Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jon Lemmon - Kindling EP

Though relatively new to the scene, New Zealand's Jon Lemmon just dropped an EP, seemingly from out of nowhere, that sounds unusually accomplished and complex. That is, it's hard to believe that Kindling, released today independently, is his debut solo release.

I suppose the formula is simple enough: lots of electronic beats, glowing synths, 80s-inspired guitars, and earnest and atmospheric vocals. Many electronic producers have found success with such an approach, so I guess the underlying question is this - is there room for yet another similar artist in a presumably flooded arena?

This answer is yes. Like I said before, Kindling is a complex work, one that is underscored with a mature grasp on the ambient-pop aesthetic. Album opener "Somewhere with Something," for instance, is a fast-moving number with a strong beat and bouncing keys, and "Words" follows with even stronger hooks and driving electronic rhythms. The tracks that follow, though, like "Nowhere in a Room" and "Steppenwolf, pg. 247," change in tone almost completely, allowing darker, moodier sensibilities to emerge. All the parts fit together, however, resulting in a remarkably cohesive and memorable hybrid of DIY bedroom pop.

Yes, there is room for Jon Lemmon - and I don't think he'll struggle to find a niche and claim a place among his contemporaries. These predictions are based, of course, on what takes place throughout the EP, so go here to download and experience it yourself.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atlantic at Pacific - "Weddings"

Santa Cruz's Austin Wood, aka Atlantic at Pacific, is another bedroom producer making beat-heavy and often dreamy pop music. Because of his talent and unique spin on the genre, though, Wood is making a name for himself - a name that doesn't get lost among his like-minded contemporaries but is already distinctive, memorable. And the title track from his full length Weddings, out now on Alchemist, is an exemplum of Wood's trademark sound.

Atlantic at Pacific - "Weddings"

"Weddings" is quite the deceptive track, however. First of all, the song opens with seemingly dark guitar work, similar to that in Liars or even New Order, but quickly transforms into an ethereal, lighter-than-air synth number. Throbbing beats follow shortly, and the track is "carried home," as they say, by a mean bass line and what sounds like a delightfully unexpected and Balearic-inspired xylophone breakdown.

Secondly, it's deceiving because some pretty amazing things happen in barely over two minutes. In other words, I didn't expect such a powerful mood and interesting instrumentation and arrangement in an arguably short amount of time. Vocals are absent, but there's no need; "Weddings" is stunning without them.

Deceiving or not, "Weddings" was definitely a pleasant surprise in my inbox. Is this sound chillwave? Hip-hop? I'm not really sure. But I do know that I like it and want to hear more. Fortunately, more songs can be found here - enjoy and spread the word.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hooray! - "Bedroom Adventures"

I've been meaning to write something about Ben Wagner's rising dream-pop act Hooray! for a while now. His understated but undeniably smooth beats and ambient drones have grown on me over the past few months through songs that borrow from genres as disparate as chillwave, shoegaze, and hip-hop. So when Ben sent this song over the other day, I knew it was a perfect time to feature Hooray! on Things as They Are.

Hooray! - "Bedroom Adventures"

"Bedroom Adventures," the title track from his latest full-length, is a trippy, atmospheric tune that that relies heavily on its driving hip-hop beat - but manages to float beautifully with the help of Ben's dreamy, indistinct vocals and sparkly synths. It would fit nicely on a playlist with similar artists like Blackbird Blackbird or Foxes in Fiction, of course, but could also fit right in if played alongside an act like How to Dress Well. It's an interesting track, to say the least, and I'm eager to see what's next for Ben.

For now, though, you can hear more Hooray! jams by downloading Bedroom Adventures here or purchasing the tape through rad label Wonder Beard Tapes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blackbird Blackbird - "Crumble Before Your Eyes"

Mikey from San Francisco's Blackbird Blackbird sent this track over last night, and I've been digging it a lot ever since. I'm not really surprised, however. Though many artists and bands played integral roles in my summer soundtrack, I found myself turning to Blackbird Blackbird's gorgeous and instantly catchy electro-pop on what seems like a daily basis. So I'm definitely stoked to add yet another one of Mikey's tunes to my collection.

Blackbird Blackbird - "Crumble Before Your Eyes"

This track, like most of Blackbird's music, can be classified as textbook "chillwave." And while many might ignore or doubt a sound that is arguably so grounded in a genre (especially this particular genre), "Crumble Before Your Eyes" proves why chillwave made such an indelible impression on the indie music scene in the first place. I recently made the same argument about Blackbird's label mate Millionyoung - both artists layer their hooks with hazy beats and airy vocals in a way that is both retro and uniquely contemporary.

Regardless, Mikey's making some pretty interesting moves to define his sound and make it his own. The chillwave understones, for instance, are juxtaposed in this track with more distinct and less dance-oriented beats (echoing the Jesus and Mary Chain or the Raveonettes, surprisingly). And "Crumble Before Your Eyes" allows him to bring his vocals, rich with lush harmonies, to the forefront.

In other Blackbird Blackbird news, the hard-working Mikey just released an EP's worth of rarities as a free download here, and his full-length, Summer Heart, will be released Sept. 28th on vinyl through Arcade Sound Ltd. and on tape Sept. 29th through Wonder Beard Tapes. Get it digitally here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

USF - "Branss"

If the sweet jams on Hipsturbed's sunny mix weren't enough to remedy your end-of-summer blues, here's another track to remind you of days gone by. Whether you spent those days on the beach, your friend's front porch, or inside a cramped car on a cross-country road trip, USF's (formerly known as Universal Studios Florida) new song, "Branss," is likely to evoke your warmest summer memories.

USF - "Branss"

The B-side from a forthcoming vinyl EP on Highfives and Handshakes, "Branss" is a quintessentially USF track - and that's a good thing. It highlights how well the Seattle duo can combine ambient textures with tropical rhythms and deliver them with a wonderfully upbeat and retro aesthetic. And the consistent, almost Balearic-inspired beats featured here suggest that the act are taking their ethereal brand of Afro-pop to even more engaging and accessible levels.

For those of you who keep up with Things as They Are, I'm sure you know by now that I'm a big fan of these guys; not surprisingly, then, I highly recommend this song. But more importantly, I encourage you to support USF by buying a couple of songs they've released to preview their next full length, The Spray (all proceeds go to help replace the equipment that was stolen recently from their practice space). Enjoy the good tunes, and keep your eyes peeled for the band as they tour the West Coast.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hipsturbed knows what you did last summer...

It's been painfully obvious lately that summer is coming to an end. We're now approaching the latter half of August - the days feel shorter, schedules are becoming increasingly more rigid, and that unmistakable sense of spontaneity and possibility is waning; Walgreens is probably already selling Halloween decorations. It's depressing, really.

However, Hipsturbed just released an end-of-summer mix that made me change my perspective - allowing me to reflect positively on the past few months and feel grateful for the experiences. All good things must come to an end, right? It was indeed a great summer, and these tunes, compiled so perfectly on one collection, will serve as a testament to such a memorable season as the next inevitably runs its course.

If you're like me and need a pick-me-up as you say farewell to the summer of 2010, download the mix here and enjoy your favorite tracks from amazing acts like Persona La Ave, Hard Mix, Keep Shelly in Athens, and Danniel Radall, for example (the cover art itself is fantastic). Kudos to Jarred from Life: Aquatic for bringing this mix to my attention.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guerre - "With Eyes Like Those"

Stumbling upon Guerre's Myspace a few months ago was one of the highlights of my summer. It's not everyday, after all, that you discover an artist who can capture a mood so impeccably - who can, in only a few minutes of simple but gorgeous delivery, recall even the most latent emotions. Needless to say, then, Guerre - aka Australia's Lavurn Lee - has been on repeat ever since my initial discovery.

And fortunately for me, Lee cranks out the tunes pretty rapidly. One of his latest tracks - the understated and beautiful "With Eyes Like Those" - highlights Guerre's idiosyncratic sound, and better yet, hints at what's in store for the young musician. It's tempting to compare the track to the tunes Tom Krell releases under How to Dress Well, but doing so isn't entirely accurate; the similarities are there, of course, but Lee is creating his own voice. The song's take on post-R&B, for instance, trades dark undertones for dreamier, more melodic leanings, an approach that is accessible and engaging.

For more hypnotic falsetto and dusty beats, download other tracks from Guerre here (expect an EP sometime in the near future). I can't wait to see what's in store for Lee - I just hope listeners are ready for him.

Guerre - "With Eyes Like Those"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coma Cinema - Stoned Alone

On title track “Stoned Alone,” South Carolinian Mat Cothran, aka Coma Cinema, repeats, amidst soulful backing vocals, the simple but compelling phrase, “I don’t believe in what I believed in for such a long time.” As this song and the rest of the album, Stoned Alone, seem to suggest, Cothran isn’t afraid to bring his introspection to the forefront; and fortunately for the listener, such personal reflection produces great art.

What is immediately noticeable on Stoned Alone is Cothran’s ability to make songs – despite their poignant subjects and deeply delicate lyrics – sound light and uplifting. He accomplishes such a feat, I believe, through his keen sense of pop arrangement, which feels inspired - at least in part - by pioneers of tight hooks and melodies like the Beach Boys and the Beatles, as well as more contemporary, introspective pop outfits like Yo La Tengo, the Magnetic Fields, and Elliot Smith.

In opener “In Lieu of Flowers,” for instance, the gentle guitar strum and subtle trumpet track allow the song to soar to impressive heights, and the subsequent track – “Black Birthday Cake” – chimes in triumphantly with a strong piano lead and cheerful hand claps. And in tracks like “Only,” “Come on Apathy!” and album highlight “Sucker Punch,” Cothran maintains his tight grip on structure, using well-placed vocal techniques and driving, varied percussion to make the contrast between somber and joyful all the more striking and effective.

With no track exceeding the three-minute mark, the album moves along quickly and cohesively. I’m not sure if that type of delivery was deliberate or not, but it would make sense if it was; such emotive songs, forwarded so concisely, encourage repeated listens. And frequent, mindful plays of Stoned Alone will reveal the underlying theme that the interplay between the music and lyrics so beautifully highlights: hopefulness during life’s bleakest moments. Download the album here.

Coma Cinema - Only from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Erasers - "Autumn Trees"

First of all, for anyone who actually reads this blog - I apologize for the lack of updates. Even though I don't see life slowing down anytime soon, I plan to manage my time more efficiently and make room for regular posts. There's a lot of good music out there, after all, and I want to make sure I share it with you.

For instance, Australia's Erasers are creating some pretty awesome tunes right now, and their latest release - simply titled Summer - was released last week through the always amazing label Solid Melts.

The release features, among other unique jams, the song "Autumn Trees"; and though it isn't technically fall yet, the song manages to evoke crisp and striking landscapes - hinting, ultimately, that harsh winter months aren't far behind. The percussion, in other words, moves forward in a tribal drone - similar to Liars or HEALTH - and the haunting vocals, echoing acts like Pocahaunted, play out like chants for a mysterious forest gathering. What is most impressive, however, is the seemingly random but perfectly appropriate guitar and synth work; listen as it vacillates somewhere between dark New Order rhythms and exotic ambient textures.

The tape is limited to 50 copies, so hurry and cop that shit while you can - and check out this Solid Melts compilation while you're at it.