Album-art-for-New-Glow-by-Matt-and-Kim Matt and Kim – New Glow


Matt and Kim combines the talents of keyboardist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino, who came together in 2004 to create an indie-pop band that borrows elements from hip-hop and electronic music, creating a sound all its own.

The band’s new album, New Glow, doesn’t disappoint. With a host of danceable songs and summertime jams featuring lighthearted lyrics and stimulating beats, Johnson and Schifino have produced a fourth album that will hook listeners to dance along and never stop listening.

“Hey Now” kicks the album off with a burst of sound, signaling the immediate desire to dance. Prominent horns and repetitive back-up vocals, along with clapping during the chorus, make for an upbeat and lively track, likely to be a popular party song. Mixing a clear rimshot beat with occasional electronic elements, it’s the type of melody that’s easy to get addicted to. The energetic tune of the song supports the optimistic lyrics about a frustrating, yet loyal relationship. “Sometimes you make me loose my mind,” Johnson sings, “But if you died, I’d die right by your side.” The song, while louder in nature, harkens back to the catchiness of the band’s popular song “Daylight” from its 2012 album Lightning. Its captivating quality overshadows the album’s other songs, which aren’t quite as lively.

Johnson and Schifino have often focused on the highlights of their youth—going out, having fun, and being reckless—in their songwriting.

The duo brings that theme back on New Glow with instrumentals that are different enough to sound fresh, but clearly express Matt and Kim’s signature sound. The upbeat tempos and mixture of sounds emphasize the band’s love of partying. In “Can You Blame Me,” a bright, flutelike sound weaves in and out, creating a surprisingly spirited sound. The sound of the album echoes that of fellow indie-poppers Passion Pit, while remaining true to its hip-hop influence, similar to the experimental nature of Sleigh Bells.

The track “Hoodie On” follows that hip-hop vibe, except this time the band is pointing to the culture and perhaps poking fun at it. With a solid downbeat and plenty of electronic noises, the lyrics will prompt smiles. “I don’t dress up for much, just a hoodie on/I look like a king with a hoodie on/You can’t do much; it goes on and on/I wrote this song with a hoodie on,” Johnson sings. The beat and exaggerated lyrics contrast to create a clever song about a culture the band loves. While it’s more hard-hitting than “Can You Blame Me,” listeners really get a feel for the band’s different musical inspirations.

New Glow follows the footsteps of Matt and Kim’s other albums with its danceable beats, infectious tunes, and lyrics about being young and living life to the fullest.

Schifino and Johnson have made it clear that they have fun with their music and want listeners to have fun, too. The duo has created a boisterous new album that will likely make listeners want to follow the advice of the album and party all night long.

Matt and Kim – New Glow tracklist:

  1. “Hey Now”
  2. “Stirred Up”
  3. “Can You Blame Me”
  4. “Hoodie On”
  5. “Make a Mess”
  6. “Killin Me”
  7. “World is Ending”
  8. “Get It”
  9. “Not Alone”
  10. “I See Ya”
Album-art-for-Ivy-Tripp-by-Waxahatchee Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp


Katie Crutchfield is Waxahatchee, a lo-fi pop, Tumblr-darling from Alabama, whose curious name is after a creek adjacent to her hometown. From her whispered, sleeper hit American Weekend, to the gripping and emotional narrative of Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield knows how to tell a story.

Ivy Tripp is Crutchfield’s third Waxahatchee album, and is based off a term she invented to substitute for a lack of direction. She no longer feels timid and hesitant—Ivy Tripp is a celebration of confidence, acceptance, and the process of moving on; the album’s crisp sound helps add to her optimistic clarity and happy atmosphere.

In a press release, Crutchfield said, “[Ivy Tripp is] just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and grow from that.”

The record opens with the song “Breathless,” showcasing Crutchfield’s adept ability at composing solemn, self-critical songs. The keyboard, perhaps, is an homage to the lo-fi heartbreaker “Noccalua” from American Weekend. The distinction between the two is that now Crutchfield has perfected the studio-polished sound of her own music.

Cerulean Salt felt a little uneasy in its production and sound; it removed the personal feel that made Waxahatchee’s music vulnerable. Some musicians make the mistake of allowing grainy, amateur recording to become a part of their musical aesthetic. Waxahatchee tip-toed around this point, choosing to step back and perfect the individual sound before moving forward. “Breathless” demonstrates the return to more reflective, intimate pieces that Crutchfield does best.

Ivy Tripp is a fully realized version of Waxahatchee. The polished, shiny facets represent the parts of Crutchfield’s personality that have grown and changed over time.

Crutchfield has a talent for capturing the hesitant, tentative quality sometimes present throughout our 20s. Ivy Tripp sounds like an uncertain graduate feeling empty without classes to attend, a community college bound high schooler watching distant classmates move onto prestigious universities, or a bratty toddler running away from home for the first time. Trial and repeated error is a major theme of Crutchfield’s music.

An album about failure is expected to be downcast. Other online-famous bands such as Pill Friends, Starry Cat, and Crutchfield’s former project P.S. Eliot, perfected bummer-pop. On the Internet, especially in this Tumblr subgenre, it is expected that sad people make even sadder music. However, Crutchfield manages to convey the same bleak emotions felt while creating upbeat, introspective pop music. It’s innovative and new—Waxahatchee discusses the darkest subjects with a joyous sound.

Confidence develops internally and organically—it can’t be spurred by any particular moment or person. Regardless, there are moments when someone might reach out to us and we allow ourselves to be feel better. Flaws are what make us sympathetic, relatable, and ultimately, lovable. Ivy Tripp is like a warm cup of tea, a cigarette, or a warm hug from a friend; Crutchfield can’t immediately make listeners feel better, but with Ivy Tripp, she will give it her best shot.

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp tracklist:

  1. “Breathless”
  2. “Under a Rock”
  3. “Poison”
  4. “La Loose”
  5. “Stale by Noon”
  6. “The Dirt”
  7. “Blue”
  8. “Air”
  9. “<“
  10. “Grey Hair”
  11. “Summer of Love”
  12. “Half Moon”
  13. “Bonfire”
Album-art-for-Lustmore-by-Lapalux Lapalux – Lustmore


Lustmore, the second album from Essex-based electronic musician Lapalux, is a sturdy, listenable album in the tradition of beat-heavy electronic music. Everything is meticulously arranged, and yet it too rarely feels like anything other than a expertly crafted retread of his contemporaries. The album is even interested in the same brand of skewed consciousness, going so far as to be loosely inspired by hypnagogia—an unfortunate case of subtext becoming text given that hypnagogia, the sensation of consciousness lapsing into sleep, has long been the buzz word for Lapalux’s peers like Nosaj Thing and Flying Lotus. This staleness isn’t only related to the elevator pitch for the album—there’s far too often a sense that Lapalux is just refining the tropes of the sub-genre without adding his own spin.

Lapalux has an ear for adding punch to sounds and a clear eye for the now, evident through his appropriation of oozing R&B that recalls Arca’s free-form work with FKA Twigs and Kelela. “Closure” and “Puzzle” edge the closest to this sound with their seesawing vocal arrangements and alternating queasy and lulling synth arrangements, but like the rest of the album, they feel like second-rate facsimiles rather than an attempt to push the genre forward. It’s hard to knock reliability, but coming from a tradition of electronic music that consistently values the lack of a mold, it’s a disappointment that Lapalux hits every single expected melodic and rhythmic convention.

Lustmore falls into the trap of the darker, more dour, and serious follow-up.  More than ever, the arrangements feel like stories threaded through music, and the imagery it conjures has never felt more vivid. But that imagery still traffics in the bone-deep melancholy and soft-focus wooziness that’s been the vogue of every atmospheric electronic album since the rejuvenation of the sound on 2011’s Drive soundtrack.

For practically the entire first half of the album, the music could serve as a soundtrack to an icy night drive with a distressing sameness.

The pattern emerges: begin with fog-shrouded synth intro, lead into garbled vocal sample, and climax with a stuttering hook.

“Midnight Peelers” finds a respite in streaming neon keyboards, and “We Lost” feels more human thanks to a more pronounced R&B-inflected vocal melody, but the album feels all too often devoid of the soulfulness and warmth that previously characterized Lapalux’s music.

The cinematic feel certainly isn’t incidental, as Lapalux has been vocal about the influence of film scores and their ability to seduce and tell emotional stories in the lead-up to the album. There are echoes of seminal film soundtracks here from the Morricone-esque electro of “1004” to Vangelis’ amber beams shining through “Autumn.” But too often this new approach feels meandering, forcing a more linear approach as opposed to the anything-goes wanderlust that characterized earlier recordings.

Lapalux’s 2012 album, Nostalchic, whipped up a kaleidoscopic beat odyssey, as fluffy and fluid as cotton candy without the unwanted stomachache after. It didn’t change the playing field, but it went down remarkably smoothly, precisely pitching its sound for a dense but immediately listenable experience.

In flashes, Lustmore displays its craft, but as a full experience, it’s just repetitive and flat.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that Lustmore’s slickness is a placeholder for a more distinctive sound. More than most genres, beat-based electronic music that nods towards hip-hop, jazz, and R&B can start to sound very formulaic. Let’s face it, J Dilla perfected it. In response, many in the genre have pushed to find a sound that’s their own whether it’s through crate-digging for lo-fi sounds, melding live instrumentation with synthetic sounds, or taking genre detours into world music.

Lapalux doesn’t have this immediate hook. The album is heavily textured and effectively atmospheric, calibrating its snares to feel like body blows, and embedding richly polymorphic synth lines that sound both cosmopolitan and dystopic. That doesn’t make up for the fact that the crushingly rigid “Push ’N Spun” or “Bud” would sound more distinctive in the hands of someone like Salva or Prefuse 73.

But the biggest ultimate problem is both the giant in the room and how crowded that room has become. Lapalux inevitably draws comparisons to peers like his label kingpin, the eminently monolithic Flying Lotus, who has shifted the beat-based landscape from blunted breakbeats to slippery jazz-fusion ragas and everything in between, and other artists like Shlohmo, who have made a beeline to the shadows, to the whole Friends of Friends roster, who dabble in everything from Chip Tune to deep house.

Lustmore is the sound of an artist who’s boxed in between worries about legitimacy and staying current. It’s neither expansive enough to extend to cosmic reaches like Flying Lotus, baldly emotional enough to compete with Baths, or as immediately head knocking like Star Slinger. It’s elegant to a fault, hitting every beat with pinpoint precision, but no longer with a sense of the feel that should accompany that hit.

Lapalux – Lustmore tracklist:

  1. “U Never Know (feat. Andreya Triana)”
  2. “Sum Body”
  3. “Closure (feat. Szjerdene)”
  4. “Midnight Peelers”
  5. “Push N’ Spun”
  6. “We Lost”
  7. “Autumn (Tape Interlude)”
  8. “Puzzle (feat. Andreya Triana)”
  9. “Bud”
  10. “Don’t Mean A Thing”
  11. “1004”
  12. “Make Money”
  13. “Funny Games”
Album-art-for-White-Men-Are-Black-Men-Too-by-Young-Fathers Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too


Unlikely production and bizarre rhythms will catch listeners’ ears on Young Fathers’ new album White Men Are Black Men Too. The album is the trio’s follow-up to its Mercury Prize winning Dead. Critics and listeners alike try to put Young Fathers in a box, saying it’s one genre or another, always landing on some hip-hop/punk/pop/rock hybrid. Young Fathers is really a sonic smorgasborg.

The album is a progression from Young Fathers’ previous work, but still particularly distinct. A combination of numerous styles, White Men Are Black Men Too takes listeners through a strange ode to being alive in 2015 with relatable lyrics and an instrumental style that’s very contemporary.

The album’s sounds contort in peculiar, intriguing ways with vocals teetering on top. Each track is explosive with layers upon layers pushing the boundaries of what could be sonically “too much.” The intent seems to lean toward making the listener uncomfortable or having visceral reactions.

While the unruly track “Feasting” crashes, its bass throbs as aggressive shrills blend into the beat, maintaining a feeling of levelheadedness. The track begins soulful and eerie before shifting into an overload of jingles, bass, and percussion accented by a call to “settle down” in the background.

Young Fathers has a sound that can’t, and shouldn’t, be labeled.

The combination of hip-hop, punk, rock, and worldlier sounds create a multidimensional vibe that is specific to the trio. Young Fathers’ music may remind listeners of other things, but never to the extent of duplication or clear influence. The band is experimenting endlessly. “Still Running” is a wild and epic opening to the album, youthful and uninhibited; “Get Started” ends the album beautifully and gospel-like.

Lyrically, Young Fathers is cryptic and poetic. “Old Rock ‘n’ Roll” is perhaps the closest the trio gets to a hip-hop track; while the beat is more unorthodox clamoring forward, the lyrics are spit like rap bars, “I’m tired of playing the good black/I’m tired of having to hold back,” is sung with a venomous edge. This track also includes that confusing album title, “Some white men are black men too.” Young Fathers typically use political lyrics. White Men Are Black Men Too can be quite poignant, but not to the same extent that the band’s previous album Dead was.

Another lyrically intriguing moment happens in “27.” Every member of the trio is currently 27, the age at which many musicians, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain, all died. That extensive list of artists, dubbed “The 27 Club,” all influenced this track. While a xylophone puts a twinkle on the song, it’s a morbid track. That juxtaposition of instrumentation and lyrics is common throughout the album. Like with “27,” the poppier tracks don’t necessarily have lyrics to match.

Young Fathers created a sound that is both constantly referential to past times, sounds, and places, yet uniquely the band’s own. Sometimes it has vibes similar to early TV on the Radio, experimental hip-hop Shabazz Palaces, Flying Lotus beats, and even old-school Outkast-turned-jazzy. The sound is idiomatic and universal, creating both a relatable and distanced work. White Men Are Black Men Too is sonically complex—a hodge-podge of sounds that’s surreally distinct.

Young Fathers – White Man Are Black Men Too tracklist:

  1. “Still Running”
  2. “Shame”
  3. “Feasting”
  4. “27”
  5. “Rain or Shine”
  6. “Sirens”
  7. “Old Rock ‘n’ Roll”
  8. “Nest”
  9. “Liberated”
  10. “John Doe”
  11. “Dare Me”
  12. “Get Started”
Album-art-for-Glitterbug-by-The-Wombats The Wombats – Glitterbug


When Liverpool-based trio The Wombats, composed of vocalist/guitarist Matthew Murphy, bassist Tord Overland-Knudsen, and drummer Dan Haggis, created its debut album A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, the band cemented its place in the rock/pop world with its upbeat tempos, lighthearted lyrics, and catchy harmonies.

For its third album, Glitterbug, The Wombats have continued down the fun, electro-pop path that has become its signature sound. Glitterbug is fast-paced and easy to dance to, but perhaps less quirky than The Wombats’ past albums, propelling the band into music akin to radio-pop for the masses.

Glitterbug begins with “Emoticons,” a song that draws a connection between human interaction and the little animated icons that have become a dominant part of our digital communication. The song hints at the idea that our culture has more ways to communicate than ever, yet still has problems reaching out to one another. “All these emoticons and words/Try to make it better, but they only make it worse,” croons Murphy alongside a solid downbeat and melodic electronics. The instrumentals and vocals build in intensity as Murphy addresses the root of the problem. “Behind these metaphors/I want you literally/We crave the fiction/When we really need the truth,” he sings. Banal phrases aside, he does make a point.

Something about the pop-nature of the song and the idea of this obsession with emoticons drives the music to teenage-level crush, rather than a real seduction or romance.

This indecisive nature in regards to relationships continues throughout the album. In “Greek Tragedy,” Murphy is clearly blown away by the woman he’s pursuing: “She hits like ecstasy/Comes up and bangs the sense out of me,” he intones. Although comparing a woman to a drug may be trite, Murphy delivers some clear imagery. Sure, he likes the idea of the woman, but it seems like the relationship isn’t meant to be, as he sings, “The tarot cards say it’s not so bad/And the blades rotate; there’s just no landing pad.” It’s as if he’s in a perpetual state of indecision, suggesting a certain anxiety about relationships relating to today’s dating scene, where people seem more unsure about relationships than ever.

Glitterbug is a mostly upbeat album, with a one-song interlude that slows the pace down. Hard-hitting drums and electronic beats fill the background, along with sometimes-gritty guitars, which contrast with the uppity electronics. Much like bands MGMT and Passion Pit, The Wombats fill the void with abundant instrumentals. Some unexpected sounds make for nice, complementary interjections, such as an electronic tinkling trill in “Be Your Shadow,” or a harpsichord briefly playing in the background of “Your Body is a Weapon.”

The album isn’t without gems. “Headspace” has a more relaxed, ambient sound while continuing the album’s buoyant nature. And “The English Summer” is a bit more rock ‘n’ roll than electronic—it makes for a nice break from the rest of the noise.

Glitterbug lacks the maturity listeners may hope would come with a third album. But if The Wombats aim to have fun with its music, they’ve certainly achieved the goal.

The Wombats – Glitterbug tracklist:

  1. “Emoticons”
  2. “Give Me A Try”
  3. “Greek Tragedy”
  4. “Be Your Shadow”
  5. “Headspace”
  6. “This Is Not A Party”
  7. “Isabel”
  8. “Your Body Is A Weapon”
  9. “The English Summer”
  10. “Pink Lemonade”
  11. “Curveballs”
  12. “Sex And Question Marks”
  13. “Flowerball”
Album-art-for-Lucid-Dreaming-by-Say-Lou-Lou Say Lou Lou – Lucid Dreaming


Sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey are Say Lou Lou, a disco-pop duo with an edgy, dark sound. The band’s new album Lucid Dreaming is wily and seductive, experimenting with noir sound to create an alien, retro atmosphere. It is, as the title suggests, very dreamy pop music—even the sad songs sound happy, and the happy songs sound sad. The project has a Scandinavian, Lykke Li-esque sound, which gives the album its characteristic edge. The distinct contrast between upbeat, joyous songs, and slower, downcast songs defines the album.

The music Say Lou Lou makes is so clear and original that it can’t be filed away under a category. Lyrical content distinctly outlines an origin—an older sister-younger sister dynamic that created the band’s persona and sound. Sibling rivalry is at play in the music here, along with the isolation that it can create.

Alienation is a major theme of Say Lou Lou’s music, which details an increasing gap between these twin sisters. Lucid Dreaming tracks the time the Kilbey sisters spent reconnecting through their shared love of music. There is a definite give and take in Lucid Dreaming—happy song, sad song, Miranda, Elektra—each contrast is tasteful. The distinguished opposites are meant to highlight each twins’ talent, not further divide them from each other.

This noir sound is versatile, capable of sounding both chipper and woeful—something that is very difficult to achieve in pop music.

This is sad pop music, like Sky Ferreira or CHVRCHES. It’s glossy, easy listening, but the lyrical content is where Lucid Dreaming really shines. Upbeat songs like, “Games for Girls,” are part of a polarizing spectrum of elated and introspective songs. Songs like “Glitter” are casted with a darker atmosphere, like Lana del Rey. Say Lou Lou realizes the emotional spectrum of its album. Elektra explains it for the listener in a press release: “Some of them are sad but sound super positive. ‘Nothing But A Heartbeat’ sounds ecstatic but the lyrics are about hitting rock bottom.”

The more downcast songs are where Say Lou Lou begins to command the listener’s attention. An aggressive Crystal Castles influence—intentional or otherwise—is succinct enough to draw comparison. The saccharine, sonically glossy sound never borders on over-production. It’s the perfect balance of pop and ennui, a palatable album with familiar, sisterly lyrics. Each song is a letter, sister-to-sister, about hardships or happy memories. The diary-esque quality of the work is similar to Marina & The Diamonds. It’s still classic pop music, just with a new noir twist. Despite the sadder songs, the music always maintains a sense of hope—no matter how small.

Say Lou Lou has perfected the balance between over and under production. The grimmer elements of the music add an air of mystery, almost akin to the swirling trance music of Cocteau Twins. The balanced production leans toward an ecstatic sound to “bummer pop,” tilting back and forth between them like a see-saw of pop music. Not many bands could pull off such an outlandish, eccentric genre of music—disco-pop, noir-pop, or any other buzzword fails to succinctly gauge the emotional impact of Say Lou Lou’s Lucid Dreaming.

Say Lou Lou – Lucid Dreaming tracklist:

  1. “Everything We Touch”
  2. “Glitter”
  3. “Games For Girls x Lindstrom”
  4. “Julian”
  5. “Angels (Above Me)”
  6. “Peppermint”
  7. “Beloved”
  8. “Hard For A Man”
  9. “Wilder Than The Wind”
  10. “Nothing But A Heartbeat”
  11. “Skylights”
Album-art-for-Dark-Red-by-Shlohmo Shlohmo – Dark Red


Dark Red is the second studio album from producer Shlohmo (aka Henry Laufer). After releasing No More with R&B singer Jeremih in 2014, an EP of baby-making music, this new project takes a turn for the ambient and dark. Heavy drones cast a dark cloud over the album, but Shlohmo switches up the vibe with complex beats, unlike his usual solemn and slow hip-hop-like style. Shlohmo has explained that the album is supposed to be loud and polarizing, and the project has precisely that type of environment.

The album opens with “Ten Days of Falling,” which has one solid ominous beat that carries through the track’s five minutes. While the song sets a very specific mood for the album, it doesn’t exactly fit. It screeches and howls in ways that are interesting yet painful. The intentionally jarring nature is overwhelming on an opening track. Still, it clearly was a very conscious choice to have such an intense, droning opening.

A theme throughout Dark Red is the presence of deep, sorrowful echoes. Many of the tracks embody a sad struggle. The percussion creates a steadiness, yet the higher pitched accents contrast and pull away from that. Sonically, the album is very aggressive and rough; there is a consistent rhythm to each track, but the contrasting sounds create tension within the beats. Each track on Dark Red is quite complex—to give a tactile simile, many of the songs are like moving through molasses with flakes of sand or glass strategically embedded.

Still, there are some more percussive tracks that have a drum and bass vibe. “Meet Ur Maker” begins with a hollow composition of singular sounds that develop into a more outright drum-heavy beat. It’s somewhat slow to be considered drum and bass, but one can hear the influence. “Beams” has a dream-like feel, opening with what sounds like wind chimes that become distorted as the beat builds into an epic percussive climax that carries throughout much of the track.

A standout from Dark Red is “Apathy,” which features fellow electronic producer D33J. This track has a much fuller sound in contrast to others on the album; the layers of the beat are not as easily dissected. The track is also the only one with some semblance of vocals, sounding as though there are distorted singular notes sung and morphed into another element of the beat.

The song is still pained, but while the less full tracks are tense, this feels like controlled freedom.

“Relentless” is a favorite with nuanced production and unique sounds. At times, it is reminiscent of the sound for an 8 bit video game, but overall the track’s pained synths eerily slither throughout until exploding into another rhythm.

Dark Red is an intriguing development for Shlohmo. It’s definitely more experimental than his previous work, straying away from his assumed hip hop-like beats. He does an interesting job of taking those hip-hop elements and contorting them into creative, tormented beats. Dark Red is surprisingly dark—a thoroughly entrancing, emotional album.

 Shlohmo – Dark Red tracklist:

  1. Ten Days of Falling
  2. Meet Ur Maker
  3. Buried
  4. Emerge From Smoke
  5. Slow Descent
  6. Apathy (feat. D33J)
  7. Relentless
  8. Ditch
  9. Remains
  10. Fading
  11. Beams
Album-art-for-Living-Fields-by-Portico Portico – Living Fields


“Portico” is the Italian word for a walkway/porch with columns that cover the entrance to a building. It also is the name for the band Portico, formerly Portico Quartet. No longer a quartet, Portico now consists of members Milo Fitzpatrick, Jack Wyllie, and Duncan Bellamy, all contributing to the band’s change and development from folkier sounds to ambient electronica. Portico’s new album Living Fields is complete with featured vocals from Jono McCleery, Joe Newman (of alt-J), and Jamie Woon—a different direction from Portico Quartet’s vocal-less instrumentals.

Living Fields is airy and mysterious—an experiment for the band. Portico is redefining its sound, with highs and lows throughout the album, using flitting, stress-inducing ticks and percussion on top of otherwise smooth and ambient tones, creating a melodious chaos.

Upon initial listen, one might be tempted to describe every track as a “beat,” implying there are no organic instruments. This is not the case. The electronic components outshine the more classic instruments, but this new direction is successful. The instrumentation throughout Living Fields is harmonious, even when it’s intentionally dysfunctional, like in “Atacama.”

When Portico was considered to be a more folk-like band, the songs were similarly structured, but the instruments themselves were not as abrasive as these new electronically-altered tracks.

The concept Portico works from remains similar, but is executed in a very different way.

“Color Fading” is one of the highlights of Living Fields. The track is loaded with little details that work into the steadily progressing rhythm. It opens with a sputtering percussive beat contrasted with Jono McCleery’s soulful vocals. The track quickly turns to a stable beat with an ’80s new wave quality to it. While it is still slower, it has a dance groove.

It’s an interesting choice that the band decided to have entirely featured vocals from artists that all sound like variations of the same voice. (Also worth noting is how coincidentally alliterative their names are.) The vocals are reminiscent of Bon Iver or even Chris Martin of Coldplay, at times soulful and bluesy, yet slightly experimental.

“Dissolution” is the only track without vocals, and is also one of the most striking. It is orchestral, ambient, and packed with sonic oddities, like the drifting quality to the foggy, atmospheric composition; a strange, distorted, and anxious sound lurks in the background of the track. Throughout the song, a scene is set for the album, tying together elements of the album. Now that Portico is solidly a part of this new electronic-oriented direction, “Dissolution” displays an interesting example of what might come from the newly redefined band.

Living Fields acts more as a debut of the newly redefined Portico, rather than a continuation of its music as Portico Quartet. The change in direction is very successful and distinct. Portico has discovered how its incorporation of instrumentation the band wouldn’t have used years ago is not only beneficial, but allowing it to develop creatively. Living Fields is new and exciting for both Portico the band, and the rest of the electronic and ambient listening world.

Portico – Living Fields tracklist:

  1. “Living Fields (ft. Jono McCleery)”
  2. “101 (ft. Joe Newman)”
  3. “Where You Are (ft. Jono McCleery)”
  4. “Atacama (ft. Joe Newman)”
  5. “Colour Fading (ft. Jono McCleery)”
  6. “Dissolution”
  7. “Bright Luck (ft. Jono McCleery)”
  8. “Brittle (ft. Joe Newman)”
  9. “Memory of Newness (ft. Jamie Woon)”
Album-art-for-Deeper-by-The-Soft-Moon The Soft Moon – Deeper


There are places in the consciousness where people seek solace and peace; plains of existence that are reached through meditation or hallucination, and where the collective strives to find a sense of serenity and calm. What Luis Vasquez, the man behind The Soft Moon, found in his consciousness is anger, fear, and paranoia—feelings he transformed into song. Recorded at the aptly named Hate Studios, Vasquez’s new EP Deeper spawns a brooding and darkly introspective vision of what it means to be truly alone.

To record Deeper, Vasquez moved to Italy, a place completely unfamiliar to him, where he didn’t speak the language or have any friends, to work with producer Maurizio Baggio. For The Soft Moon’s third release, Vasquez was determined to create his most personal and honest writing to date. To do that, he retreated to a completely foreign surrounding and forced himself to face his own fears, his past, and to question everything about his own existence. The result is a deeply haunting and vulnerable collection of songs that feel like first-hand visions into Vasquez’s battle of self-deprication.

This record is equal parts raw and dark, but also strangely primitive and familiar.

Each of the 11 tracks have a single word title that’s as revealing as the music itself. The first single released from the album, “Black,” is an homage to the industrial movement that Nine Inch Nails forced onto the scene many years ago on Downward Spiral, but there is an intense and edgier honesty to Vasquez’s creations. It’s as if the pain of his self-therapy is immediately translated into his melodies. The song “Far” even offers the quintessential “industrial pop metal” tune that Reznor frequently drops, almost sounding like an emotionally disturbed Depeche Mode.

The last two songs on Deeper give the best view of the breadth of Vasquez’s synth-scape. The title-track “Deeper” begins with a tribal drum circle feel before Vasquez’s synth comes ripping into the song, and his echoed and breathy voice sings, “Feel the pressure/…/Deeper/…/Deeper,” followed by a melodic and intense tribal chant. On “Being,” Vasquez experiments with some production tricks by imitating a tape deck playing, then rewinding and repeating the whispered lines, “I can’t see my face/I don’t know who I am/What is this place/I don’t know where I am.” What follows is a track with a multitude of sonic layers that includes an ’80s inspired upbeat backdrop of synth and keyboard, before devolving into pained screams and a cacophony of sound that escalates into a sonic flat line of white noise.

Out of a primordial ooze of industrial metal, synth-pop, and electro-rock, sprinkled with some trance and personal pain, Vasquez has created something powerfully remarkable.

While Deeper may not bring people to a place of transcendental peace, it will provoke brutally honest questions about solitude, pain, and personal demons. Deeper explores a uniquely human question about our existence and what we experience in our darker moments. This record is Vasquez baring his soul for us to share in, and learn from his experience. Vasquez has said he pushed himself to discover the reality and nightmare of living with yourself. Deeper represents a different type of spiritual understanding and discovery for Vasquez and his listeners—one that will take listeners to the edge of anger and paranoia, but leave them feeling surprisingly energized and moved by the human element and power in his music.

The Soft Moon – Deeper tracklist:

  1. “Inward”
  2. “Black”
  3. “Far”
  4. “Wasting”
  5. “Wrong”
  6. “Try”
  7. “Desertion”
  8. “Without”
  9. “Feel”
  10. “Deeper”
  11. “Being”
Album-art-for-make-it-real-by-avan-lava AVAN LAVA – Make It Real


AVAN LAVA has had a busy year. Performing in Brazil, at Lancôme’s Paris Fashion Week event, and for NME in London, AVAN LAVA’s eccentric live performances are boosting the trio’s popularity. In the midst of worldwide travel, the band found time to create an album that’s as lively as its performances. Make It Real is an EP fit for the club, mixing sex and conquering life in tune to pulsating beats. AVAN LAVA incorporates techno elements, strong vocals, and optimistic lyrics through the album’s uplifting tracks.

Though just now releasing its first EP, AVAN LAVA has figured out how to make its music stand out against other dance artists. Though the album uses basic, repetitive beats and synthesized bings and rings, Make it Real seems new. Maybes it’s the clarity of vocalist TC Milan’s singing, or the unapologetic theme of the lyrics, or a combination of the two. Either way, AVAN LAVA’s carefree approach on Make It Real makes for an infectious listen.

In “Wanna Live” beats that can be best described as intensified Nintendo bleeps flicker out over a female’s distant crooning. As the song progresses, the bleeping continues with occasional siren-like ringing noises increasing in volume before diminishing, repeating the process at increments throughout the track’s progression. The siren theme resurfaces when Milton’s wailing, “I just wanna live,” is drawn out and manipulated to a shrill, high-pitch.

Make It Real deserves to be played with multi-colored laser lights flash out over writhing bodies.

Fuzzy keys crash in and out of songs, setting up for Milton’s wailing or just to make bits of songs sound more chaotic—the only “mellow” sound heard on the album comes from Milton.

Whether singing about watching sunrises between thighs or gathering the courage to start over, Milton’s vocals aren’t muddled or difficult to understand—even with the album’s, at times, chaotic beats. AVAN LAVA’s single, “Leave It All Behind,” is an empowering song paired with glitchy beats, encouraging putting one’s personal happiness above everything else. Milton varies from a falsetto crooning, “Leave it all behind/We can leave it all behind,” to his lower, velvety tone. In the lower voice Milton commands the listener’s attention as he sings, “Looking at the days and the years/Funny how it doesn’t add up/Caught up in the money and the fear/Truth is you can never get enough.”

Based on his vocal range alone, Milton’s vocals could have included techniques showing off his vocal skills. But the basic, no added fluff, vocals works better on Make It Real. Not only did it show off the lyrics, but it also allowed the beats and sounds to be a bit more extreme, which in turn created a youthful EP that’s likely to further increase their already cult-like fan-base.

AVAN LAVA – Make It Real tracklist:

  1. “Take This City”
  2. “Wanna Live”
  3. “Leave It All Behind”
  4. “Ooo Eee”
  5. “Paper Heart”
  6. “Last Night”
  7. “Why Can’t I Fall In Love (Bonus Track)”
Album-art-for-Complete-Strangers-by-Vetiver Vetiver – Complete Strangers


Thom Monahan is Vetiver—an American folk band associated with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. The band’s new album, Complete Strangers, is a collection of personal recordings dating back to 2003. Recorded between trips from San Francisco to L.A., the album accurately depicts the emotions felt during a pivotal point in Monahan’s life. The album has an intimate, lo-fi feel; ultimately, it is characteristically bittersweet—it illustrates the changes in Monahan’s character over time, much like a musical parallel to the film Boyhood.

Complete Strangers is emotional tinnitus. It serves as a musical bildungsroman, detailing emotional and physical growth through sublime and effective means, reminiscent of early Grizzly Bear. Sunny, happy sounds are always just a chord away from a darker sound. The contrast of the breadth of emotions portrayed in this work is stunning; there are bright songs like “Current Carry,” and vulnerable ones like “Confiding.”

However, sometimes that nostalgic contrast is clunky. There are literal transitional songs, like “Backwards Slowly,” that cheapen the emotional effect. Sometimes the emotion in these songs grows repetitive and dull. This change happens halfway through the album—listeners might find themselves wishing they could hear something different.

Complete Strangers is a compilation presented as an album. It’s a collection of songs recorded from as early as 2003.

Due to the differing ages of each recording, some songs sound very fundamentally different from the others.

Various musical techniques, learnt over time, are implemented on the album. Improvement is spotty yet eclectic; the album feels less polished, and it doesn’t have the sentimental feel of other lo-fi recordings. Groups like Julia Brown or Smog have mastered emotive lo-fi recording, but Vetiver excels mostly in earnest lyrics and relatable stories.

The album sounds derivative of other lo-fi, moody artists of the early 2000s, but this isn’t to say it isn’t solid and effective—it is all of these things, but lacks the substance that makes a good album a great one. This isn’t necessarily a complaint. Complete Strangers is easy listening, but at the end of the album, there is no distinction as to whether or not Monahan remains a complete stranger. One would expect a more distinctive and varied sound from his sixth studio release.

Prickly guitar and plucked bass accompany his heartfelt lyrics, emulating a lazy summer day on the West Coast. Monahan excels in flowing instrumentation, carefully crafted twangs, and twinkles that inspire emotion in the listener.

Complete Strangers is an intimate portrait of Monahan’s personal growth. From San Francisco to L.A., its lo-fi folk sound remains emotionally resonant. Though the album falls short with its patchy, eclectic sound, it still is an true attempt to portray the personal growth he felt over time. If only the tracks had been organized by time or recording origin.

Vetiver – Complete Strangers tracklist:

  1. “From Now On”
  2. “Current Carry”
  3. “Confiding”
  4. “Backwards Slowly”
  5. “Loose Ends”
  6. “Shadows Lane”
  7. “Time Flys”
  8. “Edgar”
  9. “Last Hurrah”
Album-art-for-escape-from-evil-by-lower-dens Lower Dens – Escape From Evil


Lower Dens wants its latest music to feel fun. Escape From Evil, the band’s third studio album, tackles some deeply personal and emotional themes, but with a light, jovial tonality. The album presents listeners with elements unexplored in the band’s previous albums. A stronger vocal presence, paired with direct lyrics, and noticeably more up-tempo melodies creates an album that will make listeners introspective, without overwhelming them with heavy sounds.

Forming in 2010 following vocalist Jana Hunter’s decision to end her solo career, Lower Dens’ first two albums solidly tracked the band’s progression. Escape From Evil is a reflection of the band’s growing confidence in producing music. It might sound upbeat and very ’80s, but lyrically, Hunter explores an array of intensely personal problems; she deals with death, relationships, life’s distractions, and overcomplicating living. It’s a bit of a yin-yang album in the way it touches both light and dark, but Escape From Evil delivers both sides with a certainty that doesn’t end up feeling forced or superficial.

The warmer, fun tonality of the album is new territory for Lower Dens, but drawing inspiration from music of the ’80s (specifically old U2 albums, Hunter said in an interview) adds an overall mellow tone to the album.

Think “Goonies” or a John Hughes soundtrack, but with better lyrics.

Out of focus notes echo out over repetitive pinging keys, while distorted ringing sounds weave in and out. The album ticks and thumps, varying in pace, as each song’s array of blurry electric keys and upbeat drumming create a cohesive listening experience.

“Your Heart Still Beating” opens with a slow, deep beat that intensifies as the song progresses with more percussion elements introduced. By the time Hunter starts singing out, a rapid thumping complete with “tsking” cymbals is layered on fuzzy, fading guitar. The whole album moves from dreamy keys playing drawn out notes with hazy, high-pitched guitars in the background to deliberate binging electric keys layered over intense screeching noises.

The influence of the ’80s peaks with full force on “Electric Current,” when actual thunderstorm sounds are incorporated, allowing a true blast to the past moment. At first listen, Escape From Evil sounds like easygoing music you’d expect to accompany a coming-of-age film that aired a few decades ago, but it’s also an album that addresses the complexities of everyday, contemporary life.

Despite the lighthearted tone of the album, Escape From Evil touches on heavier topics lyrically, which combine with Hunter’s heightened vocal presence to seduce listeners. There’s a haunting quality to her raspy wailing that captivates.

“I Am the Earth,” the slowest song on the album, shows off Hunter’s chops and lyrical ability. As leisurely drums and guitar plucks are played, Hunter croons, “And I will still be here/Spinning long after you’ve gone/I am the earth/And life moves along/And eternal dusk/And endless dawn/And you always know/Which side of me you’re on.” The equally detached, yet emotion-filled lyrics intrigue for the entirety of “I Am the Earth.”

Even on the songs with more up-tempo beats, Hunter explores heavy topics. In Lower Dens’ single, “To Die In L.A.,” notions of dealing with death and the difficulties of finding inner peace are explored. Hunter sings, “I/Wish I could/Count on you/To be mine/But here/I’m not crying/I’m just trying to/Be alive.” The single ends with no real resolution, which is fitting considering the inspiration behind the song, Hunter just continues to repeat, “Time will turn the tide,” as the track fades out.

Escape From Evil is a complex album worth celebrating; it could have easily been too forceful, trying too hard to give off an ’80s vibe, sounding like a satirical Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack. The lyrics could have been ill-fitting for the quick tempo of the album. It had the potential to be a mess, except it worked. The willingness to pair light and dark is an indication of Lower Dens’ potential as musicians.

Lower Dens – Escape From Evil tracklist:

  1. “Sucker’s Shangri-La”
  2. “Ondine”
  3. “To Die In L.A.”
  4. “Quo Vadis”
  5. “Your Heart Still Beating”
  6. “Electric Current”
  7. “I Am the Earth”
  8. “Non Grata”
  9. “Company”
  10. “Societe Anonyme”