danielle fricke – body

– featured images courtesy of sophie harris-taylor –

“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: the new extended play from danielle fricke.

Danielle fricke has been hibernating for the better part of three years.  the london, ontario, musician released her hypnotic full-length, moon, at the tail-end of 2015, its dozen tracks blurring the lines between glacial ambience and plaintive singer-songwriter stylings while precluding the lengthy silence that would follow.

last week, fricke quietly released BODY, a six-song collection of new material that functions as a cursory addendum to its predecessor with plenty of wonderful nuances to unpack.  the extended play’s front half is a familiar palette, its slowly-evolving soundscapes providing the foundation for fricke’s haunting vocal exercises.  “intro” is a sustained prelude, its twilight field recordings melding into intimate, ambient chamber music.  the strings’ hesitation becomes more pronounced as the track reaches its conclusion, anticipating the blizzard of white noise that blankets “everything,” fricke’s voice finally emerging from the fray and embarking on a tenuous expedition with a small group of synthesizers in tow.

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at the approximate center of BODY lies “enough,” a quintessential danielle fricke offering that is also the extended play’s lone moment of sustained clarity.  nearly seven minutes long, “enough” finds fricke’s voice unobstructed as she makes her plea against a backdrop of guitar arpeggios, a pairing that was her hallmark across moon.  squalls of distortion percolate to the surface in the song’s final minutes, aiding fricke in her farewell as she journeys on to the collection’s last three tracks.

“cold, blue, even” and “SRGNG” are such marked sonic departures for fricke, each in their own singular way.  the former is through-composed, picking up on the vestiges of “enough” and enduring two minutes of subterranean synth quakes before discovering a piano chord progression replete with wordless vocal motifs; the latter is a glitchy choral exercise, pitch-shifted vocal loops stuttering and restarting while low reeds pulse in the background.  taken together with the extended play’s brief coda, the final ten minutes of BODY go a long way to cement fricke’s experimental bona fides and to reward active listeners with layer upon layer of nuance.

just six songs in length, devotees of fricke’s signature brand of hushed, exploratory world-building would be remiss to hope that BODY is anything but a stop-gap, and that more music is on the way.  in the meantime, stream the extended play in its entirety – preferably with headphones – below.

mothers – “blame kit”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen –

the second mothers album was always going to be a sonic departure from the first.  the songs contained on the band’s 2016 debut when you walk a long distance you are tired were largely culled from kristine leschper’s solo work that existed under the same moniker; the non-album single “no crying in baseball,” recorded after the album and arriving before it, already signaled the quartet’s tilt away from spectral folk and more towards the intricate polyrhythms that accentuated leschper’s song structures on when you walk.

render another ugly method, mothers’ eagerly-anticipated sophomore follow-up, seemingly continues to indulge in those intricacies, at least if its lead single, “blame kit,” is any indication.  essentially a sequence of miniatures, leschper and company meander through tempi and time signatures before slowing their enduring waltz down to a plodding pace, angular guitar arpeggios and percussive interjections providing movement around a languid lead vocal.  mothers has always demanded a certain level of attention in their music, but “blame kit” elevates the active listening expectations to another plane, one where repeated visits routinely reward its audience.

render another ugly method arrives september 7th via ANTI-.  listen to “blame kit” below.

sun june – years

– featured image courtesy of bryan parker –

the debut full-length from sun june would be formidable on the strength of its four singles alone.  the lilting “discotheque,” the churning “slow rise ii,” and the understated “young” combine for a veritable triple threat right out of the gate, while the impossibly wistful “records” sets the bar for the album’s flip-side.  spread across years, howeverare six more gems of equal strength, a testament to the austin quintet’s effortless ability to sequence an album as melancholic as it is instantly memorable.

rounding out the a-side is “johnson city,” its contemplative slide guitar work further broadening sun june’s already-spacious horizons, and the nesting behavior of “homes,” a low and slow saxophone undercurrent dovetailing with warm vocal harmonies.  the album’s final four tracks rest comfortably in the vestiges of “records,” each latching on to a certain timbre or cavernous echo and exploring it fully.  the light four-on-the-floor pulse of “baby blue” and the descending turnarounds that populate “apartments” in particular work to provide respite, subtle gestures that drape sun june’s aesthetic with nostalgia and comfort.

while years registers primarily as a guitar-centric album, michael bain’s motifs and interjections pasted to a wall of reverb, laura colwell’s electric piano treatments don’t deserve to be overlooked; the instrument’s chiming vibrato is the linchpin of penultimate cut “i’ve been,” stretching into its upper register as the song swells to a conclusion.  taken together, years is a compelling inaugural outing, its ten tracks calibrated for optimal contemplation.

years arrives on friday via keeled scales, but you can stream the album in its entirety early, courtesy of hype machine.

sun june – “records”

– featured image courtesy of bryan parker – 

it takes laura colwell less than thirty seconds to conjure a snapshot of aching nostalgia on “records,” the sixth track and fourth single off of sun june’s forthcoming debut album, years.  the austin quintet has skimmed the surface of soulful melancholy on their three preceding offerings, but “records” is the first to dive headlong into the description.

tastefully spare and reveling in the space that results, “records” finds sun june sprinkling a bass-and-drums foundation with interlocking guitar lines and warm vocal harmonies, cresting towards a false ending that dissolves into a minute-long instrumental coda.  with its remarkable restraint and wide-open voicings that evoke the texas landscape, “records” is perhaps the band’s most cohesive encapsulation of its aesthetic yet.

years arrives june 15th via keeled scales.  spin “records” below.

juliana daugherty – light

– featured image courtesy of tom daly – 

there are myriad quaint moments on juliana daugherty’s impeccable debut album light, ones of such commanding stillness and solitude that stand in stark contrast to the three-alarm fire that is the current collective everyday existence.  the charlottesville, virginia, resident largely eschewed the macro-level political trappings on her latest, but its message is still radical: the reclamation of self from mental illness.

the mildly propulsive opening tracks ease gently into daugherty’s intimate world, “baby teeth” especially, aided by its steady, syncopated guitar and warm keyboard interjections amidst daugherty’s meandering lead vocal.   a ten-track collection that sees no merit in trafficking in conciseness, light rewards the listener who engages critically from start to finish, hitting its stride halfway through and becoming truly powerful in its final third.  in particular, the rhythmic playfulness of its title track is the perfect segue into the home stretch, the pensive “come with me” pairing with the sparse “california” to present daugherty at her finest.

armed with a classical music upbringing, a multi-instrumentalist’s ease, and an mfa in poetry, daugherty is uniquely poised to turn in an album of this caliber.  light is chock-full of arresting moments – the cinematic majesty of “sweetheart”; the slow-burning assurance of “bliss”; the rich, unexpected vocal harmonies throughout “easy” – but what endures is daugherty’s unparalleled confidence, charting its course to emerge from the darkness.

light is out now via western vinyl; stream the album in full below.

yours are the only ears – knock hard

– featured image courtesy of alyssa yohana –

“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: yours are the only ears.

Even after susannah cutler began sharing her music publicly in 2014, its dissemination was incredibly measured: a track here, an extended play there, each release a quick glimpse inside a setting so intimate it’s nearly indescribable.  with knock hard, her first full-length release as yours are the only earscutler has finally allowed full immersion into the innermost depths of her private world.

the album’s nine tracks contain a standard palette so sparing that each foreign element introduced carries weight of seismic proportions; the aqueous synth pads on “to be alone” whisk the track away on a solitary voyage to sea, while the melancholic slide motif at the tail end of “seeds” seems to add a second wistful character to the conversation.  the sparseness is a necessity – best not to bury one’s soul being bared in the mix – and comes in handy for a project so centered around the second person, light finger-picking progressing softly in the background as cutler confides in hushed tones.

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despite its enduring sonic warmth and inherently bucolic tendencies, knock hard grapples with the darker questions of existence and belonging, from opening number “saturn” through to its finale, “low.”  there’s a quiet existential crisis housed in the early standout “fire in my eyes,” cutler’s voice embodying the album’s fragility as it cracks over the repeated inquiry “am i a good person?,” while the gritty “enter me” ruminates on the effects of abrupt abandonment, observing that “comfort makes a funny face / when it goes away.”

clocking in at just under thirty minutes, knock hard is a tidy bundle of understated folk songs, acoustic guitars supplemented by well-placed synth countermelodies and barebones percussion.  songs frequently eschew identifiable refrains, cutler instead favoring streams of consciousness that may be tied together by a common vocal melody or a simple but potent mantra.  it’s this choice that gives knock hard its gravity, a versatile strategy that allows cutler to either chart a linear course towards reckoning or to disappear into the contours of a specific emotion or situation.

an album at least four years in the making, the debut from yours are the only ears is essential listening, the strength of its whispered intimacy becoming more apparent each time the needle contacts the wax.  knock hard is out now via team love records.  listen in full below.

yours are the only ears – “you and bobby”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

just two weeks out from the release of her debut full-length, susannah cutler has shared the album’s final single, “you and bobby.”  like the rest of cutler’s output at the helm of yours are the only ears, “you and bobby” is incredibly measured, doling out precise parcels of vivid imagery, storytelling that wends through optimism and desolation before arriving at its final destination.

the sparse instrumentation gradually fills out as the song progresses, the keyboards exploring more motion with the percussion as rigid acoustic fingerpicking ventures into an upper register.  but it’s when everything drops out that “you and bobby” reaches critical mass, the faint pulse of a kick drum and the warbling current of organ pads absorbing the weight and resolution of cutler’s lyrics.

knock hard is out may 11th via team love records.  listen to “you and bobby” below.

yours are the only ears – “fire in my eyes”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

susannah cutler has constructed an entire realm of sound around a foundation of potent, affecting lyrics.  the building blocks that comprise the sonic architecture of cutler’s work as yours are the only ears feel less sparse than they do exhaustively sourced and meticulously placed, a curation of complementary timbres that accentuate the sheer weight of her lyrics.

ahead of the release of her debut album, knock hard, cutler has shared its third single, “fire in my eyes.”  bucolic acoustic finger-pickings coexist with an ominous sub-bass synth line, an unsettling juxtaposition that functions as an analog to cutler’s vacillations about the song’s subject.  her audience bears witness to all the hesitations that accompany a toxic relationship’s dissolution, culminating in the heartbreaking, repeated inquiry of “am i a good person?”  it’s a tour de force of emotion, snippets of memories stitched together into an unforgettable, hypothetical narrative.

knock hard is due may 11th via the esteemed team love records.  listen to the powerful “fire in my eyes” 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.

helena deland – “there are a thousand”

– featured image courtesy of alex huard –

montreal singer-songwriter helena deland garnered a spot on our list of this year’s anticipated releases, and some of that release’s outstanding elements have recently come into focus.  for one, it appears that deland will share a pair of extended plays throughout 2018; the first installment, from the series of songs “altogether unaccompanied” vol. iis due out march 2nd via luminelle recordings.

for another, it appears that our anticipation was completely warranted.  “there are a thousand,” the first single culled from “altogether unaccompanied” vol. i, is a snapshot of deland’s effortless intimacy coupled with an airy, confident lead vocal.  swirling around all of this is a lush arrangement tinged with psychedelia, one that seems perfectly content to drift off into the distance when the moment is right.  listen to “there are a thousand” below.