stanley – “brewin’ up”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

ryan gebhardt has recently put down roots in the midwest, but he recorded his self-titled venture as stanley in various boston and new york studios.  if its lead single is any indication, the album would be a perfect soundtrack to such a cross-country move.

“brewin’ up” coalesces around a meandering, bucolic guitar motif that brackets breezy vocal snippets, permutating slightly with each new iteration.  the end result is a four-minute soft pop gem, delicate am-radio sparkle that is remarkably assured in its delivery.

stanley arrives september 22nd via the tag-team efforts of forged artifacts and king forward records.  sample its offerings with “brewin’ up,” below.

space mountain – “white light”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

space mountain is the artistic vessel for boston’s cole kinsler, one that has yielded a handful of introspective, folk-rock-oriented albums over the past few years.  kinsler will return with his latest, supermundane, out august 4th via the always-reliable forged artifacts.

an early sampling of supermundane suggests that the album will do anything but live up to its name; “white light” is a rambling, compelling introduction, one that fuses kinetic acoustic guitars and swirling organ leads with gusto before kinsler’s deep, distinctive warble consumes the track.  his baritone, replete with the slightest twang, is a compelling narrator, although the fuzzed-out melodic figures that percolate to the surface momentarily give the lyrics a run for their money.

“white light” is ripe for consumption at any time of day, as is riding this project’s namesake.  take a listen below.

rivers – of dusk

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.

8.0/10

listen to a new song from gem club

fresh on the heels of their excellent sophomore album, in roses, boston trio gem club have contributed a stunning track to the website stadiums & shrines, as a part of their “dreams” series.  “mother in comet (dreams of england’s countryside)” is a brief ambient sprawl, forgoing any vocals in order to showcase the ensemble’s heightened awareness for the power of simple textures.  you can stream and download the track below, courtesy of the site’s soundcloud page.

gem club – in roses

often times, when an indie rock band is given the sub-genre label of chamber pop, it’s a marker to distinguish smart vocal harmonies and sometimes songwriting that evokes the style of baroque-period classical music.  boston trio gem club is a bit different.  i’ve always thought of them as a chamber ensemble that plays pop music; comprised of cello, piano, and a pair of voices, gem club’s music is hauntingly intimate to a degree on par with many classical chamber groups.  the trio’s first two recordings, 2010’s acid and everything ep and their debut full-length album breakers, reflected that intimacy, with sparse arrangements recorded in isolated bedrooms.  gem club’s sophomore album, in roses, finds the ensemble expanding their sonic palate ever so slightly while retaining the emotions that so easily tug at heartstrings.

songs like “michael” are immediate and prevalent examples of this expansion; a truly aching track, the piano’s harmony and the mournful cello line are augmented by melancholy horns and brief instances of chimes.  synthesizers also run rampant across in roses, whether hiding underneath other textures on “hypericum” or completely setting the scene on the closing number, “polly.”  some of this admirable exploration can be attributed to having a proper recording studio and a well-respected musical director at their disposal, but gem club should be held in esteem for the deft nature of these orchestrations and the subtle nuances they provide.

in roses still captures gem club at the core of their essence; even with supplements, it’s clear that their overall aesthetic remains the same.  “soft season” and “speech of foxes” largely lean on the minimalism of the band’s early career, stripping back down to cello and piano along with sparse amounts of white noise to cushion the composition.  and while frontman christopher barnes seems pretty adamant that gem club’s music isn’t necessarily sad, it’s hard not to feel a bit somber and introspective when he harmonizes with ieva berberian; their voices line up perfectly with the accompaniment.

i’m not sure how the songs on in roses will translate to the stage; many would work very well stripped down to the original instrumentation of the trio, but i don’t know if gem club has any plans to bring additional musicians on tour.  what i do know is that in roses is a fine record, one that’s already proven useful throughout this frigid month and one that will help to set gem club apart from all of those other woeful sad bastards in the world.

8.3/10

listen to a new song from gem club

gem club’s intimate breed of chamber pop should be receiving more well-deserved recognition soon.  the boston trio are set to release their sophomore album in roses on january 28th via sub pop imprint hardly art records; we’ve already been treated to “polly,” a gorgeous seven-minute synth sprawl, and now gem club has shared “braid,” another exquisite track that favors light percussion and subtle harmonies.  take a listen below.

listen to a new song from gem club

i seriously can’t stop listening to this song, or this band in general.  boston chamber pop trio gem club are back with a new album, in roses, early next year, and they’ve let a beautiful, expansive single go ahead of time.  “polly” is seven minutes of intimacy you’ll want to spin over and over again, from the ostinato keyboard line that perpetuates throughout to the gorgeous cello lines that gradually sneak in.  take a listen to “polly” below, courtesy of gem club’s soundcloud page, and grab a free download if you like what you hear.