Tag: Washington DC

Austin indie outfit High Heavens can trace the bulk of their origins back to 1996: Austin-based emo punk troubadours Glorium were invited to do a southern US tour with DC punk legends Fugazi. During this tour, Glorium’s guitarist Ernest Salaz met and befriended Fugazi’s front of house engineer Nick Pelicciotto, who also played in Edsel and New Wet Kojak.

Salaz went on to play with I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness but he remained friends with Pelicciotto. Back in 2017, the duo started High Heavens, a band built on their mutual musical interests over the past decade. The band’s first lineup featured Jeremy Erwin (keys), Crime in Choir’s Jonathan Saggs (bass), and John Matthew Walker (vocals).

Their Stuart Sikes-produced full-length debut, Springtime Don’t Call features album title track “Springtime Don’t Call.” The band was able to play one last year but tensions arose: Erwin had enough of Austin and moved to Colorado; Pelicciotto and Skaggs decided to purse other musical interests. As a result of this massive lineup change, the band itself went through a radical transformation.

Salaz and Walker decided to record a few more songs with Sikes — without a band. Salaz then reached out to his former Glorium bandmate, George Lara who’s now playing with ’60s Chicano soul outfit Eddie & The Valiants and San Antonio-based pop outfit The Please Help to record some bass parts and Lara’s The Please Help bandmate Juan Ramos to record some drum parts. Additional recording was done at The BBQ Shack by Austin-based guitarist Jason Morales, who has played with Tia Carrera, Black Mercy, Migas and Olympia, WA-based Helltrout. The band’s old friend . . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead’s Conrad Keely contributed sax and Rhodes on “Hundred Bullets” and additional keyboard on their latest single “Life is a Loan Shark.”

“Life is a Loan Shark” is a slow-burning and dreamy bit of nostalgia-inducing pop centered around Walker’s plaintive delivery, twinkling Rhodes, atmospheric synths, supple bass lines and gently strummed guitar. Featuring key work from Jeremy Erwin, “Life is a Loan Shark” is inspired by Angelo Badalamenti‘s Twin Peaks score and Richie Valens — but also seems to nod at Scott Walker, thanks in part to its melancholy and heartbroken air.

The band explains that the song is about boyhood memories and lost love.

High Heavens is currently rehearsing with a new lineup and will be playing shows across Texas in November. So for my Texan friends, be on the lookout.

New Audio: Casual War Shares a Brooding and Stormy New Single

Currently split between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., emerging indie duo Casual War — Maria Law (vocals) and Erik Mattingly (guitar) — have been playing together since 2018. The duo initially made a name for themselves playing clubs in Milwaukee and D.C., before gradually evolving their sound towards a dreamier, desert rock-inspired sound — with the duo continuing work on the project remotely. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about “No Help,” a cathartic and anthemic song built around a classic, grunge rock song structure — dreamy contemplative verses with shimmering guitar lines and stormy choruses with buzzing and distortion pedaled power chords. And at the heart of the song is Law’s plaintive, power house vocals singing lyrics about a reckless, terrifying and dangerous love — the sort of love that burns out quickly and leaves you a devastated and heartbroken shell.

The bi-coastal duo’s latest single, the gauzy and slow-burning “Promontory” featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars paired with Law’s achingly plaintive vocals, glistening synths and hand clap-led percussion that builds up to a stormy climax that’s reminiscent of PJ Harvey.

As the duo explain “Promontory” is about “taking the last step from a broken past and the first step toward an uncertain future. It’s the moment right before you decide whether to take a leap of faith.”

New Audio: Casual War Shares a Cathartic New Single

Currently split between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., emerging indie duo Casual War — Maria Law (vocals) and Erik Mattingly (guitar) — have been playing together since 2018. The duo initially made a name for themselves playing clubs in Milwaukee and D.C., before gradually evolving their sound towards a dreamier, desert rock-inspired sound — with the duo continuing work on the project remotely.

Casual War’s latest single “No Help” is is a cathartic and incredibly anthemic song built around a classic, grunge rock song structure — dreamy, contemplative verses with shimmering guitar lines and stormy choruses with buzzing and distortion pedaled power chords. And at the heart of the song is Law’s plaintive, power house vocals singing lyrics about a reckless, terrifying and dangerous love — the sort of love that burns out quickly and leaves you a devastated and heartbroken shell.

Daniel Feldman is a Rockville, MD-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, musician, who has had a lengthy and varied music career: He’s best known for a seven-year stint as the frontman of Baltimore-based indie rock outfit Yo No Say. He’s currently one-half of synth pop duo Airplane Man with lifelong friend and creative partner, Tim Sommers.

Since its formation, Airplane Man has released a handful of singles that have earned over a million streams each — all while receiving praise from Billboard and landing on Spotify playlists like New Music Friday.

Feldman’s solo recording project Sleepy Gary derives its name from two different sources: “I first heard the name Sleepy Gary in the context of a TV show called Rick and Morty,” Feldman explains. “In the episode, a suburban family becomes infested with brain parasites that present themselves as old friends via fond yet false memories. One of those parasitic cerebral manifestations is a nonexistent family friend named Sleepy Gary who wears a classic sleeping cap and pajamas and never opens his eyes more than halfway. 

“The character resonated with me because I myself am simply a mental parasite made of false memories.. ehem.. I mean, because I have always felt sleepiness was part of my identity” Feldman continues. “As a teenager I would start my pre-high school shower and end up napping on the bathroom floor, only to awake to an Amazonian climate and the sound of my mom pounding on the door, yelling that I was about to miss the bus again.

“In college I slept through nearly every one of my 8am literature classes. The sleepiness grew and grew until it became a monster that kept me up all night and ruined every morning. Something about that character in Rick and Morty nudged me subconsciously to own it. I am sleepy and that’s ok. I used to lay awake at night before playing shows with my old band. I figure, now with a name like Sleepy Gary if I don’t sleep.. I’ll just be that much more in character. Maybe it’s a way to lean into my anxiety around sleep. I also have to admit there’s just something to the way it sounds. It reminds me of a character you might meet in a gangster movie by Martin Scorcese or something.”

Feldman’s Sleepy Gary debut 21 Love Songs is a three-volume collection that took over seven years to complete and was written in three different cities —DC, Baltimore and New York. The album was completed last year while Feldman was quarantined in a 600 square foot Bushwick apartment with roommate and producer, Gabriel Stanley. Stanley co-produced the album. Grammy-nominated Dave Weingarten mixed the album. Grammy Award-winning Alex DeTurk.

The album sees Feldman quickly establishing a sound and songwriting approach that meshes elements of bedroom pop and psych pop. Thematically, the album is an ode to the many iterations of love we experience throughout our lives: unrequited, sensual, half-hearted, budding, obsessive and long-lost but while occasionally expanding upon what a love song actually is and focuses on.

In keeping with the album’s title, Feldman will release a song off the album every 21 days over the course of a year. The album’s latest single, the Tame Impala-like “W.D.I.L.Y.” Centered around tweeter and woofer rocking beats, reverb drenched guitar, glistening synth arpeggios, an enormous hook “W.D.I.L.Y.” sees Feldman pairing arena rock and club rocking bombast with intimate and achingly vulnerable lyricism: The song’s narrator longs for the old-school love song sort of love. But he finds himself alone, after yet another unrequited love. And yet it’s not completely hopeless; it’s the sort of song in which you see yourself in — and recognize that it’s a profoundly universal experience.

New Video: Aussie Post Punk Band S:Bahn Returns After a Lengthy Hiatus

Melbourne-based post-punk/alt rock act S:Bahn currently features the following:

Kristian Brenchley (guitar), a former member of WOMAN and Degrasser and a current member of The Tim Evans Band.
Denis Leadbeater (drums), a founding member of Rootbeer and a member of post-rock, improvisational duo Under The Sea.
Dik (guitar, vocals), a former member of Bastard Kestrel, an act championed by John Peel in the early 90s and the creative mastermind behind the minimal synth punk act mnttaB
Rene Schaefer (bass), a former member of The Bites and currently guitarist in cold wave act Banish

The act formed back in the mid 90s and quickly received attention for specializing in a Chicago and DC-inspired take on post punk. After releasing 1996’s debut effort, Stock Footage EP and 1998’s North Sea Clean, the members of the band went on to their own creative projects and day jobs. But after a long hiatus, the band reunited. Between lockdowns during the early parts of the pandemic, the band recorded their second full-length album, the soon-to-be released Queen of Diamonds.

“Exhaustion,” Queen of Diamonds’ latest single finds the band seemingly coming back to where they left off: Dischord Records meets Signals, Calls and Marches-era Mission of Burma inspired post punk centered around angular attack, thunderous drumming, half sung/half spoken verses and multi-part harmonizing on the song’s anthemic chorus. At its core is a searing yet world wearied indictment of post modern, consumerist life.

The recently released video is a frenetically shot, black and white, visual that captures the energy of the band’s live show.

Polaks Records will be releasing Queen of Diamonds tomorrow.

New Audio: The Theory of Why Releases an Expansive Mosh Pit Ripper

Currently split between Seattle and DC, The Theory of Why — Anton Kropp (guitar, bass) and Julia Nova (vocals) — features two seasoned DC indie rock and punk rock scene vets. I’ve covered music in some fashion for over 15 years — 11 just with this site — and typically when band members move across the country there’s two general responses: the band splits up — or they embrace the distance.

Citing Earth, Stereolab, YOB, Julie Doiron, and a eclectic series of other acts as influences, the members of Theory of Why have come up with a unique sound and approach fueled by their experiences in DC’s scene.

2021 has been a busy year for the duo: Earlier this year, they released the Path Of The Heart EP and they’ve followed that up with their recently released full-length effort Pomegranate. Pomegranate’s latest single, the expansive album title track “Pomegranate (Denial)” is mosh pit ripper centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming and euphoria-inducing hooks. But much like The Mallard’s Finding Meaning in Deference, “Pomegranate” is fueled by an underlying sneering frustration and unease, inspired by the past 17 months of our collective hell.

New Video: Blackout Transmission Releases a Trippy Video for Road Trip Friendly “Since She Guided You Away”

Singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Christopher Goett may be best known for his work in Washington, D.C.-based act Silo Halo. After a decade in the District, Goett returned to Los Angeles and quickly amassed a growing collection of songs that were different than his work in Silo Halo. Goett credits his longtime friend, Sleepmask’s and Dreamland’s Adam D’Zurilla with encouraging him to further explore and expand upon those early song ideas. And interestingly enough, the end result turned out to be Goett’s latest project, the post punk/shoegaze act Blackout Transmission. 

The project’s sound and arrangements were fleshed out with the addition of Kevin Cluppert (bass) and Teenage’s Wrist’s Anthony Salazar (drums). Late 2019 saw the band playing their first shows together, which helped to develop and harness their chemistry, as well as cement the song’s arrangements. They then went to Long Beach-based Dream Machine Studio to record most of their Scott Holmes co-produced, eight song, full-length debut, Sparse Illumination. “Scott pushed me in the best way to reimagine elements of my approach” says Goett, “as such we captured the vibe and feel that I was seeking with these songs.”

As a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Goett was forced to finalize his overdubs at his home studio, Twin Dragon West, where he wound up writing and recording two of the album’s eight songs. Despite where the material was written and recorded, the end result is an album that finds the band crafting material that’s a seamless lysergic journey that sonically seems influenced by Echo and the Bunnymen, The Verve, The Church and others. 

So far, I’ve managed to write about two of Sparse Illumination‘s released singles:

Sparse Illumination’s third and latest single “Since She Guided You Away” brings obvious comparisons to Echo and the Bunnymen to mind — but much like “Heavy Circles,” I hear quite a bit of Starfish-era The Church: the track is centered around Goett’s expressive crooning, shimmering, reverb drenched guitars, thunderous drumming, dusty and brooding atmospherics and aching regret.

Edited by Super Cut Cut, the recently released video for “Since She Guided You Away” is a carefully edited and trippy collage of cult classic movie scenes that feels incredibly meta.

Singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Christopher Goett may be best known for his work in Washington, D.C.-based act Silo Halo. After a decade in the District, Goett returned to Los Angeles and quickly amassed a growing collection of songs that were different than his work in Silo Halo. Goett credits his longtime friend, Sleepmask’s and Dreamland’s Adam D’Zurilla with encouraging him to further explore and expand upon those early song ideas. And interestingly enough, the end result turned out to be Goett’s latest project, the post punk/shoegaze act Blackout Transmission

The project’s sound and arrangements were fleshed out with the addition of Kevin Cluppert (bass) and Teenage’s Wrist’s Anthony Salazar (drums). Late 2019 saw the band playing their first shows together, which helped to develop and harness their chemistry, as well as cement the song’s arrangements. They then went to Long Beach-based Dream Machine Studio to record most of their Scott Holmes co-produced, eight song, full-length debut, Sparse Illumination. “Scott pushed me in the best way to reimagine elements of my approach” says Goett, “as such we captured the vibe and feel that I was seeking with these songs.”

As a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Goett was forced to finalize his overdubs at his home studio, Twin Dragon West, where he wound up writing and recording two of the album’s eight songs. Despite where the material was written and recorded, the end result is an album that finds the band crafting material that’s a seamless lysergic journey that sonically seems influenced by Echo and the BunnymenThe Verve, The Church and others.

So far, I’ve managed to write about two of Sparse Illumination‘s released singles:

  • Portals,” a track that possessed the painterly and lysergic sonic textures of The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven.
  • Heavy Circles,” a track, which featured brooding and shimmering atmospherics paired with a dusty, desert road quality that brought Starfish and Gold Afternoon Fix-era The Church to mind.

Sparse Illumination’s third and latest single “Since She Guided You Away” has brought comparisons to the aforementioned Echo and the Bunnymen — but much like “Heavy Circles,” I hear quite a bit of The Church’s Starfish in the mix with the track is centered around Goett’s expressive crooning, shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, thunderous drumming and brooding atmospherics. All three tracks so far, make me think that this record would be perfect for lengthy road trips — but the sort full of lonely contemplation of who you are, what you’ve done and what you hope to be once you get to your destination.

Sparse Illumination is slated for a February 19, 2021 through Etxe Records.

Singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Christopher Goett may be best known for his work in Silo Halo. And after a decade stint in Washington, D.C., Goett returned to Los Angeles — and he quickly amassed a growing collection of songs. Interestingly, Goett credits his longtime friend, Sleepmask’s and Dreamland’s Adam D’Zurilla with encouraging him to further explore and expand upon those early song ideas. The end result is Goett’s latest project, the post punk/shoegaze act Blackout Transmission

With the addition of Kevin Cluppert (bass) and Teenage’s Wrist’s Anthony Salazar (drums), the band’s lineup was solidified, and their sound and arrangements were fleshed out. Late last year, the members of Blackout Transmission started playing shows, developing and harnessing their live chemistry before they went to Long Beach-based Dream Machine Studio to record most of their Scott Holmes co-produced, eight song, full-length debut, Sparse Illumination. “Scott pushed me in the best way to reimagine elements of my approach” says Goett, “as such we captured the vibe and feel that I was seeking with these songs.”

As a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Goett was forced to finalize his overdubs at his home studio, Twin Dragon West, where he wound up writing and recording two of the album’s eight songs. Despite where the material was written and recorded, the end result is an album that finds the band crafting material that’s a seamless lysergic journey seemingly influenced by Echo and the BunnymenThe Verve, and others. 

Late last year, I wrote about Sparse Illumination‘s first single, the brooding and expansive “Portals,” a track centered round a sinuous bass line, thunderous drumming, swirling reverb and delay pedaled guitar that possessed the painterly and lysergic textures of The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven. The album’s second single “Heavy Circles,” continues a bit in the vein of its immediate predecessor — brooding and shimmering atmospherics paired with dramatic and forceful drumming; but while having the sort of dusty, desert road quality that reminds me of Starfish and Gold Afternoon Fix-era The Church.

Sparse Illumination is slated for a February 19, 2021 through Etxe Records.

New Video: Lost Horizons Teams Up with Ural Thomas on a Shimmering and Soulful Single

Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins‘ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — each ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the 2017 release of their full-length debut together, Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise. “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”

Since the release of Ojalá, the state of the world has gotten much worse. And while many of us had begun to feel hope that things may turn for the better with a Biden Administration, the events yesterday in Washington, DC has quickly brought that sense of hope and possibility crashing to the ground. Things are dire: our socioeconomic and political systems are collapsing, exposing both the worrisome gaps in our systems. The fight for a better and fairer world continues, as it always does but interestingly enough, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been immediately fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album’s worth of together, In Quiet Moments.

Written and recorded during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, In Quiet Moments‘ material is inspired by the sense of existential doom, fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the larger world surrounding them and everyone else, as well as the same emotions and sensations of their own personal lives: Just as the duo were settling into the studio to craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.

As a response, Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead, crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural Thomas, Penelope Isles‘ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim Smith, Gemma Dunleavy, the innocence mission’s Karen Peris, Horse Thief‘s Cameron Neal, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio‘s Dana Margolin, John Grant, Ballet School‘s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others.

When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guided theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.” Roughly half of the album’s lyrics were written during the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns but as it turns out, Raymonde in particular, saw a sliver lining: people were forced to slow down and take careful stock of themselves and their lives. Interestingly, after having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out on praise “in quiet moments,” and thought it would be a perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”

Although generally centered around loss and heartbreak, the album’s material is imbued with a sense of hope. And as a result, the album subtly leans in the direction of rebirth more so than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators on a journey through a dizzying area of moods and voices.

Last year, I wrote about three of the album’s previously released singles:

“Cordelia,” a lush track centered around atmospheric synths, gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, and John Grant’s brooding vocals. The song is a meditation on the passing of time, the inevitable changing of the seasons — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance that all things in our world are transient.
“One For Regret,” a dark and foreboding song centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming and Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin’s frantic vocals. While sonically, the song finds Raymonde and Thomas paying homage to the beloved sound and approach that won Raymonde accolades “One For Regret” is a meditation on the messiness of regret and loss, that acknowledges that regret and loss are a necessary part of life — and that the only way out is through.
“Every Beat That Passed,” an old-timey waltz centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, jangling guitars and Kavi Kwai’s Julia Ringdahl ethereal vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, In Quiet Moments’ third single sonically seemed indebted to Raymonde’s while being defiantly upbeat.

The album’s fourth and latest single, album title track “In Quiet Momtents” features Ural Thomas. Born in Louisiana in 1939, the seventh of 16 children, a young Thomas learned how to sing in church. His family relocated to Portland, where he would spend the bulk of his life.

In the 50s, Thomas became a professional singer, opening for the likes of Etta James, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder at the Apollo Theater. But by 1968, Thomas had returned to Portland. In terms of music, Thomas fell off the map, and not much is really known until the early 2010s when Scott Magee, a Portland-based soul DJ, was informed by the owner of Mississippi Records that Thomas — whose early records he regularly spun at this DJ sets — still lived in the area.

As it turned out, Thomas had been hosting weekly jam sessions at his home since the 1970s but seldom performed live. But Thomas and Magee started Ural Thomas and the Pain, an octet that backs Thomas. The act has released two albums so far, 2016’s self-titled debut and 2018’s The Right Time. So now that we went through the necessary background, let’s talk about the track: “In Quiet Moments” is a shimmering and slow-burning bit of old-school inspired soul meets shoegaze centered around twinkling keys, jazzy drumming, gently buzzing guitars and Thomas’ easygoing and gorgeous vocals. It’s a gorgeous and thoughtful track that evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions with a simple yet profound earnestness.

“Sometimes you just have a clear vision for a song and then try as you might, it doesn’t quite hit the mark and other times, you’re not quite sure where it’s going and then all of sudden it’s like The Matrix and you’re buzzing!” Lost Horizons’ Simon Raymonde says in press notes. ” I’d been talking to Ural and his team since I heard about him earlier that year, and they were all working on a new Ural Thomas and The Pain album, but just as I finished the bass part on our piece, which Richie had started at a session in London, my inner voice was screaming ‘ASK URAL TO SING!’ Scott and Brent who are his producers and write with Ural and in his band too, responded very positively to my enquiry and said Ural was into it, and it looked like they could do it all at their studio in Portland, AND film him at the same time as they were making a documentary about him! I couldn’t believe my luck. After he was done with the first half of the song I asked if he could make the ending spoken-word in the style of Gil Scott-Heron and he did something ad-libbed which I loved. I then asked Wendi Rose who sings with Spiritualized to add some of her beautiful vocals and I think this took it all to the next level. Paul Gregory and Jonathan Wilson also played some delicious guitar parts which were the fairy dust on top!”

“When I first heard the song, I thought it was such a wonderful thing, both open and calm, with that steady, insistent groove,” Ural Thomas adds. “The chords go from looming to embracing then back again, like a sad, friendly giant. It took a quiet moment to go over it in my mind and then we were off and running with the tune. At times I feel strong and one with the world. At other times I feel tiny and solitary. In a way they’re two parts of the same feeling. That sense of being closed in and defined by walls became more real just a short while after we worked on the song. But we’re all those other things, too—connected, hopeful, with a long arc that will go beyond this time.”

The recently released and cinematically shot black and white visual for “In Quiet Moments” is split between footage of clouds passing the sun, stock footage of a slow pan of a forest, Thomas singing the song in the studio and other natural phenomena. It’s a fittingly gorgeous and thoughtful visual.

Now, as you may recall In Quiet Moments was slated for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part was released last month with the second part due February 26, 2021, along with the physical release of the entire album.