intentional cloak of mystery, the Montreal-based DJ, production and electronic music artist duo The Beat Escape quickly received attention across the blogosphere for crafting moody and atmospheric pop that’s deeply indebted to 80s synth pop — i.e., Depeche Mode, The Human League and others — while evoking the sensation of a half-remembered dream.
Slated for an April 27, 2018 release through renowned indie label Bella Union Records, the Canadian synth pop duo’s highly-anticipated, full-length debut Life Is Short The Answer’s Long finds The Beat Escape shedding much of the mystery that surrounded them during their previous releases; in fact, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstays, comprised of Addy Weitzman and Patrick A Boivin can trace the origins of the act to a college short film they had worked on together. “We made a short oddball work; a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream,” the Canadian pop duo explain in press note. And since that initial collaboration, the duo have collaborated on a series of projects — but interestingly, their full-length Beat Escape debut finds them thematically speaking coming full-circle while further developing the sound that grabbed the attention of the blogosphere and elsewhere.
Life Is Short‘s minimalist first single “Sign of Age” featured propulsive and gently undulating Giorgio Moroder-like synths with a deliberate, textured and painterly quality that evoked gently drifting about in somnambulistic reverie. Continuing in a similar vibe, the album’s second and latest single “Moon in Aquarius” is a a decidedly motorik affair featuring a spectral melody — and while being clearly indebted to 80s synth pop, the song manages to evoke the mesmerizing sensation of a night time road unfurling before you, with white lines and dividers flashing by in a blur; but on another level, the song feels haunted by lingering and inescapable ghosts.
Michelle Blanchard is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and alt pop artist, whose recording project Madyx draws from P!nk, Katy Perry, The Distillers‘ Brody Dalle and Melissa Etheridge — although Blanchard has received attention for pairing earnest and socially relevant lyrics with crowd pleasing, infectious production. Adding to a growing profile, her debut EP was recorded with Grammy nominated producer Brian Howes, who has worked with Daughtry, Simple Plan and Hedley among others. Her latest single is a bold cover/re-imagining of Modern English‘s iconic “I Melt With You,” turning the familiar song into a contemporary singer/songwriter guitar pop – and although the melody and the tempo have been slowed down, Blanchard cover manages to reveal a subtly different take, while retaining it’s essence.
Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the the Baltimore-based indie rock act Beach House, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of primary members and songwriters Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals) have released a a number of critically and commercially successful albums, including 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were written and recorded within a two-and-a-half year period between 2012-2014 — and while being individual efforts, they’re meant to be viewed as closely related companion pieces, as metaphorically being two sides of the same coin, as they built upon similar themes and a related, overall sound centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements of organ, guitar and Legrand’s ethereal vocals.
Much like countless bands before them, Legrand and Scally have written and recorded a large number of songs throughout their career, some of which have been played live or released that for whatever reason just didn’t quite fit their album-based material. Over the years, some of those songs have proven to be increasingly difficult to find and listen to, and to accommodate their fans, they released B-Sides and Rarities, a 14 track compilation of songs that they’ve recorded and released that just didn’t make their albums, and two previously unreleased singles “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond,” recorded during the Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. As a music journalist and fan, B-side compilations can offer a revealing look into a band’s creative and editorial processes as they write and record an album. Interestingly, according to a lengthy statement written by the band that appears on Sub Pop’s website, the B-sides album “felt like a good step for us. It helped us clean the creative closet, put the past the bed and start anew.”
The Baltimore-based act’s seventh full-length album, the symbolically apt titled 7 is slated for a May 11, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and as the album found the act working with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (a.k.a. Peter Kember) as a producer — but not in the traditional sense, as he helped the band in their attempts to start anew by shedding conventions and ensuring that the album’s material would be fresh, alive and protected from the tendency of overproduction and perfectionism. Additionally, the album finds Legrand and Scally working with their most recent live drummer James Barone, who as the band says helped “keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs.”
As Legrand and Scally explain “Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.
“In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a ‘home’ studio, and began all of the songs there. Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a ‘proper’ recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short.”
As the act admits, the societal sense of instability, uncertainty and chaos was deeply influential. “Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present.” They go on to say that in a general sense, “we are interested by the human mind’s (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny.
Now, as you may recall, last month Beach House released “Lemon Glow,” 7’s first single, a jangling and atmospheric track centered around Legrand’s etheral vocals that possessed a subtle, cosmic glow. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “Dive” is arguably one of the more expansive tracks they’ve released in recent memory as it features a lengthy, atmospheric section centered around Legrand’s vocals, organ and gently padded drumming before quickly shifting into a buzzing power chord-based coda that has the band leaning towards a much more ambitious approach — while focused on deeply introspective lyrics.
Consisting of Paulina Palmgren, Fabian Ballago, Samuel Collmar, Karl Hovmark and Johan Nilsson, La Lusid is a Swedish indie rock act that has received attention in their homeland for a melancholy yet dreamy sound that draws from the 60s and 70s music. The Swedish indie rock quintet’s latest single “Empty Bones,” which features a lush arrangement featuring shimmering guitars gently fed through reverb and delay pedal, twinkling keys and a driving rhythm section centered around a gorgeous vocal and a soaring hook; however, to my ears, the band’s sound reminds me quite a bit of Mazzy Star, The Cranberries and The Cardigans, complete with a carefully crafted, radio friendly vibe.
Nostalgist is a Seattle, WA-based post-punk/shoegaze act led by founding member and primary songwriter Asa Eisenhardt (vocals, guitar) — and with the release of 2013’s Monochromatic EP and 2015’s Of Love and Days Ago, the Seattle-based project received attention for a heavy and moody sound that’s been influenced by Lowlife, Slowdive, Lycia, The Comsat Angels, The Chameleons, Killing Joke, Fields of the Nephilim, Hum and Red House Painters among others.
Recorded and mixed throughout 2016 and 2017, Disaffection, the long-awaited follow up to Of Love and Days Ago features guest spots from renowned drummer Aesop Dekker, who’s been a member of Khorada, Worm Ouroboros, Extremity and a former member of ex-Agalloch; Alex Entrekin (drums), who joined on as the project’s new drummer; and Monte McCleery (bass) who’s also a member of Seattle-based doom act Un. Interestingly, the effort features five originals and a cover of Catherine Wheel’s “Texture.” Disaffection‘s second and latest single “Smoldering Amber” finds the band drawing from post-punk, shoegaze and grunge, as the song is centered around a familiar structure — quiet, loud, quiet, with the quieter verses featuring towering and shimmering guitar chords over which Eisenhardt’s mournful vocals ethereally float over, and the blistering power chord-based chorus, held together with a propulsive rhythm section and arpeggiated synths. Without a doubt, the song will immediately bring 120 Minutes-era MTV to mind with a cinematic quality; but underneath the surface is a plaintive and aching yearning that gives the song a Romantic quality.
As Nostalgist’s Asa Eisenhardt says in press notes, “This is the most lyrically intimate thing I’ve written to date. As with many of my songs, it chronicles the beginning, middle and end of some manner of relationship, but here the words are especially dramatic (even for me, ha) and visceral. Infatuation is the most central theme. The instrumental arrangement emphasizes a dub rhythm in the verses, and I expect that influence to become even more prominent in future material. Dub was an enormous influence on ’80s post-punk, so following the throughline from bands I hold near and dear as influences (Comsat Angels, The Chameleons and Killing Joke to name but a few) and investigating that sound continues to be a natural progression for me.”
Currently comprised of founding members and primary songwriters Chuck Cleaver (vocals, guitar), known for being a member of Ass Ponys and Lisa Walker (vocals, guitar), along with Mark Messerly (bass, keys), John Erhardt (pedal steel, guitar), and Joe Klug (drums), the Cincinnati, OH-based shoegaze quintet Wussy can trace their origins back to 2001 when its founding duo began playing together as a dare during a brief run of solo Cleaver shows. The first show they played together while being largely unplanned went without incident, so they agreed that they should continue as a fully fleshed band. Cleaver and Walker recruited Dawn Burman (drums) and Messerly in 2002 And as a quartet, Wussy released three full-length albums and a critically applauded EP that received praise from a number of major media outlets including Rolling Stone, SPIN, Village Voice, NPR, The Washington Post, Uncut and the legendary Robert Christgau, who placed the Cincinnati act’s first two efforts Funeral Dress and Left for Dead on his best of the decade list and their third, self-titled release on his best of 2009 list.
After receiving critical success, the band went through a series of lineup changes, as Burman left the band and was replaced with Cincinnati music scene Joe Klug joined the band for Attica! and Forever Sounds. The band’s newest member John Erhardt has helped evolve the band’s sound, adding a twangy psychedelic vibe as they’ve expanded their profile with recorded sessions for BBC 6 Music and KEXP, appearances at SXSW and CMJ, touring with the likes of The Afghan Whigs, and have shared stages with Yo La Tengo, The Breeders, Best Coast, Mudhoney, Okkervil River, The Mekons, COME, Wreckless Eric and Jeffrey Lewis.
Wussy’s forthcoming seventh studio What Heaven Is Like is slated for May 18, 2018 release through Damnably Records in Europe and Shake It! Records in the States, and the album’s latest single “Gloria” is reportedly inspired by the protagonist of Fargo‘s Season 3, Gloria Burgle, played by Carrie Coon — but in a much larger sense, the song is meant to paint a portrait of an inscrutable everywoman, who dares to stand up to an omnipresent, almost supernatural, villain. As the band’s Lisa Walker explains in press notes, “This season of Fargo was so bleak and unrelenting. The V.M. Varga character seemed like an undefeatable entity, something between a robber baron and whoever’s secretly watching you from the other side of your screen in real-time. Gloria’s purity of heart made her this bright shining light.. the only person actually impervious to the enemy. But even beyond that, I was very inspired this year by several women who dared to put everything on the line, even their own lives, to stand up for what is right. I tried to show my respect for this great courage in the re-telling of Gloria’s story.” Interestingly, the band pairs this narrative story within a song that manages to be cinematic yet intimate while nodding at Americana and early 90s Pearl Jam — i.e., “Tremor Christ,” off Vitalogy and so on.