Album-art-for-Won-by-Fresh-Snow Fresh Snow – Won


From beginning to end, Fresh Snow’s album Won ranges from beautifully crafted arrangements to straight-up noise, a title the band wears proudly. Won is filled with moments of delicately constructed instrumental ballads and, conversely, hectic flashes of deliberate panic and disarray.

Fresh Snow is, above all things, an instrumental band. Relying on musicianship instead of vocal melodies or lyrics can become a challenge to any musician. Fresh Snow does not have this issue. The band’s droning keyboards, funky bass lines, and whatever else it can throw into the mix is always on fire. Twinges of amazing musicianship are always present within Won, but a heavy layer of distortion unfortunately buries it. Regardless, Fresh Snow has its shit together—and they don’t even have a singer to depend on as the showrunner.

Won is like a modern take on the jazz aesthetic: it’s hectic and allows each instrument to have its own moment. Each musician take turns showing off, especially in the album’s first track “King Twink Rides Again,” which sounds like a constant battle among instruments. After hitting the seven-minute mark, a ferocious horn section roars the song to a conclusion. It gets incrementally louder, and at the very end, the instruments breathe a sigh of relief after a rigorous race.

Most of the album is noise. Think about tuning a radio to fuzzy static.

Fresh Snow takes a rest from outplaying one another with “Proper Burial,” one of two songs on Won featuring vocalists. Carmen Elle, from the bands DIANA and Army Girls, lends delicate vocals to the song. In spite of buzzing keyboards and a driving bass line that actually lends itself nicely to Elle’s performance. The contrast of soft, feathery vocals and a funky bass part won’t throw off the listener. These are simply two elements of the song that just happen to work together harmoniously.

“Don’t Fuck a Gift Horse In The Mouth,” the alarmingly titled final song on Won, features Fucked Up vocalist Damian Abraham. Abraham’s vocals can barely be heard against Fresh Snow’s instruments, which fuzz out as straight-up noise.

Fresh Snow as a concept may be too difficult or dense for someone who is used to vocally-driven music. With songs well over ten minutes that feature more than enough disorienting auditory facets, it’ll take the most of one’s patience. Won is not an album to just throw on as background noise after a long, tiring day of work. It must be intently listened to, and it requires the listener to actively acknowledge its presence. In Won, Fresh Snow screams, “Listen to me!” It’s quite hard not to.

Fresh Snow – Won tracklist:

  1. “King Twink Rides Again”
  2. “Proper Burial”
  3. “Blood In The Sun”
  4. “Delft”
  5. “Don’t Fuck A Gift Horse In The Mouth”
Album-art-for-Depression-Cherry-by-Beach-House Beach House – Depression Cherry


From beginning to end, Beach House’s new album Depression Cherry proves to be a powerful beast that encapsulates the band’s laid back, introspective ambiance. Beach House gives the listener another set of beautiful melodies that feature breathtaking, resonant sounds only possible from the minds and souls of singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally. Together, Legrand and Scally have composed some of the most unique songs fans of dream-pop will have the pleasure of listening to. With Depression Cherry, Beach House adds another impressive cultivated achievement to its catalogue.

Depression Cherry is a much louder album with the same identifiable Beach House tendencies, like its trademarked soundscapes that can overpower an entire room. The stunning loudness Beach House manages to produce out of just keyboards and synths is never an abrasive feeling; it’s authoritative, but genuinely sweet, and often dream-like. The haunting “PPP” is a generous six minutes long, but, because of its ability to allow the listener to escape into an otherworldly dimension, it never feels excessive. The songs have become, if it was at all possible, more dreamy than the band’s previous works. Beach House has continued to grow, both lyrically and musically, in each album it produces. Depression Cherry is Beach House’s attempt to explore the way in which one manages to navigate through every moment in life.

Depression Cherry has been stripped down of natural music elements, specifically the lack of live drums, and this may be why the album is so much dreamier.

Beach House relies on pre-programmed drumbeats, which are very similar to patterns the band has used in the past, specifically in their 2010 album Teen Dream with mellowed-out songs like “Walk in the Park.”In fact, most of, if not all of, Depression Cherry is full of electronic instruments, not that Beach House has ever been known for whipping out an acoustic guitar. Droning keys and synths are defining elements of Beach House, and Depression Cherry is yet another way in which it has dominated and perfected its craft.

One of the fundamental components of a Beach House song is a Legrand’s angelic yet gruff vocal performance. Much like Depression Cherry’s compelling composition, Legrand’s voice boasts through every note, each more powerful than the next. But her vocals seem to float softly, which contrast the record’s dynamic arrangement. When she explores her lower register, especially in the album’s first single “Sparks,” the song effortlessly follows in her footsteps.

While we get much of the same things that Beach House is loved for, like Legrand’s compassionate vocals and unparalleled sound, the band hasn’t given up on challenging itself. By stripping away the familiar and comfortable in Depression Cherry, Beach House has given its listeners a refreshing take on its odd and peculiar way of looking at the world.

Beach House – Depression Cherry tracklist:

  1. “Levitation”
  2. “Sparks”
  3. “Space Song”
  4. “Beyond Love”
  5. “10:37”
  6. “PPP”
  7. “Wildflower”
  8. “Bluebird”
  9. “Days of Candy”
Album-art-for-Music-For-Dogs-by-Gardens-&-Villa Gardens & Villa – Music For Dogs


It’s rare when musicians can financially support themselves solely on their art. And Gardens & Villa’s songwriting duo, consisting of singer/guitarist Chris Lynch and keyboardist Adam Rasmussen, gave up most everything except for music. Their noble efforts are explored throughout their new album of eclectic pop songs, Music For Dogs. The album not only offers catchy chords and rhythms, but also layerings of previously unexplored sounds and textures.

In fact, Music For Dogs visits different soundscapes that at times seem dated, like coming from a 1980s electro-pop band. From the intro track alone, listeners may wonder where this album will lead them, especially if they hadn’t heard Gardens & Villa’s music before.

When the synth slowly descends from high to low tones, it sounds like they’re bringing us to another planet.

Thankfully, Music For Dogs does not completely rely on artificial effects, and one of the album’s strongest songs, “Fixations,” shows this. The song is driven by a laid-back, simple drumbeat and Lynch’s crisp and distinct vocals. It touches on Lynch and Rasmussen’s struggle to stay relevant, particularly when Lynch sings, “Trying to keep my inner flame alive/So many people keeping me from going under/But it feels like the perfect time.” Sure, creating art is hard, but when surrounded by supportive individuals maybe it isn’t so bad.

Although Gardens & Villa excel in its pop appeal, such as in “Fixations” and “Alone in the Night,” their more experimental and unconventional tunes songs like “Maximize Results” seem to resemble Devo tunes from Bizarro World. The synths race at an unidentifiably quick rate per minute, and the energy of the song strays away from the simplicity of their catchier songs.

Going further into the new wave abyss, Gardens & Villa’s song “Jubilee” sounds reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys. Particularly in the song “West End Boys,” which is complete with spoken word-like verses and all different shades of synth effects. “Jubilee” is a little off putting, but their songs show Music For Dogs is nonetheless full of surprises.

Gardens & Villa’s speciality is dabbling in the avant-garde, so it makes sense that Music For Dogs sounds stylistically all over the place. While jumping from genre to genre isn’t necessarily uncommon, people who don’t like to be caught off guard might not get it. It’s often hard to tell what Gardens & Villa are going for, but do we need to know? No matter what anyone else thinks, Lynch and Rasmussen seemed to keep their inner flames alive with Music For Dogs.

Gardens & Villa – Music For Dogs tracklist:

  1. “Intro”
  2. “Maximize Results”
  3. “Fixations”
  4. “Everybody”
  5. “Paradise”
  6. “Alone In The City”
  7. “General Research”
  8. “Express”
  9. “Happy Times”
  10. “Jubilee”
  11. “I Already Do”
Album-art-for-Double-Down-by-Darwin-Deez Darwin Deez – Double Down


Darwin Deez, a.k.a. Darwin Smith, seethes pop music. Ever since Deez began back in 2009, he’s stuck to what he knows best: melding a killer melody and some impressive instrumentation to go along with it. Deez’s new album Double Down is a lot like his other music, catchy with incredibly sweet melodies and a knack for witty lyrics. For Double Down, Smith reached to his usual influences, most notably Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Outkast’s Andre 3000, although Deez doesn’t sound like a mere imitation. He reached his final goal with the infectious Double Down by creating irresistible pop songs that are all his own.

“Constellations” became Deez’s most popular song when the band started, Double Down manages to hit that same sweet spot when it comes to chord choice and the blissful, fuzzy feeling one gets when listening to a Dawrin Deez song. “Lover” shows just how contagiousness Deez’s songwriting is. As a song about a distant love interest, it’s hard not to sing along even though Deez belts out the lyrics at his rawest.

Deez’ aesthetic is laced with all the feelings anyone could ever have and a false sense of optimism (which may throw off listeners who aren’t into unabashedly earnest and straight-forward lyrics), whereas his contemporaries may mask their true intentions with endless amounts of metaphors. Double Down blasts through with energy and songs that are mostly about all the stages of love—the good and the bad. In “Last Cigarette” Deez compares a former partner to being addicted to smoking cigarettes, singing “One last cigarette before I quit/One last look at it, because we were good at it.” There are no curtains over Smith’s feelings when he writes as Darwin Deez.

Luckily for Deez, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. His ability to be seemingly carefree in his profession isn’t exactly popular in the indie world.

Because of this, Deez is sometimes a little too sentimental with his lyrics. His cheeky and mostly too-on-the-nose lyrics are well intended, and he seems sincere, but they’re overly forward and lean to a dangerously cheesy territory. For example, in “Rated R” Deez wrote about teenage love and sneaking into R-rated movies while underage. Deez sings in the chorus, “You are rated R/I’m fifteen, I’m fifteen/You are rated R/You’re back for me but I’m happy.” Deez attempts to recreate a sweet and slightly rebellious moment between two young people, but the lyrics come off too juvenile, wide-eyed, and bushy-tailed.

This project is Deez’s outlet to let his catchiest pop songs loose without giving a shit. Double Down is yet another one of his masterful acts of just being himself. Whatever anyone says about Deez’s music will merely be dust he can brush off of his shoulder.

Deez is in this music thing for good and he doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.

Darwin Deez – Double Down tracklist:

  1. “Last Cigarette”
  2. “The Mess She Made”
  3. “Lover”
  4. “Time Machine”
  5. “Bag of Tricks”
  6. “Rated R”
  7. “Melange Mining Co.”
  8. “Kill Your Attitude”
  9. “The Other Side”
  10. “Right When It Rains”
  11. “The Missing I Wanna Do”
faec8ce6-560x560 Willis Earl Beal – Noctunes


Willis Earl Beal’s self-released album Noctunes is a chill, simplified marriage between R&B, raspy blues, and indie folk. Beal achieved indie stardom a few years ago, and after some struggle with his label, he is back. The bluesy, lo-fi soul sound that Beal has is ageless and minimalistic, making Noctunes engaging yet fleeting.

Noctunes is ubiquitous folky R&B in that it pulls together sounds and themes that are familiar, but Beal composes the album with heightened intimacy. The album is melodic, sometimes reminiscent of a lullaby. These melodies all have characteristics, such as instrumentation, vocal style, and raw emotions that are relatable because of how Beal sings them, and how they remind us of other things.

It isn’t sampling or mirroring another style as much as it is Beal tapping into his emotions to evoke ours.

Beal kept the compositions minimal, such as on “Lust,” which is primarily composed of gentle acoustic guitar strums, humming, and whistling in the background. Beal’s lone voice and lyrics provokes a lonely image. On “Start Over,” simple synths add depth to the background while Beal sings, “I think I want to start over/I think I want to start over with you/I’m still holding on.” The power comes from Beal’s emotive voice, which is the highlight of the album.

When he dips into jazzy territory, it is slinky and meaningful. On “Say The Words,” he sings with a hint of sorrow, pleading for his lover to tell him he is loved. The subtle percussion has a blues/jazz vibe that guides the track. Because they are minimal, Beal’s voice is prominent on the track. Subtle drumming is paired with lo-fi electronic chords, creating an ambience around Beal’s voice that takes a lounge singer-like effect. The cymbals seem strictly jazz, but are toned down by the simplified electric sounds.

While there is a lot of strength to Noctunes, it doesn’t hold attention. The tracks are moving because of the simplicity and feeling, yet they also hold strong movement that keeps someone fully focused. The mono-emotional feel to Noctunes allows the music to sink into the background. While the minimalistic instrumentation is an interesting move, it isn’t dynamic enough; each track hits the same feeling in the same way.

Willis Earl Beal’s Noctunes uses synths and acoustic guitar to hybridize multiple genres are once. Noctunes is genre-less because of its minimalistic qualities, yet the influences are clearly developed R&B, soul, folk, and blues. Beal is not to be put in a box.

Noctunes showcases Beal’s voice more than anything else. It transfixes listeners from the beginning, creating an environment that allows listeners to be mesmerized by his vocals as the somber melodies float into the background. Noctunes is ephemeral and impactful as it plays.

Willis Earl Beal – Noctunes tracklist:

  1. “Under You”
  2. “Flying So Low”
  3. “Like A Box”
  4. “Lust”
  5. “No Solution”
  6. “Stay”
  7. “Say The Words”
  8. “Love Is All Around”
  9. “Able To Wait”
  10. “Survive”
  11. “Start Over”
  12. “12 Midnight”
Jesse-Hackett-JUNK-Album-Cover Jesse Hackett – JUNK


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For his debut solo album, Jesse Hackett took that popular phrase to heart, finding inspiration in an old Yamaha PSR-110 that had been thrown away, which he used to create the album. JUNK is partially comprised of the keyboard’s many (and somewhat limited) sounds, creating a disjointed journey that’s sometimes weirdly fun, but can often become jumbled with its myriad electronic oddities against distorted vocals and solid, if rambling, beats.

Hackett previously released an LP under pseudonym Elmore Judd, and is part of Owiny Sigoma Band, which has released two albums and toured internationally. He also played synth on tour with the Gorillaz in 2010. JUNK seems quite a bit different from his previous endeavors—it lacks Owiny Sigoma Band’s Kenyan inspiration, and it’s harder hitting than Elmore Judd’s 2008 album Unborn Again.

The album opens with a springy electronic noise and distorted yelling vocals in “Dump Run”—just a taste of the oddball sensibility to come.

The quick intro leads into a bouncy beat with soft singing, “We’ll take our time/‘Cause there’s not much time.” The vocals become distorted and some percussion is added, along with a warped instrument that could be the PSR-110. It’s a pretty trippy start to the album, and Hackett continuously sings, “There’s not much time,” adding a sort of harried anxiety to the tune.

A sense of anxiety is a recurring theme throughout the album, particularly in the track “Buckle Down Bill,” which features a constant electronic beat so intense that it comes across as agitated and edgy. At one point, a voice laughs in the background; at other times, a voice utters unintelligible words. There’s a definite air of creepiness to it. A deep voice chants, “Buckle down Bill, he’s working so hard.” Near the end, a frazzled guitar comes in with no discernable melody. Although we don’t know who Buckle Down Bill is, the song conjures the image of a person who is trapped in his anxieties, so restless that he can’t stop.

The sense of heightened anxiety in “Buckle Down Bill” makes the song a bit difficult to listen to—it’s all craziness with no joy in the listen itself—although that may be the point Hackett is trying to make with the song. He might be exploring the idea that we shouldn’t be as obsessed with working as we are in America. Or, perhaps he’s encapsulating the feeling of a panic attack and putting forth a song that achieves a similar effect. In that case, he makes a strong point.

Elsewhere in the album, the sound has some jazz inspiration—a major contrast to those first anxiety-ridden tunes. “Closet Jazz” has a relaxed beat and distinctly funk-toned keys. It sounds like it belongs in a lounge in the 1970s. “Monsieur” has a similarly funky, if far more upbeat, sound. The song is comprised of upbeat percussion and more spirited keys as electronic noises float in and out. Hackett hits his stride in these songs—the instrumentals come together to create a more cohesive sound and will leave listeners wanting more.

With its myriad influences and mix of anxiety-ridden and lounge-inspired tunes, JUNK comes across as the type of experimental effort wherein the artist is still searching for his true sound.

Jesse Hackett – JUNK tracklist:

  1. “The Dump Run”
  2. “Sacred Oblivion”
  3. “Buckle Down Bill”
  4. “I Don’t Wanna Get Old”
  5. “Closet Jazz”
  6. “Lovely Lady”
  7. “Monsieur”
  8. “Genisis P’oribble”
  9. “Wonder”
Album-art-for-Lantern-by-Hudson-Mohawke Hudson Mohawke – Lantern


Hudson Mohawke (aka Ross Birchard) is a wild, melody-obsessed producer whose beats engulf listeners in an environment of his own creation. His sophomore release, Lantern, is organized chaos at its finest; it has a frenetic energy emphasized by textural synths and bass.

Sonically, Hudson Mohawke is maximalist, with overproduced electronic beats that hit hard with little pause. Gritty, multilayered tracks that throb and pulsate as microbeats are layered and melodies are affected with breaks and drops. This oversaturation is at its peak near the end of Lantern on “Portrait of Luci” and “System.” HudMo’s tracks are more neoclassical than anything, with complex arrangements that happen to be manipulations of synths, drum kicks, and occasional vocals, instead of traditional orchestral instrumentation.

Four tracks feature artists, but do so discretely. The vocals don’t distract or outshine the production, but are very intentional. HudMo uses Jhene Aiko and Miguel’s features as tools to construct his perfect compositions.

Hudson Mohawke chose not to feature any rappers on this album, unlike his previous releases. HudMo’s history runs in hip-hop—he had a hand in several rap hits of the recent past, and is a part of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. Breaking away from earlier hip-hop affiliations and previous trap endeavors (such as TNGHT with Canadian DJ Lunice), HudMo has tried really hard to not be bound to his previous sound.

“Ryderz” is the one track on Lantern that is an overt nod to old, soul-sampling Kanye. The track features a sped up sample of “Watch Out For The Riders,” by D. J. Rogers, adorned with crashing percussion à la Kanye West.

Throughout Lantern one can tell when HudMo is trolling listeners a bit; he teases expectations, offering “breaks” in the otherwise overwhelming production, satisfying the need for quirkier interruptions in the beat. “Lil Djembe” stands out because it is perfectly off.

It’s weird instrumentation, but with the structure of a banger.

Similarly, “Scud Books” triumphantly bumps, causing a confused euphoria because the trap production is borderline migraine-inducing with screeching embellishments, a blaring horn section and keys that melodically dash around.

Opposite the general over-the-top feel of Lantern, feeling gluttonous at times, the track “Indian Steps (feat. Antony)” is slower—as close to a ballad as HudMo may ever get. The bass pumps with emotional lyrics sung by Antony, “Look at the sky/Now look through my eyes/Swim up from the deep/Dance in a field of weakness/Forever I love you/Like a lamb under the gun/I tried to guard your spirit/You became someone.” While the majority of the track is consistently calmer, the end shifts into deranged noise to close out the track. The chemistry is clear; Hudson Mohawke will, in fact, be producing Antony’s next album, alongside Oneohtrix Point Never.

HudMo seems to be hyperaware of what his tracks evoke. His melody obsession is obvious, but he consciously force certain sounds into pleasing structures.

Hudson Mohawke – Lantern tracklist:

  1. “Lantern”
  2. “Very First Breath (feat. Irfane)”
  3. “Ryderz”
  4. “Warriors (feat. Ruckazoid and Debaeux)”
  5. “Kettles”
  6. “Scud Books”
  7. “Indian Steps (feat. Antony)”
  8. “Lil Djembe”
  9. “Deepspace (feat. Miguel)”
  10. “Shadows”
  11. “Resistance (feat Jhene Aiko)”
  12. “Portrait of Luci”
  13. “System”
  14. “Brand New World”
Album-art-for-Mercy-by-Active-Child Active Child – Mercy


From the very beginning of his career, Active Child (aka Pat Grossi) swept us into his own universe. Mercy is the sophomore album from Grossi, and is in a similar style to his debut You Are All I See, but there are some stylistic changes that Grossi made in the four years between albums. Mercy effortlessly moves between ambient rhythms, neo-soul, and subtle pop beats; Grossi’s style could be described as angelic acoustic post-dubstep that evokes an introspective yet fun feeling.

The tracks on Mercy fluctuate between chill and dazed to dance tracks. “Stranger” has a solid pulsating, club-ready beat, “Never Far Away” has a late ’90s/earl ’00s R&B vibe, and “Too Late” is a piano ballad. While this album is still driven by electronic instrumentation, it isn’t used in as upbeat a manner as it was on You Are All I See. Mercy is calmer in comparison, which works well and makes the album seem more mature.

Beginning with an acoustic guitar, Grossi croons, “Darling, how have you been/I know the world is low/But with patience you will find/A new strength and piece of mind,” on “Darling.” Grossi’s lyrical style is simple and repetitive. This track in particular is reminiscent of a lullaby—perhaps one of the stand out moments on Mercy. The track is delicate and perfectly placed amongst the more beat-oriented production on the album. Grossi is particularly skilled at striking a balance between the moods and sounds on the album.

Grossi’s vocals are choral, polished, and soulful; he did grow up as a member of the Philadelphia Boy’s Choir. His voice is wonderfully paired with his production style. The marriage between the two stands out on the title track, “Mercy.” On most of the album he stays in a higher range, which is gorgeous, but when he consciously dips into his deeper voice it has a grittier vibe.

“Midnight Swim” is a precious moment amidst vocals, electronic production, and a little bass. The track is entirely instrumental and primarily composed of strings. The track begins light and quirky, with subtle distortion lurking in the background. The strings are plucked in a jarring staccato fashion, distracting from the echoes and glittering guitar strums happening simultaneously. Eerie electronic slices make brief cameos before the track turns entirely to a drone. It is easy to get caught up in Grossi’s vocals, so having the instrumental break brings the listener back to focusing on production.

Grossi is a like a very polished and sonically interesting late ’90s boy band member gone astray. What stands out about Grossi is his compositional skill and use of his voice to obtain the sound he wants.

While listening to Mercy, one can get a sense of Grossi’s understanding of music.

While Mercy isn’t exactly a “fun in the sun” summer album, it suits milder afternoons and the occasional lonely night. Aesthetically, it engages from the beginning, and technically, it is masterfully made. Grossi has fine-tuned his style and talents, making Mercy a necessary listen.

Active Child – Mercy tracklist:

  1. “1999”
  2. “These Arms”
  3. “Never Far Away”
  4. “Darling”
  5. “Mercy”
  6. “Midnight Swim”
  7. “Stranger”
  8. “Temptation”
  9. “Lazarus”
  10. “Too Late”


Album-art-for-Restless-Ones-by-Heartless-Bastards Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones


Heartless Bastards first came together as a three-piece outfit in Cincinnati, Ohio, including singer Erika Wennerstrom and her then-boyfriend Mike Lamping. After a couple releases (Stairs and Elevators, All This Time) the duo parted ways, so Wennerstrom headed to Austin, Texas. What came of the breakup and move was The Mountain, which turned out to be quite a success for the band.

Heartless Bastards is now back with Restless Ones. This new album is classic Heartless Bastards—blues, rock, country, whatever sound comes out of guitarist Mark Nathan’s magical stringed instrument.

If trademarking a signature sound were a thing, Heartless Bastards would be first in line to protect its valuable property. Restless Ones is all the best things about Heartless Bastards, like Wennerstrom’s honest and heartfelt lyrics, and a distinct, full musical arrangement.

There’s no way to mistake Heartless Bastards for another band.

Restless Ones begins with the fantastic “Wind Up Bird,” in which Wennerstrom discusses ingenuity and how deception and fabrication eventually wears thin. The opening guitar riff could give an easily spooked person a heart attack. If that sound were physical, it would rip through speakers and everything else it came into contact with. The guitars sound no less than wonderful in “Wind Up Bird.”

The album’s first single, “Gates of Dawn,” is a perfect pop song that’ll probably be played on repeat on every alternative station in the country. It’s quick and the lyrics are sparse, but Wennerstrom still manages to be concise with her train of thought as she sings, “I have awoken/The spell it has been broken/Went through the cold, cold wind of the eastern snow.” Drummer Dave Colvin is absolutely tireless in his efforts on “Gates of Dawn.” The drumming is precise and extremely meticulous; he plays every part with purpose.

In “Into the Light,” the entire band plays excellently, including plucky, cheery piano, which is somewhat unusual for a Heartless Bastards song. The track touches on the mental and emotional ailment of over-thinking everything. Wennerstrom sings, “Oh, I’ve been so in my head/I need a vacation from myself,” and nails this feeling of personal exhaustion. The phrase “into the light” suggests that Wennerstrom sees the bright side of her philosophy and that things will get better eventually.

What separates Heartless Bastards from most current rock bands is its authenticity.

Every member of Heartless Bastards is an outstanding player, and the band doesn’t rely on Protools and extreme overproduction to make its music sound good. Restless Ones sees Heartless Bastards playing its heart out, not caring about what its peers are releasing. The album is for people who are sick of a questionable music scene with bands that care more about clothing than instrument tone. Heartless Bastards undoubtably put every ounce of energy it had into these ten songs.

“Tristessa” is an ambient and almost primal departure from Heartless Bastards’ comfort zone of wailing guitars and furious drumming. Wennerstrom sing-chants throughout the hypnotic track, and it’s completely mesmerizing. “Tristessa” is Restless Ones’ zen moment, inciting a fleeting and breathtaking sweep through one’s ears. It’s calming, bringing the listener down from an album full of high-energy.

Restless Ones is not doing the same tireless and overdone blues-rock thing that is popular on the radio today. Yes, Heartless Bastards is influenced by the blues, but what the band plays is fresh. Heartless Bastards continues to grow, and Restless Ones proves the band’s success with going with gut instinct.

Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones tracklist:

  1. “Wind Up Bird”
  2. “Gates of Dawn”
  3. “Black Cloud”
  4. “Hi-Line”
  5. “Journey”
  6. “Pocket Full of Thirst”
  7. “Into the Light”
  8. “The Fool”
  9. “Eastern Wind”
  10. “Tristessa”
Album-art-for-Songs-To-Make-Up-To-by-Ta-ku Ta-ku – Songs To Make Up To


After the break up comes the make up. Songs To Make Up To is the follow-up to 2013’s Songs To Break Up To by electronic artist Ta-ku (aka Regan Mathews). Two years ago Ta-ku was categorized as a producer that made hip-hop-esque beats, that then dipped into R&B and experimental territory. STMUT moves away from the bass and kick drums to include more strings and sentimental vocals. Perhaps the title sways perception of the album, but it sounds more careful, tender, and romantic than Ta-ku’s previous releases, which erred stronger on the hip-hop side, and were more successful endeavors.

Comparison aside, STMUT is engaging and different because of how the album is constructed. The tracks are often delicate, rarely dropping the beat. There is a very conscious control that comes with how each track shifts and changes. Ta-ku’s production style has mellowed, holding back from over-stimulating eardrums. This new album includes strings, creating a sensitive vibe. Even on the more upbeat tracks, the production is kept low-key, like with “Long Time No See,” which breaks with heavy bass overlaid by melodic piano and accented with strings.

Of the album’s seven tracks, three have featured vocals, “Love Again (featuring JMSN and Sango),” “Fall4U” (featuring Sunni Colón),” and “Sunrise/Beautiful (featuring Jordan Rakei).” The lyrics are all very literal, which takes away from the production somewhat—the album’s vocalists do add something, but their content is flimsy. Simple lyrics can indeed be powerful, but there could’ve been more complexity.

The EP is about making up, a very real emotional process, but it feels the stale lyrics crave more meaning and depth, to mirror that intention.

On “Love Again,” the lines, “I don’t want to do this again/This ain’t the time to pretend/You know I make it better if I can/Because I don’t want to do this ish again,” are exemplary of the lackluster lyrics.

“Sunrise/Beautiful” features the lyrics, “Beautiful, I just want you to know/You’re my favorite girl,” which are repeated on the latter half of the track, and sound like a lyrical sample from Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful.” The sample is recognizable, making the track a bit more interesting, but still, it isn’t enough to wow listeners.

The album ends on an odd yet metaphoric note. The last track, “Work In Progress,” is a piano track that sounds like an incomplete recording. The recording is muffled, background noises and voices can be heard as the passionate piano plays. The track is casual and while it’s built on a concrete idea, it isn’t fully formed and polished. Since these are songs to make up to, the relationship, too, isn’t polished—a work in progress.

Songs To Make Up To isn’t as innovative or evoking as Ta-ku’s previous original tracks or his remixes. Perhaps he held back too much; the tracks sound over-thought, especially because the EP addresses something most of us have been through. It falls short when trying to be relatable and capture the same feeling.

Ta-ku – Songs To Make Up To tracklist:

  1. “Hopeful”
  2. “Love Again (feat. JMSN & Sango)”
  3. “Trust Me”
  4. “Long Time No See (feat. Atu)”
  5. “Sunrise/Beautiful (feat. Jordan Rakei)”
  6. “Fall4You (feat. Sunni Colón)”
  7. “Work In Progress”
Album-art-for-Apocalypse-girl-by-Jenny-Hval Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl


With the cracks and pops typically associated with listening to a vinyl record, Norwegian musician/writer Jenny Hval begins her sophomore album, Apocalypse, girl, with the words, “Think big, girl/Like a king/Think kingsize/Did you learn nothing from America?”

The track, “Kingsize,” like most of the songs on the album, combines sexuality and politics in a way that’s unique and disturbing all at once. Hval’s poetic lyrics are raw, and the music that supports them—a ringing sound here, a strum on a harp there—is unconventional. From the start of the album, it’s clear that the songs won’t necessarily be easy to listen to, but are provocative and will invoke introspection.

With electronic, sci-fi-like sounds that moan and squeak, “Kingsize” is a song entirely in spoken word. Hval’s voice is cold—almost robotic—as she states there are “four big bananas” in her lap before explaining how New York City has no subculture or future; “no big bananas,” she says. Each word, despite the sound’s crackling effect, is perfectly annunciated. She explains that the bananas begin to turn brown in her lap. “If you have a child, you better learn how to bake,” she intones.

“I beckon the cupcake/The huge, capitalist clit.”

By the end of the song, the bananas are rotting, and Hval talks of rashes bringing together a community of people, of “four flaccid fingers.” It’s as if she’s comparing American culture with the rotting bananas—it was once flourishing like ripe fruit, but now it’s merely a shadow of what it once was. And with the last line, “Oh, the fruit flies,” Hval has run through the lives of bananas, as well as interjected musings on society. She’s looking for something (“I search the oven/ Scrub the racks/Put my whole head inside, but I can’t find it”), but it seems to be either out of reach, or something that was only ever a dream. Perhaps she’s referencing the disappearance of the American Dream—white picket fence, happy family, stay-at-home mom—and is wondering what society should be dreaming for now.

When Hval does sing, her voice is beautifully mystical, almost like a cross between Grimes’ Claire Boucher and Florence Welch. In “Sabbath,” against a catchy, low-key drumbeat and some intriguing, unidentified sounds, Hval uses spoken word and singing of a youthful dream about being a boy. It’s a song that would be more easily listened to in the background than “Kingsize,” although it’s equally probing. Sexual exploration is examined and turned on its head. The lyrics, “It would be easy to think about submission/But I don’t think it’s about submission/It’s about holding and being held,” suggest sexual fantasies and frustrating social situations for women.

In the end, though, it seems it all comes back to nurturing and feeling nurtured, in some form or another.

“Holy Land,” the album’s final track, is comprised of about six minutes of electronic soundscape, followed by Hval’s slow, melodic singing. Those six minutes attest to Hval’s ability to summon feeling even when she isn’t writing deeply personal lyrics. Her instrumentals, electronic and space-agey as they may seem, are interesting enough to want to keep listening. Her music tends to incite reflection, and “Holy Land” is that way so much so that it’s meditative, especially when Hval’s droning voice comes in.

Strange and otherworldly as it may be, Apocalypse, girl, is a gripping, thought-provoking album that will bring audiences to question their own experiences within society. If nothing else, it will keep listeners so captivated that they have to find out what happens next.

Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl tracklist:

  1. “Kingsize”
  2. “Take Care of Yourself”
  3. “That Battle is Over”
  4. “White Underground”
  5. “Heaven”
  6. “Why This”
  7. “Some Days”
  8. “Sabbath”
  9. “Angels and Amaemia”
  10. “Holy Land”
Of-Monsters-and-Men-Beneath-the-Skin-album-cover Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin


When chamber-pop outfit Of Monsters and Men’s debut album, My Head is an Animal, was released in 2012, the album’s catchy melodies and upbeat, folk-inspired songs garnered international popularity. The band’s latest album, Beneath the Skin, may follow in the first album’s footsteps, but not because it’s a duplicate of the band’s former sound.

Formed in 2010, the Icelandic group is made up of singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir, co-singer/guitarist Ragnar Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, and drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson. Beneath the Skin has the same addictive quality as My Head is an Animal, but in a different way: its soaring guitars and upbeat rhythms have a good hook, while its discerning, poetic lyrics about emotional exposure and acceptance give the music a raw, honest edge.

Here, listeners still get a taste of My Head Is An Animal-era Of Monsters and Men, but Beneath the Skin has an altogether different tone.

The band’s debut album had a prominent folk influence, with foot-stomping beats and group vocals. Although some of those characteristics exist in Beneath the Skin, the album has a darker feeling to it. The lyrics are more personal and intimate, as in the album’s soaring opening track, “Crystals,” a song about being open, acknowledging fear, and embracing the unknown. Cymbals clang, a guitar strums, and a rolling beat plays as Hilmarsdóttir sings, “I know I’ll wither, so pull away the bark/Because nothing grows when it is dark/In spite of all my fears, I see it all so clear.”

During the bridge in “Crystals,” against a singular, repeating guitar strum that’s almost ambient in sound, Hilmarsdóttir croons, “But I’m okay in see-through skin/I forgive what is within.” Hilmarsdóttir’s smoky voice is captivating and uplifting with its combination of softness and strength.

Similarly, “Black Water” isn’t upbeat in a happy sense, but it has a solid beat that will get heads bopping. The track explores the acceptance of getting lost in gloomier feelings. During the verses of the song, a steady beat and piano keep pace with Þórhallsson as he sings, “Strange silence surrounding me/Grows closer, feels colder/But I’m ready to suffer the sea/Blackwater, take over.” As the chorus comes in, more instrumentals are added to the song. Drums become louder, a tambourine rings out, and the electric guitar creates an atmospheric backdrop for it all. Backup singers and horns are added, heightening the sound. It all culminates in a near-complete drop off of music as Hilmarsdóttir sings “Swallowed by a vicious, vengeful sea/Darker days are reigning over me/In the deepest depths I lost myself/I see myself through someone else.”

Somber tones are explored elsewhere. An alarmingly droning guitar in “Thousand Eyes” adds drama to the album. “Organs” is stripped bare, featuring an acoustic guitar and piano alongside Hilmarsdóttir’s emotional vocals. With references to storms, ghosts, and shadows, darkness is everywhere—but it’s not all bleak. There’s still some hope in the album: in the freedom of being open, in the comfort of acceptance, and the building up of instrumentals that Of Monsters and Men does so well.

Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin tracklist:

  1. “Crystals”
  2. “Human”
  3. “Hunger”
  4. “Wolves Without Teeth”
  5. “Empire”
  6. “Slow Life”
  7. “Organs”
  8. “Black Water”
  9. “Thousand Eyes”
  10. “I Of the Storm”
  11. “We Sink”