In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from Quicksilver Daydream, Emma Elisabeth, CO/NTRY and MINKA. What have you been listening to lately?
Quicksilver Daydream, "Echoing Halls"
Brooklyn musician Adam Lytle, the man behind psych-folk outfit Quicksilver Daydream, creates sprawling, infectious landscapes that roll and rumble in ethereal and rustic waves. Known for his work with Wild Leaves, he spins a web of folk grace and psych theatricality, a spinning whirlwind of gothic intentions and languid melodies. With the forthcoming release of his debut record, "Echoing Halls," under this moniker, Lytle looks to break apart his myriad influences into a manageable chunk of noise and inspiration. But he's not simply segmenting these sounds because he can—there's a pattern to his work that keeps you constantly off guard.
On his new single, the title track from his forthcoming record, Lytle casts a shivering bass line over an airy percussive swagger while exploring a melody that you can hear from miles away. Channeling the softer side of bands like Comus and The Incredible String Band, he ruminates over a swell of strings and keys that conjure the spirit of the late '60s and sets you down in the middle without anything in the way of instruction. But it's this directionless approach that allows the song to mold itself to its listeners' experiences, resulting in a song that feels drawn from our own personal history and well-guarded memories.
Emma Elisabeth, "Where Do Tears Go"
Emma Elisabeth is a Swedish musician who lives in Berlin and is currently trying to express the ebullient and complex pop scene inherent to her home country while infusing her influences with a fuzzed-out rock independence. She carefully links the pop and rock aspects of her personality into a long line of open-ended spontaneity and a need to share with anyone who happens to be near. She's gearing up for the release of an EP, which she created alongside producer Victor Van Vugt, and is continuing to refine and reinvent her blissfully intoxicating pop landscapes.
There's a bittersweet tenacity to the words of her latest single, "Where Do Tears Go," a simple but resonant emotional yearning that keeps the song from caving to an empty sentimentality. The accompanying video, created by Lucy Dyson and Mariana Jocic, is an ethereal and gorgeous realization of the music. We watch as Elisabeth sings to us, her face the only thing we see for most of the video, and it's through her smiles and piercing eyes that we connect with the song on a visceral and visual level. There's nothing crowding out the heart of her creativity—the song is a brilliant bit of indie pop that favors the sound of jangling guitars and sparkling melodies that creep up on you quietly before settling deep down into your dreams.
CO/NTRY, "Cash Out"
Self-described as an "adult-contemporary post-punk duo," CO/NTRY (AKA Newfoundland-born, Montreal-based musicians Beaver Sheppard and David Whitten) more than lives up to that description. But it's also a bit misleading, as their sound jumps across genres and aesthetics with a gleeful unpredictability. Opting for an occasionally fuzzy '80s-indebted pop presence, the band steers their work clear of any semblance of imitation and delivers a jolting shock to your pop expectations. Their new record, "Cell Phone 1," is due out today via Fantôme Records and revels in a peculiar melodicism, one that clearly strives for abject inspiration and won't settle for anything less.
On recent single "Cash Out," they roll out the post-punk carpet and embrace that particular early '80s scene with a special affection. Drawing comparisons to the early releases of The Cure, this song doesn't flinch or look away when you mention its influences. It sees them as a means to an end—and that end is a splendid pop brilliance that sends sparks into the air. But even though the '80s-ness of the track is immediately apparent, there is never a sense that they're simply latching on to this sound for banal goals. They create a gloriously tangible pop atmosphere that seeps into your lungs with every inhalation and seems to grow larger in the deepest parts of your chest.
By its own admission, Philadelphia-based group MINKA is a dance band. And after hearing that declaration, you might be tempted to embrace certain speculation about its musical characteristics. But for a band whose perspective on music is so expansive, this reductive labeling only furthers specific dance floor stereotypes. With the release of their forthcoming EP, "Born in the Viper Room" (out May 26), they strengthen their resolve to produce music that stands fast against spurious assumptions and carves a unique path through the kaleidoscopic world of pop music. The sounds are familiar, but MINKA twists and subverts the inclinations we might ascribe the resulting mélange of melody.
Within seconds of the beginning of their new single, "Josephine," a distinctly Bowie-esque voice greets us and proceeds to pull us out onto the dance floor, where the music glitters and glistens in the low light. There's no guarantee as to its intention, but we're happy to follow along. Guitars fire off bolts of rhythmic lightning while drums shadowbox with the air around our heads. If you're looking for a song that implores you to forget your inhibitions and just dance like an idiot, "Josephine" may be exactly what you've been looking for—it's a brash and raucous slice of dance pop that won't rest until you're exhausted, covered in sweat and ready to hit the next club down the street.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.