Alvvays – “Belinda Says” / “Very Online Guy”

My newest axiom: when Alvvays releases two incredible songs simultaneously, one should always (ha) write about both. This is exactly what the Toronto indie group did this week in preparation of their upcoming album Blue Rev, their first in nearly five years: 

Two new lambs for the cultural volcano! One more sweet slurp of alcopop dedicated to the girls wiping tables called “Belinda Says” and the dial-up electronic dream “Very Online Guy.” 

I had to share their description verbatim (mainly because seriously, how could I ever top “sweet slurp of alcopop?”) as it reflects their unique and incomparable humor and personality that shows in their music – their narratives, centered on both the absurdities of desire and the romance of disappointment, are packaged sonically like a brightly wrapped box of hard sour candy. “Belinda Says” and “Very Online Guy” follow the already released singles “Pharmacist” and “Easy On Your Own?,” and seem to confirm just how brilliantly multi-faceted Blue Rev will be; the latter, experimental and atmospheric, comments on sudden realization, fear, and disillusionment, while the former, inspired in part by Belinda Carlisle (“Belinda says that heaven is a place on earth / Well so is hell”) is a ballad dedicated to holding on, sung in patient and earnest tones, detailed by a telluric melody in the chorus that is immediately washed over by gritty guitar. Both, of course, deserve your undivided attention. 

Blue Rev is out 10/7 via Polyvinyl Records. 

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photo by Norman Wong

Petite League – “Nite Stairs”

Today, Petite League shares the sentimental “Nite Stairs,” the fourth single from their upcoming sixth LP Thrill Seekers. Following the already released singles “Floating Blue,” “Pantone Karaoke,” and “Bloody Knuckles,” the new release shows off a comparably softer, slower side of their signature lo-fi sound; jagged guitar and a bouncy bassline provides a platform for frontman Lorenzo Gillis Cook’s textured and echoed vocals, expressing a narrative about the frustration of falling in love too fast, too soon. He compares it to those moments characterized with sudden fear, with chagrin and embarrassment: “falling in love like missing every last step in the dark,” he explains, hinting at the song’s title; “black eye just to say I want another try.” “Falling in love like winning a race on a false start,” he continues, “miles ahead just to find out that I’ve gone too far.” Toward the middle of the track, the melodies quicken, evoking the pounding of an anxious heart caught in the crossfire of reminiscing. “Do you think of me like I think of you? / Do you think of me when I think of you?” he repeats in an impassioned yell before the final chorus, a brief moment of catharsis before returning to the metaphors once more. 

Thrill Seekers is out 10/21. Pre-order it here

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photo by C.D. Hagan

Ruby Haunt – “Laughing Heart”

Yesterday, Ruby Haunt shared  “Laughing Heart,” the second single from their upcoming album Cures For Opposites, out this winter. Since 2015, the Los Angeles based duo – made up of Wyatt Innis (vocals, lyrics) and Viktor Pakpour (composition, production) – have captured complex emotions through their beautifully produced EPs and albums, the most recent of which being 2020’s Tiebreaker: a pensive and emotionally heavy work that seemed to challenge the ideas of place and time – both in conjunction with and at odds with each other – in such a way that allows you to welcome its severity with open arms. 

Following the already released single “Glider,” “Laughing Heart” is comparably lighter in tone, but seems to address a feeling that, ultimately, remains inscrutable. Atop soft, feather-like percussion and synth, Innis speaks to the perceived materiality of this mystery emotional abstraction, the efforts to keep it alive, breathing: “feel it when I’m back in my car / needling my way home,” he sings, “holding it in my arms / keeping it from growing cold.” As always, I run the risk of reading into songs incorrectly, but the more I listened to this track, the more I believed the feeling Innis sings of is nostalgia; the words “I remember” repeat like a mantra at the chorus, suggesting the inherent strength of sentimentality as a moment of grounding, rather than a bottomless pit of rumination. 

Cures For Opposites is out 11/17. 

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photo courtesy of artist

Broken Bells – “Love On The Run”

Next month, Broken Bells – the project of James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) – will release Into the Blue, their first new album in eight years. Earlier this week they shared the final single from the upcoming album, an absolutely gorgeous, piano-led ballad titled “Love On The Run.” I’ve been listening to a lot of Broken Bells recently, so I thought I was immune to the sudden pangs of nostalgia that their songs tend to emit, but this single still felt like a sucker punch to the gut; maybe it was because I listened to it while taking the “long way home,” on a winding country road marked, at every point, by impossibly green grass perfectly dappled by dying orange sunlight. Mercer’s strained, falsetto voice drifts underneath radiant drops of piano, seemingly unwinding, further and further, into the past; “when there ain’t nobody else,” Mercer admits, “I put my heart back on the shelf / turn into light.” Soon, it all condenses, making enough room for a shrieking guitar solo that sounds like wading through the bluest of waters at midnight, the sunlight swapped out for the moon’s gaze. 

Into the Blue is out October 7 via AWAL. 

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Photo by Shervin Lainez & Nikki Fenix

Orchid Mantis – “Lucid Dreams”

Today, Orchid Mantis – also known as the experimental bedroom pop project of Atlanta-based artist Thomas Howard – has returned with the stunning single “Lucid Dreams,” the first from his upcoming seventh album and follow-up to 2021’s Visitations. Since the project’s start in 2014, Howard’s signature lo-fi sound has inhabited “the edge between ambient song structures and pop songwriting;” he utilizes obscure samples and unique recording techniques, all of which work to carve a space for nostalgic, earnest narratives concerned with “forgetting,” or the often elusive and fleeting natures of memory, time, and place. 

Though opening with an upbeat, nostalgic guitar melody, “Lucid Dreams” slowly grows more and more atmospheric and pronounced with each moment that passes; Howard’s vocals, bright and focused, evoke a beam of light piercing through a dense fog. “Nothing feels the same / but nothing really changed,” he explains, thinking of memories he wishes not to ever “resurrect.” This is all before waking up from the dream and reaching the ever-expanding chorus, each time the instrumentals marking the stark transition from the unconscious to the conscious in such a way as to hint at something not unlike epiphany. 

The new album from Orchid Mantis is out 11/11 via Spirit Goth. 

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photo courtesy of artist

Nature TV – “Long Rein”

Earlier this week, Brighton, UK based indie quartet Nature TV released the gorgeous new single “Long Rein,” the second off their upcoming sixth EP. If the first single “Treading Water,” was a bright, yet slightly bittersweet ballad, then “Long Rein” is its slightly moodier cousin, yet again showing the wonderful range of the self-described “door-to-door heartbreak salesmen.” They explained the inspiration behind the track:

“Long Rein” is about being led on, or more appropriately reading into things that aren’t real. You fall under someone’s spell and they can be so convincing, until you make your move and realise what a fool you’ve been.”

The elastic, fluttering guitar melodies, smooth and alluring like perfume, seem to mimic the spellbinding nature of infatuation, but not without also highlighting the downward spirals. “Terrified of saying something wrong to her,” lead singer Guy Bangham croons right before doubling back, admitting softly to himself “what a waste of time.” However, the melodies hint at resilience rather than complete helplessness: a gorgeous soft jazz solo breaks up the bouts of painful reminiscing, while backing vocals act as a velvet cushion, both of which seem to break the mile-long fall from desire to acquiescence. 

“Long Rein” is out now.

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photo courtesy of artist

Midi Memory – “Eternal Dream”

Today, Midi Memory – also known as the electronic side project of Cathedral Bells’ Matt Messore – shares the stunning new single “Eternal Dream.” The Florida-based artist, who finds his main inspiration in dark wave and synth pop, beautifully layers analog Roland tones, synthesizers from the 1980’s, and intense, propellant drum loops to create a lush, expansive sound that’s refreshingly icy to the ears. “Eternal Dream” follows the already released singles “Infinite Design” and “All The Way Out,” continuing Messore’s thoughtful, meticulous focus on building an atmosphere that’s darkened, with shadows, murky water, obsidian rock, and overcast sky, but not without those small pockets of air that allow light and sentiment to breathe as well. And “Eternal Dream,” is, at its core, a love song; “I’ll never leave your side / No matter where we are,” he sings, “You are a part of me/ I see you in my dreams.” The textured synth melody, jagged like shards of hastily-cut crystal, flash across grungy basslines and relentless percussion. “I will wait eternity for you,” Messore sings in each chorus, the synth crashing down all around him like falling stars.

“Eternal Dream” is out now.

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photo courtesy of artist

S.C.A.B – “Tuesday”

Earlier this week, jangle-punk group S.C.A.B returned with the incredible track “Tuesday,” the very first single off their self-titled sophomore album out this November. As heard in their incredibly unique 2020 debut Beauty & Balance, the group, made up of vocalist/guitarist Sean Camargo, guitarist Cory Best, bassist Alex Alabado, and drummer Brandon Hafetz (Hafetz has since left the band to pursue a solo project, but still plays on this upcoming record), appear as one autonomous body; tracks like “Temperate” and “Onerous,” with their multiplex instrumentation, proved their ultimate sense of fluidity in conveying even the most complex of melodies. Though based in Brooklyn, they recorded and produced S.C.A.B in Georgia due to the pandemic, and the slight homesickness shines through (Camargo, whose parents immigrated from Ecuador and Bolivia, was born in Queens). In the upcoming LP, in fact, the songs are essentially “snapshots of New York moments that feel hazy with nostalgia, yet are the result of being present through transformational circumstances, no matter how seemingly small.” These seconds in between, the inevitable moments that have no name, are partially what the band explores in “Tuesday.” Camargo explained in a press release:

“Tuesday” is a song about disillusionment with trying to form meaningful connections, and searching aimlessly for something worthwhile. There’s a scene from Seinfeld where Newman says “Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel…” and that type of unspecific, hard to pinpoint vibe is what I wanted to express with the lyrics…you’re trying to get through the week, find any ounce of happiness to cling onto (sitting in the sun, feeling it burning your skin), looking for something but not finding it. 

Despite the themes of the mundane, “Tuesday” is anything but, wasting no time pulling you into its world. Guitars and percussion evoke the lighting of a bonfire; shortly afterwards, Camargo’s vocals enter with aplomb: “Keep trying to let go/ Keep trying to let go of everyone I’ve ever loved,” Camargo admits in the chorus, guitar in the background meticulous, focused. Towards the end, the tightly woven melodies begin to brilliantly unravel, letting the cool air in; choral oohs close out the track, leaving us in the sentimental ether, eerie synth hinting at a feeling not yet defined nor resolved.

S.C.A.B is out 11/11 via Grind Select.

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photo courtesy of artist

Brutus – “Victoria”

This week, Belgian punk/metal trio Brutus shared “Victoria,” the third official single from their upcoming album Unison Life, out this October. The follow-up to their sophomore album Nest, the new album is about “longing for a life of total peace,” confronting the “obstacles that stand in the way…and the acts of bravery that help to surpass the trials.” Lead singer and drummer Stefanie Mannaerts explained that she wanted every song on Unison Life to feel like their last, and along with guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden and bassist Peter Mulders, they bring the sentiment to life through insanely visceral, heart-racing instrumentation and breathless, cathartic vocals. “Victoria,” following the already released singles “Liar” and “Dust,” is no exception. Mannaerts explained the inspiration behind the track: 

“Victoria” is about getting older. You know grown-up life is lurking around the corner, but you’re not afraid of what’s coming because we’re all going to go down together. 

To us, Mannaerts’s vocals are truly what makes Brutus extraordinary. The first time I heard this track, I caught myself holding my breath by the second half, my heart tight as if stuck in my throat, completely wrapped up in the story. The narrative conveys strife in its verses, but hope and unconditional love in the chorus (“Wake me up inside, when the light strikes again / There is another way to find / On my own I’ll meet you there / I’ll strike you every time”).There is no doubt that their music comes from a place of honesty and shameless vulnerability (“not subtle in my tears,” Mannaerts admits). It is immediate and unrelenting in the best possible sense, a pained call into the past that deep down, you know will never be answered. 

Unison Life is out 10/21 via Hassle Records / Sargent House.

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photo courtesy of label

Flowertruck – “Likelihood”

Last week, garage-pop group Flowertruck returned with their sophomore album Partly Cloudy, follow up to their 2018 debut Mostly Sunny. The Sydney-based four-piece have “dedicated their twenties to writing songs of love, loss, and overdue rent,” with the new LP serving as a “wax seal” on their nearly decade-long journey in Australia’s indie rock community. Bright, quirky, and effortlessly fun, Partly Cloudy evokes the colorful, jangly, brilliantly acerbic post-punk quality of groups like Orange Juice, but, of course, convey their own unique take on the genre through their clever narratives and focused melodies.

Our favorite from the new album, “Likelihood,” reflects both of these things; frontman Charles Rushworth enunciates his lines with half-urgency, half-discontent, the lush, echoed instrumentals answering back with unwavering dedication. “Dreams aren’t real unless you make them so,” Rushworth explains in breathless croon. And, when you think the track over, it’s not; the first verse, stripped down, with Rushworth’s vocals isolated, closes out the track, but not before a menagerie of lush guitars and fervid percussion rises up, adding more dimension to the feelings of wistfulness the track seems to convey. 

Partly Cloudy is out now. 

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photo by Jordanne Chant