Nature TV – “Treading Water”

Just a few months after their stunning fifth EP Heartbreak Skyline, Brighton, UK-based indie pop quartet Nature TV returned this week with a beautiful new single titled “Treading Water.” With soft jazz undertones in their guitar-heavy melodies, earnest, honeyed vocals, and, of course, their poetic narratives filled with honesty and sincerity, the band have slowly but surely developed something of a signature over the past five years: a pure, polished, unpretentious sound that grows exponentially more mesmerizing each time. Their songs are something like audible seek-and-finds – every listen reveals yet another detail, another flourish, another feeling – and their new single is no exception. Frontman and guitarist Guy Bangham explained their inspiration in a press release: 

“Treading Water” is a song about how so much effort is spent killing time, and even though you are working towards something, even if you are doing your bit, there’s always things to hold you up, make you wait and set you back. So the song is kind of about wishing and trying for more but accepting it’s probably not gonna happen.

The main guitar melody unfurls with a brilliant sense of urgency, which is ironic when considering the introductory lines. “I’ve got nothing to say / I’ve got nothing that makes this all worthwhile,” Bangham admits before approaching the thesis of the track: “I’m just treading water just trying not to drown.” Josh Eriskin’s bass and Zal Jones’s percussion offer warmth and dimension to James Hunt’s bright guitar melodies, all of which radiate like sunlight at the chorus; frustration and anxiety are cleverly hidden behind a shimmering facade. “No one hides it quite like me,” Bangham exhales in response to the “pointless troubles” that “come for free,” finding a strange sense of comfort in the process, a curious sense of wonder in succumbing to the inevitable. 

“Treading Water” is out now. If you’re in the UK, Nature TV is going on tour in October (fingers crossed that they come to the US, soon, too!). 

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photo courtesy of artist

JORDANN – “Disco Cosmos” (ft. Tim Atlas)

JORDANN is the solo electro-chillwave project of Montreal-based artist Jordan Hébert. His stunning debut EP Connecting Visitors to Fun released back in 2020 was equal parts sultry and smooth, with lush, 80’s inspired synth flourishes and remarkably vulnerable narratives about love and the lack thereof. Over the past two years, he’s also released a handful of wonderful singles, including the jaunty “Funk Olympics” and the airy, breezy “Naoko,” a ballad sung in equal parts French and English. Earlier this week, another gorgeous track was added to the repertoire – a pensive, moody downtempo stunner titled “Disco Cosmos.” Featuring a soft, gauzy verse from fellow indie pop artist Tim Atlas, the two ultimately sing of feeling lost, floating in space, “far from home:” “All my thoughts are flooded / I’m restless and I don’t see the end.” With vocals intertwined with starlight and dusty debris, they conclude with a rhetorical question: “is it better to pretend?”

“Disco Cosmos” is out now.

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Royel Otis – “Warm Nights”

Earlier this week, indie duo Royel Otis – made up of Bondi Beach natives Otis Pavlovic and Royel Maddell – released their stunning sophomore EP Bar N’ Grill. It’s the follow up to their 2021 debut EP Campus, a sun-drenched, multi-textured menagerie of dream pop tracks perfect for the warmer months (see: “Without U,” “Days in the Dark”). Bar N’ Grill is a perfect continuation of their sound, but with a bit of a finely sharpened edge; From the exhilarating, carefree “Oysters in My Pocket” to the forlorn, yearning ballad “Motels,” the duo prove that they can encapsulate just about any mood within the span of three and a half minutes. Closer “Warm Nights,” for instance, soundtracks a very specific narrative that’s equal parts nostalgic and lonesome:

After a big night, just trying to find comfort in any situation you’ve found yourself in. All trains have stopped going and buses won’t get you home so it’s time to settle in for the night and the warmest place is the top level of the car park.

However, with a bouncy, jazz-inspired melody and soft, stop-and-go vocals that float along with the beat, the track sounds more like a daydream than a nightmare, the tonal equivalent of a cool breeze. Repeated throughout the track is the phrase “I’m in such control,” a whispered reassurance to oneself, a promise for better days, afternoons, and evenings. The guitar glimmers at the close, perhaps a nod to the stars sparkling overhead. 

Bar N’ Grill is out now.

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photo by Byron Spencer

IAN SWEET – “Die a Million Times”

Yesterday, IAN SWEET – also known as the solo project of Los Angeles based artist Jilian Medford – released the surprise new EP STAR STUFF. The new release, follow-up to her stunning 2021 debut LP Show Me How You Disappear, has Medford taking inspiration from both Sheryl Crow and Cocteau Twins, resulting in dream pop that’s soft and vulnerable as much as it’s jagged and fiery. Alongside the fantastic title track and the slow burn “Fight” is “Die a Million Times,” an effortless pop stunner. Medford explained the inspiration behind the stand-out track: 

“Die a Million Times” is about being stuck in a negative thought loop that you know you could escape from if you really tried but you’re not willing to let go yet, a thought loop that is so painful and destructive to your brain but yet you want to keep replaying certain memories over and over. I was living in a fantasy world about a relationship that didn’t end up working out and kept inviting in the thoughts and memories that I knew would continue to destroy me but I wasn’t ready to move on from them yet in order to help myself.

“The thought of you feels like I’m dying,” Medford sings at the start of the chorus, the glitchy, metallic synth blinking in the background like the beep of a heart monitor. Later, despite all the illogic, she ultimately admits that “I die a million times to keep you on my mind,” opting for pseudo-comfort rather than the pain of facing reality. 

STAR STUFF is out now via Polyvinyl Records. 

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photo by Christina Bryson

atmos bloom – “Something Other Than You”

Today, atmos bloom released their gorgeous debut album Flora. The Manchester-based duo, made up of artists Curtis Paterson and Tilda Gratton, flawlessly oscillate in the delicate space between shoegaze and dream pop, with their influence spanning from 90’s icons like My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins to modern day bands such as DIIV and Beach Fossils. Though the tracks on the album are connected seamlessly by a nostalgic, summery current, it doesn’t linger within one emotion for too long; alongside singles “Daisy” and “Picnic in the Rain” that show off their more upbeat side are the slower, moodier “Time” and “Something Other Than You,” the latter of which might be our favorite track from the LP. With a shuddering, silvery effect on Gratton’s vocals and Paterson’s darker instrumentals both evoking The Cranberries, the track is a stunning slow burn, reaching an expansive, cathartic close. 

Flora is out now via Spirit Goth Records. 

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Soft Velvet Lounge – “Homecoming”

Back in June, Los Angeles based dream pop duo Soft Velvet Lounge released their gorgeous debut album Life of the Party. The album is akin to a deep sigh; lo-fi, pensive instrumentals and soft, bright vocals intertwine, resulting in a nostalgic, hazy aura that’s blissfully lost in time. “Homecoming,” one of our favorite tracks from the debut, is simple but incredibly sophisticated in the way it attempts to reconstruct something as fragile as memory: “Remember that time/ I asked you to take my hand?” begins the second verse in an earnest, humble tone, reminiscing on how everything, even the stars, were aligned. “Everything I do/ Brings me back to you,” they admit, ensconced in synth glimmers resembling a glass chandelier caught in the sunlight. 

Life of the Party is out now. 

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Alvvays – “Pharmacist”

Earlier this week, Toronto group Alvvays announced the upcoming release of Blue Rev, their first full-length album in nearly five years. The period of time elapsed since their brilliant sophomore LP Antisocialites was not exactly intentional, however; damaged gear caused by a basement flood, an apartment break-in resulting in stolen demos, issues at the Canadian border, and of course, the pandemic were all causes of the accidental hiatus. Their sound has always been one positively drenched in texture and color, from bold vivid primary swatches in their self-titled debut to the candy-like pastel palette of their sophomore album. However, despite the initial sugar rush of Molly Rankin’s soft, yet piercing vocals and shoegaze instrumentals, there’s no crash; their narratives are thoughtful, earnest, and always slightly somber, due to them centering on the absurdities of desire and disappointment. 

“Pharmacist,” the first track on Blue Rev, has perhaps one of the most memorable openings of any Alvvays song, beginning with a stripped melody and Rankin’s vocals, then within seconds expanding into a huge, lush soundscape that resembles something between daydream and delirium. “I know you’re back/ I saw your sister at the pharmacy,” Rankin explains, mentioning their “new love glow.” Lamentations and resignations abound; the chorus, sad but sweet, has Rankin accepting that it “happens all the time,” that “I know I never crossed your mind.” Ultimately, “Pharmacist” is a perfect single in every way; balanced, yet evocative instrumentals, a vulnerable, slightly esoteric narrative, and a torrid, red-hot guitar solo to close it all out. What more could you need?

Blue Rev is out 10/7 via Polyvinyl Records. 

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photo by Eleanor Petry 

Midi Memory – “Infinite Design”

Today, Midi Memory – also known as the electronic side project of Cathedral Bells’ Matt Messore – has shared the stunning, atmospheric new single “Infinite Design.” The release follows Messore’s previous single “All The Way Out” this past April, and both follow the Orlando-based artist’s exceptional debut full-length Sensory Overload released this past December. Messore has explained in the past that this project arose from wanting to focus on “deeper vocal tones, a heavier electronic sound, and synth driven” melodies partially inspired by darkwave and coldwave. As a result, his work is complex and otherworldly, but not without a healthy dose of nostalgia to keep everything in check.

Built on tantalizing 80’s inspired synth arpeggios and shuddering drum beats, “Infinite Design” wastes no time in crafting a multi-textured, all-encapsulating aura, which, when listening with the lyrics, are, in part, about love as well as the interlocking ideas of fear and self-doubt that come complimentary. “Beyond is paradise when I’m by your side/ Promised I’d give you my word,” Messore admits in a hazy, far-away croon, an desperate attempt to offset all the internal chaos. 

“Infinite Design” is out now via Born Losers Records. 

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Everywhere and Nowhere: An Interview with COOL HEAT

Last week, COOL HEAT – also known as the solo project of Chicago-based musician and photographer Eden Sierotnik – released his stunning debut album Nowhere. It is the follow-up to Sierotnik’s fantastic 2021 EP Levitate, which expressed his atmospheric, melancholic take on shoegaze and dream pop that was first introduced in his gorgeous self-titled debut just one year prior. Multi-faceted and effortlessly modern, the project’s name is apt; with every single track in his discography, Sierotnik proves with his highly meticulous, maximalist synth work that it is entirely possible to balance opposing ideas, sounds, and textures with finesse. Nowhere, though perhaps alluding to a place both illusory and fantastically out of reach, nevertheless showcases steady foundations through calculated layering, but not without, of course, its equally substantial decorative flourishes that linger well after the close.

Like throwing dust onto a ghostly presence to trace its shape, like the slow, patient titration of acid into base with bated breath, counting the seconds before the expanse turns opaque, COOL HEAT has an unpredictable, yet highly immaculate aura; the music seems to create everything from nothing at the flick of the wrist, achieving a remarkable sense of everywhere from nowhere

We were lucky enough to interview Sierotnik about the new album. Read while listening to a few tracks below! 


Kid With A Vinyl: Congratulations on the release of your debut album Nowhere! Inspiration and concept wise, how is this album different from your EPs COOL HEAT (2020) and Levitate (2021)? 

Eden Sierotnik: Thank you! I think that it being an album altered the creative process since on the previous EPs I was a bit less concerned with how it flowed from track to track. This time around I spent a lot more time nailing down concrete ideas through demos. I had more of a grasp on how I wanted the whole thing to feel and sound, especially after finishing the first few songs. I was hyper focused on making sure there was a consistent sound and vibe throughout the album, which probably wasn’t so apparent on the previous releases. 

KWAV: What initially drew you to the dream/synth pop genre? I hear aspects of coldwave and darkwave here, too. 

ES: I remember the first Sun Airway album, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier, really inspired me to make music that incorporated a lot more synth + drum machine. All of the textural stuff on there is really beautiful, it’s one that I constantly revisit. Also, yes over the past few years especially I’ve been listening to a lot more darkwave/coldwave. Those influences weren’t as present in some of my earlier releases but I’m happy they were able to be more front and center for this album. Bands like Cold Cave, Drab Majesty, and Soft Kill have been some of my favorites.

KWAV: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing/producing process? 

ES: Sure! I record everything in my apartment here in Chicago. I usually start off the same way every single time, by making a loop on an analog drum machine. Once I mess around with that and have something that I like, I’ll lay that down as a foundation to build off of. Most of the time I’ll have ditched this initial loop after I’ve recorded everything else but it helps me to have a steady beat playing while I’m trying to improvise ideas. For this album I wrote the bass parts for pretty much every single song first. I had a lot of ideas on how I wanted it to sound and in my head it was important to have this “driving” bass line as present as possible. Once I have all the main rhythmic parts down, I record a ton of guitar and synth parts. The vocals will come last and are probably my least favorite thing to actually track. I will usually need a lot more listens of a particular take before I’m satisfied. The whole process is quite meticulous either way you look at it though. I feel a lot more at ease when I’m laying down some textural instrumentals. 

KWAV: Along with COOL HEAT, you’re also a photographer. Do these two mediums ever overlap for you? Do you ever find yourself seeing music in images, or vice-versa? 

ES: I think there’s definitely some overlap, at least with the work I’m creating. I was making music for a long time before I picked up a camera so I think I was definitely “seeing music in images” when I was developing my photography skills. I think that my songs and photography pair really well together, which is why I use them for all of the artwork for my releases. Especially with the album, I wanted the photos to have a consistent theme on their own in addition to matching the vibe of the music.

KWAV: Since your debut EP, we’ve always found your music to be incredibly cinematic – a lush soundtrack to a memory. Was this deliberate in any way? 

ES: I think it didn’t necessarily start out that way, but grew over time. It was most deliberate on this album. I leaned into it a lot more than I did on previous stuff. Overall I’m usually just going with whatever feels natural. In the past when I would be working on a song that I wanted to feel a bit different, it still seemed to turn out atmospheric no matter what. Sometimes it’s just better to go with what feels right and stay in your comfort zone. 

KWAV: I like to ask this of everyone we have the privilege to interview, as the answer changes slightly each time: What are your thoughts on expressing abstract concepts like nostalgia within music, especially within your own? Do you believe it’s an inevitable by-product of genres like dream pop, or something that’s deliberately constructed?

ES: Yeah it does feel like that’s pretty common amongst dream pop artists. I can’t say it’s something I think about too much when I’m working on a song, but there are times where I can hear the cinematic side. The way the synth sounds come out for this project lend to that for sure. There’s a meditative element to them that I always get lost in. 

KWAV: Was there any point during the creation of Nowhere that left you feeling overwhelmed or discouraged? How do you overcome creator’s block, either in music or photography?

ES: There were a few moments! It took me a little bit to get into a steady groove at the beginning so I was a bit overwhelmed at first. The last thing I tracked was the vocals, and about halfway through I started to feel like I was running out of ideas and was feeling discouraged for a spell. Whenever that happens everything will sound (or look) bad so I always try to take a break. Especially with the album I was listening to these songs so many times alone, taking frequent breaks helped keep everything sounding fresh. 

KWAV: Two of our favorite tracks from the new album are “Paranoid” and “No Plans.” The slow, meticulous layering of sound in both of these are stunning. Can you tell us the inspiration behind either (or both)? 

ES: Thanks! “Paranoid” was actually the very first song I did for the album. I recorded it shortly after finishing my previous EP and was really happy with it which ultimately inspired me to do a whole album. I remember wanting to expand on the Levitate EP with even tighter grooves to complement all of the dreamy layers. I used that song to set the mood for the rest of the songs. I love “No Plans” because I took these drum parts from a song that I ended up scrapping and put them to a bass line I had just written and it fit perfectly. I remember I was listening to a lot of Chromatics when I initially recorded those drum parts a couple years ago so I like that they are a little dancy but still fit the way the rest of the album sounds. 

KWAV: Your album is being released on cassette via Spirit Goth Records. In your opinion, what makes the cassette different from other physical formats? What does it offer the music that the digital format doesn’t?

ES: I think from an artist perspective, it’s a cool and sustainable way to release physical material consistently. It also helps that a lot of music in the genre sounds amazing on tape. It’s been my favorite way to listen back to all of my previous releases so far and I can’t wait to hear how this album sounds on it. Similar to vinyl there’s a collectible aspect too which gives it an upper edge over simply owning a digital copy. 

KWAV: Finally, what are you listening to right now? Any recommendations?

ES: The new album by Yot Club is excellent, I’ve had that one on repeat. Highly recommend “unexplainable” off that one. I’ve also been listening to the latest Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever album a lot, always loving their sound. Some other artists I’m digging: Valley Palace, Dehd, Sea Lemon, Jaguar Sun, Cathedral Bells, Layzi, Swiss Portrait. 

Nowhere is out now via Spirit Goth Records. Order a cassette by joining Spirit Goth’s Cassette Club here


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photo courtesy of artist

Mini Album Review: Bloomsday, Place To Land

Today, Bloomsday – the Brooklyn-based indie dream pop duo of Iris James Garrison and Alex Harwood – share their gorgeous debut album Place to Land. Recorded over the months of 2020, the seven-track release was written during Garrison’s gender transition, with lyrics beautifully weaving through “periods of loss, upheaval, hope, fear,” but, most of all, “setting oneself free.” Written, performed, and fronted by Garrison (they/them) and beautifully produced and accompanied by Harwood, the “brotherly dynamic” between the duo is seamless, earnest, and built on a sense of trust that is palpable, resulting in a wonderful debut that feels refreshingly lived-in. 

Built upon soft guitars and stark percussion, opener “Phase” comments on the process of transition and eventual rebirth. In the process of writing it, Garrison reminisced that “everything in my life had changed: my housing, my job, my girlfriend dumped me. It was this feeling of all of this ‘me’ in my life being in flux.” Singing the track became therapeutic for them, hoping that in this creative process everything would mend itself: “I’m mapping a route,” they clarify in the track’s chorus, “I’m asking for the easy way out,” because “what’s done is done.” However, there is, within the track, a sinking realization that nothing comes immaculately in the end, that growth is, of course, a process, never instantaneous. “Voicemail” expresses that growth does not always have to be lonely or exclusively internal, either – Garrison explains that the person they met during this time “was helping me trust in my new growth, that they had helped plant new roots in myself emotionally,” using a propagation metaphor to express the idea of fragmentation as anything but weakness. They continue: 

[The lyric] “If your leaves start growing away from me, I’ll know it’s meant to be” is expressing that brevity can be beautiful. Some people come into your life, you learn something essential from one another, and then you grow apart. I wrote this song as a voicemail that was never sent. Things I wish I could express to this person that I couldn’t because I was unfortunately ghosted (sigh).

A lost connection also substantially haunts the narrative of the lithe, minimal closer “Howl,” explaining that the person they’ve let go is still “hiding/ Underneath my bruise,” stunting their healing and their future growth. It is also brought up in “See the End,” but here, Garrison’s vocals are interspersed with jagged, gritty guitars, suggesting an overall sense of self-actualization: “I don’t want to waste your time anymore,” Garrison exclaims, “cause I could waste a lifetime / hoping you’d want more.” While these tracks may sound somber and pensive, ultimately, we hear warmth and resilience  in Place To Land. In fact, it’s implied in the name; it evokes a sure-thing, something to fall back on, a space to regain your strength before setting out again. 

Place To Land is out now via Bayonet Records. 

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photo courtesy of artist