Tag: Single Review

Comprised of core members and primary songwriters Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez, the San Francisco, CA-based indie duo Billy & Dolly can actually trace their origins to their first band together, a Moog-centric project called The Monolith, which was formed back in 2004. After a five year run, The Monolith split up; however, Rousseau and Ramirez continued to work together, eventually holing up in Ramirez’s basement to write songs before re-emerging as Billy & Dolly — and as Billy & Dolly, they’ve recorded and released two albums together, and shared stages with The Apples in Stereo, Dr. Dog and Corin Tucker.

For live shows, Rousseau and Ramirez play with Elliott Kiger (drums) and Charley Hine (bass); but with Five Suns, the band’s soon-to-be released Five Suns, which was recorded at Oakland’s New, Improved Recording with their longtime collaborator Jay Pellicci, finds the band officially recording as quartet, capturing them in their proper element — as a muscular and sweaty live unit. But interestingly enough, the album’s material balances goofiness and sweetness as the material touches upon post-apocalyptic love, galactic desperation and Jane Eyre, among other things.

As you’ll hear on “Can’t Stay Still,” Five Suns‘ fourth and latest single, the song is centered by arpeggiated keys and a propulsive rhythm, an infectious hook and an uncanny sense of harmony to create something that sounds like an amalgamation of Elvis Costello and bubblegum pop but with a sweet and goofy sensibility. “‘Can’t Stay Calm,’ is one of the first songs we wrote fro what would become the Five Suns album,” Billy & Dolly’s Dahlia Gallin Ramirez explains in press notes. “It’s about finding a kindred blue soul, someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid roaming the foggy streets of San Francisco.”  

 

 

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Currently comprised of founding members Chris Rosi (rhythm guitar, vocals)  and Corey Cunningham (lead guitar, keys), along with newest members Jenny Moffett (bass) and Brice Bradley (drums), the Los Angeles-based indie rock outfit Smokescreens can trace their origins to when its founding duo initially met and became friends while touring in their previous bands — the critically applauded Plateaus and Terry Malts — back in 2011. By 2015 Rosi and Cunningham relocated to Los Angeles to start Smokescreens, an act that they’ve described as a love letter to the 1980s New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records scene.  As the story goes, after cutting their teeth playing in bars and bowling alleys across Southern California, Rosi and Cunningham recruited engineer/drummer Jon Green to help them put their shambling love letters to Kiwi guitar pop on tape.

Initially released through Cunningham’s Parked in Hell Records and re-issued by Spanish indie label Meritorio Records, the Los Angeles-based indie rock band’s self-titled, full-length debut was recorded in a disused dairy factory and was mixed in mono. After Jon Greene’s death, the band decided to continue onward, recruiting their newest members Brice Bradley and Jenny Moffif, which enabled Cunningham to switch to lead guitar and keys. As a newly constituted quartet, the band spent time tirelessly working, nurturing and refining their sound and writing batches of songs before eventually heading to Primitive Ears Studio to track the ten songs that would eventually comprise their sophomore effort Used to Yesterday in rapid-fire fashion. Armed with tapes from the sessions, the members of the band brought them to The Allah-lahs‘ Kyle Malarky, who created a final mix that reportedly captures the band’s rhythmic drive and melodic verve. Unsurprisingly, the band’s sophomore effort continues the band’s longtime obsession with 80s, New Zealand guitar pop — but while expanding upon it, incorporating some new influences, including Messthetics-era DIY pop; in fact, the album’s latest single “Someone New” is a jangling and breakneck, propulsive bit of guitar pop with razor sharp hooks  that sounds as though it could have been quietly and quickly released in 1982, and was discovered by a collector in a random used record bin.

Pollens is a New York-based art pop/dance pop duo, Jeff and Elizabeth, and the act can trace its origins to when Jeff and Elizabeth met while working on a short, anachronistic opera-like project. Shortly after, they worked on a song cycle focused on the specifics of being human, social anxiety and social media — i.e. receiving Facebook birthday reminders from dead people, and so on. Since their formation they’ve released two EPs’ 83 and Mister Manufacture, and as the duo explains in press notes, the material is about being around people, checking your phone, being high in the city, Googling conspiracies and conspiracy theories and making summer mistakes among other things; but from the perspective of newcomers to New York, who are equally in awe of their surroundings, terrified and absolutely confused by — well, everything around them.

Apart from that, their sound, as you’ll hear on their latest single “$$$_PSA” is centered around layers of percussion, arpeggiated synths, electronic noise, chopped up samples, bright and ethereal melodies, and shouted non-sequiturs. It’s unique and pretty fucking weird while being simultaneously dance floor friendly in a way that brings to mind The B52s, DEVO, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, but  with a neurotic energy that feels as though its creators were bouncing off the wall. As the duo’s Jeff Aaron Bryant admits, “Our songs aren’t about anything . . . that’s a promise. For this one, ‘$$$_PSA, we’ve got a few flavors of moneyed people — their entitlement, the space they’re taking up on the train, their shoes and conversations, and every so often, we hear someone else making an announcement. Really, that’s it . . .”

When asked to explain more about the song, Bryant instead talks about his obsession with announcements. “I love announcements- anything anyone says over an intercom or public address system. I love how announcements are always inescapably loud or barely audible. And I love how announcements have their own music that’s specific to the information that’s being announced- like on an airplane, no one ever says “be careful opening the overhead bins” they always say “do use caution while opening the overhead storage compartments”. The word ‘Do’ is extra and weird sounding but always pitched higher than the rest of the sentence even though ‘caution’ is the important part. And whatever, an announcement is just some regular person reading from a script, but for a few moments, the microphone literally elevates their voice and they join with the authority, the public interest, the rules and safety… sales become sales events, customers become following guests, clerks become the next available customer service representative.”

Born Jennifer Hays, the Seattle, WA-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Jenn Champion grew up in Tucson, AZ, where in the mid 90s, she worked at a local pizza shop with future bandmates Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke. In 1997 the trio moved to Olympia, WA for about a  year, before settling in Seattle and forming Hays’ first band Carissa’s Wierd. Although they only released three albums before splitting up in 2003, the band had a cult following that has resulted in the release of three compilation albums of their work, including 2010’s They’ll Only Miss You When You’re Gone: Songs 1996-2003, which was released through Hardly Art Records.

Since the breakup of Carissa’s Wierd, Champion has focused on several acclaimed solo projects including, the sparse, guitar and vocals-based pop project S, and with S she has released four albums, including 2010’s I’m Not As Good At It As You and 2014’s Chris Walla-produced Cool Choices. Critics and fans have applauded her open-hearted lyrics, technical skill and willingness to eschew conventions — and perhaps more important for writing sad songs meant to be cried to (or should I say be cried with?).  Interestingly, the B side of Champion’s last S album found her moving towards a more electronic-based sound; however, her single “No One” found Champion fully embracing electronics.  “I feel like a door got opened in my mind with electronic and digital music. There was a room I hadn’t explored before and I stepped in,” Champion says in press notes. While she’d initially intended to follow Cool Choices with “a rock record – guitar, a lot of pedals, heavy riffs,” plans changed. “I couldn’t pull myself away from the synthesizers and I realized the record I really wanted to make was more of a cross between Drake and Billy Joel than Blue Oyster Cult.”

After the release of “No One,” Champion’s publishers partnered her with Brian Fennell, an electronic music artist, songwriter and producer best known as SYML and the pair co-wrote “Leave Like That,” which was featured on SYML‘s Hurt For Me EP. Champion and Fennell hit it off so well that after Champion had written the demos for her forthcoming full-length Single Rider, she enlisted Fennell as a producer. Fennell agreed and they spent the next five months working on and refining the material on Single Rider. As Champion recalls, “In the studio with Brian, I was more open than I had ever been,” and as a result the material evolved into a slickly produced, anthemic dance floor friendly album; however, the new album reportedly finds Champion maintaining the earnest emotionality and vulnerability that has won her attention — but this time, the album’s material finds the acclaimed Seattle-based singer/songwriter imploring the listener to dance, dance, dance, dance, dance heartache, outrage and disappointment away, for a little bit at least. And goddamn it, sometimes strobe light, thumping bass and shimmering synths are so absolutely necessary to your basic survival.

Single Rider‘s latest single “Time To Regulate” is a slickly produced, sultry and propulsive bit of dance music centered around layers of shimmering, arpeggiated synths, cowbell-led percussion, thumping beats and an anthemic hook that reminds me of Soft Metals‘ Lenses, Cut Copy‘s In Ghost Colours, of 80s synth soul and Giorgio Moroder; but underneath the slick production, thumping beats and razor sharp hooks, there’s a desperate person trying to put on a brave face on a daily basis — with the acknowledgment that sometimes just being can be difficult in itself, and that adds a triumphant, “well, fuck man,” vibe to the shimmering proceedings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOUR DATES

08.09.18 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
08.10.18 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
08.16.18 – Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg T

Numb.er is the brainchild of its Los Angeles, CA-based mastermind and primary songwriter, photographer and visual artist Jeff Fribourg, who’s probably best known as a founding member of psych rock/kraut rock band Froth. Thanks to a background in graphic design and visual art, Fribourg has developed a reputation for his work being imbued with a sense of architectural composition with angular guitar riffs and analog synths being layered over throbbing drums and propulsive bass lines. And although Fribourg can trace the origins of his love of synthesizers to when he was in Froth, Numb.er finds the Los Angeles-based songwriter, photographer and visual artist fully exploring his eclectic influences and inclinations with the project meshing elements of punk rock, shoegaze, post-punk and noise rock — without committing to a singular worldview and without sounding overly ironic or forced.

Goodbye, Numb.er’s latest effort is slated for release at the end of the week through Felte Records, and the album’s latest single “Numerical Depression” will further cement Fribourg’s reputation for  genre-defying sound as you’ll hear elements of classic ’77-era punk, post-punk and noise punk as the song is centered around a propulsive bass line, power chord-based guitar lines played through copious guitar effect pedals and rolling drums — and while sonically the song brings to mind Wire, Nirvana, The Clash, Bauhaus, and others, complete with a similar urgency, and yet the song doesn’t find the band resorting to clueless, self-obsessed mimicry and cliches.

New Audio: Goldfrapp Team Up with Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan on a Reworked Version of “Ocean”

With the release of 2013’s Tales of Us, Goldfrapp, comprised of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, released one of their most hauntingly cinematic and gorgeous efforts they’ve ever released, as the album’s material found the duo pairing Goldfrapp’s arresting vocals with classical music-inspired arrangements centered around piano and strings, acoustic guitar and occasional electronic flourishes. However, last year’s critically applauded and commercially successful Silver Eye was a striking return to form — and as you may recall Anymore,” the album’s first single featured a slick yet abrasive sound featuring  enormous, thumping 808-like beats, layers of buzzing and undulating synths. Interestingly, “Anymore” much like the rest of the material on the album buzzed with a restless, creative energy and sense of experimentation that was partially the result of the acclaimed duo working with  Grammy-wining producer John Congleton, who has worked with St. Vincent, John Grant and Wild Beasts; as well as collaborations with electronic composer Bobby Krlic, best known as The Haxan Cloak and Leo Abrahams, a guitarist, who has collaborated with Brian Eno.

Album single “Ocean” continued in a similar vein as the song centered around an abrasive and minimalist-leaning production of arpeggiated synths, thunderous beats. As the duo explained to Billboard the song was created during a morning writing and recording session and was originally built from what Goldfrapp called a “a very small improvisation.” “I remember coming into the studio one morning and I think we just had a few drums going and it was really basic,” Goldfrapp recalled. “Will said ‘Do you fancy doing some vocals this morning?’ So I was like, ‘Alright then’ and slightly reluctantly, i went into the vocal both and the words just came out.” And as a result, the song manages to bristle with a furious sense of unpredictability. 

July 6, 2016 will mark the release of Silver Eye: Deluxe Edition and while the deluxe edition will include the original album material, there will be a bonus disc of remixes and alternate versions, including a re-recording of “Ocean” that features Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, as well a previously unreleased Will Gregory remix of “Anymore.” Naturally, turning the original song into a duet with Gahan’s and Goldfrapp’s imitable vocals gives the song a harder, darker, moodier, goth edge while still managing to be a straightforward rendition of the song. But perhaps, more important, if you’re a fan of both, it’s the most necessary and effortless collaboration that you needed to hear. 

Perhaps best known as one of the world’s most acclaimed professional dancers for more than 20 years, the Swedish-born dancer Uma E. Fernqvist has taken her love of movement and music to inspire her debut EP Reverse. Interestingly, the material on the recently released Reverse EP is largely inspired by the 90s trip hop of Lamb, Massive Attack, and Portishead — and as you’ll hear on the hauntingly mesmerizing and lushly textured single “For U,” Fernqvist’s tender vocals ethereally float over a minimalist yet cinematic production consisting of pulsating and thumping beats, shimmering synths and atmospheric electronics; but under the chilly surface, the song trembles with a vulnerable, human need.

 

 

 

Over the last half of 2016, a lifetime and a half ago, based on our current sociopolitical climate, I had written about the  months, Philadelphia, PA-based indie rock quartet Oldermost. And as you may recall, the band led by its creative mastermind and primary songwriter Bradford Bucknam received attention from this site and elsewhere for a 70s AM radio rock sound that immediately brought to mind  Nick Drake, and Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd with the release of singles like “Honey With Tea” and “Finally Unsure” and a gorgeous cover of  Graham Nash’s “I Used To Be A King,” that emphasized the song’s bittersweet nature.

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the band; but as it turns out they’ve spent some time writing and recording their fourth full-length album How Could You Ever Be The Same?, which is slated for a July 13, 2018 release through AntiFragile Music, and interestingly enough the album reflects the band’s continuing move towards more complex sonic territory while thematically walking a tightrope between a blend of neuroticism and mysticism. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “The Danger of Belief” is a rollicking and anthemic track centered around a twangy guitar line, a propulsive bass line and shuffling drumming — and while seemingly drawing from Tom Petty, the song possesses the intimacy of old friends, who have the same arguments and know how to needle each other, and they couldn’t have it any other way. But underneath that is a bittersweet meditation on belief and in believing in anything too much; it’ll break your heart, just like everything else will.

 

Perhaps best known as a member of Los Angeles-based band TÜLIPS,  the singer/songwriter and musician Taleen Kali decided to go solo after the band broke up — and in a relatively short period of time, Kali has developed a reputation as one of her hometown’s up-and-coming talents, as she has opened forthe likes of Madame Gandhi and Kimya Dawson, and has played sets at Echo Park Rising Festival, Mothership Festival and Women Fuck Shit Up Fest. And with the release of “Half Life,” the first single off her forthcoming Kristin Kontrol-produced EP Soul Songs, Kali has begun to receive attention from the likes of Stereogum and others, quickly developing a reputation for a New Wave take on noise rock and punk reminiscent of Gothic Tropic, Dum Dum Girls, Dirty Ghosts and others.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, Kali recently released the EP’s latest single, the anthemic, hook-laden, dance floor friendly  “Lost & Bound,” and  that the single reveals an artist, who can effortlessly walk a tightrope between a slick studio sheen and a scuzzy punk rock air — without feeling contrived or ridiculous. Interestingly, there’s a subtle hint of triumph over something deeply daunting that adds to the song’s danceable vibe and anthemic hooks; in fact, as Kali explains in press notes, “‘Lost & Bound’ is about finding yourself again after being lost. I wanted to write a song that was really dark but also danceable, so I wrote a dirge dedicated to a ‘lost self,’ and I added a disco beat to add this sense of movement, of celebration, of making it to the other side.”  

Kali is playing a handful of live shows in the Los Angeles area over the next few weeks. If you’re in the area, check them out, below.

Tour Dates
05.20 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hi Hat (Dum Dum Zine Kickoff Party For L.A. Zine Week)
05.27 – Pasadena, CA @ Pasadena Convention Center (LA Zine Fest)
06.26 – Los Angeles, CA @ Resident (Record Release show)

 

New Audio: Nana Adjoa Returns with an Atmospheric, Soulful, and Straightforward New Single from Forthcoming EP

Last month, I wrote about Nana Adjoa, an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanian singer/songwriter, who began to receive attention across the European Union and elsewhere with the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1. Now, as you may recall Adjoa’s was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would.  “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down At The Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down At The Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single was an effortless and breezy affair that seemed indebted to Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveled a self-assured artist beyond her years, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody — and as Adjoa explained in press notes, the song is what she considers an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its current, vibey, jazz-soul arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” the Dutch-Ghanian singer/songwriter says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Down At The Root, Part 2’s second and latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “Part Of It,” a track centered around a lush and plaintive melody, a sinuous and propulsive bass line and arguably the most honest and straightforward lyrics of the EP I’ve heard, as the song focuses on the desire and need to fit in when you’re a complete outsider.