Allison Lorenzen’s 2021 album Tender is the kind of record you take in and get transported to a place beyond time and outside linear logic. Like dream pop from beyond the Wardrobe to a reconciled, peacetime Narnia. But in Lorenzen’s deep atmospherics are moments of mystery and darkness and Jack Manzi tapped into that for his video collaboration with Lorenzen and the treatment of the song “Vale” through Silver Island Studios. Cast in black and white with stylized movements, some seemingly ritualistic with the trappings thereof as well, and set in a wooded area per the song title, the grainy and hazy drone of guitar perhaps provided by musical contributor Madeline Johnston (Midwife) offering an immediate emotional lens alongside Lorenzen’s own solemn, processional piano and the sparest of percussion, the video is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s 1945 avant-garde film classic A Study in Choreography for Camera. Like if Deren had collaborated with Georgia O’Keefe on the visual design and produced a film rural mystical noir. Lorenzen’s enigmatic lyrics are like a dark prophecy that fades with the sustained gloom of the song like a dream that isn’t a nightmare but imbued with a sense of menace nevertheless. It’s the kind of mood that is somehow worth visiting to give voice to the feelings that haunt you in moments of heightened anxiety as a way to gain comprehension of them and loosen their ability to grip your psyche. Watch the compelling video for “Vale” on YouTube and follow Lorenzen at the links below.
Now that summer is over, Walshy gives us a reminder of the early morning energy of that season with “Long Time.” In the video a woman wakes in a wooded glen and we see a green caterpillar crawl casually over her hand whole she looks at her hands as if they are new parts of her body while around her natural colors turn strange and the sonics of the track warp and wash out for moments before going back on track in warm tones but with a dynamic a little collage and a little like the tape upon which it’s recorded is melting. But she dances on from the green and purple landscape morning into sunset like all of these tripped out color changes are a dream and in the end when she writes on the screen the name of the artist in green paint the whole presentation gets even more meta but in a playful way that suggests that even when life gets a little weird and unsettled we can have fun and get through it if we don’t get too caught up on when things go off the rails a little. Watch the video for “Long Time” on YouTube and connect with the Dublin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Walshy at the links below.
Borrowing elements of Chuck Berry’s 1964 hit “No Particular Place to Go” Hoagie Reignz finds a way to suffuse hip-hop bravado with rockabilly with his song “Ridin’.” In the video our hero further mixes imagery with a leather jacket with spikes and his ride looks to be a white, 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition. His lady friend is dressed in a red and white polka dot dress and also looks like she stepped out of the late 50s. But the lyrics are like a transposition of today’s lingo to the Chuck Berry style with a few words swapped in so it isn’t wack. And yet while there is plenty of humor underpinning the song it isn’t simply a gimmick. Hoagie Reignz makes this work and his genre bending is inspired and creative with an astute blend of visual signifiers in the video as well. Who doesn’t love a little sly subversion? Watch for yourself on YouTube and follow Hoagie Reignz at the links below.
You can all but see the end credits of a moody action thriller scroll with overcast sky and gentle rainfall from the very beginning of SV’s single “How Did It Feel” especially once Ariana Celaeno’s breathy vocals drift into the song to linger such is immediate cinematic quality of the song. Celaeno’s voice is like a figure we see wandering off into the foggy distance, dropping lines like “tell me how did it feel/crushing my heart into pieces without any fear” and outlining the various hurts she’s endured from someone that supposedly loved her. Not in an accusatory way, nothing that aggressive, but almost matter of factly and in that way more affecting. Perhaps one could think of it as a summary of the movie that had just happened, though never was, and reflecting on the experience with a mixture of regret and resignation. A lonely piano figure seems to trace this path and synth drones carry an ambient melody in the background, all accented by precise, downtempo percussion lending it lush trip-hop flavor an enigmatic quality that tops off a song that ends on a more satisfying note than many movies these days. Listen to “How Did It Feel” on YouTube and follow SV at the links below.
“Without Reserve,” the latest single from Sex Park’s forthcoming full length album out on Dowd Records later in 2022, showcases the trio’s elegant songwriting in the realm of post-punk. The group’s debut LP Atrium (on Denver-based post-punk band Voight’s Vacant Decade imprint 2018) revealed an ability to craft ebullient darkwave tracks with urgent guitar hooks and early No Age-esque lo-fi aesthetics. The vocal accents and layered rhythms and melodies lend the song an emotional nuance worthy of its lyrics sketching vividly a headspace of someone doing what he can to cope with the anxieties and unresolved emotional traumas that can build like a persistent specter always on the edge of consciousness. Yet the soothing sounds and energy of the song which has a flavor reminiscent of Technique period New Order and wouldn’t sound out of place on a a Future Islands record minus the guitar. As for the latter, the delicate arpeggios hang perfectly off the synth lines tracing the paces like something you might hear if Depeche Mode had guitar on Speak & Spell in that it would never be the focus of the song, just another element to create a deep mood that itself is the goal of the song as a vehicle for expressing feelings and ideas that can be heady but delivers well with a mix of minimalist elements. At a time when many modern post-punk and darkwave bands have settled into stylistic predictability, Sex Park gives us a song that reconciles its influences with a modern sensibility apt for conveying a complexity of thinking and feeling in a way accessible without downplaying struggle. Listen to “Without Reserve” on Spotify and follow Sex Park from Portland, Oregon at the links provided.
The images of the band at play and frolicking in the sunshine and the upbeat hooks of Laveda in the music video for “Surprise” serve as a great contrast to deep spirit of melacholy of the lyrics. Even the imagery of the video shows a place where not all the grass is green, where the playground equipment looks well worn and the buildings show signs of the kind of urban decay that used to be a major feature of all American cities of size and is starting to again if you’re not too dazzled by the veneer of “development.” The song’s lyrics really do get to a social phenomenon that has been at play in the USA going back thirty years when generations of students and young people in general are told to manage their expectations in the richest nation on earth and to just accept that all the lies we’re told growing up about working hard and getting educated and that anyone can be anything they want but when you get there it’s more challenging than you’ve been led to believe. “Thought I’d give away my youth/To something better used/And I need it babe/It’s just part of the day” really articulates that feeling of being beat before you’ve had a chance. “I don’t know/never talked much/Sometimes feelings not enough/There’s a deeper pain/It’s empty” later in the song maybe isn’t about how if you keep up your spirits that you’ll get through the tough times but there’s nothing on the other end of those tough times but more of the same. And “Get up/I know we just made it home/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober/Being alive is just getting old/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober” has to be one of the more poignant lyrics that addresses the fatigue, the overwork, the sudden realization that hustling may not be a temporary situation for your generation and that self-medication is one of the only ways to cope when all other paths to changing things seem to be closed to you. And yet in the irresistible haze of Laveda’s guitar work and propulsive rhythm there is a sense of hope and perseverance against the tide of history because what else are you going to do but at least do some of the things you love and not give your heart and soul to a system that will crush everyone under to perpetuate its destructive funnel of all the goods of society to fewer and fewer hands. Watch the video for “Surprise” on YouTube and follow Albany, NY’s Laveda at the links below. The band is currently on tour with a stop at Denver at Lost Lake Lounge on September 25, 2022.
You can hear distant voices through the white noise and hazy melodic tones before the vocals come in like someone contemplating imponderables during those late night hours trying to follow a path from tiredness to the spiritual tranquility of dreams. The percussive bell tone loop sounds like the turning of the internal clock while the hours stretch on when you feel maybe too tired to sleep which sounds counterintuitive. But this collaboration happened between producer and multi-instrumentalist BlauDisS based in Washington DC and art pop/multimedia duo &Tilly based in Slovakia with the former experiencing perpetual sleep deficits due to being a new parent and the latter perhaps due to insomnia. And, honestly, anyone that suffers from health issues that make falling asleep difficult or a terrifying possibility before the body and the brain are in sync to make that happen and you end up being up later than you would like and during that time one’s brain and perceptions run in unusual ways, like an altered state of consciousness. This song with the ethereally melodic vocals and layered loops of rhythmic sound and drones not only parallels that unreality but serves as a musical soothing of the mind making an easing of the transition from extended consciousness into sleep seem possible rather than an ordeal as though the collaborators dipped deep into their experience with the phenomenon to craft the kind of music you’d want to hear to put your body and mind at rest at the same time. The music video (below in both forms) is like a hypnogogic fairy tale offering vivid images that are reminiscent of the kinds of situations and scenes you’d see in a dream like the faces of strangers but having an easy communion with them even in the most unusual of situations that would never likely happen in real life like wearing a diving mask to walk in the park. It’s difficult to compare this track to much else as a touch stone except for maybe the early work of High Places when the compositions were more intuitive and organic and seemingly sprung from the stuff of the subconscious mind, suffused with warm and gentle melodies and informal rhythms. Watch both videos for “3 AM Lullaby” on YouTube and connect with &Tilly at the links below.
Foyer Red’s ebullient pop single “Pickles” contains a richness of ideas and concepts both thematic and musical if you take the time to give its nearly four minutes a listen. It starts off with a spare but intricate twin guitar line and accented bass line before the vocals come in with lines seemingly sketching thoughts and observations on modern living and its attendant anxieties. But also imagery suggesting how in clinging to certain relationships and associations from those romantic, social, civic, artistic can hold us back from growth until we’re willing to let it go. When the two vocals trade off lines we are treated to a literary examination of these social phenomena as we feel them and not in some theoretical or ideological way but in how they impact us daily though at the time we can ignore how things are decaying and failing to serve our life or the function these things had for us or for anyone. The lines “torpid/standstill/what grew/shriveled/pillars of sand/are no match for tempered winds/facing the north side/you don’t get enough light” and then “huffing/slow burn/building/friction/save what/you can/watch the walls as they give” could really refer to anything but is so poignant in capturing what it’s like to be around when you’re the lifer in any situation (job, music scene, band, DIY space, school, relationship etc.) and maybe you should salvage what you care about and move on. You don’t need to carry the pressure of preserving some ideal that isn’t there anymore. It’s not a song about giving up or being cynical about what matters, it seems to be about self-care and with the aim of actually getting on with what’s important once again and maybe building something somewhere else with other people or at least not clinging past the time when all the juice and life is gone. Musically it has resonance with classic C86 bands but more contemporaneously with groups like Palm, LVL UP and Lithics with a bit of math rock and twee and the clear, yet unpretentious, artistic ambition of not just the lyrics but the dazzling array of sounds and song dynamics that are irresistible from beginning to end. Listen to “Pickles” on YouTube and follow Foyer Red at the links below.
Neil Foster establishes a sense of place at the beginning of “Summer Falls” with the sound of wind and birds in the placid moments of early morning. The way the track evolves it sounds like the composer is using piano, strings, synths and electronic sounds to track the course of the sun as it arcs slowly and peacefully to midday. The swell of sounds conveys a sense of witnessing the subtle but unignorable power of the sun and in moments when the surge of sounds subsides for it’s as though we’re getting a glimpse through Foster’s eyes of the surrounding landscape lit up by sunlight and the sparkle of the light on water going over a nearby falls to a lower part of the river rather than a steep, intense falls like Angel or Niagara. No, the kind many of us see regularly who have the privilege to live near streams and rivers that flow through changing elevations. Foster captures the various moods and textures of observing this everyday experience and the tranquil and inherent beauty to dynamics and processes that have gone on before humanity existed and will likely continue after we are gone but being witness to this simple wonder can strike one as significant in itself knowing that we can appreciate things that go on whether we’re there to bear witness or not. Listen to “Summer Falls” on Spotify and follow Neil Foster at the links provided below.
The Wheel Workers has proven itself as a band that excels at creating a sense of forward momentum and introspective mood in the material for it’s new album Harbor which released on 8/26/2022. A fine example of the song “Day After Day” that establishes a strong low end push in the beginning with vocals that follow a wide ranging arc of tone that syncs well with the synths and when all the elements come together mid-song and transition into a more contemplative passage it’s obvious that we’re not hearing a band that got some memo about how post-punk is supposed to sound. It’s more akin to something we might have heard out of New Model Army or The Sound or some 1980s art pop/rock band willing to get creative with arrangements and song structure so that a song’s ability to keep and hold your attention continues to the end. The fact that the song seems to be about being fed up with needing to try to recreate institutions and ways of living that have failed us rather than establishing something that works better for everyone and to nurture a vision for a more viable and nurturing future society and not wait around for someone to do that for us or wait for some authoritarian order to impose a new frame upon us despite what we might all like to see is just a bonus. The line “I train my heart to let go day after day” speaks eloquently to a willingness to realize that the way things were held up so high is turning out to be a collective romanticizing of a dysfunctional society and its norms because things now seem so decayed and on the verge of collapse when we can imagine and make better. Listen to “Day After Day” on YouTube and follow The Wheel Workers at the links provided.