Shana Falana

It’s more than mere coincidence that brought me to Kingston based experimentalist Shana Falana. The duo featuring the eponymous frontwoman on vocals and guitar recently performed not only with Brooklyn’s Widowspeak but also the previously spotlighted Albany band Hand Habits.

Considering the amount of layering required to create the psych pop that Shana Falana strives for, it’s a bit shocking to discover it’s mostly the work of Falana herself (with drums provided by Michael Amari), but with the mastery of a loop pedal and good old fashioned recording materials anything is possible. Her latest track, “Gone”,  released in support of an upcoming anthology release of sorts, is a hold over from Falana’s former Brooklyn based duo Skirt and features less angular jags and more svelte, gliding vocal lines and a misty dream pop haze.  That and some pretty intense drumming that keeps everything firmly on rightful, less aimless path.

“Gone” is one of the many tracks featured on Shana Falana Sings Herself to Sleep, an exclusive collection of demos, field recordings, and audio diaries available only through her Indiegogo campaign. If that sort of things your bag, you might want to contribute for a copy here. If not, Shana Falana has more music available the old fashioned way via her Bandcamp.

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hundred waters

It’s been two years since Gainesville’s Hundred Waters released their eponymous first LP, my favorite of 2012 and one of the best debuts I’ve heard in years. Since signing with the Skrillex-affiliated OWSLA label and releasing a pair of EPs (and a 7″ Yours Truly session released on Small Plates, a label which — full disclosure — I cofounded), the Floridian electronic-folk outfit has remained rather mum while touring the country and presumably recording a follow-up. Whether “Down From The Rafters” is a new single from a TBA sophomore album or just “a song for you” to celebrate Pluto’s discovery (2/18/1930), as the band suggested, mum’s still the word. But given the song’s spectacular production value, the effort put into the artwork (below) and the timing (two years?), a new album is likely on the not-too-distant horizon. Sun’s already peeking:

For bands with debuts as acclaimed and accomplished as Hundred Waters’, the hardest thing for the sophomore album to achieve is restraint. It’s the mark of immensely talented, patient (two years), controlling musicians. It’s considerately measured reflection, closed off from the external influences of expectation that could otherwise adulterate the purity of their ambition and artistic expression. As frontwoman Nicole Miglis surmises, “Only after after all the fog has long dissolved / take a little pill, drown it out in laughter / take a little pill, maybe think about it after.” “Down From The Rafters” doesn’t explode from every angle, it doesn’t scream for attention, it hardly even wants it. It creeps, hazily, foggily, as the title suggests, down reluctantly from the dusty, forgotten supports that otherwise hold it in place. It’s the anti lead single, emboldened by its subtlety, brazenly reserved, as delicate as the humid attic airspace it occupies. For a band with as perfect a debut album as 2012’s Hundred Waters, should we expect any different for 2014’s second?

How ahead of the curve is this band, and how delightfully refreshing is that?

One of my favorite things about St. Vincent is that on each album she manages to introduce something new while still retaining elements of what drew you to her in the first place: Actor‘s masterfully incorporated string arrangements; Strange Mercy‘s standouts “Cruel” and “Surgeon” funky grooves.   Though enjoyable, I felt like the latest singles from the upcoming self-titled fourth record sort of lacked that spirit of exploration; of traversing previously uncharted territories and returning with something exciting to display. “Digital Witness” perhaps comes close with its use of brass but isn’t so new when you factor in that it was the crux of Annie Clark and David Byrne’s Love This Giant collaboration.

Enter “Rattlesnake”. Premiering during Diane Von Furstenburg’s Fall Collection where St. Vincent played a bunch of new album cuts, its far and away my favorite of the newly revealed tracks. The most exciting about it is Clark shelves her guitar for most of its duration – an interesting gambit considering slaying on guitar is essentially what she’s known for but it’s intrepid boldness captured my attention immediately. It’s all buzzy synths  and serpentine vocal lines built upon a repetitive minimalistic riff. It’s a pretty firm reminder that St. Vincent’s true skill is in her innovative narratives that manage to go from comforting to careening in an instant. It’s pretty stellar track that bristles with danger despite it’s inherent poppiness. The added bonus: St. Vincent incorporates choreography into the performance. Prepare to swoon.

St. Vincent is out February 25th on 4AD.

There’s hardly any information out there about Dyev, the Wilmington musician responsible for the handful of eccentric experimental pop tracks currently spinning at this soundcloud page. The best of which, “Good Laugh”, is a psychedelic daydream through found-sounds fields, multi-layered harmonies and jolting subterranean bass thumps that wouldn’t be out of place tucked somewhere inside Animal Collective’s excellent Fall Be Kind EP.

It’s inventive, unassuming musicians like Dyev that need as much encouragement as they can get — hopefully we’ll get more soon.

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Hand Habits

Last year upstate NY experimental rock quartet Hand Habits released their debut EP Nameless Lust which featured the blistering “Wonder What”. Rather than retreat and work on new tunes for awhile, Hand Habits are following up last year’s release with their premiere physical release.  The 2 song Small Shifts EP is a split 10″ with Peg (Avi Buffalo’s Sheridan Riley) and features two of Hand Habit’s earliest songs before singer/songwriter/guitarist Meg Duffy assembled the band into its current incarnation.

“Be Yr Man” is a sleepy, sparse, dream pop reverie. Filled with a pervasive melancholy, Duffy’s vocals are languorous but crystalline, even as they’re dipped into a soupy concoction of noise that seems to highlight their trepidation. Duffy’s vocals are clear but they’re anything but anthemic. “Be Yr Man” doesn’t have the righteous fury of your garden variety heartbreak ballad – instead Duffy seems to revel in her vulnerability and doubt. It’s a display of weakness that’s far more charming than it is pitiable.

Hand Habits’ Small Shifts EP/split 10″ with Peg is out February 25th on Eschatone Records. You can pre-order it now.