Tag Archives: Indiepop

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

Introducing: Oshwa

Alicia Walter
Alicia Walter. Photo by Johnny Fabrizio.

Oshwa’s new album, I We You Me, is complex, heady alt-pop, full of careful string arrangements and moments of math-rock complexity. It’s also undeniably fun, with singalong pop choruses and catchy riffs. The band is mainly the project of Alicia Walter, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and performer based out of Chicago. On this album—as on Oshwa’s 2013 debut album, Chamomile Crushshe’s joined by Michael Mac on guitar, Matt Noonan on bass, and Jordan Tate on drums. The songs on I We You Me provide ample evidence of Walter’s time spent studying piano performance at Illinois Wesleyan University and music composition at Columbia College Chicago. But you can also hear the sincere appreciation for Top 40 dance jams she developed in an unlikely place. She spoke with us about blending intellectualism and fun, choosing to self-release the album, and coming up through Chicago’s DIY scene.

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The Peacock Affect Want to Play Sad Music

George Holman
George Holman.

Some artists depend wholly on outside producers or bandmates for guidance on musical quality control. George Holman, who records introspective indie pop under the moniker The Peacock Affect, is an exception to that rule. Not only is the Exeter, UK-based musician his own harshest critic—he’s discerning about which songs see the light of day.

“I record a lot of songs which never get released, because I don’t feel they’re good enough,” he says. “[But] I look at my own songs, and I change my mind about them. Sometimes, I listen to one of my songs and I go, ‘Oh God, this is awful.’ Then, sometimes, I listen to it and I’ll be like ‘Oh, I love this. I’m so proud of this.’ But that’s just me. When I get sad, I feel like all my songs are rubbish—they aren’t good enough. And then when I’m feeling better, I don’t feel like that too much.” He laughs.

The seven songs on The Peacock Affect’s latest EP, The Rainbow, bear traces of familiar inspirations: ’80s British jangle a la Felt, spare acoustic folk and a hint of ambient dreampop. However, in Holman’s hands, these influences feel new, thanks to impeccable, spacious arrangements that give the music room to breathe. Intimate standouts “Spaceship” and “Untitled #1” boast feathery, morose riffs, while the mournful “Bye” threads distressed piano beneath twinkling guitars. Holman is a versatile vocalist with expressive range; he’ll switch from keening falsetto to a low-register growl, sometimes in the same song (“Spaceship,” “Bye”). The Rainbow feels like a watercolor painting—faded and delicate in some spots, in others, vibrant and strong.

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