alex frenkel’s work as caicos is doused in vibrant polychrome, its rock-solid pop foundations meandering through fields of bucolic folk, minefields of electronica, and the abstractions of art rock. our first taste of frenkel’s debut project came this spring in the form of “turned again (crux)”; the new york songwriter is now gearing up for the release of promised lands, a seven-song extended play sprawling beyond its twenty-five minute run time.
the aptly-titled opening number, “watercolor (mala),” is packed with saturated hues, a thematic distillation that prefaces many of the tropes that subsequently appear. while the coursing second single, “vega,” feels like the project’s largest sonic outlier, the straight-ahead misdirection is grounded in the assured coolness of frenkel’s lead vocal, stretching into falsetto with ease and laying the framework for sly future callbacks.
promised lands hits its stride with the soft acoustic shuffle of “southeast,” a relaxing exercise in reassurance that parlays its existence into the first panel of a breezy triptych; “the push and pull” revels in motifs that evaporate in wisps of reversed delay while the standout penultimate cut “salvo” trades acoustic guitars for airy synths and bell-tone counter-melodies. frenkel saves the title track for his finale, a measured rumination that pares back to just a finger-picked acoustic guitar and proves to be just as compelling as its predecessors.
with just seven songs, frenkel is able to turn in a fully-realized presentation of what caicos is: a stirring electro-acoustic project that relishes nuance and rock-solid songwriting perfectly timed for the changing seasons. promised landsis due august 10th via very jazzed, but you can listen to it a few days early right here on the dimestore. dig in.
welcome back to the dimestore. it’s been a minute. though this site is indeed back up and running, it will be doing so in a decidedly more limited capacity. thank you to all who have returned for this reboot, wherever it may lead; for those who are newcomers, please feel free to peer into our archives should you decide to stick around.
“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction. next up: dreamspook
Gabriel jorgensen’s soothing, measured vocals are often at odds with a spectrum of mood spanning from ennui to empathy, from intense introspection to intermittent self-deprecation. on king in the folly keep, the minneapolis-based songwriter’s debut full-length under his dreamspook moniker, these myriad moods are just beyond the foreground of each composition, and are more than just isolated, plotted points on a linear graph; they work hand in glove to craft an overarching narrative with comparable depth to the arrangements formed around it.
containing nine songs that collectively clock in at just over a half-hour, king in the folly keep feels decidedly compact, and refreshingly so. lyrics that so explicitly read like a manual to the songwriter’s innermost mechanics have a tendency to skew theatrical, even comically overwrought, but jorgensen seems keenly aware of this trope. most songs pair brief streams of consciousness with a mantra-esque hook, eschewing more formulaic lyrical structures and bombast while introducing an idea and succinctly following it to some sort of conclusion.
take “island castle,” the album’s seasick, pulsating opening number, as a case study of this approach. jorgensen details the construction of an impenetrable fortress of secrecy in a quick succession of verses before honing in on a thesis: “no man’s an island, but no man’s what i am.” an old adage is obliterated by the simple refutation that follows, a destruction compounded by repetition as the music underneath crescendos towards its finale. even tracks like “badlands,” which pulls comparatively towards the abstract in terms of imagery, have momentary returns to reality that are completely grounding; “you’re just a fool who thinks too much” is sure to lurk in the subterranean depths of a universal subconscious.
while most of king in the folly keep adheres to a compact structure, on occasion, jorgensen permits dreamspook to flesh out, to deviate from three-minute explorations of self. “don’t die” doubles in length and halves its lyrical content, swimming in synth motifs and guitar arpeggios that abruptly dissipate, leaving jorgensen alone to deliver a sparse vocal enveloped by a murky bass swell. despite its eventual morbidity, the first half of “don’t die” feels somewhat refreshing, soothing; this one-time allowance for meandering provides previous concepts the space to breathe, a respite before reaching the album’s most vulnerable state.
in spite of a coalescing bleakness enhanced by beautifully tragic imagery, king in the folly keep manages to become a self-aware body of work by its penultimate track, breaking whatever fourth-wall equivalent may exist in the album format. lest his listeners become too put out from the weight of his lyrics, jorgensen squares this tendency towards the morose with “ignorance,” a confessional dotted with concessions and pledges. impermanence can be heavy, but it can easily be interrupted by moments of beauty and eclipsed by feelings of insignificance.
it should also be noted that king in the folly keep is a thirty-three minute groove machine. amidst imploring an unnamed party for unrequited love and offering a brief analysis of an unfamiliar romance, jorgensen and the rest of his cohort – george hadfield on bass and conor davison on drums – lock into a near-impenetrable state of metronomic precision. each piece of every arrangement feels sculpted – if that verb can, for a moment, represent the utmost amount of attention painstakingly paid to every sonic detail: guitar leads alternately chime and warble; synth melodies bubble and percolate, and occasionally spill over into an agitated frenzy; bass lines routinely sound capable of swallowing subwoofers.
with every aforementioned cog, along with the contours of jorgensen’s vocal melodies, already heavily informed by rhythmic interplay, the drum parts are an analog to the icing on the album cover’s cake. deft and tasteful, while confidently staking claim in unused subdivisions, davison’s percussion work makes its presence – and absence – arguably felt more so than heard.
while basking in the seconds of silence that linger after the final drops of water hit on “ogema,” one may feel like one has stumbled across and read parts of a diary mistakenly donated to a second-hand book store; king in the folly keep is an intensely personal – and, consequently, vulnerable – piece of work, somehow delivered with the utmost conceptual and aural clarity. wade in.
buried just beneath the bucolic overcoat of reddening west is an honest, heartbreaking thread of immediacy. the austin trio will release their debut effort, a gorgeous collection of lovelorn folk songs entitled where we started, on march 4th; today we’re premiering the ep’s second track, “golden light.”
quaint fingerpicking reflects the song’s initial imagery, but “golden light” gradually becomes more melancholic, refracting its namesake as pianos and percussion slip into the texture. vocalist matt evans doubles down on that tone even after his auxiliary accompaniment fades into the background, delivering a brief, parting lyric that skirts satisfying resolution in favor of a different kind of finality that feels all too familiar. take a listen to “golden light” below.
derek barber’s latest single as perhapsy, “all my soul swallowed,” has reverberated throughout this month here at the dimestore. barber recently teamed with director madeline kenney to make a music video for the track; in the clip, a technicolor-clad barber emerges from a lean-to in search of an adequate power supply deep in a west coast forest. the video becomes even more eccentric as the song progresses, with a strange ever-present bust and a rather volatile mug of liquid juxtaposing the aurally melancholic vibe.
“all my soul swallowed” is culled from perhapsy’s forthcoming album, me tie-doughty walker, out march 3rd. check out the music video below.
derek barber puts in notable work as the guitarist for a handful of bay area bands including astronauts, etc., a hands-down dimestore favorite of 2015. as perhapsy, barber also carves out a distinct path for his own solo work, engineering a jazz background and a seemingly-insatiable appetite for new textures to forge a brand of more experimental pop. his sophomore full-length, me tie dough-ty walker, is out march 3rd, and today barber has shared the album’s lead-off single, “all my soul swallowed,” a slightly melancholic affair appropriately enveloped by a wall of guitars. take a listen below.
there’s probably a diet cig full-length album in the works somewhere, and it’ll probably be very, very good. in the meantime, alex luciano and noah bowman are offering up a new 7″ on the heels of their excellent debut ep over easy. “sleep talk” b/w “dinner date” is due out on vinyl via father/daughter records and art is hard records on september 18th; we heard the a-side last month and earlier this week the duo shared “dinner date,” a surging mid-tempo anthem that culminates in luciano’s strongest vocal hook to date. take a listen below.
a musical trope that has become nearly synonymous with eau claire over the past ten years is the rustic, acoustic-driven tones of acts like the daredevil christopher wright, kalispell, and of course, bon iver. at this point, a continuation down that already-beaten path may run the risk of seeming redundant, as if the artists might be trying to cash in on an established aesthetic rather than creating something genuine. on the opposite end of the spectrum lies rivers, a three-piece currently splitting time between the midwest and the east coast; folk music is merely the vessel through which the band conveys their ideas, as opposed to their endgame. on their debut effort, of dusk, rivers offers up a collection of songs that offer up a fresh new perspective on an established tradition.
dexter wolfe’s songwriting has always had a slightly enigmatic quality; even in the hard-hitting, comparatively aggressive setting of his previous band sky lion, it was evident that wolfe took various cues from introspective stalwarts like elliott smith and elvis costello. the former’s influence resonates clearly throughout of dusk and particularly on “even if,” an early track that remains a standout through the album’s duration. wolfe proves himself to be rather skilled in the department of imagery as well, bookending the album with lyrics like “beneath yellow leaves / with rolled up sleeves / eyes lost in the branches / of your family tree” (see “weeping willow”) and “it was the start of something beautiful / i heard her heart and tripped, well… i fell right down” (see “where though lies, death ripples”). his capability to weave personal accounts with metaphor and personification plays off as effortless, and more importantly helps to establish rivers as a lyrically mature and formative ensemble.
the music that accompanies the poetry on of dusk is perhaps even more impressive. alongside wolfe – who handles guitar and piano chores in addition to vocals – are pat kuehn and colin carey, who tackle upright bass and percussion duties, respectively. kuehn’s bass playing is the timbral element that immediately stands out and seeks to separate rivers from the other bands who share a similar aesthetic; the long, mournful bowed tones augment the melancholy in the beginning of “even if,” but kuehn’s role also serves the purpose of driving the music forward in spots where carey’s percussion is rather sparse. by itself, the resonance of the upright bass gives rivers a distinct, orchestral quality, one which is further explored multiple times through the string and horn arrangements found on “saudade” and “the locket.” even carey’s drumming can feel symphonic at times, as he adds sparse percussive supplements to the more delicate moments on the album and aids the band in achieving their select few moments of absolute crescendo.
sharp songwriting and intuitive arrangements adorn of dusk, and its slightly haunting characteristics make the record a suitable companion for the chilly air that predominates these waning spring nights. largely self-produced and entirely self-released, rivers and of dusk have proven to be adequate advocates for the continued support of independent, local music; sometimes all it takes is years of determination and perseverance. you can stream the album here and find all of the dates for rivers’ upcoming tour, as well.
as if releasing a fantastic pair of eps and a damn good mixtape this year wasn’t enough, wisconsin rapper milo plans to release a new ep from his side project, scallops hotel. the ep, entitled poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer), is set to drop on november 19th and features production from iglooghost, lee bannon, and busdriver. if you can’t wait five days to hear the whole thing (i can’t either, don’t worry), milo has remedied this situation by streaming the ep’s lead single, “xergiok’s chagrin (a song for jib).” the self-produced joint is dark and contains some of the best lyrics i’ve ever heard this guy proclaim. check it out below.
the last time i heard material this dark from a sixteen year old, earl sweatshirt was drawling about unspeakable acts towards women in a shockingly articulate manner. three years later we get lorde, who took one look at the bombastic and image-driven state of pop music and decided to turn it on its head, crafting brooding songs about her disillusionment from the culture that she’s hesitantly dipping her foot into.
“royals” was a slow climb up the charts; before hearing it on top-40 radio at the end of this summer, i followed the song through the blogosphere and over to npr, which probably tipped the scales even more in her favor. the single is defined by minimalist production and maximalist vocal treatment, and lorde rides this formula throughout most of her debut album pure heroine, rarely deviating from the hip-hop drums and low, rumbling bass. it’s a bit of a shame that she chose to begin her album with “tennis courts”; it’s her strongest song by a long shot, and placing “royals” just two tracks later won’t keep many casual listeners around for more than the first ten minutes of pure heroine.
one aspect of lorde’s songwriting that can’t go unmentioned is her lyrical content. her alienation from celebrity life is readily apparent and has been heavily analyzed within the context of “royals,” but it persists throughout the album. “buzzcut season” has a positively dark chorus, with lorde singing about people who constantly ignore reality to live in a dream-like state. it’s an observation that is consistent with her critical views on materialism and fame; call her pessimistic if you want, but i think lorde is just the realist we’re all to afraid to be.
pure heroine may be the most important pop record of the year. it’s certainly not the best – i don’t expect a teenager to be flawless their first time around – but lorde’s sharp reversal of feminine portrayal in pop music won’t go unnoticed, and i’ll be surprised if it’s not emulated. for a sixteen year old, lorde seems to have her priorities straight. now we’ll just have to see if this newfound fame corrupts her philosophy.
when the frontman of a critically-acclaimed indie rock band leaves to pursue a solo career after only one album, it usually spells the end of said band. this gives the surviving members the opportunity to find a replacement, change their name and style ever so slightly, and go on creating music with possible moderate success. all of that seems pretty time-consuming and kind of a gamble, though, so i don’t blame the three remaining members of yuck for sticking together under their original moniker and churning out a pleasant sophomore album.
glow & behold marks the departure of daniel blumberg and the emergence of max bloom as the band’s new frontman. people (pitchfork) may complain that the lack of blumberg’s personality detracts from the importance of the band, but it doesn’t seem to impact the yuck’s music. if their self-titled debut was an obvious nod to alternative rock heroes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, then glow & behold is, appropriately, an extension of that. a band searching for a modified identity does so admirably with standout tracks like “middle sea” and the slow-burning “rebirth,” while exploring slightly atmospheric realms on “sunrise in maple shade” and “twilight in maple shade (chinese cymbals),” two complementary instrumentals that bookend the album.
the slightly tiring quotations of the rock bands that everyone seems to pay homage to might get in the way of the long-term impact of yuck’s career, but there’s no denying that the band is capable of writing really catchy and diverse tunes, however derivative they might appear to some. i’d like to give a special shout out to whomever played trumpet on glow & behold; you seriously made this album that much more interesting and pleasing.
if you’re a diehard yuck fan, i don’t know what you’ll make of their newest effort. but if you’re inclined to give established musicians the benefit of the doubt, i think you’ll walk away from glow & behold humming at least one song to yourself, and then you’ll come back for more.