Tag Archives: Indiepop

Fazerdaze’s Sparkling Guitar Pop Finds the Balance Between Darkness and Light

Fazer Daze

The music of Amelia Murray, who records as Fazerdaze, is on its surface bright and summery. Pick any track at random from Morningside, her excellent full-length debut for Flying Nun, and you’ll be greeted by foamy waves of guitar and Murray’s warm, sighing voice. But zero in on the lyrics, and the sun begins to fade. A portrait of romantic uncertainty, Morningside rests Murray’s emotionally-candid lyrics in silvery latticeworks of guitar, and the resulting tension is one of the things that makes the record so alluring. (It was one of our Essential Releases the week it came out.) A step up from her excellent, self-recorded, self-titled 2014 EP, Morningside is the sound of a person who—as Murray herself puts it in her song “Little Uneasy”—is feeling their way through the world, in every sense of the word.

We caught up with Murray during her shift at the New Zealand record store where she works to talk about the importance of the DIY scene and the difficulty of balancing softness and strength.

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Adult Mom Navigate the Treacherous World of Intimacy

Adult Mom

Photo by Bao Ngo.

The world depicted in the songs of Adult Mom will be familiar to anyone navigating the choppy waters of intimacy. Their songs examine the fraught, sometimes traumatizing nature of serious relationships, and ask, “After all the damage, recovery, and growth, is it worth opening up to someone new?” On upcoming sophomore LP Soft Spots, the answer is a studied, delicate, “Yes.”

The songwriting project of Steph Knipe, Adult Mom began as a solo venture in a SUNY Purchase dorm room and has since grown to become a full-fledged band. Accordingly, the production on Soft Spots is a step up from Knipe’s early GarageBand bedroom recordings, favoring clearer, cleaner sounds and polished arrangements. Knipe’s witty, probing lyrics at times recall Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville—first single, “Full Screen,” asks, “Do you full-screen your porn? Do you think about me / As you watch her crawl across the floor?” Close your eyes, and it feels like the band is playing in the room with you—which is intentional. Rather than EQ-ing the vocals on Soft Spots, Knipe and producer/bandmate Mike Dvorscak used room mics to add an ambient, intimate mood.

We talked to Knipe, who identifies as non-binary, about Soft Spots, the ins and outs of booking a DIY tour, and teaching fractions at their day job.

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Tica Douglas’s Theology of Uncertainty

Tica Douglas

Tica Douglas begins Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Usa parallel exploration of Christian theology and gender identity, at a book reading. The atmosphere is tense: “I went to your reading last week,” Douglas sings in their tiny, whispery voice, “All your exes were there.” Just as Douglas begins to make awkward small talk, the scene melts away, dreamlike, and the setting suddenly changes: It’s mid-afternoon, and the conversation has shifted to spiritual matters. Douglas’s friend is asking them about the afterlife: “I know you’ve been asking those questions we ask,” Douglas sings, “of the dead when they go / Like ‘What did you leave here, for me to believe?’” Before Douglas can answer, the scene shifts again, and this time the subject moves from the spiritual to the personal: “Now that you love someone, you love me again,” they sing. “I think that’s beautiful baby / You love me because you love him.” The net effect of the three sequences is enigmatic and unsettling: Are the events of the song a dream? A memory? Some middle ground between the two? The only thing that is certain is that in a brief three minutes, Douglas has shifted from the concrete to the ephemeral to the emotional, and has invested all of them with equal weight and value, asking questions that may not have answers.

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Cuddle Formation‘s New Record is a Tribute to DIY Spaces

Noah Klein by Liz Pelly

Noah Klein by Liz Pelly

Noah Klein keeps a mantra pinned to the top of his Twitter account as both a notice to followers and a reminder to himself: “Be present, redefine family, nurture community, prioritize abolitionism, dismantle white supremacy, destroy intolerable systems.” That same mantra informs his work in his ambient solo project, Cuddle Formation, and the sentiment runs throughout his latest album, Here I’ll Be Forever.

Written as a soliloquy to transformative justice and chosen communities, Here I’ll Be Forever is an assemblage of soundpieces recorded over three years in various DIY spaces across the country—places like Dreamhaus in Allston, Silent Barn in Brooklyn, Rhinoceropolis in Denver, and Pehrspace in Los Angeles. They’re spaces dedicated to creating a safe space for marginalized people, operating well outside the conventional commercial concert industry. In the liner notes, the album is dedicated to “everyone we lost,” which feels like a quiet nod to Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire.

Over the course of his travels, Klein amassed a series of field recordings that he would later use as instrumentation (the sound of a snare on the record came from a sample of a frozen pizza hitting the Silent Barn floor.) Here I’ll Be Forever is a record that would have been impossible without an underground community that shares Klein’s values, and the finished product serves as both a documentation of and a tribute to their existence.

We spoke with Klein about the concepts that inform his work.

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Album of the Day: Scooterbabe, “The Sorrow You’ve Been Toting Around”

The Sorrow You’ve Been Toting Around, the first proper full-length from indiepop band Scooterbabe, wastes no time diving headfirst into uncertainty. “Late October, I came over/ I should’ve warned you, nothing good can come of this,” J.J. Posway sings on “Whitedwarf/Late October.” Two songs later, on “Deathscene/Half Decade,” the situation has worsened. “Slipping too far into that dreaded mood,” Posway sings. “Before you knew it, you gave up on a half decade of dating.”

Those sentiments are a good indication of what to expect on The Sorrow You’ve Been Toting Around, a record shot through with angst and existential despair. On “Our Last Game Of Chess,” Posway grapples with the realization that early life decisions—”before we’re given the privilege to determine who we are”—determine future directions, while the protagonist of “Kneel To See Me” is overwhelmed that his own depression caused an ex pain, despairing that he’s still “getting no sleep, still living transient by design.”

The arrangements are spacious and wistful, with spare, structural drumming and occasional flashes of color, such as trumpet or violin. “Kneel To See Me” is a hushed acoustic elegy with faded piano, its melancholy curlicues of guitar nodding toward ’90s indie and emo; the ramshackle “Sermon,” with its brisk, tumbling rhythms, has all the sprightliness of vintage jangle-pop.

For all its anxiety, The Sorrow You’ve Been Toting Around remains driving and buoyant. Guest vocalist Jianna Justice adds lilting melodies and backing harmonies throughout (most notably on the Lemuria-esque “Sick Spine”), which mesh perfectly with Posway’s proudly vulnerable voice. And then there’s the playfully self-loathing “Voice Memo,” which lives up to its title. Posway cedes vocal responsibilities to guitarist Evan Tyor, who sounds like he’s singing directly into a phone. Faint keyboards hum in the background as Tyor quietly murmurs, “Everybody hates me/ Super lonely/ Super duper, duper lonely.” When he gets to the end of the line, his voice cracks with laughter. It’s a welcome moment of levity, revealing that, beneath all of their sorrow, Scooterbabe’s sense of humor remains intact. It’s a reminder that joy is possible, and that pain is temporary.

Annie Zaleski