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.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Madrid, Spain-based indie rock trio The Parrots. Comprised of Diego Garcia (vocals, guitar), Alejandro de Lucas (bass) and Daniel “Larry” Balboa (drums), the members of The Parrots are among the forefront of a collection of Spanish artists, who sing in English and Spanish that have received attention both nationally and internationally; in fact, with the release of “I Did Something Wrong” off their Aden Arabie EP, were praised for a boozy and riotous garage rock/garage psych rock sound comparable to Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, Raccoon Fighter, High Waisted, White Mystery and others.
Adding to a growing profile internationally, back in 2015, NME named the Madrid-based trio as one of SXSW‘s “buzziest bands” and since then the members of The Parrots have managed to be pretty busy — they followed up with a critically applauded EP Weed for The Parrots, made a repeat appearance at SXSW before signing to renowned indie label Heavenly Recordings with whom the band released their full-length debut Los Ninos Sin Miedos, which featured the shambling and swooning “Let’s Do It Again,” a single reportedly inspired by the members of the band drinking beers and Horchata, eating Moroccan delicacies and the feelings of profound friendly and loyalty they all felt towards each other — and in some way, the song evokes the sort of feelings that are brought about when you’re drinking way too much and having ridiculous adventures with your pals. Album single “A Thousand Ways” was largely inspired by that moment in one’s youth when you may be most tempted by the forbidden and unknown, and when you may drop or avoid responsibilities of any sort. “This is the moment when, along with your friends, childhood dies,” the members of the band said. And much like its predecessor, the shambling, garage rock barnburner managed to remind me of Raccoon Fighter and 60s garage rock.
Some time has passed since I’ve last written about them but as it turns out while the band is currently working on the much-anticipated follow up to their full-length debut, the members of the band have released a one-off, ramshackle, shambling, garage rock cover of Latin trap artist Bad Bunny’s smash hit “Soy Peor,” and as the band explains “We’ve always been big fans of urban music, trap and hip-hop. Not long ago, these styles started to be everywhere again in Spain, and with it we discovered many interesting new acts, both Spanish and Latin American. One of them was Bad Bunny, from Puerto Rico. The first song of his that we listened to was “Soy Peor” and we loved it. Since we started the band, we’ve always liked to cover songs that we like, usually it’s from bands that are more similar to our style — rock ‘n’ roll, punk . . . It’s the first time we picked a song in another style and tried to make it ours. The idea came up in a rehearsal, talking about choosing a new cover for a forthcoming show. People really dug it and a few weeks later we went to Paco Loco’s studio to record it. We have all been through one or several relationships where things didn’t end up well, you realize you are not the same, you go out partying and blame it on your ex but, maybe, it was all your own fault.”
It’s been 11 years since J. Dilla‘s tragic and untimely death due to complications from Lupus and over that period of time, the prolific, Detroit-born producer and beatmaker’s reputation has grown — to the point that he has become arguably one of hip-hop’s most beloved and influential artists and producers; in fact, much of his work possesses a timelessness and vitality that few contemporary producers of any genre can manage. Interestingly enough, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the prolific Detroit-born producer and beatmaker’s untimely passing, his emcee debut The Diary was posthumously released, although it was released with quite a bit of controversy surrounding it. Dilla died before he could finish the album and much of the material was unfinished, leaving producers the unenviable task of piecing and stitching together incomplete ideas and filling in musical gaps in a way that would hew as closely as possible to its creator’s original intentions and ambitions. Naturally, in the event of an artist dying as they were finishing their work, it leaves questions about the nature of art, its creation, whether an outside editor or a producer can really flesh out the original creator’s ideas in a fashion that they would appreciate, whether its ethical to mine a deceased creator’s incomplete works to make money for the creator’s survivors or for their estate and countless others. In fact, it should be unsurprising that Dilla’s surviving family and the executors publicly battled over every aspect of the posthumously released The Diary; nor should it be surprising that J. Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, who has worked tirelessly to further her son’s legacy while being incredibly protective over it.
Mrs. Yancey was instrumental in the release of Motor City, a new collection of rare and unreleased Dilla instrumentals inspired by the producer’s hometown. Conceived as a letter to her son and originally released this for this year’s Record Store Day, the vinyl release quickly sold out; however, the vinyl has been re-pressed in limited quantities and is available for purchase for purchase at Dillatronic while supplies last. But it also marks the long-awaited digital release of the album. And to celebrate both occasions, Mrs. Yancey released “Motor City J Rocc Blend #4,” an exclusive promotional mix by Dilla’s close friend and equally renowned DJ and producer J. Rocc, which features one of Motor City‘s previously unreleased instrumental tracks.
J. Rocc’s mix is an inventive and boldly vivid take on J. Dilla’s production that builds upon Dilla’s souful production in a swaggering yet organic fashion as the production features a looped string section paired with tweeter and woofer rocking beats, some DJ scratching and a sinuous bass line paired with some incredibly fiery spitting from Common.
Comprised of Corin Tucker (vocals, guitar), who’s best known for being a member of Sleater-Kinney and Heavens to Betsy; Kurt Bloch (guitar), who’s best known as the frontman of The Fastbacks and a producer and mentor for several up-and-coming Seattle-based rock bands; Bill Rieflin (drums), who’s best known for being a member of the legendary King Crimson; Scott McCaughey (bass), a studio musician, who’s also known for being a member of Fresh Young Fellows; and last but certainly not least, Peter Buck (guitar), who was a founding member of R.E.M., Filthy Friends is both a side project and free-flowing collaboration between likeminded, long-time friends, who happen to be among some of the most accomplished and influential musicians of the past 30+ years.
The band has released two attention-grabbing singles this year, “Desiperta,” their contribution to the anti-Trump protest compilation 30 Songs For 30 Days and a Record Store Day release featuring “Any Kind of Crowd” and a cover of Roxy Music’s “Editions of You.” Building upon the attention they’ve already received, the band will be releasing their full-length debut Invitation through Kill Rock Stars Records on August 25, 2017 — and while featuring their previously released tracks, the album overall finds the band working through a series of different moods and styles, genre exercises and experiments; however, “The Arrival,” Invitation’s first single may arguably be the most straightforward, glam rock and alt rock nodding single as the band pairs bristling and chugging power chords and a rousingly anthemic hook around Tucker’s imitable vocals in a song that swaggers with the cool, self-assured confidence of old pros, who make it seem far easier than it actually is — and who can essentially play anything at will.
Danny Darko is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, electronic music artist, DJ and talent scout, who has developed a reputation for writing and recording across a wide range of EDM styles and subgenres including house, progressive, dubstep and others. And if you add the fact that Darko has received support and praise from an impressive array of EDM heavyweights including Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Pete Tong, Judge Jules, Gareth Enery and Chuckie for his restlessly genre blurring sound, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the multi-instrumetnalist, electronic music artist, producer, talent scout and DJ has released more than 30 Top 50 releases on Beatport Genre Charts. Along with that, his YouTube channel recently surpassed 2 million views and he’s known for producing Starchaser’s UK chart topping single “Love Will Set You Free.”
Danny Darko’s latest single “Tainted Emotions” is a collaboration with up-and-coming, Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and producer Alisha Jade, who has begun to develop a reputation for crafting material that defied genre boundaries while being distinctly soulful. As for the single, Darko pairs a hyper modern yet dramatic production featuring stuttering drum programming and boom bap-like beats, moody and swirling electronics, twinkling keys, and cacasding layers of undulating and shimmering synths with the up-and-coming Canadian’s sultry and self-assured vocals. While clearly being radio-friendly yet moody electro pop, the song subtly nods at the work of Young Ejecta, Octo Octa and others.
DJ Manipulator and Louie Gonz are a Massachusetts-based hip-hop duo, who have recorded together in a variety of ways over the years; however, 2014’s Private Stock was the duo’s debut as a collaborative unit. With “This Sound,” the silky smooth, looped jazz flute and xylophone-based first single off the duo’s highly-anticipated, soon-to-be released sophomore effort The Loops, the duo intends for the single and the album to be a bold reintroduction to the duo, whose DJ Manipulator-based production draws from golden era hip-hop while being a slick and self-assured collaboration with renowned Los Angeles-based emcee Blu. It’s no bullshit, no frills hip-hop — two dope emcees adeptly trading quote worthy bars over a slick and soulful production.
Depending on what you’d count and how you’d count, Amy Oelsner, best known as Amy O has contributed to and recorded somewhere between two and nine albums, which would paradoxically make her an old pro and a relatively new artist. But let’s begin with some background: Growing up in Fayetteville, AR Oelsner taught herself guitar and began writing songs, eventually recording a series of lo-fi albums while moving around the country for school and for work. Each album, whether solo or with a band was released independently and with little regard for sales, promotion or radio airplay, and according to the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter, at the time, the endeavor was more about the entire experience, including learning the thrill and discipline involved in creating. “Songwriting,” as Oelsner explains “became a way for me to process things and make sense of my life. I got hooked on it emotionally.”
After stints residing in Ohio, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, Oelsner relocated to Bloomington to work at Rhino’s Youth Center, which offers creative-leaning after-school programs to teenagers — and in many ways it’s a school, art gallery, music venue, a community theater, a community center and a whole host of other things. Oelsner took a job leading the Zine Writing Program, a program which encourages local teens to share their stories, to engage with the public in creative ways, to define and address the issues that affect their lives on a very granular level. Interestingly, the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter’s professional life influences her creative life, as the deluxe edition of her forthcoming album Elastic will be released by her own zine Yoko, Oh Yes, which will feature interviews from a number of women musicians and artists — including The Roches’ Terre Roche, Frankie Cosmos’ Greta Kline, Free Cake for Every Creature’s Katie Bennett and others discussing songwriting and technique, early experiences, gear, the recording business, money, inspiration and advice. Certainly for any aspiring female artist, hearing from those who have been where you have been, have made mistakes and learned from them and have achieved success and renown will be a transformative and inspiring experience.
As far as the actual album, which is slated for an August 4, 2017 release, Oelsner performs with a backing band of friends and collaborators including Madeline Robinson (bass, vocals), Justin Vollmar (drums), Damion Schiralli (guitar) and Aaron Denton (keys, vocals) and from the album’s first single “Lavender Night,” possesses an infectious exuberance, the easygoing self-assuredness and craft of old pros and razor sharp hook — a hook that’s paired with zigzagging guitar work and a propulsive, chugging rhythm section. While sonically drawing from Sleater-Kinney, The Roches and others, the track as she explains “came to me quickly and without fuss. I wrote it after a little scare I had at the doctor with a mysterious lump. It’s about the constant (and often invisible) line of fragility that we walk upon in life, leaning how to follow trails of light throughout difficult circumstances, and resisting the black hole-like vacuum of negative thought patterns.” And as a result, the song has the urgency of one who has recognizes that they’ve dodged a bullet — and that good turn of luck could quickly end.
Copenhagen, Denmark-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Brian Batz has received both national and international attention with the release of four full-length albums with his solo recording project Sleep Party People, and as you’ll hear on “The Sun Will Open Its Core,” the latest single off his soon-to-be-released new album Lingering, Batz specializes in a breezy psych rock/psych pop that’s reminiscent of Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT and early 80s synth pop and New Wave — in particular, think of The Buggles‘ “Video Killed the Radio Star;” however, underneath the hook laden song’s breeziness is a bilious bitterness, frustration and growing doubt of humanity’s empathy and kindness. As Batz explains “I got really frustrated and emotionally upset when the whole refugee debate in Denmark was at its highest. I felt extremely indignant in terms of how society dealt with this problem. Normally I don’t go into politics, especially not in my music, but this was kind of inevitable.”
“I don’t get how people can reject human beings, who are fleeing from their destroyed homes and cities. What if it happened to us? Wouldn’t we do the same and ask for help and do whatever we felt necessary? We should be able to help each other even if we don’t agree on religion, politics or what we eat and wear. It puzzles me that some people out there can’t see the reason in helping. I had to write a song about this. Period.” And as a result, the song feels like an urgent plea that we all can — and must — do better, to help anyone in need; that it’s the truly human thing to do.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site off and on over the past two or three years or so, you may have come across a post or two featuring the Gothenburg, Sweden-based punk quartet LaDIDa, an act that over its time together had received attention both across Scandinavia and the European Union for their Dadist and manic take on punk rock, which frequently would include the use of singing saws, melodica and stylophone paired with the prototypical punk rock arrangement of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Along with that, several blogs have compared the band’s frontperson Britta Persson to Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Karen O., and that shouldn’t be surprising as Perssson’s vocals manage to evoke a similar bratty and snotty in-your-face/don’t give a fuck attitude, an aware and confident sensuality and a feral urgency within a turn of a phrase.
After the release of “You Got It,” the band’s most straightforward, garage rock-leaning song, a song that reminded me quite a bit of the arena friendly sound of The Kills, The Black Keys and others, the quartet has decided to go on a hiatus. And as LaDIDa’s Rat Westlake explained in an email to me “Me and Bea [Britta Persson] often found ourselves sitting in my little studio room with ideas and no other band members around, so we started getting stuff down using our silvery computer pal to sort of the rhythm section (with a little help from me). It turned out pretty good! So we decided to kick off a duo — if we do not count the aforementioned little silvery chum. Et voila . . . The Cherokee Death Cats.” Persson’s and Westlake’s debut single as duo, “Read my lips” is a churning, scuzzy, propulsive, lo-fi leaning bit of garage rock reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Raveonettes, The Cummies and others that subtly nods at New Wave and post punk, complete with a rousingly anthemic hook.