Saturday Seven: Snowball II - Kelly Lee Owens - D.A. Stern - Tesla Boy - Port Juvee - Laughed the Boy - Vanbot

Snowball II - Anais & Me.

Background - Los Angeles’ own chameleonic shoegaze, indie rock, and noise collective Snowball II has announced the release of their third full-length album in the first year since the band’s formation. The album is titled Flashes of Quincy.  ­Just as on the first two Snowball II albums, band leader/producer Jackson Wargo took on nearly all instrumental responsibilities on these recordings; although, the album’s first single offers a very rare and special guest appearance by Kurt Heasley—founder and frontman of influential ‘90s shoegaze band Lilys.  The first single—entitled “CR-VUC”—exemplifies yet another unpredictable stylistic departure from Snowball II’s dreamy and acoustic sophomore release Doughnut Holes—which itself was a drastic generic departure from their feedback drenched shoegaze debut album.  Flashes of Quincy is slated for release mid-February 2017.

With this new album, Snowball II has resurrected and revived both the musical spirit and the production vision of classic 1990s indie rock—one is apt to expect Flashes of Quincy to have been recorded not in 2016, but in 1996—when Wargo was a mere four years old.   Keeping a DIY spirit, each of these songs was written, produced, performed, recorded, and mixed by Wargo himself at his personal studio in Southern California called The Doughnut Shop.  Though Wargo has taken on each of the myriad of roles needed to make this unique album, the skill that stands out as strongest is his songwriting.  Flashes of Quincy comprises ten exceptionally catchy songs that are filled with substantive lyrics that are as intricate as they are articulate.

In addition to producing three full-length albums in a single year, Snowball II also wrote and recorded a song for Gavin Weisen’s film The Runaround (to be released 2017), performed a Daytrotter session, contributed two songs to a Lilys tribute album sponsored by The Blog That Celebrates Itself, and contributed a cover of Cloud’s song “Desperation Club” for Practice Room Records’ compilation Secret Admirer. Bandcamp here.

'Anais & Me' is full of vibrant indie rock energy, along with a catchy melodic chorus. For a band that are so productive, they are certainly not compromising on quality.


Kelly Lee Owens - Anxi. (ft. Jenny Hval).

Background - Kelly Lee Owens announces her self-titled debut album, due March 24th via Smalltown Supersound, and shares lead single, “Anxi" ft. Jenny Hval. It follows the release of her “Oleic” EP, released this past fall. An album that bridges the gaps between cavernous techno, spectral pop, and Krautrock’s mechanical pulse, Kelly Lee Owens brims with exploratory wonder, establishing a personal aesthetic that is as beguiling as it is thrillingly familiar.

Before starting work on the self-produced album, Owens, a 28-year old Londoner, turned her keen ear towards dance music after working in a record store with techno producer Daniel Avery. Her voice and contributions can be heard on Avery’s Drone Logic. Since then, she self-released two white label 12”s, with the “Oleic” EP to follow.

Her debut solo album is first and foremost Owens’ vision, a record that exudes a startling level of intimacy even in its largest-sounding moments - such as “Arthur,” a percolating mixture of looped vocals and rustling rhythms that rides on a perpetual near-crescendo. The song is a tribute to the late iconoclastic musician and kindred spirit Arthur Russell. “He wrote music and stayed true to his vision up until the day he died, ” Owens explains. “He didn’t compromise as an artist, and those are the kind of people I look up to - people who know what they want.” On S/T Owens translates that self-assertiveness into a record that explores a variety of moods - sadness, anxiety, darkly shaded ecstasy - with a trippy-eyed clarity and confidence that only bodes well for the future. Bandcamp here and Facebook here.

 'Anxi' is already gaining a lot of attention and rightly so. This is a delicious dreamy electronic piece where the synths and vocals soar above a superb and trippy rhythm. Album eagerly awaited.


D.A. Stern - Miami.

Background - D.A. Stern shares his first video from Aloha Hola in the form of this Albert Brooks inspired gem ahead of the records release via Two Syllables on January 27. In D.A. Stern’s own words...

"I am a huge Albert Brooks fan and Real Life might be my favorite of his movies.  It's basically about a filmmaker, played by Brooks, who plans to make a feature out of footage he shoots of a real American family during their day-to-day lives; naturally, everything goes wrong.  The hilarious and beautiful montage that occurs during one of the family's happier spells depicts a typical all-American family living an all-American dream in slow-motion, yet we are aware that this is not the truth.  Beneath all of the smiles, ice cream cones, and board games, this family is being pushed to their limits by a selfish man with a vision.  The idea that not everything is as it seems and that things are different below the surface ties directly into what the song Miami is about." Facebook here.

'Miami' is a beautiful song, a surf meets indie rock piece is how I would describe it. The video may not actually teach the French how to make a proper montage, but it makes a fine support for the storyline of the song, without overwhelming this melodic track.


Tesla Boy - Avoid.

Background -  "Tesla Boy are huge in their native Russia. Blessed with choruses the size of entire cities and riffs that can stun at a thousand paces, it's little wonder that their homeland has embraced them. The band now have their sights set internationally, spending an increasing amount of time in the United States.

Russian pop music has undeniably come a long way since its shy development over the last 20 years, and has only just started to make waves within the international consciousness. Enter Tesla Boy, a quintessential Synth-pop/New wave project created in 2008 that was not only spawned from an era of hungry youth in ‘80s and ‘90s Moscow that eagerly sought out new and experimental pop music from abroad, but is leading the next generation of Russian electronic artists to take on the global scene with force.

Tesla Boy is charismatic frontman and producer Anton Sevidov, who from an early age learnt to speak the international language of music through his father’s old vinyl collection that included Ray Charles, Prince, Stevie Wonder and Blondie. From here, a clear affinity with ‘80s pop and soul from the US and Britain emerged, and has since played a strong role in crafting the Tesla Boy identity. From their beginnings with the release of debut single Electric Lady and first LP Modern Thrills in 2010, the sounds of Tesla Boy’s global influences are immediate, with their acclaimed follow-up single Split, produced to a high level with deep catchy melodies and disco undertones.

As only a preview to what is to come, it is obvious Tesla Boy are not to be mistaken with passing club trends that have come out of Russia in previous years. Tesla Boy carry a shiny pop sensibility, combined with sleek and sophisticated production that takes their nostalgic synth sound and punching soul hooks into the new wave era of EDM with global appeal. Facebook here.

Tesla Boy really get the balance right with 'Avoid'. Nothing over dominates the track, the synths are crisp, vocals smooth and flowing and the overall production oozes quality. Add in the hooks (as they have) and you are on to a winner, as I expect this may well be.


Port Juvee - Crimewave.

Background - Port Juvee have shared a new music video for the title track of their recently released album Crimewave. Vocalist Brett Sandford said of the video: "We wanted to combine some of the inspiration we found in the kitsch of old public access television style telethons with some nods to the underground radio scenes of The Warriors. The entire record was made in a chaotic time in our lives, and the track is about finding opportunities for change in those crazy times where you think everything's gone wrong. All the live footage was shot in our jamspace, this little concrete room in Calgary that's covered with graffiti, which is also where we recorded the Crimewave EP."

Port Juvee may call the plains of Canada home, but they are no stranger to international success. Having played a multitude of festivals including CMJ, Sled Island X-Fest and Rifflandia, the fivesome has also supported DIIV, Titus Andronicus, Twin Peaks, Sticky Fingers, Bleachers and The Orwells on tour. The band slipped into the global spotlight in 2014 when tracks from their Revenge EP were featured in Herschel Supply Company’s Spring ad campaign.

Produced by the band with help from Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend “Contra”), third studio album Crimewave moves seamlessly through the lackadaisical punk of "Bleached Out Soda Pop," "Trapped Underwater’s" pounding garage rhythms and the 80’s-inspired escapism of the title track. If you're heading to SXSW in March, you'll be able to catch Port Juvee there. Website here, Facebook here.

Third time in just a few months for Port Juvee on Beehive Candy, and this time it's a new video for the recent album release 'Crimewave'. Once again the distinct vocals and the bands recipe of blended rock styles, makes the song so attractive and re playable.


Laughed the Boy - Bell Rock.

Background - And the band tell us, "We had been playing shows around the area and while rehearsing we ended up with an album’s worth of fresh material. We headed into the studio soon after to record nine new tracks that will make up our debut full length LP. "Bell Rock" is one of these tracks". This second single is from Laughed the Boy’s forthcoming album “Here is Fine.” "You'll find the dreamy atmosphere of the song is set by hook driven guitar lines and complemented by wistfully moody lyrics".

The track is the follow-up to last year's well-received debut single 'Indifferent'. The single is part of their upcoming 9-track LP, scheduled for a February 10th release.

The record utilizes an honest and unpretentious look at 90s nostalgia, filled with hooky guitars and sing along melodies. Facebook here.

Having listened to the forthcoming album a little earlier today I think it's fair to say that 'Bell Rock' is a very good indicator of the overall sound and quality of what is for me, a fabulous album. As debut full length albums go, the band have struck some gold here, and deserve to be heard.


Vanbot - Collide (Krasnoyarsk).

Background - Swedes are well known for their forward thinking in design, fashion, healthy living and of course music. Their latest export, in the form of electronic-pop Vanbot, has been the talk of the town already. By distinguishing herself with Ester Ideskog’s hooky melodies, memorable song-writing and striking vocals, Vanbot is all about the highest level of pop craftsmanship.

‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ begins a new chapter in Vanbot’s musical journey by making this record less polished and more expansive on the production front. Whilst being noticeably led with its electronic beat, from the word ‘go’ the song incorporates spacious and brooding undertones in the style of Phantogram. Highlighted with a Poliça-esque electro-noir shade of colour, Vanbot knows just how to add ethereal authority around the edges to its very straight forward Annie and Noonie Bao-like pop structure.

Ester says: “’Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ was written after four days on the Trans-Siberian Railway, traveling through the deepest parts of Siberia. The temperature was just above zero, it was raining and we were passing through small villages and old industrial communities. It describes the collisions and the attractions in relationships, and having no choice but to accept the raw and un-retouched feelings. You know, it’s like the poem of David Jones: ‘It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply’.”

Taken from her forth-coming ‘Siberia’ album, ’Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ was released yesterday and distributed via Sony Music Sweden. Website here and Facebook here.

'Collide' is an imaginative and extremely well produced song. The electronic beat drives the track along in a supportive, rather than overwhelming manner, allowing the creativity of other sounds to blend with the dreamy refined vocals.