con davison – “sofa bed”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

after an impressive inaugural solo outing with last fall’s far off distant plans, con davison has wasted little time delivering a follow-up. “sofa bed” finds the st. paul musician, perhaps most recognizable for his work behind the drum kit in bad bad hats, further solidifying his songwriting chops; davison excels at effortless vocal melodies, focusing here on one that ascends towards the stratosphere, momentarily tumbling before hitting a gentle falsetto range.

paired with a subtly syncopated foundation and a fuzzy, angular riff, “sofa bed” appropriately feels like con davison in his most fully-realized state yet, one that will inevitably shift as he refines his craft. while we look forward to the prospect of more music from davison this year, “sofa bed” sates a collective appetite for the time being. dive in below.

con davison – “talk”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

the st. paul songwriter con davison has parlayed two excellent singles – “somebody else” and “subtle kick” – into an affinity felt by those who keep their ears close to the ground.  with the recent release of his third single, davison’s burgeoning solo career is coming into focus; a debut extended play, far off distant plans, is due this fall.

that aforementioned single, “talk,” finds davison comfortable in a mid-tempo setting, enveloped in saturated guitars.  a deftly-guided push-and-pull defines the track, with davison steering the narrative through its more breezy passages and pausing for non-linear ruminations in its more cavernous enclaves.  a nonchalant, adroit commentary on the inexplicable nature of everyday encounters and feelings, “talk” is davison’s most fully-realized effort to date.  check it out below.

con davison – “subtle kick”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

after making a lasting first impression with his groove-laden, piano-driven debut single “somebody else,” the st. paul singer-songwriter con davison convincingly switches gears on his follow-up.  “subtle kick” is comparatively breezy, shedding the sonic gravity of its predecessor but keeping the lyrical weight as davison turns in two deceptively simple verses and a chorus about the trappings of material want.

the linchpin of “subtle kick” is its instrumental bridge, a percolating break that presages the track’s soaring final act and solidifies its status as a tender, infectious ode to betterment that may well be one of the best songs of the summer.  take a listen below.

spissy – “radio” b/w “good for me”

– featured image courtesy of anna powell teeter –

spissy, the bloomington duo of ben lumsdaine and aaron denton, have been culling indelible pop songs tinged alternately with psychedelia and americana for a minute now; the band’s self-titled debut full-length landed in march of 2016 while a follow-up extended play, easy mirror, arrived at the top of last year.  after a slight hibernation, spissy have reemerged with “radio” b/w “good for me,” a pair of breezy, saturated singles effortless in their delivery.

“radio,” a synth-driven tour de force propelled by lumsdaine’s drumming and the instantly-recognizable wobble of a wurlitzer, is a perfect vessel for denton’s testament to the familiar and comforting.  the timbre of its outgoing synth solo dovetails nicely with the opening bars of “good for me,” an expansive mid-tempo ballad masquerading as a funk exercise.  as syncopated guitar interjections cascade into a wash of keyboard pads on the song’s refrain, denton wields the title as a hesitant question, gently repeating it as the track fades away.  taken together, the two singles are a cogent presentation of a songwriting duo that has further solidified over the past eighteen months and are hopefully a precursor to forthcoming spissy material.

“radio” b/w “good for me” is out today via winspear.  take a listen to the two tracks below.

interview – cam maclean

– featured image courtesy of  sarah o’driscoll – 

Cam maclean’s music evokes a sense of timelessness.  the montreal songwriter – perhaps best-known for his work in vesuvio solo – began constructing his solo debut full-length back in 2015; the end result is wait for love, an eight-song collection of breezy, folk-inflected soft pop gems interested in parsing how heady topics like heartache and masculinity collide and intertwine.

from early, synth-driven cuts like “where i go” and “new jerusalem” to the piano-oriented title track and evocative ballad “light cast,” maclean has already provided a broad primer to the textures he explores across wait for love, his singular falsetto and angular guitar motifs threaded throughout.  with the album’s arrival just a day away, we caught up with maclean via e-mail to discuss its creation; check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.

how did this new batch of tunes come about?  did you have a conscious plan to create a body of work separate from vesuvio solo, or did it occur a bit more organically?

i’ve always written songs on my own, and had been planning to do my own record for a long time.  vesuvio solo is (ironically, i suppose) very much a duo – the songs are co-written by both (co-frontman) thom and i.  i do work really well in partnerships in general, though, and in the making of my own record wait for love, working with producer adam wilcox was invaluable.

we started working together on some of the songs in 2015, and a lot of them went through many different arrangements.  the song “where i go,” for instance, was originally done in a major key – adam encouraged me to play it in minor.  “light cast” is another song that ended up dramatically different than it started – it was originally written as a slow acoustic ballad, sung in a much lower register.

wait for love explores a sonic territory that’s familiar to you, but you cite a larger range of influences.  what new artists in particular did you find yourself gravitating towards while working on this release?

i can’t say that i was directly influenced by any newer artists when it came to writing or producing any of these songs.  in fact, perhaps the album i listened to the most while i was making these songs was carole king’s tapestry!

i am, however, of course inspired by a lot of newer artists.  jessica pratt is someone whose music i’m consistently interested in, for instance.  my record does explore similar sonic territory as vesuvio solo, yes, but the songs on wait for love have a confessional quality that makes them quite different from vesuvio solo, i think.

can you speak to any obstacles you faced while recording a solo project that you hadn’t encountered previously?  perhaps there were unforeseen benefits as well?

i worked on the album in a very piecemeal fashion over the course of two years or so.  this was both frustrating (because of course it’s nice to get something done quickly), and also a gift because it did allow the songs to grow and become shaped more organically without force.  the biggest obstacle was trying to complete the album and focus on it while still being active with vesuvio solo and several other projects.

this album has many of the lush qualities that could be associated with the singer-songwriters of yesteryear.  is there a specific decade you find yourself especially endeared to, touchstones that will always inform your work in some way?

the 1970s is probably the decade that produced my favorite records more than any other.  court and spark by joni mitchell, for instance, is a record i always come back to.  other favorites include judee sill’s self-titled debut, paris 1919 by john cale, and paul simon’s debut solo record.

“jacob always” has some memorable imagery that slots in nicely with the album’s overarching themes.  is there a set of circumstances that inspired the track that you’d be comfortable sharing?

jacob as well as the “fortune teller” in the song are fictitious, but the themes in the song are ones i wanted to consciously explore.  i suppose many have driven good love away at one point or another, but of course i’ve known so many men in particular who’ve done this again and again and thought they “weren’t to blame” for the damage they caused.

do you see any more solo work in your future after wait for love winds down?

yes, definitely.  i’ve already begun recording a few new songs for my next solo record.

wait for love arrives tomorrow via atelier ciseaux records; stream it in full a bit early, courtesy of popmatters.

cam maclean – “light cast”

– featured image courtesy of sarah o’driscoll – 

cam maclean’s solo debut is only a few weeks out from release; the montreal songwriter’s eight-track full-length seems poised to be brimming with delicate pop gems, as evinced by its handful of singles.

“light cast,” the mid-tempo piano ballad that closes out the album’s a-side, is a concentrated shot of maclean’s aesthetic, his swirling falsetto layered on top of itself throughout the hook for dramatic effect.  packing sweeping orchestral gestures into a sub-three-minute package is no easy feat, but maclean executes his strategy with aplomb, traces of his signature guitar stylings still evident within a saturated texture.

wait for love arrives july 6th via atelier ciseaux; watch the chilly, plaintive music video for “light cast” below.

kevin krauter – “suddenly”

– featured image courtesy of alexa viscius – 

kevin krauter is poised to turn in one of the summer’s finest albums.  the indiana singer-songwriter – who also spends time in the bloomington-based band hoops – is prepping the release of toss up, a stellar collection of tunes that doubles down on the breezy intimacy of his wonderful 2016 extended play, changes.

the album’s third single, “suddenly,” is as robust as its predecessors.  slightly melancholic, “suddenly” finds krauter winding a vocal melody through an arpeggiated guitar ostinato, a lilting effect compounded by the woozy, vibrato-tinged synth motif that echoes the track’s main hook.  taken alongside “rollerskate” and “keep falling in love,” krauter’s latest offering is another compelling glimpse of this songwriter’s gifts, proof that the simplest structures can be among the most affecting.

toss up arrives june 15th via bayonet records.  listen to “suddenly,” below.

cam maclean – “wait for love”

– featured image courtesy of sarah o’driscoll – 

when vesuvio solo’s cam maclean shared two standalone tracks last year, the pair seemed to be exquisite one-offs, extensions of the soft-rock palette he had cultivated with his band.  instead, the montreal songwriter has been diligently at work on his debut solo album, wait for love, due out july 6th via atelier ciseaux records.

those aforementioned singles both make an appearance on maclean’s debut, along with six other tracks that showcase his effortless falsetto and meticulous arrangements.  unveiled this week as well was the album’s title track, the piano-driven “wait for love” breezy and tender as it absorbs synth stabs and distorted guitar interjections before being conquered by the latter, drifting off into the sunset as the angular, emotive motif loops to exhaustion.  take a listen below.

 

kevin krauter – “keep falling in love”

– featured image courtesy of alexa viscius – 

kevin krauter’s upcoming full-length, toss up, has all the trappings of a quintessential summer album: timeless singer-songwriter cuts delivered in a breezy, mid-tempo capsule.  after sharing the album’s lead single, “rollerskate,” at the top of last month, krauter returned earlier this week with its follow-up, “keep falling in love.”

anchored by spacious acoustic piano chords and syncopated guitar and synth interplay, “keep falling in love” is an earnest ode to loved ones enveloped in a relaxed soft rock exterior.  an accompanying music video, shot by krauter and friends over the course of a midwest road trip, chronicles the bliss and tenderness of companionship, clips of breakfasting, dancing, and celebrating stitched together into a nostalgic collage.

toss up arrives june 15th via bayonet records; watch the music video for “keep falling in love,” below.

bill waters – humid

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

“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.  next up: bill waters.

Bill waters is a blank canvas; he could be an unassuming next-door neighbor, the vaguely-recognizable guy from the bus, an office curmudgeon.  in this context, waters is the moniker of songwriter and producer william smith, a twenty-something who hails from the hudson valley.  humid is his first serious solo venture and bill waters is the vessel through which it is delivered, a beleaguered persona that allows songs to wax romantic freely, without any elements of self-consciousness trickling in.

the six songs that span humid are varied, but all harken back to the 1960s & 1970s soft pop waters acknowledges as a touchstone; the brisk “new car” segues seamlessly into the woozy, laid-back haze of “easy,” while penultimate cut “polyphone” is a sparse, tender entry swaddled in the warmth of an electric piano.  equally impressive throughout humid is waters’ dedication to exploring the peaks and valleys of his vocal register.  perhaps no one song better captures this than “milo and me,” a raucous ode to companionship that finds waters’ rich, sonorous baritone flirting with the cusp of falsetto.

through and through, humid is a remarkable songwriting achievement, a showcase of the depth possible with a modest amount of tools.  we recently caught up with the man behind bill waters to chat about the album process; check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.

you record under the moniker bill waters, whose given name is an abbreviation of your own.  is the moniker simply a stage name, or more of a persona you slip into while writing?  maybe something else entirely?

bill waters is definitely a persona for me to slip into while writing.  i think he’s some jaded 1970s recording artist that chain smokes and takes a lot of amphetamines – definitely a character that i lean into while writing and recording.  it feels like something to almost hide behind, or like a barrier to put up while being maybe a little too sappy or romantic with the lyrical content.

i believe humid is your first venture as a solo artist.  what projects have you worked on in the past, and what was the catalyst to strike out on your own?

i played in a band called dumb talk for a long time with a few of my good friends.  that was great; we put out some vinyl and gigged around.  that helped me get into the nerdier, engineer side of music as well.

i think with humid, i wanted to prove to myself that i could write, record, and produce something completely on my own.  i was working a lot, and when you’re doing that it’s hard to coordinate schedules with other people and friends who also have lives.  it’s also a good chance to release all of the little control freak tendencies that every songwriter has.  there are definitely pros and cons to doing a record on your own, as opposed to with a band or engineer.

Bill Waters Humid

to that end, how did you approach the writing and recording process for the songs on this ep?

the writing process came in waves over the past year.  a lot of it was me getting high and sitting in the bathroom with a nylon string guitar for an hour or two.  the lyrical content seemed to flow pretty easily; i was starting a relationship with someone, and got to use all of the romantic influence that comes along with that.  i think it’s hard to be falling in love and not write about that.

recording was a pretty special, interesting process.  i was living with my friend in upstate new york and we had a little studio set up in our apartment.  towards the end of july 2017, i had a week off of work, so i decided that was when i would record and mix everything.  looking back, it was kind of a dark week.  i would wake up, eat some eggs, binge on adderall and coconut water until i felt like i tracked enough, then pop a xanax and start drinking to bring my body to a screeching halt when the sun came up.

and for all the nerds out there: i used an sm7b for all the vocals, played the guitars through a fender twin reverb and a blown-out fender solid state amp, and i recorded most of the drum takes into a tascam 4-track.

i kept the air conditioner off because it was obviously loud as hell, and i think my body reached its peak temperature that week.  i definitely had a moment where i realized the album had to be called humid as an ode to the remarkable amount of sweat my body released while tracking drums.

one of my favorite tracks on humid is “milo and me,” in part due to the noodling guitar lines and in part due to its subject matter.  is there a particular backstory to that song?

oh yeah, there’s a juicy, sad story behind “milo and me.”  milo was my sister’s dog that was staying with me for a bit in the spring.  we had a great time an i got pretty attached.  about a month later, he got hit by a car and passed away.  i think that was the most depressed i’ve felt about a beloved animal passing away.

on a lighter note, i was listening to a lot of 10cc and sheer mag over the past year, and that’s definitely where the guitar riffs came from.

you seem comfortable in, and with exploring, myriad vocal registers.  are there specific artist you’ve taken cues from while working on this project?

with recording humid, i had a lot more time to experiment with vocal performances and production.  i think that gave me the space to find new registers, but there’s definitely some production trickery in there.  i was messing around with varispeed (changing the tempo and pitch of the song) and was just discovering the magic of double vocal tracks and auto double-tracking.

as far as other artists go, todd rundgren was a big influence and kind of always has been.  also, connan mockasin was a big vocal influence as far as experimentation goes.

humid is out now via forged artifacts.  take a listen to the entire album below.