1. “Delightful” – Katie Garibaldi. A delightfully honest reflection on how to live life in this crazy world.This sweet-sounding song beautifully combines acoustic guitar strumming with Garibaldi’s unique voice.
2. “Alaska” – Tina Refsnes. This thoughtful folk tune starts off with minimalist guitar instrumentation and slowly expands to include a rather full orchestral accompaniment. “Alaska” is a lovely track that provides just the right amount of cheer for a rainy day.
3. “No Last Call”– Emily Rodgers. A contemplative, melancholic folk tune with alt-country influence coming out in her use of pedal steel. The long length of the track gives off a feeling like it may just be an endless beauty. When it comes to a close, you are left wanting to return to its peaceful arms.
4. “Little by Little”– Niamh Crowther. Crowther’s soaring sopranic voice pairs well with her playful instrumentation. Similar to the likes of Regina Spektor, Crowther hits, holds, and transitions through very high notes; it’s rather awe-inspiring.
5. “Miami”– Kara Ali. Soulful, jovial, and refreshing, the funky instrumentation of “Miami” makes me want to groove. Ali’s voice is this interesting combination of Mariah Carey and Joss Stone. This is a great ode to a fun American city.
6. “Cormorant”– Dana Falconberry and Medicine Bow. I love this song; it feels very Birdy meets Fleet Foxes with some Dirty Projectors thrown in. Heavy on the banjo and bass, this track combines unique instrumentation with quizzical lyrics and a powerful voice. Fun all around.
7. “Oliver”– Brooke Bentham. This simple, lovely singer-songwriter track will steal your heart with its raw vocals and compelling lyrics. I can truly feel the warmth emanating from this song.
8. “Tonight”– Ashley Shadow. This is a great example of how Ashley Shadow makes music that builds and climaxes magically, akin to The War on Drugs. And Shadow’s coy alto female voice correlates well with the male background vocals entering at the chorus.
9. “Next To You”– Dannika. Sit back, relax and chill out to this track. Dannika’s unassuming vocals paired with the guitar provide a perfect example of casual feminine rock.
10. “Late to the Party”– Heavy Heart. Another chill rock song, this female-fronted rock band makes great rock music. The crisp electric guitar steals the show from the start, but the layered strings certainly deserve an honorable mention.
11. “Midnight Blue”– Candace. Although the vocals are great, the instrumentation shines on this track. It makes me want to take a drive, roll down the windows, and let the wind mess up my hair as I listen to this song.
12. “Cementville”– Annabelle Chairlegs. This song radiates fun. The vocals are very reminiscent of the female from the B-52s, with raucous screaming to boot. I’m especially in love with the boldness of this song; feels very third wave feminism.
13. “Lies”– ¿Qué Pasa? With quaking electric guitar, sultry vocals and punchy lyrics, “Lies” oozes sex appeal. The multitude of false endings leaves you thinking it’s over and then the seduction starts up again. It somehow feels like something that Quentin Tarantino could have used in a Kill Bill Vol. 1 fight scene.–Krisann Janowitz
Try The Pie’s latest album, Rest, departs from their slightly heavier punk sound from previous albums. Recorded in frontwoman Bean Tupou’s San Francisco bedroom, Rest has a refreshingly raw acoustic-punk sound. The tracks contain lovely acoustic guitar instrumentation with layered female vocals and an occasional dying smoke detector.
The idea of Rest is simple: the album is a rest or a break from a heavier sound. There seems to be less pressure, rules, and instruments within this album, compared to their previous works. With the exception of “Willing” and “Root to Branch,” each song begins with the acoustic guitar, giving them an immediately relaxing feel. The small additions of percussive elements provide layers to the tracks. For example, “‘Alu A” begins with the guitar, and as the track progresses, more and more surprising percussive elements enter in. The whole track feels like a DIY version of The War On Drugs. “‘Alu A” has a really chill vibe that makes it one of my favorites from Rest.
My other favorite element of Rest is the vocalization. Many of the songs feature more than one female vocal, and they all come together to make a refreshingly dissonant combination. The vocalization is akin to other punk bands like Amanda X. “Please! Please! Please!” brings in the multiple vocals almost immediately. It sounds like there’s about three female vocals looping and overlapping in a perfectly wonky way–the vocal dissonance pairs well with the old reliable acoustic guitar.
The raw nature of Rest makes me love it even more. The tracks are so short, yet so powerful. Take “Eight,” for example: a seemingly simple song about a spider. Yet, if you take a look at the lyrics, they explore what happens when you get in “sticky” situations where “the net gets so sticky/ and I can’t get out of it/ but I still try.” The final lyric–“when you are using all eight it seems so dull/ to know that you are superior over all”–drops a metaphorical bomb that makes you want to read the lyrics all over again to try and understand it. “Eight” actually ends with a disgruntled “God damn it,” which I’m assuming was Bean’s response to the earlier-heard dying smoke detector.
Try The Pie’s latest release is a beautifully unassuming album with a slightly grainy music quality and a nonchalance toward interruptions. My recommendation is to relax, sit back and enjoy a little Rest. –Krisann Janowitz
I’ve had an absolutely madcap time trying to fit the work of four days into five. This would usually call for my power music, but instead I’ve had the lush, mid-tempo Oak Island by Nightlands on repeat. I’d like to say that I did this perfectly to try to calm the clatter in my head, but the real story is that I can’t get “Other People’s Pockets” out of my head.
Penultimate tune “Other People’s Pockets” is indicative of the tunes that Dave Hartley (The War on Drugs’ bassist) has crafted on the album. The album relies heavily on walls of vocals cascading over a beautiful, lackadaisical indie-pop background that foregrounds mood over virtuoso playing. I absolutely adore vocal harmonies, and Hartley provides them here and elsewhere in spades. Opener “Time and Peace” offers another inviting atmosphere, this time pairing Hartley’s multitracked vocals against a thrumming bass line and a quick tempo for a memorable tune.
The rest of the album unfolds between these two pillars, delivering more quietly rapturous moments. It’s difficult to explain how music this carefully crafted in a studio can feel spontaneous and unscripted, but there’s a sense of breezy ease throughout the album nonetheless. Some may say that the vibe is a little too easy in the middle of the album, but I like the consistency. None of the tunes stick out positively, but none fall apart and stick out negatively, either. It’s a strong album to listen to from start to finish, and there can never be too many of those.
If you’re into lush, highly orchestrated indie-pop/indie-rock, you should check out the unique voice(s) that Nightlands uses on Oak Island.
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.