• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Squirrel Flower, A. Savage, Sofia Kourtesis

Squirrel Flower – Tomorrow’s Fire
Boston, MA

Between sheer beauty and explosive outrage, Squirrel Flower crafts vivid soundscapes that take you deep down a personal moment in time. There’s a buzzing tension and sense of hope to “I Don’t Use a Trash can” as the album seems to rise to life in a subdued glow of serene-yet-intense vocals and instrumentation. “Full Time Job” sets off an oil fire in its searing wall of guitars, emulating the sense of frustration and burn from the pains of dealing with life’s inconsistencies and ironies. The sound takes on even more grime on “Stick” with Squirrel Flower creating a sound the size of a mountain to match their dire and visceral feelings within the song’s story. The catchy centre of “Intheskatepark” ties each end of the project’s sound together, making an addictive, bright and yet off-kilter experience to leave you washed out.

Hot Sugar I Swear It Used to Be Here (Single)
New York City

Taking a more lo-fi approach to the city soundtrack, Hot Sugar’s latest single takes us into a vibrant night trip through a metropolis. The sense of hypnotic wonder is all over this track, with every ringing synth feeling like a star against the harsher bass in the song’s lower end. Though it certainly appeals to a game soundtrack-like energy, the more evolving filters and layers within the production also give it that much more sonic depth to tap into. And with those moments ebbing in and out of the track, you really gain an added sense that you’re almost hearing a lost tape from another world.

Savage – Several Songs About Fire
Denton, TX

Like an alternative spin on the Jonathan Richmans and Mac DeMarcos of the world, A. Savage crafts stripped down indie rock that lets personality overpower its seemingly simple individual pieces. The skittering rock groove to “Elvis in the Army” makes for a wonderful vintage movement in the song, that transcends its 50s influence and merges eras into one exhilarating guitar track that could make people dance across generations. “My My My Dear” lets its deceptively simple melodies infect your brain, as the dancing bass and sizzling drums create an intoxicating vibe to just settle into and take it easy for a moment as guitars go from shimmers to roars. The more angular and anxious approach to “David’s Dead” let’s Savage loose more playful melodies over Savage’s laments about the changing times. After a slow-burning start, “Thanksgiving Prayer” takes on a mesmerizing energy as its strings/woodwind sounding arrangements turn the whole track into a churning folk ballad for the ages, easily morphable into something that could be sung at pubs across the nation.

Black Polish – Willows (Single)
Los Angeles/Maryland

There’s a nervous excitement on “Willow,” as Black Polish sets out a love song with a sense of unease from the word “Go.” Despite the melancholy around the air in the song, they do a great job dashing in sprawling harmonies and rushing guitar lines that add a vibrancy to each verse. The weight of those louder vocals really shifts the song’s entire momentum too, as every chorus then becomes a charging chant, and eventually a magical set of rounds that disappear into each other. This huge scale also lets those final quiet notes in the outro feel immensely empty, almost to the point of being overwhelming.

Sofia Kourtesis Madres
Magdalena, Peru/Berlin

While there’s a world of DJ music more built around a primal body-moving feeling, Sofia Kourtesis creates music that sends your mind to new worlds. Whether intentional or not, the album feels like the perfect meld of Kourtesis’ roots in both South America and Europe. It’s easy to get lost in the euphoric rhythms and bells of “Madres,” as you feel transported to a futuristic city brimming with life in every note of the track. There’s a more deeply groovy quality to “Si Te Portas Bonito,” as you’re lured between smoky production, roaring instrumentation and neon vocals that gloss over your ears like sugar. Blending the best of their knacks as both DJ and producer, “How Music Makes You Feel Better” is a spiritual audio experience, as it both lays a sonic bedding, but also shakes it up in the most tantalizing of ways to send you on a sensory journey of ecstatic performances. As the bells ring on “Estación Esperanza” you want to shake and grab your own percussion, with the twists on a Manu Chao classic making for an evolved beast of a dance track.