New Husband – “Only You”

Late last month, Berlin based artist Jakob Stephan Rotter, also known as New Husband, released his debut EP Self Discovery, blending together his take on the ephemeral qualities of dream pop with the unique addition of sharp, near austere synth. The result is something luxurious and indulgent, and in the case of “Only You,” somehow lethargic and breathlessly immediate all at once. Wistful vocals dance and weave around crystalline surges of synth, oscillating between something dark and insidious to bright and shimmering. A smooth, melancholic saxophone solo closes out the track, but still it is swaddled by synth, as if attempting to bring the daydream back to solid ground. Soon the two synchronize, and end together.

 

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photo courtesy of artist
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FRANKIIE – “Dream Reader”

Vancouver dream rock group FRANKIIE describe “Dream Reader” as a fairytale,  but not the kind you’re thinking; instead of hollow, materialistic dreams of an enamored castle, a prince or princess on a magnificent stallion, or riches beyond her wildest dreams, their protagonist finds herself incessantly pursuing revenge, indifferent to what she will become once she actually achieves it. Her plot is immediately disclosed in the opening thrust of deep, gritty percussion and bass propelling her forward, the rage in her eyes growing with every beat. True to it’s title, the track truly is a disorienting, multi-faceted dream, with swelled, evocative vocals often intimidating in nature – at times, like within the bridge, as if something inhuman wishes to take over, but is thwarted at the last minute, diving back into uncharted waters after a brief moment of stasis and introspection.

FRANKIIE:

“Dream Reader” was written around a series of dreams I’d had while the band was feeling directionless. I was struggling to maintain my belief in the importance of creating music and our ambitions as a group. These dreams of drowning, stranded horses, and flying janky planes kept coming. I looked a few up in a dream dictionary and found that many of them were about new beginnings, emotional rebirth.”

Also, please, please, please, by all means fight me on this, but I couldn’t help but hear specific sounds within itself around the chorus and bridge, something existing between the ethereal nature of Weyes Blood and the pop sensibilities of ABBA, all wrapped up in something vulnerable and aggressive, with snarling teeth guarding something precious. Yeah I know. Strange. But it, combined with its half-swooning, half-ravaged vocals sure as hell kept me listening – repeatedly, to be exact, and something tells me you will too.

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photo by Lauren D Zbarsky

Skin Mag – “Tonight Show”

There’s something immediately mesmerizing about Long Beach dream pop quintet Skin Mag, and by something, I mean absolutely everything – their recent two-track debut release Singles, about “keeping a grip on reality in a digital era,” both have frontman Shane Barton’s hazy drawl slyly lurking beneath thick layers of delicate, yet simultaneously meticulous instrumentals, both sounding like a deep lucid dream. “Tonight Show” is the dreamier of the two, but sounds incredibly lonely at the same time, with indulgent, woozy instrumentals that fall into each other at the chorus, held up by its deeper, thumbtack-esque guitars. The lyrical narrative is soothing yet somehow threatening, as if trapped inside a media-driven nightmare, Barton explaining to us the extent of the hallucination –  “By nine a technicolor glow/ Paints the walls you used to know,” falling into it just as much as the listener. Yet it ends on a much different note – with a crunchy, jagged guitar solo so pronounced its as if his enslaved  consciousness is slowly waking from its sedated daze, the result of the mind fighting the heart.

Singles is out now.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

EP Review: Inning, D.C. Party Machine

When Evan Frolov studied abroad in Germany during high school, he lived in a town called Inning. Despite knowing German and the locals knowing English, he found himself lacking someone close to speak with on a deeper level, as conversations with those around him tended to continuously hover on the surface, void of intimacy or vulnerability. Frustrated, he turned to music for solace, and found himself suddenly paying far more attention to verse than ever before, closely analyzing lyrical content as well as why they were especially effective in soothing his frustrations, and, in the case of the music he subjected himself to, they managed to do so without indulging in needless metaphor or existential themes.

Ironically, in doing this Frolov ended up having that deep, emotional conversation he craved with another so intensely with himself instead, leading to his own creative pursuits when he returned back home. While it was during this experience abroad where he truly realized the power of lyrical narrative – and what inspired him to begin crafting his own – it was ultimately the looming desire to make sense of his continued experiences as a college junior entering adulthood where he ultimately had the opportunity to bring this newfound skill into play. Through this fervid interaction of inspiration and intent – as well as a few friends to rehearse with – finally came Inning’s stunning debut EP, D.C. Party Machine.

After discussing the album with Frolov, which he explained was about self-identity, adulthood, and love at twenty, I had a strong feeling – especially after listening to the EP numerous times – that conveying the latter, this highly specific, self-titled subset of love “at twenty,” was the most crucial in this release, despite listing it last in the email. After all, the album itself is organized to simulate falling in love, touching on everything from locking eyes to wistful introspection after the fact, with each track representing a different, but incredibly specific aspect of the experiences in between. As far as sound goes, Frolov mentioned that he started inning with something particular in mind, something with the haziness and warmth of Beach House mixed with the lyrical directness of The National. While the songs on D.C.PM more or less tend to be what he initially envisioned, an incredibly unique aura takes over them at the same time, perhaps the result of Frolov letting more of his own emotions and thoughts bleed through into their lyrical narratives, rather than merely creating what he thought others might like to hear.

In this regard, the album begins with “D.C. Party Machine,” a quirky ballad on falling in love with yourself before falling in love with anyone else. Written after interning in Washington D.C., the track has Frolov slowly growing accustomed to working as a young adult, while at the same time going to parties in which he suddenly found himself having access. The heavy guitars, while minimal at the start, soon become lush and colorful as Frolov takes advantage of the latter half of his situation, exclaiming to no one in particular “I love D.C.!” after the rush of meeting someone that night. The guitars inflate along with his ego, then come down again with the bright, nostalgic solo that stretches towards the end, hopeful and youthful, but also with an overarching, unshakeable naivety. However, the best part of this album is the fact that Frolov is incredibly self-aware in his writing, and “Feels Like It Did” sounds like a warning to himself to not get carried away with infatuation so quickly. The textured guitars, with the same cadence and pacing as a pounding heartbeat, try to fight his hazy vocals anyways, but ultimately fall victim his internal psyche telling him he’s been down this path before. What results is beautiful tension, a flawless auditory representation of the head and the heart’s perpetual battle.

It is here where the album takes a turn in terms of sound. Whereas the first two tracks were minimal and punk-inspired, the last three take more after dream pop and shoegaze, as they touch on, according to Frolov, the “uncertainty and anxiety about love.” And true to form, with “Expensive Flights” everything suddenly becomes heavier, the instrumentals swirling into each other to create a thick, impenetrable fog of self-doubt. Though it is written in his ex-girlfriend’s perspective, it’s hard not to imagine Frolov feeling the same way, especially with the pressures and frustrations of maintaining a long distance relationship. Fittingly, it sounds overwhelming towards the bridge, as they remember all the specific things they like about each other but not having the means or immediate opportunity to express them. Amidst all the uncertainty, however, a phrase is repeated throughout, one that sticks out beautifully amidst all the noise: “I miss you like hell.” Closer “Philly Nice” is introspective and incredibly honest, as it follows Frolov coming to terms with people that have left, as well as the people he’s let go. He finds himself lamenting (“I’m afraid if I lose you/ I might lose a part of me too”) but never wallows – the instrumentals don’t let him, maintaining their composure. The overarching ego that reared its head at the start has dwindled to the size of a penny. He admits “I’ll always love you,” but in in a voice confident in his own ability to move on, to take what he’s learned from every failed relationship.

Inning is at their best, however, when Frolov completely and irrevocably gives into the power of his own vulnerability, and despite its brevity, it is for precisely this reason “Glow !” remains the magnum opus of D.C. Party Machine. A dream pop track in the purest sense, it’s warm and encapsulating, with enamored, luxurious swells of guitar that radiate upon each strum. It’s almost as if Frolov is singing from within a potent hallucination of his own doing, falling deeper and deeper into the dream-state with every specific detail he remembers about the one he’s enchanted with. He reassures this faceless, nameless entity: “even when you’re not around/ you still are here.” Though we know how it will inevitably end, there’s something soothing about being in this brief moment, reminded of what love, even infatuation, can be at its very best.

If you’re familiar at all with the poetry of William Blake, you’ll know that he was known for two collections – Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience. While I am aware this miiiight be an audacious reach, there was something specific about the pacing and organization of D.C. Party Machine that reminded me of some sort of amalgamation of the two. Taking the feelings of youth and following it up with the nature of emerging adulthood, Frolov, in his direct, yet impassioned writing style, has managed to not only capture their specific feelings and situations, but to do so in a way completely self-aware of what also has the potential to come next, almost as if, like Blake, he stands at a safe distance while making sense of everything before jumping back in again. Regardless of my own presumptuous literary comparisons, Inning is still a remarkably versatile, honest, and, most importantly, thoughtful musical project, housing an aura that can only grow more impenetrable as time goes on.

9.0/10

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photo courtesy of artist

Teen Ravine – “Hall of Horrors”

After sharing it late last year, this week Toronto dream pop duo Teen Ravine have released the music video for “Hall of Horrors,” the first track off their upcoming debut album. The album, described by members Nick Rose and Dan Griffin “as an exploration of physical and emotional alienation,” introduces these themes in the first track, composed of both light and heavy instrumental elements to create a potent aura of melancholy. Lush orchestrals, chimes, and soft guitar strums intertwine with a deep underlying bassline, individual rivers that all seem to converge into the deep ocean that is the bridge – where everything suddenly gets heavier seemingly both physically and emotionally. But it is the hazy, half-desperate, half-spellbound vocals that truly separates Teen Ravine from the rest, bordering on everything from impassioned to tired to haunting in the flick of a wrist. Perhaps the multi-faceted nature of the vocals comes from the track’s lyrical narrative, which deals with wanting to escape the past but not without being reminded of it every step of the way – hence the “hall of horrors,” a fun-house carnival attraction without the reward of the exit sign.

Teen Ravine:

In this song, we tried to capture the disoriented feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and not knowing where you are. Struggling to fall back asleep as your mind wanders to uncomfortable places. Feeling lost and reaching out for someone who’s no longer there. 

We live in a noisy world and it can be hard to find intimacy and compassion. It’s easy to emotionally detach and drift along aimlessly, a passenger in your own life. We wanted to create music for people to sink into themselves as they float in a warm bath staring down at their own weird naked body.

Teen Ravine will release their debut self-titled album on October 18th.

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Tennis – “I Miss That Feeling”

Earlier this year, Tennis released their stunning fourth full-length album Yours Conditionally, a breezy, pastel-tinged recollection of husband-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s relationship as well as Moore’s own inner thoughts and emotions on being her own person despite being attached to another. “I Miss That Feeling,” the second single from Tennis’s upcoming EP We Can Die Happy, is a beautiful continuation of Moore’s vocal gift – which, here, sounds more beautifully fragile and delicate as ever – as well as Riley’s dreamy, yet expertly focused guitar melodies. Moore’s underlying piano evokes the subtle dexterity and delicacy of Tobias Jesso Jr., emulating that soft, hazy 70’s vibe flawlessly. Riley, in turn, dances around her via his calculated guitar swells – if you’ve ever seen them live, the image of him swaying to her every word as if in a trance definitely comes to mind. With this track, Moore also holds onto her title as the queen of rhyme – where else but in a Tennis song could you half-rhyme “every little thing starts trembling” and “needle of an EKG” and still manage to get away with it?

We Can Die Happy will be released on 11/10.

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photo via noisey

Garbanotas Bosistas – “Last Summer’s Day”

Lithuanian indie quartet Garbanotas Bosistas have released their first new track in two years, following the previously released psychedelic debut album Above Us as well as their sparse, minimal debut EP Venera. The dreamy, experimental “Last Summer’s Day” – the first taste of their upcoming sophomore album – bids a bittersweet farewell to the warm season, with soft, almost warm pastel synth swells and a beautifully nostalgic narrative courtesy of vocalist Šarukas Joneikis. Lyrically, it both romanticizes and fights the feelings of wanting to stay in that warmth, Joneikis lamenting “Lord, I really need to get moving on,” his voice lingering with each word that escapes his lips. The instrumentals, slow and saccharine sweet at the beginning, are perfectly in step with the vocals like a waltz, only to condense and explode in a cacophony of sound, a last hurrah both passionate and reverential in nature.

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photo courtesy of artist

Winston Surfshirt – “Same Same”

Last Friday, Syndey-based six-piece Winston Surfshirt released their debut album Sponge Cake. The album expands further on their unique aesthetic, which can only be described as the energy of  hip-hop married to the mellow vibes of dream pop and chillwave. The bizarre combination of these two genres surprisingly makes for highly textured, complex tracks, sometimes even unpredictable in nature. “Same Same,” one of the standout tracks on the new album, begins with bouncy, phaser-like synth, yet also incorporates elements of funk and jazz, the hazy, breathy vocals acting like the glue that holds everything together. In a moment of reflection, he explains acapella that “you can be my fantasy/ changing places with reality” before solidifying that desire with a potent burst of sound that maintains its fervid, bubbling energy to the very end.

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photo courtesy of niche productions

The fin. – “Pale Blue”

Based on their three stunning EPs, Kobe, Japan-based trio The fin. seem to have mastered the delicate art of balancing the genres of synth-pop, chillwave, and dream-pop to the point of creating something multi-faceted, unpredictable, and most importantly, effortlessly gorgeous. Their newest batch of singles from their upcoming fourth EP includes “Pale Blue,” an ambient masterpiece that mimics the lucidity and calm of wading in cool, clear water and walking until its to your shoulders, with frontman Yuto Uchino’s soft, assuring vocals as your guide to the unknown. Psychedelic synth swells and phases in and out of existence, guitars chime in with gauzy riffs, and metallic effects round everything out, leaving you to float happily in the waves of sound, without a care in the world.

Also make sure to check out their most recent single “Heat,” a sparse, yet mesmerizing, surreal track that flawlessly mimics its namesake.

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Alvvays – “In Undertow”

Back in 2014, Toronto-based indie quartet Alvvays released their self-titled debut album, its jaunty, complex tracks like the comical, yet heartfelt “Archie, Marry Me,” and the edgy, emotional “Party Police” flawlessly expressing their own quirky, colorful brand of dream pop laced with shoegaze, surf rock, and everything in between. Now, three years later, the group is back with the first single from their upcoming sophomore album Antisocialities. “In Undertow,” evocative of shoegaze, is definitely heavier and more delicate than their past work, the most different being the softer vocals from Molly Rankin. It’s mellow and simple, with a stoic tone that only expands as the track plays on.

Antisocialities will be released on September 8th.

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photo by Arden Wray