Unfamiliar Frequencies 5 - By Volume

Understand that I am only as he made me: a faithful servant to all of the noise, all of the lights, all of the flashing in my head. Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Unfamiliar Frequencies 5

The fifth edition of Unfamiliar Frequencies may be the largest yet, in both total number of tunes and Dylan's general verbosity. James Gardin, Mean Creek, Weaves, Baby Guru, Shy Hunters, Kittygato and Candy Hearts featured, plus plenty more. Author: on April 14, 2014
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In this edition of Unfamiliar Frequencies we’re kind of going for broke. Or well, at least loosening our belt a little to let for some spontaneous expansion. In other words: edition 5 is stuffed to the brim. Like, I can’t fit more music on here without bordering on the insipid. People have only so much time in the day, okay Dylan? Who has time for eight songs and five long(er) plays? Damn man, you’re killing us.

Fear not! For this is why Unfamiliar Frequencies occupies this particular plane! To present a ton of music in a conveniently, easily-digestible format. So please, turn up the speakers, press play, and enjoy some tunes that could otherwise get lost in the fray that is the blogosphere/internet/life (overly depressed *le sigh*).


The Lottery Winners – “Heavy Heart”

There may or may not be a few of us at BV who have an unabashed loved for all things twee and gladly fly our flag any and all places the damn thing will fit (they are large; twee has big ambitions after all). The Lottery Winners are unapologetically twee and their video for “Heavy Heart” is extremely charming. A troupe of dancers are enlisted to star in the daydream lamentation of a (presumably) recently dumped file clerk who requires a little joy to cut through the shit-stage of your average shit workday. The song is sugary sweet, like it could fit into a John Hughes soundtrack sweet – saccharine but deceptively biting. Essentially a joyous break-up song, “Heavy Heart” has an 80s soul but sounds like a pristine mash-up of 90s indie pop and 70s disco groove.


The White Bicycles – “Dust”
“Dust” feels like a weirdly timeless tune, at least if you consider it within the realm of dream pop. The White Bicycles are certainly reminiscent of past artists – early Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive in specific – but they employ this element of downtempo electronic and folk music that gives “Dust” a present-yet-classic clash. It’s a joyous contradiction though, as “Dust” floats through your consciousness like a stream’s flow.


K-Rec – “Best Foot” ft Chaplyn 
“Best Foot” is a considerably smooth downtempo hip-hop song from K-Rec, which is lifted into the clouds by Chaplyn’s candied croon. The floating xylophone taps and hissing maracas accentuate the lazy beat that slinks in and out with an ebb and flow that’s difficult to not be caught up in.



#XI – “Lovecraft” ft Sundays 
Also emanating from the realm of downtempo hip-hop, adorned in angelic female vocals, is #XI, who pop up on the UnFreqs again with “Lovecraft”, an ethereal tune that floats about, slightly anchored by an airy bass line. Sundays croons unintelligibly, riding the beat and exposing its silkiness while accentuated by finger-snaps and ballooning bass. Laissez-faire scat singing, if you will, that pushes an otherwise decent song into the play-on-repeat realm.


Baby Guru – Marginalia
Baby Guru’s Marginalia is an inviting album of homage. It evokes memories of ELO, The Cure, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Beatles and The Mamas and the Papas – though not in any cheap or intrusive way. And to be fair, smashing up the saccharine synths of 70s prog and the acoustic strums and vocal melodies of 60s folk-pop is an interesting juxtaspostion in and of itself, but the band are able to glide pretty effortlessly along that fine line. If you’d like a pristine trip back in time, you can’t find too much better than Marginalia. The Greek band have crafted a golden time machine, containing a stocked fridge and a few velvet couches for your comfort — sit back and relax.


Mean Creek – Local Losers
Local Losers is an adrenaline-shot of a record – short, delectably sweet, like a spawn of some unholy intercourse between the Pixie’s punky inclinations and Yo La Tengo’s jammy harmonizing. Couple that DNA strain with all the power-pop excitment of a New Pornos or a Hold Steady and we have a rough estimate of the magic created by this Massachusetts band. The record is certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it’s not aspiring to be in any sense. This is danceable rock music that should illicit many an ass shaking with its male-female vocal harmonies, flowing rhythm section and infectious riffage. A garage rock record that travels effortlessly; feeling as though it’d be just at home between headphones as it would blaring across a festival ground, Local Losers‘ charm travels the distance.


Candy Hearts – “I Miss You”
Candy Hearts feel like they’re of a recently bygone era. The dominance of pop punk I feel has since faded, and maybe that’s because I’m an idiot when it comes to the music, distancing over the years from a genre I was never all that attached too, but those chunky bridges and whiny hooks seem like a thing of the past. Surprisingly though, this band feels so refreshing, and maybe that’s because they resonate all the best aspects of a genre that spawned vastly more shit than gold — but gold shines bright all the same. Akin still to their forebears, but nostalgic almost, as if “I Miss You” would slot in perfectly next to Jacket Blink, Lights Yellowcard, and Bleed American Jimmy Eat World. Though the band remind me more of Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer, as opposed to those chart-topping stalwarts of the pop and punk. Likenesses aside though, Candy Hearts come off as distinctly singular, preserving an aesthetic it seems like most others are letting die a quick death. Sad though in hindsight I guess, as this band are enticing and engaging even though their riffs and rhythms are soft and sweet.


Weaves – Weaves EP 
Weaves’ debut EP is a delightfully quirky collection of art punk songs that more often than not are seeping in poppy hooks. The David Newfeld produced EP resonates his wide open touch, previously at its peak with Broken Social Scene and Los Campensinos!, projecting this band’s joyous sound towards the clouds. Jasmyn Burke by result, sounds pretty amazing, the oomph and snarl of her voice are allowed to act as the backbone to her upper registers. Echoing Karen O, she can sing pretty well, but she can probably scream even better. Anchored by Morgan Water’s compelling riffage and a not-to-be-forgotten rythmn section of Spencer Cole and Zach Bines, Burke floats above all the noise and grooves acting almost like a navigator in a storm.


Shy Hunters – O, That I Had Wings 
Shy Hunters provide an entrancing mix of dramatic post punk and angelic, dream poppy vocal melodies. O, That I Had Wings is a delectable record, that ends up being well more than the sum of its parts. Simply put: on paper some brooding, at times a bit minimalist, electro-pop by-way-of post punk can read a little generic. Thankfully Shy Hunters are anything but mediocre, their music is weighted, akin almost to a Bat For Lashes or Florence + The Machine, but with ambitions nowhere near as epic, more so in the theatrical essence to the songs, it feels like you’re watching a story unfold in front of you while spinning this album. And that alone speaks volumes to Shy Hunters’ ability as songwriters – also the bass lines rule, so there’s that too.


Kittygato – “Shells”
“Shells” is a delightful electro-pop tune that musically reeks of early era Magnetic Fields, back when Susan Anway was leading the vocals and Merritt was conducting the instrumentals and tweaking the production. Though distinctly more saccharine, the tune balances its minimal backbone with a scrumptious hook and wide-eyed optimism even as it’s lyrically a little downtrodden. Though that is the true nature of twee, and this song is certainly that, if nothing else.


Swoope – “Let Me Be Great” 
Top 5 rappers / What do you grade me?” he questions – well he’s not that good, nor really even close, but that doesn’t mean Swoope can’t spit or create shit hot songs. “Let Me Be Great” is a deceptive banger, in that it kind of sits on the edge of stoic and explosive, like a volcano tilting on eruption. The man’s flow is tight, and while it seems like it’s not at its peak here, it smells disgusting, as though this damn good glimpse is just a quick whiff of the stank Swoope could drop on any given beat. Devoid any real hook he slays and even though the beat is a bit one dimensional, it fits Swoope’s efficient intensity, allowing his gift of gab and lyricism to take center stage.


James Gardin – Moleskins and Pocketsquares EP 
It is fitting that adorning the cover art of Moleskins & Pocketsquares is an easily opened diary. The five tracks present on this EP are each a different window into the essence of Michigan emcee James Gardin. Effortlessly gliding along soulful, expansive beats provided by Trebles and Blues, Gardin delivers crisp bars pertaining to falling in love, crippling depression and paralyzing poverty. His flow is smooth, but also deceptively gruff; there’s a wolf that sits beneath that button down shirt and bow tie. Gardin and Treble and Blues’ beats are ridiculously reminiscent of early-era Kanye, and even tote a little bit of Root’s jamminess. Really Gardin’s voice feels like a nice mix between Ye’s accent and Black Thought’s precise rhyme schemes. Gardin is decidedly less shocking though, in the musical sense – the pictures he paints are still jarring, but everything about his music is easy to settle into. Though this makes it simpler for these tunes to latch their claws in deep.


Sutra – “Seré Tu Espejo”
In their video for “Seré Tu Espejo”, Mexican instrumental rock band Sutra paint a particularly grim picture. Blindfolded women, drag and carry animal pieces (horse and cow specifically) along barren city streets, in the end left to wander the sprawl alone and sightless. The music itself is certainly not this morose though, their riffs are crisp, the underlying synths are inviting and the drumming is infectious and jazzy.

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