Monday, April 21, 2014

Single Review: Still Sweet-Pirouette 7"

Still Sweet used to be called Scallions, though both are/were the creative project of Darian Scatton, the mastermind behind the label Edible Onion. Edible Onion is truly a throwback to another era. Everything about it feels intimate and personal; from the bands it releases, all who make music that is creative and not concerned with popular trends in the least, to the packaging, all handmade and assembled by Scaffon himself. Still Sweet’s “debut” 7” likewise fits this aesthetic perfectly, crafting two pieces of dream pop that feel plucked from a distant time before that genre even existed.

“Pirouette”, for instance, is what would happen if The Music Tapes ever decided to craft something gothic. Scatton sings sweet sounding, yet ever so ghastly lyrics, made even more ghostly by Gabrielle Smith’s singing which follows just a moment out of step with Scatton’s. The song’s instrumentation adds to this askew sound as well. The use of an old-timey harp,  as well as high pitched frequencies that float through the song from what sounds like a combination singing saw/pump organ give the track a truly haunted feeling. The track constantly slows down only to start up again, leaving anyone listening constantly off balance, adding to the song’s effect.

“Holey Bones” travels even deeper into the past, sounding like a long forgotten ‘60s girl group b-side, the one they always made sure was a slowed down dance track. It certainly has that feeling, with the “oohs” that echo through the track, paired with the stuttering drums and nighttime surf guitar riffs. “Holey Bones” undercuts its own sweetness though, with even darker lyrics about everything one loves turning to dust, and some noisy synths that creep into the track right before it ends. Scatton never wants anyone to forget that as sweet or lovely as his tracks can get, there is something darker lying underneath.


Still Sweet's Bandcamp
Buy the Pirouette 7" here, from Edible Onion

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tirzah-No Romance

Tirzah's "I'm Not Dancing", one of the best and strangely obtuse dance songs from last year, managed to be both an excellent opening bravo and mission statement rolled into one. In little more than two minutes, it managed to truly showcase Tirzah's sound's; sparse, dry beats enhanced by Micachu's excellent production coupled with Tirzah's detached yet warm vocals. It was a real case of accomplishing so much with so little.

On "No Romance", off Tirzah's upcoming second EP, she and Micachu's have expanded upon everything that made her debut EP so excellent. Its core is still the give and take between the song's beat, here ever so more punchy with its artificial snare snaps & the more subtle electro pulse, and Tirzah's vocals, here stacked upon, and almost falling over each other, giving them a more sultry effect as a contrast to the song's actually sad, emotional core. Not to mention Mica Levi's production is truly on display with this track, especially when the vocal manipulation takes center stage during the song's last third and all of  the various tricks and flourishes Levi' has added to the track come into focus. "No Romance" is a deeply creative R&B track, demonstrating Tirzah's ever expanding style and willingness to go in whatever direction her sound takes her.


Tirzah's Facebook
Pre-order the No Romance EP here, from Greco-Roman

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Total Control-Flesh War

Total Control is a restless band, seemingly permanently uncontent with staying still in just one facet of post-punk. This is a band that over four 7”s sounded like four different bands, jumping from Swell Maps-like guitar twitch on one to minimal wave dance thumps on another. Their debut LP Henge Beat felt like the perfect distillation of all this, managing to meld all their different style hopping with one another by coating every aspect of it in a cold, hardened, and detached intensity. But as wonderful as Henge Beat was, it shouldn't be surprising that Total Control would grow uninterested in that style as well.

On its surface, “Flesh War”, the band’s newest song, feels like a continuation of their sound. The drums open the song with mechanical beat as the guitar starts playing a repetitive riff, synths appear to give the song a cold background, and frontman Daniel Stewart’s delivers his vocals in a flat, almost bored monotone. Previously, Total Control would have locked into this groove and let the song bear out as long as they felt like it should. However, once “Flesh War” hits its chorus, everything changes. The track suddenly blossoms, the synths now delivering this incredibly warm melody, and Stewart’s vocals suddenly gaining a deeply romantic quality to them. It’s a sudden but perfectly executed shift that speaks to the band’s desire to always do something different. There’s a dreary beauty to the song, not unlike that of Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia”, melding the band’s more intense past to a new, (more) melodic present. Though maybe “Flesh War” is so striking simply because it’s the song that has humanized Total Control the most, slipping something besides anger or delirium into their music.


Total Control's Bandcamp
Pre-order Typical System soon here, from Iron Lung Records

Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSW 2014: Wednesday (Part 1)


There is some irony in the first band I saw at South by Southwest being a reunion band. Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s scrappy, noise-garage band from the mid-00s, had decided for whatever reason to play SXSW. Not to say they weren't great. Setting up on the ground rather than the stage, and plugging into their own amps rather than the venue's, the band immediately clicked into action and started rattling off song after song thanks, no doubt, to each one being usually less than two minutes. It probably wasn't the ideal situation to see them, a grassy & sunny field rather than a dark & dank bar basement, but it was fun and noisy nonetheless, especially when Dwyer got decent portion of the crowd to sing along and throw their hands up into the air when the band closed on “Peanut Butter and Jelly”.


Sophie’s performance was an indication that almost every producer/DJ should be seen indoors during SXSW. He was good, actually performing a set, changing and remixing his tracks so they emerged rather than it feeling like he just hit “play” on his rig. Unfortunately, his gooey club tracks didn't mesh with the setting, and his minimal set up and lack of lights/visuals just left everyone to stare at the kid with orange hair onstage. Though props to everyone in the crowd who danced super awkwardly during the whole set; you all very much made the set.

Perfect Pussy

I wound up seeing Perfect Pussy several times over the course of South By, largely because of the standard they hit with their first show. Over the four months since I had first seen them, they had gotten even better; more frantic, more intense in every aspect. Guitarist Ray McAndrew and drummer Garrett Koloski played their instruments with a jubilant but fierce furry, and bassist Greg Ambler & keyboardist Shaun Sutkus just flailed behind their respective gear. Vocalist Meredith Graves easily matched her bandmates intensity; her movements onstage feeling both precise and wounded at the same time while she screamed the lyrics with a menacing desperation that could be felt by everyone, no matter how obstructed they were in the mix. The band was so loud they would up blowing have the speakers on stage three songs in and had to pause for a moment. Not that it mattered; once the power clicked back on they launched right back into the same burst of energy they started with. It was 18 very glorious minutes.

Ex Hex

Springy. If you had to describe Ex Hex in one word, that’s the one I think a lot of people would go for. Which says something, as everyone in this band, particularly frontwoman Mary Timony of Helium and more recently Wild Flag, are practically veterans of the indie music world. Yet here they were, having fun as they played their chewy, power-pop tinted guitar rock, being indulgent as all hell, and loving every minute of it. You could tell how much this band was just friends finally getting together and playing some songs right; it leaked immensely into their songs and their stage craft.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slow Pulse-Hardware

Obviously, there is some gull in Slow Pulse's decision to use "Hardware" as their "introduction to the world" track. It's nearly six minutes long. It's a cold, distant, and detached piece of electronica, with Xander Harris' beat feeling almost like a series of mechanical clicks. The only humanity of the track comes from Nicolas Nadeau's vocals, which are buried, hazy, feeling as if they are coming in from another dimension. The song locks into its groove fairly quickly and rarely alters it during its entire length. Yet, at the same time, "Hardware" is pretty memorizing. It occupies that trance like space that LCD Soundsystem's "Get Innocuous" did, when the club's music has gotten overwhelming and the drugs have just gone bad, transporting you to a precisest between euphoria and panic. The brief flourishes of wailing noise that float in and out of the song only add to the tension. "Hardware" maybe cold, but it is truly alive as well.


Slow Pulse's Facebook
Pre-order the s/t cassette here, from Mirror Universe Tapes

Monday, March 3, 2014


I remember the first time I heard Yohuna's music. I was visiting New York City during the summer of 2012, and my friend Tom took me to Shea Stadium for FMLY Fest. I knew few of the acts, and so each one's performance was its own surprise. However, when Yohuna took the stage it was something else. Almost a silhouette because of the dark lighting, her music unfolded and bloomed, growing bigger and more beautiful in the near nothing. I stood in awe to it all as I let it wash over me.

It says something that her recorded music has the same effect, her songs feeling just magical on first listen. Or maybe that's largely due to how sparingly Yohuna releases new songs into the world. making each one feel like a treasure. "Badges" certainly has that quality, one of many incredible tracks that will soon be released on the ever impeccable Orchid Tapes' third compilation Boring Ecstasy. Know that this song is very much alive, especially with Yohuna's vocals now ringing out crystal clear, no longer encased in a protective shell of reverb. The sadness is palatable while she's singing, but so is the trace of hope within it, especially in the chorus of "I’m not pretty/I’m not nice/I am radiating light". There is something truly earnest in a phrase like that, especially with the way Yohuna sings them so delicately. All of this behind the utterly beautiful, tinkering pianos and delicate beat that gives the song it's pulse. At least that's how "Badges" feels; like a softly glowing gem that quivers & fades like a heartbeat.


Yohuna's Tumblr
Pre-order Boring Ecstasy soon here, from Orchid Tapes

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shamir-If It Wasn't True

It's crucial while listening to Shamir's "If It Wasn't True" to remember that this is the 19-year-old's first song ever, at least in the house genre. I say this because "If It Wasn't True" sounds like something that was crafted by a master, someone who had been crafting white label 12 inches for years now, and had made of especial excellence. It's a compact tune, going through its builds and falls in less than four minutes, but that doesn't make it any less hypnotic, layering a dry beat with a thick, synth bass as Shamir's vocals, both silky and soulful at the same time, guide the song along effortlessly. The biggest strength here might be how utterly seamless the song is, incorporating every new element and shift without a moment of hesitation. When the song builds to its climax, with synth lines going off like rockets and Shamir's vocals momentarily echoing like crazy, it comes with such little warning, but feels less like a burst than a culmination, one that is particularly euphoric. "If It Wasn't True" is entrancing, the song that thumps through the head for days, and makes you do silly little dances in public because of the control it gains on the ligaments. 


Get the cassette compilation Common Interests Where Not Enough To Keep Us Together, which "If It Wasn't True" appears on here, from Godmode

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tiny Ruins-Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens

I am not a massive folk fan. Most of the songs within the genre have a tendency to sound far too similar to one another, to blur into one another, with little distinction in style or lyricism. However, that just makes the artists that do stand out to me that more potent, feel that much more magical. And listening to Tiny Ruin’s “Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens" is one of those instances. The track instantly invokes the beauty Nick Drake does with his songs, Hollie Fullbrook and her gentle plucking coming in piercingly, longingly, and ever so worn as she speaks of where she will soon find comfort, in the least likely of places and ways. The track is incredibly subtle, flutes and cello only present in the song’s first half if you truly pay attention. But then, before your eyes the track blooms, drums come in ever so softly to give the song a kick as the song unfolds more and more. “Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens" is truly something wondrous, managing to compact a certain degree of magic and beauty into a less than three minute song that feels like its from another time and place. It's truly stunning to behold.


Tiny Ruins' Website
Pre-order Brightly Painted One soon here, from Flying Nun

Coming To Town: Angel Olsen @ Red 7 (2/25)

It's still startling to hear Angel Olsen play the electric guitar sometimes. It was a long time coming; one can only make incredibly emotional folk songs on just an acoustic guitar for so long. And the full band, plugged in sound that permeates most of Burn Your Fire For No Witness should lay in utter contrast with her old sound. Yet, Olsen wears the new shift in sound like a glove. Whether it be the blues stomp of "Hi-Five", or the more earthly St. Vincent-esque "Forgiven/Forgotten", Olsen uses her new sonic pallet to tap into a brand new swath of emotions that should couldn't reach before. Olsen is touring as a four piece, so it will be interesting to see how she performs her earlier material in this new context.


Opening for Angel Olsen is her touring mate Cian Nugent, another artist who has no desire to stay trapped in one sound. One moment, he'll be channeling the ghost of John Fahey, or matching the skill of a contemporary like Daniel Bachman, the next moment he'll have a full piece band behind him and they will be playing something psych bent and jammy, as if it were plucked out of some forgotten craves of 1965. I can easily see several different versions of Nugent performing tomorrow, each equally as excellent as the other.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Video: Real Estate-Crime

If I'm being completely honest, there is very little new that can be said about "Crimes". It feels just as utterly timeless as every other song Real Estate have crafted in their growing catalog. The jangle is just as warm and comforting as ever, which says something as "Crimes" is a pretty direct reflection on a rough patch in a relationship, as well as its blissful past and the forbidding potential future. There's a heartbreak in the nostalgia, though fear and sadness have been emerging in Real Estate songs since Days. No, "Crimes" is exactly the continuation of Days it should be, and feels like it could have recorded a week after they finished their last album. But maybe that's where its excellence lies. Few bands have been able to maintain this degree of consistent greatness; of being able to craft catchy album after catchy album that all manage to have a true emotional core to them as well. It might seem that jangle pop is an effortless genre to create, but as someone who listens to a lot of it, trust me when I say it's not, especially if you want to make something long lasting. Real Estate just have the uncanny ability to make it look easy.


Real Estate's Website
Pre-order Atlas here, from Dominio Records