Gengahr – “She’s A Witch”

British indie rockers Genghar list artists like Modest Mouse and The Smiths as their influences, and their attempt to create a timeless sound seems to be as a result of those influences. Their new single “She’s A Witch” is beautifully melodic and sung in an impressive falsetto that’s easily envied. With such a lighthearted, sun-kissed song, it’s easy to fall victim to it’s lovely charms, and proves that Gengahr is a gem just waiting to be further uncovered.

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Lower Dens – “Ondine”

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Baltimore indie band Lower Dens specializes in producing highly textured, atmospheric sounds with emphasis on vulnerability and the human condition. Their upcoming album Escape From Evil isolates itself in a world apart – a place that’s gruesome and grimy yet gorgeous all the same. Their single “Ondine” lurches forward and hides complexity underneath a smoothed out aesthetic in a way reminiscent of Beach House and Wild Beasts, and Jana Hunter’s evocative voice takes on the task of supplying emotion and passion through the wonderfully endearing lyrics. It’s a song about desperation and compassion simultaneously, and the juxtaposition of hard and soft create this amazing warmth that ultimately consumes the rest of the album. Escape From Evil will be released on March 31st.

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photo by Shawn Brackbill

The Yetis – “Mysterion”

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Pennsylvanian indie band The Yetis seem to have a little bit of everything with their music. Many different genres and influences are clearly heard, including psychadelic rock, grunge, punk, and pop, especially in their new single “Mysterion.” It swoons and swells in all the right places, with a delicately emphasized surf pop vibe that immediately injects the tune with bright sunshine and drunken love. It sounds nostalgic and modern at the same time (with peppy guitar covering up the heavy drums and bass) and yearns for a time either long past or fast approaching – allowing for anyone to grasp their own personal meaning.

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photo courtesy of the artist

Album Review: San Cisco – Gracetown

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Australian indie pop band San Cisco have been off the radar for quite some time now, without so much as a performance or a released track since the release of their self-titled album. San Cisco was filled with bright, poppy sounds and whimsical lyrical content, with an overall fantastical feel. However, San Cisco’s sophomore album Gracetown is worlds different, and seems to embody something darker and more introspective.

The first thing I notice with Gracetown – and indirectly, the band – is that it automatically sounds older and more mature, even though they kept things short and sweet like their debut. “RUN” starts the album off on an upbeat and energetic note, but it’s more than a simple, catchy beat. It slowly builds on top of it’s own sounds with added techniques underneath the melody that create a bubbly, yet mysterious mood. “Too Much Time Together” follows it nicely, with guitar chords reminiscent of their past work. The lyrics are witty and honest, and the harmonies are vivid and colorful. “Magic,” “Snow,” and “Wash It All Away” show off more of the clear 50’s and 60’s influences in San Cisco’s music, and the consistent switches from disco to indie pop. It’s here that the album shifts in mood, and throws listeners off in more ways than one. “Jealousy” changes the overall vibe considerably, taking things into a much darker and deeper route. The beats sound exotic and tribal inspired, and Jordi Davieson’s voice is as sultry as it’s ever been. This vibe is expanded even more with the track “Super Slow,” where the harmonies are soft and velvety smooth, giving me a mysterious, noir feeling. I enjoyed the change in emotion and feeling, but I wish it was presented in a more fluid way as opposed to an immediate shift. In fact, I absolutely love the darker side of San Cisco more than their poppy, overtly saccharine side, so I would have even liked to see the whole album done in this darker persona. “About You” has a lovely momentum in the instrumentals, making it one of the strongest on the album as well as the track “Skool” because of it’s quirky lyrics. It’s nostalgic and just the right amount of sweet to let you know that you’re still listening to the same band, but modern and vulnerable enough to know that there’s dimension. 

San Cisco’s sound has definitely evolved to a place that is more self-aware, but at times it falters and wavers despite all of it’s apparent internal growth. Often times I felt that they couldn’t focus on one particular feeling despite the clear overall theme of troubled relationships and love, considering the shift from happy to moody. However, the fundamentals are all there and each member of the band seems to fully understand their strengths and weaknesses. Gracetown is valiant effort and I have to commend them on evolving their lyrics and instrumentals to a place of maturity. San Cisco is slowly but surely proving their worth in the indie music world, and this album is just the beginning.

6.5/10

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photo by Kane Hibberd

Twin Shadow – “Turn Me Up”

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Twin Shadow (aka George Lewis)’s third album Eclipse was released this week, and it’s deep, dark, and refined, with an added emphasis on supreme honesty. It doesn’t present itself as shyly as Lewis’ last two albums, and it doesn’t hide behind instrumentals, letting listeners hear a more vulnerable side. “Turn Me Up” swells and expands in all the right places, and the vocals are absolutely stunning. The 80’s aesthetic is still apparent in the instrumentals, but with modern techniques that really play up the powerful themes of perseverance and strength that run rampant throughout the rest of the album as well.

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photo by Tina Tyrell

Django Django – “Reflections”

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British rock group Django Django have released the first single off of their upcoming album Born Under Saturn, and it follows the same sort of psychedelic and electronic rock style they have used in the past, but in a more elevated, luxurious way. “Reflections” has a metallic, bouncy beat to it, with wonderful synthesized vocals that evoke a supersonic, space-like feeling. It actively builds layer after layer of sound as it progresses, and the emotion is nothing short of pure and extraordinary. Born Under Saturn will be released in May.

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photo courtesy of the artist

Art of Sleeping – “Voodoo”

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I’ve adored Art of Sleeping since they released their track “Above the Water” in 2012, mainly because they understand when to be tenacious and powerful and when to be tender and soft. They’re sort of a delicate mixture of folk and alternative, but a change is pretty apparent in their new song, “Voodoo.” It’s heavier and grittier, with an added emphasis in meaning and energy.

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photo courtesy of the artist

Album Review: Dutch Uncles – O Shudder

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The fourth record from British indie band Dutch Uncles is one filled with the fears and uncertainties of anyone in their twenty-somethings – fear of growing old, of being alone, of the unknown – but yet, it’s compressed in such a lovely, retro upbeat package that the despair is brilliantly disguised and presented as euphoria. The subject matter is modern and contemporary, touching on everything from a terrible job interview to the occasional health scare, as well as overbearing themes of sex, narcissism, and obsessions with social media. This occurs despite the 80’s inspired electronic and synth instrumentals, and this inconsistency suits them and their quirky, unusual style rather well.

Opener “Babymaking” is pretty self-explanatory when you look at the title, but it’s not as crude as it leads you to believe. The gentle droplets of melody that open the track pave the way for lead singer Duncan Wallis’ to establish the mature, yet strangely surreal tone of the album. His voice has that sensual, flinty, yet overall odd and unique tinge to his voice, almost like Wild Beasts frontman Hayden Thorpe or Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. It wavers and falters, jumping from note to note in bursts, which suits the nature of the tracks. It’s a gorgeous beginning to the album, and it leads straight into the track “Upsilon,” which is just as fantastical and supersonic as it sounds. It deals with the unnecessary drama of youth as well as the monotony of social media, and the metallic, technological beats that surround the pronounced drumming are added emphasis. Of course, O Shudder wouldn’t be considered a “mature” album if it didn’t address the obvious sexual tension and apprehension that comes with growing older, and a number of tracks on the album directly deal with exactly that. “I Should Have Read” and “Drips” go hand in hand, treating the touchy subject with grace and subtlety, albeit a little too similarly. Unfortunately, this redundancy and repetition is one problem with O Shudder. I noticed that towards the end of the album, the tracks almost seem to blur together- with the exception of more minimal beats or nervous, anxious vocals – and it’s just awkward, considering that it’s also sort of hard to figure out what song you’re actually listening to due to the similar subject matter.

However, the unique tracks on the album stand out, really stand out, and it’s what saves the album immensely. “In and Out” deals with – you guessed it, sexual tension – as well as the constant need for instant gratification in whatever it is that we as people decide to do in our lives. It’s obsessive and almost unsettling at times, but it’s the honesty that makes it admirable and addicting. The swelling instrumentals are focused and fine tuned to Wallis’ voice, and the overall emotion it brings forward is quite extraordinary. The other winner is the track “Decided Knowledge,” a narrative about a job interview gone wrong. It’s here where the comparison to 80’s bands like Tears For Fears and Erasure kicks in, as well as Dutch Uncles’ ability to transform it and bring it into the modern day. Wallis’ takes more risks with his voice stylistically, and it pays off, considering it gives the track a more pronounced personality. This is Dutch Uncles’ greatest strength – giving life to their songs – and O Shudder may very well be album that finally gives them that well-deserved push further into the limelight.

8.0/10

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photo by Danny North

Sufjan Stevens – “Should Have Known Better”

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Sufjan Stevens is getting ready to release his ninth album, Carrie & Lowell, which is said to be focused on the death of his mother and their unusual relationship, as well as the subject of life vs death in general. With such dismal topics, it’s nice that his single from the album, “Should Have Known Better,” sounds like a whisper of hope. Instead of thinking too heavily about the past, the tone in the instrumentals and Stevens’ beautiful voice is thoughtful and optimistic, and the lyrics are nothing short of poetry, which is assumed of Stevens at this point. When the childlike keyboard melodies kick in towards the end, a feeling of innocence and happiness do as well, almost as if he is ready to look forward to the future.

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photo by Emmanuel Afolabi

Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”

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After the highly successful release of their 2012 album Lonerism, psych-rock band Tame Impala is finally back with a brand new single, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The band is famous for their lucid, highly introspective psychedelic tracks, with an added reputation for keeping things fresh and modern with the addition of complex melodies and effects such as reverb and illusions of synth. “Let It Happen” is the perfect continuation of their past works, considering that it keeps a lot of the same influences as their last two albums. It’s an epic, almost 8 minute long song that never lets down it’s guard, with newer, more modern techniques and somewhat clearer vocals. The breakdown during the chorus is breathtaking, and it shows off the gorgeous nature of Kevin Parker’s voice. The song borders on becoming even more electronic with it’s numerous added effects, while also flawlessly maintaining a psychedelic vibe – making me believe that their new album (which will be released later this year) will be somewhat different in overall tone and emotion, almost like a rebirth of the senses. However, it definitely still has that classic Tame Impala feeling to it – which is what’s really important – and I can already tell that “Let It Happen” is going to be one of the best tracks of 2015.

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 photo by Pooneh Ghana