Woods, The Fresh & Onlys

“We walked down streets and crammed onto trains, our faces masks of fear. Unsure how to react, we, collectively, did not react. We grieved for a country and an ideal we never thought would die. We grieved for a loss of certainty.
We argued about what we thought would happen. We preached understanding. We advocated for anger. Some people said that we’d at least get some incredible art, other people said that was a small view of a world we were quickly realizing we’d misunderstood. Everyone was right. Everyone was wrong. Art made in precarious times matters as much as we let it matter.
But what are we looking for from the art we enjoy? Escapism? A reckoning with harsh reality? A temporary shared hallucination? Music can heal because it presents the pain of being human as universal.
Love is Love was written and recorded in the two months immediately following the election, but it’s not a record borne entirely of angry, knee-jerk reaction to what America is becoming. Instead, it’s a meditation on love, and on what life means now. Taking cues from last year’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light, it feels very much like a record made from living, shoulder to shoulder, in a major city: weaving psychedelic swirls of guitar between languid horns reminiscent of the best Ethiopian jazz—Love is Love is a distinctly New York record. It is a document of protest in uncertain times and an open-hearted rejection of cynicism in favor of emotional honesty. It is bright, and then, unexpectedly, a little dark sometimes too.
There will be parts of life where we will watch as events unfold and we will feel helpless. We will not be sure of the future. On good days, we’ll have each other. On the bad ones, we’ll turn to the art that helps us feel something. Love is Love is a document of the new world we live in, proof that light can come from despair and hope is still possible. We just need a little help remembering it exists.” – Sam Hockley-Smith

The Fresh & Onlys

“We make albums to be heard as albums,” says Tim Cohen. “We always toil over the sequencing and slight pauses.” House of Spirits, The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album since 2008, testifies to their rigorous full-length approach. Their most adventurous outing yet, House of Spirits devotes its A-side to the character of dreams. Written partly during his stay at an isolated horse ranch in Arizona with only a guitar, Korg keyboard and drum machine, Cohen focused the album’s lyrics on firmer narratives than on past material, but his imagery veers towards absurdity, reflecting the unreliable visions culled from his nightly subconscious activity. The album’s latter half finds his speaker awoken, resolute and lucid. All throughout, Cohen says the album grapples with the “idea that home is where your feet are.” While still possessing the impeccable pop faculties displayed on Long Slow Dance and Soothsayer, The Fresh & Onlys also deal experimental atmospherics and drum-machine anchored ballads like never heard from the group before.

“The things I remember from dreams are when something is slightly off. You’re in your house but realize suddenly that it’s not yours,” says Cohen. In that sense, album opener “Home is Where?” is a statement of the album’s intent. When Cohen’s speaker notices a “bowl full of eyes on the floor,” or “cauldron of hearts on the stove” during his comforting walk through “the good life,” the brisk but nuanced track morphs into a surrealist nightmare.

Jessica Pratt

“To say that Jessica Pratt is an old soul would be a vast understatement,” says Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork. “The young San Francisco singer/songwriter’s deeply intimate folk sounds so sincerely cast in from the 1960s that it’s hard to believe she didn’t release a proper LP during that period of time.” Pratt’s spooky and seductive self-titled debut is the inaugural release on Tim (White Fence) Presley’s new imprint, Birth Records. “I never wanted to start a label,” Presley says, “but there issomething about her voice I couldn’t let go of.”

Pratt’s debut release includes recordings from over the last five years, and steady advances in sophistication of recording and melody are evident throughout. To the artist, the record is a time-lapse document of discovery, both musical and personal. But in strangers’ hands, Pratt’s debut is another kind of discovery altogether. A fully-formed emerald artifact dug up cobwebby and cold but no less green for its time spent buried. Sun-bleached and sounding a thousand years old, Pratt’s debut is arrestingly brand dazzling new, and watch how the lights in your living room go soft and yellow when you put it on.”

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