Tag: The Black Keys

New Audio: Calvin Johnson Returns with a Meditative Bit of Bubblegum Pop

 Over the past couple of months, I’ve written quite a bit about Calvin Johnson, an  Olympia, WA-born and-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer and DJ best known as a founding member of Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team and The Halo Benders, all of which prominently feature his sonorous baritone. He’s also the founder and owner of renowned indie label K Records — and he was one of the major organizers of the International Pop Underground Convention.

Now, as you may recall, Johnson’s forthcoming A Wonderful Beast is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through his own K Records, and the album, which was recorded at  Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville, TN finds Johnson collaborating with the The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who cowrote and produced the album and Michelle Branch, who contributes backing vocals on three songs.  Johnson can trace the origins of his collaboration with Carney back to 2005, when the Olympia, WA-based singer/songwriter guitarist, producer and DJ was on a Stateside tour to support his sophomore solo album Before the Dream Faded — and Carney and Johnson met during that tour. As the story goes, the two kept in touch over the years, with Carney suggesting that they should collaborate; but based on their schedules they were only able to work with each other recently. Branch, a solo artist of note is best known for being a member of The Wreckers, and as it turns out that she lives next door to Audio Eagle Studios. Intrigued by the sounds she heard from the shack that houses the studio, she walked over to see for herself what was going on, and she wound up on the album.

“Kiss Me Sweetly,” A Wonderful Beast’s first single was centered around a 60s bubblegum pop-like arrangement featuring a propulsive rhythm section consisting of a thumping, almost boom-bap-like backbeat, a funky bass line and blasts of swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar playing — but by far, the star of the song is the harmonizing between Johnson’s rich, sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal soprano, which further emphasizes the song’s swooning nature.  The album’s second single was the Tom Vek meets bubblegum pop-like “Like You Do,” a track that features jagged blasts of guitar, soaring synths and a dance floor friendly hook — but unlike its predecessor, the album’s latest single possesses a mischievous irony at its core, as it features a self-obsessed, self-absorbed narrator, who only sees his own greatness. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “(I’ve Still Got) Sand In My Shoes”  continues in a similar vein as its predecessors, as its a bubblegum pop-inspired yet meditative arrangement, featuring an angular and propulsive rhythm section and blasts of swirling guitar and synth lines, centered by Johnson’s sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal vocals harmonizing to give the song a breezily coquettish yet wistful air. It’s the sound of another summer ending, of cooler weather coming and the impending end of yet another year. 

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New Audio: Honolulu’s Kings of Spade Release an Anthemic Party Ripper

Comprised of founding members Kasi “KC” Nunes (vocals) Matt Kato (drums) and Jasio Savio (guitar) with Tim Corker (bass), Ken Lykes (keys) and DJ Packo, the Honolulu, HI-based sextet Kings of Spade can trace their origins back to when Nunes,  a self-described “somber, closeted queer kid, who felt soul and blues music,” was bartending at Honolulu’s Anna Bananas and was pulled up on the stage to sing. “They started playing ‘Sweet Child O’Mine,” Nunes says in press notes.  “I started singing and was like ‘Hey, I sound pretty good.”

Interestingly, Jasio Savio frequently sat in with the bar’s house band. “He wasn’t old enough to drink,” Nunes recalls. “But he would start and rip these Johnny Cash tunes.” As the story goes, they were both impressed by each other. “You feel this energy when she sings,” Savio says. “My first thought was ‘Damn, she’s going to be famous.'” As the story goes Nunes approached Savio and suggested they start a band. They recruited Matt Kato, a local punk rock drummer and played with a revolving door of bassists until they found Tim Corker. As a quartet that played power chord-based blues riff rock, they didn’t find their hometown to be very receptive to their sound — although Nunes took it upon herself to book club shows that featured the band alongside local DJs, artists and other bands. After amassing a decent local following, the band relocated to Southern California in 2006 to chase their dreams. But as Nunes and Kato quickly found out, the big city isn’t very welcoming; in fact, they were barely scarping by — and they were forced to sell their blood for cash. “Everyone at the clinic looked down-on-their-luck,” Nunes remembers. “I was hooked up to a plasma machine, reading the self-help books. This was the lowest point in my life.”

After three years of crushing let-downs and disappointment, Nunes, Savio and Kato quit their jobs and gave up their shared apartment in preparation for a lengthy tour that was just booked by their new manager; however, he disappeared once they figured out that there wasn’t an actual tour. They returned home to Hawaii, and ironically enough, upon their return, they finally fell into some good fortune. Several years later, the band played at SXSW, where former Headbanger’s Ball host and MTV VJ Riki Rachtman caught them — and after catching them, he booked them to play a show commemorating the 30th anniversary of his old metal club, The Cathouse, best known for giving rise to Guns N’ Roses. Around the same time, they met Sue Damon, the ex-wife of The Beach Boys’ Mike Love. “She was a huge supporter of ours, bought us a new drum set. She was a total free spirit, who could party all of us under under the table. She ended up passing away. But all of us have her initials tattooed on us.”

Interestingly, the band’s self-titled Dave Cobb-produced full-length was recorded in Nashville over the course of two weeks.  “He produced a band I like, Rival Sons, which had this old-school sound with modern energy—like, analog-tape soul built into it,” Jesse says, admiringly. Interestingly, the album’s latest single, the swaggering and stomping, bluesy  ripper “Bottom’s Up” is raucous, party anthem that’s inspired by their late friend and patron Sue Damon, and their own experiences partying ridiculously hard that sounds as though it were influenced by Highway to Hell-era AC/DC, Electric Blue Watermelon-era North Mississippi All Stars and The Black Keys — all while further cementing their reputation for boozy, power chord centered, riff-based rock. 

New Video: Calvin Johnson Releases Playful Visuals for Dance Floor Friendly “Love Me Like You Do”

Last month, I wrote about Calvin Johnson, an  Olympia, WA-born and-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer and DJ best known as a founding member of Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team and The Halo Benders, all of which prominently feature his rich baritone vocals He’s also the founder and owner of renowned indie label K Records — and he was one of the major organizers of the International Pop Underground Convention.  

Now, as you may recall, Johnson’s forthcoming A Wonderful Beast is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through his own K Records, and the album, which was recorded at  Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville, TN finds Johnson collaborating with the The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who cowrote and produced the album and Michelle Branch, who contributes backing vocals on three songs. Interestingly, Johnson can trace the origins of his collaboration with Carney back to 2005, when the Olympia, WA-based singer/songwriter guitarist, producer and DJ was on a Stateside tour to support his sophomore solo album Before the Dream Faded — and Carney and Johnson met during that tour. As the story goes, the two kept in touch over the years, with Carney suggesting that they should collaborate. Branch, a solo artist of note is best known for being a member of The Wreckers, and as it turns out that she lives next door to Audio Eagle Studios. Intrigued by the sounds she heard from the shack that houses the studio, she walked over to see for herself what was going on, and she wound up on the album.

The album’s first single “Kiss Me Sweetly,” was centered around a 60s bubblegum pop-like arrangement featuring a propulsive rhythm section consisting of a thumping, almost boom-bap-like backbeat, a funky bass line and blasts of swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar playing — but by far, the star of the song is the harmonizing between Johnson’s rich, sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal soprano, which further emphasizes the song’s swooning nature. A Wonderful Beast’s latest single is the Tom Vek meets bubblegum pop-like “Love Me Like You Do,” a track that features jagged blasts of guitar, soaring synths and a dance floor friendly hook — but unlike its predecessor, the album’s latest single possesses a mischievous irony at its core, as it features a somewhat self-obsessed, self-absorbed narrator, who only sees his own greatness. 

The recently released video features Johnson in someone’s backyard, singing along to the song and doing some extremely white guy dancing to the song — with a brief blasts of psychedelic imagery. It’s goofy as hell but downright enjoyable. 

New Audio: Introducing the Arena Rock Friendly Blues Rock of The Blue Stones

Comprised of high school friends Tarek Jafer (vocals, guitar) and Justin Tessier (drums, percussion, backing vocals), the up-and-coming alt rock duo The Blue Stones can trace their origins to when the duo, who had attended college together decided that they should start a musical project together. While being among an increasing number of blues-tinged rock duos including The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Royal Blood, and others, the duo cite Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, MUTEMATH, My Morning Jacket, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King as influences on their overall sound and aesthetic.

Jafar and Tessier spent seven years honing and perfecting their sound, during which they wrote and recorded an independently released EP. As the duo’s Tarek Jafar says in press notes, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay proud and focused.” Building upon several years of hard work and dedication, the duo’s full-length debut Black Holes is slated for an October 26, 2018 release — and the album, which will feature “Rolling With The Punches,” a single that has received placements on USA Network’s Suits, Showtime’s Shameless and ESPN’s Monday Night Football and the attention-grabbing lead single “Black Holes,” which has amassed 8 million streams, will further cement the duo’s growing profile for  playing blues rock that as the duo’s Justin Tessier says is “lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.” Thematically, the album as Jafar explains is “. . . about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college. Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier but you’re passionate about . . . following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.”

Over course of the year playing across the national festival circuit with stops at Carolina Rebellion with MUSE and Queens of the Stone Age, Northern Invasion, Winnetka Music Festival and Bonnaroo Festival. Interestingly, Black Holes’ third and latest single is the sultry and anthemic “Be My Fire,” which sonically is indebted to The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, North Mississippi All Stars as its built around enormous power chords, thundering drumming and arena rock friendly hooks — but while being centered around an urgent and plaintive yearning for someone, just out of reach. The song possesses a compelling name-taking and ass-kicking, swaggering bombast underpinned with a sincerity and earnestness. 

 

 

Calvin Johnson is an Olympia, WA-born and-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer and DJ best known as a founding member of Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team and The Halo Benders, all of which featured his rich baritone vocals. He’s also the founder and owner of renowned indie label K Records — and he was one of the major organizers of the International Pop Underground Convention.

Johnson’s forthcoming album A Wonderful Beast is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through his own K Records, and the album, which was recorded at Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville, TN finds Johnson collaborating with the The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who cowrote and produced the album and Michelle Branch, who contributes backing vocals on three songs. Johnson can trace the origins of his collaboration with Carney back to 2005 when the Olympia, WA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer and DJ was on a stateside tour to support his sophomore solo album Before the Dream Faded. The two kept in touch over the years, with Carney suggesting that they collaborate. Branch is best known for being a member of The Wreckers and for a solo career, and as the story goes, she lives next door to Audio Eagle Studios. Intrigued by the sounds she heard from the shack that houses the studio, she walked over to see for herself what was going on, and she wound up on the album.

A Wonderful Beast‘s first single is the swooning and urgent “Kiss Me Sweetly,” a single centered around a 60s bubblegum pop-like arrangement featuring a propulsive rhythm section consisting of a thumping, almost boom-bap-like backbeat, a funky bass line and blasts of swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar playing — but by far, the star of the song is the harmonizing between Johnson’s rich, sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal soprano, which further emphasizes the song’s swooning nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Bones of J.R. Jones Release Gritty Visuals for Anthemic and Bluesy Single “I See You”

With the release of  2014’s Dark Was the Yearling and 2016’s Spirit Furnace and Ones to Keep Close, the Upstate New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind The Bones of J.R. Jones, Jonathan Linaberry has developed a reputation for crafting gritty, garage rock and blues-tinged soul — and unsurprisingly, Linaberry’s third, Rob Niederpreum-produced Bones of J.R. Jones album Ones To Keep Close, which was released earlier this year, further cements the Upstate New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s reputation for crafting gritty, garage rock and blues-tinged soul. The album’s latest single power chord-based inspired “I See You,” a track that is centered around rousing, arena rock-like, anthemic hooks and a stomping, down home blues stomp reminiscent of The Black Keys and others. 

Directed by Tobias Nathan, the recently released video was filmed in Brooklyn (it looks like Bushwick to me) to specifically emphasize the track’s gritty vibe. And as Linaberry say of the video’s treatment, “The idea behind this video was all about letting the music take over. We didn’t want to be overly serious or precious with the video. We just wanted the song to move people.”  The video begins by following a brother with an awesome ‘fro, smoking a cigarette as he bops along,  plays air guitar and lip syncs to the song when he encounters a small group of women, who initially are so pissed that a bottle is flung — and then they start rocking out hard. These women are rocking out so hard that they don’t notice the two men, who have been chasing each other and continue a vicious fight within feet of them.  If that doesn’t evoke old New York, I’m not sure what would. 

Comprised of Novak (vocals, guitar) and John Henry (drums, vocals), the Sydney, Australia-based rock duo Polish Club can trace their origins to when the occasional drinking buddies decided to book a room and see if they could play together. The result is a bruising, bluesy garage rock with elements of classic, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson and others and as the band’s drummer John Henry explains, their sound was “just about playing to the strength[s] of the people involved. We play hard and fast and loud with kinda simple guitar lines and Novak has a voice that manages to push a lot of air. We probably sound so big because his voice is actually physically very loud. Like, if he sings without a mic in a room, you can’t talk to the person next to you.”

Opening for the likes of Courtney Barnett and Gang of Youths in their native Australia, the duo quickly received a reputation for sweat-soaked and bloodied, barn-burner sets, and as a result they’ve managed to sell out headlining shows, and play their country’s festival circuit. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the duo’s forthcoming full-length debut Alright Already is slated for an August 10, 2018 release through Universal Australia, and the album’s second official single “Come Party” is a swaggering, face-melting, power chord-based bruiser that sounds indebted to AC/DC, The Black Keys, Grand Funk Railroad, Thin Lizzy and 38 Special, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hooks. Unsurprisingly, the new single reveals a band that’s ready to kick ass, take names — and then take over the world while they’re at it.

New Video: Introducing the Power Chord-based Rock of Vancouver’s SAVVIE

Savannah Wellman is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based singer/songwriter and musician, whose solo recording project SAVVIE as Wellman described in an email to me “is sexy, gritty rock ‘n’ roll, delving into the murky depths of lust, love, and everything in between.” Wellman’s latest single “Creature of Habit,” is the follow up to 2015’s debut effort Night Eyes, and the power chord-based, arena rock and radio friendly hook-driven single was produced by John Raham, who has worked with The Belle Game, Dan Mangan, and Dralms sounds as though the Canadian singer/songwriter was drawing from The Black Keys, as well as JOVM mainstays The Coathangers and Anna Rose. As the Vancouver-based singer/songwriter explains in press notes “everyone has their vice, and ‘Creature of Habit’ begs the question — is that a bad thing? is it worth fighting? Sometimes it most definitely is, but sometimes we need to hold on to what makes us happy.” 

Directed by Nakasone Folk, the video as Wellman told Billboard is “a take on the idea of struggling with trying to be different. It kind of takes us through a cleansing, the idea of wanting to let go and cleanse yourself of these habits that you might hold onto, but at the end seeing in your reflection that they never really leave you. It’s still a a part of you, and maybe in some cases, it’s not all that bad. Some habits can get the best of you, and sometimes they’re the release you need.” And as a result, the video features a lot of inky and murky blacks, brilliant and heavenly whites, and mystical cleansing rituals; it’s sexy but darkly so and fitting. 

New Video: Introducing the Swaggering Sultry and Bluesy Sounds of Germany’s Sky Blue Skin

Comprised of founding member and creative mastermind Olivia Solner (vocals, electric slide guitar), Vincent Kusche (drums) and their newest member, Jakob Heeren (keys), the German indie rock trio Sky Blue Skin derives their name from the title of an unreleased Jeff Buckley demo that Solner was obsessed with. Initially, the project began as a solo project that began to receive a bit of attention for a series of live shows, before Solner recruited Vinzent Kusche. Jakob Heeren is a recent recruit, who makes his debut with the band on their recently released debut EP.

“Mirror Mirror,” the EP’s latest single is a scuzzy and swaggering blues rock with enormous, arena rock friendly hooks and power chord riffs that immediately brings The Kills, The Black Keys and PJ Harvey to mind. As Solner told me in an email, “Mirror Mirror” and the rest of the EP is the culmination of a difficult and emotionally intense period which resulted in the realization that nothing and nobody is what it seems — and that resulting disillusion is a good thing. Edited by the band’s Olivia Solner, the recently released video is a surreal and hallucinogenic mash up of found footage and old movies.