Ramonda Hammer, Erin Anne
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Safe Sins, the debut record from Philadelphia band Gladie, begins with a prayer: “I close my eyes, pretend to pray/That this shame would just fuck off today,” sings Augusta Koch, her familiar timbre floating atop a wave of bleary-eyed synths on opener “Pray.” It’s a gentle, hymnal introduction to a record that ducks from jangly power pop to plucky indie rock, scrappy electronic psych jams to swaying shoegaze. The record borrows its title from Koch’s poetry zines: Safe Sins is a place of safety, acceptance, and progress. It is a record about isolation, loss, and dismantling shame and grief through self-analysis.
Koch, formerly of beloved Philly trio Cayetana, has been working on the 10 songs that comprise Safe Sins for years. They existed first as poems before being brought to life at The Bunk in Henryville, Pennsylvania, where Koch (guitar, vocals) recorded with bandmates Matt Schimelfenig (guitar, bass, keyboard, vocals), Ian Farmer (bass), and Pat Conaboy (drums). Schimelfenig also produced and mixed the record.
Koch explains that while Safe Sins tracks a narrative arc, it’s not exactly linear—it’s complex and tangled, treading a more realistic path to healing. “To me, it has this vibe of the stages that you go through when you’re grieving, but also how most people don’t go through one stage then onto the next one,” she says. “They have it over and over. Even in one day, you could experience all of those things and come up with some type of closure, then the next day feel differently. There’s not really ever a clean conclusion.”
The record’s opener gives way to a rush of guitars and both digital and analog drums on the spritely “When You Leave The Sun,” a strut in crisp morning sunlight: “On the bright days, I can see the light/When the chemicals blend just right,” Koch calls brightly. It’s followed by lead single “A Pace Far Different,” a guitar-forward bop haunted by chiming keys and pleas for escape. Scattered throughout, between wiry guitar melodies, drum triggers, and cavernous synth patches, are small, insistent mantras: “We give ‘em credit, we don’t owe ‘em that much,” on “Even At Your Easel,” or the soothing nihilism of “Cosmic Joke,” as Koch declares, “Everything I lost, I never really had.”The record builds to a close with “Parlor” and “Choose,” the first of which opens with light organ and drums, and finds Koch inventorying then stitching up the damage done by putting herself behind others: “I’ll gift myself my own respect/Maybe someday time will intercept, and I’ll be able to grant my own success/To be happy.” It’s followed by the clean-slate of “Choose,” which reframes power and self-determination over a slow-march of guitars. “Now I live in absence of or inside my least desirable traits/I pick and choose,” Koch sings before resolving, “I could wield this magic for good/Make it right, I know I could/If I choose.”
Safe Sins is defined equally by pain and hope, two opposing forces that define human existence. The record acknowledges that on some days, the former wins; on the good ones, the latter does. But neither are static endpoints. Both are places we visit often. Gladie are set uponmaking sure the path between them stays open, as Koch shouts firmly on “Twenty Twenty:” “I am angry, I am lonely, but I am optimistic, too!”
Ramonda Hammer is a Los Angeles-based grunge band whose name comes from a lady featured on the early 2000s reality television show Cheaters. The show is funny and sad, kind of how front-woman and band founder Devin Davis writes her songs. "Davis is the queen of grunge,” says KSPC. In 2017, the band caught Rolling Stone's attention, with writer Maura Johnston naming their "Destroyers" EP an editors' pick and writing "Devin Davis' knotty, unguarded wail and Justin Geter's distortion-heavy, brutally melodic riffs on tracks like the churning 'Bender' and the breakneck 'Care to Slam?' are like an alternate Nineties where L7 was the biggest band in the world." The band's rhythm section – bassist Andy Hengl and drummer Mark Edwards – turn Davis' songs into fully formed anthems: "crunchy, grungey, no-B.S. ’90s-style alt-rock” as Buzzbands.LA described it. They've shared stages with likeminded bands such as Slothrust, Palehound, Priests, Potty Mouth, Colleen Green, Dude York, and Pile. In 2018, the band reissued the "Destroyers" EP on vinyl, and recorded their first full-length studio album with producer Alex Newport (At The Drive-in, Bloc Party), which will be released in late spring 2019 on the New Professor label, with tours to follow in support.
The debut album from Erin Anne, Tough Love is an unruly yet elegant collage of all the elements that make up her musical vocabulary: wildly shredded riffs and lo-fi acoustic ramblings, punk-rock energy and folky austerity, new-wave whimsy and high-flown pop theatrics. With a narrative voice at turns thoughtful and rebellious, confrontational and shy, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter spins her lyrics from such divergent sources as formative queer texts and her own moon-phase-specific dream journal, ultimately presenting a body of work that bravely documents the slow and strange process of becoming yourself.