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maria usbeck – “obscuro obituario”

– featured image courtesy of holland brown –

after sharing the singles “amor anciano” and “nostalgia” (which we did not cover, but is more than worth the listen), maria usbeck has drifted back into focus with “obscuro obituario,” the third offering from her forthcoming sophomore full-length.

plaintive synth stabs meld with intricate electronic percussion, shaping “obscuro obituario” into the perfect, serene vessel for usbeck to explore the prospects and creeping dread of aging, a theme that richly runs through the entirety of envejeciendo.

envejeciendo is due next friday, august 16th, via cascine. listen to “obscuro obituario” below.

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long beard – “means to me”

– featured image courtesy of nathan bajar –

four years after releasing her debut full-length as long beard, leslie bear returns this fall with a follow-up, means to me. ahead of that sophomore effort, bear has shared its wistful title track.

“means to me” takes a minute to come into focus, its blurry edges becoming sharp and defined as angular guitars and busy percussion work their way into the foreground. the track’s slight push and pull is a boon to bear’s lead vocal, a lilting, steady calm amidst a gradually shifting soundscape.

means to me is out september 13th via double double whammy. listen to its title track below.

interview – mister lies

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

despite – or perhaps in spite of – a string of well-received releases in the first half of the decade, nick zanca hit the pause button on his mister lies project around the end of 2014. after five years in the wilderness, zanca returns to the moniker this week with a self-titled, self-released album.

mister lies is a fairly brief endeavor; its ten songs clock in at around a half-hour and are best digested all at once, preferably without interruption. anchoring the release is “the commuter,” a track whose titular subject would be the ideal consumer of this body of work: perhaps not someone inbound, about to start their day, but someone outbound, retreating to solitude and stillness.

we caught up with zanca in the weeks leading up to his return to discuss his new album, how his collaborative work with quiet friend has influenced his solo output, and the quest to search for influences outside of the realm of music. check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.

it’s been nearly five years since you released the last mister lies album. what caused you to step away from the project, and what led you back?

stepping away was necessary. i was halfway through my freshman year of college when i put out the first EP on bandcamp and at that age insecurities were still deep and blind spots were still wide. i had learned ableton by looking over friends’ shoulders and stumbled upon my sound almost by accident.

the response to that early material was overwhelming. in a matter of weeks, opportunities presented themselves that usually take years for artists to reach – nearly every weekend in the coming semesters were spent flying out to play shows. as excited and grateful as i was, it was as if i had acquired an audience before a sense of self. 

eventually i would drop out of school to tour after my sophomore year, usually with other young producers who had experienced the same kind of rapid rise in that same strange internet microcosm of “chill”-adjacent electronic music. the absurdity of our individual situations and the privilege of sharing music with strangers was a source of solidarity, but the performance anxiety always persisted. i was quietly struggling to embrace being queer and neurodivergent in a scene that thrives on hedonist aesthetics, male gaze imagery and smartphone solipsism. it was often a musical neverland – unless an audience is on your side, it refuses to grow up. there were a lot of personal and professional endings. i rode the wave as far as i could, but i began to feel like i was wearing a mask. it took effort to take it off, deflate the ego and let life happen.

giving myself room to be human was probably a good start – i finished my degree, fell in love, got closer to family – but developing a intense relationship to listening outside the context of product was what got me back on my feet creatively. starting quiet friend and shifting focus to something rooted in a group effort rewired my brain. it was something i didn’t know how to do for a while. i’ve also worked as a music supervisor for hospitality venues for a few years now, and the site-specificity of sound has become something i engage with daily.

shortly after the quiet friend record came out and we were playing shows around new york, i was sifting through old hard drives and was blown away by the amount of sketches i was sitting on. i started there and recorded alone at home with what free time i had on the weekends. at first it felt like putting on an old shirt that no longer fit, but eventually the fabric stretched out, i followed the ideas that came, and a year later i had a record. 

in the interim, you’ve kept busy with quiet friend. how does your compositional approach differ (if at all) when working independently as opposed to collaboratively?

the two ways of working seem to inform and complement each other, especially now that i’ve found a balance of both. in a group context, you’re mostly letting the ideas of others in, and i was really hungry for that at the time. i tend to internalize a lot when working alone, but with others i found what i eventually recognized to be personal strengths to reinforce themselves and echo – thick textures, bricolage, a sense of place. it’s a great way to get your writers block unstuck and i’d recommend it to anyone struggling with a solo practice – you discover what it actually is you bring to the table and then are able to take that home with you and truly utilize it.

this record i made on my own couldn’t have happened without that experience. steven and i are just getting started, but i’m proud of that record we made and the strange extended family we’ve developed in the process of getting the band off the ground. i’m excited for that music to reach more ears. 

this new album has a fair amount of found sounds and electroacoustic elements – it’s very soundscape-y, for lack of a better term. who or what were some touchstones when you were writing these songs?

i have a tendency to get wrapped up in musical influence, and this time around i did my best to avoid relying on that in favor of inspiration pulled from other disciplines. in general though, i think one of the major differences between then and now is that my taste has started to embrace the longform and lean toward slowness and meditative commitment.

clarice lispector’s writing and chantal akerman’s films encourage those who consume them to have patience for a slower and fluid pace, borderline glacial, and the end result is something so human that accentuates the everyday. my record is the durational opposite – it’s over and done in thirty minutes – but it aims to capture the present and recreate the surrounding world in the same way. 

of course, i am easily impacted by what i hear and can’t ignore that. field recordings and found sounds have been an important part of my practice from the beginning, but i think this record is the first time that they are being treated as the central focus – the environments have become the soloists.  luc ferrarialvin curran and hiroshi yoshimura are all composers in touch with their respective atmospheres and that aspect of their work has had a profound effect on me.

people have always described what i do as “cinematic”. i guess i went into this one with that in mind. 

this album is self-titled; how much of a conscious decision was that?

totally intentional. it feels like the closest thing to pressing the project’s reset button. i see this work as a summation of everything i’ve explored sonically for far, so self-titling simply felt like the move.

listening to mister lies from start to finish in one sitting is optimal, but you’ve decided to share “the commuter” ahead of its release as a preview of things to come. what does that particular song represent to you, and how does it fit into the album overall?

“the commuter” was the first of the batch to feel complete and was also the first indication of the record’s site-specific direction. it’s less of a single and more of an excerpt i was itching to share. of all the tracks on the record, i think it feels the most similar in spirit to the music i made when I was younger, but also works as an introduction to the sonic territory i’ve been interested in occupying lately.

when making records in the past, i would close myself off somewhere and create situations for myself that were unhealthily hermetic – i would let nothing else in but the music. the results produced intense work but the process was not always productive.

this time around, i’ve introduced more balance to my life. anything that i treated as a distraction before – be it the daily routine or the world outside my window – has become a compositional device and fuel for the record. in this case, it’s the introspection and claustrophobia on my way to and from work. 

mister lies is out this friday, august 2nd. read an essay zanca wrote about his album, alongside a full stream, over at talkhouse.

pearla – “daydream”

– featured image courtesy of shervin lainez –

pearla is the vessel for the songs of brooklyn’s nicole rodriguez, an amalgam of closely-woven genre cues that feel intimately familiar. as rodriguez readies her debut extended play, to see release later this year, she’s shared its first single, “daydream.”

“daydream” burns slowly initially, rustic piano chords providing the scaffolding for rodriguez’ lead vocal before cascading into something with a bit more urgency, a restrained catharsis to anchor an impressive inaugural batch of songs.

quilting & other activities arrives september 6th via egghunt records. listen to “daydream” below.

molly drag – “out like a light”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

molly drag, the performing moniker of montreal’s michael charles hansford, embodies a homespun aesthetic, tinged with folk tendencies and saturated with collages of ambiance.

hansford is readying his latest release, touchstone; at the helm is its lead single, “out like a light,” a glacial centerpiece populated by meandering guitar arpeggios and the hushed echo of a lead vocal. adding to its intimacy is an accompanying music video, with arresting animations compiled by elijah zimmerman.

touchstone is out october 4th via egghunt records. watch the music video for “out like a light” below.

long beard – “sweetheart”

– featured image courtesy of nathan bajar –

leslie bear, the new brunswick, new jersey singer-songwriter who records as long beard, has lain dormant since 2015’s sleepwalker, her debut for team love records. the four years in between that debut and its follow-up, means to me, found bear moving back to her hometown and reflecting on past events, eventually transferring that nostalgia to pen and paper and then again to tape.

“sweetheart,” the first single from long beard’s impending sophomore full-length, taps into a plaintiveness that then permeates throughout the track, an account of a past love soundtracked by gently pulsating guitars. bear’s lead vocal ultimately dictates the mood, dovetailing with the underlying arrangement as both approach a glimmering, reflective pool.

means to me is out september 13th via double double whammy. listen to “sweetheart” below.

grebes – house creature

– featured image courtesy of malcolm donaldson –

house creature, the debut effort from jacob ungerleider’s new solo project, grebes, is an intimate affair. across a sparse setting of eight songs, ungerleider navigates a more muted realm of pop, one populated by soft vocal hooks, enveloping synthesizers, and faint percussion.

the album’s opening third houses its singles; “one trick pony” is the syncopated prelude providing misdirection before “wyd” and “beleev” land, each of which use synths as means to subtly different ends.

“crown” and “halo” function as similar complements, another indication of ungerleider’s attention to thematics and sequencing. “halo” is the more fleshed-out of the two, easing in to a smooth backbeat punctuated by a lead vocal that flirts with falsetto and a crystalline synth motif that wanders in and out of the foreground.

the final section of house creature begins with an about-face: “always home” trades electronics for delicate, finger-picked acoustic guitar, an organic palette for ungerleider’s whispered vocal that’s eventually answered by a soulful, brassy countermelody. with “plum” and the standout closer “always new” in tow, house creature leaves its mark as an exemplar of introspective isolation, an aural companion for late nights of solitude.

house creature is out now via broken circles. listen in below.

kevin krauter – “pretty boy”

– featured image courtesy of michael newsted –

not much time has passed since kevin krauter released his excellent full-length, toss up, but the indiana songwriter is already putting the finishing touches on a follow-up effort.

in the meantime, krauter is gearing up for a brief tour of the mid-atlantic and midwest with soccer mommy next month, venturing out with a new single in tow. “pretty boy” is a one-off, the result of explorations in musicianship and shifts in personal perspective.

still retaining krauter’s unmistakable aesthetic, “pretty boy” is a commendable stop-gap in between larger bodies of work. listen in below.

maria usbeck – “amor anciano”

– featured image courtesy of holland brown –

in the three years since her excellent debut full-length amparo, maria usbeck experienced and ruminated on the prospect of aging, weaving those observations into a complex, more challenging sophomore effort, the aptly-titled envejeciendo.

the album’s lead single, “amor anciano,” bridges the gap between its predecessor’s sunnier affect and the preoccupation and introspection that heavily populates envejeciendo. delivered in spanish and retaining usbeck’s signature sheen, “amor anciano” grapples with long-lost love, the subtle, aching nostalgia becoming explicit as field recordings bubble to the surface.

envejeciendo arrives august 16th via cascine. listen to “amor anciano” below.

oyster kids – “breathe”

– featured image courtesy of blake zimmerman –

2019 finds the los angeles outfit oyster kids poised to release both an extended play and a full-length album, the fruits of andew eapen’s silence over the past couple of years.

the quartet returned earlier this year with “losing my mind,” and recently followed up that effort with “breathe,” an effervescent, cathartic release dripping with sunshine. its busier percussion and tighter vocal harmonies subtly augment the core oyster kids sound, a tandem that provides a discreet sense of urgency.

listen to “breathe” below.