Tag: Partisan Records

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Black Angels Share Urgent “Empires Falling”

With five albums under their collective belts, Austin-based JOVM mainstays  The Black Angels —  currently Alex Maas (vocals, bass), Christian Bland (guitar), Stephanie Bailey (drums), Jake Garcia (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Verdooren — have firmly cemented a unique take on psych rock that remains true to psych rock forebears like  Syd Barrett, Roky EricksonArthur Lee, and The Velvet Underground, while thematically touching upon contemporary concerns. 

Interestingly, during that same period of time, the members of the acclaimed Austin-based JOVM mainstays have also managed to build a global profile within the international psych rock scene, a profile that has been further cemented by their long-running celebration of all things psychedelic, Levitation Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. 

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that this year is a big year in the band’s almost two decade history: Their sixth album — and first in over five years, Wilderness of Mirrors is slated for a Friday release through Partisan Records. Co-produced by the band and Brett Orrison with engineering by John AgnelloWilderness of Mirrors reportedly finds the band attempting to achieve something fresh and new through a gentle and subtle refinement of the sound that has won them fans across the globe. 

Throughout Wilderness of Mirrors‘ material, the band adds mellotron, string arrangements and an assortment of different keyboards to the mix, which adds different textures to their overall sound. Thematically, the album continues upon their long-held reputation for touching upon contemporary concerns — in particular, our uncertain and urgent moment of political tumult, the pandemic, and the ongoing devastation of the environment and its long-term implications to us and our descendants, among others. 

So far I’ve written about three of the soon-to-be released album’s singles:

  • El Jardín,” a single, which at first glance is classic Black Angels: Bailey’s thunderous time keeping, Maas’ plaintive falsetto and supple bass lines paired with layers upon layers of guitar pyrotechnics and effects from Bland and Garcia — but the song’s sparking and brooding bridge sees the band adding bursts of twinkling Rhodes to the mix. Written from the perspective of our dear Mother Earth, “El Jardín” is a forceful and urgent warning to all of us: destroying the environment will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity. 
  • Firefly,” a loving yet classic Black Angels-like homage to 60s French pop, featuring a guest spot from Thievery Corporation‘s LouLou Ghelickhani, who contributes sultrily delivered vocals in French and English, alongside Maas’ imitable falsetto and paired with a hook-driven arrangement featuring reverb-drenched guitars, Maas’ supple and propulsive bass lines, some simple yet forceful timekeeping from Bailey and twinkling keys. 
  • Without A Trace,” a bit of classic, Passover through Directions to See a Ghost-era Black Angels centered around fuzzy and distorted power chords, a reverb-drenched guitar solo, Bailey’s thunderous and propulsive time keeping paired with Maas’ imitable vocal delivery and supple bass lines. The song sonically and thematically is an eerie and brooding meditation that asks “is is still possible to be invincible when everyone else is expendable.” 

“Empires Falling,” Wilderness of Mirrors‘ latest single may arguably be among the most politically charged songs on the entire album. Centered around scorching guitar riffs, Maas’ imitable falsetto, a propulsive and supple bass line and Bailey’s forceful time keeping, “Empires Falling” continues a run of material that harkens back to their earliest releases — but with an urgency that fits our desperate, uneasy time.

“‘Empires Falling’ is a critical and reflective plea that examines humanity’s repetitive art of violent mass destruction. As we say in the chorus, ‘it’s history on repeat.'” The Black Angels explain in press notes. ” We are living in a ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’, where it’s hard to tell what’s right from wrong, up from down, or the truth from lies as we navigate through these times where the fate of humanity is being refracted and reflected from one state of panic to another. The world is a ‘bleeding animal’ and we are left exhausted, polarized, and ‘pleading from street to bloody street.’  History has proven, time and time again, that without a drastic metamorphosis from our leaders, politics, and ultimately ourselves..‘you can be the one who saves yourself, or you can watch it all go to hell.'”

Directed by Craig Staggs and featuring animation by Minnow Mountain, the accompanying video for “Empires Falling” captures humanity’s brutal and oppressive history endlessly repeating in front of a psychedelic hellscape.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays The Black Angels Team Up with Thievery Corporation’s LouLou Ghelickhani On a Trippy Yet Loving Ode to French Pop

With five albums under their collective belts, 2006’s Passover, 2008’s Directions to See a Ghost 2010’s Phosphene Dream, 2013’s Indigo Meadow, 2014’s Clear Lake Forest and 2017’s Death Song, the Austin-based psych rock outfit and JOVM mainstays  The Black Angels —  currently Alex Maas (vocals, bass), Christian Bland (guitar), Stephanie Bailey (drums), Jake Garcia (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Verdooren — have firmly cemented a unique take on psych rock that remains true to psych rock forebears like  Syd Barrett, Roky EricksonArthur Lee, and The Velvet Underground, while thematically touching upon contemporary concerns.

During that same period of time, the members of The Black Angeles have also built a global profile in the international psych rock scene, a profile that has been further cemented by their long-running celebration of all things psychedelic, Levitation Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. 

2022 is a big year in the band’s almost two decade history: Their sixth album — and first in over five years, Wilderness of Mirrors is slated for a September 16, 2022 release through Partisan Records. Co-produced by the band and Brett Orrison with engineering by John AgnelloWilderness of Mirrors reportedly finds the band attempting to achieve something fresh and new through a gentle and subtle refinement of the sound that has won them fans across the globe. 

Throughout Wilderness of Mirrors‘ material, the band adds mellotron, string arrangements and an assortment of different keyboards to the mix, which adds different textures to their overall sound. Thematically, the album continues upon their long-held reputation for touching upon contemporary concerns — in particular, our uncertain and urgent moment of political tumult, the pandemic, and the ongoing devastation of the environment and its long-term implications to us and our descendants, among others.

Last month, I wrote about the forthcoming album’s first single, “El Jardín,” which at first glance is classic Black Angels: Bailey’s thunderous time keeping, Maas’ plaintive falsetto and supple bass lines paired with layers upon layers of guitar pyrotechnics and effects from Bland and Garcia — but the song’s sparking and brooding bridge sees the band adding bursts of twinkling Rhodes to the mix. Written from the perspective of our dear Mother Earth, “El Jardín” is a forceful and urgent warning to humanity: destroying the environment will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity. 

Wilderness of Mirrors‘ second and latest single “Firefly” is a loving yet classic Black Angels-like homage to 60s French pop, featuring a guest spot from Thievery Corporation‘s LouLou Ghelickhani, who contributes sultrily delivered vocals in French and English, alongside Maas’ imitable falsetto and paired with a hook-driven arrangement featuring reverb-drenched guitars, Maas’ supple and propulsive bass lines, some simple yet forceful timekeeping from Bailey and twinkling keys.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Black Angels Announce First Album in Five Years, Share Forceful “El Jardín”

Since their formation back in 2004, the Austin-based psych rock outfit and JOVM mainstays The Black Angels —  currently Alex Maas (vocals, bass), Christian Bland (guitar), Stephanie Bailey(drums), Jake Garcia (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Verdooren — have remained true to psych rock forebears like Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, Arthur Lee, and The Velvet Underground among others throughout their career, while simultaneously reflecting a wide-screen view of the world back at the listener. Thematically, their work often touches upon extremely contemporary concerns.

With five albums under their collective belts — 2006’s Passover, 2010’s Phosphene Dream, 2013’s Indigo Meadow, 2014’s Clear Lake Forest and 2017’s Death Song, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays have built a global profile on the international psych rock scene. That profile and influence has been further cemented by their long-running celebration of all things psych rock, Levitation Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

2022 looks to be a big year for the band: The Black Angels’ forthcoming sixth album — and first album in over five years, Wilderness of Mirrors is slated for a September 16, 2022 release through Partisan Records. Co-produced by the band and Brett Orrison with engineering by John Agnello, Wilderness of Mirrors reportedly finds the band attempting to achieve something fresh and new through a gentle and subtle refinement of the sound that has won them fans across the globe.

With Wilderness of Mirrors, the band adds mellotron, strings and an assort of keyboards to their sonic palette, which naturally adds different textures to their sound. Thematically, the album touches upon our moment: political tumult, the pandemic and the ongoing devastation of the environment and its long term implications to us and our descendants among other things.

“El Jardín,” Wilderness of Mirrors‘ expansive, first single is at first glance classic Black Angels: Bailey’s thunderous time keeping, Maas’ plaintive falsetto and supple bass lines paired with layers upon layers of guitar pyrotechnics and effects from Bland and Garcia — but the song’s sparking and brooding bridge sees the band adding bursts of twinkling Rhodes to the mix. Written from the perspective of our dear Mother Earth, “El Jardín” is a forceful and urgent warning to humanity: destroying the environment will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity.

Directed by Vanessa Pia, the cinematic, accompanying video stars The Walking Dead‘s Austin Amelio and his son Lev in a post apocalyptic nightmare in which humans have essentially killed nature — and the only way to experience it is through virtual reality.

“Alex [Maas] came to me with a dystopian sci-fi idea of a future where Mother Nature is dead because we killed her, and the only way to experience her is through virtual reality- an already relatable feeling, as most of the world lives viscerally through social media,” Vanessa Pia explains. Who knows where we will be 100 years from now. This project has been a dream in the making and a massive labor of love and could have only been possible with such a dedicated and talented crew, especially my dear friend and cinematographer Andy Hoffman. For me as a director, it’s an honor to deliver this project on 35mm print and to have been chosen to make something for my favorite band.”

New Video: Heartless Bastards Release a Surreal and Gorgeous Visual for Cinematic “You Never Know”

Deriving their name from a hilariously incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game (the question was: “What is the name of Tom Petty‘s backing band?”), the acclaimed indie rock act Heartless Bastards  was founded in by Dayton, OH-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and founding member Erika Wennerstrom in Cincinnati back in 2003. Initially started as a solo recording project, Heartless Bastards quickly evolved into a live band featuring a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators that regularly played throughout the Midwest.

The Black Keys‘ Patrick Carney caught the band and was so impressed by what he had heard, that he passed along a copy of their demo to Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and then released their first there albums — 2005’s Stairs and Elevators, 2006’s All This Time and 2009’s The Mountain. Between the writing and recording of All This Time and The Mountain, Wennerstrom relocated to Austin. And around that time, the band’s touring lineup featured David Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass), who both played on the Heartless Bastard demos recorded six years prior. The band expanded into a quartet with the 2009 addition of Mark Nathan (guitar).

The band signed to Partisan Records, who released the band’s last two critically applauded albums — 2012’s Arrow and 2015’s Restless Ones. Wennerstrom stepped out from behind a band and released her solo debut, 2018’s Sweet Unknown to critical applause. “It was a deeply personal album and it just felt fitting to use my name,” Wennerstrom says of her solo debut. “It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed, and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown so much creatively and personally through this process.”

Since release of Sweet Unknown and a tour to support it, Wennerstrom, along with a powerhouse backing band featuring Okkervil River’s Lauren Gurgolo (guitar), White Denim’s Greggory Clifford, Mercury Rev’s and Midlake’s multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler, My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster (keys), Patty Griffin’s David Pulkingham (guitar) and longtime Heartless Bastards bandmate Jesse Ebaugh (bass) went into the studio to write and recorded their Kevin Ratterman co-produced sixth album A Beautiful Life, the band’s first full-length album of original material in over five years.

Although Wennerstom first considered releasing A Beautiful Life under her own name as the follow up to her solo debut, she ultimately came to view the album’s material as the continuation of the journey begun on the band’s 2005 full-length debut. Sonically, the album’s material reportedly is a coalescence of a number of eclectic influences and references including French pop, Celtic folk, space rock. Disney film scores and post punk. And as a result, A Beautiful Life may arguably be their most expansive and elaborate batch of material in their catalog to date while still being centered around Wennerstrom’s lyrics, which inspire contemplation, joyful defiance, catharsis, and empathy. “For me music is a gift,” Wennsterstrom says in press notes. “I do it because I love it, and because it helps me feel more connected to the world. I think we all long for a deep connection, and I hope this record adds to the conversation on how we as a species can stop seeing ourselves as separate. I hope it helps everyone to think about how we can look out for each other, take care of each other, and lift each other up.”

Slated for a September 10, 2021 release through Sweet Unknown Records/Thirty Tigers, A Beautiful Life will feature “Revolution,” an incisive and urgent song featuring an expansive song structure that meshes elements of psych rock and blues, that that calls upon the listener to get their shit straight and make the world a better place before it’s too late.

The album’s latest single “You Never Know” may be the most cinematic songs of their entire catalog. Featuring a soaring string arrangement, flamenco-like guitar playing paired with Wennerstrom’s plaintive wailing, the song is a sweet reminder that life is short and sometimes in love and in countless other things, we should take a chance. You’ll never know what will happen, until it actually happens.

“When I wrote “You Never Know,” I imagined it being in Moonrise Kingdom, the Wes Anderson film, even though the movie has already been made. There’s a sense of adventure and innocence that youth embodies whether it’s with love or goals and dreams. This song is a reminder to stay open. Life is short. Take chances.”

Directed, shot and edited by Vanessa Pie, the recently released video stars Kaylyn Mae McClellan and Tiel Ann Larson in a surreal and cinematically shot fever dream with a sailboat to nowhere, a zebra, some expressive face paint, a doorway to another dimension. But at its core is a sweet and tender love story of two people who will be companions through some zany adventures — perhaps because they both took a chance and were open.

New Video: Heartless Bastards Release a Surreal and Urgent Visual for Politically-Charged and Uplifting “Revolution”

Deriving their name from a hilariously incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game (the question was: “What is the name of Tom Petty’s backing band), the acclaimed indie rock act Heartless Bastards was founded in Cincinnati by Dayton, OH-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom back in 2003 in Cincinnati. Starting out as a solo recording project,. Heartless Bastards evolved into a live band with a revolving cast of musicians that regularly played throughout the Midwest.

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney caught the band and was so impressed by what he had heard, that he passed along a copy of their demo to their label at the time — Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and released their first three albums: 2005’s Stairs and Elevators, 2006’s All This Time and 2009’s The Mountain. In between the writing and recording of All This Time and The Mountain, Wennerstrom relocated to Austin, TX. Around the time that Wennenrstrom relocated to Austin, the band’s touring lineup featured David Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass), who both played on the Heartless Bastard demos recorded six years prior. The band expanded into a quartet with the 2009 addition of Mark Nathan (guitar).

The band signed to Partisan Records, who released the band’s last two critically applauded albums — 2012’s Arrow and 2015’s Restless Ones. And after 15 years of fronting the band, Wennnerstrom released her solo debut, 2018’s Sweet Unknown. “It was a deeply personal album and it just felt fitting to use my name,” Wennerstrom says of her solo debut. “It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed, and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown so much creatively and personally through this process.”

Recently, the band returned to the studio to work on their long-awaited Kevin Ratterman-produced fifth album. The album reportedly will find the band continuing the late night, bluesy rock vibes that have won them praise and attention. The band’s latest single “Revolution” is their first bit of original material as a band in five years. The track was initially released on Bandcamp with proceeds donated to the ALCU — with the track no being available on all DSPs.

“Revolution” begins with a slow-burning and atmospheric ballad introduction that slowly builds up in intensity before turning into an anthemic, bluesy rocker around the three minute mark. Centered around Wennerstorm’s bluesy wail and some dexterous guitar work, including a blazing solo, the track is an incisive and urgent message that says we need to get our shit straight and make the world a better place before it’s too late. “’Revolution’ is about self love,” Wennerstrom explains in press notes. “I think if people loved themselves more there wouldn’t be racism, bigotry, and classism. Some people are so worried that there is not enough pie to go around, and that lifting up others limits their own opportunity. There is mass misinformation and manipulation to peddle this narrative. Money, materialism, privileged access to better education are things people constantly measure themselves with. The need to feel better than someone in order to feel good about oneself is an age old insecurity. The planet really can’t sustain everyone having more. Everything is made to fall apart, like cars and $1100 cell phones. I think humanity needs to learn how to have less, and not play into the commercialism that constantly sends the message we lack things that we don’t really need.

“Revolution is a mantra, and reminder to myself to avoid playing the game as much as I can. I don’t need this, and I don’t need that. I don’t need to compare myself to others. This marathon everybody is running is exhausting. There is so much true suffering in this world with a lack of food, shelter, and basic running water. The more man attempts to look at the world from another man’s perspective it becomes apparent how connected we all really are. I think giving and receiving love is really what we need the most. All the rest is just a bunch of noise.”

Directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hartstein, the recently released, incredibly surreal video features an elegantly dressed Wennerstrom sitting crossed legged in the salt flats of Utah watching advertisements and imagery that people to be blindly greedy, selfish consumers and brutally racist.But during the song’s anthemic second half, we see nature overcoming all, and eventually Wennerstrom coolly floating through space.

“I wanted to release ‘Revolution’ before the election, to serve as a reminder of what’s important in life: love and compassion for yourself and your fellow man,” Wennerstrom says of the video’s release. “We have to fight fear with love. I think there’s a lot of bullshit out there that is peddled to sway people one way or the other. I feel people know what’s right in their hearts. It’s a call to not look the other way.

“For the video, I had an idea of having a surreal living room image in the salt flats,” Wennerstrom adds. “It’s a statement on how our excess commercial culture and system create a competitive climb to the top. We all struggle to get ahead so we don’t get left far behind. Very little life can live in the salt flats and I thought it helped symbolize the direction of environment if we don’t come together and wake up. I couldn’t get to the salt flats and the idea of a green screen came to mind. Sam Douglas and David Hartstein took this idea to a whole other level. The green screen went from what was initially just being unable to get to the salt flats to far beyond what I’d imagined. It really captured the song so much more.

There is so much beauty in this world, and in each other. Sometimes it is underneath the surface, but it’s always there. Let’s lift each other up.”

New Audio: Westerman’s Atmospheric Meditation on Moral Relativism

With the release of his critically acclaimed Bullion-produced debut EP, Ark, the London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Will Westerman, best known as Westerman, received national and international attention for writing material that thematically grapes with societal confines and other issues over a shapeshifting electronic backdrops. Building upon a growing profile, Westerman’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Your Hero Is Not Dead is slated for a June 5, 2020 release through Play It Again Sam and Partisan Records, across North America.

Continuing his ongoing collaboration with Bullion (a.k.a. Nathan Jenkins), Your Hero Is Not Dead was recorded in Southern Portugal and finished in London. Thematically, the album is about empathy and compassion, struggle and release, and all the ways we contradict and battle within ourselves on a daily basis — and as a result, the material is centered around moral, political and ethical gray areas with narrators, who attempt to resolve larger external issues by looking inward. Your Hero Is Not Dead’s fifth and latest single, “The Line” is brooding and atmospheric track featuring gentle layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, strummed guitar, the rising London-based artist’s expressive falsetto and a soaring hook. And while bearing a subtle resemblance to Peter Gabriel’s Security and Peter Gabriel 3, the song as Westerman explains was inspired by this thoughts on moral relativism.

“I was thinking about moral relativism when I wrote this,” Westerman says in press notes. “The ever-shifting parameters of what is and isn’t acceptable. This applies to many things – gender, human rights, parenting, politics. I don’t believe that this means there’s no right and wrong, but normative values are constantly in flux – hopefully as we continue to be more compassionate.” 

New Audio: Acclaimed Dream Pop Act Cigarettes After Sex Release a Hauntingly Spectral Single

Currently comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Greg Gonzalez (vocals, guitar) with Jacob Tomsky (drums) and Randy Miller (bass), the acclaimed Brooklyn-based dream pop act Cigarettes After Sex can trace their origins back to when Gonzalez formed the band in El Paso. TX back in 2008. Their debut EP, 2012’s I received some attention when “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” became a sleeper hit of sorts, after it was licensed for use in commercials.

With the release of 2017’s self-titled debut, Cigarettes After Sex quickly became international sensations. Since its release the album as sold over 550,000 records to date, amassed over 360 million Spotify streams, 2.2 million monthly listeners and 350 million YouTube streams. They’ve been featured in a number of major media outlets including Vice Noisey, V Magazine, Interview, NPR’s Tiny Desk — and their music has appeared in The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve and in a Ralph Lauren ad campaign. Additionally, Taylor Swift, Kylie Jenner, Lana Del Rey, Françoise Hardy, Lily Allen, Busy Phillips and a long list of others have claimed to be fans of the band’s work. 

During the week of their full-length debut’s release, the members of the Cigarettes After Sex traveled to Mallorca, Spain. And naturally, each of the band’s individual members consciously let the striking location guide what was to become the initial sessions for their forthcoming sophomore album Cry. “The sound of this record is completely tied to the location for me,” Greg Gonzalez explains in press notes. “Ultimately, I view this record as a film. It was shot in this stunning, exotic location, and it stitches all these different characters and scenes together, but in the end is really about romance, beauty and sexuality. It’s a very personal telling of what those things mean to me.” 

While the instrumentation came about quickly — often improvised on the spot — it would be another two years before Gonzalez would attempt to complete the material’s accompanying lyrics. Slated for an October 25, 2019 release through Partisan Records, Cigarettes After Sex’s highly-anticipated sophomore album is influenced by a new, burgeoning romantic relationship, the films of Eric Rohmer and the work of Selena and Shania Twain. Thematically, the material is a cinematic and brooding meditation on the many complex facets of love — meeting, wanting, needing and losing .  . . sometimes simultaneously. But interestingly enough, Cry will find the band blending the carnal subtly of its predecessor with a warmer sonic palette. 

Cry’s first single is the spectral yet lush “Heavenly.” Centered around Gonzalez’s achingly tender and vulnerable falsetto, hushed and shuffling drumming, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook, the song sonically reminds me a bit of Mazzy Star’s smash hit “Fade Into You.” And much like  “Fade Into You,” “Heavenly” is a feverish, narcoleptic dream that expresses a wild, desperate, swooning longing — the sort that mixes devotion, obsession, love and lust into a confusing and wonderful blur.  Of course, the song finds the band managing to craft material that’s as intimate as whispered, sweet  nothings to a lover while possessing a cinematic (and larger than life) quality.  As the band’s Greg Gonzalez explains, the song was “inspired by the overwhelming beauty I felt watching an endless sunset on a secluded beach in Latvia one summer night…”