Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Listen: SoftSpot - "Heat Seeker"

photo by Landon Speers
There are few bands making music as innovative and enjoyable as Brooklyn based experimental rockers SoftSpot and fewer still that are able to maintain the streak of excellent albums the band have essentially been on since debut full length Ensō. Next month sees the release of their third full length studio album Clearing and first single "Abalone" was an reintroduction to what the bands been up to since 2014's MASS. Since MASS the band has officially established themselves as a four piece and are certainly making the most of Jonathan Campolo's synth talents.

Singer/songwriter Sarah Kinlaw has always drawn inspiration from and weaved narratives through the most curious of places and "Heat Seeker", SoftSpot's second single from their upcoming album, is no different. Driving, insistent rhythms set the stage for the sensual reverie that is "Heat Seeker" as Kinlaw explores the boundaries of memory and imagination; dreaming and waking life. "I close my eyes and I can picture you so clear" offers the chorus before Kinlaw delivers one of my favorite moments of the song, a pointed question that properly conveys the song's blurred borders between real life and the fantastical: "Am I awake or am I dreaming now?". It never offers much in the way of answer and it doesn't much need to. On "Heat Seeker" the band are operating on a whole other level. Their melodies and hooks are insanely memorable, their interconnected is positively awe-inspiring, and the band are at their absolute catchiest.

SoftSpot have never suffered from the inaccessible density that plagues several art pop troubadours but much of the band's most winsome moments have been the reward of patient build up and cool downs. Both on "Abalone" and "Heat Seeker" that's hardly the case, the band offering up stellar musical moments right out the gate and then building on them with intricate layers that manage to swiftly support Kinlaw's ear-catching melodies. Clearing offers not only to be the band's most accessible work but their best, a direction of forward, visceral pop with intricate layers and intelligent construction that's sure to serve as a benchmark for the rest of the band's bold artistic choices going forward.



SoftSpot's third full length album Clearing is out April 7th on Arrowhawk Records. You can pre-order the album now and in case you missed it here's previous single "Abalone":

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pitstop: Wae


If you're anything like me and have been waiting for news from Baltimore experimental pop duo Lands & Peoples then you're a bit in luck. While the project is still on hiatus, Caleb Moore and Beau Cole have returned to their somewhat abandoned side projects. Cole's resurrected Zu Shapes and Moore has started a new band by the name of Wae of which Beau is a member and put out his debut record Glimmer earlier this month. If you're looking for more of Lands and Peoples' loop based pop, Wae is a bit of a different speed. On Glimmer, Moore returns not only to his bedroom pop roots but also to recordings he's done several years ago and updates them into a coherent sound. The result is hazy, languorous rock pop with electronic flourishes.



Though he's assembled a competent live band to realize his compositions, the sounds on Glimmer are all of Moore's creation: recorded and multi-tracked onto a 4 or 8 track cassette. Considering that Moore's and Cole's musical compatibility is what essentially led them to form and continue Lands & Peoples from quartet into duo, it's interesting to see how the two's shared influences express themselves in their different projects. Providing to further be the musical ying to Cole's yang, Wae settles for more harsher, more jarring tones than Zu Shapes' silky dream pop while still striving for a similar softness. Wae characterized by dynamics leaps than Zu Shapes' gestating crescendos.



That's not to say Moore doesn't take his time. Though the majority of the songs on Glimmer clock in at around 3 minutes or less, Moore gives his songs adequate time to build and achieve his dramatic shifts by taking the scenic route. That sense of patience is what enables the heavy, psychedelic "Too Much" and all its grand pauses and elongated phrases. Glimmer is an album of continuous push and pull; brief winsome moments of pop goodness balanced with longer, cerebral moments of instrumental cacophony.



Wae's debut album Glimmer is out now on Friends Records.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Listen: Kevin Morby - "Come To Me Now"


When Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Kevin Morby announced his latest album City Music early this morning I was incredibly surprised. The man had released his third full length album Singing Saw, a wonderful collection that celebrated the solitude of his simple living out in California, a little less than a year ago. To think that Morby could immediate come off that collection to offer another was mind-boggling yet non completely out of the ordinary for Morby. His first album Harlem River was followed just as swiftly by sophomore effort Still Life. And yet one assumes with all the touring Morby's been doing that a record would be the furthest thing from his mind. Enter City Music. The album is offered as a counterpoint to Singing Saw.

"Come To Me Now, the first single from City Music, begins with an organ swell; an addendum to Singing Saw's plentiful auxiliary instruments. With the exception of the organ, "Come To Me Now" follows a familiar thread of composition for Morby, it builds with an impressive amount of patience as his band member flutter in and out of focus like birds (with craning angular melodic lines that recall bird calls).  Though "Come To Me Now" is essentially a call for companionship, there's no missing both in its wide expansiveness and also several key phrases a sort of inherent loneliness. "Ain't got no friend in a world so big/Ain't got no family, ain't got no kin" Morby sings in one of the initial verses and it makes his efforts to connect that much more compelling. Morby's change of setting is subtle gleaned in cast-off phrases and the percussive clang of what sounds like pipes being hit.

Where Singing Saw proceeded like a stroll through nature, "Come To Me Now" finds Morby at a distance far removed. He's singing from a rooftop or a window above a city he doesn't much care to know; singing of the pleasures of nature in a place where it's only a memory. The narrator essentially refuses to engage and reaps his own forced solitude. It's an interesting way to start an album inspired by the city from a man who has called many cities home and it sets up a bit of intrigue as you can't help but wonder how the narrator will change and grow if at all along the album or if "Come To Me Now" is merely a one-off with different points of view to be explored. Who's the say but I certainly am hooked.



Kevin Morby's fourth full length album City Music is out June 16th on Dead Oceans. Pre-orders are now available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Listen: Kikagaku Moyo - "In A Coil"


I was introduced to Japanese psych rockers Kikagaku Moyo last Fall at their Manhattan show at Berlin when they were in the US touring their third full length record House In The Tall Grass. The most exciting thing about Kikagaku Moyo, despite their absolutely trance-inducing nature of their music was undoubtedly the blend of typical psych instruments (guitar, bass, drums) with sitar and organs. The result is an incredibly immersive quality as the fivesome build intricately woven layers that lend themselves naturally to prolonged jams. "In A Coil", the first single from their upcoming Stone Garden EP, finds the quintet working more abrasive edges into the meditative style that encompassed much of House In The Tall Grass.  On "In A Coil", Kikagaku Moyo are rougher up, amping up the blunt force behind the repetitiveness of their interlocking melodies. Though there are vocals, they blend into the mix, offered more as another textural layer than a real point of focus. Despite it's driving beat that propels it forward, the quintet balance some of the space rock zen with a immediacy born of improvisation and their ingrained spirit of experimentation. "In A Coil" pushes the bands' sound forward while highlighting just how riveting a listen the band is in the first place; able to encapsulate the duality of old and new as the band takes their influences in classic psych, folk rock, and even Indian music and channels them into something intriguingly unique and not entirely capable of labeling. They're a band after my own heart and hopefully yours too.



Kikagaku Moyo's Stone Garden EP is out April 21st on Guruguru Brain. Pre-orders are available for both digital and vinyl here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Listen: Feist - "Pleasure"


Earlier this week Canadian singer/songwriter Feist announced her follow up to 2011's Metals in arguably the most understated way possible. The announcement wasn't accompanied with any taste of what was in store just a sort of vague intimation of what she had been up to and confirmation that the rumors that new music would be coming this year with a definite date of next month. Yesterday, much like the lead up to Metals, Feist released a series of teaser videos (albeit this time of classic films) featuring a snippet of the yet to be announced single and finally we get to hear more than a 5 second snippet of the chorus.

Described as planting a seed of brightness by its title "Pleasure" and its eponymous album finds Feist is a considerably different emotional state than many of the break up pop that made up Metals. "Pleasure" is a bit of a slow burn: starting from completely silence and getting more and more rambunctious as it builds to the cacophony of its climatic finale. Much like her initial announcement where Feist described the two sides of pleasure: mild and fleeting or deeply felt and lasting, she toys with both sides in the single. "Get what I want and still it's a mysterious thing that I want" Feist coos initially after nearly a minute of build up. "I, and you are the same and either fiction or dreaming we know enough to admit" and just like that she sets up the chorus and the rest of the song, describing similarities and commingling feelings and the escapism that togetherness brings. It's simultaneous romantic and also deflating. Feist does a surprising amount very swiftly. After constructing an evolving song with a patient building block like cadence, she basically knocks it all down like dominoes while giving only the briefest of hints at what's coming. "We became our needs" Feist sings and then quickly moves on and then suddenly things surge up and the chorus is all that's left; overpowering in its intensity: "It's my pleasure, it's your pleasure" warps solely into "It's my pleasure" as Feist and her guitar take center stage and stomps and claps rise up to meet chants of "Pleasure! Pleasure!". It's certainly a way to make an entrance and the lead track from her upcoming album sure does a heck of a lot towards making me even more excited for the rest of the album. Luckily for us the release of Pleasure is but a month and some change away.



Feist's fifth studio album Pleasure is out April 28th on Polydor.

Friday, March 10, 2017

All Around Sound Is Turning Seven! - Day 4: The Deloreans

As mentioned earlier in the week, an unintended theme for this year's blog birthday contributors is that they're all artists we've covered while All Around Sound was pretty much in its infancy (Genders wasn't quite but they previous project Youth however was). Today's contributor, Louisville rockers The Deloreans, are one of the first bands of the batch that we covered and our love affair began with them after being played a track of there's by Sam of now defunct blog MiddleClassWhiteNoise back when turntable.fm was still a thing. It was a love whose flame was fanned by fellow Louisville native and longtime fan Zach of We Listen For You. He assured me The Deloreans were a band that had to be seen to be truly enjoyed and by convincing them to come to New York for CMJ quickly proved himself incredibly right.


Since our initial meeting years ago on the streets of Manhattan while Zach sang their many praises, we've managed to stay in touch and even frequently discuss classical music with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jeremy Perry and guitarist Loren Pilcher. Though asking them to contribute in All Around Sound's birthday was pretty much a given, it was also a matter of timing and thankfully the stars aligned and they could participate. Jeremy Perry crafted a mix and gives us the run down:



One of my very favorite pieces of music from 2016. Erik Blood's string arrangement and calculated production at first seem to be diametrically opposed to the raw lyrics and tossed off vocals by the brilliant OC Notes. But this is one of the best matches of seemingly-opposites that you'll find. The respectful honesty of OC's words is extremely effective from a literal standpoint, while the rest of the track underscores the emotional complexity of the sentiment.




This track is a few years old yet I keep coming back to it. Matt Meyers really found something with this track in terms of melodic/harmonic and lyrical timing. Lyrically, I'll think of a different interpretation every time I hear it - but every interpretation is something. With only a guitar and vocals on this track, Meyers doesn't have production to hide behind - the great thing is that he didn't need it.

Probably one of my favorite songs that has come out in the last few years. Great lyrics and timing all around. Plus,it's one of those songs that seems like not many people 'get' it so it seems even more special to me. 



If you haven't heard of this artist yet you certainly will. He was just nominated for a Grammy and is getting a lot of nods from the upper echelons. There are plenty of hits and perfectly-spun pop tracks on his debut album but this shorter track is my favorite.



I thought I had heard enough songs where it seemed the rather lame desire to recreate the vibe of Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" were the raison d'être. Even if it was the case I really like this track from this band who I don't know much at all about.



I don't know a lot about this group other than I think they are from Lexington, KY and that I heard they aren't playing anymore. But that's a shame. This track is much more effective at reaching towards subversive anti-pop than most attempts. Also it seems that the type of band that makes this kind of music doesn't typically end up with a vocalist this good.



These guys are from Chicago. This track is older for them but it's a great one and I come back to it quite a bit. Listen to how they wait until almost the end of the song to hit the top of the track's dynamic range. Not a level of patience you'll find much. It makes me drive faster for some reason.



Someone wrote my band Deloreans an email saying our singer (me) sounded like the singer for The Associates. I had never heard of them and curiously looked them up. This is the first track (a Bowie cover) I listened to. I immediately loved it. But only in my dreams can I sing as great as this guy - I wish. This is also a case where this band truly made their own version of the song. There is nothing similar. He creates his melodic phrases, the arrangement is quite sparse and modest, the guitar solo, or rather moment is one of the most interesting things I've heard for a guitar solo.



Like most people I listened to a lot off David Bowie this past year. This track is the one I probably played the most. He recorded this in Philadelphia and hired out some local vocalists to sing the backing parts.


Thanks to Jeremy and The Deloreans for contributing to this year's blog birthday celebration. If you haven't listened to The Deloreans brilliant second album "American Craze" I highly recommend you do while the rest of us wait for the follow up that's sure to be just as special. If you have: listen to it again. It's a masterpiece worth revisiting over and over.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

All Around Sound Is Turning Seven! - Day 3: Wild Ones


Much like previous contributors Genders who's mix went up earlier this week, Portland's Wild Ones were a discovery I made through fellow Portland friends Typhoon. In fact both Wild Ones and Genders' former band Youth went on a west coast BFF tour together and that's essentially how both bands came to my attention. I even emailed them for info at the time since at the time they didn't have a bio. Wild Ones, similar to Genders have undergone a number of changes since I happened upon them but one thing has remained the same: they're still making sweet synth pop jams helmed by their amazing frontwoman Danielle Sullivan. Their debut full length Keep It Safe was an instant favorite, "Show Me Islands" from their Heatwave EP was our song of the summer for two consecutive summers, and their upcoming sophomore record is one we're eagerly awaiting.

Considering how thoroughly invested we are in their new record, it seemed pretty logical to ask what they were even listening to. The result was a mix from Danielle that in her own words is "is pall over the damn place". It's an eclectic mix in the best way pairing Danielle's love of pop (both mainstream and of the indie variety) with innovative songwriters and even a little world music. Enjoy!



Thanks to Danielle for sending us this rad mix and here's hoping it's not too long before their sophomore record is ready to release and subsequent tour. If you haven't seen Wild Ones live yet, I highly recommend rectifying that.