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.
ryan pollie’s brisk, twenty-five minute new self-titled album is bookended by a pair of choral tracks, brief exercises that retain a remarkably cleansing effect. in the past year or so, pollie relinquished his nom de guerre of los angeles police department, battled cancer, and wrote many of the songs that would wind up on this record, but not necessarily in that order; he received his diagnosis after much of the album was complete, putting those songs – and their existential themes of mortality – into a slightly more immediate context.
under his own name, ryan pollie is much more clear-eyed in his approach to songwriting. the hazy ennui that dotted his output as los angeles police department – a perfect analog to one’s mid-twenties – has disappeared, bucolic slide guitars, straight-ahead acoustic strumming, and detuned piano chords reigning supreme.
breezy though its contents may be, ryan pollie’s aural affect is at times belied by its namesake’s lyrical tone; the plaintive refrain of “my god’s insane” on “aim slow” might serve as a mantra for the entire album, an attempt to explain the inexplicable. “only child” finds pollie addressing his diagnosis and its accompanying uncertainty head-on, while “raincoat” is a brief, heartbreaking ode to a relationship’s end.
the nostalgia of pollie’s earlier work as los angeles police department has throughlines in cuts like “leaving california” and “eyes of vermont,” both awash in images of childhood and home. taken in as a whole, this ten-song collection serves as a potent snapshot of pollie’s current existence, its delivery done in a timeless fashion.
we recently caught up with pollie via e-mail to discuss 1970s singer-songwriters, the fruits of collaboration, and his lingering affinity for new england. check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.
this is your first album under your own name after a handful as los angeles police department. was there anything in particular that led to you shedding that moniker?
totally. the past few years i’ve been getting heavy into singer-songwriters from the early 1970s. whether american, english, irish, japanese – most of the artists i fell for were making music so personal that the subject matter and the tone was so closely linked to the writer. like graham nash or jackson nrowne both writing really personal break-up albums (both about joni mitchell) – there was just no separation between the songs and the songwriter.
i came to kind of an existential moment where it felt like by shedding a “band name,” i was able to dig a little deeper with what i had to say and how i wanted to represent myself with my art. once i made the decision, it really provided a new space for me to grow as an artist, i think.
you wrote most of this album, which tends to grapple with mortality and the general essence of being, before receiving a cancer diagnosis. did you subsequently find yourself ascribing new meaning to those completed songs, or a new perspective on the contents and scope of the album?
i think that’s really perceptive of you to ask, maybe just because that’s absolutely what happened. i had written and recorded most of the material before i knew that i was sick, and the lyrical themes you are describing, that i was already exploring, became even more meaningful to me.
songwriting seems to have this magical prophetic nature sometimes. not always. but for this record, and this has happened to me in the past, i was writing songs about facing death, getting sick, ending a specific relationship – all things that just kind of flowed through me without knowing that they would be around the corner in my life.
the collaborations across this album feel especially significant, given the intimate circumstances surrounding its final stages of creation. can you speak a bit to any part or parts of the collaborative process you found particularly meaningful?
community was a huge part of the album process for me, and a really important part of my life through all stages of making the record.
i feel really proud of where i’m at as far as my relationship with my own work. i not only feel so lucky to have amazing friends and family supporting me in general, but i was able to collaborate with all of my friends in bringing the songs to life. i would reach out to all of my friends who play music, asking them to contribute on different days when i was writing and recording different songs, and they all were so graceful in that they really gave 100% of themselves to my art.
i can hear the personalities of all my friends all over the record, as if i’m spending time with them, as if they’re in the room with me. it’s nice to know that i’ll have that feeling when i play the record for the rest of my life.
i also mixed the record with one of my best friends while i was going through chemo: brian rosemeyer. he would be in a room with me, as i was pale and bald and sick – i looked like nosferatu. and he would not only give such caring attention to each track, but he was also a huge emotional support for me through that whole experience of getting cancer. i could tell he was emotionally invested in the story i was weaving together, and it really shows, i think, in his work. it was the best get well soon gift, looking back on it now.
your childhood home is on the east coast, but you seem pretty geographically and musically preoccupied with california. do any parts of life in new england – and its accompanying experiences – seep into your songwriting?
very much so. i wrote “eyes of vermont” in vermont – while listening to a lot of will fox demos. being among the trees, at the lake – it’s so inspiring to me visually and just gives me such a different feeling than california does. it was nice bringing that energy back.
i wrote “leaving california” – originally called “leaving california for vermont” – right after that trip as well. that song is about going home, the fear and anxieties of los angeles and the comfort of the green mountains.
the oxford, mississippi-based singer-songwriter kate teague continues her impressive streak of singles with “in our element,” delivered on the eve of her inaugural voyage to SXSW.
on “in our element,” teague’s lead vocal swoons in tandem with a melancholic guitar counter-melody, the ends of phrases evaporating in wisps of echo and solidifying the track’s slow-burning aesthetic. it’s another notched victory for teague, who keeps sharpening her songwriting chops with every new single and stoking anticipation for the day her full-length finally arrives.
“in our element” is out now via muscle beach records. take a listen below.
for much of this site’s existence, alexei shishkin has been a constant. the transient singer-songwriter has been providing understated ruminations on ennui and listlessness for the past few years, turning in a steady stream of releases via the minneapolis tape label forged artifacts. on october 19th, shishkin will return with his latest full-length, happy bday, a transcontinental batch of songs as geographically beholden to portland, orgeon, as they are to shishkin’s current residence in new york city.
the album’s newest single, “i don’t mind,” finds shishkin squarely in his element, extolling the virtues and unintended consequences of slowing life down in a measured duet with jess n. pierson. warm, phased guitars augment the relaxing timbre of shishkin’s lead vocal, with arpeggiated melodies and well-placed synth pads drifting in and out of the texture. ever reliable, shishkin combines these elements to offer up something as unassuming as it is profound, a much-needed, sustained exhalation for the collective mind.
“i don’t mind” is premiering today, right here on the dimestore. listen in below.
oxford, mississippi’s kate teague has had a quiet but impactful year so far, her two singles, “low life” and “good to you,” offering a compelling glimpse at a forthcoming debut album. with that album slowly approaching the horizon, teague today has unveiled another strong sample size of her syrupy, affecting guitar pop.
“gilly” proves itself a worthy successor, its saturated guitar arpeggios and prominent bass line intertwined over a steady mid-tempo groove. at its core, “gilly” is an ode to a friend, full of reassurances and doused in just the right amount of tremolo, with teague embracing a future-facing mantra: “tomorrow’s man will be all in.” take a listen below.
the discography and creative trajectory of the toronto-based trio little kid is all but woven into the fabric of this site’s existence. the band’s landmark 2013 sophomore full-length river of blood coincided with our first full year of operations, and frontman kenny boothby took the time to discuss both that record and its 2016 follow-up, flowers, in great detail. with last year’s sun milkand now its successor, might as well with my soul, self-released in the twilight of august, little kid have cemented their legacy as a pillar of this past decade’s vibrant online independent music community, their impressive catalogue providing the soundtrack to hours of existential contemplation.
for the majority of the band’s existence, boothby has been joined by the multi-instrumentalists paul vroom and brodie germain, who primarily staff the rhythm section while also contributing more textural parts, and, in vroom’s case, handle engineering, production, and post-production. this well-established collaborative ecosystem allows little kid to thrive effortlessly across might as well with my soul; the loose one-two punch of “two invitations” and “love minus seven / no livin'” is at turns both raucous and meandering, steady pulses segueing to the next while supplemental timbres fade in and out of the texture.
boothby’s lyrical and vocal stylings have long been the principal hallmarks of little kid’s aesthetic, and might as well with my soul fares no different. his wavering tenor is as comfortable against the syncopated drive of “in the red” as it is laid bare on “the only light,” with intricate narratives resonating amidst rather sparse word counts, sentiments punctuated by slight turns of phrase or unexpected confessions. dialogue is also a strong constant; the aforementioned “two invitations” turns on repetitions of old adages, while “the fifth” is anchored by two successive questions, its soundscape swaying gently in the breeze.
if weighted lyrics are one central tenet of little kid’s core, then the other is, arguably, sprawling compositions not always interested in reaching their final destination, instead content to move laterally and explore nuances in the space presently occupied. the standout cut “receiver” makes good use of every second in its six-minute run-time, boothby’s lead vocal as pensive as the piano that threads through it, while the penultimate number “your orange and blues” marinates in its ruminative melancholy, quickly becoming one of the year’s best country tunes. as the final chord of “easy or free” (itself a powerful meditation delivered via mournful slide guitar) dissipates, one feels the weight momentarily lift off of one’s shoulders, and then presses play again.
might as well with my soul is out now. stream the album in its entirety below.
staying on top of every new release is hard. staying on top of every new release is even harder when your blog uses language that suggests multiple people are cogs in the machine, but really you’re just flailing helplessly by yourself, trying not to drown in a heavily-saturated inbox. “fashionably late” is a remedy, an intermittent feature designed to showcase particularly special albums or EPs that evaded us (there i go again) during their structured press cycle. next up is the sophomore full-length from video age.
A song of the summer is among the last bastions of the monoculture, something still largely dictated by radio play and its overall utility. an album of the summer is a bit more fickle. the latter isn’t as ubiquitous, in turn exponentially more subjective, and the date of its arrival a bit less indicative of its endurance. pop therapy, the sophomore full-length from the new orleans duo video age, makes a strong case for contention as this year’s go-to album of the summer, its eleven tracks an instant portal to FM synth-laden, compressed guitar-driven sonic nostalgia.
on their 2016 debut, living alone, bandmates ross farbe and ray micarelli turned in a guitar-pop masterclass coyly disguised as a deep dive into 1980s synthesis. its successor sheds any semblance of a veneer and puts its synths squarely in the foreground, with lush pads, aqueous bass lines, and brassy squelching leads all converging as an aural thesis for an incredibly timeless new wave exercise.
opening number “lover surreal” is a no-holds-barred take on this approach, a legion of yamahas cresting towards the crystalline cadences of the chorus, but the synth’s reign is often more subtle, machiavellian even: “days to remember” masquerades as the most immediate callback to living alone, only to be disrupted by a buoyant synth motif that instantly shifts the track’s tenor, while the gorgeous, understated fantasy “paris to the moon” is underscored by pulsing chord progressions and the soft detuned wanderings of sustained notes.
admittedly, it’s rather easy to get lost in the glassy production and utmost care that farbe and micarelli put into the arrangements across pop therapy. if the first listen is defined by the album’s immediate accessibility and awareness of what constitutes a memorable hook, then subsequent passes through can easily be dedicated to nuance, either by exploring each timbre in isolation or examining how they function in concert, often shifting fluidly from melodic to counter-melodic to rhythmic duties. pop music is, for better or for worse, often defined by the applicability of its lyrics, however; video age don’t disappoint in this realm, either, turning in a booklet that demonstrates their understanding of a simple refrain’s impact alongside an introspective depth.
dealing in the wistful and the nostalgic is all but expected of a band with such a sonic palette, but farbe drills beneath surface level observations across pop therapy. “hold on (i was wrong),” a mid-tempo number with the split personality of a dance track and a ballad, hones in on the minutiae of a concession; the fantastically-meta “echo chamber” makes references to its digital namesake while emulating the recording structure, the couplet “in my catacomb / slap-back telling me i’m not alone” solidifying its place as a studio engineer’s anthem; the gait and brassy synth swells of “scenic highway” converge on a portrait of a contemplative scenic drive.
as its title implies, pop therapy finds video age exploring the genre’s propensity for healing. indeed, its title track contains their most direct and compelling mantra: “pop therapy / it’s easy.” in an interview with the new orleans advocate, farbe pushes back on the cynicism attached to the concept of pop therapy, saying “it’s actually positive. i’m quoting ray here, but the ’80s music we listen to has a really victorious, heartwarming, enthusiastic feeling to it. and it’s just these specific chord progressions a lot of times. so ray said, ‘it’s easy! you can make yourself feel better by playing these chords.'” with nearly two dozen songs under their belt to back up that proclamation, it appears that video age may be onto something.
all good things must come to an end. for wetter USA, embracing that mantra means the minneapolis quartet will hang it up after the release of their second full-length, late bloomer, as lead singer melissa jones departs from their point of origin. the band’s final album is a veritable swan song, its seven tracks showcasing jones’ lyrical prowess and the well-crafted arrangements cinched tightly just beneath the surface, a suitable bookend to wetter’s short but potent tenure.
for proof, look no further than “bug on the wall.” dual, dueling guitar lines decamp to their respective left and right channels, enveloping jones’ crystalline lead vocal as its tenor moves between contemplative and confident for the duration. never succumbing to the full potential of its catharsis, “bug on the wall” nevertheless finds release in the admissions of its final minute, a temporary weightlessness punctuated by jones’ stratospheric octave jump.
late bloomeris due out july 27th via forged artifacts. its intricate, affecting second single, “bug on the wall,” premieres today on the dimestore; listen in below.
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.