Not long ago my wife and I welcomed a lovely little third cat into our home. I’ve also been working on an Electric Youth-related anthology print project. So I haven’t had much time to write about music, but I definitely have been listening to it. And at times it eerily feels like it’s been listening to me.
Given that a post covering dozens upon dozens of releases would be too much, today’s One-Liners column will focus on the absolute gems from the bunch that you shouldn’t miss. I might actually take it personally if you miss them. Achtung!, dear reader.
Nite Jewel — No Sun
When you listen to chillwave pioneer Ramona Gonzalez’s latest (and best) album, No Sun, for her Nite Jewel project, one thing is clear: This is not the Nite Jewel you remember, but Ramona is the not the same Ramona. The album, forged in the wake of the dissolution of her 12-year marriage and the crucible of earning her PhD in musicology, draws from her research into the role of women using music as a way to express mourning. Having gone through a divorce once and a host of other traumatic things, I find that even as a cishet man I can identify with music-as-lamentation — with compositions that draw from subparticals bursting deep in a battered (but healing) soul.
Musically, this manifests with compositions that feature Gonzalez’s engaging vocals pushed front and center with the minimal but rich tapestry of sometimes off-kilter synths and delicate drum machines deftly supporting her through her grief. This contrasts with 2017’s Real High LP, a beat-driven groover straight out of Flyte Tyme. I enjoyed that album immensely, but No Sun is a true masterpiece and a profound (and enduring) musical statement. Sometimes we have to go through hell to get to heaven. Out now in digital and vinyl formats via Gonzalez’s own Gloriette Records.
Parallels – Supersymmetry
Parallels’ long-awaited new full length has finally arrived and it is extraordinary. It’s truly a triumphant return and an excellent follow up to 2017’s Metropolis and the subsequent singles and soundtrack work in which they’ve been involved. Leader and sole constant member Holly Dodson moved from Toronto to Los Angeles in between albums, and the spirit of that shift is reflected noticeably — even though I’m not sure how much of this was actually recorded in LA. Dodson and collaborators, including Radio Wolf’s Oliver Blair and her brother and father, Nick and Rich (of The Stampeders), along with background-vocalist Brad Kinnan, sound like they’ve discovered a new frontier for their respective artistry.
This is the fullest, most complex (and sometimes hardest) collection of Parallels songs since the band’s first material started showing up on the Valerie Collective blog around 2008. I would say this is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. I highly recommend it. You can download it or get the vinyl or CD on Bandcamp (or get the digital and stream elsewhere, too).
Ben Lovett — The Night House (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Ben Lovett is quite obviously a Vehlinggo favorite (and personally one of my favorite film composers) — check out all the interviews, reviews, and even a guest post from Lovett himself. For his reunion with longtime pal, director David Bruckner (The Ritual, The Signal), the pan-genre, multi-faceted Lovett crafts a deeply moving and haunting score for the Rebecca Hall-starring horror film. He deftly moves between acoustic, orchestral fare and electronic-inflected elements to highlight and complement the markedly disturbing dynamic that arises within the house Hall’s character occupies after the death of her husband.
You can check out the album now on digital services via Lakeshore Records, and/or pre-order the vinyl edition from MONDO/Death Waltz.
You Drive — “Such a Perfect Thing”
Praise whatever deities you do or don’t regard: Nashville-based You Drive are BACK! Well, it’s not an album to followup their absolutely stunning 2018 debut. However, it is a fantastic new single from the duo of Makeup and Vanity Set’s Matthew Pusti and vocalist/songwriter Jasmin Kaset. “Such a Perfect Thing” is more cinematic, crystalline, and reverberated than the tighter, more rhythmic cuts on the album. I attribute this to its use on The Girlfriend Experience TV show, which Pusti scores. However, this isn’t a bad thing at all. It is simply yet another engaging avenue for their creative expression. Find it now on Bandcamp via YK Records.
Yatte — yecco emecco
The Austin, Texas, synth scene is largely associated with Holodeck Records and its orbit, but people should also know about Alex Chod and his Yatte (YAH-tay) project. On Yatte’s most recent release, yecco emecco, Chod and a slew of friends have crafted a lusciously serene and eminently catchy yacht-rock-infused expression of synthwave. It’s very easy to deride the astonishingly derivative state of the genre these days, but Yatte is one of a handful of acts that bring something fresh and fascinating to synthwave. Out now on Bandcamp in digital form.
Sferro — Emotion Engine
Synthwave pioneer and Girlfriend Records founder Sferro’s latest album, Emotion Engine, stays true to the intricate and inventive synthwave, future funk, and ambient material for which he’s become known for more than a decade. This time, the arrangements feel somehow concurrently more ambient and more hard-hitting than previous releases — this is much more a 1990s- than 1980s-sounding album. A highlight track is the delightfully ethereal “Modular Origami,” which features Mecha Maiko on vocals. Out now via Business Casual on tape and digital formats.
Duett — Leisure
When the first Duett material dropped six years ago, I proclaimed that brilliant producer Ben Macklin’s project changed synthwave forever. (It’s true, even then I was complaining about certain elements of the genre.) On the latest Duett foray, he’s not changing the genre — it’s too heavy a lift to do something like that these days. But he does cultivate a beautifully captivating and delectably serene blend of chillwave and synthwave cuts that inject a lot of warmth and heart into the laid back, corporate aesthetic. So put this on your Walkman and head to the mall, and maybe go make out with some lovely human behind the escalator.
Fans of vocal synth fare will enjoy the entrancing “About You” with Abby Strickland’s hypnotic vocals, but the album’s instrumental bulk is definitely worth your time, too.
Out now on digital and cassette via Bandcamp.
(Editor’s Note: The One-Liners column is a concise but meaningful way to highlight Vehlinggo-recommended releases. It’s not exactly weekly, but it can be. Entries are almost never one line, but they could be. Check out the most recent One-Liners post.)
BTW, while I have you: Go ahead and buy one of the few remaining “aqua blue” 5 Years cassette tapes. Or, if you’re more of a CD person, there are a few dozen of those left. Each has a different track order (and the tape even has an extra song)! More importantly, they’re much better off in your hands than sitting in storage in my house. 5 Years has exclusives from The Midnight, Anoraak, FM Attack, In Mirrors, Mecha Maiko, and Metavari (among others), and also was the first place to find “The Magic Hour” off the new Parallels album.