J Fernandez

As far back as CMJ 2013 when I was able to see Chicago musician J Fernandez flush his bedroom pop out into a full band effort at Floating Fest, Justin Fernando has been putting more and more distance between himself and the genre that spawned both his No Luck and Olympic Village EP in favor of a more performance-ready amalgam of his psychedelic rock influences. “Cosmic Was”, the lead single from last year’s Memorize Now EP, succeeded in imbuing a sense of forward momentum in Fernando’s normally listless but brief slices of lounge pop.

Make no mistake though: J Fernandez’s strength lies in the casual coalescence of his song’s simple, infectious melodies and the multiple layers that belie their single-man construction but on “Read My Mind” even as Fernando eases on the gas pedal there’s an undeniable propulsion underlying the soft-focus psych pop. It’s what makes those slight pauses – where the guitar sets up a series of question chords it mildly responds to all the more interesting. It’s a reoccurring gambit but utilized in a way that’s actually meant to be less effective each time it hits as the amount of slowdown is cut shorter and shorter until those chords are struck right in the bustle of “Read My Mind” while the rest of the track – its Wurlitzer organ’s constant whirring pervasive and eventually all-consuming; outlasting not only the guitar but Fernando’s vocals as well.

J Fernandez’s debut full length Many Levels of Laughter is out June 9th on Joyful Noise Recordings. Pre-order available here.

olivia-quillio

When Troy singer/songwriter Olivia Quillio released her debut album The Bomb last year, it was the summation of her life experiences thus far – the beginning of both her musical career and her navigation of her relationships that took her jazz-inflected folk pop to its logical conclusion while also allowing her to make peace with what had been years worth of stunning live show highlights. With all that behind her, it was time for Quillio to begin anew. Not that she had any real say in the matter. After a tumultuous year that found Quillio packing up and moving cross-country to work on a farm in Oklahoma just to regain her bearing and get away from it all, Quillio has distilled those experiences into a brand new collection where she faces both her own demons and the wolves in sheeps’ clothing with a steely-eye resolve and beguiling sense of calm.

“Meet You At The Bottom” is perhaps the best introduction to her sophomore record Get Down And Pray if only for it’s chronological merits. It eschews Quillio’s captivating heartbreak pop in favor of a sunnier delivery invoking the freshness of new beginnings. “I’ve been held before but not sure, so tightly, I know we’re premature but I can’t let it go lightly” Quillio sings and if you’re not immediately beset by a jaded sense of foreboding, you’re bound to be charmed by its upfront sweetness.  The transformative power of love is a well-tapped well but Quillio stealthily presents it’s darker implications; getting so wrapped up in someone that you’re willing to take on their vices, all their baggage, all their darkness just to be with them. Quillio takes great care both narratively and compositionally to present her first person view; casual and optimistic, empathetic and maybe a bit too game.

“Meet You At The Bottom” is a springy pop number that offers an incredibly relatable spin on a songwriter trope. Olivia Quillio is able and charismatic songwriter talented enough to craft a catchy song that never loses sight of reality. Things might get a hell of a lot darker on Get Down And Pray but if her delivery is anything like that of “Meet You At The Bottom” you better believe you’re in safe hands.

Some people truly hate when new bands sound so unapologetically like the bands they listened to when they were growing up, but I’m an absolute sucker for the odd amalgam of fuzzy nostalgia and curious discovery.

… and Echo Park’s Lolipop Records catches another gem with Franky Flowers.

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Waterstrider

There’s no rest for Oakland outfit Waterstrider apparently. After just releasing their stellar debut full length album Nowhere Now and unveiling older, unreleased track “Arrive and Leave” for Bandcamp City Guides’ Oakland compilation, Waterstrider are being featured on another Bay Area compilation OIM Vol. 1.

“Frayed”, the fivesome’s contribution to OIM Records inaugural release saw the band entering the studio once more – this time with producer Jeff Saltzman. The end result is a synth-heavy jam built upon Waterstrider’s distinct percussion choices. Though prominently featured, the track’s strongest moments happen when it seesaws away from its buzzing synths and opens more of its musical landscape up towards Nate Salman’s vocals and the masterful guitar work. The interplay between Salman and the band is impeccable – the guitars shifting from cascading melodic flow from skittering shuffle to compliment all of Salman’s little vocal switch-ups that displays not only a versatility in Waterstrider’s song construction but also in the band’s talents themselves. “Frayed” manages to capture the ear-catching/memorable facets of pop music while avoiding predictable repetitiveness.

OIM Records’ OIM Vol. 1 is out June 23rd. Which happens to be right at the tail end of Waterstrider’s upcoming North American tour with Bay Area buds Trails and Ways. Dates here.

White Reaper

Considering their debut self-titled EP just barely clocked in at 15 minutes, no one’s probably all that surprised that Louisville garage rock outfit are already prepping a follow up to last year’s brief but fiery debut. What is surprising however is how White Reaper avoid merely retreading what made their EP stand out. In a sense “Make Me Wanna Die”, the first single from the newly minted foursome’s debut full length, does capture that the melodic punk spirit of the EP but where most of the self-titled cuts barreled forward with break neck intensity, “Make Me Wanna Die” taps on the brakes a bit. White Reaper still air on the side of brevity but even at it is two minute and change length there’s a sense of lingering. “Make Me Wanna Die” recalls “Cool” in its pop-recalling accessibility but the comparisons pretty much end there. Touring member turned actual band mate Ryan Hater features prominently of synth but White Reaper have lost none of their rambunctious bite.

“Make Me Wanna Die” hints at a brand new versatility for the band. A track with a cohesive narrative in addition to its snarling but catchy hooks, “Make Me Wanna Die” is a pretty firm indicator that there’s a lot more to White Reaper than rabid sweat-inducing intensity and carelessly thrown beers whizzing from the stage. White Reaper are the real deal not just some lazy Ramones imitators and they’re willing to put in the work to prove it.

White Reaper’s forthcoming debut full length White Reaper Does It Again is out July 17th on Polyvinyl Records. Pre-order’s are available now.