Norwegian Arms, Snowmine

Norwegian Arms

The term ‘Norwegian Arms’, according to front-person and sole founding member Keith Birthday, describes the act of “grabbing slivers of fleeting moments across the globe, but in a self deprecating way.” Throughout the band’s existence, Birthday has done just that. The band’s debut record Wolf Like a Stray Dog captured a year of frozen solitude spent in the Siberian Taiga. Snapshots of intimate personal experiences mixed with stories of secret cities and musings on language and culture. Where Wolf focused on a specific feeling attached to a singular place, Norwegian Arms’ new album Girard Freeloader (out 1/20 on Mutual Crush) applies this concept to the entire world, with songs taking inspiration from the jungles of Peru, the forests of Washington state, and Keith Birthday’s native Philadelphia.

Keith (also known in more professional circles as Brendan M) uses these places as jumping off points to ruminate about the complications of living in this modern world through the eyes of a “Freeloader”, the listless narrator who is searching simultaneously for a cup of coffee and his own deepest feelings. “West Queens Street West” turns a weekend trip to Toronto into thoughts about traveling as a break from the monotony of everyday Internet-centric life. “East Hollywood” finds Birthday considering how distance and growth changes relationships over time while visiting friends in California. But the place that seemingly influences Girard Freeloader the most is the city of Philadelphia, where Keith found himself suddenly still after his long Russian sojourn, and where the record takes its name.

Whether he’s talking about modern American colonialism as a traveling ESL teacher through an the lens of sucking up the last limited natural resources from a dying planet on “Resource Sucker”, feeling himself atrophy on “Visons of my Father,” or fantasizing about finding a better life in the Pyrenees mountains on “How We Move”, the feeling of returning to a familiar place after a long and affecting journey looms large over Girard Freeloader.

The record was chiefly recorded by José Díaz Rohena at The Unknown, Phil Elverum’s studio in Anacortes, Washington and completed in Philadelphia and Birthday’s new home of New York. The music communicates a growth from the last album as well, a more cinematic and extended scope, with more room for contemplation than the previous record’s two minute punk-influenced blasts. Girard Freeloader feels like D’Angelo-influenced digital soul with the synthesizer drive of The Silver Apples and the groovy poly-rhythms of Tuareg guitarists, all culled from Birthday’s mind and the childhood mandolin on which he writes songs with a signature unorthodox finger-driven playing style.

While Birthday was recording, he took a break to visit Bowman’s Bay, a secluded beach on the outskirts of Anacortes. There he found inspiration for the lyrics for “Make The Rules”, the closing track to the album: “I can almost taste it, feet behind in the nectar line. Is it the only thing that binds? String of eternity? And isn’t it amazing, the breadth of the sea, the lines in the leaves? Just over the bay I can see it.” Girard Freeloader is an album about contemplation and striving for self-betterment in the terrifying world in which we live. Maybe, if we all connect deeper with the places we hold dear, we can attain it. As Birthday expresses, “I’ve come a long way, but it’s everything that I know.”

Snowmine are set to release their new album – Dialects – through their own imprint Mystery Buildings. Dialects, Snowmine's second album in their three year history, was entirely written and produced on their own, and recorded by Jake Aron (Grizzly Bear), and Yale Yng Wong (Here We Go Magic) in a church in Uptown Manhattan. The album chronicles a disoriented period in singer Grayson Sanders' life, when after the band's first record, he spontaneously left his job, and spent the following year wandering with a single bag. The lyrics are pulled entirely from the journal he kept during his travels. Dialects is about communication. With the self. With the lover. With society. It's about its breakdown, it's triumphs, and it's misgivings. Growing off of the band's previous release, Dialects marks a subtle shift in the band's sound, from the optimistic, tribal undertones of Laminate Pet Animal, to a more ambient, meditative nostalgia. Recording in a church afforded them the opportunity to record real reverbs, and gather true ambiances one can feel in their headphones. Combine a stronger presence of vintage synthsesizers with the beautiful 1960's cinema-inspired string, woodwind, and choir orchestrations, and you are left with a surreal retrofuturism beckoning you inside for a fireside chat.
In the band's leadoff single "Rome," we experience this juxtoposition firsthand, with a hypnotic post-punk drum groove pushing us forward through a mist of sweeping strings and classic synth sounds. "Columbus," an echo from the past, starts with distant, seductive sirens beckoning us into their sepia-toned love story, driven forward by Fleetwood Mac inspired drums and an irresistably memorable chorus. "Safety in An Open Mind," a purely instrumental track, highlights the entire ensemble on the record, with glistening choral textures soaring in and out of an organic percussion landscape. This piece is a testament to the band's originality, as they utilized zero foreign samples on the album, and recorded every single sound effect and note live. The album's soaring, melancholic third single, "You Want Everything," caps the record's message by urging us to accept who we really are. "You could try to be your best, but don't you know it's suicide to want? You want. You want everything...I won't let you have regrets, no way." It's this message that has guided the band's release strategy. Having been disatisfied with lengthy label discussions, the band decided to forego the system altogether and turn to their diehard organic following. Staying true to the DIY methods they have adhered to since the band's inception, they created an entirely custom crowdfunding project via their website Snowmine.Com. Not only can fans choose what they want to buy for the money they can afford to give, but the band has created milestones that allow the fans to be a part of the art, by submitting information or photos of themselves to be included in album artwork and other pieces of content. It's this type of attention to their supporters that has turned a once self-released Bandcamp bedroom project into a beloved musical presence.

Dream Safari

Dream Safari, described by self and listeners as "jungle-pop", emits a blend of disco-driven beats with a twist of tropical. Dreamy mallets, delayed drum pads, and cosmic vocals are tightly wrapped in electronic dance elements, creating a unique vibe. Dream Safari's debut EP is available for free download at dreamsafari.bandcamp.com.

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