In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from Nathan Oliver, Gold Casio, Bolywool and Flagship Romance. What have you been listening to lately?
Nathan Oliver, "Clean Sheets"
Based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Nathan Oliver is the moniker of songwriter Nathan White and a rotating cast of musical friends. This bedroom project finds this collective exploring their alt rock memories and discovering the roots of their individual inspirations. With the release of "Head in the Sand" (out June 9 via PotLuck Foundation), White and his backing band return from an eight-year hiatus to deliver a cacophony of robust pop-rock diversions that speaks to the diversity of their histories. It's a fractured look back at a time when strenuous guitar theatrics and pop pleasures would mingle on radio stations and catch the ear of rock enthusiasts and pop hounds alike.
On his new single, "Clean Sheets," he blends a hummable, poppy beat with jangling guitars and melodies that seem to go on for miles. Bouncy with just a bit of bite, the track captures that breezy late spring ease that seems destined to lead into the hotter parts of early summer. The music plays around with a handful of elusive pop fragments, exploring the common sounds that form the backbone of the genre. By incorporating some alt rock bluster, "Clean Sheets" doesn't just laze about waiting for us to casually wander over to its pop-rock atmosphere but makes its intentions known very quickly. The song is a blissfully infectious slice of weightless pop confection.
Gold Casio, "Socialites and Singer Types"
Disco's not dead. Admittedly, it's been decades since those sounds ruled the airwaves, but Portland, Oregon's day-glo dance purveyors Gold Casio are making a serious attempt to change that. Blurring the lines between pop and nu-disco until the distinction seems more like an afterthought than a guideline, the band conjures images of fluorescent clubs and neon bodies moving in rapid succession together. Their upcoming EP, "Fever Dreams," is set for a June 23 release and looks to find the band in a playful and ebullient art pop mood. The songs feel as though you've just inhaled a bag of glitter and are breathing rainbows with every step and whirl.
On their new song, "Socialites and Singer Types," the band traverses a bouncy disco landscape where ebullient beats and throbbing synths bob along with lyrics about the collection of personalities who inhabit the Technicolor world of the dance floor. These sounds get down into the muscles and sinews of your body, causing spontaneous rhythmic movement that might or might not make you look silly. But really, you're not going to care once the music starts. The band throws themselves fully into the strobe lights and concussive wavelengths that radiate out from the club, more than delivering on their self-styled "psychedelic disco" aesthetic. Dance until morning or leave the building, although Gold Casio would probably prefer if you stayed.
Bolywool was formed in 1998 by cousins Calle Thoor and Oskar Karlström, and the two Sweden-based musicians envision their work as a shoegaze/post-punk ode to the various bands who have had such a large influence on their respective musical tendencies. Dense but never earthbound by their gravity, the band's songs collect a handful of compact sounds into a finite space, where countless rhythmic interactions occur and create an opaque musical landscape. The band has just released "From Void to Matter Volume 1," the first in a trilogy of EPs set for 2017, and they don't feel obligated to stay within the lines of any given sound but venture into unknown waters for some unique and refreshingly insular musical detours.
On recent single "Hafmeyjan," the duo reveals a lite shoegaze perspective that hits all the right notes and textures. Nothing is so condensed that it feels weighed down by the generalities of the genre. Synths rock back and forth while hushed vocals spin around in a tight space of melodic revelation. The song is a beautiful ode to the force and conviction of the shoegaze genre that also provides some lightness to a sound often obscured by darker distortions. The band creates a masterful distillation of these dense noises and subsequently offers it as a gift to those who wander through this gauzy forest of rippling tones and sounds.
Flagship Romance, "Growing Up So Fast"
The work of alt folk duo Flagship Romance (Shawn Fisher and Jordyn Jackson) recalls the harmonic resonance of The Civil Wars or The Avett Brothers. After the dissolution of his previous band and the ensuing legal battle with their label, Fisher receded into anxiety and depression. But this haze of anxious thoughts lifted when he met Jackson, and the two immediately hit it off. They would go on to marry. Forming Flagship Romance, they sought to examine the fears and emotional baggage of the past through a glistening folk atmosphere. With the forthcoming release of "Tales From the Self-Help Section" (out Aug. 4), they're looking to share their hard-earned insight with anyone within earshot.
On their latest song, "Growing Up So Fast," Fisher and Jackson evoke the gentle rumination of various '60s singer-songwriters but present it within the realm of a gleaming folk illumination. Their encircling voices sway and encourage, building up a pastoral landscape where hearts, bodies and muscles join in a rhythmic wave of elation and earnest inclusivity. Aided by a glorious pop influence, their work doesn't lose its edge by forging a strong relationship with melody; rather, it reveals a deeper understanding of these foundations by mixing all these elements together in a way that speaks to their collective musical abilities. Nostalgia and experience twist and lean on one another as the band lays out a beautiful landscape where they can use different noises to release their mysteries.
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.