Listening to “Strange to Know Nothing” by Glasgow’s Walt Disco it’s impossible to anyone relatively familiar with glam/Goth/post-punk not to be struck how it’s reminiscent of the eccentric and energetic weirdness of Sparks or The Pop Group with a Heaven 17-esque pop baseline. The impassioned, warbling vocals and the minimalistic guitar riff and synth swells executed in a wonderfully melodramatic fashion makes me personally wonder if San Francisco’s The Sleepers got in a time machine and recorded a new record after listening to only post-punk and ska from the UK made between 1981 and 1986. If this is retro it’s at least borrowing after an original fashion. If that’s the band on the cover, and even if it’s not, rarely has a group of eccentrically dressed yet indisputably cool Goth misfits been so perfectly rendered as a representation of a song as rambunctious yet as haunting as “Strange to Know Nothing.” Listen for yourself below.
Freedom Fry has been releasing an EP a month in 2019 and “The Sun is Gonna Shine On Your” comes from the group’s latest offering. The song is gritty yet breezy retro-futurist pop like a 1970s AM radio hit with modern sonic sensibilities. The video is more or less a lyric video but with the shifting, stylized yellow and black pinwheel in motion as the background imagery, it’s like you’re seeing an intermission reel for a lurid action thriller epic set in 1978 with the vibe of a safety video, Schoolhouse Rock and one of those psychedelic shorts in Sesame Street and Electric Company designed to make reading, doing math and learning language as exciting as they can be. Whatever the exact aim of pairing the song with these visuals, there’s no denying the impact. To further explore and keep up with the band’s new releases and other hijinx at any of the links below the video.
“Ceasfire” by Brooklyn, NY-based The Bergamot has a downtempo anthemic quality that reminded me a bit of Low in the past decade and a half. The fantastic vocal harmonies between husband and wife duo Nathaniel Hoff and Jillian Speece going from gently textural verses to ethereal yet forceful choruses is utterly entrancing. All the while the music starts in simple, interweaving layers of percussion, glistening guitar and breezy synths and resolves into triumphant tones. Fans of The Besnard Lakes will appreciate the bright and scintillating take on a psychedelic indie folk. Keep with The Bergamot at any of the following and listen to “Ceasefire” below.
Since beginning to share her self-produced music online in 2014, emzae, a songwriter based in Derby, UK, has navigated the vagaries of mental illness to making music that is striking, emotionally rich and imaginatively produced. She really has a knack for expressing the moods and modes of the mind as it struggles with conflicting or negatively repetitive messaging in a way that is accessible and relatable to anyone truly honest with themselves. Her latest song “Another Lesson Learnt” follows in the wake of the success of her tracks “Lucid Dreaming” and “Glory.” “Another Lesson Learnt” is a downtempo, melancholic, introspective piece but one that feels like a processing of the notion of yearning for validation through other people and the fantasies and unrealistic expectations involved when resolving that root of those desires are possible within our own minds.
Emzae’s tracks seem to be companions to her incredibly thoughtful and insightful blog posts discussing her successes, challenges and general thinking. Reading her words on various subjects is an great reminder to be patient with and kind to yourself as a method of keeping oneself on a fruitful path to a more fulfilling life long term. You can read the blog and learn more about the artist for yourself at emzaemusic.com and follow her work and music at any of the links below.
Jack Simchak’s influences and inspirations are obvious on his song “Tonight.” With the lightly flangered guitar (The Cure), spare drum fills (Joy Division) and understated but foundational bass lines (The Smiths) Simchak makes no bones. But with his gently soulful, Steve Kilbey-esque vocals circa Remote Luxury and broad but subtle dynamic range, Simchak’s songwriting pushes what might otherwise be considered throwback into the realm of the modern. The artwork seemingly referencing Unknown Pleasures and Peter Saville’s artwork in general is likely no accident. But, again, with the colors and change of angles it suggests another era, one that is as bleak for many as the neo-liberal takeover was in the early 80s for people then now living under the regimes of what Bertram Gross termed “Friendly Fascism.” But today’s is arguably less friendly and the threat of nuclear annihilation once again no less distant. “Tonight” may have a dusky melody but suggests a spark of hope in the darkness even if that resistance can seem as simple as pursuing a potential love interest. Listen to the spare and glittering beauty of the song below.
Simchack is a multi-instrumentalist based in Brooklyn, NY and he performed the music and recorded it in his home studio. He plays in various bands around NYC and you can keep up with his endeavors at his Facebook page. facebook.com/jacksimchakmusic
New Zealand-based multi-media artist and composer Jesse Woolston was inspired by his work scoring music for the Carl Sagan Institute and it’s search for habitable exoplanets in making his 2018 EP Nova. The track “Wave Remnants” was surely inspired by the human projection of tranquility and otherworldly beauty on outer space and the quest for signs of life in our own solar system and beyond. But the elegant and mysterious quality of the song is also reminiscent of former Siouxsie & The Banshees bassist Steve Severin’s soundtrack for Nigel Wingrove’s controversial 1989 short film Visions of Ecstasy. The hypnotic unfurling of tone flowing into infinity as ethereal drones on “Wave Remnants” is particularly entrancing. Listen below and if you’re so inclined give the full EP a listen here. There you can also delve into Woolston’s larger catalog.
Kempt is MC Wolfe and former Asobi Seksu guitarist James Hanna. The duo started Kempt in the winter of 2018 in Brooklyn and brought to the band a great deal of polished musicality as evidenced by the single “Commune.” What is striking about the track for anyone more than familiar with dream pop and electronic post-punk is that Kempt draws upon nostalgia for 80s synth pop without sounding like a later era chillwave band too late to that movement’s sell by date. It has an upbeat, even effervescent quality that is enhanced greatly from strong vocals from both Wolfe and Hanna. That the lyrics are about to evoke a sense of empathy and affection for a suffering loved one without maudlin sentimentality is an achievement in itself. But listen for yourself below and take in the entire five-song EP.
Afternoon Author is a band from Phoenix, Arizona that is currently in a cycle of releasing a song every six weeks until the release of its album later in 2019. “Gila Bend” is the group’s third single and what struck me about the song was how it captured a deep sense of introspection by employing multiple layers of sounds, a variety of textures and tones that not every band would think to place in a chill track. In some ways its reminiscent of 90s indie pop weirdos like Olivia Tremor Control, at times of a non-rock Shriekback for the sheer otherworldly quality in the realm of pop. The use of organic samples and ending on a passage of what sounds like what represents the track breaking down or the tape warping down into slow motion. The song’s hypnotic intro and whispery vocals really bring you into this dream journey of a song. Get lost in the song below.
Keep up with Afternoon Author and its progress toward album completion at any of the following links:
With her latest single “Issues,” Denver-based singer and vocalist YaSi takes a deep dive into emotional complexity and loss. Shades of nuance and a surprising level of honesty about personal shortcomings imbue the soulful vocals with a depth of meaning that flows well with the low end swells, textured percussion and evolving dynamics that hit downbeats with a satisfying finality without interrupting a sense of fluid momentum. By talking about the death of friends and other people close to her and how she never learned how to process certain kinds of feelings or to trust others and how she fears that her father doesn’t think she loves him, and turmoil in intimate relationships, YaSi identifies the issues and gives them a form that maybe felt like confusion before buried by the inertia of the demands of every day life. Whether these words reflect a strict, biographical truth, YaSi expertly casts forth these normal, maybe even common, issues that many people share that she describe as a “monster” in the song, into a shape we can look at and start to unravel and come to terms with the roots of our issues. It’s a promisingly deep cut from her forthcoming new EP titled Unavailable, a title that hints at much given the subject matter of “Issues.”
YaSi premiered the track on April 23 and has since headlined Fem Fest in Denver on May 18 and a video for the song at Alamo Drafthouse on May 19. Though there is no date announced yet for the release of Unavailable, you can catch YaSi at the Fasor Records Pop Up event on May 25 at Moxy Hotel, opening for Ghostbusters at Film on the Rocks on June 3, with Raja Kumari at Knitting Factory Brooklyn on June 5 and at The UMS in July. Listen to the track below.