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.

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true blossom – heater

– featured image courtesy of rob lambert –

true blossom is an uncannily accurate moniker for a young band with a debut this polished, this confident. the atlanta-based quintet formed around the collaborative spark of vocalist sophia cox and guitarist chandler kelley in the humid early summer of 2017, accumulating its final three members and writing many of the songs that appear on its first full-length, heater, throughout the rest of the year. across ten tracks, true blossom turns in a vibrant portfolio of pristine synth-pop, one that pays astute homage to its studio-focused forebears while still keying in on diy aesthetics.

after the irresistible lead-off single “baby” and a triumphant bloom of synthesizers on its companion piece, “me & u,” heater hits its stride on “flu punks,” the core aural tenets of true blossom coalescing in a tidy package; prominent, elastic bass lines, brassy synth leads, and crisp guitar bell-tones weave a tapestry atop a robust percussive foundation, a rich template that informs many of the album’s subsequent tracks.

on heater’s title track, cox and synthesist jamison murphy engage in an abstract conversation, a droning synth response coming in reply to cox’s admonition of “i hear you buzzing / don’t want to hear any more of your talking,” along with a more measured, melodic counter to her parting shot of “you think it’s cool / it’s never as cool as you’re thinking.” this fracturing is an excellent precursor to the album’s final trio of songs, a triptych of loss and longing that leans on true blossom’s glossy affect as both the perfect foil to and embellisher of its more melancholic moments.

true blossom’s first nine original songs (the album’s tenth, its functional interlude, is a gorgeous, glassy cover of mount eerie’s “grave robbers”) are formidable in their cohesiveness, their assured demeanor an excellent foundation upon which to construct future works. heater is out now via citrus city records. stream the album in full below.

mr twin sister – salt

– featured image courtesy of karen sofia colon –

the new york quartet mr twin sister has, in a relatively quiet manner, released one of this year’s finest albums.  salt, the band’s first full-length in four years, is incredibly measured and rich, its nine tracks pulsating with a singular blend of jazz-inflected electronic pop, mood music for tumultuous times.

grounded in andrea estella’s fluid contralto timbre and featuring the titular marionette on its cover, salt is striking, both aurally and visually.  opening number “keep on mixing” is very much in the foreground, its commanding heartbeat throbbing as estella’s lead vocal contorts itself around a bleak lyrical outlook, elastic in its exploration of syllables and contour as it unearths fleeting silver linings.

elsewhere, mr twin sister let themes of consumerism soak into successive tracks; most prominent throughout the slinking “buy to return,” material lust is also on the periphery of the soothing electric piano soundscape of “koh-i-noor” and dovetails with admissions of insecurity on “tops and bottoms.”

if estella’s vocals are the album’s focal point, it’s only because the support structure settles so effortlessly into place.  gauzy keyboard textures and syncopated percussion (the latter often courtesy of pablo eluchans) are standard fare; the aqueous and complex landscapes that populate “deseo” and “set me free” are particularly memorable.  augmenting that electronic foundation is eric cardona’s saxophone work, the defining timbre of “alien fm” and the cool eventual conqueror of the stuttering, brassy “taste in movies.”

with ambitious and honest thematic explorations slotted alongside exquisite instrumentation and musicianship, the latest from mr twin sister is a rewarding experience, a fitting sonic nightcap for an exhausting year.  salt is out now via twin group.  stream mr twin sister’s excellent new full-length in its entirety below.

yumi zouma – ep iii

– featured image courtesy of ryan mccardle & aidan koch – 

what else is there to say about yumi zouma that hasn’t already been said?  the new zealand quartet has proven, time and again, that their ability to craft pristine pop gems is second to none, regardless of whether the songwriting takes place in the same room or spread out across all corners of the globe.  as its members navigate towards the end of one chapter in their collective existence and look towards the next, EP III emerges as a cathartic victory lap.

following two similarly-titled extended plays and a stirring pair of full-lengths, EP III closes out a trilogy of works that have spanned the quartet’s entire career, pulling together snippets of demos dating back to their nascent days that help inform their latest round of collaborative songwriting.

opening number “powder blue/cascine park” is vintage yumi zouma, juxtaposing skittering hi-hats with wistful, arpeggiated pre-choruses and gliding refrains, its extended bridge a sustained instance of clarity that launches the track off into the sunset.  elsewhere, “looking over shoulders” tacks in an appropriately hesitant, contemplative direction, its understated current flowing towards a swirling chorus replete with the cool adage of “i was never yours to give away.”

bolstered by the early singles “crush (it’s late, just stay)” and the triumphant finale “in camera,” EP III is yet another sterling example of yumi zouma’s pedigree.  a return to the band’s original form, the four-track extended play offers a masterclass in their democratic, collaborative process, its memorable melodies and spacious soundscapes the end result.  EP III is out today via cascine; listen to it in full, below.

little kid – might as well with my soul

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

the discography and creative trajectory of the toronto-based trio little kid is all but woven into the fabric of this site’s existence.  the band’s landmark 2013 sophomore full-length river of blood coincided with our first full year of operations, and frontman kenny boothby took the time to discuss both that record and its 2016 follow-up, flowers, in great detail.  with last year’s sun milk and now its successor, might as well with my soul, self-released in the twilight of august, little kid have cemented their legacy as a pillar of this past decade’s vibrant online independent music community, their impressive catalogue providing the soundtrack to hours of existential contemplation.

for the majority of the band’s existence, boothby has been joined by the multi-instrumentalists paul vroom and brodie germain, who primarily staff the rhythm section while also contributing more textural parts, and, in vroom’s case, handle engineering, production, and post-production.  this well-established collaborative ecosystem allows little kid to thrive effortlessly across might as well with my soul; the loose one-two punch of “two invitations” and “love minus seven / no livin'” is at turns both raucous and meandering, steady pulses segueing to the next while supplemental timbres fade in and out of the texture.

boothby’s lyrical and vocal stylings have long been the principal hallmarks of little kid’s aesthetic, and might as well with my soul fares no different.  his wavering tenor is as comfortable against the syncopated drive of “in the red” as it is laid bare on “the only light,” with intricate narratives resonating amidst rather sparse word counts, sentiments punctuated by slight turns of phrase or unexpected confessions.  dialogue is also a strong constant; the aforementioned “two invitations” turns on repetitions of old adages, while “the fifth” is anchored by two successive questions, its soundscape swaying gently in the breeze.

if weighted lyrics are one central tenet of little kid’s core, then the other is, arguably, sprawling compositions not always interested in reaching their final destination, instead content to move laterally and explore nuances in the space presently occupied.  the standout cut “receiver” makes good use of every second in its six-minute run-time, boothby’s lead vocal as pensive as the piano that threads through it, while the penultimate number “your orange and blues” marinates in its ruminative melancholy, quickly becoming one of the year’s best country tunes.  as the final chord of “easy or free” (itself a powerful meditation delivered via mournful slide guitar) dissipates, one feels the weight momentarily lift off of one’s shoulders, and then presses play again.

might as well with my soul is out now.  stream the album in its entirety below.

caicos – promised lands

– featured image courtesy of tory williams – 

alex frenkel’s work as caicos is doused in vibrant polychrome, its rock-solid pop foundations meandering through fields of bucolic folk, minefields of electronica, and the abstractions of art rock.  our first taste of frenkel’s debut project came this spring in the form of “turned again (crux)”; the new york songwriter is now gearing up for the release of promised lands, a seven-song extended play sprawling beyond its twenty-five minute run time.

the aptly-titled opening number, “watercolor (mala),” is packed with saturated hues, a thematic distillation that prefaces many of the tropes that subsequently appear.  while the coursing second single, “vega,” feels like the project’s largest sonic outlier, the straight-ahead misdirection is grounded in the assured coolness of frenkel’s lead vocal, stretching into falsetto with ease and laying the framework for sly future callbacks.

promised lands hits its stride with the soft acoustic shuffle of “southeast,” a relaxing exercise in reassurance that parlays its existence into the first panel of a breezy triptych; “the push and pull” revels in motifs that evaporate in wisps of reversed delay while the standout penultimate cut “salvo” trades acoustic guitars for airy synths and bell-tone counter-melodies.  frenkel saves the title track for his finale, a measured rumination that pares back to just a finger-picked acoustic guitar and proves to be just as compelling as its predecessors.

with just seven songs, frenkel is able to turn in a fully-realized presentation of what caicos is: a stirring electro-acoustic project that relishes nuance and rock-solid songwriting perfectly timed for the changing seasons.  promised lands is due august 10th via very jazzed, but you can listen to it a few days early right here on the dimestore.  dig in.

two meters – two meters

– featured image courtesy of margo dellaquila – 

tyler costolo’s earliest offering as two meters was a force to be reckoned with.  when we premiered the florida songwriter’s debut track, “left behind,” at the end of april, costolo’s ability to transform profound grief into a cathartic was readily apparent, and he was able to subvert that catharsis – donning the millstone again – on the haunting follow-up, “captive audience.”

last friday, costolo released his self-titled debut extended play via the houston label very jazzed.  three additional tracks accompany the aforementioned singles, altogether providing a cohesive introductory statement for his whispered brand of bedroom pop confessionals.  “current sequel” is a weary interlude, paying homage to its title by repurposing the harsh, grating textures of “left behind” for its own mourning metaphor, while the distant arpeggios that populate “trapped inside” are perfect conduits for costolo’s spare exploration of loneliness and isolation.

closing out the project is the slightly macabre yet endearing “web,” its idiosyncrasies bottled up in the angular piano motifs perched atop the texture.  additional production from label mates get a life and pastel feature throughout two meters, and the latter lends their vocals to the finale, wordless echoes that accentuate the project’s haunting thesis.  at just under fifteen minutes, two meters is a compelling debut best – and easily – consumed in one sitting.  listen to the extended play, streaming in full below.

sun june – years

– featured image courtesy of bryan parker –

the debut full-length from sun june would be formidable on the strength of its four singles alone.  the lilting “discotheque,” the churning “slow rise ii,” and the understated “young” combine for a veritable triple threat right out of the gate, while the impossibly wistful “records” sets the bar for the album’s flip-side.  spread across years, howeverare six more gems of equal strength, a testament to the austin quintet’s effortless ability to sequence an album as melancholic as it is instantly memorable.

rounding out the a-side is “johnson city,” its contemplative slide guitar work further broadening sun june’s already-spacious horizons, and the nesting behavior of “homes,” a low and slow saxophone undercurrent dovetailing with warm vocal harmonies.  the album’s final four tracks rest comfortably in the vestiges of “records,” each latching on to a certain timbre or cavernous echo and exploring it fully.  the light four-on-the-floor pulse of “baby blue” and the descending turnarounds that populate “apartments” in particular work to provide respite, subtle gestures that drape sun june’s aesthetic with nostalgia and comfort.

while years registers primarily as a guitar-centric album, michael bain’s motifs and interjections pasted to a wall of reverb, laura colwell’s electric piano treatments don’t deserve to be overlooked; the instrument’s chiming vibrato is the linchpin of penultimate cut “i’ve been,” stretching into its upper register as the song swells to a conclusion.  taken together, years is a compelling inaugural outing, its ten tracks calibrated for optimal contemplation.

years arrives on friday via keeled scales, but you can stream the album in its entirety early, courtesy of hype machine.

juliana daugherty – light

– featured image courtesy of tom daly – 

there are myriad quaint moments on juliana daugherty’s impeccable debut album light, ones of such commanding stillness and solitude that stand in stark contrast to the three-alarm fire that is the current collective everyday existence.  the charlottesville, virginia, resident largely eschewed the macro-level political trappings on her latest, but its message is still radical: the reclamation of self from mental illness.

the mildly propulsive opening tracks ease gently into daugherty’s intimate world, “baby teeth” especially, aided by its steady, syncopated guitar and warm keyboard interjections amidst daugherty’s meandering lead vocal.   a ten-track collection that sees no merit in trafficking in conciseness, light rewards the listener who engages critically from start to finish, hitting its stride halfway through and becoming truly powerful in its final third.  in particular, the rhythmic playfulness of its title track is the perfect segue into the home stretch, the pensive “come with me” pairing with the sparse “california” to present daugherty at her finest.

armed with a classical music upbringing, a multi-instrumentalist’s ease, and an mfa in poetry, daugherty is uniquely poised to turn in an album of this caliber.  light is chock-full of arresting moments – the cinematic majesty of “sweetheart”; the slow-burning assurance of “bliss”; the rich, unexpected vocal harmonies throughout “easy” – but what endures is daugherty’s unparalleled confidence, charting its course to emerge from the darkness.

light is out now via western vinyl; stream the album in full below.

yumi zouma – yoncalla

yumi zouma yoncalla cover
out may 27th via cascine

the praise and accolades yumi zouma have received so far from this site – and a good portion of the music sphere across the internet – are far too numerous to try and sift through.  the new zealand quartet caught the attention of lorde based on the strength of their four-track debut ep alone; their subsequent slot as her tour’s opening act in late 2014 opened a pandora’s box of speculation that such early exposure necessitated a foray into more stadium-ready pop, but correlation does not always equal causation.

yumi zouma’s subsequent sophomore ep was populated with richer, more confident songs, to be sure, but you can easily chalk that up to the gradual progression of getting comfortable as a long-distance songwriting collective.  tracks like “alena” and “song for zoe & gwen” registered a newfound depth and pulse, but the subtle change in aesthetic felt more indicative of ceiling-clearing confidence than of a purposeful shift in trajectory.

after surpassing all expectations and cementing themselves as critical darlings, yumi zouma hunkered down to try something new: writing music together in the same geographic location.  the result is yoncalla, a gorgeous ten-song debut album that plays through incredibly smart, cool, and confident, reflecting a level of experience well beyond the band’s tenure.

it’s hard to listen to yumi zouma and not at least subconsciously conjure up images of sun-kissed, carefree summer days.  each song on yoncalla would easily have a home on any self-curated beach day mixtape, from the bleary-eyed guitar strums on the conversational “haji awali” to the percolating synth arpeggios on “barricade (matter of fact)” to the triumphant, driving-off-into-the-sunset lilt of “short truth.”  through this lens, these are songs that almost mandate an ocean breeze and cool sand between one’s toes for a comprehensive sensory experience, but stopping short at this superficial – albeit gorgeous – aesthetic would be a disservice to the album.

the true beauty of yoncalla is the pervasive presence of camaraderie woven through its sunny exterior.  yumi zouma’s early success was defined by four incredibly talented songwriters creating intimate sketches piecemeal from around the globe, and that intimacy grew tenfold once the quartet all settled down in the same room.

it’s immediately evident on the effortless vocal repartee that pervades “text from sweden” and “haji awali,” but yumi zouma’s kinship runs even deeper elsewhere on yoncalla.  eloquent melodies are constructed for christie simpson to trace on “remember you at all” and “better by your side,” and provide support and solidarity as she navigates through the insecurities of a turbulent relationship.  this structure seems to reflect a newfound degree of trust between members that may well have been fostered by a shared writing space; a noticeable strength of intertwining melodies and reliance on robust counterpoint seems more indicative of in-the-moment creation than of construction via file-sharing.

yoncalla is impeccably cohesive.  each track bleeds seamlessly into the next, although the album isn’t linear so much as it is semidiurnal, its ebbs and flows placed at perfect intervals.  the final tide goes out with “drachma,” a lovely subdued coda that briefly hearkens back to the group’s early days before its palm-muted main motif disappears beyond the horizon.

yumi zouma’s brand of nostalgia has often felt akin to reconnecting with a long-lost friend; with yoncalla, they provide the perfect soundtrack for the two of you to crack open a cold drink and reminisce for awhile.