most anticipated albums of fall 2016

– featured image courtesy of minimally minimal –

the home stretch of each year always provides a plethora of new albums vying for contention in year-end best-of reviews.  invariably, at least one heavy-hitter holds onto a project until the quarter is almost over before unleashing it and messing with the internet’s ballots by proxy (here’s looking at you, the weeknd and lorde).  the full list for this fall is exhausting; google searches and metacritic are good tools to keep yourself in the know, but we’ve also compiled a handful of albums we’re especially itching to dig into.  read on for more detailed explanations.

mick-jenkins-the-healing-componentmick jenkins – the healing component
september 23rd (free nation)

after years of building anticipation, mick jenkins will finally release his long-awaited debut album, the healing component, tomorrow.  if early looks like “spread love,” “drowning,” and “fall through” are indicatives of the album’s tenor, then the healing component should more than clear the high bar jenkins has imposed on himself.

jenny-hval-blood-bitchjenny hval – blood bitch
september 30th (sacred bones)

only a little more than a year has passed since jenny hval released her excellent apocalypse, girl, but the norwegian composer and songwriter has already completed a follow-up album, blood bitch.  hval’s new effort is billed as an about-face from its predecessor and has been bolstered by the strengths of lead single “female vampire” and “period piece,” a standout component of this year’s adult swim singles series.

unnamed-1moses sumney – lamentations
september 30th (self-released)

moses sumney’s live performances are a wonder to behold, and his recorded music is nearly emotive.  after thriving off of a handful of singles and his debut ep, mid-city island, sumney will self-release his latest extended play at the end of this month, but be on the lookout for his much-anticipated debut album sometime soon after.

takuya-kuroda-zigzaggertakuya kuroda – zigzagger
october 7th (concord records)

those not familiar with japanese bandleader and trumpeter takuya kuroda would do well to pick up his 2014 album, rising son, a perfect union of jazz, hip-hop, and r&b.  kuroda and his band continue to hone that aesthetic on zigzagger, his fifth studio album and first for concord records.  for a primer, start with the album’s lead-off single, “r.s.b.d.”

ricky eat acid talk to you soon.pngricky eat acid – talk to you soon
october 28th (terrible records)

sam ray will return to his ricky eat acid moniker at the end of next month to release the project’s first full-length in over two years.  2014’s three love songs is a timeless masterpiece, and ray’s divergence from its ambient magnetic pull on subsequent singles, mixtapes, and eps suggest that talk to you soon may be broader in scope and ambition, but almost certainly as uniquely emotive as its predecessor.

– other notable releases –

bon iver – 22, a million (september 30th)
danny brown – atrocity exhibition (september 30th)
s u r v i v e – rr7349 (september 30th)
ahem – just wanna be (october 7th)
jagwar ma – every now & then (october 14th)
american football – american football (october 21st)
the radio dept. – running out of love (october 21st)
forth wanderers – slop (november 11th)
the weeknd – starboy (november 25th)
childish gambino – pharos (tba)
chromatics – dear tommy (tba)
vancouver sleep clinic – tba (tba)

 

 

interview – little kid

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

Little kid doesn’t venture much outside of their hometown, but you’d be quick on the draw to peg their music as insular.  the toronto trio, founded and fronted by kenny boothby, has churned out introspective lo-fi musings sprinkled with religious imagery and philosophical pondering for more than a half-decade now.

last month, little kid released their latest album, flowers, a fuzzed-out, sprawling epic that could easily serve as the band’s definitive piece of work.  we recently caught up with boothby via e-mail for an in-depth conversation about aesthetic choices, the lack of electric guitars on flowers, and new lyrical focuses.  check out the transcript below.

there’s been a three-year gap in between river of blood and flowers, which is a longer break between any of your other projects, i think, by a considerable amount.  was this gestation period intentionally long?

i wouldn’t say it was intentional – to be honest, i was frustrated with myself for how long it took, but it’s just the way it ended up happening.  brodie and i started recording in january of 2015, thinking we’d definitely have it finished by the summer of that same year since it was mostly already written.  

the primary cause of the delay was just the three of us having busy lives – we are all working full-time with very different schedules, so it was sometimes hard to get together.  we started playing more shows around toronto, too, which was great, but it definitely seemed like when we did manage to get together it was more often to rehearse than to record.  i have no regrets, though!  i’m happy with how it turned out, and being able to play live more often definitely helped us figure out what we wanted to do with some of these songs.

a certain lo-fi exterior still remains on the bulk of flowers, but the arrangements underneath feel thicker and more ornate this time around.  was there a specific tone or timbre you sought for this album, and if so, was it consciously different than past works?

the overall sound of the album was fairly deliberate, and i think we started with at least a vague idea of how we wanted to approach this one, but it certainly went through some changes over the course of recording.  i recall having some conversations with brodie early on, and we agreed that we wanted to play around with some more unconventional sounds and recording methods than we had on river of blood.  

the plan was always to have paul play some bass on the album, but brodie and i did a bit of the initial recording ourselves with the plan to have brodie mix it, as he had with river of blood.  but we ended up playing a few shows with paul on bass until it felt like we had a good thing going band-wise, and paul is more experienced with mixing, so we asked him to take over.  

from then on, it was very much a team effort, with us all coming up with ideas for arrangements and recording techniques.

this might be an addendum of sorts to the last question, but a liner note on bandcamp i found rather intriguing was in regards to the lack of electric guitars on this album.  you still manage some absolutely massive walls of sound in their absence, but i’m wondering if that omission was due to exhaustion or if it was posed as a sort of challenge?

it was definitely posed as something of a challenge.  the songs i was writing early on seemed at first to be songs that would lend themselves to the electric guitar, mostly because i was strumming hard and bending a lot of notes – some somewhat non-traditional stuff for a classical guitar, i guess.  

but i liked the way the demos sounded – usually a couple layers of classical guitar, and sometimes some piano or casio keyboard – and for some reason i wanted to just keep playing them on the classical. brodie and i were occasionally having conversations about what we might try with little kid next, and that idea stuck around long enough to become a sort of rule.

i like albums that have some sort of restriction to them – for example, the headphones album that is purely live drums and one or two synthesizer parts, or gillian welch’s time (the revelator)‘s emphasis on first takes.  i love that shit.  it’s why i prefer writing demos on the four-track, too – having some sort of limitation seems to stimulate ingenuity or something.

anyways, it was sometimes challenging to create interesting dynamics without electric guitars.  during live shows, i have typically been playing the classical through a guitar amp and pedals, and we use a lot more distortion for dynamics, but on the record we wanted to stay away from that and try for some lusher, stranger sounds.  

some of the ambient bits came from a day brodie and i spent playing keyboards through guitar pedals, and i spent many an afternoon alone in my room playing around with micro-cassettes and my memory boy (honestly, the best guitar pedal).


biblical images and references were pretty overt on river of blood; they’re still around on flowers but they don’t necessarily feel as explicit or immediate.  was this a conscious shift?

i’d say it was a mix of conscious and unconscious.  i remember having some conversations with friends who don’t have any history with christianity and wondering what it was like for them to listen to the songs i had written that relied a lot on those images and references.  i imagined it could easily become either boring or alienating.  i started thinking about, like, led zeppelin or prog-rock bands who sing about lord of the rings and shit – i don’t necessarily want to listen to people drop semi-obscure references to bodies of work i don’t have any connection with.

obviously, for people who had a similar upbringing, those types of songs can be really meaningful, and i don’t regret spending some time exploring those concepts when they felt very real and important to me.  but, i don’t spend much time with those ideas in my personal life anymore, so it wouldn’t make too much sense to keep writing about them.

but i don’t think it was necessarily something i was consciously thinking about while writing.  it wasn’t like “oh shit, i mentioned jesus again – better cut that line.”  it seemed a little more natural than that.  i just wrote about the things i was thinking a lot about during that time.

little kid songs have never been shy about wandering beyond a length perceived as conventional, and that’s certainly the case on flowers.  furthermore, i’m picking up on ambient addenda, patient vamps that eventually border on monolithic, and lyrical codas that haven’t really factored into your songwriting before, at least not to this degree.  were there any bodies of work that were specifically informative to the creation of this album?

i don’t think the three of us discussed too many direct influences in terms of song structure as we were recording and writing the album, but i know towards the end, as we were sequencing and mixing it, we spent some time talking about how the album was taking shape and what we wanted to accomplish with it.

in hindsight, we had just finished “missionary” and it was one of the most unconventional in terms of its structure, with that long repetitive jam and the noisy bit in the middle, and i think, having gone there with that song, we might have felt a bit more inclined to mess with the other songs and the overall sequencing a bit more.

i remember brodie was saying he felt like the album had started to have a bit of a similar feel to (modest mouse’s) the moon and antarctica – which is alright by me because that’s possibly my favorite album.  for me, i think wilco – in particular yankee hotel foxtrot and a ghost is born – kinda snuck in as a big influence, as well.  believe it or not, i hadn’t heard any wilco records prior to, like, late 2013, but it was pretty mind-blowing for me when i finally heard it.

so i think the whole “pop song with weird shit going on underneath” thing we have going on in some of these songs is definitely influenced by yankee hotel foxtrot, and some of the more seemingly-self-indulgent aspects might come from a ghost is born, as well.  i don’t think the songs themselves resemble wilco songs very much at all, but the approach to recording and production might be similar in some ways.

i do remember we had decided, before we even started recording, that we wanted to make an eight-song album.  i’m not sure why initially – at least in my case, i just like the number eight and the way it can be split up into halves and quarters nicely (although in the end, our album turned out to be five songs on side a and three songs on side b, which makes me mathematically uncomfortable…)

anyways, i know we definitely talked a lot about great eight-song albums like the king of limbs, on the beach, owls.  i don’t think flowers has a whole lot in common – sonically or in terms of the sequencing – with any of those albums, but we’re in good company.

the last time we spoke, little kid was primarily a recording project that occasionally functioned as a live band, but couldn’t really tour or play out all that frequently.  have circumstances changed?  are there any plans to tour in support of flowers?

circumstances have changed a fair bit – we are definitely able to play more often and even occasionally venture out of toronto.  for the last year and a bit, little kid has had a stable lineup of myself, and my two good friends, brodie germain and paul vroom, on drums and bass, respectively.  we all went to high school together and have played music together for years, so it’s a really great time playing with them.  we mostly just play a show in toronto every couple months, but we’ve got to play with some awesome bands this past year.

we are thinking about trying to put together a small tour within canada sometime in the next year, but i don’t know exactly if and when we’ll be able to get that together.  we’re hoping to keep up the momentum of playing together regularly, but we’re planning to play fewer shows and focus on writing and recording a new album right away.  we’re wanting to do a lot more live recording this time, and we have a new practice space that is going to make that a lot more feasible, so we can hopefully get something interesting finished a little faster – we’re hoping sometime next year.

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tycho – “epoch”

– featured image courtesy of lauren crew –

scott hansen’s most recent full-length effort under his tycho moniker, 2014’s awake, is a sonic diary outfitted for westward treks via automobile to watch the sun set behind a bank of mountains.  the album’s eight tracks are a perfect union of post-rock grandeur and cascading ambient soundscapes, a mesh of motion and meditation.  after nearly two years of touring endlessly in support of awake, hansen returned home and slowed the project down earlier this year, intent on recording a new album.

it’s not clear if “epoch” is the impending album’s title track, but tycho’s latest single is described as indicative of a darker sonic evolution hansen sees his project taking.  “epoch” still resonates as anthemic – or, more accurately, multiple anthems stacked atop one another to eventually achieve blissful cacophony – but there are enough brooding undercurrents in the track’s murky bass line and hesitant, melancholic synth figures packed in as well to give it a distinctly ominous tone that hasn’t really existed this prominently in tycho’s music before.

the follow-up to awake is gestating; there’s no word on a title or a release date, but the new album will most likely appear sometime next year, probably on tycho’s longtime home, ghostly international.  for now, spend some time with “epoch,” below.

ricky eat acid – “hey”

– featured image courtesy of alex locater –

three love songs will forever be a landmark achievement.  sam ray’s foray into introspective ambience as ricky eat acid, tinged ever so slightly with hints of house music, resonated deeply with listeners; three love songs was also far and away our favorite album of 2014.

ray is musically dexterous – since three love songs, he’s released an album under his julia brown moniker and has reformed his once-defunct punk band, teen suicide, who have since toured and released a sprawling album of their own – yet this chameleonic tendency manifests perhaps most acutely and frequently within the work he creates as ricky eat acid.  his subsequent material under the moniker has traversed edm-informed soundscapes and smothered itself in pillows of dark, ominous synths, yet each track is unmistakably a ricky eat acid effort, a testament to ray’s ability to push boundaries creatively while still maintaining such a singularly raw emotional connection.

“hey,” the lead single from the forthcoming ricky eat acid full-length, talk to you soon, melts some of ray’s more aggressive ventures into a pliable material: rigid drum beats and vocal samples that can prop up flittering pianos and string arrangements without depriving them of their consonance.  the song’s apex is early and revelatory, with owen pallett’s strings helping “hey” shed its sleepy, pensive facade for an extended period of jubilance.

talk to you soon is out october 28th via the brooklyn imprint terrible records; in addition to pallett’s contributions, the album features guest vocals from caroline white, spencer radcliffe, and harmony tividad, as well as collaborative work with the black metal band wreck & reference.  revel in “hey” below.

vancouver sleep clinic – “killing me to love you”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

vancouver sleep clinic has a storied history on dimestore saints, and across the internet; the creative outlet of brisbane singer, songwriter, and producer tim bettinson was our favorite new artist of 2013, in large part due to the hauntingly gorgeous immediacy of early tracks like “vapour” and “collapse.”  after capitalizing on this feat with his debut ep, winter, in the early months of 2014, bettinson went into a long period of hibernation, powering down for coming-of-age experiences that lie outside the realm of music.

after more than two years away, vancouver sleep clinic resumed activity late last month with an animated music video for “lung,” the first single off of the group’s forthcoming debut full-length.  while bettinson & company construct an ambient dreamscape on “lung,” awash in titanic chords and cascading piano melodies, its successor, “killing me to love you,” explores the sleep clinic’s pop-oriented side, bolstered by prominent percussion and a massive vocal hook that releases every ounce of tension in the song.

vancouver sleep clinic’s debut album is coming soon, but its contents have yet to be detailed.  for now, revel in “killing me to love you,” below.

foxes in fiction – “extinguisher”

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

nestled among an unforgettable run of pivotal albums released in 2014 by orchid tapes was boring ecstasy, the first compilation offered up by the independent record label.  given the context of its arrival, boring ecstasy felt like a deserved mid-season victory lap; tracks were supplements to each artist’s repertoire, not throwaways, the sum of their parts meticulously curated to highlight key facets of the label’s roster without merely tracing its lineage chronologically.  that early mainstays could be placed adjacent to relative newcomers and not disrupt cohesion was telling, a nod to label co-founder warren hildebrand’s clear-eyed, focused vision for the consistent aesthetic of orchid tapes.

on august 12th, the label will release its sophomore compilation, radiating light: orchid tapes & friends.  as the extended title suggests, radiating light enlists a handful of auxiliary artists for contributions, and the overall tone of the track list feels decisively more collaborative: fog lake and home alone work in tandem for the penultimate cut, while emily reo and yohuna team up for “teach you.”

of course, hildebrand’s notable work extends well beyond running a record label; since 2009, he has released music of his own as foxes in fiction, his collective output a meandering collage of contemplative ambient soundscapes and hushed indie pop.  hildebrand leans towards the latter on “extinguisher,” the second offering culled from radiating light.  the track, built on celestial chord progressions and hildebrand’s processed voice, eventually swells to cinematic heights, staging a cathartic release of incalculable proportions.  take a listen to “extinguisher” below.

a grave with no name – “house”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

alexander shields has finished a new album under his a grave with no name moniker, wooden mask, due out august 12th via minneapolis imprint forged artifacts.  the album’s first single, “wedding dress,” accompanied its initial announcement and burned slowly, weaving haunting stabs of dissonant guitar through a steadfast andante tempo; now, shields has offered up another cut entitled “house,” and it’s equally eerie, with a mournful, more pronounced lead vocal sitting at the helm of an ambient wash of clean guitars and spacious percussion.  take a listen below.

eluvium – “fugue state”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

matthew cooper’s work as eluvium has marked him as a clear standard-bearer of ambient music in the twenty-first century; a direct descendent of brian eno, cooper has been manipulating tape delays and layering mountains of tones for the better part of two decades now, creating vast, affecting drone compositions in the process.  after pausing to make two albums as inventions – a collaborative project with explosions in the sky guitarist mark smith – cooper will circle back to his solo moniker for its eighth album, false readings on, out september 2nd via temporary residence.

alongside the album’s announcement today comes “fugue state,” a sprawling seven-minute return to form.  cooper uses one definition of fugue to inform another, inverting arpeggios at various tempos and moving them through different timbres – including a particularly haunting, cavernous vocal passage – to create an agitated soundscape that teases a serene resolution but evaporates before it can be reached.  take a listen below.

 

a grave with no name – “wedding dress”

a grave with no name
photo courtesy of the artist

alexander shields makes incredibly pensive and methodical music as a grave with no name, the kind of output that would feel right at home on a label like forged artifacts.  appropriately, the minneapolis imprint will be releasing shields’ newest album, wooden mask, on august 12th.  tethered to today’s announcement is the unveiling of “wedding dress,” a slow-burning lead single hinging on an eerie yet positively bucolic aesthetic that, at times, tempts shields’ lead vocal back into the forest’s underbrush, to be forever consumed by an expanse of ominous guitar motifs.  take a listen to the track below.

beacon – escapements

beacon
out february 5th via ghostly international

the collaboration between thomas mullarney iii and jacob gossett has proved fruitful; as beacon, the brooklyn duo has slowly transformed an art institute friendship into a tour de force of murky, nocturnal soundscapes laced with seductive vocals and fastidious drum beats.  on escapements, beacon’s second full-length, mullarney and gossett double down on the nuances of their compositional integrity to turn in a final product packed with a strong awareness of form, deeply-buried grooves, and subtle about-faces.

escapements are the mechanisms inside clocks tasked with regulating time; while immediately analogous to the metronomic pulse of tracks like “preserve” and “better or worse,” the term refers more to the duo’s exploration of the finite, the inevitability of decay.  the opening line of “running out” (“what if my luck run out / in these games we play”) and the abrupt shifts in dynamics and tone on tracks like “backbone” and “still” find beacon harnessing this relative brevity, using it both to their immediate advantage and as a thematic tool for ambiguous introspection.

beacon’s insatiable appetite for bending new textures and structures to fit their needs resonates so deeply across escapements.  brooding, r&b-influenced palettes may be the duo’s bread and butter, but it routinely transcends a two-dimensional plane with purposeful countermelodies (“preserve,” “backbone”) and an adroit use of polyrhythm (“running out,” “l1”).  when an a-b structure threatens to become mundane, mullarney and gossett return to pop conventions or flirt with a theme and variation.  when an electronic timbre has become all but uniform, they infuse the soundscape with guitars (“escapements,” “still”) or veer off into the uncharted church organ territories of “you’re wandering.”

escapements is a soundtrack for the nights you spend in the company of another.  its lurking sub-bass throbs like a second heartbeat, working in tandem with percussion to propel the perpetual union of gossett’s aqueous arpeggios and mullarney’s stratospheric sighs.  tycho drummer rory o’connor drops by to add an organic touch to a handful of tracks, augmenting the duo’s intimacy while taking care to never overstep any boundaries.  it’s all these subtle flourishes and enhancements together that make beacon’s work so invigorating, from the sultry, stuttering hook on “im u” through to the infectious melody that bounces across “preserve.”  escapements is an album near impossible to put down; go pick it up.