Stereo Soul Future took some inspiration from photographer Peter Hujar for its new single “Chelsea Pier.” Hujar’s black and white photos captured the vibrancy, the life, the diversity – the essence of New York City and American culture and cityscapes until his untimely death in 1987. The gentle yet effervescent melody parallels Hujar’s sense of curiosity and wonder. The opening line “No one was afraid to die” and the expansive dynamic of the song looks back fondly at a time that seemed to be one enshrined by a sense of possibilities with New York City and its abundant urban decay and neglect as a canvass for culture and art to project and reflect ideas and life and a place where American creative types could go an interact with like-minded folks and be who they are and find some part of the city where a community for who you are existed. While the context is specific the ethereal pop song could be about most cities of size in America and elsewhere before predatory real estate developers and the oligarchy as well as moneyed no culture having heathens decided to come in from their suburban refuges from the unwashed urban masses and live closer to work, buying up cheap, neglected properties and displacing the people and places that had made the city a desirable place to live. This song is a nostalgic view back to a time before that was happening everywhere but without the bitterness expressed above. It gets at the essence of that magic time when it seemed gross income inequality wasn’t pricing everyone out of being able to create culture and co-exist without as much struggle. In linking this nostalgic view to Hujar’s beautiful and representative art the song personalizes the perspective and makes it thus a more original take than some, albeit utterly understandable, screed against gentrification. It’s a poetic reminder of what we lost and can maybe again regain in another form. Listen to “Chelsea Pier” on Spotify and follow Stereo Soul Future at the links below where you can also find information on hearing the rest of the band’s new album Sex Scene.
“Free,” the first single from Koresma’s forthcoming North EP begins with the kind of soft synth figure that suggests snowbound landscapes, female vocals floating through an evolving melody accented by minimalist electronic percussion. Bubbling arpeggios swell into the foreground and retreat like a wind. Spare guitar filigrees give the song some of its grounding but the song is structured to convey a memories of the songwriter’s grandfather’s stories of living in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago between Iceland and Norway. The track succeeds in capturing for us the stark beauty and sense of the whole world open around you that must have been part of everyday life and thus the title. Listen to “Free” on Soundcloud and follow Koresma at the links below.
The steady pace of Poppy Jean Crawford’s “Same Old Tricks” with the initial winsome vocals almost make you think you’re in for a solid indie pop song. But as the song progresses one gets the impression that the singer is tapping into some of the dark spaces of the mind that old blues singers used to go to in evoking a weariness at finding the same patterns of abuse, from self and others, and returning to those situations and encountering the same lines with different wording and wondering when, if ever, the narrative is going to change on the part of anyone involved. Which is a more nuanced take than pointing the finger. The steady and simple guitar figure gives way to blown out psychedelia, comes back down and blossoms again as Crawford’s vocals nearly crack from the strain of emotion flowing through her taut performance. Apparently Rob Campanella of The Brian Jonestown Massacre helped Crawford to hone in on the sonics of the single so we can look forward to hearing more emotionally charged tracks from the songwriter soon. Listen to “Same Old Tricks” on Soundcloud.
“Fooled By You,” the fifth release from his Days of Heaven EP, Simon D. James, sounds like he was writing this song while having a revelatory, haunted dream of a past love on a breeze swept hilltop, the landscape in amber and sepia tones. The haze of tonal white noise provides the embodiment of fog through the field of sound as James sings with a world weary forlorn quality, drawing out each syllable as minimal guitar traces the sad shadows of a misery his unconscious mind is now able to process and let go. It’s an interesting way to end an EP that begins with great energy and spirit but which is about making the same mistakes in life and being worn out into submission to a core of wanting to reclaim your dignity after your conscious mind has given up and after your ego has been eroded enough for a new, and hopefully better, you to emerge. Listen to “Fooled By You” on Soundcloud and follow James at the links provided.
In the background of Ocean Pleasant’s “Premonition” synths swell like a combination of memories and visions of the future. This while the soulful vocals and textured yet hypnotic beat keeps you focused in the moment. Inspired in part by the scent of a candle left behind by an old roommate, the song is about our minds’ ability to comprehend information that isn’t fully processed by our conscious thoughts and that information comes to us through intuitions and flashes of insight that eventually do manifest in our lives and conscious understanding. But that if we arrest our Western culture-trained instincts for only valuing and thus only perceiving strictly materially empirical information we can utilize these ways of understanding to our benefit and to the enrichment of our lives individually and collectively. The way the song is structured reflects the way perceived time ebbs and flows not unpredictably but inconsistently if we analyze it outside of the experience of it, but on the experiential level those ebbs and flows are natural and make sense and have a consistency that transcends the limitations of linear logic. Fans of Lorde will enjoy how Ocean Pleasant combines dynamic, lush soundscapes written as a downtempo pop song, imbuing it with emotional richness and authenticity. Listen to “Premonition” on Spotify and follow Ocean Pleasant at the links below.
Something about the expert blend of the electronic and the analog and the natural sounds and the subtle production on tummyache’s new single “Commonplace” that help to highlight the experience of the conflicting emotions and confusion in sorting out the way life doesn’t give us signposts or a manual to the inherent meaning of it all. In part of the song Soren Bryce sings about how getting her name on her birthday was the first thing that belonged to her and that speaks directly to how one’s mooring in one’s own life can be that tenuous that’s its the one tenuous connection to your identity of which you can be fairly certain. As the song progresses it escalates into noisier, swirling chaos and frustrated screaming before ending with an abrupt fade. One gets the feeling from the song that part of having meaning in life is to feel special and not commonplace and part of that is having an identity and knowing your place in things, or at least a sense of such. As grow into adulthood the social boundaries become less distinct and our connections to people perhaps less firm and so we impose rituals to reconstruct these grounding associations even if they don’t make sense until we can no longer lie to ourselves and we begin to ask who we really are if we haven’t spent a good deal of our lives building that. And even if you do there will probably come a time when you realize it’s all coming apart and your sense of meaning in life erodes as well. This song captures being there in the moment of crisis from the initial sense that something is off to the psychic cacophony that comes from losing your sense of self and place. Listen to “Commonplace” on Soundcloud and follow tummyache on her YouTube channel linked below.
Cat Casual & The Final Word’s “Asphalt” sounds like an artifact from the early 80s when the music world hadn’t completely sorted out where the line between post-punk, psychedelia, New Wave and power pop lay. The urgent, clipped rhythm guitar riff, tripped out keyboard work, William Benton’s impassioned vocals and serpentine and fiery guitar solo at the end sound like the band has deconstructed the modern instinct for tapping into music’s past not to cop a classic aesthetic so much as to create something different inspired by music from a time before everything popular in the mainstream was somewhat a product of mediated tastes. This gives the song and the band’s sound in general a certain freshness along with an air of the classic. Listen on YouTube as well as watch the performance video and follow Cat Casual & The Final Word at the links below.