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 Nicotine Dolls, Delacey, Holly Humberstone, NoMBe, Konradsen, and Merpire!
Delacey has seen tremendous success as a songwriter for some of today’s biggest artists – from Halsey to Demi Lovato, and beyond – so in some sense, it’s no surprise that her debut album would be a resounding smash: Released March 27 via HITCO, the LA singer/songwriter’s record Black Coffee is an intimate upheaval full of raw emotion, sultry sounds, and sweet melodies.
Delacey is a complex and nuanced individual, as is reflected throughout her record from start to finish: The breathtaking opener “Damn” – an interpolation of Sophie B. Hawkins’ song “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” – sets the scene with a strong, hauntingly critical self-reflection: “I don’t trust myself around you, I’m like a kid in a supermarket; when I’m reaching for your heart, it might as well be a bar of chocolate,” she sings over warm ethereal synths and cool percussion. Her words are intense, but every song breathes easily – a balanced mixture of light and heavy, light and dark that proves successful with every successive spellbinding song.
Black Coffee is pop music at its finest: Full of raw, achingly vulnerable and honest music, Delacey’s spellbinding debut is the kind of hypnotizing introduction every artist wishes they could have. Its songs are urgent and finessed, yet equally spacious and stripped; nothing feels overproduced or watered-down. Working with producer Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, The Chainsmokers) in a basement studio in New York City, Delacey spared no expense in making her album a perfectly imperfect (and therefore, perfect) encapsulation of her tragically human identity.
She is confident; she is bold; she is brazen; she is pure. She is flawed; she is insecure; she is fractured; she is broken. Like its namesake, Black Coffee goes down smooth but leaves a little bitter taste in its wake. Delacey reminds us of our own faults and failings, but she also empowers us to embrace ourselves with an air of unapologetic self-love, humility, and empathy. It takes a lot for pop music to really resonate with me, yet that’s why I’m so excited to see this album out in the world, and why it will hold a special place for long after this month.
“Should Have Danced”Nicotine Dolls
Atwood Magazine artist-to-watch Nicotine Dolls have once again delivered a song that will stun you, inspire you, and take your breath away: The band’s dynamic fourth single “Should Have Danced” is an impassioned fever dream full of hope, longing, and electric energy. As emotional and moody as it is delightfully infectious, the song captures the magic of this fresh-faced quartet and reasserts them as one of the best up-and-coming acts in New York City. Best of all, it’s a reminder to live each day to the fullest – to trust in our gut when it tells us to jump.
At this point I’ve spent a lot of time talking about indie rock band Nicotine Dolls, yet I promise it’s so much more than a New York pride thing. The Sam Cieri-led band injects a magnetic quality into everything they touch, and they’ve already proved that four times over. The band burst onto our radar with their sophomore single “The Madness,” which I praised as a “frenetic fever dream ready to jilt us out of our collective funk,” further calling the music “an intensely magnetizing musical rendering of the emotional impact of anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks on an individual.” Their third single, “Burning a Good Thing,” was another Atwood Editor’s Pick described as “the musical manifestation of emotional turmoil.. Taking cues from acts like The 1975 and The Killers, Nicotine Dolls blaze a path that is unequivocally their own.”
Nicotine Dolls have managed to pack a breathtaking amount of raw power into each and every one of their songs, and “Should Have Danced” is no exception. The group’s unassuming, tactile verses slowly build up toward turbulent outpourings of pop/rock ecstasy; muted guitars ultimately thrash around Sam Cieri’s cool, controlled voice as he spills his soul in an upheaval of timely regret:
Every time it happens
I have a heart attack in the same spot
It’s not a lack of passion
just a bad reaction to what I lost
How I miss the romance another hand in my hand
I should’ve asked you to dance
“I should’ve asked you to dance“: Nicotine Dolls have taken such a simple phrase, and blown it up into this exciting, phenomenal anthem of hope and possibility. Everyone can relate to this kind of inaction; we’ve all felt that fleeting crush we ignored out of embarrassment, timidity, or fear of rejection. We’ve all chosen to ignore our feelings, rather than follow through with them and see where they lead. These are the memories we repress; the thoughts we shove deep down because we don’t need to be reminded of a time we failed to take a risk. But how will we ever improve, if we don’t keep the past in mind? How will we ever take risks if we always play it safe? “Should Have Danced” is more than a leap of faith; it’s a charged call to action – emotional and evocative, fiery and full of what-ifs.
This song instills in me the need to get up run; to seize every moment of the day; to be the very best possible version of myself that I can be. Nicotine Dolls’ anxious, fervent energy has struck once more, and yet again they’ve left me absolutely speechless.
“Falling Asleep At the Wheel”Holly Humberstone
I‘ve had this song on repeat for weeks, and it continues to be an easy favorite every time it plays. British singer/songwriter Holly Humberstone is fast emerging as a true artistic force, admiting to not being in full control on her second single “Falling Asleep at the Wheel” – but that’s alright, because she’s already taking those important first steps toward self-awareness and self-discovery. A tender, fervent indie pop upheaval, “Falling Asleep at the Wheel” is an arresting confessional full of tension, inner turmoil, and coming-of-age questions of identity and purpose,
Oh, you never smoked
this much before we met
Light up, light up another cigarette
I can tell you’re drinking only to forget
Don’t know how I got you in such a mess
Independently released March 19, “Falling Asleep at the Wheel” is a quick and exciting follow-up for Grantham-based Holly Humberstone. The talented 20-year-old introduced herself at the end of January with debut single “Deep End,” whose opening lyrics alone (“throw me in the deep end, I’m ready now to swim. The air in my lungs may not last very long, but I’m in“) signified great things to come for this young firebrand.
Listening to “Falling Asleep at the Wheel,” it’s clear that Holly Humberstone doesn’t have her whole life figured out yet – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is fractured, yet the mere fact that she is willing and able to embrace these less-than-perfect attributes in her art is itself a one-in-a-million skill set. That she can then translate her visceral emotions into catchy and relatable songs is the icing on the cake that will keep us both coming back and eagerly waiting for more.
“Falling Asleep at the Wheel” is haunting, heavy, and overwhelmingly honest: A magnificently infectious breath of life from a tortured soul, and an affirmation of Holly Humberstone as an artist-to-watch!
The new single off NoMBe’s forthcoming sophomore album CHROMATOPIA is a beautiful and gripping outpouring of love and self-love wrapped in lush alternative and psych-rock garb. Driven by dulcet pianos and sweetly effected guitars, “Weirdo” is an honest and heartfelt love song full of vulnerability, affection, and hope. It’s also something a little new for Noah McBeth’s artistry: While his debut album certainly had a few slower moments over its 18-track run, never before has this artist given his listeners a pure and authentic ballad.
That is, until now.
Never been a sucker for commitment
Since High School high Standards high livin
Turns out I never knew what I was missing
Cause God damn when I’m with you it (it’s all) feels different
We go together like treble and bass
Like colors and spring
Cool kids and cocaine
You’re the only vaccine
To cure the mundane
I guess what I’m saying…
NoMBe’s lyrics have always been particularly smart, poetic, and noteworthy (this dates back to 2015’s early releases like “Miss Mirage” and “Kemosabe”), but words seem to play an especially important role in the artist’s newest material. CHROMATOPIA is an especially confessional collection from McBeth, with its moments of authentic connection (as in “Prototype” and “Paint California”), desire (“Heels”), and romantic devotion (“Weirdo”).
“Weirdo” is a truly genuine display of the artist’s soul in this respect; He opens up to his partner and to the world, giving his full self in the chorus:
I guess what I’m saying
Is that you’re a weirdo
But I wouldn’t have it any other way
You’re no superhero
Still you’re the one that’s always savin’ me
Only one in 7 billion makes me feel it
Can’t you see
That only a weirdo … a weirdo
Could love someone like me
As in the past, NoMBe’s musical mastery matches his lyrical prowess. “Weirdo” retains his signature seductive sonic work, with swirling guitar licks and that pulsing piano bed delivering his achingly emotive message with hypnotizing grace. Originally scheduled for April 3rd, CHROMATOPIA‘s release date has been pushed back until further notice. In its place, we have the sensitive and soulful “Weirdo,” a beautiful ballad that brings a spark of life and love in these uncertain times.
“The Year Is Over”Konradsen
Norwegian duo stunned us into silence late last year with their debut album Saints and Sebastian Stories, described by Atwood Magazine as “a sonic and musical masterpiece.” Six months later, Jenny Marie Sabel and Eirik Vildgren have already begun to put out their next project, the five-track EP Rodeo No. 5 (May 1, 2020 via Cascine). “The Year Is Over,” record’s lead single, is as intimate and stirring as all the songs the preceded it: A haunting, hypnotic, and somber work, the song is as ethereal as it is grounded. It’s a powerfully balanced marriage of contrasting elements, and one that makes for a truly immersive listening experience.
Chicken dances in the fall
out in the air
with all the eagles, eagles
read me those english books
they feel me, they find me, they find me
I’m forced not to drive all the senseless lies
and all of the grime and pollution
out in the future fields
It’s a blue blue moon
you and I have, we have no due
you and I, we have a due
get the love out in the air
forget your pack and sail away
I wouldn’t think If I were you
I wouldn’t scream if I were you
Konradsen has shared that their new EP is focused on “fleeting, immediate moments,” and we certainly feel a sense of immediacy and urgency within “The Year Is Over.” Melancholy though it may at times be, this song offers catharsis for anyone who needs to let go of the past and be present.
Closing your eyes and letting Konradsen’s music wash over you is an otherworldly experience, and one I cannot possibly recommend enough.
Australian rock phenomenon Angie McMahon turned me on to Merpire late last year, and ever since then I’ve been intrigued by Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt’s musical project. The Sydney singer/songwriter has a uniquely intimate rock sound, which she has asserted seven times over since introducing herself through 2017’s debut single “Holding Breath.”
Her first release of 2020, “Heavy Feeling” is a far cry from Merpire’s initial offering, showcasing just how much growth she’s undergone in this relatively short timespan. Impassioned and unrelenting, “Heavy Feeling” comes from a dark place of anxiety – its raw vocals capturing the artist’s fraught inner pain and struggle.
Waking up to the sleep in
In my pillow I hear them
They’re not saying nice things about me
Step outside for some fresh air
Maybe freedom will be there
Surely flowers won’t want to hurt me
I’ve got a heavy feeling
“This is a snippet of a day waking up in a really anxious headspace and already wanting the day to end as soon as it starts,” Merpire shared. “I find ways to distract myself, go for walks, smell flowers and walk back streets to avoid any humans. This song is more straight up lyrically, melodically, production wise than previous releases. Straight to the point of ‘anxiety is shit so I’m going to write a loud, strummy song to get it out’.”
Basically, the more we sing “fuck you anxiety!” the better off we’ll be. It’s not a half bad solution: By the time Merpire is screaming the chorus at the end, we feel the same sense of relief she’s been looking for this whole time. “Heavy Feeling” is a load off the chest – an emotional overhaul from a genuinely bold, no-strings artist who is clearly true to herself, and brings as much authenticity as she can into her music. I cannot wait to get to know Merpire even better over the next few years; there’s no telling where she’ll go next, but I’m sure it will be exciting and wholly special.
Start to smile at the strangers
Do they notice my stained shirt?
Are they thinking nice things about me?
Cross the road to the backstreets
I bet they still hear my heart beat
Surely hours can’t go this slow
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:: Editor’s Picks ::