Bryce Rudow is a contributing writer for All Things Go
Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
- Broke For Free – Gold Lining
There is nothing less valuable than being incredibly knowledgable and opinionated about something that 99.9% of people have little to no interest in. Vast, intimate understanding of things like the tragically-cancelled show Clone High just take up space in my brain, possibly contributing to the fact that I can’t do simple mental math anymore. Over the course of the past two weeks, Broke For Free, and all I now know about them, has situated itself somewhere between Clone High and prosaic deconstructions of Tim Riggins in the cluttered attic of my brain.
It began while I was listening to a song on Soundcloud whose name I didn’t know by a band I can’t remember anymore; once that song ended, Soundcloud fortuitously jumped to the unrelated song “Budding” by San Franciscan Tom Cascino’s musical project Broke For Free. The unassumingly-crescendoed intro was the perfect setup for the classic drumbeat to kick in, and by then, I was hooked. The almost deceptively subtle layering that I eventually realized is a trademark of Cascino’s turned the song into a hypnotic wave that progressed and receded for three minutes and fifty two seconds of sonic pleasure.
A few mouse clicks turned up the 12! releases that he has put out since 2010, including four this year. Over the course of a few days, I pored over them all. I could hear that he’s come a long way since the untextured and aptly-named Directionless EP released only two years ago. The turning point, in my opinion, is “Something Elated” on the Something EP where he begins to really feel out how to best mix bright guitars with fuzzed bass lines and head-nodding beats.
Grass Hop, released just six months later was a major leap from that and dug deep into more chillwaved and nuanced texturing while also incorporating pronounced hip-hop standards of structure.
But if Grass Hop was a major leap, Layers, released only three months after Grass Hop, was a Superman-esque leap that could clear tall buildings in a single bound. The leadoff track “As Colourful As Ever” was the first really beautiful song he had released at the time, but that kind of musical sentimentality fortunately spread to all of his later releases. Songs like “Lonely Organ” off the 6-months-later Leaf displayed an ability to work with glitch and cacophony, as well. But it is truly his latest release, December’s Gold Can Stay, that is his crowning achievement.
The four song album that also features Canadian musician Mark Edwards’ backbone guitar tracks swims between genres and moods to create an experience that could fit just as well in a hip-hop mixtape as an indie pop label’s sampler. “The Gold Lining”, in particular, is an awe-inspiring and smile-inducing bit of instrumentalia.
While Abe and Joan will never resolve their feelings for each other on Clone High and Tim Riggins is content on his little piece of Texas, Cascino is still on the move forward and I can only hope that one day more people will have experienced the musical bliss that is Broke For Free.
*Just in case you weren’t impressed enough with Cascino, check out his photography and art at http://tomcascino.com
- Chloe Howl – No Strings
When I first heard “No Strings”, my first thought was, “How the hell is this girl not one of the most famous pop stars out there?” Sure, catchy pop songs are a dime a dozen, but this has that indefinable sound and attitude that effervesces an air of “I should be a number one song.” Combining the instrumentation of pop-sensible acts like Foster The People with defiant vocals that harken to Lily Allen and Kate Nash is a guaranteed recipe for success. Throw in that Chloe is a 17 year old cute redhead with a so-ridiculous-that-I-kind-of-like-it moppy haircut, and this is every record label’s wet dream.
Chloe Howl puts personality into her pop, whether it be No Strings or the more recent “Rumour“, and if she isn’t getting put in the background of random commercials or Girls episodes soon, I will be absolutely shocked.
- Ghost Beach – Close Enough
“Welp, they’re about to blow up.” “Yep”. That encompasses the conversation I had with ATG editor Adrian Maseda when he sent me Ghost Beach’s latest single. The song is the perfect mix of familiarly catchy but innovatively distinct.
A few months ago, I wrote about “Been There Before“, a song of Ghost Beach’s 2012 Modern Tongues EP, and remarked that because of the contrast between their raw vocals yet sweet synth lines (something they’ve dubbed “grit pop”), they’ve carved a nice niche for themselves. I also said that, “I expect there to be no way not to hear more about them in 2013.” Double negatives aside, “Close Enough” might be the song that proves me right.
Recruiting help from from dream pop duo Noosa’s Sky Barbarick, they’ve concocted a glitzy, skittery single that is incredibly replayable. Sky’s soothing vocals balance out the spastic sound of Ghost Beach, finally giving them a song that is not just enjoyable, but incredibly marketable as well. I’m really curious to see how this elevates the band from here on out.
- Eliza and the Bear – Upon the North
I hate to peel the curtain back a bit, but I keep a Google doc of all the songs I come across that I think might be good to write about. It’s a jumbled mix of band names, song titles, and garbled half thought-out notes. Eliza and the Bear have been sitting in that doc since one of my fellow All Things Go writers introduced them a month ago, and I consider it a source of personal shame that it’s taken me this long to find a time to write about them here.
It’s no shock to anyone that Mumford and Sons and their many imitators have done their best to turn rock and roll into harmless, slightly folky rock that plays well to Grammy audiences. One of my friends has likened them to this generation’s Dave Matthews Band; they are admittedly talented, they write catchy songs, they have a huge fan base, but there is just something about them that doesn’t sit well with (I hate that I’m writing this) more “refined” musical pallets (To all DMB lovers out there, I’m sorry. I just never got it. “Crush“, “Two Step“, and “Where Are You Going?” are the only ones I have ever had the urge to listen to multiple times).
But it might be because of the Mumfordization of this breed of rock that makes me like Eliza and the Bear even more. They take that same ilk, and they give it an incredibly refreshing kick in the ass. Frontman James Kellegher invokes a raw joy into every word and note, reminiscent of Travis Morrison when he gets riled up or rising stars Local Natives. With only one 8 month old single and their two-song 7″ still a week away from release, this band has nowhere to go but up. While a few years ago they might have opened up for a band like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them snowball into an opening slot for The Lumineers, Avett Brothers or even Mumford himself (maybe they can sabotage from within).
You can pre-order their 7″ here or grab it when it’s released February 25th.