Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Listen: SoftSpot - "King Porus"

Earlier this month Brooklyn art rock trio SoftSpot previewed the follow up to their incredible debut record with "You/Yours". It was riveting little number that made extensive use of vocalist Sarah Kinlaw's ability to twist and contort her voice in dynamically interesting ways without relying solely on that. "King Porus", the lead track from upcoming sophomore effort MASS, essentially offers that Kinlaw's vocals will always be the enrapturing center while embarking on path not really explored on - that of the wall of sound. It's not the sort of thing SoftSpot lead with right out of the gate, of course. But where many of their debut's track, even the blistering "Slack Tide" and "Future Cult Icon" was managing to be wonderfully sparse despite the layered intricacy. "King Porus" departs from them by allowing an captivating amount of denseness at its apex. A colossal wave with Kinlaw's siren-esque vocals at its crest.

SoftSpot's sophomore full length MASS is out April 8th.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Listen: Friend Roulette - "Kitty Song"

Of course after I proclaimed that their previous single "I Guess" was probably the most straight forward of all of their most recent songs, Brooklyn chamber pop sextet Friend Roulette would release a song like "Kitty Song". It's construction and even its presentation almost completely at odds with "I Guess" and yet, still fitting in the wacky psychedelic realm Friend Roulette's songs seem to populate.

Built upon a solid existential question of "Where do I come from?", the narrative power of "I Guess" and the strongest cuts on I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is seemingly ruminated upon and then toss out of the window for a much more carefree and spirited affair, "Kitty Song" plows forward with the most colorful and loosely ordered chaos. At least in the lyric department. In terms of arrangement, Friend Roulette are in peak form. Offering up not only absolutely infectious musical ideas but the kind of deftly handed precision of layers that Friend Roulette is being more and more known for. And yet there's no denying the confidence required in Julia Tepper's delivery of the track's definitive line "I feel like a magic person" and not have it come off as smarmy but like an utterly serious and sincere thought.

"Kitty Song" is the kind of song that succeeds not through the analysis of its rather piecemeal lyrical approach but based on the total commitment of Friend Roulette's loveable band of weirdos. It's a technicolor pop jam of pure unadulterated fun which shows Friend Roulette know not to take themselves too seriously. It comes off like a truly sincere endeavor but "Kitty Song" contains a couple clues that illustrate the band know exactly what they're doing. Subtle winks and nudges underscored by the a pretty epic lift from "Eye of the Tiger". No doubt the perfect ending to their five song collection Grow Younger.

Friend Roulette's Grow Younger EP is out February 25th on Goodnight Records.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Listen: Hundred Waters - "Down From the Rafters"

It's rare, especially in the case of a band I truly love, for me to be completely content with a band's released content and not eagerly lust for more. But then not every band is able to put forth such a flawlessly epic album as Hundred Waters debut self-titled record. A record that casually reveals an additional layer of beguiling complexity on each subsequent listen, I have yet to actually tire of it. When I saw Hundred Waters on their most recent co-headlining tour with BRAIDS however they revealed a series of grandiose new tracks that threatened swallow me whole in their cosmic splendor. I hadn't been particularly craving any new material from the band but if they were going to offer it anyway who was I to say no?

Fast-forward several months later and while the details of their upcoming sophomore record are still an elusive mystery, Hundred Waters have offered up a little something to satiate the appetite. The first thing that struck me about new single "Down From the Rafters" was a bit of anthropological appropriation in its intro. While Hundred Waters have always been gifted in their ability to blur the electronic and the organic so fully and completely, the opening melody line featuring an refreshing incorporation of strings seemed almost too archaic to function in a Hundred Waters track. And yet, from there their initial spell is cast. They lead off almost immediately with the new through the presentation of the old before Nicole Miglis vocals enter to enchant in their almost all too familiar way. There's something noticeable ancient in the band's normally futuristic textural interplay and yet, Hundred Waters continues to revel in their universal resonance.

"Down from the Rafters" displays Hundred Waters effortless mastery of space managing to recall both the expansiveness to birth an echo and the intricate lushness imbued in the most magical of their musical moments. While Hundred Waters seemed to illustrate a vision of galactic proportions on their debut, "Down From the Rafters" demonstrates that time itself might lend itself as a co-conspirator on their new record.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Listen: The Voluntary Butler Scheme - "Honey in the Gravel Mixture"

You might remember that British one man band The Voluntary Butler Scheme had an album on the horizon. A Million Ways To Make Gold was supposed to see the light of day sometime in the past year but for some reason the album got shelved. That is until now where Rob Jones reemerges with the triumphant "Honey in the Gravel Mixture". 

The latest single continues in the way of Jones' bright, buoyant, and overall just downright pleasant form of retro-tinged chamber pop. Love songs are Jones' specialty and with a bed of brass and his trademark indomitable sincerity, he's pretty much in rare form here. "Honey in the Gravel Mixture" isn't just infectiously catchy, it's also charmingly sweet and effortless so; obscuring all signs of the diligent construction Jones put into such a carefree gem.   

The Voluntary Butler Scheme's third album A Million Ways to Make Gold is out March 24th. "Honey in the Gravel Mixture" will be released as both digital and physical 7" with an exclusive track on March 17th.

Listen: Tiny Ruins - "Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens"

I say completely without any intention of hyperbole that New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins was without a doubt my most favorite part of 2013's CMJ. Her's was the kind of music that needed no frills, no attention grabbing presentations; just simple understated beauty. Her gorgeous vocals framed by quaint, rustic guitar rambles delivered with deft delicacy. It inspired me not only to pick up each and every release Fullbrook had on her person but eagerly await the release of her forthcoming record.

After a couple months of relative radio silence, Tiny Ruins' Brightly Painted One not only has release details but a teaser of what to expect in the form of "Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens". In it, Fullbrook imbues her simple love song with a stately grace. There's little dressing up from the live version - a bit of harmony here and there, a drum entrance at perhaps the song's most climactic lyric: "Nobody feels old at the museum". There's the subtle touch of upright bass from collaborator Cass Basil and slight ornaments that recall the sun breaking through cloud cover; of sun dappled floors beneath a forest canopy. It's all delightful spring-like, effortless gorgeous and crisply articulate. All in all it's a great first peak at Tiny Ruins upcoming sophomore record and a wonderful introduction to those abroad who haven't had the chance to hear her just yet.

Tiny Ruins' Brightly Painted One is out May 3rd in Australia on Spunk Records, May 5th in the UK/EU on Bella Union, and May 13th in the US on Flying Nun. Mark your calendars.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Listen: Wild Beasts - "Sweet Spot"

                                                        (photo by Klaus Thymann)

One of the most exciting things about British art rock foursome Wild Beasts' triumphant return isn't the shedding of their use of guitars but rather that it takes you so long to notice. Wild Beasts are a band completely devoid of controversy and spectacle so it's rather fitting that one of the most polarizing bits of news about the band would be the hardest to pinpoint, the easiest for them to cover.

"Sweet Spot", the second single from Wild Beasts' upcoming fourth record Present Tense, continues the band's full on immersion in the world of stuttering synth pop. But far more impressive is it sees the return of the dual vocals of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming. It's been a while since we've heard them together that it was rather easy to forget just how perfectly they fit together but now, under the blessed union of "Sweet Spot", the two gracefully swap vocal duties. Though Fleming's vocals serve mostly as another timbre for Wild Beasts to explore and exploit in their subtle mastery of tone and texture, they're certainly appreciated as short lived as they inclusion is. Unlike "Wanderlust", "Sweet Spot" operates its tonal shifts on a subtler level - from the addition/removal of layers rather than juggling of various musical ideas.  

Wild Beast's fourth full length record Present Tense is out February 25th on Domino.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Listen: Pattern is Movement - "River"

It seems since 2008's All Together, Philly duo Pattern is Movement have shed a bit of their experimental pop dressings and meandered head on into R&B territory. For any other band, this might sound like the absolute worst bit of news but Pattern is Movement isn't any other band. The same full-tilt enthusiasm that made the eccentric sophomore record such a delight is present here to work its similar ineffable charm.

"River", the latest preview of Pattern is Movement's upcoming self-titled full length is a beguiling soulful romp that certainly updates the duo's sound a bit. Where their sound had a rather simplistic approach to Andrew's Thiboldeux and Chris Ward's roles - "River" is anything but simple. It features complex layering, a tangle of synth lines, and a far less concise presentation. Thiboldeaux gives his pillowy falsetto a rather extensive workout as he howls, coos, and otherwise riffs in the track's 5 minute sprawl. There's a notable electronic element that never quite overtakes the organic - Ward's drumming the evident constant in the track's melodic tumult.

Pattern is Movement is out April 1st on Hometapes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pitstop: Poor Remy

Considering they share members with Brooklyn via Katonah duo Yellerkin (vocalist/banjoist Adrian Galvin and live band member Andrew D'Amico), it really was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon folk pop trio Poor Remy. While Yellerkin's excellent single/EP standout "Solar Laws" offered up a hint of folk influence, Poor Remy dives right in and makes it the foundation for their rambunctious floor-stomping harmony laden brand of folk.

Established during the threesome's college days in Ohio back in 2010, the band's survived both a cross-country move and the involvement of its members in other projects and boast two rather dynamic releases: their debut Still Sleeping EP and the Bitters EP released in November of last year. Whether you're looking for uplifting lyrics, euphoric harmonies, instantly memorable melodies, or just galvanizing infectious energy, it's all there somewhere in Poor Remy's rather small but excellent catalog. It's worth noting that despite their cacophonous heartily emblazoned scream-singing folk, Poor Remy are capable of their fair share of subtlety. Their tunes feature some rather stirring musical moments that occur during the songs' energetic ebbs and before their splendid monumental climaxes.

Poor Remy find the perfect balance between the radiant, visceral response of pop and the musicianship and introspection needed to craft a good folk tune and blend them into a smile-inducing, toe-tapping, display of heart.

Listen to their recently released Bitters EP and check out more of their tunes on Soundcloud.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Watch: Owen Pallett - In Conflict (Album Trailer)

I got so excited with the fact that Canadian composer/arranger/violin + loop pedal virtuoso Owen Pallett was doing the arrangements for fellow Canadian Foxes in Fiction's upcoming record that I totally forgot that it was about time for Pallett to put out a new record of his own. While album trailers tend to be a frustratingly teasing affair, Pallett makes sure that you certainly get your money worth as he stretches the standard 30 second or so trailer length out to two minutes for his In Conflict trailer. In that time frame, your learn a surprising amount about of album details: The most eye-catching and excitable fact being Brian Eno will be making an appearance. Also noteworthy is In Conflict will feature a whole orchestra - the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra to be precise. There's all sorts of information too from record's various studio recordings took place, to the cast of musicians Pallett assembled for the task all soundtracked by the soaring strains of adventurous "Infernal Fantasy".

Owen Pallett might've offered up a considerable more than we're used to in his album trailer but offers up what may in fact be the biggest tease of all - In Conflict won't street until May. There's a hell of a lot of time between now and then and hopefully Pallett softens the blow a little bit with a continuous streak of musical offerings (however small) before then. Until then, check out the album trailer for In Conflict:

In Conflict, Owen Pallett's fourth studio album, is out May 13th on Domino.

Listen: Milagres - "Sunburn"

Well you certainly can't call the members of Brooklyn experimental pop foursome Milagres unaccommodating. In the off chance that previously released tracks "The Letterbomb" and "Jeweled Cave" haven't gotten you fully onboard with the band's bigger, bolder sound and practically fiending for their upcoming record Violent Light, their latest single "Sunburn" ought to do the trick.

"Sunburn" continues the band's acclimation into the realm of synth pop with a notable twist - while previous offerings aimed for larger than life presentation and downright epic grandeur, "Sunburn" is a much more contained affair. The closest Milagres may get to and out and out ballad on Violent Light, its a considerably less active effort. While I hesitate to use the term stripped down, there's a lightening of the layered load - a rather straightforward mood piece featuring Wilson's vocal caress that never quite loses sight of the necessary momentum needed to keep it afloat.


Milagres' upcoming third full length Violent Light is out February 25th on Kill Rock Stars. You can pre-order it now and catch them on the second leg of their tour this Spring.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Listen: Waterstrider - "Redwood"

It's hard to believe that California quintet Waterstrider's last release (aside from a Little Dragon cover) was almost a two years ago but here we are. Gearing up for their first big jaunt across the continental US, the fivesome released new single "Redwood" to ring in the occasional.

One of my favorite things about Waterstrider is how they wear their African influences so proudly on their sleeves without just churning out reductive copies of what they love. "Redwood" is no different - the percussion elements essentially imbue all of it's tropical flavor without relying solely on them to make it work. Waterstrider play both with the precision of a band that know each other inside and out and a certain rhythmic looseless that lends itself well to the sun-kissed reveries they're often conjuring.  Waterstrider's greatest strength is their ability to make it's various moving parts interlock in just the right ways.

There's no rigidity in Waterstrider's playing which lends itself rather successfully toward the hang out vibe of their music. The lack of intensity; of immediacy; of tension, grants Waterstrider's tracks a definitive sense of freedom - of open plains, spent in frolic with some of your best pals.

Yellerkin - Yellerkin EP (2014)

The first time I heard Brooklyn via Katonah, New York duo Yellerkin, it was pretty much instantaneous love. Their debut single "Solar Laws" was such a lush, multi-layered pop juggernaut that I found myself instantly under it's infectious thrall. When news that the duo would be releasing their debut EP, I knew I'd pretty much be the first one in line to sample the sweet, supple homemade jams of Yellerkin's self-titled debut and I'm pleased to say it certainly doesn't disappoint.

For what it's worth, leading the EP with "Solar Laws" is a rather impressive gambit. It is far and away the duo's best track and features a surprisingly different level of complexity than the rest of the EP. For one, "Solar Laws" is all vibrant, craning melodies and a delicate, ocean-deep layering. It's the kind of song where the more you listen to it, the more casually reveals itself. From it's syncopated beats, it's delightful use of banjo, "Solar Laws" is a fortuitous display of the band's innate musicianship that isn't really gleaned elsewhere on the EP.

The EP's second track "Leave Me Be" is perhaps a much more apt display at what the EP has to offer as a whole. While "Solar Laws" surges forward with a surprising band-like intensity, "Leave Me Be" and the rest of the self-titled EP contain a much more producer-esque electronic pulse. That's not all bad however, stripped down from the dense perpetuum mobile, the rest of the EP luxuriates in emotive splendor. There's no shortage of poppy hooks but there's no denying "Leave Me Be", "Vines" or even "Tomboy" are a lot less emotionally restrained. Even though there's an electro-pop approach taken towards the bulk of the EP, there isn't any lack of raw emotion or organic musical ideas.

While I wish there was more of a bridge between songs like "Solar Laws" and the sparse "Tomboy", there's no denying that Yellerkin's EP is an enjoyable work. The duo are certainly onto something special and there's no doubt that as they continue to explore and grow, we're bound to get far more impressive feats of song construction. "Solar Laws" might be the EP's MVP but the other tracks aren't that far behind, displaying a versatility young artists like Yellerkin are lucky to have.

Yellerkin's self-titled debut is out now: