#NEWMUSICMONDAY: Lina Tullgren “Older”


Isn’t it difficult to relax? Despite summer, and implications of letting stress melt away with the seasons, we all struggle with finding contentment. Ironically, a beautiful song about just that may be exactly what you need to settle into the now. “Older,” off New England singer-songwriter Lina Tullgren‘s debut EP, Wishlist, out on Captured Tracks is about just that. “When you’re a kid, all you want to do is be old. When you’re old, all you want to do is be a kid again,” Tullgren wrote the Fader, who recently premiered the song.

The melancholy new tune “Older” perfectly captures that tragically beautiful feeling of displacement. Take a listen below.

INTERVIEW: Justin Vallesteros of Craft Spells

Justin Vallesteros
Justin Vallesteros began Craft Spells as a bedroom pop project, so it’s only fitting that for the band’s sophomore release, he’s returned to those reclusive roots. With the 2009 release of some enigmatic demos that would go on to make up the bulk of highly-anticipated debut Idle Labor in 2011, Vallesteros built buzz amongst bloggers, signed to Captured Tracks, and assembled a touring band. Craft Spells also released an EP, Gallery, in 2012, seemingly predicting that such prolific output would continue. The band toured while moving its home base up and down the West Coast, but Vallesteros found himself distracted and uninspired by surroundings in Seattle and San Francisco. He moved back in with his parents, spent his days writing and skateboarding, and completed Nausea, a deeply introspective album more orchestral, ambitious and accessible than anything Craft Spells has released to date. In the midst of a brief tour that included a stop at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, Vallesteros answered some questions about the new directions he’s taking with his project.
Justin Vallesteros
AudioFemme:  It seems like your aesthetic has changed slightly since Idle Labor; do you feel like that’s true? In what ways has the band evolved over the last four years?

Justin Vallesteros: ​Yes, it’s been four years. A lot has happened to me personally and the new record is a good representation of what I went through. The aesthetic changed cause I change, we all change. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I’m just a different person. Evolving like a Pokemon. 

AF: Did you feel a lot of pressure in making a second record in terms of how critics would inevitably compare it to the first?

​JV: I knew a lot of the fans of Idle Labor would tilt their head to it, it was definitely a side bust. I’m gonna make what I want though, so there was no stopping what I was writing. I can’t be that guy who makes pastel-like music all my life. I’m a real person with feelings. Maybe the next release will be the happiest shit I’ve written, or the saddest, who knows?

AF: It’s been two years since you’ve toured with the band. Anything you’re nervous about or excited to get back to?

JV: Excited to take people out of their night life, putting their phones away and bringing them into our world for an hour. It was cool playing to packed show at the Warsaw in Brooklyn and looking up midway and didn’t see one phone and everyone in silence. That rules. 

AF: The new record has some great orchestral flourishes and also some really pretty quieter moments, particularly in the juxtaposition of the last two tracks. How did arranging it all come together?

​JV: It’s good to take the album through different worlds and landscapes as it goes. It’s better than writing a whole album of single guitar line jangle pop. 

AF: You’re releasing the demos alongside the album in a special edition. What’s your reason for that?

JV: ​If you like J Dilla or Nujabes, you will love these demo versions of Nausea. It’s gonna sound awesome on cassette too.

Stream single “Breaking The Angle Against The Tide” below, order the LP on Captured Tracks, or, if you’re on the West Coast, you can catch Craft Spells on tour in July at the dates below: 

7/16 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Atrium
7/17 –  San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
7/18 –  San Diego, CA – The Hideout
7/19 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
7/20 – Los Angeles, CA – Part Time Punks at the Echo

SHOW REVIEW: Frankie Rose w/ Dive and Night Manager

There’s a certain art to being cool. It requires equal parts detachment, judgement, untouchability, andflippancy. Being cool might make you the envy of your less-than-coolcounterparts, but it’s ultimately an empty, lonely act. Because being vulnerable isn’t cool, being cool entailskeeping others at bay, elevating yourself to a level above theuncool, refusing to let anyone in, and never showing emotion orexcitement because it is somehow unbecoming. It’s a problem that isunique to my generation; though real “cool” barely exists anymoreexcept as a marketing concept many of us have been posturing eversince, fearful of ever revealing the uncool sides of ourselves,deprived of true connection in order to maintain the illusion ofcoolness, feeling pain only when the facade fails us. In the realworld, this looks like a dimly lit bar in which everyone nurses PBRfrom a can and no one talks to anyone. And in that bar, Frankie Rosefills the jukebox.

As a drummer for Vivian Girls, Dum DumGirls, and Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose was at the forefront of theresurgence of a noise pop movement that took its cues from theintertwining jangle and grit of sixties garage rock and girl groups. In recording her first album as Frankie Rose and the Outs, she neverstrayed far from this sound. Her vocals had begun to take on adreamy sort of submerged quality with her first solo album, recorded under the moniker Frankie Rose and the Outs. But by and large the album, whileexpertly crafted, was nothing new. It was perfect in terms ofcontinuing the sound and vibe that made Frankie something of ahousehold name in indie rock circles. To some, the resume she’dbuilt was not only impressive but impenetrable, unapproachable. Butto be honest, it felt cold and rehearsed and well-worn to me, not arecord I could get behind on an emotional level. It wasn’t bad, butit it wasn’t life-altering and ultimately I lost interest. To jointhe Frankie cult I would have had to buy dark sunglasses and aleather jacket and thrown away all my clothing that wasn’t black, andI probably would have had to spit on anyone who talked about how intoAdele they were. But what I really wanted was license to feel andshare freely with my peers, not judge them or their tastes, not actlike mine are better than anyone else’s.

Here is what I like to imagine happenednext. Frankie was walking through the graffiti-scrawled streets ofWilliamsburg when a white light enveloped her and suddenly, the Earthwas no more than a blue speck far below. Her abductors, benevolentalien beings with glowing solar plexuses, took her on an epicinterplanetary voyage in which she witnessed incomprehensible formsof life and their bizarre customs, each of which held more meaningand beauty than her indie-rock royalty act. She was shown the errorof her ways and told to go forth to the earthly masses and write analbum with some heart, lest she be re-abducted and dissected. No longer obsessed with being cool and furthering her own reputationas purveyor of such, Frankie Rose came back to Brooklyn and wrote hergorgeous sophomore album, Interstellar.
While this may be a fanciful version of the truth, the end result is the same.  Interstellar, out now on Slumberland Records, gives having your head in the clouds a whole new meaning.  Frankie’s vocals sparkle and swirl like gauzy nebula gasses, the stuff of galaxies being born. The gritty guitars have been replacedby poppy riffs and spacious synths that reveal yearning and hope anda red-hot emotional core. Every second feels expansive, reminding usthat the big bang is still happening and that even as we rotate onthis rock we are hurtling through space. The lyrical content isn’tparticularly heavy and remainsrelatively carefree, but that’s not to say it suffers from any of that.  Rather, it feels much more relatable thananything she’s written to date. There areinstances (particularly “Know Me” “Daylight” and “NightSwim”) that recall the most impassioned moments of new wave, thoughthat heartfelt artfulness permeates each new song. Tracks like“Gospel/Grace” are still informed by the jangle pop of Frankie’sformer work but here she has made everything bigger, warmer, moreurgent and airy. Closing track “The Fall” is like listening to adream – the kind you go back to sleep for so you can keep dreamingit. Its hushed vocals unspool over a simplistic but indelible guitarline, diffused synths and a droning cello reminiscent of Arther Russell’s “This Is How We Walk On The Moon”. Listening toInterstellar basically made me reevaluate every snap judgement I’dever made about Frankie or her tunes. There’s a line in title trackand album opener that sums up the whole endeavor perfectly -“weightless, free from predictable ways”. Amen, sister, amen.

I got tickets to attend the releaseparty for Interstellar at Knitting Factory, expecting somegrand announcement, an ushering in to a new age of Frankie Rose. She’s one of the most influential musicians in the Brooklyn indiescene, so perhaps we’d all be given a crystal and told to let ourhearts breathe, to embrace each other and stop worrying about ourhaircuts. Night Manager opened with an enthusiastic batch of precocious noise pop anthems.  Somebands get on stage and act like it’s the most boring thing in theworld to be on stage, which is always annoying becauseeveryone at one point or another wants to be a rockstar. Night Manager can’t have had long to fantasize about such things –I’d say the average age of the five band members couldn’t have beenmuch over twenty – and that youthful exuberance was their strongestpoint. Their lead singer’s vibe was somewhere between Bethany Cosentino and Anne Margaret but I probably only make that connectionbecause I’ve been watching the third season of Mad Men while battlinga head cold.

I had high hopes for Dive, a(nother)Beach Fossils side project whose reverb-drenched singles are catchyand evocative of epiphanies had while staring at clouds. From thelooks of it, these guys really struggle to get dressed (evidenced by the rubber bands utilized to hold the guitarist’s pants in place) and speakingof haircuts – yikes. While their shoegazey tracks have a just-woke-up sort of haze, Dive’s performance was so boisterous it could have been a commercial for 5-hour energy shooters. The kineticset was incredibly fun to watch and included an unrecognizable take on a Nirvana song and a pornographic tee-shirt.  Dive’s debut EP is scheduledfor release next month on Captured Tracks, and seeing them play the material in such a spirited manner has me psyched for it.

Frankie Rose took the stage just after11PM with four band members, opening with the title track from the newrecord. The stage was bathed in starry projections, but there wereno house lights at all on Frankie or the majority of the band, whichreduced everyone but the drummer to indistinct silhouettes. Thatmight have been cool for a song or two, but they played the entireset that way, and it was slightly off-putting. Much like when youspend a hot day at the zoo and all the animals are sleeping insidefake caves, the lack of anything to rest eyes on was disappointingand disconnecting. Perhaps the lighting guy was in the bathroom,thinking he’d have plenty of time to light the stage once the bandreally got going. But he never had a chance – the show was overpractically before it began. The crowd, myself included, was justsettling in to Frankie’s performance, and then it abruptly endedafter they’d played for just under half an hour.
I’ve seen some short sets, but this oneleft me stunned in terms of its brevity. You’d think that with twoalbums of material she could have fleshed it out for another fifteenminutes, even with stage banter or something. I didn’t evenrecognize the new songs; I assumed she’d not played many of them butwas later informed she’d played seven of the ten new tracks fromInterstellar. The thing is, they were interpreted for the stage insuch a way that they might have belonged on older albums, in the workshe’d done with bands prior to striking out solo, in the detached,too-cool-for-school manner of everything that had come before. Therewas no trouble taken to document the evolution and preserve theopenness that makes Interstellar such a great album; instead Iwas reminded of all the reasons I’d felt put off by Frankie in thepast. She returned to the stage apologetically to play one moretrack (video of the encore is below) and finally asked for the house lights to beturned up a bit, though it was done begrudgingly by the house.
My overall impression was that Frankieis somehow afraid to bring her newfound sincerity into the spotlight bothliterally and figuratively. She was hiding the entire time –playing in the dark, rushing through the set as if nervous orembarrassed, and masking the intimate vibe of the new record behindthe practiced ways of her rock-n-roll persona. Perhaps this was aneffort to make the material more stage-ready but for me it had a numbing effect. I can only hope that in time she’ll figure out howto parlay the stirring ardency that makes Interstellar so salient, will becomecomfortable with letting any pretense fall away and be truly presentin the new material. I can imagine that day – Frankie stands onstage in a halo of white, assuredly plucking each note from herguitar strings, backed only by atmospheric keys and somber drums,letting Interstellar truly explode – vulnerable, earnest and farbeyond the trappings of coolness.

SHOW REVIEW: Blouse w/ Cosmetics & The New Lines

nice blouse, Charlie Hilton
Looking at the line-up for Tuesdaynight’s show at 285 Kent, I wasn’t sure if I was about to see ahandful of fashionable indie bands or if I was making a shopping listfor things I needed to pick up from Bloomingdales. Blouse, check. Cosmetics, check. The New Lines, check. (Original openers Beige andMosaics were replaced last minute by Beach Fossils side projectHeavenly Beat, but could have easily fit into a department storeotherwise).
Luckily for my bank account, it was theformer. I missed Heavenly Beat although heard from a photographer Istruck up a conversation with that his set was pretty befuddling. Actually, I think the term autistic might have been used, but I feelremiss to pass judgement on an act I didn’t actually catch. I mademy way toward the stage just as New Lines were setting up.
The three members of The New Lines had this adorably quirky indie rock band circa 1995 look, like they’d be scratching their feet in the dirt all sheepish-like if they hadn’t been playing a show. Unfortunately, that’s probably what they went and did after a set besieged by technical difficulties. It seems strange to say of something “It was so loud I couldn’t hear it” but that’s the sort of effect the mixing had – it seemed like every other thing was drowning the vocals, but I couldn’t tell specifically what needed turning down. Surely one guitar, or even the keyboard, couldn’t be obliterating my ear drums. Then they asked for “less iPod” followed by “less backing track” followed by some other way of saying “we don’t have a bassist, so we need to play our songs over another part of the same song that we already recorded” and I suddenly understood. After a false start, the band stopped playing their last track halfway through a second attempt and left the stage. Even so, I wanted to hug them and tell them not to give up; I could tell that given a proper opportunity to listen to their poppy, psych-influenced songs I might fall madly in love with them. Luckily, they have a bandcamp and the only thing missing there is the trippy projections that swirled behind them as they performed.
Misty Mary on the keys
After the longest equipment change of alltime, the Cosmetics frontwoman explained “We got caught in asnowstorm on the way here.” I was not sure if she meant from thebar to the stage or what, as it had been sixty degrees (!) in NYCjust hours earlier. The songstress was lovely to behold and had anice voice, while her equally attractive male compatriot backed her up on no less than three mini-synths. The overall effect was a semi-sluggishbrand of electroclash but I think given time to develop and expand ontheir sound this could be a really fun band to see again. They havetwo seven inches out on Captured Tracks (which you can listen to at bandcamp) and it will be interesting to see if they are able to movepast their sweet tooth for Glassy Candy.
Patrick tunes his bass
Blouse took the stage just aftermidnight. Leading lady Charlie Hilton repped the band name in aflowing garment, cuffed at midwrist and layered over tan short shortsworn with sheer tights and tall black wedge booties. I don’t know ifthat is relevant to anything, but it seems when you’ve named yourband after the fanciest of shirts that it might matter just a little. According to Patrick Adams’ cool haircut it matters. Misty Mary(likely not her real name) tapping her toes clad in ripped pantyhoseindicates that it matters. Everything about drummer Paul Roper saysit matters – from the suspenders to the Elvis Costello frames,partially shaved head to the vintage tee.
What definitely matters is that Blouselived up to the hype that’s surrounded their self-titled release, out last November on Captured Tracks. The set was blissed-out and dreamy, yet retained the signature new-wave throwback sound that has garnered so much buzz for Blouse.  Ms. Hilton’s emotive crooning made me feel like the onlyperson bopping around in the cavernous, graffittied space. Her limitedbanter was sweet and humble. But for one song, the set was comprised entirely of material from the record, and the live renditions were flawless.  They closedwith heavy-hitter “Into Black” before politely ducking offstage. You can watch my video of “They Always Fly Away” below.