Tag Archive: the best new indie

  1. TK022: VISUALS – Levitation b/w Fata Morgana

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    Visuals - Levitation debut 7" single b/w Fata Morgana cover

    Brooklyn-based VISUALS is the project of songwriter and vocalist/guitarist/producer Andrew Fox who is accompanied here by drummer Marshall Ryan and other friends. The project has been quickly garnering kudos from all corners of the independent music industry in the past several months including nods from folks such as our friend Mark at yvynyl, the good people at No Fear Of Pop, the team led by Dodge at the incredibly excellent My Old Kentucky Blog, and the well-respected British publication NME who even included the duo in a recent “guide to the hottest new bands.” In fact, from where I’m sitting it’s easy to see that the quickly rising VISUALS are a band to watch in the months to come, so we’re incredibly excited to share their debut single in this month’s Pairings Box.

    A bubbly, lurching bassline courtesy of Brian Betancourt (Hospitality, White Rabbits) opens the single on a-side “Levitation” before the jam snaps into a groove with chirping ambiance, Ryan’s steady percussion, and a burrowing, reverb-drenched guitar riff. It’s a buoyant, soaring melody that accompanies vocalist Andrew Fox as he confesses to dreaming of escapism, “I want to fly high above this town. I do. I want to, oh, to feel it let go.” With its bright, swirling groove and, yes, its almost summery rhythm, the track effortlessly floats along never needing to touch the ground.

    The b-side presents the exclusive premiere of the previously unreleased track “Fata Morgana.” The title refers to a naturally occurring optical illusion that appears right above the horizon line in which several inverted and normal images appear stacked upon one another as a result of atmospheric ducting. Basically, this mirage can make common objects unrecognizable and appear to be floating in the sky (it’s also the explanation for many UFO sightings). True to the track’s namesake, Fox layers faded, shimmery guitar riffs atop disoriented FM samples and a shuffling Casio-beat ambiance in this sonically exotic and effervescent jam. It’s a great track that Fox describes as “a meditation on the urban landscape as it relates to the desire to move ever upward and outward.” The plaintive, slowly simmering track provides a nice balance to the single’s sonically kinetic a-side.

    If you like what you hear you can share comments and pictures of the single with VISUALS on Twitter (@visualsmusic) and on Facebook (Facebook.com/vvisualsmusic).

    You know the drill. This is a limited-edition, hand-numbered pressing. This time we did 400 copies on fluorescent lemon-lime colored vinyl alongside a special edition of 85 copies on “yellow with black swirl” vinyl for gold club members. We have less than 30 copies remaining before we’re sold out. Subscribe to the Pairings Box to get one before they’re gone.

  2. Single Servings: Thin Hymns

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    Thin Hymns

    I’m definitely feeling this Black Water EP by Chicago-based Thin Hymns. While it definitely invites comparisons to Grizzly Bear, the four tracks on this EP feature looser structural boundaries that more closely resemble the song-craft of experimental rockers like Akron/Family or even Animal Collective. Basically, you’ll hear psychedelic, folk-inspired compositions built with shifting melodies, warbling grooves and bright falsetto vocals. I’m officially hooked. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

    Thanks to our friends at I Guess I’m Floating cause that’s where we found this. This was available on super-limited edition cassette, but is now sold out.

  3. Single Serving: Cassorla – Broke Down

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    Cassorla - Broke Down

    There’s a lot to like about the latest single from Los Angeles-based Cassorla. For one, there is the Cosby Show themed music video. But, more importantly, the track is just really damn good. It features a swampy, minimalist rhythm and crispy, snarling guitar riffs as songwriter/vocalist Ben Cassorla spins out a stream of cryptic vocals. Give it a listen below.

    Cassorla’s forthcoming new EP, Friendly Benefits EP, features a lineup of talented contributors including Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper, songwriter and Dirty Projectors’ collaborator Angel Deradoorian, Christopher ‘Crash’ Richard of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Krystle Warren, Henry Wolfe, and Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation on sax.

    Like them on Facebook if you want more Cassorla-related info!

  4. Musical Pairings: Smith Westerns – Soft Will

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    We’re halfway through 2013 and from where I’m sitting, one of the most notable stories in indie music this year is the successful artistic evolution of bands whose earliest albums were notably lo-fi affairs. Indeed, Mikal Cronin’s MCII and Kurt Vile’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze are arguably the year’s most assured and engaging albums (they are my favorite anyways). On the same track, Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse is it’s own beautifully weird parallel sonic universe (and another one of the year’s best).

    Along similar lines, Smith Westerns’ third LP represents a notable shift in style for the young Chicago-based band. While their two prior records heavily referenced T. Rex and other early ’60s garage rock favorites, their third full length, Soft Will, shares far more in common with plaintively psychedelic groups like Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips than say Nuggets or Electric Warrior. Stated differently, it’s theatrical, flowery and cleanly produced. And whereas their earlier releases were prone to a loosely reckless, swaggering rock n’ roll, Soft Will (as the name somewhat implies) is content to wade in mid-tempo grooves and softly swelling melodies.

    For example, the album’s opener “3am Spiritual” is a simmering, space-rock tinged break-up ballad. Softly shimmering synths bleed across an acoustic guitar-led tune alongside Cullen Omori’s smoothly melodic vocals as he sings, “it’s easier to think you’re dumb / like you were. / It’s easier to think you’re no fun. / Who would know?” About three-quarters of the way through the melody is abruptly interrupted by a soaring, piano-greased bridge before slowly circling back in to it’s original groove. It’s hardly a new trick, although it is arguably unique in the context of Smith Westerns’ prior catalog.

    Likewise, the following track “Idol” is a sparkling clean slice of starry Brit-pop with a smooth, sparkling progression. It’s thoughtful but upbeat. Meanwhile, the dramatic and melancholy instrumental “XXII” would feel right at home on Dark Side Of The Moon. It builds slowly with a dirge like groove balanced by a warm, star-lit ambiance. In other words, what you quickly notice about Soft Will is that the Smith Westerns are more restrained and more considerate than ever before.

    In comparison, Soft Will isn’t quite as successful as MCII, Wakin On A Pretty Daze, or Wondrous Bughouse. Indeed, it’s somewhat less self-assured, relatively less adventurous, and (as a result) somewhat less engaging than those records. Nonetheless, it’s a perfectly enjoyable summer album. In fact, relative to those other records, it will probably prove to be accessible to a larger audience. After all, it’s warm and flowing pop music with little-or-no compromises that still covers new ground for the rising band.

    Recorded at Sonic Ranch, a live-in studio situated a “stones throw from the Mexican border,” Soft Will is a perfect Musical Pairing for Kasey’s recipe for Mexican-Chocolate Fudgesicles. The album is summery, but cool. It’s a melodically upbeat ode to sweltering Summer nights and the quiet moments of reflection that come afterwards. These are jams you can either blast poolside or connect with on a late night drive through the countryside with the windows down.

    The vinyl edition of Soft Will includes a bonus CD copy of the album. Go grab your copy and then head over to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Mexican-Chocolate Fudgesicles.

  5. Musical Pairings: She & Him – Volume 3



    How you feel about She & Him almost certainly hinges, at least in part, on how you feel about Zooey Deschanel. After all, Volume 3, Deschanel’s third album working with folk-pop’s M. Ward is, for all intents and purposes, both stylistically and thematically a mirror image of the persona she presents to the public. In other words, it’s sunny; it’s quirky; it’s clever; and it’s cute. Thus, if you can’t stand Deschanel’s character in the TV show New Girl, then the music she records with M. Ward for She & Him is almost certainly not for you. For everyone else, there’s plenty here to enjoy.

    In fact, Volume 3 makes the strongest case yet for Deschanel as a strong pop-music songwriter. She penned and composed all but three of the album’s fourteen tracks and pretty much every one of those tunes is catchy, warm, and a lot of fun. In fact, those three covers, although enjoyable, are definitely not the album’s strongest moments. That honor goes to Deschanel’s original tunes. Indeed, She & Him succeed, in large part, because they keep it simple and stick to their strengths. Specifically, the compositions are uniformly straight-forward (it’s pretty much all verse-chorus-verse-type stuff) with an emphasis on clean, irresistible ’60s power pop hooks and bubbly, sepia-hued melodies.

    The album opens with huge Beach Boys-esque harmonies and a snappy, tambourine-studded groove on the sun-drenched and coyly smiling “I’ve Got Your Number, Son.” With it’s syrupy melody and blissful vibes, it’s a perfect slice of nostalgi-pop that sounds almost custom built for cozy Sunday mornings and idyllic picnics in the park. It’s followed by the equally infectious “I Never Wanted Your Love.” The track is built around a string-accented, swirling groove and Deschanel’s folksy croon as she earnestly insists, “all I know is that I’m tired of being clever, everyone’e clever these days.”

    In fact, even when Volume 3 veers away from all of the rainbows and sunshine, as it does on the lyrically melancholy tracks “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” and “Turn To White,” Deschanel and Ward still sound as if they’re swimming with their heads in the clouds. The former is a bubbly, bouncing tune, while the latter is a twinkling, ukulele-led beach ballad.

    It’s a great musical pairing for Kasey’s Berry-Ricotta Pancakes. The album, like these pancakes, can transport you to another place, somewhere less complicated, cozy, and warmly idyllic. Together they’re a perfect weekend brunch pairing.

    You can pick up She & Him’s Volume 3 on vinyl here. Then head back to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Berry-Ricotta Pancakes.

  6. Three Covers of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”


    Daft Punk

    It’s been awhile since we’ve offered a new Served Three Ways. If you’ve forgotten, Served Three Ways is our feature where we offer up three different covers of a well known track as performed by three different artists. As I’ve previously mentioned, I really enjoy hearing three different bands approach the same song in different ways because, in my mind, it speaks to a commonality in inspiration as well as to the stylistic differences between those artists. Here, we get three different takes of Daft Punk’s latest power Summer-jam “Get Lucky.” To be fair, the daftside version (by Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington) is a remix, but seemed fitting here nonetheless. Which is your favorite take on the track?

    Wilco – Get Lucky
    Daughter – Get Lucky
    daftside – Get Lucky (Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington Version)

    Speaking of Summertime fun, it’s a good time to remind you about the #HDmoment campaign. As I’ve previously mentioned, Häagen-Dazs has asked me to partner with them again as their music curator for their “moments for me” campaign. As part of the campaign, they are asking their fans to share their favorite moments this season on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #HDMoment to help create the narrative for their “moment for me” story. I’ve been sharing my “me moments” online and I’ll also be watching for other people who use the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and resharing my favorites. You can find out more by visiting HDmoment.com.

    Finally, thanks to Brennan on Via Chicago whose bootleg of the Wilco recording was the source for the MP3 above.

  7. Single Serving: Dear Eloise – Vanishing Winter

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    Dear Eloise

    As some of you already know, we’ve just returned from an inspiration trip to Japan courtesy of UGG Australia’s #CreativeCouncil project. Basically, UGG Australia sent us to Japan for the better part of two weeks to seek out great food and music inspiration for the site and the Pairings Box. Finding amazing food and cool vibes everywhere we turned, I’m happy to say the trip was a success.

    On the music side of that equation, my favorite discovery was easily Big Love Records in Tokyo. The hard-to-find shop is located on the third floor of a small building off a little street in Shibuya. They offer a collection of exclusive vinyl records, cassettes, craft beer, coffee, and housemade baked goods. In other words, Big Love is nearly perfect. And those exclusive vinyl releases? They include a limited-edition 12″ single by The xx, a new 2xLP by Dirty Beaches, and a number of LPs and 7″s by rad emerging artists including Beijing’s Dear Eloise.

    In fact, that Dear Eloise single in particular has been getting a lot of play in our home since we returned. The single’s a-side, “Vanishing Winter,” burns open with a warm wall of gauzy reverb-soaked guitar fuzz and a steady beat. Much like the early releases by the Dum Dum Girls, a bright but flinty guitar-led melody and soft female vocals peak out from the haze like a light glowing underneath a mountain of fog. It’s very, very lovely.

    This is available on limited-edition coke bottle clear vinyl via Big Love Records.

  8. Musical Pairings: Still Corners – Strange Pleasures

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    It’s easy to take for granted how nearly effortless new music discovery has become. After all, thanks to the Internet, there are countless ways to discover new music in 2013. For example, there are music blogs (like this one), Soundcloud, Bandcamp, online music magazines, podcasts, Internet radio stations, and so forth. It’s easy to forget it wasn’t always this easy to find great new music.

    Once upon a time, independent music discovery often required shelling out $10-15 on an album you’d never actually heard potentially by a band you’d never heard anything from before. Personally, I can remember buying albums by bands merely because they were released by a trusted record label, because they had cool album art, or because they were recommended by a friend or band I trusted. Inevitably this led to adding both disappointing and amazing records to my collection.

    And although I think the new “normal” is infinitely more preferable to the way things used to be, I still enjoy buying the occasional LP without having previously heard anything from it. The ritual has changed though. Back in the days before the Internet, I’d buy the album at a brick and mortar store and rush to my CD player to give it a listen as soon as I could. Now, when I buy a record (often via pre-order directly from a label’s website) that I haven’t heard before, I’ll obstinately refuse to listen to anything from it digitally until my physical copy of the album has arrived and I’ve had a chance to give it a full spin on my turntable. In fact, I hadn’t bothered to download Washed Out’s Life Of Leisure for nearly two years after I bought the album on vinyl. If I wanted to hear it I’d have to pull it from my record shelf and drop it on the platter. Records added to my collection like this are still found on the Internet, but I’ve created my own ritual to accompany these discoveries.

    For the most part, it was in this manner that I first experienced Still Corners’ Strange Pleasures. The band has been critically well received since their debut record in 2011, but honestly that album passed under my radar. I’d likewise missed out on the single “Fireflies” when it was originally released last year. Instead, I discovered the band after SlyVinyl wrote (with no accompanying review) about the limited edition release of their album on vinyl by Sub Pop. In the end, I was picked it up because the album featured interesting cover art, the record was being released by Sub Pop, and it was a cool limited edition vinyl package.

    Packed with melodies wrapped in neon-lit synths and echo-soaked reverb, Still Corners’ Strange Pleasures is a dreamy joyride through the bright lights and rain-slicked streets of a dangerous yet sexy sin city. Singer Tessa Murray sings with a sort-of lonely, melancholy croon that sounds as ghostly as it does lovely, to accompany the steady rhythms and slick production of songwriter/producer Greg Hughes. The album is beautifully atmospheric throughout, but reaches it’s peak on it’s two singles “Fireflies” and “Berlin Lovers.”

    On “Fireflies” Murray is led by a tense, steady machined rhythm and a shimmery, dissipating melody. It’s enveloped in brilliant synths and a foggy atmosphere as she sweetly sings, “edge of the night, a thousand lights, moments like these, burn with the fireflies.” As the name might imply, “Berlin Lovers” features a groove that might as well have been engineered in a German club with blinking, sharp-edged synths. It’s both concise and captivating. In many ways, much of the rest of the album riffs off the same ideas and the same mood, often to equally rewarding results that live somewhere between the dreamy synth-filled grooves of M83 and the smokey atmospheres of Widowspeak.

    I can’t imagine a better pairing for Kasey’s recipe for Hibiscus Floats than Still Corners’ Strange Pleasures. The album, like the recipe, is exotic, effervescent, and flavorful. It’s a perfect album for those sweltering Summer days ahead when it’s sunny, humid and bright out. With it’s smooth rhythms and bright melodies, it’ll help keep you cool on even the warmest days.

    Buy Still Corners’ Strange Pleasures on vinyl. Then head to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for making Hibiscus floats!

  9. Single Serving: Jonathan Rado – Faces

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    Jonathan Rado has already established a name for his reinvention of 60’s-70’s psychedelica as one of the primary songwriters in Foxygen. So it’ll come as no surprise that the debut single “Faces” from his solo LP treads adjacent territory a la Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, et al. It’s not nearly as novel as his work with Foxygen, but it’s certainly no less enjoyable. Take a listen below.

    The album will be released by Woodsist this September.

  10. Single Serving: Bells Atlas – Incessant Noise

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    Bells Atlas - Incessant Noise

    Kasey and I are traveling around Japan right now, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t prepare some yummy music goodness for you while we’re away. For example, Oakland-based Bells Atlas are easily one of my absolute favorite new music discoveries. In fact, their debut EP is definitely contributing heavily to the soundtrack for our trip. I’d bet that after you take a listen to the shuffling, shifting groove “Incessant Noise” and you’ll be hooked too. You’ll be hearing more about them in this space.

    Buy the EP from Bandcamp.

  11. Single Serving: Seatraffic – Conscious Awake

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    Seatraffic - Conscious Awake

    San Francisco’s Seatraffic are already familiar to many of our readers, as a number of their recent tracks have found homes on our monthly mixtapes in the past few months. For the rest of you, now’s as a good a time as any to make their acquaintance as they’ve recently returned with a pair of new jams including the crystalline synth-cut “Conscious Awake.” A glistening melody floats weightlessly alongside a steady beat and dream-spun vocals on this glowing pop tune. It’s yet another sign that this is a duo to watch out for.

    Visit their website for more fun.