Tag: Single Review

Over the past year or so, I’ve written about the Los Angeles, CA-based post-punk trio and JOVM mainstays Second Still, and as you may recall the trio, comprised of founding members Ryan Walker (guitar) and Alex Hartman (bass) along with Suki San (vocals) released their critically applauded 2017 self-titled, full-length debut, and from singles  “Walls,” “Recover,” “You Two So Alike,” and “Strangers,” the album’s material thematically focused on decidedly post-modern subjects: depression, frustration, anxiety and alienation among a throbbing, seething mass of humanity, with a visceral and urgent emotionality, while sonically seeming to draw from Sixousie and the Banshees and the early catalog of renowned indie label 4AD Records.

Equals, the Los Angeles-based post punk trio’s much-anticipated follow-up EP finds the band expanding upon their sound and songwriting approach, pushing it towards new directions — but while retaining major elements of the sound that first caught the attention of the this site and the rest of the blogosphere. You’ll still hear the chorus and delay pedal effects-based guitar, bass driven grooves and explosive, industrial rock drum machine beats, paired with ethereal and aching vocals and razor sharp hooks; however, the members of the band have begun employing the use of a couple of analog synthesizers, which adds an atmospheric and moody element to the proceedings. Interestingly, as the band explains in press notes, half the EP’s material (the A side) reportedly finds the band leaning towards a decidedly pop-leaning direction and overall lighter sound, while the second half (the B-side) finds the band hewing towards their gloomy, goth-like roots. EP single “Opening” was a melancholy post-punk track that I think will further their growing reputation for crafting 80s-inspired post-punk with slick, contemporary production values; the EP’s second single “Automata” continued on a similar vein, bearing an uncanny resemblance Sixousie and the Banshees’ “Israel,” and “Happy House.”

“In Order,” Equals third and latest single, is centered around arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitar work, San’s Siouxie Sioux-like vocals and their uncanny ability to write a slick and infectious hook; but interestingly enough, the signal finds the band expanding upon their sound, as it’s arguably one of the most propulsive, club ready songs they’ve ever released.

 

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Now, if you had been frequenting this website over the past few years, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring the Brooklyn-based indie rock act Lazyeyes, and as some of you may recall, the band, which initially began as a trio and now currently consists of Jason Abrishami (guitar, vocals), Sam Maynard (guitar, vocals), Jeremy Sampson (drums) and Jermey Rose (bass, vocals) received quite a bit of attention after the release of their 2013 self-titled EP: The Deli Magazine named the band the “Best Psych Rock/Shoegaze band,” Purple Sneakers praised the EP as a “moody and anthemic record, equal parts shoegaze and dream pop,” Stereogum described their sound as a “a muscular, riff-happy brand of guitar based dream-pop” and they were a featured artist in the November 2014 issue of NME — and adding to a growing profile, tracks from the EP received airplay from BBC Radio, XM Radio and a number of FM stations across the globe.

2015’s self-released, sophomore EP New Year was eventually picked up and reissued by Burger Records‘ cassette imprint Weiner Records, and “Adaptation,” the EP’s first single received quite a bit of attention across the blogosphere, including this site. Some time has passed since I’ve last written about them — but their long awaited full-length debut Echoes is slated for a summer release through Egghunt Records and 2670 Records. Interestingly, Echoes first single, album title track “Echoes” is a brooding and seamless synthesis of 80s British post-punk and shoegaze as you’ll hear angular and propulsive bass chords, four-on-the-floor drumming and towering, pedal effected guitar pyrotechnics paired with rousingly anthemic hooks — and while the song may initially strike you as drawing influence from Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen, it reveals a band confidently expanding upon the sound that first captured attention.

 

 

 

 

Although currently comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Ripley Johnson (guitar, vocals), Dusty Jermier (trumpet, bass), Omar Ahsanuddin (drums) and Nash Whalen (organ), the renowned San Francisco, CA-based psych rock act Wooden Shjips can trace their origins back to 2003 when Johnson started the band with the intention of finding a group of non-musicians and creating music with them — with the underlying idea behind it being that untrained players would have a new outlook on what music is and how it’s played, and as a result bring something fresh to the table in a way that many of the garage punks of the early 60s and the Velvet Underground did. In fact one of the longest tenured members of the band, Jermier was originally recruited to play saxophone, an instrument he had never even picked up before while other members from their earliest iterations often had such a lack of interest in playing live for anyone that the band didn’t bother looking for gigs.

Eventually, the band settled to its current lineup — but this time, the intention was different: Johnson, a fan of seemingly impenetrable albums and arcane, small-press poetry books, was fascinated by the idea of books that went unread or became largely out of favor and/or of print that were rediscovered by collectors or some bored critic looking for something different, and praised for being lost and under-appreciated gems. And unsurprisingly, the band set about to make purposely obscure albums that Johnson envisioned leaving in libraries, thrift store bargain bins and on park benches. Eschewing a MySpace page, a Soundcloud account or a website with MP3 downloads, the band gave away a limited pressing of 300 copies of their debut 10 inch vinyl album, paying the shipping costs for out of town requests — and unexpectedly, the album received some rave reviews, including one from Rolling Stone, which raised the album’s cachet and the band’s profile, thanks in part to a sound that the band has described as “a minimal, droning kind of garage band-influenced psychedelia with a noticeable 60s Krautrock influence” with some comparing the band to Suicide, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Soft Machine and Guru Guru.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the members of Wooden Shjips released 2006’s “Dance California”/”Clouds Over the Earthquake,” to mark the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which sold enough for the band to break even on their investment, and “Summer of Love 2007,” a single inspired by groups, who worked to make the world the kind of place they wanted to live in, like the Diggers, a local anarchist collective that founded the first Free Store and served free meals to Golden State Park to any and all comers with the proceeds from the single going to Food Not Bombs. Interestingly, their second real gig as a band was a single release show, opening for the psych rock legend Roky Erickson.
The band’s self-produced and self-recorded full-length debut was recorded in the band’s rehearsal space on an half-inch eight-track console that Jermier found, making the album an strictly analog affair aimed at getting high-quality and high-fidelity on an extremely low budget. Some tracks were layered up demos while others were live studio jams with drum parts added later, since they only had two tracks of the drums and no way to keep instruments from bleeding into each other noisily. But despite — or perhaps because of its DIY fashion, the album was released to critical applause that lead to the “Loose Lips”/”Start to Dreaming” 7 inch released by Sub Pop Records.Since then, the band has released three more full-length albums, 2009’s Dos, 2011’s West, 2013’s Back to Land and two compilations 2008’s Volume 1 and 2010’s Volume 2 — and they’ve managed this while the band’s Johnson has been busy with his side project Moon Duo, his acclaimed dup with Sanae Yamada that has released four full-length albums and one EP.  Interestingly, V, the Bay Area-based psych rock band’s fifth full-length album and first album in over five years, finds the band reportedly expanding upon their sound while lightening the overall vibes, with the material being decidedly laid back, almost summery jams.

 

Written last summer, Johnson viewed the material as a necessary antidote to the pervasive political anxiety and apocalyptic panic; in fact, as Johnson says in press notes,
“We had huge forest fires just outside of Portland and there was intense haze and layers of ash in the city. I was sitting on my porch every evening, watching ash fall down like snow, the sky looking like it was on fire. It was an apocalyptic feeling. Summer in Portland is usually really chill and beautiful, and we were working on a ‘summer record,’ but the outside world kept intruding on my headspace.” V., a graphic representation of the Peace sign, seemed apt to an album focused on the power of peace, beauty and resistance. The music is a balm against the noise and negativity.”
 Now, as you may recall V’s first single “Staring at the Sun” was an expansive and shimmering guitar pop sound with a steady groove that seemed as though it owed a big sonic debut to Buffalo Springfield‘s “For What It’s Worth” and Psychic Ills‘ Inner Journey Out; however, V‘s latest single “Red Line” is a bit of a return to form, with the band nodding at both classic psych rock and contemporary shoegaze as the track is centered around droning instrumentation and a propulsive and hypnotic, motorik like groove. But much like its predecessor, the band emphasizes slowing, down and pressing the reset button in a world gone absolutely mad.

The band is currently touring to support their forthcoming fifth album, and you can check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:

 

April 20 – Half Moon Bay, CA – Old Princeton Landing [tickets]

April 21 – Santa Cruz – Michael’s On Main [tickets]

April 29 – Austin, TX – Levitation Festival

May 25 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios [tickets]

May 26 – Seattle, WA – Crocodile [tickets]

June 1 – Nelsonville, OH – Nelsonville Music Festival

June 2 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle [tickets]

June 4 – Detroit, MI – Marble Bar [tickets]

June 5 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern [tickets]

June 7 – Los Angeles, CA – The Lodge [tickets]

June 9 – Sonoma, CA – Huichica Music Festival

Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Liverpool-based shoegaze quintet and JOVM mainstays The Vryll Society, and as you may recall, the band, which is comprised of Michael Ellis, Ryan Ellis, Lewis McGuinness, Lloyd Shearer, and Benjamin Robinson have received attention from both this site and across the blogosphere with a series of singles that revealed a sound and songwriting approach that draws from a diverse array of influences, including FunkadelicAphrodite’s Child, krautrock and classic shoegaze.

The Liverpool-based shoegazers latest single “Andrei Rublev” is the first official single from the band’s long-awaited full-length debut, slated for release sometime this summer, and interestingly enough, the song is inspired by Andre Tarkovsky’s 1996 arthouse film Andrei Rublev — and as a result, the deeply meditative song which is centered around boom bap-like drums, a sinuous bass line and some gorgeous guitar manages to nod at both classic shoegaze and 70s AM rock  — all while hinting at an urgent ache for something far bigger than oneself.

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Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a voyager, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spent his life there, before being cruelly dragged back to reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake, currently comprised of Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass), Brendan Doherty (drums), and a rotating cast of collaborators, friends and associates received attention with their 2014 self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that found the Irish pop act juxtaposing dark, despairing lyrics with a euphoric catharsis that’s largely influenced by the work of  Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders. Adding to a growing profile, the band has opened for touring acts such as GlasserLisa Hanningan and Ultraisa.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you’d recall that late last year, I wrote about the Dublin, Ireland-based act’s breathtakingly gorgeous Amnesiac-era Radiohead-like single “Bonfire,” and the cinematic, Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp and Ennio Morricone soundtrack-like “Twins” off the band’s forthcoming, highly anticipated-Rob Kirwan-produced debut album, Malingerer both of which prominently feature McAuley’s achingly tender falsetto. Slated for an April 20, 2018 release through Bright Antenna Records, Cloud Castle Lake’s full-length debut reveals an act writing their most ambitious and thought provoking material to date, making the album a gorgeous and transcendent statement of intent, and the album’s first official single, album title track “Malingerer,” which was released earlier this year is a cinematic and expansive track that draws from from the cosmic jazz explorations of John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Sun RaAmnesiac-era Radiohead and Sigur Ros — but with an unusual song structure that features several sections that manage to simultaneously be discordant yet flow into each other.

“Genuflect,” Malingerer‘s latest single continues in a similar, stunningly gorgeous and cinematic vein as its predecessors, as it’s based around McAuley’s aching and tender falsetto and an arrangement featuring shimmering guitar chords, an angular yet propulsive rhythm section, and a jazz-like horn section wailing along with McAuley towards the song’s cathartic conclusion. Certainly, this single will further cement the Irish band’s growing reputation for crafting transcendent (and otherworldly) material, centered around a unique and profound artistic vision.

 

Comprised of Rachel Ratner (vocals, guitar), Dave Ramm (drum), who’s best known as a former member of The Intelligence, and Matt Nyce (bass), the Seattle, WA-based punk band Wimps formed back in 2012 — an with the release of 2013’s debut Repeat released through End of Time Records, a 7 inch record released on the micro-label Help Yourself Records, and 2015’s Super Me EP, the Seattle-based punk trio quickly developed a reputation as one of the area’s best punk bands; in fact, the were voted Best Punk Band of the year, in a Best of Seattle Reader Poll.

Wimps’ third full-length album Garbage People is slated for a July 13, 2018 release through Kill Rock Stars! Records, and the album reportedly finds the band expanding upon their sound with the material employing the use of saxophone, keyboard and cowbell. Also, the album finds the band tackling much more serious concerns — gender pay inequality, the decline of bee populations as a result of climate change, insomnia and wanting to steal a pizza . . . but only if it’s these and so on.  Interestingly enough while expanding upon their sound and lyrical concerns, the album’s latest single, album title track “Garbage People” finds the band drawing influence from DEVO, The B52s, The Breeders and others in a way that feels anachronistic, as it sounds and feels as though it could have been released in 1979, 1999, 2009 or 2018, completing with a sneering, tongue-in-cheek irony.

 

 

Over the past few months I’ve written a bit about the Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sam Himself, and as you may recall he first recieved attention with the 2017 release of his genre-defying EP Songs in D. Since then, the Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist has built upon the early buzz around him with the release of several singles off his forthcoming Nobody EP — the old-fashion, slow-burning“Out of Love,” featuring  denetia and sene’s denetia that struck me as nodding at Johnny Cash‘s and June Carter Cash‘s “If I Were a Carpenter” — but with a subtle twist, as the song according to the Swiss-born, New York-based artist “is a desperate promise to keep a lover from leaving.” Himself followed that up with with the synth and guitar-based “Nobody,” a song that brought Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run” “Born in the USA,” and “Glory Days” and Caveman‘s self-titled album to mind, as the song featured rousingly anthemic, fist raising hooks.

Nobody EP‘s latest single “Heartphones” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor:  it’s centered around soaring synths, an anthemic hook and thumping drums but underneath the song’s rousing uplift is a a vulnerable narrator, who is plagued by nagging doubts as he’s chasing his dream, especially when things seem bleak and uncertain. If you’ve ever chased a dream and bet the farm on it, you know the moments of deep doubt that come with true commitment,” Sam explains. “I tried to capture that experience of losing faith in your own pursuit, where you cross-examine yourself like a lover in crisis: How much are you willing to pay for the thing you can’t live without? How much will it cost you? Heartphones is a love song about doing what you love.”

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Understandably, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth her and her family was; in fact, she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade of her life in classical training, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And as the story goes, from that point forward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

While in school, Merton wound up working with a number of producers on projects, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is a rarity. And when she met the Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the duo collaborated on Merton’s swaggering, hook-driven smash hit debut “No Roots,” a song that’s deeply influenced by her own nomadic youth. Speaking of smash hits, “No Roots” held the #1 spot for 2 consecutive weeks at the alternative radio charts here in the states, and held for 8 weeks in Canada. And as a result, she cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered the Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a growing profile, the song is synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign and was recently featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid — and earlier this year, she made her national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Building upon the buzz of her breakthrough single, Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” comes on the heels of her recently released No Roots EP, and much like “No Roots,” the Berlin-based pop artist’s latest single continues on the first-person perspective of its predecessor and the anthemic, hook-driven song focuses on a woman, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what you want, need and what you’re ready to fight for; to confidently answer your own needs in your own way.  And in some way, the song is an earnest, empowering feminist anthem.

Merton will be touring to support her debut EP and it’ll include performances on the festival circuit with appearances at Shaky Knees Fest, Hangout Music Festival and Governor’s Ball, and a tour opening for Vance Joy that includes a June 14, 2018 stop at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:
5/6 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Fest
5/15 Charlottesville, VA Spring Pavilion*
5/16 Columbus, OH Express Live!*
5/18 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
5/19 Portsmouth, VA Portsmouth Pavilion*
5/20 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest
5/22 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre*
5/24 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live*
5/25 Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre*
5/26 St. Louis, MO Fox Theatre*
5/27 Napa, CA BottleRock Napa Valley
5/30 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater*
6/1 St. Paul, MN Myth Live*
6/2 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom*
6/3 – New York, NY – Governors Ball Music Festival
6/14 Brooklyn, NY Prospect Park*
6/15 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
6/16 Hunter, NY NY Mountain Jam
6/14-6/17 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
8/4 Montreal, QC Osheaga Festival
8/7 Toronto, ON Echo Beach^
* W/ Vance Joy
^ W/ Tash Sultana

 

Best known as a member of Charles Bradley‘s backing band The Extraordinaries and Sharon Jones‘ backing band The Dap Kings, Lee Fields‘ backing band The Expressions, Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson and others, the Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since founding the label, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based artists including singer/songwriter, John Fatum, The Rad Trads, Michael Harlen, Patrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Last year, I wrote about a Dala Records split 7 inch single “Breathing Hard (Over You)”/”Honey Bee” featuring Camellia Hartman and its founder Aukstik, with both artists backed by the Dala Records house band, The Soulful Saints. And as you may recall, Hartman is an East Village-born and-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who as a child studied the Suzuki method on violin, bass and guitar at rock ‘n’ roll day camp, trombone in middle school and a cappella in high school.  Hartman’s latest single is the Billy Aukstik penned, “Return the Favor,” which is centered around the East Village-born and -based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s effortless and old-timey soulful vocals and an arrangement featuring twinkling keys, shuffling drums, and a loose, bluesy guitar line and a sultry horn line. Sonically, the song, which draws from Northern Soul production brings to mind the sounds of The Supremes and others, complete with a swooning and aching longing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born Elizabeth Lowell Boland, Lowell is Calgary, Alberta, Canada-born singer/songwriter and up-and-coming pop artist, who spent time living in Carcross, Yukon Territories, near a mountain that once offered passage to gold hunters — and was also once a preying haven for wolves; the up-and-coming pop artist has also spent time living in Massachusetts, Ottawa, Georgia and Calgary, before splitting her time between Toronto and London, UK.

Early within her career, she won the attention of Martin Terefe, who has worked with KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Jason Mraz; Sacha Skarbek, who has worked with Lana Del Rey, Adele and Miley Cyrus; James Bryan, who has worked with Nelly Furtado and The Philosopher Kings; and Paul Herman, who has worked with Dido.  The quartet of songwriters and producers invited them to London’s Kensaltown Studios to write with them; however, what they all worked on wasn’t in sync with Lowell’s vision, so they scrapped what they had and started over again with the end result being her I Killed Sara V. EP and her full-length debut, We Loved Her Dearly, which was released on renowned indie label Arts & Crafts Records. Both efforts received attention for songs, which openly focused on topics like sexual abuse, rape, abortion, women’s rights, the lack of LGBTQ rights, as well as our cultural ignorance about (and simultaneous) obsession with homosexuality.

Ultimately, Lowell’s first efforts were fueled by the need to empower her and her listeners to challenge gender conventions and inspire freedom from social limitations, rules and misogynists’ abuse of power, and to celebrate and uphold individuality — and while those are understandably heavy and urgent subjects, the up-and-coming pop artist pairs that with accessible, downright radio friendly melodies and upbeat vibes. Much like Fela Kuti and others, she’s used music as a weapon — suggesting as they did, you can challenge social norms and speak truth to power while dancing. Interestingly, Lowell remained friends with Terefe et. al. and it lead to her working with Terefe as a member of his band Apparatjik, and to her mini album If You Can Solve This Jumble. Following that, it lead to four days of writing and recording with A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Coldplay‘s Guy Berryman, Mew‘s Jonas Bjerre and Terefe, who she joined onstage at 2012’s Roskilde Festival.

After the release of her full-length debut, Lowell took up residency in her own studio space, where she began writing for other artists, including Icona Pop, Dragonette, Netsky, Grandtheft and Bulow, and where she also spent time working at writing, producing and practicing her craft, as well as guitar and piano (which she is classically trained), so that she could be ready for a self-financed UK tour, where she was backed by a drummer. Since then, she’s played showcases at Canadian Music Week, CMJ, Sled Island, and performed at David Lynch’s Club Silencio in Paris, headlined in Oslo and Copenhagen, opened for Chad Valley in Berlin, Padova and London; and opened for The Raveonettes in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid.

Lowell’s sophomore effort Lone Wolf was recently released on Friday, and the album’s material focus on the power an influence of youth — particular as a teenager, but from a more mature viewpoint; from someone, looking back on their own youth as an adult, who isn’t too far removed from it. And as a result, the album thematically focuses on self-discovery while retaining the upbeat, anthemic and dance floor friendly production that has won her attention.  In fact, the album’s first single “War Face” is an infectious and soulful track centered around an arrangement featuring bluesy guitar, handclaps, a propulsive battle rhythm and an infectious shout worthy hook that brings to mind The Black Keys and Alice Merton, among others.