Brandon Biondo has been making superb new wave and art pop-indebted indie rock for years with Coolrunnings to little fanfare, but his newest band, Shy Boys (with co-vocalist and bassist Nicole McMinn) might be enough to break him out to a larger audience. The latest original to be leaked from the project, “Something” is a pristine slow-burner that follows the formula of much of Coolrunnings’ mid-paced material. What sets it apart, however, is McMinn and Biondo’s sad, longing dual vocal interplay and the big, crisp (though still suitably underground-sounding) instrumentation. There’s such feeling to the track that its repetition of “This is love / This is not love” sounds like the duo is wrestling with those sentiments as they’re singing them. Shy people everywhere (boys, girls or otherwise) should pay close attention to this one.
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A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, New York-based Romain Collin has had the great fortune of working with the likes of jazz legends Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. While Shorter and Hancock are some of the giants of fusion and crossover jazz, Collin opts for a much more distilled purity in his work and his dexterity with the piano showcases an erudite skill matched only by the discerning emotions that forge the bulk of his songwriting. Collin’s sophomore release, The Calling, is an album of warm crystalline beauty and the musician’s playing traverses a delicate line between a lush sea-bath swirl of scales and spiked, meditative crescendo highs. You can hear all of that in this clip, featuring a rendition of two of the numbers from the album, “Storm” and the title-track, performed live at Rockwood in New York. The short burst of “Storm” introduces the band before segueing into the next number (the album’s title-track) where Collin works an elegantly serpentine melody, circling around the nuanced underpinnings of Luques Curtis’ double bass and the crisp drumming of Kendrick Scott, executed with economy and restraint. The scales explore a haunted, intuitive search and the resonance and tension of the piece expands more and more as the number slowly builds toward the nine-minute mark. In no way is this pop music, but Collin has found a way to make his brand of jazz just as immediate – and instantly gratifying.
An Elvis song, let alone the schmaltzy classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, seems an odd choice at best for a rap sample (at worst, we’re talking Dipset “Built This City” territory). But Chicago rapper/producer Tree manages to flip the sample into a soul-trap hybrid that, I don’t know, just works. He spits gruff, elastic, occasionally pinch-voiced tough-talk and hippie street guru bars, slipping in affecting lyrics like “Drunk as hell, man / I probably shouldn’t have a pistol.” As much as the drill scene has dominated its recent rap coverage, Chicago is a city of many voices just like any other, and Tree happens to be, along with steadily rising Chance the Rapper, one of its more interesting and talented.
Ben Watt, better known as one-half of alterna-pop British duo Everything But the Girl and now a successful DJ and remixer in his own right, humbly began his career with his debut indie effort, North Marine Drive back in 1983. While the album reached number one on the UK indie charts, the success of Drive was ultimately overshadowed when Watt teamed up with Tracey Thorn to create the band that became synonymous with a burgeoning sophisti-pop trend, taken to mountainous heights by other acts like the Style Council. Everything But the Girl displayed a keen sense of irony and literary wit that gave their brand of new wave bossa nova a sharper, biting edge. Later on, they would transform their twee sound into a grander, nearly cinematic form of electronic pop that not only brought them wider attention but much more lucrative rewards as well. Watt’s indie solo album was all but forgotten at this point, at times appearing in-print and then later disappearing from the market in accordance to the ebb and flow of EBTG’s success.
Lychgate is of the black metal camp less concerned with bludgeoning you with speed and noise (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you) than covering you with riffs and atmosphere and squeezing you to death gradually. “Sceptre to Control the World” rolls in like a thick fog, carried by coiling melodic guitar lines that wrap around both the rhythm section and one another. While running through lumbering death metal-esque passages and bursts of agility and vocal ferocity, the track’s first half is anchored mainly by the mid-paced sections where the focus shifts to the interplay of those guitars, which evoke ancient, occult mysteries more clearly than any lyric sheet could. The energy built up in those solo sections is let loose around the three-minute mark, as the band unleashes their full churning, blast-beating fury right up to the reflective, guitar-minimal finale. The song is a great indicator that intricate, musically-proficient black metal is alive and well, and Lychgate seem to be emerging as one of its strongest new voices.