PREMIERE: Edmondson - Turnings

Laura Kerry

The band Edmondson is actually two Edmondsons—brothers Jack and Robert who come from Hollywood, Florida and now split their time as musicians between Gainesville and Sacramento, California. On their new single, “Turnings,” their familial ease and sentiment is evident. Picking up the theme that emerges in the title of their forthcoming album, Strange Durations, due out in May, and their first single, “Meanwhile,” the brothers lead us through a reflective meditation on time. “The last time we drove here was when we were kids,” they sing in a smooth, slow melody whose lines bleed over into the next. It’s a nostalgic observation only siblings can share, a dimension that makes a simple line rich. Coming full circle, they repeat “Everything is turning” at the beginning and end of the song—a comment, it seems, about the immovable forward motion of time.

In their short existence, Edmondson have already proven themselves a band that considers every layer of their music, and in “Turnings,” they continue that streak by perfectly marrying form and content. The song begins with a piano line that ascends and descends with light urgency. As drums, bass, and a meandering guitar enter, the piano continues its consistent movement up and down, until the song enacts its title by turning at the halfway point in an instrumental swell. Then, after a second refrain, the song turns again, this time into a two-minute segment of smoky jazz piano.

“Turnings” also performs another change of course, from the nostalgic psychedelic–rock leanings of their other single, “Meanwhile,” to a more progressive-rock feel, but each song is also entirely original and eludes any conclusive attempt at classification. Signaling another promise of what’s to come on Edmonson’s debut, “Turnings” provides plenty of food for thought to sustain us with until May.

TRACK REVIEW: Eda Wolf - Rough Terrain

Kelly Kirwan

Dea Juris has a voice like satin with a vintage sheen. As the crooner behind Brooklyn two-piece Eda Wolf, her dreamy pitch pulls us into a haze of softly-rolling R&B with a groovy electronic undercurrent (courtesy of Emiliano Flowerman, the other half of this dynamic duo). Their latest track, “Rough Terrain,” has a nostalgic glint, a familiar melody that pours from the speakers like a long-forgotten memory.

"Rough Terrain" is easy listening at it’s finest, which isn’t to say it’s a simple track. Far from it. Shimmering percussion forms its foundation, as Juris’ voice teeters between a reflective, velvet tone and soaring, full-bodied notes. “I’ve done it all again,” she sings, one of the song’s repeated phrases, “Found myself in rough terrain again.” She takes her time over these words, punctuating each syllable so it hovers for a moment, emboldened.

And still, despite its tone of resignation, the track features a surprisingly sunny disposition. “Fill it up fully / Fill it up closely / Why don’t you ever pour it over? / Spill it like flowers / Spill it on concrete,” Juris sings, and it’s as if were wading through an afternoon reverie in which everything works out swimmingly. There’s a nonchalance and warmth to "Rough Terrain" that’s absolutely addictive.

REVIEW: Little Star - Little Star

Kelly Kirwan

“And I know it’s time to stop feeling so upset / 'Cause I’ll take a walk today / And I’ll tell myself / That it’s okay.” The words are wrapped in a murmuring, subtly warped tenor, with the ever-so-slight resemblance to singing underwater. The lyrics float to the surface, a touch distorted but effervescent nonetheless. It’s as if we’re caught in an afternoon reverie, loosely strolling through a series of thoughts that are coming together like rungs on a ladder, leading us out of a rut and into more tranquil waters.

It’s no wonder, then, that the song in question is the aptly-titled "Calming Ritual # 1" off Little Star’s latest self-titled album. The Portland-based band (whose heart and soul can be traced to Daniel Byres and Julian Morris) have crafted eleven tracks that, both individually and collectively, can feel like a game of cat's cradle when it comes time to describe their genre. These two weave multiple styles between their fingers, presenting an intricate and tightly-woven maze for our ears to navigate. To classify further: it’s dreamy bedroom pop with aftershocks of grunge and post-punk, whose sound see-saws between sedated, glazed-eye lulls and raucous outbursts.

And yes, if you were wondering, there is in fact a "Calming Ritual #2," and it has a little more underlying anxiety fraying its edges. Where its predecessor could slip you into a welcome daze, this follow-up gets into low-impact fisticuffs with all the stressors rattling around in our heads. “Somebody merged in front of me on the highway yesterday,” we hear at the opening, in a pitch that twists into high octaves. These lyrics are more compressed, the song simultaneously a pleasant tune and one imbued with a certain edge. It goes on to describe the chain of thoughts that follow this simple act on the road, and how it shifts into a metaphor for others zooming beyond us, to better places. The juxtaposition between the two songs was slickly done, and despite the more frenetic feel of "Calming Ritual #2," I couldn’t help but smile at its relatability. Zen is sometimes one too many exhales away.

Other notable tracks include the string- and distortion-heavy "Annacortes," which steers into indulgent guitar riffs that are rife with sharp notes, as a sighing voice pensively sings, “If I could just tell you I feel once and for all / But it’s hard for me to be myself." And therein lies the rub of Little Star's latest album: the internal struggle that roars and fades within us. These eleven tracks highlight the minutiae of the everyday and show us how these moments, and our emotions, are in fact idiosyncratic. It’s an inward dive that either glides or takes on the weight of angst-ridden grunge, but either way, we’re locked in.

TRACK REVIEW: Smalltalker - Cassius

Laura Kerry

When one thinks of the sounds of Burlington, Vermont, it’s likely that twangy banjos, earthy acoustic guitars, and the occasional artisanally hand-carved shaker come to mind. Perhaps one envisions these instruments all gathered around a fire pit.

For Burlington-based Smalltalker, though, the fire comes from their music. The band, comprised of an expanding and collapsing crew of musicians, plays soul music. They describe themselves as a group of “friends, and those friends’ friends,” and that kind of congeniality shows in lively tracks with a rotating cast of bass, guitar, drums, keys, and a horn section.

Their latest song, “Cassius,” off of the recently released Walk Tall, showcases the best of their shifting configurations. On the funky, R&B side of soul, the track begins with with a danceable beat and groovy bass line before languid horns enter to push against them. Borrowing its title from the birthname of Mohammed Ali, the song carries a fight metaphor through both in its lyrics and musical composition. Vocal lines swap punches; instruments bounce in place before going in for a jab; and in a slow-jazz interlude towards the end, the song takes a breather before heading in for the last round. Also like a good boxer, it seems measured in its approach, acting deliberately at each turn of the song. What it lacks from its sporting metaphor, though, is a sense of out-of-control feistiness that you can easily imagine Smalltalker achieves in a live show. If anything, “Cassius” feels a little too controlled, too consistently coy.

The most exciting moments in the song occur when the different parts, particularly the vocals, break their usual mold. In the bridge, for example, the bass changes from its usual rhythm to a double thump, like a heartbeat, underscoring the mounting suspense as the music pushes towards the end. In the second chorus, the singer falls out of the melody to speak the words “shuffle” and “trouble,” emphasizing these breathless moves. Finally, at the end, after a song dominated by its instrumental parts and scrappy lyrics (“you won’t ever hear me apologize”), the band drops out and leaves the vocals alone in delicate harmony to sing one last “float like a butterfly,” without the stinging second half of Ali's famous phrase. After a full and vibrant fight song, Smalltalker leaves us on a pretty and satisfying note.

PREMIERE: Groupie - Hypochondria

Will Shenton

As an avowed hypochondriac myself, the latest single from Brooklyn post-punk outfit Groupie resonated with me from the start. "Surfing WebMD / Worried 'bout disease / Can't tell if I'm sick / 'Cause I'm drowning in anxiety," frontwomen Johanna Kenney and Ashley Kossakowski declare in the chorus, recounting a scene that's all too familiar for the modern neurotic.

Backed by punchy guitars, upbeat percussion, and blunt vocals, though, there's something empowering and endearing about "Hypochondria"—rather than wallowing in anxious misery, Groupie turns it into a self-deprecating punchline. "Should probably just stay inside / And never leave my room again," they suggest, but by the time the guitar solo kicks in, the track has taken on such a defiant air that the specter of illness doesn't seem quite so scary. It's a brilliant song that's at once sympathetic and brash.

The cassette re-issue of Groupie's debut EP will be released May 12 on Fluorescent Thought. Catch them that night at Silent Barn in Brooklyn with Izzy True, Painted Zeros, and Crusher.