The Shilohs, Dawn Golden 

Plus: Better Taste Bureau, Great Interstate, OK Ikumi

[image-x] The Shilohs, The Shilohs [image-x]
The latest full-length album from Vancouver, British Columbia, band The Shilohs breaks hardly any new musical ground, if any. Instead, the ’60s-influenced pop-rock songs have a homey, nostalgic quality in a stylistic vein akin to the Beatles, with spun-gold vocal harmonies, jangly tambourine and dreamy guitar. That lighthearted feel is established in the album’s strum-y opening track, “Student of Nature,” through lyrics that describe a moonbeam bouncing off water. There’s plenty of variety from song to song, since three of the band’s four members contributed songwriting duties and also trade off in the role of lead singer. But a yearning for better days and resorting to self-soothing escapism in the meantime is a consistent theme that runs through several of the catchy songs, such as warmly hazy “Champagne Days” and the lazily meandering “Sisters of Blue.” It’s not all moonbeams and sunshine, though, such as on the reverb-filled “Strange Connections,” about flubbed personal relationships, and “Folks on Trains,” which is slightly voyeuristic with its lyrics that wonder about other passengers. But whenever The Shilohs brings up tricky emotions, it quickly insulates them in sweet medicine that causes drowsiness and daydreams. May 13, Light Organ Records

[image-x] Dawn Golden, Still Life [image-x]
When listening to the latest release from Los Angeles musician and engineer Dexter Tortoriello for the first time, it’s easy to wish that the turbulent and somewhat shocking nature of the lyrics at the end of Still Life was echoed in the other parts of the album; after all, the drive to the record’s “destination” is sleepy and melancholy. But after hearing the climactic lyrics of “Last Train” and “Brief Encounter”—both about a couple ending a long relationship, and the stalker-y behavior and hopelessness that ensues—it’s made evident that the mellower songs like “I Won’t Bend” and “All I Want” earlier in the track list set the stage for those painful events to happen later. The first half of the album effectively conveys the discontent that’s bubbled up between the two people, a chilliness that’s painted with synths, lots of reverb and layers of distorted vocals—all performed by Tortoriello. That’s how the “Last Train” lyrics “When you tell me you don’t want me here/ And you keep my number till the rent checks clear” and the “Brief Encounter” lyrics “I broke into your house again today and I laid in your room” are able to hit straight in the gut. We listeners, like the story’s protagonist, didn’t see such tragedy coming. May 13, Downtown/Mad Decent

[image-x] Better Taste Bureau, Outliers [image-x]
The worn-out statement that Salt Lake City rap is somehow inferior to that produced in cradles like Los Angeles or Atlanta is given a final kick out the door by Better Taste Bureau on Outliers, which is undeniably impressive in terms of lyrics as well as sound. The album’s intro, “Noose,” puts emcees Ben Harris and Shaun Bussard and producer Mason Brewer on the metaphorical stand with a sample of a judge saying, “Before we proceed further, it will be necessary for me to examine you on your qualifications.” So Better Taste Bureau prove their skill beginning with “Rise (Noose II),” during the punchy hook “How dare he get up and speak with confidence/ Dare he get up and move the audience” and lyrics that poke fun at egocentric “big brother hip-hop” ignoring Salt Lakers. The earworm-worthy hooks continue on “Outliers,” on which BTB embrace their small-town status in the title as well as the lyrics “Where you from/ Don’t know that place/ Yeah, we heard it one too many times.” The production on the cleanly executed Outliers is tight from beginning to end, with every killer beat standing out in crystal-clear definition. Self-released, May 3, BetterTasteBureau.com

[image-x] Great Interstate, Inversion Songs [image-x]
It’s interesting how the latest creation by veteran musician, producer and engineer Andrew Goldring can hit so hard while presented in a package that’s often soft and beautiful, like a brick wrapped in a cloud. Written and recorded by Goldring, Inversion Songs is richly layered, with fascinating interplay between mellow, atmospheric moments and straight-up rock breakdowns that explode into emotional climaxes. Sung with Goldring’s breathy, slightly scratchy voice, the lyrics deal with feeling trapped—reflected in the symbolism of the album title and the apathetic lyrics of “Garbage Brain”—picking up the pieces after a major loss and moving on, especially on “My Dear Friend” and the heart-rending “Frail Bones.” But what’s so incredible about Inversion Songs is that while it does bring up these really difficult emotions, it’s an ultimately cathartic listening experience. The album strikes a good balance between slower, soul-searching tracks and more upbeat, ear-catching material, such as “Exodus,” which features Goldring’s distorted, primal howls and a psych-tinged feel. Self-released, May 9, GreatInterstate.bandcamp.com

[image-x] OK Ikumi, Outside [image-x]
It’s easy to zone out while listening to the latest album Karl Jorgensen has released through his electronic OK Ikumi solo project. But that’s not because the record is boring; it’s just trance-inducing on a level that could make people accidentally walk into a manhole or forget they’re pouring milk. The seven instrumental tracks can be described with any number of adjectives that could be applied to that dream-like, transitory period between your alarm going off and the snooze alarm going off nine minutes later. The album begins with “Outside”—which is remixed by Mooninite and RS2090 later in the track list—a textured, immaterial soundscape of various synth effects and cool, ambient tones. “Waver” seems to power forward with more purpose, with a web of crystalline threads providing a structure for the hazier effects to wrap around. There’s a surprising slight tension in “Break,” which contains disparate timing schemes that dynamically bounce against one another. “Reach” draws Outside to an effective close, as dazzling sparkles build to a full-bodied arrangement complete with percussion-like effects that eventually fades to black. Hel Audio, April 30, HelAudio.bandcamp.com

Twitter: @VonStonehocker

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