Tag Archives: Pop

Casey Dienel Retires White Hinterland and Discovers Herself

Casey Dienel

Photos by Brad Ogbonna

Casey Dienel likes having rules. For more than a decade, the singer-songwriter has been recording lush, gauzy art-pop as White Hinterland. Each time she started writing an album, she would give herself a set of restraints. “No proper nouns on these songs,” she offers as an example, between bites of pizza at Saraghina, an eatery near her Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn apartment. “Or, ‘No acoustic instruments on these songs,’ or ‘No reverb.’”

She readily admits to having a “Type A” personality. But when she set out to write the songs that would make up Imitation of a Woman to Love, the first album she has released under her own name in 11 years, she decided she had to change things up. She wanted music that was livelier than anything she had made before, lustier and more fun. And, most of all, truer to herself. So that meant she had to forswear her reliance on rules.

Well, except for one. Old habits, etc.

Listen to Imitation of a Woman to Love in full exclusively on Bandcamp Daily: 

“The only thing I really wanted to stay away from was a sense of wonder. A lot of times when there are songs about people’s sexuality, they’re caught up in spirituality, and almost the saintly-ness of the woman’s body,” she says. “I don’t feel that way about my sexuality. I feel a more earthly situation with it. I didn’t want to have anything where I was talking about Gaia.”

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Nite Jewel on the Highs and Lows of Being a Woman in the Music Industry

Nite Jewel

Nite Jewel. Photos by Patrick Gookin.

Ramona Gonzalez’s third album as Nite Jewel plays like a chilled-out tribute to ‘90s Top 40 R&B artists like Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. Gonzalez freely admits there are elements of both artists in the mix, even if their inclusion was more subconscious, but Real High is not a deliberate attempt to emulate her teenage heroes.

After consciously uncoupling with her label (the process kept her from releasing music for four years) and rediscovering the creative freedom of releasing an album on her own label Gloriette, Gonzalez found herself using music to channel frustration and sensuality in equal parts. The two ultimately end up complementing one another—from hip-shaking single “2 Good 2 Be True” to the meandering title track where Gonzalez transforms a slow-motion ballad into a meditation on the kind of love so all-encompassing there’s a temptation to throw it all away.

We talked with the Los Angeles-based musician/producer about why she opted to release her own music, holding her own in a male-driven industry, and why she’s happy to let her alter ego do the emotional heavy lifting.

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Album of the Day: FIN, “Ice Pix”

Chicago’s Hausu Mountain label specializes in experimental electronic improvisational oddities, so compared to much of what they release, the pop-oriented Ice Pix sounds almost like an album of silly love songs. “Chickenshit” quotes the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” of all things; its smooth R&B hook isn’t exactly the usual Hausu Mountain experience.

But that’s not to say that Ice Pix is likely to score radio airplay anytime soon. Rebecca “FIN” Simonetti is a New York multimedia artist—in one disturbing installation she hung a replica of a lamb from the ceiling with harnesses; blobby, pink, flower-shaped objects sprung from its carcass. Her music has a bit of that same horror-film ruthlessness. She approaches pop from a clinical distance, slicing it up then smiling as it staggers forward.

On “In Silver,” she whispers “Tik tik tik” at the beginning of the track, then chops her voice up and adds multitracked layers, creating both calculated bliss and blissful calculation. “Gutshot” heads towards Danielle Dax territory, with spacey, clattering power chords, and a beat that walks onto the dance floor to sway with the vampires.

“Daughters” is built around a tinkling music box motif which turns into a siren-like electronic industrial clamor; it sounds like an infant crawling through a steel mill. The lyric, “Put your hands in the air, I’ll cut them off with a knife,” nicely sums up FIN’s aesthetic. FIN takes similar cues from performers like Björk and FKA twigs, who use arty dissonance and broken beats to heighten emotional intensity and create deeper personal expression. But FIN’s vision owes more to Kraftwerk, ferreting out the alienating, artificial clockwork at modern pop’s heart.

—Noah Berlatsky

This Week’s Essential Releases: Art Punk, Celestial Jazz, and Hip-Hop

7 essential

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Charly Bliss: Fizzy Guitar-Pop That’s Big, Bright, and Full of Feelings


Charley Bliss. All photos by Tawni Bannister.

It was only two days into their two-week tour with Dan Boeckner’s band Operators that the members of Charly Bliss decided that they needed some candy. They were wandering around Ottawa when they hit on what appeared to be the motherlode: a hulking, warehouse-sized building promisingly named “Sugar Mountain,” which seemed, at first glance, to be just the kind of confectionary wonderland they were looking for. The minute they opened the door, however, everything went Lynchian.

“It was one of the strangest experiences of my life,” says Dan Shure, the band’s bassist. “We opened the door and walked in, and it was totally silent. There was no one behind the counter and—the most unsettling thing—there was no music playing. It was just dead silence.”

Slightly rattled, the band began working their way through the store, when a basket at the end of one of the aisles caught frontwoman Eva Hendricks’s eye. “There was this bucket full of Cyndi Lauper trading cards,” she says. “I was like, ‘Sick! I love Cyndi Lauper!’ and grabbed a bunch of them. I soon realized this huge candy store somehow came into the ultimate inheritance of Cyndi Lauper trading cards, because they were everywhere. There were more Cyndi Lauper cards than there was candy. I’ve never seen so much of anything in my entire life.”

“It was… weird,” says guitarist Spencer Fox. “We kept waiting for steel blinds to slam down over all the windows and for the guy from Saw to come rolling out.”

The band is relaying this story in the slightly-cramped green room at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade Records, where they’re killing time before their 40-minute set. In a few weeks, they’ll release their long-gestating debut Guppy, an album they recorded once, scrapped, then recorded again, and whose overall lifespan from concept to completion took roughly the same length of time it takes a newborn to learn how to talk. In its own way, Guppy is not entirely unlike Ottawa’s Sugar Mountain: its day-glo pop-punk guitars and endless-rainbow hooks provide the bait, but the minute you’re deep inside, lured in by the promise of confections, the door slams shut and the knives come out. To wit: “Glitter” is a honeyed, perfectly-constructed pop number that doubles as a barbed kiss-off to an ex, and the giddy, pogoing “DQ” opens with Eva proudly declaring: “I laughed when your dog died.”

When the band finally take the stage at Rough Trade, they open their show the same way they open Guppy, with the giddily rambunctious song “Percolator.” In the canon of great album-opening tracks, it’s somewhere up near the Pixies’ “Debaser” for the way it both establishes the band’s knack for irresistible, off-kilter hooks and efficiently sketches out the thematic blueprint for everything that will follow. It’s a tightly-pulled slingshot made of rubberband guitars and avalanche percussion, and on stage in Brooklyn, the band tears through it with the kind of frenzied, maniacal joy that has become their stock-in-trade. Midway through the song, Eva leans into the microphone, lets out a spine-splitting scream, and launches herself into the air. Soon, the entire band is airborne, and the stage becomes a dizzying blur of color and motion.

When the song ends, Eva, sweating and beaming, grabs the microphone to work the crowd. “Hi, we’re Charly Bliss from New York City!” she announces cheerily. “Who here struggles with crippling anxiety?”

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