Thursday, May 25, 2017

Listen: Francisco The Man - "I'll Feel Better"

It's been 2 years since Los Angeles indie rockers Francisco The Man released arguably one of the best songs you're bound to hear in "Progress". And also their very excellent debut full length Loose Ends. And if their latest single "I'll Feel Better" is any indication their sophomore effort Bodies in the Sun is bound to be just as excellent if not more so than the first. "I'll Feel Better" finds the shapeshifting foursome comfortably dialed in on their poppier element and locked in with each other. After an attention-grabbing elongated chord entrance, the band surge forward with Scotty Cantino's downy vocals holding their own against the band's pretty relentless forward plod. Considering the band have been playing together for the better part of a decade, it's hardly surprising to find the band so in sync and able to highlight each member's individual strengths but it's worth noting because a lesser band would swallow Cantino's vocals up entirely. That or they might tiptoe around them to make sure they were always in focus. But "I'll Feel Better" finds Francisco The Man picking right up where they left off, it's a fast-paced power pop jam featuring remarkably clean playing and absolutely infectious energy. It's a band recharged with a hell of a lot more to offer and I for one can't wait to hear more.

Francisco the Man's sophomore album Bodies in the Sun will be out later this year.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Listen: Saintseneca - "Book Of The Dead On Sale"

Saintseneca's Zac Little has always been drawn to big ideas. He's spun big philosophical moments and catchy folk pop out of the kind of weird thoughts you might have right before sleep comes. So when a video of his friend's narcoleptic cat Remi went viral, it's hardly surprising that Little's first thought was how much time is a million views? It's a big thought that no one ever really thinks about when they're watching silly internet videos but Little did the math and it equated to something like three years. And unsurprising to anyone familiar with Saintseneca or Little's knack for combing through these wonderfully random thoughts and attaching them to bigger revelations, he wrote a song about it. "Book Of The Dead On Sale" is a song inspired by the adding up of all the seconds and the value of that time. Time has different value to everyone and Little essentially ponders that. Not just time but money as well. "$38 on the Book of the Dead felt steep oh but then again how do you put a price on ancient wisdom?" Little sings and essentially questions the value of anything. How do you know how much something is worth? Is it the buyer or the seller who decides? Do people realize how many seconds they're devoting to this video of a cute kitten falling asleep? Do they realize enough people have watched it that it adds up to more time than the kitten's been alive? These are all questions that Little offers in sometimes direct and in other times roundabout ways. "The Book Of The Dead On Sale" is short but sweet. Aiming for the philosophical fences without taking itself too seriously. I mean it's hard to write a song about a viral cat video and not find a way to have fun with the conceit.

Saintseneca are about to go on a North American tour with Tiger Jaws and are an amazing live band so definitely make sure you catch them on tour.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Listen: Palm - "Shadow Expert"

While Philly experimental rockers Palm introduced listeners to their upcoming Shadow Expert EP with lead single/opening track "Walkie Talkie", their latest, the title track "Shadow Expert" might be more representative of what the band is trying to achieve on this EP. It is easily their most accessible track thus far. Where "Walkie Talkie" paired their memorable melodies with abrasive blasts and disorienting tonal shifts, "Shadow Expert" is a much more straight forward affair. But despite it's pop designs, the foursome still revel not only in their engaging interplay but also in their pretty characteristic rhythmic complexity. Running her vocals through effects, "Shadow Expert" is a lilting piece of slightly off-kilter pop that even in its simple route to the finish, doesn't quite let you get there surefooted. There's always a sense that something might occur at any moment; the listener ready for whatever may happen, never quite expecting what's to come. Though the band maintains a coherent clarity, the song's relentless buoying recalls the lapping of ocean waves and the band's locked in grooves direct the song's momentum similarly. 

"Shadow Expert" in its consistent melodic clarity harks back to the band's earlier days of music-making to songs like "No Tribute" which effortlessly balanced atypical rhythms with ear-catching songcraft. Obviously the band are pushing their sound forward but it feels not unlike a momentary check in with a younger version of themselves to find that some interests still remain and updating them to correlate with newer interests. "Shadow Expert" is the best of both worlds: Palm at their most infectious but never quite giving a sense of predictability nor simplicity and it's a surprisingly good sound for the band. "Walkie Talkie" and "Shadow Expert" essentially show the Palm is capable of great versatility and pairs together opposites in a way that's not only coherent but also incredibly exhilarating.

Palm's upcoming Shadow Expert EP is out June 16th on Carpark Records. You can pre-order it now.

Listen: Friend Roulette - "Joan"

Brooklyn experimental chamber pop sextet Friend Roulette are back after a little bit of a break. Since the release of their very excellent Grow Younger EP in 2014, they've been relatively quiet playing shows in Brooklyn and going on tour in different configurations of their normal six person lineup. "Joan", the first single from their upcoming EP finds the group in repose. It's a rare moment for the band who normally pair moments of tranquility with dynamic tonal shifts. Part of that lies in the fact that the song isn't totally there's. "Joan" and the whole of their upcoming EP are songs written and composed by an old friend of theirs, Matt Sheffer, who wrote and recorded songs ardently and shared them with the band only to decide they weren't worth sharing with the rest of the world. Friend Roulette's history is intrinsically linked with that Sheffer. Take Grow Younger's "Kitty Song", the psychedelic romp is equal parts Friend Roulette's technicolor arrangement and Sheffer's wonderfully weird lyricism. Much like Grow Younger and their sophomore full length I See You. Your Eyes Are Red., Friend Roulette's greatest leaps forward in sound occur when they're mining their rich history and The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 aims to be no different.

"Joan" is a down tempo number much like "Or Berlin" or "Rocket Dog", and though arranged for the band's diverse instrumentation, Julia Tepper is still given the spotlight soaring easily above the sparse accompaniment. Songwriters Matthew Meade and Julia Tepper have always had an affinity for ballads and through adapting Sheffer's song for their own use, they craft a stunning work of emotional quiet. It's a breath of fresh air from a band who is normally at home mired in relative chaos and by upending pop norms in favor of interesting moments that subvert expectation. "Joan" is as typical as Friend Roulette are probably ever going to get and even in that uncharacteristic restraint, they continue to push their sound forward by stripping it all back and laying it all bare. The Matt Sheffer Songbook is a tribute to a friend that's been a driving force behind the band and by letting "Joan" stand pretty much on its own merits, the band highlight Sheffer in a way they really haven't before.

Friend Roulette's upcoming EP The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 is out June 16th on Pretty Purgatory. You can pre-order it now and if you order the cassette you get Matt Sheffer's original demos which have never been released before.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Listen: Logan Hyde - "Sleeping Bear"

With the culmination of Trevor Powers' Youth Lagoon project coming to an end last year, one of the most surprising things to come out of it may have been Boise guitarist Logan Hyde's solo debut Innocence. Inaugural singles "My Only Friend" and "Bloated" were practically spun from the same gauzy bedroom psych that defined much of Powers career but Hyde's efforts were more than a mere sonic carbon copy. They were reminiscent in a way that two musical compatriots with much in the way of influences and artistic ideas might be; based on similar source material but seeking out and achieving different end results. Recorded in the summer of 2014 (but not actually released until 2015), Hyde's project was much more rooted in the present than Powers' nostalgic reveries. Watermelon, the latest album from Hyde, is essentially further proof that Logan Hyde's worthy of much more than Youth Lagoon comparisons.

Beginning with a shimmering instrumental opener, it's a synthy sepia colored sound bath that informs much of the rest of the album. There's a ton of winning moments on the album but perhaps my favorite lies in stand out "Sleeping Bear". For an album composed mostly of warm tones and soft textures, it's a delightful bit of dream pop inspired revelry. It's constantly shifting - casually trotting around lovely musical moments and employing a vast array of different sounds. For a song called "Sleeping Bear" it doesn't really linger - shuffling from melody to melody; moment to moment, and never really giving much thought to going backwards. Even reoccurring moments aren't quite handled like you'd expect - they appear in new configurations: sung out on a new instrument, under new effects, at a higher musical vantage point. Compositionally, it's positively lush and handled with both meticulous care and reckless abandon. Lyrically, Hyde manages to do a lot with very little. Offered up with the quiet of a children's bedtime story and paced very much like one, Hyde attaches a personal narrative to events that aren't exactly rooted in real life or even reality in general. Even establishing the narrative frame and in story consequences, Hyde doesn't do much in the way of explaining and the song achieves a sort of magical realism quality: the fantastic and unlikely treated very much like normal occurrences. It's a song that relies far more on its various instrumental breaks to carry much of it and it succeeds based predominantly on how much Hyde offers there. There's a wealth of musical moments that could be explored further but Hyde takes only what he needs and keeps the ball moving.

Logan Hyde's sophomore album Watermelon is out now and available for a pay-what-you-want rate at his Bandcamp.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hundred Waters - Currency EP (2017)

When they released their newest single "Particle" earlier this week, Los Angeles based art pop collective Hundred Waters gave every indication that new music was on the horizon. Fortunately for fans that time is both now and later as the threesome stealth released a five song EP and have plans to release their third full length album sometime later this year. While the release of "Particle" certainly allowed for some speculation on the sound of their new album - the fact that it's one of several new songs featured on the EP (along with "Everywhere" a snippet of which was featured in a video announcing year 4's batch of FORM Arcosanti artists) is thrilling in that it essentially throws the little fans/listeners have come to expect right back into the murky unknown. The band have never been ones to repeat themselves and each release has been handled with cohesive care.

Hundred Waters' music as unlabelable and sidestepping in genre as it is has been firmly rooted in the electronic element. Much of the appeal of their self-titled record laid in just how elastic they treated the borders of acoustic and digitized sound, blurring the lines with various timbres. Its tapestry of textures arranged with monastic devotion and universal resonance that it was almost hard to believe it was real. As Hundred Waters' have grown over the years since their debut, they've given themselves over more and more to computerized sounds - enlisting a number of electronic leaning artists to rework songs, putting out EPs, and even a whole remix album featuring those works. The Currency EP is by all accounts a very logical step in the band's growth, and first single "Particle" featured a much more concrete synth pop direction and Hundred Waters seemed to take all the trappings and hallmarks of EDM and work them into the song. But Hundred Waters have from their onset been a band not like any other and even their dip into more straight forward pop was handled in a way uniquely their own. "Particle" combines Nicole Miglis' delicate vocals and emotion-stirring lyricism with production that's constantly in flux - at times simple and sparse and others multitudinous and lush. There's a push-pull for much of its duration often directly in line with the swing of certainty/uncertainty captured in Miglis' lyrics. The powerful lovelorn moments aiming high for the stratospheric and being given plenty to fit the expanse; the moments of devastated doubt coming down and hushing the rush of sounds. It's not hard to see why it was selected as a single: it's dynamic. Fraught with raw emotional thoughts and feelings.

But Currency begins with a moment of quiet. "Jewel In My Hands" begins with a soft chime that's much more morning-sun-peaking-through-your-bedroom-window than bedside alarm. It's a gentle start as Miglis' actual lyrics seek to rouse you: "Wake up, come on, go on, get up, get out of bed you're tired but this is most extraordinary" Miglis coos and essentially jumpstarts an adventure. It's a work of beguiling restraint - managing to build its various layers and sense of forward momentum without actually needing to raise its volume. It forms an interesting parallel with its succeeding track "Particle" which begins in a similar whisper but branch off in decidedly different ways. "Jewel In My Hands" seeks to retain that feeling of stage-whisper throughout eventually achieving a climactic break from the hushed state where "Particle" is more inclined to move through peaks and valleys.

The most surprising thing about Currency may be in how many different switch ups in sound occur.
Album closer "Currency", the track that gives the EP its name, feels not unlike a The Moon Rang Like A Bell outtake. It's siren-like effect as well as Nicole Miglis' vocal cadence easily reminiscent of "Cavity" where "Takeover" is the most percussive of Currency's tracks and starting out there, it's never quite able to shake that initial harshness. Or rather it never really tries to. It's another straight forward pop song but one far more rooted in live instrumentation than "Particle" if not the whole of Currency. Where much of Currency seems to either pick up directly after The Moon Rang Like A Bell or seek to move on from it, "Everywhere" recalls the dream pop of Hundred Waters' self-titled debut. It's a rare moment where Miglis' lyrical narrative doesn't dictate the direction of the song. Instead Miglis' vocals soar above, adorning the swirling vortex of sounds as it sprawls ever outward. It has an endless quality to it that the band acknowledge by essentially never trying to end it - letting it fade out.

As a whole Currency is a wonderful addition to Hundred Waters' growing catalog. It manages to experiment with the group's ongoing efforts to push themselves forward creatively and hints at both potential directions to them to take and roads not traveled. Wherever Hundred Waters' new album lands, Currency is sure to operate as a benchmark release as a document that captures where the band were creatively after The Moon Rang Like A Bell. That's not to say that it's much more worthy of comparison than The Moon Rang Like A Bell which was a wondrous record that pushed Hundred Waters in so many unexpected directions but the strength of songs like "Particle" and "Jewel In My Hands" is hopefully a sign of things to come from a band who is delightfully hard to predict and is absolutely enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end over and over.

Hundred Waters' Currency EP is out now and available to stream/buy/download from your preferred digital retailer.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Listen: Will Stratton - "Manzanita"

photo by Josh Goleman
While he hasn't exactly remained quiet since the release of his previous, very underrated album Gray Lodge Wisdom in 2014, singer/songwriter Will Stratton hasn't officially released anything since. A couple outtakes and demos yes that were only available to listen to/download for an incredibly limited period of time. But Stratton's been hard at work on his follow up and in little less than a week that batch of songs will be out entitled Rosewood Almanac will be out on Bella Union.

"Manzanita" is the second single from Rosewood Almanac and unlike previous single "Some Ride", it eschews the sparse arrangement in favor of a much more upbeat, full band sound. "Manzanita" is wonderfully life-affirming, a celebration of continued existence and the joy gleaned from little life moments. Though Stratton's six albums into his career, "Manzanita" still manages to be delightfully refreshing, pleasurably simple even as it gathers steam and becomes more intricate in its arrangement. "Manzanita" is absolutely resplendent, gliding along effortlessly as each new voice - backing vocals, piano, strings, saxophone all add exponentially to the track's feeling of jubilation. It's sure to be an album standout on an album full of absolutely winsome moments.

Will Stratton's upcoming album Rosewood Almanac is out May 12th on Bella Union. You can order the album here or digital here.

Listen: Hundred Waters - "Particle"

It's hard to believe it's been three years since the last album from experimental pop outfit Hundred Waters but the trio have had their hands in a number of exciting adventures since sophomore record The Moon Rang Like a Bell. The most intensive of which was the creation of the own music festival FORM held out in Arcosanti, Arizona. The festival enters its fourth year this year and the band has been for the most part elected to debut new songs during their sets there. Last year not only did they do that - playing an entire set of new material they were workshoping but they also sated fans eager for more with the intensely collaborative "Show Me Love" remix. The project was helmed by Skrillex but featured a number of FORM alum/friends of the band and also Chance the Rapper.

Now, however the band seems ready to dispatch a brand new set of tunes into the ether and new single "Particle" is our first taste of what to expect. Where Hundred Waters have essentially spent their past two albums evading easy genre labels, "Particle" is perhaps the easily classifiable track to come from the band offering up Purity Ring recalling electro pop. Despite the band diving deeper into the digital element, Nicole Miglis continues to shine as a beacon of Hundred Waters' sincere human element even when it is occasionally delivered through effects. Miglis' vocals are more versatile than ever - holding their ground and pushing fearlessly forward amid synth sweeps and epic drops. "Particle" is Hundred Waters are their most accessible, a surefooted EDM banger that still manages to retain Hundred Waters most characteristic strength: the effortless blend of the natural and the electronic.

Hundred Waters' upcoming album will be out later this year. Until then listen to "Particle" also available for free download.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Listen: Frankie Broyles - "Seward Park"

photo by Michael Calyer
Since the end of his band Balkans back in 2012, Atlanta guitarist Frankie Broyles has kept himself busy: a solo 7", becoming a member of Deerhunter, reuniting with Balkans earlier this year. And now with new track "Seward Park", Broyles has announced his debut solo EP Slow Return out later this month on Skeleton Realm.

Much like "Capturer" "Seward Park" retains the garage-y jangle that characterized much of Broyles' earlier output with Balkans but with noticeably softer edges. Where "Capturer" sprawled ever outward slowly amassing an assortment of various sounds and effects, "Seward Park" is considerably more straight shooting. Broyles music has never particularly fallen into the harsher side of garage rock but on "Seward Park" there's a reliance on melody and brevity that's more typical of pop than Broyles has ventured towards in his past efforts. Broyles' production has also leveled up as "Seward Park" glides forward with an even-keeled smoothness that was somewhat lacking on "Capturer"/"Color Set". It all bodes very well for Slow Return which will no doubt feature similarly svelte jangle pop.  Thankfully the wait is rather brief as the EP streets in just two weeks.

Frankie Broyles debut solo EP Slow Return is out May 15th on Atlanta's Skeleton Realm. You can pre-order it on CD here.

Listen: Palm - "Walkie Talkie"

Philly based experimental foursome Palm are among one of my favorite bands making music today for a host of reasons. Arguably the most reoccurring is the band's ability to metamorphose. While the space between their records is never that extreme, there's always the sense not only that they're at least a record ahead of their most recent output but that they're constant pursuing new and exciting sounds in a way that really invests the listener. The Palm captured on their upcoming Shadow Expert EP is at a drastically different place sonically than they were on their first EPs despite a time difference of only a couple years.

"Walkie Talkie", the first single from Shadow Expert, is easily one of the band's shortest tracks and still they manage to jam-pack it with a variety of tonal shifts. Its intro is simultaneously sparse and aggressive; heaviness building and then evaporating to clear the way for guitarists Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert's continuous melodic baton passing. Their guitars interweave effortlessly despite not only the complexity of the rhythms but the shifting meter. The band are relentlessly locked in moving as a unit much like a flock of migratory birds even as the band purposefully vaults into moments of harsh disharmony. "Walkie Talkie" is characterized by these harrowing moments of musical daredevilry; pairing the complicated mathematics with pure borderline pop melodic songcraft. It's a song constantly at odds with itself shifting through various shapes and colors and deploying each member as a part of its array of timbres. That's more or less always been Palm's m.o. but "Walkie Talkie" and Shadow Expert the band show that foreknowledge doesn't dull the impressiveness of their musical feats and that there's plenty of room for them to experiment and grow in a sound that's already intensely experimental. That unpredictability is Palm's greatest strength and singlehandedly stokes the fire of anticipation for new music. Luckily for fans and new listeners alike Palm are always quite ahead of themselves.

Listen to "Walkie Talkie" from Palm's upcoming Shadow Expert EP out June 16th on Carpark Records. You can pre-order the EP now and also catch them on an extensive North American tour with Palberta supporting the EP. Tour dates here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Listen: Wilder Maker - "New Streets"

Well we've certainly been out of the loop. Since Brooklyn's Wilder Maker's brilliant sophomore effort Year of Endless Light, they've gone on to release three (three!) EPs in the following two years. While the EPs were certainly good enough not to escape my notice I still managed to completely miss covering them. "New Streets", the second in Saddle Creek Record's ongoing Document series, is the first taste of new music from the band since the third and final volume of Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire dropped at the tail end of 2015. Though the band has certainly kept busy since then with shows and other projects there's no denying a sense of refreshing ease in "New Streets".

Part of the feeling lies in shelving singer/songwriter Gabriel Birnbaum's rumbling baritone in favor of Katie Von Schleicher's softer vocals. It's a change up that's not totally unheard of for the band but one that's deployed rarely enough that it's still an ear-catching treat. Another is the sense of new, bright beginnings the song invokes with its upbeat arrangements especially given the languorous heartbreak jams of Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire.

On "New Streets" Wilder Maker are back in their genre-blurring groove combining the best bits of Birnbaum's jazz saxophone roots with a casual trotting rock pop. Where much of Year of Endless Light and Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire fell mostly in Americana territory with it's pedal steel and slide guitar, "New Streets" aims at a broader sound. Though it's shorter than most of Birnbaum's longform ruminations, "New Streets" earns each and every moment of its nearly four minute track length. From its instrumental intro that gives Von Schleicher her initial melody, its a veritable band showcase. Wilder Maker are in top form; catchy but just the right amount of unpredictable as they gradually build and disassemble their various complementary layers. Von Schleicher is a charming lead vocalist and the band provide not only a strong display of talents and potential tonal growth but also one of those wind-in-your-face driving jams quintessential to the summer soundtrack. It's a rather good look for them and one they hopefully have plans to revisit between their more longform efforts.

Listen to Wilder Maker's new single "New Streets". Digital singles are available now while physical 7"s ship around June 1st. You can order/pre-order here.