Griffith Snyder has been writing introspective, ethereal pop songs for years but the final one he writes for the duration might be “Islands 777.” In the wake of turmoil in his personal life, Snyder re-examined the nature of his relationship with other people, with himself, with his creative work and the purpose of that in his life given the demands and compromises and self-promotion required in order to break through to the kind of audience you would need for the art to sustain you. This song with its shuffling beat and hazy melodies feels like a resigned but mournful goodbye to the music world as it is as well as one’s past life up to this point. A necessary step and Snyder seems to have discovered the need for solitude to process these griefs and channel it into the kind of song that makes that break seem not just okay but inevitable. The line “Wanted to be heard” is perhaps most telling as a musician and as a human and it strikes the most poignant emotional chord of the song. Fans of Brothertiger and Washed Out will appreciate the resonances Snyder has crafted with this song. Watch the video for “Islands 777” on YouTube. It seems as though most of Inner Oceans’ social media accounts are gone except for Twitter where maybe Snyder will announce his return to music once his heart and spirit have healed.
Denver’s The Patient Zeros has released its first tracks from a forthcoming 2021 album. The group has been developing and honing its songcraft the past several years and the single “Ms. January” is a fine showcase for the group’s knack for layered dynamics and illustrative turns of phrase. Rather than settling into a subgenre niche of some variety The Patient Zeros seem to have drawn inspiration from a wide spectrum of rock music and its spiritual and creative antecedent, blues. The song follows an drawn out melodic line up and down the scale like the slow moving roller coaster of mood that can be where winter can take you and leave you in spaces of contemplation inside your own mind. January is the dead of winter and metaphorically can seem to be a place of absolute stasis for the spirit but it as with nature it is a fallow time that forces you to face the aspects of your mind you maybe don’t want to face because there aren’t as many potential distractions. The song evokes that tension, resentment and acceptance of these challenges as necessary to personal growth. As the main line of the song progresses the call and answer and subtle details of counter melody give the song a sonic depth that simple rocking out could never provide. Listen to “Ms January” on Spotify and connect with The Patient Zeros on Facebook and Instagram linked below where the group will surely announce the release of the new record.
Colorado-based darkwave band Married a Dead Man takes ‘Til Tuesday’s 1985 hit song “Voices Carry” and interprets it as a baroque pop, Gothic ballad. A fitting treatment for a song about emotional abuse through gaslighting. Aimee Mann’s lyrics vividly describe a relationship in which one person dominates the other through making only the emotions he wants to see expressed as the only ones valid. It was a song like Suzanne Vega’s 1987 hit “Luka” about child abuse and Martika’s 1988 single “Toy Soldiers” about drug addiction and mental illness that put such heavy subject matter to what seemed like light pop songs. It wasn’t the first time pop artists did such a thing but it was the specific framing and context that made those songs and “Voices Carry” so disarmingly resonant. Married a Dead Man with this version of the song emphasizes the dark side and the unvarnished emotions as almost musical textures that are uncomfortable yet accessible. Megan Kelley’s vocals are rich and soaring much as are those of Mann but parallel with her piano work are ethereal guitar highlights, gritty bass lines and gentle flourishes of percussion giving the cover a unique flair. Though these days we have the vocabulary to identify that dynamic of way too many relationships and describe it with clarity, the song and Married a Dead Man’s version take some buzz words and concepts and humanizes them with dramatic tension and poetry and rescues them from the realm of abstraction to place them with immediacy in lived experience. Listen to “Voices Carry” on Spotify and follow Married a Dead Man at the links provided.
Released in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, Marcus Church’s cover of Robyn’s 2010 hit single “Dancing on My Own” had a certain poignant resonance given the circumstances of that time and nearly a year later it remains fairly relevant. Rather than the R&B electro pop of the original, Marcus Church has turned the song, an ode to emotional self-reliance in the wake of a painful reminder of a breakup, into a delicate, jangle rock/power pop ballad. Dustin Habel’s frail vocals are a fine reflection of Robyn’s own powerful delicacy. Musically it’s reminiscent of what might have happened if The Cars came along after and influenced by C86 or some Mitch Easter band. In a year of deep uncertainty and heated political turmoil followed by another in which those tensions continue, Marcus Church’s interpretation of the song demonstrates a gentle hesitancy to look back on the past that brought us here with warm feelings of nostalgia, as is the case with the Robyn original, with an undercurrent of yearning for a time when vulnerability and sensitivity are qualities that are cherished and cultivated rather than mocked by a culture poisoned by a need to express bravado in every situation. Listen to “Dancing on My Own” on Bandcamp and connect with Marcus Church on Facebook (linked below).
Plume Varia moved away from Denver, Colorado to Placitas, New Mexico right around the same week the lockdowns for the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic were going into effect. The move reinforced a sense of isolation from friends and family that was already going to happen with the planned move. The dream pop duo’s new single “Hold On To Me” with its visually striking music video evokes the uncertainty, desperation and imposed sense of not just isolation but a mindset of reflecting and meditating upon the things you appreciate that you took for granted. Whether that’s moving from a city that had rapidly become expensive and crowded to a smaller town where you can still earn your living working remotely while still having relatively easy access to cultural centers only to not have that as an easy option going into an indefinite future or feeling a deep sense of dislocation for not being able to fully settle into your new home physically and psychologically, Plume Varia’s signature downtempo, chill, sultry songwriting style is a perfect vehicle for exploring that emotional landscape with an engagingly intimate portrayal of the sense of stasis, repetition and yearning for the world to make sense again by discovering ways of not getting lost along the way to what comes next for one’s life, one’s society and perhaps human civilization itself. The jury’s still out on the future of the human race. But to the band’s credit the song works for any time when life seems to be spiraling out of control. Watch the video for “Hold On To Me” on YouTube and follow Plume Varia at the links provided.
Swedish synth pop duo Kite released the single “Teenage Bliss” in 2020 with production help from Benjamin John Power aka Blanck Mass who was one half of experimental electronic group Fuck Buttons (which went on hiatus in 2021). The latter’s distorted drones, propulsive rhythms and engulfing yet accessible soundscapes was an inspiration for “Teenage Bliss” which is reminiscent of a more industrialized Organisation-period Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in its evoking of nostalgia for reflective moments in the present. It’s a song that bemoans how as adults you’re disconnected from a sense of newness and freshness for love and life itself the way maybe everything felt super significant all at once when you were in your youth. Though melancholy in sentiment the song is nevertheless ebullient and uplifting in its tonal dynamics. Listen to the song on Spotify and connect with Kite at the links below.
Siv Disa’s single “Fear” is a soulful contemplation of the way experiences and people in our lives leave a lingering influence and connection that we hold onto in ways that escape our conscious thinking. Yet she sings about wanting to break those connections and associations and move on and not be bogged down by them establishing an unhealthy emotional pattern . She references doors she’d like to leave shut and that she doesn’t “like to think about that too much.” Yet the truth of the consequences of her impact on others and others on her looms large on the edges of her psyche and the fear of being overwhelmed with examining what she’d rather not explore in depth keeps her on the run. And who, that has lived a life worth living, hasn’t had thoughts and feelings like this. Sometimes you need to wait until you’re in the right headspace to adequately and honestly deal with life’s unpleasantness just to survive, so you bury things that affect you deeply or simply leave them out of your focus of your consciousness yet if they’re strong enough they will affect you in ways that seem mysterious except in retrospect of having taken the time to process whatever it is haunting you unbidden. The lush, languid, downtempo R&B production on the track by Sam and the Sea gives what might otherwise be dark personal reflection about more or less being in denial a gentle musical context that suggests an openness to going down that path and doing the hard work required, braving the fear, to make being comfortable with oneself and one’s personal demons a lot more palatable. The music video was shot by Brendan Kiernan and directed and written by Siv Disa is appropriately like a supernatural horror short film but given the warmth and soothing music has a rare dimensionality for similar cinematic work. Watch the video for “Fear” below and connect with Siv Disa on Spotify.
Kyle Evans aka pulseCoder uses circuit bent arcade controllers with homemade synthesizers in conjunction with lighting and visual art to create a multimedia experience that gives a mutually reinforcing context for his creative work. His new single “Wicked Transmission” (released through Holodeck Records) sounds like a futuristic EDM piece with resonances with the recent works of Plaid, Autechre and Weval. Synth lines stretch out playfully and take dynamic turns as if moving in conjunction with the washes of tone and percussive tones that blip like a pointillistic video projection that evolves from dots to manifesting full images. All the while the beat flows like a synergistic overlay suggestive of dance. The net effect is one of reconciling a sinuous quality with bright and forceful accents and a shifting sonic focus that carries you along for an immersive ride in the listen. Listen to“Wicked Transmission” on YouTube and follow pulseCoder at the links provided.
Denver-based hip-hop crew Stay Tuned is set to release its new full length album Remote Control on November 15, 2020 digitally and on vinyl (available through the Bandcamp link below). But early in the year we got a taste of what we’re in store for with the new record with the single “Hit It!” It’s rooted in classic hip-hop and the early 90s alternative flavor without sounding like it’s trapped in old school worship. The beat box percussion, turntablist flair and rapid poetry lyrics cadenced with an attitude reminiscent of early 2000s Talib Kweli. The collaborative track features contributions from InkLine, Fleetwood DeVille and Carnage the Executioner (a frequent collborator with Eyedea) as well as the usual deft bars from MCs ManeRok and Ichiban. With DJ AWHAT!!!’s beats and production from the aforementioned InkLine it perfectly fuses organic textures and rhythms with expert placement of sounds to put the words in the foreground like you’re living in a the moment with what the rappers have to say about the nuances and mythologies of cannabis culture and its impact on culture and the lives of individuals without sounding like some cartoonish advertisement for the industry. Listen to “Hit It!” on Bandcamp and connect with Stay Tuned at the links provided.
“captivity” by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based artist Soda sounds like something out of a soundtrack to a frenetic side scroller video game, the kind where you are constantly have to leap over or otherwise dodge or avoid obstacles coming toward you. Its minimal beat with syncopated change-ups and shifts in texture pushed along by an urgent, distorted synth line is like a minimalist breakbeat song informed by lo-fi home taping aesthetics. Emotionally the song evokes a sense of pent up energy ready to break free but forced to cycle to higher states of internalized activity causing the aforementioned distortion. It represents an evolution in songwriter Elijah Jarocki’s experiments in electronic music from more beat driven art noise pieces into something with a cinematic quality even given its brevity. Listen to “captivity” on Bandcamp where you can explore further into Soda’s recorded output.