Rather than pick up where they left off, Grails take the sky-high riff-based heaviness of their earlier albums and distill it into a nuanced, widescreen opus. The perennial influences of mid-20th century Western film scores, obscure library music, and psychedelic krautrock are indelibly imprinted, but Chalice Hymnal exudes an eerie patience in unfurling the many layers of its subtle details. Produced by the band over the past five years, Chalice Hymnal bears some of the European psych and experimental hip-hop production techniques of founding members Alex Hall and Emil Amos' other group, Lilacs & Champagne. Amos' meditative metal band, Om, and longtime singer-songwriter project, Holy Sons, also naturally find their way into the Chalice cauldron. Rounding out their leaner line-up, cofounder Zak Riles (also of experimental kraut-psych trio, Watter) layers synths and programming into an electronic-prog hybrid that pushes Grails further into the deep end, displaying a profound resonance, both musically and emotionally. No one else sounds like Grails, and on Chalice Hymnal they sound more like themselves than ever before.
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as "a midlife-crisis disco album; it's an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices". It's a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humour is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop's writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It's the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalised Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships.
The new album by the ever-evolving project of Jaime Fennelly is his most ambitious and spellbinding set of roiling, meditative recordings to date, and the first to supplement his foundational arsenal of Indian pedal harmonium, analog synthesizers, and incantatory voices with a full ensemble, including Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater), Jim Becker (Califone, Iron and Wine), Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux, Jackie Lynn), and Jon Mueller (Death Blues, Volcano Choir). Undying Color braids folk and formal, praise and play, within its heady swells and troughs, invoking American vernacular musical traditions and pulsating avant-garde electronics alike. With prayerful patience and ceremonial gravity, it conjures and celebrates the cyclical rhythms of nature: tidal surges, human breathing, cicadas in the wilderness gloaming.
Deluxe LP edition features 140g virgin vinyl, heavy-duty matte board jacket, full-color printed inner sleeve, and download code for the entire album. CD edition features heavy-duty matte gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
When Moiré decided to call his second album No Future, he wasn't trying to make a political statement so much as state the obvious: If humanity keeps heading down the hateful path outlined by certain right-wing political figures and recent political events, we might as well hit the nearest self-destruct button. "It's not just about the West, either," explains the London-based producer. "It's the way the whole world thinks. It's almost like we're in this mad cycle. In a way, we have no choice - we either adapt to the situation or we're dead. That's it."
Today's musicians are faced with a similar now-or-never situation: they can either experiment and evolve or get brushed aside by the Next Big Thing in an industry that's as flippant and fickle as it's ever been. Moiré welcomes this challenge with a record that's avant-garde and accessible, possessing a punk spirit without stealing its sound wholesale. No Future builds its story on the back of halogen-lit hooks and left-field dance loops instead, leaving a trail of breadcrumb-y beats for guest vocalists like MC DRS (a longtime collaborator of LTJ Bukem) and post-grime poet James Massiah.
Molly Burch was exposed to the arts at an early age. Growing up in LA with a writer/producer father and a casting director mother, Burch's childhood was filled with old Hollywood musicals and the sounds of Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. After finding her voice in adolescence, Burch packed up for the UNC in Asheville to study Jazz Vocal Performance.
"I was always really interested in singing before songwriting. I didn't always have the confidence to write," Molly says, "Initially it was more about finding the right songs to complement my voice." And that voice is the first thing you'll notice on Burch's debut album. It's smoky, with an incredible range, evocative of her influences.
Searching for a bigger pond, Burch moved to Austin, Texas. There, she began to write her own music in earnest, with the lovelorn Everly Brothers and Sam Cooke as her guides. Motivated by an hourly studio rate, Burch recorded all basic tracks and vocals live in one room and in one day, with minimal overdubs happening later. A difficult task for any talented musician, it becomes more mind-blowing when you hear her belt it on tracks like "Downhearted" and "I Love You Still."
On UK quartet Novella's sophomore album Change of State, the plasticity behind the meaning of the title was no fortuitous afterthought. Rather, it is very idea on which the album was built. Following the band's debut, Land, released in 2015, the band has toured, traveling from one country to the next, and they have watched their home country of Britain change dramatically in social and political terms. Over the course of ten tracks, Novella take the time and space necessary to let the physical and ideological implications behind a changing state run rampant through themes that linger as much in topical discussion as they do in perennial reflections of human experience. Recorded over the period of a few months in the Victorian bedroom studio of James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls) on an old 1960's 8-track, Novella utilize an economy of sound on Change of State to create ethereal swathes of textures, gentle melodies and energetic, motorik bursts. Change of State may be product of its time, but the music is, more than anything, timeless.
Tim Showalter's latest release as Strand of Oaks, Hard Love, emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. "For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that's constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that's naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It's about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated."
Drawing from his love of Creation Records, Trojan dub compilations, and Jane's Addiction, and informe by a particularly wild time at Australia's Boogie Festival, he sought to create a record that would merge all of these influences while evoking something new and visceral. These influences coupled with an uninhibited and collaborative studio experience moved an initial concept for a singularly feel-good record to something more complex and real. As much as Showalter wants this record to seem like a party, it's more than that. It feels like living. "You went away...you went searching...came back tired of looking" is how Showalter begins the title track, a sentiment that epitomizes Showalter's own mentality in beginning Hard Love. As the record progresses, so do the themes of dissatisfaction and frustration with love, family, success, and aging, both in personal experience and songwriting
Freedays is almost in a way a debut album. Mike Savino's previous two albums, still having the songwriting stamina to welcome any music lover in, were birthed in a collaborative band setting. In 2015, Savino took a much-needed respite from New York City, where he had spent a decade and a half honing his craft, and assumed the role of sole caretaker at an abandoned health retreat nestled in the green mountains of North Georgia. The Bird's Nest, as it was called, completely surrounded by national forest, provided the freedom and space to work without time constraints or interruption. Composed and recorded over a period of eight months, Freedays tells the story of a man in transition and documents an artist alone at the crossroads of the life he has and the one he wants. The album begins with "Backroads", which drops the listener into a darkened forest amidst a chorus of wailing coyotes and quickly takes off on a midnight drive. Tracks like "Being There", "A Place to Call Your Own", and "CLC" provide an honest look into the author's thought process and decision making. Although it's often hard to imagine, most of the sounds on the album are experiments with the banjo, and they all reflect the innovative musings of one of the freshest sounds to come out of the Appalachians in decades.
The first Courtneys album (self titled) came out in 2013 on small independent label, Hockey Dad Records, based in the band's hometown of Vancouver, BC, Canada. They have since worked with a number of independent labels including Conquest of Noise in Australia and Waterslide Records in Japan, as well as Burger Records and Gnar tapes in the USA. They have released a number of singles and music videos, and toured throughout Canada and the USA, including spots supporting Tegan and Sara and Mac Demarco.
In 2015 The Courtneys made their way to Australia and New Zealand, where they were hosted by Flying Nun Records. Influenced by the legendary label from early on, the group are honored to now be able to call it their home.
The Paperhead have been Nashville's best-kept secret for years now. The trio have crafted three albums of psych-pop perfection, last leaving us with 2014's "Africa Avenue". They return in fine form with their fourth magnum opus, entitled "Chew". Having been lifelong fans of psychedelia & prog rock, They've found a way to straddle four decades of music. Rather than committing the cardinal sin of many modern acts by drenching everything in reverb, "Chew" revels in clarity & melody - the listener finds themselves disoriented by the jarring juxtaposition of styles, rather than gimmicky studio trickery. This was purposeful, as the band wanted "Chew" to seem like criss-crossing AM radio broadcasts. Melodic psych-pop drifts up against crunchy, progressive riffs and good ol' steel-guitar driven country rock, but it all works. The album's centerpiece "Dama de Lavanda" is perhaps their most accomplished composition to date, with it's breezy latin rhythms - it swings with an assuredness unseen from the band as yet. Horns & flutes pepper the mix, but it's the Bacharach-meets-Pretty Things outro that really hits a home run. The obvious peak of an album crackling with ideas & creativity. "Chew" was recorded by the band in bassist Peter Stringer-Hye's garage studio in Nashville & mixed by Cooper Crain (Bitchin' Bajas, Cave) at Chicago's Minbal Studios. "Chew" is released on compact disc & black vinyl, and includes a download code.
Saturday Night, the first proper solo album from Tim Darcy (Ought), comes from one of those crossroads-type moments in life where one has to walk to the edge before knowing which way to proceed. Each track is woven to the next in a winding, complex journey through a charged, continuous present. There are love/love lost songs like the standout, almost-New Wave "Still Waking Up" in which a Smiths-esque melody builds upon an underbrush that recalls 60s AM pop and country. Darcy's unmistakable, commanding voice and lyrical phrasing are, as they are in Ought, an instrument here: vital to the entire affair. There's a line in "Tall Glass of Water," the album's Velvet Underground-nodding opening track, where Darcy asks himself a rhetorical question: "if at the end of the river, there is more river, would you dare to swim again?" He barely pauses before the answer: "Yes, surely I will stay, and I am not afraid. I went under once, I'll go under once again." That river shows up again and again in the lyrics of Saturday Night. It's about how wonderful it can be to feel in touch with that inner current. It's about how good it feels to make art, and how terrifying; how you don't always get to choose whether you're swimming or drowning as we grow and move through life, just that you're going to keep diving in. That's the impulse that links all the songs on Saturday Night, makes them glow.
Visible Cloaks' Reassemblage is a collection of delicately rendered passages of silence and sound that invokes - and invites - consciousness. The foundation of the duo's second album could be described as translingual or polyglottal, working within an eastern / western feedback loop of influence, Fourth World ambiguity, and the universality of human emotion. Vinyl includes high-quality, multi-format download with bonus tracks.