Halogens – s/t (Why Bother Records, 2016)

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It’s exciting to hear how ubiquitous the sound of emo has become these days in indie/alternative music. Between half-screamed, half-sung vocals, and complex rhythm structures, the general idea of emo varies from band to band. The refreshing part, however, is how each band utilizes and flexes this concept to their own sound. Wall, NJ, band Halogens crafts a fun, flowing take on emo, combining elements of alternative rock and funk. Their self-titled EP, released on West Long Branch label Why Bother Records, is a powerful effort, one that starts the new year off effectively.

Opener “Kitchen Sink” is a headlong rush of excitement, marked with notes of despair: “I wanna be something my mother’s proud of/Never had a reason to be quite too proud of me.” Starting a new year, there is always a need to do better, to want to be better, so this track feels especially relevant to that. What is admirable is how the band doesn’t take anything too seriously, and adds enough of a playful edge to balance out the bold statements. One of the best aspects of this record is the rollicking, quick drum parts, played effortlessly by George Saives. Lead single “Ayúdame!” proves this, with no two verse patterns sounding the same. The refrain “They can’t remember what they felt, or what they felt before”, is a satisfying line, one that is sure to inspire many.

Halogens is a playful, semi-serious effort, one that blends alternative and emo in a smart, satisfying way. Look out 2016, we’re starting strong.

Favorite Tracks: “Kitchen Sink”, “Ayúdame!”, “Olive Garden, Pt. 2”

Where to Go from Here: The Front Bottoms – The Front Bottoms, Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss it All, Sorority Noise- Joy, Departed

 

 

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Favorite Albums of 2015

Every year I become increasingly amazed at the wealth of good music that is out in the world. 2015 was no exception to that, and I am happy to report that many records and bands caught my ear. Here’s the list (honorables, top 10 after the jump):

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Beauty Pill – Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are
  • Beach House – Depression Cherry
  • Downtown Boys – Full Communism
  • Fred Thomas – All are Saved
  • Gleemer – Moving Away
  • Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
  • Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching
  • Natalie Prass – s/t
  • Palehound – Dry Food
  • Pupppy – Shit in the Apple Pie
  • Purity Ring – another eternity
  • PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries
  • Turnover – Peripheral Vision
  • Wavves x Cloud Nothings – No Life for Me
  • Youth Lagoon – Savage Hills Ballroom

Continue reading Favorite Albums of 2015

Local Rounds: Aleko – “Let You Down”

via Let You Down | Aleko.

Normally, I would write about a full album/EP release from a local artist, but Aleko’s music is too good to pass up mentioning. “Let You Down” is an excellent acoustic folk track, complemented well by some spare electric guitar. The southern Jersey singer-songwriter has a voice immediately comparable to Justin Vernon, one that I’m excited to hear more of. He also sounds similar to local singer-songwriter Evan Stephens Hall (lead singer of Montclair act Pinegrove). He’s due to release an EP this fall, so here’s another local talent to look out for!

Where to Go from Here: Bon Iver – “Blood Bank”, Pinegrove – “Problems”, Big Deal – “With the World at My Feet”

The Roundup – 6/5/15

Brand New return to the scene with “Mene”, their first studio track in 6 years. It’s a blistering testament to their legacy as post-hardcore giants, and one of this week’s (albeit belated) finds.

via A Buzz in My Ears – The Roundup – 6/5/15 by Louis T. Delia

The Roundup is an occasional post compiling the latest finds in the indie, alternative, and DIY spheres. I’m going to condense the next few Roundups from 20 tracks to 10 tracks, as I’m looking to start doing similar Roundup posts for local artists as well (more on that soon!)

The Good Life – “Everybody”

This week’s post starts off with one of several returns to the blogosphere. Indie rock staple Tim Kasher recently put out “Everybody”, the latest track from The Good Life, and my 13 year-old self can barely contain it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Kasher’s output (and the rest of Saddle Creek) since my middle school days, so it’s exciting to hear him still going at this project. “Everybody” has a nice, almost Lou Reed vibe to it, with a short sung-spoken segment.

Citizen – “Stain”

Another recent return comes from post-hardcore band Citizen, due to release Everybody is Going to Heaven on Run for Cover 6/23. “Stain” is a nice slosh between balanced, contained rhythm and rigid emotion. In short, it’s best summed up as an aural study of controlled chaos.

Girlpool – “Before the World Was Big”

Drumless Philly duo Girlpool dropped their latest record Before the World Was Big this past week, and the title track has become the latest song to grab my attention. They have a bratty, whiny sound, that still evokes the slow burn and sting of growing up. Similar to Waxahatchee, Girlpool have minimal guitar lines, and they harness this minimalism well in the simple A/B sectioning of the song.

Georgia – “Be Ache”

Beginning with a sampled vocal, “Be Ache” quickly develops into a fervent rush of frantic strings, looped synthesizers, and a tense break beat. Vocals recall Robyn, Sky Ferreira, or Morgan Kibby, and the track production evokes Dev Hynes, Anthony Gonzalez, or Klas Åhlund.

Oscar – “Beautiful Words”

I was a big fan of Oscar’s “Daffodil Days” back in February, and I’m glad to hear that “Beautiful Words”, his follow-up track, holds up well (I even enjoy it better!) It works well as a summer jam. It sits somewhere between Matt & Kim, twenty-one pilots, and Bleachers, yet his voice sounds more attuned to fans of post-punk favorites Joy Division or The Smiths, or more currently, Daughn Gibson or Cold Cave.

Sitcom – “Window View”

An acoustic track! Yes! Sitcom has a lighter vibe, immediately reminding me of Soft Cat mixed with Stephen Malkmus. The sparse percussion, coupled with the occasional horn layering and backup vocals make this song really grow into something else entirely.

Sharon Van Etten – “Just Like Blood”

Van Etten’s latest EP I Don’t Want to Let You Down is due out 6/9, and next single “Just Like Blood” does not disappoint. The follow-up to Are We There (one of my personal favorite records of 2014), this EP contains tracks culled from that album’s sessions, as well as a leftover from Tramp.

Dope Body – “Old Grey”

This is an oddity. Sounding like a noisier, more digital METZ, Dope Body craft catchy, accessible noise-rock. It’s easy to get lost in this.

Brand New – “Mene”

I’ve been so pumped to hear more from Brand New. They were one of my favorite bands since middle school, and it’s refreshing to hear them sound so invigorating in 2015. “Mene” is an excellent track, one that I hope segues well into their next studio album (which I am eagerly awaiting between constant replays of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me and Deja Entendu).

LVL UP – “Naked in the River with the Creator”

An oddly spiritual left turn, this song (one of several written for the May 5 to 12 Songs project, including artists such as Eskimeaux) is an incredible zen study. Vocalist Nick Corbo shows an aural side that’s not commonly heard, not even on last year’s superb Hoodwink’d. Corbo feels more aligned with bandmate Dave Benton’s side project Trace Mountains, and “Naked in the River with the Creator” is a relaxing finish to an already busy week.

While most of the tracks curated for this week are from the past month, this is the first Roundup post I have completed in a month.

Here’s the playlist below, and enjoy!

R.L. Kelly – Life’s a Bummer (Orchid Tapes, 2014)

via Life’s A Bummer | R.L. Kelly.

“Being alone is nice and depressing.”

R.L. Kelly became a favorite of mine in the Orchid Tapes crop, particularly from her split with Alex G. The first time I heard “Everyday”, I was immediately hooked to the simple yet affecting songwriting. Sure, the chords and lyrics are not flashy or technical, but they communicate sentiments of loneliness, longing, isolation, and pain so well. That’s the strength of this Los Angeles singer-songwriter, the ability she has to make her thoughts and feelings so accessible. It’s what consistently keeps me coming back to her body of work.

Her music is a study of songwriting as catharsis, as a necessary purging of an ever present evil (her Bandcamp tagline communicates this succinctly — “gotta get that sad out”). And there is quite a bit of evil looming over Life’s a Bummer. Whether it’s a negative personality (“You’re Not the Only Monster from Hell”), growing up (“Woke Up Feeling Sad”), or the dangers of your own head (“Familiar Haunt”), Kelly proves there are many ways for suffering to manifest itself in detachment.

Key Tracks: “You’re Not the Only Monster from Hell”, “Familiar Haunt”, “Woke Up Feeling Sad”, “Life’s a Bummer”

Where to Go from Here: Alex G – Rules, Infinity Crush – When We’re Snow, Long Beard – Holy Crow

The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There (Tiny Engines, 2014)

via The Hotelier.

“Open the curtains./Singing birds tell me, ‘Tear the buildings down.’/You felt blessed to receive their pleasant sound”

It is a beautiful thing when you know, right from the opening line of an album, that the experience you are about to embark on is going to be life-changing. And that’s exactly what happens on the first few seconds of “An Introduction to the Album”, the aptly titled opening track for Home, Like Noplace is There, the sophomore effort of Worcester, MA band The Hotelier (fka The Hotel Year). An album that stands head-and-shoulders above many counterparts in the emo revival, Home is a new classic that can easily sit next to …Is a Real Boy, and The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.

The entire opening of “An Introduction to The Album” runs like a seamless thread, with every chordal return to the tonic making way for a lyrical continuation. Almost like free-association, or stream-of-consciousness. It feels incredibly authentic, and iconic. The band sounded somewhat derivative yet entirely energetic and engaging on 2011 debut It Never Goes Out, but I have to say that Home, Like Noplace Is There is a game changer of a record. There is some fitting musical and lyrical interplay on “An Introduction to the Album” (unless I’m reading too much into something). After the lead singer says, “I recoil at every new beginning,” the song prophetically returns to the tonic chord, and the opening chord progression. The tone quickly shifts to desperate, sounding like a guttural cry for help (“So if I call, should I beg?”).

This is a near-perfect record that successfully beckons in the “emo revival”. Now, I never really got emo growing up. Sure, as someone who grew up in suburban New Jersey, emo music seemed to be a rite of passage, a way of coping with life in adolescence. It was so ingrained in teenage culture, that it should have really held an important place in mine. But apart from a handful of bands (Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, Bright Eyes, Sparta, Brand New), I didn’t really see the point. The hair was too long (and too straight), every song sounded the same, and after a while every band began to sound more like caricatures of each other over time. Between whiny vocals and cookie-cutter breakdowns, nothing really stood out. As a musician and a human being though (who has some life experience under his belt, but still figuring things out in his early twenties), I’ve always been drawn to sadness. I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I believe the closest I can get is to state that it is in my blood. So it’s especially fitting that, timed with my college graduation and subsequently leaving the first post-graduate job I had, Home, Like Noplace Is There was to become my soundtrack during this frustrating time.

The guitar lines and parts feel razor-sharp, cutting back into your mind, all the way to your middle and high school memories (especially those on “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, and “Among the Wildflowers”). It has a way of making you nostalgic, but a little more pained than wistful (note: this is a good thing — it means the record is opening you up and making you feel real things). At the same time, much of the lyrical themes here deal with death, depression, suicide, coming of age, and self discovery. One of the most affecting numbers (and really, it’s difficult to pick just one) is “Your Deep Rest”, a heartbreaking, dismal number about someone who succumbed to the throes of depression. Between lines like “And I found the notes you left behind/Little hints and helpless cries/Desperate wishing to be over”, and “They diagnosed you born that way/They say it runs in your family,” it is a devastating parable for a generation that’s still suffering from this despicable disease. In an age where many different teens are still turning to suicide as a permanent answer to pain, “Your Deep Rest”, along with the rest of this record, helps to start a conversation we all seriously need to have. When depression really gets the best of us, we do ourselves in. How we get the best of depression is by art, by music, by creating. Depression blocks creation. Creation trumps depression. At least, that’s how I see it. And, like the changing, overlapping call-and response-vocals on “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, depression isn’t a single actor. It doesn’t affect just one victim, it affects millions. It’s a reminder than you’re not alone in this. An entire genre has been based around this idea, embracing all of the sad kids in it.

What fascinates me most about Home, Like Noplace is There is how it is simultaneously comforting and haunting. Closing number “Dendron” communicates this immediately, as a meditation on loss amidst growing up. Citing friends passed, and a return to a home that wasn’t there, the album closes with the powerful line, “‘Tell me again, that it’s all in my head.'” It is a sad thing to hear when others trivialize internal sorrow and suffering, when in fact depression is a very real thing. Much like the album cover, this is a recording distressed in sadness, and it’s one that everyone needs to hear.

Key Tracks: “An Introduction to the Album”, “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, “In Framing”, “Your Deep Rest”, “Among the Wildflowers”, “Life in Drag”, “Dendron”

Where to Go from Here: Touche Amore – Is Survived By, La Dispute – Rooms of the House, Title Fight – Floral Green

New Music Tuesday! Highlights (5/5 and 5/12)

Gabrielle Smith of Eskimeaux releases her latest LP O.K. this week. It’s one of several best finds from the first half of May.

A Buzz in My Ears has been going on a temporary hiatus at the moment, but I’m working to bring 3-5 posts to you weekly. I’m hoping to keep consistent posts on new releases, local releases, and albums I feel are important to indie, alt, and DIY spheres. Read on!

Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni, released 5/5)

via Full Communism | Don Giovanni Records.

“Why is it that we never have enough with just what’s inside of us?”

Here is one of the greatest punk records I’ve heard in years. I love the insane melding of riffy guitars, booming saxophone lines, and shouted vocals in both English and Spanish. The Rhode Island sextet is greatly committed to social and political change, and that makes much of the dialogue on Full Communism jarring and razor-sharp. Singer Victoria Ruiz is a powerful voice in the indie punk scene, and the band writes songs “in direct response to institutionalized injustices.” This is a headlong, radically charged 23-minute rush, one that takes a few listens to really absorb, though it’s a record that’s sure to inspire repeated spins. Bonus: an incredible cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” as the record closer.

Key Tacks: “Wave of History”, “Santa”, “Tall Boys”, “Monstro”, “Future Police”

Where to Go from Here: Operation Ivy – Operation Ivy, Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love, Plastiq Passion – To Be a Blade of Grass in Cracked Cement

Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek, released 5/5)

via Painted Shut | Hop Along.

“None of this is gonna happen to me within my lifetime.”

Philly quartet Hop Along return to the indie circuit, signing to Saddle Creek for sophomore LP Painted Shut. Lead singer Frances Quinlan (some of you may recognize her here) has a vocal timbre reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, a voice that can communicate a gentle coo as well as a grisly growl. Painted Shut works best when it isn’t quiet — the loud, full band rushes of “The Knock”, “Waitress”, and “Texas Funeral” (the last becoming one of my favorite tracks this year) are what easily make this record — though there are still some nice subdued moments. I appreciate the gentler indie-pop-tinged “Horseshoe Crabs”, and the largely acoustic “Well-dressed”. This record has, without a doubt, some choice tracks that will remain in play good through the summer.

Key Tracks: “The Knock”, “Waitress”, “Happy to See Me”, “Texas Funeral”, “Powerful Man”

Where to Go from Here: Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer, Big Scary – Vacation, Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra (Run for Cover, released 5/12)

via elvis depressedly.

“I will go to sleep still believing.”

North Carolina artist Mat Cothran has been releasing music as Elvis Depressedly since 2011. Seventh release New Alhambra, his first signed to Run for Cover Records, is a dreamy dose of indie bedroom pop much needed in the blogosphere. His voice recalls a cross between James Iha and Orchid Tapes contemporary Alex G, and the sound is similar to same-label head Warren Hildebrand (Foxes in Fiction). The 20-minute Alhambra is chock full of affecting pop melodies, woozy atmosphere, and an altogether experimental vibe. While this is incredibly brief to be named an album (at least by traditional terms), it’s full of some of the best indie pop writing this year. And when it comes to music, rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?

Key tracks: “Thou Shall Not Murder”, “N.M.S.S.” “Bruises (Amethyst)”, “Rock n Roll”, “Ease”, “Wastes of Time”

Where to Go from Here: Alex G – DSU, Foxes in Fiction – Ontario Gothic, The Magnetic Fields – i

Eskimeaux – O.K. (Double Double Whammy, released 5/12)

via O.K. | eskimeaux.

“Nothing in this world is holier than friendship.”

The above line, found on single “Broken Necks”, speaks so well to the essence of Eskimeaux. The musical project of Gabrielle Smith, Eskimeaux is but one of several groups connected to music collective The Epoch, which includes fabulous acts like Bellows, Small Wonder, and Told Slant. On O.K., there are feelings of warmth and catharsis, fear and danger, and in its 35 minutes the experience is intimate and enveloping. There are plenty of powerful builds (par for the course for Epoch artists, but still), including gang vocal climax of “The Thunder Answered Back” (“You coward, you wrecking ball”). Despite the warm feelings of early songs on the record, there is still plenty of murkiness beneath. “Pocket Full of Posies” has a booming bass synth that punches along, like the boogeyman to Smith’s honest inner child: “I know what being scared is, but not how to be scary.” Here’s to another strong find this week, and quite possibly this year.

Key Tracks: “Folly”, “Broken Necks”, “I Admit I’m Scared”, “Alone at the Party”, “A Hug Too Long”, “That’s OK”

Where to Go from Here: Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See, Frankie Rose – Interstellar, Hospitality – Hospitality

Spirit Club – Spirit Club (Ghost Ramp, released 5/12)

via Ghost Ramp.

“I don’t really wanna know what life would be without.”

One of my most anticipated releases of the year has finally arrived, and I couldn’t be more pumped. Spirit Club, the side project of Wavves’ Nathan Williams, Sweet Valley brother and collaborator Joel Williams, and Andrew Caddick. The debut self-titled record, released on Williams’ Ghost Ramp label, is an infectious DIY-pop record, flecked with notes of Williams’ punk ethos and dark, drenched melodic textures. Between pitch-shifted vocals, looped synthesizer lines, and scrappy guitar strums, Spirit Club are just as ready to soundtrack your summer as Hop Along. Anthems “Eye Dozer” and “Still Life” juxtapose effortlessly with atmosphere-heavy experiments “Carousel” and “Dream On”.

Key Tracks: “All the Time”, “Eye Dozer”, “Carousel”, “Duster”, “Dream On”, “Still Life”, “Ripped II”

Where to Go from Here: Wavves – King of the Beach, Grizzly Bear – Yellow House, Real Estate – Real Estate

TORRES – Sprinter (Partisan, 2015)

via Store | Partisan Records.

“Lay off me, would ya? / I’m just trying to take this new skin for a spin…”

Mackenzie Scott is a captivating talent. That is immediately evident when considering her success since 2013. She arose almost out of nowhere (as indie artists so often do) with her self-titled debut, including standouts like “Honey”. This grabbed the attention of several media outlets, including Pitchfork and BuzzFeed. Scott’s latest release, Sprinter, is an excellent, moving meditation on things both dark and light.

Sprinter is a mature, fuzz-drenched, doom-folk record. I say that almost facetiously, but Scott herself stated that she wanted a record that came from places both abstract and familiar. “I wanted something that very clearly stemmed from my Southern conservative roots but that sounded futuristic and space-y at the same time.” At its core, Sprinter feels as folk-based as work from contemporaries Sharon Van Etten and Laura Marling. The atmosphere around this record, however, is dark, murky, tense, and anguished. There are definitely traces of post-rock, shoegaze, and grunge throughout this record (Scott points out that Nirvana was a key influence).

Most songs here have a clear, punchy backbeat. The title track is one example, complemented by a squealing Southern-influenced guitar in the second verse. Scott doesn’t shy away from sonic exploration on Sprinter, and “Cowboy Guilt” has a driving electronic thumping beat, accompanied by gorgeous harmonies. It feels somewhere between St. Vincent and Sharon Van Etten. It’s bizarre, yet enthralling. “Ferris Wheel” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking slow-burner. One of the best lyrics on the album is found here: “There’s nothing in this world that I could show you that I’ve got the sadness too.” The sparse, minimal drum parts here add an atmospheric layer, not unlike the drumming of Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo (see: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out). The seven-minute closer “The Exchange” is purposefully minimal, just Scott and a guitar. There are some important meditations here, even though the track goes on a bit too long. At one point, Scott rips off the bandage: “I am afraid to see my heroes age.” Like many contemporary indie artists, Scott struggles with her own coming of age. Sprinter is an important work, one that offers insight into personal insecurities, fears, and hidden desires.

Key Tracks: “Strange Hellos”, “New Skin”, “Sprinter”, “Ferris Wheel”, “The Exchange”
Where to Go from Here: Sharon Van Etten – Tramp, Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle, She Keeps Bees – Eight Houses

Where’s The Rest?! Album Highlights of April 2015

SIDEBAR: If you have no idea what I’m referencing above, avail your eyes here.

A Buzz in My Ears has been going on a temporary hiatus at the moment, but I’m working to bring 3-5 posts to you weekly, starting with this one. I’m hoping to keep consistent posts on new releases, local releases, and albums I feel are important to indie, alt, and DIY spheres. Read on!

This is the Kit – Bashed Out (Brassland, released 4/7)

I’ve already covered this album in length here (or below, if you’re on the main page), but I will say that Kate Stables and company have crafted one of the most understated yet spirited records of the year thus far. Bashed Out is a sleepy, lilting folk record, peppered with fun melodic lines (“Spores All Settling”) and longing meditations (“Cold and Got Colder”). Definitely for fans of Daughter, Laura Marling, or Sharon Van Etten.

Key Tracks: “Silver John”, “Magic Spell”, “Bashed Out”, “Cold and Got Colder”

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge, released 4/7)

It would be remiss of me not to mention Katie Crutchfield’s latest release as Waxahatchee here: it’s arguably one of her best. After becoming one of my favorite current singer-songwriters with 2013’s triumphant, hollowed, and vulnerable Cerulean Salt, she returns to the scene sounding way more ebullient, excited, and exuding with energy than ever before. Ivy Tripp sounds like a college radio/indie pop classic already, so it’s fitting that it was released through stalwart indie label Merge. Fans of indie vets like The Magnetic Fields and Yo La Tengo would be wise to put this in their play.

Key tracks: “Breathless”, “Under a Rock”, “La Loose”, “The Dirt”, “Air”, “Summer of Love”, “Bonfire”

Young Fathers – White Men are Black Men Too (Big Dada, released 4/7)

Here is the most fun I’ve had with a pop record this month (and this year!) so far. Scottish trio Young Fathers make music that sounds like manic madness. White Men are Black Men Too is chock full of sudden bursts of energy, pings and pangs of sounds, and abstract vocals. At times the trio sound fairly furtive and dark (“Feasting” or “Old Rock n Roll”), but at other times they tend to be more straight ahead and rhythmic (“27” or “John Doe”). Altogether, this is the album to put the band on the map, and as experimental as it sounds, it is still lovely and beautiful. Definitely one for fans of TV on the Radio, Bloc Party, or Frank Ocean.

Key tracks: “Still Running”, “Shame”, “27”, “Sirens”, “John Doe”

Bop English – Constant Bop (Downtown, released 4/14)

White Denim frontman James Petralli takes it solo as Bop English, and his debut album Constant Bop is already one of the standouts in my mind as one of 2015’s best records. The entire album pays homage to the music of the 60s and 70s that Petralli came to know and love, and it is drenched in this classic, retro feel. There are plenty of good psychedelic pop moments, between the fuzzed out “Sentimental Wilderness”, the thumping “Struck Matches”, and the sweet “Falling at Your Feet”. At times I think of Cheap Trick, Donovan, or Electric Light Orchestra when I hear Constant Bop, but there is also a bit of modern indie pop dancing throughout. Later cut “The Hardest Way” has a vocal part that screams Kevin Drew’s Darlings, and that’s when you realize that Petralli is expertly melding pop tropes of past and present to craft a record that is truly universal and timeless, much like Natalie Prass’ self-titled effort from February. Definitely worth a listen if you dig retro indie acts like Dr. Dog, Mikal Cronin, and Foxygen.

Key Tracks: “Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)”, “Struck Matches”, “Fake Dog”, “Sentimental Wilderness”, “Falling at Your Feet”, “Long Distance Runner”

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer (Carpark, released 4/21)

Wow. A “sophomore slump” this is not. Massachusetts rockers Speedy Ortiz have come back to us with a vengeance on Foil Deer. Early singles “Raising the Skate” and “The Graduates” were pure standouts on the record (the latter becoming one my favorite tracks of 2015 thus far), and the rest of the album holds up just as well. “Swell Content” surges along with this Saturday morning cartoon meets sitcom energy. The pleasant, sunny disposition apparent on the opening chords of “Zig” soon caves and gives way to a discordant, slithering, spidery melody that only Dupuis can authentically deliver. “Puffer” has a pleasant beat to it and a vocal that just slightly reminds me of Britney Spears (probably something to do with both this and “Work B***h” starting with “You want a…”), yet the entire thing is drenched in ominous atmosphere. “My Dead Girl” is a later standout, lined with 90s R&B melodies akin to those featured on 2014’s Real Hair. Definitely another favorite for 2015, and fans of Pavement or Sonic Youth who are still holding out should give this act a listen. They are, most certainly, the stuff of indie legends.

Key Tracks: “Raising the Skate”, “The Graduates”, “Dot X”, “Puffer”, “Zig”, “My Dead Girl”, “Mister Difficult”

This Is The Kit – Bashed Out (Brassland, 2015)

via Bashed Out | This Is The Kit.

There is something freeing in listening to music. Whether it’s a softly cooed melody, a thrashing drum rhythm, or some lush synthesizer arrangement, music for me has always acted as a source of pure escapism. The breezy, flowing banjo picking on “Spores All Settling”, the third track on This is the Kit’s Bashed Out, is enough to transport me to an open field. This exciting music is spearheaded by Paris singer-songwriter Kate Stables, and on her third record as This is the Kit, she is sounding as liberated and open-ended as possible. Like a hand out an open car window in the breeze, no other record so far in 2015 has sounded as spirited as Bashed Out.

Stables and Co. have seen a great deal of success in the UK since 2011’s Wriggle Out the Restless. Receiving a great deal of accolades from Guy Garvey of Elbow and The Line of Best Fit, among others, it’s surprising that This is the Kit hasn’t received as much attention over here in the States. Stables’ vocals are front and center in the mix, and they’re impossible to miss. She has this lilting delicacy, whether cooing on the title track, or the fun vocals across “Spores All Settling”. She has this relaxing, calming quality to her voice. “Magic Spell” has a fun, light, flowing melody section, where the dee-dee-dees stand out as a golden moment on the record. Most of the time, I find myself so captivated and attached to the coos and vocal melodies of Stables, I don’t pay as much attention to her lyrics or her backing band. And the band is a very strong one, pulled from all sorts of indie groups (Doveman, The Walkmen, Beirut, and The National, for example). I’m not even paying as much attention as I should to the lyrics, just because I’m taking in the scenery. Though when I do pick up on the lyrics, the lines crush me. “Cold and Got Colder” is one hell of a burning closer (despite its title). A rumination on a lover long distant (“Hook, line, and sinker/I miss it so strongly”), it’s a torch song for anyone long longing their life away to another. All in all, Bashed Out is a powerful, subdued record, one that creeps into your own introspection upon repeat listens.

Key Tracks: “Silver John”, “Magic Spell”, “Bashed Out”, “Cold and Got Colder”

Where to Go from Here: Daughter – If You Leave, Sharon Van Etten – Tramp, Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

Other Key Releases This Week:

  • Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)
  • Young Fathers – White Men are Black Men Too (Big Dada)
  • Soft Cat – All Energy Will Rise (Miscreant)