Angelic is an adjective probably too often ascribed to musicians, particularly those of the female persuasion.
Pop Press International is an Austin-based blog focused on providing global coverage of independent music with an emphasis on the music of Austin, Texas. The blog provides daily updates of album reviews, live music, new tracks, streams, videos, contests, and music news. Pop Press International believes in the uplifting nature of communities as well as the reflective consideration of works of art and so declines the reductionist use of a numerical scale to grade albums. We're happy to be able to talk about a few that we love in this column.
1. Dana Falconberry – Leelanau (Antenna Farm 2012)
If angels exist they sound like Dana Falconberry. Angelic is an adjective probably too often ascribed to musicians, particularly those of the female persuasion. However, I make the comparison pointedly, because Falconberry sings beautifully to be sure, but in her own strangely, entrancingly beautiful way, full of naïve oddity. If angels exist, they probably don’t sound like the polished singing from pitch perfect, vocally trained singers our culture often praises. Instead, they probably sound like something we’d never expect. Like an entirely different species. Something like innocence and hope and wonder and youth and darkness and love. They must sound like Dana Falconberry.
Listen: "Lake Charlevoix"
2. Phosphorescent – Muchacho (Dead Oceans 2013)
The sun peeks over the desert horizon with soft yellow blinks and floods a tiny Mexican bar where a disheveled drunk sways, shirttails untucked, shuffling on a concrete floor, mumbling a mournful and weepy prayer as his head rests on the bare, sweaty shoulder of a beautiful Hispanic woman. At least that’s what most of Phosphoresent’s Muchacho sounds like to me. That’s not the whole story, because somewhere nearby, the coolness of an electronic oasis rests in the dreamy mind of our drunken hero. At the forefront of Phosphorescent is songwriter Matthew Houck, who on Muchacho has created his most ambitious, accomplished, and multi-textured album to date. For this album, Houck has said that the songs came in fragments only after checking out of his life, in fact, out of American life for a while and hiding away in a small Mexican town in response to a particularly conflicted time.
Listen: "Song for Zula"
3. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum 2013)
This is the feeling of weightlessness. Youth Lagoon possesses some intangible quality that sends the soul soaring, that permeates the chambers of the heart through auditory channels, evoking airy wisps of memories. Indeed, the poetic sketches of beautiful lyricism at the center of these songs are the aural equivalents of hazy Polaroid snapshots. Wondrous Bughouse, Trevor Powers’ (Youth Lagoon) second full-length album, is glorious, aglow with beautifully layered sounds, textured instrumentation, and haunting lyrics. Only a minute into “Mute,” the mix morphs into an experimental backdrop of dissonant sound. When Powers pulls out of the sonic nose-dive, the song sounds a little like a U2 radio hit undercut by avant-garde synth flourishes, and the melody is inspirational. “Mute” is one of the year’s best songs so far.
4. Good Field – Good Field (self-released 2013)
Good Field’s self-titled debut consists of 11 songs of tight indie-pop that integrate folk, psych, and pop without feeling pigeonholed. God, it feels good to see a band just doing everything well without being defined by some buzzword descriptor. The record has dreamy moments, like the faraway guitars of “Something’s Different.” It has electric country tinges such as the wavering notes of late album track “You Notice.” Good Field even incorporates some 70s psych-rock on album standout “Tell Me Ida” and the sprawling “When You Walk.” However, they don’t limit themselves to any one style. Likewise, they don’t delve so far into any genre that they can’t dig their way out. They simply deliver quality sounds, song after song. The challenge of pop music isn’t droning on for minutes on end, but being able to make a powerful statement quickly and leave the listener with something memorable and affecting. Good Field does so in scores throughout their debut.
Listen: "These Dreams"
5. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety (Software 2013)
Autre Ne Veut is the recording project of a solitary, highly ambitious Arthur Ashin, whose second full-length provides a wonderful ride through soundscapes of perfectly constructed beats, R&B dramatics, and experimental interruptions. Autre Ne Veut’s information on Facebook reads a simple three word phrase: “Prince of Falsehoods.” An extremely apt descriptor, but Ashin is only false in the sense that he isn’t, of course, actually the famed R&B-pop musician once again known as Prince (although he often does his best impression). Musically, Anxiety triumphs and is as true as one could hope.