Listen: Central Heat Exchange – “Cold” [2021]

Wanted to feature Chicago band Central Heat Exchange, which I found while trawling through the releases of September 2021. Really dug the track “Cold”, that has some crushing distorted guitars + percussion mixed with dreamy background vocals and dream pop elements that persist throughout other tracks on the album. I tend to like the heavier songs anyways, so “Cold” really stuck with me, reminding me of Nothing or 2015-era Title Fight. Elsewhere on the LP you’ll find guest contributions from Living Hour, Varsity and Fran, along with a heavy dose of both melancholic and optimistic, drifting indie rock tunes. You’ll probably like it – Central Heat Exchange is out now – buy it & listen more HERE.

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Listen: Mr Twin Sister – “Ballarino” [2021]

REJOICE! Mr Twin Sister have slated the release of a new album, Al Mundo Azul, coming November 19. If you’re new to the blog, MTS has been one of my top favorite bands since their 2014 self-titled record, which also made the Top 20 of my Top 200 Records of the 2010s. You should go read that.

Anyways – we’ve already heard a few tastes from the record, including early 2021 singles “Diary” + “Expressions”, along with the more recent “Polvo” – “Ballarino” keeps up the trend of super upbeat, dance-centric sounds and rhythms that the previous tracks have established. Super punchy instrumental, a near-psychedelic funk element with tons of different moving parts and arpeggios all linking up. Nearly every single song the band has put out I love and “Ballarino” is no exception. I can’t wait to dance to this LP and let it completely consume me. Not for nothing, it also includes longtime live highlight “Fantasy”. It’s finally here. Hell yes.

No pre-order for the album is up yet, but you can support the single via the link HERE.

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Listen: älägator – “Haluan Herätä” [2021]

Shout out to my friend David who shared something about this band on his IG story + who always has a finger on the pulse of great new (and old, let’s be real) dream pop that flies completely under the radar. älägator is a band based in NYC that writes entirely in Finnish, a language I’ve strangely become more accustomed to seeing thanks to my relentless watching of Let’s Play videos of Finnish game Noita. The band recently released their debut EP, unen syvyydessä, via Friend Club Records and is being reissued by Disposable America.

But back to the music, the band make some really convincing 90s-reminiscent dream pop, soaked with reverb, and with a steady use of chiming acoustic guitar amongst gauzy electric moments. Sometimes slower (slowcore, maybe) pop/rock songs from the era lost you in a soup of sound, but this evades that. Tons of super engaging melodies and hooks, especially on this track “Haluan Herätä” and “Mennyt Lapsuus”. If you’re looking for a new companion for fall listening (I know I did before I came upon this) this is a great option. Glimmering, shimmering, glistening – all of the ideal dreamy music adjectives. They’re all good ones. Hopefully the band has more music in the works – I hope you’ll be watching alongside me!

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Listen: The Stick Figures – “September” [1981 / 2021]

Ok now here’s something very exciting, even though it’s named after the month that just passed. Just got tipped off to this great reissue compilation of Tampa band The Stick Figures, released by Floating Mill Records, putting together the band’s 1981 debut EP as well as six unreleased songs, two live versions and a new 2021 remix. The group concoct a raw, thrilling take on post punk of the moment – the press release said they were staples in the music scene in Tampa at the time and opened for bands like The Fall and Lounge Lizards. Just listening to the two live tracks on the record makes it seem like they’d be an absolute blast to see live.

Wanted to feature this track “September” – just a pitch-perfect jangle rock track with an acceptable use of glockenspiel (you can’t say that every day). Just a great sense of movement, super catchy melodies and choruses. John Peel even mail-ordered the EP and played “September” on his show. So right now it’s me and John Peel that you know like this band… I don’t know what to tell you if you haven’t hit play yet. If you’re at all a fan of jangle, classic early 80s post punk and the wide delta of styles that spread forth through the start of the movement to now, you owe it to yourself to check out this compilation. Get a taste of a group that’s not from NYC, LA, Chicago, etc. It’s good for you!

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Listen: Anz – “You Could Be (feat. George Riley)” [2021]

Would be remiss if I didn’t feature this new Anz single (not the newest one, mind you – that’s “Real Enough To Feel Good”) – it’s been one of my favorite songs of the year so far. So catchy + classic sounding. Put it on for a good time.

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Listen: DJ Seinfeld – “Tell Me One More Time” [2021]

DJ Seinfeld has mostly shucked his pigeonholing “lo-fi house” aesthetic that rocketed him to popularity in the late 10s on his great new album Mirrors (out now via Ninja Tune) but he maintains some of the crackly, R&B vocal sampling, percussive piano stabs & emotional synthetic strings found on his previous material on this new song “Tell Me One More Time” – one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s also got that one synth tone/texture that I associate with the laser tag I would go to as a kid. Whenever I hear that tone in a song, I’m done. It’s over. I’m handing over the keys and living inside the song now.

Mirrors is out NOW via Ninja Tune – buy it HERE.

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Listen: Anna Von Hausswolff – “Persefone” [2020]

Not sure how I didn’t post anything standalone about this Anna Von Hausswolf record, All Thoughts Fly, from last year. It was one of my fall staples and now that the weather is creeping back into the lower digits, the album too is steadily finding itself in my daily rotation. “Persefone” is one of the slower songs on the album (which, if you didn’t know is an entirely instrumental pipe organ album) but it’s one of the most emotional in its chord progression and singing/crying high tones from the organ. It was one of my favorite songs of last year and really gets me back in the mood for colder weather, darker skies and enveloping ennui. Just beautiful.

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Listen: Richard Hawley – “Coles Corner” [2005]

In the last week I’ve been strangely obsessed with listening to albums from 2005. I think it was spurred by a craving for Broken Social Scene’s self-titled record from that year, which led me to looking back at Pitchfork’s Best Albums list along with a few other publications, and realizing that 2005 was a strange, disjointed year for indie albums. There are a few ultimate classics, like IllinoisPinkTender ButtonsSilent Alarm and more, but plenty that have been lost to the sands of time, forgotten or pushed out of the main discourse of essential albums of the 00s.

As someone who is quite enamored with the 00s (I know, something is wrong with me), I felt compelled to check out a few albums I had never heard before from 2005 alongside the staples. I haven’t gotten very far though, because I’ve been stuck listening to Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner over and over. Released on Mute, the album was clearly well-received in the year it was released, as many friends who were plugged in at the time replied back saying how much they loved the LP, one even saying that Hawley was his favorite musician from 2005-2010. I haven’t seen much mention of it these days in the main nostalgia wagon ride through the corn maze of 00s classics though. However, I think with the general music-listening populace’s gradual reclamation of country, sophistipop and balladry, Coles Corner should be a shoo-in for a revival.

Not to make a Frankenstein’s Monster of comparisons, but think of a beautiful mash of classic balladic country (I truthfully haven’t listened to enough to really pick out one artist from the genre), Scott Walker and The Blue Nile. It’s unpretentious but lavish, able to switch between lush, string-filled and twinkling climaxes and candle-lit lamentations from past 4am. I’ve been listening as I’ve gone out walking at night and the title track really pulls the wistful and crushing emotions out of me, with Hawley singing about “cold city lights blowing, the traffic of life flowing” – my favorite thing. Gentle introspection mixed with harmless voyeuristic observation of the world passing by, taking note of the small singularities and routines going on around us at all times. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I’ve also been mainlining Yo La Tengo, so the low-key nature of their music here has definitely tenderized me to really make a home in Coles Corner. There are so many elements at play here and thanks to the already-retro sound of the music, it makes it feel timeless. This album could have come out last year or in 1970. Don’t skip this one y’all – I’ll have more 2005 recs for you soon enough.

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Listen: Mike Etten – “Saints” [2021]

This Friday (Oct. 1), Mike Etten (PC Worship, Dougie Poole band) is releasing his debut solo album, Love Wash, via Dull Tools. I wasn’t familiar with Etten prior to getting the LP, but checking out a few of the tracks on here I’m definitely digging the whispery, psychedelic blues folk that sounds at home in an old forest cemetery or desert ruin.

“Saints”, the most recent single + video from the project, was an immediate standout for me for one obvious reason – it’s got the violin jams on there! Not just any violin either, but via a guest performance from Adam Markiewicz of blog fav LEYA. The 3/4 waltz of “Saints” eventually breaks into a lovely, swirling bridge that enhances the otherworldly, psyched-out sound that had been building throughout the track, offering a new cloud-like layer for the song to launch from at the end. And that’s really all I need in a song these days: some nice timbre variety, a melting violin echoing from the heavens or across a distant plain, and some dynamics. I’m getting this in spades here. That middle part is obviously extra credit.

I know Beck isn’t the most glamorous touchstone comparison artist these days, and also not to interpolate the “getting Boss Baby vibes from this” tweet formula, but as a big Beck fan I was getting some slight touches of his Modern Guilt and Mutations LPs throughout Love Wash – a totally great thing for me, anyways. It’s an album that kicks up dust and boils with a dry heat when it needs to, with flares of harsh guitar distortion juxtaposed with wayward, humidity-warped pedal steel, twinkling synthesizer and the occasional howling saxophone. It’s an album to put on in desolate times, in introspective times, for walking around the city at sunset, or camping out in the desert to.

Love Wash is out October 1st via Dull Tools – pre-order it HERE.

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Listen: Nate Mercereau – “Absolute Sensitivity” [2021]

Composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, all-around sonic wizard Nate Mercereau has released his new album SUNDAYS today (Sept. 24) via How So / Nice Life Recordings, and if you’re in need for something to take you on a journey – this will be just the thing.

I was previously familiar with Mercereau’s music via his 2019 LP Joy Techniques and its euphoric title track (feat. Terrace Martin). That album was definitely more of a maximalistic take compared to this, with furious guitar playing, slappin’ percussion, loud bass and more, a real rip-roaring time. In 2019, when the parties were happening, that was sick. “Joy Techniques” is still a top favorite of mine. SUNDAYS on the other hand, is a free-moving, “let’s-see-where-this-goes” type of album. Not to say this is something that flatlines for the entire duration, but it’s dynamic in other ways, with songs usually starting soft and gradually expanding and contracting into different shapes, hues and textures. With drum parts suddenly picking up and firing off into a controlled frenzy, or synths expanding wider with little modular babies leaking out from its pores. It’s a fluid sensory experience. Mercereau collaborated with legendary L.A. experimental luminary Carlos Niño (who also released a bomb LP this year!), who sent him percussion improvisations for him to build around, resulting in the vast, twinkling soundscapes you hear today.

I wanted to highlight this track “Absolute Sensitivity” not only because I like how it sounds, but also because I appreciate its title and how it can apply to music like this. Being sensitive in times like these is more important than ever, and when listening to free-flowing, improvisational music like this, it’s best to let the tracks wash over you, let wandering story leave prints upon your psyche and see where you end up once its over. The track concludes with chiming piano chords, actual chimes, and delicate cymbal crashes after a slow build of chirping synthesizer, distant saxophone and clattering percussion. It’s a story being built, all you have to do is sit and listen. It’s been great seeing music like this start gaining a wider audience – especially now, we need music that breathes, changes and walks with us as we float through life, unsure of what’s to come but confident that we’ll keep going.

SUNDAYS is out now via How So / Nice Life. Buy the album HERE

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