Featured Albums and Team Reviews
Slowdive – Souvlaki (1994)
By Olive Welsh
As bleak and depressing as it is cinematic and exalting, Souvlaki truly is the shoegaze holy grail. On their sophomore album, the pioneering post-rock group Slowdive beckons us into its droney daydream landscape — will we find our way back?
Lead vocalist and guitarist Neil Halstead’s vocal melodies are at once monotonous yet tender— they echo and swirl around murmuring and dreamlike guitar layers provided by himself and guitarist Rachel Goswell. The album opens with the lethargic treatise “Alison”, and later meanders between the bleak and the heroic, culminating in an amorphous drone that lures us into a nostalgic trance.
The single off this record, “Alison”, is a downtempo yet forcefully resonant track — imagine the soundtrack of trekking through a searing desert plain towards an unending horizon, or spending a bleary-eyed grey day shuffling aimlessly through the park. Halstead and Goswell’s dual hazy guitar leads play out the epic rolling chorus melody of the track — single notes shrouded in reverb, piercing and whining against ephemeral, harmonizing vocals.
In standout tracks “Machine Gun” and “When the Sun Hits” whining, distant guitar leads intertwine with shuffling industrial percussion that mix electronic and analog drums into a hazy, metallic atmosphere. “Machine Gun” features elongated, piercing synths that resurface for a bright moment, then recede back into the ambient smoke of the track. Goswell provides angelic and ethereal vocals that soar above the mess, providing clarity and direction in the muddy vacuum.
Youthful angst certainly fuels this album… yet the band’s method of expression ends up exchanging intensity and aggression of emotionality for numbness and gloom. Dim, grungy and at times unhinged, the album ends up feeling more mature, measured and reflective than some of its more unhinged shoegaze contemporaries (Loveless — my bloody valentine, Psychocandy – The Jesus and Mary Chain).
There’s really no question — there’s a lot of pain behind Souvlaki… but the source is intentionally muddy and cloaked. It’s up to the listener to leaf through the forlorn layers of this album—or maybe the layers within oneself— to unearth its well-kept secret.
If you enjoy the music of Mazzy Star, the xx, or Beach House, you’ll enjoy this album.
Past Featured Vinyl:
Her Ultimate Collection
Tribe Called Quest
People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
Happier Than Ever
review by: Steph Traylor
Is it real? Or is this just a dream? This is the feeling you get after listening to the 19 year old’s second album. With themes of wishing for simpler times and the challenges of fame with of course a sprinkle of super fun teenage emotions (hellooo self-image), “Happier Than Ever” has a Leslie Feist (Broken Social Scene, Feist) feel to a couple tracks, but then you randomly get a flash of Brittney. Which to us, is a little off-putting.
You cannot argue the pure talent behind her deep vocals, and we really do love her jazzy take on pop acoustics. As beautiful as it is though, we’re not entirely impressed by the depth of it. Is it honest? Sure. You can hear her emotions without a doubt and we applaud her transparent approach to anxiety, mental health and depression. (We really do love how she sweetly sings “I hate you”) It’s unfortunately clear, however, that she is being pulled in a couple different directions in this album. We’re rooting for you Billie and are excited about her future, but we may not have this album on the frequently-played list.
Why We Chose it: We are big fans for anyone who tackles mental health with transparency, especially at such a young age. Bravo, Billie. You’re not alone.
Pair it with: Lavender cold brew. Not too sweet, oh-so dreamy and trendy AF
Hounds of Love
review by: Steph Traylor
Let’s just be clear, Running up That Hill is one of my top ten favorite songs so please understand the bias behind this review. But come on, you can’t possibly walk away from the raw beauty that launches you into her most “Kate-bush”-like album…. It leaves you energized, weepy and just jaded enough to think about flipping the world upside down. DO IT. Kate wants you to.
Released in 1985, this was Kate Bush’s 5th album, but the level of sophistication in her writing skills has always been present. We love her natural soprano voice, her fearless exploration of sound with funky synthesizers and the heart pounding drums of this album as it almost feels like a march forward. The LGBTQ icon has fearlessly written about gender equality and race while at same time, creating a romantic and softness around the issues. It makes it realistic. Attainable and discussable. “Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?” It’s like she’s talking directly to us. We get it, Kate. We matter. You matter. Everything matters.
After listening to this album, we feel like the world has gotten just a little smaller, knowing that we are not alone and that we can tackle even the heaviest of issues. It’s empowering, smart and we LOVE IT.
Fun fact: Kate Bush was discovered by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmore when she was just 15 years old.
Pair it with a double shot white chocolate mocha with whip cream. Fluffy, sweet but packs a punch.
Kings of Leon
When You See Yourself
review by: Steph Traylor
Let’s talk about the first three tracks. With a slightly reinventive start, you immediately start realizing that this is a more upbeat recording than their previous albums. We’re hopeful at this point that the band has actually evolved (hopefully past their 2016 flop). But then it does this thing where you find it has become just background music. And we’re all a little sad about it. (hang on til the end though! Second to last track, “Echoing” is actually super fun and the last track has a beautiful dreamy feel)
Is it lovely? It is. It’s a thoughtful album and has its own beauty. 100,000 People (probably our favorite track on the album) reminds us of the authenticity of all types of love and we enjoy looking through that lens. Beyond that, we found ourselves yawning throughout. Overall, we think this album was a miss, but still find it occasionally in rotation. We love Kings of Leon, but we just wish they could get past who they were in the early 2000’s and give us something new, a bit more mature and maybe hold on to that spark of liveliness from the first track (“When you See Yourself, Are you Far Away”)
Why we chose it: This album perked our interest because it is the first album to be sold as an NFT (Non-fungible Token), which is basically a digital currency. It allows artists to sell their music with the ability to unlock special packages including limited pressings, concert tickets, art and other perks. As a whole, the album is beautiful enough and we will always love Kings of Leon. It’s a great addition to the collection, but is it a must-buy? ehhhh…
Pair it with: Red Eye (shot of espresso in black coffee). Something that’ll wake you up around track 4 so you can make it to the end. But the end is worth it! Trust us.