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Artist of the Month
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September 2014
Seagulls
"Great Pine
"
mp3
With spindly strings horning in the opening instrumental, “Dragoon” awakens Seagulls' debut LP Great Pine, seamlessly transitioning into “Swimmin’,” a song that is initially given a steady-footed beat around which a more intricate and illuminating composition is built generating a peaceful yet purposeful layered sound, setting the tone for what lies ahead. “You and Me” plays like a surf-folk love letter, developing a warm, earnest vocal confession, while fitting nicely with the tug and pull groove of the scratching guitar and persistent bass. The vocal harmonies provide a sweetness accompanied by reserved bursts of trumpet and accordion-like effects offer a tease of nostalgia.
 
“Love, Give” follows a similar theme as vocals, strings, and snap-percussion set a pleasant, pensive, strolling pace as echoing harmonies and backing vocals reinforce, “Love give your hands to me, for someday I’ll be on bended knee.” “Old Habits” maintains an up close lo-fi aesthetic and underlying 8-bit accents, but the perspective has changed, shining a light on the dark side of relationships and a groove that has a somewhat worn and dusty ascetic, enhancing the lyrics meaning - “Old habits, die hard or they never do/so keep lying til they all catch up to you.” A well-placed take on Big Star’s “Thirteen” incorporates the honest-loving sentiments of adolescence, falling neatly inline with the group’s heartfelt vocal honesty, while simultaneously acknowledging one of their potential influences.
 
The record’s title-track “Great Pine” serves as a breath-catching ambiance builder before the turbulent “Holy Smokes” emerges. Enlisting peaks of aggressive kick-in-the-door instrumentation - particularly percussion between smooth stretches of vocally dominant valleys - in essence, layering pieces of clear skies between moments of violent storms.
 
“Distracted” concludes Great Pine with an uplifting blanket of vocals, allowing the guitar to stretch its sea legs as the backend force steers the musical ship; holding the course. This album starts on the shore, and while there are moments where it seems destined to searchingly drift out there, Seagulls appropriately demonstrate an ability to reel it in, taking a beautiful inaugural voyage. - Michael Colavita

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The Deli Philly’s October Album of the Month: Soft Fall - Sun Airway

The Deli Philly’s October Album of the Month: Soft Fall - Sun Airway

Versailles and French Surrealism are cited as influences for Sun Airway’s sophomore full-length album, Soft Fall. Yeah, pretty much: with lush arrangements and massive textures of sound, Soft Fall, is a giant, gorgeous record decked with chopped-up classical music samples and hooks that envelop the listener. Sun Airway’s all-encompassing sense of maximalism echoes what M83 did last year on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, making the familiar, comfortable turns of pop music vibrant and fresh by infusing some reverb and a soothing synth-tone. The result is a record that feels safe - not safe in the sense that it’s dull and afraid to take risks, but safe in the way that home feels safe, in the way you know the roads, the haunts, the people, and intrinsically understand that you’re not in any danger.
 
Yep, we’re in dream-pop territory, and Sun Airway’s Jon Barthmus plays admirably to the genre’s strengths. Guitar and keyboard lines come together like coast and tide - the line definitely there but impossible to define. Governing it all is Barthmus’ smooth, breathy baritone, which is seductive without flair for dramatics. On album highlight “Close,” he sighs “you’ve never known loneliness before/I tried to get close to you,” which sounds pretty glum, but the song itself is practically ecstatic. The work on that is done by breakneck drums, an impressionistic Cure hook and a guitar occasionally squealing gleefully in the background. Barthmus’ understated vocals give the song room to soar, and soar it does; it’s an absolutely killer tune. Instrumental interludes are scattered throughout the LP guiding you to and from other standouts on the record like “Wild Palms” and “Symphony In White No. 2” (that also appeared together last year on the 7” vinyl single that followed the band’s beautiful debut Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier).
 
As is often the case with dream-pop, the sonic palette that washes melodic lines together eventually extends to the songs themselves, and while Soft Fall is never boring, the distinctions between individual tracks become less and less vital as the album gels into one solid artistic statement, which makes Soft Fall a perfect little record to escape with. It’s a great way to drop menial anxieties for nearly 45 minutes and enter a pleasant state where nothing will frighten you and you’re comfortably safe as can be making any fall more enjoyable as you take in the sights from above. Soft Fall officially drops tomorrow via Dead Oceans. - Adam Downer
 

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