harley alexander – “tiny bricks”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

little more than a year after releasing harland, the montreal-based singer-songwriter harley alexander is gearing up for the advent of a new mini-album, spill kid.  alexander leads somewhat of a nomadic lifestyle, splitting his time between performing in montreal and planting trees clear across the country, just outside of vancouver.  it was on the west coast that this latest batch of songs took shape; nestled in amongst nurturing tape hiss and warm acoustic guitars are slightly poignant ruminations on alexander’s surroundings.

“tiny bricks,” the first offering from alexander’s forthcoming release, studiously evokes every facet of this aesthetic.  inside a simple structure of drum programming and softly-strummed chords lies a hazy narrative, one that examines the soothing familiarity of nature as it relates to a smattering of interpersonal vulnerability.  punctuated by a mournful melodic motif that sustains throughout its coda, “tiny bricks” is an excellent glimpse into the intimate environment that is spill kid.

spill kid arrives october 20th via sports day records.  marinate in “tiny bricks” 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.

sayth – “maybe god is afraid of us?”

sayth
photo courtesy of the artist

eric wells’ output as sayth is becoming more refined, more sobering; his collaborative ep with north house, body pillow, is often a bummer in tone yet beautiful to listen to and digest.  “maybe god is afraid of us?” is an especially listless cut about a fracturing relationship and its aftermath, sentiments explored in detail throughout its brand new music video.  wells’ brother spencer again helms the director’s chair for the clip and pieces together a melancholy montage of coping mechanisms that culminate in a scene that’s simultaneously tranquil and jarring.  check out the video below.

wealthy relative – “bad things (our body)”

wealthy relative 1
photo courtesy of the artist

dan forke’s output as wealthy relative has always meandered towards the philosophical, experimental side of hip-hop, a calling card that allows his latest ep, a four-track collection entitled post-clarity, to function in a profoundly introspective environment.  on “bad things (our body),” forke wanders through the track’s hook before settling in on a mantra of “i don’t know what feels right / but i know what feels good,” one that feels particularly paramount to his present headspace.  you can stream and download post-clarity in its entirety here; take a listen to “bad things (our body)” below.

premiere – sayth

sayth
photo courtesy of spencer wells

eric wells is a fixture in wisconsin’s diy scene right now.  he gigs constantly around the state and frequently crosses the state line to rap in the minneapolis/st. paul area; when he’s not performing, wells dedicates a majority of his time to tirelessly promoting the other local musicians around him, enthusiastically sharing their new work via co-ordinated social media blasts and plugging all-ages events.  this tireless networking has yielded fruitful results; much of this past year has been spent developing lowkey radical, a burgeoning record label that hosts many of wells’ most-trusted collaborators.

one of the label’s first releases will be body pillow, a four-track co-op between wells and alex tronson, a minneapolis-bred producer who performs as north house.  the duo chose to eschew conventional release format, opting instead to slowly share each song individually before sending out pre-ordered physical copies; so far, body pillow has featured “pink pistols” with its searing macklemore slam and “a formal apology to grandma wells,” a non-sequitur-laced commentary on awkward family vacations with a prominent guest verse from wealthy relative.

 

the project’s third single, “maybe god is afraid of us?”, is comparatively introspective, defined by a murky, futuristic north house beat and a heartbreaking display of vulnerability from wells as he anticipates the inevitable end of a relationship.  compounded by an indelible guest hook from baby blanket, the track is a pensive comedown, providing extensive levels of depth and contrast to body pillow as a cohesive unit.  “maybe god is afraid of us?” is streaming for the first time ever right here on dimestore saints; listen to the premiere above, and read on below for an exclusive interview with sayth about the creation of body pillow and his plans for the new label.

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you worked with north house a bit on bad habitat last year. what led the two of you to want to make a fully collaborative project?

since the release of bad habitat, north house has become one of my best friends.  last winter i started performing with him more and more, just to have someone else to jump around with on stage and hang with in green rooms.  i have a lot of respect for his drive as a producer.  he’ll sit down and spend whole days working on one beat and he’s constantly posting them on places like reddit’s r/futurebeats, searching for critique and feedback.  i’ve seen his production style improve and evolve solely from having the ambition to ask for help and take advice.  this ep just felt really natural; i’d have new raps and be like, “you got any beats?”  he’d play me something and i’d jump around and just start rapping to it.  that’s how the whole thing happened; we just did whatever felt right.  i love working with him because he has his own lane and an impressive body of solo work.  he’s also one of the easiest people to travel with and likes to party just as much as i do, so that doesn’t hurt.

what’s the ethos behind body pillow?  what frame of mind were you in when writing its material?

the bulk of this project was written in late 2014/early 2015, in the cold wisconsin winter.  i was drinking a lot of whiskey and living on a shoestring budget.  to me, each track on body pillow seems to have a more concrete theme than bad habitat’s songs did, though that was never my intention setting out.  for example, i wrote my verse for “a formal apology to grandma wells” about a vacation i took with my family to north carolina where i basically just drank johnny walker red and sat by the pool the whole time feeling like a loser.  when we took the trip i had just turned twenty-one and was living illegally in a tiny shared room near downtown eau claire, still unsure if dropping out of college was the right choice.  pair that with a week-long family reunion in a house with all of my cousins and you get a verse full of self-doubt and uneasiness.

the two tracks released so far lean heavily on outside contributions, be it videography or a guest verse.  how important have your friends been to the shape body pillow has taken?

very important.  in the last year i’ve really started surrounding myself with friends that create music-related content in some way, whether that’s design, video work, beats, raps, whatever.  a solid portion of navigating my place in music has been figuring out what i’m good at, and what my friends are better at.  i can rap, but i can’t design my way out of a paper bag or storyboard a video – well, i could, but not on a professional level.  i feel very blessed.  dan forke, whom i’ve been friends with since middle school, has done wonders as my art director.  my brother spencer is a professional photographer and is super experienced with video work.  north house knows how to master a track in a flash, and make it sound radio-ready.  that’s the idea of lowkey radical: we all contribute our strengths to each other’s art so that the content we put out is the best it can be.  sayth on a surface level is just me rapping, but there’s a squad of people helping me out.

the production on “maybe god is afraid of us?” feels a bit darker and more cerebral than other tracks on body pillow.  did this inform your lyrical direction at all?

i actually wrote those two verses to a riley lake beat.  i played two shows with him in early november of 2014 and he gave me a beat tape he had produced.  after i wrote it i asked him about the beat and he said rory (ferreira, aka milo, aka scallops hotel) had already claimed it.  so then i found this north house beat and i thought the verses fit really well.  i wrote the hook in january and tried to sing it with some autotune but it was sounding really goofy.  then we added luke (baby blanket) recently and it felt solid right away; his voice already sounds autotuned.

“maybe god is afraid of us?” feels very tender.  can you speak to your headspace for this particular track, abstractly if need-be?

i wrote that song while i was in a relationship and essentially predicted its expiration.  the song is about losing productivity to love and the anxieties that come with that.  love is expensive.

what’s next for you?  are you going to play out with the body pillow material for awhile, or are you looking ahead to new projects?

we’re cutting more tracks for a november or december release.  i moved to minneapolis recently; i’m living at a basement venue called green greens with alex adkinson (formerly of soflty, dear) and he basically has a studio in his room so we can record whenever we want.  i love living here.  i sleep in the basement and it’s grungy and i feel like a pirate.  tickle torture is playing here in september; i love that i can sit in my bed and watch bands play.  luke, wealthy, and north house are always around so we’re cooking up new songs all the time.

as far as immediate releases go, i’m focusing most of my effort on getting out eps for the rest of the label.  dan has one set to go for late august, astral samara is dropping his debut tape in september, and we have a lowkey radical compilation tape coming out in october.

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one more collaborative track from sayth and north house is due soon.  we’ll also be following the developments of lowkey radical closely as the fall progresses.  stream “maybe god is afraid of us?” one more time to let it sink in, and then visit sayth and north house on all of their socials.

bandcamp / bandcamp
facebook / facebook
soundcloud / soundcloud
twitter / twitter

listen to a new song from sayth

sayth
photo courtesy of spencer wells

eau claire-bred rapper eric wells has been no stranger to dimestore saints; his 2014 ep bad habitat landed on our year-end best-of list, and we’ve been keeping close tabs on his subsequent projects.  wells is prepping his latest release as sayth, a collaborative effort with producer north house called body pillow, and today he shared the projects’s second single.  “a formal apology to grandma wells” is powered by an absolutely filthy bass line and continues to showcase wells’ lyrical adroitness as he fluctuates effortlessly between slight self-deprecation and tongue-in-cheek references.  a large chunk of “grandma wells” is then ceded to sayth’s frequent collaborator wealthy relative before a soothing gang-vocal hook sees the track home.  body pillow is out later this month; listen to “a formal apology to grandma wells” below.

eskimeaux – o.k.

eskimeaux o.k.
out may 12th via double double whammy

the term “bedroom pop” gets thrown around quite often these days, both by blogs such as this one and by some of the artists that they cover.  it’s a fairly innocuous tag, usually referring to the home-recorded preferences of the musicians in question and their intimate, stripped-down approach to both instrumentation and lyricism.  but while some artists are conforming to the perceived confines of the genre, there are others that strive to push its boundaries.  eskimeaux and her new album o.k. land squarely in the latter category, bolstering bedroom pop blueprints with flurries of exquisite electronic augmentation.

gabrielle smith has experimented with different styles of music since she began using the moniker eskimeaux; early ventures were in the noisy realm, while a 2012 self-titled album moved on to explore elements of edm.  there are traces of those elements across o.k., but they feel streamlined, a refinement of initial dabbling that now fits more comfortably with smith’s finely-honed lyricism.  album opener “folly” illustrates this principle well.  what could be a quaint folk song quickly blossoms into a fully-orchestrated endeavor, with thick, resonant drum programming serving as the anchor of an otherwise-organic arrangement, a dichotomy explored in depth on tracks like “broken necks” and “everything you love.”

smith’s timbral choices aren’t restricted or explicitly informed by her previous output.  by and large, o.k. reads more like a rock record, with substantial low-end presence and guitar counter-melodies fleshing out smith’s initial bedroom-culled sketches.  “alone at the party” is hard-charging and scrappy, its tempo and volume belying the somber lyrical undertones, while songs like “thanks” and “the thunder answered back” toggle between straight-ahead time signatures and freer, more ambient sections with aplomb.  firmly committed to not being backed into a corner of any sorts, smith also turns in a stripped-down performance to close out o.k., its inevitable arrival foreshadowed by sustained solo passages on “i admit i’m scared” and “sparrow.”

eskimeaux’s songs may originate from a bedroom, but the end result certainly doesn’t feel confined to such a small space.  o.k. thrives on the symphonic maximalism of “pocket full of posies,” the whispering minimalism of “that’s o.k.,” and everything in between, an astute dedication to contrast that will undoubtedly lend itself well to the band’s live show.  this multidimensional album is unpredictable and uncompromising in the best ways possible; spend some time with o.k. and discover just how expansive the bedroom pop aesthetic is capable of being.

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note: eskimeaux will tour this summer with mitski and elvis depressedly.  elvis depressedly released their stunning album new alhambra via run for cover records and orchid tapes today as well.

watch the music video for sayth’s “rare candy”

sayth’s bad habitat ep was one of our favorites from last year for good reason; you can click through that link to read us wax poetic about eric wells’ work ethic and artistic persona, but the bottom line is that sayth continues to be an extremely singular project that stands in stark contrast to some of the other music coming out of the midwest.  the music video for the bad habitat stand-out cut “rare candy” keeps this trend going.  an 8-bit pokémon sample fades in as a backdrop to an altar of 1990s-era regalia with wells as its centerpiece, who promptly swaps his gameboy color in favor of an sp-404 once the track’s beat kicks in.

the “rare candy” cast is a veritable who’s who of the eau claire diy scene that helped foster sayth’s career, with members of adelyn rose, hemma, and glassworks improv functioning as wells’ entourage throughout the video.  the nostalgic vhs treatment – courtesy of directors peter elliott eaton and spencer w. wells – pairs well with the video’s euphoric subject matter, and while both at times belie the song’s more metaphysical lyrical turns, the resulting contrast only seems to permanently underscore sayth’s ethos: rigorous self-examination does not have to come at the sacrifice of flat-out fun.  watch “rare candy” below.

soft cat – all energy will rise

soft cat all energy will rise
out april 7th via miscreant records/father daughter records

neil sanzgiri’s output at the helm of soft cat has often felt bucolic and in touch with his natural surroundings; those tenets resonate in full on his project’s latest effort, all energy will rise.  conceived from the remnants of personal tragedy, all energy will rise follows sanzgiri and his fellow musicians through a beautiful odyssey of chamber ensemble arrangements on their path to collective enlightenment.

sanzgiri and company often cycle between moments of hazy ambience and sustained periods of meticulously orchestrated counterpoint.  the ambiguity of the former could very well hold a secondary, symbolic meaning, but on record its presence seems to mark the beginning and end of cohesive musical ideas.  the first third of all energy will rise is structured around remarkable clarity and conscious melodic interplay, from sanzgiri’s vocal takes and finger-picking on “somebody” to the gradual polyphony found in “new song” all the way to the union of the two on “old song.”  the songs are a perfect execution of the camaraderie one would expect from a group identifying as a collective, but the pleasing harmonic consonance belies the darker undertones buried in this album.

there are shards of melancholy in all energy will rise, particularly in the mournful midsection that spans the masterful “diana” to the swaying “desert eyes,” but it doesn’t feel self-indulgent; it feels necessary.  it’s an inevitable, logical response to near total loss of personal livelihood, and soft cat would be remiss not to acknowledge these more plaintive feelings.

this vast chunk relies more frequently on sanzgiri’s lyrics to deliver each song’s main narrative – although the chill and sparseness of “field gap (for chris marker)” may most convincingly represent the somber nature of the album’s backstory – but its presentation doesn’t read as strictly linear.  rather, sanzgiri delves deep into the complexity of his natural surroundings and inspects their wide spectrum of impact, coming up with a narrative that reads largely as a wash, devoid of anything starkly positive or negative.  perhaps it’s this complexity that leads to the belated thesis of the album, found in its title track: a recognition that the world is bigger and more beautiful than the sum of any one individual’s parts.

all energy will rise is an album of reconciliation.  its themes move through moments of premature clarity, past the melancholic entrapments of writing about personal loss and confusion, and pushes on to firmly assert a victorious stance; there’s a level of cohesion felt on this record that is exceedingly rare.

perhaps most importantly, sanzgiri and his host of collaborators have succeeded in conveying this wealth of emotions on a purely musical level as well.  the lush string arrangements and warm brass tones gradually brim with confidence as the album progresses – though they never spill over into an artificial state of euphoria – and the moments that feel disorienting in their lack of clarity are carefully calculated bits of contrast, allowing the ensemble a fresh palate to draw upon.  for an album that is so indebted to the inner workings of the natural world, all energy will rise unfolds impressively in an appropriately organic manner; this feels like the record sanzgiri was always meant to create.

8.4/10

listen to a new song from elvis depressedly

elvis depressedly
photo courtesy of sam ray // run for cover records

after teasing “n.m.s.s” and the promise of a new album in 2014, elvis depressedly went mum, offering frustratingly little information on the status of their latest project.  good things come to those who wait, however; the band signed on with run for cover records earlier this year, and the boston-based label will release new alhambra at some point in may.  in the meantime mat cothran and delaney mills have offered up “bruises (amethyst),” a warbly slice of the duo’s home-recorded pensive pop that cothran describes quite beautifully in a recent interview with stereogum.  take a listen to “bruises (amethyst)” below.