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 King Princess, Jack Gray, Bluebiird, Tamino, Riah, & City and Colour!
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“Cheap Queen”King Princess
You can’t help but strut your stuff down the street as “Cheap Queen” plays in your ears. The lead single off King Princess’ forthcoming debut album is a groovy jam balancing glitz n’ glamour with intimate introspection.
“Cheap Queen” is instantly interesting: The primary instrumentation consists of a bed of muted piano chords and an electronic drum kit, interspersed with washed out clippings from what sounds like an old movie. Add to this the fact that the audio sometimes cuts out completely – a faux pas for most – and you’ve got a track that forces even the most casual of listeners to pause and reassess the situation.
What said pair of ears will inevitably hear is the sheer talent of Brooklyn’s Mikaela Straus, whose raw, personal style of singing and songwriting made her an instant sensation upon her 2018 debut. How is it that we’ve only known of King Princess for a year and a half? Moreover, why does “Cheap Queen,” a brand new song, already feel like the warm embrace from a familiar friend?
King Princess is in pique form here, singing with acute self-awareness in what is at once an unraveling and a passionate embrace of her complex personage. Her heartfelt honesty is charming and endearing as she admits to failures and shortcomings both in herself and others, but she never once apologizes for being who she is: “Cheap Queen” is an anthem of individuality, after all.
Nights Like This EPJack Gray
If you’re in the mood for moving, spirited pop/rock jams with meaning and depth, then Jack Gray is for you. The young Australian up-and-comer bares himself on debut EP Nights Like This, an intimate and sensational five-track experience that we had the honor of premiering last week.
Active for only a few years now, Gray has already enjoyed considerable streaming success – with fans falling as much for his delicate, emotive voice, as for his words themselves. Nights Like This packages his talent into a single cohesive unit, where late night reflections on love, friendship, death, and more intertwine with dazzling results. Catchy opener “Fools” immediately sets a high-energy tone for the EP, and the spirited “Down Side of Up” offers a two-minute thrill-ride that leaves us craving more of the same.
Whereas Gray’s poppier music soars, his moodier, darker content rides equally high. The poignant ballad “Bullet” takes on suicide from both sides; Gray’s angelic chorus cries are juxtaposed against his forlorn tenor in the verses, creating a powerful (and highly appropriate tension) that never fully abates.
What I typically look for in a debut EP is potential and promise, but what I found in Jack Gray’s Nights Like This is a fully-formed artistry with a complete follow-through. This isn’t an introduction – it’s a fully-formed, albeit 17-minute, musical presentation full of emotional ups and downs and sonic twists and turns.
There’s no denying Emily Osment’s raw musical prowess: The actress-artist has very quickly proved herself to be a poetic lyricist and exceptional singer through new project Bluebiird, whose music soars as high as its namesake. Following March’s debut single “Black Coffee Morning,” late April’s sophomore follow-up “Sailor” is a forlorn heartache dressed in dreamy alt-country folk tapestries.
I fought and I lost, I trusted but you’re gone
Did you ever mean to be so mean?
There’s red running through your cheeks
I fought and I lost, I trusted but you’re gone
Did you ever mean to be so mean?
These words bring me to my knees
Graceful and unnervingly catchy, “Sailor” is beautifully moving. Osment paints her emotions through a vivid mix of expressive imagery (feels mean like gasoline – kill the bad wolf and all his sheep) and more straightforward storytelling (salt screams, don’t you know these things reveal themselves? Oh Sailor, don’t you know you roam alone). Osment’s cries cut like little knives into the heart, her pain a powerful symbol of what it means to try and keep a relationship afloat when the plugs have already all been pulled, and the ship is sinking fast.
By the time “Sailor” nears its finale, one can’t help but sing along to Osment’s woeful, solemn outpouring: “It’s two of us all the way home, and only one survives,” she chants over and over, finding the comfort to keep herself together when, in reality, she’s feeling torn apart.
It takes tremendous care, experiential knowledge, and acute emotional awareness to pen songs like “Black Coffee Morning” and “Sailor.” Emily Osment clearly has no shortage of the three, and her ability to translate these stories into universally-relatable music is nothing short of stunning. Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and start paying attention to Bluebiird; you can thank me later.
This is a song for those isolated moments of quiet thought and self-reflection, where you close your eyes just to figure out whether or not you’re at peace with yourself. Propelled by a grungey guitar line and a darkly inviting soundscape, “Tummy” is as hypnotizing as it is strangely serene.
I’m no longer found
Bugs got all my yummy
Passed out in the yard
Spiders on my tummy
One of a few runaway singles featured on 24-year-old Tamino’s 2018 debut album Amir, “Tummy” is musical relief – a beautifully cathartic exhale of pent-up tension. The song flows with ethereal ease, its instruments creating a warm bed around Tamino’s incredible voice.
Once we were lost
Like we almost
Like we almost, weren’t loved
Can’t you help it, thinking of me, think you love me
It’s like you must, like you almost, like you almost
For making something of me, something of me
I don’t think “Tummy” is a song for celebrations; it’s far better suited as the soundtrack to 2 AM reveries, where our reality and dreamworlds collide on the brink of consciousness, and our creative spirits run wild. Tamino is himself an extraordinary artist, having racked up millions of streams on his debut album despite still being a relatively unknown name and face.
Luckily, you don’t need to know much about the maker of a song to lose yourself in the music. While I highly recommend giving Amir your full attention, Tamino’s “Tummy” stopped me in my tracks. Artists like him are the reason I am forever excited by the prospect of new music, because you never know how a song or sound will make you feel.
Cut from a similar cloth as Maggie Rogers and Ruel, Los Angeles’ RIAH is an absolute phenomenon. It’s been three years since Mariah McManus first introduced her musical talents to the world, and while her earlier work is well worth the listen, her new songs are downright stellar. The lead single off her upcoming debut EP Heartbreak Magic(out June 28), “Growing Up” is lush, entrancing dream-pop drizzled with sweet soul and groovy R&B goodness. “Why do you think you’d feel better on your own,” RIAH croons, with thick bass below and an array of shimmering synths and chimes at her side.
RIAH’s singing is enchanting, but it’s the combination of those vocals with her dizzying, incredibly all-encompassing instrumental work that makes “Growing Up” shine as bright as it does. Yet again, this song gives us listeners an opportunity to lose ourselves in the rhythm – and while we don’t have to in this instance, can we really ask for much more than that? I can’t wait to hear RIAH’s EP in full – by July, we’ll all be soaking in her sunlight.
“Astronaut”City and Colour
Clocking in at six minutes, City and Colour’s first song in four years is a full-bodied experience. A raw ballad transforms into an alt-rock jam as Dallas Green jets off in an explosion of overdriven might: The guitars lead the way here, leaping in and out of solo territory as the artist looks back on his many years of travel and tour, and asks his loved ones for one more year before he comes back down for a proper landing:
Give me one more year
Then I’ll be around
From now until then
I’ll just write my thoughts down
I’m feeling lucky to be lost
Wondering what’s coming next
Scratching and crawling
Whiskey soaked, been stealing time from death
Like an astronaut
Above the curvature of the earth
Just a wanderer
Under the motion of the moon
All wayfaring hearts
They take to the road
There’s poison, there’s silver
Once you get deep into “Astronaut,” it becomes abundantly clear that City and Colour needed some kind of massive external release – the kind of thing that just unburdens you all at once. The layers of sound pile on as the song chugs forward, ultimately becoming a thick glaze of unabating rock fury.
When “Astronaut” finally return to Earth, we’re bathed in a gritty thirty-second exhaust of feedback. It’s messy and dirty, but it’s the cathartic relief the artist was looking for, out amongst a litany of self-doubt and what-ifs (Have I done well? Did I give you enough? Was I walking free? Or just pressing my luck?)
“Astronaut” has its share of memorable melodies, sure, but at this point in his career Green’s greater achievement is in creating a six-minute experience that fully engulfs listeners, to the point where time stands still until we’re released from holding. Case and point: It’s great to have City and Colour, and with a lead single like “Astronaut” serving as his next album’s launchpad, we cannot wait for whatever he’s got in store!
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