Reviews

The Melodic Tree’s Top 3 Albums of the Year

3. Ben Varian – Quiet Fill

Ben Varian seems to have perfected the craft of pop music. with somewhat absurd lyrics and upbeat melodies and instrumentations makes it the ultimate pop album. Bringing the mundane into lyrics and making it actually enjoyable is a very difficult feat but somehow he made it. The name of the album is also aptly titled as it filled the time Ben was not doing something else, like going on tour with Dent May or recording a 24-hour live album.

2. Florist – If Blue Could Be Happiness

Florist is one of those bands that will tug at every one of the heart strings in your body whether you want it or not. The simplicity of this album is what intitally draws the listener in and the fragility in the lyrics keeps them in. In order to make sense with a parent’s death, Emily Sprague finds logic and comfort in everyday affairs while somehow still showing empathy through the lyrics about coping with loss.

1. Coma Cinema – Loss Memory

One of my favorite projects of the last few years recently put out its final release under the name. Filled with songs digging deep into his childhood and the pain that came with it. “At home there’s blood on my bed/and no running water/there is a room i don’t go in/i see myself through the door/me and my mom used to hide there/crying our prayers through a window.”

Favorite Bandcamp Releases of 2017

Ada Babar – (2018 Leaked)

Even though it isn’t technically out until next February, 2018, Ada Babar blessed us with putting it up on their Bandcamp this year. Their music is filled with seemingly inconceivable midi controls and even airhorns (as heard on “fav chair”). Ada put out a rather spontaneous album in a seemingly repetitive genre.

Body Meat & The Washboard Abs – Redux 

This split was the second of three releases from Body Meat and one of two from The Washboard Abs. Body Meat’s side of the split are a few of the best songs is filled with experimental songs that feels amorphic and as if everything in pop makes sense all at once. The Washboard Ab’s side features full band songs from previous songs and unreleased songs that seem to make the Washboard Abs as full sounding as they have ever been.

Pleasure Systems – Antumbra Pull

Although I’ve listened to this album for critique several (several) times before the release and know Clarke Sondermann well, hearing the progress and emotions that went into the release in anticipation is why it made this list. Dedicated to their partner and is filled love and thank you notes to him, makes it one of the most sincere albums to be put out this year.

Ben Varian – The L.A. Concession

One of my favorite artists is also seemingly one of the hardest working ones as well. Having put out seven (7) releases (this EP, a live album, a 72-track “food journal” with Jake Tobin, a “Christmas gift” with his partner, a 24-hour recording session, a full-length album, and another album?), as well as go on tour with Dent May over the summer, this EP is both surprisingly nd unsurprisingly one of the best pop releases of the year. Ben never seems to dissappoint with absurd lyrics mixed with almost always upbeat melodies.

Lily and Horn Horse – Next to Me

The third release this year from Lily Konigsberg and second with this project with Matt Norman, it is filled with everything they claim to be inspired by, which is the “Baby One More Time” era of Britney Spears and Bill Callahan at his coziest. This collaborative album feels as though they have been making music together for years even though this is only their second release together.

– Isabella

Le Grotto’s “Bump the Lamp” Review

Olympia-based indie rock band, Le Grotto’s sophomore album Bump the Lamp takes a slightly different approach from their last year’s self-titled album with glimpses of fresh perspectives and progressions. Opening new layers of instrumentation beyond their traditional rock convention, featuring saxophone, xylophone, cello, organ and a handful of samples. Frontman Laith Scherer’s vocals are stronger than ever as Alek Gayton’s drumming and Will Willard’s bass playing express their talents equally as well. As the tracks move along, their signature sound stays intact while presenting a more raw and complex sound. Emotional themes of loss come strong on tracks like “People Die,” yet tastefully seguing onward towards better times.

An album that seems to blur together in colors never seen before, as if in a hazy smoke filled dream, Le Grotto teases with shorter tracks, a few at under a minute (“My Name’s _____” and “West Philly,” respectively). This almost seems to hint at future revisits of these recordings, or maybe it’s to emphasize the elasticity of their songs performed live. Surprisingly, this change doesn’t break the signal-chain vibe of Bump the Lamp. This release seems to suggest an insight into the countless days of recording, making new friends, losing old ones, playing shows and dreaming big. The album concludes with what some recall as their most energetic song “The PAG.” At barely under 25 minutes, this album makes its head right before their zig zag to the east coast tour, leaving audience members with an aesthetically Goosebumps-esque memento of their surf garage rock experience.

Bump the Lamp will be available September 1st, 2017 on Le Grotto’s Bandcamp. It will also be available on cassette through Olympia, WA label 2060.

Listen:

Who Told You to Think??!!?!?! : Review

Three days ago milo released his third album, Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!. To put it simply, this album is great.

From the opening sample to the last bass warble this album is truly a masterpiece. Always a strong lyricist, milo flexes his muscles throughout and delivers many memorable lines. Some personal favorites include “I be to rap what Keynes be to Locke” and “Said the target audience was mothers of blonde-headed/Black boys, we shouldn’t be complimenting/Fence-building nihilists”. The more one listens to the album the more and more rewarding the lyrics become. With great production milo is able to weave words into clever poems that will leave you thinking about what he truly meant. There are certain aspects of the album and the way it makes one feel that are truly indescribable. In a year full of great rap this one seems to set itself apart from the rest.

Song Review: Love Galore

Last week, SZA released a new song. It features Travis Scott and is named “Love Galore”. A music video was released along with it and I would advise against watching it at work. Those are the facts. Now for some opinion. The song is great. SZA, as she often does, is able to pair her smooth and sultry voice with minimalistic beats that get out of the way of her voice. Crooning about lost lovers sounds like it could almost turn into the song of the summer between her great singing and Travis Scott’s auto tuned emotion. While Scott often uses auto tune, this slowed down and mellowed song puts the full effect of the software on display. Scott is able to reach out to the listener through the disjointed notes, perfectly capturing the disconnect of emotions. When contrasted with SZA’s clear voice, the effect is nothing short of great.

The music video however, while the butterflies are stunning, comes up short. See for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHXfCOjb3fk

Anna Don’t Disappear, album review

Anna Don’t Disappear is a strong showing out of Toronto based indie band Red Nightfall. The front half of the album sounds okay, slightly predictable even. The front half is reminiscent of bands trying too hard to fit a specific mold. On the second half however, the music becomes more stripped and raw. The band seems to really find a rhythm and a purpose. The second half is considerably more soul baring and raw than the first. It is refreshing to see a band evolve throughout the album. Namely, on the track “St. Petersburg”, it feels like the band is coming into their own as soul felt indie rockers. The track seems to highlight just what the band can do.

    All in all, the album warrants a listen. The emotional honesty of the second half is enjoyable and nice listening. While the front half of the album could use some work, the second half cements Red Nightfall as a band to keep an eye on.

 

You can listen to the album here.

The Melodic Tree’s Top Six Albums of the Year

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1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

2016 was a break-out year for Will Toledo, aka Car Seat Headrest, whether it was signing to Matador Records to releasing Teens of Denial, their second on the label and first that consisted of entirely new material. On their thirteenth album, Toledo’s lyrics are, as always, emotional and reflective, looking at his dealing with mental illness and dealing with the inevitable feeling of dread that has been a recurring theme throughout this album and their previous 12. In the opening track, “Fill in the Blank,” Toledo goes on to say: “You have no right to be depressed. You haven’t tried hard enough to like it. Haven’t seen enough of this world yet. But it hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Well stop your whining, try again.” The idea of no one truly understanding his depression and what is going on inside his head repeats back and forth in this song until the outro when he affirms he has a right to be depressed and that he has tried to fight it. This reflectiveness is not uncommon for Toledo in the third track on Teens in Denial, “Vincent,” where he talks about googling his depression and his previous albums, especially the track, “We Can’t Afford (Your Depression Anymore)” on his album, Nervous Young Man. This cleaner sounding and breakout album from Car Seat Headrest is just the beginning of what will be even more critcal success for the band in the future.

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2. Bon Iver – 22 A Million

The highly anticipated return of Bon Iver and follow up to 2011’s self-titled, 22 A Million, heads in a completely different direction than what Justin Vernon has done in his history. However, it is somewhat expected from Bon Iver as For Emma, Forever Ago, showed what Vernon could do alone, not including what he released previously under his own name, and Bon Iver showed what could be done with a full band and recording with more people. 22 A Million shows what Vernon can do as a musician and what the band can do outside the realms they built for themselves in indie folk. This turn to a more experimental and somewhat strange new sound that Bon Iver brings to the table with this album is an interesting new step in what might be a new era of the band.

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3. Mitski – Puberty 2

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter, Mitski’s fourth studio album discusses the struggles of being happy from day to day, especially shown on the track, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” where she sings: “I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent. I wanna see the whole world. Would you kill me, Jerusalem.” The lyrics go on to talk about how she hopes she does well in a job interview and the stereotypical interviewee line “I work better under deadlines” being repeated. This sort of trying to find something to grasp onto in order to find some sort of happiness in the cloud of depression and anxiety is a recurring theme throughout this album as Mitski shows off her chaotically good sound that she has had across her discography.

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4. The Growlers – City Club

The Growlers, have always managed to combine “country, surf pop and rock” all into one, something that is somewhat trademark to them and lead to the definition of their sound, “Beach Goth” to a popular festival under the same name. The industrial-esque funkiness of “I’ll Be Around” allows it to be one of the best tracks on the albums. Another notable track is “Neverending Line” because of how seemingly miserable the chorus sounds: “It’s the end of a line. Another shit job. Another piss-stained room. Another tomb. Another city. Hardly make it to the other side. Just to find, it ain’t so pretty.” The darkness of this song encompasses the album and its mood in what seemed to be one of the somewhat slower tracks.

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5. Iji – Bubble

The almost always upbeatness of iji’s (pronounced “eehee”) latest album, Bubble, is the perfect album for anyone in need for the perfectly groovy pop album. The song, “Wild Music,” is particularly a favorite, where the singer, guitarist, and saxophonist, talks about wanting to “play the saxophone in your band” and the fluidity of this track is both is invigorating as it gets to the two-minute mark and soothing at the same time. This eccentrically melodic pop album is erratic as they masterfully maneuver through these weird but engrossing 13 tracks.

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6. The Washboard Abs – Have U Scanned Ur Club Card

Denver-born and Olympia-based, The Washboard Abs’ Have U Scanned Ur Club Card gracefully goes through bedroom indie music as Clarke Sondermann sings somber and reflective lyrics in the seemingly melancholic backing tracks. The song, “Window,” is the perfect example on this album as the lyrics are earnest (i.e.“Early in the morning but later in the day, your brother snoring the sky will slowly grey, and I will drink my coffee and I will try to say I think about you often I hope you’re not okay”) and yet it is a seemingly warm song with the guitar repeats. The third track, “Sugar Skulls” differs n the sense that it is somewhat more upbeat and the Sondermann’s lyrics talk about self-destruction. They are one of our favorite local bands and it makes sense why they are on the rise and opening for bigger and bigger indie bands.