Earlier this month, I wrote about the Portland, OR-based indie rock quintet King Who, and as you may recall, the band, comprised of Michael Young, Ryan Hayes, Ryan Cross, Glen Scheidt and Travis Girton will be releasing their Hutch Harris-produced sophomore full-length album Giant Eye through SELF Group on August 17, 2018. Reportedly, the album finds the band expanding upon their sound as they increasingly incorporate elements of New Wave, post-punk and dream pop while retaining the heavy bass of their full-length debut Us Lights; in fact, Giant Eye‘s first single, the slow-burning “Ice Cream” sonically finds the band drawing from shoegaze and dream pop as the song is centered around shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section, a soaring hook and Micheal Young’s plaintive falsetto, sounding though as it were recorded during the era of 120 Minutes-era alt rock.
Interestingly, Giant Eye‘s second and latest single, “Crying Shame” is centered around a motorik-like groove, four-on-the-floor drumming and Young’s plaintive falsetto, and as a result the song may arguably be the most New Wave-inspired song off the album, sounding as though it were drawing from Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen, Evil Heat-era Primal Scream and Luminous-era The Horrors, thanks to one of the funkiest rock bass lines I’ve heard this year.
Currently comprised of founding duo Dennis Ponozzo (bass, vocals), a former member of Below the Sound and Scott Udee (guitar), with Gabe Johnson (drums), the Madison, WI-based post-punk/noise rock trio Sinking Suns initially formed in 2007 as a duo, and after a series of basement recordings, the band expanded into a full-fledged live band with the addition of Gabe Johnson, who joined the band in 2009. Since then, the band has released several highly touted albums and singles while touring across the Midwest, playing a sound that features a unique blend of post-punk, noise rock, surf rock and thrash punk.
Slated for a July 27, 2018 release through Reptilian Records, Sinking Suns’ soon-to-be released full-length album Bad Vibes will further cement the band’s reputation for a scuzzy and bruising sound, as you’ll hear on the album’s mosh pit friendly new single “Remember You Will Die”– but the album thematically and sonically is centered around deeply personal tales of struggle, survival and mourning; in fact, as the band’s Dennis Ponozzo explains, the song was inspired after he had been reminiscing about the last time he saw his brother, before his death. “I was looking at old photos of him and remembering when we drove to a local “ghost light” in Michigan one night called The Paulding Light. It was a warm summer night. Looking at the photos I thought to myself how he was clueless in the photos that his number would soon be up. I was clueless. We all were. It’s mainly a reminder of all of our mortality. ” As a result, the song is a urgent and plaintive howl into an unceasing and uncaring void.
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 Music, Sun 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.
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.
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.
Blood Blush is a rather mysterious New York-based post-punk act, and their latest single, the shimmering and moody “Demon Clout” as the band told me through email is “one on the lines of post-punk and goth but I think we are trying to blur some lines and call it ‘dreamgoth’ or something along those lines.” Interestingly enough, to my ears, Blood Blush’s latest single reminds me a bit of Chain of Flowers, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others.
The New York-based act will be touring throughout the summer and it includes two local dates — July 10, 2018 at Jersey City’s Pet Shop and July 13, 2018 at Bushwick Public House. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.