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.
This week’s weekly roundup features music by Charli Adams, Cj Pandit, Lucy Dacus, Owen Duff, Maddie Glass, Magic Bronson, Scott Nicholls, Porsh Bet$, Maya Malkin, Tal Simon, and Charlotte Jacobs!
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:: “Cheer Captain” – Charli Adams ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
As visceral and vulnerable as it is dynamic, Charli Adams’ unapologetic alt anthem rings out with raw intimacy and utter passion. Built from the fires within, “Cheer Captain” is a poetic and turbulent upheaval of arresting magnitude: A personal rejection of external pressures and the expectations others have had for the artist all her life.
“This song was written from a pretty angry place and it’s probably the most honest song I’ve written to date, just because It touches on multiple toxic relationships and unpacks so much, Adams says. “When you’re a people pleaser, and frequently avoid conflict at all costs, you let people get away with a lot. I’ve been in so many toxic relationships, with men, family members, and having grown up devoutly Christian, even god. I think ‘Cheer Captain’ was really my way of finally saying what I wished I would have said a long time ago and for once, standing up for myself.”
I was nine and talking to God in the shower
I knew he was busy, said “Sorry to bother
But why am I so bad at being pretty like my mother?”
I wanted to please her
Guess I’ve always been a people pleaser
I tried to be quiet, play nice
But I knew I wasn’t doing it right
And I cried, wiped my eyes, and then smiled
‘Cause they didn’t know I was living a lie
I don’t know when it happened
But I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
“I don’t know when it happened, but I don’t wanna be your cheer captain,” Adams sings in a stirring chorus, her voice full of aching, hard-won resolve. For anyone who’s had to let go of a relationship because of its toxicity; for those who have left their community or rejected their own family because of what they were being put through, this song is for you. It’s a painful, beautiful anthem of empowerment.
:: “Hot and Heavy” – Lucy Dacus ::
Nasim Elyasi, Santa Barbara, CA
Lucy Dacus brings her sentimentality to a simmer then a boil in her latest single, “Hot and Heavy.” Dacus beings wistfully, familiar and warm. The guitars sneak up on her, and everything meets in a delightful crash as she begins to recount her memories. The second person perspective rises to the surface and builds with fervor. Dacus brings the feelings she masters in her music to a new sound, forward and fierce.
The track spills out of Dacus, as if it is sung in a single breath. She paints a landscape of reds and oranges, defined by the slow burn of what-ifs and memories of an old flame in a basement. The track defines emotional intensity, made for the moment you run into your ex at the supermarket, the minutes before a panic attack creeps into your lungs, the drive back home after another one of those dinners with your family.
:: “One Word” – Owen Duff ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Talented UK songwriter and musician Owen Duff’s warm, wistful single “One Word” truly shines with a unique retro radiance. With lush, layered vocals and 70s inspired brass, you are instantly swept up in a vintage sound reminiscent of bands like America and The Bee Gees. The smooth single is off of his upcoming album Bed, which reflects on what it means not to be heterosexual and lead a “traditional life.”
The album is inspired by a past relationship with someone who was straining to merge a conservative religious upbringing with his sexuality. The songs off the album display captivating folk arrangements and delicate textured vocals. Each intoxicating track tells a detailed narration of love, disappointment and ultimately acceptance.
:: “My Baby is an Android” – Magic Bronson ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
My Baby is an Android” is the latest single from Los Angeles duo Magic Bronson. Yes, you read correctly – band members Michael Nicastro and Matthew Lieberman have fallen deep for their AI’s. This single is a humorous yet sincere tune, tackling the notion of society becoming utterly dependent on technology. A tune all about falling in love with a robot, “My Baby is an Android” highlights our unhealthy addictions to tech.
The single has a calm movement to the track, with a notable bass line throbbing amongst the rise and fall of the melody. The vocals have a fun aspect to them with the retro synths that pop brightly behind them. If you need something to make you smile or you’re up for a bit of fun, then this tune is the one for you.
:: “Peanut Butter” – Porsh Bet$ ::
Josh Weiner, Washington DC
Not unlike Charlie Brown, Porsh Bet$ has something of a trepid relationship with peanut butter. “Cause I’m allergic to peanut butter, I really shouldn’t be near it, but it sucks because everyone else loves it!” the 21-year-old singer from Harlem bemoans. “It looks good, but once I get too close, I get nauseous. I think of it like this– sometimes being left out is a good thing.”
Such a thought process ultimately allowed Porsh Bet$ to craft “Peanut Butter,” a song in which the protagonist is indeed left out– as in, he doesn’t quite score with the ladies this time around– but keeps a bright spirit all the same. The track is also strengthened by Bet$’s soothing vocals, an appealing beat that blends R&B and alt-pop, and a whimsical music video that takes after the original clip of “Last Christmas” from 1984. Overall, this is a fine fifth single from the emerging Harlemite, and it leaves one eager to see what he’ll be able to do on his upcoming debut EP, I Used to Think Forever.
:: “You” – Tal Simon ::
Kelly Liu, Philadelphia
A part of his debut EP Reworks, “You” is a tightly weaved track that features a two-step beat and entrancing, barely there vocals pulling from lyrical snippets from Lauryn Hill’s “Sweetest Thing.” Tal Simon, the twenty-one year old, Brooklyn-based songwriter, is taking a different approach to the already crowded space of lo-fi productions. As he turns over and reworks fragments of the past, he constructs a body-moving, contemporary sound that transports us to a 90s space.
“You” has an aesthetics of sampling — which makes sense, given that Simon sifted through his own recordings to create a lovely, woozy soundscape. It sounds like there’s something important in the scattorshot electronics waiting to be found, and Simon is searching with a clear heart.
:: “B” – Charlotte Jacobs ::
Ben Niesen, Pacific Northwest
The Shape of Wandering is a book of shadows, not an extended player. A belle dame’s ledger of inflective a cappella, ambient electronic and free jazz all minimalist in nature. Her voice is a singer-songwriter’s dream and her music is an experiment in vocal layers. Most electropop-by-ambient records either fall too much on the side of either arhythmic inclinations or flaccid hookishness. Jacobs uses her voice instead like a sonic mirror to reflect over the svelte, ambient textures ripe from the tree of Nicolas Jaar or Cross Record and imbued with a certain sense of neo-soul. It allows for the white space to be spacey. And it amounts to a small package that balances on the pointe of her tongue as blood rushes like a synthesizer to the head.
“B” is similar in esoteric mood to Nathaniel Méchaly’s bande originale for Si J’étais Toi, mirroring the drama of “The School.” There’s a particular prestige there, in the strings, that one encounters in Jacob’s keys, a violent stutter in the percussive loops and samples when, walking out of step, Jacob ends the song on a jittery, sudden note. It’s all clean, excepting “Other Half,” which introducers more of her soul elements as a welcome respite to the Eno-phyte atmosphere.that permeates the rest of the records. On the title track, she harnesses a whispering vocality charming the sweet nothings into ringing synthesizers, free jazz percussion and an a-cappella cornucopia of layers ending on an all-stop: “Did you try everything?”
:: “New York Time” – Cj Pandit ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
Cj Pandit’s radiant “New York Time” may not be a direct anthem or ode to my hometown, but it sure feels like one when he hits the song’s sweeping, soaring chorus. The Leicester born and bred singer/songwriter weaves a wistful balance of tenderness and turbulence as he reflects on a moment stuck in his mind’s eye; bringing his audience back there with him, he rises and falls gracefully alongside impassioned acoustics – his emotional voice leading the charge into memory’s endless depths.
When I had nothing to say
You were a time and a place inside my head
Then something you said
whilst reading the lines on my palm
Piano’s bar and Tarot Cards
and walking for 45’s fine
I’m stuck on a New York Time
Can I find, Can I find, Can I find, Can I find
Ways to cry, ways to cry, ways to cry,
ways to cry cus all that shits changed
but your ghost still remains sharp as the taste of the wine
Dragging me back to New York Time
“I never understood the idea of a song being plucked out of the ether or ‘given’ to you by some kind of higher musical power until I wrote ‘New York Time,’” Pandit says. “I was at the lowest point in my life, I couldn’t shake New York, or a person and situation there, or the weight of my own expectations for creating. I was manic, working all over the place with so many different people, but then went up to Liverpool to write some new songs. Those few days were a real blur, filled with hallucinations and something I can still never quite put my finger on. Like watching a sunset, the knowledge to describe it never quite matches the sight or the experience of it. It’s the most honest i’ve ever been. I have little recollection of that time, but it’s a period and a song I’m incredibly grateful for that means so much more than I could ever put into words.”
When I think about beautiful music coming out of dark or difficult spaces, this is what I’m referring to: Pandit taps into his own personal distress, but when crystallized in song, that feeling magnifies to represent whatever demons we’re each facing in the moment. For me, “New York Time” evokes anxiety, as well as resilience and finding the inner strength to move forward; for someone else, it may conjure up something else entirely. Yet no matter what “it” is, I hope that all who hear this song feel the same cathartic release I did by the end, and find a way to let go – just a little bit – of those burdens that so tirelessly consume us and weigh us down. Yes, it’s hyperbole; but thank you, Cj Pandit: It may be an unexpected ode to New York, but it’s a gorgeous dedication nevertheless.
:: “Livin’ in 2021” – Maddie Glass ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Pop punk singer-songwriter and actress Maddie Glass’s outspoken single “Livin’ In 2021” is an articulation of what many of us are thinking, but are too afraid to admit it. Within this bold, driving tune she touches on society’s unrealistic expectations and how defeating it can feel trying to live up to those standards. Through her candid lyrics sung atop grungy guitars, Glass fearlessly narrates her struggles with eating disorders, body image and anxiety. The track takes listeners on a wild ride that you will not want to get off of.
A New York native, she discovered her passion for the arts from a young age, performing in various off Broadway productions. Attending NYU Tisch, Glass’ love for songwriting grew, penning highly personal yet playful lyrics. “Livin’ In 2021” displays that same witty flair. The track is her debut single and is off of her upcoming EP, Thank You For Breaking My Heart.
:: “Heartbeat” – Scott Nicholls ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
British artist Scott Nicholls has joined the forces of country and pop to make the ultimate foot-tapping tune “Heartbeat.” Featuring vocalist Savannah Gardner, the track is a fire-crackling tune ready to heat up any cold hearts. Granted, 2020 might not be a year we want to look back on for a while, but sometimes a bit of nostalgia is good for the soul. Nicholls’ tune is his way of giving the green light to enjoy those nostalgic moments and get your heart truly beating again.
“Heartbeat” has a whiskey warmth to it, oozing in hearty production and goosebump inducing vocal harmonies the spirit and energy of the song is both comforting and catchy. Check out this delightful country-pop tune for some good old fashioned lovin’.
:: “Congratulations” – Maya Malkin ::
Josh Weiner, Washington DC
We all picked up various hobbies (I got heavily into playing mobile games and figuring out is solitaire cash legit) during the height of lockdown last year. In the case of Canadian singer Maya Malkin, her new project from that period was to get a solo career going after having spent numerous years as half of the duo Motel Raphael with her creative partner, Clara Legault. She started off with “Hostage,” which came with a humorous Malcolm in the Middle-spoofing music video. Up next, Malkin is sticking it to her former flame with “Congratulations,” a bouncy pop-rock anthem that also skewers our modern-day tendency to equate social media followers with genuine fandom.
“It’s a proverbial eye roll aimed at the never-ending popularity contest that is everyday existence,” Malkin describes her sophomore single. “It was written in the aftermath of an abusive relationship and illustrates the moment in which our narrator finally stands up for herself.” Her wit and sass are more than enough to carry this track, and we can be sure to be served more of that when her still-in-the-works debut LP drops late this year.
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