Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Listen/Watch: Jinja Safari - "So Much"

Earlier this year Australian jungle rock quintet Jinja Safari officially announced their break up following a hiatus that led to many of their members pursuing side projects in earnest. While a series of singles released last year were thought to be the last songs we'd hear from the fivesome, they just announced that later this month they'll release their final album together: a double album called Crescent Head named after chief songwriters/co-founders Marcus Azon and Pepa Knight's hometown.

"So Much", the latest single from the upcoming double album features a side of the band rarely seen: melancholic and introspective. It curtails the band's normal riotous energy in favor of taking stock of where they are. Few bands get to end the band completely on their own terms like Jinja Safari usually  disbanding due to in-fighting or external pressures but the band's choice to end things amicably has allowed them to do this victory lap of sorts.

The accompanying video cementing that by featuring footage of the band traveling and performing together over the years. It's not an entirely new angle for the band that's used similar footage intermittently in their music videos (last year's for "Find My Way" spring immediately to mind) but it gains a new sense of poignancy by showing the band never stopped having fun both with each other and their audience. It's not hard to see why the band returned to studio to whip up a brand new batch of songs in appreciation.

"So Much" works wonderfully as a send off as the band close this chapter and embark on different journeys - musically and otherwise. Thankfully for fans/listeners, it's not the very last we'll hear from the quintet before they turn their attentions elsewhere.

Part 1 of Crescent Head is out August 17th with Part 2 out August 24th.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Listen/Watch: Oshwa - "Ultrafluorescent"

photo by Se Collier
After releasing the trailer for their upcoming sophomore record I We You Me at the very beginning of this year, Chicago art pop outfit Oshwa are finally offering up a much more substantial preview of what's to come with new single "Ultrafluorescent".

Directed by frontwoman Alicia Walter, "Ultrafluorescent" introduces a much more straightforward sound than the complex interlocking rhythms explored on debut full length Chamomile Crush. But breaking free from mathematical jams allows the life-affirming "Ultrafluorescent" to properly soar as it allows simpler pop conventions to carry its meaning. Big licks and vibrant coloring capture the fun of an Oshwa set as Walter sings of the joy of  being happy with yourself. "Ultrafluorescent" serves as a reintroduction to the project at Walter transforms it into more of a solo project but it's a welcome change that doesn't exact shuck its technical precision. Walter's voice is still capable of fantastic contortions and she still engages in some impressive technique when she finger taps out melodies on her guitar.  The project just isn't define by that anymore instead focusing on Walter's always winsome songwriting and knack for infectious melodies.

"Ultrafluorescent" is a wonderful introduction to Oshwa's second act. Lithe and powerful, charmingly simple, Walter puts herself wholly into the song and the project and it's hard not to fall for the absolute sincerity. I might miss the band's ability to craft song as wonderfully methodical and delightfully unique as "Old Man's Skies" but "Ultrafluorescent" highlights all of Walter's strengths that leave no doubts that the band's new direction will be equally as enjoyable.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Premiere - Watch: The Deloreans - "As Long As It's You"

Considering their most recent album "American Craze" was released way back at the very start of 2011, it's certainly a welcome surprise to hear from Louisville rock pop stalwarts The Deloreans. The fivesome are essentially one of Louisville's best kept secret and the rare moment they can be convinced to leave all that hometown glory behind so I can see them is always a plus.

After releasing standalone single "As Long As It's You" back in 2014, The Deloreans have returned to offer up another tantalizing release to help bide the time between albums and already given the honor of writing about the single before for a premiere, I feel doubly so that the band sought me out once again this time for the music video directed by Neil James.

James' video takes inspiration directly from Jeremy Perry's lyrics shifting the portrait of intense, passionate love to a dance piece. Much like the The Deloreans' track from which he was inspired, James' pairs the beauty of composition - in this case a lovely night scene lit with dozens of little lights with a slow-burning fury in dancers Mimi Hutchinson and Michael Nguyen as they play out a love story from its euphoric highs to its fiery lows. With only their costumes and the scene behind them not obscured in completely darkness - the narrative relies less on the expected ways to depict conflict: words, facial expressions and instead places the importance fully on the  visual components: the increase of dizzying camera shots, rapidly shifting angles, and of course the dance itself which proceeds from a playful song and dance, a chase, a romantic two-step, to violent leaps.

In case you missed it, you can listen to/order The Deloreans' "As Long As It's You" 7" now in its 2nd pressing here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pitstop: Cavez

I was first introduced to Cavez (pronounced Caves) the project of Australian based singer/songwriter Bryce Hutchings through Jacob Borg of Jinja Safari's solo project Berlin Bar Hounds back in November of 2014 with a simple appeal to listen to his demo for a song "Idealistic Desire" and promises that the man's voice was amazing. He wasn't wrong. I was instantly taken with the track and the only thing that  really kept me from writing about it was the fact that I remained largely unable to host it here. But I was gobsmacked nonetheless and even reached out to Hutchings to see if there were plans to release more than single, stunning demo. Hutchings promised more to follow and fast forward to today where Hutchings has let free "Famili'ar", his second demo.

From "Idealistic Desire" which easily recalls the sparse beauty of Bon Iver circa For Emma, Forever Ago, Hutchings' pretty much offers up all we need to know. His lyric sprawl is slow and deliberate, his vocals aching and effective in their rawness, and his fingerstyle guitar work understated but nimble.

While "Familiar" arrives with a similar bare bones approach, it's notably warmer both in sound and delivery. "Familiar" ends up being more of a vocal showcase for Hutchings instead of an overtly lyrical one. While not rushing headlong into pop conventions, "Familiar" features much more animated performance and swifter build than the glacial pacing of "Idealistic Desire".

It's not much but the combination of "Idealistic Desire" and "Familiar" highlight Bryce Hutchings' versatility as both a songwriter and performer. They may just be demos but they're absolutely enthralling in simplicity and approach. No one but Hutchings can quite say what they'll end up sounding like ultimately but they manage to be more engaging than some many layered works from other artists. Hutchings displays a wealth of talent in these two demos and my hope is either that he doesn't wait to long to offer up another or that he takes a similar plunge as his friend Jacob Borg and begins working on and releasing music in earnest. No one can say but until we know more about Hutchings' Cavez project we do at least have these two stellar demos which showcase a beguiling singer/songwriter with an incredible vocal presence.

You can listen to "Idealistic Desire" here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Listen: Kishi Bashi - "Say Yeah"

When violinist Kishi Bashi finished touring behind his brilliant sophomore record Lighght, he reached sort of an impasse. Where does he go from here? Where 151a was steeped into vibrant psychedelics and blindingly bright chamber pop, Lighght leaned more into his jazz fusion and baroque pop influences. The records represented not only where K Ishibashi wanted to go creatively but also functioned as a sort of sum of his parts rounded out by his collection of string quartet reworks. But that question of what to do next wasn't merely a creative question. After so much time on the road, K's personal life was on the brink of collapse. It was enough to inspire a whole new approach to his normal composition style and dictate a heretofore unseen straying from the norm. "Say Yeah", the first single from his upcoming third album Sonderlust, is not only the introduction to Kishi Bashi's stylistic change but also a lyrical one.

Though Kishi Bashi has for the majority of his career thus far let his violin and loop pedal root his music, "Say Yeah" features a bit more synths than fans of his might be used to. It's a somberer take on his normally effervescent pop but one that highlights Ishibashi's versatility as an artist. "Say Yeah" combines Kishi Bashi's stars-in-your-eyes romance with a bit of realistic appeal, a disco groove, and a bit of the jazz fusion influence from Lighght.

On "Say Yeah" Kishi Bashi trades his characteristic sense of fun and whimsy for a sound that's a lot more human and rooted in reality and the result is electric. Ishibashi's talent for writing memorable hooks is alive and well but by rooting them in his own real emotion, he ensures its sincerity and infuses the crying-on-the-dancefloor track with a winsome sense of intimacy. It's a welcome return for Kishi Bashi that provides a bit of shading to the increasingly larger than life musician.

Kishi Bashi's third full length album Sonderlust is out September 16th on Joyful Noise Recordings. You can pre-order the record now as well as listen to a revealing interview Kishi Bashi gave on All Songs Considered.

Sur Back - Kitsch EP (2016)

From the opening trumpet fanfare of her first single "Jane Eyre", I knew Jupiter, Florida based singer/songwriter/producer Sur Back was going to be the type of artist that would be thrilling to watch grow. Not because Caroline Sans had a lot of growing to do but more her ideas - in the case of "Jane Eyre" a fearless dive into complicated meter, were sure to get more fascinating over time and with additional input. While I knew producing was an underrated labor of love where slight, incremental progress could be measured in years, I still let myself hope that Sans' debut album was soon to follow. Ultimately the wait wasn't too torturous and this year, a little over two years after the official release of her first single, Sans' debut EP Kitsch is out and well worth the wait.

Kitsch with its four tracks allows itself to be brief but that hardly blunts the force of its arrival or the sharpness of its construction. Sans has established rather early with "Jane Eyre" and second single "Occam's  Razor", which opens the EP, a tendency towards luxurious craning vocals that belie the simple utility of her production. Sans' approach favors deft over decadence; sparsity over the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach without sacrificing lushness. Kitsch is a collection of smooth, flowing songs that highlights the talent of Sans' one-woman show as "Pastel" and album ender/title track "Kitsch" feature perfectly deployed strings that catapult her songs to peak emotional effectiveness. But "Kitsch" with its slavic romance feel and sultry slow-burning delivery and "Pastel" do impressively different things with their strings. On "Pastel", Sans' strings are merely a part of din; an elegant textural choice in the climactic cacophony of its race to the finish instead of the deflating sighs towards quiet entropy in "Kitsch".

Kitsch may be brief but functions as an utterly thrilling introduction to Caroline Sans and the movement and classical music inspired vision that informs her work as Sur Back. Each song on Kitsch functions separately as a sort of expressive mood piece tailor made for the soundtrack of the listener's life. Sans' maximalist tendencies are obscured by the effortless stitching together of multitudinous layers result in visceral images presented with beguiling ease. None of the EP's four tracks resemble Sans' first single "Jane Eyre" (the only song not to make it on the EP) and Kitsch is all the more better for it - pushing Sans' in exciting and largely unexpected new directions for the listener. With plans for a new EP percolating no one can really tell where Sans is off  to creatively but if her continued growth resembles anything like the  lead up to Kitsch it's bound to be incredibly entertaining, wonderfully cinematic, and entirely worth the wait.

Sur Back's debut EP Kitsch is out now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Listen: Genders: "Life Is But A Dream"

Following Maggie Morris and Stephen Leisy since their days as members of Portland foursome Youth has been a wonderful journey of sorts. Though Youth was shortlived, their output - a double A side and their June EP was enough to make enough of an impression that listening to their new band Genders was a given. While it was a bit of a wait after the announcement of the band until those not able to catch them around Portland could see them, Morris and Leisy have made the wait worth it - releasing a series of  placeholders before finally releasing their debut full length Something To Get You By at the tail end of 2013.

"Life Is But A Dream", the first single from Genders' upcoming Phone Home EP shows that they're not that kind of band that's content to stay in place. Whereas Something To Get You By reveled in a sort of garage psych hinterland, "Life Is But A Dream" pulls from the band's dreamier, more atmospheric moments and chases that lead to a refreshing new sound. Morris and Leisy pair their guitar with omnichord and synths, respectively while Katherine Paul's insistent drumming translates rather well outside of the fuzz of their previous efforts. Considering the more laidback surfer rock vibe of Youth and Something To Get You By's "Golden State", Morris and Leisy are no strangers to a less hectic vocal delivery but "Life Is But A Dream" pairs the casual delivery with the blistering, intricate guitar work of their debut. It's a noteworthy blend, one that highlights the band's versatility as well as their ability to take what worked previously show that it works surprisingly well in new context. The result is a slice of dreampop that's not entirely content to go down smooth; As Morris and Leisy's guitar work occasionally providing jagged edges that elevate the track above mere delicate pop confection.

Genders' new single "Life Is But A Dream" is out and available for download this Friday with their Phone Home EP out later this year.