Tag: Single Review

Stefan Murphy is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and the creative mastermind behind the mostly Berlin, Germany-based New Wave and post-punk-inspired recording project Count Vaseline. Interestingly, Murphy started the project during a creative spell — and after a handful of live shows, Murphy went to the U.S. to write and record his Count Vaseline debut Yo No Soy Marinero, a deeply personal effort that focuses on what may have been one of the more difficult times of his own life — and as a result, the album is kind of a debaucherous romp that celebrates both his trials and tribulations and creativity while in Berlin.

Of course, Murphy’s decision to decision to stay in the US was followed by an earth-shattering Presidential election that still has countless people reeling, and his recently released sophomore effort Cascade thematically focuses on the depressingly cyclical patterns of both world history and world politics and the overall sense of pervasive doom; however, the album’s latest single “Russia” is an account of two lovers desperately trying to break free from the constraints and horrors of the modern world. And while deliberately performed at 117 beats per minute — the same beats per minute as Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean” — the song manages to sound like what would happen if Duran Duran had covered Echo and the Bunnymen’s Bring on the Dancing Horses” but with a young Ian McCulloch taking up vocal duties.

 

 

 

 

So if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring New York-based, JOVM mainstays and electronic music duo Beacon. Comprised of Thomas Mullarney III (vocals) and Jacob Gusset (production), the duo have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that draws from R&B, house music and electro pop as Mullarney’s aching and yearning falsetto vocals are paired with generally spacious, minimalist productions consisting of chilly, arpeggio synths and wobbling low end.

Last year’s sophomore effort Escapements thematically was about time and the baggage it both creates and brings, and unsurprisingly, the album’s title was inspired by clock mechanics; in fact, escapements are timekeeping regulators specifically designed to transfer the kinetic energy of the clock’s parts at a constant and regular pace. As Mullarney explained in press notes at the time, “I was attracted to this concept because of the entropy it implies. Friction and changes in amplitude over time mean[s] every escapement, no matter how well crafted, will lose its accuracy and effectively slow down time via its own decay.”

Featuring drumming from Tycho‘s Rory O’Connor, the material on Escapements was written, revised, refined and recorded over the course of about nine months at Beacon’s Brooklyn-based home studio and Gary’s Electric and the album revealed that the duo restlessly experimented with their songwriting and production approaches, following wherever their muses and instincts took them, including trying out new studio techniques and recording techniques. And occasionally, they tried things on the fly, which meant that the recordings captured much more of the free-flowing feel and energy of the creative process — while at points being subtly cinematic.

On the heels of a Coachella appearance with Tycho, Mullarney and Gusset released their first single of 2017, “Marion.” At the core of the song is a hammered dulcimer, a percussive, stringed instrument in which the musician strikes the strings with small, hand-held hammers — coincidentally, the hammered dulcimer is an ancestor of the modern piano that sounds a bit like cross between a harp and a piano. The chiming, hammered dulcimer sample ebbs and flows, and occasionally recedes for Mullarney’s achingly tender falsetto vocals to float over the production, which also features stuttering boom-bap beats. And while being subtly warmer than some of their previously released material, their latest single will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting minimalist yet pulling material that possesses a wistful and yearning ache.

 

 

 

 

 

Formed in 2015 and comprised of Whitaker “Whit” Finberg (guitar, vocals) and Evan Veasey (guitar, vocals), the Ann Arbor, MI-based experimental pop/math rock duo Fallow Land can trace their origins back to a particularly trying period in Whit Fineberg’s life. After relocating to Chicago, the death of a dear friend, the breakup of a previous band and the end of a relationship, Fineberg found himself proverbially speaking on fallow land — and while he may have felt directionless, he also felt more inspired than he had in years. Fineberg spent his free time recording song ideas in his apartment and making frequent visits back home in Ann Arbor to visit family and jam with friends. And as the story goes, Fineberg crossed paths with Evan Veasey, a local musician, who he had heard of and had been familiar with by reputation; but who he hadn’t played with. When they met, Fineberg was impressed by Veasay’s guitar playing — and their unique simpatico as they began to write material pairing off-kilter meter and polyrhythm with conventional song structures to create a sound and songs that are experimental and prog rock-leaning while being accessible.

Caelin Amin (bass, vocals) and Armand Terrell (drums, vocals) join the duo of Fineberg and Veasey for live shows and the band has in a relatively short period of time built up a regional reputation, playing shows in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto and sharing bills with The Bronzed Chorus, Shipley Hollow, All is Well, Amateur Eyes, We Love You and Growing Fins among others. And with the June 30, 2017 release of the duo’s forthcoming Chris Bathgate-produced EP Pinscher, Fineberg and Veasay hope to expand their profile. Interestingly enough, Bathgate, who once shared a bill with a previous band Fineberg had been in, was chosen to helm the controls of the EP because of his keen understanding of songwriting and attention to craft; in fact, as the duo mentions in press notes, after listening to their material, Bathgate helped push the duo and their material to new directions, simply by asking them “What does this song mean to the world?” and “What’s the most important part of the song?”

The EP’s latest single “Faux” will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for an unusual songwriting approach as the band pairs complex and shuffling polyrhythm, a propulsive bass line, shimmering and atmospheric-leaning guitar work and what sounds like either buzzing synths or buzzing feedback with a soaring and anthemic hook. And while possessing a heady intellectualism, the song captures the innermost world of its narrator with an uncanny attention to psychological detail, capturing the narrator’s desire to destroy his ego; but just under the surface is a twinge of heartache.

 

 

 

 

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Dale Nicholls is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has spent stints residing in Detroit, MI; Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; New Zealand and elsewhere. When Nicholls returned to Los Angeles, he ended his previous band and initially started his latest project Sky Chefs as a solo recording project, but has recently expanded into a full-fledged band, featuring members of Cherry Glazerr, The Black Keys, Pageants, Psychic Temple and the backing bands of Fiona Apple, Lou Reed and Chris Cohen.

Last year, was a busy year for Nicholls and his backing band, as Sky Chefs released their full-length debut, three EPs and a single and building upon a growing profile, the project’s Chris Schlarb-produced, sophomore effort Ghosts & Goblins carefully walk the tightrope between sly, winking nature and wry, heart-wrenching confessionals as the material thematically focuses on brokenhearted lovers, embittering relationships, our new, perpetually anxious age, batshit crazy families and family members, designer riot gear and the seemingly comic absurdity of living in Los Angeles. And reportedly, the material may arguably the most straightforward Nicholls has written — the material was mostly written and composed in Dublin and Los Angeles, whereas some of his previously recorded material was written in piecemeal and as patchwork affairs in several different locales.

“Poltergeist,” Ghosts & Goblins’ latest single as Nicholls explains is about “toxic relationships and self-destruction. Framed in a spooky groove, with lots of fun percussion. This was the first tune we tracked for the record. Once we got a take, we drenched everything in reverb and went out for shawarma.” Sonically speaking, the shuffling and strutting “Poltergeist” sounds as though it draws from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’Red Right Hand” and Tim Cohen‘s solo work and his work with Magic Trick, complete with a loose, boozy, improvised vibe, 60s psych rock-inspired organ, a soulful horn line and a propulsive bass line paired with Nicholls’ equally boozy crooning describing a viciously dysfunctional and fucked up relationship fueled by a confusing push and pull, deceit and tortuous, zero sum mind games. And as a result, the song possesses a murky undertone.

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past four years or so, you’ve likely been made familiar with the Seattle, WA-based JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Interestingly, the act continues Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler’s long-held reputation for being exceedingly different that goes back to his days as a founding member of  the Grammy-winning Digable Planets, one of the more forward-thinking acts of their time. After Digable Planets broke up, Butler moved back to his hometown, where he met multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the son of Dumisani Maraire and formed Shabazz Palaces.

Butler and Maraire quietly released two albums in 2009 — their self-titled debut and Of Light, which caught the attention of renowned indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the band and released 2011’s Black Up, an effort release to critically applause across the blogosphere and major media outlets for its kaleidoscopic synth and heavy low-end based sound paired with Butler’s witty and incredibly dexterous flow. While continuing to cement Butler’s and Mariare’s reputation for crafting incredibly weird, psychedelic-tinged hip hop paired with Butler’s ridiculously dexterous flow,  2014’s Lese Majesty was a decided change in sonic direction with much of the material possessing an eerie cosmic glow; in fact, the best description I could come up with for the material was along the lines of intergalactic trap music. But along with the decided change of sonic direction, was a bold challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists. As Butler told the folks at NPR during an interview about Lese Majesty, “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.”

Some time has passed since I’ve personally written about Shabazz Palaces; however, Butler spent part of last year on a reunion tour with the members of Digable Planets while Maraire had written and released music with a side project, Chimurenga Renaissance. But the duo managed to find time to write and record their Knife Knights (the production duo of Shabazz Palaces’ Butler and Eric Blood)-produced fifth, full-length effort Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, which is slated for a July 14, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records. As the members of Shabazz Palaces explain, their forthcoming album is a surreal yet politically-charged concept album that first introduces the listener to and then tells the tale of Quazarz, a sentient being from somewhere else, sent to be an observer and musical emissary, whose mission is to explore and chronicle the things he sees, experiences and thinks — and in some way it seems to echo the cult-classic film The Brother From Another Planet and Alexis De Tocqueville‘s Democracy in America; however, what our otherworldly emissary finds is a bizarre, cutthroat landscape of brutality, conformity, alternative facts, hypocrisy, greed, suffering, selfishness and death masquerading as patriotism and connectivity. And as result, Quazarz finds himself feeling increasingly uncomfortable and out  of place.

Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star‘s first single “Shine A Light” continues the duo’s long-running collaboration with Thadillac, who contribute a lush, dusty, old-school soul-leaning arrangement featuring shimmering strings, a strutting bass line, warm psychedelic guitar blasts, shuffling drum beats, and a retro-futuristic-like hook consisting of distorted, vocoder-filtered vocals while Butler’s narrator describes a hellish, pre-apocalyptic world that feels much like our own; but it’s a world that the song’s narrator can’t fathom — and in some way he’s horrified and confused by everything he sees. I certainly couldn’t blame him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of founding members Beau Croxton (guitar, vocals) and Mike Groehler (production), along with Willie Mosto (guitar), Paul Truitt (keys/guitar), Forrest Hackenbrock (bass), and James Esposito (drums) — and a live horn section featuring Carter Yasutake, who’s played in the backing bands of David Byrne and St. Vincent and Charles Bradley; Jason Disu, who’s played in the backing bands of David Byrne and St. Vincent, and LCD Soundystem; and Noah Drielblatt, who’s played with Blitz the Ambassador, the members of the Brooklyn-based indie rock/garage rock/blues act Damn Jackals have received a bit of attention locally for a sound that draws from 70s Bowie, T. Rex, Johnny Thunders, The Stooges and Television — while to my ears nodding at The Black Keys, as you’ll hear on “Freezing Blues,” the latest single off the band’s soon-to-be released debut EP, That’s It.

And much like the classic rock and bluesy influences behind their sound, Damn Jackals’ latest barn burning single, as the band’s Beau Croxton explains is about “the type of cold, loneliness that reduces the heart to burning carnage and leaves the subject so crippled with emptiness and anger that he is rendered utterly unrecognizable.” And as a result, the song possesses an anthemic, arena rock-friendly hook that manages to express a boozy bitterness.

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this over the past few years, you’ve come across several posts featuring JOVM mainstay artist Rhythm Scholar, who has developed a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for a series of genre-mashing remixes stuffed to the gills with both obscure and recognizable samples that are reminiscent of  Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys and Girl Talk. He’s also developed reputation for releasing a series of more straightforward and traditional-leaning remixes, including a breezy and jazzy remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” consisting of cascading organs, strummed guitar, double bass, warm blasts of funky horn and swirling electronics and a breezy, lounge funk/lounge jazz leaning remix of Tribe’s “Bonita Applebum.” 

Rhythm Scholar returns with a remix of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s 1991 smash-hit “Summertime” and while retaining Will Smith‘s cool delivery and the song’s overall nostalgia-tinged Roy Ayers-like vibe the remix adds bits and snippets of samples from Kool and The Gang, Dexter Wansel, James Brown, Dave Grusin, The Eagles and a few other hidden gems, including some soulfully meandering keys and boom-bap beats.

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past year, you may recall that although Johan Angergård may be best known as a member of renowned Swedish electro pop acts Djustin, Club 8 and Acid House Kings, as well as the founder and heard of renowned  Stockholm, Sweden-based electro pop label Labrador Records. But interestingly enough, Angergård has had an accomplished solo career, as he’s released several albums with his solo recording project  The Legends — including 2009’s noise pop-leaning self-titled effort and 2015’s It’s Love, which featured lead single “Keep Him.” Last year was an extremely busy year for Angergård as Djustin and Club 8 released long-awaited albums and he released two original singles “Cocaine” feat. Maria Usbeck, “Summer In The City (Living Is For Somebody Else)” and a cover of The Chainsmokers smash-hit “Roses” feat. Rozes with his solo recording project. Those first three tracks wound up revealing a decided change of sonic direction for him and The Legends as his sound went towards a swaggering, neon-colored, retro-futuristic sound reminiscent of 80s Giorgio MoroderComputerworld-era Kraftwerk, early house and Holy Ghost!’s Crime Cutz as heavily vocoder-processed vocals are paired with tweeter and woofer rocking 808s, processed cowbell and layers of arpeggio synths; and in fact, the cocksure “Cash” and the dance floor and boom-box rocking “In Love With Myself,” the two most recently released singles off his recently released album Nightshift. 

“Riding The Wave,” is the latest single off Nightshift and sonically speaking, while the song continues the neon-colored, retro-futuristic vibe of the preceding singles, “Riding The Wave” manages to sound like a Giorgio Moroder-leaning take on Harold Faltermeyer‘s “Axel F,” and as a result, the song possesses a late night, coke and strobe-like fueled sensuality.

 

 

 

Ward White is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who is arguably best known for his work as one-half of the critically applauded chamber pop duo McGinty and White, which features Joe McGinty, a former member of Psychedelic Furs, and the creator of The Loser’s Lounge tribute series; in fact, the duo’s debut effort together received praise from  The New Yorker and The New York Press.  And while a member of McGinty and White, White has quietly developed a reputation as a solo artist of note as 2013’s Bob and 2015’s Ward White is the Matador were released to critical praise from iTunesNew York Magazine, Magnet Magazine and CMJ for a songwriting approach and sound that has been compared favorably to Scott Walker (one of the great and sadly under-appreciated songwriters of the past 50 years or so), 1970s  David Bowie, T. Rex and others.

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of 2015, you may recall that I had written about White’s Ward White is the Matador, an album that while clearly drawing from 70s classic rock and AM rock, also possessed an experimental art rock sheen. And while unquestionably, a very New York rock sound, at points the material lyrically and thematically covered things that we become conscious of as we get older — that life is increasingly about a series of loss; that most relationships throughout one’s life will inevitably end; and of a rapidly disappearing New York into eccentrics and lunatics, and improbable situations.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about White, and as it turns out, White has been rather busy. Over the past couple of years, Ward has relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles — and his soon-to-be released tenth full-length album As Consolation chronicles his relocation to the West Coast; in fact, the album’s first single “Dude” will further cement his reputation for crafting 70s AM radio friendly rock in the veins of the aforementioned Scott Walker, David Bowie, T. Rex and Roxy Music — with a winking and witty irony; but under the surface is the hazy confusion of being disconnected, of being a stranger in an even stranger place that you can’t quite figure out with people who seem completely alien to you. And as a result, the song evokes the recognition of not fitting in — while wondering if people are looking at you with disapproval and disdain because you can’t quite tell.

 

 

Earlier this month I wrote about the sibling indie rock quartet  Stonefield. Healing from Darraweit Guim, a small rural town in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria, the sibling quartet featuring Amy (drums, lead vocals), Hannah (guitar), Sarah (keys) and Holly Findlay (bass) can trace the origins of the band and their music careers to when they began playing together at a rather young age — ranging from the youngest being seven and the oldest being 15. The band’s first song “Foreign Lover” was recorded by the band’s eldest member, Amy Findlay for a school project — and was then reportedly entered in Triple J’s national, unsigned band competition for youngsters Unearthed High as an afterthought; however, the Findlay Sisters wound up winning the contest, and within an incredibly short period of time, they had two singles receiving regular airplay and an invitation to play at the Glastonbury Festival.

Since then, the members of the sibling quartet have released two EPs and their self-titled, full-length debut and with a growing international profile have toured extensively,  including at some of the world’s largest festivals. Adding to a growing profile, the Australian indie rock quartet  has opened for a variety of renowned acts including Fleetwood Mac, Meat Puppets — and a Stateside tour with fellow countrymen King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard earlier this year.

Stonefield’s sophomore full-length effort As Above So Below was released earlier this month through Rebel Union Recordings/Mushroom Records and the album’s first single “Changes” was a dreamy and swirling bit of psych rock featuring a propulsive, motorik-like groove and some impressive guitar work, played though massive amount of effects pedals. And while nodding at The Mallard’s Finding Meaning in Deference and The Fire Tapes’ Phantoms, the track reveals a cool-self assuredness that belies their relative youth and some ambitious songwriting. The Australian sibling quartet’s latest single “Sister” is featured both on the “Changes”/”Sister” 7 inch and on their recently released album, and the single is a doom-laden, power chord dirge that sounds as though it were influenced by Black Sabbath and stoner rock. And much like “Changes,” “Sister” reveals some ambitious songwriting by a band, who seems poised to kick ass and take names — right this very second.