four years after releasing her debut full-length as long beard, leslie bear returns this fall with a follow-up, means to me. ahead of that sophomore effort, bear has shared its wistful title track.
“means to me” takes a minute to come into focus, its blurry edges becoming sharp and defined as angular guitars and busy percussion work their way into the foreground. the track’s slight push and pull is a boon to bear’s lead vocal, a lilting, steady calm amidst a gradually shifting soundscape.
means to me is out september 13th via double double whammy. listen to its title track below.
leslie bear, the new brunswick, new jersey singer-songwriter who records as long beard, has lain dormant since 2015’s sleepwalker, her debut for team love records. the four years in between that debut and its follow-up, means to me, found bear moving back to her hometown and reflecting on past events, eventually transferring that nostalgia to pen and paper and then again to tape.
“sweetheart,” the first single from long beard’s impending sophomore full-length, taps into a plaintiveness that then permeates throughout the track, an account of a past love soundtracked by gently pulsating guitars. bear’s lead vocal ultimately dictates the mood, dovetailing with the underlying arrangement as both approach a glimmering, reflective pool.
as 2018 draws to a close, we’ve decided to do something we haven’t done in a couple of years: publish a year-end list on the dimestore. folks who follow our twitter feed may recall seeing our favorite albums of years past tweeted out in a threaded form, often accompanied by requisite links to our previous coverage or words from other publications that really resonated.
this list will be very similar, with a paragraph or two of year-end reflection running alongside links to purchase the album, select media, and previous coverage. like its twitter predecessors, our review of 2018 will run without numerical ranking, instead presented in alphabetical order. by no means authoritative, this list features ten albums that have made a lasting impact in our small corner of existence over the past year. we hope you find something new to embrace.
hovvdy – cranberry
the austin duo hovvdy joined the ranks of double double whammy for their second full-length, their warm, lived-in nostalgic turns slotting nicely into the label’s aesthetic. cranberryfinds hovvdy using a familiar palette as a foundation for cautious forays into tangential sonic realms; the gorgeous lilt of the stand-out cut “truck” is punctuated by wisps of pedal steel, an affective presentation of reflective recollection.
the charlottesville-based daughtery turned in her exquisite debut full-length amidst the dark cloud that hung over her city, its titular light a beacon guiding wayward travelers out of the deepest recesses of their minds. light is ten tracks of melancholia with glimmers of hope and clarity, the perfect album to escape inside of with a pair of headphones on a solitary afternoon.
the seemingly-endless critical acclaim heaped on kacey musgraves throughout 2018 was entirely deserved; golden houris a timeless collection of songs that is easily poised to be one of this decade’s most enduring artifacts. throughout thirteen tracks, musgraves invites the world to peer through her kaleidoscopic lens of cool, cosmic country, folding synthesizers into the expanses of pedal steel vistas while her lead vocal floats effortlessly in the foreground.
a top-ten list of musical moments from golden hour could easily be litigated for a substantial amount of time, but a handful are indisputable: the snappy drum fill before each chorus in “lonely weekend”; the vocoder harmonies in the second half of the second verse in “butterflies”; the entire seventy-eight seconds of “mother.” it’s an album so outwardly joyful and pristine yet inwardly so nuanced and pensive that each repeated listen returns impressive dividends to its recipient, with myriad aural ecosystems just waiting to be discovered.
salt is one of those rare new albums that feels like stumbling upon a long-lost hidden gem upon first listen. mr twin sister spent four years away from the cyclical drone of the music industry, hunkering down to create a lush composite of electronic pop and jazz that functions as the perfect lounge music for the raging inferno of late capitalism that has been 2018.
the southside chicago rapper noname took the fruits of her 2016 mixtape telefone and let them marinate for a couple of years. the result is room 25, a vibrant debut album that accentuates fatimah walker’s independent streak while honing her singular, spoken word-influenced aesthetic. this outing is a bit more visceral and less conversational than its predecessor, a poised and confident collection of songs from an indispensable voice.
kate davis returned for her sophomore spectral outing as pat moon this past summer, escaping into a slightly different headspace that yielded the ten tracks populating romantic era. a cavernous, intensely intimate project, romantic era resonates as haunting whispers from a parallel dimension, a respite from the cacophony of our everyday existence.
austin cairns has recorded ambient music under the moniker r beny for the past few years, filtering the central tenets of 1990s slow-core through a prism of analog and modular synthesizers. his excellent full-length saudade, released in february by the belgian tape label dauw, is a glimmering snapshot of a relatively young synthesist hitting his stride. (cairns’ other 2018 release, october’s eistla, is also commendable.)
any penchant for melody may get buried in a medium that favors deteriorating and evolving soundscapes, but carins’ melodic intuition is the glue that holds saudade together, from the stately, brassy declarations that announce “streams of light” to the hesitant ascent of “burl.” a mixture of percolating motifs and blurry synth pads makes saudade the ideal aural companion for crisp morning walks, hazy summer evenings, and nearly any other solitary venture in between.
sun june shares some commonalities with another austin outfit on this list, all the more reason to keep a steadfast ear to the ground for music coming out of that particular city. on years, the band’s debut full-length for keeled scales, laura colwell and company offer up ten spare tracks that synthesize 1960s pop, early-2000s r&b, and country ornamentations, colwell’s electric piano and the telecaster’s more mellow spectrum teaming up with a tasteful rhythm section for slow-burning standouts like “johnson city” and the muted gleam of opening number “discotheque.”
maybe whack world is an album, or maybe it’s, as its creator describes it, a “visual and auditory project.” while its classification is debatable, the fact that tierra whack offered up something that frustrated a playlist-oriented, algorithmic streaming economy while simultaneously capitalizing on the limitations of instagram videos makes whack world decidedly a product of its time.
and what a product it is. watching the fifteen-minute project in its audio/visual form is obviously the intended method of consumption; whack’s world is a vibrant one that toggles between playful pastiche and snippets of sincerity, a dichotomy reinforced by the characters whack portrays in each vignette. an exercise in limitation and unabashed originality, whack world is one of 2018’s truly unique releases.
a quintessential album of the summer, video age’s pop therapy picks up right where the new orleans duo’s 2016 living alone leaves off, putting synths that previously sat in the background squarely at the center of their balmy new wave exercises. the production across pop therapy is top-notch, with each song carving out its own little niche as ross farbe and ray micarelli steer their sophomore vessel towards its therapeutic destination.
“album of the fortnight” is a 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. next up: hovvdy.
Austin duo hovvdy’s 2016 album taster is warm, understated, and timeless; its eleven tracks are doused in a collective nostalgic haze, a collage of comfort that executes its function time and again. double double whammy reissued taster in april of last year and rumblings of a follow-up soon began percolating. the end result, cranberry, finds charlie martin and will taylor tightening up hovvdy’s core blueprints while confidently venturing out into new sonic territory.
cranberry is compact and potent: twelve songs that clock in around thirty-five minutes. it’s clear from the hushed vocals that tentatively trace the outlines of opening number “brave” that hovvdy is intent on basking in its signature blend of warmth, the edges obscured by crackling overdrive and arrangements that slowly unravel back to their foundation. this theory is further supported by singles like “in the sun,” “petal,” and “late,” a trifecta of hovvdy’s core tenets which easily could have nestled in on the album’s predecessor.
listen closely, however, and these pillars of cranberry feel less anodyne than they may first appear. the production has shifted cautiously out of a lo-fi realm while still taking time to maintain that appearance, and the arrangements are often fleshed out by foreign timbres. in this sense, martin and taylor seem to be easing themselves – and their audience – into the aforementioned sonic departure; case in point: the pastoral synth lead that meanders through “in the sun” presages the largely-electronic composition of “thru,” and returns as a familiar touchstone throughout the rest of cranberry.
this practice of using familiarity to anchor tangential ventures eventually yields “truck,” a gorgeous turn at alt-country filtered through hovvdy’s slow-core lens. in hindsight, the use of banjo sprinkled throughout previous tracks all but foreshadows the song’s arrival, but the beauty of its pedal-steel treatment is difficult to adequately describe; it’s best to just be heard and felt. zooming out, “truck” is indicative of what martin and taylor are able to accomplish across hovvdy: growth and maturation as collaborative songwriters who are confident enough to tweak the foundation of their aesthetic as needed.
the enduring gift of hovvdy is the duo’s use of space. it’s easy to spot and appreciate on sparse tracks, like the penultimate cut “colorful” and the woozy instrumental interlude “tub,” but even full-bodied tracks like “petal” contain unbelievable levels of headroom that is hard not to marvel at. that wide-open, panoramic end result is partially due to compositional choices – such as the openness of guitar chords and the relaxed feel that permeates the percussion – to be sure, but it’s also implied by the ubiquity of the album’s lyrics, intimate snapshots that leave room for interpretation based on personal experiences.
like its predecessor, cranberry is sure to age gracefully as a strong asset in hovvdy’s catalogue. the album is out now via double double whammy; stream it in full, below.
austin’s hovvdy are slated to release their sophomore album, cranberry, on february 9th via double double whammy. the duo’s three preceding singles have all reflected the impending warmth and comfort this album will be capable of providing; its fourth single, “in the sun,” accomplishes the same feat through slightly different means.
a mix of acoustic and electric guitars bleed together and coalesce around a soft back-beat, a muted palette that swaddles a tender lead vocal occasionally laid bare. the linchpin of “in the sun” paces timidly in the background, a pastoral synth line with just enough buoyancy to float to the surface when needed before receding back into the greater texture.
like the very best of recipes, “in the sun” is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, a beautiful collage of frank, minimal pop. listen in below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
austin duo hovvdy made a lasting impression with their debut full-length, taster; released by sports day records in 2016 and reissued by double double whammy earlier this year, taster embodied charlie martin and will taylor’s knack for writing hushed, intimate lo-fi pop, songs that easily could have been exhumed from an older sibling’s tape collection. after taking time to tour and enjoy the well-deserved accolades that have followed taster, martin and taylor are forging ahead with cranberry, their sophomore album, due february 9th.
an initial sampling of cranberry arrived late last month in the form of “petal,” a lilting slow-burner that turns on a disarming, whispered chorus delivered in falsetto. hovvdy’s newest single harbors subtle contrasts; the vocals throughout “late” are assured and nestled in the foreground, and the guitars feel a bit more blown-out, creeping closer to the cacophony of their slowcore forebears.
but “late” is also about tenderness and compassion overcoming initial feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, as the song revolves around the couplet “circle point of view / i’ll come around to you.” appropriately, a pastoral synth pad seems to be perpetually hovering underneath the more immediate timbres, paying homage to the thematic warmth radiating outwards. “late” functions particularly well on repeat, a new component sinking in on each new listen until the track coalesces into something greater than the sum of its parts. embark on your journey through the link below.
“album of the fortnight” is a 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. next up: florist.
It’s tempting to be swallowed whole by the outward fragility of florist; emily sprague’s frank musings are accompanied by sparse, quiet instrumentation, a potent combination whose resulting intimacy and vulnerability should not be downplayed. however, the fragile depiction of florist belies the determination that ultimately resonates across the band’s work and sprague’s lyrics. if blue could be happiness, florist’s sophomore full-length, is matter-of-fact in its delivery, its broad scope equally capable of mining both serenity and devastation.
if blue could be happiness is the logical sonic successor to florist’s debut, the birds outside sang. both albums hinge on sprague’s stream of consciousness and her gentle, finger-picked acoustic guitar, while consonant synthesizers ebb and flow amidst swells of percussion and occasional flourishes of strings; if anything, blue seems to demonstrate more control over this quiet, restrained method of orchestration. it’s a familiar palette, therapeutic in its presentation, a calming demeanor gently swaying in an eternal breeze. but whereas birds examined the aftermath of a near-death experience, blue occasionally zooms in on the loss of a family member and the subsequent reverberations. the exploration of mortality continues, with a subtle change of the lens.
though the unexpected passing of sprague’s mother certainly informs sizable swaths of blue, framing the album solely in terms of grief does a disservice to the multitude of emotions sprague is able to deftly sift through. the centerpiece “glowing brightly” perhaps exhibits this intricacy best; the track turns on the aching line of “mom, i love you / i still hear your voice inside my sleep” but quickly segues into a more uplifting realm, the titular verb and adverb brushstrokes on a sprawling canvas of picturesque, natural beauty. elsewhere, sprague ruminates on the simple wonders of love (“eyes in the sun”) and devotes “thank you light” to a color-filled, poignant examination of self.
of course, the color blue carries significance far beyond its titular placement, almost becoming a desired state of existence that sprague explores in various capacities across the album. on “understanding light” she wonders “why can’t i find a place to hide from the darkness? / i want to live in the blueness,” the hue becoming a more vibrant middle ground in between, or maybe an alternative to, the simple dichotomy of light and dark. on “what i wanted to hold,” a loving violet is slowly sun-bleached blue; later, a pale iteration is conflated with general well-being.
by the time sprague repeats the title track’s hypnotic, swaying mantra, if blue could be happiness has already graduated into a class with few other peers. largely devoid of typical verse-chorus structures, blue feels squarely like an album reserved for intimate, introspective personal journeys, perhaps in bucolic surroundings. it’s an album adorned with gorgeous snapshots of life, love, loss, friendship, and permutations of their various intersections; perhaps just as critically, blue also takes pointed pitstops to marvel at the myriad wonders of nature, a gentle reminder that while life is fleeting, beauty is omnipresent.
“album of the fortnight” is a (recently revived) 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. next up: lomelda
It feels almost sacrilegious to listen to lomelda in anything other than a solitary setting, preferably with headphones. hannah read’s music doesn’t resonate as lonely so much as it does as an examination of what it means to be alone, a sentiment that courses through the river that is her second full-length album, thx. attached to that sentiment is a cocktail of emotions that is equal parts hesitant, curious, and content, a mixture that proves perfect fodder for a thirty-five minute rumination on one’s current state of being.
read’s voice is so arresting, her delivery so immediate throughout thx that this may distract from its status as a high-caliber guitar album, but her simultaneous six-string work is arguably its linchpin. angular lead motifs, like the meandering descent on “interstate vision” or the angular tremolo stabs throughout “from here,” frequently interlock with chord progressions that are as likely to be gritty as they are cleanly strummed, weaving a tapestry that’s as sweeping as the rural texas landscape. that landscape always seems to factor in thematically, no matter how indirect: it’s an obstacle, something to contend with; it’s the backdrop to moments of solace, to familiarity; it’s just simply there.
like other mononymous projects attributed to one central songwriter and persona, lomelda blurs the line between read’s solo project and an exclusive club to which only those closest are granted admission. perhaps the decision is conscious, perhaps it’s just par for the course. the primary contributor throughout thx is read’s brother, tommy, who co-produced, played drums on, and wrote an iteration of the album’s most outwardly-visceral cut, “bam sha klam.” in a four-generation homestead in tiny silsbee, texas, maybe that collaboration was inevitable; a close-knit family is also a convenient sounding board, able to provide some semblance of reaffirmation.
much of thx oscillates around the first and second person, the union and the separation of the characters “you” and “i.” the malleability of read’s vocal melodies is readily present, but it’s the sentiments of the material retrofitted to those contours that leaves a lasting impression, that finds listeners absent-mindedly mumbling certain mantras to themselves for weeks to come. the stories read tells and the snapshot moments she dissects may not be entirely congruous to the experiences of her audience, but the general themes at once feel incredibly intimate and yet accessible, almost universal. that deft maneuvering and presentation is what makes lomelda so special.
delve into the brief, sparse title track to get wrecked by a matter-of-fact narrative; put a circle around penultimate cut “mostly m.e.” if you feel like getting wrecked again. read’s propensity of peppering a very straight-forward approach to storytelling with beautiful imagery is perhaps her most disarming quality, creating an ever-so-slight mystic quality on par with the origin of her project’s name. thx resonates like few other albums this year, and has arrived at an incredibly convenient point on the calendar. block out a half-hour, grab a pair of headphones, and let it reverberate through your very core.
emily sprague’s output as florist is unparalleled. across last year’s debut full-length, the birds outside sang, and its preceding extended play, 2015’s holdly, sprague created a perfect niche to lay her thoughts bare, one where sparse acoustic narratives can be processed alongside full-band ventures and more ambitious expeditions led by modular synthesizers.
“what i wanted to hold,” the first offering from florist’s upcoming sophomore album, skews more towards the former, with naught but soft strumming, root-note reinforcement, and some well-placed swells accompanying sprague’s vocal. the end result is a singular environment, an invite-only expanse of pastoral fields filled with hues of the colors sprague explores throughout her lyrics.
if blue could be happiness is out september 29th via double double whammy. listen to “what i wanted to hold” below.