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Alternative & Indie - Released September 28, 2018 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 8, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 21, 2020 | Hardly Art

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"Opener ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ has a gentle introduction and exquisite vocal harmonies, before turning things on their head by including discordant, uncomfortable sounds." © TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 2, 2017 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 9, 2015 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 23, 2015 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 11, 2018 | Hardly Art

La Luz had their formula firmly in place on their debut album, 2013's It's Alive, and they're a group who've managed to grow and mature without major changes to their aural signature. Their fusion of vintage surf sounds, garage rock, and smart indie pop sounded clever and well-crafted right out of the box, and there's been a certain sense of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" in their subsequent recordings. That said, their third full-length, 2018's Floating Features, is a step forward from their first two albums, if not an especially dramatic one. Musically, La Luz sound tighter and more emphatic here, with the performances boasting a bit more muscle, Alice Sandahl's vintage keyboards taking more chances, and the harmonies revealing more sparkle. Guitarist and songwriter Shana Cleveland has always believed that surf music doesn't have to be silly or facile, and her lyrics on Floating Features are intelligent and thoughtful, pondering an unmoored existence in "Cicada," dabbling in West Coast folk-rock tropes on "Mean Dream," and fearing global mortality in "Don't Leave Me Here on the Earth." And Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys produced the sessions for Floating Features, and while his touch is unobtrusive, he does get a more polished and full-bodied sound out of La Luz. Cleveland's guitar cuts deeper on these performances, Marian Li-Pino's drums have more depth, and there's a sense of detail that flatters the performances. If you liked La Luz before, there's nothing on Floating Features that's likely to change that, but their craft has gotten stronger and the improved audio helps to make that clear. This album is smart fun from a band that actually makes something fresh out of the sounds of the past, and as long as La Luz keep doing that, they'll be worth hearing. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 9, 2012 | Hardly Art

Black Marble's debut album A Different Arrangement should make any fan of early synth pop pioneers like OMD or Soft Cell very happy. Or as happy as an exceedingly gloomy album can make one happy, that is. The duo of Chris Stewart and Ty Kube does an amazing job of recapturing both the sound and feel of early-'80s darkwave and synth pop artists, with some added Joy Division input just to make things less cheery. Kube's mastery of conjuring appropriately clunky and clinky sounds from vintage synths and drum machines is half the equation; Stewart's deep and intense vocals are the other. Though there are traces of predecessors like Ian Curtis in his sound, he conveys enough choked emotion of his own that it's easy to give him a pass. Thanks to the decidedly authentic retro sound the duo creates, A Different Arrangement gives off a decidedly nostalgic impression, helped along by the decision to master the album with all the high end lopped off. This makes the album sound like it was recorded and mixed at the bottom of a pool, which only adds to the sense of restrained and cloistered emotion that runs behind the façade of frozen synths and drum machines. There's not a single moment of sunshine to break the gloom, but the strict devotion to sound and atmosphere that the pair adhere to throughout the record creates an unbroken, melancholic mood that is easy to sink deeply into and embrace. Plus, there are a lot of strong melodies to keep you company as you wallow, and the band displays a fair amount of variation in tempo and instrumentation, so that the record doesn't just wash over you in a monochromatic blur that lacks detail. A Different Arrangement might not be the kind of album that one could cozy up to on a sunny summer day, but on a cold, wintery night it just might be the kind of sound you want to hear as you burrow under the blankets. It's also an impressive debut from a pair who have completely mastered their craft. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 13, 2018 | Hardly Art

The full-length debut of a project by a well-established member of the Seattle indie music community, Single Rider introduces the discontented synth pop of Jenn Ghetto, formerly of Carissa's Wierd and S. Over the course of more than a decade with her solo project S, she delivered guitar-centric lo-fi that was eventually fleshed out with a full band on 2014's Cool Choices. After releasing the dark, post-punky "No One," her first song as Jenn Champion, in 2016, she settled into a more elegant, longing, synth-textured sound that, alongside programmed drums, still incorporates guitar. The airy opening track, "O.M.G. (I'm All Over It)," has a sophisticated, jazzy pop sheen that recalls bands like Everything But the Girl, and 2010s bands Tiny Fireflies and Young Galaxy. Songs like "Coming for You" and "Holding On" are similarly delicate and haunting but still anchored by sturdy beats and earworm choruses. That recipe holds true for most of the album, though it avoids feeling formulaic with the help of tracks including "Mainline," which plays with wobbly textures, funky rhythms, and judiciously placed silences. Elsewhere, "Time to Regulate" makes efficient use of contrasting timbres, including its keyboard tones, cowbell, and a rare appearance by Ghetto's high falsetto, whereas the rest of the set is heavily populated by her ruminating mid-range. Also danceable, it's a record that might have received heavy rotation on the MTV of the mid-'80s, although lyrics about timeless topics like unrequited love and just plain coping, and its intersection with the more wistful, pop-leaning indie electronica, make Single Rider very much of its time. © Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 13, 2018 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 26, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Hardly Art

Lost Time, Tacocat's third album, is the Seattle quartet's crispest, most focused yet. Their punky pop is delivered with a punch, the guitars have some serious bite, and the rhythm section hits hard. Their previous album, NVM, was a fun bubblegum confection; Lost Time is punk to the core. It's tough to be more hardcore than hating the weekend, it's seriously outsider to (quite correctly) extol the merits of Scully when everyone still loses their stuff over Mulder, and banning R.E.M. from night swimming parties is exactly the right thing to do if you want to keep it real. They also take time out to quickly bash dudes who feel the need to explain everything to women, talk about girls who love horses (over a chugging glam rock beat), and quit the Internet -- all with loud guitars, quick tempos, and lots of energy. Anyone who really liked the poppier aspects of NVM shouldn't be too worried though; there's plenty of shiny pop in their gritty punk. The record sounds like a collection of singles, each as catchy as the last. Their vocal harmonies and sticky guitar riffs, and Emily Nokes' powerful vocals, make everything sound good, with tracks like "FDP," "I Hate the Weekend," and the super-fun "Horse Grrls" sounding like mixtape staples. The handclap-heavy, almost lilting "Leisure Bees" is an album highlight and ends the too-short album with style. Adding more noise and toughness to their sound on Lost Time was a genius move, taking an already very good band and pointing it toward greatness, or at the very least helping Tacocat make one of the most fun punk-pop albums around. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 11, 2018 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 2019 | Hardly Art

Chastity Belt haven't really changed that much since they released their first album, No Regerts, in 2013, but the changes they have made mean a great deal. Where they previously sounded at once rough and languid, they've grown into a band whose instrumental interplay is artful without seeming pretentious, and the dry snarky wit that was a large part of their early work has faded into the middle distance as their lyrics explore more personal and introspective themes. 2019's Chastity Belt, the group's self-titled fourth album, is still clearly the work of the same band, but this music doesn't shout, it insinuates, and the tone of the conversation is intelligent and unguarded. On Chastity Belt, Julia Shapiro's lyrics are full of musings about her life and her circumstances dotted with details about CDs that skip in the car, needing a new bike, or the judgmental look from a friend who knows you're hung over. The stories feel honest, and are more effective for it. There are moments on Chastity Belt where the volume and distortion turn up and add some dynamic texture to the melodies (especially on "It Takes Time"), but even when this music drifts along on its own momentum, the guitar patterns from Shapiro and Lydia Lund -- drummer Gretchen Grimm also adds guitar on a few tracks -- mesh beautifully, with the whole much more than the individual parts. With Grimm and bassist Annie Truscott holding down the bottom end with a subtle but sure hand, this is music that takes its time but is never less than absorbing and rewards repeated listening. Chastity Belt's musical evolution has been a fascinating and rewarding thing to witness, and this may be their smartest and most compelling music to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 28, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 14, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 21, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2019 | Hardly Art

Shana Cleveland has found an audience in the indie rock community as the leader of the fine surf-infused band La Luz, but before the group took off, she was recording her own variety of idiosyncratic indie folk. Taking a busman's holiday from the group, Cleveland has cut a second album of songs fashioned around her acoustic guitar work and evocative melodies (the first, Oh Man, Cover the Ground, was recorded in 2011 and released in 2015), and 2019's Night of the Worm Moon is a quietly dazzling exercise in moody, expressive acoustic music. The heart of these songs can be found in Cleveland's hushed vocals and subtle guitar work, which lend these performances a feeling somewhere between John Fahey and early Leonard Cohen (think Songs of Leonard Cohen, not I'm Your Man). Meanwhile, the arrangements, in particular Will Sprott's keyboards, fill out the melodies with sounds that conjure a cool, forbidding psychedelic undercurrent that are a splendid complement for Cleveland's spectral guitar. This is a far cry from the smart but sunny approach of La Luz, but Cleveland's understated vocal delivery and the impressionistic bent of her lyrics are two areas of common ground between these projects. And if Night of the Worm Moon is a very different kettle of fish than La Luz, it's similarly rewarding. This album is superb rainy-day listening, music that's subtle but effectively draws the listener into its web, and Cleveland's songs cast a spell that's truly beguiling. At its best, Night of the Worm Moon could pass for some forgotten freak-folk classic of the late '60s or early '70s, though you don't have to follow the trippiness of the past to appreciate its many pleasures. © Mark Deming /TiVo