Posts Tagged ‘Best Albums Of 2019’

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At long last, “Night of the Worm Moon”, the highly-anticipated new album from La Luz singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland is out on LP, CD, digital, and cassette. Critics are already calling the album a “miniature masterpiece” (Uncut) and “a triumph entirely of its own kind. It’s like a garden of quiet yet cosmic folk delights with chasers of old west sounds” (The Big Takeover) that “silently explodes and blossoms out like a magical cosmic flower, arriving just in time for the Spring Equinox” (SLUG Magazine). LP copies on “Face of the Sun Yellow” at Shana’s merch table on her upcoming North American tour while supplies last.

Night of the Worm Moon, the new solo album from Shana Cleveland, the singer/guitarist of acclaimed surf rock band La Luz, watch Shana’s music video for album standout “Face of the Sun” . Cleveland directed this homage to ’70s-era anti-drug PSAs herself. Night of the Worm Moon sees Cleveland expanding her sonic palette, incorporating psychedelic folk sounds with out-there subject matter and inspiration including Afro futurism and alternate dimensions.

An idyllic day takes a turn for the surreal in this music video for “Face of the Sun,” from Night of the Worm Moon, the solo album by La Luz’s Shana Cleveland, Also check out the psychedelic music video for Shana Cleveland’s “Don’t Let Me Sleep,” off the solo album from the La Luz singer/guitarist, The video, from director Ryan Daniel Browne, stars Cleveland as an extraterrestrial exploring a woodland environment under a full moon as the landscape transforms around her.

Shana Cleveland is in the middle of a nightmare when Night of the Worm Moon begins, scrambling over a fence with an unnamed threat in pursuit. “They’ll catch me alive / Don’t let me sleep too late,” she begs on the chorus. The half-dreamt plea sets a spooky opening scene for an album of eerie acoustic lullabies that take place in subconscious worlds—ones full of menace, but equally full of love. Accompanied by only the sparest of instrumentation, Cleveland uses the meditative quality of fingerpicked guitar to create moments of heightened perception and thrumming reverie. She isn’t quite a futurist—the alternate dimensions she explores in her music exist alongside our own—but where Cleveland lights up entire galaxies with her rock band, La Luz, the intimate universe she spins as a solo act can fit in the palm of your hand. Full of flickering baroque details and gorgeously arranged melodic passages,

“Don’t Let Me Sleep” is the second single from Night of the Worm Moon.

Night of the Worm Moon was recorded during the 2017 solar eclipse and was inspired by Afrofuturism, science fiction, and the surreality of daily life in Los Angeles.

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When Lana Del Rey emerged with the virally successful single ‘Video Games’ in 2011, she wasn’t someone who I had pegged for a long career. ‘Video Games’ had a unique atmosphere, a cinematic ballad with nostalgic Hollywood glamour, but also pigeon-holed Del Rey into a distinctive style.

Since then, Del Rey’s worked with different producers, who’ve provided different backdrops, but regretful and languid ballads have remained her bread and butter. To give her credit, she’s worked at her craft, shaking up her sound just enough to stay fresh while continuing to write fascinating lyrics, keeping her critically and commercially relevant.

The album “Norman F*****g Rockwell!”, largely written and produced by Del Rey and Jack Antonoff, has been widely acclaimed as Del Rey’s best album to date. It has manifested gradually – the excellent singles ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ and ‘Venice Bitch’ appeared a year before the album giving us a taster of the songs.

Del Rey has credited the chaotic presidency of Donald Trump and worsening environment threats with inspiring her the album which explores the decay of the American dream. Typically, it’s steeped in Californian nostalgia, with references to film and musicians like Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Dennis Wilson, and the Eagles. The album is named for the painter Norman Rockwell – he serves as a metaphor for immature men.

It helps that Del Rey is endlessly interesting. Her visual aesthetic for Norman F*****g Rockwell! has apparently consisted of submitting whatever photo she had on hand for her single and album covers – hence the Norman F*****g Rockwell! cover shot of Del Rey with Duke Nicholson, Jack Nicholson’s  grandson. She’s also exchanged words with critic Ann Powers, taking umbrage at Powers’ suggestion that Del Rey uses a persona – surely a difficult position for Del Rey to defend, her real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, and the consistent lyrical aesthetic she uses.

Jack Antonoff is largely known for his synth-pop productions for Lorde, Taylor Swift, and Carly Rae Jepsen, but here he backs Del Rey with classy piano-based arrangements. The material is consistently excellent, but at 67 minutes with very little variation in tempo or style, Norman F*****g Rockwell! is less than the sum of its parts.

The song that deviates furthest from the Lana Del Rey template is ‘Venice Bitch’ – it’s almost ten minutes long, and the second half is given over to lovely psychedelic noodling

This is Lana Del Rey‘s sixth studio album “Norman Fucking Rockwell” has been released to a storm of critical praise and instant fan love and it’s easy to see how. Seventeen tracks of inward-looking barebones, atmospheric confessionals have created Lana’s most sincere and vulnerable outing to date, resulting in an album that feels both timeless and highly specific to the times we live in. Opening track ‘Norman fucking Rockwell’ is a manifesto piece for the album, swiftly asserting a wryly confessional tone granting insight into her real-world experiences of womanhood and the man who made those experiences more difficult against a backdrop of warm piano-led balladry.

The references to mid-century icons—The Beach Boys, Sylvia Plath, Slim Aarons—are all still there on her new album, but Norman Fucking Rockwell!, right down to its title’s dismissive interjection of “fucking,” plays out as both a send-up to old avatars of the American Dream and a dismantling of them. Of course, Del Rey is not the first pop star to critique the culture—Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus have all attempted to “get woke” in recent years, with sometimes embarrassing results—but Lana’s approach has certainly been the most authentic.

Lana Del Rey stands amongst the wreckage with us, filtering the apocalyptic malaise of this year through sweeping, majestic piano ballads that recall twentieth century greats, delivering lines like “Goddamn, man-child / You fucked me so good that I almost said, ‘I love you’” on the title track, as if updating Joni Mitchell’s “The Last Time I Saw Richard” for the Tinder generation.  Despite the overall quality, the album’s not helped in that the most memorable material is clustered around the front. Along with ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ and ‘Venice Bitch’, Del Rey’s cover of Sublime’s ‘Doin’ Time’ is also featured early. There are pretty piano ballads sprinkled throughout ‘Cinnamon Girl’, ‘The Greatest’, and ‘Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have But I Have It’ are all diminished in impact by the album’s length.

It would be harsh to cull some of these terrific pieces, but there is a lack of stylistic variation, Norman F*****g Rockwell! is difficult to digest in one stint, and it would be better served with a shorter running time. Nostalgia feels so silly and indulgent now that even an artist who has built her name around an (at times, contrived) vintage romanticism cannot help but turn an eye toward confronting the times in which she is living, rather than rehashing the halcyon days of decades past.

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell – Out Now

“All Mirrors” is the type of record Patsy Cline would have made if she had access to synthesizers. It’s a dazzling tour de force, a record that centers on Olsen’s alternately pleading and commanding voice, surrounding it with lush, rococo swells of strings and electronics. That Olsen was always a great singer was not the question, but never has her prowess shone as brightly as it does in these stately, turbulent songs.

Angel Olsen’s second release, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, was a collection of her early work, where the production was dark-folk sparse. But for “All Mirrors”, she returned to the lush tapestry audiences first experienced on 2016’s My Woman, and the resulting recording is a taut, mesmerizing forty-nine minutes of sonic poetry. While there’s a bevy of modern elements at play—Stereolab-style space grooves on “Too Easy,” warm analog synth lines on “New Love Cassette,” a bouncy electronic twang on “What It Is”—the music here shimmers with a timeless patina. These songs are portraits of heartbreak, triumph, and love that could have been penned fifty years ago, yesterday, or a century from now. So despite its electronic flourishes, All Mirrors feels simultaneously of the moment and firmly embedded in the American songbook.

Olsen is a virtuoso vocalist, and across eleven tracks, she whispers as much as she wails, the oscillation of her instrument intoxicating. Opening track “Lark” sets the tone and finds her in the midst of a romantic detonation, offering up lines like, “This  city’s changed, it’s not what it was / Back  when you loved me.” By the wash of the strings on “Tonight,” where Olsen’s voice is husky, tired, and confessing that while her love remains, she’s better off alone, listeners are firmly in her grip. With its Spaghetti-Western guitar strum, “Summer” is another poignant peak, where Olsen radiates the kind of strength you only get from going through hell and coming out the other side. The closer, “Chance,” balances her extraordinary voice along with her silence against a sentiment that every lover knows but hates to hear: “Hard to say forever, love.” It’s a perfect punctuation for the album’s emotional odyssey, and it’ll make you want to experience it all over again.

On the title track she compares a lover’s smile to being “buried alive,” and on the bleak, ghostly “Impasse,” she icily sings, “Go on, on ahead / tell your friends I was wrong / Take it all out on me.” All of the album’s potential energy exploded in the live setting, where it became something else entirely—grand, gothy, doomy, and spectacular. All Mirrors is a tornado in an antique teacup: elegant craftsmanship and detailing, containing a powerful storm.

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“House of Sugar” is the type of album that gets you banned from having access to the aux cord—(Sandy) Alex G’s latest collection of bedroom-ideated folk and pop songs may feel like it would set the perfect mood for a road trip, but in reality it is, for lack of a better term impossible to make heads or tails of upon first encounter. Lead single “Gretel” probably stands as the best candidate for introducing the Orchid Tapes–reared songwriter to the rest of your car, a pristine pop song built upon an inexplicably functional formula of obscure instrumentation, venturing beyond that—through the faux-Southern accent of “Bad Man” and the numerous over-the-top experimental fillers might prove an exercise in defending an acquired taste.

A glitchy abstraction like “Near” may not grab your over caffeinated co-pilots’ attention immediately, but House of Sugar’s appeal ironically isn’t as aggressively sugar-coated as Alex G’s previous earworm singles. Taking his bedroom ideas to a Domino Recordings-signed artist’s bevy of resources, Sugar lucidly displays facets of the songwriter’s personality we’ve yet to see, both sounding the most alien to his previous discography and the most comfortable in terms of taking creative risks.

There’s as much of Alex’s character in the dream-inspired hoedown “Southern Sky” as there is in the shimmering interlude “Taking,” while the live recording of “Sugar House” that closes the album serves less as a bonus track and more as a crossing over from the surrealist House of Sugar universe into a palpable reality. There’s certainly an argument to be made for Sugar being a great record to listen to while drifting across state lines, though it feels more like an album to jam while drifting in and out of conscious states.

“Southern Sky” appears on (Sandy) Alex G’s new album ‘House of Sugar’ – out September 13th, 2019 on Domino Recordings.

Hovvdy discuss their new album <i>Heavy Lifter</i> and premiere a new single, “Cathedral”

Hovvdy, the Austin-bred slowcore duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor, released their third album Heavy Lifter today. Built around melancholic guitars and self-conscious vocals, lead single “Cathedral” is a lilting groove that feels like having a series of existential realizations in the middle of a field.

While Heavy Lifter does come off as familiar, the record also expands their sound. Working in close collaboration with engineer and producer Ben Littlejohn in various makeshift studios around Texas, they’ve refined their languid melodies and expanded on their previously muted production. It’s still cozy, but it also veers toward the cinematic, with brief forays into Auto-Tune, distorted drum machines, and hip-hop-inspired beats.

Lead single “Cathedral,” is a gentle introduction to this evolution. First it’s dominated by cyclical, strummed guitars reminiscent of Elliott Smith, and then it transforms into a sleepy anthem for late-summer nostalgia. Martin says he wrote the first part “a long time ago,” inspired by a “weird vision or dream about being in the past and seeing my grandma at this church.” Halfway through, the song seems to careen back in time, with Martin repeating the line: “maybe never come back here, we can stay with our friends.” It captures the youthful feeling of infinite time and endless summers, when you stay out with your friends and have zero responsibilities.

The duo sing of finding your own spirituality and learning how to step outdoors in the face of anxiety: “Trust I’ll calm down / Always do somehow / Open my door / Brighter than before / Outside, hide,” they whisper, sunnily.

Hovvdy have always had an uncanny ability to create a comforting effect with their songs, even when those songs are about fear, anxiety and their own personal shortcomings. Fans of their zoned-out, slowed-down indie-pop have come to rely on the duo for their consistently soothing music, and it’s a mantle they’ve gladly taken up. “I was really trying to make something that would make people feel better,” Martin says of Heavy Lifter, on the phone from his bandmate Taylor’s house in Austin. “And I think they have served that purpose for me too, just from making them.”

“Heavy Lifter” on Limited Edition Vinyl

<span class="preorder">Preorder</span>Modern Mirror

Since the 2015 release of Drab Majesty’s debut Careless, and the release of the acclaimed sophomore album The Demonstration the following year, artist Deb Demure and collaborator Mona D. have firmly established themselves amongst the pantheon of dark synth-pop greats, establishing a devoted fan base worldwide with their singular hypnotic sound and mysterious, constantly-evolving presence.

Following intense and extensive touring in support of the first two albums, Drab Majesty escaped to the inspirational landscapes of Athens, Greece to channel the songs for their most ambitious album creation yet: Modern Mirror.

On their third album Modern Mirror, Los Angeles synth-pop duo Drab Majesty sound more majestic than ever. Their futuristic vocals, entrancing rhythms, bittersweet sentiments and lush guitars emit forces of woe and uplift that never feel contradictory. The record was inspired by the group’s trip to Greece, and they take influence from the ancient myth “Echo and Narcissus,” taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. They explore the story of the dangerously ego-driven Narcissus who falls in love with his own reflection, but it’s retold through the lens of postmodern triggers for self-obsession like technological proliferation and lack of quiet self-reflection. Drab Majesty’s lustrous synth escapades and intergalactic bleeps are just as slick as their commentary on modern day romance and personal conundrums.

Blowing the dust off the antiquarian myth of Ovid’s “Narcissus”, Drab Majesty uses its premise as groundwork for a modern reinterpretation. Each song tells a piece of the story, in which the listener’s own self-identity has become warped and dissociated through rapidly expanding technology, losing touch with the origins of their own personalities. Setting the stage as a romantic saga of antiquity, “A Dialogue” asks the listener if they are truly in love amid a building wash of guitars and reverb. Elements of classic tragedy weigh heavily in the reflection of Modern Mirror in songs like “The Other Side”, possessing a fundamental sound that is energetic, luminous and hopeful. Fusing the sonic aesthetics of predecessors like New Order and The Cure within the cautious instruction of Greek mythology and modern science fiction, Drab Majesty has birthed a hybrid of dreamy malaise, captured for a future moment.

The first single “Ellipsis”, romantically plays up the distorted concept of courting through modern technology in a world that has yet to adapt, while on “Long Division”, Deb’s resounding guitar cascades around the chorus shared with No Joy’s Jasamine White-Gluz,wistfully warning us against our vanity and self-obsession. Even when hope for everlasting love peeks through in “Oxytocin”, a sparkling and stoic track sung by Mona D., we are firmly reminded our fleeting existence.

The third single “Oxytocin” from Drab Majesty’s third album: Modern Mirror, out 7.12.19 on Dais.

The second single from Drab Majesty’s third album “Modern Mirror”, released July 12th 2019 on Dais Records. “Long Division points to an elusive impasse one may face in a personal relationship; a fundamental difference whether it be culturally, physically, or emotionally, that reaches a tipping point where both people involved have ultimately lost sight of their own identities through the futile act of trying to accommodate one another. It’s about a crafted dissonance in an attempt to harmonize.” Produced by Josh Eustis (Telefon Tel-Aviv) with guest vocals by No Joy’s Jasamine White-Gluz

Modern Mirror is a journey of self-reflection, nostalgia, love, beauty, and heartbreak told across eight addictive and emotional synth pop anthems – a seemingly classic tale delivered unblinkingly through the frame of the modern world.

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Charly Bliss released a new album this year, “Young Enough”, via Barsuk . Many of its standout tracks were already released as pre-release singles (and all had made our must listen Songs of the Week ), but there are also some worthy album tracks too. We considered the late album ballad “Hurt Me” (“You need me like a parachute” is a good line), but album opener “Blown to Bits” caught our ears the most. In the sequencing it provides a nice built up to album highlight (and first single) “Capacity.” “I don’t know what’s coming for me after 24,” frontwoman Eva Hendricks sings. If her band keeps putting out albums as good as Young Enough then lots more great things should be coming for her in the future. Touring their sophomore album, Young Enough, that has proven they’re a true force to be reckoned with

Previously Charly Bliss shared a video for Young Enough’s first single, “Capacity,” which was directed by Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast . The they shared another new song from the album, “Chatroom,” also via a video for it. Maegan Houang directed the twisted clip, which starred Hendricks as the member of a cult. “Chatroom”. Then they shared another new song from the album, “Hard to Believe,” via a video for it .

On Guppy, Eva poked fun at herself lyrically, but on Young Enough she resists the urge to swerve sincerity. “I was trying to be completely honest, and not always go with my first instinct, which is to be sarcastic or to deflect,” she admits. Eva’s still singing about cute things like bathing suits and kissing boys, but now there’s more sex and nakedness (“I’m fucking joy and I hemorrhage light,” she belts on “Bleach”), more confessions of fear and pain.

Inspired in turn by Lorde’s Melodrama, Superorganism, and recent tours with Bleachers, Wolf Parade, and Death Cab For Cutie, the foursome is especially pleased with the way Young Enough sounds dynamic, forthright, and full of feeling. “It’s still explosive,” still has that frenetic Guppy spirit, Spencer notes, “but it’s more emotional.” They strove for diversity of sound, allowing the songs to have “more space,” to not always be “in-your-face” and “at 110 percent,” an approach that led to roomier, more languid tracks like “Young Enough” and “Hurt Me.”.

Eva, is now twenty-five, is talking specifically about the title track of the forthcoming Young Enough. Lyrically, she says, the track reflects on the anger she expressed on Guppy. “We’re young enough / to believe it should hurt this much,” she sings, her tireless voice mellower than usual; “I had to outgrow it to know or destroy you.” She calls this potent slow-burn the album’s centerpiece, because it’s about “what it means to come out the other end of a really terrible situation” as a softer person, about looking back at yourself with kindness and acceptance, about recognizing you’ve evolved. “You gotta go through it,” she says, addressing her younger self, “but it’s not who you are forever.”

While Guppy took years to complete—they recorded it twice, and some of those songs were almost five years old by the time they came out—Young Enough is the product of complete concentration. After Guppy, each member of the band quit their steady barista and bartender jobs in order to become completely engrossed in the songwriting process. Not always trusting their initial impulses is something the band can all agree on, as evidenced by the re-recording of Guppy, and their penchant for what they call the “Frankensong.” Guppy’s standout, the firecracker breakup track “Glitter,” was one of those; it went through rounds of editing and rearranging until all that remained of the demo was the pre-chorus.

It’s hard to put into words how excited we are to share our second album Young Enough, released May 10th, with all of you. This album was a joy to make. We worked harder and were more focused than ever before, and our confidence and trust in one another and ourselves grew with every song we wrote. This album is a celebration of personal growth, meant to be danced and cried to in equal measure. We can’t wait to share more songs and more information with you in the comings months, but for now, we hope you enjoy our first single, “Capacity” and the beautiful video directed by Michelle Zauner and shot by Adam Kolodny. Also, Also, a huge thank you to Ebru Yildiz for our beautiful album cover and press photos.

After eight years as a band, Charly Bliss’ unfuckwithable chemistry has only gotten stronger. “It just gets better,” says Sam, who’s lanky, earnest, and excitable, and has recently been sporting a platinum coif,

After exploding out of the gates in 2017 with arguably the best rock record of the year in Guppy, Charly Bliss were always going to have to put in the hard yards to outrun the shadow cast by their debut.

Not only were they able to achieve that with Young Enough, they were able to do so entirely on their terms. Yes, this is an album that embraces the band’s love of pop music. It’s not a dirty word where these four come from — and nor should it be.

The VIP tracks this time are “Capacity” and “Chatroom,” also the Frankensongs. “Capacity”— is a sparkling, characteristically feisty, anthem-sized song whose tempo, Sam says, was designed specifically for strutting down the street—was tabled before the band “reopened the case” many months later, during pre-production with producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The White Stripes).

With that being said, you won’t find any other pop song on the radio right now that strikes upon the human condition the same way standout tracks like ‘Capacity’ and ‘Chatroom’ do. Emotively striking and visceral in its honesty, they’re delivered so subtly and in such glossy packaging that you might not even fully understand the weight of that verse you’ve been singing along to this whole time.

From the charging ‘I Fought the Law’ pastiche of ‘Blown to Bits’ through to the quietly-devastating title track, Young Enough is a stellar achievement for a band that doesn’t show any signs of slowing momentum. “I’m always nervous,” Eva concludes. “But it feels good to have songs that are still changing every time you play them, because you’re reviewing what’s working and what’s not working. And to be really nervous—it feels really good.”

The band:

Eva and Sam Hendricks, Dan Shure, and Spencer Fox

Palehound Black Friday

The very first Palehound songs were acerbic and wired. They could be dark and ugly, even masochistic at times. “Vandalize my body if it helps you sleep soundly,” Ellen Kempner begs on one of her best early tracks. The music she was making back then matched that energy: knotted guitars dripping with sourness and slime. But as Kempner has grown up and settled down, her songs have become less nervy and more quietly assured. Black Friday, Palehound’s third full-length album, is her most accomplished yet. It trades in the slicing guitars that made Kempner so beloved for more pillowy arrangements that sound like something you could fall back on to keep warm. “I think I hate my body/ ‘Til it’s next to yours,” she sings instead here — something once accepting of harm now deserving of love.

Love abounds on Black Friday. At its center is a healthy partnership that feels like a safe bubble, one that isn’t liable to fade away any time soon. “Aaron,” one of Kempner’s most gorgeous songs, is about supporting her partner through his transition, and it’s filled with tender-hearted declarations of devotion that slide out into open air. “You live your life with your back turned to me/ Your body swaying, voice steady in stance,” she sings. “If shutting my mouth will help you/ Turn around, Aaron/ I can, I can, Aaron, I can.” Even more than the specific experience, “Aaron” is about learning how to be comfortable with what we’ve been given, about wanting to feel weightless in the face of life’s burden. “Rid of our bodies, come and float with me,” she beckons. It’s the happiest Kempner has ever sounded in her music, when she’s opening herself up to new forms of love.

Palehound’s last album, A Place I’ll Always Go, had happy songs like this, too, but they were tempered by songs about death. That album was written shortly after Kempner’s grandmother and a close friend passed away in quick succession, and a lot of those songs were dealing with the disconnect that comes with happiness arriving at the most inopportune time. But Black Friday accepts happiness as something that we’re entitled to, that everyone should feel regardless of their situation. “If there’s anything I learned while I was back in town/ It’s that nothing worth loving ever sticks around/ But you,” Kempner sings on the last lines of this album.

Her newfound stability allows her the opportunity for some perspective to explore devotion in all its forms. Some of the most impressive songs are about friendships and partnerships that didn’t work out. On the album’s title track, Kempner reflects on one such friendship where she constantly felt like an afterthought, but a mislaid sense of dedication kept her coming back for more. “I’ll take being the last one on your mind,” she sings. “Still squeeze me in, never cared about waiting on your line.” The album’s title comes from this clever barb: “You’re Black Friday and I’m going to the mall,” a reminder of our tendency to keep doing things that we know are bad for us, like keeping up the ties of an imbalanced friendship or stoking the memories of an old flame, like Kempner does on the anthemic “Stick N Poke.” There she adopts some of her clanging old-school dramatic flair for a shout-along chorus: “I think I’m due for a shitty tattoo! I only have these thoughts when I’m missing you!”

A good relationship will only get you so far away from your demons, though, and Kempner still falls into old patterns of negativity on Black Friday. Love isn’t a cure for self-consciousness and self-loathing. The feeling that you’re never going to be enough is pervasive, that expectation that the worst will happen never really goes away. On “Worthy,” she pokes at that old wound of unworthiness: “I text you late at night/ I’m in the motel bathroom/ Staring at my thighs.” But Kempner leans into that fear, using it to remind herself of how far she’s come already. “At the thought of losing you/ My muscles hum familiar tunes/ And curl me to a naked ball/ Wet on our shower floor/ How do I unfurl from here?” she sings on the album’s closing track. But the difference between then and now is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of another half that understands where you’re coming from and accepts you for who you are.

Black Friday’s central visual motif is a plush puppet mask (created by Gaudmother) that’s featured on the album’s cover art and recurs in its music videos. In the one for “Aaron,” we see this puppet before it assumes its final form. It’s rough-looking, covered in lint and muck, a gigantic outer protective layer that ends up being shed as it runs wildly through the streets, emerging into a cozy and lovable Muppet-like creature, delightful in its awkwardness. Kempner achieves a similar transformation with this album. Her gnarled guitar lines have given way to soft-focus serenity, warm keys stemming the anxiety that once threatened to envelop her. Her bitter edge has opened up to vulnerability and light.

Black Friday is out 6/7 via Polyvinyl Records.

“Beware Of The Dogs”feels like the embodiment of a movement of young artists in Australia who are refusing to let this oppressive behaviour slide. What a debut from Perth’s Stella Donnelly! She combines witty, intimate, hyperlocal songwriting – which more often than not takes down hierarchical power structures and toxic dudes, see opener Old Man – with slack, shoegazing guitar lines.

There are subdued moments, like Mosquito, where her girlish vocals come to the fore, only for songs like the title track to build to a loud, impassioned – and funny – call-to-arms:”There’s no Parliament worthy of this countryside/All these pious fucks taking from the 99,” she cries. Let ‘em have it, Stella.

Stella Donnelly latest album ‘Beware of the Dogs,’ out March 8 on Secretly Canadian

The year is just halfway through, but 2019 has already been a big one for Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. The musician best known as one-third of Mountain Man, the folk trio who made their comeback with last year’s beautiful Magic Ship, announced earlier this year that her debut solo record was en route. Dawnbreaker arrives less than a year after Magic Ship, Mountain Man’s second album as a trio and their first after an eight-year hiatus. It’s a gentle 10-song collection of rustling folk-pop.

Dawnbreaker is the first album Alexandra Sauser-Monnig she has released under the name Daughter of Swords. To celebrate its release (it’s out today via Nonesuch Records) Sauser-Monnig broke the album down for us track-by-track.

“Fellows”

The guitar line of “Fellows” materialized while I was living in a beautiful, ramshackle old farmhouse in rural Virginia with a former partner, and the words later while camping high up a California mountain road on a break from touring with Feist many years ago. The writing of the song spanned the end of one relationship and the beginning of another, and it reflects on the futility of defining yourself through your relationship to a partner.

“Gem” 

“Gem” was the first song that Nick Sanborn — who engineered, co-produced, mixed and played on the record — and I collaborated on arranging. He’s really good at following what’s fun, and pivoting to another song or idea or approach when the joy or the energy feels like it’s beginning to lag. After having recorded a couple of pretty spare demos and takes, this song ventured into new terrain and was the first time the breadth of the spectrum of sound and arrangement of the record became clear.

“Shining Woman” 

I wrote this song when I was feeling wrapped up about what being an adult person with a womb means. Writing it felt like a reminder to myself that the world is full of inspiring people choosing to make their own paths through life liberated from the cultural and biological script. The main character of the song took up residence in my mind and served as a reminder to me that change is always possible.

“Fields of Gold”

Drummer Joe Westerlund, formerly of Megafaun and currently of Mandolin Orange, played a large role in shaping the feel of “Fields of Gold.” He is a wizard of aux percussion and has a library of things to make sounds with, from shakers and bells to custom made metal sculptures that you play with a bow to things nature made that happen to sound beautiful. He lived next door to the studio where Dawnbreaker was made, and for a couple of magical days made complicated, delicate percussive arrangements holding more percussion in his hands than seemed humanly possible before I saw him in action.

“Grasses” 

“Grasses” is a meditation on acceptance. I wrote the words when I was sick with tick-borne illness. My body felt really wrong and I was having trouble getting any insight or advice, or even a diagnosis from doctors. So all I knew was that I felt terrible and that it wasn’t getting better. I sang “Grasses” to myself while lying in bed in an effort to comfort myself and to get down from the high ledges of fear and panic I was on in my mind.

“Easy is Hard”

Country was the first kind of music that made me feel something potent that I couldn’t name. It’s often where my songwriting begins, even if it doesn’t stay there. “Easy is Hard” follows its own logic, but feels like one of the songs on the record whose roots are most obviously in country.

“Rising Sun”

For a while I had an old worn out Sun Records tape of Billy Lee Riley songs in my car. I was in a very transitional phase of life and latched onto this tape and listened to it all the time in a way that gave me the tiniest sense of stability. I learned a blues shuffle off of it and wrote a different version of the song, which is “Rising Sun.” One of my favorite moments on the record is the end of this song — as the band fades out, the voices of Mountain Man fade in, humming like the highway and ending with all our voices and the sound of the room predominant in an unexpected way.

“Long Leaf Pine”

I had just moved to North Carolina and had been out blackberry picking and exploring the woods behind my house when I wrote “Long Leaf Pine.” I came back in and sat down and the song came out more or less complete. Recording it was equally magical — Nick Sanborn and I had been trying different arrangements of the song, and had started over again, making some kind of far out choices. It had started snowing outside when Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé came over. They sang beautiful witchy harmonies while snow was falling outside the window and contextualized everything else beautifully within the realm of harmony.

“Human”

This was another song that appeared mostly formed very fast. I’ve had the possibly common but definitely surreal experience a few times of my subconscious delivering up verdicts on my life choices in song form before the rest of my mind is ready to acknowledge whatever it is, and that was the case with Human. We recorded the song, and then I left it alone for almost a year without even listening to it. There was a point that I didn’t want it on the record because it’s so raw. But now its presence feels crucial to me in the arc of the record.

“Dawnbreaker” 

“Dawnbreaker” is a dive into the ways imagining possible transmogrification into a different life form sometimes feels preferable to facing the hard emotional truths of life with a human consciousness. This last track on the record was one of the first takes that we recorded, and it was recorded as a demo. For a while, I wanted to get a different take to use, but none of the subsequent takes had the same rawness and tentative energy that ultimately felt so right as a note to end on.

thanks to http://www.talkhouse.com

“Dawnbreaker” is on the debut album from Daughter of Swords, out 28th June via Nonesuch Records


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