JOVM (belatedly) celebrates PJ Harvey’s 52nd birthday.
Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Saskia Hahn started her music career in the mid 2000s as a member of the power pop/rock act Sweet Machine, a band widely hailed in her hometown for their distinctive style — and for Hahn’s stage presence. Hahn and her band caught the attention of acclaimed electro-clash artist and gender-equality activist Peaches, who recruited Hahn and the members of Sweet Machine as a her touring band for a two-and-a-half run, which ended with a live recording session with Dave Catching and Edmund Monsef at Rancho De La Luna Studio in Joshua Tree, CA.
After five years of the rock ‘n’ roll life, Hahn took time off from music and devoted herself to mixed media visual art — painting, screen printing and installations. Her work was exhibited in galleries in Berlin, NYC, Sydney, London, and Zurich — and interestingly enough, that period found Hahn rediscovered her love of music, as well as a new approach. Inspired, she decided to not only write the songs but to produce them herself. Leading her new band The Heartways, she released the band’s debut single “Maybe” last year.
The Heartways full-length debut album Damaged Goods will be released later this year. The album’s second single “By Your Side” is an a decidedly 120 Minutes-era MTV alt rock-like track centered around Hahn’s expressive yet ethereal vocals, a motorik groove and a rousingly anthemic hook. And while the song — to my ears, at least — brings PJ Harvey to mind, the song is a love song that superficially seems address to a person but is actually a swooning and awe-inspired love letter to a particular place — Joshua Tree National Park. “I tried to capture the moment of falling in love with this amazing place,” Hahn says in press notes. “I’d heard so much about it but never quite understood the deep feelings my ‘desert family’ had for that particular patch of land―until it stole my heart too! I was walking through the desert on an off-day during the “I Feel Cream” world tour with Peaches. We’d just played at Pappy & Harriet’s the night before, and it suddenly struck me. I realized the desert’s incredible beauty and fell totally in awe with it. It was such a powerful and magical moment that I can never forget and will always be thankful for.”
Of course, because of pandemic-related restrictions, Hahn couldn’t be in the desert for the filming of the video; however, the video employs gorgeous Joshua Tree footage filmed by filmmaker Will Stockwell superimposed in the background. Robin Thomson, the video’s Director of Photography and Editor contributes a dreamy and trippy feel to the overall proceedings.
Deriving their name from a nickname that was given to its frontwoman while she was in college, and now seen as the band’s motto representing their approach to life and music, the emerging Los Angeles-based indie rock act Mihi Nihil (pronounced Mee-Kee, Nee-Keel) — Mihi Vox (vocals), Benjamin Montoya (guitar), Nick Sternberg (bass) and Adam Alt (drums) — currently feature a former New York-based opera singer and three self-taught rock musicians. Interestingly, the band can trace their origins to a free-flowing batch of sessions that the longtime friends jokingly called “Whiskey Rehearsals,” which helped to quickly establish a sound that draws from an electric array of influences including early Radiohead, The Clash, Ennio Morricone, Sixousie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Neil Young and Pixies.
Eventually, those “Whiskey Rehearsals” between the four friends led to the material which would eventually comprise their Adam Lasus-produced full-length nine-song, self-titled debut album. Recorded and written by the band in one room, the album’s material captures their simpatico and collaborative working relationship.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, the band released four singles over the past few months: two of the singles have appeared in two major motion pictures, with all four appearing in a handful of media outlets across 15 countries, as well as on 45 playlists. Their self-titled album’s fifth and latest single “Gold” is a slow-burning desert rock-like dirge centered around Mihi Vox’s expressive vocals, rumbling bass lines and gently swirling guitars that slowly builds up until a rumbling roar with soaring hooks. And while possessing a patient, almost painterly quality, “Gold” evokes sand-swept blacktop that reminds me The Fire Tapes‘ Phantoms, PJ Harvey and Chelsea Wolfe among others.
Veteran indie producer Adam Lasus (Yo La Tengo, Helium, Madder Rose) captured the band’s live energy to tape, revealing an album imbued with a timeless, lush and layered sound that’s meant to be savored and slowly ingested. Like colorful rock formations, the music encompasses a myriad of subtle tints and bold textures. Recorded without a click track, MIHI NIHIL naturally expands and contracts, pushes and pulls, moving with ease. Whether it’s the cinematic echo of Ennio Morricone in “Verberation” or the ominous yearning for connection in the more soporific electro “Space Invader,” MIHI NIHIL shifts tonal presentations effortlessly with maximum emotional thrust.
Jindoss is a mysterious, Saint Malo, France singer/songwriter, who released their debut EP Rendez-vous late last week. The EP’s latest single “Saturday Night” quickly (and boldly) establishes the French artist’s sound: swirling and brooding shoegaze centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, plaintive wailing and boom bap-like drumming. Sonically, “Saturday Night” strikes me as a seamless synthesis of PJ Harvey-like atmospherics and A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve-like textures.
French-Lebanese, Canadian-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Le Play quickly won audiences on both sides of the American-Canadian border with the release of 2019’s Oblique, an album that thematically touches upon feminist empowerment and environmentalism while sonically featuring hypnotic melodies, global percussion, hazy ballads and carnal rock ‘n’ roll.
Late last year, Le Play released her sophomore album Still Life. Inspired by the solitude, grief, frustration, uncertainty and devastating personal loss of a year of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, the album thematically is a meditation on our vitality, perseverance and drive. Sonically, the album finds Le Play pushing the sound she established on her debut in a much more atmospheric and broodingly melancholy direction.
Still Life‘s latest single “Have I Ever Been This Broken?” is a brooding and atmospheric lament featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a propulsive bass line, dramatic drumming and Le Play’s crooning vocals. And while sonically bringing PJ Harvey and Chelsea Wolfe to mind, the track celebrates human resilience, perseverance and our ability to stand strong against even the strongest wind and tide.
Emerging Venezuelan-French singer/songwriter and pianist La Chica has developed and honed a unique songwriting approach informed by classical music, her love of Debussy, analog synths — and a desire to reunite the spiritual with the material world, the New World with the Old World. The end result is a lush and feverish collage of sounds and textures informed by folk traditions and modern influences, paired with unvarnished and brutally honest lyrics that alternate between introspection and abstract poetry.
Interestingly, much like acclaimed Cuban-French sibling duo and JOVM mainstays Ibeyi, Santeria — and more specifically the rhythms of the Orishas — play a major part in La Chica’s creative process: She regularly performs her own rituals informed by the indigenous cultures of Venezuela and elsewhere, often before practice and live shows as a way to get into a more enlightened consciousness.
The death of the Venezuelan-French artist’s brother earlier this year, sparked a desperate need to connect with the spiritual world — and her forthcoming album La Loba is reportedly an uplifting and powerful reaction to the profound and heartbreaking loss of her brother, and the increasingly polarized world around her. Additionally, the album is a boldly feminist statement from a woman, who feels liberated from restrictive social norms — while being in touch with her Venezuelan and French heritage.
La Loba’s first single, album title track “La Loba” manages to be simultaneously haunting, unsettling and forceful. Centered around an arpeggiated, four note piano sequence, flamingo-like stuttering handclaps, atmospheric electronics, Latin rhythm patterns and the Venezuelan-French artist’s incendiary delivery and feral howls, “La Loba” is an urgent song that sonically will draw comparisons to Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey, as it captures a woman that’s a force of nature, about to burn down everything that has held her back.
“La Loba” is a the story of a wolf woman brought back from the dead through ritual — and during the performance of the ritual, her skin grows back over her once lifeless bones, after hearing transcendental chanting and votes. Interestingly, the song is based upon a Mexican/Texan legend documentary by feminist author Clarissa Pinkola Estéss in Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.
Directed by Marion Castera, the recently released video for “La Loba” is a feverish and unsettlingly vivid fever dream in which we see the Venezuelan-French artist covered in blood and playing the piano, as a feral and undead force, as a literal, living wolf woman and just chilling with a wolf while smoking a cigar and watching TV. In some way, the visual captures a woman that’s in touch with and fully in control of her wild, animalistic nature, using that inner wolf when needed.
Lauren Lakis is a Baltimore-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician, who specializes in a brooding and churning take on shoegaze paired with authentic and honest lyricism. So far her work has been praised by Earmilk, who said that her material are “a refreshing change from today’s polite rock . . .”
The Baltimore-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician and her backing band have toured the West Coast extensively, playing bills with Drowse, Coastland, Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s Emmet Palaima, Flor and Winnetka Bowling League. Lakis and her band have played in front of a sold-out Doug Fir Lounge and at Santa Cruz’s The Catalyst. Adding to a growing profile, Lakis has played two solo sets opening for Grammy Award-nominated rocker Tracy Bonham.
Much like countless other acts, Lakis and her backing band had plans for a momentum changing 2020: they were scheduled to play at this year’s cancelled SXSW and they had hopes of setting up further tour dates. However, they’ve remained busy, releasing new material, including their latest single “Sail Away.” Centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, dramatic drumming, a sinuous bass line, darkly Romantic vibes and Lakis’ plaintive yet ethereal vocals,” Sail Away” is a brooding track that reminds me — to my ears at least — of PJ Harvey, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Chelsea Wolfe.
Interestingly, the song is an uneasy and brooding examination of Lakis’ own dysfunctional and painful childhood and a desire to reconnect to a lost yet much-needed innocence. “Thematically, ‘Sail Away’ explores the idea of running away with my inner child, protecting and parenting her,” Lakis explains in press notes. “It’s me becoming my own mother, which was something I had to do at a young age.
“As the daughter of my mother, I had to learn how to take care of myself and grow up quickly. She struggled with addiction until I was almost 10 years old; I don’t have many memories of my childhood before that age. I’ve spent some years in Alanon, connecting to my inner child and learning how to ‘re-parent’ her as a way of healing those wounds,” Lakis continues. “The inner child is the part of us that is innocent, vulnerable, playful, full of wonder, freely trusting and loving. It hasn’t always been easy to connect with that side of myself.
“I didn’t feel like I had a voice as a kid, and I had no control over what was happening around me. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, I grew into an extremely strong, resilient, capable adult. This song explores my longing for having had an adult like me around, when I was a child…as well as the anger I’ve carried with me for having missed out. I’ve had to accept that no one can go back in time and fix that for me.”
The recently released video is a cinematic and equally brooding visual with a fever dream-like quality that finds Lakis is a lace full-body suit.
With the release of her first two albums — 2016’s Sirens and 2018’s Empty Sea — the rising Berlin-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and photographer Laura Carbone received attention across the European Union and elsewhere for a sound and approach that frequently draws comparisons to PJ Harvey, Shana Falana, Chelsea Wolfe, St. Vincent and others. Additionally,. Carbone published a limited-edition book of photography, also named The Empty Sea.
Carbone and her backing band have opened for The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, developing a reputation for a self-assured and explosive live show, which she further cemented with a headlining tour across Europe last year. The Berlin-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and photographer then followed that up with a stop at SXSW Levitation Festival/Creem Magazine Showcase and a headlining North American tour with The Natvral that included a stop at Baby’s All Right.
Carbone and her backing band were slated to go into the studio in May to record her highly-anticipated third album — but as a result of pandemic-related restrictions, the rising Berlin-based artist’s plans were placed in an indefinite hiatus, much like countless other artists across the globe. Last year, the rising Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and her backing band performed on the famed German, live concert series Rockpalast — and for Carbone, who grew up in a small town in Southwestern Germany watching the show, appearing on the show was the accomplishment of a lifelong dream: Rockpalast has recorded and broadcasted a who’s who list of influential and important artists, playing some of their most memorable performances, including Siouxsie and The Banshees, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Sinead O’Connor, David Bowie, R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnymen, Screaming Trees, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Marley and the Wailers and an amazing and very lengthy list of others.
As a result of pandemic-related shutdowns, an idea emerged with Carbone and her band: “What if Rockpalast would let us release that show as a live album?” Released yesterday, Laura Carbone — Live at Rockpalast is just that. Taken from her Rockpalast set at Harmonie Bonn last October, the live album features a career-spanning set, centered around her first two albums, and an unexpected cover, Hewing as closely as possible to their live sound, the album was mixed in Los Angeles by The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Scott Van Ryper and mastered by Philipp Welsing at Hamburg‘s Original Mastering with no overdubs.
Last month, I wrote about the live album’s first single, “Who’s Gonna Save You.” The live rendition accurately captures Carbone and her band’s forceful live sound and Carbone’s irresistible stage presence, While the song itself finds the band balancing menace, power and sultriness, it should also serve as an introduction to an artist, who in my book is adding her name to a list of powerful rock goddesses.
To celebrate the release of the album, Carbone released the live album’s second single, “Cellophane Skin.” Performed as the first song of their encore, the live rendition finds the band taking the tension of the original and informing it with a feral and ferocious power, informed by dozens of shows across Europe and North America — and by the occasion. And as a result, the song finds its narrator — and perhaps the artist herself — turning into a seductive and vengeful force of nature, much like the sirens of the ancient myths. At its down core, the song finds its narrator forcefully tearing down the bonds of poisonous social norms that have imprisoned her while demanding that we — particularly men — examine ourselves. Of course, much like its immediate predecessor, the song captures a woman with mighty and fearsome roar.
Directed by Olga Dyer, the recently released video for “Cellophane Skin” is split between gorgeous and seductive footage of Carbone in a black gown being touched by a series of seemingly disembodied hands and black and white footage captured on stage.
“The feminine point of view has always been much more difficult to articulate,” Olga Dyer says in press notes. “And once articulated, alas, quite often it becomes a point of vulnerability, seen through the prism of sexual objectification, helpless stereotypes and indecency. It’s literally stripped of its actual meaning or even possible interpretations. To me, this is what ‘Cellophane Skin’ is about. People jump to conclusions, so quick to assume that they can see through someone. Personally it doesn’t offend me, I only find it banal and boring. I love creating beautiful and dark sequences, inspired by noir surrealism.”
Gillian Stone is a Vancouver Island-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has collaborated on projects by FORCES’ Alli Sunshine, The Fern Tips, Völur and Althea Thauberger — and she’s appeared in music videos for Clear Mortifee, Robert DeLong, Alli Sunshine and Juno Award nominate Tara Kannangara. As a solo artist, Stone’s work uses vulnerability as a way to create a safe space to explore the dichotomy of beauty and discomfort, thematically touching on recovery, the juxtaposition of femininity and imperfection, turbulent feelings and recovery.
Heavily influenced by her background in jazz and ethnomusicology, Stone has managed to have a rather varied creative and professional life: Fascinated by her Icelandic heritage, Stone explored and studied the popular music of Iceland and the icelandic Diaspora in Canada as part of her graduate work in ethnomusicology. The Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist has studied Javanese and Balinese gamelan; performed with Russell Hartenberger and NEXUS (the principal percussionists of the Steve Reich ensemble) and with Brazilian cavaquinho virtuoso Henrique Cazes. Her upbringing on Vancouver Island led her to Coast Salish hip-hop and the Cascadian bioregion scene. Overall, Stone uses an interdisciplinary approach to explore disparate genres to produce a singular sound.
Stone’s latest single is the atmospheric and dramatic, Michael Peter Olsen-co-produced “Bridges.” Centered around strummed guitar strummed guitar, dramatic drumming and Stone’s achingly vulnerable vocals, the PJ Harvey and Shana Falana-like “Bridges” finds the Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist telling a story of dissolution, shame and self-flagellation with a bold and unvarnished honesty. “‘Bridges’ is the soundscape of recovery,” Stone says in press notes. “I wrote this song in 2009 after a summer of self-imposed turbulence. I don’t remember exactly when or how I wrote, but it stayed with me and became predictive. For over a decade, I’ve returned to it as a space to a safely express shame. Now it’s morphing into a reminder, a call for self-temperance. I’m still discovering what it means.”
Stone goes on to add the song was co-produced by Micheal Peter Olsen during a cold winter in Olsen’s Toronto-based studio Uncomfortable Silence. “‘Bridges’ follows a journey of dysregulated emotions exacerbated by alcohol abuse,” Stone says. “The e-cello movement is meant to evoke the feeling of losing one’s mind. This is a post=rock night song that ends with a promise of the sun.”
Directed by Emily Harrison, the recently released video for “Bridges” features Stone in the woods and uses mirrors and kaleidoscopic effects to create something both trippy yet introspective. Harrison calls the video “a psychedelic dream inspired by French New Wave film.”
Emerging Vancouver-based indie pop act Vox Rea — siblings Kate Kurdyak (lead vocals, piano, guitar, bass), her sister Lauren Kurdyak (vocals, piano) their childhood friend Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher (vocals, percussion) and Mitchell Schaumberg (vocals, piano, guitar, bass) can trace some of their origins back to when the Kurdyak Sisters and Hansen-Boucher singing in choirs together as children.
Lifelong academics at heart, the Kurdyaks attended a small liberal arts schools in the mountains, where Kate studied philosophy and Lauren studied ecology. And while at the school, they met Mitchell Schaumberg and started playing school parties under the name BEEF. Although they started the band as a lighthearted endeavor, the trio quickly realized the creative chemistry they all shared, and would later meet up all over the world for late night, liquor-fueled writing sessions that would eventually comprise Vox Rea’s earliest material. But more on that later. . . .
The Kurdyak Sisters and Hansen-Boucher formed the indie pop trio The Katherines, which released their full-length debut To Bring You My Heart back in 2017 through 604 Records. The album amassed over one million Spotify steams with songs off the album appear on a number of prominent playlists including New Music Friday, Pop All Day, Hot Hits Canada, Indie Pop Chillout and the Canada Viral 50 chart. The Katherines were featured in a number of major media outlets including Vice, MTV, Vancouver Sun, the National Post — and they’ve performed on morning shows in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
Accompanied by a top-notch backing band, the members of The Katherines have toured across Canada and have made stops along the national festival circuit. including Rifflandia, NXNE, Juno Fest, Canada Day Vancouver and Denim on the Diamond, among others. And adding to a growing profile, the trio had songs appear on TV shows like Orphan Black, Reboot and The Order.
The Vancouver-based quartet’s latest project together Vox Rea is a bit of a sonic and stylistic departure. Citing influences that range from Arcade Fire to Friedrich Nietzsche, the members of Vox Rea, the act’s full-length debut chronicles a group of artists trying to come to terms with their generation’s place in the larger human story — and thematically, the album’s material touches upon addiction, self-doubt. lust, identity. independence and grief. And as a result, the album can be seen as a soundtrack to the confusion and euphoria of coming of age in a world seemingly on the verge of annihilation. The band’s unique brand of noir pop finds them crafting material that features classically inspired string arrangements, three part harmonies, brooding atmospherics and a seamless mesh of digital and analog while underpinned with raw emotionality.
Written in collaboration between the Kurdyaks, Hansen-Boucher, Schaumberg, Luca Fogale, Begonia, and Joël, their Connor Seidel, Tim Buron, Derek Hoffman and Joel Stouffer-co-produced Vox Rea full-length debut was written in apartments in Vancouver, Toronto, Berlin, Montreal and Boston — and was recorded during a snowy winter in the Quebec forests.
Vox Rea’s latest single “Dose Me Up” is a slow-burning, atmospheric ballad centered around a stunningly gorgeous lead vocal and three part harmonies, twinkling piano, brief bursts of shimmering guitar, stuttering drumming and electronic plinks and a soaring hook. Sonically speaking, the track may draw comparisons to Cloud Castle Lake‘s gorgeous Malingerer, PJ Harvey and others but with all the sturm und drang of one’s 20s.