If you look only at the title of the most recent album by Brooklyn outfit Bellows, you might expect to hear some of frontperson Oliver Kalb’s more stripped down, primitive tracks. On the contrary, The Rose Gardener is Kalb’s most dynamic work thus far, and it’s the fullest the five-piece has ever sounded.
Sitting in EAV bar and venue, 529, amongst residual cigarette smoke and the sounds of opening band Another Michael, I talked to Oliver about his new album, his path to Bellows’ more complex sound, and the process of coming to terms with bouts of misanthropy and the changing New York DIY scene.
Sad Girl Co.: Looking back at your first LP, does it feel like the same band to you? How do you feel like you’ve evolved?
Oliver Kalb: I was thinking about that album recently — I made it when I was 18 and had never self-recorded before. It was something I learned how to do over the last few years or so. I still respect the challenge that I put myself through for that album, which was to make an album without any electronics or synthesizers and see how full I could make it. It’s definitely not where I’m at sonically anymore or how I’d make it now, but it’s fun to look back at it and see what mistakes I made that led me to where I am now.
SGC: When I listen to that album versus The Rose Gardener it’s two different moods for sure. You mentioned that you never typically record in a studio, was that the same for this album?
OK: None of the Bellows albums have been recorded in a studio. It’s kind of my way of controlling things sonically. Our second record took a really long time because there were certain sonic ideas that I wasn’t entirely sure how to orchestrate. I didn’t necessarily have the means to accomplish these ideas; it felt like there were sort of insurmountable obstacles that I couldn’t get over, so I was constantly troubleshooting. Now, those are things that would be more or less easy for me, so it’s interesting to hear the difference.
SGC: How did you decide that you’d solely self-record your music?
OK: It’s pretty boring, but I got a MacBook that had Garage Band on it, and I started screwing around on it, got a USB microphone, and literally recorded on a USB microphone and it would sound — at least at a time — incredibly crisp. Hearing my own recorded music really led me to want to do more with it.
SGC: The Rose Gardener to me seems to have a more diverse sound than your previous releases. How did you make those sonic choices?
OK: Yeah, I think that when we made Fist & Palm, there were certain ideas that I was trying to accomplish that I was a beginner at. I’m really proud of the songs on that album, but when I listen back to the recordings I think, “I could’ve done this better.” I feel like with The Rose Gardener I kind of wanted to vindicate certain ideas that I couldn’t get across on Fist & Palm. I think of The Rose Gardener as a more developed cousin of Fist & Palm.
SGC: Thematically, the album seems to express both anger and resilience. What were you thinking when you made the album?
OK: I made this album during a paranoid and angry period of my life. I felt bitterly disconnected from the New York music scene that seemed to have been overrun with power grabs and petty people. It felt kind of gross and I felt lonely and misanthropic. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone in my community. I think I worked through that in writing the album, but at the time it felt like an emergency. I felt like I was done with the world that I’d just poured 6 years of my life into. I turned to the album to express the things I didn’t feel like I could say out loud.
SGC: What’s your personal favorite track on The Rose Gardener?
OK: I think my favorite song on the album is “Count ‘Em Down.” I felt like that was one where I compositionally pushed me to a place I’d never gone before. But I think my favorite song to play live is “What Can I Tell You About The World?” I think that’s one of our most un-fussy songs, and that song in particular feels like it can channel a mood that’s a bit higher than some of the other songs on the album that fall into an angsty genre.
SGC: As far as your album art goes, do you create it yourself?
OK: I create all of our album art. This one is definitely the one I’m most proud of. I initially wanted to draw a full folding rose bush with plants curving around little scenes from the album, but I’m not an illustrator and my album covers are usually done in the most naive way. I found I wasn’t great at drawing plants.
I think I was on Tumblr or Pinterest or something, and found a weird medieval screed that was a prophecy of the antichrist, and it was extremely creepy and had roman numerals in these little boxes. There was something about it that was so obsessive and demonic. I wanted to synthesize the prophetic, demonic quality of it into something more pertinent to the album. I envisioned it as a grid with different pieces of the album throughout. I used a lot of sort of disparate imagery that together formed a feeling of unease or chaos that I think underlies the album.
One of 2019’s most sonically diverse releases, The Rose Gardener swings from bedroom pop to folk to synth-pop, and shows Kalb’s developing mastery of DIY production.
Just as it was for Kalb himself, the album is a powerful tool for resolving one’s own anger and resentment, and acknowledging that it’s OK to feel those emotions. The modern world often lends itself to misanthropy and, like Kalb, we can all fall into pits of bitterness from time to time. This LP is the what you should press play on when you’re ready to face those feelings head-on.
The Rose Gardener is out everywhere to stream and purchase, and Bellows is currently on tour with Chicago-based band Another Michael.
February is coming in hot on “full power mode” with a jam packed month of amazing musicians touring through Atlanta. February, at its very core, is about the celebration of love in all of its weirdest + wildest forms. Whether that be applauding the shifts you encounter, good or what you perceive as to be bad, or simply performing small acts of self care by attending your favorite shows to dance the night away, February has some good energy surrounding the path to giving and receiving more and more love in your life.
With so much music happening this month in Atlanta, we somehow narrowed down a few favorites to spotlight on this month’s concert guide for February.
Read more below >>>>
After releasing Heater in January via Citrus City Records, Atlanta’s True Blossom is ready to officially debut its album at 529. Led by guitarist Chandler Kelley and singer Sophie Cox, the five-piece mixes ‘80s synth with ‘70s disco elements, setting the band apart from the conventional pop scene. Heater’s lead single, “Baby,” teems with disco hi-hats and Sophie Cox’s emotional dream-pop vocals. True Blossom is currently busy planning a spring east coast tour, wrapping up a music video (keep your eyes glued to the group’s social pages) and tracking its next release, but satiate your appetite for funk-tinged pop at 529 in the meantime. — Katie Lipsiner
Slightly ahead of the release of Copeland’s forthcoming album, Blushing — due out Feb. 14 via Tooth & Nail Records — the band’s tour, with support from Many Rooms and From Indian Lakes, will be all the more invigorating. Blushing is Copeland’s first full-length release since 2014’s Ixora Twin. To celebrate the album announcement, the group has released three new tracks. On “Pope,” a voice softly whispers, “Did you dream about anything last night?,” repeating the phrase over entrancing violin. These singles beautifully retain elements of Copeland’s past discography, while also pushing their sonic boundaries. — KL
Atlanta-based group Yukons released its first full-length, South of the Equator, just last year. The trio has dug its heels into the local music scene in the past couple of years, bringing unique and engaging Latinx-influenced punk rock. Yukons will be back at 529 on Feb. 15 with lo-fi four-piece Kibi James, Chicago’s Fran, “space baby rock” quartet Pinkest and DJ Florista. The trio will perform songs from South of the Equator, giving a performance that will undoubtedly be as biting and wild as it is thoughtful, as the group uses music to unapologetically express both its pride in, and struggle with, its members’ identities as Latinx, queer artists in the south. — Erin Patrick
Based in Los Angeles but with roots in Philadelphia, both coasts inform the sound of Mt. Joy. The indie rock five-piece’s first full-length release came last year, following a string of single releases dating back to 2016. The self-titled LP was a long time coming, as a couple members of the band have been playing music together since high school. While Mt. Joy falls within the indie rock realm, its sound can be described as soulful and leaning toward alt-folk. It’s music that feels familiar even upon first listen; it’s comforting and brings on bouts of nostalgia. — EP
It’s been three years since Little Tybee’s last full-length release, but a handful of recent shows and a 2018 single perhaps point to something on the horizon. Atlanta’s own folk-pop outfit has been a staple of both the DIY and social activism scenes. In addition to contributing violin and viola to Little Tybee’s eclectic and seemingly boundless sound, Nirvana Kelly serves as Georgia Artists for Progress’ executive director. The nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization focuses on encouraging political action through art-affiliated events, such as last October’s “Turn Up the Turn Out” partnership with the Bakery, during which Little Tybee performed. So, if supporting local (and extremely talented) artists doesn’t feel good enough already, Little Tybee’s mission to further Georgia’s progressive politics certainly sweetens the deal. — KG
One of Sad Girl Co.’s goals for 2019 is to further our mission of fostering community and catalyzing discussion, by turning that self-expression safe space into something more tangible. As our first step towards making this happen, we’ve partnered with three ____ acts/bands/artists to host our very first event at the Earl. Punk four-piece Chick Wallace, Charleston’s She Returns From War and southern-pop outfit The Underhill Family Orchestra will perform, and donations will be collected for immigrant and refugee advocates Tapestri. The nonprofit is dedicated to ending violence and oppression in immigrant and refugee communities, using culturally competent education, community organization, direct services and southeastern advocacy to stop destructive norms from continuing into the next generation. — KG
Bringing a sense of urgency to indie pop, The Aces stole the hearts of listeners across the country with their 2018 full-length debut, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. The LP overflows with heartfelt lyrics and groovable beats, making it the perfect soundtrack to mending or breaking hearts. Comprised of sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez, and childhood friends McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson, the all-female quartet has a refreshing way of weaving confident pop with familial bonds, solidifying the notion that women are not each other's competition. — KL
Brooklyn duo (once trio) Wet plays at Aisle 5 toward the end of February, following the 2018 release of its second LP, Still Run. Since the group’s first EP in 2014, Wet has been slowly but surely solidifying its sound and making a name for itself as a one-of-a-kind pop/electronic outfit. Comprised of songs written and performed by Kelly Zutrau and Joe Valle, Still Run presents a fuller sound than previous releases, with tracks that have been lived with, molded and remolded by time and experience. Zatrou’s buttery voice can be heard atop hooks and percussion that are often danceable, and you’ll finding yourself tapping your toes even as she sings about the tenderest of emotions. — EP
Dev Hynes is more than just a musician, but an artist able to create a world of “ugly beauty” all his own. Working under the moniker Blood Orange as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, Hynes’ fourth album Negro Swan is a vision of intersectionality, inclusion, Hyne’s personal battles with mental health in the black community and the role that music plays in unfurling those narratives. Capturing the toxicity hurled towards marginalized communities in the current political climate, Negro Swan unveils swirling R&B landscapes of all-consuming bliss and anxiety, while also creating art and love within it. — KL
Who are your top picks to see this February? Let us know!
Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan began making music together as close friends. The duo soon came into their own as Ratboys, after discovering their musical compatibility, and mutual love for a good melody and intimate storytelling. The Chicago-based group is now two albums and multiple EPs into their career, with no signs of stopping.
We chatted with Steiner after her opening set for Soccer Mommy, in November of 2018, at Atlanta’s Masquerade. Sitting amongst the cigarette-smokers and abandoned tallboys outside the venue, we talked about Ratboys’ past 3 and a half years of touring, and what comes next.
Sagan and Steiner began collaborating musically during college, after finding each other in a niche group of artists at Notre Dame. While their sound has evolved, it remains centered on melodic songwriting, infectious energy and pangs of nostalgia. Steiner says the most noticeable change in their sound was between 2015’s AOID and 2017’s GN. GN presents tracks that are more storied and nimble, including their well-known hit, “Elvis Is in the Freezer.” Electric guitar is more present on their second LP than their first, taking Ratboys beyond an alt-country or indie band, to something less tame.
The most recent release from Ratboys, GL, may only be a 4-song EP, but it’s packed to the brim with evidence of a more dynamic sound to come on their next full-length release. Steiner notes that her favorite track on the EP, “You’ve Changed,” is one that she’s wanted to record since high school. The song has aged well, seamlessly carrying over from the heaviness of losing friends and enduring dramatic changes under the spell of high school angst, to the impermanence and constant oscillations of your early-to-mid-twenties.
Ratboys expects its third LP to come this year, but the duo hasn’t set a date yet. Steiner and Sagan typically use a stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting, but they have trouble writing on the road, making it difficult to pin down a release date. Some of the tracks are finished, though, and they describe what they’ve recorded so far as having more “live show energy” than anything prior. Despite the writing setbacks due to touring, Steiner says some of her most creative song ideas come during the fast-paced routine of soundchecking, night after night.
Starting in April, Ratboys will be going on tour with PUP, opening for the punk band for a five month stint. This tour comes as a precursor to the next album, and is evidence that Ratboys is expanding their breadth of sound into something that is more punk-fueled than indie rock-based.
November is for getting out to vote, protecting your friends’ rights, and enjoying some cannot-miss concerts. Atlanta is making national news as Stacey Abrams continues to make headlines and give hope to many.
In the midst of this political atmosphere, make sure to take time for yourself and enjoy some sick concerts coming to Atlanta.
Read more below >>>
Nov. 3 / Girlpool / The Masquerade
Girlpool is back in motion since their 2017 album Powerplant after releasing two new songs this October, “Lucy’s” and “Where You Sink,”devoting this Fall to touring with PORCHES. Co-vocalists Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker each bring out ghostly harmonies on these tracks, with a Nirvana-like intro on “Lucy’s” coincides with the soft moodiness of “Where You Sink.” “You look like a kid from outer space / Always trying to plan your next escape,” Tividad serenades on “Where You Sink,” bringing up the everlasting theme of figuring things out while feeling a bit lost.
Nov. 13 / Half Waif and Sandy (Alex G) / The Masquerade
Nandi Rose Plunkett brought us one of the most unique and affecting releases of the year. Under the moniker Half Waif, she released Lavender, a record that talks candidly about both love and loss, and everything in between. Lavender is glitchier and more dynamic than anything on Kotekan or Probably Depths, and Plunkett’s voice seems stronger than ever, too. She coos softly but strongly, and begs and pleads with us to listen to her -- and it’s impossible not too. This November, she brings the album to life at The Masquerade alongside Sandy (Alex G).
The former DIY-scene artist has become an indie staple in the past few years, consistently bringing us genre-breaking, unique releases. With a sound that teeters from freak folk to punk rock, his 2017 release Rocket merged these sounds more than ever, and showcased some of his most melodic and innovative tracks to date. Half Waif and Alex G are sure to put on a show full of star power that swings from tender to raucous.
Nov. 14 / Mitski / The Masquerade
Over the course of her past two LP releases, the mononymous artist Mitski has rocked and expanded the playing field of the ambiguous genre of “indie rock.” Throughout her rise, she has maintained her authenticity and shown musically that she has more than one side. She consistently lays herself bare, whether it’s screaming into her guitar, or singing delicately atop thick instrumentation. Her highly anticipated 2018 release, Be The Cowboy is the perfect example of Mitski’s versatility. In place of her usual noisy rock breakdowns, are tracks that seem more composed, with an emphasis on piano and clear inspiration from 80’s disco, she has mastered the happy-sad feeling that her fans crave. Her fourth studio album shows us a more confident and romantic Mitski who has taken ownership of her sadness and her solitude, and knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. This mood is evident in songs like “Lonesome Love” as she slowly crescendos into the line: “Nobody butters me up like you; nobody fucks me like me.” A live performance of Be The Cowboy is bound to be the same: a slow crescendo with a cathartic payoff.
Nov. 16 / Ty Segall (Solo) / Terminal West
The king of rock is back in Atlanta at Terminal West on a solo tour, something special to be seen if you are a regular at Segall’s mosh-filled events. The solo tour will give die-hard fans a chance for a more intimate setting with the psychedelic rocker, offering up a space for new and old tracks from a vast amount of discography. After quietly released his fifth album of 2018 on October 18th during an opening reception for his art show “Orange Rainbow” in Los Angeles, Segall sold a limited amount of 55 tapes also title Orange Rainbow. There is no telling what will come from this mastermind of hard hitting guitar riffs and chaotic vocal rhythms. While Segall has already give us three albums in 2018 let alone- Freedom’s Goblin, collab albums with GØGGS and White Fence, and an all-covers masterpiece entitled Fudge Sandwich, we wait patiently to take the stage on November 16th here in Atlanta.
Nov. 19 / Jim James (Solo) / The Tabernacle
The My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James has been busy making 2018 one for the books. From announcing his short but motivational “Future is Voting Tour” in swing district college towns, to recording an amazing rendition of “Over and Over” with boss bad rocker Angel Olsen, James has proven that he is a progressive and caring music man. After releasing his 2018 solo album Uniform Distortion, James announced a follow-up album just three months later. Uniform Clarity, features acoustic versions of the songs from Uniform Distortion. As heavy rock anthems turn into light-heart acoustic melodies, it’s crazy to think how much Jim James has accomplished this year, and what the future still holds for his music career. As Jim James prepares to take the stage on his solo acoustic tour, we are reminded that these albums reveal each other's rawness and realness of James’ craft to compel great stories into thoughtful songs.
Saintseneca’s newest album Pillar of Na brings a simpler sound from the five-piece than previous releases have demonstrated. However, streamlining their recording and production process doesn’t mean sacrificing their signature creative instrumentation. The group’s fourth album is a look at endings, and the memories that lead to them. Listening to Pillar of Na means reconciling your own past and recognizing the need to move forward.
The reconciliation isn’t always somber, though – the overarching feeling is a fond nostalgia, and an acceptance of finality.
>> Read our conversation with the band below >>
Tell me a little bit about your journey from your last record to Pillar of Na. What sort of changes can listeners expect in your sound? What sort of growth?
In the past we created dense recordings with literally hundreds of layers. Maybe sometimes I got a little carried away. I wanted these songs to breathe. I tried to keep this record as minimal and raw as possible, while retaining some mysterious and surreal textures. I wanted to hear the room, to hear the air and the space. We tried to create a document that wasn't overly manicured. The unanticipated moments that might be “accidents” can be the most honest and beautiful. I wanted to provide space for that kind of thing to happen.
How did Pillar of Na get its name?
Pillar of Na has a braided meaning. It is a reference to the Old Testament story of Lot's wife. While fleeing a Sodom and Gomorrah, as the cities are being destroyed, she is warned to not look back. She does, and turns into a pillar of salt. Na is the chemical symbol for sodium. Na is the nonsense song lyric "na na na." It is the passive decline, "nah.” I liked connecting this to the expression "being a pillar," as in, Stalwart, a bastion of universal nothing.
You guys are known for using an array of unique instruments in your music -- what sort of instrumentation is found on this album?
Some of of the more eccentric instruments are mandola, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, mellotron. We also had the opportunity to bring in some folks to play flute, piccolo, bass trumpet. An exciting moment was bringing in a string quartet with members of the Omaha symphony.
Many of the songs on the album seem to deal with mortality and the way we handle it. Is that where your mind was when writing this record?
The overarching theme of the record is memory. Death and mortality certainly can be a part of that. Death is punctuation; endings are an inflection point. As we move forward, we're constantly looking back, forced to reconcile the present to the past. I think those moments of punctuation often facilitate the conjuring of old memories.
On “Timshel,” you sing the line, “Good-hearted Christians / Whip out their weapons / Push them against some sinner’s side.” In the current social and political climate, this seems like an overt statement about where things stand. What did you have in mind with this lyric and this song?
I'd say that line is more about how beliefs can be weaponized, which certainly happens in today's social climate. I first encountered the word "Timshel" in the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The characters are studying the tale of Cain and Abel from the Old Testament. Cain murders Abel out of jealousy, after God prefers Abel's sacrifice to Cain's. Timshel is a hebrew word God says to Cain referring to "Sin lying in wait at the door" — it translates to "Thou shalt triumph over it." In East of Eden, Steinbeck translates it to "Thou Mayest.” I liked how Steinbeck's characters grapple with the notion of inheriting these ancient flaws. They wonder if they are doomed to perpetuate the same mistakes, or if there is hope of transcendence?
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this album, tour or the band’s direction as a whole?
We're on tour, come say hi!
There’s no avoiding that it has been a socially and politically raucous past couple of months. And frankly, we shouldn’t avoid it. But as usual, music is here to offer some sort of release. More than that, concerts are here to facilitate community and creativity. So let’s gather together.
This month is chock full of current indie scene staples — from Adult Mom to Wild Nothing. Read on + get your tickets.
At the time of Natalie Prass’ 2015 self-titled LP release, the level of emotion with which she addressed broken heartedness and insecurity seemed apt. But now it’s 2018, and things are different. Prass has responded to today’s oppressors and backwards thinkers with The Future and The Past — an uproar that is louder, more poignant and unmistakable.
The most conspicuous of her subversive messages comes on the track “Sisters” — a call for female and femme-identifying citizens to stick together, and a gracefully angry retelling of the injustices faced by women. This release feels like Prass has stepped out from behind a curtain and is showing us that she’s more than just a pretty voice, in the form of bouncing percussion, layered vocals and melodies reminiscent of ‘80s disco. Although it would be easy to address these topics with solemnity and sadness, she brings a danceable buoyancy to her cry for change. — Erin Patrick
Wild Nothing has become a synth-pop institution. Jack Tatum kicked off the shimmering project in 2009, with the surf rock standard single “Summer Holiday.” The band has continued to produce hazy chillwave over the years, but its latest effort Indigo leans more towards the ‘80s side of synth.
Lead single “Letting Go” set Wild Nothing’s modified tone, with glitchy keyboard and lush guitar riffs. Sultry “Partners in Motion” followed suit, bringing a modernized retro feel. However the crown jewel of Indigo arrives at its close. Co-written by Mitski, “Bend” takes Tatum’s textured instrumentation, and layers a distinctive Mitski melodic line overtop, as the vocals wind and modulate. — Kristy Guilbault
Capacity is one of the best albums of 2017. That’s an indisputable fact, for both critics and fans. Devastating, arresting and delicate, Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting taps into the power of raw vulnerability.
Arriving as Big Thief’s sophomore release, Capacity details the pain of familial tensions, domestic abuse, young love and death. Within the album’s first minutes, Lenker unflinchingly recounts a near death experience from her childhood: “Blood gushing from my head / You held me in the backseat with a dishrag, soaking up blood with your eyes /I was just five and you were twenty-seven / Praying, “Don’t let my baby die.” Earlier this month, Lenker quietly released an equally gorgeous solo album. abysskiss is more simplistic instrumentally, but the potency of Lenker’s voice remains. — KG
Aside from being Adult Mom’s singer, Steph Knipe leads the group with their personality, placing the quartet at the forefront of queer rock. Knipe is a fiery and spirited songwriter, although Adult Mom’s music is known for its melodic simplicity. This simplicity leaves room for Knipe’s pointed social commentary to breathe and be fully digested.
The group’s most recent full-length, Soft Spots, came in 2017, followed by a release of demos from that same album earlier this year. The LP is a collection of brief tracks that are more tender and introspective than any of Adult Mom’s previous work. “Drive Me Home” shows us Knipe’s vulnerable side, as they plead for acceptance and human company: “If I am good / If I am really fucking good / Will you please take me home / Validate me / And create the space I can’t make.” — EP
Alt-punk band Mom Jeans. is taking over The Drunken Unicorn on October 25. The quartet are known for embracing the sad and emo labels. Their 2018 release Puppy Love bursts with worries of understanding how to figure out one’s life. “Wouldn't it be nice / To not have to care about anything or anyone?...I think that I'm just having trouble / Feeling successful in my own life / Maybe we could take some time to think,” is mused on the track “glamourous” — a calming cloud of truth in communicating what you really need to say. — Katie Lipsiner
Our Halloween plans just have been consumed by the need to see Michael Cera Palin’s farewell show. Aside from a great band name, Michael Cera Palin sought to create interesting emo music, and succeeded. The trio released an excellent EP, I Don’t Know How To Explain It, in February, which is comprised of songs written during the three years between their 2015 debut. “Shoutout to every venue that has let us play, every person who watched us in those venues, every band we've played with, and every dog,” the band says in a Bandcamp statement.
Alongside 529 regulars Blis., YOU and King of Summer, the spookiest night of the year is going to be filled with bounties of cheap beer, great punk music that brings the community together and, of course, some gnarly costumes. — KL
If this September is noted for anything, it's remarkable live music. We rounded up some must-see gigs for your enjoyment and social life. Check these artists out, listen up and get out there for some amazing Atlanta shows.
Punk music is often viewed as cacophonous snippets of impulsive rage, but Empath is proof that the rowdy genre can spit out a great deal of compassion, too. The Philly-based four-piece has released two ambitious projects this year, Liberating Guilt and Fear and Environments. The former is a raucous exploration of the concept of healing frequencies, while the latter is an ambient, lo-fi portrayal of water and wind.
Liberating Guilt and Fear is equal parts refined and unruly – a nod to the tape’s recording process, which occurred in both a Brooklyn studio and frontwoman Catherine Elicson’s bedroom, where a Rock Band USB microphone was employed. Empath brings comradery, catharsis and queerness to a genre that has long been ruled by pretentiousness and heteronormativity. – KG
Comprised of John Pierce and Alex Teich, Atlanta-based duo Post Hunk released their first LP this year – a raucous post-punk rambler complete with samples from the Simpson’s and Andy Kaufman. Celebrity Pets is a well-constructed mash-up of malaise and satire that pokes fun at life’s struggles via honest and at times humorous lyricism. Pierce brings his deep, brooding voice to the tracks, at once exploding into near-screams that accompany pronounced guitar licks. The outcome is a danceable catharsis and a chance to dig in and access the angsty punk inside you that you’ve forced to lay dormant. The duo ends their tour on September 8 with a show in their hometown at East Atlanta’s 529 with Palm Ghosts, Tears for the Dying, Peeko and Mannequin Lover. – EP
Field Medic’s leading man Kevin Patrick Sullivan has mastered his brand of lo-fi freak folk, bringing us tracks that are as warm as they are fussy with emotion. Late last year, the San Francisco-based artist brought us Songs from the Sunroom, an aptly named 15-track LP that is both declaratory and inquisitive. As Sullivan sings to us about what “powerful love” feels like, he seems unsure of that power still.
Listening to Songs from the Sunroom or his 2018 EP boy from my dream, the feeling is that of satisfied melancholy. You’re bobbing up and down to the twinkling guitar picking and percussive shaker, cracking smiles at the quirky and honest lyrics, all while in the midst of honest emotions that are at times, profound. Opening for Remo Drive and Prince Daddy & The Hyena at The Masquerade, Field Medic is sure to impress the unsuspecting listener. – EP
The Athens and Atlanta music scenes have long been intertwined, exhibiting that great musical experimentation is often times the result of home recordings. Since their first EP release in 2010, Andrew McFarland (Reptar, Neighbor Lady, Giant Giants) and longtime collaborator Ryan Engelberger (Reptar, Giant Giants) have brought the rebirthed sound of Athens DIY to Atlanta with their dynamic project Semicircle.
Semicircle's first full-length record, Blown Breeze, Grown Grass and We are Part of the Earth (2014) is teeming with dark, soulful sounds that remind us why it’s nice to talk a long stroll alone, as fall takes over the city landscape. The hometown heroes are taking over 529 on September 10, alongside Atlanta’s own Rose Hotel and Honyock. – KL
For the past 11 years, frontman Zac Little has led Saintseneca to redefine folk rock and Americana for the modern era. The Columbus, Ohio five-piece melds a comprehensive collection of acoustic instrumentation (balalaika, mandolin, dulcimer, Turkish Baglama, floor percussion) with more conventional sonic elements such as electric guitars and synth.
Saintseneca’s 2018 most recent release Pillar of Na is the eclectic group’s most ambitious album to date. Opener “Circle Hymn” sets the cyclical tone of the album, which is resolved in the outro of the LP’s final track, “Pillar of Na,” with the nearly identical lyrics: “Turn all eternal / Eternity round / A circle in circle / May be unbroken now.” Saintseneca specializes in the weird, wonderful and otherworldly, and their live mysticism is a spellbinding spectacle that should not be missed. – KG
Greta Kline has been recording under the moniker Frankie Cosmos for the past decade, but her latest release, Vessel, shows us that Kline is still diving deeper and reinventing herself. Vessel tackles real world factors such as love, friendship and the deep, dark spaces where anxiety hides: “Being alive / Matters quite a bit / Even when you / Feel like shit / Being alive / I’m collapsing inwardly,” Kline plainly states on “Being Alive.” Frankie Cosmos has long been a forerunner of the ever-changing DIY scene, bringing authenticity and pure joy to everyday occurrences. – KL
Lucius owes their acclaim not only to their tantalizing vocal melodies and seamlessly woven harmonies, but also in part to their strong stage presence and unmistakable style; the bold ensembles they wear on and off stage mimic the strength and identity of their music. The female-fronted foursome released their second LP Good Grief in 2016, followed by this year’s Nudes – a collection of stripped down, acoustic covers and tracks from their past albums. Good Grief is marked by clear, powerful electric guitar and percussion that many times is just as much on the forefront as the melodic line. Above all, their music is marked by their explosive harmonies that remind us that harmonizing isn’t just for choir girls or slow burning acoustic diddies. Often calling back to the synth and dance music of the 80’s, Lucius puts on an exciting live show, complete with frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig often playing drums together at the top of the stage, while singing, and never missing a beat. – EP
Will Toledo is a master at taking past projects and making them feel completely brand new. From the reworked single versions of Teens of Denial, to the re-recording of Car Seat Headrest’s breakout album Twin Fantasy (2011), Toledo seems to have an obsessive knack for reinvention and an uncanny understanding of the density of human connection, that continues to grow throughout his music.
The 2018 re-release of Twin Fantasy is an ambitious exploration in mental health, swarming with dense feelings of anxiety and self-reflection: “You never lifted your voice / You never raised your hand / You never showed me your inhuman / You understand,” Toledo says on “Nervous Young Humans.” The “new” album lends a hand to Car Seat Headrest’s legacy of hard-hitting emo anthems for the lost and the emotionally riveted, bringing newfangled relevance to young sad boys and gals, alike. – KL