Every Friday, Atwood Magazine’s staff share what they’ve been listening to that week – a song, an album, an artist – whatever’s been having an impact on them, in the moment. Here’s this week’s weekly roundup!
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:: “I Guess I Just Feel Like” – John Mayer ::
Ditta Demeter, Cambridge, UK
Fridays always seem endless, especially for the 9-to-5’ers among us, but there are a few things that can help make the hours go by faster, good music being my current number 1 solution. This week’s sonic pick-me-up was pop-rock-blues mastermind John Mayer’s new track, which dropped just in time to for my stereotypically stressful Friday morning commute. Mayer announced the new release on his Instagram account), saying that the song came after a kind of a musical writer’s block and is the result of a fresh, back-to-the-basics attitude to composition. Simple but sublime, “I Guess I Just Feel Like” is evidence we didn’t really need of just how much of an amazing musician Mayer is. The style – uncluttered and classic in the best possible way – brings almost enough joy and affection to conceal the bitterness of the first two verses, and later comes to reflect the quiet optimism expressed in the final lines:
But I know that I’m open
And I know that I’m free
And I’ll always let hope in
Wherever I’ll be
And if I go blind I’ll still find my way
Mayer’s talent as a songwriter has more impressive and envy-inducing aspects than I could possibly count, but here, it is his admirable, down-to-earth sincerity that shines through the best. There isn’t an inch of pretence in his music: whenever I listen, the overriding warmth and honesty of the songs draw me in and I somehow feel like I’m having a conversation with an old friend – which is, arguably, the best way to spend a Friday night.
:: Tayla Made – Tayla Parx ::
Mariel Fechik, Chicago
Since so much attention has been given to Ariana Grande in recent months, I decided to turn my attention this week to one of Grande’s best friends and co-writers, Tayla Parx. Parx boasts an shockingly impressive list of songwriting credits, working with folks ranging from Mariah Carey to Janelle Monae to Panic! at the Disco, and is currently touring with Anderson .Paak – and she’s only 25. She has not even yet released her debut album (which drops in April), but she did come out with a mixtape last year that I’ve been unable to stop listening to since last night.
Tayla Made is a tight, ten song tape which shows not only her impressive songwriting range, but her great voice and briefly displayed rap flow. You might not recognize her now, but if you were a musical fan in the mid-2000s, you’ll know her as Hairspray’s Lil Inez. Here, she’s certainly grown up. The opening two songs, “Cheap Liquor” and “South Beach,” flow together in such a pleasing way. The production is alien-like and wonky, with incredibly satisfying beats. “Mood” is truly a mood, with its heavy bass and club beat. The Internet’s Syd makes an appearance, lending her silky voice to “Act Right.” The entire mixtape is jaw-droppingly catchy, and I absolutely can’t wait for Parx’s album to drop.
:: Inner Dynamics – Theodore ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
Part of me is super bummed to only just be discovering Theodore now, while the other part is just glad to have found someone so intensely unique and evocative. Hailing from Greece, the multi-instrumentalist, composer, and performer makes dark, intimately brooding music full of ambience and movement. His third album Inner Dynamics released in November 2018, and is an immediately inundating experience for all who listen. Apart from a few raw and intentional vocal strains, the album is a total knock-out for me and my “indie/electronic”-loving ears. As a maker of worlds, Theodore is quite akin to Pink Floyd and Radiohead: He bathes listeners in spectral soundscapes that manipulate our emotions with ethereal ease. He leans into spacey depths, dwelling there for long spans of time as they slowly ebb and flow through the air.
Record opener “Towards?” is a knockout that’s sure to give many pause. Here especially, Theodore strips instruments of their individuality — creating a haunting amalgam of sounds to fill an ominous aural void. The performative aspect of this track alone is utterly enthralling, and it serves its purpose as an introduction. Get to know Theordore now, before he blows up at SXSW this year.
:: “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” – Alex Lahey ::
Nicole Almeida, Philadelphia
My Australian pop-rock queen, Alex Lahey, has returned! This week she released her new single “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” and announced her sophomore album The Best of Luck Club, which is due in May of this year. Her debut record was an infectious, catchy, and energetic collection of songs that chronicled, mainly, the end of a relationship and Lahey’s relationship with her family. On “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” she’s writing to her partner, asking them to take care of themselves even though “it might not be [her] place”. The song displays the best of Lahey’s music: the chorus is an earworm, the lyrics affectionate, transparent, and full of wonderful imagery. We see her sound reach new heights with added layers and Lahey displaying her saxophone-playing abilities. It’s an earnest and honest declaration of love without turning sappy and boring, and it also allows you to rock out around your living room or whatever is your dancefloor of choice. I’m so excited for her second record, and “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” has completely captivated me, and I’m sure it’ll grab you too.
:: Rhinoceros – Calva Louise ::
Lindsay Call, California
I’m still in mourning over the dissolution of both INHEAVEN and Estrons. As the latter was announced a few days ago, I’ve had the words why have all the good bands gone? stuck in the back of my head for a few days. Blessedly, Calva Louise was able to drag me out of my sulkiness for a bit. The pop-friendly punk trio have put together something special in their debut record Rhinoceros (out 1 February via Modern Sky Records), which is full of just the right amount of angst. It bounces from one banger to the next, with standouts like the playfully-screaming “Getting Closer” and the (for lack of a better term) utter bop “No Hay,” which is partially sung in Spanish (and as vocalist/guitarist Jess Allanic actually hails from Venezuela, there’s no sense of tossing-in-another-language-for-effect as some artists are wont to do, which gives the song extra appeal). So if you’re looking for a feel-good blend of classic punk, surf punk, and pop-friendly rock (and who isn’t?), drop some Calva Louise in your queue.
:: “High As a Kite” – Weezer ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
There’s no two ways about it: Weezer’s upcoming thirteenth solo album is going to be a hit record! Today, Rivers Cuomo and co. released two new songs from their forthcoming Black Album: “High As a Kite” and “Living in L.A.” A song of escape and finding one’s happy place, “High as a Kite” is a sheer delight: It’s catchy, mournful, and somehow simultaneously heavy and light. Rivers’ emotive voice glides through a torrent of guitars and keyboard beds as he stands his ground in the clouds. Escapism never felt so fresh:
I think I’m going parasailing
Miles above it’s so serene
I’m letting go of all the troubles
That I’ve seen, that I’ve seen
Way up here no one can touch me
I’m drifting like a lost balloon
I’m out of reach, won’t be coming down
Any time soon, any time soon
Underneath “High As a Kite,” there’s a troubled individual crying out for help. A torchered soul, perhaps; maybe someone just in need of a friend. The narrator here recuses himself from the world, opting to separate from the pack as a means of safety and control. It’s a defense mechanism, and one that’s increasingly difficult to undertake in our hyper-connected modern world – but more importantly, it’s a sign of deeper issues.
So many of us would rather be “High As a Kite” than here, right now, at work – but how many of us follow through? To pine for this seclusion – to long for it – means life isn’t doing it for you. You’d rather be gone, than here. While Weezer’s intent with this song is completely up for interpretation, I believe they’ve accurately captured some of humanity’s darkest emotional restlessness in this enormously catchy pop song.
I feel no pain I feel no pleasure
I only want to disappear
So let me play this game for children
And vanish in to the atmosphere
I’m high as a kite
Don’t you think they’d know what I’m worth?
Flying like a beautiful bird
I’m high as a kite
Don’t you think they’d know what I’m worth?
Why I gotta’ come down to earth?
:: “Is There Something That I Missed?” – SPINN ::
Luke Pettican, London
The release of Spinn’s second track “Notice Me” in 2017 really made people pay attention to their unique breezy-pop infused releases. The Liverpool-bred band cemented their status as ones to watch with the release of their self-titled debut EP in 2018, which included ample amounts of shimmering guitar riffs coupled with lead singer Johnny’s absorbing vocal work. Subsequent tracks like “Shallow” and “It’s Not Getting Better” saw the band further hone their sound, intertwining effortlessly production with intociatingly intelligent lyricism.
“Is There Something That I Missed” serves as the first new song to be lifted from the band’s upcoming debut album, which is due for release on the 23rd of May. The track sees Spinn offer up their most observant lyricism, reflecting on an unfulfilled yearning for something more. While contemplating human’s sometimes unhealthy desire to endlessly long for better. As well as more sophisticated, introspective lyricism, the band’s production sounds crisper and remarkably self-assured. In some ways it’s strange that the band launching an album campaign with a song defined by insatisfaction, considering the band are already headlining sizeable venues across the UK and have even made a trip to Tokyo. Thankfully though, for Spinn this bold move more than pays off.
:: “Pretend” – CNCO ::
Alex Killian, San Francisco, California
CNCO are everything we love about One Direction, only in Spanish. Their latest track and first single of 2019, “Pretend,” shows their determination and promise to cross over into the English market. I’ve been a CNCO fan since I heard their (very catchy and sweet) track “Para Enamorarte.” Sung entirely in Spanish and a love song through and through, it stands in a bit of contrast to their latest single. “Pretend” is a seductive banger featuring suave Spanglish verses detailing secret late night hookups.
I only love you in the middle of the night
That’s when you’re on my mind
Every time I get the feeling I can’t fight
And I know it just ain’t right
The vocals are set over a smooth instrumental orbiting around a sample of the 80’s classic “Rhythm of the Night.” The song exemplifies many things I love about Latin music and boy bands combined. Romantic, catchy crooning over a danceable, sultry beat is an ideal combination for my personal playlists and sure to catch ears on both the radio and dance floor.
:: “Falling in Love” – Emily Blue ::
Jimmy Crowley, New York
I was really pleasantly surprised listening to this single from Emily Blue’s *69 EP. Blue’s detached delivery over bubblegum pop that’s reminiscent of the early 2000’s has a warm coolness to it. She is obviously paying tribute to music from when she was younger, while also leaning into a sense of alt-pop weirdness. Just look at the Clockwork Orange meets Deee-Lite video or some of the live sessions she’s done recently, and you’ll see that she makes fun pop music for those of us that have still yet to outgrow our goth phases, read up on conspiracy theories, or just need to wear a white one-piece with long, bright orange orange gloves.
:: “Boy Scout” – Patio ::
Abby Jones, Brooklyn
The first taste of Patio’s debut LP is an undeniably short and sweet one. “Boy Scout,” the latest cut from the Brooklyn post-punk trio, is a swift 95 seconds of self-deprecation and glum introspection juxtaposed with an lively, thumping guitar riff.
Never had the chance to choose
Naturally, I always lose
I went shopping the other day
This week, I can afford to feel better
The introverted lyrics cut even deeper with a monotonous, point-blank delivery, giving the zippy track an additional sense of simultaneous loneliness and urgency. With “Boy Scout,” Patio prove that minimalism and brevity don’t imply inability to pack a complex punch.
:: Tiny Desk Concert – Cat Power ::
Ben Niesen, France
It’s been a long time since my last roundup — three weeks to be exact — and I had feared something terrible: That the music I wanted to write about wouldn’t punch the same way it did in the interval of three weeks. Poor me, forgetting how Cat’s power is subtle and inward and her voice like smoke handcuffs, ethereal and arresting, just won’t let me leave. Cat Power’s NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert has been my favourite thus far of the New Year. A nine-minute exposition on how to write compositions and make friends on her 20-year evolution from young-prodigy to venerable stateswoman. At nine minutes, it is a shorter Tiny Desk concert than most, but in only nine minutes she’ll take your jaw from the rooftop six floors down. Now, or three weeks from now.
:: “Hold On To Happiness” – Rhys Lewis ::
Luke Pettican, London
Rhys Lewis’ last two tracks, both of which we’ve covered at Atwood, have served as stunning showcases for his awe-inspiring talent. He has an incomparable knack for intertwining intimate lyricism ,with observations about the ever-changing and perplexing that we live in, and delicately crafted production that only serves to exemplify his track’s stirring sentiment. While his preceding single “Better Than Today” soothes as it reassures you that hopeful strength can be found in seemingless desperate situations, “Hold On To Happiness” takes on a deeply personal angle.
The track reflects on the fact that social media, amongst other things, makes us desperately focus on yearning for things we don’t have, while forgetting the beauty in what he currently possess. His thoughtful reflections on our current society offer hope in desolation without sententious or preachy. Both the track’s lyricism and gently impactful production are drenched in heartwarming nostalgia, reminding the listener to appreciate the moment without getting too caught up in sometimes harsh reality of situations. While Rhys is an expert at crafting lyricism that’s sentimentally romantic ,without being too fanciful, it’s on tracks such as “Hold On To Happiness” that his astonishing talent really shines through.
:: “Scrawny” & “Are You Bored Yet?” – Wallows ft. Clairo ::
Caitlin Ison, Southern California
With their first album, Nothing Happens, set for release March 22, Wallows have released two singles from the LP “Scrawny” and “Are You Bored Yet?” featuring bedroom pop singer Clairo. The two have been on repeat for me the last few weeks, and have really gotten me excited for the album. Though both different, I think they both capture the fun indie rock/pop music I expect from Wallows. “Are You Bored Yet?” leans more on the dreampop spectrum due to Clairo’s feature, but I think it has the perfect balance to also appeal to their rock fans. It’s also just a great song to cry to if you’re in that confusing part of a relationship and too scared to say anything. “Scrawny” is much more upbeat and lighthearted; it’s a song that’s about picking at yourself for being, basically a wimp, but I know that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously which is what I love about it. If you’re looking for some new, fun music, take a listen to this split single–it might even make you want to listen to their entire discography.
:: TUNNELS – Vita and the Woolf ::
Maggie McHale, Philadelphia
Tunnels, the debut record from Philly-based band Vita and the Woolf, channels exquisite femininity coupled with unmatched rock-n-roll vibrato, cycling through intense emotionality and fist-pumping, anthemic sounds all in the span of a mere half hour. Tunnels offers a blend of diverse genres while still honing it in, seamlessly operating and both universally palatable and uniquely intriguing. Lead singer Jennifer Tague’s powerful vocals inspire comparisons to Florence + The Machine, MARINA, and Lake Street Dive all in one (most notably on “Sun Drop,” “Super Ranger,” and “Qiet,” respectively), allowing the album to be accessible to a multitude of fans. Though quick and easily digestible, the record never shies away from packing itself wall-to-wall with outrageously impressive anthems. Tunnels is a mastery of understanding how to harness human feeling into one cohesive body of work.
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