I was introduced to Portland experimental crooner Dragging an Ox Through Water through the inclusion of his track “Snowbank Treatment” on a playlist Danish art rock outfit Efterklang made to promote the release of their latest full length Piramida. I was immediately taken by how unlike anything I was possibly expecting it was – the track occupied this strange limbo of stuttering electronic-based pop with a noticeable country swagger. I was intrigued and instantly wanted more.
One of the exciting things about Dragging an Ox Through Water is how completely unpredictable his releases are. The Tropics of Phenomenon (which features the aforementioned “Snowbank Treatment) is a far more electronic-laden affair than his newest album Panic Sentry. And yet though it’s featuring a much more straight-forward folk presentation, there’s a blurring of genre lines, the subverting of expectation but still the spotlighting of a sincere product that keeps everything fascinating. While Panic Sentry is an album worthy of complete play-throughs “Sparrow Command” stuck out as a shining example of just what made Dragging an Ox Through Water so damn appealing. The use of electronics is sparse – an effect on the periphery, as Brian Mumform angles his vocals with supple languor. Mumform’s vocals a natural extension of his twangy guitar lines; bent, cooed, and whispered to jostle the lyrics into impressive shapes while electronics hum contentedly from the sidelines to give the whole tale an ethereal pallor.
Dragging an Ox Through Water’s latest full length Panic Sentry is out now. Available on digital/12″ vinyl via Bandcamp.
Three years ago (veritable decade in blog years) we were introduced to Beachtapes’ then-latest signee Triptides, from Bloomington, IN. They’ve been up to way more than we cataloged, including a new upcoming cassette EP, Colors, out soon on Portland’s Jaunt Records. Listen to the newly minted psych-pop track “Throne of Stars” below:
While of the opinion that Katonah NY transplants Yellerkin’s debut EP was a delight, no song quite matched the exuberant thrills of their debut single “Solar Laws”. While “Solar Laws” was a genre evading tour de force, “Vines”, “Tomboy” , and “Leave Me Be” settled more into a laptop pop slumber: mellow calm with a noticeable albeit unexpected electronic slant. Enter “Dixie Rain”, which seems ready to bridge the gap between those remarkably different sounds by virtue of its very existence.
From the primal pulse that catapulted “Solar Laws” into action and seems to be at the core of Yellerkin’s character, “Dixie Rain” is bolstered by instantly memorably melodies as well as its enormously immersive vocal lines. In fact, the tune is carried almost exclusively by its vocal melodies while a synth line functioning virtually as background noise. That and its predominant drumpad beats reveals “Dixie Rain” as an interesting dichotomy of organic versus mechnical; with the synthesized sound beat out by pure emotive power by the grandest of margins but necessary in displaying it in all its grandeur.
There are two universally accepted ways to do SXSW: 1) fastidious plan your festival experience to the letter 2) drift from showcase to showcase, bar to bar, with your gut as your guide. There’s no right way, although diehards of either method would claim otherwise and healthy mix of the two is essentially how you get the most out of the overwhelming options SX offers. And that’s what let me to discover Porter. The Guadalajara indie rock fivesome were the definite highlight of the Vans Mexico showcase I stumbled into with a couple friends on the first day of our SX festivities.
Porter have been around awhile (since the early aughts) with an EP, full length, and sophomore record on the horizon and if their latest single “Palapa” is anything to go off it’s going to be pretty delightful affair. “Palapa” builds a blanket of brief but riotous percussion before launching into angular guitar riffs while David Velasco’s stratospheric vocals weave serpentine patterns in their own right. Where so many of their lyrics are sung in Porter’s native Spanish, Porter are one of those rare bands able to circumvent the language barrier through virtue of their musical talents. The quintet have a distinct ability to develop intricate melodic shapes but also imbue them with a kaleidoscopic lushness which translates regardless of dialect.
While waiting for the promised US release of a batch of tunes from Aussie world pop troubadours Jinja Safari an exciting development occurred – Pepa Knight, the band’s chairman of world instruments, has gone and revealed a project all his own. While still in the vein of resplendent tropical-inspired pop, Knight’s single “Rahh!” is more than just another slice of Jinja Safari’s cacophonous, jubilant brand. “Rahh!” is lush and vibrant, belying the fact that it’s all the work one man; not quite bedroom pop but certainly not a full band affair. Knight’s single is full-bodied and fully realized – immersive and transportive in its effervescent plod, upward reaching and infectious – the perfect tune to jump start the encroaching summer swelter. Here’s hoping it’s not too long til Pepa Knight reveals what other tricks he has up his beguiling, fully developed sleeves.
After the blistering vocal gymnastics featured in Brooklyn experimental rock trio SoftSpot‘s “You/Yours”, they’ve decided to calm it down in the latest offering from the upcoming sophomore effort. “Black Room Blues”, the third track and our third taste of the forthcoming work, is perhaps the most phlegmatic; inward-seeking and dramatically so, pulling you in with crushing heaviness. All the while Sarah Kinlaw’s vocals rise above the tumult with effortless lucidity. “Black Room Blues” is like sinking in quicksand under a full desert moon, its methodical slow burn drawing you deeper and deeper down toward its darkly colored core.
SoftSpot’s sophomore full length MASS is out April 8th. You can pre-order the digital or limited edition 12″ via their Bandcamp here.
We previously shared “Good Laugh” from Wilmington bedroom pop artist Dyev. Here’s another track, “It’s Time They Know,” that matches that track’s frenetic energy, inventive percussion design and manic vocal layering.
Nothing official on the horizon from Dyev just yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
Fresh off of a scintillating SXSW, including an Austin debut performance at this year’s Floating Fest, Sylvan Esso are pressing the buttons on their machine in proper fashion by dropping a new video for lead single “Coffee”. The single is so catchy, they could’ve made a lyric video using Comic Sans and I still would’ve watched it only somewhat begrudgingly. Luckily they didn’t do the unthinkable and stuck to something more familiar roots, shooting a 50s sock hop meets hipster house party in their hometown of Durham, North Carolina. If SXSW was an education institution for higher learning with a study abroad program in Portland, this video showcases the house parties that would undoubtedly occur.
It is oddly fitting that Louisville quintet The Deloreans are a blink and you’ll miss it kind of band. Probably Louisville if not ALL of Kentucky in general’s best kept secret, I virtually had my listening habits completely torn asunder when I happened upon their 2011 sophomore record “American Craze” and my mind absolutely blown when I had the chance to catch them play the very rare out of town during CMJ.
From “American Craze” and beyond, the band have managed to defy the very notion of genre – a fastidious pairing of old and new, The Deloreans are not however a retro rock outfit nor are they kind of band recycling their greatest hits. Their latest 7″ single “As Long As It’s You” make that perfectly clear. The sheer decadence and Bacharach-era pop of “American Craze” is gone but not forgotten, as the band ruminates and expands the record’s more heartfelt moments on “As Long As It’s You”. They just don’t need to rely on an orchestra to deliver that kind of arresting punch this time around. It’s a track that isn’t afraid to be dynamic, to be exploratory – undulating not only with an endearing fervor but with the complexity of musical ideas. The Deloreans may be a pop band but they have no intentions of being boring about it – packing their tunes with an interesting mix of intricate layers, practically bruising levels of intense longing.
The Deloreans’ 7″ featuring “As Long As It’s You” with b-side “As Long As It’s Here” is out April 2nd. You can preorder it now.
If you’ve been keeping score, this whole RY X is-he-or-isn’t-he-also-The-Acid thing has been settled, and it’s a “no shit” yes. That shorn, dispassionate half-plea of a voice can only belong to Ry Cuming, the Aussie whose career is rebounding after some thoroughly terrible major-label singer-songwriter John Mayer shit. On his way: last year saw The Acid drop a fantastic self-titled EP, and now for something completely different:
Dispassionate, like I said, but this is damn near masochistic. There are more than a few parallels to NIN’s 1994 career opus “Closer”, with Ry X’s breathy whisper ripping across skin as considerately as a duct tape band-aid. Industrial grade, minimal and abrasive like a drop of ipecac.
“Creeper” is a new single from The Acid’s just-announced debut LP (artwork above), Liminal, which drops June 2nd. Preorder here and get a download of “Creeper” today »
We previously sharedthe debut track from Orlando’s X priest X, which ties Madeline Priest with Saskatchewan frontman Chandler Strang. New song “Isn’t It So” rounds out a few-months-long effort to record an EP, Samurai which will finally drop April 15th via Swedish label Emotion (Karl X Johan, oOoOO). Listen below:
The fact that they’re friends with fellow experimental pop collective Friend Roulette should’ve tipped me off to the pleasant weirdness of Brooklyn quintet Landlady but oddly enough it took seeing them live at the first of Hometapes’ two SXSW showcases this year, which enabled my first actual listen, for it to become clear just how refreshingly unique Landlady is.
Their latest single “Above My Ground” essentially offers the gist of what makes Landlady function, while their live show expands on all of their charms exponentially. Built around a two-drummer set up and anchored by Adam Schatz’s soulful vocals, the fivesome essentially subvert the very notion of experimentalism by the nature of their being so convincingly sincere. There’s no feeling that Landlady is trying its damnedest to be challenging, quirky, and/or different. In fact, there’s no real feeling of off-putting impenetrability in Landlady’s bold, complexity-inlaid tunes. Landlady’s combination of its multitudinous ideas and collective musicianship is by far its greatest strength and certainly the one that provides their gateway to accessibility. Landlady are that rare band where the notion of genre seems downright laughable. You can’t pigeonhole such a band and there’s really no use in doing so.
“Above My Ground” might be the most straightforward track in the band’s catalog thus far but that by no means makes it any less impressive. It’s a song with more heart than your standard Brooklyn band can seem to muster but also downright seductive in both its subtle building of layers and its ear-catching nature. It’s an omen of things to come that should both frighten and excite you. Whether featured on an upcoming EP or a full length, “Above My Ground” hints at the total all-consuming quality of Landlady’s beguilingly rugged experimentalism. Until then, fortunately, Landlady’s debut full length Keeping to Yourself is available for your perusal. Dig in via their Bandcamp.
Louisville electro-pop outfit The Pass might be known, at least to those who regularly follow them, for their electrifying infusion of technical precision into their pop mastery. Not surprising considering the Louisville-based foursome is composed of ex-jazz musicians and shedding that level of musicianship is nothing short of impossible. While The Pass suffer from no shortage of highly energetic, grandiose hooks and stadium-ready sound, “Be Easy”, the b-side from the third of their four month 7″ collection, proves that that’s not all the band is good at.
“Be Easy” sees the band taking a much deserved chill session, blunting their frenetic edge in favor of smoothly traversed contours. Make no mistake though, The Pass haven’t jumped the shark – not completely. The heady rush of dancefloor-filling synth is dulled but not forgotten. It’s a breezy jaunt that hints at slightly warmer climes and brighter days that’ll hopefully jumpstart Spring but at the very least reminds you that milder days are just on the horizon and The Pass are going to make sure you’re ready to dance those warmer nights away.
“Be Easy” as well as the A side “The Same” is currently available as pre-order bundle with the rest of The Pass’ 7″ singles. You can purchase them here.
It’s time for the annual pilgrimage for Tex Mex, margaritas, sunshine, and thousands of emerging bands playing in any place that has an Austin, Texas zipcode. Yes, SXSW is back and so is another excellent edition of Floating Fest. We’re back at Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel presented by Taco Bell again this year and are super stoked to give you the below lineup, which we think is quite a sexy beast in its own right:
What: Floating Fest 2014
Where: 505 E. 7th St @ Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel presented by Taco Bell
When: Wednesday, March 12 from 8:00PM to 2:00AM
8:00 – Sylvan Esso
9:00 – Bipolar Sunshine
10:00 – Young and Sick
11:00 – Mutual Benefit
12:00 – SOHN
1:00 – Chromeo
PLEASE MAKE SURE TO RSVP IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND, FLOATING FEST WILL GET CROWDED AND WE WANNA SEE YOU: RSVP HERE
Wait. Didn’t plucky dream pop goddess Emily Reo just release a full length record? The answer is yes. And yet that means apparently very little as the now Los Angeles based Reo teamed up with those cool peeps over at Portals to film a session featuring an unreleased song “Spell”. It’s like they knew their just wasn’t enough awesome music in the world, even after the release of Reo’s debut full length Olive Juice and sought to rectify that by casting another of one Reo’s experimental pop gems into the digital ether.
One of my favorite things about Emily Reo is how no two song are even remotely the same. While Olive Juice was stitched together more by tonal rather than textural or thematic cohesiveness, “Spell” or at least this version of it populates an entirely different realm. There’s still Reo’s trademark vocal affecting pedal-play but it’s arrestingly sparse, beguiling in its sense of solitude. It’s not until a third of the way through the song that anything vaguely resembling accompaniment establishes itself – appearing like a safety net you were never quite sure was there. And even then – the accompaniment takes the shape of looped harmonies, rather than anything else. It’s an avalanche of beautiful moments stacking on top of each other one by one climaxing with Reo’s emotive howls.
Long story short, “Spell” is downright devastating in its beauty. Despite its complex construction, it comes off with effortless ease and blissful rawness. Don’t be surprised if you find you’ve suddenly got something in your eyes – it comes with the territory.
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Streets of Laredo are Brooklyn babies by way of New Zealand. They made their way around the CMJ circuit last month and turned a many heads, including the two ears attached to my own. Energetic live music doesn’t always translate well to recorded renditions (RIP, Gobble Gobble) but that doesn’t seem to the be case for this band of hooligans. They flirt on the border of folk music, seeping their musical tea-bags in the twang of hot water just long enough before ripping it out with triumphant melodies. The only problem is that they rip the tea-bag so hard, it’s left seeping in the twang a bit longer before they spoon it out with enough reverb to leave one’s head spinning.
I’ve got two things for you to do. 1. Listen to the premiere of their second EP Vol. II exclusively below. 2. Take a wild guess as to what I was doing when I was listening to, then, writing this post.
I was hoping Matt Kivel would eventually get this track — “Double Exposure”, the title track from his gorgeous debut LP — out into the world. The Princeton man’s album is one of my favorite this year, with “Double Exposure” easily cracking my most played of the year. A wonderfully Kinksy, fuzzily lazy, late Autumn tune that’s bound to end up in a Wes Anderson soundtrack sooner or later:
Previously: “Rainbow Trout” / “Tetro” MP3s
Totally worth your time to check out the above Shaking Through session for Celestial Shore‘s “Die For Us”, featuring long time friend and collaborator Empress Of (Lorely Rodriguez). If you’re not familiar with Shaking Through, they document the creation of a song from first take to final mix over two days. The video above is the documentary short, and the stream below is the gorgeous end result:
Celestial Shore are responsible for one of my favorite songs ever covered on IGIF: