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Popforward: Kiesza

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At the moment I’m properly obsessed with the ’90s house revival, and so is Britain apparently. Kiesza‘s debut single ‘Hideaway’ happens to capitalize on this trend, but still feels fresh and 100% ready for Radio 1’s A list.
High on joy and energy, ‘Hideaway’ is an uplifting, big-lunged dance-athon with positive vibez for days. Gorgon City are already on board for a remix so this has the potential to blow up very soon.
The accompanying video is a DIY one-take affair with appropriately anachronistic attire and choreography. It looks like something Lady Gaga circa ‘Stefani Germanotta’ could have done for kicks had she remembered to have fun.
Kiesza is Canadian, but spent some time in New York and now resides in London. Ladies and gents, say hi to your new fave globe-trotting pop star!

 


 

‘Hideaway’ is out March 23.
More on Kiesza.


Popforward: Little Daylight

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Brooklyn-based trio Little Daylight is next on the list of synth-pop hopefuls, right beside my other faves like St. Lucia, CHVRCHES, Haerts, Ellie Goulding, and deservingly so. Initially cutting their teeth by doing remixes for the likes of Passion Pit, Niki & The Dove, Ra Ra Riot and The Neighbourhood, they moved on to producing originals and uploading them on Soundcloud. The band makes glossy, twinkly electronic pop with sticky hooks and toe-tapping beats, the type that would set blogs alight (and indeed they have in droves). Their current EP entitled “Tunnel Vision” is a great collection of danceable, infectious songs that fully showcase their potentials. “Restart”, “Glitter And Gold”, “Name In Lights” are among my favorites, but “Overdose” is the big one. Seriously, that one’s been in my head for days.

STREAM: Little Daylight – Overdose

I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for Bastille last week and it was great fun. Lead singer Nikki put on a confident, flirty and playful performance, flicking through songs from their EP, as well as test-driving new tracks. One called “Mona Lisa” particularly stood out, I can’t wait to hear it again in studio form. Saving the best for last, they ended the impressive set with “Overdose” whose bassline really came alive. They have many shows coming up for CMJ so if you can make it, I highly recommend seeing them live.

STREAM: Little Daylight – Restart

Buy their EP.
More on Little Daylight.


Popforward: London Grammar

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Lately the music scene has witnessed the inevitable antithesis to EDM. A small wave of new acts makes music that is more likely to gently stroke a listener’s chin, rather than shout at one’s face threatening to ‘drop’. London Grammar are UK’s brightest new hope. Already scoring a #2 album across the pond, the band is making their way to America. A mix between The XX, Florence & The Machine and Sia, London Grammar’s sound is really as stately and deceptively modest as the name suggests. At times they also remind me of Trespassers William too.
I first got hooked on early single “Metal & Dust”, a gorgeous trip-hop throwback that knows when to hold and release. Follow-up single “Wasting My Young Years” is one of those ballads that might send a lump down your throat in an appropriate mood. It might actually rival the grandeur of Sia’s “Breathe Me”, and I don’t say that lightly. However, “Strong” is the one with mass appeal, landing them their first Top 20 single in Britain. The old-school drum-and-bass High Contrast remix confirms that they sound just as good over block rockin’ beats.

 

STREAM: London Grammar – Strong (High Contrast Remix)

 

As nice as the electronic embellishment around their production is, it’s Hannah Reid’s powerhouse vocals that took center in every song. Her guest vocals on Disclosure’s “Help Me Lose My Mind” is a thing of sunset-in-Ibiza beauty. For such a new band, they’re really building up a solid discography.

 

STREAM: London Grammar – Metal & Dust

 

Check out their US tour dates after the jump.

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Popforward: Postiljonen

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Postiljonen is the next big Swedish export, and they have delivered a stunning debut album in “Skyer”. I can only describe the Stockholm-based trio’s music as panoramic, multi-textured road-trip synth-pop. The ’80s synth and sax riffs are larger than life, while wispy, murmuring vocals are mixed like an afterdream, hazy and unobtrusive, interspersed with dialogue samples from unidentified, possibly non-existent films. As is the case with shoegazing dream-pop, due of its unique construct, you probably won’t remember much of the lyrics or melodies, but there’s enough ear candy to keep coming back and peel at the layers. The 10-track album is short and sweet, with the more upbeat numbers (Supreme, We Raise Our Hearts, Skying High) sequenced in between ambient, filmic ones (Rivers, Plastic Panorama). There is also an unlikely, spectral cover take on Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, gloomily retitled as “All That We Had Is Lost”. “Atlantis” – the current single – makes a perfect album closer, thanks to its monster saxophone action and a nocturnal, melancholic back-of-a-taxi-cab mood. If you like M83, or The Naked And Famous, then Postiljonen’s widescreen after-hours pop is for you.

You can stream the entire album for free on Soundcloud.

Check out the music video for Atlantis below, and album highlight “We Raise Our Hearts”.

 

 

STREAM: Postiljonen – We Raise Our Hearts

 

Buy their music, out on Best Fit Recordings.
More on Postiljonen.


Popforward: Solomon Grey

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Cloaked in mystery, Solomon Grey is the latest signing to Black Butter Records. There’s next to nothing about him/them online, but that he’s on the hottest UK dance label right now is a coup in itself. The gorgeous artwork depicting nighttime cityscape just piqued my curiosity even more. So I clicked play.
And I hit repeat, again and again.
“Gen V” is an exquisite piece of widescreen downtempo electronica. With cascading synths and soulful vocals, the beautifully produced track operates within a nocturnal solitary world. “Inside it’s raining… always”, the male protagonist sings in melancholy. The song is a cross between Rhye, Air, and the Drive soundtrack. It’s a total stunner.

 

STREAM: Solomon Grey – Gen V (Edit)

 

More on Solomon Grey.


Popforward: Rebeka

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Here are SIX facts you need to know about our latest Popforward act Rebeka.

1. Rebeka are Iwona Skwarek and Bartosz Szczęsny. Those happen to be Polish names. You can see why they settled for Rebeka instead.
2. Their current single is “Melancholia”. You can’t go wrong with a song called “Melancholia”.
3. If you quite like Goldfrapp, Ladytron, The Knife and other bands from Europe that make modern/spooksome synth-pop, you will like this.
4. The music video features some very nice plants.

 

5. You can grab a FREE mp3 of the track right here!

Actually, you can download a free Moullinex remix too.

MP3: Rebeka – Melancholia (Moullinex Remix)

 

6. Their debut album “Hallada” is available to buy in all the usual places. If you’re more of a streaming type, find it on Spotify.

Buy the album.
More on Rebeka.


ON ROTATION: Empress Of – Hat Trick

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Empress Of is the moniker of Lorely Rodriguez, Brooklyn-based songstress signed to Terrible Records, label home of Solange and Chairlift. Considering the label’s pedigree, it should come as no surprise that her new track “Hat Trick” is a total dream-pop choon. It’s subdued, ethereal ’80s synth-pop at its smoothest, with slick production and silky sweet vocals. In a nutshell, it sounds like St. Vincent produced by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange). The only flaw I can find is that it’s too damn short! With this, Empress Of has unofficially joined the like-minded crystal-ball pop league of Twin Sister, Class Actress and Glasser. Now excuse me while I go hit repeat one more time.

 

STREAM: Empress Of – Hat Trick

 

“Hat Trick” is on Empress Of’s upcoming EP/12″ Systems, out on April 2.
Pre-order the EP.
More on Empress Of.


Popforward: Betty Who

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Proper POP Alert! Aussie newcomer Betty Who is the latest potential pop gal on our radar. Her single “Somebody Loves You” has been on mad repeat, and we only just discovered it yesterday! Inspired by Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, the track was written after a failed long distance relationship as told by her, but you wouldn’t know giving its infectiously joyous nature. The straight-up ’80s jam is pure unadulterated pop: bouncy, sprightly, and unabashedly catchy. Betty also exudes charm and charisma in spades in the music video (embedded below). She’s currently unsigned, but not for long I bet. If you like Alphabeat, or old-school Madonna/Whitney/Janet, this should be right up your street. Seriously, if this song doesn’t have you grinning like an idiot by the end, then you sir need to cheer up a bit.

 

 

That was great fun wasn’t it? Did I mention it’s out now as a free download too?

MP3: Betty Who – Somebody Loves You

 

Download remix stems of “Somebody Loves You” if you fancy having a go at it, or grab another free track “Fire With Fire” at her Soundcloud.

More on Betty.

Shout-out to the always excellent Singles Jukebox for turning me on to this.


Popforward: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro

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I love me some ’60s-loving duo side projects. I can name a handful off the top of my head: The Last Shadow Puppets, Cat’s Eyes, Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, James Levy & The Blood Red Rose. Now Adam Green (The Moldy Peaches) and Binki Shapiro (Little Joy), are the latest to channel the Nancy/Lee dynamic with a self-tiled LP out January 29. The opening track “Here I Am” is a playful and sweet love song, with the tried-and-true deep-voiced-male/honey-voiced-female combination that guarantees an immediate spot on your local Starbucks playlist. Expect more loveliness like this when the album drops. Enjoy it while you can, since these kinds of projects hardly last beyond one album.

 

MP3: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Here I Am

STREAM: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Collage (James Gang Cover)

 

Pre-order the album.
More on Adam & Binki.


Popforward: Rachel Zeffira

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You might have known Rachel Zeffira as one half of Cat’s Eyes, the unjustly underrated ’60s-pop side project of Faris Badwan of The Horrors fame. Now the classically-trained Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer is ready to venture on her own solo debut “The Deserters”, out this March in North America on Paper Bag Records. First single “Here On In” is ethereal dream-pop lushly crafted, with a certain Gallic cool that recalls Air or Charlotte Gainsbourg. Her airy, bewitching vocals float weightlessly above a bed of strings, synths and spectral harmonies. It’s beautifully arranged nocturnal music for fans of shoegaze and retro-minded indie pop. Therefore, it makes total sense that she chose to cover My Bloody Valentine’s “To Here Knows When” for the flip side. Check out both tracks below, and keep a close watch for more to come. The owls are not what they seem.

 

STREAM: Rachel Zeffira – Here On In

STREAM: Rachel Zeffira – To Here Knows When (My Bloody Valentine Cover)

 

Watch the music video for “Here On In”.
Buy the single/ Pre-order the album.
More on Rachel.


Popforward: Frida Sundemo

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Frida Sundemo was previous known as simply Frida in Japan. The breezy-cutesy bossa-nova-tinged songs from her 2010 debut album “Dear, Let It Out” managed to strike a chord with the Japanese audience. Granted, she was not the first Swede indie girl to conquer Japan. Two years later, she has stunningly reinvented herself as Frida Sundemo, the next big Swedish synth-pop starlet.
“Indigo” is the kind of song that came out of nowhere and catch you by surprise. Her sweet vocals against the aggro synth backdrop made for a striking combo. It’s clear she has graduated from the same School of Pop as Robyn, Lykke Li, and Tove Styrke. It’s electro-pop perfection that only the Swedes can effortlessly offer in spades.

 

 

 

And here’s a different side from her early career, the sweet lounge ditty “Towers”:

 
One of the most promising acts for 2013? I think so.

More on Frida.


Popforward: Chart Music

Chart Music is the new joint project of Le Prix and Roger Gunnarsson, both of whom have worked with Sally Shapiro, Johan Agebjörn, Cloetta Paris and Queen of Hearts. If you don’t know any of those names, educate yourself. If you do, then you probably know what to expect. The first song from the Stockholm-based duo is “When You Lied”, featuring Viktor Ginner on vocals, and it’s a gorgeous piece of melancholy heart-on-sleeve anorak twee-pop blub-a-thon. Influences include italo disco, ’80s synth-pop and John Hughes films. If you don’t feel something when the middle eight’s instrumental breakdown glides in, then you sir need to check your pulse!

 

STREAM: Chart Music – When You Lied

 

An accompanying video was made of clips from obscure 1986 teen flick Lucas. Prepared to get your sad eyes on.

 

Swedes.
Buy the single on iTunes.
More on Chart Music.


Popforward: Saint Lou Lou

Mysterious Aussie/Swedish twin duo Saint Lou Lou managed to win me over with just one perfect little gem of downtempo dream-pop. “Maybe You”, their first and only song to date, is a sublime synth-pop ballad with an ’80s-indebted ‘quiet storm’ vibe. It’s melancholy yet hopeful, subdued yet tender. It’s the kind of track you can imagine yourself hearing on the radio in the back of a taxi cab on a rainy late-summer night. In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t add thunderstorm sound effects to the intro, so I guess I’ll make do with an open tab of Rainymood.com.
The music video is a gorgeous, sensually-shot black-and-white slo-mo affair. Watch it below, and check out some excellent remixes after the jump.

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Popforward: War Of Words

 

It is quite sad to hear that War Of Words are no more. The protégés of Ben Langmaid (aka La Roux’s other half), the short-lived British alt-pop duo only managed to put out 2 songs (4, if you count the remixes) on the Popjustice Hi-Fi label before finally calling it a day. And such good songs they were. “Battleground” is my favorite out of the two. Despite being an umpteenth attempt at recreating another “Unfinished Sympathy”, it was a well-written heartfelt tune that showcased their soulful ’90s dance-diva throwback sound best. I always thought the girls had raw potential not fully realized yet. While they certainly have fantastic powerhouse pipes, I wasn’t entirely convinced on their image: they didn’t have a conventional malleable pop-star look, but didn’t find a quite right styling either, and they seem to have zero presence in their videos (which I’m not sure is premeditated or not). Still, it was clear the band was still in the early stages and I was genuinely waiting for more to come. It’s a shame we lost yet another promising but ill-fated female pop duo (RIP Mini Viva, Oh My!). Hopefully, we’ll still have Icona Pop to root for…

 

STREAM: War Of Words – Battleground

 

 

More on War Of Words.
Buy their music.


Popforward: Violet

Sometimes, it is best to listen to new music point-blank, without any expectations, and that’s exactly how you should listen to the track below.

STREAM: Violet – Y.O.U.

 

That was well lovely, wasn’t it? It’s languid, laidback, nostalgic and lovey dovey dream-pop, reminiscent of ’90s Mazzy Star, and Beach House, for a more modern reference. It’s appropriately springtime soundtrack for a lakeside picnic.
I checked Violet out with no other information other than they’re the latest signing to cool British indie label Luv Luv Luv, and I liked it so much I had to google to find out more. Much to my surprise, it turned out Violet is in fact fronted by Pixie Geldof, whom I have only known of as an infamous socialite and tabloid fixture. I definitely didn’t see this coming! It’s easy to forget that she is technically music royalty after all. Suffice to say, I’m glad I got to hear this without my preconceptions getting in the way, because “Y.O.U.” is indeed an impressive preview of things to come.

“Y.O.U./I Come Undone” will be released as a limited 7″ on May 7 by Luv Luv Luv.

More on Violet.


Popforward: New Build

It’s not easy to keep up with all the side projects of Hot Chip. While the band’s new full-length “In Our Heads” is not set to drop until June, they still have time to pursue their other gigs. New Build is the new band of Al & Felix, and musically, it is very much in the same universe with Hot Chip, whose sounds I’d like to refer to as “graphic designer pop”. However, compared to Joe Goddard’s project The 2 Bears, this is more stoic and sedative. The new single “Your Love” is a typical indie electro affair with blokey vocals, dubstep flourishes and cowbells. Lyrically, they’re still proudly wearing their hearts on sleeve. The debut LP entitled “Yesterday Was Lived And Lost” is out now in the UK, and on April 3 in US. However, if you can’t wait, they have kindly made the entire album available for advance streaming below.

 

STREAM: New Build – Your Love (Radio Mix)

 

Stream/pre-order the album on Bandcamp.
More on New Build.


Popforward: Darkness Falls

Darkness Falls is the Danish indie rock duo of Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen. Together they created “Alive In Us” – their first album released in late 2011 with production handled by Trentemøller. They remind me a lot of their fellow Danish rockers Mew, and for good reasons too.“The Void” is the single to discover, a prime example of just how well the Danes understand atmosphere in music. Instrumentally, it’s flawlessly produced – chilling, brooding, and melancholic. However, it’s not without flaws. It feels like the vocals didn’t maximize the ethereality it could go for, and the lyrics left something to be desired, beside its English-as-second-language charm. Regardless, it’s music that pertains to a certain kind of mood and weather, and a Saturday rainy morning is just the right catalyst, not to mention that the gorgeously-shot music video is a must-watch.

 


STREAM: Darkness Falls – The Void

Their album is available for streaming on Spotify, so I’ve got my homework cut out. Hopefully there’s more where this comes from.

Buy their music.
More on Darkness Falls.


Popforward: Ren Harvieu

I was first alerted to Ren Harvieu when she was longlisted on the BBC Sound of 2012. Forewarning: she makes music for Radio 2. BUT it’s damn good Lite FM gold. The Mancunian chanteuse possesses an enchanting jazz/soul voice with a drawl that lulls you in effortlessly. Her debut single “Through The Night” is an exquisite, languid, elegant tune, conjuring up an expensive, widescreen kind of sadness. I suddenly found the song creeping its way back into my head on a misty Thursday morning, and it’s been lingering there since. In a nutshell, if you secretly like Rumer but think she’s too mumsy, or have a fondness for Norah Jones circa 2002, then Ren Harvieu is for you. Lovely stuff.

 

STREAM: Ren Harvieu – Through The Night

 

“Through The Night” is OUT NOW in the UK.

Watch the video for “Through The Night”.
Buy the single.
Watch her cover Beatles’ “Something” for The Sun Session.
Check out her Soundcloud.
More on Ren.


Popforward: Lianne La Havas

A member of the BBC Sound of 2012’s club, Lianna La Havas is hotly tipped as one to watch by British media. I first heard of the 22-year-old London native through her buzz single “No Room For Doubt”, which I thought was pleasantly nice enough. However, I wasn’t feeling the tracks on her EP as much. Even though she has a great soulful voice, her materials didn’t sound terribly exciting. The Corinne Bailey Rae comparisons also did her no favors.
Well, I would like to take that back. I shouldn’t have written her off so hastily, because her new single “Forget” totally flipped my premature verdict on its head. The song is much more sonically interesting than I expected – a slick, funky midtempo with a Latin twist. The simple, understated performance video gave her space to present herself as a star, taking command of the screen with moxie and sass. It helps that she’s very videogenic and charming, too. I am glad that she’s capable of versatility, beside the acoustic folky stuff. Apparently, she’s been working with Matt Hales (Aqualung), so I look forward to at least a piano ballad. With her album scheduled to arrive in May, you have plenty of time to get acquainted with Lianne and her music. Check out the video, download an acoustic live version, as well as her sweet cover of Everything Everything’s “Final Form”.

 

 

MP3: Lianne La Havas – Forget (Live in LA)
MP3: Lianne La Havas – Final Form (Everything Everything Cover)

STREAM: Lianne La Havas – No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason)

 

Buy her music (UK) / (US).
Download a free EP.
More on Lianne.


Popforward: AlunaGeorge

London-based AlunaGeorge is the latest on my list of favorite up-and-coming pop acts. Even though their new single has been knockning about since last summer, I only discovered it recently. “You Know You Like It” is a sexy, slinky piece of post-dubstep R&B, a firecracker loaded with infectious hooks that will get stuck in your head for days. Aluna Francis’ voice is a cool mixture between Santigold and Martina Topley-Bird, and to me they sound like a modern-day Moloko, which is always a good thing in my book. 2012 will see the release of their debut album, so hopefully they’ll have some more ace tunes up their sleeves. I highly recommend them if you like Little Dragon, Katy B… or have a thing for boy/girl electro duos. They’ve also been doing some high-profile remixing work, including one for Lana Del Rey which you can download right below.

 

STREAM: AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

MP3: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (AlunaGeorge Remix)

Watch the video.
Buy the single.
More on AlunaGeorge.


Popforward: Serenades

So it’s that jolly time of the year when new original festive songs are in demand again. Up-and-coming Swedish duo Serenades has stepped up to the challenge by releasing a holiday-themed song as their first single. However, “Come Home” is not so much about Christmas itself, but rather a lament about the non-festivity of a one-man holiday. And they sugarcoat the depressing sentiment with lovely sun-kissed melodies that Swedes can seemingly do in their sleep. Serenades’ music falls in the same subgenre of chill, tropical, Instagrammed ’80s pop that The Tough Alliance and Gypsy & The Cat also frequent. While their sound’s not entirely original, it’s done beautifully, and there’s enough room for another band in that niche. Curiously, they are signed to Cherrytree Records, Lady Gaga’s label, so undoubtedly we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in 2012. Watch/stream “Come Home” right below.

 

 

STREAM: Serenades – Come Home

 

A 4-track EP is out now, including a remix by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John.

Buy “Come Home” the EP.
Check out more of their tracks on Soundcloud.
Grab free download “Oceans” over here.
More on Serenades.


Popforward: The Staves

Pictured above are the three sisters from Watford, collectively known as The Staves. This British trio should soon be on every folk-pop fan’s lips with their debut album scheduled for release next year. If you like the likes of Laura Marling, The Pierces, Birdy etc., then their new single “Mexico” will most certainly appeal to you. Basked in a warm glow of harmonies, the song is a thing of understated beauty. The melodies tread lightly and unobtrusively, yet they draw my full attention and reduce me to silence every time. There’s not necessarily new ground to break, just beautifully crafted mellow music for your listening pleasure.
Watch the music video for the track below, and keep in mind that all the effects were achieved in camera!

 

 


STREAM: The Staves – Mexico

The Staves’ new EP is out on December 11.

Download a free 2-track live EP here / Stream other tracks on Soundcloud.
More on The Staves.


Popforward: Spector

I’m always on the look out for the next “it” British guitar band. It doesn’t matter if they all sound the same, with luck, one might come along with one great guitar-pop tune, and one at a time is all I ask for. However, up-and-coming London-based five-piece Spector has already exceeded that ratio by churning out 3 good singles in a row! The nerves. Their latest release, “Grey Shirt & Tie”, saw them switching gears for a more ’80s-inspired sound. At first listen, it seems lovely enough, if a bit restraint compared to their previous efforts, but it turns out to be a massive grower. What sets them apart from the much crowded deep-voiced blokey band pool is that they definitely don’t shy away from a catchy melody. With their namesake (which is, yes, named after that Spector), they’ve got a lot to live up to, but I believe 2012 will be their breakthrough year. Watch the quite nice video for “Grey Shirt And Tie” below, though I’m not sure if the Harry Potter glasses are a good look.

 

 


STREAM: Spector – Grey Shirt And Tie


STREAM: Spector – Never Fade Away

Watch the video for “What You Wanted”.

“Grey Shirt & Tie” is out on December 7 on Luv Luv Luv Records.
More on Spector.


Popforward: Mint Julep

Keith Kenniff is known to most electronic fans as the man behind Helios and Goldmund. Far from the former’s beautiful downtempo soundscapes or the latter’s minimal neo-classical compositions, Mint Julep has long been served as an outlet for his pop experiments. A project by Keith and his wife Hollie, Mint Julep leans toward shoegazing, ambient dream-pop (…dreamgaze?). The Portland-based duo’s new single “Aviary” is probably their poppiest track to date. With reverbed, softly-sung vocals and an atmospheric mood, it makes great music for the changing of seasons. Just put it on while you stand by the window and gaze wistfully at the rain outside. And if you’re in the mood for a bit of post-rock, check out the 8-minute Mogwai remix. The band has kindly made both tracks available for free below. A new album, entitled “Save Your Season”, is expected soon.

 


MP3: Mint Julep – Aviary


MP3: Mint Julep – Aviary (Mogwai Remix)

After the jump, watch the cool music video, shot in Berlin.

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