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.
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.
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.
As Zach Yudin and his twin brother and bandmate, Ben, went in to create their new album, what it all came back to was something personal. While they now call Los Angeles home, they drew from the nostalgia of their childhood growing up in Davis, CA; the nostalgia in their music that is as much about a place they've never been as any actual experience. And it was that wandering imagination and a punchy California dream that eventually grew to become Dancing at the Blue Lagoon.
While their sun-drenched, jangly, sometimes melancholic sound is quintessentially Californian, the album very much their California. It's the sound of kids from the suburbs who fantasize in Technicolor, whose view of the Golden State is its own form of idealism. Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is all about a band testing its comfort zone and asking us to do the same. Zach and Ben would "create bands that were more like a musical idea," record a few songs, and then move on. Cayucas grew out of this period of experimentation. Cayucas has taken sound we thought we knew and turned in into something personal and complex.
Back in November of 2012 Suuns and close friend Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart spent a week in a Montreal studio creating a collaborative album pulling in their two distinct sounds into one set of fluid and trippy recordings. These songs were not heard live until over a year later at Pop Montreal in 2013 which jump started both sides' efforts to finish this truly unique record.
More than two years later now we are proud to present the final product, a self-titled collaborative album from Suuns and Jerusalem In My Heart out April 14th.
Didn't It Rain is Jason Molina's first perfect record. Recorded live in a single room, with no overdubs and musicians creating their parts on the fly, the overall approach to the recording was nothing new for Molina. But something in the air and execution of Didn't It Rain clearly sets it apart from his existing body of work. His albums had always been full of space, but never had Molina sculpted the space as masterfully as he does on Didn't It Rain.
TURNING - A concert film documentary captured during the critically acclaimed tour of Europe by Antony and the Johnsons and Charles Atlas during the fall of 2006, it explores the heart and experience of that series of performances. Through its synthesis of Antony's songs and unfurling video portraiture of the 13 beauties who performed on stage, TURNING creates an intimate and cinematic experience exploring themes of identity, transcendence and the revelation of essence.
Also included in the deluxe package is the full TURNING concert recorded live at The Barbican, London, Nov. 2006 and contains songs across the first three Antony and the Johnsons' full length albums along with bonus tracks never before released songs - "Whose are These" and "Tears Tears Tears". The classic lineup of Antony, Maxim Moston, Rob Moose, Julia Kent, Parker Kindred, Jeff Langston, and Thomas Bartlett can be heard on these recordings as Charles Atlas's projected portraits of the girls light up the stage from behind the band for the duration of the concert.
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness has reemerged from the shadows with their second full-length album Dust. Produced by Paul Barker of Ministry, Dust picks up where 2006's Fear Is On Our Side left off, with ten new tracks of dark, driving, propulsive rock.
These taut songs have no need for unnecessary arrangements or artifice. Chosen Darkness' music is honest, and never stiff; affected, but not whining. Dust's minimalist artwork and specificity of tone demonstrate an elegance & wisdom, as these 10 songs evoke the foggy landscapes of Twin Peaks (the misty "Safety", fatalistic "You Are Dead To Me") as well as a burning storm. It is high time for I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness to come back into the light.
In a click-bait driven music scene, it's rare to find an album that stands the test of time, but Toronto-based synth duo Electric Youth may have managed that rare feat with their spectral, stunning debut album Innerworld. "We wanted to make something that had the sense of being timeless," says Austin Garrick, the band's instrumentalist alongside vocalist Bronwyn Griffin. "Our ultimate goal is to make a record that will be the favourite album of people that aren't born yet."
With their swooning collaboration with College, "A Real Hero", featured in Nicolas Winding Refn's universally acclaimed neo-noir Drive, a place in the history books is arguably already theirs. After cracking the Top 10 of the iTunes dance charts in 15 countries, the band stepped back from the limelight to take their time to work on a full-length. "We get asked a lot 'how have guys not already put out an album - that would have been a good time to do it'", admits Austin. "But at the end of the day, more important for us than capitalising on timing is really making sure that we would have the record that we wanna have."
Recording took place between the duo's Toronto studio and their home studio in LA. Each space served its different purpose - in Toronto Austin was able to make use of his extensive vintage synth collection, making up what he estimates is 80% of analogue sounds on the album. In LA meanwhile, the pair recorded Bronwyn's vocals, of which they share writing duties for - in their space - which includes a film projection room. Fritz Lang's boundary-breaking twenties classic Metropolis was a favourite. It's easy to see how the vast scope of Lang's movie inspired the wide-eyed vistas of Innerworld, where soundscapes bleed into vocals and songs take you on journeys into roads unexplored.
The artwork for Innerworld is similarly starry-eyed, with British artist Paul Roberts painting Austin and Bronwyn as intrepid children for the cover. "He was in a group called Sniff 'n' the Tears who had a big hit in the 70s with their song "Drivers Seat", which we came to know through its use in Boogie Nights. We loved his album covers which he would paint and from there we discovered he went on to incredible work as an artist" says Austin. "The initial intention was for it to be more about the landscape, but we liked it and it did make sense to us, going back to the concept of Innerworld… Bronwyn and I have known each other since we were 10 years old and a lot of the time we're still the same kids in our mind, in our inner world. And so for us you could say, in our inner world that's what we look like - those two kids." With their music's unquenchable sense of wonder, perhaps they're not too far from those kids today. "David Lynch never wants to define the meanings of his films," says Austin. "Similarly, we don't like to get too specific about the meaning of our music." When it sounds this good, who needs to put their music into a box? Let their inner world wash over you.
The emergence of Swedish duo JJ in March 2009 was both meaningful and mysterious. A debut single, jj no.1, enchanted the music press, simultaneously existing across indie-pop and hip-hop spectrums, excitingly new and yet frustratingly vague in its presentation. This was a taste, a scent, something intangible, an impression made without force. The music was here, but little else - its makers remained anonymous. Pitchfork's Best New Music review for the band's debut album, summer 2009's jj no.2, spoke first of their enigmatic qualities, rather than precisely what this music was: another sumptuous menagerie of styles, blended by an expert hand, intoxicating and otherworldly. Both Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon appeared in the Marcus Söderlund-directed video to "Let Go". Cover, broken.
"We didn't mean to be anonymous, to begin with," says Kastlander. "We just knew we needed to put our music out."
"I'd say we've been working on this album our whole lives," says Benon of V, the band's third long-player. "It's the thing I've always wanted to do. I feel that we've been working on this album ever since we began to record music. We have never really had any other plan than to make this V shit happen and at the same time we never knew what it was - the story presented itself to us - and it's a story that's always been clear. It's only grown in its own way. And now we're finished, we look at it and back at it, and can begin to realize what it really is, what we have done, because it's something you don't necessarily decide for yourself, even though you've made it. And the songs... we don't write them, we just do our best to catch them forever, for real." JJ have, with new album V, realised the definitive expression of their experiences to date, and are finally comfortable with being a press-welcoming, tour-ready outfit.
As Benon explains, everything the pair has produced in the past has been part of this journey, to a zenith that they always sought to reach. But just as "My Boyz" exists exclusively in and of itself, so too does the new album's material, always envisioned as a whole, separate from other projects despite carrying over select DNA from its pop progenitors.
Tracks like the gorgeously understated "Be Here Now" and subtle strings of "When I Need You" float into clarity, coming together from vaporous beginnings. The latter number is one of several on V that showcase how Kastlander has grown as a vocalist. Hers is no indiscernible mumble, no vulnerable presence set to music that fizzes like a beachside cocktail on "Fågelsången" and soars on digital wings on "All White Everything"; rather, it's a mix-spearing confirmation that, whatever the bruised heart or open sexuality behind the lyrics, she's intent on connecting without compromise. Words are crisp, intonation perfect. There's still a hard thud on occasion, too: "Hold Me" opens with lean-flavoured raps, before twisting into a stained-glass confessional of absolute gravity, and "All Ways, Always" packs substantial swagger beside its rock riffs.
"We do it now," sings Kastlander on "I". And now really is the time for JJ, as acknowledged by Benon. "At last I have music that I really want to listen to, that I want to hear from a stage. In a way, we've made this music quite selfishly, to appeal primarily to ourselves and I really haven't felt this way about our material before. This is the moment. It's for real now."
And why do anything to restrict the sharing of that joy? Evidently at the top of their game in 2014, JJ are ready to, in Benon's words, "communicate with the world", quite unlike they've ever done so before. They're embracing, not retreating. Besides, mysteries are more frustrating than fascinating without resolution.
The Los Angeles trio Music Go Music began humbly, recording songs in their spare time and playing them for friends. A few songs posted online caught the ears of a surprising number of strangers, who implored the band to make a go of it. They eventually, and reluctantly, agreed to this, and before long the show had been officially taken on the road; MGM was being "buzzed" about, flying back and forth across the the Atlantic, touring around with Glasgow rockers Franz Ferdinand, and performing for the most discerning of music lovers in Moscow, London, LA, and points in between. Their debut album "Expressions" was a warmly received dance-pop-prog excursion that drew apt comparisons to Abba, Kate Bush, Bonnie Tyler, and Giorgio Moroder. After things settled down and they got back to their workaday lives, they began chipping away at a new record. In the course of several years, one or two songs at a time, 'Impressions' took shape.
By now, the world has swayed in ways that seemed unlikely back at the band's dawning. When their first EPs began coming out in 2007, MGM was an anomaly; a real band capable of crafting a steady stream of hook-dense A-sides, who played honest-to-goodness live dance music. This time around, of course, they're sending a record out into a world that has turned just enough to embrace the kind of analog disco that MGM has been making for years.
While remaining unambiguously pop, "Impressions" sees the group's aural sheen and careworn elegance joined to deeper grooves and oblique sonic turns. Never before, though, has an unhinged recounting of love won and lost been so blatantly entertaining. It's an assured, kinetic journey through light and dark, calm and chaos, with nothing less than pop transcendence waiting on the other side.
"... [it] plays like the greatest hits of dance saviors that never existed... and indeed, they probably should only be performed from inside an aqua-dome at the bottom of the Caspian Sea, or at least during a summer-long residency in Ibiza." - Fader
"One thing is for sure: the ambition for a long-lasting dynasty of overblown, slightly crackpot pop excess is there. " - Stool Pigeon
"Superhero pop music that will soundtrack all of your weddings" - NME
On a front porch in Philadelphia in early 2004, Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon sat with a guitar and a banjo and busily fingerpicked to keep their hands from freezing. After a few false starts they settled on a dirge in d-minor and began improvising lyrics about a labor conflict in a Western Pennsylvania coal town that their fathers had learned about from an old folk song taught in Quaker schools in the '50s. The principal heroes and villains of the story were lost to history and buried in mineshafts and unmarked graves, and the particulars of the outcome were primarily recorded on newspapers lost in warehouse fires and floods. Neither can believe that what started with just the two of them huddled on a cold porch would grow to involve a once-in-a-lifetime cast of collaborators. A decade after its conception, they are proud to present to the public their vision of a classic story of betrayal, pride and lost love.
Woman's Hour are not your average band. The first clue comes in the name of the London-based four-piece, taken from a beloved female-focused news and culture show on BBC Radio 4. The second is in their graphic, striking monochrome visuals, meticulously curated in collaboration with TATE and MOMA certified fine artists Oliver Chanarin and Adam Broomberg. These play with shape and texture, much like their powerful, iridescent music. On their excellent debut album 'Conversations', this has the intricate construction and intimacy of The xx and the iridescent shimmer of summer-defining indie pop. Pay attention now, or regret it later.