Archive for the ‘MUSIC’ Category

New Order are one of the most unlikely success stories. When Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 18th, 1980 on the eve of their first U.S. tour, the three remaining members of the band — guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris — decided to carry on as New Order, drafting Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on guitars and keyboards later that year. Though their first album, “Movement”, would be heavily indebted to Joy Division’s spectre, their interest in synthesizers — and their frequent trips to New York — would quickly change their sound. 1983’s landmark single “Blue Monday” -is still the best-selling 12″ single of all time — set them down a path as club hitmakers, and sunny synthpop tracks like “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “The Perfect Kiss” could not be any further away from Joy Division’s original stark, morose sound.

Through all this, New Order remained one of the most idiosyncratic bands of the ’80s, refusing to put singles on albums, shying away from press interviews and generally not appearing on camera in their music videos. They also never put away their rock band instruments and did more interesting things with guitar, bass and drums than most of their peers at the time. Their catalogue is robust and full of great songs — many of which easily could’ve been singles beyond the obvious ones that everyone knows.

With their 40th anniversary this year, Here are some of New Order’s best deep cuts, which are essential listening to anyone who already loves “Blue Monday,” “Love Vigilantes,” “Age of Consent,” “Ceremony,” “True Faith” or “Regret.” They range from indie-guitar pop, to club-ready bangers, and the kind of moody, introspective dance-rock hybrids that could’ve only be made by them.

“Power, Corruption & Lies” and “Low-Life” are just perfect albums, and Side 2 of “Technique” is up there too. I also stuck with the original 1980 – 1993 era of the band. The records from the 2000s-on, no non-single song from that era really seemed worthy of this list.

New Order — who are still an active band (though without Peter Hook since they reformed in 2011) — are a fantastic singles band, and everyone should own “Substance” there’s so much more beyond “Blue Monday.”

“Dreams Never End” (1981)

New Order were still underneath the shadow of Joy Division in 1981, a hard shackle to shake. Unsure how to progress after the death of Ian Curtis, both guitarist Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook sing lead on New Order’s debut album, “Movement”, and both sound like they’re trying to mimic him. “Dreams Never End,” which features Hooky on vocals, is musically bright and sunny, with Hook, Sumner and Gilbert’s instruments swirling around Stephen Morris’ insistent, danceable beat. The Cure would crib liberally from this for their 1986 single “Inbetween Days.

“Procession” (1981)

Following their debut single, “Ceremony” (which had been played live with Joy Division), their next release was “Procession” which felt like a natural progression from Joy Division’s Closer, with glacial synths washing over a frantic rhythm section and Bernard Sumner’s brittle guitars. Recorded and released before Movement, “Procession” nonetheless feels past it, with Bernard Sumner coming into his own as lead vocalist. While a single, “Procession” didn’t make it on to the main track list for 1987’s Substance, but was instead relegated to the bonus disc of the CD. But it’s a pivotal song in their evolution.

“Turn the Heater On” (1982 John Peel Session)

Keith Hudson’s “Turn the Heater On” was Ian Curtis’ favorite reggae song, says Peter Hook in his Substance memoir, saying it was where Bernard Sumner “got the got the idea for using the melodica,” an instrument which would turn up in New Order songs like “Your Silent Face” and “Love Vigilantes.” Barney’s only playing guitar at the end, after he’s stopped singing,” adds Hook, only kinda joking that “That became the whole template for the band.”

“The Village” (1983)

Power, Corruption & Lies is a perfect record, and none of the songs were released as singles — “Blue Monday” was tacked onto the U.S. CD release — so every song could theoretically fit on this list. There are moments of sadness and desolation, but there are also songs of unabashed joy. In much the same spirit as “Age of Consent,” “The Village” bounces along like the first day of spring with Sumner singing “Our love is like the flowers / The rain, the sea and the hours.” The mid-section instrumental — with guitars, synthesizers and drum machines joining forces — remains one of New Order’s most magical moments.

“The synths are incredible from 1:45 so in your face but not overpowering … then they disappear – my whole taste in music seemed to change because of this song” – The Charlatan’s Tim Burgess on “The Village”

“Leave Me Alone” (1983)

Many of New Order’s most genius moments come from the interplay between Peter Hook’s bass — which is almost always played high up on the neck to where some mistake it for guitar — and Bernard Sumner’s guitar. Is there a more perfect example than on Power Corruption & Lies’ closing track? The bass hook opens the song, but it’s when the chiming guitar lead enters that “Leave Me Alone” truly blooms. (Gillian Gilbert adds further, crucial, counterpoint guitar lines.) A grey-hued portrait of loneliness (“On a thousand islands in the sea / I see a thousand people just like me”), it’s one of New Order’s crowning achievements, fading out with two more minutes of gorgeous instrumental melancholia.

“Thieves Like Us” (1984)

This is the big concession to the singles rule on this list. While “Thieves Like Us” went to No#18 in the UK in 1984, it does not have the stature of “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Temptation,” “Blue Monday,” “Sub-Culture,” “True Faith” or even LP tracks like “Age of Consent” or “Love Vigilantes.” But it is one of New Order’s best, most deeply emotive songs — it’s Peter Hook’s favourite track — that needs all six minutes and 36 seconds to work its magic. Bernard Sumner’s vocals doesn’t even come in till two-and-a-half minutes into the song, long after we’ve been seduced by the song’s NYC hip-hop inspired rhythm section and majestic washes of synths. While the song works well as an instrumental — it plays over the “making the dress” montage in Pretty in Pink — Sumner gives a great delivery with a whole lot of “Loves,” in his signature, fragile style.

“Lonesome Tonight” (1984)

“Lonesome Tonight” is, according to Peter Hook, New Order’s ode to Elvis Presley. Bernard Sumner was apparently obsessed with a version of “Lonesome Tonight” (where The King can’t stop laughing) and suggested to the rest of New Order they try jamming it on stage one night. That bit of C-F chord improvisation became this song, which Hook calls “a glorious tune even though it’s nothing like Elvis’, given away in true fashion as a b-side.” (It’s the flip to “Thieves Like Us.”) New Order rarely needed more than two chords to create something amazing (see all of Power, Corruption and Lies), and when the synthesizers crest halfway through, it evokes Joy Division’s “Atmosphere.” If you’re wondering, that is Peter Hook clearing his sinuses at the four-minute mark. “When Barney heard me hocking up phlegm into a handkerchief he suggested we put it on at the end because the contrast between something so beautiful and something so awful might be interesting. He was absolutely right.”

“Murder” (1984)

New Order have always had a way with instrumentals and this one’s a real tour-de-force, a pounding goth nightmare powered by Stephen Morris’ propulsive drumming, a sinister bass line from Hook and Sumner’s three-note, cyclical guitar hook. The song also makes great, creepy use of movie samples of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Malcolm McDowell in infamous big-budget softcore film Caligula. “Murder,” which has been covered by The Charlatans and K-X-P, was originally only released as a single in Belgium, but later appeared on the second disc of the Substance two-CD set.

“Elegia” (full version) (1985)

An ode to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores, specifically the pocket watch scene from A Few Dollars More, “Elegia” opens side two of 1985’s highly underrated “Low-Life”. While the five-minute instrumental is carefully paced, exploding into full Sergio Leone glory in the last minute, the original 17-minute version is even better. “Dylan Jones – then editor at id magazine –asked us if we’d like to do some music for a short 15-20 min art film,” Stephen Morris says. “We went into a studio in Wembley and did a marathon all night session. The film never happened, but we liked ‘Elegia’ so much it got edited down to fit on the LP.” As Morris says, “Hooky’s bass melodies on ‘Elegia’ are majestic.”

“Elegia” is one of three New Order tracks to also appear in Pretty in Pink (“Thieves Like Us” and “Shellshock” which appears on the soundtrack album, are the others), and you may have also heard it in Stranger Things, and the trailer for video game “Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain.”

“Sooner Than You Think” (1985)

Like “Power, Corruption and Lies”, “Low-Life” is a near-perfect album and picking from the many great songs is difficult. Following “Blue Monday” and “Thieves Like Us,” New Order really came into their own as far as blending rock and club music. While the albums that follow would more often than not have songs that were either “rock” or “synth,” Low-Life let things intermingle in wonderful and surprising ways. After a building, minute-long intro that is mostly guitar, bass and drums, “Sooner Than You Think” shifts gears and lets the keyboards take over. “A very unusual tune, showing exactly why I used to love New Order,” says Peter Hook in his memoir. “We were so versatile.” As the lyrics describe, the song was actually written after “a party in [New Order’s] hotel” in Zurich in 1984. “I think some members of the Furious Five were there, no Grandmaster Flash,” recalls Stephen Morris. “There was a very loud blaster in a very small room – other hotel guests were not amused – complaints were made, maybe I dreamt the Furious Five bit? But not the Swiss police though.”

Here’s a cool live in the studio version with Bernard Sumner wearing some very ’80s shorts:

“Face Up” (1985)

This one should’ve been a single. “When we first wrote “Face up” in early 1984 we thought it was the best thing ever,” says Stephen Morris. “Face Up” is another New Order song where two disparate parts have been grafted together, with an an atmospheric intro (“inspired by Caligula” says Hook) that then drastically shifts gears into music that all but demands you bounce up and down. Sonically, “Face Up” is pure ebullience, the kind few besides New Order can do with guitars, but the lyrics — “Oh how I cannot bear the thought of you” — are a decided kiss-off from a spurned lover. “I couldn’t understand why some people didn’t get Face Up’s euphoria, but maybe you had to be playing the drums to fully get that,” adds Morris.

“Way of Life” (1986)

As the ’80s progressed, New Order became more and more known as a synth pop band, but they remained a clever, inventive rock band on album tracks, as is evidenced by the entire first side of 1986’s Brotherhood. “Way of Life” closes out Side A, beginning with another gloomy fake-out intro before blossoming into a wonderful pop song with a chorus so infectious it seems impossible they would bury it this deep into the album. Hook says “We were trying to emulate ‘Age of Consent’ so I just played the riff backwards, and voilà.

“Every Little Counts” (1986)

New Order were guilty a few times over the years of what Peter Hook calls “five o’clock in the morning lyrics.” Sometimes that meant something special, like “you caught me at a bad time, so why don’t you piss off” (Power, Corruption & Lies’ “Your Silent Face”) and sometimes it gives you the opening lines to Brotherhood’s closing track. “Every second counts when I am with you / I think you are a pig, you should be in a zoo,” which Bernard Sumner cannot get through without laughing. (He also didn’t feel a need to do another take.) And yet, “Every Second Counts” is still pure gold, making great use of orchestral samples, harmony and Sumner’s winning “do de do de dooh” chorus. “Every Little Counts” is also a perfect album-closer, with a massive, woozy swell from their Emulator sampling keyboard — “with Barney holding all the keys down at once, using both arms” — and then a great final joke that definitely freaked out some vinyl listeners at the time.

“1963” (1987)

Like “The Perfect Kiss,” this b-side to 1987 single “True Faith” is a story-song about a doomed relationship — and perhaps firearms — set to ultra-catchy crystalline synth pop. There’s a case to be made that it’s better than the A-side (which was one of New Order’s biggest hits and their first entry into the Billboard Top 40). For people like Peter Hook who wished more of Peter Hook’s distinctive bass stylings made it into the the final product (it doesn’t show up till right before the slow fade out), Arthur Baker’s sublime remix adds in more string instruments — bass and guitar — throughout.

“Vanishing Point” (1989)

Both Stephen Morris and Peter Hook’s favorite song on 1989’s Technique, “Vanishing Point” is one of New Order’s finest electronic dance songs (and it really should’ve been a single instead of either “Fine Time” or “Run”). Like “Thieves Like Us,” this one is in no hurry to get to vocals, with the 90 second lead-in playing like an overture, leading us through the major melodic points; when Sumner does begin with “Grow up children don’t you suffer / at the hands of one another” it’s a cinematic experience. “Vanishing Point” has the best chorus on the album and the best breakdown and “drop” (before they called them that), that was clearly influenced by the two months spent in Ibiza making the album (and spending a lot of time at the clubs).

“Dream Attack” (1989)

The dance and rock tracks on Technique mostly stay in their individual lanes, but the album closes with the glorious “Dream Attack” that brings the whole record together, mixing ragged guitar solos, windswept acoustic guitars, sampled orchestra hits, sequencers and live drums — plus another great chorus — all together as only New Order can do. Bernard Sumner apparently had The Eagles’ “Hotel California” in mind with the song’s two-minute jam outro which, in their hands, works. Gillian Gilbert, who played those wonderful acoustic guitars, says, “To me, Dream Attack’ sums up the whole album. It’s bright breezy and uplifting…a good song to walk off into the sunset to.”

“Special” (1993)

New Order were not especially getting along in the early-’90s, but got back together to make a new album, as they were low on funds after their label Factory Records (which went belly-up the year prior) and their troubled Manchester club, The Hacienda, depleted their bank accounts. “Republic” was, by all accounts, not the most pleasant recording experience with Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook butting heads constantly. There’s not much of Hook’s signature bass on the album, but there is some unfortunate rapping by Sumner. Republic does contain “Regret,” one of their best-ever singles (a Top 40 hit in the US), and some of the old magic can also be found tucked away near the end of Side 2 with the sultry, moody “Special,” which is driven by Hook’s bass and another great chorus. Lyrically the song is perhaps referencing the demise of Factory Records or the group itself: “It was always special, like water down the drain.” New Order went on an eight-year hiatus not long after its release.

Both New Order and Joy Division were among the most successful artists on the Factory Records label, run by Granada television personality Tony Wilson, and partnered with Factory in the financing of the Manchester club The Haçienda. Speaking in 2009, fellow synthpop musician Phil Oakey described New Order’s slow-burn career as cult musicians as being unusually prolonged and effective: “If you want to make a lot of money out of pop, be number 3 a lot. Like New Order did

Peter Hook suggested that the band should stop touring. In early May 2007, Hook was interviewed by British radio originally to talk about his contribution to the debut album of Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell’s new band Satellite Party – and stated that “Me and Bernard aren’t working together.” Further complicating the news, a website with support from New Order management, reported that according to “a source close to the band”, “The news about the split is false… New Order still exists despite what [Hook] said … Peter Hook can leave the band, but this doesn’t mean the end of New Order.” However, Sumner revealed in 2009 that he no longer wished to make music as New Order.

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing and child

Black Country, New Road are a band who seem to have been tipped for the top ever since they first emerged from a recording studio, pedalling their musical wares. Since first stumbling on their track Athen’s, France back at the start of 2019, I’ve been following their releases with admiration, although nothing has quite sparked my interest in the same way as that first track; that was until this week when the band shared their new single, Track X.

Formed out of the ashes of another band Nervous Conditions, seven-piece Black Country, New Road are one of today’s definitive dark and jazzy post-punk bands. Having released just two singles for Dan Carey’s buzzy Speedy Wunderground label (black midi, Kate Tempest), their surreal sound has already drawn praise from outlets, including Paste and Stereogum, and they were due to storm SXSW this year. While their amusing, slightly gothic debut single “Athen’s, France” dropped Phoebe Bridgers and Ariana Grande references, their nine-minute follow-up “Sunglasses” built to a shrieking horn-laden climax for the ages.

The latest track to be shared from the band’s upcoming album, For the first time, out next month on Ninja Tune, Track X was originally written back in 2018, before being shelved in favour of more immediate thrills suited to the live arena. During the sessions for their new album, the band resurrected the track, embracing the possibilities of the studio to create something expansive and ambitious, as the half-spoken vocals combine with flutters of guitar, stabs of saxophone and violin flourishes.

The music video for ‘Track X’ is about nostalgia for being a kid and happy times with family, stupid moments with friends like feeding Cheetos to a giant horde of birds in a Walmart parking lot, and for Tumblr and YouTube videos of cats. But at the same time balanced with this is a comment on the transience of the past, like with the shots of the abandoned houses, and a sense that maybe what we remember isn’t quite real, like the idealised stock footage. I wanted to combine all of those emotions and thoughts together and make a 2000s style American home video – Bart Price

This is a track that never seems to stand-still, always shape-shifting across its five minutes, whether its mellowing into the Fanfarlo-like chorus, or embracing their more idiosyncratic side in the almost jazzy flourishes of the slowly unwinding outro. Sometimes brilliant, always intriguing and destined for huge success in the year ahead, one thing is for certain; this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Black Country, New Road.

Taken from the album ‘For the first time’, is out February 5th via Ninja Tune Records.

Adeline Hotel is the New York-based psych-folk project led by Dan Knishkowy. Sharing his music with the world since back in 2014, Dan has this week announced his latest album, “Good Timing”, as well as sharing the first two pieces from it, Photographic Memory and I Have Found It. In many ways Good Timing is like an origin story for Adeline Hotel’s music, returning to the roots of Dan’s songwriting by recording, “ostensibly aimless music”. This is a world of improvisation and layering, just Dan at his guitar producing work that seems to tap into the middle ground of instrumental ambience and the American Primitive influence we’ve come to expect on his music.

Nodding to artists like Jim O’Rourke or William Tyler, on these first two tracks, without even uttering a word, Dan seems to have hit on something deeply personal, this music feels like an extension of himself, songs woven from the strings, delicate and beautiful spiders-webs of guitar. While beautiful, these are also deceptively simple, unadorned, never knowingly over-thought, the records are free from studio-trickery or any danger of overworking, tracks that are at once raw and fragile, a reminder that the roots of punk, folk and neo-classical composition all lie with a human at their core. Dan has suggested his process for Good Timing is, “the closest I’ve ever gotten to the source”, and as a result this feels like the most open, honest and quite possibly exciting he has ever sounded.

http://

“Good Timing” is out February 19th via Ruination Records.

See the source image

The most trivial encounters can lead to great songwriting observations. Years ago, ‘80s rock icon John Mellencamp was driving along Interstate 65, weaving his way through Indianapolis, when he spotted a black man holding a black cat while lounging on his front lawn. The juxtaposition of the man’s cool, calm demeanor and the interstate’s relentless traffic stood out to him. Mellencamp later put pen to paper to write “Pink Houses,” a hit single from his 1983 studio album, “Uh-Huh“.

“[The man] was sitting on his front lawn in front of a pink house in one of those shitty, cheap lawn chairs. I thought, ‘Wow, is this what life can lead to? Watching the fuckin’ cars go by on the interstate?,’. But it was much more than that.

He continued, “Then I imagined he wasn’t isolated, but he was happy. So, I went with that positive route when I wrote this song.”

Lyrically, the song takes a straightforward, literal approach. “There’s a black man with a black cat / Living in a black neighbourhood / He’s got an interstate running’ through his front yard,” he depicts. “You know, he thinks, he’s got it so good / And there’s a woman in the kitchen cleaning up evening slop / And he looks at her and says, ‘Hey darling, I can remember when you could stop a clock.”

The chipper hand claps and generally groovy tone is deceiving. In observing one man’s existence, he takes great issue with American life, at large. In fact, he has stated the song isn’t what many think it is. “This one has been misconstrued over the years because of the chorus – it sounds very rah-rah. But it’s really an anti-American song,” he said. “The American dream had pretty much proven itself as not working anymore. It was another way for me to sneak something in.”

The song’s meaning has long been misinterpreted. First, Ronald Reagan used the song in his 1984 reelection stops, and secondly, in 2008, Republican Senator John McCain used it for many of his political rallies and events. As he remembered it, in a 2009 interview with NPR, Mellencamp called up his rep Bob Merlis. “What happened was that I called up my publicity guy. Bob said, ‘You know, McCain’s using your song.’ I said ‘Well, he can use it if he wants to, but you probably ought to write him a letter and say, ‘You know, not only that you guys are using it, but so is Barack Obama, so is John Edwards, so is Hillary Clinton, and you should understand that Mellencamp is very liberal, and do you really think that it’s pushing your agenda in the right direction? I mean, you’re just really falling in line with all the other liberal candidates. Maybe you guys should rethink using the song.’”

He added, “We didn’t tell him not to use it. We just wrote a letter that said, ‘You guys might want to rethink about using this song,’ and they quit using it.”

McCain immediately stopped using both “Pink Houses” and “Our Country” at his events.

Mellencamp admitted he wished he would have built a stronger, more meaningful third verse. “I’ll hear a song I wrote many years ago called ‘Pink Houses’ on the radio, and I’ll think, ‘Man, I wish I would have spent a little more time on the last verse,’” he articulated to American Songwriter in 2005. “I never really view my songs as done. I just think they’re abandoned. You think, ‘Okay, well, I’m in the studio now, and now it’s time to think about what the guitar player is going to do, and what the bass player is going to do, and what the drummer’s going to do.’

“So once you get to that point, the song is pretty much abandoned,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to roll with what these musicians try to do with the song.”

“Pink Houses” became an undeniable hit.

Sometime around 1966, my mother who worked at a Drum store Yardley’s in the centre of Birmingham told me about a band called The Yardbirds. She bought an LP on her way home from work and played it on our family Dansette stereo usually reserved for Sinatra Jack Jones and Matt Monroe. 

“Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds” was released on the Epic label in 1965. It’s an underrated record and well worth revisiting or discovering. The Yardbirds are rarely mentioned these days in the template of musical discussions concerning rock history, and then only for the guitar slingers comings and goings of Clapton, Beck, and Page. It’s amazing how sophisticated this young group sounded and how original they were. In 1965, most groups couldn’t help but be influenced by the Beatles, but the Yardbirds had their own thing, in particular, long, dynamic one-chord vamps that could build an audience to a frenzy.

On “Rave Up”, these tracks are paired with catchy pop songs that sound cinematic and – certainly – ambitious. Side one is a studio record with Jeff Beck on guitar, Keith Relf on vocals and harmonica, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, Paul Samwell-Smith on bass, and Jim McCarty on drums.

Side two contains all live tracks, with Eric Clapton replacing Jeff Beck in the guitar chair. Interestingly, the album has “I’m a Man” represented twice – side one with Jeff Beck, and side two with Clapton

Side one opens with “You’re a Better Man Than I.” It’s hooky and nice enough, but not necessarily my favourite song on the LP. “Evil Hearted You” follows with a memorable melody and some wonderful thrashing guitar work by Beck.

The record really gets in gear on “I’m a Man.” Recorded in 1965 at Chess Studios in Chicago, this track exhibits the Yardbirds’ one-chord-vamp excursions that combine a driving gospel aesthetic, along with 21-year-old Beck’s aggressive psychedelia.

Beck was always great, and to my ears he just keeps getting better. This kind of dynamic performance had to be developed organically, in the community of late-night teen erotica, in a nightclub with a crowd manipulated by band dynamics.

The track is super-eventful, too, with ascending progressions, guitar mania, and jarring, but successful, tempo changes. It’s followed by the album’s only original band composition, “Still I’m Sad,” a unique recording that combines Gregorian chant-style backing vocals, an Ennio Morricone–like musical arrangement, and a terrific lead-vocal performance.

Side two has my favourite Yardbirds track, “Smokestack Lightning,” where the Yardbirds again play a hypnotic, frenzy-inducing vamp. Everyone is very familiar with Clapton’s history, but this track is particularly impressive.

Clapton is totally in the pocket, and bends and grinds the theme lick for all it’s worth. He makes this vamp as addictive as potato chips, and every two bars this listener wants more. Despite being a bit musically schizophrenic, Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds has many high points. Sure, the music alternates between radio hits and blues explorations, and yet it all hangs together.

Yin and yang seemed to be more accepted back in the day, with groups like Cream, Zappa, the Beatles, and others presenting dual personalities, and with no explanation needed. That said, Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds never feels herky-jerky.

Realizing how young these guys were at the time, I’m impressed by how evolved the Yardbirds sounded. I would bet these performances against the 1966 Rolling Stones and many blues groups of that era, because the Yardbirds rose above reverence and mimicry and explored their own thing. 

Daily Dose: Cheekface, "Dry Heat/Nice Town"

One of the few bands on this list who’ve actually already released their case for being one of 2021’s most intriguing bands, Cheekface released their brand-new album, “Emphatically No”, through New Professor Music. The record finds the Los Angeles-based trio contrasting the mundane nature of everyday living to the background of a world in chaos, it takes a dark-side to find comedy in the face of the void, yet somehow Cheekface seem to manage it, on Best Life they note, “everything is normal”, with the conviction only someone who knows that to be a complete lie can manage.

Cheekface is a catchy band from Los Angeles with clever lyrics like “life is long like a CVS receipt.” Think Parquet Courts meets They Might Be Giants, maybe.

Musically, Cheekface seem to exist in the lineage of American talk-singers, from Jonathan Richman through to Stephen Malkmums, and more contemporary artists like Car Seat Headrest and Savage Mansion. This a record of strutting bass-lines, guitars with the angularity of post-punk, only without all the po-faced seriousness normally associated with the genre. At the centre throughout are the dual vocals of Greg and Amanda, trading comical lyrical barbs as they discuss geopolitics, mental health crises and narcissistic fascists, mentioning no names of course. If that’s all sounding a little self-congratulatory, worry not, like Jeffrey Lewis or Scott Walker, Cheekface aren’t looking down on the world, they’re very much part of the joke, as Greg notes, “no one else is the punchline of these lyrics…if me and Mandy are poking fun at anyone, it’s us”. If the current state of the world needed a soundtrack to poke a little fun at the darkness, then on “Emphatically No”, Cheekface might just have written a perfect contender.

http://

1. “‘Listen to Your Heart.’ ‘No.’”

Greg Katz: This is obviously a song about the negative messages your brain sends to you when you are suffering with a mental illness. It was the last song we wrote before we started recording stuff for this album. We recorded almost the whole album at New Monkey in LA with Greg Cortez recording and mixing, including this one.

I remember when me and Mandy were writing this one, getting the hook was pretty easy, but I was having a really hard time coming up with a melody for the verse. I must have improvised, like, 25 different ideas that didn’t work. Then Mandy was like, “Well, I think it should be this!” And she sang the first four notes of the song. I was like, “Why did you let me torture myself trying to come up with something when you knew what it was supposed to be the whole time?” I’m incredibly grateful to have Mandy as a writing partner, even though she sometimes likes to watch me suffer.

Amanda Tannen: I’m so thankful to have found Greg in Los Angeles after moving from NYC. From when we started the band up until March, almost every weekend we would get together to write songs. Whatever song came out that day normally would reflect how we were feeling that week. I remember while writing this one I was getting more comfortable with saying “no” in general. But also feeling judged by so-called “self help” fads. You can say “no” to anything supposedly good for you, or bad, reminding myself that only I can make that decision for myself. 

2. “Best Life”

GK: This is one of three on the album that we recorded in Brooklyn with Jeff Berner at Studio G. The opening line, “Everything is normal,” had been in my notes for quite a while, and I’d written several songs trying to use that line. But that lyric finally found a home in this one. The guitar lick that plays eight bars in, that was what started the song idea. I think I was trying to channel the slippery lick from “Satan Is My Motor” by Cake. 

AT: We were in Brooklyn in mid-February at the end of traveling to three cities to play. To top it off we recorded with Jeff at Studio G, at the end of the trip. I’m so happy we fit it in! It was so much fun for me to be back recording in Brooklyn. It had been over a decade since I had recorded anything in the city. We even started the day off with some good bagels. Perfect day. 

3. “Call Your Mom”

AT: At the time of writing this one I think we had a handful of mid-tempo songs. For personal reasons, we needed a fast one. Punk songs are good for my mental health. 

GK: The title lyric, “They want your attention 24/7? Resistance is easy, call your mom,” is about how the federal government tries to insert itself into our lives constantly and consume all our attention to consolidate power. Ignoring it is an act of rebellion, in my opinion. This song has a ripping guitar solo from Devin McKnight of Maneka (and ex-Speedy Ortiz) fame, and the laser gun sounds are him on guitar too.

4. “Crying Back”

AT: I consider this one a chill walking-while-wandering song, which I can always use more of in life. I remember my one mixing note was more shaker. Love the shaker in this one, it takes center stage. Echo’s got talent. 

GK: My favorite part of this song is that the pre-chorus is the same chords as “Cruel to Be Kind” by Nick Lowe. That was not intentional. But we had learned the song at band practice once for fun, and Mandy pointed out that we ripped off the changes for this. The lyric “No pockets for your phone in your surgical gown” was written on my phone in a hospital emergency room after I got in a car wreck. 

5. “Wedding Guests”

GK: We wrote this one with our friend Brijesh Pandya, who’s an amazing drummer and songwriter in LA. He was like, “I have this monster riff saved in my phone that I don’t know what to do with,” and it became this song. He also kicked in the lyric about “a man, a plan, a plain bagel, and an omelette” and a couple more of the good punchlines in the verses. I remember when we were recording this song we were listening to “99 Problems” and “Crazy in Love” to see how to give the song some more lift in the chorus, hence the bell loop that you hear there. That’s the Mellotron Hammond sound beaming through at the end. The other keys were a toy Casio.

6. “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Calabasas”

GK: One influence we came back to a lot while writing this album was Minutemen. They don’t get the credit they deserve as both an influential LA band and a thoughtful political band. This one is a pretty direct reference to them, down to the lyric “What makes a man want to be a referee” that references their What Makes a Man Start Fires? album title. This didn’t make it into the final version, but we also recorded some mariachi trumpet overdubs and Greg Cortez on nylon guitar as a nod to Calexico’s version of Minutemen’s “Corona.” Cooler heads prevailed and those ended up on the cutting room floor, i.e. a muted Pro Tools channel. 

AT: While writing this, Greg had to explain to me where Calabasas was. The LA area is still new to me after nine years. I remember starting the lyrics by riffing off of bottled water brands. 

GK: Calabasas is a place, but it’s also, you know, a metaphor.

7. “Original Composition”

GK: This one nods to Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part 2.” I thought the guitar solo should be one note, but Mandy said it should be two notes, and she was right. Echo really knocked the drum groove out of the park on this one, in my humble opinion. I improvised the whistling hook at the beginning and end of the song when I was waiting for the mic to come on to record vocals, but it ended up sticking, even though I don’t like songs with whistling in them.

AT: Another walking song. Whistle while you walk. I love guitar solos, this one needed two notes. Simple.

8. “No Connection”

GK: Another song where the Mellotron gets a look. That’s the Mello plucked strings at the top and the Mello harp glissando. Echo played the toy piano on that nine chord that opens the song. Before writing this one, we’d covered “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez at a few shows, and it has a sample of “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads that plays through it. I think that really called our attention to the super simple disco kick drum pattern in “Psycho Killer” that gives it so much power. We used that kick drum pattern in the chorus of this song and in a few other places on the album, including the next song on the album, “Emotional Rent Control.” Also, I want to go on the record saying sorry that the guitar solo in this one is so long.

AT: When asked if the guitar solo was too long, I said no, should it be longer? And yes, up the fuzz pedal. If you can’t tell, I’m a huge Dinosaur Jr. fan. While recording this batch of songs we would take dinner breaks and eat vegan taco salads. Mmm, Cheekface taco night. We try to keep dinner light, combatting the dreaded food coma.

GK: In my old band, we lost a half day to burrito comas in one session. Never again! In my meandering experience, you forget to eat in the studio, then you overeat when you realize you’re starving. Terrible for the blood sugar flow, and it means you play worse as the day goes on. So now I always pull up to the studio with a fresh baguette, a couple bags of baby carrots, roasted almonds and a couple tubs of hummus. I spread them all out in the control room to start the day. Keeping a low-level semi-healthy nosh going throughout the session means that no one is ever tracking during a calorie crash. That’s our tip for the other productivity-conscious bands out there.

9. “Emotional Rent Control”

GK: This one we started writing a few weeks after Ric Ocasek died. We definitely wanted to give a direct nod to The Cars. There’s a lot of Cars-inspired moves in our songs, like the Moog solo in “Dry Heat/Nice Town.” So with this one we wanted to go straight for a “Just What I Needed” vibe to pay respects to the legend. Also I’d been listening to “Highway to Hell” a lot by AC/DC around the time we wrote this, so this one has the tom-tom thumping pre-chorus like that song, and also the bass dropout after the chorus that lets the air in. Last thought: every single one of Mandy’s bass lines is pretty great, but this one is especially nasty.

AT: Sometimes we write songs by looping a riff over and over—bass or guitar. After playing that riff a while, I end up picking what I think beat one is, but a lot of the time it’s not the same one Greg is thinking, it can make the interplay between guitar and bass have a push and pull in places, which I love. 

10. “Big Big Friend”

GK: This was the last one written that went on the album, it was written at the top of 2020, and it was recorded last, in February 2020, and it kept evolving pretty much until we recorded it at Studio G in Brooklyn. The quiet guitar solo with the harmonics was in the original demo, but the loud guitar solo right after was added in the last band practice before we recorded it. It’s a song about how hard it is to thrive in a big bureaucracy like a university.

11. “Loyal Like Me”

GK: This one is the oldest song on this album—we wrote it before we recorded our first album, Therapy Island, but it didn’t make the cut for whatever reason. It was one of several efforts to do something like “Anything Could Happen” by The Clean, which is one of the greatest indie rock songs ever, but it didn’t come out very similar. The song is about how I take other people’s generosity for granted. It’s a sad song to me because I feel guilty about doing that, but I guess everyone else does it too. Echo does some pretty nifty drumming under the second verse.

12. “Do You Work Here?”

AT: We wanted to write a darker-sounding song, with some big distortion. I remember I was listening to a bunch of psych rock at the time—B.R.M.C., The Warlocks, Black Angels, and Autolux, who are one of my favorite LA bands. The effects to Greg’s voice were added at the end and fit so well.

GK: Oh yeah, Greg Cortez killed it with the reverb and delay throws in the mix. I think we were like, “Why don’t you try some delay throws?” And he was like “OK, where?” And we were like, “We don’t know, everywhere?” The stuff you hear was all his first pass.

13. “Don’t Get Hit by a Car”

GK: One day we came into our practice space to write, and I think Mandy had just watched a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest, and she was like, “All their songs have that same groove, can we try something with that feel?” So we started that new-jack drum groove and draped the chords from “Sweet Jane” on it. To me it sounds more like “Jack & Diane” than it sounds like either of the actual inspirations. Not gonna lie, I feel really exposed by the lyrics on this one, hence we buried it at the end of the album. But shouts to Lena Dunham, hope she doesn’t take us on The People’s Court for name-dropping her. It’s all love, Lena!

Originally Released August 12th, 2020
Music and lyrics by Cheekface

Amanda Tannen on bass guitar and backing vocals
Greg Katz on vocals and guitar
Mark Echo Edwards on drums and percussion

Although one of the few artists signed to the brilliant Keeled Scales who have not officially announced they’re releasing a record this year, Renée Reed might just be the most intriguing of the lot. Renée is a musician very much in the family tradition, her Grandfather was an Accordion-playing bandleader, her Uncle a renowned folklorist, her family home and her parents businesses, epicentres for Creole and Cajun-music. In many ways Renée continues the family tradition, and yet in others she’s entirely re-inventing it; very much a product of the modern world, Renée’s music takes the deep-set roots of her forebears and crashes them into contemporary sounds from Cate Le Bon to Françoise Hardy.

Although Renée has been drip feeding her music into the world since back in 2016, last year was something of a step-up, with the release of a pair of intriguing singles. The first offering, Out Loud combines a disarmingly rapid flutter of choppy guitars and percussive vocal inflections, while “Until Tomorrow” is a meandering Southern-folk song, Renée’s tremulous vocal accompanied by a slither of guitar, reminiscent of Vera Sola or labelmate Tenci. With the tantalising promise of, “plenty more to come”, Renée Reed is well placed to be one of 2021’s break-out stars.

released July 3rd, 2020
Written and performed by Renée Reed.

Thank you, Keeled Scales.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Signed to the ever-excellent Dalliance Recordings, Ailsa Tully’s music seems to exist at the centre of a particularly beautiful storm. Existing between the worlds of minimal electronica, folk and choral-music, Ailsa finds influence as much in the rolling greenery of her native Wales as she does in the music of contemporaries like Gia Margaret and Mary Lattimore.

Ailsa’s most recent single, “Drive”, was her first for Dalliance, and suggested an artist more than ready to take their place in the limelight. Inspired by a desire to escape the banal and embrace a more exciting future, Drive is a song of escapism, perfectly delivered by Ailsa’s stunning vocals and gorgeous entwined layers of bass and guitar. Ailsa’s music feels like a blessing, a moment of blissful calm in a fast moving world, and with the promise of a new single early this year, and hopes for a whole lot more, she looks well destined to become one of 2020’s most exciting new voices.

http://

Gillie Rowland – Guitar
Vincenzo Grande – Guitar
Heledd Owen – Drums
Elin Edwards – Clarinet

Ailsa has received support from BBC Radio’s Huw Stephens, BBC Introducing and Hoxton Radio. Her most recent accomplishment is signing to Dalliance Recordings 

A new face on the thriving Bristol Music Scene, Clara Mann first came across music when growing up in the South of France surrounded by Classical sounds, including everything from choral pieces to chamber music. Inspired Clara went on to become classically trained in both piano and voice, elements she incorporates into her new-found sonic world, which could be loosely classified as folk music. Teaming up with Sad Club Records, Clara recently shared her debut single, “I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today”, the first taste of an EP, due later this year. Clara Mann’s luscious new single ‘Thoughtless’ is out 20th January with her beautiful EP ‘Consolations’ out 24th February.

Recorded in an isolated collaboration with the help of Benjamin Spike Saunders and Bugs’ Alice Western, I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today is a slice of beautifully gentle folk, as Clara’s rich vocal is accompanied initially by a gentle flutter of acoustic guitar, before being joined by the warm buzz of distant violins. It’s a sound akin to contemporaries like Dana Gavanski or Shannon Lay, yet like those artists it also has a timeless quality, equally indebted to Shirley Collins or Molly Drake. Despite the lofty comparisons, there’s a freshness and an integrity to Clara Mann, a voice bringing something new to a genre as old as the hills, and quietly marking herself out as an artist with a hugely bright future.

 

Tucson, Arizona interdisciplinary artist Karima Walker walks a line between two worlds. Aside from her long resume of collaborative work with artists in the diverse fields of dance, sculpture, film, photography and creative non-fiction, Walker has long nurtured a duality within her work as a musician, developing her own sonic language as a sound designer in tandem with her craft as a singer/songwriter. The polarity within Walker’s music has never been so articulately explored, or graced with as much intention, as on her new album, “Waking the Dreaming Body”.

Waking the Dreaming Body was written, performed and engineered entirely by Walker, with the exception of some subtle upright bass from C.J. Boyd on the song “Window I.” Producing the album on her own wasn’t Walker’s original intention, though; after flying to New York in November 2019 to develop some home-recorded tracks with The Blow’s Melissa Dyne, a sudden illness forced Walker to cancel the sessions and return home to Tucson to recover, and soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic ruled out the possibility of a return trip to New York. Instead, Walker decided to finish the album herself in her makeshift home studio. She spent the following months recording, processing and arranging her self-described “messy Ableton sessions” into densely harmonic arrangements of synthesizer, guitar, piano, percussion, field recordings, tape loops and her own dulcet singing voice, allowing trial, error and intuition to guide her way. The final result is a 40-minute dream-narrative of her conscious and subconscious minds that oscillates between the rich textures of her ambient compositions (as in the instrumentals “Horizon, Harbor Resonance” and “For Heddi”) and the melody and poetry of her melancholic, Americana-tinged song writing (as in the lyrics-focused tracks “Reconstellated” and “Waking the Dreaming Body”), their ebb and flow recalling liminal states of half-sleep where images and emotions are recalled and forecasted from the previous night’s dreams. Night falls in regular intervals throughout the album, forming a natural dialogue between waking and dreaming.

Walker explains:

“I wanted these songs to stand alone as complete worlds, and this required a shift in my usual way of writing. I found myself trying to escape from an excess of interiority by exploring outward, by thinking about the mirroring that happens when you seek connection to others and to the natural world—when you try to bring the outside in. I sought to make arrangements that swell at certain moments and barely hold together at others, moving with my breath and other rhythms connecting my body to the natural world. Ultimately, I was seeking to draw myself out, to reconstruct my personal narrative.”

“I see myself as an in between person I guess,” Walker continues. “Though I haven’t very explicitly brought my own personal history into my music, I think it’s there, and it continues to show up in its own ways and time. I am Arab, half North African/Tunisian on my mother’s side, but was raised in a very white context, with a lot of white passing privilege, especially as I’ve gotten older. But my journey into making music was so different. I kept falling in love with musicians and artists for a while before I realized that maybe I wanted to be so close to these people because they were doing something that resonated deeply in me. So there’s a way in which making music has been a way for me to overcome divides that I couldn’t quite articulate in other ways.

http://

“Waking the Dreaming Body” is out February 26th, 2021 on Keeled Scales / Orindal Records

All songs written, performed, mixed & produced by Karima Walker