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Genre > Rock > Alt & Grunge
Life Without SoundDylan Baldi maintains simple, admirable standards in quality. “A thing I like to do with all of my records is drive around with them,” the 25-year-old Cloud Nothings frontman says. “In high school, I would listen to music for hours like that: just driving through the suburbs of Cleveland. And if it sounds good to me in that context and I can think of high school me listening to it and saying, ‘That’s okay,’ I feel good about the record. This is the one that’s felt best.”
“This” is Life Without Sound, the radiant, far-far-better-than-okay fourth full-length his rock outfit has recorded since he began writing and releasing songs on his own under the Cloud Nothings alias in 2008. While its highly acclaimed predecessor—2014’s Here and Nowhere Else—came together spontaneously, in the little time that touring allowed, Life Without Sound took shape under far less frenetic circumstances.
For more than a year, Baldi was able to write these songs and flesh out them out with his bandmates—drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist TJ Duke—before they finally joined producer John Goodmanson (Sleater Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie) at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas, for three weeks in March of 2016. The result is Baldi’s most polished and considered work to date, an album that speaks to his evolving gift with melody while also betraying the sort of perspective that time provides. You can hear it in the aerodynamic guitar pop of “Modern Act,” and feel it in the devastating wisdom of “Internal World,” a lullaby-like howler that dwells on “the fact that being yourself can be uncomfortable and even potentially dangerous at times.”
“Generally, it seems like my work has been about finding my place in the world,” Baldi says. “But there was a point in which I realized that you can be missing something important in your life, a part you didn't realize you were missing until it's there—hence the title. This record is like my version of new age music,” he adds. “It’s supposed to be inspiring.”
It is.1. Up To The Surface
2. Things Are Right With You
3. Internal World
4. Darkened Rings
5. Enter Entirely
6. Modern Act
7. Sight Unseen
8. Strange Year
9. Realize My Fate
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
The Way and ColorPivoting from the melodic psych of their previous efforts, TEEN’s second full-length The Way And Color shows the young group conﬁdently shifting direction with their distinctly modern, R&B-informed pop.
Searching for inspiration following their last album, the band’s three sisters – lead singer Teeny Lieberson, keyboardist Lizzie Lieberson and drummer Katherine Lieberson – found direction from a simple lineup tweak, joining with bassist Boshra AlSaadi to mine a new side of the band’s sound. What emerged was the ambitious scope of The Way And Color. Recorded over a ten-day session in upstate New York, the band infuses their brooding pop with minimalist beats and complex harmonies, inspired by D’Angelo and Erykah Badu’s classic R&B.
Amidst the album’s rich patchwork, Teeny emerges as a expressive, inspired frontwoman, touching on themes of relationships, womanhood and power. The record’s crisp production from Daniel Schlett (DIIV) showcases her voice’s stylistic agility, from the theatrical vamping of “Rose 4 U” to the twisting, soulful “More Than I Ask For.” Toying with genre, TEEN successfully trades in the reverb for a punchy clarity and newfound maturity.1. Rose 4 U
2. Not For Long
3. Tied Up Tied Down
5. Breath Low & Deep
7. More Than I Ask For
8. Toi Toi Toi
10. All The Same
$17.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs SealedBuy Now
Foil DeerSpeedy Ortiz said they would get the flowers themselves. What a lark! What a plunge!
When considering Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz, that line from Virginia Woolf comes to mind. Not only for the obvious echoes to DIY, a form and function that's characterized the band's nascency, but in the proto-feminist undertones driving much of their sophomore album, Foil Deer. “I'm not bossy, I'm the boss,” Sadie Dupuis sings on “Raising the Skate,” invoking in spirit one half of the Carter-Knowles clan and echoing the other's wordplay. And wordplay makes sense, considering Dupuis—the band’s songwriter, guitarist, and frontwoman—spent the band's first few years teaching writing at UMass Amherst. She's drawn to the dense complexity of Pynchon, the dreamlike geometry of Bolaño, the confounded yearning of Plath—all attributes you could easily apply to the band's 2013 debut Major Arcana, which fans and press alike have invested with a sense of purpose and merit uncommon in contemporary guitar rock.
The group, including Mike Falcone on drums, Darl Ferm on bass, and new addition Devin McKnight of Grass is Green on guitar, have spent the last year on an almost endless cross-continental touring jag, tagging along with the likes of The Breeders, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, and Thurston Moore. That shift into full-time musicianship brought with it an attendant reordering of priorities when it came to songwriting, and the band members’ lives in general. They would get the damn flowers themselves.
Dupuis wrote much of Foil Deer at her mother’s home in the Connecticut woods, where the songwriter imposed a self-regulated exile and physical cleansing of sorts, finding that many of the songs came to her while running or swimming alone. “I gave up wasting mental energy on people who didn't have my back,” she says. “Listening to our old records, I get the sense I was putting myself in horrible situations just to write sad songs. This music isn't coming from a dark place, and without slipping into self-empowerment jargon, it feels stronger.” Many of the songs deal with a similar sense of starting over, editing out the unnecessary drama. “Boys be sensitive and girls be, be aggressive,” she sings on “Mister Difficult.”
And while their debut album was recorded on the fly, Speedy Ortiz spent almost a month in the studio on Foil Deer. Falcone’s drums are taut, mechanistic; Ferm’s bass ranges from the aggressive rattle of an AmRep classic to smoother, hip-hop inspired lines. McKnight, meanwhile, lends spacier, textural riffs to complement Dupuis’ wiry, melody-driven guitar style. “The demos for our songs have always had tons of small details and production experimentation, but we never had any money to pay for more than a couple days in the studio, so the songs came out very live-sounding and guitar heavy,” Dupuis says. It was recorded and mixed at Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room with Nicolas Vernhes (Silver Jews, Enon, Deerhunter), with the record mastered by Emily Lazar (Sia, Haim, Beauty Pill), lending a more polished sound and a pop sensibility that will stand out to existing fans and new converts alike. For all the lyrical complexity and guitar-based excursions Speedy Ortiz have built their reputation on to this point, Foil Deer has a sense of light-footed fun. What's the point of doing things yourself if you're not going to enjoy the trip?1. Good Neck
2. Raising the Skate
3. The Graduates
4. Dot X
7. Swell Content
9. My Dead Girl
11. Mister Difficult
12. Dvrk Wvrld
$14.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
If AnythingIf Anything, the ﬁrst full-length by Greys, is the young quartet’s own warped update of vintage post-punk; frenetic guitars running against walls of noise, held together by sharp strands of melody. Emerging from the vibrant Toronto punk scene, Greys are economical in their swift punches of noise, anchoring short bursts of mania with huge choruses. "Each song exists in its own space and represents different aspects of the things we like about noisy, dissonant music,” says singer/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani. “But instead of being built solely around riffs, they were built with hooks in mind, too."
The 35-minute LP pulses with a manic urgency, as drummer Braeden Craig and bassist Colin Gillespie’s syncopated rhythms punctuate guitarist Cam Graham's smothering dissonance. Through exasperated shouts, Jiwani lets loose the fury that splits open his songwriting. "The lyrics went from outward frustration to inward," he says. "A lot of it takes place from within my own head." Swinging between hard-driving punk and ‘90s indie rifﬁng, the respites on If Anything only underscore Greys’ brute force and anthemic inclinations.
Written over the summer of 2013 and recorded in ten days at Toronto's Candle Recording studio, If Anything is a fulﬁlling aftershock of noise rock, immediately arresting and bursting with conﬁdence.1. Guy Picciotto
2. Use Your Delusion
3. Flip Yr Lid
5. Pretty Grim
6. Chick Singer
7. Girl In Landscape
8. Brain Dead
9. Cold Soak
10. Brief Lives
$14.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
FortunaFortuna, the second full length from New Zealand trio Popstrangers, trades the grunge revivalism of the band's previous releases for buoyant hooks and '60s pop. Pairing their minor-key riffs with pervasively melancholic songwriting, the band's reﬁned sense of melody is on full display on Fortuna, which echoes the classic guitar pop of their homeland's Flying Nun Records.
Recorded over ﬁve days in London, Popstrangers' warped tales of infatuation and aggression are anchored by Joel Flyger's tactile vocals, which steep in subterranean effects before ripping clean through the album's choruses. The band's pop sensibilities are at their best on standout "Country Kills," where Flyger shrugs off his looming demise with a wink and an indelible riff. "My country will kill me now, but whatever." The band is quick to tamper Fortuna's catchy strains with atonal guitars and a nervous pace, the record's building sense of anxiety concluding with the psych comedown of "What's On Your Mind?"
Eschewing the squalling guitars that propelled their debut album Antipodes for clear-headed production and lush choruses, Popstrangers hit their stride on Fortuna, crystallizing their inﬂuences into a succinct record of indie psych that never lingers too long.1. Sandstorm
2. Don’t Be Afraid
4. Country Kills
9. Right Babies
10. What’s On Your Mind?
$14.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Here and Nowhere ElseOn their third full-length, Cleveland-bred outﬁt Cloud Nothings give joy a hard, sharp edge. "I was feeling pretty good about everything so I just made stuff that made me happy," says founding member and mild-mannered chief songwriter Dylan Baldi of Here and Nowhere Else. "I had nothing to be angry about really so the approach was more positive and less 'fuck everything.' I just sat down and played until I found something that I like, because I was ﬁnally in a position to do that."
Utilizing every possible opportunity to write while on the road for 18 consecutive months following the release of 2012's Attack on Memory, Baldi presented an album's worth of new material to his bandmates with just days before they'd enter the studio with esteemed producer John Congleton. "I'm pretty sure every song was written in a different country," he says. "It's the product of only having a couple of minutes here and there." But Cloud Nothings would enjoy a full week with Congleton at Water Music in Hoboken, New Jersey, followed by three days of mixing at his own studio in Dallas shortly thereafter. The result is Cloud Nothings, reﬁned: impossibly melodic, white-knuckle noise-rock that shimmers with sumptuous detail, from Baldi's lone, corkscrewing guitar to his dramatically improved singing to bassist TJ Duke's piledriving bass lines and drummer Jayson Gerycz's volcanic ﬁlls.
"It's more subtle," says Baldi. "It's not just an in-your-face rock record. There's more going on. You can listen to a song 20 times and still hear different little things in there that you didn't notice before. Every time I listen I notice something that I didn't even realize we did."
It's yet another staggering show of a progress from a songwriter and band still coming into their own.1. Now Here In
2. Quieter Today
3. Psychic Trauma
4. Just See Fear
5. Giving Into Seeing
6. No Thoughts
7. Pattern Walks
8. I’m Not Part of Me
$16.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Real HairOn Speedy Ortiz's Real Hair, the band sets a course between the knotty discord of debut album Major Arcana and the pop bonaﬁdes of the preceding Sports EP. Recorded and mixed by Paul Q. Kolderie (Pixies Radiohead), the new EP ﬁnds them subtly adding new techniques to their songbook. Guitarists Sadie Dupuis and Matt Robidoux bring on additional guitar effects to color the roundabout feel of “Oxygal,” while bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone hit hard to deliver the jump in-the-pit urgency of “American Horror”.
From the vocal melodies to the no-nonsense guitar turns, this is Speedy's catchiest outing yet, drawing inspiration from contemporary Top 40 and R&B radio in addition to their regular arsenal of guitar rock. Dupuis' lyrics continue to address concerns about identity, representation, and their misalignment, this time from a new angle: “While the last album was kind of a breakup jam, these songs are a lot more introspective—myself dealing with and talking to and making sense of myself,” she says.
With Real Hair, Speedy Ortiz once again taps into the four-part chemistry that brought their prior outings praise. They’re still equal parts noisy and poetic, and now merge those channels more seamlessly than ever.1. American Horror
3. Everything’s Bigger
4. Shine Theory
$9.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
TranquilizersIncludes 8 page booklet Of Original Dog Bite Art
In a release inspired by the smooth rhythms of the region’s past, Atlanta-based Dog Bite offers more music medicine in the form of Tranquilizers. The sophomore release transcends the reverie state of Velvet Changes in pursuit of a darker, more full-bodied experience. Tranquilizers migrates into a dreamy sonic realm enveloped in its own soulful inﬂuence.
Frontman Phil Jones found his extensive listening to iconic R&B musicians such as Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes to be the original muse for the album. In its formation it began as a soul record; however, at its core the release remains grounded in Dog Bite’s beloved shoegaze landscapes.
With the support of Woody Shortridge on bass and Tak Takemura on drums, Dog Bite purposefully evades sedation through its blend of smoky textures across divergent genres. Being an album submerged between the differences of classic funk and rock music, it is Jones’ customary croon that weaves a common mesh in the record’s diverse artistry1. There Was Time
3. Lady Queen
6. Wonder Dark
7. Dream Feast
9. L’oiseau Storm
10. Rest Assured
$15.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
CarolinaReﬁning the psych-pop nuggets of their debut LP, In Limbo, TEEN’s new Carolina EP is a stepping stone in the way that all good extended plays are. The band — lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson, keyboardist Lizzie Lieberson, drummer Katherine Lieberson (the three are sisters), and bassist Jane Herships---recorded the ﬁve-song record with producer Daniel Schlett, who recently worked on DIIV’s Oshin, at Strange Weather studio in Brooklyn.
While In Limbo's songs have many layers and effects, TEEN intended Carolina to be a more natural affair, with the band only playing what they could physically perform in a live setting. Teeny sings in a higher register here, inspired by Kate Bush and Al Green. “Our music in the past was so about interweaving melodies, creating movement by syncopation, and simple chord structures,” Teeny says. “It felt like the next step forward would be to take a more simplistic, live approach, play lines in unison and create a different kind of conversation between the instruments.1. Carolina
4. Glass Cage
$10.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
Major ArcanaOn their debut full-length, Western Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz manages a bit of magic by conjuring the spirits of classic American indie rock, while twisting those ghosts into new shapes. It’s easy to hear the influences of Helium, Jawbox, and Chavez on this album, as well as nods to their contemporaries including Grass is Green, Pile, and Roomrunner. Sweet vocal harmonies run up against gnarly distortion, aided by basic, chunky bass parts and heavy, fill-laden drums.
The album was recorded in a few days in November at Justin Pizzoferrato’s (Dinosaur Jr., Chelsea Light Moving) studio, Sonelab, a huge space in an old factory in Easthampton, Mass. The sessions went from very early in the day until very late at night, with the band taking its time to experiment. Pizzoferrato’s collection of old distortion pedals were utilized on both the record’s guitars and vocals.
The theme of the occult and the supernatural runs deep through Major Arcana, inspired by singer-guitarist Sadie Dupuis’ reading on black magic. Dupuis’ sometimes knotty and abstract lyrics bring to mind fellow wordsmith Stephen Malkmus, while referencing horror film tropes, chemistry, and neuroscience. Major Arcana’s literal translation is “major mysteries,” a phrase from tarot cards. “I don’t write in a narrative way and am more concerned with use of language than meaning,” Dupuis says, “so I like the open-endedness of the title and the way it invites interpretation.”1. Pioneer Spine
2. Tiger Tank
4. Casper (1995)
5. No Below
8. Cash Cab
$14.99Vinyl LP - SealedBuy Now
LA EPEarlier this year, Atlanta’s Dog Bite found themselves with downtime in Los Angeles between a successful tour with labelmates Toro Y Moi and shows at SXSW in Austin. The four-piece that makes up the touring group started messing around with different sounds and came up with their ﬁrst full-band release, the LA EP. This document of the road-tested crew is a stunning sequel to Velvet Changes, the band’s debut LP, which showcased the talents of singer-songwriter Phil Jones and bassist Woody Shortridge.
The LA EP begins with “Warm, Wake Up,” a song that captures the bliss of a sunny day in the palm tree-dotted landscape and the romantic intrigue of Hollywood’s studio lots. Motoring back down that winding road, we hear “Hunting Seasons" where mid-20th century boogie haunts the track’s guitars as the reverberating beat ﬂoats us back up to the clouds.
A feeling of melancholia drifts throughout the EP’s songs. But the saddest part about this collection is its 13-minute length. It ﬂies by like a short vacation or a cool breeze. But much more than sorrow for its passing, the LA EP inspires excitement for the next gust of wind.1. Warm, Wake Up
2. Hunting Season
3. Cold Weather
4. LA Sounds
$10.99Vinyl EP - SealedBuy Now
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and
Alternative rock first emerged in Britain in the late 70s and early 80s, but it didn’t really hit its stride until the 90s with the arrival of bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. That was also right around the time that Nirvana and Pearl Jam fueled the grunge rock explosion.
And when you want the full and real alt rock experience, you’ve gotta try it out on vinyl, and SoundStage Direct is your one-stop shop for all the best alternative rock vinyls.