VIDEO PREMIERE: Spodee Boy - Electro Spodee

Will Shenton

The charm of Spodee Boy's latest music video, "Electro Spodee," is its simplicity. Deviating a bit from his usual DIY, basement-rock sound, Nashville's Connor Cummins employs a drum machine (hence the name of the song, presumably) to craft a charmingly weird tune that almost wouldn't make sense delivered by anyone other than the puppet featured in the video.

Fresh from a split EP with Datenight on Drop Medium, the video, created by Santiago Cárdenas, is a trip. The vocals are high-pitched and cartoonish, the instrumentals propulsive and hypnotic, as the aforementioned puppet sings against a psychedelic backdrop. Apparent non-sequiturs float by in the background—a shoe, a juice box, various other sock puppets—and we periodically see Spodee Boy himself in profile, eating a floating guitar or staring coolly into the distance.

True to form, "Electro Spodee" is bizarre, catchy, and bit-sized at just over two minutes. In short, a track that's guaranteed to make you hit the replay button.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Jake McMullen - How Do You Get It Back

Will Shenton

In a collage of mid-century American archival footage, Jake McMullen's new video for "How Do You Get It Back" is something of a nostalgic Rorschach test. To hear the artist describe it, the imagery "is meant to conjure up emotion rather than cause confusion over its ambiguity"—when paired with McMullen's distinctively mournful vocals and minimal acoustic guitar, the result is certainly evocative.

In the vein of Andy Shauf's "I'm Not Falling Asleep," "How Do You Get It Back" uses simple shots of everyday life in a distant decade to cast the music in a sepia-tone light. Whether it's stock film of idyllic (if aggressively white) nuclear families enjoying their new cars, slightly more human home movies, or sprawling landscapes of national parks, the patchwork scenes are tailor-made for a trip down our collective, cultural memory lane.

Whether that says more about the power of media to create histories or our own longing for ostensibly simpler times, Jake McMullen's latest is beautiful nonetheless.


Jake McMullen's Giving Up EP is out now, and be sure to catch him at The Standard Hotel in Manhattan on 6/27.

REVIEW: Goth Babe - Fuzz Ghost EP

Will Shenton

In some ways, "psychedelic surf rock" is both an overly reductive and perfectly apt way to describe Fuzz Ghost, the debut EP from Nashville three-piece Goth Babe (very recently renamed from, well, Fuzz Ghost). It's laden with crunchy guitars, distorted vocals, and plenty of reverb, yes—but what makes this album stand out from its contemporaries is its borderline-academic commitment to pop sensibility.

I don't know much about Griffin Washburn, the man behind the moniker, aside from the fact that this is his first release on underground Richmond, VA label Ongakubaka Records. It's pretty clear after even a cursory listen through his debut, though, that the guy knows how to craft an earworm. From the anticipatory opening riff of "Sandy Bum" to the final, emphatic solo that closes out "Sunshine," it's hard not to hang on every note, unconsciously bobbing your head along like an idiot.

Fuzz Ghost seems to have been lumped in with the work of Wavves and Ty Segall on various outlets (not bad company, certainly), but in place of the former's occasional emo-revival vibe and the latter's overt psychedelia, Washburn brings a bit more DIY earnestness to his delivery (somewhat reminiscent of Wakes). Maybe it's just my anecdotal experience as an angsty teen, but I can't help being transported back to the days when I pretended I knew how to skateboard.

By any standard, this is an impressive EP. But when judged as the debut record of a college band that's only been at it for a couple years? I think it's safe to get our hopes up for more great things to come.

REVIEW: Bent Denim - Romances You

Laura Kerry

Bent Denim’s debut LP, Romances You, takes an odd approach to its titular pledge. Both dreamy and gloomy, it lures not with demonstrations of fiery love, but with restrained vulnerability. Comprised of frank and sometimes desperate musings (“When you go to sleep / I’m going to try on your clothes / …So I can know what it feels to be inside you”), the songs unfold like a series of hand-scrawled love notes whose potential creepiness is redeemed by its off-beat poetry.

Part of the appeal of this poetry comes from the fact that—contrary to the timelessness that pop love songs often aspire to (and only occasionally achieve)—it feels perfectly contemporary. On Romances You, Bent Denim expresses what’s not readily discussed in art: the weirdness of romance in the age of Facebook, Google, and Tinder. This comes across most explicitly in the album’s second track, “Caitlin,” a minute-long electronic dirge about the woes of late-night internet stalking. The anxiety and longing (“Caitlin do you like me?”) is fueled by the availability of information, including Caitlin’s past jobs and education—but most painfully in pictures of her “having brunch with friends and not me.” Self-aware and unassuming, it recasts the coolness-in-loserdom sentiments of Radiohead’s “Creep” with 21st-century technological voyeurism.

It’s fitting, then, that this album is a product of another distinctly modern phenomenon: the long-distance band. Bent Denim’s two members, Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager, write and record between their respective homes of Nashville and New Orleans, sending each other tracks via email. (The title of their first EP, 2014’s Epistolary, is a nod to this correspondence.) Such a process runs the risk of becoming disjointed or sparse and clinical, but Romances You is coherent and, when it needs to be, lush.

In a musical landscape replete with bedroom-made dream pop, Romances You is also surprising. Just when the drum loops, keyboard chords, and synth layers start to get cozy, Bent Denim injects something new into the music. Because most of the vocals manifest as a subdued, filtered whisper (here’s one more vote for a Sparklehorse comparison), the moments when they break out are particularly striking. In “If But For You,” for example, the voice switches between its usual hurried and conversational whisper and a higher echo, bringing us along for an oddly romantic ride that ends in the narrator’s desire to be unemployed so he can “play with your toys.” There are flowing narrative arcs here—albeit strange ones.

And despite the physical distance of its creators, there’s intimacy, too. In one of the album’s most tender moments, on “Off Chance,” the grinding synth drops out and leaves bare the phrase that begins, “I’ll protect you.” With quietly impactful moments such as this, Bent Denim promises that though their music is filled with longing, they’ll give as much as they ask for.  And they really do—Romances You woos slowly and subtly until, by the end, you find yourself humming along and compulsively going back for more.