Lo-Fi

VIDEO PREMIERE: MAH KEE OH - Uppercut

Will Shenton

MAH KEE OH's new single, "Uppercut," is an exercise in freeform projection. Grahm Robinson, the Denton, TX multi-instrumentalist behind the moniker, combines his signature washed-out guitars and hazy vocals with a DIY collage of faces that give rise to a hundred little stop-motion narratives and vignettes. According to the artist, it was inspired by feelings of aimless confusion, and he succeeds in channeling those into a sort of audiovisual Rorschach test.

"Uppercut" is a mesmerizing track, taken from MAH KEE OH's forthcoming EP, Shoplifting Can Get You Killed. It's nostalgic on every level, from the slacker-rock sound to the mid-century magazine cutouts, and I'm reminded of a somewhat sludgier version of Oakland songwriter Perhapsy. The instruments are so deeply layered that any one of them coming to the forefront manages to surprise, and yet each voice is still discernible on a close enough listen.

Delightfully ambiguous, "Uppercut" is a refreshing detour into a world where concrete interpretations don't really matter. It's okay to feel lost, and sometimes our most indiscriminate wanderings give rise to our most beautiful ideas. We're excited to see where MAH KEE OH goes from here.

PREMIERE: Two Meters - Captive Audience

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Will Shenton

"Captive Audience," the second single from Florida artist Two Meters' forthcoming self-titled EP, is a song that resolves itself out of a hazy mist. Lost in an ambient wash, an acoustic guitar strums lazily along, distant and defeated. In a nod to its own construction, Tyler Costolo's vocals enter with understated anguish, "Waking up in a daze / With my head throbbing / Eyes covered and blind / I feel my hands are bound," setting the stage for the increasingly grisly tableau to come.

The track is Costolo's take on the end of a relationship, as unsaid words and regrets linger long after the romance has died, manifesting here as a brutal kidnapping: "I was your hostage / But I had no idea," he sings alongside labelmate and producer Pastel (aka Gabriel Brenner). It's both lyrically and instrumentally raw, blending scenes of physical violence (or, more accurately, their aftermath) with a sound that is simultaneously pleading and exhausted.

Two Meters pulls no punches here. "Captive Audience" is a beautiful song, and one that leaves a lasting impression, but it never shies from its own wounds.

Two Meters' debut EP is out June 15 on Very Jazzed. Pre-order it here.

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.

PREMIERE: Indira Valey - No Me Tengas Miedo

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Will Shenton

No Me Tengas Miedo. Do not fear me. The title of Portland artist Indira Valey's new EP is an admonition that might seem unnecessary given its quiet, mesmerizing character. Yet, in progressing like a dream, it exposes the listener to the subtle anxieties of introspection, inviting us to see ourselves reflected in its fluid soundscapes—and in the end, imploring us not to shy away from what we discover.

The first three tracks on the EP are primarily impressionistic, each taking its time to build layered textures that undulate and sprawl. Indira Valey's voice phases in and out of earshot throughout, at times melding with the instrumentals entirely as the mantra-like lyrics unfold. The sparse percussion and washed-out guitars give the sound an organic warmth, especially on "Wideopen," which evokes images of sunset plains and endless skies.

On the fourth and final track, "No Me Tengas Miedo No Me," the vocals come to the forefront, slightly modulated, speaking from a place of seemingly mystical power. "Watch as the islands of my eyes ride waves / Of hiding the whole body," the artist chants, further erasing the lines between nature and self that have been blurred by the preceding songs. We are beseeched yet again, in Spanish and English: "No me tengas miedo / No me ... Do not fear me / Do not / I come from higher places."

No Me Tengas Miedo feels in many ways like an exercise in surrender. It lulls us into an uncertain serenity, not tranquilized but clear-headed, before pulling us into a strange world with unfamiliar boundaries. It's a transportive work, and one that you'll find calling you back when you least expect it.

Pre-order No Me Tengas Miedo, out tomorrow (3/28) on Antiquated Future and Spirit House.

REVIEW: Elan Noon - Have a Spirit Filled

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Phillipe Roberts

Like many in the current crop of jazz-aware crooners pulling away from the kitchen-sink psychedelia of recent forebears Deerhunter, Animal Collective, or Tame Impala, you’ll find Elan Noon’s mind sandwiched between Revolver and Rubber Soul. Spinning wry, observational tales of alienation saturated in tape echo, the Canadian multi-instrumentalist dabbles in the kind of mild-mannered psych that doesn’t lose its cool aiming to blow your mind. It’s worn-in and cozy like your favorite sweater. It goes down easy like a mug of hot cocoa. Warm, hazy, but with its wits still about it, Have a Spirit Filled, his debut, is stuffed with sleepy melodies that feel wise beyond their years. Though it conjures up a goofball inventiveness similar to semi-famous lo-fi loafers Mac Demarco and Mild High Club, Elan Noon cuts a divergent path through the familiar 8-track hiss.

Noon isn’t much for sarcasm; the most you’ll get from him on Have a Spirit Filled is a melancholy wink on closer “Feel No Dread.” No, his game is full-force sincerity and sweetness, a brotherly arm over your shoulder and gentle, whispered conversation through the bad-trip nightmare of life. Opener “Blue” lays it out quite nicely, welcoming you into the embrace of his world with a tumbling, fingerpicked motif that you’ll swear up and down you’ve heard somewhere else. “Don't you know that I pity you,” he sings, placidly staring through you with double-tracked vocals, “with all your little bells and whistles singing two different tunes.” His ability to create secondhand nostalgia, drawing you to a perfect summer afternoon for two with little more than airy slide guitar and his voice, is truly remarkable. “Blue” is more than vague familiarity. It’s the sound of Elan Noon picking the locks on a long-buried trove of recollection.

The acoustic tracks follow a similar thread, ambling down memory lane with a disaffected smile plastered on to hide the anxious sentiment bubbling underneath. “Vexed” is particularly affecting, with the pillow-soft hum of melodica as background to lyrics about simultaneously escaping and drowning in insincerity to the point of questioning your own experience, and “Unwise” brings in some Fleetwoods-style group harmonies for a heavenly interlude. These and “Grim Reaper” don’t quite reach the lofty heights of “Blue,” but they’re a fascinating exhibition for Elan Noon’s pensive melodic craftsmanship.

Of the two tracks that flex a rhythm section, collaboration piece “False Idols” is the clear winner. Its meandering electric piano melody flies all over the map, mirroring vocalist Suz’s incisive bourgeoisie mockery. “It's about / To be a bright shiny day / In the palm of your hand / Lest your data plan be withheld,” hits too close to home, but that kind of cutting sincerity, played out over a neck-snapping beat, is essential to Have a Spirit Filled’s surprising replay value. “Could It Be?,” while a convincing piece of kaleidoscopic '60s pop songwriting, doesn’t quite separate itself in the same way, coming off as too flimsy. Pleasant, but lacking the honest weight necessary to keep Noon’s buoyant visions grounded.

As a snapshot of a songwriter, Have a Spirit Filled doesn’t quite suggest a breakthrough into unknown territory. But it’s absurdly fun listening to Elan Noon poring over well-worn trails, investigating his own experience through a foggy pair of rose-tinted glasses, and well worth a spin or five.