Augustine – “Guts”

For the past six years, every single track I have chosen to write about has been decided solely on my gut feeling, a feeling elicited from one singular moment within the song that makes my heart flutter excitedly and anxiously. If you gave me enough time, I could go back through our hundreds of posts and tell you the exact second and millisecond within these songs and albums that ultimately made me want to share them, the one second that sends my soul reeling and my thoughts into a tailspin in the best sense, the one bit that keeps me suspended until I can sit down and understand it. For Augustine’s gorgeous new single “Guts,” I can say that this singular moment is nestled halfway within the falsetto-tinged chorus, the part where his voice plunges down to Earth for a split second before it soars back up into the ether, evoking something akin to a passionate, yet gracefully orchestrated catharsis. 

This stunning piece of music is first new track from the Swedish producer and multi-instrumentalist since the release of his Wishful Thinking EP earlier this year. Though citing influence and inspiration from David Bowie, ABBA, and Foster the People, to name a few, Augustine’s music still evokes something gorgeously unique, fantastically exhilarating, and incredibly fresh, offering a brand new perspective on indie pop that’s actually making me hopeful for the genre again. 

Propelled by a scintillating piano melody that has been with him for quite some time, “Guts” deals with the ideas of love, but also of privilege, remembering to be grateful for the things we have experienced, things we are lucky enough to continue to experience, abstract things like vitality and leisure and love:

“Guts” is about a hangover morning together with someone you adore and the irony of you both complaining about your mood when you were privileged enough to go out and have fun the night before. It’s a way of telling myself to shut up whenever I start feeling sorry for myself.

The chorus is goose-bump-inducing, both from the textured instrumental and from the lyric narrative inspired by this hungover morning, which describes their feelings about the situation – she “pulls her hair for a Vicodin” and “mutters something about the end” while he, awoken to her “elegance,” feels “fine” with the way he is and instead “figures out a way to make amends.” There’s a sudden, near emphatic tone of self-discovery within these lines, an epiphany that he will carry with him into the next drunken night of leisure, but also somewhere within them beautifully exists a newfound appreciation for other people’s experiences, or, perhaps even the lack thereof. 

 

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photo by Rassmus Björnson

Sin Fang – “No Summer”

At the end of this week, Sin Fang – also known as Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and singer Sindri Sigfússon – will release his full length LP Sad Party, the follow up to his evocative, future R&B inspired 2016 LP Spaceland as well as last year’s incredible LP Team Dreams, recorded with fellow Icelandic artists Sóley and Múm’s Örvar Smárason. If his three stunning singles are any indication, however, Sad Party will be slightly less tinged with the opaque tint of darkness and instead present a lighter, otherworldly menagerie of tracks that brilliantly balance the highly textured, unique worlds of psychedelia and melancholia, all resulting from “frantic and mostly improvised jam sessions,” stream of consciousness inspired ballads that strive to portray the raw beauty of emotion and passion before all else. “No Summer” feels most attuned to this idea, given its absolutely gorgeous immediacy; delicate, gossamer thin synth and robust, silken vocals burst forward and swell together, intermingling beautifully like strains of ethereal vapour. Meticulous melodies shine, glimmer, and radiate underneath the percussion like golden ichor, perpetually maintaining a near tangible sense of jagged, resilient vitality, comfort and warmth provided despite it being taken away, warmth that lingers well into the next winter. 

Sad Party is out November 8th.

 

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photo via artist

KWAV Revisited: The Bilinda Butchers

Though we tend to throw the word around so frequently it risks losing meaning, I admit that the idea I most associate with The Bilinda Butchers is nostalgia. I’ve experienced my fair share of it over the years, but the exact definition of the word has always eluded me, despite my ongoing penchant for sentimentality and of course, my perpetual fascination with music’s ability to administer the feeling in beautifully inexplicable ways. 

I focused on nostalgia for class earlier this month, and as I was attempting to describe the specific sensation in the opening paragraph of my assignment, I noticed that my particular relationship with nostalgia has always been incredibly visceral – I referred to it in my writing as being akin to the breathless shock of suddenly plunging into ice water, the feeling of someone punching me in the gut with no warning, no remorse; I realized that for me, nostalgia has never been warm, soft, or fuzzy. But strangely enough, I still love it – listening to The Bilinda Butchers’ “Tulips,” for instance, always makes me feel like I’m helplessly gasping for air, but it’s still one of my absolute favorite dream pop songs ever made. 

“Why do you feel that way though?,” my friend asked me when I told her. 

I was quiet for a moment before I could think of an answer that would make any sort of sense. “I don’t know,” I started. “Maybe it’s nice for a little bit, but before my body can ultimately register it as positive, I think about how I can never return to whatever memory it is that I’m imagining. And then before I know it, it turns into nausea.”

My friend turned to look at me. “That’s really sad,” she said, a concerned lilt in her voice. 

“Is it?” I replied with a surprised chuckle. “I’ve never really thought of it that way.”  

And I honestly don’t. In fact, I cherish the feeling and all of its (subjectively) visceral side effects, the way in which it forces me, quite literally, to stop for a moment and reassess my place within the chaos of the world, to appreciate what I’ve experienced in my life thus far, to have newfound hope for the future in making new memories. I’m always quick to recommend The Bilinda Butchers for this very reason – for this punch in the gut, this ice water shock, this idea of briefly succumbing to something breathless and fleeting that it turns into a full body experience. 

This third installment of KWAV Revisited is in conjunction with Spirit Goth’s October 2019 release of their fantastic cassette club, which will be a re-release of The Bilinda Butchers’ 2011 EP Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams (more about the club will be below). I will mainly be discussing this album as well as their 2012 EP Goodbyes (as both are on perpetual rotation for yours truly). 

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Michal Kepsky and Adam Honingford have been writing and creating music together since they were around fifteen years old, initially bonding over a shared love of shoegaze and, as you can probably discern from the band name, My Bloody Valentine. Along with the shoegaze and dream pop influences from MBV and bands like The Radio Dept. and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, there was also the love of video game soundtracks and bossa nova that had a hand in the BB’s wonderfully unique sound, always somewhere between the jagged and the whimsical, the sharp and vulnerable. In this sense, however, Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams – which Kepsky entirely wrote and recorded on his own – comes with a disclaimer, as he has admitted he is obviously not the same person today as he as when it was written over eight years ago. It’s an album partially fueled – even if by unintentional means – by teenage angst and yearning, by emotions flowing out so fast there is that conscious need to make sense of them. 

There’s also the heavy, continuous theme of cinema within their discography that makes itself known in gorgeously subtle ways within these two EPs; In fact, Kepsky mentioned in a 2010 interview that he treats every song as a singular scene in a movie of his own design, all dwelling on moments within the darker, more painful complexities of the human condition – and, perhaps most of all, the feelings that come with being deep within the throes of loneliness, in both its physical and emotional variations. They want you to engage with their music in this manner, to picture something happening, preferably something that deals with love or, to converge with the aforementioned themes, perhaps more with the lack thereof. 

“Boyfriend” falls in the former category, where Kepsky falls into a lovesick trance, imagining the softer possibilities that could come with being in a relationship, the honeymoon phase. He explains amidst dreamlike, shimmering synth that he and his girl “could stop by the hills with trees,” that he’ll “pick a flower in the summer breeze/ And I’ll ask [her] to be my baby.” His voice grows more sincere as the track flows forward as if he is accepting the daydreams as cold fact, the guitar piercing directly through the haze after the last verse to symbolize his conviction. 

These daydreams are just that, however  – daydreams, fantastical thought, ultimately hollow dreams that you can’t will into being reality. “Tulips” retells the same story in a way that represents real life, which is ironic, considering it is the most lush, fantastical song on the album, as well as one of the most cinematic. The synth elicits a handful of mental images – a roughly pulled back harp string perpetually oscillating throughout the entire song, a crystal pendulum careening from foreground to background, ocean waves that crash into shore over and over – and yet, all seem to be appropriate to soundtrack a song essentially referring to an epiphany: After realizing the girl never gave a shit about him, that same summer day has a sun that now “shines in a different way,” and the flower he picked is no longer an object of love, considering there are thousands of similar ones “all around.” He’s no longer infatuated, he “feels okay.” Despite the emotional detachment and despondent apathy within the lyrics, the synth pulses, swells, and shudders with a deeper, painfully unrequited sense of adoration, his heart a cup overflowing with love but nowhere to transfer its contents. There’s a tension within the this repeated synth that’s absolutely breathtaking, the constantly growing wall of sound almost like a facade to mask the vulnerability threatening to flow out. It was never real; He asks the void “where do I go now? No one loves me.” 

There’s also a lot of R,L,G,D that deals with the themes of friendship: “Careless Teens” shows a sense of disappointment for the friends you’ve perhaps placed too much faith into and have departed with a piece of your being, while opener “All My Friends” shows the appreciation for the ones that have stayed and added something divine to your life. Kepsky and Honingford know the latter especially well, given their years of friendship and collaboration that has now surpassed a decade: 

Adam and I have an interesting relationship – it’s hard to describe as just a best friend. There are a lot of ups and downs. With any love that is the best kind. The up are the happiest times in my life and the downs bring us close to tears, but our bond is unbreakable at this point. We’ve been through so much that we always gravitate back to each other no matter how long we haven’t seen each other.”

In that vein, The Bilinda Butchers’ 2012 follow up Goodbyes includes tracks from both Kepsky and Honingford, resulting in a wonderfully varied collection that plays like a full LP.  There’s the exhilarating soundscape that is “Crystal Tears,” where jagged synth and echoed percussion pulse and radiate, the soundtrack to a video game inside your own subconscious. The imagery within the lyrics are fantastical but with a shard of darkness lodged within them, the protagonist of this tale of betrayal and lovesickness explaining he is “bleeding loving tears/ purple crystals from my eyes,” that “crystal raindrops haunt me,” cutting through the “smoke of lies, death and fear.” At the bridge, Kepsky’s voice has been reduced to a hollow whisper, but within it still exists the last sliver of infatuation: “Lover of mine/ You said your love’s a different kind.” The instrumentals surge in like the triumphant music after beating a final boss, the anxious escape from a building on fire. It’s up to you to decide, however, whether he makes it out or not. 

“Half Open” is stunning in every sense of the word; The synth floats past like a cool summer breeze, the delicate droplets of water echoing gorgeously at the bridge, evoking a sense of clarity, of soft introspection, despite the swaths of wistfulness that follow immediately after. The track flows seamlessly into “Little Leaf,” which, unlike the majority of their discography, involves acoustic instrumentation. These soft, yet strangely jagged and visceral strums of guitar, as well as Kepsky’s vivid and near three-dimensional vocals, results in a near tangible sense of raw vulnerability within the track, especially when placed adjacent to the narrative. 

“Little Leaf” is like a cathartic fever dream, an enamored hallucination directly emitted from the consciousness and hung like a silk sheet in front of the eyes, screening on loop against it a film of what could have been, or, just as easily what has been left behind and is now inherently and perpetually yearned for, desired. And what I ultimately adore about the Bilinda Butchers is that the dreams and desires they portray within their songs are realistic, ultimately attainable  – in “Little Leaf” they are of honest love, a happy home, a child who is gifted with two parents that love them unconditionally (“You pick him up/ Hush baby/ Mommy and daddy love you very much/ These words resonate for days”). The instrumentals swell and gather in the second half, vocals reassuring “‘cause in your face, I see our place/ Warm and cozy, hold me/ Honey, honey.” Kepsky draws out these last two words slowly, thoughtfully, to the point where they aren’t hollow terms of endearment, but breathlessly representative of something real, worthy of holding onto. He is self-aware, ending in his admitting that “when you call through the screen/ I pretend like I’m in that dream,” and “I forget that you’re miles away.” 

Whenever I listen to The Bilinda Butchers, I find myself within and without in this exact manner, so viciously in tune with my own emotions that I detach from reality for a moment, in order to truly appreciate and continue to understand the images their music elicits; I miss everyone in my life all at once, I miss parts of myself, I miss who I used to be. Like Kepsky repeats in “Tulips,” “I feel it all around from a distant time.”

And while nostalgia for me might not be the same as nostalgia for you – and I truly hope it’s not, I hope it’s warm and fuzzy – I will always consider the ice water shock a gorgeous reminder of the capacity for emotion, of the human condition and all its intricacies. 

 

 

ABOUT SPIRIT GOTH AND CASSETTE CLUB:

Spirit Goth is an excellent lo-fi pop label based in New York, representing stellar indie artists including Vansire, High Sunn, and Sports Coach. They began their subscription service Cassette Club back in January 2019, which features limited edition (and often exclusive) presses of lo-fi dream pop and bedroom pop albums and EPs every single month, shipping worldwide. Releases in the past have included Ruby Haunt’s Blue Hour, Frankie Cosmos’s Covers, as well as Rarities, a collection of beats and remixes from Vansire’s Josh Augustin. 

If you join, you’ll get entry into one of the best clubs around, and, most importantly, the knowledge that you’ll be supporting amazing, hard-working indie artists as well as a wonderful indie record label. 

You can visit Spirit Goth here, and get more info on Cassette Club here.

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Black Marble – “Private Show”

Set for release at the end of October, Black Marble’s upcoming album Bigger Than Life could honestly not be coming at a better or more appropriate time, given how much I personally equate heavy, moody synth-pop with cooler weather and darker skies. Chris Stewart’s first two singles for this new phase after 2016’s It’s Immaterial included the jagged “One Eye Open” and the evocative “Feels,” both wonderful extensions of his signature style marked with chilling monotone vocals that burst forward from metallic, industrial synth with haunting, near prophetic immediacy. His latest and last single before the LP release “Private Show” follows suit, with mesmerizing instrumentals that oscillate back and forth from familiarity and discomfort, Stewart’s narrative desperate and insistent within the striking chorus: “And I’d rather not sleep/ ‘Cause I know I’ll have feelings in my dreams.” 

“‘Private Show’ strongly reflects the themes of solitude vs. community and counterbalancing the desire for personal recognition against the feelings of safety and anonymity derived from surrendering to something bigger than oneself…The characters all have a choice to make, whether to be fully themselves at the expense of their community or seek the embrace of the group at the expense of their agency. In the end, the narrator feels destined for the path of solitude yet makes an effort to find another kindred spirit for the journey.”

The music video for “Private Show,” which takes place at a county fair in Mississippi, feels at once chaotic and lonely, expressing in scattered images the nuances in which the track strives to elucidate. It is also the first video for Black Marble in which Stewart appears, as both insider and outsider, within and without. 

Bigger Than Life is out October 25th via Sacred Bones. 

 

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photo by Ashley Leahy

Swim Deep – “Sail Away, Say Goodbye”

Today, Swim Deep officially released their wonderful third LP Emerald Classics, a record that was, admittedly, frighteningly close to never being released at all. The album’s title comes from The Emerald, a local pub in which the English indie group met one day to discuss their next step some time after the release of their 2015 sophomore album Mothers, wondering if continuing was “worth it” given a few members’ battles with their own personal struggles, which, in turn, led to their departures from the project. And yet, meeting at the pub that day reminded them of their eternal bond as bandmates, and thus the now current stage of Swim Deep was born, marked by newfound passion and the thought that sitting still ultimately leads to creative ruin. 

Emerald Classic showcases musical experimentation to the utmost degree, housing everything from acid pop to new wave within its walls. However, it is the moments where vulnerability lies coiled underneath the instrumentals that speak most clearly, with “Sail Away, Say Goodbye” the one track we keep returning to for this very reason. Inspired by front-man Austin William’s grandmother and her tragic battle with dementia, the track is utterly and breathtakingly beautiful in both orchestration and narrative alike, carrying on its shoulders a potent heaviness that looms over the glittering synths like an impending rainstorm. Though he sings brightly, there is a painful somber aura that radiates around his words, explaining the hurt he feels when he sees his grandmother struggle:

“Another day goes passing by/ She asks him “when can we leave here?”/ He says “My dear this is our house”/ It’s hard to know how it must feel/ Losing routine you have built/ Making tea, forgetting milk.” 

And yet, there’s an ethereal hopefulness deep within the sorrow emitted from the chorus and especially the from the bridge, where Williams swears with divine empathy that though her memory is fading, he will swim with her, that he will “never forget,” repeating the phrase secure and confident like a draped blanket, existing as a soft and comforting look in her direction. 

The video for “Sail Away, Say Goodbye” is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorites of the year, in its beautifully shot scenes a near palpable energy haunting and wholesome all at once. Directly evoking the water imagery within the narrative, the group finds themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean with their boat slowly flooding with water – a metaphor for the feelings of dementia, of gradually being submerged deep within the consciousness until it becomes harder and harder to swim to – or even see – the surface. The members panic; They frantically attempt to plug the leak, shout for help, and shoot a cobalt flare into the air, the thick smoke dissolving into the clouds to no avail. Eventually they are all plunged into the water, where they sink into strange lucidity, floating in blue waves listlessly, eyes closed, almost as if succumbing to their fate – and yet they appear back on shore, shivering from the cold. The last shot of Williams’ terrified face looking out over the horizon speaks volumes, evokes something stunningly inexplicable. 

Emerald Classics is out today.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Loving – “Only She Knows”

The members of Loving met while planting trees in western Canada during their shared summers, with David Parry and brothers Lucas and Jesse Henderson slowly but surely attempting to replenish forests ruined by hasty capitalist endeavor. This origin story, especially when listening to their soft, beautifully meditative tracks in their debut as well as the stunning releases over this past year, makes total sense – the very essence of thoughtfulness and physical care exudes from orchestration and vocals alike in previous single “Nihilist Kite Flyer” along with their most recent single “Only She Knows,” a warm, patient ballad akin to a slowly descending sunset. Bubbly piano opens the track to later be met with crisp, stunningly echoed guitar that flutters around and brightens up the melody, reminiscent of the crimson gold glow that hovers over the horizon just before it fades to black. The narrative centers around a woman and her pensive, rapidly circulating thoughts as she looks out the window, “searching the sky as if for a sign.” The guitar multiplies towards the end to emulate a harpsichord, swelling and radiating the residual emotions into peaceful oblivion, and hopefully, the indication of a place of ruminative fulfillment. 

Loving is rumored to release their sophomore album sometime next year.

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: Surf Curse, Heaven Surrounds You

Heaven Surrounds You, Surf Curse’s recent third LP, entertains a series of evolutions, emulating in the seamless progression of its narratives and instrumentals something remarkably close to the classic bildungsroman, a stunning coming-of-age epic in album form. 

The first of these evolutions lies in Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck’s physical and technical ones – moving from Reno to Los Angeles, switching out the dust and emptiness with saturated color, as well as transforming their previously lo-fi sound into something more produced and polished. In another vein, the evolution of emotion within these tracks is skilled as well, beginning with chaotic desire and slowly transforming into something close to enlightenment. The album’s first few openers “Maps to the Stars,” “Labyrinth,” and first single “Disco” all deal with the introductory ideas of blind, rampaging passion – in fact, we barely get a chance to breathe submerged within the instrumentals (save, of course, for the forced stops within the chorus of “Disco”). Rattigan explains, “my heart is on fire” in “Maps to the Stars,” and, in one of my absolute favorite lines in the entire album, that his “excessive pride” has “turned into excessive love.” However, this unbridled energy ultimately emulates an internal excitement, a naivety and vulnerability that opens the rest of the album into the potential for self-discovery and understanding. 

Speaking of which, “River’s Edge” quite literally deals with self-reflection, with Rattigan explaining “I don’t recognize myself,” that maybe it would be better to go live at the edge of society, in a place where “nothing is ever said” – and with that, transforms into the persona of “Midnight Cowboy,” cruising the streets and “dreaming of days of a different life.” These two together are at once pensive and a light, patient come down from the mania immediately beforehand.

And, in classic narrative fashion, the album has its dramatic climax exactly in the middle with the absolutely stunning ballad “Hour of the Wolf,” where the cowboy returns home and is hurled into the throes of his own vulnerability. He sits alone under darkness, lamenting that he’s still “missing you all day, in every way,” telling himself to beware “the bleeding moon.” It’s the darkest and one of the most fascinating songs on the album instrumentally, given the stiff, sparse guitar melody that burns and, in its fervid immediacy, almost seems to brand the surrounding narrative into your skin. 

However, “Dead Ringers,” which follows, tells us that this was perhaps not the healthiest relationship, with Rattigan explaining that it is about “kind of being stuck with this spirit that you love—a relationship where you connect on so many things, but it can lead to your demise at the same time. It’s about having too much familiarity.” In turn, the instrumentals return to that initial place of passion and desire, with an incredible guitar flourish within the chorus like bolts of lightning, but now, it is far from naive – instead, they can be directed towards himself, congratulating his own emotional evolution. Rattigan acknowledges this in the song that follows, explaining “I’m safe alone.” “Opera” seems to be the softer accompaniment to “Hour of the Wolf,” given the residual depth and darkness but ultimately evolved given the underlying layer of maturity that cuts through it, admitting “it’s getting late and I’m oh so tired/ Of the games we play with each other’s lives.” He is no longer running through mazes or setting things on fire with unhealthy passion – in “Jamie” he accepts a friend’s invitation to go out with them, nipping the “night of feeling lonely and confused” in the bud. 

What is ultimately striking about Heaven Surrounds You is its versatile nature – sure, the songs are able to stand alone confidently, vivaciously, even, but they are also stacked and ordered in a way that there is this highly discernible progression, a question posited early within the opener that is closer to being answered by the end. They begin with their hearts on fire, burning brightly, violently – but ends on a remarkably wholesome note, with Rattigan expressing  “I love all the people in my life/ All my friends keep me alive.” The movie has concluded with a happy ending, the instrumentals that follow are bright and hopeful, and it is tempting to picture the slow scrolling of credits as they swell and radiate, encouraging the listener to undergo the same sort of personal introspection a moviegoer has in the theater at the end of a film they really loved, reaching across the seat to talk with their friends about which scenes that spoke to them, that unlocked something within themselves they didn’t know existed.

In that vein, it is rather thrilling to think of our own lives as movies, attaching bigger, deeper feelings to everyday occurrences. Looking out the car window listlessly and silently as a sad song blares through your headphones, going to the grocery store or the laundromat, catching a brief, fleeting glimpse of someone across the room – they can all be breathlessly cinematic if you will them to be. And yet, there’s something somewhat damning in that belief at the same time; Idealization and idolatry of the self can lead to a profound, complex disappointment, the thought that we remain empty inside underneath all the aesthetic panache. Heaven Surrounds You entertains that notion, but thankfully it is through a dazzlingly meta-modern lens – in its skilled progression, it strives to portray that even the smallest, most minute moments can lead to some sort of emotional satisfaction, a newfound appreciation for this mix of chaos and passion we call everyday living.

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photo by Matthew James-Wilson

Foxes in Fiction – “Antibody”/ “Rush to Spark”

Foxes in Fiction recently announced the release of their upcoming album Trillium Killer, the follow up to 2014’s stunning LP Ontario Gothic. As founder of both Foxes in Fiction as well as the Brooklyn label Orchid Tapes, Toronto born, New York based artist Warren Hildebrand not only embraces, but gorgeously builds off of the divine nature of bedroom pop, offering a near transcendental take on the genre with their diaphanous synth and fragile vocals that never seem to go above a whisper. 

They mentioned recently that while Ontario Gothic was meant to reflect healing and regrowth, Trillium Killer will instead be a reflection of the moments where we succumb to our pain and see ourselves stumbling backwards, allowing emotion to course through our bodies rather than attempt to block it out completely. Hildebrand released two tracks from Trillium Killer earlier this month, the poetic  “Rush to Spark” as well as the mellow, yet eerie ballad “Antibody,” both dealing with relatively heavy, but incredibly necessary subject matter:

“‘Antibody’ and ‘Rush to Spark’ are at their core two songs about the effects of medication. ‘Antibody’ is a song about HIV anxiety as a sexually active queer person brought on by homophobic stigma around the virus and what happens when you’re liberated from that anxiety by taking PrEP drugs like Truvada and how that can reframe a person’s understanding of HIV and help eliminate internalized social-sexual stigmatization of HIV-positive people.”

And, true to its description, “Antibody,” while still somewhat entertaining that anxiety every so often in the pockets of murkiness within the tail ends of the chorus, still ultimately has within its walls the exhilarating feeling of relief, of personal retribution after an extended period of worry. The softly released vocal “oh”’s peppered throughout the track feel like deep breaths being let out, and speak to this relief, this letting go. 

“Rush to Spark” is a realist take on mental illness, an issue in that desperately needs to be discussed more readily and without stigma, given its increasing prevalence in today’s society and its characteristics that make it far more complex than it would appear:

“‘Rush to Spark’ is about getting a sense of what it feels like to be neurotypical after finding medication that works for you but still living with the understanding that mental illness is going to be something that you’re going to have to deal with and maintain for the rest of your life. It’s also about the stress and tension that you unintentionally (or intentionally) can put on your own life and lives of people around you when you’re experiencing episodes caused by your illness.”

The instrumentals within “Rush to Spark” are absolutely breathtaking, but what I want to focus on is the lyrics, to understand what Hildebrand expresses through their poetic, thoughtful songwriting. I have found that one of the overarching emotions within mental illness is an immense guilt – the idea that you are merely and selfishly indulging in your own strife and thus callously bringing down the people around you, even though that is the absolute last thing you wish. Hildebrand touches on this idea first where they ask in a quiet, timid breath “was I too much?/ did I show my greed?” It is the chorus where they attempt to explain their illness to the people they love, elucidating the uncomfortable aftermath of a depressive episode and/or anxiety attack: 

“Coming down I clear my eyes/ Can you see what happened here?/ I wasted my whole life/ My vision started to distort/ And I heard a voice say to me / “it’s never going to be enough”

And yet, despite all they have shared, the synth swells and undulates with graceful abandon, a strange thankfulness and appreciation for the “lie” that keeps them “hopeful for a second life.” It isn’t an immediately satisfying hope, but it’s a hope nonetheless, and if you’re able to relate with any part of this, you’ll understand that tenfold. 

Trillium Killer is out October 18.

 

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Orchid Mantis – “Cop Lights”

Last week, Orchid Mantis, also known as Atlanta based artist Thomas Howard, released EP Light As Leaving, the follow up to last year’s LP Yellow House. Hazy and distant like an ever changing landscape fading farther and farther from view, it is a blissfully vulnerable collection of tracks that, while nostalgic at their core, remain indicative of the beautiful resilience that implicitly comes with the trying experience of isolation and, often, the loneliness that comes stumbling after. Howard explained that this phase, his current after the release of Yellow House, is a rather specific one, dealing with themes such as these:

“This phase of living is a constant process of moving and leaving. Moving in and out of homes, working different jobs. Many of the people I’m closest with are gone much of the year. Everything can feel weightless and transitory when that kind of permanence is absent. But then, I feel like that’s something you look back on with intense nostalgia later in life, everything is weird that way.”

Wobbly instrumentals begin opener “Cop Lights,” but deliberate and piercing as if blossoming into the beginning of a dream sequence, which isn’t to far off given Howard’s words on the track:

“‘Cop Lights’ was one of the first songs I wrote for the EP. At the time I think I was listening to a lot of drum/bass/guitar-centric music and just wanted to write something more straightforward like that. I also sort of wrote it with live performance in mind, which is totally new for me. The lyrics were written around that scene I describe in the chorus, which was one of the few images I remembered from a really vague dream I had – I just thought it had this suggestive, surreal quality to it, while also being the sort of everyday thing you pass by and wonder about, make up stories about.”

The track also offers one of Howard’s most emotive and arresting vocal performances to date, his every word stretching and reaching within the chorus with an addictively hopeful, yearning energy. Everything afterwards seems to rush upwards with gorgeous immediacy, expand both far and wide to express the same limitless characteristics of the subconscious, but also somewhat grounds the listener with specific lyrics that directly pull from reality:

“passing cop lights/ and a parked car/ with the doors open/ and nobody there/ sometimes/ when your thoughts/ hit you like a knife/ sometimes”

I love dream pop for this very reason – you’re able to involve yourself as little or as much as you want, and every time you’ll get a different result emotionally. It’s a beautiful thing, and Light As Leaving is a beautiful example of it.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Poolhouse – “White Sox”

Recorded on a four-track cassette recorder in their studio in London’s countryside, Poolhouse’s debut album Moon River Rock has a far-away, yet wonderfully lived-in feeling, exuding wonderful, wistful familiarity in each track. The indie quartet seamlessly mix together dream pop with psychedelic flourishes that effectively cut through the haze, resulting in a unique sound embracing something close to jagged vulnerability in the narratives sung by lead singers Sam Halstead and Alex Standish – “Anymore” pounds and thumps steadily like a beating heart and expresses sentiment akin to a bleeding one; “Acid Song” shows off the skill in their collaboration as well as their psychedelic undertones beautifully, with a sharp, meticulous guitar solo towards the end that feels as if it will pierce into the heavens. 

“White Sox” initially caught our attention given it’s arresting opening and catchy melody that seems to dissolve directly into the bridge like the thick warmth of summer onto exposed skin, lingering like a premature sunburn from a day you know will be soon be marked by nostalgia. The guitar radiates and smolders, and the vocals feel familiar, reliable, secure in the way they tower over the instrumentals. I thought there was something symbolic in the specific choice of clothing, so imagine my surprise (and embarrassment) when I found out from Halstead what the track is really about: 

“‘White Sox’ is literally about a time Alex couldn’t find any white socks and those are the only ones he likes. That’s it.”

Oops. This, however, only points to Poolhouse’s skill in conveying their strengths in performance, for even the tracks that supposedly have no deeper inspiration remain on equal footing with the rest that absolutely do – “Precious Days” and closer “Reverie Song” are two that even go as far as channeling something cinematic, something gloriously intangible. Regardless of meaning, Poolhouse’s debut is one that deserves a little extra attention and appreciation, not only given all it offers the listener right off the bat in terms of substance, but more from the immense sincerity and honesty that exudes from each and every one of its tracks. 

Moon River Rock is out now on bandcamp and, today, spotify.

 

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photo courtesy of artist