2018 January

Release Radar: “New York” by St. Vincent – Kelly Lee Owens Remix

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Things are still going slow for new releases but a few albums to check out include a new release from Ron Gallo “Really Nice Guys”, good buzz for the debut album from melodic hardcore trio Closer “All This Will Be”, post-punk band Shopping are releasing “The Official Body” and evidently The Go! Team are releasing their 5th album “SEMICIRCLE” – I remember their debut in ’04 was pretty interesting but I had forgotten about them since then.  Also, The Shins have re-recorded their last album “Heartworms” and made the fast songs slow and the slow songs fast and titled it “The Worms Heart”.  If you’re a Shins fan you may want to check that out.
 
I didn’t really have any time to write a full post this week so I’m featuring one new remixed track to check out, since it features two artists that I’ve featured recently.  St. Vincent had the song “New York” remixed by Kelly Lee Owens and you can check out that interesting combination right here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw1uuMxoZG0 (explicit).  Owens definitely clubs the song up, but keeps it all very chill.  She has a nice touch with the heavy bass sounds.

Release Radar: Kelly Lee Owens – New Album

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Happy New Year to everyone – here’s hoping 2018 brings as much good new music as last year!
 
First, check out the television debut of Julien Baker on Colbert this week.  I featured her several weeks back in an email.  Incredibly intimate and moving performance by her on a national stage – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbsXT_Bkl0Q
 
Second, I’m still listening to a ton of new releases from last year – some that would now make my best of 2017 list (including the artist featured this week).  There’s so much music and so little time…
 
It’s still slow for new releases but two notable albums out this week – indie/punk/pop artist Jeff Rosenstock did a surprise release on New Year’s with “POST-“ (I featured his previous album at the beginning of last year) and black metal rockers Watain have unleashed “TRIDENT WOLF ECLIPSE” to the masses today.
 
This week I’m featuring an album I just got around listening to last week that would have definitely been on my list of best electronic albums last year, if not at the top of the list.  Kelly Lee Owens released her S/T debut album back in March.  I saw her name popping up on some “best of 2017” lists and I eventually got around to listening to her album.  I would describe her music as intimate atmospheric techno electronic dream pop (I know that’s a mouthful).  Her vocals are very interesting – they fit very well with her music and sound great throughout.  Sometimes they are used almost more as another instrument, but there are also tracks that are more lyrically focused.  This is an album that must be listened to with good headphones or speakers – her sounds create a mood and atmosphere – some of the sounds are almost tactile in nature – so it’s imperative you can properly hear all the details.  I listened to this album on a small Bluetooth speaker at one point and it just doesn’t work at all that way.  But if you can plug into some good headphones or speakers you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  Another thing I love about this album is it works great in the background, as well as with more detailed listening.  It also doesn’t hurt that I’m currently reading “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami and this album is perfect background music for that book (on a different note, I’m heavily impressed by Murakami’s writing so if you haven’t read any of his books definitely check him out). 
 
Owens was born in Wales and currently resides in London.  She was an intern at XL Recordings, played bass in a band and worked at a number of record shops, allowing her to soak up many influences and meet some other musicians and industry contacts.  She met Daniel Avery working at one store, who used Owens’ vocals on an EP and on several tracks on his follow-up LP, co-writing one song with her.  Owens self-released her first single as a solo artist in 2015.  This led to several more singles, some work with Jenny Hval, and then an EP in 2016.  As mentioned previously, Owens released her debut S/T album in March 2017.  She has received plenty of critical acclaim, showing up on many “best of 2017” lists, mostly for electronic albums but also just in general Top 50 album lists.  Her music is a little difficult to describe, and even within the same song Owens will sometimes mix up tempos/styles.  What stands out for me is the mood, sound and atmosphere her music provides.  For a debut album, she has produced a very accomplished album.  I’m eager to see what Kelly Lee Owens is able to produce going forward, given how accomplished her starting point is.  Below are a few tracks to check out, but I suggest listening through her entire album (also linked below).
 
“Evolution”  This track starts out with some rumbly bouncy beats and then a faster metronome kicks in.  Owens repeats “evolution” alternating between a hard and soft “e”.  Then the bass drops in about 50 seconds in, taking the track to a new level.  Owens effectively uses “drop” moments with the heavy bass at several points during the song.  Her vocals change from spoken, to singing, to whispering – all with great effect.  She also does a masterful job mixing in all of the different rhythms on this track.  All of these nuances are lost though, if you’re listening to the music with a cheap speaker.  You need to feel the music.
 
“Bird”  “Evolution” precedes “Bird” on the album.  On this track, Owens doesn’t provide any vocals.  Instead she deftly mixes in a number of sounds and rhythms to create a cohesive whole.  The beginning is a mix of strings, a xylophone-esque sound and the beats which eventually morph into a big bass drone about 1:45 into the song.  At that point, Owens just mixes the different sound elements in and out of the song.  About 3 minutes in she changes up the beats and brings in some different sounds before bringing it all back around again for the final minute. 
 
“Keep Walking” – Here’s a track that features more lyrical vocals by Owens so you can get a better feel for her vocals.  This song almost pulsates with soundwaves as it swirls inside your head.  Owens ethereal vocals match perfectly with the music on this track.  Again, you must listen to this track with good headphones/speakers or you will not “hear” everything that is going on in this track. 
 

Release Radar: LEGEND – Midnight Champion

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I’m more excited about the announcement of Jack White’s upcoming album in March than any new releases that came out this week, but there are two new albums I’ll check out on Spotify.  I had never heard of Anderson East before I saw him on a late night show this week, where he demonstrated interesting vocals and played with an accomplished backing band.  His new album “Encore” seems to have a little Van Morrison mixed with a retro southern soul sound.  This is his second album and could be a breakthrough for him.  The other release is from southern sludge metal band Corrosion of Conformity and their 10th album “No Cross No Crown” brings former vocalist Pepper Keenan back into the fold.
If you ever wished Depeche Mode was tougher and more aggressive while still maintaining a melodic touch, LEGEND may be the band for you.  Hailing from Iceland and comprised of Krummi Bjorgvinsson and Dori Bjornsson, this dynamic duo recently released their second album “Midnight Champion”.  Resembling most strongly elements from Depeche Mode, LEGEND also has a little Rammstein (without the bombast and German) and older Ministry creeping into their sound.  They are on an Icelandic record label, Artoffact Records, and I don’t think they are getting much attention here in the U.S..  This is unfortunate because I’m sure there’s a decent market for their music if more people were aware of it.  Krummi’s vocals work very well with the atmosphere they create, and he definitely has a little Dave Gahan influence in some of his singing.  If you’re not familiar with the bands mentioned above, LEGEND’s music has an electronic-rock sound, heavy on the atmosphere and mood.  Most of their songs take their time to unfold, these guys are not trying to pump out three minute long radio singles (only 2/10 songs are under 5:00 and the shortest is 4:47).  There are slower and faster songs, and some that mix in both elements.  Most telling, is most of their fans appear to have different “favorite” songs from “Midnight Champion”.  So there’s many different tracks that are resonating strongly with their fan base.  Finally, this album sounds like it was recorded with a ton of confidence.  The band sounds very assured throughout the record, like they accomplished exactly what they were hoping to do.  As you might imagine, it’s not easy pulling YouTube singles to share for LEGEND.  They do have a few individual songs I can share, but not necessarily the best assortment of tracks from the album.  Fortunately, I’m providing a link to the entire album so you can hear it in its entirety.  You can also listen to the album on Spotify or bandcamp.  “Adrift” and “Scars” are two of my favorite tracks which aren’t highlighted below.
 
Captive”  You can really feel the DM vibe on this track – I can totally imagine Gahan singing this song.  I like how they start the track out slower and then ramp up the drums/guitar bombast about 90 seconds in – that’s where it separates from a DM song.  Thesofter chorus with its synth lines is totally DM though.  The verses stand out on this track.  With more exposure, this could be a hit. 
Midnight Champion – This is more of a slow burner, with some interesting bass sounds/heavy synths gurgling in the background.  Halfway through everything is ratcheted up a notch with the big drums and the gurgling evolving into a roar.  The video is a little intensebut highlights gun control issues we have in the U.S. (intentionally or not).
 
Frostbite – This track starts off louder from the getgo, with booming drums and some interesting synth sounds.  It’s a very dramatic sounding songperfect track to capture the attention of some “teen angst” that I already get plenty of at home these days. 
 
Full album stream – This is the best route to take, if you have the time…