Tennessee

REVIEW: Cities Aviv - Raised For A Better View

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Phillipe Roberts

The universe that Gavin Mays has created as Cities Aviv is blurry by design. Between the rhythmically frayed beats and unevenly chopped samples, the cryptic bars and the persistent, often deafening crackle of vinyl, the “songs” lurking underneath it all can feel illusory; concentrate on a single element for too long and the rest of it will sneak around you, unnoticed. Raised For A Better View is no different. Its tracks are short but dense, exploiting their musical instability for maximum gain before he rips you away into another immaculately designed dimension. And yet, by keeping us always slightly out of focus, by requiring and rewarding a persistent ear, Mays extends the shelf-life on the enigmatic persona of Cities Aviv even as he peels back the curtain for a tantalizing hint at the man behind the boards.

Much has been made of the production on Cities Aviv albums, and for good reason: the dark, metallic textures that grate over one another, glued together somehow by the ghostly reverberation of his voice create the uniquely spacious claustrophobia that one would expect to find on a post-punk record. Joy Divison and Psychic TV are references he’s openly name-checked on previous albums, and although they aren’t deployed literally here, the sinister punk vibes that drew so many cross-genre accolades are still felt strongly. Standout track “Marionette” even brings in a bit of a gritty yet slightly whining delivery, reminiscent of a groggy Iceage, to complete the picture. And the drum samples on “For Now & Ltd.,” salvos of snare cracking against the glassy, distant synths, sound like a breakdown heard through a broken radio. The way Gavin Mays plays with space, creating rooms within rooms and threading them together to construct these impossible sonic architectures, only adds to the mystery at his core.

For all of the instrumental riddles, Raised For A Better View also features some incisive lyrical insight, mostly presenting Mays as elevated above the chaotic forces swarming around him. “White people try to hit me with some baggage / Trendy niggas try to check me for the image,” he taunts on “For Now & Ltd.” Emotional stragglers try to sap at him on “Don’t Feed Off The Energy,” but he wards them away with the title chant and a crooked guitar sample. He quite literally phones in help at several points on the album, throwing in encouraging voicemails on “Weight” (“Fuck the dumb shit, nigga / It’s all about striving”) and the gorgeous jazzy closer “*Series of Exits” (“Give me a call send me a text / Let me know if you’re okay”). Despite the isolated, confusing soundworld that he’s able to create, Mays is well aware that he’s besieged by energies that are keen to throw him off the grind, and these moments of confident vulnerability paint a spare, but intriguing narrative.

This constant back and forth between the concrete objects of Gavin Mays’ life and the fleeting, fantastic instrumentation that he strings them together with is the tension that keeps Raised For A Better View afloat. At times, the rush of nimble beats can overwhelm your ability to keep track of the clues, but contrary to what he might have you believe, feeding off his energy is the only way to keep this story straight.

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.