Got this story from Iowa City’s Jeff Roalson about marriage, dance, music, and self-love:
I’ve always loved music and dance. When I was only 5 years old my grandma enrolled me in dance lessons. I kept dancing and performing consistently for the following 12 or 13 years and even had the pleasure of dancing in France for 3 years of my youth. The past several years haven’t involved much dance partially due to an increased involvement in music. I’ve been playing music for about 10 years, many of which have been spent with some of the same guys I currently play with in the band Halfloves. The past 3 years have been some of the most tumultuous, life-shaping years I’ve ever been dealt and though there’s some dark times in the past and most assuredly more trials in the future, I wouldn’t trade the past few years for anything and am really happy with life.
I got married in summer of 2013 to my long time girlfriend. Things seemed to be awesome. We had both just graduated college (23 and 21 years old), went on a great honeymoon to Europe, came back to the States. 6 months after our wedding she cooly tells me she wants a divorce. I try to work things out but to no avail. She leaves and I bury myself in writing and music. Lots of bad songs mainly. Things that meant a lot but had been said a million times. Just kind of a self-therapy that helped me work though a lot of things that didn’t make sense. It was a weird time where I came more to terms with the sometimes scary realization that we aren’t in control of our lives as much as we’d like to believe - even with the big things.
I kept writing music and eventually wrote this song that’s not an anti-romance song but rather something that touches on the fact that when we’re looking for love, we (people in general) oftentimes are much more concerned with loving ourselves than each other. Lots of us adopt the “treat yo’self” mentality in regard to the way we view our personal relationships.
If we had to show the specific ways we “love” the people who are close to us in our lives I realized we often share the bad things we refrain from doing rather than things that show actual love. Essentially, I realized that refraining from doing shitty things to each other doesn’t mean that gap is filled with love. This song is called “It’s Easy to Love” because it’s easy to love yourself (or at least the nice parts about yourself) and it’s easy to just love the idea of love (is that too chic-flick-y of me?) without filling the gaps in our relationships with something real - something that can be felt and readily identified.
I’ve been thinking about making love real in my relationships (romantic or platonic) and the past year has been really great. If you’re feeling like your relationships with people are getting dull, call your dad or make a point to talk about something real with your significant other instead of half-heartedly asking each other how their day at work was before gluing your eyes to your phone for the rest of dinner. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this song and can appreciate the simplicity of two people doing improvised dance in front of an old prison.
Leah Korbin wrote to me a couple weeks ago with her luminous, lovely first single with some thoughts on what powered the process of building forgiveness through her sounds.
My name is Leah. My boyfriend Josh Stuebe and I work at a recording studio in Van Nuys, CA called Fonogenic Studios, which is in a side-building of a nail polish factory called Orly and across the street from Budweiser. Our boss uses the studio as more of a playground for his experiments (he’s a magician as well as producer), which means we’ve gotten a fair amount of downtime the past few years.
For the album I picked songs I had written between 2012 - when I left college in Nashville - to 2015, which was my second year living in Los Angeles. Each song represents a very personal experience for me.
“Mannequin” was written during one of the most painful years of my life. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and the following month we discovered that my dad was cheating on her. I wrote it to cope with the possibility of my family falling apart by trying to empathize with the woman my father was cheating with. Los Angeles is across the country from where my parents live, so there was little I could do to help the situation. I felt powerless to comfort my mother and confused about what was actually happening because both sides had their own narratives of what the truth was. I harbored a lot of resentment towards the “other woman,” as she uprooted our lives and seemed more like a home-wrecking emotional blockade rather than a real person. Writing this song helped me to humanize someone whose story I didn’t know and begin to forgive her through my own narrative.
For context, I wasn’t a kid who grew up in a terrible household and turned to music because I had nowhere else to go. I had a wonderful childhood. My folks have always been supportive regarding my music ever since I picked up the violin at the age of five. It was their creative support that gave me an outlet when I needed to escape.
I’m an only child so I got all of my parent’s attention, which was a lot of pressure for someone who hated to be the center of attention. When my parents’ marriage began to strain I started to feel the burden of acting as a mediator between them. I turned to songwriting as a way to make sense of my world. Songwriting helped me understand how to be more patient, perceptive and forgiving of my parent’s issues - among other things - and gave me the strength to be there for them when they needed me. Although songwriting is a great tool, nothing could prepare me for the loss of my dad to another woman, the end of my parents’ marriage, and the possible death of my mother to cancer. Not to mention there was obviously a lot of stress building up to this point. It took awhile to get out of my funk and start writing again, but, once I did, I began to heal.
Phenominal video in all its weird surreal wonder. Not sure how I missed this album back in 2014, but I’m on top of it now. The video editing in particular is quite impressive, with all those picture in pictures overlays. Love it.
Tromping through the snow this week made me think about scarcity. Listening to this beautiful, simple song many times over brought me to a the realization that simple moments, and simple songs, can open up a deep well. Read this letter songwriter PJ Sauerteig sent me with his newest track:
Here’s a story for you. I don’t ask you to believe it, but I do ask you to read it.
I spent some time in Vienna this summer; all over the city, there are basilicas and chapels and cathedrals that host free organ or choral recitals every week. One sunny afternoon, as I was exiting a choral recital in Vienna’s central shopping district, I looked up and saw an Hermès store across the street. Having never been to an Hermès, I thought I’d go in to see what all the sleek glass and guarded doors were about.
I walked in to the packed ground floor, full of tourists from Asia and the Middle East, lots of expensive scarves and dresses, etc. I perused, and then walked up the grand staircase to the store’s second story - to my surprise, I was suddenly the only person on the floor. No staff, no security guards, no shoppers - nobody but me, and dimly lit rooms of clothes and home furnishings. It was deeply eerie to walk around, having the entire floor all to myself. But as I wandered from room to room, through an abandoned hallway, I heard a faint sound like crying a room or two away.
Feeling somehow like I’d stumbled into a situation in which I didn’t belong, I started to double back down the hallway, to rush back downstairs and back into the anonymous crowd. Then a door opened, and I turned around to see a Middle Eastern man with puffed-up, crying eyes, a long beard, and a long, black shirt so thin you could see every detail of his chest. He could have been 20 he could have been 60 it was truly impossible to tell. His English was almost perfect, though, with a pleasant accent: “How many people were at the concert?” He asked. My heart sank, and all of a sudden I felt deeply uncomfortable, even unsafe - that this stranger knew that I had just been at a church concert. But I bucked up and didn’t let on I was afraid: “15 people, probably,” I said. “How many people are downstairs right now, do you think,” he asked. “In the store? Probably 50,” I answered.
He cracked a smile, and asked, “How much are those pants?” I had forgotten that I was carrying around a pair of Hermes jeans to try on - just for the fun of it. I could never afford anything from the store. I held the jeans up, looked, and answered, “3,200 euros,” and as I put the jeans down on a table, the man asked, “How much did you pay for the concert?” “It was free, I didn’t pay anything,” I said. “That’s funny to me. Is that funny to you?” He asked. I was frozen, and too awkward to simply walk back downstairs. He continued, “That more people are here than there. Maybe the church should charge 3,200 euros for the concerts, maybe all the people will want to go there, after all.” I don’t quite remember how exactly he worded his next little monologue, but to paraphrase, “Everyone thinks that free things are the best - that if you give something away for free, everyone will want it, and line up for it. But it’s not like that. People are more interested in expensive things. Anyone can go to those church concerts - even drunks, who go in to sleep in the pews. But not everyone can come in here and buy clothes. There aren’t homeless people sleeping here. Except me!” He said, and smiled again. “I like sleeping in here, it smells nice, and air conditioning in an old building like this is rare,” and then he just exhaled, and put his hands on his hips. As if he was satisfied with the interaction, and there was nothing else to say. All of this time, not a single other person had come upstairs to where we were talking. “Okay,” I said. “I won’t tell on you,” I said. “Don’t worry - they know I’m here!” he said. By this time, I had already turned to walk downstairs, where there were fewer shoppers than before, and the sun had started to set through the windows.
That interaction was the impetus for this song - the second (and most recent) single off of Slow Dakota’s upcoming LP, “The Ascension of Slow Dakota,” due out in April on Massif Records. The single is called “I Saw Christ Crying in Hermes” - it recounts that conversation (one of the absolute weirdest of my entire life, it still gives me a stomachache to think about it). And it also expands upon it, theorizing that Christianity’s appeal and influence in our culture has deteriorated for purely economic reasons. That is, Christ offers salvation to anyone and everyone - as He sees us all as equal, flawed but loved, children of God. But in a culture that assigns value based on scarcity, Christ’s vision is deeply unattractive. We value things that are hard to attain - things that set us apart from other consumers - ways of signifying that we are exceptional. A destination is valued by how few people can get in - the more exclusive it is, the more desirable. And so, who would want what Christ is selling - if He gives it away to anyone and everyone for free? What good is a lock on a door, if everyone has a key? Hermes will always draw a bigger crowd than the free chapel concert down the road.
We got a new album coming out next month! Sophomore Lounge is doing the Vinyl, Fixture records is doing the cassette!
“Lantern’s second full-length album is a diverse and sophisticated collection of 14 songs that were recorded and mixed entirely analogue at The Bottle Garden in Montreal. More so than any of their previous albums, it was the result of collective studio experimentation, with the band actively seeking out new sounds, exploring unusual recording techniques, and patiently crafting beautiful arrangements. “Black Highways and Green Garden Roads” is Lantern’s most immediate record yet, blending textures of psych, surf, and soul on a distinctly 60s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll canvas. In addition to our cassette version, this album is also available on 12’’ vinyl through Sophomore Lounge Records.“
Melancholy, meditative new tune from a young singer in SoCal who wrote me this letter to tell me some background on his take on anxiety and a “soft grunge” cure:
I’m Gabriel Brenner, a LA-based producer/singer/songwriter/visual artist, and I make music as Pastel. I started recording music my sophomore year of high school with a good friend of mine as Brengam (a splicing of Brenner and her last name, Ngamnimitthum), a starry-eyed folk-pop duo with a devout love for Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes (TBT?). Sadly, we both switched schools and distance disrupted the continuation of our project. Eventually, I was able to get my hands on a Macbook the summer before my first quarter of college, and I’ve been recording solo work on Garageband and Logic ever since.
The name “Pastel” actually stems from my anxieties about college prior to attendance. Around the time us high school seniors began our college application process, rumors started swirling about the dangers one’s social media presence could pose to our validity as college student candidates. Whispers in the hallways could be heard between class periods. “Becky got her acceptance revoked,” one said, “because she had selfies with alcohol on her Facebook.” Gasp, Becky! “Bobby got denied because he said something racist in a status.” Well, Bobby, mayhaps that was karma. Know your history, sis!
The more horror stories I gathered about other Becky’s and Bobby’s, the more my anxiety grew. Big Brother was watching, and he was probably watching me. What if the rare F-bomb I dropped on Facebook was enough to convince colleges I was a good-for-nothing scoundrel? Perhaps they would discover my Myspace-angled selfies from sixth grade and find themselves too embarrassed to accept me. I started questioning every move I’d ever made online. Realistically, I had little to hide. I was a reclusive hermit who spent his days reblogging inspo on Tumblr. Hell, I didn’t evenknow who Becky was, let alone that she liked to drink and take selfies for the ‘Gram. The pressure, however, was too much. I had to go off the grid, so I changed my name. On Facebook at least.
And what would a Tumblr-obsessed teen in 2013 change his Facebook name to? None other than “Pastel Grunge,” a combination of Pastel Goth and and Soft Grunge, two aesthetic movements birthed from the bloggers of Tumblr themselves that often lead to heated debates over what exactly constituted either. I thought it was witty enough to be the catalyst for a few chuckles, and obscure enough to evade the watchful eyes of admissions counselors. The name was a hit, and it stuck with me for the remainder of the year. I was no longer Gabe. Nay, I was Pastel.
So when it came time to develop a stage persona, it felt natural to go by Pastel. I had already cultivated a brand, even though it was one founded upon niche humor. It might seem odd that the emotionally heavy content of “I Ache” is aligned with a lighthearted stage name, but it is often said that humor and trauma are distant relatives.
“I Ache,” the first single from my upcoming self-released Bone-Weary EP, definitely deals with the trauma side of that relationship; it’s inspired by a period of months in which I was spread extremely thin emotionally and eventually crumbled underneath the weight of it all. Drawing from artists like Julianna Barwick, Perfume Genius, and FKA twigs, ‘I Ache” weaves together cavernous, atmospheric harmonies, devotional piano chords, and loose, skeletal beats, creating a heart-wrenching, cathartic rumination on stability and dependence. Directed by Hobbes Ginsberg and produced by Chloe Feller for Red Lighter Films, the visuals evoke traditional paintings of women and lush classical imagery to explore one’s emotional endurance when everything around falls apart.
“I Ache” is not exempt from humor, though. The first take of the song was actually recorded the night of Halloween in 2014. Dressed as the Domino’s Pizza logo, I repeated “I ache” over and over into the mic, summoning the traumas of the past year, and perhaps dually pining for a spooky slice of pizza. “I Ache” is out January 15th. Bone-Weary EP out early 2016 (self-released). Watch Here. Listen Here.
I’ve been taking a bit of a breather here on the web, but I think this song is a great way to open 2016. I covered them last year on a Letter to YVYNYL they sent me telling about the music scene in Western Australia. They recently caught up with me to check in with news and send me two hot new singles.
“Tame Impala is inarguably one of our hometown Perth’s biggest exports, and for good reason, but their massive national and worldwide success has dramatically shifted the music scene here in Australia. It seems everyone’s buying synths and changing their sound to try and capture that bottled lightning a second time. Previously energetic rock bands have shifted towards this wishy washy retro synth ‘pop’ sound in what transparently seems to be a bid to appeal to the Tame Impala aesthetic (without having the Tame Impala hooks) that critics and audiences are frothing at the mouth for right now. As a result, we don’t really fit in here right now, more so than usual. There are bands doing things internationally that we feel align with who we are, bands like FIDLAR and Wavves and Twin Peaks and Cloud Nothings and PAWS, but we stand out like a sore thumb in the Australian scene currently.
“Braves has always been about the songwriting first, and the pedal / synth effects later or even never. I think a strong hook transcends genre and taste, a catchy chorus or melody will cut through the noise and grab someone regardless of what they think they like or what the current trends and fads dictate. I wanted that to be the focus of these new songs, I wanted people to be able to get excited about these tracks in a live setting especially and actually have fun at the shows. I always thought the best live shows were the ones where you left a sweaty, half-deaf mess, rather than composed at the back of the room sipping on a beer. I hope these songs can facilitate that ideal. I hope all Braves songs can.
“YVYNYL followers have been very supportive of us in the past, and we hope that continues with Get It Right / Dropout.”
Here’s to half-deaf messes in 2016! Oh, and I’ll be back soon.
My heart pitter patters every time I know there’s new music from one of my favorite dream pop perfectionist artists on the way. Looking forward to the full album, Life of Pause LP, coming out in February 19th.
I am hours away from becoming a father of twins(!! might be quiet on this front for a while, folks). When I came across this fresh “electronic Afro Kraut beat” song from Germany about “twins,” it was probably going to become the last post for a while, but a completely fitting name and vibe to put me into the right mind-space. Come celebrate with me and jam out with these heads.
Philly’s Kevin Sul spent most of his music life playing in punk bands, but then decided he needed to go in another direction so he branched out into experimental electronic music. He says his new project is “in the realm of electronic, noise and sugary sweet pop. I enjoy music that can mix multiple genres, or even better, take you somewhere new as a listener. For this project, called Cumquat, I’ve tried to abandon as many ‘normal’ instruments as possible to achieve this. The majority of the song is based around manipulated synth sounds, samples and found sounds. At the same time, it is still (hopefully) a catchy pop song.”
I enjoy it, but its weird to see her sounding so damn pop. I guess its been moving in this direction since Oblivion. Gotta say I’m just not that excited about the new album, but I’ll wait for a leak before passing judgement.
Grimes - Art Angels LP is up for pre-order now, release is slated for December 11th, but a disclaimer notes that due to all the industry delays at pressing plants, it’ll probably be delayed.
This young shamelessly pop-loving Florida native, despite believing in staying plain on the outside, puts a powerful punch from the core of his dance-track inside. As he suggests, “get out of your disguise!” I expect more of these beauties in the near future.
“I live in Orlando, Florida. So as far as pop music goes, there’s not much of it here. I was blessed to find my producers David Whitemore and Adam Sliger who record me out of the Sunray Recording Studio,” he tells me.
“I write 100% of all of my lyrics, melodies, and tracks. I’ll make a pretty solid demo in Logic and then I’ll take it to my producers, which then we’ll piece it together, tweak some synths and record/mix/master everything. I also do all of my own graphics, website work, social media, the whole nine yards.”
Most importantly: “I turn 21 years old this Saturday.“
After you listen to his new song, do you want to help me wish my new friend a happy birthday?
This ultra colorful video was sent my way recently with a Letter to YVYNYL explaining why and how the song was meant to share in its experience.
My name is Nick - my girlfriend Jen and I wrote, produced and mixed an album over the last two years alongside shooting a music video for the first track in our living room. We’re ready to share “Gates” with the world and would be honored to have it live on your blog.
“Gates” is a thank you letter for the gift of managed anxiety after years of searching.
After several years of playing guitar based music in bands like A Million Years and Whale Belly, I started recording joke songs with Jen using Ableton Live. If the song made us laugh we went with it. And it wasn’t uncommon to throw in samples from movies with narrators sharing visions of the future and babbling about time travel.
In the winter of 2013 a lot of things happened all at once. A Million Years, my focus for the previous three years called it quits, I lost my job, and I began having a mysterious health issue where my breathing would suddenly feel incredibly constricted. I was experiencing intense anxiety for the first time in my life.
Out of money I moved back into my childhood bedroom in suburban Long Island and decided to put a little more energy into the electronic production I had been playing with up until that point. At first I had planned to be home for no more than 3 months while I looked for a job, but the more music I wrote the more obsessed I became in finishing an LP. Even when I found a job I kept using every night to create demos. Still suffering from anxiety during this two year writing period, a friend introduced me to Focalizing, a meditation practice that among its many applications can help people with anxiety. This became my second obsession.
“Gates” was written after a specific moment in a grocery store where I was standing alone in an aisle and suddenly could barely breathe. At that moment I remembered the practice I had been working on, closed my eyes, and brought my attention into my body. Immediately I was thrust into a calm, pleasant place. I was feeling better than I had in months only moments after being at an all time low. The pressure that was pushing my chest in lifted and I was breathing normally again.
This song describes my experience that my all time lows, my worst moments, can actually be used as gateways for healing. These moments are forks in the road and at each fork I can let my mind race with thoughts of, “is this it, am I going to die now?” or bring my focus into the moment and let something better prevail. This experience (along with many more since) has made me thankful for the anxiety, it led me to a gift that improves my life.
The video is a concept inspired by the visuals that can appear when doing this type of meditation. Swirling colors on the back of your eyelids often occur alongside deep calming sensations. To create this, we filmed food coloring and nail polish falling into pools of water. Sometimes before the food coloring hit we stirred the water which caused more unexpected results. We then had a friend shoot us on a second day in front of a green sheet and joined all the results.
Minnesota’s Colin Scharf wrote me a heavy letter to describe the low level death vibes behind this new dark but not hopeless song:
Colin here, from Minnesota indie quartet Good Night Gold Dust. I’d like to share with you our newest single, “Waves”. I struggled with the lyrics and music for about two years before I thought they were good enough to bring to the band. Sometimes I still don’t trust the syntax on the chorus:
“I’ve forgotten how to forget the bad parts / It’s getting harder to remember the good”
That checks out, right?
A few years ago, a friend drowned in a lake. A year before that, another friend died in her sleep. Two of my uncles recently passed away—one in a fucking county jail; the other of a massive heart attack. I missed my uncles’ funerals because of distance: I live in Minnesota; they were in New York. I missed Jen’s and Charlotte’s funerals because of work. I know that’s bullshit. You never miss the funeral. But things progress so quickly. These are among my biggest regrets.
The deeper regret is that I was only permitted a brief window with them. I wish I’d had more time.
Jen, who drowned, was tight with some of our friends. I didn’t know her very well. Really, I wrote “Waves” for her, and for our friends. The last time I saw Jen, she was skateboarding on a summer afternoon. We smiled. And then she was gone.
Charlotte was a songwriter. She loved the Clash, and sang like Lucinda Williams. We still don’t know how she died. I like to think she passed away like Joe Strummer, peacefully, in her sleep. For a long time we couldn’t listen to her songs without crying. It’s gotten easier, and I’m glad for that. They’re such good songs.
My uncle Bill was an alcoholic. He was the baby of my father’s family, child number four of four. He loved hunting, fishing, trapping. He and my father had a strained relationship, and those tensions unfortunately colored my own perception of uncle Bill. I never let myself get close with him.
My uncle Bruce would speak like Bill Murray in Caddy Shack. In the summers, when I was a kid, he and my aunt would throw up their camper in our big countryside front yard. We’d roast corn over campfires and in the mornings uncle Bruce would cook pancakes for my brother, sister, and me.
You won’t learn about these people through our song. But maybe you’ll learn about people like them; people from your own life. And maybe others will do the same. If anything positive can come from their absence, let it at least be a great song.
Of course Princeton’s Sam McDougle has been creating music while working toward a PhD in Neuroscience. Such complimentary disciplines, right?! But if you think about it, and I do a lot, music and the brain’s function are deeply and indelibly intertwine in a glory of mystery. Luckily, Sam shares his Yo La Tengo influence on his sleeves, so you don’t have to give him an MRI to understand that.
Chairlift sound like a lot of fu-fun on new single Ch-Ching
Chairlift do us bloggers a favor by making their new single actually something everyone can spell out loud (remember Amanaemonesia? yes.) - Ch-Ching the thing is called, an it sounds like the kind of emotion we’d experience if the money is rolling in (hence the ch-ching sound). Caroline quirks optimistically over a handclap slash hip-hop beat, but the song is actually about the millions of impulses constantly happening when living in New York and trying to deal with it. Sounds like a lot of fun. Ch-Ching!
Stoked to see new music coming from these lovelies!
Where are you today? Are you in the clouds? Or is the sun waking you up from a fog. “I have no answer,” sings Tori Michelle over Colton Toy’s breathless melody. This video directed by Jazmin Garcia hits the perfect note in its creative design, and blossom’s its own storyline.
I’ve been collecting new tracks for this project so that I can share them with you together in one bundle. I’m thrilled that this project is attracting wildly talented new and innovative artists from all over the globe. On this short mix, you’ll hear diverse elements: two songs from Japan (though one of them pretends to be Russian for shits and giggles), a poetic song from Australia, another from New Zealand (the one track here not a premiere, I just love it so much I can’t help but plug it again), yet another from England, and of course a smattering of new ideas from far corners in the United States. I love that part of doing the premiere mixtapes. Have a listen!
Photo by Jeffery Silverstein from Singles Club, used by permission.
Time passes. Or it doesn’t. Maybe it’s a trip that we all get fooled about experiencing together. In that vein, I decided to put together a group of songs for you, dear readers, that feel the essence of my elemental beings of music here in the late summer days of 2015.
Artwork by Colin Holloway, used with permission.
Time tangles some mighty webs, don’t it? You blink yr eye and all of a sudden you’re in a completely new world, new skin, new haircut, new seersucker suit. This weird journey we’re on, the surrealism of it all keeps yr mouth agape and full of wonder. And this, friends, is just a small soundtrack.
Tracklist + DL = http://bit.ly/catscradlemix
Don't give in to the A/C - roll those windows down! Crank up that stereo. Embrace it. Maybe these are a set of summer tunes for yr vacation roadtrips, or perhaps just yr backyard BBQs. Slow down and feel 'em.
Original artwork by o_lie. Used with permission.
Check out more yvynyl mixtapes here: http://bit.ly/yvynylmixtapes