Dream Pop Trio Dianas Let Elegant Harmonies Shine on Third LP Little Glimmer

Photo Credit: Nicole Reed

Melbourne-based Dianas began as a drunken conversation between friends Caitlin Moloney, Nathalie Pavlovic and Anetta Nevin in a Perth sharehouse, and from that wine-soaked beginning, complete with heartbreak and stolen gear, they’ve collected their individual and shared stories onto Little Glimmer, released November 26 via Heavy Machinery Records and Blossom Rot Records. The album is a tighter, more elegant evolution in their sound, though its hallmarks – their sophisticated, tearjerker harmonies – remain central to their phonic personality.

“As self-taught musicians, we sort of learned together and helped each other to learn, so our skill level has gotten better over the years,” says bassist Pavlovic. “I feel like with this album I don’t feel pressure to show off too much. There’s more of a refinement, I think.”

Nearly ten years ago, the trio took their DIY attitude, newly-learned instrumental skills, and a bunch of sketchy pop-rock songs to the world on EP #01. That 2013 release, in its endearing lack of polished sterility, drew the attention of local radio and Perth fans. EP #02 in 2014 cemented their popularity and sold-out headline shows ensued.

The super straight-forward album titles were not a middle finger to the industry, claims Pavlovic. “We are notoriously bad at naming things, so it was just laziness,” she says with a laugh. One particular track on EP #02 was proving a challenge to title. “Caitlin was like, if you don’t name it in five seconds, we’re calling it ‘Dicks!’ We ended up naming it ‘Dix,’ so it’s fine.”

Their debut self-titled album of 2015 is all shoegaze melodies, post-punk noodling, echoey guitar and feline, dreamily sweet layered harmonies. “Of A Time” and “1000 Years” epitomise their lo-fi charm, while “I’m With You” trails over a rambling piano journey into blush pink clouds.

Baby Baby, their second album, came out in May last year, mere months into Melbourne’s on-off lockdown scenario. It is jagged and fuzzy around the edges, but it sways and dances with melodic ease. Somewhere between wakefulness and dreams, their sound borders that lucid, transient state. Insistent, upward spiralling guitar punctures through swirling melody on “Weather Girl,” while distorted, menacing snarls of guitar build into a fearful hail of harmonised voices crying “Real Love!” just three tracks later.

There’s been a shift in energy on Little Glimmer. The drums barrel, their voices sound more resolute, and the overall sense is that their range has stretched. While the core of their band will always be the pillar of friendship, it feels like they’ve strayed beyond the confines of past albums and EPs, even just vocally. It is the sort of confidence that comes from working with people who have your back.

“We’ve been friends for twelve years and it’s definitely gone into that sister-friendship,” Pavlovic says. “We don’t bicker or anything, but we don’t have to talk a lot. We get a bit annoyed with each other but it’s never a real annoyance. It passes pretty instantly, then we move onto the next thing. I have no doubt in my mind that [we] will always be friends. We have a weird bond, but it’s a bond nonetheless. We can go a long time without speaking, but we’ll always be playing music together as well.”

“Maybe it’s just that we met at the right time of our lives, that special time when you’re 19…” Pavlovic adds. “It feels like so long ago… like a whole other life. It was definitely a twist of fate moving in together.”

Pavlovic turned 30 during the pandemic. It wasn’t the flashy, big party she’d envisioned but she reflects that she’s happy about where she’s at. Perhaps the invitation to make an album with generous funding was better than a party; the band was contacted by the organisers of State Government and City of Melbourne funding initiative Flash Forward at the beginning of 2021, which ultimately brought Little Glimmer into focus.

“It was an amazing opportunity but the catch was that we had to do it really quickly,” Pavlovic reveals. “We had about six songs ready to go – we were planning on just doing an EP and calling it Little Sixer… [but we figured] we’ve got the support behind us, we may as well just go in and try to do an album, just really push ourselves because we usually take ages to do stuff. It was five years between our last two.”

They took a pragmatic attitude, drawing up a schedule and heading off to James Cecil’s Super Melody World studio in the Macedon Ranges, in regional Victoria (Cecil is on a roll, having just hosted Georgia State Line, too). Fortunately, between Melbourne lockdowns, they’d been able to get together and demo the songs so that they knew the direction of the album before arriving in studio.

“We planned to do it all in one sitting, but then we blew up the amp on the third day. So we had to break it up into two little lots with a little break in between,” Pavlovic says, noting that overall, recording took just under a week – longer than they’d planned, but not by much.

Pavlovic does sound production on the side, and had recorded and mixed Baby Baby, so studying Cecil at work on Little Glimmer was of personal interest for her. She immediately recognised their very different approach. “He found some really cool sounds, especially in the mixing,” she says. “I wish I could have watched him mix, because it did sound good when we were recording but when it was mixed it was really, really great.”

One song proved to be a challenge to wield into a human-sized song.

“’One and Only’ was really hard…we knew it needed a funky bassline, for want of a better word, but it just kept sounding really epic,” Pavlovic remembers. “The lyrics are quite emotional and quite hard hitting, so we needed to keep it light with the music so it didn’t sound like a real big, epic score of a movie: really devastating, you know? The bass made it a lot better… finding that right combination of three different types of keyboards – a vibraphone, some organ – that combination made it sound less epic than just the piano, which was the original plan.”

The original six tracks have blossomed into eleven and there’s no “Dix,” no indication an amp exploded and no cinematic excursions into the ethereal. It’s a definitive, distinguished Dianas album.

“We put so much time and effort into creating the album. It all happened so quickly, I can’t believe it’s out,” Pavlovic admits. “That’s a little bit overwhelming!”

Follow Dianas on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Darity Restores Hope for 2021 with “Everything”

Darity Everything
Darity Everything
Photo Credit: China Martin

Cincinnati singer/songwriter Linsley Hartenstein, who performs under the moniker Darity, started 2021 on a hopeful note with the release of a new single, “Everything.” The dreampop ballad seems to speak directly to the anxieties of 2020 while offering a soothing optimism as we look onward to the new year. Though it was written during a challenging period in Hartenstein’s life, she reveals that “Everything” has been brewing for a much longer time.

“While the end result is beautiful and encouraging, the writing process of this song was really long,” she tells Audiofemme. “I started writing it while on tour in 2017. Touring is one of my favorite things to do of all time, but this tour specifically revealed how poor my mental health was.”

Struggling with the uphill process of growing an independent band, Hartenstein says she spent the entire tour journaling reasons why she doubted her abilities and her worth. “All the while, I had the chorus to ‘Everything’ stuck in my head,” she says. “It was incredibly frustrating because it felt like a song I couldn’t honestly write because I didn’t believe that I have everything I need. So, I didn’t write it. It just sat in the back of my mind. I would sing it in my room and sing the verses about whatever I was currently feeling down about. It was like the never-ending song.”

After seeking therapy, Darity began playing “Everything” for live audiences. Her friend Alex Alex Hirlinger heard the song and wanted to help her finally record it. “I decided to finish the lyrics and have Alex produce the track because he liked the song and is crazy talented,” she says. “I figured that I’m also probably not the only person that needs space to acknowledge that life gives us so much evidence to not pursue health and what we love, but someday when the fog clears, we will be able to see that everything we have is enough.” 

The single is more pop-leaning than most of Darity’s debut album Bitterroot, which compiled singles five previously released singles with four newer songs. She says it also stands out from her previous releases because of its vulnerable lyrics. “I felt like I was fighting myself a little bit [while recording it,] like, ‘Can you say you have everything you need when you haven’t arrived yet?’” she reflects. “After it’s all said and done, though, I believe I don’t have to have everything figured out to believe in myself.”

The song bears the reminder that even when we’re faced with feelings of self-doubt, the tools for happiness and health are still within reach – sometimes we just need a little patience. “Real healing always takes longer than we would prefer,” Hartenstein says.

“While ‘Everything’ isn’t specifically a song about COVID and all that’s going on in the world, it’s where we are all at,” she says. “The song coincidentally has a lot of relevant imagery, so I wanted to be intentional with the release. I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that this next year and the years to come will probably still be hard, but we can still have hope.”

Darity’s next single will arrive February 19. Until then, Hartenstein hopes that no matter what emotions it awakens, “Everything” will provoke mindfulness. “If this song pisses you off; cool, why? If this song brings you joy; amazing, sit in that. If this song does nothing for you, notice that. I hope [this song] finds people exactly where they are,” she says. “No one is alone in working through believing that we have everything we need.”

Follow Darity on Instagram for ongoing updates. 

Samantha Tieger Illuminates the Power of Human Connection with Premiere of “You Light Me Up”

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

Samantha Tieger has two passions in life: music and language. “I really have this strong desire to connect with other people, whether it’s through language or music,” the Cincinnati-born, now Nashville-based singer professes.

She marries these two passions on her debut self-titled EP – particularly on poignant closing number, “You Light Me Up,” premiering exclusively with Audiofemme. Tieger has established a self-described “chill pop” sound: cinematic violin and piano layered over soft vocals that evoke a dreamlike feeling, capturing the sense of peace Tieger felt in the relationship that inspired the lyrics. “You light me up with your love,” Tieger sings, comparing that feeling to walking on air and brightening up the night. “I think it can be so easy to write about heartache and the negatives in a relationship, and for me, writing is such a good way to work through all of that,” she explains. “In this song, I really wanted to focus on positive elements of a relationship and I wanted the production and the vocal elements to reflect comfort and peace and joy.”

Tieger drew inspiration from the “good parts” of a previous relationship that were as sweet and simple as watching TV and cooking dinner together. When writing the gentle number with Ed O’Donnell, Tieger had a specific idea in mind of wanting the listener to feel as if a weight had been lifted off one’s shoulders. “I wanted the song to be like a sigh of relief and a breath of fresh air of ‘now I feel okay at the end of the day because of you,’” she describes. “You Light Me Up” is the light at the end of an EP that was born out of a series of emotional experiences Tieger endured through past relationships and breakups. “Close My Eyes” is particularly relevant, as Tieger wrote it about feeling distanced from her friends and family a year before the COVID-19 pandemic kept the world six feet apart.

At that time, writing the EP was simply about Tieger processing complex emotions. “I think it’s easier for me to close the book on certain chapters in my life after I’ve written about them. I feel really frustrated and sad about certain things and once I’ve written it down, I can move on,” she says. “To hear a song come to life that I wrote about an experience that was so emotional for me to go through, hearing the music come together, it’s thrilling and emotional at the same time.”

The EP is a reflection of Tieger being a lifelong learner of music and language. She grew up studying Spanish, French and Latin around the same time she had a budding interest in music. She later pursued a degree in Romance Studies at Duke University, her language studies taking her to immersion programs around the world in such countries as Spain, Argentina and Costa Rica. “Somebody recently said ‘you just have this strong desire to connect,’ and I think language is such a key to connection and music is a key to connection,” Tieger analyzes. The singer at one time was writing music in Spanish and French, a skill she hopes to resume in the form of cover songs in foreign languages.

It’s through the relationship between music and language that Tieger learned how to communicate her emotions, a gift she combines with her global perspective and transcendental sound that’s bound to leave a distinct mark on the Nashville scene. “Music really became a way for me to understand my thoughts and feelings and what I was going through,” she asserts. “Life’s too short to not tell people how you really feel.”

Samantha Tieger’s self-titled EP is available everywhere September 4. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Lauren Lakis Spreads Optimism With “We’ll Be Fine” Video

Shoegaze/dream-pop artist Lauren Lakis originally wrote her latest single, “We’ll Be Fine,” about an imagined future breakup with someone she was dating at the time. “I was just trying to convey that no matter what happens between us, we’ll still be friends and it’s all good because there’s so much love between us,” she explains. As it turns out, they did break up and they did remain friends, so the message of the song proved true. But in the apocalyptic COVID-era world, the song, like many works of art, came to take on a whole new meaning. During a time when everyone is wondering what life will look like on the other side of the pandemic, the song offers a reassuring answer, wrapped in calming waves of reverb and cascading vocals.

Lakis hopes the song teaches listeners that “it’s okay to work through the shadow self,” she explains. “It’s just kind of all a part of life — we all have to experience yin and yang. And sometimes, when we’re going through hard times or difficult times or scary times — actually, usually when we’re going through those things — it’s only going to elicit a transformation within us.”

The progression of the song itself embodies the concept of transformation. Lakis wrote the beginning and ending of “We’ll Be Fine” at two different times, and that shows in its varying melodies, paces, and instrumentals.

The track starts off slow and contemplative, a wash of cymbals accompanying a drawn-out, echoey vocal, but picks up as Lakis almost shouts the next verse: “See you walking on the water/Praying for a miracle now /Won’t you fuck it up, suck it up, Do, you got your miracle now?/See the man in the moon?/The man in the moon is you.” Lakis never sings repeated lyrics the same way twice, stretching her witchy intonations over crashing drums as though willing the positive outcome she promises.

The video for the single paints a mystical scene, with celestial-looking light shining down on Lakis as she wanders across a bridge, runs through a forest, and picks flowers in a fairy-like blue dress. Impressively, it was filmed while Lakis was sick with an illness she thinks might have been COVID. She was quarantined with her producer in Portland, so they decided to film it in the woods nearby.

“It kind of felt like more than being trapped in the house — I felt trapped inside my own head and trapped with recurrent thoughts and my own habitual behavior,” she says. “Being in the woods was symbolic of being trapped inside one’s own head. I felt like I was running from myself. At the end of the video, I was running through the woods and I was out on the street, and it was at the end of the quarantine life, like a ghost town, emerging from the depths of one’s own mind to society, but society isn’t even there.”

The single encapsulates a more standard indie rock aesthetic than much of Lakis’s past work, with reverb-laden vocals and guitars in the vein of Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes. “I wanted it to feel big and swirly,” she says. “I wanted to go for a really energetic and powerful vibe. I wanted it to elicit chills if possible, but in a good way. I just wanted it to be hopeful, something you could belt out on a road trip while going through a breakup or whatever.”

Her upcoming album, Daughter Language, contains a mix of this style and a heavier rock, almost doom-gaze sound, with prominent drums and baritone tracks. It was recorded at LA’s Seahorse Sound Studios, where there are microphones going up three stories, creating reverberation off the walls, which allowed for a big drum sound on the album.

Each of Lakis’s releases thus far have offered up a distinctly different aesthetic. Her last full-length album, 2018’s Ferocious, had more of a dark ’80s punk sound, while last year’s Sad Girl Breakfast EP gives off a chill electronic vibe reminiscent of Phantogram. She sees Daughter Language as tying these two styles together. “It kind of traverses different vibes much more so than the other two records, and it’s a little more all-encompassing,” she says.

Thematically, Daughter Sound deals with healing various wounds from Lakis’s childhood. “Fear of God” reflects on her experiences in Catholic school, and in “Sail Away,” she talks to her inner child, expressing the wish to protect the little girl still living inside of her. “All of these things that happen in our childhood become imprinted,” she says. “We don’t even realize that maybe those things are calling the shots in our relationships and the things we’re drawn to. I think so much of that happens during these years, where we’re just not even aware of how much is entering our brains.”

Currently residing in LA, Lakis is not just a musician but also an actor who’s appeared on a number of movies and TV shows including Big Little Lies and Homecoming. She’s been playing guitar since high school but first got into music professionally when an actor friend of hers invited her to audition to sing in his band, indie grunge-rock group Hobart W Fink, in 2013. She did that for three years, then made the leap into solo artistry in 2016, after her favorite female artists’ music helped her through a series of hardships.

Most recently during the quarantine, she’s been making new music that she describes as somber, slightly depressing shoe-gaze. “I’ve always kind of walked the line between completely hopeless and depressed, but optimistic at the same time,” she says.

Follow Lauren Lakis on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Cate Von Csoke Celebrates Beauty and Danger With “Dream Around”

Photo Credit: Emma Kepley

Desert sun stretching over miles and miles of open space, not a soul in sight. With COVID-19 on the mind, it’s imagery that might conjure up thoughts of Mad Max or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But when Australian-native, Brooklyn-based songwriter Cate Von Csoke wrote her new single “Dream Around,” she didn’t have apocalyptic visions in mind. The single is a hazy, psychedelic interlude that conjures up visions of lovers entwined in the back seat of a car; the rest of the journey on hold for a moment.

“There’s a look in your eyes tonight / And it’s written all over your smile / I’ve been walking on dandelions / All I wanna do is dream around,” Von Csoke’s voice echos pleasantly. The repetition and reverb of traditional psych music are alive and well within the track, but there’s a refreshing subtlety in Von Csoke’s approach that reveals itself upon a repeat listens. Her upcoming LP Almoon, due out June 5th, is billed as a journey in “western noir.” Von Csoke, the desert’s answer to Lana Del Rey, dressed in all white, is delightfully mercurial in her promo pictures. The style is familiar, the music nostalgic, a much-needed dalliance with a simpler time.

Listen to AudioFemme’s exclusive stream of “Dream Around” and read our full interview with Cate Von Coske below.

AF: You’re originally from Australia and you currently live in Brooklyn. Would you say your sound is mostly influenced by your home country?

CVC: The desertscapes of both the US and Australia as well as the urban landscape of New York are all constant influences on my sound. However, I believe even if you aren’t mindful of a particular landscape or experience, you are taking it all in with the chance these moments will reappear in a dream or a sound unknowingly.

AF: When did you start writing music? And what was the first song you wrote that made you go: Okay, I should really do this?

CVC: I grew up in a family of musicians so it’s hard to recall a time when we weren’t “writing.” The first song I can clearly remember (perhaps because I sang it on the bus as a painfully shy 11-year-old) was coincidentally called “Dreams Come True.” Writing has always been a means of escapism and feels more like a necessity than a desire to achieve something. Moving to New York was certainly pivotal though and is an amazing source of inspiration and a place where dreams really do come true.

AF: You worked with Jared Artaud of The Vacant Lots and Grammy award-winner Ted Young on your upcoming album ​Almoon​. What was the recording process like?

CVC: I met Jared at a Slowdive show in New York and then played a show at a night he curates in New York called Damage Control. After the show he told me he would produce my album. Ted Young was there too and offered to engineer. They have worked on all The Vacant Lots albums together over the years as well as with many musical greats individually. All that experience and the relationship between them is extremely evident and valuable. We recorded at Sonic Youth Studio and were blessed to have Steve Shelley on drums and percussion. It was an incredibly inspiring experience and I believe we created something beautifully unique.

AF: Tell us about “Dream Around” – did this song start with a lyric, a memory, a place in your mind?

CVC: “Dream Around” is a celebration of the beauty and danger of dreams. It began with the line “I’ve been walking on dandelions…” romantic or crushing.

AF: The video for your debut single “Coyote Cry” was super dreamy. Do you spend a good amount of time curating a look to go along with your sound?

CVC: Thank you. I was fortunate to work with two dear friends, Nicole Steriovski and Jenna Saraco of Either And Studio on the music video. Their work embraces a subconscious reveal, the line between fiction and reality often blurred and up for interpretation. The aesthetic is genuine to an aspect of who I am as a person. We all play many characters in our lives, but the mysterious has always been something I’m attracted to as I’m often accused of being “off with the spirits.”

AF: In a few short words, tell us what we can expect from the album.

CVC: Almoon is a psychedelic, minimal-for-maximum effect eight-track offering of introspective anti-love songs, anchored by dark, hypnotic vocals and intriguing lyricism t​o not reveal, but hint at, the beauty and secrets of life.

Follow Cate Von Csoke on Facebook for ongoing updates. 

PLAYING SEATTLE: Tomo Nakayama Finds Rebirth in Dream Pop with “Melonday”

For more than a decade, songwriter Tomo Nakayama has been a staple of the Seattle music scene—first as leader of the eight-piece chamber pop group Grand Hallway, and more recently as a solo artist known for his tender and nuanced indie folk.

But, after a prolonged period of feeling uninspired over the last couple years, Nakayama decided it was time he shake things up a bit for himself and his listeners. The result is the the newly-released, revelatory pop album, Melonday, his first collaboration with childhood friend Yuuki Matthews of The Shins, and a significant stylistic pivot for Nakayama, emphasizing simmering synth loops and a glossy dream-pop vibe a la Beach House, Matt & Kim, and Wild Nothing.

Beyond achieving a different sonic quality than albums past, the 8-track Melonday has an undeniable sense of  renewal and celebration about it—as Nakayama rediscovers inspiration, emotional truth, spontaneity and lightness through the songwriting process. By sheer coincidence of timing, this also lends Melonday a tremendous resonance and the ability to uplift a shaken world during the current pandemic.

In short, Melonday comes just in time.

Nakayama took some time to speak with Audiofemme about the personal impact of his new sonic direction, his childhood friendship with Yuuki Matthews, and the unexpected gift of releasing this album during the pandemic.

AF: The new album is definitely a diversion from the pared-down folk songwriting you typically do, and I’m wondering what inspired you to go a new direction? 

TN: I think ever since I stopped playing and touring with Grand Hallway, which was a big eight-piece band, I’ve been scaling things down musically and focusing on becoming a better solo performer. But at a certain point that approach peaked, and I could feel myself becoming complacent and uninspired. At the same time I was listening to a lot of pop music for my side job scoring music for TV and commercials, and while I loved a lot of the production and textures I was hearing, I noticed a lot of modern songwriting leaning more and more on linear, loop based structures that have no discernible hook or personality, which was very different from the new wave/dance pop music I loved growing up. So I wanted to take what I learned over the years as a songwriter and apply it to this genre, to see what I could add to the conversation and make it more interesting.

AF: I read that you were feeling a creative block. Do you remember the moment you finally felt “unblocked”? Can you describe it and where you were in the making of the new album?

TN: It was when I decided to put vocals over the instrumental for “Get to Know You,” which is the first song on the album and the first song we recorded. I improvised the melody and the words on the spot, and the whole thing more or less kind of tumbled out in one take. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d made or what I was going to do with it, but I just knew that I really liked listening to it. So we kept going from there.

AF: Once you figured out your new direction, did you have some artists you were using as key inspirations to this new sound?

TN: Honestly, I didn’t really have a specific sound or artist in mind. I think my brain just kind of categorizes anything with a synth and drum machine as “pop,” so I was just accessing the general feeling that that music evokes in my head. Like, the feeling of singing karaoke with my friends, how the melody and structure just flows so joyfully and effortlessly. And all my favorite pop singers tend to be women – Robyn, Björk, Taylor Swift, Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper – so lyrically, I found myself approaching it from a more feminine perspective, more emotionally expressive and more willing to be vulnerable, maybe. 

AF: Tell me about your relationship with Yuuki Matthews. How did you meet and what did he bring to this new album that was vital to the final product?

TN: I’ve known Yuuki for years. We actually went to the same middle school together and grew up going to the same all ages punk shows on the east side. I’d followed his work closely, playing with Pedro the Lion and Sufjan Stevens, to his current gig playing and producing The Shins, but we’d never collaborated until he helped me mix my first solo album Fog on the Lens. We really hit it off right away, I think because we’re both self-taught, have similar backgrounds being Asian American suburban kids playing indie rock, and we have a similar DIY approach to recording and writing. He’d also been working closely with Richard Swift during this time in their project Teardrops, so I feel like a lot of his intuitive production techniques and anything goes approach to music rubbed off on our project by osmosis. Yuuki helped me shape these songs and really level it up to a whole new realm. He really encouraged me to keep working on this thing, not just as a genre experiment or songwriting exercise but to embrace it fully and make it part of my musical identity. On a deeper level the recording process was also kind of a therapy for both of us because we were both going through intense experiences of grief and loss. Each day we’d work for a few hours and then go get lunch and talk about our families and friends and being a musician and balancing that with our personal lives. 

AF: What’s the story or meaning behind the title, Melonday

TN: I’d initially toyed around with releasing this under a different name, and Melonday was going to be the name of our band. But starting a band from scratch is a super difficult thing to do these days, and all the advice I got from people at labels and other musicians encouraged me to release it under my own name. I was thinking specifically of the Japanese custom of gifting melons, which are sold at gift shops in these really fancy boxes for like $200 or more. The idea of taking an ordinary, organic object like a melon and dressing it up differently and thus changing its perceived value made me laugh, and I thought it was kind of fitting for a pop record. I also just really liked how the word looks and sounds kind of like “melody” or “Monday” – it’s simple and evocative.

AF: I know you’re going through a personal hardship right now, and like much of your music, I sense that this album was vital to finally coming to terms with it. Would you say that’s true? Does playing and writing music typically help you process the hard stuff?

TN: I often say the songwriter is the last one to understand what a song is really about. The interesting challenge I found with these upbeat, highly rhythmic songs is that there are a lot of syllables you have to fill, so I found myself writing without analyzing the words. And doing that kind of freewriting led to a lot of conflicting, contradictory emotions that I’d normally have edited or smoothed out. And this process ended up tapping into my subconscious and revealing a lot of feelings I’d suppressed in my personal life. It’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon looks at a painting that Robin Williams has hanging in his office, and the therapist says “It’s paint by numbers,” and Will replies “Yeah? Is it also color by numbers?” and immediately identifies the torment in the guy’s life from his color palette. Art is such an interesting, revealing thing. It never lies.

AF: This album is so many things, but it is also unabashedly poppy and exceedingly radio-friendly. I love that aspect of the album, but I also know some artists look at “pop” as a dirty word. Was there a worry for you in going in more a pop music direction?

TN: One thing I knew going in was that I didn’t want to approach the “pop” genre cynically or from an ironic distance. If I’m going to do something I’m gonna fully embrace it and go all the way, which I think we did with this album. I did worry a bit about alienating my fans, the people who liked the quiet acoustic songs (which I still love as well). To me, this album isn’t a cash grab or a calculated ploy for a bigger audience. I did it because it was fun and exciting to me. Mostly I didn’t want to disappoint anybody or let them down. But I knew this is just where my heart was at this specific moment in time, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of creating something else just for the sake of pleasing someone else’s idea of who I am. At the end of the day, you really have no control about how your work is perceived or received anyway. My only duty as an artist is to be honest, and do what interests and inspires me, you know what I mean? And so far the reception has been super positive, which makes me very happy!

AF: Did you record this yourself? It’s so well-engineered.

TN: Yes, I did all of the initial tracking at home on Logic using their basic plugins. I used a drum machine app on my iPhone for all the beats. Yuuki transferred those files onto ProTools and then we overdubbed a bunch of parts at his house. Sometimes he would just listen to the ideas of the song and then strip it down to just the vocals, and we’d rearrange and replace all of my instruments, chop up the beats and form a whole new backing track. “Free to Go,” for instance, originally had more of a Hall and Oates sort of bounce, and Yuuki broke it down into this slower half-time groove, making it more of a hip hop beat. It was a super fun, easy process of collaboration. 

AF: What has it been like to release a new album during the pandemic? Have you been required to get more creative in how you promote it? I see you doing lots of small, FB live performances and you’ve got a virtual release show with Night Tapes coming. Tell me about those, too?

TN: Obviously it wasn’t my dream to release a dance album in the middle of a global pandemic, but in a way it has been a sort of blessing. I’m glad I’ve had something I could share with people that could help raise their spirits. I had an “album release show” at my house a couple weeks ago when the album came out and it was really cool to see so many people watching at the same time and chatting with each other. It really did feel like a communal event. I think it’s super important to stay physically active while we’re sheltered at home, so I’m hoping this music can be a soundtrack for people’s home dance parties. I’ll be playing a few other livestream events in the coming weeks, which people can follow on my Facebook and Instagram. The 4/30 show with Night Tapes was the original album release show at the Sunset that we had planned. It has been postponed indefinitely.

AF: The reception to this new album has been really great so far—#1 on KEXP, etc. How does that feel? Validating? Confusing? 

TN: A lot of the songs on the album are about finding true human connections in the modern world, and I think the current state has put a new context to that message, and I’m glad to see it seems to be resonating with so many people. KEXP and The End and other local stations and publications and all my friends and family have all been super supportive. I’ve been blown away by the love, and I am super grateful to them. It feels amazing and also not quite real because I haven’t been able to perform these songs live in front of people. I can’t wait until we can do that again. 

AF: What are some goals for yourself in the next year or so?

TN: My immediate goal is to stay healthy as I can and make sure my parents and family are healthy as well. That’s the only thing that matters to me at this point. Obviously it’s going to take a while for everyone to recover from this, and I want to do whatever I can help out in my community. Other than that, I’m just going to keep making music and going wherever my heart takes me. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Follow Tomo Nakayama on Facebook for ongoing updates.

San Mei Premieres Dreamy Title Track from Cry EP

Photo Credit: Joshua Bilhan

It’s no doubt that up-and-coming artists can struggle to find their footing or assert their identity in an increasingly crowded music industry. For Emily Hamilton, an Australian singer-songwriter from Gold Coast who releases music under the name San Mei, that journey has been, at times, frustratingly slow. But with her forthcoming EP Cry (out March 20 via Sydney’s etcetc Records), San Mei set out to vent those frustrations, resulting in some of her most personal and relatable songwriting yet. Finally settling squarely on a dream pop indebted sound, Cry sees Hamilton coming into her own as a musician and producer, and with her unparalleled work ethic, there’s not much to get in her way.

Except a global health crisis. When I spoke with Hamilton on the phone, she had just arrived in Austin, Texas. Having played nine shows there at last year’s South by Southwest around the release of her second EP Heaven, Hamilton and her three bandmates had high hopes for the live debut of Cry. When SXSW was cancelled due to the coronavirus threat, they decided to go anyway and play whatever unofficial showcases were left, as they’d already invested quite a bit of their own money to come. But by the time they’d landed, those showcases we cancelled, too, with only virtual showcases in the works. Now, she’s looking at it as a much-needed vacation for the band.

Last year, San Mei played more than 45 shows, mostly in Australia, supporting touring bands like Ali Barter, Jack River, G. Flip, and K. Flay on weekend jaunts. “It feels like it was every weekend. It probably wasn’t but touring can get really tiring,” says Hamilton. “It just reiterated to me that it’s all about working hard if you wanna do well in music.” In some respects, she says, it made her question if this was the work she wanted to be doing. “Even energy-wise, I was like, I’m exhausted. I dunno how people who are in really successful bands just constantly tour. So what I got out of that was just like, this is a huge part of making music, and do I want to keep doing that, and the answer was yes.”

Those feelings of physical fatigue, feeling constant pressure to succeed, and feeling so far from her career goals were Hamilton’s biggest inspirations on Cry, most of which was written as she reflected on her accomplishments at the end of last year. An early single, “Hard To Face,” voices those frustrations most succinctly: “I know that time can be cruel when it’s wasted/But I know that if you run to the prize you can make it to the end/Running out of time, am I losing my mind?/Running for my life, why can’t I get peace of mind?/ Does it get better?” While supporting bigger artists on tour was an “amazing” experience for Hamilton, she said she found herself comparing their successes to her own trajectory and feeling inadequate, and eventually, she just had to get those feelings out.

“I’m usually a bit more private and careful about what I write, but I just had to say it,” Hamilton says. “It’s actually been a good challenge for me to be more vulnerable in my lyrics. I always have tried to be a bit more cryptic. I’m kind of at the stage where I just want to say what I mean and for it to obvious so people can be like, oh, I feel that too. So that’s where those songs came from.”

Elsewhere on the EP, Hamilton gets personal about hiding her faith (“Love in the Dark“) and also takes time to enjoy the company of others (“Cherry Days,” which Hamilton self-produced). But the title track, premiering exclusively on Audiofemme, differs in that it’s almost a mantra, a reminder that these moments – whether frustrating or exhilarating – will pass by in a flash, and sometimes it’s better to live in them and learn from them than let them slip away.

“You’re wishing all your time away/You wanna feel something else/Do you have enough to give away?” she asks; though her questions are addressed to another person, they could just as easily be the voice in her own head. Luckily, that voice reminds her “It shouldn’t make you feel so bad/You only have one heart to break/Keep it whole.”

“Cry” is an uplifting centerpiece for the EP, one on which Hamilton solidifies her sound squarely in the realm of dream pop. She says she was inspired initially by Lykke Li and Grimes, but also classic shoegaze artists like Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. “[That music] really resonated with me and it feels natural to me to write that way; I guess it wasn’t so much of a ‘oh, I wanna sound like that’ – it was more ‘oh, I connect with that, and that sounds like what comes out of me naturally, too.’”

Still, San Mei’s music never loses its pop grounding – Hamilton’s voice is clear and emotive, its breathlessness almost communicating the kind of whirlwind that the project has been caught up in. And that’s intentional – now more than ever, San Mei wants to connect with her audience on a personal level. “I’ve been very private, and now I want people to know my personality, know who I am now, what my message is,” Hamilton says. “It’s not just about me – if they can connect with who I am as a person then they can relate to those songs and not feel alone. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to work on at the moment; I hope that these songs can help other people too.”

San Mei’s Cry EP is out March 20th. Follow the band on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PLAYING ATLANTA: password:password Discuss New Singles and Dream Pop Vibes

We’ve really got it all here in Atlanta: rock ‘n roll, pop, R&B, soul, and – with the resurgence of the indie scene – some of the best shoegaze-y dream pop a music lover could want. Atlanta-based, Georgia Tech-born quintet password:password is at the helm of the movement.

Fronted by lead singer Claire Lacombe and backed by Chris Mickas on guitar, Heath Murphy on synth, guitarist Jed Paz, and bassist, Merritt Treaster, the group takes DIY to the next level, writing, recording, and producing their own music, while blending the swirling, experimental sounds of My Bloody Valentine and Phoenix with classic synth-pop acts like Pet Shop Boys.

The band released their debut EP, Session Boyfriend, on Valentine’s Day. Just over four months later, they’re gearing up to put out a new single on June 28th, with a b-side that pays tribute to another local act. Check out our interview below to hear more about what they’ve been up to and how it all began.

AF: All five of you have been in bands before; how did password:password get started? 

We met while we were all students at Georgia Tech. We were each a part of the Musician’s Network there, which is a student organization that connects musicians at Tech and runs a student-run venue/practice space called Under The Couch. MN has a thing called New Band Showcase every fall, and in the fall of 2017, we got together to compete. A lot of us had been in bands together before (Merritt and Chris in Yes! Hornberger!, Jed, Merritt, and Chris in Priam, and Jed and Claire in Junior Prom), but for the 2017 showcase we decided to start a new project. 

AF: Which bands do you consider your greatest inspirations when writing and performing?

Shoegazey stuff like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, and My Bloody Valentine, newer indie pop like Alvvays, Japanese Breakfast, Beach House, M83, MGMT, Phoenix, and older synth-pop like Pet Shop Boys, Eurythmics, Nena, and all that. You can hear joy division in some of Merritt’s bass playing. There are some other pulls that we’ll make for little details and stuff, but those are probably the biggest influences.

AF: How did your sound develop as you began writing and playing together?

We actually set out to start a dream pop band from the beginning. All of us have an appreciation for sonic textures and a mutual love of bands that experiment with it. When the five of us got together to start creating our own music, those mutual influences came through. Also, having a dedicated synthesizer/keys player in the band ends up pushing the tone of the music in many different directions. Combine that with constant tinkering of effects pedals, and we end up where we are now. 

As far as the instrumental arrangements go, we all have an appreciation for simpler parts. Chris and Heath have jazz backgrounds, and we know a decent bit about music theory, but we try to convey that through atmospheric and interesting sounds rather than really technical pieces. 

AF: What’s your creative process like? Do you usually write together, or does one of you come in with a finished idea and jam it until it feels good? Has it changed over the years, as you’ve played together?

Most of the time one of us (usually Jed) comes to practice with an idea or a written demo, usually one that consists of one or two parts and possibly a melody. We play around with it for a bit to get a feel of where the song needs to go, and then a lot of the song’s progress comes from us working on it from home. Merritt has a knack for fleshing out what would otherwise be a boring midi demo, which really helps us get a feel for the potential of the song. We’ll send each other updates or additional parts and then come together at the next practice to try them out as a band. All of the lyrics and vocal melodies come from Claire, so after listening to the rest of the band playing around with the song structure, she’ll write the rest of the song on her own. It’s overall very collaborative and everyone kind of holds their own. 

AF: You’ve got some new tracks coming out soon! What can you tell us about them? What was the recording process like?

“Just Yours, Not Mine” is our first single written after our EP, Session Boyfriend. It’s the first time we’ve approached a song with a drum machine base, resulting in Jed playing guitar for this song. We’ve started to utilize backing drum tracks a lot more, but this is the first song we’ve written with it in mind since the start. Also! “Just Yours, Not Mine” includes a couple samples that come before each chorus. One is from our friend Dennis Frank when he performed his solo set at Under the Couch. The second is when Claire was testing out her digital recorder and caught Jed talking about how researching Buddhism helped his outlook on life. 

“Gold Room” is a song originally by our friends in The Organ Machines, who have graciously allowed us to perform and record the song. It’s probably our favorite song by them, and we hope that we do it justice!

We recorded both of the songs on our own at Standard Electric in East Atlanta. Merritt used to intern there and is close with the owners, so they let us rent the space to ourselves when we need to record. Merritt oversees the whole session, and we each come in, hang out, and record our parts. It’s really a great space with a lot of cool equipment, and we’re lucky to be able to use it. 

After all of the parts are recorded and tidied up a bit, we send the initial mixes off to our friend Cody Lavallee in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to mix and master them. Heath has known him since elementary school (they were in a band together in high school), so it’s a great set up to have him help produce the songs. He did both Session Boyfriend and the upcoming singles, although our first single [from the EP], “Thursday,” was mixed and mastered entirely by Merritt. 

AF:What inspired “Just Yours, Not Mine”? What made you decide to release it as a single?

We’ve been playing “Just Yours, Not Mine” at shows recently, and people have been super receptive to it. It has a strong energy. We really think the studio version will do that justice. 

JP: I had been playing around with the chord progression for the verse of “Just Yours, Not Mine” for a while before bringing it to the rest of the band, and at first I had planned for it to be a much more downtempo song. My main source of inspiration for the feeling behind the progression came from lo-fi hip-hop. I’m really glad it evolved past that though. I think what it became is a million times better than what I originally had in mind (which has been the case with all the ideas I’ve brought to the band so far).

CL: For lyrics, I liked the idea of an upbeat song with a sad story attached. It’s about feeling like you aren’t an individual once you’ve been in a relationship for so long, on top of feeling distanced from the other person in said relationship. It resolves with a repeating “don’t go,” because in the end, you are so dependent on this person it would be way worse off alone. 

AF: What do you consider to be the greatest challenge when it comes to writing, recording, and performing? The greatest victory for you as a band?

Making time for the five of us to get together is always a bit of a challenge. We also record all of our own music at Standard Electric Recorders, so acting as both the artist and the recording engineer typically leaves us pretty exhausted. Performing, practicing, and writing together is really enjoyable still. We’re all really close friends, so any time that we have to work on password:password stuff is pretty great.

AF: Claire, this one is specifically for you: can you talk about your experience as a woman in the music industry? Do you ever feel like you’ve got to “prove yourself” or work harder to be taken seriously? How do you use your platform to encourage more women and girls to be active members of the music industry?

CL: There have definitely been times where I am at a show and I look at the bill and am like, “Wow, I am the only woman performing tonight.” Especially coming from Georgia Tech, which is majority male anyway, I kind of got to expect that I was always going to be a minority. The issue of women in the scene is kind of a conundrum because women will be encouraged to join the scene when they see other women in the scene, but, like, there have to be women in the scene as an example first. Also I think that women have to be more original, talented, and have a better thought-out presence to make it big or do well in music, which can be discouraging. Like, why can’t I just be as good as everyone else? Why do I feel like I have to be better to make it the same distance?

I try to use what platform I have just to encourage women to jump in with no reservations. That’s what I really like about DIY shows; they are low pressure and you can really just mess around as much as you want. You don’t have to be this amazing new concept that’s going to “make it.” On that same note, you don’t have to be amazing at your instrument to contribute and play in band if you want, so for sure, learn a new instrument and experiment as much as you are comfortable with!

AF: This column is dedicated to Atlanta bands, so let’s talk about the industry in the city! It’s expanded rapidly in the last few years, and is continuing to grow. What’s your favorite aspect of being part of the Atlanta music scene?

The best part about the expanding indie scene in Atlanta is definitely the “expanding” part. Having new venues and bands pop up every year means there is so much opportunity to move up and get into the fold. Compared to what I’ve seen in other cities, it’s pretty good about including women and LGBTQ people, too. With Claire as a frontwoman, and Heath as nonbinary, it’s very nice to have other groups around and venues that are receptive of that. 

AF: What’s next for password:password?

We’re continuing to play shows around town over the summer. We’re also taking some time to focus on writing new songs. You should see some bigger releases from us somewhat soon™. 

AF: Last one! Best show you’ve ever seen in Atlanta?

JP: Definitely Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Jay Som at the Masquerade back in 2016. Looking back, it’s a dream bill of mine, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

HM: Oof, this was one that I arranged and password:password played at, but Couchella 2018 was so much fun. Superbody, Lunar Vacation, and Delorean Gray were major highlights. Seeing Kero Kero Bonito and Tanukichan at 529 was also a great one.

CL:Easy; Anarcticats’ album release show at Drunken Unicorn. Everyone was so hype, and they overpacked Drunken Unicorn by like 30 people. It’s really cool to see your friends so lifted up like that. 

CM: Julien Baker. I saw her a few days before her most recent album came out, and the crowd was almost silent when she was performing new songs because everybody wanted to hear every word she was singing. It felt very unique and intimate. 

MT: Tame Impala at the Tabernacle in 2013 for sure.

Dreaming of more? Follow password:password on Facebook and keep an eye out for more music coming soon.

LIVE REVIEW: Dead Leaf Echo @ Knitting Factory

There is no doubt about it – Brooklyn band Dead Leaf Echo’s brand new LP Beyond Desire is a fabulous stew of shoegaze, ’77 punk, pedals and reverb. Released late last week by PaperCup Music, the band’s sophomore album is expertly produced and mixed, resulting in a sonic meal you can really chew on. It was for this reason I was excited to attend their record release gig at Knitting Factory Brooklyn last Friday (the 13th, of course).

Opening band Parlor Walls – a local duo led by the charismatic Alyse Lamb – were a delight with their art rock set reminiscent of Talking Heads, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Slits. Lamb bounced around the stage in black sequin hot pants like a delinquent Rockette. The band’s most recent LP Opposites was released in March, 2017, and is certainly worth a listen. Glancing at their Bandcamp page, I notice a genre tag more relevant to their sound (and far catchier) than any I’ve mentioned or thought of: “trash jazz.” It’s just a shame it wouldn’t work as knuckle tats.

Dead Leaf Echo took the stage and plunged into their web of sound. Unfortunately, the mix for the evening was a bit murky, and it was difficult to distinguish front man LG’s 12-string guitar from Ana B’s six string riffs. This of course, was not the band’s fault, and is a frequent setback when playing New York’s smaller venues (and sometimes its bigger ones, too. See: Terminal 5).

As much as I enjoy their new record, Dead Leaf Echo’s stage presence left something to be desired on Friday night. Their performance seemed a bit stilted and self-important, which surprised me given the inherent silliness of their music videos. Then again, one less-than-rapturous gig doesn’t say anything about Dead Leaf Echo’s career as a whole, and it certainly doesn’t tarnish the fantastic collection of songs that is Beyond Desire.

ALBUM REVIEW: Alvvays, Antisocialites

If Alvvays’ eponymous first record articulated a quintessentially modern fear of commitment, then newly released follow-up Antisocialites captures the next logical step, which is an ambivalence about it.

The Toronto band gained momentum in 2014 with their self-titled debut, a nine-song batch of whimsical but sharp tracks that bemoaned romance as a twenty-something in the 2010’s, touching on all the hurdles we face from student loans to threatened personal ambition that comes with partnering up and settling down. In terms of lyricism, frontwoman Molly Rankin combined a wry sense of humor with the warmest sentiments to create songs that could tug on your heartstrings without making you roll your eyes, set against a backdrop of infectious dream pop. Antisocialites offers an aged version of this, matured by three years of life experience.

Lead single and first track “In Undertow” sets the tone for the record as older and more reserved. Frankly, this is a record about not giving a fuck anymore, or at least feigning that attitude. Rankin sings: “Can’t buy into astrology/Won’t rely on the moon for anything.” This is about guarding yourself with pragmatism, approaching life with the mindset of protecting yourself and your heart first before anything else. She lists off the things she does to fill the time now – “meditate, play solitaire, take up self defense” – literally all solitary activities, a means of reinforcing the wall you craft around yourself when something else falls apart.

Already, the sound on the record is dreamier and somehow more solemn than their scrappier, more guitar-driven songs like “Adult Diversion.” That vibe continues as the LP ventures into second track “Dreams Tonite,” alluding more to its slower, sadder tracks like “Red Planet” and “Party Police.” The record’s title is derived from its lyrics, again pointing back to the idea of closing oneself off to possibilities because the chance of gaining something is equal to or less than the fear of losing something greater. Rankin goes so far as to ask if she’s being naive, as if the idea of something working out it so unlikely that she’ll write it off as a failure before it even begins.

But while this guardedness can be dangerous in the sense of shutting oneself off to new possibilities, it can be a godsend in terms of self-sufficiency and demanding more. “Plimsoll Punks” retains the whimsy of the first record while drenching it in jadedness, a rejection of the type of people whose approval you used to crave. “Your Type” is about the refusal to put up with the sort of things you used to look past, about being so satisfied with your life as is that you won’t take someone else on just for the sake of someone else being there: “Let me state delicately that you’re an O and I’m an AB.”

This culminates on arguably the best track on the record, “Not My Baby,” in the sense that it balances the positive attitude towards newfound solitude with a heady dose of realism, the sadness of being alone when you know what it’s like not to be. It’s this track that’s most doused in ambivalence – “No need to sit at home with a dial tone ‘cause I don’t care” – while still retaining a level of melancholy and loss. It’s the relief of it all being over, with the maddening wish that it never had to be. Rankin’s mastery as a songwriter shines through here; it’s easy to slip into platitudes of independence and letting go. It’s harder to admit that while leaving the past in the past is oftentimes the best choice, we always find ourselves wishing that everything had met the lofty expectations once rested on it in the first place. In other words, to admit your disappointment while keeping your head held high, to trade in your “rose-colored shades for a wide lens” – this is invariably the stronger, more mature path to take once your path has diverged from another’s.

Alvvays tie the record up nicely with final track “Forget About Life,” circling back with lunar imagery to catch all the loose ends. Rankin sings of times “when the phases of the moon, they don’t apply / when accomplishing a simple task take several tries,” succinctly articulating her mixed bag of emotions. She can’t rely on the moon but is so tired she longs to have the matter taken out of her hands regardless. It’s worth noting that the titular character from “Archie, Marry Me” (or anyone else specific) is conspicuously absent on this second effort, as though it’s become too exhausting to name ex-lovers with anything more than an ambiguous “you.” It’s exhausting just to care that much.

All in all, Antisocialites is the a well-deserved follow-up to Alvvays. While their self-titled LP captured the white-knuckled grip of commitment, their most recent illustrates the mundane abyss that gapes at you in its absence.

PLAYING DETROIT: Valley Hush Bid Summer Farewell With “Goodbye, Sweet Mango”

The last time we heard from indie pop duo Valley Hush, they had just released a melty, celestial self-titled debut LP that explored ambition, passion and the art of getting out of your own way. This time around, singer Lianna Vanicelli and producer Alex Kaye explore longing and loss with a soaring swan song: their latest track, “Goodbye, Sweet Mango.”
Staying true to their signature exotic existential ecstasy, Valley Hush lands somewhere in the lush canopy of jungle trees here. A dancey “Leaving on a Jet Plane” for a new generation of movers, shakers and dreamers, “Goodbye, Sweet Mango” is sugary and satisfying but mindful of the insatiable void left when a family is divided by state lines or a boyfriend (who will most definitely miss your birthday) is on tour with his band or even a life left behind in hopes of discovering something new. There is something animated about the track that moves more like a illustrated monologue against clouds swirling around a wing of a plane floating between atmospheres. The layering of breathy vocals, sizzling synths, and stark guitar breaks is nothing short of confident and proof that Valley Hush might be saying goodbye to more than just friends and fruit. They may be entering into juicy new sonic territory, too. 

Take a bite and bid farewell with the latest track from Valley Hush:


Brooklyn-based songstress, Elisa, is releasing the third track, “Awake”, off of her self-produced EP Morning Again (also available to stream today!). The emotional underpinnings of Morning Again are anchored in her self-described visceral reaction to a fomenting culture of violence taking place in our in our country. “It is a play on words – meaning both “morning” and “mourning” – and informs the overall mood of the project: each of the four songs was written from a place of loss or longing of some kind. Such unabashed sentiment may be scary in a world that often tells us to keep our cool but for me it was necessary to embrace. I want to feel things, even if it means mourning again”.

Musically however, the EP as a whole (which rumor has it, the prolific artist finished writing in one sitting)  reflects Elisa’s talent for crafting nostalgia-inspiring dream pop that would make Whitney Houston proud – replete with spacey beats, warm piano synth and cascading vocal melodies that show off the singer’s very impressive singing range and solid production skills. “Awake” follows suit with her previously released tracks, showcasing Elisa’s deft ability to write music whose structural whimsy doesn’t betray its headiness until the listener delves deeper into the lyrical content of the songs. This ability to transform existential woe into glistening pop goodness is an act of alchemy to say the least, and makes us excited to see her develop as an artist.

Take a first listen to the full EP here (as well as a lyric video for the title track), and come out for Elisa’s release part on 6/20 at Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn! We will be giving away a pair of tickets to the show as well which you can sign up for on our homepage! See you next week :-)

PLAYING DETROIT: Ancient Language Share “Until Recently”

There’s something to be said for a track that is suitable for dancing, crying, cutting and running and climaxing. Released earlier this spring, dream-pop trio Ancient Language delivered a well-rounded taste of their forthcoming record with “Until Recently.” Complex, though never overwrought or overthought, “Until Recently” floats, dives and ascends like a time-lapse of a butterfly forming and emerging from its chrysalis (yes, it’s that evocative).

Ancient Language’s brand of drama is not a sullen one – at least not here. It is not bogged down by too many ideas fighting for a spotlight; they prove the weightlessness of letting go by doing just that. Glistening water droplet synths, a saxophone fill that orbits Matthew Beyer’s gravity-defying vocals, perfectly nuanced production and unobtrusive bass paints for us an unassumingly epiphanic moment. It swells, sits and dissipates serving the very purpose I believe Ancient Language set forth to provide – a release and reprieve from Earthly woes.

Ancient Language are slated to play Corktown Strut Saturday, July 1st – find out more info about the Detroit fest here and listen to “Until Recently” below.

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.

LIVE REVIEW: The Radio Dept. @ Union Transfer


Swedish dream-pop outfit The Radio Dept. has long been revered for combining a mellow haze and hypnotic beats since forming in 2001. Live, this translates to a singular live experience that hits somewhere between being stress-free and imaginatively demanding. Their U.S. tour in support of Running Out of Love (which came out in October of last year via Labrador Records after long delays due to legal battles with the label) kicked off in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day, and proved to be a  thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable show.

A former baggage depot in Callowhill, Union Transfer was a fun change from the packed NYC locales I’m used to. It’s intimate and architecturally dramatic but still has a casual feel, with quick, friendly bouncers and a no-alchohol-on-the-floor policy that limits both excessive drunkenness and the nightmare of getting beer sloshed all over your shoes – perfect for Radio Dept. and their meditative set.

The band took to the stage quietly but began with a bang, playing a few songs from Running Out of Love, which has a more steady, rhythmic and electronic focus than a lot of their past music. This branching out of their comfort zone brought the album critical acclaim, but the new material wasn’t their only concentration on stage. The show featured plenty of old crowd favorites from the 2006’s Pet Grief and 2003 debut Lesser Matters, as well as their last proper full-length, Clinging to a Scheme, released in 2010. “David” and “Heaven’s On Fire,” both from Clinging to a Scheme, seemed to be big crowd-pleasers, while “Death to Fascism,” a single released in 2014, saw the band at its most exciting and dovetailed nicely with the subtle political messages on Running Out of Love.

With its impressive treble and the infectious robotic call of “Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!” (Croatian for “Death to fascism, freedom to the people”), the single had sparked new interest  in the band after a four year hiatus. Fans had shouted out its request all evening, and while it is doubtful that the heckling had much to do with its eventual delivery, the crowd’s hunger for this song seemed directly tied to the current American political climate. The band spoke through the messages in the music, rather than offering political speeches – frontman Johan Duncanson only spoke between songs to say “thank you” and “thank you very much.” He attributed this “shyness” to the fact that it was their first show on the U.S. leg of their tour. This quietness was reflective of the calm and repetitive motions of the music, a parallel I could certainly respect.

Everyone on stage – even frontman Duncanson – played multi-instrumentalist, switching between bass, percussion and synths. Even though every song had some pre-recorded element (due to the band’s electronic nature) there was a lot of power in the live aspects. The guitar parts were especially rousing; after various intensely rhythmic openings with limited or specific melodies, the guitar and vocals would break in and remind us that The Radio Dept. always tends to its dreamy qualities. There’s something plainly stunning about the combination of more dance-like beats and echoing, fuzzy shoegaze.

The high energy instrumentals from Running Out of Love were significant in keeping the audience from falling into a mesmerized daze. There was plenty of dancing to go with that mesmeric feeling and, although it was disjointed and varied from person to person (a couple basically dirty dancing on side of the floor, a fantastic bald man with glasses and a wool sweater with some incredibly unique and memorable moves, clearly in his own little world, on the other), there was a general agreement with the flow and mood of the music. Everyone bobbed their heads in some kind of unison.

At the heart of this performance was the inexplicable ease to the band’s sound. The songs were layered and complex, but they were effortlessly organic on stage. This contributed more to the natural ambience: heavy-lidded eyes and loose limbs. Buried somewhere in that was a covert political criticism of Sweden that unfortunately applies to the U.S. as well. Closing out with pop-forward “Swedish Gun” single, the clubby “Teach Me to Forget,” and the ominous “Occupied,” all from Running Out of Love, served as a reminder that dancing and resistance are not mutually exclusive.

The Radio Dept. close out their tour with two shows in New York, at Bowery Ballroom March 8 and Music Hall of Williamsburg March 9; the rest of the dates are listed here.


LA-based dream-pop duo, TVRQUOISE is following up their debut duo single release with a brand new video for their cosmic and synthy record, “Paralyzed Legs”. The track contains looping vocal melodies that wrap around entrancing textured beats and twinkling piano synth. Hailing from Michigan and NYC respectively, Faye Wellman and Matt Hogan met at Berklee College of Music in Boston where they cut their teeth in composition, performance and production – all evident in their impressive and thoughtful song writing. “Paralyzed Legs” documents a young woman’s realization that she’s in a dangerously co-dependent relationship – a motif we can most certainly relate to. The video is a representation of being trapped so to speak – depicting someone caught beneath a white sheet, struggling to break free perhaps. At once eery, ghost-like and elegant, the visuals are a beautiful accompaniment to the sonic and aesthetic conceit of the track. Check out the premiere right here!

VIDEO PREMIERE: Ona, “Open My Hips”

NYC-based visual artist and Instagram vixen, Ona, is following up her debut EP from earlier this year with a new sex-positive music video for sensual dream-pop record, “Open My Hips”. The track is beautifully orchestrated, featuring melodic piano lines, ferocious crashing high-hat drums, and most notably Ona’s gorgeous, breathy alto vocals which have drawn comparisons to alt-rock darlings like Mazzy Star (though I would lean more toward shoegaze ladies like Rachel Goswell from Slowdive or Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.) In any case, the song as a whole is one of the better tracks I’ve heard in a while (especially the spectacularly composed bridge), and indicates big things to come from her debut full-length due out early 2017. This record will undoubtedly be making our year end list.

The video is a lush, dreamy explorations of sex and power, as Ona beckons us into her figurative and literal forest.  Most of the shots feature her in various stages of undress, bathed in waning sunlight and writhing around in nature like a wood nymph, at times provocative, at times impish and romantic and at others down right raunchy in all the best ways.

Catch a first glimpse of the video below, and look out for her highly-anticipated full-length album due out next year.

PLAYING DETROIT: Dear Tracks: “Aligning with the Sun”



Grand Rapids-based dream pop duo, Dear Tracks, excites with their politely warped and shimmery new track “Aligning with the Sun” which debuted earlier this week. Matt Messore and Victoria Ovenden found a way to give a soundtrack to dust particles colliding within a shaft of mid-afternoon light.

The arrangement, which is synth heavy, glitters without much deviation or elevation and manages to avoid sounding monotonous. A refreshingly melodic warble, “Aligning with the Sun” could easily be inspired by the tilt-a-whirl motion of a cassette tape being tangled within the cassette player, dancing with distortion.

The firecracker percussions and the twinkling, distant guitar paired with Ovenden’s misty vocals keeps Dear Tracks in good musical company, such as Real Estate and My Bloody Valentine. The opposite of anxious, the duo’s first track off of their anticipated debut LP (due out on The Native Sound records) is a bitter sweet (though, mostly sweet) end-of-summer breeze.

Daydream with Dear Tracks latest below:

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PLAYING DETROIT: The Final Days of 800beloved


Most things begin, but all things must end. No one knows this better than Milford-based sonic artist and former undertaker, Sean Lynch: founding dreamer of the eternally unearthed post-punk, Macabre rock formation, 800beloved. Lynch has spent the last decade conjuring romantic hauntings taken from real life, sleep life, and the afterlife, turning them into a body of music that is unabashedly nuanced with a rawness that would perturb anyone less than willing to face living ghosts the way he has. A cryptic career that produced three full-length records, all of which speak to a perpetually kinetic dance between atmospheres following a trajectory that was as driven by numerology as it was by words and sounds, comes full circle next month when 800beloved silences themselves by means of a self-induced funeral. Eight years after their debut release, Bouquet, Lynch is ready to move on. This isn’t a throwing in of the metaphorical towel or a waving of a white flag, rather a perfect and poetically suited demise for a band that was, in a lot of ways, born to die. Here lies 800beloved; the band you missed (and the band I will miss.)

“I’m not interested in entertaining some immortal non-aging version of ourselves,” Lynch says. “I don’t want to be talking about the bipolarities of life and death anymore, not in that context. I’m done with that. I feel that if there were ever a way to take a Teen Vogue magazine and burn it and bury it…we were that and we did it; that strange combination of two things that should never meet.”

This timely death is almost a year to the day that 800beloved surprise released their third and final album, Some Kind of Distortion; a shimmering display of nostalgia and present tense veiled by their signature allusions of dreamscapes and tortured surrealism. “I’m not going to spell it out to a disinterested audience.” Lynch says. “We’ve never been as elusive as we’ve been made to feel. In any camp, we have always felt like a black sheep.” Lynch, of course, is referring to the bands umbrellaed reputation and whispered notoriety both in the local scene and the dream-pop/shoe gaze/post-punk formula at large. You can’t find the band on Spotify and you will never see them solicit for gig slots or editorial recognition. Hell, you’d probably mistaken their name in conversation for a phone number because, well, yeah, it is.

Torn between wanting to be heard and trying not to be found, 800 dug a grave all their own, filling it with symbolic talismans and deeply personal confessionary relics that speak to only those who are listening. From the eery reincarnation of the coffin featured on their debut album art work featured, now open and empty, as the promotional/emotional imagery for their farewell to the symbiotic marriage of numbers and private timelines all the way to poster fonts, live-performance projections and the names of colors used; none of which feel like a contrived stretch for meaning, more so a peephole into the inner workings of someone who is as intricately woven as these artfully shrouded pieces of postscript. “To our credit, everything we have done has been with the utmost thoughtfulness and we want our funeral to be done the same way. If we wanted a Hot Topic funeral we would have just gone to the mall.”

Having spent most of his life painting the faces of the dearly departed, consoling the families of transcending loved ones and writing the words that would immortalize the legacies of the expired, I ask Lynch if he anticipates going through the strangely unique motions of a real live death this time as the corpse, the coroner and the afflicted surviver. “I was restringing my guitar when we opened up for Modern English a couple months ago and I was thinking that this is the last set of strings I’m going to play with this band. I know that sounds minimal but to me the strings, the guitars, the amps, the pedals…I have such a relationship to everything.” Lynch explains.”I have to remind myself that at the end of the day this is going to matter the most to me even though I am comfortably numb to it now. But there have been countless things tapping at my window telling me that this is it. And I know it is.”

The final line-up includes Anastasiya Metesheva on bass, Ben Collins on drums and Lynch on vocals, guitar and production. Metesheva, an artist and radiant expressionist, has been an integral part of 800 since 2007. Collins, though having only joined in ’13, is no stranger to collaboration and brought life to Lynch’s compositions. There has been a revolving door of talent throughout the years, but this particular assembly is colorful and vibrant in all the ways 800 has come to embody. “If someone is looking for tabloid surrounding 800beloved they won’t find it. We don’t do that. The band members live three virtually very separate lives outside of this project. Stacy is painting and working to help support her family, Ben is in three other bands and has a career and I’m barely scraping by,” Lynch admits. “I just want to try to get one last hurrah while surmising any bit of sacredness that I can indulge in.”

The funeral, as Lynch described, is not a play on kitsch or satirical irony, as he of all people understands the weight of tagging something as a funeral. The remaining trio will bid farewell by performing Some Kind of Distortion in it’s entirety along with some undisclosed surprises.

So, yes. We are invited to celebrate life, art and a body of work that surpasses both rather than reading a half-hearted Facebook post about why a band has decided to “break-up.” The spectacle of theatrics surrounding a band throwing the first handful of dirt on their own grave is grandiose but not without substance. 800beloved will tread on territory they have spent a decade mapping out and although infrequently traveled, has left a passageway in their wake. “Something I wanted to bring out in this experience is that there are very fine lines between sex and death. And that fragility is not a new revelation but there is a certain liveliness that comes from experiencing a close proximity to death and a sexual experience being close to recreating or feeling as good as being reborn.” Lynch explains. “But what I really hope people take away from our funeral is the shock that a band can depart elegantly. Oh and that it’s also going to be fucking loud.”

800beloved goes silent on August 13th, 2016 at Detroit’s Marble Bar, admission is $8. Read 800beloved’s obituary here.

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EP REVIEW: Phosphene “Breaker”


phosphene is the experience of  seeing light when none has actually entered your eyes; it’s where the phrase “seeing stars” comes from, and common causes include rubbing your eyes or being hit in the head. It’s the perfect name for the indie shoegaze trio from Oakland, whose latest EP, Breaker, is the sonic equivalent of a light in the distance. Sometimes it’s a warm glow, like on “Hear Me Out,” or flickering, like on “Ride.”

On one of Phosphene‘s best tracks, “Rogue,” it’s like neon sign, steady and bright, with a surge before burning out completely. The lyrics will resonate with anyone who takes the subway, though they namedrop the Bay Area’s version of the MTA: “BART is rocking me to sleep/ It keeps reminding/ Me of the loves I can’t keep.”  There’s a nice current that runs through the five songs, all wrapped up in a dreamy haze, worth checking out when you need to light up your life a little bit. Check out Breaker by Phosphene, below:




Dreamy Detroit indie rock foursome FAWNN premiered their first single off of their anticipated forthcoming sophomore album Ultimate Oceans on Stereogum last week. An iridescent pop track reminiscent of Washed Out meets a sedated The New Pornographers,”Galaxies” is familiar and satisfying yet feels defeated. “Galaxies” is prom night for mid to late twenty-somethings who sway in misguided unison to the shared disenchantment of young love turned static: the death of the honeymoon phase. Listless imagery painting spacial comparisons between intimacy and celestial phenomena is nothing new, and FAWNN struggles to breathe sincerity into this very evocation. What “Galaxies” DOES provide, however, is the aural equivalent to the ambivalence of drinking overly spiked punch, texting your ex a sad version of “hey” and half-heartedly hoping you don’t end up going home alone. The bass line is lulling and instinctual and when paired with the droll delicacies of the vocal harmonies, “Galaxies” creates more distance than it fills. This is likely an intentional sensation as the stand out lyric “Now that we’re allowed to touch/it’s over/Galaxies inside” encapsulates simply the boredom and painful loss of fascination when a love/like has run its respective course. Maybe that’s what makes “Galaxies” a frustrating listen. Maybe it yanks on that dark inner mess that we have been meaning to clean up but just haven’t made time for. It’s a song about passionate indifference and although successful in its glittery tones and thoughtful production, it is almost too literal in its heartbroken lethargy to feel anything more than “meh.”

Space out with the first taste from FAWNN’s latest “Galaxies” below:

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PLAYING DETROIT: The Belle Isles, SHELLS, Stef Chura and Mega Bog

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Erin Birgy of Mega Bog Photo by Andrew Swanson

My first musical outing of 2016 was also the first of the year for The Seraphine Collective, “an inclusive, supportive, and active community of feminists designed to foster creative expression and camaraderie among underrepresented musicians and artists in Detroit.” Our venue? Lo and Behold record and book store, a tiny and toasty hideaway wedged in Hamtramck (or Detroit’s “Little Poland”) perfectly suited for the freezing temperatures outside and our shared, palatable mid-week ennui. Taking to the stage (well, floor, respectively) were three dear-to-Detroit local artists alongside a quietly celebrated up and coming national touring act, all of which provided a unique and unified inspirational soundscape for the year ahead.

The Belle Isles

Owner of Lo & Behold Richie Wohlfeil debuted his two-week-old brainchild The Belle Isles (named, of course, after Detroit’s beloved state park paradise). A slinky lo-fi three-piece (Richie on the mic and guitar along with Conor and Deb on drums) reminiscent of Mayer Hawthorne and MC5 with hints of John Frusciante vocals. The song “Detroit Funk” was a hodgepodge of funk and “do-do-do-do’s” straight from that song by The Cure with all of those “do-do-do-do’s.” “Hey, what should we do next? The Summer Song? I don’t remember the words but fuck it. I’ll make it up.” Richie swigs a beer and rails into a song that he did in fact forget the words to. Good thing we were in a book store, as there were a few he could borrow.

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Shelley Salant is a one woman Velvet Underground/Wilco/Brian Jonestown Massacre, but most importantly, entirely herself. Barefoot with nothing but a borrowed electric guitar and a loop pedal SHELLS made seismic waves in our tiny venue. Vocal-less and relying entirely on her ability to collage multiple chord progressions without hesitation or transition was, for me, one of the most impressive moves I’ve seen in a long time. Her songs spoke without words: an abridged novel of noise. Every piece had an exposition, conflict, and a sweeping resolve.

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Mega Bog


On an ambitious 43 show tour Seattle-based Mega Bog stopped by our little haven. The most playful of the night, they infused Jenny Lewis’ whimsical style with Fleet Foxes’ (but only if they had been listening to Best Coast records). Erin Birgy fronts and mothers Mega Bog. She is effervescent in the way her voice hops around, reminding me of the way Regnia Spektor used whimsical manipulations of vocals on Soviet Kitsch, which is perfectly paired with the Mega Bog’s dissonant, dreamy instrumentals. Any band that actively uses a triangle, I’m in.

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Stef Chura


Stef Chura alongside boyfriend and Jamaican Queens drummer, Ryan Clancy filled the space with what felt like a collaboration between Karen O and The Modern Lovers Jonathan Richman if they scored a 90’s teenage runway film. Stef’s voice is dominant with a confident meekness that is shrill by means of catharsis. So much so that guitar and drums seem secondary. Her vocal playground is purposeful, warped, and effective. It’s a freeing expelling of emotion but stripped down and wonderfully messy like early Flaming Lips recordings.

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PLAYING DETROIT: Dear Tracks “All The Outs Are Free”


Think John Hughs meets Beach House topped with whipped cream, a cherry, and that mix tape your imaginary boyfriend would have made you in the early 90’s. This is the essence of “All The Outs Are Free,” the new single from Grand Rapids-based dream pop four piece, Dear Tracks. I first met Dear Tracks at an intimate outdoor shoe gaze/indie pop festival I MC’d this past summer. Though their stage presence was quiet and unassuming, their bubbling, contemplative, synth pop vibes filled the open space while I sprawled my bare legs out into the grass, taking note of the toggle of control between the setting sun and the rising moon. I remember being transported, though carefully, to what felt like a video game bonus level, but in real life and real time. Comprised of Matt Messore, Victoria Ovenden, Jacob Juodawlkis and Alex Militello, Dear Tracks are not a force as much as they are a caress (and perhaps even a productive cry behind a steering wheel).

The single from their forthcoming EP Soft Dreams (due out on vinyl and cassette February 26th, 2016) borderline exhausts lyrical platitudes by smashing a series of ambiguous, flighty phrases together: “Don’t drift away/stay if you can/come as you are/I’ll let you in.” This doesn’t come as an insult, though, quite the contrary. “All The Outs Are Free” is a hazy, minimalistic petit four. Paired with swaying synth sounds, their elementary expression of love, loss, and longing is cocooned tightly and effectively. There are no smoke and mirrors, nor any unnecessary details neither lyrically or in regards to composition; there’s no mess to sort through. With this single, Dear Tracks found a way to surprise me in not sounding like they were trying to surprise me. Floating in a sea of seasonal over-orchestrated, heavy handed production, this taste of candied candor is fresh and restorative.

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Harrow “Silhouettes”


When Audiofemme last spoke to The Harrow in February, they were working on an upcoming LP Silouhettes, which was mixed by Xavier Paradis, was released last week, and it’ll give you chills: the moody, atmospheric music creates a shadowy world for Vanessa Irena’s drawn-out, longing vocals. Intricate drum machine programming is provided by Irena, Barret Hiatt and Frank Deserto (Hiatt and Deserto also play synths, and Deserto contributes a steady undercurrent of bass as well), and Greg Fasolino plays haunting guitar parts.

The Brooklyn band cites artists like The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack and Portishead. Like Deserto said in their Band Of The Month interview, “We generally err on the dreamier side.” In songs like “White Nile,” that means a gentle, chime-like melody, but on songs like the ominous “Darling,” it sounds a bit more like a nightmare. They take a break from the dreamy sound with “Feral Haze,” a bouncy, almost-playful track with a spoken-word chorus that insists “Animals, we’re animals.”

One of the album’s best tracks is “When The Pendulum Swings,” which contains the line that gives the LP its name: “Speak softly, I hear laughter/Step gently, I see silhouettes.” The bassline is heavy and driving yet melodic, and sparse flourishes of guitar lighten the track’s brooding mood just slightly. With this song, and the rest of Silhouettes, The Harrow shows us that darkness can be beautiful. And as Hiatt said in their interview, “Darkness is way more interesting. And real.”

You can check out “When The Pendulum Swings Below,” and purchase the album here.