In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with new music from Holy Wars, Black Dough, The Yorks and Nathan Xander. What have you been listening to lately?
Holy Wars, "I Can't Feel a Thing"
Recalling the darker pop instincts of bands like Crystal Castles and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Los Angeles band Holy Wars creates a dense and feral melodic atmosphere where deep, unrestrained emotion is untethered and left to roam against a wild synthetic backdrop. The rippling rhythms and evocative sounds are courtesy of singer Kat Leon and the heartache that she has suffered in recent years. She lost both her mother and father in a short period of time, but this emotional ruin has given rise to a new musical inspiration that has allowed her to work through her loss by using it as fodder for a series of forthcoming EPs ("Mother" and "Father") that seeks to document these shattering experiences.
On the band's new single, "I Can't Feel a Thing," the darker lyrical sentiments are echoed by the dense, ragged musical rhythms that shake within this gothic pop landscape. There's anger and heartache shaking through this alt rock noise, but it doesn't follow the banal movements that crowd the mainstream waters of rock music. Leon's voice is a tremendous thing, full of dramatic highs and lows—and acting opposite these dark pop-rock inclinations gives it just the right amount of edge and surprising inclusivity. Washing over you in tumultuous waves of gauzy rock melodies and sharp pop devastations, the track reaches into the shadowy places we try to leave behind and finds a series of caustic rock revelations that can't be denied.
Black Dough, "Nighty Night"
Formed in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2013, the jazz-rock quartet Black Dough specializes in a hybrid of jazz and rock experimentation, the sort of manic assemblage that defies convention and pulls at the heart of specific influences. Their work is nimble but weighted, an atmosphere of artificial emotional gravity that revels in its lack of classifiable traditions. Saxophones, synths, guitars and drums attack one another and fold together to create an amorphous collection of tones and patterns that gel into a curiously coherent whole. With the recent release of their new record, "Freaky Family," the band is set to continue their fervent rhythmic innovation without sacrificing the dramatic mystery inherent to their music.
On recent single "Nighty Night," the band combines their jazz and experimental rock inclinations to create a shivering landscape where sounds pounce and withdraw, a hesitant but dangerous place where sudden movements can lead to inexplicable experiences. This track is a wild animal, a beast that espouses the joy of unpredictable jazz rhythms and embraces the psych rock complications that churn and surface from time to time. The band doesn't single out one particular sound but opts to incorporate everything into a clanging bit of genre hopping that feels fascinating. Black Dough wants to show the boundless possibilities of music, and on "Nighty Night," they do just that.
The Yorks, "Liaison"
The work of Los Angeles group The Yorks is steeped in a gentle psychedelic rock history, bathed in an acid groove wash of memorable melodies and hazy arrangements. Their songs feel casual but are filled with moments that feel cavernous in their resolution. They worked with Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen (Gardens and Villa) on their new self-titled EP—due out Aug. 18—and found a way to harness the familiarity of their indie rock reverberations while creating a drastic individuality that shakes the genre to its foundation. They're not simply retreading common ground—they're rebuilding their influences by looking at the variant commonalities that exist within their chosen sounds.
On new single "Liaison," they take a good look at the repercussions of a failed relationship as seen through the lens of reverb-drenched indie rock. Voices sway and echo while gentle guitar notes float across a steady drumbeat—it's a perfectly balanced piece of music that reveals the difficulties in trying to piece together the frayed feelings after love has strayed from your heart. Dialing in from the same musical lineage as bands like Real Estate or Beach Fossils, they capture the brief and chaotic period of time where hesitation and desperation make people lose their humility as they try in vain to make sense of a senseless thing. Contrasting the spiraling guitar lines against this need for understanding, The Yorks work through an insightful intuition and offer a unique perspective on the ensuing emotional havoc.
Nathan Xander, "Over You, Over Me"
There's a joyful melancholy in the songs of New York native and singer-songwriter Nathan Xander. His voice belongs to an older time, one where Americana doesn't sound so simple and folk music never lost its passion. His simple arrangements obscure a complicated emotional wilderness, an acoustic warren where stories are told around campfires and history is passed down through song. He's a traveler and possesses a voice that bears the mark of many miles and echoes the loneliness of the road. He's currently gearing up for the release of his new record, "Blue House," due out July 3, which finds him flitting from one bit of musical geography to the next within his own insular landscapes.
On his latest single, "Over You, Over Me," he dips into the traditions of classic '70s singer-songwriters without losing his own insight into these communal sounds. With nods to the glorious folk stories of Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt, this track follows in a long line of songs that work within the familiar to explore the unknown. Love and heartache coexist quite reasonably in this song, but Xander doesn't favor one over the other—there's an acceptance that dominates this musical conversation. Xander is simply passing on his own experiences and thoughts through a shuffling country-folk landscape, leaving the reflection and internal emotional mechanics to each individual who happens to come across these sounds.
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.