Brooklyn

VIDEO PREMIERE

Trees Take Ease - Birds Like Leaves

Gerard Marcus

The music of Brooklyn-based musician Trees Take Ease holds a special place in my heart. It perfectly captures the emotional space where my oldest memories reside, dancing in and out of fantasy. With its earnest sensibilities and lo-fi feel, his 2017 record ‘Magnetic North’ is easily one of my favorites from last year. He’s had two releases since then, but I’m happy to see him return to Magnetic North to create a beautiful video for its track “Birds Like Leaves.”

Directed by Kathleen Elizabeth Dalton and Stephen Becker (Trees Take Ease), the power in the “Birds Like Leaves” video is its ability to draw attention to its fringes. Scraps of paper trapped by the wind, hands without bodies, shadows dancing and connecting on the ground—the entire video hints at the presence of more while focusing on the less. Is there a grace in how the wind carries the paper? Do those shadows connect us more completely than we do in the flesh? The video, like the music of Trees Take Ease, asks us to pay attention to that middle ground between reality and fantasy, the etherial and the concrete. A world where contemplation on the big and small can hopefully lead to deeper knowledge.

VIDEO PREMIERE

JOBS - Pink

Gerard Marcus

Perfection is weird; it's by its very definition never obtainable. According to Merriam-Webster, perfection is “freedom from fault or defect.” But who decides what’s a fault or defect? JOBS' new video for their single “Pink” considers that question at its core, turning what some people might see as faults into a video that is pretty close to that elusive perfection.

“Pink” the track is a wild combination of pulsing rhythms, distorted guitars, and surreal vocals that more directly evoke imagery than meaning. It’s a song of sensation that ask you to listen deep without any expectation of reward. Directed by Britt Ciampa, the video portrays two characters dragging objects through what seems like a parade of ghosts. JOBS' singer-guitarist David Scanlon’s distorted image is overlayed throughout, creating a beautiful collage of hyper-stimulating imagery. Britt Ciampa's work as a visual effects artist really shines in the video. Using visual ideas he discovered through failures at creating photorealistic fixes in his usual work as a vfx artist, he creates a visual language for this video that pairs excellently with the driving pulse and distorted sounds of JOBS track. He created perfection out of imperfection, and what’s more perfect than that?

PREMIERE

Moonheart - Breaking/Broken

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Gerard Marcus

Have you ever loved someone-a mother, a friend, a life partner-who’s emotionally sporadic? It has a way of making you lose yourself in anxieties that aren’t your own. Finding your way out of the maze of another person’s emotions is hard, and it can force you to learn how to emotionally separate yourself from aspects of their life. It’s not easy, not being hugged when that’s all you want, not seeing a smile after you told what you know is the funniest joke ever. But love keeps you there.

Moonheart’s new single “Breaking/Broken” reminds me of this space. The track is simple-lush synths layered over cavernous percussion and flickering electronics, with singer Kim Iman’s voice ping-ponging in stereo like rippling water running over it all. This simplicity is all in service of my favorite aspect of this track: its structure. The song opts-out of a familiar verse-chorus pattern, and instead floats through a lyrical stream of consciousness. It evokes the contemplation one has after yet another failure to connect with someone they love, remembering all the good and the bad in the relationship, while trying to figure out what comes next. This emotional middle ground is hard to grasp, but Moonheart has captured it perfectly.

REVIEW: Wilder Maker - Zion

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Phillipe Roberts

Nestled in the sprawling intensity of New York City is a proud tradition of bands, from the hallowed Television to modern wiz Kevin Morby, who use their music as a portal to transcend the urban clamor for calmer pastures. After all, not everyone can be bothered to emulate the never-ending screeches and howls of city life with scuzzy alternate tunings and insistent, throbbing rhythms. Brooklyn supercrew Wilder Maker get their kicks painting rambling living portraits closer to the folk tradition, but the expansiveness of their instrumental ambitions and the clarity of their confessional, at times brooding, lyricism puts them in direct lineage with the giants that came before them. And with Gabriel Birnbaum as songwriter, that tradition is in some dangerously capable hands.

In full acknowledgement of the utter collapse of genre today, the term post-folk comes to mind when describing Wilder Maker’s swirling vortex of airy-textured, extended jam-rock music. However, the four-piece is careful to center vocals and guitar in all of these compositions. One of their greatest strengths is that any of the songs on their latest masterpiece, Zion, would sound phenomenal stripped down to just those elements. Indeed, when they bring the lights all the way down for penultimate track “Multiplied,” with Birnbaum and longtime collaborator Katie Von Schleicher’s voices twirling around delicate finger-picked guitar and minimal shaker-and-bass-drum percussion, their flawless precision is awe-inspiring. They know how to tear your head off with a saxophone solo, like they do on the electrified country of “Gonna Get My Money,” or throw caution to the wind with the hallelujah crescendos on “Women Dancing Immortal,” but this is a band of marvelous and mysterious restraint.

For the most part however, Wilder Maker focus on taking private crises and blowing them up to tremendous proportions. They aren’t about punchy statements, preferring gaping expanses that allow them to spin lyrical yarns packed with vivid imagery. Opener “Closer to God” recounts ditching a scummy landlord for Mexico in no fewer than five verses. The narrative is packed with details like “The new place was a canvas / And we were a brush heavy with paint,” and couches them between the dual guitar harmonies and maximalist, All Things Must Pass thunder of its six-minute runtime.

Von Schleicher’s turns on lead vocals contrast with Birnbaum’s bluesy twang—the soaring highs of “Impossible Summer” spark off the driving instrumentation like lightning. “Like a dreamer who's still dreaming / I just can’t stop fucking up,” she yelps, before being swallowed by a crashing, metallic breakdown, the whole band slowing to a stop as she repeats “I tried so hard” until she disappears into the ether. When she owns the mic again on “Drunk Driver,” she wears a post-traumatic grimace. The story unfolds gently, tumbling through drowned feelings at a bar into another chanted, theatrical climax: howls of “The band plays on” collapse into a single piano note as the drunk driver turns the key. The combination of her stately, stage-perfected prowess and Birnbaum’s rousing but casually introspective warmth makes for an inviting listen at every turn.

As far as folk records go, Zion is as empowering as they come, with two riveting storytellers at the helm armed to the teeth with inventive tunes. Don’t let those thick runtimes stand in your way—Wilder Maker have a knack for generously elevating the smallest of bitter details to grand scales and inviting you in as they process them. Catharsis is better when it’s shared.

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.