Dream Pop

VIDEO PREMIERE

Alexia Avina - All That I Can't See

By Abigail Clyne

Like the recording of the Montreal musician’s album, Alexia Avina’s video for the track “All That I Can’t See” takes to the countryside; this time to make art with the body. Shot on film, the video grounds the track, a meditation on the fears and anxieties that envelope us. The acoustic guitar and sparse vocals pair beautifully with dancer Stephanie Jacco’s organic movement in field and pond as she dreamily dances about in a white cotton dress. She yearns to escape her fallible human body, “If I were a lake / my body wouldn’t break / beneath it’s own weight.” Sometimes dancing in nature can be the best balm for the anxieties of life. 

VIDEO PREMIERE

Best Fern - When I Die

Gerard Marcus

I first encountered Best Fern last September when ThrdCoast went up to the 2017 POP Montreal festival and filmed a live session with them (if you dig their vibes, check out the video here). The dream-pop duo, consisting of Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield, immediately intrigued me with their ethereal sound and use of ambiance. Their music had a real since of place, albeit a place comfortably nestled between the realms of reality and fantasy. 

The new video for their latest single, ‘When I Die,’ is a fitting visual counterpart to Best Fern’s sound. Filmed and edited by Luke Orlando, the collection of super8 footage flickers like the last images of someone fading away into a peaceful eternity. It's a contemplative setting perfect for pondering the track's themes of longing and existence. The video also enhances a certain element of timelessness that’s present in the song. At two minutes and 32 seconds it's certainly not the longest song in the world, but watching the video I feel almost suspended in time, like I suddenly found myself walking from a gaseous environment into a liquid. This might be my favorite part about both the track and the video–they offer a brief respite from the world around me.

PREMIERE

Sun Kin // Miserable chillers - Adoration Room

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Will Shenton

When Kabir Kumar (Sun Kin) and Miguel Gallego (Miserable chillers) first met, they found that they had a lot in common: both were pop musicians, both were first-generation children of immigrants, and both had "fears about making art in a time where a tidal wave of history seems poised to crash down on us." But perhaps the most striking similarity between the artists is the playful sincerity they bring to their songwriting, allowing them to paint optimistic counterpoints to those anxieties. It wasn't long before they became long-distance collaborators, and Adoration Room is a sprawling, occasionally tongue-in-cheek debut for the pair.

Awash in everything from danceable synths to psychedelic guitars, Kumar and Gallego's voices and lyrical styles are naturally complementary. "I keep inviting you to things by accident / I swear this app was made to make me feel bad," Kumar sings on the wonderfully theatrical "Ringing," not long after Gallego gives us the vignette of "I thought of you at the bitcoin exchange / When we split a cab across town to the AMNH" on "Natural History." These little parodies of modern, digital life walk a tragicomic line, simultaneously seeming to mock their ridiculousness and empathize with the narrator. Maybe social media is a dumb thing to stress about, but it doesn't make the anxiety any less real.

Part of the appeal of Adoration Room is its tendency towards nostalgic reference, anchoring its contemporary woes in the comforting styles of the past. Miserable chillers' "Jamie" drips with Bowie-esque melodrama, while Sun Kin channels countless sultry, soulful crooners on opener "Veena." The list of homages and influences is too long to count, and the result is a sort of semi-satirical collage—some of the delivery is definitely goofy, but it's executed with the loving care of musicians who grew up steeped in the sounds they're channeling.

Replete with sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit nods to revolutionary politics ("Adoration, if all the work goes away and we're still / Paying for the leisure of the vain / Be patient, hope the guillotines have not been rent / Help me sharpen blades," Kumar sings on "Teri Ankhen"), the album regularly hints at a more hopeful vision of the future. But no matter how the tension between the socialist clarion call of "Teri Ankhen" and the dystopian, techno-libertarian tableau of "UBI" shakes out, Sun Kin and Miserable chillers are dedicated to at least one immediate material gain: irresistible pop.

Pre-order Adoration Room on Bandcamp, out 7/27

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

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.