Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Listen: Incan Abraham - "Arabian Cane"

Late last year Los Angeles pop rockers Incan Abraham released "In My Bones", the first new music non Los Angelinos could hear from the band since their debut full length album Tolerance was released back in the Spring of 2014. But triumphant "In My Bones" was hardly a one-off and several months later, the band released the rest of the collection they prepped during a writing retreat in NY's Hudson Valley where the trio grew up. Arabian Cane, the band's newest EP, finds the band reunited after singer/multi-instrumentalist/recording engineer Guiliano Pizullo's stint as a touring member of Passion Pit.

Known both for their bright, breezy melodies reminiscent of balmier climes than their native LA and the stratospheric reach of their songs most winsome moments both melodically and lyrically, Arabian Cane is a much subtler record even as they lean more into synth pop conventions. Much of the record populates a nebulous space of dreamy, soft spoken introspection even as the drums keep the band from luxuriating too much in listless ambience. Much of the band's career trajectory has been a patient plod as they really focused on the cultivation of sounds and experiences that make for good music and Arabian Cane is no different even as the band levels up both their production and their lineup: HAIM's Dash Hutton appears on drums and percussion for much of the record and Clinton Welander helms much of the production with Pizzulo as copilot.

Album opener, the titular "Arabian Cane", with it's psychedelic guitar riffs offers up a beguiling thesis statement both in its outright poppiness and in the way singer/guitarist Teddy Cafaro reflects on the sometimes closed off nature that results in the pursuit of a goal. "I keep my heart for the work I put out, I keep it cold and my dreams come alive" Cafaro offers in the lines opening verse in a way that doesn't entirely glamorize that sort of behavior. It's important to know oneself and on reflection, Cafaro rightfully calls himself out on less than savory moments: "I was a cocky kid but a reticent man". It's a song that both addresses the artist as a person without necessarily giving the artist a free pass for their personhood and acknowledges it from a point of obvious growth. It's a definite standout on the album, concerning itself with, much like "In My Bones" and "You Are Me" with introspection despite it's polished pop rock dressings. Featuring Andrew Lessman on drums before his departure, it marks an interesting intersection for the band - taking the band's strongest points: ear-catching intricate harmonies and layers and setting them at more insistent pace at odds with the sort of head-turning lyricism that makes you rewind and relisten. It's a delicate balance act and one that the band absolutely nails as they both lean into their psych rock influence and push their pop sensibility into overdrive.

Incan Abraham's Arabian Cane EP is out now. You can listen/download it now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Listen/Watch: Renata Zeiguer - "Follow Me Down"

photo by Chris Weiss
Late last year when New York based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Renata Zeiguer announced the release of her debut full length Old Ghost with first single "Bug", there wasn't really a sense of what might set the record apart from what fans of hers might expect from her previous Cantina project. "Follow Me Down" however rectifies that almost immediately. Where "Bug" was a sprightly straightforward guitar pop jam, "Follow Me Down" is a somberer, groovier piano based song that sees Zeiguer achieving a more emotive side than "Bug". Zeiguer's songcraft has always been varied in her songwriting subjects but though vague, "Follow Me Down" offers a glimpse at the raw emotion that can color her songs. "Follow Me Down" is a moody see-saw as Zeiguer essentially wrestles with her feelings: "How can I keep you from following me where I go as I go?" she sings before revealing the track's first interesting counterpoint: that she doesn't necessarily mind. It's a track that tosses and turns as she comes to grips both with a new reality as well as lingering feelings; an acknowledgement of the dangers of familiarity and reacquainting oneself with their misplaced individualism.

The music video, directed by Sam Bader, features Zeiguer engaging in a bunch of solo rituals: from solitudinous late night strolls to writing/composing alone in her apartment. However much like the pervasive feelings she's trying to process, there's a sense that all is not as it seems as figures flicker and fade out of view like ghosts in Zeiguer's empty apartment and appear to her on the street. But even as the song wrestles with loss, there's a contentedness to Zeiguer's solitude and also her acknowledgment of her complex feelings as if she's just happy to be feeling anything at all. In that way "Follow Me Down" is an ode to feelings: messy, difficult, but hers to have and navigate and Zeigeur's celebration of that is artfully arranged and pleasantly plotted. Hardly surprising given her previously demonstrated songwriting prowess but appreciated nonetheless.

Renata Zeiguer's debut full length record Old Ghost is out February 23rd on Northern Spy. You can pre-order the record now.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Listen: Sur Back - "Valentino"

photo by Frank Corr
It's been awhile since we've heard from Jupiter, Florida based singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Caroline Sans' Sur Back project. Since the release of her debut EP Kitsch back in the summer of 2016, she's been hard at work on a follow up as well as relocating to Brooklyn. New single "Valentino" is a least a taste of what Sans' has been cooking up in her nearly two years away and it's appropriately lush. From its forceful crescendo to its pizzicato string entrance, Sans' has her sights set on a decadent sense of drama that's as luxurious as its title suggests. That's hardly a surprise, considering Sans wrote it with fashion shows in mind. "Valentino" is her offering to the intersection between fashion and pop music that's been popularized by everyone from Lady Gaga to indie stalwarts Bjork and St. Vincent. A score to imaginary fashion show, it manages to fit into the often strange, poised world of high fashion while also setting itself apart from it both lyrically and compositionally.

Sans' production is a delicate mixture of orchestral lushness with strings and brass, cacophonous percussion, and her trademark svelte vocals. It's wonderfully theatrical in its sense of unpredictability as it sways with steely-eyed confidence on its haunches with a dangerous unease. "Valentino" is the soundtrack for a bad ass femme fatale, disarming with an intoxicating rush of sounds before revealing its hand in a series of deft sleight-of-hand counter maneuvers. Sans' deploys her guitar as a weapon, agitating the smoothness of her vocal lines, and the innate delicateness of strings into harsh spikes in sound. "Valentino, I don't want your love" Sans coos and it's a line whose impact is amplified both by its casual delivery and as the offered balm to surrounding abrasiveness.

Sans proved herself a talented producer on her on standalone single "Jane Eyre" as well as her versatile debut Kitsch and "Valentino" displays more of her winsome skills in spades as she creates a track with such a strong extrasensory ability. "Valentino" is an aural rendering of opulence, conjuring up much like "Kitsch", bold reds and fine silks but also the barely concealed darkness that seems to exist under facades of class. It's a strong effort that provides a dazzling reintroduction to Sans' Sur Back. Here's hoping its not too long before Sans returns with more.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Watch: Palm - "Dog Milk"

With their sophomore full length record Rock Island set to release on Carpark Records in a little over a month, Philly math pop quartet Palm have released a music video for second single/album standout "Dog Milk". Directed by Richard Phillip Smith and Daniel Patrick Brennan, the band take a break from their normal psychedelic visuals with clearer if not exactly more coherently assembled footage. Featuring band performances as well as shots of a multitude of zoo creatures and candid captured shots of people in the wilds of the city, Palm still let some of their trademark quirk shine through.

The open air shots of the band are perfectly in line with the expansiveness of the track and the occasionally glitchy repetitive edits performed by Richard Phillip Smith are fit the stutter-stop percussion that gives the track its off-kilter lilt. A lot of what makes Palm such a great band is their ability to stack various moving parts on top of each other in a way that doesn't diminish the importance of any particular part - even as the band finds new sounds and instruments to feed into their growing textural vocabulary and Richard Phillip Smith's edits often highlight those particular moments like the wave of princess wand cuing a counter-melodic riff. Palms songs often play fast and loose with the concept of narratives in general and the video for "Dog Milk" operates on a similar plane: a series of images ranging from the interesting to the mundane all by themselves, edited together to create a lasting feeling that aligns very much with the song itself.

Palm's sophomore full length record Rock Island is out February 9th on Carpark Records. Pre-order is available now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pitstop: OHMME

photo by Michael Salisbury
My discovery of Chicago duo OHMME (formerly Homme) is a combination of constantly seeing former Red Eye Chicago writer Josh Terry gush about them and actually hearing their song "Woman" off their self-titled EP used by Ryan from Ahleuchatistas to promote a show he's playing with them later this month. While I certainly should've jumped on the suggestion the countless times Josh Terry inadvertently recommended them, it was actually hearing them that led to me being instantly charmed.

Though there's probably tons that can be said about the serendipitous linking of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart though the free improv scene in Chicago, the main focus should be on the fact that Cunningham and Stewart create songs that achieve a pitch perfect balance between indelible pop melodies, experimental sounds, and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Take "Woman" which begins with sharp guitar jangle before the duo's vocals enter with perfect harmonic softness, it's an immediate juxtaposition of opposites. That's to say nothing of the sweet dissonance of the song's chorus. OHMME are a band of opposites but also a band able to blend together those very parts in something notable. At once abrasive then soothing, OHMME is a dynamic band that filters their various influences into an intricately layered avant pop masterpiece.

The duo are able to weave together a sound that seems a hell of a lot bigger than just two people can make. Like "Fingerprints" which you swear is the result of some wonderfully deployed vocal effect but is really just the sound of Cunningham and Stewart being effortless in sync as they rapidly play off each other. It's a level of mind-boggling synchronicity that immediately brought to mind Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius or frequent Son Lux collaborators Lily & Madeleine. And yet, OHMME is thankfully a band all their own. Their self-titled EP is a stunningly versatile work filled with both aggressive rock pop numbers and mellower vocal showcases sometimes even in the course of the same time like see-sawing "Furniture".

OHMME have been creating music together for years and their EP is a testament to both the talents Cunningham & Stewart and the seemingly limitless creativity of their bond. Hopefully it's not another three years before the duo put out another record but if it takes that long to get a record as unique and enjoyable in sound as the EP, it'll be well worth the wait.

OHMME's debut self-titled record is out now on Fox Hall Records. You can snag it via the band's Bandcamp.

Listen: Young Dreams - "My Brain On Love"

Much of the career of Norwegian pop rockers Young Dreams both before and after their stunningly great debut Between Places has been trying to achieve an artful balance of boundary-pushing and leaning into the pop sounds that inspire them. On Between Places, it resulted in a sprawling, lush work of beguiling symphonic pop. Much of Young Dreams' work after has been much more experimental, chasing melodies or ideas that appeal to them while attempting to inhabit them in a way that feels real. There's no denying that the current trend in pop music has influenced producer Matias Tellez. From "Of This City" to "Sinner (I'm Sorry)" to "My Brain On Love", the second single from their upcoming sophomore effort Waves 2 You, the touch of autotune is all the proof you need of that.

"My Brain On Love" functions as a bridge of sorts between these two versions of Young Dreams. Where "Cells" introduced a much more sustainable form of electronic experimentalism and incorporating influences than the much more R&B reminiscent standalone singles, "My Brain On Love" rectifies Tellez's production talents with the band's knack for winsome melodies as well as their shifting genre proclivities. Young Dreams have never particularly been a band beholden to the notion of genre even though Between Places often ended up at the chamber pop/symphonic rock end of the spectrum but the band know their way both around trippy psychedelics and full-bodied synths and "My Brain On Love" relies more on these than anything. It's a song that undergoes a great deal of metamorphosis from its autotune laden intro to its more straightforward clear-cut melodies that bop along to sprightly grooves to an unexpected bit of distortion,, the band tackle these various moving parts with casual ease. 

Young Dreams' sophomore full length record Waves 2 You is out January 12th on their own Blanca Records. You can pre-order the record now through their Bandcamp.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Listen: Palm - "Dog Milk"

Although the bulk of Philly based rock pop experimentalists Palm's ouevre relies on the interplay not only between guitarist/vocalists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert but all four members of the band in general, "Dog Milk", the second single from Palm's upcoming sophomore full length Rock Island, takes the method to its compositional and technical climax as Alpert complements Kurt's lead vocals with both melodic and rhythmic asides.

Album opener and first single "Pearly" introduced fans to Palm's new experiments with electronics and synths and "Dog Milk" continues right along in that regard as drummer Hugo Stanley joins in with Kurt's MIDI triggering as well as accompanying his already pretty full-bodied percussion with electronically prepped drum beats. Though the band has accessed a broader range of sounds mainly through the use of effects pedals, the band's use of electronic further blurs the already hard-to-believe multitude of sounds the band are able to pull from their instruments.

There's been no shortage of experimentation in Palm's short but notable history as rock experimentalists and yet still "Dog Milk" serves as an incredible combination both of the band's far more recent leaning into their pop sensibilities as well as the insertion of electronic elements into their songs. It's a perfect storm of their incredibly engaging technical pop rooted in their mathy dressings as the band continue to pave their own way with increasing original takes on genre bending rock music. The occasional harsh abrasiveness of their debut full length Trading Basics has given way to much more tuneful efforts in their Shadow Expert EP and "Dog Milk" proves that there's still plenty of room to explore in this more accessible sound as the band create an incredibly full track that expands their textural palette in exciting new directions while also incorporating elements of what makes Palm such an interesting band to listen to: namely their technical precision and propensity towards rhythmic complexity.

"Dog Milk" might be Palm's poppiest track to date but it is also their most subversive as the band complicate would-be descriptors even further. Palm have never been a band easily described by labels but "Dog Milk" and Rock Island are shaping up to trip up longtime fans as they explore new creative avenue and jerry-rig an impressively pleasant brand of Frankenstein-ed guitar pop that borrows elements from all manner of music to bold establish itself as wholly separate. It bodes especially well not only for their eagerly anticipated sophomore record but also for the foursomes continued creative output.

Palm's full length sophomore album Rock Island is out February 9th on Carpark Records. Pre-order available now.