Baltimore musician Austin Tally sinks in and out of consciousness on a new collection of songs titled In G. It’s a “mini-album” recorded in Pennsylvania and showcases a sweet, blissed out sound that’s simple on the outside but full of complexity on the inside. The vocals on “Ready To Be Cold” swerve in and out of consciousness, coming from all angles and never settling into one constant groove.
Residency is a four-part weekly journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite artists every month.
For his third entry, Born Gold‘s Cecil Frena shares an exemplary experience of why he prefers to play shows in the welcoming abode of a stranger to conventional establishments.
i’ve spoken a bit before about how doing a house-show-only tour can actually be about doing collaborative art with respect to both environment and event. nothing illustrates this more with more clarity than the show that went down last sunday in baltimore.
when we arrived it was already apparent that the show’s host was a serious artist: she had a neat house with dramatic interior design shifts in each room, a basement covered in beautiful graffiti by her own hand—and she had made born gold gum and beer.
born gold beer. awkward because i don’t drink. apparently there is also a commercially manufactured sake called ‘born gold.’
born gold gum. not awkward because i chew the shit out of gum.
the born gold tag on the graffiti wall.
the show opened with a resounding bang with a performance by elvis. here’s caroline from julia brown relishing her brief moment with the king. there was also a magician, though i can’t find any photos of him.
then julia brown played a gorgeous and intimate acoustic set in an ornate little crawlspace that was seemingly designed specifically for their colorful, wistful melodicism.
here’s an action shot of us that night—but what you can’t see is more exciting: our host was passing out LED lightsabers and weird glowing elf ears to the crowd, and also making stealth confetti attacks in sync with the beat.
when we started playing “lawn knives,” i had to suppress on-mic laughter at the insane scene before me—our host had distributed popsicle cutouts of my face to the crowd, who then directed that creepy energy back at me.
here’s the aftermath of our set.
naturally, we then went out to the porch for a bit of fire eating.
and as it turns out—our gracious host was also a balloon artist—and thus the three were coronated and sent on their way again.
we’ve been doing our best to bring people a singular art performance in the comfort of their homes. but the baltimore show, thanks to our host, Julia Brown, Elvis, and the crowd reached levels of surreal beauty that would have been frankly impossible to produce on our own. it was a night marked by the confluence of several very different creative energies—and it’s worth considering how alternative hustles such as touring houses can facilitate that confluence.
A few weeks ago, during my weekly radio show, after a lengthy set of East Coast lo-fi indie pop, I referred to the songs as “tweemo” music. It’s a horribly gaudy and generic categorization, but there is a bit of truth to the name. Because starting last year and running full force through 2013, there has been a considerable scene growing in indie’s underground. With a focus on plaintive, lo-fi songs mostly released on cassette and spearheaded by labels like Brooklyn’s Birdtapes and Orchid Tapes, tape hiss and confessional lyrics has been yet again growing a small, yet dedicated, fanbase.
Alex G has been there from the beginning. Perhaps not directly involved with the scene’s inner workings, but as a direct influence on some of it’s biggest breakouts so far: bands like Julia Brown, Pill Friends, Attic Abasement, and Elvis Depressedly. His two albums last year, Trick and Rules didn’t so much as fly under the radar as they dug a hole under the radar station and infiltrated it from the inside. In just over a year Alex has gone from local DIY hero to being included on a list of “20 Indie Classics” with the likes of Minor Threat, Bright Eyes, Slowdive, and The Microphones.
R.L. Kelly, on the other hand, is a brand new addition to this crew. The solo project of Kiss Kiss Fantastic‘s Rachel Levy, her debut album Life’s a Bummer was released this February to much fanfare. Both artists occupy a very specific space of melancholy that highlights devastation in life’s minutiae. “I don’t like how things change,” Alex crooned late last year. “How it hurts to change when everything is not enough,” Rachel echoed just a few months later.
There are few moments of pure joy on Split, though the catharsis does feel somewhat relieving. The songs are short and affective, like a knife directly to your ribs. There are hooks piled on top of hooks, but when you catch yourself singing, “What I need to be okay with myself / and everybody else,” while walking down the street, it’s a little disconcerting. Out of all the admirable things about this collaboration, the ability of these two musicians to mask their crushing lyrics under literal pop perfection might the most admirable.
R.L. Kelly’s side deals mainly with mental struggles: coping with depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness. “Everyday” builds itself around an overblown bass loop while Levy questions—but doesn’t necessarily challenge—her self-deprecating mental state. The chorus-less “Fake Out” attempts to personify the hidden glowing thing that “floats next to” her bed, eventually consuming her entirely. The third track on her side, “The Voices,” ends with the devastating resolution: “Ask the voice in my head, ‘Am I’m okay?’ / She says, ‘Get out of my head.’” The mental battle is nonstop, and ends in just under seven minutes. It’s a wrenching, beautiful continuation of her debut record—something somehow simultaneously more accessible and yet equally upsetting.
Alex G, on the other hand, is a little less direct with his heartbreak. Generally, he is a storyteller, and his tracks on Split range from the confessional to the magical. “Magic Mirror” is heavily processed and distorted, with Alex trading lines with what sounds like a young girl. The lyrics are nearly unintelligible but the parts that peek through (“When it fades, I’m a slave to you”) make the struggle worth all of the sadness. Bar stool confessional “Trade” meanders through mumbled admissions of “I’m way too old to give a shit” and “there is no one inside this body.” Even if there is an indignant tone to the lyrics, it feels pitifully depressive.
The highlight of the entire record is Alex G’s “Adam.” What begins as a tale of schoolyard bullying becomes a heartfelt expression of love, swapping the “I’ll never let it go” from the first verse with “I want you so.” It flips the song’s entire context upside down in just four words, timed in perfect succession with a wailing organ.
Alex and Rachel live for these little mind-bending moments when things come full circle. Unearthing deeply buried emotions and feelings in the listener is what these two do best, and it’s nothing short of destiny that the two teamed up for a release like this. Levy famously covered Alex’s “Change” on her debut earlier this year, and even then the pairing made perfect sense. That their collaboration is this perfect is a testament to the strength of this beautiful little scene the internet has birthed. Thanks to the internet, collaborations of this quality have become increasingly common. But there’s an indescribable relief that these two have created here that is simply unmatched in 2013. Like R.L. Kelly says on “Everyday”: when I listen to these songs it’s almost feels like nothing’s wrong.
Instead of me telling you why you should listen to the latest EP by Baltimore newbies Dungeon Kids, I’m just going to relay the original email/run-on-sentence that Sam Ray (Julia Brown, Ricky Eat Acid) sent me last month endorsing the band:
…this EP (unmastered still & not even finished being mixed I guess) is incredible and so fucking weird. Like some weird mix of Cursive and the Talking Heads style art-pop just like angular guitar, weird goofy nonsense, screaming, super pop. Some weird small bit of like Philly-ish (not noodley) emo in there. Like Glocca Morra‘s older heavier stuff even when its just fast walls of guitar noise. I love it.
How’s that for a recommendation?
Grab the band’s debut EP Oh How It Hurts via their Bandcamp page.
I don’t know where I think I’ve been
But it’s good to be outside again
Every work day I feel that verse to the bone. Trapped in a windowless wire-filled room from 8-5pm, it’s almost awe-inspiring to open the door and let the light pour in.
Ever Ending Kicks (formerly Motorbikes), the musical project of Paul Adam Benson, has just re-issued his other worldly pop cassette entitled Weird Priorities via Baltimore’s Holy Page. The opening track, “Outside Again,” gives a good keyhole look at the diverse spectrum of sounds following on the LP—honest lo-fi verses skimming the realms of beat tapes and synths.
Sometimes Bandcamp is beautiful. Sure it’s vast and chaotic, but amidst the chaos often hides a bit of peace. Many times I’ll stroll through the “Baltimore” tag just to see what oddities are occurring in my hometown that avoid PR, labels, and email hype. What I happened upon this instance is the glorious found-sound samplings of Hugging.
Hugging is the side project of Jason the Swamp, a Baltimore artist whom I know nothing about. When Jason isn’t swamping, he’s skirting the art-rock experimental pop vibe. It’s pretty stunning in its own right (check his most recent EP, Remember, Resemble). What he’s doing with Hugging is somewhat different—creating exceptional melodic instrumentals with bits and pieces of samples from all over.
Today is his newest LP, filled with a wide array of moods and moments that tell a lonely story of hope and mystery. While most of the tracks build to a higher beat or energy, the song I was most captivated by was “How Many Marigolds?” This song is a peaceful summer dream x10. It’s hard to listen and not immediately imagine floating down an undiscovered waterway, birds darting through the distant clouds that thankfully cover the sun’s heated rays.
How often do you get cassette tapes in the mail from an experimental xylophonist? I know that for me, personally, it’s only happened one time, and that time was last week. This particular experimental xylophonist’s name is Rod Hamilton and his music is as meek and stripped-down as his unassuming pitch to me was. I’ve since found out that Rod is a fixture of the vibrant and diverse Baltimore music scene and in addition to releasing his own music, he also runs the DIY venue Soft House.
Fastened right in the middle of Rod’s latest album, Atitlán, is a track called “Treppe 4.” For being based in Baltimore, tracks like “Treppe 4″ have an uncanny ability to transport the listener to places a little more… exotic. Establishing a tribal flair by looping different rhythms on top of each other, Rod has given the track a sense of percussion, melody, and flow, all with just the xylophone. The result is something in-between ambient, new age, and maybe even moody exotica that is best suited to quiet moments. There is a lot of intricacy on display here that could easily get buried beneath background noise, so do yourself a favor and find a quiet spot and let the beauty of Rod’s music wash over you.
I think I’m listening to something I can only describe as carousel-pop. As in, when I close my eyes while listening I imagine myself spinning ’round a carousel in a complete soft focus Hollywood manner. A blend of romance, nostalgia, vibrant colors, and weird carney mystique.
Baltimore’s electro psych-pop quartet Raindeer are working that carousel magic well. Tattoo was just released on cassette by the ever-stellar Friends Records and it continues the neon summer star-gazing vibe pushed out last year with their S/T release.
Frontman Charlie Hughes builds an intricate amalgam of sugary synthed-out psych that is much in line with the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow, but also ties into some complex and rewarding pop-rock vibes. So for every ounce of Dan Deacon-like synthesizer overloads packed into a song, there’s an equal amount New Pornographers/Fleetwood Mac harmonious pop-rock vibes backing it up. The latter flows from the title track, “Tattoo.”
What’s that saying? When it rains it pours?
As many can confirm, Monday’s usually seem like the optimum day for things to generally go to hell. This past manic Monday was hell-times-10 in terms of stress/things breaking/things going missing at my 9-5er. And surprisingly I think I’m happy that it went that way. For you see, towards the end of the workday, Adam Lempel of Baltimore’s Weekends sent me a much needed email featuring a brand new track from their upcoming LP, New Humans. Without the previous hours of mind-numbing-workplace-horror-show, I don’t think my mindset would have been ready for the absolute intense throbbing beauty and force of “Bee Side,” the closing song on the album. I put my headphones on, let my fingers rest off the keyboard for once, turned the volume waaaaay up, and imagined the entire office falling to pieces bit by bit until the final note faded. That was the true peace of mind I needed—the kind you can only get through the loud thundering guitars and drums of Weekends.
Speaking of rising from the ashes, Weekends and New Humans have done just that. A little while ago, Open Space, Weekends’ (and a host of other artists and kind souls) practice/living space caught fire, displacing a lot of people, and ruining a lot of beautiful things. One thing that did survive was 50 copies of this much-anticipated LP—which will be available in limited edition complete with the smokey aroma (an additional 250 copies will be available too) on August 30th.
Weekends will be posting one song at a time on their SoundCloud, in reverse order, until the final release date.