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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.

Listen / Stream - Instagram - Cassette Tape

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.

Listen / Stream - Instagram - Merch

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.

Listen / Stream - InstagramDigital Download

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.

Listen / Stream - Instagram

SG35: Aldous Baker - Parcades [EP]

APR 30, 2021

Shimmertraps Member & Producer, Brodie Cole, Releases Solo EP

Aldous Baker, also known as the solo project of Seattle-based artist Brodie Cole, shares his stunning solo EP Parcades. As both member and producer of the psych-synth quartet Shimmertraps (who released their gorgeous debut album 'LOOK!' in 2020), Cole is no stranger to composition, especially when it comes to the layering of multiple tonal textures.

Seamlessly blending together ‘70s r&b funk, ‘60s melodies, and ‘50s barbershop harmonies, Parcades sounds just as bright and colorful as its album cover. It’s easy to imagine, for instance, the blue bubbles (from the looks of it, suspended in sweet orange crush) floating and popping in tandem with “Acrobat,” the phaser-like synth and falsetto vocals creating an unpredictable atmosphere that echoes throughout the release. The smooth, lounge-rock energy of “Without” bleeds into the instrumental closer “Bandages,” almost locking hands with the title track and opener.

Every listen to the EP allows you to pinpoint different flourishes – 8 bit effects, piano riffs, audio samples. There’s finesse within Cole’s silky smooth production that gives new meaning to the phrase “less is more” – and yet, ironically, the sheer subtlety in the slight synth whines in between verses, and later, the supersonic effects at its close, all work together to create an expanse vast and unpredictable, calm yet volatile.

Listen / Stream - Instagram - Cassette Tape

SG34: Chloe Berry - Blueberry Jams [EP]

APR 09, 2021

Blueberry Jams is the debut EP from Chloe Berry. Raised and based in New York City, the 21 year-old half-Asian indie musician writes, records, and produces all her music from her bedroom, flawlessly achieving a dreamy, DIY lo-fi sound that wonderfully accompanies her bright vocals in every track. With lyrics centering on everything from mental health to the inner workings of various relationships, Berry doesn’t shy away from vulnerability or frustration, instead directly approaching each with vibrant energy. She admits to being a hopeless romantic in the quirky, minimal “Breakfast,” explaining that “even when the night was not okay,” “I’ll make breakfast anyways,” the accompanying video co-starring her partner and producer Sam Poon.

The sentiment is continued in the stand-out single “Sweeter Honey,” where Berry is at her most serious; “Fed Up With You,” on the other hand, has Berry telling someone exactly what she thinks of them (“fed up with you/ being a jerk/ trying to tear me down”) alongside a melody interspersed with whimsical trumpet melodies. Closer “Most My Days” has Berry returning to a place of solemnity, rounding out the sentiments shared on the LP with gritty, grunge inspired guitars and calm, self-assured vocals. Ultimately true to its name, Blueberry Jams is a sweet and nostalgic spread of dream pop melodies and refreshingly earnest lyrics, the perfect accompaniment to a breezy summer afternoon.

Listen / Stream - Instagram - TikTok - Cassette Tape

SG33: freddyboy - 'Vignette002' [EP]

FEB 26, 2021


Vignettes are typically portrayed through one of two mediums. Spoken or written down, they are brief, yet highly evocative descriptions, accounts, or episodes; visually, on the other hand, they are images that slowly blur and fade into darkness at the edges and corners, never possessing a discernible border. Both, of course, tell a vivid story in only a handful of creative elements, and this is exactly what Toronto-based artist Freddy Kwon, under the name freddyboy, accomplishes. Kwon’s sophomore EP Vignette002 comes one year after his debut Vignette001, both releases beautifully expressing his unique multi-textured and maximalist take on lo-fi dream pop.

In just three tracks, Vignette002 plots out an entire world where the air is a perfumed breeze, and where you’re taken through various tonal terrain. The elements Kwon include interlock perfectly; for instance, the flutters of harp-like synth in the smooth, sultry “Way I Feel” brilliantly offsets the rumination in the lyrics: “constantly reminded/existential crisis / but it's the way I feel / oftentimes I’m blinded / barely at my finest / but it's the way I feel.” The static fuzz of closer “Will It Ever” beautifully illustrates the tension and hesitation evoked. “Every little thing will even out” / that’s what I’m telling myself,” Kwon admits, his voice melting slightly at every last syllable. However, it’s the vivid, saturated color within the EP, initially manifested with the dreamy opener “Makes Me Feel,” that makes Vignette002 that much more striking; its warmth and nostalgia, condensed.

Stream - Bandcamp - Instagram - Cassette

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