Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Wild Pink’s last album, 2018’s “Yolk In The Fur”, concluded with a song about the strange sense of relief that comes with “letting go of youth.” Frontman John Ross, then in his early thirties, was singing from a place of newfound comfort and wisdom, but it ended with a repetition of the line, “I don’t know what happens next.” The song, titled “All Some Frenchman’s Joke”, is a beautifully concise rendering of a universal milestone: levelling up from the wide-eyed naivety and self-destructive routines of our youth, only to realize that we’re as unprepared for the future as we were for the past.

On Wild Pink’s third album and first for Royal Mountain Records, “A Billion Little Lights”, Ross explores that dichotomy of finally achieving emotional security—of accepting the love and peace he deprived himself of in his twenties—while also feeling existentially smaller and more directionless than ever before. The record is a two-pronged triumph: an extraordinary reflection on the human condition presented through the sharpest, grandest, and most captivating songs Wild Pink have ever composed.

The band, which is rounded out by bassist T.C. Brownell and drummer Dan Keegan, formed in New York City in 2015 and put out a handful of EP’s before releasing their critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2017. It was a sophisticated showing for a band’s first album, but it was the striking maturation of Yolk In The Fur that established Wild Pink’s unique sound: a glistening variety of pastoral indie-rock akin to The War On Drugs, Death Cab For Cutie, and Kurt Vile, but informed by classic American rock poets like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. The album received glowing praise from Pitchfork (a score of 8.1), Billboard, NPR, Stereogum, and Uproxx, the latter deeming them “one of indie’s best emerging bands.”

Even though Wild Pink were operating within the relatively modest world of contemporary indie-rock, critics likened them to the types of revered rock auteurs who rack up Grammy nominations. So for A Billion Little Lights, they actually made that leap. The record was produced, mixed, and co-engineered by producer David Greenbaum, who’s worked with the likes of Beck, U2, Cage The Elephant, and Jenny Lewis. Like all Wild Pink records, the songs were entirely written and arranged by Ross, who shaped them into high-quality demos over the course of a year in his new home in New York’s Hudson Valley. But unlike previous Wild Pink albums, Ross enlisted a deep bench of session musicians and friends to perform a litany of additional instruments, finally granting Ross’s musical visions the space and sonic resources they needed to achieve their finest forms.

The ten songs on A Billion Little Lights are adorned with fiddles, violins, wurlitzers, saxophones, accordions, pedal steel guitars, and a variety of richly textured synths and keyboards. In addition to the instrumentation, Julia Steiner of the Chicago band Ratboys provides beautiful harmonies throughout the record, her soft voice recalling the friendly glow of a porch light when it switches on behind Ross’s dusky coo. On past records, Ross’s breathy delivery rarely raised above a hushed murmur, but here he sings with a melodic confidence that makes songs like “Pacific City”, “Die Outside”, and “The Shining But Tropical” some of the catchiest, most anthemic cuts in the Wild Pink catalogue. The band have never sounded dated or nostalgic, but the lingering twinge of Americana in their sound has always given their songs a familiar, classicist resonance. On A Billion Little Lights, there are little details like speckles of auto-tune, flashing synths, and even trip-hop-esque drum loops that subtly yet effectively rebuff the notion that Wild Pink’s music yearns for a bygone era: the album sounds at once timeless and unmistakably modern.

That sonic quality is a fitting complement to the album’s lyrics, which see Ross caught in the bramble between his past and his present; feeling suffocated by the repetition of life while simultaneously gazing at the stars above and marvelling at the unquantifiable vastness of it all. “Time spreads like Jasmine on a fence / Always behind, I can let go but I’m still always behind” he sings on the shimmering “Bigger Than Christmas”. On the sprightly folk-rocker “You Can Have It Back”, he cheekily sizes up his flaws (“Everybody laughs easily / There’s something wrong with me”) and outwardly admits, “Never figured out how to live / Just dreaming all the time.” “Family Friends” and “Track Mud” are musings on day-to-day stasis: “Every day is Groundhog’s Day now” he sings in the former, while lamenting about being “lost in anxious thoughts again” in the latter.

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However, it’s the final two songs, the record’s musical standouts, that offer a tepidly hopeful counter to those periods of despair. In “Pacific City”, Ross sings about barely being able to recognize the person he once was, a self left behind once he shedded self-hatred (“For every little thing about myself I couldn’t change”) and learned to “make hay while the sun shined.” “And you deserve the good things that’ll come to you / You just need a little room”, goes its hook. It’s unclear whether that “room” is a reference to his literal relocation to rural upstate New York, or a metaphor for emotional space, but either way “Die Outside” is all about making it. With a stadium-sized hook and the rhythmic swing of a two-ton pendulum, Ross calls to “let every wall come down” with a windswept sing-song of a delivery, a barn raiser of a hook.

Whereas Yolk In The Fur ended with an admission of utter uncertainty, this album ends with a more conclusive observation: “Your blood is like ocean water.” It’s an almost soothing acceptance of our primordial nature, that like the ancient water of the sea or the billions of little stars above, we’re as much a part of something greater and everlasting as we are a mere flicker in the night sky. Wild Pink’s music has always rooted around in those sort of immortal complexities, but A Billion Little Lights is the first time the surrounding music truly captures those alternatingly micro and macro quandaries. It, too, is something to marvel at.

Releases February 19th, 2021

Where does a piece of music originate? Before decisions about form and refinement of material, before building up or carving down, before composition itself—what lies in this white room, and how does one find it? Dan Knishkowy of Adeline Hotel did not set out to answer these questions when he began recording “Good Timing”, a mostly instrumental album whose crystalline latticework of acoustic guitar marks a departure of sorts from his previous releases as a songwriter. But as he worked, he found a certain freedom in a process uninhibited by pretense. “I liked the idea of embracing that,” he says, “instead of turning this into something more conventionally polished.”

The fifth album from Dan Knishkowy’s psych-folk project Adeline Hotel is aptly named: Arriving at the end of an rougher-than-average week for our collective psyche, Good Timing feels designed to envelop and ease any troubled mind. Knishkowy interweaves crystalline acoustic guitar improvisations, creating a kaleidoscope of bright, glassy finger-picking that expands and recedes unceasingly, as if shaping itself of its own volition. Reverb functions like a distinct instrument on the album, elongating Knishkowy’s guitar work and complicating the interplay between its layers. At just 23 minutes, Good Timing’s glow is fleeting, but when it passes, it will take your troubles—or at least their sharp edges—with it. 

Knishkowy created Good Timing by layering improvised guitar parts, each one reacting intuitively to those that came before and guiding those that came after. Like a fractal blooming or a snowflake accumulating ice, the music dictated its own shape as it grew, a dynamic that is perceptible in the shifting surfaces of each piece. Rhythms unspool slowly, without tether to any strict pulse. Lines begin in apparent disarray, then converge for an epiphanic moment, then separate again. Though Knishkowy is well versed in the greats of solo guitar—among several possible connotations of the album’s title is a sly homage to a Jim O’Rourke acoustic masterwork—the effect of these multitracked pieces may have more in common with ambient music than anything from the American Primitive school. Low strings toll like distant bells; high ones sparkle like windchimes just outside the window. The physical properties of Dan’s instrument are as present in the music as his own hands.

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He arrived at this instinctual approach while working alone at home in the quarantine summer of 2020, when more precisely arranged compositions began to feel stifling. As a reprieve, he began recording the sort of ostensibly aimless music that had often uncovered the seeds of songs in the past. By centering these embryonic sounds as an expression in themselves, rather than a route to some other end, he crafted 10 pieces that glow with intimacy and presence, vessels for capturing memory in real time. “I feel like all records are approximations of your creative process, in a way” he says, “but with Good Timing, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to the source.” – Andy Cush

Released February 19th, 2021

Making their debut on Wick Records, New York’s own Steady Sun deliver two sublime sides of ethereal psych. We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill fuzz fodder here, folks – Steady Sun delivers some of the most refreshingly satisfying psychedelia in decades! “Truth is the Needle” floats out of the speakers like lysergic vapor, engulfing the listener in layers of delicate guitar, spaced-out vocals, and pulsating bass that swirl around the heavy, grounded groove – generating an intoxicating juxtaposition. On the flip is “To Lash Around”, whose insistent beat and hook-heavy melody will send you through a sonic wormhole that marries the experimentation of Barrett era Floyd with the hypnotic bounce of 1990s Manchester.

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“Truth Is A Needle” feels slow, and not just in a musical sense. It sounds like experiencing time in slow motion and being only half-aware of it, but extremely attuned to the details that would ordinarily fly by. It’s a very stoned piece of music, psychedelic in the most literal way. The vocal melody is the most immediately appealing aspect of the song but the coolest part is the way the drums seem to drop you off to new levels through the piece. It feels like a drop, but not quite a descent – if anything, the gravitational pull seems to get weaker as you move through it.

Released February 19th, 2021

Holy Sons from Brooklyn, New York, The music of Emil Amos is at once intimate and expansive. Under the name Holy Sons, as well as with bands OmGrails, and Lilacs and Champagne, Amos harnesses boundless sonic textures to embellish delicately crafted songs. His music balances cues from classic and indie rock traditions with a tenderness and sense of foreboding through unparalleled artistry. Holy Sons’ first double album “Raw and Disfigured” showcases Amos’ mastery of songcraft through a seemingly impossible combination of subtle yet potent gestures, bold arrangements and resolute vulnerability. Raw and Disfigured stands as Amos’ most ambitious and comprehensive album yet, a panoramic gallery of songs as beautiful as they are crushing. 

Raw and Disfigured draws thematically from the archetypal tale of Quasimodo and classic ghost story imagery to illustrate the “hero’s journey” in the time of a coming apocalypse. Album opener “The Loser That Always Wins” acts as the album’s thematic thesis and traces the tale of an underdog triumphing against all odds. From the opening swells, Amos creates a sense of mystery and tension. Melodic sections pierce through the thick fogs of unease with gliding choral harmonies and guitar lines. The looming threat of apocalypse hangs in the air of “Cast Bound King” and “Permanent Things” which gives way to sun dappled catharsis.

Songs like “Lady of the Hour” and “Transformation” serve as vistas amidst the gloom with sweeping pastoral layers and melodies that grasp towards hope rather than resignation. Amos pays homage to one of the greatest champions of the underdog in outsider pop music with an anthemic cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Held the Hand.” Closing piece “Bloody Strings” quietly draws the curtains on the album, borrowing melodic phrases from “Permanent Things” and reconfiguring them into a funeral march towards acceptance of our inevitable decay.

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The recording of Raw and Disfigured took place largely at Sonic Youth’s studio Echo Canyon West. Amos, who plays the bulk of the instruments and sings the majority of the vocals throughout the album, is joined on a few pieces by drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), as well as album and WFMU in-house engineer Ernie Indradat. The swirling atmospheres of “Lost in the Fire” and “Slow To Run” (featuring Shelley) invoke the spaced-out textures of Spacemen 3 to colour Amos’ moving pop structures. “Coiste Bodhar” buttresses the album’s cinematic undercurrent across nine minutes of instrumental grandeur as affecting as the touchingly raw electric piano and voice duet of the album’s final minutes.

Holy Sons’ songs contain entire epochs, elegantly stretching the bounds of pop songs. Amos’ lyrics are as immediate as they are haunting, spilling out across the expense of entire lifetimes. A keen observer, Amos describes the world from the darker side. Rich vocals draw you into an exotic atmosphere of mystical musical sounds, while classic lilting guitar lines entice you further. Raw and Disfigured proves the enduring power of the rock ballad without dwelling on the nostalgic tropes. The ballads of Holy Sons are ballads for these dark times.

Emil Amos’ (Grails, OM) fantastic double LP from last year, “Raw and Disfigured”, is back on orange wax.
The first press of this sold out super quickly, 

Releases October 30th, 2020

Activity recently shared this track “White Phosphorus,” a b-side from their debut album “Unmask Whoever”, named as one of the best rock albums of 2020. Much like their LP, the New York City band’s latest track has a pervading eeriness, complete with hushed vocals, a steady synth hum and elusive guitar lines—not to mention bleak lyrics like “decorate the walls with horse insides.” Its twisted drama is quite cinematic, and their instrumental sprawl is nothing if not absorbing.

This is actually the first song we recorded but it didn’t work on the album. Putting it out NOW on Bandcamp only. It’s called “White Phosphorus.” We hope you enjoy!

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Released February 5th, 2021

Phantom Handshakes are the New York- based duo of Matt Sklar (Exiles) and Federica Tassano (Sooner, Mônetre), a band who have pretty much only existed in the age of social distancing. Last year saw the band release their debut album, “Be Estranged”, recorded in their respective homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan at the end of Spring 2020. The album was released by Slovakian cassette-label Z Tapes, who will also release their second offering, No More Summer Songs, recorded in the same manner as their debut, and due out in April. Ahead of that release, today Phantom Handshakes are sharing the first single from the album, No Better Plan.

In Phantom Handshakes’ Instagram bio, the project is described as “a band born to cope with the quarantine’s gloom,” but it would be just as accurate to say the dream-pop duo has been helping us cope, with gorgeous songs that have offered some serious sonic solace during what’s certainly been the strangest of years.

Now, about five months after the release of the NYC duo’s excellent debut EP “Be Estranged”, plus the newest track from Phantom Handshakes

Musically, Phantom Handshakes’ sound seems to exist in-between worlds, the guitars have a certain to the production of early-90’s shoegaze and the catchy unforget-ability of indie-pop. Through this heady mixture of influences, they seem to mark a path of their own, while there’s touchstones to the likes of Chorusgirl or Hazel English, ultimately Phantom Handshakes are plotting their own course, and sounding increasingly compelling doing it.

New single ‘No Better Plan’ available now From the upcoming LP ‘No More Summer Songs’ out April 30th Written and recorded by Phantom Handshakes (Federica Tassano & Matt Sklar)

PALEHOUND – ” How Long “

Posted: February 2, 2021 in MUSIC
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East Coast based Palehound was halfway through their first national headline tour supporting their newest album, “Black Friday”, when the world turned upside down. Everyone one of us probably remembers exactly where we were and what we were doing on that fateful weekend in mid-March, 2020 when we were all suddenly directed to scramble for cover… or, as the authorities called it, “shelter in place”. 
 
Everyone has a story. No two stories are the same. We all see the world a little differently now. And so, what appears on the surface to be a short & sweet guitar-driven ditty about a hot summer day becomes something else entirely. 
 
“How Long” kicks off innocently enough, a brisk, rockabilly-inflected twang of acoustic guitar hitting a fun, upbeat vibe. Or wait, is that actually anxiety fuelling that propuslive beat? Who can really tell these days — days that bleed one into another as if there’s no end in sight…

How long ‘til a sweetness melts, How long til there rings a bell
That signals us, Return from hell?”

“This is a true story about a day I had back in July, where a few friends came to meet us at a swimming hole,” Kempner explains. “At first it was a blissful day which then took a sharp turn when a bunch of biblical omens came suddenly from nowhere, water snakes, dark storm clouds, hail. It felt very familiar, and seemed to mock us.” Sound familiar?

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My 2xLP Record Store Day release “All These Perfect Crosses” will be available digitally on 2/26/21 on Partisan Records. Accompanying the release, we’ve partnered with Neighborhood Comics to create a standard and deluxe print edition of Andrew Greenstone’s All These Perfect Crosses comic. To celebrate, we’ve released two versions of “Calvary Court” (full band and piano versions), which is one of a number of songs illustrated in the comic book. You can pre-order both editions now below.

The vinyl is still available in some stores, check your local record shop. Huge thanks to Andrew Greenstone for creating something so cool around these songs, and to Neighborhood Comics for making us the first release on their publishing imprint. Stay Positive.

‘All These Perfect Crosses is a collection of songs that came from the sessions for Faith In The Future, We All Want The Same Things, and I Need A New War. For Craig, these three records are one body of work, and the songs on this collection are pieces of that larger narrative. For various reasons, these songs didn’t appear on the records they were recorded for, but they still tell a part of the same story: modern people trying to make it through, to keep their heads above water, to live past their mistakes, to survive.

‘All These Perfect Crosses’ out February 26th.

NISA – ” Ferris Wheel “

Posted: January 27, 2021 in MUSIC
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If you’ve been paying attention, we have quite high hopes for the future of Nisa, undoubtedly one of New York’s most talented rising talents. She will release her debut EP, “Guilt Trip”, in March, described a collection of songs described as “rooted in emotional detachment and reticence, especially surrounding dissolved relationships and a failure to communicate.”

Nisa has followed up the previously released “Bottom Feeder” with the equally triumphant new single “Ferris Wheel,” a song about the whirlwind dynamics of a long-distance relationship, and “the rollercoaster of emotions involved with trying to keep the ups and downs in check.”

It’s another powerful 90’s-esque rock anthem that sees her hone in on her already well-defined sound, while also continuing to expand her sonic reach yet maintaining a relatable emotional chord. She continues to find the perfect balance between something familiar yet brand new at the same time. You feel every ounce of every word and this passion is captured in perfect fashion in the music video that she has shared along with its release.

It was filmed in London with creative direction by Angela Ricciardi 

As unexpected as it is to find Luluc closing out 2020 sharing a producer with pop behemoth Taylor Swift, it seems like a fitting end to this liminal, otherworldly year. The kinetic Aaron Dessner beat that opens the Australian duo’s fourth album is as much of a departure from the more muted tones of their previous work as its siblings brought to folklore – and yet, just as those propelled Swift’s heroine east from St Louis, this synthesised pulse also takes the listener on a journey.

The opening “Emerald City” began in a world halfway between the Melbourne of Luluc’s beginnings and the Brooklyn the duo have since come to call home: in Berlin in August 2018, where, on an invitation from Dessner, Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett flew out to perform at the PEOPLE festival. There, in an old East German radio-station-turned-venue-and-studio, the frequent collaborators – together with drummers JT Yates and Jason Treuting, and CJ Camerieri on trumpet – sought to translate the restless energy of the streets of New York into music.

Friends, festivals, transatlantic flights: the “Emerald City” origin story couldn’t be further from the Australian coast where Randell and Hassett finished mixing the album, seeing out the pandemic in isolation. And yet the thread that runs through “Dreamboat” is primarily an introspective one: of wild horses and weatherbirds, Wizard Of Oz metaphors and waking in the night. Luluc’s dream world, like the real one, is still complicated: at times as idyllic as the vision of “blue water and sunshine” in the Carpenters-esque “Dreaming”; at times a claustrophobic nightmare roping you in against your will.

The frantic buzz of that opening track is straight from the fast-paced, pre-pandemic world in which it was occasionally played live – but the anxieties tied up in its frenetic layers, punctuated by panicked bursts of trumpet, will be familiar to anyone who has lain awake these past few months, “tumbling and twisting” with “too much” in their head. The song is a stream of consciousness set in those anxious moments before sleep; above the noise, Randell’s voice a steady ship, with lines that seem prescient now. “Like Dorothy on the run,” she sings, “breaking my will, I stay in”.

The track is one of two to feature a Dessner co-production credit, Randell and Hassett handling the majority of the album solo. Combined with their decision to release independently rather than through long-time label Sub Pop – an amicable decision, Randell explains, driven by the duo’s desire to release this music into the world at their own pace – the implication is of full creative control. The simplicity at the core of the duo’s song writing remains intact, but the confidence that comes with experience allows them to lean into different choices as the songs dictate, be it duelling drummers, tenor saxophone or a touch of New York jazz guitar.

Wurlitzer and walking bass lend “Hey Hey” a vintage country feel, jazz drummer Dalton Hart working with Hassett to keep the song at a simmer until a melodic burst of sunshine shoots through the middle. “Weatherbirds” is built around another Dessner beat, but it’s the brightness of Hassett’s guitar and backing vocals that carry the song; and Arcade Fire touring member Stuart Bogie’s saxophone brings the pink flush of sundown to “Out Beyond”, a harmonious Randell-Hassett duet from the edge of the world.

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But sometimes, the songs call for nothing at all. “All The Pretty Scenery”, a feather-light beauty in which the narrator’s gaze turns from her own interior world to that of another, features only Randell and Hassett, some vocal doubling the closest thing to trickery. “Gentle Steed”, recorded live in Berlin with Hassett on piano and Caimin Gilmore on double bass, falls somewhere between old folk song and mythology, Randell’s vocals timeless and pure. Her voice carries something of a myth-making quality in its timbre, making the everyday details that creep into her lyrics – a reference to “booze”, an affectionate “my man” designation for a partner – twice as charming.

The real world creeps in as it must: as the sound of cars “rolling their way into my notebook” among the diary-esque lyrics of “Hey Hey”; in the shape of an arachnid in “Spider”. But behind it all, a self-possessed Luluc in isolation, daydreaming of friends apart until they can once again cross the sea.

“Dreamboat” released through Sun Chaser Records  October 23rd, 2020