Experimental musician/performance artist Gary Wilson goes back to his roots on his latest release, “The King of Endicott.” Before becoming an underground lo-fi legend and amassing a cult following, Wilson was born and raised in The North Side of Endicott, New York. Looking back at his hometown now, a few decades down the line, Gary refers to Endicott as a “magical land” where he sits on the throne. The track is classic Wilson, from its setting in a park to his pleas to “hold your hand” on a “Friday Night.” It’s an immersive electro-funk world that Wilson has been reigning in since 1977’s classic You Think You Really Know Me, which Wilson recored in his parents’ basement in Endicott. With “The King of Endicott,” Wilson shows just how far he’s come while remaining true to his wacky self, pressing the boundaries of indie music and influencing artists in all genres.
“Why I Came to California,” is the latest release from Dent May, a cover of Motown legend Leon Ware’s original 1982 version. May brings a lively, playful spirit to the soulful tune, capturing the charm of California that brought him over in the first place. Born in Mississippi and now based in L.A., May has no trouble embracing the lyrics, which journey from the forests of Northern California all the way down to San Diego. From the sound of his voice, it’s clear May has a deep appreciate for the Golden State. He’s not the only one. Ware, who penned the lyrics along with Janis Siegel, found himself venturing out West from his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Almost four decades later, it’s easy to see why. “All the youth seekers come to California.” We’re glad it’s brought artists like Ware and May over, keeping the love for California alive through groovy tunes, new, old or reimagined.
Whether as a member of Animal Collective or a solo artist, Panda Bear works at the nexus of collaboration and isolation. It’s a tricky spot to pin down. With Animal Collective, it’s seen in the communal production and heard in the lyrics. With Panda Bear, it’s experienced. Lisbon-based Noah Lennox, the man behind Panda Bear, does almost everything himself, from the mixing to the engineering to the performing. Yet Lennox is no stranger to bringing co-producers (Rusty Santos), co-arrangers (DJ Lizz) and musical collaborators (Dino D’Santiago) into the mix. It’s part of the process, one that has resulted in ten studio albums as part of Animal Collective and four solo albums as Panda Bear, Lennox’s sound evolving along the way. With Buoys, the latest Panda Bear album, Lennox has found a new sound, connected between togetherness and intimacy.
It begins with texture. While Lennox’s songs tend to focus on memory, nostalgia or imagination, he always creates a sense of space. His reverb-heavy soundscapes are layered with lush instrumentation and vocals. But with Buoys, the space is much more bare and not as densely packed. It’s weightless and light, leaving much more empty space. Filling this is Lennox’s own voice, never before heard so clearly. Through most of Panda Bear’s solo albums, Lennox has used his voice as an instrument, stacking his vocals until they sounded disembodied and indistinguishable from a guitar strum or drone. In Buoys, Lennox’s voice takes the center stage, loud and clear though filtered through auto-tune, which strangely reveals more than it conceals.
Alongside Lennox’s raw vocals is acoustic guitar, which has come to be an extension of Panda Bear himself over the years. Most Panda Bear albums have grown out of acoustic guitar, developing into electronic experimentalism or atmospheric techno. While Buoys may be Panda Bear’s most electronic-sounding album, the acoustic guitar’s presence never falters. It’s the skeleton of the album, tying everything together, be it the samples of crying or R&B-inspired percussion.
The albums sounds as intimate as its subject matter. As Panda Bear, Lennox has explored the intimacies of his family—from his late father to his wife and children. In Buoys, the intimacy is of a different kind. Lennox’s lyrics are vague yet vulnerable. “I’ll go when I wanna go, have to go/blow that steam,” he sings in “Token.” In another turn from previous works, Lennox has let go of exploring his personal experiences for the intricacies of human existence. “Us, the frustrated crowd, so vile,” he laments in “Dolphin.” But by examining the commonalities shared between humanity, Lennox goes deeper than he has gone before, uncovering and examining the darkest parts of the psyche.
However, as in all Panda Bear albums, motifs reveal themselves. The concept of a screen pops up in the album’s first seconds, showing up later in “Inner Monologue,” an emotionally tense track suited for its title. The word slap also appears throughout the album, first next to “jelly ass,” then next to “cheeky.” But it is the image of a crowd, whether mentioned directly or otherwise evoked, that Lennox refers back to again and again. If only for a second, he slips away into the crowd, but by being surrounded, he is left truly alone. It’s a feeling everyone can relate to and was intended that way. It’s Lennox’s and the listener’s chance to both hide and reveal.
At just 31 minutes, Buoys is one of Panda Bear’s shortest albums, boiled down to the essentials, cut to what is needed. And while most Panda Bear albums tend to move in various directions, Buoys moves in one, step-by-step, sound-by-sound. It is not specific, yet deeply intimate. It is Lennox alone, yet filtered through the influences of trap music and traditional dub music. It is to be listened to in one sitting, yet require repeated listening. It is Panda Bear moving in a new direction, yet evoking the past. It’s Lennox finding himself, both as Panda Bear and a human being.
“I used to wake up and dread what I was doing.” The first line from “Tournament Hill,” the latest single from Joseph Flores, otherwise known as Temporex. A delightfully groovy autobiographical tale of a state of mind and a time in life Flores found himself in not too long ago, the track is an upbeat addition to the experimental collection of pop sounds that is Temporex. From mentions of King Krule and Prince, “Tournament Hill” is a look of the world through Flores’s eyes, which 2017’s Care solidified as a new and exciting perspective. 2019 proves to be just as promising for Temporex, who has made his way over the hill grooving.
“Just Like My” is the third single off of the upcoming Helium, Peter Sagar’s fourth album as Homeshake. The single follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, “Like Mariah” and “Nothing Could Be Better,” taking on a textured soundscape that’s unlike any of Homeshake’s previous sounds. It’s to be expected from Montreal-based Sagar, who has experimented with everything from indie-pop to R&B. Yet, Sagar’s perspective, his attention to small details and quiet moments, remains the same. “Guess it’s been a few days now/Since I left the house/Should be out about,” Sagar confesses. The vulnerable remark melts into the dreamy background, where feelings of isolation meet feelings of content. It’s soothing, groovy and telling to what can be expected with Helium come Feb. 15.
14 years ago, Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan met in London and recorded an EP about 14 minutes long. At the time, Animal Collective had just released 2004’s Sung Tongs, another change in sound for them, and British folk legend Bunyan had only recorded one album: 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day. Their collaboration was unexpected to say the least; Animal Collective’s style was constantly evolving, while Bunyan’s mysterious presence as an artist had remained the same for decades. Yet, the result of their pairing proved that Animal Collective and Bunyan were one in the same, feeling, thinking and noticing the smallest details of mundane life. Entitled Prospect Hummer, the EP is the meshing of minds and sounds, a little piece of magic that has lived on since Bunyan and Animal Collective’s inspired work together in 2005.
Prospect Hummer opens with Bunyan softly whispering “Stay,” immediately followed by warm guitar strumming, layered over itself again and again. Bunyan’s voice is fragile and soothing, almost as though she is telling us a childhood memory, a secret, a prayer. The atmosphere of nostalgia is enveloping. The lyrics are simple and few, yet alive and pulsing. Half-way through “It’s You,” Bunyan asks, “What’s going on?” joined by the rest of the band as they echo her vocals and strum away. It’s light and airy, mesmerizing in every way, like the soundtrack to a late summer night’s dream.
If “It’s You” is a dream, the EP’s namesake, “Prospect Hummer,” is the time before sleep. Bunyan sings of a quiet bedroom, of ladies across the hall, lit candles and a cat whose only friend is his food bowl. Bunyan’s vocals are sweet, her perspective is charming and once again, we are transported back in time. “My heaven is all around me,” Bunyan sings toward the song’s end, her voice delicate but certain, fading off into sleepy guitar strums that finally fall silent.
We are then swept away into “Baleen Sample,” five minutes of dreamy instrumentals and strumming guitars. It sounds like wind, like rolling waves, like movement. Bunyan’s voice is gone on this one, but her energy speaks through the chords. At times, a whistling sound effect sounds like her: faint yet captivating, saying so much with very little.
The next and final track, “I Remember Learning How To Dive,” begins with approximately 23 seconds of a rhythmic tapping beat, then joined by Bunyan’s cheery voice and playful strumming. The song takes off from there as Bunyan recounts a childhood memory of jumping off a diving board. “I had to go/To the end of the board/And distract myself.” Childhood fear is swept into childhood jolly as Bunyan and Animal Collective collectively sing “wheeeee.” It’s cathartic, fun and reminiscent of the mixed up pleasures and pains of being a child. While the view from the top of the diving board may be daunting, Bunyan knows the only way is down and that the only option is jumping; the same goes for growing older and making music. For when your fingers hit the water, you’ve done it. So Animal Collective joins Bunyan, collectively singing the song’s last lines in unison, jumping off the board together and hitting the water at the same time.
So Prospect Hummer ends, just mere minutes, yet capturing timeless moments and memories. Simple and breathtaking, the EP is folk music at its finest and most experimental, showcasing a union between Animal Collective and Bunyan that has lasted far beyond the EP’s brief runtime, cementing folk’s past in its present, and its present in its past. Thus, the magic of Prospect Hummer will live on for another 14 years, as though Animal Collective and Bunyan collaborated just moments ago.
Who loves the scum? That answer might surprise you: not everyone. So claims The Grolwers on their newest single, ”Who Loves The Scum?” Fuzzy in all the right places and equally garage as it is surf, the track is The Growlers through and through. Produced by frequent collaborator, Julian Casablancas, and Shawn Everett, the track is a punchy addition to 2016’s City Club. And like all of the party band’s songs, “Who Loves The Scum?” Is groovy without being hollow, poppy without being expected. As Brooks Nielsen sings, “See the change round the bend/Oh it’s not the end.” We can’t wait to hear what The Growlers have in store for us next.
“Seville” is the latest single from lo-fi Australian duo, S U R F I N G, one of the vaporware genre’s most promising musical groups. Blending dreamy melodies and hypnotic textures, their sound is nostalgia embodied. Founded in 2011 by Penny Van Hazelberg (vocals/synths) and Leroy Honeycomb (guitar/bass/synths), S U R F I N G has slowly but surely grown a dedicated group of listeners, most of which discovered the band online. Yet S U R F I N G transports the listener to a place far beyond the Internet. The effect is magnetic, heard nowhere better than in “Seville,” a song which makes five minutes seem like forever, and forever seem like a second. It also marks the beginning of S U R F I N G’s new sample-free sound which includes original compositions. It’s a perfect dreamscape that never gets old.