In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with new music from John Dillon, Jonas Friddle and The Majority, Winterpills, and Alpenglow. What have you been listening to this week?
John Dillon, “The Fox”
John Dillon isn’t a man-it’s a collection of musicians from Seattle who find comfort in the middle ground between a handful of musical disciplines. Working their way through the songs of frontman Dillon Sturtevant, the band combines a love of nostalgic synth pop with the languid rhythms of ’60s-era Laurel Canyon. Their songs are laced with humor, self-deprecation and a sense of melancholy, but maintain a restless spirit that contributes to their endlessly fascinating sound. The band’s music lives in the intangible reaches of their memory, with melodic filaments snaking their way through each track. The band is set to release their latest record, “The Lost Estate,” March 25 via Plume Records.
On their latest single, “The Fox,” the band drifts breezily through a buoyant melody accompanied by echoing vocals that feel as if you could reach and touch their gossamer lines. Equal parts hushed atmospherics and wobbly dream pop beats, the song is a wonder to hear, a languid exploration of the band’s influences without the slightest trace of artifice or imitation. Guitars jangle and chime while drums patter away in the distance. Led by Sturtevant’s penchant for mixing classic pop arrangements with waves of muddied dream pop noise, “The Fox” displays the band’s inherent understanding of the genres within which they toil, as well as their need to share these partially obscured sounds.
Jonas Friddle and The Majority, “Sugar Moon”
The music of Jonas Friddle and The Majority feels drawn from the deep hollows and springs of the Appalachian Mountains. A North Carolina native (and current Chicago resident), Friddle and his band of musical co-conspirators look to the past for inspiration. But this isn’t some antiquated musical obsession-their songs are vibrant and feel lived-in, with their scars and joys well-earned. Having traded in his guitar for a banjo and fiddle many years ago, he went about absorbing the traditional folk and bluegrass sounds that pour from the South’s winding passages and steep rocky terrain. With the release of their upcoming self-titled record (out April 22), they once again bury their heads and hearts in Appalachia and come out with a renewed wonder of the possibilities of these sounds.
With “Sugar Moon,” the band dives headfirst into an ebullient sound that’s equal parts folk and bluegrass attitude and New Orleans swagger. Friddle’s voice is clear and confident, rising above the noise until the chorus hits and everyone chimes in. There’s a wash of joy and inclusivity that gives the song a perfectly welcoming appearance. It tromps along at a steady gait, tossing off memorable vocal harmonies and ecstatic arrangements that’ll have you dancing before you know what’s going on. It’s hard not to embrace “Sugar Moon” and even harder to do so without an enormous grin on your face. The band makes it sound all so comforting and triumphant, and you’ll be happy to be drawn along in its wake.
Winterpills, “Freeze Your Light”
The music of Northampton, Massachusetts-based group Winterpills, led by husband-wife duo Flora Reed and Philip Price, is humble but emotionally ecstatic, full of measured folk pop and introspective narratives. They’ve been compared to artists like Low, Elliot Smith and Fairport Convention for their ability to use minimal arrangements to evoke vast stretches of experience and influence. It’s not all threadbare production, however, as Reed and Price work through a collection of weighty harmonies that keep each song grounded while still illuminating the ethereal nature of their music. You can hear more when the band releases their new LP, “Love Songs,” March 18 via Signature Sounds.
On new single “Freeze Your Light,” they incorporate a bolder rock sound into their folk and pop background. The guitars still shimmer and chime, but they are gathered in force and unleashed alongside some gorgeous melodies. Reed and Price stand center stage, their voices intertwining like filaments of light racing away from the horizon. They make use of their penchant for minimal production while also lifting the entire frame of the song up and out of their usual musical wheelhouse. “Freeze Your Light” gives the band a chance to demonstrate their lovely awareness of how a song can bring out the spatial beauty within a given moment while creating a specific experience within which they can lose themselves, if only for a short time.
Alpenglow, “Following the Scene”
Sometimes, you have to relinquish control in order to gain perspective. At least, that’s the idea behind the music of Brooklyn’s Alpenglow-a band whose experiences and surroundings provide the needed impetus for a sound that’s equal parts memory and twilight nostalgia. Their last EP, 2014’s “Chapel,” was recorded in a small Vermont town, giving the songs a rustic, insular feeling while simultaneously sounding expansive and blessed by the mountain air of their environment. With the release of their debut LP, “Callisto” (which came out Feb. 26 via Chizu Records), the band has added synths and some ticking percussion to a sound that’s wholly organic in nature, giving the resulting music a split personality-though one that feels perfectly at home within Alpenglow’s influence.
On “Following the Scene,” the band uses languid synths and a purposeful beat to evoke that moment when you’re not really sure whether you’re awake or still dreaming, a period of golden slumber when anything is possible. In the accompanying video, they use a hazy visual aesthetic to reproduce that same sense of half-remembered experience and ethereal environmental change. The band uses these sounds and sights to construct a wobbly pop atmosphere that seems always on the verge of collapse but manages to sustain itself through the determination and spirit of each member. The sound is ephemeral at times and feels as though your hand could pass right through it, but the band never loses their momentum and produces a song that is gloriously euphoric and moody.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.