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August 2014
A Sunny Day in Glasgow
"Sea When Absent
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Sea When Absent (Lefse Records) opens like a shoegaze-y car crash. The latest album from A Sunny Day in Glasgow doesn’t bother gradually layering melodic elements; they get right to business from millisecond one, hitting you with reverberating electronic tones, orchestral violins, and the crooning vocals of Jen Goma and Annie Fredrickson. It’s a weirdly aggressive move for such an intensely soulful LP, but it’s pretty emblematic of how the record works as a whole. For an album as focused at creating moments of subtle beauty, Sea When Absent doesn’t have the time to let you gradually pick up on it on your own. A Sunny Day in Glasgow is the rare type of band that takes beauty and emotional resonances and waves it around like a chair in a bar fight.
 
In the strictest possible sense, this is a shoegaze-psychedelic-electronica album with a particular emphasis on vocals. But the more you listen; the more you start to discover what a diverse series of musical influences are rattling around in there. Mixing the electronica stylings of Flying Lotus and Saltillo with the indie-pop elements of bands like Death Cab and Phantogram, the basis is a percussion of grungy electronic tones, topped with a combination of guitar and synth, adding just the right balance, while being mixed in with a cavalcade of classical instruments and outlandish effects.
 
But the crown jewel of the album is Goma and Fredrickson’s understatedly gorgeous vocals. They play off, sometimes bizarre, instrumentations perfectly, complimenting them while also adding a fulcrum of relative normalcy to Sunny Day’s outside-the-box compositions. This is what really gives the album its sense of slick melancholy, creating an ambience of stylish vulnerability in tracks like “Byebye Big Ocean (The End),” where there is a sense of crooning sorrow, while “Oh I’m A Wrecker” sees them go much farther into the indie-pop paradigm.
 
While this record maintains the complexity and delightful weirdness of past A Sunny Day in Glasgow albums, it also comes with a newfound sense of clarity, in great part due to the outside production of Jeff Zeigler (of The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile fame). Zeigler is able to successfully piece together the moving parts of this bi-continental band, with mastermind Ben Daniels orchestrating things from the other side of the world in Australia, making the album’s abrupt left turns from spacey psychedelics to grounded punk-pop a little easier to digest. The wealth of ideas rarely feels busy or forced. Sea When Absent is ultimately proof that weird doesn’t necessarily have to mean messy. 

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Album Review: We’re Here to Help - Notekillers

Album Review: We’re Here to Help - Notekillers

Listening to an instrumental outfit can sometimes seem off-putting. There’s a certain tedium that most fall to - a recurring loop of indistinguishable murmurs, buzzes, and kicks that drone on into oblivion. Really, it can get pretty damn boring if you’re absolutely restless and need some type of vocal interaction - or if you’re just not into musical circle jerks. Fortunately, though, instrumental avant-rock trio the Notekillers fails at the ennui and mundane on their first full-length, We’re Here to Help.
 
We’re Here to Help was over 30 years in the making. The dual-habituating Notekillers (they’re from Philadelphia and Brooklyn) thrashed it out with the superlative no-wave instigators in late ‘70s New York City, only officially dropping the self-released 7-inch, The Zipper. The record unknowingly culled major players as fans for the trio. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore cited the Notekillers as a “big influence” for him and others in his evolving music scene in an interview with Mojo Magazine (the trio eventually made an archival release on Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label).
 
We're Here to Help, released on Prophase Music, is both an extension of and break away from The Zipper. Its erratic behavior is more developed, but still has that experimental free-spirit which helped to shape a generation and music genre. There's chaos and there's refinement, zeal and calm. We're Here to Help is a multi-layered and complex album made up of star-burst moments that fly every which way in bright spurts, but there's still a very distinct pattern. While fierce, wild arrangements are always present throughout this nearly 40-minute effort, not every song is a sonic freak-out like the album's definitive track, "Flamenco" - a raucous number where the guitars shred furiously to the point of a high-pitched fever and havoc is unleashed on the skins. "Eyelash" curls to the surf rock mystique that the Notekillers might be best known for, with rumbling guitars and rolling drums powering into a catchy, rhythmic melody, and if this track strikes your fancy, then face-melter "Papers" may have the angular riffs and walls of distortion that are here to help make your day. We're Here to Help proves that the stigma of instrumental rock is something to be defied. - Annamarya Scaccia

Eyelash by Notekillers 

Flamenco by Notekillers 

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