Review of new self-titled album from American Wrestlers

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to achieve. Think of The Kinks. A song like “Waterloo Sunset”, the timeless Ray Davies classic, manages to be both easily memorable and emotionally complex all at once. Sometimes listening to a song is like a doorway to a different life. More than the sum of their parts, you know them instantly, yet the songs always have that quality. “Jungleland”, the epic Springsteen song off Born to Run is another. An entire landscape of striving and pain unfolds in a few minutes, pulling you in from the first notes, whether you hear it while buying a six in a bodega or after dropping the needle on to vinyl, surrounded by expensive speakers. The song doesn’t care – it still produces that unexplainable connection. There are albums you listen to, and there it is. You play it again. You still don’t know why exactly but it’s undeniable. That pull. And with a handful of simple, almost lo-fi songs, American Wrestlers have produced a raw, rough-hewn album of singular beauty.

No moments of glossy pretense. If art should feel like all the moments you can’t talk about out loud, then American Wrestlers is wrestling with art.

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Drenge

Drenge in New York City

Drenge in NYC
Live review – January 29 and 30, 2015

Like all things great, it comes out of nowhere and blasts your expectations to dust. Two tall, good looking guys in plaid and t-shirts, now accompanied by their new bassist, head up to the stage. You could call it another round of the epic battle of British bands trying to break America. But then you get to witness something completely different. Where finally you forget about it all, except what pulls you in like a hidden current under the surface. That incredible sensation of everything coming together to create a new element. More than the sum of its parts. Call it alchemy. Drenge are magic.

Watching people sing with the chorus, as Eoin shouts out “we can do what we want”, it’s like being freed from all constraints. It’s a song of desperation, not entitlement.

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DNKL - Wolfhour

My Review of Wolfhour by DNKL

DNKL

Photo of DNKL by Maximilian Konig

DNKL are three musicians from Sweden – André Laos, Claes Strängberg and Jonatan Josefsson. How did they spend their summer? Well, part of it playing big music festivals like Roskilde, Way Out West, and the Berlin Music Fest, while earning praise from all corners. Somehow, they also managed to find the time to create their stunning debut EP. Wolfhour magically captures the silken moodiness of the hours when the rest of the world sleeps and anything and everything is possible.

November, month of fogs and rain. The entry into the time of inner reflection and hibernation. It’s really the perfect moment to release this small, polished dark star into the world. It’s a little Trentemøller – Take Me Into Your Skin, a tiny bit M83- We Own the Sky, and a little – oh, who cares. DNKL has its own unique vibe.

The vocals are the equivalent of having someone wrap a warm, soft scarf around your neck and gently whisper lost thoughts in your ear, as the wind blows through the dark bare branches above.

Wolfhour, the title track, begins with deep drums that press through you and into you, but it’s far from club music. It’s electronica shoegaze deep dreaming, the vocals hovering over different strands of rhythm, a delicate touch to everything. Someone’s got ears here, as they say, and the threads weave through, never a fight for supremacy, never just one level – loud – for everything. It follows the bliss of dynamic range rather than volume.

Battles is the next track. You know how you listen to something a few times? Then a few times more, because you really like it? Then maybe the next day, or the day after, you turn it on again, a little anxious, filled with worry – that this time you won’t like it at all, or as much. It makes it even better when you feel the brilliant sense of wonder that the feeling is all still there, intact. The lyrics pour into your mind – “We start to remember who we were when we were young, who we turned out to be.” And when you wake up at 3am, half-asleep, half-silence broken by the trucks outside barreling past, it’s the sound that floats through, calming, the delicate echoing piano opening up the gateway to synths, the vocals over all of it, like a magician whispering to his tools.

Warm Dark Night might be my favorite. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the beats move through it like a warm spoon through caramel. It’s just hypnotic. Everything is allowed space to breathe and change, and it never loses momentum.

Hunt. Wait, this one is my favorite too. Subtle, beautiful, intense music to listen to as you walk deserted streets alone. That bass sound.

And then there are the remixes, which unlike so many others, actually are about the songs, and exploring elements of the composition or the sound, not how someone can completely redo it in their own image. The delicate piano remix of Battles reveals the sadness and emotion behind the structure. It’s that interlayering of texture and composition that allows one to get lost in the song, in the idea.

The vocals are the equivalent of having someone wrap a warm, soft scarf around your neck and gently whisper lost thoughts in your ear, as the wind blows through the dark bare branches above.

Review on Northern Transmissions…

Single Mothers - band

My interview with Drew Thomson of Single Mothers

Not many musicians moonlight as gold prospectors hunting for the real thing, instead of the number of units sold variety. But Drew Thomson did. Of course, that was before he came out of the north woods and rejoined his band, Single Mothers. Now they’ve released a new album, Negative Qualities, a punk whirlwind of shouting dissatisfaction and sarcastic criticism moored to energy-filled rhythms and little moments that stick with you. It’s an album that feels a whole lot like the start of something. Northern Transmissions wanted to catch up with Single Mothers before anyone had a chance to be tempted away by the lure of the quiet forest, and Alice Severin was able to talk to Drew Thomson about the music and where the feeling comes from.

Yeah. I think being on stage is great because it’s not like…I think part of it is you’re getting all that attention but the conversation is one-sided, right?

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Haerts new album

Review of the new album by Haerts

One fan wrote, “I can’t waittttttt!”
And the wait is nearly over.
Haerts have been making hearts, at least some of them, beat faster, with last year’s release of ep Hemiplegia. Since then, they’ve been working on their self-titled new album due to finally be released on October 27. Apparently their name was misspelled to make it personal.

A little like pop music, you can mix up the clichés all you like, but they’re still recognizable – and still not yours.

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Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany

Interview with Pat Mahoney on his new project – Museum of Love

Museum of Love is the musical collaboration of Pat Mahoney (ex LCD Soundsystem) and Dennis McNany. Together, they have created an album that uses electronica to flip back to great classics while creating music that feels brand new. Clever lyrics weave in and around the city beat, part of a sharp, arty atmosphere full of carefully curated sounds. The self-titled new album, Museum of Love, has just been released on DFA, and Northern Transmissions needed to hear about what’s on display in this museum. Alice Severin spoke with Pat Mahoney about the recording process, how lyrics are made, and the wonders of vintage gear.

NT – So this new output has happened not too long after LCD Soundsystem ended. And that was a big thing – with the sold-out tickets and shows.

PM – A giant publicity stunt, yes.

More Museum of Love this way…

Taiga - Zola Jesus - review on Northerntransmissions.com, Alice Severin

Review of Taiga – Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus is back. Nika has stepped forward once again to remind us of her own vision. Taiga was mixed in Los Angeles with co-producer Dean Hurley who has worked with David Lynch, but the songs were written in the wilderness. Zola Jesus has called them accessible, and in comparison to older songs like Vessel, or Skin, the album does contain those easily recalled moments of fervent energy that are the hallmark of more pop-driven songs.

But if Taiga means the snowforest, and is the largest type of biome on the planet, then this album is maybe looking to merge that vast imagery with the feeling that music is all out there to be explored.

Review of Taiga click here…

Iceage band

Interview with Johan Surrballe Wieth from Iceage

Iceage, the Danish post-punk band once singled out by Iggy Pop for praise and recognition, have gone ahead and done the ultimate punk act – they’ve ventured out alone into new territory, not looking behind to see if they’re being judged or followed. The music on the new album Plowing Into The Field Of Love bears witness to a band who, even if they’ve been given a blessing by the man himself, are determined to go their own way. A little like the classic song My Way that was completely owned and remade by the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious, Iceage have shaken up different genres in the new album. Northern Transmissions had the chance to speak with Johan Surrballe Wieth, the guitarist. Armed with a few words of Danish, Alice Severin ventured across cold time and space to find out the stories behind the new album.

I’m mostly just looking forward to going on tour again and to playing this record to the full. And there are always places that you look forward to going more than other, you know, where you have friends. And we have, by now, collected a few of them and they are scattered all over the continent, so. It should be…what it will be.

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Review of Tyranny – Julian Casablancas and the Voidz

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Julian Casablancas said at Coachella that the new music was meant to alienate the right people. If that meant that all those who have been convinced of their need for a succession of shiny happy pop songs to get them to work and who wish for the early days of the Strokes with the same fervor usually reserved for the opening of a new Starbucks nearby, then yes, this album will alienate people.

Or it could provoke the indulgent pat on the back – it’s new, it’s bizarre, well done mate, now where’s the next Strokes album, blah blah blah.

But just listen.

More Tyranny this way…

Laetitia Sadier - Something Shines

Review of Something Shines – Laetitia Sadier

Laetitia Sadier, most well known for her presence in Stereolab, is a vocalist and musician who has always inspired respect and a sense of wonder among her fans. The new album, Something Shines, continues to offer an artistic space unlike any other. A constant theme has been the works of Guy Debord and the Situationists, and there are allusions to this on the new album. A short explanation of him might include a description of a melancholy pessimist, who was a central figure of engagement with cultural politics. It could be a description of Sadier here as well.

Influential but underrated is the banner of those few musicians who have a sound that is all their own…

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