Tag Archives: Album of the Day

Album of the Day: Death & Vanilla, “Are You A Dreamer?”

In songs that are saturated with warbling organ, glacial vibraphone, and a dazzling array of analog synths, Death & Vanilla pay earnest homage to the same sounds that influenced groups like Broadcast and Stereolab. And while ’60s psych pop, vintage soundtracks, and library music remain the touchstones on their third LP, Are You A Dreamer?, the results feel bigger and grander. If their previous albums were 16mm films, this one’s 35.

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Album of the Day: Nots, “3”

Nots’ third full-length opens with a steady bass riff and tight drumming, high-pitched guitar notes meandering in and out of the repetitive, dizzying track. Then Natalie Hoffmann enters with straightforward vocal delivery, painting a picture of despondency. The song’s subject feels lost, eyes looking down, staying “low on the sidewalk.” It brought to mind the obsessive psychosis of the protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” where a shut-in woman circles her bedroom so many times she creates a “long smooch around the wall” where her shoulder fits right in. Continue reading

Album of the Day: Big Bend, “Radish”

Big Bend is the songwriting vehicle of Ohio keyboardist Nathan Phillips, who unveiled the moniker four years ago with the release of instrumental electronic album, Hunched. Now, he returns with Radish, a collection of tracks culled from largely improvised recording sessions featuring a revolving door of musicians—including Clarice Jensen, Laraaji, and Susan Alcorn—that hugely expands on the machinery-meets-the-avant-garde minimalism of his debut.

A daring arranger, Phillips assembles various sonic trinkets into stunning, nonsensical concoctions. Take the programmed, muscular percussion slaps that power “Before,” juxtaposed with delicate, wailing Eastern-style guitar. Or Shahzad Ismaily’s offbeat kick drum on “Can’t Get Around,” which is matched with some pretty piano chords. Nothing in these arrangements feels like they should fit, and yet Radish is completely compelling. Phillips has a created a patchwork of dueling patterns that begs you to deconstruct each track, so you can examine each and every component.

The biggest divergence from Hunched is the addition of sung vocals. Phillips’s singing voice actually sounds a bit like Sting—that is, if the famed Police man had fallen into a totally different line of work. The gentle vocal of “1000 Ways” flows as an internal monologue interwoven with sanguine metaphors for feelings pulsing deep inside: “When I looked I knew I had to find / Where it hit my blood I had to know.” Other lyrics skew more simple and sobering; in “Floating,” he frames life as the act of “Floating in a cloud and getting old.” But even when Phillips’s words scan as the thoughts of a fallen angel, his radiant arrangements pierce through the gloaming, rather than perpetuate it. The cover of Radish depicts a blurry figure, sure—presumably Phillips, about to be consumed with darkness—but this is an album where light eventually triumphs over all.

-Dean Van Nguyen

Album of the Day: Don Leisure, “Halal Cool J”

The title of Wales-based beatsmith Don Leisure’s latest instrumental album is a pun on the name of iconic rap star LL Cool J—but the vibe of the project is closer to the sort of dusty, mystical beats RZA perfected during the Wu-Tang Clan’s ’90s reign. Only here, the ’60s Stax soul samples and kung fu soundbites have been switched out for Eastern European loops and snatches of Turkish dialogue. It’s a head-nodding, static-coated musical blend that radiates a sense of sonic wanderlust.

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Album of the Day: Greys, “Age Hasn’t Spoiled You”

Greys frontman Shehzaad Jiwani has always sung like someone uncomfortable in his own skin, whether he was cheekily cataloging his feelings of inadequacy, or giving in to more visceral and violent expressions of self-loathing. That sense of perpetual dissatisfaction has been reflected in the Toronto group’s relentless evolution. Once a caterwauling noise-punk outfit, Greys quickly realized that nihilistic discourse—however good it may feel in the moment—isn’t a long-term solution for life’s woes. As such, the band’s emotional vocabulary has expanded in step with their musical one. After balancing out the stage-dive strikes with shoegazing balladry on 2016’s Outer Heaven and detouring into fuzzy lo-fi indie-pop for the lowkey companion release Warm Shadow, Greys sound like they’re ready to leave the circle pit behind for good.

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Album of the Day: Charly Bliss, “Young Enough”

Charly Bliss

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

Charly Bliss spent five years playing punk clubs, sorority houses, and coffee shops; they weathered the loss of a drummer, and survived a botched first attempt at a full-length before finally releasing the critically lauded Guppy in 2017, and ending up the opening act on a Death Cab for Cutie tour the year after. Other bands might use album number two to exult in their triumph, but vocalist Eva Grace Hendricks opens Charly Bliss’s sophomore LP with a vision of the end: “I’m still alive, best year of my life,” she sings, “It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits.”

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Album of the Day: Sunbeam Sound Machine, “Goodness Gracious”

Sunbeam Sound Machine’s second album follows five years after the group’s debut Wonderer, and given it’s essentially a one-man band, fronted by Melbourne-based Nick Sowersby, it’s also a good reminder that everyone works at their own pace. Certain hallmarks of classic home recording are evident throughout Goodness Gracious. Sowersby is audibly taken by the continuing impact of late ’60s Beach Boys and all that’s followed in its wake. His band name is well-chosen, with his soothing, understated vocals, nearly always swathed in reverb, flowing gently through the mix.

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Album of the Day: Mina, “Flight Paths”

London-based producer Mina’s latest, Flight Paths, is a perfect summer soundtrack. After spending 18 months traveling through Spain, Ghana, Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, and America, Mina translates her travels into an album that fuses electronic Afrobeats and dancehall with the pounding bass of hip-hop. 

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