In this monthly feature, guest contributor RJ Kozain (2020k) shares with us the latest sonic finds that have made themselves at home on his playlists — treasures perhaps not easily stumbled upon. Look for our monthly round-up of favourites on 2020k, Northern Lights and feel free to suggest your treasures on Twitter or Facebook.
Hidden Gems is an infrasound series on this blog wherein I present to you my own random musical finds that I will subjectively pack into one combined blog entry. These gem entries are presented in hopes that these songs make their way from my playlist to yours. The majority of these releases are songs that’ve been dug up by surprise, that have taken me whole, and refused to let me go. It’s in promotion of music and the joy it brings.
Any genre, any timeframe, any artist.
I encourage you to follow these artists in whichever way you find convenient. I’ve placed their profiles here through embedding the featured song. While you’re at it, follow me through my own musical endeavors over at my official website; updated fairly recently with new unearthed (and recognized) projects, as well as original material, located here.
01. “Light Out” by Javelin
Brooklyn based cousins George Langford and Tom Van Buskirk make up Javelin. A quick run-through of their discography finds vast explorations of pop/electronica and while they swing from interpolating tongue-in-cheek Ciara lyrics (“Dynamite“) to Passion Pit-lite sonics (“Airfield“), it’s “Light Out” from the Hi Beams record that finds the duo at their best. To a four-to-the-floor kick drum, “Look around, you know you’ve made it, after all the days you waited,” the song begins. The verse continues by vaguely standing the protagonists ground and defending his current position, “In your mind you never faked it. Did you think that you would have to stand naked? Here you are.” Marching snare rolls and creatively placed bare-bones string arrangements make for a great track that’s mature, self-becoming, and joyful.
02. “Top Bunk” by Gauntlet Hair (Pictured above)
Heavy guitar reverberation and vocals completely drive this Lo-Fi adventure put together by these Denver boys. Upon the original promotion for this track off of the band’s self-titled debut album, the Dead Oceans record label pinned this song as cooled-out, coastal slowgrind and it’s definitely a chilled out groove. Though, it’s a confrontational one, with several family digs starting out with “my old man’s a saint though. Not like your own with a scapegoat, she hangs over me” and later “My true mothers a saint though, not like your own with her ch’ain-smoke, she hangs over me.” Several times the singer apologizes for “bringing this out,” but it’s the cathartic symbolism that makes this track immaculate.
03. “Dragging Afloat” by The Flashbulb
Some tracks give un-repenting glimpses into the soul of inner turmoil that affects not only oneself, but those around the individual as well. Benn Jordan, known under the moniker The Flashbulb and who has seen recognition in the visual world, gave us just that with “Dragging Afloat” off of his 2010 recording Arboreal. Long, whole note atmospheric, flowing pads present themselves toward one of the strongest openings to an independent recording in recent years and by the time the vocals start fading in when the pads fade out, it’s clear that song structure and cinematic moments within this Chicago based musician’s music run strong and well-excersized. Lyrically, it’s straight to the point, honest, like an intimate conversation with a close friend going through a rough moment. Most recently, Jordan released a score of sorts titled The Universe, which was commissioned by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium for an interactive exhibit, but before this recognition there was this. Beautiful, simple, guitar driven at times, with an evolving percussive groove that is the icing on the cake for this ride.
04. “The Ghost Who Walks” by Karen Elson
Found originally via an episode of Fringe, this Jack White production from an album of the same name finds an ambiguously haunted woman on the prowl after a murderous breakup. It’s full of deliciously descriptive lyrics of which speak pure horrorlust with their interpretation of love as death and afterlife. There’s a beautiful keyboard solo after each chorus that’s so brilliantly laid in the front of the mix that it puts the final nail in the coffin for this singer/songwriter’s perfect track. It’s throwback, but relevant in today’s purest culture and is a diamond in the rough for Jack White enthusiasts (in fact, White was married to Elson for a few years). The track is from the album of the same name, apparently it was a nickname given to her in high school. It’s part Nancy Sinatra, totally old school, and a kick ass break up song for the alternative side of the music scene.
05. “Aquaparty Metro 20k” by Routine
Indiana based musician Routine is better known under the moniker Kinesthetiac (once upon a time I directed a music video for his song “Transends”. You can see that here), but has taken it upon himself to release more experimental pieces under the name Routine. This particular piece seems based in the vein of something Belong would produce. At times, the ambient/drone piece comes fully into the mix, but with a flash it’s faded out and gone. Glitchy in places, with long incomprehensible voices lounging in the background. Sometimes, the mix speeds up and creates such an anxiety that it’s a challenge to stop your heart and mind from pounding, but it always goes back to its original slowed down tempo; nothing short of beauty. It seems like the ups and downs of life crammed into a song just a little over two minutes. Astounding work.