Tag: Single Review

New Audio: Tancred Releases an Anthemic Yet Intimate New Single

Starting her career as a member of renowned indie act Now, Now, the Maine-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Jess Abbott is the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed recording project Tancred, which she’s released three critically applauded albums — 2011’s Capes, 2013’s self-titled sophomore album and 2016’s Out of the Garden. Adding to a growing profile, Abbot has toured with Foxing, Julien Baker, Weaves, Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas, and she’s played at Riot Fest.
Abbott’s fourth album, the Lewis Pesacov-produced Nightstand is slated for a June 1, 2018 release through Polyvinyl Records, and as Abbott explains in press notes, the album was born out of a rather unexpected revelation she experienced after becoming much more confident with the release of 2016’s Out of the Garden.  “After I became comfortable in this new skin, in truly being myself, I was immediately hit with loneliness,” Abbott recalled in press notes. “I realized that human connection is really important to me.” And as a result, Abbott began a journey of personal exploration that involved connecting with others, as much as connecting with herself. “I was reading a lot of books, learning a lot of new hobbies, meeting so many new people — just taking in as much information as possible to try and figure out what it really meant to me to be alive,” she recalled.  Interestingly, as Abbott told NPR Music, the new album “takes a step back form the energy of my last album to bring in a little more vulnerability.”

Interestingly, the creative process for Nightstand began in a way that its predecessors began with Abbott alone in a her room with a guitar, strumming chords and singing words until songs gradually coalesced; however, unlike its predecessors, Abbott made a concerted effort to devote three days a week for an entire year to only playing and writing music. When the recording process began at Lewis Pesacov’s Los Angeles-based home studio, the focus was less on finishing songs and more on perfecting them — and along with that, Pesacov offered new approaches and gear that afforded Abbott new avenues of exploration that were incorporated into the production and tone on every song of the album. “My favorite part of each day was sitting down to decide which guitar we needed to use for the song we were recording,” Abbott recalls of the recording process. “It sounds so simple and I know most records are made this way, but it was my first time actually being able to do that and I loved it.” But while being an expansion of her sound, the album thematically and lyrically will further her reputation for songs centered around her own experience as a queer woman — which in our current sociopolitical moment can be dizzying, alienating, and isolating. But as Abbott emphasizes in press notes, there can be comfort in such times: “Ultimately, we are all feeling these things together, and that can be enough to feel less alone. There’s a hopefulness in the loneliness.”

Nightstand’s first single, “Reviews” is a propulsive and chugging, PJ Harvey-like track centered around Abbott’s plaintive vocals which evoke a quiet, resiliency, vulnerability and an aching self-doubt, and a rousingly anthemic hook, and as a result the song manages to carefully walk a tightrope between an intimate, confessional nature and an arena rock friendliness.   

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Nicki Bluhm is a Lafayette, CA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, who’s perhaps best known for a six year stint as the frontwoman of The Gramblers, a band that featured her now ex-husband Tim Bluhm (with whom she also released two albums), and for recent high-profile collaborations with the likes of Phil Lesh, Infamous Stringdusters, Ryan Adams and others.  Slated for a June 1, 2018 release, the Ross Sprang-produced To Rise You Gotta Fall Bluhm’s first solo album in several years, and the album, which was written over a difficult and life-altering period in which she got divorced and made a spur of the moment move to Nashville, TN — and as a result, the material is a deeply personal chronicle of her state of mind. “These songs are quite personal,” Bluhm says. “They are the conversations I never got to have, the words I never had the chance to say, and the catharsis I wouldn’t have survived without.”

Interestingly, while Bluhm’s relocation to Nashville was spur of the moment decision, it actually came from the result of a number of writing sessions in the city. As Bluhm notes, the city was inspiring “because of all the songwriting going on here. When I would come to Nashville on writing trips, it was just percolating . . . it was intoxicating.” Around the same time, Bluhm met with renowned producer, engineer and mixer Matt Ross-Spang, who was in town mixing a record, and as the story goes Ross-Spang and Bluhm hit it off immediately.  “I really needed someone who was going to take the reins and have a vision for the album and he really did,” Bluhm says of meeting Ross-Spang. “My ex-husband had been my musical director, co-writer, and producer on all my records except one and I was looking for someone to step into that leadership roll, which Matt did very gracefully. I was looking for a clean slate; the only baggage I wanted to bring into the studio were the words to the songs I was singing. I wanted it to be a fresh experience; I didn’t want to even have history with anyone in the room that would pull me into old habits or ways of thinking.  So we agreed we’d record in Memphis.”
Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, the sessions revolved around live tracking featuring a backing band of accomplished pros assembled by Ross-Spang featuring Will Sexton (guitar), Ross-Spang (guitars), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion), Al Gamble (Hammond B3), Rick Steff (piano) and Dave Smith (bass), with Reba Russell and Susan Marshall (background singers), Sam Shoup (string arrangements) and various special guests. “We really just recorded live and we didn’t do that many takes of each song,” Bluhm says. “The final versions we ended up with were all one take. It was really refreshing to go analog. It minimized over thinking and second-guessing; forced us all to stay in the moment and play from the heart. . . Throughout the session there was a lot of listening and trusting. Matt really spends time curating his sessions and who he decides to bring in; he knows how to keep the vibe right. What you are hearing is, as Jerry Phillips would say, ‘not perfection but captured moments in time.'”
 
“I had lost my partner in so many ways,” Bluhm continues in press notes, “my musical partner, my life partner, my creative partner, and all of a sudden I was left on my own, to start my own engine. It was really intimidating and scary,” she says “but I had support from my management, my agent, my friends and family, and ultimately I just had this guttural drive that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was on auto-pilot, ready to move forward and take the steps I had to take to keep moving forward. When the album finally comes out it’s going to be like setting a caged bird free.”
Album title track “To Rise You Gotta Fall” is an incredibly self-assured and effortless track that manages to to be clearly indebted to classic Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul while nodding at contemporaries like Goodnight Rhonda Lee-era Nicole Atkins and Natalie Prass, as it reveals a careful attention to craft but with a “you-are-there” immediacy. Along with that, the song’s narrator reveals a resiliency and determination that comes from living a full, messy life full of struggles, heartbreak, loss and so on. As the song and its narrator seem to suggest, life will find a way to kick your ass but it’ll also find a way to move you forward towards where you need to be.
Bluhm will be on tour to first build up buzz for and to support her first solo album in some time and it’ll include a two night stay at Chicago’s Vic Theatre in April and a July 25, 2018 stop at The Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.
 
TOUR DATES:
April 11 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue*
April 12 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre*
April 13 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 14 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 15 – Saint Louis, MO @ The Pageant*
April 17 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Ballroom*
April 18 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark*
April 19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue*
April 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Bijou*
April 21 – Brevard, NC @ Songsmith Gathering
April 22 – Charlotte, NC @ Tuck Fest
May 27 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Meadowgrass Music Festival
May 28 – Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
May 31 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
June 1 – Eagle, CO @ Bonfire Brewing Block Party
June 2 – Taos, NM @ Music on the Mothership
June 3 – Flagstaff, AZ @ Hullabaloo
June 5 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
June 7 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
June 8 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
June 10 – Crystal Bay, NV @ Crystal Bay Club Casino
June 12 – Chico, CA @ Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
June 13 – Arcata, CA @ Humbrews
June 14 – Eugene, OR @ HiFi
June 15 – Portland, OR @ Dog Fir Lounge
June 16 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
July 13 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens
July 14 – Charlotte, NC @ Knight Theater
July 19 – Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
July 20 – Alexandria, VA @ Hamilton
July 22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
July 25 – Floyd, VA @ FloydFest
July 25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
July 29 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley
 
*Nicki solo supporting The Wood Brothers

 

Deriving their name from the Fujiya brand of record players and the famous character Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, the Brighton, UK-based indie act Fujiya & Miyagi, currently comprised of founding members David Best (vocals, guitar) and Stephen Lewis (synths, vocals), along with Ed Chivers (drums), Ben Adamo (bass, vocals) and Ben Farestuedt (bass, vocals) formed in 2000, and since their formation they’ve released a handful of EPs, including a 2016 triptych of EP releases that were designed to all slot into one record sleeve and seven full-length albums — 2002’s Electro Karaoke in the Negative Style, 2006’s Transparent Things, 2008’s Lightbulbs, 2011’s Ventriloquizing, 2014’s Artificial Sweeteners, 2017’s self-titled and Different Blades from the Same Pair of Scissors 

The first few years after their formation were spent in relative obscurity; however, their profile began to expand between 2003 and 2006 as they received praise from NME and Pitchfork. Adding to a growing profile during that period, the British act were featured in an episode of MTV2′s documentary series This is Our Music, while “Uh” was featured in an episode of Breaking Bad and an episode of the British sci-fi series Misfits. “Collarbone” was featured on an episode of the American adaptation of British teen drama Skins while “Vagaries of Fashion” was featured on an episode of How To Get Away With Murder

Interestingly, the members of the Fuyija & Miyagi decided that it was time to revisit their breakthrough 2006 effort Transparent Things and re-issue it on vinyl. As the band’s David Best explains in press notes, “We’ve always regretted not putting it out on vinyl, so over ten years later, it seemed like a good opportunity to correct that. We have explored different ways of making music since its initial release but it remains the album that defines our aesthetic in many ways.” Taking its name from Vladimir Nabokov’s Transparent Things, the album is actually a compilation of their previous standalone singles into one thorough collection — and in a critical sense, the album was part of its zeitgeist while simultaneously looking a bit deeper and further, as the album’s material nodded at krautrock but was also incredibly dance floor friendly. The band will be on a Stateside tour to celebrate the vinyl reissue of Transparent Things that will include a March 31, 2018 stop at Elsewhere.

In the meantime, the British act has released a strutting and funky new single “Subliminal Cuts” that was reportedly inspired by Columbo — and sonically, the track nods at classic disco and LCD Soundsystem-era dance punk as shimmering and arpeggiated synths are paired with a sinuous bass line and some of the most infectious hooks I’ve heard this year; but underneath the self-assured swagger expected of old pros, who know what they’re doing is a sly, self-aware sense of humor paired with an intriguing sense of mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Tour Dates:
Fri 30th Mar Philadelphia PA Johnny Brenda’s
Sat 31st Mar New York NY Elsewhere
Sun 1st April Washington DC U Street Music Hall
Tue 3rd April Chicago IL Lincoln Music Hall
Wed 4th Apr Seattle WA Chop Suey
Thu 5th Apr Oakland CA New Parish
Fri 6th Apr Los Angeles CA Union (Jewels)

Led by its creative mastermind and primary songwriter, Nicole Schneit, the Brooklyn-based recording project Air Waves will be releasing their third, full-length album Warrior on April 6, 2018 through Western Vinyl Records, and the album reportedly is partially inspired by Schneit’s own personal experiences as a queer woman, who has to be a warrior by necessity and fight for the basic human rights, dignity and acceptance for her and of other queer people and from her mother’s recent  battle with fallopian cancer. As Schneit explains in press notes “The doctor told her she had a fifteen to twenty percent chance, and her response was ‘I’m going to get this motherfucker. So the title ‘Warrior’ and the song are about her. After chemotherapy, surgery, and the more chemotherapy, all the cancer in her body has left, and she’s currently in remission. I feel like most of the people of my life, including myself, are warriors and have overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to defeat.”
And as a result, album title track and the album’s last official single before its release, “Warrior,” a collaboration with Kevin Morby is an anthemic track centered around a simple arpeggiated synth line, jangling guitar lines paired with a rousingly infectious hook and equally focused vocals that convey determination, strength and dignity in the face of any and all obstacles and comers.

 

New Audio: Acclaimed, Indie Electro Pop Act Colouring Release an Anthemic, Club Friendly Banger

Colouring is an acclaimed London-based indie pop quartet, who will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut later this year, and the forthcoming album’s latest single “Time” manages to further reputation for crafting soulful and infectious hook-driven pop that’s equally arena and radio friendly — and in a way that will likely remind some listeners of United and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix-era Phoenix; but while pairing it with lyrics that focus the dizzying frustration of writer’s block with a psychological realism of someone who has suffered through it quite a bit. 

New Audio: Introducing the Laid-Back and Mischievous Sounds of Country Supergroup Traveller

Traveller is an indie rock/Americana supergroup comprised of some of contemporary Americana’s most accomplished and acclaimed, contemporary, solo artists: Jonny Fritz, a singer/songwriter who, has been considered a logical heir to country music legend Roger Miller; Cory Chisel, a Grammy-nominated, singer/songwriter who has collaborated with Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell and runs a recording studio in a former Wisconsin monastery that’s also an arts space; and Robert Ellis, a a critically applauded artist known for being a rather inventive singer/songwriter. Interestingly, the act can trace its origins to when longtime friends Ellis and Fritz had been collaborating together for some time got a ridiculous idea to head to India to write a country album.  The duo set off on their epic journey to India but after an ill-advised, exuberant jump into the Ganges, Ellis got ill and almost died. Fortunately though, Ellis was able to kick his illness and recover — and the idea of their collaboration didn’t die either.

Several months later, Ellis and Fritz recruited Chisel, and within a couple of weeks the new band had written an album’s worth of material, which they followed with their live debut at the Newport Folk Festival and sets at Stagecoach and Austin City Limits. Reportedly, the trio’s aesthetic and songwriting approach  draws from the likes of both The Highwaymen and The Traveling Wilburys, supergroups in which each individual member plays to their well-known and beloved strengths while taking turns showing off their chops as been-there-done-that, played-every-venue-including-that-shitty-one-that-stank-of-stale-beer-and-puke old pros — but they do so with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor throughout.
 
Western Movies, the supergroup’s highly-anticipated, forthcoming full-length debut is slated for a May 4, 2018 release, and the album’s latest single “Hummingbird” is a jangling and twangy bit of old-timey rock/country that to my ears manages to nod to The Beatles and to George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You” but with a mischievous sense of humor, complete with some winklingly ribald double entendres and pop cultural references that give the song a wild anachronistic feel.
 

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based post-punk trio 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) can initially trace its origins to when its founding duo met in Los Angeles, back in 2007. By 2011 Walker and Hartman had relocated to New York, where they spent a great deal of time searching for a vocalist, who they felt could match their intensity and creative output, and as the story goes, when Walker and Hartman met Suki San, they felt an immediate connection and began working together.

Second Still’s first show was an infamous party at the now-condemned McKibbin Street Lofts that was shut down by the police during the band’s second song. Building upon the buzz of that incident, the band recorded their debut EP, Early Forms as a limited edition cassette, which quickly sold out. Making the most of their time, the members of the trio wrote and recorded the material that eventually comprised their 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, pushing it towards new directions — while retaining some of the early elements that first caught the attention of the blogosphere and elsewhere. You’ll see hear the chorus and delay pedal effected guitar, sinuous bass-driven grooves and industrial-like drum machine beats paired with ethereal vocals and infectious, razor sharp hooks; however, the members of the band have begun employing the use of a couple of analog synthesizers, which adds an atmospheric element to their sound. Additionally, roughly half of the EP’s material (the A side) reportedly finds he band exploring a decidedly pop-orientated, lighter sound while the other half (the B side) find site band hewing towards the melancholy and gloomy roots. The EP’s first single “Opening” was a decidedly melancholy post-punk track that to my ears will further their growing reputation for crafting a sound heavily indebted to early 80s post-punk with clean, modern production values, and unsurprisingly, the EP’s latest single “Automata” continues on a similar vein as its predecessor, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sixousie and the Banshees’ “Israel,” and “Happy House” but with a subtle bit of moody atmospherics.

 

Over much of the almost 8 year history of this site, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstays Bambara, comprised of founding, core trio twin brothers Reid and Blaze Bateh and their childhood friend William Brookshire, and as you may recall the trio’s soon-to-be released Andy Chugg-produced third, full-length album Shadow on Everything is their first for Wharf Cat Records, and it reportedly represents a decisive step forward with the band moving from the early noise rock and post-punk that inspired their first two albums with the new album being  a Western Gothic concept album. And while the musical center remains the trio’s tight and forceful rhythm section featuring Blaze Bateh’s frenzied yet incredibly metronomic drumming and Brookshire’s propulsive bass lines, which manage to be roomy enough for for Reid Bateh’s howled vocals and squalling, feedback heavy guitar.

Unlike their previously recorded output in which Reid Bateh’s vocals were deeply buried in the mix, Shadow on Everything finds the band placing Reid Bateh’s vocals at the forefront, symbolically placing the damaged characters and seedy locales of his lyrics at center stage — and while the overall sound is cleaner, as you’ll hear on “Jose Tries to Leave,” the album’s first single, the band has retained the forceful and nightmarish dynamism that has won them attention; but interestingly enough, the album finds the band experimenting with their sound as some of the material features violin and cornet arrangements, as well as ambient noise loops distilled down from hours of manipulated vocal collages the band shifted through to find the perfect texture.

“Doe-Eyed Girl” Shadow on Everything‘s second and latest single continues in a similar vein as it features Spaghetti Western-like guitar work, explosive bursts of feedback and a punk rock-like propulsive rhythm section that gives the song a cinematic yet menacing quality paired with an unusually empathetic portrayal of the damaged characters and nightmarish scenarios that have long inhabited their material imbued with a sweaty and furious urgency, fueled by a desperate and manic obsession.

 

 

New Audio: Portland’s Blackwater Holylight Returns with a Trippy and Expansive Take on 60s Psych Rock

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the Portland, OR-based rock act Blackwater Holylight, and as you may recall, the band comprised of founding member Allison “Sunny” Faris (vocals, bass),  Laura Hopkins (guitar, vocals), Cat Hoch (drums) and Sarah McKenna (synth), the band, which can trace its origins to when one of Faris’ previous bands broke up, and she wanted to begin experiment what her own version of what “heavy” should and could be both sonically and emotionally with the primary aim to celebrate vulnerability all of its forms. But along with that, as Faris explains in in press notes, because she was the only female in her previous band, she wanted to see how her “songwriting and vulnerability could glow taking the drivers seat, and working with women.” 

RidingEasy Records will be releasing Blackwater Holylight’s self-titled review on April 6, 2018 and from the Breeders-like alt rock meets shoegaze “Sunrise,” and the Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath heavy, power chord dirge and strident, feminist anthem “Wave of Conscience,” the Portland-based quartet have shown that their material draws from a wide array of sources with a piss and vinegar-fueled, kick ass and take names sort of self-assuredness. And unsurprisingly, the album’s latest single “Willow” continues in a similar vein while being their most expansive and most 60s psych rock-inspired song they’ve released from the album to date, as the band shifts tempo and mood while centered around some explosive guitar pyrotechnics and ethereal harmonies. 

Although she is all of 25, the New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and studio engineer Eva Lawitts has had a rather accomplished music career –beginning  as a high schooler, she’s had stints in the likes of Vagabon, Citris and others, touring across the US a number of times — and as a studio engineer, she runs Wonderpark Studios with Chris Krasnow.

Interestingly, Lawitts’ solo recording project Stimmerman finds the accomplished New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and studio engineer stepping out on her own as a creative mastermind and frontperson; in fact, with her Stimmerman debut, Pleasant Vistas in a Somber Place EP, Lawitts wrote, arranged and performed all of the vocal, guitar and bass parts with Beach Fossils‘ touring drummer Russel Holzman and acclaimed trumpeter Adam O’Farrill on an effort that as she told New Noise Magazine were drafts of a songs written for a new album by a now-defunct band she was in. “I had completed most of the instruments by fall 2016, the band I had written the songs for broke up in December, and I spent the firs half of 2017 racing around on tour with a horde of other musicians and bands, mostly getting really depressed in vans and hotels around about the sudden lack of direction in my life, and attempting to complete these songs on my own,” she explained. And as a result, the EP’s material reflects a childish moroseness and an impotent bitterness and frustration.

Reportedly, the EP’s latest single “Tough Talk” were culled from half-remembered conversations during a particularly intense period of touring, as well as her running commentary on those memories, followed by a sort of conclusion about how even attempting to reach a conclusion about what it all was supposed to mean was futile, and those observations give the song a bilious fury and frustration — while sonically, the song finds Lawitts drawing from prog rock, indie rock, noise and punk in a way that reminds me of The Mallard‘s Finding Meaning in Deference.