In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from Hayley Thompson-King, Karla Kane, Tusks and Melville. What have you been listening to lately?
Hayley Thompson-King, "Teratoma"
The work of Massachusetts artist Hayley Thompson-King is born from her passion for both opera and roughed-up rock 'n' roll. And while these sounds may seem like polar opposites in their influence, she takes inspiration from each to create a noise that's equal parts theatrical and raw. Her new record, "Psychotic Melancholia," due out Sept. 1, is a self-proclaimed "Sodom and Gomorrah concept album," which follows the lives of the so-called "wicked" women in the Bible. She takes her experience growing up in a religious household and turns those memories toward the realization of a larger worldview, one that doesn't burden itself with unnecessary labels or restrictions.
On her latest single, "Teratoma," she wrangles a fierce, fuzzed-up garage rock noise out of her need to dismantle the sacred "false idols" of her youth. She achieves an alchemic blend of girl group melodies, scorched honky tonk rhythms and acerbic lyricism by channeling the country and folk-punk influences that seep into every nook and cranny of her work. Her voice rends the air, plucking fervent sounds from the din and distortion of guitars and drums. The song rattles around in your head, a fever that never seems to release its hold and one that you're all too happy to sweat out. There's also a hint of Dum Dum Girls or Best Coast hiding within the track, a summery echo that rings true to her incandescent creativity.
Karla Kane, "The Lilac Line"
As the lead singer-songwriter for The Corner Laughers, San Francisco musician Karla Kane has had plenty of time to form ideas about how best to distil her various influences—both through the work of her band and her solo material. She belongs to a long line of shimmering pop enthusiasts whose work mirrors the unrest she sees around her while wrapping the lyrics in gossamer wisps of bright melody and earnest sentiment. With the forthcoming release of her new record, "King's Daughters Home for Incurables" (out Oct. 6 via Mystery Lawn Music), she looks to her own abilities in exploring these songs, handling the recording herself in her home rather than with a producer in a studio.
With new single "The Lilac Line," she crafts a gorgeous rhythmic atmosphere that's infused with a joyous folk-pop bounce, complete with ukulele and accordion. Dreamlike in its soft-focus imagery, the song (named for the bus line in Nottingham that Kane rides with her U.K. bandmates, Mark and Helen Luker, who also help out here) finds Kane ruminating on the small details of our lives that we often overlook but that can prove to be quite important. It possesses a clever mix of bright harmonies and slight melancholic nostalgia that adds an emotional depth, which provides her with the proper platform to dole out these wondrous and ear-catching sounds.
Tusks is the moniker of London musician Emily Underhill, and through it, she fashions epic soundscapes that jut out to the furthest points on the horizon. From a young age, she was voracious in her appetite for music that pushed the limits of its respective genres—bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Foals provided a sturdy foundation through which she began to pursue her own musical excavations. She is set to release her debut record, "Dissolve," Oct. 13 and is using its runtime to continue to master the details of her own influences and rhythmic tendencies. The sound is open-ended and fills your view with graceful and oceanic bouts of swirling musical eddies.
With her recent single, "Dissolve," Underhill widens her perspective, creating a sound that's utterly mesmerizing in its cinematic perspective. Guitar notes rush up alongside her ethereal voice and soak in the surrounding reverb and mystery. The song channels the boundless emotional release of bands like The Cure and Joy Division but builds its own coherent foundation upon which to express its deep-seated ache and longing. The song is draped in fog and shadows before revealing an iris of iridescent beauty. When she casts aside all hesitation, the music swells and washes over you in an unfiltered cascade of synth-drenched melody and primal catharses. It rises from cathedral chasms to present a vision of pop music that completely subverts any expectations to which we might be holding.
For Portland, Oregon, indie rockers Melville, their chosen sound wasn't immediately clear to them but came from a progression of their collective experiences. Built around the communal influences of singer-songwriter Ryan T. Jacobs, guitarist Dan Bacon, bassist Ryan Aughenbaugh and drummer Juan Felipe, the band began working through a lo-fi alt country swagger on their debut EP before settling on the muscular rock rhythms that currently pervade their work. The band is currently gearing up for the self-release of their debut record, "The New Zero," set to come out Aug. 18. Marked by a ferocious rock attitude and lean guitar riffs, the record reveals their true musical intentions.
On their new single, "Televised," the band digs deep into that classic indie rock sound of the '90s that so many bands hope will save rock music but which so few ever truly understand. But Melville doesn't approach these sounds tentatively—you can't hope to draw any meaning from them. They embrace the rush and roar of indie rock's fierce history and produce something that honors their influences while also placing their distinct stamp on the source material. Swaggering guitar lines ring out as drums beat a rhythmic resonance that'll have you tapping your foot before you hit the second chorus. Indie rock may not be a simple savior for anyone, but Melville shows that it still holds a true relevance and thrill for those who know how to listen.
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.