Dec 31, 2019

Best of 2019 • Kevin Morby • Oh My God

Across four solo albums (and turns in bands like Woods and the Babies), Kevin Morby has always worn his influences on his sleeve. Or record sleeves if you will: Depending on your Ikea shelf space or online playlists, one might hear throughlines to Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Leonard Cohen’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony, the rock-as-savior gestures of Spiritualized and Springsteen. Or maybe you hear Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Randy Newman, and the War on Drugs instead. Depending on the line and moment, Morby can deftly emulate all of the above. The more you appreciate this rock canon, the more likely that Morby hit some of your sweet spots. Even when it came to covering the feral punk of the Germs, Morby found a way to make “Caught in my Eye” sound like a lost Dylan cut. PF

Morby keeps the instrumentation sparse but rich, with horns, harps, piano, organ and backing choirs peppered throughout. His musical erudition is fun, too. “OMG Rock n Roll” taps the ballroom body-moving side of the Velvet Underground, with chugging organs and Morby as soulman, testifying, “Oh my lord, come carry me home.” Other moments bring to mind bliss-chasers from Laura Nyro to the Mamas and the Papas to his fellow Great Plains questers the Flaming Lips. Ultimately, despite its divine themes, the pleasures of Oh My God are pleasantly transitory, less a reckoning with the Almighty than the religious experience of casually browsing a well-stocked used record sale in a church basement. RS

Best of 2019 • Purple Mountains

Dec 28, 2019

NO MUSEUMS • An Engine Submerged • 2019

A homemade hybrid of creaking pop and basement rock, using an array of textural devices and hummed noise. Echo boxes, delay pedals, soft distortion dynamics and guitars with buzzing strings. There is drift and there is direction. Enjoys the sounds of Little Wings, Guided By Voices, Velvet Underground, Wedding Present, Television Personalities.

Jazzboy • Xmas Will Never Happen Again • 2019

jazzboy epk

“Jazzboy crafts a unique, distinct sound both sonically and structurally, yet still remains viciously catchy”

“It’s no easy task finding a suitable musical reference to compare with Jazzboy’s niche, sounding more reminiscent of eighties horror scores than a conventional release”
tmrw magazine

Best of 2019 • Siskiyou • Not Somewhere

Siskiyou returns from a four-year hiatus with Not Somewhere, an album that finds band leader Colin Huebert (ex-Great Lake Swimmers) essentially in solo artist mode, writing and self-recording this new collection of tunes on his own, playing all the guitar, bass, keyboard and drum parts himself. Not Somewhere harkens back to Siskiyou’s magical and understated 2010 self-titled debut in this and other ways: the album’s production rekindles a homespun intimacy, where plain-spoken lyrics grapple with portraits of quiet quotidian despair, fragile existential horizon lines separating perseverance and defeatism, honest and unremarkable lives trapped in cultures of false consciousness, impossible desire, self-analysis and self-medication. CR

Though Huebert evidences stewing in his own juices a bit too long a’la Syd Barrett, the music takes a shaggier turn.  ‘The End II/Song of Joy’ in all its acoustic majesty jumps straight from the softer moments of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.  While the anthemic build of ‘Unreal Erections/Severed Heads’ adds in stately horns at the end to elevate the song over its subject of being “22nd Century poor”.  Several years on from its recording Huebert was not only prescient at the time, but he would also likely be more disgusted today with humanity’s further surrender to technology.  If the album has a signature song, it's most likely ‘Nothing Disease’, though the song’s lovely chorus overcomes the pathos of the song.  Even the ragged shamble of ‘Her Aim Is Tall’ has a tuneful thread to it. SBlab

Best of 2019 • H-burns • Midlife

Following Night Moves and Kids We Own The Summer and its harmonious keyboards, H-Burns goes back to the quintessence of his music style: an impeccable songwriting praised internationally and an interpretation undeniably precise. To narrate in one album the only two stories worth being narrated – the one about a man living his home, and the one about a man coming back to his home – H-Burns (aka Renaud Brustlein) first matured his project isolated in a home-studio owned by French underground collective La Souterraine before bringing it to the studio with a team of musicians and engineers that he meticulously picked as usual : Earl Harvin from Tindersticks on the drums, Kate Stables from This Is The Kit as a vocal guest, Noah Georgeson (The Strokes, Andy Shauf, etc.) for the mixing, etc. Understandably title Midlife this new album recorded on analog tapes tells the story of a man who looks back over the journey of his life, remembering his dreams of glory, the lost love stories, what he left behind from the others and from himself. RT

Cette fois-ci, H-Burns a décidé d’explorer le thème de la crise de la quarantaine et ce qui signifie qu’il revient plus cru et plus brut qu’auparavant. Et pour ce faire, il n’a pas fait appel à Rob Schnapf pour la production mais a recours à l’autoproduction (sans pour autant négliger l’aide de Stuart Staples de Tindersticks). On sent tout de suite la différence lorsque l’on écoute des titres soutenus comme « Tigress » et « Actress » aux influences indie folk US bien prononcées ou bien même des moments plus rythmés et enlevés comme « Crazy Ones » tant les arrangements sobres sont soignés aux petits oignons avec sa basse rythmique épurée. los

Dec 22, 2019

boerd feat. Stella Explorer • Before We Drown (Live Session) • 2019

Swedish downtempo producer boerd has just released his new album with Anjunadeep last week and is carving his own unique path in electronic music fusing classical undertones with downtempo electronica. The Swedish producer, who is a classically trained musician performing as part of the Royal Swedish Opera moonlights as an electronic producer signed to London’s infamous Anjunadeep.

“Ethereal vocal performances, feather-lite melodies and stunningly intricate production”
“26-year-old Bård Ericson is an undisputed force to be reckoned with.”
Wonderland Magazine
“Beautifully abstract electronic work that brims with tingling atmospheres.”
The Line of Best Fit
“Fragile, spectral electronics with a sharply defined melodic edge”
“The rare producer who can warm your heart as well as your mind.”
The 405
 “A truly beautiful piece of minimalist production”

Best of 2019 • Tinariwen • Amadjar

There is a hazy expansiveness to Tuareg band Tinariwen’s music that recalls the desert setting in which it was created. Fuzzy guitars are rhythmically picked over undulating rhythms and gravelly baritone vocals; it is almost as if you can hear a sand-laden breeze passing between the mics as the band record.

This is a band that has been in existence, in one form or another, since 1979. Never resorting to cliche, they continue to be just as inspired by the universal themes of love, politics and nature as they always have been. Their musical delivery is just as heartfelt and forceful for it.

Best of 2019 • FRIENDSHIP • Dreamin'

"Friendship are a Philly-based band centered around Dan Wriggins’ narrative pull. His stories tend to be long-winded but confined to small moments, and the rest of the band — currently made up of Peter Gill, Mike Cormier, Evangeline Krajewski, and Jon Samuels — play into this in an unobtrusive but all-encompassing way." - Stereogum


Dreamin’, recorded during the summer of 2018 with the help of The Low Anthem’s Jeff Prystowsky, maintains Friendship’s trademark contemplative alt-country sound – its lyrics painting vivid images of human emotions that rock between intimacy and loneliness. But there is also nuanced continuity here; Dreamin’ moves away from the digitally programmed drums and Rhodes piano of the past, in order to adopt a feel that’s somehow starkly warm.

Dec 21, 2019

Blue Tomorrows • Without Color • 2019

breezy homespun psychedelic pop tunes crafted by Sarah Nienaber

Best of 2019 • Ducks Unlimited • "Get Bleak"

“Get Bleak” is a song about this idea that moving somewhere else is going to solve all your problems. It’s something that I’ve heard expressed by a lot of friends in one way or another, especially as more and more people are getting priced out of cities like Toronto, New York and London. There can be plenty of good reasons to leave the place that you’re from or somewhere you’ve made your home for a long time, but I think there’s this ‘grass is always greener’ thing that in my experience, and anecdotally from people I know, just isn’t true. It’s hard to move to a new place, and you’re still going to be you when you get there with the same issues and hang-ups, plus you’re going to miss the people who care about you, and they’re going to miss you.

Best of 2019 • Modern Nature • How to Live

British songwriter Jack Cooper’s former group Ultimate Painting paid tribute to the southern Colorado countercultural artists’ community Drop City, which formed in 1965 and was abandoned to biker gangs by the early 1970s. When Ultimate Painting imploded last year, and Cooper’s new group Modern Nature debuted with an 11-minute piece of cosmic minimalism, one might’ve expected them to dive further into the swirl. But the band’s full-length debut, How To Live, anchored by Cooper and BEAK>’s Will Young, offers a more grounded escape route, blurring ideas of city and country in search of transcendence. Pf

On Modern Nature’s debut album, How to Live, urban and rural cross into each other. Plaintive cello strains melt into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drift through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shine with reflective saxophone accents. Throughout this continuous work, where no song ever really seems to end, there’s an indelible feeling of constant forward motion. It’s as if the band is laying down a railway and riding it simultaneously, and you can hear all kinds of landscapes passing by.

Best of 2019 • Better Oblivion Community Center

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst team up for a tight-knit folk-rock album about alienation, solitude, and our potential to better ourselves against bad odds.

Dec 20, 2019

Best of 2019 • Fontaines D.C. • "Dublin City Sky"

The album ends with Dublin City Sky, a lament to the end of a toxic relationship and the fracturing of the city’s bohemian character under the weight of capitalism and gentrification. “It feels very important to explore the dying culture that’s being murdered by gentrification,” Chatten says. “It’s casting a shadow on what we love about the city and that gives us the impetus to write about what’s in that shadow.”

Deegan adds: “The increase of tech companies here, all of the capitalist stuff going on in Dublin right now, the focus on money over quality of life or art, is why gentrification is a given now. I think romantic Ireland is dead and gone.”

JoJo Worthington • Palingenesia • 2019

I stay inside 
and watch the earth refine to snow and ice 
In Canada there's a sale on at Canadian Tire 

Gloria! There's a Christmas tree in every shopping mall 
Throw up your hands! For the Lord of all is a gift card to The Gap. 

O, family tree 
All the mysteries that have been revealed 
Our table gets smaller every year 
We disappear in the snow 

In America, there's a girl that's gonna be a star someday 
In Bethlehem, there's a boy whose gonna give himself away 

My grandpa died in the nursing home ten years after his wife 
She fell down and we spent Christmas wearing hospital gowns 

Gloria! For the Lord of all has come to earth at last 
Fall on your knees, for the gifts he brings are never gonna pass

Old Amica • Drone and Hum Reworked • 2019

To celebrate the vinyl reissue of “Drone and Hum”, we asked friends and people we admire if they wanted to reinterpret some of those songs. The result is the album “Drone and Hum Reworked” and we’re so incredibly grateful for the beautiful contributions and for giving our old sounds new life.

1,000,000 Pageviews • 2019

It's been since 2011 that I really started putting effort into posting my musings… Today I reached over 1 million "pageviews," 4219 posts with over 600 comments. A small milestone, in a large world. Much love to all the folks that check out my blog, leave comments and share what I post. To all those that have submitted music over the past years, thank you, never stop xox
Happy Holidays!

Dec 19, 2019

Best of 2019 • wished bone • Sap Season

I usually write something resembling a song every day. I don't work on a farm at the moment but do have an edible garden at my house, as well as orange, lemon, grapefruit, fig, peach and nectarine trees. Music is the most freeing thing i've ever felt. The first tier of freeness happens when I write the words down, the second when i put them to music, the third - recording and releasing them. and then each time I perform them another little piece of memory or sadness is released again. It branches out in infinite dimensions to where, finally, at the end of it all, I begin to feel peace with reality.

Wished Bone is the recording project of LA-via-Ohio musician and plant biologist turned bartender Ashley Rhodus. She calls her songs “dark twee”; The Fader's take is “unhurried, comforting indie-rock with an edge.” Following her full-length debut in 2018, she returns with the self-released Sap Season, a collection of warm and modest stories embracing the ephemeral and ordinary details in life. Produced by Phil Hartunian, with contributions from instrumentalist Wandering Lake.

I’m not gonna lie, I was tempted to put a click-bait title on this album review. Why? Well, I’m used to straightforward femme-centered indie rock being sad, and the vibe off the bat with Wished Bone is usually sunny. Warm guitars and airy, conversational vocals make a statement that’s unusually pleasant in sound for a song titled “Hold Me.”

Kitten • Memphis • 2019

As a loping bass groove erupts into wave of violin, shoe gaze-guitars, and dial-up-modems, Chaidez chants her cubist love story with prayer-like intimacy. KITTEN's palette of sounds and influences remains broad, but "Memphis" displays a newfound clarity in the band's production. "'Memphis' came about after a year of touring, switching coasts back and forth, and solidifying the friendships in the band. It's a song that questions the nature of home, and ultimately determines that it's the people you love who give a place meaning," states Chaidez about the track.

Best of 2019 • The Stroppies • 'Cellophane Car'

From across the world, Melbourne, Australia seems like a city filled with youthful bands breathing new life into old formulas of melodic guitar-pop. Each of the last few years, the number of great bands coming out of Australia, especially Melbourne, has steadily impressed. The Stroppies' self-titled 2017 EP was a great rough-around-the-edges work of experimental pop, with an air of Flying Nun Records to it. Whoosh! is comparatively next-level -- anthemic and multi-layered yet still driven by a loose DIY impulse. The voices of Gus Lord and Claudia Serfaty alternate, overlap and complement each other, as the instruments do much the same. Theirs is a comfortable, familiar-in-a-good-way sound that also feels fresh and exciting. PM

Dec 18, 2019

SPC ECO • Across The Universe • 2019

ings • lullaby rock • 2019

KEXP on "Lullaby Rock" 
"Six years and two EPs later, ings is finally unveiling her debut record. Titled Lullaby Rock, after the self-made genre she gave herself because of her hushed singing style, the record is a testament to an artist honing her craft and unafraid to experiment. Everything from lush orchestral strings to fingerpicked guitar riffs and even a guided meditation can be found on the dynamic record, anchored by ings' lovely and fantastically Feist-y vocals. 

The uplifting lyrics on Lullaby Rock focus on healing and growth, with ings offering up a bit of hard-learned advice from herself to herself. A toolbox of affirmations, each song began as a repeated phrase she would sing aloud to herself in order to carry on through a difficult situation. Lessons like valuing yourself, appreciating your friends, and dealing with failure are thoughtfully and cleverly explored over the ten tracks." 

- Jasmine Albertson, KEXP 

S+C+A+R+R • YOU'RE THE ONE • 2019

Enigmatic electronic producer S+C+A+R+R has revealed a touching music video for “You’re The One”, a taste of the soundtrack and visuals from the Cannes Film Festival-awarded and Oscar-buzzing animated film I Lost My Body (directed by Jérémy Clapin). Dan Levy, the composer of the film’s soundtrack, invited S+C+A+R+R to contribute, as he explains: 

“In the summer, I was working in the studio on the soundtrack, while S+C+A+R+R was working the studio next door. It appeared to me that S+C+A+R+R’s voice and melancholic atmosphere would be perfect for a key moment of the movie! I suggested to him to write the most spontaneous love song. He composed ‘You’re The One’ quite simply, at the piano, in front of me, and we all loved it

constant blue • ruin • 2019

Dec 17, 2019

Shana Falana • Come and Find Me • 2019

Veteran NY psych-pop act Shana Falana has released two LPs with Team Love Records, 2015's 'Set Your Lightning Fire Free' and 2016's 'Here Comes The Wave'. Emerging from New York’s vast drone/psych scene, Shana combines live looping of reverb-drenched vocals and guitar with tribal drums and stunning visual projections. Her live experience has often been described as transcendental.

"Psychedelic dream pop dashed on the rocks of goth defiance" -Stereogum

“If you want to zone out, Shana Falana’s alluring debut LP gives many opportunities to do so.” -Pitchfork

Polyvinyl Winter 2019​-​2020 Sampler

Nada Surf • "Looking For You" • 2019

“‘Looking For You’ is about an old idea,” says Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws, “that what you seek is seeking you. The Persian poet Rumi wrote it down in the 13th century, but it was new to me when I came across it last year in something I read. I’ve found it to be true in practice: so often when I’ve said yes to an invitation that I was hesitating about for whatever reason, I’ve been glad afterwards. There’s always a great conversation I wouldn’t have had, a good idea that wouldn’t have come up. The song is also about learning to differentiate between real and imagined danger. One of the best questions I’ve ever been asked is How many tigers are lunging at you right now? Thankfully, the answer has always been none. That line made it into the song too.”

Yola • Ride Out In The Country • 2019

Walk Through Fire takes its name from a devastating house fire, which left Yola injured and shaken. It also references her survival of an abusive relationship, which took its toll on Yola's emotional well-being. To help herself heal, she wrote songs that touch on both of these incidents and offer ways forward. (In the title track, she references a "rescue vessel" she's certain will take her to calmer shores.) The resulting album is a bold statement from a woman who's been to hell and back, and is ready to share her stories.

Best of 2019 • Julien Baker • "The Modern Leper"

Undoubtedly the highlight on the Tiny Changes Frightened Rabbit tribute album—a record that was almost finished before lead singer Scott Hutchison’s tragic death and one that took on a completely different meaning by the time of its release about a year later—Julien Baker slows down the Midnight Organ Fight album opener, turning the upbeat rock song into something much more her own. Beginning with the guitar atmospherics that dot the entirety of her own material, it proceeds to build to a huge crescendo, only to completely lose almost all the instrumentals for the final chorus. Where the original’s finale seems hopeful that maybe, just maybe, Hutchison’s ex will give him one more chance (“You should sit with me and we’ll start again / And you can tell me all about what you did today”), Baker’s version knows the answer and you can hear it in her voice, distant and longing. —Steven Edelstone

Best of 2019 • Florist • Emily Alone

The previous two albums from her indie-pop outfit Florist were full-band affairs, but in these 12 songs, Sprague steps away from her collaborators for a spell, tasked with filling time alone. It’s a familiar reprieve for the Los Angeles-based artist, who has also released several excellent ambient collections under her own name. But while those long-form compositions have evoked solitude and the natural world using modular synthesizers, Emily Alone is built from simpler tools: double-tracked vocals, acoustic guitar, and the occasional birdsong leaking in from an open window. PF

She wrote every song on the album, played every instrument on the album, produced the album, and even did most of the album’s mixing. Sprague releases ambient music under her own name, but she’s releasing Emily Alone as a Florist album. So that album title is a simple truth. You should not go into Emily Alone expecting to hear the work of Florist, the band whose past two albums you may have enjoyed. That’s not this. This is something else. SG

Dec 15, 2019

Best of 2019 • Bill Callahan • Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

The voice murmuring in our ear, with shaggy-dog and other kinds of stories, is an old friend so fine to hear from again. Bill’s gentle, spacey take on folk and roots music is like no other; scraps of imagery, melody and instrumentation tumble suddenly together in moments of true human encounter.

I never thought I’d make it this far
Little old house, recent model car
And I’ve got the woman of my dreams
And an imitation Eames
And I signed Willie’s guitar!
He sang, Hey good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’
And I signed Willie’s guitar
When he wasn’t looking!

The idea of communal befuddlement and communal peace has been present in Callahan’s discography for a while. For me, hearing him and his wife sing “Lonesome Valley” as a duet, their voices never quite melding, but each nonetheless lifting the other, is a moving argument for partnership as a guiding, palliative force—a way to keep on, alone, together. TNY