Friday, August 8, 2014
Back in the distant time of 2011, Bridgetown Records released an unassuming tape from Sea Oleena. The tape was compilation of her two EPs (Sleeplessness & a self-titled work); a collection of some tracks that balanced at the edge between folk and gauzy dream-pop, with a sense of delicateness and longing underpinning the songs. The compilation had an almost haunting quality to it, and was truly memorizing.
So hearing "If I'm", the first piece of new material from Sea Oleena in three year, is slightly startling. In that time, Sea Oleena's confidence has grown immensely. It's in her vocals, which now shine clearly in the song, no longer hidden behind a partial haze and open "If I'm" with a certain boldness. Its in her instruementation as well. The track evolves from tinkering piano before gradually bring in perfectly placed strings, which in turn collides with quick electronic beats that flow right into the song. Instead of rising into something climatic though, Sea Oleena decides to dissolve the song, closing it on a sweeping and gorgeous ambient section like the one she has been performing live for the past few months. And truly, that is the better option. By ending on that quite yet stunning note, "If I'm" exists as a thing of beauty, one that is as memorizing as it is enveloping.
Sea Oleena's Facebook
Pre-order Shallow here, from Lefse Records
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Sophie has built his sound around a form of musical whiplash; an uncanny ability to craft tracks in a truly twisted form, constantly jumping between build and climax without ever really giving either in a track. Similarly, the sonic competent has a matching quality. Like the rest of his PC-Music family, Sophie utilizes these sugary sweet, almost cartoony samples that when shoved through Sophie's production develop a warped, menacing quality that lays just below the surface. A taste of this was presented in a more compact form with "Lemonade", but it's much better crystallized through "Hard".
At the core of "Hard" is a tinny trap beat which Sophie manages to slice and dicing in a matter of moments, ripping it up & putting it back together over and over again. It is everything else that surrounds "Hard" though, that makes it so magical: the tinkering chimes, the creepy synth that suddenly lurches to life during the song's high points, the vocals that never change in tone but somehow develop a menacing quality to them when saying the track's name. Sophie cuts to & pieces together all these different sounds at such a rapid fire speed it's almost disorienting. However, that just adds to the effectiveness of the song. The world of Sophie is an off-kilter one, so it's no surprise that its soundtrack is just as manic.
Pre-order the "Lemonade"/"Hard" 12" here, from Bleep
Friday, August 1, 2014
"Jerome (Liar)" is a strange little track. The newest song from Joanna Gruesome since their utterly impeccable collection of noise-pop tunes Weird Sister came out last year, "Jerome (Liar)" feels like a distillation of every aspect of Joanna Gruesome's sound. Incredibly sweet snippets of indie-pop are dueling with equally frequent bursts of noise rock throughout the whole song, with the track constantly teetering the edge between wholesome pop and teeth snarling guitar freak out. It manages to do all of this in less than two minutes, short even by Joanna Gruesome standards, and sounds like the closest the band has ever come to throwing a temper tantrum in song form. But maybe that's the point. The song is clearly about someone they know, and we've all been in the predicament of having a "friend" you had to alternate between smiling to their face and flipping them off behind their back. Joanna Gruesome just finally cut the charade short, and let it all come tumbling out on "Jerome (Liar)".
Joanna Gruesome's Facebook
Pre-order the Trust Fund/Joanna Gruesome split 12" here, from Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records
Whirr have gone through many different forms since their initial inception. There was the strict shoegaze sound of their Distressor EP, the more '90s fuzz rock sound of their debut album Pipe Dreams, and then finally the sprawling/cascading sound that emerged on their Around EP last year. With each release, the band ventured into a new area of the shoegaze sound, exploring all the possibilities that the genre tag would allow in conjunction with the ever changing shape their band existed in at the time.
Now though, Whirr may have finally found their sound with their new album Sway. The band has seemed to have refined the more crushing aspects that they made on Around, focusing their sound to less of a build/climax style than to a more everlasting sludging through brightness quality. A taste of this was heard in the album's first single "Mumble", but the full effect of this is more present on "Heavy". Opening with thunderous drums and a wall of static fuzz, the track quickly gives way to a beautiful gliding guitar that sets the tone of the song. The production is what makes "Heavy" work so well. Every instrument shines through instead of colliding with one another like on previous Whirr albums. The thick thumps of the rhythm section are always ever present even as the noise swells more and more as the song progresses. The utterly beautiful guitar work is layered, the perfected melding of distorted riffing and noisy soundscape. Even the lose of the key balancing component of female vocals has been worked out with an ever so added presence of Loren Rivera's vocals, which in turn give the track a lovely distant quality to it. With "Heavy" Whirr have finally whittled their sound to its core, and have crafted a pitch perfect piece of shoegaze around it.
Pre-order Sway here from Graveface Records
Friday, July 25, 2014
Hamish Kilgour, whether making music with his brother David in The Clean or The Great Unwashed, or co-fronting the greatly underappreciated Mad Scene, has been making music for 30+ years at this point. In all that time though, Kilgour has never released a collection of his own music until now. "Crazy Radiance", the first single off Kilgour's upcoming All of It and Nothing, is not too far removed from music he made with The Mad Scene, all be it presented here in a much more stripped down form. Over a quickly strummed acoustic guitar and distant bass drum booms Kilgour crafts a very intimate pop song, his vocals especially helping to convey this moody, containing an well worn and knowing quality to them. Even when the second guitar comes in to let the track unfold a little, the feeling like he's crafting the song right next to you before your eyes never dissipates.
Pre-order All of It & Nothing here, from Ba Da Bing Records
Friday, July 4, 2014
It's hard to believe it has been three years since Foxes in Fiction have released an album. Not that Warren Hildebrand, the mastermind behind the project, has been completely quite since Swung from the Branches came out. The Alberto EP, various compilation appearances, and a collaborative 7" with Benoît Pioulard were all released in the intermediate time. However, as lovely as those songs were, they couldn't help but feel like stopgaps while Hildebrand was building to something bigger or grander.
"Shadow's Song", the first taste of Foxes in Fiction's second album Ontario Gothic, fulfills that promise. It is a slowly unfolding piece of absolutely gorgeous dream-pop, taking it's time to reveal all its different layers. What starts as something akin to the frail guitar work of Atlas Sound circa Logos quickly gives way to Hildebrand's silky vocals and the track's wonderfully glossy & warm production that blossoms with each guitar strum. Owen Pallett's guest violin work gives the track extra room, letting it expand further and further than it could have on its own. The song's ending, with Hildebrand's almost liquid guitar work trading off with Pallett's violin as the track swells more and more is one of the loveliest movements I have heard in a song all year. "Shadow's Song" is utter and complete dream-pop beauty, with all three years worth of effort shinning brightly in every aspect of this track.
Foxes in Fiction's Website
Pre-order Ontario Gothic here, from Orchid Tapes
Monday, June 30, 2014
Before Liam Betson was a guitarist in Titus Andronicus for the last two years, he was Liam the Younger, creator of ragged indie folk/rock that served as a medium for Betson's dense and near stream of consciousness lyricism. His work is not unlike that of fellow "Titus Andronicus guitarist gone solo" artist Andrew Cedermark, layering this sense of rusticism into their work that gives their music a more aged feeling which in turn better reflects the weariness contained within them.
However, while Cedermark approached his music with a clear love of The Microphones in his heart, Betson's tunes are more lively, a sort of musical jog through what's on his mind. "The Primordial Will", the latest track from the upcoming The Cover of Hunter, uses rolling guitar jangle and shimmering distortion to drive the track. The track sprawls and sprawls, creating a sense like it could never end, Betson unfurls a tale of self-awareness, of knowing the mistakes one will make in a life, being unable to do anything about them, but still longing to change. Betson is addressing someone else in the song, but it's clear that that he's really talking to himself, trying to figure out and map out the himself the best he can. When "The Primordial Will" finally hits its climax, with a small roar of guitar that is pure catharsis, it is still up in the air whether Betson has succeed or not. But at least he tried, and that might be the most important thing of all.
Liam Betson's Bandcamp
Pre-order The Cover of Hunter here, from Double Double Whammy
Monday, June 9, 2014
The Bilinda Butchers have been making synth-filled dream pop for a while now, putting out several excellent EPs and singles for the past couple of years in the vein of the equally underapprciated Depreciation Guild. However, with the band finally announcing the details of their proper debut album, Heaven, something has changed. At least, it feels that way while listening to "Edo Method". Everything about the track feels ramped up, as if it's a Bilinda Butchers track on hyperdrive. It bursts out of the gate, the drumming massively more kinetic & frantic (thanks to the inclusion of newest member Ryan Wansley), and the guitars richly distorted yet it's riffs ringing out crystal clear. Most sticking maybe Michal Palmer's vocals, which are still soft and warm, but now are no longer buried. Instead, they are front and center on the track, and give the song an added urgency that wouldn't have been there otherwise. With "Edo Method", it seems Bilinda Butchers are taking the energetic burst they picked up on "The Lovers' Suicide!" and decided to crank that energy even higher. Which is wonderful because the band wound up melding power pop to dream pop perfectly, and crafted a truly gorgeous song in the process.
The Bilinda Butchers' Website
Pre-order Heaven here, from Orchid Tapes
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Bands change. They evolve. They take in new influences, sharpen their skills, have band members come and go, or some combination of all or none of those things. It's natural. If they didn't, they would wind up making the same album over and over again, and no one wants that, no matter what they say or think. And so it has come that Merchandise have reached that point as well. We can only be thankful that they pulled off their shift so excellently.
For it could be argued that Merchandise have already gone the experimental route, having touched on noise, distortion, and sprawl through their earlier works, such as the still incredible "Become What You Are" or the darkened intensity of "Anxiety's Door". So the only direction they are left with is actually compacting their sound, making it lean and tight, and going from there. That's how you end up with "Little Killer", possibly the closest Merchandise have come to writing an actual pop song. No doubt thanks to Elsner Niño and Chris Horn joining the band properly on drums and guitar respectively has lead to a stability within the group, allowing the band to concentrate on the strengths its been nurturing since the beginning; in this case David Vassalotti's charming but intelligent guitar playing and frontman Carson Cox's passionate & sultry croon. There is a clear '80s romanticism within the track, emphasized by the video it's contained in; a clear, almost cheesy throwback to that time and style. But much the same way that video is clearly a distortion as much as it is an homage to that era, so to is "Little Killer" itself. It's catchiness can't hide the ambivalence and wistfulness that is actually at its core. This may be Merchandise going pop, but they're bringing their bleakness and longing with them.
Pre-order After the End here, from 4AD
Monday, May 26, 2014
The internet’s capacity to make connections, for people to meet and trade ideas in ways that were never before possible, cannot be understated, especially within the modern musical world. We live in a world where some kid in a basement in Wisconsin can record a demo that can be heard by someone in France, and it can become their favorite collection of music and main source of inspiration, and vice versa. There is something honestly magical about that fact, and it should be (and is) celebrate.
This is why I feel there is something so incredible about the those who were once friends are now fam compilation. Originally what was going to be just a mix on Soundcloud of likeminded artists, the curator George realized it was something more and wound up creating a label of sorts to release a tape version into the world. Which is more than deserving because those who were once friends are now fam deserves to be documented. The fifteen tracks here paint a picture of artists, some separated from each other by country or continent, creating something truly intertwined, even as they all approach it with their own style and sound. The quiet indie-pop of Teen Mom Birthday Cake and Sales. The twisty electronica of Yohuna, Cuddle Formation, and Blithe Field. The gorgeous, enveloping dream pop made by Foxes in Fiction and Lo sé. Two unbelievable covers via Emily Reo’s gooey rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, and Sea Oleena’s sparse & goose bump inducing cover of “Crazy in Love”. Even friends Attic Basement and Bulldog Eyes are here vicariously via covers by R. L. Kelly and Imaginary Houses respectively. All these different sounds, styles, and artists sit next to each other with ease, flowing into one another effortlessly. By the time the comp. ends on a compact indie-rock jam from Alex G, it just feels natural that it got there. Everything about those who were once friends are now fam feels like it should exist together; it all feels so beautiful.
Pre-order the those who were once friends are now fam compilation here, from odd castles