Editor’s Picks: February 26, 2020

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 29
Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 29
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 #1 Dads, Gordi, Mt. Joy, Wilsen, Zander Hawley, and Gracie Abrams!
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“Freedom Fighter”

#1 Dads

There’s just something about #1 Dads’ song “Freedom Fighter” that keeps me coming back to it again and again. Perhaps it’s Tom Iansek’s subtle, emotional piano work, or maybe it’s his visceral, soaring vocal melodies. Whatever the case, the second single off #1 Dads’ third album Golden Repair (out March 6, 2020) is a new favorite I’ll be playing for years to come.

Falling on my knees
Throw my head back as I land
I’m on the pages
All my blank thoughts are with me
I’m a song for all the ages
Unrequited love’s my favourite
Gets me dancing on the stages
But only if I’m thinking of you
You breathe into my lungs
I hold it in and breathe out colour
Breathe out fire
Heaven lives, or so I’m told
Lives for those who cross the mile
But I am only ever too late
And silence is the perfect sound
Whenever you ask, I’ll say

Like Vermont’s Henry Jamison and Montreal’s Leif Vollebekk, Tom Iansek is one of today’s best singer/songwriters: Between his work in Big Scary, #1 Dads, and No Mono, Iansek breathes life into the darkness, tapping into something the depths of our emotion with seamless ease and finesse. “Freedom Fighter” is no exception: A song about transience and change, “Freedom Fighter” finds a humbled Iansek reflecting on where he is at this present moment – in his career, in romance, and so on. He surges into a dazzling falsetto in the chorus, filling our hearts with wonder and our ears with warmth:

Even if I have it now
Doesn’t mean I’ll have it always
Patience isn’t funny now
It’ll keep you waiting all day
But, even if I have it now
Doesn’t mean I’ll have it always
Patience isn’t funny now (ooh)

“Freedom Fighter” is sublime: A breathtaking masterpiece that is sure to stand the test of time. I’ve seldom been so moved by a single piece of music, but #1 Dads has me hooked with this intimate, vulnerable, and at the end of the day, quite simple piano song. Give it a listen, and think about where you are right now in life. If you’re where you want to be, all the more power to you; if not, start making that change today: Even if you have it now, doesn’t mean you’ll have it always.



I wrote about Gordi’s heartaching song “Sandwiches yesterday, but I feel compelled to drive the point home here as well: Grief has seldom felt so overwhelming, yet bearable, than it does in Sophie Payten hands. “Sandwiches” finds Gordi reckoning with the loss of her grandmother; the song is at once a journey of mourning, as well as an ode to what sounds like a very beautiful life:

I have tried to recall
how your cashmere sweater smelt

I’ve spent countless days
recounting your hairspray and how you felt

“Oh, I’ll let you go” is what you’d say to me
And now it’s I that has to let you go
to where you have to be
You’d be on the phone
Every time we’d get home
And I think I thought you’d be there…

This is the right kind of aching: The kind of stuff that hurts just right. For as heavy a topic as death can be to explore or discuss, “Sandwiches” finds a balance between two polar ends of the emotional spectrum: The heartache of absence and loss, and the joy of love and a life lived. Gordi honors and cherishes her grandmother’s identity, bringing the audience on a familiar trip down memory lane and inviting us to dwell in our own memories of loved ones.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll repeat it here: Payten’s musical genius lies in her ability to lend a voice to the daily heartache and constant reminder of those whose memories we hold near and dear. “Sandwiches” isn’t easy to listen to, but it’s vale la pena: It’s worth it.


Mt. Joy

Damn, does it feel good to have some more Mt. Joy in our lives: That rough n’ tumble mix of rock, soul, and folk feels better than ever on the band’s latest singles “Strangers” and “Let Loose,” taken off June 5’s sophomore album release Rearrange Us. Vocalist Matt Quinn croons a hearty spell of heartache and renewal, lamenting a love’s end while surging forward into a formidable but necessary unknown. “Well, I guess I’ll have to fall in love with strangers,” he sings at the top, ultimately finding the inner power to persevere: “Lord knows we’ll change, love will rearrange us, like if you want freedom, you better free someone; better not run when I’m hanging on.” The band come together in a raw, bittersweet, and redemptive chorus:

Cause I am over you, I am over you
And I am over you, I am over you
I am over you, and I am over you
Flesh wound, little flesh wound

The is a song for anyone who’s been burned, and soldiered on: For those of us who are going to dance down the street, despite whatever empty space we have in our hearts. Mt. Joy’s tones and grooves are stunning, and their lyrics carry the immediacy and evocativeness of a Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen song. Listen to “Strangers” and start healing yourself.



The last single off Brooklyn-based trio Wilsen’s recently-released album Ruiner (2/21/2020 via Secret City Records) has become a quick favorite for me: “Align” is heavy, but authentic – a mesmerizing bout of lo-fi indie folk / dream-pop that promises to push listeners deeper into their own heads. Curiously, the song itself takes inspiration from the “jolting effect of eye contact,” per songwriter and vocalist Tamsin Wilson.

To align two eyes familiar
Unlock a decade of days on mute
The depth of a look
In an instant, it makes me wild
Screaming how I had missed you
What if I had the guts to stay
Parallel with you the whole way?
Face to face, digging counter marks
Cheek to cheek, the last we’d ever touch

Wilsen’s cadence is often subtle and matter-of-fact, yet she effortlessly weaves emotion into every fiber of her music. How have we not had a song about the pressure involved in making eye contact before? Who knows; regardless, I’m glad see eye-to-eye with “Align,” not to mention the entirety of Wilsen’s Ruiner.


Zander Hawley

It’s been a few years since Zander Hawley wooed us over with his 2017 debut album When I Get Blue, and after a few one-off singles, his newly-released “Thumbs” feels like a long-awaited breath of fresh, if not heavy air. Described to American Songwriter as a “love song through a regretful lens,” “Thumbs” finds the Los Angeles native dwelling in the deep end of emotion:

I won’t sleep tonight
It’s been this way for weeks
Think I’m losing all my marbles
Trying to sleep alone in these old sheets
You were a flash in the pan
I’ll never understand the way it went
Or why I came and left
I should’ve changed all my plans for you
I should’ve just stuck around
and ditched a month of school

Armed with a few guitars, some background ambient drones, and a voice capable of emoting the very depths of feeling, Hawley spells out a song of connection, nostalgia, self-doubt, and more. “Thumbs” is his moment of confession – the recognition of past mistakes, and their continued impact on his present day. Moody and groovy all at once, Hawley blends the bitter with the sweet in inspiring fashion – retaining his long-felt pain and uncertainty, while still trying to push forward and move on.

Perhaps his most spellbinding moments comes in its final moments:

The carousel still spins
Giving life to an unliving thing
I don’t know what to do with myself almost all of the time
I’m split between the urge to rush ahead and waiting in line
I spent three days in a new place and want to start a new life
Oh, I’m all thumbs, here it comes, a finger at a time

We feel the slow drip of time press on Hawley’s heart as he gets farther and farther away from these special moments; as these memories grow ever-distant. Still, everything about “Thumbs” resonates in this present moment – for he isn’t only feeling hurt back then; he’s feeling it right now. The magic of this provocative songwriter lies in his ability to convey his brokenness through beauty; Zander Hawley has done all that, and more in “Thumbs.”


Gracie Abrams

“I get a little bit alone sometimes and I miss you again. I’ll be the love of your life inside your head.” 20-year-old Gracie Adams leaves me breathless every time I listen to “21.” An invigorating, layered pop song of visceral intensity, “21” is about owning your mistakes and accepting your flaws; of trying to heal past wounds and fix the broken parts of our terribly complex, forever-busy lives. It’s an apology, a diary entry-worthy reflection, and a hazy visual all wrapped up in an intimate bedroom pop bow.

While the song’s obvious highlight is its confessional lyricism, the true magic lies in how Gracie Abrams spills her guts. Shimmering vocal harmonies build up from verse to pre-chorus to chorus, expanding in range and intensity until Abrams reaches her fervent climax:

I missed your 21st birthday
I’ve been up at home
Almost tried to call you, don’t know if I should
Hate to picture you half-drunk happy
Hate to think you went out without me
I’m sorry if you blame me if I were you I would
Thought you’d see it coming, but you never could
I still haven’t heard from your family
But you said your mom always loved me
Sometimes I go blurry-eyed
Small talk and you tell me that you’re on fire
Lights on and it’s black and white, I couldn’t stay forever
I see the look in your eye and I’m biting my tongue
You’d be the love of my life when I was young
When the night is over
Don’t call me up I’m already under
I get a little bit alone sometimes and I miss you again
I’ll be the love of your life inside your head
When the night is over
Don’t call me up I’m already under

I remember the first time I heard Lorde’s “Royals” or “Ribs”; that’s the feeling I get when I listen to “21.” A fresh signing to major label Interscope Records with only three songs released, Gracie Abrams is unmistakeably an artist-to-watch in the years to come: At age twenty, she is already unapologetic about who she is and what she is capable of. That’s the mark not only of a great songwriter, but also of a passionate artist.

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December 7, 2020