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Jake & Nolan – SEE YOU LATER EP
Genre: Bedroom Pop
Favorite Tracks: “72,” “Where I Reside”
Jake Monger and Nolan McDowell make music that lives between the lumbering haze of Mac Demarco’s “Chamber of Reflection” and the brisk, dimly-lit pop of Current Joys. That template has been a success for a number of youthful Bandcamp and SoundCloud dwellers, each of them making hissing bedroom tapes for the internet, just waiting to become the next King Krule. While that subgenre of listless, lo-fi guitar and synth rock becomes more crowded by the day, we’re also seeing that sound’s most interesting qualities rise up. Enter Monger and McDowell (who make music currently simply as “Jake and Nolan”) and their four-track EP, SEE YOU LATER. Like the unfriendliness of their SEO name would imply, who Jake and Nolan are remains somewhat of a mystery short of a small profile in zine GOTH GRRRL, and even that fails to answer many of the central questions. Are they in high school? What are their actual influences? How often exactly do they listen to Mac DeMarco? Do they wear dad hats? Some of the answers to these questions could be implied, but the music itself carries enough similar mystery to it that it’s not enough to be bogged down by. Both “72” and “Where I Reside” are woozy ballads, while “Running” and “July Is Promising” (a dubious title for a duo residing in Arizona) are more straightforward bops, swaying with less psych edge and more streamlined verses. While the two could afford to crank up the hiss and pop of the digital tape, or lean heavier into something dreamier, drearier, and more nostalgic, these songs find the quick pleasure and idle satisfaction of what artists like DeMarco and Nick Rattigan produce without any of the showy production or indie rock stakes. That SEE YOU LATER is carefree is perhaps its greatest strength, and that it’s made by a pair of youngsters too young to give a shit about what I think about it somehow makes it all the more freeing. Check it out over on Bandcamp.
Leon III – S/T
Favorite Tracks: “Maybe I’m Immune,” “Faded Mountain,” “The Line,” “The Strongest Medicine”
The guitar noodling that opens “Maybe I’m Immune?” tellingly rings out like the opening notes of a classic Grateful Dead jam. Foreshadowing, the opener of Leon III’s self-titled debut stretches for seven minutes, moving from a soulful, slow-moving ballad to a mountainous, warbling guitar jam. It’s one helluva opening statement by former Wrinkle Neck Mules members Andy Stepanian and Mason Brent. Playing alongside seasoned session musicians who’ve played with everyone from the Silver Jews to Andrew Bird to Justin Townes Earle, Stepanian and Brent use the opportunity to drastically shy away from the more straight-laced outlaw country of their past to make a varied rock record that touches everything from the Dead to Elton John to the aforementioned Silver Jews. Stepanian’s whiskey-soaked drawl draws most of the group’s self-titled debut ideas back to the realm of country, but these songs purposefully crawl far beyond the rugged sound that the Wrinkle Neck Mules developed. Minor production choices like the warm strings on “The Line,” the flourishes of mandolin on the campfire ballad “From These Heights,” and the emboldened battalion trumpeting of “Alberta” make these songs pop with color. The Wrinkle Neck Mules are a tremendous act in their own right, but their achievement was often singular: intense and wrought with a sharp, honky-tonk, beer-drenched openness. If there was justice, the Mules would’ve been a properly commended major label country act (their songs fit the bill and were smarter than what’s on the radio, but a prevailing stubbornness rightly kept them outside of the limelight enough for true country fans to appreciate). But LEON III is a slow build, a multi-dimensional release that is accessible as it lays out its broad roots with noticeable precision—these are songs where the details are meant to be noticed and enjoyed, especially on steadily climbing jams like “The Strongest Medicine” or “Maybe I’m Immune?” LEON III, outside of, and perhaps in contrast to, the Mules catalog is a stirring alt-country release worthy of anyone who is a fan of the genre. Give it a listen on Bandcamp.