Editor’s Picks 89: Alexz Johnson, The Aces, Mouraine, Big Words, Mychelle, & DEVORA!

Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 89
Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 89
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 Alexz Johnson, The Aces, Mouraine, Big Words, Mychelle, and DEVORA!

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

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“Hurt Me”

by Alexz Johnson

The old sayings just don’t work for us anymore. Grin and bear it. Keep calm and carry on. These phrases from a not-so-distant past encouraged us to be stoic; to tamp down our emotions and hold our heads high through tragedy and misfortune. What if, instead of denying our feelings, we leaned into them? What if we allowed ourselves to not just experience grief, but to embrace it? Alexz Johnson’s new music is more than an artistic rebirth; it’s a total shift in perspective – the kind that completely alters your approach to (and understanding of) life itself. Achingly intimate and breathtakingly raw, her soul-stirring new song “Hurt Me” recognizes, accepts, and welcomes pain as an essential part of life. The artist gives us permission to grieve, to hurt, and to bleed, creating a space for us to feel comfortable with the full spectrum of our emotions in a beautifully expressive song that itself holds nothing back.

Hurt Me - Alexz Johnson
Hurt Me – Alexz Johnson
There’s a greater reason
You’re feeling so much pain
‘Cause, darling, I adore you
And I feel the same
And no one really warns you
How quick your world can change
But let me reassure you
(that you can) hurt me

Independently released February 16, 2023, “Hurt Me” is the heartrending lead single taken off Alexz Johnson’s forthcoming fifth studio album, Seasons (out April 7). Her first musical offering since 2020’s impassioned fourth album Still Alive, “Hurt Me” is radiant and unapologetic return that finds the NYC and Toronto-based singer/songwriter and actress shining boldly and brightly. It’s a sonically and emotionally driven song of reckoning and affirmation, self-discovery and unconditional love – one that soars high whilst allowing us to drop as low as we need to go.

“I think in order to be in a position to take on another person’s pain, you need to have experienced some level of pain yourself,” Johnson tells Atwood Magazine. “I feel like everyone is hurting, but they feel they’re not allowed to hurt. As though, if you’re broken, you’re not worthy of love. ‘Hurt Me’ is a song about a person giving another complete permission to share the darkest parts of themselves, and that they will still be there, carrying them through to the other side.”

A warm light glowing in the cool, cold dark, “Hurt Me” hits heavily through tender piano chords, plaintive guitar strums, and Johnson’s charismatic, passionate vocals. “Cry on my shoulder, I won’t let you go,” she promises in her comforting and cathartic chorus, laying the foundations for a mindset built on emotional acceptance rather than suppression. “Don’t leave! What kind of friend would I be? You can tear up my heart while I stand here and bleed. Give all of your demons to me… and hurt me…

“Hurt Me” is a powerful introduction to Johnson’s new album Seasons, which represents a new chapter in her journey and growth, both as an artist and as a human. We will all, eventually, come to know loss and grief on an intimate level; there is no running from them, just as there is no denying their place in the natural order of our lives. You can try to grin and bear it; you can try to keep calm and carry on; or you can learn to live together with your hardship – to cry when you feel like crying, ache when you feel like aching, and grieve when you feel like grieving. A tender emotional unveiling, “Hurt Me” is the heavy, heartfelt hug so many of us need to hear.

Hurt me! I’ll let you tear up the home
Cry on my shoulder, I won’t let you go
Don’t leave! What kind of friend would I be?
You can tear up my heart
While I stand here and bleed
Give all of your demons to me
Give all of your reasons to me
Give all of your… your reasons to me
And hurt me, hurt me, just hurt me



“Always Get This Way”

by The Aces

Credit to The Aces for building us up while breaking us down all at the same time: The Utah band’s songs have always hit a nerve, but never before does it feel like they’ve been this vulnerable. Sometimes it helps to hurt together, and in the achingly raw “Always Get This Way,” The Aces combine brutal honesty and unapologetic intimacy with soaring passion and stunning energy. The result is a captivating and charismatic unveiling of our innermost emotions: All those thoughts we hide during the day, but can’t escape from when we’re lying awake in the still of the night:

I’ve Loved You For So Long - The Aces
I’ve Loved You For So Long – The Aces
Hope it doesn’t get worse as I get older
Everyone’s giving me the cold shoulder
I don’t remember when it took over
All i know now is it controls me
And I dont wanna call you
but I can’t really sleep

And I’ve been wearing a smile,
pretending to eat

Oh I swear, that I can explain

Released on February 17 via Red Bull Records, “Always Get This Way” is the enchanting, exhilarating, and emotionally exhausting sophomore single off The Aces’ forthcoming third album, I’ve Loved You For So Long (out June 2nd). Following last year’s heartbreak anthem “Girls Make Me Wanna Die,” which was featured in Atwood‘s 67th Editor’s Picks, “Always Get This Way” is a cinematic (and anthemic) upheaval in just under three minutes flat.

It’s also one of the band’s most upfront and blatant confrontations with anxiety and mental health, with deeply candid lyrics exploring internalized pain and its heavy baggage.

“I was in the worst mental state of my life when we wrote ‘Always Get This Way,’” vocalist and guitarist Cristal Ramirez explains. “Filled with anxiety, and having panic attacks almost every night, it took everything in me to make the 45-minute drive to the studio that day. I was just there to make something. I was just there to feel better. Alisa, as she always has been, was a strong voice encouraging me to explore how I was feeling through a song. At first, I was hesitant and embarrassed, but pretty soon ‘Always Get This Way’ was unraveling quickly through the speakers.”

No doubt it helps to have your sister and your best friends together in one band; The Aces is a tight-knit group, and while intimacy like that can sometimes be stifling (making you afraid to share for fear of worrying or troubling your loved ones), for Ramirez it helped her open up and put into words her deepest pains. We hear this quite clearly in the song’s chorus as she admits, “I’m trying really hard not to fall apart, if you don’t mind,” further pleading with her anxiety, “If you could find it in your heart not to tear me apart, you’d be so kind.”

I always get this way, it’s fine
And I’m trying really hard not to fall apart
If you don’t mind
I always get this way, at night, I do
If you could find it in your heart not to tear me apart
You’d be so kind, I always get

“This song is about shame, panic, and struggle,” she says. “It’s about the fact that we hold no space for those struggling mentally in our society, and we just kind of wish they’d get over it and quit being an inconvenience. It was the song that felt like it granted us permission to make what would become our upcoming album. It’s one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written.”

Bold, buoyant, and brightly bleeding, “Always Get This Way” is an anthem for all of us living with anxiety. The best part is, this song is real: Ramirez doesn’t sugarcoat her pain. She doesn’t sing about overcoming her issues or outrunning her problems; it’s not about solving depression or finding the way back to happiness. It’s about hanging on for dear life, and praying the worst is over soon. Some days are the worst days; some days feel like they’ll never end; some days we’re drowning in our own endless emotional ocean. “Always Get This Way” is an anchor of reassurance – an uplifting beacon of light, reminding us we’re not alone in how we feel.

And while The Aces may not offer any immediate solutions within this song, their music itself is a soothing balm that inspires and heals, lighting a fire deep down inside.

I know this isn’t ideal for you
I do, I do, I do
But if you could be kind while i lose my mind well
Try to, try to, try to
And I don’t wanna call you
but I can’t really sleep

And I’ve been starting to think
it’s society that’s wrong with me

And drives me insane
I always get this way, it’s fine
And i’m trying really hard not to fall apart
If you don’t mind
I always get this way, at night, I do
If you could find it in your heart not to tear me apart
You’d be so kind, I always get



“Gold”

by Mouraine ft. deadmen

Mouraine’s first single of the year is pure, shiny, and dazzling 24 karat “Gold.” Released February 15 via Birthday Cake Records, the latest from the Sudan-born, Edmonton-based rapper is an unapologetic outpouring of inner strength and feverish resolve. It’s a raw rush of passion; a product of persistence and a statement of artistic intent – not to mention a hard-hitting introduction for anyone not already acquainted with the fast-rising, sharp-tongued talent.

I can never be one of them lames, dawg, I’m killin ‘em,” Mouraine fires off from the jump, establishing himself as an indisputable, permanent presence. “First M, I’m tryna add another call it Eminem – I’m way too ahead of them, look, my competition, I got rid of them.” And so he continues, mixing a healthy dose of wit and bravado to assert himself as someone who “can’t settle for nothing but the gold.” Considering what he’s already endured and experienced – as a child, he emigrated to Toronto with his family, seeking asylum in Canada without knowing a word of English – Mouraine doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. This isn’t about your or me; this is about the high bars he’s set for himself.

Gold - Mouraine
Gold – Mouraine
No, no, no, no, no!
I can’t settle for nothing but the gold
I turned my life to highs from the lows
I want the money, the cars, and the clothes
Or whatever it is they got in these stores
I can’t settle for nothing but the gold
I turned my life to highs from the lows
I can’t settle for nothing but the gold
No, no, no, no, no!

“The self-rediscovery stage is exemplified by the song ‘Gold,'” Mouraine explains. “It’s the perfect post-reaction once you discover your true worth as an artist and a human being. Once you know your capabilities and have reached an unexplainable state of belief in yourself, there is no such thing as settling for anything less than gold.”

“The gold is buried far beneath the surface of the ground,” he adds. “And when it comes to us and other humans, it functions in the same way. It will be difficult to accept anything less than gold once you conduct some soul-searching and come to an understanding of your true worth.”

In other words, if you know your value and believe in yourself, you have no choice but to shoot for the highest heights. “I’m the future of this rap game,” Mouraine declares in an emotionally charged breakdown. “I tried to put the city on my back, that gave me back pain. In 2016, we was poppin! Now I want the gold like Usain.”

Some assertions of self admittedly come off braggadocios and arrogant, but Mouraine’s swagger is sleek and sincere; simply put, he makes us want to root for him, believe in him, and take him at his word when he calls himself the future of the rap game. A spirited, seductive anthem plunging the depths of self-confidence and self-worth, “Gold” is utterly inspiring: We come away from Mouraine’s latest believing not only in him, but also in ourselves.

“Gold” is the lead single off Mouraine’s forthcoming sophomore album In Search of Gold, out May 5 via Birthday Cake Records.

No, no, no, no, no!
I can’t settle for nothing but the gold
I turned my life to highs from the lows
I want the money, the cars, and the clothes
Or whatever it is they got in these stores
I can’t settle for nothing but the gold



“You're So Wonderful”

by Big Words

I‘m a sucker for a good love song, and Big Words’ “You’re So Wonderful” is the epitome of intimately beautiful heart-on-sleeve excellence.

And to think, the Australian band achieve all this by embracing the exact opposite of their name. Love is overwhelming and complex, but expressing it can be unimaginably simple and straightforward.

You're So Wonderful - Big Words
You’re So Wonderful – Big Words
You’re so, wonderful, just the way you are.
And loving you, is easy, even though we are far.
And the wind blows, against my window, as i play my guitar.
Each day that goes by, you’re still in my heart.

Released February 3, “You’re So Wonderful” is a bright and tender expression of unbridled romance. Sweet, sunny, love-soaked lyrics (courtesy of co-frontman Kieren Lee) melt over a glistening array of dulcet pianos and groovy horns, capturing the warmth, the wonder, and the magic of falling head over heals for someone special. With references to some of love’s greatest singers (including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Amy Winehouse), Big Words express the power and depth of that intimate connection – even when it’s short-lived.

The Melbourne band describe their new song as romance’s first dance. “It’s a short distance sprint through what love has to offer,” they share. “It’s a message written in sand and washed away for another to come along. A stem cut before flowering is still beautiful.”

The city lights, are bright tonight, not as much, as i would like.
And everything, is brought to life, when you are, by my side.
Heavenly, is your smile, and your voice, is a melody.
You’re the joy, in my heart, baby you set me free.

Diving deeper, Kieren Lee adds, “‘You’re So Wonderful’ is inspired by a time when I fell in love with a Parisian person. At the time, I was in my early 20s. It was a beautiful time in my life. After they moved back to Paris, Will came home with his grandma’s guitar which I had never played. I went into my room and wrote the song in about 10 minutes.”

To be in love is to live part of each day in a dreamy reverie; to ride a high that never grows old. “Suddenly, my wildest dreams are in front of me,” Lee declares. “…Every time I go to sleep, I get a smile on my face.” If, like me, you’re one of those folks who loves being in love, then try “You’re So Wonderful” on for size; you just may find that it’s a perfect fit.

Suddenly, my wildest dreams are in front of me.
And everything fits perfectly like sun and breeze.
Heavenly like the scent of trees, you bring light to my days.
Every time i go to sleep, i get a smile on my face.



“Hurts”

by Mychelle

Mychelle’s achingly evocative new single is the tenderest tempest we may ever experience: A simultaneously dramatic and gentle giant of resonant, hard-hitting R&B, the soul-stirring “Hurts” dwells in the dark, turbulent depths of heartache. “Sometimes love is like a cycle; things can really take a turn,” the London-based singer/songwriter croons, her voice a pillar of pain. “I wonder when you saw us failing… maybe you saw it first, yeah it hurts… it hurts now we know it’s done.”

Hurts - Mychelle
Hurts – Mychelle
Yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts,
yeah it hurts now we know it’s done

Yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts,
yeah it hurts because it’s over now

And what’s worse is that maybe deep down
we could’ve worked it out

But something is telling me to listen my doubts

Released February 9 via Jorja Smith’s indie label FAMM, “Hurts” is a breathtakingly beautiful upheaval of intimate pain, tension, and fracture. Produced alongside Hugo M. Hardy (Poppy Ajudha, tinyumbrellas, David Gray, Sfven), “Hurts” is the second single off Mychelle’s forthcoming third EP, It’s Not You, It’s Me (out this spring). Like the record’s title suggests, this batch of songs finds the British singer, songwriter, and guitarist reckoning with a love gone sour, navigating that emotional torment and the slow, brutal coming-to-terms experience process what that means for her, and how that will affect her life.

Following last year’s critically received “Tightrope,” “Hurts” is a freshly bleeding wound, highlighting that painful moment when you realize your relationship has hit the point of no return. Mychelle’s signature soul pressed down here, extra heavy as she grapples with the end:

I won’t return like you’re a habit,
I had to give you up
There’s still parts of us
That I love
It’s obvious
That we can’t carry on

“This song came together during my first session with Hugo,” Mychelle explains. “I really enjoyed working with him as he was able to draw out the indie sounds that I like. Having played guitar and been a busker for years, I’ve always enjoyed mixing the guitar vibes of folk and indie music with soul and R&B.”

The song’s music video is particularly successful at tugging all of our heartstrings; directed by Thea Gaji (who also directed her “Tightrope” video), the video focuses on the changes in a home over a period of time, employing only two camera angles to capture a relationship’s growth and disintegration, the aftermath of the separation, and the bittersweet last gasp as the breakup is finalized and complete.

“So far on this upcoming project, I have not been the lead in any of my music videos and have instead been a background extra, which is something I actually do in my spare time for TV and film,” Mychelle says. “[For this,] we used actors instead. I think this was the way to go as they have the ability to convey the emotions of the song much better than I probably could. I should consider getting some acting lessons for the future, hehe. I really enjoyed working on this video with Thea, it was such a fun shoot. I shared many fun moments with friends in front of the camera, and I also enjoyed watching lead actors Abi Corbett and Kieran Taylor-Ford do an amazing job showing the journey of the relationship.”

I’ll be repeating myself here, but “Hurts” hurts. Mychelle holds nothing back in depicting the dull, throbbing, seemingly never-ending ache of heartache: “Yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts...” The pain sits with us; it doesn’t go away. Mychelle doesn’t offer any quick fixes or easy solutions, but “Hurts” is a salve all on its own.

Yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts,
yeah it hurts now we know it’s done

Yeah it hurts, yeah it hurts,
yeah it hurts because it’s over now

And what’s worse is that maybe deep down
we could’ve worked it out

But something is telling me to listen my doubts



“God Is Dead”

by DEVORA

I‘ve had “God Is Dead” on repeat for the past few months, and without fail, every time I hear those cool whistles blow, a shiver shoots down my spine. The title track off DEVORA’s sophomore EP (released January 20 via Tiger Tone / [PIAS]) is a cinematic, dusty, and foreboding upheaval that perfectly encapsulates the outlaw goth-pop sound she’s embraced over these past three foundational years. Her music evokes the heat, the vastness, the danger, and the possibility of the desert – and in “God Is Dead,” we come face-to-face with the Darkness.

"God Is Dead" single art - DEVORA
“God Is Dead” single art – DEVORA
I’m waiting till the world stops
bathroom in a truckstop
vision all messed up
and I’m spitting up blood
Shedding all my snake skin
like it’s my religion
straight out of San Quentin
but I’m still on the run
Now I’ve been all around
been a ghost in every place
I’ve crossed all the state lines looking
for a god to give me grace
Turns out there’s nothing down that road
when you’re running from yourself
you take that shit with you
and drag it down to hell…

DEVORA is carving out an undeniably special niche in the pop music canon, marrying irresistibly catchy melodies with a neo-Western hue that naturally reflects her Arizona roots. She laid the blueprints for this identity with her 2021 debut EP Outlaw, which showcased an assertive sound and an untamed spirit: Atwood Magazine‘s Chloe Robinson wrote, “It is as if she has set your ears ablaze with a burning fire.”

If the fire burned bright on Outlaw, it burns dark on God Is Dead, in which DEVORA blends her own life experience with “cautionary tales about the dark side of the pursuit of the American Dream.” Her songs “Wild West,” “Porn Star,” and “Bonesaw” all highlight this through fantastical tales that could very well be real – but it’s on opener “God Is Dead” that DEVORA sets the scene and lays the groundwork for this twelve-minute immersion into the deep end of the pool. She reaches a searing climax in the song’s gut-punch chorus, a heavy eruption full of thick, steamy synths, cold percussion, and a churning, charmingly evocative vocal line:

Walking through the valley
I got no regrets… on a sign I read
“This is the end… and God is dead”
We’re the last ones left
Couldn’t lay me down to rest
This is the end… and god is dead
We’re the last ones left
Couldn’t lay me down to rest
This is the end… and god is dead

We’re supposed to feel a little scared and wary; after all, DEVORA is sounding the alarms – but there’s no need to run.

“‘God Is Dead’ is a Neo-Western expedition straight into the deepest bowls of existential questioning, encapsulated in a Tarantino-esque presentation,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “There’s a lot of metaphors in here and it all starts with walking through a desert ghost town and seeing a “sign.” Whether it’s questioning religion, questioning life or questioning yourself, I think everyone had a moment over the last 2years where we’ve put our heads in our hands and said, “Holy shit, I think the world is ending, and if I didn’t believe in a higher power of any sort before, I certainly don’t now.” I think a lot of people have also asked the simple yet powerful question of “WHY?,” and “God Is Dead” is my expansion on the ingenuous question that is… “WHY?” No matter what you believe in, or if you believe in anything, I think everyone’s had a moment in their life where they’ve felt abandoned by God or a higher power, or spirituality in general or whatever; I think we’ve all asked those hard questions internally and I wanted to convey that in the song — “how could you let this happen?…we’re the last ones left… this feels like the apocalypse…

“I really struggled with my demons throughout the last couple years of the pandemic, and I believe everyone did to some extent. I know first-hand that when you’re faced with temporary confinement, that you can’t run anywhere…especially from the scariest thing of all: yourself. I wanted to highlight a sense of camaraderie in this song; for all of us who have made it out alive from wounding situations — to rise up and celebrate originality and nonconformity, and to pridefully commemorate that we’re all “God’s rejects.” Normalizing “not fitting in” to common social norms is an important message that I want to convey.”

“This song is also about facing demons and catastrophe head on, but also completely embracing it like, “Hey, the worlds on fire, no one can stop me, LETS GOOOO!!!” There’s power and truth in being non-complacent and standing up for what you believe in during these times, while staying true to yourself and not conforming to unauthentic societal standards.”

I’ve been living so fast, driving through the badlands
laying down on train tracks, tryna feel a rush
Marching towards the gallows, tied up to a bedpost
blood on my stilettos, staring up at the sun
I’ll go where no one knows my name
or the things I’ve done or seen
I’m drowning out my legacy in a tank of gasoline
All the lies have added up
and all the dreams have turned to dust
and the only promise left is there is no one left to trust…

“God Is Dead” feels like the soundtrack to existential crisis, but it can just as readily be a soundtrack to self-discovery: Of catching yourself amidst the free-fall. DEVORA spills her soul in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night, “where all the angels sold their halos.” Get lost – and found again – in the cinematic reverie of “God Is Dead.”

Walking through the valley
I got no regrets…
On a sign i read
“This is the end…
And God is dead



— — — —

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Editor’s Picks

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

 follow EDITOR’S PICKS on Spotify



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