Category: dream pop

Formed back in 2010, the acclaimed Baltimore-based dream pop act Lower Dens can trace its origins to when its primary songwriter and founding member Jana Hunter had grown tired of touring and decided to take a hiatus. For what was supposed to be their final tour as a solo artist, Hunter recruited a backing band which featured Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams. Finding that playing with a band was much more enjoyable to them than playing as a solo artist, helped Hunter form Lower Dens. “During that tour, I realized that it wasn’t the touring life that I hated, but more so that the kind of music I wrote as a solo artist wasn’t something I felt entirely comfortable sharing in performance setting. Lower Dens then was the eventual result of the decision to make music with the specific intention of sharing and enjoying it with others,” Hunter said at the time.

Lower Dens’ full-length debut, Twin Hand Movement was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork, who compared Hunter’s vocals to those of PJ Harvey and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Dusted Magazine, who praised the album’s lyrics for being “delivered without irony, yet self-aware enough to appreciate the obviousness.” While touring to support Twin Hand Movement, the band began writing on the road — but the limitations of writing on the road forced Hunter to work through a laptop and keyboard rather than a guitar, which lead to an increasing presence of synths on what would become their sophomore album Nootropics.

After they completed their tour, the band chose to record their sophomore album at The Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor, MI.  Hunter cited the studio’s remote location as an imperative part of the writing and recording process. Geoff Graham added that the amount of time spent in the studio allowed them to add extra dimensions to the material to make it lusher and thicker. Largely influenced by Kraftwerk‘s Radioactivity, Fripp and Eno and David Bowie‘s production on Iggy Pop‘s The IdiotNootropics was released to critical praise from the likes of PitchforkRolling Stone and Spin

Building upon a growing profile, Lower Dens opened for Beach House and indie rock legends Yo La Tengo at the Baltimore stop of the legendary act’s  2013 Fade tour. And the following month, they released “Non Grata” on a split 7″ with Baltimore-based band Horse Lords, an effort that was released as part of the Famous Class LAMC series, which benefited VH1’s Save The Music Foundation

2015 saw the release of the band’s third album Escape from Evil, which continued a run of critically applauded albums. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes — with the band now being a duo featuring its founding member and primary songwriter Jana Hunter and Nate Nelson. And during that period, the members of Lower Dens had been working on their highly-anticipated follow up to Escape from Evil, The Competition.

Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through their longtime label home Ribbon Music, and the album is reportedly a pop album with an emotionally and politically urgent concept at its core. Competition, by design is the driving force of modern capitalism and the title is Hunnter’s term for a socio-psychological phenomenon that competition generates — a kind of psychosis that accelerates and amplifies our insecurities and anxieties to the point of overload. And as a result our intimacies, our communities and even our senses of self are corroded and distorted. “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset.  I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”

Interestingly, The Competition‘s third and latest single is the atmospheric and slow-burning synth pop “Galapagos.” Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove, a soaring hook, four-on-the-floor drumming and Hunter’s achingly tender vocals, the song evokes an unfulfilled and plaintive longing while sonically recalling Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And it may arguably be one of the most cinematic-leaning songs the act has released to date.

The members of Lower Dens recently announced that they’ll be hitting the road to support their new album. They’ll be opening for Of Monsters And Men for most of the tour with the exception of a three special album releases shows in Los Angeles and Baltimore. The tour will include a September 5, 2019 stop at Radio City Music Hall. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour dates – all dates opening for Of Monsters And Men except where noted:
08/31/19 Baltimore, MD @ Rituals *

09/01/19 Baltimore, MD @ Rituals *

09/04/19 Washington, DC @ The Anthem

09/05/19 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

09/08/19 Boston, MA @ Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion

09/10/19 Philadelphia, PA @ Metropolitan Opera House

09/11/19 Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage

09/13/19 Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom

09/14/19 Minneapolis, MN @ Surly Brewing Festival Field

09/16/18 Denver, CO @ The Mission Ballroom

09/17/19 Ogden, UT @ Ogden Twilight

09/19/19 Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl

09/20/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room *

09/22/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium

09/24/19 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater

09/26/19 Seattle, WA @ WaMu Theater

09/27/19 Troutdale, OR @ McMenamins Edgefield

09/28/19 Vancouver, BC @ Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre

10/19/19 Maspeth, NY @ Pitchfork Octfest ^

11/01/19 Houston, TX @ Axelrad Beer Garden *

11/02/19 Mexico City, MX @ RadioBosque Festival ^

* Lower Dens headline show

^ without Of Monsters And Men

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New Audio: Up-and-Coming Aussie Dream Pop Act Poppongene Releases a Coquettish and Playful Ode to 21st Century Dating

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Bryon Bay, Australia-born, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist Sophie Treloar. Treloar is the creative mastermind behind one of Australia’s more buzz worthy and emerging acts — Poppongene, a dream pop act that finds Treloar performing as a solo artists and within a full-fledged band featuring Skube Burnell, Gemma Helms, Justin Kuchel and Deanna Ramsey. The past few months have seen the band release three critically applauded singles, — “Do It, Girl,” “Belgravey,” and “Esky,” which resulted in opening spots for Lucy Dacus, Weyes Blood and Slow Dancer.

The up-and-coming Aussie act’s forthcoming Tim Harvey-produced EP reportedly marks a distinct step forward in Treloar’s artistic and musical development. The Still Corners-like EP single “Not Wrong” was a glittering and slow-burning track centered around Treloar’s achingly tender vocals that thematically focused on the initial pangs of infatuation, and of the equal thrill and uncertainty of attraction. And as a result, the song was imbued with equal parts blind hope and despair. Interestingly, the EP’s latest single is the upbeat  “Eternally Alone.” Centered around jangling guitars, Treloar’s coquettish vocals and an infectious hook, the track is an ode to dating-complacence, of dreaming of an effortless connection — but all while reasoning that being alone isn’t so bad anyway. 

“It’s a humorous pop song about wanting warm connection without warped compromise,” Treloar explains in press notes. “It’s me daydreaming about a lovely shimmering romance the I don’t have time for. Less morbid than the title suggests, much more about poking fun at my priorities.” 

Last month, I wrote about the up-and-coming Sydney, Australia-based dream pop/garage rock act Sunscreen. And as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Sarah Sykes, Alexander McDonald, Hugo Levingston and Oliver Ellis quickly developed a national profile with the release of their attention-grabbing debut EP 2017’s Just A Drop. As a result of the buzz surrounding the band, they opened for the likes of DMAs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Jen Cloher and Ali Barter and played sets at Farmer & The Owl and Grampians Music Festival.

Slated for an August 23, 2019 release, the Sydney-based dream pop/garage rock quartet’s Simon “Berkfinger” Berkelman-produced sophomore EP High Over Love reportedly finds the band crafting material that reflects the psyche of a romantically confused young person, desperately trying to survive in the big city. Written over the course of the past couple of years, the EP explores and touches upon romantic idealization, heartache and self-possession with a frank and earnest vulnerability. “High Over Love,” the EP’s first single and title track was a shimmering and hook-driven bit of guitar pop that’s one nods heavily at The Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde — but while focusing on a narrator, who’s reeling from a confusing and uncertain love. Interestingly, “Think About You” is a swooning and propulsive track that continues a run of hook-driven and earnest guitar pop singles — and while bearing a resemblance to The Smiths and The Pretenders, the song as the band’s Sarah Sykes explains is “Sunscreen’s love song. It’s about thinking about someone all day. This song is reminiscent of all things new, bright, and exciting — the feeling when you just can’t get close enough to someone.”

 

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Led by twin sisters Cat (guitar, vocals) and  Carrie Biell (bass, vocals) and joined by Jude Miqueli (drums) and Darcey Zoller (cello, synth), the Seattle-based indie rock act Moon Palace can trace some of its origins back to the unique musical bond the Biell Sisters cultivated as the children of Deaf parents. Interestingly, with release of 2017’s self-titled, full-length debut, the members of the Seattle-based band drew comparisons to Beach House and Warpaint, as they crafted hook-driven material centered around sometimes discordant guitars and gorgeous dual harmonies. Along with receiving praise from the likes of City Arts Magazine and KEXP, Moon Palace has shared stages with Thunderpussy, Y La Bamba and Sera Cahoone among others.

Slated for an August 23, 2019 release, the band’s soon-to-be released album Shadowcast thematically finds a balance between light and dark. “Shadow self and trying to be positive through interactions with people you love,” the members of the band elaborate in press notes. “Outer world to the innermost personal world. Balancing the sun sign and moon sign. Knowing your inner personal self within the context of the universe.” Throughout the recording sessions, band members would text each other songs by Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, Duran Duran and Big Thief, all of which inspired and shaped the album’s sound and overall aesthetic.

Interestingly, Shadowcast‘s second and latest single “Who You Are” is a shimmering and contemplative song that finds the band effortlessly balancing intimate emotions within an atmospheric and cinematic sound featuring shimmering and slashing guitars, gorgeously ethereal vocals, a soaring hook and driving rhythm section. And while bearing a resemblance to Beach House, the song possesses an uncertain and uneasy air, as it focuses on navigating difficult relationships and questioning whether the other person is showing their true self or not.

 

 

 

New Audio: Long Beard Releases a Slow-Burning Mazzy Star-like Single

Earlier this month, I wrote about Leslie Bear, a New Brunswick, NJ-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who writes, records and performs as Long Beard. With the release of her full-length debut, 2015’s Sleepwalker, Bear received national attention for crafting shimmering and thoughtful dream pop, and for an album that thematically explored what constitutes home — particularly, how it can extend beyond the physical quality of its roof and four walls, to the comfort and familiarity of the people in it. And how all of that can influence one’s sense of self, stability and security. 

Four years have passed sine the release of Bear’s Long Beard debut. And that period marked a significant, transitional time for her: a career move lead her to return to her hometown, long after most of her friends and peers have moved away. And as a result, the feelings of stasis, nostalgia and confusion have deeply influenced the material on her forthcoming Craig Hendrix-produced sophomore album Means to Me. Slated for a September 13, 2019 release through Double Double Whammy Records, the album reportedly will mark both a major bit of artistic growth and maturation in her overall sound, aesthetic and approach with the material nodding at jangle pop, dream pop and shoegaze paired with her ethereal vocals.

“Sweetheart,” Means to Me’s lead single, was a shimmering bit of 4AD-era jangle pop paired with a soaring hook, delivered with a growing self-assuredness — but the song is underpinned by a wistful and bittersweet nostalgia over a lost relationship that lingers in your present. The album’s latest single, album title track “Means to Me” is a slow-burning and spectral track that’s one part Mazzy Star, one part 4AD-era jangle pop as the song is centered around shimmering guitars, a soaring hook and Bear’s achingly tender, ethereal vocals. And much like its immediate predecessor, the track continues a run of material that evokes the lingering ghosts of nostalgia and regret. 

New Audio: Nashville’s Twen Releases a Shimmering and Celestial New Single

The Nashville-based indie rock act Twen, led by founding members Jane Fitzsimmons (vocals) and Ian Jones (guitar) can trace their origins to when they formed while both were involved in Boston’s DIY scene. Since their formation several years ago, the band has been busy redefining what a touring band should do — and should be in the streaming age. Initially releasing nothing more than a live EP recorded fro the band’s live debut in a Boston basement, the band has toured non-stop, honing and perfecting a live show that’s been described as raw and mesmerizing.

Continuing to proudly ascribe to the DIY ethos that influenced them, Twen’s core duo have run AirBNBs while touring, played in exchange for skydiving, screen printed self-designed merch items by hand and book their own tours. Now, as you may recall, the duo quickly emerged into the national scene with the release of attention-grabbing single “Waste,” which received praise from the likes of NPR, Stereogum, Paste Magazine, BrooklynVegan, Uproxx, Under The Radar and others. Earlier this year, the duo opened for the acclaimed Louisville-based JOVM mainstays White Reaper — and they released the slow-burning and shoegazer-like “Holy River,” a track that to my ears would likely draw comparisons to classic 4AD Records, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve and Beach House — but with a yearning, dream-like quality that gives the ethereal track a subtle bit of emotional weight.

Building upon a growing profile, the buzz-worthy, Nashville-based duo will be releasing their full-length debut Awestruck through Frenchkiss Records on September 20, 2019. “Baptism,” the album’s first official single is an atmospheric bit of shoegaze centered around shimmering guitars, propulsive drumming, Jane Fitzsimmons’ enormous, room-filling vocals singing impressionistic lyrics full of a yearning desire to be born, becoming and re-born. Interestingly, Jones’ guitar lines actually is a revisited riff that he wrote as a teenager, that he reworked with a fresh perspective — essentially giving the song a trippy and anachronistic sensibility. 

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the Vancouver, British Columbia-based dream pop act FRANKIIE, and as you may recall the act — Francesca Carbonneau, Nashlyn Lloyd, Samantha Lancaster, and Zoe Fuhr — can trace its origins to when its members met and rehearsed for what was initially meant to be a one-off gig in December 2013. However, as the story goes. each individual member felt such an instant and undeniable creative chemistry that they decided that they should make it a permanent band, one that eventually wound up touring across much of North America, including an East Coast tour opening for The Charlatans.

Interestingly, the past year or so has been a whirlwind for the Canadian dream pop act — and it included the recording sessions with Jason Corbett for the band’s forthcoming album Forget Your Head. The album’s latest single “Compare” is a lush and shimmering track with an anthemic hook that recalls (to my ears, at least) 80s New Wave and JOVM mainstays Wax Idols. And while continuing a run of carefully crafted singles, FRANKIIE’s latest may arguably be the most boldly ambitious and populist of their growing catalog — all while being grounded in a psychological realism.

“We have become normalized to a world of voyeurism, but often what we see is merely a projection of a life that isn’t even truly real,” the members of the band explain in press notes. “We can get lost in the illusion of beauty and success of others – of strangers – and, in turn, feel like our own life doesn’t measure up.   ‘Compare’ is inspired by the negative yet constant relationship one can form with social media. It’s human nature to compare yourself to others, but it’s important to be aware of how unhealthy it can be. Especially when it’s being thrust at you nonstop through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. We hope that ‘Compare’ can remind you to just stop and celebrate yourself. We are all special and are all amazing.

New Audio: Long Beard Releases a Shimmering and Wistful New Single

Leslie Bear is a New Brunswick, NJ-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who writes, records and performs as Long Beard.With the release of her full-length debut, 2015’s Sleepwalker, Bear emerged into the national scene for crafting thoughtful and shimmering dream pop — and for an album that thematically explored what constitutes a home: particularly how it can extended beyond the physical quality of its roof and four walls, to the comfort and familiarity of the people in it. And how all of that can influence one’s sense of self, stability and security. 

Four years have passed since the release of Bear’s Long Beard debut and that period marked a significant, transitional time for her: a career move lead her to return to her hometown, long after most of her friends and peers have moved away. And as a result, the feelings of stasis, nostalgia and confusion have deeply influenced the material on her forthcoming Craig Hendrix-produced sophomore album Means to Me. Slated for a September 13, 2019 release through Double Double Whammy Records, the album reportedly will mark both a major bit of artistic growth and maturation in her overall sound, aesthetic and approach with the material nodding at jangle pop, dream pop and shoegaze paired with her ethereal vocals. 

Means to Me’s latest single “Sweetheart” is a shimmering bit of 4AD-era jangle pop paired with a soaring hook, delivered with a growing self-assuredness — but the song is underpinned by a wistful and bittersweet nostalgia over a lost relationship that lingers in your present. “‘Sweetheart’ is a nostalgic song that shifts between the distant past and the present,” Bear explains in press notes. “It’s a letter to someone you’ve lost touch with from a long time ago, finding some small connection to their life with regards to yours- how the thought of them resurfaces every once in a while and how they may have shaped the person you’ve become while wondering if you’ve had a similar impact on them. It’s a jangly/indie pop song reminiscent of the 90s with a chimey lead guitar that weaves in and out. It’s written almost as a stream of consciousness with a heavy daydream mood.”