Orchid Mantis – “Porch Song”

Earlier this year, Orchid Mantis released Kulla Sunset, a collection of tracks based on a memory of Thomas Howard’s from when he was younger. It begins and ends with him running through the fields of his grandparents’ yellow summer house in Sweden, trying to chase the slowly setting light of the sun through the tall grass, where the horses graze. It’s heavy with the feelings of curiosity and wonder with bits and pieces of introspection and wistfulness peppered in, and, perhaps more from the lovely tone of the anecdote, it also contains some level of ease, of certainty, in both its positive and negative connotations – negative in the thought that things, even the carefree feelings of childhood, must, at some point, come to a stopping point, but that, perhaps more importantly, there is also the chance for those positive memories to be replenished once again in your second form. Howard points to this in his upcoming full length album, a continuation of that same memory:

Last year, an emblem of my childhood, my grandparent’s yellow house in Sweden, was sold and repainted, forever altered. As if predestined, that same year my friends and significant other rented out a new yellow house – in physical terms, this is where I spent the last year writing and recording this album (and parts of the last), but in a larger sense, the yellow houses represent the synchronous, cyclical patterns the trajectories of our lives seem to adhere to: nothing is ever truly here, and nothing is ever truly gone – leaving and returning, reoccurring.”

This idea of cycles, unsurprisingly, translates particularly well into the haze of dream and bedroom pop, and “Porch Song” feels like the most ideal track to introduce the theme, existing as perfect little melancholic swirls of guitar and atmospheric pools of synth, breaking the perpetual melody only to deliver his passionate chorus: “What did you want to be/ eternal now/ After all this life/ I don’t know now.” His vocals melt into the fraying colors and textures of the instrumentals, but after each chorus the guitar always seems to end bright and strong, delicately teetering on the cusp of another beautiful cycle.

Yellow House is out November 11.

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Jerry Paper – “My God”

Jerry Paper is not who he seems. No, Jerry is not his real name, and get this: he’s apparently not even human. He’s an advanced entity using the body of twenty-eight year old Lucas Nathan as a musical host, paying homage to its homeland and graciously tagging all of its creations as “eleventh dimension pop.” This is, of course, if you take that as well as the other hidden hints in the liner notes of his various bandcamp releases seriously – “music and lyrics channeled through Lucas Nathan,” “special thanks to Lucas Nathan for donating his body to the cause,” “special thanks to Jerry’s host body, Lucas Nathan.”

These jokes, of course, do not take away from Nathan’s remarkable skill, nor his brilliantly written, ambitious lyrical narratives that touch on everything from religion to metaphysics to the occasional dystopian nursery rhyme (his 2016 album Toon Time Raw! is…an experience, to say the least). In fact, this penchant for humor within his comparably more meticulous, focused music – a tantalizing mixture of lounge music, psychedelic synth pop, and bossa nova – as well as his bizarrely clever music videos is ultimately what makes his music all the more charming, solidified by a wonderful article on Nathan by the FADER in 2014:

“He’s cloaking serious ideas in the midst of surrealist frivolity, like a spoonful of sugar to philosophy’s medicine. Other artists may fear not being taken seriously, but Nathan can’t imagine a world where his metaphysical pop tunes wouldn’t be infiltrated by mirthful runs of sub-Seinfeld slap bass. “There’s no point in not having fun with it,” he says. “It’s not even an option. It just seems like a false reflection of life.””

However, despite the vast aesthetic range of his past releases, Nathan recently explained that his upcoming full length Like A Baby – which will also be his first official release for Stone’s Throw Records – will most likely be the most “realized version of his fantasy” yet, partly due to how many people he got to help him with it – people like Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood, Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin on individual tracks, and Matty Tavares of BADBADNOTGOOD co-producing the entire album with him – and partly due to the jarring feeling of the period which it was created, in the aftermath of moving back to his native California after living in New York for the past decade. Despite the latter part of that statement, his first two tracks “Your Cocoon” and “Grey Area” are nevertheless crystal clear and near flawless in production, also emphasizing something not completely in the spotlight before – his smooth, rich voice. In fact, his voice is the main stunner in his latest tease “My God,” a humorous, yet somewhat too-true-to-life narrative on capitalism’s firm grasp on us, complete with the ability to follow you well into the afterlife.

Nathan tells his next of kin in-betwixt deep, brooding basslines to bury him “with receipts,” to “calculate the cost of [his] life down to a single cent” to make things easier for the entity sending him to his final resting place. The instrumentals swell and build, but his sarcasm still soars above them, explaining in a rich, honeyed croon that “when I cross through/ Those pearly gates/ I’ll toss all my paychecks/ At the feet of my God,” and that his minions will “add [his] net worth” to his checking account while they’re at it. The eerie, unsettling horn section that closes out the track acts almost like an ironic little serenade played by the cherubim, welcoming him into whatever version of the afterlife he’s imagined. Or, since the accompanying music video shows his papers being denied, he’s most likely going to have to start all over (hint hint).

Like A Baby will be released on October 12 via Stone’s Throw Records.

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photo by Joe Leavenworth/ Stone's Throw Records

Helena Deland – “Lean On You”

A few months ago, Montreal artist Helena Deland announced the release of her collection From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. III & IV, the five track follow up to Vol. I & II released back in March. The fact that these remarkably varied collections, which Deland explains exists as a “happy mix of different years and contexts,” don’t adhere to the traditional structure of a full length album works incredibly in her favor, considering each volume seems to be based on variations of the same general theme of attachment and the lack thereof  –  while I & II deal with “the feeling of being often completely lost in the company of others,” III & IV convey the feeling of “weaving in and out of relationships” but also about “wanting to be close with someone,” to hopefully stop all the aimless searching at some point. Her latest tease “Lean On You” is a direct extension of the latter idea, more specifically, as Deland explained to CBC, “about having a crush that you’re kind of resisting because you don’t want to surrender mental space” to it.” The poetic, introspective lyrics – “Why don’t we go mingle with the people?/ ‘Cause I don’t need/ I don’t need/ To lean on you” – act more like a reminder to herself rather than a stern reminder to the subject of her unexpected infatuation, and When mixed in with the languid drum beat and the heavy, hypnotic guitar strokes, her elastic voice, along with the floating oohs and ahhs, becomes the last part of this quick incantation, this makeshift ritual to keep herself from succumbing to the eventual heartache.

From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. III & IV will be released on October 19 via Luminelle Recordings.

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Ivy Sole – “Bones”

Much like the exposed bone that peeks out from the colorful flowers on the cover of her debut album Overgrown, Charlotte-born, Philadelphia-based rapper Ivy Sole doesn’t shy away from the darker side of both environmental and human nature in her verses, instead proving that vulnerability can also be gorgeous in its own way, indicative of the concept of eventual detachment but simultaneously in the chance to grow again, perhaps more beautifully than before. Sole has explained that Overgrown at its core is about love, and through its atmospheric, addictive beats, seems to convey just about every variation of the idea – platonic (“Bloom”), romantic (“Rollercoaster”), as well as a lovely track on self-love (“Achilles”) that we just can’t stop playing due to its bouncy, addictive beat. But it is ultimately the slower track “Bones” we keep coming back to, mainly due to the way it combines imagery from the darker parts of nature with the simultaneous feelings of love into one wonderful, fantastical mass, beginning with the bird songs that flood in after the first few seconds that later blossom into Sole’s poetic, introspective vocals. She explains that “one day our bones will feel the breeze/ and make a home for smaller beings,” replacing the dismal thought with one heavy in romantic sentiment directly afterwards: “If I’m lucky they might take me next to you.” It then erupts into a charming, feel-good love ballad that never falters in both its honesty or its soothing, calming energy, something that courses throughout the rest of Overgrown as well. The futuristic synth flourishes give the stable beat whimsy while the vocals float above, Sole’s repeated reassurance of “we don’t have to be alone, my love” growing more and more thoughtfully adamant each time its uttered.

Overgrown is out today.

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photo by Araba Ankuma

Her’s – “Blue Lips”

Liverpool duo Her’s creates some of the most unique, vintage inspired dream pop I’ve ever heard, and my infatuation with their music only seemed to amplify when they they released their absolutely beautiful sophomore album Invitation to Her’s late last month. Compared to their far moodier debut, the enamored collection of tracks plays luxuriously, with a more potent sense of immediacy despite all the details and flourishes. Despite Invitation’s obvious stunners “Harvey” and “Under Wraps” that showed off the brilliant collaboration between members Audun Laading and Stephen Fitzpatrick, I found myself perpetually drawn to the quirky outliers in between that seemed to show it off even more fantastically – namely, the short, glimmering ballad “Blue Lips.” Powered by a playful bassline, the track exists as a wonderful doo-wop waltz, with Fitzpatrick delivering what might be his best, most multi-faceted vocal performance to date, showing off everything in his repertoire, from lovesick croons to brooding drawls to falsetto flourishes. He oscillates between emphasizing his former lover’s emotional stoicism but missing her despite the fact, mentioning how he’ll always ironically miss her “cold kiss,” despite the pain she’s brought throughout the years. Yet it’s clear there’s also some mystery and esoteric facets within this same narrative, matching the overall heaviness and complexity within the track’s composition. It is – with absolutely no doubt in my mind – one of the best tracks of the year due to the unique tone it conveys, and I’m not going to stop listening to it, nor the album it came from, any time soon.

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photo by Neelam Khan Vela 

Newspeak – “Lake”

Everything about Tokyo indie rock quartet Newspeak screams color, energy, and perpetual exhilaration. After two EP releases as well as playing some of the biggest music festivals in Japan, their next wish is to go international, with a brand new mini album on the horizon in order to do just that. In fact, they told us that these aforementioned feelings of carefree frivolity will actually be the theme of this upcoming debut, where they wanted “listeners to feel like they enjoyed one day of a music festival from the morning till the evening,” to hopefully create an immersive experience unlike any other. Their latest tease “Lake” fits this description perfectly, with bouncy, varied instrumentals as well as an insanely catchy main melody that only seems to increase in tone and energy as the track goes on. As far as the lyrical narrative goes, frontman Rei was kind enough to fill us in:

“The song is about a guy struggling in life, but he later realizes that everything he sees is made up by human imagination. So he starts dreaming of getting out of the city and buying a house by a lake at the end of the day with his loved one.”

You can hear just about every emotion in his voice – brooding frustration in the verses, hope in the falsetto laden pre-chorus, euphoria in the addictive chorus – and remains the best part of the track for us, as it practically overflows with nothing but positive energy. The accompanying color saturated music video only amplifies their unique vivacity, driving home the message that you can truly change any part of your life at any point – and whether that means something as small as buying new toothpaste, or something as huge as moving across the country with the love of your life, it should always be approached with the same sense of exhilaration. And hopefully we’ll see the quartet play a U.S. festival sometime in the near future – they have everything to pull it off flawlessly.

Newspeak’s debut album, Out Of The Shrinking Habitat, will be released on October 3.

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Toast – “Tough”

Upon hearing the debut EP from Toast in full, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a project powered by deep surges of sentiment just as much as it is by synth. It all seems to come from a place of quiet, genuine introspection, the raw emotion that floods out from the vocals a distinct extension of it. Initially founded by best friends Claud Mintz and Joshua Mehling, Toast has now since become solely fronted by Mintz, who now does all the touring and recording since Mehling went back to school at Syracuse University, where they first met. “Tough” is the first new track since the self-titled EP was released back in August, and it just might be their most stunning yet in both instrumentation and vocals alike, with a charming music video as the perfect accompaniment. Mintz’s voice is a stunning, radiating presence within the thick walls of synth that surround the narrative, something that Mintz told us was “a letter to myself after a break up as encouragement to pick myself up,” and that it seemed to work – admitting “I’m not a tough one/ But I’m starting,” the glimmering, chime-like synth flourishes that detail the track from that point forward hinting at a newfound sense of confidence, a message that breaking up will always, always lead to the chance to build yourself up stronger than before. Towards the end of the track, those same walls wither away into nothing, finally allowing light into a previously darkened, closed off existence.

Toast’s debut EP is out now.

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photo by Aria Herbst

Grapetooth – “Red Wine”

Judging from the distinct variety of their first three singles, the upcoming self titled debut from Chicago duo Grapetooth will most likely be a wonderful grab bag of sound, composed of various amalgamations of genre and subgenre – synth pop mixed with off-kilter folk rock, post punk nestled inside the shell of ‘80’s new wave – as well as, more specifically in the case of the recently released “Red Wine,” cheeky, constant reminders of Chris Bailoni and Clay Frankel’s shared infatuation and fascination with a certain alcoholic beverage. The new tease has the friends and roommates take a step back from the raucous, boisterousness of their previous two singles and instead deliver an addictive, textured groove, powered by a consistent, electric guitar riff and bouncy synth details, vocals a deep, brooding drawl that sometimes turns soft. Their music truly is a shapeshifter at its core – just when you think it’ll stay static, in comes a meticulous synth melody, a deep, wobbly guitar solo, something to keep the listener guessing in the most wonderful of ways. 

The accompanying video for the track also adds to the duo’s penchant for unpredictability and quirkiness, their desire to go with the flow:

This video worked out the same way our first two did – we always wait ‘til it gets dark then go out with a camera, some weird lights, and a couple outfits and see what happens. This time we got a convertible and drove around the city. We come up with ideas on the spot when we’re shooting – less planning works in our favor – we’re super happy with it. Jackson [James] did an amazing job!

Grapetooth will be released on November 9 via Polyvinyl Records.

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photo by Alex Hupp

Alfie Templeman – “Orange Juice”

Alfie Templeman’s soundcloud bio gets straight to the point. He’s “got a gnarly guitar tone and a band named Ariel Days,” and quite frankly, both are incredibly true. In fact, the fifteen (yes, you read that right, fifteen) year old Bedfordshire artist has been fronting the blissfully surreal indie dream pop group Ariel Days for a while now, with a handful of summery, atmospheric tracks already out in the world as we speak. But it really was his solo work, and yes, namely that “gnarly” guitar tone in his single “Orange Juice” that caught my attention immediately, mainly because I was impressed on just how much varied texture and potent color he managed to fit inside a two minute track. Everything sounds wonderfully out of reach, but seems to intensely radiate power and presence, almost like the shadow of a large, hulking mass in the distance that succeeds in getting closer and closer with each second that passes. His vocals are out of reach in another way, existing as a passionate shout into the void adjacent to the pulsating synth and piercing guitar strikes. There’s an overall anxious, desperate energy that powers it all, with Templeman asking “where did you go?,” “will I ever know?” in a hazy, coarse gruff that changes into a croon every now and again. He even manages to fit in a meticulous, mesmerizing guitar solo to close everything out, channeling all that anxious energy into one final blaze of wordless sentiment. Brevity seems to be Templeman’s strong suit – he has the skill to back it up.

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Ricky Eat Acid – “My Angel Crying In The Rose Room”

I’ve noticed that I’ve always been a bit slow to immerse myself in purely ambient electronic music over the years, mainly because I’ve found that it makes me just a touch anxious. I’m not entirely sure why that is, though – perhaps ironically the lack of a specific lyrical narrative forces me to be hyper vigilant while listening to it (probably because I always like to know what it means to the artist personally rather than just merely let it wash over me), or perhaps I feel like there’s no one there to guide me through the darkness, the light, or the textures in between like a frontman does. Or honestly, maybe it’s simply because with these particular songs also comes an uneasiness, one that results from constant unpredictability.

But sometimes it takes the right artist to bring you out of this hesitation to listen to certain polarizing genres, and with me, I suppose that artist is Ricky Eat Acid. Ever since I started this blog I remember Maryland based artist Sam Ray being around, somehow always with a new release every other month or so. I remember when he released his full length Talk To You Soon back in 2016. But I honestly had never listened to his music until last month, when I stumbled across his most recent release “My Angel Crying In The Rose Room,” a incredibly short, but wonderfully surreal, blissful track with lush, gorgeous synth and pounding percussions. The track was wonderful, and in fact, its overall brevity was monumental in my infatuation with it – it was a brief moment of clarity, a gust of cold wind in an otherwise stuffy room. I went ahead and listened to his full length as well as his 2018 EP am i happy, singing_ and saw just how different they were from each other – “My Angel” was calm, luxurious, rich, albeit simultaneously carrying a melancholic heaviness, while “‘sitting in a diner’” was glitchy, disjointed, and nervous, almost restless in a way. I was surprised to see the message underneath “My Angel,” where Ray actually explains this:

“Over the years I’ve tried to turn my restlessness into a strength. I knew that it could be jarring or off-putting to some listeners, but I considered it necessary for me to remain innovative & passionate about my work. At a certain point, though, pushing yourself constantly out of your comfort zone becomes a crutch, and you have to confront yourself and think, ‘as an artist, what am I afraid of?’ I realized that the reason I hadn’t been able to make any music that felt passionate & “real” was because I was no longer allowing myself to. Rather than pushing myself towards some new truth, I was just pushing myself away from the sounds that I felt most deeply connected to. Within days of this stupid, stupid bit of soul-searching I started sketching out the ideas for two separate albums that now – months later – I feel are the two best works of my entire career & life.”

I feel like there’s always pressure for artists to venture out of their comfort zone in order to constantly deliver tonally complex and different work, but if Ray hadn’t taken the time to really connect with his own thoughts and desires, the next two albums from Ricky Eat Acid as well as “My Angel” – a track I’ve found myself listening to repeatedly over the past month due to the peace it’s brought – would probably never exist. Clearly, I’m a huge advocate for the comfort zone when it comes to matters of art and soul, but I’m glad I broke out of mine in time to hear what it is that makes Ricky Eat Acid so wonderful.

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