VIDEO PREMIERE: Vansire - That I Miss You

Will Shenton

There's a charming discrepancy between the polished production of Vansire's groovy synth-pop track "That I Miss You" and the DIY goofiness of the video that accompanies it. Tight hooks flow like tides beneath lightly modulated vocals as the duo, Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller, dance in loosely choreographed deadpan across their hometown of Rochester, MN in matching NASA t-shirts. It's an endearing tableau, but the playful tone and summery melodies belie a more thoughtful undercurrent.

Originally inspired by a nonsensical phrase ("like a Lichtenstein," which Augustin latched onto simply for its alliterative qualities), "That I Miss You" evolved into a meditation on the nature of art and commodification. "Any attempt to make art about relationships or love is, to a certain extent, a stylization of a personal experience for an audience," Augustin explained, going on to say that the track is something of a summation of his mental state since the release of their recent LP Angel Youth. "The original intention was light lyrical fare about a college friend of mine who just transferred, but it ended up being more about the nature of art in general."

That said, the song never collapses beneath the weight of its own navel-gazing. By couching those ruminations in lighthearted (if somewhat bittersweet) pop and garnishing it with some self-deprecating dance moves, Vansire strike a balance that feels substantial and easily digestible at the same time. "That I Miss You" is an infectiously catchy and accessible track, but there's plenty to unpack on subsequent listens.

Catch Vansire on their West Coast Tour this August

Aug. 2 - Voodoo Room - San Diego

Aug. 4 - Bootleg Theater - Los Angeles

Aug. 5 - Daydream Festival - Sacramento

Aug. 6 - Slim's - San Francisco

Aug. 9 - Crocodile - Seattle

Aug. 10 - Mission Theater - Portland

Aug. 11 - China Cloud - Vancouver

VIDEO PREMIERE: The Velveteins - All Night Baby

Phillipe Roberts

Innocent sock-hop sweetness gets glossed up with tight, punchy production on The Velveteins’ “All Night Baby,” a song that checks all the boxes for a classic '60s romantic desperation anthem. The lyrics are pure teenage yearning and bravado—confident that if only you could get that one chance, you’d sweep the object of your affection into dreamy bliss. Throw in a couple “Ah La La”s (as the gang do pitch-perfectly), make sure those guitars slap back with drippy, surf-rock reverb, nail the call-and-response harmonies, and you’re halfway there. What really separates this one as a leader of the pack in the overflow of old-school aesthetic obsessives is the forward-leaning, energetic punkiness of the execution. The drums lurch into those once-dusty grooves and the rest of the band follows suit, lending “All Night Baby” the same kind of modern spin that makes a track like Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” endearing rather than eyeroll-inducing.

A similar refined vintage quality holds true in their video, directed by the band itself. Tessellating stills of the band and friends, drawn over with layers of chalk-like graffiti, The Velveteins update the '60s vibe and present the band as a lovable gang of misfits, parading around town in a series of personality shots. The stereoscopic portraits bop and twist along to the music, coming off like a series of holographic trading cards for the band members (Collect them all!) as the music swells and shuffles around them. It’s a heartwarming peek into the world of the Velveteins, a portrait of a band falling in love with each other, and a perfect match for the gooey love song it accompanies.

PREMIERE: Fir Cone Children - On My Plate (Feat. Krissy Vanderwoude)

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Will Shenton

Taken from Fir Cone Children's forthcoming LP, The Straight & The Curly, "On My Plate" is a dream-punk tune packed with the whimsy of the mundane. Alexander Donat and Krissy Vanderwoude's vocals weave a shimmering tapestry among the driving piano and soaring guitars as they sing about something almost universally familiar: a kid who doesn't want to eat his dinner.

There's something delightful about giving such dramatic treatment to such a banal scene. "I want to eat something else / I do not want what's on my plate," the duo sings in the buildup to the frantic chorus, in which they emphatically declare, "No fork / No knife / No food / No fruit / No vegetables." It almost reads as a parody of self-serious punk (or subgenres thereof), presenting a child's tantrum in a style usually reserved for grander rebellion.

Fir Cone Children do seem to be getting at a broader theme than the literal narrative suggests. Choice, at any age, can be paralyzing, and the birds in the bush are often more appealing than the one in the hand. Perhaps these are impulses we have to overcome to truly grow up, but it's hard not to relate to the kid—sometimes you just want to flip the dinner table and throw a fit.

Be sure to catch The Straight & The Curly July 13 on Blackjack Illuminist Records.

VIDEO PREMIERE: twig twig - Only One

Phillipe Roberts

The art-pop delicacies Brooklyn’s Zubin Hensler creates as twig twig are playful in production and generous in melody, grasping for personal truth with eager fingers through plush, psychedelic soundscapes. Owing no small debt to his extensive work in scoring for film and television, the songs have always played cinematic—bubbly and bright with a penchant for cartoonish left-turn transitions. On his latest album, darkworld gleaming, Hensler goes for broke, releasing his most animated collection yet. Cut from the same carnivalesque Technicolor cloth as Kishi Bashi or a digitized Grizzly Bear, darkworld gleaming is as tender as it is adventurous.

The intimate vocal performances and woozy, aquatic instrumental textures of “Only One” capture this dichotomy precisely, and the track finally has a video to match. Hand-drawn overlays are applied over reels of film, translating the song’s fizzed-out, grainy quality quite literally. Gooey red letters slide by, hardly synced up to the beat as they’re met with footage of leafy plants and a bus driving backwards, nonsensical questions, and a bizarre cameo by Woody from Toy Story growing a five o’ clock shadow in sequence. It’s a charming, whimsical portrait of the song. Unconcerned with keeping a grip on reality, twig twig free-associates into a marvelous new wonderland.

REVIEW: MIKE - Renaissance Man

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Phillipe Roberts

MIKE’s latest release, his second in as many months, is less a rebirth than a gathering of inertia. With a build to match his slumbering giant vocal delivery, the Bronx rapper clambers to the top of his class one hulking bar at a time on Renaissance Man, a brisk and breezy record crackling with both low-to-no fidelity hiss and the generous spirit that’s quickly becoming his calling card.

In his beat selection, MIKE’s deck stacks towards the vaporous and disorienting. Synths ooze and slither; micro-samples drown at distances too far out to be recognized; drums swallow one another, smeared across the mix in a slimy, yet satisfying grab-bag cocktail. Lesser rappers might lose their way in such foggy conditions, but the backbeat blitz serves MIKE well, running cover as his sturdy, booming voice barrels through your lowered defenses.

“Goliath Goliath” is the finest execution of this play. A voice distorts in robotic, stuttering quarter-time, SNES samples blip left to right, a sound like dry joints rotating in a socket ripples through your eardrums; it’s a minefield of confusion until MIKE charges in with even meters, steady and sure. The effect is a grounding juxtaposition to the nauseating surroundings. He’s not afraid to invert the formula, however. If “Goliath Goliath” is treading water, “Sidewalk Soldier” has lungs half-filled with ocean. MIKE’s voice, doubled and occasionally tripled, slips and slides out of phase with itself: “The beast on the prowl for the bread in his whip / No leash on my doubt, I'm expecting a threat.” He’s sleepwalking over danger, sounding like he’s rapping to a beat that’s barely leaking through concrete walls.

That sense of sure-footedness, of stable focus in the face of chaos, seems central to the mythos MIKE is creating around himself with every subsequent release. The track titles alone (“Goliath,” “Sidewalk Soldier,” “Resistant Man”) are enough of an indication. A peculiar moral indignation, a righteous, eye-of-the-storm calm curls around the core of his work. Look no further than the repetition of “The truth is on its way” in the coda of “Time Will Tell,” or how the following sound collage track, “Why I’m Here,” breaks down shame towards the black American dialect, making a case for it as—in his choice of sampled words—“a genuine dialect of English.” If you’re on his list (like the ones he’s surpassed by “ducking all your feedback” on “Sidewalk Soldier”), MIKE may not be coming for you just yet, but he’s sharpening his technique, biding his time for the knockout blow.

Seeing him for the first time, opening a hodgepodge lineup with psych-rockers CRUMB and Cumbia group Combo Chimbita, I found myself struck by the insular cocoon of friends that swarmed around MIKE on stage, some heading out into the crowd to dance for a beat or two before hopping back on to deliver a doubled verse. They egged him on before every track, shouting out requests while being a part of the show themselves. MIKE glowed with the energy of a person whose friends have finally nudged him into the spotlight. Song by song, with peaks and valleys, you could tell he was starting to feel it too. Renaissance Man captures that mood for the first time in his discography—after building his inertia steadily for years, MIKE is starting to feel himself. It’s a great look on him, and a graceful leap forward.