There are things you ought to know: a) Al Berkowitz is not a person but rather an art-rock ensemble. b) Al Berkowitz is also a person. c) Al Berkowitz the person is not part of Al Berkowitz the ensemble. d) However, Al Berkovitz is named after their former member and mentor Al Berkowitz… Glad we got that out of the way.
‘How Could We Get Ourselves So Lost‘ follows in the fine tradition of artists mixing folk influences with a modern approach offering a touch of Bon Iver, a little Elvis Perkins and even a bit of Jose Gonzalez to create a wonderful sonic landscape. Almost by magic the track works its way into your brain with each added instrument lending to the general mood. The video itself deserves a mention, it’s black and white imagery works wonders next to the song and every shot looks and feels essential.
‘A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond‘ is an album that is definitely worth checking out as leader Ignacio Simón and company have seemingly curated every detail down to it’s finest points. Having recently relocated to the UK to record their next opus Al Berkowitz is a name you should be looking out for in 2016.
‘A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond‘ is out now on Tempel Arts
Lail Arad holds a special place in my heart, not least because her debut album ‘Someone New‘ was easily one of the albums of 2010 and one that I have found myself frequently returning to since. Quite some time has passed since then and while the London born raconteur has been keeping herself busy with performances on both sides of the Atlantic I was starting to itch for some new music.
All that has changed this year with the singer unleashing, what I imagine was, all her pent up creativity in a series of songs and videos. “When We Grow Up” is the third of these “surprise” singles and is perhaps the catchiest of the three dealing in witty lines and bravado without ever taking itself too seriously. The accompanying video follows Arad as she glide in a carefree manner across New York’s infamous MOMA acting a little like a living installation invigorating the place.
Also worth checking out her ode to Leonard Cohen with the track ‘1934‘ which was released on the living legend’s 80th birthday.
Her upcoming album ‘The Onion‘ is due out in 2016.
Nashville 4-piece Bullydebut album ‘Too Tough‘represented a refreshing return to a time when guitar bands ruled the chart and just about any freak (meant completely as a term of endearment) could write, record and release a hit.
Much has been made of frontwoman Alicia Bognanno‘s internship at Steve Albini‘s infamous Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, a connection that i presume helped the band record the album there, but it would be unfair to turn the focus solely on that. Instead the spotlight should be on Bognanno‘s almighty scream which is somewhat similar to Courtney Love in her ‘Live Through This‘ prime mixed with a quiet-loud dynamic that brings you back to anything cool Kim Deal has ever done with both the Pixies and Breeders.
While patchy at times when ‘Feels Like‘ delivers a hit they are usually knock outs and while Bognanno and co are still finding their footing there are more than enough hints on this record of great things to come.
Bonus points for drummer Stewart Copeland for carrying that name and still deciding to pursue a career as a drummer.
Up and coming new soul singer Hagar Levy hails from Israel but spent a considerable period of her childhood in Belgium. It is perhaps this unorthodox mix of cultures and climes that has shaped her sound.
I must admit this video initially slipped under our radar due to the volumes of emails we have been receiving but with a second track being released last month (which we will hopefully get to soon) we soon paid attention.
“Highway” is an upbeat number with one hell of a riff and a soaring chorus that catches you by surprise every time, the kind of tune that seemingly forces you to stomp your feet and clap your hands. Hagar has clearly been working on her craft and it shows. The video itself is a crazy collage of sweatshop rebellion and dreamscape surroundings that add spice to the track and highlight the talented musicianship on display.
Hagar Levy‘s debut self titled album is out now in Israel and will receive a European/US release date in 2016. Keep an eye on this one, we reckon she’s got a few surprises up her sleeve.
Mancunian Indie quintet AFFAIRS and producer EdBuller (Suede, Courteeners) proved that they make a dynamic match with previous single ‘Blood Science‘ and they teamed up in the studio again for spirited new track ‘Brothers‘.
The hazy, romanticism intro elevates before Liam Grindell’s baritone vocals add a unique edge to the Electro Indie ode to camaraderie. As Liam declares in the chorus ‘this is for my Brothers’, emotions soar in sync with the harmonies. Synths echo from all directions upon intricate, melodic guitars.
Not only does ‘Brothers‘ tell us that camaraderie is not dead, it also tells us that AFFAIRS are unafraid to make their own mark on the indie genre. The tinges of nostalgia hidden beneath the synths coupled with the bold, operatic vocals certainly deem AFFAIRS noteworthy on the vast, Indie scene.
After being a longtime fan of Desaparecidos, the punk rock project of heart-on-his-sleeve afficionado ConorOberst, I was really looking forward to catching the band live later this month at New York’s Webster Hall. Unfortunately the band released the following statement:
Conor Oberst fell ill while on tour in Jacksonville, Florida and was briefly hospitalized due to laryngitis, anxiety, and exhaustion. In consultation with his doctors, the band has reluctantly agreed to cancel all scheduled live dates. Conor will be heading home to Omaha to recuperate. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Following a near 13 year absence the band surprised us this summer with new album ‘Payola‘. A lot has happened since the brilliant debut ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish‘, including several releases from Oberst himself, but in today’s political climate this comeback couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Whereas his “day job” often involves introspection and delicacy Desaparecidos showcases his angry and cynical side. With a lot of the material on this release has already been aired either live or in single format the album still the tracks stand proud as a body of work even a few months after the album was released. I was looking forward to seeing it delivered live but will have to wait for the next opportunity.
What a journey it has been for singer-songwriter/producer Stephen Swartz, aka Stephen. After releasing the massively viral “Bullet Train” while still at the University of Miami (FL), he went all but silent for two years, leaving his 60,000 social followers wondering if Stephen had left music altogether. Little did they know that he had actually immersed himself even further into music, dropping out of college and moving to Los Angeles, CA to develop his artistry–and himself.
The past two months have seen two new releases from Stephen via Halfway House Records, the independent label he calls both his label and literal home. Increasingly known for his introspection, “Fly Down” is no different, examining society’s issues with vulnerability, masculinity, and self-concept through the allegory of Stephen‘s relationship with a young woman to whom he feels uncomfortable showing pain. The record is a heart-tugging piano ballad backed by compressed hip-hop drums, speckled with electronic production and climaxing with a powerful drop.
We fell in love with Lee Eller‘s brand of lo-fi indie pop here at Cougar Microbes HQ from the minute we first heard “What Would I Do“. The track is an elegant yet moody slice of electro-pop that hints at great things to come from the young artist.
Born and raised as an only child in Manhattan you get the perception that Lee‘s childhood was somewhat unconventional. With no older siblings around to pass on new musical discoveries and so Lee was uncovering new sounds for herself and developing a diverse palette.
A chance visit to the Middle East saw her uproot her life and relocate to Tel Aviv beginning to mix with the local scene and explore new sounds. There are a couple of covers online form this period that, while a little rough around the edges, suggest a budding artist with growing confidence in her talent.
A few years on and Lee is completing the recording of her debut ‘Wrote To You‘ EP and we have been assured the rest of the tracks will be just as exciting. While we wait for the next single to drop we are happy to keep spinning the near pop perfection of “What Would I Do” on repeat.