Voyna – “The Cinvat Bridge”

In 2019 I took a life changing trip to Berlin where I learned a lot about myself, another culture, and music. I also started a love affair with one of the most underrated post punk bands in the modern scene Golden Apes. Peer Lebrecht has one of those few in a generation distinctive voices with an amazing ability to convey emotion and paint pictures in a listeners imagination. We can all look forward to future Golden Apes releases, in the meantime Peer has ventured into other soundscapes with the solo project Voyna. This album is a departure from GA more synthy darkwave sounds and bring a spotlight to Peer’s voice with an expansive alternative rock backing. Always one for metaphor in his poetry “The Cinvat Bridge” or bridge of judgement was a mythological passage which separated the land of the living from the dead. The album releases 3/21/21 but I was lucky enough to get an early glimpse. You can pre order in the link below.

https://voyna-official.bandcamp.com/releases

VOYNA – music & words
Thommy Hein – Guitars

Guest:
Denis Ivanov – Additional Guitars
Marita Volodina – Vocals

Peer

Standout Tracks:

Provenance – Opening with a walking bass in tiny footfalls. Two winding reverbed guitar lines building into a synth line of pure light. The the drums sizzle to the forefront. Masterful craftsmanship to create the tension and set the perfect opening for that dark chocolate and black coffee voice. As Voyna sets the scene of this desolate house everything comes to a crescendo just before it is stripped away to that simple intro bassline. Already I am plunging into these icy waters headfirst.

Refraction – A brighter striking tone to get the energy pumping. Peer goes into a a higher sharp edged register. I love the way we are already showing the range in styles that seem to be going so many places, none of them Golden Apes. The breakdown here is a spiral that just stops time and stretches that lovely hook chorus into infinity. Then the time cuts and a rush of energy sends you galloping into the close.

The Sky And A Grain – Wow this is a gorgeous new wave vibe with tones of Flock of Seagulls , Echo and the Bunnymen, OMD. Basically this is the prom song of a John Hughes movie that was never actually made. Just a rushing wind racing hook. I love the distortion effect on the chorus vocals. This is a total banger.

Fractal King – Another huge sound shift. This is a smoky lounge at 2am. Walking bass and tremolo Twin Peaks vibes. Filthy intentions and slow sultry danger. “I’m bleeding from the heart, from all the pain in me, I’m sinking like a stone for all the pain in you”. The ending of this song is gut wrenching and visceral.

Golden Apes unforgettable album KASBEK from 2019

Overall as much as I am impressed by all the things The Cinvat Bridge is, I am equally moved by how much it strays from Golden Apes. It spans a journey of eternity walking down this bridge and touches on so many aspects of the human experience. Peers voice is the unmistakable star of the show, but these songs are so lovingly crafted and brimming over with emotion and higher artistic concept. A surprise early contender for album of the year and it doesn’t even release until March 21st. You need this in your collection.

Enter Camlann – review by Victoria Spungen

The most invaluable attribute of an increasingly global community is the discovery of our shared – and often, surprisingly unified – experience of the world.  Even as we languish through the isolation imposed on us via a global crisis, we can reach across vast expanses, foreign borders, and cultural divisions to find that, ultimately, we have more to connect us than we have to separate us.

Hence, the uniquely relatable Indonesian three-piece, Camlann, and their 2020 studio album, the aptly titled The Forgotten Lost Fragments. Listeners will find themselves immediately transported to the soundscapes of their misspent youths, with authentic, vintage-feeling grooves that harken back to the New Romantic golden age of the genre.  The songs feel familiar and oddly comforting, yet spiked with a dose of the unexpected, an added ingredient that lifts the recipe.  

https://camlannmusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-forgotten-lost-fragments

Namely, the most novel feature of Camlann’s sound is vocalist Ony Godfrey’s haunting tone.  Often acting as a rhythm instrument, the vocals will then suddenly take flight and soar above the surrounding backdrop, calling to mind the heady, bright tone of crooners like Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright – but stripped of pretense and glamour, and flooded with simple, refreshing sincerity and a distinctly feminine nobility.  One feels less that they are merely listening to an artificially-cultivated performance, and more that they are sneaking a peek into a carefully-guarded diary.

Hummable tunes are augmented with classic, almost Santo and Johnny ‘Sleepwalk’-style guitar melodies – also Godfrey’s contributions, creating a dreamy lightness over the solid fabric of the drum-and-bass combo.  The arrangements are straightforward, but layered and colorful, employing unique effects and pleasantly disorienting quirks, provided by bassist Bayu Triyudanto and synth/keyboardist Fauzan Pratama.  

The 10-track album is a much-needed lesson in brevity; Camlann has a knack for knowing what they want to say, and being cleverly succinct in their approach.  There is no wallowing or luxuriating in the mire here; the songs are considerably brief, most of them having gotten their point across in less than four minutes, with no need for further embroidery or gilding the lily.    The charming, palate-cleansing sorbet of ‘Il Prologo’ clocks in at just 45 seconds, but its impact is effectively made, and the album wouldn’t be the same without it.  

Standout tracks include the title track, which artfully drops the listener into Camlann’s world and sets the stage for an introspective, intimate drama.  ‘What’s The Worth Of Living’ employs a lilting, rolling guitar theme that brings Camlann’s genuinely skilled musicianship into sharp focus.   ‘Father Johannes’ sails in on the wings of a sweeping, cinematic theme to introduce the album’s eponymous central character, a mysterious figure whose headstone graces the memorable cover art.  ‘The Ballad of Us’ provides a subversive twist on the notion of a conventional love song, with Godfrey’s vocal prowess on full display, grounded by the staccato heartbeat of a string quartet.  ‘New City, New Hope’ positively shimmers with its many layers and sophisticated arrangements, peppered with an exuberant horn section that feels right at home among the album’s vintage-seeming accessories. 

Formed in early 2019 by a trio of Jakarta middle-school students, this often surprising outfit also includes their own producer, Chariszan, and a co-songwriter, Arachne – both of whom share the distinction of their bandmates of being under the age of 17.  Rare as it seems to encounter a young band with such a direct focus and clear intention, Camlann are proving that the upcoming generation has their own perspective, and plenty to say.  I had the fortune of speaking via email to vocalist/lyricist Ony Godfrey about the band’s history, inspiration, and point of view.

Sounds and Shadows: Your enigmatic name is both mysterious and memorable.  How did you arrive on ‘Camlann’?

Ony Godfrey:  Camlann’s name comes from the well-known Arthurian legend, specifically from King Arthur’s final battle, “The Battle of Camlann”. I and Chariszan thought that we wanted to find a name that is easy to remember by people, and has a connection with legend or myth, so we chose the name Camlann.

S&S:  How did you find one another?

Godfrey:  In early 2019, I started posting covers of my favorite songs from my favorite artists (mostly The Smiths and  Joy Division) on my old Instagram account.  Somehow, this attracts Chariszan’s attention, and she asked me if I wanted to make a Post-Punk/New Wave band with her.  So I said yes, and that’s how Camlann was born.  It was never really taken seriously by Chariszan and I, before I graduated from middle school and moved to a public school in Jakarta, and met these two boys who later will be my closest best friends.

Around September 2019, my classmate, which is Fauzan, asked me if he could join the band as the synth player and composer.  He told me that he’s a massive 80s New Wave/synthpop enthusiast and wanted to play in an 80s synth-dominated band.  So I said yes, because we have the same interest in music and because he’s a very gifted synth player and composer.  After that, Fauzan asked his friend, which is Bayu, if he wanted to join the band to play bass.  So there you go, that’s how it all started.

S&S:  What inspires you, and your sound?

Godfrey: I got inspired by a lot of things, but mostly by some real events that [are] happening in my life and some important events that happened in this world in general.  I got influenced a lot by Morrissey’s songwriting since the very beginning of Camlann until this day.  It’s funny to see that some people thought that these dark, depressing, and melancholic lyrics are based on my life, when in fact it’s all fictional and based on my imaginations.  Well, most of them are inspired by some real events in my life, but I twisted those actual, real events into something fictional and mostly dramatic.  I took these realities as a ‘host’ for these lyrics, and [I] twist these events into something fictional, dramatic, and definitely not personal.  I love using real events in my life as a ‘host’ for these melancholic and gloomy lyrics, haha!

S&S:  What turns you on, and puts you in your creative mindset?

Godfrey:  I really love to add some religious and historical elements in my music.  I was born from a non-religious family; my parents are Protestant, but not religious at all.  But then one day, a life-changing experience happened in my life.  I felt the presence of God, and I started to buy a bible from a local bookstore near my house and learn Catholicism all by myself.  A year later, I got baptized as a Catholic and I’ve never been happier in my life.  Since then, I’ve decided to include some Catholic references in my lyrics.

All of us are massive lovers of the 80s, especially Fauzan.  So then we decided to create our own universe for our music, where in that universe, we’re living in the early 1980s.  That’s also the main reason we take a lot of influences from 80s popular culture and sounds for our music.  Fauzan’s presence and contribution in this band is very, very influential and basically, without him, Camlann would never have this current sound.  So we owe him A LOT, and I feel like he’s very, very underappreciated when in fact, he’s the main composer of this band.

S&S:  What turns you off, and how do you reinspire yourselves?

Godfrey:  The struggle of mixing our influences into our music would be the main reason.  I got influenced mostly by The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Emma Ruth Rundle, Russya, and Xmal Deutschland.  Fauzan was influenced mainly by Alphaphile, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Suicide, Donna Summer, and Molchat Doma.  Meanwhile, Bayu was influenced mostly by The Cranberries, Hole, The Doors, and Joy Division.  Sometimes, we struggle on mixing these various influences to Camlann’s typical sound, and it took us almost a year to find our own sound.

We usually reinspire ourselves by brainstorming our different influences together and sharing new music that we have just discovered lately, and then starting on gathering these new ideas into one unity.  You will definitely hear this new sound of Camlann in our upcoming album, ‘Circa 1983’; this album is a fresh start of Camlann’s sound and image as a band.  We will definitely go in this direction from now on – a ‘Dark Disco’ band, a mixture between classic disco and 80s synthpop/New Wave sounds with modern Darkwave sounds.

S&S:  What would your listeners be surprised to learn about you?

Godfrey:  We’re definitely just some random high school students with their own life interests and their own dreams.  We are definitely not ‘dark’ or ‘gloomy’ when we’re not being these images we play in Camlann.  We just happened to play in a dark disco band – that’s why we look gloomy and dark in our band pictures, haha!

Also, I’ve heard many people think that I have a deep voice.  But actually, my talking voice is quite high-pitched.  That’s why my father got really shocked when he heard me singing for the first time!

* * *

It may seem counterintuitive to imagine steel-gray, 1983 Sheffield skies scattered over wet cobblestones when one is listening to an Indonesian synthpop trio, but it is exactly Camlann’s relatability and reverence for their influences that makes the music feel mature and expertly crafted.    There is common ground to be found here, freshly updated and uniquely flavored with subtlety and precision.  Encapsulating a wide spectrum of genres and techniques, Camlann are proving themselves to be one to watch as they continue to develop their sound.  The Forgotten Lost Fragments feels like poring through the memory box of an intriguing stranger, where one finds  treasures that reach across time and borders to become cherished once again.

It’s a small world, after all.

– Victoria Spungen

Giant Waves/Karluv Tyn, Pilgrims of Yearning, Navigator Project, and Monoplan

Giant Waves/Karluv Tyn

Giant Waves is a gothic post-punk/darkwave group formed in 2004. Originally formed under the name The Imaginary Stigma, they claim to be one of the “oldest groups in Russia” in the genre. Through their decade of existence, they have worked with legendary bands such as Skeletal Family and toured with Soviet Soviet. They currently are signed by Sierpen Records, which also boasts Molchat Doma.

Their newest release in 2020 was “Мерцание,” put out under their side-project Karluv Tyn (fun fact- they took this name from that of a twelfth century gothic castle). They describe the album’s music as “cold-pop” or Russian “apocalyptic-pop.” The Intro track has the sounds of church bells and choir, definitely a reference to their name inspiration. The album manages to be dark without being too overbearing or heavy. An upbeat rhythm, clear vocals, chorus-y guitar, and smooth synths all blend together to make something mid-energy and perfect for light, casual listening.

Its members are Iliya Volchansky (voice, guitar, synths, lyrics), Andy ‘Avalanche’ Fomin (synths, drums), and Michael Kirilenko (recording, engineering).

A new Giant Waves release in the works. If all goes according to plan, expect to see this upcoming single in the next two months. Additionally, they are making a video for the song “Love is a Lie”. Finally, there will even potentially be a new album put out halfway through the year.

Producer and artist Vitaly Sanych reports that they have changed their sound slightly, citing both hardships in the local music scene and a desire to continue developing their style.

Pilgrims of Yearning

Pilgrims of Yearning’s music, specifically their 2020 release Forsake Lands, has been covered once before by S&S.

In spite of live venues being canceled, this band has been prolific in attending online streaming events including Gothicat, Arg!, Goth for Sanctuaries, and some Latin American events such as Real Under Fest and Festival Under Latinamericano. In the future, expect to see them at the upcoming Leather & Lace fest on January 31st.

Originally from Chile, they moved to Boston and will soon be again moving to the sunny city of Miami. Their current lineup is Claudio Marcio (Guitar, Sequences), Juls Garat (Voice and Lyrics), and Sean Woodbury (Bass).

Pilgrims of Yearning is working on new material, both singles and videos, to release later in 2021. Vocalist Juls Garat expressed the band’s desire to retain the “exploratory and eclectic” traits of their first album, but also follow a natural flow of evolution and exploration. 

Navigator Project

Navigator Project, according to their Bandcamp, is a synthpop/darkwave band from Naples made up of Amir Sabljaković (vocals, synth), Daniel (drums), and Caroline (lyrics, melodies).

There are four releases on their page. Spellbound, a single posted August 3rd, Follow the Light, a full album posted on October 16th, In the Spiral (Klonavenus Remix), a single posted on December 13th, and In the Spiral (Lost Messages Remix), another remix single posted on December 29th. I gave them a listen. Navigator Project makes dynamic, active-sounding music with intense, almost nostalgic synth lines that I’d love to hear at the local club. Sabljaković’s vocals are clean and relaxed yet focused with, if I’m correct, a slight accent that is quite enjoyable to listen to.

I reached out to Sabljaković inquiring about any future material. He told me that, in light of the pandemic and pause in concerts, they’ve taken advantage of the situation to work on another synthpop album.

Monoplan

Monoplan is a Russian synthwave band composed soley of Dmitry Philippov. S&S briefly covered them once already last February.

So, let’s get an update! Since then, Monoplan has put out three releases: The Game (March 2020), Promzona (October 2020), and Beneath The Sky of The Sleeping Cities (November 2020).

I reached out to Philippov for more information. He describes Monoplan’s music as “a soundtrack to the bleak dystopian cityscapes where ghostly figures dance on the rooftops of abandoned houses to the beat of an old drum computer and eerily pulsating synths,” and that’s honestly perfect. What an image! Regarding genre, Monoplan is “a lo-fi mix of post-punk and cold wave, sometimes steering off to gloomy disco or punky reggae.” If the ghosts-on-rooftops didn’t catch your attention, how’s gloomy disco for you? Definitely something unique!

Do you have any future albums in the making/planned?

Yes. My most recent release, the Pod Nebom Spyaschikh Gorodov EP, was initially planned to be an album. But I had not much time to finish it properly, so it came out as a 4 track mini album. There are a few songs left, plus some new tracks in the making. I think I’ll return to them in spring.

Catching Up with The Cult Sounds: New LP “Death of a Star”

Dark rock band The Cult Sounds has been covered by S&S before, such as in this introductory interview and this review of their Halloween compilation.

https://thecultsounds.bandcamp.com/

Their lineup is Bennett Huntley (vocals), Ryan McBride (lead guitar), Jordan Hageman (rhythm guitars, keys, programming), Wyatt Eagen (bass), And Justin Riley (drums).

Fortunately, we’ll see much more of them in the future. Their newest LP, Death of a Star, is scheduled to release sometime in 2021.

McBride tells me that, compared to their previous works, this one will be more “ambitious.” “We definitely weren’t afraid to take risks and incorporate different musical styles or genres when writing,” he tells me. “Also, this year has given us nothing but time to make everything just how we wanted, then listen to it over and over and go back and make any changes we felt the songs needed. If we were finding our identity with the first ep, then on this record we’re seeing how far we can take it.”

Hageman seconded this. “We really pushed our songwriting even further and experimented more. He continued by saying that “this record takes more of our inspirations and influences than we got to explore on the first EP – we brought in bits of things outside of Post-Punk and Goth to add to the palette of sounds and textures.”

Bouncing off that note of genre elements, McBride states “moving forward, we’ve woven a lot of heavier elements into our already atmospheric sound, both musically and conceptually. Right from the onset of the album, fans will notice a marked difference in our approach to the album and it only goes up from there.”

Finally, Huntley pitched in. “Overall, it’s a huge step forward for us, in terms of what we felt capable or comfortable doing compared to when we first put out our debut EP, and even as far as what I think any of us has been a part of musically up to this point. It’s a complex record and I’m really excited to see it released. I still struggle when people ask me what kind of band we are, because I’m not even sure. Day to day, song to song, we take influences from everywhere and it’s constantly changing and forcing us to evolve our sound. The full-length format has given us the chance to explore that, to stretch our legs, and 2020 gave us the time to really mature and improve as songwriters. It’s a natural growth from our earlier material but also there’s plenty that I think might surprise our followers.”

I was given access to four tracks off it: “What Gets Done in The Night,” “Pale White Horses,” “Ritual Scars,” and “Afterlight.” Right off the bat on the first track, I can see the almost metal-styled speed, power, and aggression. “Pale White Horses” is a bit softer and could perhaps be qualified as a ballad. “Ritual Scars” picks the hard energy right back up and runs with it. This is a song I would happily scream-sing along to while driving a car down a highway. Finally, “Afterlight.” It starts with a strong guitar riff that reminds me of 80s hair metal in a good way. The vocals are intense, and the energy is still nice and high.

I asked if there was any such retro influence for that particular track.

Hageman responded, telling me “as far as Afterlight goes I think there’s always some retro influences because we are influenced by a lot of music from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s as well as the music we grew up with like AFI, Alkaline Trio, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, My Chemical Romance, etc. We never consciously go into a piece of music with a preconceived notion of wanting to capture a decade or a sub-genre since we plot the songs as we go in writing them pulling different ideas for each section wherever that inspiration comes from at the time.”

There’s also an accompanying music video for “What Gets Done in The Night.”

It’s incredibly cinematic and smoothly shot. After almost two minutes of tense introduction, the band comes into view. As they play, we see various props around the room such as candles and an animal skull. They’re playing in a vividly painted room, which the camera gracefully pans across. The band toasts with glasses of an unknown liquid. Together is makes for an almost eerie or occult vibe, in a subtle way. This nicely accompanies the repeated lyrics concerning the devil.

I asked about the occult aspects, and Hageman confirmed my assessments. “There’s definitely some occult imagery in the video to go along with the concepts of the song’s metaphors and we also were heavily influenced by 70’s horror films and wanted to do as much of that as we could.”

I wondered if this occult theme goes through the rest of the album, too.

Huntley responded that “I think some of those references to the occult appear naturally in most of what we do. It’s a big part of what inspires us across the board, whether it’s from music or movies or literature. Black candles, rituals of the flesh, devils and demons, that’s what rock n roll is all about!”

“The title “Death of a Star” can be taken many different ways,” Hagemen added, “and each song explores the concepts of death in different facets and aspects in our everyday lives and in our culture.”

So, that concludes things. Death, rock, and a mini film- all things to look forward to with this new material!

Sounds and Shadows Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020

Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.

Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

SceniusEnough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.

https://scenius.bandcamp.com/album/enough-fears

Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiiiiii-18

White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/human

The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.

https://dannyblu.bandcamp.com/album/the-pale-horse

Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-we-raise

Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/second-seduction

Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.

https://anopendoor.bandcamp.com/album/dead-kids-r-i-p-city

Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/ultra-mono

Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.

https://kissofthewhip.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-here

Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia

Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/gods-verging-on-sanity

Algiers – There is No Year – If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.

https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-no-year

Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.

https://thencomessilence.bandcamp.com/album/machine

Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

Our interview with Bootblacks

Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard Radiohead The Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Our Interview with Empathy Test