Thursday, December 17, 2015

All Around Sound's Favorite Albums of 2015

I doubt that anyone who's experienced the year can/would be willing to argue against 2015 as one of the best year's we've seen in music in quite sometime. It was an embarrassment of riches - featuring much anticipated follow ups from everyone from Adele, Joanna Newsom, Panda Bear, and Sufjan Stevens to releases from consistent mainstays like Dan Deacon, Laura Marling, and Mount Eerie. 2015 was a year that wouldn't let up in terms of excitement inducing releases and yet which such an exorbitant amount of releases this year, I've sought fit to narrow down the albums I personally feel deserved attention. Enjoy this unranked list of favorites in no particular order and feel free to chime in with your own.

Beach House - Depression Cherry
"There's a place I want to take you" Victoria Legrand coos on Depression Cherry opener "Levitation" and if there was ever a thesis statement not only for the album but Beach House's entire oeuvre, it is this. Depression Cherry, the duo's fifth album (and the first of the two albums they've released this year) continues in the vein of Legrand and Scally's transportive brand of dream-pop. Their inspirations and influences are diverse and likewise are the sounds the two evoke of the record - from 60's girl pop on "PPP" to the shoegaze reminiscent wall of sound on first single "Sparks". Where Depression Cherry sets itself apart from sixth album Thank Your Lucky Stars' mood music and ultimately won me over over the former is its insistence. Depression Cherry moves as quickly as Beach House allow themselves to go and finds the duo offering up some of the most winsome melodies they've had to offer.

BRAIDS - Deep in the Iris
Montreal art pop trio BRAIDS have certainly come a ways from me only being able to remember the song "Plath Heart" off debut album Native Speaker. Each subsequent record has not only seen the threesome embarking on more and more innovative musical ideas but also saw the trio embracing the more poppy element of their enchanting experimental pop. Deep in the Iris builds on Flourish//Perish's aural accessibility by blending it with probably the most personal songwriting Raphaelle Standell-Preston's ever done. Whether a straight up break up/make up song like "Taste" or the fiery rape culture call out of "Miniskirt", BRAIDS refuse to pull any punches creatively and the result is an album of intense, memorable songs.

Cemeteries - Barrow
While I was certainly into the debut record The Wilderness by Cemeteries' Kyle J. Reigle, it was his side project Camp Counselors and what it said of his unfettered creativity that truly got my interest piqued for Reigle's eventually return to the Cemeteries moniker. And he certainly didn't disappoint. Barrow - a record nearly three years in the making wastes no time in combine Reigle's various interests and explorations in that time period into a cohesive and deeply engaging record. It's concept is loose but Reigle's horror fandom shines through and galvanizes the record along with a much more electronic twist. And yet it still imagines to retain the sheer immersive dream-pop quality of Reigle's debut, with the tweaks to the sound solving the more listless qualities and expanding the sound into an utter strength.

The Dø - Shake, Shook, Shaken
Technically released last year pretty much everywhere but here in the States, there was very little doubt I'd enjoy this record considering how in love I was with almost every one of the singles. Shake, Shook, Shaken is perhaps the most The Dø's most straightforward pop effort and yet, it's far from a simple, predictable endeavor. The duo's experimentalism is explored on a more subtle level - dictating the song's subject and narratives instead of actually influencing the song's sound. Shake, Shook, Shaken is firmly rooted in electro pop unlike the genre-jumping Both Ways Open Jaws but even with the focus on the electronic, The Dø never forget to give the organic elements, most notably Olivia Merilahti's emotive vocals, ample room to breathe.

The Dodos - Individ
In all honestly, when I first listened to the new Dodos record I was pretty unimpressed. Mostly because finding their footing several albums prior, Individ didn't appear to offer much in the way of the duo altering their percussion-heavy sound. I might've been spoiled from previous release Carrier and its external elements - namely in it serving as an tribute to Chris Reimer of Women. For me, Individ was a grower but I doubt it would've needed to be if I was less invested with factors outside of its musicality. It's a record that listening to it now, I can't possibly imagine not being into. It's another consistent effort from the duo and sometimes consistency is the hardest thing to maintain. The explorations in guitar tone that formed the backbone of Carrier are carried over here as the duo grow ever more confident in their musical voice.

Empress Of - Me
Though the time between Empress Of releases seemed maddening at time, the fact that they've all been pretty consistently amazing made the wait justified and the announcement that Lorely Rodriguez was finally putting out her debut full length such an exciting one. Unlike other producers who rush to release a full length after getting buzz, Rodriguez spent her time configuring her sound, doing it all on her own terms. The result is a record that's pretty much flawless front to back and such a personal offering, it's hard to imagine at times it's meant to be a dance record. With Me, Rodriguez cements her place as a producer of note and ushers in a whole new cycle of anticipation.

Hop Along - Painted Shut
There's no denying that Hop Along's Frances Quinlan has one of the most distinct voices in rock and on Painted Shut. she's able to pair her graceful, emotive roar with a set of personal, engaging narrative. Less is more for Quinlan and though she's allowed more of herself to shine through, she's managed to captivate and intrigue with a sort of withholding element to her songwriting. Painted Shut shows Hop Along firing on all cylinders; the songs are more insistent, the riffs more angular, the melodies more infectious. Hop Along have always been a strong band but Painted Shut shows the time spent between albums can do wonders even for the best band as the band return stronger still with a collection of songs that elevate and glorify the mundane. There's no infusion of drama necessary when you've got as capable a songwriter as Frances Quinlan at the helm.

Jenny Hval - Apocalypse, girl
When I first discovered Jenny Hval through "Mephisto in the Water" that I was so beguiled by its beauty that I missed the sociopolitical nature not only of the rest of Innocence is Kinky but of much of Hval's art. On Apocalypse, girl there's no mistaking it. Her targets are clear from "Kingsize" as she talks about everything from subversive subcultures, to "soft dick rock" and yet, it and the rest of Apocalypse, girl never comes off like a radical rant. Instead Hval tackles in probably the most accessible/universally applicable track "Take Care of Yourself", the notions of femininity. Of how as you get older, societal expectations shift towards procreation and nurturing but not of the self. Women's bodies are rarely acknowledged as being their own in a variety of cultures and Jenny Hval points out the inherent hypocrisy in caring about a woman only after propagation and only then in regards to her offspring and homemaking ability. What makes Apocalypse, girl the kind of album you return to is that while it's ideas are heavy, their packaging is not. It's a beautiful, rebellious record that combines Jenny Hval's dry humor with her very serious ideas of womanhood and rejection of the feminine/cultural ideal.

J Fernandez - Many Levels of Laughter
Several years and three EPs later (two of which have seen re-releases from their initial cassette run), Chicago's J Fernandez has emerged from the bedroom pop moniker with his debut full length Many Levels of Laughter - a collection of psych pop gems that manages to pay homage to the genre while pushing forward Justin Fernando's own addition to the pantheon. It's a record that belies the fact that despite J Fernandez expanding into a tight knit four piece, it was still very much a creation of Fernando's solo exploits. It's a complex multi-layered work that's catchy but also intimately introspective.

Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle
Her rising popularity wouldn't surprise anyone who's actually encountered the debut album from Tennessee singer/songwriter Julien Baker. Sprained Ankle is a fully realized debut not only of considerably lyrical ability but of devastating emotional depth. While this will no doubt bode well for her continued output, there's no denying that Sprained Ankle is stunningly mature. On it, Baker reaches the perfect balance of sincere expression of heartbreak and hope for the future without chaffing sentimentalism. That right there is a testament to Baker's narrative strength - able to craft an honest break up record that holds up against continuous listens.

Lady Lamb - After
When setting out to follow up her terrific debut full length Ripely Pine, Aly Spaltro turned inward. Not in the introspective way most singer/songwriters plumb their emotive depths but Spaltro dove deep into her mind and returned with After, a surreal collection of songs with shifting perspectives and varying narratives. In a way, it's not all that different from Ripely Pine considering Spaltro's narrative strengths and yet, that inward dive and embrace of abnormality resulted in an absolutely charming batch of songs that are as interesting as they are emotionally resonant. The fact that it's not based on Spaltro's life doesn't make songs like "Sunday Shoes" or "Spat Out Spit" any less visceral or effective. The fact that Spaltro can imbue the fantastical with a sense of real lived-in emotion is a testament to her songwriting prowess and is the main reason After comes across as such a grand success.

Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
Despite the absolute strength of first single "Bird of Prey", when I discovered that Nashville native Natalie Prass created music in a folk pop style before her more Muscle Shoals style album I was more than a little wary. Ultimately what sold me on her self-titled debut album (besides the absolutely amazing Matthew E. White assisted arrangements on "Bird of Prey") was Prass' commitment to the album's elected style. Instead of being karaoke-esque, Prass sells not only her interest but her delivery that shows she knows exactly where she's treading and she's not doing so lightly. Even with some of the affected drama on album cuts "Christy" or "My Baby Don't Understand Me", the album coasts and banks on Prass' sincerity. While you might be able to argue whether or not Natalie Prass' soul turn is authentic, you can't argue that it isn't believable. Because it's so damn good.

North Highlands - North Highlands
When I first saw North Highlands on a bill along with ARMS and Hospitality, I was instantly smitten with their genre-blurring form of danceable pop rock. They ended up being the first of the three bands that performed that night to release their debut record and it quickly became a favorite of mine. Which made the news that the former Brooklyn band were calling it quits as their members set about moving to different corners of the country all the harder to swallow. Luckily for fans of the band, North Highlands sought fit to release their final record almost a year after their final show together and if nothing else, it's a rather great way to say goodbye. The self-titled record is break up record of sorts as songwriter Brenda Malvini found herself falling less and less in love with New York City. North Highlands have always reveled in a sort of attractive lyrical vagueness but North Highlands brings us a bit closer to Malvini's true emotions as she readies to act on them. And yet despite its function as double-fold breakup record, it's moves along with a casual plod. It allows itself to dip into synthy dance breaks and doesn't forget to let itself have fun and in that way it's a perfect snapshot of the band: happy creating music together even if it's the last chance they have.

Olivia Quillio - Get Down and Pray
Considering the release of her debut album The Bomb happened just last year, Olivia Quillio's follow up was pretty unexpected. But after heartbreak and a cross-country move which she essentially used as a songwriting retreat, Olivia Quillio returned with her strongest batch of songs to date and an album that was leaps and bounds better than her already enjoyable debut. Get Down and Pray might be a bit of a genre roulette and yet, each song is wonderfully sincere; forged in the fire of experience but arranged for universal appeal. Olivia Quillio proved early on in demos that she's was a skilled popsmith and Get Down and Pray is a testament to that, packaging up her personal experience with love, rejection, heartbreak, and acceptance with beguiling ease.

Pearl and the Beard - Beast
Beast, the third and final album from chamber pop trio Pearl and the Beard, is the summation of years worth of work together as band. On Beast, Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price, and Jeremy Lloyd-Styles are in peak form musically and creatively. From the heady rush of harmonies "You" and "Again Animal", soulful "River" or crackling "Devil's Head Down" and "Take Me Over", Pearl and the Beard are certainly not at a loss for ideas and yet, they've made a career out of incorporating a multitude of ideas in service to a greater goal. While that's an impressive feat for three singer/songwriters working together, it's even more so when you consider the fact that Pearl and the Beard's egalitarian songwriting has resulted into sonorous mesh of timbres as the trio trade not only songwriting duties but vocal and instrumental duties as well. Beast is Pearl and the Beard at their most grand, their most inherently majestic and they certainly don't disappoint aided in part by two album's worth of creative blueprints. If Beast truly is their final album, Pearl and the Beard ensure that they go out on an absolute high.

Purity Ring - another eternity
If you had told me a couple years back that I would fall in love with a Purity Ring album I would've laughed in your face but another eternity, Purity Ring's sophomore full length effort is so impressively complex yet so unavoidably catchy that it's not only won me over instantly but inspired me to go back and reexamine their previous efforts. another eternity's production is immaculate; at once simple seeming and artfully intricate, Purity Ring have clearly put in a ton of time finding exactly the right sounds and samples and other electronic elements they wanted but even then the pairing of those with Megan James' vocal work results in an absolutely beast of a production - unstoppable in its infectious sweep and enthralling in its complexity. I might not have understood the buzz around the time of their debut but another eternity proves that it certainly was worth it.

Seoul - I Become A Shade
I'll admit when I first encountered Montreal trio Seoul and their self-defined label of ambient pop, I was a bit wary. That is until I actually heard music from them when all doubt and assumptions of pretension evaporated away. Seoul is a band of serious music makers and as such, their record is truly a cohesive effort - segues and continuations; spilling into and building off of one another, I Become A Shade comes off effortless smooth and most importantly - insanely well crafted. The fact that the band worked on it for years before readying it for its auspicious debut speaks to how seriously the trio take their craft and yet with some of the most memorable, ear-catching memories I've heard all year, they're not too serious to make music that's actually enjoyable to listen to. I Become A Shade is a creative endeavor worth celebrating as it balances accessibility with auteurship for a debut album that's certainly going to be hard to beat.

Son Lux - Bones
Just when I think that Son Lux have outdone themselves, they release a new album to completely turn that notion on its head. Though they were featured previously on Lanterns, Bones is the first Son Lux record to usher jazz guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang properly into the band and although Ryan Lott didn't need an infusion of newness in the band's sound, it certainly is appreciated. It's hard to imagine a song like album standout "Undone" existing on the record without the jazz chops of both Bhatia and Chang as Lott strives to and ultimately captures the spark of the trio's impressive live energy.

Torres - Sprinter
On her self-titled debut Torres' Mackenzie Scott arrived with a stunning beautiful set of songs that properly introduced Scott as a singer/songwriter of note. Unsurprisingly she drew comparisons to that of her friend/fellow singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten and as apt as they might've been then, on her sophomore record Sprinter, Scott returns to set herself apart. Where Scott's hurt and discomfort mostly took lyrical form on Torres, with Sprinter, Scott arrives in a blaze of badassery. Sprinter is beautiful, yes but it's not afraid of being abrasive or unflinchingly honest.

Viet Cong - Viet Cong
Name drama aside, there probably wasn't a single other album I've encountered this year that so acutely nails the cohesive nature of the album format like Viet Cong's self-titled album. Sure, each song is a self-contained slice of riotous but precise noise rock but also, the album as a whole marches purposefully toward intensely climatic album ender "Death" that when it finally gets there, not only to the end of "Death" but the album itself, it functions on a whole other cathartic level. While last year's "Cassette" introduced audiences to the band formed from the wreckage of Women, the self-titled full length is a true statement of intent - an artful and meaningful expression of grief, anger, and the human condition that's refreshingly solid and whose outright sincerity is bound to appeal to listeners whether the sort of high energy grit of Viet Cong is normally their bag or not.

Honorable Mentions:

Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf

Friend Roulette - I See You. Your Eyes Are Red.

GEMS - Kill the One You Love

Hip Hatchet - Hold You Like A Harness

Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again

Jonna Newsom - Divers

Landshapes - Heyoon

Laura Marling - Short Movie

Palm - Trading Basics

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Towkio - .Wav Theory

Villagers - Darling Arithmetic

Waterstrider - Nowhere Now

White Reaper - White Reaper Does It Again

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pitstop: Cosmo Sheldrake

photo by Matthieu Amaré
Despite the fact that I have been known to plan incredibly rigorous and often concrete CMJ schedules, this year I found an refreshing urge for flexibility due in part to my accidental discovery of British multi-instrumentalist/producer Cosmo Sheldrake. While my CMJ plans started the day before with a kickoff party, a chance visit to trusted mainstay Pianos during Day 1 ultimately resulted in a quick, reevaluation of most if not my entire schedule.

Cosmo Sheldrake is a man of many unique talents and winsome characteristics. While his name was enough to get me into the door sight unseen, songs unheard, it was his ability to completely blow away expectation that not only made me stay but make alterations to my schedule to lengthen the experience. It wasn't an easy sell at first, I'll admit. Sheldrake is a knowledgeable, curious man and seeks to share that with the audience but his explanation of his first song "Sort of a mashup of Mongolian folk music and English folk song" had me at the ready, poised to attack with ice cold judgement but the judgement never came. What did follow was an absolutely unfathomable blend of Mongolian-inspired vocals, old style English song, and beats. Sheldrake had somehow managed to create a sort of future-folk steeped with sincerity. The son of a biologist and surprise-surprise a music teacher specializing in Mongolian overtone singing, Sheldrake's as much a product of his upbringing as he is his own interests and eccentricities. During his sets each song was introduced either by its inspiration or by the sounds Sheldrake had used to create it - ranging from everything from cut up vocal samples from friend/collaborator Anndreyah Vargas ("Rich"), the sounds of rocks being split in Wales, to the sound of the sun as captured by NASA or an African pygmy song ("The Fly").

No one song sounded the same and yet there was no denying a core character - that of Sheldrake himself as he imagines everything from life as an indestructible moss-dwelling insect ("Tardigrade Song") to an ode to nonsense creatures like the Jabberwocky ("The Moss"), even a setting of William Blake's The Fly. The most surprising thing is while drawing from this wide array of inspiration and ultimately falling under the label of producer is the organic nature of Sheldrake's song. A sampler may be at hand but Sheldrake is not one for synths and instead fashions much of his sort of naturalistic folk-infused electronic music with field recordings. Also intrigued and instantly sealing the deal for me is Cosmo Sheldrake is an accomplished improviser - studying with Bobby McFerrin at the Omega Institute. And delightfully enough, he often weaves a couple improvisations into his sets.

It was during his improvs that the true depths of Sheldrake's musicianship could be gleaned. Beatboxing, singing, keys, impressively deployed samples and/or beats, it could all be a bit overwhelming if it wasn't for Cosmo Sheldrake's deft hand.

Releasing his debut EP Pelicans We earlier this year with a full length effort forthcoming probably sometime in the next year, who knows what sounds and influences Cosmo Sheldrake will work with on the record. The one thing I know is they will certainly be interesting.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Listen/Watch: Lucius - "Born Again Teen"

Since Lucius re-emerged from a creative hibernation of sorts around the time of the release of their self-titled EP (give or take the couple months they had been winning crowds over with their less folk-inspired sound), they've managed to channel the spirit of old school rock & roll and girl pop glam in a way that was less about being derivative and more about honoring their influences and own musical tastes than mere imitation. It was a sound that galvanized some of the group's catchiest tracks atop of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig's powerhouse laser-precise vocals even as Lucius grew into their current five person setup. While the road to their break out full length Wildewoman seemed like a sort of endurance test, Lucius have, along with trading their digs from Brooklyn to LA, taken years work of hard work refining their sound to heart with the development of their new record Good Grief.

"Born Again Teen" is all wide-eyed exuberance - recalling the vibrant sounds and colors of the 1950s without exactly placing itself purely in that era. "It's a feeling like a born again teen/got a heartbeat like we're only sixteen", the ladies croon before there's a blast of shout vocals that jump-start the track's lilting verse/boisterous chorus combo. Laessig and Wolfe's vocals lead the dance - circling casually before taking the lead and rising to climactic highs. "Can somebody help me, please?/I don't think it's just me, I'm dying" embodies the melodrama of lovesickness and yet the band who all enter in harmonies aren't coquettish about it. It's real, it's sincere. There's nothing cute about this feeling and appropriately after reaching such a dramatic climax, the only response is a swing back to their introduction as if it (and it does) explain it all.

Good Grief isn't out until next March but "Born Again Teen" shows that Lucius aren't pulling any punches with their pop domination. "Born Again Teen" is Lucius at their catchiest but also their most self-aware, balancing teenage drama with the knowledge that they're mature enough to know better. It's going to be a long wait until March but "Born Again Teen" posits that it just might be worth the wait.

Lucius' upcoming album Good Grief is out March 11th. Preorder in available now and features a bunch of cool options like the making of documentary Days in One Place, and limited edition translucent 12" vinyl.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Peter Broderick - Colours of the Night (2015)

Considering 2012 brought the release of not only one but two albums from multi-instrumentalist/composer Peter Broderick in and These Walls Of Mine, the prospect of a couple years passing before the release of another solo album from the man would not have been regarded as much of a surprise to me if I didn't know from experience that Broderick is an unstoppable work house. Although Broderick has certainly not been keeping quiet all this time, from his collaboration with his sister Heather Woods Broderick for Broderick & Broderick or most recent team up with Greg Haines for Greg Gives Peter Space, it was only upon reading the press materials for his latest album Colours of the Night that I learned that Broderick was sidelined for a bit of time that found him relocating from Berlin back to his native Pacific Northwest. True to everything I've come to expect from Peter Broderick however, it didn't take him too long to get back on his feet - starting a studio called The Sparkle in his new Oregon digs that found him producing his sister's latest solo album Glider as well as finding his way onto new albums from Sharon Van Etten and Alela Diane, embarking on new creative projects like La Nuit with Félicia Atkinson.

Colours of the Night follows Peter Broderick's growing characteristic ability to metamorphose between albums. Though on his latest album Broderick had a little bit of help in the form of a residency in Lucerne, Switzerland that found Broderick collaborating with a live backing band and producer Timo Keller. While it may not be such a noteworthy shift for another artist, for Broderick who's largely responsible for providing the majority of sounds and instruments on his albums, it's a pretty thrilling change of pace that simultaneously highlights and loosens the reigns of Broderick's creative voice. Broderick arrived with song ideas and even several completed songs he'd been working with for years and allowed Timo and his gaggle of locally sourced musicians to alter them in an organic way that speaks to Broderick's ever present spirit of collaboration.

It's perhaps to a bit strange to think that "Red Earh" was one of the only songs written while Broderick was in Lucerne or that Broderick had come in with some songs that were actually uite old like "Colours of the Night" which Broderick has been making changes to since late adolescence considering how the subject matter for a lot of the songs seem to fit so wonderfully together in that particular time and place. Peter Broderick has a knack for songs that manage to find universal appeal while being almost covertly personal. Take "Get On With Your Life" which goes from the intimately specific to less claustrophobically broad as it develops. While on his past solo albums Broderick was able to invoke these feelings of intimacy by drawing specifically from his life - most notably through the use of his father's song or his sister's vocals, on Colours of the Night has a creative homecoming of sorts, ironically far away from either home Broderick has known throughout the years and with so many strange hands in the pot. The album manages to run the full spectrum of emotions and as you go from one side of the album to the other, there's a sense of actually identifying with Peter Broderick's emotionally as he let's the listener into his headspace perhaps more than he has in recent efforts. The results are beautiful and occasionally sad but ultimately, especially in the case of "Our Best" and "More and More", the last lyrical effort on the 10 track album, emphatically hopeful.

Listening to Colours of the Night I couldn't help but recall Arthur Russell and his knack for genre-hopping. Peter Broderick has always been adept at shifting gears and pursuing unexpected-though-aurally-rewarding paths but on Colours of the Night, Broderick achieves a heightened level of declassification. The album manages to invoke a cohesive clarity despite it's varying stylistic choices and genre influences from the afro-pop shuffle of the Peter Gabriel-esque title track to the sparse vocal free fall of "If I Sinned" to the folkier turns of "The Recollection" and "Our Best". Colours of the Night manages to both recall elements of Broderick's creative past while also forgoing them for something totally other. It's a collection of songs that manages to embody both Broderick's earnest lyricism and his experimentalism without sacrificing the beauty of the arrangement.

Peter Broderick's Colours of the Night is out now on Bella Union.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Listen: Dream Country - "Radio"

One of the cooler things I've experienced from attending Teen Daze's past few Brooklyn tour stops aside from the shows themselves has been the realization that his backing band consists of talented musicians often with their own musical projects brewing elsewhere. From Kyle Reigle's Cemeteries/Camp Counselors to David Wirsig's self-titled solo project, the most unexpected discovery however occurred in the form of Jordan Kurtz, who held down synth duties, recently unveiling his indie pop project Dream Country.

My surprise of course isn't because I expected the project to be anything less than good but rather that Kurtz made absolutely no reference to it at all during our albeit brief time together. In fact the only reason I happened upon it was due to an unintended recommendation from Kurtz's fellow backing bandmate Simon. With a debut self-titled album set for early January, the project has clearly been a long time coming and yet slight feelings of musical betrayal aside, I'm just happy to be clued into Dream Country's debut at just the right time. "Radio", the first single from the upcoming record, is all breezy, easy listening vibes with just the right amount of pep keeping things moving. With everything on it from violin, trumpet, harmonica, banjo and a piano-synth hand off in addition to the standard guitar, drums, and bass, the most surprising thing about the track is just how it manages to keep all these instruments contained within. "Radio" is an enjoyably smooth jam that's simple in both its energy and feel in a way that betrays its various moving parts. "Radio" introduces Dream Country as a bunch of careful musicians able to team up in a way that's beautifully understated and effortlessly ear-catching.

Dream Country's debut self-titled record is out January 5th.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pitstop: Sun Club

I'm not exactly sure why I kept putting off listening to Baltimore quintet Sun Club. Maybe it's the fact that I kept getting them mixed up with Sun Drug (formerly Vanaprasta) or just the fact that I seem to have a particular knack for ignoring bands I'd probably very much like even when an increasing number of my friends and colleagues are raving about them. Who's to say, really. I only know that it took being asked to listen to them point blank that I set out to do just that and discovered that Sun Club are just the type of band I've been looking for.

The first song I've ever heard from them and arguably still my favorite after giving their recently released debut record The Dongo Durango a spin, "Dress Like Mothers" is a more than adequate introduction to the band. Sun Club's songs don't stop at being summery pop rock. No, they practically radiate with an intensity and energy that rivals the sun itself. While there may not be anything all that revolutionary about Sun Club's setup, the band's boundless fervor is sure to win you over almost immediately. I wasn't more than halfway through "Dress Like Mothers" before I had mentally committed myself to following this band wherever they wanted to lead me.

Not just in "Dress Like Mothers" but in all their songs - they charge in, ripping and roaring with a sort of barely contained chaos that's as impressive as it is endlessly endearing. The drums hit hard, the vocals are expressive and insistent even as they swing into harsh metal-reminiscent shouts (unsurprising considering Sun Club's member's metal roots), and the band is so incredibly locked in, it inspires joy and awe. Sun Club are a strong band but better yet, they're the kind of band where their enjoyment is clearly evident in the way they pour every ounce of their manic energy into their playing. The most surprising thing about Sun Club's vivacious brand of joyful rock pop with the occasionally punky vocals is just how quickly everything moves. There's no doubt each and every member of the band is enjoying their contribution to the song and yet it still moves at a relatively breakneck pace. That's not to say that the songs feel rushed or incomplete but some of their song's most memorable, infectious moments don't get to stick around all that long. And yet, even though their melodies may be fleeting that doesn't take a way a damn thing from Sun Club's jubilant performance-driven songcraft.

Sun Club's debut full length record The Dongo Durango is out now on ATO Records.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pitstop: Mal Devisa

photo by Daniel Dorsa
Well, this is embarrassing. After months of hearing Tyler from Portals emphatically sing her praises, it took actually witnessing Northampton artist Mal Devisa's absolutely awe-inspiring live set at Portals and Stadiums & Shrines' joint CMJ showcase to become a firm believer and obsessed listener. It's probably for the best that I put off listening to her music before the CMJ set as Mal Devisa's live energy isn't quite captured on record the way it should be experienced.

Fusing guitar, loop pedal, and her positively soulful vocals with just the right hint of folk influence, the ingredients of Deja Carr's music seem simpler on paper than they are in actual practice. It's a simple formula that's imbued with an overwhelming emotional resonance in Carr's talented hands. I should know. I say with absolutely no hyperbole that Mal Devisa's set at its climax moved me to tears. You can tick many a genre box to try and describe what you're witnessing but when Carr's set includes everything from spoken word to nimble lyrical improvisations, there's really no use trying to pigeonhole such a distinctively original artist.

While one showgoer compared Deja Carr to Nina Simone, I found an easier (and maybe much less daunting) parallel between the responsive nature of Carr's performance and that of Fiona Apple. Particularly Apple's vocal stylings on "The Idler's Wheel...". Carr maneuvers her vocals in a way that strives to be the most viscerally effective rather than the most pleasantly beautiful. She weaves stricken groans and dissonance into her live set to accompany lyrics of heartbreak and both the black and female identity so that there's no mistaking her for a seraphic beauty but of a living, breathing human being splaying out her emotions for you to engage with.

It's rare that you accompany an artist like Mal Devisa - whose music is such an organic extension of who they are but also so readily accessible and universal without dumbing itself down for an instant. A live set that the artist's recorded input fails to live up to rather than the other way around. If you have the opportunity to catch her playing near you, I'd sure as hell take it. If not, there's a batch of her tunes on Bandcamp and a new album in the works that should tide you over until you get the opportunity.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Listen: Rubblebucket - "Donna"

Brooklyn psychedelic dance band Rubblebucket are certainly the type of band that's benefited greatly from workshopping their songs. In fact, it's pretty much exclusively how their first songs came to be. Since their inception in 2007, the band have managed to create an enviable mixture of everything from run of the mill indie rock, jazz, and infectious pop into a trademark sound that subverts all expectations of genre.

With the release of their latest album Survival Sounds earlier this year, it certainly was a surprise when  the five-piece dropped what might arguably be their best song to date - standalone single (or now) "Donna" in support of their upcoming Fall tour. But here we are and "Donna" is a positively resplendent slice of indie pop goodness. Rubblebucket's brass-centric grooves are operating at their utmost catchiest and Kalmia Traver's vocals, bold and bright as ever, achieves peak effectiveness. Summer may be over but Rubblebucket give it a proper send-off with the exuberant "Donna". While the track slips in and out of dream logic lyricism - the chorus is almost unfairly strong, an instantly memorable kiss-off that manages to excite each time it reoccurs.

It's the kind of track that has you instantly itching for repeat during the fade and the fact that it wasn't even properly part of an album is just a testament to how utterly steeped in creativity the band is. It's not their most experimental track but it doesn't have to be. In staying on course with standard songwriting conventions, Rubblebucket manage to create a track that's sure to be an instantaneous favorite to anyone lucky enough to catch this particular ear worm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Maccabees - Marks To Prove It (2015)

If you're lucky enough to find the right band at exactly the right time it can be absolutely thrilling and rewarding to watch a band grow. The growth doesn't always have to be this massive chasm of development either; incremental steps and subtle tweaks over time, much like minimalism, can result in as equally rewarding as a band fearlessly leaping into a new sound entirely. That's essentially been the path London indie rockers The Maccabees have charted to their fourth and latest full length record Marks To Prove It.

While never quite a quiet band The Maccabees have managed to fill their sound out in a way that's a far cry from their debut Colour It In. Though they've managed to graduate to large venues and festivals in their native UK, the quintet don't quite fall into the arena rock category. In fact Marks To Prove It more closely resembles The Walkmen's most recent pre-hiatus endeavors than fellow Mercury Prize nominees Alt-J, Foals, or Arctic Monkeys more stadium ready sound. While title track and album opener "Marks To Prove It" surges forth at a full on sprint, it's a far more measured build with various ebbs and flows that vastly improves on the band's initial characteristic insistence. Or "Kamakura" with its swaggering bass-centric groove that gives way to a smoldering, slowed down coda. Marks To Prove It is an album fueled by its own momentum; its songs often driving its one varying musical moments right into the next. That said, it's not the sort of album that rushes to it's eventual finish line. The pace is comfortable, occasionally brisk but always scenic hitting moments like "Spit It Out": a gorgeous buildup leading to a effect not unlike a volume knob being slowly turned up that gives a sense of pre-established continuity. Even in their more toned down tracks like "Silence", "Pioneering Systems" and album ender "Dawn Chorus", the fivesome manage to keep just enough of a forward push that there's little room for boredom to set in. That and The Maccabees take full advantage of their musical pals - bolstering the album with string arrangements, trumpet, saxophone, and the appearances of friends like former Stricken City frontwoman Rebekah Raa on backing vocals and piano.

Ultimately Marks To Prove It is an album that synthesizes everything that works well with the band from Orlando Weeks' lilting vocals and the band's familiarity and maturity, and pairs them with an abundance of musical ideas that are carefully utilized and inventively deployed. It's the rare record that plays very much like a full piece of music throughout regardless of the singles' very real staying power and even manages some moments of understated but effective lyrical excellence ("River Song" springs immediately to mind). Marks To Prove It is a testament that The Maccabees broader audience appeal isn't synonymous with broader approach in sound. There's a lot of grab onto on Marks To Prove It but it's achieved by focusing inward, not outward, for inspiration and presentation.

The Maccabees' fourth full length record Marks To Prove It is now out digitally in the United States on Communion Records with a physical release hopefully soon to come.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Listen: The Lost Cavalry - "Fine Afternoon"

After exploring abandoned arctic observation stations, archaeological digs, and big top circuses, The Lost Cavalry's Mark West turns his feats of lyrical grandeur inward. "Fine Afternoon", the latest Lost Cavalry tune since their debut full length Three Cheers for the Undertaker was released back in 2013, forgoes the fantastical elements West is fond of for a bit of far more intimate place-setting. It's a break up song but one that's true to West's songwriting proclivities and is anything but expected.

"Fine Afternoon", with its delicate finger-picked guitar and swelling melodic flourishes, concerns itself with that rare instance where a breakup ends amicably on both sides. It's a slice of upbeat but not quite exuberant folk pop that proceeds at the pace of it's thematic rationalizations. Nothing is at all rushed and even when the rest of the band enter to join West in stirring harmony, there's a gentleness that keeps it from coming across as a overwhelming surge; a sweeping sense of happiness. "Fine Afternoon" doesn't paint with enough sadness to be full on bittersweet but it doesn't allow itself to ascend to stratospheric highs either. It's happiness is measured but still deeply felt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Listen: Saintseneca - "Sleeper Hold"

photo by Nick Fancher
One of the most popular misconceptions in music seems to be the expectation that the space between albums is reserved almost exclusively for an extreme reinvention of a band's core sound. True, there's something refreshing about an artist who continuously pushes themselves to incorporate elements to keep challenging themselves but most of the development of a band's sound happens in slight increments not leaps and bounds. Columbus' Saintseneca has been slowly evolving their group sound for years and years from member to member. As the figurehead of the crew and arbiter or its creative vision, singer/songwriter Zac Little has had

In a sense "Sleeper Hold", the band's latest single from their upcoming album Such Things continues on a path charted as early as their 2013 debut full length Last. But ultimately "Sleeper Hold" focuses in on the poppiest moment of Dark Arc and both isolates and expands them. That's how you end up with these galvanizing, bliss-inducing harmony laden choruses. Zac Little and Maryn Jones tag team the vocal duties and in doing so provide the band's normal timbre play reserved for their multitude of stringed instruments.  In the same way that it's almost more of the same, it's a different approach to the band's absolutely infectious brand of folk pop as the group intentionally try to build on those elements. And with the focus being on these knee-jerk moment of pop euphoria, it's easy to miss the fact that Zac Little's songwriting remains at an absolute high able to embed these complicated philosophical questions into his song while drawing little attention them. It's smart lyricism that doesn't insist on how smart it is and is all the more better for it. Instead these little phrases pop out at you in a way that's exciting enough to make you deep dive into the song's less surface elements.

Saintseneca's forthcoming record Such Things is out October 9th on ANTI- Records.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Listen: MaryLeigh Roohan - "My Friends"

I first encountered singer/songwriter MaryLeigh Roohan through her affiliation with the short-lived Capitol region supergroup of sorts Babe City. By aligning herself with Meg Duffy of Hand Habits and Olivia Quillio, it was pretty much a given that I would pay attention and yet, somehow I managed to completely sleep on Roohan's solo endeavors. Since Babe City was started and then disbanded in 2012, Roohan has certainly kept herself busy and next month will release the fruits of labor from some of that time in the form of her new album Living Alone.

Upon listening to the first single (aside from Roohan's cover of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang"), I noticed a certain similarity between Roohan and Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner. Not in a sound-a-like sense but merely in the way Roohan's voice rises from the churning darkness of her own creation. "My friends all say know me, it's not true"/"my lovers think they know me, it's not true" Roohan sings and it's the kind of lyric that in less talented hands can stray towards the melodramatic. But with Roohan's pure vocal force and a well-timed modulation applied it's given anthemic resistance. It's mired in insecurity but also in that of an intimate self-knowledge. "Now, all I am is the backwards memory of a backwards man" sings at the song's oddly uplifting sounding climax and it becomes clear, the toss and turn between those moments of self-doubt right after heartbreak, of the feeling that something's wrong with you to make bad romantic choices continuously. And yet Roohan doesn't treat it like a moment of weakness. It's an epiphanic moment of inner knowing that pushes the track towards its brightest highs.

MaryLeigh Roohan's new five song album Living Alone is out September 25th. Pre-order is available now via the artist's Bandcamp.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

White Reaper - White Reaper Does It Again (2015)

When Louisville foursome White Reaper burst onto the scene last year with their self-titled debut EP they were an refreshing melange of old school punk with updated synth pop. The fact that their EP just barely clocked in at 15 minutes was an impressive enough feat considering most modern bands would much rather say too much with psychedelic deviations than say too little and keep with the true punk riot spirit. But White Reaper's debut proved that they were more than just a cover band - able to imbue their brief but brilliant with just the barest hint of an infectious hook to get you to press play again and again. Their songs were short and sweet but instantly memorable and on their debut full length White Reaper Does It Again, White Reaper attempt to do just that: to capture the lightning in a bottle once again

The biggest surprise of White Reaper Does It Again is perhaps that it's so damn listenable. For a band that fuses together garage rock, punk, and synths, there's a startling sense of easy listening that works pretty incredibly for the band. Make no mistake White Reaper stills rips, they just do so melodically and without getting in each other's way. The songs are given some breathing room but their rapid-fire intensity doesn't dissipate for a moment. The vocals are crystal clear and simple to the point of springing immediately to mind but not banal enough to bore you to death and their sound expands to encompass vintage indie rock illustrated most aptly in their Strokes-esque "On My Mind". Another surprise of White Reaper's debut full length is that as it colors in the sketches of their self-titled debut EP, there's little attempt for the band to posture as tough guy punks with songs like "Make Me Wanna Die", "I Don't Think She Cares", or "Sheila" proving they're not above emoting in a way that's decidedly non-whiny; an antithesis to many of the bands masquerading as punk rock groups these days.

The inherent political spirit of punk rock is missing in White Reaper's music as the band extrapolate on the seemingly mundane. White Reaper aren't total outsider music but engage in broader,more universal appeal. Their music is influenced by the Ramones and the Clash but not beholden to it and White Reaper manage to turn a rebellious sneer not towards society or the establishment but towards their own relationships. It's not overt though. But White Reaper capture the twentysomething experience throughout White Reaper Does It Again as they tackle everything from breakups, crushes, doubts and heartache with an invigorating lack of drama.  

While White Reaper was the real introduction to the foursome's brand of fuzzy punk pop, White Reaper does an excellent job of following up on that potential in a way that's not merely replicating what worked well for them on the EP. White Reaper Does It Again moves briskly but not for lack of something to say. White Reaper are a band that never overstays it's welcome and their debut full length is a pitch perfect encapsulation of that; getting to the point efficiently but without sacrificing entertaining musical dressings.

White Reaper's debut full length album White Reaper Does It Again is out now on Polyvinyl.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

All Around Sound-Off No. 5: Cemeteries

My introduction to Cemeteries came more or less by strange chance as I found myself sweet talked into attending a Portals x Stadiums & Shrines CMJ showcase that ended up being the then Buffalo based musician's last stop for CMJ before hopping back in the van and headed back home. It was a serendipitous set - with me so enthralled by Cemeteries that I looked him up and struck up an online correspondence.

Soon after I started getting occasional updates from Kyle Reigle about a new record he was working on. Little breadcrumbs here and there until finally, three years after those first cryptic messages about the album, Reigle finally released Barrow, the follow up to his 2012 debut album The Wilderness.

An album whose period of gestation seemed to encompass their very length of our friendship, it seemed only right to reach out to Reigle in his new Portand digs to sate my curiosity about it and after a bit of missed connections, we finally arranged for a perfect time to have a talk the new album and catch up.

Dante (All Around Sound): I saw you for the first time in October of 2012 and we started talking after that. So pretty much for as long as I've known you you've been working on this new record.

Kyle Reigle (Cemeteries): Yeah because that was when The Wilderness first came out. It was in October of 2012 so pretty soon after is probably when I started working on it, yeah.

Do you think you could take me through the timeline of this record? Because you've been working on it for three years.

Kyle: Yeah. I knew after The Wilderness that I wanted to do something different with more synths which is why I think I ended up doing Camp Counselors. Basically The Wilderness came out and it turned out to be more of a rock record than I wanted it to be so I wanted to do something more laid back, a lot of synthesizers, a little more eerie and stuff which eventually turned into Huntress from Camp Counselors. But I just kind of hacked away at it for three years. The difference between Camp Counselors and Cemeteries is Cemeteries is mostly live instruments, Camp Conselors is mostly synthesizers and computers and stuff like that so that was really easy for me to make at the time I made it. It was really tough for me to do another Cemeteries album because I didn't really have the equipment or anything. So I just started writing it - I wrote like 10 songs probably starting in November of 2012 and I had them all ready and when I finally out here [to Portland] I got a practice space and everything and thought I finally have enough equipment to make it. So I started working on it and half of those songs I scrapped and I wrote new ones here.

You scrapped half of them? So what are the ones you had from New York and what are the ones you wrote in Portland?

Kyle: "Sodus" was one of the first songs I wrote. I wrote that I think in November right after The Widerness came out. "Our False Fire On Shore", which is the last song, I wrote around that time. And "Can You Hear Them Sing?". I think the rest of them I had actually written in Portland.

So all the synthier songs you wrote in Portland?

Kyle: "I Will Run From You" I had written a version of that in New York and it was a lot more fast and punky in a weird way.


So that changed a lot and I rewrote the whole entire last half of it. But only really three songs made it from back then and the rest of them I wrote out here. Or at least changed older songs and made them...better.

You've been posting B-sides and demos lately and I was wondering if any of those songs morphed into the songs from Barrow?

Kyle: Yeah, I did that little EP over last summer, I think, and that had a few songs on it like "Iroquois" and all that. The only one on that that was actually going to be on Barrow was the song "Heathens" - that kind of acoustic-y song but it didn't really fit and I didn't want to do something acoustic and folky really. Because The Wilderness had some folk vibes, there was some acoustic guitar and things like that. I didn't really want to do that with Barrow. I kind of knew immediately I didn't want that on there and so I just released it. The rest were kind of like I was bored and made random songs.

So "Sodus" was the longest song you had from that period that actually made it onto the record- 

Kyle: Right after I did CMJ and The Wilderness came out and all of that I basically - Jonathan, my other friend Andrew and I went to a cottage in Fair Haven which is a big inspiration for the record. We stayed there for about a week. I went up there with the idea to write some songs and that's when I wrote "Sodus" and "Our False Fire on Shore" was there.

How many iterations did it go through before it ended up album ready?

Kyle: That song? I definitely had the intro and the verse. How they are on the album is how I wrote them. I recorded a demo of it - I think I just did it on my phone so it doesn't sound very good or anything but it was originally just kind of a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-ending kind of thing with it. But then I realized I really liked the verse, didn't really like chorus, so then it kind of turned into how it is now where it's kind of two songs. Like the first half is that repeating verse and the bells come in and everything and the last half is that different part which I added later. I don't remember when.

While you were recording this record - you mentioned that [The Wilderness] didn't really come out the way you had wanted it to - you started Camp Counselors. Was Camp Counselors how you had intended The Wilderness to sound like or was it a way to free yourself up creatively so you go back to this record? 

Kyle: It was kind of a way to free myself up. It was kind of a lot of things. I did The Wilderness - I didn't even intend to really make a record with that. I had done a few little things like that cover of that Neon Indian song which got me a little attention and then I made "Summer Smoke" which really isn't that rock-y, it's just kind of low and drawn out but people picked up on that a little bit and that's when Lefse [Records] contacted me and wanted to do a record. And I was like "Yeah! Yeah...I mean I'm working on stuff." And there was a lot of songs on this other record that I put other that I liked, well that I liked then I don't anymore, called Speaking Horrors. I redid "Leland" from that and "Young Blood" and a few other things.

Speaking Horrors isn't online anymore, right?

Kyle: Yeah, I took that off. I'm not really happy with that anymore. So The Wilderness ended up really cohesive for a first official record. I'm happy with that aspect of it but it had three older songs, some new songs, it didn't totally really all fit. And the single "The Wilderness" and the song  "Roosting Towns", it's definitely like a more upbeat record. So when I finished that I was like I want to do something a little more laid-back, slow burn which Huntress ended up being. But Huntress was also the result of not having the equipment to a new Cemeteries record and my friend Seth had passed away and I was going through a really weird thing and I wanted to just make songs. So I made that really fast as a kind of little intermission thing I guess. Then the tour happened because of that which took up more time and it ended up taking three years to finish this other album.

I mean the tour wasn't all bad though. Did it help you out in any way?

Kyle: Oh yeah, the tour was amazing. It was one of the best times in my life. I mean you and I had been friends so at that point you knew that I was kind of miserable in New York and everything so to get out and do that was really helpful for me. And then to move out here has been ten times more helpful. I'm definitely just in a better place.

It's weird that you say The Wilderness was upbeat because it was inspired by all of this wanting to move out of your super small town, right? 

Kyle: Yeah. I guess just making that album was a coping mechanism for the boredom that I had there. The cabin fever I was getting.

So that's been weird because The Wilderness I wrote under those situations and here I like where I am now. It's been weird to write ...happy? I don't know.


My music isn't any more optimistic or anything.

No, it's darker. 

Kyle: Yeah.

But strangely not. The subject matter is darker. There's brighter synth tones and stuff.

Kyle: Yeah, there's a lot more piano and I didn't want it to sound super dark or creepy. Even though it does at times. I feel like there's moments that are really light.

I feel like it's more eerie than dark. Like eerie is "I feel uncomfortable" and dark is "Oh no, things are bad".

Kyle: Yeah, it never gets bad. If anything it's like something's not right.

There's always this kind of menace that creeps in except like "Sodus". I'm pretty sure people die then, right?

Kyle: In "Sodus"? Yeah. I know I said The Fog by John Carpenter was an influence and that song is essentially a remake of that movie but in song form.


So you're working on this record and you did Camp Counselors but then you started Snowbeast [Records] and you started doing your Halloween compilations and then after you moved you started helping out with Track and Field [Records], right?

Kyle: Right.

You've been putting out songs pretty consistently while you've been working on this record.

Kyle: Yeah. Consistent for me at least.

How did you balance having to finish this record with creating new songs that are completely out of the realm of this record that you're working on?

Kyle: Yeah I just put off a lot of stuff. Barrow was originally supposed to come out...I mean I kept telling Jonathan, my roommate and who I run Snowbeast with, "Yeah it's gonna be out in May". *laughs* Like last May not this May.

I've been hearing that it's almost done forever.

Kyle: Exactly. Well, it was almost done back then but I was like "You know what if I took this long I'm going to take a little more time with it.". Which I'm glad I did. There was a version of it that was done in November that I sent out to some people and everyone really liked it but the more that I sat with it I was like "I can make these changes". I'm glad I did that because some of the songs changed completely.

So you thought you were done with it last November and you've been working on it since then?

Kyle: Yeah it was done last November and I basically went back and worked on it this winter a little more. I finished it, I think, in April. And I had to get it mastered and figure out what I was doing with it and everything.

Was there a specific moment of "Oh my god, this record is done. I have to get it out!"?

Kyle: Yeah. There was a moment - because I mixed it all too. Produced and mixed and everything. The only thing I didn't do was master it. Warren did that. But there was a point where I was working on it after it was all recorded trying to get the final mix and I would be like "Yeah this is good but this one guitar note is a little loud" or "This is good but this drum part isn't as effective as I want it to be". So there was definitely like a month of me combing it and combing it and one day I was just like fuck it I need to get it off my hands because it was putting too much stress on me. And that's when I gave it to Warren and he did the master for it.

Well it ended up turning out that you're really proud of it so it's good that you took it out of your own hands.

Kyle: Yeah. So I have a tough time listening to anything that I do...


I've listened to it a couple times: when we got the test pressings in on vinyl I listened to it again on that, we just got the tapes in and I listened to those to make sure everything sounded good. And I'm still like "Oh yeah, this part is really cool". Or this or that. I like it a lot.

So before this record, before Barrow, you had this distinguisher that Camp Counselors was kind of your dancier, synthier project that was inspired by horror movie soundtracks for Huntress and Cemeteries was kind of a dream pop thing. But Barrow kind of dips into all these things I thought of as Camp Counselors stuff - especially like "Empty Camps".

Kyle: Yeah. "Empty Camps" - that pulsating synth line is very Camp Counselors. Oh there's a lot of moments on the record that are pulled from that. I think because when I made The Wilderness I hadn't really dipped into that yet, I didn't really know how to, I hadn't really worked with programming synthesizers or things like that. I was just like "Oh I'm gonna make a guitar album". But when I worked with Camp Counselors it was like "Oh I really like doing this" and to like throw in the guitar and live stuff over it like I did on Barrow is a nice little blend. I think I'll keep kind of combining the two. I'm still going to keep doing Camp Counselors stuff.

Have you thought about what they mean separate from each other? What kind of makes them unique now that you're blending? 

Kyle: Yeah. I feel like the vocals are pretty different on both of them.

They're both pretty indistinguishable...

Kyle: The Wilderness definitely started with my vocals as part of the instrumentation. There would just be a lot of "ooo"'s, a lot of holding notes out. I definitely explored that more with Camp Counselors. I added a lot of echoes and did a lot of effects on my vocal and made it kind of this other weird thing. And then Barrow, I think I tried to tone that back a little and do more melodic stuff like "Empty Camps" is probably the most straight-forward vocally that I've ever done. It's got this melody, I'm really happy with how that one turned out. So I feel like Cemeteries is going to start going more into melodic songs and Camp Counselors will still be this weird shit that I don't know if people are going to like but I do so I'm just gonna keep making it, I guess.

So the record's done. It's done, it's out there, it's over. What are you doing now? You're probably super burned out from working on a record for three years, right? What's your game plan?

Kyle: I can't stop working on stuff. I'm still working on a lot of stuff.

...You're working on new songs?

Kyle: Yeah. The reason that Barrow took so long as it did even when I moved out here - because when I moved I wasn't lined up with a job or anything so I worked on it a lot when I first got here but we also didn't have a practice space so I didn't have a place to record drums or loud guitar. We lived in an apartment in the city so you can't really record that stuff but around May of last year we got this space and I started putting the final touches on it. But then I found a job - a 40 hour a week job, so I was trying to finish it while working that But I basically set it up that I'm not working right now. I'm about to go on another tour with Jamison for Teen Daze. Yeah, I stopped working like a week, week and a half ago. I'm leaving for tour September 1st I want a month off, I put my two weeks in and left my job right around the time I released Barrow so I'm just gonna celebrate that and work on some other stuff. But yeah all I've been doing the last week and a half is writing and recording new stuff. It's not gonna be another three year wait basically on any another project. If anything they'll probably be a couple records in the next couple years from different projects that I have.

You have more than two now? You have more than two? Did you start another one?!


Kyle: There's a third thing that I'm working on. It's not just a solo thing.

Well that's a way to distinguish it. Is there another Camp Counselors record in the works?

Kyle: Yeah. I've been working on, just over the last couple years, songs for that. The cool thing about that is once I get an idea for the songs I can just kind of finish them on my laptop. That's why I like that project so much. It's a lot easier to make and to complete. So I'm probably just going to work on that on tour when I have nothing else to do but read books and look at the road for 8 hours.

Question from pretty much anyone who knows you: When are you going to make a horror movie soundtrack?

Kyle: *laughs* Whenever I make a horror movie or whenever somebody asks me to. That's the dream. That's what I want to do.

You're pretty much there. Barrow is pretty much a horror movie soundtrack over 8 tracks. 

Kyle: Yeah, that's kind of what I was going for. I even threw around the idea of filming a short 49 minute thing to coincide with the record but that was just too much work. Someday maybe.

In Barrow the songs are kind of self-contained. Well there's kind of weird stuff that happens in a song and a different weird thing will happen in another song. Is there a particular way you got to have those little stories being told? Did you sit down and think of what this story would be or did it just kind of come when you were working on the songs?

Kyle: You mean how I like call back on other stuff in other songs?

Yeah. I mean there's this overarching story but each individual song calls back to that sometimes but not all the time. There's different stuff that happens. 

Kyle: Yeah, I could definitely map out the story. And I kind of explain the story from different perspectives. The whole basic idea is that this witch was burned in this small town and then 100 years later she's returning to punish the sins of the people's forefathers that killed her. In a weird way that's kind of the overarching thing but I also don't really like to say that because there's so many other little ideas in there.

Oh yeah there's definitely different things happening.

Kyle: Yeah there is. The first song "Procession" is an instrumental and goes into "Nightjar" which is essentially about this woman. But then it goes into "Luna" where there's kind of this idea of these people know this happened to this woman and they're sacrificing things to her in the lake because she kind of embodies the lake around this town now. And if they don't keep doing this she'll return in some form whether it's like a storm and drown out the town so they're trying to keep her at bay and keep her happy. That's what "Cicada Howl" is about too. About these young kids that are recruited into this. But then then there's "I Will Run From You" and "Empty Camps" which is kind of its own separate story still set in the town but has nothing to do with anything else.

So it's like a little vignette. This town is just plagued by many, many, many dark things. 

Kyle: Right. Yeah. It's basically like something happened 100 years ago. Some people know about it, some don't but other things are happening as a result of it. There's definitely like the main storyline but I didn't want to do 8 songs all about the same thing. So I kind of introduced different ways and different perspectives to the story.

I kind of got that feeling. Did you sit down and physically map it out? Or was it just kind of the lyrics that you made drifted that way?

I changed a lot of the lyrics over the course of it. That's another thing I did differently. I spent a lot more time on lyrics this time around. Usually those are more of an afterthought for me. Just "this word sounds cool or that" but I actually wouldn't like certain things and would rearrange them and map it out and try to figure out references - there's references to other songs in other songs. I think in "Sodus" I say "Can you hear them sing?" and there's the song "Can You Hear Them Sing?"

And in "Empty Camps" you have a reference to "I Will Run From You". With one of the lyrics actually being "I will run from you".

Kyle: I know you've been asking - I'm going to post up the lyrics at some point soon.

I tried to sing out a little more on this album and pronounce words better. There's a delay on the vinyl and that's mostly because of the plant that's doing the vinyl.They have a huge backup but I did get everything in a little later than I should have because I just wanted to make the packaging perfect but the back - there's no insert but the whole back cover has the lyrics on it in a really cool way. I'm really excited about it because I didn't really get to do that with The Wilderness.

When is the vinyl copy of the record coming out? Do you know yet?

Kyle: They don't know yet, we've asked them but there's the delay. It's probably gonna be Fall. I'm hoping by the time I get back from tour in October. It shouldn't be any later than November.

It's a Fall record anyway. That's fine.

Kyle: Yeah. I'm definitely going to try to do something special for at least the people that have pre-ordered because I've been getting a lot of pre-orders for it and I feel bad making people wait that long. So I'm definitely going to make it something cool. I don't know what yet. Locks of my hair or something.


Or candy like how you do with Snowbeast. 

Kyle: Oh yeah, we're still doing that. We're still sending out candy.
Have you been on working on any of these songs with Jonathan? Have you tried to work out a live setup yet?

Kyle: I'm trying to. It's tough to get all of us together. We haven't even practiced in a couple months and he's busy working on his own stuff. He's got some pretty cool stuff coming out soon actually. I do want to. That's kind of why this third project is happening. I want to do stuff with other people but it's hard for me to do that sometimes. As much as I want to make music with another person I'm like "UGH but I like it this way".

Well you were a solo musician for so long.

Kyle: Yeah. It's kind of weird to not be like "Yeah do it this way or that way". It's definitely something that's bound to happen even if it's just a song or something but right now I'm just working on some other stuff. When I get back from this next tour I'm just gonna focus on live shows and writing new songs and getting a legit band together to play some shows.

Thanks so much to Kyle Reigle from Cemeteries for agreeing to sit down and chat cross-country about his brand new record, nearly three years in the making, Barrow. If you haven't yet you can check out my review of it here as well as stream/download it via Bandcamp or pre-order a physical copy in the form of vinyl or cassette from Snowbeast Records (fog grey LP/black and white cassette) or Track and Field Records (lake green LP)