Isaac Fosl-Van Wyke – Underneath
With Underneath, singer-songwriter Isaac Fosl-Van Wyke attempts to make sense of the world around him, using folk and traditional styles as the vehicle for his storytelling. The result is an earnest and poignant album that features the tremendous musical talents of Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg, Lacey Guthrie and Anna Krippenstapel, among others. That sense of community is the undercurrent of an ambitious album that tackles the dangers of capitalism, climate change and bigotry. When he sings “I don’t know how you’re so proud of this country” on the song “Livin’ in the Graveyard,” it’s as an examination and rebuttal to blind patriotism and the rise of modern nationalism that runs contrary to a unified community; if we aren’t together, we’re apart. Wyke never offers any definitive solution to the problems he tells, nor is the album as bleak as the subject matter would imply. Instead, he humanizes difficult and often overwhelming problems by bringing everyone along. In the world of Underneath, you are invited, welcomed and respected if you, in turn, can find it in yourself to do the same.
Gerry Dorsey – Alex’s Hot Tub Service
There is a playfulness to Alex’s Hot Tub Service by Gerry Dorsey beyond just the irreverence of the naming conventions for each song. While stylistically, this is identifiable as electronica, that only tells a portion of the story. All too often, the genre is predicated on danceable beats and staccato melody work, most often employing sawtooth synths or sounds that would otherwise cut through the noise. While there are house and techno elements to the music, by and large this skews toward the Warp Records side of electronica, a reimagining of what music — danceable or not — can be. Whereas genre contemporaries like Richard Devine or Venetian Snares offer up hyperkinetic and often moody meditations on synths and drum machines, Dorsey is content to let a groove develop over time, quietly tinkering and evolving his sonic palate slowly. On the fantastically named “Mitch McConnell Can Suck a Fuck,” Dorsey uses whimsy in his composition in a way that parallels pranksterism at it’s finest: a truth delivered with a wry smile and a gleeful disrespect of expectation.
Fear of Talk – II. on love
On the majestic II. on love, artist S. Simkoff, otherwise known as Fear of Talk, makes beautiful noise. The all-too-short EP serves as a gentle, guitar and vocal harmony driven affair with an incredibly low bar of access. Opener “ease up,” recalls the melodic splendor of early Crosby, Stills, and Nash, with the kind of lo-fi (albeit perfect) production of the first Grizzly Bear album. The aforementioned “ease up” explores the challenges of living in the moment, of appreciating what you have now as things never really get easier. On “eliza out back, end of day,” Simkoff admires a character, ostensibly a child, playing, fighting and living life. From his vantage, Simkoff takes in the scope of a wonderfully rendered scene, childhood play and conflict merging in a glorious dance that is both life-affirming and the reminder that every parent has of their own mortality. Every song on II. on love shares in this quiet grace, with a composition that relies almost entirely on simple guitar melodies and lush vocal harmonies. This is a remarkable portend of what’s to come.
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