Alt Pop

A Very Special Episode go for a "Night Drive"

The “very special episode” is a venerable tradition of the televisual arts wherein our society faces down its most vexing problems with the help of inane plot contrivances, buffoonish acting, and howling laugh tracks. All often oddly endearing nonetheless. The ‘80s and ‘90s were perhaps the golden age of this particular art form with VSE’s used to warn the wider populace against such menaces as marauding punk rockers, pedophile bicycle shop owners, and drunken suicidal birthday clowns. Aficionados today savor the delectable discomfort produced by the best of/worst of (same difference) these “episodes” with their bizarre tonal mashups akin to a saccharin diet soda garnished with a dash of strychnine.

The Queens-based band A Very Special Episode likewise merge the sweet and the serrated and in the process make you a more upstanding and aware citizen. Take their latest single--a bedroom production by obvious circumstance--which is a lo-fi, high-sheen number called “Night Drive.” It starts innocently enough with some rollicking drums, four-on-the-floor bass and sing-songy keyboard over which bassist and lead singer Kasey Heisler lays out the scene: “You see it all stretched before you / purple sky painted over blue.” Sounds lovely! But any hopes for a laid-back evening excursion are soon dashed when suddenly “the night is speeding faster / fade to black” and on cue we change channels to a shimmering-distorted blur of guitar and keyboard with Heisler dropping all social niceties: “Hey, you know what / you got it all but I can’t get you off.” From there we circle back to the opening disco-punk groove now overlaid with a layer of buzzsaw guitar (or maybe a neighbor was testing out their new power-sander next door?) that weaves in and out of the song until its crashing climax.

This all can’t help but remind one of the very special episode of Saved By The Bell where Zach gets Jessie addicted to caffeine pills because I'm thinking those guitars must be the sound she heard in her head by the end of the episode. I mean sure it all starts off innocently enough at the ‘50s diner with our girl Jess sharing her dreams of applying to Stanford and debuting her neat little pop-singing combo with Lisa and Kelly. But by the final act Zach is pumping our future Showgirl full of uppers to help her study for midterms and going all Lou Pearlman on her ass with his girl-group svengali schemes. It’s no wonder Jessie aka “Nomi” would soon find herself working the pole and all thanks to that jerkface Zach! (please rest assured, dear reader, The Deli is sex-worker positive!)

OK so I got a little distracted there. Whatever its lo-fi origins, “Night Drive” is the best encapsulation I’ve heard so far of AVSE’s live sound with its mixture of melodic hooks and knuckle-dragging noise. To end things here with the requisite musical-calculus equation I’m gonna go with equal parts Garbage, The Walkmen, and My Bloody Valentine. Or if you prefer metaphors of the TV/movie variety I’ll give you “Saved By The Bell meets David Lynch” (especially Lost Highway on this particular song, not to mention the band’s logo is a VHS videocassette hmmmmm). If it all sounds up your alley check out “Gravity” below for a slightly more polished version of the AVSE sound. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Kierst has a "Crush" on latest single

Following a few bars of strummed guitar Kierst declares “it's nothing more than a crush but / I'm holding my breath” and I believe her. For one thing she repeats the second line four times in a row and indeed crushes are nothing if not obsessive, and while singing the line four times whilst holding one's breath defies logic, crushes are nothing if not illogical. Check and check.

A pathway to love turned into a a cul-de-sac of hopeless hope: “Tinged blue in the face no it's not too late.” A distressing new fetish for emotional distress: “An unwanted switch that's leaving me reeling.” Check and check.

Keirst's lyrics here scan perfectly in a song that slowly and steadily and almost imperceptibly builds tension--but crucially never achieves release. Layer by layer you hear the addition of ride cymbal flourishes, plaintive guitar wails, hints of bass and perhaps keyboard and finally some insistent drumming over a late-in-the-game declaration to “love you to death.” And then like that it's over. And you want it to start all over again. (Jason Lee)


 

   

Ananya explores found emotions in new single "Everybody’s Lost"

Pop-star Ananya keeps her music cool, relatable, and smooth enough for plenty of easy listens: in her new single “Everybody’s Lost,” the singer-songwriter deploys a heartbeat kick drum, a rippling synth atmosphere, and her soft vocals to soothe and deliver a tune to kick back to. Ananya, originally from Mumbai and now bouncing from Los Angeles to London, is connecting continents with pop music that is universally elegant and themes of love and freedom that are easy to identify with. Stream “Everybody’s Lost” below to find a song you can treasure, a mood you can recognize. - René Cobar 

   

Jutty Taylor finds a refuge in routine with new single "Saint James"

It is not difficult to feel lost in times of uncertainty, maybe even feel forgotten, but there is a refuge in routine, and in music, so says Jutty Taylor in his new single “Saint James.” The new breezy single is driven by a bouncy bassline and a snappy drum pattern that gives pace to Taylor’s waxed-shinny falsettos. In the hooks, the atmosphere swells, and as an upbeat mood takes over, there is hope that all who wander are not lost. “Saint James” is the second single from Taylor’s debut album Little Seizures, set for release November 13th. For a moment, Jutty Taylor allows things to move along with no resistance and makes life a bit more simple; stream “Saint James” below, all will be well. - René Cobar, photo by Jessa Hills

   

Sam DeRosa highlights mental health in new single "Sad Faces"

Sam DeRosa calls for a wellness check in her new single “Sad Faces,” and she could not be more timely: the month of October has been a long one already. Laced in the slapping/bap-bap beat that rides across a pop atmosphere is DeRosa’s call for universal cheerfulness, perseverance, and hope for a better tomorrow. The conversational, on-beat verses that segway into beautiful choruses show off DeRosa’s vocals, polished and sweetened with honesty. “Sad Faces” layers each sound so neatly without feeling overproduced: it’s intricate pop in production, simple and approachable in sound—the way it ought to be. Stream the bright music video for “Sad Faces” below for a reason to be cheerful. - René Cobar