Tag: San Diego CA

New Video: Crocodiles Shares Fuzzy and Anthemic “Upside Down In Heaven”

Crocodiles — Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell — have had a nearly 25 year history: After initially becoming acquainted at a local Anti-Racist Action meeting, Welchez and Rowell found their respective teenage bands booked on the same bill at a punk gig hosted at a Mexican restaurant in their native San Diego. As their mutual friend Russell Cash, who wrote their bio describes it, “Young Brandon watched in awe as a teenage Charlie clambered up a confused family’s table and proceeded to bash the living hell out of his cheap guitar. When his set was through, young Charlie melted back into the crowd and found himself awestruck as the pubescent Brandon took the ‘stage’ (floor) and proceeded to shriek, croon, howl and spit his way through his own band’s allotted 20 minutes. Once the noise was over, the two found each other, expressed their mutual admiration and over a shared Coca-Cola agreed to dissolve their respective bands and join forces.”

After a few false starts, the duo found their footing with the noise-punk outfit The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower. They spent five years traversing the country, building up a cult following, while playing every backwoods dump that would have them. They met and inspired other like-minded freaks — an occasionally they’d get beaten up by feral rednecks. Eventually, the band imploded in a cloud of poverty and addition. But Charlie and Brandon agreed to keep their partnership going.

After a year years experimenting with their songwriting and sound and trying out various lineups and names, they decided to kick out the half-committed losers and jokers they were working at the time, and replaced them for a beat up, old drum machine. Immediately, they set to work on the batch of songs that would become Crocodiles debut album, 2009’s Summer of Hate.

Over the course of the band’s 15 year history, they’ve released seven albums and a handful of EPs while going through a flurry of changes: Their recorded output has seen them change their sound — art punk, psych rock, 60s-inspired pop and trashed-out glam. They’ve changed personnel several times, starting out as a duo, then they were a quintet, then they were a duo again and more recently as a quartet. They’ve also relocated multiple times — residing in San Diego, New York, Paris, Mexico City, London, and Los Angeles. But two things have remained the same: they’ve toured incessantly, bringing their unique brand of rock to fans in almost every corner of the globe — and the band’s core duo have never wavered on their teenage mission to help each other escape a life of drudgery, boredom and expectation through music, art, friendship and of course, adventure. After all, why not do something really fucking interesting and perhaps kind of crazy with your best friend, right?

Crocodiles’ eighth full-length album, the Maxime Smadja-produced Upside Down In Heaven was released yesterday through Lollipop Records. After a prolonged hiatus, the band finally reconvened at St. Jean de Luz, France’s Quicksilver Studios to put their eighth record on wax. Atef Aouadhi (bass) and Diego Dal Bon (drums) were recruited to flesh out the material for teh sessions. The album sees the band continuing in their long-held fashion to zig-zag cohesively from one style to the next and back again. As Russell Cash describes the album’s material, “The songs are direct, cut to the chance and leave listeners thirsting for more.”

Upside Down In Heaven‘s third and latest single, album title track “Upside Down In Heaven” is a pop-inspired anthem, rooted in the duo’s unerring knack for pairing melody, scuzzy guitars. and razor sharp hooks with lyrics that express heartache, regret with a weary and bitter, lived-in burn.

“Maybe I was chasing that elusive Stiff Records sound or simply trying something that would make Westerberg smile,” Crocodiles’ Charles Rowell says of the single. “Either way it’s pure pop for heads who appreciate lyrics and melody. It’s a little sad but triumphant and true. If you’ve ever felt like you’re a little too far from home, like you’ve chased the dream until it’s turned into a nightmare, then here’s another song burning with regret and wasted wisdom.”

Directed by Sam Macon, the accompanying video for “Upside Down In Heaven” starts off with an old Pizza Hut commercial and quickly takes the viewer to an 80s-influenced tele-evangelist show featuring the band’s Brandon Welchez as a Jim Baker-type preaching to folks as they get the Holy Spirit. Naturally, our preacher has an angel and a devil on both shoulders whispering to him (the band’s Charles Rowell). But eventually Welchez’s preacher listens to the devil, and things take a playfully satanic turn — as it should!

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Carré Share Uneasy and Lysergic “Brothers”

Over the past couple of years, I managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering Los Angeles-based indie electro rock outfit and JOVM mainstays Carré, an act that features:

  • Julien Boyé (drums, percussion, vocals): Boyé has had stints as a touring member of Nouvelle Vague and James Supercave. Additionally, he has a solo recording act Acoustic Resistance, in which he employs rare instruments, which he has collected from all over the world.
  • Jules de Gasperis (drums, vocals, synths, production and mixing): de Gasperis is a Paris-born, Los Angeles-based studio owner. Growing up in Paris, he sharpened his knowledge of synthesizers, looping machines and other electronics around the same time that JusticeSoulwax and Ed Banger Records exploded into the mainstream.
  • Kevin Baudouin (guitar, vocals, synth, production): Baudouin has lived in Los Angeles the longest of the trio — 10 years — and he has played with a number of psych rock acts, developing a uniquely edgy approach to guitar, influenced by Nels ClineJonny Greenwood and Marc Ribot.

Deriving their name for the French word for “square,” “playing tight” and “on point,” the Los Angeles-based trio formed back in 2019 — and as the band’s Jules de Gasperis explains in press notes, “The making of our band started with this whole idea of having two drummers perform together. It felt like a statement. We always wanted to keep people moving and tend to focus on the beats first when we write.”

Carrè fittingly specializes in a French electronica-inspired sound that frequently blends aggressive, dark and chaotic elements with hypnotic drum loops. And thematically, their work generally touches upon conception, abstraction and distortion of reality through a surrealistic outlook of our world.

2020’s attention-grabbing self-titled EP featured:

Since the release of their debut EP, the members of Carré have shared remixes of material off their self-titled EP. But earlier this month, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays released “Brothers,” their first single of 2022. Centered around a dense and woozy production featuring copious amounts of cowbell, buzzing guitars, layered arpeggiated synths, industrial clang and clatter, thumping and propulsive four-on-the-floor, the expansive “Brothers” is a slick synthesis of Pink Floyd‘s “On The Run,” Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, and LCD Soundsystem that’s arguably the act’s trippiest and most dance floor friendly track of their growing catalog.

The band explains that the track “is a surrealistic allegory on climate change and human relationships with Mother Earth.”

The accompanying video was made by San Diego-based artist Jerry Scott Lopez and is an uneasy and lysergic nightmare featuring stop motion animation vaguely inspired by Darron Anrofski’s Mother.

New Video: Thee Sacred Souls Share Slow-Burning and Sun-Dappled “Easier Said Than Done”

Rising San Diego-based soul act Thee Sacred Souls — founding members and multi-instrumentalists Alex Garcia and Sal Samano, along with Josh Lane (vocals) — can trace some of their origins back to simpatico that Garcia and Samano felt while cutting bedroom recorded demos of rhythm tracks that weaved elements of Chicano, Philly, Chicago, Detroit and even Panama soul, which the pair grew up listening to and loved.

When Garcia and Samano connected with Lane, the newly constituted trio quickly settled upon their sound: Lane’s tender falsetto ethereally floating over Garcia’s and Samano’s old-school, two-step inducing rhythms.

Their first live set caught the attention of bassist and Daptone Records co-founder and producer Gabriel Roth, who was so impressed by what he had seen that he invited the band to stop by his Riverside, CA-based studio, Penrose Recorders, where they started putting their first notes on tape. Back in 2020, Daptone Records imprint Penrose Records released the San Diego soul outfit’s debut single “Can I Call You Rose?”/”Weak For Your Love,” a single which caught attention across both the national and international soul scenes.

Building upon a growing profile, Thee Sacred Souls released “Give Us Justice,” a song written in response to George Floyd’s murder. “Give Us Justice,” caught the attention of multi-Grammy Award-nominated JOVM mainstay act The Black Pumas, who mentioned the song as their  “The song that will define 2020 for me” in Rolling Stone. Proceeds from the track were donated to organizations that promote and advocate for the freedoms, rights and well-being of Black people, beginning with the Movement for Black Lives.

Last year, the band released “It’s Our Love,” a slow-burning and swooning, old school-like ballad, featuring soaring organ chords, glistening guitar, shuffling rhythms paired with Lane’s achingly tender falsetto and an enormous hook. The song talks about love in sweetly old-school terms: the deep bond and affection between a romantic couple that’s in it for the long haul. Lucky and rare are those to find it.

Thee Sacred Souls will be releasing their highly-anticipated Gabriel Roth-produced self-titled, full-length debut through Daptone Records on August 26, 2022. The album reportedly sees the San Diego-based soul outfit proudly continuing in the tradition of beloved Daptone Records artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley — both on album and live.

The self-titled album’s latest single, the slow-burning, sun dappled ballad, “Easier Said Than Done” will further cement the act’s growing reputation for effortlessly putting down tight grooves paired with glistening guitar licks, Lane’s achingly plaintive vocals and their unerring knack for infectious hooks. Lyrically, the song captures the fact that love is difficult and requires constant work — both individually and as a couple.

Directed and cinematically shot by Casey Liu, the accompanying video for “Easier Said Than Done” is equally sun dappled, as it follows the trio and their live band through some gorgeous Southern California scenery.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Mackenzie Leighton Shares a Playful Visual for “Je ne suis pas poéte”

Mackenzie Leighton is a rising San Diego-born, Paris-based indie folk singer/songwriter musician and JOVM mainstay. When she was a child, Leighton’s family moved to a small, seaside town in Maine, where she grew up and spent her most other formative years. The JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to her youth: her father took her to classical piano lessons as a girl.

When Leighton turned 18, she attended my alma mater, New York University — and while in New York, she played in several jazz and folk inspired bands. Upon graduation, Leighton relocated to Paris. Leighton landed a day job as a florist and then launched a solo career with the release of 2017’s self-titled EP, a singer/songwriter folk effort that was released to praise and comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers and Julia Jacklin. 

Leighton’s sophomore EP, 2020’s Tourist(e) was a decided change in sonic direction that found the rising American-born, French-based artist working with French musicians and producers while pairing folk-inspired songwriting with lush yet contemporary instrumentation and production. Leighton has supported both of her recorded efforts with shows in and around Paris, as well as with tours in Italy, Belgium and here in the States. 

Last year’s Fleuriste EP thematically saw Leighton focusing on the reality of life as an expatriate in Europe: being constantly torn between two different cultures and hemispheres. Sonically, the EP continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: Leighton pairing folk-leaning songwriting with lush and modern production.

I had previously written about three of the EP’s singles last year:

In the buildup to the EP’s release, I managed to write about two of the EP’s singles:

  • Un jour la vie,” a playful and infectious invitation to dream of an escape to Italy, to drink endless Aperol Spritzes and to dance the night away without a care in the world, centered around Leighton’s coquettish vocals, a sinuous yet propulsive bass line and shimmering guitars. 
  • Flueriste,” a hook-driven pop confection that focuses on the plight of musicians unable to work because of the pandemic — but full of hopes of a bright future of live shows and all of the things we missed so much. 
  • Mona by the Seaside,” another breezy, hook-driven pop confection that tells the story of the narrator’s friend Mona inviting her for a weekend at the beach. While detailing easy-going summer days and nights with friends — both old and new — the song is centered around the bittersweet and tacit acknowledgement that nothing is forever, and that the good times need to be cherished.

The EP’s latest single, EP closing track, the slow-burning and contemplative “Je ne suis poéte” was one of the first songs that Leighton wrote in French. Throughout the song, Leighton openly discusses how difficult it is to write in another language and how paradoxically, it forces a guileless and unvarnished sort of honesty: She winds up getting straight to the point and saying things frankly in a way that she couldn’t in her native English. But at its core, it’s a sweet and playful love song about the desire to write a song in French that a Francophone lover will love.

Directed by Coraline Benetti, the accompanying visual follows Leighton to a quirky book store — the sort that you’d only see in Europe or pre-Guilliani/pre-Bloomberg New York. And while in the bookstore, she winds up going on a series of endearingly awkward dates with a handful of famous French poets — François de Malherbe, Paul Verlaine and Jacques Prévert — but nothing seems to work.

New Video: Canadian/American Duo Ritual Wave Share Sultry “My Sin”

This week is an extraordinarily busy week as I’ve been covering this year’s New Colossus Festival. So I haven’t been posting with the same regularity as I’d normally would. But I’m seeing live music and doing that valuable in-person networking one has to do to get by. And I’m having a ton of fun doing so. But as always, let’s get to the business at hand . . .

Ritual Wave is an emerging post-punk/dark wave duo featuring Toronto-based Judy Karacs and San Diego-based John Goodman. The Canadian/American duo bonded over a mutual love and appreciation for similar styles of music, which led to their collaboration together. Although they’ve been working on material since 2018, the duo’s work sonically sees them combining elements of old school post-punk with melodic dark wave undertones.

“My Sin” their second official single together as Ritual Wave features Karacs’ sultry cooing over glistening and icy synth arpeggios, a propulsive, angular bass line and subtle industrial clang and clatter. Sonically, “My Sin” — to my ears at least — recalls Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode and the like, but fueled by a desperate, obsessive desire.

“My Sin” as the Canadian/American duo explain uses religious themes as a metaphor to express the psychological torment and destruction of a person willing to sacrifice everything in order to be loved. And as a result, the song explores the darkest sides of obsession, control and desire as is relates to romantic affairs.

“This track was really a labour of love for us. We actually wrote ‘My Sin’ very quickly, in 2018, but ended up re-working, re-recording and re-editing it ’till we finally decided it was ready,” Ritual Wave’s Judy Karacs explains in press notes. “With the lyrics and melody I really wanted to explore the subject of obsession and how that impacts the human psyche. I likened these feelings to a strong religious devotional experience. It was the idea of having such a profound faith in someone that you were willing to sacrifice everything just to hold onto what they made you believe was love. Obviously, this belief was based more on unhealthy fixation and desire instead of genuine love.”

Edited by Ritual Wave’s Judy Karacs, the accompanying visual is shot in a gorgeous and sultry black and white, and evokes the song’s central themes: lust and obsession through religious metaphors.

Founded back in 1987, the Bristol, UK-based label Sarah Records had developed a reputation for being a defiantly indie label. And during its short lifetime, the label managed to create a whole scene surrounding itself that initially featured British bands, but expanded to Arizona, California and even Sydney, Australia.

The label shut its doors in 1995 and has long eschewed re-releases and re-issues. But interestingly enough, the label’s alumni have continued to actively create gorgeous and captivating pop music: in some cases, with the original bands that recorded on the label — and in others, with new bands that featured members of the from the label’s roster.

When Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey founded Skep Wax Records last year, they were heavily influenced by the many amazing indie labels they’d work with in previous projects like K, Elefant, Fortuna Pop!, Wiiija, Matinée, WIAIWYA and others. But Sarah Records was the one they admired most: the label operated in an ethical fashion, was completely independent and better organized than most majors. When Fletcher and Pursey started to look around, they were surprised to discover how many of their labelmates were still actively creating interesting, beautiful music.

Skep Wax recently put together a compilation album titled Under The Bridge. Slated for a March 18, 2022 digital and CD release and a July 2022 vinyl release, reintroduces several of the bands — and individual band members — who released records on Sarah Records, during the label’s storied history. However, instead of being a trip down the nostalgia road, as many compilations often do, Under The Radar spotlights the new music that these bands are making right now — with much of it being exclusive to the compilation.

The album features original Sarah Records bands like Even As We Speak, Secret Shine, The Wake, The Orchids, Boyracer and St. Christopher — with relatively unchanged lineups. Under The Radar also features newer bands, which feature members of Sarah Records bands including Jetstream Pony and The Luxembourg Signal, which both features members of Aberdeen; The Catenary Wires and Tufthunter, which both feature members of Heavenly; Soundwire, which features members of The Sweetest Ache; Leaf Mosaic, which features members of Sugargliders; Sepiasound, which features members of Blueboy; and Useless Users, which features members of Action Painting; and Secret Shine.

Every track on Under The Bridge manages to continue Sarah Records’ reputation for crated pop. Some of the tracks are punk rock, some are indie pop, others are dream pop-like. Some are gentle, some are full of rage. But all of the tracks are defiantly sensitive, thoughtful, literate and fueled by DIY spirit.

The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — features members split in LondonLos Angeles and San Diego. And with the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national shoegaze/dream pop outfit quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility. 

I’ve written a bit about The Luxembourg Signal over the past handful of years, and as you may recall, the band released their third album, the 10-song The Long Now was released back in 2020 through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets. Although a couple of have passed since I’ve last written about them, the trans-national outfit contributes the slow-burning and gorgeous, compilation opener “Travel Through Midnight.”

Centered around a lush arrangement featuring glistening and reverb-drenched guitars, a supple bass line, gently padded drumming, and shimmering synths “Travel Through Midnight” is spacious enough for Arzy’s and Moyer’s gorgeous vocals to ethereally float over the mix. The song manages to evoke a gentle yet wintry melancholy.


WRD Trio is a dynamic and gritty organ trio that features three highly accomplished bandleaders and musicians:

Walter, Roberts and Deitch would often bump into each other at New Orleans Jazz Fest, and in those those meetings, the trio would longingly discuss future collaborations together. Generally fueled by Roberts’ long-held belief that the trio would yield something impactful and interesting, the Leeds-born, Denver-based guitarist realized that with the co-founding of Color Red Music, that it was a perfect time to bring everyone into the studio to put some tracks on wax.

The end result is the trio’s recently released full-length debut The Hit, which was written and recorded in just two single-day sessions at Color Red Studios. Sonically, the album is reportedly one-part Sunday stroll and one-part rocket ship to Saturn centered around their unmistakable simpatico. (Perhaps that simpatico draws from the fact that each member is a Taurus, with each member’s birthday being a week after the other.)

The Hit‘s first single “Chum City” finds the trio collaborating with The Twin CatsNick Gerlach on a funky and strutting number centered around a grinding and muscular groove reminiscent of Chuck Brown-era go-go music and Booker T and The MGs and an arrangement that’s loose enough for all of these talented musicians to deliver some impressive solos. Simply put, this one is just fucking nasty y’all.

New Video: Mackenzie Leighton Returns with a Playful Visual for “Mona by the Seaside”

Mackenzie Leighton is a rising San Diego-born, Paris-based indie folk singer/songwriter and musician. Leighton’s family moved to a small, seaside town in Maine, where she grew up and spent her formative years. Interestingly, the San Diego-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter […]

New Audio: Mackenzie Leighton Returns with a Breezy New Single

Mackenzie Leighton is a rising San Diego-born, Paris-based indie folk singer/songwriter and musician. Leighton’s family moved to a small, seaside town in Maine, where she grew up. The San Diego-born, Paris-based artist can trace much of the origins of her music career to her father taking her to classical piano lessons as a young girl. When Leighton turned 18, she attended my alma mater, New York University — and while in New York, she played in several jazz and folk inspired bands. 

Upon graduation, Leighton relocated to Paris. She landed a day job as a florist and launched a solo career with the release of 2017’s self-titled EP, a singer/songwriter folk effort that was released to praise and comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers and Julia Jacklin. Leighton’s sophomore EP, last year’s Tourist(e) was a decided change in sonic direction that found the rising American-born, French-based artist working with French musicians and producers while pairing folk-inspired songwriting with lush yet contemporary instrumentation and production. Leighton has supported both of her recorded efforts with shows in and around Paris, as well as with tours in Italy, Belgium and here in the States. 

Earlier this week, I wrote about EP track “Un jour la vie.” Centered around Leighton’s coquettish vocals, a sinuous yet propulsive bass line, thumping beats and shimmering guitars, “Un jour la vie” is a playful and infectious invitation to dream of an escape to Italy, to drink endless Aperol Spritzes and to dance the night away without a care in the world. A wondrous dream considering the last 18 months, eh? The EP’s third and latest single, EP title track “Flueriste” is a hook-driven pop confection featuring shimmering synths, a buoyant bass line and Leighton singing the song’s lyrics in a gorgeous and breezy English. The song manages to address the plight of contemporary musicians unable to work — but hoping for a bright future of live shows, and all of things we missed so very much.