Our featured picks this week - lush dreampop from FERS, a pop tune from kinny, and fuzzed-out shoegaze from Winona Dryver!
A few years ago, FERS emerged with Neverland - a feather-light dream pop moodpiece that channeled subtly pulsating grooves through lush, washed out harmonies. With the quartet pairing alt-songstress Ferry with former ethereal backgrounds in ene.ce and wyd:syd, its sonic imprint came as no surprise - gorgeously sunkissed and drenched in reverb, the song's purpose felt more evocative of a languid energy than an actual demonstration of impactful songwriting. But paired with a music video directed by high fashion art director/photographer Lenne Chai, its stunning visuals in fact seemed to overpower its sonics. Where Neverland’s impressionism delivered a misty haze on its own, the video rendered its impeccable aesthetics less impactful as a standalone song, reducing it instead to slightly more than an absurdly pretty soundtrack to something like a Love, Bonito ad.
After a long gestation period, the five tracks on FERS' debut don't stray far from this trademark languid haze as well, albeit not at a level as evocative as Neverland. On Wait, a blanket of dancing, pulsating guitars surround upbeat grooves, unveiling gently cascading vocals that reverberate in blanketed layers underneath. It's decidedly well-crafted dream pop - but when they depart this haze for more triumphant modes, the result falls flat. As they shift away from this subdued approach, they lose their sense of aesthetic focus and beauty that potentially served as a distinctive factor for the band.
It's not to say that they don't have enticing qualities. Shallow’s riffs indulge in delay-tinged mystery, while Mermaid features an infectious bass groove that brings its whole to a shimmering build. But these unfortunately all wind up in contrived conclusions, breaking into crescendo-core post rock climaxes that unfortunately now sound five to ten years dated. As the songwriting choices that previously grounded their otherworldly tapestries melt away and conceal themselves in a forced and opaque wall of sound - it feels like wasted potential, with all of its delightful textures and pristine mixing considered.
Holding their refined approach and lyrical worldview, it would be a lie to say that FERS didn't hold immense promise. Sadly at this point, that dreaminess years awaited feels less transportive than a sound unfortunately dated in finely-tuned Strymon pedals. That being said, these crescendos would play perfectly on festival stages!
Listen to "Neverland" here:
- by JX Soo
kinny’s Hold It is a prime example of a young, overly excited songwriter dumping everything into his debut single, destroying it by packing in too many ideas and influences for his music. I admit, I was very confused at the beginning. Is the main thing supposed to be the instrumentation? It sounds like it's going somewhere (very Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are-esque), but everything stays so soft as the vocals come in weirdly loud. It stays that way for a long while, and even when it doesn’t, the vocals are too far forward in the mix and way too dry, leaving the space between the vocals and instrumentation truly jarring.
At the end of the song with the silent/mellow outro, we probably get that he was going for an epic crescendo. However, keeping half of the song at the same intensity level even when all the drums come in, then exploding into a displaced-timing bridge... it's more than haphazard to say the least. It makes us lose interest halfway through the first act, then further confuses us in the second.
As much as I love heartfelt pop ballads with steady build-ups (see: With or Without You by U2), Hold It does not do it for me at all. I sincerely hope it does hold "it", whatever it may be, for other people. Sadly, it's such a sub-par song, delivered in a sub-par way. I really hope to hear much better stuff from kinny in the future - there definitely is some potential, but right now as an artiste he is beyond raw.
Listen to "Hold It" here:
- - by Chester
“Super Flower Scene"
Over Super Flower Scene’s relatively short 2 minute runtime, Winona Dryver don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, the Yogyakarta-based shoegaze outfit simply flexes massive fuzzed-out soundscapes, with the impressive driving, urgent nature and emotional depth present on their debut EP First Echo Solution taking a backseat to simply exploring some rather straightforward vibes. With its lyrics simply consisting of names of varied flower species, there’s nothing new or particularly captivating about the track sonically either, seemingly more stripped back - largely harkening back to shoegaze’s roots, with both its accentuated guitar bends and hazy vocal production. Then again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing - by paving new sonic horizons through looking back, Super Flower Scene reveals a path perhaps indicative for Winona Dryver’s way forward.
Listen to "Super Flower Scene” here:
- - by Isaac Yackem