Brooklyn power-poppers Fits have been tearing up the scene for a couple years now, and for good reason–their loud, playful, DIY aesthetic is shaped as much by bandleader Nicholas Cummins' smart and pointed songwriting as it is the band's growing up around and playing in DIY spaces such as Shea Stadium and Silent Barn. The band–Cummins, Brian Orante, Emma Witmer (of gobbinjr), and Joe Galarraga (of Big Ups)–play to these songwriting chops, crafting each minute-long burst of Cummins' songs into something anthemic and cathartic. Their new song "Hot Topic," off their upcoming debut album All Belief is Paradise, starts off with a lazy guitar and languid vocals, a sound that betrays Cummins' lyrical barbs: "You would have not been pissed off if I stood behaved, but I frayed when I did 'cause I can't." The song grows louder as Cummins' voice grows more urgent, but then, after a pause, the song settles into a swooning instrumental groove through its end. It's the sort of song that, after its minute and a half is over, you'll probably repeat and repeat.
"This song is about losing your voice, getting caught in the throat, and missing an opportunity to stand up for yourself and who you are," said Cummins. "In that way it's about a failure, but it's also not an apology. National coming out day was last week and it reminded me of this ever-present pressure to describe, defend and explain your identity in really personal ways to complete strangers all the time. The personal is definitely political and all of us are intertwined but sometimes you don't want to be a narrative, you just want to be a person who's like, eating a bagel or playing Starcraft of going to the beach and stuff. Society can be exhausting and it can be really easy to forget that we're all individuals, with 8 billion gender presentations and 8 billion selves. You don't owe everyone all of your courage all of the time."
Atlanta’s floral print make guitar pop full of hazy, woozy melodies and textures, but strained through razors: their songs are full of sputtering stops, false starts, and sudden detours. Take, for instance, the opening track of their new album mirror stages, called “sweepstakes life": the song begins with an bouncy guitar line and playful melody, but soon devolves into a squall of noise that leads into a mumbling piano ballad. The band–made up of singer/guitarist Nathan Springer, drummer Paul DeMerritt, and bassist Joshua Pittman–rotates through genres and styles almost naturally, a gift that belies their origins of meeting by chance through Facebook. “egg rites” alternates between an American Football-esque post-rock and overwhelming distortion. The title track, one of my favorites, is perhaps one of the most discordant ambient songs I’ve ever heard.
"mirror stages was recorded between March 2015 and October 2016,” said Nathan Springer. “The bulk of the album was recorded in two separate two day sessions at Broad Street Visitor's Center in Atlanta in the late summer of 2016. Graham Tavel recorded, produced, and mixed the album. These songs gestated much longer than the songs on our EP 'woo' and are a lot more varied in style. We were going through some weird stuff at the time, and consequently the tone of the album is a little darker than our previous recordings.”
mirror stages is out October 20 via Tiny Engines. Listen to the album below.
Evan Zierk's new album on Atlantic Rhythms dissects our understanding of time and perception, the tones vibrate a space within. Zierk's skillfully blends together a minimal palette of sonic textures to create a vibrant world that swirls around your skull. Drifting/Bending simulates a loss of gravity, akin to an out of body experience, hovering as an observer. Zierk's gliding arpeggios dance from ear to ear, their pulse moving like a newly formed organism. Evan Zierk is joined by longtime collaborator Nate Mendelsohn playing alto saxophone, whose presence further adds to the feeling of drift, “Bending” causes an awareness of the complexities of perception and sensation. Spatial cognition is left behind, these deeply transfixing and spiritual tones drown out any other input.
Though she relocated to Austin, TX, a few years ago, Lou Rebecca’s hometown of Paris—not the one of Wim Wenders’ notoriety—is never too far away. Rebecca sings in both English and her native tongue, and in the self-directed video for “Fantôme,” first single from her upcoming debut EP, she pirouettes, sings, and broods through several archetypal environments: austere living quarters, a hard wood floor adorned with golden flowers, a dim red performance space. Each shot, each location, every action is striking, and finely-orchestrated to boot. As in her songwriting, Rebecca's directorial style and visual cues build from a foundation of poise and grace. The entire program feels like a dance routine, and I don’t just mean the parts where there’s, you know, actual dancing—the wavering space between physical bodies and the places they inhabit provides weight. It’s largely responsible for the video’s emotional tension and suspense, and makes “Fantôme” a joy to watch time and again.
Zoe Burke’s first release as Sapphogeist, a self-titled affair on the inimitable No Rent Records, was a sea change. After a tenure shrieking in power electronics provocateurs Reverse Baptism, the transition was profound, but well done and oh-so-satisfying. Songs like “Ultramortal” and “A Lie” boasted finely-barbed, sharp, unmissable hooks, transfiguring the listener into something like Frank at the end of Hellraiser. Though bookended by pop bangers, Sapphogeist still had extended passages of avant-garde, noisy instrumentation. On her Bank Records follow up, Mar A Lago, Zoe maintains an ethos of experimentation, but plunges fully into the realm of industrial-soaked R&B. “Holding On,” track two of Mar A Lago, originally a Bernard Herman composition, moves through evolving electronic textures. Beginning with an austere vocal pattern and simple synth section, the track warps into utter revelation as it crescendos and breaks about two-thirds in. The tracks on Mar A Lago show maturation and elegance, making for another essential grab.
Brothers Jonathan and Michael Rosen are Cones, a Los Angeles-based guitar pop outfit on the rise. Having spent the last couple of years woodshedding as Eleanor Friedberg's band, Cones' "Whatever You're Into" is the second of two singles being released via Canvasclub, Canvasback Music's monthly singles series. AdHoc is stoked to premiere the track, a groovily sauntering psychedelic dance jam — what Cones' Jonathan Rosen says is about "being a people-pleaser" and "a vehicle for somebody else's desires." Rosen also describes the track as "being at the wheel late at night, driving somebody wherever they wish to go" and reconciling your own desires with those of your companion. We're thrilled to have Cones headline Berlin on Saturday 9/9 with Cassandra Jenkins and Dark Tea.
A year out from their formation, Poppies has turned heads as a band with a knack at concealment. Under the band's unassuming pop lullabies lie lyrics that point to the darkness hidden in what we assume to be comfortable and adorable. That knack is on full display in the band's new video for "Devin," a standout track off their Good EP released in June. The track follows the titular boy, a troublemaker for his family and well as those around him. While the boy's bad antics are seen as common at first, passed off as "boys will be boys," his behavior quickly grows out of hand, compounding and following him as he grows into someone that is hardly recognizable, even to his own mother ("sometimes I feel like he's not mine, that boy is Rosemary's child"). While on its surface the song remains purely focused on the boy himself, Poppies seems to be offering up a storybook lesson—that tolerating rotten behavior from boys without an attempt to change them for the better only leads them to grow into rotten men.
The animations for the video itself match Poppies' interests precisely. Poppies says the video "was hand drawn and inked by our good friend Annie Zhao. She was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, Run Wrake, and Lord of the Flies." The inspiration of Run Wrake seems particularly obvious, as the video's children's story animals playing with one another soon lose their heads, literally and figuratively, and take to playing tug of war with one of their friend's. Things soon take increasingly disturbing turns as the whole scene becomes more and more akin to a pagan ritual than a day at the playground. Just as with so much of their other work, Poppies is a band that shows us just how dark things can be under rosy surfaces.
It takes a real struggle not to be pulled into the orbit of Brooklyn trio Honey's heavy, haunting psych rock. From the moment the opening chord of new single "New Moody Judy," which AdHoc is premiering today, rings out it serves as a call to arms, a warning of trouble rapidly approaching on the horizon. A fuzzy and chugging bass line and a guitar, which serves more as an alarm than a lead, move us along quickly to assess the danger at hand—the first and perennial danger, love.
Honey's Cory Feierman says the track stemmed from being "in love with a girl in a city I hadn't really spent any time in. It wasn't the first time. [I] Got locked outside her house and stuck on the street, no wallet, no phone, no idea where I was. Walked until the sun came up and I wasn't sure what love was anymore. It wasn't the first time." Reflecting back the same fervor of a love that one "can't get enough" of, the track burns with an intensity that is, as with any real passion, at once both chaotic and controlled. Ultimately, Honey bemoan having not "had more time" with their love and for wasting their time, but a track like this reveals that all past loves leave burns.
Keith Rankin plays with sound, tickling it out until it spills. "Soft Channel 003," from Soft Channel, his latest effort as Giant Claw, fidgets with the ludic ecstasy—fizzing and sprawling across circuits and MIDI—by which Rankin has for years made his name. But just as the album cover for this newest offering depicts a misrecognition, a crisis in identification, "Soft Channel 003" gnaws at uncanny sonic territory. Over the course of the track, Rankin fiddles with familiarity and unfamiliarity, spontaneously splicing and unexpectedly dissasembling spurts and motifs. One standout interstice is the MIDI choir Rankin employs: unstable, it titillates, inhabiting a vocal register that always feels androgynous, located somewhere in between the head voice and the chest voice, the alto and the tenor. Despite its uncanniness, the voices frequently spasm into something quite delicate, quite precious: a fleeting melody that hints at something grander, something that would complete the punchline that all Rankin's sounds seem to riddle toward. Now effortlessly incorporated into his repertoire, code-switching across aesthetic sensibilities becomes a focal point as Rankin grates the sublime and the beautiful, cartoon slide whistles and shards of Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1," together over his gurgling potpourri. A master impressionist, Rankin finds facsimile and structure too straightforward, too easy. Through this playful self-denial, the culinary asceticism, Rankin teases out something addictingly temporary, something effervescently evanescent, like the fizz before the swig.
Overcast and portentous, Brian Case's Spirit Design lurches. Rolling in like an oversaturated cloud formation swallowing anything from charred synths and shivering sub-bass into its its blackened atmospherics, Case's latest full-length for Hands in the Darkthreatens to collapse under its own yawning depth and smothering weight. In this totalizing sound environment, Case evacuates melody, structure, and legibility, leaving only the cold and brutal sparseness of his voice and devastating instrumentation to populate the noxious territory. But even Case's voice succumbs to this airless sound sludge: on "Shipbuilding," for example, Case's intelligible—if ominous—words bleed into incomprehensibility as the song's suffocating logics ooze out of control. On later tracks, like "Control" and "Say Your Name," his voice can only eke out the titles of the songs themselves in an arcane incantation that condenses speech and meaning into noise, into effacing squalor. On Spirit Design, Case unleashes a singularly enveloping haze of sound and mood so thick it's impossible to hear your own breath. Like other forms asphyxiation, it's orgastic.
Spirit Design is available August 25 on Hands in the Dark.