Lo-fi

VIDEO PREMIERE

Extra Spooky - Living Room

By Jordan Feinstein

L.A. based (but Ohio raised) Extra Spooky’s new video for their single “Living Room” is a great example of what can be accomplished with a simple concept and a little creative miniature work. The song, an alliterative assassination of the hyper-capitalistic conditions our current culture provides us, has a sing-songy quality to it. “Having that just getting by fun,” they sing, and it certainly sounds like they are. A particularly great set of opening lines, “The future is stolen silverware / Cut through the irony / Royal hand me downs,” set the stage for the typical suburban living room in the video. Everything is in miniature, and everything looks cheap. But soon the world turns upside down. The “nice” couch starts leaking upwards, then streaming blood. Things fall into the ceiling. “If everything weighed the same would the heavy get lighter. / Or would the light get mightier.” Well everything in this video catches on fire at the end, and a knife stabs through the floor. So it’s not looking great.

VIDEO PREMIERE

Dove Lady - Can't Be Sad

By Gerard Marcus

I’ve been a friend and fan of DC-based musicians Jermey Ray and Andrew Thawley for a while now, and one of my favorite things about their joint project Dove Lady is the way their music floats between absurdity and deep psychoanalytical critique. It’s music which shows that it’s sometimes easier to process the harsh truths of life when you turn them into a joke. Not by emotionally distancing yourself from reality enough to laugh away in a state in ignorant bliss, but rather by embracing the cosmic joke of existence until laughing is the only natural outlet for expressing your feelings. In their new video for “Can’t Be Sad,” Dove Lady teamed up with New York director (and ThrdCoaster) Bucky Illingworth to explore this state, painting an abstract tale of emotional and psychological fracture that warps reality and perception. The video is a rollercoaster of shifting energy and imagery, a controlled chaos which perfectly conveys the torn sense of self explored in the track. What is happiness? What is sadness? What is love? What is hate? Dove Lady’s answer lands in an ambiguous middle ground. You’re not really sure what’s up or down, but somehow that’s ok.

Dove Lady play this Friday (2/15) in Washington DC at Dangerous Pies DC with Bottled Up, Super Natural Psycho, and Clear Channel. Link to the event here.

VIDEO PREMIERE

Illiterate Light - Two Cats

Gerard Marcus

Richmond, Virginia duo Illiterate Light use their driving rock music to peer inwards, searching down into the hidden, uncontrollable emotions within. Their video for their new single “Two Cats” is a quirky study of one of these emotions: obsession. Shot for a film festival over a single day on Super 8 film, they restricted themselves to only in-camera editing, embracing the limitations of this technique to power their creativity.

The song “Two Cats” is about someone furious that their partner is moving away, who has gone ahead with the purchase of their two cats anyway in the hope that it will make them stay. In the video, we follow two characters, “cats,” who become unrelentingly fixated on a tight-fitted floral crop top. What ensues is a quirky story that starts as a more of a Sunday morning comic strip, but with no resolution in sight, escalates to an epic backyard brawl. It’s telling how Illiterate Light handle their emotions that they’ve created such a light-hearted story to explore the desperate obsession and anger of the song. The video is a unique and creative depiction of their inner turmoil, shining a satirical light on obsession to help us all see that, sometimes, it might be better to just let it go and not take everything too seriously.

Illiterate Light are playing Brooklyn Steel this Friday, January 11th!

And the rest of their tour:

01/12 – Washington DC @ The Hamilton ^
01/15 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail ^
01/16 – Bloomington, IL @ Castle Theater ^
01/17 – Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo ^
01/19 – Chicago, IL @ Park West ^
01/22 – Indianapolis, IN @ HiFi ^
01/23 – Columbus, OH @ Basement ^
01/24 – Lexington, KY @ The Burl ^
01/25 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall ^
01/26 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works ^
01/27 – Richmond, VA @ Broadberry %
01/29 – Ithaca, NY @ Haunt ^
01/30 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts ^
01/31 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall ^
02/01 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground ^
02/02 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair ^
02/05 – Newport News, VA @ Boathouse Live ^
02/06 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern ^
02/07 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite ^
02/08 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle ^
02/09 – Charleston, SC @ Pour House
02/10 – Jacksonville, FL @ Theater Benefit ^
03/12-17 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
05/03-05 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival

^ w/ Rayland Baxter

% w/ Mt. Joy

PREMIERE: ESHOVO - Listening or Of Empathy and Echo

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Raquel Dalarossa

For a long time, music has been about prolificity. Even outside of art, we all know that staying relevant and staying profitable is very simply about staying productive. But when “get shit done” is the mantra of the day, how much do we sacrifice not only in substance but in significance? What meaning and longevity can we expect from the shit that we make?

Eshovo Momoh’s Listening or Of Empathy and Echo feels like it’s very much about both substance and significance. In fact, it’s right there in the title: empathy, or finding meaning through compassion, and echo, or the ripples that become a legacy. The ten tracks are only one component of a larger body of work—they accompany a book by the same name, of which only 30 handmade copies were sold. As I haven’t had the opportunity to experience the book itself, I’ll be honest and say mine feels like a fragmentary understanding of the work, but the music certainly stands up on its own.

The book is described as “a series of disjointed transcripts developed out of 2.5 hours of audio recorded interviews conducted in December 2016 by friends of the artist,” while the audio component is said to be “developed out of memories, conversations and possibly interviews.” Indeed, the album often plays like a dream. Though Eshovo’s work has always had an experimental flair, this feels like a distinct evolution from previous albums like 2013’s In Neutral or 2016’s #000000, though his work on last year’s Night in Reverse EP is very indicative of the lo-fi and minimalist electronic qualities found on Listening. Tracks like “who knows” and “knee jerk” even have a Steve Reich-ian character with beats that sound like tape loops and wordplay that relies heavily on repetition. These techniques help to zero in on specific emotions without needing much context. The contrast between the two songs—“who knows” is sludgy while “knee jerk” is more steely—also serves as a great example of how Eshovo deploys sonic qualities to amplify the tone of the work: the former is listless while the latter is restless.

Many of the tracks play with his vocals coming in and out of focus, or tempo speeding up and slowing back down again. "Disjointed" feels like an apt description, but only to an extent, as a through line becomes more and more discernible. In between tracks we hear what seems to be audio from a child’s birthday party (a baby crying, moms chattering); meanwhile, “not faculty” is anchored by a famous H. Rap Brown speech about the ubiquity of white nationalism. These short glimpses into memories and histories start to feel instructive of the “echoes” that our individual past experiences might generate within ourselves. Then, closing track “x it strata” flips to a forward-facing perspective, as Eshovo raps, “Trying to plant the right seeds…and it might grow, and it might flourish, and it might last.” It leaves a lingering question: how do our actions today create echoes for the future?

I’ve wondered a lot, since my first listen through this album, about the marks that our pasts leave on us versus the marks that we might leave behind. While the time and craftsmanship that went into this work leave no doubt of its substance, that lingering feeling is the rarer thing to find these days: art that leaves its own mark behind.

REVIEW: Mini Dresses - Mini Dresses

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Laura Kerry

Mini Dresses have put out several EPs and tapes of reverb-soaked dream pop since their start in 2012, but now they're releasing their full-length debut. The eponymous album comes after a couple of years of hard work, collaboration, and, apparently, a fair share of struggle. For a collection with so much poured into it, the result is surprisingly restrained. Mini Dresses subscribes to the less-is-more formula, featuring ten clear and spacious songs that subtly shift through different genres and sounds.

Throughout the album, the Boston-based trio create crisp little stories designed to transport and charm the pants off of the listener. In the past, Mini Dresses have built hazy soundscapes that sweep the listener into fuzzy daydreams. In Mini Dresses, the band lose some of the haziness but maintain the fantasy. In fact, fantasy is their frequent subject. It emerges, for example, in the question repeated in “Are You Real," or in the evocative metaphor in “You’re a Statue Standing in the Rain.”

Though less hazy, Mini Dresses still manage to convey that whimsy through their sound, too. At different moments, they borrow from various time periods and resemble different artists who excel at some form of escapism or reverie. The opener, “Emily,” with its tale of a woman who moves from her “parents’ home in Connecticut,” contains shades of Belle & Sebastian. “Fantasy Nails," meanwhile, with its bright guitar and lilting voice, forms a heartwarming and catchy melody that recalls the early, seafaring days of Tennis. The uptempo “Everywhere I Go” journeys back to the ‘80s in a contemporary time machine. Other songs, such as “Hands Down” and “Hired Gun,” pulse with their own breed of fantasy.

Despite its dreaminess, though, the most prominent forces on Mini Dresses are the very real instrumental and vocal talents. Propelling the album are its meticulous sounds, primarily the guitar and voice. Though each track uses mostly the same combination of drums, bass, guitar, light synth, and vocals, Mini Dresses find incredible shades within their palette. Singer Lira Mondal’s voice is more dulcet than powerful, but she finds a wide emotional range from song to song. It is strong and clear in the leaping melody on “Are You Real,” gentle, loose, and a touch twee on “Post Office Girl,” and soulful and close on “Hired Gun” and “Division.” Equally expressive is the guitar, which dances around the vocal melodies throughout the album in hooky riffs played in varying warm tones.

Opting for these understated but deliberate variations, Mini Dresses’ first full length is a testament to the fact that it takes more work to pare down than it does to expand. The pleasure in the album—besides the hooks and the fantasies and the sheer charm of it—comes from recognizing the intricacies hiding in all that space.