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
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ALASKAALASKA – “Familiar Ways”

Last week, London-based experimental art-pop group ALASKAALASKA released their self-titled debut EP, featuring four unique, highly evocative tracks. Instead of flowing in one straight line from beginning to end, they stand on their own, addressing different ideas and emotions.. Our favorite, “Familiar Ways,” starts slow and unassuming, but lays down the foundations for the crescendo of sound at the closing – dissonant, almost punk-like guitar clashes, saxophone blares, and the seamless vocals that manage to stay in line with the off-kilter, yet jaunty instrumentals that surround it on every side.

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: Alvvays – Antisocialites

Through nostalgic, lo-fi dream pop and insanely clever lyrical wit, Alvvays’s self-titled debut album mostly explored the many details and nuances of a two-person relationship, touching on the serious as well as the more jocund. Though built on an aggressive and striking foundation, the debut still evoked the sun-drenched, bubbly mood of retro pop, as well as included unique instrumental flourishes to add moments of delicacy, the amalgamation of its contrasting tones of hard and soft being Molly Rankin’s breathy, and at times, beautifully dreary vocals. Following their signature style of hiding dark, visceral lyrics under the facade of bright, shimmering instrumentals, Alvvays’s sophomore album Antisocialites doesn’t stray too far from the path they’ve paved, but does change its lyrical tone. Mostly gone are the narratives that touch on dependence on another’s touch; instead, the Toronto four-piece explores the ideas of separation and escapism, at the same time fleshing out their jangly, colorful sound, resulting in a saccharine sweet, yet remarkably tenacious collection of tracks without the sugar crash.

The 60’s are still very much alive within Alvvays’s music, but the way in which they alter its components to fit their particular aesthetic almost seems like a parody on the genre itself; the fact that such somber topics lurk underneath shiny, bright instrumentals (see: the drowning of a loved one in the peppy tune “Next Of Kin” on Alvvays) is a brilliant reconstruction of a period of time where the music always seemed just a little too happy. Regardless, the ways in which they do evoke the style are wonderful – Kerri MacLellan’s fuzzy day-glo piano that introduces opener “In Undertow” beautifully swells and grows to provide ample room for Rankin’s velvet smooth voice and accompanying bass line to grab you by the shoulders and pull you into their world. The almost eerie doo-wop of “Not My Baby” house murky instrumentals and Rankin’s sinuous vocals weave around them, the flourishes of synth shimmering just underneath the surface, the bridge evoking a glimmering, refulgent light hovering under a pellucid body of water. “Plimsoll Punks” is more upbeat, cut up into equal moments of unrest and clarity, rebelliousness and frustration. Apparently, the track is about Rankin’s frustrations with being in the public eye and resisting the idea of authenticity in music, leading to the idea that we’re all just “punks” underneath our civilized disguises.

The most wonderful aspect of Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley’s lyrical narratives is the fact that they feel lost in time – they’re relatable to almost anyone, regardless of generation. Even though they have the tendency to occasionally reference items and ideas that irrevocably belong in the past (“Archie, Marry Me”’s mention of breadmakers, for instance), the seamless way it sits within the rest of the track only adds to their immense lyrical charm, which is even more pronounced in Antisocialites. “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” reverts back to the the atmosphere of pinstriped, sherbet serving dance parlors of the 60’s, is one of the most effervescent, Rankin seemingly interrupting her own ebullient tone in her mile-a-minute vocals. “In Undertow” has Rankin exploring the feelings of doubt and insecurity in a relationship, but without really caring if they resolve it or not – the fact that she asks him “rhetorically” if they can be saved as well as the repeated epiphany of “there’s no turning back” during the chorus and the breakdown points to a woman that wishes to explore isolation for a while. “Dreams Tonite” is the experience of seeing someone you once thought you knew perfectly in a completely different light, its hazy, delicate tone making it one of the most earnest, unpretentious tracks in Alvvays’s career. “Not My Baby” provides a moment of epiphany for Rankin, where she explains that she “traded [her] rose colored shades for a wide lens,” focusing on more realistic ideas that include retreating back into her own subconscious instead of voicing her thoughts aloud in the past.

It’s true that Rankin spends more time emphasizing the feelings of separation, escapism, and isolation in this album – seemingly in that exact order – but the last two tracks gradually introduce another character, close to Alvvays’s infamous marriage-hating, alimony fearing “Archie.” in “Saved By A Waif,” Rankin criticizes a faceless “Adrian” among surf guitar and bombastic drums, claiming he “wanted to get it together” but doesn’t, and has no plans to do so in the future. And Rankin won’t wait for him either, apparently. However, it’s clear that Rankin still has a soft spot for whoever it was she was trying to cast aside for ninety percent of the album, because closer “Forget About Life” has her inviting him back to forget about their troubles for a while “under this flickering light,” going back to the youthful excursions introduced in the debut – images of sitting alone with someone that knew you well, drinking awful wine and talking deep into the night, but you can’t help feeling that the relationship that once was has since dwindled, resulting in a bittersweet, nostalgic tone that feels agonizingly tangible for those that can relate all too well.

If Alvvays‘s pragmatic, yet still carefree approach was made up of primary colors, the softness of everything in Antisocialites point to something more pastel in appearance – but don’t attribute the candy like color palette to something without substance; despite its initial sugary sensation, its earnest, unyielding aftertaste houses something fervid and tireless, something that can only continue to grow in strength as Alvvays continues to enhance their unique, unparalleled sound.

8.0/10

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photo by Arden Wray

Mons Vi – “Divina”

Brooklyn based indie group Mons Vi have returned with “Divina,” the newest addition to their unique repertoire, spanning everything from soft bedroom pop to alternative rock. They’ve released quite a few tracks over the past year or so, but “Divina” is the first to stray from their already versatile aesthetic, with bright, clean guitar plucks, textured effects, and a vocal exchange between vocalists Matthew Hershoff and Adrianne Gonzalez in both English and Spanish. Although it seems to be an argument about the anguish in their relationship, ironically, the moment their voices intertwine, it becomes less hostile and more enchanting.

 

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photo by Derek Jay

Slum Sociable – “Don’t Come Back Another 100 Times”

Edward Quinn and Miller Upchurch, also known as Aussie duo Slum Sociable, have returned with the lo-fi, color-tinged ballad “Don’t Come Back Another 100 Times,” following their previously released stunner “Name Call” as well as their fantastic 2015 EP TQ. The new track takes advantage of its slower, more lethargic tone to fit in layers of decadent synth and hazy vocals, as well as a nostalgic narrative, introspective and wonderfully self-indulgent according to the duo, yet still incredibly malleable and universal.

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photo courtesy of artist

Leo Kalyan – “Versailles”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been immersed in soft, electronic R&B, and thankfully, Leo Kalyan has escorted me back into the haze. The London based singer-songwriter released his debut EP Silver Linings in 2015 and his second Outside In last year, containing the soft, vulnerable track “Fucked Up” as well as the most sparse, yet delicate reimagining of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” I’ve ever heard. His flinty, reverberated voice shines once again in his newest single “Versailles,” along with more multi-dimensional bursts of synth and and soft twangy effects. He compares his beloved to the Gardens of Versailles – a meticulously designed and maintained botanical entrance to the Chateau de Versailles in France – and, fittingly regards them as absolute perfection. The track pulses and sways so beautifully it’s hard not to nod along, his voice a constant reminder that it’s okay to succumb to aesthetic beauty every now and again.

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photo by Maximillian Hetherington

Mac DeMarco – “This Old Dog”

The fact that Mac DeMarco released not one, but two tracks supposedly out of nowhere yesterday was incredible for me considering I’ve been on a huge binge lately; I finally received the vinyl of 2 that I ordered weeks ago, as well as the fact that I’ve had “Treat Her Better” as well as the rest of Salad Days on repeat for the past month. There’s something about DeMarco’s delightfully lethargic croon and the simultaneous honesty, sensitivity, and humor in his lyrics that just seems right at the moment, and thankfully the news of his upcoming album This Old Dog means that there will soon be more of him to love. The title track, released along with companion “My Old Man,” has the artist even softer and more straightforward, with a quiet, uncomplicated melody that creates ample room for the fluttering waves of guitar in the chorus, acting like an excitable, pulsating heartbeat. Of course, the goofy, easily likable persona is still there, but judging by the calm beauty of Another One as well as these two new tracks, there’s a calmer, more introspective part of him that still deserves further exploration.

This Old Dog will be released on May 5th.

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photo by Coley Brown

The Jungle Giants – “Feel The Way I Do”

Australian quartet The Jungle Giants have released the first single from their upcoming third full length album, the follow up to 2015’s Speakerzoid. “Feel The Way I Do” is a perfect amalgamation of the quirky instrumentals of their past repertoire along with new sharp, metallic synth effects and frontman Sam Hales’s piercing, powerful vocals. The result of this newly assumed sound, changing from pure, bubbly pop to something grittier, is a remarkably addictive, danceable beat, where the group’s same quirkiness, now sleek, focused, and balanced, becomes a valuable asset.

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photo courtesy of artist

Year in Review: The 10 Best Songs of 2016

This year was an emotional one, and music seemed like the only place to truly express that emotion.  Artists and songwriters were brave, bold, and brash, choosing not to limit themselves in passion or tenacity, placing importance in honesty and vulnerability rather than wasting energy trying to suppress it. For 2016, we chose our list of tracks, as well as our list of albums, based on the idea that indulging in your heart is often times more rewarding than solely listening to the thoughts in your mind.

10. Men I Trust – “Lauren”

The simple, yet mesmerizing bassline that introduces “Lauren,” the gorgeous single from Quebec quartet Men I Trust, is the element that secured it a sure spot on our list. It repeats itself and reverberates throughout the track, providing a thick backbone to the contrasting voices of Odile and Emma, vocalists found by founding members Jessy Caron and Dragos Chiriac. The result is a nostalgic, hauntingly beautiful sound, one that we’re hoping will expand into a full length album in 2017.

photo courtesy of artist

9. Von Sell – “Names”

Back in October, Brooklyn artist David Von Sell released his absolutely stunning self-titled debut EP (which, consequently, will also be on our list for the best albums of the year). Most of the seven tracks that appear on the EP were shared beforehand as singles, with “Names” being the last before the full release. “Names” follows the same aesthetic as the other tracks, including the use of strong, shuddering synth and bold, complex instrumentals. However, it was the pre-chorus of the track that had us coming back, where Von Sell’s crystal clear voice floats on top of a meticulous piano melody. It’s a breathtaking moment in the song as well as the entire EP, and solidified, at least for us, Von Sell’s intense skill and finesse as an electronic artist.

photo by Jen Maler

8. Japanese Breakfast – “Everybody Wants to Love You”

Michelle Zauner’s newest release as Japanese Breakfast was the highly emotional album Psychopomp, dedicated to her late mother. “Everybody Wants to Love You,” one of the early singles from the album, feels out of place at first listen, due to its jaunty, upbeat nature as well as Zauner’s bright vocals. However, when listening to the track again with a more focused ear, it further represents Psychopomp’s major themes of both grief and elation; especially when paired with the video, which has Zauner enjoying a day out on the town while wearing her mother’s hanbok, which she wore to her wedding. With the colorful guitar riffs and quirky lyrics that make up this beautiful song, its clear Zauner wanted to celebrate her mother’s life rather than mourn her death, and, given its short duration, becomes a moment of pure sunshine in the album.

photo by Phobymo

7. Mitski – “Fireworks”

Mitski’s deeply personal album Puberty 2 explored the natures of happiness and sadness both individually and simultaneously, further analyzing what it means for them to exist in almost perfect harmony. The songwriting was like a knife to the gut, but also felt completely necessary, as Mitski’s soft voice soothed and healed the wound. “Fireworks” was one of the most raw and passionate tracks from the album – with Mitski giving one of the most beautiful vocal performances in the entirety of the album – with the lyrics unapologetic in the way they deal with the natures of depression and insecurity. The track, narrating the life of someone so depressed they forget how to feel, contains some of the most somber lyrics, but yet the song sounds commanding and powerful in its instrumentals, communicating the moment its time to deal with your past.

photo by Ebru Yildiz

6. Porches – “Car”

Every time we come across this single from Pool, Aaron Maine’s debut album as Porches, we are charmed by the subtle way it builds from a simple, glittering guitar riff to a multi-faceted masterpiece in a mere two and a half minutes. True to the album’s name, the track comes in waves, simulating the feeling of being submerged by sound. Maine and his band add their parts as the song rolls on, including sparse drums, ethereal vocal backing, and layers of subtle, yet arresting synth. Maine’s voice also builds in strength up to the end of the chorus, where he slowly and delicately exhales the last few notes in a gorgeous release of pressure.

photo by Jessica Lehrman

5. Pillar Point – “Dove”

“Dove” might be one of the most stunning songs to exist in Scott Reitherman’s career as Pillar Point, mainly due to its simultaneous power and intricacy. His masterful manipulation of synth is heard throughout the entirety of his brilliant sophomore album Marble Mouth, and it’s especially impressive and elastic in the house track “Dove,” as it swells and shrinks, oscillating freely between elation and melancholy. Reitherman’s voice is an omniscient entity in the track, swerving beautifully through his complex instrumentals, whether it exists as the main narrative voice or part of the underlying rhythm. The lyrics are equally stunning, with Reitherman delicately reminding us that “without love/ you’re just a stupefied dove.”

photo courtesy of artist

4. Night Moves – “Alabama”

John Pelant’s voice is absolutely magical, and no other track made us realize that more than Night Moves’ fervent ballad “Alabama,” taken from their sophomore album Pennied Days. Pelant switches seamlessly from a gorgeously shrill falsetto to a thick, brooding drawl without so much as a breath, and then switches back to falsetto again, all while surrounded on every side by shimmering country-psych instrumentals. He compares himself to an animal in a cage, and the one he loves as his tamer, commenting on her unparalleled beauty and his inability to process anything other than his desire for her. The raw energy and unrelenting passion that exists in this track is so potent and animated that it’s almost tangible, and the story Pelant conveys through his lyrics makes it a love song for the ages.

photo courtesy of domino records

3. Frank Ocean – “Ivy”

I bought the entirety of Frank Ocean’s third full-length album Blonde solely based on the first few seconds of “Ivy,” hoping to experience the last five years of obsession and anguish devoted fans went through for myself in a mere five days. After finishing the album, I kept coming back to “Ivy” due to the delicate subtlety I heard in Ocean’s somber, pained voice, as well as the nostalgic feeling for a life I never had. Deeply weathered by the frustrations of love and desire, but refusing to fail, Ocean paints a sheer coat on top of an already broken, chipped foundation, heard in the track as the eerily bouncy, wavering guitar plucks. It embraces Ocean’s “boys don’t cry” theme of Blonde, as it doesn’t shy away from emotion and sensitivity, and he apologizes, yearns, and screams that he and his beloved aren’t “kids no more,” and should have learned how to deal with heartbreak by now.

photo courtesy of artist/npr

2. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”

Will Toledo’s brilliant songwriting is seen and heard throughout the entirety of Teens of Denial, his first record for Matador under the title Car Seat Headrest. He’s a storyteller more than anything else, with each of his emotional, deeply personal songs coming from a place of extreme honesty. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is the stand out track from the album due to its mercurial nature; including everything from a falsetto drenched introduction, pained, soul baring interludes, and aggressive instrumentals pierced with pleading, yearning vocals claiming that “it doesn’t have to be like this.” Much like the rest of Teens of Denial, it’s incredibly self-aware, and completely indicative of Toledo’s intense talent as an artist.

photo by Cecilia Corsano-Leopizzi

1. Whitney – “No Woman”

When I visited Canada this past summer, “No Woman” was, by far, the one song I indulged in the most while I was there. I blasted it through my headphones on the plane, played it in the car for my relatives in the early mornings while driving through thick, melancholy fog and majestic emerald green pines, and listened to it in my room at our little rental house while prepping myself to go out for the afternoon to the little shops and restaurants that lined the waterfront. However, it was during a car ride one evening while we were there that I finally broke down, due to the simultaneous beauty of what I was listening to as well as what was right in front of my eyes. The introductory swell of piano and soft, nostalgic guitar strums provide cushion for Julian Ehrlich’s beautifully shrill, piercing voice, and the layers of drums, violins, and brass instrumentals all build on top of each other with divine timing, ending with a crescendo of absolute power. However, it was Max Kakacek’s absolutely stunning guitar solo that caused so much emotion, as I felt it along with the accompanying lyrics narrating the journey to embrace the unknown.  Not only does Whitney encourage you to find beauty in melancholy, but ultimately, allows you to  feel secure in your own loneliness, even when surrounded by mountains and trees.

photo by Laura Harvey

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Tim Darcy – “Tall Glass Of Water”

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we are massive fans of the Montreal art-punk quartet Ought, fronted by singer/songwriter Tim Darcy. Their songs that appear throughout their debut More Than Any Other Day and their sophomore Sun Coming Down convey tension and unrest in true punk fashion, although with a more refined, intellectual nature that shows through in the lyrics, commenting on everything from borderline existentialism to the mundane nature of everyday life. Darcy’s anxious, yelping, mile-a-minute vocals provide the main character for the music, and Ought definitely wouldn’t be the same without them. Recently, Darcy announced that he will release a solo album next year, and, perhaps sensing the inevitable unrest, also released the first single along with the news to quell the burning anticipation. “Tall Glass Of Water,” while having punk tendencies, leans more towards indie rock in it’s heavy, balanced guitar melodies, but Darcy’s signature croon still hovers above, with his lyrics both asking and answering questions about his own abilities to muster on and understand himself as an artist (“If at the end of the river, there is more river, would you dare to swim again?” Surely I will stay, and I am not afraid / I went under once, I’ll go under once again”). These sorts of musings come complimentary with the singer/songwriter, it seems, regardless of what name or group he releases them under. However, rather than only bathe them in tension and angst, there’s also a sense of peace in his conveying himself, which makes the track all the more satisfying.

Darcy’s debut album Saturday Night will be released February 17th.

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photo courtesy of artist