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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Listen: Lunar Vacation – “Mold” [2021]

Waayyyyy too late to post about this one, but wanna shout out Atlanta band Lunar Vacation and their upcoming album Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp. One of the singles “Mold” is one of my favorite songs of the year and they just announced tour dates with The Beths. You know that’s a tour you want to go on! Again, Keeled Scales killing it out here.

Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp is out October 29 via Keeled Scales. Pre-order it HERE.

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Listen: Marissa Nadler – “If I Could Breathe Underwater” [2021]

There are too many great albums on the horizon for Q4 2021. One of which is Marissa Nadler’s next one, The Path of the Clouds, coming October 29th via Sacred Bones. I don’t want to pigeonhole it too much, but just based on the singles it seems to be perfectly timed to line up with the historically haunted times of late October / early November. The time when the world really starts to slow down – even as technology has progressed to where it is now, we still instinctively begin to commence hibernation rituals as early sunsets burn up slate skies, accented by bald branches and the vibrating haze of newly-ignited car heaters. As someone who greatly romanticizes the fall, I deeply support the desolate and dreamy music that feels at home in this specific nook of the year.

Right then, but onto the music we have here – “If I Could Breathe Underwater” is a drop-dead gorgeous tune with a dreamy blues edge, with slow, smearing guitars and steady, minimal percussion paint watercolor backdrop for Nadler’s vocals to wander through. Little accents like flecks of twinkling harp via Mary Lattimore, hammond organ and Western-style electric guitar all enhance the atmosphere of the track greatly, moving me to feel like it’s my favorite thing I’ve heard Nadler do since 2014 or so.

With the insane stacked guest musician line-up behind her (the aforementioned Mary Lattimore, along with Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde, Emma Ruth Rundle, Black Mountain + more) Nadler seems to be stepping to a higher gear on this new album and I cannot wait. Like I said before, her 2014 album July was a favorite of mine that year and I’ve been waiting to be wowed like I was back then. It seems like I will be – and so should you! Support this dang album! Marissa is a great songwriter!

The Path of the Clouds is out October 29 via Sacred Bones. Pre-order the album HERE.

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Listen: Dummy – “Final Weapon” [2021]

An album that’s already being mighty hyped going into the fourth quarter of 2021 (what the hell, how are we here already) is Dummy’s upcoming debut LP, Mandatory Enjoyment, out October 22nd via Trouble In Mind. They caused a little noise last year, dropping a few EPs, but the two singles they’ve put out from this LP is sending some red alerts in the “good music” zone of the world.

The songs are explosive yet maintain an element of robotic restraint, all layered with several gauzy sheets of psychedelic sweetness. The balance of dancey electronics mixed with bright, almost shoegaze-like rock instrumentation is a fine one – a lot of bands can’t get the mixture right and Dummy nails it. They remind me of a few different bands, all of whom I like. It also sounds like it would be a blast to see live. All fantastic signs of good things to come. Don’t be a Dummy – don’t sleep on this freakin’ band! I’m sorry.

Mandatory Enjoyment is out October 22 via Trouble In Mind. Pre-order it HERE.

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Listen: Foamboy – “Logout” [2021]

Portland, OR duo Foamboy (fka Chromatic Colors) are releasing their debut LP My Sober Daydream on October 1st. I was recently tipped off to one of their earlier pre-album singles “Peach Smoothie”, which bumps with disco glee which I instantly fell in love with. This new track “Logout” follows in the same footsteps, with a buoyant bass line, skittering percussion and twinkling keys, while singer Katy Ohsiek muses about technology dependence and being stuck inside on our phones & computers, flexing a vocal range and agility that reminds me of Caroline Polachek. Those who swoon for bands like Ava Luna, Mr Twin Sister, Brijean and other jazz-dipped dance pop should absolutely add My Sober Daydream to their release calendar. It’s a special record that I think should turn some heads in the world.

My Sober Daydream is out October 1st – pre-order it HERE.

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Listen: Lionlimb – “Nothing” [2021]

I’ve been tapped into Stewart Bronaugh’s project Lionlimb since his first single “Turnstile” wowed me in 2015. Granted I was promoting it to noncommercial radio at the time, but still. I was familiar with his work in the Angel Olsen band as well, and definitely had my eyes on him from the get. After being disappointed by his 2018 album Tape Recorder, I am STOKED about this upcoming LP Spiral Groove, coming October 12th via Bayonet Records, just based off this early single “Nothing”. It’s got some great songwriting elements and production choices behind it, with flourishes of chiming piano, dueling guitar melody lines, Primal Scream-like percussion (with shaker – of course!), a catchy chorus, and more. All the great things that hooked me into Lionlimb’s work at the start. It’s a no-brainer for me.

Spiral Groove is out October 12 via Bayonet. Pre-order HERE.

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Listen: Eve Owen – “Nothing Beautiful” (from Keeled Scales x Nuçi’s Space Benefit Comp) [2021]

The sweet people over at Keeled Scales (which is holding a fair lead in the 2021 Label of the Year race) are putting together a great benefit compilation with Nuçi’s Space to celebrate the Athens organization’s 21st anniversary. The comp will not only feature songs from Keeled Scales artists like Katy Kirby, Lunar Vacation and Buck Meek, but foundational Athens artists R.E.M. & Pylon (!), and other of-the-moment independent names like Cassandra Jenkins, Fontaines D.C., Flock of Dimes, Sylvan Esso and more.

Nuçi’s Space, to quote the bio of the compilation: “is a nonprofit organization in Athens, GA, whose mission is to prevent suicide. Nuçi’s Space operates a musician and mental health resource center which provides low-cost practice space, gear rentals, etc., and offers subsidized mental and physical health care for musicians and artists in the Athens area.” After 18 months of pandemic, along with a rapidly declining music industry that feels like it strings along musicians to their wit’s ends more rapidly than ever, organizations like Nuçi’s Space are absolutely vital. Happy to be supporting their cause with a donation that also happens to net me 30 songs from a bunch of artists I enjoy and admire.

There are three songs available to preview now from Buck Meek, Ganser and the one I’m featuring here by Eve Owen, an aching acoustic dream with throbbing electric guitar and distant percussion rumbling in the wings. If you like the gently brushed folk that Keeled Scales has been putting out over the last few years, you’d no doubt enjoy this track.

The Nuçi’s Space 21st Anniversary Benefit Compilation is only going to be available on Bandcamp from October 1st through December 31st, so pre-order now and don’t miss your chance, in case a boulder lands on your computer modem or something in the mean time. You can pre-order HERE.

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Listen: Laura Stevenson – “Don’t Think About Me” [2021]

Laura Stevenson has quietly been putting out some of the best rock records year after year and not enough people are paying attention. This is me doing my part, aside from featuring her newest, self-titled album in Recommended Albums of August 2021. Album highlight “Don’t Think About Me” has been stuck in my head for the better part of a week, seamlessly tapping into the liquid memory/nostalgia banks of my childhood, hearing alt rock & pop songs from moody singer/songwriters on the radio in the 90s. Feeling the dry heat from the car vents and the carpeted seats and my boots still soaked from snow. Alongside pulling on my nostalgia strings, the song and album itself is one of the better rock records of the year – don’t let it slip through your fingers. And while you’re at it, check out Stevenson’s last few records too. You won’t regret it.

Laura Stevenson is available now via Don Giovanni Records – buy it HERE.  

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