Premeire

VIDEO PREMIERE: Xander Naylor - Bad For Glass

Will Shenton

Xander Naylor's "Bad For Glass" is a wild track. The second song on the Brooklyn-based guitarist's latest solo LP, Arc, it takes the form of a manic, expressionistic instrumental piece, and the video that accompanies it adds another layer of enthralling disorientation.

While much of the rest of the album takes its notes more clearly from noise rock or ambient music, "Bad For Glass" has a dynamism that demonstrates Naylor's range. It's a technically impressive track, with lightning-fast work on the fretboard of his guitar, but it never crosses the line into mere indulgence. The transitions from phrase to phrase make it feel like a living thing, with a pause between each as if it was catching its breath.

In the video (shot by Yuan Liu and edited by Naylor himself), we see the artist in a stairwell with his guitar, alternately playing along and manipulating a glowing ball. Most of the shots are presented with quick, jagged cuts, and he occasionally smirks at the camera before returning to his instrument.

There's no clear narrative, and in this context, that's just fine. "Bad For Glass" isn't about a breakdown, a loss of control, or any of the other vignettes this sort of experimental music so often evokes (at least not obviously). Instead, it's an opportunity to revel in sound for the sake of sound, texture for the sake of texture—and at that, it succeeds spectacularly.

PREMIERE: Laura Wolf - Good

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Laura Kerry

Laura Wolf is a one-woman orchestra. In live shows, she drapes herself in instruments, trading her cello for electric guitar and vocals as she builds complex songs one voice at a time with the help of a loop pedal. “Good,” the first release from Wolf’s upcoming debut LP, Stitch One, models the artist’s process beautifully. Beginning with a low, urgent cello patter—a steady foundation almost all the way through—she adds escalating lines of cello that swell and recede in intriguing rhythms. Percussion enters, breathy at first, then more substantial, followed by quiet electric guitar arpeggios.

Throughout the course of “Good,” Wolf’s vocals also build. At the start of the song, her voice is soft and pretty, carrying leaping, intricate melodies that sound light and optimistic. When she first sings the refrain, “I’m just trying to be good,” it tapers into a near-whisper, then dances delicately in a high register. As “Good” develops, though, it darkens. Wolf first started working on Stitch One while in the hospital last year, and the song alludes to that setting and her experiences there. In the bridge, she half-sings, half-speaks about a knife in her back, snarling, “I jumped every time they touched my fucking spine” as a chorus of voices repeats “I just want to be good” in the background.

Transitioning from soft to tough and gritty, the song suggests that the effort to be good—healthy, virtuous, or otherwise—can be challenging. In her new release, Wolf meets the challenge with a lush and distinctive sound. Check it out on "Good," and keep an eye out for Stitch One, out soon.

VIDEO PREMIERE: The Shows - Limerence

Laura Kerry

No matter how fuzzy and high-energy, three-piece bands often make music whose constituent parts each stand out. In the case of Bellingham, Washington natives The Shows, the trio is comprised of one drummer, one guitarist who sings, and a dedicated vocalist. In their full-length debut from last year, Signifier, each of these parts plays a big role. The small shifts in each can change the whole dynamic.

In the music video for “Limerence,” the second single from that album, the visual details play a similarly weighty role. The video uses only two settings—a stage emerging from a dark room with a colorful geometric backdrop and, at the end, a garage—with the trio playing their song all the way through. Relying only on the performers, camera movements, and cuts, it calls attention to the sound. Everything absorbs the moody, off-kilter tone of the track and takes on added significance as a result. The way the drummer bobs stoically; the movements of the guitarist’s eyes; the accentuated shapes of the singer’s mouth; the close-up shots as the singer belts, “Come close to me / Far from everything”—each element feels important in its own right, awash in a slightly sinister energy. In "Limerence," as is the case for the band itself, a little goes a long way.

VIDEO PREMIERE: The Parlor - Sap

Will Shenton

When we first listened to The Parlor's 2015 LP Wahzu Wahzu, what struck us most was the band's ability to seamlessly blend genres that, on paper, didn't have any business being on the same album. Their songwriting abilities transcended those boundaries, and gave the record a narrative feel that was reflected as much in sound and style as it was in lyrics.

Their latest video is an accompaniment to "Sap," the song that marks the halfway point of Wahzu Wahzu and serves as something of an interlude between the dreamy "You Are You Were You Can" and the resoundingly funky title track. A wash of strummed guitars, brushed percussion, and a lazy, doodling saxophone form a backdrop to distant, reverb-drenched vocals, giving the impression of a sunset reverie on a day you don't want to end.

The video is exactly that: several shots of wife-and-husband duo Jen O'Connor and Eric Krans wandering a beach as evening gives way to night. The lighting is gorgeous, and there's a soft focus throughout that furthers the languid, half-awake aesthetic. Like the song itself, it's more vignette than arc, and the two media complement each other perfectly.

"Sap" is a conscious, if temporary reprieve from the chaos and obligations of life, like a child's defiant attempt to squeeze the last few moments from the end of summer vacation. Though it's still July, I know what I'll be watching come September.

PREMIERE: Joel Michael Howard - Petraeus

Laura Kerry

With the exception of a song filled with meows and ironic boasts about fame, Joel Michael Howard has spent the last couple of years releasing cleverly orchestrated, downtempo pop songs about love and loss. In his newest track off of his second full-length, 5th Grade, Part B, Howard pursues a different emotional path: being over it.

More rhythmic than most of his other work, “Petraeus” begins with a dry drum loop and a deep, steady bass line that march the song through talk of war and brotherhood. When Howard’s voice enters, it is soft and soulful, floating weightlessly above the heartier pop instrumentation and sounding a bit like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. As the song rises to the chorus, he continues gently, “I thought we we could all be brothers now / Hold hands and love one another now” between woozy synth lines. But the next line is more forceful; as the artist sings, “Fuck that, it’s a thought lost anyhow,” his voice is as percussive as the beat beneath it. Smooth, catchy, and assured, “Patraeus” is a good anthem for those in need of moving beyond something (including disgraced former CIA directors, apparently).