Friday, September 15, 2017
I've always been strongly of the opinion that the true magic of a music festival lies not in the big name acts - the acts people know for a fact are good and enjoy but in the discovery of smaller acts that are perhaps far easier to miss. Hopscotch has made it both easier and harder to prove this assertion as they do a very good job booking so many interesting acts to so many interesting venues that you're torn between where you want to and where you should be. Raleigh's own Truth Club are a band I caught based purely on word of mouth from locals. When I asked everyone their plans for the penultimate day of Hopscotch everyone was sure to leave time in their schedules for Truth Club and I made sure to do the same.
The thing that intrigued me the most about the Raleigh trio lied mostly in the voice of singer/guitarist Travis Harrington. Among angular guitar melodies, surging tempos, and shifting dynamics, it's the one thing I found myself returning to and focusing on. Despite how many times you listen to any Truth Club song (and currently there aren't very many), you never quite get a sense of predictability from Harrington's vocal leaps. Truth Club sit at the intersection of pop punk and indie pop but never quite show their hand with where they're pulling influence in a particular song. Harrington's vocals are dynamic: whether their craning, or proceeding with a start-stop clip like a skipped stone they dictate essentially where the songs can go. That's not to say that the band aren't capable of truly intriguing instrumental moments: they are. Truth Club's song are made of an impressive assortment of these little memorable moments like the sudden cacophony in "Post-FOMO Life" or the drum hits that seem to punctuate the end of each of Harrington's thoughts on "Hi From C.A.". Despite their simple, standard setup, they play and write music with an air of maturity that's somewhat unexpected. Maybe that's due to past experience (Harrington was a member of Wilmington's Astro Cowboy) but one thing is clear: the band are sure to captivate from their very first note.
Truth Club's debut release Interest Meeting, released earlier this summer, is out now. You can grab it at a pay-what-you-want rate on Bandcamp.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Richmond, VA quartet Night Idea are, like a lot of my favorite bands, a completely accidental discovery. Kingston, NY psych pop duo Shana Falana had invited me to a show of theirs at nearby Quinn's in Beacon, I went, and visiting openers Night Idea with their updated take on glacial, expanding prog rock instantly charmed me. The foursome displayed a level of technical proficiency obviously required for their genre of influence but their network of intermingling mathematical patterns erred on the side of accessibility. Their style of song construction allows you to see the various layers increasing in density in real time.
"Perfect Water", the first single from their upcoming album Riverless, both builds on the band's established familiarity and tour-hardened precision while also making the most of effects that are enhanced in a studio. If you listen to the track through headphones or aloud through legit speakers you can hear moments of the band's diverse panning.
"Perfect Water" also finds Night Idea at almost a full-on thaw. Their pacing remains creeping and furtive but there's no denying a pick up in momentum and surging intensity. On previous effort Breathing Cold, Night Idea balanced expansive prog rock odysseys with more radio friendly track lengths and "Perfect Water" essentially finds a comfortable balance between the two: an intricate full band showcase that dabbles in a similar avant pop sensibility to contemporaries like Palm or early SoftSpot.
"Perfect Water" spotlights a Night Idea equally at home with their sound and capable of pushing it forward to display newer strengths. That bodes exceedingly well for Riverless and I'll certainly be anticipating how other singles feed not only into the concept of Riverless and the sudden drought that motivates much of narrative of the album but how Night Idea rely on their instrumental capabilities to flush out and intriguing concept.
Night Idea's sophomore full length record Riverless is out October 13th on Gigantic Noise/Citrus City Records. CD/Digital copies will be available from Night Idea via Bandcamp while limited edition 12" pressings are available for pre-order now from the Gigantic Noise webstore here.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
One of the greatest thing to come out of Leeds outfit Adult Jazz (aside from their distinct brand of expansive, lush art-pop) is the fact that they have very talented friends whom they constantly try to uplift. It's probably the closest an outside listener halfway across the globe can get a sense of what kind of music scene Adult Jazz are a part of. While fans may have been introduced to Kyle Molleson's project Makeness not only through his place of several mixes but also through his collaboration with Adult Jazz's Harry Burgess "Other Life" last year, London foursome Glad Hand are another band worthy of knowing. Fellow school companions (and featuring Kyle Molleson of Makeness in their roster), Glad Hand make a sort of ephemeral, texture rich experimental pop that's not too far away from what fans of Adult Jazz are sure to be looking for. But Glad Hand are more than mere Adult Jazz soundalikes. While not quite as rooted in dance as bassist Molleson's Makeness, Glad Hand songs are prodded along their wide, cavernous expanses by interlocked grooves and singer/songwriter Declan Pleydell-Pearce's sinewy vocals give the songs much of its mutable character.
Their debut album Be Kind, released earlier this year, contains a collection of songs made up of intriguing sounds and timbres and percussion to create a sort of captivating mirage pop. Songs like "Been One Thing" or "Shape Your Fever Close" which brush right up against their pop sensibilities recall early Wild Beasts while tracks like album opener "Undone" is much more characteristic of the band and the album in its sumptuous slow burn. The album is made up of these incredible moments of quiet tension and release. There's dynamic musical peaks but each songs manages to be engaging in its own right and hold your attention even when there's not an obvious amount of things going on instrumentally that ultimately makes album ender "Eavesdropper" with its sparse, almost a capella opening feel well and truly earned.
One of Glad Hand's strengths is not only its synthesis of ideas but also the sum of their individual talents: Dan Jacobs' jazz percussion, effortlessly subtle production, and the elasticity of Pleydell-Pearce's enrapturing vocals. The most surprising thing about Glad Hand is not its subtlety but that they manage to create all these pockets of silence or open sound that draw you further in. Glad Hand are minimalists and considering their standard rock band setup the could easily fill all the space but they don't. The spaces, the silence, the slow unfurling of their songs and the lack of musical drama are what set them apart from other outfits like Wild Beasts. For Glad Hand not only is less more but it can be an obsessive and rewarding focus: like how a snare rolls can form the backbone of an entire song. Be Kind is a multi-layered album that reveals more and more of itself with each listen. It's a record that draws from progressive genres like jazz, prog rock, and occasionally contemporary classical to translate its lyrical subjects of the phantom self, unreciprocated love, and self-doubt musically into a swirling miasma of disorienting effects and sounds.
Glad Hand's debut album Be Kind is out now as a pay-what-you-want download via their Bandcamp. A physical 12" featuring "Shape Your Fever Close" and "Been One Thing" as well as remixes from Glad Hand's Dan Jacobs and Makeness is also available from Handsome Dad Records.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
When I was introduced to Arizona based experimental artist AlhhlA earlier this year due to their affiliation with Yairms, one of my only real complaints about the band was that there was so little music available from them. I was sold on a single song ("Who Shall Lead") out of two possible ones on a split EP released in 2014, my obsession fueled by demos and live recorded concerts and now with singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Levi Hiller's plans to reunite with Yairms' Jerry Rogers to create/recorded new material he's seen fit to release a brand new EP he's been sitting on for some time and was only previously available as a tour-only cassette. 8oNitsSidE, AlhhlA's first release since the Yairms split three years ago finds Hiller demonstrating a wider expanse of sounds than at-home listeners would have gotten to experience.
"-_cLeArLiNes_-", the EP's opening track begins in a place of quiet dramatically different than the percussive, boisterous "Who Shall Lead" that introduced AlhhlA on the split. And yet its quietness is hardly indicative of its multitudinous layering. Hiller takes his time building its lush lilt as his own vocals combine with instrumental shuffling in a feeling akin to the sloshing of ocean waves. That wave formation informs much of the track as its swells softly build and recede in much the same way. There's also the fact that many of the effects are practically indiscernible. That's largely due to Hiller relying on different forms of recording and playback from old shareware to and old boombox and finally a tascam tape machine before being transferred to digital, "-_cLeArLiNes_-" almost seems ironically named. It's various parts a mesh of intriguing, augmented sounds as Hiller's sage-like voice cuts clear through cassette hiss. It's a move reminiscent of Son Lux: forming an interesting base rooted in intricate layering and unique sounds while letting his distinct vocals captivate and enhance the instrumental parts.
Second track "@
8oNitsSidE is a wonderfully demonstration of just what AlhhlA have to offer and if you haven't listened to the songs on the aforementioned split, it serves as a pretty excellent introduction. The EP is varied but grounded in a consistent sound that is uniquely Hiller's. AlhhlA's music gets its sound from a number of aspects: the various transitions between analog tape and digital and editing, Hiller's fascination with augmenting sounds, as well as sense of creative storytelling that brings to mind bands like Le Loup or Akron/Family. Hiller crafts delightfully intricate textural meshes that he simultaneously works to shepherd you through. It's no wonder I was obsessed after one song as Hiller's songs balance an entrancing experimentalism with a subdued pop sensibility. The only thing keeping people from becoming fans of AlhhlA is time and if it takes three years between releases to get songs as good as those featured on 8oNitsSidE, I'm surely willing to wait.
AlhhlA's new EP 8oNitsSidE is out now and available for stream/purchase via his Bandcamp. All digital purchases come with three bonus tracks.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
|photo by Nina Westervelt|
Twain's third full length album Rare Feeling is out October 20th on Keeled Scales. You can pre-order the album on CD, cassette, or LP here.
My discovery of Brooklyn based singer/songwriter/producer Elisa happened oddly enough through a series of pictures. Over the past couple months photographer Landon Speers aka Headaches has been sharing a number of pictures he took of her and as he continued to share them piecemeal, my curiosity grew more and more as a narrative eventually formed: Elisa Coia went from a nameless model to a mononym, and then the fact that she was a recording artist became clear after Speers posted a picture of her with Becca Kauffman of Ava Luna/Jennifer Vanilla and Ziemba. And yet oddly enough, it took my most recent obsession with the new Photay album to lead me to Elisa's music instead of following the breadcrumb trail of Speers' pictures. Listening to the Photay album led me to research the Astro Nautico label it was released on which is co-founded/co-run with electronic artist/producer Sam O.B. (fka Obey City) and Elisa features heavily on "Samurai", a single from his debut full length Positive Noise.
Releasing music under her actual name before rebranding much like Sam O.B.'s Sam Obey, she recently released an EP under the moniker Elisa. If I wasn't enamored enough by her vocals on "Samurai" (spoiler alert: I was), hearing "You Can Wear The Mink" which popped up next in the cue, cemented it. The track, as well as the whole Morning Again EP, shows off Coia's versatility. The track begins minimal with Coia framed as an old school chanteuse before the track fills and Coia's vocals become more modern. Coia's vocals are distinct and yet its style is not particularly easy to pin down: pop, soul, something wholly other. She shuffles through styles and the genres are fairly elastic. Lyrically, the tales Coia tells are fairly universal: love lost, heartbreak, trying hard to make something work. And yet Coia's songwriting and her vocals are refreshing. Or you end up with a track like the EP's title track "Morning Again" where Coia takes on the state of America and the constant bombardment with bad news. It's sardonic and yet sincere, an excellent example of when pop meets politics as the message is poignant but not too heavy to the point that it disables the song's enjoyable qualities and Coia's set it to a groovy beat makes it more easily digestible. It's heavy for sure: as she references specific news events and vague ones that apply far too frequently but the production is sleek enough that you can feel the emotion: the anger, the sadness but not be overwhelmed by the politics.
Take the dark textured pop of "You Can't Work For Love" with its visceral imagery and its explosive choruses and her counterpoint to a typical pop song staple: love is hard work. On "You Can't Work For Love", Coia essentially argues the opposite. "You love like a Catholic, if it's bad must be worth it" she sings and it's hard to resist the urge to cheer. The struggle is often romanticized and Coia isn't having any of it. There's an ease that should come in a good, healthy relationship and she wants that. And yet, it's not delivered like a stinging rebuke but an affectionate unpacking of an insurmountable flaw. That's a consistent theme of Coia's Morning Again EP. The songs come from a place of love even when they're indulging in the darker, unseemly aspects of relationships.
Elisa's Morning Again EP is out now. She's about to embark on her Back-To-School tour with Miles Francis.
Monday, August 21, 2017
A continuing point of interest for me has been the intersection of electronic and acoustic sounds: the interplay between mechanical and digital sound. It's what drew me to bands like Hundred Waters, Bayonne, or early Night Beds. The method of composition entwines these two radically separate ideas and blurs the line until you're not so sure what is processed and what is natural sound. Or at least that's what some of the best electronic acts have been able to do. Sometimes it's less about blurring that line and more about one informing the other. That's essentially what Photay's new album Onism sets out to achieve. Introduced to him through fellow ambient/chillwave artist Teen Daze, Onism was inspired by the nature documentaries on the 70s that largely relied on synthesizers.
It's an album at odds with itself: crafted in Brooklyn and other cities, a various national parks, and the Hudson Valley that Photay's Evan Shornstein calls home. The idea of Shornstein trying to rectify these normally conflicting places through his own electronic experimentation called me to Onism like a siren song. Unlike the electronic music I normally gravitate towards where it's hard to suss out just what is a naturally occurring sound and what is digitized/augmented, Shornstein relies almost purely on synthetic sound. Sure there's saxophone, cello, and even a balafon featured throughout the album but most impressively Shornstein seeks to capture a sense of place through the art of soundtrack almost. It's not about replicating the natural to conjure impressions of it, rather Shornstein takes the inspiration he feels from his forays into the natural world and let's it inform his sound. He's not trying to mimic or replicate, he's merely drawing necessary inspiration and filtering through his own lens. Perhaps the most surprising thing is how well this works and what makes a moment like "Aura", a rare moment of Shornstein actually singing, so effective. It's an album that even at its most bombastic strives for harmony and a sort of meditative calm. And Shornstein is adept at navigating these high energy moments and steering them into the sense of quiet that they all practically demand.
The most surprising thing about Onism: more so than how evocative Shornstein's ability to invoke these nature scenes in the mind's eye of the listener but how effective his ability to imbue even the most silent-striving moments of Onism with an engaging tension. Every moments on Onism is one of dynamic interest: a testament not only to Shornstein's talents in production but also of compositional prowess.
Photay's debut full length album Onism is out now on Astro Nautico.
I've said it time and time and again but Deerhoof are one of the most innovative bands going constantly pushing themselves in different directions in a career that's spanned more than 20 years. After their last full length record The Magic was released last year I figured it'd be some time since we'd hear from them again or rather they would simple tour around that set of songs but in addition to being Joyful Noise Recordings 2017 artist in residence, they've also announced a brand new batch of songs.
Mountain Moves, their newest record, looks to be the band's most political. The band have been fairly vocal in this increasingly hostile political climate and Mountain Moves acts as a sort of response to America's fraught politics. It's also the quartet's most collaborative. Featuring artists like Lætitia Sadier and Awkwafina, Juana Molina and Xenia Rubinos, there's a number of unexpected guests that mesh surprisingly well. Despite the number of great singles released so far (there's been three and the album is out in 3 weeks time), my interest was piqued instantly by the mention of Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes. While each band are distinct enough in their own right, I was incredibly intrigued to hear what a collaboration between Deerhoof and Wasner would sound like and it sure doesn't disappoint.
"I Will Spite Survive", the first single released from Mountain Moves earlier this summer, begins with a "Jessie's Girl" like intro before Satomi Matsuzaki enters with her saccharine vocals. It's a move synonymous with Deerhoof's oeuvre: pairing heavier rock moments with Satomi's feather light vocals especially as she sings sweetly of terrifying things and dark motives but it works exceptional well here as she coos the song's oft-repeated and most gripping lyric: "You could outlive your executioners". Suddenly Wasner enters and everything coalesces into a wonderful harmonic moment: Wasner, Matsuzaki, and band are in perfect alignment and the effect is overwhelming. It's a song meant to rally for the tough fight ahead and it achieves this not in the high intensity, heart-thundering style of punk but rather in the universal, communal language of pop. Both Wasner and Deerhoof know their way around ferocious guitar solos and attention-grabbing distortion but "I Will Spite Survive" communicates through clarity and harmony. The lyrics are simple and memorable: repeated often like a protest chant; the instrumental interplay effortlessly layered but crystal clear and the harmonies are immaculate. The song is hopeful, but cautiously so in a way that acknowledges the difficulty of pressing onward and yet it's not handled like a slog. There's no dissonance: cognitive or compositional. Each phrase sung is reliant upon its neighbor either undercutting it or expanding upon it as the band helpful try to point you in the direction they think you should take: "Sleep at night, if you can stay alive". Each lyric is another call to rally: you can beat those trying to end you if you're willing to do the work. Earn your rest, celebrate. Deerhoof are able to convey a pretty poignant message with very little. And that's why a song like "I Will Spite Survive" works. It's catchy pop melodies and nimble lyricism are tailor made to endure.
Deerhoof's newest album Mountain Moves is out September 8th on Joyful Noise Recordings. You can pre-order the album in a variety of formats including limited edition blue swirl LP here.
Monday, August 14, 2017
|photo by Shervin Lainez|
"We Can Pretend", the first single from the new Elizabeth and the Catapult album Keepsake, shows Ziman firmly in the midst of her consistent stride. Keepsake reunites her once again with frequent collaborator/producer Dan Molad and "We Can Pretend" essentially plays to the strength of Ziman and her other collaborators. Ziman is wistful but optimistic, hopeful but not delusional. Ziman essentially sings about upending expectations in search of something better; reveling in golden memories and letting them color your present situation. It's Ziman at her catchiest, Molad at his subtlest, and the result is a wonderfully crafted pop tune that is sure to rank as one of your favorite Elizabeth and the Catapult tunes. Based purely on the strength of her previous output I was already looking forward to the new album but "We Can Pretend" has increased my anticipation by leaps and bounds. Luckily we're bound to hear some more from Ziman and co before the album comes out this Fall.
Elizabeth and the Catapult's fourth full length studio album Keepsake is out October 20th on Compass Records Group.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Well this is more like it. After years as essentially Los Angeles' best kept secret (in the words of Hundred Waters who introduced me to his music), Moses Sumney is making moves. He's been consistently releasing music for years but last year's Lamentations EP was by far his most anticipated release and now several EPs down, this fall will see the release of his debut full length Aromanticism.
"Quarrel", the second single from the upcoming album, is a melange of just what makes Sumney such a force to be reckoned it. It's a subtler vocal performance than other efforts and therein lies its beauty: it's a sumptuous offering of stellar arranging and slow burning builds that juxtaposes the spiritual with the secular. Though he often frames his songs as hymns, there's universality here. There's also the fact that nearly half the track is an instrumental outro of sorts that establishes Sumney's other multi-instrumental talents. Not quite as much of an outright jam as "Lonely World", "Quarrel" moves at a much quicker pace than songs like "Doomed" which luxuriate in their incantation like lyricism. But "Quarrel" follows suit with Sumney's other output in that it captivates from the start, the listener hanging on every coo and change of inflection. Sumney enchants with little effort and "Quarrel" perhaps the most verbose song he's offered is still a masterclass in less being more.
Moses Sumney's debut full length album Aromanticism is out September 22nd on Jagjaguwar. You can pre-order the album now.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Since the announcement and subsequent release of I We You Me, the follow up to art pop outfit Oshwa's debut full length album Chamomile Crush quite a lot has changed for the project: singer/songwriter Alicia Walter made the trek from to Chicago to Brooklyn and essentially reclaimed the project as a solo endeavor. While the shift has perhaps meant less in terms of mathy guitar parts, the project is no less weird and wonderful than they've been before. I We You Me ended up being an album of incredibly personal record full of beautiful cinematic moments and "Off You Go", the first new music from Walter since she's made Brooklyn her home, manages to marry Walter's one-woman band aspirations with the kind of life-affirming lyricism she strove of on her previous record.
"Off You Go", released right before Walter embarked on a massive cross country tour, is essentially a celebration of that spirit of independence; of taking your future into your own hands risks be damned. It's a subject Walter knows all too well and yet she frames it as a sort of rallying cry for those worried of the risk and in need of the support of someone who believes in you. "Didn't you know you were made to fly?" and that combined with Walter's lovely layered harmonies give you the sense of being catapulted into possibility. "Off You Go" downright levitates with positivity as Walter takes up the mantle of cheerleader both for herself and anyone in need of a friendly push in the right direction and it's awe-inspiring how Walter is able to musically set these feelings she's trying to stir inside of you.
The feelings translate easily into the accompanying music video, directed by Anneliese Cooper and featuring choreography by Walter, Walter seems incapable of delivering her song's message with anything less and a big beaming smile of her face. From a solo dance number to a more involved number to strutting the streets of Brooklyn, Walter is pure contentment taking pleasure in every scene and shot of the video in a way that's as impressive as all of the various moving parts and different stages that make up the video. It's simple but Walter and Cooper and a crew of dancers make the most out of the simplicity and the result is something playful and fun but also downright interesting and enjoyable to watch.
"Off You Go" is definitive proof that Walter's still an exciting singer/songwriter and composer and that this next chapter might be her very best yet. Here's hoping it's not too long before we get to hear more.
You can snag "Off You Go" now on the Oshwa Bandcamp or through other online music retailers.
Monday, August 7, 2017
|photo by Jeremy Hernandez|
Curiously enough, it's Sullivan's attempt to frame a particular anxious time in her life in a positive context. On "Paresthesia", Sullivan takes responsibility for her anxiety causing her to pull away from everything and work through it. It's a pep talk of sorts as Sullivan's "This has got to be the last time" is more to herself than anyone. Underneath the sunny melodies and the quick pacing, Sullivan's taking an emotional inventory of sorts: she can see what she needs and what she wants but it's about getting there mentally as well as physically. While anxiety isn't really a thing you can just get over, Sullivan's clearly worked through the intense portion of it that caused her to become a shut-in and the poppiness of the single frames it as a winsome triumph of her spirit. "Paresthesia" finds Sullivan removed just enough that she can reflect on her feelings of fear in a way that they don't seem quite so scary anymore but still close enough that she can still empathize with the kind of person she was in that state. Sullivan's lyrics are honest and sincere while never losing the sense of ease and fun that's such an integral part of Wild Ones' sounds. The fact that the band can tackle such a serious subject and make it so palatable bodes particular well for the rest of Mirror Touch and I certainly can't wait to see what the band have up their sleeves.
Wild Ones' sophomore album Mirror Touch is out October 6th on Topshelf Records. You can pre-order the album now.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Several years ago I was introduced to Nashville based singer/songwriter/producer Daniel James' Canon Blue project through Efterklang (a band he was a touring member of)'s recommendation of his album Rumspringa when it became a spotlighted album for Noisetrade. Even then the orchestral dance record had been out for several years and so while I haven't had to wait as long as some longtime fans, I still greeted the news of both a brand new single and album from James as welcome news.
"Beholden", the opening track and first single from Canon Blue's upcoming third full length record Lasso Yo, arrives six years after James' previous effort but he hits the ground running. It's a track very in line with the sort of lush, uptempo songs that defined much of Rumspringa but without the assistance of Efterklang or the blend of electronics and strings Icelandic collective Amiina. Without the trappings of James' very talented friends, his powers of production are much more obvious as he builds an intricate tapestry of sounds that eventual burst into a resplendent climax. James' emotive tenor makes a welcome return and the track's bright melodies almost make it hard to believe that Lasso Yo was a record forged from James' struggles with anxiety and depression. But some of the saddest songs come in most upbeat of dressings and though "Beholden" relies mostly on metaphor and storytelling, it's not hard to see how the introduction to James' psyche would strive to go down easy. It's a thrilling return and an intriguing first taste to an album no one quite expected.
Canon Blue's third full length album Lasso Yo is out October 6th on Temporary Residence Ltd. You can pre-order the album now. Digital orders come bundled with a Jamie Lidell remix of album track "Onyx".
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Since I was introduced to them at their CMJ set at Glasslands, it's hard to believe that electro-pop duo Blue Hawaii haven't released a new record since 2013's Untogether. Though of course this probably has to do with Raphaelle Standell-Preston's main project BRAIDS hitting a massive creative stride with 2013's Flourish//Perish that they've managed to keep the momentum with. But today Blue Hawaii are back with a new single and a new album on the horizon. "No One Like You", the first single from their upcoming second full length album Tenderness, is a characteristic slow burn blossoming from its sparse vocal intensive opening to a vibrant disco-recalling jam featuring a strings and a multitude of interest synth effects. It grows into arguably Blue Hawaii's catchiest song. A companion of sorts to "Taste" off BRAIDS' Deep in the Iris, where "Taste" was a piece of self-actualizing self-admonishment, "No One Like You" sways between highlighting your partner's strengths and what they bring out in you and a sobering rejection of idealization: "What if I remember only remember the good times/Would I be lying to myself?" Raphaelle Standell-Preston sings and
"No One Like You" is a far cry from Blue Hawaii's debut Blooming Summer EP: an occasionally confusing tale of growing pains, simultaneous full of love with heartbreak seeping in at the track's most resplendent moments. "No One Like You" is essentially a song about growing up and of love filtered through the self. Even its most praiseful moments; its most praise-seeking moments, the track manages to keep the focus purely on Raphaelle Standell-Preston's emotions: what is she getting from this? How is she feeling? It's a pretty unique take on the standard love song formula which so often focuses on the external. It also happens to be an absolutely groovy number where Blue Hawaii are at their most danceable, club ready. There's no telling if Tenderness will remain as musically upbeat or as catchy but "No One Like You" is an excellent introduction to the upcoming album and brilliant welcome back for the duo.
Listen to "No One Like You":
Blue Hawaii's second full length record Tenderness is out October 6th on Arbutus Records. You can pre-order the record now through the band's Bandcamp.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
|photo by Samantha Skapin|
A member of Spirit Family Reunion (a fact I learned only after seeing him twice), Davidson's music is rooted in much of the deep American music tradition that serves as their inspiration: namely bluegrass, folk, and gospel. Though guitar is his main instrument, he's equally well versed in piano and fiddle, and these factor into his album efforts. Davidson's music deal almost exclusively with matters of the heart: the feeling of homesickness when you've been on the road for a long time, the blossoming feeling when you catch your lover off guard, Twain is adept in this regard easily balancing these relateable feelings and subjects with winsome, simple presentation. Davidson doesn't engage in any extra frills: rather his vocals so consuming in their fervorous intensity serve as both the window and the grounding element of his music. Much like artists like The Tallest Man on Earth or Mandolin Orange the anticipation between albums is less about expecting radical tonal departures but rather what new lessons his distinct voice will seek to impart. With an album completed, it hopefully won't be too long before we heard Twain's new tales of love and woe and I couldn't be more invested.
Until his next album is announced cozy up with Twain's previous releases including the his recently re-pressed Life Labors In The Choir which you can order via Davidson's Bandcamp. He's also on tour with Big Thief and I strongly recommend catching both of them if they're in your city - you absolutely will not regret it.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
|photo by Øystein Grutle Haara|
Living's songs are no less complex but it's beautiful music moments come at you faster and the band consisting of Sturla Kvernerg, Nora Tårnesvik, and new edition James Kalinoski of Flesh Prince makes the most of their live energy. The foursome harnessed this in previous single "Glory" and it's certainly good news that see that wasn't a fluke. The project has evolved considerably in the past two years or so and "Path" is a good indicator of what the band can sound like when it's firing on all cylinders. Hopefully the intricate nature of their song composition doesn't mean we have too long to wait before more Living tunes surface but in the meantime "Path" is more than worthy of a heavy amount of repeat listens.
If you haven't, listen to Living's previous single "Glory" released earlier this year and you can check out their brilliant self-titled EP via their bandcamp here.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Through their rather short but somewhat noteworthy career Philly four piece Palm have crafted an oddly accessible though certainly off-kilter brand of noise pop. Since their inception at Bard College, the foursome have pushed themselves to explore new sounds and tonal dialogues that meant for fans of the band, you'd often hear a song once and then maybe never again or have to wait several months if not years become you could actually own it. The Shadow Expert EP is their latest release, following an absolutely full length debut Trading Basics.
While first single "Walkie Talkie" gives the impression with its ramshackle jangle that Palm are up to their old tricks, as the EP proceeds there's a growing persistence of melodic coherence. Not that Palm have ever suffered from a lack of coherence in the past but it's hard to imagine a song like the eponymous "Shadow Expert", with its clean, straightforward flow existing on Palm's Trading Basics. But Palm haven't left either their angular guitar lines or their complex, interwoven dynamic or their intricate, atypical rhythms behind. Rather Shadow Expert seems to explore the band dynamic on the most basic of levels by dialing down the fuzz.
Guitarists Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt are locked in a dance that's not wholly unlike a changing bird formation. Where Kurt might take the lead with Alpert adding in little noisy flourishes, they're capable to shifting roles in an instant. That same sense of impermanence follows along in the vocal lines. One of the most delightful things about Palm's Shadow Expert EP is how fluid the whole thing feels. Buoying melodies and shifting figures both melodic and rhythmic give the sense that you're not entirely on solid ground. What's more, the EP progresses from harsh sounds to clean math pop right back to into harsher realms almost effortlessly. While Palm lean into their more pop sensibilities on the EP, there's a pervasive sense that noise is going to overtake everything laps at the sides of Palm's jangly art pop like oceans waves with varying intensity until "Sign To Signal" where it's presence is such a integral part of what makes it flow.
Given their constant pursuit of new and interesting sounds there's no telling if Shadow Expert is the kind of pop that Palm have been striving for or if it's merely a pitstop but it's an absolutely incredible entry into a diversifying catalogue that plays to their strengths while also exploring and establishing new ones.
Palm's Shadow Expert EP is out now on Carpark Records.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
|photo by Todd Walberg|
"With A Little Help" is a high point of the album featuring Morris at her brightest, most vibrant and taking what could be a radio-friendly pop effort and elongating its moments of small-scale magnificence. Though Morris has demonstrate a diverse range of songwriting subjects in the past/across other efforts, as Sunbathe, she sticks to basics: Sunbathe is an album filled with songs of love and heartbreak and where Morris really shines is in her ability to conflate the two. Morris' strengths have always lay in her pursuit of real, sincere emotions and real, earnest reactions and Sunbathe makes the most of that while also featuring incredible moments of tonal place-setting. Sunbathe is like a progression through the stages of grief, starting off breezy and sun-kissed and eventually ending up fully entrenched in darker textures and blistering riffs.
Sunbathe, the debut album from Maggie Morris' new solo effort Sunbathe is out now and available on digital, vinyl, or cassette.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
|photo by Landon Speers|
Sarah Kinlaw's first solo effort as Kinlaw a trigger for everybody is out June 23rd and currently available to pre-order on limited edition cassette from Soap Library. Kinlaw will also being doing a set of limited engagement shows at the Wythe Hotel on June 12th featuring choreography set to the album. You can score tickets to that here.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
It's been 2 years since Los Angeles indie rockers Francisco The Man released arguably one of the best songs you're bound to hear in "Progress". And also their very excellent debut full length Loose Ends. And if their latest single "I'll Feel Better" is any indication their sophomore effort Bodies in the Sun is bound to be just as excellent if not more so than the first. "I'll Feel Better" finds the shapeshifting foursome comfortably dialed in on their poppier element and locked in with each other. After an attention-grabbing elongated chord entrance, the band surge forward with Scotty Cantino's downy vocals holding their own against the band's pretty relentless forward plod. Considering the band have been playing together for the better part of a decade, it's hardly surprising to find the band so in sync and able to highlight each member's individual strengths but it's worth noting because a lesser band would swallow Cantino's vocals up entirely. That or they might tiptoe around them to make sure they were always in focus. But "I'll Feel Better" finds Francisco The Man picking right up where they left off, it's a fast-paced power pop jam featuring remarkably clean playing and absolutely infectious energy. It's a band recharged with a hell of a lot more to offer and I for one can't wait to hear more.
Francisco the Man's sophomore album Bodies in the Sun will be out later this year.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Saintseneca's Zac Little has always been drawn to big ideas. He's spun big philosophical moments and catchy folk pop out of the kind of weird thoughts you might have right before sleep comes. So when a video of his friend's narcoleptic cat Remi went viral, it's hardly surprising that Little's first thought was how much time is a million views? It's a big thought that no one ever really thinks about when they're watching silly internet videos but Little did the math and it equated to something like three years. And unsurprising to anyone familiar with Saintseneca or Little's knack for combing through these wonderfully random thoughts and attaching them to bigger revelations, he wrote a song about it. "Book Of The Dead On Sale" is a song inspired by the adding up of all the seconds and the value of that time. Time has different value to everyone and Little essentially ponders that. Not just time but money as well. "$38 on the Book of the Dead felt steep oh but then again how do you put a price on ancient wisdom?" Little sings and essentially questions the value of anything. How do you know how much something is worth? Is it the buyer or the seller who decides? Do people realize how many seconds they're devoting to this video of a cute kitten falling asleep? Do they realize enough people have watched it that it adds up to more time than the kitten's been alive? These are all questions that Little offers in sometimes direct and in other times roundabout ways. "The Book Of The Dead On Sale" is short but sweet. Aiming for the philosophical fences without taking itself too seriously. I mean it's hard to write a song about a viral cat video and not find a way to have fun with the conceit.
Saintseneca are about to go on a North American tour with Tiger Jaws and are an amazing live band so definitely make sure you catch them on tour.
Friday, May 19, 2017
While Philly experimental rockers Palm introduced listeners to their upcoming Shadow Expert EP with lead single/opening track "Walkie Talkie", their latest, the title track "Shadow Expert" might be more representative of what the band is trying to achieve on this EP. It is easily their most accessible track thus far. Where "Walkie Talkie" paired their memorable melodies with abrasive blasts and disorienting tonal shifts, "Shadow Expert" is a much more straight forward affair. But despite it's pop designs, the foursome still revel not only in their engaging interplay but also in their pretty characteristic rhythmic complexity. Running her vocals through effects, "Shadow Expert" is a lilting piece of slightly off-kilter pop that even in its simple route to the finish, doesn't quite let you get there surefooted. There's always a sense that something might occur at any moment; the listener ready for whatever may happen, never quite expecting what's to come. Though the band maintains a coherent clarity, the song's relentless buoying recalls the lapping of ocean waves and the band's locked in grooves direct the song's momentum similarly.
"Shadow Expert" in its consistent melodic clarity harks back to the band's earlier days of music-making to songs like "No Tribute" which effortlessly balanced atypical rhythms with ear-catching songcraft. Obviously the band are pushing their sound forward but it feels not unlike a momentary check in with a younger version of themselves to find that some interests still remain and updating them to correlate with newer interests. "Shadow Expert" is the best of both worlds: Palm at their most infectious but never quite giving a sense of predictability nor simplicity and it's a surprisingly good sound for the band. "Walkie Talkie" and "Shadow Expert" essentially show the Palm is capable of great versatility and pairs together opposites in a way that's not only coherent but also incredibly exhilarating.
Palm's upcoming Shadow Expert EP is out June 16th on Carpark Records. You can pre-order it now.
Brooklyn experimental chamber pop sextet Friend Roulette are back after a little bit of a break. Since the release of their very excellent Grow Younger EP in 2014, they've been relatively quiet playing shows in Brooklyn and going on tour in different configurations of their normal six person lineup. "Joan", the first single from their upcoming EP finds the group in repose. It's a rare moment for the band who normally pair moments of tranquility with dynamic tonal shifts. Part of that lies in the fact that the song isn't totally there's. "Joan" and the whole of their upcoming EP are songs written and composed by an old friend of theirs, Matt Sheffer, who wrote and recorded songs ardently and shared them with the band only to decide they weren't worth sharing with the rest of the world. Friend Roulette's history is intrinsically linked with that Sheffer. Take Grow Younger's "Kitty Song", the psychedelic romp is equal parts Friend Roulette's technicolor arrangement and Sheffer's wonderfully weird lyricism. Much like Grow Younger and their sophomore full length I See You. Your Eyes Are Red., Friend Roulette's greatest leaps forward in sound occur when they're mining their rich history and The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 aims to be no different.
"Joan" is a down tempo number much like "Or Berlin" or "Rocket Dog", and though arranged for the band's diverse instrumentation, Julia Tepper is still given the spotlight soaring easily above the sparse accompaniment. Songwriters Matthew Meade and Julia Tepper have always had an affinity for ballads and through adapting Sheffer's song for their own use, they craft a stunning work of emotional quiet. It's a breath of fresh air from a band who is normally at home mired in relative chaos and by upending pop norms in favor of interesting moments that subvert expectation. "Joan" is as typical as Friend Roulette are probably ever going to get and even in that uncharacteristic restraint, they continue to push their sound forward by stripping it all back and laying it all bare. The Matt Sheffer Songbook is a tribute to a friend that's been a driving force behind the band and by letting "Joan" stand pretty much on its own merits, the band highlight Sheffer in a way they really haven't before.
Friend Roulette's upcoming EP The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 is out June 16th on Pretty Purgatory. You can pre-order it now and if you order the cassette you get Matt Sheffer's original demos which have never been released before.
Monday, May 15, 2017
With the culmination of Trevor Powers' Youth Lagoon project coming to an end last year, one of the most surprising things to come out of it may have been Boise guitarist Logan Hyde's solo debut Innocence. Inaugural singles "My Only Friend" and "Bloated" were practically spun from the same gauzy bedroom psych that defined much of Powers career but Hyde's efforts were more than a mere sonic carbon copy. They were reminiscent in a way that two musical compatriots with much in the way of influences and artistic ideas might be; based on similar source material but seeking out and achieving different end results. Recorded in the summer of 2014 (but not actually released until 2015), Hyde's project was much more rooted in the present than Powers' nostalgic reveries. Watermelon, the latest album from Hyde, is essentially further proof that Logan Hyde's worthy of much more than Youth Lagoon comparisons.
Beginning with a shimmering instrumental opener, it's a synthy sepia colored sound bath that informs much of the rest of the album. There's a ton of winning moments on the album but perhaps my favorite lies in stand out "Sleeping Bear". For an album composed mostly of warm tones and soft textures, it's a delightful bit of dream pop inspired revelry. It's constantly shifting - casually trotting around lovely musical moments and employing a vast array of different sounds. For a song called "Sleeping Bear" it doesn't really linger - shuffling from melody to melody; moment to moment, and never really giving much thought to going backwards. Even reoccurring moments aren't quite handled like you'd expect - they appear in new configurations: sung out on a new instrument, under new effects, at a higher musical vantage point. Compositionally, it's positively lush and handled with both meticulous care and reckless abandon. Lyrically, Hyde manages to do a lot with very little. Offered up with the quiet of a children's bedtime story and paced very much like one, Hyde attaches a personal narrative to events that aren't exactly rooted in real life or even reality in general. Even establishing the narrative frame and in story consequences, Hyde doesn't do much in the way of explaining and the song achieves a sort of magical realism quality: the fantastic and unlikely treated very much like normal occurrences. It's a song that relies far more on its various instrumental breaks to carry much of it and it succeeds based predominantly on how much Hyde offers there. There's a wealth of musical moments that could be explored further but Hyde takes only what he needs and keeps the ball moving.
Logan Hyde's sophomore album Watermelon is out now and available for a pay-what-you-want rate at his Bandcamp.
Friday, May 12, 2017
When they released their newest single "Particle" earlier this week, Los Angeles based art pop collective Hundred Waters gave every indication that new music was on the horizon. Fortunately for fans that time is both now and later as the threesome stealth released a five song EP and have plans to release their third full length album sometime later this year. While the release of "Particle" certainly allowed for some speculation on the sound of their new album - the fact that it's one of several new songs featured on the EP (along with "Everywhere" a snippet of which was featured in a video announcing year 4's batch of FORM Arcosanti artists) is thrilling in that it essentially throws the little fans/listeners have come to expect right back into the murky unknown. The band have never been ones to repeat themselves and each release has been handled with cohesive care.
Hundred Waters' music as unlabelable and sidestepping in genre as it is has been firmly rooted in the electronic element. Much of the appeal of their self-titled record laid in just how elastic they treated the borders of acoustic and digitized sound, blurring the lines with various timbres. Its tapestry of textures arranged with monastic devotion and universal resonance that it was almost hard to believe it was real. As Hundred Waters' have grown over the years since their debut, they've given themselves over more and more to computerized sounds - enlisting a number of electronic leaning artists to rework songs, putting out EPs, and even a whole remix album featuring those works. The Currency EP is by all accounts a very logical step in the band's growth, and first single "Particle" featured a much more concrete synth pop direction and Hundred Waters seemed to take all the trappings and hallmarks of EDM and work them into the song. But Hundred Waters have from their onset been a band not like any other and even their dip into more straight forward pop was handled in a way uniquely their own. "Particle" combines Nicole Miglis' delicate vocals and emotion-stirring lyricism with production that's constantly in flux - at times simple and sparse and others multitudinous and lush. There's a push-pull for much of its duration often directly in line with the swing of certainty/uncertainty captured in Miglis' lyrics. The powerful lovelorn moments aiming high for the stratospheric and being given plenty to fit the expanse; the moments of devastated doubt coming down and hushing the rush of sounds. It's not hard to see why it was selected as a single: it's dynamic. Fraught with raw emotional thoughts and feelings.
But Currency begins with a moment of quiet. "Jewel In My Hands" begins with a soft chime that's much more morning-sun-peaking-through-your-bedroom-window than bedside alarm. It's a gentle start as Miglis' actual lyrics seek to rouse you: "Wake up, come on, go on, get up, get out of bed you're tired but this is most extraordinary" Miglis coos and essentially jumpstarts an adventure. It's a work of beguiling restraint - managing to build its various layers and sense of forward momentum without actually needing to raise its volume. It forms an interesting parallel with its succeeding track "Particle" which begins in a similar whisper but branch off in decidedly different ways. "Jewel In My Hands" seeks to retain that feeling of stage-whisper throughout eventually achieving a climactic break from the hushed state where "Particle" is more inclined to move through peaks and valleys.
The most surprising thing about Currency may be in how many different switch ups in sound occur.
Album closer "Currency", the track that gives the EP its name, feels not unlike a The Moon Rang Like A Bell outtake. It's siren-like effect as well as Nicole Miglis' vocal cadence easily reminiscent of "Cavity" where "Takeover" is the most percussive of Currency's tracks and starting out there, it's never quite able to shake that initial harshness. Or rather it never really tries to. It's another straight forward pop song but one far more rooted in live instrumentation than "Particle" if not the whole of Currency. Where much of Currency seems to either pick up directly after The Moon Rang Like A Bell or seek to move on from it, "Everywhere" recalls the dream pop of Hundred Waters' self-titled debut. It's a rare moment where Miglis' lyrical narrative doesn't dictate the direction of the song. Instead Miglis' vocals soar above, adorning the swirling vortex of sounds as it sprawls ever outward. It has an endless quality to it that the band acknowledge by essentially never trying to end it - letting it fade out.
As a whole Currency is a wonderful addition to Hundred Waters' growing catalog. It manages to experiment with the group's ongoing efforts to push themselves forward creatively and hints at both potential directions to them to take and roads not traveled. Wherever Hundred Waters' new album lands, Currency is sure to operate as a benchmark release as a document that captures where the band were creatively after The Moon Rang Like A Bell. That's not to say that it's much more worthy of comparison than The Moon Rang Like A Bell which was a wondrous record that pushed Hundred Waters in so many unexpected directions but the strength of songs like "Particle" and "Jewel In My Hands" is hopefully a sign of things to come from a band who is delightfully hard to predict and is absolutely enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end over and over.
Hundred Waters' Currency EP is out now and available to stream/buy/download from your preferred digital retailer.
Monday, May 8, 2017
|photo by Josh Goleman|
"Manzanita" is the second single from Rosewood Almanac and unlike previous single "Some Ride", it eschews the sparse arrangement in favor of a much more upbeat, full band sound. "Manzanita" is wonderfully life-affirming, a celebration of continued existence and the joy gleaned from little life moments. Though Stratton's six albums into his career, "Manzanita" still manages to be delightfully refreshing, pleasurably simple even as it gathers steam and becomes more intricate in its arrangement. "Manzanita" is absolutely resplendent, gliding along effortlessly as each new voice - backing vocals, piano, strings, saxophone all add exponentially to the track's feeling of jubilation. It's sure to be an album standout on an album full of absolutely winsome moments.
Will Stratton's upcoming album Rosewood Almanac is out May 12th on Bella Union. You can order the album here or digital here.
It's hard to believe it's been three years since the last album from experimental pop outfit Hundred Waters but the trio have had their hands in a number of exciting adventures since sophomore record The Moon Rang Like a Bell. The most intensive of which was the creation of the own music festival FORM held out in Arcosanti, Arizona. The festival enters its fourth year this year and the band has been for the most part elected to debut new songs during their sets there. Last year not only did they do that - playing an entire set of new material they were workshoping but they also sated fans eager for more with the intensely collaborative "Show Me Love" remix. The project was helmed by Skrillex but featured a number of FORM alum/friends of the band and also Chance the Rapper.
Now, however the band seems ready to dispatch a brand new set of tunes into the ether and new single "Particle" is our first taste of what to expect. Where Hundred Waters have essentially spent their past two albums evading easy genre labels, "Particle" is perhaps the easily classifiable track to come from the band offering up Purity Ring recalling electro pop. Despite the band diving deeper into the digital element, Nicole Miglis continues to shine as a beacon of Hundred Waters' sincere human element even when it is occasionally delivered through effects. Miglis' vocals are more versatile than ever - holding their ground and pushing fearlessly forward amid synth sweeps and epic drops. "Particle" is Hundred Waters are their most accessible, a surefooted EDM banger that still manages to retain Hundred Waters most characteristic strength: the effortless blend of the natural and the electronic.
Hundred Waters' upcoming album will be out later this year. Until then listen to "Particle" also available for free download.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
|photo by Michael Calyer|
Much like "Capturer" "Seward Park" retains the garage-y jangle that characterized much of Broyles' earlier output with Balkans but with noticeably softer edges. Where "Capturer" sprawled ever outward slowly amassing an assortment of various sounds and effects, "Seward Park" is considerably more straight shooting. Broyles music has never particularly fallen into the harsher side of garage rock but on "Seward Park" there's a reliance on melody and brevity that's more typical of pop than Broyles has ventured towards in his past efforts. Broyles' production has also leveled up as "Seward Park" glides forward with an even-keeled smoothness that was somewhat lacking on "Capturer"/"Color Set". It all bodes very well for Slow Return which will no doubt feature similarly svelte jangle pop. Thankfully the wait is rather brief as the EP streets in just two weeks.
Frankie Broyles debut solo EP Slow Return is out May 15th on Atlanta's Skeleton Realm. You can pre-order it on CD here.
Philly based experimental foursome Palm are among one of my favorite bands making music today for a host of reasons. Arguably the most reoccurring is the band's ability to metamorphose. While the space between their records is never that extreme, there's always the sense not only that they're at least a record ahead of their most recent output but that they're constant pursuing new and exciting sounds in a way that really invests the listener. The Palm captured on their upcoming Shadow Expert EP is at a drastically different place sonically than they were on their first EPs despite a time difference of only a couple years.
"Walkie Talkie", the first single from Shadow Expert, is easily one of the band's shortest tracks and still they manage to jam-pack it with a variety of tonal shifts. Its intro is simultaneously sparse and aggressive; heaviness building and then evaporating to clear the way for guitarists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert's continuous melodic baton passing. Their guitars interweave effortlessly despite not only the complexity of the rhythms but the shifting meter. The band are relentlessly locked in moving as a unit much like a flock of migratory birds even as the band purposefully vaults into moments of harsh disharmony. "Walkie Talkie" is characterized by these harrowing moments of musical daredevilry; pairing the complicated mathematics with pure borderline pop melodic songcraft. It's a song constantly at odds with itself shifting through various shapes and colors and deploying each member as a part of its array of timbres. That's more or less always been Palm's m.o. but "Walkie Talkie" and Shadow Expert the band show that foreknowledge doesn't dull the impressiveness of their musical feats and that there's plenty of room for them to experiment and grow in a sound that's already intensely experimental. That unpredictability is Palm's greatest strength and singlehandedly stokes the fire of anticipation for new music. Luckily for fans and new listeners alike Palm are always quite ahead of themselves.
Listen to "Walkie Talkie" from Palm's upcoming Shadow Expert EP out June 16th on Carpark Records. You can pre-order the EP now and also catch them on an extensive North American tour with Palberta supporting the EP. Tour dates here.