Guitar Rock

PREMIERE

David Vassalotti - The Light

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By Jordan Feinstein

David Vassalotti’s “The Light” is a song about the very specific moment when someone has messed up and is terrified that it will end their relationship. But instead of anger at his partner, David experiences relief that everything is out in the open now, and he can now exist with and see them honestly.

“The Light” is filled with beautiful lyrics and sounds, both taking a quasi-psychedelic approach to its themes. “There’s no beast left to fear behind the door… it’s good to see you here // it’s good to be with you here // why did it take so long to turn a light on?” Describing this unknown as a feared beast behind a door is a beautiful and fantastical metaphor. They entered the room, turned the light on, and instead of a monster, they’ve only found themselves together in a new, well-lit room. This warmth and comfort is paralleled in the aural landscape of the song: a warm bath of guitar, drums, and gentle singing. A repeated “boom” sounds throughout the track, perhaps meant to be the revelation in the relationship. But it’s non-threatening, mixed softly under the calming guitars and drums–an explosion that wasn’t. The song ends with a psychedelic journey of sounds as they “go out the back door,” awash with potential and optimism for what comes next

“The Light” is a beautiful take on a moment that could have been terrifying, but instead turned mesmerizing and exciting. It’s a complex and mature conclusion from a songwriter comfortable exploring themselves honestly, and more than capable of translating it into a gorgeous song. It’s no easy feat, and makes me nothing but excited to hear what David Vassalotti does next.

“The Light” is from David Vassalotti’s new album Guitar Dream out on 1/25/19 and up for pre-order here.

REVIEW: Lina Tullgren - Won

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Laura Kerry

Lina Tullgren lives in Maine, away from the usual music hubs of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Oakland or Los Angeles. But the artist has managed to find a musical community that includes her parents (her mother is trained in flute and baroque theory and her father raised her on jazz), her collaborator Ty Ueda, and a shifting group of other talented musicians. She is certainly not alone up there in the north.

In her debut LP, however, Tullgren seems transfixed by solitude. Won features Ueda and three other collaborators playing more than a few different instruments, but Tullgren’s voice stands out, raw and evocative. More expressive than pretty in most songs, it leads the way through soul-bearing indie rock songs about growing up, losing and keeping relationships, and loneliness. Tullgren’s voice seems to emerge unmediated from her thoughts and feelings.

Many of those thoughts and feelings are tinged with sadness. Throughout Won, Tullgren sings about the risks of opening up and the challenges of some friendships. “My heart on a string / Doesn’t mean anything,” she sings in “Fitchburg State,” and “What does it mean to wear your heart on your sleeve?” in “Red Dawn.” She asks many questions in the album (a fact acknowledged in “Face Off” with the lines, “I have more questions now / Do you know what love looks like?”), and the phenomenon seems to relate to another theme in Won: the lost feeling that comes in leaving childhood behind. Tullgren sums it up nicely with the seamless coopting of the Bob Dylan lyric, “I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now” (“Slow”).

Not all of Won is so straightforwardly melancholy, though. Dissonant and off-kilter elements create intriguing tension in the album. In standouts such as “Asktell,” “Red Dawn,” and “Summer Sleeper,” Tullgren perfectly balances plainly beautiful songwriting with more unconventional touches. “Asktell” occasionally erupts in bright and discordant bursts over its foundational moody pulse; “Red Dawn,” slower and more reflective, is woozy with its wash of distortion and loose guitar; and “Summer Sleeper” sounds like sad, twisted Beach Boys (appropriate for its central message, “I’ll stay home where I am safe / Sleep all summer”). None of the tracks on Won are overly dense or complicated, but the band manages to tease out interesting dynamics through unexpected but simple interplay between parts.

Lina Tullgren’s debut is full of contradictions. For an artist who writes and sings so deftly about wanting to retreat from friendships, she works remarkably well with her collaborators. For an album that reflects on the woes of opening up, it is remarkably intimate and candid. And for a debut, it is notably elegant and wise.

REVIEW: Syko Friend - Angel's Ride

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Phillipe Roberts

As Syko Friend, Sophie Weil’s soundscape poetry tends towards gritty, unpolished darkness. Past releases, including last year’s Fly Canyon, managed to let in a little light with shorter tracks that balanced out the cavernous depths of her more extended sonic workouts. On her latest release, Angel’s Ride, those glimmers of sunlight are blotted out, eclipsed by the revolving shadows that are her two lengthy, scorched-earth improvisations.

The menacing “Cherry Eyes” is the first of the two, building from a shimmering, drone-y introduction that seems to mimic buzzing bagpipes, into a churning, metallic slog; snippets of melody jut out like handholds for the listener to cling to as we stumble along through the night. It occasionally recalls fellow ambient mystic Grouper, but Weil’s music project is devoted less to eerie, gloomy musing. Wielding her fuzzbox like a knife, Syko Friend’s guitar work often calls to mind the bleak, Canadian post rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor in its moody, slightly Western twang.

“Rachel,” the second offering, takes the form of an extended ballad, riding distant, ghostly arpeggiations that allow Weil’s voice to move closer to center stage. Even still, the compounding echoes smooth out her articulations to the point of reducing them to waves of melody in a state of constant disintegration. Weil keeps the windows shuttered again, only allowing the faintest touch of sun—a warm bath of synthesizers—to bubble in at the very last second.

For those willing to submerge themselves in murkier waters, Angel’s Ride is a gentle float in a sensory deprivation tank. Suspended in total darkness, the vibrations humming around you are a soft massage for the senses.

PREMIERE: Journalism - Everywhere I Look

There's a way to channel nostalgia while still feeling fresh, and Journalism's latest track "Everywhere I Look," from their upcoming debut album Faces on Dead Stare Records, does just that. Almost immediately, there are distinct references to early-'90s art rock (think Bends-era Radiohead), but the Brooklyn four-piece put their own spin on the style that keeps it engaging as much more than an homage.

Apparently, "Everywhere I Look" has been a long time coming for the band. It's been floating around in various forms—here an acoustic version, there a piano ballad—on their demo tapes and in jam sessions for years, but it wasn't until recently that they settled on this final, guitar-rock iteration.

It's a somewhat dreamy song in the verses, with clean, reverb-drenched strings, but in the chorus we're brought clattering back down to earth as a grungier, distorted sound bursts in. It's brooding in one moment and explosive in the next, and it keeps you on your toes while Kegan Zema's vocals string the disparate tones together. With a single this nuanced (frankly, we're suckers for this kind of throwback), we can't wait to hear the rest of Faces when it drops on March 4th.

Upcoming Tour Dates

02.25 - Brooklyn, NY @ The Gateway w/ The Regrets, Ghost Camp & New York Taps
03.04 - Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn w/ Stove, Bueno & Psychic Selves (ALBUM RELEASE SHOW)
03.06 - Boston, MA @ O’Briens w/ Charles
04.01 - New Brunswick, NJ @ Paradise Lost w/ Tri-State Era