TRACK PREMIERE: Mimi Raver “Creatures Of Habit”

The album art for Mimi Raver’s upcoming LP ’06 Female will give you an insight into the songwriter’s knack for duality. At first glance, the cover for Raver’s imminent release bears the precious, painterly image of a grey tabby, sitting pretty by a Kelly green couch. On closer inspection: droplets of blood color the cat’s mouth…and then you see the dead seagull, punctured and pinned between kitty’s paws.

The same secretly sinister allure is at play on Raver’s new single, “Creatures Of Habit,” which digs far deeper than its “bedroom pop” branding suggests. Raver’s music has also been branded as “analog,” which is far more fitting given the warm tape hiss that greets you in the opening bars of  “Creatures Of Habit.” Mimi Raver feels close. Very, very close. Her voice is too interesting to call a whisper, but it is made of a similar softness – gliding lithely on top of pitchy rhythm guitar. So it’s all the more surprising when she coos:

“Frank fell in the kitchen again/And he smashed his head on the window sill/Said he saw his wife at the door/But she’s been gone since 2004.”

Raver’s breed of “dream pop” plumbs far greater depths than songs about chilling at the beach. As for her approach to form, Raver has taken great care to convert her love of analog photography to an album exalting the messiness of tape recording. The entirety of ’06 Female was laid down on a Teac-3440 A 4-track reel-to-reel tape machine, which accounts for the wonderful graininess throughout.

Raver’s subtle songwriting is equally intriguing as her ability to harness discomfort so beautifully – and utilize the unexpected effects of her recording method. As “Creatures Of Habit” tapers off, warbling voices clamor in conversation – a result of radio signals the tape machine picked up from nearby broadcasting stations.

Raver is a quietly captivating songwriter; one that can merge the eerie and the intimate, the analog and contemporary, and a sordid sweetness that makes you want to hear more from her. Much more.

Stream our exclusive premiere of Mimi Raver’s “Creatures of Habit” below; ’06 Female arrives this April.

ALBUM REVIEW: Dirty Projectors “Dirty Projectors”

Dirty Projectors has been a wildly fun, dynamic machine for over a decade now. The band has defied and played with genre, collaborated with Bjork and David Byrne, and maintained a hard-to-define and unique sound. Their musical nuance is brilliant to some and annoying to others – as my mom once said of the melody in “Gun Has No Trigger,” from 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan: “It sounds like he’s hitting all of the black keys on a piano.” But the complexity of their compositions is obvious to anyone who listens. Their new album Dirty Projectors has been five years in the making and marks the breakup of long-time musical partners David Longstreth and Amber Coffman.

There’s been a lot hype about this record due to Coffman’s departure, even though Longstreth has been the credited mind behind Dirty Projectors since the band’s creation. He’s written and produced nearly every song on every album. Before 2009 breakout album Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors was David Longstreth. He wrote everything and had orchestras play his pieces or invited in guest artists on a track or two. As a long time listener, I was optimistic about this return to “solo” form. But its execution was, frankly, disappointing. The entirety of Dirty Projectors, as a friend put it, is like hearing one side of a dramatic break up between two people you don’t know. Even in the context of an experimental art pop record, it’s difficult to keep a subject like that interesting over the course of nine tracks.

On the album’s opening number “Keep Your Name,” the very first line Longstreth sings is “I don’t know why you abandoned me,” immediately setting up a biased condemnation of Coffman, both romantically and professionally. As if to make up for her vocal absence, Longstreth plays with his vocals throughout the song, lowering his voice to a deep and slow drone and even rapping at one point – both new for Dirty Projectors, although not exactly impressive (especially the rapping). The pleasing blend of pop and electronic elements almost outweigh the cringe-worthy lyrics and overdone hooks, and then comes the worst line of all: “What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame.” Not only does this moment seem petty, it also feels pretentious and unnecessary. In attempting to paint Coffman in a negative light, Longstreth only manages to come off as a controlling maniac; it’s hard to fault someone for pursuing a solo career, especially with Longstreth taking full credit for Dirty Projectors’ songs, so Longstreth resorts to attacking Coffman on a personal level.

The second track, “Death Spiral,” ditches the enhanced vocals and dives straight into a more pop-forward sound, but lines like “just so rock and roll suicidal” make it a tough sell. Even stand-out tracks like “Up On Hudson” and “Cool Your Heart” persist with awkward, tragically romantic undertones. While I’m glad Longstreth is finally showing some vulnerability, that doesn’t necessarily translate into interest in his seemingly malicious preoccupation with Coffman. Dirty Projectors, at their best, are known for their obscure and ambiguous lyrics – something I’ve always appreciated. But this album reads more like the gossip column of People magazine, and no matter how juicy and delicious the drama, it feels out of step with those former lyrical qualities.

That’s not to say that their music hasn’t been honest or deeply personal in its own way, but Dirty Projectors have always managed to stay away from simple, straightforward truths. So it’s surprising that David Longstreth would allow this breakup to effect his music so intensely; he’s essentially dedicated an entire record – one that should signify a comeback for the band – to his hurt feelings. Not only is it predictable, it feels like such a waste.

Though the music on this album is sometimes a breath of fresh air, dynamic and engaging, Longstreth’s pathetic lyrics are impossible to ignore. His petty, self-centered narrative is completely irritating. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but I don’t care enough about Longstreth and Coffman breaking up to listen to an entire album about it. Perhaps Longstreth should have given himself time to move on from it before committing these feelings to tape.

VIDEO REVIEW: “Night Falls on the General Assembly”

Leverage Models

Leverage Models, Shannon Fields most recent solo endeavor, released its self titled debut full length album on October 1. The album’s ten tracks are filled with poppy synth beats, heavy percussion and dramatic vocals. While Fields is the man behind the music, he did not hesitate to enlist the help of a number of talented friends on Leverage Models, rendering the album a beautiful balance between individual expression and diverse artistic collaboration.

Leverage Models’ most recent video “Night Falls on the General Assembly” was released last week. With it’s off kilter melody, theatrical vocals and the spooky piano solo that opens and closes the song, “Night Falls on the General Assembly” is probably the trippiest song on the album. While many Leverage Models tracks provide an instant hook, “General Assembly” opens in a more whimsical and mystical manner, building to a subtler hook that arrives at the chorus to open up the song.  The esoteric lyrics (Found out love can be a baseball bat, by the jaw you had drawn one man out to this mob) definitely mirror its eerie atmosphere, and while it’s still as momentum driven and danceable as other tracks on the album, its execution is decidedly more subtle.

The music video for “General Assembly” somehow manages to get even weirder than the song itself. It begins with a suited businessman sitting stone faced in a chair on a roof somewhere in Brooklyn while his cohort dance behind him. Finally the man gets up and joins in on the fun. The rest of the video consists of various shots of the four dudes getting crazy on the roof while the shots become increasingly distorted. Eventually our protagonist calms down, (maybe his trip has ended?) and returns to his chair for the end of the video, whose trippy and eerie imagery and camera work make it the perfect coupling for the  aesthetics of the track.

Leverage Models will be performing at AF’s showcase this Thursday, May 22, at Cameo Gallery along with along with Weeknight, Long Arms and Young Heel.

TRACK REVIEW: James Supercave “The Right Thing”


James Supercave

Art pop group James Supercave don’t have any albums out yet, but they’ve been widely praised their live performances and incredibly danceable tunes. This LA quintet is likely going on tour with War Paint this Spring. “The Right Thing” is a rolling, confident break out song off of their first EP, which will be released in late March. Supercave combines mid-20th century rhythms with head-bobbing melody and dynamic vocals.

Nasal, oddly toned vocals  introduce the album, which combined with a slower beat, feels like something out of a film from the late 50s or early 60s (“Love me like a memory is all you’re gonna get”, the singer croons, for example). From there, the music moves into a fast-paced, rhythm-heavy pop song. The vocals become falsetto at 30 seconds which is surprisingly endearing, reminiscent of Klaus Nomi, and threading back to the 50s-60s vibe. Guitar and heavy bass break in at the one minute mark, giving the listener just a taste of garage.

The track reverts quickly back to the opening motif, to which I found myself bobbing my head. The verse blends into a slow middle section where the singer repetitively despairs: “There’s no one left. . . there’s no one left to see our plot unfold.”  While the band doesn’t necessarily traverse into novel territory sound wise, they do, in the spirit of art rock toss in some high pitched violin at the end, both unexpected and even a bit sentimental. The vocals could verge on irritating, but the singer follows the rhythm too well. This song makes a lot of moves, some a bit risky, but blends it all together surprisingly well.

Listen to “The Right Thing” below and look out for James Supercave’s EP: