I’ve got a lot of singles to catch up on. All these that I’m posting over the next few days have been sent my way over the past two months.
Electro / pop
1. “it was gone” – Orchid Mantis. Somehow combines found sounds, heavily processed vocals, insistent synths and stuttering drums into great clouds of sound. It’s a gem.
2. “Iron & Wood” – Quinn Erwin. Erwin, of the brilliant Afterlife Parade, turns his impeccable songwriting talent toward synth-driven pop-rock. The results are just as dynamic and exciting as his band’s forays into anthemic guitar rock and artsy post-rock. The lyrics, the vocal melodies, and the arrangement just all work together like clockwork.
3. “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” – Summer Heart. The song title and band name are perfect for this tune that balances wiry energy and dreamy vocals to create the soundtrack to a carefree summer afternoon.
4. “Go” – Sunday Lane. Lane isolates the chorus and lets that hook live on its own, letting the rest of the song draw its energy from the perky declaration, “Where we gonna go?”
5. “Everything at Once” – Her Magic Wand. Sonic texture is something I don’t call out that often, but this electro-pop track has some really nice layering of disparate sounds that give the tune a compelling sonic consistency.
6. “We Are Golden” – Nova Heart. Burbling synths, LCD Soundsystem-esque bass riffs, a buttery smooth mood, and luscious vocals make this mesmerizing electro-rock jam an easy fit for the dancefloor or the rock club.
7. “Broken” – Featurette. The herky-jerky rhythms of this tune rub up against the silky synths to create that juxtaposition that plays so nicely in electro: the jagged smooth, the spiky soft.
8. “Shake It Loose” – Astronauts, etc. If you need any suave, svelte, seductive babymaking music, this tune has my vote.
9. “Beachside” – Heather Larose. This acoustic-pop song makes me want to dance in my computer chair. ‘Nuff said.
10. “Tied Up” – Level and Tyson. Scandinavians have the most eccentric lenses when it comes to pop music: we’ve got Surrounded-style distorted vocals, walking-speed acoustic-vibes, ’90s-esque drum beat and some humming background vocals. The results are unique, to say the least.
11. “Lovers Can Be Monsters” – Roger Harvey. Harvey bears the burden of having a voice and genre similar to Ben Gibbard’s, but it would be a shame to pass up this addictive, oddly tender indie-rock track due to unasked-for similarities. I want to listen to this over and over.
1. “Find My Way” – Jinja Safari. The sort of exuberant, gregarious pop music that seems unavoidable and unhateable. Tropical vibes, mid ’00s MGMT-esque melodies, and overall fun had by all.
2. “Petrichor” – Light Music. This one’s the sort of indie-pop-rock tune that rides a great vocal hook, intricate-yet-fun arrangements, and sheer ebullient charm to great heights.
2. “Visions of Plumerias” – Rudy De Anda. Wistful, lazy, slow-motion days now have one more song for the soundtrack: De Anda’s vintage pop sounds just retro enough without getting tribute-band-y.
3. “Guess You Never Thought of It That Way” – Theo Berndt. Overstuffed, zinging, exuberant, vocals-and-instruments-in-the-same-melody pop songs aren’t the exclusive products of Scandinavia, but it sure seems like they have a big claim on the territory. Theo Berndt is a band from Sweden, and thus parlay their mandate into a wildly entertaining track that just keeps throwing more stuff at you.
4. “Virginians” – IOLA. It’s always fun to hear a song go in a completely different direction than I expected. This indie-pop tune goes from 0-60 and back in a most satisfying way.
5. “Trisha Please Come Home” – Advance Base. Lo-fi ideals and hi-fi production co-exist in this meandering, endearing tune from this post-Casiotone for the Painfully Alone project.
6. “Eye to Eye” – Astronauts, etc. More and more indie-rockers are coming around to how funky, soulful, and fun R&B can be. It’s working its magic on me too: I’ve not historically been huge into R&B, but this track is a sweet jam that sounds amazing.
7. “Our Bodies” – Ghost Lit Kingdom. Affectionate, big-melody ballads can eat a whole lot of elements from different genres and still be recognizable: this one pulls in some tropical vibes, R&B grooves, and indie-folk instrumental arrangements.
8. “A Dead Man’s Song” – Roger Lion. Joe Pernice and Budo (Macklemore) come together to create a head-bobbin’ down-tempo tune with ’90s Brit-pop and trip-hop influences.
9. “Gunsmoke” – Ancient Warfare. A good transition can make a song: Delicate, traditional piano taps leads smoothly into the huge, noisy, guitar-bound chorus. The moment works.
10. “Ghost Legs” – Dreamcoat. Some band names are just ways to differentiate one entity from another, but Dreamcoat’s name fits the sound of this tune perfectly: a round, warm, gently rolling indie-rock tune grounded by unobtrusive pad synths and lightly accented by slapback guitar and distant vocals. It feels like I could wrap myself up in this and go to sleep–hence Dreamcoat.
11. “Parliament” – Sunday Lane. Insistent bass notes create a pleasing tension against Lane’s gentle, patient vocals. In a parallel development, a skittering electronic beat pushes on careful piano chords. The resulting tune fits together like a puzzle, somehow turning out a surprisingly cohesive dream-pop whole from a variety of parts.
Sunday Lane’s cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” is a good place to start talking about Fauntella Crow‘s debut EP Lost Here. Piano-playing singer/songwriter Lane, half of Fauntella Crow, plays predominantly upbeat pop in her solo work. I first discovered her pensive, emotive side on that 2012 cover of Justin Vernon’s keening, beautiful tune. Lane’s voice fit perfectly in the mood, and I longed for her to do more with that combination. It’s like she heard my thoughtwaves, because Lost Here explores her melancholy side.
The title track of the EP makes a conscious effort to pilfer some sonic touches from For Emma, Forever Ago, and it works like a charm: the song steals the show, as Lane’s voice and Jessy Greene’s violin form a perfect pair to convey a familiar form of tragic beauty. There’s a difference in mood on “Lost Here” from the rest of the EP, which falls more in the ’90s singer/songwriter, Lilith Fair vibe. That’s not a bad thing at all–“Delicate” shines in its own right. But “Lost Here” channels the skills of both members into a tune that can stand up with the best indie ballads of the past ten years. That’s a hugely bold statement (“Maps“! “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.“! “For Emma“!), but I’m prepared to make it. The song is wonderful.
The rest of the EP is strong, composed of the aforementioned singer/songwriter vibes. “Grow” meshes Lane and Greene perfectly, as the piano, both vocals, plucked violin, and bowed violin come together for a wonderful first stanza. Opener “Delicate” deftly balances bitterness and vulnerability, both lyrically and vocally; it’s the most well-developed and mature of the offerings that aren’t “Lost Here.” The rest of the tunes fall somewhere between the poised pop of track 1 and the fragility of track 5; all very pretty, but not as immediately arresting as the twin pillars they support.
Lane is a strong songwriter who has found a perfect foil in Greene; the latter brings out the melancholy melodic gifts that I knew Lane had lying dormant. Lost Here is hopefully an opening salvo in a long career for Fauntella Crow–this is too excellent to languish as a one-off side-project. Even if these five tunes are all we get, I’ll be thankful for them, and you should be too.
This is the always-excellent Elijah Wyman of Decent Lovers performing “Bad Thoughts Out” in an active bathroom.
A. The song is wonderful, whetting my desire for more DecLuv tunes.
B. That’s a cloth bird attached to his guitar strap.
C. “Lag?” Whose graffiti tag is “Lag?”
Here We Go Magic, purveyors of my favorite summer song (“How Do I Know”), have now followed that with one of my favorite videos of the year. “Hard to Be Close” is the surreal, quirky, and funny of three guys stuck in an elevator. The song’s pretty great too.
Hotel Eden’s smooth-groovin’ “I Saw You at the Laundromat” turns the titular location into a discotheque. This has never happened to me, but I sure wish it had.
It takes guts to cover Bon Iver; Justin Vernon has created such a hermetic world with his tunes that other covers seem to be trespassing on the real version’s turf. But Sunday Lane and Max Helmerich add in a female vocal counterpoint to “Skinny Love,” giving this version a great reason to exist. It also has a bit of a country air to it, which is interesting.
Sunday Lane’s cheery, playful piano-pop is easy to enjoy. While not as idiosyncratic as Regina Spektor, Lane has a easy confidence that could easily place her in the conversation with charmers like Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson and Lenka. Her mid-range voice is expressive without being overdramatic, which allows songs like “A Little Hope” and “Lack of Color” to take a step back from the early-2000s maudlin that Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch mired the decade’s female singer/songwriters in. It’s a similar sound, but it doesn’t cloy.
The EP’s title “Bring Me Sunshine” comes from aforementioned standout “Lack of Color,” which has solid melodies and a nice counterpoint to bring the track home. “Reckless One” features the next most memorable tune, as well as a string section that will almost certainly divide audiences on the “love it/hate it” axis.
Bring Me Sunshine is a solid EP that toes the edge of overdramatic. Fans of the aforementioned female singer/songwriters will find much to love here. There’s no clear indicator of where she’s headed from this EP, but she’s worth tracking to find out.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.