Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listen: Camp Counselors - "Devil's Night"

Clearly I was wrong in thinking that Huntress, the debut album of Cemeteries' offshoot Camp Counselors, would be a sort of one-off release; at least for a little while. Releasing a brief bit of experimentation in the form of "Swept" soon after the album release, contributing a track to Snowbeast Records' Halloween compilation Rituals entitled "Incantations", and also premiering a brand new instrumental track on his currently in progress tour with Teen Daze titled "Night of the Demons", there's a bounty of material to be had from Camp Counselors.  And clearly Reigle shows no signs of letting up. To commemorate the horror aficionado's favorite holiday he's released a brand new instrumental track by the name of "Devil's Night". 
"Devil's Night" both continues in Camp Counselors exploration of synth sounds and in Reigle's inspiration in the macabre. Alongside the driving bass pulse there's a Night on Bald Mountain-esque melody stretched out on top imbuing the track with a sinister foreboding effectively realized when "Devil's Night" takes a noticeable dancier lean.    

You can listen to Reigle's contributions to Rituals both as Cemeteries and Camp Counselors as well as tracks from the compilations other artists here

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Son Lux - Lanterns (2013)

Due to his very method of music making, New York based experimentalist Son Lux essentially has to create something new and dynamically different on each outing. It's a rather weird corner to back yourself into, to create music in such a way that each release has to at least try to drastically reinvent the wheel while more or less keeping a coherent trademark sound and in a way that's not too much different from the standard expectations of a new album. But Lott's methods, usually involving chopping musical ideas to bit and reconstructing them bit by bit, seems to carry more of a threat of drying up the creative well. Luckily for us, Lanterns, the third full length from Son Lux, proves he's still going strong.

A lot of what differentiates Lanterns from Son Lux's previous releases isn't encapsulated in the singles. In "Lost it to Trying" and "Easy", despite it's incorporation of different collaborators Lily & Madeleine, DM Stith, Rafiq Bhatia, recall We Are Rising cuts and that essentially helps for a smooth transition into Lanterns. While not forgoing a lot of the dancier moments contained in tracks like "No Crime" and "Plan to Escape", We Are Rising encapsulated a sort of epic grandeur and pervasive darkness. Lanterns shines a light where there was only hints of it previously, even shifting moods in the course of a single track. While remaining sort of in the same wheelhouse lyrical, Son Lux reaches for brighter textures and even achieves a rather upbeat air on a number of the album's tracks.

With two albums preceding it, there really was no question of whether or not Son Lux could create a cohesive album as they've all previously have been and Lanterns falls right into line there. Instead, what listeners can truly enjoy is that Lanterns keeps the strong musical ideas and even stronger presentation of them a flowing. Lanterns is a treat from start to finish; a work of considerable talent and finesse that demonstrates there's no real danger as far as Lott's well of creativity is concerned.

Lanterns is out now on Joyful Noise, listen to it here:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pitstop: Floating Compass

A guaranteed way to stumble upon great new music has always been/forever will be to stick tight to your favorite bands/artists. That's how I discovered the indie orchestral pop collective Floating Compass. The brainchild of Tim Cronin, a member of the Camera Obscura live band and featured trumpeter on Freelance Whales Diluvia, Floating Compass' Tales of Yesteryear presents a distinctive brand of medieval flavored chamber pop that could very well inhabit the same realm as Joanna Newsom's Ys or Have One on Me.

Ironically their embrace of the past sets Floating Compass on an innovative level apart from the band's contemporaries. Using accordion and trumpet in a decidedly different way than their most well known advocate Beirut, Floating Compass' use of them seeks not to wisp you to the shores of  the Mediterranean but a far bolder task of throwing you back in time transporting you to crowded cobblestone streets a stone's throw from the crisp sea air and the nearest lighthouse.

With tracks like "Cathedral", "Buoys" and "Pendulum" that features recordings of the songs namesakes - church bells and the like, the thing that keeps Tales of Yesteryear and its various experimentations from being contrived or too on the nose is pure commitment. That and the songs actually being good. You can't argue a field recording's hokeyness when it inspires an enjoyable song, or a cohesive album. I mean you certainly can semantically but I know I sure won't.

You can stream Floating Compass' debut album Tales of Yesteryear now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond (2013)

Earlier this year at FMLY Fest Brooklyn, I had the great pleasure to witness Mutual Benefit in action. I was transfixed and ultimately transformed - Jordan Lee's warm tenor enveloped me like a tender hug while his dreamy soundscapes transported me light years away from the crowded room at The Silent Barn. It was the type of experience I've always attributed to great music but rarely found myself feeling. When Mutual Benefit announced that several of those songs from that set would make their way onto a record soon out for release, I was ecstatic at the notion that I'd be able to relive that moment pretty much infinitely at my leisure. Fast forward months and the single release of the magical "Advanced Falconry" later and Love's Crushing Diamond was born.

Love's Crushing Diamond isn't just the culmination of years of musical ideas and collaborations, it's a rite of passage in the most unironic of ways; a life philosophy forged in the crucible of worthwhile experiences and put forth in the most accessible of ways. Featuring a remarkably similar sonic palette all throughout, Love's Crushing Diamond is a record that builds upon itself - each song seems an extension of the thoughts covered in the song before it as coherent in its narrative as it is in its textures. Unsurprisingly, it's a record that recalls itself especially in "Strong Swimmer", the cathartic release/album ender which references opener "Strong River". Perhaps due to its notable folk influences, the songwriting strikes a perfect balance between wondrous nature imagery and tales of personal growth.  

Love's Crushing Diamond is a record of selfless sincerity; raw and heartfelt but utterly life-affirming. Jordan Lee's dreamy folk pop styling are the perfect guise for the absolutely beautiful soul-searching and soul-bearing that occurs on the record. It's never overt, little lines here and there, that when combined form a little map to the album's earnest journey of pure feeling. To its benefit, Love's Crushing Diamond isn't trying to be a life-changing record, it's just the thoughts and sounds of Jordan Lee and friends artfully arranged with the purest of intentions and love of songcraft that resonates with the listener. Love's Crushing Diamond is a stunning masterpiece where it's labors of love are wildly apparent; elevating it from your standard pop record to one of astonishing beauty and worth. It's a record I know I'll return to over and over as will anyone lucky enough to get it in their ears. Hopefully that's as many people as humanly possible.

Listen to Mutual Benefit's Love's Crushing Diamond now:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Listen: Genders - "Something To Get You By"

Here's a bit of good news: Portland rock quartet Genders have emerged triumphant from a bit of studio action with Cheshire grins happy to announce the completion of their debut full length Get Lost. They're about to run off on a North American tour with Built to Spill but not before they dropped the first single for the upcoming full length, the appropriately titled "Something To Get You By".

If there was any doubt in your mind that Genders wasn't a rock band through and through, "Something To Get You By" is your answer. Swimming in a sea of shoegaze-y fuzz, looming dark textures that'll drain the summer tan right off of you; replacing it with an autumnal chill. While it remains to be seen if the other tracks Gender released either from the EP or this year's tour 7" will make it's way onto Get Lost, "Something To Get You By" is the dark cousin of many of those cuts - forsaking sunny summery jangle for a staggering intensity in a similar vein to "Oakland" and "Twin Peaks" but with a far more oppressive loom.

Genders' debut full length album Get Lost is out December 8th.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Watch: Landshapes - "Insomniacs Club"

Earlier this year UK quartet Landshapes made themselves known in a big way. Previously known as Lulu & The Lampshades and most notable for "Cups (You're Gonna Miss Me)", they reemerging sounding like a different beast entirely. Their single "In Limbo" marked their transformation into an innovative rock band from the cute folk duo of their early days, it was a subtle shift perhaps to their London showgoers but to their foreign fanbase it seemed like an overnight renaissance. But I'm not sure anyone's complaining - Landshapes are leaner and seem to have stumbled upon the perfect balance between instrumental tumult and hair-raisingly good vocals.

In their new video for "Insomniacs Club", the darker textures explored on "In Limbo" return - perhaps even more so this time around. Haunting and a tad bit of foreboding, "Insomniacs Club" unravels with subtle nuance of psychological thriller told through lyrics. I'm sure the video, taken from director Ian Pons Jewel's 1/4", certainly doesn't hurt. It's an occasionally horrifying bit of intrigue as a sound artist finds herself besieged by terrifyingly surreal nightmares. If the video's style or main actress seem all familar to you it's probably due to Crystal Fighters' video for "Follow" featuring the same director and actress. 

While non-UK fans of the band wait for Landshapes' debut full length Rambutan to street elsewhere there is a bit of good news. Landshapes will be heading over to the US to play a handful of shows at this year's CMJ Music Marathon. I strongly recommend you hit up this rare opportunity to see them play as well as harrass them about the lack of a US release date, at least that's what I'll be doing. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Listen: R.L. Kelly - "Fake Out"

I've made no secret about my feelings for Philly rock quartet Alex G, their tunefully melodic brand of guitar pop is straight up my alley and they release songs on a consistent enough basis for me to be reasonably content. The songs may not be there when return for them (a little diddy called "Joy" for example) but if you pay close enough attention to Alex G, you'll get a new song every whenever they feel like it. And that's essentially how I found out about this split 7" featuring Alex G and R.L. Kelly.

Despite my obvious love of Alex G, I found myself far more impressed by the continuing melancholic pop stylings of R.L. Kelly and her side of the split. It's also a bit of incredibly strong songwriting and it's a joy to be able to hear new songs from her to add alongside her fantastically sad Life's A Bummer EP/cassette. "Fake Out", the split's closing track and the last of R.L. Kelly's three new songs happens to be, in my humble opinion, one of the best. The vocal delivery is stronger, especially in her higher register; the lyrics properly balanced between moments of poetic lyricism and simple yet delightfully endearing narrative of Rachel's trademark sadness. Despite it being the most accessibly presented of R.L. Kelly's songs on the split's it's also the most open to interpretation while also being ear-catching and wonderfully entertaining despite it's sense of hopelessness.  R.L. Kelly's "Fake Out" awakens its listeners latent schadenfreude in a far more healthy and socially acceptable way that's a way better use of your time than Youtube videos of people falling down.

You can purchase Alex G and R.L. Kelly's split 7" digitally on Bandcamp or on limited edition mint/purple vinyl from Birdtapes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "September"

If the last two offerings from Bowerbirds' ongoing song-a-month series Small Songs from a Small Tiny House were a bit jarring for you, the latest addition "September" should certain set things right. Done (for now) with their R&B leanings, "September" sees the Bowerbirds returning to a basic folk aesthetic - guitar in hand like a campfire songs. Containing their trademark nature imagery, "September" is far more straightfowardly folky than anything the Bowerbirds have offered up in their three song career. Functioning more as a tribute to their influences than anything else, it's not until Phil Moore's vocals cut out and an instrumental section begins filled with hand claps and the high notes of a piano played percussively occur when you get a feeling of it truly being a Bowerbirds song.

And it makes sense, these short song experimentations are stretching the trio's creative boundaries in a way that challenges their cultivated sound. The little hints and nudges we get that seem to say "This is a Bowerbirds song" occur more as unconscious notifiers as things the band truly enjoy to put into their songs than anything more methodical. That's what's so enjoyable about watching the evolution of ideas in these 2-3 minute songs, we see the Bowerbirds step more and more out of their comfort zone and both try new thing and find inspiration in new things. It'll be a treat not only to hear the rest of the year's compositions but also to see the takeaway/effects of Small Songs from a  Small Tiny House.

Listen to the eighth track from Bowerbirds' Small Songs from a Small Tiny House "September":

Friday, October 4, 2013

Listen: Lost in the Trees - "Lady in White"

I have no idea what it is but Lost in the Trees' Ari Picker has a talent for just creating these arresting knee-jerk emotional reactions in his music. It's a skill that in all honesty I thought will dull over time and find myself surprised and elated that Picker's compositions are still so emotional effective. I guess I'm also surprised at short amount of time between releases it takes him to create these completely sincere, visceral pieces.

Coming off the immensely powerful A Church That Fits Our Needs - a musical tribute to Picker's deceased and troubled mother, you'd think "Lady in White" would be lighter, if not more fun. Not even close. While easing up slightly on Picker's ability to reduce you to tears, it still finds that elegant balance between mournful beauty and forward moving slice of pop. Based mostly on piano and Picker's doleful tenor, it's the rare Lost in the Trees track that reduces its string arrangements to ornamental flourishes for the sake of maintaining a sense of an otherworldly aura. It's artfully done like just about every other thing Lost in the Trees do.

Listen to the one-off gem "Lady in White":

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pitstop: Pearl and the Beard

Despite their association with some of my other favorite bands Lucius and You Won't, it has taken me an astonishing amount of time to get to know Brooklyn trio Pearl and the Beard. It wasn't until seeing them live for the first time at The Wild Honey Pie's Summer Camp that I really fell for the band hook line and sinker. 

Pearl and the Beard combine many of the wonderfully little elements I absolutely adore: diverse instrumentation (guitar, drums, cello), incredible vocal prowess with goosebump-inducing harmonies, smart and engaging lyricism; the list is pretty much endless. There's also the band's ability to mix traditional folk, infectious ear-catching pop, and utilize their string player in a way that's more than just ornamental.

Featuring everything from sentimental ballads and fiery love songs, Pearl and the Beard are the kind of band that let their personalities shine through their music. Clearly enjoying what they're creating and creating it together, they allow their songs to be fun and occasionally humorous when they call for it while also being able to deliver serious folk epics ("Devil's Head Down") or scorching rock jams ("You"). They're a band with seemingly limitless potential that are only getting better at their already rather stellar songcraft.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Listen: Nils Frahm - "Says"

German pianist/producer Nils Frahm has made a career out of instrumental music of the genre-defying and intimate sort. Of that there is no question. But "Says", our first peek at Frahm's latest full length Spaces, seeks to take the introspective quality of Frahm's compositions and expand them ever outward - instead of quietly drawing in the listener, in a rare feat (for Frahm especially), it seeks to drag you into Frahm's headspace through a borderline aggressive act of percussive force.

On "Says", Frahm's use of minimalism results in perhaps the longest track in his entire catalog. A sprawling 8 minutes, it relies instead of on the artificial sound of a synth instead of Frahm's more natural piano to set its mood and for tonal coloring. His piano isn't gone, in fact it's still very much present but "Says" pairs the two very different textures into an ambient labyrinth of rising intensity.

The song's elasticity grants a newfound intimacy different than can be glimpses Frahm's shorter musical sketches. Because of the improvisatory nature of Frahm's performances, captured for Spaces, you're given a completely different perspective on Frahm's mental machinations. Listening to the track becomes like following a thought process, relying solely on communication of the nonverbal variety.

It's a stunning treat handled with excellent care from a talented well-rounded artist.

Nils Frahm's Spaces is out November 19th on Erased Tapes America.