Tag: PJ Harvey

New Video: Lower Dens Releases a Psychedelic Visual for “Hand of God”

Formed back in 2010, the acclaimed Baltimore-based dream pop act Lower Dens can trace its origins to when its primary songwriter and founding member Jana Hunter had grown tired of touring and decided to take a hiatus. For what was supposed to be their final tour as a solo artist, Hunter recruited a backing band which featured Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams. Finding that playing with a band was much more enjoyable to them than playing as a solo artist, helped Hunter form Lower Dens. “During that tour, I realized that it wasn’t the touring life that I hated, but more so that the kind of music I wrote as a solo artist wasn’t something I felt entirely comfortable sharing in performance setting. Lower Dens then was the eventual result of the decision to make music with the specific intention of sharing and enjoying it with others,” Hunter said at the time.

Lower Dens’ full-length debut, Twin Hand Movement was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork, who compared Hunter’s vocals to those of PJ Harvey and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Dusted Magazine, who praised the album’s lyrics for being “delivered without irony, yet self-aware enough to appreciate the obviousness.” While touring to support Twin Hand Movement, the band began writing on the road — but the limitations of writing on the road forced Hunter to work through a laptop and keyboard rather than a guitar, which lead to an increasing presence of synths on what would become their sophomore album Nootropics.

After they completed the tour to support Twin Hand Movement, the band chose to record their sophomore album at The Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor, MI.  Hunter cited the studio’s remote location as an imperative part of the writing and recording process. Geoff Graham added that the amount of time spent in the studio allowed them to add extra dimensions to the material to make it lusher and thicker. Largely influenced by Kraftwerk‘s Radioactivity, Fripp and Eno and David Bowie‘s production on Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot, Nootropics was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork. Rolling Stone and Spin. 

Building upon a growing profile, Lower Dens opened for Beach House and indie rock legends Yo La Tengo at the Baltimore stop of the legendary act’s  2013 Fade tour. The following month, they released “Non Grata” on a split 7″ with Baltimore-based band Horse Lords, an effort that was released as part of the Famous Class LAMC series, which benefited VH1’s Save The Music Foundation. 

2015 saw the release of the band’s third album Escape from Evil, which continued a run of critically applauded albums. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes — with the band now being a duo featuring its founding member and primary songwriter Jana Hunter and Nate Nelson. And during that period, the members of Lower Dens had been working on their highly-anticipated follow up to Escape from Evil, The Competition.

Released last September through their longtime label home Ribbon Music, the album is a pop album with an emotionally and politically urgent concept at its core. Competition, by design is the driving force of modern capitalism and the title is Hunnter’s term for a socio-psychological phenomenon that competition generates — a kind of psychosis that accelerates and amplifies our insecurities and anxieties to the point of overload. And as a result our intimacies, our communities and even our senses of self are corroded and distorted. “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset.  I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”

Last year, the members of Lower Dens opened for hit-making act Of Monsters And Men, and they’ll begin this year with a headlining tour to support the album that starts on February 13, 2020 and includes a March 19, 2020 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. (You can check out the rest of the tour dates below.) In the meantime, the album’s latest single, the glistening and propulsive “Hand of God” is centered around Hunter’s achingly expressive vocals, shimmering synth arpeggios and four-on-the-floor drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook. Sonically, the song bears a subtle resemblance to Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” and Songs from the Big Chair-era Tears for Fears — but centered around feelings of arrogance, humility and shame. 

“It’s like Cowboy Krautrock,” Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter says about the song in press notes.  “Imagine a wild west adventure, like City Slickers with the star, a wealthy white man. He’s devised a way to conquer God. He has some kind of vaguely dangerous journey, then comes upon God and declares victory. In his hubris, he goes to shake God’s hand, at which time he is psychedelically humbled, his little brain imploding.”

Directed by Aaron Brown and Robby Piantanida, the recently released video, manages to employ a decidedly DIY approach with a bright psychedelic colors — with Hunter seeing the hands of God. 

Advertisements

New Video: Lebanese Indie Rock Act Sandmoon Releases a Gorgeously Shot Meditation on Love, Loss and Grief

Sandmoon is a rising Beirut, Lebanon-based indie rock/folk act led by its Armenian-Lebanese-born, Belgium-raised frontperson Sandra Arslanian and featuring Sam Wehbi (guitar), George Flouty (bass) and Dani Shukri (drums). With the release their of their earliest batch of work — 2014’s full-length debut, Home, 2016’s #InTheEnd EP, their work writing the original soundtrack for Philippe Aractingi’s 2017 Lebanese Movie Award-winning film Listen and 2018’s Put A Gun/Commotion EP, the members of Sandmoon have developed a reputation for crafting material that draws heavily from Arslanian’s multicultural background while being hopeful and infused with an unerring sense of melodicism. 

The Beirut-based indie rock quartet begins 2020 with their their latest single “Angels,” the second single off the band’s forthcoming Fadi Tabbal-produced album Put A Gun/Commotion, which is slated for release later this year. Centered around lush layers of gently fuzzy guitars, shimmering and atmospheric synths and Arslanian’s tender vocals, and gorgeous layered harmonies, the Beirut-based indie rock quartet’s latest single manages to recall — to my ears, at least — Stories From The City, Stories From the Sea-era PJ Harvey. But at its core, Sandmoon’s  latest single is imbued with an aching longing.  “Angels’ is about absoluteness. It’s listening to your higher self, your angels and fully living your  life, with absolute  love. For love is the only true thing that remains when everything else disappears,” the band’s Sanda Arslanian emphatically explains in press notes. 

Directed by Tracy Karam, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video for “Angels” was shot in Beirut and stars Daniel Aboushakra as a young boy, who experiences profound and intense grief after his mother’s death. The video follows the boy as he makes a gradual transition from hurt, heartbreak and shock to acceptance through love — primarily through the loving presence of his father, his love of music and the boy’s own love of his mother. “It’s a an emotional video about mourning and absolute love,” Tracy Karam says in press notes. “It portrays a twelve-year-old boy trying to cope with the sudden, devastating loss of a parent by finding his way on his own. The pain forces him to face reality, in all its harshness and brutality. Yet in the midst of the chaos, there are moments of love, sparks of light that help him move on and replenish the emptiness.” 

I’ve written quite a bit about the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. Now, as you may recall, the Swedish jOVM mainstay’s career began in earnest at a very young age: she began playing in bands when she was nine. As a teen, she began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. As an adult, Härdig has been hailed as the rocktronica queen of experimental music, developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says about her approach in press notes.

Härdig’s recently released, fourth album This Big Hushfinds the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,” Härdig says of the recording process for This Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

Infatuation,” This Big Hush‘s fist single was written to pay homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and the Banshees — but the decidedly riff driven song seemed to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook. “I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay said in press notes of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

Radiant Star,” This Big Hush‘s second single was slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Pretenders and the aforementioned Patti Smith to mind. “It was made during many endless nights,” Härdig says in press notes, “on my own and in my studio and also with the band on some more hectic days. Then a lot of other endless days and nights in the studio producing it. My own take of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’; a song I learned as a 3-year old on the grand piano we inherited from my grandmother.”

Silence,” This Big Hush‘s third single was a slow-burning, lush track that to my ears brought the emotional intensity and lyricism of Patti Smith and Nick Cave to mind — but with an enormous arrangement of jangling guitars, twinkling keys, dramatic drumming, a soaring hook, a gospel-style backing vocal section and arguably one of her most emotionally direct vocal performances.

Interestingly, the album’s fourth and latest single “Sucking the Flowers” is a decidedly anthemic  grunge rocker of a track that seems indebted to PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, Liz Phairand others, as the song is centered around a chugging and propulsive rhythm, enormous power chords, a raucous hook, four-on-the-floor drumming and a defiant vocal performance. Ultimately, this song much like its predecessors reveals that Härdig is a towering force of nature to be reckoned with.

Eva Lawitts is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has been both a session and touring musician for the likes of Vagabon and Princess Nokia — and she’s also known as one-half of the production and engineering team at
Brooklyn-based Wonderpark Studios.
Lawitts’ recording project Stimmerman finds the New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer stepping out into the limelight as a solo artist — and as a musical force to be reckoned with. Her Stimmerman full-length debut Goofballs is slated for release at the end of the year, and as Lawitts explains in press notes,  “the album is more or less about loss and survivor’s guilt: it’s a meditation on a friend’s fatal overdose at a young age through that lens. Side A of the album focuses on looking back at the environment in which our friendship started — pressures imposed on chidden to be successful, growing up too fast in all the wrong ways, and the often debauched nature of our great and terrible adolescence here in Brooklyn. Side B centers me more as an unreliable narrator, and features songs about grief and culpability in a close friend’s death, some of which are, I believe, misguided.”
“The name ‘Goofballs’ is twofold,” Lawitts continues. “I think this album recaptures some of the sense of humor my other projects have had that the first Stimmerman EP lacked, and of course, there is the drug allusion — ‘Goofballs’ meaning barbiturates or any cocktail thereof.” 
Now, as you may recall, earlier this month I wrote about album single “It Shows.” Centered around a classic, grunge rock song structure — alternating quiet verses and loud choruses — the song features enormous, arena rock friendly power chords, thunderous drumming and howled vocals. And while bearing a resemblance to Bleach-era Nirvana, PJ Harvey and others, the song evoked the uneasy internal struggle of its narrator, a character, who simultaneously strikes out against themselves and others, to no avail or satisfaction. Interestingly, the album’s third and latest single “Dentist vs. Pharmacist” is centered around a expansive, mind-altering arrangement that vacillates between dense and explosive math rock in which the listener is pummeled by thunderous drumming, muscular power chords and howled lyrics, shoegazey dream pop and experimental jazz. But at its core is a seething frustration that comes from being pinned in and forced to be and accept things you can never do.
“I wrote this song directly after having lunch with a friend fm one who went to middle school (Mark Twain) and high school (Laguardia) with me,” Lawitts explained in an interview with Audiofemme,” and it was directly influenced (stolen? I don’t know) by a conversation we had about this kind of half-joke about modern Russian fatalism, which was that so many of the kids we went to middle school with were raised with only two possible tracts they could follow into adulthood — they could become a dentist or they could become a pharmacist. This is the highest achievement you could attain. This was the gleaming dream of our Russian and Jewish cohorts of yesteryear. We were being silly about it, but within that silliness are many real wounds about the expectations of our own parents, their parents, and an examination of how we can possibly honor the sacrifices made by our families while still attempting to function in a world that is basically incalculably different than anything they could have possibly conceived of when they made those sacrifices. Fuck! And also I just wanted to scream.”

 

Eva Lawitts is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has been both a session and touring musician for the likes of Vagabon and Princess Nokia. Lawitts is also known for being one-half of the production and engineering team at Brooklyn-based Wonderpark Studios.

Lawitts’ recording project Stimmerman finds the New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer stepping out into the limelight as a solo artist — and as a musical force to be reckoned with. Interestingly, Lawitts’ Stimmerman full-length debut Goofballs is slated for release at the end of the this year. And as the New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer explains in press notes, “the album is more or less about loss and survivor’s guilt: it’s a meditation on a friend’s fatal overdose at a young age through that lens. Side A of the album focuses on looking back at the environment in which our friendship started — pressures imposed on chidden to be successful, growing up too fast in all the wrong ways, and the often debauched nature of our great and terrible adolescence here in Brooklyn. Side B centers me more as an unreliable narrator, and features songs about grief and culpability in a close friend’s death, some of which are, I believe, misguided.”

“The name ‘Goofballs’ is twofold,” Lawitts continues. “I think this album recaptures some of the sense of humor my other projects have had that the first Stimmerman EP lacked, and of course, there is the drug allusion — ‘Goofballs’ meaning barbiturates or any cocktail thereof.” 

Goofballs‘ second and latest single “It Shows” is built around a classic grunge rock song structure — alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, featuring enormous, arena rock friendly power chords, thunderous drumming and howled vocals. And while bearing a resemblance to Bleach-era Nirvana, PJ Harvey and others, the song evokes the uneasy internal struggle of its narrator, a character, who simultaneously strikes out against themselves and others, to no avail or satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

Melbourne, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Harmony Byrne grew up in a Mormon family, the third of seven children. Early on, she was instilled with a love for church hymns and rock ‘n’ roll, both of which would heavily inform her own life and later, her own music. After enrolling into Melbourne’s Waldorf School of the Arts, Byrne devoted her time to learning guitar and piano, eventually developing her own original material.

Slated for a Spring 2020 release, the Melbourne-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s Jim Eno-produced, 10 song full length debut Heavy Doors reportedly features material that evokes the work of Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. Although to my ears, the album’s latest single, the incredibly cathartic  “Come Down vs. Calm Down” manages to bring John Lee Hooker, The Black Keys, PJ Harvey and Heartless BastardsErika Wennerstrom to mind, as the track is centered around a looping and shimmering 12 bars blues guitar line, simple yet forceful percussion and Harmony’s expressive and searing wailing, which effortlessly evokes heartache and triumph within the turn of a phrase. It’s a song that comes from lived-in experience, so the hurt and the catharsis at its core are familiar and real.

“In essence it’s a song about mental health,” Harmony says of the track. “It started as a cathartic vocal improvisation, allowing whatever came to mind to be sung. Through this process, words that kept reoccurring later became lyric. I feel there is darkness hidden in our minds that often engulfs us, which although hard to talk about, is important to express. 

“I wanted to convey this in the song and for it to feel like a victorious roar of will, showing that through really digging in and knowing who we are and how we deserve to be treated, that we can overcome our monkey minds. It may seem like it’s an angry break up song, but really it’s about the different voices in our heads that we battle with every day.”