Month: April 2016

Album Review: “Strange Weather” by deardarkhead

The beginning for deardarkhead was in 1988 while the true beginning and origin of the band name came in 1867. Post-punk-shoegaze-dream rockers, deardarkhead, derived their band name from an old Irish poem by Sir Samuel Ferguson about a beautiful woman with jet black locks called “Cean Dubh Dilis”. The trio hails from New Jersey with current band members Kevin Harrington, Robert Weiss and Kevin McCauley who joined after Michael Amper, member of over 10 years, left. This turnover in band members inspired an interesting alteration to deardarkhead’s sound: lack of vocals until the right voice is found. The latest EP, Strange Weather, features six thickly layered, high energy instrumental tracks that make up for the lack of vocals with quality instrumentals and stunning song structure.

Within the lack of vocals, the mind is free to wander, wonder and contemplate the only text associated with the record, the EP title (Strange Weather) and the track titles. It opens subtly with “Falling Upward”, creeping into your consciousness, sounding as if coming from far away, rapidly moving closer. It is here the sonic journey that is Strange Weather, begins and deardarkhead’s journey into the 21st Century. Strange Weather is the first record from deardarkhead since the 90’s and it’s clear the group has found their place here in this new century.

Following “Falling Upward” is the bright and uplifting track, “Sunshine Through the Rain.” The sound captures the spectacle of sunlight bursting through streams of rain, the confusion in our mind as both warm sunlight and cool drops of rain simultaneously contact our skin. Herein lies the beauty of deardarkhead sans, vocals: they are forced to more deeply create and conceptualize their music. And despite their current instrument-only state, the trio is still able to create music with such diversity in tempo, sound and overall mood, coloring their six-track EP in stark and vivid shades.

The B side begins with a bang with “March Hares”, a catchy track with an infectious hook and more than memorable melody. The lead guitar really shines through on this piece and the following track, “Ice Age”, dually acting as the lead vocals. The EP finishes out with the contemplative, “Thinking Back”, which reflects perfectly upon the rest of the album and brilliantly leads back to the opening cut, full circle.

Strange Weather is a triumphant work for deardarkhead and proof to them that they can create music that is equally as compelling, communicative and cutting edge without the work of the human voice. Strange Weather is out now on Saint Marie Records and can be purchased on iTunes and through Saint Marie.

Something truly delicious from Sydney’s Alex Cameron: “She’s Mine”

“She’s Mine” is the first single floating about the musicsphere from Alex Cameron and his saxophonist side kick, Roy Molloy. In the music video, Alex lives out everyone’s secret fantasy (dancing on top of a beater of a car, singing into a mic plugged into the shabby vehicle) while the most popped up beats and candy sweet synths you could ever imagine bob and bounce between your ears. The concept of the video is simple but the simplicity is captivating.

 

Catch Alex Cameron touring this summer with Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Kevin Morby!

Thu. May 5 – London, UK @ Oslo %
Fri. May 6 – Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie %
Sat. May 7 – Brussels, BE @ Atelier 210 %
Sun. May 8 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso Noord %
Fri. June 3 – Belgium, BE @ Homeplugged
Sat. June 4 – Berlin, DE @ Torstrassen Festival
Mon. June 20 – Paris, FR @ Trabendo *
Tue June 21 – Cambridge, UK @ Junction *
Wed. June 22 – Liverpool, UK @ East Village Arts Club *
Wed. June 29 – London, UK @ The Waiting Room
Thu. July 7 – Hungary, HU @ Akvárium #
Fri. July 8 – Zagreb, HR @ Mocvara Backyard #
Sat. July 9 – Vienna, AT @ WUK #
Sun. July 10 – Kutna Hora, CZ @ Creepee Teepee Festival
Tue. July 12 – Munich, DE @ Technikum #
Wed. July 13 – Luxembourg, LU @ Rockhal #
Thu. July 14 – Amsterdam, NL @ De School
Sat. July 16 – Saint-Aubin-sur-mer, FR @ Pete The Monkey Festival

% with Kevin Morby
* with Unknown Mortal Orchestra
# with Mac DeMarco

 

 

Debut single from LA’s VARA: “Break Down the Walls”

VARA is a producer/musician based out of LA who’s stamp on the electronic scene began with two remixes landing him a spot on Dance Club Songs Chart’s top five (Demi Lovato, ZZ Ward). “Break Down the Walls” is VARA’s powerful introduction to the world of electronic music as a solo artist. It’s a massive and potent electronic track which encapsulates the title perfectly.

Figs Vision reworks a Tina Turner classic: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

This song needs to preface. Just prepare your ears for pure joy as Figs Vision twists, contorts and melds a Tina Turner classic into quirky pop single.

The LA musical project known as Figs Vision was the original brain child of long time friends, Jordan Spoliansky and Gunner Sixx, but is now made up of the Jordan Spoliansky (Vocals/Guitar), Gunner Sixx (Keys/ Synth), Zackary Darling (Bass/ Sequencer), Mike Musselman (Drums) and Mario Cerutti (Percussion). The project was inspired by a wild childhood story involving dirt bikes, a cave-dweller and two 14 year old boys.

You can find Figs Vision at Troubadour in LA on April 30th. 

 

EP announcement and simmering single from Melbourne duo, Kllo: “Boldie”

Kllo = Chloe Kaul + Simon Lam. Together, the duo creates R&B-dusted electronic music in its most satiating form: smooth, vibrating and exquisitely layered. The first single off of their upcoming/debut EP on Ghostly International, “Boldie”, encapsulates the beauty and experimentation that is electronic music. No sound, harmony, loop, or drum machine is too much or too little, it’s just right and settles effortlessly into your ears.

Well Worn is out August 5th and available for pre-order through Ghostly International or a variety of other options.

Album Review: “Heroes and Halos” by The High Violets

The record opens with echoing synths that sound like lasers, starting the beautiful battle of love that is Heroes and Halos. This is the fifth record released by Portland, OR rockers, The High Violets and it’s clear the group is well-versed in creating lip-lickingly delicious music glazed in shoegaze. The High Violets are Clint Sargent, Kaitlyn ni Donovan, Luke Strahota and Colin Sheridan. The band was birthed from the remains of an older band of Portland’s past, Bella Low and the rest is history.

Heroes and Halos is a record of “him”, “he”, “his”, heartbreak, regret and the twisted yearning that comes from love’s pain, all wrapped up in Kaitlyn ni Donovan’s warm and lush voice. The opening cut, “How I Love (everything about you)” sets the tone perfectly for what’s to follow: dream-drenched ballads infused with drowsy guitars and perfectly seasoned with synths.

Then there is “Long Last Night.” Donovan’s voice floats higher than ever on this track, melting in your ears as reverbed guitar echoes endlessly. It’s clear that The High Violets have toned their music-writing muscles over the years and their experience in this realm has allowed them to create records like Heroes and Halos that give the listener no time to come up for air, only time to sit with and soak in beautifully constructed morsels of sound.

“Break a Heart” is a track that almost has a 50s/60s-oriented sound in the chorus, highlighting the diversity achieved by The High Violets. The track describes a man who has clearly broken the heart of the storyteller who knows all too well he is off to break another while understanding at the same time she must heal her own heart.

Beyond the gleaming instrumentals and shimmering songwriting, Heroes and Halos is a record created upon a foundation of poetry. The lyricism is stunning and I feel it is the scaffolding on which the instruments, melodies and sounds are bound. The A side closes with the title track, “Heroes and Halos”, a stunning example of The High Violets’ ability to play with words in ways the listener may not even be able to pick up on. These plays with words are only noticed upon reading the lyrics.

And grief, holding me tight, as we descend the stairs, the stares.

The B side kicks off with one of my favorite tracks, “Longitude.” The track is more up-tempo than a majority of the record and has a fresh rock quality to it while also a 90s subtlety embedded. In fact, the entire B side is something special. When you think The High Violets have reached their highest point, the second half of the record only escalates introducing Clint Sargent on vocals, giving your ears something new and sweet besides that of Donovan. In “Ease on”, Donovan and Sargent blend their voices, creating soft harmonies against trickling guitars that sound like they’re reverberating across an expansive, open land. And again they surprise you with the more psychedelic sounds of “Comfort in Light”, a track that forces the eyes closed and slows your breath. Finally comes the lullaby: “Hearts in Our Throats.” This is a simple beauty.

Heroes and Halos is a record to be listened to loudly in an open space, allowing the sounds to bounce, bound and finally seep luxuriously into your ears, mind and soul. The record is out now on St. Marie Records and can be purchased on iTunes or directly through their website.

Interview: Ex Norwegian

Ex Norwegian is an Art-pop-indie-rock-shoegaze fusion band from Florida that has been cranking out quirky, unique, and dance-inducing sounds since 2007. Roger Houdaille, founding member, was the brainchild for Ex Norwegian and even survived the band’s days as Father Bloopy. Today, Ex Norwegian is made up of Roger Houdaille, Michelle Grand, Lucas Queiroz, Giuseppe Rodriguez and Andres Bedoya. Roger answered some questions about the ever-evolving project that is Ex Norwegian and their adventures along the way!

Music For Lunch(MFL): It seems like Ex Norwegian has experienced many phases as a band. Members coming in and out, releasing records with or without a label, and experimenting with new sounds depending on the composition of the band! How have these phases shaped what Ex Norwegian is in 2016?

Ex Norwegian (Roger Houdaille ): That’s a great way to sum up our history! It’s true; there has been an ever-evolving Ex Norwegian…that much has been constant. Right now, things are back to operating more as a straightforward band. It’s hard to say exactly how all the previous phases have shaped us today. There’s been a lot of learning, growing, and experiences that finds its way, especially on stage, onto the band. At the end of the day it’s always a work in progress to me.

MFL: Looking back at the ups and downs of the band prior to 2016, what was the highest high and the lowest low for Ex Norwegian?

EN: Wow, let’s see…let me start with the lows. There have been many lows, unfortunately. Most of which are down to personal problems. For example, we had a drummer bail on us a few times. The same guy! Fired him a couple times. The third time he just left for New York without even telling us…now that was a serious low! Didn’t bother to fire him that time. Getting stuck touring without a drummer. But at the end of the day, I think the band just comes out stronger after getting out of those dire situations. Ex Norwegian has survived a lot. It keeps going, even when I try to stop it. The highest highs for me were at the very beginning just because it was all so fresh and exciting. It was the first time I really had my own band, and the material was good and getting attention. I do miss that, even though I think things are overall better now. Those initial days were good and innocent times.

MFL: I’m dying to know why Father Bloopy and later Ex Norwegian were the chosen names. Please explain!

EN: Oh man, Father Bloopy! That was the name I gave myself when working with the BJ Experience group. It was meant to be ridiculous and I just kept using it as I was starting to take my music seriously. It wasn’t until I started getting reviews that criticized the name that I realized, “WTF am I still using this name for!” However, Ex Norwegian can be and has been argued for not being much of an improvement. However, back to your questions, both monikers come from the magical world of British comedy. Father Bloopy is blatantly taken from a series called Maid Marian & Her Merry Men. It’s basically a spin on Father Christmas. And Ex Norwegian has its roots from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

MFL: What are the biggest crowd-pleasing tracks at live shows these days?

EN: A couple of our new tunes, “Life” and “Ice” are getting great responses.  I knew it would happen, people asking us about those songs after the show and having to say that out of our 6 albums available, sorry…those are non-album tracks! Well, at least for now. Our new versions of “Something Unreal” and “I’m A Fighter, Not A Lover” also seem to be liked a lot. It depends too on night and crowd. We find ourselves doing all types of shows. We just played at a Jewish temple for mostly 70-80 year olds. They loved us! However, we avoided some of our quirkier, harder stuff like “Not A Mouse” and “Jet Lag”. But those get a good response when playing the indie rock clubs. Oh, and actually whenever we cover “Who Loves The Sun” – that never fails to get an awesome response!

MFL: What are your favorites as a band or personally when playing live?

EN: I like the songs that I’m on autopilot for. That way I can just rock out and not focus on getting the stupid words right. Songs we’ve done million times like “Aventura” or “Something Unreal”. I do enjoy “Not A Mouse” which we’ve recently put back in the set. There are so many songs we aren’t playing though, and that makes me sad. We’ve got over 50 tunes! Not too mention all the covers. It’s tricky, because not all of it works live. I don’t think most of the new album works live. I really didn’t imagine us doing any touring for it, so I didn’t care about that. The next album will be different, much more live friendly.

MFL: If Ex Norwegian were to do a cover album, what would it be and why?

EN: Funny you ask that because our new album, Pure Gold, is actually mostly covers. But they are very obscure tracks so unless someone really digs into it, it might not be obvious. Also, the songs don’t sound much like their originals once given the Ex Norwegian treatment. I’m not sure I’d want to do a full covers album, although there are plenty more covers I’d like to record. We have a cool version of “International Feel” by Todd Rundgren we’re working on now. I don’t like the idea of recording a cover that’s mimicking the original. We were commissioned to do a cover of the Kinks “Apeman” many years ago but there was no inspiration and it ended up sounding boring and pointless, so I’d like us to avoid doing stuff like that.

MFL: Have Ex Norwegian’s influences or musical inspirations changed over the years of its existence? What/who are the current musical inspirations?

EN: Now that’s something that remains pretty consistent. There is new music (to me, at least) that creeps in. For example, I spent most of 2013 listening only to Lucio Battisti, no joke! And that influenced my writing at that time. In general though, my inspiration draws from 60s and 70s music. A good example of the variety of influences could be found on the new album Pure Gold. As I mentioned, it is mostly covers of songs I like but also felt could use a different arrangement…take them someplace new. So if you look at the artists chosen, it’s quite an eclectic bunch. You’ve got the 60’s British psychedelic group Tintern Abbey, hippyish singer-songwriter Melanie Safka, Beatle Paul, another underappreciated Liverpudlian Jimmy Campbell, a very obscure late 60s act New York Rock And Roll Ensemble, quirky progressive 70s group String Driven Thing and the CBGB staples the Shirts. All completely different artists brought together by us. I am very proud of that!

MFL: What are some highlights from your March tour and which was your favorite show?

EN: We had a blast of a time. It was short, but jammed packed. I think doing a couple sessions; one for Daytrotter and another for THRD Coast were definitely highlights. Getting to try out the new material and arrangements was also a treat. And just being able to rock out, out of Miami, that felt good. I particularly enjoyed playing with drummer Andres who just joined us. I don’t think we played the same way every night. As for favorite show, I believe we all had different favorites. For Michelle it was New York. For Andres it was Chapel Hill. For Giuseppe it was Chicago. For Lucas it was Dayton and for me, I’d say Rock Island.

MFL: Finally, what’s in store for Ex Norwegian for 2016 and beyond?

EN: I wish I knew exactly what to expect but then again, that’ll lose the fun of it all. I would like to see a new album come out towards the end of year on a decent label. Work with new people. More touring, more traction, bigger exposure, generating more money… Ultimately, let’s just say I’m prepared for the unexpected!

Thank you to Sneak Attach Media for connecting Roger and I and thank you to Roger for being part of Music For Lunch! Their latest album, Pure Gold, is available now! Check out their website for all the Ex Norwegian info you could ever need.