Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Listen: Son Step - "Mutual Assurance"


When last we heard from Philadelphia experimental pop purveyors Son Step, they had offered up new ears, a 5 song collection of songs featuring collaborations from drummer Ben Sloan, and now they're releasing another collaboration with vocalist Sophie Coran in the form of "Mutual Assurance". Based on the idea of mutually assured destruction - the deterring strategy that the use of nuclear arms would result in the annihilation of all in an attack/counter-attack. Much like new ears "Hissing Sauna", "Mutual Assurance" plays on the anxiety of living in the modern era and turns it into a dance jam. Son Step write an apocalyptic dance track that stresses the interconnectedness of us all. "Your loss is my loss", Joel Sephy Gleiser sings amid a cushion of harmonies provided by bandmate Jon Coyle and Sophie Coran. It's a track that really puts the last two years into perspective - how heavily intertwined the lives of everyone is. How reliant on our neighbors we are for collective care. And so while Son Step are inspired by nuclear disaster and the last party on Earth - there's also a sense of fun - swirling synths and keyboard flourishes rise and fall along the processed beats. 


"Mutual Assurance" is out now and available for purchase on Son Step's Bandcamp.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Listen: Sondre Lerche - Summer In Reverse (ft CHAI)

photo by Tonje Thilesen

As the release of Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche's first ever double album Avatars of Love approaches, the artist's tenth full length studio album, Lerche's choice of singles have revealed a rather eclectic album - from the feat of longform songwriting of "Dead of the Night", the art pop of "Cut", Lerche's latest, a collaboration with Japan's CHAI, finds Lerche returning to the summery Brazil-pop reminiscent stylings that he's most known for. Sonically recalling Pleasure standout "Serenading In The Trenches due in part to drummer Dave Heilman's start-stop snare, Lerche's latest single is a beguiling contender for a song of the summer even as Lerche name-drops each subsequent season - the track is playful both in its interplay between Lerche and Heilman, and Lerche's lightly self-effacing lyrics. Lerche's love songs tend to favor grandeur - easily feeling like they can anchor climatic scenes in a movie romance but here, Lerche's take is a tad-bit more grounded and slightly humorous as he details the mundane - snacking on leftovers from a party, sorting through your tax receipts, as a contrast to the incredibly vibrant feelings of love and infatuation. Those feelings are still very present, mind you, in the technicolor shades of Kato Ådland's programmed string flourishes. "Summer In Reverse" is essentially about expectation - Lerche pines for a love for all seasons not just the freshness of a new love. "We should get together every summer and make each other miserable all Fall, can you only love me in the Summer or never at all?" Lerche asks. And despite the quippy nature of it, it's a sincere ask - can you love me in harsher seasons than the bright, fun-filled summer? Than the first stage of enamoration? 


Sondre Lerche's tenth full length studio album, the double album Avatars of Love is out April 1st. You can pre-order the either physical or digital versions of the album now.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Listen/Watch: Night Moves - "Fallacy Actually"


Minneapolis' Night Moves may have three excellent albums under their belt but if there's one they know their way around, it's a single. Their ability to craft an absolutely infectious ear worm had me practically salivating for a track "Border On Border" nearly five years before they offered up a proper recording on sophomore record Pennied Days and with their latest album Can You Really Find Me in their rear view, the band has not only holed up to write/record, they've decided to release said songs in series - instead of holding onto them until an album manifests itself. That's good news for old fans and new fans alike because "Fallacy Actually" is a pitch perfect entry of the band's trademark pop psychedelia. From the moment it starts, with its incredibly ear-catching melody crafted on layered synths and piano - the band immediately hooked me. The arresting blend of harmonica, guitar, and flute, effortlessly soundtrack John Pelant's nostalgic reveries as he ponders the true end of things and what could've been. The songs titular fallacy places emotions against learned experience - Pelant's back and forth between if he could do things differently countered with the fact that the knowledge came from such a flawed experience: "Stopped trying to love you anyway I can because it's all lies" Pelant croons but quickly follows it with "If I could see you again, the hand that holds you, well it's all I talk about, I've known nothing new".  The track is positively decadent - luxuriating in its most winsome moments, building its layers and momentum, weaving in and out of lush arrangements and neatly tucking in a sumptuous guitar solo.

 The track is a dizzying rush of emotions - an ebb and flow of the head versus the heart, and the band's use of synthesizers and Pelant's eclectic of influences (Canned Heat, Motown, UFO abductions) evoke both the confusion and temptation of settling back into a relationship you've outgrown as well as solidify the band as more than your garden variety 70s psychedelic rock revivalists.  

Night Moves' "Fallacy Actually" is out now on Domino.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Dead of The Night"

photo by Tonje Thilesen

Around the time of his 2014 album Please, Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche essentially abandoned his established songwriting formula - writing about 20 songs between records before narrowing them down in pursuit of somewhat continuous form of songwriting that where each album kind of feed into each other. The result was Please, Pleasure, and Patience, a series of records that form a sort of loose trilogy but feature songs that were all developed sometime in the seven years between Lerche's self-titled sixth album and the end of the last year's Patience. While covid lockdowns forced many bands/artists to essentially buckle down and explore new methods of music making and music sharing, Lerche was fortunate enough to be able to return to his native Norway where he was able to both tour rather extensively as well as work on new music with his regular collaborators. "Dead of the Night", the first single from what fans can all assume is a forthcoming album, is a taste of Lerche's Norwegian return. Clocking in at 10 mins long, it eclipses the album ender "Things You Call Fate" from his debut Faces Down as his longest track, while also continuing an ongoing trend of Lerche taking his pop sensibilities and using them to explore long form songwriting. 


"Dead of Night" slowly unfurls, Lerche taking listeners on a detailed tour of feelings felt and experiences experienced in the late night hours. Much like "Why Would I Let You Go", Lerche's aim is largely narrative, not necessarily in hooks or choruses and "Dead of the Night" is a smörgåsbord of verses - though not without its share of quasi-hooks. It's a song that nods to the themes of Please, Pleasure, and Patience without really indulging in them itself; for every mention of the body, of pleasures sought, rejected, or indulged, there's a forward momentum that carries you through - they're merely landmarks on scenic ride Lerche's embarking on. Lerche essentially takes his greatest strengths - his ability to craft incredibly relatable songs and his succinctness while doing so and flips them on their head - it's Lerche at his most narratively exploratory and his least committed to traditional song structures - instead offering up a lyrical fantasia that still taps into the visceral. "We're living in the dead of night in the hope that we might inspire another ending", Lerche croons, and even among its expansive sprawl, among its numerous twists and bends, still manages a concise encapsulation of the song's true takeaway.

Sondre Lerche's latest single "Dead of The Night" is out now.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Listen: Son Step - "Hissing Sauna"



Considering the range of sounds on Philly experimental pop trio Son Step's last album Fossilillies, I should hardly be surprised at the difference between "New Ears" and new track "Hissing Sauna" and yet, considering how mellow their previous single was, I certainly didn't expect such a dance-floor ready track to come from the same EP. As emotive a set piece as "New Ears" was, Son Step operates best when everyone is given their time to shine and everyone certain does here - especially guest drummer Ben Sloan. Where keyboardist Jon Coyle took the lead on "New Ears", this time Joel Sephy Gleiser takes the reins - though their trademark harmonies and layered vocals are still very much present. Inspired by Unknown Mortal Orchestra's "I Can't Keep Checking My Phone" as well as the multitude of dystopian tales of Black Mirror, Gleiser weighs the consequences of the constant state of connectedness our phones give us. It's a crisis numerous artists have tackled as the digital landscape continually introduces new way to keep people engaged and Gleiser wonders if it's all worth it. "All that I can be is in this thing concealed, all that I can be can never be revealed, when the feeling of an image disappears what does it mean to feel", Gleiser croons at arguably the most toe-tappingly energetic moment of the song - as Gleiser essentially asks if our reliance on technology is desensitizing at the same moment the song compels you to dance. There's simultaneously a "pay no attention the man behind the curtain" feeling to the track's embrace of outright pop at it's most climactic moments and a "spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" approach. 

Son Step's New Ears EP is out October 8th. You can pre-order it now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Listen: Kristine Leschper - "Something Like An Exit"/"Figure & I"


Originally starting as a solo artist in Athens, Georgia before adopting the moniker Mothers, it seems as though singer/songwriter Kristine Leschpher is returning to creating music under her own name. While last year Leschper realized track "Something Like An Exit" as part of a pretty expansive 30 song covid-19 fundraiser for Kasra Kurt and Ada Babar's Nino Tomorrow label, Leschper has also announced new single "Figure & I". 

From the earliest days of Mothers, Leschpher has returned to the body as a songwriting subject and both "Something Like An Exit" and "Figure & I" share that focus in different ways. In "Something Like An Exit", accompanied by a soft bed of synths, Leschper sings about catching her own reflection. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces - in this case a window, are treated as portals outside of the self even as you use them to view the self. The song buoys between whether that's necessarily a good or bad thing - "whats the point? Building yourself a beautiful box with no entrance". Whether you're preening yourself in a mirror or fully accepting how you look in it, there no escaping your own body. Where that was used for drama in Mothers' "Beauty Routine", here it's delivered as a soothing admission.

 "Figure & I" is perhaps the most succinct Leschper's been with her words. "Figure and I, it's not always hard to find time to be alive" are the track's lyrics and she delivers them in different inflections, with clapping and vibraphone providing percussion. It's brief, it's vague, but transfixing - there's no answers to the question the lyrics raise - even as Lescpher, with the aid of Sammy Weissberg and Garrett Blake craft a multi-layered dream-pop tapestry.

"Something Like An Exit" and "Figure & I" are out now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Listen: Son Step - "New Ears"

photo by Gab Bonghi

When I was introduced to Philly based experimental pop outfit Son Step, I was taken by the rush of sound Jon Coyle and Joel Sephy Gleiser could create. I had first seen them live as a duo in a period of transition but you absolutely couldn't tell. Armed with a series of synthesizers and their interwoven vocals, they filled the room but their sound was also distinct - kaleidoscopic layers and life-affirming lyricism, Son Step effortlessly craft fantastical reveries that transport and uplift. Now, two years after the release of their brilliant album Fossilillies, return once more with New Ears. Enlisting Ben Sloane in place of long time percussionist Matt Scarano and written by guitarist Chris Coyle, "New Ears" the eponymous track from their upcoming EP, is a gentle lilting lullaby that explores a softer, more mellifluous style of their vibrant, percussion laden dream pop. Articulated through Jon Coyle and Gleiser's vocals, Chris Coyle lyrics channels Son Step's characteristic exuberance towards a sense of familiarity and comfort that both acknowledges a sort of futility in trading in definites and relief in knowing that things change. "Step into my garden, it's bare but it has started, hey I'm growing now" Coyle and Gleiser assure and reassure. Maybe it's the strip backed arrangement, while still engaging in some intriguing textural layering that's soothing enough to quiet the most racing thoughts. 

Listen to "New Ears" from Son Step's forthcoming EP of the same name out October 8th.