At the time of this writing, I’m holed up on my couch with a sore ear, a low grade fever, and LMN on the television, kinda sorta watching Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher. But more importantly, I’m listening to The Signal from Arizona based Local Wizards.
Following 2011’s fantastic Muckracker’s, this new Local Wizards’ outing has nine glorious tracks that are both dreamy and dire, filled with tasty basslines and lo-fi sounds. Opening with the demure “Sticks & Leaves,” Kendall Humbert channels a crisp autumnal feeling and has a slick harmonica reverb that makes the song beautiful and compelling.
The album changes pace with the next track “Thomas Kinkade” (for which there’s a video!). It’s loud and gritty and has one of the best set of lyrics: “there’s Thomas Kinkade printouts goin’ into the fire/and all the women, the women, were throwing them in.”
The percussion heavy “Canopy” is another pretty song that builds a wavering electronic breeze before slinking out into cool percussion again. It ebbs and flows, building once more and then closing out with the pulsating synths. “Burnt Wounds” is an ace instrumental track that plays like John Carpenter’s music productions for his 80’s films, heavy on industrial sounds and synths. “Animal” brings us back to vocal pieces. It’s astral and psychedelic, channeling The Kinks and The Doors at their most lackadaisical.
The title track has a New Wave bent, and as it goes on, Humbert’s quiet-talky vocals have an eerie aura against the clappy and repeating percussion and bass. “Wernecke’s Aphasia” is smoky; cool finger picking underlies Humbert’s harmonies for a dark folk sound.
“What Have We Done” is another lovely piece of work, a fine accompaniment to “Sticks & Leaves.” It builds with floating inflection and gorgeous instrumentals before bursting into a spindly breakdown. The Signal sends us off with the charming “Books & Flashlights.” Host to stunning lyrics full of vivid images, “Books & Flashlights” makes you want to jump into a pile of leaves or make a blanket fort as it lulls you into a quiet moment before picking up a brisk pace in its final two minutes, a spontaneous race to the finish.
The Signal hit YESTERDAY and you can grab a digital copy for any price you’d like, or snag a swell physical copy for $10. Head on over the the Local Wizards Bandcamp page for all your needs. Also be sure to check out the packaging in this amazing unboxing video from our hero and treat yourself to his record.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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