baby blanket’s output thus far has been sparse – a guest vocal on sayth’s body pillow ep last year, followed by his solo debut – but each wisp on an aesthetic seems to have built to his latest single, “i tried so hard to sleep the sad away.” a subtle about-face, “sleep the sad away” again finds the minneapolis songwriter teaming with fellow lowkey radical member north house to flesh out a minimal, melancholic foundation, although glitchy percussion and elastic synths factor in more heavily this time around. beneath the surface lies a tender account of finding refuge from paralyzing social anxiety; take a listen to “i tried so hard to sleep the sad away” below.
eric wells’ output as sayth is becoming more refined, more sobering; his collaborative ep with north house, body pillow, is often a bummer in tone yet beautiful to listen to and digest. “maybe god is afraid of us?” is an especially listless cut about a fracturing relationship and its aftermath, sentiments explored in detail throughout its brand new music video. wells’ brother spencer again helms the director’s chair for the clip and pieces together a melancholy montage of coping mechanisms that culminate in a scene that’s simultaneously tranquil and jarring. check out the video below.
the ep is a beloved format here at the dimestore, the perfect stop-gap for artists in between full-length projects and an extended offering for those just beginning to imprint their dna in music’s genome. the five selections from 2015 skew largely towards the latter; dive into our picks below.
you’d be hard-pressed to find a duo that had more flat-out fun in 2015 than diet cig. the new paltz two-piece offered up their debut ep, over easy, early this year, a compact five-song venture into jubilant power chords and flippant observations about the waning moments of teenagedom. diet cig may market themselves as slop-pop, but there’s nothing sloppy about alex luciano’s underlying wit, or how she accosts small-town narcissism on “scene sick” and gloriously howls “fuck your ivy league sweater” at the climax of “harvard.” more of this in 2016, please.
a co-sign from the 1975 certainly helped amplify exposure, but amber bain would have snuck into the internet’s collective awareness regardless. her work as the japanese house thus far is affecting, a haunting palette of minimalist textures wrapped around bain’s penchant for stacking brooding vocals. although her second ep of 2015, clean, already showcased bain expanding her horizons, pools to bathe in feels like definitive japanese house, from the warped acoustic guitar foundation of the ep’s title track to the chilling narrative of an alter-ego on “sister.” in an era when pristine, layered production is as coveted as ever, the japanese house serves as an acute example of how to subvert that practice’s outcome and obtain an incredibly intimate final product.
cascine is our reigning label of the year in part because they regularly brought exceptional acts like morly to the forefront of our inbox. on in defense of my muse, katy morley harnesses the dexterity and beautiful simplicity of fragmented piano melodies and weaves them through sparse electronic soundscapes, resulting in a body of work that can be just as euphoric as it is ominous. case in point: “and sooner than we know it…” briefly emerges from an eerie choral haze to indulge in a subdued dancehall catharsis, but the surrounding tracks ascertain that morly is ultimately a project of introspection, not delayed hedonism.
eric wells and alex tronson held down the art of the short-form record for the wisconsin/minnesota border in 2015. on body pillow, tronson’s moody amalgamation of trap beats and polychrome textures coaxes out some of sayth’s densest lyrical material yet, from sharp commentary on the perpetual state of limbo felt by twenty-somethings to heart-rending, vivid navigations of fleeting romance. body pillow also aligns many of the salient members of wells’ burgeoning collective, lowkey radical; wealthy relative creams the ep’s sole guest verse on “a formal apology to grandma wells” while baby blanket made his inaugural appearance on the hook of “maybe god is afraid of us?” but some of the finest moments happen without any outside help. closing number “pink pistols” pads lush synth swells and stuttering drums around an ode to sayth’s entire contingent, which compounds rapidly and builds towards the ep’s final, visceral couplet: “macklemore made a million off of gay rights / thanks bro, this is actually my real life.”
being spread across the globe doesn’t seem to hinder yumi zouma; if anything, the quartet thrives off of displacement. our reigning best new artists turned in their much-anticipated second ep mere months after receiving the accolade, one that showcases a more intricate understanding of how to intertwine soaring hooks and intimate textures. “alena” and “catastrophe” are both baleric anthems, indulging in their respective melodies to craft compositions that feel like extroverted extensions of the subdued persona yumi zouma initially embodied, but they’re necessary foils if the desired end-result is “song for zoe & gwen,” the universal missing component from every 1980s soundtrack that finally pairs the band’s nostalgic sonic palette with thematics of the same stature.
picking just ten songs to represent an entire year in music is no easy feat, but such is the plight of a minimalist music website. the following tracks shaped the dimestore’s trajectory in 2015, from unexpected email submissions that proved riveting to a wide swath of midwest hip-hop to gorgeous post-rock soundscapes. our picks run in alphabetical order, and you can click on the title’s link to navigate away and hear each track; dig in below.
almost every track from mind out wandering would have pulled its weight in this slot, but “shake it loose” is a particular hallmark due to its kaleidoscopic union of pop and psychedelia. anthony ferraro and his quintet of astronauts lock into an indelible groove right on the initial downbeat, the interplay between the guitar’s rise-and-fall motif and the rhythm section’s meticulous subdivision at the end of each phrase informing both the framework of ferraro’s vocal and the ensemble’s gradual abandonment of structure in favor of a more textural exploration. if “shake it loose” sounds almost unfairly organic during its dreamlike sequence, that’s because it is; the entirety of mind out wandering was recorded straight to tape without ever passing through a computer, allowing each note on the album to resonate with an extra degree of authenticity.
caroline polachek worked with beyoncé during chairlift’s interim between full-length projects, a fruitful partnership that may have dictated the duo’s first new single in nearly three years. “ch-ching” subverts chairlift’s penchant for constructing massive sing-along hooks by trimming the first two choruses down to sultry finger snaps and eerie vocal twists on the song’s titular sound. still, even as the final refrain hits in all its harmonized glory, “ch-ching” retains the notion that chairlift are now comfortable outside the nostalgic confines that defined their earlier work. there’s genuine potential for moth to be a truly cosmopolitan album.
jackson phillips drew a lot of justifiable comparison to dylan baldi’s early output as cloud nothings this year: both projects hone(d) in on home-recorded pop songs and a reverence for the guitar as a pivotal melodic instrument, but phillips’ work as day wave occupies remarkably different sonic territory. to illustrate this point, look no further than “drag,” the earworm that first put day wave on the internet’s radar in 2015. phillips, a percussionist by trade, puts faith in an old drum machine to anchor the song’s robust foundation while he turns his attention to an ostinato guitar motif that molds the concrete of “drag” into a majestic skyscraper. effervescent synth countermelodies soon blossom from the track’s confident chorus, dutifully weaving throughout phillips’ slightly-downtrodden lead vocal and the bevy of arpeggios he stacks on top. day wave takes unabashed influence from the beach boys and new order; “drag” proves that to be quite the winning combination.
st. louis quintet foxing crafted one of this year’s most affecting post-rock albums. dealer is largely devoid of the agitation that pervaded its predecessor, the albatross, but the tension that is released is done so with remarkable poise. “the magdalene” is a deeply personal confessional that exposes the psychological trauma conor murphy suffered during a religious upbringing, wrought with sexual suppression and guilt. but foxing is incredibly deft at turning grief into catharsis, and “the magdalene” eventually spills over into a lush b-section where simple melodies of all timbres intertwine, propelled by a surging and syncopated rhythm section. when murphy cries out “watch me come / undone” in his falsetto, chills linger.
isaac vallentin wins our informal award for best blind album submission via email; if you haven’t heard hedera yet, go listen. “stewardess” is the track that got us hooked, with its arpeggiated blueprint slowly morphing into an exquisitely subdued post-dub groove. vallentin thrives at moving fluidly between genres throughout hedera, and “stewardess” is a microcosm of that ability; his deep, sonorous lead vocal ties everything together and ushers in a chorus of chiming synth pads for a final triumphant statement. in a year when james blake remained dormant, vallentin delivered murky musings with equal aplomb.
what’s left to write about to pimp a butterfly that hasn’t already been written? kendrick lamar’s lauded third album reigned relatively unchallenged as the definitive piece of hip-hop in 2015, trading out the grit of good kid, m.a.a.d. city for soul samples and jazz-inclined collaborators from a resurgent l.a. scene. “king kunta” brings the funk in the most defiant way possible, as kendrick accosts industry opportunists and fair-weather fans over a swaggering thundercat bass line while maintaining his status as a dominant lyricist in the game. but the song’s oxymoronic title is a reference to the notion that a man is only as powerful as his the color of skin; despite achieving financial and critical success, lamar’s very existence is often systemically viewed as sub-par. “king kunta” is an easily digestible snapshot of an incredibly dense and experimental personal odyssey, a suitable gateway into the strain of hip-hop kendrick lamar created for himself.
mick jenkins teamed with a handful of producers on his new ep wave[s] for a plethora of directions; perhaps not surprisingly, his union with the perpetually in-demand kaytranada yielded the most enduring results. “your love” is a far cry from the introspective consciousness that pervaded last year’s the water[s], with jenkins crooning and rapping about a potential transcontinental romance over an aqueous bass line paired with warm synth interjections. it’s the closest thing to blatant r&b that jenkins has ever proffered to his audience, and “your love” slowly became our low-key song of the summer.
sayth’s collaborative work with north house across body pillow is the result of a budding friendship, but it’s also a glorious intersection of two critical young voices in minneapolis’ diy scene. “under water • under ice” is the ep’s resolute opening statement; north house’s wobbly arpeggios stumble through his diligent snare work while sayth constructs a grim narrative for the “generation of ‘i’m fucked when i turned twenty-seven.'” but the track’s hook fights valiantly to make the strongest impression, with sayth staring adversity and listlessness in the face and offering more positive – albeit sometimes defiant – alternatives.
it’s a testament to rory ferreira’s unwavering dedication to create provocative and indelible art that one of his projects is represented in year-end contention for the third year in a row. scallops hotel feels like a cleansing alternative to ferreira’s more recognized output as milo, a no-risk solution for him to explore new facets of production or to alter his songwriting approach. plain speaking yielded some of ferreira’s most readily accessible and pointed work to date; “lavender chunk” cycles through a simple ostinato with an extended guest verse from samuel t. herring’s alter ego hemlock ernst, but ferreira hops on just in time to deliver a remarkably fluid stream of consciousness, largely devoid of the non-sequiturs that had been his crutch. more than anything, “lavender chunk” will endure as poignant, with the outgoing statement quickly morphing into an unsettling mantra that reflects the state of things in 2015.
tame impala was our shameless self-indulgence of 2015. during the waning days of summer, when the dimestore headquarters packed up again and moved back across the country, currents supplied a palette of driving music that was more than adequate. “yes i’m changing” soundtracked sunset ventures through the cascades one night and sunrise journeys through the rockies the following morning, its undeniably pristine arrangements only slightly quelled by a sub-par car stereo and a flighty aux cord. kevin parker deserves some sort of award for writing the most prominent bass lines on psychedelic records, as “yes i’m changing” rumbles through a closing chapter in life under the direction of a low-end presence that continuously flirts with melodic territory. in a year marked with a handful of new beginnings, “yes i’m changing” hit home.
eric charles christenson is slowly carving out a niche for himself, resorbing the lo-fi tendencies of his early work as wisconsin built and sowing their seeds in the glitchy electronica of two castles. following a pair of strong summer singles – “liquor” and “bonfire” – christenson returned today with “two tuff,” a chilly new cut that arpeggiates freely over reverb-obscured vocals. as a bonus, fellow lowkey radical member north house jumped on a remix of the track, which was released today as well. take a listen to “two tuff” below.
sayth and north house began teasing their collaborative project, body pillow, in the early months of summer with “pink pistols,” a staple in sayth’s live repertoire elevated by meticulous production from north house. the duo subsequently went silent for the month of july, building anticipation before releasing a steady stream of material this month. “under water • under ice” is the final piece of body pillow to surface, a brooding outing devoid of any guest spots which allows sayth to jockey between a bleak, realistic outlook on life (see also: the melancholy delivery of the line “wave hi to the cancer”) and the incendiary hook “this is for the kids that know that words matter / break a broken window theory / watch that shit shatter,” a sentiment that feels like a suitable mantra for sayth’s persona. most notably, “under water • under ice” largely wanders away from non-sequitur crutches at the behest of north house’s steady arpeggios and shadowy synth pads, the production’s uniformity allowing sayth the space to create a serious, cohesive narrative to complement the one doled out on “pink pistols.”
body pillow is available to stream and download here. take a listen to “under water • under ice” below.
eric wells is a fixture in wisconsin’s diy scene right now. he gigs constantly around the state and frequently crosses the state line to rap in the minneapolis/st. paul area; when he’s not performing, wells dedicates a majority of his time to tirelessly promoting the other local musicians around him, enthusiastically sharing their new work via co-ordinated social media blasts and plugging all-ages events. this tireless networking has yielded fruitful results; much of this past year has been spent developing lowkey radical, a burgeoning record label that hosts many of wells’ most-trusted collaborators.
one of the label’s first releases will be body pillow, a four-track co-op between wells and alex tronson, a minneapolis-bred producer who performs as north house. the duo chose to eschew conventional release format, opting instead to slowly share each song individually before sending out pre-ordered physical copies; so far, body pillow has featured “pink pistols” with its searing macklemore slam and “a formal apology to grandma wells,” a non-sequitur-laced commentary on awkward family vacations with a prominent guest verse from wealthy relative.
the project’s third single, “maybe god is afraid of us?”, is comparatively introspective, defined by a murky, futuristic north house beat and a heartbreaking display of vulnerability from wells as he anticipates the inevitable end of a relationship. compounded by an indelible guest hook from baby blanket, the track is a pensive comedown, providing extensive levels of depth and contrast to body pillow as a cohesive unit. “maybe god is afraid of us?” is streaming for the first time ever right here on dimestore saints; listen to the premiere above, and read on below for an exclusive interview with sayth about the creation of body pillow and his plans for the new label.
you worked with north house a bit on bad habitat last year. what led the two of you to want to make a fully collaborative project?
since the release of bad habitat, north house has become one of my best friends. last winter i started performing with him more and more, just to have someone else to jump around with on stage and hang with in green rooms. i have a lot of respect for his drive as a producer. he’ll sit down and spend whole days working on one beat and he’s constantly posting them on places like reddit’s r/futurebeats, searching for critique and feedback. i’ve seen his production style improve and evolve solely from having the ambition to ask for help and take advice. this ep just felt really natural; i’d have new raps and be like, “you got any beats?” he’d play me something and i’d jump around and just start rapping to it. that’s how the whole thing happened; we just did whatever felt right. i love working with him because he has his own lane and an impressive body of solo work. he’s also one of the easiest people to travel with and likes to party just as much as i do, so that doesn’t hurt.
what’s the ethos behind body pillow? what frame of mind were you in when writing its material?
the bulk of this project was written in late 2014/early 2015, in the cold wisconsin winter. i was drinking a lot of whiskey and living on a shoestring budget. to me, each track on body pillow seems to have a more concrete theme than bad habitat’s songs did, though that was never my intention setting out. for example, i wrote my verse for “a formal apology to grandma wells” about a vacation i took with my family to north carolina where i basically just drank johnny walker red and sat by the pool the whole time feeling like a loser. when we took the trip i had just turned twenty-one and was living illegally in a tiny shared room near downtown eau claire, still unsure if dropping out of college was the right choice. pair that with a week-long family reunion in a house with all of my cousins and you get a verse full of self-doubt and uneasiness.
the two tracks released so far lean heavily on outside contributions, be it videography or a guest verse. how important have your friends been to the shape body pillow has taken?
very important. in the last year i’ve really started surrounding myself with friends that create music-related content in some way, whether that’s design, video work, beats, raps, whatever. a solid portion of navigating my place in music has been figuring out what i’m good at, and what my friends are better at. i can rap, but i can’t design my way out of a paper bag or storyboard a video – well, i could, but not on a professional level. i feel very blessed. dan forke, whom i’ve been friends with since middle school, has done wonders as my art director. my brother spencer is a professional photographer and is super experienced with video work. north house knows how to master a track in a flash, and make it sound radio-ready. that’s the idea of lowkey radical: we all contribute our strengths to each other’s art so that the content we put out is the best it can be. sayth on a surface level is just me rapping, but there’s a squad of people helping me out.
the production on “maybe god is afraid of us?” feels a bit darker and more cerebral than other tracks on body pillow. did this inform your lyrical direction at all?
i actually wrote those two verses to a riley lake beat. i played two shows with him in early november of 2014 and he gave me a beat tape he had produced. after i wrote it i asked him about the beat and he said rory (ferreira, aka milo, aka scallops hotel) had already claimed it. so then i found this north house beat and i thought the verses fit really well. i wrote the hook in january and tried to sing it with some autotune but it was sounding really goofy. then we added luke (baby blanket) recently and it felt solid right away; his voice already sounds autotuned.
“maybe god is afraid of us?” feels very tender. can you speak to your headspace for this particular track, abstractly if need-be?
i wrote that song while i was in a relationship and essentially predicted its expiration. the song is about losing productivity to love and the anxieties that come with that. love is expensive.
what’s next for you? are you going to play out with the body pillow material for awhile, or are you looking ahead to new projects?
we’re cutting more tracks for a november or december release. i moved to minneapolis recently; i’m living at a basement venue called green greens with alex adkinson (formerly of soflty, dear) and he basically has a studio in his room so we can record whenever we want. i love living here. i sleep in the basement and it’s grungy and i feel like a pirate. tickle torture is playing here in september; i love that i can sit in my bed and watch bands play. luke, wealthy, and north house are always around so we’re cooking up new songs all the time.
as far as immediate releases go, i’m focusing most of my effort on getting out eps for the rest of the label. dan has one set to go for late august, astral samara is dropping his debut tape in september, and we have a lowkey radical compilation tape coming out in october.
one more collaborative track from sayth and north house is due soon. we’ll also be following the developments of lowkey radical closely as the fall progresses. stream “maybe god is afraid of us?” one more time to let it sink in, and then visit sayth and north house on all of their socials.
eau claire-bred rapper eric wells has been no stranger to dimestore saints; his 2014 ep bad habitat landed on our year-end best-of list, and we’ve been keeping close tabs on his subsequent projects. wells is prepping his latest release as sayth, a collaborative effort with producer north house called body pillow, and today he shared the projects’s second single. “a formal apology to grandma wells” is powered by an absolutely filthy bass line and continues to showcase wells’ lyrical adroitness as he fluctuates effortlessly between slight self-deprecation and tongue-in-cheek references. a large chunk of “grandma wells” is then ceded to sayth’s frequent collaborator wealthy relative before a soothing gang-vocal hook sees the track home. body pillow is out later this month; listen to “a formal apology to grandma wells” below.
the electronic music and hip-hop scenes in eau claire have been feeding off of each other for some time now, and there’s perhaps no better example of this than the recent collaborations between sayth (eric wells) and north house (alex tronson). after teaming up for a track on sayth’s excellent 2014 ep bad habitat, the duo plan on releasing a four-song collection of music, body pillow, together at the end of this month. the ep’s lead single, “pink pistols,” has been floating around in sayth’s live repertoire for awhile, and it feels rejuvenated by north house’s signature production that pits crisp, rapid-fire drum beats against soothing synth pads and earthy bass lines.
sayth has long been adept at crafting autobiographical narratives that have increasingly functioned as anthems for anyone disillusioned by a heteronormative mainstream society, and “pink pistols” only furthers that penchant. amidst deriding the cyclical nature of social media, name-checking the main thoroughfares in downtown eau claire, and shouting out his mom, wells again grapples with familial and societal resistance towards his sexuality, culminating in the searing finale “macklemore made a million off of gay rights / thanks bro, this is actually my real life.”
“pink pistols” dropped as a cohesive audio/visual experience yesterday, with wells’ older brother spencer directing a monochromatic clip following sayth around new york city. woven through shots of sayth riding the subway and performing shows are a sequence of dates with the same guy, bookended by a kiss. as impose noted in their premiere yesterday, this casually subverts how queerness is often portrayed in the media, integrating each kiss into the overarching storyline rather than making the act itself into a grand spectacle. there’s a lot to absorb here; spend some time with “pink pistols” below, and look for the rest of body pillow in the coming weeks.
still riding the buzz off of his past two singles, “eating alone” and “rare candy,” eau claire art rapper sayth has wasted little time in delivering his next cohesive project. bad habitat is a five-track collection featuring the aforementioned singles along with three new songs, and finds sayth working again with frequent collaborator wealthy relative. take note, however, that fellow eau claire artist north house is also given production credits (those appear to be his signature beats on opener “with the crocodiles”), suggesting that sayth is becoming even more invested in his hometown music scene. you can stream bad habitat below and grab a download at a pay-what-you-want rate; a limited run of cds are also available through sayth’s bandcamp. check it out.