Atwood Magazine is excited to share our Editor’s Picks column, written and curated by Editor-in-Chief Mitch Mosk. Every week, Mitch will share a collection of songs, albums, and artists who have caught his ears, eyes, and heart. There is so much incredible music out there just waiting to be heard, and all it takes from us is an open mind and a willingness to listen. Through our Editor’s Picks, we hope to shine a light on our own music discoveries and showcase a diverse array of new and recent releases. This week’s Editor’s Picks features Far Caspian, Baker Grace, Ruthie, BETWEEN FRIENDS, Daisy the Great, and SUSTO!
Far Caspian were one of my favorite discoveries of 2018, having whisked us into the clouds with November’s debut EP Between Days – a thing of striking resonance and beauty that “marries nostalgia and disconnect in a stirring display of vulnerability.” A few months later, the Joel Johnston-led Leeds trio have returned with high spirits and an air of excitement.
I could never change
Even if she asked
Better than I’ve ever got
Smoking just to fill
The silence never mentioned
the silence never talked about
Holding off he’s over come but
Slowly reads the finer loss
By the reasons he stayed
The reason it fades
Over and over
“Conversations,” officially released February 5th, 2019, is a glistening drop of dream pop bliss. The song opens with percussive sounds reminiscent of a metronome, and it’s not long before the band bathe our ears in those characteristic hazy, effected guitars. The melancholy wash of their introductory songs is notably absent this time around, having been replaced with a cheerier sonic disposition radiating hope and possibility. Indeed, Far Caspian sound more like Lord Huron and Real Estate, and less like Day Wave and ISLAND than ever before – though that’s not to say “Conversations” is any less nuanced or introspective than their previous material.
I could never say something in the way
Wishing there was one way out
Finding all the pieces I left now that it’s changed
Ever since we found another town
No help but feel older I feel it in my shoulders
The smoke fills your broken mouth
Better than I thought of losing what was caught up
Over and over
Don’t you find it’s harder when you’re down
Slowly sinking from the unknown sound
Light a cigarette to make the words fall out
And try again
Joel Johnston’s lyrics explore identity, individuality, escape and self-discovery in the context of interpersonal relationships and interactions. He asks philosophically dense questions about who we should be, and why we do what we do. He’s observing behaviors of his fellow twenty-somethings and wondering aloud, what is it all for? For such rhetoric as this, there is no definitive answer – yet it’s no doubt a conversation starter.
If Between Days presented themes of solitude and loneliness through dark clouds and a thick haze, then “Conversations” represents the sun shining through and melting the fog away with its bright, warm rays. Far Caspian are coming into their own to show they can dwell as much in the darkness as they can in the light, and we listeners are the real winners. Upbeat and energizing, “Conversations” is an exciting joyride that elates, provokes, and inspires.
“Wrong Kind of People”Baker Grace
Eighteen-year-old Baker Grace has come into her own on “Wrong Kind of People,” her sweet 2019 reintroduction full of reflection and resolve. A pop artist with breakout potential, Grace (real name Chloe Baker) has been making waves for quite a few years now. I remember first discovering her music back in 2014, when she, as a younger teenager, sang under the name Bitter’s Kiss and recorded out of her father’s recording studio. Baker’s eight-track Bitter’s Kiss album was an exemplary display of raw talent, to the point where one of the world’s biggest record labels, Republic Records, took notice. I can only hope that Chloe Baker maintains her integrity, and that she doesn’t lose herself to the money-hungry industry that is so notorious for chewing young artists up, exploiting their talents, and spitting them out. Don’t make music for the #1s, Baker — be like Broods and make from your heart!
Truth be told, it seems like the Weehauken native has already learned this all-important lesson. “I was looking for the wrong kind of people to show me the way,” Baker Grace sings in her intimate new single. “Always searching for somebody to tell me I’m doing okay. Getting wasted on the hype of the ego, think it’s time to take care of me.” Released February 4th, “Wrong Kind of People” is home to some of the wisest words I’ve heard all year. Baker Grace sings with confidence and self-knowing as she reflects on previous moments of loss and self-doubt – of following the wrong path, and looking up to the wrong people. Her smooth croons and cries project powerful emotions, while underneath her swims an indulgent melange of synths, keys, and cool percussive hits. It’s a powerful pop song imploring each listener to follow your path and no one else’s. There’s no such thing as “faking it ’til you make it” — thus, Baker Grace has resolved to be her authentic self, and let her truths shine.
This message is echoed in an incredibly evocative music video that details the exact sort of infuriating label superficiality I utterly loathe and detest. We open to see Baker parking her car and listening to voicemails from her father, her mother, and folks from her label. While her father talks about the label not liking a new song’s sound and suggesting another direction, her mother talks about the label wanting to “update her looks,” one of the label reps reprimands her for not being active enough on social media, and another one suggests pitching her for a track despite house music “not being her thing.” It’s a clusterfuck of exploitation – a term one of said label reps might swap out for something less offensive, like “positioning.”
Once upon a time, Chloe Baker was just singing her songs at home in New Jersey; she’s quickly becoming a commodity, and the overwhelming weight rests squarely on her shoulders. The ensuing video, set around a photo shoot (what a perfect backdrop to capture vanity!), highlights not only the industry’s manipulative tendencies, but also their negative impact on young, impressionable men and women. “Wish that I could trust my own eyes; shouldn’t need someone to tell me I’m alright,” Grace sings in the song’s very first stanza.
What kind of example are we setting, if we’re telling young artists and musicians they have to behave a certain way, look a certain way, and make their own art in a certain way? Does this not eliminate the inherent beauty of art?! Are we not hypocrites, having instilled in our children a “be whoever and whatever you want to be” message, only to turn around and say “as long as you do it this way“?!? I can discuss the societal costs of manufactured “pop” music all day long, and I promise you, I’ll win that debate every time. Meanwhile, Baker Grace manages to pack all of my very turbulent emotions and more into her highly personal three-minute anthem. So instead of engaging with me and my ramblings, listen to “Wrong Kind of People.”
This is a hit in the making. I don’t think it will be long before the <1,000 listeners visual on Spotify is replaced by numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and truth be told I’m excited to have rediscovered Chloe Baker aka Baker Grace before she fully took off. “Wrong Kind of People” is fresh and intimately emotive: The kind of honest outpouring that can, and hopefully will have seismic ripple effects. Familiarize yourself with Baker Grace now, and stay tuned for more as she prepares to release her new persona’s debut EP Girl, I Know (out later this year via Republic Records)!
I'm Not Getting Any TallerDaisy the Great
Brooklyn’s Daisy the Great released their debut album I’m Not Getting Any Taller in mid-January, and I owe Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist full credit for putting them on my radar this week! Like The Staves and fellow Brooklynites Overcoats before them, Daisy the Great are giving folk pop a breath of fresh air. Led by Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker, alongside Matt Lau, Bernardo Ochoa, Matti Dunietz and Briana Archer, Daisy the Great dazzle with rich two- and three-part harmonies set against invigorating folk and rock instrumentations.
What’s wonderful about Daisy the Great’s approach is that they adhere to no single sound and style. There are times on I’m Not Getting Any Taller where the music harkens back to the uptempo bounce of ’60s girl groups, but these are contrasted by the pop/rocker “Last Kisses” and again by bittersweet folk indulgences like “Famous.” My personal favorite continues to be “Dips,” an intimately poetic, slower folk song with a heartwarming message of longing and love.
All I know… the salt on my lips
Your hands on my hips
And I’m taking sips from the ocean
I keep kissing the sweet in your lips
The salt at your hips
‘Cause you’re taking dips in the water
Daisy the Great’s debut album is raw, DIY, and overwhelmingly fun! They approach their music with a lighthearted mentality, poking holes and sometimes taking true jabs while still emanating light, as we hear in “Seasoned”:
Everybody’s laughing at you
Everybody thinks what you say is stupid
Seasoned words of wise one
Plucked out of the crowd of
Desperate fish in a big pond
Pretending to be proud and
Trying to say something important
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Everybody knows it’s nothing more than talk
How many bands inject such intelligent lyrics into such frollicking melodies? Who knew folk would be so alive and thriving in 2019?!
Daisy the Great’s debut album is an expansive, lively indulgence of harmony. There’s something new around every corner of I’m Not Getting Any Taller, and for those fans of the sweet folk persuasion, Daisy the Great are definitely a new it band.
“What Kind of Woman”Ruthie
The ex-frontwoman of Leeds band Bruising, 23-year-old Naomi Baguley is re-emerging in 2019 as pop/rock songstress Ruthie. Her debut single “What Kind of Woman” is a beautiful, classic rock-esque rumination on love and loss. “What kind of woman would I be, if you said these things to me?” she wonders in the entrance, singing atop a sweet mix of bright piano and lilting guitar. The scene is thus set for a moving, psych-tinged journey that takes both from Brit pop, as well as more traditional songwriter balladry.
Ruthie’s voice soars gently to our ears, delicate and brimming with grief, doubt, and sorrow. “One of us finds this easy, now I see the other one is me.” She doesn’t sugarcoat, nor does she hold back; this is the raw truth, the honest account of a painful and very real breakup. “What if it never feels right? Will I lose my mind? Lose my light?“
“‘What Kind of Woman’ as a debut track works as a kind of manifesto, or opening statement for the other songs I’ve been writing, and the project of Ruthie as a whole,” Baguley wrote me over email. “I felt that it opens up questions about how to define and create a sense of myself within a life that was totally new to me, having recently come out of a relationship. Facing a life alone as an adult woman for the first time was equally terrifying and exhilarating, and I wrote this song wanting to acknowledge the loss that I felt but also look forward to this daunting future.”
This is the starting line – the wellspring from which the Ruthie identity begins. “‘WKOW’ was the first song I wrote for Ruthie, and all of the other songs come from the place that song created, a place of vulnerability and exploration. I wrote it first and foremost for myself, with the phrase ‘What Kind of Woman’ like a talisman I could hold onto whilst experiencing my new life.”
If you’ve been through a breakup, then this song speaks to you. If you’ve had to start over, then this song speaks to you. Musically bright and deeply vulnerable, “What Kind of Woman” makes for one memorable debut.
I have absolutely fallen for BETWEEN FRIENDS, thanks in large part to their new single “affection.” The LA trio of siblings Savannah and Brandon Hudson (form. The Heirs) and drummer Brennan Benko, BETWEEN FRIENDS weave a bustling tapestry of psychedelic indie pop charm. Their music is indulgent and intimate, as is perfectly illustrated in the doting heat of “affection.”
I’m laying on the floor
We’re drinking ’cause we’re bored…
Oh, I’m looking for affection
in all the wrong places
And we’ll keep falling on each other,
fill the empty spaces
BETWEEN FRIENDS’ sound is akin to that of their Californian peer NoMBe, but it’s distinctive and unique all the same both in sound and in structure. They manipulate guitars to become larger-than-life vessels of intoxicating sound, and the Hudsons’ vocals fill in the rest through lush harmonies and their inherent dreamy warmth.
I hear “affection” as an external search for validation that can only come from within, and I absolutely love how it twists the purpose of a relationship to be something some looks to for something, rather than a partnership or source camaraderie, support, etc. It’s a recognition of how we are can all mishandle those who are closest to us; a very intimate apology, if you will.
BETWEEN FRIENDS are poised for a big year, and with “affection” they have already started off on a very high note. This is music to soak your soul in; theirs is a safe space to lose ourselves, let go, and float along with ease.
The lead-up to SUSTO‘s upcoming third album Ever Since I Lost My Mind (out 2/22 via Rounder Records) has been rife with catchy melodies and writhing indie rock energy. The Charleston indie rock band feels fresher than ever on songs like “Homeboy” and the recently-released “Weather Balloons,” each of which captures frontman Justin Osborne’s hearty, raw vocal rasp in very different ways. Now’s as good a time as ever to discover and embrace the passion this band brings to each of their songs.
I’m compelled to liken SUSTO to Goo Goo Dolls, Young the Giant and Kings of Lion, as well as grungier hard rock bands like Soundgarden — and I suppose by typing this, the deed is done — but the truth is that SUSTO have a visceral drive that is all their own. That first listen to “Homeboy” takes me back to my first listen to Nirvana and Kings of Leon songs – picking apart lyrics, only to put them together again with realization and newfound excitement. “You want a new life? Well I think I’ll have one too,” Osborne sings with fire. “Tropical fountain I wanna dive back into you.”
Additional credit goes to producer Ian Fitchuk, who seems to have captured the lifeblood of every instrument playing on Ever Since I Lost My Mind. SUSTO’s songs are dynamic, cathartic, and incredibly in-your-face; their music is leaving the kind of unforgettable mark that keeps me coming back for more. I’m counting down the days until February 22, when the world will finally hear this new album in its entirety. For now, songs like “Homeboy” and “Weather Balloons” are keeping me fired up and ready to go.
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