Tag: rock

Throwback: Happy 73rd Birthday David Bowie

JOVM pays tribute to David Bowie on what would have been his 73rd birthday.

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New Audio: Sheer Mag Returns with a Politically-Charged Power, Chord-Fueled Anthem

Philadelphia-based rock act Sheer Mag, comprised of Tina Halladay, Kyle Seely, Hart Seely, Matt Palmer and Ian Dystrka, quickly emerged with three self-released 7 inches and regular touring across the Northeastern DIY circuit. Ironically, the Philadelphia-based quintet stood apart because their sound was so warmly familiar: big riff-based power pop, 60s and 70s proto-metal and 70s arena rock but without the toxic and fucked up machismo. They received praise from Rolling Stone who named the band one of their “10 New Artists You Need To Know” in January 2015, played at Coachella the following year and made their national television debut on on Late Night with Seth Myers.

Building upon a rapidly growing national profile, the band released their critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Need to Feel Your Love. Further cementing their enormous riff-based sound, the album thematically found the band surveying the contemporary political landscape through the lens of history with the band figuratively transporting themselves back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, denouncing redlining and gerrymandering practices that undermine the popular vote while paying homage to German, Anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. 

Sheer Mag’s highly-anticipated sophomore album A Distant Call is slated for a September 23, 2019 release through the band’s own label, Wilsuns RC, and while the album finds the band writing about surviving our hellish sociopolitical moment, the album’s politics are deeply personal. The album documents one of the most alienating periods of Tina Halladay’s life: She was laid off from a job and found herself broke and newly single. And her father, with whom she had a fraught and difficult relationship died, which left her with more heartache and wounds than what felt possible to heal. On another level, the album’s material makes an argument for socialism on an anecdotal level.

Sonically, the album’s material possesses a studio sheen while retaining the big riffs, even bigger hooks, grit and intensity that first caught the attention of the blogosphere, as you’ll hear on the album’s first single, “The Killer.” And it may arguably be the most ambitious and self-assured bit of material in the band’s growing catalog.”There are many killers out there,” Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay says in press notes. “The Killer is a liar with a strange hold on the world. The Killer is a war criminal the corrupt of society have produced and protected. The Killer spends his life covering up atrocities and defending right-wing dictatorships. The Killer stifles accountability and truth. We want to know, when does The Killer die?”

Live Footage: the bird and the bee Cover Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with Dave Grohl on “The Late Late Show with James Corden”

Comprised of singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia,Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee can trace their origins to when they met  while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. As the story goes back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show, during the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim(drums), who has worked with the David Bowie and Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen‘s album’s second single “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” is a slinky New Wave-like take on the original, centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, atmospheric electronics, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to New Order and It’s Blitz!-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the track is imbued with a feverish quality.

While much of Van Halen’s material, whether it was David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era is seemingly familiar to the point of well-worn, the first two singles off Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen finds the duo crafting a loving and thoughtful take on beloved material. And they manage to do so in a way that retains familiar elements but within a playful, post-modern, decidedly feminist fashion. 

The duo were recently on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where they performed their sultry rendition of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with a special guest — Dave Grohl, who played drums. 

New Audio: the bird and the bee’s Jazz-like Take on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”

Last month, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee — singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney — and as you may recall, the act can trace their origins to when the duo met while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. Back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show — and it was the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowieand Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

The album’s two singles found the members of the bird and the bee taking on Van Halen’s “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The duo turned “Panama” from a power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. Their cover of”Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was a slinky and shimmering New Wave-like take that recalled New Order and It’s Blitz-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs while imbued with a feverish quality.  The album’s third latest single finds the band taking on “Hot For Teacher,” the last official single that band released with their original lineup.  Featuring drummer Omar Hakim, who has worked with David Bowie, Sting, Daft Punk, Weather Report, Madonna, Kate Bush and others and a spoken word cameo from Beck, the bird and the bee deliver a swinging bop jazz-inspired take that actually pulls, tugs and teases out the jazziness of the original — particularly within Eddie Van Halen’s dexterous guitar solo-ing. Interestingly, much like Easy Star All-Stars take on Dark Side of the Moon, the bird and the bee version of “Hot For Teacher” isn’t a purely straightforward cover — rather, it’s a subtle and mischievous modernization that retains the spirit and intent of the song in a thoughtful and loving way. 

New Video: Budapest’s Ivan and the Parazol Releases an Arena Rock Friendly Single Paired with Slick Visuals

Last November, I wrote about the Budapest, Hungary-based indie rock quartet Ivan and the Parazol, and as you may recall the act which is currently comprised of Vitáris Iván (vocals), Balla Máté (guitar), Beke István (keys) and Simon Bálint (drums) can trace their origins to when its founding members along with Tarnai János (bass) met at a private music school back in 2010. And since their formation, the Hungarian rock act has released three full-length albums, opened for Deep Purple, played SXSW twice, played Reeperbahn Festival, Eurosonic Nooderslag, and the Sziget Festival main stage as well as hundreds of shows internationally across Europe. Adding to a growing national and international profile the act was nominated for an MTV Hungary Brand New Award in 2010, won an MTV Europe Music Award for Best Hungarian act in 2014. Also their single “Together” was named the Sziget Festival anthem.  

Last year was an eventual year for the Hungarian rock band: they celebrated their eighth year together, and in that time, the band cemented a reputation for being at the forefront of their homeland’s growing, contemporary rock and indie rock scenes. Building upon their growing profile, the Budapest-based rock act’s Wil Anspach-produced fourth, full-length album Exotic Post Traumatic finds the band ambitiously expanding upon the sound and songwriting approach that has won them attention in the homeland — with the intention of winning ears and audiences across the rest of the European Union and the States. Exotic Post Traumatic’s slow-burning, first single “Nr. 1003” was a slick and seamless mix of glam rock, psych rock and arena rock that seemed to draw from The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Tame Impala — and while seemingly sunny, the song has a subtle darkness to it; after all the song focuses on the band moving froward with their lifelong dream without one of their closest friends. And while there’s some guilt about moving forward, there’s also the hope that their friend will be able to join them on their incredible journey. 

The album’s latest single “Changin'” is a straightforward arena rock track features an enormous power chord-led hook, a thundering backbeat and Vitáris Iván’s sultry  baritone. And while to my ears, the track sounds like early INXS, the song is centered by an overwhelming positivity — that the changes the song’s narrator feels he’s going through is part of a necessary part of his personal evolution. As the band explains in press notes that “‘Changin’ could be the title of the whole album, cause the last two years have embodied this concept. The band, our music, and style of song-writing developed and evolved so much. This song was inspired by a new relationship, but of course the desired love is hard to reach, especially when the different factors of life and personal experiences can make it harder to materialise. Our band and our bond is a relationship too that goes through evolutions and difficulties. So, you have to trust your instinct, and the change will make you better.” 

The recently released video follows a beautiful and stylish woman as she goes to an artist loft — at first she vamps in an elevator before heading to an art gallery. Next door, the members of Ivan and the Parazol are jamming out. Much like the video for “Nr. 1003,” the slickly shot video creates the impression that the band are part of their country’s — and in turn, their hometown’s — effortlessly cool. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Blues Rock Act The Blue Stones Release a Disturbing and Timely Video for Arena Rock Friendly “Black Holes (Solid Ground)”

Comprised of high school friends Tarek Jafer (vocals, guitar) and Justin Tessier (drums, percussion, backing vocals), the up-and-coming alt rock duo The Blue Stones can trace their origins to when the duo, who had attended college together decided that they should start a musical project together. While being among an increasing number of blues-tinged rock duos including The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Royal Blood, and others, the duo cite Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, MUTEMATH, My Morning Jacket, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King as influences on their overall sound and aesthetic.

Jafar and Tessier spent seven years honing and perfecting their sound, during which they wrote and recorded an independently released EP. As the duo’s Tarek Jafar says in press notes, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay proud and focused.” Building upon several years of hard work and dedication, the duo’s full-length debut Black Holes was released earlier this year— and the album, which features “Rolling With The Punches,” a single that has received placements on USA Network‘s Suits, Showtime‘s Shameless and ESPN‘s Monday Night Football and the attention-grabbing lead single “Black Holes (Solid Ground),” which has amassed 8 million streams, will further cement the duo’s growing profile for  playing blues rock that as the duo’s Justin Tessier says is “lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.” Thematically, the album as Jafar explains is “. . . about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college. Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier but you’re passionate about . . . following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.”

Over course of the year playing across the national festival circuit with stops at Carolina Rebellion with MUSE and Queens of the Stone Age, and at Northern Invasion, Winnetka Music Festival and Bonnaroo Festival.  But let’s talk about the aforementioned, arena rock friendly “Black Holes (Solid Ground),” which is centered around big, bluesy power chords, thundering drums and anthemic hooks — and while clearly indebted to classic Delta blues, The Black Keys, The White Stripes and early Black Sabbath but with a subtly psych rock-leaning that reveals a twist on a familiar and winning formula.

Directed by Jason Lester and filmed in Los Angeles, the first official video from the band’s full-length debut is provoking, and considering the recent news stories about migrants and refugee seekers being tear gassed at our borders — disturbing and timely. As Lester says in press notes about the video treatment,  “When the band told me about how their great track was an exploration of the battles we fight within ourselves, my mind went instantly to Stanley Milgram’s infamous shock experiments of the early 1960s,” says director Jason Lester. “Using the setup of his obedience tests as a jumping off point, we constructed a visual representation of the struggle with the self — a person facing their own image in a mirror, pushed to the brink by a choice that must be made.”

New Video: Acclaimed British Act Slaves Release a Blistering Take on Suburban Consumerism

With the release of their first two critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2015’s Mercury Prize Top 10 nominated-Are You Satisfied and 2016’s UK Top Ten Take Control, the Royal Tunbridge, Wells, Kent, UK-based punk duo Slaves, comprised of Laurie Vincent (guitar, bass, vocals) and Issac Holman (vocals, drums) have developed a reputation for a sound that meshes elements of early British punk, garage rock and the blues. The band’s third full-length album Acts of Fear and Love was released earlier this year,  and it continues their run of commercially successful albums as it landed on the UK Top Ten — and the album’s title is inspired by a comment, once made by Issac Holman’s college teacher: “There’s no such thing as hate — just acts of fear and love.” And perhaps unsurprisingly, the album in some way reflects the fact that fear and love — primarily fear, may be the among the biggest and most constant motivators in the world at the moment. 

Acts of Fear and Love’s latest single “Magnolia” is a burst of blistering, 77 punk-influenced punk with enormous, arena rock-friendly hooks that’s centered around a sneering take down of bland, suburban consumerism — and a tongue-in-cheek tribute to boring and increasingly ubiquitous color, which has found its way into an overwhelming majority of UK homes. 

The recently released video for “Magnolia” finds the members of Slaves as house painters, painting houses in the bland color that equally bland people desiring in their suburban homes, emphasizing the household’s boring and empty life. And in some way, it’s a glimpse into the duo’s life if they didn’t pursue a career in music.