“World” - Julia Holter
Following up the release of 2011 and 2012’s critically acclaimed gems Tragedy and Ekstasis, Julia Holter will continue her ascent into greater artistic expression, wider critical acclaim, and lesser anonymity with Loud City Song. The nine song LP - her “first studio album proper,” according to her record label and recent Tragedy rereleaser Domino - is a… well, here:
Holter taking inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi and using it as a prism through which to explore her relationship with her hometown of Los Angeles and modern life universally, taking cues from the work of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’Hara but forging those touch-points into something resolutely unique.
Yes, that. Not quite an ode to or meditation on the City of Angels, but rather something more intensely personal and widely, uniquely relatable, or some such thing.
There are many reasons to be excited for the record, only one of which is Holter’s penchant for unique, intricately woven conceptual ideas in each of her albums (each of which is, as she’s said before, it’s own separate project). Holter has shown compositional talent that is impressive in its layering, nuance, and rich emotional depth, as well as having a robust, spectrum-spanning music sandbox that she plays around in.
One need only look so far as Loud City Song’s first single, “World,” for evidence of these traits. Whereas Tragedy was otherworldly, esoteric art-pop and Ekstasis a more consinent and melodious layering of warmer elements (and her older material another brand of lofi pop still), Loud City Song’s first single is already a fairly significant departure into a still, quiet vacuum.
Five minutes oh-so-patient progression, the song is slow, solemn, gorgeous example of the emotional heft that can be conveyed through restraint. “World” is fit to burst from the amount of it here; it feels as if the dams are splitting from the sheer weight of it.
That “first studio album proper” factoid can be felt in the song’s many quiet moments. The notion that leaving behind the home recording can only be for the better is a silly one, but it is exciting when thinking of what someone as talented with nuance as Holter could create with some new, expensive toys. The quality and purity of the quiet here alone is sublime.
We haven’t even touched on the Rick Bahto-filmed Super 8 footage, but we’ll leave that for you eyes. Loud City Song, co-produced with Cole Marsden Grief-Neill, is due out on August 20th in the US and August 19th everywhere else. Julia Holter will also be touring throughout July and August, bringing her rapturous live shows around once more [link].
- Tyler Hanan
“Wind-Up” - Pity Sex
First things first: I seem to remember myself lazily lumping in this fuzzy little quartet in with the emo scene when their excellent Dark World EP rolled out last year. Shame on me, because “shoegazey indie pop” and “90’s nostalgiac alt-rock” are far better descriptors of this skuzzy guitar pop. Also, the release of their debut full-length Feast of Love (with its lethargic orgy album art) on Run For Cover Records is also far more fitting than I realized; after listening to “Wind-Up” for the first time and spotting the label’s name, I immediately thought of another recent RFC release that had my 90’s alt-rock nostalgia senses tingling: Daylight’s Jar.
I like what I’ve heard from Pity Sex even more than what I’ve heard from Daylight, whose new release is thrilling and fun in its own right. That six song EP from Pity Sex was one of my favorite little releases of 2012, and this new, Stereogum-premiered single is a brief yet absolutely outstanding blend of said skuzzy guitars, a dizzyingly strong drive, morose mood, and shoegaze vocals that are melodious, lively,
Also in the Pity Sex’s favor - the band hails from my favorite Michigan city, Ann Arbor. Feast of Love is due out on RFC on June 25th, well after many of us will have seen them on tour with TWIABP&IANLATD and Dads. These band names, I just… I love them [link].
- Tyler Hanan
“Everything” - Case Studies
It’s unfortunate and unfair I’ve given such short shrift to anything country in the past, for this song is quite lovely - if not what I expected when pressing play on the Sacred Bones Soundcloud page. It’s melancholy and moving, soulful and sentimental - depressing, really, just as the rest of This Is Another Life promises to be. Jesse Lortz seems born to be the heartbroken man who’s seen to much, soundtracking every unbearably sad, rock-bottom event in one’s life. His is the face that fades in and out of the film as he sings over-top the heroes’ brooding.
The instrumentation, especially that sad, sad piano and the three minute mark guitar, is quite cutting; paired with Lortz’ voice and surely soul-wrecking lyrics, “Everything” is devastating. The song takes me back to the first time I listened to Vic Chesnutt, Daniel Johnston, or Mark Linkous’ vaguely similarly-styled dirges in the way-back-when of my ignorance to the genre’s merits, though that’s largely a personal comparison.
This Is Another Life is due out June 11th on Sacred Bones Records, his second full-length with the label that makes everything sound so desperately dark. Listen at your own discretion.
- Tyler Hanan
“Pink Dust” - SQÜRL
Jim Jarmusch is doing another music thing, because collaborating with new, creative artists on interesting music things while being (rightfully) dubbed a filmmaker in every press release and blurb is what the man does, lately. He’s teamed up with Josef Van Wissem a few times; in SQÜRL, he’s joined up with film dude Carter Logan (IMDB cred) and producer/engineer /all-around sound guy Shane Stoneback (I know these music-minded movies!). They recorded the soundtrack for Jarmusch’s 2009 film The Limits of Control as Bad Rabbit. Realizing certain Scots had the hare-based band name market cornered, probably, they’ve picked out a way cooler band name that looks like it sounds like one of the few rodents that hasn’t influenced every “different” band.
These three uber-talented creatives got together and made a bunch of noise - blissfully structureless, droning noise. Minimal percussion and a single heavily accented voice cut through guitars that just sit there and drone, drone, drone in a relentless, subtly directed cascade. It shudders and grows and shrinks in fits and starts, stretching out luxuriously for as long as it damn well pleases. It has the sound of something psychedelic and creepy basement ready, but it feels oddly bright and triumphant. You could ride off into the sunset to this.
The trio’s upcoming EP comes out next week (May 20/21) on ATP Recordings [link]. I’m sure the rest will be equally “enthusiastically marginal,” as ATP describes the band.
- Tyler Hanan
“I Like It” - Aphasiacs
Spoken like a child with terrible timing walking in her parents late night bedroom escapades, Apshasiacs leaves listeners saying ”I feel funny.” There are no awkwardly anxious parents to sooth though, though - the Detroit noisemaker keeps goading listeners on down an interdimensional wormhole stretched and filled to its very limits [link].
Signal boosted by electronic blogosphere darling Laurel Halo, Aphasiacs It’s Cool, I LIke It is the fourth album from “rhythm & noise imprint operating out of SE Michigan, Crisis Urbana. Its drenched, frantic video game antics add a new taste to an already diverse roster, joining Sunk’s twisted, post-existence monster under your bed Large Cycles, Siobhan’s brief, extraplanetary Skully, and Chaperone’s ever-patient avante-garde array of sounds, No Gold//Hawaii. Detroit has many names, but none sell the electronic scene as well as is deserved [link].
- Tyler Hanan
“Heartbeat in the Brain” - The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
Certain social networks and websites have lit up in the last 24 hours upon the leaking of everyone’s favorite twinkly guitared eight-piece with a double digit word count name. TWIABP&IANLATD’s debut full-length Whenever, If Ever (now, apparently) was originally slated for a June 18th release date. Recent pirating events - or internet error in fans’ favor - have changed plans though, and now the entire album is available on Bandcamp [link] and Soundcloud [link].
Whenever, If Ever Bandcamp price is $7 for now (where it’s the highest selling album today), in addition to the various standing packages from Topshelf [link]. Guitarist/vocalist Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak also mentioned in a Tumblr post on the subject that the album will be available for “”free / pay-what-you-want,” as all their previous releases have been.
On first listen the album is sounding quite as good as had been hoped, and the band has already proved (to one crowd on a cold Michigan night at least) that it’s going to translate quite well to the live setup. Despite the leak - which at the very least has rallied vocal support and buzz to the band today - it’s hard to feel bummed out when thinking about the new album and the live shows to come. That last song is simply sumptuous in its gorgeous finality and climactic soda-getting goodness.
- Tyler Hanan
“If It Speaks” - Hospital Ships
Here, Hospital Ships make the construction of a soaring, spacious, sweep-you-off-your-feet guitar song sound no more difficult than picking up guitars and sticks and jamming out a few licks. “If It Speaks” lifts off smoothly and easily soars to alarmingly joyous heights.
The guitars are vibrant with spirit-lifting vigor of a specific tenor (think Fang Island), and the construction and execution impress without the noxious stench of trying too hard. Hospital Ships immediately impresses by snuggly and successfully wearing a persona rarely mastered: that of the unpretentious and impeccably skilled scenebenders.
I like my Fang Island comparison due to the similar emotions the two bands elicit; the press release’s nods to Built To Spill and Sunny Day Real Estate are even more appropriate, and the reveal that Hospital Ships is touring with The Appleseed Cast is the great, glistening cherry on this sweet yet nutritious sundae. The eau de Midwest is thick here - their shows must be similarly well-flanneled by indie rock and emo kids alike, akin to a sold-out Pitchfork-y crowd crossed with a Topshelf band’s basement set. .
Hospital Ships new record - Destruction In Yr Soul, out June 18th - is also being released on that bastion of talent, Graveface Records. Come on now, that’s too much. Make sure to see if Hospital Ships’ immensely likable song with the sky-scraping guitar hooks to glide on reside throughout the album - I’d hate to be accused of overreacting to a Midwest sounding guitar band.
- Tyler Hanan
“Skeleton” - The Front Bottoms
Several months ago, I went to a sold out show at Mac’s (dive) Bar. Cheap Girls headlined with support from The Front Bottoms, but it must be asked: if the support blows the headliner out of the water, who’s the headliner?
The Front Bottoms could be described with every adjective a cramped crowd of punk kids would want to use after a show: clamoring, energetic, overjoyed (debatable, but some punks like it upbeat while some want it pissed off), zealous, enthralling. They blew the roof off that sketchy establishment, and now they’re coming around for another round. Following the release of their new album Talon of the Hawk on May 21st via Bar/None Records - an album that I hope to stick a bit more than its riotously fun but at times uneven self-titled predecessor - The Front Bottoms will be going on an extensive US tour throughout June and July [link].
- Tyler Hanan
“This Could Be A Bridge” - Post Louis
In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I did find this on Pitchfork. Their “Tracks” tab often has some exceptional music, the stuff that’s less higher profile and often more interesting than the news on many site’s front pages.
Post Louis - an example of this, should I need to spell that out - pinched my ear sharply between its fingers, dragged my weak-at-the-knees-for-90’s-and-nostalgia emotions around the rather non-quaint coffeeshop I had in which I’d bunckered down in, and deposited me hot, bothered, and ruffled up on the Tumblr page for this very site - which really isn’t the place for easing anybody out of those feelings.
It’s all very retro, as Patrick Bowman described better than I could, a song buoyed by buzzing guitar that’s always amicably battling with the quite lovely vocals for pole position. Both intimate and ambitious, Post Louis is able to flip dynamics at the drop of a hat on “This Could Be A Bridge.” It’s quite the stirring second song from the new duo.
The band seems to be active enough on the various social networks (including tweeting intentions to “play live as a six piece band soon), so hopefully there will be regular updates; this song and the rather more mellow, modern, and bass-heavy “Oldsmobile” are far too promising (and in much different ways) to sit all by their lonesome for long.
- Tyler Hanan
“Sea of Love” - The National
Today has been a real handful for these guys. They participated in one of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” segments, taking questions of all kinds from fans. Amidst all that action, they’ve also premiered this new video. In case you haven’t brushed up on your Russian post-punk (What?), the video is a tribute to one done by Zvuki Mu. Matt Berninger appears to have more difficulties with the mic hanging from the ceiling than his Russian counterpart, though.
“Sea of Love” is yet another song for The National’s catalog, already brimming with melancholy and worry. With a focus on a love lost, “Sea of Love” might be a deliberately misleading title as Berninger sings, “Hey Joy, sorry I hurt you but / They say love is a virtue, don’t they?” The National have made a career out of playing with our nagging doubts, and they’re still going strong. Their newest album Trouble Will Find Me is out May 21st on 4AD.
- Kevin Tappin