Friday, January 27, 2017

Listen/Watch: White Reaper - "Judy French"

photo by Jesse DeFlorio
Louisville rockers White Reaper are back. "Judy French", the first single from their upcoming sophomore record The World's Best American Band, finds the foursome leaving off right where they left off and utilizing the same energy that galvanized their debut. "Judy French" follows in line with tracks like "Sheila" and "Cool" in that it's another of singer Tony Esposito's odes to badass women in his life. It's a moderate tempo essentially the closest White Reaper might get to a ballad without sacrificing their characteristic momentum and yet the guitar lines are clean, the melodies simple and unobscured. "Judy French is a love song but not one without bite as Esposito's spends the song trying to woo his intended with questionable success and the lyric video directed by Charlie Pollard draws upon high school days with it's paper fortune teller and it's lyrics given as answers to a impossible to pass test.

White Reaper's second full length record The World's Best American Band is out April 7th on Polyvinyl. You can pre-order the record now.

Watch: Makeness & Adult Jazz - "Other Life"

I was introduced to electronic project Makeness through fellow UK band Adult Jazz. First merely because Adult Jazz mentioned Makeness as a sort of related project worth checking out on their blog and then when due to their collaboration together. Makeness' Kyle Wolleson makes dance music very much from an instrumentalist's perspective. Unsurprising considering his background as a member of several bands before embarking on this project. Former flatmate and bandmate with Adult Jazz's Harry Burgess, the collaboration essentially finds a wonderful middle ground between the two projects - Burgess offering live vocals to Wolleson's normal sample based vocals and Makeness pushing Burgess towards making a much more straightforward pop song than he's otherwise known for. It's a collaboration that pulls the best out of each artist and the video based on an idea from mutual friend/collaborator Sam Travis and directed by Burgess and Nicholas Pomeroy is another testament to the pair's friendship and connections: able to flush out Travis' idea into a music video that let's them have fun without distracting from the greatness of the track. The band consisting of 2/3rds of the Makeness live band and Burgess essentially infiltrating the introspective moments of various characters with their infectious pop tune and dancing to varying degrees of consternation from the characters.

Watch the video for Makeness & Adult Jazz' collaboration "Other Life":

The single is available on 12" vinyl on Meno Records. You can order it here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Listen/Watch: Sondre Lerche - "Soft Feelings"

Despite pretty much confirming it would be out this year and naming his upcoming world tour after it, Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche has managed to evade revealing any of the actual details of Pleasure, his follow up to his 2014 album Please. Last year we got a taste of the album witth first single "I'm Always Watching You" and today with the release of second single "Soft Feelings", Lerche's actually letting loose the rest of the details surrounding the album: namely it's release date in April that coincides right with his Brooklyn date of the Pleasure tour.

A title like "Soft Feelings" sort of registers as almost a self-parody for Lerche who's made a career of incredibly earnest pop music and yet, the fact that he largely avoided dwelling in sentimentality of his breakup record Please should be a proper indication that "Soft Feelings" is going to be more than you expect. It follows right in line with "I'm Always Watching You" with it's sort of throwback synth pop vibe while putting his characteristic touch of it.

Perhaps more so than Please, "Soft Feelings" and by extension Pleasure grapples with subconscious desires bubbling to the surface. "I'm Always Watching You" and "Soft Feelings" feeling like logical (or illogical) extensions of the id-fueled "Bad Law". Lerche's writing on "Soft Feelings" is all push and pull, statement and restatement as he amends verses and choruses for their next uttering. "Since the spirit left my soul, love is but an open hole" Lerche initially croons and it seems like he's ready to finally let his music mourn his lost love before he continues "but the body's come alive/since the spirit left my side". And on the return of this particular verse, enough time has passed that Lerche's course corrects: "since the spirit came on board/love has begged to be explored". Lerche's essentially at odds with himself: open to the idea of love, wary of it, but not cynical about it and ultimately inviting of its return. Much like much of Please, Lerche's dressed up his universally applicable wrestling with matters of the heart to a fun upbeat dance pop jam.

The video shot by Johannes Greve Muskat in Los Angeles captures the vintage feel and continues with Lerche's surrealist spree. But unlike "Bad Law" or "I'm Always Watching You" where the plots eventually piece themselves together the video for "Soft Feelings" has no great desire to do so. There's a cast of characters besides Lerche including Ary and How To Dress Well's Tom Krell who never reveal their intentions or true purpose. Responding to Lerche's needs both lyrically and unsung as Lerche essentially embarks on a grander version of "Bad Law"'s bender and "Sentimentalist"'s cleansing swim. The video for "Soft Feelings" succeeds based purely on grounding the visual experience with glimpses of Lerche's vulnerability. The why becomes unimportant when filtered through Lerche's reactions to the myriad stimuli.

Sondre Lerche's upcoming eight full length record Pleasure is out April 14th.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Listen: Johnny Flynn - "Raising The Dead"

While it's been a couple years since English singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn has released music, he's certainly kept himself busy since the release of his third full length album Country Mile back in 2013. As Flynn is wont to do, he's spent the time between albums acting both on stage and screen. But with his main project the Netflix series Lovesick wrapped for the time being he's decided to share the first track from his forthcoming forth full length Sillion out this Spring.

"Raising the Dead" Flynn continues with the less is more approach he took on for much of Country Mile. Flynn's band The Sussex Wit are all accounted for but they err on the side of restraint. While Flynn's explored American folk music on past albums and even took influence from South American folk on Country Mile's Fol-de-Rol, "Raising The Dead" finds Flynn once again channeling more traditional British folk much like he did for "Flowers In My Garden" from his A Bag Of Hammers soundtrack. The idea is fitting considering the song came about from Flynn noticing all the ways his new baby daughter reminds him of his own deceased father. Flynn's still in rare form structuring the song's winsome narrative around an incredibly infectious refrain.

Johnny Flynn's fourth full length album Sillion is out March 24th on Transgressive Records. You can pre-order the album as well as check dates for his upcoming UK tour here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Listen: Ela Minus - "Juan Sant"

I was introduced to Colombian producer Ela Minus at the release show for Psychic Twin's full length debut Strange Diary as she was the opener. I was immediately charmed and it's not hard to see why. Ela Minus' Gabriela Jimeno creates pop songs that combine the urge to dance with an expansiveness seemingly at odds with that very urge and yet that balance is what makes Jimeno's songs so intriguing. There's a simplicity in its construction and style that allows Jimeno to cleanly and efficiently stack layers without obscuring a single effect from view. And that's the most impressive thing about Ela Minus: a sense of ease that pervades her whole project. Her melodies are a minimal but intensely memorable as nursery rhymes and Jimeno's voice is downright enchanting as she soars over her light stitched together electronic pieces with bilingual lyrics. In a sense her vocals are another timbre she deploys in her textural palette. The listener doesn't have to understand what she's singing to be caught up in the feeling of weightlessness her vocals provide.

"Juan Sant", Ela Minus' latest single for her upcoming EP Apart essentially continues where she left off on last year's Grow EP. One of her shortest songs in length, Jimeno wastes little time getting into it. There's still a build up of layers but she's quick about it without it being jarring. Her melodies travel from voice to synth and back again constantly getting handed off and handed back. All the while Jimeno's counter melodies and harmonic ornaments ensuring that what she's up to isn't obvious enough to strip away the fun of the discovery. "Juan Sant" is brief but illustrates Jimeno's songcraft: simplistic but nonetheless capable of musical sleights of hand that make Jimeno's songs operate on a whole other level.

Ela Minus' Apart EP is out February 17th on Yebo Music.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Listen: GEMS - "Blow Out the Light"

photo by Edric Chen
There are times when I've followed a band so closely and so faithfully that I completely forget I haven't actually written about them. GEMS are such a band. Originally introduced to them by I Guess I'm Floating and seeing them live for the first time at IGIF's CMJ showcase Floating Fest back in 2013, the Washington D.C transplants have achieved an awful lot in a rather short amount of time. After relocating to Los Angeles and releasing their debut full length Kill the One You Love in 2015, the duo return with a new track and news of a song series. Aptly titled Every Full Moon, GEMS plan to release a new track on the full moon of every month.

"Blow Out the Light" is the first track of Every Full Moon and it certainly is a wonderful way to start. Despite GEMS always encapsulating a sort of almost guilt-inducing catchy brand of heartbreak pop especially on Kill the One You Love, "Blow Out the Light" finds the duo firmly on the other side of their ended relationship and has them working out their feelings musically. From its sparse piano and vocal intro, GEMS achieve a well calibrated balance - steamy, intimate, vulnerable while still achieving memorable musical moments and a hint of dancyness that pushes the track comfortably to its eventual end. It's surprisingly amicable as Lindsay Pitts and Clifford Usher each get a turn to air their grievances. They're given equal consideration and weight - less like barbs and more turns in an ongoing discussion as emotionally charged as it is. And ultimately lyrically the duo end up right where you expect them to to be able to continue to making music together. "I can't promise that I'll ever be cool with you but I'll try to be kind" Pitts sings and even separate from its autobiographical content, it's cathartic. More so when you realize Pitts and Usher are singing together before they go off on separate paths: Usher offering a guitar solo and Pitts vocal riffs.

Listen to "Blow Out the Light":