scallops hotel – sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face

– featured image courtesy of kristina pederson –

album of the fortnight” is a 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.  first up this year: scallops hotel.

The annals of rory ferreira can be found scattered throughout both this website and the greater ether.  since 2011, ferreira has charted a course under the moniker milo that seems nearly unparalleled in quality of creative output and do-it-yourself success; for almost as long, ferreira has also released more intimate, improvised, and largely self-produced efforts as scallops hotel.

sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face, released in the hours preceding the new year, rests in the latter camp.  the mixtape’s eleven tracks are brief but potent snippets of consciousness, laid down in brooklyn over the course of an early autumn weekend.  like previous scallops hotel ventures, the instrumentals across sovereign nose are supplied by ferreira himself, save for co-production by host steel tipped dove on “sedan,” and dwell largely on the symbiotic relationship between sustained, contemplative piano chords and the wisps of silence following their release.

that aural theme is speckled with flittering motifs and concrete boom-bap pulses, a versatile canvas that allows ferreira to easily run a gamut of emotions in verse.  ferocity wanes to reflexiveness on opening number “a terror way beyond falling” before waxing back to full strength, while playful turns of phrase dot the brief spell that is “leisure.”  the mixtape’s lone guest spot displays perhaps the most blatant juxtaposition of vocal and instrumental timbres, as youngman delivers an abrasive, searing whirlwind of a verse over tinkling keys on “private temple hours.”

sovereign nose scallops hotel

lest its brevity suggest that consumption should be quick, sovereign nose comes packed with ferreira’s wealth of pop culture nods and his affinity for vocabulary; a studious listener would do well to sit down with any required reference materials and parse out as much of the mixtape as possible.  amidst the aforementioned and his pledged allegiance to ruby yacht lie straightforward truths like “i find myself in the same place / aimlessly wandering systemic violence with amazing grace,” the opening couplet on “the method (jawgems pausing in the hotel lobby)” and the mixtape’s title as mantra, coming to a head as the beautifully-mumbled cadence in “rank, title, pressures.”

sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face is billed as the second in a trilogy of mixtapes, following last summer’s over the carnage rose a voice prophetic.  while the latter is peppered with vocals manipulated by effects processors, the former is comparatively clean, and, consequently, a bit less sonically disorienting.  listened to in succession, sovereign nose plays an even more explicit foil to over the carnage, making the aural structure of the trilogy’s impending final installment that much more intriguing.

at this point, every release involving rory ferreira is appointment listening.  sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face, out now via ferreira’s ruby yacht label, is admirable work and sets the bar high early in 2018.  stream the mixtape in full below.

best of 2015: songs

vscocam barn copypicking 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.

———

shake it loose coverastronauts, etc. – “shake it loose”

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.

chairlift ch-chingchairlift – “ch-ching”

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.

day wave headcaseday wave – “drag”

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.

foxing – “the magdalene”

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 hederaisaac vallentin – “stewardess”

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.

kendrick lamar – “king kunta”

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.

ick jenkins wave[s]mick jenkins – “your love”

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 body pillowsayth – “under water • under ice”

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.

out may 5th via ruby yacht/the order labelscallops hotel – “lavender chunk (ft. hemlock ernst)”

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 currentstame impala – “yes i’m changing”

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.

listen to a new song from milo

milo:scallops hotel
photo courtesy of giovanni solis

between the title of his forthcoming album and the stark nature of its artwork, it’s apparent that rory ferreira is hyper-aware of mortality in present-day america.  but on “zen scientist,” the first single culled from so the flies don’t come, he seems confident and pragmatic in dealing with the situation.  recording again as milo, ferreira raps plainly that “the soul is fly / i’m in my new zone / i have decided my point of view” with help from myka 9 over kenny segal’s downtrodden production; there are no frills, non-sequiturs are trimmed to a minimum, and milo’s analogies refer less to his pop-culture prowess and instead hone in on key figures he views as progenitors to his current mentality.  so the flies don’t come arrives september 25th via ruby yacht.  let your soul fly.

scallops hotel – plain speaking

out may 5th via ruby yacht/the order label
out may 5th via ruby yacht/the order label

editor’s note: every review of an album or ep has come standard with a numerical ranking assigned at the end of the article since the inception of dimestore saints.  for awhile, this seemed to be a necessity, a way to keep up with other blogs and to perhaps speak a sort of shorthand code to those wishing to find the most thought-provoking new albums in the shortest amount of time.  as this site has progressed i’ve become increasingly conflicted about assigning art an arbitrary value, which is why i’m stopping, effective immediately.  from this moment forward, one can assume that any album or ep explored in length on dimestore saints carries some amount of merit and helps to shape the ever-changing musical landscape around us.  one can also assume that any album or ep assigned the “best new music” category is not inherently superior to all other music released that week, but rather has a profound impact on the author and/or directly relates to noted cultural shifts and movements within the music community, both of which are key components when curating year-end content.  phew.  long-winded formalities aside, here’s our take on the new scallops hotel full-length.

———

rory ferreira has charted an expansive course under the guise of milo, a persona culled from humble beginnings in the wisconsin rap collective nom de rap and sculpted meticulously over the past four years.  as milo gained a solid amount of traction in 2013 with a pair of eps and the stellar cavalcade mixtape, ferreira trotted out a side project called scallops hotel, one that found him mostly in charge of production and experimenting with songs devoid of conventional form.  after quietly releasing poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer) late that year, ferreira returns – more vociferously this time – as scallops hotel once again to deliver plain speaking, a riveting back-to-basics exercise.

plain speaking is the most straightforward lyrical body of work ferreira has offered thus far in his career.  his rhyme schemes, previously dictated by sequences of quick-witted non-sequiturs and compounding philosophical references, are now extremely fluid; standout cuts like “bookoo bread co” seem to come from ferreira’s heart as much as from his mind, and the name-checks that do still necessitate a google search fit comfortably within his narrative.  many tracks also allow the audience to bear witness to ferreira’s rebirth of self.  the downtrodden “roc marciano riff suite 1” distills his growing aversion to the aforementioned fact-checking into a tidy succession of bars before arriving at a thesis that feels central to the entire album: “don’t have to be flying / just existing.”  the notion of relishing the present moment is in line with the overall fluidity of ferreira’s delivery, and adds an extra dimension to the organic nature that already permeates plain speaking.

the musical side of the album is a bit more nuanced and showcases a personal progression rather than a strict reinvention for ferreira.  “lavender chunk” was the first piece of plain speaking teased to the general public, and for good reason; its no-frills production further underscores the project’s direct nature.  the track also functions well as a cursory overview of ferreira’s work for the casual or first-time listener, and its accessibility paired with a reasonably high-profile guest verse from hemlock ernst yields a rare product from ferreira that feels almost radio-ready.

in the context of the rest of plain speaking, however, “lavender chunk” is an anomaly.  most tracks are a bit murkier and some like “tense present” tend to shoot off suddenly into new musical thoughts, as if the non-sequiturs that previously frequented ferreira’s lyrics now manifest in his production.  stabbed piano chords dictate opening number “gnosis, black nationalism, rice”; there is an interlude where a beat pulses tentatively underneath the recitation a henry dumas poem; the penultimate cut “birther” rests comfortably as the album’s lone instrumental track.  the fluidity and renewed earnestness of ferreira’s lyrics binds together plain speaking, and its most crucial result is this unabashed – albeit exhaustive – exploration of timbres and constructs.

when scallops hotel first emerged as a side project in 2013, it felt like a devotion to the self; in 2015 it feels more like a reclamation of the self.  as milo has become increasingly subjected to public expectation, scallops hotel has served to counter any semblance of limitation.  on plain speaking, ferreira has free reign and wisely chooses to surround himself with close, integral contributors.  long-time collaborator safari al is granted one of just three guest verses on the album, and ferreira again enlisted the mixing talents of riley lake and the mastering craftwork of daddy kev.  a few tracks were outsourced to other producers, a mild concession that keeps plain speaking from becoming too self-indulgent and serves as an indicator that ferreira still benefits from outside help.  a perennial struggle for solo artists seems to be finding a proper balance between independence and collaboration; on plain speaking, rory ferreira is in full bloom.

listen to a new song from scallops hotel

milo:scallops hotel
photo courtesy of giovanni solis

rory ferreira has made considerable headway as milo, a multi-faceted, philosophical art-rap persona responsible for 2013’s cavalcade and last fall’s a toothpaste suburb.  ferreira has mostly outsourced production duties to artists like iglooghost and riley lake for each milo release, but in his other project, scallops hotel, ferreira is in complete control of all aspects.  a new scallops hotel album called plain speaking is due out may 5th via ferreira’s own ruby yacht label, and we got our first taste of his new material earlier this week.

“lavender chunk” exists simply, a few different synthesizer melodies layered on top of an incessant drum loop. hemlock ernst – the alter ego of future islands frontman samuel herring – handles the first verse before ferreira hops on to finish things off.  the song’s hook arrives late, and the seemingly endless repetition of “brothers like me don’t live too long / that’s why i have to write so many rap songs” only becomes more chilling with each utterance.  take a listen to “lavender chunk” below.

scallops hotel – poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer)

if you’ve somehow missed out on milo’s output this year, let me give you a quick crash-course.  on new year’s day, the mc released a double-ep called things that happen at day/things that happen at night.  this past july, he dropped cavalcade, an excellent mixtape with exquisite production from riley lake.  the three bodies of work together exhibited an enormous amount of artistic growth over a short period of time, as milo continued to develop his philosophical, spoken word-tinged rhyme delivery over beats that were more interactive and at the forefront of each composition.  i think most people would have been beyond satisfied if he had called it quits for 2013 after cavalcade,  but milo’s prolific tendencies dictated that even more material was necessary.  i can’t really complain about that.

with poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer), milo’s first full-length release for his scallops hotel side project, the young rapper furthers his case for being consider among the year’s best artists.  poplar grove also marks somewhat of a return to milo’s earlier, independent days; although there are smatterings of hellfyre club found throughout the album, his decision to release it through his own personal bandcamp is telling.  the tracks are much more intimate and eclectic than milo’s previous work this year, and they’re largely devoid of hooks.  this return to a more stream-of-consciousness approach is akin to what initially drew me to last year’s milo takes baths, but it’s been juxtaposed by deeper, pitch-shifted vocals and comparatively haunting instrumentals.

when the occasional melody does appear, it’s wonderful.  “bergamot gamut” traces the same melodic figure throughout with milo appropriating his words to its contour, changing the content when need be and slipping in and out of spoken and sung phrases.  the improvement of his singing voice is notable, but what’s even more impressive is milo’s growth as a songwriter, not so much in terms of lyricism as in terms of form and overall structure.  i saw some deviation from his established formula in penobscot expedition, a fan-made b-sides compilation that also surfaced this summer, and it’s nice to see milo continuing down a path to diversify his sound.

poplar grove isn’t milo’s defining album of 2013, and it really shouldn’t be.  this excellent foray under the moniker of a side project allows him to prove that his output will never run the risk of becoming one-dimensional, and probably will help him pay for rent next month, too.  in order to fully understand milo’s musical realm, poplar grove must be inserted into a continuous stream of his entire discography from this year.  once you do that, i hope you’ll understand why milo has become a force to be reckoned with.

8.0/10

listen to a new song from milo’s side project scallops hotel

as if releasing a fantastic pair of eps and a damn good mixtape this year wasn’t enough, wisconsin rapper milo plans to release a new ep from his side project, scallops hotel.  the ep, entitled poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer), is set to drop on november 19th and features production from iglooghost, lee bannon, and busdriver.  if you can’t wait five days to hear the whole thing (i can’t either, don’t worry), milo has remedied this situation by streaming the ep’s lead single, “xergiok’s chagrin (a song for jib).”  the self-produced joint is dark and contains some of the best lyrics i’ve ever heard this guy proclaim.  check it out below.