laura marling – short movie

out march 24th via ribbon music
out march 24th via ribbon music

laura marling’s 2013 album, once i was an eagle, was perhaps the epitome of the english folk aesthetic she had developed over the past five years.  marling had perfected an intimate style of songwriting that also employed subtly intricate guitar work – reminiscent of, say, nick drake – and drew appropriate comparisons to sharon van etten and joni mitchell as well, but her voice was immediately recognizable: less mournful but just as frank.

still, acoustic timbres can run the risk of becoming severely limiting, especially after four albums in such a short amount of time.  it makes sense that marling felt burnt out, but we’re very fortunate that she’s returned to the game with short movie, an album that slowly eases into a vast and more inclusive soundscape.

there’s an immediacy felt on “warrior,” the static opener of short movie, that wasn’t as present in marling’s previous material.  the metaphor is thinly veiled to allow her exhaustion with her subject to easily cut through, and it’s delivered via a haze of white noise and plaintive guitar textures that all but foreshadow the album’s lyrical tone.  but rather than grinding out fifty minutes of sparse, sorrowful ballads, marling partially circumvents the heavy thematic material with a variety of tempo choices and more expansive arrangements.  “false hope” is the first taste of marling in a primarily electric setting, one that becomes increasingly familiar throughout the course of the album.  with a full band in tow one can almost get pulled away from the heartbreaking subject matter, but its unshakable presence is renewed with each cadence of the song’s title.

marling’s electric guitar doesn’t feel like a crutch or a gimmick; it doesn’t change how she approaches songwriting harmonically nor does it become the singular focus of short movie, but it does provide her with new, complementary timbres (“walk alone”) and the extra weight to handle dense compositions (“false hope,” “don’t let me bring you down’).  if anything, it’s a necessary tool needed to dole out the stark musical contrast absent from her previous albums.  marling is still at her best on acoustic-charged numbers like “strange” and “easy,” and this new foil ensures that they aren’t glossed over.

short movie reads like another break-up album, subject matter that marling handles with aplomb.  feelings of inadequacy and moments of self-doubt are so dutifully chronicled that although marling is speaking from personal experience, many issues and scenarios feel within the grasp of the audience.  still, marling never shows her full hand; short movie comes across as a non-linear storyline, with pledges of self-betterment (“divine”) and sly all-knowing sneers (“gurdjieff’s daughter”) breaking up the darker emotions with which she grapples.

the weight of marling’s subject matter was never unbearable on previous outings, but the absence of a clearly sequential narrative breathes a bit of new life into her album structure.  lyrical turns are sometimes unexpected and are augmented by the subtle timbral enhancements that inform each song’s composition.  short movie is a logical permutation of marling’s well-crafted sound, one that leaves a slim margin for error or inaccessibility.  whether or not this somewhat conservative approach appeals to all is another question, but marling is still one of the most enthralling songwriters at work today.  give short movie a spin.

8.2/10

listen to a new song from sharon van etten

sharon van etten released one of our favorite albums of 2014 and she shows no signs of slowing down in 2015.  last week van etten premiered a new song, “i don’t want to let you down,” ostensibly culled from the same recording sessions as are we there.  the new single prefaces an upcoming 7″ and ep, out later this year via jagjaguwar, both of which will highlight the song.  you can stream the gorgeously chilled-out “i don’t want to let you down” below.

listen to a new song from teen daze

teen dazeteen daze’s european tour will begin next week, and he’s bringing a brand new ep along with him.  a world away is a six-track effort that serves to bridge the gap between 2013’s glacier and his impending full-length, but it doesn’t feel temporary.  evidence to this claim can be found in “another night,” a liquid-filled muted house anthem that occasionally sputters into moments of ambiance.  it’s the second single lifted from a world away, which is due out in full next tuesday.  take a listen to “another night” below.

most anticipated albums of 2015

2014 is all but in the books, and so we’re naturally turning our intention towards 2015 and all of the music it will potentially bring.  everyone is on the edge of their seats for the new kanye west album, and modest mouse’s first record in eight years should be interesting, but here are ten other acts with music coming out next year that we can’t wait to digest.  read on.

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chvrches – after touring relentlessly for nearly two years behind their excellent debut the bones of what you believe, glaswegian trio chvrches has returned to the drawing board to work on a follow-up.  no word on when that album will show up, but new songs that showed up on the re-worked drive soundtrack and the lorde-curated hunger games: mockingjay – part 1 may be indications of what’s to come.

daughterdaughter – everything that daughter has touched has turned to gold, including a couple of remixes and re-workings of songs off of if you leave with a ten-piece chamber orchestra in tow.  like chvrches, daughter just finished up a pretty extensive tour in support of their excellent debut, and the trio is holed up somewhere overseas working on a follow-up.

deafheaven – “from the kettle onto the coil” was the only offering from deafheaven in 2014, and the song yields absolutely no indication of what their impending new album will sound like.  regardless of the final product, it will be interesting to see what the genre-defying san francisco outfit comes up with on their third try.

elvis depressedly – we were supposed to hear new alhambra before this year was over, but mat cothran and company chose to sign with run for cover records to allow for wider dissemination of the record, among other things.  elvis depressedly’s much-anticipated new album will be out sometime in the spring of 2015, and we have the excellent “no more sad songs (n.m.s.s.)” to tide us over for the time being.

frank ocean – frank ocean’s follow-up to 2012’s channel orange was purported to be done this past april, then it was due out sometime this past summer; now, who knows.  ocean did release a snippet of a new song called “memrise” last month, enough to set the internet on fire, but there’s still no concrete release date for his new album.  then again, dropping something completely unannounced seems right up his alley.

james blake – james blake’s third album is reportedly seventy percent complete and should see a release sometime in the spring of 2015.  blake has been quietly building anticipation, teasing the prospect of collaborations with justin vernon and kanye west along with releasing a short ep entitled 200 press.  expect a single sometime early next year to dictate the aesthetic of the impending album.

kendrick lamar – kendrick delivered some promising material in 2014 but failed to provide what everyone wanted: the follow-up to good kid, m.a.a.d city.  his new single, “i,” seemed to indicate a departure from the grim undertones of his masterful 2012 concept album, but the untitled track lamar revealed on the colbert report swiftly contradicted that notion and leaves the tone of his new record completely up in the air.  but who knows when that will surface.

panda bear –  noah lennox is releasing his fifth solo album, panda bear meets the grim reaper, on january 13th via his new home, domino records.  the world always seems game for a new panda bear record, and it’s been about four years since lennox has delivered.  armed with the strong singles “mr. noah” and “boys latin,” grim reaper is poised to be one of the early standouts of 2015.

teen dazeteen daze – if all goes to plan, we’ll be able to hear not one but two new projects from teen daze in 2015.  he recorded the follow-up to his 2013 magnum opus glacier in san francisco this fall, and he’s also slated to release a placeholder ep entitled a world away for his european tour this winter.

their/they’re/there – this chicago trio is kind of like a birthday cake: the individual ingredients might not be significantly appetizing, but the sum of all its parts is quite desirable.  their/they’re/there released a pair of eps in 2013 that hinged largely on the impeccable guitar work of matthew frank, and rumor has it that they’ll offer forth a full-length sometime next year.

best of 2014: albums

the end of our year-end best-of week is finally upon us, and we’ve saved the best for last: ten full-length albums of 2014 that best represent the musical convictions of dimestore saints.  in many cases, we’ve beaten these albums to death with accolades, so this list will be strictly visual.  as usual, the link embedded in the artist and album title will lead to a stream of said album, while clicking through each photo will lead to a review that accurately conveys our feelings.  by and large, the reviews will come from this site, but a couple will be pulled from other sites and writers that we admire.  cool?  cool.

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alvvays cover

10. alvvays – alvvays

sve are we there cover

9. sharon van etten – are we there

ritual in repeat cover

8. tennis – ritual in repeat

cloud nothings cover

7. cloud nothings – here and nowhere else

too bright cover

6. perfume genius – too bright

familiars cover

5. the antlers – familiars

caribou our love cover

4. caribou – our love

lost in the dream cover

3. the war on drugs – lost in the dream

fka twigs lp1 cover

2. fka twigs – lp1

three love songs cover

1. ricky eat acid – three love songs

mixtape sunday – best of 2014

 

on friday we published a list of our ten favorite songs of 2014.  naturally, we’ve compiled those tracks into a concise mixtape for your listening pleasure, which can be experienced above.  our picks run in reverse order and feature offerings from alvvays, caribou, ricky eat acid, fka twigs, and more.  check back tomorrow for continued coverage of our year-end best-of lists.

best of 2014: music videos

as the years tick by, the music video seems to become an increasingly insignificant form of consumption.  though youtube is a powerful streaming source, lyric videos and static images accompanied by audio have largely become the norm.  amidst the changing landscape lies a handful of artists (check the output of honorable mentions fka twigs and perfume genius for further examples of consistently stunning work) and videographers still dedicated to enhanced storytelling through visual representation; we’ve compiled our five favorite offerings of 2014 below.

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5. lorde – “yellow flicker beat”


single-handedly curating the soundtrack to an assured universal blockbuster is no easy task for anyone, let alone a seventeen year-old.  lorde went two steps further, shouldering responsibility for the soundtrack’s monstrous lead single, “yellow flicker beat,” and its accompanying music video.  numerous comparisons were made to the aesthetic of david lynch, but the video particularly excels at showcasing lorde’s ownership of her artistic identity; her singular form of dancing becomes synonymous with the song’s anthemic chorus, further cramming a very natural artistic expression down the throats of detractors who expect something different from female pop stars.

4. pillar point – “dreamin'”


the surreal implications of the song’s title are aptly accentuated in the music video for “dreamin’.”  an early staple of pillar point’s career and the centerpiece of his self-titled debut album, “dreamin'” is forcibly reworked – in its introduction, anyways – to accommodate the contorted dancing style of the video’s protagonist, who seems to be a projection from the mind of the older man who appears at the beginning and end of the sequence.  yet despite the jubilance and dedication conveyed in the dance, “dreamin'” retains an incredible amount of poignancy, as the dancer’s feats go largely unnoticed.

3. caroline smith – “half about being a woman”


caroline smith tried her hand at r&b last year and wound up with half about being a woman, one of our favorite albums of 2013. nearly a year later she delivered a music video for the album’s title track that is at once heart-wrenching and uplifting, as smith’s monochromatic character traverses from utter despair to hardened confidence with a bit of help from her döppelganger.  raw emotions are rarely captured so effectively.

2. st. vincent – “digital witness”


a wes anderson color palate meets annie clark’s frazzled grey mane in st. vincent’s music video for “digital witness.”  clark has to be shortlisted as one of the best artists to emerge in the past decade, and the depth offered by her latest album only strengthens her claim to that exclusive club.  social commentary has often been a covert operation throughout st. vincent’s discography, but her views on the strong grip of modern technology are readily apparent on “digital witness.”  the martial rigidity of the song’s synthetic horn staccatos is mirrored by the nonsensical militaristic marching in the video, and the uniformity and repetitive acts performed by the cast is a metaphor for the enslaving power wielded by digital technology.  even clark, portrayed as a wary outsider, doesn’t seem to be fully free of its grasp.  just like the bulk of st. vincent’s output, both “digital witness” and its music video are beautiful at surface level and absolutely compelling once the outer layers are peeled away.

1. vince staples – “nate”


vince staples will be a key player in the immediate future of hip-hop, largely in part due to his visceral storytelling contained in songs like “nate.”  the video that accompanies the focal point of staples’ fourth mixtape, shyne coldchain vol. 2, is just as jarring: a domestic dispute played out in slow motion seen through the eyes of an unfazed child.  through association, one might assume that the autobiographical material from staples’ childhood directly correlates to the video’s protagonist, but said protagonist encounters staples while en route to a convenience store.  the fact that the video’s plot line may exist outside of staples’ personal narrative is critical, as it showcases a cyclical epidemic of violence and drug abuse in urban southern california.  it’s not a long stretch; staples has already proven he’s one of the most hyper-aware young minds in the rap game.

st. vincent – marry me

St. Vincent Marry Me
beggars banquet

it’s a largely accepted fact in 2014 that annie clark is a preeminent fixture of pop music; her eccentric guitar skills have become spectacle, over-saturated in fuzz distortion and often processed through synthesizers, while the depth of her songwriting has become increasingly formidable over the span of four albums.  but in 2007, clark had yet to solidify her musical identity as st. vincent.  she had done stints in sufjan stevens’ touring band and had worked with the polyphonic spree, but had offered up no solo work of her own.  that, in part, is why marry me continues to be such a monumental album, one that clearly shaped clark’s career as opposed to functioning as a mere stepping-stone.

this distinction is critical: the trajectory of st. vincent has always been an evolution, never a reinvention, and marry me contains the foundation of that vision.  wisps of the grandeur that would eventually control efforts like 2011’s strange mercy and this year’s self-titled album exist, but they’re muted, almost as if clark was suppressing innate artistic urges in order to develop them more cohesively before embarking on a full exploration.  nonetheless, by the time she delivers “your lips are red,” the album’s third track, early signifiers are there: jagged melodies, stuttering guitars, surreal imagery.

despite the presence of those key elements, the dominating component of marry me is decidedly acoustic.  the jagged melodies found in “your lips are red” are delivered primarily by a piano, not a guitar or synthesizer, and string flourishes add an element of the baroque that was so in vogue amongst clark’s new york contemporaries in the mid-2000s.  witness this combination again on the album’s title track, a plaintive ballad propelled by a soft piano progression and enhanced by a string ensemble.  this is also one of the first tastes of clark’s quick, understated wit delivered through song.  the song’s (and album’s) title is lifted from a running gag found in the initial run of arrested development, effectively dispelling any submissive or patriarchal undertones that may initially be conveyed, and lines like “we’ll do what mary and joseph did / without the kid” continue to subvert expectations and suggest that if mutual affection is going to be legally consummated, it will be on clark’s terms.

marry me is also unique within st. vincent’s discography in that it’s the only album to prominently feature clark’s talent on an acoustic guitar.  many of those skills evidently translated to her electric explorations, but they somehow seem even more impressive when stripped of their bombastic tendencies.  “paris is burning” is initially structured around relatively intricate acoustic finger-picking before diverging down the path of a bizarre waltz foreshadowed by clark’s apocalyptic lyrics.  but even as the meter shifts and a robust hammond organ starts jockeying for attention with an angular electric riff, the song still feels critically informed by the initial acoustic work, as if the eventual cacophony wouldn’t have been as meaningful – or even possible – without that ominous contrast.

the album’s key triptych is delivered late, and rightfully so.  listeners are required to peel back the outer layers of annie clark’s musical onion before they receive the privilege of experiencing the true potential of her artistic ingenuity.  “landmines” is a five-minute slow-burner that compounds clark’s affinity for meter changes and gradually shifting instrumentation (the harp sweeps contrasting martial snare flams almost make the song), but she also recycles hints of subject matter from “paris is burning” into the morose metaphor “landmines” is centered around.  “we put a pearl in the ground” pulls its title from an early lyric in “landmines,” and the use of “we” instead of “i” in the title is crucial, as it implies a sense of unity and resolution.  it’s the only track on marry me that clark doesn’t appear on (long-time david bowie collaborator mike garson provides the piano interlude), but its ornamented melody is derived from clark’s vocal contour on “landmines,” and the placid piano timbre further suggests a peaceful outcome.

“human racing” is the consonant result of the path taken by “landmines” and “we put a pearl in the ground.”  the album’s penultimate track is also the clearest foreshadowing of the subsequent course st. vincent’s career would take.  marry me largely favors chordal structure over riffs, but “human racing” blurs the line.  clark’s guitar work is so fascinatingly intricate that, while she mostly remains within the harmonic confines of the song’s progression, the ornamentations and passing tones almost push the vocals out of the spotlight to make the instrumentation the memorable component of the piece.  the ascending interludes provided by a small ensemble of woodwinds and brasswinds are also indicative of later st. vincent tropes: add a bit more low-end and a more intense bridge, and “human racing” wouldn’t sound out of place on actor or clark’s 2012 collaboration with david byrne.

clark’s biblical references are sparse but evident, perhaps a witty concession to her adopted stage name, but her lyrics especially thrive on metaphor and the simplest of statements that are incredibly profound.  an example of the latter is contained in the chorus of “the apocalypse song,” as she examines the basic principles of physics before declaring “it’s time / you’re light / i guess you are afraid of what everyone is made of.” and just like that, a seemingly simple fear becomes an all-consuming one.  clark’s use of metaphor and surreal imagery becomes more prominent on subsequent efforts, but its origins are firmly grounded in marry me; religious imagery and wordplay are at their finest on “jesus saves, i spend,” and as stated before, “landmines” would carry no weight if not for its desolate, war-torn descriptions and comparison of relationship struggles to minefields.

marry me feels timeless, not so much indicative of a particular point in the history of pop music as it is a crucial one in annie clark’s musical presentation.  as she continues to add to her discography and accolades, it’s hard to not see this inaugural album becoming an even more critical reference point.

listen to a new song from the goodbye party

the goodbye partyour good pal over at heartbreaking bravery steered us towards the goodbye party, the solo project of michael cantor, who used to play with philadelphia-based pop-punk band the ambulars.  cantor released silver blueshis first full-length as the goodbye party, yesterday via bandcamp; it’s a twelve-track effort that finds him straddling the line between earnest power-pop and more atmospheric, bluesy experimentations.  the album’s lead single, “crossed out,” falls into the former of those two camps, with distorted jangly guitar work pushed towards the forefront of the song’s mix.  despite its sunny instrumental disposition, “crossed out” lyrically reflects the somber side of cantor’s output, with lyrics like “i couldn’t make a fist to punch out / the light glowing over my head as i sleep” retaining an especially hopeless quality.  silver blues will see a vinyl release via salinas later this month; take a listen to “crossed out” below.

field division – reverie state

fielddivisionepcoverartmusic conceived or created in the midwest often contains a distinct, singular tone.  regardless of the genre pursued, there always seems to be an acute awareness of the fragility that accompanies living in a four-season environment and a need to convey its emotional byproducts.  field division are champions of this musical mindset.  though currently based out of nashville, the duo’s origins are firmly rooted in des moines and their music frequently embodies the vast skies and endless open fields characteristic of iowa.  after slowly releasing five very strong songs over the past two months, field division has packaged them into a cohesive unit entitled reverie state, an ep that proves to be a grandiose, cathartic release.

while each song holds up on its own without question, the sequence in which they’re presented on reverie state provides some extra weight.  “faultlines” is an appropriate opener, one that finds evelyn taylor and nicholas frampton experimenting with chamber pop harmonies akin to those pursued by fleet foxes and other folk-minded outfits.  perhaps that’s why “of lives we’ve never known” feels so contrasting.  while “faultlines” explores the pastoral realm of field division’s sound, its immediate successor is much darker and more sinister in instrumentation, a subterranean bass line more so felt than heard holding the track together.  combined with taylor’s soaring vocal melody throughout the chorus and frampton’s spacious, rolled guitar chords, “of lives we’ve never known” finds the duo quickly flexing an equally-impressive dream-pop muscle.

genre confines aside, field division blends old with new very well.  “hollow body weather” is an amalgamation of the band’s two schools of thought, while “modest mountains” finds taylor and frampton enlisting the help of milo greene’s andrew heringer, a wise feature that enhances their already-rich vocal harmonies.  reverie state closes with “to innisfree land,” a conscious effort by field division to save their finest offering for last.  it’s the most texturally dense song on the ep – flute countermelodies and multiple guitar lines are constantly vying for attention – but the musical union of taylor and frampton is clearly front and center, their vocals mixed equally as they take on the song’s chorus in tandem.

reverie state is a concise package that showcases a young project of seasoned musicians with a bright future.  just as the colder months begin to set in, field division have provided a batch of songs to us warm while simultaneously stirring up nostalgia for the summer of yesteryear.  dig in.

8.4/10