Indie Pop

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.

PREMIERE

Dances - Never Sexier Than When I'm Alone

Gerard Marcus

You meet someone and immediately hit it off. It quickly becomes almost shocking to think of a time before or after them. You start spending more and more time together, growing more and more connected, bringing an ease to life you’ve been looking for for a while. The only problem is that they now have to go. Far away. It’s a weird feeling, wanting to be near someone when you can’t. That rawness of a recent lover lost to distance is the central theme of Dances new single, “Never Sexier Than When I’m Alone.”

The video, directed by Alec MacDonald, is an intimate portrait of longing. Dances' lead singer and songwriter Trevor Vaz sits alone in local Bushwick dance spot Mood Ring contemplating moments that he wishes to share with a distant lover. As the night progresses and the alcohol flows, he finds himself wandering towards the back room alone, thrashing around while draped in silver and gold ribbons. Production choices like having Vaz function as his own bartender, or the subtle realty vs. fantasy element of watching himself on security footage, drive home the track's deep longing. The video beautifully portrays the solitude of yearning to be somewhere else, anywhere else, with the person you love. 

Venus Figurine comes out 10/12 via the new label Jubilee Gang with a release show on 10/13 at Trans-Pecos with Zenizen and Realworld

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.