Lala Lala - The Lamb
Fall is here, ladies, gentlemen and theydies. Just like a cool breeze or a browning leaf (as if we get any here in LA), Lala Lala’s second full length LP and label debut The Lamb has announced the beginning of Autumnal bliss.
This record is a warm cup of tea full of reflective, humble musings, delivered with the perfect blend of bedroom pop and indie rock. Spanning twelve relatively short tracks Lillie West, the songwriter behind Lala Lala, lays bear her truths about adulthood, addiction, tragedy and the fight to overcome it all. At twenty-four, the singer has lived through a lot to merit this, and the fact that she has walked the walk she talks is what makes her songwriting so compelling and honest. That said, although her themes are serious, poignant and intimately complex, they are not alienating nor tolling musically. In fact, the biggest strength to this collection of songs is how easy it is to digest them.
On album highlights like “Dove” and “When You Die”, Lillie explores grief, the innate lack of control we have and the experience of hitting walls of reality when faced with tragedy, yet they are beautiful, compelling songs with infectious hooks and memorable choruses. Similarly the strongest points of the album (“Destroyer”, “Water Over Sex” and “See You At Home”), drive home the themes of the record, but really shine due to their incredibly infectious chord progressions, bridges & melodies.
The lead single for the record is not only a perfect opener to this record, but a great introduction to Lala Lala. A great culmination of both her self-released 2016 record “Sleepyhead” and this sophomore release, the band fits the intimate thematic content, soft, dreamt and warm, reverb-dipped, laid-back rock n roll. A catchy chorus, simple progression and a beach-tanned production brew the most perfect cup of tea for the month of October. The closer, “See You At Home”, takes a classic nostalgia-laced indie-anthem chord progression and lets it build into a beautiful, considered climax to close the album.
On the production side, the record fits and shines amongst many great artists that delve in similar ponds. In the last five years we have seen a magnificent wave of female-fronted indie bands rise with honest, lo-fi records that balance fragility and total badassery. Artists like Big Thief, Chastity Belt, Waxahatchee, Alvvays, Speedy Ortiz, Hop Along and Bully have mastered what Bethany Cosentino and Courtney Barnett cooked up on the big stage and Lala Lala has earned her spot right amongst them all. Truly, this record borrows, tightens and masters its own version of the best of all these incredible bands, and keeps it unique and consistent enough to still feel fresh.
The soft fuzz, the deliberately thick reverb, the imperfect vocals, the hard jams between ballads and a crisp but restrained producing/mastering gives The Lamb the tools for Lillie West to do what she does best in the best way possible: recount her truths, and evoke something within us as we listen to her do so.
- DJ StripedBeatle (Adrian Vega Albela Osorio)
BADBADNOTGOOD & Little Dragon - Tried
On “Tried,” Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano takes front and center, meandering through arresting and insightful verses, while BADBADNOTGOOD’s cyclical guitar and drumline propel the melody forward. Nagano's voice feels more earnest and unadorned than on Little Dragon’s solo records, helping to create a quiet intensity that lingers over the entirety of the 3-and-a-half-minute track.
Both BADBADNOTGOOD’s rhythms and Nagano’s vocals feel effortless throughout, yet a sense of urgency hangs on every word. “Fields of lilac / I’m undecided / love defied that won’t grow / need you so,” Nagano croons in the first verse, hinting at the torment of a lost relationship. Her loss seems painful, but also expected, as if unrealized dreams are commonplace within her life.
Throughout the song, Nagano's frustration mounts: “The pain inside of me / Lord I have tried / been holding it in / both my hands were tied.” Nagano’s lyrics, and the track itself, illustrate the confusion and hopelessness that can result from a dream too long delayed.
However, underneath Nagano’s exasperated singing, a subdued conviction lingers, lending the track a striking poignancy. Nagano maintains her confidence, despite a world that inspires none. “Tried” exists in the space between these two conflicting worldviews: between hope and despair, between idealistic ambition and conditioned cynicism, between a life as desired and a life as lived.
- Sean Flannelly
Various Artists - Latin Underground Revolution: Swinging Boogaloo, Guaguanco, Salsa & Latin Funk from New York City 1967-1978
I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again: a compilation album is a girl’s best friend. Nothing else is quite capable of synthesizing a musical moment, showcasing the talents and sounds of an entire scene, rather than one artist or band.
The scene in question is the latin music that was taking New York by storm from 1967 to 1978. The name of the compilation from Rocafort Records says it all: Latin Underground Revolution: Swinging Bogaloo, Guaguanco, Salsa & Latin Funk from New York City 1967-1978.
This comp is short but sweet: six tracks from three different eras of latin music from the late 1960s and 1970s. I’m a big fan of boogaloo, which blends latin and african rhythms, without much indication of the funk that was to come. “The New Breed” by Louie Ramirez is definitely in this vein. “Together People” by Los Africanos is a far funkier affair, sounding a lot like Afrobeat.
This music is a testament to the impact the Cuban and Puertoriqueño diaspora had on New York City and the world of music. Who can imagine a world without NYC salsa? Without Fania records? It can scarcely be imagined!!
This compilation is a brief, incomplete peek into how it all got rolling.
- Aida Rogers
Balming Tiger - Balming Tiger vol.1: 虎媄304
“Mm…Smells like Balming Tiger…” -Jiwon Lee
Balming Tiger vol.1: 虎媄304 is the first album of the Seoul-based crew of six artists, Balming Tiger. The album title comes from the name of their studio in Seoul, a 250 ft2 room in a building called 虎媄 (Homi), room 304.
Balming Tiger vol.1: 虎媄304 is a trippy album of the best chill-hop beats, some of them instrumental, some of them encompassing lyrics by the vocalist Byung Un or by featured artists. With chill-hop being the “hip” genre these days, it is easy to feel at some point that every song sounds the same on the radio. 虎媄304 is the Korean indie-scene savior of the genre, each of its ten track being so distinctly unique but to a point where it is not obnoxious or difficult to listen to. While all the tracks follow the general musical theme fun, trippy chill-hop, each song has a distinct sound; their third track ‘못 UNDERSTAND’, for instance, is a happy-go, pop-vibe song, which is directly followed by the fourth track ‘SONG FOR SANYAWN’, a fully instrumental trippy trap music, while their fifth song ‘CUT’ is hardcore hip hop. It is enough to satisfy any listener’s taste — any listener who is ready for a gift box full of trippy Korean indie chill-hop.
Balming Tiger vol.1: 虎媄304 is truly special, however, for the story Byung Un tells through his lyrics. Byung Un, while fully Korea, was raised in the States for most of his life. He writes in the album description that he had a lonely life abroad and listening to music was his only way of easing his loneliness. Accordingly, his lyrics for songs like ‘CHEF LEE’ or ‘못 UNDERSTAND’, are half-Korean and half-English, while ‘SONG FOR ABYSS’ is entirely Japanese (which I can only guess he picked up from his diverse taste in music). While I cannot understand and therefore judge the Japanese lyrics, his Korean and English lyrics flow beautifully; he articulately crafts distinct imageries while seamlessly switching between two different languages. The flow of his bilingual lyrics are truly commendable, but the lyrics of ‘못 UNDERSTAND’, in which he sings about how he cannot fully understand Korean tells us that his craft in bilingual lyric-writing was a hard-earned one from his journey for cultural identity. The song holds a special place in my heart as a TCK (Third Culture Kid) and I’m guessing, for many others stuck between two different languages and cultures.
TL;DR: Balming Tiger’s first album’s beat is so fresh and trippy it will capture the heart of any listener — double the fun if you have the effort to interpret and appreciate their trilingual song lyrics!
Check out their first album Balming Tiger vol.1: 虎媄304 and their other songs on their Youtube channel or on Bandcamp (https://balmingtiger.bandcamp.com/).
- Jiwon Lee
Various Artists - bblisss
no land -- just
-Kajiwara Hashin (1864-?)
I’m quite grateful this album was repressed and re-released. Bblisss was originally released as part of a limited tape run in 2016, meant as a one-off. Thankfully, someone recognized that the tracks on here deserved to be heard by a wider audience, and reissued it in digital and vinyl format. A bevy of artists feature on here, the majority under aliases: Huerco S (as Pendant), Ryan Fall (as DJ Paradise), Exael (as Naemi), Ulla Anona and more.
When I was a kid, there used to be several shops around my town that would sell a lot of private-press new age tapes. When I was browsing them for anything that I could pick up or recognize, I would invariably run into a few jewel cases with shoddily printed artwork detailing little else but an artist name and album title. Some of these I hardly even recall any information about when they were released or legitimately any information at all regarding their make or artist. At the time, I sort of took them for granted: the kind woman running the shop was content to let a pre-teen sift through her collection of tapes and pick out whatever looked halfway interesting. Alongside healing crystals and reiki books, I would inevitably pick up a piece of garnet (my birthstone) alongside a tape that I knew, and one that just would look interestingly sparse.
Looking back on it now, I regret not taking more of those home, especially considering their perceived rarity and price. This collection at points reminds me of the more esoteric ones I found, specifically the ones with snow or snowy themes. The tapes have all probably degraded by now or have been lost to time, but their soundscapes stayed with me to this day. A week or two ago, under one of LA’s first overcast days of the year, I put this compilation on and walked off to get some errands done. Everyone seemed to be home at this particular Sunday hour, as I ended up walking through rows and rows of residential without seeing a soul. Even the commercial district I was headed to had comparatively little hustle ’n’ bustle: a few people were walking in and out, but not enough to shake the desolate feeling that I ended up with.
There are points in this record that feel more like a cloud forest than Silent Hill and vice versa. Ultimately, I think that’s what keeps me coming back to it: it encompasses all the feelings I want to feel when walking around on an overcast day. With lovely cuts from West Mineral, this compilation will be in my rotation for a long time to come.
- Sean Morgenthaler