Baudelaire Spins Despair Into Catharsis on the Urgent Post-punk of “Lethe”

Baudelaire, photo courtesy the artists

Baudelaire made an interesting choice in titling a song “Lethe” invoking name of one of the rivers of the Greek underworld, the one corresponding to forgetfulness and oblivion. Which suits the name of the project borrowing the surname of the Nineteenth Century French symboliste, Decadent and modernist poet of some renown. The lyrics paint a landscape of darkness and emotional urgency while untangling a web of deceit and betrayals in a social circle fraught with fragile and fake relationships even to the point where the line imploring one’s “last remaining friend don’t make me feel better” about a situation that can only turn toxic and unsustainable in pursuit of a life worth living. The pulsing rhythms and guitar paired with dramatic vocals surge with great momentum and riffs run abstract into atmospheric drones and back again in a dynamic that puts guitar sounds on the same sonic plane as the fine synth work suggesting flashes of dark realization and the disorientation that comes with acute disappointment spiraling into a desperate dispiritedness. The catharsis of the anxiety expressed in the song is a more positive form oblivion as transformation and transmuting the intensely bleak mood into inspiration. Fans of early Modern English will appreciate Baudelaire’s aesthetic greatly. Listen to “Lethe” on Spotify and follow Baudelaire at the links below.

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Palm Ghosts’ “Another Way Escapes Me” is an Exuberant Song of Self-Acceptance

Palm Ghosts, photo from Bandcamp

Palm Ghosts’ single “Another Way Escapes Me” unfurls redolent of 80s synth pop and post-punk bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran with a touch of INXS, perhaps later era Comsat Angels but with modern sensibilities. The bright synth melody sounds like something from an old higher end Casio keyboard and the pulsing bass line accents push the song along like an undercurrent more felt than distinctly heard once the song into its full form following a spare into. Whatever influences one imagines one hears in the songs tonally rich composition about an inner compulsion to be how you are and trusting the best of those instincts and not knowing another way of being yet aware of one’s flaws and limitations and having learned to work with them rather than trying to be someone and something you’re not. Its an exuberant song of self-acceptance at a time in life when you can be cognizant of who you are on a primordial level. Listen to “Another Way Escapes Me” on Soundcloud and follow Palm Ghosts at the links provided.

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“Claude The Armadillo” is Lou Hazel’s Tale of the Senselessness of the Arms Race

Lou Hazel, photo courtesy the artist

For his story song “Claude The Armadillo” Lou Hazel has crafted an Americana pop song that seems to tap into similar realms of creativity and imagination drawn upon by Marty Robbins and Harry Nilsson circa The Point. The animated music video adds another dimension of poignancy and loss to a song whose gentle acoustic guitar melody, countrified vocals and touches of pedal steel flow over a steady, simply beat seemingly established by hand percussion like bongos and shakers. The whole lends the song an air of the folkloric in the story of a man and his friendship with an armadillo who has seen his share of the dark side of the American war machine and the destructive aspects of human civilization on the natural world. And yet our narrator regrets these trespasses even as he isn’t sure how to convey those misgivings to the armadillo in a way that would have any meaning without seeming like a patronizing jerk. The song ends with Claude, the titular armadillo, and presumably Lou mysteriously parting ways but with Lou saying how he misses not having the rightfully jaded Claude to talk to for a spell on their journey through this fraught world. Though we’re told they’re still friends and presumably there are more Claude stories in Hazel’s repertoire in the past and to come. It’s an odd song in a way but one that has the earnest charm of a childhood storybook for adults. Watch the video for “Claude The Armadillo” on YouTube and follow Lou Hazel aka Chris Frisina at the links below.

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Lou Hazel on Sleepy Cat Records

“Sixteen Gold Candles” by polyheDren is a Non-Linear Psychedelic Jazz Funk Exploration of Notions of Youth and Identity

The unmistakable voice of one of the members of legendary avant-garde, multi-media pop group The Residents can be heard throughout polyheDren’s “Sixteen Gold Candles” telling a surreal coming of age. As can some fairly intricate drumming courtesy of Josh Freese (the Vandals, Devo, Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and others). The music video a stream of dream logic psychedelic narrative with the candles featuring prominently as well as a bevy of otherworldly beings seemingly existing inside an interactive Rube Goldberg-esque setting as a bizarre art studio. Juxtapose that with graphic design and video art imagery reminiscent of something one saw in the early 2010s during which many video artists free-associated ideas and colorful imagery to unmoor the imaginations of viewers from conventional conceptions of time, proportion and visual thinking conditioned largely by classical conceptions of what art should look like. Don’t bother looking for a linear plot in the video because even the “sixteen gold candles” seem to be a metaphor for awakening into your own sense of self separate from being defined in ways that are simply utilitarian for the dominant economic and cultural paradigm in which one’s identity must be subsumed by the exigencies of the narrow concept of the marketplace favored by so-called free market advocates. But these considerations aside it’s a playful jazz funk pop piece set in a fantastical realm where creativity is king and a place you don’t mind visiting for the duration of the song. Watch the video on YouTube and connect with polyheDren at the links below where you can further explore the album Psychic out now on Bandcamp and other online sources.

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The Synth Pop R&B of Kid Travis’ “by the way” Perfectly Captures the Exuberance of Youthful Romance

Kid Travis, photo courtesy the artist

Kid Travis uses the language of youthful infatuation on his single “by the way.” Sentiments that might seem trite when you’re well into adulthood but deeply meaningful to you when you’re a teenager or in your early 20s. Declarations of your beloved’s beauty in simple terms, terms of endearment like “just shut me up and put your lips on mine,” not wanting to say goodbye, telling someone they look good in the “pale moonlight” and saying “You’re so hot like the summertime.” It all seems so quaintly melodramatic when you’ve had some serious life experience and know life and relationships have and require nuance. But the charm of a solid pop song is that they can remind you of a time in your life when you’re not hedging your bets on your feelings, when you exult in these moments when things seem so clear cut without the messiness of balancing adult concerns and the emotional wounds of failed romances and a bad break-up or ten. Kid Travis taps into that unspoken yearning in most people to be able to live life like that again even if only for a few moments once in awhile. There is a purity to that way of being that doesn’t have to rule your whole life but neither does hard won pessimism. The song invokes both an especially soulful side of R&B with Kid Travis’ strong and expressive voice as well as a granular level of detail in composing the synth pop flavored music that sets the mood perfectly with and inventive use of texture, rhythm and melody in the production that gives the track freshness and immediacy worthy of its subject matter. The spare and eclectic guitar work, buoyant bass line and finely accented percussion ground the whole song all while Kid Travis waxes sentimental in the best way. It’s a potent combination of elements. Listen to “By The Way” on Spotify where you can listen to the rest of the new Kid Travis album Sunset Avenue and follow the artist at the links provided.

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Sektion Tyrants’ “Systematic Letdown” is a Coldwave Post-Punk Song of Liberation from a Manipulative, Dysfunctional Relationship

Sektion Tyrants channel a touch of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry in its single “Systematic Letdown” but infuse it with some coldwave electronic features. Once the song gets into full gear the already raw vocals take on a sense of desperation combined with a deep disappointment. It lends the track a propulsive emotional energy that paired with dissonant guitar leads and minimal percussive accents fuses a fragile yet expressive structure with a wiry energy that commands your attention to the end. The song is four minutes forty seconds but is so engaging it feels like Sektion Tyrants have compressed that time to half the length while delivering a psychological journey from realization of the emptiness and “lack of substance” of someone formerly close but whose personal deficits hit you with a force of a truth you don’t want to believe but your brain made connections impossible to ignore to dissolve the web of manipulation to which you’ve been subjected for far too long. It’s a song that feels like it comes from a place of pain but through that pain a long-coming liberation from a relationship that had been dysfunctional and corrosive all along. Listen to “Systematic Letdown” on YouTube and follow Sektion Tyrants on Spotify.

Michelle Limanje’s “Sane” is a Dazzling Array of Musical and Emotional Contradictions Reconciled

Michelle Limanje, photo from Bandcamp

Michelle Limanje’s vocals seem to invoke both the compellingly alien aspect of Grace Jones and sonically varied and imaginative traits of Lower Dens on her single “Sane.” The vocal processing gives the lyrical delivery an artificial human quality in moments and more vulnerably human in others. The guitar melody runs a gamut of textural and delicately filigreed in structure to more robust and distorted while engaging directly with the chorus. Synths give a counter melody that runs through the song and expressive percussion seems to control the flow of the song’s constantly evolving dynamic. And that’s what makes this song so interesting, it establishes a mood but its ways of maintaining that atmosphere shift from the beginning to the end so that it’s like a tour of some of the more experimental rock of the 1990s but with a hybrid aesthetic that could only be fully possible now with an almost sound design approach to the arrangements. It’s like a gentler version of Curve’s fusion of dream pop and industrial music and it’s treatment of the subject of a complex relationship and the suggestion of an element of co-dependence and dysfunction being worked out adds yet another layer of disparate energies reconciled as the song progresses to the end. Listen to “Sane” on YouTube.

The Soft Focus and Deep Mood of deo autem nihil’s Ambient IDM Track “vivere et vivere” Untangles the Knot of Learned Anxiety

A sound of rain outside the window and birds in the near distance accompanies a foggy, abstract melody like sunlight peeking through a morning bank of low hanging clouds. That’s the imagery conjured by the beginning of deo autem nihil’s “vivere et vivere” before a hovering, luminous drone fades in and out and an incredibly minimal set of texture tones establishes a spare beat. The main melody resonates out with a quickly decaying resonance that conveys a contemplative mood. The title of the song means “to live and to live” which may be a subtle statement on taking things day by day as a way to move through a period in one’s life where you feel compelled to spend long moments reflecting on your life as a path forward and to live with intention and with a simplicity of focus and patience for your limitations rather than the artificial and forced intensity often imposed on our lives. The song is reminiscent of 1980s library music and thus 1990s IDM but is not beholden to a specific aesthetic beyond its own which establishes a strongly identifiable yet gentle mood. Listen to “vivere et vivere” on Spotify and follow deo autem nihil at the links below.

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O. Wake Contemplates the Faint Possibility of Hope in Dissociating Through the Worst of Times on “Let’s All Get Pessimistic”

O. Wake, photo by Toby Tenenbaum

O. Wake aka Ofer Shouval really takes aim at the tendency to dissociate in the current media and social environment on “Let’s All Get Pessimistic.” With bad news seemingly shotgunned our way in the news, non-stop shitstorm tweets and media coverage of narcissist former presidents during their recent administration and the myriad of challenges cascading down us because of the failure of the merely competent institutions that we’ve complacently depended upon maybe with a much deserved cynicism about their presumed essentially changeless nature with predictable cycles except none of predictable existence has been a thing for decades. We’ve just been able to pretend otherwise because it hasn’t hurt so bad or been in the faces of everyone so directly all the time unless you’re on the bottom rung of the social ladder. And in recent days everyone has had a hefty dose of that. It has just been impossible to ignore unless your powers of denial and filters are set high. Then maybe you get sentimental and cling to how you assumed things were and take comfort in nostalgia culture and comfort movies or TV. While the world burns and fascists are on the verge of taking over the country in America and oligarchs and fascists in other countries threaten to drop nuclear weapons more than 30 years after most people thought that a possibility and hey now nearly year round wildfires some even in winter and flooding where there hasn’t been much before oh and the north pole isn’t necessarily frozen year round either. O. Wake sets these ambient anxieties crushing anyone with any level of sensitivity (those without can damn well perish without knowing why while insisting it’s not going on from future pandemics to the kinds of climate change events human technology is inadequate to handle—no amount of money will suffice to thwart or escape the effects thereof) to a kind of upbeat, Strokes-esque, ear worm of a song. Given the lack of enlightened social vision and political will certainly deeply in America and not so impressive in most of the rest of the world our global human civilization and global capitalism are doomed as unsustainable in its present form. When Shouval sings “And now I’m living day by day/No longer burdened by the weight/Of all these hopes and expectations” that’s about the size of it, it’s the modern equivalent sentiment of when Johnny Rotten sang about people having “No future, no future, no future” for you in “God Save the Queen.” And yet one senses Shouval is not a nihilist, just not sure what might motivate people to set aside some petty differences and act with vigor and conviction to address problems that faith in political parties and certainly in outdated ideologies are inadequate to the situations at hand. One only hopes the meager hope Shouval senses in the power of people to get through this time intact is a reality and not a frail hope. Listen to “Let’s All Get Pessimistic” on Soundcloud and follow O. Wake at the links below.

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Anastave’s Darkly Etherea “Sacrifice” Gets Behind the Eyes of a Narcissistic Abuser

Anastave, photo courtesy the artist

Anastave brings a darkly ethereal, soothing sound to the “Sacrifice” single. The hushed vocals sound so up close and intimate and the background synth melodies and textures sound like a needle was dropped on a record made for the occasion to play while the vocals were recorded. The lyrics seem like a weird series of short diary entries written to someone but perhaps in the style where the words are a manifestation, a summary, of sentiments and words spoken to the author like assuming the persona of an abuser to make more sense of a challenging situation as a vehicle for therapy through art. Though the song does sound very much like it’s all but whispering in your ear there is a sense of spaciousness like taking the time to speak one’s truth into actual space instead of keeping them merely to yourself and even though the song’s lyrics speak of toxic interactions and a terribly controlling relationship down to threats of violence and holding a lethal consequence offered if the abuser feels the abused is worthy. In the chorus there is talk of sacrificing everything for the malignant narcissist and their own expressions of a deranged sense of personal aggrievement which seems so relevant to social dynamics we have largely left unexamined as a culture. It goes to some darkly personal places and in doing so with the level of honesty and reality demonstrated allows for the truth to shine rather than get to hide because of one’s own internal censor and social cover for horrible behavior serve as an illusion to cover over the harm done. The luminously airy composition is dreamlike in its delivery of its layers of mood and in being so easily accessible it makes the content easier to take on its own terms. Listen to “Sacrifice” on Spotify and follow Anastave at the links provided.

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