VIDEO PREMIERE: Good Morning - To Be Won

Will Shenton

With the release of their last EP, Glory, Melbourne lo-fi group Good Morning showed an impressively dynamic range. From the soporific opener, "Overslept," to more energetic rockers like "Cab Deg," their unmistakably laid-back style wound its way through ups and downs that gave the album a substantial narrative feel. And now, the down-tempo track "To Be Won" has a video to match.

Set on some kind of ad-hoc soundstage, dimly lit save for the reflections of a hand-held disco ball and a lamp they insist on using like a microphone, very little actually happens in the video. It's an interlude, depicting the band messing around and drinking beer, as if they're still setting up for the shoot. The whole thing is presented through a heavily distorted lens, complete with tracking tears and running primary colors like an old VHS tape—all in perfect harmony with a song that feels like flopping resignedly onto the couch at the end of a long day.

"To Be Won" comes as Good Morning get ready to reissue their Glory and Shawcross EPs on a single vinyl release, which you can pre-order here. They're also kicking off a European tour this September, with updated dates here.

PREMIERE: Will Graefe - Boys

Laura Kerry

For the past decade, Will Graefe has been on the road touring with different bands, including Star Rover, Okkervil River, Petra Haden, Jesse Harris, and Landlady. In his first solo album, North America, Graefe pares way down. Shedding other group members and stepping into the forefront for the first time, the artist gets personal. Much of the LP comes from his observations and feelings from the road, an experience that reflects in the album’s bucolic folk guitar and sad, reflective vocal melodies. In North America, Graefe says, he explores “deceit, folly, addiction, wanderlust, and persistent yearning,” but underneath the somber and restless notes is a “defiant optimism.”

Both strains are visible in Graefe’s new single, “Boys.” With a light wash of mellotron, a simple acoustic picking pattern on guitar, and subdued vocals that at times resemble Elliott Smith, the first impression is somber and solitary, bringing to mind a man alone on a road under a wide sky. Underneath “Boys,” though, is a warm and comforting glow that makes it inviting.

Though intimate, the song is not completely internal. “Please don’t speak / ‘Cause we’ve had too much to drink / ...Please don’t speak and I’ll hear you,” Graefe sings on the chorus, welcoming communication without words from the one he addresses throughout the song. About connections and disconnections on the road, “Boys” is good companionship on any roads you happen down this summer.

PREMIERE: Fir Cone Children - We Will Never Die (feat. Krissy Vanderwoude)

Kelly Kirwan

Fir Cone Children knows how to lay down a groove. Berlin-based artist Alexander Donat opens his latest single with a simmering guitar line, one that wriggles it's way between your shoulder blades and alleviates any trace of tension. You're left loose-limbed and ready for a sultry sway, nearly expecting the thermostat to rise from the warmth of the melody. "We Will Never Die" rolls on for just over two minutes, it's funk-laden introduction gradually giving way to mild doses of distortion, a few fuzzy garnishes for added texture.

Krissy Wanderwoude acts as the vocal complement to Donat, their airy pitches intermingling across the sound waves with a dreamy effect. Together, they create a relaxed haze that you would link to the happy lethargy of summer nights. Which makes sense, considering the lyrics, “It’s summer / Isn’t it / I know / 'Cause it’s so warm.” On occasion, the song swerves into what feel like small whirlwinds, interludes filled with slow-moving echoes, as if we were listening to them under water.

Fir Cone Children has crafted a song that captures the fleeting feeling of infinity. It brushes off fears of mortality and instead raises its hands to a beat that repeats, “We will never die.” And it’ll leave you feeling the same way.

REVIEW: Wren Kitz - Dancing on Soda Lake

Kelly Kirwan

I read the title of Wren Kitz's latest album, Dancing on Soda Lake, and thought of two fairly opposite entities: the haunting elegance of the ballet, Swan Lake, and childhood daydreams, where the world would bend to your every whim. Instead, it’s a title fit for the band's most recent LP, whose nine tracks are woven together with ambient field recordings and delicately plucked strings.

The Burlington, Vermont-based singer has blended the traditional with the experimental, letting nostalgia and innovation flow together like changing tides. It’s a fluidity that marks the entirety of Kitz’s new work, reinforced even further by the album’s accompanying cover art: a deep-teal watercolor orb on a white palette, where each stroke of color bleeds into the next while somehow maintaining a fairly neat, cyclical pattern. In the words of his label, NNA Tapes, Dancing on Soda Lake represents “the gentle impermanence of its luminous song cycle, flowing freely back and forth between beauty and mystery, not unlike our own plasmic origins.” It's a rumination, washing over life’s deepest (and oldest) quandaries that ring true for each and every one of us, like how we connect or isolate ourselves from others.

A personal favorite off the album is the near eight-minute opus that is “Hold Him,” with its resonant tones that are reminiscent of the warbling echoes of the ocean floor. The song is introduced by an extremely deep, manipulated pitch, the kind you would associate with a whistleblowing confidante. Then it slips into more sedated tones, with the glide of guitar strings and a mumbling voice. Towards the end, spiraling beats take hold with a sound that falls somewhere between pressing all the buttons on a switchboard and water droplets falling into an empty glass. This delightfully strange array of sounds is offset by a folk-tinged female vocal accompaniment, turning “Hold Him” into a pastiche of sonic styles.

“Sleepin Dog” is another highlight, opening with those signature slow waves on the guitar, as Kitz’s voice whispers and delicately undulates, like the glimmer of a guiding light,  “I miss talking with my friend / This neighborhood is sleeping.” While mostly subdued, the song has moments of spiked energy, fervent interludes which create the sensation that we’re on the cusp of something, but just what is uncertain. Breaking free from the existential musings that weigh us down? Perhaps.

Dancing on Soda Lake is a work built with soft edges and deep contemplation. The varied textures that Kitz provides leaves the listener's mind whirring, balancing feelings of familiarity and a sense of exploration. A visual comparison I kept returning to was Ophelia floating in the river (as portrayed by John Everett Millias). It’s gorgeous, with an emphasis on both the surrounding natural world and the nature of being human, and a melancholy that draws us in rather than pushing us away.

REVIEW: Big Thief - Capacity

Kelly Kirwan

Adrianne Lenker is twenty-five years old. At first I repeated this in my empty kitchen, as if an invisible, omnipresent voice would confirm or deny. This isn’t to belittle her age or ignore all the success stories that belong to child prodigies (although we know they can sometimes take a turn). Mostly, it was her voice—with which I had only just been acquainted—and how it quavered and soared, imbued with a wisdom that we often don’t expect from someone so young. But Adrianne Lenker's life has left her with a sage mind, a rueful eye, and and affinity for indie folk that's on full display in her band, Big Thief.

Following up their full-length debut, Masterpiece, Big Thief has returned with their sophomore offering, Capacity. The cover is a true picture of adolescence—a boy holding a baby, perhaps a young father and son. It’s a snapshot that is brimming with a sense of nostalgia. It feels like it was plucked from a shoebox closed decades ago, the sort of photo your parents show you after a few glasses of wine. You marvel at how different they looked, still grappling with the fact that they had a life (not dissimilar to your own) before you ever arrived. From this image, you can begin to parse out the themes to come on the eleven tracks inside—the nature of our ever-evolving lives and who they intertwine with, and of course, what meaning we ascribe to it all.

Take "Pretty Things," which comes to life with revolving, richly resonant guitar strings alongside Lenker’s soft voice, which rises delicately before falling again into murmurs that feel both intimate and nonchalant, like an expected truth uttered with a shrug of the shoulder. “There’s a meeting in my thighs / Where in thunder and lightning / Men are baptized / In their anger and fighting / Their deceit and lies.” It’s a line that I came back to not only for its poetry, but for its grit. It’s beautiful without dressing up scenarios into neat, digestible euphemisms. As Lenker sings in an array of high notes for her finish, “Don’t take me for a fool / There’s a woman inside of me / There’s one inside of you, too / And she don’t always do pretty things.”

Then there’s "Mythological Beauty," with its percussive frame and passing resemblance to '90s alternative. It has an easy pace, as if we’re watching a reel of old family videos, yet it’s once again filled with that aforementioned bluntness. It’s a wonderful song, tracing the story of Lenker’s mother: from “Seventeen you took his cum / And you gave birth to your first life,” to when she held the life-threatening gash on Lenker’s forehead as a small child. It’s a song thats tinged with a certain sadness, and yet a simultaneous willingness to forgive. Capacity is a narrative of young families, finding one’s way, and how all those universal themes are packed into such significant, individual memories. It’s a trip worth taking.