REVIEW: milo - sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face

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Phillipe Roberts

Lowercase rapper milo’s latest record, sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face, was conceived as “the document of a weekend in early autumn,” but released on New Year's Day with a record-breaking cold snap breathing down its neck. It’s unfair to be hearing this album for the first time bundled under multiple sweaters; the free-flowing, crisp yet loose production and milo’s breezy flows are a tantalizing portrait of those carefree, double-digit temperature days. Coming off of a project as dynamic and confident as who told you to think??!!?!?!?!, milo manages to condense his wide-ranging vision to pocket-sized proportions. A late Christmas gift for the snowed-in faithful, sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face is the sound of milo extending his hot streak. At 24 minutes, hardly half the runtime of his last, it might be the most accessible introduction to his singular universe.

But there are no grandiose James Baldwin speeches to start the proceedings this time around, no cosmic synthesizer swirls vaporizing into oblivion. Here, milo keeps the introductions short and less-than-sweet, digging into album opener “a terror way beyond falling” with a mournful piano sample that slams into being with a jarring lack of subtlety, mangled beyond repair and clipping with a menacing crackle that fills your headphones to the brim. milo comes at the mic primed for escape. “I’m out of here on the starship nigga / Spaceship, motherfucker,” he growls, airing out his contempt while saving space to drop the two-faced wisdom of a minor chorus: “And I know property is theft / But it’s still some things I’m wanting / So I might take ‘em.” No other tracks match it for muted fury, and it’s brave new territory well-conquered for the rapper, weaving a thing of beauty out of naked ugliness.

From here, the mood rapidly cools off and milo slips into more lighthearted territory, but keeps the experimental vibes high. Coming to the sly jazz-hop grooves of “ryu drums (fat tummy riff suite),” he contorts bars with staggering deftness, keeping you rewinding to fully parse verses like “Delicate circuit somnambulates this wide blade in v spot / And had the makings of an oath in the peach garden.” Most would throw themselves into those lines with athletic energy, but if it’s there for milo, his casual, smirking delivery never lets it show.  The end of “bought my kid a high chair” shows off milo’s voice as instrument as he plays around with the phrase “anxiously yearning,” chopping it up in whispers after cracking himself up.

milo leaves ample room for scallops hotel—his producer alter-ego—to shine, particularly in the middle of the record. The beat on “temple in the green,” with aquatic piano sandwiched between a softly exploding snare and a perfectly dusty bass drum compels him to comment, “This beat is nice, the mic sounds nice,” and he chuckles before vocally mangling the bass melody as the song dissolves around him. For the first time, milo sounds content to revel in his own goofy pretentiousness, less thumbing his nose from a high horse than riding his own wave with confidence. sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face isn’t particularly concerned with pushing the envelope, but its victory-lap sense of ease, and the conviction with which milo strides into each beat, is infectious.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Jake Klar - Over & Over

Laura Kerry

After you listen to his song “Over & Over,” it should come as no surprise that Jake Klar’s Until The Wild Fire Becomes Paradise is the product of wandering. The October album emerged out of the artist’s journals that he kept over a two-year expedition throughout the US and beyond, borrowing from his impressions from the road that he captured in poetry, stories, and images.

In Klar’s new video for “Over & Over,” he—with the help of cinematographer Jackson Glasgow and editor Aaron Brummer—reflects this itinerant spirit. With the warm-hued, scratch-filled, and teetering look of old tape shot on a handheld camera, the video follows an amble through a nondescript place. As Klar sings in his low and expressive voice, he wanders sidewalks, jumps a fence (gracefully), hangs on an old bridge with two friends, throws rocks, dances, and jumps into a dumpster (also gracefully).

Nothing particularly remarkable happens, but as the rumbling Americana guitar, folky melody, and jaunty piano rise, the music invests the scene with a sense of poignancy. Like the view of a highway out of a Greyhound bus window, it is made beautiful by the right music. Between this and the film effects and aimlessness of the action, the video feels intimate, as if it’s found footage from a home video collection or a projection streaming directly from a someone’s memory. Or, perhaps, it’s the journals coming through. Either way, it’s worth a visit.

PREMIERE: Elbows - Windowpane

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Phillipe Roberts

On earlier singles, Elbows burrowed deep into a curious niche. His electronic funk productions toyed with the kind of dime-store psychedelia employed by 90s Beatles-obsessives The Olivia Tremor Control or The Apples in Stereo to chase down a similarly lysergically-tinted childhood wonderland. Samples of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, luxurious Fab Four harmonies sprinkled between seductive breakbeats, and the ever-present twinkle of electric keys painted a rosy, nostalgic landscape on last year’s Corduroy EP.

Heading into the January 26th release of his second collection, Sycamore, Elbows kicks off 2018 with “Windowpane,” knocking off that thrift-store dust with a gleaming slice of soulful dream pop, flexing production that’s spacious enough for his deeper grooves to really breathe. The barebones beat clears plenty of room for a host of glittering ornamentations: distant slivers of guitar, mushrooming clusters of bells, sonar sweeps of warbling synthesizer. Elements breathe into one another effortlessly, a technicolor haze pulling you into the kind of breezy, laid-back summer reverie that Elbows does best. The gear-shift changeup after the second chorus hits hard, crackling on the hi-hat before slamming into an 8-bit crescendo of sighing ooh’s and ahh’s that brings to mind the crisp Summer of Love nostalgia of the Mercury Rev-assisted “Colours” on The Avalanches’ Wildflower.

Bells and whistles aside, “Windowpane” also sees Elbows mastermind Max Schieble turning in his most confident performance yet behind the mic. He tries his hand at breathy raps, spitting out nostalgic tales teeming with microscopic details like “Cracks in the attic where the heirloom should be” to color in the holes in his memory, receding into his younger years. Elbows finds alien territory that feels cozy and familiar.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - F

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Phillipe Roberts

Tossing out one last release only hours before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Dove Lady slide into home plate with three records under their belts for 2017. For most acts, a breakneck pace like that would suggest a “golden year” burst of creativity, a flash-in-the-pan outlier. But with 20 EPs to go in their crusade to drop one for each letter of the alphabet, Dove Lady seem to be revving up, trying to take the rest of their marathon at full steam. Even if they maintain that three-a-year pace and drop any detours like last year’s numerical swerve One, the DC duo are looking at at least 6 more years of charging towards that finish line.

But the thrill of the band’s evolution, the thumping, oxygen-flooded heart of those heady ambitions, comes down to pure mystery: what kind of band will Dove Lady be at the end of all this? Song by song, Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray are engaged in a game of musical pointillism, brushing a few new dots onto a canvas that, as of EP F, we’re still seeing up close. Years from now, when we stand back at the close of EP Z, what sort of cohesive image will (or could) emerge from the expanding cacophony of genres spilling out of these two?

And yet, like all of their previous works thus far, F is an album obsessed with moments, cohesion be damned. Dove Lady sinks their teeth into melodies with a uniquely rabid dedication to impulsive leaps in songwriting logic. No idea is safe or sacred. No song too pretty or catchy to escape a little bit of mutilation. At its furthest extreme, this philosophy coughs up a real head-turner on “Education Soul Connection.” Chopped up, spidery funk-rock riffing rides down the scales into a blend of gooey, yearning psych-rock reminiscent of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, before growing a pair of legs and hoofing it off into oblivion with a passage that pairs a Cash-style western drum shuffle with an explosively jagged math-rock lead guitar line. By the time the dust settles in your ears, you’re halfway through noise anthem “Volleyball, Volleyball Star Captain,” shaking it to a sweaty, palm-muted riff and the titular chant for the cartoon superhero you never knew you needed.

For all the muscular shredding and complex time signature noodling to be had on F, the EP is not without its quieter, more meditative moments. Opener “You Are All My People” is their most convincing attempt at lo-fi ambience so far. Looped piano, field recordings, and scrapped, Gamelan-style guitars squash, bend, and reverse into an immersive digitized swamp, saturated with humid texture à la Deerhunter. And the back half of “Let It Shine,” where the band quickly trades in the more anthemic opening for a slinky doo-wop waltz, soothes even as it theorizes that “acceptance is a sore thing.”

But on that slippery final track, “Occupation,” Dove Lady gel into their finest moment, peppering spoken-word monologuing about the wave of nationalist fear-mongering spreading across the country over synth chops and a diseased-sounding, moaning chorus, mocking the new-wave schmaltz of U2’s “With Or Without You” with both a wry grin and a heavy heart. It’s pop gone awry for a country lost at sea. Dove Lady are leading us somewhere, the map held tightly to their chests. Breadcrumb by breadcrumb, dot by dot, they challenge us to enjoy the pit stops, to see one color at a time. And so far, it’s working.

REVIEW: Julie Cool - Demo

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Laura Kerry

Our experience of music owes much to the environment in which we hear it. Sometimes, that environment is internal, such as the post-breakup void that makes a song sound raw or the new love that renders it airy and upbeat. Often, it’s external, arising from the landscape outside of a car window or the rain hitting your bedroom windows.

Julie Cool’s debut EP exhibits the opposite effect: the music transforms the landscape around it. In the dead of winter, Demo infuses its surroundings with a shimmery warmth. Just four songs long, it’s a pop of summer in January—a sunny contrast to the cold that had settled in Baltimore, where the band (Elliott Dean, Chris Arreza, Ben Bjork, and Matt Morin) lives, when they released the album on one of the last days of 2017.

The main sources of the Demo’s warmth are lo-fi production, bright guitar, and relaxed vocals. Combined, they form easygoing psych-pop tunes whose jangliness and nonchalance resembles—uncannily in the case of “Triceratops”—that of Mac DeMarco. For the most part, though, Julie Cool is dreamier than DeMarco. In the opener, “Heaven Knows (feat. ruru),” the pretty male and female harmonies sit further back in the mix than the instrumental voices, resulting in haziness. Though the spacious and clear guitar parts offer a bright foundation, the vocals inject undertones of wistfulness, emphasized by lyrics such as, “When you leave me all alone / All the thoughts collide in my head.” As the song increasingly builds to a dreamy cacophony, the listener can imagine those thoughts colliding.

Julie Cool’s dreaminess emerges in different forms elsewhere in the album. In “Sheila,” a drum loop fit for Michael Jackson sets the stage for a woozy song whose lyrics project a John Hughes film in the movie screen of the mind (“Do you see her / Moving down the hall / She won’t see you / She don’t care at all”). The track sounds like a warped ‘80s pop song steeped in jangly guitars.

Good old-fashioned pop also dwells at the core of “Triceratops” and “I Don’t Mind,” both of which use foot-tapping melodies, time-tested chord progressions, and head-bobbing rhythms, even as they—and you along with them—wobble and float through hazy and sometimes surreal compositions. While winter is stark and severe, Julie Cool’s debut is lush, loose, and vibrant, full of the kind of music that not only immerses the listener, but everything around her, too.