Fan is Meric Long from the Dodos. He made these songs using two synths left behind after his father's passing. Both Fire (above) and Disappear, the b-side, are fantastic. Definitely Dodos-esque in some ways (a good thing), they have that kind of roused-fury sound that appears in many of the full band's songs, a kind of shift from calm lullaby to something that sounds more aggressive and energetic, coiled. Disappear, while sounding of a piece with Fire, stretches in a different direction for Long, the bottom drops out halfway through the song and releases into a cold wave of synth. It's a great turn.

[BUY Fire b/w Disappear]

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The patron saint of skiing

photo of leaves in Tacoma

Photay's Onism is one of my favorite albums of the year. It is endlessly playable. News sounds arranged into new types of songs. Static crackle bent into sheets of fine music. Synthesized animal vocalizations carefully calibrated to harmonize with buzzing radiators. Cosmic background radiation sampled, scrubbed, and used as a foundation for an unfurling and swaggering thing like Off-Piste. I don't know where these sounds come from, but they're beautiful and pleasurable. Each song seems like it runs miles deep, there are sounds beneath sounds beneath sounds. Onism feels new, like it's pushing into a different place.

[BUY Onism]

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The last word. Laying it all at the feet of the person who did it wrong: Why were you horrible? Why did you not learn to act as a normal person, with recognizably human feelings, until way afterwards? Why, pray tell, did you increasingly resemble a toddler who overnight had been endowed with an adult body? Why did you turn slowly into a mechanism of torture, a grim and passive-aggressive thing, lashing out and bumping into the walls of the house, stealing the pets in the middle of the night and returning with nothing but coupons for the local casino’s restaurant? Tusks asks these questions, or questions like these, in Last, which is a swirling, kinetic thing, a build-and-release tune, shifting levels all the way up, climbing.

[BUY Dissolve]

Attitude. Confidence. It takes something to turn a weeble-wobble synth burble into a pop song like Let Me Go, but that’s what Sisters do here. The foundation of this is a sound that I cannot technically identify, but feels like something that lives in bars and wants to hit on you. The melody of Let Me Go, on the other hand, is comforting, sweet, an arm around the shoulder. The song is a humble anthem about figuring out what matters most, what’s essential and what’s extraneous.

[BUY Wait Don't Wait]

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"Don't you feel like a fraud sometimes/could be anyone?" Danielle Sullivan sings. Wild Ones' Invite Me In asks some tough questions and makes some assertions. "Love me/don't put nothing above me/can't stop now/I'm the one you want." The music here is kind of shifty stop-and-start and pop-adjacent, in some ways like the music on Cookies' Music for Touching, though maybe even a little knottier. This album is a blast, catchy and adventurous.

[BUY Mirror Touch]

Surfer Blood made an album of covers, and there are some good tunes here. They get into Pavement, they get into the Breeders, they get into Chad and Jeremy, and Modern English. Sometimes cover albums are kind of meh, but this one has enough of a distinct vibe to make it a solid listen.

[BUY Covers]

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Music from before there was music

Gyða Valtýsdottir's Epicycle is a collection of influences and inspirations, and included on the album is this recording of the Seikilos Epitaph, one of the oldest complete notated pieces of music. The music was inscribed around 100 AD on a tombstone near the town of Tralles (which is in modern-day Turkey), and the song's lyrics have a carpe-diem/memento mori vibe (surprising to me for some reason, even though the lyrics are part of a grave). I'd never heard of the existence of the epitaph before, and it is thrilling to hear music this old, even if there may be no way to know exactly how it originally sounded. Valtýsdottir (who some may known from múm) has included some challenging and beautiful pieces of music on Epicycle (Harry Partch compositions, a hymn by St. Hildegard) that you probably don't encounter very often, and it's nice to have that feeling of being guided by an expert. Following Valtýsdottir's enthusiasms makes for a good listen.

[BUY Epicycle]

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Pugilism, hello

Beat Down is an advertisement of emotional numbness. It says, “Life has disappointed me and smashed my dreams. My insides have been depleted by the punishing world. Someone please come along and pummel me.” Not a topic often addressed in songform. This is the world of Mister Heavenly, a weird world, full of weird and incredible pop songs. Like just about everything that involves Nick Thorburn or Honus Honus (of Man Man), the songs have great melodies, and it’s a good time from beginning to end. I think that as I get older, I have a greater appreciation for the utilitarian value of music (in addition to the aesthetic aspects, of course), and something that Honus Honus recently said on Twitter aligns nicely with that: “Maybe these tunes will (if only for a little bit) help you forget the world is a total shit-show. We love you.” Boxing the Moonlight is a good album and it will totally help soften the unrelenting grim terror of the world while it’s playing.

[BUY Boxing the Moonlight]

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Slow pan

This is all dynamics: delicate and small, then big and audacious; slow, contemplative and calm, until it turns capriciously from one thing to the next. Rootedness is high drama and a beautiful piece of music. It is piano and strings sliding into each other. An overcast day interrupted by shafts of light that break through the low skull-gray sky. Comprehension of Light, by Dmitry Evgrafov, is full of beautiful pieces of music. The album starts off with menace and static and hush, and opens up slowly over the first four tracks. Wandering starts with a friendlier tone, freer and more hospitable (though still down, still grim). From that point Comprehension of Light builds (through digressions, volatility) up to Rootedness, which feels like a kind of climax, and the album dissipates in the vaporous Sattva at the end. This is a great album and such a rich listen.

[BUY Comprehension of Light]

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Into the TV static tesseract

I removed the review of the Ducktails album. You can read the news about Matt Mondanile's horrifying treatment of women.

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Lift yourself up again and again

The Blow coming at you with exhortation in synth form. Khaela sings and speaks, restless. Talking, chatting, arguing with herself, asking questions. Near the end of her monologue, she sings:

"We're all standing on a planet that's spinning around a giant ball of fire/inside the planet there is also fire/and nobody can own it 'cause it's way too hot/and we're gonna get up get up get up get up get up get up/I think about the fire a lot/we're gonna get up get up get up get up get up get up/the heat comes up through my feet/I'm gonna get up get up get up get up get up."

The song is a blast, the album is an exploration. A thesis of voice and synth. Try it out, see what you think.

[BUY Brand New Abyss]

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A tidy piece of art. Neat business. Shannon Lay's Living Water is a great album of voice, guitar (in manifold forms), and strings. With these few simple components, Shannon Lay builds a tiny, quiet world. Living Water is also a supremely autumnal album--I would put it with Archer Prewitt's White Sky or something like Gravenhurst's Flashlight Seasons--it has that feel of early sunsets, chilly air, transition. So many of the songs on the album contain surprises: a cache of violin notes here, a burst of electric guitar there, a sudden change in direction. What a sweet voice and what a pleasant diversion. It's nice to get lost in someone else's world for a while.

[BUY Living Water]

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