Sylvan Esso


Sometimes, the music doesn’t click. You listen, you hear, but you don’t find it. It’s not there. Weeks, months, years later you come back and there it is. Like it was always there. And it kind of languidly stares over its metaphorical shoulder at you as if to indicate it was right there the whole time, where were you looking and you sort of semi shrug at the mental apparition and look abashedly at your hallucinatory shoes and think something empty and trite at it like “Brains are weird.” This was me and Sylvan Esso. They were recommended to me more than once, but I just couldn’t get it. It was my fourth full run-through of the album when it just, well happened. I felt it, and then I fell right into it. Full on heavy rotation, just like that. What are you gonna do, right?

Sylvan Esso, a duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, does an interesting thing well with their a-typical beats and electronic sparsity. Meath’s vocals are a treat, jazzy and round and at once contrasting and complementing the electronica while Sanborn mixes a wildly diverse catalog of sounds from buzzsaw bass lines to handclaps and street noise into a carefully weighted tapestry of rhythm and support. This type of expansive electronic mix is a genre I seem to find myself stumbling haphazardly into of late. On the surface, I think I’m attracted to the vocal stylings and the fearless use of space but there’s something else in there that feels like a reaction to the overproduced weightlessness of pop music, something artistically defiant. They seem to simplify where the other would pile layers, strip down when the other would build up. Though the sonic differences are clear, there is something here that I find common with just-posted HOLYCHILD, and I expect I’ll continue accidentally walking into these things now that this idea is locked in my brain.

As to this particular release, it feels as if there’s a zen, a feng shui of sound. It feels substantial but orderly, well built and expressive but in precise proportion. The acapella opening of Hey Mami with the great drop setup on the second chorus gives you a taste of things to come, leading into a series with highlights Wolf and HSKT up to the strongest track on the album, Coffee, which deftly twists its melody from brooding to a very satisfying sort of resolved over the course of four and a half minutes. It winds down from there a bit, though I do enjoy Play It Right.

Here are a couple but, as is MY WAY, I find the whole album lovely and you should really go buy it and listen to it in its completeness for that is how the music is best experienced in virtually every case and also how we get more of the good music.

Hey Mami

You can find Sylvan Esso at:
Twitter: @sylvanesso 
Website: Sylvan Esso 

Amazon  iTunes

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This here, this is something a little different.

How to describe HOLYCHILD’s debut album “The Shape of Brat Pop To Come”… It’s kind of like a dubstep beat truck driven by a disaffected, acerbic singer-songwriter crashing into a jazz factory that’s rented its back room out as a nightclub? I guess? I…really don’t know. They call themselves “brat pop”, as titularly indicated, and I like that as a descriptor. There’s definitely a thread of brat running through the whole thing, a sort of entitled “give no fucks” attitude that reaches from the lyrics through to the over-driven bass lines, and honestly that would be enough. If these kids were just making slick electro-dub pop and partying the party of youthe, that would be great and I’d listen to it like I listen to a lot of other cotton-candy music.

The thing about Liz Nistico and Louie Diller is they seem to pretty well think it’s all bullshit. All of it. Virtually every song on this album is holding a giant middle-finger-shaped mirror up to some construct of modern fame and pop culture and asking sarcastically if it’s fucking kidding them, cause it must be. It must be a joke cause it’s just too funny. There’s some pretty quality commentary in there if you listen.

Or you could not. It’s great music and the sheen is quite high, you could definitely just get down with these sick beats1and ignore the deep stuff.

You could.

Here are a couple. I toyed with the idea of putting some of the harsher drags from this album up, but I think these two are good cross-over tracks against the kind of music I normally sling around these parts while still directing some of the HOLYCHILD shine your way. If you wanna get IN IT, you should listen to Running Behind, Plastered Smile, Tell Me How It Is, Barbie Nation and Money All Around. And while you’re at it, really, just listen to all the others.

I’m gonna sneak in here and give you a pro-tip cause I’ve been there already: you need to let this album play. Some of these songs, I couldn’t hear anything I wanted in them the first time I put them on but I’m telling you there’s magic everywhere on this album. Running Behind starts off with a kind of dubby chopped-and-screwed aesthetic and then the chorus sneaks up on you with some, like, marimba? And melody? And then there’s a bridge? I mean, it’s just. There’s a lot going on. Just, keep the faith.

Best Friends
Monumental Glow

1: Used under license from Taylor Swift, ShakeItOff Inc, 198 9th St NY, NY. It’s Been Waiting For Youtm

You can find HOLYCHILD at:
Twitter: @holychild 

Amazon  iTunes

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Ryn Weaver


So I’ve got a little something for you here. A little of that good good, you know what I mean? I’m not gonna lie, this stuff right here, this will mess you up. This will: Mess. You. Up. You don’t wanna get into this Ryn Weaver situation unless you’re looking for some of that Singapore Suites stuff. Some of that Grade A+. Uncut.

Yeah, I’m sick of that metaphor also.

Look, this is some crazy-town good music. Just, holy cow good. The Fool is an album I had taken to calling Florence and the Machine Lite but that’s not really what it is. That happens sometimes, she’s got a bit of a tendency toward the trilly vibrato, but it’s not a fair brush to paint the effort. This is something much harder to pin down. It has the lyrics of a singer-songwriter but music that goes the distance from a dubstep breakdown on The Fool to bare vocal a capella at the end of Traveling Song. Despite the musical breadth there’s a thread that keeps the album coherent, a touch of vulnerability in Ryn Weaver that leads you along. Really, it feels a bit like an album that walks a tightrope. Sometimes the next song starts and you wonder if she’s lost her footing but never fear, Ryn Weaver keeps The Fool upright every time.

Here are two. I’d recommend you also listen to OctaHate (her breakout single), Pierre, Promises and Traveling Song. And all the other ones too.

Stay Low
The Fool

You can find Ryn Weaver at:
Twitter: @RynWeaver 
Website: Ryn Weaver 

Amazon  iTunes

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Yes. I did just do a Lights post, like, 10 minutes ago in CGPLS time. I know. I KNOW. Look, alright? I didn’t know this other album was out there. I didn’t know. It is so good and also so wildly different that it deserves…no, no it demands recognition. I was musically smitten with Lights before. Strongly Musically Smitten, official classification. I’m in Stage Ten Incurable Musical Love with her now. Good/Bad news, Lights: I’m here to stay. There’s a show in Phoenix next month that I think now qualifies as a Certified Moral Imperative.

The thing about Little Machines (and I expect you understand that there is no way for me to level criticism at Little Machines as I find it to be a virtually perfect electronic pop album so this is not and cannot be criticism, it is exposition for the purpose of demonstrating contrast) is that it is electronical as all get out. I love that about it. I love the synth-y joy and the effected everythings and it is a truly magical album. In a certain way though, it’s easy to lose sight of the pure musical artistry at work in the glorious electronic wonderland. That isn’t to say that I have any less respect for an electronic artist than I do for a more traditional artist, just that it’s easy to forget they’re both doing the same thing. It’s not common, in my experience, for great electronic artists to also be great acoustic artists and it is for that reason that Lights’ acoustic re-release of Siberia is truly a beautiful and unexpected surprise from an artist I had saddled with my own limited expectations.

I had listened to Siberia (the original) a little but I wasn’t really into it. It’s a sound that feels like a lower-sheen version of what happens on Little Machines and I just wasn’t there with it. I didn’t leave with any significant notion of any of the songs on the album and I contentedly moved back to playing Little Machines tracks on repeat, no harm, no foul. When I found out there was an acoustic follow-on to Siberia that stripped down the tracks, I had to give that a listen, right? So I did. What I found there were revelations, in the purest sense. Things. Were. Revealed.

First, Lights is a truly wonderful vocalist. I loved her over electronic music, but I can die happy now with her over a solo acoustic guitar or a grand piano. Just beautiful. Delicate, affected, expressive, novel phrasings, breathy falsetto. So so good.

Second, her electronic songs have amazing arrangement potential for acoustics. This is not a thing I’ve found to be any sort of given, it must be treasured and the rare opportunity is not squandered here. There’s no overproduction, no unnecessary complication. Everything feels necessary and deliberate. A string fill here, some reverb there, but in concert with the instrumentals. So good.

Third, she knows Cœur de pirate. I love every single conceivable thing about that. The first time I was working through a full play-through of this album I was about half-way in and I distinctly remember thinking “It would be amazing if she did a song with Cœur de pirate. I hope that happens” and then track seven came on, “Peace Sign” and the second verse was in…French. And I had not, to this point, known Lights, though a Canadian, to sing in French. I was contemplating how much different she sounded in French and whether that was just related to the language differences or if there was an electronic effect in play or maybe it was recorded at a different time and the other half of my brain that isn’t a pedantic mess mind-slapped me hard like “Hey. HEY. That’s Cœur de pirate, man. Get it together, you’re in the tall grass.” “Thanks, self. I’m here now. 5×5.” “Ok.”

Fourth, there’s no fourth. I’m just playing games with your heart now.

Here’s a couple. I don’t even. I mean, also listen to “Siberia” and “Suspension” and “And Counting…” and “Flux and Flow” and “Peace Sign” and do you get it yet you have to listen to the whole album why are you still reading go listen to it right now.


Heavy Rope

You can find Lights at:
Twitter: @lights 
Website: Lights 

Amazon  iTunes

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Her eyes kind of look right into you, don’t they?

It is only recently that I’ve become aware of Fleurie, though the EP I’m currently wearing a figurative hole through was released in 2013. Once again our ever-generous overlord The Great and Powerful Spotify has gifted me with bounteous musical joy and once again the beneficiary of such is you, dear, silent, likely imaginary, reader. The good news is that she has new music on the horizon, so, soon there will be more than this.

Before you wonder if we’re once again in an episode of “Music Adam Listens To In Foreign Languages He Does Not Understand”, fear not. Though her nom de plume is of the French persuasion, her songs are in English delivered by way of Nashville, though as I understand it, she hails originally from Michigan. Her sound is sparse in a powerful way, overlaid by a delicate vocal style that plays beautifully through both piano and guitar driven arrangements that share as much with a rougher indie style as a retail-ready sound you might hear on a finer radio station or television soundtrack. I’m honestly quite surprised I haven’t heard her on a show yet, “Hymn” and “There’s a Ghost” have a quality about them that I’d find very comfortable over a montage.

I capital-A Adore “Chasing All The Stars” and I’m listening to it non-stop with the same sort of casual indifference Yogi Bear shows toward picnic baskets. I’m also including the amazingly strong at a mere two minutes “I Never Wanted”. Neither of these does much of a job at showing the other side of this album which is a little more energetic, but you can’t win ’em all, ok? Go get a copy and then you can know.

Chasing All the Stars
I Never Wanted

You can find Fleurie at:
Twitter: @fleuriemusic 
Website: Fleurie 

Amazon  iTunes

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Zella Day


I’m back, folks. Welcome to 2015. I brought you something, today. Today, I brought you something.

I’m gonna lead off with a zinger: Zella Day is volcano set to erupt and cover the pop musical landscape in her hot fire and I’m gonna get you keyed in on this before she’s suddenly winning a Grammy Award and you’re wondering how someone this good slipped by you direct to Song of the Year. You. Are. Welcome. Unless you’ve already heard of her. Then, like, whatever, I try hard and your words hurt.

Number one: Spotify is great. I’ve said so before, but I wanted to let you know again. Before you get all “but the artists get no money” on me, I’m with you. They don’t, it sucks, and if my not being a subscriber would change that for the better, I’d cut them off right now and join Taylor Swift on the sidewalk with a picket sign. Unfortunately, this is where we live now, so I’ve chosen to take on the use of Spotify for screening purposes, that is, I take all the music I think I should listen to and I put it in a playlist and listen to it. If it’s good, I go buy it from somewhere else. Ok? Internet? I’m a stand-up guy, I like my artists to make more music. The value Spotify brings to my process is immediate and ubiquitous access to a stupefying mountain of music and within this gargantuan mass, there are precious materials and much as I have previously done with such things as and Bandcamp, I now mine this resource with a jaunty tune in my heart and carefully pick-axe the overburden to reach the hidden golden rewards.

I was recommended her Seven Nation Army cover and with it being immediately and ubiquitously available (you see what I did there) I listened to it. It’s basically a song constructed of the things you might use to bait me into a bear trap and so I’m flibberin’ my gibbets, as you might expect, and I pull up her artist page and there’s more songs! But not a lot of songs which means either she’s got a 20 year library of indie label things I’ll never find or I’m basically on the ground floor which is my favorite place to be. So I just threw them all in my playlist and filed it away for later. A thing I learned when I came back to that playlist that you can know now: Seven Nation Army is something Zella Day did, but it is NOT what Zella Day DOES.

What Zella Day does is…hm. Well, you see, it’s…::sigh::. Electro…rock../pop…songs. Inspired, vaguely melancholy and downright lovely, songs. There are skittering shadows of Lana Del Rey here, it’s an unavoidable comparison, but there’s always been a kind of film, a grime, for me, on the sound of LDR songs and that is not here. These are crisp and gorgeous and I’m telling you as soon as Hypnotic hits the radio in a real way, the kids will catapult her to the moon and in place of a Dark Lord we will have a Queen, not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn. ::ahem::

Now for some comedy: I just track-name dropped Hypnotic and I’m not wrong about it, but I’m not gonna give it to you. Do your own homework. I like Sweet Ophelia better, so you get Sweet Ophelia. And Seven Nation Army cause it’s important to know where we came from. I defy you to stop yourself from getting the rest of her available output. She’s even got a couple remixes out that are really great. Just… Look. Just go buy it. I’m tellin’ you.

Seven Nation Army
Sweet Ophelia

You can find Zella Day at:
Twitter: @zelladay 
Website: Zella Day 

Amazon  iTunes

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So, I don’t know how listening to music works for all of you. Everyone kind of ingests and internalizes these things differently. For me in particular and in service of this particular narrative, I’ve got this one little alcove in my mental musical taste pavilion set aside especially for a certain kind of electronica that I cannot trivially define with a genre boundary. This Department of Lovely Electronica, it has a kind of continuously listening spidey-sense steadfastly monitoring the musics that enter into my ears ever vigilant for the undefinable hallmarks of what it needs. The things that tie these artists and songs together is some nebulous thread determined entirely by this abstract processor but when I find new ones, I know I’ve found them, and a little figurative bell rings and I am compelled to listen to them on repeat for a month. Lights and her most recent record, Little Machines: ding. Ding ding ding. Ding.


The best thing about this album is the synth work. It’s gorgeous. It’s vintage-y, almost Casio-keyboard at times, but it’s always gorgeous. Airy, ragged, mellow, jarring, low-fi; synthetic in the very best ways. The other best thing about this album is the beats which can only be defined as phat, punchy drum kicks and tight bass lines with a driving, compelling quality that engenders a deep need for the song to continue. A further best thing about this album (you see what I did there, the whole album is amazing, everything is the best, why are you still reading) is the vocal work. Lights covers a gamut from intimately personal to rave dance commander, which is non-trivial in and of itself, but her sharp highs and lightly affected texture are perfect to the point of bespoke for the music. Little Machines is the complete package, batteries included.

And so we come to the time. The best and worst time. The time of the choosing. I can’t do this album any true justice here. These are great songs. The album is great songs. Go get a copy and listen to them all.

Same Sea

PS: The brilliant header image on this post came from: Wittefini
Beautiful shot. If I took ten thousand pictures at a concert not one of them would come out like that and it’s one of many great shots in the set. Check it out.

PPS: One thing you can’t see in that photo is that Lights has some really outstanding ink. I’d encourage you not to take my word for it and see for yourself.

You can find Lights at:
Twitter: @lights 
Website: Lights 

Amazon  iTunes

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Hafdís Huld


It likely does not come as a surprise that I kind of like (adore) Hafdís Huld a little (a lot). I was quite enamoured with Dirty Paper Cup and though I didn’t write up Synchronized Swimmers, I also enjoyed it immensely. Here’s the thing though, reader: this album is particularly wonderful. I’ve listened to it repeatedly, excessively, even for me, even for me and a Hafdís Huld album.

I think I’m in love.

“Home” is the name of this outing and I can’t imagine a more perfect title for the album. It’s a simple but elegant combination of literalism (most of the songs seeming to be in some part inspired by her actual home in Iceland), figurativeness (the abstract concept of the people and places and sights and sounds that lend their familiarity to the broad definition of home) and emotion (the relaxing comfort and intangible safety that are indelibly bonded to being wherever or whatever home is). The lyrics are still singularly Hafdís Huld, a seeming combination of excerpts from her diary and conversations you might have with her over a coffee, but the sound, while familiar, is especially smooth, soothing even. The power this album has to silence the lesser demons that erode calm and extort unrest is nigh on medicinal for me and that is a rare gift indeed.

Here are two. There are more than two and you should really listen to all of them.


PS: You should really roll back in her Twitter feed/site news and check out all the amazing photos from her recent tour of Iceland. A combination of Hafdís’ travelogue and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has instilled in me a deep and pressing desire to travel to Iceland. I’m not even really a “wonders of nature” traveler, I’m much more likely to aim at urban and historical interests, but the things I have seen of Iceland from just these two sources demand attention.

PPS: She’s done some covers recently on the YouTubes and I’m all for that: Creep

You can find Hafdís Huld at:
Twitter: @HafdisHuld 
Website: Hafdís Huld 

Amazon  iTunes

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The Wind + The Wave


In a Quixotian tilting exercise, I endeavoured to take on use of a Windows Phone 8 device for a while. It was actually pretty good, but synchronizing music from a Mac to it was not, so I decided to take that opportunity to investigate a paid account with Spotify. I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the catalog breadth and due to the excellent coverage, the rate at which I could take on new random music was increased immensely, not to mention they now send me these emails that say things like “You like (artist), you should listen to (new artist)” and these imperatives are eerily accurate (data mining is getting really effective). I tell you this such that you might have some context for where I found them and also as a sort of continuing thread that runs through many of my posts talking about my various music inputs. I now have a very lengthy offline playlist in my clients (I call it “The Fitting Room”. I’m really quite proud of myself for that one.) full of music to suss out. I suppose there is some method through which this playlist might be “followed”, as the kids say. I may consider making it public. I’m not sure you people want to see the sausage being made.

The Wind + The Wave is the first (of others, I expect) to shake themselves loose of their neighbors in The Fitting Room and become a constant target of my listening desire. Dwight A. Baker (The Wind, I believe) and Patricia Lynn Drew (The Wave, as I understand it) chose a very apt name for their collaborative effort as the melody sounds and rhythm noises they form from the formlessness are well described as a force of nature. Patricia’s voice is lovely and runs a nice gamut of texture from gravely and smokey to light and vulnerable, often put through a mild overdrive filter that gives the vocals a comfortable feel of vintage blues that compliments the arrangements that run throughout the album. She’s also not afraid to drop the f-bomb and I’m a sucker for some well placed cussin’. Dwight, being a successful record producer, songwriter and musician in his own right, brings to bear a wonderfully eclectic toolbox of sounds that makes them virtually impossible to put in a genre box. I tried. Bluegrass-pop? Alt-country? Southern-indie-folk-rock? Nothing fits. I think the genre here is “good music you want to listen to”. I feel like that fits pretty well. I’m putting all of them in the tags though. You can’t stop me.

Here are your two samples, the going rate, I believe. This album has such a breadth of sounds that I would caution you from making any generalized determinations without taking on the fullness of the experience. There is much to hear. So much. To hear.

With Your Two Hands
Every Other Sunday Morning

You can find The Wind + The Wave at:
Twitter: @TheWindTheWave 
Website: The Wind + The Wave 

Amazon  iTunes

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Vienna Teng


I remembered something today.

I was on the Twitters burning time while I waited for a Wimbledon match to get underway when Vienna Teng says:

Honestly folks, I didn’t even know what StageIt was but listening to artists soundcheck is like getting a trip behind the curtain so I clicked that link and made a StageIt account. I put my new analytical headphones in (Etymotic HF5, really nice) and listened to her tune all her levels and check her gear by playing an impromptu cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. She was bantering with the die-hards that showed up to the internet soundcheck and then it was over and my brain began revolting immediately at the idea of not seeing the actual show, whatever that was. So I gave my monies to StageIt in return for “notes” and got myself a virtual ticket to watch Vienna Teng perform live from her living room. This is when I remembered:

Vienna Teng is crazy good.

I’ve been listening to Vienna Teng for most of a decade, at this point. I got Warm Strangers sometime in aught-n-five when I heard about this ex-Cisco engineer making singer-songwriter piano songs. I became very attached to a particularly funereal (any day when I get to use funereal organically is a great day, as an aside) track called Passage. I don’t really know why, though I’d wager the acapella didn’t hurt. Anyway, this album also had a bunch of other things going for it. As I think back now, this was probably the first time I’d encountered what I’d now call “chamber pop” but at the time I called “Vienna Teng music”. Lots of great tracks, though I particularly enjoy Anna Rose, Green Island Serenade (which I’ve referred to as “bonus track” for way way too long, apparently) and Feather Moon in addition to the song exclusively about the stages of grief and loss.

Dreaming Through The Static and Inland Territory passed me by a little. I don’t have a good explanation for it, wrong music at the time. They’re both good albums (1BR/1BA and Love Turns 40 from Dreaming, Kansas and Augustine from Inland, do your own legwork) but they never locked in for me. It happens.

Fast forward to last year, she put out Aims and I was sure I didn’t like it. I was sure. I listened to it a few times and I was meaningfully confident I did not like it. There was this kinda dance vibe about a lot of it, like a classy EDM and it wasn’t what I wanted cause I wanted more of the Vienna Teng with the bell-clear voice sparsely arranged over almost-classical piano with the complex lyrics and this was not it. And so that was that, right? Why would I go back to it from my place of meaningful confidence?

Well, imagine a website where artists can play impromptu live shows from their living rooms. ::AHEM::

I’m listening to Aims right now. This album is not Warm Strangers, so I was right about that. What I was wrong about was the part where I didn’t like it, cause it’s good. It’s better than good, it’s actually kind of great. As a sonic entity it is truly, definitively, big. Big arrangements, big sounds, big all the things. Even the acapella track, The Hymn of Acxiom, is a multi-layered choral megalith. There’s something about this album that tickles a similar cranial region to Elizaveta, if I was forced to make a comparison.

Short version:
1) I’m back, Vienna Teng, and it’s good to be back.
2) Live shows are even good over the internet, if you can believe that. Let the power of witnessing music creation in real-time never be doubted.
3) Vienna Teng is a person who has two names all the time in my head. If I was ever in a position to refer to her in a familiar way, saying/writing merely “Vienna” would, I have discovered while constructing this, be quite uncomfortable. Welcome to the funhouse of my psyche. Mind the gap.

Here are a couple from Aims so you can choose not to take my word for it:

In the 99
Flyweight Love

You can find Vienna Teng at:
Twitter: @viennateng 
Website: Vienna Teng 

Amazon  iTunes

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