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.

 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Listen/Watch: Macie Stewart - "Finally"

photo by Ash Dye
 

When I was introduced to Chicago experimental rock duo Ohmme a couple years ago, I remember reading that singers/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart were accomplished musicians in their own right who kind of found each other and birthed the band. While just hearing how their voices and their guitars seamlessly intertwine is certainly enough to back up that assertion, I was surprised to discover that unlike Cunningham, Stewart hadn't released a solo album. Fortunately that changes with "Finally", the first single from Stewart's debut Mouth Full of Glass. "Finally" is an introspective reverie, simultaneously sparse and lush featuring collaborator Lia Kohl on cello, as Stewart effortlessly balances violin, guitar, and vocals. Even as the track builds in intensity, there's a pervasive gentleness both lyrically and in Stewart's arrangement, as Stewart gently takes herself to task - "I'm wrong and I know it, but not willing to show it", Stewart sings and it's the lightness of the delivery that sets the stage - Stewart doesn't need to be brusque or forceful to get her point across, her tenderness is reassuring in an of itself. "Finally" is a song about coming to face to face with realizations but avoids the obvious drama that could wrought from it with something a little more unexpected. It's a meditation on the self - and the track expands into a wider lens, a clearer picture like a thought taking shape. It's a graceful blooming that evolves into increasingly sensuous sounds and which Kohl perfectly encapsulates in lyric video she crafted for the song. 

 

Macie Stewart's debut album Mouth Full of Glass is out September 24th on Orindal Records. You can pre-order the record on limited edition glass or black vinyl, cassette or digital here

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Listen: Nat Baldwin - "All We Want Is Everything"

photo by Elisabeth Fuschia
 

While most people are probably familiar with Portland, Maine based singer/songwriter Nat Baldwin as a member of Dirty Projectors, it actually wasn't until I had heard "Weights" and sought out his album People Changes that I realized that was the case. And in actually, it was Lands & Peoples and the fact that they had played a show with Baldwin that brought him to my attention. And through the years, Nat Baldwin has continued to deliver after that initial surprise. Though he's released more traditional singer/songwriter records, Baldwin is also a gifted improviser and last year he released a trilogy of records entitled Autonomia wherein he explores more experimental forms of music making. And as if that wasn't enough for Baldwin, this year he announced the release of another collection of songs in the form of the Common Currents EP. 

Nearly eight years after In The Hollows, Baldwin's last songwriting effort, "All We Want Is Everything", the album opener and opening track arrives with something to say as Baldwin transmutes his politics into song. Despite the solitude of recording solo bass in the empty Apohadion Theater in Portland, there is a warmth in Baldwin's delivery that manages to subsume the sparseness of its creation. As Baldwin sings of communal action transforming the present, his mellifluous vocals coax visions of bright futures and slain masters. It's equal parts abstract work-song and protest music: a call to action to both envision the future of your dreams and mold it into being. While not everyone has Baldwin's vocal prowess, it's easily a song you can hum or whistle as you go door to door informing neighbors of the latest propositions in your local elections and I can envision Baldwin doing just that. 


Nat Baldwin's tenth solo album Common Currents is out July 9th on Dear Life Records, you can pre-order the record now.