Electric Youth: Innerworld
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.
Electric Youth: Innerworld (Deluxe Bundle)
1. Innerworld on limited edition color vinyl2. Limited edition 7" - "Modern Fears" b/w "Final Girl"3. Innerworld on CD4. 11" x 17" poster5. Digital download code for the album (containing 320kbps MP3s) redeemable one (1) week before release date on September 23, 2014.
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.
Anand Wilder & Maxwell Kardon: Break Line The Musical
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: Conversations
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.
Songs: Ohia: Journey On: Collected Singles
Almost 20 years after Jason Molina’s voice first rang out from Ohio, in this brave new world of streaming, the discussion surrounding the resurgence of vinyl rarely includes the 7”. The original and re-imagined underground aural morsels once housed in the format are now buried in digital EPs and embeddable media. The tangible, wax-fabricated evidence of a self-producing culture of creativity has given way to this modern age. But it is our hope that Molina’s unabashed utterances and refusal of trend are honored across the 18 sides of this collection—a thoughtfully resurrected series of tokens to a great artist gone too soon, to hear and to hold, and to live on in those who were there and those who wish they would have been. Gathered within 'Journey On: Collected Singles' are the charming, haunting and — much like the totality of the Songs: Ohia catalogue — elegantly disparate moments lost in the void of limited pressings and merch tables at last-minute shows that Molina often booked mid-tour from payphones across the country. Throughout the band’s storied course Molina’s creative prolificacy often outran the pace and resources of pre-laptop production, which is why the 7” record became an integral component to the dynamism of Songs: Ohia.
We know “Freedom Pt. 2” and “Soul” as the Nor Cease Thou Never Now 7” on Palace Records that, in 1996, breathed life into Songs: Ohia as we know it. Those two tracks cleared the course for the impassioned, front-and-center quaver we’d invite into our headphones over — depending how you count them — seven proper studio LPs, three EPs, and numerous singles and tour-only releases during the life of Songs: Ohia. “Cabwaylingo,” the captivating acoustic opener of the 1997 self-titled “Black Album," memorable in its flourishes of brushed drums, meandering banjo and of course, that voice, is resurrected here as “Vanquisher,” a haunting 1998 reimagining in which Molina convinces us that there are “fewer greater former ghosts” over gentle electric guitar lines as clear as his hushed-yet-confident oration. The beloved “Lioness” reappears with the addition of Molina collaborator and comrade Jennie Benford of Jim & Jennie And The Pinetops, lending a powerfully somber layer to “the look of the lioness to her man across the Nile."
These are but a few of the gems mined from the caverns of the Songs: Ohia singles spanning the six years until Molina’s hushed formation of the Magnolia Electric Co. It’s here we relive his generous and honest performances, his humor and his heart. These aren’t the maudlin ramblings so often pegged in the press, but the triumphant tales spun from the mind of an ordinary Midwestern man as goofy as he was fervent, who was able to execute an extraordinary body of work in a short amount of time.
Songs: Ohia: Custom Crossbow 7" Adapter
Custom 7" turntable adaptor with the iconic Songs: Ohia crossbow logo lazer-etched in wood. Previously included in the now out-of-print boxset 'Journey on: Collected Singles.' Available as a stand-alone item while supplies last.
Tomas Barfod: Love Me
Love Me is an album that takes Tomas Barfod's spirit of adventurousness and raises the stakes. Utilising a supporting cast that includes a string and brass section, and musicians like Here We Go Magic's Luke Temple and long-term collaborator Nina K. on vocal duties, it's a multi-layered album that effortlessly pushes and pulls dance and electronic music into a myriad of different shapes.
Tomas Barfod: Love Me (Deluxe Bundle)
Includes the full album on both CD and LP (limited-edition clear double-vinyl while supplies last), the limited-edition 'True To You' b/w 'Happy' 7" feat. Gruff Rhys and Eddie Chacon (while supplies last), an 11"x17" poster featuring the album artwork, and digital download codes for .zip files containing 320kbps mp3s of both the full album (redeemable May 27th, 2014, 2 weeks before album release), and Tomas Barfod's Pulsing EP (redeemable immediately upon purchase).
Steven A. Clark: Late EP
A lone wolf in a world of ego and fantasy-driven R&B, Steven A. Clark makes music from a place that is personal yet universal, mining his own experiences with love and heartbreak to create songs that are inherently relatable. Raised in the '80s and '90s - a time when artists like Michael Jackson, Sade and Seal were shattering music's racial boundaries with their distinctive sounds and global appeal - Clark makes music for that same utopia, but with a distinct, contemporary twist.
"My music is real because it has to be, it's about my life because it has to be," Clark says of his approach. "I don't see any other way."
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Steven A. Clark grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a military town best known as the home of the Army's Fort Bragg. Naturally introverted - he was named "Most Quiet" in his high-school yearbook - Clark found his outlet while studying at North Carolina's High Point University; music took hold of his focus.
Sensing that his artistic opportunities in small-town Carolina were limited, Clark chased his ambitions to Miami and began to explore and challenge his boundaries. The creative result of this period was an EP called Stripes. While Clark was gaining musical footing, he found himself on a personal precipice, falling in and out of love. He channeled the emotions from that relationship and subsequent breakup into his next release, Fornication Under Consent of the King. Behind the playful, suggestive title was an even more mature and coherent effort, bonded by Clark's own ethereal production and frank, inward-looking lyrics.
After some time in the studio and much soul searching, Clark is stepping back out with LATE a 3 song EP for Secretly Canadian. As with previous releases, Clark wrote all of the music and self-produced the majority of it, bringing in composer Sam Hyken to add string arrangements to songs such as "Lonely Roller" and "Just Ride." Dancing in the spaces between a young Peter Gabriel's transparent, generous vision for musical pop art, and Anthony Hamilton's classically tinged R&B, LATE is just the beginning for Clark, a prelude to his fresh, captivating perspective.
"I'm growing as a musician but in the way I live my life, I'm still kind of wondering and searching," Clark says of the new project. "I still feel like I have to share this part of my life... These records are a personal story of true love for the first time, and not being ready for it, and not wanting it. They embody how I feel about love, and my approach to life and making music."?