Author: Allison Shephard

Young Ejecta
The Planet
Driftless
Street: 01.27
Young Ejecta = Neon Indian x Porcelain Raft + I Break Horses

Hone in your inner constellation chaser with the post disco beats, breathy vocals and overall sensuality of Young Ejecta’s (formerly Ejecta) newest mini-album. Simple yet emotionally varied production from Joel Ford combined with Leanne Macomber’s fragile and ethereal vocals successfully transport us to another universe fraught with star dust, gracefully spiraling nebulas and twinkling planets in the distance. However otherwordly this soundscape may seem, it is Macomber’s pseudo-sexual lyrics that keep us rooted to the Earth by a string around our ankles, hovering comfortably between worlds known and unrevealed expanses. Ford’s sound ranges between pulsating cosmic compositions (“Your Planet” and “Into Your Heart”) to minimalistic arrangements bound in simplicity (“What You Done” and “Recluse”). The Planet is good for those who aren’t ready for the full-on interstellar adventure and experienced explorers alike. –Allison Shephard

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Challenger

Back to Bellevue
Self-Released
Street: 05.27
Challenger = Washed Out + Small Black + BrothertigerFrom now on, I’m just going to call everything I hear like this the Brooklyn ’80s nostalgic shoegaze/effectronic revival. I’m sure everyone knows exactly what that sounds like and, honestly, I could put 15 bands that sound exactly like this on a playlist and I bet most people would think it was all the same band. I’m getting tired of using words like dreamy, effect-laden and ethereal to describe this genre, and this album is no different: It’s as dreamy, nostalgic, shoegazey, effect-laden and ethereal as the rest of them. However, they at least attempt to mix things up on “Science of a Seizure,” but maybe that was because they were trying to make a literal musical seizure—which sounds mean, but the end result is actually pretty cool. Listen to the album only for that song because you’ve definitely heard the rest of it before.–Allison Shephard

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Small Black
Real People EP
Jagjaguwar
Street: 04.01
Small Black = Washed Out + Brothertiger

Imaginative, youthful and perfectly synthesized, Small Black gives us a shining example of how the chillwave and lo-fi genres are supposed to sound. While Real People offers us only a small taste of their delightfully nostalgic romance, it’s dense enough that you can keep listening to it and find something new each time. Tracks like “Real People” and “Reconstruction” are upbeat and danceable, with layers upon layers of heavy, dreamy effects, while “Lines of Latitude” and “Downtown Lights” (a Blue Nile cover) are much more contemplative. This EP is the perfect accompaniment for night drives or when you just want to unwind. –Allison Shephard

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Ms. John Soda – Loom

Ms. John Soda – Loom

Ms. John Soda
Loom

Morr
Street: 10.02
Ms. John Soda = Lali Puna + Styrofoam

After almost a decade hiatus, Ms. John Soda are back, but instead of focusing on the orchestral elements that made Notes and the Like dull, they decided to up the ante in the ambient realm. The result is a piece of experimental pop that can momentarily appeal to the masses (see “Hero Whales”) but ultimately lacks the stability and dedication to stand alone as either a pop album or an ambient one. It doesn’t commit enough to one or the other, and isn’t stable enough in either genre to be a successful blend of both. While I can appreciate the effort, the end result feels forced, and unfortunately, slightly stale. –Allison Shephard

Valerie Rose Sterrett
Monsteria
Swoody
Street: 10.31.14
Valerie Rose Sterrett = She & Him x The Pierces / Alpine

Opening with a combination of piano, waves and what presumably is a breeze, I was quickly given a brief glimpse into how I would spend my next 40 minutes—confused as fuck. First thing, this album isn’t necessarily bad. However, it lacks any kind of musical consistency—it tries to span too many different genres in too short a time. The album ranges from folksy, to goth-pop, to something kind of industrial-sounding and then back to some kind of Katey Sagal–meets–Zooey Deschanel–meets–Grace Slick clusterfuck of a song, with intermittent instrumental breaks laden with seemingly nonsensical samples. I’m not sure if this was an attempt at a concept album that just went way over my head, or if Sterrett just has musical ADHD, but this album left a lot to be desired. Next time, please find a sound and stick to it. –Allison Shephard

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Twin Forks
Self-Titled
Dine Alone
Street: 02.25
Twin Forks = Dashboard Confessional + Mighty Oaks
Chris Carrabba’s latest project combines alt-folk with the love-choked lyrics that we’ve all come to love and expect from our beloved prince of emo. He tests the waters of the folk genre in a way that’s fresh without alienating anyone. The album seems to put a lot of emphasis on showcasing the fun, upbeat clap-along songs as opposed to the slower songs. Don’t get me wrong, the ballads are beautiful and poetic, (particularly on the closer “Who’s Looking Out”), but it’s clear that the album’s energy is channeled through their faster, poppier tunes. Overall, I like the direction Carrabba is going—it’s Dashboard for adults. –Allison Shephard

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Pacific Mean Time
Self-Titled
Self-Released
Street: 05.27
Pacific Mean Time= Kite Flying Society + The Cure + Ben Gibbard + Toro Y Moi

There is way too much trying to happen on this album. It sounds like the band wanted to incorporate all the elements that they like from each genre and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t work. While the album is certainly ambitious, it lacks a definitive sound. Each song attempts to replicate at least one genre or sound. “Minutes to Midnight” sounds like it’s jumping on that new indie-folk-electronic bandwagon I keep hearing. “New Blood” tries to combine The Velvet Underground with Leaving Through the Window-era Something Corporate and some other random rock and electronic elements which ends up congealing into a twangy, gravelly, sugarpop mess. Sound awful? Trust me, it’s just as bad as you’re thinking. Points for trying, guys, but I’m going to pass on this. –Allison Shephard

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SOAK-Before-We-Forgot-How-to-Dream album cover

SOAK-Before-We-Forgot-How-to-Dream album coverSOAK
Before We Forgot How to Dream

Rough Trade
Street: 06.02
SOAK = Beach House x Låpsley + Arctic Lake

Let me start off by saying that this album was made by a 19-year-old. However, it would be unjust to brush it off as merely a coming-of-age album composed by a teenager even if some of the song titles do suggest a purely juvenile approach (“B a noBody,” “Blud,” “SHUVELS,” etc.). Irish songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson is able to connect not only with those her age, but also a wider audience of all ages and backgrounds. Tackling issues such as divorce, social anxiety and the vast influence of the everyday moments in one’s life, Monds-Watson creates an atmosphere that most can relate to. Channeling the likes of the Quin sisters (Tegan and Sara, that is), the end result is one that is not only emotive but aurally pleasing. Lyrical mastery, superior vocal ability and simple orchestration create a home run of musical virtuosity that reaches dizzying heights. –Allison Shephard

7sleepers

7sleepers – 7sleepers

7sleepers
Self-Titled

Self-published
Street: 06.23.15
7sleepers = Stars of the Lid x Soundgarden + Brian Eno

This album attempts to, unintentionally, encompass the recent ’90s revival with contemporary, low-key drone. I’m unsure as to why creator Robin Wyliie chose to combine Chris Cornell-meets-John Darnielle vocal style with a pure yet dark ambient sound, but I wish he would have stuck with the instrumental aspect, and left out all the vocal elements, as this album would be exponentially better as a more orchestral piece. I wanted to put this album in some sort of ambient category, but songs like “Garden” throw a ’90s college rock vibe, while “Utukki” basically rips off all the vocals on Daft Punk‘s “Robot Rock.” Naturally, this leaves the listener fairly confused as to what this album is supposed to be. Wyliie describes the album as “seven songs about seven that might put you to sleep,” but if I’m going to be sleeping to this, it’s bound to give me nightmares. –Allison Shephard

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Gone Girl: Music from the Motion Picture
Columbia 
Street: 09.30.14
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross = Hans Zimmer + Nine Inch Nails x 
The Dust Brothers

Haunting and ominous while simultaneously tranquil, Reznor and Ross have created an air of ambiance amid complex and intricate layers of sound that complement the intensity of David Fincher’s film. Rotating between fragile piano and heavy bass, the duo creates a backdrop of mechanical mind games, electronic distortion and labyrinthine layers. Intensities reach anxiety-inducing levels on “Something Disposable,” “Technically, Missing” and “Consummation,” while “Empty Places” and “Sugar Storm” offer the listener room to take a breath. My only critique is that this soundtrack is too beautiful and intricate to be presented as background underneath the dialogue of the film. While the soundtrack complements the film perfectly, I wish that it would’ve been released on its own and not as a secondary element of a movie. –Allison Shephard 

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