Friday, February 24, 2017

Pitstop: Jack Martini

photo by Riccardo Niar
My discovery of Italian singer/songwriter Jack Martini was the direct result of my appearance at a show late last year at Arlene's Grocery in Manhattan where I had no real idea who any of the band's were or sounded like. A college friend was in town on tour with his band Dreambeaches and the stars aligned in such a way that I happened to be free. Jack Martini and his rag tag collective of incredibly talented fellow Berklee students were easily the night's highlight. Their numbers approaching Typhoon levels of "How do you fit all those people on the stage", their set was a triumphant and free almagam of jazz and pop without really adhering to any preconceived notions of any of the genres Martini cruises though and yet his music succeeds for his ability to take what he needs to create surprisingly simple pop gems.

Perhaps due to his worldliness or in spite of it, the strength of Jack Martini's songcraft lies both in his easy wit and intelligent turns of phrase he effortlessly threads through much of lyricism. Despite the absolutely stellar arrangements, songs like "Unimpressed People" or "Pleasantly Surprised" stay with you more for the beguiling simplicity of Martini's universal lyrical themes. And songs like "Kevin Spacey" and "Apricot Love" which tone down the full band in favor of emotion stirring minimalism are even more indicative that Martini doesn't need his pop overtures to make his songs stick. His Marmalade Love EP is a lovely collection of songs that show a great deal of potential for the young songwriter. Hopefully it's not too long before Martini and his collaborators show there's even more where that came from.

You can stream Jack Martini's Marmalade Love EP now.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Listen/Watch: Laura Marling - "Next Time"

Perhaps the most exciting thing when English singer/songwriter Laura Marling returns with a new batch of songs is to see the bold new directions she goes in. No two Laura Marling albums sound the same and after offering her strongest impressions on the folk songwriter on Once I Was An Eagle her next album Short Movie saw her exploring new creative wells and experimenting more and more with her sound. Her upcoming sixth studio album Semper Femina will, if the first two singles "Soothing" and "Wild Fire" are anything to go off of, see Marling continuing her exploration of sounds and textures not normally associated with the folk realm. Produced with Blake Mills in Los Angeles, it's got a noticeably different feel than Marling's work with Ethan Johns. Unlike the sultry bass-led "Soothing", "Next Time" puts Marling's lyricism and guitar firmly in the driving seat while a building an arresting musical tapestry around her. The arrangements are pitch perfect: ebbing and flowing when needed; culminating in colorful bursts of impressionistic strings. While on previous Semper Femina cuts Marling's mostly engaged and remarked with external subjects, "Next Time" shifts Marling into observer mode while also regarding herself and her perceived role in the world.  "It feels like a long time since I was free/It seems like the right time to take that seriously" Marling rattles off right at the start before resolving to do/be better before each climactic string resurgence.

The video, directed by Marling herself, is a sparse setting to the track responding mostly through dance as time and the large room the dancer is in seems to shift and bend. The lights flicker and the dancer draws several lines and then a circle of salt which act as a center for her movement. You never really get an idea of what's happening and why. Is it a haunting? Is something supernatural to blame? Is the wiring just faulty? But the why isn't really important. Your hints are a blue sash previous featured in the "Soothing" video and another character glimpses briefly at the video's start and later at it's end. But while you never quite get the why the what is intriguing as are the dancer's movement which go from gentle and flowing to sharp and spastic during the moments the room's light flicker heavily. It almost recalls a possession of some sort as the dancer rushes to the closet and checks inside before returning to the window. She's waiting for someone and it's thrilling to see. The answer may be explained in the final of Marling's self-directed videos or it might not. Either way, it's a delightful vignette making the most of sound and vision, space and the body that's incredibly enjoyable.

Laura Marling's Semper Femina is out March 10 on her own More Alarming Records. Pre-order available now.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Violent Game"

It's a story as old as time: you go to see one of your favorite bands/artists on tour supporting their latest album and they unveil a new song. It's good. So good. But you know you'll have to wait until it's officially released. So you wait. And see them each time they blow into town hoping they'll play it to tide you over. That's essentially what happened with Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche's latest single "Violent Game", the exception of course being that he unveiled "Violent Game" during his first and only CMJ set in 2013, recorded and released Please the following September in 2014, and released the one-off Despite The Night EP the following year. It appeared on neither release. It felt like Lerche was torturing me but the real reason "Violent Game" never made it on a release despite being a fully completed song was firstly that it didn't fit with what Lerche was trying to do with Please and also because a studio version of the song that he liked eluded him. So what happened differently that "Violent Game" ended up on his forthcoming record Pleasure? He recorded the song live in studio with his trusted live band.

"Violent Game" is so markedly different from the first two singles "I'm Always Watching You" and "Soft Feelings" that it's almost immediately obvious why he's withheld it until now. "I'm Always Watching You" pines, "Soft Feelings" looks forward, both push his sound in bold new directions by looking to the past. "Violent Game", like it's name suggests, is Lerche's rallying song. It's quintessential Lerche with it's bossa nova recalling chord structure and emollient charm. But much like his live album Bootlegs, it reveals a fiercer, scrappier Lerche than his more polished studio counterpart this side of Phantom Punch. And while Lerche's lyricism has been trending towards blending the lines between Lerche's id impulses and his Nordic charm, capturing "Violent Game" live does a better job of capturing the intensity. The depiction of moving on in "Soft Feelings" was largely introspective and pleasant, "Violent Game" has no such intentions. "Done tearing out my hair, I wanna tear you up/Done running from the sun, I wanna run you down." Lerche croons before the band surges forward to accompany his winning directness. Much like "Soft Feeling" there's a toss and turn but where Lerche veered between hopefulness and guilt, "Violent Game" is rooted in the visceral. Lerche has the upperhad here unlike the pleading "Soft Feelings". The shifts play with that dynamic; Lerche's dominant and the lines blur between anger and lusty with a dose of the fantastic and the surreal. As Please demonstrated even at his lowest Lerche is a lover not a fighter and "Violent Game" seeks romance even if it's a fevered, flawed one.

It's a set piece for both Lerche and band as they go absolutely balls to the wall and Lerche does more with his guitar in 7 minutes than some bands do on an album and it's hard to imagine how you can possibly follow up such a firestarter but "Violent Game" is only the penultimate song on the album. There's more to follow. And Lerche wrote pretty much an album's worth of material after it. I'm certainly glad Lerche eventually found a home for it as it's one of his most enjoyable songs and one that ostensibly bridges the gap between Lerche's self-titled, Please and Pleasure.

Sondre Lerche's eight studio album Pleasure is now out March 3rd. He's currently on tour so you can find out when he's coming your way as well as pre-order the record here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Listen: Operator Music Band - "Creative Tube Bending"

My introduction to Brooklyn art rockers Operator Music Band is essentially the direct result of being invited to a party. Caleb from Lands & Peoples' new band Wae was playing a show and despite neither listening to their music ahead of time nor knowing any of the other bands I found myself down in a basement in Brooklyn watching a whole bunch of new music. Though each band was good and incredibly different in sound and appeal Operator Music Band stuck out due to their ability to make me dance. "Warned" ahead of time that their sound was rooted in/inspired by kraut rock I was incredibly delighted to find it so danceable. Though not necessarily a sentiment shared by the majority of the night's party goers as few others actually danced.

But if you take a listen to "Creative Tub Bending" there's no denying a certain toe-tapping appeal outside of the motorik beat. Though drawing influence from kraut rock it's not the band's only source and it's part of what makes the band interesting as they sit at the intersection of various influences and channel them through their own experiences and ideas.

Despite it's various moving parts, "Creative Tube Bending" proceeds with a simplicity and ease that belies both it's composition and subject matter. About singer Jared Hiller's experience with a benign brain tumor, the band keep things groovy and light enough that you never really suspect it's about anything all that serious. And that's where Operator Music Band lie too good to be disregarded and not taking themselves too seriously to be off-putting.

Operator Music Band's debut album Puzzlephonics I & II is out March 3rd on New Professor Music.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Listen: Johnny Flynn - "Heart Sunk Hank"

British singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn has traveled a lot of ground in nearly decade of  recording/producing albums. He's a man of many talents and varied interests and yet in "Heart Sunk Hank", the second single from upcoming fourth studio album Sillion, listeners learn there's deeper depths to explore. Flynn's music has always enraptured more by what he's singing and how The Sussex Wit sound than how they're recorded but "Heart Sunk Hank" with it's gramaphone-like tinniness shows that Flynn is willing to experiment with production a whole lot more than probably anyone's expected of him. Flynn's voice competes with lo-fi fuzz and twangy guitar lines. It's Flynn perhaps at his most performative - inhabiting the role of old school country singer a la Hank Williams and rewarding himself with applause when he reaches the song's end. And yet, Flynn's sincerity is unquestionable. It's the constant that grounds all of Flynn's poetic prose regardless of which styles he's tried on or what tales he's spun in the past and it's certainly true here. Flynn doesn't assume an affect outside of the production which oscillates in and out of clarity but very little, the listener immediately gets Flynn's intended effect in a way that's subtle enough not to distract from the song's other moving parts.

Johnny Flynn's forthcoming fourth studio album Sillion is out 3/24 on Transgressive Records.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Listen: Gilligan Moss - "Mirror Mantra"

Essentially just appearing in 2013 with one of the best dance tracks in "Choreograph" I've been a huge fan of Gilligan Moss to the point when they were slated to hit CMJ 2015 I attended almost every single set. Since the release of their Ceremonial EP that same year, Gilligan Moss have mostly kept to themselves working on a follow up occasionally sending out remixes like carrier pigeons to send news that they'll still at work. While it still remains to be seen when that follow up will make it's way into the world, the duo have a new track "Mirror Mantra" released as part of FoF Music's Up Too Early compilation.

Inspired by and written during mornings in upstate NY (where I'm assuming the now NYC based duo were on a writing retreat), it's a considerably chiller affair. Gilligan Moss' music has never felt particular overstuffed with beats, samples, and effects but "Mirror Mantra" feels far more open, more expansive and free than any of the cuts off Ceremonial. Their touch is light, hazy vocals filtering in like the rising sun through the bedside window. The most impressive feat is how the duo are able to balance that lightness in composition, brightness in feel, and the sort of questing nature of the piano melodies with beats that still manage to be dance-friendly. It's not an out and out floorfiller but there's an unescapeable toe-tapping quality that follows the song from beginning to end. Gilligan Moss have an ineffable knack for producing vibrant texture dance jams and even the mellower "Mirror Mantra" adheres to that: shifting to sepia from technicolor. Whether it's a one-off experiment or indicative of what's to come it demonstrates the duo are capable of a versatility that's bound to serve them well in the future.

Listen to Gilligan Moss' "Mirror Manta":

Gilligan Moss will be embarking on a tour with The Knocks. Check show dates and plan your next dance party here.

Listen: Holden Days - Eau Claire (ft Lofty Stills)

I'm a firm believer that bands you already like are an essential component in worthwhile music discoveries. Though mostly reliable in terms of playing with similarly enjoyable acts, occasionally an artist/band will cosign another and set you forth on discovering a new band to love. That's essentially how I stumbled upon Holden Days who not only was featured on previously featured artist Lofty Stills' EP but accompanied him to Nashville to help record and produce his debut full length album. The work of California singer/songwriter Timothy Jude Andrews, Holden Days offers music in a similar if not wholly congruent realm of Lofty Stills' folky dream pop. Or at least "Eau Claire", the first single from his upcoming full length album Cultivate, gives that impression. Aside from the single and a demo called "Here", there's not necessarily too much to go off in terms of Holden Days' cultivated sound.

But listening to "Eau Claire", it's not hard to see why Timothy Andrews and Lofty Stills' Luke Culbertson linked up. They're kindred spirits in sound and vision, downplaying little magical production moments that could be wonderfully expanded in favor of maintaining forward momentum. Culbertson's presence is deeply felt: his vocals capable of delivering emotive sweeps with seemingly little effort. Andrews is the Fred Nicolaus to Culbertson's Daniel Rossen and if the band's lineup is to be believed Holden Days' debut might feature more collaborations not just between Andrews and Culbertson but also Nashville based artist/producer Carson Cody. There's no telling what a collaboration not one but three singer/songwriters based in three different cities will sound like or how prevalent collaboration even is with Andrews project but "Eau Claire" is certainly enough to leave listeners intrigued and primed for more. Thankfully it won't be too long to wait and see as Cultivate's March 2nd release date is right around the corner.

Listen: Bayonne - "Fallss"

My introduction to multi-instrumentalist Roger Sellers aka Bayonne was in the form of his intense "Appeals" video. I was hooked immediately and found his full length album Primitives, the first of Sellers under his Bayonne moniker, to be an utter delight. Now Sellers is releasing a new single "Fallss" ahead of European Winter tour and a Spring North American tour with Minus the Bear. Originally commissioned by New Belgium Brewing for release with their new Citradelic beer early last year, Sellers has returned to the track and paired it with beautiful artwork from Andrea Dyes.

Considering the ecstatic live energy of Bayonne, "Fallss" is a bit of a surprise. An introspective set piece that pairs down Sellers' intensity and delves into pure feeling. That said, it still features Sellers meticulous loops and live drums but rather than relying on that it's also a showcase for Sellers songwriting chops. In songs like "Appeals" or even "Spectrolite", the vocals are another timbre for Sellers to add or subtract to his intricately built layers. The vocals give the song its initial direction but the brunt of the journey often lies in Sellers musical choices. "Fallss" however sees focus on his songwriting and let's it do the leadwork. It's a noted shift in the way things are done that demonstrated Sellers growing confidence in his songwriting capabilities. Considering Sellers has largely spent his musical growth refining his minimalist loop based pop, it's a good shift that builds layers to his already engaging songcraft.

Listen to Bayonne's tender new single "Fallss":

You can check out dates for Bayonne's upcoming Winter/Spring tour dates here.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Listen: Glassine - "Day 1"

Despite having an assortment of mutual friends, my introduction to Baltimore based artist Glassine actually came through him reaching out to me (at the suggestion of our aforementioned mutual friends) several years back around the release of his record No Stairway released on Patient Sounds. On No Stairway, Danny Greenwald crafted an album composed solely of field recordings from Guitar Center. Through artful manipulation Greenwald created an absolutely stunning album of immersive ambient sound which formed an interesting counterpoint to the oddly coincidental collection of Guitar Center field recordings put forward by Noah Wall that same year.

On "Day 1", Greenwald processes recordings of this year's historic Women's March in Washington DC and the result is something of similar beauty. Much like No Stairway I was intrigued how Greenwald might be able to transform the cacophony of a March into the sort of soothing sound bath that is rapidly becoming his signature and Greenwald has found a way. Although perhaps the most important thing is how he let's much of the chanting be; the harshness of the dissent not processed out of existence. Or rather the harmony of peaceful organized protest being given an appropriate soundtrack. Greenwald's touch is subtle, featuring slightly elevated pinpricks of sounds to set everything into motion. "Day 1" is composed of a winding softness, avoiding expected abrasiveness in favor of a pleasant presentation in line with the nature of the protest. It's telling that the one crystal clear vocal you can hear is a participant describing the distance she's traveled to attend.

Glassine is offering all proceeds from the "Day 1" single as well as those from a CD featuring the raw field recordings he worked with to Planned Parenthood. And today only Bandcamp is donating all of their proceeds from Bandcamp purchases to the ACLU so there's not one but two great causes benefiting if you'd like to make Glassine's sound collage yours.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

All Around Sound's Favorite Tracks Of 2016

Generally in years past I have found that compiling my collection of favorite songs of the year to be a much less arduous task than my favorite albums list. That's hardly surprising. Albums have much more songs to work with and much more opportunity to not come together how you'd expect. A favorite album has to either comprise of winner after winner or adhere to the form in an interesting enough way that you're able to look past it's missteps and yet this year in particular I found it much easier to pick out favorite albums than to pick favorite songs. There were a number of excellent albums that both were composed of excellent songs and were presented cohesively or interesting and standalone songs left a little something to be desired. An list of favorite songs composed exclusively of songs that were on your favorite albums list does not a compelling list make (and it's why I have an albeit occasionally broken rule that songs from favorite albums can't appear on the favorite tracks list). But 2016 wasn't without it's winners and several songs won a place in my heart or promised exciting things to come that they made an impression. Here's the list of songs that were revisited again and again throughout the year. Enjoy!

Adult Jazz - "Earrings Off!", Earrings Off! EP
It was pretty much anyone's guess how Leeds quartet Adult Jazz would follow up their brilliantly dense, intellectual art pop debut Gist Is. Though their debut never felt particular scattered, Earrings Off focuses in on the one topic of toxic masculinity in particular and shows the various implications of it. In the case of "Earrings Off!", Harry Burgess builds a song around an incident where his normally incredibly well behaved brother violently lashed out as a child when having his masculinity insulted by an older woman. Burgess explores how ingrained the concept of masculinity is even as a young boy and the expectations of it along to cacophonous soundtrack of horn blasts.

And The Kids - "I Dropped Out", Friends Share Lovers
Truth be told just about any song from And The Kids stellar sophomore effort could've ended up on this list. They write the kind of earcatching rock pop I often crave and their knack for seesawing between melodies essentially guarantees that you'll be singing their memories for days. And yet, I found myself returning to "I Dropped Out" probably more than any other track (although the title track was a very close second).

Angel Olsen - "Shut Up Kiss Me", MY WOMAN
Hard to say if there was a more anticipated follow up record than Angel Olsen's. At least not for me. While first single "Intern" reintroduced fans to Olsen's always resplendent vocal stylings, "Shut Up Kiss Me" was another charismatic display of Olsen's winning personality. Much like Burn Your Fire For No Witness scorcher "Forgiven/Forgotten", "Shut Up Kiss Me" is an uptempo electric affair that positions Olsen in total control. Olsen strikes the perfect balance of flirty and fun with badass independent woman who knows what she wants and has no problem demanding it.

Conveyor - "Caul", Ready Not Ready
Considering Conveyor always seemed to work on an album whenever I saw or heard from them, the hold up with Ready Not Ready was kind of an unexpectedly long one. And yet upon listening to it, it's not hard to see why: its essentially represents their work as band together. The band is as weird and self referential as ever but also just so good operating at peak performance with masterful efficiency. One of the first songs that I fell in love with years ago far before they were even ready to talk album details was "Caul". TJ Masters has cited Paul Simon as an influence as it's not hard to hear that here on the sunkissed track. It also features horn arrangements that fit perfectly with the bands interlocking guitars and elevate the foursome's already excellent musicianship to an impressive level.

Deerhoof - "Debut", The Magic
While I might have remembered Deerhoof's latest album too late to fairly give it a slot on my favorites list, Deerhoof still manage to amaze with their ability to keep pushing their sound forward innovatively and with freshness without completely blowing everything up or resorting to gimmicks. How they've manage to do this for the better part of two decades is equal parts musicianship, hard work, and magic and I for one am excited that they continue to do so.

Flock Of Dimes - "Everything Is Happening Today", If You See Me Say Yes
The journey from Jenn Wasner's first single to her debut full length album as Flock Of Dimes has certainly been a long one filled with detours with other projects and occasional releases to tide fans over. Though none of those releases made it onto the full length record they're still not only good as standalone single but also to gauge how Wasner's project has grown and develop. "Everything Is Happening" however is one of the singles released when the album had taken shape exploring, much like Wye Oak track "Watching The Waiting" released the same year, new beginnings. It's a stunner featuring lovely musical moments both big and small as well as some incredibly inspiring lyricism that demonstrates that Wasner's producing talents are on par with her lyrical prowess.

Hundred Waters - "Show Me Love" (Skrillex Remix) ft Chance the Rapper, Moses Sumney & Robin Hannibal
Since the initial leak that Skrillex was working on a remix of "Show Me Love" I was excited by the possibilities. Regardless of how you feel about his music Skrillex is an incredible producer and the idea that he would be visiting a track from definite faves Hundred Waters was thrilling. Add the news that Chance the Rapper was involved and I didn't have words to quantify my excitement level. Nevermind that "Show Me Love" is sparse and lovely and really incapable to being improved upon. I really didn't know. The Skrillex remix of "Show Me Love" is beyond anyone's expectations of what the song could be. It's a vertiable who's who of Hundred Waters' favorite musicians and collaborators who all do their very best to elevate the track to untold levels of brilliance. Everyone's crucial to the point that Hundred Waters essentially create a whole knew song built from the thesis statement of the original album opener. It's the gift that keeps on giving as each collaborator reveals themselves and practically forces you to replay it over and over; the hallmark of a truly great track.

Jenny Hval - "Conceptual Romance", Blood Bitch
I don't think there's any artist as skilled with doing so much with just a thought as Norwegian experimental artist Jenny Hval. And yet Blood Bitch is her fourth such venture and it's becoming incredibly clear that Hval's brilliance can't be some strange fluke (not that I ever thought it was). Blood Bitch continues Hval's winning streak on intricate but minimal carefully crafted art pop. "Conceptual Romance" is my humble opinion one of Hval's best songs not only on Blood Bitch but that she's done so far. Hval is not the type to revel in sentimentality and her moments of beauty often come with a price like a musical Hulder. "Conceptual Romance" is a sort of rarity in Hval's oeuvre as a love song. It's not without it's moments of intellectualism but ultimately affection wins out in its purity surviving Hval's attempts to deconstruct, examine, and otherwise dismiss it.

Julia Jacklin - "Small Talk", Don't Let The Kids Win
Introduced to the Sydney singer/songwriter from tourmate and fellow Australia based singer/songwriter Marlon Williams, I was immediately taken by Julia Jacklin's understated folk rock. She's sure to draw comparison to Laura Marling or Angel Olsen but she's firmly and fondly her own woman. A student of songwriters, Jacklin's songs feature simple yet effective turns of phase and she's efficient in her storytelling. "Small Talk" was an instant favorite off her very excellent debut album Don't Let The Kids Win for that very purpose. It's sparsely arranged surging forward in the choruses and pulling back in the verses. More than that it's so wonderfully wry. Even as she tosses and turns and rethinks decisions in the narrative, Jacklin is one cool customer, fully in control as her voice cranes and bends amidst placid guitars and mellow drums.

Landlady - "Electric Abdomen", The World Is A Loud Place
With Landlady releasing not one or two but four singles not only before the year's end but ahead of record The World Is A Loud Place's January street date, the Brooklyn based who's sophomore record Upright Behavior charmed and inspired essentially guaranteed they'd have a song on our favorites list. But it's definitely a slot they've earned. "Electric Abdomen", the opening track from their forthcoming record highlights exactly what's so deeply enjoyable about Landlady. Their brand of intricate, intelligent, and soulful funk pop is at its most infectious and well crafted on "Electric Abdomen" and you have a hard time non succumbing to the urge to dance.

Living - "Cerulean", Living EP
Maybe there's something in the waters of Bergen, Norway that leads many of their bands to seek musical escapism in music from warmer climates. Whatever the case Living the project of producer Lucas de Almeida is following in the footsteps of Young Dreams in their tropical infused pop with a noted difference: where Young Dreams embark on lush, symphonic journeys, Living now a four piece band with de Almeida at the helm keep thing firmly confined to guitar, bass, synth, loops, and samples. The result is a much different sound despite similar sources of inspiration for Young Dreams' Matias Tellez and Living's Lucas de Almeida. "Cerulean" was the first song I heard from Living as their self-titled EP was just beginning to take shape and it's arguably their best foot forward. Recalling Princeton's Rememberance Of Things To Come albeit without the string flourishes.

Marissa Nadler - "Janie In Love", Strangers
While Nadler's self-titled album and "In You Lair, Bear" still hold the place as the definitive favorite of her work, Nadler's subsequent offerings have come incredibly close to overthrowing them. Strangers, the follow up to her most personal record July, finds Nadler back in familiar territory spinning engaging narratives that aren't quite so close to her own life. The appeal of "Janie In Love", the introduction to Strangers, lies in how it elevates Nadler's sound to a heretofore unreached level of grandeur. Nadler, even when writing and performing with a full band, opts for a more minimal approach than the driving lushness of "Janie In Love". It's a winning decision that demonstrates Nadler's ability to find new ways to push her sound forward seven albums in.

Moses Sumney - "Lonely World", Lamentations EP
Thank heavens for having friends who are also seeking out the most exciting things to listen to. If not for the tip several years ago from Hundred Waters and their subsequently booking him to play at their music festival FORM Arcosanti not once but two years in a row I probably wouldn't have heard of Moses Sumney. Although with appearance on both James Blake and Solange's new albums it might not have stayed that way for long. What makes Moses Sumney so truly distinct is in his raw vocal power. "Lonely World" is cavernous and his vocals make the most both of it's expansiveness and the cacophonousness that Sumney uses to fill the space. Sumney relies almost exclusively on his higher register and it's a marvel at just how much he can do with it.

Porches - "Be Apart", Pool
Brooklyn indie rockers Porches. are the latest in a wave of bands abandoning the hallmarks of their characteristic sounds for remarkably different sounds. In the case of Aaron Maine he's steered the band towards the electronics of his synth pop project Ronald Paris and Pool is a similarly synthier affair. I've always preferred Porches. at their meaty darkly textured rock best on cuts like "Skinny Trees" and "Permanent Loan" and yet in their reinvention "Be Apart" ended up capturing my attention perhaps far more than any other song on Pool. Perhaps it's the similar dark pop articulated through different instrumentation. Maybe it's the fact that the lyrics are far more hopeful than the song's arrangement leads you to believe. One thing is clear it's the best example of what Maine's minimal synth pop can and should be.

Psychic Twin - "Lose Myself", Strange Diary
Patience is a virtue. That's especially true when you're waiting for new music from an artist you like. Psychic Twin's journey to a full length album has been more of a marathon than a sprint. Cross country moves, shifting lineup, and time spent tinkering away on production. But finally it's here and it comes in like a god damn wrecking ball. Strange Diary is an emotive statement: the slow gestation and resolution of feelings past, present, and future dealt alternatively with restless urgency or placid calm. "Lose Myself" is one of singer/songwriter Erin Fein's moments of flight: soaring vocals, lucid introspection, inescapable synth pop catchiness. It's pitch perfect musical escapism with bite.

Radiation City - "Sugar Broom", Synesthetica
For Radiation City's latest effort they had all the ingredients for a great album: listlessness, fatigue, a break up, a reconciliation. But while some bands are handed excellent emotional material to work with it takes a capable songwriter and even more capable band members to turn it into something worthwhile. Synesthetica essentially capitalizes on all of Radiation City's potential amped up both out of the urgency of Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison refusing to let the project fade away and also their newfound method of letting the songs gestate naturally before bringing them to the rest of the band. One of the highlights of Synesthetica is "Sugar Broom", an incredibly catchy number that combines Radiation City's dips into the surreal, autobiographical lyrics, and their genre blending. It's a lesson in less indeed being more and succeeds based on the simplicity of its melodies and the band knowing exactly how to complement Ellison.

Salt Cathedral - "Lift Me Up", Homage EP
There are few act capable of surprising me with each subsequent release as Brooklyn based Colombian duo Salt Cathedral. From their days as tropical prog pop quintet il abanico and their name change and Salt Cathedral EP to their pivot to electro pop and OOM VELT EP Salt Cathedral are constantly pushing themselves in new an exciting directions that even their most devoted of fans couldn't possibly predict. And that's how Salt Cathedral arrived with "Lift Me Up" a cut from their two song b-sides EP Homage. It's a stuttery, sample-laden dance jam that essentially shakes up their sound in an exciting way. Still rooted in their much appreciated constant of Juliana Ronderos' emotive vocals, Salt Cathedral essentially aim for the rafters in terms of the song's stature. Essentially a sort of musical experiment, it's incredible that Salt Cathedral can make songs of such grandeur without sidelining their love of pop and ultimately makes their upcoming full length even more of a mysteries. The sky's the limit for Salt Cathedral and they prove it with "Lift Me Up".

Sofi Tukker - "Matadora", Soft Animals EP
Since accidentally stumbling into their set at CMJ 2015, dance pop duo Sofi Tukker have managed to keep everyone's interest by releasing great single after great single eventually culminating in their debut Soft Animals EP. "Matadora" just happens to be my favorite song from an EP where each song is easily slated to your favorite. In "Matadora", Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern's strengths are at their most infectious: Hawley-Weld letting her nerdy side out and adapting a poem from Brazilian poet Chacal (a continuing source of lyrical inspiration for Hawley-Weld) and the production incorporating Spanish guitar flourishes and horns skillfully for flavoring while still relying on big danceable beats. It's Sofi Tukker at their best: minimal, careful but confident ensuring you head back for extra helpings.

Sondre Lerche - "I'm Always Watching You",
Though he's always been known as a bit of a pop connoisseur, perhaps the most characteristic quality to Sondre Lerche's music has been the interesting chords he affixes his songs. On "I'm Always Watching You", Lerche assumes a logical next step and goes fun on pop, laying down his jazz and tropicalia infusions for a tune that owes far more to the 80s pop he also grew up on. Add an inventive song subject and you've got the winsome appetizer to his forthcoming full length Pleasure out next year. There's no telling how the rest of it will sound but "I'm Always Watching You" combines the experimentalism of Please, the wit of Two Way Monologue, and the uninhibited badassery of Phantom Punch all seasoned with the experience of current day Lerche.

Sylvan Esso - "Radio", "Radio"/"Kick Jump Twist" 7"
Considering their backgrounds in folk outfits Amelia Randall Meath and Nick Sanborn are probably the last people you'd expect to start a electronic act and yet if their amazing self-titled debut proved anything it's that the two are unique suited to the task. While the duo have spent the time post album exploring out musical outlets (Sanborn returning to his electronic moniker Made Of Oak), the duo have promised a follow up is in the works and delivered a taste in the form of new single "Radio" and it's subsequent 7" pairing with "Kick Jump Twist". "Radio" is so catchy that it's incredibly easy to miss the message. It wasn't until setting it down and returning to it months later after many many frequently listens that I could hear and analyze the lyrics. Much like "Hey Mami" critiques catcalling and the culture around it, Sylvan Esso create on the most catchy radio-friendly tune to critique radio culture. If their "Slave to radio" chorus and it's frequent references to the ideal radio song length wasn't enough (it wasn't enough for me), "Do you have the moves to make it stick, yeah/to get the clicks, yeah" sets up the viral nature of some of the most popular chart topping pop songs. Sylvan Esso are fond of pop music so it's unclear if the critique is meant to be scatching or constructive but ultimately it turns out to be excellent fodder for one of their best songs to date.

Tiny Ruins & Hamish Kilgour - "Hurtling Through", Hurtling Through EP
The work of Tiny Ruins' Hollie Fulbrook and The Clean's Hamish Kilgour meeting up randomly in New York, Hurtling Through marks a decidedly more experimental direction for Tiny Ruins. Kilgour's percussion imbues Fulbrook's poetic prose with rich timbre while Fulbrook centers Kilgour's more chaotic tendencies. "Hurtling Through" is a meeting of mind and musicians who are remarkably different but finds the subtle overlap between them.

Uni Ika Ai - "Make You Better" Keeping a Golden Bullseye in the Corner of My Mind
Uni Ika Ai are that rare band that comes out of nowhere that is exactly what you're looking for. Composed of members of several other Brooklyn bands, the fact that they're so good at playing together is no surprise. However the fact that they could put together an album that's challenging and weird with crystalline moments of pure pleasure is. It's a indicator of a truly good band and "Make You Better" is the best song I can think of to illustrate exact how the band fits together. It is their most accessible but also the most demonstrative of the group's tight knit precision and the power a song gets when everyone believes in each other's skill and trusts them to do their part. "Make You Better" is all wild guitar patterns and unceasing forward momentum. Something far harder to execute than the rugged experimentalism that characterizes much of the group's debut album.

Weyes Blood - "Do You Need My Love", Front Row Seat To Earth
For her latest effort Natalie Mering recalls the pristine songcraft of 1970s California and the result is a bewitching collection of songs. While Front Row Seat To Earth is an incredibly engaging record as a whole I found myself returning to the dramatic grandeur of "Do You Need My Love" time and time again. Lyrically it's simple and yet mysteriously vague but bursting with raw emotion. On an album of winsome introspective moments, "Do You Need My Love" with its cinematic end credit like arrangement charms by virtue of its epicness. Even lyrically Mering pulls no punches "I felt your body scream to be set free". It's a song of thrilling contradictions: a big set piece with finale quality down to its fade out yet firmly in the middle of the album. Intimate despite it's silver screen aspirations and the grandness of its arrangements. Emotional stirring despite its elusive vagueness. It's a study in contradictions and a perfect piece of methodically craft folk pop all the same. Mering is at her best and so it's bound to be the surefire favorite of anyone lucky enough to happen upon it.

Young Dreams - "Of The City"
Initially introduced to their music via singles from Sondre Lerche, I've been a fan of Norwegian orchestral pop quintet Young Dreams for awhile now. While there were originally plans to release a new album this year, they ended up scrapping the entire album. Luckily for us, producer Matias Tellez saw potential in one of the tracks and after deciding that it just needed new dressings we were gifted with "Of The City" which expands the quintet's sound in a big way. The band's tropical symphonic pop gets a bit synthier and the results is a wonderful alchemy of sounds both futuristic and classic.