cina polada – “gloom”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

finnish quintet cina polada make a brand of pop music that is dreamy only in terms of the ambiance swirling in the background of any given track; the foreground is often equal parts effervescent and propulsive, with melodic motifs and arpeggios jostling for space amidst busy drum parts and a soaring lead vocal.

all of those components are on display throughout “gloom,” the group’s excellent lead-off single culled from their self-titled debut ep, out september 29th via the swedish imprint strangers candy.  a bass line that would satisfy the progenitors of post-punk ushers in a cascade of guitars and synths which explore the various peaks and valleys of the song’s lush landscape, waning with the arrival of hilla miettinen’s vocals and waxing as they drift out of focus.  the result is one of the most pleasant three minutes of pop to be heard all summer long.

take a listen to “gloom” below.

the radio dept. – running out of love

– featured image courtesy of per vikström –

“album of the fortnight” is a new 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: the radio dept.

America’s political climate has been so tumultuous for the past year and change that you’d most likely be forgiven if you believed this ominous instability was confined to our borders.  it’s not.  great britain’s exit from the european union earlier this year was tinged with nationalist, nativist rhetoric.  prominent right-wing extremism has also resurfaced in germany, partially in opposition to an influx of migrants seeking refuge and asylum from their war-ravaged homelands.

to the north, a similar nationalist movement is stirring amidst a larger backlash against immigration; the swedish democrats, misleading moniker in tow, have recently made strides in the country’s parliament, providing structure and platform to an enraged, panic subset of citizens.  the radio dept.’s first album in six years, running out of love, was crafted in response to this excess of fear-mongering, a well-measured retort against bubbling hysteria delivered that’s in smooth consonance.


i’m not a diehard radio dept. fan; to be quite honest, the swedish duo existed more as a peripheral awareness in my mind before this album cycle took hold.  in recent months, pet grief and clinging to a scheme have become familiar bodies of work (lesser matters has yet to be digested), but the radio dept.’s seminal status amongst indie pop bands is clear and warranted.  hooks are effortless, intimate; instrumentation augments the pair’s maximalist and minimalist moments with equal aplomb, trading guitars for synths and adjusting timbres within each family as needed.

more than half a decade away clearly was not a hindrance to the duo’s songwriting partnership; the ten tracks across running out of love retain a singular fluidity, from examinations of a nordic arms race amidst distorted, stuttering synth pads on “swedish guns” to the buoyant, trebly bass line found in “this thing was bound to happen” all the way through to the utterly irresistible vocal hooks sprinkled throughout “committed to the cause.”  johan duncanson’s lead vocals are perennially pillowy and inviting, so much so that it becomes easy to overlook the gravity of songs like “slobada narodu” and his blatant calls for “freedom now” or the pensiveness that pervades the rather maudlin subject matter of “can’t be guilty.”

most likely aware of this inherent enveloping quality, the radio dept. do dedicate sufficient album space to confronting these political issues head-on (see the repeated hook in “swedish guns” over its aforementioned sonic texture and the steadfast, drone-like mentality that permeates “committed to the cause.”)  running out of love already feels, as does the rest of the duo’s catalogue, like a timeless piece of work, but it’s also an inherent product of 2016’s turmoil, a beautiful collection of songs that strives to combat what is hopefully a political aberration, but sadly may become the new norm.  ingest thoughtfully, with pen and paper nearby.

the mary onettes – “juna”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

this fall seems to be a prime time for swedish indie-pop stalwarts to re-emerge.  on the heels of the radio dept.’s first album in six years comes new music from their labrador label-mates, the mary onettes, as well.  the quartet’s first single in over a year, “juna,” is the focal point of an oxford television campaign called cool robot, and is currently enjoying the generous hosting of the inimitable cascine.

with its crystalline synth arpeggios and gentle percussive propulsion, “juna” is anthemic and inspiring in just the right ways.  take a listen to the track below.

oyster kids – “40 nights”

– featured image courtesy of blake zimmerman –

oyster kids continue to be as elusive as the night is long, but that doesn’t prevent the pair from repeatedly turning in stunning, anthemic pop gems.

“40 nights,” the fourth standalone cut from the los angeles duo, has all the hallmarks of a track primed for heavy radio rotation – layered vocals, memorable hooks, appealing duration – but it’s the intentional eeriness permeating throughout that gives the song its singularity.  8-bit synth blips immediately agitate the texture and link with large swaths of echo to produce a haunting, cavernous effect that surges underneath the more aesthetically pleasing components of “4o nights,” a dichotomy that’s explored in most oyster kids tracks but has yet to feel this nuanced.

there’s no word on a larger batch of oyster kids tunes, but these single servings will more than suffice for now.  take a listen to “40 nights” below.

communions – “eternity”

– featured image courtesy of lasse dearman –

communions have the rare distinction of being an incredibly young band with an utterly singular sound.  the danish quartet absorbed some frosty, post-punk comparisons to their copenhagen counterparts on early singles, but that icy exterior has thawed into some of the most consistently-sunny songwriting meandering through the internet.

next month, communions will release a new 7″ single on their new label, the esteemed fat possum records.  this announcement was coupled with “don’t hold anything back,” the single’s triumphant a-side; today, the band has shared its counterpart, “eternity.”  a comparatively mid-tempo number, “eternity” is again bolstered by martin rehof’s instantly-recognizable, gripping lead vocal, and his command of melody carries over into the track’s guitar work, toggling between sonorous chords, chiming bell tones, and busy lead lines in the song’s latter half.

“eternity” is the caliber of song expected from a band with a few full-lengths under their belt, but communions has yet to release their debut album.  that will come soon enough, though.  for now, take a listen to “eternity” below.

hazel english – “i’m fine”

– featured image courtesy of julie juarez –

the weathered photo that adorns the cover of hazel english’s debut ep, never going home, is a perfect visual extension of her meticulously-crafted aural aesthetic.  last year’s trio of demos – produced in conjunction with fellow oakland resident jackson phillips, aka day wave – were warm, hazy exercises in restraint; after nearly a year away, english picks right back up where she left off with “i’m fine,” her first single of 2016.

nary a drum beat can be found on “i’m fine,” with bass lines and sequenced synthesizer arpeggios instead alternately filling the rhythm role.  this intimate, stripped-down structure is augmented by english’s lead vocal, doused in reverb and hoisted above a sturdy, guitar-driven foundation to deliver its ever-so-poignant message.

“i’m fine” will appear on never going home, which is due out october 7th via house anxiety/marathon artists.  take a listen below.

dear tracks – “aligning with the sun”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

matt messore marked the end of his tenure in you blew it! with a cross-country move and a new sonic direction.  now headquartered in grand rapids, michigan, messore assembled key personnel, among them steady collaborator victoria ovenden, and began recording dreamy, jangly pop songs as dear tracks.  after turning in their promising debut ep, soft dreams, at the start of the year, messore and ovenden are now armed with a brand-new single as they look ahead to a handful of fall tour dates.

on “aligning with the sun,” dear tracks intertwine a pair of guitar leads that dance effortlessly through watery textures, while pausing occasionally to drone alongside messore’s blissed-out lead vocal.  it’s a perfectly sun-bleached endeavor, a track that lends itself well to the waning hours of summer.

“aligning with the sun” is out now as a limited-edition lathe-cut single via the native sound.  listen in below.


oyster kids – “gum (everybody’s my friend)”

– featured image courtesy of blake zimmerman –

los angeles duo oyster kids let their confident pop sensibilities do most of the talking.  biographical information on the pair is scant, but the magnitude of their output thus far is hard to ignore; singles “creepy” and “lips” both materialized as the yearly calendar was shifting, and each explored the juxtaposition of ominous and anthemic in slightly different ways while still ultimately yielding a sharp, fully-realized end result.

yesterday, oyster kids returned with their third single.  “gum (everybody’s my friend)” aesthetically bowls down the middle of its predecessors; the song’s peaks and valleys are a bit more streamlined this time around, and the darker undertones are certainly more covert.  rather than setting the moody titularly or via a specific timbre, the duo house a sense of debauchery in the simple commands of the song’s hook, crafting an understated breed of anthem via repetition.  take a listen to “gum” below.

foxes in fiction – “extinguisher”

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

nestled among an unforgettable run of pivotal albums released in 2014 by orchid tapes was boring ecstasy, the first compilation offered up by the independent record label.  given the context of its arrival, boring ecstasy felt like a deserved mid-season victory lap; tracks were supplements to each artist’s repertoire, not throwaways, the sum of their parts meticulously curated to highlight key facets of the label’s roster without merely tracing its lineage chronologically.  that early mainstays could be placed adjacent to relative newcomers and not disrupt cohesion was telling, a nod to label co-founder warren hildebrand’s clear-eyed, focused vision for the consistent aesthetic of orchid tapes.

on august 12th, the label will release its sophomore compilation, radiating light: orchid tapes & friends.  as the extended title suggests, radiating light enlists a handful of auxiliary artists for contributions, and the overall tone of the track list feels decisively more collaborative: fog lake and home alone work in tandem for the penultimate cut, while emily reo and yohuna team up for “teach you.”

of course, hildebrand’s notable work extends well beyond running a record label; since 2009, he has released music of his own as foxes in fiction, his collective output a meandering collage of contemplative ambient soundscapes and hushed indie pop.  hildebrand leans towards the latter on “extinguisher,” the second offering culled from radiating light.  the track, built on celestial chord progressions and hildebrand’s processed voice, eventually swells to cinematic heights, staging a cathartic release of incalculable proportions.  take a listen to “extinguisher” below.

communions – “don’t hold anything back”

– featured image courtesy of lasse dearman –

danish four-piece communions have been gradually shedding their frosty outer shell for the better part of two years, with each subsequent release feeling less indebted to post-punk forebears and more informed by sharp, memorable hooks.  this progression seemed to culminate in the quartet’s excellent eponymous ep last summer, but then “don’t hold anything back” dropped.

wrapped in martin rehof’s buoyant lead vocal and powered by an especially fat snare drum, “don’t hold anything back” feels like communions’ first true foray into the realm of pop, a clear, glorious pivot from the more austere timbres that adorned their earliest work.  guitar arpeggios still appear at the forefront throughout the verses, but their fluid transition to simple, chiming chords just in time to bolster the hook is perhaps the key ingredient in this effortless composition; “don’t hold anything back” is an attractive mid-season contender for song of the summer.

communions recently signed to fat possum records and will release “don’t hold anything back” as the a-side of a 7″ due out september 16th.  check out the single below.