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Published May 13, 2015 on The Le Sigh

Bands like Leggy don’t grow on trees.

It’s finally officially spring and that means it’s time to pop the peach champagne and kick off your high-heeled shoes. If Leggy’s debut EP Cavity Castle is a sugar rush, their follow-up EPNice Try is a day-drinking buzz — stronger and sunnier with more bite. The Cincinnati trio of Véronique Allaer, Kerstin Bladh, and Chris Campbell have spent the year since Cavity Castlealmost constantly playing shows, whether it’s a local residency or mini tour, and it’s evident on the new EP. Allaer sings more confidently, playfully pushing and pulling the lyrics out of her mouth on “July” in a way that’s flirty, but also totally cool and intimidating, like mermaids of ancient legend (which brings the line “Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea” to a whole new level). That’s not the only time Leggy references mythology, more obviously on “Adonis,” yet the advice is relevant as ever: “Our twenties aren’t for playing safe.”

But if your Adonis, I think, or Apollo doesn’t work out, just put on “Grrls Like Us” on repeat and get drunk with your girlfriends because who else are you gonna shout, “There are plenty of fish in the sea, but girls like us don’t grow on trees” with? The infectious single combines all the best things about Leggy: a hip-shake-friendly bassline, drums you want to headbang to, and Allaer’s vocal flourishes that are irresistible to mimic on every sing-along (and there are a lot of sing-alongs because the main thing about Leggy songs is that they get stuck in your head forever). The way Allaer spits out “The future’s shining like a jar of fucking fireflies” makes me believe it’s the best Lindsay Weir line Linda Cardellini never said. John Hoffman and Jerri Queen return as co-producers for Nice Try, rounding out Leggy’s genre-spanning punk-meets-pop-meets-old school rock with a surf vibes sprinkled on top — perfect EP opener/introduction “Peach” epitomizes this. Also coming back for round two is the track “High Heeled Shoes,” this time titled “HHS 2” and given a punched up, fuzzier rework of the hazy, wandering original. Giving “HHS” a more upbeat, thus subtlety sinister, spin on Don Draper’s likely inner theme song (“I’m never coming home, I really lost my way”) showcases how much Leggy’s grown in such a short time, and they’re only going to get better. There are plenty of bands in the sea, but ones like Leggy don’t grow on trees.

Published March 11, 2015 on The Le Sigh

Kali Uchis’ sixties-inspired Por Vida is as fresh as a beach breeze.

Kali Uchis will not put up with bullshit. Lame dudes may mistake her coy voice, retro pastel aesthetic, on point makeup and sugary tunes for a sweet pushover, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Not all of Kali Uchis’ jabs are as tough as “Ridin’ Round”‘s (“Baby, understand, I don’t need a man / Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse, then take off to Japan”) but the message is clear: Treat Kali Uchis less than she deserves, and she’ll realize she “should have left your ass in the friendzone,” from the self-aware “Know What I Want.” Still, her romantic side shines through on debut EP Por Vida, especially on the back-to-back smitten “Melting” and “Lottery”: “Your smile ignites just like a candlelight / Then somehow I know everything is alright.” Kali Uchis shows off her range of vocal styles on a cappella opening track “Sycamore Tree,” layering sweet, airy and cooing tones with a deep, soulful and biting hook.

Tyler, the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD top the roster of Por Vida‘s producers, who keep Kali Uchis’ love of sixties sound as fresh as a beach breeze. A resident of LA via Virginia via Colombia, the chill West Coast influences mixed with her Latin background help create Kali Uchis’ signature tropical doo-wop sound and candy throwback look. “Rush”, produced by Kaytranada and BBNG, is the EP’s grooviest track, which simultaneously makes you want to grab a partner for a proper Latin ballroom routine and bob your head and bounce like the coolest dude in the club. Closing song “Loner” puts a baby pink bow on Por Vida‘s back-and-forth extremes of “go on and bite me” and “boy just call me” with what should be at the top of the “I’m dating myself!” playlist. Kali Uchis is tired of being treated like an “ashtray” and puts an end to a toxic relationship because that’s not what she, or anyone, deserves: “And maybe you got a full plate / Know I’m cookin’ something better.”

Published Dec. 5, 2014 on The Le Sigh

Garbage Beach is a record for millennials in the most sincere, non-hashtagged sense.

Garbage Beach is a real place. In an interview with Impose Magazine, Outer Spaces’ mastermind Cara Beth Satalino said the title of her debut EP is an ode to a swimming hole she frequented when she lived in Athens, Georgia. “It’s a very romantic place. It’s easy to fall in love with, but at a certain point I knew I had to leave.” This works as the theme of Garbage Beach, out now on Salinas Records. The music sounds comforting and warm, but there’s this looming sense that things will end – or that things need to end – like graduating school, changing jobs or moving to a new city. Which is exactly what Satalino did in the middle of creating this Outer Spaces EP. She packed up in Athens and moved to Baltimore, where she, Chester Gwazda and Rob Dowler, finished writing and recorded Garbage Beach.

Throughout Garbage Beach, Satalino sings of changing seasons, moving away, leaving parties, visiting home, shifting winds and passing trains. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to connect to the record, because from high school through your twenties, life contains a lot of changes riddled with uncertainty, excitement, anxiety, moving up, out and on. Garbage Beach is a record for millennials, in the most sincere, non-hashtagged sense. “Civilization’s Dying”, the folkiest song on the EP, offers a bleak, but all too true, perspective on how the economy sucks for young people (/everyone), and especially hits home with who were too cavalier in taking on college debt. “We’ll be buried in debt, even after we’re dead / They’ll take the shirt off your back, and the sheets from your bed.” “Gun Song” acts as a counterpoint to those condescending thinkpieces that label twenty-somethings as selfish carefree narcissists. “Everybody says ‘Oh, to be young’ / They wanna write their names on the sun / Everybody says it, but they’re wrong.” As Satalino sings of bittersweet times, her guitar, Gwazda’s keys and Dowler’s drum create a safe, warm indie rock space where you can sway out your weird life problems.

Published Oct. 21, 2014 on The Le Sigh

She Keeps Bees’ stunning fourth album is both explosive and restrained.

The first time I saw She Keeps Bees live was at a Saturday night showcase at the end of a long CMJ week. I was tired, my feet hurt, I was coming down with an awful cold, and my phone was dead. I knew better than to force myself to stand next to my friends and inflict my gross mood on them, so I sat on a stool along the wall, charged my phone and enjoyed the music from afar. I did this until She Keeps Bees’ set, which was the sole reason I toughed out the long night. Two people — Jessica Larrabee on guitar and vocals and Andy LaPlant on drums — set up on the floor a few feet away from me with a small drum kit, guitar and mic. For that thirty minute set, my ears and mind were too mesmerized to remind my body it was ready to be in bed. I was blown away by their effortless presence; the way Larrabee would swiftly start songs by leaning into the mic and letting the words roll out; the room’s high energy feeding off these relatively restrained songs. She Keeps Bees set was the sigh of relief that it was all worth it.

Eight Houses, She Keeps Bees’ fourth album, on Future Gods, has more texture and instrumentation (including some backing vocals from Sharon Van Etten) than the live set, but it still holds on to all the compelling restraint and tension. “Breezy,” “Greasy Grass” and “Raven” are as explosive as it gets on Eight Houses, and even those tracks manage to wobble on a tightrope without ever falling off. Larrabee’s voice is truly special, and every tiny waver bursts a well of emotion, especially on “Waischu.” On Eight Houses, She Keeps Bees lets that tension and strength in the music push into the lyrics, as Larrabee constantly sends out challenges: “You’ll have to send a strong goddamn wind to get rid of me” on “Owl”. “Both Sides” stands out for shifting away from She Keeps Bees’ usual blues folk rock and riffs at something more noisy, contrasting with the quiet following track “Burning Bowl” that features only Larrabee’s voice and piano. The other sparse standout is the album closer. “It Is What It Is,” which is the sigh of relief at the end of a long, tiring night. The music is soft and full, as is Larrabee’s voice, though she pulls back on its power. What really hits you in your gut are the lyrics — the incredibly life-affirming lines, “You are worthy, I am worthy,” in particular. The stress I was holding in the pit of my stomach dissolved as those lines breathed over me.

Published September 4, 2014 on The Le Sigh

Welcome to the Painted Zeros party.

Parties have a pattern. There’s the quiet start, when those who still think “fashionably late” is a thing haven’t arrived yet, and others are still warming up with their first beer. Then the first *right* song comes up on the playlist, and the worry of, “Will this night be fun?” starts to float away. Something strange probably happens to slow things down, but it’s over before you finish shotgunning a beer. Maybe next you start chatting with the cutie you’ve been making eyes with all evening, hopefully followed by some smooching. By the end of the night, arms are slung over the shoulders of friends old and new, the drunken shout-a-longs start and “too drunk to function” nears reality (drink responsibly, y’all.)

Painted Zeros’ debut EP Svalbard is like a condensed party score, pushing through all those ups and downs, sexy twists and drunk turns in just five songs. Opener “This American Life” has the same comforting breeze as The Spinanes’ sunset-driving “Kid In Candy”, and Katie Lau’s warm voice welcomes you into the party while handing you a drink. But this sunniness is only on the surface, and Lau confesses the darkness of dealing with depression: “Morning slips into my bed / Wake up so tired and I feel dead / Obsessive thoughts in my head / And I’ve already taken all my meds”. Lau plays all the instruments on the record and mixed the EP, though Painted Zeros performs live as a three-piece, based in Brooklyn. Lau does her best to shake it off on “Polar Night,” kicking up the crunchy guitars and repeatedly shouting “It’s okay, yeah it’s alright” over riffs, like the moment your buzz sneaks up on you. The 30-second-long “II. C ReE & SG Sek” is a wacky interlude which jumbles sweet guitar plucking, flowing water and braking cars as clips of movie dialogue and a stubbornly confused Siri almost converse. Kinky “Jaime” is when the flirtation proves successful, and you know it’s on. Lau’s so overcome by lust she doesn’t even care how she’s articulating her desire: “Jaime, I want you every way / I want you so bad, it sounds like a cliché”. She trades the warmth in her voice for seduction and playfulness, putting it all out on the line: “Jaime, don’t be so cruel / You know your love turns me into a fool”. Closing track “Too Drunk” is exactly what you hope it might be — descending into messy shouts of “too drunk of function”, as if the song is becoming more inebriated as it continues on. Like the opening track, the jolly drunken shouting is a cover for an existential crisis over the toll partying is taking on her life. She’s tired of wasting days hungover and making choices she’s no proud of: “It’s not any fun going home with someone when I wake up the mistake”/ That “I’m never drinking again” thought is only too relatable, as is all of Svalbard. Lau’s working through with her personal demons and desires, and life doesn’t unfold as predictably and perfectly as a teen movie house party montage. And that’s totally okay, because we have this great record to help cope.

Published July 15, 2014 on The Le Sigh

Honeyblood’s pioneering mean girl-core.

Honeyblood is really good at insults. On their debut self-titled album, there’s the sharp “When Mother Nature planned for age / She must’ve forgot about you,” followed by the backhanded, “Growing old gracefully / Is an art form, you see,” on “All Dragged Up.” “Super Rat” opens with a deceptively breezy guitar riff before going in, “You are the smartest rat in the sewer”. It gets worse. By the chorus, singer and guitarist Stina Tweeddale doesn’t bother sugarcoating it. “I will hate you forever”, she sings and drummer Shona McVicar joins to help with some classic, biting namecalling: “Scumbag, sleaze, slimeball, grease / You really do disgust me”. Something tells me “Super Rat” would fit right in on the Mean Girls soundtrack, which probably has something to do with its pretty, pleasant sounds that not-quite-mask the sharp, sometimes malicious, lyrics. But seriously, a Cady-Heron-hanging-out-with-the-Plastics montage always inexplicably starts rolling in my head when “I will hate you forever” kicks in.

The Glasgow duo doesn’t save up all their smart punches on the record for amazing jabs at exes, and Tweeddale’s smooth, sweet voice carries the strength and attitude behind the barbs through all of her emotions and stories. Honeyblood muses on happy relationships, moving on from bad ones, supportive best friendships and passes on practical life wisdom: “You know you’re destined to lose / When a fortune cookie dictates your next move,” (“Fortune Cookie”); “Cynics never fall in love / They just blame it on lust,” (“Joey”); “Time is against us / Circumstance likes to dick around,” (“Killer Bangs” — plus, points for the phrase “dick around”). As Honeyblood transitions through all sorts of relatable Young Adult Feelings, they naturally flow from noisy pop and ’90s rock to upbeat punk and bluesy ballads.Honeyblood, out on FatCat Records, isn’t missing anything by not having a bassist — Tweeddale and McVicar don’t need it. After releasing only a cassette and two 7″s, they’ve just about perfected writing full, lush pop songs that thrive by not having anything extra added in to muddle things up. It’s fitting that Honeyblood’s first full-length record opens with “Fall Forever,” because they’ll surely fall “straight into your heart”.

Published May 22, 2014 on The Le Sigh

SALES’ makes intimate pop that will never get old.

Over the last 10 months, SALES have been releasing singles on soundcloud as a steady build to their first full-length record (TLS covered their “Renee” / “Tonka Time” 7″ earlier this year). SALES’ newest track “Vow” is also a slow build in itself; it hangs at the same relaxed pace throughout, thanks to a boomerang guitar line and Lauren Morgan’s gentle voice. As Lauren sings, she bounces on top of each word and never reaches her full volume, like you’re hanging out and playing music in her room but don’t want to annoy the roommates. Jordan Shih provides deceivingly subtle backing on drums, also never making more noise than absolutely necessary. The Orlando duo toes the line of folk, indie pop, lo-fi and minimalism and refuses to commit to one genre, which is part of SALES’ intimate appeal. “Vow” tackles the confusion of intimacy, as well: “Looked at you too long at last / Fell apart in the lows of a laugh.” To cap off the 3-minutes, liquid guitar riffs flow over Jordan’s steady rhythms giving the perfect finishing touch. If you’re in the NYC area next month, come see SALES play at the Paper Box on June 20, presented by THE LE SIGH, with Kaiotic Music and The Epoch. Florist, Small Wonder and Told Slant will also be playing.