After releasing what is without a doubt their strongest record last year in sophomore effort Animals in the Median, Portland synth pop quintet Radiation City went right back to it (with a little help from their fans via Kickstarter) to work on a third album. While they’re more or less putting the finishing touches on the John Vanderslice produced album, they’ve decided to sate the curious/ravenous with a bit of a taster of their efforts: first with a nearly three minute snippet megamix and now with b-side “Stutter”.
With “Stutter”, Radiation City are very much in their element; still casually incorporating their various influences and inspirations in a way that’s reflective of pop but not quite so easily defined. “Stutter” essentially exists in two parts divided pretty much by the handing off of lead vocals – from Cameron Spies’ sparsely accompanied parlando to Lizzy Ellison’s Little Dragon-esque melisma. They fivesome manage to cover quite a bit of ground in the track’s four and a half minute duration; manipulating the track’s momentum a number of times to keep things interesting and relying on an understated EDM feel. It’s the rare Radiation City track where you’re not entirely sure what each member is up to in the track’s context but there’s no doubt a hell of a lot going on that the band manages to downplay surprisingly well.
While it’s not entirely indicative of just what Radiation City will be pursuing on the new album, it is a good indicator that the spirit of exploration is still alive and well with the band as they offer up a track that references familiar tones but otherwise experiments with new sounds.
With “Good Laugh” and “It’s Time They Know” released earlier this year, Wilmington’s Dyev unleashed a distinctive brand of exuberant, kaleidoscopic experimental pop that managed to capture bedroom-pop intimacy and hit-seeking production. Despite its manifold construction and evolution, Dyev’s tracks were surprisingly easy to follow. “Graphiti”, his latest track, more or less continues his ability for balancing frenetically charged melodies with a casual pacing. But where the energy levels in previous tracks seems buoyant and fun, “Graphiti” surges forward with a sense of foreboding and malaise. And despite the pervasive sense of doom, “Graphiti” still contains some absolutely ear-catching moments of pop songcraft soaring over the big beat percussion and intricately needling layers.
I’m a straight sucker for piano punching songstresses–like Fiona Apple, Nicole Miglis (of Hundred Waters), requisite Regina Spektor, occasional Joanna Newsom–so this gorgeously sparse cut from New Orleans tinkerer Julie Odell sets my soul aflutter:
The piano is lovely, Odell’s vocal layers tend to brush gorgeously against each other, like a polished Joanna Newsom against her earlier work, but it’s the lyrics that really grab me. I even transcribed them because I couldn’t find them anywhere.
Odell’s narrator reaches out to an unknown friend or mentor who’s looking sapped of joy and bereft of hope: “Your eyes are sunken like old buried treasure / Lost deep in the ocean, no sweet hidden pleasure.” Empath that she is, perhaps fellow sufferer of his anomie, she begs for his tales to be told, his stories shared, praising the sometimes-comfort found in the darkest depths of human connection:
‘Cause all that we have to build up our spirits
Are mysteries and stories; please tell us, we’ll listen!
There will be no judgments no shameful discretions,
Just self-soothing phrases and tongues that touch heaven
I won’t ruin the rest with commentary, but we’ve all been there, and Odell captures both sides perfectly.
Check out the full lyrics after the jump if you’re interested »
Knock the last of the fuzzy Mondays from your overworked, underpaid, wayunderslept mind with this idyllic little psych-jam from across the pond. YOOFS is a pair of space cadets from Bournemouth who use some kind of dark magic and wormhole spirits to channel psych-pop straight out of John Lennon acid-trickled vocal chords. They’ve usually got some proggy elements and maybe those will feature at a later date… but today is a fucking Monday, and today calls for a pulling-the-sun-kist-blanket-over-your-face-for-a-few-more-uninterrupted-moments-of-baby-good-sleep sort of bliss:
While each member of Jinja Safari seems to have taken the band’s post-album hiatus to pursue their own solo/side projects, the one that most captures the exuberance of their mother band continues to be that of co-frontman Pepa Knight. Unveiling his debut single “Rahh!” earlier this year, Knight seems content to lean into the vibrant sun-dappled melodies Jinja Safari are most known for while pressing his own distinctive stamp. On “Clams”, one of the most recent cuts from his upcoming EP Hypnotized Vol. 1, Knight grows quite comfortably into the role of featured vocalist. Digging into his stash of exotic world instruments, “Clams” essentially functions as a showpiece for Pepa Knight’s various talents – his vocals the most showy they’ve ever been while not quite reaching the heights of pop star gymnastics; Knight manages to balance his evident world music influence into something more. “Clams” radiates with the resplendent grandeur of a Lion King cut; Pepa Knight is able to infuse just the right blend of pop zeal to fashion into more than a soundtrack sound-alike.
Hypnotized Vol. 1, Pepa Knight’s debut solo EP ahead of his 2015 slated full length LP, is out November 28th in Australia. Whether or not they’ll be an expanded release remains to be seen but there’s hoping.