Wye Oak – Shriek

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We’re willing to admit when we’ve made a mistake, and in this instance it was not covering Wye Oak‘s 2014 album Shriek last year. We’re remedying this now, however, because the ethereal, dreampop soundscapes of the Baltimore duo—composed of multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack and vocalist Jenn Wasner—fall right within our wheelhouse. In an effort to transform themselves on their fourth studio album, Wye Oak shed their guitars for a more synthesized sound and the result is nothing short of stupendous. Wasner’s angelic alto has a calming effect that reaches its full potential on palpable songs like “Shriek” and “Before,” the opening tracks of the LP. Stream these efforts from the immensely talented duo below. Wye Oak has also announced a special upcoming performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in November.

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Trails & Ways – Say You Will

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After much build-up, Trails & Ways finally dropped their debut album Pathology via Barsuk Records earlier this month. While recording and producing the LP, the Oakland quartet generated a lot of buzz over the last couple of years, embarking on two national tours and opening for Mac DeMarcoPhox, Stars and Tycho. The second single off the album, “Say You Will” is a sleek and sinewy number steeped in four-part harmonies, rhythm guitar, plucky synths and a syncopated bass.

Written by their bassist Emma Oppen, here’s what she had to say about the song: “Two years ago I met someone very special, and had the experience of falling in love in a matter of hours. In my delirium, I imagined making an ultimatum: Say you will, or don’t say anything at all. A few months later, I wrote the bass line in the back of the van on our first summer tour, and made the first demo recording of the vocal melody against the droning fan of a venue bathroom.”

Stream the song below and say you will pick up the album on iTunes. Friends in the DMV area can catch them performing at DC9 this Sunday, with fellow Oaklanders Waterstrider supporting (full list of June tour dates below).

June 2015 Tour Dates:
6/12 Atlanta – bit.ly/TWAtlJun12
6/13 Chapel Hill, NC – bit.ly/TWChapelJun13
6/14 Washington, D.C. – bit.ly/TWDCJun14
6/16 Philadelphia – bit.ly/TWPhillyJun16
6/18 New York City (Manhattan)- bit.ly/TWNYCJun18
6/19 Boston – bit.ly/TWBostonJun19
6/20 New York City (Brooklyn) – bit.ly/TWBknJun20
6/22 Cleveland – bit.ly/TWCleveJun22
6/23 Chicago – bit.ly/TWChicagoJun23
6/24 St. Paul, MN – bit.ly/TWStPaulJun24
6/26 Denver – http://bit.ly/TWDenverJune26
6/27 Salt Lake City – bit.ly/TWSLCJun27

Louis Weeks – Fire

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Today marks the release of Local DC artist Louis Weeks‘ independent sophomore album, haha. Whereas the last album, shift/away was a solitary affair — his latest effort shows him embracing “togetherness” and a bigger, more spontaneous and joyous sound overall. Employing the talents of fellow local musicians Noah Berman (guitar), Ethan Helm (woodwind), and Matt Honor (drums and cymbals) to play on the record, Weeks was able to achieve a more robust and full-band sound.

Although we love the full spectrum of Weeks’ sensibility, the lead single off the LP “Fire” is a prime example of this new dynamic with its orchestral horns, saxophones and swinging percussion. Aside from the obvious levity that the album title suggests, ‘haha’ is meant to represent two halves, as well as a sense of cohesiveness. Weeks tells the Washington Post: “The record is also about the joys and difficulties of trying to articulate the world around you. When you write ‘haha,’ you’re trying to express something that is inexpressible. In that moment, your feelings have reached the limits of language, and you’re free.”

Support the ingenious composer by purchasing the album on his bandcamp page here.

Alex Winston – Careless

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Alex Winston is the New-York-by-way-of-Detroit songstress who generated a decent amount of buzz in 2012 with her debut album, King Con. Now the classically-trained opera singer turned pop singer is set to release her sophomore LP via 300 Entertainment sometime this spring. Whereas on the last effort she used others’ stories for material, the forthcoming album sees the artist step out of her comfort zone by drawing from her own experiences.

I’ve never been comfortable writing songs about myself,” she revealed to Stereogum. “It’s always been easier for me to tell stories, so I wasn’t used to being as vulnerable, but . . . I felt like I was doing myself a disservice not making the album personal because I’ve had a few tumultuous years.”

Listen to “Careless,” the lead single off the upcoming album below. Also revisit the stellar Starslinger remix of her earlier single “Sister Wife.”

Our DC readers can check out Winston at the All Things Gold concert series tonight at U Street Music Hall, along with local favorites The Walking Sticks and Louis Weeks.

Will Joseph Cook – Message

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Up-and-coming talent Will Joseph Cook has just announced his debut EP, You Jump I Run which will drop on Duly Noted Records April 21. Accompanying the disclosure is the release of the British singer-songwriter’s stirring new single “Message.” The track is about ‘those tendencies that some have, where they get caught up in nostalgia and over glorifying the past, never looking forward,’ explains Cook. ‘Message is about getting away from that.‘ Pretty sophic statement coming from the mere 17-year-old artist. Stream this heartwarming track in anticipation of the EP below.

Milo Greene – On The Fence

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The LA-based quartet Milo Greene released their second LP Control to favorable reviews in January this year. The record marks a shift in tone for the inherently likable indie-pop act, who worked with Joey Waronker (musician for Beck, R.E.M. and Atoms for Peace) and Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Foster The People and Ellie Goulding) on the production. Following their 2012 self-titled debut, which embodies more of an indie folk aura, the new album moves toward a dancier, synth-driven sound that also showcases each of the band member’s individual talents as they share the spotlight, vocally and instrumentally.

Watch the lyric video for the infectious, finger-snapping single “On The Fence” off the new LP below, then check out some of our favorites from the first album.

After a supporting gig for Bombay Bicycle Club last fall, Milo can now be seen on their first headlining tour in North America. DC locals should be sure to catch their set at Rock & Roll Hotel this Sunday, March 15.

[CCP Interview]: ELEL on their Debut EP and the Importance of Imperfection

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ELEL is a new eight-piece based out of Nashville that has been building a good amount of buzz this past year. Founded by Ben Elkins, the epithet ELEL is an amalgam of Ben’s surname and his wife’s first name, Eliska (insert requisite “awe” here). Recently signed to Mom + Pop Records (Andrew Bird, Jagwar Ma, Poliça) the indie outfit is also comprised of musicians Zach Tichenor (keys/guitar/vocals), Tim Cook (guitar/keys/vocals), Jo Jo Jackson (bass/vocals), Alex Mojavarian (drums/percussion), Jerry Pentecost (drums/percussion), Fredrick Weathersby (trumpet/vocals), and Stefan Forbus (saxophone/vocals).

Collectively with their array of instruments, ELEL make exuberant indie pop complete with lo-fi sampling and lots of live improvisation. Prior to the group’s show at DC’s Black Cat with opener Avers tonight, we caught up with frontman Ben, post-sound check in Philly to discuss their self-titled EP that released today.

When did ELEL first come together?

It came together over about a six month period starting about two and a half years ago up, until we played our first show in in Nashville. A lot of us worked at Trader Joe’s, and at the time I was putting together a new band and got into kind of a crunch cause I needed people to play a show. I asked around a bit to see if people were available and lo and behold they were also great musicians. Around that same time I also met Zach at a party and we just hit it off. The two horn players were more of a struggle to nail down initially – I had to keep calling and calling, but once Fredrick came to the first practice, he was in. So it kind of came together in a real neat organic sort of way, which is great.

Can you give us a little insight into what all went into recording the EP? 

It was a lot of recording at my house on my computer with just headphones. I like to record old instrumental jazz records collected from thrift stores over the years. I’ll listen through the song and chop out small chords and percussion parts, loop this or that and manipulative them in a lot of different ways – that really makes the song come alive more than just me doing that part with my own keyboard or something. It was a lot of messing around with textures just to get the feel of it down, then we would replace those parts in the studio. I did all the vocals at my house because I like to take my time with that kind of thing; plus I tend to get nervous in the studio setting since you’re paying for it and have all these random people listening to you.

Did you have to get a lot of equipment?

No but I mean I should have if I’d had the money! I just kind of worked with what I had. I borrowed this really neat old broadcasting mic from a friend, which is what I sing the vocals through. It’s a real DIY kind of project, that’s kind of one of the reasons that I’m thrilled that it’s resonating with people, ’cause I worked countless hours and put countless amounts of energy into it but didn’t necessarily have the best equipment.

You’ve talked before about the music industry being overly obsessed with perfection. Can you speak to that a bit more?

Definitely, I think the record industry’s drive towards perfection is mostly motivated by fear. The industry is so scared of taking risks right now because as we all know, for 10 or 15 years or so there’s been a decrease in revenue in the music business. So the reaction has been to not take any chances, and what that means to record executives is to make everything sound perfect. And it’s unfortunate because I think that a lot of the music that’s coming out is so perfectly produced that it doesn’t even sound human anymore. It’s like a photograph that gets touched up on a magazine cover, you know.

For sure, everything’s photoshopped these days.

Uh huh, it’s like that Foster the People video where this one model is told to manipulate her body, and by the end of it she’s changed so much that she looks really, really weird. It’s pretty intense – but in a way that’s what’s happening to music. When you hear a live band that’s really groovin, it just impacts your heart and soul. But if you took that performance and fixed all the idiosyncrasies, something would be lost. Humans don’t look or sound perfect – and if we get further and further away from that in our art, to me it feels uncomfortable and it doesn’t resonate as much with people.

What music inspires you the most and who are you currently listening to?

Anything that stirs my soul. Can be anything from 90s garage rock, to jazz, soul, and modern indie bands like Beach House or Local Natives. Also the most recent Flume release is pretty freakin’ awesome. And actually, it may sound strange but I’m not a huge music consumer; I probably shouldn’t say that – it sounds snobbish but maybe it’s the music producer in me that makes me want to change things. Nonetheless, when I hear a song that moves my soul – that’s the kind of music I want to make and contribute to this world.

How did you get connected to the Mom + Pop label?

Julia, the A&R person there found our track “40 Watt” in May 2014. That was a huge moment, receiving that email. I was sitting with my bandmate Tim in front of my laptop after an ELEL practice, and just happened to see the email from Mom and Pop and got so excited that as he was talking I hit him in the chest and was just like, look at this! We both started yelling, giving each other high fives and immediately went into the kitchen to pour tequila shots. And that was just an introductory email!

Haha, well luckily it all worked out. What’s next for ELEL?

We’re touring right now and getting ready to release a couple of videos off the EP, excited to be playing in SXSW this month, then heading from Austin up to the Northwest for a few more tour dates before heading back home.

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LIsten to the EP’s lead single “40 Watt” below — along with a great remix by JackLNDN — and support the band by purchasing the EP on iTunes today.

Upcoming ELEL Tour Dates:

3/03 Black Cat Backstage – Washington, DC*
3/04 Cat’s Cradle Backroom – Carrboro, NC*
3/06 Tin Roof – Charleston, SC*
3/07 The Music Room – Atlanta, GA*
3/16-22 SXSW Music Festival – Austin, TX
3/25 Lost Lake – Denver, CO#
3/26 Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT#
3/27 Treefort Music Festival – Boise, ID
* w/ Avers

 

Osca – Sleeptalk

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Following their EP Blood, Osca have debuted their first single of the new year — a b-side to a track due out in March. Set against subdued guitar and melancholic synths, frontman Jack Kenworthy’s gorgeous vocals are on full showcase on “Sleeptalk.” The London quartet certainly know how to build anticipation, as with b-sides like this, the analogue seems almost superfluous. Stream the starry track below.

I Know Leopard – Hold This Tight

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The land of down under has been generous with their musical offerings these past few years, and I Know Leopard is no exception. The Sydney-based quintet make wondrous dreampop, with a sprinkling of indie, alt rock and baroque pop. “Hold This Tight” takes the title for standout track from their debut EP, Illumina released earlier this year. It’s a well-crafted, nostalgic indie ballad with layered guitar and starry synths lead by Luke O’Loughlin’s stirring vocals. Clearly, these guys know how to write a hook — listen below and be on the look out for more of their work.