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.
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.