Editor’s Picks: March 17, 2020

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 31
Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 31
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 The Killers, Gizmo Varillas, Arlo Parks, The Lulu Raes, The Rare Occasions, and Hannah Grace!

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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The Killers

The Killers returned this month with a veritable BANG!, and their timing couldn’t be any better: We were in dire need of a new jam to get us through social distancing and self-quarantine, and “Caution” is our rip-roaring savior.

The lead single off The Killers’ upcoming sixth album Imploding the Mirage, “Caution” is a restless, infectious anthem of hope driven by that inner need for release. A fervent dose of less-than-picturesque American life complete with an electrifying guitar solo coda from Fleetwood Mac’s own Lindsay Buckingham, this song is a classic Killers hit in the modern age.

And like any great Killers song, “Caution” starts with a scene of small-town distress, echoing a familiar inability to escape the same old life we’ve always known:

Let me introduce you to the featherweight queen
She got Hollywood eyes,
but she can’t shoot what she see

Momma was a dancer, and that’s all that she knew
‘Cause when you live in the desert
that’s what pretty girls do

The Killers jolt startlingly fast from the verse to their first chorus, ramping up in intensity as they explode out in a blaze of idyllic rock n’ roll fury. Brandon Flowers sounds better than ever as he elevates his voice and shouts up to the high heavens, delivering an electrifying melody with beautiful vocal finesse.

I’m throwin’ caution, what’s it gonna be?
Tonight the winds of change are blowing wild and free
If I don’t get out, out of this town
I just might be the one who finally burns it down
I’m throwin’ caution

On par with “Mr. Brightside” and “When You Were Young” when it comes to sheer levels of raw energy, “Caution” ignites with a feverish passion and never lets go. It grabs hold of a feeling and does what it has to do to see it through to the end, as Flowers sings in the bridge: “‘Cause it’s some kind of sin to live your whole life on a might’ve been.”

Throwing caution to the wind means taking a chance and making that leap of faith. It means letting go of hesitations and what-ifs, and embracing your dreams – following them down whatever path they may take you. Many of us look to previous generations for guidance; there are those from the past who left it all behind and made the ultimate sacrifice for the promise of a better future.

Now is our time to ride that wind and take control of our lives. “I’m throwin’ caution, what’s it gonna be? Tonight the winds of change are blowing wild and free.

“Caution” is a stunning anthem of freedom built on restlessness and hope – a powerhouse of volatile infectious energy in dire need of a home. It’s The Killers at their very best, doing what everyone loves best: Capturing a moment we all know only too well.

I’m throwin’ caution, what’s it gonna be?
Tonight the winds of change are blowing wild and free
If I don’t get out, out of this town
I just might be the one who finally burns it down
I’m throwin’ caution

“Love Over Everything”

Gizmo Varillas

hen you are uncertain of what is true, choose love over everything.” Gizmo Varillas has this magical way of sowing harmony into discord, bringing order to chaos through his effervescent, multicolored soundscapes. He started that with his 2017 debut album El Dorado, and truly found his footing the following year with Dreaming of Better Days, which I at the time described as “a record of strength; of hope, perseverance, faith, and love… a powerful and vibrant message of change… Gizmo Varillas’ ‘Dreaming of Better Days’ shines a light on the world, realizing humanity’s extremes and committing to a brighter future.”

When the world turns its back on you
When you find it hard to see it through
When you are uncertain of what is true
Choose love over everything

Varillas has continued to be an ambassador for light and love over the past two years, rising up “Out of the Darkness” with three bright songs in 2019 and continuing that streak of light into 2020. Following February’s 2020 debut “Saving Grace,” Varillas’ new single “Love Over Everything” is classic Gizmo: A sweet n’ savory ode to unity and community whose waves of psychedelic warmth are second only to the artist’s own hypnotic, sultry vocals:

When the world tries to get the best of you
When friends are far and few
When you are uncertain of what is true
Choose love over everything

This song comes at a time when (it feels like) our divided world is trying desperately to come a little bit closer in counteracting and fending off the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19 together (although every country is still acting leagues apart from one another). It comes at a time when we need to see past our differences and connect with our neighbors on a visceral human, person-to-person level. “Love Over Everything” is a powerful message Varillas and our team at Atwood Magazine cannot stress enough: Preach love, not violence; preach togetherness, not separation (except in the case of social distancing, when necessary).

“I was listening to a lot of desert blues from the Sahara, artists like Bombino and Ali Farka Touré, when I wrote ‘Love Over Everything,’ Varillas recently told me. “As with a lot of what I do, I wanted to give it a slightly different twist and used the South American Charango as my main instrument. The strumming is a mix between flamenco rasgeo and sweeping chord strums used by the likes of Jaime Torres. It makes a great musical cocktail!”

Gizmo Varillas says it best in his third and most striking, powerful verse:

When the world is spinning out in anger
Hate is not the answer
When you are uncertain of what is true
Choose love over everything


Arlo Parks

Everyone has those special moments of light in their lives, when everything suddenly clicks and our actions and behaviors, thoughts and feelings start to make sense. For London-based 19-year-old Arlo Parks, that powerful reckoning comes in the form of a subdued musical confessional. Intimate and emotional, “Eugene” is a stirring coming-of-age song of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Moody and melodically haunting, the song finds the BBC Sound of 2020 longlist artist living up to the hype, delivering a track that both comes straight from, and speaks to, the soul.

I had a dream we kissed, and it was all amethyst,” Parks sings in the opening moments. We soon come to understand that she’s speaking to her best friend, and that her best friend doesn’t seem to share her romantic inclinations; but this song isn’t about rejection or advances: It’s about introspection and learning about ourselves, figuring out who we are and what makes us tick. It’s a moving journey into a teenager’s inner turmoil, complete with groovy guitars and touchingly soft, breathy-but-strong vocals. Parks’ whispers feel like shouts, and we wouldn’t have her any other way:

I know I’ve been a little bit off and that’s my mistake
I kinda fell half in love and you’re to blame
I guess I just forgot that we’ve been mates since day
Yeah, I don’t know what to say
I know I’ve been a little bit off and that’s my mistake
I kinda fell half in love and you’re to blame
I guess I just forgot that we’ve been mates since day
Yeah, I don’t know what to say

Her first single since releasing her sophomore EP Sophie at the end of last year, “Eugene” is a truly momentous return for Arlo Parks. It’s raw, sensitive, and vulnerable – a quality that makes it seductively memorable, on top of its ineffably catchy melodies. Just like most 19-year-olds, Parks admittedly doesn’t have her life figured out, but she doesn’t have to know everything yet. The journey is the best part of life, and what’s so exciting about this artist is that she’s going to take us through her personal development song-by-song, as she continues to discover more about herself and her surroundings.

“Can't Run No More”

The Lulu Raes

From the very first “hey,” it’s overwhelmingly obvious that The Lulu Raes’ new single is a heartfelt, feel-good burst of sunshine. “Can’t Run No More” is achingly sweet – a sincere release of affection finding the Australian indie pop group returning en force following 2018’s debut album Lulu and last year’s standalone single “Piece of Mind.”

A down-to-earth sonic olive branch of sorts, “Can’t Run No More” has been described by the band as a song “about loving a person, but not being able to talk about it or fully comprehend the feelings, because the person is just one of those individuals who work so hard, accomplishes everything and seems a cut above regular people.” It’s as full of joy as it is full of sadness, yet sweetly smile-inducing all the same. The band paint a spellbinding pop/rock portrait of the one who got away, just as they’re slipping out of our grasp. “My reticent heart’s on fire, at least you’ve got a new nightlight, baby.”

The Lulu Raes are coming in hot this year, and I can’t wait to jump around and sing this song. Happy or sad, it’s just fun.

“Set It Right”

The Rare Occasions

Yeah, you know what you gotta do, uh-huh, when the sound isn’t cutting through, ooh-hoo,” sings The Rare Occasions’ Brian McLaughlin in a whirlwind of feverish indie rock energy. “Set It Right,” the LA-based, New England-born band’s first single of 2020 following November’s blustering blitz “Control,” is a charged rocker ready to get in your head and, well, set it right.

will you go out of your way to be kind?
and will you leave a better place behind?
will you drop that old friend a line?
set it right
set it right
do you go dancing out in the rain?
and do you sing your songs with no shame?
do you remember the bus driver’s name?
set it right
set it right

The Rare Occasions have been a lot of things in the eight years I’ve known them: With prog- and math-rock elements as well as heavier garage stylings and more under their belts, McLaughlin, drummer Luke Imbusch, and bassist Jeremy Cohen have recently honed their influences into an impeccably charming, even soulful indie rock sound. Nowhere is this better felt than on “Set it Right,” where Cold War Kids meet Green Day and The Clash in a fantastic outpouring of hot, overdrive-laden tension.

Arriving in the midst of an extraordinarily stressful time in the world, “Set It Right” is a strikingly simple reminder to recognize our fellow persons and treat them with kindness, dignity, and respect. McLaughlin’s opening line says it all: “Will you go out of your way to be kind?” From there on out, The Rare Occasions build a dynamic song centered around decency and goodwill toward others. It’s socially and somewhat politically charged, and listening to it will no doubt will make us better people:

yea you know what you gotta do
when the sound isn’t cutting through
yea you know what you gotta do
you gotta live on the ground
you gotta give ‘em the truth

“Set It Right” is fun and thirsty, but most of all, grounded in a world that needs more kindness and humanity. The Rare Occasions’ energy is infectious, and their music as engaging as always. What a comeback!


Hannah Grace

Captivating Welsh singer Hannah Grace wastes no time in creating an effervescent bop with her song, “Blue.” A bouncy and soulful groove full of life, “Blue” is a musical antidepressant ready to lift our spirits and show us the light:

Everybody’s moving
We’ve all been through it
And you just don’t know what’s going on in your head
I’m left waiting with no patience
I just can’t see to get you out of my mind
And I say, ooh
I can take it, ooh
I feel it changing
I’m beginning to feel alright

The artist’s third single of 2020, “Blue” dares us to get up and dance with its strong beat and jubilant sounds. Grace’s voice is a sublime ray of warmth melting over power-pop piano chords and hearty horns; she oozes confidence and self-knowing, like this is the song she was always meant to sing.

The kicker comes in the chorus, where “Blue” spills forth in a tender and charged release. Grace makes her stand proclaiming her desire with all the love and longing she can muster, and the result is as spirited as it is immersive:

Something tells me I’ll be up all night
Don’t wanna waste a moment with you-ooh-ooh
Hold me, don’t you let me go
I just don’t wanna feel blue

“Hold me, don’t you let me go, I just don’t wanna feel blue.” Beneath this veil of charming love, there lies a lonely soul looking for companionship and connection. “Blue” uplifts because it needs to – coming from a place of darkness, its purpose is to shine a little light on the world, which it does with magnificent poise and elegance.

Signed to English singer/songwriter Gabrielle Aplin’s Never Fade Records, 26-year-old Grace has a world of possibility ahead of her and both the vocal chops and lyrical prowess to bring her visions to life. With “Blue” out in the world, we may never feel blue again!

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Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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