screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: September 2015

The Division Men Release Tranquilo Trail, a Live DVD

We first introduced you to The Division Men back in January. As we’re coming into the dark half of the year and a few short weeks before Samhain, what better time to revisit this darkly romantic Americana duo and enjoy their latest video, “Marionette,” taken from their live DVD Tranquilo Trail, just released on October 9. It’s both sensuous and ominous, taking its influence from their Texan roots with a delicious Gothic vibe.

The duo will be touring this autumn in Europe from mid-November through mid-December. They’ll be visiting Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Ahead of all that, there are a pair of Texas shows this month. See their web site for details.

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Introducing… Silver Shields

“And there at the edge of the periphery lies Virgil strung out with a murder of crows, licking at his furrow — eaming of his warmth. The words etched out of his chest read: ‘Highest Five’. The spell casts a paranoid stare, compelling symmetry to consume itself whole — and the doors of the void open out and in, over and over again for infinity. Any one will do. Through.”

Huh? OK, maybe I’m not esoteric or well-read enough to be able to make any sense of this, but I do know good music when I hear it. Hailing from North London, the trio released their debut 6-track EP in 2013, and they released their single, “I Wonder If You’re Thinking Of Me Now” back in August.

Dreamy and shoegazy with fuzzy guitars, swirling synth, ’60s-style psychedelic sensibilities and vocals and an incomprehensible press release. What’s not to like about London’s Silver Shields?

In poking around on their Soundcloud page, I came across something extremely pretty called “Blue.” Have a listen.

And here’s that debut EP, from 2013. I don’t see any indication of shows coming up or if this is the first single from an upcoming album, so if you like what you hear, follow them on Facebook to keep apprised of their plans. Wow, I see they only have 138 likes, so get in on this early, folks, and give this fine band your support!

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Silversun Pickups, Better Nature and Crowdfunding

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

It’s time to check in with one of our favorite Silver Lake, Los Angeles indie bands, Silversun Pickups. Brian, Nikki, Chris and Joe have a new album just out called Better Nature. From what I’ve heard of it so far, it sounds like it has all of the heart-pounding propulsion, musical sophistication and smooth/edgy vocals we’ve come to expect from this fine band. Lead single “Nightlight” has a beautifully executed dark and sensuous little film to accompany it.

As big a production as “Nightlight” is, visually and musically, “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” is a quieter, more personal story. It was written and is primarily sung by bassist/vocalist Nikki Monninger, who recently lost a friend. The video visually mirrors the introspective nature of the song, filmed in black and white and featuring close-ups of the band performing in what looks like a simple rehearsal room.

The music is beautiful, and it’s no surprise. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. With this new album, SSPU embarks on a bold journey of self-determination. Though I’m sure they had more creative and financial control with Dangerbird than they would have had with a major label, they have now left the indie label and have formed their own, called New Machine Recordings. This is a big deal, since Dangerbird put out every SSPU release since their 2005 Pikul EP. It’s also really great news for their many fans. As a band that has always had a strong online presence and a close involvement with their fan base, they’ve taken that relationship one step further with a very exciting PledgeMusic campaign.

PledgeMusic, similar to crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, lets artists market directly to their audience. This gives a band full control and maximum returns, and it gives fans the opportunity for a closer connection with their favorite musicians and the ability to buy exclusive merchandise. It’s a Win-Win situation.

For Silversun Pickups’ Better Nature release, just a small sampling of the delicious “premiums” that have been available, for different levels of pledges, are limited edition signed vinyl, art proofs, signed handwritten lyric sheets, signed drumheads and guitars, custom SSPU nightlights, disposable cameras with behind-the-scenes band photos, hoodies, handwritten postcards from the band, vinyl test pressings and, incredibly, a private Skype drum lesson with SSPU drummer Christopher Guanlao! Pretty amazing, right? And if you’re on a tight budget, you can spring for just the AccessPass, which lets you download the new album. This special pass also provides access to private updates from the band and behind-the-scenes photos.

Personally, I think this is the way of the future for all bands who aren’t at the top of the Billboard charts and selling out arenas and stadiums (which, let’s face it, is most of them). Instead of a corporate entity making promotional and marketing decisions, the band communicates with their audience directly and asks them for support. It’s a direct, honest exchange of art for financial backing, sans middleman. All creative control and financial compensation is kept where it belongs, with the artist. For the fans, nothing is more rewarding than directly helping their favorite bands make music, and in addition to being a part of the creative process and enjoying regular updates, they can come away with unique merchandise and special opportunities.

For their Better Nature album, the first on their own label, the band went back to Topanga Canyon and recorded the album with longtime collaborator Jacknife Lee. You can read more about the recording process and their decision to strike out on their own in their interview with the Albany Herald. They promise YouTube videos of studio sessions “writing the album, finding the right sounds to each song, and having lightsaber magic glowy sword fights.” They’ve also promised more shows, so keep your eyes peeled!

In the meantime, choose a bundle from their PledgeMusic campaign or order from Amazon or iTunes below.

Artist Links: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | bandcamp | instagram | youtube | Pledge Music Campaign

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New Zealand’s The Chills Return with Silver Bullets!

photo by Jon Thom

photo by Jon Thom

Well, here’s some fantastic news for New Zealand indie music fans. Dunedin legends The Chills are back after almost two decades with a new album. Silver Bullets, their first full-length studio release since 1996’s Sunburnt, is due out on October 30 on Fire Records. Yes, those Kiwis certainly take their time, but judging from the first two singles released to bloggers, “America Says Hello” and “Warm Waveform,” it has been worth the wait. In “America,” the dark and layered melodic magic and classic Chills sound is still there, with some nicely acerbic social commentary that takes direct aim at misguided U.S. policies and social breakdown, and the world’s quick forgiveness of past transgressions.

“But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring — inscrutable
For it’s a small world after all — a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans — as another empire expands…

But then America says hello — and the world says welcome home

For the everyday people aren’t free — and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed — as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom”

– America Says Hello

“Warm Waveform” brings a softer touch for a dreamy enveloping love song. Smoothly layered melodic bass lines and chiming guitars blend with steady, shuffling percussion and gently sung vocals to create a pretty, shimmering effect as it bounces along pleasantly and sensuously.

“In the blink of the night, you thawed my winter with your dawn.” – Warm Waveform

It is difficult to overstate the importance The Chills have had on the indie music scene in their native New Zealand and beyond. To trace the band’s roots, influences, members through the years and bands they’ve performed with is to take a magical journey through the rich history of New Zealand indie pop in the 1980s and 1990s. Toy Love, The Clean, Sneaky Feelings and The Verlaines are all brethren with their own legendary stories and esteemed places in music history. Tracing all the talented musicians who have been part of The Chills’ history takes a fancy chart on Wikipedia, with Martin Phillipps being the sole original member. There were two break-ups and two resurrections. In 2013, they signed with Fire and Far South and released Somewhere Beautiful, which was a live album of rare recordings from a New Year’s Eve party. They then released the Molten Gold single, Stand By (2014 Tour) and The BBC Sessions. “Molten Gold” appears on the new album.

And with that, we’re back in the present. Silver Bullets was recorded at Albany Street Studios in Dunedin, with James Dickson, Todd Knudson, Erica Stichbury, and Oli Wilson joining Phillipps. After many years of infrequent shows just in New Zealand and Australia, The Chills performed at sold-out shows in the U.K. last year. A Pitchfork article back in July indicated a full tour being planned for next year, with Phillips scheduled to play solo shows later this year.

Pre-order Silver Bullets on CD or vinyl from Amazon or iTunes below. And stay closely tuned to their Facebook page for tour dates! I’m assuming their official site will be updated. Eventually. Gotta love those Kiwis.

Artist Links: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud (via Fire Records) | Fire Records

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Introducing… An Intimate Evening With Michael Shaw

The storyline — mysterious, surprising and ultimately tragic. The music — haunting and familiar, though at the same time, unexpected, like the subject matter. What begins as a classic couple’s argument in bed turns into something more ominous and forbidden. This stunning miniature film noir for “Now You Know” is from Michael Shaw’s new project, An Intimate Evening with Michael Shaw. It was the final cut on his debut solo album, released in May, called This Is It. This breathtaking psychedelic journey strongly conjures Roger Waters and Pink Floyd with its soaring lead guitar, phase-shifting effects and dramatic vocals.

The album overall is bright and melodic, bursting with intimacy and warmth that celebrates the proud pop songwriting tradition of ’60s and ’70s artists like the Beatles, Queen, Badfinger, Electric Light Orchestra and the Beach Boys, a melding of influences from his Northern Ireland roots and time spent living in London and the San Francisco area. For as upbeat as it sounds musically, a closer listen to the lyrics uncovers darker emotions. In fact, Shaw wrote the album while isolated in a rented cottage in his birthplace of Antrim on the north coast of Ireland, where, as he said, he “surrendered himself to the solitude.” Back in California, he recorded his new music with bassist Colin Schlitt and drummer Kenneth Hard, two frequent collaborators, and guitarist Eli Nelson. It was a particularly difficult time for him, as his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the album was recorded a week after she died.

Naming his band An Intimate Evening with Michael Shaw certainly puts the pressure on to deliver something heartfelt, honest and true, which he delivers on 100%. As Shaw himself said, “I felt that I needed to kind of address some of the stuff that was going on around me and happening to me at that time, otherwise it would kind of fall short. I would just let stuff pour out of me. I think solitude enables that, if you’re just hanging out with yourself and you don’t have any distraction.

You allow yourself…you just become more free when you’re able to do that when nobody’s there listening to you. I think it just blends into more pure lyrical content.”

Artist Links: web | facebook | twitter | bandcamp | instagram | youtube | interview

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Introducing… Parlement and their Little Liar Video

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but this (very clever) video by Anglo-Spanish band Parlement for their single “Little Liar” (from their video Be Machinery, You Oughta Be In Pictures) seems like a not-so-gentle assessment of “blind love” from a bitter and jaded heart. It’s gritty both in style and in attitude.

“Come on out and tell our kids now they be brave
False illusions dancing on ones’ desolate grave
On the hillside lonely lambs stand all amazed
Mind one day they will be out for us with lion rage”

– Little Liar

Parlement has an edgy, noisy sound with garage and punk influences, though not without its tastefully melodic guitar licks and tightly-knit musical composition. Stylistically, they’ve been compared to The Charlatans, Stone Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM. The band features singer-songwriter Stefan Robert, drummer Carlos Arroniz, bassist Raü and lead guitarist Javi Bueno.

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Introducing… Wickerbird

When you listen to Wickerbird’s new song “Bugbear” from their imminent second full-length album, The Leaf Maker (out September 18), you can almost smell the fresh pine forest and hear the softly babbling brook. It was conceived after a few years of homesickness in New York City, after which he returned to his native Washington State. With elegance and majesty, Wickerbird (a.k.a. Blake Cowan) honors the spirit of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington’s Mount Rainier. This is where Cowan spent his time writing this new album, and the music shares in the location’s expansive quality. His musical collaborators? Crackling fires, the soft pattering of rain, rustling leaves in the forest and distant bird calls.

Cowan’s previous recordings were his 2012 debut The Crow Mother and The Westering EP in 2013.

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Introducing Communion Presents — New Concert Series at Brighton Music Hall!

There’s a new concert series in town. Communion Presents will be hosting shows at Brighton Music Hall that will feature 4-5 artists each month, a diverse lineup of national and international touring acts and local bands. Their debut show is Tuesday night, September 8, featuring Photocomfort (Boston), Conrad Sewell (Australia), Freedom Fry (France/U.S.), The Franklin Electric (Nashville) and Abadabad (Boston).

If you enjoy an exciting evening of music comprising multiple genres and new musical discoveries, this is most definitely for you.

::: Buy tickets from Ticketfly ::

Communion’s monthly U.S. residencies take place in New York, Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Louisville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Maquoketa Iowa — and beginning this fall, Atlanta and Boston. More cities will be added in October. Prior residency bands include Walk The Moon, Vacationer, Magic Man, Rubblebucket, Bear’s Den, Marian Hill and Catfish & The Bottlemen.

Communion was founded in London in 2006 by Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons), Kevin Jones (Bear’s Den) and producer Ian Grimble, and it became a thriving artist community for new bands. They’re involved in live promotion, recording and publishing, and have released music by Ben Howard, Gotye, Michael Kiwanuka, Tennis, Nick Mulvey, Willy Mason, Rubblebucket, Matthew and the Atlas, Bad Suns, Deap Vally, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Bear’s Den, Daughter and more. Communion presents monthly residencies in 15 cities across the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Their mission is to introduce emerging and established artists to fans around the world, while encouraging collaboration in a creative and supportive environment. Their shows are in venues ranging in capacity from 150 to 10,000.

If you like what you see and hear, tickets are available from Ticketfly — super cheap! Follow Communion Music on Facebook to keep apprised of new shows.

Communion Music: web | facebook | twitter | instagram

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Introducing… Avid Dancer

Photo Credit: Cara Robbins

Photo Credit: Cara Robbins

Looking for a little romance? It’s nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of, and you can indulge in your heart’s yearning free of judgement or shame with the latest single “I Feel It” by Los Angeles’ Avid Dancer. What better time to enjoy a song like this than in these waning lighthearted and carefree days of summer?

“She is love, she is love,
more than anyone I know.
She feels like the first time.
And love is big as the ocean,
I feel it in the bottom of my heart.
I feel it in the bottom of my soul.”

– I Feel It

The project of Venice Beach-based Jacob Dillan Summers (as romantic a name and location as I think a person can have), Avid Dancer released their hazy, dreamy and quite accomplished debut album 1st Bath earlier this year on Grand Jury Music, to big raves. Musically it reads like a soft psychedelic daydream, and even on “All Your Words Are Gone,” amidst the slightly wistful tone there is honest, sagely advise with a sense of optimistic hope, instantly believable thanks to Summers’ angelic vocals. Lovely. The band will be joining BØRNS for a national tour this autumn, and will also be performing with tUnE-yArDs as part of KCRW’s Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier.

It really is true that you can’t tell a book from its cover. The soft, delicate and dreamy vocals of Avid Dancer emanate from ex-Marine and drum corps champion Jacob Dillan Summers, and he’s joined on his debut by many friends that include Raymond Richards on vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion; Ozzy Carmona on guitar and keyboards; Eric Hargett on saxophone; Franck Fiser and Brian Marquez on drums; Adrian Rodriguez on bass and keyboards and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin and vocals.

Summers started playing drums in high school and won two national championships playing the snare in a drum and bugle corps. He ended up joining the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps for four years as a platoon guide. This unique history comes through in the unusual inspiration and starting point for his songs. As he told MIX in an interview, “When I first started playing guitar to write songs, I seriously thought I was creating new chords,” he says. “I use the drums to make sections in the songs, to structure the songs so a first-time listener can hear the song and feel comfortable. Now when I get to the drums, I try and make them as simple as possible so they just mimic the other parts.” He also has an audio engineering degree, which gives him the luxury of being able to create demos that are closer to his vision than most songwriters are able to do.

If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, Avid Dancer will likely be coming to a city near you very soon!

Avid Dancer On Tour

Sept 10th – Santa Monica, CA – KCRW’s Twilight Concert Series, Santa Monica Pier ^
Sept 20th – Sacramento, CA – TBD Fest
Oct 6th – Kansas City, MO – Record Bar *
Oct 8th – Dallas, TX – Club Dada *
Oct 9th – Houston, TX – Walter’s Downtown *
Oct 10th – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Jr. *
Oct 15th – Washington, D.C – Rock & Roll Hotel *
Oct 17th – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg *
Oct 19th – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom *
Oct 20th – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair *
Oct 21st – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church *
Nov 10th – St-Lambert, Canada – Petit Campus *
Nov 11th – Toronto, Canada – Horseshoe Tavern *
Nov 14th – Chicago, IL – Double Door *
Nov 15th – Davenport, IA – The Village Theater *
Nov 18th – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile *
Nov 19th – Vancouver, Canada – Fortune Sound Club *
Nov 20th – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios *
Nov 22nd – San Francisco, CA – The Independent *
Nov 23rd – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre *
Nov 24th – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern *

^ = with tUnE-yArDs
* = with BØRNS

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