Artist of the Month

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October 2015
Shelf Life
"Everyone Make Happy
Everyone Make Happy, the debut LP from Shelf Life, via Lefse Records, finds an absorbing lyrical yet comforting instrumental balance. Scott Leitch (ex-Pirouette/recent drummer for Alex G) cultivates songs that gently sway with internal warmth, while placing listeners in a deeply personal, somber state.
Space-warping synths smoothly land on the surface in “The Curse,” the initial introduction to Everyone Make Happy. Those glowing synths fade to the background as the airy, easily-assimilated acoustic guitar provides shimmers of daylight onto the song’s anguished lyrical tone - “bathe in sister’s blood/talk to the ghost of my dad’s mom/about nothing but heaven and the cancer in her gut.”
Pushed by its percussion, “Mark II” delivers what appears as subtle instrumentation, penetrating beyond the surface as a tight bedroom-pop sound. What starts drearily - “wake me up, when my lungs, start to pump normally” - lifts the shades to the point of optimism. “There’s always something in the sunlight,” riding a casual, almost accidental groove along the way. The album continuously stares directly into sadness, observing a very real place of grief. In “Creature” with its road-worn, country-folk twang , Leitch addresses the questioning nature of a sickness as a somber cloud hangs overhead. “I ask myself what my Father would do/he’d fold his hands lean to belief/but the creature inside him is not inside of me.”
“Low Key Lumber Theft” forebodingly spirals forward as the last dashes of daylight fall below the horizon. The guitar crisply cuts through dusk, venturing further out of sight as it gains momentum and then coolly concludes. With a daydreaming-psych vibe, “Time Traveler” moves into a nostalgic familiar space, which although consoling - “I am meeting the past/it is just how I thought/I have found what I lost” - still cuts - “You had gone away.” An anecdotal throwback, “Double Dare” soaks into your mind with its direct lyricism and catchy melodies, a la Alex G, while “Sinking Just Right” lulls you into a submissive calm of internal self-doubt - “does everybody hate me, just a little, little, little bit” - drifting until your “sinking just right.”
This album delicately balances the weight of emotional darkness with a glimpse of the light, from outside pushing in through the cracks. - 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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