Grizzly Bear – “Neighbors”

Grizzly Bear have released the video for “Neighbors,” their fourth single from their incredibly anticipated fifth full-length album Painted Ruins. The new track, following the experimental, indulgent “Three Rings,” upbeat, unpredictable “Mourning Sound,” and the Daniel Rossen fronted “Four Cypresses,” sounds the most like the signature Grizzly Bear sound – a little fantastical, a little somber, but mostly addressing something large, deep, and more or less esoteric. Ed Droste’s rich voice hastens with the increasingly chaotic instrumentals throughout the track, communicating an unfortunate narrative that addresses a diminishing sense of individuality and raw nature to make room for something more domesticated.

Painted Ruins will be released on August 18th.

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photo by Tom Hines

Slum Sociable – “Don’t Come Back Another 100 Times”

Edward Quinn and Miller Upchurch, also known as Aussie duo Slum Sociable, have returned with the lo-fi, color-tinged ballad “Don’t Come Back Another 100 Times,” following their previously released stunner “Name Call” as well as their fantastic 2015 EP TQ. The new track takes advantage of its slower, more lethargic tone to fit in layers of decadent synth and hazy vocals, as well as a nostalgic narrative, introspective and wonderfully self-indulgent according to the duo, yet still incredibly malleable and universal.

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photo courtesy of artist

Saro – “Eyelids”

Los Angeles based artist Saro has been specializing in dark, jagged electronic R&B for some time now, and his newest single “Eyelids” from his upcoming sophomore EP is no exception. Multi-faceted and exhilarating, the new track features gorgeous, expertly controlled falsetto vocals from Saro, as well as eerie, brooding synth to keep everything grounded. Though the track is about rejection, an essence of romance and intimacy still exists within the chaos and destruction towards the ending, perhaps to remind us that the negative feelings are only temporary.

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photo courtesy of artist

Mount Kimbie – “Blue Train Lines” (ft. King Krule)

Electronic duo Mount Kimbie have announced the release of their new album Love What Survives, the follow up to 2013’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. The London duo, made up of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, have already released two tracks from the album – “Marilyn” ft. Micachu, and the chilling, experimental “We Go Home Together” ft. James Blake. Keeping the stellar collaborations going, the newest tease from the album, “Blue Train Lines,” features King Krule, effortlessly blending his signature sharp, piercing delivery with eerie bouts of guitar. The first half of the track, tortured and distressed, has Krule’s agonizing screams peppered in with the shadows of synth and drums, later blossoming into a powerful, moody guitar beat for the last two minutes.

Love What Survives will be released on September 8th.

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photo by Frank Lebon

Cosmo’s Midnight – “Mind Off” (ft. Kudu Blue)

Cosmo’s Midnight – also known as twin electronic duo Patrick and Cosmo Liney – are finally back with a brand new single, their second of the year following their stunning, synth heavy release “History.” The duo goes a little more old-school with the dance beat of “Mind Off,” featuring sultry vocals from Kudu Blue’s Clementine Douglas. Co-written and produced by Alunageorge’s George Reid, the track sounds even more thoughtfully composed and balanced, the various layers of synth coming in waves of chilled-out energy. Seemingly no talk of a debut album quite yet, but given the boys’ packed year, it just might come out of nowhere – we’ll be ready.

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photo by Alex Johnstone

Rhye – “Please” / “Summer Days”

Rhye have returned with two brand new tracks, four years after the duo’s beautiful and gorgeously sensual debut album Woman. “Please” and “Summer Days,” while both unmistakably belonging to the signature Rhye style of deep rooted basslines and Mike Milosh’s breathy, androgynous vocals, they vary in tone, the former an emotional ballad and the latter a lighter, yet more complex track  with undertones of psych, jazz, and pop. Though “Summer Days” is the first to sound almost completely uninhibited and carefree in Rhye’s stunning repertoire, you can tell there’s an aura of mystery about them, one that you makes you almost wish you will never fully understand – being within the folds of it remains far too addicting. 

Listen to “Please” below. “Summer Days” is now on Spotify and Apple Music.

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photo by Dan Monick

Japanese Breakfast – “Road Head”

Michelle Zauner will return next week with Soft Sounds From Another Planet, her sophomore release as Japanese Breakfast. The first two singles from the album hinted at a more diverse sound with a little bit of everything, appropriately, considering the title, worlds different from her more thematic, jagged and emotional debut Psychopomp. The guitar that begins her newest teaser “Road Head” is soft and haunting at the same time, with ethereal synth effects mingling with Zauner’s piercing vocals. Her vocals are starry-eyed and hopeful, but the lyrics are tinged with desperation and disappointment, still incredibly enticing.

Soft Sounds From Another Planet will be released on July 14th.

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photo by Phobymo

 

The Jungle Giants – “Bad Dream”

Australian indie pop quartet The Jungle Giants released their third album Quiet Ferocity today, and it’s perhaps their best work yet, bursting at the seams with ten stunning tracks of non-stop vitality. The quirk of their past repertoire now has a sharp, jagged side, constantly mixing bright guitar melodies with moody basslines and eccentric synth effects. With every addictive dance track like “Feel The Way I Do,” “On Your Way Down,” and “Waiting For A Sign,” there are tracks like “Bad Dream” that mellow them out, rounding out the album effortlessly. The latter has frontman Sam Hales starting with a deeper tone than usual, which leads to a falsetto tinged, eerie sounding chorus laced with a skilled vocal run that induces goosebumps. It’s slower and moodier than the rest of the album, a come-down that still produces its own specific type of dizzying high.

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photo via amplifire music

Album Review: Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

When I got my first car, Fleet Foxes and Helplessness Blues were two of the very first albums I bought, partly a side effect of my frantic attempts to absolve myself from succumbing to the toxic abyss of pre-teen pop music that still had a hold on me judging from my music library, but mostly because I had become infatuated with the music itself. I remember I wanted something more, something better from music at that time, and that I specifically wanted physical copies to put in my car’s driver’s side pocket even though during that time it seemed to me as if everyone was still drunk on digital downloads, still in the honeymoon era of marrying technology with, considering the state of affairs today, no divorce in sight. I listened to Robin Pecknold’s honeyed, passionate vocals and his guitar’s melancholic plucks mixed with the feeling of warmth due to the sunshine filtering through the windshield and the potent smell of my old volvo’s musty seats, and soon I began to equate Fleet Foxes with the ideas of freedom and independence, both of which I had to briefly set aside the moment I unbuckled my seatbelt and stepped onto the pavement. Pecknold’s commanding, intellectual songwriting and intricate, thoughtful compositions managed to rid my adolescent mind of any anguish I had compiled throughout the day, and I could focus on the road ahead of me, save for the occasional existential thought now and again.

With the gift of the car came a series of unavoidable events that come with growing older – graduation from high school, entrance into college, the required reading of what seemed like hundreds of poems and essays for my English degree, writing countless papers over the research of countless literary ideas, and finally, early graduation from college with said English degree – and afterwards, perhaps because I didn’t seize as much from the experience as I should have, I couldn’t help feeling as if I was ripped painfully down the middle, simultaneously reaching for the future while beckoning for the past to continue. Pecknold drew a similar conclusion for himself after touring for Helplessness Blues, and in turn, returned to college and took up several recreational classes to clear his mind, shortly afterwards returning to music once he realized those things didn’t help him return to a sense of peace as much as songwriting and composition did.

And now, six years after the release of Helplessness Blues and five years after sliding it into my car’s cd player throughout the stress of growing up and realizing personal responsibility, I know that if I tried to listen to Crack-Up while driving, it wouldn’t give me the same freeing feelings of independence, but hopeful wistfulness instead – Pecknold’s journey, while perhaps not able to be replicated or even fully understood by the next person, the emotions experienced throughout are at least, to some effect, relatable, and after a few trying years of my own I understand that due to living in a world so unforgiving and unfair, it seems necessary to indulge in one’s own thoughts and desires – while at the same time avoiding to some extent the pressures and recent events of society – in order to provide it with any form of worthwhile contribution. And, Crack-Up, beautifully cinematic and painfully thoughtful, might be Fleet Foxes most meaningful contribution yet.

Part of the reason why Fleet Foxes and Helplessness Blues (as well as their Sun Giant EP) were so highly regarded when they were released was due to their sheer accessibility while simultaneously expressing such intellectual and visually dense narratives; you could instantly be transported to the Blue Ridge Mountains where no one knows your name, or lost and starry-eyed on Mykonos, or be placed at the edge of the ocean with hope and wistfulness wound so tightly together you couldn’t tell which you were feeling. The music, pure indie folk at its core, evoked ‘60’s instrumentals and nostalgic tones, somehow managing to be soft and piercing in delivery. The lyrics were thoughtful, even prophetic at times, as Pecknold lamented his struggles so eloquently you’d think they were yours – and in a way, they were, for his writing addressed relatable topics, including growing older, pining after love, and the various idiosyncrasies that come with being a human being – one listen to “Montezuma” and you’ll notice they can nail all three within a few minutes.

Crack-Up, on the other hand, doesn’t seem geared towards immediately pleasing the masses, or inciting one same stirring feeling of warmth or acceptance for a packed festival crowd. Instead of being a prophetic voice, Pecknold takes the role of quiet (and at times not so quiet) observer, making his comments on the injustices of the world then stepping aside for someone of higher privilege to take command. And, when considering all that’s changed since the release of their sophomore album, listening to Crack-Up just makes sense, more if you consider the current state of affairs to be even a little bit askew, or if you find yourself pining for who you used to be. Even the title, which is taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay of the same name, is a reference to the state of being broken, evaluating everything that has happened up to the point of breaking, and ultimately having to venture back inside yourself in order to come out whole, albeit shaken, on the other side.

Whether you take Pecknold himself, the world, or even your own experiences into consideration when listening is completely up to you – even just regarding Crack-Up as a purely aesthetic album filled with beautiful noise would surely be completely valid in Pecknold’s eyes – there’s that much happening all at once. Of course, there are moments where Pecknold addresses said social injustices – “Cassius, -” narrates his participation in protests following the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and “If You Want To, Keep Time on Me” as well as the title track both address post-election anxiety. All three, however, sound so incredibly heavy in terms of instrumentation and emotion and not easily able to latch on to in terms of a set melody or vocal line, solidifying his desire to not be that higher voice that guides others, and be more of a supporter of those who can do so more eloquently. Gone are the soft, colorful images of working in orchards and sitting in ragged woods – Pecknold instead places you at the edge of the jagged cliffs that appear on the album’s cover, forcing you to think rather than sing along with the melody so comfortably.

Though Pecknold has stated he doesn’t quite understand the over-analyzation of lyrics in music criticism, it’s incredibly difficult not to at least address them in Crack-Up, for they are incredibly and unbelievably beautiful – the main subject of the medieval, rustic tinged “Kept Woman” is addressed as a “rose of the oceanside,” and she’s asked to “widow [her] soul for another mile,” perhaps worn after years of being someone else’s possession. Pecknold claims she is not broken, but instead stronger than he, and, insisting he’s changed, claims they’re bound to be reconciled at some point in the future, revisiting that half-hopeful, half-wistful character once again.

Crack-Up is best, however, when Pecknold is caught up in his own emotions and possessed by real-world nostalgia, so taken with what he’s communicating that the instrumentals all tend to blur together into euphoria. “Fool’s Errand,” perhaps the cleanest and most evocative in terms of composition, are the first of the cinematic tracks, as the jolted, piercing instrumentals simulate galloping horses or crashing waves, while Pecknold’s vocals soar and glide in betwixt them. He is both enchanted by and disgusted with his desire to remain in his current state until he sees a sign, until his “sight dream” comes to mind – the chorus sang and supported instrumentally with such simultaneous chaos and frustration that it begins to sound like divine catharsis. It’s even better when the track has a moment of sudden epiphany – “On Another Ocean (January / June)” begins, as the title says, in January, with Pecknold riddled with suspicion and hesitation, then suddenly transitions to June, where all those questions are treated with sense of self-reliance where Pecknold screams into the void amidst blossoming instrumentals that, in one of the most beautiful phrases of the album – “I won’t bleed out/ if I know me” – back to emphasising the importance of self-indulgence in order to survive in a continuously changing society.

And of course, there’s the nine minute epic “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” the track that is nostalgia epitomized, the track that is more for Pecknold himself than anyone else – and that’s okay, given just how much honesty and genuine emotion oozes out of every second. It is essentially a track detailing the close friendship of Pecknold and band co-founder Skye Skjelset, and details of him are everywhere, including the title (Skjelset’s birthday falls on May 3rd). It’s an anthem for friendship as well as personal responsibility – Pecknold is “only owed this shape if [he] makes a line to hold” – and both seem to be needed today more than ever.

Crack-Up, though not as immediately warm and inviting as its predecessors, still succeeds in evoking that sense of breathless admiration and intellectual emotion Fleet Foxes began with, as well as the feeling of being lost in time. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have never experienced your own crack-up, the search for something bigger and bolder than yourself is, for the most part, universal.

9.0/10

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photo by Sean Pecknold

Washed Out – “Hard To Say Goodbye”

Washed Out, also known as Ernest Greene, has recently announced the release of his upcoming album Mister Mellow, following his 2013 chillwave stunner Paracosm. “Hard To Say Goodbye” follows the recently released first single for the album “Get Lost,” and the sound is just as dreamy as ever, save for a few subtle tweaks, including more emphasis on funk. The new sound is a tad cleaner and clearer than his hazy, carefree past catalog, with the vocals more pronounced and the synths even more cutting and jagged than before, perhaps due to the theme of the new album – the meaning of boredom in a state of privilege. His use of orchestral harmonies intertwined between the arresting synth beats and falsetto vocal effects are euphoric, his own soothing voice overlaid like a sealant to a bursting, but stable, dependable foundation.

Mister Mellow will be released on June 30th.

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photo by Alexandra Gavillet