There’s No Slowing Down the Joyride that is Johnny Foreigner

johnny foreigner

(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 8/7/2014.)

Name: Johnny Foreigner

Where They’re From: Birmingham, England

When They Started: 2005

Genre: Emo/math rock

For Fans Of: Enemies, You Blew It!, Pity Sex, Rainer Maria

Sounds Like: The soundtrack to a tumultuous romance between two bike messengers.

Named after a cheeky term for non-Brits in the UK, Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner have gone through many changes over the last 9 years, but seem right at home in moody math rock. (With additional real estate in the Isles of Indie. And a vacation spot in Emo-town for when they need time to process their feelings, or something.) And having recently been signed to Philadelphia’s Lame-O Records, it’s about time the Johnny Foreigners claimed a base across the pond.

Speed limits be damned, the band thrives off constant acceleration, powering through craggy variations in time signature and popping melodic wheelies. Your ears may struggle to catch up. Then, at times, they pull the brakes and descend into smoky valleys of somber electropop, whispering faint, cryptic memos over strata of guitar, piano and synth. Vocalists Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern clamor over each other on occasion, passionately barking and interjecting one another with additions, amendments and reminders before easing into sweet harmonies over a swift striking tempest of noise. Still, you might step out of their rocking joyride feeling a little bit queasy.

2014 sees them at their most industrious, having released both their You Can Do Better LP in March, and more recently a collection of B-sides and revamped songs from past releases, Worse Things Happen at Sea. Stream “Candles” below:

Summer Goth Playlist

I’m back on Impose with a special Summer Goth Mix for my fellow tropigoths and darquetas. Check out my playlist of darkss anthems below:

01 Tubeway Army — “Down In The Park”
02 Total Control — “Flesh War”
03 Cementerio de Mascotas — “After Party”
04 The Sisters of Mercy — “Lucretia My Reflection”
05 Rakta — “Caverna”
06 Siouxsie And The Banshees — “Cities In Dust”
07 Cocteau Twins — “Blind Dumb Deaf”
08 Eyedress — “My Hologram”
09 Perturbator — “Hard Wired” (Feat. Memory Ghost’s Isabella Goloversic)
10 Selma Oxor — “Quiero Salir”
11 SZA — “Babylon” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
12 Princess Nokia — “Young Girls”
13 Los Mirlos — “Sonido Amazonico”
14 U.S. Girls — “Island Song”

Smoke Fairies Trail Away from Folk Traditions on Their Latest LP

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(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 7/30/2014)

Name: Smoke Fairies

Where They’re From:  Chichester, United Kingdom

When They Started: 2006

Genre: Dream pop

For fans of:  Azure Ray, Marissa Nadler, Laura Marling

Sounds like: A quiet funeral procession through an icy forest

Smoke Fairies began not as a deliberate musical project, but as a friendship. Having met in a Sussex grammar school in the ’90s, Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies forged a bond as a couple of precocious young women, whose tastes aligned more with older blues and classic rock fans than with the bubblegum pop palates of their peers. It’s easy to picture them nerding out over Leadbelly guitar tabs, while their homework sat cold as an afterthought on their desks. But many years later, including one spent in New Orleans, their anachronistic tendencies have paid off. Since their first demo in 2007, they’ve supported Bryan Ferry, Richard Hawley and Laura Marling on tour, and collaborated with Jack White on their 2009 double A-side single, “Gastown” / “River Song.”

Recorded in a remote industrial estate near Kent, their latest self-titled LP encapsulates the overwhelming vacancy of a ghost town, swathed in dust and brimming with stories untold. The pair’s vocals sustain a delicately wizened timbre, while their instrumentals deviate from traditional folky roots by delving into more ambient, electronic textures in songs like “Drinks and Dancing” and “Eclipse Them All.” Their sound remains as soft and understated as their past work, but creeps closer toward minimalist pop territory. (One can probably blame it on Blamire’s secret deconstuctions of pop music while riding the city bus.)

Their self-titled album is out now on Full Time Hobby. Stream “Shadow Inversions” below:

At the Gramercy Theatre, the LAMC Hosts an Eccentric Cast of Latin Indie All-Stars

Photo Credit: Jessica Chou

Photo Credit: Jessica Chou

(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 7/16/2014)

In commemoration of its 15th year running, or what they endearingly call its quinceañera, the organizers of the Latin Alternative Music Conference made like Miami royalty and secured only the best acts in rock, hip-hop and EDM to celebrate their darling teenage brainchild. Based in New York City and founded by Nacional Records owner Tomas Cookman, the conference offers a platform for international Latino artists and music industry reps to show us their chops. When compared to years past, the 2014 lineup represents a broader spectrum of performers across nationality, style and age.

Friday night’s festivities kicked off with an acoustic showcase at Sounds of Brazil, otherwise known as S.O.B.’s in Downtown Manhattan. Equipped with a kazoo and combat boots, Cuban pop powerhouse Diana Fuentes struggled to keep the chatty crowd’s attention while closing the showcase. But under the hot lights of the Gramercy Theatre later on that night, her high-octane stage presence was commanding enough to hush the audience. Backed by a full Afro-Cuban jazz band, Fuentes burst into a blithe, free-form stream of salsa moves during their intoxicating instrumental breaks. Sung in tribute to the many Cuban refugees lost at sea, Fuentes’ performance peaked at “Otra Realidad,” her every vocal lunge stressing the great risks her people have taken to broaden their horizons.

Although Fuentes is a pretty hard act for anyone to follow, Colombia’s theater geek-turned-indie-heartthrob Estemanopened his set with an air of suspense. His band emerged, their faces obscured behind positively creepy masks with exaggerated brows and sinister smiles. They commenced with what sounded like the first few bars of “Rawhide.” Like the Phantom of the LAMC, Esteman let the audience wait a few minutes before he surfaced from behind the curtains, staring us all down from behind his mask and easing into his folky 2013 single, “Aquí Estoy Yo.” The masks came off and band ran through a string of tropicalia-infused indie pop gems that channeled the sophisticated beach party vibes of Esteman’s slim, jungle-print slacks.

As the lone hip hop artist in this evening’s showcase, Monterrey MC Milkman delivered a charged performance, but seemed misplaced among the cast of characters at Gramercy Theatre. His odes to booty claps and McDonald’s cheeseburgers had me wishing Ana Tijoux could roll in to serve her own breathy feminist smackdown. But instead, we were all liberated by a crew of intergalactic EDM heroes: touching down from outer space/Mexico City, came The Wookies! Churning out one long, decadent disco jam, the quartet of electric wizards grooved beneath gold capes and shaggy Wookie masks.

The lineup took an even more eccentric turn when LAMC Artist Discovery Award winner AJ Dávilastormed the stage with his ragtag team of punks, Terror/Amor. Despite the raw power of Terror/Amor’s live set, it seemed like a travesty that they were playing here and not a dive bar or a dingy loft in Brooklyn. Having already tended to his more punk rock proletarian fans the night before atRadio Bushwick’s eventSolo Dame Indie Pop, Dávila’s spirit was a little more bored than boisterous. Yet he still mustered up flirtatious quips to a screaming lady fan and doused the audience with water while performing his cheeky single, “Dura Como Piedra.”  People repeatedly shouted “Boricua!” as a small pogo pit formed at the front of the stage. Up the Puerto Rican punx, down with venues where the cheapest beer is nine dollars.

Well past the witching hour, the lights dimmed down to a smoky blue for the final act. Los Macuanosreticently greeted the audience, providing little more engagement than downward gazes and nods towards their own respective iPads. And yet, for what their rather postmodern performance lacked in visual showmanship, they gained in the crowd’s response. Instead of expectantly facing the stage, the remaining audience members turned to each other and danced raptly under the influence of the Macuanos hypnotic beats. At the end of the day, it just goes to show that alternative music, in Spanish as in any other language, is not about record sales and appearances; but it’s about providing a more complex, expansive musical experience than what heavily-mediated, popular music usually offers.

Last but not least, here are some Superlatives for the LAMC Class of 2014:

Most Likely to Succeed: Diana Fuentes

Best Dressed: a tie between Esteman and The Wookies

Class Drama King: Esteman

Class Clown: Milkman

Biggest Flirt: AJ Davila

Most Likely to Start an Industrial Commune in a Ghost Town: Los Macuanos

The Mallgoth Episode with Suzy X

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Thanks to Eric and Edwina for inviting me as a guest in this week’s episode of Audio Imposition! Above is a photo of me reading from my 8th grade diary zine, AKA, Vol. 2 of The Mallgoth Chronicles. You can listen here and get a gist of the show below:

On the show we discussed Tarot cards, casual racism, the Girl Scouts, the revolutionary power of friendship, we had dramatic diary readings from Chronicles of an 8th Grade Mallgoth, The Greatest Band Ever,  the formative nature of Sailor Moon (new series on Hulu July 5th, btw), the Bechdel test, how much we love Downtown Boys, and we play a lot of mallgoth music.

The ~Mallgoth Playlist~ goes as follows:
  1. Kittie, “Charlotte”
  2. Pailhead, “Man Should Surrender”
  3. Marilyn Manson, “Tourniquet”
  4. AFI “Days Of The Phoenix”
  5. White Lung, “Snake Jaw”
  6. Hive Bent, “Relics of the Formstone Empire”
  7. Bleed the Pigs, “Stuck”
  8. Downtown Boys, “Maldito”
  9. Ovlov “There’s My Dini!”
  10. Tsunami Bomb, “Lemonade”

Wonder Twins of the Working Class: Downtown Boys’ Victoria Ruiz and Joey De Francesco

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(Crossposted from Impose Magazine, 6/16/2014)

“Hello, delighted to serve!”

It was three years ago that Victoria Ruiz was ordered to chirp this line like some cultish mantra while employed as a customer service representative at The Renaissance Hotel in Providence. It was there she met her partner in crime, room service extraordinaire and labor organizer Joey De Francesco.

“Part of the whole hotel experience is that [customers] are not supposed to interact with the labor,” says De Francesco. “The front desk was where they put all the more presentable white people. But behind the front desk they would hide everyone else. In the housekeeping manual, they tell the workers, who are 95% Dominican women, that they’re supposed to be invisible. Not actual [people], but some magical ghost that cleans up after you. The hotel is a small microcosm of how larger society works under capitalism.”

Predictably, Ruiz and De Francesco both quit their jobs, in pursuit of organizing hotel workers and eventually minimum wage workers in Providence. De Francesco scored YouTube fame after quitting his hotel job on camera, and with the help of his radical marching band, the What Cheer? Brigade. Together Ruiz and De Francesco would subsequently deploy two of the most explosive acts in the United States: raucous party punk sextet Downtown Boys and the art-cumbia mayhem of Malportado Kids (or, badly-behaved kids).

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