Editor’s Picks 82: Ethel Cain, Christian Kuria, Sable, Kathleen, The Greeting Committee, & Blitz Vega!

Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 82
Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 82
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 Ethel Cain, Christian Kuria, Sable, Kathleen, The Greeting Committee, & Blitz Vega!

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

 follow EDITOR’S PICKS on Spotify




“American Teenager”

Ethel Cain

The final single from Ethel Cain’s springtime debut album Preacher’s Daughter has proved an irresistible rallying cry for disenchanted millennials and Gen Zers everywhere: Soaring with sadness, soaked in disillusionment, and laced in sepia-toned nostalgia, “American Teenager” is an irresistible anthem of inner fracture and all-American angst: The inherited turmoil, discord, and trauma we’re born into, that we can neither run from nor shake off our being.

Grew up under yellow light on the street
Putting too much faith in the make believe
Another high-school football team
The neighbor’s brother came home in a box
But he wanted to go so maybe it was his fault
Another red heart taken by the American dream
And I feel it there, in the middle of the night
When the lights go out and I’m all alone again

Folks have been decrying the “American Dream” for well over a half-century, recognizing the toxicity of this falsehood and the danger it creates as the foundational bedrock of a nation’s identity. Born Hayden Silas Anhedönia in Tallahassee, Florida, singer/songwriter Ethel Cain knows this all too well, having experienced it firsthand.

“Growing up I was surrounded by visions of Nascar, rock ’n’ roll, and being the one who would change everything,” Cain explains. “They make you think it’s all achievable and that if nothing else, you should at least die trying. What they don’t tell you is that you need your neighbor more than your country needs you. I wrote this song as an expression of my frustration with all the things the ‘American Teenager’ is supposed to be but never had any real chance of becoming.”

Cain invites us to join in her patriotic reckoning and “say it like you mean it with your fists for once” in her intimate, epic chorus:

Say what you want
But say it like you mean it with your fists for once
A long, cold war with your kids at the front
Just give it one more day then you’re done
I do what I want
Crying in the bleachers and I said it was fun
I don’t need anything from anyone
It’s just not my year
But I’m all good out here

“American Teenager” is at once inspiring, hopeful, and unavoidably sad; Cain’s heavy-hearted narrator is jaded, and for good reason, and yet she is nonetheless resolved to fight ’til the very end of her saga. Vast, pounding drums, sweetly shimmering synths, and aching, unquenchable vocals prove an enchanting recipe for musical success, but it’s ultimately Cain’s dusty, cinematic storytelling that helps “American Teenager” seize the zeitgeist and elevate her status from indie singer/songwriter to alternative hero.

Sunday morning
Hands over my knees in a room full of faces
I’m sorry if I seemed off, but I was probably wasted (wasted)
And didn’t feel so good (feel so good)
Head full of whiskey but I always deliver
Jesus, if you’re listening, let me handle my liquor
And Jesus, if you’re there
Why do I feel alone in this room with you?

It’s just not my year, but I’m all good out here.” A different kind of American dream is born in Ethel Cain’s song: One that recognizes the fractures and failures of the system, knows the stakes, and goes all-in, anyway. This is perseverance personified; resilience, reluctance, and resolve packaged with bold self-assurance, a small but mighty slice of hope, and a massive middle-finger to the past and present.

We’ll keep falling for “American Teenager” because it’s the narrative of our lives, too: A soundtrack to our shared American trauma.

And I feel it there in the middle of the night
When the lights go out, but I’m still standing here
Say what you want
But say it like you mean it with your fists for once
A long, cold war with your kids at the front
Just give it one more day then you’re done
I do what I want
Crying in the bleachers and I said it was fun
I don’t need anything from anyone
It’s just not my year
But I’m all good out here



“Sunbleach”

Christian Kuria

Moody and woozy, Christian Kuria’s “Sunbleach” aches in all the right ways, drenching listeners in a wash of alluring alt-R&B that soaks deep into the soul. An instant standout taken off the Bay area artist and producer’s recently released Suspension of Disbelief EP (released November 29 via Arimé), “Sunbleach” is as hypnotic as it is disarming: A vulnerable outpouring of heartfelt emotions that leaves listeners breathless, enchanted, and feeling the full heat of love’s intimacy:

Faded paint on your Impala
Red is never gonna look the same
Even when the sky at end of day’s
Lighting up your face like
Portraits hang in your apartment
Never have they looked at me that way
I can’t help but wonder what they’d say
As they catch the daylight

Kuria’s verses are vivid and touching, but it’s in the chorus where this song truly comes to life: Kuria paints a powerful scene through gorgeous, emotional poetry, lush, rich harmonies, and sweetly stirring synths:

But when you look in my eyes
The way you look in my eyes
It kills me every time
Driving ’round the city with my eyes closed
No phone, in the afterglow
It was you and me
But when you look in my eyes
The way you look in my eyes
It fills me with desire
Cause even when the sky is falling
You are all I want, I can’t do anything

“Making Suspension of Disbelief was a challenging creative journey that began at the beginning of the pandemic, but the project really bloomed into a piece of art that I’m proud of,” Kuria says of his new record. “Creating in the midst of unprecedented global issues that were occurring all at once brought about a unique artistic, personal and social perspective. Playing to live audiences, after nearly two years of writing in isolation, gave me a visual of the impact the music was making on people around the world. The reproductive rights initiative was inspired from that urgency to create more positive change within this community of fans and creative partners. As a Black American, I feel it imperative to be an active advocate for the disenfranchised.”

Beautifully intoxicating and utterly irresistible, “Sunbleach” is intimacy manifest.

Hot ’80s-esque electric guitar solos and haunting, soft vocal harmonies further elevate this song to unimpeachable heights, but the core vocal performance and soft, soothing synths are enough to melt even the coldest hearts. Personally, I can’t wait to return to Christian’ Kuria’s smoldering safe space again and again over the years to come, dwelling and basking in the throes of his colorfully captivating, emotionally potent alt-R&B magic.



“Madonna”

Sable

Between its frenetic energy and softly spellbinding elegance, Sable’s new song “Madonna” has me utterly enthralled. The second track off the Manchester born, Berlin-based artist’s sophomore EP English Literature is poetic, percussive, and utterly enchanting: Rising from a hushed whisper to a visceral, breathtaking two-step roar, “Madonna” is something of a musical chameleon; somehow, this track transitions – effortlessly, one might add – between soft and steady folk ballad and bonafide club banger. Throughout, Sable’s voice is an anchor; a lure; and a source of radiant, effervescent light and raw emotion:

A picture of Madonna gazing down at her little boy
Even when I was sixteen I knew it was
the only thing that would bring me joy
Now the world is hurtling towards some fiery end
I couldn’t bear to see my little girl cry
so I bury it in a haze of cigarettes

“I think many people my age take longer to reach traditional milestones than our parents, if we ever meet them at all, because it feels like the economy is stacked against us – the future feels impossible to comprehend when we can’t imagine ever being able to own a home, or pay bills without worrying,” Sable tells Atwood Magazine. “‘Madonna’ is about choosing not to have children, despite always seeing it as the ultimate goal, because the world feels too chaotic, and it’s about sinking into hedonism as a way to escape terrifying existential questions.”

The “Madonna” chorus feels like a controlled chaos: A cathartic emotional eruption surging with soul-stirring passion and the aching emotions of a heavy, but resolved heart:

I say I wouldn’t give up the freedom
I say I want to dance until I die
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom
But two steps back I die again
Her face behind my eyes again
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom
I say I want to dance until I die
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom
But two steps back I die again
Her face behind my eyes again

Of her new EP, Sable adds, “English Literature came together over the course of 6 months, inspired by some of my favourite books. I tried to lift archetypes off the page and transpose them into a modern setting. The more I wrote, the more I realised the characters I was drawn to felt like reflections of my own life, so in the end the EP is as much about me at 25 as it is about these figures that were written hundreds of years ago. From sexuality to love to rejecting the idea of motherhood, the setting may change, but those emotions are pretty timeless.”

Unlike the university course of the same name, English Literature is endlessly alluring: From the eerie tension, yearning, and captivating effected vocals of “Emily” to the transformational wonder of “Madonna” and the epic intimacy and romanticism of closer “Madwoman in the Attic,” Sable’s sophomore EP pushes modern alt-pop further to the left, creating a space for sonic experimentation and experimental music like this to further seep into the mainstream. Artists like Sable and Atwood artist-to-watch Issy Wood are pushing the boundaries of “pop” music, and this record – especially this song – feels like a step forward for music in general.

Two step beat and I’m fine again
Know how to trick my mind with a little foresight
Heart only breaks every now and then
I know I’ll be alright if I dance until I die
It’s sustainable in a city like Berlin
Where everyone pretends they’re 25
(and the nights keep us alive)
Two steps back I die again
Her face creeps back behind my eyes
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom
I say I want to dance until I die
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom
But two steps back I die again
Her face behind my eyes again
I say I couldn’t give up the freedom



“Fever Dream”

Kathleen

What better way to describe the past few years’ reality, let alone this hot, churning explosion of a song? Released back in mid-July as her first single of the year, Kathleen’s “Fever Dream” is just that: An urgent, raw reckoning of turbulent emotions set to an equally volatile, soundtrack. The caustic turns catchy as the Los Angeles artist roars and reels through her new reality, taking us with her through valleys full of fiery beats, cinematic swells, pulsing drums, and thirsty, aching, irresistible vocals:

It’s been winter everyday for the past few years
or maybe it’s been more

Nothing but video games and doom scrolling
ten thousand hours of porn

Every funeral home, every hospital
ha-has a “No Vacancy” sign

They got a line around the corner like a BTS show
Baby, stop your cryin’, huh
Fever dream, slow parade
Bad machine, nothing is happening, oh
Fever dream, slow parade
Bad machine, everything’s happening, oh

“‘Fever Dream’ is the release of all the pent-up confusion, sadness, frustration, anxiety and rage that I felt over lockdown,” Kathleen shares. “I felt like a little piece of lightning in a microwave, not sure how to feel, not sure where to put all this energy I had. The video is then focused on the paralysis that happens because of all the chaos. Frozen by stimulus. In my mind, the two (the song and video) combine to express dissociation.”

Surreal and stunning, “Fever Dream” is true to its name as a crescendo of cacophony; as chaos manifest in song. An escape from reality and indulgence of the weird and wondrous all at once, Kathleen’s music is nothing, if not enchanting, seductive, and utterly provocative. Immerse yourself in the drama and get lost in life’s beautiful, jarring “Fever Dream.”

Time dripped out of all of us
Like teardrops on the floor
And I slipped in it each morning on my way out the door
Time dripped out of all of us
Like teardrops on the floor
And I slipped in it each morning on my way out the door
Fever dream, slow parade
Bad machine, nothing is happening, oh
Fever dream, slow parade
Bad machine, everything’s happening all at –
once, once, once…
We choked on tear-gas
We choked on smoke
We choked on covid
We choked on everything happening all at once



“Hopscotch”

The Greeting Committee

The Greeting Committee’s music has long been this perfect mix of upbeat and intimate, bittersweet and buoyant, and nowhere does that endearing quality shine brighter than on their catchy and cathartic new single. Released November 4th, “Hopscotch” is the Kansas City band’s first bit of new material following last September’s sophomore album Dandelion, as well as their first release since parting ways with major label Harvest Records and Universal Music Group.

Independence already looks good on The Greeting Committee: “Hopscotch” is an undeniable embrace of their newfound freedom, seeing the four-piece of Addie Sartino, Pierce Turcotte, Noah Spencer, Micah Ritchie leaning into life’s trials and tribulations through emotional, thought-provoking lyrics and a bright, bold indie pop sound.

Addie was a friend of mine.
I’d tell her all the time
we’re gonna make it out of here.
But she got older and I stayed sober.
Now she’s someone I don’t recognize.
Hopscotch double dutch.
I don’t really give a fuck.
I don’t even know ya…
Your cold, cold shoulder.

Hopscotch double dutch.
Oh, you really fucked me up.
I don’t even know ya…

“I feel optimistic in a way I haven’t felt since I was in high school,” Addie Sartino explains, “but better yet I feel like we know ourselves now in a way that provides true freedom, which I’m thankful for as we take this step as independent artists. Pierce and I complement each other in a way that’s both challenging and safe. I hope listeners are able to hear our excitement in these new tracks and in the new live show this upcoming tour.”

“We took to this new track “Hopscotch” to reflect on the victories and defeats that come with drastic change and ultimate growth. We turned to our friend and producer Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus to kick off a fresh start for our clean slate, maintaining familiarity with newfound freedom.”

Now I’ve stopped trying to like the bands that you like
they always brought me down
but you know I was dedicated to
annihilation of self in
consumption of spoon fed nothing.

If I get a happy, will you forgive me?
Never stale but god it really killed me.

The Greeting Committee consider this song “a cross between a playground chant and rebellious battle cry,” basking in the glow of endless possibility and the world that awaits. It’s easy be fearful and wary of an uncertain future; in contrast, “Hopscotch” turns the brave into the fun, inviting us to dive headfirst into the unknown with a big smile and electric energy. It’s inspiring, effervescent, and altogether refreshing.

Hopscotch double dutch.
I don’t really give a fuck.
I don’t even know ya…
Your cold, cold shoulder.

Hopscotch double dutch.
Oh, you really fucked me up.
I don’t even know ya…



“Strong Forever”

Blitz Vega

As a child of the ’90s, my ascent into young adulthood was soundtracked by bands like Oasis, Blur, The Verve, and more. The buoyant-but-moody melodies of Britpop – a quality that can be traced back to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – have been a part of my musical DNA for as long as I can remember, as is an indelible penchant for emotionally charged, stadium sized anthems (“Wonderwall,” anyone?) – the kind of rousing, spirited songs that others might come to vilify, should they hear them one too many times.

I’m a sucker for singalongs, and as such it’s no surprise that “Strong Forever” left an instant mark. The first (and likely only) single of the year from Blitz Vega – the duo of Andy Rourke (of The Smiths) and Kav Blaggers (of Happy Mondays) – is unapologetic Britpop at its finest: An underdog anthem that aches with a spirit of resilience and perseverance, inner strength and resolve. Featuring Rourke’s fellow Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr, “Strong Forever” soars with confidence and conviction in the face of hardship.

Killing hate, like a disease 
That’s who I choose to be 
Taking blows and fighting foes
You’ll never get the best of me
I stood up tall and looked into 
All of their unhappy eyes 
I showed my game
I showed my strength 
That’s who I’m gonna be

“This song is for the kids who are being bullied as well as people and families who are fighting battles to survive… Everyone is dealing with their own challenges, especially now,” Blitz Vega’s Kav Blaggers shares. “People have to look out for each other a lot more at the moment. We all seem to be fighting to survive, but it’s not too late. There are lots of good people on this planet who want to do something positive, big or small, it’s just hard to notice them sometimes with all the noise. But now’s the time to make some kind of difference if you can.”

We hear the song’s message loud and clear in its radiant chorus:

We’ve got the love 
We’ve got the power
We’re in it together 
Stay strong forever

“Strong Forever” motivates on an individual level while inspiring a unifying, come together-esque energy. It’s a reminder not only that we’re never alone, but also that we’re all going through challenges and troubles – and that, quite literally, we’re in it together… stay strong forever. Sonically reminiscent of bands like Oasis and, quite naturally, The Smiths, Blitz Vega easily light a fire within listeners while creating a space for all to shine.

You’ve got your dreams
And I’ve got mine
And now that’s it our time to shine
I’m on the ball, I can hear the roar 
This is who I wanna be
You can’t hold me back or stop me now
I’m gonna score, one more
I can feel the thrill, I got the will 
I’m gonna make you believe in me



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Editor’s Picks

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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