Sir Sly – High
Few artists are as openly honest and introspective as Sir Sly: The Los Angeles trio of Landon Jacobs, Hayden Coplen, and Jason Suwito care deeply about the meaning and authenticity of their work, as well they should: Their breathtaking debut album You Haunt Me (September 2014 via Interscope Records) set the bar higher than most.
The band’s standalone 2016 single “Expectations” reassured us that they were very much hard at work, while providing insight into the torturous pressures of making album two: To improve upon You Haunt Me without remaking it; to be honest without forcing it; etc. “How did expectations get so high?” sang a vulnerable Landon Jacobs. “Now I have nowhere to run and hide.” This intense reflection on self-imposed stress was a reminder of both the sonic and human qualities that allow Sir Sly to consistently stand out from their contemporaries.
“I’d rather write about my insecurities about changing belief systems, or feeling isolated in a world that I’m struggling to understand,” mused Jacobs in mid-2015. Sir Sly have finally returned two years later, and it’s amazing to see how far they’ve pushed themselves.
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Skating Polly – Hail Mary
Skating Polly, the stepsister duo of Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, often calls its music “ugly pop.” It’s a fitting description for songs that veer between sweet and catchy and full-throated screams with distorted, chug-a-lug guitar. The band’s sound is deeply indebted to ’90s grunge and alt-rock, but never comes across as pure imitation, perhaps because the duo viewed that era from the outside; when Skating Polly released its first album in 2011, both Mayo and Bighorse were still teens.
Recently, Skating Polly teamed up with Veruca Salt‘s co-frontwomen Louise Post and Nina Gordon, who helped the band write an EP called New Trick. “Hail Mary,” the first song the band wrote for the new record, showcases Skating Polly’s characteristic moodiness, as well the more subtle layers of harmonies that Post and Gordon brought to the new songs. “Hail Mary” opens with a heavy, bass-driven feel that lends it some gravity; as it progresses, layers of guitar build while Mayo and Bighorse’s voices pack it down.
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DJ Seinfeld – Drum Werkout
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Yves Tumor – Limerence
Yves Tumor isn’t so much an experimental musician as he is a snake charmer or a hypnotist. He replaces the flute or the pocket watch with synths, samples, field recordings, and hot digital noise, creating a musical world that is teeming with spooky sensations. This is especially true of his song “Limerence,” which is part of PAN’s wide-ranging ambient compilation mono no aware. It first appeared on the artist’s self-released and underrated debut When Man Fails You, and it is given new life here as the focal point of a compilation that explores the fleeting nature of beauty.
On “Limerence,” Yves Tumor follows in the line of ambient artists like Laraaji, Suzanne Ciani, and Jefre-Cantu Ledesma, musicians who are able to inject an unexpected amount of emotion into inherently ambulatory music. Here, Yves Tumor presents two sides of himself: the romantic and the prankster. In its opening, the song is dictated by the fluctuations of an airy, open repetition of synth chords. But then, two minutes in, he drops in a recording of a woman in the midst of a playful argument with her lover (she’s debating whether or not they should leave bed). He punctuates the argument with the sound of a wet kiss, and then quickly mixes a warm thunderstorm into the background. It’s a subtle sequence of events, but there is an intensity in how familiar it feels. This conversation blossoms from something cute to serious as the speaker discusses the inevitability of aging and the falsehoods of beauty. Amid this all, Tumor conjures an understated string section and throws in pops of static like handfuls of confetti. As heavy as the song’s emotional weight gets, it never feels plodding: “Limerence” saunters playfully from second to second, welcoming you to close your eyes and indulge in distraction.