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.

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oyster kids – “losing my mind”

– featured image courtesy of blake zimmerman –

after a string of impressive and infectious singles, the elusive los angeles pop act oyster kids took a minute to collect themselves. centered and focused for 2019, the andrew eapen-led outfit is slated to release both an extended play and a full-length album; “losing my mind” is the first taste of what’s to come.

pristinely produced and crystalline in presentation, “losing my mind” is the perfect introduction, or re-introduction, to oyster kids: ruminative lyrics, glimmering synth counter-melodies, whispered vocals that blossom into anthemic hooks. with an effervescent motif that returns again and again, “losing my mind” embeds deeply to leave a lasting impression.

“losing my mind” is out today; check out the kamell allaway-directed music video for the track below.

lens mozer – “such a drag”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

lens mozer’s foot rides the brake, his lived-in brand of sun-bleached guitar pop coasting smoothly along the california coast. the los angeles native scotty cantino has parlayed this moniker into a conduit for hazy memories with an excellent full-length album, don’t stop, in tow.

“such a drag,” the final single ahead of cantino and company’s debut, is guided by a purposeful – and slightly mournful – tenor, its titular refrain eventually wilting, ceding territory to buzzsaw guitar motifs and gauzy synth countermelodies. a mid-tempo lament fit to accompany myriad montages, “such a drag” is emblematic of the affect lens mozer so effortlessly culls.

don’t stop is out tomorrow via plastic jurassic; listen to “such a drag” below.

hana vu – “shallow”

– featured image courtesy of alexandra adcock – 

after turning in a pair of excellent chilled-out singles, hana vu shows her true depth with “shallow.”  the third offering from the los angeles songwriter’s upcoming how many times have you driven by is an echoing burst of post-punk, its rigid percussion locking in the delayed guitar signals and vu’s commanding lead vocal.

“shallow” hits its stride as it approaches its chorus, the elements loosening ever so slightly and foreshadowing the track’s anthemic coda.  it’s a welcomed addition to vu’s repertoire, a slight detour that again nods to the strength and vision of her songwriting.

how many times have you driven by is out june 29th via luminelle recordings.  listen to “shallow” below.

hana vu – “cool”

– featured image courtesy of alexandra adcock –

count us among those intrigued by hana vu, the los angeles-based songwriter behind “crying on the subway,” one of this year’s most enduring singles.  after dropping off the aforementioned track and its accompanying music video in january, vu caught the attention of the folks at luminelle recordings; the fat possum offshoot will release her debut extended play later this summer.

“cool,” featuring languid production and an elastic guest verse from fellow angeleno satchy, is a second glimpse into vu’s aural cocoon, her melismatic delivery of the titular word enveloping the sparse soundscape around her.  equal parts murky, aqueous, and warm, the exterior of “cool” is an invitation to bear witness to the solitude vu prefers to explore as she descends deeper into the track’s cavernous depths.

vu’s seven-song collection, how many times have you driven byis due out june 29th.  disappear inside “cool,” below.

kadhja bonet – “mother maybe”

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

kadhja bonet gained acclaim with her 2015 extended play the visitorreissued the following year by the oxford, mississippi label fat possum records.  the los angeles-based singer-songwriter has spent the subsequent time hard at work on a follow-up full-length, childqueen.

the album’s lead single, “mother maybe,” is a vibrant slice of elastic soul, a rubbery bass line bouncing through the contours of bonet’s lead vocal.  bonet’s diction is likewise snappy throughout, and she effortlessly stretches into the stratosphere of her vocal range as the track reaches its apex.

childqueen is out june 8th via fat possum records.  listen to “mother maybe” below.

wellness – “fake flowers”

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

jordan gatesmith recently packed up and moved west, trading the deep freeze of minneapolis for the comparative warmth of los angeles to work on a new project, wellness.  after a pair of extended plays, gatesmith has linked up with the ever-reliable forged artifacts for his third release, a six-track collection entitled mall goth.

despite a cross-country move, it seems like wellness’ aura still retains vestiges of frozen origins; lead single “fake flowers” is icy and metallic in the classic post-punk sense, gatesmith’s outsized baritone washing over the track.  its third dimension comes from an irresistible guitar motif woven throughout, adding depth and nuance that compliments a powerful linear pull.

add in a carley solether-directed clip chronicling the escapades of a quartet of mall goths, and “fake flowers” is rounded out into a vessel that fully announces gatesmith’s aesthetic for this release.  mall goth arrives april 6th.  watch the video for “fake flowers” below.

interview – pastel

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

Last month, gabriel brenner released the latest extended play under his pastel moniker.  the los angeles-based artist uses the five songs that span absent, just dust to examine a concept of native erasure that is both familial and personal, a desire that stemmed from myriad recent events.

those familiar with pastel’s earlier work might anticipate another offering of celestial r&b; instead, the intimacy and vulnerability of this project’s subject matter necessitated a shift into a more ambient, experimental realm.  brenner’s commanding lead vocal still haunts tracks, like the standout cut “silhouette,” but absent, just dust is often shrouded in ominous pulses and static found sounds, a malleable canvas onto which brenner can interpret a bevy of emotions.

we were fortunate to catch up with brenner recently via e-mail and discuss all things absent, just dust: from compositional approach to an integration of visual art to brenner’s preference for shorter bodies of work.  a lightly-edited transcript, along with a full stream of the extended play, is presented below.

this new ep is a pretty explicit exploration of erasure.  what was the catalyst to delve into this personal topic?

i recently graduated from the art program at ucla, and i spent much of my last year there making video works largely surrounding my relationship with my native heritage.  these were ideas that i had spent a few years trying to work out (i tried sculpture, poetry, etc), and it just seemed to click with video.

this also happened to be around the same time that the nodapl resistance started gaining national attention.  there was a livestream video that a journalist had set up on facebook one night, showing militarized police cornering water protectors on a bridge, throwing tear gas at them, and spraying them with a water cannon in subzero temperatures.  i felt such a multitude of emotions, but i couldn’t quite put them into words.  or, rather, words just didn’t suffice.

in trying to understand my heritage, i’ve continually arrived at a similar loss.  i’m pima on my mother’s side and cherokee on my father’s.  neither side of my family knows much, if anything, about our people and culture, and it’s largely because of a long history of atrocities like this.  at base, so much of art is about making new language, and when the language wasn’t there for me, it made sense to process this through art, and later, music.

absent, just dust is also a bit of a sonic departure for you.  did the thematic material you explore necessitate the shift, or did the shift lead you to explore this thematic material?

it was a bit of both.  i had made the foundation for “haunt” and “silhouette” two years prior to the release, and sat on the music for so long because it was such a sonic departure for me.  it didn’t make sense with the rest of the music i had released prior and i didn’t know what to do with it.  when i started making the videos, the music suddenly made sense when placed within a similar conceptual framework.  from there, i started making the rest of the ep, and it continued to follow in the same sonic footsteps.


i think your project could be described as audio/visual, what with the photo book that accompanied bone-weary and the general thought and care that goes into the design of your cassettes.  how do you approach integrating photography and fine art with your music to create a cohesive whole?

i think because i come from a contemporary art background, i tend to think of music projects as visual art projects, too.  i think of the cassettes as art objects, and thus think it’s equally important that the visuals communicate nuanced, poetic ideas like the music.  i want listeners to know what i’m talking about in my music, and they can’t know deeply if the visuals are communicating something different than the music.

many, if not all, of your releases have been either standalone singles or extended plays.  do you find yourself gravitating towards a shorter format for any particular reason?

i’ve always been enamored by artists that can say a lot with very little.  it’s the difference between félix gonzález-torres and someone like matthew barney.  félix can communicate more to me with just a few light bulbs than barney can in five grandiose feature-length films because félix allows me ample space to sit with the particulars.

i think i always work towards a-lot-with-a-little because it’s so effective.  i’m also aware that my music asks for quite a bit of patience from the listener because it doesn’t reveal itself all too quickly.  i contemplated turning absent, just dust into a full length, but i couldn’t imagine asking a listener to sit even longer with a work that already felt a bit like an endurance piece at just five tracks.

to that end, do you anticipate releasing a full-length in the near future?

i guess it depends; if the work calls for a full-length, then it will be a full-length!  but i do think it’s long overdue, so we’ll see.

this ep is very heavy thematically and that weight manifests itself frequently in the arrangements, but i get an occasional sense of serenity, at least musically.  did making absent, just dust feel cathartic at any point?

“stammer” definitely felt cathartic to make.  i basically just hit record and started singing, and then worked with what i had.  the track is largely about the struggle to communicate without the right words, and letting my voice unfold to fill in the gaps was pretty freeing.

half of all proceeds made from absent, just dust will be donated to freshet collective, an organization providing legal services to the water protectors at standing rock.  a handful of cassettes are still available for purchase through pastel’s bandcamp, where digital versions of his entire catalogue can also be procured.

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pastel – “stammer”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

gabriel brenner will release his newest extended play, absent, just dust, as pastel next friday.  the collection of songs is a stylistic and thematic departure from last year’s bone-weary, as brenner explicitly examines how the erasure of native experiences intertwines with his own identity.

on “silhouette,” brenner wove a cryptic but identifiable vocal through the fibers of the track; album closer “stammer” augments the gravity of its predecessor by stripping any semblance of identity from its vocal treatment.  haunting melismas emerge from a molasses-thick texture, wordless in their delivery but increasingly powerful as their numbers multiply, allegorical to the disappearance of native perspectives from history and a personal emptiness that accompanies it.

“stammer” is ambient, meditative at first glance; taken in full context, it quickly transforms into the most evocative piece of work brenner has turned in to date.  listen below.

pastel – “silhouette”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

after exploring the realms of towering, majestic r&b on last year’s bone weary, gabriel brenner is set to take a more explicitly introspective angle on his upcoming extended play.  throughout absent, just dust, brenner explores his native identity, how familial traumas intertwine with a larger tendency to erase native experiences from the historical narrative.

that concept of erasure seeps into the fibers of “silhouette,” brenner’s latest offering under his pastel moniker.  even after an initial murky sample dissipates, brenner’s lead vocal is still submissive to the surrounding textures, echoing in a haze amidst the swelling synths, distant percussion, and controlled feedback that populate the track.

“silhouette” proves aching in more ways than one; a repeated thesis gives way to a fragmented narrative, its lack of resolution a heartbreaking nod to brenner’s overall examination of loss.  it’s the type of track with a gravity that lingers, especially after repeated listens in solitude.

absent, just dust arrives august 25th.  hear “silhouette,” the extended play’s centerpiece, below.