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1. Pale Dian – “In A Day”
The trio of Ruth Ellen, DK, and Nicholas Volpe was once known as The Blackstone Rngrs, but a name change to Pale Dian and an affinity for the Cocteau Twins’ music has reshaped the band’s identity into a mysterious and magnetic force. Pale Dian delivered debut album Narrow Birth June 3rd on Manifesto Records. The album is rife with compelling post-punk/dream-pop noir numbers that channel the best of early Cocteau Twins, like the stark atmosphere, angular guitar spangle, burnished synth warp, and Ellen’s sharply keening to airily sighing, Liz Fraser -like vocals that pervade “In A Day”.
2. Minor Victories – “Breaking My Light”
Minor Victories, the major super-group of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), James Lockey (Editors), and Justin Lockey (Hand Held Cine Club), delivered its self-titled debut June 3rd via Fat Possum Records. The album is a flowing, cohesive mood-piece that merges post-rock, darkwave, electronic, and alt-folk into one duskily alluring, slow-burning blend. It’s difficult to pick out a winner from the bunch because they all vie for the #1 spot, but the subdued epic “Breaking My Light” carries the most weight as it marches on and then increases in intensity with a meditative piano refrain, the pull of shivering orchestral strings, a thumping drum beat, and Goswell’s pensive, but softly beguiling, sky-bound vocals.
3. On Dead Waves – “Blue Inside”
On Dead Waves is the joint music project of U.K. singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood and James Chapman of MAPS and together they restlessly roam the promise and decay of a distant, sweeping prairie infused with a dying glow of a setting sun. Or at least that’s what their haunting alt-folk songscapes sound like! The duo just dropped a new video for “California” off its self-titled debut album (out since March on Mute Records), but the more captivating track is the prior bittersweet single “Blue Inside”. Scattergood’s hushed, mournful vocals, backed by Chapman, tentatively caress the diaphanous shimmer of shining synths, dulcet electronic notes, and strummed acoustic guitar.
4. Audreytina – “I Don’t Believe In Mysteries”
Multi-talented Audreytina (AKA Audrey Ellis Fox) is not only a musician and singer-songwriter, but an actress (Check out her credits at IMDB.com!), visual artist, poet, and director as well. The L.A. native recently unwrapped her bright, melodic pop tune “I Don’t Believe In Mysteries”, along with a highly amusing video that features Audreytina as a goth girl character pining after a cute surfer dude (played by her boyfriend Billy Fox) at the California beach. Audreytina marries the sugary twinkle of bubblegum pop with sing-song Girl Group harmonies for quite a sweet treat.
5. S T F U – “Do It Now”
S T F U is the collaborative music project of one Dean Garcia (of U.K. 1990s alt-rock/shoegaze duo Curve, with entrancing frontwoman Toni Halliday, and of dream-pop duo SPC ECO with daughter Rose Berlin) and Preston Maddox of Texas-based nightmare dream-rock band Bloody Knives. Garcia, a beats, bass, and electronics master, teamed up with Maddox for a noir-saturated, dystopian foray into electronica, ambient, and trip-hop styles on upcoming album What We Want, to be dispensed July 29th. There’s not a bum track on the album, but the triptastic EDM number “Do It Now” stands out with its crisply brisk dancefloor pace, shadowy, flitting sonics, and Maddox’s hazed ‘n’ dazed vocal delivery.
6. Joy Oladokun – “Poison”
Soulful L.A.-based singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun affects deeply with “Poison”, a profound piano ballad suffused with poignant symphonic strings and her heartfelt vocals that sound like a cross between SOAK and Tracy Chapman. Oladokun’s crestfallen mood and wistfully longing voice are reflected in the slowly drawn, low-tone cello and violin lines and gently contemplative piano notes. She released her first EP, Cathedrals, in 2015 and successfully crowd-funded her debut album Carry, which came out this past April.
7. Peter Vogelaar – “Television” (feat. Ken Lally)
Irish bass player and producer Peter Vogelaar collaborated with a clutch of talented artists for his debut album, the electronic/folktronica-steeped The Science Of Summer, which was released May 13th. One such contributor, Ken Lally, features on the mesmerizing “Television”. His vocals sinuously wind through hypnotic loops of buzzing electronics and fluidly picked acoustic guitar chime. The accompanying video was also a collaborative affair, this time between Vogelaar and Philadelphia-based filmmaker Tobias Stretch who is known for his video for Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes”.
8. Ohlayindigo – “Lullaby”
The Scandi electronic pop duo of Hannah Ponth and Zak Shrapnell has dropped quite the opposite of a calming bedtime ballad, opting for an energized number that will keep the kids awake all night long. Ponth brightly exclaims uplifting lyrics amid the sonic vibrancy of ebullient electro-notes, skittering percussion, and a popping beat. The duo now resides in San Francisco and is set to release its debut EP Phases this summer.
9. 50FOOTWAVE – “Bath White”
Iconic indie rocker Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) resurfaced recently with her ongoing band 50FOOTWAVE, delivering the Bath White EP on HHBTM Records. Bath White is the 6th recording from Hersh, Bernard Georges (also of Throwing Muses), and Rob Ahlers and was produced by Mudrock. The title song churns tightly with 90s alt-rock guitar riffage, shaken and fast-tapped percussion, and a slammin’ drum beat. Hersh tops it all off with her acerbic, slightly hoarse, but still strong and expressive vocal delivery.
10. Fabrikate – “Atari”
Enigmatic production duo Fabrikate is an electronic act that released its debut album, Bodies, in May via KooKoo Records. The two musicians maintain a sense of mystery by shrouding their faces behind various visors and their main mission is to make listeners groove and vibe. Fabrikate lays down crisply splashing beats, lightly pinging and wavering electronic notes, and rubbery reverb noise, driving “Atari” forward with a determined precision. Lightly squelchy almost-vocals sporadically join the peppering sonic mélange. Its storytelling video (Is it pointed social commentary? Is it just an oddball, arty mini-film?) is off-kilter and intriguing, just like the duo’s music.
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