Posts Tagged ‘Hardly Art Records’

When Julia Shapiro flew home from a cancelled Chastity Belt tour in April 2018, everything in her life felt out of control. Dealing with health issues, freshly out of a relationship, and in the middle of an existential crisis, she realized halfway through a tour supporting her band’s third album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone that she was going through too much to continue. “I was really struggling; I was really depressed. I felt like I couldn’t sing or be a person,” Shapiro recalls. “At that point I couldn’t even imagine playing a show again, I was so over it.”

Returning home to a newly empty Seattle one-bedroom apartment, Shapiro had wanted for a long time to learn how to record and mix her own music, and out of the uncertainty of the future of her music career and her health, she began to record the songs that would become Perfect Version, her solo debut for Hardly Art. What she created in the space of ten songs is an intimate and beautifully self-aware examination of feeling lost in the life you’ve created for yourself. It’s an album of shimmering guitars and layered vocals that feels vast in the emotional depth it conveys and masterful in the way each song is intentionally crafted and recorded.

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Throughout the record Shapiro tries on different ways of living, all thematically centered around the idea of what it would be like to be a perfect version of yourself. “How can someone be so blindly confident/I wanna know that trick,” she wonders on “Natural,” the opening track that begins using another person as a mirror and then pans back to a bigger picture: what would it take to really love yourself? The album is peppered with ideas of what self-improvement could look like—whether it’s learning a skill and living out in the woods, going to bed at a reasonable hour, or even more playful, deeply relatable lines like “I should really delete my Instagram.”

Shapiro has a knack for turning simple images into something profound, drawing influence from songwriters like Elliott Smith to capture complicated moods. The everyday act of circling the block trying to find a parking spot becomes a metaphor for trying and feeling like you can’t quite get anything done. “All my problems feel like paper/I can finally rip them up,” she sings on the title track, describing a moment of lightness in hanging out with friends who can find humor in your failure “at least I have my friends to laugh at what I’ve done.”

Over the course of a tumultuous year of trying to find stability amidst depression and surgery, Shapiro ultimately rediscovered the parts of music that she loved through the process. Her perfectionist qualities create an album that shines in tiny lyrical moments and meticulous guitar parts. “When the rest of my life felt out of control, I felt like this was my chance to be in control of everything,” says Shapiro. She plays all the instruments (save for a mouth trumpet solo by Darren Hanlon and guest violin by Annie Truscott) and after recording and mixing the first batch of four songs at the Vault studio with Ian LeSage decided to record the final six tracks alone in her apartment, adding drums in the studio later and learning to mix them with the help of her friend David Hrivnak.

Perfect Version is a fully realized vision from a gifted songwriter finding a more intimate voice. “So what comes next?” she questions on the album closer “Empty Cup” which explores the quiet satisfaction of being alone with yourself and creating a blank slate. “A lasting sense of self,” she concludes.

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Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro steps out on her own on <i>Perfect Version</i>

When Julia Shapiro flew home from a cancelled Chastity Belt tour in April 2018, everything in her life felt out of control. Dealing with health issues, freshly out of a relationship, and in the middle of an existential crisis, she realized halfway through a tour supporting her band’s third album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone that she was going through too much to continue. “I was really struggling; I was really depressed. I felt like I couldn’t sing or be a person,” Shapiro recalls. “At that point I couldn’t even imagine playing a show again, I was so over it.”

Returning home to a newly empty Seattle one-bedroom apartment, Shapiro had wanted for a long time to learn how to record and mix her own music, and out of the uncertainty of the future of her music career and her health, she began to record the songs that would become Perfect Version, her solo debut for Hardly Art Records. What she created in the space of ten songs is an intimate and beautifully self-aware examination of feeling lost in the life you’ve created for yourself. It’s an album of shimmering guitars and layered vocals that feels vast in the emotional depth it conveys and masterful in the way each song is intentionally crafted and recorded.

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Throughout the record Shapiro tries on different ways of living, all thematically centered around the idea of what it would be like to be a perfect version of yourself. “How can someone be so blindly confident/I wanna know that trick,” she wonders on “Natural,” the opening track that begins using another person as a mirror and then pans back to a bigger picture: what would it take to really love yourself? The album is peppered with ideas of what self-improvement could look like—whether it’s learning a skill and living out in the woods, going to bed at a reasonable hour, or even more playful, deeply relatable lines like “I should really delete my Instagram.”

Shapiro has a knack for turning simple images into something profound, drawing influence from songwriters like Elliott Smith to capture complicated moods. The everyday act of circling the block trying to find a parking spot becomes a metaphor for trying and feeling like you can’t quite get anything done. “All my problems feel like paper/I can finally rip them up,” she sings on the title track, describing a moment of lightness in hanging out with friends who can find humor in your failure “at least I have my friends to laugh at what I’ve done.”

Over the course of a tumultuous year of trying to find stability amidst depression and surgery, Shapiro ultimately rediscovered the parts of music that she loved through the process. Her perfectionist qualities create an album that shines in tiny lyrical moments and meticulous guitar parts. “When the rest of my life felt out of control, I felt like this was my chance to be in control of everything,” says Shapiro. She plays all the instruments (save for a mouth trumpet solo by Darren Hanlon and guest violin by Annie Truscott) and after recording and mixing the first batch of four songs at the Vault studio with Ian LeSage decided to record the final six tracks alone in her apartment, adding drums in the studio later and learning to mix them with the help of her friend David Hrivnak. Perfect Version is a fully realized vision from a gifted songwriter finding a more intimate voice. “So what comes next?” she questions on the album closer “Empty Cup” which explores the quiet satisfaction of being alone with yourself and creating a blank slate. “A lasting sense of self,” she concludes.

Julia Shapiro from Chastity Belt makes her solo debut on the intimate, deeply personal Perfect Version, out June 16th.

“Natural” is the lead single from Perfect Version, the solo debut of Julia Shapiro, singer/guitarist of Chastity Belt and Childbirth. Perfect Version is out Friday, June 14th.

Like many important bands, Seattle quartet Versing got their start in college radio—Tacoma’s KUPS. The group’s main songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Daniel Salas served as alternative music director there, where he met guitarist Graham Baker, drummer Max Keyes, and bassist Kirby Lochner. Now Versing are poised to spread their coolly combustible brand of rock on those said airwaves…and beyond if the world knows what’s good for it.

Baker, Keyes, Lochner, and Salas have risen through Seattle’s competitive rock ecosphere with nonchalant élan. They cheekily titled a previous album Nirvana, but never mind the bleach: Versing isn’t emulating Sub Pop’s most famous artist. Rather, these four twenty-something aesthetes are forging an exciting sound that finds a golden mean between lustrous noise and ebullient melody.

Emerging from a stint as a drummer in a stoner-metal band, Salas formed Versing as a vehicle to vent obliquely about his political and social views with irony and humor. Populated with strange characters, his songs often double as “critiques of centrism and conservatism, from a leftist perspective. That’s a theme: committing to something or doing something that may be hard but is the better option. However, when I write politically, it’s more allegorical and can be interpreted beyond the political realm. I find that more interesting to write about than my personal life.”

That being said, the pell-mell, ostinato-laced “Renew,” which Salas says is his most hopeful song, has a personal message. “It’s about taking time to care for yourself—even when things are all weird and fucked up.” Meanwhile, the immersive, pummeling “Offering” evokes those twin pillars of 1988 rock: My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything and Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. “I just really enjoy that droning line of guitar feedback,” Salas says. “We use a lot of feedback on our songs, but I think that’s one of the more deliberately musical uses we’ve found for it. It’s sort of a fantastical song about traveling through a mystical portal to stop an encroaching force of evil, and the feedback is like the whirring sound the portal makes.”

Another fantastical song, “Tethered” is a low-key, Daydream Nation-esque anthem with plenty of dissonance and surging, distorted guitars, plus rhythms that drive piles. Salas explains that it’s “about how people are tied together,” figuratively. “It’s a reminder of the interconnectedness of humans, to people who make excuses for not doing the right thing” for the greater good of humanity.

With Versing, songwriting is obviously crucial, but much of the pleasure in 10000 comes from its guitar textures. They’re swarming, yet also spiky and agile. The funny thing is, Salas writes most of Versing’s songs on his unplugged Gibson guitar. “I like a more shambolic tone than something that sounds really clean and put together. I like there to be some screechiness to it—something that’s not right.”

Salas cites earlier purveyors of abstract rock music Cocteau Twins and Wire as major inspirations. Much of the rock that followed in the wake of 9/11, though, leaves him cold. “9/11 messed up a lot of things culturally, including music,” he says. “It engendered a deep social conservatism and nationalism that meant the chaotic and unpracticed sounds previously common in rock music had to go, in favor of tighter playing, more simplistic subject matter, and super clean production.”

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Gently chiding the Seattle music scene’s self-seriousness while acknowledging Versing’s playfulness and irony, Salas says, “There’s a ‘let’s just fuck around and see what comes out,’ aspect of what we do, which I think is uncommon for Seattle bands.”

Versing’s freewheeling attitude has paradoxically resulted in 10000, an engrossing album that’s impossible to feel ambivalent about.

releases May 3rd, 2019
Sat, Feb 16th – The Sunflower Lounge , Birmingham United Kingdom

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Chicago singer/songwriter Lillie West records as Lala Lala and she’s set to release the follow-up to 2016’s Sleepyhead. Her forthcoming Hardly Art LP, The Lamb, is a stark indie-rock record, informed by a difficult time period of West’s life, which consisted of “home invasion, deaths of loved ones and general violence.” As the album hops between lo-fi pop and scuzzy rock, West’s musings are nuanced and naked in their emotional outpouring. People react to early adulthood in vastly different ways and as West found herself intermingling with addiction and toxic people, she sought rejuvenation through sobriety and these new songs. “Destroyer” sees West trying to finally get passed previous hardship and “Water Over Sex” sees West grappling with her newfound more positive lifestyle. She’s a compelling, relatable narrator, someone who’s in her own head, but takes you on a journey through her clever mind and candid, unglamorous life experiences.

Can an album simultaneously charm and devastate? In the case of Lillie West and her solo project Lala Lala‘s sophomore album, The Lamb, the answer is an emphatic yes.

The record is a multi-dimensional exploration of both the human spirit and music that aims to crush souls. The quiet yet emotionally powerful grunge ballad “Moth” is pure escapism sonically and in its message. Beautifully knee-buckling, “Dove” is the feeling of plunging into the great blue sea. This landscape, however, is drowned with the tears of sorrow and pain, as West says goodbye to someone she dearly loved. On the chiming, dark rocker, “Destroyer”, West is brutally honest. She proclaims without hesitation, “You are the reason my heart broke behind my back”. Beyond the chorus, however, she also explains the many times she was almost her own destroyer. It’s a frightening yet honest revelation from the young artist.

The Lamb is also gorgeously widescreen, such as on the stirring and breathtaking “Dropout”. It is fantasy meeting reality, as West’s asks out loud, “Can you keep a secret? This is not the only one”. The dazzling and breathtaking approach of “Water Over Sex” uncovers the lies West tells herself to protect what she has. As she reveals, “I love my secrets, I’m lucky in making”. Vulnerability strikes on gritty “I Get Cut”, which summarizes the multiple events that have affected West’s life over the past two years.

Despite the trials and tribulations of her not-so-distant past, West still found a way to make them beautiful and stunning. Through her own perseverance, we understand that the human spirit is stronger than one can imagine. We understand that even a lamb can quietly roar.

The Lamb is out now via Hardly Art.

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In writing Crush Crusher, Ian Sweet’s Jilian Medford committed herself to exploring her own issues with self-image, self-respect/worth, and the responsibility she has felt to others. Recorded at Rare Book Room studios with producer/engineer Gabe Wax (Deerhunter, The War on Drugs, Soccer Mommy), Crush Crusher is full of dissonant open chords and abnormal progressions, finding beauty in a level of conflict not seen on the trio’s 2016 Shapeshifter. By the end of the recording process, Ian Sweet wound up with an unconventional assortment of songs featuring disparate elements of psych-rock, trip-hop, and shoegaze that together forged a sound uniquely Medford’s own. “Spit” is the second single from Ian Sweet’s 2018 album Crush Crusher.

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Winter is finally here, which means the aphrodisiac aromas of christmassy spiced latte, wet leaves, and Christmas decorations are also in full swell in the stores. In a parallel sensory universe, listeners are cozying up with dense-yet-palatable guitar-driven rock songs—and that’s where Ian Sweet comes in.

The project of LA-based songwriter Jilian Medford have just released its second collection of such wooly rock songs, “Crush Crusher” and while Medford’s singing voice sometimes gets swallowed by her shred-woven Autumn sweater, the record’s audible lyrics tend to swirl around the topic of romantic interests. Neither a rueful breakup album nor a sappy meet-cute, Crusher is an intricate look at relationships in the past, present, and future tenses, channeling vague existentialism (“I never believed in dying / Until I met you”), gross-out poetry (“You’ll go, and I’ll get swallowed / By someone else’s spit”), and literal recollection (“Did I ever ask what you thought / About that day we fucked in the parking lot?”) under Medford’s pristine, bleacher-reaching guitar.

“Spit” is the second single from IAN SWEET’s 2018 album Crush Crusher.

Believe it or not, though, Ian Sweet isn’t the first artist to write songs about crushes.

 

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Lala Lala, the Chicago-based indie rock project of Lillie West, has released a video for the song “Scary Movie” off her album The Lamb, released September. 28th, through Hardly Art Records.

“Scary Movie” is full of the sort of waterlogged beauty that West provides in spades on The Lamb. The song is a gentle, wistful conversation with herself about herself, but the video re-contextualizes it into a love letter from the past. The video features 16mm footage of West’s parents, taken before she was born, flying kites on a beach. That’s it. The entire video is the two of them, the beach and the kite. It’s insanely beautiful.

Watching them frolic while their daughter’s voice serenades them from the future is really something—at times, the setting is eerily reminiscent of the cover art for The Lamb, and the kite’s errant flight pattern feels tailor-made for the song. But it’s not. It’s something that actually happened, which is a theme that West grapples with all over the record. She’s stated before how The Lamb came from a period of trauma in her life, and how it’s a method of reckoning with lost loved ones. In that way, this video feels like an encapsulation of what West was working through on The Lamb. It’s about the past and the way it moves in tandem with the present, even if you can no longer see it.

West herself said something similar in a statement about the video: “I wanted to use this 16mm footage my parents took of each other before I was born because although I didn’t exist yet, their experience is in some way a part of me … This is where I came from, but if I view it as memory, I am technically wrong. It feels real and fake at the same time, which is how every day feels sometimes, and is what the song is about.”

Watch the video for “Scary Movie” below.

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Lala Lala, the project of Chicago-based songwriter Lillie West, has released a third single from her forthcoming album The Lamb, out September. 28th through Hardly Art Records. The album is among the most anticipated releases of September.

Lala Lala shares “Dove,” the third song off their new album The Lamb, out September 28th. “‘Dove’ is very plainly about the death of someone I loved a lot and the guilt I had and still have afterwards,” West explains of the plaintive and heartfelt track. “Dove” is out now at all DSPs .

“Dove” confronts directly the topics that have hung in the periphery of the band’s previous two singles, “Destroyer” and “Water Over Sex.” West has talked often of the traumatic experiences that contributed to the writing of The Lamb, including “a home invasion, deaths of loved ones and general violence around me and my friends.”

On “Dove,” West focuses her grief into a powerful, unflinching track that addresses the past directly. ”’Dove’ is very plainly about the death of someone I loved a lot and the guilt I had and still have afterwards,” West said. The song fashions West’s hazy guitars and ethereal voice into an miniature anthem of regret and longing. It’s a watery shout into—and about—an absence.

The song is a woozy end-of-summer jam, driven by flanged guitar lines and singer Lillie West’s hazy, submerged vocals. The song is thick with that feeling of being submerged, or perhaps teetering on the edge of being overwhelmed. “You think I’m good, well I’m soil in a sifter,” West sings. “A stone won’t fall through, it just keeps getting thicker.” The track is off their forthcoming sophomore album The Lamb, out September. 28th through Hardly Art Records.

“Water Over Sex” from Lala Lala’s 2018 album The Lamb http://www.hardlyart.com/artists/lala_lala/shop

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After months of anticipation, La Luz’s lush, lysergic new album Floating Features is finally out . Shot through with rays of smoggy LA sunshine, the record navigates disorienting dreamscapes throughout its 11 impeccable tracks–particularly “Mean Dream,” which has a new music video from director Ryan D. Browne . If you’ve got a title like “Mean Dream,” the video just begs for surreal treatment. La Luz deliver in a wonderfully low-tech way, as they play on a jungle-themed set with giant body parts dancing around them. It’s simple but really fits with the band’s style, which was already pretty dreamy, Bend your mind and watch it in full below.  La Luz play the first show of a massive 35-date North American tour this week.

“Mean Dream” is the third official music video from La Luz’s Floating Features, out now on LP, CD, digital, and cassette.