mp3: "Catdog" - Art School Jocks

photo: Eva Nelson

photo: Eva Nelson

words: Kat Harding

Art School Jocks, made of Ali Bragg, Camille Lindsley, Deborah Hudson, and Dianna Settles, have a new track out called “Catdog.” Anyone who remembers peak Nickelodeon of the mid-2000s will instantly recall the TV show of the same name, but their track is much more serious than that. It deals with the unsettling realization that people are not always what they seem. The group’s upcoming album promises more of the low-key bedroom rock, with jangly guitars and rumbling bass lines, addressing serious topics through song. Their previous single “Just A Gwen” addressed harassment women face, and how they often protect themselves holding keys between their knuckles while walking at night. Their timely topics bring worries to the forefront of the mind, but coupled with wailing guitars and rolling drums, make for music that's more cathartic than troublesome.  

The record is coming out on Father/Daughter Records, with an alternate cassette version and zine coming out through Ecology Records, available in the band’s homebase of Atlanta. Quote Unquote Records is also getting in on the action, offering the EP on their site, with $1 from each purchase going to Meals on Wheels and ARC Southeast. Preorder the album here.

Toon Tunes: Rick and Morty

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curated by Evan Dorney

When it comes to Rick and Morty, who knows what kind of crazy situation they'll find themselves in. From visiting Purge Planet to taking down the entire Galactic Federation, these two always end up on some of the most insane adventures known to man. These type of adventures leave us only dreaming of having a grandpa as cool as Rick Sanchez. That is, as long as the journey doesn't backfire on you and you end up regretting even stepping into his spaceship in the first place. Deep down, we all want to be Morty and live the life of traveling all over space, especially if it means getting to visit Blitz N' Chitz.

video: "I Want to Dance With You" - Louie Louie

Dark, mysterious and full of glitter is the vibe of Louie Louie's video for "I Want to Dance With You." It's appropriate given the romantic undertones of the track, and their vintage-fueled harmonies that could fit perfectly pummeling through a jukebox. The swirling moves, carousel like keys and sugar-coated harmonies make the single a perfect inclusion for your summer crushing playlist. And if you have no one to hold it's also just as good for a late night dance party in your room.

Rewind: TV Dreams - Katie Ellen

rewind takes you back to previously released music that we don't want you to miss. 

If you've been keeping Chumped on repeat since their demise, there's good news to be had. Katie Ellen is a project started by two former members - Anika Pyle and Dan Frelly. Since their formation, the group has gone on to add Eric Sheppard and Anthony Tinnirealla. TV Dreams was their debut 7" and it dropped last year on Lauren Records.

Featuring two tracks ("Wild Heart" & "TV Dreams") from a promised upcoming full length, the 7" is a sincere glimpse at loss, love and finding your way again. The release opens with "Wild Heart" a fuzzed out, fiery snapshot of a trip to the City of Lights. Singing of a relationship that's crumbling as Paris blooms in the background, Pyle sings with a tender ferocity. Admissions of holding on - "I like to keep things that remind me of you," even while feeling "lost eternal." Fellow single "TV Dreams" continues the trend of relatable honesty, beginning with a softly sung declaration - "I am miserable with you/Miserable without you." There's a lightness that comes with the departure of someone you loved and it can be felt in Pyle's airy melodies and the subtle backing of bandmates' ahh's. There's also a vulnerability and kindness to the music of Katie Ellen, with Pyle still willing to reach out, be there if "you can't sleep and you feel lonely." While we're often conditioned to hide our feelings or show a toughness, the music of Katie Ellen is the complete opposite. The EP is an invitation to embrace all the parts of you that are tender and pure and though moving on may be difficult and your heart may appear to be crumbled, it's okay to feel it all. 

mp3: "Control" - Ratboys

words: Jordan Gorsuch

The bright-eyed and well-natured Chicago band Ratboys return with their special breed of heartfelt folk music that they describe as "post-country" on the stunning "Control," the first single from upcoming sophomore record GN. Lead singer Julia Steiner's voice glows iridescently as she and her co-pilot Dave Sagan impress with jangly guitar passages. The princely licks of guitar and thudding bass are warm slices of sunshine behind Steiner's sweet-as-honey vocals, as she details an anecdote from her childhood that calls into question the presence of a higher-power. 

"I almost saw a train wreck," Steiner announces at the beginning of the track, setting the stage for a tale of possible divine intervention. Steiner sings of “visions of big machines transformed” and “sloping mountains,” to reinforce the fantastical nature of the event, while reminding the listener of her own age in this story. A twangy guitar guides Steiner's impeccable voice as she delivers a sugary, wordless hook that is melodically inspired. Her brother Paul had managed to walk toward the train tracks while her parents were preoccupied, ("Paul stumbled toward a roaring train track / He was only four years old that day") but at the last moment he turned back and returned to his family. 

"Who's in control?" Steiner asks on the song's scrumptious chorus. It's a hell of a question. Was it divine intervention that saved her brother's life, or was it just dumb luck? Who knows. All I know is that it is truly a pleasure to have Ratboys back and better than ever. 

GN is out June 30 on Topshelf Records.

mp3: "Bus Ticket" - Cayetana

Those with any form of a mental illness know all too well the fear of feeling like your disease could swallow you whole. And in trying to put up a front and just get through each day, others around you begin to think your "life is a vacation." Meanwhile, you're fearful and trying desperately to put it all together. "Bus Ticket" from Cayetana is everything you've ever feared and felt - the struggle to get out of bed, to keep up with friends, to turn your life completely around and be the person you were made to be. It's resilient, strong, a message of hope for those feeling hopeless, a reminder that you're not alone. "I was born strong," Augusta Koch sings, and though at this moment you may feel completely otherwise, "Bus Ticket" is an anthem that may help you for just a moment.

video: "Silver" - Waxahatchee

words: Sarah Hojsak

News recently broke of Katie Crutchfield’s next release as Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm, her solo project’s fourth LP, is out July 14 on Merge. The first single from the record, “Silver,” appears to be a song Crutchfield wrote last summer, reflecting on the aftermath of a falling-apart relationship. “I stare at myself and the whole world keeps turning / I went out in the storm, thought I felt the house burning,” Crutchfield sings, amidst rousing guitars and with a stirring sense of freedom. 

Dating back to her P.S. Eliot days, Crutchfield has always written stunning, almost literary lyrics that can be heartbreakingly honest. After the release of Ivy Tripp two years ago – which featured bigger arrangements than before but pulled back a bit on the emotional transparency – Crutchfield hinted that her next venture might return to the bare-bones style of Waxahatchee’s bedroom-recorded debut, American Weekend. “Silver,” though, capitalizes on the full sound that larger-scale production offers but remains lyrically intimate, giving us a glimpse into the changing reality Crutchfield faced as a romantic and professional relationship dissolved. It sounds like the rest of the album will follow this time in Crutchfield’s life, as she told Lenny in an interview, but she hesitates to define Out in the Storm by the breakup: “I came out of it and I was a lot closer to myself,” Crutchfield says. 

With “Silver,” after revealing the difficulty of her experience, Crutchfield emerges freer and stronger than ever, ending the song with “I went out in the storm, and I’m never returning.” The accompanying video alternates between shots of Crutchfield walking through the city streets, draped in tinsel with her backing band, and flashing close-ups of her pained expression that eventually turns into a smile. This new chapter of Waxahatchee promises to be both weighty and spirited enough to remind us of our own strength when things fall apart.

stream premiere: Crushed - Sundae Crush

This Friday, Sundae Crush will release their EP Crushed : a collection of songs that perfectly capture the daydreams, heartache and every piercing second of having a crush. Their saccharine pop is sincere and heartfelt, taking your heart into a pastel-colored world where everything from the rush of "Chat Room Messages" and the hunt for a perfect beau ("Dating Game 3000") are explored. Listening is like laying back on your bed and staring up into the celling, counting the glow-in-the-dark stars and turning over every kiss and moment in your mind. You can escape with Sundae Crush, drift away into their soft, sunny-skied dream world of playful pop.

If you're in the Seattle area you can celebrate the release with a show ft. Sundae Crush, Baywitch and Emma Lee Toyoda on 4/21 at the Vera Project.

Creator Chats: Alex Cohen (Alex Napping) & Nandi Rose Plunkett (Half Waif)

Welcome to Creator Chats - a conversation among two groups, bands or people in the music industry. Today we have Alex Cohen of Alex Napping interviewing Nandi Rose Plunkett of Half Waif. 

Half Waif photo: Landon Speers

Half Waif photo: Landon Speers

Alex Cohen (Alex Napping): With most electronic music, there are a lot limitations that come with a live performance and figuring out how to perform those compositions live can be tricky. You currently perform as a 3-piece (and it's super tight and I love it, btw!), but if you could have the live set up of your dreams what would it look like? Who and what gear/instruments/performers would it include? 

Nandi Rose Plunkett (Half Waif): You’re definitely right that it’s a challenge to recreate the recordings with a three-piece, and to some extent we do try to do that, but in other ways we like to adapt the songs specifically for a live setting. Which is to say, sometimes the best thing isn’t to recreate that synth bass part, but to approximate the feel with another instrument. 

If I could have any instruments/performers on hand though (I love this question), I’d gravitate first to bass clarinet, which is one of my favorite instruments. And I think I’d like to have my friend Ng Chor Guan join us -- he is a master theremin player. If I’m dreaming big, I’d want Johnny Greenwood to write some wild string parts that my pals the Mivos Quartet could perform. And then I’d ask Emily from Florist to add some modular synth action.

AC: I have another project where I make and record music from home. Something that's a struggle for me is accepting that a song is finished when there are no constraints like studio time, other's availability to collaborate, etc. How do you know when to stop writing and commit?

NRP: Great question – I think for me, I’m a really impatient person. I’m dying for something to be done so I can move on to the next thing. These days, I’m working on many songs at once. And I do often ask myself, Is this as good as it can be? Am I too hasty to finish things that really need more breathing room and time? But when all the colors have run out in one song, when I’ve squeezed all the tubes and kind of painted in that one color palette for a while, I’m ready to move on to whatever’s next. I don’t like to dwell in my music. I do that enough in my mind.

AC: You've talked about how form/a is sort of about communicating and creating forms for your moods through music and have described yourself as a very emotional/moody person. I also identify as a hyper-emotional person but have, in the past, shied away from overtly embracing my sensitivity, especially in my art, because of female stereotypes and the unfortunate negativity that's associated with it. Even though form/a is it about your personal experiences, particularly within your current relationship, was it at all your intention to inspire a larger conversation about the harmful myth of the "chill" woman/girlfriend by being so upfront about experiencing intense emotions?

NRP: I hadn’t necessarily thought of that, but that’s a really interesting idea. As I’m getting older, I feel like I don’t want to constrain myself anymore by trying to be something I’m not. I don’t want to waste energy wondering if I’m being the right person, if I’m saying or doing the right thing, if people will accept me. I do still think about those things, because I’m human, but I’ve become more and more aware of how tiresome it is. So with form/a, and with my musical life in general, I’m stripping back some outer layers to get at the crux of myself, and I’m finding that being myself is so much easier than being anything else! Sure, sometimes it’s hard and weird to be honest, with myself and with others, about my relationship and my family and my life, but it’s the most natural thing to do. This has also helped me with my nerves when performing – I’ve always had pretty bad stage fright, so recently I’ve found that if I’m just 100% me onstage, being goofy or whatever when I interact with the audience, it calms me down. Because I don’t need to know any correct lines or social cues, I already know how to be me!

In regards to what you said, I really like the idea of this fearless honesty (which isn’t to say I always achieve that, just that I’m striving for it) can be a part of the growing conversation of what it means to be female or female-identifying in today’s society. It means embracing all aspects of our persona – the hard and the soft, the chill and the wild – and wearing them loud and proud.

Alex Napping photo: Helmut.Studio

Alex Napping photo: Helmut.Studio

AC: Some of the music I produce uses found sounds or samples that have emotional significance tied to the content of the song's lyrics and themes, but I will then process and affect them beyond recognition. There's a strange satisfaction that comes with knowing those little nuggets of meaning are hiding in the composition. I know you use a lot of found sounds as well -- are there any gems like that hiding out on form/a? If so, care to elaborate? 

NRP: I totally agree, I love having meaningful sounds embedded in the very foundation of the songs. It’s just one more tool we have to communicate emotion. In past interviews, I’ve talked about the most obvious one on form/a, which is the heater clank sound in “Night Heat” that you can hear right at the beginning. I recorded it in the middle of the night when the heater kept waking me up and frightening me, so I wanted to take control of it. The choral singing that is the bedrock of “Magic Trick” comes from when I was sitting with my friends Temujin, Gideon, and Hannah in a strange resonant room at an arts center in California – we just started testing out notes to see how they sounded in the space, and then we started harmonizing improvised chords, and I recorded it on my iPhone. I love that that song includes the voices of some of my dearest friends.

AC: You have an amazing voice! It took me a long time to figure out that I should be doing vocal warmups & exercises almost everyday if I wanted to get better at singing and performing. Do you have any vocal rituals that you do everyday and/or before shows/studio time? Or any advice for taking care of your voice during tour or recording?

NRP: Thank you so much! I studied classical singing for about eight years, most seriously in college. I regret to say that I haven’t really kept up my training, but taking lessons for all those years helped me learn how to use my breath and sing in a way that doesn’t strain my chords, which is super important when you’re touring a lot and singing every night. I like to drink throat coat tea with honey and do some basic vocal exercises before I perform. I’ve also been told that it’s good to do some light humming and vocalizing in a hot shower, when your chords are nice and loose!

AC: I started a solo production project outside of Alex Napping specifically to remove dependency on other collaborators and that's come with its own set of struggles as well as a lot of treasured flexibility. You've said the next Half Waif album will likely be more of a collaboration with your band. What aspects of that excite you and what aspects are you most anxious about? 

NRP: My bandmates Zack and Adan are my best friends and are both astounding musicians. I trust them completely and know that the ideas they will bring to this record are going to elevate it. I’m excited that they’ll be bringing their skill sets and instruments to the album, and that we’ll have an opportunity to capture some of the energy of the live set. That said, because I’ve never really recorded an album with a band before, I’m anxious about what that process will actually look like. I’m trying to balance what I do alone, demoing and arranging things on the computer, with the organic process of writing together while jamming and trying out ideas in real time. I was just thinking yesterday how there’s an added layer of complication, because we’re not just coming up with parts, we’re also coming up with sounds. And sometimes those sounds inform the parts, and vice versa. So it can be confusing where to start. But we just rented a house in upstate NY for the summer so I’m confident that when we’re all living together and have all our toys set up and ready to go, we’ll find a process that works for us.

AC: Now that you've produced an album entirely on your own, do you have an interest in producing albums for other people? 

NRP: Interest, yes! Skills, probably not quite yet. But I’d love to get to that point. 

AC: If you could choose between producing a record for Beyonce or Solange who would it be?

NRP: This is a hard one! They’ve both proven with their recent releases to be risk-takers, which I love and admire a lot. My aesthetic probably aligns more with Solange, but as a vocalist, I’m more drawn to Beyonce’s voice. I feel like she can do anything with it! It’s liquid, it’s metallic, it’s every color imaginable. So if I produced a record for her, I’d have a lot of fun exploring the vast terrain of her instrument. 

mp3 premiere: "Moonless" (Vassals Cover) - Stunt Casting

Earlier this month, Vassals released their Halogen Days EP, and among the tracks on the stellar release is the moody and mysterious "Moonless." It's thunderous and strong, bringing the same sense of darkness and fear that comes with a "Moonless" night to life in musical form. Today we're excited to premiere a cover of the track from Stunt Casting. For Ann Driscoll aka Stunt Casting's take, the artist brings a whimsical but foreboding pop to the single that captures the same sense of mystery but with a unique identity. Ann explains first hearing the song and a little more about the recording process:

“I first heard "Moonless"' when I was subbing on bass for a couple of Vassals gigs. Shay sent me an iPhone recording of their rehearsal for me to learn the song, and I was pretty much floored. The melody, chord progression, vocal delivery, garage rock arrangement - were all immediately captivating. The song's tone really strikes me; it creates the atmosphere of a nightmare and puts dark, unsettling emotions into a catchy, pop context. It's a nightmare-as-a-pop-song.

I recorded the cover alone on Christmas Day at my apartment in Bushwick which I think affected how it sounds. I wanted the cover to convey the feeling of cold, black empty streets; desolation; spookiness; paranoia. I wanted it to sound like a dream where something is chasing you. There's plenty of music out there that I respect in an analytical way but can't emotionally get behind; Shay's songs, however, fit like a glove. They move me immediately and undeniably. Vassals's music is very close to my own sensibilities as a musician, and they just sound how I think music should sound.”