Tag: Music Hall of Williamsburg

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Altin Gün Share Dazzling New Single

Deriving their name from the Turkish phase for “Golden Day,” the acclaimed Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act Altin Gün — founding member Jasper Verhulst (bass) with Ben Rider (guitar), Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz (keys, saz, vocals), Gino Groneveld (percussion), Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Nic Mauskovic (drums) — can trace their origins to Japser Verhulst’s repeated tour stops to Istanbul with a previous band, and his deep and abiding passion for ’60s and ’70s Turkish psych pop and folk, fueled by discoveries Verhulst couldn’t find in his native Holland. 

But as the story goes, Verhulst wasn’t just content to listen as an ardent fan; he had a vision of where he could potentially take the sound he loved. “We do have a weak spot for the music of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Verhulst admitted in press notes. “With all the instruments and effects that arrived then, it was an exciting time. Everything was new, and it still feels fresh. We’re not trying to copy it, but these are the sounds we like and we’re trying to make them our own.” 

Altin Gün’s sophomore album, 2020’s Grammy Award-nominated, critically applauded Gece further established the band’s reputation for re-imagining traditional Turkish folk through the lens of psych rock and pop. Last year’s critically applauded Yol was the band’s third album in three years. And while the album found the band continuing to draw about the rich and diverse traditions of Turkish and Anatolian folk, pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns forced the Dutch outfit to write music in a completely new way for them: virtually — through trading demos and ideas built around Omnichord808 and other elements, including field recordings and New Age-like ideas by email. 

“We were basically stuck at home for three months making home demos, with everybody adding their parts,” Altin Gün’s Merve Dasdemir says in press notes. “The transnational feeling maybe comes from that process of swapping demos over the internet, some of the music we did in the studio, but lockdown meant we had to follow a different approach.”

As a result of the new songwriting approach and arrangements prominently featuring Omnichord and 808, the album saw the band crafting material that was a bold, new sonic direction: sleek, synth-based, retro-futuristic Europop with a dreamy quality, seemingly informed by the enforced period of reflection.

Additionally, the members of the acclaimed Dutch act, enlisted Ghent, Belgium-based production duo Asa Moto — Oliver Geerts and Gilles Noë — to co-produce and mix the album, marking the first time that the band has collaborated with outsiders. 

The JOVM mainstays spent much of this year on the road, including a two-night run at Music Hall of Williamsburg earlier this year. (I was there for the first night of their two night run.) Just before they hit the road, the acclaimed Turkish psych outfit released a two song digital single “Badu Sabah Olmadan”/”Cips Kola Kilit.” Both songs originally appeared in some fashion or another on last summer’s Bandcamp-only album Âlem.

“Badu Sabah Olmadon” may arguably be one of the harder rocking songs the Dutch JOVM mainstays have released in some time, featuring a relentless motorik groove, some scorching guitar work, glistening synths and yearning vocals. 

“‘Badİ Sabah Olmadan’ is a traditional love song from the town of Kırşehir, where the poet begs his lover to come to him before the night ends,” the band explains in press notes. “We recorded an electronic version for our charity album Âlem, and then started to play it live with the band. We liked it so much that we decided to record a live band version. Happy to play it for our fans this spring!”

“Clips Kola Kilit” is a dance floor friendly, decidedly 80s synth bop centered around 808-like beats, glistening synth washes and wobbling bass synth paired with a coquettish and sultrily delivered spoken word/rap-like vocal. For those children of the 80s — like me — “Clips Kola Kilit” brings back memories of acts like WhodiniThe Human LeagueNu ShoozCherelle, and others. And interestingly enough, it sounds as though it could have been on Yol but was cut from the album.

Altin Gün’s latest single “Leylim Ley” is a classic song of lost love and exile that features music composed by renowned Turkish musician, author, poet and politician Zülfü Livaneli and lyrics written by the late Turkish novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist Sabahattin Ali (1907–1948). Although Ali’s life was cut tragically and brutally short, Ali occupies an important spot in modern Turkish work with his limited body of work frequently reimagined through music, theater and more.

Taken from Ali’s 1937 short story “Ses,” “Leylim Ley” was joined by music composed by Livaneli back in 1975 and has since been embraced as one of the most well-known and beloved songs among Turkish people across the globe. Understandably, it’s been covered countless times over — and in a wild variety of styles.

Altin Gün’s rendition of the classic song is far more stripped down than some more recent renditions and sees the band pulling out the hypnotic and dazzling instrumentation to the forefront, emphasizing a woozy, heartsick longing — for home and for loved ones. The recording manages to capture the propulsive energy of their live show, while heralding the arrival of the band’s highly-anticipated fourth album, which is slated for release sometime next year.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Otoboke Beaver Shares a New Ripper

Kyoto, Japan-based garage punk outfit and JOVM MAINSTAYS  Otoboke Beaver(おとぼけビ~バ~ in Japanese) — Accorinrin (vocals, guitar), Yoyoyoshie (guitar, vocals), Hirochan (bass, vocals) and Kahokiss (drums, vocals) — can trace their origins back to when the band’s members met at Kyoto University‘s music club. 

Otoboke Beaver quickly built a profile both locally and nationally for their unique pairing of incredibly dexterous musicianship with Accorinrin’s confrontational stage presence. When Damnably Records released the Okoshiyasu!! Otoboke Beaver compilation, the Japanese punk rockers began to receive international airplay from BBC Radio 6′Gideon Coe and Tom RavenscroftXFM’s John Kennedy, as well as praise from the likes of PitchforkNPRi-D and The Fader.

Building upon their rapidly growing profile, the Japanese punk rockers made critically applauded, attention-grabbing appearances across the global festival circuit that included stops at SXSW, FujiRock Festival, and 2018’s Coachella Festival, as well as a lengthy UK tour with a sold-out show at London‘s 100 Club.

2019 saw the release of ITEKOMA HITS, an effort that featured “Anata Watashi Daita Ato Yome No Meshi” and “Don’t light my fire,” two feral rippers that possessed elements of noise punk, no wave, prog rock and riot grrl punk, as well as the breakneck “I’m tired of your repeating story.” 

In early 2020, the Kyoto-based punk rockers quit their day jobs in order to embark on a highly-anticipated world tour to support ITEKOMA HITS. They were able to complete the two-week European leg but they were about to embark on their first Stateside tour ever when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, forcing the band to quickly return back home.

With touring out of the question, the band worked on new material, which they recorded between lockdowns at Osaka-based LM Studio. The end result is the band’s latest full-length effort, Super Champon. Released earlier this year through Damnably Records, the album’s title is derived from champon, a Japanese word that means a mixture or jumble of things of very different types.

“It’s a mixture of songs from love to food, life and JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers),” the band explains. “Our music is genre-less and has various elements. We hope that it will be our masterpiece of chaos music. It also sounds like champion.” Thematically, the album sees the band pushing band on the societal pressure to reproduce, calling out ridiculous judgements on what gives a woman value, and reacting to uninvited advice and comments from patronizing idiots and more.

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about two album singles:

  • I am not maternal,” a defiantly feminist, breakneck, mosh pit friendly ripper meant to be played as loudly as humanly possible.
  • PARDON?,” a feral, tempo-shifting thrash punk ripper, full of furious riffage and howled lyrical refrains in English and Japanese. The song is a playful retelling of situation the band often finds themselves in: unrelenting, unsolicited and fervent points of views. 

The acclaimed Kyoto-based punk rock/garage rock outfit will be embarking on a highly-anticipated, rapidly selling-out North American tour that includes a sold-out October 5, 2022 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tour dates are below., and you can purchase tickets and check out more information here: https://www.otobokebeaver.com/tour/

Interestingly, the band’s latest single “Chu Chu Song” can trace its origins back to 2009 — and was the first song that they wrote together. Originally, only previously heard at live shows and as an exclusive to crowdfunding supports in 2017, the track derives its title from the Japanese onomatopoeia for “kiss kiss.” Unsurprisingly, the song is yet another furious ripper featuring scorching riffage paired with rapid-fire key changes and intricate vocal harmonies that thematically discusses the seemingly endless push and pull of relationships.

Before the band shared it as a standalone single, the track was featured on Adult Swim‘s Japan is Loud compilation curated by Toonami‘s Jonny Rej.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Yumi Zouma Share a Hallucinogenic Visual for New Single “Astral Projection”

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its almost 12 year history, you may recall that the acclaimed indie synth pop outfit and longtime JOVM mainstay outfit Yumi Zouma signed to Polyvinyl Record Co back in 2020. That same year, they JOVM mainstays released their critically applauded, self-produced third album Truth or Consequences, an album that thematically focused on distance — both real and metaphorical; romantic and platonic heartbreak; disillusionment and feeling (and being) out of reach. 

For the overwhelming majority of the bands I’ve covered over the past 12 years, touring is often the most important — and necessary — part of the promotional campaign for an artist’s or band’s new release. Before they hit the road, that artist or band will figure out how to re-contextualize their new material and even previously released material for a live setting, imagining how a crowd will react to what — and how — they’ll play the material in a live set. Like all of the acts across the world, who were touring — or were about to tour–- as COVID-19 struck across the world, the members of Yumi Zouma were forced to end their tour, which included their first ever sold-out, headlining North American dates, and quickly head to their respective homes, leaving scores of their most devoted fans without the opportunity to hear the new album in a live setting. 

That October, the JOVM mainstays released Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions), an album conceived as the band’s response to the lost opportunity to re-contextualize and explore the boundaries of the original album’s material through live engagement with fans.

Last year, Yumi Zouma released two singles: 

  • Give It Hell,” a wistful and bittersweet song centered around a classic Yumi Zouma breezy arrangement. But underneath the aching melancholy is a subtle but necessary celebratory note, a reminder that we will find a way to survive and thrive in the most difficult and unusual circumstances — and as someone far wiser than I once sang “all things will pass.” 
  • Mona Lisa,” an expansive and breezy pop confection that’s one part New Order and one-part Bruce Springsteen that manages to convey a complicated, shifting emotional state, seemingly influenced and informed by our weird and uncertain moment. 

Both of those tracks will appear on the band’s highly-anticipated fourth album, Present Tense. Dedicated to an embattled past, Present Tense is the JOVM mainstays’ offering to a tenuous future. With the members of the band forced to go their separate ways and return to their homes, Yumi Zouma found themselves in an unusual place: “It was disorientating,” the band’s Charlie Ryder says in press notes. ““We generally work at a quick clip and average about a record a year, but with no foreseeable plans, we lost our momentum.”

In response, the members of the band went to work, setting a September 1, 2021 deadline for the album to be finished, regardless of world events. What initially began in fits and starts became a committed practice again as the band worked on new material, digging through demos from as early as 2018 and making them relevant to that particular — and peculiar — moment in time. “Someone brings in a seed,” the band’s Josh Burgess says, “and through collaboration, it grows into a song that is vastly different from its original form.”

“The lyrics on these songs feel like premonitions, in some regards,” says Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson says. “So much has changed for us, both personally and as a band, that things I wrote because the words sounded good together now speak to me in ways I didn’t anticipate.”

The album’s material evolved through remote and in-person sessions in Wellington, New ZealandFlorence, ItalyLos Angeles, NYC and London. Those sessions found the band exploring a broader sonic palette that includes pedal steel, piano, sax, woodwind and string arrangements played by friends around the globe.  The complex scope of the recordings were then fine-tuned by an array of top mixes including Ash Workman, Kenny Gilmore, Jake Aron with mastering by Antoine Chabert. 

“This is our fourth album, so we wanted to pivot slightly, create more extreme versions of songs,” Ryder says. “Working with other artists helped with that and took us far outside of our normal comfort zone.”

Last month, I wrote about “Where The Light Used To Lay,” a single that continued a remarkably run of bittersweet pop confections, centered around Christie Simpson’s achingly tender vocals, shimmering guitars, glistening keys and the JOVM mainstays’ unerring knack for crafting a razor sharp and infectious hook. Interestingly, “Where The Light Used To Lay” has a hopeful, adult perspective on heartbreak, one that seems to say that while you may be down in the dumps today, this too, like all other things, shall end. And you shall yet again find love in all of its complicated, conflicting, nonsensical glory in its due time. 

“‘Where The Light Used To Lay’ eventually revealed itself as a bittersweet song about the agony of detangling your life as you break up and the enticing future, clarity, and lightness that the end of the tunnel can offer,” the band’s Josh Burgess explains. “When we first started writing the song in 2019, we were all in long-term relationships. By the time the final mix was completed in the Fall of 2021, only one of those remained (thanks COVID). It’s funny how songs can end up revealing themselves in surprising ways, even to their writers. It’s equal parts confronting and calming, knowing that the subconscious starts processing long before the conscious comes to it. Regardless, it’s nice to have a moment with a song where you go ‘damn, ain’t that the truth.’”

Present Tense‘s latest single “Astral Projection” is a decidedly 80s inspired song centered around glistening, reverb-drenched guitars, gently oscillating synths, jazz-like syncopation, Simpson’s imitable vocals and an infectious hook. The song’s narrator seems to have come to a wobbly sort of acceptance of the end of their relationship and what it means for them and their life,.

“’Astral Projection’ is about leaning into bad feelings and the mixed results it brings,” Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson explains. “Learning to sit with the reality of a relationship not working out as you hoped. Looking towards the future and knowing there will be others, there will be better times, but sitting in the present moment, trying to make peace with that.”

Directed by Alex Ross Perry, the accompanying video is the third and final part of a narrative trilogy featuring our familiar trio of protagonists. They’re trapped in the apartment. One of the rooms turns into a forest, where the individual members lose their minds and have wild hallucinations while trying to escape. Some of the experience is playful and hilarious; some of it is terrifying and dark. Once they stop fighting their feelings, the weird experience clears up — and they’re able to finally leave. Their friendship seems tighter than what it was at the beginning as a result.

Deriving their name from the Turkish phase for “Golden Day,” the acclaimed Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act Altin Gün — founding member Jasper Verhulst (bass) with Ben Rider (guitar), Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz (keys, saz, vocals), Gino Groneveld (percussion), Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Nic Mauskovic (drums) — can trace their origins to Japser Verhulst’s repeated tour stops to Istanbul with a previous band and his deep and abiding passion for ’60s and ’70s Turkish psych pop and folk, fueled by discoveries Verhulst couldn’t find in his native Holland. 

But as the story goes, Verhulst wasn’t just content to listen as an ardent fan; he had a vision of where he could potentially take the sound he loved. “We do have a weak spot for the music of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Verhulst admitted in press notes. “With all the instruments and effects that arrived then, it was an exciting time. Everything was new, and it still feels fresh. We’re not trying to copy it, but these are the sounds we like and we’re trying to make them our own.” 

Altin Gün’s sophomore album, 2020’s Grammy Award-nominated, critically applauded Gece further established the band’s reputation for re-imagining traditional Turkish folk through the lens of psych rock and pop. Last year’s critically applauded Yol was the band’s third album in three years. And while the album found the band continuing to draw about the rich and diverse traditions of Turkish and Anatolian folk, pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns forced the Dutch outfit to write music in a completely new way for them: virtually — through trading demos and ideas built around Omnichord808 and other elements, including field recordings and New Age-like ideas by email. 

“We were basically stuck at home for three months making home demos, with everybody adding their parts,” Altin Gün’s Merve Dasdemir says in press notes. “The transnational feeling maybe comes from that process of swapping demos over the internet, some of the music we did in the studio, but lockdown meant we had to follow a different approach.”

As a result of the new songwriting approach and arrangements prominently featuring Omnichord and 808, the album saw the band crafting material that’s a bold, new sonic direction: sleek, synth-based, retro-futuristic Europop with a dreamy quality, seemingly informed by the enforced period of reflection. Additionally, the members of the acclaimed Dutch act, enlisted Ghent, Belgium-based production duo Asa Moto — Oliver Geerts and Gilles Noë — to co-produce and mix the album, marking the first time that the band has collaborated with outsiders. 

The acclaimed Turkish psych outfit will be embarking on an extensive North American tour next month that includes a two night run at Music Hall of Williamsburg April 28, 2022-April 29, 2022. (As always, the tour dates are below.) Along with that announcement, the band released a new two-song digital single “Badu Sabah Olmadan”/”Cips Kola Kilit.” Both songs originally appeared in some fashion or another on last summer’s Bandcamp-only album Âlem.

“Badu Sabah Olmadon” may arguably be one of the harder rocking songs the Dutch JOVM mainstays have released in some time, featuring a relentless motorik groove, some scorching guitar work, glistening synths and yearning vocals.

“‘Badİ Sabah Olmadan’ is a traditional love song from the town of Kırşehir, where the poet begs his lover to come to him before the night ends,” the band explains in press notes. “We recorded an electronic version for our charity album Âlem, and then started to play it live with the band. We liked it so much that we decided to record a live band version. Happy to play it for our fans this spring!”

“Clips Kola Kilit” is a dance floor friendly, decidedly 80s synth bop centered around 808-like beats, glistening synth washes and wobbling bass synth paired with a coquettish and sultrily delivered spoken word/rap-like vocal. For those children of the 80s — like me — “Clips Kola Kilit” brings back memories of acts like Whodini, The Human League, Nu Shooz, Cherelle, and others. And interestingly enough, it sound as though it could have been on Yol but was cut from the album.

NORTH AMERICA TOUR 2022

April 4 – Montreal, CAN @ Le National

April 5- Toronto, CAN @ The Axis Club

April 7 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall

April 8 – Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater

April 12 – Vancouver, CAN @ Rickshaw Theatre

April 13 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile

April 14- Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall

April 17 – COACHELLA FESTIVAL

April 19 – San Francisco @ August Hall

April 21 – Los Angeles, CA @ Roxy (co-headline with Nilüfer Yanya)

April 24 – COACHELLA FESTIVAL

April 26 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair

April 27 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 28 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts

April 39 – Washington, DC @ Capital Turnaround

Since their formation in Cincinnati back in 1986, The Afghan Whigs — currently Greg Dulli (vocals, guitar), John Curley (bass), Patrick Keeler (drums), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and newest member, Blind Melon’s Christopher Thorn (guitar) — have a long-held reputation for never playing by convention: During the plaid and grunge era of the early 90s, the members of The Afghan Whigs stood apart from their contemporaries by wearing suits and for being more likely to slide into a soulful groove than a power chord driven riff.

Reuniting after an 11 year hiatus in 2012, the JOVM mainstays released two critically applauded albums, 2014’s Do to the Beast and 2017’s In Spades, that found the band writing and recording music that furthered their story together, while pushing their sound in new directions.

“I’ll Make You See God,” is the first bit of new material from the JOVM mainstays since 2017’s In Spades, and the single is a roaring headbanger centered around fiery power chord driven riffage, thunderous drumming Greg Dulli’s imitable crooning and an arena rock friendly hook. It’s arguably one of the hardest and aggressive songs they’ve written and recorded in close to 30 years.

“That’s one of the hardest rock songs we’ve ever done,” the band’s Greg Dulli says in press notes.  “It was written and performed on sheer adrenalin.”

Along with the new single, the JOVM mainstays announced a short run of US tour dates. which will see them playing small venues across the East Coast, Midwest and Southeast. The tour closes out with a May 25, 2022 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. As always, tour dates are below.

2022 TOUR DATES 

05/11                     Fort Lauderdale, FL        Culture Room

05/12                Tampa, FL                                The Orpheum

05/13                Orlando, FL                               The Social

05/14                Atlanta, GA                               Terminal West

05/15                Carrboro, NC                             Cat’s Cradle

05/17                Nashville, TN                             The Basement East

05/18                Louisville, KY                             Headliners Music Hall

05/20                St. Louis, MO                              Delmar Hall

05/21                Milwaukee, WI                            Turner Hall Ballroom

05/22                Indianapolis, IN                           The Vogue

05/24                Pittsburgh, PA                              Mr Smalls Theatre

05/25                Brooklyn, NY                               Music Hall of Williamsburg

Live Footage: Amyl and The Sniffers on KEXP, from Soundpark Studios, Melbourne, Australia

Acclaimed Melbourne-based punk act and JOVM mainstays Amyl and The Sniffers — Amy Taylor (vocals), Gus Romer (bass), Bryce Wilson (drums) and Declan Martens (guitar) — formed back in 2016, and shortly after their formation, they wrote and self-recorded their debut EP Giddy Up. The following year, saw the release of the Big Attractions EP, which was packaged as a double 12 inch EP with Giddy Up released through Homeless Records in Australia and Damaged Goods in the UK.

The band exploded into the international scene with a set at The Great Escape Festival, a series of sold out London area shows and a Stateside tour opening for JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They added to a busy year with a headlining tours across both the UK and US before signing to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flightless Records for distribution across Australia and New Zealand and Rough Trade for the rest of the world. The year was capped off with a Q Awards nomination for Best New Act and won the $30,000 Levis Prize.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Aussie punk quartet took 2019’s SXSW by storm. And then the band promptly released their self-tiled, full-length debut to critical applause globally while further cementing a feral and anarchic take on ’77 era punk. Adding to a breakthrough year, Amyl and the Sniffers won an ARIA Award for Best Rock Album. 

Comfort To Me, the Aussie punk quartet’s highly-anticipated Don Luscombe-co-produced sophomore album was released earlier this year through ATO Records.  Written during a long year of pandemic quarantining, in which the members of the band lived in the same house, the album’s material sonically draws from a heavier set of references and influences including AC/DC, Rose TattooMötorhead,  Wendy O. WilliamsWarthogPower Trip, Coloured Balls and Cosmic Psychos. Taylor’s lyrics and delivery were also inspired by her long live of hip-hop and garage rock. 

“All four of us spent most of 2020 enclosed by pandemic authority in a 3-bedroom rental in our home city of Melbourne, Australia. We’re like a family: we love each other and feel nothing at the same time,” Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor says in a lengthy statement on the album. “We had just come off two years of touring, being stuck in a van together eight hours a day, and then we’re trapped together for months in this house with sick green walls. It sucked but it was also nice. We spent heaps of time in the backyard listening to music, thrashing around in shorts, eating hot chips. The boys had a hard time being away from the pub and their mates, but it meant we had a lot of time to work on this record. Most of the songs were really intuitive. Main thing, we just wanted it to be us. In the small windows we had in between lockdowns, we went to our rehearsal space, which is a storage locker down the road at National Storage Northcote. We punched all the songs into shape at Nasho and for the first time ever we wrote more songs than we needed. We had the luxury of cutting out the songs that were shit and focusing on the ones we loved. 

“We were all better musicians, as well, because that’s what happens when you go on tour for two years, you get really good at playing. We were a better band and we had heaps of songs, so we were just different. The nihilistic, live in the moment, positivity and panel beater rock-meets-shed show punk was still there, but it was better. The whole thing was less spontaneous and more darkly considered. The lyrics I wrote for the album are better too, I think. The amount of time and thought I put into the lyrics for this album is completely different from the EPs, and even the first record. Half of the lyrics were written during the Australian Bushfire season, when we were already wearing masks to protect ourselves from the smoke in the air. And then when the pandemic hit, our options were the same as everyone: go find a day job and work in intense conditions or sit at home and drown in introspection. I fell into the latter category. I had all this energy inside of me and nowhere to put it, because I couldn’t perform, and it had a hectic effect on my brain. 

“My brain evolved and warped and my way of thinking about the world completely changed. Having to deal with a lot of authority during 2020 and realising my lack of power made me feel both more self destructive and more self disciplined, more nihilistic and more depressed and more resentful, which ultimately fuelled me with a kind of relentless motivation. I became a temporary monster. I partied more, but I also exercised heaps, read books and ate veggies. I was like an egg going into boiling water when this started, gooey and weak but with a hard surface. I came out even harder. I’m still soft on the inside, but in a different way. All of this time, I was working on the lyrics. I pushed myself heaps and heaps, because there were things that I needed to say. The lyrics draw a lot from rap phrasing, because that’s what I’m into. I just wanted to be a weird bitch and celebrate how weird life and humans are. 

“The whole thing is a fight between by my desire to evolve and the fact that somehow I always end up sounding like a dumb cunt. So anyway, that’s where this album comes from. People will use other bands as a sonic reference to make it more digestible and journalists will make it seem more pretentious and considered than it really is, but in the end this album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability. It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time. 

“If you have to explain what this record is like, I reckon it’s like watching an episode of The Nanny but the setting is an Australian car show and the Nanny cares about social issues and she’s read a couple of books, and Mr Sheffield is drinking beer in the sun. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer going slightly over the speed limit in a school zone. It’s realising how good it is to wear track pants in bed. It’s having someone who wants to cook you dinner when you’re really shattered. It’s me shadow-boxing on stage, covered in sweat, instead of sitting quietly in the corner.”

In the lead up to the album’s release earlier this year, I managed to write about three of the album’s released singles:

  • Guided by Angels,” a riotous, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around Taylor’s frenetic energy and punchily delivered vocals, buzzing power chords and a pub friendly, shout along with a raised beer in your hand hook. But underneath all of that, “Guided by Angels” is fueled by a defiant and unapologetic vulnerability and a rare, unshakeable faith in possibility and overall goodness; that there actually are good angels right over your shoulder to guide you and sustain you when you need them the most. 
  • Security,” a Highway to Hell-era AC/DC-like anthem full of swaggering braggadocio, boozy power chords, thunderous drumming, shout along worthy hooks and Taylor’s feral delivery. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song is fueled by its narrator boldly and unapologetically declaring that they need and are looking for love — right now! “
  • Hertz,” an AC/DC-ike ripper fueled by the frenetic energy of the bored, lonely and trapped within their heads and those desperately desiring something — hell, anything — different than the four walls that they’ve gotten sick of. Interestingly, “Hertz” captures a feeling that I’ve personally struggled with during the pandemic, and I’m sure you have too. And it does so with a urgency and vulnerability that’s devastating.

Since its release last month, Comfort to Me has been a commercial and critical success: The album hit #1 on Billboard‘s Alternative New Albums Chart, #2 on both the Heatseekers and Top New Artist Albums Charts, #4 on the Independent Albums Chart, #7 on the Rock Albums Chart, #9 on the Alternative Albums Chart and it landed on the Top 20 on the Albums Sales Chart. In the UK, the album was named BBC 6 Music‘s Album of the Day, and chartered at #21 on the UK charts. And in the band’s native Australia, the album was named Triple J’s Featured Albums of the Week while charting at #2.

Australia had one of the world’s longest lockdowns — and shortly after their homeland opened up, the acclaimed Aussie punk rock outfit announced their long-awaited return to the States: the tour includes their previously announced, sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg show on December 6, 2021, which sold out in less than a day — and a 15 date North American tour that includes a May 19. 2022 Brooklyn Steel stop.

Last month, the Aussie punk rock outfit recorded a live session at Soundpark Studios in Melbourne, Australia for KEXP. Directed by Mark Bakaitis, recorded by Andrew “Idle” Hehir and mixed by Comfort to Me‘s co-producer Dan Luscombe, the KEXP set features a blistering version of “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” off their self-titled debut — but primarily centered around Comfort to Me tracks. including the aforementioned “Guided by Angels” and “Security.”

New Audio: Neal Francis Releases the Breezy Yet Self-Aware “Problems”

Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the Livingston, NJ-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter and pianist best known known as Neal Francis can trace the origins of his sound and approach to his childhood: he was obsessed with boogie woogie piano — and as a result, his father gifted him a dusty Dr. John album. O’Hara quickly became a piano prodigy, touring Europe with Muddy Waters‘ son and with other prominent bluesmen across the States when he was just 18. 

In 2012, Neal Francis joined the popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard quickly became a national touring act, sharing stages with The New Mastersounds and The Revivalists, and making stops at New Orleans Jazz Fest and Bear Creek among others. As The Heard’s profile rose, Francis sunk deeply into addiction. By 2015, he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment and was inching perilously close to his own destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean.

Although he identifies as not being religious, Francis took a music-ministry job at St. Peter’s UCC in 2017 at the suggestion of a friend. 

Francis’ solo debut, 2019’s Changes was released to critical acclaim with the album landing on Best-of-the-Year lists of KCRWKEXP and The Current while BBC Radio 6hailed him as “the reincarnation of Allen Toussaint.” Adding to a breakthrough year, Francis toured with Lee Fields and The Expressions and JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas. He shared a stage with members of the legendary The Meters at New Orleans Jazz Fest. And he did a live session on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Despite having breakthrough success with his career, Francis broke up with his longtime girlfriend while on tour to support Changes. When the tour ended, he returned home to Chicago and found himself with no place to stay. So, he headed off to St. Peter’s and asked if he could move into the parsonage. “I thought I’d only stay a few months but it turned into over a year, and I knew I had to do something to take advantage of this miraculous gift of a situation,” he says. 

Francis began writing new material, a series of songs that’s both strangely enchanted and painfully self-aware, inspired by Greek myths, frenzied dreams, late night drives — and a possibly haunted church. (More on that in a bit.) The end result is the Chicago-based artist’s highly-anticipated sophomore album In Plain Sight, an album that derives its title from the title of a song that wound up getting cut from the album. “It’s a song about my breakup and the circumstances that led to me living in the church, where I’m owning up to all my problems within my relationships and my sobriety,” says Francis, whose first full-length chronicles his struggles with addiction. “It felt like the right title for this record, since so much of it is about coming to the understanding that I continue to suffer because of those problems. It’s about acknowledging that and putting it out in the open in order to mitigate the suffering and try to work on it, instead of trying to hide everything.”

Continuing his ongoing collaboration with Changes producer Sergio Rios, a guitarist and engineer, who has worked with CeeLo Green and Alicia Keys, the album spotlights Francis’ restrained yet free-spirited piano playing. “From a very early age, I was playing late into the night in a very stream-of-consciousness kind of way,” he says, naming everything from ragtime to gospel soul to The Who among his formative influences. 

Recorded entirely on tape with his backing band, Kellen Boersma (guitar), Mike Starr (bass) and Collin O’Brien (drums), In Plain Sight is also fueled by Francis’ restless experimentation with a stash of analog synths lent by his friends during his early days living at the church “My sleep schedule flipped and I’d stay up all night working on songs in this very feverish way,” he says. “I just needed so badly to get completely lost in something.” 

By the end of his surreal and sometimes eerie experience of living at the church—“I’m convinced that the stairway leading to the choir loft where I used to practice is haunted,” he says—Francis had found his musicality undeniably elevated. “Because I was forced into this almost monastic existence and was alone so much of the time, I could play as often and as long as I wanted,” he says. “I ended up becoming such a better pianist, a better writer, a better reader of music.” Dedicated to a woman named Lil (the de facto leader of the St. Peter’s congregation), In Plain Sight ultimately reveals the possibility of redemption and transformation even as your world falls apart.

In the lead up to In Plain Sight‘s Friday release through ATO Records, I’ve written about “Can’t Stop The Rain,” an uplifting and shuffling boogie woogie featuring a Southern rock influenced arrangement that nods at Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with a soaring gospel-tinged chorus and a smoldering slide guitar solo from Derek Trucks. Underlying the whole affair is Francis’ unerring knack for crafting infectious hooks paired with lived-in songwriting. Of course in the case of “Can’t Stop The Rain,” the song expresses a deep, hard-won sense of gratitude, for experiencing the difficult shit and somehow surviving.

In Plain Sight‘s latest single “Problems” is trippy synthesis of 70s piano balladeer pop, AM rock, psych pop and blue-eyed soul featuring twinkling synth arpeggios, a strutting bass line, Francis’ easygoing yet plaintive falsetto, and a big book. But underneath the infectious and easygoing vibes, is a song with a narrator, who begins to realize that he ultimately is the cause and solution to his problems — and that he has the power to change his life.