Monday, August 14, 2017

Listen: Elizabeth and the Catapult - "We Can Pretend"

photo by Shervin Lainez
If you follow Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult on any form of social media, the wait between her third full length album Like It Never Happened and her upcoming fourth album Keepsake might not seem like the three years that has passed between them. This is due purely to the fact that Ziman is one of the most open and engaging singer/songwriters and frequently shares demos and home recordings that it never quite seems like she's far away from releasing something new.

"We Can Pretend", the first single from the new Elizabeth and the Catapult album Keepsake, shows Ziman firmly in the midst of her consistent stride. Keepsake reunites her once again with frequent collaborator/producer Dan Molad and "We Can Pretend" essentially plays to the strength of Ziman and her other collaborators. Ziman is wistful but optimistic, hopeful but not delusional. Ziman essentially sings about upending expectations in search of something better; reveling in golden memories and letting them color your present situation. It's Ziman at her catchiest, Molad at his subtlest, and the result is a wonderfully crafted pop tune that is sure to rank  as one of your favorite Elizabeth and the Catapult tunes. Based purely on the strength of her previous output I was already looking forward to the new album but "We Can Pretend" has increased my anticipation by leaps and bounds. Luckily we're bound to hear some more from Ziman and co before the album comes out this Fall.



Elizabeth and the Catapult's fourth full length studio album Keepsake is out October 20th on Compass Records Group.    

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Listen: Moses Sumney - "Quarrel"


Well this is more like it. After years as essentially Los Angeles' best kept secret (in the words of Hundred Waters who introduced me to his music), Moses Sumney is making moves. He's been consistently releasing music for years but last year's Lamentations EP was by far his most anticipated release and now several EPs down, this fall will see the release of his debut full length Aromanticism.

"Quarrel", the second single from the upcoming album, is a melange of just what makes Sumney such a force to be reckoned it. It's a subtler vocal performance than other efforts and therein lies its beauty: it's a sumptuous offering of stellar arranging and slow burning builds that juxtaposes the spiritual with the secular. Though he often frames his songs as hymns, there's universality here. There's also the fact that nearly half the track is an instrumental outro of sorts that establishes Sumney's other multi-instrumental talents. Not quite as much of an outright jam as "Lonely World", "Quarrel" moves at a much quicker pace than songs like "Doomed" which luxuriate in their incantation like lyricism. But "Quarrel" follows suit with Sumney's other output in that it captivates from the start, the listener hanging on every coo and change of inflection. Sumney enchants with little effort and "Quarrel" perhaps the most verbose song he's offered is still a masterclass in less being more.



Moses Sumney's debut full length album Aromanticism is out September 22nd on Jagjaguwar. You can pre-order the album now.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Listen/Watch: Oshwa - "Off You Go"


Since the announcement and subsequent release of I We You Me, the follow up to art pop outfit Oshwa's debut full length album Chamomile Crush quite a lot has changed for the project: singer/songwriter Alicia Walter made the trek from to Chicago to Brooklyn and essentially reclaimed the project as a solo endeavor. While the shift has perhaps meant less in terms of mathy guitar parts, the project is no less weird and wonderful than they've been before. I We You Me ended up being an album of incredibly personal record full of beautiful cinematic moments and "Off You Go", the first new music from Walter since she's made Brooklyn her home, manages to marry Walter's one-woman band aspirations with the kind of life-affirming lyricism she strove of on her previous record.

"Off You Go", released right before Walter embarked on a massive cross country tour, is essentially a celebration of that spirit of independence; of taking your future into your own hands risks be damned. It's a subject Walter knows all too well and yet she frames it as a sort of rallying cry for those worried of the risk and in need of the support of someone who believes in you. "Didn't you know you were made to fly?" and that combined with Walter's lovely layered harmonies give you the sense of being catapulted into possibility. "Off You Go" downright levitates with positivity as Walter takes up the mantle of cheerleader both for herself and anyone in need of a friendly push in the right direction and it's awe-inspiring how Walter is able to musically set these feelings she's trying to stir inside of you.

The feelings translate easily into the accompanying music video,  directed by Anneliese Cooper and featuring choreography by Walter, Walter seems incapable of delivering her song's message with anything less and a big beaming smile of her face. From a solo dance number to a more involved number to strutting the streets of Brooklyn, Walter is pure contentment taking pleasure in every scene and shot of the video in a way that's as impressive as all of the various moving parts and different stages that make up the video. It's simple but Walter and Cooper and a crew of dancers make the most out of the simplicity and the result is something playful and fun but also downright interesting and enjoyable to watch.



"Off You Go" is definitive proof that Walter's still an exciting singer/songwriter and composer and that this next chapter might be her very best yet. Here's hoping it's not too long before we get to hear more.

You can snag "Off You Go" now on the Oshwa Bandcamp or through other online music retailers.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Listen: Wild Ones - "Paresthesia"

photo by Jeremy Hernandez
After the summer grooves of 2015's Heatwave EP, Portland indie pop outfit Wild Ones are back with a new single ahead of their sophomore album Mirror Touch. "Paresthesia", the first single and lead track on the upcoming album, finds the band trading in their funky guitar grooves for synth tapestries and a multitude of effects. Singer Danielle Sullivan is still the object of the band's focus: harmonizing with herself and running her vocals through reverbs and delays but the track remains a bright, pretty much straightforward jam despite its experimentation. It's a return of sorts to the textures that defined much of Wild Ones' debut album Keep It Safe while incorporating much of what the band's achieved since then. Since their debut, the band has formed into a solid, cohesive unit and that's true here even if the full band are utilized more subtly than a track like Heatwave standout "Show Me Islands". Named after the scientic name for the tingling feeling of pin and needles, there's a freshness in Wild Ones' sound as well as a pep in their step.

Curiously enough, it's Sullivan's attempt to frame a particular anxious time in her life in a positive context. On "Paresthesia", Sullivan takes responsibility for her anxiety causing her to pull away from everything and work through it. It's a pep talk of sorts as Sullivan's "This has got to be the last time" is more to herself than anyone. Underneath the sunny melodies and the quick pacing, Sullivan's taking an emotional inventory of sorts: she can see what she needs and what she wants but it's about getting there mentally as well as physically. While anxiety isn't really a thing you can just get over, Sullivan's clearly worked through the intense portion of it that caused her to become a shut-in and the poppiness of the single frames it as a winsome triumph of her spirit. "Paresthesia" finds Sullivan removed just enough that she can reflect on her feelings of fear in a way that they don't seem quite so scary anymore but still close enough  that she can still empathize with the kind of person she was in that state. Sullivan's lyrics are honest and sincere while never losing the sense of ease and fun that's such an integral part of Wild Ones' sounds. The fact that the band can tackle such a serious subject and make it so palatable bodes particular well for the rest of Mirror Touch and I certainly can't wait to see what the band have up their sleeves.



Wild Ones' sophomore album Mirror Touch is out October 6th on Topshelf Records. You can pre-order the album now.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Listen: Canon Blue - "Beholden"


Several years ago I was introduced to Nashville based singer/songwriter/producer Daniel James' Canon Blue project through Efterklang (a band he was a touring member of)'s recommendation of his album Rumspringa when it became a spotlighted album for Noisetrade. Even then the orchestral dance record had been out for several years and so while I haven't had to wait as long as some longtime fans, I still greeted the news of both a brand new single and album from James as welcome news.

"Beholden", the opening track and first single from Canon Blue's upcoming third full length record Lasso Yo, arrives six years after James' previous effort but he hits the ground running. It's a track very in line with the sort of lush, uptempo songs that defined much of Rumspringa but without the assistance of Efterklang or the blend of electronics and strings Icelandic collective Amiina. Without the trappings of James' very talented friends, his powers of production are much more obvious as he builds an intricate tapestry of sounds that eventual burst into a resplendent climax. James' emotive tenor makes a welcome return and the track's bright melodies almost make it hard to believe that Lasso Yo was a record forged from James' struggles with anxiety and depression. But some of the saddest songs come in most upbeat of dressings and though "Beholden" relies mostly on metaphor and storytelling, it's not hard to see how the introduction to James' psyche would strive to go down easy. It's a thrilling return and an intriguing first taste to an album no one quite expected.



Canon Blue's third full length album Lasso Yo is out October 6th on Temporary Residence Ltd. You can pre-order the album now. Digital orders come bundled with a Jamie Lidell remix of album track "Onyx".

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Listen: Blue Hawaii - "No One Like You"


Since I was introduced to them at their CMJ set at Glasslands, it's hard to believe that electro-pop duo Blue Hawaii haven't released a new record since 2013's Untogether. Though of course this probably has to do with Raphaelle Standell-Preston's main project BRAIDS hitting a massive creative stride with 2013's Flourish//Perish that they've managed to keep the momentum with. But today Blue Hawaii are back with a new single and a new album on the horizon. "No One Like You", the first single from their upcoming second full length album Tenderness, is a characteristic slow burn blossoming from its sparse vocal intensive opening to a vibrant disco-recalling jam featuring a strings and a multitude of interest synth effects. It grows into arguably Blue Hawaii's catchiest song. A companion of sorts to "Taste" off BRAIDS' Deep in the Iris, where "Taste" was a piece of self-actualizing self-admonishment, "No One Like You" sways between highlighting your partner's strengths and what they bring out in you and a sobering rejection of idealization: "What if I remember only remember the good times/Would I be lying to myself?" Raphaelle Standell-Preston sings and

"No One Like You" is a far cry from Blue Hawaii's debut Blooming Summer EP: an occasionally confusing tale of growing pains, simultaneous full of love with heartbreak seeping in at the track's most resplendent moments. "No One Like You" is essentially a song about growing up and of love filtered through the self. Even its most praiseful moments; its most praise-seeking moments, the track manages to keep the focus purely on Raphaelle Standell-Preston's emotions: what is she getting from this? How is she feeling? It's a pretty unique take on the standard love song formula which so often focuses on the external. It also happens to be an absolutely groovy number where Blue Hawaii are at their most danceable, club ready. There's no telling if Tenderness will remain as musically upbeat or as catchy but "No One Like You" is an excellent introduction to the upcoming album and brilliant welcome back for the duo.

Listen to "No One Like You":


Blue Hawaii's second full length record Tenderness is out October 6th on Arbutus Records. You can pre-order the record now through the band's Bandcamp.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pitstop: Twain

photo by Samantha Skapin
My introduction to Twain, the project of Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Mat Davidson actually happened several months ago in October when he opened for Kishi Bashi's Webster Hall stop of the Sonderlust tour. Armed solely with a guitar and his incredibly emotive yodel, it was an incredibly captivating set. After the show I immediately sought to acquaint myself with Davidson's catalog while also biding my time until an announcement of an album that would feature a number of the newer songs he had played that night (namely an absolutely emotional wrecking ball of the tune by the name of "Georgia"). The wait is actually why I didn't rush to feature him right away: I figured with so many new songs an album would surely be on the immediately horizon and I'd prefer to talk about beguiling man and his brilliant songcraft then. However after catching him again opening for the incredible Big Thief, it occurred to me that there really wasn't any good reason to wait. Davidson's music is stunning in its beauty and needed to be shared. On record - Davidson employs a host of musicians to fill in the spaces and it was a somewhat startling departure from the raw force Davidson taps into for his solo live shows. The songs still contain the same touching lyricism but there's something to be said for his calm, more measured delivery instead of his rafter-seeking vocals that easily overtake every nook and cranny of the room he plays in.



A member of Spirit Family Reunion (a fact I learned only after seeing him twice), Davidson's music is rooted in much of the deep American music tradition that serves as their inspiration: namely bluegrass, folk, and gospel. Though guitar is his main instrument, he's equally well versed in piano and fiddle, and these factor into his album efforts. Davidson's music deal almost exclusively with matters of the heart: the feeling of homesickness when you've been on the road for a long time, the blossoming feeling when you catch your lover off guard, Twain  is adept in this regard easily balancing these relateable feelings and subjects with winsome, simple presentation. Davidson doesn't engage in any extra frills: rather his vocals so consuming in their fervorous intensity serve as both the window and the grounding element of his music. Much like artists like The Tallest Man on Earth or Mandolin Orange the anticipation between albums is less about expecting radical tonal departures but rather what new lessons his distinct voice will seek to impart. With an album completed, it hopefully won't be too long before we heard Twain's new tales of love and woe and I couldn't be more invested.





Until his next album is announced cozy up with Twain's previous releases including the his recently re-pressed Life Labors In The Choir which you can order via Davidson's Bandcamp. He's also on tour with Big Thief and I strongly recommend catching both of them if they're in your city - you absolutely will not regret it.