tomberlin – at weddings

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

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 debut effort from tomberlin.

The postscript at the bottom of tomberlin’s bandcamp page reads “my fifth of a century,” a simple reminder of the youth that accompanies the incredible weight and poignancy of at weddings, her debut album.  with little more ammunition than a guitar and her voice, tomberlin excavates artifacts of listlessness and loneliness across the album’s seven tracks, self-doubt and hesitation wrapped up in lyrics capable of utter devastation at a moment’s notice.

throughout at weddings, tomberlin consistently accomplishes something rather notable: crafting memorable sentiments without relying on conventional refrains for reinforcement.  instead, it’s the vocal melody that often remains consistent throughout a given track, lilting contours pausing or altogether evaporating for maximum effect.  even on album centerpiece “you are here,” the lone instance of a discernible chorus, tomberlin achieves the desired impact through a combination of melodic familiarity and intimate points of view that truly underscore the song’s resounding abandonment.

Tomberlin At Weddings

meandering, finger-picked acoustic guitars are the album’s primary accompaniment, the instrument’s timbre consonant, therapeutic.  on “untitled 1,” it works in tandem with the whispers of a brassy synth to create a hypnotic aura; on closing number “february,” plaintive arpeggios ebb and flow peacefully, mirroring the lyrical delivery while belying its mournful content.  the moments that do deviate from this norm, like the chiming, descending wurlitzer foundation of “tornado,” are a necessary jolt to the status quo, a vague timbral equivalent that extracts additional facets of tomberlin’s aesthetic.

owen pallett’s presence throughout at weddings is more so felt than heard.  the multi-instrumentalist handled the album’s engineering and production while also providing secondary instrumentation, like the murky, distant synthesizer pads that flesh out a handful of tracks.  he factors in most prominently on “self-help,” a later cut saturated with disorienting, abrasive interludes that splice up an arresting lead vocal delivered by both tomberlin and pallett.  but most importantly, pallett doesn’t imprint any of his distinctive fingerprints onto at weddings, sagely allowing the album to be singularly tomberlin, through and through.

at weddings is an intimate affair presented in modest fashion; although ultimately the byproduct of two people working closely in concert, the salient components of the album emanate directly from sarah tomberlin’s core.  this is a project that gently asks to be consumed slowly, with care.  appease it.

communions – communions

out june 2nd via tough love records
out june 2nd via tough love records

communions are already sonically far-removed from their debut effort, last year’s cobblestones ep.  this fact hasn’t exactly presented itself as a revelatory flip of a switch, but rather a gradual – albeit accelerated – progression; their 7″ that followed traded raw, gloomy horizons for unabashed sunshine, a big first step out from under the shadow of fellow copenhagen post-punk outfit iceage.  on their new self-titled ep, the young danish quartet continues on their journey of carving out their own recognizable niche.

vast improvements in fidelity are immediately evident, but it’s imperative to set that fact aside for a moment.  opening cut “forget it’s a dream” finds communions retracing the path back through the dystopian abyss that birthed them to a more dance-oriented palate adorned with synth pads, textured palm-muting, and a prominent trebly bass line that dictates the song’s entire momentum.  the guitar countermelodies that are layered on top suggest a further shift away from former formulas: arpeggiations are delivered with a distinct purpose that moves beyond outlining the song’s harmonic structure and more towards providing clear and invigorating contour.

similar strategies are again practiced throughout the ep, particularly within the lead lines on “wherever” and the insistent, minimalist repetition at the beginning of “summer’s oath.”  when traditional arpeggios do surface they’re often relegated to supporting roles buried lower in the mix, although “restless hours” is a forgettable chunk of this record precisely because it falls back on old habits.  “out of my world” reads as indicative of everything communions strive to be on this ep: hopeless romantics with a sunny disposition that’s at times warped by heavily-saturated soundscapes.

communions are a very young band that have a very good full-length album brewing inside of them.  their embracement of a higher fidelity runs parallel to their drastic improvement as songwriters, with each added nuance afforded the proper amount of clarity to be fully recognized and appreciated.  in a genre that can be cripplingly formulaic, communions have begun to take the necessary preliminary strides to expand their possibilities, resulting in a solid second ep stuffed full of ambition ambition and triumph.