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Cristobal And The Sea – Sugar Now

I am really glad to be back on El Gore to talk about a debut album that I, as a huge fan of the London-based quartet, had been eagerly awaiting: Sugar Now by Cristobal and the Sea! I’m obsessed with their experimental approach to folk with Mediterranean influences, and this release has been a definite musical highlight of my year.

I know comparisons are tricky, but it’s less the musical similarity that makes me point it out and more the general vibe and feeling I got from the record – I was immediately struck by how much it reminds me of Fleet Foxes‘ spectacular Helplessness Blues. The folk element is way more pronounced than in much of their previous work, which was dunked in trippy reverb, delayed guitars, some auto tune and other spacey effects. It’s less crammed, more subdued, very organic, fairly stripped down yet still big-sounding, and somehow feels close to nature. The particular way the band melds their haunting chants and vocal harmonies, flute playing, Latin riffs and at times borderline bizarre melodies creates a mystical atmosphere and invites you to get lost in a panorama of colourful sounds.

Pretty much every piece of media I’ve read about Cristobal and the Sea makes mention of the members’ different European backgrounds. With reason, as this cultural variety definitely spills over into the album, most evidently in the form of parts sung in Portuguese, French and Spanish (the two singers’ and bass player’s respective native languages). The lyrics themselves – sometimes abstract, other times more concrete philosophical musings – support the instrumentals in painting vivid pictures.

There are upbeat moments, but there’s also an ever-present profundity, perhaps even slight melancholy, hanging over the album. Honestly, if I had to sum it up succinctly and in less descriptive terms, I’d just call it beautiful. You can feel the passion and emotional honesty of the musicians shining through. It’s a truly refreshing spin on indie folk music that will be a delight to everyone who digs the warm sounds of Latin America and the Iberian peninsula.

The band is active on Facebook and other social media platforms, and Sugar Now, which will be out on the 2nd, can be pre-ordered here, as well as on iTunes and Amazon.

Kali Uchis – Por Vida

Kali Uchis is an exciting Colombian artist raised in the USA who has been around since 2012 when her first mixtape dropped, but has only moved into the spotlight in 2014 following the release of the first single off her first LP Por Vida. The album came out in February this year and since discovering it a bit late I haven’t been able to free myself from its spell.

Kali’s musical style is an interesting mix of influences that I haven’t heard in this form before. Her voice is all sultry and soulful and is backed by a sound that can be best described as an experimental cross between vintage bubblegum pop and R&B combined with some serious hiphop vibes (not least because she’s had really cool and well-known support coming from hiphop backgrounds for this album, such as Tyler the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD). She also flirts with reggae elements, most notably in Know What I Want, and her Latin American roots definitely take hold in her music. It’s all over the place but blends in together so nicely!

Lyrically, Kali’s moments of sass are irresistible: “Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse and take off to Japan”. She also has a knack for analogies, which is evident in Melting, Lottery and Loner, the slower numbers on this record.

In rough outlines, Por Vida is composed of saccharine love ballads, smooth hang out jams and bouncy late night tunes to feel like a million bucks to. While still decidedly making up an accessible pop album, every single one of the 9 tracks is unique and strays from the usual boring recycled mainstream pop formula. I sure love a well-crafted pop record – definitely don’t miss this artist if you feel the same! Find her on Facebook and stream the album on Soundcloud.

Cristobal And The Sea – Peach Bells

In my book, there is nothing more enriching to music than pure, unadulterated fun and soul. The London-based boys and girl of Cristobal And The Sea have both of these qualities down to a science, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been as fervently enamored with a recent release as I am with their 5-track EP Peach Bells, which was digitally released on November 3rd.

It’s impossible to describe this band without mentioning bossa nova and tropicália. As a huge lover of Brazilian rhythms, those elements were what hooked me instantly — there is a distinctly southern Mediterranean warmth to their music. Appropriately, the lyrics to Violet Tear are actually a Portuguese poem by the 17th century Brazilian poet Gregório de Matos and the chorus to My Love (Ay Ay Ay) is in Spanish.

The voices of João and Leïla flow together in beautiful harmony and blend into the dazzling psychedelic whirlwind that is their instrumentals smoothly, adding another layer of richness to the colourful soundscape. I can’t help but draw parallels to the sounds of Animal Collective (whose album Sung Tongs was produced by the same guy who recorded Peach Bells, Rusty Santos) when it comes to CATS‘ creativity and experimental approach, especially in the final track Zorro, which is just a complete, slowly unraveling trip of a tune.

There is not much left to be said, as Cristobal And The Sea is a band well worth discovering on your own. Their ardent tropicália pop is the sonic embodiment of a safari through a tropical forest, laced with surrealistic imagery in fantastic colours and shapes. Peach Bells is a blast; don’t miss it.

While you wait for the vinyl 12″ to be released on December 8th, you can pay the quartet a visit on Facebook, listen to Peach Bells on Spotify or Soundcloud and watch the trippy video for My Love (Ay Ay Ay) below.

Trash Monday CXXXIX

“It has a thousand names.” I’ll let you find out what he’s referring to on your own…

Natas Loves You – The 8th Continent

Fellow lovers of good pop music, rejoice! Seven months and three days following the release of the Skip Stones EP that whet our appetite for more, the Paris-dwelling outfit Natas Loves You came out with their debut LP entitled The 8th Continent. To begin with, it is safe to say that the past two years have been fruitful for the five-piece band. Their lush indie pop/rock has been met with increasing popularity and they’ve had the opportunity to work with reputable people, like Chris Zane who produced their album and none other than Larry Clark who directed the video for their most recent single Got To Belong, and I have a feeling that we will watch this quintet skyrocket even further.

After the delightful foretaste that was Skip Stones, I was expecting 40 minutes of good vibrations with some profound and philosophical touches from the LP, and that’s exactly what I got. Natas Loves You have a knack for catchy melodies and lyrics that are irresistible to dance and sing along to, so unsurprisingly their 8th Continent is fraught with accessible and upbeat compositions that float somewhere between soulful pop, disco and psychedelia. In addition to the four tunes featured on Skip Stones, they delivered seven more songs that all have single potential and could stand comfortably on their own outside of the context of the album. Even so, there is a thread that runs through The 8th Continent that connects the songs and makes the overall recording an entity in and of itself as opposed to just a collection of individual songs: the whole is dunked in an airy, dream-like quality and there are recurring themes of feeling lost and disconnected, finding your place, and, of course, love and sensuality.

The album features a series of songs that could be interpreted as anthems for a lost or emotionally degenerate youth, most notably Got To Belong, Game Of Tribes and Go Or Linger. Got To Belong has decidedly motivational lyrics and evokes that euphoric “fist in the air” kind of feeling, the other two tracks seem more about catharsis and venting frustrations whilst still retaining an energetic, uplifting tone. One of the music’s defining characteristics are the three vocalists who do a lot of harmonising and take turns with the lead, which contributes to the infectious dynamic of the songs. Natas Loves You definitely isn’t the band to turn to if you’re looking for mopey and melancholia-laden music — even when tackling somewhat sombre topics, they seem to be dedicated to releasing positive energy out into the world first and foremost. You can take away a sense of hope or inspiration from every part of this sonic journey.

Natas Loves You have an active online presence on Facebook, an official website you can lurk, a couple of sweet videos up on YouTube including the one I embedded below, and The 8th Continent is available to stream for free on Spotify. If you dig what you hear, you are welcome to support the band financially by buying the album off iTunes. Enjoy and God bless!

Trash Monday CXXXVII

Awful Songs About Fat Booty, Pt. II.

Mysteries – New Age Music Is Here

I am back with a review of something quite fundamentally different from what’s been featured in our music department lately! An obscure trio called Mysteries has appeared on my radar and I’m excited to present their upcoming debut New Age Music Is Here today.

As the name suggests, Mysteries have a deliberately enigmatic presence. I can’t work with real names, faces, personal backgrounds and concrete locations in this review, which seems to be part of a concept to let listeners focus on the music without drawing attention to the people making it. I recently read an interview with British indie rockers Alt-J, who apparently wanted to go that same route at the beginning of their career, but had a change of mind when their ever-growing concert audience started cluttering their Google results with unflattering cellphone pictures. So while I find the anonymous approach really refreshing, I feel it’s appropriate to cross my fingers that we will one day be able to put faces to Mysteries, as well.

For now, let’s ignore the mystery and move on to the music. New Age Music Is Here is a little out of my musical comfort zone and it took some serious getting used to the first time round, but boy, has it penetrated my brain since. With its spellbinding mix of industrial, electronic, ambient, post-punk and at times even trip-hop elements, it’s one of the more unique things to hit my eardrums as of late. It sounds like it might be inspired by the Blade Runner soundtrack, and the vocals have a Tears For Fears meets Future Islands vibe, which adds to the intense and dark nature of the album. All of this, coupled with sombre synthesizer keys galore, is a formula at a high risk of veering into cheesy territory (and not always in a charming 80s way), but these guys confidently lay it on thick and make it work with pure skill. They left nothing to chance, as this is an extremely clever, clean and calculated record.

Mysteries‘ carefully crafted ambient pop probably doesn’t hit the mark for everyone, but I encourage the curious sceptics to open up their minds and give it a spin, ’cause it really took me by surprise just how much I ended up loving it. They certainly venture out of the conventional indie box and take risks, and do it so well that I can’t help but tip my proverbial hat to them and spread the word!

New Age Music Is Here is out on the 28th of October on Felte. You can have a sneak listen on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, pay the band a visit on Facebook and pre-order the album on iTunes.

Trash Monday CXXXV

If you believe the recent controversies surrounding this guy, “WDGAF” is far from the worst thing he has ever spawned. Still, it’s… unfortunate.

Trash Monday CXXIX

Not technically a music video, but still the most hilarious artistic display I’ve encountered in a long, long time. 3:26 and 5:04 is when shit gets real.

Each Other – Being Elastic

Ladies and gentlemen, today I bring you unconventionally charming indie rock by Each Other all the way from Montreal! I’ve only recently discovered their 1-and-a-half-year-old Heavily Spaced and have been listening to the small collection relentlessly for the past weeks. Upon further research, I found out that the guys released a LP entitled Being Elastic in March this year, and naturally came straight to my cosy lil’ El Gore music corner to write about it.

The first thing that hit me while listening to Each Other is how much they remind me of Women, another art/experimental rock band from Canada that struck a nerve with me in a really unique way a few years back. Something about wonky guitars and unhinged, progressive, outlandish musical structures instantly captures my attention and rarely lessens its grip on me over time.

The raw and garage-y vibe of Being Elastic is certainly conjured up, at least in part, by the fact that the Canadian trio recorded it to tape in their home-built studio during breaks between touring; they also just seem to have a penchant for it, as this exact characteristic in combination with the off-kilter nature of the songs is their unmistakable trademark. However, the tracks on Being Elastic seem to have a longer attention span than Each Other‘s previous tunes, which are filled with an exciting sense of urgency. There are still moments of nervous upheaval on this record, but it makes for a more level-headed ensemble. It releases its energy in bursts, with attention to detail, rather than coming at you like a full-on explosion of sound.

There’s also a distinct element of pop skilfully incorporated into the sonic whirlwind that is this album. Its cheery undertones make it appropriately summery to listen to while driving with windows down, but it at no point degenerates into a fluffy cliché — another testament to Each Other‘s creative prowess.

So, fans of adventurous, distorted, jangly, healthily and artfully fucked-up pop/rock: do not miss this band. You can stream Being Elastic for free on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Spotify, and pay the band a visit on Facebook if you like!