“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore'”.
With the release of their debut single “Visions of You,” feat. Electric Youth, the up-and-coming Stockholm and Los Angeles-based electronic production and electronic music artist duo ROOM8 — Ezra Reich and Nic Johns — quickly established a reputation for crafting a sound that draws from electro pop, electronic dance music and film soundtracks. Building upon a growing profile, the duo produced, wrote and/or cowrote a series of attention-grabbing singles including Electric Youth‘s “Without You” which was praised by NPR, as well as “No Hard Feelings,” feat. King Deco and “This Place Again,” feat. Polina, which received praise form Neon Gold, Huffington Post, Noisey, Blackbook, Flaunt and elsewhere. “Better Than Music,” a collaboration with acclaimed British electro pop artist Little Boots premiered on Billboard.
Now, as you may recall, this year has been an incredibly busy and productive year for the duo: they produced the score for the forthcoming motion picture Cuck and their latest album Transduction is slated for an October 11, 2019 release. Earlier this year, I wrote about the atmospheric and slow-burning “Only You.” Transduction‘s latest single is the shimmering and nostalgic “Jasmine Nights.” Centered around pulsating mini-moog basslines, shimmering synths and Jesika Miller’s delicate vocals and a soaring hook, the uptempo song manages to be cinematic while nodding at Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” — but at its core is an expression of devotion to a loved one in there time of need.
“‘Jasmine Night,’ was written at a time when a family member was battling a serious illness. Sometimes in Los Angeles, while you sit out at night, there is an incredible scent of jasmine that drifts through the air and canyons,” the duo explains.
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig. Härdig’s career began in earnest at a very young age: she began playin in bands when she was nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. As an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music, while developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says in press notes.
Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, Boredoms, Free Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia Lunch, Ikue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others.
Slated for a November 5, 2019 release, Härdig’s fourth album This Big Hush find the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,” Härdig says of the recording process for The Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”
While reportedly paying homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and and Banshees, The Big Hush‘s latest single “Infatuation” is a decidedly riff-driven track that sounds — to my ears, at least — like it was indebted to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook.
“I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay says of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”
The up-and-coming, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK-based psych pop act Moreish Idols — comprised of Caspar Swindells (bass), Jude Lilley (vocals, guitar), Dylan Humphreys (sax), Sol Lamey (drums) and Tom Wilson Kellett (keys, guitar, percussion) quickly emerged into both the local and national scenes with the release of their debut EP, a genre-defying affair influenced by early Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, Tame Impala, and Atlas Sound among others, and an extensive series of high energy gigs across Southeast London’s DIY and grassroots venues. Since the release of their debut EP, the members of Moreish Idols have been busy working on various creative projects, as well as new material — including their latest single “Mobile Phone.”
Clocking in at a little under five minutes, the Falmouth-based act’s latest single is one part atmospheric and breezy Steely Dan-like yacht rock featuring shimmering guitars, whispered vocals and mournful horn lines that turns into a dance punk, disco-tinged, four-on-the-floor, driven freakout reminiscent of Echoes-era The Rapture. And while meshing two distinct moods — a meditative pensiveness with restless anxiousness — the track thematically focuses on escaping from technology to take time out from emotionally draining relationships. “We like to think of the song as a transition for us and a cathartic representation of the big life change we’ve just made,” the band says in press notes. “We move from the slower dream-pop sound of Falmouth in the first half of the track and accelerate into the hectic aesthetic of south London for the second half.”
As the band’s Jude Lilley says of the song in press notes ,“I was reflecting on a time in which I felt suffocated in my relationships with people and my family, and having a phone didn’t help that. It wasn’t until I was living the slacker dream in Cornwall that I realised that this was such a problem. Anytime I’d want to escape and get away from it all I’d never be able to fully isolate myself with my bent iPhone 7 still in my pocket.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about the Nashville-based indie rock act Twen. The act, which is led by founding members Jane Fitzsimmons (vocals) and Ian Jones (guitar) can trace their origins to their involvement in Boston’s DIY scene, and as you may recall, the duo since their formation have been actively been redefining what a touring band should be and should be in the streaming age. Initially releasing only a live EP recorded from the band’s live debut in a Boston basement, the band has toured non-stop, honing and perfecting a live show that’s been described by critics and fans alike as raw and mesmerizing.
Continuing to proudly ascribe to the DIY ethos that has influenced and sustained them, Twen’s core duo have run AirBNBs while touring, played in exchange for skydiving, screen printed self-designed merch items by hand and book their own tours. The duo emerged into the national scene with the release of their attention-grabbing single “Waste,” which received praise from the likes of NPR, Stereogum, Paste Magazine, BrooklynVegan, Uproxx, Under The Radar and others. Earlier this year, the duo opened for the acclaimed Louisville-based JOVM mainstays White Reaper — and they released the slow-burning and shoegazer-like “Holy River,” a track that to my ears would likely draw comparisons to classic 4AD Records, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve and Beach House — but with a yearning, dream-like quality that gives the ethereal track a subtle bit of emotional weight.
Building upon a growing profile, the buzz-worthy, Nashville-based duo will be releasing their full-length debut Awestruck through Frenchkiss Records on September 20, 2019. I also wrote about the album’s first official single “Baptism,” an atmospheric and shoegazer-like track centered around shimmering guitars, propulsive drumming, Jane Fitzsimmons’ enormous, room-filling vocals singing impressionistic lyrics full of a yearning desire to be born, becoming and re-born. The album’s latest single “Make Hard” is centered around jangling, reverb-soaked guitars, propulsive drumming and rousingly anthemic hook — and while bearing a bit of a resemblance to Fleetwood Mac, the song is rooted in lived-in, personal experience that gives the song an emotional weight.
“The song was rewritten and arranged very late in the recording process,” the band explained to DIY. “Another one of our earliest tunes, the second verse was a response to the growing pains we were going through at the time, transitioning from part-time rockers to full-time road warriors. The lyrics have come to symbolize the dynamics and relationships within a band as it grows, through the transformation of defined roles and how they change over time.”
Led by founding member Allison “Sunny” Faris (vocals, bass), the acclaimed Portland, OR-based heavy psych act Blackwater Holylight was formed after Faris’ previous band broke up as a way to begin experimenting with what her own version of “heavy” should and could be both sonically and emotionally — while celebrating vulnerability in all of its forms. The primary idea for the project was to have vulnerability be in the driver’s seat when it came to the creative process. And secondly, Faris, who was often the only female in many of her bands, desperately wanted to see how it was to work exclusively with women.
Blackwater Holylight released their critically applauded self-titled, full-length debut last year, and as a result of extensive touring to support it, the band has managed to hone their sound and identity — with their sound evolving to the point that their live show has become about the slow build. And as a heavy band, the members of the Portland-based JOVM mainstays sonically and structurally do something unlike their peers: their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come and go in rippling and undulating waves that surface through material that’s generally meditative and entrancing. Additionally, the band focuses on building tension and intrigue through the song and its structure.
Now, as you may recall, the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Veils of Winter is slated for an October 11, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records. The album finds the band with a different lineup — Faris (bass, vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths) along with the band’s newest members Mikayla Mayhew (guitar) Eliese Dorsay (drums) and perhaps as a result of their new lineup, their sound and writing process has changed quite a bit. “The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”
“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”
While album single “Motorcycle” featured fuzzy power chords, gorgeous melodies and a motorik groove and found the band crafting a song that was one part doom metal and one part shoegaze, the album’s latest single “Death Realms” is a decidedly straightforward, shoegazey affair centered around shimmering guitars, twinkling synths, propulsive drumming, ethereal vocals and a soaring hook. But the thing that “Death Realms” shares with its predecessor is that it’s an incredible nuanced song that you can sway and headband along to.
Formed back in 2014, the Helsinki, Finland-based JOVM mainstays Lake Jons, comprised of Jooel Jons and Mikko Pennanen, have developed a reputation for walking a fine line between production tandem and full-fledged band, while crafting delicate, electro folk-tinged dream pop. Last year’s self-titled debut, which was primarily written and recorded in an isolated cabin deep in the Finnish forest thematically and sonically aimed to examine, capture and represent whatever tenuous connection still exists between the natural world and the human world. The album won attention across across Scandinavia and elsewhere with JaJaJa showcasing the band in London, Berlin and Hamburg.
Slated for a September 29, 2019 release, the rising Finnish duo’s forthcoming, sophomore album The Coast finds them further reconnecting with their roots and delving deeper into their band name’s moniker, the Towars forest. Thematically, the album is their endeavor to dismantle life, space and time. Sonically, the album finds the duo re-inventing their sound — songs are centered around rough instrumental parts, layered with harmony-driven toplines, and yet the material seems to seamlessly assemble again. Interestingly, The Coast‘s latest single “It’s Too Bright” is built around a sparse production featuring twinkling keys, hi-hat led boom-bap-like percussion, a driving bass line, and an ethereal and plaintive falsetto floating over the mix. Sonically the song displays elements of R&B, electro pop, jazz, folk and experimental pop in a forward-thinking yet subtle fashion while retaining the hook-driven nature that won them attention here and elsewhere.
“There are all kinds of emotional releases when roaming in the nature far from civilisation,” the band’s Jooel Jons says in a short essay on their new album. “In a way The Coast is an emotional perspective. There are times when you are simply stuck in that gateway. Looking forward to the oceans or backward to the mountains, you choose. Time is irrelevant as long as you’re moving and evolving. I believe that’s the essence.” He goes on to talk about the album’s latest single, saying “It’s a nice thing when you realise life moves on and you move with it. The bassline here is my idea of how time and life move. It jumps here and there but holds no regard to whether one cares or not. I believe we can smoothly move with it only if we are true to ourselves no matter our faults. So as time moves, we can just try doing our best and evolve with it. “
“It’s pretty simple instrumentation but almost everything is pretty spontaneously played and recorded. Like the piano “fill” track: I asked Mikko to play around something nice, maybe the first time he really heard this song but somehow his fingers moved perfectly with the song and no other take was needed.”
I’ve written about and have photographed the Northeastern Pennsylvania-based shoegazers and JOVM mainstays The Stargazer Lilies quite a bit over the years. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of founding and married duo John Cep (guitar, bass, vocals, drums, production) and Kim Field (bass, vocals) and a rotating cast of live drummers can trace its origins to when Cep’s and Field’s previous band Soundpool broke up.
Although Soundpool had built up a national profile, touring with Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, A Place to Bury Strangers, School of Seven Bells, Black Moth Super Rainbow, TOBACCO, and a list of others, Cep and Field desired a change in sonic direction. With Stargazer Lilies’ full-length debut, We Are The Dreamers, the duo established a signature sound, which meshed elements of dream pop, shoegaze — but with a muscular forcefulness. Their sophomore album, 2016’s Door to the Sun firmly cemented their sound and approach while expanding upon it. Since the release of Door to the Sun, Cep and Field have been relentlessly touring as both an opener and headliner, frequently with JOVM mainstay TOBACCO and his Black Moth Super Rainbow, and a list of others.
Slated for a November 1, 2019 release through Rad Cult Records, the band’s long-awaited third full-length album Occabot finds the duo collaborating with their frequent tourmate TOBACCO (a.k.a Tom Fec). Interestingly, their collaboration with TOBACCO can be traced to a Stargazer Lilies show a couple of years ago. “It just hit me they were way heavier than they seem,” TOBACCO explains in press notes. “And that wasn’t translating in their recordings. Their old stuff is panoramic and smooth; I wanted 3D and bumpy.”
Wanting to help get the duo where they all felt they wanted to be, Fec signed the band to his Rad Cult Records imprint and agreed to work on their third album. But not right away though. He let Cep and Field work on the material in their own idiosyncratic image first. When the members of Stargazer Lilies had completed things on their end with eight raw and primal tracks, Fec then stepped in to distort, bend and burn the material’s overall sound even further.
Cep likens the creative process behind Occabot to what Andy Warhol did with pop art prints and The Velvet Undgeround and Nico. “Lou [Reed] said Andy was the best producer because he basically let the group do whatever the fuck they wanted. Tom did a similar thing with us; he let us have complete creative control, then added splashes of color and made it rough around the edges. Those embellishments make his artistic stamp on the project unmistakable, but leave the essence of our music very much intact.”
“Living Work of Art,” Occabot‘s boundary pushing single finds TOBACCO scrubbing the song with sandpaper then mangling Field’s and Cep’s work in a blender and throwing it into an acid bath while still retaining the hazy shoegazer quality of their previous work. Sonically you’ll hear blasts of hi-hat driven drums skittering across a thick wave of heavily distorted guitars that sound like broken and fuzzy synths while Field’s vocals ethereally float over the mix. It’s shoegaze for the impending end of the world.
Led by its Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based creative mastermind, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jordon Zadorozny, Blinker the Star initially began as solo recording project that eventually expanded into a trio that released two albums through A&M Records — 1995’s self-titled debut and 1996’s A Bourgeois Kitten. Throughout that period, the band toured steadily, building up a profile nationally and elsewhere.
In 1997, Zadorozny relocated from Montreal to Los Angeles, where he worked with Courtney Love, helping craft songs for Hole’s acclaimed Celebrity Skin. He also began soaking up new influences and became progressively fascinated with production. Signing with Dreamworks in 1999, the band, which featured Zadorozny, Failure’s Kelli Scott (drums), longtime bassist Pete Frolander and a collective of Southern California-based session musicians recorded and released their critically applauded August Everywhere. The band toured across North America with Our Lady Peace, Sloan, Failure and The Flaming Lips.
Returning to Pembroke in 2002, Zadorozny built his first commercial recording studio and began working with Sam Roberts, producing and contributing drums on Roberts’ breakthrough debut EP The Inhuman Condition. The Pembroke, Ontario-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer also worked on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Chris Cornell, Lindsey Buckingham and others.
During the winter of 2013, Zadorozny wrote and recorded Still In Rome as a duo with Kelli Scott. Following a brief tour, he quickly settled into the production side, working on a number of collaborative projects including Digital Noise Academy, SheLoom, Abbey and The Angry Moon. He was also kept busy with production work with an eclectic array of artists.
We Draw Lines was the first Blinker The Star album that Zadorozny wrote and recorded as a solo project in quite some time. He followed We Draw Lines with Songs from Laniakea Beach, a one-off single “Future Fires” the 11235 EP and 2017’s 8 of Hearts. Continuing a run of recent prolificacy, Zodorozny’s latest Blinker The Star album Careful With Your Magic is slated for a September 20, 2019 release.
Careful With Your Magic‘s latest single is the synth-driven and anthemic “Sweet Nothing.” Centered around a sinuous bass line, twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, blasts of shimmering guitars, a soaring hook and Zadorozny’s plaintive crooning, the song seems indebted to 80s synth pop — in particular Thompson Twins and Tears for Fears immediately come to mind. And while there’s a similar attention to craft, the song comes from a deeply personal and lived-in place, as the song’s narrator recognizes that they’re at a crossroads: do they grow up and take a chance on a relationship that could transform their life — or do they retreat back to single life? At some point, we all face this and the uncertainties of that decision.
“My new single ‘Sweet Nothing’ was written by myself and my good friend Bob Wilcox,” Jordon Zodorozny says in press notes. “The song started as an instrumental track that I completed where I was sort of aiming for a Thompson Twins vibe. Bob heard the music and immediately had melodic and lyrical ideas. Although Bob wrote all of the words, I feel he was tuning into some things that were happening in my life that made it quite easy for me to get behind when the time came to sing it.”