Tag: Single Review

Comprised of childhood friends Chris, TJ and Daniel, the London-based trio The Leo Star Electric Band have developed a reputation for raucous live sets, including an infamous one where they destroyed the stage, and were accused of ruining Christmas by Stevie Wonder‘s manager, Keith Harris — and for doing whatever they need to, to make a gig, including using forged passports to get into Paris to play a show. And perhaps as a result, they’ve managed to open for the likes of Melt Banana and Dev Hynes‘ The Red In Sophia Loren.

Thankfully, they’ve yet to be arrested for any of that; but sonically speaking, the band says their mission is to create fucked up pop songs for the masses, and as you’ll hear from the band’s debut single “Soft & Gentle,” they specialize in a scuzzy power chord-based sound that brings 90s grunge rock immediately to mind, complete with the familiar (and beloved) loud, quiet, loud structure, rousingly anthemic hooks, pounding drums and angst-driven harmonizing; but underneath the angst, the song reveals the bleeding and sensitive heart of its creators, as the song was written as an ode to a number of people the bandmembers have have loved and lost.

 

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Throughout the course of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brooklyn dance pop act and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket. Although the band has gone through a number of lineup changes and iterations, there’s one thing that’s been consistent — founding duo and primary songwriters Alex Toth (trumpet, vocals, percussion) and Kalmia Traver (lead vocals, tenor sax and baritone sax). Toth and Traver can trace the origins of their collaboration to when they met while playing in  Burlington, VT-based Latin jazz act. Quickly bonding over being horn players, a love of Afrobeat and Afro pop, and their preternatural connection, the duo relocated to  Boston in 2006, where they did fairly respectable things to survive  — Traver spent time as a nude model for art classes, while Toth spent time hustling $50 a performance marching band gigs. And while being completely broke in Boston, the duo began Rubblebucket.

Relocating to Brooklyn some years later, Toth and Traver, along with a fully-fleshed out band emerged on to the national scene with the release of 2011’s critically applauded sophomore album Omega La La, and an already established reputation for a relentless touring schedule full of ecstatic, energetic and mischievous, dance party-like live sets. Since Omega La La, Rubblebucket’s recorded output has revealed a band that has graduated crafted, then cemented a signature sound — and with their most recent releases, subtly expanding upon it. Simultaneously, Traver fully stepped into the role of the band’s frontperson with a growing self-assuredness.

Slated for an August 24, 2018 release through Grand Jury MusicSun Machine, Rubblebucket’s fifth full-length album may arguably be among the most personal that Traver and Toth have ever written as the album’s material is largely inspired by the end of the duo’s longterm romantic relationship and the duo’s deep and lasting connection both personally and creatively but the album also draws from a number of major life-changing events over the past few years — namely Kalmia Traver’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer back in 2013, followed by rounds of surges and chemotherapy treatments; Alex Toth’s decision to get sober after a long struggle with alcoholism; and the couple’s three-year-long attempt at maintaining an open relationship. Reportedly, the end result is something strange, complex and beautiful in its own right, as the material still finds the duo crafting ebullient party jams rooted in a radical mindfulness while also an aching breakup album, imbued not with bitterness and accusation, but with a palpable love, making it the rare album with a truly kind and adult sensibility. Musically and sonically speaking, the album reportedly finds Rubblebucket’s duo tapping back into their jazz training with many moments throughout the album completely driven by improvisation. “There’s a lot of moments on this album that happened from us being in a trance-like zone, and coming up with weird sounds in the middle of recording, sometimes by accident,” Alex Toth says in press notes. But at its core, the duo hope that the album will encourage listeners and fans to see the possibility of transformation in painful experiences. ” When I got cancer and Alex quit drinking, that was the beginning of a huge journey for both of us,” Kalmia Traver says. “So much of that journey has been about giving myself the freedom to exist on my own terms, believing in my ideas instead of self-editing. I think this album represents both of us allowing ourselves that freedom in a totally new way, and hopefully it’ll give people inspiration to be creative in their own lives, and to just soften up a bit too.”

The album’s second single “Lemonade,” was written by Toth, who notes, “As the lyrics came together I realized I was kind of writing the song from Kal’s perspective, singing to me. I didn’t know what project the song was for (my solo record, a friend’s band, a pop star?) but when Kal and I realized Rubblebucket wasn’t ending with our breakup, but gaining new life, this song made perfect sense.” As a result, the song manages to convey a confusing array of emotions — wistful and bittersweet reminiscing over what once was and will never be again; the joy of knowing rare, sweet, frustrating and profound love and always having that connection with someone, even if they may have been an asshole at some point; the realization that the closure that everyone talks about is utterly impossible in this life; and the hope of maybe one day stumbling upon that sort of love again. Sonically, the song meshes swinging jazz, thumping and breezy pop with an aching, old school ballad in a way that’s vivacious and life affirming in a necessary way. We all know that life can be wondrous and heartbreaking — sometimes simultaneously, sometimes independently; but love and music make it all easier in the end.

Traver and Toth are in the middle of a tour to build up buzz, and then to support their new album. Check out the remaining tour dates below.

Tour Dates

7/5: Burlington, VT @ Battery Park (The Point Summer Series)

7/7: Portland, ME @ Thompson’s Point^

7/13: Canandaigua NY @ Lincoln Hill Farms#

8/1: Troy, NY @ WEQX Riverfront Event+

8/2: Dennis, MA @ Cape Cinema+

8/3: Westerly, RI @ Paddy’s Beach Club

8/4: Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes+

9/8: Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts

10/6: Arrington, VA @ The Festy

10/25: Fairfield, CT @ Warehouse

10/26: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer

10/27: Washington, DC @ Black Cat

10/29: Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle

10/30: Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge

10/31: Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West

11/2: Burnett, TX @ Utopia Fest

11/4: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom

11/6: Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom

11/7: San Francisco, CA @ August Hall

11/9: Seattle, WA @ Neumos

11/10: Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom

11/12: Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory

11/13: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

11/14: Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre

11/17: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge

^ w/ Lake Street Dive

# Star Rover supports

+ And the Kids supports

Currently cloaked in a bit of mystery, the reclusive members of the up-and-coming indie rock act ilu split their time writing, recording and residing in Tallinn, Estonia and rural Wales, and from their first official single “Graffiti Hen Ewrop,” the Estonian-Welsh band specialize in a sound that draws from krautrock and shoegaze as the song is centered around a motorik groove, swirling feedback, shimmering keys, ethereal vocals, angular bass chords and a soaring hook — but underneath the song’s anthemic nature, is an aching and wistful longing.

As the band notes, the song’s lyrics came in a rather organic fashion, as they were driving around a snowy Tallinn on Christmas Day, full of deep grief and sadness. “I had just lost my father a few months before moving to Tallinn and I was dealing with my grief and my own confusion that was crippling at the time. The album was written and recorded there in a small flat in Merivälja looking across the harbour over at the old medieval town, it is very much a journey back into the light”.

Comprised of Sam Alexander, Wes Johnson, Jeremy Louis Joe Page and Jon Van Patten, the indie act No Kind of Rider has members split between Portland, OR and Brooklyn — although the act, which has developed a reparation for a sound that possesses elements of indie rock, shoegaze, r&b, indie rock and electro pop initially formed in Tulsa, OK. Between the time of their formation and their relocation, the band spent several years writing, playing and hustling hoping for a moment. “Working like that can break your heart,” the band’s Sam Alexander says in a lengthy statement written by him and his bandmates.

No Kind of Rider’s soon-to-be released full-length debut Savage Coast draws from several years of experience. As the band says, “there are things we have been during to say, and this record is a release emotionally for us. Both musically and lyrically we focus on ‘change’ a lot in this record.We use as many synthesizers and electronic samples as we do guitars and drums.  We want the listener to both feel comfortable and continuously be surprised.”  That sense of constant transition was inspired by the events of the band’s personal lives: Joe Page’s father unexpectedly died died two years before the band entered the studio to write and record the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut. Sam Alexander notes that the year Page’s father died, was the same year that he got married. Wes Johnson’s father suddenly died. Jon Van Patten relocated to Brooklyn. And shortly after that, Alexander’s father had a stroke. “There’s been so may times in the last few years where I got stuck in my head: ‘Do other artists go through all this while making a record? Is this some kind of curse?’ For a long time I used to think of music as my path out of a difficult reality. I don’t anymore. Now, writing music is what keeps me rooted in my reality, it’s what lets me live with more presence and attention,” Alexander says.

“This isn’t a concept album,” Alexander and his bandmates continues. “But it does tell a story. We want the listener to uncover that story for themselves. However, a part of it is our story. Our loves, our friendships, our triumph, our losses. The story wouldn’t have happened without our move from Oklahoma to Oregon. We slept on friends floors and rehearsed in basements. I have over 300 hours of voice memos from our rehearsals down there!  Even though we recorded at incredible studios with talented friends, when I listen: I somehow still hear us in that moldy basement. I still hear the first time we pulled over on hwy 101 and saw the jagged wounds of the Pacific coastline.  Creatively, Joe actually drove out to Haystack Rock on the coast with a tape recorded – he designed new sounds and he embedded them into the tracks, so some of that is the actual article.  Most of it is just in the way that the music feels to me.” Unsurprisingly, the album thematically deals with loss, frustration and resiliency through love, friendship and music and of holding on to hope in the most difficult of times. Certainly, while personal, the album will likely resonate in much deeper and darker ways for so many of us in these desperate and frightening times. Sometimes music, your friends and loved ones and the hope of hope are the only things you can cling to — and that shouldn’t be shameful; not when the small things can be so sustaining and so necessary.

In any case, the album’s latest single “Sophia,” Alexander notes was recorded with the quintet facing each other in the same room, playing together in the same room — and much like The Verve‘s Urban Hymns, it has a different, more vital and urgent feel to the proceedings, as though the listener was a fly on the wall during the recording sessions. Sonically speaking the song is a slickly produced and effortless meshing of contemporary electro pop and R&B, anthemic indie rock and shoegaze that immediately brings to mind the likes of JOVM mainstays TV on the Radio and The Veldt as the track is rooted by shimmering guitar chords and synths, a propulsive bass line and Alexander’s achingly tender vocals, which puts a unique sensibility on their genre blurring sound and approach.

New Audio: Mudhoney Releases an Incisive and Furious Single from First Full-length Album in Over 5 Years

Currently comprised of founding members Mark Arm (vocals, rhythm guitar), Steve Turner (lead guitar) and Guy Maddison (bass), along with Dan Peters (drums), who joined the band in 1999, the Seattle, WA-based alt rock/grunge rock band Mudhoney officially formed back in 1988 although the band can trace its origins to the breakup of Green River, a proto-grunge band that at one point featured Alex Vincent (drums), Jeff Ament (bass), Steve Turner, and Stone Gossard (guitar). After releasing two EPs, and several lineup changes, Green River eventually split up with Bruce Fairweather, Gossard and Ament eventually joining Mother Love Bone. Now, if you know your grunge history, you’d know that after Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood died from an overdose, Gossard and Ament went on to form Pearl Jam while Arm and Turner reunited to form Mudhoney.

Mudhoney’s earliest releases through Sub Pop Records — namely “Touch Me I’m Sick” and the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP wound up becoming massively influential with the band being credited as being the godfathers of Seattle’s grunge rock sound, a sound that we all know is generally centered around scuzzy, distortion pedal heavy power chords. But despite their towering influence on alt rock, the band has never really seen much commercial success — although Nirvana covered Mudhoney during their legendary Unplugged, filmed and recorded a few weeks before Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

Slated for a September 28, 2018 through their longtime label home, the beloved Pacific Northwest-based grunge legends tenth full-length album Digital Garbage is reportedly, one of the band’s most sociopolitically incisive and blistering albums they’ve recorded; in fact, Digital Garbage’s first single “Paranoid Core” captures the distrust of experts and facts, the rampant fear-mongering and emotional exploitation and the very primal, lizard brained instinctual response that rules our current zeitgeist. And its all centered around boozy, old school punk rock guitar chords, a propulsive back beat and bass line. Western civilization and American democracy are about to collapse before our very eyes but goddamn it, there’s at least rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people. Unsurprisingly, these young people, much like young people everywhere have begun to openly question centuries-old norms and taboos, and have openly begun to denounce a society that they’ve perceived as being paralyzed by fear — namely, the fear of inclusiveness and change. And they’ve begun to do so with an fearless, in-your-face, almost punk rock-like attitude. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!”

I’ve written quite a bit about the collective, and as you may know, the collective’s members operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk, flotsam and jetsam and claptrap. They even built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wound and a ping pong table. Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective exploded into the international scene with their debut EP Tokoliana an urgent, forward-thinking, avant-grade-like effort centered around a sound that nods at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — from a sweaty and grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. It was arguably one of the most unique and exciting debuts I’ve come across in some time and unsurprisingly as a result, EP single and title track “Tokoliana” was one of my favorite singles last year.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Congolese collective’s TONGOS’A EP was released last year, and the EP found the members of the collective further exploring themes of survival within the desperate and uneasy sociopolitical climate of their homeland — sometimes being forced to focused on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns. TONGOS’A‘s first single, EP title track “Tongos’a” (which translates roughly into “’til the morning light” in English)” was a sweaty, sultry and raunchy banger, centered around skittering drum programming and African percussion which helped to further cement the song’s overall theme — the necessity of getting good sex.

“Azo Toke,” the Congolese collective’s first single of 2018 features a production consisting of explosive blasts of static and feedback, tribal percussion, thumping and stuttering, tweeter and woofer beats, glitchy bursts of synth, throbbing low end, call and response vocals and subtly shifting moods and tempos — and while seemingly post apocalyptic, the track will further cement the act’s inventive approach to dance music, in which they seamlessly mesh African traditions with forward-thinking, hyper modern production.

 

 

Currently comprised of founding member Austin North (vocals, guitar) with Cecilia Otero (bass) and Josh Mendoza (drums), the El Paso, TX-based indie rock/dream pop trio Sleepspent can trace their origins back to when it founding member returned from school in San Diego and started the band with friend and co-writer Aaron Quintalla. Although they’ve gone through a lineup change that has the band as a trio, since their formation, the members of Sleepspent have quickly become one of El Paso’s best, up-and-coming bands; in fact, locally they’ve become one of the area’s go-to bands, opening for a variety of nationally recognized touring bands. And from “Come Smile With Me,” off the El Paso-based band’s Chris Common-produced debut EP It’s Better If You Don’t Speak Or Think, released earlier this year through Slow Start Records, the young band specializes in a sound that draws from shoegaze, dream pop and indie rock. “That can be heard in the alternate tunings used throughout our music as well as the melodic chord progressions and melodies,” the band’s Austin North says in press notes.
Although sonically speaking some of my colleagues may describe the band’s sound as being reminiscent of The Cure and The Smiths, the band’s sound bit reminds me of Forever So and Ruckers Hill-era Husky as the young Texans walk a difficult tightrope between technical craft and earnest emotionality.
The band is currently in the middle of their first tour. Check out the remaining tour dates below.
Tour Dates 
07/09/2018:  Austin, TX @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
07/12/2018: Memphis, TN @ Sounds Good Memphis
07/13/2018: Nashville, TN @ Drifters BBQ
07/14/2018: Cincinnati, OH @ The Comet
07/16/2018: Minneapolis, MN @ Char Bar
07/17/2018: Omaha, NE @ B Bar
07/18/2018: Tulsa, OK @ Soundpony
07/19/2018: Wichita, KS @ Kirby’s Beer Store
07/21/2018: Norman, OK @ Red Brick Bar
07/22/2018: Albuquerque, NM @ Moonlight Lounge

Currently comprised of founding trio Jack Lantern (vocals), James Burgess (guitar), and Tom Pitts (guitar) with new additions Victor Jakeman (bass), Tom Pitt (drums) and Sev Black (keys), the London-based punk act Claw Marks can trace their origins to when its founding trio were in Austin, TX for SXSW with different bands back in 2013 — Lantern and Pitts were members of Human Hair, while Burgess was a member of Boneyards. As the story goes, Lantern, Burgess and Pitts got lost waling down a highway in the Texan desert when they came to the realization that they wanted to make something much more aggressive, that would channel the likes of Swans and The Birthday Party, but while maintaining the pop sensibility that won Human Hair attention. Ultimately, they felt the need to prove that you can make records that could sound like The Jesus Lizard or The Pop Group — without taking yourself too seriously.

For several years, the band primarily existed as a live outfit, playing raucous, riotous shows across their native London — including a memorable 3am first gig at an abandoned pub. “It was my birthday, and intoxicants may have been involved,” the band’s Jack Lantern recalls. “The show cemented us as a band, because we were playing in the confines of a place that was so similar to the spine of what we were trying to put across. The place was dilapidated, the walls were falling down, and when we started playing, the ceiling started shaking, and dust was raining down on us. And then somebody let off a fire extinguisher halfway through the set, and we were covered in dust and foam.”

With the addition of Jakeman, Pitt and Black, the band continued to develop their overall aesthetic, balancing a chaotic live, stage presence with very specific ideas about lyrical imagery and content. “It’s abotu putting weird images to song,” Lantern, who is also a poet says in press notes. “Usually, they’re a bit disgusting – an armpit full of lice, for example. Or a crab covering your arsehole and stopping anybody from trying to climb in there. We’ve got one song about evil, silent cops staring us down while rubbing their truncheons in their mouths. You know, that kind of thing.”

However, their debut album together has taken five years to write and record — with some of the songs dating back to when the band first started. The members of the band kept returning to East London’s Sound Savers Studio, where they were afforded time and space by co-owner Henry Withers, who was a former bandmate of Lantern’s, to continually refine the material, and eventually their overall sound. In fact, every time they returned, the songs evolved in a rather unpredictable fashion. “I’ve been telling people that the album aged like a fine wine, because it took so long to come together,” Lantern says. “But actually, I’d liken it more now to a slab of rotten meat. We allowed it to fester, and every time we came back to it, there’d be more flies buzzing around it, and this new form of bacteria growing on the chords.”

Ultimately, Claw Marks long-anticipated full-length album Hee Hee reportedly is an unapologetically and nasty collection of punk rock songs that thematically speaking range from the absurd to the political — but much like Tom Waits, the songs having a fucked up, off-kilter, whiskey-fueled vibe. “Swallow U,” Hee Hee‘s latest single is noisy and furious punk rock centered around distortion bathed guitar chords, forceful drumming and howled lyrics and while sonically, the song brings to mind Rollins Band‘s Weight and Get Some Go Again but with an absurdist bent, as the song according to the band is literally about a man who walks down the street, eating everything in his path. What makes the track intriguing to me is the fact that it effortlessly meshes art rock with furious, mosh pit friendly punk.

 

Currently comprised of founding member and frtonwoman Natalie Carol (vocals, guitar) and Shawn Morones (guitar, vocals), along with newest members Neil Wogensen (bass, vocals) and Mike DeLuccia (drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock band Valley Queen can trace their origins back to their formation in 2014. With the release of a handful of singles, the band’s profile rapidly rose — and it resulted in a relentless touring schedule with an increasing amount of time spent on the road. Although the band found their groove, the stress was way too much and the band went through the first of many lineup changes that found Carol continuing onward with a series of session musicians.

Despite the lineup changes, the band eventually found themselves becoming buzz worthy, playing bigger clubs; however, for the Valley Queen’s founder and frontwoman, the chemistry that she had felt and began to depend on to create and perform was missing. They landed a record deal — a dream that countless bands desperately wish to achieve; but as Carol began to recognize, the band was much more than her concentrating on writing lyrics while session musicians were being paid to play and record the material as directed. What she had long desired was for the band to be what it originally was about — the chemistry and relationships between the members of the band, all of which helped the band land their record deal in the first place.

As the story goes, before writing and recording the material that would eventually comprise their Lewis Pesacov-produced, soon-to-be released full-length debut Supergiant, Carol called Doot, who couldn’t re-join the band; however, Mike DeLuccia joined. Then Carol called Shawn Morones, who after a series of lengthy conversations, before decided that re-joining the band would be worth the risks involved.

Interestingly, Pesacov, who has worked with Best CoastFool’s GoldNikki Lane, FIDLAR and JOVM mainstays The Orielles, continues to cement his reputation for raw production that focus on the urgency of the album’s material and the musicians’ performances. And for the members of Valley Queen, the experience writing and recording was ultimately about the collective exploring and creating together. Now, as you may recall, earlier this year I wrote about album title track “Supergiant,” and the album’s latest single “Chasing the Muse” continues in a similar vein — 70s AM rock inspired indie rock with an earnest emotional heft that comes from living a full and messy life, complete with its frustrations, crushing defeats and small victories. Ultimately, both tracks are centered around Carol’s powerhouse Linda Ronstadt-like vocals, a deliberate attention to craft and some exceptional and passionate musicianship.

Valley Queen will be touring to support their new effort and the initial batch of tour dates are below.

VALLEY QUEEN TOUR DATES

July 5-8 Winnipeg, MB – Winnipeg Folk Festival

July 28 Los Angeles, CA – The Moroccan Lounge
August 01 San Francisco, CA – Cafe du Nord
August 02 Davis, CA – Sophia’s Thai Kitchen
August 03-05 Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon
August 07 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
August 08 Spokane, WA – The Bartlett
August 09 Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
August 11 Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge
August 12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
August 15 San Luis Obispo, CA – SLO Brew

With the release of last year’s Noelle and The Filthy No-Nos, the New York-born, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter and keyboardist  Noelle Tannen quickly developed a reputation for a unique approach to singer/songwriter soul that draws from old school soul, neo-soul, jazz, blues, indie rock and gospel. “Proof,” Tannen’s latest single continues in a similar vein as her previously released work: effortlessly soulful material centered around her self-assured and sultry vocals and an arrangement featuring shimmering blasts of keys, a sinuous bass line, shuffling jazz-like drumming, gorgeous horn arrangement and an infectious, radio friendly hook — within an expansive song structure in which you’ll hear temp changes and key changes throughout. Arguably, this track may be the most straightforward song in their growing profile; but paired with a powerful and uplifting message.

As Tannen explained to Live for Live Music, “”Proof’ is a song about the constant struggle many women face of having to Prove ourselves and work extra hard just for people to take us seriously,” Tannen shares. “It’s about how exhausting that struggle can be. However, the song is supposed to portray a motivational message. Let’s keep on working hard, but while doing so, not to forget about the beauty of life and the earnestness in creation. Let’s not allow the haters to get in the way! We got this ladies.”