music blog nyc

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING ROBYN SHERWELL
February 26, 2016 10:09 am

For anyone in need of a bare-boned exploration of self in the forest, let Robyn Sherwell be the soundtrack to your woodsy existentialism. Sherwell’s music has a consistently earnest quality to it, which is a tribute to the dulcet tones of her voice anchoring each of her songs. With a soundscape as fittingly serene to accompany Sherwell’s singing, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to seek refuge in a more natural and cozy environment.

Cutting to the core of her own emotions is what’s most appealing about Sherwell. It’s something that’s truly within her, so even when she’s covering a classic like “Landslide,” she’s still able to make it her own completely. For nearly half the length of the cover, all she has are some subtly dubbed vocals anchoring the entire song, doubling down on the despair from Fleetwood Mac’s original. It’s a song we’re all familiar with, but Sherwell’s stripped down approach breathes new life into it.

It’s become a relatively fashionable trend for anyone with a voice as commanding as Sherwell’s to loop bits of hums and ‘oohs’ and use them as a layer throughout the song to self harmonize. Does it get tiresome? Definitely. Sometimes it casts a large shadow over the rest of the instrumentation, but if it’s done well, it’s hard to hate. “Pale Lung” is a prime example of Sherwell using this device with aplomb. She doesn’t revolve the entire song around it, so it never feels like a busy distraction. The layered vocals play their part in giving “Pale Lung” with a simplistic beauty that makes it so captivating.

Sherwell is set to release her debut self-titled album in March. It consists of songs from previous EP releases, her cover of “Landslide,” as well as a few new guys. One major highlight from the LP is “Tightropes.” The twinkling synths illuminate the senses, and the line, “I never dreamed I’d lose you up there,” is fuckin’ bleak. Using the idea of a tightrope as a metaphor for her relationship remains thoughtfully executed for the duration, and makes “Tightrope” arguably her most complete song.

The fully exposed nature of Robyn Sherwell can be a lot to take in at first. She lays everything she has on the table and presents it in a way that forces the listener to have no alternative than to listen to what she’s saying. Such vulnerability creates an authentic connection and brings about a desire to seek truth. That truth can be found in the woods somewhere or at a coffee shop that makes some really great tea. It’s different for everyone, but Robyn can help you look for it.

SHOCKED BY SHOCKING PINKS
November 2, 2015 8:47 pm

The Shocking Pinks, musical project of New Zealand’s Nick Harte, put on quite the show this Halloweekend at Baby’s All Right. I say that because two days later, I am still really unsure of how to digest it.

22539224920_381d3fafa2_k

 

This is not to say I had any complaints at all- it was easily the best show I had been to in months. The entire crowd was dancing to wordless, funky, electronic indie beats while Harte managed to deliver an electrifying performance- not once turning to face the audience. The supporting band had stunning chemistry and amazing musical prowess, evident in some particularly impressive drum solos (and don’t roll your eyes at the term “drum solo” because they really were great). What confused me was this was not what I expected from the show (see below).

I listened to Shocking Pinks on Spotify beforehand. I was immediately attracted to their sad indie downer vibes and fell in love with the melodies and lyrics. But the show that I ended up going to was of an indie, guitar-based, IDM esque band. The sound presented live was so different than what I heard online that at the end of their set I asked when the Shocking Pinks would be performing. Eventually I got my answer.

22104385934_9996ed33a8_kThe story of the latest Shocking Pinks album is that Harte composed it and recorded it all in his bedroom, with the windows blacked out, in New Zealand after a particularly devastating earthquake and a particularly devastating break up. Guilt Mirrors is a triple LP all about Harte’s world falling apart. It is seven years after the self titled Shocking Pinks album, and is vastly different in spirit. “Double Vision Version,” “What’s Up With That Girl” and “Glass Slippers” are dancey downers, almost fitting into a noisey shoe-gaze outline. These tracks are very different, but a natural progression, from the lo-fi bedroom songs on Shocking Pinks. Because of the dense amount of music on their triple LP, the Shocking Pinks can present themselves differently and prepare live sets to reflect the many different sides of the music and this is why they sounded so different from the band I had listened to online.

For a band that is fronted by a genius recluse from the other side of the world, they were extremely comfortable on the New York City stage. The crowd was literally begging for more- maybe because of the way one song flowed into another, or maybe because Harte never faced the audience. I kept waiting for him to turn around so the show could “begin”, but the set just flew by without any acknowledgement from Harte and left me dazzled and dazed. Set highlights included “Translation,” “Double Vision Version” and the band’s last release “Nostalgia”. Check them out below!

Written by Alessandra Licul