Elastic.

A commonplace word, one you encounter everyday, but it has some powerful and complex meanings. It’s a fabric you’re probably wearing right now, but Bloomington, Indiana, singer-songwriter Amy Oelsner knows it’s also a state of being: flexible, stretchable, expandable, contorting itself but always snapping back to its original shape.

Elastic is also the title of her exuberant new album as Amy O, and she did not choose that word lightly. In fact, you might say it chose her. “It hit me that this is the concept of the album. That word perfectly captures it for me. This is an album about how I’ve been able to grow and heal, how I’ve had to adapt to new and sometimes difficult circumstances. That to me is elasticity.”

That word similarly describes the sound Amy O makes with her band: tightly coiled indie-pop music indebted to Sleater-Kinney and the Roches, Helium and Laura Nyro, defined by unruly guitars, excitable vocals, rambunctious performances, and supremely hyperactive hooks. Elastic snaps and pops exuberantly, zigzagging constantly, its joy infectious and its craft undeniable. You might try to put the title track or “History Walking” or even the slower “Sunday Meal” on in the background, but every song pushes to the foreground and demands to be heard.

It’s either her second album or her ninth, depending on how you count, which means Amy O is both a new artist and a veteran. Growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, she taught herself to play guitar and write songs, eventually recording a series of lo-fi albums as she moved around the country for college and work. She released them independently, with little regard for sales or promotions. The endeavor was more about her own experience: the thrill and the discipline of making art. “Songwriting became a way for me to process things and make sense of my life. I got hooked on it emotionally.”

She didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a good grounding for her career as well as her craft. In the mid 2010s—after living in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Brooklyn—she moved to Bloomington to work at Rhino’s Youth Center, which offers creative after-school programs to teenagers. It’s a school, an art gallery, a music venue, a theater, a community center, and pretty much everything else. Among her many other duties Amy O leads the Zine Writing Program, which encourages adolescents to share their own stories, to engage with the public in creative ways, to define and address the issues that affect their lives on a granular level. Zines, she says, can be a “space to be yourself and share your views. A lot of teens don’t feel like their voices matter, but I feel like a lot of people really do want to listen. It’s hard to make that exchange happen. A zine is a really good way to let them share what’s going on with them.”

In other words, a good zine works like to a good song as a vehicle for self-definition and self-expression. As she wrote more songs, Amy O grew more confident in her musical and lyrical voice, which she channeled into 2016’s Arrow, which “was my first thing that wasn’t just me at home on my computer.” Many of the songs were inspired by the death of a close friend, a tragedy that pushed Amy O to become much more candid and ambitious as an artist. “That shaped my passion for sharing my music. It really made me focus on what I want to do with my life. What brings me joy? What brings me satisfaction? If it’s music, then I need to do that. After a bad experience, I need to access joy again. As soon as I released the record, I knew I wanted to do it again, right away, as soon as I possibly could.”

Elastic is the first album she recorded at a professional studio—specifically, Russian Recording in Bloomington. The place itself is homey and comfortable, and the cats who live there (including local internet celebrity L’il Bub) provided a break during particularly stressful moments. “I’m a little bit allergic, but I would pet them during breaks. It relaxed me.” But what led her to the studio was owner Mike Bridavsky, who had mastered Arrow and took over production duties for Elastic. “I knew that we would work well together, but it’s amazing to work with someone who is excited about your music and personally invested in the project.”

Over the course of several weekends, Amy O and her backing band worked on these dozen songs, her best and most personal to date, until they became delirious earworms, the confectionary melodies delivering love and death and joy and sorrow and everything else that makes up life. “Sunday Meal” might have been inspired by a trip to Connecticut and the death of her grandmother, but with its shifts in tone and tempo, the song is less a eulogy and more a celebration of a long life well lived. Her grandmother was an avid sailor her entire life, which inspired the central line, “She is calling me: ‘Come on home, steer the wheel along.’” “That experience made me think of home and all the forms it can take. The life I am building for myself is home, the shared history I have with my family is home.”

That’s the entire motivation for this music-making project: making something substantial, relatable, fresh, and meaningful. In other words, something that sounds like home. “When I’m having these feelings that I can’t deal with, I’ll get super inspired to sit down and write a song. It can be a last resort, but it feels good to go through that process. Still, I try to keep my songs a little vague and open to interpretation. It can be in service to the song not to overshare, because I want them to be universal and relatable, not just me me me.”

Elastic ultimately is an album about learning to live in your own inescapable skin—a challenge that defines not just Amy O’s life, but everybody’s existence. Identifying that universal truth has shaped her into an exciting and insightful artist, one who is no longer making music for herself but is working to command whatever stage she steps onto. “I always had an aversion to being a girl onstage with a guitar singing quiet songs. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but I always knew I wanted to do something with a bit more volume, a bit more anger. I’m just now figuring out how to represent myself, and I think a lot of that has to do with feminism—learning how to be loud and take over a room, when those are things I’ve been socialized not to do. It’s been a very powerful realization that I can do that.”

I remember the point in the intro to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 that would skip on my dad's copy of the CD when we would listen to it almost 20 years ago. Before we knew how to read and my sister and I knew we were passing the ice cream shop our mom would claim the sign said "closed," but it wasn't until this past year I felt lied to. There are few other early memories I remember well enough to hold fondly.

Sometimes things happen so fast you develop a stutter. Sometimes you convince yourself nothing happens at once and sometimes it's better that way. Sometimes things don't change at all for a long period of time. Maybe your only growth for most of your life is physical. What if you found out that you'd spent your whole life on auto-pilot and you didn't even know there was anything to be piloting?

When does the weight get so heavy on your chest that you decide to do something about it?

I am the crumbling of infrastructure. I gave up freedom to die at will for the company of a dog I was too depressed to train. Sometimes it’s not the people that are toxic, rather the associations. If we’re post-truth, then I reject cognitive science. I want to believe there’s something driving this vessel I’m in. Let there be another dimension where my feet won’t hurt for eternity.

It's hard watching Johnny Carson re-runs without cringing at least once from a joke that today would be socially unacceptable. It troubles the consideration of general acceptability as it is presently analyzed in a transformative period of universal introspection and automated curation of external stimuli.

Why does anyone do anything? My experience may be similar to your experience. Does that matter? I want to find out if the origin of suicide can be traced back to the moment animals who didn't keep up with the pace of evolution realized they didn't share a future with their peers. I can't tell if everything is real or if nothing is real, and I don't know if that's good or bad. I don't know if there's anything I can do with my life to make both my parents and my potential children proud, but at least I proudly have a record.

A record of my attempts to navigate holding myself accountable for the first time. A record about what could be called my first love and how little I knew about it. These songs are moments, urges, impulses, reflections on what’s happening as it’s happening. I want this work to empower others to place more value on individual moments and embrace emotion and intuition as the truest thing we have. All we have is ourselves individually, collectively.I remember the point in the intro to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 that would skip on my dad's copy of the CD when we would listen to it almost 20 years ago. Before we knew how to read and my sister and I knew we were passing the ice cream shop our mom would claim the sign said "closed," but it wasn't until this past year I felt lied to. There are few other early memories I remember well enough to hold fondly.

Sometimes things happen so fast you develop a stutter. Sometimes you convince yourself nothing happens at once and sometimes it's better that way. Sometimes things don't change at all for a long period of time. Maybe your only growth for most of your life is physical. What if you found out that you'd spent your whole life on auto-pilot and you didn't even know there was anything to be piloting?

When does the weight get so heavy on your chest that you decide to do something about it?

I am the crumbling of infrastructure. I gave up freedom to die at will for the company of a dog I was too depressed to train. Sometimes it’s not the people that are toxic, rather the associations. If we’re post-truth, then I reject cognitive science. I want to believe there’s something driving this vessel I’m in. Let there be another dimension where my feet won’t hurt for eternity.

It's hard watching Johnny Carson re-runs without cringing at least once from a joke that today would be socially unacceptable. It troubles the consideration of general acceptability as it is presently analyzed in a transformative period of universal introspection and automated curation of external stimuli.

Why does anyone do anything? My experience may be similar to your experience. Does that matter? I want to find out if the origin of suicide can be traced back to the moment animals who didn't keep up with the pace of evolution realized they didn't share a future with their peers. I can't tell if everything is real or if nothing is real, and I don't know if that's good or bad. I don't know if there's anything I can do with my life to make both my parents and my potential children proud, but at least I proudly have a record.

A record of my attempts to navigate holding myself accountable for the first time. A record about what could be called my first love and how little I knew about it. These songs are moments, urges, impulses, reflections on what’s happening as it’s happening. I want this work to empower others to place more value on individual moments and embrace emotion and intuition as the truest thing we have. All we have is ourselves individually, collectively.

Useful Solitude.

That's the phrase Kevin Krauter uses to describe Toss Up, his upcoming full‐length debut on Bayonet Records‐both the conditions in which it was created and the prevailing theme of these nine iridescent indie‐pop songs. In between tours, the Indiana musician spent long hours in his basement, guitars and vintage keyboards his only company, and tested out ideas, explored new sonic avenues, savored new sounds, and taught himself how to play a few instruments.

"I would wake up and have a cup of coffee, then I'd come up with a song or a melody and just sit and play it literally for three or four hours straight. Then I'd try to find new ways to play it, or do it with different notes or on different instruments. I don't want to call it meditating, but it was pretty meditative to sit there by myself and play the same thing over and over and over and over." The riffs and melodies became mantras, repeated back to himself until they became the rhythmically intricate, melodically bold, and emotionally complex songs on Toss Up. An insightful songwriter with a lyrical style that is both economical and evocative, Krauter crafts unique soundscapes that scramble a range of influences:'60s flower pop, '70s easy listening, '80s New Wave, '90s alt‐radio, '00s indie rock.

A gentle melancholy pervades the album, but it's far too imaginative to sound morose or mopey. "You're singing all alone and you're dancing all alone," he sings on "Who Do You Know," as the guitars crackle and the synths fizz around him. As Toss Up proceeds, Krauter fills the songs with more and more people:a lover in the unabashedly sweet "Keep Falling in Love;" a friend in the album‐closing title track who becomes an audience of one. Music becomes the bond between Krauter and the world:"Take my hand 'cause we're really alone in this world," he sings on "Toss Up," but adds a poignant promise:"I can carry you home."

Best known as one of several guitar players, songwriters, and vocalists in the Hoosier indie‐rock band Hoops, Krauter has been making music all by his lonesome for much longer. He grew up in a family heavily involved in local musical theater, even appearing in three productions of Joseph &the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He played in high school bands, but didn't get serious about writing and recording until he enrolled at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. His first efforts ‐‐ recorded in his dorm room ‐‐ weren't intended for any kind of audience, but a friend asked him to record a few tracks for a class project. Eventually those sessions became 2015's Magnolia EP, a short collection of gentle, gauzy songs that reveal his early obsession with one of his first musical heroes, Vashti Bunyan.

It was his first taste of the music business, and the experience left a huge impression. "I'd never put any music out under my name. I'd never put out a tape before. It all came together quickly." Krauter began recording and releasing music prolifically, first with Hoops and then on his own. The Changes EP, released in late 2016, showcases his deft guitar playing, mixing soul‐baring songwriting with bossa nova rhythms and intimately lo‐fi production. It was supposed to be a low‐key release, but Changes became a word‐of‐mouth hit that amassed a small but avid cult behind it. "I didn't think it was going to make any huge waves for me, but a lot of people told me they were still listening to it a year or more later. They were living with it, and I thought that was cool."

Those first two EPs were mostly acoustic, just Krauter, his guitar, and occasionally a brushed snare drum or a textural electric guitar. "I was cool with it for a while, but I wanted to make something that sounded a little more pop." Recorded at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana, Toss Up builds on the sonic worlds of his first releases, conveying a similar mood with a greater array of instruments and influences. Still, he worked with what he had around him. "I found this old two‐stack organ at Goodwill and set it up on top of an old Yamaha teach‐yourself keyboard that my mom had. I was playing those over and over."

You can hear those vintage keyboards merging on "Keep Falling in Love," which recalls R&B organist Timmy Thomas and West Coast marina pop artists Ned Doheny while showing off Krauter's strong falsetto. "Rollerskate" audaciously marries a hypnotic keyboard theme to a loping drumbeat based on a popular '90s alt‐rock hit. (See if you can guess which one. Answer below*.) "I had been working on that guitar part and it sounded like another pretty folk song, so I thought, What if I put this weird funky beat on top of it Most of these songs are very groove heavy."

That is the secret tension on Toss Up, the engine that drives these songs:melody propelled by rhythm, melancholy fended off by the exuberance of simply creating art. "A lot of the songs are about solitude in a very healthy sense, about trying to make it something useful and productive. It was good to center myself in that experience. I was able to get to a place where I was not afraid to be really stoked by what I was doing." Or, as he declares on "Lonely Boogie":"I'm all alone and I'm having a good time."

Grand Rapids, MI’s Major Murphy, who counts Gorilla vs. Bear, GoldFlakePaint, and My Old Kentucky Blog as early fans, are back with a new song “Mary” on Winspear. The three-piece – guitarist, vocalist, and lead songwriter Jacob Bullard, bassist and vocalist Jacki Warren, and drummer Brian Voortman – builds on two previous EPs and a love of classic rock ballads to write one of their own. The song’s laid back, ‘70s AM radio influence is specific, but who is this “Mary”?

“Mary in this song represents innocence and naivety,” says Bullard. “The singer is in transit ("standing on a corner, standing on a line") and appeals to Mary to guide them through an unfair and complicated world.” Expect more from the trio in Spring 2018.

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