Al Olender is a songstress from upstate New York, with a knack for unraveling our biggest fears and emotions in her own words. As recent years have forced her to get to know herself on a deeper level, her music stages itself as borderline therapy for those of us who are muscling through tough times as well. Her first full length–aptly titled Easy Crier–is out now, and we implore you to experience it with your own ears.
“All I Do is Watch TV” has a title we can all get behind after being locked away during a pandemic, but the song itself is so unimaginably magnetic, and such a beautiful way to open this initial full-length of hers. The song itself is about dealing with the loss of a loved one, found in lines like “I read a book on grief, it told me to lay in bed.” Second track “Keith”–named after her older brother, who was lost too soon–is a testament to a life gone awry. Incredibly specific, yet viscerally relatable. She continues in this pattern with the delicate “Liar Liar,” which transports you to these moments and this intense feeling of melancholy.
“Djouliet” picks the pace up a bit, with notably light piano that makes the track, quite honestly, perfect for the summer months. The title track is infinitely relatable, as Olender discusses her experiences as though they are fleeting moments, passing her by on a screen. Her detachment–even during the pleasant memories–is incredibly notable, especially for those who have experienced any level of depression in their lives. And yet, she sings it all with an ethereal disposition, as though it hasn’t affected her at all.
But that is, perhaps, Oldender’s greatest superpower, as revealed throughout all ten tracks of this release. Her beautiful vocals feel untouched by any negativity, a slight release from the chokehold of seriousness that has seemed to enshrine us these past few months especially. And yet the subject matter is so much more complex. “Forget Your Number” is bittersweet and a bit vengeful, and we’re absolutely in love with it. “Neptune Pool” and “Minnesota Waltz” follow suit, employing silence between the notes to encourage a more emotional pull. “The Age” picks the pace up and layers in more instruments alongside boosted optimism. It serves as a quick one-two punch to get your heart rate up, almost blindsiding you with the return to delicacy in the final track “Mean.”
Keep up with Al Olender and her endearing music here.
Athens-based indie rock outfit Monsoon – expertly comprised of Sienna Chandler and Joey Kegel – has proven its propensity for balancing delicate harmonies with hard-hitting lines. The duo’s dynamic is energetic, edgy, and self-aware in a way that we haven’t exactly experienced before. And their new album Ghost Party is more evidence of all of that.
The first track “Walking Legs” seems to get you on your feet in just that way, starting out slow and careful and building into a cacophony of epic sound. “Third Voice” brings in more pop elements, an introspective track about change and hope at its core. The title track delves into the brokenness Chandler felt during a particularly dark time, ending with Haunted Mansion-esque energy. (If you can’t quite relate even now, having lived during an insufferable pandemic, then kudos.)
The meandering nature of “Don’t Move” is almost a palate cleanser sound-wise, though the lyrics seem to question preconceived notions in a less-than-subliminal way. “O Brother” continues with morbid metaphors, while the one-minute-long “Dark Colossus” discusses a unique love, laced with the same darkness as its predecessors.
The soundscape of “Submission” feels like it hopped right out of an indie film like 500 Days of Summer, while “Nightshop” has more of an underground, pop-punk sound to it. Ninth track “Red Blood” keeps that punk spirit alive, at times akin to the haunting chant of “red rum, red rum” from that quintessential horror flick we all know and love. The composition sounds more like a spell being cast, but that doesn’t vary much from many of the tracks on this release.
While “Pig Pen” is not about our favorite Peanuts character, it does introduce whirring guitar parts that make us want to headbang all day. The album rounds everything out perfectly with the eleventh track “Beetlebee,” which starts with a whisper and ends with an absolute bang. In fact, the song feels much like the progression of the album as a whole. We’re particularly fond of it, and can’t wait to see the live performance.
Get your first listen to Ghost Party on February 18th.
A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1, the newest LP by the Provo, UT-based band The National Parks, is set for release on October 8. The eight-song collection “…was inspired by love and life, and chronicles the fear, joy, uncertainty, and peace that life might look like at the end of the world.”
A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1 is an album that you will want to hear again and again. I would recommend listening to it from beginning to end, at least the first time out. The first piece, “At the End”, serves as a short (52 seconds) introduction to the music coming next. They have incorporated the same device with “Continuum” – a 41-second interlude leading to the end of the album. Both allow your ears to adjust to the next music.
My two favorite songs on the release, “Headlights” and “Dizzy”, showcase the very lyrics, tunes, and harmonies that have made The National Parks a band that has developed a strong national following.
The National Parks will finish 2021 with a 15 city tour in support of Mat Kearney.
Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Sweeney E. Schragg and bassist/vocalist Kristin Olson, Santa Cruz-based Jazz/Folk duo Winterlark unveils their new EP When I Saw You Stranded There on October 8th. Their union as a duo comes from a perfect storm of synergies, with Sweeney’s prior work as a creative writing instructor and Kristin’s experience working at a small business. Both members complement each other with the ingenuity and tenacity needed for chemistry as musicians. To shape Winterlark’s mishmash of folk, bossa nova, and soul, Kristin took note from her experiences listening to bluegrass, R&B, and pop with family and performing classical music from college, while Sweeney borrowed from his beginnings as a rock n roll guitarist and jazz composition student. The duo shares:
“The music on this album is two people bantering, laughing, ruminating, sparring, and liking each other,” Kristin says. Sweeney notes: “It has been a long time since I’ve written songs with anyone. It’s a dream to work with someone I respect both musically and poetically.” Kristin adds: “I laid down my bass years ago, but the timing in my life enabled me to get back into it. Winterlark has also encouraged me to become a songwriter which I’d never thought I would do.”
The EP provides a perfect soundtrack to easygoing settings, such as a scenic drive along a coastal road or a morning hike through a forest trail. The acoustic soundscape reinforces its cinematic nature as the duo performs with a playful and reassuring chemistry, drawing inspiration from their progression from friends into a couple. This is especially evident in the “Make a Mess With Me”, a flirtatious yet humorous track with the lyrics, “The 14th of June, “Sorry ’bout the screen door,”/Was the first thing she had to say./Off came the gloves, kind of like a prom dress./Guess it had been that kind of day”. Another highlight is “If I Could Put my Finger on Your Pulse”, showing yearning through Sweeney’s pondering on whether his heartbeat comes from his partner’s touch or his wooing. A particular standout is the politically charged closer “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart)”, a commentary on racial injustice with vocals delivered in an angrier tone and the lyrics “Never wanna watch another black or brown reduced to just a name”.
Sweeney: “Our EP, When I Saw You Stranded There, features songs about zany beginnings—in a La La Land style traffic jam, on a veranda where smokers laugh, through a broken screen door. Having come together in our own zany beginning, that’s where our fictional storytelling first took Kristin and me.”
Kristin: “This EP gives a glimpse into the dynamic of two really good friends, who kid each other, bounce ideas around, and skeptically consider the world. Sweeney and I spend time everyday throwing words and music back and forth. Whether the story that emerges is our reaction to persistent injustice, as in the song “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart),” or a complete, sassy fiction, as in the title track, it is this back and forth that gives each song its unique energy.”
Sweeney: “Producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Music recorded our uncluttered duo—upright bass, Lowden acoustic guitar, and vocals—in the Extended Sound Environment that she has developed, capturing the live in-studio performance of each song, unvarnished, tonally rich, quirks intact.”
When I Saw You Stranded There drops on all streaming platforms October 8th.
It’s hard to function after being in an unhealthy situation, but it’s even harder to overcome and embrace your emotions so you can become a better person at the end of the day. Miami-born Spanish singer-songwriter Jacqueline Loor takes listeners through this laborious yet rewarding journey on her debut album, Show Them, due to release this Friday. In response to seeing her sister endure a toxic relationship and eventually gaining the courage to leave her partner, the mother of two wrote this collection of empowering songs to inspire others to thrive and do the same.
At the beginning of the album, Loor recognizes how her relationship is in shambles and reminisces how it used to be. Over time, she realizes how her significant other is only a distant echo of who they once were until she cuts them off from her life and finally gets the opportunity to exhale without them breathing down her back. This alone time allows her to find her footing and take the reigns of her life back, so she can show the world how she can soar and carry on without her former lover.
Although she just started singing several years ago, at the age of 36, Loor’s commanding vocals and intricate, vulnerable lyricism shine throughout, ultimately sounding like an intriguing blend of the cinematic melancholia of Lana Del Rey and the ecstatic optimism of Sara Bareilles. With that in mind, if someone told me that some of these songs were from a musical on Broadway, I’d probably take their word for it.
All in all, this project is remarkable, as it aims to empower listeners worldwide to escape the darkness and discover the light inside themselves.
Loors’ passion for performing is ever-increasing, as seen by how the singer-songwriter self-produced one song on the album, “I Broke My Heart,” and has been releasing a variety of songs sung entirely in Spanish as well.
If this is her first comprehensive venture into the music industry, I’m excited to see what she has in store for the years to come.
Harborcoat’s newest LP, “Joy Is Elusive”, debuts on October 1. The sextet, based in Lansing, Michigan, has created a set of songs that are lyrically thoughtful and musically varied. The band’s influences include R.E.M. (the name Harborcoat is from an R.E.M. song), The Smiths, and Billy Bragg and you can hear the impact of those artists on “Joy Is Elusive”.
Band founder and primary songwriter Matthew Carlson explains:
A record titled ‘Joy Is Elusive’ is almost certainly going to be about depression, anxiety and a lifelong struggle with mental illness. That much is true, but there’s more. I think for so many of us, we deny ourselves true joy, or are too afraid to go out and find it. I know that is certainly true in my own experience. The people and the stories in this record are living lives of survival, not a full life. They’re eking out these threadbare existences of shabby surroundings, little hope and the occasional diversion from their struggles. Those diversions most often come by way of self medication or desperate choices with dire consequences. The lyrical content of the album is buoyed by joyous and dense musical foundations. These songs embrace the ethos of what Tom Waits once called, “Beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” These songs are like short stories with chords. The band name is pulled from an early R.E.M. gem, and the music brims with nods to our heroes. The songs recall the crunchy power pop and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub; the introspection and melodic storytelling of Billy Bragg; and sprinkled in are moments of 80’s esque Brit-Pop or working-class anthems. These influences, however, do not define the record, but they are merely a strand of DNA in Harborcoat’s collective musical helix.
Just before we began recording the record, my Dad died very suddenly. It seemed very likely, I was not going to be in a spot logistically or emotionally to go through with the sessions. My family, and friends all stepped up and convinced me what a tremendous relief it might be to spend a week recording with friends at the family cabin. It was the best possible diversion. I maintain that you can hear our collective grief between the notes of the record, but maybe I just can’t remove myself from it. The loss of my Dad, the uncertainty of the pandemic and the collective anxieties that come will all of that certainly informed the process and the finished product. It feels now like a tribute to ho him that we were able to create something beautiful from all of that darkness.
Two particular track favorites of mine are ‘Help Me Out Somehow’ and ‘Hear Me, I’m Courageous’. Both have spirited, Indie rock melodies with poignant lyrics. Following the release of “Joy Is Elusive”, Harborcoat heads out on an eight city tour to finish up 2021.