A welcome slice of warm levity, “Open The Windows”, the freshest release from Oregon-based project The Color Study, is what happens when The Microphones’ “The Glow Pt. 2” meets the demos from Hippo Campus’ latest album Bambi.
Beginning with sunny tambourine met by frontman Scott Oliphant’s chorused vocals, the indie-folk sweetness quickly launches into a dusty, lo-fi indie-punk banger marked by sleigh bells, muddy electric bass, and grounding bass drum as the only things rooting the sky-high dream back down to Earth. Oliphant welcomes the change of scenery, and perhaps the company, musing, “Invite all the ghosts that look inside at me / Open the windows and set them all free.”
Oliphant launched The Color Study in response to the sunset of a 16-year relationship – which makes “Open the Windows” all the more gratifying. Said the musician, “It was an incredibly tough time. I was living in my recording studio while trying to figure out which end was up. I threw myself into making something instead of passing the time doing what I was doing which was not very productive or healthy.”
With “Open The Windows”, Oliphant seems to be taking a deep breath of much-needed fresh air following a period of seclusion – A seclusion not unlike the process of self-recording his first releases as The Color Study, singles “Without” and “Dead Leaves”, both released in 2019. While The Color Study is a solo project, Oliphant is often joined by up to six other members for live performances, including Matt Jackson on bass and Andy Jacobs on drums.
On March 12th, DED, the four-piece nu-metal powerhouse from Phoenix, AZ,released a 2-track mini EP titled Mannequin Eyes – and it’s worth screaming about. Not one to be missed, this heart-pounding release is features radio hit “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)” as well as premiere single “Eyes Sewn Shut”.
The elements present in Mannequin Eyes represent the best of DED’s idiosyncrasies, including riffs that move at the speed of light, haunting vocals that invoke the fear of God, and messages that scorn the replicated and mundane. But with track “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)”, DED manages to weave aspects of three distinct genres into one robust arrangement, not unlike multiple personas battling over the mouthpiece in conveying DED’s distaste. Bearing themes of disgust for the conveyor-belt machine of the modern music industry and all things ingenuine, vocalist Joe Cotela leads the wind-tunnel dynamic of this thrashing headbanger by employing a refreshing variation vocal styles that push the affect of the track over the listener’s head and through the roof. Through verses of this track, the transitions between intense, horrifying whispers to screams representative of classic “metal” reveals DED’s talent within their wheelhouse – But Cotela’s switch to a resounding pop-format chorus marked by vocals more reminiscent of modern alternative rock display the band’s versatility in managing a tidal wave of emotion as it pulls back and forth, over and over.
“Eyes Sewn Shut” is closer to a standard nu-metal/metalcore screamer, with lyrics like “I won’t be silenced, don’t make me violent / You get what you deserve”. This track continues DED’s message of rejecting the reality forced upon the many by the few, and like “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)”, features a chorus that has leanings toward modern alternative rock laced between its slamming accompaniments from guitarist David Ludlow, bassist Kyle Koelsch, and drummer Matt Reinhard.
Mannequin Eyes is DED’s first release since 2017 breakout album MIS-AN-THROPE, which pushed the ceiling with a sky-high stream count from the moment of its inception. Prior to the album’s debut, the group released three singles in anticipation: See “FMFY”, “Anti-Everything”, and “Dead to Me”.
DED is set to release another full length album in 2020. Starting March 24, the group will tour with In This Moment, Black Veil Brides and Raven.
New release “Noodle” from up-and-coming project Oscar Louis totters whimsically between resignation and acceptance. The solo venture of Canadian singer-songwriter Oren Lefkowitz, Oscar Louis blends blog era hip hop with detached chillwave, presenting a placid, steady head-nodder.
While Lefkowitz has explained that “Noodle” touches on tensions between Louis and his father, it stays light, with Lefkowitz’s raspy hum meandering through hip-hop verses over a minimalistic backdrop. Lefkowitz describes the conflict, explaining,
“I began writing “Noodle” after getting into a bad fight with my dad. I had just gotten really drunk at my cousin’s wedding, and ended up puking in front of my parents. This incident opened up a tricky scab rooted in my father’s disapproval of me and my decision to pursue music. “Noodle” is my attempt to show him love regardless.”
“Noodle” is Lefkowitz’s third single, following “Your Call is Important to Us” and “Find a Way,” both released earlier this year. His work has been featured on several Spotify playlists.
California indie-pop duo Ruby Red have dropped a sultry smooth single that can be described as deeeply vibey. New track “Superbloom” is boiling over with chunky beats and thick bass, suavely melded with nostalgic synth that invites a contemporary indie spin.
Like waking up to an electro-pop disco dream, the first few seconds of “Superbloom” are washed out, before bursting forth into stunning clarity. Wavy, texturizing synths envelop echoing vocals into a hazy vacuum, their syncopation weaving as glittery guitar riffs pepper the remaining space. For all its pleasantries, the song is also lyrically hyperconscious, featuring lines like “I can’t help but feel the heat of the moment controls me / I can’t help but feel like my shoulders are weighed down by truth.”
Not to submit to cliché, but “Superbloom” truly does deftly blend many current musical styles; including chillwave, electro-pop, indie rock, hip hop, and disco. This track is what happens when Toro Y Moi meets Tame Impala – with just a dash of Post Malone-reminiscent vocals – yet it still feels innovative and brand new.
Multi-instrumentalists Daniel Laner and Fernando Fine of Ruby Red have been longtime friends since elementary school, officially forming the band in early 2018. The group released a 5-track EP in 2018 titled “LOVELOCK”, with “Superbloom” as their second single of 2019 following previous release “How It Should Feel”.
Berlin indie rock group The Usual Boys have released what will be a bar venue classic: The meandering bassline of “I’m Not the Asshole” stumbles through the back of dive bars, down drunken alleyways, and around the street corners of a chaotic night out. Though The Usual Boys supply influences of established Britpop, the sarcastic tone of this track is peppered with garage grit and topped off with a smoky-cool smoothness that goes down like one last shot – maintaining its freshness even after many listens.
“I’m Note the Asshole” paints a muddled scene of friendly banter between friends gone sour, giving way to drunken conflict and frustrated dialogue. Vocals from Aleksi Oksanen wind, warble and drag in all the right ways; slurring slightly at the end of each note for a healthy dose of theatricality. With dusty snares and sweeping cymbals, drummer Patrick Pevsner pulls The Usual Boys behind a curtain of cool, filling the room with smoke that contrasts the gritty forwardness of lead and rhythm guitar trills from Ethan Dalziel and Oksanen, respectively. The resounding bass, via Rasmus Schmidt, drives this track the whole way, temporally unwinding any starting point of logic and illustrating the narrator’s descent into resentment.
The Usual Boys formed in Berlin in 2017 and have been haunting the scene since, wielding a fervent mania into the fabric of their punk-spirited shows. They’ve just finished a tour through their native Germany preceding the release of anticipated single “I’m Not the Asshole”, released October 4, 2019.