With the new addition to the much-commercialized (and materialized) Star Wars franchise clogging and hogging our news feeds as a diversion from the world’s sorry state of affairs, Impose Week in Pop is here to ring the holidays in while reporting on the media that truly matters. With a joyous xmas edition in store for all, here is some of the week’s biggest headline bling & buzz: Killer Mike interviewed Bernie Sanders at his Atlanta barber shop; Thee Oh Sees dropped “Fortress”; Downtown Boys announced 2016 tour dates with Sheer Mag and more; Balam Acab followed up 2011’s Wander / Wonder with Child Death; A$AP Ferg dropped “New Level” featuring Future; DIIV dropped “Under The Sun” off upcoming album Is the Is Are; Thomas Fekete of Surfer Blood dropped solo cassette Burner on Joyful Noise, shares “Treason”; Kendrick Lamar & Schoolboy Q fake fighting; also Kendrick Lamar collaborator Terrace Martin remixed “Alright”; The Soft Moon announced Deeper Remixed Vol 1. & Vol. 2 limited edition 12” available February 5 and 17, released via Captured Tracks/aufnahme + widergabe, also dropped Phase Fatale “Desertion” remix; Fetty Wap is feeling the holiday spirit with “Merry Xmas” ft. Monty; new M83 album is apparently in the can; Adele announced North American tour dates; Eagles of Death Metal announced their rescheduled European tour; David Bowie dropped the trailer for new single “Lazarus” and then subsequently dropped the song in question; Lee “Scratch” Perry talked to reggae history buff David Katz (author of the definitive Lee Perry bio People Funny Boy) about the fire that destroyed his Swiss studio known as the Secret Laboratory, or “Blue Ark”; PJ Harvey dropped teaser for her new album; Devendra Banhart to do the soundtrack for the upcoming Jeff Baena film Josy; Chance the Rapper continued his criticism of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq film and more via Chicago’s WGCI radio station; Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails announced the upcoming art book collaboration with Russel Mills entitled Cargo In The Blood; Joanna Newsom’s Larry King interview dropped; New York imprint Alrealon Musique dropped the compilation A To U for The Wire; Pandora CFO versus Apple and how Steve Jobs “eviscerated the music industry”; A$AP Rocky announced Yams Day January 18 at NYC’s Terminal 5 ft. A$AP Mob, Joey Bada$$, Lil Uzi, and more performers to celebrate the life of A$AP Yams; Scott Weiland’s toxicology results are in; and schmuck-of-the-year Martin Shkreli has been busted for fraudulent securities. (FBI in NYC has claimed that they do not have Wu-Tang’s legendary Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album in custody).
Here to help make the season even brigher, we bring you breaking world exclusives from Confident Hitmakers, GUIDES, Kristeen Young, Shade, James Roehl, Andrea Rocha, Bent Denim, Collin Thibodeauxx, El Mar, featuring guest selections by Kool A.D., and more—in no particular order.
Confident HitmakersIntroducing the next incarnation of MLTD with frontman Logan Wells presenting the regrouped and rearranged executive cabinet of his own appointed pop front called Confident Hitmakers. The Stockton stalwart and fellow steward Logan joins guitar whiz Nicholas Coleman (aka emcee wizard Nicholas Fisher) along with Wesley Allard, and Samuel Charles Regan. When we last heard Logan & the gang a few years back with the self-released Born Ruined cassette during the 2013 holidays; the sad boy world of Stockton shined forward in a melancholy luster on songs like “SADD”, the weekend doldrums of “Sunday”, to the absolutely earth shattering & unforgetable opening funeral knell “James Ganas was my Best Friend and I’m Sorry he Died so Young of Cancer”, and others that made the tape a memorable instant classic.
That devotional level of sound and sentiment remains to critical to the ears, minds, and visions from Logan, Nicholas, Sam, & Wes as they carry on the MLTD mantle, torch, and banner as Confident Hitmakers. Presenting the world premiere of “To Be Haunted”, the sacred and the superstitious materialize from the void with a richer and deeper dimension of paranormal feelings that are conveyed and translated through the audio instruments of generated sounds. And similar to the way that Born Ruined made it a top contender to be enjoyed while sequestered to one’s room for the duration of the day or night—Confident Hitmakers keep that special candid quality intact while illustrating aspects of inner inklings with the confidence of investing it all into the sounds they want to hear, and the kind of hits that they want to make.
“To Be Haunted” has the quality of what happens when one sets aside all fear and embraces the ghosts of everything they don’t understand about life and the world around them. Items and inventory of memories and nostalgic notions collect like the golden brown earthy leaves that are raked across the lawn in the seasonal modes of maintenance, upkeep and in anticipation of the ensuing cold winter. Every instrument and hum is delivered as if from a band one might find within the hallowed doors of the “Haunted Mansion” ride where every guitar chord responds like a signal to the satellite orbit represented through the sustained atmospheres from the electric organ. The halfway point features a classic Stone Cold Steve Austin “what” call and response chant involving the Texas Rattlesnake rattling off a litany of alcoholic beverages before closing with the wisdom of “why have one when you can have them both.” The song then picks up with it’s half-awake lullaby quality where Confident Hitmakers gently rock their listener’s to a resting place where the thin line between the material and immaterial realms becomes blurred like the stream feed of thoughts that play about the mind’s eye and ears before falling asleep. “To Be Haunted” hits with hooks and and progressions that Logan, Nicholas, Sam and Wes bury beneath a ghost dream aura of fog machine-like effects. Look out for more to follow from Confident Hitmakers, and read our following recent interview with Logan Wells featured right after the debut of “To Be Haunted”.
Describe for us the creative journey from 2013’s Born Ruined as MLTD, to the new recordings, including “To Be Haunted” under the newly appointed moniker, Confident Hitmakers.
When “Born Ruined” came out I had maybe eight or nine songs written that were supposed to be a full length MLTD record and MLTD had essentially evolved from a home recording project into a real four piece guitar band, we had 5 or 6 really solid demos recorded before we ran into line up problems and after that the whole idea of following up “Born Ruined” with a full length fizzled out. I rerecorded a few more demos on my own with the idea of doing the entire full length with just myself and a drummer but I found a new job, fell in love with a amazing girl and moved away from Stockton then broke up with amazing girl and moved back Stockton, I think during this time I went maybe 6 or 7 months without trying to record or write anything. Once my relationship ended and I got settled back in to Stockton I finally had my own space to start recording again so I just figured I’d take my favorite of the songs that were originally intended for the MLTD full length and just rerecord it and put it out.
Also explain exactly what inspired you to choose the very bold and brazen name of Confident Hitmakers.
About a year ago I started to kind of hate the name MLTD because I thought the all caps, no vowels thing seemed pretty lame and I just wanted to move away from it, it’s been two years since I’ve put anything out under the name MLTD so I figured this was a pretty okay time to move away from the name. Confident Hitmakers is supposed to be a funny name but I also feel like I probably am a confident hitmaker or I at least could be.
Give us the story on what sorts of hauntings and reverberated echoes of memory impacted the paranormal dream schemes of “To Be Haunted”.
“To Be Haunted” is actually about the wrestler Kane, like maybe the first 2 years or so of his career, I always thought the entire back story of that character was pretty neat and really over the top. I remember as a kid Kane promising to set himself on fire if he couldn’t win the WWF title, I think that may of made an impact on me as a child because I still think about it a lot. Kane won by the way, he never set himself on fire.
What role do you feel that the Stone Cold promo sample holds in bolstering the feeling at work here on “To Be Haunted”?
I wanted a audio sample somewhere in the song like either something from film or television, I think my original idea was going to be a Ric Flair promo where he talks about how expensive all of his clothes are and how big his house is but my friend and roommate Welsey (who also played bass on the song) came up with the idea of using the Stone Cold interview where he talks about eating a lot of food from Sonic Drive In, drinking a lot, and wanting to fight people, I feel like the song sounds a bit melodramatic maybe, so the Stone Cold kind of lightens the mood a bit. “Swig of beer for the working man.”
I feel like your sound has only grown larger with increased dimensions from before but still holds this very real and charged feeling. Tell us about what has changed for you in terms of production, delivery, and all.
I feel like the biggest change in the sound of this new song compared to stuff I’ve put out in the past is that every other song I’ve ever recorded I always intended to play live so I had to record it in a way that I’d eventually be able to recreate live but now I’ve kind of become super jaded on the idea of being a guy playing guitar and singing about how he feels about things in front of people so I just went in with the mindset of making the best possible song I could make even though I’d definitely look like a pretty big idiot if I tried to play this song live. I also wanted to incorporate sounds that I wouldn’t usually use if I was trying to make guitar music.
Tell us everything we need to know about the new songs.
I have a backlog of songs right now that I’d like to clear out in the upcoming months, I’m just going to be releasing songs as I finish them because I don’t like the idea of trying to put out a collection of songs right now, it seems kind of overwhelming and I feel like people on the internet are usually doing their own thing and asking them to take 20+ minutes to listen to some new release by someone they’ve never really heard of seems a bit unreasonable to me because I usually won’t do it so I’m just trying to just put out songs one at a time and hope it makes the content easier to digest. I’m really bad at making music quickly because I do get discouraged easily but I’d like to put out a song every month or so for a while, at least until I clear my song backlog.
What are your top five favorite songs, books, movies, media, whatever right now?
808s and Heartbreak, Paid in Full, w/Bob & David, those Sonic Drive In commercials with the two guys, and I’ve been watching a lot of Pavement music videos lately, my favorite is the one for “Major Leagues.”
2016 hopes, wishes, and dreams?
Me and my friend Sam have talked about digging a hole for a few years, I think we might actually do that in 2016. I wanna use a vocoder in a song and I’m pretty excited for Swish that’s about it.
Keep up with Confident Hitmakers via Bandcamp.
LA’s GUIDES recently dropped their self-released EP Abstract Mind and we bring you the video premiere of the band’s cover of New Order’s “Leave Me Alone” featuring Kristeen Young. Directed and edited by GUIDES’ bassist/vocalist Be Hussey with assistant director Carrie Rose and starring Simone Carter; witness a wonderful day spent exploring the places, buildings, markets, and beaches of Los Angeles like a neo-nouvelle vague trip into the lesser sung streets and scenes of Southern California. With Kirsteen standing in for Bernard Sumner and GUIDES providing a new electric take on the New Order new-wave original, the group together provides a new escapist take on the synth pop single where new feelings and potent possibilities become revealed by their new rendering.
The visuals for GUIDES and Kristeen Young’s cover “Leave Me Alone” begins by exploring the LA architecture through Be’s camera lens with Simone acting as the music video’s principle protagonist. From city sidewalks, skyscrapers, to sunglasses shopping at an outdoor bazaar; Be brings out the song’s expression of inward felt desires of solace and freedom from an interior monologue to found oceanside fancy (replete with a bright red parasol to match Carter’s heart shaped shades and attire), to carnival catered fun on a ferris wheel. The video for “Leave Me Alone” presents a vision of joyous solitude enjoyed in the public world from the market place, public transportation portals, west coast shoreline sojourns, to even emphasizing the intimacy of moments spent alone with one thoughts by the film comp focus on fleeting shadows. GUIDES and Kristeen bring new meanings and a new life to the New Order number by further embracing the song’s statement of importance placed upon the basic necessity of one’s alone time.
Kristeen Young described her approach to covering New Order’s “Leave Me Alone” with GUIDES.
I didn’t really have much of an approach. I’m only vaguely familiar with New Order’s songs (I know they have great bass lines!) and I didn’t know this song at all. Although, when GUIDES sent me the song I liked it very much…particularly the lyrics and that’s what I focused on: trying to give an effective performance of the words. My band was on tour when I recorded with Be [Hussey] so I didn’t have much time to learn it…really just a half hour in my hotel room before I got to the studio. The actual recording went quickly and Be made it a really pleasant experience. His studio is full of vintage keyboards and colorful, muted light so, to me, the atmosphere there was magical. I’m simple.
We also had a chance to talk to GUIDES’ Chris Cogswell, Be Hussey, & Jayson Larson with the following roundtable interview feature:
Tell us about what the making of Abstract Mind was like for you all.
Chris: The origins and starting points for the songs all came out of stream of conscious writing, the Abstract Mind. Some songs started with the band in a room, recording whatever we were feeling at the time, and some started out as demos… after revisions and discussion, I kept going back to stream of conscious technique for the words and melodies. We all wanted to make a record that had an interesting, abstract feel, and stayed away from the literal. It was a very collaborative process. We made a good effort to refine the ideas into the record we were excited about.
What inspired you all to cover New Order’s “Leave Me Alone”, and how does this vintage new romantic number speak to you all?
Jayson: I had wanted to cover that song ever since I heard it years ago. Though I’ve always been a fan of all things New Order, it’s their early, more organic material that moved me the most. We had yet to do a cover when I suggested Leave Me Alone to the guys and they didn’t hesitate. We did decide that if we were going to do a cover, it should be as interesting as possible.
Be: I had just recently reconnected with Kristeen on the big social media site, as our bands had played together years ago in St. Louis. So, when the cover idea came up I instantly thought of her as the one to sing it.
What was it like working with the amazing Kristeen Young?
Be: Kristeen’s performance really transcended our original idea and made the song become its own thing. She came to comp-ny studio and just rocked it. I played the song and once I heard her singing over it I was excited about how it was going to sound. I love the way she made the song her own and I basically tried not to get in the way. It was a pleasure and a very easy-going session. We’re stoked that Kristeen and her band made time for it because she was on tour and had a show in LA that night. We’re certainly happy that she did, because we love it!
The Be Hussey and Carrie Rose video starring Simone Carter is like a modern day French new wave rendering of the New Order cover of “Leave Me Alone”. Tell us what the making of the video was like.
Be: We had a lot of fun making it. Just the three of us cruising around LA with a borrowed camera shooting guerrilla style. After-shoot drinks at Clifton’s Cafeteria one day and the Santa Monica Pier the next. The original idea was a nod/homage to the late Michael H. Shamberg (classic New Order video director) and his reinterpretation of a classic New Order song in 2005. We had been meeting with a director and honestly just ran out of time. So, basically I did the video out of pure necessity and stubbornness.
Our friend/actress Simone Carter was available and the whole thing was put together quickly. At the risk of sounding very SoCal, I joked that the assistant director was The Universe since everything was working itself out. Carrie Rose kept coming up with locations that were visually interesting and the idea morphed into the final concept.
Carrie Rose: I’ve spent a lot of time as a pedestrian and on public transportation in Los Angeles, so Be’s concept for the video really clicked with me. It was fun to think of locations for Simone to experience that use the backdrop of LA in a timeless way, transcending Hollywood clichés.
Be: Our version of the song goes ‘off-script’ at the end, so I wanted to introduce lots of color and jubilation. It was my attempt to take us out of our comfort zone, and into the light!
What is next in the world for GUIDES?
Be: We are in the finishing a tour now, then we are back in the studio in January to record another stack of songs. We are planning our first national tour in April. Possibly SXSW in March. Some good stuff on the horizon!
GUIDES’ self-released EP Abstract Mind is available now.
We were the first to break LA duo Shade, comprised of So Many Wizards bassist Devin Ray and Kent James who continue their pop alchemy of dream sound sciences with the world premiere of “Worst Enemy”. Continuing the creative proliferation of DIY communities that are found throughout the greater Los Angeles area, Shade makes hymns created out of harmonies that seamlessly blend with the electric arrangements of chords and notes that float atop the atmospheric textures.
“Worst Enemy” is woven from the pensive moods and ruminations that run on overtime after all is said and done in the late after-hours of the evening after a difficult day (or year). The pangs of regret are mulled over by Devin and Kent recounting recollections from missed moments of opportunities past where those former feelings from a time long gone surface in strange and almost inexplicable ways. The keyboard sustains bring a sense of solemnity to the picture while the resentment that resides is told through self-reflecting lyrics and emotive tinged guitar strums and restrained fuzzy bemoaning blasts of scuzz. Shade wrestles with the things and feelings that go left unsaid, recollecting the scattered and missing pieces after playing it quiet and cool for too long. The resolve arrives by the end when Devin & Kent leave the listener with the parting words of “next time listen to the ones who speak with fire” that urges and encourages all to cast away the perils of self doubt and restraint regarding expressions of honesty and realness. Right after the debut of “Worlse Enemy”, read our interview session with both Devin Ray and Kent James featured below.
What are the Shade holiday plans for closing out 2015?
Devin: We’re putting on a big Christmas show and putting out our annual Christmas album. Just kidding. I wish. We’re taking it easy and preparing for the new year. Releasing this track is our big plan for closing out the year. Happy Christmas time everyone!
Kent: I’ll be attending a little home lecture/party on the topic of free will. Perhaps Devin will come. As for the holiday festivities, it will be a relatively mellow Christmas, just spending time with friends and family, baking cookies, sipping hot cocoa by the fire, and other such pleasantries.
Tell us about what sorts of adversarial ideas informed your latest song, “Worst Enemy”.
Devin: Dealing with regret, the internal adversary, and everything that arises when someone confronts you with the fact that you never actually told them how you feel about them; missing a window of opportunity to be with someone that you love. There is a lesson to be learned. Don’t listen to people when they tell you to play it cool and hide. Next time listen to the ones who speak with fire and come on strong, regardless of the risk.
Kent: The song is clearly about me.
Describe the subdued, reflective style of this single.
Devin: I write moody shoegaze/pop songs. I can’t quite help myself. I really tried to keep the arrangements open and spacious. I like songs that sound as though they are floating like a cloud, and you could almost step inside of them. If you stuck your hand out, you wouldn’t hit a wall, but would rather be welcomed in. I just want people to be wrapped in a little, warm bubble of sound, and maybe cry a little.
Kent: When Devin brought this song to me, I liked it instantly. The progression is kind of strange, and I always gravitate toward that, but in this case it sounded simultaneously foreign and somehow familiar, like it should have been written before. But it wasn’t. It was all Devin. From there, I just tried to maintain the feeling of the demo, adding subtle layers of ambiance with guitars, manipulated guitar samples, and the most fun part for me, which was getting to construct a little Beach Boys style choir to bookend the song. I want people to cry a lot.
What do you have next in the works for Shade?
Devin: The one who speaks with fire is coming back into the mix, and he will play some additional guitars, keys, and contribute some songs. We plan on releasing our debut EP in January, and then polishing off a handful of tunes we’ve been working on for a full length.
Kent: I’ve been focusing on trying to learn more about incorporating the use of electronic elements into our live performance, and am excited to have the one who speaks with fire at a station that will make more of that possible.
What are you and Nima and the gang up to regarding So Many Wizards, Crown Plaza, etc recordings as of late?
Devin: So Many Wizards is ready to release our sophomore album very soon. Probably by spring of next year. I’m not in Crown Plaza, so I don’t really care what they do. I play drums in Seaweed Salad (Martin lead guitarist of SMW) and we just did a converse rubber tracks session, and recorded three songs. That was fun. I just got done laying down some backing vocals for that.
Kent: I don’t do things with Nima. I like him, though.
2016 hopes & meditations?
Devin: Read and listen to more jazz and incorporate those things into our songs. Release a full length and play a bunch of shows.
Kent: I plan to actually meditate more. Looking forward to the first Shade full length. I’ve also roped Devin into aiding me in the recording of a yet to be named project that will be kind of loud, a bit aggressive, and ever so prog. Fun. Mostly though, my hopes for 2016 are just to be grateful for all of the wonderful people and opportunities in my life, and to continue to try to become a better person.
Top three things that you have been listening to, reading, or watching obsessively?
Devin: David Bowie and Dr. Who. And other out of this world treats.
Kent: Our unfinished material. Ha! Aside from that, listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, watching the show Black Mirror, and reading We The People by Tommy Givens.
Hear more from Shade via Soundcloud.
You are already familiar with James Roehl’s work in groups like Seaweed Salad, Crown Plaza, or maybe even his acting endeavors but today we give you a listen and look at his solo output with the Joe Burge & bassist Patrick Taylor video for “Too Hot”. Featuring appearances from Eddington Again and others filmed at locations like Echo Park, Los Feliz, Boyle Heights, Atwater Village, and elsewhere; James shares songs that stem from the heart and soul with a host of local friends along with a fun and friendly game of tennis.
From the serene courts found on Riverside Dr in Los Feliz, to a carpentry studio in Boyle Heights, to impromptu dance parties with Eddington and his Michelle; James Roehl lends a cheers to his closest friends and the warm areas they all inhabit together. Through restrained minimalist drum machine sequencing and cozy chord progressions, and more; James basks in the DIY spirit from the city of angels spending time with an inner-connective core of creative friends/collaborators standing, dancing, and playing close by his side. With news of James’ baking up some new music batches for 2016, Mr. Roehl remains an artist to keep a close ear and eye on in the next new year. Following the viewing of “Too Hot”, read our interview with the artist featured right after the jump.
Tell us about the making of the video for “Too Hot”, featuring LA locales from Echo Park, Los Feliz, Boyle Heights and Atwater Village.
The opportunity to make the video for “Too Hot” was pretty serendipitous. My friend had access to a camera for use on another project. I was hanging out with her and she and told me that she had the camera package for another day and did I want to borrow it to shoot something. It was a no-brainer. I had just finished recording and mixing “Too Hot” with my buddy from high school, Joe Burge, who also happens to have a knack for cinematography, so I asked if he’d help me film. I knew I wanted to appear in the video myself, I’m an actor, so he shot all the scenes that I’m in. Then I texted all my friends to see who would be interested in being in the video. My idea was to film my friends in their element, doing the thing they love. For my friend Patrick Taylor, who also recorded bass on the track, I had to film him playing tennis. He plays about three times a week. He and my buddy Sam from college already had a tennis date planned for the next day, so I knew I had one scene. We shot that on the courts on Riverside Dr in Los Feliz. Really beautiful courts, and you can see the mountains while you’re playing.
The other person that responded was my friend Winston who has a carpentry studio in Boyle Heights. He builds bed frames, among other wooden things, and so I went out there with the camera and he let me film him while he was working, operating the saw and sanding wood.
Finally, I knew I wanted to do a scene with Eddington Again, and his sister Michele, who was super pregnant at the time. (side note: she gave birth the day I dropped the video) I had acted in all their music videos for Oddience, and I wanted to bring their energy into my video. That’s when I had Joe take over camera operating duties so that I could be in the video with Edd and Michele. It was a blast—we choreographed these dance steps—that part where they’re kind of skipping up the stairs. And then with the remaining daylight we drove around Echo Park and Joe got some shots from the passenger seat while the sun was setting.
I wanted it to be kind of a day in the life video, featuring my talented friends and showcasing all my favorite spots around the city. The song is a love letter to LA in some ways and I wanted the video to reflect that. That’s why at the end there’s that shot of me in front of the Adam Yauch mural near the Beastie Boys studio. This city has so much history people don’t know about!
Tell us about the tennis connection/motif at work here in this video and how it became a prominent theme in between hanging out with Eddington Again and friends.
Tennis is a funny game. I’ve watched a fair amount of it with Patrick and it’s one of the most compelling things to watch. He takes it really seriously, which I find hilarious. It’s a game, right? But you can’t watch Federer or Nadal or Serena Williams and not be floored by how amazingly disciplined these people are to go that hard for like three hours. And I think the tennis a nice visual counterpoint to the other things going on in the video.
What is next in the works for your solo works?
Since I made the video, I’ve been working on an album of my solo work. I’m working with Joe again. Basically I’ve been recording tracks on my own over the last year and slowly starting to finish things. A couple months ago I started bringing stuff over to Joe’s studio and we would record whatever vocals or other instruments I hadn’t been able to do on my own, and then he mixes everything and put it through all his nice compressors and plug-ins, etc. There’s five or six that we’re slowly working our way through whenever we can get together, and then I’ve got two or three new ones I’m in the midst of writing that I want to record. Should be done by spring, and I think I’ll put out a couple singles before then. The first one I’m going to put it out is called “Now I’m Laughing”. It’s pretty much ready to go.
How do you find your work in Seaweed Salad and Crown Plaza has impacted your solo sounds?
Well, Martin and Nima are both amazing songwriters. I’m really lucky to be in bands with them. I’ve lived with Martin the last three years—being around him and observing his process is really cool. Also, I’ve grown a lot as a musician playing in these bands. Seaweed Salad is my first time playing bass in a band, so that’s definitely changed the way I think about writing songs. Playing in Crown Plaza has definitely upped my game as a guitarist—it’s really delicate, pretty music and it’s a challenge to fit in and play parts that don’t take away from the other elements.
Describe for us your own creative process.
I usually write songs on guitar. I’ll work songs up pretty slowly—it takes me a while to find the right structure for all the different parts. Lyrics usually come last. And they’re usually pretty stream-of-consciousness.
“Too Hot” was different in that I wrote the song on a keyboard—something I almost never do—and I wrote it and recorded a demo for it all in one sitting. The lyrics were fun to write—I’m pretty sure they were all written while I was recording the demo. I had this image that I really liked of being baked into a pizza pie. When I sent the track to my dad, he suggested I add another vocal part to the outro of the song. That’s when we added the line at the end “Step out to get the mail / I can tell it’s a pell-mell in my city today”. It was an old lyric that I thought summed everything up for me. It’s too hot in the summer because of global warming, and LA is a very flawed place. Sometimes you step outside and you can tell it’s going to be a rough one. You turn on NPR and it’s just bad news, bad news, accidents on the freeway, ISIS, etc. Making music is all about making sense of these things, laying them all out so I can stop worrying about them.
Favorite things about LA right now?
So many wonderful things going on in this city. The stand-up and improv comedy scenes are amazing. So many great comedy shows at UCB every night. I studied improv there for a year from some amazing teachers. Shout outs to Johnny Meeks and Betsy Sodaro! The stand-up comedy scene is crazy too—Kate Berlant, Jake Weisman, Brent Weinbach, Allen Strickland Williams…there are a lot of really funny people that are starting to blow up. It’s cool to watch.
The art and film scenes are pretty happening too. I just went to an incredible show put on by dublab on Saturday night at 356 Mission. They did an ambient music night from six PM to 6AM. Hundreds of people splayed out on blankets in this humongous warehouse gallery downtown listening to ambient music. I feel very lucky to live where I live right now. This city is bursting with talented artists.
What have you been listening to obsessively lately?
The new Julia Holter is brilliant. I’ve been in love with Mac DeMarco for three years and everything he does makes me happy. Also in love with TOPS, they might be my favorite band right now. And they are sweetie-pies. ALVVAYS are awesome as well. What a debut album! Saw them at the Echoplex and they killed it. What can I say, I’m into Canadian music right now! Come on America, step up your game. Oh, and Stereolab. I’m obsessed with Stereolab. All day every day in my car. And at work. Yeah.
Hear more from James Roehl via Soundcloud.
Our new Richmond, Virginia fave trio Collin Thibodeauxx is back with the single “Football” to provide a little something to enjoy as the NFL season gears toward the big payoff (and/or DFS payouts) playoffs. Playing local digs like The Camel and Strange Matter lately and focusing on making pure golden, glistening garage guitar hooks; CT keep us constantly entertained and listening for what’s next.
Collin was every so kind to tell us about at track that was apparently made out of boredom, written and recorded in one day with the following words:
Lately, as a recording artist, I’ve been trying to expand my portfolio of sounds. Basically just working on several projects at once and experimenting with different styles/methods of recording. But with collin thibodeauxx, as a band, I think our main focus has been playing cool shows. Bands can release as much material as they want, but without proper exposure it’ll typically go unnoticed. When you hit the road and play a kick-ass show a few hours from your house, you get this renewed sense of accomplishment. It’s like “Wow…somebody actually likes my music outside of an internet community!” That new song “Football” was written and recorded in the same afternoon. I just got bored of smoking weed and napping all day. Its lyrics talk about a lot of stuff (c’mon people, fill in some fucking blanks [just kidding]). Other than that, we’re still the same DIY brahs.
Andrea Rocha is an eclectic artist who works with UK/Canada artists Basheba, Emi Jeen, Hannah Jane Lewis, and more, and also supplying cello in session in London; hear her new single “Ocean Salt” featuring Kamilla Lovett that provides some sea faring sensations to close out the year. Oceanic sodium similes simmer on the track’s selection/collection of synths that swim in an ocean of dreams and passions that swirl like the paints on a palette with the purpose to make a portrait in order to capture the beauty of blissful moments.
Andrea provided some reflections on the making of “Ocean Salt”, and how her other collaborative works has impacted her solo focuses:
I started learning a bit of production on logic about a year and a half a go and began collaborating with friends, helping them with their demos. When I co-write, it’s a bit more mechanical. It tends to be more about the goal outcome and about the artists vision and how we can make it stand out in a commercial setting.
When I write on my own, my ideas tend to be a bit more abstract and I don’t overthink or question myself too much. I kinda just sat down one day last spring and decided to write a song for myself. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Ocean Salt’ in about an hour and the track quickly came together as I played around with different sounds. The song is quite descriptive and describes that feeling of lust you get with the person you love. Kamilla’s voice was the cherry on top!
I’ll continue to learn more about production and write for myself and for others! I look forward to releasing some more of my work!
Bent Denim’s debut album Romances You is finally available on wax via German imprint Anette Records, and present their video for “China Doll” from Mendoza Weiss Films. The intimacy from the duo of Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager (based out of Nashville and Brooklyn) continues to grow to brighter and bolder heights as the visualization of relationship cycles of courting, bliss, to the boredom of loneliness is wrapped up into one experiential event that runs under three minutes time. Both Ben & Dennis were ever so kind as to share a few reflections, expressing what romantic concepts and influences informed the making of their anticipated album debut Romances You and more:
Ben: A lot of things went into ‘Romances You’ that probably weren’t the most healthy for me as a person. There was a long distance relationship, infidelity, and a lot of unrequited love. It all went into the record. That and some romantic stories that help guide my creative vision.
Dennis: Whenever you make a record it’s a snapshot of you in some way, a nice blend of fact and fiction, but everyday we are a new person. Songwriting is a process and one can’t ignore the history of the silly loves songs canon that lay in front of us, or rather behind us chronologically. Romanticism with a capital R was a 19th century aesthetic revolution (Casper David Friedrich), while romanticism with a lower-case R represents western courting values much like the Sims video game.
The debut EP from EL MAR is now available everywhere and we give you the following first listen. From NYC’s own industry maker/talent-shaker Joey Primero, her EP opens with the pop song appeal of “Favorite Songs”, the rustic evolution inklings of “Grow”, to the haunted twang-tinged allure of “Strangers In The Dark”, to life and death continuum metaphors for breakups, right before closing with the dusty highway wandering wonder of the title cut “The Road”. Joey shared a few thoughts on the release of her EL MAR EP and more with the following words:
The Road represents the ups in downs in a relationship, but also in life. It’s a very special collection and my first proper release—which is crazy considering I have been writing songs all of my life. Everyone that played on this record, contributed vocals, mixed/mastered/engineered, donated studio time, etc, are people I know and love, and that have enhanced my New York City life for the past five or so years. Some even longer. which makes this EP even more special. It was very organic and fun, and all the tracks/lead vocals were recorded in a live room in a single day. It’s also just planting the seed for more EL MAR music to come!
Josh Evert who you already know from The Fatty Acids released a solo album titled Not Uninhabited made from a two-week residency the artist did at Homestead National Monument. Hear how field found recordings become a part of an eclectic event that connects a conceptual album framework that transports the listener to a tripped out sort of life in the prairie. Rhythm and pop exercises abound from the valley veld beat of “Underground Since Birth” ft. WC Tank, the moody brood of “Exodusters, Immigrants”, the freedom beat of “Free Land” to the lullaby fallout close out of “Milky Backbone”. The result is an album that takes you back through a portal of alt. Americana that Roger McGuinn from Notorious Byrds Brothers-era might would agree with.
Athens, Greece artist Kid Flicks (aka Nickos Dervisis) presents the new sound fabric textures of his new single “Textiles” taken from the forthcoming self-titled album available in March. The promised third full-length of what Dervisis calls ‘avant-pop’ brings even brighter blends of electronics that are entangled with Nickos’ own over-dubbed vocal harmonies. The result from this one single alone is like a round the world trip and then back again experience meant for all with ears and hearts to hear. Follow all of our Kid Flicks coverage here.
From the loves at the Portland by Oakland imprint Breakup Records; we give you their 17 track compilation featuring a plethora of artists from their stable titled Here’s To The Ones We’ve Loved. Gems from Sporting Life with “Tsunami” bringing you a dose of empathetic affection with a “love too strong”, folloed by HEARTWATCH’s earth sharing “Faultines” pop, followed by Joel Magid’s mellow moods on “Bodies On The Ark”, to Quiet Type’s rain-dance of “Rain”. Melodramatic moments take over the seen with “Forgivness Fanclub from The Silhoutte Era, to winter hearth warmth of Alex Pinto’s “Unconditional”, then the rumbling ruminations on Hart & Hare’s “Enough”, followed by the lively jive of “Life Lessons” by Brownish Black”, and NRVS LVRS’ electrified DIY illuminations that shine forth on “2 Young 2 Know”. Moments of dream gestures and bedroom based sentiments break through like on bed.’s “Fremm”, to the DIY punk fun of Hey Lover’s “I’ve Got A Car”, Taxes + clintongore bring the big glamorous buzz with “Your Other Left”, while Dangermaker deals in the ultra-massive pop motions with “Never Go Back”. Then it’s Lungs and Limbs bringing it big time with “Signs of Life”, while Kingsborough kicks it FM dial wise with “Till The Road Ends”, bringing the scuzzy fantasia with Fake Your Own Death’s “Death Star On The Sea”, with 1955 living up to the name of their golden era moniker and the title of their single “Glory Days”, right as clintongore closes out all the Breakup fun with “Watch Out” that keeps ups happy and thirsty for what dreams may arrive with 2016.
From New Zealand’s Julian Vares, watch the video for “Second Wave” from Yumi Zouma that features the longtime friends exploring their homelands of Christchurch, NZ. Found off the the Yumis EP Collection from Cascine, YZ introduces us to their world with the following warm words:
For a day, we got to hang out in the cold New Zealand winter above the city that we lived in for most of our lives. It was the first time we’d all been back home together since the band had started, and so this is now a reminder to us, if not anyone else, that even after the earthquake that turned our CBD (Central Business District) into a giant car park, Silt City is ours and it’s fucking beautiful.
Madeira is former Yumi Zouma vocalist Kim Pflaum who is high on the rise with her self-directed video for Secret Songs single “Let Me Down”. Filmed on location in Canterbury Plains, New Zealand; Kim’s brother Kirk takes on photography direction detail in a family affair that also features their sister Gemma as the video’s star who ventures to the water to release ashes and memories into the depths and leagues of the great unknown. Kim described the video and son with the following words:
It was a natural choice for me to shoot the video in and around Christchurch where I’m originally from, as that region has a lot of important memories for me. There is also something special about showcasing New Zealand and it’s natural beauty, it’s a country I feel increasingly proud of.
North Carolina’s Earthly return with the beautiful winter cabin comfort and warmth of “Catholic” that provides some religious-ish electro-ambience to further compliment this holiday season courtesy of Edaan & Brint. Listen as rhythms are scraped across an organic array of textures, terrains, and atmospheres that feels like the sun is falling forward from it’s former place in the galactic astral plain. Check out our coverage of Earthly’s Noumenal Loom release Days here.
Violent Mae dropped a new rendering of “Birthday” off their album Kid that features Presidents of the United States of America’s Chris Ballew rocking Mark Sandman of Morphine’s two-stringed bass. Becky Kessler describes the stark intimacy with the following words:
“Birthday” is one of the most intimate songs for me. It’s about growing up and finding out you have the same needs, challenges and fears as an adult that you had as a kid, like you never really grow up or out of it. And sometimes hard times make you weaker, not stronger. There’s this lyric: ‘You’re all grown up for years now, it hasn’t killed you yet, but it’s made you weaker.’
BARRIO (fka ROOQ, featured on the Ras G produced Mochilla album Beats and the abstract truth) dropped the cassette Grand African Phase via Messac, France’s imprint/studio/workshop My Bags. The Cuba by France artist mixes 70s found LP samples in a rhythmic melting pop of that summons the styles and soul from African movements with some west coast leaning virtues (hear “Knocks (Lost Angeles)”, “Casualfornia (MindFuck)”, and more).
Off XL Middleton’s Tap Water album available now from MoFunk Records, check out the visuals from XL & Sal Makar for “You Know It’s True” featuring Diamond Ortiz that takes on the old school early 90s style of a vintage analog cable transmission from a public access style channel.
UK’s Hollow Hand will be available January 8 from Richmond, VA label Ongakubaka Records and you can dive into the pastoral lysergic green gardens and green gables now. Relics like “Talisman” recall folk-trod ways of yesterday, further wandering into the Ren-faire valleys of “Chariot”, to the sleepy yet wide-eyed/steel-eyed visions of “Phantasmagoria”.
Luke Sweeney (of VOWS, Montra, etc) shared some holiday cheer for the loveless and lonely with the warm piano lead single, “Loveless Christmas”. Maintaining a hop-along style progression like an old wild west saloon song, the isolating aspects of the winter season are recounted in an old-timey kinda way.
Dublins Meltybrains? return with the audio experimental fun found on “New Don” that presents a new dawn for the new guard of tune-smiths who are rewriting the rule books. More insights and sounds from the Irish group soon to follow in early 2016 via Little L Records.
Half Waif (also of Pinegrove) will release their new album Probable Depths in April, and we bring you their single for “Nest” that features percussion from Zack Levine and strings courtesy of Elena Moon Park. The Brooklyn trio presents visions from Nandi Rose Plunkett that takes flight from their brownstones for other safe dwellings accompanied an orchestral arrangement.
Brian Sendrowitz of Beat Radio shares his Frightened Rabbit cover of “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop” full of that minimalist-synth-audio glow to help celebrate the winter season off let’s celebrate the holidaze. Raise a toast, cuddle up, and keep warm to this chestnut.
We bring you the debut single “Communion” from Swedish four piece Oracle North (made up of members of The Touch), prepping their first EP chocked full of synth-kissed sounds of old and new romantic attitudes and sentiments.
Readying a new EP for early 2016, hear LA by Salt Lake City’s Goldensuns’ already much beloved new single “I Feel This Place”. The super-charged connections that bond people to certain places of familiarity from certain moments in time and in mind all spring to life on this nerve soothing number.
Canadian five piece from South Winnipeg Living Hour shared some sky soaring lead echo pop with “Seagull” from their forthcoming self-titled album available from Lefse Records in February.The result is music that basks in the light of ultra bright vocals that take flight above guitars and the ever uplifting waves of effect pedals with the controls set to helium forward overdrive.
Denmark by Spain by LA based trio The Controversy remixing their single “Two Voice” to add further bass and other rhythmic variations and considerations. Tracks that deal and dabble with the arts of trying to fit it are made up like a late night Los Angeles disco club event that boasts the most prime Euro synth & dance pop vibes.
Wolkoff dropped her video for “New York Grand” directed by her sister Zoë Wolkoff featuring an arresting array of visuals to compliment the pop pronounced electro beats that thrive in the tune of that fancy life. Having released her Sanford Livingston collaboration as Her Habits earlier this year with the EP Novertherner, Wolkoff continues to craft decadent pop pearls according to her sets of road maps, visions, and ever evolving instincts.
Watch the impressive guitar work of Jackie Venson (daughter of Austin’s own Andrew Venson) in the live video for “Back to Earth”, filmed by ChannelAustin and Double Punch Kick Productions. Planning the release of Jackie Venson Live for fall of 2016, the following video of her performing solo shows off some of her fancy riff work in a showcase of chords that are full of rhythmic creative energy.
Watch Emma Louise’s video for “Underflow” from Dylan Duclos & Isabella Vitelli full of statuesque arts of paint, platers, and angelic poses. Finishing up her Australian tour with Sam Smith, Emma signs to Liberation Music with news of her upcoming sophomore album Supercry available later in 2016.
For those in need of some special holiday solstice comforts, might we recommend the cozy cool shimmer and glimmer of BLAJK from Toronto and their Franco school single, “French Class”.
Hear “Plain Moon” from The Besnard Lakes’ upcoming album A Complex Coliseum Museum available January 22 from Jagjaguwar that provides a little warmth and coolness to the ice beam beacon from the winter moon’s snowy glow.
Doug Tuttle dropped the new single of trust falls on “Falling To Believe” off his new album It Calls On Me available February 19 from Trouble In Mind. Questions of creeds, criteria, and qualifications are relayed like a modern day singing, songwriting troubadour sorting out the systems of thoughts and beliefs through electric channels of expression and feeling.
East coast saxophonist Grace Kelly shares her first jam “The Other One” full of big brass pop strides that signals sounds to follow on her upcoming album Trying To Figure It Out available in spring.
Athens, Georgia’s New Madrid are readying their album magnetkingmagnetqueen available in April from New West Records’ Normaltown Records, sharing the hands off motorik charm of “Don’t Hold Me Now”. Let the swirling delivery from Phil McGill and the steadfast backing rhythm section of the band captivate your attention as one of the many things to look forward to from spring of 2016.
From director/cinematographer Adrian Buitenhuis, we bring you Kisses’ Zinzi Edmundson and Jesse Kivel’s “Control” from the new Hit City U.S.A. album Rest in Paradise. Filmed at LA’s Mack Sennett Studios with dad pop flair, Kisses continue to bring an unabashed new brand of sophisto-disco that is both indebted to all the big electric rhythm-makers of the past and those that have yet to enter the collectively acknowledged foray of like minded artists and lineages.
Vienna’s Hearts Hearts release their album debut Young through Tomlab on January 22 and we have the Eyup Kuş for “Hunter Limits” starring Luzia Oppermann exploring an ancient building. The limitations and confines of the conventional material world are here depicted in a mysterious mansion that furthers the meditative moods at work on Hearts Hearts’ new single.
From Chesapeake, Virgina with one of the best band names in the music game; Feral Conservatives’ album Here’s to Almost will be available January 22 from EggHunt Records (home of our buddies Manatree, OKO TYGRA, etc), and we have “Last Light” to provide one last taste of illumination before the curtain closes on 2015.
Holy Wave dropped their new 10″ The Evil Has Landed Part II and we have your listen to the sweet nap-wave organ-warped wonder that permeates from the single “Sueños”. With word of the band’s forthcoming album Freaks of Nurture available March 11 from The Reverberation Appreciation Society, enter the world where the effect of the chord hook blare and affectionate and yearning of vocals create a wave of their own devising that rises to live up to their own appointed moniker.
Check out Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan of London’s Ten Fé captured by Silent Tapes in the video for the electric-atmosphere pop of “In The Air”.
Night Beats dropped their own ‘eff the police’ kinda beat with wild and weird rocking single “No Cops” taken from their forthcoming Who Sold My Generation available January 29 from your friends at Heavenly Recordings.
Doug Burr dropped his album Pale White Dove Deluxe through Velvet Blue Music, and today we bring you the array of archival religious imagery for Doug’s demo version of “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”.
MONEY’s Suicide Songs will be available January 29 from Bella Union, and share a little bit of the aberrated but affectionate holiday spirit with us on the video for “A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year” to lend a little something for your very special xmas playlist for that special relapsing someone.
Powerkompany’s two-part album Fever & Chills will be available February 5 and we have your listen to the big bright dazzling single “Can’t Cry” that dries away all semblance of tears in the name for gigantic synth pop theatrics.
Montreal mood trippers She-Devils’ EP will be available January 15 and we have their new track “Where There’s No One” that drifts with a psyched-out impetus that showly makes it’s way toward the land where there is nobody existing at all. In Audrey Ann’s own words:
“Where There’s No One was written one night last summer when I was feeling especially distressed. It was initially just the organ loop, but then I brought it to Kyle and he added the arrangements. I think the song is about the vulnerability of showing your weaknesses to someone you care about and feeling rejected because it isn’t received with compassion. It was cathartic to take this sense of my own repulsiveness and transform it into something beautiful. To me of course beauty and ugliness are intertwined when it comes to emotions. I tried to say a lot without using many words as to not make it overbearing and to leave it open to interpretation.
Syvia is readying a new EP for February 2016, and we give you the new single “Anxious Animal” full of anthemic chord and note progressions to melt the snow and ice and welcome what wonders the new year may deliver. “Anxious” strikes the heart of pop animal instincts where Sylvia’s recitation of “it’ll never be enough” brings about the kind of insatiable hunger and thirst that the end of the year brings for all wide eyed dreamers and purveyors of new aesthetic breakthroughs.
From Brooklyn’s synth enthusiast duo PROM, hear Ella Zoller and Gabriel Stanley push the digital-electric dial past the parameters and confines of the life and death continuum with the post-life/post-death pop of “Not About Dying”. Stay tuned for further details on their upcoming release slted for spring.
Check out The Gromble’s sing-along electric-holiday buzz with “By Christmas” featuring visuals by Will Saba, filmed by Spencer Wiles, with set design courtesy of Kyara Kalb, featuring edited from Stefan Macarewich. This is one def for the fam and estended relatives that you haven’t seen in over half-decade’s time.
Sunflower Bean’s album debut Human Ceremony will be available February 5 from Fat Possum, and we have the ennui embracing single that is more fun than watching paint dry or staring at a brick facade on the scuzzy sweetness of wall gazing on the cyclone swirling “Wall Watcher” single.
Primitive World got the L/F/D/M remix treatment for the track “Azimuth” off the Purple Caps EP available now from R&S Records that realigns the synth and designated drum sequences for noewly arranged new orders of delights to dance and drive along with.
DUST drops their album debut Agony Planet January 22 on 2MR and we bring you the live video for “She Woke Up” ahead of their Brooklyn release gig at Good Room (also on January 22) providing you a taste of the wonderful/terrible yet fascinating interstellar antics of their upcoming record.
Watch the double video for PC Music and Chris Lee (Li Yuchun 李宇春 ) of Chinese pop fame collaborative for a maximalist a/v effect on “Real Love / Only You” directed by Kinga Burza & Finn Mactaggart.
Kool A.D.’s Week in Pop
East Coast by East Bay’s Kool A.D. (oka Victor Vazquez) gifted the world with the 100-track mixtape O.K. (following up 2014’s Work O.K.) and helps us close out 2015 with the following gift of his own personally picked Week in Pop guest selections:
Imma start out with some self promotion. I co-wrote, exec-produced and edited this found footage video for this 7-song EP with my wife Cult Days. It’s called “BOOM FOREVER”:
These are my cousins out in Chicago, Tray (Rest In Power) and Polo with “They Ain’t on Shit”:
Kool A.D. performing at Glasslands; photographed by Eric Phipps.
This is the magisterial homie Amaze 88 with an instrumental joint called “Me, You and Bruce”, probably my favorite video of his:
I fucks with this Fat Tony track heavy, he’s underrated as a singer:
KOOL A.D. performing at Glasslands; photographed by Eric Phipps.
This next joint came out a while back but it still slap, Dam Funk with Snoop Dogg, “Hit Da Pavement”:
Kool A.D. performing at The Whitney Museum; photographed by Tobia St Germain.
This is one of those rare videos that deserves all the hype it received, always been a big fan of everything she’s done. MIA, “Borders”:
And might as well end on some shameless self-promotion: KOOL A.D., “MAESTRO”:
Follow KOOL A.D. on Twitter.