photo courtesy of serena wagner

“i needed you to break my heart / but you didn’t really” is a sliver of vulnerability from eric charles christenson.  the central lyric in his newest song as two castles, “bonfire,” repeats itself three times, each with varying levels of clarity and timbral accompaniment.  paired with thematic crackling white noise and thick, dirge-like synth progressions, “bonfire” becomes a surprisingly poignant late-night lo-fi summer anthem.  take a listen below.

photo courtesy of the artist

mark mcguire navigates through electro-pop atmospheres as the road chief, a moniker adopted to distinguish these compositions from his usual guitar-based droning output.  mcguire will release his first full-length as the road chief, a seven-song collection called all my love, on august 21st via cascine; pre-order the cassette here and take a listen to its warm, effervescent lead single “summer eyes” below.

isaac vallentin has released music with pony girl and under the pseudonym josef pollock, but the ottawa-based singer-songwriter has never explicitly attached his name to a project until this year.  hedera, vallentin’s debut full-length, dropped independently last friday; it’s a thirteen-track exercise in filtering organic instrumentation through an electronic lens, with vallentin effortlessly superimposing shuddering bass lines and steady synth arpeggios over his home-recorded guitar and vocal tracks.

one of the album’s strongest tracks, and its clearest proponent of vallentin’s aesthetic, is “stewardess.”  polyrhythms quickly manifest and are further solidified when the bass drops, but the instrumentation ultimately bows to vallentin’s first powerful lyrical turn, delivered in a soothing baritone.  the principal single from hedera preceded the album’s release with a jarring music video.  its two characters convey the song’s dialogue through interpretative dance and the minimal use of props, resulting in a cathartic experience that becomes more apparent with each viewing.  you can stream and download hedera here; watch the video for “stewardess” below.

month in review summer 1a deeply-bowed canoe is a sufficient metaphor for our perception of music released throughout june.  the month kicked off with a large, fantastic swath of new albums before quickly bottoming out, but it sought redemption with another excellent collection of records, most of which dropped yesterday and today.  as always, we’ll tackle those long-format offerings before moving on to single servings and other pertinent news.  read on.

june 2nd: communions – communions

june 30th: vince staples – summertime ’06

as evidenced by the dates listed above, we didn’t put too much stock in the middle of the month, mostly because we were just too busy listening to tenement’s exhilarating predatory headlights.  that album was part of a trifecta that hit in the beginning of june, along with a coming-of-age self-titled ep from communions and the heavily-anticipated solo debut from jamie xx, in colour.  albums of note in the intermediate weeks were more scarce, but june embarked on an upswing beginning with bully’s feels like before closing out with vince staples’ ambitious debut double-album, the internet’s delectably funky ego death, and fog lake’s droning, soothing victoria park.


singles followed a similar but less-extreme pattern throughout june.  two castles kicked things off with “liquor,” his most cohesive offering to date, while day wave, teen daze, and cemeteries all teased bits of upcoming full-length projects.  the crown jewel of the month was undoubtedly sayth’s “pink pistols,” the lead single off of his forthcoming collaborative ep with north house, body pillow.  expect to hear that in full sometime in early july.


we’re slowly starting to piece together a comprehensive map of anticipated album releases for the second half of 2015.  astronauts, etc. continues to impress, putting their debut mind out wandering squarely on our list.  we’re also looking forward to beach house, kurt vile, carly rae jepsen, and majical cloudz further out, but we’ll make do with impending albums from tame impala, lianne la havas, and titus andronicus for the time being.  as always, check back here at the end of july for a detailed round-up.


out june 30th via def jam

vince staples does not mince words.  even back in 2010, when the long beach, california native still treated rapping as more of a hobby, his guest verse on earl sweatshirt’s “epar” was frightening in both its lyrical contents and in its effortless, visceral dexterity.  staples is a closer and a chameleon when he guests; on “epar” and on earl’s 2013 cut “hive,” staples conforms to the host’s present lyrical state of mind with ease while often beating earl out for the song’s most memorable line (“ruger with the pork face / jewish for the court case” is one of the more fully-loaded couplets encountered in recent memory).

staples has meticulously crafted his solo career over the past four years in the most logical way possible: picking a bare-bones aesthetic and molding it around his uncanny propensity for unabashed, autobiographical storytelling.  this journey took him through a series of yearly mixtapes, a stellar ep from last fall entitled hell can wait, and has culminated in summertime ’06, an ambitious double-album for def jam that also serves as staples’ debut full-length effort.

2014 was staples’ definitive breakout period, and summertime ’06 streamlines the best features of that year.  most of the g-funk synth lines that popped up across hell can wait have disappeared, but executive producer no i.d. has front-loaded the album with sub-bass tones to such a degree that any tone in a higher register is relegated far into the background.  that’s perfectly fine, though; staples’ nasally vocal register is the perfect timbral foil to the constant subterranean agitation.  thematic elements carry over as well, from staples’ fondness of the birds and the bees to tales recounting his youth in long beach.  the latter finally feels sufficiently cohesive, as staples is able to dedicate an hour – over the span of twenty rapid-fire tracks – to the subject matter.

a degree of nihilism exists in staples’ lyrics, and its variance has always been his calling card.  there is no redemption for his characters, nor for staples himself, but he does allow brief moments of tenderness.  on “summertime,” the closing number on the first disc, staples half-sings to a romantic subject, juxtaposing any hopefulness with hopeless lines like “they never taught me how to be a man / only how to be a shooter.”  by and large, though, he hones in on the rampant negative stereotypes that pervade black culture and exposes them with the searing, sarcastic opening line on “lift me up,” the disorienting implications of the imagery in the music video for “señorita,” and frequent mentions of police brutality in his neighborhood.

summertime ’06 retains a different level of uniqueness in its place within the landscape of rap music in 2015.  this is one of the few albums that, for all intents and purposes, followed a fairly traditional promotional cycle: the project was never shrouded in mystery, it wasn’t dropped unexpectedly nor released weeks before its official arrival date, and it spawned three major-label caliber singles that displayed the diverse capabilities of staples’ minimalist preferences.

staples also seems unfazed by his contemporaries and their genre-bending tendencies; summertime ’06 is devoid of kendrick lamar’s optimistic jazz odysseys, of the atlanta scene’s investment in psychedelia, of the social experiment’s jubilant funk-pop.  though he relies on guest artists to deliver hooks on about half of the album, staples is by and large in sole control of its dystopian lyrical direction.  in an era where many socially active artists are preaching perseverance in the face of tremendous adversity, staples exists as a stark reminder that any semblance of progress is still in its early infancy.

there is a large percentage of staples’ audience who won’t be able to fully comprehend every facet of summetime ’06, including myself.  thoroughly digest, perhaps, but true empathy will be rare.  the lifestyle staples details is a reality that comparatively few of us are routinely faced with.  instead, summertime ’06 serves as an miniature analog to a larger, overarching discussion of race relations in the united states; vince staples is a representative voice of an oppressed group of citizens, and it’s best to check any form of privilege at the door, shut up and listen to what he has to say.


this installment of our mixtape series is the byproduct of a recent vacation down route 101 through the oregon and northern california coasts.  click the play button above to hear offerings from yumi zouma, raphael saadiq, taylor swift, and more.

toro y moi

photo courtesy of andrew paynter

chaz bundick does not sit still, as evidenced by his prolific output the past five years as toro y moi and les sins.  bundick released his latest toro y moi effort, what for?, earlier this spring and has taken to sharing outtakes and unheard tracks from those sessions as of late; the most recent is “that instead of this,” a ninety-second fidgety, nocturnal instrumental that’s best experienced on infinite loop.  take a listen below.

fog lake

photo courtesy of the artist

aaron powell’s voice is often described as reedy, a quality born out of the necessity to be heard above his thick, droning instrumentals.  on “bury my dead horses,” his latest single as fog lake, powell instead subdues the extremities of his vocal range, nestling comfortably inside angular electric guitar stabs and a lazy drum beat.  “bury my dead horses” is pulled from victoria park, fog lake’s second full-length album for orchid tapes, due out next tuesday.  take a listen below.


photo courtesy of the artist

the final third of “sodus” swells to cinematic heights, becoming emblematic of the influence late-1980s soundtracks have had on kyle reigle’s output as cemeteries.  the recent portland, oregon transplant is slated to release a new album, barrow, july 28th via snowbeast and track and field records; “sodus” is the first single culled from that project, and should function well in its penultimate placement on the album’s track list.  the grand, ethereal gestures that define the song’s latter stages are grown organically from melodic fragments that gradually bleed together in cavernous reverb, but “sodus” is truly held together by reigle’s downtrodden sighs that weave effortlessly through the track’s dense textural thicket.  get lost in the new single from cemeteries below.


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