Art d’Ecco is an enigmatic British Columbia-based singer/songwriter and grizzled Vancouver music scene vet, who once played in a band with acclaimed producer and ACTORS frontman Jason Corbett. In 2018, he emerged as dark bobbed hair wearing, androgynous and charismatic glam rock with the release off his full-length debut Trespasser.
Since Trespasser, the British Columbia-based art rocker has been busy: he played a live session for Seattle’s KEXP and played more than 75 clubs and music festivals across North America. Continuing a busy period, d’Ecco opened for acclaimed British psych rock act Temples right before the pandemic struck. “Trespasser was the start of a two-year ride taking me to all sorts of places I’d never been to,” the acclaimed British Columbia-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Seeing how different cultures interact with entertainment was the genesis for In Standard Definition. A lot of this record was actually written on the road late at night in motel rooms – with the flickering light of a television in the background.”
Released yesterday through Paper Bag Records, the Colin Stewart-produced In Standard Definition was recorded on two-inch tape with a handpicked, rotating cast of musicians that featured jazz and blues-trained horn players, Victoria Symphony Orchestra string players, soul singers and his backing band on a 50 year old console at The Hive. Sonically, the album finds d’Ecco further establishing a sound that some critics have described as neo-glam. But interestingly, the album’s overall sound and aesthetic sees d’Ecco and his backing band pushing the sonic boundaries of glam rock as far as they can, as the material draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including 50s pop, psychedelia, , Velvet Underground-like art rock, Grimes-inspired electronics, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and Brian Eno among others. “I’m obsessed with tape, film, and sounds of yesteryear, so recording could only be analogue – in standard definition – the way entertainment was once created,” d’Ecco explains. “I wanted to go back in time, exist in a different era and breathe my creativity through it.”
Thematically, the album holds up a mirror to pop culture and explores our obsessions with entertainment and celebrity. “No matter where you live or what language you speak, there’s an entertainment god for you,” d’Ecco explains in press notes. “Whether on TV or writing the books you read, it’s an odd sense of purpose we allocate to these humans whose talent is in distracting us from the doldrums of daily life. We’re constantly searching for something… glued to our phones… consuming various forms of entertainment. We feel less close with each other, and closer to the strangers who make us feel good.”
In the buildup to the album’s release, I wrote about four of In Standard Definition’s previously released singles:
“TV God,” a synthesis of ’77 punk, Ziggie Stardust-era Bowie and Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, centered around anthemic hooks, twinkling piano stabs, punchily delivered lyrics, soulful backing vocals, propulsive bass lines, a scorching guitar solo and squiggling synths.
“Head Rush” an infectious boogie that owes a sonic debt to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, complete with an enormous horn line and glistening synths.
“I Am The Dance Floor,” a shimmering and strutting disco take on glam rock that may remind some of Bay City Rollers “Saturday Night,” Echoes-era The Rapture and In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy.
“Desires,” a jangling and densely layered glam anthem that sonically is a slick synthesis of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Gary Numan and The Cars. “A tale born inside the dark underbelly of old Hollywood, then repackaged and reimagined as a rock and roll tragedy,” d’Ecco said of the song in press notes.. “’Desires’ is about the entertainer at the end of their career — soon to be phased out by the next wave of rising talent, and shifting audience tastes. For the old guard, this spectre of change is a constant existential threat that will challenge their ability to keep up with the times and to remain relevant in this brutal industry of show business.”
In Standard Definition’s fifth and latest single “Good Looks” is a shimmering and slickly produced synthesis of classic rock, New Wave and glam influences — i.e., think Queen, David Bowie, Gary Numan and The Cars — with the song being centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, four-on-the floor, crystalline synths arena rock friendly hooks and punchily delivered lyrics, But underneath the rousingly anthemic hooks, the song is a withering look at the artificiality and superficiality of online dating: The song specially points out that while we’re swiping left and right, we’re not actively taking part in the world.
The Copenhagen, Denmark-based pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter — Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager — built upon a rapidly growing profile regionally and internationally, with the release of their sophomore album 2018’s Nowadays.
Nowadays found the Danish pop duo firmly cementing their sound — carefully crafted, melodic and hook-driven, 70s AM radio rock-inspired pop paired with deep thematic concerns. Thematically, the Danish act’s sophomore album touched upon the loss of innocence and adulthood; the freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny; and the the sobering life lessons that come about as one gets older.
Palace Winter’s third album . . . Keep Dreaming Buddy was released earlier this year through the band’s longtime label home Tambourhinoceros Records. Unlike their previously released material, the album was written through a long distance correspondence, as the band’s Carl Coleman was residing in an empty, retro hotel in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. Coleman’s lyrics were inspired by Tenerife’s unique landscape while drawing metaphorical parallels between Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano, which is also one of Spain’s tallest peaks, and the looming fear of a relationship about to disintegrate.
“I was walking around this weird volcano island. The retro hotel was like a forgotten paradise resort. The whole thing felt like a Lynchian alternate reality,” Palace Winter’s Carl Coleman recalls. “Caspar was sending me these synth hooks and drum loops from Denmark, so I started coming up with melodies and lyrical ideas to record into my phone.” And as a result, the album is figuratively and literally a tale of two cities and two completely different — yet oddly related — emotional states.
Over the past handful of months, I’ve written about four of the album’s released singles:
Top of the Hill,” was a great example of the album’s overall tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states. Featuring shimmering and icy synths, thumping beats and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook paired with Coleman’s volcanic imagery-based lyrics, the song captures the bubbling dissatisfaction, boredom, frustration and distrust of a relationship about to boil over and explode.
“Won’t Be Long,” . . . .Keep Dreaming Buddy‘s second single was an expansive song that featured elements of arena rock, glam rock and synth pop, complete with a rousingly anthemic hook, a crunchy power chord-driven riff, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar. But interestingly enough, the song is actually deceptively and ironically upbeat as it tackles the anxiety of anticipatory grief, as it focuses on a narrator, who is preparing for the inevitable loss of a dear, loved one. Loss and despair are always around the corner, indeed.
“Deeper End,” the album’s third single was a decidedly genre-defying affair that found the duo pushing their sound in a new direction without changing the essentially elements of the sound that has won them attention internationally. Featuring an infectious hook, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar, the breezy song is one part synth pop. one part 70s AM rock, one part country — but while centered around an unusual juxtaposition: the song as the band’s Carl Coleman explains is “a story about a bad trip at a weird house party I went to with my sister.” Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle contributes a guest verse to the song, a verse in which his character dispenses harsh yet very trippy truths to the song’s hallucinating and anxious narrator.
“Richard (Says Yes),” a playful, thematic left turn that finds the duo writing a big, upbeat party them — but while pushing their sound in a new direction. Centered around their unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, “Richard (Says Yes)” is a remarkably proggy take on their sound.
Earlier this year, the duo, along with their backing band filmed a live session from the tennis court of Copenhagen hotel, practically abandoned as a result of the pandemic. So in some way, the live session finds the band returning to the sort of surrealistic hotel scenes, which informed the album’s material. The sessions included live versions of two of my favorite songs off the album — the aforementioned “Won’t Be Long” and “Top of the Hill.”
The last Tennis Session features . . . Keep Dreaming Buddy’s latest single , the slow-burning “1996.” Featuring a shimmering synth arpeggios, stuttering drumming, strummed acoustic guitar and a bluesy electric guitar solo paired with Coleman’s plaintive vocals, “1996” describes a romantic relationship at a major crossroads in which both parties don’t quite know if it’s worth fighting for or not. Sonically, the song — to my ears at least — manages to bring The Cars “Drive” to mind, as it possesses a similar longing to get it right one way or the other.
Unlike the previous videos, this particular session eventually pans into the empty hotel. which gives the entire proceedings a dream-like feel.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the New Orleans-based act Video Age, and with the release of their first two albums 2016’s full-length debut Living Alone and 2018’s sophomore album Pop Therapy, the band — founding members Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli, along with Nick Corson and Duncan Troast — received attention for crafting hook-driven material with a decidedly 80s synth pop-inspired sound.
Following the release of Pop Therapy, the band’s songwriting partners and co-founders Farbe and Micarelli were eager to write new material and continue upon the momentum they had just started to build up. The band convened at Farbe’s home studio to work on the band’s highly anticipated third album, Pleasure Line, which is slated for an August 7, 2020 release through Winspear, who recently signed the band.
Inspired by a vast range of influences including Janet Jackson, David Bowie and Paul McCartney, Pleasure Line finds the band crafting neon-bright 80s pop-like melodies to create an optimistic sound — with the material taking on a rosy hue. “I’m often trying to create a more idealized version of the world I’m in,” Video Age’s Ross Farbe says in press notes. “In fact, some of that optimism may come as a result of both Farbe and Micarelli getting married this year — just a few weeks apart from each other. “We’re feeling the love,” Farbe says.
Written as a salve that protects against cynicism. the album’s material is meant to help the listener see and feel a world full of romantic potential. But the album isn’t centered around one-dimensional puppy love — it’s the sort of fulfilling love that’s complicated, confusing and never easy; but ultimately worth it. So far, I’ve written about two of the album’s singles — the dance floor friendly, Tom Tom Club-like “Shadow On The Wall” and the slow-burning, Quiet Storm meets Prince-like “Pleasure Line.”
Pleasure Line’s third and latest single “Aerostar” is a decidedly upbeat New Wave-inspired, bop centered around shimmering and squiggling synth arpeggios, propulsive four-on-the-floor, a sinuous bass line, angular guitar blasts and an infectious, dance floor friendly hook. Sonically, the track may remind some listeners of The Cars, Talking Heads, and others — but with playful references to cars and hitting the road with your buddies, playing tunes. “This song looks at the bright side of being on the road. We did a lot of touring for the last album and it’s something that really brought us closer together as a band,” the members of Video Age say in press notes.
Directed by Zack Shorrosh, the recently released video follows the band and their adventures in their ’95 Ford Aerostar, shot in front of a green screen: we see the members of the band and the van as they travel throughout various locations, including the Grand Canyon, the desert and even space — and naturally, the video looks and feels as though it could have been released in 1985. “Once we found a green screen studio big enough to fit our ’95 Ford Aerostar, we hopped in and let the story unfold,” the band says.
Holyoke, MA-based rock band The Sighs can trace their origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals) met and bonded over their mutual of love of acts like The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash and other that employed the use of multi-part harmonies. Interestingly enough, it helped that while the Holyoke-based band’s founding members were jamming together, they discovered that their own voices blended together beautifully.
Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete the band’s initial lineup. Shortly after the band’s lineup was finalized, they quickly began makin a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explained in press notes, “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”
As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed paths with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter and producer, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club in 1990. And after meeting DeNicola and Allen, the Holyoke-based band signed with Charisma/Virgin Records, who released their full-length debut, What Goes On to critical acclaim. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band toured with nationally touring acts like Gin Blossoms, Dada and others.
The band eventually split up with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects and/or focusing on family life. Interestingly, the material on the band’s third full-length album, 2017’s Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to an unearthed batch of demos that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Originally recorded in the early 1990s, and later placed on hard drives, the demos had been forgotten about for the better part of 20 years – until Cullen played them. He was so impressed by what he heard, that he shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola.
Feeling that the band had unfinished business – and that they should continue the collective story they started 20+ years previously, the band decided to reconvene at DiNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio to revise a handful of songs. But as the band’s Tom Borawski explained at the time “. . . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”
“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche said of the five-day recording session that produced Wait On Another Day. Borowski added “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” As a result, the material possesses a urgency and vitality to it that many contemporary bands wish they could capture on record. Interestingly, while much of the album’s material focuses on many of the things that they wrote about in their youth – girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love but tinged with the wistful and aching nostalgia of middle-aged men, who have been forced to accept the passage of time, their impending mortality – and the old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same: no matter how old you are, heartache is heartache and life is ultimately about figuring out how to learn from it and move forward.
Building upon the attention they received from Wait On Another Day, the members reconvened to write and record its highly-anticipated follow-up, the five song Tearing My Heart Again, which OMAD Records released today. The EP’s material finds the band continuing where its predecessor left off but while revealing a band that has grown in the past three years. While they pull in some new ideas to the mix, they do so without straying too far afield from what has been successful – carefully crafted, hook-driven rock paired with earnest songwriting.
I recently exchanged emails with the members of The Sighs for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. World events have found a way to impact all of us – and as a result, they’ve managed to bleed into every aspect of our professional and person lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. With COVID-19 forcing cities and localities across the world to indefinitely shut down bars, restaurants, clubs, music venues and countless other non-essential businesses, the impact on musicians and the music industry will be far-reaching and devastating. Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the careers and lives of artists of all stripes – and the members of the Holyoke-based band openly and honestly discuss where they stand right now and what may be next. Of course, we chat about the recently released EP at length, the band’s tour with The Gin Blossoms and more. Check it out below.
Support these artists by buying their work. You can order The Sighs EP here:
WRH: Most of the country has been enacting social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are y’all holding up in such a difficult and uncertain time? What are you doing to preoccupy yourself? Anything you’re binge watching?
Robert LaRoche: Been pretty much staying home. Except to go for a daily run and food shopping.
Tommy Borowski: Been binge watching bad 70’s movies…
WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or canceled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed or rescheduled tour dates, album releases have been rescheduled. I’ve asked this question to a handful of artists already – and I suspect that for some period of time I’ll be asking a lot of bands this: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?
Matt Cullen: Well, we’re all at a standstill. We had a Sighs gig booked in mid-March in our home base of western Massachusetts. Robert flew in from Austin and I flew from Des Moines. After couple of spirited rehearsals, the gig was cancelled. I’m now home and have seen all of my gigs here cancelled for the foreseeable future. I don’t make my living entirely from music but playing roughly 100 gigs a year certainly helps the family kitty. Those lost wages will hurt and the loss of that enjoyment, performing, making music, that hurts equally.
WRH: Who’s the funniest guy in the band?
RLR: It depends on the given day I suppose! We all have our moments. [But] I’m going to go with Tommy Pluta on this one 💙
RLR: I was heavily influenced by The Everly Brothers. And tried to incorporate their two-part harmony style into The Sighs music. Also love early American Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. And, of course The Beatles and Beach Boys were a big influence.
MC: My current go-to is a live record by Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders. Bo is a spooky, great player, known for his work with Lucinda Williams and Greg Brown. He’s an Iowa guy and I’ve opened for him here and have gotten to know him a little. I’m crossing my fingers to do some playing with him. Also, and sadly, I’ve been revisiting Fountains of Wayne since the news of Adam’s death.
WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with The Sighs?
TP: Classic Power Pop / Rock sound. Two guitars, bass, drums, melodic with three part harmony. The Smithereens, Gin Blossoms
WRH: The band can trace its origins back to when its founding members – Robert LaRoche and Tommy Pluta – met back in 1982. Tom Borawski and Matt Cullen were the recruited and the band then spent next eight years gigging around Western Massachusetts. In 1990, the members of the band crossed paths with John DeNicola, who became your producer and you signed with Charisma/Virgin Records. So, the band went from playing the college circuit to touring with the Gin Blossoms, who were selling millions of records and being played on the radio every single day. How was that experience like?
TP: We always tried to make the most of every opportunity.
We had been on the road for months prior to touring with the Gin Blossoms so we were ready to take the next step. Getting the chance to perform our music to their fans night after night was a terrific experience. They were especially nice to us, and we found a lot of commonality with our music and influences. It would be great to do some dates with them again. . .
WRH: The band eventually split up after the release of their sophomore album with each of the individual band members focusing on other creative projects, on raising families and working day jobs. 20 years pass and as the story goes, Matt Cullen stumbles upon some demos that the band recorded in the early 90s. What was the experience of hearing the demos for the first time in so long like?
MC: It was really cool to find the old recordings. I had transferred a boxful of 1/4 tapes to a hard drive, without listening to them. That was in 2010. It was 6 years later that I opened the folder labeled Sighs. We had been cranking out demos from 90-93 (?), both for the Charisma album and also for what we hoped would be a follow up with them. None of us recalled recording a few of them. You’d finish a song and move on. I got goosebumps when I realized what I had stumbled upon. I did rough mixes and sent unnamed mp3s to the guys. They were really surprised, and we were all excited by how well the home recordings had held up.
WRH: How was it like to revisit material that you wrote some 20 years prior? How were the first writing sessions for Wait on Another Day? Did your songwriting process change between your sophomore album and 2017’s Wait on Another Day?
RLR: The WOAD songs were written before, during, and after the recording of our debut CD What Goes On, during the period between 1987 and 1993. We had a lot of songs to choose from at that time. And only a dozen were chosen for What Goes On. The tracks on WOAD were songs already included in our live performances. We were a pretty well-oiled machine by then. Revisiting and re-recording this material over 20 years after their inception was great fun! And genuinely satisfying.
WRH: The five song EP, Tearing My Heart Again was recently released. In some way the EP finds the band continuing where they left off, as though the lengthy hiatus had never happened. While the material is centered through some passionate performances as collective whole, the EP – to my ears – reveals quite a bit of growth. It seems to capture old, wizened pros, who have gotten back on the proverbial horse but with some new ideas. How does Tearing My Heart Again differ from your previously released work? Was that intentional? What inspired it?
TP: We drew inspiration from the fun we had recording WOAD in the Fall 2016. Recording new Sighs music (20+ years later) was something we discussed a couple times, and the possibility came around again in August of 2019. We had a couple songs and several ideas, we just had to find the time to all be in one place to record which ended up being 3 days starting New Years’ Day 2020. The process of writing was the same in some ways and very different in other ways. We always shared ideas to see which ones we though would fit, and then developed them, but sharing ideas is so much easier with technology. A lot of text and email.
WRH: What does the EP touch upon thematically?
RLR:The five songs on “Tearing My Heart Again” deal with personal relationships.
In the title track, the protagonist is involved in an unhealthy love affair. Where heartbreak is an ongoing concern, and dark attraction becomes a fatal flaw.
WRH: “Over the Line” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. It’s probably the most Smithereens-like on the five songs. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?
RLR: “Over the Line” is about the near hopelessness and futility of caring for someone in active addiction. With the resignation that although you cannot judge the person you care for, and will continue to be there for them, the possibility of the active addict to cross over the line and become another fatality statistic, is forever present.
WRH: Oddly enough, there are sections of EP closing track “Rise” that somehow reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” Maybe I’m hearing thing but, did that influence the track at all about
RLR You’re spot on with the Pink Floyd reference on the EP’s closing track “Rise.” Tommy Pluta initially sent me the guitar riff and chord changes. Which were already quite psychedelic sounding. We put a two-part harmony over the music in the vein of Waters and Gilmour. Our producer John DeNicola used an old school tape echo on the vocals. This gave the track the retro feel we were striving for.
WRH: What advice would you give to bands/artists trying to make a name for themselves thematically
MC: I don’t know that my track record qualifies me to give advice but I will say that you must absolutely love what you do. There are many obstacles and it’s a long road. In today’s music world, I’d say you need to have a strong presence online. Sales are a different animal than what I grew up with. Touring is always helpful in spreading the word but can be financially daunting. CD mailers to college or community radio in your area are helpful. Try to grow it steadily. Again, you better love it! :/)
WRH: What’s next for the band
MC: It’s hard to say what is next for us. I’m not sure anyone of us would have guessed that we would have released a full-length record and an EP in the last three years. We never say never and leave ourselves open to all possibilities. We have a strong personal relationship which leaves the musical door open at all times.
Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the up-and-coming British indie quintet’s latest single, the Theo Verney-produced “Tonight” continues a run of decidedly 80s New Wave-inspired tracks, complete shimmering synth arpeggios and rousingly anthemic hooks — but with a more introspective and somber tone. And while reportedly drawing a bit from early New Order, the track manages to equally recall The Cars but with a punk rock sneer.
“This song aims to shed light on the contagious quality of apathy in society, and how we favour small distractions in order to avoid confronting some of our toughest challenges,” the band’s Nick Tompkins explains in press notes. ” We’re seeing this constantly in the way the world deals with the climate crisis, where it only seems to be an urgent issue to those willing to make sacrifices while others are happy living in denial.”
Founded back in 2014 by Jessica Louise Dye (vocals, guitar) and Jono Bernstein (drums), the New York-based JOVM mainstays High Waisted have received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound that draws from surf rock, garage rock, dream pop, Riot Grrl punk and punk rock among others and for their long-running and very popular DIY concert showcase/booze cruise High Waisted at Sea.
The band’s Bryan Pugh-produced full-length debut On Ludlow further cemented their reputation for scuzzy, party ’til you drop rock — but just under the surface, the material revealed vulnerability and ache. Since the release of On Ludlow, the the band contributed “Firebomb,” a scuzzy, ass-kicking, power chord-driven Lita Ford and Motley Crue-like single to a split single with The Coax, toured with the likes of Hundred Hounds, Beechwood, played a handful of live shows across town and been periodically working on a bunch of new material. And they’ve done all of that while going through a series of lineup changes but one thing has remained: they’re a non-stop party machine.
Throughout their history, the JOVM mainstays have released an ongoing, psychedelic mixtape series, Acid Tapes and like the preceding three other editions, the fourth edition, which will drop on Friday finds the New York-based act covering an eclectic variety of beloved songs. Naturally, the covers reveal the band’s impressive and wide ranging tastes with the fourth edition featuring the band’s unique take on songs by the likes of The Zombies,10cc, Kacey Musgraves, The Troggs and others. As the band explains in press notes, the covers allow them to “dissect songs we love, throw everything we know about them away and rebuild something entirely new.” The band’s frontwoman Jessica Louise Dye adds “It changes the gravitational pull in my creative mind, often spawning a big writing period of new High Waisted material as well.” Along with covers, there are a handful of rare, previously unreleased originals.
The fourth installment of Acid Tapes may arguably find the JOVM mainstays at their best sounding. The guitars shimmer and glisten while the band’s Jessica Louise Dye sounds at her very best, beginning with a gorgeous and Patsy Cline-like take of The Zombies,” “The Way I Feel Inside,” a Pretenders-like original, “Modern Love,” a stunningly accurate 60s and dexterous take on The Lively Ones instrumental composition “Surf Rock,” a dream pop-like take of Kacey Musgraves’ “High Horse” that nods at Still Corners‘ gorgeous Slow Air, the slow-burning, Quiet Storm-like original “Dream Sea,” and a slow-burning, straightforward take on 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” closes out the tape’s A Side. The tape’s B side features the anthemic and alt rock meets alt country ballad “Eyes Crying,” which manages to recall Pearl Jam‘s “Dissident” to my ears, a Cars meets Phil Spector Wall of Sound-like take on Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World” before ending with a heartbreakingly gorgeous cover of Julie London‘s “Cry Me a River.” It’s a wildly eclectic grouping of songs but the mixtape reveals the JOVM mainstays’ ridiculous versatility paired with a deep emotional connection to the material.
“Our recording process has come a long way from the first cassette. Acid Tape, Vol. 1 was recorded while were on acid, all in one go, in a haunted house in Nashville. A buddy of ours threw a room mic over the chandelier and ran it through the tape deck and away we went. Now the recording process is more deliberate, articulated and better executed.” the band explains in press notes. Vol 4 was recorded entirely in our new studio which Jono Bernstien and Stephen Nielsen built in Bed Stuy. We’re mixing digital and analog gear with vintage instruments and a little magic.”
Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the Chicago-based indie act The Hecks. Formed back in 2012 as a duo featuring founding members Andy Mosiman (guitar, vocals) and Zach Herbert (drums, percussion), […]
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the San Francisco-born, Los Angeles-based sibling duo Cones. The duo which is comprised of Jonathan Rosen, an acclaimed, pop music influenced, hand-drawn animator, who has created music videos for Toro y Moi, Eleanor Friedberger and Delicate Steve, and played Johnny Thunders on the HBO series Vinyl; and Michael Rosen, a classically trained pianist, commercial and film composer and experimental sound artist, can trace the origins of their band back to their stint playing together as members of the New York-based indie act Icewater, an act that at one point became Friedberger’s session and touring band during New View. As the story goes, while touring with Friedberger, the Rosens began to conceptualize what their new project would sound like, ultimately deciding that their project would fuse Jonathan’s pop sensibilities with Michael’s lush, atmospheric soundscapes and keyboard-based instrumentation.
After releasing a string of critically applauded singles, which they followed up with their debut EP, the Rosen Brothers went into a friend’s studio to collaborate with a producer for the first time in their history. They recorded what they initially thought would be their full-length debut but ultimately, they decided to scrap it, as it didn’t feel like a proper Cones album to them. So they went back to their home studio and started working on the full-length debut from scratch. The end result wound up being their full-length debut Pictures of Pictures.
Now, as you may recall, earlier this month, I wrote about “Moonstone,” a breezy bit of psych pop that struck me a being a sort of seamless synthesis of Steely Dan and MGMT, but while being a swooning and delicate love song. “Seeing Triple,” Pictures of Pictures’ latest single is a shimmering and breezy New Wave-like track, that kind of reminds me of The Cars and of The World’s Best American Band-era White Reaper, complete with a soaring hook and plaintive vocals. But at its core, the song evokes the ambivalence and confusion of getting older.
Interestingly, the recently released video for “Seeing Triple” is arguably their first live-action video, centered around the duo performing the song in a studio in front of psychedelic-tinged lighting. The video reveals, the behind-the-scenes of a video filming and of the brother’s relationship — like most siblings, they fight and fuss but there’s a profound amount of love there.
Earlier this month, I wrote about the up-and-coming, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriterr Jonny Couch. Initially Couch started his career as a drummer, playing in a number of local punk bands before reinventing himself and his career as a solo artist with the release of 2016’s debut EP Animal Instinct, a soulful take on 80s synth pop that drew comparisons to Bryan Ferry — and received praise from Louder Than War and High Times.
Building upon a growing profile, Couch’s highly-anticipated Peter Mavrogeorgis-produced full-length debut Mystery Man will reportedly further develop the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s reputation for crafting infectious material that’s seemingly descended from 70s and 80s power pop and New Wave. “My favorite bands are Cheap Trick and Buzzcocks,” Couch says in press notes, “but this is more of a personal record than a band effort, highly influenced by power pop solo artists like Nick Lowe.” But there’s also elements of Duran Duran and The Psychedelic Furs as well.
Coincidentally, Couch’s forthcoming full-length debut is also deeply influenced by the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s love of classic film noir — in particular, films like Body Heat and Body Double. In fact, the album is centered by deep film-noir metaphors, from the album’s title, its artwork and even song titles like ” Vertigo” “Framed” and others.
Now, as you might recall, album title track “Mystery Man” was a sleek , Roxy Music meets No Jacket Required-era Phil Collins -like track centered around atmospheric synths, shimmering and angular guitars, a motorik-like groove, a soaring hook and Couch’s plaintive vocals. The album’s latest single “Vertigo” is a sleek yet anthemic bit of New Wave-inspired synth pop that recalls Cheap Trick and The Cars — and continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, the song reveals an ambitious, arena rock meets Top 40 populist bit of songwriting underpinned by the dizzying sense of confusion that comes when you’ve maybe fallen for someone, yet aren’t quite sure what to do about it.
Directed by Jordan Edwards, the recently released video for “Vertigo” brings to mind some of the glorhsouly goofy and slap-dash videos of early MTV — including cheesy 80s styled graphics and stock footage from the 30s and 30s. It continues a run of trippy and delirious visuals that reveal Couch’s good-natured, mischievous humor.