Bedroom Rock

REVIEW: Good Morning - Prize // Reward

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Raquel Dalarossa

Australian duo Good Morning, made up of Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons, have been releasing DIY tapes together since 2014, even getting so far as to re-issue their earlier releases, Glory and long-held fan favorite Shawcross. But even so, with just two EPs and a few other singles out, it may be surprising to learn that they’ve amounted over 11 million Spotify plays for their most popular song, “Warned You.” That is, of course, if you haven’t actually heard them yet.

Good Morning’s music exudes a cozy and charming warmth through every ridiculously catchy guitar riff. Known for experimenting with their recording equipment, techniques, and locations, the band seem to approach their work as true craftsmen, with perhaps a touch of perfectionism. That might explain the slow build up to their overdue debut full-length release, the ten track-long Prize // Rewardthe album’s Bandcamp page reads, “We recorded it for a while (maybe longer than we should have).” But taking one’s time and laying low all the while is a luxury that may well be on its way out for this group; Good Morning seem bound for the same hype that, for example, propelled the band Whitney to indie stardom.

And that’s for good reason. On Prize // Reward, the twosome’s talent for well-written guitar hooks, paired with a certain insouciant flair, is on full display. With songs like “Mirror Freak” and “$10,” their hypnotic guitar lines and vocals tinged with an ever-so-slight twang are endlessly enjoyable. Such an approach places them smack in the lineage of “slacker” rock a la Parquet Courts and Pavement before them, but Good Morning flex these elements in all sorts of ways.

Languid, reverb-y vocals sometimes recall Mac Demarco, especially in a track like “Who’s to Blame,” while a lower-fi framing can bring to mind the songwriting of Robert Pollard, as in “After You.” In the latter, they create a cozy and soft aural texture that sounds like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, but a horn-assisted outro keeps it from getting at all somnolent.

Those kinds of unexpected details allow their music to stretch far beyond the slacker rock label (or any label for that matter). See “For a Little While,” which indulges in a long instrumental interlude that feels like a sort of rumination, with an inquisitive, unresolving bassline, anxious saxophone solos (courtesy of Glenn Blair), and a repetitious piano motif that keeps you in place for perhaps longer than you’d like. It feels both idle and restless.

When a band manages so deftly to meld the original with the familiar, it strikes the magical balance of feeling soul-grabbing at first listen, and rewarding with every return. There’s no doubt good things are in store for Good Morning.

REVIEW: Gorgeous Bully - Great Blue

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Kelly Kirwan

Gorgeous Bully have carved out a place for themselves in the realm of minimalist bedroom pop by giving their sound a razor-sharp edge. The Manchester four-piece have returned with a new LP, great blue, full of bustling melodies and a pinch of grit on each of its twelve tracks. They tend to keep their songs brief—the longest clock in at just over three minutes—making for an album that never drags despite its generally laid-back aesthetic.

great blue's title track is one of its slower, more meditative songs. True to its name, it conjures a calming, expansive ambiance reminiscent of the sea. The vocals are soft, delivered in a gentle cadence that weaves between a chorus of oohs, which add to its tranquil aura. Plucked guitar strings and tangy reverb billow out like soft ripples on the water’s surface.

Then there’s "can’t explain," which comes in just shy of the two-minute mark. It's a quick hit of nigh-monotone, chant-like vocals, like a little dose of reluctance to unpack more complicated emotions. Between punctuated percussion we hear the exasperated lyrics, “I was feeling strange that evening / Think it’s something I can’t explain … You didn’t get it / I said forget it / It’s just something I can’t explain.”

On "health," the drums are prominently featured, and rich guitars play a driving riff in the background. The lyrics “You take it out on yourself … It’s no good for your health” are a mainstay of the track, a mantra to avoid becoming your own worst enemy. It’s a loose, sunny melody offset by even-keeled vocals, exemplifying the balancing act that is Gorgeous Bully's style. great blue is expansive, with a certain fluidity between their tracks that makes each snippet meld into a seamless whole. It’s music that goes down smooth but still has a spark, and it’s worth diving into.

REVIEW: Jo Passed - Up

Kelly Kirwan

There’s a quiet isolation that comes at night. Insomnia sets in, feelings of exhaustion intermingle with that tug of restlessness, and you’re torn between two worlds, too familiar with the witching hour. It’s the sort of sleep affliction that’s rife with symbolism for Joseph Hirabayashi, whose bout of sleepless nights followed the gradual disbanding of his Vancouver-based modern psych group Spring. This wasn’t the first time that Hirabayshi had an artistic outfit splinter off, and Spring itself was formed from the pieces of a prior progressive punk band the SSRIs. But this particular fracture was different. Deeper. It put Hirabayashi and a long-time friend and collaborator on hiatus, leaving the star of our show, Joseph, uprooted and at a standstill. His remedy ultimately came in the form of music, and the hair of the dog that bit him—which, in this case, was change.

So, Hirabayashi packed his bags and switched coasts to set his sights on Montreal—not in an attempt to plant new roots, but in an effort to embrace the ever-shifting course of events that is, well, life. Hence Jo Passed, an “emergent project” of Hirabayashi’s that now has an emerging EP, Up, the sophomore project to follow Jo Passed’s first record, Out. It’s as if Hirabayashi took the pieces of his former artistic enterprises and rearranged them to form a new mosaic. There’s a hearty hand of distortion tied to psych-rock, sparse and at times darkly poetic lyrics that feel slightly tinted with punk, and synth accents courtesy of Bella McKee. Up has an underground feel, recorded in the nooks and crannies of Hirabayashi’s rolling-stone lifestyle, turning garage rock into a form of on-the-road rock.

Of the four songs Jo Passed presents, Up’s final song, “Virtue,” is perhaps the most low-key and meandering. Its beat turns from metallic, nasally guitar strums to clashes of cymbals or synth—a melody that knows no straight line, but the continual interruption of fuzz over circular riffs. Hirabayashi’s voice is as gentle as an exhalation, gradually fading into a skipping record and an unplugged amp swarm of static. This ending—to both the song and the album—is a circle back to Up’s opener, "Look Up," with Hirabayshi’s voice stretching into the atmosphere for a connection, “Hey el / Testing / Can you hear me? / Hey el / Testing / Are you reading?”

Only “Virtue” isn’t so much a radio message into the ether as it a reflection on the way things tend to shake down. Hirabayashi’s soft voice against the melody has the effect of those black and white pinwheels used in hypnotism, the final lines repeating, “There’s no need to explain yourself / Grow up or behave yourself.” The words sound harsh on paper, but not so much in Hirabayashi’s timbre. It’s more of a nonchalant acceptance—yes, it’s time to grow, either into adulthood or even just a new life direction. Because if there’s one thing Hirabayshi can do, it’s adapt.