Another great batch of tunes to be discovered this month. I'm posting a little earlier than last time because I want to know what you all are listening to right now. So let me know! Lately, I feel a little like I'm speaking softly into the abyss. There's a lot going on out there, but I'll keep at it.
I think my favorite discovery so far this month is from Berkeley, California. For the last several years, Dan Casey has been creating a variety of wonderful tunes under various names. His current project is called dd elle, but he is also the mastermind behind Yalls and Steezy Ray Vibes. Listen to the Steezy Ray Vibes album, Empty City. It is just awesome electro folk pop. I can't believe I'm just now finding out about him because I happened across Yalls while clicking through bands for a Spotify mix I was making for a friend. All of his stuff is great as far as I can tell. The Yalls album from this March, Yalls III, may end up being one of my favorites of the year. Most of the elements I enjoy in music are apparent in his work -- thoughtful arrangements, space, synths, effected guitars, smooth vocals, and tasteful beats. Most impressive.
But getting back to dd elle, he just premiered a single, unrequited, from the new ep, u, out September 25 on Slow Release. You know the guy is doing something right when The Fader keeps giving props for each of his projects, check it here.
Another album that has been sucking up a lot of my headphone time I discovered in a review of Isaac Vallentin's Hedera album, which I wrote about in July. The reviewer compared the sonics and structures to another Ottawa group, The Acorn, and their latest album, Vieux Loup. If you like Hedera, give it a listen, it is perhaps a little sexier and less melancholy but still lives in a similar soundscape. I would also throw Pony Girl, Isaac Vallentin's former band, in the same boat. Maybe it's something in the water up there.
Also new groovers this month from Hot Chip, Tamaryn, and another smooth single from Astronauts, etc. called Shake it Loose. Their album, Mind Out Wandering, drops September 18th on Hit City U.S.A. Every song I've heard so far is excellent. I am grateful to be living in a place where so much quality music is being made. I know there are problems with race and gentrification in Oakland, and always have been, but I feel like after 15 years, it feels like home. I feel involved in the community and it has been a long time coming to help create one that I wanted to be involved with.
Another local favorite of mine, Tune-Yard's Nate Brenner's solo project, Naytronix, has a new album coming in October called Mister Divine. The first 2 songs are great and I was a big fan of his 2012 album Dirty Glow, so this should be another great one. It's gonna be a killer fall for Bay Area music, indeed!
Indie stalwarts, Yo La Tengo, have a new album out on their long time label, Matador Records, called Stuff Like That There. It is beautiful and classic, as is pretty much their entire catalog, if you aren't already familiar. I was particularly turned on by their dreamlike re-imagining of their own My Bloody Valentine-ish song, Deeper than Movies, from their 1997 masterpiece, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. That was a formative record for me. They even do a version of The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" which I think I like better than the original. Even going back to their first collection of covers from 1990, Fakebook, they've always had the knack for making it sound like they wrote 'em themselves, and that is saying something.
And, oh my goodness, check out the apocalyptic video for it. Crazy!
On the weirdness spectrum, I've included a track from Doug Hream Blunt, an underground Bay Area musician, originally from Arkansas, who took a class on "How To Start a Band" in the 70s and then proceeded to start one and record a single album, now being re-released by David Byrne's label, Luaka Bop. This is some outsider pop for sure. Just watch this video of them playing live on public access TV back then. Needless to say, he was an influence on folks like Dam-Funk and Ariel Pink. Speaking of which, I included Pink's latest track, a cover of Madonna's Everybody, on the mix as I am continuously impressed at how he is able to make his recordings sound like a cool synth pop band you recorded off of some 80s late night cable music show onto VHS and then dubbed onto cassette, yet it still rocks somehow.
One more before I go, I found out about this gem from the MJ MJ Records mailing list. They release sweet, off kilter, electro pop cassettes that I eat up like candy. This one, (((LOUD))), by Andrew Jansen / Loud Sun, is definitely sticking in my teeth. So laid back, smooth, and slightly skewed. I would say it is sunny, but it is more what I would classify as "shade pop." It is one of those records that I clicked on to check out and then didn't realize I'd listened to it all the way through twice until I looked at my phone to see what it was again. Judging from his Soundcloud account, it appears Andrew may live, or previously lived, in Oakland too, so, there you go. I'll do some more research and get back to you. By the way, I'd suggest downloading MJ MJ Records free compilation, Back in Business Vol. 3. It is good.
I feel compelled to mention again that I am compiling each of these monthly mixes into one enormous playlist called Drops 2015. Please follow it and you'll get the scoop on all the latest tunes hand picked by yours truly. That's all for now, folks!