Listen: Sasha & The Valentines – “Flower” [2021]

Been sharing a lot of dream pop here and look – I’m not stopping. Recently seen some friends (specifically a few TX-based ones – you know who you are!) posting about Austin band Sasha & The Valentines and their debut album So You Think You’ve Found Love?, which I can confirm as a non-Texan, is very good. The incredibly basic, borderline criminally simple thing I can say is “the lead singer sounds like Victoria Legrand from Beach House”, so I’m gonna go further than that. The band employs some of the shimmering, dreamy textures that Beach House do, but push their sound into other directions like surf and 80s pop as well. On one song it’s catchy, on another it’ll be blissfully bendable. I was entertained and enjoyed the whole thing. Another fairly basic comparison would be Caroline Rose and her use of cheesy synths alongside real revved up guitars and spirited vocals.

There are good shreds of many different pop acts present here in Sasha & The Valentines, alongside their own obvious and unique charms, all comprising as one of the more promising indie pop debuts of the year. Here’s my hopes for this record + band – it either gets picked up for review late in major publications, it sneaks on a bunch of honorable mentions lists with big blogs (or a dark horse for a mid-list 2021 mention) and then the band kicks ass on a sophomore album in the future. Who knows. Honestly I’m surprised a certain TX-based blog hasn’t posted about them yet? Hopefully soon! I sense some great things in the future and I can’t wait til touring resumes so I can see them in NYC.

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Listen: George Arturo Calendar – “Pesadillas” [2021]

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been crafting up a suite of dreamy, smeared out playlists made for fantasizing about dizzying nights out while staying in every day. Lots of these playlists are made from disparate tunes from random nooks and crannies of the internet, old and new. Sometimes I find some private press groove thing that I can’t take my ears off of. This new George Arturo Calendar record, Paradox, out now via Stereochip Records, reminds me of those homespun, lo-fi synth testimonials I’d discover through heavy internet digging. The majority of lyrics are in Spanish, the synths are woozy, the bass is buoyant and flexible, and the whole thing warbles and bends like it’s being broadcast through a lost VHS tape found in a dusty, abandoned discotek.

If you dig the hazy pop of the moment or of the obscured past, don’t let Chicago’s George Arturo Calendar’s Paradox slip through your fingers.

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Listen: AIM LOW – “Hypertensive Crisis” [2021]

Friends of the blog and resident Canadian noise nerds AIM LOW just dropped a new EP Broken Sundial, with each part recorded separately during quarantine. A classic feat of this modern age. When I previously shared music from the band, they were slinging oppressive, all-consuming slabs of discordant guitar noise and more. This time around they’re approaching “song” territory (holy moly), with reference to classic slowcore like Bedhead or Codeine, even including a Guided By Voices cover. 

The song I’ve chosen to feature here is the opener, “Hypertensive Crisis”, is a slow-burn ride into the mouth of a volcano, with the song slowly amping up in chaotic guitars and ominous noise while a spoken word piece is read in the background, including a stanza by e.e. cummings. It’s not the most seasonal music of right now, but as a wise scholar once said, “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days” – those mistakes can sometimes lead you to ego-pulverizing slowcore, laying down with the lights off in the dark, with only the din from your headphones to comfort you. And that’s ok. AIM LOW are here now.

Grab Broken Sundial via AIM LOW’s Bandcamp – HERE 

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Listen: SPELLLING – “Boys At School” [2021]

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring attention to the upcoming SPELLLING album, The Turning Wheel, coming June 25th via Sacred Bones. I really enjoyed her 2019 album Mazy Fly, and got to see her perform at Trans-Pecos here in NYC. Remember shows?

Anyways, her sound before has been pretty insular, pretty indoorsy in a way that suggests cobwebs are laced over the front door and the drapes are nailed tight over windows. This new song “Boys From School” sees SPELLLING (aka Chrystia Cabral) busting down those doors, letting forth a dark smoke into the world. The gothy nature expands with neo-psychedelia, as fat, Bay Area-reminiscent fonk synths rumbling underneath a swirling orchestra of horns, ripping guitar and triumphant piano. The haunted mansion that was Mazy Fly is imploding due to a cataclysmic new spell, letting forth a new confidence and reckoning to those that scorned Cabral in the past. It rocks. I’m obviously being dramatic – it’s what I do. In short, it’s a bold new step for SPELLLING’s sound and I can’t wait to hear the full LP.

You can pre-order The Turning Wheel (out June 25th via Sacred Bones) – HERE.

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Listen: Carlos Niño & Friends – “The World Stage, 4321 Degnan Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90008” [2021]

Just wanted to post one more track from this awesome Carlos Niño & Friends record, More Energy Fields, Current, out now via International Anthem. This track in particular features Sam Gendel, Jamael Dean and Randy Gloss, but the full album includes collaborations with Laraaji, Dntel, Shabaka Hutchings, Nate Mercereau and more. Don’t miss it! Mystical, healing new age with jazz fusion. Something beautiful and swirling to help usher in your spring. Also want to point out there’s a little piano line in here that’s eerily similar to one in Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.

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Playlist: 100% Humidity – Sweat As A Second Skin

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As someone who has lived in humid climates for their entire life, I feel like I can go long on talking about the aesthetic beauties and horrors of humidity. Coming out of the winter and now arcing into warmer temperatures, there were those colder days where I’d fantasize about the hottest days of summer I’ve experienced, like ones where there were heat advisories but I still went to a loft ambient concert anyways. It’s a type of heat that weighs you down (physically, with sweat as well as movement-wise). You can feel like you’re walking through soup. There were nights where you could just lay in bed, fans on you, and picturing yourself physically melting into the folds of your mattress isn’t some farfetched outcome.

I feel like a lot of my other playlists inhabit this humid, steamy universe I lay out in my head, namely Essential Oil Dimension, Rose Garden 2AM, Submerged Reflection, Beach Ball Hell, Heist On The Highway and to a certain extent Sand Dollar Jukebox, but I picture a nice seabreeze flowing that day. 100% Humidity is the most sweltering of those days with a heat that makes your upper lip all dewy by just standing there. Deep bass mirrors happily gurgling tide pools, guitars and other melodic leads bend and warp in the heat. A little past the halfway point the songs start to slow down, stretching to a crawl, finishing off with a suite of instrumental pieces to emphasize there is no more coherent human thought – just melted synapses and a ceasefire of cognition. Pure bliss from the release of human thought. Listen to the playlist below and check the tracklist.

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Listen: Good Morning TV – “Insomniac” [2021]

The fine folks at the Géographie label tipped me onto an upcoming project of theirs from France, dream pop band Good Morning TV. Their new album Small Talk is coming June 18, but have had this first single “Insomniac” out for a minute now. I’ve been delving into buzzier, more “current” indie pop as it comes to me via my Spotify Recommends section, and this song definitely falls in that vein: drifting, layered guitars, plinking synthesizer, skittering, snare-heavy percussion and lovely uncanny vocals from singer Bérénice Deloire. Think Men I Trust or Barrie.

The song eventually opens up with a deep, pulsating synth line, offering a great dynamic contrast to the rather dosed opening half of the song. It’s a lovely slice of dream pop that I can imagine most of my readers would be down for.

Good Morning TV’s Small Talk is out June 18 via Géographie – pre-order HERE.

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Playlist: Heist On The Highway – High-Stakes Soul

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The playlists just keep coming. I accumulated a good amount of funky jazz + adjacent jams and thought to string them together into a cinematic thriller; reminding me of fictional spy movies from the 50s and 60s, full of music from Brazil, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, Syria, France and more. Slinky basslines, whipping guitars, fat drums, big horns, whirlwind mellotron and psychedelic breakdowns. This one is lots of fun and I can’t wait to go driving with it blasting.

Picture a worldwide syndicate of spies intercepting a rare jewel from an armored truck on the hottest day of the year. Full of zoom-in close-up profiles of characters named “Claude ‘The Spider’ Margolis” or “Sasha ‘Fire & Water’ Eastman”. I don’t know. Just making things up. Trying to use my imagination. I’m thinking of Sly Cooper 2 a lot as well. It always goes back to video games with me, specifically ones from 2001-2008. Anyways, full tracklist and playlist below.

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Playlist: Submerged Reflection – A Synthetic Portrait

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The second playlist I’ve cooked up from a bountiful harvest of heady tunes, Submerged Reflection is a synth-led dive into a mirrored reality nestled behind a grove of anemone, with woozy bass, bending electronics, dripping funk, deep moods and rippling textures. I’d say it moves in phases, with moments of ecstatic motion, reveling in sunlight and freedom, then dipping back down into the muck of the ocean floor, with buried treasures glinting faint beams of sunlight that filter down from the surface. Lots of drum machine, fat bass, chiming synths and passionate melodies, featuring artists like Men I Trust, Mr Twin Sister, Solange, and other obscure groove cuts.

I always like to picture music existing in its own or parallel universes and playlists allow me to build whole new worlds, much like albums do. Thank The Avalanches’ Since I Left You for this quirk of mine. I’d like to think the playlists I make exist in the same universe, so here’s a prompt: picture the shady lagoon next to the town where Sand Dollar Jukebox takes place, a local free diver takes the plunge into its warm waters, uncovering a trove of cosmic secrets nestled underneath their hometown. It’s fun! Thanks to the artists who make this great music.

Full tracklist + Spotify stream link after the jump.

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Playlist: Sand Dollar Jukebox – Seafaring Funk

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Howdy folks! It’s been a while since I posted a little playlist, but after a groundswell of inspiration thanks to the improving weather, I was stricken with the playlist-making fever. Hopefully many more to come, because this was originally around 80 songs long. After some discussion I decided to chop it down to a pure focus on more yacht rock, city pop and nostalgic, reminiscent sounds of the ocean and large-body-of-water equivalents. 

I had seaside anime cities in mind while making this, hence the inclusion of a few Japanese musicians. Just a warm, pleasant image to recall – living in a close-knit community by the water, riding your bike through parks to the bakery, wearing stylish sunglasses and enjoying the feel of wind escape through your shirt as you ride. Not to get too meta, but I wanted it to feel more like you’re remembering those feelings, rather than experiencing them firsthand. Sometimes the mind inflates nostalgia to greater proportions. It’s a pure fantasy. Like I said, many more fantasies (in playlist form) to come soon. Listen to the playlist via Spotify below.

Read more for the Spotify link + full tracklist:

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