The newest single from Swedish singer/songwriter Naah and producer C. Gold, titled “Electric Life”, features sparkling melodies that are mellow, bubbly, and counter-intuitive. But, while the track’s sonic mood is neutral or even optimistic, the lyrics give way to the contemporary lament of many across generations: “Electric Life” mourns a decline in meaningful social interactions caused by constant distractions from ever-present smartphones. This theme of sounding happy despite experiencing discontent, paired with bouncy synth-pop, draws musical reference to Paramore’s After Laughter, perhaps crossed with the vocal stylings of HAIM.
The track opens to the sound of a record needle being set into place, in longing for the days preceding digital streaming. A distorted electric guitar twangs sparingly, a kick drum thumps reassuringly, and floaty synth glides behind Naah’s smooth alto, building calculated suspense before breaking into the glittery, full-bodied chorus: “You can try not to care / But I’m missing human eye contact / Can you Google that? / I’m tired of electric life”. On the word “life”, Naah’s glossy vocals send the song soaring into an open sky of glitchy playfulness, each syllable mimicking the familiar sounds of electro-pop production.
In the second half of the song, Naah makes a point that feels familiar to Millenials and Gen Zs alike. Since the conception of the smartphone and social media, people from these age demographics have heard the tireless criticism of communication technology from their elders. In “Electric Life”, Naah defends the stance of younger people while still acknowledging the burden of facing the world as it exists in the modern 21st century. She sings, “Hold on, let’s get back to where they come from / They say we’re sad because of the digital / But the world wasn’t this messed up when they grew up / It’s not the same for us.”
“Electric Life” is the kind of thought-provoking bop the world could use a few more of. Here’s to Naah and C. Gold for calling it like it is.
The Lampshades, while facing their final hours together as a band, show no shame in succumbing to the mundane: The group’s latest music video release for single “Forget Me Not” tours through barren pastures, abandoned car lots, and woodland ruins in a battle with complacency and nostalgia.
The track, marked by early 00’s grunge and mid-tempo moodiness, is rife with undulating bass and bleak acceptance. The first few bars of “Forget Me Not” are quick to ignite and churn steadily, as frontman and lead guitarist Jaren Love reflects aloud to no one but the stretch of highway passing in the side view mirror: “It just doesn’t matter / It all keeps moving on”. During the first chorus, quick jump cuts of rusting abandoned cars and pick-up trucks switch in time with drummer Dane Adelman’s punching kick drum. In a wistful drone, Love laments, “So many photographs / I’ll never see them all / Just a bunch of paper / There’s no porcelain doll”.
Imagery of Love ambling solo through the rural landscape under massive open skies deliver a sense that he is the last man on Earth. No irony is spared in a shot where he explores the crumbled ruins of a building ensnared in weeds, the group vocals of the chorus ringing, “Forget me not, I’ll always be around”.
In what is arguably the most pointed scene in the video, Love’s drive down the highway shows the paint-peeled barns and old warehouses strewn in the tall grass as if left by a passing storm. One such structure bears massive white letters, projecting a branding slogan that is cheerless against the beige landscape: “Delivering the American Dream…”. The camera focuses on these words as Love reveals resentment for terrene interactions, singing “[I] adjust the volume on family and friends / Shake a million hands / But have no conversations”.
A tense moment just before the bass solo and guitar break depicts a steep cliff, with Love’s sneakered feet the only visible part of his body. A ladybug flies away from his pant leg where it was resting, begging the question of just how long Love stood contemplating the chasm. The scene switches, the break sweeps in, and Love’s self-reflection is tangible as he wanders a depleted pasture under a setting sun. Sonically and visually, this scene delivers some of the most potent emotionality of “Forget Me Not”.
With this music video, The Lampshades’ attitudes are bleak, but their sincerity palpable. “Forget Me Not” only gains traction as it progresses; the scenes flickering faster and faster between shots of Love wandering the field at twilight, swimming in a murky lake, and meandering on a dock under the intense sun. Bassist Chris Kibler thunders through each chorus, sparks flying at the song’s close, as the climax peaks and fades out. In the last scene, Love descends a flight of stairs into a basement and disappears from view, returned home yet still alone.
Preceding “Forget Me Not”, The Lampshades released 2018 album Astrology. Their discography also features three additional albums, three EPs, and four singles. With the release of this music video, the Pittsburgh trio has announced their disbandment, and we’re sad to see them go.
Philadelphia duo Marian Hill returns with a new single that’s as seductive as it is sinister. “Take A Number” is marked by blasting bass, intermittent trap beats, and electronic elements; its strategically sparse musicality contrasting vocalist Samantha Gongol’s haunting near-whispers.
The lyrics of “Take A Number” are tempting, teasing, and smug; not unlike a predator confident in its success before even making a move. Gongol applies pressure to her subject: “I think I know what you’re thinking, how is it you look so fine? / In this room we keep shrinking, closing in while I take my time.” One line that aggregates the elements of curiosity, indifference, and an insatiable hunger found in Take A Number” recurs with each chorus: “You taste like a chance that I just might take.”
We know Gongol’s crisp vocals well, from past Marian Hill classics like “Down” and “One Time”, and they launch in the first second of the song without delay. The feature from fresh-faced, alt-R&B artist Dounia early on in this new track provides a satisfying shift in pace and texture; as she raps in an airy flutter that is no less insistent: “You got moves, you got bags, you got shit you gotta do / He’s a moment at the most, he’s not something to pursue.”
All at once natural, manmade, and the product of a dream: With Fuwa Fuwa Music, Miki Moondrops guides listeners through an ethereal world that hums, glitters, and bleeds with vivid watercolors. The allure of Fuwa Fuwa Music lies in its fantastical nature – this album breezily transports listeners to an enchanted forest that is part organic, part machine, and always breathtaking.
The second studio release from Miki Moondrops, the finely layered production of Fuwa Fuwa Musicbubbles over with enthusiasm and curiosity. The group is comprised of Miki Masuda Jarvis, on bass and vocals, and David Lord on guitar, synths, and glockenspiel (for this record, they are joined by William Erickson on drums and Ben Snook on electronic percussion). The work as a whole is peppered with clicks, whistles, and cartoonish bounciness that serve as markers for the passing of time, as they weave in and out of earshot, brightly punctuating spells of haziness. Airy synths paint a permanent sunset as the backdrop for hearty drums, psychedelic guitar loops, and unrolling spools of abstract lyricism. While each track carries an individual theme all its own, the zeitgeist provided by Fuwa FuwaMusic is consistently sunny – even through spasms of chaos or harsher distortion.
Listening to Fuwa Fuwa Music feels brand new and yet somehow deeply instinctual.For example, characterizing features of track “Bumblebee House” include the faint buzzing of honeybees alongside a fuzzy distortion, reminiscent of the stuttering twitch of insects’ wings. On “Ants”, Miki Moondrops shrinks us down to microscopic size and into a glittery, glitching realm that could only thrive hidden beneath the earth. Rapid, perforating melodies from vocals and guitar plucking alike read like an ancient language, paired with more “known” elements of electronica. “Dragonfly Wings” is another play at perspective: listening to it inspires contemplation of whether we are watching a dragonfly as it flickers and jerks in and out of the sonic frame; or if we are the creature itself, ascending ceremonially before lilting back down to earth, settling like fog.
Woven snippets of found sound and electronically produced noise are essential to Fuwa Fuwa Music. At times, these elements drive the song’s direction, like on “Orange to Pink, Mushroom to Turtle”; while at other points, they flit in and out of the mix and of frontal attention, providing space to appreciate Jarvis’s drifty vocals humming with reverb – see “When You See the Eyebrow, You Will See the Gnome”. At the top of opening track “Shells”, at least three psychedelic guitar loops and reverses take the stage, weaving through each other and the Jarvis’s vocal melody like ribbons in the wind.
The last two tracks from Fuwa Fuwa Music serve more as mood suggestions than as landscapes. In just a fleeting 1 minute 19 seconds, “Glassy Eyes” wisps the faint chirping of birds and gentle harmonies knit together by the melody of a lullaby. Final track “It Is Glowing” feels more anthemic than illustrative or inviting. Its undulating electronic percussion, ensnared by subtle guitar strokes, provides a groove that satisfies Miki Moondrops’ quota for psychedelic rock.
“Live It Up”, the newest single from LA up-and-comer James Delaney, opens to the playful bounce of a video-game bop and a twinkling tropicality – but don’t let that fool you. A closer listen reveals an ennui that borders on ironic.
To clue you in, the very first lyrics paint a picture of a certain brand of indulgence that feels very 2019: “We’ve been wasting time getting high and watching shitty tv shows / Feeling comatose in our dirty clothes.” Split right down the middle, the lyrical content of “Live It Up” resorts to indulgence and lethargy to escape life stress; while sonically, it’s neutrally cheery – a notion that is paralleled in the song’s structure, as the verses bear the weight of Delaney’s approach. Radiating synth and an unchanging mellow tempo meet Delaney’s clear-cut chorus, ringing with a might-as-well attitude: “Live it up, live it up, live it up.” The last few bars close out on a sax solo, whose hum suggests that Delaney is already off to follow his own advice.
Its power lying in consistency, the unstoppable groove pulsating from Garçons’ “Froggin” is immediately infectious. The track expertly weaves influences of Afrobeat, R&B, and hip-hop to churn out a jam that resonates deep.
This track bares a party-ready confidence, marked by incisive marimba, dangling cowbell, and a beat like the fuzz of a blown out speaker. Vocalist Deelo Avery’s vocals strategically shift in and out of the forefront of the mix, blending a satisfying crescendo, as the vibrating bass is met by the contrast of tight claps. Garçons have meshed these elements to pump out an instant head-nodder that remains breezily versatile – “Froggin” is equally effective in capturing a solitary focus or entrancing a crowded dance floor.
While “Froggin” finds freshness in an emphasis on dance beats, this track comfortably parallels the R&B leaning of Garçons’ previous work. The last release from the Ottawa duo, comprised of vocalist Deelo Avery and producer Julian Strangelove, was 2018’s Body Language. If the next work they put out is anything like “Froggin”, we’re totally on board.
Corey Harper’s newest EP Barely Put Together hones in on young adulthood, deftly blending moods colored with snug optimism, taut despondence, and wistful recollection. The five-track EP exhibits Harper’s talent for constructing songs that deliver the immediacy of a live performance; some with the resounding power of a stadium anthem, and others, the gentle intimacy of an acoustic set.
Opening track “Blind” is warm, woody, and feels hopeful despite the fretting lyrics, dealing with the questionable aspects of an unstable relationship. Minute details produce an endearing familiarity, as well as contribute to the feel of a live performance: A close listen reveals the clicks and scratches of Harper’s fingers along the acoustic as he plays, and the generous reverb on his vocals ghost behind as if echoing across a stadium.
Moody, syncopated chords on second song “Don’t Hate Me” are reminiscent of the biggest hits of Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes, as Harper evokes vulnerability following a tenuous relationship. He begs his significant other for a diplomatic split: “If we’re breaking up, we’re breaking up, just don’t hate me / That’s the only thing I couldn’t live with, baby”. A resounding anthemic club beat punctuates the severity of the chorus here, emphasizing the lyrics’ unabashed heartache. After the first chorus, a hidden gem in the form of a bluesy electric riff sneaks by, a segue to Harper’s bare vocals bolstered by a deeply funky bass line. His mercury-smooth vocal runs contribute the perfect dash of R&B freshness. Of all the tracks on the EP, this song welcomes the widest range of elements spanning several genres.
What follows exhibits confidence, defiance, and acceptance that life doesn’t always make perfect sense. Track 3 from Barely Put Together is titled “Better”, and carries the easy-breezy swagger of a California boulevard, as the chorus declares: “I like it better knowing I don’t have it all together.” Harper’s soaring falsetto complements the peppered lead guitar riff, giving listeners plenty of sunny texture to look forward to.
Track “Dried Blood” is a dip in atmosphere and stripped down in comparison, the acoustic picking pensive and cautious. This song’s lyrical melody is beautifully melancholy, but the strumming patterns are never dark; offering a versatile intimacy that could flourish within the walls of a solitary bedroom or floating alongside a each breeze. Harper faces the difficulties of healing from past failures, and casts out his doubts about the future in a fluttering falsetto: “Waiting for the waves to crash, [I’m] too far out to make it back.” Comparable to the scratching guitar strings from “Blind” is the slightest rustling noise in the background during the verses of “Dried Blood” – it suggests Harper is shifting positions in his seat as he plays. These “imperfections” cast a spell that is enthralling because it is realistic, as listeners are able to visualize Harper playing the music live.
Harper is at his most raw and desperate for the final track of Barely Put Together: “Best of Me” is an anthem best characterized by its rising anticipation and stadium earnestness. The first chorus offers a head-turning twist, as the muted beat and strumming actually shift to the back of the mix, granting Harper an open stage allow his vocal presence to take precedence. Electronica-style vocals layer behind the clear belting and gripping rasp, weaving a crowd of voices that proclaim Harper’s drift from heartache: “You’ll never get the best of me.”
Loop pedal and guitarist goddess Sidney Gish just began a month-long, coast-to-coast U.S tour, and this past Friday she was emphatically received by a full house in the City of Brotherly Love. The 14-song set was the perfect length, given the relative brevity of Gish’s indie rock/blues infused jams. A majority of the setlist were numbers from her 2017 album No Dogs Allowed, with a healthy mix from slightly earlier 2017 album Ed Buys Houses, as well as a classic Talking Heads cover thrown in the mix.
Accompanied by opening group Another Michael, Gish played the PhilaMOCA, whose ambiance is a welcoming cross between a large house show space and a small theatre. It is comprised of one large room, its l walls plastered with posters from past events, and lined neatly by a carpeted second floor balcony, wrapped in twinkle lights that provide a comfortable dim. Upstairs on the balcony, worn-looking sofas and easy chairs were inhabited by cozy-looking people. The entire vibe was ideal for Gish’s set, which demands rapt attention to her rapid fire lyricism, as well as the rhymes she drops like flies.
Gish’s self-conscious sense of humor was both immediately endearing and a lovely show of levity; as she addressed the crowd with quips like “I love to tune instruments, I really do!” Throughout her time on stage, sometimes in the middle of songs, she’d check the inside of her wrist for her handwritten set list. Gish’s stage presence is an act in itself, because though she seems cheerily nervous, her jokes land – and that’s hardly to mention that her musical consistency remains solid and unflappable.
The singer-songwriter opened with deeper cuts, then filed into her more commercially popular songs as the night went on. First was “Mouth Log”, followed by “I’m Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance”, both from No Dogs Allowed. The latter track is a prime example of excellent vocal control in sliding, perhaps even cascading, down waterfall runs that smoothly drop you off only a few feet from where they picked you up. Plucked harmonics and a perpetuating bongo on loop punctuate this track, and breezily perforate any tension found in the room.
The next three tracks Gish played were all gems mined from No Dogs Allowed: “Good Magicians”, “Impostor Syndrome”, and “I Eat Salads Now”. Always with meticulously intentionality, Gish grants herself plenty of room to play in the spaces between spiteful and vulnerable, dynamic and gentle, raspy and fluttery. Her fingers flying on the jazzy riff within “Impostors Syndrome”, she seamlessly shifts from demanding attention to turning it away. Gish launches her inward-facing observations up into the hall, open confessions to everyone.
In the moments following the fading applause, Gish chirped cheeky narrations to the crowd, her eyes cast down as she set up her guitar: “I play it on this capo, normally.” She looked up and giggled: “Information for no one.” The next song, “Friday Night Placebo”, is a tribute to her gifts of sarcasm and satire, bubbling along a guitar tone that is deep, ringing, and somehow nautical. Lyrically, this track is reflective of fragility and vulnerability – but only on the surface. Gish’s sardonicism cuts to the core, as she chides, “It’s fine, I’ll pop sugar pills all night.”
After a cover of Talking Heads staple “This Must Be The Place”, Gish hit the crowd with three of her most popular tracks: The clicky “Sophisticated Space”, mesmerizing “Rat of the City”, and communal “Homecoming Serf”. An augmented vocal presence is a marker for these tracks, as the singer’s rasp (no doubt a parallel for her indignation toward mundane suburban life) continues to escalate among the captivating vocal melodies.
Next up from Gish’s repertoire were three of my personal favorites in immediate succession: “Sin Triangle” and “Persephone” from No Dogs Allowed, and “Presumably Dead Arm” off of Ed Buys Houses. “Sin Triangle” is arguably Gish’s grooviest track, and would fit quite comfortably on a party playlist; unlike “Persephone” and “Presumably Dead Arm”, which are reflective and thought provoking; each one a cure-all for listeners’ varying feelings of being misunderstood. That said, all three were fascinating to experience visually: The building anticipation in the room was tangible as Gish built the loop tracks for each song, riff by riff.
The last song of the night was “If Not For You, Bunny,” and though sonically, its recording crystallizes seamlessly with the rest of No Dogs Allowed, Gish used it to cast an undeniably punk spell upon the crowd in Philadelphia. Murky, crunchy guitar distortion and the wailing, bittersweet solo that it tore through the end of the song emanated that, however selectively, Gish puts the “rock” in indie rock.
“Unapologetic” is not the word for Sidney Gish, because it’s clear she never even considered apologizing – Why would she? Gish offers up her flaws but never asks for comment on them; painting herself as
reactive, self-assured, and captivatingly self-conscious all at once. It was a fantastic show, and we can’t wait to hear (and hopefully see) more of Sidney in the very near future.
You can listen to Sidney Gish here. You can follow her on social media below:
Rolling, bright and temperate: “Looking for Anyone” is the newest single from self-described “easy listening” group Common Hours, and it’s perfect for a back porch at twilight.
This track invites us in with warm shoegazey strums met by a texturizing, Southern-esque guitar leads from guitarist Dillon VanBuren. A steady kick drum and ride cymbal, via August George, effectively secure infectious head-nodding throughout. Backed by sugary harmonies from Ariel Roxanne Cook, lead vocalist Adam Black’s croons hazily illustrate the smooth, mono-mood of “Looking For Anyone”. Cook’s bass parts are pleasantly present in the mix, supplying a satisfying foundation for the floatiness that is a marker for this track; as lead guitar mimics the chorus melody, providing a predictability that is comforting but not cliché. The lyrics are distant enough to allow for objective interpretation, but personal enough to relay Black’s qualms about rushing into love to quickly, weighed down by lingering anxieties from previous relationships. “Looking For Anyone” is about anything but, as Black wonders aloud: “I’m not just looking for anyone. Can I get you to know that I need your love?”
This single is Common Hour’s newest release since a 2018 EP titled A Life Worth Living.