Matty – “Nothing, Yet”

Even though it might sound hazy and untroubled due to its chillwave and synth pop leanings, the debut solo album from BADBADNOTGOOD’s Matthew Tavares is an incredibly vulnerable, personal work, with evidence of pain, heartache, and the process towards eventual, albeit intense self-healing in just about every single one of its lyrical narratives. It’s also not completely clear from the enamored instrumentals that make up “Nothing, Yet” that the rest of Déjàvu is a project three years in the making as well as the result of Tavares’s self-described mental breakdown, which he explained on social media:

I felt completely defeated by life and constantly at odds with a voice in my head that could only scream negative things at me or predict the worst possible outcomes…I finished my touring obligations and subsequently started working non stop on music, which I felt was my only outlet to mental recovery. I realized that art is a laboratory for facing that negative inner voice in a controlled environment.

It is the moments within the track where Matty switches from self-criticism to honest vulnerability, where that same lush, iridescent orchestral melody changes to muted pastels, that ultimately induce chills – his voice, hazy, delicate, but sincere and fearlessly direct, tells us outright that “before I die I want a world of/ connections/ but I’m too afraid of always being/ rejected,” his voice entering that second falsetto breathlessly, seamlessly as if being slowly relieved of the weight on his shoulders as he sings. Not long afterwards, he introduces the full palette once again in the form of an avant-garde, Beatles-esque orchestral interlude, but now it sounds sensitive, fragile, even hopeful underneath all the gauze. Although it comes from a place of emotional and mental strife, the album is, ultimately, a beautiful example of what can result from working towards some kind of peace within yourself, as well as a chance for others going through similar hardships to feel less alone.

Déjàvu is out now.

Photo by Matthew Tavares
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Ginger Root – “Having Fun”

Ginger Root has truly been one of our favorite musical discoveries of the year, which is mainly due to the way Cameron Lew manages to seamlessly blend together the sounds of ’60’s and ’70’s soul with modern day flourishes, as well as poetic, yet empathetic narratives and feelings. Judging from his first three singles – including the soft, delicate stunner “Jeanie” – his upcoming sophomore LP Mahjong Room should follow suit in expressing something both nostalgic and immediate, and “Having Fun,” the latest tease, only furthers that sentiment. The heavy piano and percussion sway in a perpetual waltz all while Lew’s voice switches from an almost whisper to a jagged croon at the flick of a wrist, both growing in power as the track plays on. His narrative touches on nearly everything from determination to hesitation, at first secure in his thoughts but later asking “Haven’t I shared too much of one thing?/ Haven’t I paired us with the wrong thing?” Ultimately, it ends as it began – sparse yet glimmering, minimal yet with a heavier sense of emotion that lingers unanswered. He’s through with making himself vulnerable, but also shies away from the chance to reconcile – he lives with “no worries, no laughs.”

Mahjong Room will be released on June 29th.

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photo courtesy of artist

Candy – “Hiding From The Sun”

The best thing about Candy – also known as Melbourne-based artist Calum Newton – is his wonderfully direct and unapologetic vocal style. It darts around the room like an angrily thrown bouncy ball, taking on and absorbing different textures and forms like a sonic shapeshifter as it hits each wall; it desperately begs in a raspy croon one moment, only to tilt his head back and sing la la las the next. At least, this is the case in his newest single “Hiding From The Sun,” a track that brilliantly blurs the lines of indie pop and post punk to the point of near total eradication of both. Though it sounds punchy and energetic, even euphoric with the addition of those short whimsical interludes, the lyrical narrative tells a completely different story, and the track becomes far more complex as a result. Throughout the track he’s constantly on edge, frustrated that the sun – a duplicitous being responsible for life but an unforgiving atmosphere physically – has quite literally shed light on his attempts to hide away from the world. Newton attempts to explain his frustrations further, but not without revealing the small amount of guilt secretly woven into them, explaining that “There’s no way to get away from your gaze/ ‘Cause I can’t look upon you without knowing that I’ve been hiding here for days.” Surrounded in barbed, sharpened guitar shards reminiscent to the beams of light piercing through his blinds, Newton reaches his limit, yelling out “I need peace,” craving empathy while cornered in his own room. The track as a whole remains an incredibly visceral and emotional testament to having the strength to not only face the world during moments of intense, painful vulnerability, but ultimately having the courage to face yourself at the same time – and  again, it’s this directness that makes Candy a force to be reckoned with.

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photo courtesy of artist

Wild Nothing – “Letting Go”

When Nocturne – Jack Tatum’s sophomore album as Wild Nothing – was released, I remember sitting in my room and practicing the guitar to “Shadow” over and over again until my fingers hurt. There’s still something euphoric and brilliant within those particular set of notes, the way they persevere throughout, piercing, bright as sunlight, through a heavy, meandering bassline and hazy, layered swaths of synth. It, along with the rest of the album, still remains as one of the greatest testaments to pop and nearly all of its adjacent varieties – dream, synth, what have you – as well as proves Tatum to be an innovator, through and through. And although his follow-up album Life of Pause was just that – a synth heavy, blatant pause from this unique, focused yet mellowed style in order to explore more modern (and retro) techniques – his newest release “Letting Go” from his upcoming album Indigo seems to return back to his tonally complex  roots, but also better melds together the two distinct vibes of his past discographies. Yes, there’s plenty of ’80’s inspired synth, but his voice is clearer, more self-aware and direct in the way he breaks down his own walls, looking us in the eyes and telling us “I wanna be happier now” with nothing but conviction in his. Triumphant, trumpet-like blares of synth and supersonic effects attach themselves to his voice, and as the song plays on we’re more inclined to believe him, taking his words to heart like a signed agreement placed before us.  Like that legendary guitar melody that still simultaneously jolts and calms me to this day, Tatum is once again exploring the concept of euphoria within his music while now at the same time embracing modern humanity, and the result is absolutely mesmerizing.

Indigo will be released on August 31st.

photo by Cara Robbins

The Beths – “Happy Unhappy”

Auckland four-piece The Beths recently announced the upcoming release of their debut album Future Me Hates Me, sharing both the gritty title track and, as of yesterday, the fast-paced, giddy, transparent single “Happy Unhappy,” showing off more of their warm, summery guitar-heavy sound. Reminiscent of indie pop contemporaries Alvvays, part of their overall charm lies in their remarkable and acerbic lyrical wit, as well as the way in which these darker, direct narratives are expertly shrouded in upbeat, shimmering instrumentals. In the midst of incredibly meticulous guitar melodies that always seem to be following along with her in perfect synchronization, singer Elizabeth Stokes switches from comical, near stream-of-consciousness verses (’cause you’re in my brain/ taking up space I need for/ remembering pins and to take out the bins/ and that one particular film that that actor was in”) to a far more vulnerable chorus all about a past relationship, desperately thinking out loud that “wish my heart were really made of stone” so she doesn’t have to keep pretending to be so emotionally indifferent all the time. Pretending not to care is exhausting – and emotionally straining – but when it’s surrounded on all sides by a warm, sun-kissed instrumental tone, ironically there’s instead an aura of confidence that’s louder and more prominent, eliminating any trace of timorousness.

Future Me Hates Me will be released on August 10th via Carpark Records.

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photo by Mason Fairey

Movie Brain – “Strychnine”

The unfortunate thing about toxic relationships is that they rarely ever seem toxic to begin with. Much like the incredibly lethal, insidious chemical strychnine – colorless and ultimately causing death from asphyxiation – the pain caused by these relationships can often appear harmless or invisible, even inviting at first, but soon the heartbeats get more terrifyingly frantic and rapid, leading to something suffocating rather than charming or comforting. Movie Brain, the dream pop project of Tennessee native Jonathan Sellers, explores this particular concept in their track of the same name, but, much like his past works, partly makes it a point to shroud the lyrical darkness in gorgeous, hazy swirls of synth and deep, soothing bass, his focused, yet impassioned vocals smothered in a thick blanket of reverb. Though he nearly falls back into his tortured thoughts towards the beginning (“Solace/ I’ve been looking for it daily/ Nobody calls me baby”), you can almost see him shaking his head and walking the other way, respectfully singing “so long/ loving you was strychnine/ poisoning my bloodflow/ poisoning my damn mind” with an imaginary wave of his hand. But most interesting is the way his vocals remain soft, completely free of contempt or malevolence, a genuine realization of both parties’ mistakes rather than a blatant attack on their individual personalities. He even succeeds in giving it that wonderfully cinematic, far away quality, which also fittingly appears throughout the rest of his upcoming album Fernweh, named after the German term for “farsickness:”

“This album is, to me, a process of healing, celebration of love, and the grief that comes with loss…Fernweh is a German word that literally means ‘Far-sickness’ or longing for far off places. Longing for another place far off, or even just the idea. Fernweh the album is about realizing how short life is, and loving, losing, and becoming aware of everything that goes on around you. But in contrast, it’s about taking the time that we have and using it for good, for change or for love or for whatever we want!”

The album is ultimately a product of intense heartache and strife, and it shows once you dive a little deeper. And although Sellers mentioned that he’s slightly taken aback whenever others point out how emotional his music can be under the disguise of shimmers and glimmers, it’s this humanity, this honesty, this directness perpetually and permanently embedded in his compositions, that keeps his version of dream pop genuine, the vulnerability that makes it strong.

Fernweh will be released on June 18th.

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photo by Goldie Paris

Alfred Hall – “Since I Saw You”

I’m fully aware that this miiiiight be too much information, but forgive me because I’m going to share it anyways. Back in February, I was the most sick I had ever been in my entire life – I’m talking severe bronchitis that required a prescribed inhaler, aches and pains to the point of insomnia, even partial deafness in both of my ears that lasted for two full weeks afterwards – and it was near impossible for me to do anything, especially listen to music (which was incredibly torturous for me given my obligations here). For whatever reason, however, I remember that one of the only songs that I could physically take during that time was “Pearl Diver,” the first single that was to be Norwegian indie duo Alfred Hall’s now released sophomore album. Sure, yes, I had written about it just a few days prior, but there was something more to it, something incredibly special that drew my eyes towards it. Maybe it was Bjorn Tveit’s soothing vocals shrouded in sun-kissed synth, or perhaps it was Hans Thomas Kiær’s infectious (no pun intended) guitar melodies, or maybe it was the lyrical narrative of perseverance in the face of intense hardship and heartache. Whatever it was, it allowed for a few moments of peace before returning to my head splitting migraine. Thankfully, I’m completely back to normal now, but upon hearing the album in full, I’m pleased to say that they’re still offering up music that can practically double as a medicinal salve – title track “Since I Saw You” centers around a scintillating guitar melody that bursts forward in waves directly after the chorus, mysterious and inviting, sounding almost like the sounds of something ancient, something frayed in the most precious of ways. You hear it once, and greedily your ears want to hear it again and again, and thankfully, the duo is more than happy to oblige, fading out into the distance rather than stopping completely – that guitar melody could be perpetually be endless if you’d like it to be.

Since I Saw You is out now – go give it a listen or two.

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Photo by Pernille Wangsmo

Dayglow – “False Direction”

About a week before officially releasing it today, Fort Worth group Dayglow actually released “False Direction,” but it was an alternate version called “‘False Direction’ but you’re hiding in the bathroom during prom.” And, just like the title implies, it was a muffled, out of focus version of the pure indie pop track he released just a few hours ago, hilariously before the classic prom track “Get Low” by the Yin Yang Twins, save for the sound of footsteps leaving the event at the end. Given the fact that Sloan Struble – who fronts Dayglow and records everything on his own – is still currently in high school, this particular version was wonderful, reminding everyone of his remarkable production skills despite his youth. Honestly, the “from another room” phenomenon that has been so popular over the past year or so is one so ingenious and brilliant to me that I might need to write an academic paper on it, considering the fact that it can replicate such a nostalgic, surreal feeling so accurately. Regardless, the official version of “False Direction,” like their stunning debut single “Can I Call You Tonight?” once again shows Struble as a highly precocious, skilled musician, once again delivering a clean, crisp summer indie pop gem that gets better with every listen. Though everything is arranged beautifully, with slightly off-kilter, uniquely unpredictable guitar bursts and synth shimmers, the best parts of the track are when Struble’s crystalline vocals are slightly isolated, only accompanied by soft, gentle guitar strums, bursting through your speakers and enveloping the room in steady waves. The instrumentals reverberate directly afterwards, alive and breathing right along with him, filled to the brim with youthful, yet focused energy. I honestly cannot say enough wonderful things about Dayglow – they’re the next best pop band, I can just feel it.

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photo courtesy of artist

Kevin Krauter – “Suddenly”

Kevin Krauter’s debut EP Changes came out during my last semester in college. I remember coming back to my dorm room and practically collapsing from an especially draining literary modernism class, not even bothering to wash my face or turn the lights on. I slumped down at my desk and put “Fantasy Theme” on repeat for the next ten minutes, watching the blue-tinged light filter through my window, staring at the dust particles mingle and dance within the beams. I sat there and thought about nearly everything, about the fact that I was about to graduate in less than two weeks, about what I was going to do afterwards, about fear and sadness and anxiety – simultaneously letting his voice escape from my phone speakers and fall delicately onto the floor, letting some of the guitar melodies sink into my skin, the pure poetry that exist as the lyrics permanently carving out a spot in my brain to call home. To this day I honestly haven’t heard a song more delicate, more intimate than that one, and in that moment, I really, really needed to hear it. The way he blends so many specific feelings into one single song is close to masterful, and thankfully, we’ll hear nine more in less than two weeks when he releases Toss Up, his debut full-length. While Changes embraced bossa nova and americana far more, Toss Up is not without its own specific auras, Krauter choosing to evoke the likes of ‘60’s flower pop, ‘70’s easy listening (as heard in one of the first singles “Keep Falling in Love”), ‘80’s new wave, ‘90’s alt-radio, and ‘00’s indie rock. “Suddenly,” the last and final single in anticipation for the release, shows off a slower, smoother side, but, considering we’re dealing with Krauter, also maintains his intricate compositions, evoking the feelings of peaceful introspection:

“A lot of the songs are about solitude in a very healthy sense, about trying to make it something useful and productive. It was good to center myself in that experience. I was able to get to a place where I was not afraid to be really stoked by what I was doing.”

Toss Up is out June 15th.

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photo by Alexa Viscius

Sobs – “Telltale Signs”

Singaporean indie trio Sobs make music that somehow brilliantly blends together the raw, brooding energy of post-punk and guitar rock with the soft delicacy of dream pop – it’s an amalgamation that I honestly didn’t think could exist in the first place, but oh boy, am I glad it does. Perhaps it has something to do with guitarist Jared Lim’s infatuation with ‘90’s guitar based indie pop and modern minimalism, artists like Beck and Frankie Cosmos, even Avril Lavigne. Perhaps it also has to do with the free, clean sound of lead singer Celine Autumn’s vocals that make it what it is, leaving the haziness solely for the subtle, underlying curves of the instrumentals. “Telltale Signs,” the title track to their upcoming debut album, is guitar heavy right off the bat, leading into a colorful expanse of sound right after a warped, distorted introduction. It mellows out for Autumn to deliver an impassioned lyrical narrative about meaning what you say, and saying what you mean. She yells in a flinty, sharpened croon that “I’m tired of feeling so confused/ Stop changing your mind,” even begging them to “break [her] heart,” braving the eventual heartbreak so that she’ll finally be free of the thoughts. The bass grows heavier, the guitar erupts into a powerful, unhinged solo that you need to hear to experience. According to the band, the upcoming album is “an ode to falling in and out of love, all in the heat of summer, and given the way the track melts and distorts itself while attempting to build itself up again, we’re inclined to believe them.

Telltale Signs will be released on June 22nd.

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photo by Chris Sim