Meet Me @ The Altar – “Garden”

I think Meet Me @ The Altar is the first ever pop punk group I’ve written about on kid with a vinyl, and I couldn’t be more excited that we’re diving into the genre with them. I admit I’m more of a post-punk kind of girl (I’m sorry!!), but everyone, including me, just needs a big, bright, blinding ball of energy every now and again, which is definitely what this all-woman (woman of color, to be exact) group has constantly encapsulated and radiated since their very beginnings. Their EP Bigger Than Me, released last summer, proved their immense skill in the genre, with earth-shattering melodies courtesy of guitarist Téa Campbell, fervid, indestructible percussion from Ada Juarez, and exuberant vocal narratives from lead singer Edith Johnson. EP stunners “Sane” and “Morris Farm Drive” are incredibly addictive repeat listens thanks to their fantastic composition and euphoric nature; ultimately, their music feels akin to a long row of fireworks igniting one after the other, eventually leading to an incendiary light show that never seems to falter in brilliance. 

Their newest single “Garden,” released earlier this month as a follow-up to previous single “May the Odds Be in Your Favor,” is a wonderful continuation of their unique aesthetic, and hopefully a promise for more from the group in the future – Campbell’s guitar and Juarez’s drums join forces to thrash, rip and burn through the track, while Johnson relays an uplifting message of solidarity throughout the chaos. Within the explosive chorus, she confidently states “I’ll always be right here/ When everything’s unclear / Please promise you won’t let go,” promising that if they can just “hold on til the morning/ Forget all the scoring/ Your flowers will finally grow.” Sometimes I forget how incredibly empathetic and stunningly positive punk can be, and then a band like MM@TA thankfully brings back the thought: just because it’s loud and unapologetic, doesn’t mean it’s antagonistic. 

“Garden” is out now. 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Dua Saleh – “umbrellar”

Dua Saleh’s music, though difficult to describe due to its utter authenticity, nevertheless feels like the perfect amalgamation of rough and soft. One single listen to their album released earlier this year, and the tension between industrial noise and luxurious melodies – let alone the pure confidence that bleeds out of this release, as well as the non-binary artist’s past tracks like “pretty kitten” and “mOth” – is enough to conjure goosebumps almost immediately. Our personal favorite, “umbrellar,” is just one stunner from ROSETTA – the album itself inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneering black artist popular in the 1930’s and ‘40’s who later became known as the Godmother of rock and roll. Saleh, similar to Tharpe with their own biography of growing up queer in a strict Muslim household, works to evoke Tharpe’s confidence, as the Minnesota-based artist relays in poetic narrative the emotional and physical intricacies and complexities that seem to go complimentary with love and intimate encounters. 

“umbrellar” pulses and reverberates throughout its entire duration, the narrative relating a crush to something extra-terrestrial, supernatural, even – amidst gritty, yet atmospheric guitar blares, they admit through subtly echoed vocals that the woman in question “told me that she wasn’t natural born (what?) / Stolen off a planet I was torn (hmm),” and that “when she brought her wand out / I knew I had lost our deal,” feeling themselves willingly succumbing to her enveloping aura as the verses quicken. The bridge, quiet but intimate, makes the surrounding and resulting instrumentals even more powerful, ultimately portraying love as it is – something complex and absolutely otherworldly. 

In an interview for I-D, they also expressed the ultimate importance of making music as a Sudanese, gay, non-binary artist:

“In Sudan, there’s a lot of queer, trans and non-binary people who are closeted, so I try to put out as much content that’s like, the gay and trans agenda, as possible! I feel like a lot of my fanbase is really knowledgeable in queer theory because they don’t have access to actual communities, so they dive into it intellectually. That’s why I’ll maybe put the colours of the trans or agender flag out there, for example. Ultimately, I’m still trying to come to terms with what I want to do and how I want to respond to the interest in my work. Right now, the best thing I can do is provide people with escapism.” 

ROSETTA is out now.

P

photo by Grant Spanier

Butter Bath – “You and Me”

Based on the smooth tone that practically radiates from his tracks, Toby Anagnostis – the Sydney-based artist who makes music as Butter Bath – seems to have picked the right name for his project. Anchored and constantly propelled by these absolutely brilliant, scintillating guitar whines, his latest single “You and Me” feels luxurious and indulgent, with absolutely stunning production that allows the track to evoke an incredibly similar energy to what inspired its creation:

“You and Me” is about meeting someone at an intimate house party and finding myself plunged into a hypnotically captivating conversation with subject matter as rudimentary as breakfast preferences and as intricate as conspiracy theories. I was entertained for hours by her eloquent, mushroom-tea fueled tangents.”

Anagnostis’s vocals are always somewhere between a rarefied falsetto croon and an annoyed growl as he relays the conversation – and the night – in question; mid-way through, he explains in one breathless sentiment that “I’m making the most of this fragile elevation/ I think you brought up your ex six times in conversation/ I’ve been there before so I’ll try not to get too jaded,” melting right back into guitar and falsetto effects. As he returns to his normal state, the track grows more direct – at the closer he admits “I can’t take your saccharine garble any longer/ I’m onto something that I can put to work on my brain.”

P

photo by Lois De Vries

Bibio – “Oakmoss”

I taught myself to play the violin when I was in the sixth grade. My father taught himself to play when he was even younger, and he was a major influence for me growing up in all things music – I’d hear him play ancient Persian melodies he’d memorized throughout the years, making it look effortless, and I wanted to learn too. With some work, I went on to play first chair in orchestra for the rest of middle school and then again in high school, and ever since then I have picked it up every now and again to briefly indulge in those nostalgic memories (and play the same Dvořák sonatina that has apparently embedded itself into my subconscious). I still play, but it was upon hearing the gorgeous, breathless melody in Bibio’s “Oakmoss” earlier this week – especially enchanted by the utter simplicity of it – that made me want to play – really play – the violin again. 

A clear stunner on Steven Wilkinson’s new EP Sleep On The Wing, “Oakmoss” is also Wilkinson’s favorite, calling it a “folkier cousin” to  “Raincoat” from his 2013 LP Silver Wilkinson. Made up of largely instrumental tracks, and recorded by Bibio at his home studio in the UK midlands countryside, the new EP feels serene, complete with nature sounds and the signature Bibio croon that has graced his previous releases. Even the track titles – things like “Lightspout Hollow,” “Crocus,” and “The Milky Way Over Ratlinghope” – offer a sense of peace just by looking at them. But again, it is “Oakmoss” that I feel works to truly capture the enchanting, gorgeously mesmerizing effect of Bibio’s music, an invigorating lullaby that feels nostalgic and yet shiny and new all at once. The short lyrical narrative speaks of loneliness, but also of patience and understanding, and works alongside the bright, sprawling melody, evoking its namesake and spreading its lush, green atmosphere to even the darkest of places. 

Sleep On The Wing is out now. 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Premiere: Ösla – “Marina”

These days, a true sense of calm is starting to feel increasingly more like a luxury. And yet, with every track he shares, Henry Armbrecht – who delicately crafts music as Ösla – takes on the job of evoking the feeling for you, his stunning brand of minimal dream pop lulling listeners into slowly wanting to dissolve within their own ruminations. The songs that appeared within his most recent EP Moony were each vividly atmospheric in their own way; they existed as vast, expansive soundscapes filled with focused piano pinpricks and powder-soft swaths of synth, almost aesthetically equal with the environment in which they were conceived – Park City, Utah during the winter months, where Armbrecht works half the year as a ski instructor. Moony, despite being incredibly delicate in its composition, was resilient and honest, its strong foundation allowing for multiple plays with varying levels of emotion each time; the music is proof that there really is a wonderful power in the conscious, artistic embrace of clarity and simplicity.

Although it marks a clear progression from Moony in terms of composition, this sentiment is nevertheless survived by Armbrecht’s gorgeous new single “Marina,” the first tease of an upcoming project. Here, the intimacy brought along by the mellotron and Rhodes piano used for the previous EP returns – the tone is comparably lighter and airier despite the inspiration for the track, which Armbrecht disclosed in a statement:

“I wrote “Marina” last summer during a period of extreme boredom and writer’s block. It’s always tough to be super busy and fulfilled during the ski season and then coming back to Alabama feeling super motivated to make music but then finding yourself unable to get inspired (which is what happens every time). So in the lyrics, I attempted to allude to that boredom manifesting itself in depression.”

Armbrecht admitted that he purposely writes them to be vague, but within the lines of “Marina” there’s a discernible heaviness, one that’s ironically not present in the bouts of shimmering synth – the verses and chorus remain short and concise, but brim with sentimentality and vulnerability. Normally, they tend to somewhat hide under the instrumentals, but here, they’re sung with an echoed essence of immediacy: 

Outside, I’ve been letting all my days by

I’ll find a reason not to go

If everybody leaves we’ll never know 

We’ll be at home alone

High dive, I’ve been watching all my lakes dry

I’ll try again when I get home

Solidified by “Marina,” Armbrecht has always ended his tracks with finesse, for though he makes sure emotion has been sufficiently extracted and suspended throughout the course of his songs, like patient lullabies they almost always end with that same sense of calm that they open with, no matter the severity of the narrative. Those final fifteen seconds where the melody spills out for the last time might as well be a deep-rooted promise for better, more blissful memories ahead, for that sense of calm to not only exist, but to exist perpetually.

“Marina” is officially out tomorrow. Listen to it below.

 

P

photo by Bradley Turner

Baths – “Tropic Laurel” / “Be That”

Late last month, Will Wiesenfeld released two volumes of previously unreleased and remastered Baths tracks titled Pop Music / False B-Sides. These collections of odds and ends come three years after Wiesenfeld’s brilliant 2017 LP Romaplasm – one of our favorite albums of all time. Although I admit I can be somewhat skeptical (and, let’s be honest, afraid) of the effects of constantly evolving technology, which steers me away from highly synthetic instrumental and ambient tracks, I absolutely adore glitch pop like that of Baths. Upon reflection, I think it’s ultimately because I can still hear the faintest traces of humanity and vulnerability lingering in the nooks and crannies of even the most computerized and manipulated instrumentals, those little moments where human emotion is able to prevail just for a moment before returning to the synthetic effects and flourishes. The tension between these extremes always succeeds in beautifully redefining what music can be – something that constantly and proportionally challenges both your head as well as your heart. 

Out of the tracks with lyrical narratives, personal favorites “Tropic Laurel” and “Be That,” both from part II, not only gorgeously capture the above sentiments, but also Wiesenfeld’s immense skill in composition.  In talking about humanity and vulnerability, “Tropic Laurel” seems to evoke the former, existing as a stunning, heartwarming narrative about imagining one’s future child (“My kid does all the things I thought about/ Runs into nature as I chase her down/ Here’s a crown I found of laurel leaves/ Queen of all the things in sunbeams / Anoint me”). Wiesenfeld’s vocals are genuine and honest, heavy with pure sentimentality in the midst of sharp, jagged synth. You can almost see the sunlight piercing through the trees, you can almost perceive the scent of pine, the feel of moss under your feet. 

“Be That,” on the other hand, evokes the latter, with an empathetic, vulnerable tone to both the throbbing, pulsating synth and the narrative on the oscillation between shameless yearning and stable self-respect when it comes to romance and relationships. The most beautiful moments are where the synth floor falls through and Wiesenfeld is left suspended alongside orchestral instrumentals (and even banjo) as he ruminates over his thoughts and feelings. He explains that while “I wish I could be that,” for the other person, that “I lack the love you have,” he insists repeatedly that “I feel it/ I feel it/ I do,” the words growing, as is the case with all of Baths’s music,  more and more precious and real each time they’re repeated.

Pop Music / False B-Sides I & II is out now. 

 

 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Vilde – “Horseback”

Vilde is the musical project of Stockholm based artist Thomas Savage. His most recent album Fidget at the Podium, released last year, further proved that his music truly belongs to no set genre – it has all the soft mystique of shoegaze, the immediacy and textured intrigue of electronica, and the bold sentimentality of pure dream pop, all melded into one unpredictably unique package. His upcoming LP Atopia was written whilst in a period of displacement shortly after the release of this album, incrementally between Melbourne, Aarhus, and finally Stockholm, where production began during the late Swedish summer of 2019. 

“Horseback,” the third and final single from Atopia, follows the grungy, scintillating “Grace” and the addictive, gloriously upbeat “Absentee,” showcasing yet another angle for Savage: the atmospheric and borderline hypnagogic. The track places Savage’s vocals on center stage, floating effortlessly above murky basslines and synth, the tension between the concepts of “clean” and “dirty” and how it translates to aesthetic value clearly something on his mind, given the inspiration for the track:

“Horseback” is an appreciation for beauty with a smearing of grit and grime. But you scrub off the grit and somehow the thing becomes less beautiful. It’s a mantra to hold all emotions near & dear, versus wider opinion which often sets a precedent of limitation. This song reckons it’s gained something in its transition from teenager to adult, whilst wondering what it might’ve lost.”

Thirty seconds to the end, the track immediately brightens with crystalline synth, instilling in the listener that idea of “something gained,” something hopeful and ultimately positive. 

Atopia is out June 25. 

 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Premiere: Cathedral Bells – “Undertow”

Cathedral Bells is the lo-fi bedroom pop project of Florida-based musician Matt Messore. His gorgeous debut LP Velvet Spirit was released back in March via Good Eye Records – existing as a gauzy, shimmering eleven song album blissfully reminiscent of ‘90’s, 00’s, and modern shoegaze bands like DIIV, Chromatics, and My Bloody Valentine, whom he considers direct influences. However, this is not to say that he does not differentiate his approach to the genre, for Messore doesn’t just create sounds, but soundscapes, evoking images and feelings both concrete and abstract, seemingly with will and volition all their own: “In Absentia” features spacey, metallic synth, almost as if floating just above a rarefied, otherworldly ether, while bouts of grimy murk just underneath the vocals in “Heavy Rain,” by the end, seems to push their way from deep within the earth to the surface, meeting the air and brightening beautifully in tone.

Officially out tomorrow is Messore’s latest single “Undertow” – released under Spirit Goth’s excellent net label BIRTHDIY, as the latest addition to their already stunning lo-fi and dream pop discography, including that of stellar artists like Kalm Dog, Teen Blush, and Dream Hermit. “Undertow” is no different in terms of Messore’s compositional skill; it too succeeds in delivering, straight to the subconscious, a memory, a feeling, an image you’re not quite sure is real or fantasy, something conceived in the moment to help you drift off into another, softer realm. On the track’s creation, Messore says:

This track has actually been in the works for a few years. I imagined a riff that would be played on a 12 string acoustic guitar, and I went from there, working and creating what became “Undertow.” I envisioned layered vocals for this song, kind of a high and low melody. It all came together when I asked Kim Weldin of the band tape waves to do guest vocals for the track. The dreamy aspect of her voice added exactly what I wanted in order to finish the song.

Of course, given the subjective nature of music – as well as dream pop in particular – the image “Undertow” conjures will be different depending on how deeply you listen, but for us it evokes a calm, gentle yearning – not unlike staring out at the ocean just as the evening slowly dissipates to dusk, the sparkle initially emitted from the sun still intact as it descends and hands the reins over to the moon, synth fluttering, its image disappearing and reappearing like shards of raw-cut diamond submerged and perpetually anchored under the waves. The lyrics add to the abstract tone of the track, Messore and Weldin’s reverberated voices intertwining to deliver a narrative on simply holding on to another person for as long as possible – asking them “leave it all behind/ onto the other side,” asking “anywhere you go / take me along the way.” 

“Undertow” is out tomorrow, 5/29, via BIRTHDIY. Listen to it below. 

 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Premiere: Academia – “Lost in Translation”

As I write this, a massive storm is preparing to roll through the city. The clouds move like dismal, amorphous, sentient beings, menacingly, lugubriously dragging themselves across the sky; jagged strands of lightning strike some far off area while rain falls heavy and sharp like downward facing knives. But, despite all this dramatic set-up, there is still one instance of color that insists on lingering below the darkest, heaviest section of sky, one narrow sliver of apricot yellow holding on within an overwhelming expanse of grey, almost as if it is gracefully enduring the pain. This, this possibility of perpetual brightness and serenity amidst impenetrable, blinding fog, is what Academia’s latest track “Lost In Translation” feels like.

Two years ago, we featured Ethan Analco’s nostalgic track “Dreaming,” the then-debut from the emerging dream pop artist; since then, the 19 year old North Carolina native has only been evolving his sound, his recent EP Heaven Again released late last year most indicative of his accumulated skill. Personal favorite “You Know I Know” seems to capture all that is wonderfully unique about Analco’s take on the ever-evolving genre, from all his individual synth flourishes and effects to his hazy, yet dynamically silhouetted vocals whose narratives always come from a place of genuine introspection and rumination, something I almost want to call a darkened euphoria, a feeling of security borne from moments of vulnerability. 

Speaking of which, Analco’s new track “Lost in Translation,” told as a “perspective to [his] past and present self,” deals with the emotions of feeling lost in life and losing your sense of direction, something not unlike a sudden rainstorm that seems to go on forever. Since the release of “Dreaming,” Analco has gone to college, and has slowly begun to realize the hardships of transitioning to adulthood – one of those feelings more potent than others, Analco admitted, was loneliness, taking a toll on his mental health. Dismayed by the lack of time with his friends and family, he immediately asks himself “I don’t know/ Why I live inside my head alone,” confessing that “I’ll only come out when the sun is gone.” The feathered synth travels in and around Analco’s honest vocals, the overall motion of the instrumentals oddly reminiscent of where it was conceived –  the drives to and from community college, where he’d weave through “winding paths and bright sunrises and sunsets” during the fall semester. Analco explained further in a statement earlier this week:

Being so confused and scared only tempted the most out of introspection, and this song does its best to try to show that divide through the self given conversation. Specifically, the side of mental illness and the darkness that would never seem to lift from the perspective of my time. The discussion of facing the self I once knew, but can’t seem to hold onto anymore, is one that circles the song profusely through lyrics and sound.

Ironically, although it is a track about supposedly losing the person he once was, “Lost in Translation” has Analco at his best and brightest, and may even be the best track he’s ever composed to date. The synth builds steadily, filtering in a metallic flourish or bright chime, embellishing as much as building a steady foundation. It brilliantly shudders at times, just as the sky does seconds before it starts to rain, where the clouds condense, darken, and team with rain at their hemlines. And rain it does, in the verses; but much like how rain places a shine on land and perfumes the air with the wistful, pure scent of petrichor, so does the tail-end of the choruses as well as the last, blissfully introspective minute of the track itself, as the dismal verses subside and Analco looks outward, weathered by the past but newly matured for the future:

Only after I could make it through this period was where I was able to see the big picture. From the memory of the moments I share now, with the awareness of all that I’ve made it through with, the feelings will always scare and linger with me, but only now do I have a better sense of myself and the world around me. I still manage to battle the storm that is mental illness, but only now can I appreciate the progress I’ve made from the darkest point of my life so far….only now can I truly appreciate the rainbow after the storm.

“Lost in Translation” is officially out tomorrow, 5/29. Listen to it below. 

 

P

photo courtesy of artist

Babelgam – “Danza de Agujas”

Post punk is one of my favorite genres, and these days, along with dream pop (and glitch pop, strangely enough) it’s all I’ve been listening to. There’s something especially volatile about listening to it in isolation, where it all seems to swirl around your head or around the room twice as manic and uncontrolled as before, the vocals darker, moodier, the guitars heavier, grittier. Along with listening to bands I know and love from the U.S. and Canada, during this time I’ve also been trying to broaden my knowledge and seek out post punk from around the world – Russia, Belarus, and France, to name a few countries – and I’ve been so excited with everything I’ve been discovering so far. 

But our most recent obsession is Babelgam, an avant-garde post-punk group based in Bogotá, Colombia. The quartet – composed of Juan Tuaty, Eduardo Quintero, Adolphe Beltran, and Nicolas Cruz – released their incredible debut Mar de Hiladas back in March, an absolute stunner in both composition and execution alike, displaying the finesse of a studio LP while simultaneously capturing the raw energy of their live performances. On first listen, it appears that “Materia Obscura” with its hypnotic, scintillating guitar and mile-a-minute vocals, is the magnum opus of the album, adjacent to the ravenous, visceral “Túnel,” the pounding beat of “Viaje,” and the seething “Hikikomori,” but we contend that it is instead “Danza de Agujas” that deserves the ultimate spotlight, due to the way it seems to sum up all that is incendiary about Babelgam:

Tuaty’s vocals sneer and reverberate in the verses like tremors before an earthquake, later soaring up and expanding gorgeously at the chorus, lamenting the ultimate impossibility of controlling or escaping the advance of time. Amidst textured percussion and jagged blares of guitar, he notes the passing seconds and minutes, the hands of the clock akin to frantically rotating and shifting needles, hence the track’s title. Tuaty repeats “Giró giró” (it turned, it turned) at the chorus, again and again at the brilliant closer – half as reminder, half as painful reality. 

Mar de Hiladas is out now. 

 

P

photo courtesy of artist