Editor’s Picks 83: Kids That Fly, Gordi, Brian Dunne, OTNES, Tommy Ashby, & Maya Delilah!

Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 83
Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 83
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 Kids That Fly, Gordi, Brian Dunne, OTNES, Tommy Ashby, and Maya Delilah!

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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“Talk of the Town”

by Kids That Fly

Kids That Fly’s electrifying “Talk of the Town” has been making my spirit soar for the past month, and it’s the perfect song to kick off the new year and jettison us into high gear. The focus track off the band’s recently released third EP Tracks of the High Line is radiant, dynamic, and flat-out exhilarating: A captivating indie rock anthem that roars with charismatic charm, irresistible melodies, and an unnervingly catchy, driving beat.

It’s the kind of song that drenches the soul as it washes over our ears, inevitably leaving us energized, invigorated, and inspired.

Jamie for a second,
can I take another minute of your time?

I’ve been staring through the window
at the girl that’s stuck on the inside

Pack it up, shack it up, nothing to lose
You’re acting like you’re thinking
you got something to prove

But something ‘bout the sound of it is
stopping me from getting the words right

“‘Talk of the Town’ was the last song written and recorded for the EP and it almost didn’t make it onto the project,” Kids That Fly’s frontman Nick Smeriglio tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a song with drums taken from a track we had previously recorded slowed down a few bpm’s, and guitars from a demo that [our guitarist] Blake [Henry] sent over to myself out of the blue one day. Once I heard the demo I wrote the hook pretty quickly and we took it to the studio to track a few days after that.”

Guitars quiver and pulse; synths shimmer and shine; drums churn an inescapable, heart-pounding rhythm. Atop this stunning backdrop, Smeriglio rises and falls with a bold, rousing vocal strut:

So you tell me not to worry now
You’re saying that you’re coming around
You got me shaken up and broken down
‘Cause everybody knows, everybody knows,
You’re the talk of the town
You’re the talk of the town
You’ve got me shaken up and thrown around
Cause everybody knows,
baby you’re the talk of the town

There’s a “Mr. Brightside”-esque quality to Kids That Fly’s reverie; this song, while focused on the intimate, is unapologetically larger-than-life. They explode upwards and outwards, and something about the performance just makes you want to join in, throw caution to the wind, and sing ’til your throat is scratchy and your lungs are sore. Fans of The Killers and Catfish & The Bottlemen are sure to fall fast for Kids That Fly; check out the entire Tracks of the High Line EP for a truly rip-roaring adventure.

Pack it up, shack it up, nothing to lose
You’re dancing in the middle
you’ve got something to prove
‘Cause something ‘bout the city
is stopping you from seeing the bright lights
But you tell me not to worry now
Saying that you’re coming around
You got me shaken up and broken down
‘Cause everybody knows, everybody knows,
You’re the talk of the town!

“Starting Over”

by Gordi

We enter this new year resolved to make it our best one yet, and right now I can’t think of a more cathartic or inspiring soundtrack to that renewal and resolve than Gordi’s “Starting Over,” an intimate and spirited outpouring of hope, conviction, and heartfelt determination.

How might I breathe under water?
How can the sun shine underground?
What if I wake up in the morning?
Upside down
Bullet’s back inside the barrel
People calling out my name
This might’ve had a different ending
But not today…

One of my absolute favorite artists from the past five-plus years, Gordi (aka Sophie Payten) has long had a knack for marrying acoustic and electronic instrumentation with deep, sweeping upheavals of the soul; her songwriting comes from a profoundly personal space, as was evidenced on 2020’s breathtaking sophomore LP Our Two Skins as well as 2022’s beautifully raw (and innately human) Inhuman EP.

“Starting Over” is no exception. With subtle verses and a buoyant, soul-stirring chorus, the instantly memorable song glows with a commitment to being our best selves and leaning into life, welcoming the future with an open heart and open arms while diving headfirst into today and all the days that lie ahead. “I’m starting over, with less I don’t know what lies ahead,” Gordi sings in her catchy refrain. “I’m starting over, I guess I’ll show up and do my best.” Her words are honest and unassuming; her intent is true and pure. How could we not fall for this song?

Interestingly enough, while “Starting Over” was by Sophie Payten and is attributed on DSPs to her artist moniker Gordi, “Starting Over” is not an official Gordi single; rather, it serves as the theme song to an Australian documentary movie called RIDE, about two champion BMX riders who fall in love, but later one becomes disabled after a near-death accident. The story follows their journey as a couple as they fight through the disability while both trying to keep their careers going. Payten scored the whole film alongside renowned composer Jason Fernandez, and while the overall soundtrack contains a number of additional ambient pieces, “Starting Over” is the unmistakable standout of the bunch.

Try to silence all the voices
And all that they can’t understand
Insurmountable it all feels unattainable
So I’ll rely on everything I am

Perfect for life’s big and little moments alike, “Starting Over” is both energizing and inspiring. It’s the fuel we need to charge into 2023 with our heads held high, confident and poised to make this an unforgettable year. Here’s to ourselves, and we can all take a page out of Gordi’s playbook: Let’s show up and do our best.

I’m starting over
With less I don’t know
What lies ahead
I’m starting over
I guess I’ll show up
And do my best

“Sometime After This”

by Brian Dunne

In the spirit of Keep on and Carry On comes singer/songwriter Brian Dunne’s heartfelt new single “Sometime After This,” an intimate wash of hope in whatever lies ahead of us. Released in mid-December, the driving single marks Dunne’s first solo release since 2020’s third album Selling Things, which I had the honor of premiering in early April of that year and boldly declared “a new timeless classic.” For what it’s worth, I stand by those words; Dunne’s music got me through the worst of those first couple of weeks early on in the pandemic, and while songs like “Harlem River Drive,” “Walk Me Home,” “Nitehawk,” and “Getting Wrecked on Election Day” weren’t necessarily written to soothe an anxious soul, “Sometime After This” was made with exactly that kind of comfort and compassion in mind.

In a daydream you had made arrangements for
Pretty flowers laid after the massacre
You awoke in a startling start of death
The holy ghost, the townies, tangled in a total mess
As if Sam Shepard rang the early morning bells
With an email from the grave – “I hope this message finds you well”
If there was ever any lingering doubt
Kid, just look at where we are right now

“‘Sometime After This’ is a song about who you wish you could be. Sometimes that’s all we have to hang our hopes on,” Dunne tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s a personal song – I wrote it in a time of chaos, when I was sort of looking around and wondering how we got here and what to do with that information. The song is simply a promise to myself to try to hold onto that feeling.”

“At its core, [it’s] my way of saying ‘this too shall pass,’ but in a way that feels honest, and not like a HomeGoods wall stencil,” he adds. “It starts with a big idea and gets smaller with each verse. The first one addresses the social and political state of things, and how sad it is that we can’t even agree on what it is that we disagree about (and also has the first, and likely last use of the word ‘email’ in one of my songs). Verse two is about everything that led me here, to this particular song, and finds me asking a classic NYC vampire – a sacred character to me – what exactly to do with it. And verse three is just about a single cup of coffee and how it all just comes down to that; being grateful for a hot beverage.”

In-between these conversational verses, Dunne comes home to a calming chorus that centers both artist and audience alike, acting as a catchy and soothing mantra of inner strength, self-reflection, renewal, and acceptance. A world of possibility opens up in front of us as Dunne sings this sweetly stirring song.

But on the precipice
Sometime after this
We’ll watch the changing tides
deride this false self-righteousness

Where the truth is laid
Just up the stairs
I will meet you there

If I may be candid, it feels great to have one of my favorite singer/songwriters back in action – though he really hasn’t been “gone” for very long; in fact, he’s been incredibly busy. In-between this song’s release and Selling Things, Dunne co-founded the New York City-based “folk rock supergroup” Fantastic Cat (their fantastically fun, freewheeling “best of” debut album released last summer) and even managed to squeeze in a quick European tour.

Dunne enters the new year “on the precipice” of something truly exciting and wonderful, with “Sometime After This” marking the artist’s signing to legendary indie rock label Kill Rock Stars. I can’t wait for everything Dunne has in store for us in 2023; while we wait for more magic, might I suggest you sit back with a hot cup of coffee and get lost in the warmth and wonder of “Sometime After This.”

And after the afterparty, in the pre-dawn hush
We’ll find a coffee cart preparing for the morning rush
And if I cease to understand the gift they’ve given me
Then god have mercy on the soul that doesn’t know it’s free
‘Cause on the precipice
Sometime after this
I may again lose sight
of all the lives I could have lived

But where the music plays
Like an anxious prayer
And all the promises we made
Are vanquished in the air
Where the answers lay
I will meet you there



OTNES may be a new name on the music scene, but she’s a familiar and friendly face: The Nashville by-way-of Chicago indie pop artistry is the reinvention of / successor to Emily Blue, a longtime Atwood Editor’s Pick and artist-to-watch who premiered her magnificent debut single and album with us way back in 2016, and whose music has continued to dazzle and consistently inspire us for the past six years.

OTNES’ debut single follows suit. Released in mid-November, “SPIN” is a raw, poignant reminder that our time on Earth is precious – and that there’s something to be said about recognizing the people who make our every-days feel special, magical, and larger than life. While its theme is heartrending, the song itself doesn’t dwell in dark depths; rather, OTNES transforms her sadness and heartache into a radiant, golden-hued indie pop reverie – channeling grief into a dazzling mix of warmth and wonder in what can ultimately be considered a powerful tribute to a lost loved one and a moving celebration of life, love, and the power of human connection.

Before you died
I remember we’d
Go dancing every night
And you’d spin me round
Listening to those heavenly sounds
So when’d I get so nervous dancing around you?
I forget when I lost my rhythm, but
I wake up and I’m still thinking about you
I miss the days
We were the only ones in the room
I look back on a sunny afternoon

Speaking to Atwood Magazine late last year, OTNES explained the thought process behind the name change and her decision to say goodbye Emily Blue. “During COVID I spent so much time with myself and realized that I have changed so significantly as a person since the Emily Blue project was born,” she shared. “Not only my gender identity (now going by they/she pronouns), but also my priorities as an artist, the trials and tribulations of going through a pandemic, and really looking inward.”

“She’s gone for good only in the sense that I no longer am her,” she added, in reference to Emily Blue name. “I have almost all my music from projects spanning my whole lifetime on various streaming platforms, and still perform some of the oldies. I learned so much as Emily Blue and collaborating with my friend Max Perenchio, who’s no longer with us. Part of the decision to part from Emily Blue is that the project just isn’t the same without him. OTNES feels so true to my heart (it’s my real last name) and also more androgynous, so I can truly lean into my fluidity. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me and can’t wait to see where this leads.”

I don’t drink anymore, I remember you
Face down on the floor, wasn’t it all so fun?
I truly mean it and I miss you every second you’re gone
So when’d I get so lonely dancing without you?
I forget when I lost my rhythm, but
I wake up and I’m still thinking about you
Gone are the days we were the only ones in the room
i look back on a Sunday afternoon

As beautifully bittersweet as it is buoyant and utterly breathtaking, the dreamy, glistening “SPIN” proves the perfect (re)introduction: A sweetly synth-soaked song that captures everything we loved about Emily Blue, while importantly establishing OTNES as an indie pop phenomenon in her own right and an undeniable artist to watch in 2023.

“Not That Far to Go”

by Tommy Ashby

I casually called one of Tommy Ashby’s songs “a beautiful indie folk dream come to life” sometime in 2021, and as if he were listening, every single one of his successive songs has been another softly sweet and smile-inducing gift. Released in late October (on my 30th birthday), “Not That Far to Go” is the fourth single off Ashby’s forthcoming debut album Lamplighter, set for release this March.

An uplifting immersion of Ashby’s signature folk tenderness and lyrical introspection “Not That Far to Go” aches with themes of inner reckoning, intense reflection, and acceptance. “This song was written just a couple of months before the pandemic and it was strange how relevant it became when COVID came along,” the Scottish singer/songwriter shared with me.

Count the footsteps,
Count the time,
Before you know it this will all be far behind.
Count the people that you love,
Think of everyone who’s ever picked you up.

“Suddenly we were sitting at home with quite a lot of time on our hands to think and I am definitely a worrier so that wasn’t always a positive! I guess the message of the song is to take stock of all of the good things, focus on the present and accept that a lot of the stuff that happens to you is beyond your control.”

It’s not a weakness,
It’s not a weakness,
It’s the stone that blunts the knife,
It’s the scars that make a life.

“I was telling myself as much as anyone else that it isn’t weak to be scared by stuff… I’ve definitely learned more from failure than succeeding. And when things are hard, that is often because they are affecting things that mean a lot to you… And sharing your emotions with others isn’t something you should be embarrassed about. It’s just part of being human.”

“This song took a sharp left hand turn when I went into the studio with my producer Sam. I remember it really clearly because we were in a beautiful studio in rural Wales and it was an extremely misty day. To the point where you couldn’t see more than a couple of metres from the studio windows. In the past the song had floated along in an ethereal way but maybe seemed a bit like it lacked foundations. My drummer friend, Toby Couling got a hold of it and the energy he brings to the song is immense. Suddenly, with his driving drums, we were in a different world and adding new instrumentation became exciting. It shows how adding just one ingredient can bring a track into focus and direction. It’s always exhilarating to be in the studio when a moment like that happens, when the energy changes.”

Tommy Ashby has always worn his heart on his sleeve, and yet somehow “Not That Far to Go” feels like its own form of starting over; as if he’s learning how to share himself all over again. Yet another beautiful indie folk dream come to life, this gentle giant proves the perfect teaser off Ashby’s forthcoming debut album – not to mention a soothing serenade in its own right. With the meaningful message to own your emotions and embrace your truths, this song hits deep down inside. Self-acceptance doesn’t always come easy, but Ashby sure knows how to paint it as a worthwhile aspiration – and his song makes for the perfect soundtrack as we aspire to live life to the fullest, unapologetically.

It’s not a weakness,
It’s not a weakness,
It’s the stone that blunts the knife,
It’s the scars that make a life.
It’s not a weakness,
It’s not a weakness,
You’re the ebb and you’re the flow,
Keep walking,
It’s not that far to go.

“Pretty Face”

by Maya Delilah

Soulful and bluesy, Maya Delilah’s first single with Blue Note / Capitol Records is absolutely breathtaking. Released in late October, “Pretty Face” roars with deep grooves, visceral, dramatic lyrics, and a rip-roaring guitar solo that smacks us in the ears and in the gut. Charting the emotional aftermath of a breakup, Delilah delivers a bittersweet post-mortem on a love turned sour, and while it’s in some ways a tale as old as time, we’ve never felt heartache and anger sung quite so powerfully or as beautifully.

If I, was half as good, and you half as bad
Then I could’ve found, what we never had
An internet loser, in the words of my dad
And my mother hates you, you’re gone and she’s glad
I know they’re right,
‘Cause I had you so wrong,
Miss who you were,
Not who you’ve become

“I really wanted to have fun with the lyrics and take the serious side out of a breakup,” Delilah says of “Pretty Face.” “The song lays out exactly how I (and my parents) felt towards my ex, and gives self-reflection and a bit of mockery towards the situation. I wanted the song to have a soulful feel, so we added organ and tailored the chords to give that feel. I of course wanted to add a guitar solo, as I am addicted to doing so, and felt this song needed that BIG ending as the harmonies in the chorus already made the song dramatic.”

Delilah’s chorus stings as a fierce musical and emotional slap; fittingly, the music also slaps:

You ain’t that special,
You’re just another pretty face,
Truth’s hard to handle,
If life was a game,
You’d win a medal,
For being lame, ‘LAME’!

Delilah herself is no stranger to Atwood Magazine; in 2020, I called her debut EP Oh Boy a sweet n’ soulful dream come true: “Hailing from London, the 20-year-old singer/songwriter makes her introduction unforgettable through five smoldering songs that compel us to smile, dance, and leave our woes behind for a little while.” The past two years have been full of special milestones for her, with the songs “Breakup Season” (ft. Samm Henshaw), “Thank You,” and “Queen” off 2021’s It’s Not Me, It’s You EP (released via indie record label Lowly) all hitting well over a million streams. Such success undoubtedly led to her major label signing, and while it’s unconfirmed, I’d wager to say that Delilah’s debut album is well underway, if not set for sometime in 2023.

Aside from a Neil Young “Harvest Moon” cover put out in September, “Pretty Face” is Maya Delilah’s only song release of 2022 – but what a way to start a new chapter of her story: Bold, fiery, uncompromising, and utterly enchanting, “Pretty Face” is as seductive as it is endlessly enthralling: A surefire sign that the 22-year-old artist’s best days are still ahead of her. Here’s to hearing more from Delilah – and hopefully having more of her epic, face-melting guitar solos – in 2023 and beyond!

Well I reminisce,
Yeah I think about me sometimes,
How stupid I was,
Jumping in blind
Well love never comes with,
A big warning sign,
And a red flag is just a flag,
When you got rose tinted eyes
I know we weren’t right,
And i had you so wrong,
Guess you were a sociopath all along
You ain’t that special,
You’re just another pretty face,

— — — —

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Editor’s Picks

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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