Premiere: Mid March – “Long Coats”

I love music that’s deceptive and insidious despite its immediate appearance, songs and albums that are able to seamlessly hide its creator’s disappointed observations of the world inside a tightly bound, focused bundle of bright instrumentals so that it still sounds euphoric and light. It’s a heavy dose of sarcasm at its best, it’s most artistic – it’s an impressive skill to be able to disguise anger and frustration as notes so eloquently. Declan McKenna did it four years ago with his famous track “Brazil,” in which he criticized the state of corruption within the sports organization FIFA – and now, 16 year old California based musician Natalie Han is doing the same with her stunning new track “Long Coats.” Calling McKenna her biggest inspiration, Han nevertheless beautifully succeeds in putting her own gorgeous, unique spin on her incredibly infectious jangle pop creations – which she writes, records, and produces entirely on her own – but not without the little slab of reality served on the side:

“Long Coats” is about teenage insecurity stemming from the media and the normalization of violence. When I first began writing it, I was focused more on the insecurities that many people my age deal with, but then I decided to make it more broad. Since the world is more connected than it has ever been, we are able to see beautiful people who make us question our own appearances, witness devastating war in other countries, and watch shootings happen across the country. We see the world as it is, the best parts and the worst parts which brings up the question, “Is it really such a surprise that so many people deal with anxiety disorders and other issues?”

Aside from Han’s absolutely stunning guitar melodies that both open and perpetually lie underneath her soft, equally elastic vocals, the additional beauty in the track also lies in how quickly and seamlessly she replaces it with supersonic, near-futuristic synth at the chorus – it’s as if she pulls you down from the shimmering mirage for a moment to point out the wasteland that lives below it, a hollowed out section for her to convey her thoughts on media’s role in the emotional desensitization of youth (“numb to the sight/ of pain and of the fights… now look on the news/ there has to be a death or two/ bombs gas happening fast/ dear god all on broadcast”). It’s unfortunately so easy these days to tune out just how heavy and unfortunate things are in the world at the moment, but if it ultimately takes a pop song to get people to notice and take action against injustice, no matter how subtly, then “Long Coats” just might one of those tracks to do it.

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photo courtesy of artist
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Review: Vansire, Angel Youth (KWAV Revisited Series)

For the past four years I’ve followed a rather strange rule with this blog that if the release date for a particular album precedes the time that I come across it by more than a month, I won’t write about it, even if I enjoy it. It’s a stunted way of thinking that I most likely adopted when first learning how to run a blog and how incredibly continuous and relentless the music world really is for everyone involved – how it truly doesn’t wait for anyone, how one week elapsed after an particular album’s release honestly feels more like ten now that we’re in the terrifyingly greedy age of the internet. This then weirdly led to an internal fear more than anything – I always had the thought that no one would want to read what I had to say about something that was released so long ago, when both professional critics as well as devoted fans have already had a go at it.

But I’ve realized – especially over this past year, where I’ve taken more time to dive just a little deeper into the world of independent music and simply spend more time writing and researching – that this is, quite frankly, an incredibly stupid, nonsensical rule, one that essentially defeats the purpose of keeping a music blog in the first place. The purpose of kid with a vinyl ultimately isn’t to show off my writing or to blindly go with the ebb and flow of the ongoing music timeline for the purpose of ensuring that I have a place within it. Ultimately, and I hope this will always be the case, the purpose of this blog at the end of the day is to try, to the best of my ability, to help showcase and support those independent bands and artists that truly deserve to be recognized for their continuous hard work and the art they create as a direct result of it – and, considering art is perpetual and everlasting, it shouldn’t matter when it’s put on display, especially when the messages conveyed within it are still incredibly relevant, still able to bring a sense of calm to whoever’s listening – which, honestly, is what all the albums that will eventually be in this series have been for me: a source of peace. I’m not at all a perfect writer and I still have so, so much to learn – about everything, really – but I truly hope I’ve stuck to this promise for all the artists that have been featured on KWAV thus far.

I’ve been wanting to do this series for a while now, and every so often I find myself adding to the growing list of albums currently on the back burner – albums that have either grown on me since they were first released, those that I simply missed the first time around, or those that I’ve found actually have extensive backstories and narratives that deserve a longer review than the one I’ve already posted. So why not just start now?

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I’ve chosen Vansire’s April release Angel Youth to start off the series mainly because it’s been on my mind ever since they released their newest single “That I Miss You” last month, which is also admittedly how I found out about the Minnesota dream pop duo in the first place. What I didn’t fully realize about the single at the time was how incredibly different in tone it was from both this full length as well as the EP that preceded it by a year, nor was I aware of the fact that members Sam Winemiller and Josh Augustin have actually had this project for more than three. No, as time went by since first hearing it, I couldn’t stand to only talk about this individual track when it was ultimately borne from the trials and tribulations of creating these two albums, the result of their consistent, focused collaboration – and, now that I’ve taken the time to listen to Angel Youth in full over the past few weeks, I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautifully complex and thoughtful albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.

I’ve always been a person that pays attention to the way artists choose to structure their track listings in order to give their listeners the best possible experience, and part of the initial overall beauty of Angel Youth is that it more than takes this into consideration – it possesses a remarkable sense of fluidity, a beautifully subtle electric current coursing through its seventeen tracks despite the inclusion of so many different techniques and styles, including everything from bedroom pop to jazz (the trumpet solo in “KW” from Kyle Matthees is not to be missed), even at times minimalist compositions any Steve Reich fan would immediately fall in love with. None fight viciously for your attention – instead they work together seamlessly, emitting a sense of peace and quiescence even in its most complex, emotional moments, impressive considering the duo recorded, mixed, and mastered everything on their own (with the exception of Winemiller’s brother Issac on bass for a handful of tracks) in just under a year. 

It’s also interesting to note how about half of the album features another artist in some way: this includes “Nice To See You Again,” an expansive, atmospheric duet featuring gorgeous additional vocals from Felicia Sekundiak of FLOOR CRY, the short, sweet fever dream “Précis,” which features stunning, echoed vocals from Aaron Powell of Fog Lake, as well as the sharp, jagged R&B stunner “Star Catcher,” featuring confident, piercing verses from Chester Watson. However, I admit that it is “Lonely Zone” – featuring Mellow Fellow, Ruru, and Paul Cherry –  that remains my favorite in this particular category, mainly due to its remarkable production and use of texture during each contributors part, endlessly swirling equal amounts of infatuation and desperation, the desire to act but also with self-consciousness to hesitate each time.

Ultimately, however, Winemiller and Augustin are at their very best when they work to each other’s strengths, to the point where they act as one fluid body: the textured, lo-fi openers “Reflection Nos. 3 & 4” and “Synth Man” work where you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins – the former perhaps acting as a dual continuation of EP The Rolling, Driftless North as well as an attempt at bridging the gap between dream pop and synth for the tracks to come, the last couplet of the latter, in hindsight, feeling remarkably like a thesis statement for the album: “A cryptic message/ On how your heart feels/ ‘Cause sometimes the art heals.”

In this vein, with the deeper listens over the past few weeks, Angel Youth became, for me at least, a testament on the more vulnerable parts of the human condition: how we respond when we’re truly alone with our incessant thoughts,  how we process our own pains differently, choosing to find solace in other people as well as the creative mediums of music, film, and art, perhaps the latter more than the former for a certain few. A delicate mix of vivid imagery and deep introspection, the continuous narrative is expressed through Augustin’s highly evocative, truly brilliant songwriting, something that I referred to as an “intellectual’s dream” in my previous post on Vansire. I still stand by that statement wholeheartedly, with nearly every track on Angel Youth a direct example of it, both in word choice, references, and phrasing alike. Unfortunately, I can’t discuss them all here, unless you’d like this article to never end, but I can, however, strongly and eagerly urge you to listen all the way through while reading them at least once.

For my English degree I once studied the concept of the “romantic outsider” finding solace in literature and art – a realm where he also finds a place within and becomes successful – but nevertheless still remains detached from the world, disappointed in its unforgiving, impatient nature, its vanity and materialism. I keep coming back to singles “Halcyon Age” as well as the title track due to this very idea, tracks where I feel Augustin is at his most genuine, somehow simultaneously expelling and absorbing both enamored and self-conscious observations of himself as well as the world in which he exists. “Halcyon Age” has Augustin discussing the work of a few musical icons – beloved Texas musician Daniel Johnston as well as 20th century composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen – in relation to his own work as a musician, further explaining how he perhaps often times lacks a sense of validation for his work as well as being misunderstood for it, leading to a painful sense of disillusionment (“Does that mean it’s done in vain/ If no one really cares/ I’m back to acting strange”), admitting in a stark tone before glimmering synth and bouncy, playful guitar melodies that “I guess it’s what happens when the music’s a respite/ the world is so appalling and you come to detest it.” It’s something I really related with as a writer, attempting to perpetually find beauty in things even when they’re painful and representative of how unfair the world really is.

But it is the absolutely stunning “Brown Study” that I feel truly stands apart from the rest due to Augustin’s attempt to slyly and subtly distance himself from this pure intellect for just a moment, instead choosing to simply and completely indulge in his own melancholy – fitting, given the name of the track, which refers to a moment of thought so intense and realized that you begin to lose sense of the world around you, and ironically, by extension both logic and reason. This comes out especially well in perhaps one of my favorite stanzas in the entirety of the album, where he delivers a perfectly rhymed monologue on the brink of dissolving into his own thoughts, succumbing to the less organized feelings of infatuation: “Pardon my semantics/ It’s somewhat pedantic/ But your outline against the Atlantic/ Well it’s idyllic and highly romantic.” The synth glimmers and shines, the guitar consistent and unyielding in order to support his yearning desires.

Admittedly, I could probably sit here for days trying to fully understand this album, but I have this sharp, piercing feeling in my side that I never will, at least not completely. However, there is something inexplicable about this album that truly brings me a sense of peace despite this realization, on another level the strong feeling that maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone in my perpetual love and inclination towards the idea and experience of emotion, of attempting to make sense of myself, the world, of life, even if, especially if, that means experiencing it at its most complex moments.

10/10

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photo courtesy of artist

Foliage – “Take Your Time, I Don’t Mind”

Foliage, also known as nineteen year old San Bernardino based musician Manuel Joseph Walker, self-released his third full length album back in April, a collection of irresistible jangle and surf pop gems that, true to the word, all individually seem to glimmer and shine a different way each time they’re played. Though all its components – entirely recorded, mixed, and mastered by Walker himself – all play a part in his overall sound, its the textured, scintillating energy of his perpetually underlying guitar melodies that truly set him apart, with the stunning track “Take Your Time, I Don’t Mind” showcasing it at some of its most beautiful, enchanting moments. It dives, bobs, and weaves with remarkable precision, somehow both feather light and piercingly sharp at the same time, mingling with the percussions and synths flawlessly. Walker’s vocals, falling in line with the narrative, border on everything from slight annoyance to complete infatuation, a deep croon only to later turn into a sky-high falsetto. There are moments within the album that remind me of jangle pop past, even at times emulating 90’s artists the Smiths (especially with the album’s other stunner “Value”), but with the level of thought and care that Walker has so clearly placed in the creation of this album as well as the time put in over the past three years, I think its safe to say that its become a sound that’s completely his own.

Foliage’s third album III, since its initial release, has now been pressed to vinyl after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign – so, in true kid with a vinyl fashion, why not purchase a physical copy?

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urbanation – “Shouldn’t You Be Doing Something Too?”

When you first listen to Urbanation’s newest single, you probably wouldn’t immediately think that it’s a brief existential shout into the void, that the lo-fi, echoed swirls of guitar and enamored vocal tone are actually working together to constantly portray a calm, carefree facade, always attempting to be a step ahead of the fear and anxiety that follows closely behind. Part of the upcoming EP from California based artist Bianca Ocampo, the track also makes use of her intensely self-aware, emotional narratives, at times incredibly intimate, almost like a diary entry we happened to stumble upon, one we aren’t sure we should be reading but can’t help feeling empathy for as we do  – her previous track “Bitter Pill” was a dark, yet incredibly soft waltz-like ballad about the remorseful period of a breakup, written during a highly emotional point in her life where she felt entirely alone, inside her own head far too often. Like “Bitter Pill,” “Shouldn’t You Be Doing Something Too?” was written, recorded, and produced entirely by Ocampo herself, in between going to school and work. In fact, that constant struggle to balance everything while also thinking about future goals and plans is what inspired the track in the first place:

“’Shouldn’t you be doing something too?’ is something I would find myself asking myself a lot, especially comparing myself to other people i know who seem to have their life together more than I do, and about how I’m constantly reminded that life doesn’t get easier and sooner or later I’ll have to find a way to pay the bills, and although it’s an exciting time for others, it’s pretty scary to me. Although it’s a light song, it’s about a source of anxiety, so putting it into a song makes it easier for me to cope with it! I think it’s important to remember that no one really knows what they’re doing especially at this age.”

Ocampo tells herself halfway through the flourishes of guitar and perpetual percussions to “maybe get your act together/ It’s a cold cold world out there,” a harsh reminder that give the crystalline chimes that come afterward an altered tone of nervousness rather than the feeling of tranquility it once had. Her vocals, gorgeously swelled, just out of focus, now seem to have a fringe of sadness sewn to them, growing heavier with every realization of responsibility she has, ultimately reminding herself that “just cause you push it out your head/ doesn’t mean it’s not there.” While her aim really isn’t to make sad songs, creating something that someone going through the same thing can relate with is incredibly necessary, especially if that means getting others into creating as well:

“I’ve always made music for pleasure and I genuinely enjoy the process of writing, playing, editing and learning, and seeing something I made slowly come together. I don’t really see myself as a huge influencer, but if there’s one goal I have for my music it would be to push representation for Filipino artists. I’m inspired by folks like Mellow Fellow, Michael Seyer, Eyedress and Jess Connelly who are all Filipino/Filipino-American artists and are changing the game for talented and hard-working poc musicians. I’m really proud of my heritage. We’re great and I feel like the world should know.”

Ocampo is currently working on her debut EP, set for release sometime in the near future.

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photo courtesy of artist

Colin Caulfield – “Looking For Revenge”

I’ve been a huge fan of Colin Caulfield ever since stumbling across his solo project Young Man back in 2014, where I first heard his beautiful track “Fate.” The short little blip I wrote about it was one of the very first posts I ever did for this blog, and I remember being so incredibly excited that I had found something so unique, so thoughtful and complex in its composition. I remember being so mesmerized by the pulsating waves of color within the music video as well as the spellbound, atmospheric instrumentals and the evocative lyrics that hovered above – but honestly, it was the perpetually focused, yet entranced look in Caulfield’s eyes as he conveyed all these gorgeous elements that ultimately made it all the more unforgettable to me. I fell in love with his EP Boy as well as his stunning album Beyond Was All Around Me, chock full of enchanting, meticulous guitar and introspective lyrics touching on fear and anxiety for the future. What I didn’t realize at the time that it was actually his last release as Young Man – soon after, Caulfield joined the dreamy rock group DIIV as their keyboardist, where he’s been since 2013. Fortunately, he never stopped his solo endeavors, returning earlier this year with “Bullshit,” and now he’s back again with “Looking For Revenge,” offering a different, yet still absolutely unique and irresistible sound after all these years. Caulfield subtly compares the state of the world today to a strained romantic relationship, “feeling paranoid” that “everybody’s asking for too much” and giving too little. Despite his disappointments, everything about the track from the muted guitar and synth effects to the cheerful whistling in between verses evoke a cool, soothing breeze, his vocals transforming from indifferent to impassioned just as the last chorus hits. It’s addicting and euphoric in a slightly ironic, humorous way (especially given the video that accompanies it), but shows just how versatile Caulfield really is – I cannot wait to see what he releases next.

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half•alive – “Still Feel”

The stunning video that accompanies half•alive’s newest track “Still Feel” is absolutely perfect for the uplifting message of “hope in hopelessness” they wish to convey through its lyrics and textured indie funk instrumentals – incredibly addicting too, considering I watched it about ten times or so before finally sitting down to write this. Shot in one take, the video features a seamless mix of both retro and contemporary dance moves from frontman Josh Taylor as well as band members and backup dancers alike, fluid and continuous, complete with costume changes fitting of the 70’s inspired melodies. The energy comes from the deep, unrelenting bassline as well as Taylor’s passionate vocals, perpetually building in order to deliver a piercing message of self-reliance, explaining “I can feel a kick down in my soul/ and its pulling me back to earth to let me know/ I am not a slave, can’t be contained” before unleashing his euphoric chorus. It’s at one moment a funk track, driven by the bassline, then it smuggles in a crescendo of synth to transform it into an electronic track, only for the cycle to repeat again, keeping the listener on their toes. The best part of the video by far is the initially unpredictable, visually arresting use of lighting set in perfect timing with the choreography, each new color that washes over the empty warehouse seeming to introduce an entirely new mood – yellowed orange, bright fuchsia, lavender, ice blue – all somehow matching its corresponding lyrical verse in tone. It’s a step and a leap from their debut EP, showcasing more of their varied skill set, more of what they’re truly capable of outside the world of pure pop. So do yourself a favor and fall deep into half•alive’s new and improved exhilarating world – its one that you’ll find yourself never wanting to leave.

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Mini EP Review: Daniel Shibuya, Overboard

The couplet that begins Daniel Shibuya’s “Summer Boredom” exists as a reassuring moment of solidarity for all late teens – and, honestly, early twenty-somethings – still trying to figure out who they are in the world. He tells us, a statement piercing and borderline existential despite being shrouded in wobbly, supersonic synth and bright, carefree guitar jangles, that “we don’t know anything at all/ I’m just as lost as you inside,” the whole track – as well as the rest of the nineteen year old’s newly released Overboard EP – existing as a charming concoction of moods and feelings that, when blended together, seem to portray the entire, tumultuous experience of youth teetering on the brink of its eventual evolution into adulthood.

It’s an aesthetic not unlike Shibuya’s main inspirations of Rex Orange County and Brockhampton, fellow indie artists who, more than anything, I feel, first strive to be real and honest with themselves as well as their fans, while at the same time offering remarkable instrumental and vocal work, which Shibuya mixed and mastered entirely on his own. But along with these deeper moments of introspection, Shibuya (or Shibbs, to his friends) mentioned that he wanted to keep some moments of genuine fun on this album – one of those being the upbeat, textured two parter “Nice Guys/ Drowning” (the second part of which houses a surreal, atmospheric moment of introspection where it seems as if Shibuya is shouting into the void at warp speed)  as well as the humorous bedroom pop “Phone Calls,” a lighthearted satire on modern dating featuring additional vocals and ad-libs from friend Chloe Maniss. In fact, most of the EP features collaboration from his friends, including meticulous guitar work and solos from Maxwell Cantrell as well as vocals from Mike Meraki. One of the best results of this particular collaboration is the closer and title track, something that Shibuya calls the “realest” on the EP in terms of substance:

“This song was just me spraying out my honest thoughts and mess ups from my life. I wanted the vibes to have a beach feel – because the name of the EP is called Overboard – and because I feel like life is like a journey at sea. Sometimes you can’t always see your destination – all you can see is ocean.”

After a jumbled, lo-fi opening, Shibuya asks “can I speak?” before beginning his pitched-down, crystal clear, loaded stream of consciousness, every so often accompanied by the triple flash of bright synth, almost as if simulating the highway street lamps on a lonely night drive, weaving in and out of the car interior. Shibuya seamlessly attaches additional falsetto background vocals, combining forces with Meraki in the second verse to deliver an incredibly introspective narrative touching on everything from bouts of intense self-awareness (“I know I’m talkin’ crazy/ but I’m probably crazy too”) to much realer confessions towards the beginning ( “and if I’m being honest/ I think I’ve been depressed for the last two years of my life”). And yet despite all this, there’s again a more concentrated message of solidarity between his fellow peers going through the same thing.

Some of my favorite music videos throughout the years have been the ones that were homemade. I’m sure you know the ones I mean – hours of footage shot on various different cameras, featuring the band or artist playing gigs, working in their studio, or usually just hanging out with their friends. And this is exactly the case for “Bipolar,” where you not only see Shibuya as well as the people closest to him, but where you can also hear little snippets of them talking over each other towards end of the track, consisting of a bunch of voice memos and inside jokes that he recorded over the past year. In many ways, it’s the perfect video to summarize an EP not only about the constant, overwhelming feelings of responsibility and the desire to get back to a place of self-discipline in spite of it, but also dedicated to those that unconditionally love, help, and support you along the way.

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Hosannas – “In All Ways Sun”

I feel like one of the best ways to describe Picture Him Protecting You – also known as the stunning new album from Portland-based brothers Rico and Brandon Laws – is to refer to it as a beautifully surreal, picturesque dreamscape, the perpetual chance for everything and anything to happen within its ten absolutely gorgeous tracks sitting on the sidelines. It’s a menagerie of indie, electronic, and psychedelic rock as well as all its subgenres, incredibly heavy in the sentiment it conveys yet still managing to be weightless in its overall tone, despite the sheer mass of colorful synths and effects they layer on top of each other. And while this is the case for many of the songs appearing on the album, they all seem to converge the most beautifully on “In All Ways Sun,” mainly due to the bright, textured synth that opens it – it’s rapid and scintillating like enamored, fluttering heartbeats, the vocals that hover on the surface enchanted by the very words it conveys, stretched out over the rest like a stretched out body in the sunlight. Towards the middle, both instrumentals and vocals deepen and darken, adding brass and percussion in aggressive waves, distortion branching out from it like bolts of electricity. It feels like a homage to another universe’s erratic weather patterns, a journey to an unforgiving expanse of texture that ultimately rewards curiosity.

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photo by Cara Robbins

TEEN RAVINE – “Bad Dream”

The newest single from Toronto dream pop duo Teen Ravine starts out suddenly but confidently, the vocals lovesick and heavy. Later, this becomes ironic considering what they are ultimately sacrificing themselves to – the inviting kiss of melancholy, the beckoning call of sentimentality. It’s something that will also be the thesis of their upcoming self-titled debut album, which also seems to be inspired by a set of highly specific images thought up by members Nick Rose and Dan Griffin:

“It’s about seeking comfort and pleasure in sadness. The familiar warmth of our obsessions. Momentarily inviting your depression to creep into your consciousness for a quick visit, and then getting frustrated when it overstays its welcome and eats all your leftovers. Going against your better judgement and picking at a scab instead of letting it heal. Not being able to turn your brain off at night, letting memories distort and consume you.”

Despite exploring the themes of “emotional alienation”- namely, the act of desiring and fearing intimacy simultaneously – while also being inspired by the bedroom pop recordings of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, “Bad Dream” sounds soft and inviting, almost like the feeling of being enveloped, ensconced in pastel tinged synth and glimmering chimes. But then again, their music has always had that intimate feeling, one I’m glad is finally getting the full album it deserves.

Teen Ravine will be released on August 31st.

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: SALES, Forever & Ever

If you ever ask me what DIY means in the context of indie music, I’ll make you listen to SALES every single time. They’re DIY epitomized – self recording, mixing, mastering, and releasing everything they’ve ever created for the past five years from their home in Orlando, specializing in breezy, minimal compositions sounding so effortlessly intimate its almost as if they’re always in the same room as you when you listen. The stand alone singles the duo have released this year in anticipation for their sophomore album Forever & Ever have slightly differed in tone from their debut self titled LP – and finally with the release of it they’ve truly now become even more hushed and delicate than ever, swapping out their signature, full palette of bright colors with swatches of blues and greys.

Although you can find an undercurrent of playfulness embedded somewhere within its ten tracks, its almost as if it’s purposely deep and subdued, not without an almost palpable sense of hesitation at the same time. I’ve always felt that their music does in fact exude the very essence of the human condition in the context of how we deal with anxiety, simultaneously capturing the clashing feelings of excitement and fear, hope and dread, contentment and sadness. Yet there’s also quite an enormous power in that vulnerability, and in the case of this album, it seems to also express composure as an unintended side-effect due to the sheer mass of everything it must strive to keep in control – something in which Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih have always had immense experience. Everything sounds clean and focused despite the surge of melancholy that serves as the foundation of each track, appearing in various levels and concentrations – “You Look Well” is practically drenched in lovesick sentiment, “Spiral” is jumpy and lively with a captive energy within the instrumentals, and “Off and On” lies somewhere in between, all seeming to comment on the nature of unrequited – as well as lost and detached – ideas of love as well as the general feelings of wistfulness, expressed in a hyperactive sense of self-awareness: Morgan drives the entirety of “Moon Dogs” with an acoustic-esque teary-eyed guitar melody, heavy and sleepy, as she lies awake at night, “thinking of better times/ And places I’m missing now” after receiving a drunk call from a past lover; and the ending of “All These Things” has her softly reminding herself og all the things she’s done for others that have supposedly never been reciprocated  – “always on time for yuh/ Making it right for yuh/ never in spite of yuh/ Losing my mind for yuh” – and yet, despite her heart’s urge to oscillate and ricochet within her chest, she still manages to stay within the little haze made by the bursts of Shih’s drum machine and her guitar plucks.

Yes, the beauty of the album does lie in the way it ultimately holds its shape despite the weight of its personal and emotional lyrical narratives, but what ultimately gives Forever & Ever that gorgeous edge are the rare times where Morgan allows herself to break away from those signature breathy, muted vocals to instead deliver something louder and more pronounced, almost as if succumbing to the emotion she spent so much time attempting to conceal. The vocals in “White Jeans” remain stoic and streamlined despite the flirtatious lyrics (“you come on to me/ at a pool party/ this is not a test/ this is not a dream/ take your hand and breathe”), as if attempting to fight the feelings of infatuation that come complimentary – that is, until the chorus, where it, seemingly unwillingly, raises in pitch on the last phrase as she begs this faceless persona “turn me around and around and around and around,” the instrumentals seeming to swell and spiral in response in playful rhythm.

I rarely write about an artist’s album artwork, but there’s something about Forever & Ever’s that’s perfect – a photo taped haphazardly onto a ripped out piece of notebook paper, the title scrawled out in pen underneath. Like the collage-like nature of their debut, it alludes to the way in which their albums are organized – offering up its pieces for you to arrange into a picture that makes sense to you, or for you to isolate and treasure on their own. 

8.0/10

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photo courtesy of artist