What’s in a good pair of shorts? There needs to be a sensible amount of leg room. Some people can pull off the ultra-tight short look, but these people either need to be full-time residents of Coachella or at least good at playing tennis. Have these things hanging loose and you’re onto something. New York group Shorts like to play loose. Their dreamy routine is concerned with overlapping guitars, starry eyed dreamer chants. On debut EP Berlin 1971, they flick a nostalgia switch and run out to the hills with sun-kissed filters lacing each of their tracks. It’s more effective than strutting down city streets with a pair of hot pants, that’s for sure.
Mom Tudie‘s productions are like shards of glass pointing out of a deceptively comfy looking pillow. The London-based producer likes to begin his songs with abstraction. By the time it gradually envelops, as in “Waiting On You,” finite bass notes and dart-like guitar parts don’t so much weave their way in as rudely interrupt. It’s this crispness that defines early tracks. On this latest effort, Tom Misch is recruited on vocals to help add extra fuel to a fizzing, spitting fire.
Swedish songwriter Alice Boman taps into the same empty space and emotional grip that an artist like the recently silent Eddi Front sports. In effect: a near-whispered hum speaks much more loudly than boldly pronounced statements. On “What,” we hear her stirring in the background more often than blaring out at the forefront. Crackles in Boman’s voice only enhance this track, taken from her II EP, out this spring. “Come light the fire,” she sings, practically forcing you out of your slumber and into her perfectly imperfect world. Everything beats to its own rhythm here, on a song that gives empty space a home.
It’s a horrible thing to admit, but everybody plays by this rule: when there’s a story arriving alongside new music you’ve never heard before, you’re more likely to press play. Bon Iver has a lot to thank his snowy cabin and ex-girlfriends for.
The same can’t exactly be said for Adore, 1996. The Wellington musician had his house burn down. Out from the rubble came two recordings that somehow survived the incident. The only thing left from years of writing, this is what came out: a cover of James Ferraro’s “City Smells” and the original track “Went Home About It.” The story is what made me press play. Ignore that, if you’re just passing by, and focus on the sheer headiness of this emotional, shoegaze-lined juggernaut.
There’s some serious movement following QUAYS, a producer based out of New York. Aftershocks and tremors are seeping out with every track he or she releases. First came “Sleepers,” a track that up until now can still only be heard through a dodgy phone recording courtesy of Dummy. “Cursiv” is the first studio recording to emerge. It’s defined by breathless vocal samples, skewed within an inch of their lives but still made to sound resolutely human. Like a giant trance song turned upside down and chopped into pieces, it’s an example of QUAYS’ brilliant craft for reinterpretation.
Ωracles is a group formed by Roosevelt bassist Joshua Gottmans, plus Dennis Jüngel, Niklas Wandt, and Nils Herzogenrath. Together the Berlin/Cologne outfit make progressive pop, built on jazz staples and flashy doses of psych. “Gazing From Without”—a track from their debut EP, Standford Torus—circuits Toro Y Moi-style funk, acid-washed and always looking ahead.
London’s Álauda could possess a backstory about being raised in a mountain by snow leopards and it’d be believable. Her magical, twisted take on conventional pop results in twinkling percussion and otherworldly atmospherics—it’s a cocktail that shouldn’t be sipped by average joe’s, that much is clear. New track “Honey Priest” is a self-produced, far-out reminder of her potential, with synth work being twisted and skewed until it’s a distant reflection of normality. Daring to the extreme, it’s like a fairytale being strung out and expressed in song.
Law Holt is an Edinburgh soul-pop experimentalist. She’s recently been in the studio with Young Fathers, and in “Haters” she’s unveiled the first song from her debut EP (out as a free download in February). “Haters” is a crazed collision of old-school samples, like Shabazz Palaces suddenly turning their attention to a chart-worthy endpoint. There’s a hell of a lot going on here, but every second affirms LAW’s potential as one of Scotland’s breakout talents.
Yumi Zouma is a project spanning two different countries, all amounting to a debut EP, due for release via Cascine on February 11th. Lead track “The Brae” is a strutting, sweet-as-it-gets pop song, dripping with nostalgia. The three friends—all from New Zealand and currently living between Paris and New York—keep it minimal, on a track that mimics a stroll through a Brooklyn park, a sedated journey through a new city.