Wet Leg – Wet Leg: Review

After “Chaise Longue” got released in 2021, it became a viral hit. However, because it is a viral hit doesn’t mean the quality is good, as evident with what they bring to the table on their self-titled debut. “Chaise Longue” comes from various angles; lyrically, it’s fun and innocent with verses containing sexual innuendos that aren’t explicitly dirty; adjacently, the production evokes consistent tones that feel taken from the pages from more basic punk rock bands, like Dirty NIL, who don’t thread the needle with that kind of instrumentation. Fortunately, it is a slight tumble as you cruise through the tracklist that improves on the simplicities of “Chaise Longue,” giving us a variety of melodies and instrumentations that define Wet Leg as a band. Wet Leg captures you with melodic mysticism and lush instrumentations morphing beyond surface layer cohesion between drum patterns and electric guitar riffs, especially when the band steers toward pop-rock instead of post-punk overtures.

When it comes to debuts, sometimes you have to match the levels of your first hit; if not, find ways to reinvent the wheel by evoking your artistic voice. For Wet Leg, they restructure and create parallels between vocals and production, predominantly focusing on melodies to reel us into great songwriting. Sometimes we’ll get a song about wet dreams or getting high and splurging–while acting fool–at a supermarket. It’s an effervescent consistency that gives us a sense of glee hearing how they can create potent lyricism while staying true to themselves instead of pushing for a more direct approach. As Rhian Teasdale sings on “Too Late Now:” “Now everything is going wrong/I think I changed my mind again/I’m not sure if this is a song/I don’t even know what I’m saying,” it continues to punctuate the kind of aesthetic driving the songwriting. It’s like being hit with an array of bright lights, and your only directive is to be yourself.

At its core, though, Wet Leg is creating a bridge between us and their music as the topics are relative aspects of our youths. For the most part, it works, and it’s easy to hear where it doesn’t. A definitive difference that shows its discernible quality is their youthful angsty songwriting which feels maligned when likened to more melodically driven songs. One of these differences comes from tonal shifts in the production; they juxtapose each other poorly, which causes a slight stoppage in the consistency. “Chaise Longue” is one of two that initially caused me to tune out a few seconds after playing; the other is “Oh No,” an explosive rock track that does little to make you feel that angsty annoyance of being home alone, though the lyrics don’t help either. It’s unlike “Ur Mom” or “Too Late Now,” which shows and uses a progression of sound or melodies as it goes on to round it out. They also play it more tongue-in-cheek with a lot of emotional depth where you can see yourself in their shoes.

Beneath the hiccups are strings of melodically driven pop-rock that entices a consistent return, considering they have great consistency. It’s ever so rare that these kinds of tracks have cross-appeal, where their authenticity stays keyed in making these infectious melodies without having to cut corners lyrically. They find a happy medium, where they make improper structures–sometimes venting, sometimes having fun–sound as refreshing as ever. I mean, their biggest song has them singing, jokingly, about the d or making a Mean Girls reference as Rhian Teasdale then sings about a chaise longue. She comes at most of these songs with cadence, and energy, painting luscious pictures through words. Though, none of it is possible without the vibrant range of riffs from Hester Chambers: Wet Leg’s lead guitarist. Beyond being the crux of the production, its guitar-heavy approach allows them to wane between emotional layers, like on “Ur Mom,” which plays over the last minute. It can come vibrantly like on “Piece of Shit” or “Convincing” or even full of character, like on “Angelica.”

Ultimately, Wet Leg reminds us that MGK is naive; guitar rock never left, and one of many bands reminding us of that. As far as debuts, it’s a thrill ride that offers some surprises and oh-so luscious melodies that I can’t help but have tracks like “Too Late Now” on heavy repeat.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Hurray for the Riff Raff – LIFE ON EARTH: Review

Alynda Segarra and her band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, have always walked the thin ropes of Folk music, slowly shifting from certain norms to evolve the sounds with a blend of flavors. We’ve heard her tackle the traditional side with My Dearest Darkest Neighbor, slowly branching into Americana and then rock with The Navigator. It doesn’t sound as profound on paper, but the depths that Alynda Segarra takes her songwriting and melodies with the band’s instrument playing, offer a whirlwind experience that will have you enjoying the overtures and subtleties that align within her work; it continues to be the case on their newest album, LIFE ON EARTH. The album is rich and earthy, fueled by some naturalistic punk coating that emboldens Segarra’s emotions.

LIFE ON EARTH lands on impact with moments of catching wind as their sound evolves through each track. Alynda Segarra is trying new things, and as she weaves these complex layers in her writing, the production builds till we don’t have one flavor; we have many. She compartmentalizes the core – for example: “WOLVES” has a punk aesthetic coating a more tame chord progression before it gets flipped on “PIERCED ARROWS.” Segarra’s ability to weave cohesion shows from the start, slowly acclimating into one colloquial sequence. There are moments that Segarra’s vocals growl with the same energy as the production, which for Segarra and the band, shows a kind of understanding of their core. In the realms of pop music, the production of “ROSEMARY TEARS” would embolden a powerful range from artists like Adele to Mumford & Sons. But for Segarra, she finds parallels that impact at the same level.

“ROSEMARY TEARS,” like other songs, is woven through Alynda Segarra’s mind with visceral imagery, letting the vocal emotions carry the depth. As someone who frequents herbs in the kitchen, rosemary is a faint smell, but slightly potent if brought attention to – similar to, Segarra is singing about how her significant other’s tears and the lack of transparency. In the closing bridge, she sings: “I already know/(You never show up and I’m always heartbroken)/(Had to grow tough skin).” To her, she has an understanding of her relationship, but this small piece of hope still lingers. It’s about inflection, and at times, it doesn’t work as well as “ROSEMARY TEARS.” “JUPITER’S DANCE” is the prime example of this – we hear beautifully rustic strings that echo a hybrid between punk undertones and folk-rock coating, especially with the subtle wind instruments.

For most of LIFE ON EARTH, Alynda Segarra flows through old and present memories that reflect on her life – other times, she creates these larger-than-life stories, reflecting issues resonating with her culture: Latina. “PRECIOUS CARGO” speaks on Segarra’s view of Louisiana, where she resides, through the perspective of family, especially as a Nuyorican who sees how immigrants get treated by I.C.E as they search for thriving new opportunities. In the first verse, Segarra speaks through the view of a provider trying to make it through the waters, swimming, only to get caught and treated like animals. The songwriting matches some accounts we’ve heard about, but she keeps it grounded to pieces, allowing the words to speak louder as Segarra delivers a tired essence to the ordeal. The album has many moments like that – moments I’m left in awe by the songwriting, like with “WOLVES” and “RHODODENDRON.”

“RHODODENDRON” sees Hurray for the Riff Raff at their best: poetically resonant and instrumentally captivating – for the most part, that is what we get throughout the album, albeit my reservations on “JUPITER’S DANCE.” The production embodies a rough and empathetic acoustic rock drive, giving a natural cadence to the kind of rock elements they bring. You hear it at various points in The Navigator as it becomes more pertinent in their craft. We hear it continue through LIFE ON EARTH.

LIFE ON EARTH shines brighter than previous albums, as it continues to prove Alynda Segarra’s penmanship and musicality are at their apex. It reflects a growing presence in artistry that was beautifully glowing over the past decade. Like The Navigator, there is no doubt LIFE ON EARTH will continue to stay on repeat.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The Lumineers – Brightside: Review

In sports, we have what we call “the glue guy or player;” it is usually that player who molds everything together in the most subtle ways. We’re talking mannerisms that encourage good plays and elevate after bad plays for the team members; they can be a top 5 player or someone on the bench. That usually translates to bands, and for The Lumineers, they have lost theirs, and it has become more noticeable in their sound; it was slightly apparent with their last release, III, and more so on their follow-up, Brightside. For the instrumental ideas that they bring into the fold, you hear the empty void left by cellist Neyla Pekarek, whose subtle string constructions buoyed a cadence between the elevated string and key arrangements on their more uproarious folk tracks. It misses her presence, but the album suffers from other problems, like keeping your attention. Brightside is more traditional than past albums; however, as much as this direction is something I’ve expected to come from The Lumineers, it finds itself slipping on the edge after a strong start. 

Brightside doesn’t limit itself within the parameter of its traditional folk conventions, specifically the vocals by Wesley Shultz. There are elements of alt-rock, as they incorporate more electric guitar to contrast a tame delivery of deep emotions from the mandolin. Shultz takes on us on a journey of self-discovery – one wherein we grasp these mental hurdles that sometimes hold us back, like humbling ourselves during our highs. Unfortunately, the production doesn’t tend to give these emotions justice, leaving us tethered to the neurons that make you zone out. It doesn’t help that it is one of the weaker openings for a Lumineers’ album. It tethers itself to stylings of old without feeling fresh, and sure, you can make an argument that their inclusion of a more electronic soundscape is taking the electric guitar and proclaiming it as such. Fortunately, track 2, “A.M. Radio,” is that cup of water to the face after a failed attempt at being woken up.

Now, “A.M. Radio” is what I expected from The Lumineers when I thought they would slowly transition into being more open to other soundscapes at a limited level. It buoys a powerful acoustic guitar and piano base, giving the electronic soundscape a spotlight as a bridge between verses. Wesley Shultz’s vocals are on full display as he gives us an emotionally potent song about turning back time, using radio as an allusion for an eclipse of time. The Lumineers continue to impress with “Where We Are,” where they continue to balance elements of acoustic folk and synthesizers. It continues for a little bit, but it flusters with maintaining an identity. It isn’t until “Reprise” that we get a sense of old to close out Brightside. But it makes another thing evident about the album: The Lumineers didn’t take notes of how to create consistency from their contemporaries. 

Brightside is to The Lumineers like Delta is for Mumford & Sons: after tweedling with more alt-rock elements, they go about delivering their first immersive transition to a new era/sound. It’s been looming for The Lumineers since Neyla Pekarek left, taking away unique subtle backing vocals and tender care for the strings on the cello. It counterbalanced the uproarious percussion and strings on songs like “Angela” off their second album Cleopatra and “Stubborn Love” off The Lumineers. Though there are great things on the album, it forgets that it needs to have an identity a few times. “Rollercoaster” subverts the notion of the title and allows us to feel it through the emotions in his voice, but at times it stays on a mundane wavelength before poorly executing an overabundance of simple synths and vocal modulations, which wastes two minutes of your time before it concludes with “Reprise.”

For what it’s worth, Brightside doesn’t give us a great first half as a tease; instead, it’s like the ideas start to wane thin for The Lumineers as they try to learn where they fit amongst the soundscape. Unfortunately, they haven’t found their voice in this soundscape, despite flashes. It’s because the sound is over-reliant on blending acoustics that the production has to weave layers and transitions carefully. It’s hard to have it both ways, though it may not always be perfect, like Ellie Goulding’s early years. Unlike III, there is less of a disappointment as there are no expectations for an impactful linear direction. 

Brightside may be a tad better than III, but it doesn’t fully come to its own. It rounds out at 30 minutes, and it breezes by quickly without letting you think for a moment about what you are hearing. But when you do, it isn’t as profound, but it is good enough to keep you feeling warm around a fire. I’m hoping The Lumineers figure it out because what I liked a lot works, and it would give their presence more of a definition than their typical hipster-folk/music label.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend: Review

Continuing to exhume effervescent arrays of shoe-gaze and punk rock music, Wolf Alice finds themselves underneath blue lights as they deliver a thought provoking and emotionally gripping shoe-gaze and punk rock on Blue Weekend, the follow up to the underwhelming Visions of a Life. Like the namesake of the album, its cognitive approach deals with the emotions of the listeners; particularly those with a depth filled understanding of feeling blue. There are tracks that fully gravitate in an unknown direction, and eventually find themselves coming back full circle as the themes vary, but one sentiment stays true. The songwriting and performances of the band keep Blue Weekend on a steady track as it buoys between shoe-gaze and post-punk overtures, while maintaining their brand of authenticity.

Blue Weekend is unlike some of their previous work. There is a steady incline in the quality of the production where they continue to take elements of dream pop and post punk and further create these spacious and riveting rock tracks. Front woman, Ellie Roswell, brings this kinetic energy to her performances, which takes a slight turn as it become one of the unsung hero of their work; specifically in the way she delivers the emotional veracity based on the construct, like standout “Play The Greatest Hits,” which is fueled with angst and punk flair or the melancholic and, at times, dreamy beach themed sounds on the intro and closer – “The Beach.” 

The production is a little more sonically pellucid, as it doesn’t tend to waver into wrought complexities and stoned one-note productions too much; even though there are minimal moments wherein the simplicity isn’t as engaging, like the intro section of “How Can I Make It Ok?” The same goes for the “Lipstick On The Glass.” They are the weakest links on the album, but never true deterrents with the contextual meshing it brings on both spectrums. It has this slow – minimalist buildup before it becomes these unique instrumentations.

Having these buildups isn’t that uncommon on Blue Weekend. A lot of the time it works because the songwriting grips you hard through the mixing and engineering of the vocal layers, which elevates the production’s tonal direction more. In turn, within the verses, your ears get eschewed with these vibrant metaphors, elusive Shakespearean quotes, and thoughts about the arrogance of humans, all the while realizing you also just read Vonnegut. It is like how “Play the Greatest Hits,” takes the crazy emotions one gets from hearing their favorite artist’s greatest hits and forgetting your worries as you unabashedly dance around in the kitchen, as Ellie Roswell would sing-scream on the track. Unfortunately it’s one of two tracks that felt like it could have been longer.

Blue Weekend finds itself in a constant mediation in what drives the track’s voice, both figuratively and literally, as the production’s effervescent layering of the instruments overwhelms half of the vocal performances from Ellie Roswell. But it’s to Blue Weekend’s benefit as it constantly grasps you with these captivating instrumentations, leaving you with an urge to flip on repeat and start to process over. This time you get lost in the songwriting and visceral imagery from the band. As you continue on this journey the varying tracks that emote the kind of blue you are feeling at the moment. These flow in unison with other themes on the album, ranging from relationships, motivated depression, and existential crises, amongst others, like on the tracks “Delicious Things,” and “Smile.”

“Delicious Things” broken down instrumentation plays coy with elongated and beautiful patterns on the production. Ellie Roswell writes this beautiful narrative where she feels displaced, the world is upside down, and she is around strange, but familiar, people. She is trying to mask her longing for home. “Smile,” on the other hand, eschews from conceptions as Ellie Roswell delivers a vocal performance that carries with it a rhythmic hip-hop soul from the way she makes the verses flow in a tangent similar to those of the genre. She isn’t singing as much on the verses and saving it for the transitional points like the choruses and bridges where the atmospheric and riveting performance makes you forget what the smile masks.

Blue Weekend is tame compared to past works, but it doesn’t let it become the detractor from creating these bright and clear depth of the songwriting/vocal performance and production. You’ll find yourself discovering tracks that hit you harder than others and that is fine, as the varying themes and structures of the tracks only share one common numerator, a flashing and old blue light overhead flickering that coats the tracks on the album.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Dora Jar – Digital Meadow: Review

Dora Jar’s emergence has been one beautifully organic rise to witness through the Internet. There is an authenticity behind the music; specifically in the way she constructs her music. She isn’t like many independent alternative artists today. She can shift her vocal range to match sounds ranging from rock with angst to pop ballads without skipping a beat; and her writing matches the strength of her vocals. This elevated quality delivered on her debut LP, Digital Meadow, as she continues to show immense growth in her artistry. 

Digital Meadow has moments that are unlike the music she has released prior. There is a focused shift in the lyrical and vocal aspect of the music and less toward the atmospheric strings that embodies a song like “Multiply.” This shift was first heard on the standout “Quiver,” from her debut EP, Three Songs. “Quiver” keeps the contextual atmosphere on a minimal level as she creates ad-lib harmonization between verses and choruses, but the broken and emotional doubt in the performance comes as its strongest component. 

It’s hard to find many faults without being overly picky, like the inclusion of “Quiver” and “Multiply,” on Digital Meadow. These two were highlights amongst the few tracks she has released, and they fit within the concept, which is very much like reading a. These are very well nitpicks, but as it is with concept albums like this it is always about quality over quantity. “Quiver” is a beautiful pop ballad that showed she had more than what “Multiply” delivered. Though a lot of the production takes pieces from these two songs, along with “Look Back” from her EP, and explores them more on the album.

Dora and her producers make an effort to sonically and lyrically have focus as the stories that fill Digital Meadow with cohesion. There are various avenues she explores sonically as she gives us a look into her person. On the intro, “Opening,” she lets it be known the kind of body we will find ourselves in throughout this musical journey of hers. And it proceeds as she starts to deliver pieces of her that have been with her before and since her spine re-alignment surgery, which she recently documented about on Instagram.

Using music as a crutch, as well as exuberating ambition to perform long before the surgery, Dora Jar has been able to show a wide array of unique constructs on these five new songs, like the rustic and electrifying “Polly.” It’s an anthem that emboldens individuality and strength of one, especially when you see the world as one with endless possibilities, like she sings in part of the chorus, “Below me is a city, you could call me Godzilla / Cross the road little chicken, wanna stomp upon a bully / ‘Cause I’m invincible.” And conversely she delivers a slightly dark verse before elevating the song with infectious melodies.

Dora Jar continues this on the delicately crafted “Wizard.” She flips and rearranges an inclusion like anthem. The song has this unique hip-hop like rhythm to the verses, in contrast to the felicitously poppy chorus melodies and harmonies. She closes the album on the punk rock ‘Voice In The Darkness,” which is about the plethora of emotions flowing through her mind as her aforementioned spine alignment surgery was a major worry, and understandably so. The way she brings these fears into distressing angst, and at times broken and scared, vocal performance left a tear to this eye as it flourishes from start to finish.

Digital Meadow is an amazing full-fledged debut from New York based indie alternative artist Dora Jar. She has a defined sound that can go places and it showed, from the different types of pop rock ballads and hauntingly rustic rock to expressive vocals makes this one of my favorite debut projects of the year. And even-though she isn’t selling gangbusters now; she has the talent to grow beyond and is someone I’m looking forward to seeing creates more and more.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home: Review

St. Vincent has never shied away from exuberating a lust and love for the music she creates; a lot of which have centered around a pop-like subtext, ranging from the noise and art pop of Actress to the glam rock and synth pop rock of Masseducation. She has always been an ever-growing force in music that doesn’t let universal appeal become a drawback into her artistry, and the bold choices she makes on weaving her vocal performances to fit the nuanced funk/soul sounds of her new album, Daddy’s Home, feel like a breath of fresh air. In a way these sounds have allowed her vocal performances to envelop a new stratosphere, where a lot of the key-sonic undertones of early 70s funk, sways her in this nostalgic direction, which shows the visceral strength behind the talent of both St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and Co-Producer Jack Antanoff. 

Daddy’s Home is very personal for St. Vincent, diving deep into the crevices of her life and allowing it to integrate different narrative styles. Whether she is implementing herself in a party to establish a social misery that she masks amongst friends and family or being referential to detail the stress the media induces with certain standards on, she keeps it emotionally resonating with the melodic and melancholic nuances in her vocal performance and its pace. It brings more to the atmospheric and soulful texture over many funk-inspired tracks and the more broken down instrumental like “…At The Holiday Party.” 

One of the few cruxes of Daddy’s Home goes beyond the dimensions of sonic direction. As this is her first foray into these beautiful nostalgic – era defining sounds, it comes across naturalistic and her pain, her determination, and the way life around her interacts, brings about a new sense of clarity musically. Along with Jack Antanoff, she brings a plethora of grooves and melodies that drive home the deepening realism in her themes and performances. The title song brings variant indications that the album will balance its tonal inflections with the production. 

The kind of funk that emboldens various aspects of the production on Daddy’s Home doesn’t always take a renowned approach to the pacing and instead develops a leaner and softer-melodic texture more attune to her strengths. Midway through, St. Vincent takes that unique turn by bringing forth an uptempo with an elevation in the notes of the wurlitzer and the groovy-loud bass patterns, which guides the direction laid out by the opening track, “Pay Your Way.” The funkadelic sounds don’t always get an uptick from the vibrant bass grooves and infectious sequences in the production that comes from the masterful mixing of layers by Chris Gehringer, who has mixed Loud by Rihanna and most recently Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. His work in creating the final mix has given St. Vincent’s vocals a very open and focused limelight.

Her vocal performances contain ranges in pace, which in most cases takes the emotional gravitas that embodies soul music and gives it character, in this melodic way. But the unique approach to using modulation and effects gives the vocals an elevation that the backing vocals do a little better. The modulation on “Pay Your Way,” gives it that extra level of authenticity to the kind of modulation usage in funk music from artists of yester. However, the effects on “Down,” are subtle; it gives the song and her performance a naturalistic rock approach in the vigorously strong electric guitars and thumping percussion. 

Most times St. Vincent takes the slower and melodic soul vocals and she delivers some buried emotions from the kind of relationship she has had with her father, whose release from prison was the light bulb for this sonically conceptual album. It’s a loose inspiration as she takes it to tell a bigger story that seems to be misplaced for the time. Daddy’s Home is at point literal and abstract in the music, using these stories to tell the bigger picture. But without the nuanced sound, the album’s nostalgia trip is lost within a newspaper from years ago when a white-collar crime got equal notoriety as opposed to others. It ignites the range in emotions hidden beneath. You can hear the anger, the disappointment, and the aspiration to get through the hurdles that encompass the overall being of one.

Daddy’s Home brings an influx of new sounds that make it different from what we are used to from St. Vincent, but she makes it her own and develops a beautiful array of soulful vocal performances. It elevates the emotional grip she has on the words, which become more impactful the more you listen to it. 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

girl in red – if i could make it go quiet: review

Within the slightly dominant (indie)world of bedroom/dream pop, there have been many great artists emerging and creating these clean breaths of fresh air as they expand on their sound. Norwegian indie pop rock artist, Girl in red, is one of those artists. From her early days of complex (thematically) bedroom pop to her the ever-expanding array of different sonic directions, this vibrant cohesion between her vocals and instrumentations are at center stage on her new release if i could make it go quiet. This indie rock album is full of emotional depth and bombastically vibrant rock and pop instrumentals, as we are given unique perspective on mental health and relationships.

We all know how difficult 2020 has been, and because of it there has been a slightly bigger focus on mental health, especially amongst the upper echelon. But even behind the celebrity-like coating, we share these wrought problems. Musicians and other artists have shown their emotions through it with new releases, from Folklore to How I’m Feeling, there has been an expression of their lives, physically and mentally throughout the pandemic. Girl In red never shies away from making music that captures the intricacies behind the social stigma behind the idea of mental health and that is what lets the album shine and stand apart from many artists doing similarly.  

Girl in red has taken emotional moments/events that came about in her life, during the pandemic, and has created these songs that break apart the effects it has on her being – oft times taking different approaches to the overall projection, like on “You Stupid Bitch,” which sees her talking to herself in third person. She breaks apart these hallucinations she’s been having about love and connectivity, and further showing the importance of self-love. Her writing takes a constant step up, though it wasn’t ever something she struggled with. The production with Norweigan instrumentalist Mattias Tellez, shows a continuous growth, even if you aren’t always getting a lush array of new bedroom pop.

If I could make it go quiet doesn’t completely deter from dream/bedroom pop-overtones that have been a focal point of her sound since the beginning. Starting with the illustrious rock anthem “Serotonin,” it sets a mood for the production notes of the tracks we’ll get. It carries an amplification of the electric guitar to empower the vocal performance of Girl in red, which then balances with some indie-pop vocalizations on other songs, like on “I’ll Call You Mine.” But the detachment from some oversimplified electronic (non guitar) notes, takes center stage like how “Serotonin” does as the opening song and reeling you further into the music.

“Serotonin,” has an extra layering of rock subtexts by co-producer/writer Finneas O’Connell. Its namesake is the kind of natural chemical that balances out the imbalance within mood and the lack of is one of many potential reasons for one’s depression. The way she delivers the chorus takes an uproarious approach with her rock anthem projecting vocal mixing, which continues on subsequent tracks in different ways, specifically in the songs “Did You Come” and “Rue.” 

The instrumental landscape has a focal point of the electric guitar that adds a second emotional coating to Girl in red’s vocal performance. Her vocals evoke a similar style to it, with a rough-patch overlay, which in some songs sounds like she is singing from afar. It’s the way she has been able to keep certain moody-melodic transitions smoothly from song to song. The moments of deviation from a rock – core allows her to fully dive into the roots of her emotional being and seeing it fleshed out through the various sonic contexts of the songs. At times we hear these nuances to garage rock with the way the instrumental and vocals are mixed. It switches between that and the polished work on songs like “Midnight Love.” It can deter you slightly; even though the transitions are remarkable with the way it uses the vocal performances to key in sonic transitions.

Songs like “hornylovesickmess” and “.” evoke keynotes in the transitional delivery from verse to chorus, eventually closing with a bedroom-dream pop overlay on the outro. This example only notes the complexities between the song-to-song transitions. “Midnight Love” is what follows “hornylovesickmess” and it starts with a melancholic vocal textures, which aligns more with the preceding song’s outro and it ends with a uproarious rock instrumental that aligns more with the rock sound of “You Stupid Bitch.”

The further the album progresses, the more the curtains open as she distinguishes these stories with the burgeoning emotions from the events in her life. At times the content of the song is reflective with the tonal mood of the instrumentation, like the vibrant-pop rock instrumental of “Apartment 402,” which shows a contrasting glee from the dark and broken aspect of the apartment. This apartment has allowed her to feel certain ways and lead to a kind of happiness that equates to a kind of solace if she were to die in her comfort zone. The way she dives into her subconscious allows for a beautiful cohesion of sounds in her music and as it starts with “Serotonin,” she solidifies it with “Apartment 402,” as it maintains a lingering thought in our mind.

Girl in red has always shown her strengths in minimalist detail and expands her tonal melodies to empower the thematic meaning within these cohesion of songs. That is what makes If I could make it go quiet a loud centerpiece that reaches into the core of many who relay their own connectivity and will create more intrigue for the newcomers. 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

London Grammar – California Soil: Review

Many indie/dream-pop artists evoke these glossy – sparkly – electronic overtones in the music, but London Grammar bleeds into the complexities behind their melancholy strings and minimalist percussion and electronic subtleties to build atmospheric overtures. This never falls into a repetitively basic tonal (poppy) trend, which makes them a unique presence in this “genre’s” stratosphere; however when it didn’t fully hit on their sophomore release, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, the experiences since then has allowed Hannah Reid, lead singer/songwriter, to reflect further and create these spacious and luminous – electronic-dream pop cohesion with the rest of London Grammar (i.e. the instrumentalists, outside of Hannah) on California Soil.

The new album by London Grammar switches up base constructs of simple production cues, with a mixture of piano and varying electronic sounds taking more centerstage, like the vibrant snares on “Lord It’s A Feeling.” As a whole it doesn’t rely much on an expansive synth base to overlay instrumentations. It’s what separates it from their last album, where a slight boredom arose from the lack of musical depth and engagement. But California Soil fixes that with the way it evokes its tonal and emotional notes in smooth transitions that the album rarely loses touch on what it is. 

London Grammar stylistic approach is similar to that of Beach House and Florence Welch, wherein the emphasis is put into the vocal delivery and parallel production. It is what drives the emotional force that has you feeling what she does, down to the core of her heart. And this is what makes California Soil such a profound deviation from the wrought sound from others; even though the deviation is more subtle than it appears. Part of that deviation comes from the way Hannah Reid flexes her vocal range on each song, which mirrors the tone behind the way she perceives each thematic inspiration, like on the title track, which centers around nature and landscape – comforting images with deeper meaning. 

A lot of these stories derive from the emotional complexities of the experiences and emotions had from them since the release of their last album. Like it, it has a constant motion with flipping pros and cons of relationships, mostly cons, and the overall emotional tear it can cause; for example on “All My Love,” a song in which Hannah Reid delivers this soft-spoken and powerful performance that sounds like a broken soul singing and playing guitar to herself in her room. But this is all part of a mixture of different sonic constructs that lets the little things pop out, like the minimalist – melancholic strings and percussion and spacey additions from the electronic instruments/effects. 

California Soil goes beyond the dream-pop textures. The electronic-instruments create a coating, which makes the music range in pop style, while staying consistent in tone. When it shifts into tracks that breathe an essence of a pop trend that evokes the kind of mood for those who like sad dancing. This style usually has a repetitive production pattern, specifically in the percussion, where most times it never feels like anything new. Their last album teetered on this consistently, that you try to stay with it for the vocal performances instead of the boring production that is a part of that trend.

California Soil doesn’t fully disregard this, but shifts the sonic construction to have an overall cohesion of sound behind the lyrics from Hannah Reid. These tracks with the sad dance-style have a solid constant that keeps them in a different spectrum from the ones who are vibrant and poppy for airplay. But instead these tracks become more nuanced like on “How Does It Feel,” where the upbeat portions aren’t trying to be glamorous through an overall happy-sad production approach. 

“Baby It’s You,” does so similarly, with an eloquent construction of instruments that keeps you engaged, except for the times it shifts into the chorus and her repetitively hollow lyrics become apparent, but the production makes up for it by keeping the flow interesting. This is the same essence behind “Lose Your Mind,” which has co-production from house musician George FitzGerald, to give it that soft-sparkly cover to the rest of the production. 

California Soil is adventurous, from a POV of the kind of sonic standard they have imparted on themselves, but doesn’t go off the beaten path to deliver a spread of obscurity. It’s not an everyday kind of album where you can just pop it on. But when it calls for it, the album has a lot of depth that you’ll always be left in awe by the lack of pure exposure amongst the masses. It isn’t that they aren’t popular, it is that this brand of indie-pop isn’t as big as other variations out there. And here’s hoping California Soil gives them another boost internationally.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Serpentwithfeet – Deacon: Review

Josiah Wise or, known better as, Serpentwithfeet has been a part of a musical realm of oblique vocal deliveries over experimental R&B sounds that takes influence from sonic styles of varying eras of R&B. His debut, Soil, brought a lot of the nuances from these styles as he painted these elegant pictures with his songwriting and sultry falsetto. Coming off a few low profile releases and a beautiful duet with Ellie Goulding on her 2020 release Brightest Blue, he has come back with the followup to Soil, Deacon. Deacon brings forth a series of paintings that tell stories about love, religion, and identity, as Serpentwithfeet brings forth a strong fortitude in his thematic transitions, even when songs don’t leave the consistent impact that Soil did.

Deacon, instrumentally, softens the kind of approach Serpentwithfeet takes within layers of the sonic transitions allowing for experimental consistency, though experimental is a loose term here. The experimental aspects come from these unique ways the production incorporates both conventions of R&B styles, particularly the popular parts of the blue-y 90s and and the rhythm heavy 00s; as well as an occasional vocal-gospel inflection of some of the harmonizations. There are some nuances, too, to the stylistic focus behind the percussion heavy R&B of the 00s and the slow-somber guitar centric style of the 90s, which had more focus on the blues aspect of the anagram.

Serpentwithfeet brings varying aspects of both, usually individualized on each track – one or another. Other times he is finding a beautiful blend of the two, like on “Same Size Shoes.” The beautiful melodies of the idealistic happiness he sees in the similarities between him and his lover. The production has been a key element of Serpentwithfeet’s work as it lays with the direction of his content. On Soil, he laid a foundation of his being and on Deacon he reasons with love and reasons with doubt on the surface, with the grounded songwriting creating more underlying themes. It reflects well with the broken down instrumentations on certain songs, like on “Amir,” and “Malik,” which are a combination of these idyllic men he creates in his head. 

Serpentwithfeet and his producers steer the ship through some decadent transitions from start to finish. But there are moments where a song feels like a stagnant pause with slight abruptness, like on “Dawn.” It feels like an interlude that does little to connect the dots, but it does transfer the dynamic to have some slight gospel and soul undertones to take command of some sonic moods. Similarly with “Derrick’s Beard,” an otherwise lovely interlude that feels displaced within the collection of tracks, with its somber like vocalization not mirroring what precedes and follows in conceptual mood.

“Sailor’s Superstition,” brings forth a smooth combination of soul and baroque pop textures on the R&B vocal-subtexts, which revolves around a tale about superstitions told about a commonality in relationships. Serpentwithfeet’s eloquent use of the sailor analogy, which refers to that of an attraction to opposite or in his case – same sex – person/object deterring ideas of internal happiness in this case, unlike sailors where it’d be more work related. 

Throughout Deacon, you hear a consistency in the inflection of his vocals, as they breath essences of the choir like amplification of the harmonies and at times melodies. But as reliant an album has with creating transitioning cohesion, Deacon has more individualized standouts as opposed to one big lush project you can listen to from start to finish. “Fellowship,” which closes the album, encapsulates all these themes on the back burner and delivers a smooth dance track that doubles as an ode to the bond of friendships. It’s the only thematic outlier that flows well within the contexts of the album, Deacon.

Deacon is definitively a different album than Soil, but it shows a kind of maturity in both sound and style you tend to see with artists of his mental caliber. The music breathes a life all its own with the content being vibrantly drawn in our mind through the songwriting. 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Green to Gold – The Antler: Review

Following a quiet seven years, The Antlers have made a return with their new album Green To Gold. At the time, the problem I had with their previous album, Familiars, was the length of tracks, some of which didn’t have any rewarding payoff at the end. Though it was not much of a hindrance with it’s array of unique dream-pop overtones taking the driver’s seat after a dance with chamber-pop on the remarkable Burst Apart. Green to Gold, however, is a slightly new direction for the duo from Brooklyn. It brings the aspects of the dream pop sounds and blends it with a progression of the alternative rock style of their past to create this array of beautiful cohesion from start to finish.

Opening with a pure and elegantly arranged orchestration of sounds on the song, “Strawflower,” which takes certain influence in the patterns more resonate with the undercoats of jazz music with the alternative rock overtones, like the more rhythmic upward bass with slower patterns and electric guitar with pedal effects. It sets up a tempo for what to expect as it progresses. Balancing sonic styles with the lively atmosphere and looming dark piano keys contrasting, leaving room open for the contextual mood it wants to set forth. What is ultimately delivered is tonal shifts that evoke hope and longing, amongst other themes in various ways, but as cohesive constant. 

The production Green to Gold is dreamy and atmospheric, deriving from chamber and dream-pop like subtexts in the guitar riffs; and the percussion plays into being simple – vibrant undertones to keep a fluid rock-like rhythm, while also allowing room for the varying orchestration of instruments to progress the pop-vocal dynamic. This has been a strength for The Antlers, specifically Peter Silberman’s vocals. It’s raspy and atmospheric melodies, sounding at times defeated, bring forth the themes/content within the songwriting.

Within the context of the songs, The Antlers dive into their themes and stories with an array of rock songs, where the story flows like an elegant night café rendition, but with better production value. There is an ongoing concept about certain thoughts we have that eclipse the change we sometimes never see for ourselves going forward. This is told through the story of man’s existential journey through stagnant memories over the years, but with smooth thematic transitions.

“Solstice,” focuses on a story about a summer fling, where it came and went with some lasting memories, but it doubles as this notion that one can have those dark thoughts or demons within and still find ways to keep you positivity up and your mental status balanced. It’s like a glimmer of hope for individual change and the following song “Stubborn Man,” beautifully contrasts this by being the existential quandary of “should I continue to poop, or get off the pot.”

Like Familiars, some songs start to trend up into longer orchestrations, but it blends in a way where it doesn’t linger on a “thought.” The title track, “Green to Gold,” is seven minutes long, but it never starts to feel like it wrought experience waiting for it to end like on the song “Revisited,” off Familiars. It isn’t like “Green to Gold,” simply because the trumpet-closer feels like an idea without depth, as oppose to “Green to Gold,” having a smooth and definitive end. “Green to Gold” is about transition, using seasonal change to tell the everlong process one can go to, to better oneself mentally. The production is uncanny on the surface, as much about the instrumentations doesn’t seem to be ever changing, but the subtle changes are there in the vocal pitches and the soft-dreamy guitar riffs.

Green to Gold’s instrumentations are reminiscent of the work they’ve done in the past, but with the depth filled in an uncanny way. The broken down instrumentations add a lot to the projection of Silberman’s vocals and the writing has a distinct cadence that you just get lost in the dream as flower pedals sway softly in the wind over spring flowers. It stays on that flow as Green to Gold cycles back from the closer, “Equinox,” a lively and hopeful instrumental that shows us a light at the end of our tunnel.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.