Noise Pollution: Jess Cornelius Goes the Distance & STRFKR Go Ambient

Noise Pollution returns with new music from Jess Cornelius, John Vanderslice, and more.
By    August 28, 2020

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Will Schube blew his latest freelance check on a big fit.

Jess Cornelius ― Distance

Moving is scary and stressful and overwhelming and the unique sort of thing that doing once makes you never want to do it again, while also being something you’re very likely going to do again. Moving from Australia to Los Angeles likely takes all of those sentiments and pumps them with whatever Jose Canseco was shooting into the asses of his teammates. Jess Cornelius embarked on such a move, leaving Melbourne, her adopted home, after leaving New Zealand. All that moving manifests itself in an introspective look at the person Cornelius views herself to be versus the expectations levied upon her from all angles. Aptly titled Distance, the album is Cornelius’ solo debut, after spending a number of years with the Melbourne outfit, Teeth and Tongue. The album is a gorgeous collection of smartly penned rock songs, incorporating elements of wall-of-sound guitars, girl group jangles, and heavy melodies that are impossible to forget. The subtle details paired with big, anthemic, swinging instrumentation makes for an intoxicating blend that keeps things quick-paced without ever becoming breathless. Jess Cornelius has star power as an ace songwriter and frontperson, which she’s finally revealing now that she’s settled.

Eli Winter — Unbecoming

Instrumental guitar music is hard to do for many reasons, some of which I’ll list here. A) playing the guitar well is extremely difficult, playing so with pace, precision, creativity, and electricity in a somewhat (if not entirely) improvised manner is nearly impossible. B) Because of the instrumental guitar boom of the 2010s from folks like Ryley Walker, William Tyler, and the late Jack Rose, much of the popular ground has been traversed, which leaves less land for new voices, like Eli Winter, because the differences in songwriting and performance lies in subtleties not always apparent to untrained ears. C) Keeping a listener’s attention is impossible because we’re all busy Tik Toking. But, Eli Winter’s Unbecoming, despite all this, is a stellar addition to the canon of gut-punching, emotionally brave guitar music that’s become its own genre in the Americana landscape. The record is laid out in a fun way, with two extended guitar songs book-ending “Maroon,” a seven-minute, full-band folk jam that reveals many of the roots from which Winter’s solo music grows. I have to admit, that with the glut of staggering guitar music released in the past 15 years or so, I’ve grown kind of tired of the genre’s new iterations. But Winter has restored my faith, honoring the traditions of the old guard while updating it with his own ideals and style.

John Vanderslice ― Eeeeeeep!

There are many things I adore about John Vanderslice, an analog production hero in a digital world, but my favorite might just be that he adores rap music. Last I ran into him, after a particularly rousing DaBaby show at SXSW 2019, he was beyond stoked, recapping the event like he just witnessed history. In an interview with The Fader we did, he spelled it out more clearly: “It’s just better than anything else. It’s so clearly the thing. I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like rap music. I feel sorry for people if they don’t like rap. I’ve had exhausting conversations with people where I’m trying to get them to be more open-minded — especially towards contemporary rap and fringe-y weird shit — and put in the time and effort to realize how important this is on a metaphysical level. It’s really, really important and it’s changed my life 100 times.” This was around the time of his last LP, the brilliant The Cedars, and I’m sure the sentiment is the same on the heels of his new EP, Eeeeeeep!. Released last week, the record is Vanderslice’s first digital effort after the closure of his Tiny Telephone Studios. It’s not rap, but in Vanderslice’s mind, it’s probably the next best thing. I’d put it right up there with rap, though. Despite the loss of tape-to-tape recording, the 808s still bump.

STRFKR ― Ambient 1

At some point, the dudes in STRFKR decided to, well, stop their attempt to hump the sky and zone into headier cosmic adventures. The result is Ambient 1, a decidedly chill endeavor from a band known for party-heavy live shows and hedonistic dance pop. Ambient always means a ton of malleable things, but here, principal songwriter Josh Hodges plays with bright, starry synths that vibrate and mutate over the course of nearly an hour. It’s perfect for a calm afternoon or an early morning when the fog begins ceding to the summer heat. While Hodges’ roots are in more mainstream-friendly songwriting habits, a record like Ambient 1 proves valuable insight into him as both a music fan and the way he approaches STRFKR. The tones here, though utilized in different ways, can be found as quirky accoutrement throughout the band’s discography. It’s a much needed come down after a bit too much fun, a glowing goodnight to a party you’ll crave to remember but probably forget. 

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