Though he may not be a household name, Kenniff's evocative, distinctly American music has become quietly ubiquitous in the past few years, often appearing on NPR, in films, on TV, and in ads for Apple, Facebook, and Google among others. Recorded over the course of three years, the material on his new album Sometimes functions as a journal, documenting brief moments in Kenniff's day when he could turn to the piano as a source of solace and unending creative possibilities. Kenniff wrote and recorded everything on the album with the exception of the track "A Word I Give", which is a collaboration with preeminent Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, who once described Goldmund's music as "...so, so, so beautiful."
In an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition Keith Kenniff discussed his appreciation of Civil War era music, and it's ability to covey "...so much story in so few notes." Similarly, these improvisations manage to be richly evocative despite their technical and compositional simplicity, using subtle details and dynamics to express what might otherwise be inexpressible.
Brothers Jared and Michael Bell have been making music together as Lymbyc Systym since 2004. On their new album Split Stones they explore the power of disparate halves coming together to form a unique whole. The idea serves as an analogy for Jared and Mike's relationship, Lymbyc's sound, and the mind/body dichotomy.
Recorded largely in their respective home studios, the duo went to Dallas to track live drums at Elmwood Recording, where they mixed their previous albums Shutter Release and Field Studies with John Congleton. The album opens with "Generated Bodies", a song that starts as a colossal instrumental rock track, but quickly evolves into spirals of chordal synths and electronic beats, mirroring the band's metamorphosis over the past decade. Other songs like "Split Stones" and "Pulses" find the band experimenting with longer cinematic song structures, leaving behind the short "pop" song structures they've delivered on previous albums. The album veers into full on dance mode on "Paraboloid" before things wind down with the sunny groove of album closer "Scientific Romance".
In 2010 Nicole Schneit aka Air Waves released Dungeon Dots, an album Aquarius Records called "...pretty much perfect pop music." For her new album Parting Glances, Schneit enlisted friends from Brooklyn's music community to contribute to the record, including members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality. Additionally, Jana Hunter of Lower Dens contributes vocals to two songs.
The album's title comes from the 1986 film Parting Glances in which Steve Buscemi portrays a gay man navigating the difficulties of being in a relationship in Reagan-era New York. More than just identifying with the story, Schneit is interested in the in the lasting effect of the parting glances we share with strangers in our everyday encounters. She explains "You see all sorts of physical and emotional traits on the train. From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc. We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate." The lingering impact of those brief moments seeps into the details and imagery she delivers with energizing hooks and a disarming lack of pretense on Parting Glances.
Unlike the production limitations that defined the sound of Diane Coffee's debut My Friend Fish (recording drums on an iPhone, using a detuned guitar in lieu of a bass, etc) Everybody's a Good Dog was recorded in proper studios with an assortment of guest appearances, horns, and a string ensemble, finally bringing to life Fleming's deep well of talent and ideas. The album covers a lot of ground from sweet acapella harmonies, to bursts of big brass and Motown swagger, to unhinged psychedelic mayhem.
The album's unstoppable grooves and melodies were written with live performance in mind. "I like performing more than recording. It's like throwing a mini party each night that goes really well," says Fleming. When you hear him pouring every bit of his two decades of experience as a performer into these songs, it's clear that Diane Coffee is not a side project, it's THE project Fleming has been working towards his whole life.
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.
Landscape Dream is Abram Shook's follow up to 2014's Sun Marquee, an album VICE called "...pleasant as fuck." and Texas Monthly called "...compelling, weird, and lovely." Applying what he learned through writing and recording Sun Marquee, Landscape Dream is a natural progression, demonstrating how much Shook's songwriting and production acumen has sharpened over the past year. Sun Marquee was a learning process where songs were often forced out of experiments in recording techniques. As Abram explains, "I had a lot of thoughts I just threw out there, but often I arrived at dead-ends and had to figure out how to make something out of what was available." However, on Landscape Dream he "went back to writing with just voice and guitar and then used arranging, production, and recording ideas pulled from Sun Marquee." The effectiveness of his new approach is clear from the 70's rock of "Find It" and "Chelsea" to the African vibes of "Get Gone", the dreamy Brazilian vibes on "5AM" and "Beach Glass", and the slow-jam soul found on "Perfect", "Jaw", and "Vessel".
While on a writing retreat in the sleepy southern town of Benton, Mississippi, the members of New York's Ava Luna came across an abandoned house while on a walk through the woods. Overgrown, rotting, and littered with evidence of its past inhabitants, the maze-like dwelling would haunt their psyches throughout the writing and recording of their third full-length Infinite House. Like Borges' "Library of Babel", the seemingly endless rooms and hallways in the old house felt like a metaphor for the invisible, internal labyrinths, which the band explores lyrically and sonically on their new album.
Recorded by drummer Julian Fader and vocalist/guitar player Carlos Hernandez, and mixed by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Spoon, MGMT), it is safely their most polished recording to date. But their trademark intensity, mirthful humor, and angularity remain resolutely in place, the burnished surfaces illuminating the stories beneath like never before. By questioning, or maybe just forgetting the rules of the real world, on Infinite House the band has grown beyond the "nervous soul" descriptor they've been tagged with in the past, delivering an album on which nightmarish moments can phoenix into revelations that help us reconnect with the surreal magic in our everyday lives.
Stone Jack Jones is a survivor. On two separate occasions the rare and mysterious blood condition that courses through his steely West Virginian veins almost killed him. Doctors couldn't fully explain or treat his malady, but Jack pulled through, even after receiving last rites on one occasion. While recovering from one of his near death experiences he pondered the necessity of death, the torturous pain that comes with the death of someone you love, and eventually arrived at the simultaneously comforting and alarming conclusion that he was both alive and dead at the same time.
In 2014 he released Ancestor, an album which The Quietus called "... breathtakingly insightful and poetic...". Jack's new album Love & Torture was produced and engineered by Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater-Kinney). Rather than recording everything over a few days or weeks in the studio, the two met up sporadically over the course of many months, giving the songs plenty of time to gestate and evolve in stride with Jack's life. Like a collection of swirling and inviting mantras Love & Torture is a sonic dialog that pulses with the all of the grace and bliss that has touched Jack's incredible life.
Having lived, worked, and created in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood for over a decade, native Texan Travis Johnson has felt the direct impact of the growth and dissolution that comes with rapid gentrification. His band Grooms practiced, and recorded at Brooklyn's Death By Audio for seven years before they were forced out of their spiritual and literal home in November 2014 when DBA shut its doors. With the band's income not providing enough money to support any of it's members, bass player and co-writer Emily Ambruso went on hiatus from the band, leaving Johnson as the only original member. Despite these unfortunate blows, Johnson soldiered on, soon recruiting Jay Heiselmann on bass, and actor/comedian Steve Levine on drums.
Unlike their previous album Infinity Caller (which Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis called "...an exercise in explosion and restraint hallmarked by sweeping guitars, stuttery drums, and cryptic, airy vocals...") Comb... brings the band's rhythm section to the fore, and Johnson's trademark guitar stylings often take a backseat to his psychedelic sample-collages and ambient electronics. Fortunately the new approach works, balancing pop structures with masterful experimental production that shifts in tone and color in harmony with Johnson's tales of acceptance, loneliness, and impotent violence.
Erik Hall worked patiently and solitarily for four years to craft Driver, his sophomore album as In Tall Buildings. The album comes twenty years after Hall originally fell in love with home recording at age 13 - the year he got his hands on his first multi-track recorder. As a multi-instrumentalist and producer Hall eventually went on to record and tour with several groups, including old friends His Name is Alive and, more recently, dream-pop duo Wild Belle, performing the rhythm section tracks and lending an engineering hand to their Columbia Records debut.
In stark contrast to the dense polyrhythms echoed by his former group NOMO's albums, Driver uses a relatively simple palette to create spacious pop songs, leaving plenty of room for Hall's often Peter Gabriel-esque vocals to shine. The music is powerful in it's restrained simplicity, and a compelling foil to the haunting gravity of his vocal performance. Never rushed, his melodies deliver elliptical lyrics that manage to feel intimate, while retaining a sense of mystery. Fortunately, the album's melancholic vibe is relatable, rather than moping or histrionic, and ultimately these songs are incredibly inviting and comforting.
For the past 14 years, Elephant Micah's Joseph O'Connell has quietly self-released his music, sometimes collaborating with the psych-folk imprint Time-Lag Records or other very small labels. Despite the project's almost secretive status, Elephant Micah has repeatedly caught the attention of NPR, and has been championed by an impressive cohort of like-minded artists including Jason Molina, Hiss Golden Messenger, Dark Dark Dark, and Hurray for the Riff Raff. His new album, Where in Our Woods is defined by its limited palette. The arrangements foreground nylon-string guitar and an antique portable pump organ. A stripped down-drum set, a baritone ukulele, a toy recorder, and harmony vocals (sung by Will Oldham, a friend of and key influence on O'Connell) round out the sound. This sparse ensemble leaves O'Connell's voice room to breathe, while elevating and magnifying the poetry of his songs. Throughout the album, O'Connell deftly transforms the stuff of everyday American life into a series of entrancing meditations on culture, nature, religion, and modernity.
Kaitlyn's solo debut Euclid (primarily written on a Buchla Music Easel synthesizer) was inspired by her love of mbira music, early electronic music pioneers like Laurie Spiegel, Oskar Sala, and Terry Riley, and euclidian geometry. Each of the first six songs on Euclid were initially structured using euclidian geometry, an idea which Smith explored while attending a class at the San Francisco Conservatory. As Smith explains, "We each chose a 3D shape and assigned our own guidelines to the different components that make up the shape. For example each point of the shape represents a different time signature, each line between the points represents a pitch, each shape within the closed lines represents a scale, etc. And then you play the shape." Despite their heady geometric origins, the songs have a playfulness and warmth that makes them inviting and memorable. In addition to the buoyant grooves of Smith's synthesizers, some of the songs feature wordless vocals, which energize the otherworldly songs, while grounding them with Smith's earthly presence.
For the past eight years the duo of Rob Lowe and Michael Muller have nurtured and refined their creative partnership as the core members of the band Balmorhea. In 2007 they self-released their self-titled debut, an album which captures the duo's unique magic as it first blossomed. In 2014 Western Vinyl is reissuing the band's self-titled album, and making it available on vinyl for the first time.
In conjunction with the reissue, we're happy to present two new songs on a limited edition 7" record titled HEIR. With the songs created for the 7" (HEIR I and HEIR II), the band brings everything full circle, returning to the simple structures and melancholic tone that colored their first recordings. HEIR I starts things off slowly with a Wurlitzer's somber tremolo and some gently propulsive electric bass, soon joined by vibes and a soaring violin melody. HEIR II opens with a gorgeous ukulele melody, which is slowly engulfed in Kendall Clark's expressive drumming, eventually giving way to a frenetic wall of strings.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's formative years were spent communing with nature on Orcas Island in the northwest region of Washington state, a place she describes as "one of the most magical and peaceful places I have ever been." Though she wouldn't begin experimenting with modular synthesis until many years later, her creative work continues to be infused with and inspired by the vitality and serenity of Orcas.
Smith left the island to attend Berklee College of Music, where she studied composition and sound engineering, initially focusing on her voice as her primary instrument, before switching to classical guitar and piano. She employed many of the skills she refined in college in her indie-folk band Ever Isles, but a fateful encounter with a neighbor who lent her a Buchla 100 synthesizer, had a profound effect on her. Mesmerized by the new sounds the Buchla offered, she explains "I got so distracted and enamored with the process of making sounds with it that I abandoned the next Ever Isles album."
Tranquil, playful, and full of life, the ten pieces on Tides were carefully designed to enhance one's environment. The album opens with a 14-minute piece that unfolds like the soundtrack to daybreak, as muted rhythms, shimmering swells, and fluttering tremolos slowly give way to an insistent, almost aboriginal pulse. As the album progresses, each song travels along a vibrant wave, with resonant drones, and brief melodic gestures that mirror patterns of the natural world, while keeping pace with the beat of a serene human heart. After experiencing the gently kinetic and undulating energy of Tides, it's not surprising to find out these pieces were originally created as an audio accompaniment to yoga classes.
For the past eight years the duo of Rob Lowe and Michael Muller have nurtured and refined their creative partnership as the core members of the band Balmorhea. Though their first album on Western Vinyl Rivers Arms (2008) garnered some remarkable press, their self-titled debut, recorded in 2006 and released in 2007 best captures the duo's unique magic as it first blossomed. With no label, distributor, manager, publicist, or booking agent the duo quietly self-released their first recordings and started playing live shows. Now, seven years later Western Vinyl is honored to have the opportunity reissue the band's self-titled album, and make it available on vinyl for the first time ever.
In preparation for this special reissue, the audio was lovingly remastered, drawing out even more of the nuances... magnifying the sounds of Muller and Lowe's fingers on the instruments, and teasing out the textures that set these recordings apart from the rest of their catalog. Throughout the album the distant sounds of Texas grackles, the warm summer rain, the steady rhythm of crickets chirping, and creaking wooden stools, all seeping in to cradle the notes in a restrained din of primordial wonder.
Since the release of their debut album Idol Omen in 2009, Glass Ghost's founding members Eliot Krimsky and Michael Johnson have kept busy. In addition to playing dozens of shows, including a tour with White Rabbits, Johnson joined Dirty Projectors as their new drummer, Krimsky has been collaborating with Here We Go Magic on keys, and the duo welcomed two new members to the group, Tyler Wood on keyboards and percussion, and Aerial East on vocals. Like their debut, LYFE was produced by Tyler Wood, who also produced Joan As Policewoman's 2014 album The Classic. For the LYFE recording sessions, the group recruited many of their friends to contribute, including Joan Wasser of Joan As Policewoman, Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projectors, and Christopher Tignor of Slow Six and Wires Under Tension. Pushing their songs to new levels by working with Brooklyn's musical elite is nothing new for Glass Ghost. They worked with more than a dozen of their friends from Brooklyn's music community, including Sharon Van Etten (who in 2011 noted "Eliot Krimsky is one of my favorite writers."), Here We Go Magic's Luke Temple, and Matt Iwanusa of Caveman, for their debut which was described by the New Yorker as "elegant compositions of frosted indie pop," and by Time Out New York as "weird and mournful yet highly rhythmic."