Backed by propulsive electric guitars, melodic vocals and gritty soundscapes, ASNT beautifully unearths the tender, vulnerable side of deep-seated pain.
The Irvine, California dark hard rock and husband-wife duo of Christina Baldwin (vocals) and Bruce Baldwin (guitar, drums, bass, piano) embarks on an emotive journey to release the guilt, shame and despair of the past on their latest album, Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow.
“‘Bleed Like Us’ is about ‘Westworld,’ and it’s about machines that look and bleed like us. That ended up being the name of the album on Bruce’s urging because it captures the theme of the whole thing. There is a certain bleeding happening in one way or another, but then there’s a positive resolution in some,” said Christina Baldwin.
Together, the Baldwins slowly slice through tightly sealed internal wounds to provide long-term relief and acceptance across 15 haunting, ruminative Bleed Like Us tracks. For ASNT (pronounced as “Ascent”), it’s an intense, therapeutic path for tackling mental health struggles, destructive relationships and regrettable actions.
“It depends where I am, the kind of writing that I do. I tend to go toward the dark side; it comes easier to me, and I have more words for dark things than I do for light. It’s a dark album, but it’s the evolution of sorrow, which means there is an end,” said Christina Baldwin, who’s inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Ann Wilson.
Au Gres instantly creates the proverbial comfort zone.
The Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter quickly throws anxiety, hesitation and doubt aside in his latest warm, dreamy pro-soulmate single, “Nervous,” which dropped Oct. 16.
“The song was inspired by my girlfriend, and I don’t usually set out to write a song. Instead, I mess around with progressions until I get an idea of what I want it to be about, and the song kind of writes itself. But for this one, I just felt so comfortable with her, like right off the bat, and I wanted to write something that felt that way,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.
“I sat in my room for a long time, and I wrote that bendy hook and everything else around it because it felt perfect to me. It was just me with my laptop in my room. I think I wrote most of it in an afternoon, and then I came back to it quite some time later and added more and more to it.”
With glistening acoustic strums, whimsical electric guitars, vivid bass, pulsating drums and atmospheric synths, “Nervous” serves as the ideal romantic icebreaker that immediately puts apprehensive partners at ease. It’s the melodic, soaring anthem everyone longs to hear on a magical first date.
Throughout the Mac DeMarco-like track, Kemp reveals, “I think I overstayed my welcome/But I think you want me to/Stick around/To bring you coffee or a cigarette/I don’t think we’re done yet/Not for now.”
“It’s a reminder that the reward is worth it so to speak, and I’m talking about long-lasting, real relationships. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable with people, and sometimes if you want to have that kind of relationship, then you have to be the one to take the plunge and let your walls come down,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit and Phoenix.
Eight months ago, Kemp shared bedroom laptop demos of “Nervous” with Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. Rye solidified the track’s final version while Noah de Leon (guitars, keys, synth) and Kemp (guitar, keys, synth) handled the arrangements and invited drummer Brodie Glaza.
“Noah and I had most of the arrangements filled out, but Jake would take a look at certain parts and help fill in the gaps a little bit. He gave things a lift where they needed and dove into those melancholic, indie feels. He was really good at drawing that part out,” Kemp said.
“I think it really grew into what I had in my head, like when I was in my bedroom. And to hear it come alive with real drums because I was just using samples, and even now listening to it and thinking about that experience, like COVID, and how strange it is to be back working on music, but also at the same time it felt very right and very good. It finally felt like a slice of something very nice.”
Last week, Kemp shared another slice of “Nervous” through a new lyric video recorded with Darity’s Linsley Hartenstein. The quirky video shows Kemp enthusiastically performing multiple parts on a flashy, portable ‘80s color TV (akin to Lindsey Buckingham’s 1981 “Trouble” video).
“It’s a little silly, and it’s my first go ever using a green screen,” said Kemp with a laugh. “We wanted to have fun with it.”
With “The Landing,” No Alarms soars hopefully above the indie pop stratosphere before enthusiastically hitting the ground running with both musical feet.
The Detroit indie pop quintet released their new four-minute, uplifting synth-fueled single last week as a follow-up to their vibrant, self-titled debut EP, which dropped in March.
“‘The Landing’ is about taking a leap of faith and having it work out. I had just watched the ‘Black Mirror’ episode, ‘Hang the DJ,’ and was riding high off of optimistic inspiration, and felt compelled to make something purely joyful, purely hopeful,” said Andrew Boles, No Alarms frontman.
“I wrote the verses to climb and climb, leading to a chorus that just exuded optimism, and that made you want to move. Overall, I wanted to capture the feeling of landing on your feet after taking a leap of faith.”
One listen to “The Landing,” and it’s optimistic, inspirational lyrics and spacious indie pop grooves are infectious. It’s the perfect song to help you take flight after long day.
“I hope fans are imbued with the same positive energy that I put into the song,” Boles said. “I think it’s distilled hope and elation captured in song form, and when it comes down to it, makes you want to move.”
The first time I saw Phoenix live was during a snowstorm in December 2009 at the now defunct Clutch Cargo’s club in Pontiac, Mich.
Thomas Mars and his three bandmates – Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai – captivated the sold-out crowd with songs from their 2009 smash, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” and officially established their reputation as a must-see live act.
They also reigned supreme as a coveted festival act with memorable appearances at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza in 2009 and 2010.
By 2013, they had played the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center for their “Bankrupt!” tour, which didn’t feel like the right venue for the French indie pop band. Their sound and stage presence is much better suited for mid-size theater (2,000 or less) rather than a mini arena (9,500).
Last week, Phoenix recaptured the same magic of the “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” tour at The Fillmore in Detroit on Oct. 11 while promoting their latest album, “Ti Amo.”
I have to admit Phoenix’s performance was by far one of their best I’ve seen in years. Here are the five best parts I took away from last week’s show: