Author Archive

The Points North

"Lowlands & Hanky Panky Nohow" / "I Have Arrived"

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Nearly four years after their last release, the Massachusetts-formed folk band the Points North have resurfaced with an elegant two-track album (a digital 7″ of sorts), recorded at Gravesend Recordings in the Silent Barn. The A-side (winkingly titled “Lowlands & Hanky Panky Nohow”) is a light, playful instrumental, which acts in contrast to the patient, measured B-side. “I Have Arrived” is held steady by meditative drums, buoyed along by a searching flute line, and featuring the refrain, “Oh let the rose unfold / I have arrived.”

In the time that has passed between this and The Points North’s last few releases, vocalist and lead songwriter Chris North have relocated to New York. But unlike geo-specific tracks like “Cape Tryon” or “Swift River Lament” on the band’s debut full-length I Saw Across the Sound, it is never made clear exactly where the narrator has arrived at—there is simply the feeling of settling in, and opening up to whatever may come next.

Glaswen

"Side"

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Glaswen, the Moscow duo that first caught our attention with their captivating EP, Before, has just released a new track called “Side.”

On “Side,” Dasha Buylova’s otherworldly voice becomes all the more haunting as it manages to maintain its deadpan calm while buried under an assault of heavy, heavily distorted guitar noise, underscored by steady, unrelenting percussion.

Like their music, Glaswen’s social media presence is specific and controlled, maintaining an internal mystery. But they have recently responded to a Facebook comment by writing, “we’ve got a lot of new songs, just need a little time to make everything sound the way we see it,” alluding to more work on the way.

CS Luxem & Oils

"Looking For"

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On January 31, Whatever Forever tapes released a tape version of June Igloo, a split between CS Luxem (Chris Luxem) and Oils, which so far has only been available digitally.

CS Luxem’s side is full of deftly written folk songs, alternating between droney loop-based spookfolk and bright, casual-feeling tunes oriented around guitar-strumming and storytelling seemingly made for and from easy summer porch-life. With titles like “Born Down Bobby,” “Bank Robbing Song of a Bitch,” and “Goat Ghost,” they conjure a mythical, magical realist Americana that is simultaneously escapist and, when compared to hyper-real spectacle-oriented urban life, reassuringly real.

“Looking For” is the weightiest track on the tape, and, until the promised June, the one that translates best to introspective winter walks.

The Oils side is full of good-natured southern rock with a couple Tulsa-like guitar parts, and seems like it would make sense on a night drive with buddies, preferably in a car old enough to have a tape deck.

June Igloo was recorded at SeedCo Studios in Lawrence, KS. The front of the J-card is a collage by Luxem and the reverse is a painting by Luke Underwood, who also mixed the Oils side of the tape.

Baked

"Wolf"

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Baked, grade-A sweater-rock posse and one of the many killer American Buffalo bands that grew out of the Brooklyn/post-Purchase/Big Snow Buffalo Lodge community, is re-releasing their debut self-titled cassette on the Minneapolis-based label Forged Artifacts, and to celebrate, are adding “Wolf” as a bonus track.

“Wolf” is another bit of totally solid stoner rock and a quality addition to the already rad tape. It’s a good listen and should be enough to hold you over until, if the rumors are true, Baked joins the Exploding in Sound family with a new album—due out this summer.

Video

Who is Jerry Paper? The Infinity Between One and Zero?

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In honor of Jerry Paper Appreciation Day, we have for you a very top secret very super exclusive leak of the game-changing next-level modern-masterpiece Jerry Paper Feels Emotions, out February 11th via Patient Sounds. Here it is, the full album, right here:

Critics are raving:

“Lucas does a really good job of expressing how terrifying and isolating the human experience can be.”
—Andy White

“He is the epitome of a polydimensional man trapped in 3-D.”
—Doug Poole

“The lyrics on International Man of Misery are meant to show a cartoonish version of depression. It was a way for me to step back while I was depressed and try to make fun of myself by highlighting these ridiculously melodramatic thoughts that I would obsess over.”
—Jerry Paper in conversation with Dwight Pavlovic in Decoder Magazine

“Are we in a David Lynch movie right now? What is this? What is going on?”
—My roommate, not realizing that a Jerry Paper cassette had been on loop for the last two hours

Well, most of those aren’t real critics, those are just some people from this very important Jerry Paper documentary:

This is a very important documentary because it responds to art not by explaining it but by making more art that riffs off that art, and then instead of presenting an interesting thing in an inert (dead) way, it keeps the dream alive by adding to it in the spirit of the thing and makes it a conversation and gets swept up in the art katamari in order to make the world a better, weirder place.

Jerry Paper is a very important music artist to make such a documentary about because he sighs a lot and wears a purple lei when he plays music and has a very handsome cat. Jerry Paper playing music turns your stupid house or venue or house-venue into a pretty cool place, like a bonus level in Grand Theft Auto where everything moves real slow-like and you stop killing people and just sort of sippy-sip on something tropical and maybe dance a little and look at all the pink flamingos in the wallpaper. Jerry Paper is like trying to feel human feelings but maybe not being sure you’re doing it right. Jerry Paper has an awesome Twitter presence and a lot of feelings.

If this very exclusive album leak is somehow not enough, you can pre-order the full full-length album, Jerry Paper Feels Emotions, via Patient Sounds right here.

i don’t think anybody knows what it means
just fucking floating man, everybody
every brain is a universe
everybody’s so different, so cool
everybody’s so beautiful
i feel like i love the whole world sometimes
i feel so good

Julie Byrne

Rooms With Walls and Windows

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When I think about homes I’ve had, the one that keeps coming to mind is a third story walkup in the Lower Allston neighborhood of Boston, where I lived for a year after graduation. I shared a room with a friend, beholden only to a month-to-month commitment. She attended grad school during the day, while I stayed home and read my way through her library. At least initially, everyone in the house was dead broke. We lived off of bread, Earth Balance, and produce from the day-old shelf at the Star Market. I learned to make cowboy coffee by boiling the grounds and straining them out through a paper towel. The house itself was very “old New England”—comfortable but crumbling. We had too much time and not enough money, so domestic tasks which would normally have been automated became the focal points of our days. Time was marked by drinking tea, feeding the finches, fixing the plumbing, working on our bikes, cutting each other’s hair, always reading, always discussing, always learning to speak honestly.

Most people who filtered through that house existed in non-normative bodies and were recovering from years of being pathologized. We had lived most of our lives under the tyranny of productivity and the fear of “wasted time,” and most of us had never learned how to take care of each other or ourselves. We had many patron saints we looked to for guidance, with Audre Lorde ranking especially high up on that list. Someone could often be heard quoting her famous words on self-care: “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Up until then, most places I had lived in were sites of self-negation. Roommates spent their home lives getting high and watching television. I began to equate domestic life with dull complacency, and privilege going out as the only way to actively live life. For all of its faults, the Lower Allston house was one of the warmest homes I’ve had, particularly because it reclaimed “home” as something to actively engage with.

I am currently living in an art space where the domestic sphere is actively related to as a site of creation. The space exists to blur the lines between home, art, and work. It is here that I first heard Julie Byrne play and here that I holed up for the duration of the polar vortex, listening to Rooms With Walls and Windows on a near-daily basis.

Rooms With Walls and Windows is made up of material from two pre-existing tapes. Side one is drawn from You Would Love It Here, (Solid Melts, 2012), informed by the presence and dissolution of a relationship, written and recorded while living in a DIY space in Chicago (largely sans walls, and other trappings of privacy usually equated with home life). These songs, shaped only by vocals and finger-picked guitar, are story songs—driven by a meandering, organic momentum and conversational, insightful lyrics.

“Attached to Us Like Butcher Wrap,” one of the most striking songs on the record, pauses on the refrain “black coffee / brown sugar / and cream,” followed by Julie singing “I want to tell you stories / but sleep, I will be there when you wake / and we’ll have toast and one fried egg / and the bad feelings will have all gone away.” It’s a familial sentiment—simultaneously romantic and maternal, but it’s also a sentiment prefaced by the question, “How long can my body be loyal?” Processed together, the two thoughts speak to the continual nature of bodies, conflating caring for another with caring for oneself.

For all the recent albums tagged as “bedroom,” most are bedroom only in recording technique or in introspection. Rooms With Walls and Windows is the rare album that calls attention to material interiority—tactile realities, the textures of things.

“Holiday” is another deftly written song, telling the story of lovers meeting and leaving in clear lines like “we could have lived together and given up on dreams of wandering.”

Side one closes on “Butter Lamb,” which contains the line that, to me, feels like a thesis for the album—“still people need small things—the feeling of water, of labor, and of sleep, and the freedom to leave.”

For the vinyl, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Advance Base, Orindal) has lovingly remastered songs which were already warm in form and content to give them fullness and weight, enabling them to fill a room the way it feels they are meant to. The songs on the second side, pulled from the 2012 self-titled Teen River tape, written in a more stable living environment, are especially illustrative of this. Songs are built around stable melodies and words are buried deeper in the mix, making it easy for the songs to wash over you so fully and naturally that you could even forget that you are listening to something. (Though, upon closer inspection, the side is carefully structured—“Prism Song,” “Marmalade,” and “Vertical Rays” form this side’s core, and the “Piano Music” tracks bracket it on each side.)

Julie’s powerful voice and traditional folk instrumentation will inevitably get her comparisons to Angel Olsen and Chan Marshall, and those comparisons are well-earned. But as an album, Rooms With Walls And Windows feels closest to Bjork‘s Vespertine—a sanctuary in winter, self-described by Bjork as an album for making sandwiches to. In an earlier interview, we spoke at length about living in show spaces, living in different types of cities, living on tour, living alone. By crafting an album informed by multiple ideas of home, Julie’s music subtly recenters domesticity from a site of complacency to a site for art-making and a source of power.

Rooms With Walls and Windows is out now via Orindal.

Video

Julie Byrne - "Prism Song"

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Julie Byrne‘s new LP Rooms With Walls and Windows comes out on Orindal Records today, so to celebrate, here is the mesmerizing new video for “Prism Song.” Julie cut the footage from home videos of her dad’s childhood, which were originally filmed by her grandfather, Arthur Byrne on Super 8 and digitized for his birthday a decade ago. The woman that appears in the first couple of slides is Julie’s grandmother.

I don’t think the content of the video really has anything to do with or is reflective of what the song was written about, but when I was doing it, it felt really good. I just pored through all that footage, I really sat down with it. My grandmother, who I was named after, is in that video, and it felt so mystifying to possess this vision of her even though I never met her. There’s a section in the video that shows my dad hang-gliding, which was so cool—I’ve seen pictures of him doing it, but I’ve never seen him in action.

Everything felt mysterious. Through ending it, it was kind of coming to life. I think part of the reason it was so beautiful was because of the quality of the original film, but also the flaws in the digital conversion. One of my favorite things was slowing scenes down because it became vertically pixelated and just looked so cool.

The LP can be ordered via Orindal Records’ website.

Cuddle Formation

"Something Nice Back Home"

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Some of the my favorite places are non-places. Long car rides. Airports. Laundromats. Waiting. Time given, deterritorialized, decontextualized, before you have to rematerialize as functional.

On the last day of 2013, Cuddle Formation gifts internet audiences a mediafire link, with the title non-places and the following introduction:

between shifts at my old job, sitting in a cafe, riding the train, watching the trees go by from the backseats of cars…these non-places contribute a lot to life and this year i tried to keep them constructive through reading, failing to learn a second language, and playing with software instruments on my laptop [among other activities]. since it’s the last day of the year and i’m a pro at hoarding recordings, i thought i’d share a small collection of what my unintentionality sounds like.

The songs are zoney, ambient, amniotic. Easy to lose yourself in their hums and easy rhythms, in your head, underground on the J train. Four songs down, Noah sings “sometimes i wish that i could breathe underwater / to get away from everything i know,” and you realize that is exactly what you’ve been doing.

Krill

"Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears"

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On “Purity of Heart,” one of the killer tracks from Krill‘s pretty near perfect feel-good feel-bad album Lucky Leaves, Jonah Furman quoted Kierkegaard and sang, “purity of heart / is to will one thing.” On the title track from the forthcoming “failed concept album” Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears, the character Steve hears a flawless Pile album (probably Dripping) and, awed, wills one thing and one thing only and that thing is to form a band and play with his new heroes.

One of the reasons Krill is so good is that they’re funny, but not in a YouTube ukelele parody song sort of way—they make music that’s darkly hilarious but also enjoyable to listen to and would still be enjoyable even to people wholly lacking a sense of humor. On this track, the lulz come partly from the copious Boston in-jokes, and part from hearing the torment in Furman’s voice when he screams super casual lyrics about a banal email exchange:

so i emailed rick, said, ‘do you want to play with us sometime?’
he emailed me back, said, ‘man our summer’s looking pretty busy’
i said, ‘that’s cool man, busy is a good problem to have.’
‘that’s cool man, i’ll catch you later’

(Then again, as we learned on the last album, it’s never a joke to make someone feel zero.)

Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears was recorded by Gravesend Recordings and is due out February 18th, 2014 on black + white split 10″ vinyl via Exploding In Sound.