By Thomas Dunlap
Over the course of the past few months I have come across several distinguished tracks that have managed to stick with me. I have been unable to stop listening to them, and in certain cases I have played them over and over on repeat. This collection of catchy tunes would be far too lengthy to include in its entirety in an article, so I decided to narrow the selection down to the absolute essentials. The following list is an eclectic arrangement of four solid tracks that I have compiled for your listening pleasure.
“Making Movements” – RALPH TV
Broadcasting from Brighton, England, RALPH TV invites you to “tune into a woozy escape from this hostile world.” Drawing inspiration and influence from contemporary dream-pop artists such as Homeshake and Connan Mockasin, the music of RALPH TV is a ruminative mixture of jangly slacker-rock and funky psychedelic-pop. Melodic and ethereal soundscapes are kept grounded by rhythmic shoegaze-y guitar riffs, creating a hazy sub-genre self-dubbed as “stoner-pop.”
Their most recent release, “Making Movements,” is a dreamy departure from the lounge-funk, guitar focused sounds of their 2018 project RALPH TV EP. “Making Movements” is an upbeat and groovy concoction, complete with a buoyant synthesizer note that slides back and forth across the track. A tightly coiled guitar riff springs in and out, complementing the spiraling electronic notes that serve as the song’s climactic outro.
The single’s vague lyrics frequently reference “starting over” and “getting it back on track,” possibly reflecting their sounds change in stylistic trajectory.
“Misty Morning” – Travis Bretzer
Off-kilter indie-pop with a hint of hopeless romanticism is Canadian musician Travis Bretzer’s specialty. Piercing and mournful guitar progressions are met with faint and ambiguous lyrics, forming a collection of hazy and down-tempo tracks. With cold, breezy vocals and solitary instrumentation, Bretzer’s work echoes the wintery environment in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. His nostalgic tunes are covered with a foggy layer of retro vocal filters and psychedelic synthesizers, highlighting his slacker-rock and dream-pop influences.
A longtime contributor to the DIY community, Bretzer has been releasing music for nearly a decade, dropping his freshman project Saucy Tasters in 2010. Since then, he has released three full-length albums, with his most recent release, Bubble Gum, coming out in 2017.
“Misty Morning” is a simple and solemn track off of Bretzer’s 2016 project, Bitter Suites. With its sorrowful guitar chords and dejected vocal delivery, this song parallels the album’s titular wordplay. The track’s pensive lyrics deal with disheartening topics such as a gloomy personal forecast and the monotony of everyday life. An exasperated Bretzer despondently sings, “I’m so tired of trying,” encapsulating the song’s dismal sound and style.
“People Say” – Good Morning
“People Say” was the lead single off of Good Morning’s 2018 release The Option. Originating from Melbourne, Australia, the duo of Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons craft lo-fi and rugged indie-rock that has a rough-around-the-edges and ramshackle sound. The two began developing their distinct DIY style when they were in high school, and released their first project, titled Shawcross, in 2014.
Although the chorus effects and distortions on the guitars effectively create a weathered sound, the resulting melodies are nothing but smooth and breezy. With hungover instrumentation and lazy vocals present throughout their discography, it is easy to draw a connection to certain contemporary Canadian indie artists.
In The Option, Good Morning attempts to find strength in minimalism. The majority of the tracks are stripped-down and skeletal, leaving only jangly guitars and filtered vocals. This album exhibits some western and folk influences, which are made readily apparent in the single “People Say.” This track sounds like it would fit comfortably in a Coen brothers movie soundtrack. Sharp and twangy guitars square-dance over a saloon-like piano piece and low, sultry vocals that are complete with a rough cowboy vocabulary. This upbeat and grounded song is a movement away from the laid-back and atmospheric sound of their earlier discography.
“Best Friend” – The Smoking Trees
The Smoking Trees is the collaboration of Los Angeles-based artists and musicians Sir Psych and L.A. AL. The project began in 2001 when the two became friends by bonding over the exchange of new music. They didn’t get serious about the project until 2003, when they finally settled on a band name. Inspired by their smokey surroundings caused by the California wildfires, the duo decided on the name “The Smoking Trees.”
Despite having multiple artistic endeavors of their own, the two began creating psychedelic-pop that is heavily influenced by the sounds of the ‘50s and ‘60s. The track “Best Friend,” off of their 2015 album TST, perfectly captures their throwback and psych sound. This lighthearted song is comprised of airy vocals and a sticky, popping guitar riff that repeats through the track’s entire duration. The track’s positive lyrics and easy-listening instrumentation create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.