This song from Kindness, aka Adam Bainbridge, has been around for a few years but I wanted to post it in light of his recent collaboration with Robyn. Kindness always brings sophistication and understated UK elegance to his music…which is essentially just pop music. “Cyan” is a bit of Arthur Russell, a bit of disco and a bunch of Mr. Bainbridge’s tranquil charisma. “Cyan” also happens to be one of my favorite tracks of the last few years. Enjoy.
As one of D.C.’s most promising, consistently impressive acts, GEMS is dream pop duo that knows how to emulate and innovate. They sound like their peers–Lindsay Pitts’ billowing, smooth vocals are halfway between Beach House and Mr Twin Sister, and the duo’s production is cut from the same crystalline diamond that brought groups like The XX so intimate and valuable to listeners. Yet even as the group situate themselves in the contemporary indie pop canon, GEMS sounds distinct and confident. Early singles like “Pegasus” were certainly oneiric and dramatic, but were also uncharacteristically focused on something tangible. Dream pop so often seems to find success in illusion, yet Pitts and her musical partner John Usher sing about completely understandable characters and emotions.
“Sinking Stone” from last year’s excellent Medusa EP exemplifies this juxtaposition wonderfully; Pitts sings about themes in love that most of us have dealt with. Inadequacy, longevity and trust are all present in the track’s lyrics, but they simply increase the drama and beauty. The more music that GEMS release, the more it becomes apparent that the duo excels at instilling a unique mood while also conveying recognizable human perspectives. They make dream pop that’s lovingly tethered to the ground.
Check out the insanely gorgeous video for “Sinking Stone” below to see how well the band can visualize their sounds and lyrical narratives. It seems inspired by the urgent drama of Rihanna’s visuals for “We Found Love”, but with less linearity and more experimental cinematography. Whatever it reminds you of, both the music and the images will leave you in an altered, enchanted state. Also… see the band tonight with Tei Shi and VERITE at U Street Music Hall.
Grant Eadie, aka Manatee Commune, has recently been dubbed “one of the most promising producers currently working in Washington State”, and I’d say it takes roughly a minute and a half of listening to “White Smoke”, track one on his April 2014 release Brush for you to be nodding your head in agreement. This is without a doubt my favorite album of 2014, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite electronic artists to date. The music is incredibly ambient, euphoric, and atmospheric – it really takes you places.
He has also been dropping some killer remixes lately, most notably ODESZA‘s “Say My Name”.
What’s great about Grant’s sound, despite having only been in the game a few years, is that it has already become undeniably “Manatee Commune”, even in his remixes. It only takes a few seconds to pick out a Manatee Commune tune, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Here’s a short little Q&A sesh I had with Grant last week, along with a video of his Sarsha Simone “Sensations” remix, performed at the Nectar Lounge, Seattle on 10.23.14.
ND: First off, what have you been listening to recently? Any albums that you can’t get enough of as of late?
MC: Evenings, a super chill electronic artist on the Friends of Friends label, just released a new EP called Gardener that I’ve been way into. Also it kind of goes without saying that the new Caribou album is the best thing to happen to humanity in the last 100 years. Chrome Sparks’ EP Goddess has also been on my listening list for the last few months. It’s one of the most flawless albums of the year for sure.
ND: Which instrument was your first love affair? I absolutely love your use of the viola. When did that become a part of your arsenal of instruments?
MC: Viola was certainly my first love as an instrument. Had some of the highest musical moments in my life catching those sweet alto melodies in orchestra. Guitar was my next one in high school, and though I’ll never consider myself a guitarist, it’s definitely one the most relaxing instruments to just pick up and have fun with. I think my truest ‘love affair’ came with soft-synth designing and production though. Instrumentation is super important for understanding how individual parts function in a track, but I had never gotten my hands on fully composing parts for an entire production. The possibilities are limitless and that really struck me and still brings me back to producing everday.
ND: What usually comes first in your composing? Do you lay down the beats, guitar riffs, or play around with samples first?
MC: Oh man, I’ve been trying to figure this out forever. Inspiration comes from everywhere, whether it be emotional or I just have a sample that I’d like to drop into. Most of the time I start with something I’ve never done before. Grab new instruments, record some old guy I found on a record, stuff like that and just let my creativity have fun with it from there. I haven’t perfected the art of writing new music, and everyday I experiment with new ways to inspire myself. It’s an important personal goal of mine to stream line my ability to write new music without the anxiety of failing.
ND: I noticed that you kick off your shoes and play barefoot during your live performances. What’s that all about?
MC: Dude, I have no idea. I just always get this feeling of pressure before I play a show and the first thing I want to get out of is my shoes. Weird feels I guess, definitely helps to cool off though.
ND: What programs do you use to compose your tunes? And what about for live performances? How much of your live sets are built around the midi pad?
MC: Logic is my one true lover, I will always cherish her goofy software synths, muddy space designer, and confusing hotkeys. That’s what I do most of my recording and synthesizer design in. Ableton is my live DAW. I just drop audio clips into scene mode and hope for the best.
ND: So what’s next? Any new tunes or remixes on the way?
MC: Sylvan Esso remix is next up, hopefully releasing a couple singles in the next month or so. Trying to gather a bunch of vocalists to feature on some ideas I’ve got.
If you are anywhere near Bellingham, WA on November 16th, be sure to check out Manatee Commune open for Sylvan Esso at KUGS 89.3 FM’s 40th Anniversary Show.
San Fransisco’s The Mantles make pleasant, melodic fuzz pop that’s perennial. Their newest release, the 7″ Memory features the eponymous track and is a great indicator of the band’s progression and sonic expansion. Added help from a new keyboardist (Carly Putnam) and bassist (Matt Bullimore) make this evolution possible. The raw melody that this song enlists isn’t overpowered by any aspects of the hazy, backyard pop.
Instead, Putnam’s glowing organ hums and Justin Loney’s understated, yet poignant guitar solo are both examples of a band discovering the perfect balance between the addition of moving parts and the utility of the well-oiled machine as a singular entity. “Memory” captures a certain nostalgia that The Mantles’ contemporaries have captured before–Real Estate’s desire for the past is channelled in the lean, yet unhurried rhythm of the song, and the self-aware confessionals of someone like Mac Demarco are here as well. Most importantly, the west coast quintet’s new sound shows that they are willing to trim the fat from their signature sound in order to refine the definition of The Mantles. “Memory” doesn’t fix what isn’t’ broken, and that should be fine for anyone who likes optimistic, bright pop groups like The Mantles.
Check out the track above, and make sure to grab the new 7″ on December 2 through Slumberland Records.
Scope this remix by Blue Hawaii for “Fall” off Night Safari, the most recent album from Populous. Night Safari is out now on Bad Panda Records/Folk Wisdom.
Great cover of Animal Collective’s “My Girls” by the one and only Tears for Fears. Enjoy…
There’s nothing like a catchy, upbeat song that subverts its melody with a dark and depressing narrative. This spoonful-of-sugar method of delivering powerful pop with a bite is an age-old model, and doesn’t need to be reinvented in order to be successful. Bear Hands’ great track “Agora” is the recipe’s epitome. Jagged yet warm, the early 2014 single follows an individual who has overcome his fears of insularity and seclusion–it surely feels upbeat and optimistic, yet there’s anxiety in the lyrics and Dylan Rau’s vocals. So maybe Bear Hands is promoting an appreciation for solitary life and companionship, pain and pleasure, night and dark. Who cares–“Agora” is a blast of energy that’s meaningful with or without it’s contradictory messages and form.
And just in case it didn’t increase your heart rate and psych you up enough, Com Truise has blessed Bear Hands’ with a truly ecstatic remix of the song. Check it out below, and go get the group’s newest album Distraction, out now through Cantora Records.