Tag: Prince

New Video: Follow British Actor Jeremy Irvine Dancing Through London for Friendly Fires Rapturous “Heaven Let Me In”

Comprised of Ed McFarlane, Jack Savidge and Edd Gibson, the St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK-based electronic music act Friendly Fires can trace their origins back to when they met while attending St. Albans School. When they were all 13, the trio formed their first band, a post-hardcore act First Day Back, which covered Green Day and other rock acts.  First Day Back lasted until the trio attended university — and during that time Ed Macfarlane released music under his own name through Skam and Precinct Recordings. 

Upon graduation Macfarlane, Savidge and Gibson formed Friendly Fires, their critically applauded electronic music act which derives its name from the opening track of Section 25’s Always Now. Sonically, the trio has cited the German techno label Kompakt, Carl Craig and Prince as major influences on a sound that draws from dance music, lush, shoegaze melodies and classic pop songwriting. 

2007 was their breakthrough year, as “Paris” was named Single of the Week in The Guardian, received praise from NME and airplay on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show — and they were the first unsigned act to appear on Channel 4’s Transmission.  Building upon a growing profile in their native England, the trio released their full-length, self-titled debut in 2008, an effort which featured album singles “On Board,” Jump in the Pool,” “Skeleton Boy,” and the aforementioned “Paris.” Their debut was a critical and commercial success. The album was certified double gold in the UK — and the trio was nominated for a Best Breakthrough Award at The South Bank Show Awards and for Best Dancefloor Filler at the NME Awards.  

Early 2009 saw the band touring on the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour with Glasvegas, White Lies, and Florence and the Machine. March of that year, Friendly Fires co-headlined with White Lies on the Stateside equivalent of the Shockwaves NME Awards tour, called NME Presents with The Soft Pack opening. Since then, the act has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, and two Brit Awards — one for Best British Group and British Breakthrough Act. 

In 2010, the duo released a split 12 inch single with Holy Ghost! in which they covered a single by the other, and included instrumental versions of both songs. They also contributed a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” to the Frank Miller-directed commercial for Gucci’s Guilty. They ended the year with a compilation with London-based club promoters Bugged Out! called Bugged Out Presents Suck My Deck, which featured remixes of songs by The Phenomenal Handclap Band and Lindstrom and Christabelle handpicked by the trio and “Stay Here,” a collaboration between the members of Friendly Fires and Azari & III. 

2011 saw the release of their sophomore album Pala, which featured album singles “Live Those Days Tonight” and “Hawaiian Air.” It was arguably, their most pop-leaning effort; however, by the following year, the members of Friendly Fire had been working with producer Andrew Weatherall on some forward-thinking and psychedelic-leaning material. However, since then the trio have been on a lengthy hiatus that has found McFarlane and Gibson collaborating with The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks in a project called The Pattern Forms, which released their debut effort, 2016’s Peel Away the Ivy. 

Earlier this year, the trio released “Love Like Waves,” their first bit of new material since 2012. “Heaven Let Me In,” the acclaimed trio’s second single of this year, is a club-banger centered around a euphoric and chopped vocal loop and arpeggiated synths — and while nodding a bit at Daft Punk and Stardust’s classic “Music Feels Better With You,” the song which was co-produced with Disclosure evokes the ecstasy of dancing under strobe-lights and thunderous bass until the next morning. 

Directed by Bison, who has directed videos by Bonobo, London Grammar and Jon Hopkins, the video stars renowned British actor Jeremy Irvine, known for his roles in War Horse and Mama Mia dancing through the streets and landmarks of London’s Docklands, looking as though he just came out from the club — and wants the party to continue. 

New Audio: Alpines Chilly Yet Urgent Call to Action on the Environment

Comprised of Bob Matthews (guitar, production) and Catherine Pockson (vocals, piano), the London-based electro pop duo Alpines formed in 2010 and since their formation they’ve quickly built up a national and international profile as they opened for the likes of  The Naked and The Famous, Emeli Sande and Florence and the Machine — eventually signing to a major label. Once their stint within the major label system ended, instead of being overwhelmed by a sense of bitter resignation, they self-released their first two, critically applauded full-length albums 2014’s Oasis and 2016’s Another River. 

The duo’s soon-to-be-released third, full-length album Full Bloom is slated for a November 16, 2018 release through Untrue Records and the album reportedly channels some of the duo’s core influences — in particular, Prince, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Kelela, 90s rave culture and Massive Attack; while lyrically the material touches upon growth, change, ecology, the every day challenges of love, acceptance and hardship. And as a result, the material finds the duo examining the inner and outer complexities of modern life, and our insecurities and vulnerabilities in a a profound mature fashion. Initially, the material was built around a basic piano idea, that they expanded upon within their Kingston-Upon-Thames studio. As the duo says, “There are tracks that lean more towards Catherine’s love of classic singer-songwriters and soul music, and others that are inspired by left-field producers and rap.”  Additionally, the material draw from Netflix’s The OA, the work of architect Rachel Whiteread, contemporary fashion and art, as well. 

The chilly yet soulful, “Full Bloom” is the album’s latest single, and the album title track is centered around Pockson’s soulful, pop belter vocals and a 90s soul meets house music-like production consisting of subtle yet lush layers of arpeggiated synths, twinkling keys, a classic house music breakbeat and a rousingly anthemic hook. And as a result, the song sonically brings Snap!’s “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and Soul 2 Soul’s “Get A Life” among others. Lyrically, the song focuses on the fact that while things may seem difficult, that right now is the time to get it together, and save the Earth because time is a-wasiting; if we don’t, we’re all done for.  “The title is in reference to the beauty of the natural world which is so fragile,” Alpine’s Catherine Pockson explains in press notes, “as well as a nod to what we feel we have achieved musically,” after several years of graft and struggle. The song is inspired by a recently UN Climate Change report that said we have maybe a good decade or so before we irrevocably alter the environment — for the worse. “The song is about the climate crisis, our love of the earth, and how time is really running out,” states Catherine Pockson, “The refrain ‘everything has to change” is both a plea for definitive action, and a wake-up call to those who have yet to accept the reality. If we don’t completely change our way of life within the next few years, the damage to the natural world will be irreversible – some of it already is.”

New Audio: Tame Impala and Theophilus London Team Up on Two Synth Funk Bangers

Led by singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind Kevin Parker, the Melbourne, Australia-based psych pop act Tame Impala received international attention with the release of their first two albums, 2011’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism. Interestingly, 2015’s Currents was centered around some of the most emotionally direct material he had written to date while expanding upon the sound that first caught attention with the material sonically drawing from synth pop, prog rock, R&B and psych pop to create a nuanced, textured and difficult to pigeonhole sound. 

Theophilus London is a Trinidad and Tobago-born, Brooklyn-based emcee, singer/songwriter and producer, who first emerged into the national and international scene with his 2011 debut EP Lovers Holiday, which found the Brooklyn-based emcee/singer/songwriter and producer collaborating with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin, Glasser and Solange Knowles and his full-length debut 2011’s Timez are Weird These Days. Both of those early efforts quickly established London’s crowd-pleasing, genre-mashing sound and approach, which draws from soul, pop, post-punk, electro-pop, electro R&B, hip-hop and R&B — and that shouldn’t be surprising as London has publicly cited Michael Jackson, Prince, Kraftwerk and The Smiths as influences on his work.  2013’s sophomore effort VIBES found London collaborating with Jesse Boykins III and Kanye West, who was the album’s executive producer — and from album single “Tribe,” the album’s material further cemented London’s reputation for club-banging, synth pop-influenced hip-hop. 

So in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that both genre-defying artists have collaborated together in a project informally dubbed Theo Impala, which has already released two singles — the first single, the swaggering “Whiplash” is a thorough and seamless amalgamation of their sound and approach, as it features London spitting fiery bars over layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats and Parker’s ethereal backing vocals singing a sugary pop-meets-soul melody. In some way, the song recalls 80s hip-hop, 80s synth soul, Crime Cutz-era Holy Ghost! and Dam-Funk among others. The second track is a cover Steve Monite’s Nigerian boogie hit “Only You” and while their cover is somewhat straightforward, it manages to possess a contemporary production sheen that gives the song a retro-futuristic thump. 

Founded by some of the originators of CMJ and its long-running CMJ Marathon, Mondo.NYC is a music, technology and innovation-based festival that within its first couple years has quietly taken the place of both the CMJ Marathon and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights Festival. Now, as you may recall, the third edition of Mondo.NYC took place last week and it found the global, emerging music, technology and innovation conference moving a few miles east across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn with  The Williamsburg Hotel,Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl hosting daytime conference-related events hosted by  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Guild of Music Supervisors,Record Store Day, and others meant to connect fans, artists, music industry professionals, business pioneers and leading names in tech and music to network, trade ideas and learn in a rapidly changing industry landscape. Additionally, the panels, talks and other events were meant to inspire young people to take control of their careers — whether they were heading towards a technological-based career, behind the scenes in A&R, marketing, promotion, management and publicity or up in front as an artist.

Live music showcases took place across a handful of venues in the New York metropolitan area, including the aforementioned Brooklyn Bowl, Piano’s, Berlin, Arlene’s Grocery,  Coney Island Baby, The Delancey, DROM, Hank’s Saloon, Niagara, N.O.R.D. and Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall that featured artists from the US, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, France and elsewhere performing music across a wide array of genres and styles.

One of the artists who played during the music festival portion was the Swedish adult contemporary pop artist ELINDA, the collaborative music project of the Ekerö, Sweden-born, Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and dancer Linda Östergren Frithiof and her husband, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mikael Frihiof. Linda Östergren Frithiof can trace the origins of her performing career as a trained dancer, studying at  the Lasse Kühler Dansskola School and the Ballet Academy, one of Scandinavia’s leading dance schools. While training as a dancer, it was discovered that Östergren Frithiof had a commanding voice and once she graduated dance school, she began performing at nightclubs, cabarets, vacation resorts, cruise ships and corporate events before landing gigs as a backup singer for a number of major Scandinavian artists including Magnus Uggla, Markoolio and E-Type, Shirley Clamp, Martin Stenmarck and Charlotte Perrelli, as well as Lutricia McNeal. She’s also sang vocal demos for Celine Dion, and collaborated with the likes of Leif Larsson and Anders Borgius for Swedish artists like Björn Skifs and David Hasselhoff. (Yes, David Hasselhoff.)

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Adding to a rather diverse and eclectic career path, Östergren Frithiof has played Sally Bowles in the Stockholm-based production of Cabaret and Joanne in the Stockholm-based production of RENT before joining The Original Band — The Abba Tribute, which features a number of musicians who have played with ABBA either on their records or tours. Additionally, Östergren Frithiof, was involved in the casting, choreography and scripting for the show, which has toured across Sweden and has performed in China several times, including a televised audience of more than 100 million viewers for the Chinese New Year broadcast.

Östergren Frithof, has been building up a profile as a solo artist largely inspired by the sounds, vocal styles and stage shows of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Prince, Justin Timberlake,Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. With her husband and collaborator Mikael, they formed a label Breaking Records and began writing and recording original material that draws from her own life, centered around her struggles and victories as an artist and mother of five. Interestingly, her MONDO.NYC set at Piano’s was her Stateside debut and I spoke to the up-and-coming Swedish adult contemporary pop artist and her husband at P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Center location about her career to date, the MONDO.NYC Festival, her dance floor friendly, feminist anthem “Superwoman” and a lot more. Check it out.

 

Now, throughout the the bulk of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed New York-based dance music outfit Escort,which features their indomitable frontwoman and bassist Adeline Michele, and as you may recall she released a solo album a few years ago — but her forthcoming self-titled, full-length effort slated for a November 9, 2018 release is something of a reset button; in fact, the Morgan-Wiley-produced “Emeralds” found the Escort frontwoman’s sound moving towards slinky 80s Quiet Storm-inspired synth soul reminiscent of Prince and others, centered around a sinuous bass line and Adeline Michele’s sultry vocals.

“Before,” the self-titled album’s latest single is centered around a funky, disco-like bass line, twinkling keys, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Adeline’s effortless and self-assured pop superstar vocals — and while the song sonically nods at Chaka Khan and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,”  Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy,Patrice Rushen‘s “Feels So Real” and classic Chicago house music, it possesses a soulful and disco-like ecstasy.
 

New Video: Introducing the Atmospheric Dream Pop of Perth Australia’s The Money War

The Money War is a Perth, Australia-based dream pop/indie pop/indie rock duo comprised of Dylan Ollivierre, a member of Rainy Day Women and Carmen Pepper, a member of Warning Birds, and the project can trace its origins to a road trip that the duo took across the US in late 2015. Inspired by the trip, they recorded a ton of iPhone demos — and as the story goes, after a chance meeting with producers Thom Monahan, who’s worked with Fruit Bats and Little Joy and Arne Frager, who’s worked with Prince and Paul McCartney in a San Francisco dive bar, the duo were convinced of the value of their demos together, and began working on an album. 

The Perth-based dream pop/indie pop/indie rock duo released their debut EP early last year, and they spent the year touring with Holy Holy and Meg Mac, before headlining a national time in December. Interestingly, “Recall,” off their debut EP was the 5th most played song on Triple J Radio last year — and as a result, they had seen a growing national and international profile, with the duo gaining attention Stateside as they’ve received airplay on SiriusXM, KEXP, CJAM FM, KXRN, WLKK and college radio. 

“Hollywood,” the duo’s latest single off their full-length debut is a moody and atmospheric track that immediately brings JOVM mainstays Still Corners, as the track is centered around Pepper’s ethereal vocals, twinkling synths, strummed acoustic guitar, piano and a sinuous hook — and while possessing a subtly cinematic vibe, the song as the duo’s Dylan Ollivierre explains was written and inspired by a difficult year the duo had in which people close to each individual member had died. “There’s a hospital in Perth called Hollywood, and I was pondered its ironic name,” Olliviere says in press notes. “We were in LA when I got the news that a family member was passing away, and the lyrics started forming from there. We wanted the song to sound like a moving and we took production cues from that idea.” 

The recently released video cuts between daily life footage of Hollywood that captures the bitter irony as its core — while some do manage to obtain massive success, a fair number of people wind up down and out; and footage of the two in the studio performing the song

 

Now, over the past year or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse, comprised of singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon. The project has received attention for crafting beautiful and infectious hook-driven material centered around dark, heavy grooves. but with each successive single they’ve released, they’ve managed to subtly expand upon the sound that has captured the attention of this site and others. In  fact, the duo’s latest single “It Runs Wild” is driven by swirling and arpeggiated synths, shimmering guitar chords and a chugging rhythm section,  and while clearly indebted to 80s New Wave and pop, in particular, I think of Prince and Siouxsie and The Banshees, as the song’s emotional center is an aching longing.

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Still Corners Release Brooding Visuals for Slow-Burning Torch Song “The Photograph”

Last month, I wrote about the  London-based duo and JOVM mainstays Still Corners, and as you may recall, with the release of their first three albums, Creatures of an Hour, 2013’s Strange Pleasures and 2016’s Dead Blue, the British duo comprised of vocalist Tessa Murray and multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Greg Hughes, have developed a reputation for crafting incredibly atmospheric and moody dream pop/synth pop centered around Murray’s smoky vocals and shimmering atmospherics.

Slated for an August 17, 2018 release through the duo’s own Wrecking Light label, their fourth album Slow Air derives its name from the sultry summer days and nights they experienced during their time in Austin, TX, where they had written the album. Reportedly, the forthcoming Slow Air is a bit of a return to early form for Murray and Hughes, as the material learn towards arrangements that emphasize electric and acoustic guitars, live drumming and a minimal use of synthesizers. Recorded in a new studio designed by Hughes, the recorded sessions inspired a minimalist and fluid approach in which they used a variety of old and new microphones while making sure that they didn’t overthink the entire process as is the tendency of modern recording; in fact, they managed to keep the mistakes they recorded on the album, so as to remind the listener of the fact that living, breathing, feeling and imperfect humans made it,  while also making sure that the important thing was the material’s emotionality.

Murray and Hughes recorded and mixed the album in three months, the fastest they’ve ever done so far, and from album single “Black Lagoon,” the London-based duo managed to retain the shimmering and moody atmospherics they’ve long been known for but paired with an previously unheard urgency. As Tessa Murray says of the album in press notes, “we wanted to hear beautiful guitar and drums and an otherworldliness, something about indefinable, along with a classic songwriting vibe. We’re always trying to get the sound we hear inside of ourselves, so we moved fast to avoid our brains getting in the way too much. The name Slow Air evokes the feel of the album to me, steady, eerie and beautiful.”

The album’s latest single “The Photograph,” is the slow-burning, atmospheric, synth-based torch song that to my ears immediately brings Prince to mind — his “Nothing Compares 2 U” in particular, as the song is about a long lost lover, who’s only left an old, slowly fading photograph behind as a reminder of what the song’s narrator once had. The video, which was directed by the duo continues a run of gorgeous and evocative visuals — in this case, black and white video which features Murray’s lone figure walking down a desolate highway eternally searching for something beyond the frame. The visuals manage to evoke the song’s spectral and yearning quality — with the understanding that most things in our lives are rendered as memories, but with a bit of fuzziness and distortion around the edges.

 

James Clifford is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and creative mastermind of the recording project Primaveras, which was once known as Modern Howls. As the story goes, Clifford grew up in a rather musical family; in fact, Clifford began playing guitar in his early teens and throughout his high school years, he played in a number of garage bands. Foregoing a formal musical education, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is largely self-taught with his passion for playing and writing stemming from a lifelong passion for everything music, as he’s been known to scour music stores for vintage guitars and synths or to stay up into the wee hours listening to records. Unsurprisingly, Clifford has cited the likes of David Bowie, Prince, The Clash, Funkadelic, Chic, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Steely Dan, and The Beach Boys as some of his greatest music inspirations.  Thematically, Clifford and Primaveras draws influence from the stretch of the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica — warm breezes through cracked car windows, the soft sound of waves crashing and receding into the Pacific, and the silhouette of the Los Angeles skyline. For many it’s timeless and almost dreamlike; but those who haven’t stuck around long enough fail to notice the effects of salt air on the surroundings — in the form of rust and erosion. In some way, it evokes faded dreams and hopes of a paradise that never really was there in the first place, and in another sense, the faded surroundings evoke a lonely introspection. Clifford’s Primaveras debut Echoes in the Well of Being was written in a way to embody that dualism — with the album’s material generally being sunny psych pop yet possess an underlying longing and introspection.
Interestingly with Clifford’s previously released material and Echoes in the Well of Being‘s latest single, the shimmering and strutting “Better Off,” his sound has been compared favorably to the likes of Tame Impala and Phoenix — and while that is definitely fair, I also hear a subtle nod at Avalon-era Roxy Music as the song evokes bright neon lights, evening faces, Jack and Cokes, the buzz of a coke high and a desperate escape from one’s loneliness and regret. But interestingly enough, Clifford pays loving  homage to The Isley Brothers’Footsteps in the Dark, Parts 1 and 2” with the song’s intro drum break, which not only ties the song to classic R&B, but gives it a subtle sensuality.
As Clifford says of the song, “While most people will immediately interpret as a breakup song, I see the core sentiment as trying to grow up and move on from any sort of worn-out relationship.”