Tag Archives: Pop

Soccer Mommy Banishes Her Insecurities by Writing Music

Soccer Mommy

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Sophie Allison, who performs under the name Soccer Mommy, is in the midst of finishing up her second year of college finals at New York University when we meet at a lower Manhattan coffee shop. “I miss driving all the time,” says Allison, who was a week out from returning back to her hometown of Nashville, “but whenever I’m home I miss taking the subway.”

The summer before her freshman year, Allison uploaded a collection of tracks called songs for the recently sad to Bandcamp. The self-recorded album focused on the little details of failed romance and the stress of grieving for lost love. She didn’t think people would discover the album, but they did, and last summer, she released a follow-up, for young hearts, on the cult label Orchid Tapes.

Now, she’s ready for time off from school to focus on music. “I’m interning as a manager for a local artist,” she jokes, imagining what she might tell the registrar when they ash what she’s up to. On the eve of her latest release, Collection, we talked with Allison about her songwriting process, growing up in Nashville, and what got her to Bandcamp.
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The Bifronte Label Focuses on the Fringes of Latin American Electronic and Pop

Bifronte

It’s a Friday afternoon in Morelia, a student-heavy city in Mexico’s state of Michoacán, and label founders Juan Mariano Paul Aguilar and Katya Tovar speak from the airy building that serves as the base for Bifronte Records. Tovar and Aguilar swerve in and out of each other’s sentences, the way people often do when they’ve known each other for years. The two share a deep relationship, one that serves as the backbone for the electronic collective they dedicate what little free time they have to building.

Bifronte, which literally translates to mean “two-faced,” was founded in 2009, and Tovar and Aguilar wasted no time in booking live shows and workshops around the city, pulling together a number of like-minded musicians from a fragmented local scene. “It was like an adventure,” Aguilar tells me in Spanish over a Skype call. “It was also a decision for us to communicate with other people.”

The label is dedicated to shining a light on a traditionally underrepresented group: people making underground art across the Latin American diaspora, no matter the country. From early mixes of musique concrète and warped drum & bass, with appropriate #cinematic tags (Parkingsong’s The Waited Album) to re-releases of modern psychedelia (Rolando Apolo’s Orza de Avante), and a lifetime’s worth of electronic experiments, minimalist compositions, and occasional pop songs in between, the label’s roster is best described as adventurous.

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Album of the Day: Girl Ray, “Earl Grey”

Songs that focus on the travails of adolescence are as old as pop music itself. Teen group Girl Ray’s debut Earl Grey takes on that time-honored trope by reaching beyond its years, finding a convincing simplicity to its unified compositions. Vocalist Poppy Hankin has a light, disarming vocal approach; verses like, “I have waited quite some time / Stood my ground, and fuck you’re not obliged,” only feel more impactful. In this instance, her words feel weighty, emotionally honest and resilient.

The North London outfit open up with spartan rhythms and playful jangling on “Just Like That,” which has a bit of a Velvet Underground feel. Gentle flourishes of keys, strings, and trumpet throughout the album add warmth and texture. On the album’s Carole King-esque power ballad single, “Stupid Things,” a piano takes over; there’s a truly classic Brill Building essence to what Girl Ray does, from irresistible pop hooks to heavy-hearted lyrics.

What makes Earl Grey an extra-compelling listen is Girl Ray’s commitment to studio exploration, choosing to experiment rather than cement one sound. They toy with tempo and tone on “A Few Months,” managing three distinct movements in four minutes. “Cutting Shapes” begins with a nodding chug of organ and percussion that splits at the seams for a nervy, clamorous finish. The most pronounced example of this is the 13-minute “Earl Grey (Stuck in A Groove),” an exercise in lo-fi moodiness that gradually unfurls into a meditative, proggy trance. Hankin gets lost in her thoughts here, musing freely as lovelorn teenagers do: “I’ve got a little bit of time to give / But I’ll cut it in half if you want more too.” What Girl Ray lack in experience is never an issue on Earl Grey; instead the trio exude youthful curiosity and abundant pop charm.

—Matt Voracek

Album of the Day: Dent May, “Across the Multiverse”

In just one sentence on his new record Across The Multiverse, Los Angeles musician Dent May travels from Hollywood heroism to complete fatalism. Over a wash of bright piano, strings, and a delightful bass groove, May croons, “I’m gonna live forever until I’m dead!” This is, in seven words, the story of his remarkable new album: it’s about the indulgences of life and the inevitability of our destruction, buoyed by pillowy melodies and eclectic, retro sounds.

Originally from Mississippi, May moved to L.A. a few years ago. Across The Multiverse uses a rich sonic palette to explore the existential side of California glam: a collage of disco strings, crystalline guitars (with the occasional harmonized fuzz solo), and bright-eyed piano chording. Over the ‘80s pop thrum of “Picture On A Screen,” he ponders our affection for digitized incarnations of people we may never meet, while the echoey, barroom-piano shuffle of “90210” finds him adapting to his new West Coast home. “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love” brings plucky funk riffing and a string-driven, stomp-and-clap boogie breakdown to the fore.

May wants to engage earnestly with cotton-candy poptimism just as much as he wants to poke holes in those same enticing, falsified structures—and in doing so, he weaves a playful, warm soundscape over which to ponder our mortality and loneliness. Throughout the record, we’re teased with the torturous hope that we might overcome our bleak realities. The magic of Across the Multiverse is that May doesn’t have any easy answers, but the pop hooks lure us in, inviting us to suss out these universal ambiguities right alongside him.

Luke Ottenhof

Pomdip’s Experimental Pop Channels Authentic Joy

Pomdip

Makan Negahban was a musician before he became a painter. The Los Angeles artist, who makes music as Pomdip, began painting for a living in November 2016, and has quickly become a hot prospect on the L.A. art scene. His most recent exhibition—and first solo art show—at co-LAb Gallery in Highland Park received, according to gallery owner Kristin Hector, the highest number of pre-sales of any show the space ever hosted. But while experimenting with acrylics has taken up most of his year, he has also found the time to complete his fourth solo album. A Jar at the Jamboree was released earlier this month by New Los Angeles Records.

Long before he ever picked up a paintbrush, Negahban approached music by asking how painting and music-making are related. He’s always thought about color, the aesthetic flow of a record from start to finish, and how songs can be arranged to fit together like a collage. A Jar at the Jamboree is perhaps his most ambitious project, taking four years to complete; he also worked on another record at the same time, which will be released later this year. He prioritized Jamboree because it captures the way he feels about the state of his life right now—working as a full-time artist, living with his long-term girlfriend and their dog, and having a little more financial freedom. His goal was to create something that felt tangible and nourishing.

A Jar at the Jamboree is vibrant and flamboyant, sprinkled with tropical melodies inspired by the music of Harry Belafonte and S.E. Rogue; it blends neo-psychedelia, bedroom pop, and worldbeat. Negahban seems to have caught the same vibe as Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear of Animal Collective, creating pop music for sound junkies, potheads, and hip shakers.

Jamboree takes its name from a riddle that Negahban invented to describe its sound. We’ll let him explain.

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