Briana's lyrics are forceful, and throughout her second album, All Around Us, traditional song structure gives way to plainspoken declarations that pull back the record's shroud. Her first single,"Surrender" is musically delicate at first, with flickering blips and chords that float into earshot like fireflies. "Take Care of Me" is the album's brightest and most immediate song, a buoyant celebration of friendship with a skittering beat and a warm, sweet melody. And title track "All Around Us" is a stark but inspiring beauty, built on the memory of a family member of Briana's who passed away, and the sadness of not being able to say "goodbye" or "I love you" one last time. It is the balance of the abstract and the intimate that makes Briana Marela and All Around Us so special.
Minecraft - Volume Alpha is the work of German composer and musician Daniel Rosenfeld. Using C418 as his moniker, Rosenfeld crafted the sweeping soundtrack and vibrant sound design which helped breathe life into Minecraft's voxel-based universe. Fans and critics were universally enamored with his beatless, nuanced electronic pieces upon release. Popular gaming site Kotaku named it among The Best Game Music of 2011, calling the music "remarkably soothing," and The Guardian has compared Rosenfeld's delicate piano and sparse ambient motifs to legendary artists Erik Satie and Brian Eno. In an interview feature with C418, Polygon distilled Volume Alpha to its essence: "It's not bound by the retro aesthetic of Minecraft's graphics. It transcends them. The album is an attempt to uplift the combined game/music experience into the sublime."
Music For Dogs is a deeply personal album on which Gardens & Villa pokes, prods, and even strangely celebrates the zeitgeist of music commerce, pleasure culture, technological advances and the new home they've found in Los Angeles. The New Age and Eastern Religion sentiments that rippled across their first two albums (2011's Gardens & Villa and 2014's Dunes) have been swapped out with a new sort of zen pop- Nihilsm. What's Nihilism anyway but Buddhism with a fuck-it attitude? They've found a way to live on the firing line, a way to actually harvest creative energy from our sad Internet tendencies, the uncertain future. "My whole life fixation/See if we can make it underneath the radar," goes the respective call and response of primary songwriters Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen on "Fixations," a song about the beauty in bottoming out and then finding the false bottom. Lynch could mean living as a creative in the underground or living outside peripheral view of the NSA. Under the stewardship of visionary producer Jacob Portrait and with irreplaceable rhythm section Dusty Ineman (drums) and Shane McKillop (bass), "Fixations" — and a great deal of Music For Dogs — is really just Gardens & Villa doing what it has always done best. G&V creates Byzantine melodies and richly interwoven arrangements for synths, guitars and vocals that work incredibly well on a cerebral level, but wouldn't upset a late night Korean karaoke outing either.
The jaunty, jarring piano and bass that begin "Everybody" perfectly frame the song's anxiety-riddled themes of 21st Century voyeurism, surveillance and the turnstile of avatars intended to represent our true selves. "Everybody wants the new you/No one cares who you are," Lynch sings in a repeating chorus before the band collapses into a lovely out of time mall piano breakdown, which itself drops effortlessly back into the jaunty verse section. And the speedball ripper "Maximize Results" that begins the record is perhaps G&V's most ecstatic, vulnerable moment laid to record to date. It alone is worth the price of admission.
In the early 1990s, Luzmila Carpio's songs inspired the Quechua-speaking people of the Bolivian Andes to Yuyay Jap-ina - to "reclaim our knowledge" from a culture that marginalized indigenous people. These tapes, newly-restored and presented by Squirrel Thing Recordings (Molly Drake, Connie Converse), capture a vibrant celebration of a people and a language that would not be silenced.
Initially living in Brooklyn, guitarist/vocalist Brady Keehn and drummer/vocalist Melissa Scaduto made a jump to Los Angeles on a whim as the financial climate in New York became too much. Within months of being in LA, the two conveniently met bassist Kenny Elkin and guitarist/keyboardist Eddie Wuebben. Occultism, specifically a deeper understanding of astrology, was a connection amongst the band, hence the name Sextile, an astrological term that relates to harmony and the ease of expression of two seemingly different elements.
With urgency, the band quickly completed A Thousand Hands, a primitive form of rock n roll, melding surf punk, early industrial, ambient and post-punk. The album title is inspired by a form of spirit channeling that Wuebben was experimenting with one night. After doing open eye meditation for a long period of time, he observed thousands of hands reaching down towards him, violently in an extremely frightening, simultaneously exciting manor. The experience left such an impression on the band, it became the first track on the album as well the album title.
Still, whilst Sextile's journey on A Thousand Hands' has undoubted moments of bleakness & catharsis, the band express their will to live, to confront their demons and forge on in search of better days, making for a captivating & spellbinding listen upon the way.
The Scientists' 1981 wild debut bewildered Perth, Australia's punters with its charging anthems centered on themes of young love and alienation. Obvious in its rebellion yet more pop than punk, the self-titled "Pink Album" deftly embodied the tough-yet-danceable outsider aura of The Ramones, and its unheard of, feverish clip shook the shores of the geographically confined Swan Coastal Plain of down under. Recorded just as the lineup of guitarist-vocalist Kim Salmon (The Cheap Nasties), drummer James Baker (The Victims) and bassist Ian Sharples were breaking up, the album stands as a testament to the contagious chops of Perth's swelling pool of musical talent, and to the promise of Salmon's unwavering vision that would become one of the most celebrated acts of the Aussie underground.
After trekking east from the suburbs of Perth to take new root in Sydney, in 1983 the Scientists hooked up with producer Chris Logan, who's credited with the album's imposing sonic girth and rumbling low end, and premier Aussie punk label Au Go Go for an album that would define their unmistakably swampy, psychotic aura. These six songs revisited band leader Kim Salmon's interest in the Cramps and the Stooges,while adding in the repetitive dementia of Suicide and elements of cow punk twang, with Salmon's distinctly unrefined Australian accent snarling tales of lust, confusion and angst.
Like the days of Steely Dan or Harry Nilsson releasing a classic album every year (or less) comes Mac DeMarco's Another One, a Mini-LP announced one year after the release of the meteorically successful Salad Days. Written and recorded during the downtime between a relentless touring schedule, Another One is an eight-track release that expands the arsenal of Mac's already impressive catalog, showing the maturity of Mac's progression as songwriter: it's a bit more refined, a bit more sophisticated, but nonetheless retains the guts and soul of classic Mac.
Despite working at the same pace as artists like Creedence and The Rolling Stones, coupled with an equally unending schedule of touring and press, it's odd that Mac is labeled as a slacker. With two full-lengths and two EPs released and hundreds of sold out shows performed in the last several years, a recent late night television debut on Conan following a special performance on The Eric Andre Show, it seems, as Mac nears his 25th birthday, there's not a slack bone in the man's body. Great songwriters don't need to reinvent themselves; they just need to keep going and let the songs out in the world. Thus, here's Another One.
Night Beds, the musical project of 26-year-old Colorado Springs native Winston Yellen, received much acclaim for his 2013 debut album, Country Sleep, scoring plaudits for its tortured take on alt country and Yellen's soaring vocals. But after finishing that album and before Country Sleep was even released, Yellen began experimenting with the kind of melancholic, neon-tinged R&B that makes up the mesmerising Ivywild.
The thread that weaves through all of Yellen's music and holds it together is his unmistakable voice - plaintive, yearning, soulful, heartbreaking. Whether it's ascending over the luscious epic-electronics of "Tide Teeth" or aching alone on Country Sleep's opener "Faithful Heights", Yellen's voice has a unique beauty matched by few of his contemporaries.
The second Night Beds album draws on Yellen's original love of Bill Evans through to J Dilla and is made up of what Yellen calls "sad sex jams" and was inspired by a long-term love and a break-up which looms large throughout the albums veiled lyrics. Its genesis can be found in the stoned night in Nashville when Yellen first heard Yeezus. Lying on the floor, Yellen blared the album at top volume.
Ivywild is a truly collaborative effort with a makeshift team of 25 musicians, notably Abe, Yellen's younger brother and closest friend - his credit on the album comes above Winston's own, so much value does he place upon the work Abe put in. Additional vocals come from Heather Hibbard, a singer from Maine who features on over half of the 16 track album, and was contacted by the gregarious Yellen through YouTube, after he found a video of her covering one of his songs. She came out to the studio the very next day.
Finessing the poignant assortment of songs was a sometimes painful task, but dedicated to the core. "I felt at some points we were losing our minds," he says. Initial versions of "Me Liquor and God" band "On High:" were 17 and 33 minutes respectively while "Finished" took four months to record. His editing process though was simple: "If it makes you cry, keep it in." Field recordings also flood the record, offering it a deep textural grain. "It is a luxury record, but it has a worn shirt feel," explains Yellen. "It's lived in. It's like a quilt - but it took forever, cutting up all the vocals and letting it breathe."