The latest from The Diamond Age, an electric two-piece from Southampton, Britain, is a sparkling pop gem of buoyant post-punk. “I Might Just Be” carries the emotional weight of The Smiths with the breezy sensibilities of The Drums, and manages to be a lean two-and-a-half minutes of uninterrupted gooey pop hooks. From the earwormy guitar noodling to the dusted powdered sugar vocals, “I Might Just Be” is a wonderful addition to your meticulously constructed warmer weather playlist.
Arrange, a.k.a. Malcom Lacey’s bedroom pop project, paints elegant sonic landscapes with broad strokes of grey skies and flickering highway lights. However, these words sound cheap when you listen to the richness that Lacey is able to conjure. Such trite descriptions simply don’t provide enough detail to capture all the beauty that is present in his latest single “Home.”
“Home” yields a powerful emotional punch. With a well-constructed framework of ticking guitar tones, mounting keyboard plunks, and interspersed field recordings, Lacey piles on the surprises culminating in a skyward brass outro. Such overcast pop stylings are not too far removed from Disco Inferno’s “Summer’s Last Sound” or Hood’s “Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive;” however, Lacey manages to advance this convention with the worn restraint of his voice. “If you’ve got the best of you, then how come you’re haunted,” an introspective statement that challenges us to examine our inner selves as we progress through life.
New age music has a slippery connotation associated with it: a contrived framework of pan flutes, gamelan gongs, and rumbling electronic bass pulses that fill the artificial ocean air of local trinket shops and hardwood yoga classes. However, a certain inescapable emotion tills the soils of this misfit genre—an unabashed determination to triumph. Atlanta solo project Navigateur has harnessed this approach into his album SURFACE, a collection of otherworldy electronics and expansive production with a skyward sheen. Album highlight “Breathe,” a propulsive pop track that imbues a colorful new age mystique, glides through imaginative canyon floors and careens over waves of exotic ocean water. “Breathe” starts small and manages to stack layer upon layer of beautiful synth and synthetic percussion until an effortless liftoff is reached.
Navigateur’s “Breathe” is out now via Formalogic Records.
The 56th annual Grammy’s were two nights ago, which had more or less slipped through my social media radar until yesterday morning. After a cursory glance through all the bloated award categories, I noticed that the rock-focused nominees were anything but representative of the current rock landscape that I tend to listen to. It amazes me how much incredible music slips through the cracks, including the razor-sharp punch of Disco Teen ’66‘s color-splashed self-titled album released over the summer last year. “Get Through” opens with a screech and hums to life with syncopated guitar crunches and a crash of the tightest kit rhythms I’ve heard in a while. Disco Teen ’66 have an undeniable gift to carve out heavy slabs of earwormy rock hooks not too far removed from the heyday of the post-grunge Chapel Hill sound of the early 90s. If the sugar-coated melodies don’t get you addicted, the mounting layers of soft, shimmery guitar distortion surely will.
For all fans of big hooks and tight production, do yourself a favor and give Disco Teen ’66′s debut, out on Seagreen Records, a spin at their Bandcamp page. And for all of you with tape players, those pink shells look mighty enticing.
Last year, our Summer II mixtape featured plenty of sun-drenched beach classics including a hefty helping of breezy guitar-pop. One such serving came from Comfy‘s “There Is,” a slice of sugar-toothed garage-rock from the piedmont region of central New York. It seems the band runs in familiar circles with like-minded folk such as Quarterbacks and Bad Cello, and felt the need to get in on the action with their debut album Pillowhugger. The lead-off single “Rather Not” is a no-nonsense exploration of disconnected romance with a bouncy bassline, barebones kit work, a flowery guitar lead, and gooey vocal hooks.
You can pre-order a cassette copy of Pillowhugger now via Comfy’s Bandcamp page.
With a touch of ragged guitar blues and light puffs from a fluttery string arrangement, the self-reflective “Saturday’s Sinner” makes a striking statement as it closes out the first half of The Last Astronaut‘s self-titled debut. We’ve all had those moments: blearily waking up some idle Sunday morning following a particularly embarrassing night of inebriation or after a sleepless night clutching the past. In these moments we realize exactly how unsure we are of ourselves, coupled with the struggle to change and move forward. With some choice lyrical structure and sentimental piano phrasing, “Saturday’s Sinner” paints a remarkable picture in under five minutes—that of a thriving, strait-laced hero blindsided by life’s many divergent challenges. All of this would be impossible to overcome without the unconditional help of others. Not bad for a couple of nameless musicians from Richmond.
You can find “Saturday’s Sinner” on The Last Astronaut, available on cassette via Chill Mega Chill Records.
Over the new year, the once mysterious Esprit 空想 has decided to not only reveal his true identity, but also challenge the vaporwave convention with a proliferate collection of ‘no sample’ beats. The criminally brief “Whispers” is the latest slice of warped synthetic pop bathed in fluorescent back beats and seductive vocal fragments.
There are plenty of other beautifully simple beat snippets just waiting to be exported as once forgotten corporate ringtones. With such a productive work ethic, it seems that Esprit 空想 is up to something major soon. Perhaps we’ll see a fusion of pop stylings from his other project, which is most certain to not disappoint.
The glitzy, glamorous production stylings of Lil Texas, aka Sam Barry, are in full form with a brand new track to finish out the year. “Looking 4 Love” harnesses a heavy arsenal of cloud synths, laser-etched edges, chop-n-screw vox, and plenty of synthetic snare to keep the heart yearning all night long. There’s a certain sadness and romantic longing that Barry has been able to tap into with his last few singles. Such a talent for evoking subtle emotions allows this M|O|D member to carve out a nice space for himself in an ever-growing dance pop bubble.
The bubbling warmth of syncopated analog synth bleats, toy kit rhythms, and breathy a cappella falsettos are bound to put a smile on your face when you listen to Spencer Cole‘s “Cruising!.” The track is a highlight from Cole’s You Exist Right Now EP, a wonderful set of sparkling pop jewels that all uniquely shine with subtle imperfection and a sense of timelessness. Cole’s voice is at the center of each song, wrapping each passionate melisma and beautiful harmony with inspiring production choices.