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When I was about 11 or 12, I was really into softcore emo. It was the peak of the genre’s mainstream success- I found a mix CD in my room the other week which included music by both Fall Out Boy and Fergie. My favorite song to come out of that era was a song called “The Rescue” from a lesser-known Detroit emo-punk band, Search The City. It was an acoustic version from Youtube, and I listened to it every day for probably a year. It was the kind of song that made me feel content and wistful at the same time; it was sad and yet somehow comforting. It made me feel stirred but at peace.

That’s how ‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ hits me. (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to draw any stylistic comparisons to mid-2000s emo.) Elementals have crafted a captivating and pleasantly nostalgic record. That’s not to say it’s all flowers and sunshine. At times it can be as abrasive as it is delicate- Elementals don’t take the backseat. Opener “Sunbirth” showcases the growling power behind the band, and “Belladonna” does a great job of playing up the album’s softer side. My favorite track, “Alexandra,” swirls both extremes into a sweeping ballad reminiscent of a subtler Pavement.

All in all, ‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ is a record that I’m kind of obsessed with and highly recommend to fans of just about any rock band. It’s been on heavy rotation in my dorm room, and no one in my hall has complained about the noise, so I think that says it all right there.

‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ will be released on September 11th.

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In the drones and ambient soundscapes of Soiled’s ‘Splices and phases’ there is a sense of urgency and suspense. There’s something about the album that seems intergalactic, like the soundtrack to the space odyssey of your nightmares.

With song titles like “Caustic surplus of robotic smiles” and “Spectrum binary training” it’s easily interpreted as a futuristic body of work. Yet its depth and character lie in its ties to the past: the subtle piano of “Dull ached spaced,” the church-choir intro to “Boulby deep mist,” the simple guitar of “Footsteps.” Each song is individually beautiful and the album itself is cohesive and magnificent.

I have a complicated relationship with ambient music. There’s a fine line between boring and beautiful. ‘Splices and phases’ is an album that is never dull but doesn’t try too hard to make itself likable, either.

My personal favorite tracks off the record are the aforementioned “Caustic surplus of robotic smiles” and “Creepy crawling and drifting,” but I would recommend a listen in its entirety.

‘Splices and phases’ is a darkly gorgeous album that I highly recommend. Listen to it on a night drive or a rainy morning. Trust me on this one.

 

Purchase or stream the album on Bandcamp here.

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by Ryan Nichols

It was thrilling- weeks after news that Radiohead were indeed back in the studio working on their ninth full length, ringleader Thom Yorke threw another album onto the internet. I don’t need to cover the release method for you; by now you likely remember the world-changing moment of the ‘In Rainbows’ release in 2007, the surprise “THANK YOU FOR WAITING” for 2011’s King of Limbs, and the other seemingly random ways the band has distributed their music to the world (“These Are My Twisted Words” via private torrent trackers being my favorite). Yorke’s latest release, ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ (go ahead, say the title aloud) was all the more impressive, and not because of its own release method. Coming just a year after Atoms for Peace’s extremely undercooked debut album (which I’m convinced Yorke and Nigel Godrich created solely themselves), and with no prior warning – aside from one photo that revealed almost nothing – it’s a lot more impressive without a wild release method or any fanfare of waiting for the record.

You may notice the similarities to ‘The King of Limbs’ before you even play the record. The style of Stanley Donwood’s art and the number of tracks and runtime (eight, less than 40 minutes) give a familiar feel. The beauty of this record is that it occupies the space of ‘The King of Limbs,’ which was the breakthrough moment when Radiohead realized they didn’t have to make the grandest album in the universe every time. Instead, they crafted a much more personal and captivating atmosphere as opposed to the sad balladry of ‘OK Computer,’ the landscape-changing appeal of ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac,’ the grandiose of ‘Hail to the Thief,’ and the elder, more personal nature of ‘In Rainbows.’ ‘The King of Limbs’ felt like a band at a strong comfort level, and ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ sees their leader expand and improve on it. It would be wrong to not pair the two albums together, as they absolutely feel like companions (moreso than ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ did, and those were recorded in the same sessions), and could easily play together. ‘Boxes’ yields almost no similarities to Yorke’s previous 2006 solo debut ‘The Eraser,’ a lovely though dated – especially in its middle sections – album. It exists in a new place, one I’d like to see Radiohead continue with in the future.

Opener “A Brain in a Bottle” has the same static propulsion you’d see from Amok’s “Default”, but it carries a weight that song failed to ever capture on record. It continues the sci-fi, interplanetary theme from the record’s cover with synths that sound like ray guns and the low rumble of a spacecraft. It was released as the single for ‘Boxes,’ and lacking any acoustic instrument (unless I’m missing something), it works well as the leadoff and statement of intent declaring that we have a record that doesn’t quite sound like it’s from planet earth. To counter this, “Guess Again!” opens with piano, an instrument Yorke has based a lot of his solo career around (“Analyze”, “Cymbal Rush”), and is used wonderfully on both this song and “The Mother Lode”, unsurprisingly the two tracks the vast majority of the “we want the old” side of the Radiohead fanbase have praised the most. The lyrics are a vivid portrayal of a nightmare, interestingly delivered with the lower register snarl you’d see on an older song like ‘The Eraser’s “Black Swan”, rather than ‘Amnesiac’s “Pyramid Song”, which the song somewhat correlates to. I wish Yorke would sing in the lower tones more; even as he ages he can still skillfully nail the higher notes, but his lower tones (which he did used absurdly well on Flying Lotus’ “Electric Candyman”) always come across as really impressive to me. The aforementioned song, “The Mother Lode,” is frantic, its grooves and repeating piano figures seemingly running away from “the knife behind the curtain”, further invoking the lunar, dark-side-of-the-moon feeling the record has led us to at this point. Bridge “Interference” sounds like Yorke singing over an interlude from Scottish masters Boards of Canada, arguably the world’s leader of “these guys sound nothing like anybody else.”

“Truth Ray” is the most stripped down song here, setting up the eerie second half of the album well. You feel you’re falling further down the darkened crater of the planet represented in the artwork, and Yorke’s voice is the only thing guiding you down. The album’s wondrous conclusion is a triptych of “There is No Ice (For My Drink)”, “Pink Section”, and “Nose Grows Some”. “Ice”, in addition to being one of (if not THE) best song titles of the year, features a ravaging groove, and once again exhibits where ‘Amok’ dared to go but didn’t. Like that album’s eponymous closer, it has the sound of what was originally a normal pop track, yet chopped and screwed and turned into a newly catchy, brilliant number (see “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”). At seven minutes, it flies by at an impressive rate, before dissolving into the gorgeous interlude of “Pink Section”, one of the more experimental pieces Yorke has ever released, complete with crackly piano samples, a falsetto (or a sample of wind?), and the vision it implements of wandering lost through a bitterly cold snowstorm, trying to find the last glimpse of heat. The closer “Nose Grows Some” is this sense of heat, a very comforting end to the album, tying things up similarly to the way “Separator” tied up ‘The King of Limbs.’ Yorke’s voice is welcoming and even hopeful, as the synths rise and fall in beautiful tones and the melodies soar. It exists in a great headspace, serving as an escape from the nightmares and horrors the album may have hinted at but never truly delved into at any point. People want Yorke to go darker on his albums, and while he does reach some eerie places, he always seems to remember why people fell in love with his songwriting in the first place: while lonely and detached, something about his voice and the way he writes his melodies just make you feel right at home.

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Before I begin, a moment of silence for Vivian Girls.

Okay. Now we’ve all paid our respects, I can introduce the magnificent body of work that is ex-frontwoman Cassie Ramone’s debut solo record.

On its surface, ‘The Time Has Come’ is Ramone’s foray into dark folk (a la Angel Olsen, not the crazy neo-Nazi stuff that came up when I searched the term to make sure I was using it correctly.) Loglady Records, the label on which the album was produced, describes it on their website as “a somewhat contemporary take on what a modern day Karen Dalton record may sound like.” But Ramone is much more than the sum of her parts; she marks her personality on every note, and honestly, if I didn’t know better I’d think this was her main project.

The album opens with the equally sunny and haunting “Song of Love.” The song begins with Ramone giving thanks that she’s moved past a bad time of her life, but it’s clear that she’s still caught up in her past, especially with the closing lyrics: “Every night when I rest my head/ I tell the bedboard that I’d rather be dead than where I was those years ago.” It’s masterful writing and a very moving track.

“I’m a Freak”, a nonchalantly self-depreciating track, is another highlight. “Don’t invite me home to dinner ’cause I’ll make a scene,” Ramone warns.

The best song on the album, however, is “I Don’t Really Wanna.” It’s intimate, more of a personal narrative than anything else, and beautifully composed. Originating as a subdued, traditional folk ballad, it transforms into something entirely different by the end. Harsh noise and acoustic guitar? Sure, why not.

‘The Time Has Come’ might clock in at just 23 minutes with 8 tracks. (This is probably a good thing, because otherwise I’d lose a lot more time listening to it over and over and forgetting my responsibilities, like actually writing this review.) But it’s one of the best folk albums I’ve heard this year, so I’ll accept that. I love you, Cassie Ramone.

 

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for the feel

 

Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin aren’t strangers to punk- listen to their older work with the now-defunct riot grrl outfit Mika Miko and you’ll see what I mean. Their debut album as Bleached, ‘Ride Your Heart,’ may have leaned to the softer and glossier, but don’t be fooled; on their new EP, ‘For the Feel,’ the sisters Clavin prove that they can bite.

The title track is a nod back to the duo’s first few singles: sunny, light and simply constructed. What keeps it from blending in with the rest of Bleached’s discography is the tantalizing supporting bass and, of course, the deliciously noisy guitar solo. It’s one of their better tracks, in my opinion.

“Poison Ivy” is the second track, as well as the best. It’s a cover of doo-wop group The Coasters, but it fits Bleached perfectly. The riff is even more addictive on Jessica’s classically tinny beach-rock guitar, and Jennifer’s sweetly snarky vocals punctuate the song perfectly.

And last but not least is “Born to Kill;” as to be expected from the title, this song has the most kick out of the bunch. It’s another cover, this time of The Damned; a good, old-fashioned punk song with loud guitar, catchy hooks, sharp drums.  Jennifer sings with a casual swagger over Bleached’s signature steady, fuzzed-out guitar. Where the original recording is almost ironic in its lightheartedness, Bleached make one thing  clear: this is a battle cry.

In an interview with Stereogum, Jennifer said that “For the Feel” was a track originally intended to be on ‘Ride Your Heart’ but set aside for later. I personally feel it was a regrettable decision to leave it off, but seeing as its release as an EP brought us two more fantastic tracks….well, I guess I can’t complain TOO much.

Julia’s rating: 8/10

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What Team Am I On Album Art

by Hadley Harrison

The Hawks (Of Holy Rosary)’s ‘What Team Am I On?’ enters the ever-growing garage-pop scene with a balance of honest, accessible lyrics and straightforward melodies, reminding the listener of the genre’s humble beginnings. Lyrically, The Hawks keep it simple, focusing instead on an energy that would make a live performance raucous—much like garage rockers FIDLAR and The Orwells.

After meeting in elementary school, guitarist Frank Weysos and bassist Chuck Hernandez formed The Hawks, then added J.C. Noriega on drums, Christine Roberts on keys, David Manzano on percussion, and John Dailey on guitar. The group’s sophomore album, ‘What Team Am I On?’, will be released on Texas Is Funny Records on July 22.

High-energy “Snakes And Hawks” feels like a reunion of close friends, complete with a chorus that is engineered for shout-singing and a tempo that inspires a little dancing. Single “Robert DeNiro” is messy and singable, and the rest of the album follows suit: the majority of songs are upbeat, lively, and ready for entry into the notoriously dynamic garage genre. Heartfelt and unhurried, “Panda Buffet” stands out from the other tracks lyrically and energetically, and is a personal favorite. Weysos, Roberts, and Hernandez harmonize over a soft riff—think Dinosaur Jr. singing about a romance between two slackers.

With a few exceptions, the album is simple fun: “Fuck My Way To The Top,” “Ez Pz,” and “Zach and Jack” fit perfectly on a carefree soundtrack for summer. The album clearly caters to performance more than at-home listening, but it deserves to be played loudly, and preferably on the way to a Hawks gig, where the songs would truly shine.

 

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