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California Sounds: new music and videos from Katzù Oso, Blake Mills and Soft Palms

Scott Montoya and Julia Kugel, who perform as Soft Palms.
(Everloving Records)

Katzù Oso, ‘Sequestro Al Corazon’

(Cosmica)
The East L.A.-raised artist who performs as Katzù Oso has been releasing bedroom pop for the last three years. Drawing on the woozy psychedelia of Tame Impala and mixing it with 1980s-suggestive synth tones to create three-minute candy jams, the artist born Paul Hernandez seems to revel in not just building structurally sound tracks but adding playfully weird accents, four-bar breaks and diversions. Consider the tracks “Pastel” and “Cherry Love.”

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Katzu Ono’s lyric video for “In Too Deep.”

Across the last few months, Oso’s been teasing a forthcoming EP by dropping a lyric video and a few other tracks. Originally slated for June release, the artist pushed it back to late July so as not to divert attention from the protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Blake Mills, ‘Summer All Over the World’ video

(Verve)
Released in the springtime, the video for Grammy-winning musician and producer Mills captures something essential about summer 2020, even if that wasn’t its intent. The melancholy piano ballad, taken from Mills’ stellar new album, “Mutable Set,” features lyrics that seem to celebrate the season, but they don’t necessarily align with somberness of the music. “Looking for water / Looking for shade / And there’s only sunblock and beers / Surf is up / And the fish are flopping / And everyone will soon be here.”

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The video for Blake Mills’ new track, “Summer All Over.”

If only. We’re in lockdown and the beaches are closed. As Mills conveys words he co-wrote with singer-songwriter Cass McCombs, the video journeys into cloistered coldness through footage from the documentary “The Living Stone.” An Oscar-winning 1958 short film directed by John Feeney, it features scenes of indigenous Inuit families surviving on Baffin Island in northeast Canada. Nestled inside igloos, the family could probably offer tips for enduring our current condition.

“Summer All Over” is one of many breathtaking songs on “Mutable Set.” Mills, who is best known for his work with Fiona Apple, the Alabama Shakes, Perfume Genius and John Legend, among others, appreciates space in his recordings, and peppers songs with so many subtle, curious details that it’s easy to miss the nuance without proper volume and attention.

Soft Palms, ‘Baddy’

(Everloving)
For the memorable video to one of Soft Palms’ new songs, the wife-and-husband team Julia Kugel and Scott Montoya tapped his grandfather’s work as a builder for Disneyland. Involved in constructing the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise, Reymundo Montoya died after a fall while working at the theme park. None of that is noted in “Baddy,” but as former Growlers drummer Montoya and Kugel, who’s a member of punk band the Coathangers, ease their way through the slow, shoe-gaze-inspired rock song, a hologram projection system like the one that powers the Haunted Mansion beams surreally disembodied images of the two musicians.

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The new video for Soft Palms’ “Baddy.”

“Baddy” is the second track to be released from the band’s forthcoming first album, “Soft Palms.” It comes out via Los Angeles imprint Everloving, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on July 31.


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