premiere – honyock

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

sacramento four-piece honyock makes vaguely psychedelic pop music, steeped in the tenets of yesteryear but firmly rooted in their collective present-day experiences.  after toiling away on their debut full-length for over two years, the band is gearing up to release el castillo at the end of the month via friendship fever.

“heather,” the second single honyock has offered up off of their album, is decidedly breezy in comparison to its straight-ahead predecessor, “patron.”  the former relies on a momentary acoustic foundation to harness its enduring aesthetic, while a suspended bass line is soon co-opted into the song’s recurring, horn-powered motif.  from there, “heather” progresses as a soulful layering exercise, alternately relying on swirling organs and consonant vocal harmonies to underscore its sentiments.

a wistful recollection of its titular character dictated by a wayfaring narrator, “heather” is a summertime odyssey of sorts, its intricate guitar work a guide back to some semblance of home, of familiarity.  we’re pleased to premiere “heather” right here today on the dimestore; take a listen to the track below.

sun june – years

– featured image courtesy of bryan parker –

the debut full-length from sun june would be formidable on the strength of its four singles alone.  the lilting “discotheque,” the churning “slow rise ii,” and the understated “young” combine for a veritable triple threat right out of the gate, while the impossibly wistful “records” sets the bar for the album’s flip-side.  spread across years, howeverare six more gems of equal strength, a testament to the austin quintet’s effortless ability to sequence an album as melancholic as it is instantly memorable.

rounding out the a-side is “johnson city,” its contemplative slide guitar work further broadening sun june’s already-spacious horizons, and the nesting behavior of “homes,” a low and slow saxophone undercurrent dovetailing with warm vocal harmonies.  the album’s final four tracks rest comfortably in the vestiges of “records,” each latching on to a certain timbre or cavernous echo and exploring it fully.  the light four-on-the-floor pulse of “baby blue” and the descending turnarounds that populate “apartments” in particular work to provide respite, subtle gestures that drape sun june’s aesthetic with nostalgia and comfort.

while years registers primarily as a guitar-centric album, michael bain’s motifs and interjections pasted to a wall of reverb, laura colwell’s electric piano treatments don’t deserve to be overlooked; the instrument’s chiming vibrato is the linchpin of penultimate cut “i’ve been,” stretching into its upper register as the song swells to a conclusion.  taken together, years is a compelling inaugural outing, its ten tracks calibrated for optimal contemplation.

years arrives on friday via keeled scales, but you can stream the album in its entirety early, courtesy of hype machine.

sun june – “records”

– featured image courtesy of bryan parker – 

it takes laura colwell less than thirty seconds to conjure a snapshot of aching nostalgia on “records,” the sixth track and fourth single off of sun june’s forthcoming debut album, years.  the austin quintet has skimmed the surface of soulful melancholy on their three preceding offerings, but “records” is the first to dive headlong into the description.

tastefully spare and reveling in the space that results, “records” finds sun june sprinkling a bass-and-drums foundation with interlocking guitar lines and warm vocal harmonies, cresting towards a false ending that dissolves into a minute-long instrumental coda.  with its remarkable restraint and wide-open voicings that evoke the texas landscape, “records” is perhaps the band’s most cohesive encapsulation of its aesthetic yet.

years arrives june 15th via keeled scales.  spin “records” below.

kadhja bonet – “mother maybe”

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

kadhja bonet gained acclaim with her 2015 extended play the visitorreissued the following year by the oxford, mississippi label fat possum records.  the los angeles-based singer-songwriter has spent the subsequent time hard at work on a follow-up full-length, childqueen.

the album’s lead single, “mother maybe,” is a vibrant slice of elastic soul, a rubbery bass line bouncing through the contours of bonet’s lead vocal.  bonet’s diction is likewise snappy throughout, and she effortlessly stretches into the stratosphere of her vocal range as the track reaches its apex.

childqueen is out june 8th via fat possum records.  listen to “mother maybe” below.

gosh pith – “medusa”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

life without gosh pith feels almost unfathomable.  the detroit duo have turned in consistently strong – and usually gorgeous – collages of soul-infused electronic music for the past few years, carving out their own niche of self-described “cosmic trap” before venturing beyond that genre’s rather ambiguous borders.

the joshes smith and freed are currently hashing out their debut full-length after two indelible extended plays; the as-yet untitled effort should see the light of day in 2017, and previous singles “in my car” and “true blue” have offered a faint glimpse of what the album has to offer.

gosh pith broadened that spectrum of possibilities today with “medusa,” a brief, downtempo new cut that leans heavily on subterranean bass thuds and a host of percussive timbres skittering around a steadfast vocal delivery.  after a few listens, the dollar sign in the song’s title feels both quite topical and like a subtle homage.  take a listen to “medusa” below.

saba – “church / liquor store”

featured image courtesy of bryan allen lamb –

chance the rapper may be the most visible entity in chicago’s vibrant, multi-faceted hip-hop community, but so many integral cogs in that machine exist just beneath the surface.  three such cogs collide on “church / liquor store”; the track may bear saba’s moniker at the forefront, but it hinges just as much on cam o’bi’s liquid production and noname’s dexterous guest verse as it does on the west side native’s vivid word painting.

in a year that has already delivered coloring book, mick jenkins’ the healing component, and noname’s indispensable telefone mixtape, the latest cut from saba’s forthcoming bucket list project feels like a warranted punctuation mark, another visceral examination of adverse daily life.  take a listen to “church / liquor store” below.

most anticipated albums of fall 2016

– featured image courtesy of minimally minimal –

the home stretch of each year always provides a plethora of new albums vying for contention in year-end best-of reviews.  invariably, at least one heavy-hitter holds onto a project until the quarter is almost over before unleashing it and messing with the internet’s ballots by proxy (here’s looking at you, the weeknd and lorde).  the full list for this fall is exhausting; google searches and metacritic are good tools to keep yourself in the know, but we’ve also compiled a handful of albums we’re especially itching to dig into.  read on for more detailed explanations.

mick-jenkins-the-healing-componentmick jenkins – the healing component
september 23rd (free nation)

after years of building anticipation, mick jenkins will finally release his long-awaited debut album, the healing component, tomorrow.  if early looks like “spread love,” “drowning,” and “fall through” are indicatives of the album’s tenor, then the healing component should more than clear the high bar jenkins has imposed on himself.

jenny-hval-blood-bitchjenny hval – blood bitch
september 30th (sacred bones)

only a little more than a year has passed since jenny hval released her excellent apocalypse, girl, but the norwegian composer and songwriter has already completed a follow-up album, blood bitch.  hval’s new effort is billed as an about-face from its predecessor and has been bolstered by the strengths of lead single “female vampire” and “period piece,” a standout component of this year’s adult swim singles series.

unnamed-1moses sumney – lamentations
september 30th (self-released)

moses sumney’s live performances are a wonder to behold, and his recorded music is nearly emotive.  after thriving off of a handful of singles and his debut ep, mid-city island, sumney will self-release his latest extended play at the end of this month, but be on the lookout for his much-anticipated debut album sometime soon after.

takuya-kuroda-zigzaggertakuya kuroda – zigzagger
october 7th (concord records)

those not familiar with japanese bandleader and trumpeter takuya kuroda would do well to pick up his 2014 album, rising son, a perfect union of jazz, hip-hop, and r&b.  kuroda and his band continue to hone that aesthetic on zigzagger, his fifth studio album and first for concord records.  for a primer, start with the album’s lead-off single, “r.s.b.d.”

ricky eat acid talk to you soon.pngricky eat acid – talk to you soon
october 28th (terrible records)

sam ray will return to his ricky eat acid moniker at the end of next month to release the project’s first full-length in over two years.  2014’s three love songs is a timeless masterpiece, and ray’s divergence from its ambient magnetic pull on subsequent singles, mixtapes, and eps suggest that talk to you soon may be broader in scope and ambition, but almost certainly as uniquely emotive as its predecessor.

– other notable releases –

bon iver – 22, a million (september 30th)
danny brown – atrocity exhibition (september 30th)
s u r v i v e – rr7349 (september 30th)
ahem – just wanna be (october 7th)
jagwar ma – every now & then (october 14th)
american football – american football (october 21st)
the radio dept. – running out of love (october 21st)
forth wanderers – slop (november 11th)
the weeknd – starboy (november 25th)
childish gambino – pharos (tba)
chromatics – dear tommy (tba)
vancouver sleep clinic – tba (tba)

 

 

best of 2015: honorable mentions

casio vsco 1the list of our hands-down favorite albums of 2015 will drop tomorrow.  to sate your appetite for the time being, digest the work of the following five artists; each offered up a project that informed the tone of music this year, continued to shape their own artistic personae, or contributed heavily to social commentary.  a few hit all three categories.  links to stream are imbedded in each title; dig in below.

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black messiahd’angelo & the vanguard – black messiah

without black messiah, kendrick lamar’s to pimp a butterfly would exist in a very different capacity, or perhaps not at all.  d’angelo’s first album in fourteen years so profoundly affected producer terrace martin at the tail-end of 2014 that he immediately began to retouch and rework tracks on lamar’s impending release to integrate its sound into a very similar contemporary social commentary.  black messiah exists in much of the same vein as sly & the family stone’s 1971 classic there’s a riot goin’ on and innervisions-era stevie wonder, with near-flawless levels of funk arrangements and intra-ensemble musicianship (questlove and pino palladino contributed heavily; d’angelo’s near-virtuosic vocal abilities and synth construction are incredible in their own right) compounded by a mixture of romantic odysseys and searing examinations of race relations.  indeed, d’angelo bumped up the release date of the album he had so painstakingly labored over in direct response to the death of eric garner, the decision in ferguson not to indict darren wilson in the death of michael brown, and the protests that surrounded these events.  the urgency of black messiah only became more pertinent, as 2015 ticked off killing after killing of unarmed black citizens at the hands of law enforcement; in forty years, the album will undoubtedly be one of the more salient cultural snapshots of the persisting racism in early twenty-first century america.

ds2 futurefuture – ds2

after a lackluster outing in 2014, you’d be slightly forgiven for assuming that nayvadius wilburn would post a similar performance this year.  but only slightly.  the artist better known as future instead turned in a critically-lauded résumé of two solo mixtapes (with a third purportedly on its way before the year’s end), a high-profile collaboration with drake, and his third studio album, ds2.  future relies heavily on atlanta mainstays metro boomin and zaytoven to craft the dystopian harmonies that accompany his codeine-laced trap hymns on ds2 as he weaves through chest-thumping accounts of bravado (“i serve the base”) and drug-fueled debauchery (“freak hoes”) to balance out the perpetual bleakness of his persona.  future could have hung his head and feebly released snippets of material after failing to live up to his expectations last year; instead, ds2 triumphantly caps off a quest for redemption that has reinstated future as a viable frontrunner for trap’s iron throne.  what a time to be alive.

eat pray thug coverheems – eat pray thug

 “i’m so new york / i still don’t bump tupac,” himanshu suri brags at the outset of “so n.y.,” the second track on eat pray thug.  performing as heems while a member of das rascist and now on his own, suri has made a name for himself with brazen, laugh-out-loud statements like this one, but you can usually bet on there being underlying context.  suri embodies a very particular subset of new york identity: coming of age as a brown man in post-9/11 america.  on eat pray thug, suri relies on personal anecdotes to drive home the laundry list of domestic injustices faced by residents of southeast asian and middle eastern descent in the wake of the attacks, from forced assimilation (“flag shopping”) to heartbreaking consequences of racial profiling (“patriot act”).  the album is a long-overdue narrative in hip-hop, one that is – in a cruel twist of events – still incredibly salient in the face of renewed xenophobia incurred by the attacks in san bernardino and paris.

honeymoonlana del rey – honeymoon

lana del rey has absolutely no qualms about burning slowly for an entire hour on her third major-label full-length.  honeymoon arrives on the heels of last summer’s ultraviolence and sinks even deeper into the realm of full-blown noir, a territory elizabeth grant has been meticulously constructing since the birth of her alter ego.  now it’s just flat-out extravagant.  the central thesis of “high by the beach,” a rare, trap-inspired moment of momentum on the album, comes off as the furthest thing from ridiculous precisely due to the effortless elegance del rey has slowly woven into her music; cinematic centerpieces “music to watch boys to” and “salvatore” follow this rationale closely as well.  it speaks volumes to her artistic growth and confidence that lana del rey no longer has the proclivity for the blatantly provocative.  instead, she just buries them in confessionals against a backdrop of polychromatic orchestration.

tame impala currentstame impala – currents

don’t kid yourself that currents bears any semblance of a revolutionary or landmark album; it doesn’t.  but once you put it in its proper place, this year’s model of tame impala does turn into something special.  kevin parker’s psychedelic magnum opus “let it happen” was one of the most immediately impressionable tracks of the year; the opening number on currents trudges resolutely through a succession of lush soundscapes before reaching an extended epiphany, but it’s parker’s ability and willingness to extend his odyssey that makes the album truly worthwhile.  every wandering, slow-burning moment (ie. “yes i’m changing,” “past life”) is balanced out by adroit slices of straight-up pop (ie. “the less i know the better,” “disciples”), adding a crucial third dimension that’s ultimately responsible for binding currents together.

alabama shakes – sound & color

out april 21st via ato/rough trade records
out april 21st via ato/rough trade records

alabama shakes becomes an entirely different entity when brittany howard opens up the peak of her vocal range on “future people.”  the quartet played things relatively close to the chest musically on 2012’s boys & girls and on the first chunk of their follow-up album, sound & color, but “future people” marks the band’s coming-of-age.  busting down such a significant barrier in such a simple, direct manner is in line with the bravado alabama shakes has displayed in the past, and it’s the kickstart they needed to begin cultivating their true, original sound.

boys & girls glaringly reflected the environment alabama shakes was bred from, but the album simultaneously underscored an incredible penchant for powerful songwriting; it just needed time to grow naturally and to be gradually coaxed out.  as always, howard’s lyrics are captivating and her vocals high-octane, but she exercises a bit more restraint on sound & color that allows for a wider long-term contrast.  she reins in her falsetto on the mostly-acoustic ballad “this feeling,” and this volume level lends itself well to the contemplative nature of the subdued subsequent track “guess who.”  gone is the propensity to bare all for as long as possible before quickly pausing to recover; howard now uses a plethora of vocal timbres – and benefits from new instrumental ones – to convey exponentially more emotions.

the extended vibraphone introduction on “sound & color” is the first indicator of the album’s expanded palate, though it initially presents as an anomaly, quickly displaced and overshadowed by the sonic familiarity of “don’t wanna fight” and “dunes.”  that’s why “future people” is so critical; not only does it signify howard’s vocal renaissance, but it lays the groundwork for the band’s inclusion of tangential sounds.  zac cockrell’s bass playing is felt heavily across the entire album, though his presence is most commanding on “future people,” where he squelches out subterranean notes with fervor, and the song introduces alabama shakes’ newfound use of the hammond organ as the primary chordal instrument in the band.

this gradual embracement of supplemental instruments (keyboards, mallet percussion, strings) as harmonic and counter-melodic sources allows each core member of the band more leeway to expand their own roles.  howard and fellow guitarist heath fogg can still churn out power chords like nobody’s business (“the greatest”), but sound & color increasingly finds them padding already-thick textures with arpeggios and scorching melodies, an extension of the interplay that existed on their debut.  steve johnson’s drumming is vastly improved overall; he dictates the structure of the numerous ballads that litter the album, the most important being the dynamic shifts in “gimme all your love,” and his command of syncopation and ability to manipulate beat placement gives songs like “over my head” a dimension that was absent throughout much of boys & girls.

sound & color is an incredibly self-aware album, one that shows that the shakes know they can’t afford to play it safe, even in the mainstream rock community that has feverishly absorbed the band and placed it on a pedestal.  rather than simply paying homage to their myriad progenitors, alabama shakes have instead found a way to incorporate a multitude of sounds and toe the line with innovation, though they have yet to put significant distance between themselves and commonplace revivalists.  archetypes of each genre visited are referenced, not exploited, but this collage feels steeped in familiarity at critical moments, relying on the blues tropes in “don’t wanna fight” and “gimme all your love” to both hold the album together and to drive it home.  sound & color ultimately may not be the band’s definitive offering, but it certainly lays the groundwork for a potential masterpiece.

7.3/10

best of 2013: albums

good things come to those that wait, right?  does this phrase even really apply to this situation?  probably not.  it may be a bit delayed, but my albums of the year list is finally done.  i’ve written long-form essays on my favorite fifteen records of 2013 over at playground misnomer; you should definitely head over there and check it out, along with lists from the other contributors to that site.  if you don’t feel like reading, below are some quick and simple pictures of my top five albums of 2013.  enjoy.

5. milo – cavalcade

chvrches4. chvrches – the bones of what you believe

daughter if you leave3. daughter – if you leave

2. caroline smith – half about being a woman

majical cloudz impersonator.jpg1. majical cloudz – impersonator