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New Album Review

“Posey Hollow Quartet” by Ably House Album Review

It’s not an ordinary day when you stumble upon a hidden gem of an album. The kind of album that you try to talk to your friends about, only to be met by blank stares. The kind of album that you expect to be the magnum opus of an already famous band, only to discover they have less than 1,000 monthly Spotify listeners. That’s the kind of day I had last March when I discovered “Posey Hollow Quartet” by Ably House.

The whole album has an eerie feel, fitting for a band named after a famous haunted house. Many tracks have strange, unidentifiable instruments and distorted, experimental guitar parts that are simultaneously satisfying and suspenseful. Not only that, but the album is incredibly cohesive; I am a strong believer in the art of the album, and Ably House knocked it out of the park with this one. Some tracks blend seamlessly into one another, while others have small breaks in between them for the listener to get a breath.

Along with being an incredibly cohesive album, “Posey Hollow Quartet” encompasses multiple different vibes. “Melancholia,” my favorite track on the album, has a distinct 90s indie feeling to it. Meanwhile, “Balcony” and “Down on the Farm” have the feel of a Revolver or Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles song with a more modern twist. And “Grave Song,” with its rhythmic bassline and impressive guitar solo, reminds me of a psychedelic rock song from the 60s; if you told me it was a cover of a Creedence Clearwater Revival or the Doors deep cut, I’d probably believe you.

I’m still not completely sure how I stumbled across such a diamond in the rough. With its so few monthly listeners and almost no social media presence, I know close to nothing about the band itself, but there is one thing I do know: they created a no-skip gem of an album with “Posey Hollow Quartet.”

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Blog New Album Review

“We” by Mythless EP Review

I’ve noticed that in a lot of the album reviews I’ve done in the past few months I’ve made one specific observation: the lack of a verse-chorus-verse structure. I bring this up whenever I get the chance because it’s usually associated with a more experimental presentation that I notice and appreciate, but by now I’ve probably reviewed more albums that don’t adhere to this standard songwriting practice than do. So strap in as I talk about yet another structurally experimental release, this drone metal EP by Mythless.

Confession: Metal music isn’t one of my areas of expertise, and I had never intentionally listened to a drone metal project before so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very restrained, emotive group of songs, kind of like a souped up Animal Collective sound. Opening track “Dreadless” kicks things off with a frenetic drumbeat and soft keys to propel things forward slowly, for me this was the weakest off the project because it had this one annoying piano line that kept popping up but the rest of the track was quite good; the vocals have a very intriguing cadence that says as much as the lyrics behind them and the way the drum patterns combine to elevate the song.

It only gets better from there, with closing track Glossless being a particular highlight. It has the slow, characteristic buildup of drone but with a driving pace and exciting horns that propel the track forward in a unique and fun way. The chanting vocals suit this instrumental style perfectly and the unceasing motion of the track makes every line feel like a powerful mantra which is the kind of maximalist vibe that I want to see out of this type of freeform, emotionally charged music.

Drone and its various forms has always felt somewhat unapproachable to me, as I got into music through vocal-focused indie rock and this is structurally different in almost every way. But if you’re like me and want to dip your toe into drone music but don’t know where to start, “We” is a pretty great place to begin, it’s accessible and almost like the pop of ambient music where it takes concepts that are definitely unique to the genre and packages them into short bursts of enjoyment. I know I have a long way to go and that this is a genre I’m by no means an expert on, but I know a good EP when I hear one and this definitely fits the bill.

-Erie

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New Album Review

Album Review: “Last Room” by waveform*

For me, the year tends to start pretty slow musically, with a few months passing by before I find albums I really connect to. In 2022 though, I didn’t make it out of January without finding some absolute bangers. Last week it was “Multiverse” by Reptaliens, and now I found myself loving “Last Room” by waveform* (the asterisk is very important). While this technically came out on Bandcamp in 2020, it’s just now hitting other streaming services and is a great spin for any fan of slower indie rock.

The indie rock sensibilities are immediately apparent on opening track Favorite Song, which features a methodical strum with an emotive downbeat, melting into longing vocal harmonies. “I can’t wait to see you tomorrow” and “I’m getting tired of being alone” are plaintive expressions heard throughout the annals of indie rock but there’s a reason for the universality, when over the right plucked chords and delivered as well as they are here, it always manages to resonate.

The highlights keep coming, “Shooting Star” is a particular favorite, with an wistful yet upbeat chorus over lines like “I want to bleed from the inside” making an interesting contrast in tone that is in some ways more impactful than if everything were gloomy. It, like most tracks on the album, is characterized by a disconnect from one’s surroundings, a longing for something that is at once already here and that never existed. Waveform* wield this ennui expertly and bring it out through individual evocative images (“I want to cut your hair”) that at once mean nothing yet say everything they need to.

“Last Room” is a comfort album, which is weird to say as it isn’t the happiest of listens. But it hits that sweet spot of indie rock cliches that are executed to near perfection. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead smoothing the edges to make one hell of a ride.

-Erie

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New Album Review

Track Review: “Love is Violence” by Alice Glass

Catharsis is one of the most powerful emotions that can be communicated through music, as it is a very multilayered feeling. There is the empowerment and triumph that comes along with it, but also the place the catharsis has to come out of, the vulnerability and toil that leads to the singular victory that is catharsis. Alice Glass’s solo career has been defined by this, reaching to the absolute darkest places of human experience to craft explosive bangers that resonate because of their authenticity as much as their craft.

Love is Violence” doesn’t take very long to bring the energy. From the first second of the song screaming vocals come in with a short verse filled with primal imagery, “you taste of rotten meat // sips of spoiled milk” is the first line. Alice Glass’ line delivery has always been very direct, not by screaming as loud as some metal bands but by being able to pack a lot of complex feelings into every yell that acts as a courier for the lyrical themes as well. As the song progresses, the relationship between the central characters unfolds, it’s clearly abusive and taking a toll on the protagonist who is desperate for some outlet for her frustrations: “I don’t want to think // I need to kill”. In tapping into very basic and fundamental emotions, Glass creates a universality while offering a powerfully obvious presentation of what she and the character in the song are feeling.

All of this is conveyed on top of suitably thrilling instrumentals. When the track goes hard the bass goes harder, with powerful kicks accompanying spurts of furious hi-hats to keep up with the speed of the vocal delivery, and when the track goes contemplative there is a simple synth line in the background, comparatively calming but still building towards the next outburst. The quiet is often placed right beside the ferocious to create a contrast that’s both thematic and memorable.

If you get a chance, definitely check out the music video but maybe don’t watch it while eating like I did. It cuts back and forth between two people watching an Alice Glass video and disemboweling each other, all shown in excruciating detail to hammer home her themes of pain in a relationship.

Alice Glass’ debut album, “Prey//IV” is set to release on February 16 and it’s definitely my most anticipated album of the early part of 2022. Part of the anticipation is due to her career trajectory; she left her previous band, Crystal Castles, in 2014 but has taken a long time to heal from the trauma she experienced while a part of it, which has come up in the singles and EP she released since then as well as the statement on the homepage of her website (trigger warning, this gets really heavy). If she feels she’s ready to release an album now, then I’m both very happy she feels she’s at the right place mentally to make more music and also excited for what that means in terms of the music being released.

-Erie

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Blog New Album Review

EP Review: “Various Artists 2” by POSSESSION

A candid shot of two DJs serving as the cover for EP 5 of "V/A 2" by Possession.
One of five covers for Possession’s newest EP bundle release

The innovative French underground rave organizer turned record label Possession is back with their first release of 2022, headed by an all-star lineup of various veteran artists and newcomers alike in a bundle of five different EPs. “Various Artists 2” is the second installment of Possession’s “V/A” series that gives a platform for artists across the world to bring their sound of Techno to a wider audience. With the immediate success of “Various Artists 1” back in September 2020, this new bundle of five EPs is even more abrasive, fast, and fun, with tracks from personal favorite’s LSDXOXO, AnD, and Parfait, to rising artists Fractions, Somniac One, and TRANCEMAN2000.

EP1” sets the tone for the bundle with the first track “Posh & Scary” by Shlømo and Parfait. The thumping bassline coupled with rolling hi-hats and Parfait’s vocals comes together to produce a signature Possession-style track that you would hear at any party of their parties across Europe. TRANCEMAN2000 closes out “EP1” with “Lasserbie”, an early 2000s-esc trance track that sounds like it came straight out of an early DJ Tiësto set.

Anetha’s masterclass set from Possession’s most recent Boiler Room in London. Her track “Gedo Senki” is on “EP3” of “Various Artists 1” released in 2020.

EPs 2, 3, and 4 cuts between all styles of Techno, with tracks like “Disturbed” by Cassie Raptor and “7AM Burning” by AnD keeping the high BPM and heavy basslines but with more elaborate melodies and even an acid breakdown. On the lighter side is “Almost There” by UFO95 and “Dream” by Vizionn, more conventional sounding techno tracks that still, however, would get me to the dance floor at any club or rave.

EP5” closes out the bundle, featuring my two favorite tracks off of all the EPs, “Green Inferno” by LSDXOXO and “What Doesn’t Kill Me?” by Fractions. Before anyone asks, yes I will admit that I am an LSDXOXO fanboy, he made it into my top tracks of 2021 and I play any track off “Dedicated 2 Disrespect” in my sets whenever I can, but his track production is immaculate with catchy vocals and trance-inducing melodies. Fractions was a nice surprise on this EP, his track reflecting the solid production work with killer hi-hats and an overall mind-melting vibe.

Overall, this EP bundle has featured the best techno tracks of 2022 so far. I have not been playing much techno recently both on and off air because I have had trouble finding interesting tracks. This release is a much needed breath of fresh air and I look forward to playing many of the tracks in my upcoming sets.

Speaking of Possession, I was recently fortunate enough to see Parfait at a club in NYC, but I think that is a story for another blog…..

Stay dancin’,

DJ HRLN

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New Album Review

Album Review: “Multiverse” by Reptaliens

A strong concept can go a long way towards the enjoyment of an album. Going beyond drawing meaning from the lines or verses, having a central theme adds more weight to not just the lyrics but the instrumentals too, contextualizing every choice made by an artist. Reptaliens have built a discography on strong concepts with albums that have been focused on complex sci-fi themes, and while everything is brought down in terms of scale here, the storytelling chops remain. There’s more of an urban fantasy vibe on “Multiverse”, with the lyrics signaling an adventure that’s found in the simple act of living.

The lyrics are able to resonate that much more because the songs themselves are stripped down to the bone, allowing the words to feel larger than life. The fuzzy and jangly instrumentals add, if not a bounce, then certainly a spring in the step to the proceedings, with fun solos that convey a sense of motion. Album highlight “Take It” has a really fun opening falsetto that descends as the subject matter gets more serious, the speaker hoping they don’t “go to hell for this.” A lot of the most engaging moments on this album are the inflections lead singer Bambi Browning makes on certain lines, which range from uplifting while soft like the chorus of “Don’t Wait For Me” to the emotive pitch drops on “Go Away”. That layer of fuzz on top of everything works with this vocal style: the highs become these theremin-like cascades of sound while the lows are contrasted even more.

On “Multiverse”, Reptaliens achieve something that a lot of jangly indie rock bands strive for but don’t always nail: resonating with emotional purity with vague, universal statements while also constructing an entire world with just a few short verses. A lot of very core themes are tapped into, like a lot of references to peer pressure and reluctantly going along with what’s happening and in the process losing agency, like the central character who is “sniffing glue” on I Feel Fine. And when combined with fun instrumentals that keep the serious parts weightless this becomes an album that’s instantly enjoyable but leaves a lot to think about later. For me it usually takes a few months for a given year of music to produce a classic album but we aren’t even out of January before Reptaliens came through with one that I’m sure will stick with me for a long time.

-Erie

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New Album Review

Album Review: “An Evening With Silk Sonic” by Silk Sonic

ALBUM: “An Evening With Silk Sonic” by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: Aftermath Entertainment and Atlantic Recording Corporation

RATING: 8.4/10

BEST TRACKS: “Leave The Door Open,” “After Last Night (with Thundercat & Bootsy Collins),” “Smokin Out The Window,” “Skate”

FCC: Track 7 – “777”

Paying homage to the classics, this short and sweet record by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak is a must-listen. Thanks to their stellar execution, this exciting new release manages to live up to the hype. For those who wish that R&B was more mainstream, or miss the classic soul from the 1970s that we all know and love, Silk Sonic’s debut project is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. 

As cohesive as “An Evening With Silk Sonic” is, this album still covers a wide range of topics and sounds. Mars and .Paak offer upbeat bangers such as “Fly As Me” and “Skate,” (although I must admit the former sounds like it was made for an Old Navy commercial), while still producing gorgeous ballads such as “Put On A Smile.” They explore feelings of love and lust towards someone on “After Last Night (with Thundercat & Bootsy Collins),” my personal favorite from the album. They immediately pivot to feeling heartbroken and betrayed on the singalong-able track, “Smokin Out The Window.” Whether they’re excited, emotional, or ecstatic, they know exactly how to express what they’re feeling. 

Vocally, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak deliver solid performances, managing to blend their unique identities into a smooth, cohesive sound. Their chemistry is stellar, and it’s difficult to imagine two artists working together as well as they do. While both of their vocals showcase their individual talents and identities, they still just work together — they sound as if they’ve been singing together for years. Whether it’s due to their experience or their natural chemistry, their vocal performances leave little room for improvement.

With the majority of production done by Bruno Mars and D’Mile, the instrumentation on “An Evening With Silk Sonic” sounds exactly how you’d expect – but in a good way. The sultry, flirtatious, and emotional themes discussed in the songwriting are very appropriately mirrored by the production choices. Sonically, every song is filled to the brim with soul and passion, yet contains an impressive amount of detail. The production choices may not be ambitious or boundary-pushing, but there’s so much intent behind every decision that you don’t even notice. Additionally, it’s unfair to expect progressive production choices on an album that was made to revive and celebrate the classics of R&B.

And if we’re being honest, Silk Sonic’s take on classic soul doesn’t hold a candle to legends such as Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield. This is mainly because Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak aren’t taking themselves too seriously on this project – which makes their execution that much more impressive. They can get away with lyrics like “I’m sipping wine (sip, sip)” because their vocals and production are so well done. They can get away with production that isn’t very ambitious or experimental because every song is orchestrated in such a thoughtful and meticulous way.

While “An Evening With Silk Sonic” may not be as much of a classic as its inspirations, the amount of passion and detail on this record is too great for any comparison to be made. Mars and .Paak have further proved their capabilities as musicians and producers by creating a project that not only celebrates the music of the past, but is capable of standing on its own. Silk Sonic clearly knows how to deliver; let’s just hope they keep delivering.

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Blog New Album Review

Album Review: “Spiral” by Rezz

I’ve found that I’ve often discovered artists at slightly the wrong time to really get the most out of their work. I got into Car Seat Headrest a month after they came to Cat’s Cradle and it seemed like everyone in The National started releasing solo projects the moment I became a fan. But just this once, the stars aligned. I started DJing during the afterhours block this semester, which means I had to go from an electronic music novice to someone qualified to run a weekly show about it. Rezz was my gateway into a world of thumping bass and hard-hitting kick drums, and I was waiting for this album with a feverish anticipation. Spoiler alert: it was worth the wait.

Sounding effortless to me is one of the best things an artist can do, having instantly iconic moments feel like they are just dispensed without a care in the world adds another level to any music. I normally don’t feel this from EDM, with its meticulously crafted structures, but here it feels like this album is good without even trying to be. Rezz is swimming in so much quality production that “Levitate”, a song that spends half of its runtime over a repeated guitar loop that barely rises above the backbeat, still comes together as a quality track with a sneaky bassline that isn’t really a drop but propels the song in a great direction regardless. It’s all uphill from here, “Sacrificial” makes great use of individual bass notes underneath perfectly arranged vocal harmonies, this is probably my favorite track on the album. “Let Me In” starts slow but continues ramping up the pace with the drop becoming more and more urgent.

The release of this album wasn’t just perfect because of when I got into Rezz’s music either. “Spiral” marks somewhat of a transformation of what a Rezz song means. She built her career off a very specific type of fusion of dark techno and dubstep now called “midtempo”, where songs have house and techno elements but are slowed down to 100-110 BPM, really letting the listener hear the technical aspects of the basslines. Her work in this genre is amazing, and we get all of that here, but she opens up the soundscape with more of a focus on the highs, with offbeat notes and clicks making even the bass drops more fleshed out. Some tracks adhere more to her older style, such as “Spun” and the extremely hard-hitting “Chemical Bond”, but this more balanced approach can be felt across the whole album. Her previous albums were also almost entirely lacking in vocals, but “Spiral” has features from singers on more than half its tracks, and they deliver. “Taste of You” features a restrained buildup that lets Dove Cameron inject a compelling edge to the song before exploding into the drop, and Metric’s Emily Haines arguably carries “Paper Walls” with a vulnerability that matches the moody instrumental until a switch is flipped and the kicks start going stratospheric.

Perhaps the best part of the listening experience is that it’s only going to get better the more I listen to the project. As varied and amazing as the deep cuts were, the singles were still the best songs for a variety of reasons, which means that the high points on an album that at time of writing came out under twelve hours ago were songs I’ve been bumping for months. As we draw further from the release day, this line will blur more and I’ll be able to appreciate “Spiral” as a body of work more. 

And Rezz, if you’re somehow reading this, please announce a show closer than DC.

-Erie

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New Album Review

“Hyd” EP Review

Pop is a genre that’s very hard to pin down because of just how broad that classification is. The term “pop” changes drastically across time periods and even geographic locations, and music classified as pop can often fall into other genres as well. Over the past few years record label PC Music has become known for pushing the boundaries of what pop can be, and they’ve found another winner here.

“Hyd” is the self-titled debut EP by Hayden Dunham under the Hyd moniker, but it’s not their first rodeo with PC Music. In 2015 they came through with the instantly iconic “Hey QT” under the name QT, a song that is very much in PC Music’s wheelhouse of hyperpop, the experimental and maximalist take on electropop that have defined so many of my DJ sets this semester. The song is bright and polished to a sheen, with extremely autotuned vocals dancing over bassy kicks, it’s a really fun song. I bring it up here because while it shares some similarities with the tracks on “Hyd”, their fundamental approach to constructing a song has changed a lot over the past six years.

Let me explain. The actual instruments and effects that appear on the EP are classic hyperpop, lots of off-kilter synths and rapid-fire hi-hats, but they are used in a much different way. For a project with these tricks up its sleeve, the most prominent element here is actually the quiet. From the sudden stops at the height of the chorus on “Skin 2 Skin” to adding a thoughtful, pensive tone to “No Shadow”, restraint plays a massive role in this pop record, two concepts that don’t often go together. Songs are structured around this too, taking their time in building themselves up and slowly widening the soundscape before kicking into overdrive in the final minute. There are verses and choruses, but the instrumental is doing its own thing, treating the entire song as one long exhale.

The long sections where the instrumentals step back mean that the vocals become the star of the show, and they certainly perform under the spotlight. Dunham is working with a lot of conflicting vocal styles that are often used simultaneously, yet don’t clash at all. “The light defines us” is delivered with a robotic cadence while also sounding emotional and filled with wonder, and they often switch between husky and whispering to soaring and passionate on a dime. Lyrically there’s actually quite a lot of repetition, with a drawn out bridge of the line “Away from the light” repeated seven times on “No Shadow” or the multiple choruses in a row in the back end of “The Look on Your Face”. But unlike songs where repetition feels like it prevents the song from advancing, here it’s used to create mantras that drive

On first listen, this might be a bit of a surprise from a PC Music release labeled as pop by streaming services. It’s a pretty slow paced and restrained project that, when presented with the opportunity to go big and overblown, takes the reflective route instead. But if your opinions of what a pop record has to be aren’t totally set in stone, this EP will fit the bill, packaging its complicated themes and unorthodox structures into an easily enjoyable and rewindable experience. And if that isn’t pop then I don’t know what is.

-Erie

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New Album Review

Illuminati Hotties: “Let Me Do One More” Album Review

Illuminati hotties first came to my attention through a genius stealth marketing campaign. Releasing an unannounced album on a blank Bandcamp page, the band was only promoted by two cryptic tweets from Lucy Dacus and the drummer for the band Pup. The music, now released as “FREE I.H This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For,” after being deleted from record for several months. Now, it seems, we have the one we’ve been waiting for.

“Let Me Do One More” is, as you might guess based on her friends, a pop-punk singer-songwriter album. This particular genre mashup is suprisingly not explored all that well, but the Hotties make it feel natural, layering hooks on top of hooks until the songs get quite wordy and obtuse. On the faster songs, lyrics clash and bleed together fast enough that it often borders on free word association. The common refrain of “The DNC is playing dirty; I’m so sad I can’t do laundry,” is a good example, as it makes no sense on any level, but it sure does *feel* right.

Its the album’s ballads that really shine though. While high-energy pop numbers are what hook you in, the album takes you to sad emo boy hours pretty early in the tracklist. Normally the “emotional tracks” on any given pop-punk album are the worst part, but this is where that key endorsement from Lucy Dacus begins to make sense. Frontwoman Sarah Tudzin may be able to light things up with her energy, but you can tell melancholic indie chick is her true form, and so her ballads never fail to tug at my heartstrings.

There’s very little more to analyze about Illuminati Hotties, everything that’s great about them is right there on the surface. The band wears their hearts on their sleeves, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.