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.
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
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
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