Monthly Mixtape – October 2016

 

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The second installment of our monthly mixtape is here! Here’s some brand new tracks we’ve been enjoying recently this past month, including some great releases from Von Sell, Temples, and Skylar Spence! Some have their own posts right here on the site, so make sure to check those out as well if you’d like!

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EP Review: Kadhja Bonet – The Visitor

When Kadhja Bonet released the gorgeous track “Honeycomb” last year, we were absolutely mesmerized, both from Bonet’s unparalleled, dynamic vocals as well as its perfect production. The seamless, dreamlike amalgamation of bold, powerful jazz and peaceful classical instrumentals highlighting Bonet’s honeyed voice sounded like something from another world, or even a whole other plane of existence. In The Vistor, Bonet’s first release since signing to Fat Possum, that dream-like aesthetic is presented in varying intensities throughout eight stunning tracks, packing in as much wonder and whimsy until it threatens to burst at the seams.

Each track on The Visitor is rich and luxurious, and beautifully feeds off of its own individual energy, never yielding the specific emotion it introduces until the song dissolves into the next completely. However, the EP still feels cohesive and fluid, considering the tracks’ overall otherworldly nature. The tracks themselves somehow simultaneously sound like sherbet-infused fairytales, soundtracks to various mythological epics, romances, and tragedies, and scores to a thousand love stories, mostly due to the complex instrumental arrangements. This isn’t surprising considering Bonet’s formal training is in classical music, and the majority of the time, it’s done spectacularly.

After an experimental, electronic-tinged introduction suitable for a more psychedelic-centered album, “Honeycomb” erupts, and Bonet’s voice immediately swells and flows with intense purpose and determination. Her lyrics are uniquely sweet and evocative, comparing herself to a “humble bee” bringing pollen to her lover’s lips in a thick, honeyed drawl. It ends with her vocals melting into a sludge of synth, providing a strange juxtaposition of tones. “The Visitor” is by far the most complex track that appears on the EP, where Bonet basically shows off her production chops. In fact, the individual effects and production quirks of each song add to their character as well – the harpsichord-style instrumentals that open “Fairweather Friend” provide brightness and color to Bonet’s more relaxed oohs, while the more baroque, renaissance style orchestral interludes in “Portraits of Tracy” give it a grandiose feel. However, the most stunning use of this technique appears in “Nobody Other,” our favorite track off the album. It stands apart from the rest of the EP due to its simplistic, comparably minimal composition, as well as the gorgeous way Bonet’s crystallized voice appears more muted and delicate in order to accurately portray her genuine romantic intentions. Again, it almost sounds three-dimensional, with its soft instrumentals floating and swaying like a breezy summer afternoon, the flute flourishes that appear every so often simulating bluebirds chirping in the trees.

It’s worth mentioning that Bonet handled a large majority of the writing, arranging, performing, and producing of this EP, which is incredibly impressive in and of itself due to its sheer intricacy and technical complexity. Because of this, The Visitor cannot simply be written off as a compilation of otherworldly musings or a series of happenstance hallucinations, but instead a testament to mortal emotion, considering the time it has spent growing and maturing in thoughtful human hands.

8.0/10

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photo courtesy of fat possum records

Weyes Blood – “Used To Be”

Weyes Blood’s highly anticipated album Front Row Seat To Earth is finally out today, and, considering its absolutely stunning, already securing a few nods for one of the year’s best. In her fourth album under the name, singer/songwriter/producer Natalie Mering channels late 60’s folk and the softer side of 70’s psychedelic rock, fusing it with the strange and unexpected. Her mellifluous voice acts as the binding force to the gorgeous instrumentals, sounding like everyone from Karen Carpenter to Judy Collins – but always returns to her own unique persona. “Used To Be,” our favorite from the album tied with “Do You Need My Love,” explores this beautifully, as stark, rich piano chords perfectly punctuate the thick, passionate swell in Mering’s vocals. It continues to build and rise in intensity until the very end, where brass instrumentals and rush to cushion Mering’s fall back to the harsh nature of reality. It’s an absolutely brilliant song, as is the new album, and definitely worth a thorough listen.

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photo by Katie Miller/via npr

Vinegar Mother – “Sunny Seat”

Brooklyn based indie jazz group Vinegar Mother have their debut EP out next month, and they’ve recently shared the video for title track “Sunny Seat,” a colorful whirlwind of complex rhythms and bright, honeyed instrumentals. Though singer Julia Zivic tells of heartbreak and regret through the lyrics, her dynamic, passionate voice remains tenacious and gorgeously guttural, soaring high above warm, welcoming guitar and brass at the chorus. It even sounds a tad psychedelic and otherworldly right at the end, where the medley of “oohs” echo and dissolve wonderfully into silence.

The Sunny Seat EP will be released on November 18th. 

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photo by JW Photography

Baseball Gregg – “On A Bus”

Dream pop duo Baseball Gregg released their debut album Vacation just a few months ago, showcasing their quirky aesthetic and amalgamations of old school techniques and modern flourishes in twelve bright, evocative tracks. Our favorite from the album, “On A Bus,” is perhaps one of the more whimsical, with addictive, wobbly sounding guitar riffs and quick, sparse snares surrounding it on every side. Though its undeniably dreamy at its core, there’s also a hazy eeriness to it, especially when the underlying guitar darts back and forth in tone before the slow, yearning ending.

Vacation is out now, so make sure you check it out!

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photo by Margherita Filippini

EP Review: Von Sell – Von Sell

Brooklyn-based artist David Von Sell creates the kind of unique electronic pop that surely deserves its own genre, considering the complexity of its composition as well as the thoughtful way in which its ideas of love and passion are presented. His aesthetic has slowly revealed itself to be the perfect amalgamation of the addictive nature of the synthetic with a living, beating heart, and the electronic pop phenom has now solidified it in seven breathtaking tracks.

Before settling in Brooklyn, Von Sell began his journey while growing up in Hamburg, Germany, creating bedroom pop at home in his late teens. He has attended the British Academy of New Music and the Humboldt University in Berlin, as well as the Berklee College of Music, which simultaneously portrays Von Sell’s wunderkind-esque nature as well as explains how he’s able to create such complex, memorable sounds. He emerged back in 2014 with the boisterous, elaborate track “Ivan,” which was so stylistically dense that it ended up sounding like a bright menagerie of effects and techniques all rolled into one – glitchy, shimmering synth effortlessly floated in arpeggios above thick, splashy drum beats, and the strong vocals became their unrelenting, binding force, locking the listener in place. Throughout the year, other angles of his persona were revealed through additional tracks, including the softer, more emotional “I Insist” and the experimental, yet oddly delicate “Stay.” Both of these tracks have now seemingly found their direct counterparts within the new EP, being the sugary, infatuated “Miss Me,” and the blatantly human “Names,” respectively. The first pairing both sound beautifully desperate, emulating desire with screeching synth and soul baring lyrics (“come on and hurt me now/ you know I know you want to”), and “Miss Me” even tends to echo the soul and intensity of 90’s R&B. The second pairing both shudder with synth, although in “Names,” it eventually drops out to focus in on an evocative piano interlude where it sounds enraptured and possessed, a rare hollow in the track where it seems like countless epiphanies could take place. There’s a part in John Milton’s L’Allegro where the narrator, in his prayers to the goddess Mirth, wishes to be overwhelmed by a song “with wanton heed and giddy cunning/ the melting voice through mazes running/ untwisting all the chains that ty/ the hidden soul of harmony.” Perhaps it’s merely because my personal studies of Milton and my admiration of Von Sell have both occurred at the same time, but these brief lines have repeatedly come to mind when listening to this little spot within “Names,” possibly our favorite track off the EP.

One of the best parts about Von Sell as a whole is that it’s mixed masterfully. Each layer of sound and every effect can be heard without distortion or risk of them blending together, which really makes a difference in an electronic pop album, where essential aspects like vocals can often become distorted and unrecognizable. Von Sell’s vocals not only ring crystal clear, but also remain one of the most potent and powerful aspects of each track – it rises and falls in “I Insist,” swells and expands in “Names,” enters a bright falsetto in “Miss Me,” and adds to the experimental, cinematic quality of stunning opener “Energystabs.” The EP also includes a reworking of “Ivan,” where a jangly guitar melody is inserted seamlessly after the first chorus and ethereal vocals are added towards the end, making it even more of a multi-faceted masterpiece.

When listening to these songs, it’s easy to forget that they’re the result of a single person, someone delicately orchestrating electronic pop in such a way that it ultimately equates with pure human emotion and passion rather than noise meant to soundtrack a dance floor. Von Sell has changed what it means to operate within the confines of the electronic pop genre, showing that it doesn’t always have to be vapid or blatantly synthetic. Instead, his music remains intrinsically human, and, through these seven tracks, beautifully expresses the importance in letting the heart overpower the mind every now and again.

9.7/10

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photo by Jen Maler

Hudson Scott – “Panning For Gold”

Hudson Scott released his debut EP Clay earlier this year, and now, the electronic artist is back with “Panning For Gold,” a delightful continuation of his modern retro aesthetic. Scott has played backup for Foals as well as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Petite Noir, so he’s no stranger to the world of meticulous production, which may be why the new track is so solid instrumentally, as the brooding beats and bassline mingle closely to achieve a deep, concentrated sound. The vocals that pulse through evoke slight Tears for Fears or even Pet Shop Boys vibes, and the ironic control it has while evoking the desperation that the existence of love commands from the soul makes the track that much more irresistible.

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photo by Pete Banks

Cloud Nothings – “Modern Act”

After two years, indie quintet Cloud Nothings have returned with a brand new track and news of the upcoming release of their new album Life Without Sound, the follow-up to 2014’s fantastic Here and Nowhere Else. “Modern Act” is definitely slower and thoughtful, centering more on Dylan Baldi’s yelping vocals rather than the rhythmic intensity of the instrumentals. Baldi has said in a statement that the new record is “like my version of new age music. It’s supposed to be inspiring.” The new track definitely has that lithe, clear sound that usually emerges from some sort of life-changing epiphany, and it will be interesting to see if the rest of the album follows suit.

Life Without Sound will be released on January 27.

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photo by Jesse Lirola

The Lemon Twigs – “I Wanna Prove To You”

Baroque rockers The Lemon Twigs are slowly getting ready to release their much-anticipated debut album Do Hollywood this Friday, after months of obsessing over the stunning teasers “As Long As We’re Together” and “These Words,” where the duo, made up of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, show their love of 60’s sounds as well as their intense skill in bringing it all to the modern day. Their newest track off the album, “I Wanna Prove To You,” takes the retro inspiration a step further, complete with a sugary, doo-wop rhythm and crooning vocals. Although the chorus might have been sarcastic at first (according to the duo’s interview with Zane Lowe, who premiered the studio version of the track) it does end up sounding sincere and profound, and swells with love and emotion just like those crooners back in the day. The Lemon Twigs have been consistently impressive with these three releases, and there’s plenty of evidence to infer that the debut album will be no different. You can hear the studio version here, as well as watch the stunning live version down below.

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photo by Autumn De Wilde

Jaunt – “Make No Doubt”

Toronto quintet Jaunt released their debut EP Chat earlier this year, which gave a brief look into their quirky dream pop world. We shared the bubblegum pop stunner “Hello,” a short, but stylistically remarkable track. The group has now released “Make No Doubt,” a B-side initially written for the EP but never released. After a soft, sprawling interlude, the new track merges into psych territory, complete with whirling chimes, bubbly synth, and deep, ethereal vocals. It’s definitely more reserved than the near tangible whimsy of their past work, but remains a good indication for their future releases.

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photo by Devon Little