New releases help define ‘dreaminess’

Posted April 29, 2014


If you’re a college student going to school in a city that glorifies electronic dance music (EDM), you sometimes come to appreciate the softness of some good ol’ alternative rock hanging in the air of your bedroom.

Orcas' "Yearlings" Album Cover

Orcas’ “Yearlings” Album Cover

There are three bands that just released new albums with sounds that make you feel like you could be swinging on a porch swing outside in a cool autumn breeze or maybe floating in space.

When I say that, I mean the bands are successful in their attempt to create beautiful sounds that can almost be taken as lullabies.

There is a lot to be said for the emotion present in music, and the effect it can have on a listener. I’ve always been one to find it easiest to feel through slower, softer sounds versus the feelings that come ravaging through metal or other “harsher” genres.
Orcas’ new album titled “Yearling,” which was just released on April 4, is a tribute to the eerie and serene, with songs like “Infinite Stillness” and “Capillaries,” which leaves a somewhat dreamy soundscape dripping from your stereo set.

Eels "The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett" Album Cover

Eels “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett” Album Cover

The Pacific Northwest-based duo consisting of Thomas Meluch and Rafael Anton Isiarri experiment with the grey area between electronic ambient music and the melodies associated with a “soft rock” or “pop” feel.

The instruments used create a delicate, almost ghostly soundscape that is so effective at tapping at the glass of the human heart, that it hangs in the air even after the last song stops playing.

Another band that experiments with grey areas is Sohn, an English musician from Vienna who just recently released his debut album titled “Tremors,” on April 7. Sohn crafts the sounds of minimal electronica with that same ethereal quality present in Orcas’ music. Both bands effectively incorporate the sounds of wispy strings and sloshy synths.

Sohn "Tremors" Album Cover

Sohn “Tremors” Album Cover

What sets it apart, however, is that it borders on being something safe to play at a house party or club that plays minimal house or something similar, whereas Orcas’ album is more suited for trying to fall asleep.

Sohn’s sounds also have more of a “glitchy” or “cut up” feel to the beats, and whereas I feel calm while listening to “Yearling,” some of the songs on Sohn’s album annoy me. For example, while listening to the “The Wheel,” I feel like there is more potential for the song to be a beautiful blur of ghostly lyrics and softer sounds, but the lyrics are matched with a clapping sound that just didn’t go together very well.

All of these bands have a similar stitch in the fabric of their sounds, which is the “dreaminess” of the music. Each band ties a celestial sounding element in with another genre. Orcas blurs it with soft rock, Sohn blends it with more of an electronica or house feel, and Eels does this really wonderful thing where it blends the “lullaby-esque” sound they all share, in with folk. FOLK.

How amazing is that?

And so, the last band you should put on your list of albums to go out an buy the next time you’re at Sweat Records is Eels’ new album titled “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett,” released on April 22, which already sounds like a novel on its own. The band’s most influential member, and singer/songwriter is Mark Oliver Everett, but more widely referred to as “E.” It turns out the poetics of the title is carried throughout the lyrics in the rest of the songs on the album. My favorite is “Agatha Chang,” which is sung in a way that sounds like E is reading a chapter of a book out loud, which I thought was pretty dynamic.

However, I was a little unhappy with the album’s sometimes anti-climactic songs, like “A Good Deal.” I think the lyrics are great; however, I just feel like I’m stuck in this moment that is three minutes and nine seconds long each time it starts to play and everything goes into slow motion. It’s a weird effect the music has on someone listening.

It’s almost like you’re in your room jamming out to “Mistakes of My Youth” or “Good Morning Bright Eyes,” and then BAM “A Good Deal” comes on and you’re caught in this weird haze while you wait for the rest of the album to come back.

It’s almost as much of a mood killer as commercials.

The Orcas album is without a doubt my favorite. It’s very reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky or Olan Mill, which also incorporate that dreamy sense of ambience into their music. When I listen to “Yearling,” I feel a sense of poetry through sound, even with the absence of lyrics on some songs that is not quite present with the other two bands.

Though all three of them possess that dreamy quality to some degree in their soundscapes, they all create different “moods” for a listener and I was just more partial to the one that Orcas created for me.

“Yearling” makes me feel as though I’m being wrapped up in this gentle sea of eerie sounds. It’s like the album captures that moment right before you’re about to go to sleep, and made it into music. There’s a beauty to its placidness. “Tremor” is still an ambient-sounding album, however, it leans a little more towards a sound similar to that of deep house, and I imagine it being played at some hip club down in Wynwood.

Eels takes the “dreaminess” in a different direction, creating almost a story out of the ambient sounds mixed with a folky feel and some very earnest lyrics that gives this album a sense of “rawness,” that is not present in the other two.

With the advent of the mixed sounds in these albums, I think it’s pretty safe to say there is a trend in which lesser known, independent bands are experimenting with the “burred lines” between genres to a much greater degree these days, and being well received by an audience looking for creative sounds that break the molds of traditional “electronic” or “rock” sounds.

  • Album Name: Yearling
  • Artist: Orcas
  • Price: $9.99 on iTunes
  • Release date: April 4, 2014
  • Label: Morr Music
  • Genres: Alternative, Indie Rock, Ambient
  • Album Name: Tremors
  • Artist: SOHN
  • Price: $9.99 on iTunes
  • Release date: April 7, 2014
  • Label: 4AD
  • Genres: Electronic, Dance, Rock
  • Album Name: The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
  • Artist: Eels
  • Price: $13.99 on iTunes
  • Release date: April 22, 2014
  • Label: E Works
  • Genres: Alternative, Rock