the debut ep from minnesota electronic artist morly is one of our most-anticipated releases of this month. the sonic parameters of in defense of my muse were immediately established with the swells and textures that pervaded lead single “and sooner than we know it…”, but those extremities are widened even further on her latest offering “drone poem (in defense of my muse).” the subterranean depths at the beginning of “drone poem” are felt more so than heard, and the steady bass pulse is the only constant for morly’s powerful lead vocal line, which also benefits from swelling choral harmonies and the pattering of electronic drum triggers. in defense of my muse is out august 14th via cascine; listen to “drone poem (in defense of my muse)” below.
july felt like an anomaly. there were certainly good records to digest and to think about, but nothing really hit hard until the end of the month. as such, we focused more on singles; there seemed to be an endless supply of new cuts previewing upcoming offerings from some of our favorite artists later this fall. but, like always, we’ll cover the long-playing side first.
july 28th: cemeteries – barrow
the centerpiece of july was tame impala’s currents, an album we’re still grappling with. it’s tempting to get sucked into its psychedelia, which kevin parker finely tunes to the point of exhaustion, but the album lacks true depth to go along with its sonic beauty. contending for attention around the same time was the surprise new album from wilco; star wars came unannounced and free to download, two delightful facts that only partially masked the album’s shortcomings. hopefully it’s more of a stop-gap. finishing out the month was the new record from cemeteries, detailed above, a new punk rock odyssey from titus andronicus, and blood, the engaging new release from lianne la havas.
singles ruled this month, and they ran the gamut of genres, from scrappy pop punk to hip-hop to lush electronic soundscapes. indie stalwarts beach house kicked off july with “sparks,” the lead single off of their upcoming album depression cherry and the dominos toppled from there; new singles from established acts like chvrches, pure bathing culture, and mick jenkins all caught our attention while relative unknowns like morly, elohim, and innanet james vied for the top position as well.
august promises to deliver more content to the reviews department. cascine will deposit a pair of new releases from morly and the road chief; teen daze will offer up morning world, his foray into truer pop music; mick jenkins has finally announced that wave[s] will arrive august 21st; and the end of the month will be flooded with new releases from beach house, all dogs, the weeknd, and destroyer. the fall quarter is right around the corner as well, so expect august to contain a bevy of new announcements and singles as well. as always, check back this time next month to play catch-up with us.
teen daze is prepping his newest full-length, morning world, out august 14th via paper bag records. as the arrival of the album’s title track last month suggests, the canadian singer-songwriter is dabbling with a more straightforward approach to songwriting, and this sentiment is reflected in his latest single, “along.” though “along” is more relaxed and contemplative than its predecessor, key pop tenets are still explored and pristinely executed. subtle vocal layering underscores the prominent lyricism, perhaps teen daze’s most fully-realized effort to date, while soft strings and hesitant guitar warbles trace the song’s melodic contour. take a listen to “along” below.
berlin-based producer nick donovan released his latest single as deadbear on monday via cascine’s digital sub-label, cscn. the single’s a-side, “tongues,” builds slowly and features vocal textures from japanese singer qrion, but we were particularly smitten by its b-side, “oo oo.” donovan slowly blurs the main sample of “oo oo” into something barely recognizable over a placid beat before pushing the song’s back half into a cacophonous blend of distorted synthesizers and more persistent drums. take a listen to “oo oo” below.
a cross-country move can be daunting, but it often proves to be a cleansing experience as well. kyle reigle recently pulled up his roots in buffalo, new york and ventured west to portland, oregon; this transplant was one of many factors that inspired his third record as cemeteries, the sprawling and cavernous barrow.
reigle’s voice sighs with just enough spacious reverb to flirt with the realm of dream pop, but i’m more inclined to file barrow away with releases like port st. willow’s holiday, where dreamy vocals are a secondary consequence of lush, ornate soundscapes. this aesthetic approach is immediate; opening number “procession” is a comparatively brief ancillary to “nightjar,” providing the necessary textures and harmonic information. the descending melody that then defines “nightjar” culminates in dissonance, perhaps a nod to the personal disconnect of trying to function in new surrounds or to reigle’s fascination with witchcraft, but the persevering nature of the track’s drum part is hard to ignore, and foreshadows the overall consonance of barrow.
many songs on barrow follow a similar blueprint: a main motif, often delivered via synthesizer, powered by percussion. reigle avoids monotony, however, in how these motifs permutate. on “can you hear them sing” it quickly buries itself deep in the texture, only to emerge again in lieu of any sort of structured, hook-driven vocal chorus. on “cicada howl,” the main motif is more stagnant, anchoring itself as the pillar around which reigle builds the rest of the song’s expansive textures. it’s a simple exercise, really, and one that lends itself well to an album with any sort of overarching thematic tendencies, but reigle understands the nuances of this practice and executes it with aplomb.
barrow is a beautiful album. it’s hard to not mince words when trying to adequately describe a body of work, but reigle’s latest effort embodies that adjective well. “luna (moon of claiming)” and “sodus” anchor the album and display the full spectrum of emotions that cemeteries is capable of conveying, from swaths of childhood nostalgia to heartbreak to hesitancy to undeniable triumph. but it’s all the spaces in between, like the bleary ambiguity of “i will run from you” and the unexpected incessant arpeggiations in “empty camps” that really tie barrow together. save this record for a night of solitude, when you can afford to slip on a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and disappear.
portland duo pure bathing culture impressed with their 2013 debut moon tides, an effervescent body of work that straddled a line between contemporaries like beach house and tennis. the pair are back with their sophomore effort, pray for rain, out october 23rd via partisan records. the album’s title track was teased as its lead single last week, and it has a newfound momentum that needs to be reckoned with. pure bathing culture still retains a slight balearic aura, but it seems as if they’re progressing strongly towards becoming a formidable pop band. listen to “pray for rain” below.
kurt vile isn’t reinventing the wheel any more so than kevin parker or adam granduciel, but like his counterparts in tame impala and the war on drugs, vile’s songwriting consistently reaches an incredible depth that can’t be ignored. vile’s newest album, b’lieve i’m going down, is out september 25th via matador and vile teased its lead single earlier this week. “pretty pimpin” circumvents the melancholic tendencies that dotted the back half of 2013’s excellent wakin on a pretty daze, instead honing in on a decidedly sunnier aesthetic, courtesy of vile’s ostinato guitar riffs. watch the music video for “pretty pimpin” below.
elohim surged to prominence in may with “she talks too much,” a massive electro-pop introduction to the los angeles songwriter that has since been repurposed by dimestore favorites gosh pith, among others. as elohim prepares to release her debut 12″ on friday via b3sci records, she’s teased the other component of the aa-side record. “xanax” is a syrupy comedown track, its slow synth swells the perfect contrast to the more frenetic tendencies of “she talks too much.” take a listen to “xanax” below.
mick jenkins has been enjoying a swift ascension into the upper echelon of contemporary hip-hop artists. after releasing last year’s excellent the water[s], jenkins will return with a similarly-themed ep, water[s], out august 21st via cinematic music group. the nine-track effort features a fair amount of production from thempeople and kaytranada, although jenkins enlists the help of fellow chicagoan stefan ponce on its newest single, “get up get down.” jenkins’ dexterous delivery waxes and wanes with the intensity of ponce’s bass lines before mellowing out for the song’s final third. take a listen to “get up get down” below.
vince staples hasn’t shied away from tackling subjects like systemic racism and police brutality in the past, and now he’s delved deeper into the latter with his new music video for “norf norf.” pulled from his excellent debut double-album summertime ’06, “norf norf” finds a stone-faced staples declaring “i ain’t never ran from nothing but the police,” a sentiment that becomes much heavier when uttered while riding handcuffed in the back of a squad car and having his head smashed into the interrogation room table by a detective. watch the music video below.