Porches

When Aaron Maine looks back on his early work as Porches, he’s often struck by how sad and angry it can feel. “That music turned out a lot more pessimistic than I intended it to be,” he says. “But when I took a sad moment and turned it into a song, it was a cathartic, positive, and clean process. For me, those moments were victories. Feeling better,” he adds, “was making a song.”

As it turns out, Maine is very good at making songs. Over the last few years, the 27-year-old singer and songwriter has released a wealth of material on a number of influential labels, including singles on Terrible (2014’s Prism), Birdtapes (2013’s Townie Blunt Guts) and Seagreen (2014’s Leather), as well as a beautiful yet crushing full-length on Exploding in Sound (2013’s Slow Dance In The Cosmos). And in the process he’s become a magnetic live presence while playing out in New York, gaining the notice of discerning listeners and labels alike. February 2016 marks the much-anticipated release of Pool, his debut full-length for Domino and a major step forward for him—as an evolving singer/songwriter, and as a nascent producer. Written and recorded almost entirely in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his partner and frequent collaborator, Greta Kline a.k.a Frankie Cosmos, Pool is an elegantly drawn set of gorgeous, synth-driven pop songs that were influenced, in part, by settling in the city as an artist and a person. “I’m feeling like I’m in a more permanent situation than I’ve been in before,” he says. “There is something special about recording at home. It’s why it sounds the way it does. Being able to obsess over it on your own time and being in your own little cube knowing you’re surrounded by the city, being able to go so deep into it and to spend hours building it, loving it: all of that allowed me to reflect and focus on things a little closer.”

The album was recorded twice - the first time a crash-course in learning Logic and navigating his first synthesizers and drum machines, the second time starting from scratch with a better hold on the recording process - and eventually mixed by Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Tobias Jesso Jr.) in his Los Angeles studio. Sometime in 2014, Maine, a long-devoted Neil Young fan, began listening to house and electronic music and contemporary pop music more closely and frequently than he ever had before. What followed is a hypnotic and expansive re-articulation of the melancholy we’ve come to expect, from the pristine harmonies of “Hour” to the undulating R&B of “Underwater” to the Auto-tuned majesty of the title track. “I feel like the lyrics are like mood boards or collages of my experience in New York,” he says. “Rather than focusing on a particular incident or story like I have in the past, I wanted to be more abstract, in order to paint a very specific mood: ideas of lightness and darkness, water, air, movement, acceptance and security.” The result is a sophisticated and fully immersive listening experience, with Maine’s voice at its center. “I’m getting a little older and a little more in touch with my emotions,” he adds. “I just wanted to make this album more positive and to make sure that my message was coming across clearly this time. I never wanted my music to bum people out. I feel like I naturally gravitate towards the more melancholic experiences in life, but this time around I tried to dissect those moments and somehow extract what was so beautiful about them to me. With this record, I want people to feel something different, something subtler. I want people to feel dark, beautiful and strong when they hear this new record. I want people to put it on at a party and go wild, to put it on just walking or driving around. I want them to fall in love to this record.”

New York native songwriter and composer Greta Kline has shared a bounty of her innermost thoughts and experiences from the past six years through the almost inconceivable number of songs she has released since 2011. Like many of her peers, Kline’s prolific creative output was initially born out of an era where bedroom recording and self-releasing became more possible than ever through the advent of the internet. But as she’s grown as a writer and performer, playing to larger audiences and devising more complex albums, Kline has shifted from an artist who’s made strides despite limitations, to an artist whose impact can be seen across modern independent music. Her newest record, Vessel, which will be out spring 2018 through Sub Pop Records, is the 52nd release from Kline and the third studio album by her indie pop outfit Frankie Cosmos. On it, Kline explores all of the changes that have come in her life as a result of the music she has shared with the world for the past half-decade, as well as the parts of her life that have remained irrevocable.

Frankie Cosmos has taken several different shapes since their first full band album, Zentropy, erupted in New York’s DIY music scene in 2014. For Vessel the band’s line up comprises of multi-instrumentalists David Maine, Lauren Martin, Luke Pyenson, and Kline, who each contributed their own musical sensibilities to help shape the sound of the new record. In between tours supporting their last album, Next Thing, Kline brought new songs to the band’s rehearsals, and together the members collectively participated in turning them into full band arrangements. As a result, the album’s staggering 18 tracks implement a range of instrumentations and recording methods unheard of on the albums preceding it, while still maintaining the succinctly sincere nature of Kline’s songwriting.

The album’s opening track, “Caramelize,” serves as the thematic overture for Vessel, alluding to topics like dependency, growth, and love which reoccur throughout the record. The song strings together a scope of musical motifs and showcases the intense dynamics in both Kline’s lyrics and the band’s performance that continue on the tracks that follow. Although many of the scenarios and personalities written about on Vessel are familiar territory for Frankie Cosmos, what’s really changed on the new record is Kline’s nuanced point of view and her desire to constantly question the latent meaning of her experiences. In the album’s first single “Jesse,” Kline grapples with the startling personal epiphanies in life that stem from dreams and subconscious realizations. On another single, “Apathy,” Kline confronts her own insecurities around personal change and feeling distant from the people she once had a close relationship with. Then later on the album “Accommodate,” deals with the complexity of being in a community that would rather turn its nose a problem than hold its members accountable. “Being Alive” stands out as one of the few old bandcamp-era Frankie Cosmos songs the band reworked for Vessel, and shows the rhythm section quickly shifting between fast and slow tempos as Kline ponders the minutia of existence. Kline’s dissonant lyrics are paired with the band’s driving, jangly grooves creating several moments on the album where the bandmates’ chemistry playing together is brought to the forefront.

To record Vessel, Frankie Cosmos traveled back up to Binghamton, New York to work with Hunter Davidsohn, the producer and studio engineer who helped craft the sound for Zentropy and Next Thing. The band spent 3 days upstate tracking drums, bass, guitars, and vocals, favoring the spontaneity of reel-to-reel tape over the meticulous perfectionism caused by recording digitally. Then the band and Davidsohn continued recording the album for another three days in Brooklyn with Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader at their studio, Gravesend Recordings. As Frankie Cosmos started testing out new songs for Vessel on the road, the band invited members from their fellow touring bands to join them on stage to sing or play parts on tracks like “Being Alive” and “Jesse.” Once in the studio, the band decided to invite those same friends and more to contribute parts to the final recorded versions including Alex Bailey (formerly of Warehouse, who has replaced David Maine as a permanent member of the live band), Vishal Narang (of Airhead DC), and singer/songwriter Anna McClellan. After six days of recording, Davidsohn continued mixing the album back upstate and eventually sent the finished album to Josh Bonati to be mastered.

Vessel’s run time is exactly double the length of Frankie Cosmos’ breakout record, Zentropy, and serves as enormous leap forward in the band’s catalog. But ultimately, the album’s unique sensibility, esoteric narratives, and reveling energy, allow it to exist as just another distinctive chapter in Kline’s ongoing musical auto-biography. Through Vessel, Kline provides the listener with a spectrum of disparate anecdotes, observations, and affirmations and then tasks them with arranging the pieces in a way that they can make their own sense of. Typically albums by artists at a similar stage in their career are written with the weight of knowing that someone is on the other end listening. Yet, despite bringing attention to her audience in direct references, Kline and the rest of Frankie Cosmos have passionately written Vessel with a clarity not muddled by the fear of meeting anyone’s expectation.

Allison Crutchfield

Check out this joyous news: Allison Crutchfield is now Team Merge! Crutchfield has been writing and performing fantastic songs over the years, most notably in her co-founding projects Swearin’ and P.S. Eliot. Lately she’s been part of the Waxahatchee live band and self-released the Lean In To It EP, but 2017 will see the release of her first proper full-length.

Allison had this to say about the occasion: “Signing with Merge was always sort of a fantasy milestone in my mind, like winning an Oscar or opening a bakery in New England. It was something I dreamed about a hundred times as a teenager but never thought could actually happen. I’ve been fortunate enough to really get to know the Merge family over the last year, and now that I’m a grown-up, I’m so grateful to be able to call Merge home.”

More specifics on Allison’s LP coming later this year!

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