Daniel Murtaugh | Daze of Irie | Ninja-San Records

Daniel Murtaugh
The Daze Of Irie

Ninja-San Records
Street: 08.01
Daniel Murtaugh = Jason Mraz + Sublime

Daniel Murtaugh began his musical maturation upon acquiring his first “real” guitar at age nine. Before he could drive he was performing his songwriting live. His The Daze of Irie is a chimeric collection of 15 tracks that surprise and aspire to inspire, with a resounding hopefulness and, as the title would transparently suggest, an island-reggae positivity.

The album opens with glistening electronics, strummed guitar and a radio voice preaching the universality and connecting potential of music, setting the stage for the overall tone of the LP. The eclecticism of the album is often impressive, showcasing ambient, reggae, folk and new age. Murtaugh is sometimes tough to pin down, yet his melodic skill and lyrical lovefest are just as tough not to enjoy. Tracks like “#3” are sweet and simple without being candied and cloying. The piano work on the album is impressive, especially when it’s met with glinting moments of electronics and programmed drums. “Little Things” is a lovely combination of poppy personality, folksy influences and clever sound engineering, with almost a mid-career U2 vibe. Throughout, it becomes apparent how Murtaugh transitioned from being a rock-folk artist into a more produced and polished persona.

Into the second half of the album, Murtaugh takes his stand in West Coast ska and dub that carries though to the end as performed unmistakably in “Black Flag” and “California.” Track 10 even treats listeners to the obligatory steel drum break. The island vibes hold steady to the end, to the extent that perhaps Murtaugh’s apparent perseveration on the Pacific lifestyle become a tad culturally problematic and a bit hard to connect with for local landlubbers. The Daze of Irie is something like your favorite icy. fruity mixed drink on a beach: sweet, tart, tasty and a little much if consumed too quickly or in excess. –Paige Zuckerman

The Signal Sound | Broken Homes | Self-Released

The Signal Sound
Broken Homes

Street: 07.14
The Signal Sound = Green Day + The All-American Rejects + Yellowcard 

From the first track, The Signal Sound’s Broken Homes is like a warm dose of early-2000s high school nostalgia. Anthemic and jaded yet pretty alt—pop punk and classic aughts-rock are the stylings of this album from start to end. It’s perhaps an apt offering in light of the cyclical return of ‘90s popular culture and Gen X fashion sense. Listening to the album, there are heaps of visual imagery of skate parks, summer music festivals and wide-leg denim. The lyrics are evocative; the smart syncopation indicates that the band’s percussionist is an apparent pro; the vocals are clean; and the execution of their genre feels expert. As the album’s title would suggest, Broken Homes is a defensive ode to intimate relationship strife, and tracks like “Broken Homes and Stolen Hearts” and “Get Close reflect a resignation and retaliation by their spurned storyteller. A common challenge of this genre is a tendency toward redundant and formulaic songs, furthered by the sheer volume of tracks on offer. However, “Running In Circles,” “Be Still and “Seen A Ghost offer pleasant and acoustically rich respites from the driving tone of surrounding tunes. “Long Goodbyessmacks of a possible alternative radio hit via a solid and dynamic melody. Broken Homes is well-produced, likable, energetic, displaced heartbreak rock. Grab your skate shoes and your first-gen iPod and you’ll most surely enjoy this album.  –Paige Zuckerman

Sulane | Ad Astra

Ad Astra

Street: 6.5.18
Sulane  = Brand New + Modern Lovers + Dinosaur Jr

Salt Lake local JP Krein has been playing and crafting music since age 12. An artist on all fronts, Krein is part of Inkjar, a regional artist collective aimed at fostering bonds between the local arts and music communities.

Starting off the LP, “Beehive” opens with a distant, vintage piano, strangely offset yet making for an engaging beginning. Classic punk vibrations pick up properly in “Circuits” with vocals irrefutably recalling the ethos of Jonathan Richman. “Believe In This/Glisten” is an emo dream track with nihilistic romanticism and a synthy, acoustic guitar tailing in the background. The personality of this album is proto-punk to a T, with slight sonic deviations and an underlying flippancy. Separation takes on a garage-Strokes-cover-band feel, with Krein’s vocals suddenly transforming into a striking and slightly gritty Julian Casablancas simulaid.

Lyrically, Ad Astra is as traditionally punk as them come, perhaps so organic and stripped back to the genre standard that it would struggle to stand out. Several tracks, however, detour into industrial and post-punk arenas, with “The Swift Decline” manifesting classic screamo vocals with a clippy drum machine, mimicking early 2000s Trent Reznor. Klein is ostensibly a master of mimicry, which may be a gift and a burden to his aural individuality. He’s capable of sourcing several brilliant predecessors in a single LP, and would benefit from further sending his sound in and out of the fire to temper it fully.

Ad Astra ends with “To Ashes”, a speak-and-spell-esque track with dour, self-deprecating sentiments and mostly a stark, kiddie keyboard backing. The track transitions intermittently to Krein’s sniffling and shuffling as he picks up into the second half. The naturalism of this closing tune is as odd and interesting as the intro track, leaving the listener just as perplexed as from jump street. Ad Astra is a solid DIY addition the stream of the local scene, and hopefully an opportunity to further refine a sound built from the sparks of several immortal patriarchs of punk. –Paige Zuckerman

The Wicked Notions | I Love You, but I’ll Never Tell You How Much | Self-Released

The Wicked Notions
I Love You, but I’ll Never Tell You How Much

Street: 06.01
The Wicked Notions = Nine Inch Nails + Placebo + The Neighbourhood 

The Wicked Notions struck an alt-rock chord in early 2016.  Long-locked and stoic frontman and songwriter Drew Rindlisbacher fetched an unmistakable Eddie Vedder likeness, and the band’s stripped-back sound was simple and gritty. In the ensuing year and a half, The Wicked Notions have displayed an acoustic transformation. Their freshly dropped EP I Love You, but I’ll Never Tell You How Much is a mix of brooding electro-pop with a tinge of R&B and mid-’90s Goth rock. They deliver hefty, dour and often existential messages  via dark yet accessible and surprisingly danceable tracks in this new conceit. Clean and clever sampling blends with straightforward melodic sophistication and interesting use of vocal and sonic distortion. “Graves” and “Red Lights” are potent electronic tracks with catchy looping synth sequences. Rindlisbacher gives a consistent and smooth vocal performance that rivals any hyper-polished pop act, yet it  maintains a subtle rock sensibility. Tracks like “New Kids” make The Wicked Notions’ contemporary sound slightly difficult to distinguish from major-market cohorts of the currently prospering electronic pop genre, yet their ability to play with the bigger boys may ultimately be one of their strong suits. “Tell Me You Don’t Love Me” and the EP title track embody sometimes frustrating lyrical scarcity and repetition, yet the whole of this collection is well produced and sonically indulgent without being overwrought. The Wicked Notions’ evolution indicates an ability to flex musical muscles and match industry trends yet maintain artistic integrity. As a devotee to electronic music in all its incarnations, upon digesting this new EP, I find myself quietly convinced that The Wicked Notions have found a keyhole in their sound and are headed through the door to bigger, brighter places. –Paige Zuckerman

The Wicked Notions @ Beanstock 07.08

Monsoonal rainfall served a sudden respite from Saturday’s sweltering heat, and The Wicked Notions were an equally wild and refreshing distraction. After a fun, fumbling soundcheck, the band quickly awoke the small crowd at the equally minute local food-bank benefit, Beanstock, with an energetic and all-out rocking set. They played several selections from their recently self-released EP paired with new offerings replete with impressive solos from the five band members. Although their recent offerings lean strongly on dark electronic sounds, their live performance is as pure as any alternative rock band can offer. The humorous stage presence of their charming frontman, Drew Rindlisbacher—especially in interaction with his lovable bandmates—is an absolute treat. Having worked through a recent two-week head cold via the supporting heaps of hot tea and honey, Rindlisbacher’s vocals were unflappably clean and versatile, from brooding depth to pseudo-rapping to screaming on pitch. The band’s confidence is palpable without being excessively grandiose. I find myself curious to see The Wicked Notions more fully explore and unfold their sonic, kinetic and visual identity. Ostensibly, this talented local group has the musical chops, and the package it’s wrapped in could use a bit more ears. The gig was a short set list, and no doubt I would have gladly imbibed a full two-hour show by the band without fatiguing. The Wicked Notions graced a small and humble stage this time, and perhaps grander venues and greater crowds are in their not-so-distant future.

Sister Adolescent | I Am Not So Far | Self-Released

Sister Adolescent
I Am Not So Far

Street: 03.17
Sister Adolescent = Beach House + Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Savannah and Trevor Free, Seth Ringger, Matthew Benfell and Ethan Westover make up the Provo dreampop collective Sister Adolescent. I Am Not So Far is an open letter to relationships in all their complexity and need, in a refreshingly shorter-format album of a concise eight tracks. Lilting, glimmering vocals infuse the album via Savannah, whose voice is wholly on-trend for the current women-lead demand in the sophistipop sphere. Opening track “Sacred Deer” offers effervescent synthesizers and ethereal vocal melody. Nouveau hippie, experimental, new wave and occasional hip-hop vibes fill the multiple tracks, with “Water + Weeds” and “Juniper” on the forefront of strangely beautiful, eclectic artworks on this album. Track titles can be deceiving, with some connoting dark, gruesome themes while being sonically soft and blunted. “Blood/Horror” is a lovely, ambient tune, yet it’s embedded with oddly prickly imagery. “Dilettante,” conversely, takes on a dark, ominous electronic tone with sorrowful guitar and proved to be one of the most complex and ear-catching tracks on the album. Wandering sonic landscapes and layered vocals embody “Better Love,” leading the listener down an ecstatic, glittering rabbit hole to some sort of serene wonderland. Brilliantly placed title and closing track “I Am Not So Far” rings with dramatic sounds like synthetic church bells in the distance. Concluding with a twinkling sense of cessation, it leaves the listener feeling curious yet peaceful and contemplative. The whole of this album is intelligent, evocative and consistent without being tedious or indistinguishable from song to song. I Am Not So Far is indie poetic-pop shoegaze at its cleanest and most translucent. This is without a doubt one of my favorite local collections to come from the ambient-pop pseudo-genre this season, a set of mesmerizing and skillful songcraft. –Paige Zuckerman

The 1975 | A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships | Dirty Hit

The 1975
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Dirty Hit
Street: 11.30
The 1975 = Brian Eno + The Neighbourhood

Manchester pop band The 1975 have made the rounds in the past few years, with their sophomore album having solidified their placement as rebellious influencers on the indie scene. However, they have arguably transcended this persona as of late. Their anthological third album ushers in a daring direction for their musical modus operandi, offering their usual, sonic eclecticism with a recipe of added edginess, zeitgeist-y lyricism, millennial nostalgia, a dash of pop formula and a pinch of unnerving Siri monologue.

Proto-punk debut single “Give Yourself A Try” dropped in June, a strange and sonically disruptive election for a first release from an album. It’s utterly congruent for these smart pop provocateurs, who rarely take the easy out, even as market demand might dictate. The boys bring back an instrumental deep cut from their early years, to be adored by the most entrenched of their fanbase in the (slightly) retitled “How to Draw/Petrichor,” adding the obligatory selection of more ambient tracks the band has been known for from their inception. Second single “Love It If We Made It” is a hyper-modern “we-didn’t-start-the-fire” statement on contemporary hegemony. “Love It” is frontman and frontal lobe Matthew Healy’s finest vocal moment since debut-album single “Robbers,” with the topical, tooth-gritting passion of hope amidst chaos. Thus far, this one is my favorite track of the album, an anthem to the rancor of the past couple years and the audacity of optimism for an ostensibly bleak future.

The multitextural influences on the band since their fledgling era in 2012 remain the undercurrents of their third album, including Guy Debord & French Situationists, Infinite Jest, ’80s pop and the struggle to seek the spiritual in an increasingly secular world. An added theme of obsession and subsequent disenchantment with postmodern binge culture and the relegation of human relations to a billion some-odd screens suffuses the 15-track collection. Track 8,“I Like America & America Likes Me,” seems to indicate that though Healy is often keen to unpack Western culture, he’s simultaneously adoring of it—a tension not unusual for this open-book outre frontman. The dystopian flavor of the album is‚ however, nicely balanced with strains of hope and endurance, an appropriate ode to the addiction struggles of Healy and the commitment of his band sticking by him through recovery and personal renaissance. Per their brand of eclecticism, tracks like “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” sprinkle the album with fluffy marshmallows that make the heft of the whole a bit sweeter on the emotional constitution without feeling excessively saccharine.

An ode to the truly fanatic Easter-egg-hungry fanbase, “I Couldn’t Be More in Love” is Healy and company’s pseudo-love theme to their oft ravenous listeners. Eschewing pop traditions of endless romantic songs dedicated to an unnamed other, the band sprinkles A Brief Inquiry with loving notions about concepts, coping strategies and community rather than sexual partners, per se. Track 10, “Inside Your Mind,” is indeed the only one that appears to address a significant other, in a moribund yet oddly adorable fashion wherein Healy acknowledges the overwhelming urge to know a partner’s inner world so intensely that he’d imagine cracking their head open to do so.

The mellow, polyphonic jazz-sax on the track, “Sincerity Is Scary,” dives into the R&B and gospel terrain that the band has deftly wandered through before. Thematically, this track speaks to the heightened consciousness that Healy gained during weeks of intensive therapy in his early recovery. Track 12 “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies,” tells the further narrative of rehabilitation and the precious—and sometimes scarce—real and conceptual relationships forged during that vulnerable time. “It’s Not Living (If It’s not With You)” is a grandiose, lyrically acidic examination on Healy’s opiate addiction with perplexingly poppy sound, the signature mark of the band’s intent to juxtapose levity with depth. The body of the album is heavily weighted toward cogitations on the nature of mental health, addiction and human connection, which are nearing perennial status as themes for The 1975’s narrative. 

Fans of the band, like myself, will locate a familiarity in the album, met with a satisfying set of surprises of sound and sentiment. For the curious, uninitiated listener to this band’s brand, A Brief Inquiry may feel a bit heady and difficult to access, especially via the tendency to meander through multiple genres. In its complexity and consciousness, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is lucidly reflective of a maturation for Healy and his bandmates, and a challenge to their listeners to get a little more “woke” along with them. –Paige Zuckerman

Pale Waves | My Mind Makes Noises | Dirty Hit

Pale Waves
My Mind Makes Noises
Dirty Hit
Street: 9.14.18
Pale Waves = The Cure + The Aces

Pale Waves have been generating an increasingly substantial cult following long before the release of their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, a nod to songwriter/frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie’s self-analyzing lyrical tendencies in the third track of the collection. The band began with Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran in Manchester and soon grew to a charming foursome rounded out by Hugo Silvani and Charlie Wood in 2015. After being signed by burgeoning British indie label Dirty Hit in 2017, Pale Waves have trickled onto the airwaves and playlists, dropping numerous singles and an EP before their anticipated freshman album.

My Mind Makes Noises opens with “Eighteen,” immediately exposing the Waves’ John Hughes– meets–Elliot Smith feel. Baron-Gracie and her cohorts capture the woes of youth and reminiscence while promising a head bobbing sound that tragically hip, young millennials would likely term “a bop.” “There’s a Honey was the first single and plays as a solid second track on the album, keeping the ear-worming catchiness going. There’s an enamoring innocence to Pale Waves’ music, yet their narrative is rife with dark, melancholic subtext that puts pop music naiveté on the chopping block. This may be one of the most appealing aspects of Pale Waves: that they are a dreampop band that deals more in tenebrous truth than bubbly romanticism.

Baron-Gracie is a Robert Smith analog with lovably awkward accouterments that come through in her supplicating voice and sometimes sappy lyrics—a persona she plays deftly in person. “Noises manifests this caricature most cogently, although it remains unclear if Baron-Gracie is, in fact, feigning a character at all. “Came In Close offers some of the tasty, electronic aspects that expose the production influences by which Pale Waves have been shepherded since signing with Dirty Hit. As a solid aficionado of the label, this track is a favorite—mostly for the sonic tricks employed.

Several of the tracks on this LP that never made it through the singles filter stand out as the strongest, including anthemic “Driveand sparkly tune, “When Did I Lose It All.” After the release of multiple songs from the album, a small clamor of quibbles about Pale Waves’ repetitive sound arose. Listeners of the final cut will likely find themselves less distracted by this criticism, as the finished product never betrays their evolving signature sound, yet offers a formation diverse enough to retain interest throughout all 14 tracks.

Eighth track “She” is a sudden, sharpened and slow ballad that smacks of the early EPs of fellow label siblings The 1975 … sad lyrics, ambient electronics and searing electric guitar crescendo included. “One More Timegives the listener a flirty slap across the cheek and evokes classic, ’80s synth pop a la Belinda Carlisle and Pat Benatar. One might be in grave danger of being caught in clunky, jet jubilant dancing and air guitar on their living room sofa while blasting this track and it’s comrade “Television Romance,” with an utterly chant-inducing chorus as the flourish. “Kiss” brings home The Cure comparisons, perhaps something to induce eye rolls from Smith purists, who might (as the title suggest) kiss a certain posterior something if they wish to vehemently dispute the resemblance. “Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like to Die)concludes My Mind Makes Noises with a somber acoustic guitar and a richness of Baron-Gracie’s pained vulnerability via her viscid Mancunian accent set to minimal sonic disruption. This song closes the collection with an unrest that speaks to the band’s ability to juxtapose the stygian and the sweet.

Pale Waves are an ’80s-heirloom, semi-dour dreampop band that seems to embody the greatest strengths and deepest struggles of millennials: to balance love of the nostalgic youthful past with hope for an, ostensibly, bleak future. My Mind Makes Noises is a relishable debut album that indicates this band deserves a place of prominence amid the noise. –Paige Zuckerman

WASI in full color

Los Angeles indie punk-pop band WASI are on a colorful mission to interlace their current touring cycle with a heaping dose of activism. On the back of their recent debut album Riot Pop, founders Jessie Meehan, Merilou Salazar and company embarked on the Love is Gay tour, bringing together the core messages of their songs and the work of connecting young queer communities via the power and collaboration of music-making. Ahead of their stop at Gold Blood Collective in Utah during the aptly celebratory vibes of Pride month, SLUG spoke with WASI about the big, rainbow picture of the tour and the inspirations for it.

SLUG: Tell us about the central mission of the Love is Gay tour.
WASI: The Love is Gay tour aims to engage with local LGBTQ+ communities in the areas we are going through by creating a safe artistic space. We are all about having a good time together where we can all feel safe to share what’s going on with each other and know we are all not alone.

WASI with weights.
Photo: Kat Contreras

SLUG: What inspired you to integrate activism and outreach into your tour?
We participated in an LA version of Love is Gay and people loved it! We have experience in throwing festivals (Merilou started the successful Women Fuck Shit Up Fest with her friend Mayra a few years ago) and thought it would be a cool idea to have a pride-related tour during pride month. Something we did with WFSU Fest was to find a local beneficiary to receive funds raised during the festival that does great things for marginalized communities. It has been such a fulfilling endeavor and we wanted to take that on the road and spread awareness. We are all in this world together for a short time and should do our part to help each other out and make it a better place.

SLUG: What have been some of the best and most difficult moments?
WASI: In regards to touring, some of the best times are just meeting people from all over—truly connecting with people and hearing their stories. Some of the most difficult are just the long hours of driving. We try to stop regularly for some yoga, stretches and burpees!

SLUG: You’ll be meeting with local youth groups in the queer community at each tour stop. What message are you hoping to convey to young queer kids about the value of music and art?
WASI: We come from a place that is pretty conservative—we dealt with a lot of depression and bullying growing up, which we know a lot of folks can identify with.  The thing that truly saved our lives was music.  That being said, we also never really found a scene we fit in with, so we decided to create our own path and community.  We work with the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles as well, which encouraged young girls to embrace everything their own awesomeness through playing music. Whenever we were feeling discouraged or down, we would pick up our guitars and write. This is what we encourage youth to do as well: Whether it’s a paint brush or an instrument, just release everything you’ve got into your art.

SLUG: How did you pick working with Familia for your stop in Utah?
WASI: We were doing our research for local non-profits, and what Familia is doing really resonated with us.  We really love the feeling of hope they carry for minorities. As a first generation immigrant, the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identities and an immigrant is something really important for me to connect with.

SLUG: How do your tour dates correlate with June being Pride month?
WASI: We really wanted this tour be a celebratory tour for those who want to be part of it. Pride month reminds us of the struggles that haven’t taken place for us to be where we’re at, and we’re excited to be part of the space in different cities. 

SLUG: In what ways is LGBTQ+ activism personally salient for you?
WASI: For us, being queer is something we’ve had to struggle with in our own ways, be it navigating society or just with ourselves.  To speak up and help connect with someone the way may have we needed that connection is important to us. 

Day-Glo WASI
Photo: Kat Contreras

SLUG: How does your music reflect your LGBTQ+ affirmative stance?
WASI: I think just being shamelessly ourselves represents that affirmative stance. We’re loud, we’re proud and we work hard! We try to come into spaces that people may not expect, and I think our live show showcases that. The energy we carry to the live show is part of who we are, and that feeling of pride hopefully can resonate with others. 

SLUG: How do you see music and performance art as an apparatus for effecting social change?
WASI: It’s everything! It’s how we express how we feel and how we see the world.  It makes sense of the things that don’t make any sense. Art is how we view the world through our individual lenses. We can talk about anything and do anything through art. If our songs make just one person feel better about their situation and make them feel less alone, then we have done our job!

SLUG: After your stop in Utah, what do you anticipate the remainder of the tour looking like?
WASI: Colorful! It is Pride month after all, and we have a lot to celebrate—Being queer, and being loud and proud. We are really excited to meet lots of new folks and make new friends!

WASI play Gold Blood Collective on June 18th alongside their work with Familia during their local stop. The band continue their Love is Gay tour throughout Pride month with several stops through the northwest back into California, ending in their hometown of Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theater on July 8th. Learn more about the band at isawwasi.com and hear them on Spotify and Bandcamp.

More on SLUGMag.com:

Familia: An Interview with Ella Mendoza
Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls: Loud Music, Proud Women and the Future of SLC

Denae Shanidiin
From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

Local photographer Denae Shanidiin is truly the embodiment of a multicultural artist. Working in images, ceramics, fashion and activism, Shanidiin expresses her complex Indigenous and Korean identity as it intersects with her place in the story of women and Native invisibility. Focusing on missing and murdered Indigenous people, as well as the beauty of labor and community, Shanidiin’s images speak quiet yet soaring truths of pain, love and belonging.

“Making images is my way of integrating myself into a nation, community, clan and sense of self I belong to but haven’t always nourished,” Shanidiin says. “My practice began when my first love gave me a camera to take home with me to the rez. My first roll of film was really beautiful … to me. I went to college for it, practiced hard and played hard with my dear friends, and was taught by some pretty rad professors. I’ve valued the nude, the intimate, the sacred, the personal, the ugly and the land.”

Shanidiin’s images often center around the simple yet sacred human moments in Indigenous experience, including the most painful and raw realities of violence, colonization and disappearance that sit at the core of that experience. Her works are also imbued with a love and affection for lived experience that shine through and show her heart. Shanidiin reflects on her most meaningful images in her recollection: “the documentation of my older sister growing and giving life, photographs of my grandparents doing anything, because anything they do is beautiful to me, photographs of my first boyfriend that remind me of a really blissful and sweet time in my life. The work is directly linked to my self-esteem, self-significance. I need to create beauty to feel mentally healthy and elated.”

“The images reflect a space sacred enough to call home.”

Denae Shanidiin
Photo: Matthew Hunter

Her more recent works over the past year have centered around the missing and murdered, an artistic and activist mission that has come with costs as well as growth.

Shanidiin relates the litany of effects this work has had on her personally this year, “A lot of anger, tears, heartache, homesickness, fire and being painfully humbled by the strength of this human condition,” she says. “I was gifted a lot of medicine and protection during this time while I was observing a lot of chaos (children of dead mothers, aunties and mothers with broken hearts, and the decline of health to follow after this kind of pain, [which] I have found to be in abundance). The medicine helped with this exposure … medicine being blessings, prayer paraphernalia, companionship and love.

“I feel strong and I’ve grown so much. I’m grateful to know these truths and to address them in ways that I am capable of.”

Alongside her missing and murdered project, Shandiin balances photographic tales of everyday Indigenous life, including human interactions rooted in simplicity. “I find myself gravitating towards the beauty of labor and, in that,” she says, “finding symbolism, memory, strength, and resilience in the many ways of life we live as Indigenous people.” Her Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018 tells of the crafting of a consecrated, shared experience. “The images reflect a space sacred enough to call home, a place where generations of women are congregated in prayer for intentional purpose, to ensure that our young girls are blessed in the ways that define us as Diné women. It’s a beautiful way to love our people, our mother earth and our ancestors.”

“I like to stay grounded within myself and not find myself in any scene.”

From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

Shanidiin’s awareness of community and collaboration are suffused within her artistic career, as she honors both her Indigenous artist colleagues and her ancestry.

“I have many artists in my bloodline,” she says. “I know it to be part of my spirit. I also live in a home with many creators. Shi’ma, my mother, and my sisters are all artists, and we dream a lot together … create in different ways, and often, we make things to adorn our limbs, fingers and ears. My very dear friend Alexis Munoa (also a photographer) … her images and concepts around beauty and home, language and land is very often the topic of conversation between us two. Her love for creation and healing through her practice is incredibly beautiful and influential to me. My favorite Diné artist is Jeff Slima painter whose work involves a lot of colors—which is somehow not overwhelming for me but rather fascinating. I love the way he paints figures and hands, and his concepts are spiritually intelligent.”

Shanidiin’s respect for fellow Indigenous artists seems to highlight her own work further, and she finds herself seeking authenticity and an accessible, unglamorous approach to her place in the world of contemporary photography. “I like to stay grounded within myself and not find myself in any scene, but rather do work that feels true and good for me and that feels like home,” she says “I’m learning how to be more intentional in my taste and with the tools that inform images I seek to create.”

“I see my work finding a relationship closer to home, where my grandparents live. I hope to confront racism, honor Indigeneity and explore beauty with my viewers.”

From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

It seems fitting that Shandiin seeks to cultivate a sense of safety and sanctuary in her work, two deeply vital and inviolable human needs of which her Indigenous culture has been divested. Her imagery and the way she integrates fully into it makes for herself and her subjects something of a home. “It’s a really nice way for me to honor what I value,” says Shanidiin. “It makes me love my world more, appreciate my relations more fully, and it helps me process pain and my story. In that experience, I find growth, and to me, that’s refuge … always growing. The experience of growth is realized in the moments of stillness and processing.”

Shandiin envisions her future work coming ever further back to her sanctuaries: “I see my work finding a relationship closer to home, where my grandparents live. I hope to confront racism, honor Indigeneity and explore beauty with my viewers. It’s kind of where I’m at personally … my sense of self as an artist isn’t linked to this idea of seeking glamour and any public reaction. This past year has been taxing for me, doing missing and murdered work, and my spirit has been all over the place. So in that experience, I’ve been digesting the idea of returning home. My home is where my grandparents are, a place I will return to, a place of refuge, a quiet and humble space for me to be, where I often experience the most loving and profound moments, among my kin in their sacred years of old age.”

Shanidiin’s images can be found on Instagram @denaeshanidiin, and her missing and murdered project at @mmiwhoismissing.

More on SLUGMag.com:

SLUG Style: Denae Shanidiin
Invisible Eulogy: Gregg Deal Brings Native Visibility to the Transcontinental Exhibit

The Japanese House Photo: Jim Mangan

English indie pop youngun Amber Bain is the mind and heart of The Japanese House, one of the expanding roster of talents on UK label Dirty Hit. Since summer 2017, Bain has released four EP’s and a full length album, Good At Falling, which dropped in March. A’la Imogen Heap and Fiona Apple, Bain brings back a subtle mid-nineties nostalgic sound with a smoky, suede vocal with more modern production values under the wing of The 1975 producer and drummer George Daniel.

The past week has been a veritable bacchanalia of Dirty Hit artists playing live and local, with Bain rounding out the “DH” double feature within a week. This marked The Japanese House’s first time in Utah, recently her set was swiftly upgraded from Kilby Court to The Complex, perhaps in part due to the diligence of her markedly competent indie label and their thus far fruitful relationship with our local audiences. Said relationship delivered as the turnout for the night was ample, especially for a first-timer.

Fellow Brit female solo act Art School Girlfriend started the evening with a single guitar and an array of backing tracks on a lone laptop. A very similar and near perfect complement to Bain, the opener was simple and smooth, albeit a bit of a somnolent starter for the night.

“Once more a moment in (what appears to be) the beginning of a rising career for a youthful indie protege is a pleasure to witness.”

Before her entrance, a curious audience singalong to “Dancing Queen” managed to breakout spontaneously, indicating the crowd was still vibrant even on a Sunday evening. Like most of her Dirty Hit colleagues, Bain’s set opened with a recorded sonic crescendo that veered cleanly into soaring single,  “Face Like Thunder.” Brief guitar tuning glitches overcome throughout the set, The Japanese House soldiered on with brief entreaties of love from their onlookers as they shifted gears into the contemplative tune “Cool Blue.” Bain’s ethereal vocals are validated by live performance, and her band stays true to her songs with just slight flourishes, proving her oft abundantly produced tracks can be beautifully arranged onstage. “Lilo, Saw You In A Dream and the infectiously delightful “Maybe You’re The Reason were the tracks that most finely reflecting this lovely translation. Bain and company finished the night with a confident assertion that the show marked her favorite of the fledgling tour thus far; not exactly a glowing endorsement as she is only a handful of stops into her summer series. Whether or not her statement stands, it seems likely she’ll be back soon enough, especially after the crowd cheered the band back to an unexpected encore even after the house lights had snapped back on. Bain and company regales the crowd with a repeat of “Maybe You’re The Reason” with all the more fervor during its banger of a guitar bridge.

Once more a moment in (what appears to be) the beginning of a rising career for a youthful indie protege is a pleasure to witness. Although The Japanese House is perhaps less probable to fill some of the clownishly large shoes of her Dirty Hit originating brethren, she’s clearly destined for her own fashion of greatness. The Japanese House live is an absolute must-see at any juncture and on any local stage.

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