maria usbeck – “obscuro obituario”

– featured image courtesy of holland brown –

after sharing the singles “amor anciano” and “nostalgia” (which we did not cover, but is more than worth the listen), maria usbeck has drifted back into focus with “obscuro obituario,” the third offering from her forthcoming sophomore full-length.

plaintive synth stabs meld with intricate electronic percussion, shaping “obscuro obituario” into the perfect, serene vessel for usbeck to explore the prospects and creeping dread of aging, a theme that richly runs through the entirety of envejeciendo.

envejeciendo is due next friday, august 16th, via cascine. listen to “obscuro obituario” below.

maria usbeck – “amor anciano”

– featured image courtesy of holland brown –

in the three years since her excellent debut full-length amparo, maria usbeck experienced and ruminated on the prospect of aging, weaving those observations into a complex, more challenging sophomore effort, the aptly-titled envejeciendo.

the album’s lead single, “amor anciano,” bridges the gap between its predecessor’s sunnier affect and the preoccupation and introspection that heavily populates envejeciendo. delivered in spanish and retaining usbeck’s signature sheen, “amor anciano” grapples with long-lost love, the subtle, aching nostalgia becoming explicit as field recordings bubble to the surface.

envejeciendo arrives august 16th via cascine. listen to “amor anciano” below.

yumi zouma – ep iii

– featured image courtesy of ryan mccardle & aidan koch – 

what else is there to say about yumi zouma that hasn’t already been said?  the new zealand quartet has proven, time and again, that their ability to craft pristine pop gems is second to none, regardless of whether the songwriting takes place in the same room or spread out across all corners of the globe.  as its members navigate towards the end of one chapter in their collective existence and look towards the next, EP III emerges as a cathartic victory lap.

following two similarly-titled extended plays and a stirring pair of full-lengths, EP III closes out a trilogy of works that have spanned the quartet’s entire career, pulling together snippets of demos dating back to their nascent days that help inform their latest round of collaborative songwriting.

opening number “powder blue/cascine park” is vintage yumi zouma, juxtaposing skittering hi-hats with wistful, arpeggiated pre-choruses and gliding refrains, its extended bridge a sustained instance of clarity that launches the track off into the sunset.  elsewhere, “looking over shoulders” tacks in an appropriately hesitant, contemplative direction, its understated current flowing towards a swirling chorus replete with the cool adage of “i was never yours to give away.”

bolstered by the early singles “crush (it’s late, just stay)” and the triumphant finale “in camera,” EP III is yet another sterling example of yumi zouma’s pedigree.  a return to the band’s original form, the four-track extended play offers a masterclass in their democratic, collaborative process, its memorable melodies and spacious soundscapes the end result.  EP III is out today via cascine; listen to it in full, below.

stadiums & shrines – dreams

– featured image courtesy of victoria masters – 

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional 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: a compilation curated by stadiums & shrines.

What is a music blog, anyways?  caught up in a seemingly endless stream of press releases and promotional blasts, sites might adopt a reverse-chronological feed, posting multiple items per day; others may adhere more towards a one-a-day policy (hello); still others may publish more intermittently.  regardless of frequency, this small community is passionate about the craft, making a strong case that discovery and curation by human beings can be much more intimate and impactful than the work done by algorithms.

since 2011, the new york-based stadiums & shrines has drifted away from the daily grind of release cycles in favor of an excellent radio show and multimedia collaborations with beloved musicians.  the result of the latter is dreams, a sprawling compilation powered by visual artist nathaniel whitcomb’s collages and contributions from more than twenty artists.  a project that’s equally auditory, visual, and tactile, the physical release of dreams comes with a gatefold book containing “handmade collages and written vignettes — creative exchanges between musicians and … stadium & shrines,” says the site’s dave sutton in an interview with goldflakepaint.

those collages, assembled from a 1950s book on tourism, each contain images from a specific landmass – usually a country, sometimes a province or a state.  after assembly, sets of collages were delivered to specific artists; the “dreams” were the sonic interpretations that were returned, with sutton and matthew sage then adding a written narrative to the audio-visual product.

s&s dreams

many of the resulting songs can certainly be classified as ambient, but perhaps exploratory is a more thematic adjective; indeed, a handful of contributors selected their collages based on places they were visiting or would travel to soon.  wisps of maria usbeck’s tropical buoyancy swirl around the digital bonus track “mexico,” while the pastoral strains of mutual benefit are very much present in his ruminative “bali.”  while quibbling about genre could certainly occur, it’s clear that dreams did not mandate the sacrifice of an artist’s identity for the sake of a predetermined, prescribed aesthetic.  calling cards at times juxtapose or complement their counterparts, providing the compilation with a lush, three-dimensional palette.

tracks that subsequently appeared on an artist’s own project – teen daze’s “alaska” opens his 2013 full-length glacier, while ricky eat acid’s “algeria” is housed within a longer composition on three love songs – feel re-contextualized and reinvigorated here, a testament to stadiums & shrines’ dedication to sequencing.  of course, dreams also boasts stunning pieces that are brand-new to its release, like yumi zouma’s french excursion and the spanish getaway taken by julie byrne and eric littman.  julia lucille’s “norway” in particular stands out, the inherent and effective sparseness of her arrangements lending itself well to a frosty, nordic REM cycle.

like any seminal compilation, the effects of dreams can be felt in myriad ways.  the physical version of the album is bookended by sea oleena and gem club, two artists whose signals have gone dim over the past few years; hearing “portugal” and “england’s countryside,” respectively, feels akin to the familiarity and comfort that washes over when running into a long-lost friend.  on a larger scale, dreams is an affirmation of the outsized power of human relationships and collaborations, proof that enduring and endearing projects can be cultivated at comparatively glacial speeds.  the change of pace is refreshing.

dreams is out today via the fine folks at cascine.  spend some time with the album in full, streaming below.

bing & ruth – “quebec (climber)”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen – 

since 2012, the new york-based website stadiums & shrines has been quietly and carefully commissioning an ongoing sequence of songs collectively titled dreams: an invitation for artists to evaluate black-and-white collages of 1950s tourism photographs and interpret them in their aural likeness.  after accumulating over three hours of dreams over the course of six years, stadiums & shrines has made a capsule of twenty tracks, to be released as a double album alongside a multimedia booklet this june via cascine.

s&s victoria masters.jpg

– s & s curators dave sutton & nathaniel whitcomb (victoria masters) – 

the compilation’s second single, “quebec (climber),” comes from the minimalist-inclined, classical collective bing & ruth.  a six-minute wash of cascading acoustic pianos, haunting strings, and distant warbles of clarinet, “quebec (climber)” is the precise type of lush introspection stadiums & shrines has been known to hang its hat on for a decade now.  with an inherent momentum born from its seafaring inspiration, “quebec (climber)” is a welcome glimpse of things to come from stadiums & shrines’ twenty-song double-album.

dreams is out june 15th via cascine.  listen to bing & ruth’s wonderful “quebec (climber)” below.

half waif – “back in brooklyn”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen – 

half waif’s new album, lavender, arrives at the end of the month; it’s one of our most anticipated releases of the year, an anticipation continuously bolstered by the strength of its string of singles.

on “back in brooklyn,” nandi rose plunkett sheds much of the constructs of her usual electro-pop veneer and is left with little else besides a handful of plaintive piano chords.  plunkett’s voice is front and center in this sparing arrangement, the contours of her lead vocal swayed by the push-and-pull tendencies of the accompanying keyboard.  these temporary spurts of momentum lend themselves well to a subject matter grappling with the fragments of a relationship, pieces that yet solidify a component of identity.

it’s a song about comfort that also acknowledges the constraints of said comfort, questioning its benevolence.  alongside its release today, plunkett wrote an essay on “back in brooklyn” for talkhouse, further illuminating its backstory.  lavender arrives april 27th via cascine.  listen to “back in brooklyn” below.

half waif – “torches”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen – 

nandi rose plunkett sits at the helm of the synth-driven pop trio half waif, who are set to release their new full-length, lavender, at the end of april.  the album’s cycle kicked off last month with an audio/visual masterclass for the swirling, invigorating lead single, “keep it out,” which set both tone and precedent with a commanding ease.

“torches,” the second track culled from lavender, pares back its predecessor’s propulsive nature while still retaining its sense of urgency.  plunkett’s lead vocal initially sounds a bit muffled, as if she’s dictating vivid, contemporaneous observations of her surroundings through a field recorder; a comparative clarity is achieved as the arrangement fleshes out, culminating in the sudden, sharp declaration of “i do what i want / you won’t see me anymore.”

percussion reins “torches” in, as opposed to pushing it forward, allowing plunkett’s sustained synth chords ample time to soak into the soundscape and construct the mid-tempo monolith that it ultimately becomes.  lavender is out april 27th via cascine.  listen to “torches” below.

half waif – “keep it out”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen –

details about the forthcoming half waif album, lavender, were still scant at the end of last year when we named it one of our most anticipated releases of 2018.  that anticipation has only increased as more information has come into focus; lavender is due out april 27th via cascine and comes front-loaded with an arresting lead single, “keep it out.”

nandi rose plunkett has always excelled at wrapping soaring melismas up in swaths of synth pads and leads, a pairing nearing its apex and on full display throughout “keep it out.”  combined with celina carney’s stunning visuals, “keep it out” becomes a masterclass in dichotomy that stretches from its narrative to its arrangement and weaves through the most intricate of details.

that plunkett can distill all of this into a capsule of pop perfection – with a surging chorus to boot – is a testament to her enduring gift as a songwriter.  if “keep it out” is any indication, lavender should be one of the year’s more memorable releases.  check out the music video below.

most anticipated albums of 2018

featured image courtesy of minimally minimal –

as 2017 draws to a close, we naturally shift our focus to 2018 and the bevy of albums slated to be released throughout the year.  admittedly, the following list largely focuses on albums due out in the first quarter, with a couple of pipe dreams sprinkled in.  for those still trying to soak up as much of 2017 as possible, check out our favorite releases of the year here.  for those looking to forge ahead, read on.  links to pre-order are embedded if available.

rhyerhye – blood (february 2nd || loma vista)

three strong singles have thus far precluded rhye’s long-awaited sophomore full-length.  after returning this summer with “please,” rhye closed out 2017 with the supple one-two punch of “taste” and “count to five.”  if the samplings and album art are any indication, mike milosh’s work remains as intimate and sensual as ever.

 

Hovvdy Cranberryhovvdy – cranberry (february 9th || double double whammy)

austin duo hovvdy released one of 2016’s most enduring – and endearing – albums in taster.  cranberry, their first since signing to the venerable double double whammy, seems poised to flesh out the warm, lived-in aura that permeates their disarmingly honest work.  case in point: lead single “petal” drips with nostalgia, its assured pace gently giving way to tender falsetto.

 

quiet friendquiet friend – quiet friend (march 9th || elestial sound)

after years of releasing music by himself under the moniker mister lies, nick zanca has shifted into collaborative mode to build quiet friend with steven rogers.  the duo, along with a rotating cast of other contributors, sculpt an audiophile’s dreamscape; lead single “safe” is a whirlwind, but is also just a hint of what quiet friend have in store throughout their self-titled debut.

– other notable releases – 

a grave with no name – passover (january 19th || forged artifacts)

nadine – oh my (january 26th || father/daughter)

triathalon – online (february 16th || broken circles)

s. carey – hundred acres (february 23rd || jagjaguwar)

lucy dacus – historian (march 2nd || matador)

half waif – lavender (tbd || cascine)

helena deland – tba (tbd || luminelle)

ness nite – dream girl (tbd || pow recordings)

pat moon – tba (tbd || track & field)

yours are the only ears – tba (tbd || team love)

 

yumi zouma – “persephone”

– featured image courtesy of aaron lee – 

six weeks out from the release of their sophomore album, willowbank, yumi zouma have let loose another effervescent masterclass in pop construction.  bleary bell tones and synth musings usher in the shimmering thrum of “persephone,” the second single to situate christie simpson’s lead vocal firmly in the foreground, independent of other textural elements.

ever breezy and wistful, “persephone” hits its stride as yumi zouma collectively crosses to the other side of the bridge; all but simpson’s vocal and a mellow synth pad disappear, providing a brief respite before the chorus surges for a final time.  with yet another pristine piece of pop added to their arsenal, the new zealand quartet seem poised to deliver a peerless new full-length.

willowbank arrives october 6th via cascine.  dive into “persephone” below.