Author: Kathy Rong Zhou

Thayer Sarrano Shaky

Thayer Sarrano Shaky

Thayer Sarrano

The Guildwater Group
Street: 08.28
Thayer Sarrano = Des Ark x The Black Ryder + Chelsea Wolfe

Thayer Sarrano’s psych-infused shoegaze is dark and beguiling, steeped in the thick, swampy, feverish nights of the South. The bedimmed soundscape—which is sometimes twanging, sometimes trembling, sometimes rambling—brings to mind moonlit red brick and shadowed magnolia trees. Sarrano’s vocals are spellbinding, too. Her hazy, roving choruses in “Touch My Face” make their way into long, haunting vocalizations in the percussive “Lost Art.” In “Crease,” Sarrano is hell-bent on entrancing listeners, churning her vocals into sprawling layers of guitar and dense atmospherics. Shaky is Southern gothic at its finest and most bewitching, and Sarrano is exquisite as she uncovers and releases, one by one, the ghosts and stories we’ve left handcuffed under floorboards. –Kathy Zhou

The Black Ryder 
The Door Behind the Door 
The Anti-Machine Machine 
Street: 02.24
The Black Ryder = Slowdive + My Bloody Valentine 
The Black Ryder’s sophomore album is the duo’s long, sublime leap into a sprawling, kaleidoscopic soundscape. The chilling instrumental opener—featuring churning psych over a processional beat—doesn’t lead anywhere, but the second track, “Seventh Moon,” sets the tone for the rest of the album as it springs into a dense and cinematic undercurrent for a slow drum groove and Aimee Nash’s wispy vocals. The album is deliberate—each song unfolds to reveal new textures and layers that both build upon and depart from the previous track. “Throwing Stones” and “Until the Calm of Dawn” recall The Velvet Underground, though the former ascends into an uplifting gospel chorus and the latter pans out into a surreal whisper amid gossamer synths. The album is staggering and slow-burning. In the last song, a string ensemble renders chord progressions for 12 ethereal minutes, leaving listeners hopeful, somber and hanging in midair. –Kathy Zhou 
Beach House – Depression Cherry cover

Beach House – Depression Cherry cover

Beach House
Depression Cherry

Sub Pop
Street: 08.28
Beach House = (Spiritualized + Galaxie 500) x Exitmusic

In Depression Cherry, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have made a return to simplicity, recoiling from the lush, sweeping force of Bloom to a more private and haunting space, taking on dream pop’s more translucent and gossamer slant with vocals that are more ghostly and silken than ever. Still, it’s undeniably Beach House: In “Sparks,” they swirl into cascading, reverberating shoegaze revivalism; in “PPP,” they highlight their signature organ arpeggios; and in “Wildflower,” Legrand’s robust contralto croons modest melodies. Although the album at times languishes toward the formless and directionless, Depression Cherry is another piece of elegantly produced, reverie-inspired ear candy that becomes sweeter and more alluring with each taste—this is Beach House as they slowly drift their way toward (as Legrand sings in “Wildflower”) “The sky and what’s left above it.” –Kathy Zhou

Wrought cover
Broken Water
Night-People Records
Street: 03.24
Broken Water = Milk Music + Unwound
Broken Water have found that—sometimes droning, sometimes noisy—sweet spot in the wild realm of dream punk. The Olympia three-piece incorporates controlled bouts of sonic (and often political) aggression throughout the lo-fi and ethereal. Broken Water skirt a variety of genres, and throughout, a strong sense of restlessness pervades. Wrought starts off with the shoegaze-y “High-Lo,” in which drummer Kanako Pooknyw’s meditative vocals rush into textured riffs and patches of distortion, before diving into “Wasted,” a fast, angry torrent of Jon Hanna’s sing-shouts. The rest of the album blends subtle dream pop and twangy guitar with the occasional noisy outburst. The closing track, “Beach,” is a hypnotic, 12-minute long stretch of astral vocals and resounding cello. The song builds into a lush soundscape of swirling guitar, pushed forward by steady, muted drums and a cascading melody that dissolves into noise before winnowing back to where the track began. –Kathy Zhou
Wrought cover
The Muscadettes
Side A EP
HFN Music
Street: 04.21
The Muscadettes = Alvvays + Best Coast + Slutever
The Muscadettes’ five-song EP hits with one summer anthem after another. The Montreal-based group’s brand of chorusing garage infuses the shouts of female-fronted, ’90s punk bands with the pop and rockabilly tendencies of ’60s surf. “Growing Pains” is most reminiscent of The Runaways, with declarative, bouncing verses that course into several series of “ooh, oohs” before spanning into a spacey swirl of guitar reverb and synths. “Like a Wave” is pure dream-pop groove—reminiscent of Dum Dum Girls—with wispy, longing vocals and two solos—one twanging guitar, one crystalline keyboard. We’re immediately brought back from this beachside reverie, however, with “Honey Let Go,” a combination of harder-hitting, muscular garage rock and cheeky rhymes (“I won’t let go / Just because you said so / Even from the get-go … Honey let go”). The songs are catchy, hook-filled and carousing—irresistible for sunshine-filled summer revelry. –Kathy Zhou

negative scanner s/t album cover


Negative Scanner

Trouble in Mind Records
Street: 07.10
Negative Scanner = The Fall x Wipers + The Sound

Negative Scanner are brash, gritty and blistering in their sincere post-punk release. Powerhouse Rebecca Valeriano-Flores snarls and shudders over short, intense bursts of ferocious, anthemic songs and deft musicianship. Negative Scanner are refreshing, too—the Chicago-based four-piece fosters a grisly and full sound while remaining remarkably precise, never once storming out of control. The band’s unapologetic and distilled brand of DIY punk is no-frills: It’s stripped down and uncluttered, steering clear of the gimmicky or romantic, save the occasional dive into darker and more brooding soundscapes, or the particularly burning and hard-hitting moments of rage. Valeriano-Flores’ vocals carry each track, pummeling listeners as noisy, textured guitars clamor over one another, building tension in one moment and then slashing it in the next, propelling Negative Scanner’s defiant punk energy. –Kathy Zhou

Sharon Van Etten
I Don’t Want to Let You Down EP
Street: 06.09
Sharon Van Etten = 
Julianna Barwick x 
Sharon Van Etten devastates once again, and her voice is as burning, shuddering and imbued with vulnerability as ever. This time, though, Van Etten leaves the smoky, beclouded haunts of her previous albums for a warmer and steadier sound, and the songs move from the lovelorn confessional to the grounded declaration. The final track is an opulent live rendition of “Tell Me” that straddles both raw and refined, and throughout, Van Etten is disarmed but fearless. Her voice, aching and bruised (“I believed you when you shut your eyes and dreamed a dream without me”), builds in a wavering back-and-forth with bluesy guitar strums and slow-and-steady drumming. At the end, Van Etten leaves us, quiet but resolute—“Sometimes I live my own life”—to muted applause. –Kathy Zhou 
jenny hval apocalypse girl album cover

jenny hval apocalypse girl album coverJenny Hval
Apocalypse, girl

Sacred Bones
Street: 06.09
Jenny Hval = 
Laurie Anderson + Kate Bush + FKA Twigs

Apocalypse, girl is intimate, redolent of how an experimental documentary art film might translate to sound. Jenny Hval pervades her reality with musings about her state of being in the world—how she wants to live and how she’s supposed to live, regarding gender, sexuality and physicality. Her hallucinatory, fever-dream narratives are neatly contextualized by the poeticized themes that course throughout the speak-sing, art-pop album. In “That Battle is Over,” Hval turns skyward with a singsong jab at capitalism and its utter ubiquity: “And feminism’s over / Socialism’s over … I can consume what I want now.” Hval’s singing is angelic, and her album—which is superbly produced and touts visceral dreamscapes of fluttery tambourine and astral synth—sounds honeyed until you tune in to the coy charm and calculated transgression of her language. –Kathy Zhou

Coromandelles – Late Bloomers' Bloomers

Coromandelles – Late Bloomers' Bloomers

Late Bloomers Bloomers

Porch Party Records/Burger Records
Street Date: 10.20
Coromandelles = Cold Showers x Melody’s Echo Chamber x Kurt Vile

Coromandelles are one of the newest supergroups on the scene, fronted by Tijuana PanthersDan Michicoff and backed by drummer Joe Plummer (Cold War Kids, The Shins, Modest Mouse). The resulting album is textured and leisurely, with power pop tendencies and mostly French lyrics. There’s plenty of energy that courses underneath the album’s cloudy overlay, with skittering drums, thick bass lines and glistening guitar riffs. Each standalone track grooves along cohesively enough, but a listen-through of the album feels jarring at times, prompting some raised eyebrows here and there. “Mon Chermin” and “Jaq” add a part rockabilly, psych and surf pop twang to Michicoff’s vocals. The tracks might have fit into a compilation album alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg, but the next song, “Late Bloomers,” cuts the spell short, sounding too punchy and hasty in comparison. Aside from the few transitional hiccups, though, Late Bloomers Bloomers makes for a plenty pleasant daydream. –Kathy Zhou

mas ysa seraph album cover

mas ysa seraph album coverMas Ysa

Downtown Records
Street: 07.24
Mas Ysa = (Xiu Xiu x Perfume Genius) + M83

Mas Ysa’s debut LP is Thomas Arsenault’s impressive follow-up to his Worth EP, and it comprises the same electronic musicality—which traverses frenzy and gravitas—and his voice, which fervently warbles and bellows through the romantic and the near-histrionic. The album begins with the urgent, taut power of Arsenault’s titanic soundscape, which entwines blaring techno with bright synthpop. The most memorable moments of Seraph, though, come when Arsenault tones down the electropop for the cinematic. In “Sick,” Arsenault’s quavering timbre becomes whispery gossamer as glistening, swirling, high-pitched synths pulsate and chorus over beating drum machines. It’s a reminder of how Mas Ysa has surprised us from the start—he imbues the sturdiness of his sound, a mastery that is both precise and massive, with exhausting, all-consuming emotion. –Kathy Zhou