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
Joey Dosik - Take Mine
Joey Dosik is known for penning basketball-themed love songs and ripping through saxophone solos with DIY funk goofballs Vulfpeck, but he takes a more tender approach on “Take Mine,” a soulful piano ballad with the heart of a Stax Records single. “Running and you can’t go on / Pretending when you don’t have your smile / You’ve lost your smile / So why not take mine?” he croons, letting the smile show in his voice. Meant to console a friend in need, there are clear echoes of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” in Dosik’s offers, lending the song a more political air as well. Where McCartney’s offering was a child of the folk music so strongly tied to the Woodstock era, Joey Dosik looks to the soul and Motown hits of the same period, decorating his song with with a key bass groove and a string section one might expect on a Stevie Wonder or Jackson 5 tune, respectively. As the song reaches the peak of its crescendo — the highlight of the song being the emotional release of the chord change under that final gift, “Take some of mine!” — it sounds less like a question and more like a done deal, a talented young musician giving everything he can to his friend and his debut album.— Daniel Shanker on August 31, 2018
Michael-Andrew - YOU
In a beautiful fusion of indie-folk and ambience with touches of R&B, Michael-Andrew Spalding gives us his debut album, atlasTELAMON, the name coming from a poem penned by the Cincinnati singer-songwriter and multidisciplinary artist himself. With imagery driven lyrics and a musical landscape that's as all-consuming as the vocals it accompanies, "YOU" highlights everything Michael-Andrew brings to the table. While its easy to get caught up in the sound, the lyrical themes of "YOU" are also worth exploring. If you close your eyes you can almost see it playing out. The song starts out the way a movie does in media res, throwing us into the climax before revealing how we arrive to it. Spalding sings of being underwater, and in the next breath tells us of his desire to go to the water. These lines expose the truth behind the concept that at times the very thing we desire has an overtaking power unbeknownst to us. Still the songs ends with the urge to go to the water, as if calling us back to that time of naivety and innocence when we filled our minds with picturesque thoughts and ignored whatever harsh realities may be a side effect. This is "YOU" by Michael-Andrew, and we're nothing short of impressed.— Dara Bankole on August 30, 2018
Valley Queen - Carolina
“Carolina” is the prismatic evolution of music passed, by way of Americana band Valley Queen. The song is rife with visions of '70s rockers like Heart, present in their riff-reveling guitar parts. Natalie Carol’s quavering voice is a primary element, distinct in tone and acting as an instrument rather than an elocutionist. The drums move more meticulously, tumbling in thick wallops that satisfy the ears, as well as propel the song. “Carolina” seems to groove effortlessly. Only the vocals act as tension, until the chorus veers off. We're kept in suspense by the drums slowly building underneath Carol's call. “Carolina,” she intones, “She was the valley queen.” Suddenly we’re released from suspension, with that memorable refrain compelling the electric guitars to dance. “Carolina” is off Valley Queen's newly released debut album Supergiant.— Talullah Ruff on August 30, 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
Gabe Goodman - The Bandage and The Wound
For those who live in New York, where there’s constant street noise, ambulances and just overstimulation, “The Bandage and the Wound” by NY-based indie singer-songwriter Gabe Goodman won’t fail to calm you down. Goodman’s comforting voice, the minimal and fragile synth, and the gentle percussion all do the trick. “An affirmation of love,” Goodman sings, sounding as sweet and smooth as honey. “When I feel bad, I don’t need you,” he continues in the chorus. Although the song has a bit of a somber tone, it’s also quietly empowering. The song is produced by Goodman alongside Will Radin and is off of his EP Dismissing The Gardener out on September 21st via Salient Recordings. Listen to “The Bandage and the Wound,” the perfect late-August tune, now though, for a relaxing sense of liberation. If only it was longer than two minutes and forty-three seconds.— Kirsten Spruch on August 29, 2018
Duumu (feat. ÊMIA) - Forward
ÊMIA’s feature on Duumu’s latest track released as a part of Monstercat Instinct Vol.2, “Forward,” is powerful in its delicacy. It's the latest in a line of many successful collaborations that the singer/songwriter and producer, Anh Le, has put out under the pseudonym, ÊMIA. Contrasted against the light trapp of Duumu’s style, her airy soprano voice lends a lovely melodic element to this summer-y EDM track. The harmonies are so airtight that it causes the sound to vibrate with energy. “I’m going crazy thinking ‘bout the ways things have could have been between the two of us... I’m going somewhere,” she sings. Then, it’s hard to tell if she says “maybe it’s forward,” or “baby it’s forward,” until the end of the song echoes “I’m moving on.” The frantic nature of the song reflects the struggle with that ambiguity.— Grace Eire on August 28, 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