Nadnerb/Cool Dad - "Sweet Boys 2014"

Nadnerb/Cool Dad - Sweet Boys 2014
(Self-Released 2014)

"The greatest of statements is the understatement" is an aphorism I've often applied to my favorite lo-fi records, and it's an especially adept way of summing up the vibe of this particular split. Each of the Connecticut-based solo acts that share their space on Sweet Boys 2014 brings their own blend of minimalist garage rock to the table, but there's a single trait that bonds them together: simplicity. The whole album is brief, catchy and modest and no song overstays it welcome. Nadnerb and Cool Dad are frugal with their riffs, working each one to its full potential before the song's end. Cool Dad occupies the small overlap in the map of the lo-fi universe that houses the influence of Pavement and Blank Dogs. The power chords are guttural and chunky, complimenting wiry and slightly sour guitar leads. It's twee-pop at heart, but isn't afraid to employ a bit of punk-rock bite to get its point across. Nardnerb's aesthetic is a bit grungier, piling on the treble in the Dinosaur Jr-esque "Spells". "Slack Fresh" is a groovy surf-pop jam that wobbles and warbles like a Ducktails tune. Sweet Boys is chock-full of bummer-pop melancholia to get you through your autumn.


Brianna Kelly - "Return to Black Cotton Mountain"

Brianna Kelly – Return to Black Cotton Mountain
(2014 Self-Released)
Guest Review by Timothy "Treebeard" Adams

It's been said that Jesus has the best folk artists. This nine-track, mostly instrumental album is strong support for that statement. Hailing from the hollers of Northern Kentucky, but living in Cincinnati, Brianna Kelly has gained fans with her ethereal, lo-fi traditional folk with some tinges of bluegrass. This album (as of the writing of this review, only available only as “pay-what-you-want”) is beautiful, honest, life-affirming, and hits on a spiritual level that few artists do. Which includes that of times of pain and disillusionment along the journey, but without forsaking the path. I've spent a great deal of time listening to this album and consider it to be one of the best of the year. Skillful playing and songwriting, emotional honesty, and a lack of pretension are abundant. Even those with short attention spans won't find themselves skipping the instrumental tracks, which make sense in context and are very powerful. If you're someone who has been looking for spiritual music that's willing to express times where you just can't pray, then you need this. You absolutely need this. Stop what doing and download it. Now.


Sarrasine - "EP1"

Sarrasine - EP1

Though Argentinian quartet Sarrasine may proudly wear their 90's noise-pop influences on their sleeves, their untitled debut EP feels surprisingly original, and just might be one of the freshest (or at least most well-produced) bandcamp releases of the year. It's not exactly innovative, borrowing Dinosaur Jr's incisive brand of fuzz and the saccharine jangliness of The Field Mice. It instead builds off of the foundation laid by shoegazers and twee-popsters alike, making for a noisy, yet lovely effort that is astounding in its textural diversity and overall depth. Although the debut is just five tracks long, it still packs heaps of towering dream-pop riffage, all but one song lasting over 5 minutes. EP1 is a titanic, meticulously effort that could very well draw a cult following someday.

"Juniper" opens the album ominously, a sluggish bassline squirming against tinny snare hits. As the track creeps forward, a wave of hissing feedback slowly envelops the rhythm section, making a space for the track's piercing, anthemic refrain. Though the chorus itself is wordless, it's extremely powerful, towering against a bassy, minimal verse. The vocals on the track are gentle and tender, a male/female harmony that hearken back to the frail beauty of a Sarah Records single. The EP's centerpiece, however, is "Cloudy-ah", carried by blasts of industrial percussion, grainy synths and wobbly guitaristry. It's a perfect blend of punk and ethereal shoegaze, not unlike the blistering twee-pop churned out by Joanna Gruesome. Sarrasine's debut is a brief, beautiful hit of noise rock that begs for repeat listens. Give it a shot below.


Peaches Davenport - "THANK YOU JOB SQUAD"

peaches davenport - THANK YOU JOB SQUAD
(Self-Released 2014)

Though the album barely surpasses 22 minutes, Cole Wharton's debut effort under the pseudonym peaches davenport is an epic in its own right, an otherwordly work that claims possibly uncharted territory in the sphere of musical influence. There's certainly a cohesive aesthetic present throughout THANK YOU JOB SQUAD, it's just not one that's particularly classifiable. The album cover gives the listener a window into this reality. Wispy keyboards bookend the album, their tone a droney spin on the kitschy synths of an educational film meant to be shown in a physics classroom. They float lightly, but opaquely, they're dark clouds of ambient nothingness, reminding me of the Twin Peaks theme song, only more benign. There's no real sinister element to these pieces, composed solely of keyboard meditations and supplementary crackle. They just exist. They're atmospheric gases and the album inside is its own, weird little Edenic universe.

Though the album's instruments and elements of the songs themselves are pretty standard, I'm tempted to refer to THANK YOU JOB SQUAD as outsider art. There's meticulous, sometimes genius detail applied to the dizzying, offbeat energy that flows through the album. The arrangement of "Zounds! A Dog" is positively symphonic, the sort of care Kevin Barnes gives to each of his songs as of Montreal. Noise tracks like "Yoko" and "Ivan Hold Me" transition between the more accessible ones. The album is a surrealist dream that flows very well, but can be jarring in its obliqueness. The key to the album is "Dog Hair Sweatpants", a shambolic folk song that dances on a swaying rhythm, its brassy keyboards and breathy backing vocals making for a gorgeous and breezy tune that borders on bombast. If you respect the work of innovators like Dean Blunt and Sunset Rubdown, you'll fall head over heels for peaches davenport.


Danny Lango - "When You Are Not Resting"

Danny Lango - When You Are Not Resting
(2014 Kerchow)

For such a sparse and cozy album, it's surprising how much textural and rhythmic diversity is present in Danny Lango's latest tape offering, When You Are Not Resting. The Oklahoman singer-songwriter works in a tonal greyscale; his melancholy, droney arrangements loom ominously, just above the ground like a balloon nearly deflated. Despite the overcast climate that hangs over much of the album, it is home to a variety of textures. It feels organic and alive. Humid pulses of airy sound float aimlessly through a jungle of bustling percussion on the opening track, "Ten Killer". There's a sense of hushed urgency that pervades the track, reminding one of Yo La Tengo's skittish drone-pop delivery. While "Ten Killer" sets its focus on its intensely layered rhythm, a track like "Escape" feels much looser, calling gritty guitar chords to attention while a crunchy drum machine loops in the foggy distance. It has a certain wobbliness that reminds me of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, giving the tune charm and fleshing out the spacey atmosphere surrounding it. The album is constructed very meticulously, as each track bears a different focus and textural direction, yet the same cohesive mood sticks throughout. When it comes to hi-fi cassette music, When You Are Not Resting is an exemplary effort, bearing an otherworldly, slightly folky vibe that recalls the freak-folk whimsy of Woods and, at times, Wolf Parade's warbly, off-kilter energy.


Linoleum Dream - Self-Titled EP

Linoleum Dream - EP
(Self-Released 2014)

"Ethereal" is one of the terms most often employed to describe recent shoegaze releases, and for good reason: 21st century new-gazers tend to borrow from the genre's more delicate aspects, its glimmering guitars and bouyant drone, yet they seem to forget about the brute force that a roaring wall of sound can deliver. There's a certain muscle evident in the meaty chords of Swervedriver's "Duel" and the pounding drums that open MBV's "Only Shallow" that is integral to the genre - even the Cocteau Twins knew the importance of balancing a smooth, velvety timbre with the occasional hit of abrasion or sour-ness. Oakland's Linoleum Dream hold firm to this virtue on their self-titled debut, spindly tangles of lead guitar giving way to an all-consuming storm of grim, metallic distortion and in-your-face percussion on the opening cut, "Iridescent". Dylan Burton's vocals are not sung so much as they are breathed, evaporating into misty nothingness, the masculine equivalent of Belinda Butcher's vague intonation. In true shoegaze fashion, the release is a 3-song EP, each track spanning 5+ minutes and reveling in its own dreaminess. For a dream-pop superfan like myself, Linoleum Dream is a breath of fresh air. Give them a try below.


Mixtape: ☁flying fortress☁ (01:38 AM)

I was recently given the opportunity to curate a mixtape for Mecha Yuri, a Canadian DIY label that specializes in sleepy bedroom pop, chill electronica and an overall aesthetic that takes its inspiration from Japanese culture. Influenced by the late night I spent selecting and mixing the tracks for the final product, ☁flying fortress☁ (01:38 AM) is a collection of sleepy, nostalgic music meant for quiet introspection. Give it a spin via Mecha Yuri's tumblr page!