Tag: Scott Walker

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Joe Wong Teams Up With Fred Armisen on a Lyrical and Trippy Visual for “Nite Creatures”

Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Joe Wong. Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer — but he has made a name for himself for his scores for a number of acclaimed TV series, including Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Earlier this year Wong released his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, and so far I’ve written about four of the album’s previously released singles — including: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” the Scott Walker-like “Minor,” and “Day After Day,” a sobering exploration of free will versus fate that doesn’t have easy answers. Continuing an incredible run of stunningly lush yet brooding material, the album’s latest single, album title track “Nite Creatures” is a slow-burning and deliberately crafted track focuses on existential dread with a rapturous and swooning psychedelia. If Wong wasn’t a contemporary artist, you might mistakenly think that “Nite Creatures” was released sometime between 1966-1970.

Directed by Fred Armisen, the recently released video follows a brooding Wong as he enters a vaguely Eastern-styled house. As he wanders through the house, we see some deeply kaleidoscopic and psychedelic effects happen to him and to his surroundings, suggesting that Wong was going through a deeply spiritual awakening of some sort. Much like the song itself, it’s a slow-burning and gorgeously shot fever dream — but with something dark and murky on the fringes.

Interestingly, the collaboration between the duo can trace some of its origins back to the 1990s: Armisen was the dummer for Trenchmouth and Wong was a high-school kid in a math rock band named after an extremely obscure Dune reference. Wong wound up reconnecting with Armisen in 2013: Wong was drumming for Marine Stern. A few years later, Armisen asked Wong to help produce his first comedy special Standup For Drummers.

“It was inspiring to witness how he’d evolved from the drummer I met over twenty years ago to the singular talent he is today,” Wong says. “When I decided to make a video for ‘Nite Creatures,’ I thought Fred would be the ideal person to direct. Because of his sense of narrative rhythm (we’re both drummers, after all), surrealist aesthetic, and ability to make creative decisions on the fly, he proved himself the perfect director, indeed.”

“I love Joe’s album,” Armisen adds, “so when he asked me to work on the video, I was like, ‘YES!’ The song is so sonically rich, I think it makes dreamy videos in everyone’s mind. I just wanted to try to match that feeling.”

New Audio: The Black Angels’ Alex Maas Releases a Contemplative and Dreamy Single off His Forthcoming Solo Debut

Best known as the frontman and founding member of the acclaimed Austin, TX-based psych rock act and JOVM mainstays The Black Angels — and a member of acclaimed psych rock supergroup MIEN, Alex Maas will be stepping out into the spotlight as a solo artist with the release of his full-length debut Luca.

Named for Maas’ firstborn child, Luca, which means “bringer of light,” the Mass and Brett Orrison co-produced album, which is slated for a December 4, 2020 release through Innovative Leisure was a long time coming — with some of its material dating back almost a decade and put together piece-by-piece over the course of a couple of years. Centered around a much gentler, contemplative take on psychedelia, Luca is a decided sonic departure from Maas’ best known work, showcasing what Maas says “a whole different part of gym brain.”

“I wanted to go someplace musically that I’ve never gone before,” Maas continues. Thematically, the album is driven by the nature and quiet of Maas’ home state and by his meditations about his son, his future, the often frightening world he was born in and how to navigate through the perils and frustrations of modern society. Interestingly, the album’s first single “Been Struggling” is a dreamy and shuffling waltz, centered around strummed guitar, shimmering pedal steel and Maas’ imitable falsetto that sonically nods at the melancholy psychedelia of Scott Walker and the classic Nashville sound. Instead of the menace, madness and darkness of his best known work, “Been Struggling” is a pensive meditation on memory, fate and loss from the perspective of a narrator, who has lived a messy and drama fueled life.

New Audio: Joe Wong Releases a Lush Meditation on Free Will

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and is the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Over the past few months Wong has released material off his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, including the album’s three previously released singles: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” and the Scott Walker-like “Minor.” Continuing to build buzz for his full-length debut’s September 18, 2020 release through Decca Records, Nite Creatures’ fourth and latest single “Day After Day” further cements the Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s 60s psych-inspired sound — lush string and horn arrangements paired with shimmering guitars, enormous hooks and Wong’s mellifluous baritone. And while there’s a deliberate attention to craft that gives the material an anachronistic feel, the material is bolstered by earnest lyricism. In this case, “Day After Day,” is a sobering exploration of free will. 

“The lyric came to me after I read an article arguing that traumatic memories can be encoded in DNA and passed down from generation to generation,” Wong says. “Whether or not that’s true, I wanted to explore the notion that many of our personality traits and life choices that we attribute to free will may, in fact, be beyond our control. This track features an English Horn solo by Claire Brazeau (LA Chamber Orchestra), partly as homage to my ‘labelmate’ and hero Marianne Faithfull, who famously used oboe on her hit ‘As Tears Go By.’”

New Audio: Joe Wong Returns with a Lush and Orchestral New Single

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast.

Over the past few months Wong has released material off his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, which is slated for a September 18, 2020 release, including two singles I’ve written about so far: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away” and the a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow.” “Minor,” Nite Creatures’ third and latest single continues a run of incredibly lush material, but it’s arguably the most orchestral of the album’s singles, and as a result it reminds me a bit of the late, great Scott Walker’s work — brooding, achingly lonely and breathtakingly gorgeous. 

New Video: Salt Lake City’s Choir Boy Releases a Mischievous 80s Influenced Visual for Shimmering Pop Confection “Complainer”

Fronted by its Cleveland-born, Salt Lake City-based founder, frontman and creative mastermind, singer/songwriter Adam Klopp, the rising indie pop act Choir Boy derives its name from an insult that was given to Klopp in his early teens when he fronted some of his earliest bands. Given Klopp’s religious upbringing and angelic voice, the insult at the time, may have been both fair and fitting. 

After graduating high school, Klopp left Ohio for college in Utah. Although, his college career was short-lived, he left religion behind and quickly integrated into Provo’s and Salt Lake City’s underground music and art scenes, eventually starting Choir Boy. With the release of the project’s full-length debut, 2016’s Passive With Desire, Klopp’s work drew comparisons to Scott Walker, Kate Bush and Talk Talk.

Klopp’s Choir Boy debut won the attention of Dais Records, and building upon a growing profile, he released “Sunday Light” in 2018, which was followed by a reissue of Passive With Desire on vinyl and CD. Recently, Klopp has filled out the band with a permanent lineup: Chaz Costello (bass, sax), Jeff Kleinman (keys) and Michael Paulson (guitar). Each member has brought their unique influences to the table, helping to develop subtly more dynamic sound for the band — one in which, there’s a bit of post-punk grit and 80s-influenced swing to the mix. 

Slated for a May 8, 2020 release, Choir Boy’s sophomore album Gathering Swans is the first bit of recorded output with the band’s new lineup. And importantly, while seemingly drawing from Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, The Cleaners from Venusand others, the material features Klopp’s achingly earnest and angelic falsetto, expressing those emotions that are particularly difficult to name. 

The album’s first single is the dance floor friendly  “Complainer.”  Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, some industrial-like drum machine and organic drumming, a looping and shimmering guitar line, an ehe enormous and rousingly anthemic hook and Klopp’s achingly tender falsetto, the song — to my ears, at least — seems like a synthesis between Meat Is Murder-era The Smiths, Tears for Fears and contemporaries like Washed Out. Interestingly, Klopp explains that the song “marked a shift in lyrical tone from previous releases. While many of our earlier songs serve as flowery lamentations of loss and grief, ‘Complainer’ snakily examines the self absorption of sadness. The opening line Oh my life was something I privately uttered while stewing over daily anxieties. It became comical to me that I would express my self pity like that, in earnest when my struggles seemed so relatively tame.  The song continues, It’s a phrase so funny when it’s spoken so sincere. But it’s not that bad, I’ve never really had it worse. I’m just a complainer. ‘Complainer’ multi-tasks as a pop song and a reminder to keep my privilege in check.”

Directed by the members of Choir Boy, edited by Choir Boy’s Adam Klopp and featuring an action cameo by Sam Rodriguez, the recently released video for “Complainer” is a decidedly lo-fi, fittingly 80s-inspired visual split between footage of the band playing the song in random locations while mischievously revealing the band’s involvement in a seedy, back alley, Fight Club-like fighting ring. 

New Video: Dutch Indie Act The Homesick Release a Surreal, Animated Visual for Expansive Single “Male Bonding”

With the release of 2018’s full-length debut Youth Hunt, the Dokkum, The Netherlands-based trio The Homesick — Jaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma — were quickly typecast as being resident tricksters, shrewdly courting spirituality under their own nonconformist whims. For outsiders, it was hard to tell whether the band was being ironic and taking the piss out of things — or genuinely unraveling themselves as starry-eyed romantics. Interestingly, even the album’s production values were quixotic and highly unusual: Elgersma and Van der Velde’s vocals were drenched in reverb  and paired with warped synths and distorted guitars within hook-driven guitar pop.

Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Sub Pop Records, the Dutch trio’s forthcoming sophomore album The Big Exercise derives its title from a passage in acclaimed singer/songwriter Scott Walker’s biography Deep Shade Of Blue, the album reportedly is a concentrated effort by the trio to explore the physicality of their music in fresh ways.  “When we were on tour in 2018, I bought Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music in Switzerland,” Van der Velde says in press notes. “Elias and I have been completely immersed in her music ever since. But also the work of Joan La Barbara for example, who also did things with extended vocal techniques, that was also quite vital to us. We discovered that the human voice offers so many beautiful elements that can still feel very physical and intrusive.”

“That’s also a  phenomenal aspect of the position we’re now in as a band,” Van der Velde adds. “I consider The Homesick a pop band first and foremost. If you’d introduce a late-era Scott Walker-record to a layman, it would likely fall on flat ears. But put it in the right scene of a good movie, and that person may finally understand its potential. The Homesick is allowed to play around in that pop framework, and the goal is to explore what’s possible within it. You can do super radical and weird things, and at the same time convey it all as straightforward pop music. With this album, I hope people will hear things anew after multiple listens.”

Additionally, the album finds the members of The Homesick second-guessing their long-held core chemistry as a live unit, adding baroque instrumentation like piano, acoustic guitar, percussion and clarinet to angular post-punk arrangements. “It’s the opposite of trying to translate recorded music to the stage,” the band’s Elias Elgersma says in press notes. “We were already playing these songs live for quite some time, so for this album, we wanted to unlock the potential of these songs further in the studio.”

Youth Hunt thematically touched upon a quest for belonging, roots and provenance; however, The Homesick’s sophomore album is centered around a headstrong wanderlust, which is fitting for a small-town Dutch band, anxious to take over the world while featuring meditations on family ties, alternate realities and commonplace encounters. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Male Bonding” is a galloping genre-defying track that possesses elements of angular, Gang of Four-like post-punk, 90s grunge, Devo-like New Wave and hints of psych folk placed within an expansive, breakneck arrangement that’s wildly eccentric yet mosh pit friendly.

Directed by Karlos Rene Ayala and featuring work by Skinner Illustration andMatt Brown 3D Animations, the recently released video is surreal sort of a Dada-esque nightmare that pulsates with the song’s chugging, motorik-like groove.

New Video: Singer Songwriter Kris Kelly Releases an Intimate Solo Acoustic Performance of “Cracked Porcelain”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco’s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos. 

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others. Recently Kelly released a live and very intimate, solo, acoustic session featuring “Cracked Porcelain,” that gently pulls and teases out the song’s gorgeous melody — and forces the listener to pay even closer attention to the song’s lyrics. 

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco‘s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others.

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”