Minnesota

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: Har-di-Har - we will will you

we will will you (cover).jpg

Will Shenton

While often touted as a selling point, intricate instrumental layering has a bad habit of muddying albums that could otherwise benefit from some sonic pruning. Using the technique successfully requires pretty obsessive attention to detail, lest any number of voices become lost, noisy, or simply overwhelming for the listener. But no more than a minute or two into Har-di-Har's full-length debut, we will will you, it's clear that you're in capable hands.

The St. Paul, Minnesota wife-and-husband duo (Julie and Andrew Thoreen) build their tracks one voice at a time, introducing each with fairly straightforward pieces that gradually build into lush complexity. They trade vocal roles throughout the album, creating a sense of dynamic conversation. Occasionally reminiscent of other elaborate songwriters like My Brightest Diamond, Dirty Projectors, and Superhuman Happiness (impressive company to say the least), Har-di-Har nevertheless succeed in forging their own distinctive sound—one that's simultaneously cerebral and evocative.

From the unassuming opening bars of "What if We Don't?" to the final, fading echoes of "A Love Movement," we will will you is a staggeringly complex album that's sandwiched between assertions of simplicity. It's a structure that speaks to a broader thesis of Har-di-Har's music: our most beautiful, elaborate creations stem from our most elemental desires. It's also one that makes this a record you'll want to explore over and over.

PREMIERE: Nyteowl + Raechel - Center

Will Shenton

Nyteowl + Raechel is one of those rare acts whose name is actually a pretty good indicator of their sound. Equal parts sultry, dark, and danceable, their latest single, "Center," feels like it should be the score to some late-night urban scene in an '80s revival flick. Though that makes it sound like one of the myriad forgettable nostalgia trips we're bombarded with these days, it's anything but—between Nyteowl's creative synths and Raechel Bosch's vocals, modulated but nonetheless visceral, this is an irresistible track.

Originally meeting over Myspace in 2006, Nyteowl (Jeremiah Conlon) and Raechel have been performing together for more than a decade, and the somewhat DIY cover art for "Center" belies their easy chemistry and seasoned musicianship. Though it's an earworm on the surface, this is a song that reveals ever more intricacy upon repeat listens. And if you're anything like us, you'll be doing exactly that.

PREMIERE: ahem - Just Wanna Be

Laura Kerry

“Ahem” is the sound of a proud throat clearing, signaling either a pseudo-polite call for attention or a passive-aggressive mark of disapproval. Neither action quite fits the band that has adopted that name. A Minneapolis-based trio, ahem the band demands attention in far less subtle fashion—with fuzzy power chords, pounding drums, and the relaxed yelps of punk melodies or, in the case of the last two songs, the softer edge of indie-rock vocals. The demands on their EP, Just Wanna Be, are clear: “I don’t want to grow up, baby” (“Bottle Rocket”), “Hey fellas / Don’t tell us / My ‘brella / Isn’t hella cool” (“Umbrella”), “Gonna stay up every night” (“Baby Bear”).

ahem recorded much of Just Wanna Be in a windowless bunker beneath a garage, a move that seems like a strange version of self-confinement or exile. Everything in the EP, though, reflects an opposite impulse. Each of the five songs enacts a kind of breaking out—into upbeat rock, heavy distortion, and an album that sounds, above all, fun. Urban Dictionary reminds us that in a third meaning, “ahem” stands in ironically or euphemistically for something else. In that definition and in Just Wanna Be, ahem is a playful wink.

REVIEW: Morly - In Defense of My Muse

Kelly Kirwan

In the fall of 2013 Katy Morly stepped into a machine with a box of old instruments and a pair of borrowed headphones. In spring 2015, Morly came out.

It's the perfect introduction for Cascine's new artist, the LA-based producer and occasional vocalist known simply as "Morly," who's joined the ranks of their label's alternative-pop roster with her new EP, In Defense of My Muse. Sparsely detailed and still incredibly suggestive, the preface sets the tone for Morly's musical personality so far. Minimalist and enigmatic, you find yourself wondering just what happened inside that studio, and who is this Morly, exactly?

There's been a gradual internet hum building around her since she released the track "Maelstrom" on Soundcloud with Ryan Hemsworth's Secret Song Series, but she's buzzed under the radar until recently. Now that she's gaining traction on music sites and through the grapevine of her streaming followers, Morly's airy, in-the-wind kind of persona is only adding to her musical intrigue.

It seems we forgot that piqued curiosity beats overexposure any day.

Even more refreshing than her "show don't tell" rise is her unique sound. Only four tracks comprise her new EP, but they're distinguished by their mesh of delicate piano melodies and modern synths. These classical and choral influences are the connecting threads between her songs, which often feature her soft, beguiling voice drifting somewhere in the distance as a scattered or indistinct lyric (with "Drone Poem" being the only exception).

In fact, Morly's vocal sound often relies on onomatopoeia for its description, like "Seraphese," where she repeats "aaah-aha-ahhh" as the song builds to a crescendo of fuzzy synth, bass, and ivory-key interludes. The result is a catchy rhythm that will give you the chills and get stuck in your head with the best of 'em. Morly's voice is almost siren-like, captivating yet somewhat haunted, pulling you in with an eeriness you can't quite pinpoint. As Cascine aptly stated, she hovers in the "transient space between joy and melancholy."

While she may now reside in Los Angeles, Morly admits that the wintry landscape of her native state, Minnesota, has also had an influence on her music. As you make your way through her songs this makes sense; her melodies feel pristine and lonesome, yet still beautiful. In her final track, "Drone Poem," Morly croons "No I never loved you / And I know I never will..." and you wonder who the subject might be. Old flame, perhaps? Doubtful. "Drone Poem" is more likely Morly's ode to follow her own artistic path, without wavering under public opinion. Because that would defintiley be disingenuous to her muse.

Staring at her album cover, a delicately-drawn outstretched fist, I tried to discern some kind of meaning. Maybe it's a metaphor for Morly not revealing herself just yet, leaving us to simply guess what's protected in the palm of her hand. Maybe. The thing with Morly is that you can never be positively sure, and there's a charisma to that artistic ambiguity.