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JusSol "Sunflow3r"

JusSol has released a new single called "Sunflow3r". For this track she enlisted the help of producer Dre Rodner and the multi-talented Mixed By Darwin.

This is the follow-up to her highly acclaimed 2020 single "Couch Surfer".





L'Rain "Find It" in mesmerizing live set

After lighting up a thick stick of incense Taja Cheek a/k/a L’Rain (by day Ms. Cheek is a curatorial assistant at the MoMA PS1 contemporary art center) turns to manipulating a number of electronic modules alongside her bandmates and their guitars/keyboards/drums/digital thingymebobs (taken together the collective itis also named L'Rain, try to keep up here!) as they ease into a musical piece called “Find It” weaving together a sonic tapestry that's built layer-by-layer starting with celestial washes of synth and other ambient clouds of sound eventually joined by percussion with brushed cymbals and tom rolls and then some guitar harmonics produced by hitting the backside of his instrument with a drum mallet and then some cresting waves of saxophone with its trilling tones fed through a swampy layer of echo—with the band enmeshed in a spider’s web of electronic gear, effects pedals, and wiring which they manage to engage in tandem with their more conventional instruments—and then five minutes into the whole thing of building up an entire sonic sculpture, L’Rain, the woman, not the band, leans into the microphone and sings a short vocal line going on to loop her voice in harmony with itself as she continues singing which creates a spinning/spiraling Spirograph-like pattern against which L'rain adds bass into the mix with a melodic winding line (all this twisting and turning is mirrored in the POV camerawork winding in and out of the individual players) and the opening lyric: 

“How did I collect these clouds / from rain that fell for days / feel bad just to feel sane / my mother told me / make a way out of no way / make a way out of no way” and that’s exactly what the musical composition itself does as it builds out its own structure from the inside out, starting from the barest bones and building to criss-crossing patterns of polyrhythms, like an bug spinning a cocoon from within before emerging fully-formed. And it this isn't the perfect musical representation of “making a way out of no way” then I don't know what is. 

And this is just the start of L’Rain’s mini-set, taped for Seattle's KEXP as part of their KEXP At Home series, recorded live in L’Rain’s own Brooklyn environs. The album “Find It” is taken from is called Fatigue and it was released late last month and it’s interesting to compare the two versions studio vs. live. But never mind that because you’ll wanna listen to the album in its entirety asap whether for comparative purposes or not because it’s a heavy, heady, head-spinningly immersive album co-produced between Taja and fellow L'Rainer Andrew Lappin). And it also contains “Two Face” which is the other song heard in the live set above. Returning to the notion of making “a way out of no way” the whole record is a sonic and poetic exploration of the struggle to make sense of the senselessness of the preceding months or years or centuries (take your pick) and to emerge out the other side with something of beauty that's ready to take flight. 

So whether you're already into SAULT or Solange or simply music that's both soulful and boundary-breaking in equal measure then here you have another one for the listening queue. And then for more L’Rain in audiovisual form you can check out some of the clips below, but most of all go listen to Fatigue in its entirety because somewhat contrary to its name it's a galvanizing ride even while taking listeners into the heart of darkness. (Jason Lee)





Introducing Lizzie Donohue

In March of this year Lizzie Donohue played her first live performance, in virtual form natch, as part of a live-streaming benefit for Save The Scene—a benefit organized by Pan Arcadia (recently profiled in this space) together with the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund in support of fellow independent artists during the lockdown.

In the midst of two evenings full of fine musical entertainment Lizzie caught my ear with her two-song acoustic set (see above) and most of all with the sheer presence of her voice—a voice both smoky and sweet, kind of like Kansas City barbecue sauce in audible form (insider tip: most voices can be compared to regional barbecue sauces) or, in case you’re a vegetarian, a voice that's one of those gritty-pretty voices where you're likely to assume the speaker’s got a chest cold or some other similar ailment, but then it turns out it’s just their normal singing/speaking voice like with say Tina Turner or Rod Stewart or Bonnie Tyler, or legendary late-night NYC radio DJ Allison Steele (aka The Nightbird) which suggests a possible alternative career path for Ms. Donohue should she ever need one.

But probably not on the new career path, because as revealed in an exclusive interview with Deli Mag, Lizzie Donohue recently acquired a degree in Textile Design and Photography from FIT and already does freelance graphic design work on the side, including band logo design, and we all know lots of bands out there with ill-considered logos or no logo at all, so it sounds like lucrative work to me. But back to the music. Lizzie’s first song in the virtual concert performance above is now her first officially released single and it’s called “What’s it Matter.” Opening with some strummed guitar chords, the rhythm section soon kicks in alongside Lizzie’s voice reading you the riot grrrl act (“Hey, fuck you / you gotta pretty face but that don’t make you cool”) and really you had it coming didn’t you? But the the blow is softened by the quality of her voice, thus making for a compelling juxtaposition. So you see it’s complicated.

And it’s further complicated by another insight gleaned during our interview, namely that Lizzie sees herself singing the song to herself as much as to anyone else. So when she gets to the next lines about “what’s it matter if I dye my hair blue?” and “all the things I say just come out lame / what’s it matter anyway?” she’s basically saying why worry about socially-mandated appearances or SAT-enforced verbal skills when it’s more important to just be yourself and put yourself out there. So basically it's like an Id vs. Super-Ego situation we got going on here (“I’m completely aware that I’m my own worst enemy”) if you happen to be into psychoanalytic theory.

These lyrical sentiments are supported by an uncluttered pop-rock arrangement that's got some nice, subtle flourishes like the occasional up-the-neck bass notes and the faint, breathy background vocal at 1:22 (something we'd love to hear more of just sayin') and the cool slide-guitar-break-down-and-build-it-back-up section that comes soon after. Incidentally, “What's it Matter” was produced and mixed by Dylan Kelly who plays guitar and keys for Pan Arcadia (those guys again!) and plays bass and lead guitar on this single, a recording laid down in a friend's basement DIY home studio somewhere out on Long Island using camping tents for isolation booths which is a pretty cool idea.

And speaking of Long Island musical happenings, Ms. Donohue hails from Nassau County (on the westernmost edge of L.I. directly adjacent to Queens) which is the ancestral home of one Lou Reed. So it’s fitting that 1) Lizzie opened her Save The Scene set by noting that is was Lou Reed’s birthday; and 2) her second number was a Velvet Underground cover. And a well chosen one at that, namely “After Hours,” the last track on the Velvets' self-titled third album a.k.a. the mellow one, sung by drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker. Like a lot of Lou Reed’s best-known songs, "After Hours" expertly walks the line between nihilism and humanism but leans more toward the latter, thanks to Tucker’s sweet lullaby-like but rough-hewn singing on what’s essentially an impish music hall number about staying in and finding comfort in solitude, but longing for human contact at the same time. Needless to say the song fits Lizzie’s voice like a glove and she adds some vocal flourishes of her own, including a brief fit of giggling at the end when she flubs a guitar chord. (even her mistakes are charming, and if you wanna hear an original take on a similar theme you can listen to “Going Nowhere Slow” on Lizzie’s Soundcloud page)

Besides Lou and VU, Ms. Donohue is also a fan of Patti Smith, Pavement (a car stereo staple whilst driving around aimlessly with her friends in Long Island), Alanis Morissette, and Mazzy Star among others and hey that's a pretty good list. Personally I’m also reminded of the female pop songwriter renaissance of the late ‘90s moving into the aughts with artists like Lily Allen, Avril Lavigne, and Nina Persson of the Cardigans (each of whom, in different ways, take riot grrrl-like attitude and wrap it in deceptively "mild girl" packaging) but maybe that’s just me. Lizzie says her upcoming EP will cover topics and themes such as outer space, Elon Musk, and the movie Heathers so you may wanna stay tuned. (Jason Lee)





Songs of Summer #2: My Idea drops ad-libs all over debut single

For the second entry in our Summer Songs series, despite today being a very un-summery day in New York City, we submit to you “Stay Away Still” by the musical duo known as My Idea (that’s their name I’m not trying to imply it was my idea) a song that’s got a buoyant bounce in its step and a sunny disposition—not to mention an accompanying music video shot against a bright blue sky with My Idea’s two bandmates making their way across various city locales like silver painted rooftops (discuss: why are so many NYC rooftops painted silver?) and shimmering bodies of water and perilous looking radio control towers, which are all good places to hang on a pleasant summer day but please be careful on those radio towers you’ve probably had a few already today or maybe even a few too many. And even if upon closer inspection the lyrics are a little bit dogmatic in their strictly enforced state of happiness, or perhaps even a bit paranoid like in the opening lines which all but insist that a laughing friend is crying on the inside and then move on to blanket statements like “why so sad bitch / depression’s a conspiracy theory”—but when we’re coming out of a bummer of a summer like the one in 2020 it’s not easy to properly enjoy the presence of “friends and animals and family” without a little paranoia and dogmatism creeping into the picture as reasonable defense mechanisms just in case things fly off the rails again in every conceivable way.

And that’s not even to mention how the song continually deconstructs it’s own aforementioned sunny disposition (grr) with a point-counterpoint vocal (racks on racks) in which the narrator is constantly confronted (pew-pew-pew) by a monotone inner voice (damn, damn) casting doubt on every single line of the song (in your face) but again not entirely unwarranted (winning) given what we’ve all been through lately (bad). And anyway when it comes to summer song vibes (drank) it’s notable that “Stay Away Still” (Draco) shares a number of qualities in common (brrah) with Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” (dope)—and ok so that song was originally released in the fall (glah) but hey stick with me here (hey) because I’ll bet that you hear the Migos track (drop top) at least once at an outdoor barbecue this summer (whoo) when people are feeling all nostalgic (run with it) for the halcyon innocence of five years ago (lock up)—the biggest one being the aforementioned inner voices (private) which comes off (thot) like a cascading series of ad-libs (dab) delivered by Quavo, Offset, Takeoff, and Lil Uzi Vert (gang) which in other words (word) are a series of parenthetical asides (improvise) and exclamations (yah! yah! yah! yah!) that break up the main lyric (blaow) by repeating or riffing on (savage) the directly preceding lines (call and response) and ok I’ll stop with the ad-libs now (skrrt) because it may be annoying when I do it (nobody).

Plus, the main theme explored in “Stay Away Still” is quite similar to the lines heard in the chorus of “Bad and Boujee” where Offset says “call up the gang and they come and get ya (gang) / cry me a river, give you a tissue (hey)” where he dismisses the crocodile tears of his lady friend and makes clear he won’t be held back by such overly dramatic sadness. And whereas Quavo “float(s) on the track like a Segway,” lead singer/backing vocalist Lily Konigsberg brags about “dream(ing) in straight lines (you can?) / goal achieved by the time I open my eyes (that’s pretty fucking weird)” culminating in a rapid fire chant of the title phrase “Stay Away Still” that nearly turns those three words into one single syllable not unlike Little Uzi Vert’s heavily meme-ed “yah! yah! yah! yah!” And just in case you’ve read this far and you were wondering, My Idea is comprised of Lily Konigsberg (Palberta) and Nate Amos (Water From Your Eyes, This is Lorelei, Opposites) and their stated mission statement (redundant) is to create “bite-sized pop experiments…over tightly wound indie rock” (sounds good) if their official Bandcamp page is to be believed (industry plant) which creates a nice tension-and-release effect (skeet skeet) but luckily they’re here to remind us that summer fun (surfs up) will be even more fun (fun! fun! fun! fun!) when set to a bitchin’ summer tune (Bangles/Avril Lavigne) about self-reliant happiness (quarantine) and staying the hell away from other people. (Jason Lee)





Geese take flight with "Disco" demolition

On their debut single “Disco,” the Brooklyn five-piece Geese depicts a dark night of the soul at the disco and on the home front too—fatalistic imagery abounds in the lyrics which may signify a waning relationship or may signify, well, the fatalism of death—that ends up with the narrator getting a drink thrown in his face and dancing along in an empty house, backed by layers of tense intertwining guitars and metronomically repetitive melodies all anchored to a steady pulsing “Psycho Killer” type beat—it's damn near funky in a high-tensile wire kind of way, but try dancing in asymmetric alternating 7/4 and 6/4 time signatures and you may sprain something—so that in the end “Disco” comes off something like Talking Heads meets Philip Glass meets Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and hey that latter disco crossover hit had a 7/4 part in it so there you go (note: some music theory knowledge is required for this post). Anyway, it’s a fairly ambitious song to get off the ground with and that’s not even to mention it’s almost seven minutes long, building up and stripping away and building up new musical layers throughout (“I return to the dirt / and then I rise again”), or that it ends with a dubby outro part that winds down like a dying music box in its final moments.

So no telling where Geese will go from here but at least we know where they’ve started and that “Geesus Has Risen”.

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