Listen: Braids – “Taste” [2015]

Was revisiting Braids’ immaculate 2015 synth pop opus Deep In The Iris tonight and was reminded that 1. this record kicks ass and 2. not enough people know about it. “Taste” feels like the lead single despite its five-minute length. It’s got a soaring melody, propulsive synths and surrounding instrumentals and fantastic production overall. If you’re a general fan of synth pop and haven’t heard this album yet, please rectify that ASAP.

Not to reference a YouTuber, but Dunkey recently made a video about video game prices and brought up the argument asking why people consistently buy and play new games even thought they’re terrible, when there are so many classic games (that you haven’t played yet) that you could instead play for much cheaper. Now this comparison doesn’t exactly directly crossover to the music world due to streaming, but I feel like people are always taking in the deluge of new records and then casting them aside the next week. Take some time to go back and find something from the past that you’ve never listened to, or revisit one of your old favorites that isn’t automatically recommended via an algorithm or something. Deep In The Iris has always been one I return to and I think it should be for you as well. Tons of depth and variety on here. “Sore Eyes” is my personal favorite track, but I’ve talked about that song enough on here.

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10 Best Songs: Gorillaz

Keeping the 10 Best Songs train rolling here with another super obvious choice for an artist and even more obvious choices for my 10 Favorite Songs. Gorillaz were my top favorite group in middle school with the release of Demon Days and the fandom held pretty strong to today, despite a few middling to annoying albums in the late 10s. I gotta hand it to Damon Albarn for consistently getting cool people involved in this understandably cool project. I also realized while making this that 2021 marks 20 years since Gorillaz’s debut was released so – take this as a 20 year anniversary special. Hope you enjoy.

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Listen: PDP III – “Walls of Kyoto” [2021]

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Been lost inside this PDP III album Pilled Up On A Couple Of Doves recently, which was released earlier this year via Shelter Press, the label that’s brought you releases from Okkyung Lee, JAB, Eli Keszler and more experimental faire. PDP III is the collaboration between Britton Powell, Lucy Railton and Huerco S., comprised of sessions the three musicians improvised together in December 2018, then curated by Powell to form this piece of art here: a record that bucks the trend of ambient music just wafting by you, rather, it assimilates you into its world rather than becoming part of yours. It has airy, gossamer textures that fill the room with smoke, but doubly employs oblique slabs of electronics that establish geometry in the sound stage, allowing other sounds to bounce off them and build a sense of movement and space.

The song I’ve featured here, “Walls of Kyoto” was the song that really stuck out to me on first listen and has brought me back to the album for at least a week now. On a comparison level, it reminds me of some of the dark ambient sounds and textures used on the Inside soundtrack by Martin Stig Anderson and SØS Gunver Ryberg. It sounds like you’re suspended in the air over a deep, cylindrical chamber, with gears and machinery whirring around you and futuristic scanners whiz by, taking visualizations of your presence. Then in the last two minutes, the fictional machine we’re suspended in turns on, and Railton’s heavily affected cello drone emulates a boring drill (like, a big hole-digging drill – the drill is not uninteresting) and shrieks of electronic feedback rhythmically and maniacally stomp closer.

On my first listen of this song, I was deep-cleaning my apartment after finding some strange small bugs tucked away in dusty corners, and was also recovering from a night of renewed, raw interpersonal anxiety. This song completely threw me into the woodchipper. It stopped me in my tracks. I love a good drill sound and the fact that it’s a cello amplifies it. It took the space that the song occupied, the narrative elements that it had been building up until that point, and completely obliterated them. This is an album that’s best listened to laying down first, eyes closed. Let your mind explore its shifting architecture and be free.

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Recommended Albums: July 2021

Keeping it light for July. Listened to a good lot of records, but could only confidently pull seven here. Maybe there are some records I’ll find at a later date, but for now just listen to the ones I have here. They’re good! Meditative synth, enchanted pop, weighted walls of sound and more. Hope you enjoy!

Arushi Jain – Under The Lilac Sky [Leaving]
Opening a mysterious door in a dream leads to a vast network of lush canyons, symbolizing your memory patterns as you’ve grown older.

Izzy Johnson – earth tones [Driftless]
A traveling mouse sits beneath a giant mushroom on the edge of a dense forest to eat their lunch, accompanied by other wayward exploring critters.

King Woman – Celestial Blues [Relapse]
An enchanted sword that glitters like the sky on a cloudless night inflicts its wielders with an throbbing ache for blood.

Koreless – Agor [Young Turks]
A research outpost on a distant moon deploys a cybernetic grid to cloak entire solar systems from detection of passing space pirates.

Mega Bog – Life, and Another [Paradise of Bachelors]
A storytelling bard performs in the tavern of a medieval-looking community of humans, dragonkin, elves, angels and more, floating within an impenetrable vortex of clouds.

Midwife – Luminol [The Flenser]
Laying in a sleeping bag with a weighted blanket on top, in your bathtub, in the dark, as fireworks explode in the distance.

yes/and – yes/and [Driftless]
A mechanical clock nestled in a sunny coastal marsh eternally turns time backwards.

GR8 TRACKS OF JULY 2021::

  • Arushi Jain – “Cultivating Self Love”
  • Izzy Johnson – “existing”
  • King Woman – “Boghz”
  • King Woman – “Morning Star”
  • Koreless – “Joy Squad”
  • Koreless – “Shellshock”
  • LUMP – “Paradise”
  • Mega Bog – “Crumb Back”
  • Mega Bog – “Life, And Another”
  • Midwife – “2020”
  • Tobacco City – “Never On My Mind”
  • TORRES – “Thirstier”
  • yes/and – “Learning About Who You Are”
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Listen: Lightning Bug – “I Lie Awake” [2021]

I realized I hadn’t seen nearly enough praise for this Lightning Bug record around from music sites lately, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and post my favorite track from the record, “I Lie Awake”, which is somehow not getting that many streams. What the hell y’all, this thing rocks. Ultra dreamy rock with shoegaze elements. Think Slowdive or Beach House. After my first listen I wasn’t super interested, but I went back to it and since then I’ve listened to the record over 10 times this month alone.

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Listen: Grouper – “Unclean mind” [2021]

Well folks, it’s that time again. Time for me to discard all other music that’s been released in a five-year radius and begin to fully inhabit my “Grouper State of Mind” as they say. The incomparable Liz Harris has a new album coming, Shade, via Kranky on October 22, which is more or less my birthday weekend. What a splendid gift.

“Unclean mind” sees Grouper return to the guitar-based songs that broke her onto the scene with Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill and The Man Who Died In His Boat. Between those two records, Grouper switched to a more piano, ambience and field recording approach to her songwriting, yielding marvelous albums Ruins (my #19 album of the 2010s), A | A, Grid of Points, and her “side-project”, Nivhek. Although to be fair – the song “Headache”, released in 2016 (and my favorite song of the 2010s) lead with electric guitar. She’s had this bubbling below. To hear Harris’ voice over warm acoustic guitar again is a therapeutic experience, as I had tears in my eyes listening to this for the first time in bed this morning. If you’re a Grouper fan like me, you’ll be happy here. Thanks Liz.

Shade is out October 22 via Kranky. I couldn’t find any pre-order links yet, but I’ll try and update this post once one becomes live.

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10 Best Songs: Merchandise

After a bit of an absence, Warm Visions is back with another edition of 10 Best Songs, aka the main driver of views on this blog. People do be lookin at ranked lists though. Who knew? This time I’m featuring Floridian band Merchandise, whose work dominated my listening in the 10s, from my start on their 2012 album Children of Desire to their most recent album in A Corpse Wired For Sound in 2016. They’re definitely more of a niche artist compared to many of the others I’ve ranked aside from maybe Hundred Waters (who also happen to be from Florida!) but that doesn’t mean you should just overlook this. Merchandise are a fantastic group that bring a natural swagger to 80s-inspired goth rock, post punk and new wave and have plenty of classic songs under their belt to get new listeners obsessed with them. Their earlier work too is fantastic, and I recently recognized it’s likely what primed me into liking the Cindy Lee record What’s Tonight To Eternity so much in 2020, with its singing darkness and discordant pairing of noise and melody. Check it all out below – it’s a good trip to go on.

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Recommended Albums: June 2021

Well folks, we’re halfway done with 2021 and let me tell you: June had some true haymakers packed in for the end of the month. I’m sure people who are plugged in to the weekly release schedule is already aware, but seven of the eleven albums listed here all came out on 6/25. And there are still more out on that day that I enjoyed like Pom Pom Squad, Tyler The Creator and SAULT. The fact that I caved and listed 11 albums here instead of the usual ten should tell you all you need to know. Lots of big indie releases, not too many things that people who read my blog will be surprised to see listed here.

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Warm Visions’ Best Albums + Songs of 2021 So Far

It’s not quite at 2021’s halfway point yet, but there has been a good amount of music that’s been so exciting to me that I want to share how things have been shaping up NOW. Below you’ll find 30 of my favorite albums of the year so far (it’s ranked, but like, I’m just one guy. The rankings don’t mean much. Listen to every album on this list that interests you, regardless of a number attached to it), a cursory mention of 2 EPs I’ve really enjoyed, along with 30 unranked songs that have stuck with me over the last six months. I’ve linked each album with a stream, so make sure to support these folks. There have been some lovely surprises from newcomers, some mind-blowing entries into already sturdy artist catalogs, and more. Looking forward to continuing to digest more and more new music in 2021 until my belly is swollen and protruding. Hope you enjoy.

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Listen: Damiana – “Sunken Lupine” [2021]

The good people at Hausu Mountain tipped me onto one of their cool upcoming projects (coming in a month! Mark your calendars!) from Damiana, a long-running project from Natalie Chami of TALsounds and Whitney Johnson of Matchess. A true Chicago superduo! I say long-running, but this is their debut LP, previously only working together in live sets or in home jams.

Their years of working together definitely shine through on this upcoming EP, with layers upon layers of synth, voice, electronics and other instruments and effects washing over one another in beautiful tandem. It’s not just a weightless curtain of ambience, there’s a steady beat, some spiritual chord changes, and a sense of dreamy movement throughout the project. It’s like if you took a Cocteau Twins song, specifically something off of Victorialand, froze it, took an microscope to it and stitched together some of its most atomic components, you’ll find this song. Not sure if it made sense, but to me it’s some high praise.

Damiana’s Vines comes out 7/16 via Hausu Mountain. Pre-order it HERE.

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