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
Ian Sweet - Hiding
IAN SWEET is due to release their sophomore album, Crush Crusher, this coming October. This project of Jilian Medford, has made it's name in the Boston DIY scene along with bands such as Frankie Cosmos and Palehound. Their first LP Shapeshifter received critical acclaim from the world of indie rock and beyond, and thus their upcoming album has many music listeners biting at the grip. “Hiding,” the album's opener and single the has not disappointed.
“Hiding” is largely about losing one's identity in a relationship and making strides to regain some semblance of self. With “Hiding,” we are given all the guitar-led progression and biting lyrics that we love from indie rock, and a little something extra. Jilian’s voice manages to culminate in a hazy gasp, supported by crashing drums and a strong base, leading listeners through the ups and downs of the songs sporadic sound. The hook of the song, “I forgot myself in you," blares throughout much of the work with power. The beginning and end of the work however exists like a whisper in your ear, making the sing both intimate and ostracizing, much like the experience Medford is attempting to convey. “Hiding” is not only a sweet taste of IAN SWEET'S new album, it’s a feast all on its own.— Samantha Weisenthal on August 30, 2018
Molly Burch - To the Boys
At first listen, Molly Burch’s smoky track “To the Boys” sounds like something out of a 1920s jazz club record. Against the rhythm of a precisely plucked guitar and a vintage Cuban jazz beat, Burch expresses in the song that although she’s “a quiet talker” there’s no reason for men not to listen to her when she speaks. With lyrics like, “I don’t need to scream to get my point across,” she creatively demands to be listened to both literally and artistically with her unique and enticing vocals. The hypnotic and dreamy chorus poetically addresses “the boys” “I know that you want me to be / And I never will / I hope you’re listening still,” balancing the confidence Burch feels in her abilities and her gentle demeanor. After a brilliantly executed guitar solo that ebbs and flows with intricate riffs, the track comes to an abrupt halt, as if to punctuate the bold statement that Burch made with her well-crafted song and lyrics.— Alessandra Rincon on August 29, 2018
Helena Deland - Rise
Of all of the artists we have come to admire this past summer, Helena Deland remains the most mysterious. Deland is a Montreal songstress who has just released, her From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. I & II. She manages to both confuse and excite us in her lengthy titles and delightfully heartbreaking nature. Deland’s mysteriousness is not exclusively evoked by strange release practices, we are also perplexed by how such a young artist manages to captivate us, song after song, by her lyric driven and alluring indie bedroom-pop.
In “Rise,” we see Deland construct a ballad which cascades into a room, filling the space with a milky fullness. The song is about getting close to a partner just in time to see them leave before truly getting to love them fully. It is a flowing ballad, from beginning to end we fall deeper in love with the artist, leaving us heartbroken by her pain revealed at the end of the song. Deland has created a sweet song that leaves us feeling all too bitter, reminding us of our own heartbreaks and confusions. After all of this however, Deland manages to serenade us into a pleasant, content feeling by the end of the song. Helena Deland captures listeners in her vulnerable authenticity and relatable bittersweetness, leaving us hungry for more from this new and promising artist.— Samantha Weisenthal on August 28, 2018
Michael Nau - On Ice
Since stepping out from behind his former projects, Cotton Jones and Page France, Michael Nau has released his first full solo album, Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread. Nau has proven himself to be a deeply satisfying songwriter with a leaning towards melodic pop rock and country-esque soulful folk. With his song “On Ice,” Nau shows off his a mastery of the ear worm with the hook, “Doesn’t matter if we turn on the light / Baby let’s turn on the light” cascading throughout much of the song. The song is as groovy as it is considerate, with melancholic lines such as, “I wasn’t dreaming about anything / But was afraid that I might”, breaking their way through the shimmering nature of the song. This beautifully phrased world-weariness is set to a sound reminiscent of Neil Young and Mac Demarco’s brain child.
"On Ice" is a nod to what rock music can be: catchy, soft, poignant, apt, relatable, and so much more. The backbone of the work consists of a simple chord progression played on a Wurlitzer, stripped down lyrics with a catchy chorus, and a voice that so aptly captures the best voices of pop-rock from the past, with the most kind voices of indie-rock today. “On Ice” shows us that Michael Nau's penchant for soothing ballads will only continue with the influx of solo work we so desperately hope he continues to make.— Samantha Weisenthal on August 27, 2018
Young Villains - Need
Young Villains, the side project of Colony House’s Parke Cottrell, is introducing itself to the world with “Need.” While Colony House’s brand of raucous indie pop could get the entire bar up and moving the second its first notes leave the jukebox (they even tour with an enormous Colony House marquee one), this first effort from Young Villains, might soundtrack the fading memory of your high school’s last slow dance with a soaring anthem. Guitars shimmer over a larger than life chorus that lends itself to larger than life memories. “Oh don’t say / You’ve got everything you need,” pleads a pining voice, unwilling to accept that someone’s "everything" could somehow omit him. The sparse guitar solo takes its time, savoring each note and letting it linger, knowing all too well that the end is drawing near. And naturally, before long, the curtains close and the blinds are torn open. “The sun came out for you and me / It was all a dream.”— Daniel Shanker on August 27, 2018
Beta Radio - Tongue Tied
While three minutes and seven seconds isn't by any means amongst the shortest songs in the world, it tends to feel that way when you hear a song that leaves you wanting more. Integrating folk and ambience while anchored in its orchestration, "Tongue Tied" is that song. This cinematic first single from Beta Radio sounds as if it should be playing during an important life moment, like seeing the northern lights for the first time or during a first kiss that took way too long to occur. As the song ends, magnificence blares through the horns while the piano and strings gradually build to a beautiful and incandescent exhale. Beta Radio is made up of Benjamin Mabry and Brent Holloman, two longtime collaborators that met at a high school summer camp and bonded over their mutual adoration of Simon & Garfunkel. Fans of Bear's Den and Novo Amor will especially appreciate Beta Radio's musical offerings and should be sure to catch their latest album Ancient Transition out on September 14th.— Dara Bankole on August 23, 2018
Eliza Shaddad - This is My Cue
Lustrously-hued songwriter, Eliza Shaddad’s latest track, “This Is My Cue” feels like riding an extravagant, weather-beaten carousel in the rain. It captures the reckless melodrama of youth and relationships in a cyclical, grounded nature. Like the presence of an old carousel still full of color and magic the song is carried by enchanting, refreshingly minimal production that harkens back to older musical styles while still reflecting younger developments such as heavy vocal processing and spacey, reverb-filled guitar. Shaddad’s voice is sugary and wild and her lyrics are open yet sophisticated. As she lilts, “Nothing ever changes really / Never mind the many things we say,” we are reminded that for better or worse, we don’t really change all that much. As we develop new “faces” throughout our lives, most of the time our hearts remain the same. Sometimes, like for Shaddad, that means being struck with indecision, again and again. Be sure to check out her debut album, Future, dropping on October 26th.— Andrea de Varona on August 23, 2018
The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
The debut album from indie-pop Auckland native band, The Beths, is perfect for playing in the car when in need of a good pick-me-up, providing the perfect screaming-on-the-highway type of mood. The title-track and single off of the album,“Future Me Hates Me,” is not the most optimistic of songs however with relatable self-deprecating content it'll leave you smiling at your own humanistic remorse about the condition of life and relationships. "Future Me Hates Me" is centered around the idea that one is bound to be disappointed by their decisions: that hindsight is 20/20.
While indie-pop often provides listeners with stuck-in-your-head melodies and words that are too often deemed one-dimensional, The Beths manage to evade this stereotype. The precise vocal layering in conjunction with the guitar and drum-led melodies pair almost perfectly in “Future Me Hates Me.” Additionally, the prechorus gives us a break from intense instrumentals, allowing listeners to connect more deeply with the narrative portrayed throughout the song. This break in instrumentals is one reason that “Future Me Hates Me” is not one of many forgettable pop songs. The Beths are displaying a familiar character and a feeling, one is both yearning for intimacy yet afraid of the consequences. This new album leaves us excited for the future of The Beths and indie-pop as a whole.— Samantha Weisenthal on August 23, 2018
Saintseneca - Ladder to the Sun
Saintseneca’s “Ladder to the Sun” is three minutes of pure, unbridled, overflowing joy. Over a jubilant cacophony of acoustic instrumentation led by a relentless stomping rhythm, frontman Zac Little reassures himself that even if there are problems — and problems there are indeed — they will all be alright in the end. “Don’t you worry if we burn / All the light falls back to earth,” he sings, counting his blessings and looking quite literally on the bright side. A Friday-at-5-o’clock kind of song, “Ladder to the Sun” is a sigh of relief when the end is finally in sight. “No one is more free than us,” Little asserts with the confidence of a man who perhaps never dreamed it could apply to himself, relishing the truth of it. His vocals soar in the chorus as more and more of his friends join the party for a final instrumental release, one that would go on forever if it only could. The holes we dig ourselves into only ever get deeper, but he’ll always have the ladder to climb up out of it to bask in the sunlight for a little while.— Daniel Shanker on August 22, 2018
Teddy Glass - Nights and Weekends
Texas's very own Teddy Glass create music that they refer to as "psychedelic rhythm and blues." While the kids are heading back to school, "Nights and Weekends" is the kind of song that can make the summer last a little longer. Although evocative of carefree warm days, "Nights and Weekends" is really a song about the grind it takes to follow your dreams. "Saving up on your nights and your weekends / for the life that you desperately need. / Saving up your nights and your weekends for the real thing, baby / That kind of thing don't come cheap." are the lines we always get back to proving to be the crux of the song. It's a truth that is easy to relate to, using your free time outside of your 9-5 to pursue what you're passionate about. With the vocal smoothness of Mat Kearney and the chill groove of Real Estate, Teddy Glass has created something that sounds fresh and innovative. We'll be looking forward to their debut LP Nights and Weekends out this Friday.— Dara Bankole on August 21, 2018