Purity Ring

After sixty-five fortnights, Purity Ring have returned with their super- tight second album Another Eternity. The pair ventured home to the frozen industrial landscapes of their birthplace Edmonton, Alberta to document much of what was to become the album. For the first time, vocalist Megan James and producer Corin Roddick were able to create a record in the same room.

Purity Ring’s first album Shrines was recorded separately in Montreal and Halifax, where Corin and Megan were respectively living at the time. Despite being a thousand kilometers apart and barely talking, Shrines was a cohesive, beguiling and wholly unique universe of what the band called ‘Future Pop.’ At the center of the amniotic swirl of Shrines was an undeniable nucleus of crystalline pop which presciently suggested both indie and popular music to come. Critics were psyched: ‘Best New Music’ from Pitchfork and praise from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and NPR, among others. They quickly amassed a rabid fanbase, toured relentlessly and sold out shows worldwide.

On Another Eternity, Purity Ring trade the gorgeously claustrophobic atmospheres of Shrines for wide-open, muscular vistas of sound and luminous, up-front vocals. Crafting a lyrical universe of “sweat and dreams” populated by seacastles, rattling spines, and weeping drawers, Megan James wields concrete imagery and metaphor with increasingly direct, startling resonance. Corin Roddick’s gifts for evocative melody remain intact, but his drum work and use of space have been completely reforged: immaculately built and focused in service of the song.

“begin again” rouses Purity Ring’s brooding balladry into a sky- reaching anthem while retaining its distinctive shape. “bodyache” is the kind of devastatingly infectious single that their previous work only gestured at. “stillness in woe” features a frozen, manipulated piano, dovetailing with Megan’s time suspending narrative. “repetition” finds surreal, love-lorn lyricism soaring over delicately woven synths. The emotional geography of Another Eternity is wider than ever: gloomy valleys and gleaming peaks in even measure. Though they are now working at a higher resolution, Purity Ring remain hands-on with every aspect of their project. As usual, the band produced and recorded Another Eternity entirely themselves. The pair worked to develop an innovative new live performance, and Megan designed the band’s onstage and video fashion.

Another Eternity revels in its upfront melody, clarity, and confidence. With every step forward they take, Purity Ring actualize their vision while sounding utterly and undeniably like themselves.

Ghostland Observatory

Ghostland Observatory’s entire approach to music – sonically, aesthetically, conceptually – is essentially a melding of the two distinctly different personalities of its two members, Thomas Ross Turner and Aaron Behrens. Whereas Turner, the producer/drummer/keyboardist of the duo, finds solace in the minimal, bleak cable-patch squawks of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the analog-disco-thump of Giorgio Moroder, Behrens’ interests lie more along the lines of psychedelia, rock and various country and blues artists.

The result is a shimmering, pulsing pop music that is at once kinetically alive with Behrens’ striking vocals and driving guitar work but also anchored firmly by Turner’s percussive beats and Moog-generated melodies and hooks. Common descriptions include “electro-dance rock,” “synth-funk” and “Freddie Mercury-helms-Daft Punk.”

Deciding to produce a style of music that as yet existed only in their collective consciousnesses; Behrens and Turner formed Ghostland Observatory in Austin in 2003 and haen’t looked back since. They now sell out prominent venues across the country, have played at Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, Coachella and the Austin City Limits music festival, which they headlined, and continue to play at various music festivals and venues around the globe to an ever increasing fan base, thanks to their now-famous live shows.

The duo has released four albums to date, all on Turner’s label, Trashy Moped Recordings: Delete.Delete. I Eat Meat., Paparrazi Lightning, Robotique Majestique and their latest offering, Codename: Rondo, which was recorded in Turner’s Austin studio.

The ten-track Codename: Rondo is equal parts psyechedelia, minimal electronic, rock, funk and soul. It was recorded with what Turner calls a more “linear approach” in mind. Rather than layering sound upon sound to fill out a track, the band sought to use fewer sounds while striving to make each of them count.

Highlights on the new album include the first track, “Glitter,” with its loping, fuzzed-out bassline, tremolo-tweaked vocals and Spaghetti Western guitar break. “That’s Right” is a Cars-meet-ZZ Top ripper with the former’s signature synth breaks skipping across the latter’s overdriven, chugging guitar riffs. Another standout, “Miracles,” finds Behrens haltingly phrasing his lyrics in perfect syncopation with Turner’s raw keyboard melody before exploding into an irresistible, hand-clapping chorus that is soon chased by running swells of disco strings. “Codename: Rondo,” the album’s title track, is a perfect example of the band’s efforts toward minimal maximization: a surreal narrative recalling a series of nebulous incidents in Newark, New Jersey spoken over nothing more than a steady kick and some faint electronic warbling while, during the breakdown, deep space satellite transmissions blip intermittently over a loop of what seems to be a robot with hiccups and poor phone reception attempting to leave a voicemail.

With Codename: Rondo, Ghostland Observatory has taken a step in a new direction, both creatively and technically, while still maintaining the essential elements of their unmistakable sound: “sweaty, raw-boned, and direct from the future; committed to electronics, stuck on big beats, yet unmistakably powered by rock ‘n’ roll.”

BROODS

BROODS is a music duo from Nelson, New Zealand, composed of Georgia Nott on lead vocals, with older brother and multi-instrumentalist Caleb Nott on production and backing vocals.

They released the single “Bridges“, which went to No. 8 on the New Zealand single chart, and signed with Capitol and Polydor Records. They released their self-titled début EP, Broods, on 30 January 2014, which was followed by a full-length album, Evergreen, on 22 August 2014. The band toured with Ellie Goulding, Haim, and Sam Smith, and have won ten New Zealand Music Awards. They released their second album, Conscious, on 24 June 2016.

Classixx

Like a balmy breeze from a world of endless summer,  Classixx, are back with Faraway Reach, a buoyant follow-up to their 2013 debut — something to cruise to with the top down, from festival fields to the beach, from the dance floor to the shotgun seat. Faraway Reach casts Classixx’s young-but-nostalgic melodies and sublime chords in a more mature, restrained light, albeit no less lively and bright.

Establishing themselves as producers of note on their debut LP (Pitchfork called them “great songwriters, too”), Faraway Reach delivers powerfully smooth and soulful jewels that are still decidedly their own — the Classixx signature is one that can’t be traced.

Their love of plaintive voices and disco-inspired grooves is as evident as ever, but this time around everything is a bit bolder, the cast is bigger, the melodies distilled into a higher potency — it’s all just as good, but better. The album traverses locales, vocalists and inspirations. It’s a fitting movement for the duo, from Venice beach to the mountains of South Africa and everywhere in between — a Faraway Reach.

Polica

If the opening moments of POLIÇA’s new album, United Crushers, leave you feeling unsettled, then Channy Leaneagh has done her job. With her voice pitch-shifted down into an ominous, nearly unrecognizable register, she sings of a post-industrial urban landscape littered with broken promises, a land of poverty and violence that’s been rigged against us from the start. Despite all that, though, there is an element of defiance, a refusal to surrender in her delivery of the lyrics. Halfway through that first track, “Summer Please,” when her gorgeous true singing voice enters on top of that deep and disturbing baritone, there is a moment of hope and transcendence, and it’s the key to unlocking United Crushers, POLIÇA’s third full-length release and most remarkable album yet. Even at its darkest, the record is musically the band’s most upbeat and celebratory. It is a weapon meant to empower the weak and the forgotten and the disenfranchised, it’s very creation an act of rebellion in the face of the hopelessness that casts such a long shadow over middle America’s slow urban decline.“If you look up when you drive around this city, you’ll frequently see the tag ‘United Crushers’ spray painted on the sides of bridges, watertowers or abandoned buildings,” Leaneagh says of Minneapolis, her hometown. “The tag looks down at the city and reminds me of where we really are and what is really happening here. United States of Dreams Be Crushed. ‘Summer Please’ is a plea to summer and, likewise, the future. All winter around here we wait for the first warm day to let the kids out to play. Yet, the beautiful blue sun-soaked sky brings anxiety with it, because the gunshots and killings increase with the heat and nice weather. The future is like that too, isn’t it? You ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up while simultaneously terrified by what evils might be out there waiting for them. Is it safe to let our kids play outside while gunshots fly? Are their dreams going to make it out alive?”‘United Crushers’ was born out of the longest break from touring in POLIÇA’s history.
The group originally emerged from Minneapolis in 2011 when Gayngs’ Ryan Olson began collaborating with Leaneagh on a new batch of synthesizer and percussion-heavy arrangements he had lying around. The resulting debut, 2012’s Give You The Ghost, immediately garnered international acclaim, with Rolling Stone hailing it as “the sound of heartbreak and celebration happening simultaneously” and Q praising it as “a bewitching, urgent, magical debut.” The quick success of Give You The Ghost brought with it a heavy touring schedule and an itch to keep creating. Taking just a few months off from the road, the band ventured into the studio and came out with their follow-up, Shulamith, in the fall of 2013. EW called that album “propulsive enough for dance floors, and dreamy enough for headphones” and MOJO said it “proves that intelligent pop music still has the ability to seduce and enthrall.” Bolstered by a live lineup of dual drummers, bass and Leaneagh’s powerful voice, the band conquered massive festivals around the world from Coachella to Glastonbury in addition to performing on Late With Jimmy Fallon and Later With Jools Holland.Following the whirlwind of it all, they returned home to Minneapolis for a much-needed break, to live life off the road and build up inspiration for the next go-around. Part of this for Leaneagh was deciding to have a second child.“A woman gains amazing powers and new kinds of freedoms when she’s pregnant and becomes a mother,” says Leaneagh. “I think pregnancy is mystical and I’m grateful to be able to do it. But with any great gift there are great sacrifices, and in the beginning stages of the giving over of my body to the cause of birth, I was worried about what it would do to my relationships; my daughter, my man, my work, myself. I needed a song to vent about it.”All those worries led to the writing of “Someway,” a catchy bundle of nervous synthesizers and racing heartbeat percussion. But for the most part, pregnancy prompts Leaneagh to look outwards rather than in as she grapples with the gravity of the world her children are set to inherit. “When you’re pregnant, you’re at your most vulnerable and protective,” explains Leaneagh. The terror of “Summer Please” is filtered through the eyes of mothers warning their children as they head out into the violent streets, while “Wedding” was written in reaction to the intertwined epidemics of police brutality and institutional racism, and “Melting Block” starts its story off with an ‘everyone’s-a-sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing’-type mantra and evolves into a giant middle finger pointed at the societal effects of commercialism.

As political as the statements on the record are, United Crushers is also a deeply personal album. Leaneagh reminds herself to stand firm in the face of self-doubt and manipulation on “Lime Habit,” overcomes music industry machinations with triumphant horns on “Baby Sucks,” and recognizes important truths of independence on “Lose You.” Stringing the songs together is a thematic thread of isolation: the fear of being alone, the instinct to hide our true selves for protection, the way in which lovers can each retreat inwards.

Throughout it all, though, there always remains a sense of defiance and celebration in the music to counter those apprehensions and anxieties. Leaneagh suspects it may have its roots in her early days as a folk singer.

“When you sing old folk songs about sad things, it does something to your heart that actually uplifts it,” she says. “I believe that about these songs, too.”

There is a darkness to United Crushers, but it doesn’t win. Dreams may be dashed and promises may be broken, the world may be full of disappointment and pain and violence, but if you’re in the midst of it all feeling lost and hopeless on the streets of Minneapolis, there’s a United Crushers tag that knows how you feel. All you have to do is look up.

Poolside

Poolside are the daytime disco project of California duo Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise. Inspired by mezcal, good food, and good friends, Poolside’s debut album Pacific Standard Time was released in 2012 to critical acclaim.

Poolside has received praise from media outlets including Pitchfork, Dazed & Confused, Gorilla vs Bear, and NME, and their music has been spun and supported by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, techno legend Derrick May, and disco don Todd Terje.

Poolside has toured extensively, with performances at festivals including Coachella, Primavera, and Treasure Island. The group’s remixes of Little Dragon, the Rapture, Sade, and Matthew Dear have garnered the duo much attention, and their mix tapes are backyard BBQ essentials and perfect for pool parties.

Poolside’s new single “And The Sea” was released in the summer of 2016, and their new album will be released in 2017.

Gavin Turek

It’s impossible not to become infatuated with soulful pop princess Gavin Turek. The LA Native is always clad in a hand-made 70s fringe dress (designed herself in every color) and armed with the best dance moves you’ve ever seen. It’s easy to draw comparisons anywhere from Tina Turner to Beyoncé but really, Gavin is her own force to be reckoned with. Performing always came natural: she grew up with a father who played piano and tagging alongside her mother, who toured coffeeshops singing gospel. Her origin story goes like this: at age three, a teeny tiny Gavin interrupted her mother mid performance, took over the mic and to the astonishment of the audience, finished the song for her. She knew every single lyric, word for word, and whoa, that girl could sing. Suffice to say, a star was born.

Growing up, Gavin obsessively studied two things: music (the likes of Donna Summer, Prince, Lauryn Hill, Diana Ross. Michael Jackson, Giorgio Moroder) and all forms of dance. Originally aspiring to be a professional dancer, she spent months at a time in India and Africa, immersing herself in different cultures. Ghana was where Gavin first discovered her love for fringe and learned that the popular disco-era fad had much deeper origins. Everyday while in Ghana, Gavin learned and performed the traditional dances of the northern region, with falling in love with their massive fringe belts that moved with the music and drums as an extension of body and spirit. As Gavin jokingly told Nylon Magazine, “fringe really makes your hips look good and accentuates the movements.” Another great discovery for her was that in other cultures, dance is much more than a form entertainment, it is a way of life. It is used to celebrate births, weddings, religious worships, achievements and even deaths and afterlife. Upon returning to the United States, Gavin eventually returned to singing and songwriting as her main medium of expression, but when the time came to perform her own music, dance and fringe costumes naturally became a vital component for her live shows.

Two special artists in particular became champions early on for Gavin. Brainfeeder genius TOKiMONSTA has been a longtime friend and collaborator. Early on in both their careers, she asked Gavin to contribute vocals to her productions, which lead to the fan favorite track “Darkest Dim.” Mayer Hawthorne was next, not only inviting Gavin to open his sold out tours but recruiting her as the female counterpart in his retro funk act Tuxedo with producer Jake Uno. (You may recognize her as the golden disco goddess gracing the stage with them everywhere from the legendary Hollywood Bowl to Japan).

In 2015, word of mouth about Gavin’s music and electric live shows spread with the release of her electro R&B infused mini-album “You’re Invited” produced by TOKiMONSTA. The girl power duo followed the release with a sold out tour and received accolades from Billboard, NPR, The Fader, Apple / Beats 1, KCRW, etc. That year, Spin named Gavin as the summer’s Top Artist to Watch and her disco funk-tinged single “Don’t Fight It” as one of the best tracks of 2015.

By 2016, Gavin’s star quality was undeniable. She dominated the stage with guest performances at legendary festivals such as Outside Lands and Coachella and late night performances on Jimmy Kimmel with Mayer Hawthorne and Cee Lo. Her crowning achievement this past year began with the release of her single “On the Line” (produced by Chris Hartz of Passion Pit) last May. In support of the release, she played a beyond sold-out month long residency in Los Angeles. The long time venue promoter said he had never seen anything like it in LA, with lines wrapped around the block in hopes of catching Gavin perform what would soon become her new EP Good Look for You.  “On the Line”  premiered #1 on HypeMachine very organically thanks to dedicated love from the hippest underground blogs and airplay from six of KCRW’s top tastemakers. KCRW DJ Anne Lit proclaimed it the “song of the summer.”

Gavin preps now to release her EP “Good Look for You” February 17 via her own label Madame Gold Records. A self starter and entrepreneur whose mission is to inspire women of all ages and ethnicities, Madame Gold continues the tradition of female greats taking the reigns of their own success. Gavin considers it an homage to the artists she admires most: Solange, Jannelle Monae and TOKiMONSTA. The EP’s single “Good Look for You” (November, 2016) already has  garnered attention from Stereogum, Nylon, Okayplayer, etc and the EP release will be celebrated with a live KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic in-studio session and release parties in both Los Angeles and New York this February.