Club Kuru – “Film Credits”

The magic of London duo Club Kuru lies in their ability to take varying images, narratives, and ideas and create out of them one completely pure, seamless feeling, directly channeling their unique, scintillating energy straight to the core. Following the jazz-inspired “By The Windowpane” and the psychedelic “Cherry Bloom,” their newest single “Film Credits” from their upcoming sophomore album Meet Your Maker works to further solidify the fluid musical evolution of Laurie Erskine and Laurence Hammerton – one defined by newer, clearer, crisper, more dramatic melodies that, while more experimental, evoke something deeper, something irresistibly enigmatic.

“Laurence and I had an interesting loop going in the studio and we thought it sounded a bit like the ending credits to an old film. We stumbled upon a unusual verse and the whole thing slotted together rather quickly. It had a romantic, meandering quality that we stuck with, and that became the chorus to the song. I based the verse lyrics on a conversation from Mike Leigh’s 1993 film, Naked, in which David Thewlis’s character, Johnny, talks about the universe and about all time stretching both back and forward.”

Despite the pensive, everlasting existential dread that viciously juts out from the verses like crystallized barbed wire, the edges fight to soften and swell at the chorus, returning to, circling around, and attempting, desperate and yearning, to understand the qualms of a tortured love affair – presented almost as if the very idea of love (or here, the painful lack thereof) is itself equal with the aforementioned nuances of the universe, just as intangible and frustratingly complex as time itself. In the last chorus, Erskine, shaky and lovelorn, faces the looming shadow that follows him, the universe, himself that despite everything that’s happened, he swears he heard his love moving through the walls of his apartment – but then indulges in a gradual, hopeless realization, a torturous, yet gorgeously melancholic epiphany that hangs brilliantly heavy in the air: “And I laughed/ and I cried/ ‘Cause you haven’t been here for years.”  

The equally cinematic accompaniment to the track contributes to its otherworldly quality, forcing the viewer to follow the narrative through a car’s driver side mirror, constantly presenting two different perspectives:  

“When I played the tune to our friend Will (Dohrn), who had previously made a music video for our track, Ribbons, he immediately got into it. We focused on Carl Jung’s idea of ‘the shadow’ and the duality of man. Using a mirror strapped to the camera at all times, we followed two actors, one in the foreground and one in the background. The second character, the shadow, follows the first character hauntingly. The first character tries to escape his shadow but of course he never can.”

Everything from the smoky, hazy lounge groove to the free-flowing, lyrical stream of consciousness that is the last minute works to evoke something truly, truly special and indescribable from Club Kuru – this is a melody and a narrative that won’t escape my mind anytime soon.

Meet Your Maker is out May 3rd via Dog Holiday Records.

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photo courtesy of artist
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Winona Forever – “Gazing”

Montreal-based jangle pop quartet Winona Forever seem to specialize in both blissfully carefree and tonally radiant grooves – and yet, from their choppy, hazy 2015 debut EP Yacht Rock and 2016’s debut LP this is fine. as well as their handful of catchy singles over the past year, it’s clear they’ve actually been constantly tweaking with and evolving this sound since forming, self-producing everything in the process at the same time. Their newest single “Gazing,” from their upcoming album FeelGood, shows an even breezier, more grounded side of the band as a result of this creative labor, the lyrics focusing on the subject of confidence and self-care:

“Gazing” celebrates dancing alone in your room to your favourite music and not feeling silly or self-conscious about it! Our guitarist, Ben, laid down the initial demo over a year ago. While strumming some chords in his bedroom, inspiration struck and [the song] was pieced together in a matter of hours. The rest of the band then got involved, prioritizing punchy rhythms and fun melodies to punctuate the vision of the song. A lot of that first demo is still in the final version, to keep the vibe of that first session.

Instrumentally, the first half is extroverted in nature, perfectly evoking the jerky, unpredictable motion of joyful, improvisational dance, imitating an independent body bobbing and weaving adjacent to the vocals; Later, the beat slows to allow for more a more introverted, vulnerable narrative, begging a faceless, nameless soul “please don’t give me your blues,” because right now, he’s “happy with [his] red and yellow hues” (which are also ever present in the equally cheerful music video). “Dancing all alone,” oftentimes an image painted as somber, especially in tonally heavy genres such as surf, jangle, and dream pop, presents itself here as a moment of self-actualization, a moment of peace, a breath of fresh air.

FeelGood is out June 7th.

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photo courtesy of artist

Petite League – “White Knuckle Wildflower”

Ever since hearing Petite League’s excellent sophomore album No Hitter, I’ve regarded Lorenzo Gillis Cook’s music as a coveted collection of old fading photographs held onto tightly with a sense of intent and respect, each individual image soundtracked by its own unique, beautifully snarling concoction of bright, lo-fi pop and garage rock (also, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely love the retro baseball imagery). Cook is an incredibly talented and empathic storyteller, melding together fantastical realism with personal experiences seamlessly – this along with friend and drummer Henry Schoonmaker, the two put out an exhilarating energy unlike any other. Cook is currently finishing up the follow up album to 2017’s Rips One Into the Night, which will most likely be part of a revolution musically and lyrically:

“2018 was a different kind of year for me. Most likely under the dominion of a Quarter Life Crisis, I decided change was necessary and it needed to happen swiftly. So, like an unhinged 24 year old with a glaring identity crisis, I cut ties, I tied new ones, I split my time outside of the city and upstate, toyed with the idea that maybe I’d be happier giving up on everything I had loved to focus on what was right in front of me, and embraced the idea that music would come when it felt right instead of giving myself deadlines for the first time.”

“White Knuckle Wildflower,” the first single from the upcoming album, has Cook swapping out his baseball bat for a cowboy hat, with guitars simulating a horde of wild horses, his signature lo-fi simulating the stifling heat of a country summer in the best way possible.

“There are stories across the album but I wanted to release [“White Knuckle Wildflower”] first because it’s about all of it. It’s about trading dueling comforts and discomforts for new ones, it’s about how green the grass really is where you’re standing versus where you’ve always been, and it’s about falling in love quickly and falling out of it just as fast.”

The instrumentals, while upbeat and fun, tell a tale of desperation and yearning, wanting to leave but simultaneously not wanting to leave anything behind – especially what could have been in terms of love. Cook seems to remind himself “it’s gonna get easier someday, when you walk away from this city,” explaining if you wait too long, “the devil’s gonna run you out of town.” It’s a nod to new beginnings and fresh starts, but not without the dose of wistfulness that seems to come complimentary.  

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Luke De-Sciscio – “New Skin”

Two weekends ago I went out of state to visit close relatives who had, over the past year, sold everything they owned and moved hundreds of miles away to be closer to the ocean. During the three days I was there, I was constantly adjacent to beautiful sights – baby blue coastlines, green and yellow speckled farmland, bright flowers I had never seen before – and yet the most beautiful sight of all was the constant look of peace on their faces. I was at ease that they managed to find their own little plot of paradise, the weight of worry lifted off their shoulders after a series of stresses.

Though I had come across Luke De-Sciscio’s sophomore album two weeks prior, the first time I can say that I truly saw into Good Bye Folk Boy’s acoustically heavy, nostalgia tinged world for a moment was listening to it during this trip, where I heard, in its lyrics and delicate orchestration, yet another person who had achieved some sort of inner peace by first breaking down and reanalyzing what had been slowly built up over a lifetime. From the cathartic, deeply personal expulsions of self-reflection in“Winsome” to the soft, warm tones of “R.O.B.Y.N.,” De-Sciscio paints a vivid scene of hope and healing, of deep introspection and the desire to not only soothe, but to understand the often torturous oscillations of the heart.

“If LOVE (De-Sciscio’s debut) was written and recorded from atop a plinth of unquestioning purity, in the bask and glow of unrelenting self-surrender, then GBFB is the sound that Love makes when it topples from that plinth, onto the floor and stares itself down asking ‘why?’ It is the sound of love’s embrace and its teeth. It’s the wound and the ointment. And, the answer to ‘why?’ is inevitably, always; ‘you chose this’…Good Bye Folk Boy is a coming of age record, I believe. The first that took responsibility for itself…The first that tasted the sum of my pasts and in it heard the future. And the first that does me proud.”

“New Skin,” GBFB’s hauntingly beautiful closer, is flawless in conveying just that – a renewal, scars and all. Intertwined in his meticulous, yet feather soft guitar melody is De-Sciscio’s equally light vocals, laden with epiphanies and realizations, the most profound of all being his thought that “the world is not out there/ it is between us,” speaking fondly of the partner by his side during their shared tumultuous experiences. Towards the end, his voice is weary, weathered, heavy, but heavy with with hope, repeating this phrase until it almost appears permanently suspended in the air above him.

Good Bye Folk Boy is available now via soundcloud – later this month, you will find it on spotify as well.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Review: Foals, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1

It is 11 p.m. on December 31, 2013, and I’m driving to a friend’s house for a last minute new year’s eve party. Foals’ Holy Fire blares from my speakers. I cautiously navigate my way through the neighborhood, which, for whatever reason, is completely void of light, save for the dim, artificial glow of forgotten Christmas decorations that still litter front lawns, sadly deflated and disturbingly off-kilter. It is an unusually frigid Texas winter, and the heater in my car doesn’t work; Soon the cold catches up to me, creeps underneath my skin and nestles into my bloodstream like a tick. I feel as if I’m driving through an abyss, lost in a vacuum, completely isolated from the world. 

It was at some point during this drive, completely alone, shivering, blindly weaving through the dark, where I remember hearing Foals’ music in a way I believe music was meant to be heard – actively, purely, vividly unfiltered and unaffected by outside interaction or stimuli. It was one of those rare moments in my life where I directly and consciously interacted with it, allowing it to envelop me as I associated it with my own thoughts and feelings, a soundtrack playing on loop as I thought about life, forever running back and forth between grief and high delight as I did so. I arrive at my destination safe and sound, my heart a little heavier than before.

There has always been something precious within Foals’ music that has elicited this sort of response within me – embedded in their narratives are images of purity and innocence presented as distant, yet possible finalities in painfully torturous worlds based on our own, finalities simultaneously yearned for and held onto so tightly until your knuckles turn white. Their melodies began from complex, trance-like math rock and have since filled out and evolved into their own unique, vitriolic, emotional genre – instrumentals sharp and serrated like knives cutting and thrashing at the air, making just enough space for frontman Yannis Philippakis’s personal, introspective lyrics, detailed with poetic flourishes and vulnerability that has constantly contrasted his explosive stage presence that included him climbing ledges and jumping into screaming crowds. It was not only Philippakis that brought energy, however – Jimmy Smith’s serrated guitar and Jack Bevan’s focused percussion melded with Walter Gervers’s brooding bass and Edwin Congreave’s synth to the point it was one fluid body on stage, a scuffed machine firing on all pistons, duct tape plastered over the fissures.

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, in fact, is the first album where that energy was actively threatened – Gervers left the band shortly after What Went Down to pursue other projects, leaving in his wake a cavity more than a decade deep. It would never be quite the same sound as before, but now, without a bassist, or a producer for that matter, they were free to experiment to their heart’s content, to achieve the “undiluted” sound they were after.

Thankfully, most of what made Foals so unique is still very much present in ENSWBL – for instance, despite founding the band without the intention to sing at all, Philippakis still, to this day, sings with as much of a dire, desperate need than he did ten years ago. He is a plaintive, apologetic voice in the perfectly and beautifully paced ballad “Exits,” explaining to a loved one though the chilling, fervid new wave synth that “I’m so sorry/ To have kept you waiting ‘round/ I wish I could’ve come up/ Could’ve shouted out loud.” He foams at the mouth after a period of hazy croons in “Syrups,” asking restlessly “won’t you find a way from me somehow?” though the conflagration of guitar after realizing the inevitability of the world around him. He is the omnipotent DJ in the pulsating, strobe infused illegal disco of “In Degrees,” sweaty and somber, singing of a slow, painful separation from someone you once loved. He is also a teary eyed, prophetic shout into the void in “Sunday,” perhaps one of the most tonally heavy and beautiful tracks in the album, commenting on the fleeting nature of youth in betwixt dazzling, euphoric instrumentals.

Foals have always maintained a visceral connection with nature throughout their entire discography – Holy Fire had flowers, vast golden oceans, time spent above the clouds and in lush forests, What Went Down housed snarling lions, looming mountains, shards of thunder. And, of course, Total Life Forever is home to the infamous Spanish Sahara, an internalized sanctuary to escape from the world. ENSWBL instead expresses this correlation in far darker connotations. Black horses appear in deserts with riders possessing dark, prophetic messages, blackened rain pours down on peeling wet bricks, starless nights hang overhead abandoned cities on fire. Foxes scamper and multiply, weave in and out between ancient, crumbling Victorian arches while the sea reaches up and pulls the sky down with it. Dystopian opener “Moonlight” features bird calls only for them to be silenced in “Exits,” while those same flowers from my personal favorite “Bad Habit,” a once coveted motif throughout their discography, now savagely grow upside down in underground bunkers.

Having said all that, the main difference between Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost and their previous albums is that it is now anger and frustration that is presented at the forefront rather than pure vulnerability like it was before, perhaps due to the fact that, for the first time, their music heavily deals with more immediate, frightening external realities. The narratives deal with and relate to the current political climate, specifically in the U.S. and the U.K., current social issues extending out to the rest of the world, as well as a purely emotional human response to both. In an interview, Philippakis mentioned that this album simply does not exist in any other time period but now, where corruption quite literally “trumps” purity, artificial intelligence runs rampant, and truth and empathy begin to look like rare commodities. It is as if there is no time for vulnerability anymore – instead we have been kicked into survival mode, placing thought over feeling, forced to pick up the pieces our ancestors left behind, “the blind leading the blind.” The inner layer of softness that had always been present in their narratives has been pushed deeper down, forcibly suppressed and silenced, and as a result, their music has become all the more volatile.

No moment more effectively portrays the erasure of empathy as well as the near parasitic nature of constant industrialization and overstimulating technology more than the incessant mechanical whirring that infects the vocals towards the end of the melancholic closer “I’m Done With the World (And It’s Done With Me),” painting a frighteningly vivid image of an incredibly possible future, one where everything, even love and passion, is drawn out to excess, done cheaply, synthetically. Philippakis, accompanied by the delicate fragments of piano that have somehow survived the metallic mutilation, looks out into the overgrown garden where his future daughter sleeps, unbeknownst to the fox that died on the grass days before, oblivious to the horrors that lie just beyond the gates. We are left with an essence of crazed uncertainty; “All I want to do is get up and leave,” Philippakis laments, but as the piano dissolves into the darkness, we get the image of man transfixed in the center of his garden, unsure of where he would go were he given the chance to do so.

9.0/10

Of course, this is only part one, and while I have already decided that I would treat these albums as separate entities, I am curious to see how they will intersect, more so how it will evolve into something even heavier, as Philippakis and Smith have mentioned.

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photo by Alex Knowles

Darvid Thor – “Rest of Your Life”

Through his haunting narratives and atmospheric instrumentals, Darvid Thor’s debut album I’m Never Really Here beautifully redefines ethereality and grace in the face of tension and heartbreak. Released after playing and writing for bands for over a decade, INRH not only features the Melbourne multi-instrumentalist’s technical skill – considering he produced the vast majority of the album alone in his bedroom – but also gorgeously expresses the accompanying accumulation of emotion over a period of intense experience – featuring songs about “a growing-up, a breakup, and everything in between.” Initially released as a debut single in 2017, the atmospheric ballad “Rest of Your Life” is the clear outlier of the group – and yet it exists not only as the most lush on the album as far as production, but the most seamless in terms of the relationship between its instrumentals and narrative:

“Rest of your Life” was dreamt up to explore the themes of isolation, hope and moving on, and the difficulty of trying to tell someone something they don’t know how to hear.

Every synth beat simulates drops into a crystalline pool, sending delicate ripples to the edges, while the same falsetto vocals that open the track, haunting and prophetic, later arise like a desperate plea for someone to save their strength and their sanity, begging them to “leave your troubles/ In their padded world,” assuring them that “you’ll be back home/ Brave and strong.” The words in the last chorus, before sparse and threatening, now metamorphosize into something far more comforting with the addition of soft effects and calm percussion, and in turn, the track ends triumphant, resilient, shrouded with an aura of hope.

I’m Never Really Here is out now.

 

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photo by Izzie Austin

Mid March – “Death Wish”

Despite having just two official singles, sixteen year old Huntington Beach artist Natalie Han is confidently and comfortably nestled into her own unique sound – her music floats and breathes without being overly sweet, mainly due to the palatable doses of reality she flawlessly inserts into her narratives. Late last year, we had the honor of premiering Han’s stunning debut single as Mid March, “Long Coats,” which, lyrically, centered on the growing desensitization and insecurity of modern-day youth from media outlets as well as the normalization of violence. And yet, you’d never know the subject matter centered on something so heavy or emotional, given her skilled jangle-pop instrumentation – which she writes, records, and produces herself –  as well as her gorgeously bright vocals. Recently, Han returned with “Death Wish,” jangly guitar in tow, now venturing inward.

“Death Wish” is actually one of the oldest songs I’ve ever written. It started off with the riff that is heard in the beginning and I just expanded off of that. It’s really just about the transition period of wanting to be an average stereotypical teenager (be stupid and irresponsible) while at the same time wanting to be independent. There is that growing pressure of college admissions, SATs, and etc. from my parents/peers so the verses of the song really delve into that. I kinda like to think the chorus and break juxtapose the verses because they are about just having careless fun with friends (which can come off as being “selfish” to others because I’m neglecting my responsibilities for my own self fulfillment).

Malleable, shimmery guitar changes its shape and tone to flow brightly and seamlessly underneath every colorful commanding verse, yet at the same time appearing in the chorus as a soft cushion for her introspection to rest upon (“I’ve got a death wish/ Or I’m just careless/ Depends on who you choose to speak with”). Her aforementioned juxtaposition comes exceptionally into play here, and along with her technical skill, she pulls it off effortlessly both instrumentally and lyrically, expressing the sensibilities of a seasoned artist as well as an indie newcomer.

Han also has a number of demos and covers on her soundcloud – they’re all well worth your time.

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photo by Dixie Chatt

Tino’s Dream – “Canada”

Portland based quintet Tino’s Dream not only deliver wonderfully complex and textured tracks, but also brilliantly infuse just the slightest amount of humor into  their versatile compositions – just take “Canada,” one of the seven stellar tracks on the dream pop group’s self-titled debut, released just last week. Whether you wish to take it as an ironic extension of post-election anxiety (also known as that month long period where everyone swore they were moving there if worse came to worst), or to simply regard it as a charming, tongue in cheek narrative on the resilient natural wonders of the north, still there’s no doubt that “Canada” is an absolutely stellar, unapologetically addictive jangle pop song, beginning and ending with the flawless guitar that effortlessly courses through the entire track. The narrative, sung in a soft, slightly distorted croon, is a simple list of whimsical desires – “I want to grow a beard like they have in Canada/ I wanna see a moose like they have in Canada”- as well as more sincere praises reminiscent of their national anthem, though a bit skewed – “Canada/ Oh, Canada/ Your beauty/ It’s so divine.” Soon the track expands to include delicate vocal and instrumental flourishes, a stunning moment in the track where its clear that despite the embedded humor, the quintet work together beautifully as one fluid entity, evoking wonder and nostalgia seamlessly. 

 

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Battery Point – “Desire”

Ever since their 2016 debut, Battery Point has been consistently proving that their greatest strength lies in their effortlessly dichotomous nature – the impeccable melding of light and dark, soft and sharp, delicate and coarse. While stark and aggressive in their immediate appearance, their narratives tend to border more on expressing vulnerability, hidden under the thick, heavy blankets of guitar and percussion. “Desire,” released just this past week, is all this and far, far more – a strikingly plaintive ballad marking an evolution for the California shoegaze septet. Sergio Esparza’s deep, introspective vocals, later swapped after the first chorus for Jessica Severn’s bright, piercing register, both repeat the same somber narrative, a cross between a desperate shout into the void and a lovelorn yearning for a recently departed lover. There’s a sense of regret and embarrassment as they explain “It was easier when you were around/ I’ve lost count of all the ways I’ve let you down,” highlighting their own destructive behavior by explaining that regaining a healthy version of their past self is “kinda hard when I won’t change my ways.”

Most arresting, however, is the moment where Severn’s voice dissolves into the growing haze of guitar that always seems to creep behind like an amorphous fog, admitting in one final breath that “I’m tired of not feeling at home” before almost willingly succumbing to the furious haze of what has slowly crept up and enveloped them. And yet, right at the end as the guitars flare and linger, from the tenacity of the track itself you get the sense that a hand has emerged from the mist, still reaching for something, anything, to hold onto.

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Fake Laugh – “Honesty”

Earlier this month, London based artist Kamran Khan shared one half of his upcoming double A-side as Fake Laugh, his first official release since his 2017 self-titled debut as well as his recent 7” released this past spring. Existing as a matured, seamless evolution from his lighter, sun-drenched lo-fi tracks that made up the majority his debut, “Honesty” instead fills the room in a brilliantly commanding, extroverted manner, mainly due to the absolutely stunning, meticulous guitar melody that opens the track evoking the somber, yet jagged resilience of 70’s psych rock, somehow both gritty and bright all at once. After his softly sung, swelled verses, Khan, with accompanying vocals from previous tour-mate Poppy Hankin from Girl Ray, repeats in a tired tone that “I’m sick of your/ sick of your/ honesty,” disappointed with someone who repeatedly refuses to keep their own destructive thoughts in their head. The frustration-tinged sentiment, awash in powerful, glimmering guitar and fervid, pronounced percussion, hints at someone slowly regaining their own self-worth, the entire track a joyous, cleverly repeated reminder to pick better company in the future.

Fake Laugh’s double A-side will be released on March 15th via Headcount Records.

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photo by Klara Johanna Michel