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  • Tom H

New Music Spotlight (December 2020)

Before 2020 draws to a close, we wanted to give one last shout out to a few recently released EP's and albums that are definitely worthy of putting on your musical radar and playlists. Read on for reviews of impressive releases from Cryote, Sea Salt, Mike Mentz, Tiny Deaths, Paul Moody, and R. Missing.

Cryote | Cathedral of the Pines (debut EP)

Singer-songwriter and Step Rockets frontman Joshua Schmidt launched his solo project Cryote in late 2019 with the release of his debut single, "So Much Nature." Borne out of change and life challenges, the Cryote project found its origins in acoustic performances in which Josh used live loopers, building beats and producing songs on the fly with layers of guitar lines. Enter Josh's expressive and commanding vocals, solid songwriting, meaningful lyrics and you can't really ask for much more. Follow-up single "Good Medicine" continued the Cryote journey with its infectiously upbeat, hook laden vibe that remains an uplifting and inspiring earworm for me.

Cathedral of the Pines is Cryote's debut EP that features these stunning tracks, along with "Take It All Back," "Love Is Blind" and brand new single "Holy." Released in conjunction with the winter solstice on December 21, current single "Holy" is an inspiring song with impressive guitar hooks and Josh's powerful vocals. It's a song that encourages all of us to keep a positive outlook and to adapt to the unexpected. Josh comments, "This song is about transcending where one is currently at to become something more, something better. Because if you don’t listen to the universe, it will sneak up on you and smack you in the back of the head. I’m so excited for the future and all the good things to come and I hope you are too."

Sea Salt | Block it Out (debut album)

Sea Salt is an indie-pop/shoegaze band founded by Seattle-based singer-songwriter Kurt Roy. Following the release of two impressive singles from last year ("Frames" and "Pillow"), Sea Salt's debut album, Block It Out, recently hit the streets, containing some incredibly gorgeous, melodic songs that feature warm, dreamy guitar hooks, charming melodies, and introspective lyrics that touch upon isolation, uncertainty, and the pursuit of comfort and happiness. Take a listen to standout tracks like "Hue," "Night Drive," "Frames," and "Care," and I'm pretty certain you'll find yourself emotionally drawn into the lush sounds, delicate melodies and dreamlike atmosphere that Block It Out emanates.

Mike Mentz | Souvenir (new album)

Chicago-based singer-songwriter-traveler Mike Mentz coined the term #travelpop to describe his unique and enticing blend of songwriting that weaves in inspiration, musings and perspective from every stop along his personal travel experiences and encounters. After a series of single releases over the past few months, 2020 saw the official release of Mike's long-awaited and outstanding third album, Souvenir, which features a slew of engaging, solidly written and stellarly-performed compositions. The energized, steady-paced "Someday" is the opener to the Souvenir journey, with its tale of the corporate executive who'll get to his/her family, bucket list and personal goals 'someday.' Mike's first-class, emotive vocals are the magical instrument that brings all the well-crafted musical gems on Souvenir to life. Take a listen to standout tracks like "Ain't That the Life," "Souvenir," "Cigarette," "Broadway's Bright" and "Which Way to Paris" and you'll soon be boarding the Mike Mentz travelpop journey.

Tiny Deaths | If I'm Dreaming (new EP)

Tiny Deaths is the musical moniker of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Claire de Lune. On the five stunning tracks on its new EP, If I'm Dreaming, Tiny Deaths creates a lush dreampop soundscape that blends delicate vocals, subtle electronic sounds and beats, and scintillating synths in an exquisite, minimalistic production. Bringing to mind bands like Phantogram, Beach House, and Purity Ring, Tiny Deaths presents a fresh take on the dream pop genre with standout tracks that include "Stay," "If I'm Dreaming," and "The Jump," a song with clever lyrics that examines the question, "does fame attract rotten people or does the fame itself rot them?"

Paul Moody | Towards You (new EP)

Indie-folk singer-songwriter Paul Moody's new EP, Towards You, is one of most touching and elegant acoustic releases I've heard this year. Clocking in at just under twelve minutes, the three tracks on this stunning, low-key release feature gentle acoustic guitar, strings, piano and Paul's expressive, heartfelt vocals that elevate and surrender these fragile songs. Towards You is a fitting soundtrack with which we can calmly end this otherwise chaotic and unsettling year, providing calm, comfort and an unwritten sense of hope for positive, brighter times ahead.

R. Missing | Placeholder for the Night (new EP)

With their first new official EP release in three years, mysterious New York-based electronic duo R. Missing returns with the shrouded, cinematic EP, Placeholder for the Night. Comprised of musicians Sharon Shy and Toppy, also referred to as 'She Missing' (Vocals/Bass) and 'He Missing' (Other), the duo kicked off their new musical adventure in 2017 with their enticing darkwave debut EP, Unsummering, which featured impressive tracks including "Kelly Was a Philistine," "Unsummering," and "Mouser." Placeholder for the Night perpetuates the electronic veil of mystery with its opening title track which seems to allude to disappointment about the light at the end of tunnel. The electronic vibe of "Placeholder for the Night" is infectious and pulsing, slightly reminiscent of Röyksopp. The warm-sounding, yet lyrically unsettling "Alms" follows with the repeated ending refrain "I had to kill your parents." Under its lo-fi, distortion-heavy production, the melodic vocals of "Darkness, I'll Always Be Your Girl" eerily come shining through. Notably missing from the EP, and hopefully appearing on a future EP or album are R. Missing's interim singles, " Suzywhereabout" and "Ultracareful."

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