Posts Tagged ‘Polyvinyl Records’

Yumi Zouma 2020 © Jack Sheppard

Alternative pop band Yumi Zouma revel their third album, “Truth or Consequences”, released Friday, March 13th on Polyvinyl Records.

Originating from Christchurch, New Zealand, the four-piece band consists of Christie Simpson (vocals, keyboards), Josh Burgess (guitar, bass guitar, vocals, keyboards), Charlie Ryder (guitar, bass guitar, keyboards), and Olivia Campion (drums). Yumi Zouma’s first two records, Yoncalla (2016) and Willowbank (2017), received great reception from a growing fanbase, with tours following both albums. Constantly working and wanting to produce new material, the group have also released plenty of EPs and singles in between full-lengths, including the single, “Bruises” (2019). Truth or Consequences greatly emphasizes the growth Yumi Zouma have had as a band over the past few years.

Christie Simpson’s ethereal vocals, the band’s dreamy pop melodies, and honest lyrics blend perfectly together and capture the Yumi Zouma sound. Songs like “Truer Than Ever” and “Lie Like You Want Me Back” dive into the complexities of life and this idea that answers may not be as clear as you want them to be. Each song questions the relationships we have and keep with others, and even the relationship we have with ourselves.

The writing process for this album in particular was quite different from the band’s previous works. All living in different locations, the band members became immune to writing songs individually and coming together later on to complete the process. When writing Truth or Consequences, all four bandmates rented out studios in various locations and started writing from scratch. As a result, the record revolves around a solid, central theme, and presents an easy, beautiful flow between each track.

Yumi Zouma’s third album, Truth or Consequences.

 

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Introducing Stay Home, a Polyvinyl Record Co. compilation featuring 16 tracks including previously unreleased music, demos, and covers.

We’ve been especially inundated with covers this past month, though most have been recorded live from the artists’ living rooms. Hazel English’s contribution to the covers-heavy Polyvinyl Stay Home compilation, though, is considerably less of a novelty item, taking the impossibly dreamy Mamas/Papas joint and cranking up the dreamy factor. It’s stripped to the essentials—vocals, guitar, tambourine, and a Mellotron cameo, making for less emphasis on the plot and more on its unique stylizations .

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There are some tracks from recent Polyvinyl releases and some previously unreleased material. That includes Owen covering the 1975’s “Me,” Xiu Xiu covering Kim Jung Mi’s “Haenim,” Palehound covering Karen Dalton’s “Something On Your Mind,” Squirrel Flower covering Emmylou Harris’ “Icy Blue Heart,” and Hazel English covering the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” There’s also new songs from Chris Farren and Radiation City, and demos from of Montreal, the Get Up Kids, Yumi Zouma, and STRFKR.

Stay safe, and stay healthy Polyvinyl family. Some gems in this one

Released April 7th, 2020.

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“Sometimes I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives. We’re not really present.” Hazel English wants us to open our eyes. Through her shimmering, daydream-pop, the California based singer-songwriter is on a mission to rattle the cages of our very existence, asking us to dig deep and ask challenging questions of ourselves. “Wake UP!”, her debut album, is a call to arms: an attempt to “make people become more aware and mindful,” she says.

Since debuting with bittersweet single ‘Never Going Home’ in 2016, the Sydney-born artist has felt the urge to connect with her listeners in a meaningful way. Blending wistful, candid lyricism with jangling psych and beach-pop sounds, English’s compelling song-writing has earned her over 25 million streams, airplay on BBC Radio 1, 6Music and Beats, praise from Lauren Laverne and Annie Mac, and press acclaim with double EP Just Give In/Never Going Home labelled by The 405 as “one of the strongest records of the year”. 2019 saw her gain an even wider audience after touring with Lord Huron and Death Cab For Cutie.

Where the double EP was very much a lo-fi, bedroom-produced record, English left her home setup behind in favour of roomy recording studios and tapped up session players for her debut album. Bigger, lusher, and more live-sounding, the LP shows a new side to English: one that conveys the joy and excitement of collaboration. Drawing from a more grandiose sonic palette while pulling on the same sun-kissed thread of her previous work, half of the record was made in LA with super-producer Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX, Angel Olsen), while English flew to Atlanta to work with Ben H. Allen (Deerhunter, M.I.A, Animal Collective) on the other half.

Listening to the record, it should come as no surprise that ‘Revolver’-era Beatles, The Mamas & The Papas, The Zombies and Jefferson Airplane were all at the forefront of her mind while recording. “Radical messages need a raw and vibrant backdrop to pop,” she says, and she’s kept her trademark sunshine-filled sound that fits her Los Angeles dwelling, but with bigger, stirring choruses. It’s a testament to English’s writing style and ear for a hook that she won’t make anything that she couldn’t play stripped back to its bones, refusing to rely on production to carry a song. Standouts like the infectious ‘Off My Mind’ and ‘Like A Drug’, with its swirling hypnosis, find English’s songcraft at its most accomplished.

Lead single ‘Shaking’ wears its ‘60s psych influences on its paisley patterned sleeve. Written by Hazel and frequent collaborator Blake Stranathan (Lana Del Rey), it was a painstaking effort: “I just couldn’t rest until I had gotten it to a place where it felt like I could sleep at night. And I’m really glad I did,” she says. Tackling themes of power, lust, manipulation, pleasure, and control, its Erin S. Murray-directed video strikes right at the heart of this idea, finding English as the charismatic ringleader of her own Manson-esque cult, manipulating her subjects in a baby doll dress and beehive hairstyle. “It presents the promise of a spiritual awakening as a kind of seduction,” she says.

An open sufferer of anxiety, English wrote the record following something of an existential crisis. Stuck and isolated, she felt like life was becoming a series of mundane objectives. She began asking herself: “am I happy? Do I like the direction I’m going in life? Am I engaged with my community? Do I feel connected to others?” English realised that the answers to all these questions were, for her, resounding nos. The album’s title became a kind of personal mantra to her – “a reminder to wake up and be present in a time where we are used to switching off and looking for constant entertainment,” she says. “[‘Wake UP!] will mean something different to everyone. Like, oh yeah, I’ve been sleeping on this goal of mine, or I need to spend more time with my kids. It’s for whatever people need to confront.”

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Obsessing over old movies and vintage clothing since the age of 15, English took cues from surrealism, dadaism and the writings of sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick for the record. She wrote words before she became a musician – before a student exchange programme prompted her San Francisco move, English was studying creative writing in Melbourne and writing poetry prolifically. After reading Guy Debord’s 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle, English began pondering our obsession with self-image. In it, Debord considers how we get caught up in the ‘spectacle’: How am I perceived by others? How can I make it seem like I’m successful? English draws parallels from the ‘60s text with our social media-crazed present as “essentially creating a fabricated version of yourself and making sure it seems like you’re living this amazing life. It’s not a true experience. That just makes us unhappy, I think.”

Confronting issues with the rampant, consumerist nature of capitalism and “our human propensity for dissatisfaction,” Wake UP! also explores power struggles, with English looking at how shifting dynamics affect relationships, be it in the music industry or in romantic life. The record dives into unbalanced power dynamics, be it “feeling stuck in a one-sided relationship where the other person cares less,” “needing space in order to seek power within myself, or feeling like I’m the one holding all the cards in a relationship.”

Wake UP! is a rallying call to our 2020 selves; a reminder of what our core values are, packaged up in a glorious, sparkling record. “I hope I can inspire others to also search for their inner truths and find their own inner strength in the process,” English says. “I wanted to create something really dynamic, and kinda wild.”

releases April 24th 2020

Melina Duterte aka Jay Som, photo by <a href="http://www.lissyelle.com/">Lissy Laricchia</a> for <a href="https://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/jay-som-joy-ride-anak-ko-music">INTERVIEW MAGAZINE</a>

Jay Som has announced the new 7″ single, “A Thousand Words” b/w “Can’t Sleep.” Both songs are from the sessions for her 2019 LP “Anak Ko”. The physical 7″ is out May 1st via Polyvinyl Records.

(aka Melina Duterte) released a new album, Anak Ko, last year via Polyvinyl Records. On Thursday she shared two new songs, “A Thousand Words” and “Can’t Sleep,” that were recorded during the sessions for Anak Ko but didn’t make the final tracklist. They will be released as two sides of a 7-inch single on May 1st via Polyvinyl. the quirky “Can’t Sleep” is definite B-side.

Duterte had this to say about “A Thousand Words” in a press release: “This song was made after a year of extensive touring plus a cancelled tour. I forced myself to make a sort of big and jovial song to bring me out of the funk I was in. I also wanted to remind myself that music can be fun! It was heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Smith, Pavement and that song ‘Alright’ by Supergrass.”

Of “Can’t Sleep” she had this to say: “‘Can’t Sleep’ was made in August or September 2017 while I was living with my parents in between U.S. tours, before I moved to LA. I think I had all my gear packed away somewhere that I couldn’t access, so I used instruments left over in my childhood room: a broken acoustic guitar, chopsticks on a snare drum, a bad hi hat, and my trumpet. Everything was recorded through the laptop mic. I was pretty frustrated with the California heat and the fact that I couldn’t record properly, so this sort of fever dream song was born.”

Anak Ko will be Jay Som’s second full-length; she released her debut Everybody Works in 2017. In October 2019, she postponed her European Anak Ko tour, citing mental health concerns. Those dates have since been rescheduled for Spring 2020.

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All three Vivian Girls miss the rain. “It replenishes,” says Cassie Ramone, singer, songwriter, and guitarist. “It nourishes life!”

The band, who grew up and made their name on the East Coast, live in Los Angeles now. It’s far from the New Jersey basement shows, the 24-hour diners they frequented together as teens, and the tattoos they got to commemorate it all.  Ramone, now 33, singer-bassist Katy Goodman, 34, and drummer Ali Koehler, 32, have been secretly rehearsing for months. They were recording “Memory”, their first album in eight years — and the first since they announced their break-up in 2014. “When we broke up, we broke up for real,” says Goodman . “We had been going hard for a long time, and we were exhausted. But we always knew we had something special, and even when we broke up, we knew there was a strong chance we would reunite some day.”

Vivian Girls are back and they haven’t forgotten what they went through,” reads the band’s press release for “Memory”. Their fans haven’t forgotten either; more than any other buzzing indie band that emerged in the 2000s, Vivian Girls saw the worst of what an intensely misogynistic music community was capable of. Social media had come into its own as a constantly brawling free-for-all, and many still recall the chauvinist thunderdome that was Brooklyn Vegan’s unmoderated comments section, which finally shuttered in 2016 — and all the hate it housed for the band. Kathleen Hanna  said that the comments left on Vivian Girls’ posts made her cry; “Vivian Girls reuniting has me reflecting on how terrible it was to be a ‘female musician’ in 2009,” wrote singer-songwriter Hether Fortune.

“I remember crying a lot!” says Goodman. “I would look out into the crowd [at shows] and see the one person who looked bored or mad. Being an anonymous internet troll was still a new thing to us… We felt like if we could just meet them, they wouldn’t hate us.”

At the time, the Vivian Girls easily stood out amid the lo-fi garage rock boom of the aughts: they revived the jangly fuzz-rock sound of Slumberland bands à la Black Tambourine; infused it with the cherubic, girl-group harmonies of the Ronettes; then knocked it all off-kilter, like proto-grunge punks the Wipers. It was a winning combination, and would spawn a decade of imitators. But that wouldn’t stop the trolls, who incessantly took swings at the band over their 12-year career, for what is now best explained as a poorly masked hatred of women coinciding with the boom of blog-fueled indie rock. The hate wore on the band, even after their break-up.

“We’re coming out swinging,” says KoehlerVivian Girls played their first show in 2007, opening for Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail’s band, Old Haunts. “[Vivian Girls] sound like C86” — a 1986 indie pop compilation — “Because they are a pop band who listens to punk. Or maybe they are a punk band who happen to write pop songs,” Vail wrote in her zine, Jigsaw. Indie rock critics would later describe Vivian Girls’ music as “unschooled,” “amateur charm” and “rustic instrumentation,” but most listeners are likelier to call it what it is: “punk.” “We were intentionally lo-fi because we were a punk band,” says Ramone. “We did not want a highly-produced sound.”

“The first practice we ever had, our band goals were recording a record and going on tour,” says Goodman. “And being in Maximum Rocknroll,” adds Koehler, referring to the influential punk zine.

Goodman studied physics and education at Rutgers, and Ramone studied art at the Pratt Institute. Between them, the two friends managed to forge a stellar network of indie rock musicians between New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Brooklyn. “It was this frenzy of creative energy going on amongst our peers at the same time,” says Goodman. They counted Screaming Females, Matt and Kim, and Titus Andronicus as their peers in the scene. “They were our high school friends,” she says of Titus Andronicus. “They were touring America! They were putting out real records on labels! So we thought, ‘We should do that too!’”

“The band was starting to take off my senior year of college,” says Ramone. “I basically pulled a Cher from Clueless  total bullshittery and excused myself for going to SXSW one year to play shows. I was turning in Vivian Girls art for all my art classes ’cause I didn’t have enough time to do my homework. But it worked out! I was able to graduate.”

By the time Vivian Girls released their self-titled debut in 2008, they had also graduated from the basement shows that served as the genesis of their sound. They were opening shows for Jay Reatard, Black Lips, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo. The band then invited Koehler, Goodman’s friend at Rutgers, to replace former drummer Frankie Rose; within a matter of months, they found themselves touring Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. “I’d just finished college,” said Koehler, who majored in German language and literature. “I said to my mom, ‘Katy and Cassie asked me [to] join Vivian Girls full-time, but I’d be gone a lot.’ And my mom was like, ‘What else are you gonna do? Sit at home all summer?’”

As Vivian Girls’ star began to shine well outside the sanctum of their local punk scene, the space that used to insulate artists from their critics had all but disintegrated, thanks to the increasing ubiquity of blogs and social media. “We wanted to produce music that would resonate with people in the [D.I.Y.] scene, and maybe elsewhere,” says Ramone. “Once we weren’t in our general circle of friends anymore, the misogyny jumped out.”

“People Had No Fucking Clue What to Do with Vivian Girls,” wrote critic Annie Fell for Vice just last year. Ten years prior, though, the same outlet openly indulged in rating women on their appearances. Hipster Runoff, the now-defunct cesspool of countercultural crit, referred to Vivian Girls as “slutwave” and titled a post, “The Vivian Girls show off their banging bikini bodies . The comments section of Brooklyn Vegan, the de facto media hub for the indie scene at the time, had already united against the band. Though it should have been a net good that women were tipping the scales and starting more rock bands of their own — such as Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls — men on the internet insisted on framing Vivian Girls as foils to other women in the genre, placing special emphasis on their appearances.

“My poor dad didn’t have to read all that,” says Koehler, whose father created a Brooklyn Vegan account to spar with anonymous naysayers. “I will always remember one comment: ‘Oh, look. It’s too fat, too skinny, and too tall.’ I think it’s funny now, but it’s really not. We’re all straight, cis white women — and it still sucked! What hope is there for anyone else?”

The band eventually found their own crafty ways of coping with negative attention: “We played a college show one Halloween in Connecticut,” says Koehler. “We saw some kid tweeting mean stuff about us. When we found out he was going to write about [our] show for the school newspaper, we reached out and told him he could interview us if he wanted.”

“We just killed him with kindness,” she continues. “Someone was being shitty about us so we sat down with him face to face and and disarmed him, ’cause he saw us as people and not some buzz band to troll.” It’s rare, though — and hardly recommended — to meet every detractor face-to-face.

The Compa-NY Studios in Glendale, California, is littered with shakers, tambourines, and a red Fisher-Price xylophone — which producer Rob Barbato will later filter through a delay pedal. In the booth, Goodman tries out harmonies in front of the microphone. “Baby angel voice,” she sings, jazz-like, before the reverb sets in. “Haaaah!“

Babies are the topic du jour in the studio. Koehler is seven months pregnant with her daughter Wendy at the time of the recording, but only complains about her shortness of breath. Otherwise, she powers through drum fills and harmonies with ease. The last time Koehler had been in a recording studio was in 2014 with Upset, her project with ex-Hole drummer Patty Schemel; before that, she drummed in Best Coast. Koehler pats her belly. “I’m gonna see how being a parent goes, before we think about touring again.”

Goodman, who parents a toddler with Todd Wisenbaker — her husband and counterpart in the indie-pop band La Sera — imparts the occasional bit of wisdom. In the early days of Vivian Girls, she taught high-school science full-time in Princeton, then commuted to Brooklyn to play shows. She now develops programs for fellow STEM educators. “I’m such a Virgo,” says Goodman. “I love to know the rules of the game. But then I found out that having a baby is not a game!”

Ramone doesn’t do baby talk, unless it’s about the Babies, her project with singer-songwriter Kevin Morby. She wanders in and out of the studio, often tending to her journal and checking the time during every step of the recording process. By night, long after Goodman and Koehler return to their families, Ramone leaves her journal open and lets her guitar unwind, cranking out rambling solos and feedback into the wee hours of the morning.

“There’s a Day Cassie and a Night Cassie,” explains Barbato. He first came into contact with the Vivian Girls’ universe producing La Sera’s 2012 LP, Sees the Light, then later produced the Babies’ 2012 record, Our House on the Hill. “Day Cassie is pretty pragmatic. She keeps a list, checks it off and moves everyone forward. Night Cassie is freer, and more vulnerable.”

Although Koehler and Goodman relocated to Los Angeles years ago, Ramone stayed behind in the Northeast, volleying between Brooklyn and her parents’ home in New Jersey. D.I.Y. venues began shutting down left and right, and the people she knew in the scene were leaving New York. She used to churn out new songs on the road with Vivian Girls — often teaching the band their parts during sound checks — but Ramone had grown increasingly secluded and focused on her visual-art practice. It was during a regular phone call one day that Goodman said, apropos of nothing, “Let’s do the band again!”

“I was originally trying to recruit a backing band for my next solo album,” Ramone says. “It sounded cool, but it just wasn’t going as smoothly as it did with [Vivian Girls]. I tried so hard to fit a square peg into a round hole with other people. So when Katy called me up, I was relieved. Once I got to L.A., I wrote most of the [Memory] songs in two weeks.”

“You don’t see too many bands with a bond like Vivian Girls,” says Barbato. “You usually see a one-person project, then they [hire] people to play with them. Cassie, Ali, and Katy have been friends since they were kids. But I think when it comes time to express stuff, it’s still hard for Cassie to maybe say things in front of them sometimes. It was easier for me to turn the lights down in the studio and let her go.”
“I’m a big [Burt] Bacharach fan,” says Cassie Ramone. “But I also love grit and punk simplicity. When I write, I try to merge those two ideals.”

From the very beginning, all Vivian Girls songs were written in conversation with the pop legacy built by titans like Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector. In their 2008 seven-inch, featuring the jangle-punk title track “Wild Eyes,” the Vivians conjure the hormone-fueled melodrama of the Crystals: “Say you’ll hold me till I die/Wild, wild eyes.” Flip the record and you get its chilling companion song, “My Baby Wants Me Dead” — a slow-cooked, escalated update on Carole King’s “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” — eerily relevant in a time of surging mass gun violence.
“Since I was a child I was analyzing pop song structures,” says Ramone. “Even with Disney music. That’s why I’m such a big Bacharach fan. But I also love grit and punk simplicity, so when I write, I try to merge those two ideals. People can dislike my music if they want, but it bothers me when they’ve said it’s not thought-out or ‘lazy.’”

In writing the overcast surf-rock track, “Something to Do,” Ramone calls to mind Bacharach’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do” as she roves between New Jersey diners and beaches. And in the listless, psychedelic march that is “Sludge,” she cites Jimmy Webb’s baroque pop masterpiece, “MacArthur Park” — filtered through a X-Vex Fuzz Factory pedal. But much like the architects of pop’s golden age, Ramone harbors an impenetrable melancholy beneath the sanded-down, bubblegum shellac of Vivian Girls’ music.

Drowsy with reverb, her verses ricochet between walls of static; her lyrics, more intelligible in Memory than in most releases, recall both the sighing theatrics of an embattled Brönte heroine and the blunt force of Minor Threat. “I lost it all/My final brain cell banged against the wall,” Ramone sings in the shoegazing lead single off Memory, “Sick.” As usual, her bleak visions are softened by Goodman and Koehler’s harmonies. “Tomorrow maybe I’ll wake up and say/Enough.”

“The main themes are poor mental health — a classic,” Ramone says with a laugh. “And love lost. For the first few records I only shared the lyrics where I wanted harmonies on, but with [Memory] I was like, ‘Whatever.’ If you’re gonna go there, you might as well just go there all the way.”

While 2011’s Share the Joy sardonically basked in the bubblegum (case in point: the Shangri-Las pastiche “Take It As It Comes“), 2019’s Memory shares both sonic and thematic D.N.A. with their 2009 LP, Everything Goes Wrong. The album came out during the advent of the glossy synth-pop sound known as chillwave (think: Washed Out, Toro Y Moi), when music critics already began foretelling the waning relevance of indie rock at large, as electronic-based music began to saturate the market. But instead of capitulating to the demands of any trend, Vivian Girls leaned harder into their punk-pop roots.

In Everything Goes Wrong — the only other album featuring KoehlerVivian Girls first crash through the gates with brackish opening track “Walking Alone at Night.” They ramp up the energy with the hardcore push-and-shove of “I Have No Fun,” then go darker in “You’re My Guy” — a satirical jab at the band’s male antagonists and their warped fantasies. (“You’re my guy/You fuck me all the time/I’m lonely every night,” hisses Ramone, “Love ya’ though you love to see me fall.”)

Altogether, their 2009 album painted a grittier picture of the scene they’d come to occupy: a wilderness of faces they weren’t sure they trusted anymore. Yet Vivian Girls maintained their sense of humor, even as they continued to be publicly vivisected in the indie blogosphere. While touring in support of the album, all three members of Vivian Girls got matching tattoos that read COOL DUDE ATTITUDE.

Those days still sting, 10 years later. Writing and recording a new album also meant bracing themselves for another wave of sexist backlash. “Doing our press shots for this album, at one point I asked the photographer, ‘Can we shoot one that’s just our faces?’” recounts Koehler over the phone. “When we left, Katy said, ‘Thanks for saying that. I fucking hate taking pictures of my body.’ I was like, ‘I do too!’”

The misogyny leveled at the band was inextricable from their narrative. But now, the story of Vivian Girls no longer belongs to their detractors, most of whom remain as nameless as they are unremarkable. “Every day that came before is just an empty shell,” sings Ramone on the title track; with Memory, the band is committed to writing new stories together.

“Back when Vivian Girls started, we weren’t in control of the narrative,” says Goodman, who recently established the band’s first Instagram account. “We were a lot more reliant on blogs and music publications. They would take the art we make, process it themselves, and people would rely on those sources to form their opinions on things. Now you can just follow all your favorite artists on social media. Which is powerful!”

“It took a lot for me to just like leave the comfortable little hole that I had dug for myself in Brooklyn,” says Ramone. “But no risk, no reward, you know what I mean? To come out and do something like this — I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it.”

Memory is set for release September 20th via Polyvinyl Records.

Vivian GirlsCassie Ramone, now 33, singer-bassist Katy Goodman, 34, and drummer Ali Koehler, 32 — will release ‘Memory, their first album in eight years, later this fall.

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.

This week Jay Som (aka Melina Duterte) announced a new album, Anak Ko, and shared its first single, “Superbike,” via a video for the track. She has also announced some tour dates.

For “Superbike,” Duterte’s aim was to merge Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette for a song that in a press release she says lets “loose over swirling shoegaze. I came up with the vocal melody while chopping onions during a rare snowstorm in Joshua Tree, definitely one of my favorite memories from making the album.”

Anak Ko is the follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed Everybody Works, also on Polyvinyl Records . Duterte was based in the Bay Area, but relocated to Los Angeles prior to recording the new album. She recorded Anak Ko at home as the sole producer, engineer, and mixer. A press points out that “in some songs, you can hear the washer/dryer near her bedroom.” Although it wasn’t a completely solitary affair, the album also features plenty of guests, including Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko, Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott, Justus Proffit, and Boy Scouts’ Taylor Vick, as well as her touring bandmates Zachary Elasser, Oliver Pinnell, and Dylan Allard.

The album’s title is pronounced “Ah-nuh Koh,” which means “my child” in Filipino. It was inspired by a text message from Duterte’s mother, who often addresses her as “anak ko.” “It’s an endearing thing to say, it feels comfortable,” Duterte says in a press release.

In the press release Duterte says the album is about the importance of patience and kindness and that those concepts have helped her growth as an artist. “In order to change, you’ve got to make so many mistakes,” she says. “What’s helped me is forcing myself to be even more peaceful and kind with myself and others. You can get so caught up in attention, and the monetary value of being a musician, that you can forget to be humble. You can learn more from humility than the flashy stuff. I want kindness in my life. Kindness is the most important thing for this job, and empathy.”.

Back in February Jay Som shared a brand new song, “Simple,” that was released as part of the Adult Swim Singles series. That song is not featured on the new album. Last year Jay Som teamed up with Justus Proffit for a collaborative EP, Nothing’s Changed.

“Superbike” is taken from Jay Som’s new album, Anak Ko, out August 23rd, 2019. via Polyvinyl. 

The Dodo’s have shared a brand new song, “The Surface.” The stand alone single is out today via Polyvinyl Records. Singer/guitarist Meric Long had this to say about the song in a press release: “Back in the fall after finishing our first tour in what seemed like ages, a bunch of ideas that were floating around seemed to converge, and this song ‘The Surface’ is the first result of that. For those guitar nerds out there, I recently acquired a Recording King parlor guitar, it doesn’t look like much on paper but it is magical and I am squeezing it like a life raft through the next batch of songs. Perhaps it is age, or just compounded cynicism, but there is an overwhelming gratitude that I feel when any small bit of inspiration sheds it’s light, and the path ahead seems relatively clear.”

Band Members
Meric Long, Logan Kroeber

The Dodos released a new album, Certainty Waves, last year via Polyvinyl. The band also features percussionist Logan Kroeber.

“The Surface” is the new single from The Dodos, out everywhere March 29th, 2019.

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American Football have just released a new single, “Uncomfortably Numb,” ahead of their forthcoming third album, American Football (LP3). This newest track features accompanying vocals from Hayley Williams of Paramore, who pops up on the impending album’s tracklist alongside Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell and Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell. LP3, due out March 22n via Polyvinyl Records, is the band’s second release since their 2014 reunion, and offers a contrast from their previous records. Notably, the album will not feature cover photography of the Urbana, Ill., home that has appeared on the band’s previous album covers so famously as to spark fan pilgrimages and photo ops. Rather, the band has opted for imagery (still by photographer Chris Strong) of Urbana’s misty hillsides. This conscious visual break signals American Football’s move in a bolder, more unfamiliar direction.

“Uncomfortably Numb,” featuring Hayley Williams, is taken from American Football’s third self-titled album, out March 22nd, 2019.

Band Members
Steve Holmes,
Mike Kinsella,
Steve Lamos,
Nate Kinsella,

 

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David Bazan’s been reliably releasing music and touring under his own name for nearly a decade; his most recent record, Care, came out last year. But before that, he was Pedro the Lion. He retired the name in November 2005, and after that, it felt off-limits: For Bazan, that designation belonged to a band, even if he was its only constant. Although Bazan was writer, arranger and principle player on all the Pedro the Lion records, he performed with a full band on tour. His self-titled material, however – whether recent synth-based pop experiments or acoustic reflections on big-picture questions – was often played solo.

“Yellow Bike,” the first single from Phoenix.The song begins with Bazan recollecting a childhood Christmas scene in his warm, worn tone. The titular gift under the tree makes his heart race, a kick drum thump animating the excitement. Over insistent bass and ascending guitar, he connects those childhood bike rides to an adulthood on the road. Its lived-in video, rendered in washed colors and grainy textures .

For both fans and Bazan himself, there was a sense of resolution in the reclamation and return to that name, which explains the excitement last year when he announced a handful of Pedro the Lion tour dates, a full U.S. tour. And now, there’s Phoenix, the first new Pedro the Lion record in 15 years. Out January 18th, Bazan recorded the album joined by Erik Walters on backing guitar and vocals and Sean Lane on drums.

Phoenix comes out January. 18th via Polyvinyl Records.