Monday, September 25, 2017

Listen: Twain - "Little Dog Mind"

photo by Nina Westervelt
Last month Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Twain released "Solar Pilgrim", the first single from his upcoming album Rare Feeling. If I hadn't had the privilege of seeing him perform several of the tracks live the strength of the single would've been enough to make me deeply invested in the album. With the album release getting closer Mat Davidson has released "Little Dog Mind", the studio version of a song Davidson did for La Blogotheque that I stumbled upon after I first saw him last year when he was still firming up album details.

On "Little Dog Mind", Davidson turns his focus inward. Instead of ruminating on love like much of Life Labors in the Choir or wondering what lies ahead of him in the future/the afterlife on "Solar Pilgrim", Davidson tries to wrangle his wandering thoughts. It's a pretty universal feeling: catching your mind drifting to other things when you want to/have to focus on the task at hand and one that Davidson is probably intimately familiar with when he's trying to write songs. So he hashes it out with the offending party much like you might try to reason with a child or the song's titular "little dog mind". Davidson, who's probably best characterized by/as the heart, almost playfully chides the mind. He's aware he's in control but his method of authority is winsome persuasion: "You're just like a little dog running away from me/little mind I'll catch you every time" Davidson sings and it's sure to put a smile on your face. Davidson manages a beautiful balance of emotion and charm with an invigorating display of songwriting prowess that both utilizes and subverts typical conventions.

Twain's sixth album Rare Feeling is out October 20th on Keeled Scales. You can pre-order the limited hand-printed vinyl from Keeled Scales now and other editions (digital, CD, cassette) will be available on the release date. Twain is also playing several dates with Langhorne Slim later this week so make sure you catch him if you can.

9/26 NYC - Bowery Ballroom
9/27 Washington, D.C. - Sixth & I
9/28 Philly - Union Transfer

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Listen: Landlady - "Share a Tree"

After releasing one of my absolute favorite collections of songs earlier this year in third full length album The World Is A Loud Place, Brooklyn quartet Landlady have released a new set of songs: a cover of Al Green's "Love And Happiness" and an original song by the name of "Share a Tree". Unfortunately, the release comes on the heels of some pretty devastating news for the music industry in the passing of Those Darlins' Jessi Zazu Wariner. Though based in Nashville, Jessi Zazu fostered a sense of community that extended far beyond her city. Landlady have always stuck out to me as a band who go beyond the standard expectation of just releasing good songs and playing good shows but a band that really seeks to build a sense of community both among the musicians they come across and befriend and musicians they know already but also among showgoers new and old. A lot of that is in a similar spirit to Jessi Zazu and Schatz has shared "Share a Tree" in tribute to her. The song is for and about her and the somewhat tricky nature of collaboration in general and it has her personal seal of approval. 

Though it was written and recorded some time ago, it follows in line with Landlady's distinct of brand of dynamic soul pop. It's a song that is almost endlessly patient: padding along at a comfortable walking tempo. After nearly the length of a regular song, the band surges forward and the focus shifts from Schatz' narrative plodding to a sort of instrumental showcasing chasm where Schatz is freer to do emotive ad-libs and more actively engage with the rest of the band. It's a development section that's no doubt inspired by Landlady's time together and their actual ability to play together. It's probably much more evocative of the spontaneity of a Landlady live set than the band have leaned into before but really speaks to the subject matter as the band break out into an full on jam for nearly half the track. It's delightfully cathartic and hopefully as inspiring at it's intended to be towards motivating you to take stock in the simple joy of community. 

You can donate to the Jessi Zazu memorial fund with proceeds going towards helping her family with funeral costs and anything extra going to a charities that she supported. You can also grab "Share a Tree" as well as their "Love and Happiness" cover from Landlady's Bandcamp. And if you haven't already make sure you listen to Landlady's brilliant third album The World Is A Loud Place

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pitstop: Truth Club

I've always been strongly of the opinion that the true magic of a music festival lies not in the big name acts - the acts people know for a fact are good and enjoy but in the discovery of smaller acts that are perhaps far easier to miss. Hopscotch has made it both easier and harder to prove this assertion as they do a very good job booking so many interesting acts to so many interesting venues that you're torn between where you want to and where you should be. Raleigh's own Truth Club are a band I caught based purely on word of mouth from locals. When I asked everyone their plans for the penultimate day of Hopscotch everyone was sure to leave time in their schedules for Truth Club and I made sure to do the same.

The thing that intrigued me the most about the Raleigh trio lied mostly in the voice of singer/guitarist Travis Harrington. Among angular guitar melodies, surging tempos, and shifting dynamics, it's the one thing I found myself returning to and focusing on. Despite how many times you listen to any Truth Club song (and currently there aren't very many), you never quite get a sense of predictability from Harrington's vocal leaps. Truth Club sit at the intersection of pop punk and indie pop but never quite show their hand with where they're pulling influence in a particular song. Harrington's vocals are dynamic: whether their craning, or proceeding with a start-stop clip like a skipped stone they dictate essentially where the songs can go. That's not to say that the band aren't capable of truly intriguing instrumental moments: they are. Truth Club's song are made of an impressive assortment of these little memorable moments like the sudden cacophony in "Post-FOMO Life" or the drum hits that seem to punctuate the end of each of Harrington's thoughts on "Hi From C.A.". Despite their simple, standard setup, they play and write music with an air of maturity that's somewhat unexpected. Maybe that's due to past experience (Harrington was a member of Wilmington's Astro Cowboy) but one thing is clear: the band are sure to captivate from their very first note.

Truth Club's debut release Interest Meeting, released earlier this summer, is out now. You can grab it at a pay-what-you-want rate on Bandcamp.    

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Listen: Night Idea - "Perfect Water"

Richmond, VA quartet Night Idea are, like a lot of my favorite bands, a completely accidental discovery. Kingston, NY psych pop duo Shana Falana had invited me to a show of theirs at nearby Quinn's in Beacon, I went, and visiting openers Night Idea with their updated take on glacial, expanding prog rock instantly charmed me. The foursome displayed a level of technical proficiency obviously required for their genre of influence but their network of intermingling mathematical patterns erred on the side of accessibility. Their style of song construction allows you to see the various layers increasing in density in real time. 

"Perfect Water", the first single from their upcoming album Riverless, both builds on the band's established familiarity and tour-hardened precision while also making the most of effects that are enhanced in a studio. If you listen to the track through headphones or aloud through legit speakers you can hear moments of the band's diverse panning. 

"Perfect Water" also finds Night Idea at almost a full-on thaw. Their pacing remains creeping and furtive but there's no denying a pick up in momentum and surging intensity. On previous effort Breathing Cold, Night Idea balanced expansive prog rock odysseys with more radio friendly track lengths and "Perfect Water" essentially finds a comfortable balance between the two: an intricate full band showcase that dabbles in a similar avant pop sensibility to contemporaries like Palm or early SoftSpot. 

"Perfect Water" spotlights a Night Idea equally at home with their sound and capable of pushing it forward to display newer strengths. That bodes exceedingly well for Riverless and I'll certainly be anticipating how other singles feed not only into the concept of Riverless and the sudden drought that motivates much of narrative of the album but how Night Idea rely on their instrumental capabilities to flush out and intriguing concept. 

Night Idea's sophomore full length record Riverless is out October 13th on Gigantic Noise/Citrus City Records. CD/Digital copies will be available from Night Idea via Bandcamp while limited edition 12" pressings are available for pre-order now from the Gigantic Noise webstore here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pitstop: Glad Hand

One of the greatest thing to come out of Leeds outfit Adult Jazz (aside from their distinct brand of expansive, lush art-pop) is the fact that they have very talented friends whom they constantly try to uplift. It's probably the closest an outside listener halfway across the globe can get a sense of what kind of music scene Adult Jazz are a part of. While fans may have been introduced to Kyle Molleson's project Makeness not only through his place of several mixes but also through his collaboration with Adult Jazz's Harry Burgess "Other Life" last year, London foursome Glad Hand are another band worthy of knowing. Fellow school companions (and featuring Kyle Molleson of Makeness in their roster), Glad Hand make a sort of ephemeral, texture rich experimental pop that's not too far away from what fans of Adult Jazz are sure to be looking for. But Glad Hand are more than mere Adult Jazz soundalikes. While not quite as rooted in dance as bassist Molleson's Makeness, Glad Hand songs are prodded along their wide, cavernous expanses by interlocked grooves and singer/songwriter Declan Pleydell-Pearce's sinewy vocals give the songs much of its mutable character.

Their debut album Be Kind, released earlier this year, contains a collection of songs made up of intriguing sounds and timbres and percussion to create a sort of captivating mirage pop. Songs like "Been One Thing" or "Shape Your Fever Close" which brush right up against their pop sensibilities recall early Wild Beasts while tracks like album opener "Undone" is much more characteristic of the band and the album in its sumptuous slow burn. The album is made up of these incredible moments of quiet tension and release. There's dynamic musical peaks but each songs manages to be engaging in its own right and hold your attention even when there's not an obvious amount of things going on instrumentally that ultimately makes album ender "Eavesdropper" with its sparse, almost a capella opening feel well and truly earned.

One of Glad Hand's strengths is not only its synthesis of ideas but also the sum of their individual talents: Dan Jacobs' jazz percussion, effortlessly subtle production, and the elasticity of Pleydell-Pearce's enrapturing vocals. The most surprising thing about Glad Hand is not its subtlety but that they manage to create all these pockets of silence or open sound that draw you further in. Glad Hand are minimalists and considering their standard rock band setup the could easily fill all the space but they don't. The spaces, the silence, the slow unfurling of their songs and the lack of musical drama are what set them apart from other outfits like Wild Beasts. For Glad Hand not only is less more but it can be an obsessive and rewarding focus: like how a snare rolls can form the backbone of an entire song. Be Kind is a multi-layered album that reveals more and more of itself with each listen. It's a record that draws from progressive genres like jazz, prog rock, and occasionally contemporary classical to translate its lyrical subjects of the phantom self, unreciprocated love, and self-doubt musically into a swirling miasma of disorienting effects and sounds.

Glad Hand's debut album Be Kind is out now as a pay-what-you-want download via their Bandcamp. A physical 12" featuring "Shape Your Fever Close" and "Been One Thing" as well as remixes from Glad Hand's Dan Jacobs and Makeness is also available from Handsome Dad Records.