Alt-J – “In Cold Blood”

Earlier this month, Alt-J announced the release of their third album Relaxer, and shared the glitchy, industrial inspired first single “3WW.” The newest from the upcoming full-length is just as electrifying as the first – in fact, it sounds like the perfect marriage between their first two albums, intertwining the lyrical obscurity and melodic unpredictability of debut An Awesome Wave with the erotic, sensual nature of sophomore This Is All Yours. It bursts forward with intense immediacy and frontman Joe Newman yelling binary, going on and on about summer and pools, and constantly asking for a kiss. The instrumentals are complex and the timing is almost perfectly askew, with horns and synth somehow in perfect harmony. The best part, however, is that the signature Alt-J “la-la-la’s” are back, with even more power than ever.

Relaxer will now be released on June 2nd, a week earlier than previously stated.

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photo courtesy of artist/ press
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Cende – “Bed”

This week, Brooklyn-based group Cende (featuring members of Porches and LVL UP) have announced the upcoming release of their debut album #1 Hit Single, and have shared the first peek into their unique sound. “Bed” flawlessly combines both dream pop and emo rock, with muted guitar and rapid drums. Frontman Cameron Wisch’s vocals are raw, visceral, and unhinged, appropriate due to the lyrical narrative of the track, which has the protagonist hesitant to leave the safety of their bed due to the fear of failure. It’s a sentiment all too familiar for most, and the pure honesty in Wisch’s voice mixed with the simplicity of the lyrics make the song that safe little nook in which to find solace, much like its namesake.

#1 Hit Single will be released on May 26th.

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photo courtesy of artist

Gorillaz – “Andromeda” (ft. D.R.A.M)

After six long years, Gorillaz have finally announced the upcoming release of their new album, called Humanz. As evident by the contradictory title, Damon Albarn has mentioned that the album will be a transition into different ideas including a newer musical aesthetic, one that we thankfully don’t have to wait to experience. “Andromeda” along with “Saturn Barz” (ft. Popcaan), “We Got The Power” (ft. Jehnny Beth), and “Ascension” (ft. Vince Staples) have all surfaced today, and the darker, more trance-like persona couldn’t be more addicting. “Andromeda” seems to explore an aura with the nature of the club in mind, as Albarn’s voice remains smooth and sultry against sharp, metallic synth. It’s bouncy and intimate all at once, with an almost tangible softness, despite supersonic effects and thumping drums. There’s a brilliant, gorgeous sense of immediacy, with Albarn urging you to “take it in your heart now, lover,” with the sense that if done, everything will be more than alright in the end.

Humanz will be released on April 28th.

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photo courtesy of artist

Hoops – “On Top”

Last month, Indiana dream poppers Hoops announced the release of their upcoming debut album Routines as well as shared the first energetic single “Rules,” and now they’re back with the newest tease. “On Top,” written by bassist Kevin Krauter (who also released a fantastic solo EP last year) slows things down just a touch, but with the same hazy vocals and bright, muted guitar melodies to express a shameless, feel good sound. The layers of synth and instrumentals build then flourish after the chorus, where they seem to radiate like rays of sunshine.

Routines will be released on May 5th.

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photo courtesy of artist/ fat possum records

Perfume Genius – “Slip Away”

Mike Hadreas’s career as Perfume Genius has always been one driven by emotion, as well as a a gentle, cogent piano melody. His heartbreaking narratives always came through with potent immediacy, whether it was sparse, minimal, and dark like in his debut Learning, more matured like Put Your Back N 2 It, or more experimental and passionate like in 2014’s Too Bright. Needless to say, there’s immense power in being soft and somber, two concepts that Hadreas has mastered throughout the years in his attempts to both constantly and brilliantly oppose a grossly ignorant society denying him the right to exist because of all the concepts he represents – homosexuality, androgyny, male vulnerability – as well as embrace his own humanity at the same time. In “Slip Away,” Hadreas’s first release from his upcoming fourth album, he’s added a new sensation to his highly successful emotional algorithm – magnificence. The track’s inspiration, made more evident with the gorgeous video directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, has to do with the concept of love over hate as well as the intimacy of close friendship, all expressed through a menagerie of baroque and modern instrumentals. Hadreas, hand in hand with a female friend, dances, eats handfuls of peaches, and runs from Trump-like creatures, immersed in a Victorian inspired fantastical world matching the track in both grandeur and hazy iridescence. It’s a beautiful, unique take on love’s ability to conquer every opposing force, and Perfume Genius has made it clear that it doesn’t matter if that love is romantic or platonic – both can empower you in countless ways. 

No Shape will be released on May 5th.

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photo courtesy of artist / Matador records

Album Review: Tennis – Yours Conditionally

A few years after their whimsical, nautical inspired debut Cape Dory, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s newest release as Tennis had them right back where they started, writing songs in between sailing the open seas. Their aesthetic began and slowly evolved with fast paced tunes loosely based on 60’s love songs, evoking a youthful glow that shone through Moore’s bright vocals and Riley’s addictive guitar melodies, and now that saltwater streaked sound is back, more passionate than ever. Yours Conditionally – their fourth full length album to date – has the husband-wife team sounding less like a quirky caricature of sunny guitar pop and instead more sincere, uninfluenced by outside forces, unafraid to fully embrace their real emotions.

Half of Yours Conditionally was written on dry land, and the other half was composed while Moore and Riley were sailing from San Diego to the Sea of Cortez, the journey perhaps contributing to the album’s themes of bittersweet loneliness and detachment from the outside world. The combination of the stress in constantly manning a boat as well as the divine romance of being alone with your significant other on the open seas made for ten absolutely gorgeous tracks. Of course, the isolation also made for some intense soul searching on Moore’s part, and she’s even made clear that “lyrically, it is a consideration of [her] relation to the world as a woman, as an artist whose work is transformed by another’s experience of it, and the conflicting needs that arise from these intersections.” Musically, Riley provides instrumentals that act as both stabilizers and enhancers, but Moore’s lyrics and vocals provide warmth and sincere introspection – they personify a body and the heart that powers it respectively.

The songs, a careful concoction of love and cynicism, explore the complexities and intricacies of feminism from a married standpoint, where you can experience conflicting feelings of devoting yourself to your husband and wanting to be a mother, while at the same time trying so desperately to be your own person and pursue your innermost desires. “Matrimony,” Moore’s childlike, lovesick account of her wedding day, contains fuzzy drums so distorted it’s hard not to associate it with a pulsating heart. “Fields of Blue,” our favorite track off the album, is inspired by their ship’s log, where, as Moore told NPR, she often accounted for her own mental state instead of the whereabouts of their location, and where she and Riley often took appointed shifts, where one would manage the boat while the other slept. The idea of being responsible for your partner’s well being while at their most vulnerable was what inspired the sugary sweet sound of the track, where Moore unashamedly coos in the midst of Riley’s reciprocal bright guitar that she “cannot help herself” in loving the one that she does – “what’s the use in living without?”

The album, both vocally and instrumentally, is also a subtle nod to the masters of the 60’s and 70’s – “Please Don’t Ruin This For Me” sounding especially ABBA-esque in its pastel-tinged composition – and the delicate nature of both “10 Minutes 10 Years” as well as “Island Music” are no exception, both tracks where Moore gives her best vocal performance to date. The muted aura and echoed vocal construction of the latter is absolutely magical, evoking the sort of tracks that would play in smoke filled bars with dimmed lighting, a hazy ballad that’s designed to latch onto the frayed bits of your soul. “In The Morning I’ll Be Better” also evokes that retro aesthetic but in a much more euphoric sense, while “Baby Don’t Believe” enters funk territory, Riley’s guitar slipping and sliding in between subdued piano tones.

There’s no one moment in Yours Conditionally where it truly matches the jangly, upbeat frill of their past albums – the sheer amount of emotion and passion that bleeds through each track requires some effort from the listener to really feel all this album has to offer. However, that’s what makes it such a unique album – that, as well as the refreshing notion that Moore, though happily married, is still very much her own person, one not afraid to analyze herself and her emotions repeatedly in order to figure out just how much of herself she is willing to share with the people in her life. We’re just thankful Tennis is sharing with us too.

8.0/10

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photo via noisey

Slow Dancer – “Don’t Believe”

Slow Dancer’s debut full length album Surrender is a cognizant nod to the nostalgia of the 60’s and 70’s, with a jagged chunk of soft country embedded in its instrumentals for good measure. It’s quiet, clean, and simple, constantly led forward by Simon Okely’s flinty, throaty vocals. The Melbourne musician’s newest single “Don’t Believe,” from his upcoming sophomore album, takes that aesthetic one step further with the inclusion of ominous synth and shaky, gorgeously hollow electric guitar, Okely’s deep velvety vocals so mesmerizing you seem to lose your place in time.

In A Mood will be released later this year.

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photo via ATO records

TOPS – “Petals”

TOPS’ sophomore album Picture You Staring might be one of the most consistently satisfying albums out there, half based on the fact that they know exactly how to compose flawless, catchy riffs, and half due to the soft, bright nature of Jane Penny’s vocals. The Montreal based dream pop band will soon release their third album, and, along with the news, have also shared the first single. “Petals” is funkier and geared more towards pure soft rock, but the carefree, breezy TOPS spirit is still there, complete with a choral vocal line oozing with charm.

Sugar At The Gate will be released on June 9th.

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photo by Takuroh Toyama

Zola Blood – “Good Love”

London based four piece Zola Blood are masters in composing large, atmospheric sounds, filled to the absolute brim with emotion until almost at the point of overflowing. Just about everything in their repertoire is soft and soothing, but with an almost tangible essence of mystery and intrigue, and their newest track is no exception. “Good Love,” from their upcoming debut album Infinite Games, is another stunner, complete with chunky drum beats, bouncy, metallic sounding synth, and beautifully ethereal vocals. The beat is constant and pounding, perhaps to emphasize the steady pulse of a contented heart.

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photo by Mike Massaro

Alt-J – “3WW”

Three years after their absolutely stunning sophomore album This is All Yours, Alt-J have returned with news of the upcoming release of their third full-length album Relaxer, as well as shared the first intoxicating single. “3WW” has the band more experimental than ever, with a menagerie of light, bouncy guitar pierced with frontman Joe Newman’s signature flinty, cracking vocals, communicating a frustratingly esoteric, beautifully poetic, and here, surprisingly sensual lyrical narrative. In true, unbearably unique Alt-J style, it somehow gives off a bulky, industrial feeling as well as a dream-like haziness, communicating a powerful message in just a few abstract images.

Relaxer will be released on June 9th.

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photo by Gabriel Green/courtesy of artist