“Raise the white flag, give in, and let your heart reset,” frontman Dylan McCartney booms in the opening track of Mardou’s debut LP, “Flash,” setting the tone for a record that’s shocking and open in its turns. Post-punk is a term so ubiquitous that it risks backfiring, but Cincinnati’s Mardou are a post-punk band who manage to circumvent any possibility of becoming static. The group, which shares members with loud and hooky punk outfit Vacation, takes this first album as an opportunity to work from many palettes. A good portion of the record sees McCartney’s voice working as a steady, dark force over a whirling scape of basslines that hearken to Christian Death and glistening, coldwave-inspired synth interludes—but there are moments where the mold is cracked open entirely. “Earth” is one of several tracks that spins into darkly existentialist territory, with McCartney reiterating the same lines urgently and earnestly to the point of trance, but the songs that immediately follow are refreshingly sunny. The band mentions having taken some cues from Guided By Voices, and that influence shines through in the grungy, blown-out guitar riffs on “It Happened To Me” and the doubled tenor vocals in glowing album closer “June”. Given Mardou tout the theme of renewal explicitly in so many of their songs—"I died, came back in June"—it's only appropriate they'd undertake to mirror it in this constant turnover of sound. You can hear the LP in full below.
On Big French's debut Downtown Runnin, songwriter Quentin Moore’s voice rarely dips from a falsetto and every available space is spackled with manic electric guitar work. After four years, the group's forthcoming LP sees them paring back a bit, but they're nevertheless managing the strangest diversions and insights while keeping tightly tethered to pop. Recorded on reel-to-reel with help from keyboardist Zach Phillips (of OSR Tapes and many affiliated projects), Big French’s Stone Fish is intimate, still manic but more quietly so, with Phillips’ contribution beaming through the mix and the instrumentation. On the warm two-minute “Apartments For The West,” Moore and Phillips fall into a steady, mostly soft groove. This time, Moore’s voice is proximal to the song, the thing around which all the little computer blips and horn intrusions clamber. His language is sing-songy but dense, mutating line by line like a Stein poem: “They’re planning an apartment for the west / they’re sealing new apartments for the west / they’re shielding new apartments for the west / crawling through the window drawing breath.” As the voice seesaws, the thought wanders beyond gentrification, hitting even closer to home—"Thy will be done," Moore had sung in the first minute, and subtle intimations of death and afterlife continue to creep in. "Your sill is an apartment for the west," and you've become the target of a larger plan.
While New York’s Lily Konigsberg (of Palberta) and Matt Norman, a.k.a. Horn Horse, have often operated in different respective sonic modes, Lily’s synth tracks and streamlined vocals and Horn Horse's more fragmented jazz in conjunction generate a shared language. Their new duo Lily and Horn Horse presents a pop-oriented, danceable mesh of synths and vocals from both parties, with rousing baritone horn outbursts. For their tour together last August, they compiled a 28-track album of solo and collaborative tracks which comprise the forthcoming tape release Lily On Horn Horse. In the songs shared below, they showcase their range: Horn Horse opens "Year Book" with a minute-long improvisation filled with pounding drums and horns and keys, then glides into “PVC Pipes,” which features sparse waves of horns and frenetic pipe sounds under haunting vocals from both Lily and Horn Horse. Both parties' words contain a strain of dissociative longing—for a life outside whatever’s inscribed, for a dream world. The closing song "I Only Lose Because I'm Lame" is Lily's long sigh for that world, a stark contrast to the held breath of the previous tracks, just the piano and her voice in the high register calling out, “I can be there, in a dream / I can see it, but it’s nothing / I can see it.” It's an ode to pathetic feeling—and even when she puts on the almost tongue-in-cheek "Oh ... so sad..." there's something deeply resonant in the surrender.
Noveller is the moniker for LA-based guitar wizard and score composer Sarah Lipstate. Fresh off a tour supporting Iggy Pop, Lipstate is prepping for the release of her new album, A Pink Sunset For No One. “Deep Shelter” is the first single and opening track from the record. The piece is based around a looping two-bar chord sequence. For all the ambient trappings of Lipstate’s processed, layered guitar work, her music is highly melodic and has a linear, teleological structure. Synth-soaked guitar motifs are introduced and developed, soaring to astral heights.The song’s swelling, movie-magic warmth recalls the strange, otherwordly optimism of Neu!. In the last minute, a piano enters the mix, pushing the song towards a minor key and a waltzing cadence, evoking the sensation of falling gently, like a feather, back to earth.
Listen to "Deep Shelter" below. A Pink Sunset for No One is due out February 10 via Fire Records. Noveller will be performing at St. Vitus on March 11 with Egyptrixx and Eartheater.
Rubblebucket member Alex Toth describes his new band, Alexander F, as a new age punk band. Born out of a meditation retreat in Quebec in the wake of major life changes and a series of losses, the project’s aggression is tempered by a playfulness and melodicism. “Call Me Pretty,” the third single from their upcoming debut record, plays with the contrast between tense, half-spoken, half-sung verses and huge, synth-supplemented choruses. Alex Toth tapped plenty of his pals to help him realize the record—featuring appearances from Delicate Steve, members of Perfect Pussy, Here We Go Magic and more. Kimbra comes in with the assist on “Call Me Pretty,” elevating the chorus higher into pop bliss with her call-and-response delivery of the song’s titular command.
On “Minneapolis," Lætitia Tamko, the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter behind Vagabon, recalls a frightening flight to the Twin Cities while on an exhausting tour. The track is structured almost like transit—the familiar landscape of the opening, jangling riff dissolves a minute through and is replaced by a turbulent, prog-damaged bridge before re-emerging in part as the basis of a pretty vicious halftime breakdown. Tamko’s voice, crystal clear and measured, serves as the glue of these disjointed components; the internal monologue that chains together places known and unknown in the state of travel. As the plane lands in Minneapolis, Tamko works toward accepting that some palpable sense of self and the homes it inhabited are long gone—even though the relics of those spaces past (Cameroon) and present (New York) still remain.
Minneapolis is the third single from Vagabon’s debut record, Infinite Worlds, due out February 24 via Father/Daughter Records. You can listen to the track below. Vagabond are touring throughout February and early spring to support the record. Tamko will be celebrating the release of Infinite Worlds with a performance in Brooklyn at Baby’s All Right on February 24 with Mal Devisa and Jelani Sei.
Syd, the producer, songwriter, and vocalist for neo-soul band the Internet, is gearing up to release her first solo record, Fin. “Body,” the album’s second single, is a tender boudoir jam in which Syd invites a partner to “let your body take over you”. The track, produced by MeLo-X, features Syd’s vocals pirouetting gracefully against a backdrop of woozy sub-bass and FM pianos. In support of Fin and Internet co-founder Matt Martian’s own forthcoming record, The Drum Chord Theory, The Internet will be mounting a brief tour. “The Internet Presents The Internet Tour” will feature solo performances from each member of the band before reassembling. The tour launches in Santa Ana in February, and will roll through to New York for a performance at Webster Hall on February 23.
Former Mac Demarco guitarist Peter Sagar makes sleazy, lofi bedroom R&B for the boudoir as Homeshake. “Khmlwugh” is the latest single from his upcoming record, Fresh Air. The track’s title can be taken as a tribute to Prince’s fondness for acronym'd song names. But instead of extolling the virtues of “Dance, Music, Sex, Romance,” Sagar’s busting out his taut falsetto to celebrate “kissin’, hugging, making love, waking’ up and getting’ high.” It’s a downtempo affair, with a de-tuned, ringing synth pad and a nimble, slick bassline that evoke a narcotic eroticism.
Brooklyn band Parlor Walls draw plenty of inspiration from New York’s legacy of weirdo music. The agitated, flight-or-fight unpredictability of no-wave informs their songwriting even as Alyse Lamb's vocal melodies suggest the scaffolding of pop. Parlor Walls are gearing up to release their first record, Opposites, on Northern Spy. “Play Opposites,” the first single from the record, is an off-kilter call for revolution. The band denatures martial rhythms—as if trying to embody the mirror image of state and structural violence they wish to undo. The result is a track which stumbles and lurches forward dangerously underneath Lamb's nursery rhyme vocals.
Girard Freeloader, the newest album from Norwegian Arms, is a travelogue record. It charts the wanderings of the band’s sole member, Keith Birthday, from Peru to Washington state to Toronto to New York and his hometown, Philadelphia. The tracks have their roots in psych-folk, often based around Birthday’s distinctive mandolin-playing. But the realization of this music is forward thinking and contemporary—drawing from soul and electronic pop and, in the process, approximating what ‘80s Peter Gabriel might’ve sounded like if he were plopped into 2017. On album highlight "Visions", a tricky, time-signature warping verse gives way to a dizzying hook that somehow conjures proggy mysticism and contemporary R&B all at once.
Girard Freeloader is out now via Mutual Crush. You can stream the record in its entirety below. Norwegian Arms will be touring in support of the record starting this Sunday and be performing alongside Dominic at Shea Stadium on February 4.