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Tyson Swindell Releases Single "Binary Stars" Off Box Set

In the Spotify Age, musicians looking to sell hardcopy releases are well-advised to bring extra assets to play. “L’Aventura,” the latest box set from songwriter and composer Tyson Swindell comes correct for lovers of musical minutiae, with a bound book of poetry and an honest to Memorex mixtape of pre-release material alongside his sweet, new lo-fi lament “Binary Stars.”

At bad open mics or the wrong side of YouTube, the term “lo-fi” can be shorthand for “low rent, low effort, low energy.” Not here. Swindell’s work is “lo-fi” in the best sense: slow, intimate, real. Ironically, the actual production fidelity is excellent. Swindell’s work has been consistently well-produced, and in places “L’Aventura” is almost cinematic.

The same sense of growing mastery extends from the production to the sound. Working almost exclusively with electronics, Swindell starts with the vibe of an excellent bedroom DJ, but shows a classic, songwriterly sensibility that recalls some of the bygone best of indie and shoegaze masters. “Binary Stars” may rely on digital instruments, but there’s as much blood from Band of Horses as Tycho, with both sides serving a poetic but personal lyricism recalling Bright Eyes and late-career Elliott Smith. It’s sad boy music for certain, music to mope to, but executed with pretty production and elegant restraint.

As to the rest of the assets, The Deli can’t comment – haven’t received a copy. If the book and tape live up to the single, however, the box is worth a look for anyone seeking musical company for a quiet night in.

- Matt Salter

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God Shell Delivers a Harrowing Adventure Into Sonic Extremity

“I Will Not Be Your Prison, I Will Not Be Your Guide” is a challenging and -- if you have the taste for it -- rewarding three track release from Austin experimental metal band God Shell. The EP immediately throws the listener for a loop with “Skinwalker.” The discordant guitar riffs surprisingly remind me of chaotic no-wave/noise rock outfits like Sissy Spacek and Sleetmute Nightmute. The rhythms are jagged, with thundering drums and angular guitars. The song comes in phases, changing tempo but keeping a constant claustrophobic mood. The guitars squeal and screech, eventually overcoming the actual notes themselves, and as the drums gradually lose momentum, the song returns to the noisescape it began as.

The second track -- the semi-titular “A Prison” -- is more experimental. The introduction reminds me of Daughters’ “You Won’t Get What You Want,” before the beat suddenly collapses amidst a maelstrom of glitches, and shifts into a droning noise cut. A phantom-like drumbeat hides under one thick, sustained chord for most of the runtime, creating the sort of dark, oppressive mood that is so dense it almost becomes cozy. I say “almost” because the song is interspersed with unpredictable -- and at times startling -- stutters and skips.

Ender “Hagibalba” is the most straightforward on the EP, starting off with a catchy, toe-tapping riff that I was stunned to hear after the first two songs. Like “Skinwalker,” “Hagibalba” turns on a dime again and again, changing speeds and flipping from cacophony to measured playing. The drums stay consistently tight considering the whiplash-inducing song structure, providing the listener with a sort of light for navigating the strange progression.

All in all, “I Will Not Be Your Prison” is a release for fans of sonic extremity. The music is entirely un-formulaic and to-the-point. Where another experimental release might gish gallop the listener with semi-listenable,  tedious and indulgent pulp, Shell God explores new concepts with precision and purpose, keeping the listener engaged. The music is leaden, but when performed with such rawness and intensity it becomes irresistible.

 

- Tín Rodriguez

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The Cush Sends You on Musical Vacation That Feels so Real You Might Need a Moderna Shot

In 2021, having just come out of a year in which the demand for psychotherapy grew by leaps and bounds, the Calm meditation app is on everybody’s phone it seems and fifteen quarantine pounds gained is the norm, now more than ever, we badly need a trippy record to help us to relax. In a half-normal, post-pandemic world, we’re yearning for a record made by a band who promises their music will take you on a journey and bring you back seeing life differently. 

 

The Cush, a Fort Worth band consisting of husband Burette Douglas on vocals/guitar, wife Gabrielle on vocals/bass, Ben Hance on guitar and keyboards and Austin Green on percussion, place themselves in the “trippy genre” om their self-written Spotify bio, in which they also promise us a memorable musical journey. Their album “Riding In the Stardust Gold,” released April 23, was recorded at Fort Worth’s Empire Sound studio and Eagle Audio with Ben Harper’s Mad Bunny label imprint.

 

Although the new album often shows the expected musical influences of a trippy indie pop album nowadays (The xx, Alex G, The Cult, Slowdive), their imaginative songwriting and musicianship puts them more in the life-changing escape realm of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” than that of a regular dream pop record.

 

There are two tracks here that swerve from The Cush’s happy sonic dream vacation to create a challenging — even frightening — mood akin to getting seriously lost while traveling: “Beneath The Lines” and “Chariots of Smog.” And they are both quite fun upon a second listening. Between the Deep Purple/Stone Temple Pilots/Black Sabbath/Faith No More metal guitars, these really rock hard! On “Chariots of Smog.” Burette sings like a moody teenager. On “Beneath the Lines,” Gabrielle’s usual sweetly gorgeous vocals turn satisfyingly tense and emotional, with a few shrieks thrown in for good measure. Their long-time fans will be very surprised at this new side of the band.

 

“Haters,” the album’s first single (and the only one that Ben Harper produced) is currently receiving radio airplay. Hopefully Ben Harper’s fans will spread the word as well so that music fans discover this gem of an album.

 

- Jill Blardinelli

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New Emily Wolfe Single to Make you Feel “Better”

Emily Wolfe lets her light shine in her latest single “Something Better.” The song takes the listener on a ride by starting soft and sweet, then showcasing huge vocals, catchy guitar licks and powerful drums along the way. Simply put, after listening to “Something Better,” one can’t help but feel “better.” Even though the lyrical content is rooted in loneliness, the overall vibe is undoubtedly positive and it’s clear that Wolfe has been able to turn a painful experience into an uplifting pop-rock anthem.

Wolfe wastes no time jumping into the lead single from her upcoming album “Outlier.” Right away, she pulls you in with her distinct, high-registered vocals that straddle the line between classic rock and modern pop. It’s something that’ll appeal to many generations of music listeners, almost as if Stevie Nicks and Demi Lovato put their voices in a blender. The intro is gradually complemented with a straightforward drum beat and Wolfe’s scorching guitar riffs. There have been many artists who blend elements of pop and rock, but Wolfe does so in a way that should satisfy purists from both genres. She possesses the look, attitude, and guitar chops of a true Rock n’ Roller. Yet her crisp, dynamic vocal style, polished production, and uncanny ability to create an earworm chorus could easily land her on some of the biggest pop stations around the world. 

Wolfe repeats that she’s “alone” and “tired” and looking for “something better.” She laments about the monotony of it all, and her yearning for a more exciting life is highly relatable -- it’s easy to fall into a rut and mindlessly go about your everyday routine without ever stopping to ask, “Why?” Though this can be a sad reality, Wolfe ultimately is sending an optimistic message -- that it’s never too late to fully go after what you want, and though we may find ourselves stuck at times, there’s always hope that we’ll find “something better.”

It’s easy to see why Emily Wolfe has accomplished so much in her young career thus far. She has her own sound, the edge and the “it” factor that appeals to a wide spectrum of listeners. “Something Better” highlights her ability to craft music that is catchy and pop-oriented, while also rocking out in the process.

 

- Quinn Donoghue

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Claire Rousay Traverses Liminal Space on “a softer focus”

In her own words, San Antonio artist, claire rousay (stylized in all lowercase) “is a person who performs and records.” She is a skilled percussionist and composer who makes use of her excellent ear for recorded sound to conjure sonic landscapes from the material of everyday life -- sounds from a kitchen, garage, desk, bathroom, or just outside the living room window. Her music prioritizes emotional immediacy, and on “a softer focus,” she has chosen to ruminate on the strange ways that isolation has intensified our fractured relationship to space in the digital era. Much of her discography can be placed within a broader tradition of experimental collage-based music, but “a softer focus” is a more composed release which explores diverse instrumental stylings in service of something more grounded; a classical album which seeks to stimulate the humanity often buried within digital experience.  

 

The first time I heard claire rousay’s music was at Me Mer Mo Monday, a weekly event once held at Volstead Lounge which served as an informal hub for Austin’s underground experimental music scene. The awkward tension between Me Mer Mo and the rest of East Sixth Street would make itself apparent whenever a bachelorette party or frat crew would stumble upon a free jazz or noise set by accident, yet on occasion these two worlds would converge amicably. In the middle of a particularly spacey duet with more eaze, claire set her White Claw down and began scrolling through her phone, but instead of a field recording or a sample, Charli XCX came blaring out of the Aux cord. claire proceeded to play the entirety of Charli’s debaucherous electropop anthem “5 In The Morning” before eventually transitioning back into an abstract jam. 

 

On one level, this was simply a fun moment -- I love Charli XCX and I was also drinking White Claws -- and everyone in the room was smiling. But I was also blown away by the boldness of this decision to insert an untouched pop song into claire and more eaze’s exercise in sonic manipulation. There is a moment on the track “peak chroma” which took me back to this avant-pop crossover: after two and a half seamless tracks of typewriter field recordings, wistful piano and swelling strings, claire’s heavily autotuned voice enters the mix and she begins to sing a melodic verse by crooning “I'm trying not to miss you / I put on the newest blackbear song”. 

 

A staged eavesdropping ensues, and we hear two or three auto-tuned voices whirl around one another as they casually express different attitudes towards posting on social media. One of them has a habit of deleting her posts as soon as they go up online, as she feels uncomfortable extending her sense of self into online space. More bluntly, the final track “a kind of promise” pokes at similar anxieties of technological representation -- a beautiful melancholy piano and string miniature is brought to a violent halt by a warbling cassette tape.

 

On “a softer focus,” recorded space is not limited to the conventional set of environmental sounds (oceans, insects, birds, traffic, etc.) which conventionally signify space or nature, though it does make extensive use of them. As social media usage has further settled into the environments where we live and listen, music which honestly depicts (or perhaps creates) the experience of being present must also include or reference the prepackaged and processed sounds that have found themselves more and more omnipresent in our lives. To me, the title of “a softer focus” deliberately evokes the unconscious experience which underpins the act of scrolling: staring into your screen in motion as sound peaks out at arrhythmic intervals, hinting at other places which arise from our shared topology.

 

By musicalizing the feeling of scrolling, claire rousay has beautifully illuminated the inner processes which guide that banal habit, and while what we do with this perspective is a bigger question, we are better off having heard it for ourselves. It’s important to note that none of these ideas would hit home were it not for the timeless beauty of the compositions that carry them. 

 

- Blake Robbins

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