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Dream pop confections carefully crafted by adults.

First drop the needle on Sleep to Dream, the long-awaited return from Whimsical, you’d get the impression you’ve received the pre-mastered version. It’s the sound of the band practice down the hall, barely heard through three walls, and over the street noise. You’ve been had. This opening interlude is just the setup for the sonic bust-out, almost a metaphor for a long-buried and unheard album finally bursting forth with a 21st century sheen. Buried guitar squall emerges into cascading guitar waves. Guitarist Neil Burkdoll intertwines these guitar waves with another layer of glossy filigree, as suddenly multiple guitar lines are having a conversation from different sonic angles. Vocalist Krissy Vanderwoude overlays the proceedings with a crisp and clear-eyed vocal that comes off as both experienced and optimistic.

Track Two, “Lost and Found” opens with a guitar coda that seems almost immediately familiar (though this reviewer can’t for the life of him draw its parallel). But this familiarity branches off into new colors and directions, all founded on a bedrock guitar churn, as you’re led into unfamiliar but comfortable territory.

By the time you get to the LP’s third track, “Surreal”, new sonic vistas have opened up. You can no longer simply assume direct references. There’s some Lush here, a dash of Robin Guthrie, even a bit of late 80’s twee pop guitar work, but the distillation of all these only reinforces Whimsical’s unique sonic imprint. This combination of rhythm, guitar and vocal is now become instantly recognizable as Whimsical. The song structures all put the “pop” back in “dream pop”: these are song-centric dream pop confections carefully crafted by adults.

It’s tempting to go through a track-by-track dissection, but this is one of those albums you simply fall into. If the assembled palette hasn’t grabbed you by track three, this brand is not for you. The strength of Whimsical is in the songs and the arrangements, carefully balanced, hauntingly lovely.

The foundation for all these songs has existed for over 15 years, with recorded bits lying dormant on a lost hard drive for all that time. At the time of first recording, Whimsical consisted of Krissy Vanderwoude (vox), Neil Burkdoll (guitar, sounds), Mark Milliron (guitar), Brian Booher (bass), and Andy Muntean (drums). Neil later added keyboard flourishes, re-edited drums based on today’s music software technology, and produced a final packaged presentation. Focused, polished, re-recorded and overdubbed, the songs on Sleep to Dream all have the freshness of now. Which is only unfortunate for guitarist Neil Burkdoll, as he’s recently admitted in an interview that he doesn’t listen to new music. To the rest of us, this is the new music. To paraphrase Mick Jagger, we know it’s not rock and roll, but we love it.

Sleep to Dream releases 24 February on Saint Marie Records (order link here). Follow Whimsical on Twitter and Facebook, and get in on the ground floor… fifteen years later. Don’t worry, in this case no one will judge.

In the wee small hours of this morning, Mumrunner posted their first-ever music video, for ‘Cascais’. One of several standout tracks from their top-rated Gentle Slopes EP, Mumrunner have added a compelling visual imprint to their already intense musical imprint. And, at least around these studios, Mumrunner has been dominating the charts for compelling new music. It’s great to see such an impressive band stretch their boundaries visually.

The band discussed the genesis of this video: “The idea of the video was to put the band members amongst the scenario and scenery of World War II. The video was shot with an old 16mm film camera from the early 1960s to achieve a similar feeling and picture quality with the used archive material, so it’s hard to tell which shots are old and which are new.”

Director Otto Heikola continued: “The inspiration for the song had come from an actual event in which boyish behaviour led to tragedy. In the music video we decided to do something thematically similar, but on a much larger scale, set in the violent events of World War II, with the band becoming part of the action.”

We can’t tell you why it works. Just as we can’t tell you why Mumrunner can’t fail at producing great music. It just works, and they just do. We’d go so far as to say, Mumrunner is the most compelling new band of the last three years, and every new music announcement is a date to mark on our calendars. Solti has got another winner on their hands.

Follow Mumrunner on Facebook and Twitter, and pick up your own copy of Gentle Slopes at their Bandcamp.

In advance of their forthcoming debut LP, due 24 March, Vikings in Tibet unleash its first single, “Silver Years”. Part of the Pelican Sessions series, this sees Vikings in Tibet in live session, recreating the angular math-inflected dream pop they’re known for. This energetic restlessness is captured in full force here: harsh verses are thrown at you one after the other, building up towards a conclusive chorus. The song oscillates between a dry groove and cinematic interludes, but always plaintive and tuneful. Check out the video, below.

Big things are expected of this combo, and their unique stamp on indie dream rock. Follow Vikings in Tibet at their website, and check out the full Pelican Sessions series here.

Finally available for streaming at your convenience: our top shoegaze and dream pop tracks of 2016. Published with ranked list and links, so that KEXP and KCRW can catch up, but more importantly, so that you can track them down and purchase a copy for your own library. Rankings derived from total spins, social feedback, and especially listener votes via the DKFM app. Thanks for your participation, and support of great new artists and music. Listen in, and follow along!

DKFM Best Shoegaze and Dream Pop Songs of 2016

36. Danxia – Closer
35. Vivienne Eastwood – Snooze
34. Whimsical – Never Come Down (2016)
33. Manic Sheep – No More Anger
32. Heavy Heart – Pretty Thing
31. Bleak House – Sun Down
30. Petal Head – Melt
29. A Shoreline Dream – Whirlwind
28. Panda Riot – June 20th
27. The Stargazer Lilies – Golden Key
26. Crescendo – Pressure (Feat. Frankie Soto)
25. Airiel – Cloudburst (Single Mix)
24. Queridas – Pasantia
23. Magnet School – The Double Agent
22. Fawns of Love – Girls
21. Lush – Burnham Beeches
20. Kindling – Blinding Wave
19. Sheer – Room
18. Big Deal – Hold Your Fire
17. Pinkshinyultrablast – The Cherry Pit
16. Mercury Girls – All That Heaven Allows
15. Arbes – Sun On My Back
14. Voices from Deep Below – Wait There
13. Seeing Hands – I Knew You
12. Mumrunner – Shawshank
11. Nothing – A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)
10. Hazel English – Never Going Home
09. Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes
08. DIIV – Dopamine
07. No Joy – A Thorn In Garland’s Side
06. Good Personalities – Itch
05. Newmoon – Head of Stone
04. The Kestrels – No Alternative
03. Magnet School – British Monuments
02. Soft Wounds – You Can’t Stay Here
01. Miniatures – What You Want

Many tracks released late in the year only began catching fire as the calendar turned, and seem to be building on early success. As such, disappointing that we weren’t able to plug in breakout performances from Blushing, RUBUR and others. With luck, they’ll appear as is appropriate on next year’s chart show. Assuming the world hasn’t blown up by then. I mean, right?

Music for headphones.

Premiering Wednesday night, January 11th, immediately following When The Sun Hits, the first in our irregular series, DKFM Broadcast Masters. What’s all this then? Funny you should ask. Some quality bands in our space suffer from a mastering job that sounds like your favorite musicians were recorded from the outside of a shoebox they’re playing in. To varying degrees, these lower-fi recordings are short on brightness and presence, by modern recording standards. Some radio stations will add a “universal compression” to all sound recordings they broadcast, which boosts loudness, but loses any semblance of nuance. We actually spent five months of this year with a broadcast pre-compression, normalizing loudness across tracks. A few liked this approach, but those with sharper hearing were nonplussed. While we’ve always tried to maintain volume consistency, this compression was a step backward.

Starting last year, we’d been working on “classic video remasters”, or more specifically, restoring audio from classic live performances from aged VHS source. This led us to an invitation to do the mastering for the forthcoming Fawns of Love album, due in March. As that was a smashing sonic success, we turned back inwards, wondering what our existing skill set could do for the songs we already play.

We’ve revisited our on-air catalogue, testing our skill set on rotation staples, with varying degrees of success. Gradually, we are replacing some of these classics with freshly-remastered tracks from our super-secret sound labs. This one-hour program showcases just a small sample of our ongoing work, from some of our favorite artists. In our debut episode, join us as we revisit (and reimagine) tracks from Lowtide, Wray, Be Forest, Surfing, Soft Wounds, Indoor Voices and much more.

Incredible hubris on our part? Probably. But busting sonic barriers has been a bit of a specialty of late. And this is the music that made us, that we made popular, and that we owe our very existence to. “Efforting” on our part is motivated by love, not hubris. And our efforts to polish and shine the sound of DKFM never ends. The artists deserve it, the audience deserves it.

Another bloody poll. But we’ve done it for years now, might as well subject you to at least something positive out of 2016. Albums of the Year, with much to choose from. You are limited to FIVE choices (up from three in previous years) of the LPs that moved you most. We expect some to try and game the system, it happens every year. Though we do have IP blocks in place to try and minimize that possibility.

You can add items to the poll, so long as they are full albums, and not duplicates. We’ll plug ’em in and push ’em out. Tried to cover everything our braintrust recalls about this year’s releases, but old age and sheer volume may be a factor. Enough preamble! You have a week to vote. Hopefully Vladimir Putin doesn’t hack us, right?

Thanks for your participation, as always!

In the latest Wikileaks dump of Clinton campaign emails, campaign manager John Podesta rails against Pitchfork’s “Top 50 Shoegaze Albums of All Time” list, in candid conversation with Clinton confidant and advisor Huma Abedin. The exchange should have no effect on Clinton’s chances to win the Presidency, but the criticism is nonetheless cutting. We’ve arranged the conversation chronologically, for easier readability, but edited the off-color language.

putzfork

Podesta: “What is this bullsh*t you send me? Why would I care what Putzfork thinks are the top 50 shoegaze albums of all time? God knows they’re still fighting for relevance, but this sh*t sure doesn’t make their case.”

Abedin: “At least thought you’d get a chuckle out of #48. Be well!”

Podesta: “Don’t even get me started on #48. Nothing’s ‘Tired of Tomorrow’ makes the ALL TIME ALBUMS LIST? So they’re saying the new Nothing album has stood the test of time? Since what, FIVE MONTHS AGO?!?”

Abedin: “I thought that might get a rise out of you.”

Podesta: “Seriously though? It’s a fine album, don’t get me wrong. Probably Top Five of the year. But might not even end up as the year’s best. Competing with Newmoon, Magnet School, Big Deal, The Stargazer Lilies? Give me a break. And did you read the attached blurb? ‘The Philly band is “The Walking Dead” of gorgeous guitar rock…’ WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Nothing represents the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Abedin: “Well, Pitchfork does have a history of latching on to the ‘new, hip band’ that the kids are raving about, in hopes some of their cool factor rubs off on them.”

Podesta: “But that act is so old it’s transparent by now. Seems like they’ve climbed so far up Nicky Palermo’s butt they can’t see the sunshine anymore. They could’ve at LEAST tossed Airiel’s ‘Battle of Sealand’ up there in its place, nobody would’ve blinked an eye. Oh, wait… Putzfork gave it a 5.0. Can’t unring THAT bell NOW. And throwing a bone to Xinlisupreme at #50, so they could cross Japan off their list? Feels like they were filling some self-imposed quotas here. Probably not even the best Japanese shoegaze album of all time. Weak.”

Abedin: “Hey, at least there were women represented here. They finally got to cover a genre where women play a REAL role, and can’t be relegated to the ‘male-led ingenue myth’ they’ve been criticized for.”

Podesta: “Sure, granted, but seems like they’re just checking a lot of boxes here for the sake of ‘coolness’. M83? Alcest? Jesu? Xinlisupreme? All of them quality releases, but seem thrown in to show sonic diversity. And how can you champion Lovesliescrushing without even half a nod to Astrobrite’s landmark ‘Crush’ LP? Epic failure. And without so much as a passing nod to Ringo Deathstarr, Tears Run Rings, Tamaryn, Fleeting Joys? The folks CURRENTLY reinvigorating the sound? Just, NO.”

Abedin: “Well when I’m looking for thoughtful art criticism, I usually head straight for Conde Nast. *smirk*.”

Podesta: “And Bardo f*cking Pond? Is that a joke? Wait – Bardo f*cking Pond rated higher than Medicine’s “Shot Forth Self Living”? That’s twisted. And don’t get me started on their ‘Loveless’ blurb.”

Abedin: “Well, what else can be said about the landmark of the genre that hasn’t been done to death?”

Podesta: “I realize it’s not easy to find original things to say about “Loveless” at this point, but saying it’s ‘…romantic in the 19th century sense, a work so grand that it connects us to the limitless universe and reminds us how small we are as individuals within it…’, that’s pretentious to the point of hilarity. I think what the writer is REALLY saying is, ‘I went to university for a BA in 19th century lit and all I got was this crappy job writing for Pitchfork’.”

Abedin: “Altogether, seems a really sad and desperate attempt to be cool, like when my embarrassing uncle shows up for Thanksgiving dinner in skinny jeans.”

Podesta: “Seems like somebody Googled ‘seminal shoegaze albums’ and averaged out the results. Sh*t, even NME at their WORST put in more effort. And they never had to break it into five pages for bonus ad views, either.”

Abedin: “At least nobody got compared to Radiohead, so that’s progress for P4K, right?”

These hacked emails have not been verified by DKFM. Representatives of the Clinton campaign declined to comment, and Dominic Palermo could not be reached for comment as of publication date. The Trump campaign responded promptly, however, with the candidate issuing the following Tweet:

trump-podesta

Never one to quit while ahead, Trump later added the following:

trump-emails

Check out our Top 100 Shoegaze Albums of All Time list here.

 

We kick off Fall with Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, Still Corners, Guest Directors, Belgrade, Mint Field, Blonde Tongues, Orquidea, My Dark House and Sunshine Faces. Surely there’s more, but we’re flying without a net, so adding as they arrive, as we sometimes do. Excelsior!

Obviously still spinning Sky Between Leaves, We Melt Chocolate, Whimsical, This Blinding Light, Citrus Clouds, Berlina, True Widow, Lubec, Wild Meadows, Fat Creeps, Lakota Colours, Berlina, Rauschenberg, more from The Suncharms, and shiny samples from TBTCI Records’ tribute to Teenage Fanclub. Booyakasha.

Remember: your vote counts via the DKFM app! Thumbs up / thumbs down in the app helps us to know what stays and what goes. You support the station, you shape the sound.

New Tracks Weekend kicks off 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific, and continuing through Sunday at midnight Eastern, 9 Pacific. It’s the first weekend we’ll spin some of these tracks, and may be the last weekend for some others. Listen via the station page at DKFM, on Shoutcast, and on TuneIn Radio for iPhone/Android/Windows. Plus we have our new branded apps for Apple’s iOS, Android and Blackberry. Or load up the “Internet Radio” tab of your iTunes desktop client, and you’ll find DKFM Shoegaze Radio under ‘Alternative’. You can even keep up with the new tracks and artists you may have missed: we’re live-scrobbling via our last.fm profile, and live-tweeting every track on our sub-Twitter DKFMTracks account. Now you’ll know what you heard, or catch up on what you missed. Keep up with our new Facebook group for real-time discussions of what you’ve heard, and sound off!

And, as always, thanks for listening, and thank you for your support!

While celebrating the release birthdays of Cranes, Cocteau Twins and Ride, as well as celebrating the birthday-birthday of Bilinda Butcher, we’ve managed to cobble together an excellent New Tracks Weekend for your enjoyment. Guests and star-turns included from Sky Between Leaves, We Melt Chocolate, Whimsical, This Blinding Light, Citrus Clouds, Berlina, True Widow (Ariel kept calling them “True Window” until we got her head right, true story), Lubec, Wild Meadows, Fat Creeps, Lakota Colours, Berlina, Rauschenberg, a deep dive into a classic LP from The Suncharms, plus some shiny samples from TBTCI Records’ tribute to Teenage Fanclub.

Not to neglect our most recent additions from Hazel English, Dead Gaze, Wildhoney, Mercury Girls, Soda Shop, Arbes, Morning TV, Dani Mari & Chris Miller, SEASHINE, Fern, Matthew & Me, Dear Tracks, Orchin, Petal Head, Tall Pines, The Autumn Sighs, Cruel Summer, Bloodhounds On My Trail and hella bunch more.

Remember: your vote counts via the DKFM app! Thumbs up / thumbs down in the app helps us to know what stays and what goes. You support the station, you shape the sound.

New Tracks Weekend kicks off 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific, and continuing through Sunday at midnight Eastern, 9 Pacific. It’s the first weekend we’ll spin some of these tracks, and may be the last weekend for some others. Listen via the station page at DKFM, on Shoutcast, and on TuneIn Radio for iPhone/Android/Windows. Plus we have our new branded apps for Apple’s iOS, Android and Blackberry. Or load up the “Internet Radio” tab of your iTunes desktop client, and you’ll find DKFM Shoegaze Radio under ‘Alternative’. You can even keep up with the new tracks and artists you may have missed: we’re live-scrobbling via our last.fm profile, and live-tweeting every track on our sub-Twitter DKFMTracks account. Now you’ll know what you heard, or catch up on what you missed. Keep up with our new Facebook group for real-time discussions of what you’ve heard, and sound off!

And, as always, thanks for listening, and thank you for your support!

Amidst the chaos of new releases, equipment shenanigans and weekend hijinks, we’ve managed to splice together a pretty epic New Tracks Weekend for you. Headliners (of course) are Half and Wozniak, whose new split single we previewed here, and is available as of this morning here. The new single, fresh this week, from station favorites Makaras Pen (including a new video!). Full-album deep diving with Eros and the Eschaton, Medicine Boy and Queridas (each worth your attention). New music from ioi and Fawns of Love, fresh-baked from sunny Central California. New music from Band Aparte, Dayflower, Babaganouj, A Shoreline Dream, Holi, Lacing and much more. And we’ll fight these machines that vex us until they submit to our will.

That’s not to neglect last weekend’s freshness, including Kindling, Whimsical, Angel Falls, Hoops, Field Mouse, Danxia, Daguerrotype, Heavy Ghost, Flirting, Seeing Hands, Alarm Drum, Dear Baby Deer, Sick, Exowaves, OSLO, The Pink Elephants, Zeit, Whistlejacket, TBTCI’s Cure tribute… if it’s new, if it’s important, we got it!

Remember: you get to vote on these tracks via the DKFM app! Thumbs up / thumbs down in the app helps us to know what stays and what goes. You support the station, you shape the sound.

New Tracks Weekend kicks off 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific, and continuing through Sunday at midnight Eastern, 9 Pacific. It’s the first weekend we’ll spin some of these tracks, and may be the last weekend for some others. Listen via the station page at DKFM, on Shoutcast, and on TuneIn Radio for iPhone/Android/Windows. Plus we have our new branded apps for Apple’s iOS, Android and Blackberry. Or load up the “Internet Radio” tab of your iTunes desktop client, and you’ll find DKFM Shoegaze Radio under ‘Alternative’. You can even keep up with the new tracks and artists you may have missed: we’re live-scrobbling via our last.fm profile, and live-tweeting every track on our sub-Twitter DKFMTracks account. Now you’ll know what you heard, or catch up on what you missed. Keep up with our new Facebook group for real-time discussions of what you’ve heard, and sound off!

And, as always, thanks for listening, and thank you for your support!

© 2016 DKFM Shoegaze Radio