Growing up, I would spend hours in Fye listening to albums by artists I discovered through seeing their music video on MTV or VH1 (back when they actually aired music videos). When I found an artist I liked, I bought the CD and took it home to engage in my own little listening party. As soon as I reached my bedroom, I’d pop it into what I thought was an amazing sound system, snag the lyrics sheet out, and listen. Sometimes I would repeat this experience over and over again if I really loved the album. Eventually, when I reached college, I learned that people did a variation of this together and called them listening parties! Whether you have it by yourself or with a few friends, Taking Time by Reservations is one album more than worthy of a listening party.
The first aspect of Reservations’ debut full-length album that caught my ear was the vocals. Singer/songwriter Jana Horn has a voice that stands out with its simple beauty, similar to Priscilla Ahn. Her voice has the sweet tonal qualities of the Civil Wars’ Joy Williams, but also maintains the raw, unadorned feel akin to The xx’s Romy Madley Croft. The combination of these two aspects makes Jana’s voice one that is impossible to tire of. I truly can listen to her over and over again.
Each song on Taking Time pairs Jana’s beautiful voice with Jason Baczynski’s drums and Paul Price’s guitar in a unique way. The trio’s songs not only provide different layerings of these instruments but also contain different amounts of heaviness. Some songs like “Planet” and “I’ve been trying not to feel it” provide a fuller, louder sound, while others such as “I don’t mind” and “To be honest” give out more chill vibes. “I can hear us” is a really great example of Reservations’ ability to begin a song at the more relaxed levels of “To be honest” and build beautifully to a heavier rock sound by its end. They do that wonderful trick often on the album.
The first single off the album, “Planet,” opens the album up with Jana’s unadorned voice, accompanied by piano and the up-front drums enters in. The electric guitar adds a layer to the instrumentation that fills out the sound. The song has a slightly melancholic quality, almost giving off a post-apocalyptic feel. This feel is particularly evident in the repetition of, “welcome to the planet/ it’s not the way I planned it, it’s not,” sounding as if this could be a song for the soundtrack of a very well-done zombie movie. I say well-done because the song maintains a high level of artistic quality that could only be tied to something of similar high quality. “Planet” is a really great opening to an awesome album. I can only assume that you are now ready to host your own listening party centered around it.–Krisann Janowitz
Imagine a sound that combines the reggae upstroke with brilliant, harmonious vocal looping, ending with an epic ‘60s rock electric guitar solo. That sound is exactly what you will find in “Whatsoever” off of Jaylis’ latest EP My Lonely Shadow.
“Whatsoever” is the best example of how Jaylis combines a myriad of diverse elements. The track begins with a funky electric guitar, followed quickly by Jaylis’ smooth voice. Once the second harmonizing voice joins in, the funky guitar transitions into an off-beat upstroke typical of reggae music. After the chorus, the two voices split: Jaylis’ voice repeats the same melody from the first verse, while the second voice enters a measure later with the same harmony to create a harmonious loop. The dual-vocal layering is a unique way to add intrigue to the track.
In fact, Jaylis does these looping harmonies in every track off the EP. Each track begins with one female voice (Jaylis’), and the second female vocal always starts by adding harmony and ends up looping with Jaylis’ voice. Sometimes the second voice echoes many of the words the first is singing (“Whatsoever”); other times she provides mood-setting oohs and ahhs (“My Lonely Shadow”). Nevertheless, in each track the second voice provides harmony in a truly unique and beautiful way.
Jaylis’ lead singer, Jaylis, has a strong yet sweet voice that begins every track alone or with light instrumentation. In tone and range, her voice is akin to lead singer of Of Monsters and Men, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir; it also contains the subtlety within Romy Madley Croft’s voice (The XX). Jaylis’ voice can be seen as an anchor for each of the songs. The vocal aspects of the album are really what sets Jaylis’ sound apart, although the instrumentation is also unique.
Even though the vocal harmonies and looping from My Lonely Shadow may be the first element we notice, let us not forget to take notice of its diverse instrumentation and sounds. Opener “My Lonely Shadow,” mainly accompanied by the guitar, has a mellow singer/songwriter feel. As described before, “Whatsoever” adds a fun reggae element to the EP, along with introducing the 60’s rock electric guitar solo. “Regrets” continues the ‘60s rock feel through its smoky electric guitar. “Spleen” has a much more folky instrumentation, with the upright bass taking more prominence in this track than it did in the others. Percussive elements, along with unique uses of the piano, are also found throughout the My Lonely Shadow.
As a whole, Jaylis follows up their first album with a standout EP. My Lonely Shadow combines many musical elements, including brilliant vocal harmony done through vocal looping, to create a sound all its own. My Lonely Shadow is a harmonious gem. —Krisann Janowitz
Harmonic – Absorbed – Ethereal – Longing – Otherwordly – Sexy – is what I hope HÆLOS stands for, because those six words describe their debut EP Earth Not Abovespot-on. The electro-pop trio has crafted four tracks that glide along a tightrope separating beautifully euphoric and tragically sad moods.
The title track sways with sensual rhythm, careful not to give too much away at the start. “Some of us need kindness,” sing male and female vocalists, their delicious, natural harmony similar to The XX’s, but fuller, more wholesome. The use of drums, like a thumping heart palpitation, creates a beautiful build of suspense as we hang on to every beat. The repeated lyric (“Ohhh, is this what we have become?”) is gripping – you want to know their story.
Things get more atmospheric on “Cloud Nine” where subtle sounds, such as running a fingertip along the wet rim of a wine glass, warp in the background. The silver, sopranic female voice contrasts exquisitely with the warm, golden male voice. The vocals overall are choppy, paralleling the concept of the song. “Why did you leave me here?” – This question they mull over…and over again while a hesitant stop-and-go pace captures vulnerability.
Pensiveness fades into desperation on “Breathe,” where lyrics like “How long will you still hold me? How long will you breathe for me?” are intermingled with techno texturing and sharp, metallic clanging. The pace gradually picks up, as the instrumentation twirls around a tornado of overlapping lyrical questions.
And finally, the tornado comes to a peaceful cessation by the fourth track, “Ethyr.” It starts with a gentle, pulling sound I can only describe as denser than listening to the inside of a seashell–you’re actually standing inside it. The final track is a strange delivery of electronic orchestra. It’s space-like, full of radar-detecting glitch and static sounds, like a TV attempting to pick up a channel. It’s so breathtaking you forget the only vocals are muffled, singing underwater. There’s nothing left to be said. It’s this presence of pure sound that brings us to the serene end of a delicate journey.
What begins as a vibe marked by desperation and constant questioning morphs into graceful acceptance. On Earth Not Above, HÆLOS uses those unsure-of gray areas to create a beautiful landscape and tender atmosphere for contemplation. Next time you’re still awake during those precious hours before sun rise, Earth Not Above could be the perfect sonic soother.–Rachel Haney
Have you ever listened to The XX? If not, it’s two steamy voices, one male and one female, alongside minimalist instrumentation. Flavor The XX with bluegrass/country twang and instrumentation, and you have The Lowest Pair. Their recently released The Sacred Heart Sessions highlights Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee’s sultry voices through a minimalist banjo/guitar arrangement in a truly beautiful way.
Listening to The Lowest Pair is such a pleasurable experience. Kendl’s voice is sweet and innocent, as highlighted by singles like “Rosie.” Palmer’s voice has more of a soulful sound, with power behind it. The combination of Kendl’s angelic voice with Palmer’s more earthy one come together to create an almost heavenly sound. The Sacred Heart Session rests mainly on their beautiful vocal combination, much like The XX. Yet the unique addition of their bluegrass flavor sets them apart from other minimalist bands.
Even though The Lowest Pair could easily be an a cappella group, the instruments they chose in no way take away from the vocals. The banjo and guitar make up their whole instrumentation, trading off song to song. Some songs are just accompanied by the banjo, emphasizing the beautiful country twang existing in their voices. Other songs like the more upbeat “Fourth Times a Charm” have both a guitar and banjo. “Fourth Times a Charm” sounds particularly bluegrass with the chorus made entirely up of the phrase yik a dink a do/day.
The Lowest pair’s sweet and sultry vocals paired with their minimalist bluegrass instrumentation all come together to create a standout sophomore album. The Sacred Heart Sessions is out now!
I had never heard of Diskjokke before I was handed a copy of his 2010 release En Fin Tid, which drops today. Doing a little bit of Internet searching, I found that Joachim Dyrdahl (the man behind Diskjokke) has put out remixes and is planning to release remixes for some relevant names (Crystal Castles, Bloc Party, the xx, etc.). Remixes are some of my favorite things that electronic artists do, but I feel that sometimes content and quality control of solo albums creates a product that is a bit less accessible.
With En Fin Tid, I was afraid of getting such an album with the 9-minute-long opener “reset and begin.” I like my electronic music to be dancy, and this track is more ambient. It’s a gentle introduction to an hour-long groovefest, though. Diskjokke’s buildups are incredibly tight, and I don’t think I can compare his style to anything else out right now. That’s an incredibly good thing in today’s oversaturated electronic market. On “Big Flash,” a conga-sounding drum loop rides along with wobbly synths, giving the tune a jungle theme while still being very electronic. On “1987,” the listener gets bass grooves reminiscent of 80’s pop that are chopped up and manipulated.
I would say that En Fin Tid is an interesting release for this year. At first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But like all good electronic albums, it’s got depth that allows one to listen to it repeatedly. The tracks slide in and out of each other while all being unique. Diskjokke has created a pretty cohesive album. Let’s see if he will give us more releases like this in the coming years.
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.