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Topshelf Records // 2019 Recap

For as long as I can remember, I have been personally fascinated with album artwork and the ways we visually present and perceive the music we create and listen to. Topshelf released ten records in 2019—EPs and full lengths spanning a sonically and geographically diverse spectrum of sounds and locales, respectively. With the year coming to a close, we wanted to highlight each of them. So I opened up the artwork files and went to work creating digital collages for each, utilizing and re-purposing elements from each album’s artwork into a visual release retrospective of sorts.

We also asked each artist to provide some words on their mindset in creating the music—we left the prompt pretty open, and the responses vary a good deal! Hopefully you learn something new about an album you already enjoy or discover something ~ new to you ~ that might have gone overlooked from earlier in the year.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the music we release and the artists we work with! We had a great 2019 and are already well underway in planning our 2020 for you. Should any of these 2019 titles resonate with you, we’re currently running a 20% off sale for all 2019 releases—use the code BUBBLEMONKEY in our store or on bandcamp for the discount.

Thanks from all of us at Topshelf!! <3


TSR190: Us and Us Only - Two Songs words by Kinsey Matthews.

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After the release of Full Flower, we found ourselves with a few opportunities to perform songs from the album in a different light than how they were originally presented. Since we tend to take our time between releases, we thought that Two Songs would serve as a wonderful opportunity to revisit these songs, give them some new life, and to share them with collaborators (which has always been my favorite part of making music) like Han Offman of High Bloom/White Wreath.

"My Mouth" was written at a turning point in my life where I had been stuck in a rut for years with little to no progress to show for it and finally, there was hope and intrigue being allowed back into my life. There were new friends, new environments & feelings, but it was still difficult to process any change through any other lens than trauma and discomfort. Where the album version relies on a groove and attitude to pull through the haze of reluctance, this version gives itself fully to weariness - even though there is light on the other side.

"Veiled/Forming" further explores the same space as "My Mouth", but through more of a fog. When I find myself on the other side of significant changes in life, there are times where I finally think to take a step back and realize that I've maybe spent a short time just floating by - taking a breather without consciously doing so. You drift through the mundane tasks of everyday life; going to the mall, going through the car wash. At the end of it, I felt like a new person (new attitude, new haircut, simple things) and that I was growing. I felt veiled compared to an old self and I felt that I was forming.


TSR199: Bellows - The Rose Gardener words by Oliver Kalb.

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The year of releasing an album is always a weird thing to experience because you’re sort of catching up with a previous self. My new record The Rose Gardener came out in February of this year, but it was written and recorded a whole year before that, in early 2018. After more than a year removed from the writing process, it becomes an unforeseen task of touring to find new meaning in the songs after their original dramatic subject matter isn’t such an important thing in your life. Touring new Bellows albums always feels like discovering the true nature of the songs — since I write and record mostly alone, the band only learns the songs after the album’s finished and the live arrangements are usually pretty different from the recordings, sort of like we’re covering my songs.

Our first tour on The Rose Gardener was this last March. I found that there were some songs, like “The Tower”, that felt like they achieved a new life as live songs, like they’re able to strike emotions in a live setting that are different from what they’re doing in the recording. Other songs like “Housekeeping” feel like they sometimes aren’t appropriate for every venue, like the lightness of the guitar playing and the particularity of the samples doesn’t always come across in smaller house show or DIY spaces. Right now I’m on my first full U.S. tour on the new record, and I’m still in the process of discovering how these songs go. On the previous Bellows album, Fist & Palm, we toured the songs heavily for two and a half years, and by the end of the touring it felt like every song on the album had a completely distinct quality in the live setting, almost like we’d made the album all over again as performers. I’m excited to be in the process of re-making this new Bellows record in the live world.


TSR201: Elephant Gym - Underwater words by Tu Chia-Chin.

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A Japanese manga called The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.. This story is talking about an abnormal high school student Kusuo Saiki who was born in a ordinary family. He has many super powers whatever you can imagine since he was born. But he just want to be a normal person, that's the only thing he is unable to do. Once he teleported into the deep ocean for escaping his annoying daily life. That reminds us the experience of wearing up the earphone and push the play button. Music has the power to change the vibes immediately wherever you are.

We want to make a album which can give listeners this kind of power, help someone creating a private and peaceful space. That's the reason which inspired us to write the album Underwater.


TSR202: Queen of Jeans - If you're not afraid, I'm not afraid words by Miriam Devora.

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A little less than two weeks before we went into the studio to record, my mom passed away. The year and a half that I spent writing the songs for this album was probably the most difficult time of my life personally. Simultaneously, it was the first time as an adult I ever really felt afraid to be myself in my country. I found myself in fear not only of losing my mom to her illness, but of losing my space within society as a queer woman, and watching space get taken away from so many others.

Much of this album is a reaction to all of these emotions stirred from these events as I tried to navigate my relationship with my partner, friends, and family without the guidance of my mom or a stable grip on what was and continues to happen in our country. My hope is that openly sharing my story and expressing myself through my vulnerabilities will help others that might feel lost right now, and that it might also help them find the strength in themselves to listen to and embrace their own stories, while also opening up and finding common ground with those around them.


TSR203: Field Mouse - Meaning words by Rachel Browne.

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A lot has happened in the three years since our last record came out. While there is far too much to say about it all in one place, we wrote this album anyway. What are the broad strokes, you ask? It's more or less about the end of the world and all of the ways that it seems to be happening, but also about making peace with former selves and growing as a person despite the feeling of global entropy. Also: strange internet versions of our friends and selves, bouts of insomnia and picking through the dreams that followed, the importance of forgiveness, and creating meaning in a world that increasingly feels like total chaos.

What is the function of art in a place like this? Is anything we make going to last? I am not sure, but here are 11 songs looking for the answer. What I do know is that art connects us to each other and to our feelings and our selves. It is a liferaft, and I hope that we can all continue to put it into the world, appreciate it, and share it indefinitely.


TSR205: Alfred. - Like You!! words by Aaron Brown.

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I actually ended up using a very old song that I wasn’t a big fan of at the time. I tried making an album called “Like You!!” when I was about 19 and I think even then I didn’t feel ready to put out a body of work like that. I was unhappy with how I was recording music at the time and I don’t think I really understood how I wanted to string projects together. I do my best to make projects my chance to tell a tale via a sound Journey (as best as possible).

Before the tour I went on with Pockets last year, I pulled out that song “Like You (Yes, You!)” and rapped it aloud for the first time in about three years and was like, “Holy shit was this song always that good??”

I never thought that I’d write something at 19 that I really fucking needed to hear now, and I hope someone can understand. Bitches is damaged and lonely and need someone there, and in one way or another we are all bitches.

In a series of months I added on songs that I’ve pieced together over the past few years of living in Richmond. My process is often creating the lyrics before the music and holding onto them until I find the right beat or sound that emotes to the lyrics that I’ve written. I work with my close friends, all so very unique with their flavor and soundscapes and with their help I am able to give context to the stories and woes of coping with the bullshit.

Like You!! Is the natural desire to want to know someone and the complicated results and feelings that come from that.


TSR207: No Vacation - Phasing words by Nat Lee.

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The Last Dance left Changes between us for the rest of our Days. Now we are Estrangers; Out of Place and forever Phasing.


As we grow and change as people, our writing inspirations and styles develop as well. Over the last 2 years, we became more mature as people and in turn started thinking more about what we do. In turn, Phasing became a collection of songs, we emphasized, that needed to be done thoroughly and with patience. Some of the songs started with us before Intermission was even released while others began after we relocated to Brooklyn. We are constantly changing. After we all graduated from university and moved on to the next stage of our life, it was natural for our songs to mature in that way too. Before we finished this last EP, we realized we are phasing into the next chapter of our lives, thus naming the EP Phasing was fitting. This EP could be a metaphor for No Vacation’s Last Dance.



TSR208: Mid-Air Thief - Crumbling words by Mister Thief.

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The great Richard Swift said in an interview that he sends the whole track into a 4 track Tascam. I was inspired to try exactly that with this album, but the result was mixed I guess. It did hold together some elements with some webs, but overall the sound became quite washy and a little bit dull? If you listen to songs that went through Richard Swift's hands, they are still very solid and have weight. They really are in a perfect middle of "baked" and "hardened" type textures.

It's really amazing how he was able to do so using such unusual technique and it shows the greatness of his talent!


TSR209: LITE - Multiple words by Kozo Kusumoto.

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As its title Multiple may indicate, this album is born from the will to demonstrate that, by using 4 different sound engineers to create layers of sounds, and by multiply them with LITE’s own sound, we can generate something entirely original. We tried to make it the master piece of LITE’s all time history.

It’s easier to enjoy it if you know a little bit more about the stories behind the tracks, so here it is:

"Double" is the representative song of the album, a very important one as its creation decided the direction of the whole album. From the juxtaposition of thin sounds is born one sound, the one only LITE can do. Rec: Takaaki Mino (ex. toe)

"Deep Layer" is composed mainly by our bassist Jun. That’s the most math sounding song of all the tracks. Rec: Takaaki Mino (ex. toe)

On "Blizzard" we invited on poetry Tom Watson, guitarist of the American legendary punk band Mike Watt. Nobu wrote the poem and Tom arranged it. That’s the first time we used electric drum in earnest, it opened a new stage for us. Rec: Kozo Kusumoto (LITE)

"Maze"’s main composer is Kozo. There’s a bit of Battles in the song’s chopped sound. Rec: Kozo Kusumoto (LITE)

"One Last Mile" has been composed with J.Robbins as a recording engineer in mind, with the image of post hard core from the 2000’s. Rec: J. Robbins

"Ring" is the result of a collaboration with the Hip Hop artist maco maret. Maco arranged the original lyrics, but to tell the truth, this song was actually supposed to be the last one of our previous album, Cubic. There’s even a version with Nobu on vocal. But as it didn’t fit Cubic’s whole work, we decided not to use it. The song has been reborn thanks to this collaboration with maco. Rec: Kaoru Miura

"Zone 3" is the track with the most technical guitars. The title comes from the fact that it’s the 3rd version of the song Zone. The 1st version is on the EP “Blizzard”, and the 2nd one is the result of playing it live and changing it for the stage. Adding some arrangements on the last part of Zone2, it became Zone3. Rec: Takaaki Mino (ex. toe)

"Temple" is also a track that has been made on the basis that J.Robbins would record it. It took a very long time to compose it. We revived the past, darker math rock sound of LITE, and combined it to our current one in the latter half. Rec: J. Robbins

"Nobu" started composing 4mg Warmth 5 years ago. For a long time, he thought that it didn’t fit LITE, but it happened to be just right for this album as the 9th track. So he completed the song, with a particular fondness for the melody of the chorus. Rec: Kozo Kusumoto (LITE)

Jun is the main composer for "Clockwork". It has been a long time for LITE to try a change in key from the second part of the chorus. Rec: Kaoru Miura


TSR210: Boyscott - Goose Bumps words by Scott Hermo Jr.

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The album consists of songs all written at different times and most of the time in different places. I wrote and even recorded the majority of a few of the songs in Montclair, NJ, I wrote + recorded Marco Polo all in my dorm room in Nashville, TN. Nova Scotia 500 was mostly recorded in my dorm room in Nashville, TN + then in the house I lived in off campus. Depending on the song, there are many different states of mind present.

Its kind of shocking that this album came together the way it did, how it totally works start to finish, yet some of the songs are so drastically different in my opinion. But I think the fact that we recorded them all DIY w/ the same voices + quality makes them all flow very well. I think many of the songs were created in quiet times of reflection, but whenever I come up with an idea there is so much excitement involved even if the song is initially a more melancholy thing.

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2019 Recap // Bellows // The Rose Gardener

For as long as I can remember, I have been personally fascinated with album artwork and the ways we visually present and perceive the music we create and listen to. Topshelf released ten records in 2019—EPs and full lengths spanning a sonically and geographically diverse spectrum of sounds and locales, respectively. With the year coming to a close, we wanted to highlight each of them. So I opened up the artwork files and went to work creating digital collages for each, utilizing and re-purposing elements from each album’s artwork into a visual release retrospective of sorts.

We also asked each artist to provide some words on their mindset in creating the music—we left the prompt pretty open, and the responses vary a good deal! Hopefully you learn something new about an album you already enjoy or discover something ~ new to you ~ that might have gone overlooked from earlier in the year.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the music we release and the artists we work with! We had a great 2019 and are already well underway in planning our 2020 for you. Should any of these 2019 titles resonate with you, we’re currently running a 20% off sale for all 2019 releases—use the code BUBBLEMONKEY in our store or on bandcamp for the discount.

Thanks from all of us at Topshelf!! <3


TSR199: Bellows - The Rose Gardener words by Oliver Kalb.

Listen / Purchase

The year of releasing an album is always a weird thing to experience because you’re sort of catching up with a previous self. My new record The Rose Gardener came out in February of this year, but it was written and recorded a whole year before that, in early 2018. After more than a year removed from the writing process, it becomes an unforeseen task of touring to find new meaning in the songs after their original dramatic subject matter isn’t such an important thing in your life. Touring new Bellows albums always feels like discovering the true nature of the songs — since I write and record mostly alone, the band only learns the songs after the album’s finished and the live arrangements are usually pretty different from the recordings, sort of like we’re covering my songs.

Our first tour on The Rose Gardener was this last March. I found that there were some songs, like “The Tower”, that felt like they achieved a new life as live songs, like they’re able to strike emotions in a live setting that are different from what they’re doing in the recording. Other songs like “Housekeeping” feel like they sometimes aren’t appropriate for every venue, like the lightness of the guitar playing and the particularity of the samples doesn’t always come across in smaller house show or DIY spaces. Right now I’m on my first full U.S. tour on the new record, and I’m still in the process of discovering how these songs go. On the previous Bellows album, Fist & Palm, we toured the songs heavily for two and a half years, and by the end of the touring it felt like every song on the album had a completely distinct quality in the live setting, almost like we’d made the album all over again as performers. I’m excited to be in the process of re-making this new Bellows record in the live world.


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May Recap // New Releases and a Healthy Handful of Summer Tours

We recently announced two incredibly unique records, both of which will be out in the first week of June. Learn a little more about the records below and make sure to pre-save and pre-order if you like what you hear!

As well, a healthy handful of Topshelf artists will be on tour this summer. From Ratboys to the legendary toe, there will be loads of shows you won't want to sleep on! Check out dates and other info below.

Alfred. photo by Ethan Hickerson / LITE photo by Riki Yamada

Recently announced albums

Alfred. - LIKE YOU!!

release: June 7, 2019

LIKE YOU!! is the deeply multifaceted debut album by Richmond, VA's Alfred. Its warbly bell tones, expertly chopped melodic samples, and slow-mo hip-hop grooves form the instrumental base for the "darkgospel" singer/rapper Aaron Brown. Jazzy yet supple Dilla-reminiscent cuts contrast starkly with songs that boast Alfred.'s signature darkgospel stylings, the juxtaposition of which makes for a compelling, spectrum-crossing album.

listen to the whole album ahead of its official release

watch the double video for "Tales of a Queer Rapscallion" and "Like You! (Yes, You)"

learn more about Alfred.

pre-order LIKE YOU!!

LITE - Multiple

release: June 5, 2019

Multiple is the sixth full length record by the prolific maximalists known as LITE. Over the past 16 years, the Japanese quartet has established itself as one of the most influential groups across a host of subgenres. Though usually referred to by touchstones such as "math-rock" or "post-rock," LITE has developed an uncanny ability to fuse their influences into their own unmistakable dialect that defies generic genre classification.

listen to the latest single, "Double"

listen to the lead single, "Temple"

learn more about LITE

pre-order Multiple

Tours

Don't you love when tons of great gigs underscore the vibrance of summer? Check out our tour playlist to get a sampling of the Topshelf artists and their tourmates who are currently on the road, and read on for the full scoop on all the tours going down.

listen on spotify

listen on apple music

toe just announced two US shows in August

toe tour info

No Vacation began their full US tour this week, and will fly out to Europe for an extended tour in July

No Vacation tour info

Bellows will be on tour with Gabby's World in July, with a slew of west coast dates

Bellows tour info

Alfred. will be doing a short run of shows in July

Alfred. tour info

Queen of Jeans will hit the road with The Menzingers and The Sidekicks in July

Queen of Jeans tour info

Ratboys will begin the second leg of their tour with PUP in June

Ratboys tour info

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Bellows // "Rosebush" Official Music Video and Interview with Lillie West (Lala Lala)

Yesterday the new video for Bellows's "Rosebush" was premiered at Talkhouse alongside an extensive, wonderfully in-depth conversation between Oliver Kalb (Bellows) and Lillie West (Lala Lala). The pair's conversation touched on creative processes, songwriting, and their shared affinity for the band Why?. Enjoy the video below with a few words from Oliver about the origins of "Rosebush."

Bellows will be on tour this summer with Gabby's World, which will include a rare run of west coast dates. Make sure to mark your calendars!

"The song "Rosebush" is basically about being an artist," explains Oliver Kalb, frontperson and principal songwriter of the project known as Bellows. As with much of Kalb's recent record, The Rose Gardener, "Rosebush" explores the doubled-edges of artmaking, revealing uncomfortable self-truths in pursuit of beauty and happiness. Kalb elaborates on this concept as "a big romantic extended metaphor about pursuing beauty despite the pain it can bring — I'm chasing this rose monster through the woods, trying my hardest to get to it, but it's kind of unattainable. At the end of the video I just become a rose myself, a creature indistinguishable from the inspiration I'm trying to chase."

Directed by Dan Shure of Charly Bliss, the video follows Kalb's portrayal of his album's eponymous character and a sentient rosebush. Inspired in part by the characters of Noel Fielding, the rosebush character is meant to "tread a line between being funny and being sort of horrifying."

Having always admired Charly Bliss for making theatrical, narrative-led music videos, pairing up with Dan Shure was the perfect opportunity to capture this sort of fun, larger-than-life energy that could act as a further extension of the central metaphor of "Rosebush," encapsulating the complicated intersections of inspiration and output. As Kalb confesses, "it can feel that way to be an artist sometimes, like after you fall deeply into art for enough time, there's no essential person you are anymore outside of your relentless pursuit of something beautiful or meaningful."

Ultimately, this pursuit may boil down to a persisting sense of childlike wonderment with the world, chasing sensations as they come and go, growing simply through trial and error. Perhaps this is what Kalb alludes to in the coda of "Rosebush," singing, "like a child I need these roses / though thorns enclose them / I reach out my hand and try to hold."

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SXSW Photo Diaries

As is becoming tradition, we gave several of our bands some disposable cameras to play with while down at SXSW this year. Our favorite purple publication, The Grey Estates, deemed the photographic results to be worthy enough for a series of photo diaries, all of which we've collected here for your enjoyment. Click through below for a few words from each artist about their time in Austin. (Warning: lots of cute pics!)

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Bellows // 2019 Summer Tour with Gabby's World

The pop-inclined bedroom recording project Bellows will be on an extensive tour this summer with frequent collaborators Gabby's World. The two Brooklyn-based groups don't often make it out to the west coast, so if you're near the Pacific it's a rare chance to catch these two amazing bands. Check the dates below to make sure you'll be able to witness songs from the recently released The Rose Gardener preformed live with a full band.

  • July 07, 2019 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Roboto
  • July 08, 2019 - Detroit, MI @ Outer Limits
  • July 09, 2019 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
  • July 10, 2019 - Minneapolis, MN @ Kitty Cat Klub
  • July 11, 2019 - Omaha, NE @ OutrSpaces
  • July 14, 2019 - Missoula, MT @ Ten Spoon Winery
  • July 15, 2019 - Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
  • July 16, 2019 - Corvallis, OR @ TBD
  • July 17, 2019 - Arcata, CA @ Outer Space
  • July 18, 2019 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
  • July 19, 2019 - Santa Cruz, CA @ SubRosa
  • July 20, 2019 - Stockton, CA @ Blackwater Cafe
  • July 21, 2019 - Los Angeles, CA @ Morrocan
  • July 23, 2019 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
  • July 25, 2019 - Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas
  • July 26, 2019 - Dallas, TX @ Transit Bicycle Co.
  • July 28, 2019 - Gainesville, FL @ TBD
  • July 29, 2019 - Orlando, FL @ Will's Pub
  • July 30, 2019 - Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
  • July 31, 2019 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle Backroom
  • August 01, 2019 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd
  • August 02, 2019 - Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
  • August 03, 2019 - Boston, MA @ Once Ballroom

» Find tickets for a gig near you

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Bellows // The Rose Gardener

The Rose Gardener is the fourth album by Bellows. It was written by Oliver Kalb and recorded in a home studio in Woodstock, NY in early 2018. Listen to the record today on your favorite platform, and check out the tour dates below to see if Bellows is coming through your town. If physical media is your jam, please visit our store to peruse our wares.

Below Kalb explains the processes and circumstances that gave life to the ambitious record, describing a series of reevaluations of relationships and personal values, eventually culminating in a refusal to succumb to the turmoil of our moment.

"A lot of the album is about the idea of judgment: why we’re compelled to judge each other, hate our peers, bring competitiveness to art-making, compare ourselves to others, destroy beautiful things for an ego-boost or a feeling of political purity. The album was written in a period of intense frustration with the world of music and the dumb infighting that dominates it. Especially after the election in 2016, I found myself more and more demoralized with the state of the world. As America sunk deeply into quasi-fascism and normalized day-to-day violence, I began to wonder why our counter-cultures were paralyzed and unable to respond, so wrapped up in the narcissism of small differences that they forgot to fight the actual bad guys.

Somehow the idea of judgment felt crucial to understanding the moment we’re living in. Everyone in society the judge, the rockstar, the lead of his own private TV show, privately declaring judgment and dismissal to anyone standing in his way. I began to feel the loneliness of this moment in history. That although we’re supposedly more connected than we’ve ever been, we’ve become further and further factionalized until each person stands completely alone, unable to forge real connections or bonds, isolated within the internet booth of judgment and narcissistic self-righteousness.

I think the loneliness I see in this moment became the metaphor of The Rose Gardener — a gardener trying to tend to a single rosebush in the dead of winter. I imagined this character and his practice of tending to a rose that seems destined to perish in ice, who recognizes the futility of the work but nevertheless goes out every day to tend to the dying plant. The loneliness of this character felt akin to the feeling of trying to make art in such a loaded and violent moment. How could one possibly try to speak softly in a world filled with such deafening shouting from all sides? But rather than giving up gardening, the Rose Gardener persists — he sticks his hands into the thorny rose bush and tries to see through to what might still lie on the other side: real life."

Tour dates:

  • 3/1 - Albany, NY @ Chateau
  • 3/2 - Kingston, NY @ BSP
  • 3/3 - Boston, MA @ O’Brien’s #
  • 3/7 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
  • 3/8 - Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA #
  • 3/9 - Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong #
  • 3/10 - Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight*
  • 3/11 - Nashville, TN @ DRKMTTR*
  • 3/12 - Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern*
  • 3/13 - Austin, TX @ Topshelf Records Official SXSW Showcase @ Cheer Up Charlie’s*
  • 3/14 - Denton, TX @ Andy's Basement
  • 3/16 - Austin, TX @ FRIEND OASIS @ SXSW*
  • 3/17 - New Orleans, LA @ The Starlight*
  • 3/18 - Atlanta, GA @ 529*
  • 3/19 - Durham, NC @ Duke Coffeehouse*
  • 3/20 - Baltimore, MD @ Joe Squared*

# = w/ Shannen Moser

* = w/ Another Michael

designed by Oliver Kalb

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First Listen // Bellows - "The Tower"

"The Tower" is the fifth and final single to be shared before the release of The Rose Gardener, the forthcoming full length record by Bellows. Stream it here a day ahead of its full release on all your favorite digital and streaming platforms, and read about the track below.

The Rose Gardener will be released on February 22, 2019.

"'The Tower' is partially based on an interpolation of the song 'WTF' by Gabby's World, the other band I'm in," says Oliver Kalb of the penultimate track from his forthcoming record The Rose Gardener. "Those first lines are about the experience of hearing 'WTF' and having a memory of the power of touring in a band and singing someone else's beautiful songs night after night. In a moment of extreme chaos and conflict in my life, the context and meaning of the song changed for me. It suddenly felt like a rallying cry to stick with music despite it feeling like a hopeless endeavor: 'I will not back down.'"

It suddenly felt like a rallying cry to stick with music despite it feeling like a hopeless endeavor: ‘I will not back down.’

Though not an expert in tarot, Kalb concedes that the title is a reference to the tarot card of the same name. "The Tower in tarot symbolizes upheaval and change; the image on the card is literally a tower being struck by lightning. We build up towers of worldly ambition and narcissistic insistence on our own constructed images of ourselves. These towers of careerist striving, however, are built on faulty foundations – we have to destroy the towers we build up if we really want to change ourselves, or get out of the ruts we're in."

full album pre-order & streaming links // lyrics

Kalb explains further that the triumphant and hopeful song "is a declaration of defiance against a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, the recognition that although everything in my life seemed to be crumbling away, that nevertheless making art and continuing to live my life despite hardship was the most important thing. But that realization came with a caveat: that if I was going to continue with art, I needed to fundamentally change myself, and my relationship to having a life in music. 'Deep in the stars, or wherever you are, I need to find you' – these final lines, sung in the same pitched register as the quotation from 'WTF' are about the universality of music, how hiding somewhere deep in the universe is a primal force we can sometimes tap into to create beauty, and to rise above the pettiness of earthly experience. Art is the only thing that connects us to something higher than ourselves, and I need to live life in search of something greater than me."

The Rose Gardener is out via Topshelf Records on February 22, 2019.

Photograph by Richard Gin

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Bellows // Album Announce: The Rose Gardener

Today we are proud to share the first two singles from the upcoming record The Rose Gardener by the Brooklyn-based group Bellows, to be released on Topshelf Records on February 22, 2019.

Catch the two music videos premiering today at Stereogum alongside a US tour announcement. As well, don't miss pre-orders for The Rose Gardener, which are now live on our webstore.

Of the two videos, Oliver Kalb (lead force behind Bellows) explains that, "'Denouement' and 'What Can I Tell You About The World?' are the two center-piece songs of the album — I think of them as representing two opposing emotions the album deals with. The first is a bitter, angry song, obsessed with the past and the misdeeds of others. The other is a song about peace, and about trying to live life without passing judgment on everything you see. They’re a duo because neither tells a full story: the world is neither as messed up as it is in 'Denouement' nor as simple and problem-free as 'What Can I Tell You About The World?' but together they form a worldview: feeling out the anger it takes to acknowledge when you’ve hurt, but not allowing it to overwhelm your ability to find happiness where it comes."

Tour Dates:

  • 3/1 - Albany, NY @ Chateau
  • 3/2 - Kingston, NY @ BSP
  • 3/3 - Boston, MA @ O’Brien’s #
  • 3/7 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
  • 3/8 - Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA #
  • 3/9 - Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong #
  • 3/10 - Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight*
  • 3/11 - Nashville, TN @ DRKMTTR*
  • 3/12 - Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern*
  • 3/13 - Denton, TX @ J&J’s Pizza*
  • 3/14 - Austin, TX @ Cheer Up Charlie’s*
  • 3/16 - Austin, TX @ Topshelf Unofficial SXSW Day Party*
  • 3/17 - New Orleans, LA @ The Starlight*
  • 3/18 - Atlanta, GA @ 529*
  • 3/19 - Durham, NC @ Duke Coffeehouse*
  • 3/20 - Baltimore, MD @ Joe Squared*

# = w/ Shannen Moser
* = w/ Another Michael

art by Oliver Kalb

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New Music from Elephant Gym, Annual Label Sampler & Holiday Sale

Greetings! It is about that time, people. We've got a few deals going to help you with your holiday shopping (much more on that below). Now's probably also a good time to recap you on what we've put out this year, incase you've missed anything. We've also got Elephant Gym's new album Underwater available for purchase—details on all of that below.

This year's been awesome—I'm so psyched on the diverse titles and exciting group of artists we've gotten to partner with in 2018. For a quick glimpse of everything we had our hands in this year check out our discography page, or just peep our label sampler that features a track from every artist we released music for in 2018:

Oh yeah, the sale!

  • Take 20% everything in our shop with the code HOUSEKEEPING (excludes pre-order items)
  • Take an additional 15% off everything in our sale section (prices already marked down)
  • Our Bandcamp subscription is temporarily lowered to just $6 a month—get everything we release instantly digitally delivered to you, plus bonus downloads and behind-the-scenes updates all while supporting us and our roster in an ongoing, sustainable way!
  • we've re-stocked crewnecks, beanies, hats and shirts
  • For every $50 you spend in our shop, get a free random test press with your order
  • All digital items on our Bandcamp are 50% off (use the code HOUSEKEEPING)
  • Lastly, if you're shopping for someone and not sure what to get them, we have gift cards

A few notes and clarifications: The 50% off Bandcamp code *will* work on physical merch. We won't honor that though. Please do not try to buy physical merch with this code—YOU WILL BE REFUNDED and we will cancel your order if you do this. It is intended for digital items only. Thanks!

To redeem your free test press for every $50 spent, you must add this item to your cart.

In other news, you can finally listen to the new Elephant Gym album Underwater! It'll be on streaming platforms December 7th, but until then, you can stream or download it from Bandcamp (psst you'd already have it if you were subscribed!) or simply add it to your cart here on our shop.

That's it for now—thanks so much for your continued interest and support! <3

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