Jay Som, the project of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Melina Duterte, has released the third single from her forthcoming debut record. Previous singles from the album, Everybody Works, have encompassed a variety of styles, demonstrating the depth of understanding Duterte has for music and song craft. “The Bus Song” is a slow burner ballad that drew inspiration from the guitar-oriented pop of the early ‘00s, while “1 Billion Dogs" is a power pop by way of shoegaze gem. “Baybee,” the latest track we’ve heard from the record, is a perfectly constructed pop song, using an off kilter, new wave-influenced backing track as the basis for a hook so strong it could be on a Cardigan’s record. The accompanying video, directed by Charlotte Hornsby and Jesse Ruuttila, finds Jay Som and company dancing in a skiing resort. The main shot fixates on the group riding the lift up to the top of the slope, seemingly without the pay off of skiing back down. It provides a satisfying parallel to the song itself—beneath the song’s slick, bright melodies is a reflection on a commitment to care for someone in a way that is detrimental to one’s self. There’s no pay off to the work beyond the sense that one is still moving.
On her third album as Pharmakon, Brooklyn artist Margaret Chardiet explores the relationships between humans and their bodies and the bodies of others, and how our self-conceptions mediate these relationships. On “No Natural Order,” the second single from Contact, Chardiet takes aim at a pervasive assumption underlying our understanding of the self—that we are ordained, either by nature or by divinity, to be stewards of the world around us. The track is built around a throbbing synth pattern and a slamming drum hit which demarcates every other bar; a seemingly logical pattern that that is progressively undermined by clattering sounds and shivering electronic buzzes. Chardiet’s vocals, delivered with all the contempt merited by the violence endemic to a belief that the mastery over our world is our birthright, affirm that humanity is not, in fact exceptional. We are merely, she argues, “animals, lost in a confused dream / where Mankind is real, / and at the center of everything.”
Boston slop-rock tricksters Vundabar are sharing a new song, “Shuffle”, with all proceeds from digital sales going to Planned Parenthood. The track hones in on the band’s sonic signatures; reverbed guitars and dry, fuzzed out drums hack out an exaggerated waltz while the band sings an elegantly constructed, hook-filled melody in a swooning falsetto. The band turns the song’s structure inside out multiple time across its three minute length, agitating for new ways to express the song’s central lyric: “I just want to hear my own voice.” One moment it’s a whisper, the next a scream.
Florida emo foursome You Blew It! have released a new video for the song “Arrowhead,” a highlight from their newest record Abendrot. “Arrowhead” is a slow burner of a song, patiently unfolding the song’s central, coiled up riff throughout the it’s three minute build up. Josh Coll, member of labelmates Foxing, was called upon to direct the video. Structured like a short film, the video seizes on the song’s gradual development and the chorus’s central protest that “there’s got to be something wrong with me,” featuring a narrative of a young girl with flower buds on her head that haven’t yet bloomed and is rejected by her dandelion’d peers. The video, shot in Philadelphia, takes cues from ‘90s indie film makers, featuring a bright, Wes Andersonian color palate against the contrast of a muted, wintry city.
Pile embody the restless, hardworking DIY ethic about as well as anyone can these days. Their constant touring and bloodletting live performance are the stuff of other band’s mythologies—remember when Krill (RIP) made a “failed concept album” about some kids who realize they are part of a Pile song? With their tenth year of existence and the prospect of making a fifth album looming on the horizon, frontman and founder Rick Maguire decamped from Boston—a city as wrapped up in Pile’s mythos as DC was for Fugazi—to a cabin in Ellijay, Georgia, where he wrote and toured solo across the South. It’s a hermetic gesture that’s actually consistent with the particular adjective whose shape seems to fit the intensity and drama that’s so particular to Pile’s music and ethos: ascetic. That their forthcoming record is called A Hairshirt of Purpose just confirms this suspicion. A hairshirt is a garment of animal hair intended to be uncomfortable, worn as a form a penance.
“Dogs,” the second single from the new record, embodies that self-isolating impulse. It’s a remarkably quiet, restrained work. The slamming crescendos of distorted guitars the band has long since perfected show up as red herrings, a brief contrast from the gently arpeggiated, mellotron washed verses. The dynamic build of the song revolves instead around the violins and violas—a relatively novel addition to the band’s repertoire—which swirl into the track’s second half. It’s a stunning song for band that’s made a career goal of writing and performing the most arresting music possible.
It has been extraordinary to witness the tremendous output of independent artists in support of causes they are passionate about amid the Trump administration. Particularly inspiring are the very small artists and projects that have been able to leverage their art to create a real impact, such as participating in Bandcamp's ACLU Fundraiser Day. Glassine is the recording project of Baltimore-based artist Danny Greenwald, and he created the piece "Day 1" as a sonic journal of his experience at the Women's March, D.C., weaving in field recordings with some light looping and embellishments. The result is a humble, direct, and evocative translation of his experience. All proceeds benefit Greenwald's local Planned Parenthood and he has raised over $700 so far.
Reflecting on his inspiration and process to AdHoc, Greenwald said: "The march was the most inspiring happening that I have ever been a part of. I went alone and felt totally surrounded by love in a time of absolute disaster. I am generally always recording when I am out living my life—so that is what I did. Protest music, chants, hymns, children, adults, Spanish, Arabic—there was so much aural stimulation... and there was this rhythm, like a tremolo. I am trying to describe an almost ambient cadence—like how when you hear crickets chirping but you don't hear the individual chirps unless you listen really hard. Or a really windy drum roll. Cricket chirps and snare hits are generally singular and sudden, but if you get enough of them together at the right speed it creates this angelic noise that you could sleep to because it is so peaceful. On the train home I decided that I wanted to create a piece of sonic journalism out of the whole thing that reflected that idea while also recognizing that the march was a response to our country spiraling into peril. And I decided that if I was going to share it with the world then I should try to do my local Planned Parenthood in Baltimore some good."
Listen to the single, which features artwork by San Francisco graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton that was drawn on-site, below, and donate via Glassine's Bandcamp.
Belgian composer Dominique Lawalrée is responsible for some of last century’s most criminally overlooked minimalist pieces, and some of the most candidly beautiful, too. If you don’t trust me, ask Gavin Bryars: he has deemed them “a quiet, understated music that is both touching and elegant.” The highlights from four of Lawalrée’s albums, originally released on the composer’s own Editions Walrus label between 1978-1982, have been compiled by Catch Wave/Ergot Records and will soon be released as First Meeting. The upcoming record’s centerpiece, “La Maison Des 5 Elements,” is a synth-addled study of piano counterpoint and found sounds that starts not unlike a children’s lullaby, yet gradually develops into a deep-seated, immersive meditation, somewhat comparable in tone to David Bowie’s “Warszawa.” It is a supple, streamlined piece, almost bashful but marked with exceptional emotional directness.
First Meeting is out February 24 on Catch Wave Ltd. and Ergot Records. You can pre-order the compilation here.
When George Xylouris, a Cretan lute player descended from Greek music royalty, and his long time friend Jim White, an Australian drummer famous for his work with Dirty Three and PJ Harvey, first began collaborating, they likened themselves to goats. Their music, Xylouris argues, is “like goats walking in the mountain.” They may not have a concept of where they are as they navigate rocky territory treacherous to ordinary bipeds, but they are remarkably confidant walking up sheer cliff walls. The goat lent its name to Xylouris White’s first record, which they released in 2014. But the peak of the mountain, Black Peak, is the focus of their sophomore release. WNYC has recently shared a great live recording of a track from that record, “Forging.” Seeing the the duo perform together somehow clarifies what is otherwise a hard-to-pin down sound. Between the particular sound of Xylouris’ lauoto, White’s thunderous, melodic drumming and the prog-folk vocal melody, you get a sense of their uncanny, unspoken musical communication—the same powerful glue that ties together these similarly droning, psychedelic live jams of brother duo Tonstartssbandht.
On “Utopia,” Boston-based duo Pucker Up play as if they were a wind-up toy, which is to say they let loose to deliver a kinetic and nervous performance. The rawness and repetition align with that of no wave-leaning contemporaries like Palberta, Palm, and DOG, yet Pucker Up’s rhythms and overblown tones resemble something more robotic. In this sense, James Patrick Meyer's (of Red Sea and Hellier Ulysses) video is a perfect accompaniment for “Utopia” the song: it pictures a bizarre deconstruction of the human body set in an uncanny valley of digital trickery and manipulated forms. When the track’s groove temporarily breaks down, so does the humanoid figure on screen, multiplying into an unsettling army of distorted bodies. The video thus creates an alternate reality of sorts—what this song would look like if it were blasted to the outer reaches of the internet. Pucker Up’s achievement is grounding the listener in our own world through the sheer physicality of their composition. Truly refreshing and galvanizing.
You can listen to the Utopia EP, out now on Designer Medium, here.
Dominic Angelella has worn many costumes: co-songwriter in Philadelphia rock outfit Lithuania, session musician for rap juggernaut Kendrick Lamar, and even producer for iconoclast Lil B. On Goodnight, Doggies., his debut album under his own name, Dominic looks to have finally settled down in plain clothes. From the lilting bass and drum pulses of "Basilisk" to the classically charming balladry of "Birthday Song," Dominic effortlessly situates himself in a singer-songwriter tradition of spare instrumentation, pop sensibility, and smiling earnestness. That isn't to say that Goodnight, Doggies. rings insubstantial or flits by forgettably—Dominic wrestles with loneliness on closer "Anxiety Coma" and goads "venture capitalists in a safety net" on fuzzy highlight "Emotional Business" ("do you despise yourself? he taunts). But he always spit-shines the record's underlying turbulences and traumas with a defiant smile. Despite the brevity of Goodbye, Doggies., Dominic sounds unhurried, at ease. He appears to fit comfortably in this newest, most genuine outift. And it looks great on him, too.