:: 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.

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:: 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.

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:: 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.

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:: 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.

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:: 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.

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:: 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.

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:: 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.

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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. 

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Alex G - Boy

At this point I’d be surprised if anyone who reads this would need an introduction to Alex G. Besides the fact that I’ve covered him before, Alex has been steadily releasing quality albums on his bandcamp page for a while now and has amassed a passionate fanbase along the way. DSU, his latest record, is proving to be his biggest so far.

Boy is the closing track on DSU and after repeated listens it proves to be my favorite for a lot of reasons. The lyrics here are a perfect example of how Alex’s seemingly simple lyricism cuts deeper than you’d expect. I’ve mentioned to friends that when Alex sings “Two babies, dangerous and free,” it hits me harder than almost any other point in this song. I’m still not entirely sure why this is the case but the more I return to that lyric the more I’m convinced it’s in the way Alex delivers that line. There’s almost a sense of longing in his voice, a desire to be free. Considering the themes Alex has covered in previous songs, this doesn’t seem too far off. This isn’t to say the rest of this song isn’t powerful. Alex later delivers lines about people you know growing into “static company” and of course the chorus to this track packs a punch too, but Boy definitely shows you that even the storytelling in Alex’s songs can be as powerful as the more clearly stated messages.

All of this ignores the fact that this song features fantastic melodies and some beautiful composition. The piano that plays off of the chord progression is executed perfectly, though beautiful piano work from Alex isn’t anything new. Subtlety is Alex’s biggest strength and it’s really highlighted at moments on Boy when guitars start to layer over each other adding complexity to the seemingly simple instrumental. He’s always had that ear for detail and it’s helped him craft songs that are easy to listen to but are still extremely rewarding under close inspection.

The ending of Boy definitely needs to be acknowledged too. The brief piano outro is cut off suddenly, in a sort of it’s over before you know it way. It actually feels like one of the most important parts of this song, and of DSU as a whole, a call back to some of the statements Alex makes throughout the record. It only makes sense that the album that kicks off asking about what’ll happen “after ur gone” would end before you’d expect.

DSU is available to download now through the link below and if you want a physical copy, Orchid Tapes has done a third (and maybe final) vinyl pressing as well as a cassette. Grab one before it’s too late.

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Bellows - For Rock Dove

Bellows, the songwriting project of Oliver Kalb, dropped Blue Breath earlier this month and since its release I’ve had trouble finding time for other music.

Blue Breath's opening track, For Rock Dove, kicks things off with a sort of highlight reel of what’s to love about this record. Engaging guitars with these small flourishes fueled by hammer ons and pull offs, a strong sense of ambience that lurks behind the instrumentation, tight harmonies (Provided by Gabriell Smith aka Eskimeaux). They’re all present on this song. More importantly, the songs on this record have range and emotional depth. They have high reaching peaks and utilize dynamics in a way that really push their messages. Every song feels like a trip, making the album feel like a journey. The songwriting is consistently strong and at times irresistibly quotable. The catchy chorus in For Rock Dove still packs an emotional punch because of its lyricism and Blue Breath as a whole finds Oliver’s songwriting constantly striking that balance between charming, catchy melodies and hard hitting lyrics. I’d keep writing but I don’t want my words to distract anyone from how beautiful this record is.

Dead Labour is set to release Blue Breath on wax in August but you can preorder it right now through this link. Mutt Tapes did a small cassette run for the record too and you can buy one of those right here. If you want digital, just grab it through Bellows’ bandcamp at the link below.

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