Category: dream pop

Over the last half of 2017, I had written a it about Trent Prall, a Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter and his solo recording project Kainalu, which derives its name for the Hawaiian word for ocean wave. And as you may recall, the music that Prall has created over the past decade or so draws from psych pop, psych rock, dream pop, Tropicalia, synth pop and funk, as well as childhood trips to Oahu, Hawaii visiting his mother’s family. Ultimately, those influences have coalesced and culminated in a breezy, retro-futuristic and somewhat nostalgia-inducing sound that the Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter has dubbed “Hawaii-fi,” as a homage to his Hawaiian ancestry and their influence on him and his work.

 

Prall’s breezy latest single “Folds Like Origami” reminds me a bit of Illumination-era Miami Horror and Tame Impala, as the song finds Prall drawing from late 70s and early 80s synth funk, disco, contemporary synth pop and dream pop in a seamless fashion while crafting crowd-pleasing, dance floor friendly hooks paired with thoughtful lyrics. As Prall explains in press notes, growing up in Hawaiian culture, folding origami was deeply rooted into every wedding he attended. The bride is supposed to fold 1,000 paper cranes symbolizing the patience she will have in the marriage; however, according to Prall, “it’s usually the bride’s family, who actually ends up doing the folding.”  Understandably, a young Trent Prall was amazed but the beauty and complexity of transforming something relatively basic and simple into something beautiful — without changing or adding anything to the material itself.

“I wanted to try and capture this imagery and apply it a person’s worldview. The line of the song for me is ‘The world opens up to you, it folds like origami. So drop the things you knew, they fold like origami.’ Recently, I’ve been getting more and more into meditation. I kind of see a parallel between origami with mediation. By finding peace within yourself, I think you can make your own beautiful in the world around you. Just like by finding a new shape within a flat piece of paper, you can create a beautiful peace of art” the Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter says. 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Beach House Return with an Ambitious Yet Introspective New Single

Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the the Baltimore-based indie rock act Beach House, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of primary members and songwriters Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals) have released a a number of critically and commercially successful albums, including 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were written and recorded within a two-and-a-half year period between 2012-2014 — and while being individual efforts, they’re meant to be viewed as closely related companion pieces, as metaphorically being two sides of the same coin, as they built upon similar themes and a related, overall sound centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements of organ, guitar and Legrand’s ethereal vocals.

Much like countless bands before them, Legrand and Scally have written and recorded a large number of songs throughout their career, some of which have been played live or released that for whatever reason just didn’t quite fit their album-based material. Over the years, some of those songs have proven to be increasingly difficult to find and listen to, and to accommodate their fans, they released B-Sides and Rarities, a 14 track compilation of songs that they’ve recorded and released that just didn’t make their albums, and two previously unreleased singles “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond,” recorded during the Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. As a music journalist and fan, B-side compilations can offer a revealing look into a band’s creative and editorial processes as they write and record an album. Interestingly, according to a lengthy statement written by the band that appears on Sub Pop’s website, the B-sides album “felt like a good step for us. It helped us clean the creative closet, put the past the bed and start anew.” 

The Baltimore-based act’s seventh full-length album, the symbolically apt titled 7 is slated for a May 11, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and as the album found the act working with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (a.k.a. Peter Kember) as a producer — but not in the traditional sense, as he helped the band in their attempts to start anew by shedding conventions and ensuring that the album’s material would be fresh, alive and protected from the tendency of overproduction and perfectionism. Additionally, the album finds Legrand and Scally working with their most recent live drummer James Barone, who as the band says helped “keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs.” 

As Legrand and Scally explain “Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.

“In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a ‘home’ studio, and began all of the songs there.  Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a ‘proper’ recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short.” 

As the act admits, the societal sense of instability, uncertainty and chaos was deeply influential. “Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present.” They go on to say that in a general sense, “we are interested by the human mind’s (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny.

Now, as you may recall, last month Beach House released “Lemon Glow,” 7’s first single, a jangling and  atmospheric track centered around Legrand’s etheral vocals that possessed a subtle, cosmic glow. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “Dive” is arguably one of the more expansive tracks they’ve released in recent memory as it features a lengthy, atmospheric section centered around Legrand’s vocals, organ and gently padded drumming before quickly shifting into a buzzing power chord-based coda that has the band leaning towards a much more ambitious approach — while focused on deeply introspective lyrics. 

Comprised of Ross Pearce (vocals), Mike Stothard (guitar), Kane Butler (guitar) and Dan Heffernon (bass), the London-based indie quartet BOYS formed back in late 2014 after bonding over a mutual appreciation of shoegaze. By the following year, the British indie rock quarter released a handful of demos that quickly amassed 15,000 streams in a short period of time, and as a result they began playing shows at some of London’s best known indie venues, including The Old Blue Last, Birthdays and Moth Club. Interestingly, last year may have begun a breakthrough period for BOYS as they received widespread praise for both a batch of new singles and their live show — and building upon a growing profile, the British indie rockers went on a Stateside tour that managed to influence their latest single “Hollywood.”

As the band says of their breezy and shimmering, new single “Having gained new experiences and ideas from the time we spent in the US together, whilst there we started talking about leaving our lives behind in London and starting a new one in Hollywood, even if it wasn’t a realistic idea.” And while bearing a resemblance to The Smiths and others, the track possesses and unbridled sense of possibility — the sort that seems to only happen when you”re a stranger in an equally strange and faraway place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Beach House Return with a Gorgeous and Atmospheric Single from Forthcoming Album

Comprised of Victoria Legrand (organ, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar, vocals), the  Baltimore-based indie rock act Beach House have released a handful of critically and commercially successful albums, including 2015’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were written and recorded within a two-and-a-half year period between 2012-2014 — and while being individual efforts, they’re meant to be viewed as closely related companion pieces, as metaphorically being two sides of the same coin, as they built upon similar themes and a related, overall sound centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements of organ, guitar and Legrand’s ethereal vocals. 

Much like countless bands before them, Legrand and Scally have written and recorded a large number of songs throughout their career, some of which have been played live or released that for whatever reason just didn’t quite fit their album-based material. Over the years, some of those songs have proven to be increasingly difficult to find and listen to, and to accommodate their fans, they released B-Sides and Rarities, a 14 track compilation of songs that they’ve recorded and released that just didn’t make their albums, and two previously unreleased singles “Chariot” and “Baseball Diamond,” recorded during the Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars sessions. As a music journalist and fan, B-side compilations can offer a revealing look into a band’s creative and editorial processes as they write and record an album.  

Interestingly, the Baltimore-based dream pop duo will be releasing a new album later this spring through Sub Pop Records in North America, Bella Union Records in Europe and Mistletone Records in Australia and New Zealand, and the as yet untitled album’s first single “Lemon Glow” will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting tender yet atmospheric material centered around Legrand’s ethereal vocals but this particular track is a bit more jangling and finds the duo (to my ears at least) subtly drawing from shoegaze as it possesses an equally subtle cosmic glow.

New Video: Married, Art Pop Duo, The Parlor Releases a Thoughtful Meditation on Grief

With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.

Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”

Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.

Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.

As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”

The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.

New Video: The Lush Swooning and Psychedelic Visuals and Sounds of Jonathan Wilson’s “Loving You”

Jonathan Wilson is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has collaborated with the likes of Father John Misty, Lucius, Karen Elson and Conor Oberst, contributed guitar and vocals as a member of the backing and touring bands for Roger Waters‘ Grammy nominated Is This The Life We Really Want?, and throughout that same period, the highly sought after Wilson has released two albums which have garnered comparisons to the Laurel Canyon troubadours of the 1960s and 1970s — in particular Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Dennis Wilson, Tom Petty and others; however, Wilson’s third and forthcoming album, Rare Birds, which is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through Bella Union Records is reportedly one of the singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s most ambitious, “maximalist” works to date featuring contributions from collaborators Father John Misty and Lucius, as well as Lana Del Rey and New Age musician Laraaji.

While much of the album’s material thematically and lyrically find Wilson meditating on a failed relationship and its aftermath, he has insisted in press notes that it’s not meant to specifically be a concept album. “It’s meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming, healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music, to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It’s all in there.” Late last year, I wrote about the album’s first single “Over The Midnight,” which brought to mind Peter Gabriel 3, Security and So-era Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Tears for Fears  while nodding at the lush psych pop of Tame Impala; but the song is underpinned by a swooning Romanticism, as it’s about a sacred and profoundly safe space where lovers could exist and freely be in love, escaping a world on the verge of collapse.

Rare Birds’ latest single “Loving You” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its a lush yet deeply meditative track with the bittersweet tinge of regret of someone, who’s looking back at a major relationship in his life, and of all the things he felt and believed that he should have or could have done. And as a result, it evokes the lingering ghosts of a man, who’s lived a messy and complicated life. Wilson says in press notes about the song, “One day, one of my musical heros Laraaji came into my studio to just experiment and record some music. I had the ditty ‘Loving You’ lying around, (it was a song I wrote from a feeling or inflection of a word I heard John Lennon emote in one of his songs) and I then put down a simple little drum machine beat along with the piano and vocal that you hear now. Laraaji then beautifully chanted over the song, one take … then he played his cosmic zither, undulated gracefully with his ipad, and truly shaped the scope of the track. I then added a specific drum/cymbal treatment used throughout Rare Birds, my funky Crumar bass, Lana Del Rey, a few other things and boom that was the genesis of the new album Rare Birds, that song set the tone.”

Directed By Matthew Daniel Siskin, the recently released video for “Loving You” will also continue Wilson’s run of pairing trippy and beautiful visuals to lush instrumentation. In this case the video features the renowned New Age multi-instrumentalist Laraaji floating over some gorgeous natural scenery — at points holding an old TV monitor that features a meditative Wilson singing the song. Later on, Wilson’s face and on that old TV monitor is seen in a number of New York locales, including an airport, a train station, a Manhattan intersection and so on. And interestingly, the visuals manage to further emphasize the swooning nature of the song.

Throughout the course of the past 18 months or so, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstays Geowulf, comprised of Noosa, Australia-born friends and collaborators, Star Kendrick and Toma Benjamin. And although the duo have known each other since they were teenagers, their musical collaboration began in earnest when Kendrick, who grew up in a musical home, started to pursue music seriously a few years ago, and enlisted the help of her old friend to flesh out her earliest demos.

After a string of successful, critically applauded singles including “Saltwater,” which received over 1 million Spotify streams and reached Hype Machine‘s top ten before landing at #4 on Spotify’s US Viral Charts; the Mazzy Star meets  Fleetwood Mac-like   “Don’t Talk About You;” and the  Phil Spector meets Still Corners “Drink Too Much,” the JOVM mainstays announced that their highly-anticipated Duncan Mills-produced, full-length debut, Great Big Blue is slated for a February 16, 2018 release through 37 Adventures Records. And along with the announcement of their debut, the duo then released, the shuffling and jangling, 60s girl group pop-inspired single “Hideaway,” which continues the dream pop duo’s growing reputation for material that possesses a careful and deliberate attention to craft but with subtly modern flourishes — all while focusing on the complications, frustrations and aches of romantic relationships.

The album’s latest single “Sunday” is a slow-burning, gorgeous and cinematic bit of guitar pop, with a soaring hook that should immediately bring comparisons like Mazzy Star, The Smiths and others — while continuing a string of songs that pair dark and moody lyrics with upbeat sounds.  As the duo says in press notes, “‘Sunday’ is a favorite of ours in the album. It’s a little cruiser of a song meant to make you feel all the good things. Lyrically, it’s about feeling like Sunday is a pretty lonely day sometimes.”

 

 

With the release of their politically charged, fourth, full-length album Running Out of Love, the Stockholm, Sweden-based pop duo The Radio Dept., comprised of Johan Duncanson and Martin Carlberg earned praise from the likes of NPR, PitchforkThe Atlantic and others. Building upon a growing profile, the Swedish pop duo recently released their latest single, the jangling and yearning “Your True Name,” which the band noting that the “song is about faith in a way, not divine but utopian, believing in something that will probably never be. And it’s about falling short, sometimes with your goal just barely out of reach.” As a result, the song manages to be simultaneously optimistic yet bittersweet  — all while reminding us that life is often about hoping for something, trying to achieve it, getting knocked down and getting back up to go for it again. (Interestingly, the single is the first release from the band’s own label, Just So!)

The members of The Radio Dept. will be embarking on a Stateside tour that begins on January 29, 2018 in Los Angeles and includes a February 3, 2018 stop at Warsaw. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

1/29: Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre

1/30: San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore

2/1: Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall

2/2: Millvale, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre

2/3: Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw

2/4: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer