The more I hear from the new Nap Eyes LP, the more I can’t wait to get my hands on their new LP, Snapshot of a Beginner. In this track, the song seems to rely upon the patience, both in Nigel’s songwriting craft and in the listener; there’s just this overwhelming feeling of calm that arises as you listen through the lyrics. On those, to me, it also reflect moments of patience, making nods to the mundane activities that often lead us to the daydreams of the world’s mysteries, only to find that the best mystery is probably all that’s around us…that’s how I see it anyways. Look for the new LP on March 27th via Jagjaguwar.
I feel like Nap Eyes are one of the great unassuming bands out there; they’ve got a songwriting consistency that we all hold near and dear, though they often seem to go quietly unnoticed for their gifts. Perhaps that’s about to change with Snapshot of a Beginner, the band’s new LP; there’s promise of more punch and larger arrangements added to their poetic craftsmanship. It’s prevalent on the new single “Mark Zuckerberg” with a definite rocking element pushed through by the stomp of the snare and heavy riffs. Still, the greatest moment comes at the 1:41 moment with the line “transcendence is all around us;” it’s this beautiful moment that lets your mind and body drift away. The new LP is out on March 27th via Jagjaguwar/Royal Mountain.
Of all the solo-powerhouses in the indie rock / folk world, few have resonated with me quite as much as the work of Sharon Van Etten. At this point, I’m sure you’re quite familiar with her story: small time broody indie-nobody quietly releases album after album of her own unique brand of raw and powerful music that sits well with fans of The National, Bon Iver, Beirut. Oddly enough, these incredible records like 2014’sAre We There,and 2012’s Trampfailed to push Van Etten into the main fray of the indie world. Cut to 2019: she’s on billboards in NYC, playing Jimmy Kimmel, and pretty much every music publication under the face of the sun is talking about Sharon.
The first thing I noticed at her ACL Festival performance back in October, at which she played a few of the tracks from her new record, is that the guitar was missing. While these tracks–what I came to find out would be the singles for this release–came with a hard bite, the meat of most of the songs were heavy synths played by the inimitable Heather Woods Broderick. We got a bit of a taste of this direction onAre We There,though it was always countered with guitar, be it acoustic or electric. Singles “Comeback Kid,” “Jupiter 4,” and “Seventeen,” as they were released all confirmed this synthy-almost-pop approach, but Van Etten’s sulky vocals kept them grounded in her classic style. On “Comeback Kid,” we have big drums, wailing synths, and Van Etten’s voice as commanding as we’ve ever seen it. “Seventeen” sees her downright screaming, whereas “Jupiter 4” seemingly brings us back to the kind of track we’ve come to expect from Van Etten.
Each of these songs, and the whole record for the most part is a look back on past. This perspective shines brightest in the leaps SVE takes on “Jupiter 4” and “You Shadow.” The former is seeping with desperation and longing to be loved and the insane anticipation of stumbling into something good: “It’s true, that everyone would like to have met / a love so real.” The track a gorgeous love song–though it’s heavy in atmospheric synth, you get a little bit of guitar cutting in, but Van Etten’s vocals take the center. This song is a leap: like most SVE tracks, it’s rooted in this slow pace that seems ominous, but the lyrics are some of the most heart-warming we’ve ever heard from her. She confesses this love continues to move her now: “Turning the wheel on my street / my heart still skips a beat.” This song is a sincere and steadfast confession of being moved by the power of loving someone else, which is a feat to accomplish without sounding corny or trite.
“You Shadow” comes later on and takes the approach of a sing-song-y taunt you’d expect to hear in an argument between teenagers; it’s actually probably the most ‘pop’ track we’ve ever heard from SVE and it’s infectious. Though simple, the song’s melody gets wedged in to your head. The crunchy sounds are juxtaposed well by lighter, bouncy keys. The whole number has this laid back groove to it, but the casualness of the beat and the smooth delivery from Van Etten is contrasted highly in the bridge, where we get the sweeping power vocals once more. It’s a weird combination, but the result doubles down on the strength of the words Van Etten jeers: “You ain’t nothing / You never won.” One moment she’s telling us a story from the perspective of someone emotionally removed, bitter. Next in the bridge, she’s right back in the moment, spilling with emotions and raw anger.
SVE made a lot of bold sonic changes onRemind Me Tomorrow and the two tracks I described were examples of these choices paying off in a big way, but the rest of the album doesn’t always offer that same kind of payoff. I find myself not quite connecting with every song as I’d like to, and as I have in the past. Don’t get me wrong, in the end,Remind MeTomorrowis a good record, but it pales in comparison to her past two albums both in songwriting strength, and in musicality. Sharon Van Etten is immensely talented and well-deserving of the moment she’s having, but this record feels less vulnerable, which is what I’ve always found to be a ridiculously compelling factor (if not the most compelling factor) of her music. Oddly enough, though the sound is bigger than she’s ever done before, Van Etten is emotionally guarded behind those buzzing synths.
Perhaps with revisited listening the guard will come down, Remind Me (to listen again) Tomorrow.
Sharon Van Etten is poised for great things in 2019, at least if you read all the cool blogs and what not. I’ve always enjoyed her work, but I’m admittedly on the fence with the new sound. Her voice has always had this emotional sprawl and surprising range, but that’s always been draped over some great guitar work. This time around, the vocals have the same power, but there’s less guitar and more prominent electronics. It still pulls at your emotions, and Van Etten can still draw you in on her voice alone, but, I just am not connecting like I once did. But, who am I to say…make your own choices. You can do that when Remind Me Tomorrow drops on January 18th via Jagjaguwar.
Admittedly, I can’t help but think of early Tallest Man on Earth when I listen to Cut Worms. But, also in all fairness, we covered those early releases quite a bit, so it makes sense. All that being said, there’s a little bit more of a pop swing in the sound, as opposed to a clear Dylan predecessor. Take the 2 minute mark and the rushed stutter and burst, before that forlorn harmonica reappears and crafts a sense of wonder and longing. This song will feature on his debut album, Hollow Ground, dropping on May 4th via Jagjaguwar.
S. Carey‘s latest video really hits home for me, and not just musically. I used to live in Yellowstone. True story. And, I’ll admit, I wish I had Carey’s tune in my car as I drove throughout the park on errands and what not; it does perfectly match the setting and ambiance of traveling through the park. But, be warned, as they actually don’t hit the park until about the 1.5 minute mark; they go through some other locales, equally as majestic. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just a damn good song, but I’m going to keep watching this video on repeat for a bit. You’ll find this track on the latest LP, Hundred Acres, via Jagjaguwar.
Max Clarke’s Cut Worms project caught our ear last year with his latest EP, but today’s news promises the debut album we’ve been anxiously awaiting. This tune harkens to a purity in the pop canon, though it’s elevated ever so carefully with Clarke’s extra touches. There’s almost a Western swing added to a seemingly 60s era pop tune via the guitar lines darting out quickly through your speakers. I’m also really attracted to the brevity of it all; it’s short, sweet and to the point. Hollow Ground will be released via Jagjaguwar on May 4th. He’ll also be in Austin for SXSW, if you’re going to be around.
The formula for writing a great pop track is to really latch onto a solid melody; you don’t need much more than that to pull the emotional heartstrings of most listeners. And, when it comes to the work of Cut Worms, Max Clarke pretty much abides by this rule, though with an added element of artistic flare. This brand new track has the bare essentials, working with a nice strum and solid melody; it sort of has the feel of classic 60s pop songwriting. What’s most impressive are the elements that you’re likely to overlook if you find yourself immediately charmed…like the layers of extra guitar licks or the organ tinkering about in the distance. Whatever its is, it’s hard not to find yourself entranced by Mr. Clarke. And if you’re enjoying yourself, go check out his Alien Sunset EP on Jagjaguwar.
The Canadians formerly known as Viet Cong, now known as Preoccupations are readying what is sure to be one of the top albums of 2018. I’m probably a little late on this since I was in a snow day stuper yesterday, but when songs are as good as “Espionage”, I’ll share them late or not. The track has a very 80s electronica, new wave feel to it with the usual intense vocal delivery from frontman Matt Flegel. This is shaping up nicely.
Preoccupations will drop New Material on March 23rd via Jagjaguwar.
While I’ve admittedly been a really power-pop/indiepop state of mind, this tune from Cut Worms was able to make its way into repeated spins. Songwriter Max Clarke is said to have written this tune after the passing of Lou Reed, and I think Lou’s looking down with a grin. The slight quiver in the vocals really helps deliver that emotional pull, and I like the natural melodic turns that come with change of phrasing. Something nostalgic here, making me wish I was turning this up as I drove off into the horizon. Look for the Alien Sunset EP from Cut Worms on October 20th via Jagjaguwar.