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.
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.
ryan pollie’s brisk, twenty-five minute new self-titled album is bookended by a pair of choral tracks, brief exercises that retain a remarkably cleansing effect. in the past year or so, pollie relinquished his nom de guerre of los angeles police department, battled cancer, and wrote many of the songs that would wind up on this record, but not necessarily in that order; he received his diagnosis after much of the album was complete, putting those songs – and their existential themes of mortality – into a slightly more immediate context.
under his own name, ryan pollie is much more clear-eyed in his approach to songwriting. the hazy ennui that dotted his output as los angeles police department – a perfect analog to one’s mid-twenties – has disappeared, bucolic slide guitars, straight-ahead acoustic strumming, and detuned piano chords reigning supreme.
breezy though its contents may be, ryan pollie’s aural affect is at times belied by its namesake’s lyrical tone; the plaintive refrain of “my god’s insane” on “aim slow” might serve as a mantra for the entire album, an attempt to explain the inexplicable. “only child” finds pollie addressing his diagnosis and its accompanying uncertainty head-on, while “raincoat” is a brief, heartbreaking ode to a relationship’s end.
the nostalgia of pollie’s earlier work as los angeles police department has throughlines in cuts like “leaving california” and “eyes of vermont,” both awash in images of childhood and home. taken in as a whole, this ten-song collection serves as a potent snapshot of pollie’s current existence, its delivery done in a timeless fashion.
we recently caught up with pollie via e-mail to discuss 1970s singer-songwriters, the fruits of collaboration, and his lingering affinity for new england. check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.
this is your first album under your own name after a handful as los angeles police department. was there anything in particular that led to you shedding that moniker?
totally. the past few years i’ve been getting heavy into singer-songwriters from the early 1970s. whether american, english, irish, japanese – most of the artists i fell for were making music so personal that the subject matter and the tone was so closely linked to the writer. like graham nash or jackson nrowne both writing really personal break-up albums (both about joni mitchell) – there was just no separation between the songs and the songwriter.
i came to kind of an existential moment where it felt like by shedding a “band name,” i was able to dig a little deeper with what i had to say and how i wanted to represent myself with my art. once i made the decision, it really provided a new space for me to grow as an artist, i think.
you wrote most of this album, which tends to grapple with mortality and the general essence of being, before receiving a cancer diagnosis. did you subsequently find yourself ascribing new meaning to those completed songs, or a new perspective on the contents and scope of the album?
i think that’s really perceptive of you to ask, maybe just because that’s absolutely what happened. i had written and recorded most of the material before i knew that i was sick, and the lyrical themes you are describing, that i was already exploring, became even more meaningful to me.
songwriting seems to have this magical prophetic nature sometimes. not always. but for this record, and this has happened to me in the past, i was writing songs about facing death, getting sick, ending a specific relationship – all things that just kind of flowed through me without knowing that they would be around the corner in my life.
the collaborations across this album feel especially significant, given the intimate circumstances surrounding its final stages of creation. can you speak a bit to any part or parts of the collaborative process you found particularly meaningful?
community was a huge part of the album process for me, and a really important part of my life through all stages of making the record.
i feel really proud of where i’m at as far as my relationship with my own work. i not only feel so lucky to have amazing friends and family supporting me in general, but i was able to collaborate with all of my friends in bringing the songs to life. i would reach out to all of my friends who play music, asking them to contribute on different days when i was writing and recording different songs, and they all were so graceful in that they really gave 100% of themselves to my art.
i can hear the personalities of all my friends all over the record, as if i’m spending time with them, as if they’re in the room with me. it’s nice to know that i’ll have that feeling when i play the record for the rest of my life.
i also mixed the record with one of my best friends while i was going through chemo: brian rosemeyer. he would be in a room with me, as i was pale and bald and sick – i looked like nosferatu. and he would not only give such caring attention to each track, but he was also a huge emotional support for me through that whole experience of getting cancer. i could tell he was emotionally invested in the story i was weaving together, and it really shows, i think, in his work. it was the best get well soon gift, looking back on it now.
your childhood home is on the east coast, but you seem pretty geographically and musically preoccupied with california. do any parts of life in new england – and its accompanying experiences – seep into your songwriting?
very much so. i wrote “eyes of vermont” in vermont – while listening to a lot of will fox demos. being among the trees, at the lake – it’s so inspiring to me visually and just gives me such a different feeling than california does. it was nice bringing that energy back.
i wrote “leaving california” – originally called “leaving california for vermont” – right after that trip as well. that song is about going home, the fear and anxieties of los angeles and the comfort of the green mountains.
william smith is real; bill waters is a character. the hudson valley singer-songwriter first slipped into the chronically tired persona on 2017’s excellent extended play humid, and is sitting on a companion piece of sorts, honey hi, due next month via the esteemed forged artifacts.
conceived in waters’ home studio below a brooklyn bar, the six-song collection embodies an appreciation for the pop songwriting tenets of the late 1960s and early 1970s, turning on pensive themes of romance and existence and funneled through jangly mid-tempo melodies.
on “it’s true,” the first glimpse of honey hi, waters and his percussive compatriot ian dwy sculpt an ambling five-minute centerpiece musing on relationships, its spritely drums and shaker slotting behind a woozy slide motif that winds throughout the track. a minute of respite kicks in at the end of the lead vocal, the duo biding their time before building a comparatively agitated extended outro, sustaining for some time and driving home the thesis that these tunes are meant to be felt more so than understood.
honey hi arrives march 29th; listen to “it’s true,” premiering right here on the dimestore, below.
the new orleans transplant esther rose draws from a childhood of gospel and folk music when sculpting her unique brand of timeless songwriting, peaks and sighs of each instrumental arrangement contoured around pliable and pristine vocal stylings.
on “don’t blame it on the moon,” rose’s first offering since her 2017 debut this time last night, time seemingly stands still, a gentle acoustic guitar lilting in tandem with her lead vocal. it’s a wonderful nod towards – and embracement – of her country forebears and also serves as a sneak peek of her sophomore full-length, due out later this year.
for much of this site’s existence, alexei shishkin has been a constant. the transient singer-songwriter has been providing understated ruminations on ennui and listlessness for the past few years, turning in a steady stream of releases via the minneapolis tape label forged artifacts. on october 19th, shishkin will return with his latest full-length, happy bday, a transcontinental batch of songs as geographically beholden to portland, orgeon, as they are to shishkin’s current residence in new york city.
the album’s newest single, “i don’t mind,” finds shishkin squarely in his element, extolling the virtues and unintended consequences of slowing life down in a measured duet with jess n. pierson. warm, phased guitars augment the relaxing timbre of shishkin’s lead vocal, with arpeggiated melodies and well-placed synth pads drifting in and out of the texture. ever reliable, shishkin combines these elements to offer up something as unassuming as it is profound, a much-needed, sustained exhalation for the collective mind.
“i don’t mind” is premiering today, right here on the dimestore. listen in below.
the texas songwriter molly burch only released her stunning debut full-length, please be mine, last year, but its follow-up is already slated for arrival. first flower picks up right where its predecessor left off, its eleven tracks packed with whip-smart lyrical observations set to jazz-inflected, country-infused guitar pop; for a primer, digest the album’s lead single, the lilting “wild.”
“to the boys,” the latest offering, is quintessential burch, the contours of her smoky contralto dovetailing in conversation with a contemplative, wandering guitar line, a gently syncopated rhythm section in tow. brimming with a cool confidence, burch subverts the generally accepted stereotypical portrayals of power, quipping “i don’t need to scream to get my point across / i don’t need to yell to know that i’m the boss,” her unabashed assuredness reverberating throughout the track.
first floweris due october 5th via captured tracks. listen to “to the boys” below.
When sarah beth tomberlin released at weddingslast year, the weight and poignancy of her songs were immediately palpable. each of the album’s seven original tracks is quietly devastating in its own right, but the entire project has a symbiotic relationship with catharsis; listening to at weddings in full, without distraction or interruption, yields a profoundly cleansing experience.
after its initial release and acclaim, the omaha-based saddle creek records picked up at weddings for a reissue, with three additional tracks in tow. “a video game,” “i’m not scared,” and “seventeen” all arrive in succession, bolstering the album’s second act with tomberlin’s signature confessionals delivered over sparse arrangements. “i’m not scared” is particularly resonant, the directness of its refrain at once deeply personal and widely applicable to a larger audience. that strain of altruism crops up again and again throughout at weddings, its myriad personal reckonings conveyed with the rare ease that makes its consumption so medicinal, therapeutic.
we were very fortunate to recently connect with the louisville-based songwriter via e-mail to chat about at weddings, the lingering effects of childhood, and the enduring influence of hymns. our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity; check out the transcript below.
your family moved several times when you were very young, a transience that finds an analog in your music and lyrics. much of at weddings seems rooted in adolescence, but does your early childhood have any lingering effect over your songwriting?
i’m not sure. i think childhood shows itself in glimmers as we get older. it comes out in different ways in different people with various histories. my childhood was full of changes, but also full of a lot of sameness. you find things to hold fast to during these changes.
i was always a kid who was outside as much as possible. i was bad at sitting still. i had to be out doing something, and maybe this comes from living in desolate places: the desire to make your surroundings interesting. exploring your environment is a large part of songwriting, at least for me. that same sense of wonder i hope i continue to carry that with me in my writing.
you’ve cited “tornado” as the bellwether of at weddings. do any of the subsequent songs written particularly stand out in terms of personal significance, a memorable origin, or overall construction?
have i? haha, maybe it’s in my bio somewhere, which i did not write.
when i initially wrote “i’m not scared” i didn’t think it was very good. looking back now, i am really proud of that song and it is one that people want to talk about the most. that song has brought up lots of good conversations so i am thankful i didn’t toss it in the garbage. ha.
bright eyes and dashboard confessional were among the first CDs that you purchased. are there any other artists you listened to at that formative age that have left a lasting impression on your life, not necessarily just within your capacity as a songwriter?
hm, i was late to music that really influenced me. i still am learning and wanting all the recommendations. i love listening to old and new.
i also feel like i’ve been asked this a good bit and try to condense the answer, so i’ll leave some other influences here: the carpenters, andy hull of manchester orchestra, cass mccombs, laura marling, neil young, and arcade fire.
the saddle creek release of at weddings contains three new songs that were written after the album originally came out last year. how do these tracks fit with the rest of the album thematically and in terms of sequencing?
“i’m not scared” i actually wrote a month after i got back from recording the first six songs, which was august of 2016. “a video game” i wrote that winter. so those songs were really written in a similar space and time in my life where i think it could have fit earlier, i just didn’t have recording equipment around to place it with the already completed album.
i wrote “seventeen” last summer. initially i was reluctant to put these songs on at weddings, because i thought the record was cohesive as it was, but listening through with where they are placed on the record they really fit so perfectly. i think, if anything, it added even more depth to the record. i’m really happy i decided to add them.
the phrase “my fifth of a century” feels like a mantra of sorts for this album. do you find the first twenty years of your life to be a period that’s come to a conclusion, or are you still sorting through the vestiges of those experiences?
all but one of the songs on the record i wrote in my bedroom at my parent’s house. since then, i’ve moved out and to another state. i work in a different environment so the work has changed. i’m not in school, and my community is not the same. so yes, i do think there is somewhat of a conclusion there.
your music has been described as having a hymnal quality, and it certainly has a cleansing effect. what components of sacred music continue to resonate with you, even as you gravitate towards a more secular existence?
i don’t think i’m gravitating towards a more “secular existence,” ha. i am not sure what that means. but yes, i am still influenced by the hymns and spiritual songs that i heard everyday. i think hymns are some of the most beautiful songs, old hymns especially.
my dad actually gave me a book of anne steele’s hymns a few years ago and i wrote music to a song called “dear refuge of my weary soul”. her life was severely difficult and she found peace through writing. that particular hymn is just kind of her talking to god, questioning back and forth. i really like when hymn writers question aloud, so maybe that is something i’ve taken from that kind of music.
dan knishkowy’s adeline hotel project has long had a collaborative air surrounding it, and his latest album is no exception. away together, due later this fall, features a robust ensemble of familiar faces and first-time contributors all working in concert to flesh out knishkowy’s sketches of melancholic americana.
on the album’s lead single, “habits,” knishkowy is at the helm of a loping acoustic foundation, yearning in gorgeous harmony with fellow new york songwriter cassandra jenkins for an ever-elusive state of contentedness. with well-placed pedal steel swoons throughout and a contemplative guitar solo commandeering its final minute, “habits” feels like the sonic embodiment of leaves changing color, a perfect record for a moment of pause within an ongoing transitory period.
away togetheris due october 26th via ruination record co. take a listen to “habits” below.
the oxford, mississippi songwriter kate teague tested the waters early this year with “low life,” a commanding debut single that has resonated throughout 2018. thankfully, the track was less a one-off and more of a placeholder, tiding over an audience while teague prepared her first solo full-length, due in the coming months via muscle beach records.
today, teague returns with “good to you,” ramping up anticipation for her album’s impending release. as compelling as its predecessor while charting new sonic territory, “good to you” relies on a robust rhythm section and a stuttering guitar motif for a foundation, the song’s title swirling as a repeated pledge throughout its chorus.
in a recent conversation via e-mail, teague spoke about writing her debut effort, oxford’s arts community, and the excellent cut “good to you.” check out the transcript, alongside her new single, below.
this solo project came about after your previous group, reels, disbanded. do you perceive any conscious shift in writing style from your former project to your present one?
in terms of my own writing style, not particularly. i still generally write the chord progression and melody line first before bringing it to my bandmates who help flesh it out. i think the difference is that i have a much better grasp on my own sound and how to articulate that sound to my band.
to that end, were there any touchstones you found yourself returning to for inspiration and influence while recording this batch of tunes?
maybe not directly, but i’ve been listening to copious amounts of fog lake, pure x, grouper, land of talk, chris cohen… i’m sure i’m spacing on some other essentials i’ve had this past year.
my main exposure to oxford has been through muscle beach, who are putting out your album later this year, but I suspect the town’s music scene is rather vibrant. can you speak to your experience within that community?
absolutely. oxford’s arts community is the reason i stayed here after college. everyone is incredibly supportive of local artists, and the town is small enough to where you have a grasp on the art that is being made around you. i feel like oxford is an incubator for independent artists. i don’t know if that boils down to the fact that we are a college town, or because we are a literary town, or if mississippi’s vast musical history has something to do with it, but all i have to say is that i am so thankful that i chose to start my musical career here.
your latest track, “good to you,” is out today; is there anything you’d like to share about its genesis and/or construction?
i’m really excited that we chose “good to you” as our first single because it was written in an unconventional way, for me at least.
i sent a piano chord progression to adam porter, my bassist (also starman, jr.), who helped me develop a cool drum beat. we brought that basic demo to the studio and ended up fleshing it out there. i loved the fact that everyone really had to rely on their own creative instincts, and you can hear those influences very directly on the track. i didn’t end up write the lyrics until after i had the rough mixes back and it felt like i was making up words on top of a karaoke track. that part was challenging but ultimately super satisfying.