Posts Tagged ‘folk-pop’

Shana Cleveland

An integral part of La Luz’ sound for the past few years, guitarist Shana Cleveland proves her solo vision to be just as potent. Shirking off the shell of the “band,” Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles, that she’d used last time she struck out on her own, Night of the Worm Moon burrows far further into the darker recesses of pop’s hold on the mind. Elements of surf still infect her songwriting, as would befit any member of La Luz, but this seems to be a pale midnight ride into the waves. It’s one that ends with a dive below the surface. holding your breath until it hurts, then returning to the beach to watch the stars in hope that another is out there feeling just as adrift upon the pangs of loneliness. Themes of isolation, flying saucers, other worlds, solar eclipses, and inner monologues weave between the somnambulant plucks of Cleveland’s songs. The record revels in lulling the listener into a cocoon of calm, but winds up painting their dreams in strange iridescent shades that haunt heavily upon waking.

The fevered pastoral nature of the record places it outside many of her surf and garage contemporaries, finding a queasy balance of bleakness and hope like some of the best members of bygone label Language of Stone. Were it the peak of the psych-folk revival, Cleveland could easily find herself sharing a bill between Orion Rigel Dommisse, Festival, Josephine Foster, and White Magic. She ultimately tugs away from the noose of nostalgia, though, giving the album a thoroughly timeless feeling at its core. Night of the Worm Moon winds up that rare instance of a record that slows time around the listener, sealing the moments spent listening in a billow of haze that’s as narcotic as any substance you’re likely to encounter. Cleveland has long proven a nuanced force in pop, but this album seals her legacy as one of the new era’s most haunting folk voices.


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Olden Yolk – “Cotton & Cane”

One of my absolute favorite albums of the last few years has to be Olden Yolk’s rain and jangles debut on Trouble in Mind. The band announces the follow up Living Theater today with the first single “Cotton & Cane.” Recorded with Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere, the song retains their grey-skied delivery but sharpens the surrounding haze to a fine point. Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer continue to lock their voices into a heady spiral of harmonies while underneath them Butler’s strums run breathless and brazen, sloughing off the timid trappings of jangle with a defiant charm. The accompanying video finds the band wandering pastoral plains and flashing cryptic cards – embracing the bittersweet veil that falls on their sound. The new finds them again with powerhouse label Trouble in Mind, released on May 17th. Personally, I can’t wait.



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Papercuts – “Blues Run The Game”

Last year’s Paralell Universe Blues was a highlight among Papercuts’ fairly stuffed catalog, adding a dose of hazy gaze to Jason Quever’s always welcome folk-pop. On the eve of embarking on a European tour supporting Steve Gun, the band is releasing the EP Kathleen Says, which rounds up that standout from the 2018 LP alongside a dreamy version of the Jackson C. Frank classic “Blues Run The Game” and a stripped down version of new song, “Comb In Your Hair.”

Long covered as a folk staple, Quever gives Frank’s version a lush treatment that lets glints of sun in through billowing clouds. Though its hard to stand out among versions by everyone from Bert Jansch to Nick Drake, Papercuts gives the song a modern update that’s swirled in closing time twinges of sadness – the purple stage lights flickering and just a taste of dry ice on the air as the last of the bottle caps are swept into the corner. The EP is out this Friday and the tour heads out on the 19th. Give a first listen to the cover below.

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Tiny Ruins

While Hollie Fullbrook hasn’t made as much of a dent stateside, at home in New Zealand and neighboring Australia she’s becoming more of a known name, and with good reason. With her third album, she aims to make the same impact worldwide finding homes at Ba Da Bing and Marathon as well as Milk! (Courtney Barnett, Loose Tooth.) Olympic Girls might just do the trick too. Fullbrook has often skirted the boundaries between folk and pop, but here she’s draped in the tresses of deeply wounded and introspective folk – the kind that bore fruit in the ‘70s as lost presses just now getting snatched up for reissue. Echoing the bloodlet beauty of songs by Linda Perhacs, Elyse, Karen Dalton or Judee Sill, Fullbrook has a penchant for finding the saddest corners of the soul and lighting them up in dazzlingly brief beauty that lingers on the mind long after the light has left the room.

The album fills its coffers with more than just strums and swoons, though. With the help of bandmate Tom Healy, Fullbrook’s songs swell the banks of each song with the knotted-smoke embellishments of Laurel Canyon’s heyday and the rain-soaked humanity of Brigitte Fontaine’s Est… Folle. Fullbrook’s voice has a habit of rack-focusing the instruments to the background, something that works well on the cavernous sparseness of “School of Design,” but Healy gives her moments of competition wrapping her voice elsewhere in the bleary gaze of synth, echo and strings that feel torn from the reels of Jean Claude Vannier’s personal stash.

In her short career, Fullbrook has made a point of leaving listeners with pinprick impressions on their soul, but Olympic Girls digs the scars deeper. The record breathes only in vapors becoming an organism of anguish and memory. It’s a testament to loneliness and living in that loneliness like a comfortable skin. With this, Tiny Ruins enter into the greater vernacular, and hopefully, into a greater number of speakers as well.




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Papercuts

Jason Quever has done the indie arc, working up from charming scrappers like Antenna Farm and Gnomonsong to bigger players like Sub Pop and Easy Sound. Now he’s settling into his seventh album for Slumberland and it feels like a perfect fit. Quever has always straddled the lines between folk-pop and dream pop but he’s never quite blurred the borders like he has here. The record opens with the narcotic, hazy strains of “Mattress on the Floor,” a half-dreamt attempt to work the sleep out of his eyes, but from there he grabs hold of hooks like a man with conviction. Quever conjures melodies to his aid with the deft hand of a seasoned musician, The album is full of strums and swoons, heartbreaks and hubris and each piece of the puzzle has the potential to hook into listeners with a wave of primrose pinpricks. Its an album about leaving behind a life that was supposed to pan out for a new venture that’s no sure thing. As Quever is crushed, so are we but he’s not always playing his hand straight.

The soft focus approach here is what gives Papercuts such purchase in the Slumberland ranks. There’s a jangled core that’s not too far from the folk shores he’s often populated, but this time each song is smudged at the edges like a photo faded by time, colored by the orange and brown hues that eat at old Kodak prints, clouded by dust and fingerprints to the point where the shapes remain, but the details are lost. In the same way he looks back on a relationship set adrift, the mistakes smudged the same as his strums and the details lost by one’s own dusty biases and emotional gaslighting. Parallel Universe Blues is a strong entry to the Papercuts catalog – dreamy and working its way into your life with subtle earworms that are as strong as any at his command. While the album is about leaving pain behind, its also a comforting companion to those who ache and a salve in times of need. Its proof that Quever was never just a tangential folk voice, but a vital one that never quite got his day.



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Michael Rault on Billy Nicholls – Love Songs

There have been many great surprises this year, but the latest album from Michael Rault is quite possibly among the best. Rault refashioned his sound in the guise of ‘70s pop with a soft heart, echoing the Apple records stable if they’d been mixing it up down in Memphis with Big Star and The Hot Dogs. Its easily the best power pop album to find its way to your speakers in 2018. So, naturally it seemed fitting to have Michael dive deep for a pick in the Hidden Gems series. I’m constantly intrigued at what people pick for these because some true gems get unearthed. Rault stayed true to his pop influences going for the oft overlooked ’74 sophomore album from a true psych-pop purveyor Billy Nicholls. It’s a true lost classic that’s been out of print for far too long. Check out how it came into Michael’s life.

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Samara Lubelski

Samara Lubelski inhabits a world of subtle psychedelia. Her songs don’t hit you over the head with guitar pyrotechnics, effects or gimmick. Where other vocalists would belt, Lubelski prefers the intimacy of a whisper. Her songs hum along on a slipped frequency, and like a secret stretched between the notes her soft touch pushes the listener out of sync with time and space for just a while before it snaps back with an elastic ‘thwap’ as the album clicks to a close. She stitches the rhythmic burble of Krautrock to a knotted pop and sends it twisting through the mind with an effervescent fizz. Her hushed composure, paired with the delicate machinations of Flickers At The Station give the feeling of being shrunk and zipping through a molecular backdrop in perfect precision to Lubelski’s click-stop kaleidoscopic pop beat.

Though Lubelski has a folk and experimental background, her solo work increasingly picks up cues from Stereolab, melding the band’s progressive rubric to the airy folk-pop delivery of The Free Design or Wendy & Bonnie. Chalk this up to Lubelski’s continued collaboration with German pop tinkerers Metabolisumus, who serve as backing band for the recordings here. With their aid she helps to push her songwriting through the cigarette burn flicker of the film strip pop she’s been working towards, winding up in a feeling caught between sleeping and dream, nodding out while the 60’s science lesson filters in through the classroom speakers above. Flickers winds up yet another solid notch in Lubelski’s catalog- warm, nostalgic, and expertly built.



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Olden Yolk – “Vital Sign”

New strummers Olden Yolk crack into their second single off of an upcoming eponymous debut for Trouble in Mind in February and it’s a sparkling slice of jangle pop. Shane Butler (of Quilt) and Caity Shaffer’s new LP is becoming a staple around here and “Vital Sign” is a highlight off of a record packed with charm, hooks and a good old fashioned dose of knife-twisted heartache. While the band certainly recalls Butler’s work with Quilt, they’re also filling a hole in my heart that was left vacant when Veronica Falls called it quits – blending indie pop and jangle in perfect proportions. The new self-directed video for the clip gives a splash of city color to this lilting pop gem and acts as a nice ballast to the song’s sparse yearning. Gonna want to watch out for that full length at the end of the month, it’s a killer. You’ve been warned.

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Quilt

Three records in, Quilt are still busing down the country highways and finding ways to capture the sunset in musical interludes. Plaza is glazed in their constant laid back approach, feeling as if all tension just kind of melts at the touch of the needle to the groove. There’s a bit more clarity perhaps on this record, a sheen that’s not so much crystalline as it is honey-dipped and light from behind like an amber suncatcher. Fittingly written in transit; Baltimore, Jersey, Upstate New York, the album has the feeling of skyline stretching to the dipped horizon, with the blurred hum of images floating past out the car windows. There’s a breezy billowiness to pretty much everything that Quilt touches, something like summer sea air faintly blowing off of the set of songs that tinges the album with that hangover of wanderlust that follows vacations. The group’s voices meld as if they were candle warmed and melted, never straining to find their fit together and though there’s certainly a debt to be paid to the 60’s folk rock forbears, they’ve picked up the mantle and found their footing among the strongest of that canon. Jarvis Taveniere again rears his head in the production chair and he’s quickly proving to be the secret ingredient to effortless sounds in 2016. I can’t tell if its a damn shame that the endless summer of Plaza arrives in the chilly confines of February, on one hand it feels ill suited but on the other, it feels like just what’s needed to tide us all over until greener times.

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The Cairo Gang

Emmett Kelly’s run as The Cairo Gang has seen him inhabit mostly noir shades, culminating in the brooding ominousness of 2012’s The Corner Man. He broke stride and found his inner Byrds fan on the excellent Tiny Rebels EP from last year, embracing jangle like a second skin. As Goes Missing, opens it seems that perhaps he’s retreated back into the shadows, “An Angel, A Wizard” has those old clouds gathering around its edges, but they part soon enough as the album throws itself headlong into a spiral of bittersweet strums and autumnal overtones. Its a true extension of Tiny Rebels’ air of sighed relief, and the further the album unfolds the more it shows that Kelly can’t be pinned or painted into the genre conventions we’re likely to try put on him. He’s a songwriter at heart and the ebullient grace of his comfortability with emotion comes beaming through this album. Repeated spins show Goes Missing to be a love letter to 60’s folk and the haunted troubadour, but its core is Kelly’s voice, a bittersweet knife right to the heart every time. Among an already stellar catalog, this may rank as one of his best.



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