When I first heard the first single “Solar Laws” from Katonah, NY exports Yellerkin I was instantly enamored. Of this there was no denying. The vivacious energy and seamless blend of the then duo’s musicianship not only capitalized on the potential for infectious genre-blurring pop but hinted at a knack for pitch perfect songcraft that’d serve them well in the future. Yellerkin’s at their best when utilizing the talents of all of its members – Adrian Galvin’s emotive vocals and effervescent charm paired with Luca Buccellati’s electronic wizardry and rock solid supporting role.
While the Yellerkin live set has evolved from quintet to a modest trio including Tei Shi drummer Gabe Smith, the one constant is the twosome at the center of the experimental pop maelstrom and “Tools” is an example of the brilliant effects of Galvin and Buccellati in total consonance. “Tools” resembles generic pop structure but inverts it a little – featuring the harmonic howled chorus first and foremost before things set off in divergent but surprising parallel paths. “Tools” shows a remarkable amount of subtlety – embroiled for much of its duration in a sort of tonal ebb and flow that finally rises towards a full on synth-pop explosion that feels earned after about three minutes of teasing.
On “Tools”, Yellerkin show exceptional growth embarking on the electronic direction they want to pursue without losing sight of the much straight forward pop elements at their inception and hints at exciting things after the release of their self-titled EP earlier this year. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before we get a glimpse at what else Yellerkin have up their sleeve but until then “Tools” will make good company.
Here’s the stunning video from Swedish director NEZ of Riff Raff Films for minimalist Lithuanian house artist Ten Walls. If you’re wondering about the flying/diving effect, it’s called Flyboarding and it’s a very real thing.
I remember the very first time I ever heard Devendra Banhart’s voice. I remember thinking of the quote Jimi Hendrix said about “how he sees music in colors” and thinking Banhart had vocal chords that had to be painted in a swatch labeled “ROYGBIV”. Despite lacking a sonic case of synesthesia myself, Banhart’s voice had an eccentric narrative quality that matched his own homeless-guy-on-the-streets to record-releasing-indie-artist fairy tale. Last week, fully reaping the benefits of living in Nashville, I saw a last minute show during Americana Fest at Jack White’s Third Man Records and can now say I remember the very first time I saw Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear live.
Ward’s voice has a strange texture; rich and dramatic as if it wants to bellow big enough for an opera house, yet strained with the shards of emotion that litter the generational voices of soul singers. Then there are the different vocal personalities he portrays, like that of Frank Black or Isaac Brock, Ward throws his voice from falsetto yelps to low growls in an instant while retaining the same familiarity despite leaping across an emotional spectrum too varied for even legendary high school guidance counselors. Check out “Silent Movies” to see what I mean:
Then there is the excellent extracurricular story that publicists, journalists, labels, managers, and fans alike are going to adore. Madisen Ward is accompanied by his guitar wielding, backup-singing mother to make this a duo unlike any other. Like Jade Castrinos and Victoria Bergsman once did for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Peter Bjorn and John respectively, the Mama Bear adds an understated female element you can’t imagine the song without once hearing her sing. During the show I saw, which captivated 100+ industry types in sheer silence, she commented about her guitar when handing it to her son, “I bought that guitar in 1979. I never knew that I would have son who would be playing it. That’s pretty cool.”
Also cool: everything about this Independence, Missouri duo, including the strong set of songwriting chops Ward possesses. I hope they’re ready for a fun and fast ride.
Heard about these guys from a bandcamp staff pick a couple months back, they seem to be blowing up in their hometown of Paris and elsewhere in Europe. Moodoïd is much more than glittery makeup, umlauts and great hair, especially once you’ve heard album standout “La Lune”. It’s an anthemic homage to our closest celestial neighbor, teeming with baroque-pop and jazzy bridges and shimmering vocal harmonies.
Le Monde Möö is Moodoïd’s fïrst albüm. Grab yourself a copy here »
ps- makeup game is on point though, f’real
I’ve been shredding to this song since we first heard the demo early in the year, and I’m beyond thrilled to share it with everyone I possibly can. Francisco The Man‘s “Big Ideas”, a blisters-on-my-fingers sort of single, the one I always knew these good old boys would produce. Maybe a bit of a conflict of interest, as this is a Small Plates co-release with Fat Possum, but trust me… Just listen, you’ll get it:
Francisco The Man’s debut LP Loose Ends is out October 28th. Preorder (on gorgeous, limited red vinyl) here »
“With You” is from Strange Bodies’ 2014 self-titled debut LP, which is available for free download from Bandcamp »
To say that we’ve been waiting for new tunes from Chicago bedroom musician turned full fledged psych rock outfit J Fernandez is a bit of an understatement. After seeing them live for the first time at last year’s CMJ, it was the one question everyone seemed to be asking, myself included. A question that finally has an answer. Nearly two years after the re-release of Fernandez’s No Luck and Olympic Village cassette EPs as a double EP via Morning Ritual, Justin Fernandez and company are raring to release their Memorize Now EP.
“Cosmic Was” finds Fernandez at his most groove-conscious and also congruently at his most straightforwardly poppy. Fernandez’s psychedelic diversions are streamlined a bit in favor of a downright dance-y guitar jangle and buoyant brass licks. The spirit of those old 70s psych bands is alive and well but not exactly imitated which allows the track to clock in at a very radio friendly 3 minutes instead of becoming one of those 10+ minute forever jams. There’s not a heck of a lot Fernandez does to through you off the rather snappy route he draws up but there’s no need to – J Fernandez has you hooked from the second the guitar enters, each other element a piecemeal addition that complements that initial guitar riff without ever displacing it.
J Fernandez’ upcoming Memorize Now EP is out October 14th on France based atelier ciseaux. Preorder for a limited run 12″ is available now.
Semi Precious is the sample-based project of British producer Guy Baron. Baron takes two source samples, crossfades/chops/shrinks/warps them together with fresh vocals and melodies. The result is often understated and gorgeous, like the following track:
It’s not surprising that Rivergazer, the solo project of Porches guitarist Kevin Farrant, would garner comparisons to Porches – in fact when I heard the first single “Whimper” off debut album Random Nostalgia, it was the first thing I noticed. On “Whimper” Farrant seemed to be aping Aaron Maine’s slow, syrupy drawl and vocal inflection in a way that while not an exact replication oddly recalled the Porches frontman. That however is where the comparison began and ended and in many of Random Nostalgia‘s slower numbers the potential of Farrant’s songwriting becomes beguilingly clear.
“Random Nostalgia”, the penultimate and title track of the Rivergazer album is perhaps the greatest display of what Farrant has to offer. It’s a sparse, mostly acoustic number but its simplicity is perfect to quash all those pesky Porches comparisons resolutely. Farrant pairs the album’s indie pop leanings with the narrative showcase of a downtempo ballad – it’s a pitch perfect combination of infectious melodies, revealing lyricism, and stellar arrangement in the use of its horn accompaniment that makes it an enjoyable track. Farrant captures the spirit of twentysomething ennui where the first pinpricks of nostalgia are first felt in a style completely devoid of flash and sizzle but no less rewarding.
Random Nostalgia, the debut full length from Rivergazer, is out now on Father/Daughter Records. Grab your copy here »
Jack Robert Hardman first grabbed attention in late 2012 with his beguiling track “Plymouth”, featuring sprawling, multi-layered pop harmonies. “I Don’t Need An Answer”, the second track from JRH’s latest EP, The Great Unknown, scales back the ambition a bit but is no less endearing and may even clarify the multi-instrumentalists songwriting prowess:
Fayetteville, Arkansas indie rockers SW/MM/NG is a good example of a music festival discovery you absolute fail to pursue until much later. When I stumbled upon them at last year’s CMJ, they were a pleasant surprise in every regard – their name easily searchable due to a cease and desist from a UK band kept them from going by Swimming (the proper pronunciation of their name), a tight and talented band with easy to consume offerings – the only thing that kept me from pursuing them in earnest after that was surprisingly enough the band name. With their FB and Bandcamp pages still under the old moniker, a cursory search turned up very little and yet made me more intrigued. How does a band play CMJ with no music out there to promote? It struck me as a particular bold move for a young band and one that endeared them to me regardless of whether or not that was actually their motive (it wasn’t).
Fast forward several months later and with their debut album Feel Not Bad on the horizon, and my interest in SW/MM/NG was reignited seemingly out of nowhere. A stray link to their album stream brought the memory of their awesome live set back and I hunkered down and dug in. “Some Dreams Come True” and the majority of SW/MM/NG’s songs, especially on Feel Not Bad are absolutely ready-made summer jams. With just the right touches of pop vernacular, SW/MM/NG’s songs are brightly colored, infectiously memorable, and intensely enjoyable. Everything about SW/MM/NG’s core structure recalls lazy summer days while avoiding the clutches of typical beach pop stylings – from Brian Kupillas’ drawling vocals to the effervescent melodies and angular guitar lines all work hand in hand to remarkable effect.
SW/MM/NG’s debut full length Feel Not Bad is out August 26th on Old Flame Records. Preorder it here »
I stumbled upon Kitsuné America 3, the latest compilation from French electronic label Kitsuné, through the inclusion of previous featured electro pop duo My Body’s new track “If I Need You, I’ll Call”. While a definite new direction from the band’s heretofore recorded input, the real showstealer of the compilation happened to come from recently transplanted DC band Misun. Known for tinkering around in pretty much every area of pop music from world to RB-esque dalliances, the quartet have set their sights on conquering the beachy summer single in “Eli Eli” and certainly succeeded in that task. From its 60’s style female-fronted vocal harmonies, to it’s chill rock ‘n roll swagger “Eli Eli” is an immaculate pop confection – it’s guilt free and infectious without being saccharine – frontwoman Misun Wojcik imbuing the track with a lot of its energy, bringing the turbulence of her big, brassy vocals to the rather placid accompaniment. While guitar and bass circle each other and drums mostly keep the beat, Woljcik brings the heat – delivering stormy declarations of love that escalate to a borderline Shakespearean extremes. It’s a balancing act between butterfly-inducing infatuation and darkly glimmering dependence, Wojcik’s pleading lyrics almost completely at odds with her utterly commanding vocal presence – a sleight of hand type of vulnerability that you’re likely miss in the toe-tapping sun-kissed pop of “Eli Eli”.
The compilation is out now and features a uniquely outside view of what Kitsuné thinks are some of the best up and coming bands in the USA – not a bad guess considering they include artists like Lucius, Son Lux, and My Body.
Montreal’s bedroom crooner and ukelele’r Alexia Avina released her sleepy, delicate debut EP for free less than a month back. It’s a loosely wound and sparse four-track EP that’s perfect for August’s waning summer days.
There is a moment on Vensaire’s self-titled EP where a heretofore background member of the band shines bright as beacon, illuminated in a soft but vibrant spotlight that causes you to think “Who is that and where can I hear more?”
That moment is “They Are Growing” where Vensaire’s unique brand of experimental world/folk inspired chamber pop with occasionally electronic dalliances becomes something totally other. It’s Renata Zeiguer’s moment, her voice like siren song and no doubt aided in its sorcery by creamy, atmospheric textures. Perhaps the most surprising thing about singer/multi-instrumentalist Renata Zeiguer is that while playing with two of the most innovative Brooklyn bands going in Vensaire and Landlady that she has been able to allude notice; contributing majorly to the ensemble sound while drawing very little attention her way. Hopefully that changes with her personal musical project Cantina.
Taking its cues from “They Are Growing”, Cantina relishes the strengths of Zeiguer’s enchanting light vocals in their dreamy arrangements. Zeigeur aims for the tropics but reaches the stars as Cantina manages to transcend the beachy vibe of their tropical inspiration and land somewhere far more striking. Zeiguer’s arrangements are wide and spacious, allowing the vocals full range of moment as they flitter and glide; Birkin-esque in their coquetteish coo and yet, a part of Zeiguer’s distinct textural palette themselves.
Fittingly, many of Landlady’s members (including its mastermind Adam Schatz) had a hand in helping Zeiguer’s vision come to life. Their touch is a light one however, allowing Zeiguer’s resplendent dream pop to stand mostly on her own creative merits. The result is songs that are captivatingly sparse, subtly arranged, and beguiling in its simplicity. It’s a winning combination that should serve Cantina very well. Cantina’s 7 song Horizons EP is out/available for stream/download via Bandcamp.
With the release of their second EP (third if you count the Crossing Colors EP released as Il abanico) rapidly approaching, Brooklyn quartet Salt Cathedral certainly aren’t messing around. While already releasing “Tease” earlier this summer and offering up a remix by Kodak to Graph just two short weeks ago, Salt Cathedral are reveling in every facet of their new electronic focused sound while blowing up any previously conceived notions about their approach to it with each subsequent peek at the OOM VELT EP.
“Holy Soul”, the third taste from the EP that’s due out at the end of this month, is at its very basis one of those female vocals over beats songs that seems to be all the rage right now. There’s no denying that. Much of the complex rhythmic structure and interlocking instrument formations are purged in favor of something a little more pure to highlight what fans of theirs may have already known but a simple fact that it doesn’t hurt to reestablish: Juliana Ronderos’ vocals are the essence of Salt Cathedral down to their core. That’s not surprising – it’s the one unaffected constant in their recent genre shakeup and arguably the most compelling. Years of collaborating has only strengthened Nicolas Losada and Ronderos’ creative bonds and solidified their reliance on Ronderos’ vocal prowess.
Despite its sparse accompaniment, “Holy Soul” is a shining example of subtle producing. As the rest of the band stay well out of the way of Ronderos, it remains an interesting displaying of textural fortitude. The layering is slight but intriguing and absolutely crucial to the mood and even gets its moments of spotlight during vocal breaks. The big drum pad beats are there but the most monumental are the tiny fluttering click beats whose climactic rise actually form Ronderos’ initial jumping off point. With “Holy Soul”, Salt Cathedral display their diversity even going so far as to outdo the nuances of their previous ballad “Good Winds”. With such a multifaceted approach to electronica, you can only imagine what the rest of OOM VELT will sound like. Luckily that anticipation won’t have to wait too much longer.
Salt Cathedral’s OOM VELT EP is out August 25th on limited edition cream 12″ vinyl as well as digitally. You can preorder it here. In case you missed it, here’s Gainesville producer Kodak to Graph’s “Tease” remix:
Good news is New York based artist HANAH seems to work quick. After premiering her debut single “Out of Touch” last month, she’s already reappeared with a music video to share. The video, which just so happens to be directed by Nicolas Pesce (the same man behind the incredibly epic Yellerkin’s “Solar Laws” video) appears to takes its cue from supernatural thrillers/horror films in its visuals while also functioning to encapsulate Hannah Taxman’s listless, dream-referencing vocals. Films like The Exorcist and The Ring spring immediately to mind as the video’s sole character gradually loses her bearings/control culminating in an impressive and artfully shot bit of levitation. Taxman’s herself hovers in the periphery – functioning as a sort of narrating specter for much of the video’s plot.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the video comes from the amped up energy at the song’s climax as Pesce elevates the surreal images to full on phantasmagoria and and the mounting tension is released through the devolution into all out dream logic. Pesce’s talents for short form storytelling are subverted by his adherence to often bewildering unexplainable nature of supernatural phenomena and therein lies the source of the video’s impact. Pesce takes Taxman’s dissociative lyrics to their very extreme – creating an arresting take on the out of body experience.
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.