Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pitstop: OHMME

photo by Michael Salisbury
My discovery of Chicago duo OHMME (formerly Homme) is a combination of constantly seeing former Red Eye Chicago writer Josh Terry gush about them and actually hearing their song "Woman" off their self-titled EP used by Ryan from Ahleuchatistas to promote a show he's playing with them later this month. While I certainly should've jumped on the suggestion the countless times Josh Terry inadvertently recommended them, it was actually hearing them that led to me being instantly charmed.

Though there's probably tons that can be said about the serendipitous linking of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart though the free improv scene in Chicago, the main focus should be on the fact that Cunningham and Stewart create songs that achieve a pitch perfect balance between indelible pop melodies, experimental sounds, and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Take "Woman" which begins with sharp guitar jangle before the duo's vocals enter with perfect harmonic softness, it's an immediate juxtaposition of opposites. That's to say nothing of the sweet dissonance of the song's chorus. OHMME are a band of opposites but also a band able to blend together those very parts in something notable. At once abrasive then soothing, OHMME is a dynamic band that filters their various influences into an intricately layered avant pop masterpiece.

The duo are able to weave together a sound that seems a hell of a lot bigger than just two people can make. Like "Fingerprints" which you swear is the result of some wonderfully deployed vocal effect but is really just the sound of Cunningham and Stewart being effortless in sync as they rapidly play off each other. It's a level of mind-boggling synchronicity that immediately brought to mind Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius or frequent Son Lux collaborators Lily & Madeleine. And yet, OHMME is thankfully a band all their own. Their self-titled EP is a stunningly versatile work filled with both aggressive rock pop numbers and mellower vocal showcases sometimes even in the course of the same time like see-sawing "Furniture".

OHMME have been creating music together for years and their EP is a testament to both the talents Cunningham & Stewart and the seemingly limitless creativity of their bond. Hopefully it's not another three years before the duo put out another record but if it takes that long to get a record as unique and enjoyable in sound as the EP, it'll be well worth the wait.

OHMME's debut self-titled record is out now on Fox Hall Records. You can snag it via the band's Bandcamp.

Listen: Young Dreams - "My Brain On Love"

Much of the career of Norwegian pop rockers Young Dreams both before and after their stunningly great debut Between Places has been trying to achieve an artful balance of boundary-pushing and leaning into the pop sounds that inspire them. On Between Places, it resulted in a sprawling, lush work of beguiling symphonic pop. Much of Young Dreams' work after has been much more experimental, chasing melodies or ideas that appeal to them while attempting to inhabit them in a way that feels real. There's no denying that the current trend in pop music has influenced producer Matias Tellez. From "Of This City" to "Sinner (I'm Sorry)" to "My Brain On Love", the second single from their upcoming sophomore effort Waves 2 You, the touch of autotune is all the proof you need of that.

"My Brain On Love" functions as a bridge of sorts between these two versions of Young Dreams. Where "Cells" introduced a much more sustainable form of electronic experimentalism and incorporating influences than the much more R&B reminiscent standalone singles, "My Brain On Love" rectifies Tellez's production talents with the band's knack for winsome melodies as well as their shifting genre proclivities. Young Dreams have never particularly been a band beholden to the notion of genre even though Between Places often ended up at the chamber pop/symphonic rock end of the spectrum but the band know their way both around trippy psychedelics and full-bodied synths and "My Brain On Love" relies more on these than anything. It's a song that undergoes a great deal of metamorphosis from its autotune laden intro to its more straightforward clear-cut melodies that bop along to sprightly grooves to an unexpected bit of distortion,, the band tackle these various moving parts with casual ease. 

Young Dreams' sophomore full length record Waves 2 You is out January 12th on their own Blanca Records. You can pre-order the record now through their Bandcamp.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Listen: Palm - "Dog Milk"

Although the bulk of Philly based rock pop experimentalists Palm's ouevre relies on the interplay not only between guitarist/vocalists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert but all four members of the band in general, "Dog Milk", the second single from Palm's upcoming sophomore full length Rock Island, takes the method to its compositional and technical climax as Alpert complements Kurt's lead vocals with both melodic and rhythmic asides.

Album opener and first single "Pearly" introduced fans to Palm's new experiments with electronics and synths and "Dog Milk" continues right along in that regard as drummer Hugo Stanley joins in with Kurt's MIDI triggering as well as accompanying his already pretty full-bodied percussion with electronically prepped drum beats. Though the band has accessed a broader range of sounds mainly through the use of effects pedals, the band's use of electronic further blurs the already hard-to-believe multitude of sounds the band are able to pull from their instruments.

There's been no shortage of experimentation in Palm's short but notable history as rock experimentalists and yet still "Dog Milk" serves as an incredible combination both of the band's far more recent leaning into their pop sensibilities as well as the insertion of electronic elements into their songs. It's a perfect storm of their incredibly engaging technical pop rooted in their mathy dressings as the band continue to pave their own way with increasing original takes on genre bending rock music. The occasional harsh abrasiveness of their debut full length Trading Basics has given way to much more tuneful efforts in their Shadow Expert EP and "Dog Milk" proves that there's still plenty of room to explore in this more accessible sound as the band create an incredibly full track that expands their textural palette in exciting new directions while also incorporating elements of what makes Palm such an interesting band to listen to: namely their technical precision and propensity towards rhythmic complexity.

"Dog Milk" might be Palm's poppiest track to date but it is also their most subversive as the band complicate would-be descriptors even further. Palm have never been a band easily described by labels but "Dog Milk" and Rock Island are shaping up to trip up longtime fans as they explore new creative avenue and jerry-rig an impressively pleasant brand of Frankenstein-ed guitar pop that borrows elements from all manner of music to bold establish itself as wholly separate. It bodes especially well not only for their eagerly anticipated sophomore record but also for the foursomes continued creative output.

Palm's full length sophomore album Rock Island is out February 9th on Carpark Records. Pre-order available now.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Listen: Renata Zeiguer - "Bug"

Despite the fact that Brooklyn based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Renata Zeiguer's last official release was her Horizons EP under her moniker Cantina (while releasing a series of bedroom demos intermittently after), it really hasn't been that long since you've heard her. From featured vocals on "Santa Carina" on Vensaire's final release JANUS back in 2015 and more recently, violin on Cassandra Jenkins' Play Till You Win, or back up vocals and strings on Landlady's The World Is A Loud Place, Zeiguer's been a quiet contributor to a lot of my favorite songs and albums all the while plotting the next course for her solo material. Enter "Bug", the first single from her debut full length album Old Ghost.

With "Bug", Zeiguer continues to offer up more of her delightfully melodic indie pop. Reclaiming Cantina as a project by her own name, "Bug" is a wonderful reintroduction full of clean melodic lines and similarly uncluttered harmonic layers. Zeiguer's songs have always balanced clear-sighted unfettered melodies and lush arrangements and "Bug" is no different as Zeiguer's vocals are largely unencumbered by her compositional aims. "Bug" is surprisingly spacious and free given Zeiguer's propensity for sudden bursts of textural complexity but that also highlights her winsome lyricism which continues to be dynamic in its originally and the unique timbre of her feather light vocals. A gifted composer as well as musician, Zeiguer knows her voice the best and her arrangement seek to elevate instead of muddle it. "Bug" is a swift moving slice of breezy guitar pop with subtly deployed pockets of rich textural depths. Zeiguer's solo debut has been a long time coming and "Bug" shows that she fully intends to make the most of it.

Renata Zeiguer's debut full length Old Ghost is out February 23rd on Northern Spy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Listen: Cosmo Sheldrake - "Mind Of Rocks" ft Bunty

photo by Simon Wolf
While English singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and producer Cosmo Sheldrake's previous releases "The Moss" 7", and his debut EP Pelicans We have established Sheldrake as an exceptionally talented songwriter, producer, and musician, "Come Along", the first single from Sheldrake's upcoming debut full length record The Much Much How How and I, displayed an ability to balance subtle minimalism but also incredible pop maximalism that was enough to get me properly excited for Sheldrake's full length debut and second single "Mind Of Rocks" continues to demonstrate Sheldrake as an incredibly versatile creator as well as upend all expectations of what to expect on the upcoming full length.

Despite the lack of Sheldrake's own vocals in favor of the heavily featured Brighton based artist Bunty, "Mind of Rocks" continues to weave Sheldrake's intricate production with his ever curious use of field recordings. Panamanian bats, a Scottish gale, and one of Sheldrake's beat-boxing lessons is but a few of the sounds he builds the track on. While Sheldrake hasn't shied away from being non-featured on vocals before - see "Rich" from Pelicans We which featured Andreyah Vargas, a friend of Sheldrake's, the different in the two tunes lays in the fact that the vocals in "Rich" still largely depended on Sheldrake's skillful deployment of Vargas' pre-recorded vocal samples. The result was a sort of chopped up effect that fit perfectly with the cacophonous bolder smashing Sheldrake utilized as the backbone beat of the track. "Mind Of Rocks" sees Sheldrake giving up some of the control for Bunty's more svelte, freer vocal performance. It's a track that relegates Sheldrake almost entirely to a producer role which he's proven exceptionally gifted at so far. Even as he brings in veteran composer/producer and fellow field recording enthusiast Matthew Herbert as co-producer.

And yet, there's no denying "Mind Of Rocks" is far less lush and complicatedly layered than some of Sheldrake's previous efforts - especially the multitudinous first single "Come Along" from his upcoming full length debut. But sparse - or sparser than he's been recently is refreshing and definitely provides an effective showcase of Bunty's vocals.

Cosmo Sheldrake's debut full length The Much Much How How and I is out April 6th on Trangressive with pre-order available now.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Listen: Palm - "Pearly"

While Philly based rock pop experimentalists Palm released their Shadow Expert EP earlier this year, they've already had the follow up to both it and debut full length record Trading Basics firmly prepped. So much so that fans of theirs who caught them on their most recent tour promoting the EP heard many of these new songs. "Pearly", the album opening track and first single from their upcoming record Rock Island, essentially bridges the gap between Shadow Expert and this new record, in that while it features the quartet's trademark complexity - both in rhythmic figures and time signatures, it keeps in line with much of Shadow Expert in dulling much of the harsh, abrasiveness of Trading Basics.

"Pearly" also finds the band introducing new elements to their already multitudinous layers - namely in the addition of synths. Guitarists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert have largely experimented with the expectation of guitar sounds in the pursuit of their mathematical art-pop so much so that you're not entirely sure the synth sound isn't just a guitar run through some cool effect. But outside of Palm, Kurt has been experimenting with electronics (as evidenced by his split Nino Tomorrow with Ada Babar released late last month) and that experimentation has found its way into Palm. Even with the addition, the synths are treated as more of another color to paint with instead of point of primary focus especially as Kurt essentially sets and forgets the synth sample and accompanies Alpert in their trademark angular guitar interplay.

"Pearly" is wonderfully dreamy - featuring Alpert as the lead singer as she spins lyrics at once fragmented and mysterious: "I can feel elimination coming/what to do, I look around at nothing" Alpert begins and the existential crisis contained therein is at odds both with the collected calm of Alpert's delivery as well as Palm's buoyant accompaniment. 

But Palm have always been a band of contradictions and duality, and "Pearly" is no different. It's a song of complements as vocals operate both in the more textural sense Palm have always regarded them as well as giving an indication of what "Pearly" is about. But Palm don't make it easy and the lyrics are playfully tossed and turned in the wave-like lilt of Palm's unexpectedly smooth instrumentation. Where Palm might normally infuse jolts of energy through the use of jagged guitars or a rush of harsh noise, the differing element lies in Alpert's vocals which rise to climatic sighs.

Palm's sophomore full length record Rock Island is out February 9th on Carpark Records.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Listen/Watch: Young Dreams - "Cells"

Though it was essentially an salvaged outtake from their abandoned sophomore full length record, "Of The City" hinted at a brand new direction from the orchestral pop sextet Young Dreams. Though it made use of organs and strings, there was a reliance on synths and they were utilized far differently than they were on the band's debut Between Places. And when they released r&b tinged single "Sinner (I'm Sorry)" earlier this year, the potential direction of their new album was once again up in the air.

"Cells" however finds the band at a sound that is perhaps far more sustainable for a full record. Another indicator that the band has largely left behind the symphonic layering that defined much of their debut, instead "Cells" finds Young Dreams drawing closer to those psych rock grooves that inspired them do a Tame Impala rework. But unlike "Sinner", the musical direction doesn't seem as far of a leap away from their original sound than it ends up being. "Cells" certainly doesn't lack for experimentation but elaborates more on the band's previous ventures in tropicalia and psychedelica. "Cells" is a laid back soak in the sun very in line with Young Dreams' normal sun-kissed musical escapism but is much more than a traipse down Young Dreams sounds past. Much like how the titual "Young Dreams"/"Flight 376" and "Expectations"/"Dream alone, wake together" singles informed the direction of Between Places, those same building blocks serve as a sort of alternate timeline here. One that relies more on the band's immediately presentable skills than in Matias Tellez's incredible production talents. Not that Tellez's production is missing on "Cells" but unlike "Sinner" and even "Of The City", they're reigned in and honed in a bit more. Though Tellez utilizes a number of percussive effects and samples as well as synths, they're treated with a lighter touch than the previous singles. Also Rune Vandaskog's vocals remain largely untouched by effects unlike the persistent autotune that they were run through before.

"Cells" is a picture of a subtler Young Dreams. Where Between Places captured these incredible emotional reflections and paired them with grand arrangements and intricate layers, "Cells" finds a bit of a balance between what the band can accomplish live and what works in the studio. It's the first song (and potentially the only one that'll actually be on the upcoming sophomore record) that you can actually imagine the band playing live even as it dips into it's electronic moments. 

"Cells" is an incredibly catchy work of pristinely plotted psych-infused pop and one that highlights just what makes Young Dreams work so well as a unit. They don't need orchestral flourishes to define them; what they have instead is an tight-knit precision and a pursuit of sounds and colors that make their hometown of Bergen sound a little brighter.

Watch the lyric video for "Cells":

Young Dreams' sophomore full length record Waves 2 You is out January 12 via their own Blanca Records. You can pre-order the album now through their new Bandcamp page.