Lean Year (Richmond, VA based singer Emilie Rex and filmmaker/musician Rick Alverson) have announced their eponymous debut album with the first single “Come and See.” What for Rex was a departure from the structured life of academia toward the uncertain contours of a creative field, for Alverson was a return to form. Having released 5 albums with his previous band Spokane, Alverson took a 10-year hiatus from music to write and direct feature films [Entertainment (2015) and the cult-drama The Comedy (2012)]. These departures and approaches bring a transience and listlessness to the album, like a walk interrupted by both curiosity and caution.
“Come and See”
Indiana-born, everywhere-based singer-songwriter Peter Oren possesses a remarkable singing voice, low and deep and richly textured: as solid as a glacier, as big as a mountain. It rumbles in your conscience, a righteous sound that marks him as an artist for our tumultuous times, when sanity seems absent from popular discussions. The songs on Anthropocene are direct and poetic, outraged and measured, taking in the entire fucked-up world from his fixed point of view. Check out the title track below.
Grooms’ Exit Index combines the abandon of pop with the unease of American life in 2017, cloaking its hooks in a clamor of samples and distortion, its agitation expressed in its dream-poetry lyrics. The album as a whole is a study in contrasts—light meeting dark, amplifier fuzz surrounding big melodies, sampled friction squaring off with fluidly played basslines. Exit Index was the last album recorded at the storied New York recording studio The Magic Shop. Band member Travis Johnson, who has co-owned the Brooklyn pedal company Death By Audio Effects since 2008, made a limited-edition distortion pedal to celebrate the album’s release. The video for the first single “Turn Your Body” features author/comedian Darcie Wilder. You can watch it here
“Turn Your Body”
Synthesist and composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has announced the release of The Kid, a sprawling new album that follow’s last year’s breakthrough album EARS. The album is a sonic representation of four distinct stages of the human lifespan, from birth to self-awareness to the forging of one’s individual identity to old age and death. Working with a wide array of synthesizers, Smith has made an album that is at once personal and universal, sonically engrossing and lush. Smith has shared “An Intention,” taken from the album’s first act representing a wide-eyed, playful, and exploratory period of life.
Balmorhea’s Rob Lowe and Michael Muller have developed a wordless language with a seemingly limitless potential to stir the listener's soul. Over the course of 5 full-length albums and a 7” EP, the duo pushed their work to its outer bounds, concluding the first chapter of their career with their maximalist, genre-leaping full-length Stranger (2012). Now five years later they return with their most fully realized album to-date, Clear Language. A relaxed, clear-eyed sense of reflection flows gracefully through the album as these two old friends transmit unfettered meaning through simple sonic gestures that resonate with the cosmos as much as they echo the pulse of a human heart. In a culture dominated by the loudest, ostentatious voices, Lowe and Muller continue to prove the power and importance of restraint and minimalism. +
“Winter Is Cold”
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't be Wrong is the debut by Alabama-raised, Austin-based Caroline Sallee, aka Caroline Says. After college Sallee took a job as a waitress in Yellowstone as an exercise in solitude and independence. With the money she saved there, she took a transformative journey via Greyhound to explore the West Coast before returning to Alabama where she would record her debut album in her parents’ basement. 50 Million puts us in the seat right next to Sallee where we can feel the warm West Coast light through the window, the bus route charting the lines between our youth, and our delayed future. These kinds of debuts can sometimes feel like an over-promise of what is to come, but in the case of Caroline Says there's clearly plenty more thread to be unraveled. It'll be a pleasure to see where the next bus ride takes us. +
Joseph Shabason’ debut Aytche is a document of exploration both inward and outward. Every step taken in sound-design mirrors a stride in emotionality, as Shabason employs a variety of effect pedals to coax rich moody textures from his instrument. He explains, "I feel like robbing the sax of the ability to shred by effecting it and turning it into a dense chordal instrument really helps the instrument become something that it’s not usually known for." Aytche deals with themes of degenerative illness and assisted suicide with eloquence that instrumental music rarely achieves regarding any subject, much less such difficult ones. +
There’s a calm, disciplined pocket to be felt in everything Art Feynman does; krautrock slink, staccato bounce, and pentatonic bursts of Nigerian Highlife fuzz pour on the temporal canvas with unquestionable ease, never falling in the wrong place. Even more admirable is, that his “canvas” is a four-track tape recorder, and that Blast Off features no loops or drum machines despite its aesthetically faithful motorik and afrobeat underpinnings. There are gentler sides to Blast Off that conjure the spacey tenderness of Arthur Russell inventively and respectfully, without adopting their muse’s palette wholesale. In this regard Blast Off is an endearing collection of songs that capture the ear with warm-yet-clear cassette aesthetics and spot-on musicianship, both of which form an angle that points lovingly to Feynman’s deep and varied influences. +
After ten years in the instrumental ensemble Balmorhea, Rob Lowe is releasing his first R&B-inflected solo LP, Slow Time, under the moniker RG Lowe. The record, while incorporating elements from pop and choral music, largely looks back on the warmth and spiritual ecstasy of early R&B through the disjunctive lens of contemporary life. Lowe, who plays keys, guitar, and provides the vocals on Slow Time, wrote and arranged about forty songs from 2014 to 2015 at his studio in Austin, TX, where he resides. He then headed to Philadelphia to record most of the album with producer Jeff Ziegler, whose raw and energetic production work on albums by Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs had inspired him. Though his wordless vocals appeared occasionally on Balmorhea’s albums, on Slow Time we hear the impressive range and malleability of his voice as he glides from hymnal backing harmonies, to melismatic bridges, to punchy choruses and pained screeches that stretch his voice to its unbelievable limits.; +
Austin-based musician Abram Shook is a remarkable wellspring of ideas when it comes to songwriting. When he sat down to write his third album, he produced two distinct batches of songs, one very personal collection titled Love at Low Speed, and a darker, more detached collection titled Love in the Age of Excess. Due to time and money constraints, he opted to only record the more personal album, which explores themes of love, loss, and connecting with others, all themes he’s been careful to avoid on previous albums. Love at Low Speed proves that Shook has plenty to offer on these topics, and that he's at his best when he digs deep, mining his years of experience for confessional tales peppered with hard-wrought wisdom. Mixed by Noah Georgeson (known for his work with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Andy Shauf, et al) the album has a clarity and warmth that focuses your ear on Shook's emotional delivery. +