Atwood Magazine’s Weekly Roundup: October 4, 2019

Every Friday, Atwood Magazine’s staff share what they’ve been listening to that week – a song, an album, an artist – whatever’s been having an impact on them, in the moment. Here’s this week’s weekly roundup!

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:: “It’s Never Been a Fair Fight” – Craig Finn ::

Jimmy Crowley, New York

Craig Finn - Fair Fight

There hasn’t been an honest look at punk as good as Jawbreaker’s opening lines of “Boxcar” (“You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone/Save your breath, I never was one”) until now.  Craig Finn’s latest single, “It’s Never Been a Fair Fight” is a b-side from his excellent record from earlier this year I Need a New War.  With an instrumental track that’s more of a fusion of Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen than it is an ode to Youth of Today, Finn expresses some adult concerns that permeate the punk scene as they get older. The song begins with funny scene politics that anyone who’s ever been a part of a local scene can empathize with:

He said “It’s mostly about what you wear to the shows.
I think the scene’s gonna fall apart real soon
I heard a song that I liked on the radio

Finn delivers these verses with the heart of someone who understands their importance.  By the song’s end, Finn recounts a funeral, and the unfairness isn’t just the scene politics but how taxing it is on the members and how scenes often fall into the same struggles that small town Americans do, with drug and drinking problems added by depression.

:: “The Bones (ft. Hozier)” – Maren Morris ::

Mitch Mosk, New York

I haven’t really talked too much about her yet, but I’ve been floored by Maren Morris this year. Her debut album GIRL is a beautiful country-pop crossover record full of emotional depth; there’s no denying the stirring intimacy of breakout hit single “The Bones.” This makeover, to me, has only made Morris’ case stronger.

I usually steer clear of collaborations like this, and in my defense, many of these are often stunts to boost visibility, rather than sincere acts of artistic expression. Yet there’s a purity about Hozier and Morris’ duet that resonates with an immaculate vulnerability. “Hozier’s soul and vulnerability is so arresting and fit so well with the foundational theme of my song ‘The Bones,’ I feel so grateful to have him on it,” Morris shared today, and I couldn’t agree more: Hozier’s rough, but clean performance adds an earthen charm to this song about love’s staying power.

When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good

Part of me regrets that it took a Hozier feature to get me writing about Maren Morris, but it’s high time she had her spotlight: Currently nominated for six CMA Awards (the most of any artist this year), Morris is a spectacular new addition to the American pop conscious, and I cannot wait to watch her progress through what promises to be a lively and exciting career. What a wonderful chance this is to go back and celebrate the depth and personal nuance of “Bones” and its moving, loving imagery.

:: Hey I’m Just Like You – Tegan and Sara ::

Alex Killian, San Francisco, California

There’s no doubt that Tegan and Sara are lesbian icons in and out of the music scene. Aside from their sexuality, they’ve been brilliantly talented musicians and artists since their start in the late 90’s. Their latest LP, Hey, I’m Just Like You is a celebration of teenage rebellion, learning about oneself, and embracing your own complexities. Each song was originally written by either Tegan or Sara during high school and reworked together for a current release. It’s a snapshot of their adolescence and everything it contains. As such, it’s not a perfect album because it isn’t meant to be. 

Every track is intricately produced to emit the teenage emotions that we can still feel when we grow up. Tegan and Sara’s brilliant 20 year career seems most apparent in the instrumental work. The lyrical innocence on HIJLY is laced with all the promise Tegan and Sara would realize as they matured. Musically, it’s all the best parts of their angsty, punk leaning start, their more recent pop synth work, and absolutely everything in between. Paired with their recent memoir, High School, the album is an intimate look into the twins’ upbringing as identical siblings, Canadian teenagers, and rebellious young women fighting to find their place, and ultimately, themselves. 

:: Charli – Charli XCX ::

Maggie McHale, Philadelphia

Released on September 13th via Asylum Records, Charli XCX’s latest album Charli soars as its pieces form a completed puzzle assorted with raw emotion, a plethora of high-profile features, and a whole lot of pop sensibility. Charli captivates from its opening track, “Next Level Charli,” – a song akin in its production to the likes of The 1975’s “I Like America and America Likes Me” – catapulting listeners from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye, and in the best way.

The remainder of the album is littered with impressive collaborations, from HAIM and Lizzo, to Troye Sivan and Kim Petras, and plenty more in between. One may be inclined to believe that this could be a pitfall for the record, however Charli XCX masterfully blends together these collaborations with finesse and ease, uniquely unifying Charli with a little help from her friends. The final product of Charli is endlessly fun without being overly campy, a pure pop gem with endlessly enjoyable elan.

:: Emily’s D+ Evolution – Esperanza Spalding ::

Mariel Fechik, Chicago

Lately, I’ve been revisiting Esperanza Spalding’s discography. The bassist and singer has spent a career bridging jazz with other genres, ranging from folk to pop to r&b to rock. Her 2016 offering, Emily’s D+Evolution, is perhaps her most experimental album to date, full of rock riffs and shifting, winding melodies. The album’s opening, “Good Lava” comes out the gate heavy with electric guitar, Spalding’s voice stacked high in crunchy harmonies. Spalding’s voice is also at some of its rawest on this record, sporting an occasionally more brazen and strident sound than the sweet smoothness of albums like Esperanza and Chamber Music Society. The album moves through stories of strong women and protest, the penultimate track “Funk the Fear” evoking street riots – the first seconds feature a crowd chanting “Funk the fear!” It’s an album I didn’t understand at first, missing the blithe melodies of her earlier work. But now I see it for what it is: a musician at their most courageous, pushing her own boundaries. Recommended for this upcoming season when you need a little warming up.

:: “Keep on Keeping” – Gabriella Cilmi ::

Erica Garcia, Los Angeles, California

From playing cafes to venues all around London as early as the age of sixteen, Australian singer-songwriter, Gabriella Cilmi, has proven over the course of her incredible career that her music, just like her artistic soul, refuses to recognize the boundaries that genres seem to push upon artists. Whether it’s pop, rock, soul, or country, Cilmi has never shied away from allowing the truth in her undeniable ability for heartfelt songwriting to be outshined by the parameters of what genres are meant to sound like. Her latest single, “Keep on Keeping,” shows exactly why.

Soft guitars begin the song, but the singer’s strong, bluesy voice cuts through the soulful tone by demanding her listeners to hear her. “Keep on Keeping” is Cilmi coming into her own, growing from the trials of the teenager who previously wrote Lessons To Be Learned and found herself through her last album The Sting. The deeply emotional new track proves that Cilmi has an empowering new story to tell, and it’s one that she’s unafraid to let the world hear. “Keep on Keeping” will appear on Gabriella Cilmi’s upcoming EP, The Water, set to release November 1, 2019.

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