:: Foxes in Fiction - Altars ::

Ontario Gothic, Foxes in Fiction’s followup to his 2010 debut Swung From the Branches, was released just this past Tuesday. As a record over three years in the making it makes sense that each track is labored, detailed, and fleshed out to reach its maximum potential. It’s a record that was well worth the wait and seems to get better with each listen.

After repeated plays of Ontario Gothic it feels like Altars is the heaviest track on the record, both lyrically and sonically, serving as an appropriate closer for the album. Altars also showcases a lot of what makes Warren’s music so special. Not only are these songs personal and intimate, but Warren also crafts these sorts of large open spaces in his music. A lot of the beauty in Foxes in Fiction comes from the lush atmospheres Warren is able to create. While it almost feels effortless when listening to Ontario Gothic, a quick look at the track details on bandcamp, and of Altars specifically, reveals all of the work he put into this record. Countless vocal contributions, samples, and instruments were used to create this song but after everything is put together nothing feels out of place. All of the textures present blend into something almost breathtakingly beautiful. If anything, this record is a testament to how detail oriented Warren is, something that was already obvious considering his and Brian’s work with Orchid Tapes.

Perhaps the most important part of Altars is the line “In dreams he’s still there.” It feels like one of the most accurate depictions of loss in music I’ve heard in a long time. Loss is something we can learn to deal with but never really get over. We learn how to live with it but whoever it is we’ve lost still exists. They’re still there and we never forget them. It can be painful to have these sorts of constant reminders of someone who isn’t around anymore, but in some ways it’s also comforting. No matter what happens they’re still there, in dreams or in memories.

Purchase a physical copy of Ontario Gothic through Orchid Tapes right here or grab a digital download through the link below.

:: Download / Photo ::

:: Seismograph - In Holy Abyss ::

Earlier this week Seismograph, the solo project of Jonathan Ioviero, announced the followup to 2013’s Azure Drift. The new record, Tundra Divine, will be released this November on Snowbeast Records.

Tundra Divine's first single, In Holy Abyss, is a nine minute piece that sort of works in movements. There are passages that are connected thematically and through these subtle transitions that form this consistent end product despite the stylistic changes. Guitars shift from quick picking patterns to more subdued moments where they act as an accompaniment as opposed to the driving instrument. At other moments keyboards and synthesizers take control of the song leaving out guitar completely. Drum machine sections also shift focus, at times being recessed toward the back of the track and at others jumping forward to offer the necessary drive to a movement. The bass lines make similar shifts throughout the song. What’s so impressive is how seamless these transitions are and how easy Jonathan makes it sound.

The true beauty found on In Holy Abyss comes from Jonathan’s ability to make tracks grow. Things become more layered and complex as the song progresses and as a result more textured and atmospheric. Jonathan creates a very open space here and that gives him the opportunity to keep adding elements. When all of these elements sort of fall into place (which happens countless times throughout the track) it becomes apparent how great he is at composition. This proves that Jonathan creates the kind of music that requires a close listen. This is a song that will sink in after repeated plays.

Tundra Divine will receive a cassette release on November 4th through Snowbeast Records. There aren’t any preorder links available yet but it’d be wise to keep an eye on the Snowbeast Records site.

:: Download / Photo ::

:: Rivergazer - Lonely ::

Last month saw the release of Rivergazer’s debut full length Random Nostalgia. After a few plays these songs have really burned in and now I can’t stop listening to this record.

Random Nostalgia's opener, Lonely, has been on constant rotation since I first heard the album. It features some of my favorite arrangements on the record and it highlights some of Kevin’s sharpest songwriting. The opening guitar lead is catchy and memorable and recurs throughout the song which makes for a lasting impression. However, it’s the more subtle touches on Lonely that really make the song. The airy, almost haunting synth lines that run in the background and understated cymbal swells give the song the atmosphere the writing calls for.

This track also features some of the strongest lyricism on this record. Kicking off an album with, “I am not afraid of anyone. All I worry about is my own ego," is pretty heavy but it’s also extremely admirable. Lonely also highlights the fact that Kevin has a way of saying a lot with a few words, mostly because of his delivery. “All my friends are lonely" wouldn’t be as powerful in another artist’s hands but in the context of Kevin’s voice and the atmosphere of this track, it comes off a lot more meaningful than it usually would.

Random Nostalgia is available digitally through the link below. Father / Daughter Records put it out on vinyl which can be found here, and Seagreen Records put out the tape which you can pick up here. Alternatively, both of those can be purchased directly from the band at shows.

:: Purchase / Photo ::

:: Haunter - June ::

Earlier this month Otherworldly Mystics released a tape for Haunter’s self titled EP (not to be confused with the self titled release on their bandcamp from 2012). Since my first listen I’ve found myself constantly revisiting it, finding warmth in these songs.

June, the opening track on this tape, is a slowburning shoegaze gem. There’s a sort of magic in the way this track progresses, opening with a thick guitar lead that feeds directly into heavy distortion. The fuzzed out sections on this track feel powerful, partially because of the steady percussion backing them, but what’s beautiful about June is how things retreat back into quieter (and slightly darker) movements. The way the vocals glide over gentle guitar lines creates a sort of eerie atmosphere on this track. All of this, of course, also plays well with the typical shoegaze elements you’d expect, namely the obscured vocals, but none of these elements feel cliche in Haunter’s hands.

As a whole Haunter works because the band is able to make these slow paced songs interesting. They build on sounds and textures to keep the tracks engaging, but they’re still tracks you settle into. You don’t just listen to these songs, you live in them and let them surround you for as long as they play. It might take a few listens for these tracks to stick, but the patience is definitely rewarded.

Haunter is available both as a digital download and cassette through the link below. Give their older material a listen at their bandcamp page.

:: Purchase / Photo ::

:: Sea Oleena - If I’m ::

Times goes by pretty quickly, doesn’t it? When Lefse Records shared the first single from Sea Oleena’s Shallow, her followup to Sleeplessness, I checked her bandcamp page to see how long it’s been since she last released a record. The fact that it’s been over 3 years caught me by surprise, especially considering that she had released Sleeplessness the year after her self-titled. Even despite this gap, listening to If I’m just proves that this wait was worth it.

If I’m features all of the key features of previous Sea Oleena songs, simple, yet effective pianos, Charlotte’s angelic vocals, and a strong sense of ambience. The key difference here is that everything feels pushed further than any of her previous work. Of course the shift in production helps this point, but even in terms of instrumentation things feel more fleshed out here. Charlotte’s ear for crafting beautiful textures feels heightened, which honestly didn’t even feel possible before. The addition of strings on this new song pushes Charlotte’s songwriting into new territory, providing rich and lush textures to an already beautifully structured track. Her effects choices prove useful as her vocals shift from full and upfront to sort of distant and filtered. The more typical effects are found on this track too, like delays and reverb, but Charlotte’s execution of these effects is flawless.

The second half of this track drops off into ambient territory and the transition is seamless. The way the track pulses and then flows freely into a combination of delayed guitars and strings is extremely smooth and feels like a natural progression for the song. Pair this with gorgeous harmonies and layered vocals and If I’m really proves itself to be something special.

Shallow is set to be released on September 30th through Lefse Records, making this Sea Oleena’s first vinyl release. Grab a preorder of the record here.

:: Stream / Photo ::

:: Trace Mountains - buttery sprouts ::

A little over a year after releasing his first EP under Trace Mountains, Dave Benton (of DDW/LVL UP/Spook Houses) has released the project’s first full length. The album goes by pretty quick, clocking in just over 20 minutes at 7 tracks, but it manages to pack a lot in that short amount of time (along with a Beyonce cover).

The album’s title track, buttery sprouts, has been floating around in my head since my first listen. Acoustic guitars bounce under layered vocals which creates a sort of ghosting effect. Following this we’re presented with a set of swift transitions from that bouncing intro to a pretty picking pattern and then to a distorted, fuzzy electric guitar. I could go on but the point is that this track is filled with these sorts of seamless transitions that feel right at home. The same can be said of Elaiza’s (Whatever, Dad/Crying) vocal contributions. Her voice slides effortlessly into the song and then joins Dave’s and it feels as if it was there all along. Everything on this track is in harmony and flows together perfectly. It all sort of happens faster than you realize and that’s the main reason why I find myself constantly revisiting this track, though that’s not to say that the songwriting isn’t just great in general.

Grab Buttery Sprouts digitally through the link below. There’s no word on a physical release at the moment but let’s hope for something soon.

:: Purchase / Photo ::

:: Adult Mom - Route '59 ::

About a week ago Stephanie Knipe released Sometimes Bad Happens, the first Adult Mom EP to feature a backing band. Along with the addition of a full band comes a notable upgrade in production. Both of these additions allow Steph’s songs to truly flourish and make the entire EP really lovable.

After countless plays of Sometimes Bad Happens I keep finding myself really stuck on Route ‘59. It’s a song that highlights everything I love about this EP. While the guitars here are simple, they’re more of a platform for Steph’s songwriting than anything else. They allow playful bass lines to grab your attention and push things forward as Steph’s vocals float over it all. She has an ear for writing extremely infectious vocal melodies that get stuck in your head instantly. There’s a lot of simplicity but it’s all so intelligently written. Everything meshes together perfectly and makes you focus on the stories that are being told.

Thematically the EP as a whole covers things like relationships, love, friends, growing up, etc. While these aren’t new topics to write about the way they’re written about here is what’s important. Steph’s songwriting is very honest and personal. The way she tackles these topics allows these songs to rub off on you and that’s why it all works.

You can grab a cassette copy of Sometimes Bad Happens from Miscreant Records here or buy a digital copy (only a dollar) directly from Adult Mom through the link below.

:: Purchase / Photo ::

:: Painted Zeros - Polar Night ::

I was lucky enough to catch Painted Zeros play a set as a part of 1.21 Gigawatts Festival just this past weekend. Not even two songs into the set and I knew I was watching what would end up being one of the highlights of the day for me. Regrettably, I didn’t pick up a tape before I left for the night but the following day I grabbed a download of the S V A L B A R D EP and it’s been on heavy rotation since.

Polar Night, S V A L B A R D's second track, hits every sweet spot for me. The song quickly fades in and then kicks off with explosive percussion. Katie's guitar work is engaging, not just loud for loudness' sake. There's an edge and harshness in the guitars that seamlessly shifts into otherworldly picking patterns. All of this really stems from the fact that Katie Lau is just a fantastic songwriter. The melodies and chord progressions in this song, and while we're at it the EP in general, are so intelligently written it's hard to ignore them.

The biggest key to this song, however, is its intensity. Nothing here holds back and it really sells the track. Katie delivers every line with passion and aggression and when she spits lines like, “a will to survive fighting a death drive. it’s okay, it’s alright," life feels worth living again. All of this is raging under a thick layer of fuzz and noise as if every element on this track is fighting for attention. It’s rough around the edges but that’s hardly a complaint. It feels necessary at this point.

Black Bell records released S V A L B A R D on tape and you can grab that right here. You can also download the EP for free through the link below.

:: Download / Photo ::

:: Los Angeles Police Department - She Came Through (Again) ::

Los Angeles Police Department, aka Ryan Pollie, released the single from his upcoming debut record just 2 days ago, but in that time it’s managed to become one of the few songs I care about now.

She Came Through (Again) is deceptively simple in its presentation. Strumming patterns are straight forward and the vocal melody immediately feels familiar and welcoming. What this track does pack is a strong feeling of intimacy, both in its instrumentation and vocal delivery. It almost feels like you’ve known Ryan all your life and he’s telling you a story here. The verses on this track are short and sweet but they fit the format of the song fantastically.

While stylistically this song follows a rather simple approach, the texture work here should definitely be noted. Acoustic guitar strums play over more subtle, underlying electric elements and the result is an overall sense of warmth. The same ear for subtlety and warmth is applicable to the moments Ryan layers his vocals. The first verse serves as a perfect example in the way the second set of vocals almost feels like a whisper over the first. There are just so many rewarding little details in this song and as they all add up it makes for an extremely enjoyable listen.

Los Angeles Police Department’s self titled record is set to be released September 5th and can be purchased from a few sites. US Tape preorders can be grabbed via Chill Mega Chill while UK/EU orders can be placed through GoldFlakeTapes. If vinyl is your thing, Forged Artifacts will be putting the record out on a 12 inch and you can preorder that here.

:: Download / Photo ::

azul toga - song one

azul toga (Jon Clowdus) put out his EP, #1, earlier this year, a collection of hazy, loop based pop tunes. Since its release I’ve found myself regularly revisiting these tracks and they seem to get better the more I listen.

song one, the EP’s opener, layers synthesizers over drum machine beats to create something that still feels lush despite its simplistic structure, and while a song that’s built on synthetic elements could end up cold and sterile, the production here feels warm and even intimate. With music that’s loop based there’s always a risk of coming off impersonal or lazy but with azul toga neither of those worries feel true. There’s still plenty of detail in these loops and the delivery of these tracks feels genuine. The vocals definitely help here, with Jon delivering catchy melodies under a thick layer of reverb. There’s a warmth in his voice too, which fits right in with the rest of the track and fills in the empty spaces perfectly. The repetitive nature of the songs on this EP just never really feels like a problem, likely because Jon hits a sweet spot in track length and the songs never run for longer than they’re worth. You actually feel inclined to listen again as soon as a song is over.

Track and Field Records gave #1 a cassette release which you can find right here. Digital downloads can be found through the link below. 

Purchase / Photo