February 10,2016 — “Icing Sugar” by Keiandra



If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Icing Sugar” by Keiandra (2016, from the forthcoming EP Empty Palaces).

Keiandra is a dreampop/indie-folk singer/songwriter from Newcastle Upon Tyne. She’s just 18 years of age, and she’s set to release her debut EP in March. A couple of days ago, I got something in the mailbag promoting the EP, and specifically tonight’s song. She released a single called “Wanted” a couple of months ago, and the single for “Icing Sugar” will be out on Friday. According to her blog, the EP should have been out in September of 2015, but we don’t really know anything other than what the email says. The EP will be out on March 11. Whatever the case, this is a really impressive tune from the youngster, and I’m really looking forward to hearing more from her.

No matter, here’s tonight’s stellar song:

“Icing Sugar” by Keiandra

It’s hard to say that this sounds “like” anything, but it’s easy to say that it sounds good. Really the only thin I know is that she lists Daughter as one of her influences. By the way, I haven’t spent very much time with the brand new Daughter album Not to Disappear, but I do like it, and it’s going to end up near the top of a lot of year-end lists.

Tonight’s song is dreamy and beautiful and it’s got me knocked over. If this song and the other song I’ve heard indicate anything, this young woman should make a pretty big impact both in the UK and here in the US.

February 3, 2016 — “True Kindness” by Savage Sister

Savage Sister

If you only listen to one song today, make it “True Kindness” by Savage Sister (2016, from the album Speechless).

Savage Sister is a dream pop/darkwave/shoegaze band from Chicago. The band is fronted by multi-instrumentalist Michael Tenzer, who is really busy with this project as well as Lazy Legs and Eyes Behind the Veil. Savage Sister has been around since 2012, and they’ve released a couple of EPs, a couple of 7″ records, and one other album. This album was supposed to come out in early 2015, and I actually wrote about it last January. Unfortunately, the release kept getting delayed, but it finally came out yesterday.

Tenzer is a huge fan of Scott Cortez, who is the genius behind the super-ambient and super fuzzy projects lovesliescrushing and astrobrite, and who incidentally also lives in Chicago at the moment. Although this isn’t as fuzzy as those, Tenzer’s interest in and influence by those projects is very evident.

It’s a really dreamy and beautiful record that carries the listener off to a really safe and warm place. As always, Tenzer’s composition sparkles. As always, Chloe Lundgren’s soft, sweet vocals soar.

“True Kindness” by Savage Sister

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, but because it got pushed by an entire year, I almost forgot about it. I got a notice about it yesterday, and although real life has been kicking me in the pants, that news really cheered me up. I immediately bought a download and spent some quality time with it last night, even while I was doing some other writing. I absolutely love this album, and I’ve penciled it in to the top 15 of my year-end list. I’m expecting that list to be 50 again this year, and I also expect to have another extensive “honorable mention” list this year. I know it’s crazily early to start those talks, but I know what I like. For the record, I know that this won’t be my favorite February release, and I’ll have a lot to write about that matter next week. Still, though, you can count on this being very near the top of the final list.

You can buy Speechless in digital download format via Bandcamp here.

February 2, 2016 — “Snow” by Charlie Hilton

Charlie Hilton

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Snow” by Charlie Hilton (2016, from the album Palana).

Charlie Hilton is the eponymous Portland, Oregon electro/indie/dream pop solo project of the lead singer out of Blouse. Blouse’s self-titled debut record was my eighth favorite non-Canadian record of 2011. You know, way back in the day before I started this music blog. Back when I published two year-end lists every year. For the record, there are more than a few albums from that countdown that I haven’t listened to since 2012. But that’s neither here nor there.

Blouse released a second album in 2013, and it wasn’t quite the dream pop delight that Blouse was. They experimented with a different style and used different instruments. I never even got that album. At some point, that band decided to take a break, and during the hiatus, Charlie Hilton got to work on her solo debut. I started getting notes about it late last year, but I didn’t even realize the connection to Blouse until just a few weeks ago. The album finally released on January 22 via Captured Tracks, and I like it quite a bit.

Hilton paired up with Mac DeMarco on “100 Million”, which is also from the solo debut, and it’s a great song, but it’s not why we’re here tonight.

On tonight’s song, and on a couple of others, there’s some saxophone. Truth told, I’m not a fan of saxophone, even when you’re talking about Colin Stetson. Somehow, though, it really works here. This is that song.

“Snow” by Charlie Hilton

There’s something really intoxicating about the rhythm. There’s something about the keys and heavy drum beat that reminds me of Bowery Electric. Hilton’s quiet vocals soar over the dimly lit wide-open space. And that weird saxophone in the darkened corners. More like free-form noodling than playing. All of it pieces together really nicely, and I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times. I think it’ll end up in the top half of my year-end list.

You can buy Palana as a download via Bandcamp here, or you can buy it in LP/CD/cassette format here.

January 30, 2016 — “Distance” by Iris


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Distance” by Iris (2015, from the “Distance” single).

Iris was an emo/shoegaze quartet from Toronto. They formed in 2013, and they released three EPs and a single. I had never heard of the band until I stumbled upon a different song in my Soundcloud feed the other day. Unfortunately, I found out about them just a little too late. Just a couple of days ago, their guitar player Scott Bostin posted something to their Facebook page indicating that the band is splitting. At the very least, he’s leaving the band, and has indicated that he no longer has “…motivation to push this band any further than it has gone”.

I hope that the rest of the band figures out how to carry on without him. I really like everything that I’ve heard. Especially today’s quiet/LOUD/quiet bruiser.

“Distance” by Iris

Right out of the gate, I have to point out that bassist/vocalist Danielle reminds me a lot of Paula Kelley out of Drop Nineteens. A lot.

I really like the way that the beginning and end are super-slow and extremely down-tempo. The guitar there is reminiscent of Slowdive’s Pygmalion album. At about 1:01, al breaks loose and there’s a lot of fuzz and mainly a lot of volume. All the while, though, Danielle’s vocals keep things on the tender side.

I wish that there would be more to come from this band, but for right now, it looks like they’ve pulled the plug. At least temporarily. Still, though, you should get the “Distance” single and the rest of their catalog via Bandcamp here.

January 27, 2016 — “An Undue Level of Hubris” by Hether

Hether — Komkommer

If you only listen to one song today, make it “An Undue Level of Hubris” by Hether (2016, from the forthcoming album Komkommer).

Hether is an instrumental experimental rock quartet from London. They describe themselves as shoegaze and noise rock. I can hear elements of those things, and I can also hear elements of post-rock and whatever we’re supposed to call that thing that’s a mix of slowcore and grunge. Think about the full-band version of “Mistress” by Red House Painters. The one that’s on the first self-titled album (the Rollercoaster one). That song is grungy slowcore, and there’s some things on this Hether album that remind me of that. And there’s a lot that makes me think of RHP, but in a less specific way. On a different song, I’m reminded of The Cure.

I don’t know anything about this band. Only that they are four guys, and that they released an album called Mongolia in 2014. There’s a song on that album called “An Appropriate Degree of Chagrin”. I like to thing that today’s song and that song are sisters. Not twins, but sisters that are completely opposite each other. The songs don’t sound anything like each other, and their titles refer to nearly opposite concepts, but they’ve got similar DNA.

“An Undue Level of Hubris” by Hether

I like that it’s fuzzy but not loud. Under the melodic guitars, there’s some heavy effects on a different guitar. The guitar with the heavy effects reminds me of what Mono (Japan) might sound like if they turned their amps way down. Whatever you want to call it, I really like that juxtaposition of melody and fuzz.

The sophomore album officially comes out on February 1, but you can get it now via Bandcamp by naming your price here.

January 25, 2016 — “Turning Light” by Amber Arcades

Annelotte de Graaf (Amber Arcades)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Turning Light” by Amber Arcades (2016, from a forthcoming album, title and release date unknown).

Amber Arcades is a dream-folk/ folk-gaze recording project of Annelotte de Graaf,who is based in Utrecht, Netherlands. The Dutchwoman was in a Philadelphia-based bluegrass band back in 2010, and was also in a Dutch folk band called Oh, Brave Wilde Eyes. In 2013, de Graaf released the Amber Arcades EP, and late last year, she released another called Patiently. The latter of those EPs has five songs of fantastic indie-folk stuff. It’s easy to say that it’s reminiscent of Angel Olsen, which means that I like it very much. If I understand things correctly, the five songs from that EP will also appear on the new album, but they’ll sound very different. The new album explores different stuff like krautrock, shoegaze, and dream pop. Lots of effects, and lots of layers.

de Graaf flew to New York last autumn to record the songs for the new album, and many of them went through transformations by the end of it. While some of the songs were written years ago, it’s my understanding that tonight’s song was written on the spot. In the studio. In an hour. She was jet lagged and sleep-deprived, and kept showing up to the studio really early in the morning. One morning, she found her studio bassist Keven Lareau (out of the Boston psych/indie rock band Quilt) working on a motorik-style bass line. She had been working on a melody that worked well with what he was doing, and the song was born. She says they wrote it in an hour and recorded it in an hour. She wrote the lyrics the next day, and recorded those quickly as well.

This is that song.
“Turning Light” by Amber Arcades

There’s a lot for me to like here. Indeed, there’s that motorik bass. Shane Butler (also out of Quilt) plays the guitar here, and I don’t know if that’s just a ton of tremolo, or if there’s a bunch of other effects, or if there’s also some vintage organs in the mix, but there’s some crazy effects that I like a lot. The studio band is rounded out by drummer Jackson Pollis (out of Real Estate).

I just learned about Amber Arcades a couple of weeks ago through a mail bag submission, and I love everything that I’ve heard. I don’t know much about her, but just about everyone who writes anything about Amber Arcades mentions that de Graaf’s voice is somewhat reminiscent of the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast. Pay special attention to the section that starts at 2:15. She’s doing something that reminds me a lot of Keenan. Not a specific Broadcast song, but just Keenan in general.

The album will be released via Heavenly Recordings sometime in the spring. At this point, they haven’t even announced the title of the album, let alone the specific release date. They keep saying that album details will be coming soon, and I’m waiting with bated breath.

If the two songs that I’ve heard are any indication, and if it’s true that there will be bigger versions of the Patiently songs, I’m going to love this album. It should do very well in my year-end list. Probably in the top 15. It’s pretty early to be talking about these kinds of things, but I’m pretty confident about this. For the record, I’ve already got one album penciled into my year-end top three despite the fact that it isn’t out yet and I haven’t even heard the whole thing. This is something that I do.

As we patiently wait for the album, you can grab a “name your price” download of the Patiently EP (see what I did there?) here.

January 24, 2016 — “Is The Is Are” by DIIV

Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Is The Is Are” by DIIV (2016, from the forthcoming album Is The Is Are).

DIIV (pronounce it like “dive”) is an indie rock/dark dream pop quartet from Brooklyn. The essence of the band is Zachary Cole Smith, who is also in Beach Fossils. A few years ago, he holed himself up to write the songs that would eventually be the first DIIV record. Unlike most people, he didn’t hole up in a cabin in the snowy woods. During a summer, he holed up in the corner of somebody else’s NYC studio apartment. No windows, no running water, no air conditioning. All he had with him was records and books.

The debut album Oshin was my 25th favorite album of 2012, but I probably should have put it higher on the list. A lot of people did. There’s been a lot of anticipation around the new album, which will finally hit shelves on February 5 via Captured Tracks.

Like the first album, the new one has a lot of DIY qualities. It’s a bit grimy and sweaty. The title track certainly is. In a view of the bigger picture, though, the new album is a bit brighter than its predecessor. I haven’t spent a ton of time with the album yet, but I really like it so far. Here’s the title track:

“Is The Is Are” by DIIV

There’s something about this that has the feel of early-mid 1980s college radio while also sounding contemporary. I immediately thought of the REM of that era, and I almost never think of REM anymore. It’s still a good thing. I think it’s safe to say that Smith is influenced to some degree by Sonic Youth, and some of that influence is all over this record. I also hear some things that remind me of Stereolab, and some things that remind me of Blonde Redhead, plus other things.

The album will be out on February 5, and you can pre-order it via Bandcamp here


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