THIS CASSETTE IS A PRE-ORDER, EXPECT TO SHIP IN MAY
Golden Apples possess the rare ability to make music that’s at once familiar and elusive, instantly satisfying and also undeniably unique. On their self-titled sophomore album, the Philadelphia-based band have seamlessly combined the off-kilter catchiness of ‘90s college rock with dashes of dreamy shoegaze, scrappy bedroom pop, homespun psychedelia, and more. The result is a vibrant and eclectic sound that works in tandem with Edling’s agile lyrics, and an album that aims to capture the endless highs and lows of life without sanding down the complexities and contradictions–all done with humor, humanity, and most of all, hooks.
Led by songwriter Russell Edling, Golden Apples began as something more akin to a solo endeavor. The project started as his previous group, Cherry, was ending, and the pandemic was beginning. Edling hunkered down in relative solitude outside of Philadelphia and made Golden Apples’ 2021 debut LP, Shadowland, but it wasn’t long after that he began writing again. This time, however, he sought a very different creative process. “With the last record, I felt like everything was under the microscope of my vision and my abilities,” he explains. “This time I wanted the opposite, I wanted to go to a studio with musicians I trusted and just knock it out.”
Edling recruited an all-star lineup of Philadelphia’s best players–including drummer Pat Conaboy (Kite Party, Sun Organ, Spirit of the Beehive), bassist Tim Jordan (Kite Party, Sun Organ, Lowercase Roses), guitarist/vocalist Mimi Gallagher (Nona, Eight, Cave People), and guitarist Matt Scheuermann (Lowercase Roses)–and convened for two weeks at The Bunk recording studio with engineer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Schimelfenig (Gladie, Sun Organ, Three Man Cannon). “One of the nice things about Philly is that the music community is so intermingled and everyone collaborates,” says Edling (also of Kite Party, Lowercase Roses, and Cave People). “I’ve always been inspired by bands that felt like they were part of a creative network of people. I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and we didn’t have a lot of that, so finding it always felt important to me.”
That cooperative spirit is palpable on Golden Apples, throughout which a crackling spontaneity accents Edling’s tightly written guitar pop. “I didn’t have the ability to be so precious about every little moment and I think that’s central to how it sounds,” says Edling. “I wanted to step away from the microscope.” There’s an organic collision of warmth and noise across the album’s ten song, 28-minute runtime: gentle acoustic guitar meets ripples of feedback and ‘90s alternative bombast intersects with jangle pop sweetness, all working together to recall everything from Yo La Tengo’s wide-ranging-yet-intimate indie to The Velvet Underground’s fractured version of elemental rock and roll songwriting. Opener “Good Times” begins as a feel-good sing along before devolving into a blown-out keyboard drone, immediately setting the album’s musical and lyrical tone. “I think I’m always writing about the existential trials of coexisting with depression,” Edling explains. “But with every record I make, I take a different stance with that relationship. This is the first time I’ve ever confronted that batch of feelings with some lightheartedness or a joke in my pocket. It’s sort of like ‘I see you, but I’m not afraid of you anymore.’”
It’s a sentiment best encapsulated by “Let Me Do My Thing,” an album standout with a laid back mood and a highly memorable chorus. “I wrote that song after having a depressive episode,” says Edling. “The whole idea was ‘Please understand that this is something I’m really feeling,’ but also to look at how silly the things that take me there can be. Sometimes it takes a joke to help me snap out of it.” Elsewhere on songs like the dreamily rocking “High School” and the psych-tinged “Grass,” Edling takes on the complexities of emotional evolution and even the Sisyphean absurdity of life itself, and then compacts them into surprisingly affirming songs that stick around long after their concise runtimes.
Edling’s knack for adding a wry wink to Golden Apples’ music never sacrifices the heart or emotional clarity of the songs, whether it’s the appreciation for a moment of unabashed joy on the fuzzed-out “Beam,” or grappling with feelings of betrayal on the hazy “Cosmic Candybar.” The record comes to a close with “Slime,” a dynamic stomp that seems tongue-in-cheek on the surface but packs a lyrical punch to match the driving stomp of the chorus. “I think sometimes if you’re depressed you can feel like you’ve been marked, like you have this condition or this situation–you’re covered in slime,” he says. “I’m always trying to find balance with the proximity to kitsch. Sometimes something that seems dumb can also be so compelling.” The track ends with Edling and his companions sharing a harmonized refrain, before he sings “It doesn’t matter to me” and the guitars drop out, leaving only a droning keyboard. The moment calls back to the ominous ending of “Good Times,” only now the buzzing note feels decidedly more hopeful.