It’s a sort of wonderful treat when an artist you like gets to reveal their own musical tastes and said revealed musical taste match up with yours. Such is the case with electro pop duo Sylvan Esso who’ve taken to performing a cover of Porches. “The Cosmos” on their current batch of shows. It’s delightful to say the least as the band leave behind their dancefloor ready jams in favor of a more intimate kind of number. Their take on “The Cosmos” is surprisingly sparse – a blanket of synthy hum while Amelia Randall Meath’s vocals arc and glide (and Nicholas Sanborn adds a bit of flavor with backing vocals). It’s appropriately chill, an enjoyable homage that highlight’s Aaron Maine’s quirky but intelligent songwriting talents while also showcasing Meath’s powerful vocal ability.
Brooklyn experimentalists Salt Cathedral continue their genre switch up and the results are a lot more infectious than previous venture “Good Winds”. That’s fair, considering the newly trimmed down quartet have already established they very much know what they’re doing with b-side/first dip into electronica “Rainy Days”.
“Tease”, another peek at their upcoming EP, is a good example of the type of brilliance their previous characteristics can bring to the electro pop arena: Juliana Ronderos’ vocals still remarkably alluring over the surging beats while Salt Cathedral employ their complex rhythms/textural interplay on a much smaller scale, with many of the intricate layering reserved for cool background effects. Aside from a bit of it at the track’s introduction – Salt Cathedral avoid the stuttering glitchy approach towards dance and instead make full use of beautifully flowing melodies aided no doubt by Ronderos’ magnificently fluid delivery.
Los Angeles experimentalist Robin Nydal aka Mirage manages to blend bedroom pop intimacy with technicolor psychedelic deviations and that’s just the starting point. With songs that function more or less like sound collages, Mirage’s songs run the range of everything from orchestral pop flights of fancy to jittery electronic pop all stitched together with the consistency of a ransom letter crafted from newspaper scraps. The same skill for small scale musical metamorphoses applies not only to Nydal’s production but the man himself – vocals going from svelte whisper to warbling croon at the drop of the hat when Nydal requires another timbre to throw into his impressive textural play. “Something” is one of the rare cuts on Blood For The Return that blunts its abrasive edge in favor of the crisp elegance string arrangements. And yet, it’s not without an obvious air of whimsy and certainly doesn’t sideline Nydal during its forays into beauty – the track’s true lushness comes from Nydal’s machinations at the helm- harmonies and various effects swirling around the sweeping string ornaments. “Something” is a work of surprising tension release – swinging with ease between sections while never losing its off-kilter footing.
Mirage’s Blood For the Return is out in August on Olde English Spelling Bee but available to stream via Bandcamp.
It may be too soon to call it but today art pop collective Hundred Waters released a music video for what may arguably be my favorite track on their enthralling sophomore record and album of the year contender The Moon Rang Like A Bell.
Directed by BANGS, the video takes a decidedly direct and minimalistic approach towards the track’s multitudinous layers. Beginning with an closeup of vocalist Nicole Miglis as she sings the tracks’ stuttering opening while the camera subtly follows the incomplete non-delivery with slow clean jerks, BANGS quickly establishes a dreamy quality before any of the action truly begins. While Miglis wanders around a beautiful home in the midst of destruction, there’s both an unshakeable melancholy and an unsettling resilience in her mere presence. As pieces of debris rain down just right of her, and lights flicker, Miglis sits unshaken and dare I say comfortable.
BANGS’ vision is quietly surrealist to the point that the video’s plot remains for the most part indiscernible. Is it all a dream? And while Miglis stalks the grounds like a ghost, there’s a twist every so often that turns that theory on its head. Whether its the demolition crew’s relative inattention to her subverted by a shot of her standing hand in hand with one or their own dreamlike qualities, nothing is quite what it seems and that makes the video all the more intriguing.
It’s pretty much inevitable when you go to a large festival that you won’t see all the bands you meant to and such is certainly the case with Iceland’s Ásgeir at SXSW – a musical act I was attracted to based more on name and country of origin than through actual listening habits. That was a huge misstep on part though as if I had made time to listen before my Texas excursion I certainly would’ve made time to see them perform.
The brainchild of singer/songwriter Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, the band are most likely to draw comparisons to Sigur Rós due to their shared homeland but other than that the similarities end there. Where Sigur Rós are atmospheric and ethereal, Ásgeir is much more direct; embracing pop conventions but by no means solely defined by them. On In The Silence (the English language version of debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn and US debut), Ásgeir manages to create a cohesive collection of songs that elude any concrete genre descriptors incorporating elements of electronica, chamber pop, and folk in good measure without getting bogged down by their inclusion.
“Torrent”, the latest single from his debut, is perhaps the most telling of the band. Surging forth like its namesake, “Torrent” is a deluge of melodic grandeur – from its thundering drums to its piano pop flourishes, Ásgeir effortlessly invokes wide open expanses with a life-affirming brilliance. Ásgeir’s vocals are silvery and pristine but there’s no deny they’re elevated by a knack for melodic songcraft – lending them a necessary insistence, a heightened state of drama that renders the track’s 3 minute length tragically brief.
Sometimes the best discoveries come just from following your favorite bands’ movements to perhaps an obsessive degree. Case in point, when Mutual Benefit announced that the support for their current in progress European tour would be Montreal’s Seoul, I was intrigued. I had never heard of them before but both the bands’ excitement to be playing together and Seoul’s self-descriptor as ambient-pop could’ve been enough to sell me, the fact Seoul manages to absolute nail what they do with that descriptor is all the better.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Seoul is they don’t revel in the beauty of their own soul like other ambient artists seems to do – there’s a definite sense of motion felt, a forward push toward an eventual conclusion. That Seoul manages to be both gorgeously scenic but artfully concise speaks to the clarity of their intent and the confidence in their musicality. “White Morning” is a sweeping, ethereal yawn; cavernously hollow but exhilarating in its multi-layered rush towards the finish line. Seoul’s song construction is pristine, effortlessly svelte, and almost bewilderingly understated in its complexity – enough so that while they’re never lacking in a clear, distinguished sound, it’s anyone’s guess just how many hands are in the pot.
Bedroom pop extraordinaire Emily Reo contributed this fantastic cover to Odd Castles’ stunning new cassette mixtape release, those who were once friends are now fam. Full mixtape is here, but let’s put the focus on Queen Emily for a minute:
Reo’s vocals were always the strongest part of her 2013 album Olive Juice, bewilderingly arranged and harmonized, adding intriguing complication to the songs’ sparse instrumentation. Since that album’s release we’ve been the beneficiaries of two of her best ever productions: her cover of The Pretenders’ “Birds Of Paradise” and now this downtempo, auto-tuned spectacle in the form of a Fleetwood Mac cover. Reo’s vocal modulations pierce even brighter than the manic synths that dance throughout the tracks’s 4.5 minutes, abetting the self-parodying cheesiness of the electronic drums with aplomb.
She’s just toying with us now… I really can’t wait for that next album.
In a way, the latest single from Brooklyn experimental pop quartet Conveyor is a return to form of sorts. Not to the vibrant, quirky rock pop of their debut self-titled full length which they’ve never really veered away from but the earlier days when Conveyor was far more electronic based in songs like “Twin Bank” and even some cuts from their Sun Ray EP. “Theme I (Edit)”, the first single from their upcoming instrumental album Prime, sees the foursome dipping their brushes in a bit of ambient coloring but not quite dulling their extensive textural pallet. It’s an interesting foray deeper into the world of electronics once more that the band manages to imbue with their unpredictable spirit. From the twangy lead guitar line that would not be at all out of place in Conveyor’s standard pop gems, “Theme I (Edit)” is more or less a development on a simple theme. A development that just so happens to include a swath of rising brass as it undulates forward a la perpetuum mobile before coming to a sputtering finish.
Conveyor’s instrumental full length Prime is out July 15th on double 12″ via Gold Robot Records.
Today NPR premiered the new video for The Acid’s insanely gorgeous song “Fame” from last year’s self-titled EP, featuring a beautifully choreographed dance routine from duo WIFE. Watch below:
While Beyonce got a veritable boatload of press for stealth releasing an album, that’s pretty much par for the course in the world of Indie. Case in point, lo-fi pop darling Frankie Cosmos has quickly released a follow up to earlier break out album Zentropy in affirms glinting. While Zentropy relied on Greta Kline’s live band/fellow bandmates in Porches., affirms glinting returns Kline towards her laptop recorded solo experiments. Stripped down and understated, it’s nevertheless a treat – a collection of tracks that runs the gamut of Cosmos’ lo-fi potential. From the nebulous to more concrete pop confection.
Like “Too Dark”, the longest of a series of rather brief tracks, it nonetheless captures an astonishing amount of development. Reveling it a sort of start-stop consistency, “Too Dark” allows itself a bit of telling introspection before catapulting forward with Kline’s more upbeat, momentous guitar-led melodies. Kline’s knack for engaging melodies is definitely at play here however brief it is. The song could consist of far more of the poppier B part sure but by cutting such a cool music moment to a practical brevity, Kline ensures that you’re sure to heat repeat. That’s the appeal of affirms glinting if not Frankie Cosmos itself.
Frankie Cosmos’ affirms glinting is out now and available for stream/download on Bandcamp.
Matt Kivel‘s sophomore album is just around the corner. Surprising, considering his excellent debut, Double Exposure, arrived late last year. LP 2, Days of Being Wild, drops July 8th via Brooklyn-based band-run label Woodsist. Here’s the first single:
An established fan of Porches.’ darker, more rock fueled exploits a la Slow Dance in the Cosmos‘ “Skinny Trees” or “Permanent Loan”, I was surprised how much I dug “Leather”, the new single from Ronald Paris, the pseudonym for Aaron Maine’s most recent project featured on a cassette split with Mdou Moctar. It’s almost an alarming gentle turn for the Maine.
Aaron Maine’s normal pseudo-stream of consciousness songwriting is focused and tightened a bit, each word presented with evident care. It’s enough to completely miss that the Frankie Cosmos assisted track is more or less a Satanist love song. ”I want to trade my jeans in for leather/I want to hold her unholy hand” Maine croons atop a fertile, synth-laden knoll. It’s oddly pleasant, with the same streak of playful but inventive songwriting Maine has established while presenting a much less straightforward kind of pop. Maine’s still rooting around in and lightening his darker narrative subjects but it’s a dramatically different approach – one’s that more or less benches the bulk of his experimental pop troupe in favor of beautiful starkness. It’s a pretty good call.
The split is currently sold out but you can listen to/download the 3 songs from the Ronald Paris side via Bandcamp.
Well there really is no pinning down Brooklyn experimental pop rockers Landlady is there? New single “Dying Day” more or less splits the difference between previous singles “Above My Ground” and “The Globe” while not merely functioning as facsimiles of either/or . While “The Globe” didn’t allow itself to languor in much of itself or Adam Schatz’s powerfully emotive vocals like “Above My Ground”, “Dying Day” proves that level of soulfulness is achievable at much more rapid pace. While “Above My Ground” aimed right for the heart to galvanize, “Dying Day” is much more focused on your feet – setting those toes tapping with vivacious fervor while still very much hitting home lyrically. Schatz has a truly rare knack for establishing an instant connection through the force of his words – they caress, support, and embrace instead of the normal glancing blow. That the instrumentation around them happens so be so engaging and accessible is part of the appeal but also the gravy on top. Landlady strikes a chord as the everyman’s gospel; secularly spirit-rousing but no less powerful, articulate in vision but universal in its delivery. If the rest of the track’s from the quintet’s upcoming full length are even half as moving, we’re in for a radical experience indeed.
Landlady’s Upright Behavior is out July 15th on Hometapes. Catch their incredible live show with dates here.
Considering that the majority of the tunes of electro pop duo Sylvan Esso’s album are straight up dance jams, it makes a surprising amount of sense that their videos have focused more or less solely on that aspect. But unlike the previous one for “Coffee”, the duo and director Remedy decided to cut the story out almost entirely. A music video shoot in the music video shoot, the video for “Play It Right” finds Sylvan Esso and a couple of their North Carolina dance pals cutting a rug pretty much for the whole of the video’s duration. Through total simplicity, magic is made. The duo are thoroughly in their element performing for those not lucky enough to see them up close and personal and the dancers feed organically off of the song’s various elements. “Play It Right” prove just what you can do with a couple good friends, a properly righteous tunes, a camera, and some lights for good measure.
London newcomer Oscar makes highly catchy, endearing pop songs with a Morrissey croon. 146b is his latest EP, a collection of shimmeringly simple songs about love, loss, wanting and heartache. You can fall in love and nuke the relationship all in the span of four songs.
With Winter firmly in the rear-view and the weather thawing out, it’s the time of the year where all of the summer jams come out to play and Steve Sobs‘ “Ugh” is a surefire contender. The Brooklyn based bedroom pop of Eric Littmann finds the pitch perfect balance between breezy springy melodies and the unmistakable forward plod of any halfway decent pop song. “Ugh” is a tune with relatively no sense of urgency; chill and casual in its delivery with a dose of nostalgia for good measure. That’s not just due to Littmann’s memory combing lyrics but “Ugh” recalls in the faintest sense College’s “Real Hero” in theory more than in practice. There’s an instant feeling of timelessness virtually from the get go, as the subtle interplay between acoustic guitar and electronics offer up the bulk of the track’s dynamism. Littman’s vocals are notably understated, draining the emotive resonance out of a tale of old love. Where that might be a point of criticism in any other case, there’s never the feeling like they’re unintentionally lacking and Littmann allows the instrumentals to pick up the slack and deliver a heaping helping of the feels in spite of the distance the vocals suggest.
Steve Sobs’ upcoming full length Heavy Heart is out May 13th on Waaga Records.
During SXSW nothing matters more than finding the next great band, free drink, or comfy
chair curb to rest your feet for a few minutes. Yet, afterward it’s hard to remember much of anything that happened in the blur that was a week of music, TexMex, wristbands, sunburn, and margs. We had some video cameras at Floating Fest this year so you could relive your week of debauchery in full glory.
As you may remember, IGIF joined forces with Hype Machine to host the 8th annual Floating Fest at the Hype Hotel, presented by Taco Bell’s Feed The Beat. With their help, we’ve got live performances from Mutual Benefit, Sylvan Esso, Young & Sick, and Bipolar Sunshine for you to peep. We also had Chromeo and SOHN perform too but they were camera shy that night. You can check out even more videos from Hype Hotel right here.
It’s the hallmark of the creatively foolhardy or the artistically brave to release an album hot on the heels of the one that proceeded it. Luckily, Brooklyn based pop darling Alexandra Stewart happens to be the latter and her upcoming I Grow EP, the follow up to last year’s WÀBÀ, might prove to be just as enchanting as the last. On “I Grow”, Stewart shines like never before. More stripped back than “Pow Wow”, Stewart remains the primary focus but rather than acting as the figurehead while the band swoops and whirls around her it’s far more enjoyable with Stewart former a larger part of the equation. A notably more somber affair than really any of the last EP’s tracks, “I Grow” isn’t without its fair share of action. As Stewart flexes her vocal chops, her band rise up to meet her in wonderfully arresting flourishes before Stewart and her band join forces for the inevitable sprint towards the finish line. But it’s a well earned trek, a carefully maintained ebb and flow that makes every second worth it while also defying all expectations. On “I Grow” Stewart’s stellar musicianship is displayed more impressively than ever before. Her vocals are stunning while dazzling with its simplicity.
It’s the mark of an exceptionally talented musician, much less an electronic based one, to be able to instantly transport you to far off places. San Fransciso’s Yalls happens to be such a musician as his latest single “DC” from the upcoming debut full length United demonstrates. “DC” is all fair weather chill, smooth and lush but not without a telltale gaze into its production – a breath of forward motion not only shakes “DC” free from its carefree luxuriation but through sending it barreling forward from it sun-soaked reverie exposes, for the better, the various nuts and bolts of Dan Casey’s operation. It’s not a jarring glance but one that clearly establishes Casey’s full control of what happens here – the illusion of an infinite lounge pop gem broken opens “DC” is a whole plethora of options as Casey isn’t afraid to tinker with the track’s building blocks, warping and bending his vocals as well as other previously occuring bits while also managing to maintain the track’s clean-cut cool.
Yalls’ first full length United is out May 6th on Gold Robot Records on clear vinyl and is available for pre-order here.
There’s a certain honor that comes from being a hand-selected show opener – while clearly demonstrating the headliner’s sense of taste, it also should serve to illustrate that the openers are serious business. Enter Palm. Opening for Buke & Gase‘s most recent show at BSP Kingston with Celestial Shore, the foursome were exactly the sort of band you’d expect the genre-dodging innovative duo to champion while still remaining very much a complete and absolute surprise.
Palm, for lack of a more apt description of what they do, play the sort of mathematical experimental rock that downright enchants. Their live set is the musical equivalent of watching a high wire act; never quite sure what to expect or when/if the foursome’s synchronized complexity will lead them to stagger and fall at any moment. That’s not to say you’re waiting for the quartet to fail – rather watching them weave intricate patterns in real time was downright mesmerizing and yet, the band never quite loses sight that there’s an audience to cater to. “No Tribute” from their three song Into the Bulk EP released late last year is perhaps the best example of what you can/should expect from Palm. There’s an accessibility deeply ingrained in it despite the band’s various spinning plates form of music making. It’s not always at the forefront but it does keep the band’s obvious musicianship from developing into an exclusionary geek out. Palm might not make music for everyone but at the very least they do provide a necessary window into their complexly layered tumult.