Baths – “Human Bog”

Baths is the experimental electronic project of Los Angeles based singer and multi-instrumentalist Will Wiesenfeld. Whether his work was tinged with childlike whimsy and nostalgia, as in debut album Cerulean, or steeped in darkness, illness, and strife as in sophomore album Obsidian, his focus and intent to remain true to his own identity, including his internal frustrations and outward struggles, never faltered, leading to some incredibly unique, incredibly textured, and incredibly beautiful tracks, all taken from a different place of his subconscious.

However, Wiesenfeld’s most recent album, Romaplasm, may be his most gorgeous, emotional, and honest album yet, honest in the way he expounds on his “at-home obsessions” with an added emphasis on the fantastical mediums in which he draws the most emotion – things like anime, books, and comics, but portrayed an brilliantly indirect manner where only the emotion derived is placed on display. Described on the album’s bandcamp profile as a “post-modern take on Romanticism,” each track from the album is a deeper step inside a new glitchy, colorful, and otherworldly environment, attempting to take both the immense pain and beauty of life and place them on nearly equal pedestals, where one does not exist without the other. “Human Bog,” one of the more dense, emotional tracks, is the perfect amalgamation of these two ideas, and among the most stunning tracks Baths has ever released dealing with personal identity, clear when paying close attention to its poetic lyrical narrative. Wiesenfeld admits in an increasingly fraying, porous voice, between puddles of murky, treacherous synth, that he’s “queer in a way that works” for whoever he’s with, and “queer in a way that’s failed [him], and ultimately laments on “the lengths [he ] goes to get held onto,” the instrumentals afterwards introducing soft orchestral flourishes that again allows the track to be both sad and beautiful, self-indulgent but honest. It’s no secret that being honest with yourself, no matter how difficult or frustrating that may be, makes for more genuine art, and with Romaplasm, Baths has realized that tenfold.

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photo by Mario Luna
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Pearl Sugar – “Lock You Up”

Pearl Sugar is the dark synth-pop project of Chris Bugnacki, based right outside of Hartford, Connecticut. Although only having two official released tracks since beginning the project last year, his sound is distinct and stylistically clean, and, considering his inspiration comes from artists like Porches and Blood Orange, also moody and dark on the surface, yet with something nostalgic and oddly euphoric lingering just underneath. This is heard especially well in their most recent single, “Lock You Up,” the first of what will most likely be part of an EP released early next year. Bugnacki’s voice hovers above chime-like synth and sparse, minimal percussion, all dormant and waiting until the last minute, where its as if the gates containing them are finally unlocked, allowing them to expand and to float into the ether. Half a desire “to not let past ideologies hold [you] back from experiencing future joys,”and half a sentiment to the winter months spent in New England, the track contains an almost tangible tension that lingers well after the last few flourishes of synth.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Tame Impala – “List of People (To Try and Forget About)”

Yesterday, Tame Impala, also known as the psychedelic brainchild of Kevin Parker, released the B-sides and remixes to his brilliantly colorful and atmospheric third LP Currents, released back in 2015. The album contains three brand new tracks as well as gorgeous remixes of singles “Let It Happen” and “Reality in Motion,” each managing to add something new and fresh to its stunning progenitor. Opening track “List Of People (To Try And Forget About),” is both dreamy and jagged in its composition, with thick swells of synth and sharp, pounding percussion, actively creating a space for Parker’s elastic voice to settle within its textured folds. Towards the end everything dramatically drops out, leaving only those swirls of synth, as well as plenty of open space for both it and Parker’s now clearer vocals to grow and expand in perfect rhythm.

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photo by Matt Sav

Ought – “These 3 Things”

I think it’s safe to say that Ought basically reinvented art-punk, or at least, brilliantly resurrected it from where it began back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, where intellectualism and sophistication as well as the unrelenting, raw energy of unrest and strife combined to form a unique, often esoteric genre that placed a greater emphasis on artistic ambition and expression, to value the spoken word at the same level as musical sound. Their debut and sophomore albums More Than Any Other Day and Sun Coming Down express this tenfold, due to the nature of the band’s often times lucid, borderline improvisational instrumentals and the calculated poetry of frontman Tim Darcy’s lyrics and vocals. Today, the Montreal four-piece have announced the release of their third full-length album, titled Room Inside the World. The news comes with a stunning new single, noticeably different from the grit of their past repertoire, instead leaning towards the gorgeous instability and unpredictability of post-punk, complete with synth and dulcet orchestral tones. Darcy’s voice sounds different as well, more mellifluous and elastic than ever, only occasionally returning to the brooding, acerbic tone he emulated in their past work, the unique vocals that immediately and unmistakably identified them as Ought. However, despite the stark differences in tone, “These 3 Things” stays true to the feelings of suppressed turbulence and anxiety and instead sounds like a seamless progression for the band, an evolution that still thankfully takes advantage of their unique recording style – where it constantly sounds as if, through the separate energies of every component involved, that something large, potent, and powerful is brimming just underneath the surface, gaining energy, yet only to stay trapped, smoldering and hot to the touch, that tension more coveted and gorgeous than if it had burst.

Room Inside the World will be released on 2/16/18 via Merge Records.

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photo courtesy of artist / merge records