Editor’s Picks 92: Gordi, Under the Rug, Tash Sultana, Karson., Stolen Jars, & girlhouse!

Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 92
Atwood Magazine's Editor's Picks 92
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 Gordi, Under the Rug, Tash Sultana, Karson., Stolen Jars, & girlhouse!

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

 follow EDITOR’S PICKS on Spotify

“Broke Scene”

by Gordi

Gordi’s music has an incredible power over my mental and emotional state. In a minute’s time, she can force me to confront my fears, lead me to question my purpose and place in life, and have me smiling through tears. Her art is the musical manifestation of catharsis, whether she intends it to be or not, and no song of late has felt more cleansing and freeing to me than “Broke Scene,” her first of the year (released March 2 via Liberation Records). An achingly intimate and beautifully raw reckoning with oneself, “Broke Scene” is a moody, brooding fever dream: The kind that makes us want to dance wild and free like no one’s watching, and sing at the top of our lungs like no one’s listening. Unburden yourself from pressure and expectation and embrace the real you within.

Broke Scene - Gordi
Broke Scene – Gordi
Sober slowly as an hourglass
Boxes in the bathroom
How long will the script last?
You look at an outline of yourself
You were so good
And now you’re just somebody else
Why do you keep burning your house down?
Can you see you’re burning your house down?

The result of a post-yum cha feast, “Broke Scene” is a brutally honest, vividly visceral hard look in the mirror. At the same time, it’s something of an ethereal dream come to life in song.

“The Lazy Susan spun around the yum cha table as I drained the last of my Tsingtao,” Gordi recalls. “I had an afternoon of writing ahead of me, which was giving me ‘the Sunday feeling.’ I was in such a post lunch haze when I got back to the piano, that I thought I’d just lie down and close my eyes for a second. I woke up an hour later in a cold yum cha sweat. Almost robotically I picked up a guitar and started playing this riff, as if I’d been dreaming about it. I looped a drum part over the top that my friend Chris Messina had sent me. By the time the sun set, I had written ‘Broke Scene’.”

“I called it ‘Broke Scene’ because I was listening to Broken Social Scene that morning,” she continues. “I always thought I’d change the title but as the song unfolded it kind of painted this deteriorating story – a broken scene. I quickly recorded the guitar riff and some piano, added the drum machine and put the whole thing on loop while the words and melody arrived. I took the song to Ethan Gruska in LA, and we tracked some more guitars, synths, piano, banjo and bass. The bass is what makes the song for me. The way it keeps surprising you, changing tones, coming to the forefront and slinking into the background. The final mix is a beautiful one, by Jon Low.”

Do you find it hard to look at me?
Build a one-way door frame
Isn’t it lonely?
All the grit to which you cannot cling
What if everything feels suddenly like nothing?
Why do you keep burning your house down?
Can you see you’re burning your house down?

Already a three-time Atwood Editor’s Pick, Gordi – aka Sophie Payten – is responsible for some of the most breathtaking and spine-chilling folktronica released over the past decade. From 2017’s “Heaven I Know” and its parent album Reservoir to 2020’s sophomore LP Our Two Skins and 2021’s single “Dino’s” – a stunning, must-listen collaboration with Alex Lahey (and one of our favorite songs of that year) – all the way up to her most recent, gut-wrenchingly vulnerable EP Inhuman and beyond, Gordi is a wellspring of soul-stirring songwriting that moves the heart and mind alike. “Broke Scene” is the latest, greatest addition to an already incomparable repertoire: A soul-stirring deep dive into oneself, replete with ethereal vocals, glistening guitars, heavy, pulsing bass, and ethereal synths that will enchant the ears and consume you whole.

Blackened skies drowning the noise out
Gasoline dripping from your mouth
One-way ticket out of this town
Keep on running don’t you stop now

“Turkey Vulture”

by Under the Rug

There’s something beautifully freeing about the phrase, “Nobody can tell me how to feel. Nothing is ideal, but I feel fine.” When sung by Under the Rug’s Casey Dayan, these words – the chorus to his band’s song, “Turkey Vulture” – feel utterly empowering. The opening song off Under the Rug’s recently-released third album Homesick for Another World (February 17) is one of reflection, reckoning, confrontation, and acceptance. It’s a recognition that there will always be something looming overhead – a creeping darkness, a sinister shadow of doubt or demise – and that’s okay; we can keep on living our lives, and things just might work out fine.

Homesick for Another World - Under the Rug
Homesick for Another World – Under the Rug
laying under a walnut tree
turkey vulture up on the power line
I am happy with myself
there’s small red snake in the grass
hell, maybe this is what it is
all I need is something that I
had right from the start
there’s a murmur in my heart
nobody can tell me how to feel
I’ll feel how I’ll feel
nobody can tell me how to feel
nothing is ideal but I am fine

Groovy and glistening, “Turkey Vulture” is powerful food for thought – not to mention one more in a long list of reasons to hop on the Under the Rug bandwagon. Truth be told, it’s hard for me to believe it’s already been a year since the Austin, Texas-based trio’s sophomore album Dear Adeline came out; in a feature written at the time, I praised Under the Rug for releasing “a truly beautiful, heart-wrenchingly human breakup record,” calling Dear Adeline “an intimately vulnerable and stunningly cinematic affair” and “a collection of raw, honest songs that power through life’s darkness to once again see the light.” It was right then that I became a massive fan of Casey Dayan, guitarist Sean Campbell, and drummer Brendan McQueeney’s work – and here they are, just a year later, with twelve new songs that continue to expand their band’s universe, while honing in on what it is that makes Under the Rug’s music so special.

“So much of my songwriting has been exploring this idea of things feeling wrong and dealing with it,” lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Casey Dayan says of the new album. “I was in this mindset that we have these people who are listening to us now, and it’s insane how many people are listening. Are we going to just paint everything as grim? Is there an upside to this feeling? Is there something comforting? If I were writing this song to my son or daughter, would I tell them it’s all miserable? Sure, maybe there is respite in that your loneliness and suffering does end somewhere. You’re always looking for a cure to your suffering. But also, maybe the cure, the end, is the scariest part. In a way, that flip-flop was comforting to me. Or surprising. And I really think that… if you surprise yourself with your songwriting and you learn something in the process, there’s this weird sense of life that makes it into the work.”

Homesick for Another World is all about finding an upside in the downturn; sparking a light in the darkness. Its songs stray from the straight and narrow path of life is good and life is bad, opting instead for a complex look both at the minutiae, as well as the big picture. “Turkey Vulture” sets the scene in that regard; it’s an uplifting haze that takes the good with the bad, the bad with the good, and makes it work. Isn’t that what we all do on a daily basis?

I took a bite of some oatmeal
there’s a little black fruit fly
swimming circles in the goo
I help it with my spoon
something’s outside my window
a cold wind blows
something in my body’s breakin’
wake up pale and shaking

Diving deeper into this song, Dayan shared an anecdote about his and the band’s lives prior to their move to Texas.

“Before we moved to Austin, we owned this little brick-and-mortar recording studio across the street from the Marathon refinery in Carson, CA,” he recalls. “Of course, to afford the 2600 square feet of mathematically-dead live rooms, we had to live, like stowaways, in the commercial unit closets. When pandemic times happened, the nearby hospital had a line, like Disneyland, snaking down the adjacent block. A lot of the refinery maintenance got laid off, and one day we were arranging a client’s song in the control room when everyone started dozing off. Over the next few days, we realized there was something very wrong. The air quality monitor we overnighted lit up with just about every light it had — the highest levels of carbon monoxide, benzene, NO2.”

“My mom had just passed away, the band was barely inching along, new legislation lost us all of our recording customers but one, rent was getting harder and harder to come by, and now we were trapped in an inescapable smogfest. Things felt grim. Then, one night, the refinery exploded. Folks two hours away, in San Diego, heard the explosion. A month later, we would wake up in this little mobile home in Austin, TX, where I’m writing this now. We had no idea how much our lives would change, thanks to a new slew of incredible fans finding our little project. I remember sitting on the porch with Brendan and Sean, worrying about all of the things we still had to do, to accomplish. What if we did Under The Rug full time? What would happen if we had to make it work?

“Often, a roadkill deer would attract a committee of vultures. It always got me thinking about my mom, about how brutal the world can be and how short life is, but they were also cool in a way — powerful and prehistoric — like evil counts. Anyway, ‘Turkey Vulture’ is about making nice with The Grim. It feels empowering to me, allowing myself to see something good, even in the un-ideal.”

Nobody can tell me how to feel. Nothing is ideal, but I am fine. Under the Rug’s words ring like a mantra, bold and beautiful. Life is going to get you down, but we can’t let a little hindrance stop us from moving forward, now, can we? Intimate, inspiring, and achingly raw, “Turkey Vulture” is the smile-inducing bit of fresh air – and hard true – we need to put the wind back in our sails and get ourselves up and running at full speed.

“James Dean”

by Tash Sultana

Seductive tones and smoldering grooves lure us deep into the womb of “James Dean,” but ultimately it’s Tash Sultana’s visceral emotional release that lends this song its irresistible euphoria. Released March 13 via their own label Lonely Lands Records, the Australian multi-hyphenate’s first single of the year (taken off an upcoming EP) is as immersive as it is enchanting: A sublime manifestation of cathartic release and inner reckoning brought to life through stunning waves of warm R&B-infused soft rock.

It’s the kind of song I like to call a gentle giant: One with such a hearty musical and emotional weight that it all but demands our undivided attention.

James Dean - Tash Sultana
James Dean – Tash Sultana
You burnt out all the cigarettes
Watching James Dean films on a monochrome screen
But I guess it doesn’t look right
When everyone around you sucks
The life out of your lifeline
The truth comes out in due time
But the vibe you felt it first but I ignored it
Oh, I know, ooh

For Sultana – someone who has long made all of their music on their own – this song is about opening up, recognizing who your true friends are, cutting ties with those who don’t add value to your life, and welcoming in those who do.

“I feel like the entire point of my career has always been DIY,” they explain. “I’ve always produced everything, written everything, played every single instrument you hear, engineered it, co-engineered and sometimes even mixed and mastered. I have always done all of that but I feel like people still just don’t get it and to me it’s the most important message to send out. I remember once someone in an interview literally asked me “who is your guitarist”, I had to laugh. So I do it all. I have had great mentoring with my studio engineer, Richard Stolz. That’s very important to highlight. He’s taught me a lot over the last few years. I actually wrote ‘James Dean’ in December 2021, when I took another trip falling off the face of the earth. I feel like that’s where most of my songs come from – the pits of hell.”

Sultana aches, soothes, and soars in their song’s cinematic, soul-stirring chorus. It’s a moment of reverie, reckoning, and self-empowerment – one that tracks life’s lows back up to the high:

I caught the high that you don’t
seem to care about the things I say, ooh-ooh

And I severed ties with things that
serve me no purpose anyway, ooh

And I kiss the sky ‘causе there’s no looking back
from wherе we came, ooh

And I felt alive and I would do it again anyway, ooh

Buoyant, soulful, and full of resounding radiant light, “James Dean” is cleansing. In so intimately tracking their own personal transformation, Sultana has created an anthem we can all turn to for sustenance and strength. There is nothing simple, easy, or straightforward about cutting someone out of your life and making big, lasting personal changes – and it takes a village’s worth of mental effort and resilience to see it through – but we come out stronger in the end. Heavy though it may be, this song is freeing, and we’re all invited to bask in Tash Sultana’s newfound nirvana.

You change shapes just to fit right in
And you’re talking shit, where do I begin?
And I guess it doesn’t look right
When everyone around you just
Disappears into the nighttime (Nighttime, nighttime)
You’ll get yours in due time (You’ll get yours in due time)
‘Cause that night you were a jerk and I ignored it
Oh, I know, ooh
I caught the high that you don’t
seem to care about the things I say, ooh-ooh

And I severed ties with things that
serve me no purpose anyway, ooh

And I kiss the sky ’cause there’s no looking back
from where we came, ooh

And I felt alive and I would do it again anyway, ooh

“90s DVDs”

by Karson.

There’s nothing wrong with donning your rose-colored glasses and sinking into something familiar for a little while – be it a cherished TV show (The Office, anyone?), a favorite book, or in Karson.’s case, a stack of DVDs that might otherwise be gathering dust in the family attic. There’s safety in certain spaces, and everybody deserves to have their cozy nook – be it physical or mental. But what if those same things that might offer sanctuary are also triggers for all the memories we’d rather suppress and hold back? When the past brings up more pain than it does joy, there’s nothing rosy or romantic about nostalgia; like a scar, the past is always there, an ugly mark that we’d rather not look at, but one we also can’t get rid of. Visceral, searing, and raw, Karson.’s “90s DVDs” is a smoldering, angsty pop/rock reckoning with a past we’d rather not relive. It’s an intimate exploration of the emotions we imbue in ordinary objects – and how something so seemingly innocent can open up a whole can of worms.

90s DVDs - Karson.
90s DVDs – Karson.
I got a bunch of 90s DVDs
And I’ve been thinking bout ‘em recently
I haven’t watched any in quite some time
Kind of confused why they’ve been on my mind
I think about my parents fighting too
Maybe that’s why I’m scared of loving you
I saw my mom punch my dad in the nuts
Maybe that’s why I never give a fuck

Released February 24, “90s DVDs” is Karson.’s first single of the year, and a breathtaking marriage of modern indie rock and noughties pop punk. The 20-year-old producer, songwriter, and engineer has been actively enchanting our ears for over three years now, but never have they sounded quite as angsty as they do today.

“I find it hard to reminisce a lot of the time,” Karson. tells Atwood Magazine. “When I am at home, everything feels cold and withered. Things I used to love as a child, like old movies and such, just felt tainted. I wish I could find comfort in those things maybe the way other people do. It never fails to remind me of the childhood I lacked. Something as simple as the movie Clueless could bring me back to a time where all I remember is my home life deteriorating as my parents threw insults at each other. It makes me sick, but also makes me laugh. This record is slightly sarcastic, because It’s easier for me to make light of situations like this. There is always time to make new memories, and I have complete control of my future/adulthood. What happened to me in the past, could help me grow in the future. Maybe it’s not all bad.”

When I get sad I keep it to myself
And I’ve been doing that since 2012
I hyper-fixate myself to sleep
And try to hide all my anxiety
Been feeling clueless, couple strange days
I think I need to find some other ways
Maybe I should focus on shutting up
That’s what my dad told me when i was young

Citing inspiration from bands like Sum 41 and Dashboard Confessional, Karson. employs a strong backbeat and emotionally distanced vocals to create a song that aches from the inside out. Add to that their searing, effected guitars and gutting lyrics, and “90s DVDs” can’t help but hit us hard. For Karson., this song illustrates an “view of their adolescence as they discover youthful innocence on their path to healing.” We experience this conflict firsthand through their performance, and ultimately (as it so often does), an angsty upheaval leads to a cathartic release.

I got a bunch of 90s DVDs
And I’ve been thinking bout ‘em recently
I think about my parents fighting too
Maybe that’s why I’m scared of loving you
I got a bunch of 90s DVDs
And I’ve been thinking bout ‘em recently
I think about my parents fighting too
Maybe that’s why I’m scared of loving you

“Somewhere Else”

by Stolen Jars

Whatever constraints are holding you back, Stolen Jars’ “Somewhere Else” will help you break free and let your spirit soar. Released February 17, the Brooklyn duo’s second single of the year (following January’s enchanting “Adeline”) is a passionate fever dream complete with an infectious dance beat, soaring vocals, and a radiant, cathartic chorus that lifts us into a dreamy euphoria. It’s a powerful, intoxicating experience – and one that sees Stolen Jars continue to steal the spotlight after what feels like a lengthy four-year absence.

Somewhere Else - Stolen Jars
Somewhere Else – Stolen Jars
It’s Saturday night and I’m “singing for the lonely”
With you and “Thunder Road” on zoom karaoke
So we, we sing along, we sing along with ourselves
Cause now the zoom delay keeps you away from my house
Oh it isn’t safe in my head
I can’t figure out
How to live in silence instead
When the world doesn’t make a sound
I don’t want to be in this house
Trust falling to catch myself
My blood is slowing me down
Running circles to somewhere else

“When we were all isolated in our rooms at the start of the pandemic, we wanted to write a dance song we could shout along to,” Stolen Jars tell Atwood Magazine. “This is what came of that, and it still feels good to scream it now. It’s a song about feeling stuck in one place, both physically and mentally, and trying to find your way out by dancing and screaming at the top of your lungs – even if you are alone and your friends are far away in their own apartments, only connected to you by the glow of a computer screen.”

The pain of isolation pales in comparison to the tantalizing warmth and wonder of liberation: “It isn’t safe in my head; I can’t figure out how to live in silence instead when the world doesn’t make a sound.” Stolen Jars’ Cody Fitzgerald and Sarah Coffey escape into a world of their own design, inviting all of us to join them in their revelrous reverie.

Three years have now passed since the world effectively shut down in March 2020. While most folks have tried to move on and put the pandemic behind them – even if COVID-19 is still killing thousands daily – we can all too clearly remember the jarring sensation of complete and utter disconnect during those first few months of lockdown. “Somewhere Else” is, in practice, a reminder of how special it is to be together with the ones we love. It’s the anti-isolation anthem we need to fill the void inside and out, and a reminder to always cherish our time spent together.

Phones down and dance with me,
oh won’t you dance with me

We’ll make a comeback –
Cause I just want to feel,
oh I want to feel everything

Oh no, but I,
I keep lying, I keep lying – “everything’s alright”
When I know
It’s not fine – our whole lives stuck in the blue light
I don’t want to be in this house
Trust falling to catch myself
My blood is slowing me down
Running circles to somewhere else

“worth it”

by girlhouse

For as much as we talk about it (and write about it), positive self-worth is incredibly difficult to put into practice. It’s all too easy to bend and twist yourself into the person others want you to be; yes, love is a give and take, but not when we lose ourselves in the process. “I’ll paint you pictures if you make the bed. I’ll play it stupid, if that’s what makes sense,” girlhouse sings in her new single, reckoning with the aftermath of one such toxic relationship. Released March 3 via Secret Road Records, the intimate and achingly raw “worth it” is a heavy-hitting, sonically and emotionally charged reclamation of self-worth. All that visceral inner tension explodes into a searing, stunning, and beautifully empowering alternative upheaval as an artist takes the reigns of her life, reassuming control over an identity she had lost for far too long.

worth it - girlhouse
worth it – girlhouse
i’ll paint you pictures
if you make the bed
i’ll play it stupid
if that’s what makes sense
you walk the line
so i play pretend
everybody knows
how this story ends
let me show you i’m worth it
i don’t listen to
and i don’t feel the same when
do you? feel that too?

“I always knew that I could be worthy of love, but I had a toxic idea of what loving meant,” girlhouse’s Lauren Luiz tells Atwood Magazine. “I’d ‘fallen in love’ with someone who kept telling me I wasn’t enough and yet kept me around. They had so much control over me that even after they weren’t in my life, I still shaped my entire life around proving to them that I could be loved. This was my life up until an interaction after a show in New York that left me completely disenchanted. I don’t even recognize who I was when I was “in love” with them. This song is about that moment and gives words to a situation that I still don’t fully don’t understand yet.”

Her first single of the year, “worth it” follows girlhouse’s third EP, which she released in mid-2022 to critical acclaim. “Equal parts dynamic and delicate, the third EP is an unfiltered and unapologetic eruption from a tender soul,” Atwood Magazine wrote in our artist feature, going on to praise the record as “her most substantive, turbulent, and breathtaking collection to date,” and to name girlhouse as one of this decade’s most exciting and promising indie rock/pop newcomers. One of our 2022 artists to watch and already a two-time Editor’s Pick, girlhouse’s ability to balance inner volatility with cool, calm control has proven a winning combination time and again. “worth it” is the latest in a long string of successes in quick order; even now, it’s hard to believe Luiz debuted her solo project less than three years ago (before that, the singer and songwriter was best known for her work in folk pop band WILD, who released their long-awaited debut album Goin’ Back in 2021 via Nettwerk).

Breathtakingly volatile and turbulent, “worth it” captures the tempest within – manifesting the pain of having been in such a traumatic place, and the catharsis of having left that world behind. “Let me show you I’m worth it,” girlhouse sings, reminding us that we don’t have to change who we are for anyone. If someone’s going to love us, they’d better love us for who we are – not who they want us to be.

walking around
don’t live here anymore
cd skip and scratch
from hanging on my floor
i think it’s funny
you’re so hard to find
everything about you i made up in my mind
let me show you i’m worth it
i don’t listen to
and i don’t feel the same when
do you? feel that too?
oh, do you feel that too?

— — — —

Atwood Magazine logo

Connect to us on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine

Editor’s Picks

Atwood Magazine Editor's Picks 2020 Mic Mitch

 follow EDITOR’S PICKS on Spotify

More from Mitch Mosk
Review: Longing for Connection with Eliza Shaddad’s Stormy ‘Sept ~ Dec’ EP
British singer/songwriter Eliza Shaddad dives into her dark and heavy 'Sept ~...
Read More