Thursday, November 29, 2018

Listen/Watch: Offer - "Day Away"

It probably goes without saying but anyone who's encountered the music of Leeds experimental pop troupe Adult Jazz has probably been eagerly anticipating new music since their debut full length Gist Is dropped in 2014. Fans were given a brief respite in the form of their Earrings Off EP they released back in 2016 but other than that, the band has seemed to be in a perpetual state of creative gestation. And yet every once in awhile a sort of creative listlessness results in a new project or collaboration or cosigning of a new project from fellow Leeds University musicians.  First was "Other Life", a disco-fueled dance track crafted by Scottish producer Makeness featuring Adult Jazz's Harry Burgess on vocals, ambient project AEVA helmed by fellow university pal Dan Jacobs who also makes music as Glad Hand, and now Harry Burgess has teamed up with Jack Armitage of Lil Data for a forthcoming full length.

"Day Away", the first track from the duo's newly christened project Offer,  is a twelve minute long rhapsody inspired in part by Armitage and Burgess' Internet message-board born friendship and a near decade of frequent improvisations both at Leeds University and beyond with their last session resulting as a framework of sorts for their upcoming album. Burgess' voice - capable of impressive contortions and at times unflinchingly harsh, finds a wonderful sonic match with Armitage as they seem very much over the course of the song's duration to throw more and more things at it and see how Burgess' vocals fair. Burgess' vocals have always had a particularly elastic quality to them but Armitage pushes them more so with the use of a controller though not enough that they splinter from the realm of possibility. It's tension and release but a rather unexpected pacing of such - after much of the bustle and brashness of its beginning, the track gives way to a languorous, introspective quiet which Burgess infuses with virtuosity. It's a track that pretty much transcends the trappings of genre: constructed through electronic means but so sincere and human at it's core, buoyed between maximalist pop Dada and the truth-bearing spirit of folk.

Watch the video for "Day Away" featuring visuals from AEVA.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Listen: Tiny Ruins - "School of Design"

photo by Si Moore
On the first two singles "How Much" and "Olympic Girls" from Tiny Ruins' forthcoming record Olympic Girls, New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook's narratives have seamless interwoven storytelling with a touch of the personal. A universal vagueness with just the right amount of intimate detail that might've lead listeners to ponder how much Fullbrook was pulling from fragments of her own lived experiences and echoing past conversations. "School of Design", the latest single from the album, takes a step back in a sense in the spirit of tracks like "Priest With Balloons" or "Jamie Blue" that favor pure storytelling but filters the experience through Fullbrook to imbue it with sincerity.  It's meticulous descriptive, the plaintive guitar adding to the mystery of immaculate but seemingly abandoned building Fullbrook explores both literally and figuratively in the song. While Fullbrook's descriptions are enough to immediately  the building in your mind's eye, it's the line: "And I was struck by a feeling, it's hard to describe" where the song truly blossoms. Fullbrook doesn't explain it, can't seem to even; and frankly she doesn't need to. "The urge to burst through the ceiling starts, raise glass to the sky" Fullbrook continues and it's such a poignant moment, descriptive in a purely external way that transmutes the cerebral to the visceral and renders the inexplicable into a shared experience.

Olympic Girls, the third full length album from Tiny Ruins is out February 1st on Ba Da Bing in the US, Marathon Artists in the UK/EU, Milk! in Australia, and Ursa Minor in New Zealand. You can pre-order the album now. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Listen: Jessica Pratt - "This Time Around"

I've been eagerly anticipating the release of Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt's latest full length album pretty much since the release of her previous one. That's not to say that On Your Own Love Again, Pratt's sophomore album and Drag City debut, wasn't a good enough one to satiate my hunger for new music - rather it was the knowledge that she had been sitting on the songs that consisted her self-titled debut for years before their eventual release and even as she remained hush about the details of On Your Own Love Again back before it was announced, she was playing newer songs that have still yet to find themselves on even her most recent studio effort. The fact that I knew Pratt was able to write such beautiful, arresting songs much swifter than the music industry would allow fueled the hunger for more and the fact that Pratt doesn't tour all the often only stoked the fires of my anticipation.

And so "This Time Around" arrives as Pratt's first taste of new music since On Your Own Love Again dropped at the very start of 2015. It finds Pratt leaning further away from the sparse, simplicity of her analog tape recorded self-titled debut in favor of the more studio refined sounds of On Your Own Love Again landing once again on a refreshing blend of 70's tinged psychedelic and classic rock with a pop sensibility than her previous strictly folk efforts. Though Pratt continues to push her sound in various directions that suit her personal tastes and influences, her songwriting remains as effortlessly arresting and effecting as ever. Much like "Game That I Play" or "Back, Baby", "This Time Around" concerns itself with a sort of lovelorn weariness. "This time around has it gone so grey that my faith can't hold out?" Pratt begins but sings with such a subdued stage whisper like quality that she strips the line of any expected melodrama. The rest of a song is less of a push-and-pull against this point and more of an intricate but still delightfully vague extrapolation on it. There's an air of melancholy but not overly so. The line are delivered with a cool resolve instead of overrought sentimentality. Pratt has never been one for imbuing her songs with any more emotion than necessary and that skill on display here. "This Time Around" is simple and sweet, relying almost exclusively on Pratt's soft vocals and their malleability than on any particular instrumental flourishes.  

Quiet Signs, the third full length album from Jessica Pratt, will be out February 8th on Mexican Summer. You can pre-order the record now. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Listen: Tiny Ruins - "Olympic Girls"

New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook has never particularly been at a loss for words, able to stitch together incredibly evocation but succinct tales that seem exceptionally intimate and personal even while weaving dreamy narratives about priests flying high in the sky or carving out an elaborate backstory for a man Fullbrook saw in a painting. But "Olympics Girls", the title track and second single from her upcoming third full length album from Fullbrook's project Tiny Ruins, finds Fullbrook particular verbose in a way heretofore unexperienced.

"Olympics Girls" is a rarity in Fullbrook's oeuvre - a song that traces a delicately unfolding ramble in a way that seems particularly gregarious. Fullbrook has always adopted a conversational demeanor and her songs employ subtly evocative turns of phrase but on "Olympic Girls", particularly in the delivery of the line "You'll never find a thing if you can't lose yourself every once in awhile" Fullbrook takes on a Dylan-esque breathiness and windiness. Fullbrook makes a break from her normal narrative presentation to instead string together a series of incredibly descriptive thoughts - not completely separate from each other but not linked by an easily sought out structure. Instead, much like "How Much", Fullbrook appears to be continuing a conversation while providing ample details for listeners to catch up and the most stunning thing about "Olympic Girls" is how Fullbrook is able to imbue these particular lines with emotional resonance while abandoning familiar songwriting tropes.

One of the song's most winsome moments and an impressive thing considering it's the verse that gives the track it's name is how Fullbrook quickly dispatches: "You only had your Olympic girls, the frosted sheen of leotard twirls, running revolt and winning gold for the the TV screen before being led back to the cells". It's an exceptional bit of songwriting as it reveals quite a bit about both of the song's subjects but Fullbrook doesn't dwell - recognizes it's lyrical power enough to name the track after it but otherwise swiftly moves on. Fullbrook's never been one to lean too heavily on her multitudinous moments of lyrical prowess and it shows here as Fullbrook allows a newfound sense of wordiness to lead her to and from these breathtaking moments. Her language is still plain and unornamented as she allows not the particular words but the particular way she uses the word to stir up a feeling or color a scene in a splash of emotion. It's not completely unheard of but the way that Fullbrook continues to do such things is a marvel and she's able to do it in a way that feels as fresh as if she were doing it for the first time.

Olympic Girls, the third full length album from Tiny Ruins is out February 9th on Ba Da Bing in the US, Milk! in Australia, Marathon Artists in the EU/UK, and Ursa Minor in New Zealand. Pre-order is available now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Listen: Landlady's Own Adam Schatz - "Carolina"

Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Adam Schatz likes to keep himself busy. Whether it's been touring with his multitude of projects Father Figures, Man Man, and Landlady over the years, his most recent stint supporting This Is The Kit on saxophone, or assembling an eclectic crew of musicians and collaborators in the form of Adam Schatz's Civil Engineering or for his annual Holiday Spectacular, he's made sure to keep his schedule sufficiently booked. His most recent endeavor: Transmissions from Landladyland Live!, an offshoot of his Patreon hosted monthly radio show, is a series of concerts where Schatz weaves solo performances, group improvisations along with interviews in a similarly communal spirit that Schatz treats most of his efforts. The fact that Schatz somehow had time to record the solo material he's been performing live for some time is a bit of a marvel. And yet, found the time he has and the first new songs from his newly announced solo project Landlady's Own Adam Schatz has arrived in the form of  keyboard-centric "Carolina" paired with a cover of Fiona Apple's "Every Single Night" Schatz arranged for saxophone and voice.

"Carolina" is quintessential Schatz, that pitch perfect blend of Schatz' jazz training, influences in funk and soul, and his effortless mastery of pop songcrafting. It's beginning is breezy and light featuring Schatz comfortably sat behind , and even though it's considered to be a solo effort, Schatz still enlists the aid of a couple friends and collaborators in the form of bartitone saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson, trombonist Kevin Moehringer, and trumpeter Aaron Rockers as his horn section. As the songwriter behind Landlady, Schatz has often come up with beguiling song narratives that are more than your typical pop fare and "Carolina" is no different. However unlike songs like "Cadaver", "Girl", "X Ray Machine" even with the clues he offers, the actual subject of "Carolina" is a bit of a mystery. It's a song that essentially works - as all truly good pop songs do - on two levels. The first is the most universally applicable one of a sort of love-ish song; one that's not particularly tenderfooted. A tough love song as it were. Schatz in no uncertain terms essentially says "Get it together!". The second level essentially requires a bit of thought and cobbling together the pieces of the puzzle that Schatz provides. And that level exists for the music fans that enjoy a little lyrical analysis with their upbeat soul pop jam. But whether you belong to the first category of listener or the second, there's no denying "Carolina" is an absolute gem of a song - filled with unexpected moments like the brass breakdown at it's center which even still manages to surprise after countless listens.

No word yet if there's some sort of collections of Schatz songs forthcoming but he has promised plenty more where that came from so until then enjoy Schatz' take on Fiona Apple's "Every Single Night":

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Listen/Watch: Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider - "Niña"

Despite the fact that they have one of the most rigorous touring schedules I've seen and released their brilliant new album Spontaneous Symbols just last October, string quartet Brooklyn Rider has somehow found the time to record a brand new collaborative album with Mexican jazz singer/songwriter Magos Herrera. Although the ease of the collaboration might've been helped by the fact that both Herrera and Brooklyn Rider are based in New York. Dreamers, the forthcoming album from Herrera and Brooklyn Rider follows in a long line of Brooklyn Rider's collaborative efforts with singer/songwriters like Bela Fleck and Gabriel Kahane but unlike those previous collaborations, Dreamers sets the words of poets like Ruben Dario, Octavio Paz, and Frederico Garcia Lorca as well as other singer/songwriters and poets to arrangements by Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, Argentinian pianists/composers Diego Schissi and Guillermo Klein, and Venezuelan born multi-instrumenalist/composer Gonzolo Grau as well as Brooklyn Rider's own resident composer/arranger Colin Jacobsen. It's an example of classical music as a political statement not unlike Ravel's "La Valse" as the idea to craft an album featuring poetry from a multitude of Central and South American writers (and mainland Spanish in the case of Lorca), featuring arrangements from composers/artists who are largely from these places at a time of particularly anti-immigrant sentiment speaks volumes down to the name of the album.

Featuring the use of cajón and a pair of palmeras or hand clappers as well as Brooklyn Rider's incredibly sharp chops, "Niña" begins an incredibly percussive piece that roots Grau's arrangement of  Mexican poet Octavio Paz's piece more in flamenco than in salsa or tango. In contrast, Herrara's singing is fluid and melismatic with Brooklyn Rider occasionally mimicking to create moments of levitating harmonic consonance as Herrera underlines parts of the texts that are rife with spectacularly vivid imagery. A love song to his Paz's daughter, Grau's arrangements are incredibly dynamic - propulsive builds, cathartic releases, and dramatic shifts all aided by Magos Herrara's impeccable vocal talents, Brooklyn Rider's precision, and the addition of percussionists. 

Dreamers, Brooklyn Rider's new collaborative album with Magos Herrera, is out September 21st on Sony Music Mexico. You can pre-order/pre-save the album here.

Buke & Gase - "Pink Boots"

While Hudson, NY based experimental duo Buke & Gase have made sure to ease the wait between albums with one-off singles like "Seam Esteem", "Typo", and PJ Harvey cover "Dress" (which eventually all found their way onto the Arone vs Aron EP they released last year), there's been a bit of time since the release of their sophomore full length General Dome back in 2013. That's mostly due to the incredibly high standards and non-linear approach the tinkering inventors take towards creating their music - having scrapped an entire album's worth of material in favor of music that pushed their sound into previously unexplored territories and was thrilling for them to perform as well as record. Buke & Gase are one of those rare bands that answer to themselves first and foremost. And now after a nearly 6 year wait, the duo are back with the promise of a new record in the form of two singles "Pink Boots" and "No Land" that they've been incorporating into their live set since 2016.

"Pink Boots" is actually the second of the singles to be released, after they dropped "No Land" virtually in the dead of night on NPR's All Songs Considered last night. It follows the twosome's trademark embrace of cacophony with a noteable twist - since the release of General Dome, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez have incorporated more electronic elements in their song's composition than their previous modified guitar-bass and baritone ukelele from which the band summoned its name. But much like duo's effortlessly interwoven instrumental deluge of guitar-bass, buke, kick drum, and foot-trigged tamborine called the toe-bourine (another of the duo's innovations), Buke & Gase return with a similar everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of composition. Though instead of relying on an awe-inspiringly dexterous ability to play everything - they've freed themselves up a bit - synthesizers taking the place of the buke, the boom of the kick drum compressed and digitized. At least in a live setting. In the studio - the duo are proven multi-instrumentalists chasing improvisation to their sometimes unexpected conclusions and committing them to tape.

Lyrically, "Pink Boots" is somewhat more vague than more obviously politically charged "No Land" but the sentiment is more or less the same. While "No Land" prophesies the fall of the corrupt along with everyone else due to the actions of the corrupt, "Pink Boots" serves up the how; as much of a societal critique as a critique of gender norms. Where "No Land" seethes with rage-tinged clarity, "Pink Boots" resorts to conversational slight of hand - relying on subtlety of intent, double-speak, and plausible deniability. "I'm better better better used at the table" Dyer sings above the din, the repetition of the lyrics as percussive as the accompanying drums.

"Pink Boots" and "No Land" are the first singles from Buke & Gase's forthcoming third full length album. Although information is still not readily available, the duo have put up a pre-order link via Bandcamp that gives you access to the two singles with full pre-order details to follow. Listen to "No Land":