Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Future Islands‘ romantic synth sound scales new heights with “On the Water”, the Baltimore trio’s most ambitious and fully realized statement yet. Built around a song cycle exploring love, loss, and memory, their latest album finds the band continuing to deliver pounding rhythms, swelling melodies, and undeniable hooks – but finding new ways to probe inner space and tug at hearts.

Convening in March 2011 in Elizabeth City, NC’s historic, waterfront Andrew S. Sanders House, vocalist Samuel T. Herring, bassist William Cashion, and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers lived together in a space that served as both studio and sleeping quarters. The band used this tranquil retreat to refine their most reflective and mature batch of songs to date, adding new material in the process.

What emerged is a lush yet visceral album about two parallel journeys–one physical and one psychological. “On the Water’s” narrator offers enough detail that their story feels personal, yet open enough that any listener can inhabit each twist and emotional pang as their own.

Travelling on foot, we seek something – an exorcism, an epiphany, an ending. Memories wash across us as in life: non-linear, linked by emotional resonance rather than conventional chronology. And so, the pain of letting go channeled by “The Great Fire” collides with a moment’s fleeting serenity in the Eno-esque “Open”; the triumphant rallying cry “Give Us the Wind, “ despite its confident declaration of individual strength, remains a mile away from final chapter “Tybee Island.” It is there the song cycle ends, and what is discovered in “Tybee Island” will be as different as the lives lived by each person who finds their way to this album.

On the Water may unearth aural memories as well. The mind may flash upon our first encounters with New Order’s “Ceremony,” David Bowie’s “Heroes,” or The Cure’s Disintegration, memories which, are continually reborn and re-imagined in the context of the here and now. And as the song-cycle’s narrator comes to terms with his own memories, his singular journey collapses into the collective experience of album-closer “Grease.” It is here that the “I” of the nine previous songs collapses into the “we” of Future Islands, now singing the literal journey of the people who came together by the ocean to deliver these songs into our ears. Far from just a narrative trope, the ocean played an integral role in On the Water’s creation. The bulk of the album was recorded with waves pounding sand mere feet away. The album opens and closes with field recordings made by the band on a nearby dock, and one pivotal track, “Tybee Island,” began with vocals recorded on the beach (subsequently fleshed out in the studio with additional instrumentation).

The ocean inhabits every note of these songs. On the Water is an addictive ride that demands repeat listens, eagerly awaiting the test of time. To produce these results, Future Islands fleshed out its sound with the additions of cello, violin, marimba, and field recordings. As with their 2010 breakthrough album In Evening Air, On the Water was produced by frequent collaborator Chester Endersby Gwazda, perhaps best known as producer of Dan Deacon’s Bromst. Noted guests include Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, who provides vocals on “The Great Fire,” and Double Dagger’s Denny Bowen on live drums and additional percussion.

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For all its undeniable weight, On the Water is not a sullen concept album. Every track on the record works both as a contribution to the whole and as a stand-alone pleasure, evident in the insistent throbs, addictive melodies, and stirring vocals of tracks like “Close to None,” “Balance,” and first single “Before the Bridge.”

Make no mistake, On the Water is a record that aims to both break your heart and heal your wounds.

Released August 12th, 2020

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The Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally had established themselves as effortlessly sublime dream-pop adepts by the time of their third album, but they hadn’t yet embraced the production values that might convince people who weren’t reading mp3 blogs. Teen Dream, Beach House’s Sub Pop debut, was the sound of a band going for broke at that exciting moment before they know what they’re really capable of achieving. Recording in a converted church with producer/engineer Chris Coady, whose credits span Amen Dunes to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the pair demonstrated a rare balance of preaching to the choir and pulling in new converts. The spidery guitar lines, dimly lit organ tones, and sparse drum machines remain.

But there’s also much more attempted: crystalline Fleetwood Mac–style harmonies, shoegaze-teetering crescendos, even kitchen-sink piano balladry. Each of the 10 songs could’ve been a single, and the physical edition’s accompanying DVD offers pleasantly warped videos for all of them. It was still dream pop, all right, right down to the “Twin Peaks”-echoing lyrical hook of the bleakly glamorous “Silver Soul.” But it was dream pop that could entice Jay-Z and Beyoncé out to a gig. Beach House have a well-earned reputation for not changing much, but on Teen Dream, they came into their own, and ushered the languid reveries of Galaxie 500, Mazzy Star, and Cocteau Twins into the current Instagram decade.

Beach House’s bleary-eyed dream pop is a soothing after-sun for the mind. The cymbals crash like waves on a deserted beach in late-summer, when the shadows are longer, the air is cooler and the carefree excitement of the previous months is replaced with a sedated satisfaction. Victoria Legrand’s contralto voice feels more shadowy than anything peak season would have allowed, whilst Alex Scally provides the flickers of brilliance that keep the whole record warm and alight, like a campfire under the starry skies.

Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack of Wye Oak have spent most of their lives in Baltimore, MD. But after two years of constant touring with Civilian, they landed on opposite sides of the country with an unforeseeable future ahead. Despite this newfound uncertainty, the two bandmates embraced their physical distance, passing ideas back and forth, allowing new work to evolve in their respective solitudes

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Written, arranged, performed and produced by Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack
with special guests The Brooklyn Youth Chorus:
releases July 31, 2020

Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock collapses a continuum of 20th century music into decidedly classic song structures. English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia all serve as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound. The Baltimore-based band have perfected the craft of storytelling using the delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics to tell vivid stories that engage the listener and transport them the way an immersive novel would. Let It All In stands as their most accomplished and evocative album to date. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann’s melodies and solos still remain a central focus bolstered by the hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey and enhanced by Matthew Pierce’s substantial yet understated keyboard figures. Each song is a vivid scene or tale; meticulously detailed and crafted, transporting the listener to another world and time.

Recorded at Wrightway Studios with Steve Wright, the record’s elaborate, delicate and interlocking melodies expand with improvisation as in the relentless forward-motion of title track “Let In All In”, or the slow cosmic churn of “No Sanctuary Blues”. Let It All In features two drummers on nearly every track. David Bergander worked with long-time core member Carey to develop complementary parts, blended together as if they were a single player rather than two separate instrumentalists. New sounds are nowhere more evident than on “High Water Song”. With its raucous honky-tonk piano laid down by Hans Chew and walls of layered saxophone, trumpet and flugelhorn played by Dave Ballou and Matthew Pierce, it is a striking new addition to their catalog of songs.

Heumann’s deep sense of spirituality and command of storytelling through myth and metaphor resonates through Arbouretum’s music. Let It All In invokes nature as a backdrop for exploring humanity’s relationship to time, history, and the present socio-political climate, often highlighting water as a ubiquitous if often unconscious presence in our lives. It acts as a subtle connecting thread through each piece’s imagined landscapes, as well as taking on a symbol for change and spirit. The “black and deepest crimson” of sunrise over the Atlantic ocean on “How Deep It Goes” reflects on current political turmoil and the obfuscation of truth. “High Water Song” follows a narrator whose home is washed away by the effects of climate change and struggles to integrate into a new homeland. Title track “Let It All In” acts as a thematic thesis to the album, musing on both the pitfalls and benefits of letting the outside world into one’s inner life.

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Let It All In is as instantly arresting as it is deeply reflective, with layers of sound and metaphor for the listener to unravel and interpret in their own way. It is a beautiful album that lives in and reflects the present moment while sounding as if it were forged in another era. The group has always centered around Heumann’s remarkable voice and songwriting. His skill as a vocalist and guitar player have led to playing with artists such as Cass McCombs, Will Oldham, and many others. Heumann’s songs are transportive and decidedly album-oriented, and Let It All In is an invitation to jump into an album rich with timeless elegance. The rarity of their live shows and the other worldliness of their music have made Arbouretum a cultish band, a treasure for those that discover their albums. Their profound music endures and rewards fans both old and new. Arbouretum has added to their catalog another exceptional work that will weather changing fashions and reward those who explore their entirely unique world.

Releases March 20th, 2020

Arbouretum has been called the best of the millennial classic rock bands. The band, founded by guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann, effortlessly weaves its melodies & guitar solos with the often hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender & drummer Brian Carey around the deliberate keyboard of Matthew Pierce to lift the vocals. The result is a full sound delivered with a striking sense of intimacy. are a poem by AJ Gault (1818-1903), great-great-great grandfather of Dave Heumann.

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This poem was written to AJ Gault’s brother, Thomas Gault,

Post Pink embrace the doom-and-gloom. Across eight tracks, the Baltimore band is concerned with empty spaces and how to fill them adequately, but it’s like trying to hold water in your hands. Or as they put it on the opening track: “Eating air to feel full/ Breathe your air back into me, but there’s a hole in my lungs that won’t contain it.” The songs are wiry and tense, but they leave equal space for cutting barbs and warm melodies, delivered with a razor-sharp sincerity.

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Released April 29th, 2019

Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack of Wye Oak have spent most of their lives in Baltimore, MD. But after two years of constant touring with Civilian, they landed on opposite sides of the country with an unforeseeable future ahead. Despite this newfound uncertainty, the two bandmates embraced their physical distance, passing ideas back and forth, allowing new work to evolve in their respective solitudes, Harsh jagged guitar & synths that then melt into a lovely lilting chorus. Energy & subtlety, wonderfully arranged & produced.

The single, “Fortune,” is out now on Merge Records

The debut single from Hamerkop features delirious washes of synth over a driving motorik beat, as Annabel Alpers‘ yearning vocals wash over everything with widescreen flair and a hooky resolve. Sounds like a summer single! Winter may be coming on here, but Annabel hails from down under, where the seasons are in reverse; thus also the song’s theme of migratory birds, as homesick, she measures the distance from the US to New Zealand by wingspan.
Hamerkop is a pair of Baltimore-based sound nerds: Annabel Alpers, the composer, singer and instrumentalist formerly of New Zealand’s Bachelorette, and Adam Cooke, a Baltimorean drummer/audio engineer with credits that include Beach HouseWye Oak and Future Islands. Together, they have created a song-cycle that contrasts the often-mundane (yet often satisfying) everyday world with that of the idealized, longed-for fantasy, to find the spaces in between these things, the place where we all feel good about our existence.
from Remote, releases February 7th, 2020

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The Band Lower Dens (which is led by singer/songwriter Jana Hunter) are set to be releasing a new album, The Competition, on September 6th via Ribbon Music. Previously they shared a video for its first single, “Young Republicans” This week they shared another song from the album, “I Drive,” also via a video for the track.

Jason Nocito directed the black & white video, which features choreography by Veleda Roehl and dancers Stephannie Henriquez and Steven Jeltsch. The song finds Hunter lamenting, “Why can’t we be with the ones we were made to love?”

Hunter had this to say about the song in a press release: “Like a lot of queer and trans people, I’ve learned that real family is made, and it isn’t necessarily blood. Even my blood relatives, we work for that familial connection and trust. This song is about leaving behind obligations to people who don’t love or care about you, being with and about people who do. It’s a feeling so strong it’s driving me. That’s the driving I’m doing.”

Hunter had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset.  I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”

The Competition is the follow-up to 2015’s Escape From Evil. A previous press release said The Competition “might be Hunter’s most vulnerable, hook-filled album yet, a leftfield, resistance pop record that could only be released in 2019.”

Band Members
Jana Hunter, Nate Nelson

Lower Dens’ forthcoming album ‘The Competition’, out September 6th on Ribbon Music.

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“YWLGOML” is a song about facing and overcoming challenges. Outer Spaces, the solo project of Baltimore-based songwriter Cara Beth Satalino, gives us an infectious midtempo cut born out of Satalino’s attempts to overcome the negativity that came with taking a break from a long-term, romantic relationship. Keep your ears peeled for the breezy, unexpected sax solo. Gazing Globe, Satalino’s sophomore album as Outer Spaces, is out June 28 on Western Vinyl Records.

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