a beacon school – “it’s late”

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

after years of collaborating with other artists in a handful of projects, the brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist patrick j. smith recently struck out on his own, recording his debut solo effort, cola, under the moniker a beacon school.  at eight tracks in length and clocking in around twenty-five minutes, cola is a concise inaugural outing, equal parts contemplative and polyrhythmic.

not quite at the center, but close enough to feel like a centerpiece, lies “it’s late,” a six-minute pillowy odyssey that alternates between the pulse of a four-on-the-floor drum beat and that of multiple metallic timbres coalescing.  atop it all is smith’s soothing lead vocal, wordlessly ruminating on a concept for close to a fourth of the entire album’s length.

cola is out now via grind select.  check out “it’s late,” below.

yours are the only ears – “seeds”

– featured image courtesy of allyssa yohana – 

susannah cutler’s output as yours are the only ears has thus far been sparse but affecting; a handful of standalone singles, along with an extended play, can be digested via the project’s bandcamp archives.  at the end of last year, cutler released “saturn,” a wondrous single culled from her long-awaited debut album.  that debut album now has a title, knock hard, along with a new single, “seeds.”

“seeds” arrives with a music video, directed by allyssa yohana, in tow, its audio and visual components dovetailing to create an acoustic, autumnal environment perfect for exploring a relationship’s end.  resonant steel strings and mournful slide guitars converge around cutler’s lead vocal, which is laid bare twice at its most poignant couplet: “the bark around my heart won’t peel off / as my body slowly rots.”  with just a few components tastefully arranged for maximum impact, “seeds” is another telling precursor to one of this year’s most-anticipated albums.

knock hard is out may 11th via team love records.  watch the music video for “seeds” below.

air waves – “morro bay”

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

the brooklyn-based, nicole schneit-led outfit air waves are gearing up for the release of their third full-length, warrior.  the album’s title and its contents are an ode to the folks fighting extraordinary battles in everyday settings, including schneit’s mother, who successfully fought fallopian cancer and is now in remission, and schneit herself, who faces a continuous struggle for her dignity and acceptance as a queer woman in society.

the album’s lead single, “morro bay,” has a decidedly nautical vibe, with buoyant keyboard textures and jangly guitars gently merging as the song progresses.  coupled with its central hook, “you can find us in our room / listening to graceland tunes,” “morro bay” basks in the comforts of familiarity yet simultaneously seems to be searching for a bit more clarity and assurance, evincing the plaintive undertones that often accompanies such nostalgia.

warrior is due out april 6th via western vinyl.  sway gently to “morro bay” below.

barrie – “canyons”

– featured image courtesy of daniel topete –

brooklyn quintet barrie may claim the new york borough as a home base, but the new band is decidedly cosmopolitan; members hail from são paulo and london, as well as various united states locales like boston, baltimore, and upstate new york.  their atmospheric lead single, “canyons,” is a perfect primer for things to come, as restrained verses dovetail into assured, robust refrains, replete with a rubbery bass line that threads through barrie’s irresistible brand of dream pop.

“canyons” is out now via winspear, who will have further material to offer from the band as 2018 progresses.  listen in on barrie’s debut single below.

cigarettes after sex – “k.”

– featured image courtesy of ebru yildiz –

greg gonzalez’ perennial sighs echo throughout the cavernous soundscape collectively culled and maintained by the brooklyn quartet cigarettes after sex.  though lyrical intimacy is often at its forefront, the sheer depth of the band’s sonic architecture allows for other, more complex emotions to often permeate through each track’s aesthetic as well, a dual-strength collage of wistfulness capable of settling in for the long haul.

after releasing an impulsive collection of sparse, affecting songs in 2012, cigarettes after sex worked sporadically, putting out one-off singles here and there while retaining a captive, patient audience.  the advent of their latest single, “k.,” tosses any sense of uncertainty and ambiguity about forthcoming material out the window; a full-length album is due out next year via the band’s new home, partisan records.

“k.” is a lush, expansive primer for those experiencing cigarettes after sex for the first time; gonzalez’ lead vocal sits, as always, squarely in the foreground, longing for a lost love while his bandmates create a meditative pulse underneath.  jacob tomsky’s work on the trap set is the unsung glue holding the track together, an adamant kick-snare combination juxtaposed by a whispered ride cymbal pattern that embodies the band’s dichotomy in rhythmic form.

gonzalez’ guitar interludes, when locked in with randy miller’s plaintive bass lines and phillip tubbs’ warm keyboard pads, are the epitome of dream pop’s fluid tendencies, but it’s when those elements largely drop out that “k.” transcends expectations and becomes a masterful exercise in restraint.  take a listen below.

yohuna – patientness

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

“album of the fortnight” is a new 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.  first up: yohuna.

Up until this month, johanne swanson’s catalogue as yohuna spanned five years, but was rather sparse.  as a consumer this was, at times, frustrating: a gifted songwriter with sporadic output, often elusive or mum about forthcoming material.  from an artistic standpoint, however, this was refreshing, revelatory, admirable: a gifted songwriter working methodically, only offering up new songs with a distinct purpose attached, never out of necessity; never for personal gratification; never out of impulsive boredom.

patientness, out now via orchid tapes, is swanson’s first full-length effort, though an album’s worth of yohuna material doesn’t feel like a departure from the ethos that defined her earlier work.  three of the album’s nine tracks have existed in the public sphere, in some form or another, for quite some time; the remaining two-thirds of patientness is sequenced around this familiarity, transforming those songs into comforting touchstones in the midst of new, uncharted territory.

the arrival of “creep date” is this exercise fully-realized.  new offering “world series” is the song’s ancillary, the advent of buzzsaw guitars foreshadowing emotive distortion that rings out in its successor, but it’s the searing – and shattering – realism of each song’s lyrics that tie the two together.  mere seconds after uttering the clincher “you’re my biggest fan / but the seats are cheap,” swanson pivots to “not confused / still feel used,” a clear-eyed couplet that’s as devastating as it is resolute.  yohuna’s sonic aesthetic may be warm and pillowy at times, but it’s often only a thinly-veiled diversion away from sentiments that bely – and, more importantly, challenge perceptions of – its inviting exterior.

cover

earlier this week, the fader ran an absolutely riveting interview with swanson, a must-read for anyone already invested in this column.  among other topics, swanson discusses the binary tendencies of genre categorization, and how her music moves fluidly through the two most often assigned to her work: electronic and indie.  this acute awareness of categorical ambiguity reverberates throughout patientness, never meandering, always challenging what music purported to be feminine should evoke and sound like.

the title track on patientness hits last and asks the prevailing question head-on: “what is patientness?”  who knows?  it’s probably a personal mantra of sorts; the neologism is definitely indicative of swanson’s calculated approach to both making and releasing music, and it certainly feels relevant in the context of this album’s creation.  while yohuna has primarily been a solo outlet with occasional input in the past, patientness is decidedly more collaborative: adelyn strei (adelyn rose), felix walworth (told slant), emily sprague (florist), and warren hildebrand (foxes in fiction) all contribute, and swanson trekked up from brooklyn to montreal to record with owen pallett, who also co-produced the album.

“patientness” may evade concrete definition or attainability, but it will forever be difficult to disassociate yohuna from this concept.  as a body of work, patientness finds comfort in non-conformity; in imperfections; in the uncomfortable.  it’s a rare gift, a present to be opened with care and examined thoroughly, contemplatively.  patiently.

frame – “love wasted”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa –

caitlin frame is an engineer and songwriter based out of brooklyn; when releasing music of her own, frame whittles her moniker down to her surname and turns in sure-handed, pulsating pop performances.  after testing the waters with a pair of prominent singles in 2014, frame is putting the finishing touches on her debut full-length, due out soon, but not too soon.

a sampling of frame’s forthcoming body of work comes in the form of “love wasted,” a mid-tempo gauge of conflicting emotions stirred up by a snapshot of a waning open relationship.  frame’s confident vocal delivery is, at times, belied by striking passages of confusion and vulnerability, and the recurring line “i don’t know what you’re running from” becomes more plaintive with each utterance.

there’s no word on a title or release date for frame’s nine-track project as of yet, but listening to “loved wasted” nine times in a row serves as an adequate substitute for the time being.  indulge below.

patio – “arbitrary numbers”

patio band
photo courtesy of the artist

debut singles rarely exude such cool confidence.  on “arbitrary numbers,” the first taste of patio’s forthcoming ep, luxury, the brooklyn trio toggles effortlessly between a resolute bass line’s interplay with its six-string counterpart and a raw, churning chorus, all while taking care to preserve lindsey-paige mccloy’s pivotal lead vocal.  if the song’s final third is indicative of the catharsis patio is capable of unlocking, sign us up for more.  luxury drops april 22nd; take a listen to “arbitrary numbers” below.

eskimeaux – “power”

eskimeaux richard gin
photo courtesy of richard gin

eskimeaux’s o.k. was one of our favorite albums of 2015, and it appears gabrielle smith has more gas in the tank.  a new mini-album, year of the rabbit, is due out april 15th via double double whammy; today smith let go of its lead single, “power,” an immediate, concise pop gem that bears the more organic production qualities of fellow epoch members emy sprague and felix walworth.  take a listen 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.