HWGM's new album Be Small finds the band taking a smaller approach to production and finding more intimate soundscapes - from the live, expansive sound of 2012's A Different Ship, produced by Radiohead's 6th man Nigel Godrich, to Be Small's direct-to-board hom-recorded album - it hosts no less acrobatics of musicianship and a singular sonic ambition.
Childbirth is a "supergroup" in the sense its members are all in other hit bands (Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt, Bree McKenna of Tacocat, Stacy Peck of Pony Time) and also that they do good for the world while in costume.
Childbirth's forthcoming album, Women's Rights, is piss-your-pants funny - subject matter includes a trashy friend bringing coke to a baby shower ("Baby Bump") characteristics that warrant an instant "swipe left" on Tinder ("Siri, Open Tinder") and dating vapid IT douches ("Tech Bro."). Lyrics on Women's Rights are highly quotable - from "Tech Bro": "I'll let you explain feminism to me/If I can use your HD TV."
Like the majority of effective political art, Women's Rights shows rather than telling. The songs describe what is fucked up in the world so evocatively that it needs no commentary, and always with a biting sense of humor.
In March of 1977, Minneapolis nonet Mind & Matter booked time at Creation Audio on Old Shakopee Road in suburban Bloomington to record "I'm Under Your Spell" and "Sunshine Lady." Written by a teenaged Jimmy "Jam" Harris, these danceable numbers document the prolific songwriter taking baby steps as a budding super producer. A percussionist-turned pianist Harris's playful use of glockenspiel would reappear in subsequent productions for SOS Band, Cherrelle, and Alexander O'Neal.
Whether it's someone searching or someone who doesn't want to be found, we can't help but be drawn to the drifters. Steven A. Clark is that next stranger to roll into town, a restless artist recasting R&B. He's a straight-talker in a genre filled with wish-fulfillment, whimsy and cliched beats; think the Outlaw Josey Wales raised on N.E.R.D. and 808 & Heartbreak.
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.
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.
For Jakub Alexander, the languages of music and visual art are permanently intertwined. And he's always been this way - from his birthplace in communist Poland, to growing up outside of Detroit, to his current home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. "When music like Gas, early Dial Records, and Mille Plateaux releases in the 2000s popped up in my headphones," Alexander begins, "it was completely visual for me. Something clicked from collecting pages out of old Architectural Digest magazines and being completely overwhelmed with inspiration for my own visions of interior architecture." The concept carries on still, now as an integral part of Body Complex, his second album as Heathered Pearls, which also features contributions from fellow Ghostly artists The Sight Below, Shigeto, and Outerbridge (mem. Beacon). Body Complex represents a new form of Alexander's visually inspired sound creation, but just as it points to changes in direction for the ambient-inclined producer, it also revisits the past experiences that make his music possible.
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."
The Most Lamentable Tragedy [hereafter TMLT] is the fourth studio album by Titus Andronicus [hereafter +@] and the band's debut for Merge Records. A rock opera in five acts, it will see release on July 28, 2015, as a digital download, double CD, and triple LP.
The central narrative of TMLT ("a work of fiction," claims singer/songwriter Patrick Stickles) concerns an unnamed protagonist whom we meet in deep despair. Following an encounter with his own doppelganger (an enigmatic stranger, identical in appearance though opposite in disposition), long held secrets are revealed, sending our protagonist on a transformative odyssey, through past lives and new loves, to the shocking revelation that the very thing that sustains him may be the thing to destroy him.
TMLT is both the crown jewel of the band's discography and the legend that contextualizes their entire body of work. It reveals that +@ are what hardcore fans have said they are for years, and what the world must now recognize them to be: not merely the greatest rock and roll band of this era, but one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.
From the soundtrack of the documentary "Tig".
Strand of Oaks' HEAL was released early last summer on Dead Oceans, kicking off a year of big firsts and miles racked up on the odometer. Tim Showalter paid a visit to NPR’s Tiny Desk - and to nearly every state (plus multiple continents) on a non-stop tour. As a result, Showalter's most personal songs to date were allowed the chance to expand and change shape. That's where the deluxe version of HEAL comes in - to celebrate this newfound life and share some fan favorites. It's bookended with two covers, firstly a cover of Ryan Adams' "My Wrecking Ball" taped in Showalter's home of Philadelphia at WXPN, lastly a woozy rendition of The National's "Pink Rabbits". Rounding out the mix is a version of "Goshen '97" from Acoustic Cafe and a life-affirming rendition of "Shut In" for Hear Ya. Finally, it features an alternate mix of "HEAL" at the hands of producer John Congleton that sounds like Showalter's heart being dragged through sludge and fed through an amp.
Despite its relative brevity (at 43 minuntes it is Envy's shortest album since their early 90s thrash days), Atheist's Cornea is easily the band's most progressive work. Beginning with a punishing pummel, holes of light are gradually punched open to reveal an uncanny series of dynamic, emotionally charged epics. Not only does Atheist's Cornea showcase some wholly unexpected new turns for Envy, it also often reaches transcendent heights that could overwhelm a major blockbuster film - all while vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa sings, screams, and speaks like his life depended on it. Atheist's Cornea is the purest, most distilled example of Envy's brand of brilliance. It is also their bravest album, taking new risks with a much welcomed, broader vocal palette and an instrumental experimentation that navigates blistering shifts from impenetrable noise to poetic, pin-drop introspection with astounding grace. Envy have finally mastered the art of being effective and efficient without sacrificing an ounce of either - a truly inspired evolutionfrom a band whose mastery of both remains unparalleled.
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that EZTV met while trying out for J. Spaceman's latest US touring line-up of Spiritualized, but it's not far from the truth. Songwriter Ezra Tenenbaum had been casually working on solo home recordings in the vein of Shoes, Emitt Rhodes and Cleaners For Venus, and, in a desire to round things out, he enlisted bassist Shane O'Connell and drummer Michael Stasiak (formerly of Widowspeak). As it happened, the trio's first chance to play together was an audition for the American touring version of Spiritualized (they didn't get the job). But, the trio kept meeting and working, turning Ezra recording as a solo artist into Ezra, Shane and Michael playing as a band; thus, EZTV was formed.
With Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) onboard to produce, the band headed to Thump Studios in Brooklyn to record their debut LP. The result is Calling Out, a cohesive 12-song statement in the long tradition of fully realized debuts, stripped of artifice, but full of hooks and songwriting chops. With one foot firmly planted in classic American power-pop and college rock while the other utilizes more left-of-the-dial sonic experimentation, the result is a sound that's both familiar and new, but always about the songs.
Heather Woods Broderick excels at distilling her experiences into a soulful melancholy that's enduring both for it's intimate relatable moments and its persistent sense of mystery. Her uncanny ear for evocative production and gorgeous vocal harmonies serves her well on her new album Glider. Throughout the album, the rich dreamlike atmospheres she creates hint at a darkness looming on the horizon, while the singularity of her ethereal voice always seems to linger long after the music has stopped.
As a talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Heather has had the opportunity to record and tour with plenty of incredible artists including Horse Feathers, Efterklang, and Sharon Van Etten, which has kept her moving house and traveling around the world for much of the past decade.
Before digging into the steely, handcrafted technoisms of Homesick, you need to know a few things about Charles Duff, the Bay Area artist behind Matrixxman. Perhaps most importantly, he is a dedicated futurist - quick to name Google's director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, as a major personal inspiration, and prone to contemplating artificial intelligence and "a true post-corporeal reality." He's also a voracious information junkie, soaking up government conspiracies and contemporary science-fiction like a proper X-Files fanatic. These cultural reference points are as integral to the background of Homesick as Detroit, Chicago, and Berlin's musical legacies. Matrixxman uses his debut album to evoke visions of a not-too-distant-future with music made both for the dancefloor and the early morning zone-outs that follow.
Nova Scotia's Nap Eyes is the greatest band you've never heard, and Whine of the Mystic is their first full-length album, a brilliant small-batch brew of crooked, literate guitar pop refracted through the gray Halifax rain. Recorded live to tape with no overdubs, it's equal parts shambling and sophisticated, with one eye on the dirt and one trained on the starry firmament, inhabiting a skewed world where odes to NASA and the Earth's magnetic field coexist easily with songs about insomnia and drinking too much.
Nap Eyes' keen sonic signature cruises briskly and beautifully along the dog-eared axes of jangle-jaded Oceanic pop music (The Clean, The Verlaines, The Go-Betweens), and through the backpages of Peter Perrett (The Only Ones, England's Glory), via all things Lou Reed and Modern Lovers, without ever sounding very much like anything else happening today.
It has been four years since Guillermo S. Herren released anything significant from his most famous and respected moniker, Prefuse 73 (though he did keep busy with live shows, collaborations, and remixes). That's a long time for virtually any artist, but it's an eternity for Herren, whose first three Prefuse 73 albums dropped in the span of four years. As if to make up for lost time, 2015 will see the release of not one, but three major works from Prefuse 73. After several albums that saw Herren progressively drift away from the beatmaking prowess that made him synonymous with emotionally resonant, damaged hip-hop, he's found himself reinvigorated - thanks in large part to an emotionally draining, creatively cashed few years. As Herren puts it, "I've come back to hyper focusing - immersing myself in the sounds, rhythms, and formations that created Prefuse 73 in the first place. Recently, I've found a new life in the whole process of refining what I've created over the years as "Prefuse". Right now I'm at my most confident andcomfortable since 05/06." It shows. The conclusion of a triptych of new recordings, Every Color of Darkness basks in the darkest corners of Prefuse 73's world, finding an eerie romanticism in manic beats and damaged jazz. It's a record that showcases his uncanny ability to excavate and exploit a source of light buried in pitch black.
Rachel Grimes is a pianist, composer, and arranger based in Kentucky - most renowned for her work in Rachel's, the groundbreaking chamber-rock ensemble that introduced an entire generation of underground rock fans to the unexpected similarities and appeal of neoclassical music. Grimes has toured the world as a solo pianist, and as a collaborator with chamber ensembles such as Portland Cello Project, astrïd, Cicada, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta trio, and Orchestra Kandinskij. Unhurried, at times fleeting, and stretching into the sky, The Clearing is a winding path of transient moments exploring personal memory, relationships, and mystery from a deeply internal place. The music is a wide spectrum of textures in strings, harp, piano, woodwinds, and percussion. Featuring an ensemble that includes Scott Morgan (LOSCIL), Scott Moore, Kyle Crabtree (Shipping News), Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Jacob Duncan (Liberation Prophecy), and Helen Money, The Clearing reveals a broad new chapter for Rachel Grimes.