Big Red Machine - Gratitude
Big Red Machine is the self-titled, full-length debut of two longstanding indie titans — Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner. Released through PEOPLE — a growing collective of artists founded by Vernon and the Dessner brothers — Big Red Machine is a project focused on the very act of creating in and of itself, of constructing ideas without restrictions or boundaries. It is a natural extension of Vernon’s experimental 22, A Million blended seamlessly with The National’s broader alternative appeal.
“Gratitude” is an immediate album highlight. Over a glitching drum track and swirling guitar loop, Vernon sings in a loose, Autotune-drenched croon. He draws feeling through his vocal performance first and foremost, hitting mesmerizing falsettos and allowing lyrics to excitedly flow through him. Only brief phrases can be easily understood through the song’s dense layers, most notably the loud cry of: “Better not fuck this up!” Vernon sounds lost in a moment, at the peak of a happiness so overwhelming it now crosses over to disbelief. In between are verses that feature intangible poetry — words that make less sense the closer you look. But that’s almost the point. “Gratitude” tries its hardest to capture genuine appreciation of a situation too good to be true. But Vernon and Dessner understand that it is futile to put such feelings to concrete words or ideas. All you can do is hope you don't fuck it up, and feel a bit of gratitude.— Sam Reynolds on September 10, 2018
duendita - Magdalena
It is undeniable that music has the power to bring people together and remind us that in the end we are not that different. Once in a while, we encounter certain pieces that truly harness that power— duendita’s newest song, “Magdalena” is one of those pieces. The Queens-bred artist has forged her own path in the realm of R&B/soul since she released her first single, “One of One” in 2014. Since then duendita has expanded upon the elements that make her stand out amongst her contemporaries, one of those being her ability to make us feel what she’s feeling and shake us to the core. In “Magdalena," she successfully breaks our hearts and glues the pieces back together by the end. The track abounds in heart-wrenching piano chords, rich, lulling alto melodies, and spiritual openness. We are reminded that something ending or someone passing does not mean that those people or things cease to exist. Life is cyclical, and the past is never dead, duendita reminds us all of that.— Andrea de Varona on September 7, 2018
April + VISTA - Own2
April George and Matthew Thompson, the creative duo behind April + VISTA, have released You Are Here, a soul ridden indie R&B album that delivers, song after song. Each of the artists are active in the burgeoning D.C. music scene, with George having credits on GoldLink’s critically-acclaimed 2017 album At What Cost and on Ciscero’s new single, “Function.”Emerging out of an alternative R&B scene, April + Vista offers something that feels deeper. George’s soulful earthy tone paired with Thompson’s instrumental and addictive beats cultivates into a tranquil sound that we can’t help but sink into, finding new pockets of genius on each listen.
“Own2” is an amazing example of the duo’s collaborative chemistry. George comes at the song with a buoyant and sweeping soulfulness, with rich and vibrant harmonies, melodies and ad libs at every turn. This paired with Thompson’s nimble percussion, rich strings and resonating synths create an easiness within the song. The sonic palette is sturdy enough to support George's growls on lines such as, “Oh, you know I ain’t giving up / I’m in it for greatness, that’s the way I am / Just let me break it up / I know I can make it.” Whether this song is about breaking up with someone to find your true self, choosing to work with independent labels or a mixture of the both, the lyrics are just ambiguous enough to be relatable yet intriguing. It is only a matter of time before April + VISTA are no longer residing in the underbelly of alternative R&B, but at the forefront of a movement we have all been holding our breath for.— Samantha Weisenthal on September 7, 2018
Ritual Talk - Something To Look Forward To
With lo-fi glory and swoon-worthy vocals Ritual Talk presents their newest single “Something To Look Forward To.” There's a reason the Brooklyn-based band call their sound “psychedelic indie-rock." The mesmerizing qualities of this song will keep you in the musical world Ritual Talk creates for the entire four minutes and nine seconds it lasts. While guiding us into this musically wonderland, frontman Alex DeSimine introspectively sings of time, aging and his thoughts on it all. True of every great song there’s a lyrical and musical equilibrium here that seamlessly holds it together. Like a fire fully ablaze, “Something To Look Forward To” shines its brightest within its final minute. With horns blaring, shimmering guitars and spirited background vocals the song ends on a sonically high note leaving you reaching for the repeat button without wasting any time. New Yorkers can see Ritual Talk tonight at 9 pm Mercury Lounge, for the rest of the world catch “Something To Look Forward To” on all streaming platforms tomorrow!— Dara Bankole on September 6, 2018
Many Voices Speak - Chances
Many Voices Speak is the moniker of Swedish singer-songwriter Matilda Mård. “Chances” the third and last single off her of new debut album Tank Town, shines with its delicate drive and glittery guitar licks. Both vulnerable and dreamy, this song will remind you of those late-night-thoughts, the ones you’re stuck with while you wish you were sleeping. “How I wish these thoughts of mine will stay away just while I’m lonesome.” Mård sings. "Chances" centers around the feeling of being an outsider and the side effects that come with it: self-doubt, loneliness etc. Nevertheless Mård comes to hopeful realization that there are places or even just one place in this world where she feels like she belongs. She says, “being a misfit is just a sign that you’re too far from the place where you feel at home. It’s been important for me to remember that place always exists somewhere, so the will to change won’t win.” While quiet by nature “Chances” carries with it an idea that dares to be louder than your fears.— Dara Bankole on September 6, 2018
Orion Sun - Nirvanaaa
Whether she’s flawlessly covering a Frank Ocean tune or stroking our endless need for nostalgia with her classic yet revitalizing originals, singer-producer and multi-instrumentalist, Orion Sun never fails to enchant us. In her recent single, “Nirvanaaa” the Jersey-born, Philly-based artist’s musical magnetism reaches a new high. Sun’s songs are typically conversational and unassuming with relatively minimal production, but in “Nirvanaaa” she takes her blistering openness a step further, peeling yet another layer of skin. Her deep yearning for a sense of stability and belonging, something we all share, spills through her honest lyrics and syrupy, emotive timbre as she fights with demons from the past — “Where am I when you’re not here.” A mellow, almost-but-not-quite defeated talk-singy opening followed by a strong, assertive main vocal melody cultivates the perfect aural analogy for what it feels like once we've made peace with our demons. The endeavor to rid ourselves from the past is perhaps the most human of struggles. Orion Sun has the courage and tenacity to fight that battle in one of the most vulnerable manners of all, through her art.— Andrea de Varona on September 5, 2018
Mitski - Two Slow Dancers
The lyrics for all of the songs on Mitski’s new album To Be A Cowboy are written with such poetic but colloquial tangibility. She’s honest in the way, it seems, only she can be. “Two Slow Dancers” is no exception. She writes with specificity in detail that transports you to wherever she’s describing, physically and emotionally. Opening with the line, “Does it smell like a school gymnasium in here? / It’s funny how they’re all the same.” Immediately, you’re already in the room with her. While other songs on the album make you want to dance your heart out, this one builds gradually from a sparse chord progression on a keyboard. After more sounds flood in following the first chorus, “And the ground has been slowly pulling us back down,” makes you acutely aware of how that swell of sound had lifted you up, too.
Mitski’s voice is incredibly powerful in its versatility (she’s also vulnerable, but in a way that lets you know that she’s still the one in charge). Adding more support for the lyrics “To think that we could stay the same,” she salts a little anger onto this otherwise somber or nostalgic song. Coming back down for “We’re two slow dancers / last ones out,” we’re left right back where we started — caught off guard by that school gymnasium scent.— Grace Eire on September 5, 2018
Death Cab for Cutie - 60 & Punk
Ben Gibbard, now inarguably a stalwart of the indie rock institution (despite what his doubtful songwriting persona might suggest), wraps up Death Cab For Cutie’s newest album, Thank You For Today, with its most emotionally difficult moment, shaking his head in wonder at what happened to the man someone once was. “There’s nothing funny about just slipping away / It’s nothing funny how you’re spending your days / But you’re laughing like a kid at a carnival,” he sings, but what the image of the child happily frolicking doesn’t show are the parents who know that they’ll inevitably be cleaning up the mess and dealing with the aftermath when the sugar high ends. Though once one of Gibbard’s idols, this unnamed subject has fallen from grace through actions bearing little regard for their consequences, leaving everyone else exhausted. That exhaustion can be felt viscerally in the almost discordant opening piano notes or the lag of the drums in the chorus.
The new album was shrouded in uncertainty for some, as it is the first true Death Cab album recorded without guitarist Chris Walla, but Gibbard appeared wholly thrilled to put it out into the world. More significant than the personnel change in the band was a personal one Gibbard himself underwent. Kintsugi, their previous album, documented a rocky divorce that took place in the public eye. But Ben Gibbard is now — wait for it — happy. Gibbard has eagerly awaited middle age, proclaiming 15 years ago, “I can’t wait to go grey.” And this song, demonstrates that he will grow old with the maturity of the lessons that each of the tragedies in his songs has taught him. “There’s nothing elegant in being a drunk / It’s nothing righteous being 60 and a punk,” he sighs, going one step beyond the classic advice not to meet your heroes. Don’t become your heroes.
Gold Star - Dani’s In Love
Gold Star’s sun kissed track “Dani’s In Love” is blissful love song that serves as a tribute to his girlfriend Dani who “saved his life” during a time ridden with personal strife. The singer’s driving Americana, power-pop track pulls at the heart strings with its guitar and piano-led layering. With optimistic lyrics like, “You said no more to sadness / no more running with runaways / Now I cannot explain it / man I can’t find my probably’s” and “And that night / that I realized / what can I say / You saved my life /I said ‘I’m fallin in love.’ / Heard that Dani’s in love,” convey the hope and lack of worries that the singer, Marlon Rabenreither, now has for his future and the strength and love he feels towards his significant other. With its Ryan Adams, Tom Petty-esque sound and hopeful lyrics, “Dani’s In Love” is a track that reminds listeners that instead of staying stagnant in the strife we may feel, run towards the people who love you.— Alessandra Rincon on September 4, 2018
Arc Iris - $GNMS
Experimental pop trio Arc Iris gifted fans with their new ambitious and sci-fi theme single “$GNMS” of their upcoming record Icon of Ego. Although the original version of the track from their debut album contained a more loose and folky feel, this version drips with a new found electronic complexity. Over the course of the six minute track, the group take listeners on a musical journey that lyrically dives into the questions of human existence, desire, and greed, all while accompanied with delicate keyboard playing, dramatic synthesizers, percussions, and with lead singer Josie Adams’ sharp and sawing voice. “$GNMS” is an art pop masterpiece that takes chances and comes out a winner by all means.— Alessandra Rincon on August 31, 2018
Hop Along - What the Writer Meant
Hop Along’s “What the Writer Meant” is precise but by no means predictable. Our introduction to the song is a warped acoustic guitar seemingly stuck on repeat — an odd affectation for an organic instrument — until the verse shoves its way in. The drum beat immediately brings to mind a ‘90s industrial rock sound, guitars filled with trepidation. But Frances Quinian’s husky vocals are the only indicator to the mercurial nature of the rest of the track.
The chorus lifts from the melancholy of the verses to the wistful heights of indie-rock, Quinian’s active vocals the only constant. But it’s the post-chorus, stark production granting space to feature Quinian at full strength, that packs the punch. The song’s mathematic meticulousness is strikingly juxtaposed by the character in Quinian’s voice and the astute instrumental additions (such as small guitar licks and string patterns). And just when we think the song can’t keep changing, the bridge introduces new chords- at once stirring and sonically satisfying. Do these new chords work in the context of the rest of the song? It doesn’t seem to matter much: Hop Along’s masterful instrumentation makes every choice believable.— Talullah Ruff on August 31, 2018