new record

Album Review: “Keep Your Batteries Warm” by Josa Barck

The space-time that Danish musician, Josa Barck, lives, breathes and creates within is one of vibrant sound and color. Thankfully for us, he is willing to share that universe and invites us to find a place for ourselves within it. Josa Barck is the anagram for musician/producer, Jacob Rask, who following nearly a decade of working with other Danish musicians like Alphabeat and The Broken Beats, has sought out a new niche. For him, creating music is not only his passion but a need/void he must fill.

 

Jacob Rask: “To me, it is about taking responsibility to create the world I demand to live in, and taking control over the culture. I make the music that I feel is missing and that I wish to hear. It wasn’t there before, so I had to make it myself.”

 

The classically trained musician spent five of his 15-year career with his saxophone at the Royal Danish Academy of music and in 2015, Rask released his debut record, Eurkea, in which he swapped out his saxophone for a guitar. Eureka is a collection of eight subdued and thoughtfully created tracks with gentle vocals and introspective lyrics. Race forward to 2018 where we all anxiously await the release of his sophomore full length, Keep Your Batteries Warm. This record is built from the same scaffolding of Eureka but is reinforced, decorated and draped in new rich, exciting and decadent colors that celebrate this life we live within despite the trying times we all face. When Rask was asked about the title of this new record, he gave both a short and a long answer. The short answer was simple, he liked the way those words fit and flowed together. On the contrary, the title also goes below the surface.

 

Jacob Rask: “’Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is really just my own little 2018 updated version of the old saying ‘Keep Your Powder Dry’. To be prepared for battles ahead. But to me it’s a bit more two sided. I definitely believe there is battles ahead of us, if we hope to create a better world. Not necessarily fighting in the street and such, but one way or the other…At the same time, ‘Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is about optimism and hope. And that something good is on its way. Like: ‘Hang in there, everything will be all right.’”

 

Earlier this year, he released the second single off the album, “Everybody Everywhere.” It’s a fast-paced rolling track that features a completely different vocal quality from Rask compared to Eureka. His voice demands your attention not only to the sounds he’s creating but also the lyrics and the message he is conveying to you. Over and over again he says:

“That’s what everybody wants,

That’s what everybody hunts.”

 

 

The single is the second track on the record, following “Pattern Pageantry”, a pulsing instrumental introduction. It is about the lifelong search we all endure for love and how we all feel that we need to be everywhere at once, experiencing everything all at once in order to succeed. In the words of Rask, “I recognize the search for love as a driving force behind everything I do, but I am beginning to learn, that the search of love, is not so much about chasing something I lack in my life, as it is about perceiving the love that I am slowly realizing, is everywhere all the time too.”

 

Following “Everybody Everywhere” is “Salute”, which was the first single Rask released after Eureka. These two tracks give listeners who know Josa Barck’s music something familiar to suck them into the record before he launches them unforgivingly into the rest of the album. “Clandestine” is a celebratory and trilling track, while “Everywhere at Once” is a nod back to the single, “Everyone Everywhere.” It has overlap in mood, lyricism and concept but it is a slightly more restrained iteration. It is a reminder to the listeners of the message Josa Barck is trying to convey: keep looking for love, everywhere and you will find it because it is already there.

Other tracks like “Neverhours” and “Bantam” are adventurous, dream-like works of art that pull you deep into this effervescent universe that Rask has created on Keeping Your Batteries Warm. Repetitive lyrics, chants sung in harmonies and rounds, and whimsical sound effects bring a childlike sense of joy and revel to the record. Rask really taps into that sense of wonder on “People Reflect the Weather.” The track builds slowly to a most glorious place where it hovers, and gently returns to where it started.

Keep Your Batteries Warm is due out October 19th through Tangleville Records in cooperation with Wonderwhy Music Company and Pop-Up Records. You can follow Josa Barck on Facebook, Spotify, and his official website.

New music from Amen Dunes: “Miki Dora”

We haven’t heard a peep from Damon McMahon (the man behind Amen Dunes) since the release of his most recent record, Love, in 2014. The album holds one of my favorite tracks, “Lonely Richard”, perhaps top 10 favorites of my life time thus far. Before I go on, check it out:

 

 

Back in 2015, I gave Damon a call and we talked everything music. You can check the interview out here.

 

Fast forward to 2018. Amen Dunes is back with a new live band and a new record, titled, Freedom, that is due out March 30th on Sacred Bones. The band and other collaborators on the record include Parker Kindred (Antony & The Johnsons, Jeff Buckley), Chris Coady (Beach House), Delicate Steve, and Gus Seyffert (Beck, Bedouine). The first single released from the record is titled, “Miki Dora” and the music video features Damon himself and 17 year old Boomer Feith. The track is mesmerizing and simple, laced with Damon’s unique and deliberate voice. The track is named after a well known surfer of the 1950’s and 60’s. Damon had this to say about the track:

Miki Dora was arguably the most gifted and innovative surfer of his generation and the foremost opponent of surfing’s commercialization.  He was also a lifelong criminal and retrograde: a true embodiment of the distorted male psyche. He was a living contradiction; both a symbol of free-living and inspiration, and of the false heroics American culture has always celebrated.  With lyrics of regret and redemption at the end of one’s youth, the song is about Dora, and McMahon, but ultimately it is a reflection on all manifestations of mythical heroic maleness and its illusions.” – Damon McMahon via Pitch Perfect. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Kevin Andrew Prchal

Kevin Andrew Prchal is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter. His recently-released record, Love & Summer, is a truly lovely record, embroidered with gorgeous strings and rich harmonies and supported by Prchal’s ability to tell story in song. His musical career began somewhere quite unexpected (to me at least!), but below, he explains why he has to thank his skater punk youth and bleach blonde hair for who he is today as a musician. Read on below as we discuss much more.

MFL: You recorded Love & Summer in three days and there are 14 tracks on this album. Sounds like a marathon! Lay out some of the pros and cons of recording a record in such a short time.

 Kevin Andrew Prchal (KAP): It was a marathon, indeed! The pros I’d say are, 1). Because we were so prepared, we didn’t waste time figuring out parts in the studio, 2). We captured honest performances filled with flaws, chemistry, and intuition, and 3). We never exhausted the songs (which can be a hazard of spending too much time on a record).

 The cons I’d say are, 1). Having to live with said “flaws” in our performances, and 2). Not having enough time in the studio because making records with my friends is a blast and I wish I could do it every day.

 

 Left: KAP with his band, The Wheeling Birds, who played on the record. Photo by Nicholas Wenzel.

Right: Rehearsing “Back to the Earth” just before they recorded it. With key player Nate Erickson (piano) and producer Adam Krier. Photo by Nathan Villotti.

MFL: The strings are truly stunning on this record. Who do we have to thank for this and how did you find them?

 KAP: Couldn’t agree more. The fiddle on “Make Me a Believer,” “Simple Thrill,” and “Illinois” were played by Katherine Andrick, and the sweeping string section on “Back to the Earth” was arranged by our producer Adam Krier and performed by John Morton. John has a talent that can’t be taught or reproduced. Everything he plays on is his own unique expression and this song is infinitely better because of it.

 

MFL: “Simple Thrill” is one of my favorites on the album. “Luke & the Universe” follows, a beautiful echo of the previous track. Tell me more about “Luke & the Universe” and why it lays where it does on this record.

 KAP: Very cool, thank you. “Luke & the Universe” is a song dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away unexpectedly in 2015 and it’s the only track on the record that wasn’t rehearsed before going into the studio. On the day it was tracked, I called the band into the recording room after a lunch break and my only instruction to them was to “make a wall of sound.” The intention was to create something brief and beautiful (like the life of my friend who passed away), yet chaotic and unscripted (like, well, the universe). The song is placed dead center at the heart of the album’s track list because I think the philosophy of this song is essentially the philosophy of the record: finding the beauty in a world of chaos.

 

 

MFL: Is there a particular track on Love & Summer that you enjoy playing more than the others? If so, what is it and why?

 KAP: I think it depends on the gig. When it’s with the band, the title track “Love & Summer” is a ball to perform. We’ve only played it live a few times at this point, but each time has felt like a circus pulling into town. When I play solo, “Back to the Earth” is a good one to play. I think that one requires a bit more of the audience’s attention in order for it to resonate, and that can be hard to pull off on a Saturday night in Chicago.

 

 

MFL: What kind of feelings do you hope to invoke in your listeners when they are taking in Love & Summer?

 KAP: Whimsy, optimism, existential dread, hope, nostalgia, running barefoot through backyards, sitting on a curb on a skateboard eating an apple with a pocketknife, etc.

 

3_KAP_Love & Summer Record Release Show

  Photo: Love & Summer record release show image, taken just last weekend. Photo by Mike Neerhof.

 MFL: I see you are Chicago-based but not Chicago-born? Where were you born and raised and how did that environment shape your life as a musician?

 KAP: Well, I was born and raised just outside of Chicago. City-folk tend to get up-in-arms about people claiming they’re from Chicago when they’re not, so I tread those waters carefully. But the town where I grew up was a fantastic breeding ground for me creatively. It was a town that introduced me to skateboarding and subsequently led me to discovering punk rock, going to garage shows, buying a guitar, starting a band of my own, dying my hair bleach blonde with blue streaks, etc. Skate culture is one that promotes creativity and self-expression and had I never been introduced to it, I would likely not be making records today.

 

5_KAP_Skater

 Photo (caption in the words of KAP): Skater punk me (relevant to question 6). Photo by god knows who.

 

MFL: For those that are new to your music, if we were to listen to your previous record, Sorrow Sings, what sort of differences would we notice lyrically and musically?

KAP: Lyrically, I think you’d notice a similarity in the themes explored on each record. Both juggle grim and heavy topics while still weaving a thread of optimism throughout. Musically, Sorrow Sings is much more stripped down. It was recorded in an old church with no drums and minimal accompaniment. Love & Summer, however, is like a VW bus of musical arrangements. Everything from hand drums, organs, fiddle, pedal steel, trumpet, and more, make their way onto the record giving each and every song its own unique life. Still trying to figure out that VW bus comment? Me too.

 

MFL: What is your favorite way to listen to music: vinyl, CD, stream, cassette tapes, whatever is on your favorite radio station, or any others you can think of?

 KAP: I’d say live music is my favorite. These days, music has become so accessible to the point that it’s disposable. People listen to 30 seconds of a song and if they don’t like it, they skip to the next like it’s nothing. Because they can. At a live show, there are no options to skip ahead or listen to something else. It challenges our instincts as music consumers and forces us to really listen to what an artist has to say or express. And that’s something no streaming service will ever be able to reproduce.

 

MFL: Besides your own record, what record are you most excited about that’s been released this year?

 KAP: I have been loving Bob Dylan’s foray into American standards and his new one “Triplicate” is no exception. There’s nothing cooler than an artist who has nothing left to prove. When listening, some might roll their eyes and hear nothing but old songs poorly sung, but I hear a soundtrack to a southern gothic. I see a tall shadowy man in an old suit, walking and whistling up a long country road with a full moon above him and a dog at his side. Beautiful stuff.

Also looking forward to new ones from The War on Drugs, Josh Ritter, Gia Margaret, Todd Kessler, Jessica Robbins, and Louise Kelly.

 

MFL: Finally, where and when can we find you playing live in the next few months if at all?

 KAP: Sadly, we won’t be doing much extensive touring but you’ll be the first to know if that changes!

 

Thank you to Kevin for all the emailing back and forth and for his thoughtful answers. You can follow KAP via his website and Facebook. You can purchase his new record and previous releases on Bandcamp and iTunes.

 

A glimpse into the inspiration for Joakim’s new album, “Samurai”

Joakim is an incredibly special musician. His musical abilites reach far beyond just making and sharing his music. I cannot summarize this better than was done by his PR representatives at Pitch Perfect PR so here is a direct copy and paste of his incredibly rich list of his talents:

a musician with five albums under his belt; an outstanding DJ with a huge musical spectrum; a label founder and manager (Tigersushi and the recent vinyl-only Crowdspacer imprint); a self-taught graphic designer (he designs his record covers and most of the label’s artworks); a producer (for Panico, Poni Hoax, Zombie Zombie, Y.O.U., Montevideo…); a high-profile remixer (Antena, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Todd Terje etc…); a fashion enthusiast (he launched Tigersushi Furs with his cousin); a sound designer for catwalks (Chanel, Margiela, Balenciaga); and a step into contemporary art, working on Camille Henrot’s installations and videos (who won the Silver Lion at the 2013 Venice Biennale with the video Grosse Fatigue) or making his own sound installations (Gwangju Biennale in 2014 curated by Jessica Morgan).

To Joakim, his new record, Samurai, is something geographical, it’s a location, a place he can go and where his listeners can go to get lost. While simultaneously being somewhere unfamiliar, he believes there are times on the record where you will stumble upon things that are familiar. Not only is the album inspired by his past years in New York City and his nightly wanderings through the always bustling city, it is also inspired by the Japanese culture and the samurai. While writing the record, he was reading Mishima’s ‘Hagakure : Samurai Ethics & Modern Japan.’ Joakim created a playlist that offers us a peek into what inspired the sounds and ideas that make up his new record, Samurai, due out March 17th of this year on Tigersushi/Because. Check out the playlist:

 

 

Photocredit: The Posternaks

Thought-provoking single from German/American duo, Kiko King & creativemaze: “Resolution for Solitude”

Kiko King & creativemaze came together coincidentally in 2011 in Berlin. Creativemaze’s experience as an audio engineer lays the foundation for Kiko King’s mind-bending poetic abilities. For their latest record, Gnothi Seauton, the duo linked up with trip-hop mastermind, Tricky.

Melodic piano underlies profound lyricism that gets ripped up, rearranged and reassembled during the chorus. The accompanying video is similarly simple but suddenly deconstructed, offering the listener and viewer a unique musical experience. The official release date for the video is February 3rd but luck for you, you get to check it out early!

 

 

You can find “Resolution for Solitude” and all the other tracks from Gnothi Seauton on iTunes now.

 

Interview: Alfred Howard of The Midnight Pine

The Midnight Pine is an ethereal folk group based out of California. Their newest record, which is self-titled, is an incredible collection of  tracks that dance the blurred line between blues and folk. The Midnight Pine is Shelbi Bennett on vocals, Alfred Howard as a multi-instruentalist, and Matthew Molarius on guitar PLUS a full band. Al Howard answered some questions regarding how the sound of The Midnight Pine came to be, who their inspirations are and much more. Check it out:

 

MFL: What is the story/concept behind this new album? Are the tracks stitched together with a common theme or does each stand alone?

Alfred Howard (AH): The Midnight Pine songs have always dealt with love and its opposite. There was no conscious effort to tie the tracks together lyrically, but they naturally moved through similar themes. But musically, we tried to bridge the divergent influences with seamless transitions and present the record as if it were one fluid piece. It makes the genre hopping sound natural.

 MFL: Who are your musical inspirations as a band and why?

 AH: Lyrically, artists like Townes Van Zandt, Jason Molina, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits have always informed our efforts. They usher in a certain kind of specific melancholia we’ve always gravitated towards. Tonally, Radiohead, Wilco, Gillian Welch, Karen Dalton, Timber Timbre and even Sharon Jones have touched the sound. There’s infinity to pull from.

MFL: Midnight Pine has such a unique sound. It’s blues reinvented with a twist of pop, a pinch of soul and a hint of rock. How did this come to be the sound of Midnight Pine?

AH: All of us have very eclectic backgrounds musically, between our members, we probably have about 20 currently active bands that go from hard funk, to psych to alt country. At the Pine, we resolve all those divergences and meet somewhere in the middle, uncompromised.

MFL: If you were to name five bands, past or present, that you think you all sound like, who would they be?

AH:  I don’t really think sounding like anyone is the goal. And I could pick out elements where I’ve heard similarities, but Shelbi Bennett has one of those unique voices. She sounds like herself, and whatever she does, is going to stand on its own.

MFL: How has Midnight Pine’s sound changed over time from the release of your debut in 2012 to the release of your latest record this October?

 AH: We started as a stripped down acoustic act. Just guitar, voice and percussion. Which worked well for those first two albums. There’s a lot you can do with even that line up, but we wanted to explore new terrain, so we added a rhythm section. The drums push more power from Shelbi’s delivery, more dynamic. We also added strings and horns and a second guitar, so there’s more textures, but we were very attentive to leaving enough space, because that’s the most essential thing to our music, room for Shelbi’s voice to flourish.

MFL: What music is buzzing around in your ears currently? Meaning, if I were to hop in your car right now, what would be playing?

AH: Andy Shauf: The Party has been on all our radars. Timber Timbre: Hot Dreams. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle. Charles Bradley: Changes. Radiohead: Moon Shaped Pool. And Run the Jewels 2.

MFL: What kind of venues are your favorite to play and why (dive bars, theaters, coffee shops)?

AH: I love a theatre, but any venue catered to music and listening. If the audience shows up ready to focus in and listen acutely, they’ll be rewarded.

MFL: As a band, what are your top two favorite tracks from each record to play live?

AH: “This Heavy Heart” and “Best Place” from Awake Now. “Buried” and “Always” from Buried. And “Vice” and “Barricade” from the self-titled.

 

MFL: What is on the calendar for Midnight Pine tour-wise in the next year?

AH: We are having a vinyl release show on Oct 28th at The Music Box in San Diego and are part of a special New Year’s Eve show we’ll be announcing soon…We’ll have some shows in the new year we will be announcing as well. 

Thank you to Mike Bell of Far Digital for getting my quesitons to Alfred! You can find all of The Midnight Pine’s music on iTunes and Bandcamp.

 

Album Review: “Down in Heaven” by Twin Peaks

Down in Heaven is the third record to come to us by Chicago fellows, Twin Peaks. They set out on a recording mission in the comfort of a friend’s home in Massachusetts where the goal was to focus on creating an album that they themselves would want to listen to. Not restrained by the sound of their previous records and inspired by bands like The Velvet Underground who created albums that were each unlike their others, Twin Peaks came up with Down in Heaven.

 The record is a celebration of heartbreak, triumph, being a loser and not really giving a f#ck. The record is acceptance and acknowledgment of the life you live, what you can and can’t have and what you do and do not want. In the track ‘You Don’t’, over and over again we hear them sing “I don’t wanna be yours.” Plain and simple, sometimes love just doesn’t work out in both directions. Melodically the track is fun and low key, an easy jam with hoots and hollers in between the verse and the chorus. This mellow attitude is the overriding theme for the record.

Tracks like ‘Butterfly’ feature a slightly more garage rock feeling with a catchy “Ba ba ba ba” bridge that sticks relentlessly in your brain. Twin Peaks’ ability to write catchy sound bites is apparent on Down in Heaven. The tempo is slightly more restrained on ‘Cold Lips’, ‘Heavenly Showers’, and ‘Stain’ but the boys’ energy is apparent, the record never losing steam.

They play with their musical abilities, featuring a variety of instruments on each track. The piano at the forefront of the whimsical track, ‘Getting Better’, and brass featured in ‘Lolisa’, the fellows showcase their knack for layering instruments and writing songs in a way that gives each track a unique sound. My personal favorite on this record is ‘Holding Roses.’ It has a familiar sound, there’s something retro about it but Twin Peaks puts their spin on it and creates the most ridiculously satisfying sound. Unfortunately, it’s one of the shortest tracks on the record! The chorus demands a belting sing-a-long.

Down in Heaven was the perfect record to kick off the 2016 summer and has remained a favorite of mine throughout. The record was released May 13th on Grand Jury and is available on iTunes, among other music-purchasing platforms. Catch them touring this fall!

9/06/2016 Columbus, OH @ The Basement
9/07/2016 Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
9/08/2016 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
9/13/2016 Orlando, FL @ The Social
9/14/2016 Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
9/15/2016 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder / Union Productions
9/16/2016 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
9/17/2016 Houston, TX @ Raven Tower
9/19/2016 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
9/20/2016 Austin, TX @ Mohawk Austin
9/22/2016 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
9/23/2016 San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
9/26/2016 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Club Atrium
9/28/2016 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
9/29/2016 Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
9/30/2016 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey!
10/8/2016 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue & 7th St Entry