In this week’s Notes from Left of the Dial, I take a look at some songs and videos from She Keeps Bees, Greylag, Duplodeck, Polarheart and Woofdog. Indie rock rhythms, folk-tinted harmonies and abstract soundscapes all collide this week in a clear statement of melodic individuality amid a collection of insular musical personalities. What have you been listening to this week?
She Keeps Bees, “Is What It Is”
The duo of Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant (AKA She Keeps Bees) has been churning out melodic and wonderfully irascible indie rock since their inception in 2006. Working from within a fairly minimalist indie rock aesthetic, the duo uses the basics to create music that’s as affecting as it is stark. Larrabee’s dusky vocals pair perfectly with her restrained fretwork, while LaPlant’s percussive guidance lends each song a singular feel and texture. They’re set to release their latest record, “Eight Houses,” Sept. 16 via Future Gods Records.
On their recent single, “Is What It Is,” both Larrabee and LaPlant work with a simmering, almost-foreboding sense of expectation within the track-as if both of them know that something terrible is hiding just around the corner that seems to always dart back into the shadows before it can be seen. Their songs have always tended toward the concise, but here on “Is What It Is,” that sound seems to widen and expand, even when they are still using the same instruments as before. There’s a sense that a larger picture is being presented, one that we’re not seeing in its entirety, but She Keeps Bees is more than willing to give us brief glimpses through songs like this.
Portland, Oregon-based trio Greylag’s particularly fervent brand of Americana is the product of migration and survival. Coming together from all over the United States and favoring a moniker based on a bird (specifically, a goose) from which all variations of its species evolve, the band has waited and watched how the sounds they work with have been shaped and changed throughout the years. Greylag imbues their compositions with a fiery heart, giving life and purpose to their bucolic narratives.
And with the release of their self-titled album Oct. 14 via Dead Oceans, they are seeking to expand on what it means to tread through roots rock’s rustic waters. Their lead single, “Another,” gives the band a way to showcase the feral energy of the album in a single glance. From its opening filaments of acoustic guitar to singer Andrew Stonestreet’s affecting vocal intonations, the song quickly builds up a head of steam, full of tenacious banjo and thumping percussion. Tracing their lineage back through decades of music, the song and band never forget where and who they are, giving both time to bask in the vibrant and lively view of the rhythmic world in which they live.
Duplodeck, “Saint Tropez”
Brazilian indie rock outfit Duplodeck came together through a mutual love of singer-songwriter Jorge Ben-other than him, though, their musical tastes and influences were as disparate as you can imagine. The band formed in 2001 but only lasted until 2005, when the band went on indefinite hiatus. They did write a large number of songs but only released one EP. They’ve gotten back together recently following the rerelease of some of their earlier songs on tape and have announced a full-length record, which will come out later this year.
On their latest single, “Saint Tropez,” the band traverses a wide-ranging Brazilian pop landscape where aspects of pop, rock and even bossa nova make brief appearances. It’s a glistening slice of summer pop that brings together a jaunty rhythm section and acoustic lead that is constantly buffeted by waves of tremulous guitar notes. A perfect song to soundtrack your next trip to the coast, Duplodeck understands that pop doesn’t need to be dense or burdened down by its own importance to be effective.
Sydney, Australia-based electronic duo Polarheart has been performing together since 2013-when their mutual love of classical, pop and electronic music led them to develop an instant rhythmic rapport. Combining ethereal vocals with abstract sonic landscapes, the band delves deeply into a wellspring of diverse influences and inspirations. They remold and cast these sounds in an electro-pop fashion, full of glowing embers and constantly shifting melodies.
Recent single “Paralyse” gives the duo a chance to flex their dream-pop muscle and show how layers of pensive synths and a tender emotional heart can effortlessly coexist within the same song. Taking on the form of an electronic ballad, this track appeals to that nostalgic part of our minds where our deepest heartache rests. But Polarheart isn’t just interested in hurtful things; their music also encourages thoughts about how we’ve handled and packaged our own experiences and the resulting emotional closure we’ve received.
Woofdog, “Be Leaf”
For those artists who work in long-form acoustic territories, there can sometimes be a tendency to simply take a song that could’ve run its course in three minutes and extend it with unnecessary intros and outros, making the entire track feel bogged down and rhythmically leaden. But for musicians such as Virginia-based Anthony Carson (AKA Woofdog), these prolonged passages blossom and contort themselves into gorgeous pieces of acoustic storytelling.
He recently dropped a few new songs to his Soundcloud page, and among them is “Be Leaf,” a beautifully intricate meditation on our place in the world. Guided along by Carson’s distinctive voice and the delicate sound of his acoustic guitar, the song ebbs and flows in measured movements. He keeps things sailing along at a brisk clip, bringing in subtly layered melodies and rhythms to keep the song attuned to his listener’s attention. “Be Leaf” is a song to get lost in, to become enveloped by; and if given half a chance, it will do just that.
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.