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

Spiritualized | And Nothing Hurt | Fat Possum Records

Spiritualized
And Nothing Hurt

Fat Possum Records
Street: 09.07
Spiritualized = John Cale/Lou Reed Velvet Underground + unbridled John Coltrane

Jason Pierce has always made music that is different than anything else being done. Spiritualized have always been his vehicle, or spacecraft, and he has always been the spaceman on a mission to bring something interesting home for anyone willing to listen. Even when his albums fell short of what fans and critics were expecting, they were still better than most everything else, especially anything not pushing boundaries.

With Spiritualized’s eighth studio album, And Nothing Hurt, Pierce has bitten off an awful lot to chew—particularly if one considers having to follow his last album, 2012’s panned Sweet Heart, Sweet Light. This time around, he recorded almost everything himself in a room in his London home. Not using a full recording studio and all of its accompanying resources sounds a little crazy—maybe not so much for a generation of DIY musicians. But, for Pierce, who generally incorporates complex sounds and layered subtleties as well as full choirs and large ensembles using non-rock instruments, it was a change, something he isn’t unfamiliar with.

Well, he did it, and painstakingly so. Not having a ton of experience in digital recording, Pierce taught himself on a laptop, bit by bit and recorded And Nothing Hurt alone. I think it came out beautifully.

Nothing in the world sounds like Spiritualized’s 1997 masterpiece, Ladies and Gentlemen…We Are Floating in Space, but I was instantly brought back to that album with And Nothing Hurt’s opening track, “Perfect Miracle.” It’s a wonderful song—complex, heartfelt and a perfect tone-setter to begin a Spiritualized album. That’s just the beginning of the beginning. The following two songs, “I’m Your Man” and “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go,” are the leading singles released earlier this summer to tease and satisfy those awaiting the full album’s eventual arrival.

Pierce’s lyrical prowess is also on parade here, as usual. He gives listeners a truthful glimpse into his reasoning and the things in his life that he is trying to address with each song, all while not coming off as pretentious or overly philosophical. Pierce is ordinarily straightforward, which is a large part of his appeal. His songs are easy to identify with. Most tracks are packed with enlightened gems of wisdom that people can put in their back pocket. One of my favorites from this album is from the song “On The Sunshine.” It says, “If youth is wasted on the young then wisdom on the old”—perfect. And in another yet, this time from “Let’s Dance,” he says to someone he is trying to convince to forget that it’s closing time and dance with him instead. “We’ve got the rest of our lives till the coming dawn/ Hold my hand a while—we’ll go out in style and dance.” Again, perfect, relevant.

I could just rant on about every song on this album—they’re all good, most are fantastic and some absolute classics. But it isn’t truly an examination of a Spiritualized record unless one allows themselves to be immersed under the entire thing. I’ve always loved the wall-of-sound style of production found throughout a lot of Spiritualized’s stuff, and many tracks here are blended in a way that makes it hard, maybe even overpowering, to focus on just one aspect of it all. When I let go of those attempts, however, I am rewarded by something so dense with sound, emotion and joy. It really only works as one, magnificent whole anyway.

On the album’s cover, Pierce is alone, surrounded by a moonlike environment in a spacesuit—a man by himself, somewhere unfamiliar. It’s a fitting visual, which complements a deep album done by the one guy who could actually pull it off. –Billy Swartzfager

Picnics at Soap Rock | Garden Tempo

Picnics At Soap Rock
Garden Tempo

Self-Released
Street: 06.20
Picnics at Soap Rock = Squirrel Bait + Slint

Garden Tempo is the debut EP from local band Picnics At Soap Rock. The duo, consisting of musicians who simply go by Ethan (drums) and Chazz (guitar/vocals), make music that calls back to the high point of lo-fi emo with enough rage and turmoil in their lyrics to justify the appropriation of this style. Far from wallowing in adolescent angst and pity, the high points of Garden Tempo offer abstract portraits of the complicated nature of mental health with some raucous, borderline psychedelic rock music behind them.

At this point, anyone with access to a smartphone and enough patience can make what was considered a hi-fi record 50 years ago. The fuzzy, lo-fi quality of Garden Tempo is then a specific choice, one that gives the EP an anachronistic feeling. On “The Inside Of Your Wristwatch,” the blaring guitars melt into a wall of distortion, and the brittle cymbal lines are a perfect match for the strained, fading vocals. The screamed lyrics detail feelings of solitary anger and social disillusion before the narrator hits a talking deer—who might be the voice of Satan.

The opener, “Waste,” displays a knack for marrying a lyrical message with musical backing, one of Picnics’ strongest traits, the final vocal delivers a call for increased faith in life. After dealing in depression, suicide and familiar strife, the assertion that “every weekend from now on is a celebration of what you didn’t waste” offers an empowering conclusion as the music launches into a grandiose instrumental coda. This does lead the title track, the sole instrumental cut, to feel a little lackluster. The slinking guitar lines don’t feel nearly as potent as the riffs elsewhere, and the lack of lyrics leave the track feeling unfinished.

While Garden Tempo doesn’t necessarily end on a positive note, it does show signs of progress. Its lyrics deal with making changes, cutting away toxic parts of your life and admitting your errors. What sells the feeling even more than these words, though, is the triumphant music. Towards the end of the track, atop anthemic guitar riffs, the duo begin an off-key, off-rhythm harmony. The effect is that of Ethan and Chazz drunkenly swaying, arms around each other, finding a necessary moment of kinship and empathy after a slew of emotional distress. –Connor Lockie

Booyah Moon | Landing

Booyah Moon
Landing

Self-Released
Street: 01.04
Booyah Moon = Sonic Youth + Dinosaur Jr.

Recently formed, coed quintet, Booyah Moon are unpolished and honest. Early this year, they released their debut album Landing, just slightly past the EP threshold at a sparse seven tracks. Landing opens with “Fraidy Cat,” a roughshod and rapid snapshot on paranoia and emotional paralysis, which seems imbued with interesting meta-messages about the modern rationale for avoidance and chronic anxiety. Booyah Moon practices a melodic sensibility that offsets their punky, sometimes screamo-esque vocals which seem to reflect intent and self-awareness. 

Landing is straightforward and stripped down, tracks are brief and direct and Booyah’s overall sound is austere. “Away for a Long Time” turns ever so slightly bluesy and folk in the spirit of Built to Spill, a method that is repeated on a few tunes in differing fashions. A disillusioned, comedic attitude takes over in track four, unravelling broken dreams and the commodification of resignation in “1-800-55D-REAM.” It’s unclear if this tune is a manifesto on capitalism and loss of identity, or a statement of resistance to abandoning one’s vision even in the face of economic and identity odds—Perhaps it is both. Either way, this track is the punkiest of the entire album and one for the slightly abashed Johhny Rotten fan in all of us. “Tin Man” detours to nearly a reggae vibe, with a juxtaposed positivity and stolid optimism, evoking a hippie-era lovefest. The inclusion of this track feels bewildering, yet clever. “Ghost” concludes Landing, with a return to the slightly dour sentiment of its sibling songs—yet with the longest runtime, an appropriate endpoint for a short, overall offering.

Lyrically, Landing is rich with sharp imagery and a variety of wounding metaphors. There’s a rusted, chrome-bumper feel to the album that manifests in most tracks via rough and prickly narrative and growling guitars with equally gravelly vocals. Landing is a slightly sophomoric, and fun selection of indie-rock sounds that seem to indicate that this local group have interesting places to go as they grow. –Paige Zuckerman

XavierTheRapper | 8 Man

XavierTheRapper
8 Man

Self-Released
Street: 08.18
XavierTheRapper = Lil Tracy + Lil Skies + Night Lovell

After releasing his first EP in 2017, XavierTheRapper hasn’t taken a break. Appearing on every music platform you could imagine, as well as releasing 43 additional tracks (yes, you read that right, 43 additional tracks), XavierTheRapper has just now released 8 Man in early August.

The album’s execution and quality really start to back up and prove why XavierTheRapper holds the titles of 8God and “Utah’s next mainstream recording artist.” 8 Man clicks off with some flair and flavor with the aptly named “Caliente,” a track opening with a great flamenco-style sound that quickly transforms into a trap beat as Xavier’s vocals come in. The mood of 8 Man changes as “Caliente” becomes “Pain,” a more somber track with slow vocal samples, acoustic guitar and a heavy beat. Pain covers feelings of depression and anxiety, and as you listen through the rest of the tracks on this album, those themes carry through some of his most outstanding work.

The slower tone continues with the eerie and spacey “Fireman,” which comes in with one of the smoothest beats I’ve heard this year. As “Fireman” fades, 8 Man enters its crown jewel and the track that is gaining XavierTheRapper the most traction, “Won’t Change.” It’s a song about depression, feeling stranded and lost. These are themes that are not only resonating with people but also fit in with the modern scape of mainstream hip-hop. 8 Man closes off with “Boss Crown,” a freestyle on the album’s most mainstream-sounding beat. This is an interesting choice, but I think ending an EP with a freestyle that shows his lyrical chops pays off.

XavierTheRapper shows a lot of skill and potential to make it into the mainstream with his music from his subject matter, to his taste in beats and his voice. I recommend checking out 8 Man and the rest of Xavier’s extensive and expanding discography. –Connor Brady

teenage sport | lungs EP | Swoody Records

teenage sport
lungs EP

Swoody Records
Street: 06.05
teenage sport = Snail Mail + Harvard

It’s nearly impossible to find local band teenage sport online because when Googling “teenage sport band slc,” all that shows up are KSL articles about teenage sport camps that have happened this summer. Though this makes them a little difficult to find, luckily their music is up and available on Swoody Records’s Bandcamp page. For a band with such earnest, honey-hearted motivations, “teenage sport” seems like a placeholder name while they figure out how to be who they are with a straight face. In the meantime, this record delivers a heavy dose of wonder, the kind you have when you’re young and discovering things for the first time, bundled up into fairly neat little songs.

That’s what they seem to be going for, anyways. Davin Abegg and McKenzie Smith switch offf vocal duties, crooning to themselves, introspective. On the first song, “Lungs,” Smith sings as though mantra-leading “Close your eyes / Let the drums fill the space / Though your heart is gone / You can focus on your lungs.” Toward the end of the song, with slight acoustic build behind their voice, they go on to sing, “This is how we learn how to live for more than words and yesterdays.” Continuing the self-revelationary theme with “I Try,” Abegg sings with a scratching and sincere voice, “I try to make it through the day without wanting to fade away / I try—sometimes it’s hard to.”

Each song follows along these lines. Sometimes it feels slightly melancholic, but all still lifted by little moments of atmospheric weirdness, such as the UFO-esque laser sounds whispering in the background on “Before We Vanish.” On “Trying to be Lonely,” piano pulses with the same timbre of a parlor piano as Smith sings about someone looking for love, or heartbreak—or both—only to realize that she’s “just trying to be lonely.” The album is a good one for those who love sincere and completely unabashed indie, full of the simplicity and authenticity of youthful self-discovery. Lungs is flushed with the big feeling of realizing how small you are, and the music itself is comparably small, a little answer from little humans to the big universe. –Erin Moore

Cuddy Corekt | Odin 05 | Milkshake Backpack

Cuddy Corekt
Odin 05

Milkshake Backpack
Street: 07.13
Cuddy Correkt = Pouya + Shakewell + Chris Travis

Local rapper Cuddy Correkt is back with another collection of tracks entitled Odin 05, drawing from other artists and his contemporaries while exploring his own sound in the process.

The album shows that Corekt is both relevant and well versed in creating modern-day rap music. His flows are modern, obviously influenced by South Florida rappers like Pouya and Wifisfuneral.

“Who got the money?” particularly seems to borrow from the fast-paced South Floridaian lyricism and style. Corekt raps, “Who got the money and who got the dough,” repeatedly over a quick beat, sporting booming, bass sounds and quick samples.

Though Correkt does well with emulating certain rappers and styles, some of Odin 05 feels a little too familiar and lacks a certain originality, or a desire to be new. Corekt has proved himself worthy as an emcee and artist, and he should be able to trust his personal artistic instincts. “Boat Load” is one of the strongest songs on the album because it seems to be a genuine, innovative track made by Corekt, where he isn’t coming across as sounding like a specific artist or style. “All I want is all I want, and all I want is what I want, with me myself and I, because it’s all I need and all I got,” Corekt raps on the track with an original cadence and flow.

As with his earlier works, Corekt’s music is well-engineered and has a high production quality. Despite that Corekt seems to take cues from other artists, he does so well. “Who got the money?” is well-mixed, mastered and sounds professionally produced. Many up-and-coming SoundCloud rappers would pay a pretty penny for the beats that are used on Odin 05, and Corekt does not disappoint, matching the quality of the rest of his project with his flows. Check out Cuddy Corekt’s newest work on Spotify or Soundcloud, and be on the lookout for other releases in the future. –Taylor Hartman

Follow the Weather | First Light

Follow the Weather
First Light

Self-Released
Street: 06.27
Follow the Weather = Estas Tonne + The Cinematic Orchestra × acoustic Chevelle

I can’t actually remember the last time that I was up early enough to witness first light, so it’s a convenient thing that Follow the Weather have packaged the experience up so concisely in their fourth release, First Light. Lively acoustic strumming, grand string sweeps and mounting keyboard chords paint the picture—a sunrise full of bright and jubilant melodies and mysterious, somber ones. First Light is an experience that feels honed—distilled into a savory ensemble of guitar strums, clean drumming and deep bass humming. This is the kind of album that could easily be listened to while studying. It’s full of soft-spoken interludes and slow builds—but also one that rewards deep listening, with its intricate harmonies, and subtle character. Needless to say, it’s an album that I can wholeheartedly suggest you check out.

I’m honestly a little surprised that I like First Light so much. The album is built upon slow and dramatic builds—think Explosions in the Sky—which don’t usually catch my interest. Coupled with excellent production quality, however, and it’s easy to hear the character of each instrument, lending the experience a much more intricate and intimate savor. The pulse of the album is intoxicating, inviting—nay, demanding that I tap my foot in time with the dance of each song. Acoustic guitar, piano and the occasional bit of drumming make up the bulk of the orchestration, but electric guitar melodies, interesting sound effects and warm bass lines bring the mix to great heights. A particularly impressive climax to the album, “New You You’ve Always Been,” had my jaw on the floor the first time I listened and heard the full might of Follow the Weather’s steady guitar riffage, vitalizing drumming and powerful bass lines.

I can tell that a tremendous amount of work went into the making of First Light, and it really paid off. The rhythms are strong and dancey, the melodies ring in my ears, and the quality of the mix is top notch. Best of all, you can stream the whole album for free on Follow the Weather’s bandcamp! If you’re in the mood for a solid—albeit short—set of instrumentals, then don’t miss First Light! –Alex Blackburn

V A L E | V A L E

V A L E
Self-Titled

Self-Released
Street: 07.21
V A L E =  Patrick Cowley + Drexciya

V A L E is the moniker of Nikola Mučkajev, a local electronic producer whose debut album dropped late last month. Across this record’s 13 tracks, Mučkajev engages with a highly overwrought approach to synthesizer music, both its dance-leaning tendencies and more drone-focused sounds. The result is an album of constant evolution, one that seems to move on to the next idea just as one gains momentum.

This style is apparent from the album’s opening moments. “DIASPORA” is a 30-second intro that ends abruptly, a trick that occurs many other times throughout V A L E. After over two minutes of ambient textures and industrial slabs of noise, a high-pitched melody finally enters “THE RAY,” just for Mučkajev to move on after 10 seconds. Listening to this record can feel a bit like playing catch up, and only across multiple listens does the logic of this unorthodox structuring start to unfold.

Some of the most interesting moments on V A L E occur when Mučkajev shifts his approach toward more abstract sounds. “SUBJECTIVITY” begins with a moving string of harpsichord harmonies before it becomes a somber piano and voice duet. Taken as a whole, the track is captivating and contemplative, as is the strange sound collage built out of clocks and telephones that closes out “PLEROMA.” These instances show Mučkajev breaking out of the mode of demonic synthesizers and drums and exploring a wider variety of sounds and styles to a great effect.

The sounds on V A L E reach for a maximal, high-budget pinnacle. This quality gives some of the more upbeat tracks like “AION” and “THE DAEMON” a threatening power, and here it feels like V A L E’s music should blare onto a crowded dance floor in the middle of the night. The latter is the album’s closer, which sends the music off on one of the heaviest, most sonically flooring moments here.

At other times, the production choice has some detriments to the listening experience. On “SPIN,” the digital mixing is so overwrought that the track’s individual parts cannot coexist equally. What starts as one of the deepest bass grooves on the whole album is buried under synthesized choirs and a strangely tropical drum groove.

Mučkajev’s debut does everything a debut should: It showcases everything he’s capable of, as well as his penchant for variety. It also leaves enough room for improvement and evolution, so anyone interested should stay on the lookout for the second V A L E release. –Connor Lockie

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