Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Listen: Emily Reo - "Strawberry"

photo by Brian Vu
It's been awhile since we've heard from Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Emily Reo and part of that is intentional. Since the release of her debut full length album Olive Juice in 2013 and the release of a 7" single for the enchanting "Spell" in 2016, Reo has been hard at work both working on an engaging follow up as well as lending her talents to a number of bands like Orchid Tapes labelmate Foxes in Fiction, Nadine, and Speedy Ortiz offshoot Sadi3. She's been incredibly vocal about the long and somewhat arduous journey between Olive Juice and now and how "Spell", the halfway point between, addresses Reo's mental health. "Strawberry", the first single from Reo's forthcoming album Only You Can See It, seems in tone to be the anthesis of "Spell", where "Spell" luxuriated in synth tones eventually allowing Reo's digitized voice to swallowed up in a wash of noise, "Strawberry" is a downright pop confection. Where Olive Juice was inspired by video games, pastels, and feelings of love, "Strawberry" instead is rooted in the very real concerns of the modern woman. But Reo is enough of a pop connoisseur and a skilled songwriter to know that the bitterest pills go down easy with a tiny bit of a distraction. Reo lists a multitude of things that not only she but pretty much every woman have to endure on a fairly daily basis - from the dangerous to the merely irritating: from street harassment to mansplaining.

Reo dresses her points up in buoyant, swirling synth tones and minimal amount of vocal effects, delivering her lines with a pitch perfect mix of righteous indignation and wry humor. "The days I've patiently waited while things I know are clarified or debated". Though her list of offenses are plentiful, "Strawberry" isn't just Reo griping about men but instead a call for women to be treated as equals. She also addresses how women are put down in the music industry - consistently asked if they're just someone's girlfriend at their own shows. "Strawberry" is a song about basic dignity and respect. To the point that Reo devotes a break down to it: "What do you deserve from me? N-O-T-H-I-N-G.". But while "Strawberry" is certainly an antithesis to "Spell", the building up of chorus and adlibs and verses and the layering of them all at the song's climax certainly recall Reo's previous single with Reo's "I can't feel anything" instead transfigured into an apt "I don't owe you anything".

Emily Reo's upcoming album Only You Can See It is out April 12th on Carpark Records. You can pre-order the record now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Listen/Watch: Bayonne - "Drastic Measures"

photo by Jackie Le Young
Austin multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer Roger Sellers has been creating music for practically his whole life while actively releasing it for the better part of a decade. Originally releasing his intricate minimalism-inspired loop-centric pop under his own name, when he re-released his album Primitives under the moniker Bayonne, things really started to take off for Sellers. In a way that has certainly left a mark on the man as his upcoming album, his second under the Bayonne moniker, Drastic Measures is about life on the road and balancing that with some sort of sense of healthy, normal life. While previous singles "I Know" and "Uncertainly Deranged" focused on what time on the road does to your creativity and relationships, "Drastic Measures" strikes a similarly bittersweet chord as the track bursts with exuberance all the while serving as an apology of sorts to Sellers' hometown friends and family that he never has a chance to see. It's incredibly clear Sellers is enjoying his life as touring musician - seeing sights he might not see if he was simply confined to Austin but as exciting as a drastic and constantly changing world is, Sellers pines for the simple comfort of home: of being surrounded by his loved ones. It's not a particularly new feeling - singer/songwriters have been tackling this subject for ages but the feeling is new to Sellers and he imbues in the track a refreshing sense of self - kaleidoscopic colors, heartfelt vocals, and instantly ear-catching melodies, all hallmarks of his work as Bayonne and beyond but handled with the deft touch of a deeply talented multi-hyphenate.

Appropriate given the subject matter, Sellers' music video for the track, directed by RUFFMERCY is awash in vibrant colors - placing a performing Sellers among a collage of varying places, constantly changing, rearranging. Nothing is particularly static but Sellers is the constant - performing with a sense of jubilant satisfaction with a backdrop of dizzying visuals meant to invoke Sellers' experiences on the road and intense touring schedule.

Drastic Measures, Roger Sellers' sophomore album under the Bayonne moniker, is out February 22nd on Mom + Pop. You can pre-order the album here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Listen: Thelma - "Take Me to Orlando"

photo by Grace Pendleton
Though I was introduced to her both in name and moniker at Waking Windows Portland 2017, it wasn't until almost a year later when she appeared as one of the openers  at the Brooklyn date of Molly Drag's Thumper album release tour that I was actually able to experience the bold, idiosyncratic stylings of Thelma's Natasha Jacobs. Immediately I was reminded of Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple, not necessarily because Jacobs has sought to sound like them but because of the particular way Jacobs ensures her vocals are indelible piece of her songs' multitudinous layers and exploratory timbres. "Take Me to Orlando", the first single from her upcoming sophomore album The Only Thing, is an excellent introduction to Jacobs' impressive vocal control as she performs flutters, leaps, shrieks, and squeaks. Jacobs employs the full range of her voice - switching between a coquette-ish whisper and a fuller voice - even if Jacobs never entirely changes registers. It's simultaneous furtive and confident - the sort of playful seduction employed when you're already attached.
Inspired by Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Jacobs' wrote "Take Me to Orlando" with both her own isolation and imagination in mind as she recovered from thyroid cancer and managed the chronic pain of her Ehlers-Danos syndrome, Jacobs writes and sings to an imaginary lover, her very own Orlando. Jacobs' plays with a theatrical sense of grandeur, aided in part by the inclusion of a string section, as she imagines a relationships build on mutual trust and understanding, pure in its illusion but aware of its design. Jacobs is able to conjure up an incredibly engaging dream world with surprisingly little effort - and not entirely exhausting a hell of a lot of her vocabulary to do so. Instead doing so through composition and omission. The core of "Take Me to Orlando" is not any of the details like how or why but instead just the feeling of wholeness and wholesomeness Jacobs' effortlessly portrays.

Thelma's sophomore album The Only Thing is out February 22nd. You can pre-order it through her Bandcamp here.