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WESTERN VINYL

RG Lowe

Life Of The Body

    After years of success in the world of neo-classical music with his band Balmorhea, RG Lowe took an artistic sharp turn leading to his soulful 2017 debut, Slow Time, which Stereogum called "impossibly smooth." Three years later, Lowe returns with Life of the Body, produced by David Boyle - known for his work with Glen Hansard, Patty Griffin, and Okkervil River. This wide-angle collection of songs invites us to reconnect with ourselves and our world through the senses by illuminating our intrinsic connection with the physical world, and the freedom found therein. Echoing the ardor of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and channeling Talk Talk's Mark Hollis, Lowe asks us each to "feel the wind blow on your face, camerado." At once intimate and epic, opening track "Sorrow" sets a tone of longing and malaise, from which Lowe expands and breaks out of, over the next 8 songs. As the album progresses, he explores myth, desire, love and the mystery of art, concluding with the ethereal, acoustic guitar-driven "Beauty Finds Forever," on which it's clear he's transformed. He's found the deepest nourishment; an enrichment of the soul found through a saturation of his physical senses, an antidote to our anguished age.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Cream & Bone Vinyl.

    Erik Hall

    Music For 18 Musicians (Steve Reich)

      A re-interpretation so often comes from an impulse, even if subliminal, of oneupmanship - let me do better, wait 'til you hear it my way. Sometimes though, and it happens too rarely, the cover is an act of devotion in which a musician's humility produces something more beautiful than bravura could. When Erik Hall undertook his painstaking reconstruction of Steve Reich's 1976 masterpiece of minimalism, Music for 18 Musicians, it was as much an exercise in modesty as ambition. With its repetitions and complex constructions, the piece makes great demands on stamina and concentration, and Reich himself advised that these challenges meant it should probably be performed with more than eighteen musicians. Hall, however, recorded every part himself in his small home studio, playing instruments he had on hand, in live, single takes. Here, then is the ambition. But here too is the modesty: by doing one section a day, one instrument at a time, he made his way through this monumental piece, building a faithful and loving re-creation, one sonic brick at a time. Xylophone becomes muted piano, violin becomes electric guitar and so it is that music for eighteen becomes music for one. "I didn't want the differences to be distracting, or gimmicky," says Hall, who's loved the piece for as long as he can remember. "I wanted it to be true to the timbre and spirit of the original recording," and he thought a great deal about, "how I would shape the tone of each instrument, to come across with the same impact that we know the piece to have." His methodology, as with Reich's piece itself, is workmanlike, and it's from this humble and steadfast undertaking that something honest and radiant emerges.

      Peter Oren

      The Greener Pasture

        The album art, made by my close friend Quintin Caldwell, is a farm scene made in the isometric style of a silicon valley tech company's marketing content. The cattle's enclosures are smart-phone shaped. "John Wayne" is a comment on American individualism and the characters that symbolize it. John Wayne's many, yet consistent characters and the consistent but multi-actored Bruce Wayne (Batman) serve as model citizens and vigilantes. They justify violence in fighting crime, or disrespect, while doing little to address underlying causes of injustice. I see in myself similar tendencies of false self-reliance despite knowing that collective effort will be critical to successful change. My previous album, Anthropocene, asks in the title track, "where will I go/ if I don't want to be/ with idle hands awaiting catastrophe/ here in the Anthropocene."

        The Greener Pasture offers a somewhat defeated answer to that question in its own title track: "The greener pasture is also fenced in/ the wider trough has an asterisk/ rotate the herd every few days/ or is it every few years/ we got their tags on our ears/ standing in shit crying bovine tears." As cattle's comfort is often forgone, I've been uncomfortably seeking my role in a market economy that might allow me to contribute to necessary change in the system. Even those reluctant to acquiesce to the demands of the labor market such as myself are these days made valuable through their data and attention.

        Just as screens have reached beyond squared corners, up and around user-facing lenses, screens have spread beyond times square to capture the core of our culture and economy at a rapid pace. In the process of vying for a chance to call music my profession, I've writhed in the pain of isolation it's brought and sunk deeper into hermetic habits, buttressed by social media platforms that my more successful peers have somehow managed to excel using. Where others have managed to perform for the public, I have somewhat remained a private spectator, attached to systems I know well are designed to invade my time with promoted content and a false sense of connectedness. Whether sleeping in a hotel far from home or the back of a vehicle searching for nothing up a national forest road, my transience only sunk the hooks deeper.

        I hopped from one fill-in living arrangement to the next in anticipation of frugal touring sweeping me off my feet. I've largely neglected other skills except when necessary to pay bills. When I received my advance for a second Western Vinyl album, no other theme called me as much as an examination of phone use. I invested in equipment to record myself instead of studio time so that I could come closer to mastering the craft to which I've dedicated myself and simultaneously to capture and store as much value as possible from the advance, given the scarcity of revenue in my musical efforts. In the process I dove deeper into isolation and into my phone in a cabin in the woods, which had been made available on very friendly terms.

        Now that the work of recording is through, I am continuing to write for the next album but looking for the place to reinsert myself into the organic plane of existence. I signed a lease for a place of my own for the first time. I'm building wooden phone stands to sell as merch that will sport artwork intended to encourage users to leave their phones in one place while home - that isn't a pocket - such as to deter excessive phone use."

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: 'Grass Is Greener' Green Vinyl.

        Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        Activity

        Unmask Whoever

          Supergroup featuring members of Grooms, Field Mouse, and Russian Baths Produced by Jeff Berner of Psychic TV. Mastered by Heba Kadry, known for her work with Bjork, Slowdive, Deerhunter, Japanese Breakfast, Cass McCombs, et al. Activity are an avant four-piece featuring Travis Johnson, and drummer Steve Levine, both from the band Grooms, bassist Zoë Browne from Field Mouse, and guitarist Jess Rees from Russian Baths. Produced by engineer Jeff Berner of Psychic TV, their debut forms a casually menacing framework for lyrical themes of paranoia, exposed character flaws, and the broader human capacity for growth when an ugly truth is laid bare.

          Lead single “Calls Your Name,” establishes the record’s spectral aura with nauseated electronic bells, and a relentless Geoff Barrow-esque drum beat beneath a half-sung, half-spoken lyrics inspired by C.S. Lewis’s 1945 novel The Great Divorce. In the novel, characters stuck in a grey, joyless conception of hell repeatedly deny opportunities to be taken into heaven, instead making excuses as to why they should remain in their embittered purgatory states.

          Allegorically, this speaks to the kind of opportunity for metamorphosis and positive change that’s possible when the depths of disillusionment are reached, an idea which permeates much of the album. Despite recurrent aches of discontentment, each track glows with radiant waves of catharsis while elegantly evoking jubilation and anguish within the same breadth, showing that the two are always around the corner from one another. 

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: ’Translucent glacial blue’ vinyl

          Mint Julep

          Stray Fantasies

            Stray Fantasies marks a deepening of the discography of wife-and-husband duo Hollie and Keith Kenniff under their collaborative moniker Mint Julep, an expertly manicured electric-pop venture that stands in stark contrast to the nebulous and experimental Helios and Goldmund outputs for which the latter member is known (though both members have ambient projects under their own names). Where those projects seek to defy conventional songform through textural, amorphous exploration, Mint Julep gels all the elements with a surprising and impressive songwriting expertise that speaks to the skill and well-roundedness of its creators. Stray Fantasies further proves this by delivering twelve fully crystallized, iridescent pop pearls glimmering with the interplay of synthesizers, pulsing basslines, and punching drums that ballast Hollie's oneiric singing as she unfurls themes of vulnerability, insecurity, and other aching minutiae of love and relationships.

            The album quickly establishes its impetus with its opener, Blinded, whose one-two drumbeat, brisk synth arpeggios, and spot-on vocal melodies earnestly tempt descriptions like "iconic" and "anthemic" without a single put-on. The title track follows punctually delivering on the promise of the first, solidifying the energy and ensuring that the duo's passion and urgency isn't about to give way to the lull of a front-loaded suite. When the tempo eases, it does so only slightly on the seductive "White Noise" which palpitates with something subtler than hurt or longing-- something perhaps only communicable by the singular mood Mint Julep have carved out for themselves. The central territory of Stray Fantasies exudes the latent dancefloor sensibilities of Keith Kenniff as a producer exemplified in the club-ready synth-leads of "Just for Today" and the low end kick drum patterns of "Escape" and "Vakaras" both of which strike with harder physicality than anything the duo has done to date (due in part to the engineering of The Shins' Yuuki Matthews). Mint Julep encapsulates a feeling often misattributed to youthfulness, a kind of dark and sensual liberation that most people regardless of age partake in after hours when the sun is down, the mood is thick, and the "adulting" is over for the day. But as the night fades and the sun reapproaches, the mood gets woozy, and the scene is set aglow in the four A.M. half-light embodied by the shoegaze strumming of "Translations". The haze intensifies on "Still Waters" a song whose opening bass throbs tease malevolence before giving way to the shadowy sweetness of a buzzed late-night drive with a new love. Album closer "Iteration" with its gleaming guitars, smiling melodies, and dewey fields of synthesizer emerges like a sunrise, unwelcome only in the sense that you'd hoped the night wouldn't end, still you are thankful for a conclusive moment of reflection. 

            RIYL: Alvvays, School of Seven Bells, Tamaryn, Chairlift, Cocteau Twins. 

            Moon Bros

            The Easy Way Is Hard Enough

              Strolling home after a gig one night in Chicago, Matthew Schneider (Moon Bros), was punched in the face by one young man, while another filmed the attack, presumably to post the video online. Though Schneider wasn’t knocked out in the attack, the assailants stole his prized electric guitar. Rather than sulking over his loss and victimhood, he took it as a sign to change direction and focus on acoustic guitar. This is the kind of person he is. In fact, he called it “the best day of his life.” His new LP raises a toast with the same glass-half-full outlook that Schneider has carried from his days as a young guitar prodigy in rural Illinois to his current status as a woodworker and carpenter in LA.

              So many fingerstyle virtuosos fall into one trap or another; bad production, hollow showboating, predictable influences, but Schneider bypasses all the tropes. In doing so, he gives the subgenre back to the weirdos, rendering it more palatable and listenable than it has been since the early ‘70s. On album opener “OO Bub” the drum machine abruptly switches on, doing its best impression of a chugging st eam-engine, and The Easy Way… begins. Over the rhythm, Schneider’s notes roll skillfully and effortlessly into one another aside joyous howls and grinning harmonica. As the song quietly sputters out, “Footsteps” appears on its heels with zero hesitation. Gorgeous, finger-tapped fractals of 12-string guitar tessellate outward and back in, while a pedal-steel acts as a gentle barrier to it all like water lapping against a stoney wall in some quiet corner of a lake. “Temporary Thoughts” pulls the contemplative vibe back out, and Schneider’s lyrics show up here at the very middle of the album, fashionably late, but welcome nonetheless. Any time he sings it’s brief and respectful to his guitar playing, adding to his string-band tapestry rather than hoisting into the foreground and blocking the view.

              By the time The Easy Way… reaches “Okie” the river rapids have emptied out into a moonlit cove in one of the most passive, yet most brooding moments on the record. Here Schneider pulls off what the best psychedelic-era acoustic records do: the subtle blend of blues with the minor key drones and flutters of Indian classical ragas that led to a new form of contemplative music for the counterculture of the late 1960s and beyond. Schneider doesn’t just dust it off and call it his own, rather he coaxes it from his chakras, paying no mind to those oversimple idioms and their qualifiers. Continuing the quietude, more spirographic fretwork winds down to a gradual close with “Nasty Fresh” concluding the punctual and introspective journey that is The Easy Way is Hard Enough, a suite of adept guitar vignettes that prioritize heart over skill, yet possess a wealth of both. 

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              Lightning Dust

              Spectre

                On Spectre, their 4th album as Lightning Dust, Amber Webber and Josh Wells embrace as their sole-focus what was once a side-project, thus crafting their most refined and powerful album to date. After co-founding and touring with Black Mountain for over a decade, the duo departed from the band to further their own longterm creative partnership. Lightning Dust has evolved noticeably with each release, from the spare, dark folk of their self-titled debut, to the synth and drum machine-heavy 2013 album Fantasy. However, the through-line of their discography has been Wells' deft production tailored perfectly around Webber's modestly iconic voice which stirred Pitchfork write of their 2009 LP Infinite Light that Webber's was "one of the fiercest, most stirring vocal performances of any release this year." In this sense the tracks on Spectre echo the spirits of quintessential rock vocalists like Grace Slick and Beth Gibbons, throughout a collection of songs that range from expertly sculpted folk-rock ear candy, to sparse Judee Sill-esque ballads consisting of little more than piano and voice.

                Written during the devastating forest fires that filled her hometown of Vancouver with smoke and a sense of apocalyptic doom, album opener "Devoted To" captures Webber's resilience and determination to reestablish her creative independence as she sings "I will find my way back in even if I never sleep...Gotta find my way back in, it's all that I believe." Propulsive rocker "Run Away" is an observation of the human need for change. Amber explains, "It was written in response to friends leaving their soul crushing jobs. I wanted to write a song that flip-flopped between the glorious freedom they felt upon leaving, and moments of despair that came afterward." Shining an optimistic light on her departure from Black Mountain on the anthemic "When It Rains" Webber sings "Let's celebrate what we've done so far instead of what comes next always ripping at our hearts - it ruins." Wells' impeccable drumming and tastefully restrained synths on the soaring and cinematic "Joanna" offer the perfect backdrop for Webber, as she sings about the demons of her past "I prefer not to see - You shook me inside my memory."

                The assuring shuffle of "Pretty Picture", on which Stephen Malkmus shreds, is followed by the booming slacker anthem "Competitive Depression" which features vocals by Destroyer's Dan Bejar. Spectre's dramatic two-part closer "3AM/100 Degrees" brings the album full-circle with a final statement about delusions that manifest in strife, exemplified by the song's final lines "replaying what's behind, made us all scared when nothing was there." 2018 was a whirlwind of new beginning for Webber - going back to school and even trying out a new career. In the end these detours gave her the chance to step back and explore what parts of music were important to protect. "It made me realize that art and music are still my light." She goes on to explain, "Spectre is my journey. It's for all the women warriors that have been battling throughout life looking for a place to express themselves that feels inclusive and inspiring. It's about finding yourself when no one is paying attention and inventing a new way of creating that feels honest and sincere. I truly feel that women, especially as we get older are underrepresented. That was truly the driving force to creating this album." 

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Barry says: Even from opener 'Devoted To', there are a huge amount of influences seeping through the fabric of Lightning Dust's rhythmic psychedelic synth sounds. Dancefloor arpeggios, haunting gothic vocals and synth-pop throbs burst into a soaring jazzy breakdown. The album continues in much the same way, always astounding but rarely disjointed, this is the sound of a band on their finest form.

                Abram Shook

                The Neon Machine

                  The Neon Machine, the 4th album from Austin musician Abram Shook, is a dystopian dance party, and everyone’s invited. Juxtaposed against 2017’s sepia-tinged, quietly reflective Love at Low Speed, the new record’s mix of irresistible beats and slyly humorous lyrics might seem like a 180 at first glance: a giddy, knowing soundtrack to the end of the world. The varied influences of world music and jazz that are present in all his records can still be heard (as in the High-Life inspired guitar work on “My Money”), though here Shook tucks them into the corners and uses them in more subtle ways, giving center stage to a vintage Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, a drum sequencer, and his signature rubbery bass lines.

                  In Shook’s adept hands, The Neon Machine is full of day-glo danceability even though something slightly sinister lurks beneath the surface; it’s a kind of tour de force synesthesia for the fevered mind. With this record, Shook has traded in his usual gimlet-eyed observations for a playfully cynical sense of humor. Using highly confessional lyrics and deeply personal insight to convey his anger, with the current political climate, he writes candidly about his anxieties, and frustrations toward a country and culture that he’s grown up with, but hasn’t always felt at home in. Full of Prince-esque riffs, Blood Orange-style beats, and David Bowie allusions, The Neon Machine is accessible and adventurous at once. It has as its backdrop a party that’s lasted too long, and the foreground of a narrator full of anxiety and skepticism whose hangover has already begun. The beauty of it lies in its malleability. What appears on the surface to be an effervescent album of pop anthems, with its familiar themes of sex, love and drugs, soon reveals its true heart: the intimate insights of a man, long accustomed to being an outside observer, who has decided to join the fray. “In a lot of ways it feels like the record I’ve always wanted to make.” 

                  Outer Spaces

                  Gazing Globe

                    Born in a rural upstate NY town of 500 people, Cara Beth Satalino aka Outer Spaces, studied studio composition at Purchase College, where she also met her bandmate and life partner Chester Gwazda (producer of the first three Future Islands albums, and Dan Deacon's Bromst and America, among others). The Baltimore-based artist's new album Gazing Globe documents Satalino's effort to find herself through the creation of her own esoteric world of pop songs. While writing Gazing Globe, Satalino felt lost and listless, after she and Gwazda decided to take a break from their long-term relationship. To deal with her anxiety and self-doubt, and ultimately evolve emotionally and spiritually, she began a daily meditation practice, and writing songs. "I think I was trying to get back to myself and my identity, separate from my relationship," says Satalino. The result of her efforts is a collection of Murmur-era REM-esque power-pop songs, full of catchy guitar riffs, sonical ly juxtaposing her despondent perspective. Press Quotes - “Satalino wears her heart on her sleeve... crafting soft melodies that waver between slightly confessional and deeply personal” Consequence of Sound // “hyper-articulate indie pop” KEXP // “...brimming with delicate, elegantly crafted songs punctuated by incisive lyrics and unexpectedly vivid choruses” Under the Radar // “the record explores life’s transitions through a blend of mellow folk rock and catchy indie ballads” 

                    Rob Burger

                    The Grid

                      R.I.Y.L. Harmonia, Roedelius, Cluster, Dustin O’Halloran, Goldmund, Popol Vuh, Brian Eno.. Rob Burger’s talents as an arranger, composer, and keyboardist have been nurtured by morethan two decades of contributions to a diverse roster of recognizable names, at the very least including John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and Iron & Wine with whom Burger presently records and tours.

                      His new album The Grid combines neo-classical soundscapes, ‘70s kosmische, and jaunts of 20th-century exotica into a completely unique genre-quilt that synopsizes his long musical trek through multiple cities, scenes, and sounds. A lifelong musician, Rob began learning piano at age four and would go on to study under jazz luminaries Max Roach, Archie Shepp, and Yusef Lateef at the University of Massachusetts. As if his formal education weren’t impressive on its own, his informal one consisted of frequent visits to New York City creative hubs The Knitting Factory, and The Kitchen, where Burger became a fly on the wall to the likes of Arthur Russell, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson (Burger would go on to contribute to Anderson’s 2010 album Homeland). Anderson appears on The Grid’s ninth track “Souls of Winter”).

                      With the avant-garde door having long been kicked open, Burger relocated to the Bay and made a lasting impression upon the area’s music scene with his group Tin Hat Trio, while furthering his session and film-score work adjacently. When that group disbanded in the early ‘00s Burger found himself back in NYC where playing a Neil Young tribute show would entwine his path with that of Sam Beam (Iron & Wine). From then on, Burger has been an inextricable component of Beam’s live band and discography. Somewhere in the interim the growth of Burger’s family and his yearning for quieter climes led him to Portland, Oregon, where he built a studio, amassed an enviable collection of vintage keyboards, and began sowing the seeds of The Grid. Burger’s mysteriously upturning chord-changes express depth and melancholy without ever fully straying from a sense of curiosity and charm making the somber moments believable and palatable, as indicated in the album’s first moments. The Grid rolls in on a cloud bank of old-world sorrow with its piano and accordion prologue “Alternate Star,” but by the initial note of the second-track “Harmonious Gathering” all the sonic elements, dusty drum machines, choral keyboard patches, and rubberized synth bass seem to be smiling in glorious unison. This song, as well as the title track that shortly follows it, hint at what it might sound like if Harmonia had stayed intact and were scoring A24 films. 

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Coloured LP Info: Cosmic clear vinyl exclusive for indie stores only.

                      Heather Woods Broderick

                      Invitation

                        Invitation was conceived on the Oregon coast, an outlier among American landscapes, where vast stretches of empty beach are decorated with silver driftwood and towering pines. It is here among the dunes, tide pools and colossal rock formations that Heather spent her childhood summer day-trips. And it is here that she returned as an adult to construct her newest LP, an album of dreamy baroque-pop that swells and whispers with grand string arrangements, intimately descriptive lyrics, and impassioned songcraft built around earnest piano melodies, painting a lifelike picture of the locale in which it was written.

                        In the years between her early youth and the creation of Invitation, Heather has played in Efterklang, Horse Feathers, the live bands of Laura Gibson, Lisa Hannigan, and Damien Jurado, and has also been a longtime collaborator and bandmate to Sharon Van Etten. But while this list may seem enviable for an aspiring young musician, any experienced player will know that the life of a touring musician comes with its own sacrifices. Lasting relationships and financial certainty can be tenuous, as can mental stability itself. Feeling this first hand, Heather traded her usual launchpad of Brooklyn for the sleepy town of Pacific City where she would quietly take a job cleaning houses for a cast of local eccentrics, sitting down at the piano in the off-hours to unpack the personal tragedies and triumphs of the intervening decades since her first trips there. Throughout Invitation, floral tendrils of sound design and dynamic strings decorate the edges of each track, propelling the album beyond mere singer-songwriter fare into something altogether more grand and immersive in scope. 

                        RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Weyes Blood, Marissa Nadler, Julianna Barwick, Julia Holter. 

                        Machinefabriek

                        With Voices

                          With Voices is the newest recording by Dutch composer Rutger Zuydervelt under the moniker Machinefabriek. True to its title, the album’s eight pieces exhibit Zuydervelt’s use of tone generators, radios, synths, and other hi-fi curio to construct bewildering aural architecture around vocal contributions from Marissa Nadler, Peter Broderick, Richard Youngs, and others. The track “III” (the tracks are simply titled with Roman numerals) slowly winds like ivy through staccato phrases spoken by Peter Broderick, whose micro-incantations skip along mechanically only to telescope into monastic grandeur at the track’s midpoint. On “VIII” Marissa Nadler leads the suite to its lullabic endpoint with overlapping wisps of harmony devoid of accompaniment concluding the album on an angelic note. Throughout much of With Voices, warm-blooded arteries seem to have grown around bits of well-designed artifice to form something warmly alien, soberly futuristic, and inherently satisfying. More than simply an album of collaborative features, With Voices is a mutating collage of modern minimalism that challenges as often as it comforts. There is an alchemical, metallurgical quality that arises from Zuydervelt’s unique way of merging humanness with abstraction, harshness with beauty, and unintelligibility with familiarity on what may be the most affecting Machinefabriek release to date. 

                          Joseph Shabason

                          Anne

                            Delicately and compassionately woven with interviews of Shabason’s mother from whom the album takes its name, Anne finds its creator navigating a labyrinth of subtle and tragic emotions arising from his mother's struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Across the nine vivid postcards of jazz-laden ambience that comprise the album, Shabason unwraps these difficult themes with great care and focus revealing the unseen aspects of degenerative diseases that force us to re-examine common notions of self, identity, and mortality. Shabason’s uncanny ability to manoeuvre through such microscopic feelings is mirrored by his capacity to execute a similar tightrope-walk through musical genres. His music occupies a specific space that is as palpable as it is difficult to pin labels to.

                            On Anne’s second track “Deep Dark Divide” rays of effected saxophone shine behind clouds of digital synthesizer that echoes the sound of jazz in the late 80s, but with a Jon Hassell-esque depth of sensibility that consciously subverts the stylistic inoffensiveness of that era. There is detail and idiosyncrasy beneath Shabason’s dawn-of-the-CD-era sheen that elevates the album far beyond a mere aesthetic exercise. Still, the sounds on Anne are not so experimentally opaque as to stand in the way of the album’s through-line of sincerity and emotionality. When dissonance is employed it is punctual and meaningful, like on album-middler “Fred and Lil” where a six-minute cascade of breathy textures builds suddenly to an agitated growl, only to abruptly give way to Anne Shabason speaking intimately about her relationship to her own parents. Snippets of such conversations see her taking on something like a narrator role across Anne while the sound of her voice itself is sometimes effected to become a musical texture entwined into the fabric of the songs without always being present or audible. On “November” Shabason lays muted brass textures atop a wavepool of electric chords provided by none other than the ambient cult-hero Gigi Masin, one of Anne’s many integral collaborators.

                            The serene tragedy of the album distils itself gracefully into the ironically titled album closer “Treat it Like a Wine Bar” wherein flutters of piano and mournfully whispered woodwinds seem to evaporate particle by delicate particle, leaving the listener with a faint emotional afterglow like a dream upon waking. There is a corollary to be drawn here with what it must be like to feel one’s own mind and body drift away slowly until nothing remains, while the collection of memories and abilities that we use to denote the “self” softens into eternity. On Anne, it is precisely this fragile exchange of tranquillity and anguish that Joseph Shabason has proven his singular ability to articulate. 

                            Aisha Burns

                            Argonauta

                              Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and currently residing in Beverly, Massachusetts, violinist, vocalist and songwriter Aisha Burns began playing violin when she was 10 years old, and has been touring and recording since 2006.

                              Soon after moving to Austin in 2005, she gained her start with folk-rock outfit Alex Dupree and the Trapdoor Band, and joined the instrumental ensemble Balmorhea on violin in 2007. After years of secret singing, she released her solo debut Life in the Midwater in 2013. Called "twisting, ethereal...arresting" by Dazed Magazine, and praised for its "delicate intimacy" by NPR, Life in the Midwater explored mortality and relationships with candor and wisdom. Her new album Argonauta, is a collection of songs about her struggle with the grief of losing her mother, while also navigating a new relationship, and ultimately trying to figure out what the new normal is for her life.

                              Burns explains, “Argonauta is the child of a strange chasm in my life, the space where both unfathomable, debilitating loss and new love and hope reside. In an attempt to process this romantic love, the loss of my mother who lived her life as my confidant and dearest friend, and the hope of someday gaining acceptance of life’s ever-shifting cycles, these songs emerged. I had to write this record to give voice to the depression, anxiety and uncertainty I endured while grieving. 

                              Juliana Daugherty

                              Light

                                It’s hard to imagine that Juliana Daugherty’s softness and subtlety could materialize amid the tumult of current-day Charlottesville, VA, but every mode of being continues in the people of Charlottesville, as it does elsewhere, despite the impressions headlines might give. Despite the societal ills that dominate our screens, private struggles still exist, and Daugherty’s debut Light gives them palatable, manageable, and satisfying form. “I wrote this record partly to strip mental illness of its power,” Daugherty says. She adds, “There is nothing useful or beautiful to be gleaned from the experience of depression.”

                                Though this statement seems contrary to the romantic tone of Light, it is refreshing to hear an artist speak of their own depression with objectivity, unwilling to be charmed by the gloom. Daugherty wields her songcraft like a sword, not a diary to be buried in a drawer. As one listens, it becomes clear that Light was not a title chosen despite the gravity of its subject matter-- romantic struggle, abject depression, and throbbing vulnerability-- but rather in service of it. Light, so to speak, comes when we give shape to what haunts us. 

                                Balmorhea

                                Chime / Shone

                                  THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2018 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

                                  Two unreleased tracks the band recorded during the sessions for their previous album Clear Language, itself released in September 2017. The band will be in phase two of their album cycle, and will be touring Europe and the US to promote this release

                                  Caroline Says

                                  There's No Fool Like An Old Fool

                                    Moving beyond the surf-folk foundations of her debut, on No Fool... Sallee loosens her earthly tether, allowing her songs to float to ever higher altitudes on clouds of loops, immaculate melodies, and hypnotic harmonies, as she sings about aging, the daily grind, and hometown stymie. Moving to Austin in 2013 gave her a new perspective on her hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, which informed the overall vibe of the album. "I think leaving my fairly small hometown and then going back to visit it inspired the feeling I went for on this album. I observed that so many people I knew were content doing basically nothing.

                                    Or that they were scared to try to do anything or leave town, like they felt stuck there." The ¬first few notes of the Daniel Rossen-esque opener “First Song” dutifully establish the surreal and slightly tragic tone of longing maintained throughout the album. The curiously upturning melodies ride out on a rich ambient texture before “Sweet Home Alabama” cuts the fog with a crackling 60's soul loop that's charming and catchy enough to induce a cathartic laugh from the listener. The brightness fades with the frosty and propulsive “A Good Thief Steals Clean,” which features lyrics inspired by the 1971 ¬lm Panic in Needle Park, and the idea of being in love with a heroin addict. “I tend to write from the perspectives of characters in dark situations, even though my songs may sound bright,” Sallee notes of her alluring juxtaposition of sunny production and grim lyrics.

                                    She employs this dynamic again on “Rip O ,” a frenetically percussive song with lyrics inspired by an NPR story about a young Iraqi man who was killed in an ISIS bombing just before moving to NYC to become a professional dancer. Inspired by Terrence Malick's Badlands and Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska," the song “Black Hole" features multi-voice harmonies sung from the perspective of 50's spree killer Charles Starkweather. The hurdles she navigated to record naturally led to ad hoc recording techniques, and endless sonic experimentation, often leading to her use of the computer as an instrument. A tireless worker, and a wellspring of creativity, whatever Caroline Says, we will be listening.

                                    The Skull Eclipses

                                    The Skull Eclipses

                                      Known respectively for their independent work as Botany and Lushlife, Spencer Stephenson and Raj Haldar selected their collaborative mantle, The Skull Eclipses, when the album became more than just a one-plus-one combination of their individual sounds. The odd title was originally given to a demo beat that Stephenson sent Haldar back in 2014, but it quickly became apt for the subject matter and emotional tone that the album and group took on during creation. “The Skull Eclipses” refers to the philosophy of Solipsism, that nothing veri¬ably exists outside of the human mind, and dually to the idea that knowledge of one’s own mortality makes inner peace unachievable.

                                      Happiness is “eclipsed” by the image of death, classically represented as a “skull”. Accordingly, Haldar’s lyrics are a free-associative discourse on the value of life amid a growing population, Islamophobia misdirected at non-muslims via racist assumption, poverty, pharmaceutical abuse, mortality, mental illness, international conflict, political unrest, police shootings, and the continual failure of the drug-war that began when the album’s creators were just children. Stephenson’s trademark fractalline production, noticeably more grim and aggressive than the tie-dyed psychedelia of his Botany project, provides ample space for Haldar’s shadow-self to break through. Aside from displaying a wider tempo variation than any of Stephenson’s work to date The Skull Eclipses is spun from sonic threads dark enough to border on horror. Songs are glued together with interstitial bad-trip creep-ups: melting choirs, doomsday evangelists, and the Judica-Cordiglia recordings that are purported to have captured the sounds of Russian kosmonauts burning up on reentry.

                                      Broadly, The Skull Eclipses is a post-hip hop album that harmonizes tropes of mid 90's electronic genres-- ambient, downtempo, jungle, & trip-hop-- under a hauntological umbrella. It is the first offering from a project that's as much indebted to Broadcast & The Focus Group as it is to Pete Rock & CL Smooth, but obligated to neither. Up close however, the album is a peer into the shadows by two figures uncontent with blending into the tapestry of modern music, wholly committed to creating experiences over mere content, which is pouring in from all corners of a frustrated and distracted world. 

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says: A brilliantly effervescent mix of underground hip-hop, electronic beats, ambient interludes and thumping weirdo drone. It's a beautiful and varied beast, and one that demands your attention.

                                      In Tall Buildings

                                      Akinetic

                                        Akinetic, the new album from Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall's one-man polymathic project In Tall Buildings sees its creator plunge headlong into allegories of communication, loss, impulse, vice, and mass-denialism. With the addition of producer and engineer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine) Hall crashes through the aforementioned subject matter with brightness and lucidity, yielding his most intelligent and focused songwriting yet. Working out of his house with Deck in Pilsen, Chicago, Hall's efforts yield ten tracks of spacious and textured handmade pop, comprising one of the most sharply written and deftly recorded home-studio albums in memory. Where his previous titles were natural documents of his musicianship and songcraft, Akinetic arose from deliberate intent to write in concrete pop forms, lyrically informed by what he observed of modern culture, namely its fixation on technology-driven pseudo-progress at the cost of direct communication.

                                        "Rather than merely dwell in an inviting musical bed," Hall states, "I wanted to write songs with intentionality that would more directly declare themselves to a listener instead of just passively inviting them in." The epilogue “Wake Up” takes classic In Tall Buildings form with fluttering guitar, softly thumping drums, and Hall’s trademark production flourishes. Tape-crushed voices chirp behind the instruments (all played by Hall, as per the rest of the album) as our host poetically urges us to do what the song’s title suggests. The lights slowly fade up on Akinetic showing it for exactly what it is: a crystal clear, well-crafted montage of honest emotion, with pointed social commentary crouching just beneath the topsoil. That this was all achieved by one person playing every instrument, gently guided by a kindred and veteran co-producer, denotes Akinetic as the greatest height yet reached for In Tall Buildings. 

                                        Grooms

                                        Exit Index

                                          Grooms' Exit Index combines the abandon of pop with the unease of American life in 2017, cloaking its hooks in a clamor of samples and distortion, its agitation expressed in its dreampoetry lyrics. The album as a whole is a study in contrasts—light meeting dark, ampli¬er fuzz surrounding big melodies, sampled friction squaring o with fluidly played basslines. Album opener "The Directory" shrouds itself in synth-dappled mist until Johnson, backed by ghostly harmonies, asks with increasing intensity, "Where are my millions, my millions, my millions?" "Dietrich," meanwhile, pins itself on a steady bassline, its guitars whirling into a maelstrom as Johnson sings promises of fealty to a far-away target Grooms laid down the skeleton tracks for Exit Index, the Brooklyn band's ¬rst album since 2015's Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, at the storied New York recording studio The Magic Shop—the last band to record there before its closure in March 2016. "It was the end," recalls Johnson. "We ended up bashing out 13 or 14 songs—of which we kept 10—in about six hours, because it was the last day. The engineer was like, 'I can't believe it.

                                          This is like working on a record in the '60s, where the band comes in and they know everything super well, because they have to.'" Johnson, drummer Steve Levine, and bassist Jay Heiselmann had battened down in a Brooklyn recording studio for a month to write Exit Index, ¬guring out the bones of tracks like the pummeling "Magistrate Seeks Romance" and the tensely amorphous "Turn Your Body." The lyrics on Exit Index combine honest expressions of anxiety with heady imagery that elicits icy, barren landscapes and dead-end streets. ("There's so few things we can talk about/Our endless words, overheard/We're not dead, we're being straightened out/We're semi-tough, it's not enough," he sings on the swirling "Softer Now.") "It's a heavier record than I've ever written lyrics for," says Johnson. "I was writing it while I watched every single debate last year—I don't know why I did that to myself—and after my wife would go to sleep, I would stay up with headphones on, recording and making samples—synths and quiet guitar, stuff like that.

                                          In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world.

                                          Smith (who by no coincidence, cites naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself. The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough EARS, chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP. The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the aforementioned subject.

                                          Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,” which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness here, but it's elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but underreported moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up another highlight in the form of “In The World But Not Of The World” which serves its subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end pulse.

                                          Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself.

                                          This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On “To Feel Your Best” this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. 

                                          FORMAT INFORMATION

                                          2xColoured LP Info: This indies exclusive LP is on Twilight coloured vinyl (transparent blue with solid black and white bits mixed in).

                                          Balmorhea

                                          Clear Language

                                            A decade-plus on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused the revered Austin duo, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, to soberly assess the band's future. What, in the form of Balmorhea, was there left to say? And did they have the energy to say it? Stranger, the group's maximalist, genre-leaping full-length from 2012, had already seemed to trace the group's farthest bounds. And, over the years, they'd worked with a roving cast of accomplished string and rhythm players to craft a glassy-eyed, sage-brushed, instrumental Americana that, while celebrated in The New Yorker, Pitchfork and The Atlantic, among myriad other press, and attracting the film, ad, and television worlds risked pigeonholing them for good.

                                            As they had in the beginning, in 2006, Muller and Lowe worked simply and with restraint, letting intuition guide them as they molded the 10 elegant, spacious gestures that comprise Clear Language.
                                            A relaxed, clear-eyed wonder tumbles through these songs like herons lancing through Kerouac's "hungermaking" fog. Clear Language is the sound of two friends transmitting unfettered meaning in a milieu choked by double-speak at every turn. Co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin’s Church House Studios, Clear Language finds the duo returning to the simplicity of their roots.

                                            They eschewed complexity for complexity’s sake, allowing a watery, sand-hued mood to settle over their use of analog synthesizers, piano, vibraphone, electric and bass guitar, violin, viola, field recordings, and, for the first time in the band’s history, trumpet, performed by Tedeschi Trucks' Ephraim Owens. A relaxed, clear-eyed sense of reflection flows gracefully through the album as these two old friends transmit unfettered meaning through simple sonic gestures that resonate with the cosmos as much as they echo the pulse of a human heart. In a culture dominated by the loudest, ostentatious voices, Lowe and Muller continue to prove the power and importance of restraint and minimalism.

                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                            Barry says: Oh Balmorhea, how my heart longs for your slowly brushed strings and delicately tinkering reverb-drenched piano refrains. This is, as much as any of their other relases, truly a gorgeous thing to behold. I've owned everything of theirs thus far, and this will be no exception. Lovely stuff.

                                            Caroline Says

                                            50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong

                                            The album title seems to refer to the contrast between what our elders tell us and the perspectives we form out of our own experiences. There's a vacillation between idealism and realism, and it expresses itself musically in the hairpin turns from gentle folk into brazen experimental flourishes, like on “Funeral Potatoes.” The track opens with lilting, somber, Satie-esque piano, but at the halfway point, typical choices of song structure and transition are discarded in favor of a screeching, static-washed loop of violin and feedback that transcends the formality of songcraft, becoming something altogether more daring and collage-like.

                                            The more band-driven songs on 50 Million recall an early-1990’s style of production in the way chorus-twinged electric guitars and tight, papery drumbeats point our mind’s eye to the West Coast sunset, like on the mid-album standout “Gravy Days.” Sallee decorates the background of most songs with hushed humming that could stand alone as a minimalist-ambient choral album, and when employed on her songs, elevates the ¬final product to an astral level. Sallee’s gift lies in pitting the familiar against the unexpected with a delicate assuredness, never compromising the one for the other. These kinds of debuts can sometimes feel like an over-promise of what is to come, but in the case of Caroline Says there's clearly plenty more thread to be unraveled. It'll be a pleasure to see where the next bus ride takes us. 

                                            Art Feynman

                                            Blast Off Through The Wicker

                                              Dub, Krautrock, and 70’s Highlife inspired debut. Clash says “his open-ended psychedelic vision conjures simple, primal emotion.” Line of Best Fit calls it “mad genius.” Blast Off Through the Wicker documents Art Feynman looking for life in the lifeless, questioning what it means to be living. There is a calm, disciplined pocket to be felt in everything Feynman does; krautrock slink, staccato bounce, and pentatonic bursts of Nigerian Highlife fuzz pour on the temporal canvas with unquestionable ease, never falling in the wrong place. Even more admirable is, that his "canvas" is a four-track tape recorder, and that Blast Off features no loops or drum machines despite its aesthetically faithful motorik and afrobeat underpinnings.

                                              Nowhere is this fact more surprising than on album standout "Slow Down" which pulses along infectiously with a crunchy backbeat, and deftly arpeggiating bass lines that are so locked-in that it would be hard to fault an unknowing ear for assuming the whole thing is tediously programmed. There are gentler sides to Blast Off that conjure the spacey tenderness of Arthur Russell inventively and respectfully, without adopting their muse's palette wholesale. In this regard Blast Off is an endearing collection of songs that capture the ear with warm-yet-clear cassette aesthetics and spot-on musicianship, both of which form an angle that points lovingly to Feynman's deep and varied influences. Make no mistake-- this one truly is alive.

                                              Nightlands

                                              I Can Feel The Night Around Me

                                                The third album from Philadelphia's Nightlands (War On Drugs’ Bassist Dave Hartley), is an exercise in synthetic nostalgia. Each of the nine songs use meticulous choral arrangements and bittersweet pop melodies to evoke a unique type of longing, not for the past, but for a future that once lay ahead but has drifted out of reach. For Dave Hartley, the artistic force behind Nightlands, the answer is found on an inward retreat, away from the cold static of modern life and into the warmth of love and protection. I Can Feel the Night Around Me showcases Hartley's finely tuned ability to layer his voice and conjure some of the most beautiful and elaborate virtual choirs in modern music. If his first two records were vocal layering experiments, his third stands as Hartley's thesis statement: "I was determined to use vocal stacking to enable my songwriting, not shroud or obscure it."

                                                He recorded most of the album alone in a cold warehouse basement, which he affectionately calls The Space -- it's where The War on Drugs formerly rehearsed and stored their equipment. "The dissonance between the sound of the album and the atmosphere in which it was recorded is pretty striking," Hartley says. Indeed the music seems more geographically inspired by the microclimates of the Lost Coast and the moonrises of Big Sur than the post-industrial cityscape of North Philadelphia. Perhaps his periodic westward sojourns and healthy obsessions with mid-career Beach Boys albums and Denis Johnson's Already Dead: A California Gothic were influencing him more than he was aware.

                                                Despite the warm astral vibes of opener “Lost Moon," the song was born in that unheated warehouse basement during a record-setting blizzard. "I wanted to write a song like Jimmy Webb's ‘Wichita Lineman’," he recalls. "But it didn't come out like that at all. I ended up in a lonely and unexpected place, which was a really nice surprise." The massive "Only You Know”, a cover from Dion's Phil Spectorproduced masterpiece Born to Be With You, blends perfectly with the rest of the album's shades of psyched-out doo wop revivalism If there is an outlier on I Can Feel the Night Around Me, it's the exotica-tinged “Fear of Flying,” which Hartley composed with minimalist synth virtuoso Frank LoCrasto before the two had ever even met. Soft tangles of voice wash up on the shore of the song's warbling synth backbone, pushing the album briefly into the sunlight without sacri¬cing its melancholy, late-night vibe. It's the sound of the earth turning, night falling. Soon it will be dark, but there's still light seeping over the horizon. And that's a beautiful thing. 

                                                Third LP by Austin’s Spencer Stephenson aka BOTANY, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer’s ¬first two records into meterless cosmic territory, juxtaposing free jazz arrhythmia with cathedral-¬lling harmony, ringing on the temple walls with soaring grandeur. A psych-inflected scrapbook of atmospheres with tremendous sonic and emotional breadth.. In essence Deepak Verbera is a soundscape record created through methods usually found in hip-hop; vinyl samples, looped vocal phrases, pulsing bass, and warm synths all shimmer with kosmische-indebted splendor, like Popol Vuh with MPCs and a stack of secondhand records. “Whose Ghost” opens the album, challenging the listener to endure an Albert Ayler-style clamour of argumentative drums and brass. Then follows the library-music-inspired “Has Appeared” prior to the ascendant, “Ory (Joyous Toil)”. Its incense laden sister song “Burning From the Edges Inward” plays like a mini-album unto itself, seamlessly shifting moods with each passage as rolling waves of acoustic piano diffuse into smoked-out guitar drones and witch-like choirs. Side A ends with “Outer Verberum,” a guitar-heavy track which can only be described as “free-psych”. Tracks like “Gleaning Gleaming” are built out of micro-snippets of soul records that cascade over themselves to become something wholly incomparable to their source. 

                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                Barry says: Astral flickering melodies, delayed synth sweeps and soaring pads underpinned by saturated bass and echoing piano florishes. Atmospheric buildups break into stripped-back instrumental sections before psyching out into droning beauty. Highly recommended.

                                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                LP Info: Clear yellow vinyl with white splatter!

                                                It’s diicult to follow the fragmented life and musicianship of Matt Schneider. His twofold path has always embraced both an abiding love for Chet Atkins and Nashville session virtuosity, and a begrudging though fruitful flirtation with Chicago’s post-rock underground and middleground. In his native McHenry County as a young teenager, he was a guitar phenom, an engine of local pride who played old-timey anthems and oldies for an audience of delighted townies in a button-up shirt and short dweeby haircut. The press took note and his clipping book is lled with adulatory front page praise lavished on his performances at Dobbyn’s House along the Fox River. That he made it through high school is due in part to the fact that he provided the soundtrack for many of his teacher’s drunken evenings and they let him slide through. In a parallel universe he was roped into playing with bands like Adhesive and Filament (two dierent bands who shared members and lovers) who had more in common with Seam and Tortoise than Chester or Les. Finally out of high school in 1998, Schneider hadn’t lost his zeal for the Nashville studio system and during a several week trip there that summer he found more of a ghost town than a warm welcome for a burgeoning session player; Chicago’s fecund melting pot of jazz and rock was far more inviting. He moved to Wicker Park with his Adhesive bandmates and a succession of acts followed: The Exciting Trio, then Toe (where he and Griin Rodriguez replaced, respectively, Je Parker and Doug McCombs of Tortoise), and then ex-Codeine Doug Scharin’s large fusion ensemble HiM. After touring Europe with HiM, Schneider returned to basics: he retreated to his mother’s empty house in Marengo, Illinois and woodshedded for six months. He recalls “I wanted to learn the instrument.”

                                                Maintaining his convoluted trajectory, Schneider never quite returns to the road, rather he burrows in Chicago, creating ever more complicated methods and tunings for his acoustic guitar while otherwise focusing on his children and his carpentry. He becomes, in a classic sense, the best kept secret of Chicago music. Encountering his playing, stalwart performers are consistently stunned. Without ensconcing his work in dubious spirituality he channels something somehow simultaneously poetic and mathematical, like Kepler’s “music” of the spheres. Each composition is instantaneous, improvised and launched from the aether fully formed, making sense only in relation to the spontaneously formed rules of interaction… Songs aren’t so much nite concepts but endless ragas that he taps in and out of; consequently these pieces cannot be entered mid-stream, the listener must participate in the universe as it’s created in order to live in it. His reputation is such that top collaborators need not be sought, but are intrinsically curious to participate. On these recordings, he is joined by Dan Bitney (of Tortoise fame), Matt Lux (Iron & Wine), and Sam Wagster (Cairo Gang). Producer and engineer Brian Sulpizio (Health & Beauty) records and mixes. It is possibly the sixth recording by the ever-shifting entity called Moon Bros (named for turn of the century engineers at the Moon Bros. Carriage Company) but the rst three have all been lost, likely forever, possibily irretrievable from a broken CD-R in the bottom of a box of tools and flotsam hardware. Only Dancehall Sound and Frijolillo made the jump to internet download-ability, and only These Stars has ever seen wide, intentional release. Will you hear more about Matt Schneider? Yes, but whether in the context of the great and unknown, or the at-last recognized, remains to be seen.

                                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                                Barry says: Much like a lot of the Western Vinyl releases (Balmorhea, Alexander Turnquist, Stone Jack Jones etc.) These Stars is obviously highly influenced by Americana and folk. Though the conduit is slightly different from the aforementioned peers. This is somewhat more urgent than Balmorhea certainly, driven by jazzy brush hits and romantic slide guitar. There are echoes of ol' country littered throughout, and subtle hints of mariachi even. Cleverly written and wonderfully performed, this is a melting pot of influence from all over the western world, and wonderfully effective it is too.

                                                Brothers Jared and Michael Bell have been making music together as Lymbyc Systym since 2004. On their new album Split Stones they explore the power of disparate halves coming together to form a unique whole. The idea serves as an analogy for Jared and Mike's relationship, Lymbyc's sound, and the mind/body dichotomy. All of the songs on Split Stones were created using arpeggiators but with a distinctly Lymbyc twist. Throughout the album the arpeggiators act as living machines – scientic clarity in harmony with human uncertainty.

                                                As Jared explains, “Instead of synching up the arpeggiators, they were recorded freely with countless variations, then edited together manually. It made for an incredibly dynamic and organic rhythm that set the compositional tone for the rest of the record.” The resulting collection of songs is the duo's most up-tempo, vibrant, and danceable album to date. Recorded largely in their respective home studios, the duo went to Dallas to track live drums at Elmwood Recording, where they mixed their previous albums Shutter Release and Field Studies with John Congleton.

                                                The album opens with "Generated Bodies", a song that starts as a colossal instrumental rock track, but quickly evolves into spirals of chordal synths and electronic beats, mirroring the band's metamorphosis over the past decade. Other songs like "Split Stones" and "Pulses" find the band experimenting with longer cinematic song structures, leaving behind the short "pop" song structures they've delivered on previous albums. The album veers into full on dance mode on "Paraboloid" before things wind down with the sunny groove of album closer "Scientific Romance". 

                                                Two songs on the album feature vocals by Jana Hunter of Lower Dens. The album features members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality.

                                                In 2010 Nicole Schneit aka Air Waves released Dungeon Dots, an album Aquarius Records called "...pretty much perfect pop music." For her new album Parting Glances, Schneit enlisted friends from Brooklyn's music community to contribute to the record, including members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality. Additionally, Jana Hunter of Lower Dens contributes vocals to two songs. The album's title comes from the 1986 film Parting Glances in which Steve Buscemi portrays a gay man navigating the difficulties of being in a relationship in Reagan-era New York. More than just identifying with the story, Schneit is interested in the in the lasting effect of the parting glances we share with strangers in our everyday encounters. She explains "You see all sorts of physical and emotional traits on the train. From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc. We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate." The lingering impact of those brief moments seeps into the details and imagery she delivers with energizing hooks and a disarming lack of pretense on Parting Glances. 

                                                Erik Hall worked patiently and solitarily for four years to craft Driver, his sophomore album as In Tall Buildings. The album comes twenty years after Hall originally fell in love with home recording at age 13 - the year he got his hands on his first multi-track recorder. As a multi-instrumentalist and producer Hall eventually went on to record and tour with several groups, including old friends His Name is Alive and, more recently, dream-pop duo Wild Belle, performing the rhythm section tracks and lending an engineering hand to their Columbia Records debut.

                                                In 2010 Hall’s home recording efforts yielded the first In Tall Buildings album, which The Huffington Post called "gorgeous indie-pop", and the Chicago Tribune found "hypnotic". In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he summed up much of his philosophy about composition with a pair of conflicting quotes he attributes to Allen Ginsberg and Kurt Vonnegut, respectively: "First thought, best thought" and "Edit yourself, mercilessly."

                                                Loosely guided by these principles, Hall set out once again to assemble a new batch of songs, when he wasn't recording and touring with other bands. In stark contrast to the dense polyrhythms echoed by NOMO's albums, Driver uses a relatively simple palette to create spacious pop songs, leaving plenty of room for Hall's often Peter Gabriel-esque vocals to shine. The music, though culled from every guitar, keyboard, and drum he managed to fit into his home studio, is powerful in it's restrained simplicity, and it's a compelling foil to the haunting gravity of his vocal performance. Never rushed, his melodies deliver elliptical lyrics that manage to feel intimate, while retaining a sense of mystery. Ultimately, the album's melancholic vibe is relatable, rather than moping or histrionic, and in the end these songs are incredibly comforting and inviting.

                                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                After spending two years living on opposite coasts and pursuing their own creative projects, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp returned last spring to set to work on the sixth full-length album from the Rosebuds. Joining up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (a friend and former bandmate who, in a 2011 interview, noted that the Rosebuds make “some of the most important music in the world”), the North Carolina-bred duo spent a week in Vernon’s studio teasing out a batch of songs that effortlessly weave the hooky songcraft of classic jangle-pop, the cagey romanticism of new wave, and a refined yet full-hearted sensibility all their own. Featuring Vernon on guitar and synths - as well as Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn on bass, both longtime pals and cohorts of the Rosebuds - the resulting Sand + Silence radiates both a graceful intensity and the loose, joyful energy that comes from making music with friends.

                                                Flying Fantasy was recorded and mixed by Scott Solter, known for his work with St. Vincent, Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, and many others. As an accomplished 12-string guitarist/composer, Alexander Turnquist was naturally alarmed when the ulnar nerve in his left hand seized up in 2013, but after a surgical procedure he gratefully started the process of learning to play guitar again. His recovery was cut short when not long after the surgery he was hospitalized with meningitis. Though his recovery is ongoing, and he continues to struggle with a weakened immune system and memory loss, he was inspired to soldier on, rather than being deterred by his physical struggles.

                                                Turnquist's latest full-length Flying Fantasy confirms the idea that out of great hardship can come great art. As he wrote the material for the new album it became clear that his sensitivity had sharpened, his empathy magnified, and his sense of purpose blossomed. The unfortunate circumstances he endured ostensibly forced his metamorphosis from a remarkable guitar player to a truly great composer. Much like the butterflies that adorn the album cover, he seems to have changed form and taken flight.

                                                The album opens with the sparse harmonics of "House of Insomniacs", which are soon joined by lush swells of vibes, cello, and even wordless vocals. On the tracks that follow, Turnquist continues to make use of this dynamic sonic pallet, even adding organ, piano, marimba, steel drums, violin, and french horn to the mix. From "Red Carousel", which was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, to the somber lilt of the love song "Wildflower", to the truly arresting title track "Flying Fantasy" which uses only 4 open strummed guitars and loops of damaged tape and wire recorders, every note vibrates with life as Turnquist ushers us though his intoxicatingly colorful worlds of sound.

                                                "By embedding both new age and noise-oriented electronic themes into his pastoral pieces, Turnquist unites disparate traditions and ideals, essentially employing sonic counterweights to construct 57 minutes that are as surprisingly dynamic as they are perfectly beautiful." PITCHFORK (8.2) .


                                                In the wake of their 2011 album "Strange Hearts", the three members of Secret Cities branched off in different directions. Charlie Gokey delved into Roy Orbison's ballads about losers in love while becoming a civil liberties attorney in Washington, D.C. Alex Abnos locked in to New Orleans soul masters like King Floyd & Dr. John as he became a journalist in New York City. And Marie Parker became a teacher in the band's spiritual home of Fargo, North Dakota.

                                                Having met at band camp and on an internet message board, the trio had made music together for nine years without ever living together in the same city. After recording two albums and a handful of singles via email, they decided it was finally time to enter a real studio where they could play and record together in real time. They chose San Francisco's Tiny Telephone studio, where Jay Pellicci manned the controls for a week-and-a-half of the most spontaneous, democratic, and visceral recording of their lives. They emerged with Walk Me Home, an album that finally reflects their live chemistry and their diverging lives and musical tastes.

                                                "The bass is dewey. The harmonies are starlit. The theremin is ripe…The racket they're able to muster together in the process is enough to set them apart from the pack." PITCHFORK.

                                                After years of writing and performing, Ava Luna has refined their doo-wop soul meets punk-as-fuck aesthetic into something bold and glaringly defiant in today's indie music landscape. Following the release of their critically lauded first proper full-length Ice Level, the band spent an intense 2-week period writing and recording in upstate New York. Unlike previous efforts that were meticulously mapped out, the songs that would become Electric Balloon were "…a family effort." according to frontman Carlos Hernandez. For the new album, former Columbia composition student Hernandez relinquished the reins a bit, opting for a more organic approach to writing the material for what would become Electric Balloon. In the wake of Ice Level, Ava Luna's sharp edges have melted away just enough, making it easier to connect with their no-wave grooves and soaring harmonies. Distilling everything from James Chance and ESG to contemporaries like Dirty Projectors and Of Montreal, Ava Luna have landed on an aggressively unique sound that still manages to be accessible.

                                                “…a beaming mix o f ice-cool vintage '80s no wave grooves and extra-lush three-part girl group harmonies …Ava Luna has in fectious, minimalist, ESG-style beats for days.” SPIN

                                                Debut solo record by Shaun Flemming of the Jagjaguwar band Foxygen.

                                                Joseph Campbell describes a shaman as "person, male or female, who…has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It's a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it." We'll never know the whole truth about what happened when (Foxyen drummer and former Disney child actor) Shaun Fleming moved from the West Coast suburbs to New York, but whatever it was fractured his psyche, opened it up, and gave birth to Diane Coffee.

                                                In 2013, after joining the band Foxygen, Shaun Fleming left the green and golden fields of his hometown of Agoura Hills, CA to become the third roommate in a 700 square-foot, pre-war, closet-free Manhattan apartment. He was welcomed to The Big Apple by a nasty flu virus that drained the last bit of California sunshine out of the skinny, Macaulay Culken-looking 26-year-old's body. As he recovered, cabin fever supplanted the flu, and his relentless creative drive took over. Low on funds and bored out of his gourd, he spent the next two weeks alone in his bedroom writing and recording what would become the debut Diane Coffee LP My Friend Fish. Despite his limited means (using a pseudo drum kit consisting of a snare, one broken cymbal, and a metal pot, recording parts with an iPhone's voice memo app, playing a detuned guitar rather than a real bass, etc)

                                                My Friend Fish sounds fully realized and remarkably polished. From a Donovan-esque song about Sriracha, to experiments with distortion and garage-rock, to songs like "All The Young Girls" in which he gleefully channels Tom Jones with sex-bomb confidence, on My Friend Fish Fleming's spell-casting powers are in full effect, inspiring panty-tossing glee. After you finish listening, you'll wonder as you stretch out in bed and enjoy a cigarette, "Who is Fish?"

                                                Often when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve…like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis.

                                                Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years. Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss…

                                                After releasing two albums on the indie label Kanine Records, Grooms still hadn't gained enough traction to support themselves with their music and they were understandably ready to call it quits. However, in 2011, impressed with their albums and live shows, author Michael Azerrad invited Grooms to perform at his Our Band Could Be Your Life show alongside St. Vincent, Ted Leo, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, and WV alumni Dirty Projectors. It was a huge opportunity for the band, and the catalyst for what would become their new album Infinity Caller. Azerrad's enthusiasm and encouragement gave the band’s primary songwriter Travis Johnson the confidence to soldier on, keep making music, and ultimately find peace of mind.

                                                "…a revelation -- dynamic, hooky, energetic!" PITCHFORK

                                                "The ’90s indie rock lashings of Grooms, add a reminder to dust off your Polvo/SY LPs" STEREOGUM 

                                                "...some of the most exciting new sounds the Kings County has to offer.” POP MATTERS

                                                David Wingo is a busy man. In the years since the release of his last record as Ola Podrida, he's written and recorded soundtracks for several movies including Take Shelter (winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011), MUD (starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon), and Prince Avalanche (starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and co-composed with Explosions In The Sky), both of which are seeing wide release this coming spring/summer. When he had time in between films, Wingo assembled a live band featuring Colin Swietek on guitars, Matt Clark on bass, and David Hobizal on drums and began to bring his new songs in to the band. A first for Ola Podrida, the new album Ghosts Go Blind was recorded to tape in a proper studio, mostly live, with the full band. The resulting songs are energetic and accessible, while Wingo's abstract narratives are more personal and intimate than ever. Throughout the album bittersweet memories of youth are filtered through the nostalgic eyes of a man starting to accept his adult life for the first time. The album opens with last guy at the party pleading for someone to stay with him, and keep the revelry going a little longer. It's an almost cringeworthy desperation, and yet Wingo makes it feel relatable. The final refrain "It's no fun, being alone at the end" takes on a bigger meaning, giving you the feeling his friends have grown up and moved on, leaving him to decide how he'll proceed with his life. By the middle of the album, the character has evolved, now pleading with his partner again, but this time the goal is to stay home and shut out the world.

                                                On Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial. Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state.

                                                The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars. Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of "Days", the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. "Pilgrim" provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.

                                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                                2xLP Info: 45 RPM double vinyl.

                                                2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                                For nearly thirteen years Christopher Tignor lived in the 3-story commercial space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he conceived and practiced with his band Slow Six. In 2008, thanks to a tipped off fire marshal, a move was inevitable, and the walls had to come down. Drastic measures would be necessary in order to keep making music on his own terms – living completely immersed in his studio and practice space. Step one was relocating to the Mott Haven neighborhood of The Bronx. Far removed from an overwhelming hipster scene he had never connected with, he found himself surrounded by the working-class grit and intensity typically associated with The South Bronx.

                                                The new musical landscape Wires Under Tension creates uncannily echoes this transition. Charged with the desolation of a Mad Max dystopia, the songs on Wires Under Tension's debut "Light Science" form a narrative in motion from lightness to darkness. The band's name reflects the duo's ongoing struggle to balance this tension as they wrestle with an unpredictable and unforgiving machine of their own making. Wordless voices of the horns and violin feel like lightning riding a stormy sea of drums and drones. That lightning illuminates the duo's muscular rhythms, formidable dynamic, and unique musicianship. The band's previous releases received critical acclaim from numerous publications including Pitchfork, Time Out New York, and The New York Times.

                                                Press Quotes : 'Tignor's beguiling compositions move seamlessly through several stages of development, often ending up somewhere distant from where they appeared to be headed at the outset'. - WIRE
                                                '... imagine a dream collaboration between Philip Glass, Miles Davis, Cluster, and Battles...' - Foxy Digitalis.


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