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Kate Malanaphy, Palm Friends, Superheater, & Jonny Darko | LMR


Kate Malanaphy - "i'll never (demo)" (self-released) 

It's absolutely inescapable.

Just about nine months after the release of the ethereal masterpiece that was Soak, Kate Malanaphy quietly uploaded a new demo to Bandcamp. Any new music would be cause for celebration, but "i'll never" is their first truly solo song. Malanaphy played every instrument and recorded and mixed it. 

The looming piano that provided the basis for a majority of Soak has been subbed out for a lightly plucked acoustic guitar. Vocals match its evergreen peacefulness instead of bursting out like a gush of fog over a lake. In so many ways, "i'll never" is step in an exciting new direction. The main thing that has remained the same is the density of the emotion at the song's core. A constant burden is accepted instead of escaped. "I struggle to believe / I'll ever be without this heaviness" epitomizes begrudging acceptance. There may be a flicker of hope, but by the song's end, the flame has been all but extinguished.

Perhaps the most unexpected element is the percussion. As the weight settles in, seeming heavier with each passing second, the drums approach a minor cacophony. They're slightly off-kilter, injecting eeriness into the melancholy.

As always, Malanaphy illustrates some of the most painful feelings in the most beautiful ways. The recording quality adds an additional level of personality to the song, like you're eavesdropping on their solitary thoughts. I can only recommend listening to "i'll never" a few times in a row; otherwise, you will simply be sad all day.

Buy and/or listen to "i'll never" below.



Palm Friends - "Sunday" (self-released) 

"Sunday," the latest single from Minneapolis' Palm Friends, is perfect for any summer afternoon. The quartet have put together a crystal clear jangle-pop song. Continuing with the sound of their 2019 EP Nice Weather (released by Forged Artifacts), they capture easygoing moods in spades. The sensation of lazy, free hours spent laying underneath a tree in dappled sunlight is evoked perfectly. Shawnna Stennes' vocal melodies are instantly catchy; the gorgeous guitar reverb feels like a warm hug (something we all miss quite a lot).

Palm Friends have set a new high point for their breezy Real Estate-esque indie rock. Buy and/or listen to "Sunday" below.



Superheater - Beaut EP (self-released) 

On the opposite of the tranquil spectrum from Palm Friends is Beaut, the latest EP from Superheater. It hasn't been long since we last heard from the trio — they released an EP at the very end of 2019. Now, just over four months later, we have a new batch of five tracks.

Superheater has had a constant relationship with Ecstattic Studio and its mastermind, Ali Jaafar. It's a match made in heaven. The band's scuzzy noise-ridden sound melds perfectly with Jaafar's production. Just enough dirt is left in the recording to give it some trademark edge but it never reduces the quality. In fact, it greatly improves it. Opening track "Diver" kicks things off with a bang and immediately establishes what to expect from the rest of the EP — shoegaze-y guitar tone that swallows you up, distant vocals that serve more as another instrument than a way to deliver lyrics, and stellar, almost-unkempt grooves. Riffs are immaculately constructed but performed in a totally unhinged manner. Superheater rushes through the tracklist, delivering garage rock hit after hit (even with "mini" track "Leave the Hawaiian On" bisecting the tracklist). "Ribbon" is a sonic avalanche that finally buries the listener after the EP's 14 minutes are up.

Beaut is another solid EP from one of the fuzziest bands in the Twin Cities. Listen and/or buy it below.



Jonny Darko - Act 2 EP (self-released) 

Jonny Darko is the downtempo musical project of Jonathan Fuller. Right now, he's in the middle of an ambitious three-part EP release that is tentatively building up to a self-titled album. Act 2 is (obviously) the middle third.

Fuller plays with elements of electronica, mostly twisting them up with the tried-and-true sounds of depressive rap. Some songs, like "Frank's Dream," lean more into the electro-pop direction, though they never quite transcend. Instead, Fuller's production lingers in the dark. Lyrical references to Frank Ocean make perfect sense given the late-night, drunk-and-alone vibes that Act 2 cultivates. "Karma" is an unexpected departure into the sounds of popular trap, even including a fluttering flue sample. The EP's final two tracks find Fuller embracing a nocturnal bleakness, in a rush to be numb as quickly as possible.

Act 2's centerpiece is also its shortest song. The ironically-titled "Dance Club Anthem" blurs into a portrait of drunken loneliness. Gorgeous synths wash over Fuller's pained vocals. The straightforward lyrics and instrumental make the emotions all the more apparent and painful.

If you're feeling lonely and want to lean into it, buy and/or listen to Act 2 below. Watch Fuller's collaboration with Keegan Burckhard on a video for one-off single "Metamorphosis" here.

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