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CASTLEBEAT 'Half Life' Vinyl

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SG51: GRMLN - Dark Moon [LP]

JAN 04, 2023

 Jangly Guitar-based Dream Pop Album by GRMLN

GRMLN is the solo project of Korean/Japanese artist Yoodoo Park. The American/Australian based musician has released a number of albums over the past decade, the two most recent being his 2021 LP Laughing Shadow and his 2022 LP American Boy; both releases beautifully accomodated soft, echoed, ebuillent acoustic guitar work and patient, passionate narratives about heartache and memory.


However, Park’s 2022 LP Dark Moon proves that he is a jack-of-all-trades (and master of all); as the title suggests, the album is instead on the evocative, contemplative side, with oceanic vocal echo, experimental eects, and heavier reverb than his releases past. Simultaneously delicate and volatile, tracks like the soft, gloomy “New Human” and the eerie, yet exhilarating “Snake” show Park entering an entirely new domain, one that is, seamlessly, of his own awless, meticulous making.

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SG50: Orchid Mantis - How Long Will It Take [LP]

NOV 11, 2022

Orchid Mantis Evokes The Coveted Nostalgia Like That Of Old Photographs

Orchid Mantis is the experimental bedroom pop project of Atlanta-based artist Thomas Howard. Since the project’s start in 2014, Howard’s now signature lo-fi sound has gracefully inhabited the space that separates ambient compositional structures and pop songwriting, frequently utilizing obscure samples and unique recording techniques; overall, his sound evokes the coveted nostalgia like that of old photographs and precious, irreplaceable mementos. Howard thoughtfully carves space for narratives detailing - as it says in his bandcamp bio - songs about “forgetting;” in other words, he brilliantly explores the elusive, fleeting natures of memory, time, and place, resulting in immensely earnest works that often feel blissfully surreal in the way they attempt to encapsulate not only abstract emotions, but the way in which these emotions have the tendency to overlap.

How Long Will It Take is Howard’s seventh full length album, primarily about the reality of loss as well as the often lengthy and painful process of letting go. And yet, just like his past discography - most recently, the gorgeous Visitations, there’s still an essence of hope despite the deep wistfulness; throughout, Howard’s vocals, bright and focused, seem to evoke a beam of light piercing through a dense fog. Opener “Time Flows” comments on the idea of falling back into the past: “And it will never be just like/ things have been before / And I could never understand it / I’ve never been the one to close the door.” But Howard has always orchestrated a consistent current that courses through his albums; even tonally opposite tracks, like the upbeat ballad “I Could Live In Sleep” and the slightly somber “You Have My Soul” still very much feel like kindred spirits. “Nothing feels the same / but nothing’s really changed,” he explains in lead single “Lucid Dreams,” the ever-expanding chorus hinting at something like subtle epiphany. Ultimately, the album seems to be an oscillation, looking to the past and future, yes, but aware that he’s hovering somewhere in the ether of the present.

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SG48: Total Heat - Totally Real [LP]

AUG 19, 2022

Girlpool Drummer Releases Solo Indie Rock Album

Total Heat is the lo-fi pop project of LA-based artist Ross Wallace Chait. With over fifteen years of experience as a drummer and formally trained in jazz, before beginning this solo project he toured/collaborated with artists like Girlpool; in that time, he was slowly building up a persona. In his bio on Bandcamp, there’s a few reminders for his listeners: “Total Heat is a ceremony / Total Heat is a light / Total Heat is for the spirits / Total Heat's alright.” In regards to Totally Real, Total Heat’s debut album, it’s the result of Chait’s time playing jazz in his teens and the formation of his high school bands, his countless strange and funky musical discoveries, those small moments that eventually accumulate into big ones. Chait explained that it’s “a combo of everything I’ve done and do,” that it’s about “about the truths of my life, with a little bit of lies.”


Though the album seems to operate in negative space, with hushed vocals and muted melodies, there’s a quiet intensity that comes through that’s consistent throughout; tracks like “Get Started” and “Free Life” hint at the slow but thoughtful construction of an inner world, one protected from the chaos of the external. At times, it feels as if you might be intruding; these tracks represent an artist understanding and coming to terms with their creative process, their identity, their future. Thankfully for us, however, Chait doesn’t want to shut us out.

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SG47: CASTLEBEAT - Half Life [LP]

JUL 27, 2022

CASTLEBEAT Releases 11-Track Indie Dream Pop Album 'Half Life'

CASTLEBEAT is the goth pop project of CA-based artist Josh Hwang. His third album Melodrama released back in 2020 was a divergence from his previously guitar-based approach in VHS as well as his self-titled debut, instead offering another facet of his nostalgia-heavy aesthetic wherein all was balanced delicately around the sounds of dream pop, hip hop, jangle pop, and everything in between. With CASTLEBEAT, there is a thoughtful emphasis on keeping that comforting warmth that comes with lo-fi production, and his fourth album Half Life, released in July 2022, is another example of this; written, recorded, and produced in his garage, the album is not only a brilliant continuation of the ideas explored in Melodrama, but also reinforces, yet again, the near-transcendent magic of the diy process.

Much like its predecessor, there’s something for everyone here: Opener “Moment,” with supersonic, radiating synth melodies that knock you breathless, melts into the jangle-pop ballad “Cinema;” the exuberant synthwave number “Racing” comes after the moody darkwave-inspired “Looking For Something” and “Become.” Here, Hwang’s narratives oscillate between enchantment and infatuation, between chasing time and running far away from it, between past, present, and future. Nostalgia, as always, is nestled inside. Ultimately, Half Life speaks to the reality of being caught inside it all, the idea of being both within and without.

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SG46: atmos bloom - Flora [LP]

JUL 15, 2022

Manchester-based Dream Pop Duo's Debut Album 'Flora'

atmos bloom is the pop project of Manchester, UK-based artists Curtis Paterson and Tilda Gratton. The project began as a way to escape a world in lockdown, but later became something special. Working thoughtfully in the lush, delicate margin between shoegaze and dream pop, the duo take influence from 90’s icons like My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, as well as modern day indie greats such as DIIV and Beach Fossils. These influences definitely come through in their sound, but more so it is clear that Paterson and Gratton operate inside a unique space all their own, strongly and confidently anchored on Paterson’s stunning, multidimensional guitar work as well as Gratton’s soft, patient vocals.

Flora, their debut album, shows their finesse in both of these elements firsthand – Gratton’s verses relay lovesick narratives that travel between escapism and adoration, all the while beautifully accompanied by Paterson’s reverb-heavy guitar melodies, combining to tip-toe the line separating daydream and catharsis. Though the tracks on the album are connected seamlessly by a nostalgic current, it doesn’t linger within one emotion for too long; tracks like “Daisy” and “Morning Sun,” bright, warm, and hopeful, are reminiscent of carefree summer days, while the moody, cerebral “Time” expresses a far more ruminative side. Flora, when played from start to end, seems to slowly reveal each corner of the emotional subconscious - centering on darkness at times in order to make more room for the light to flood in.

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SG37: COOL HEAT - Levitate [EP]

JUN 25, 2021

Chicago-based COOL HEAT Releases Atmospheric Dream Pop EP

COOL HEAT is the solo project of Chicago-based musician and photographer Eden Sierotnik. His stunning self-titled debut EP released in October 2020 introduced his haunting, gorgeously cinematic take on lo-fi dream pop and shoegaze, with tracks like “Reflection” and “Rose” proving his remarkable ability to make his melodies feel nearly four-dimensional. His music is influenced in part by his photography (which he often uses as album artwork), both attempting to capture a liminal, yet vivid moment in time.

The synth melodies on Levitate often evoke the feeling of being suddenly pushed into a freezing cerulean pool, but in a way that remarkably reinvigorates rather than immobilizes. The main anchoring element within all the lo-fi color, ironically, is Sierotnik’s calm vocals, despite lyrics often being the last thing Sierotnik writes; he focuses first on the overall feeling and atmosphere of the track itself, resulting in a massive, lush sound that eventually becomes immersive. Title track “Levitate” expands on the iciness of opener “Home,” the latter made irresistible with the addition of a shimmering repeated melody. “Drift” embellishes the darkened expanse with glimmering synth flourishes, while closer “Feel the Way” shudders and floats as if traversing rarefied air. Modern and retro all at once, Sierotnik’s sophomore EP Levitate expands on his already stunning discography, and tonally, resembles a deep dive into the otherworldly.

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SG36: Kekko - Dreaming Life [EP]

JUN 11, 2021

Reverb-Soaked Psychedelic Shoegaze out of Singapore

Dreaming Life is the debut EP from Singapore-based dream pop duo Kekko. The project is the psychedelic lovechild of vocalist Cherie, and Tim, composer and producer of otherworldly, atmospheric soundscapes that brilliantly accompany her soft, dreamy, shoegaze inspired tone. Heavily steeped in spirituality and Eastern philosophy, the duo desires to express the inexpressible in their music, striving to house the energy of the universe in all its dimensions, to pinpoint the magic of achieving internal transcendence. Warmth exudes effortlessly from each track on Dreaming Life, beginning with the opener and title track; hefty synth creates a foundation for Cherie’s vocals to shine.

However, there is a clear tonal shift after “Within You,” an aura of melancholy that’s present in the latter half of the EP. Here, a darker tone nestles in breathless tandem with the bright, shimmery instrumentals; “Timelessness” and “Past Lives” have jagged edges that are near tangible on the ear, unleashing a subtle catharsis that sounds both breathless and stunningly buoyant. “It’s all a hazy dream,” Cherie croons in “Past Lives,” but like the rest of the album, it’s more hope than resignation.

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