Tag: Prince

New Video: The Besnard Lakes Release a Lysergic and Feverish Visual for Shimmering and Slow-Burning “Feuds With Guns”

Deriving their name from Besnard Lake in North Central Saskatchewan, the acclaimed, multi-Polaris Music Prize-nominated Montreal-based indie rock act The Besnard Lakes — currently, husband and wife duo Jace Lasek (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys) and Olga Goreas (vocals, bass), along with Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keys) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar) — formed back in 2003. And since their formation, the Montreal-based sextet have five albums of atmospheric and textured shoegaze that some critics have described as magisterial and cinematic.

After the release of their fifth album, 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, The Besnard Lakes and their longtime label home Jagjaguwar mutually decided that it was time to end their relationship and go their separate ways. And as a result, the members of the band began to question whether or not it made sense to even continue the band. But fueled by their love for each other and for playing music together, the acclaimed Canadian act settled in to write and record what may arguably be the most uncompromising effort of their catalog, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings.

Unlike their previously released material, the members of the Montreal-based went with a much more patient creative approach, taking all the time they needed to conceive, write, record and mix the album’s material. Some of the album’s songs are old, tracing their origins to resurrected demos left on the shelf years before. Other songs were woodshedded in the cabin behind Lasek and Goreas’ Riguard Ranch, with the band relishing a rougher, grittier sound.

Thematically, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings finds the band contemplating the darkness of dying, the light on the other side, and coming back from the brink of annihilation. And while touching upon the band’s own story, the album also is a remembrance of dear loved ones, who are no longer with us — particularly Lasek’s father, who died last year. From what Lasek observed of his father’s death, being on one’s deathbed may be the most intense psychedelic trip of anyone’s life” at one point Lasek’s father surfaced from a morphine-induced dream, talking about how he saw a “window” on his blanket, with “a carpenter inside of it, making objects.” And as a result, the album’s material is imbued with a surreal and ethereal quality.

Earlier this year, I wrote about The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings’ first single “Raindrops,” a slow-burning shoegazer with a painterly attention to gradation and texture, centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and a euphoric hook. Interestingly, the album’s second single is the slow-burning, dream pop-like “Feuds With Guns.” Centered around an atmospheric and spacious arrangement featuring thunderous drumming, anthemic power chord-based riffs, twinkling keys, plaintive vocals and a soaring hook, “Feuds With Guns” sonically speaking, is one part Prince, one part Beach House.

“‘Feuds With Guns’ is one of the first songs written from our upcoming LP. This one is a good slow-dancer!” The members of The Besnard Lakes explain to Under The Radar ” Written almost entirely in the Cabanon at The Rigaud Ranch, this one started out as an organ and drum idea that morphed into a little OMD-style pop song.”

Directed by Dr. Cool, the recently released animated video for “Feuds With Guns” is a lysergic fever dream that features divers taking a dive, flying airplanes, cars and vans in front of a bright yellow sun. “I rotoscoped a couple of the big dives from a video of an extreme high-diving contest that took place in the 80s. About a week after I had animated the first guy’s big jump, I returned to the video to check out some other usable clips,” Dr. Cool explains in press notes. “I realized I had never watched the full clip of the first jump — I had just stopped once he hit the water. I found out that after he lands in the water he floats back up unconscious and then gets taken away on a stretcher. So now what was I supposed to do? People in the comments were asking what had happened but no one knew the answer. After a bunch of snooping around the internet I found the guy’s Facebook and he’s TOTALLY alive. His name is Pat and he lives in Florida. I messaged him but he hasn’t answered.”

The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is slated for a January 29, 2021 release through Fat Cat Records here in the States and through Flemish Eye in their native Canada.

Throwback: Happy 70th Birthday, Tom Petty!

One of the greatest thrills I’ve had as a music fan, was somehow getting last-minute tickets through a broker to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden back in June 2008. Up until, catching Bob Dylan with Mavis Staples at The Beacon Theatre, that 2008 concert was the most I had ever spent for concert tickets — and I don’t regret it for a single second. God, hearing all of great songs live.

Petty would have turned 70. And much like Prince, I doubt Petty was capable of writing a terrible song. I wanted to celebrate Tom Petty’s birthday — and i think you should, too. I’ll be playing some of his music today, and will feel grateful for all of those songs. Happy 70th Tom. Happy birthday to you, wherever you are.

New Audio: Johnny Franco Releases a Classic Rock-Inspired Single

Johnny Franco is a Sao Paulo-born, Portland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist  who has developed a cult following in his adopted hometown for high-energy street performances and stylish music. Building upon a growing reputation, Franco caught the attention of Sterling Fox, a producer who signed the emerging singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist  to his label, Blanket Fort Records. 

Franco’s debut EP, the four track Experience Report #1, which featured debut single “Treated Like Glass” was released earlier this year. And since the release of Experience Report #1, the Brazilian-born, Portland-based artist has been busy: he recently released the “Stay Real”/”Shelter The Light” double single — and “Stay Real” is a decidedly classic rock-inspired track centered around shimmering and shuffling  guitars, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. And while bringing Springsteen, Bowie and Prince to mind, the song not only reveals a deliberate attention to craft, it possesses a simple yet profound message to stay positive during this uncertain, historical moment. 

New Video: Hippo Campus’ Jake Luppen Releases a Glistening 80s-Inspired Pop Confection

Jake Luppen hasa risen to prominence for being the frontman and guitarist of acclaimed St. Paul, MN-based indie rock act Hippo Campus. While touring between 2018 and 2019 to support Hippo Campus’ most recent album Bambi, Luppen started writing new material as a n escape from the grind of endless tour and as way to process major and stress life events — in particular, the discovery by CT scan of an abnormal mass on his brain, which left him with the immediate impression that he was dying. 

Interestingly, the material Luppen started to write during that Bambi tour didn’t quite fit with his primary gig — and the end result was Luppen’s solo recording project Lupin. Luppen’s solo, full-length debut as Lupin is slated for an October 9, 2020 release through Grand Jury Music,  and as the Hippo Campus frontman explains in press notes, the album’s songs feel like he was meeting himself for the first time.  “With this record I wanted to get to the point, and say how things were, as opposed to dancing around them.”

For the Hippo Campus frontman, the creative process being the album was one of self-discovery that led to a much deeper self-confidence, in which he learned who he could be — and always had been — as an artist and as a person. With his previously released work in Hippo Campus, Luppen took a much vaguer approach to his songwriting, frequently eschewing the personal in favor of broader, shared experiences of his bandmates. Striking out as a solo artist allowed (and perhaps, even forced) him to do the complete opposite. Instead of focusing on looser ideas and generalities, Luppen found the bravery to write about his life — including, the breakup of a long-tern relationship, the aforementioned health scare, sexual exploration and discovering his own personhood with incisiveness, earnestness and honesty. 

Co-produced by Luppen and BJ Burton, Luppen’s debut effort is centered around sobering thematic concerns — but is paired with a bright and infectious soundscape reportedly inspired by by Charli XCX’s Pop 2, Tears for Fears, 80s New Wave and Prince. Fueled by Luppen’s desire to make 80s music through modern technology — or should i say 80s music for the 2020s? — the album also features synth and programming contributions from Jim-E-Stack and Buddy Ross. The end result is a shimmering yet off-kilter pop sheen that Luppen has said was guided more by intuition and feeling than anything else. 

The learning curve of producing his own material, being singularly at the helm of his sound for the first time, as well as writing his most personal material to date was a deeply vulnerable experience. An experience, in which he reconciled that it was okay to be his true, weird and sensitive self, to make mistakes and to enjoy the parts of himself and his personality that he usually didn’t have an opportunity to indulge. “I spent a lot of time thinking I had to hide behind other people or other things, but I realized, ‘No, I’m fully capable of doing this myself, I’m fully capable of having this vision.” Luppen explains. “I didn’t think that I was but no, there was this whole other part of myself I’d been stowing away out of fear this entire time.”

“May,” the album’s first single is a shimmering, 80s synth pop banger, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, skittering and thumping beats, an infectious hook and Luppen’s achingly tender falsetto delivery. Sonically speaking, the song brings Prince, Gordon Voidwell and Cut Copy to mind as it’s a hook-driven, pop confection built around earnest (yet kaleidoscopic) songwriting. 

The recently released video for “May” is a rotoscoped, animated visual made by Adam Fuchs. While capturing and evoking the song’s shimmering, kaleidoscopic vibe, the video feels like a hallucinogenic fever dream. 

Benedict · Warzone

Benedict is a rising Aussie singer/songwriter producer and multi-instrumentalist, who can trace the origins of her music career to growing up in a highly musical home: Benedict’s mother was a gifted singer/songwriter and musician, and as a child, the rising Aussie artist spent the bulk of childhood pursuing the mastery of multiple instruments. She started writing songs when she was five — and as she got older, she started to listening to Joan Baez, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, and Queen, all of which wound up heavily influencing her own songwriting and vocal stylings.

After spending many years writing, recording and performing with a number of different musical projects, as well as work behind the scenes, producing and collaborating with other artists, the rising Aussie singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist took time out in 2016, sequestering herself in a cabin in the woods, writing and then developing and honing a new sound — one that’s  seemingly inspired by Kate Bush and Prince. Additionally, the rising Aussie artist spent several years working as a prison guard, and drawing from her own personal experiences — especially seeing people in her community suffer at the hands of a system that doesn’t offer actual rehabilitation, her work thematically touches upon heartbreak, love and social justice. With this newfound purpose, Benedict strives to fight for those within her community, acting as a voice for those who are voiceless.

During her period of isolation, the rising Aussie artist wrote and produced over 50 songs including her debut single last year’s “Oh Fool,” which was released to praise from TONEDEAF, with the online magazine naming the track one of their 10 favorite releases of the year. Benedict’s latest single, the Dean Tuza produced “Warzone” pairs the Aussie artist’s ethereal and achingly plaintive vocals with a minimalist production centered around atmospheric electronics, stuttering beats, finger snaps and industrial clang and clatter.

And while sonically recalling both Kate Bush and Bjork, the track thematically is uplifting and touches upon the different relationships people have over time — from relationships with romantic partners, friendships and family with religion and even ourselves. And with each of those relationships, they can quickly turn from positive to negative and vice versa as you learn the paradigms within each of those relationships. In some cases, while you trust and love deeply, you may only receive narcissism, abuse and gaslighting.

“‘Warzone’ shares a story of the deepest of suffering through the worst experiences. But, when you feel you cannot go on and you are drowning in torment, there will ALWAYS be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Benedict says. “There will always be an end to the suffering. All you need to do is look at yourself, love yourself, and see your true worth. As your life is worth something and important. When you can see that even in the hard times, you will be ok. My warzone has been many different relationships with partners, friendships, family, religion, government, my childhood. I have been on my knees through many things I thought would break me, but I’m still standing!”

New Video: Video Age Releases a Playful Visual for Shimmering and Upbeat Anthem “Aerostar”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the New Orleans-based act Video Age, and with the release of their first two albums 2016’s full-length debut Living Alone and 2018’s sophomore album Pop Therapy, the band — founding members Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli, along with Nick Corson and Duncan Troast — received attention for crafting hook-driven material with a decidedly 80s synth pop-inspired sound.

Following the release of Pop Therapy, the band’s songwriting partners and co-founders Farbe and Micarelli were eager to write new material and continue upon the momentum they had just started to build up. The band convened at Farbe’s home studio to work on the band’s highly anticipated third album, Pleasure Line, which is slated for an August 7, 2020 release through Winspear, who recently signed the band.

Inspired by a vast range of influences including Janet Jackson, David Bowie and Paul McCartney, Pleasure Line finds the band crafting neon-bright 80s pop-like melodies to create an optimistic sound — with the material taking on a rosy hue.  “I’m often trying to create a more idealized version of the world I’m in,” Video Age’s Ross Farbe says in press notes. “In fact, some of that optimism may come as a result of both Farbe and Micarelli getting married this year — just a few weeks apart from each other. “We’re feeling the love,” Farbe says.

Written as a salve that protects against cynicism. the album’s material is meant to help the listener see and feel a world full of romantic potential. But the album isn’t centered around one-dimensional puppy love — it’s the sort of fulfilling love that’s complicated, confusing and never easy; but ultimately worth it. So far, I’ve written about two of the album’s singles — the dance floor friendly,  Tom Tom Club-like “Shadow On The Wall” and the slow-burning, Quiet Storm meets Prince-like “Pleasure Line.” 

Pleasure Line’s third and latest single “Aerostar” is a decidedly upbeat New Wave-inspired, bop centered around shimmering and squiggling synth arpeggios, propulsive four-on-the-floor, a sinuous bass line, angular guitar blasts and an infectious, dance floor friendly hook. Sonically, the track may remind some listeners of The Cars, Talking Heads, and others — but with playful references to cars and hitting the road with your buddies, playing tunes. “This song looks at the bright side of being on the road. We did a lot of touring for the last album and it’s something that really brought us closer together as a band,” the members of Video Age say in press notes. 

Directed by Zack Shorrosh, the recently released video follows the band and their adventures in their ’95 Ford Aerostar, shot in front of a green screen: we see the members of the band and the van as they travel throughout various locations, including the Grand Canyon, the desert and even space — and naturally, the video looks and feels as though it could have been released in 1985. “Once we found a green screen studio big enough to fit our ’95 Ford Aerostar, we hopped in and let the story unfold,” the band says. 

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion —  founding members and creative core Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys) — was formed back in 2010. With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the act received attention for a sound and approach that meshed the acoustic instrumentation with a bold use of electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop.

The duo then toured exclusively across France and the rest of the European Union to support their full-length debut. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Rust & Gold found the duo’s sound shifting from the ethereal and atmospheric dream pop of its immediate predecessor with the material focusing on tangible emotions, soulful rhythms and insightful observations on one and the human condition.

The Paris-based electro pop’s first two albums have managed to amass over 500,000 Spotify streams a month. Building upon a rapidly growing profile across their native France and elsewhere, the act played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte.

Microqlima Records released the French duo’s third album uplifters last year. Thematically, the album was centered around misplaced nostalgia for one’s long-passed youth, As a result the album’s material is imbued with a longing for the freedom, simplicity and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and regret for the missed opportunities you can never get back. And much like its predecessors, uplifters‘ material was written and sung primarily in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French.

Album single “pas l’habitude” was one of the few album tracks written and sung in French. While the song is a breezy synth pop song, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook — but the song’s breezy and easygoing nature is superficial: the song is actually an achingly bittersweet ode to the proverbial loss of innocence and getting older. Life and its ambiguity after all, will break your heart countless times over. It’s up to you to pick up the pieces and move forward.

Franc Moody is a London-based electro pop collective, centered around its core duo and creative masterminds Ned and Jon. Jon comes from a family of classical musicians and as  result, he grew up surrounded by oboes, cellos and violins. Ned grew up listening to the music that his parents played on car trips — classic soul, 50s/60s New Orleans music, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Eddie Cochran. “I loved the melody and the groove of that music, but I think really I loved the energy of it as well,” Ned explains in press notes.

The London-based collective’s core duo met when they ere part of a a collection of bands and musicians, who took over an abandoned warehouse in North London back in 2014. “It was called the Arch,” Jon recalls. “When we moved in, it was bare bones concrete walls. A horrible place basically. We built these two analogue recording studios. There were old microphones, hammered organs, and beaten up guitar amps. It was quite craggy.”

The Arch quickly became known for raucous and packed live shows and parties that went well into the night, with live bands frequently getting on around 3am. We’ve all been to similar parties: there’s no bouncer, one port-a-potty with a line of being desperately waiting to pee but the vibe is amazing. Interestingly, Ned and Jon cut their teeth as live musicians in that environment. “We learned to love performing music that made people dance, in the same way those old funk and soul artists used to,” Ned explains. “In fact, what we were doing at the warehouse was sort of in a similar tradition to the Zydeco sessions and crawfish boils around South Louisiana, purely focused around dancing. It was quite simple.”

Franc Moody started in earnest when the duo moved out of The Arch and began to focus on a project that meshed their various influenced. No longer living in the warehouse, they struggled to find a space big enough to fit a drum kit. Instead, they stated programming drums and an electronic aesthetic began to permeate through their older influences.

Their debut effort, 2016’s self-titled EP consisted of a series of Giorgio Moroder-like instruments; but their breakthrough single, the critically applauded “Dopamine” found the band truly establishing their sound: a disco-tinged sound that was subtly indebted to Prince. Building upon a growing profile, the duo released their sophomore EP, 2018’s Dance Moves which eventually amassed over 20 million streams.

They’ve also developed a mesmerizing live sound, inspired by the warehouse rave scene that they came up in — and those live shows find them surrounded by a cast of collaborators and friends as their backing band. In fact, they’ve opened for Friendly Fires  and a number of other acts. Recently, the London-based electro pop collective remixed “pas l’habitude.” And while they retain Loïc Fleury’s achingly plaintive French vocals, they turn the song into Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk like club banger, centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios and four on the floor drum programming.