Monster Rally is the musical project of Los Angeles-based artist Ted Feighan. The particular genre he operates within is what I almost want to refer to as “collage pop,” given the way his compositional process – in which he thoughtfully pieces together each of his tracks by sampling his vast collection of old records chosen exclusively for their exotic, otherworldly cover images – mirrors that of his equally stunning visual art. In the process of combining so many various narratives and emotions, he succeeds in creating something entirely new and complex, and it’s always a treat for the senses – for instance, Feighan’s fourth album Mystery Cove told a cohesive story from beginning to end (a soundtrack to an imaginary film about two lovers on a getaway to an island that isn’t quite what it seems), while “Submersible,” released back in February, was inspired by “the psychedelic nature of deep ocean exploration and the feeling of floating in the technicolor sea.” “Imaginary Palms,” released earlier this month, is on the lighter, breezier side, mixing together brisk, potent percussion with shimmering harp strums that evoke the warmth of sunlight on your skin. Like much of Feighan’s discography, it transports you to another dimension, if not, at the very least, an island paradise.
It’s been far too long since we’ve featured Juno Roome – so long, in fact, that the last time we wrote about his music, he went by a different name. Thankfully, however, that’s the only detail that’s been altered, for his music still emits the very same aura that I’ve thrown enamored words at so many times before – I’m always pleased, though, on how it ends up eluding description each time. Ultimately, there’s an incredibly potent mystery and elusiveness to his compositions, to the point where they take command of any space in which they’re played; think the musical equivalent of a hypnotist’s pendant, a kaleidoscopic light show in a dark room. “Textile Workers,” the stunningly poetic, atmospheric opener off his 2019 EP ada belle, still might be one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written about due to this fact.
Today, Roome shares his beautiful new single “Gardens,” a track that at first listen sounds like a simple, saccharine love song, but upon introspection, reveals itself to be made up of thoughtful, complex layers. He shared the inspiration behind the track with us earlier this week:
I can be immensely depressive, especially in the colder days. I’ve written some heavier songs this year, as well as some lighter ones; and this fun little tune was just a nice break from it all — about missing a loved one who’s gone out of town, in the space between Christmas and New Year’s — which I suppose, is still kind of depressive haha. I was left alone and inside. This is that song: the “I’m alone and inside” song. But if it makes somebody somewhere feel at least a little better, then it’ll have been worth it.
I’ve always considered Roome’s vocals to be at the forefront of all his compositions, and this is no exception – at once hazy and crystal clear, it floats above the soft guitar melody, relaying a narrative sweet, nostalgic, and without cliche. Though mostly about being in the throes of deep introspection and separation regarding a relationship, he still bolsters loyalty and adoration, repeating “I’ll be here” throughout like an ingrained, perpetual mantra for both himself and his loved one.
Along with the track comes a charming music video, which Roome also explained:
I locked Madison and Cristyna together in an airbnb-rented house in northern New Jersey and fed them meat-less meatball pasta and several german beers, and this is what came to life. (I know it looks summery and warm, but this was on the last week of January, in sub-freezing temperatures; Madison is just amazing at acting.)
RICEWINE is the solo indie pop project of Thai-Australian artist Talae Rodden. He’s been releasing music for more than five years, with his most recent full-length Lovesick showing off the best of his light, breezy take on the lo-fi pop/hip-hop genres. Rodden’s most recent single “Already Gone” is the first of what he says will be many released over the next few months – and hopefully, will all converge into another LP just in time for us to enjoy during the last few scorching days of summer. The new single is an earnest, charming little tune about Rodden’s cat, who he’s found himself missing more and more. His voice is soft and patient, explaining “I would’ve waited by your window / I would’ve fought it all / I would’ve made the same decisions and mistakes that I did before / But you were already gone,” his tone wrestling with steadfast adoration and the pain of hindsight. Overall, though, it’s hard to feel somber when hearing the light instrumentation and subtle swells in the track; it’s one that ends up exuding joyful nostalgia rather than pangs of regret.
A little over twenty years ago, The Avalanches released their debut album.
Over the past month, I attempted to do as much research as I could in preparation for the deluxe edition’s release, which was last week. I watched the incredible video identifying every sample Robbie Chater, Toni Di Blasi, and Darren Seltmann used in the album (how this person had the god-like patience to compile it is beyond me – it’s the epitome of a ‘labor of love’ and it’s perfect). I finally looked up what “plunderphonic” meant. I read interviews and liner notes. I watched the mini Avalanches documentary (where you’re given a brief tour of the studios, the then-advanced-but-now-probably-outdated software, the process of making “Summer Crane”). I was honestly going to write something prolix, erudite, and technical (or at least, try to). I was going to take a deep dive into the album and dissect it, track by track, sample by sample. But then I sat down to listen to the album again, for what now feels like the hundredth time, heard the first few seconds, and everything I planned to do melted away. Welcome to paradise.
I define a perfect song by its lasting power. One that makes you incredibly sad but then immediately patches up the wounds, repeating the cycle until you’re caught up in the whiplash of emotional oscillation. One that floods the brain with imagery, texture, and possibility. One that makes your breath stop everysingletime. “Since I Left You” is a perfect, perfect song to me. I always end up staring off into the distance as it plays, smiling ear to ear, and yet not without a large, unidentifiable pain lodged in my heart at the same time. But the entire album is like that – the musical equivalent of holding two (hell, hundreds) of contradictory ideas and making them all fit together like perfect puzzle pieces. Sure, “Frontier Psychologist” might have been a “fucker” to mix (boy, I do not doubt that) but (sigh) wasn’t it worth it? I mean, has there ever been anything else like it in the last two decades, anything as seamless? The romance of “Two Hearts in ¾ Time” flows into the groove of “Avalanche Rock” and “Flight Tonight;” the fantastical eeriness of “Electricity” melts into the sincerity of “Tonight May Have to Last Me All My Life.” Closer “Extra Kings” is a dreamland – you can hear a little bit of every song that came before it, with a bittersweet admission repeated over and over at its end: “tried but I just can’t get you/ since the day I left you.”
What’s important about Since I Left You is not the stunning end product, nor the way it changed the possibilities and complexities of music production forever. It’s the way in which a single listen to any given track can tell you just how much thought went into it. Unprovoked by deadlines, constraints, or expectations, it was ultimately an album made by a group of close friends “fuelled by adrenaline and a lot of music.” That’s beautiful to me – making something for the pure experience of doing so, out of the sheer love for the artform, with success, acclaim, and notoriety as nothing but mere afterthoughts. Chater explained that “once it got going, I think we knew it was going to be pretty cool. So, it was finished with a beautiful, positive energy.”
And, more than twenty years later, that energy has never dissipated.
This past Friday, Scotland-based artist Michael Kay Terence released Familiar Patterns, his debut EP as Swiss Portrait. Recorded and mixed in his tiny Edinburgh bedroom, each of the album’s eight tracks have an aura of familiarity and warmth, especially given Terence’s skilled use of repetition in his vocals that succeed in allowing his listener to dissolve completely within the soundscape he’s created. Along with the euphoric “Find My Way” and closer “Burnt Out,” we found ourselves coming back to “Your Mind” due to its soft, patient melodies and vocals evoking ghostly memories. The narrative, while short, is far from simple, for Terence touches on vulnerability and self-conscious feelings regarding love and relationships (“Get out before I let you in/ Don’t go changing your mind at all”). Terence repeats “your mind/ your mind” over and over, indications of emotions existing anywhere between complete admission and reverent awe.
Familiar Patterns is out now. You can buy a lovely sky blue cassette (second pressing!) here.
COOL HEAT is the solo project of Chicago-based musician and photographer Eden Sierotnik. His stunning self-titled debut EP (released last October) introduced his haunting, gorgeously cinematic take on dream pop and shoegaze, with tracks like “Reflection” and “Rose” proving his remarkable ability to make melodies feel atmospheric and nearly four-dimensional – the shuddering, textured synth in “Shimmer” is the perfect example of the latter. Released last week, “Levitate” is the first single from Sierotnik’s upcoming EP, which will also be his first with Spirit Goth (one of our favorite labels out there).
The synth melody evokes the feeling of being suddenly pushed into a freezing cerulean pool, but in a way that reinvigorates rather than immobilizes. Modern and retro all at once (and at times evoking the relaxed maximalism of the Bilinda Butchers), the main anchoring element within all the lo-fi color is Sierotnik’s calm vocals, ironically relaying a narrative of losing one’s sense of serenity (“I’ve lost my way/ thoughts levitate/ cause you are the rage”). Much like Sierotnik’s entire discography thus far, it’s a gorgeous deep dive into the otherworldly.
This past week, Toronto-based indie rock quartet Hollow Graves released the stunning single “Swimming,” their fourth released during quarantine. Following “Mariott,” “Far Out Summer,” and “Tequila Sunrise,” the new single fits perfectly within the repertoire; punk, dream pop, and new-wave blend together seamlessly, creating something completely unique. “Swimming,” inspired by “insomnia and the struggle to let things go,” is perhaps the biggest of the four – it begins, progresses, and ends all at the same remarkable intensity, creating a sweltering, breathless atmosphere evoking a summer’s night. Smooth falsetto vocals cut through the thick walls like light beams, guitars slice the air, percussion shimmers and glows. In other words, it’s an out-of-body experience disguised as a song.
Mini Trees is the project of Los Angeles artist Lexi Vega. As a self-proclaimed composer of “living room pop,” Vega’s approach to the genre is bright and beautifully contained, powered by honest narratives and subtle, yet emotionally charged melodies. “Spring,” her first release since last year’s stunning EP Slip Away (as well as her first single since signing to Run for Cover Records) follows this formula tenfold. Vega explained the track earlier this month:
“Spring” is meant to be somewhat of a lighthearted love song about growing old with someone. It confesses contrasting feelings of both fear and security that come with being vulnerable and fully known by another person. The underlying message is one of hopefulness though, resolving with the choice to believe this person will remain a constant in my life despite the changing nature of everything else.”
The track is soft and sweet, with a sunny, breezy melody that grows more earnest and introspective as it reaches the chorus. Guitar and synth evoking the palpitations of an anxious heartbeat, Vega asks for confirmation and validation: “so tell me when you fall asleep, are you still next to me?” There’s a sense of frustration in always questioning what’s been promised, however (“I know you told me then I couldn’t lose you “) , and Vega touches on this as well – she admits in the bridge that “I hate entertaining the voice lingering in my brain,” that no matter how many seasons change, “I’ll love you til the last spring.”
Mini Trees’s debut album is set to be released this Fall via Run For Cover Records.
Noah Weinman recently announced the release of Always Repeating, his upcoming debut for Run For Cover records. Weinman’s music as Runnner has perpetually housed within it near tangible auras of intense longing, loneliness, and anxiety, but with enough tonal warmness and light to stop it succumbing to the throes of self-pity. The ten tracks on the new LP, partly composed of re-recorded tracks from his 2017 debut as well as 2020’s EP, show Weinman dealing with the feelings of immense uncertainty about his life since moving back home to Los Angeles from Ohio, not from desire or necessity, but because he simply did not know where else to go.
“I began to feel like all of the people I knew and had met maybe never really existed,” Weinman explained in a statement; as a result, isolation and existential dread are present in the music, but in a manner that is accessible to an active listener, partly because it is something that many of us are able to relate to after this especially trying year. Weinman explained “Awash,” the album’s first single:
“I wrote this song in about 15 minutes, though I had been kicking the title around for a bit. It felt like the word I was looking for, but I couldn’t get past it. I was feeling so lost and distant from everything, but I would choke on the language anytime I tried to elaborate. I eventually was able to let the song come simply and not stress the specificity too much.”
The immediacy of the track is clear – in fact, it feels like one single breath being exhaled, a desperate, cathartic attempt to get an emotional weight off one’s shoulders. Along with the track itself, Weinman’s description of the upcoming album was also something that I found myself engaging with repeatedly over the past week:
“I was just circling in my own anxiety and indecision, and now I’m back to recording those same songs again, in a world that is in many ways more uncertain than it was then. Me struggling with loneliness and anxiety is true for all of the music I write. And pandemic or not, these songs would still feel relevant. I went through it then, I’m going through it now, and I’ll probably go through it again in a few years.”
Though many may find that discouraging, I instead choose to view it as beautifully real. The battle with one’s own complex interiorities – whether that is depression, anxiety, or something just as jarring – is never truly completed; we instead simply find our own ways to process them, hopefully peeling back the layers of fear in preparation for the next encounter.
Always Repeating is out July 16 via Run For Cover Records. Pre-order it here.
John Myrtle’s discography is beginning to look like the ideal playlist for entomologists, and I, for one, am delighted. Following the quirky “Cyril the Slug” from his stunning debut EP Here’s John Myrtle comes “Spider On The Wall,” the third single from the London artist’s upcoming debut LP out later this summer. The track follows the gorgeous recent singles “Get Her Off My Mind” and “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” inspired by and flawlessly evoking the intricacies and delicacies of jangle and brit pop masters like The Kinks, Harry Nilsson, and The Las. The new track has Myrtle singing from the perspective of a house spider:
“I thought a song that told a story behind closed doors was very fitting for the time we were all living in. With the whole album being written and performed at home in lockdown, writing and singing as a spider was freeing in a weird way. I was able to leave my house and go write about someone else’s. Instead of envying the other people’s lives, he’s disgusted by them, and finds out that his home is the most comfortable of all!”
Spindly, wobbly guitar and meticulous plucks lie underneath Myrtle’s softly sung verses, where the spider admits to his small bouts of voyeurism, breathing out with boredom at the chorus that “I’ve seen it all before.” The charming melodies offset the disdain, and all that seems to remain is the feeling of relief and contentment that we all (hopefully) have a place of our own to call home at the end of the day.