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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:: “bad guy” – Billie Eilish ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
One listen to “bad guy” was all I needed to get hooked on the inimitable Billie Eilish. The opening number to the seventeen-year-old “global sensation’s” newly-released debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, “bad guy” immediately lures listeners in with a massive, driving bass pulse. Eilish’s vocals are intimate and ethereal in contrast to the heavy beat – a distinctive characteristic I’m quickly coming to appreciate about her overall artistry.
“bad guy” is the epitome of this juxtaposition, a raw assertion of power delivered with soft, haunting vocals that take our breath away not through force, but through sheer beauty. It’s enough to hook even the most skeptical ear. Give Billie Eilish three minutes to prove she’s worth your time: You may or may not like her style, but she will absolutely blow you away.
So you’re a tough guy
Like it really rough guy
Just can’t get enough guy
Chest always so puffed guy
I’m that bad type
Make your mama sad type
Make your girlfriend mad type
Might seduce your dad type
I’m the bad guy, duh
:: “Holding On” – Arctic Lake ::
Luke Pettican, London
From the outset, lead singer Emma Foster’s voice is beguilingly captivating and incredibly affecting. There’s a delicate power to her vocal performance that’s nothing short of utterly stunning. An unmistakable vulnerability defines the track’s harrowing lyricism but a sense of reassuring comfort that originates from mindful perspective is also ever-present. The London-bred trio play Hackney’s Oslo on the 3rd of April, where they’ll undoubtedly perform “Holding On” alongside fan favourites such as “Heal Me” and “Night Cries”.
:: “Please” – Chris Isaak ::
Mariel Fechik, Chicago
I’m in a funk/R&B band. I’ve played jazz for most of my life. Stevie Wonder albums populated my childhood. I love this music fervently, can talk about it endlessly, in all manner of hyperbole. But anyone who knows me well knows that Americana, alt-country, and bluegrass are my heart. There’s something about that music that transports me and hits me right in the gut. Give me a low, menacing guitar and a twang in the voice and I’m on the highway driving West, or somewhere in the Appalachia. Now, I don’t want to risk being confused for a country fan, here. Let me say: I hate stadium country. I hate country-pop. Anything made by a billionaire in a cowboy hat is not my jam. Bo Burnham summed it up nicely in this song. But Neko Case, Chris Stapleton, Punch Brothers, Dolly Parton, etc. are my whole, entire heart.
Chris Isaak is an alt-country artist who never got his due. He put out his first album in 1985, and his song “Wicked Game” has been used in countless films – it’s also something that always reminds me of David Lynch. I love “Wicked Game,” but here I want to talk about the opening track to his ‘98 album, Speak of the Devil. “Please” starts with an acoustic guitar picking out a dark chord progression. Isaak’s voice enters: “I keep listening, very quietly.” Perhaps my favorite thing about Chris Isaak is his voice. It’s velvety, it’s smooth; it’s sultry, it’s strong. It’s a country Elvis greaser with a scar on its eyebrow. It’s wearing a big silver belt buckle and steel toed cowboy boots. And a leather jacket – you get my metaphor. Eventually, “Please” opens up into what my family calls “highway music.” It’s a driving alt-country song, filled with outlaw guitar licks and desperate, longing vocals. I’m not sure what caused me to come back around to Chris Isaak this week. Perhaps it was last week, listening to him on the highway in Texas. It seemed fitting.
:: “Valentine” – Suki Waterhouse ::
Nicole Almeida, Philadelphia
This week, I found a tool that I think will change my music discovery experience. It’s called Discover Quickly, and what it does is give you a quick taste of songs on Spotify so that you can decide if you want to indulge in the full thing. For someone like me, who has a hard time listening to playlists of new songs in fear that I won’t like most of what my algorithm mathematically chose for me, it’s a life changer.
Suki Waterhouse’s “Valentine” was one of the songs I found due to this new tool, and I fell in love with it. I knew Waterhouse’s modelling work as well as her acting skills (she plays the evil bitch Bethany perfectly in Love, Rosie, which happens to be one of my favourite movies), but had yet to listen to one of her original songs. I love how underproduced and simple the song is, it sounds like you’re listening to a close friend confess that she writes songs, and then play you her first original song in her living room. This makes the song instantly matter to you and grab your attention.
“Valentine” is so intimate and cozy, her voice is sweet floating above the acoustic guitar, and, when layered, invites you to sing along with her. It’s a great song to listen to Sunday afternoon at home with a loved one, and is equally as effective if you’re heartbroken and feel like crying on a Friday night. It’s such a genuine expression of affection, which is what makes the song special for me.
:: On the Line – Jenny Lewis ::
Jimmy Crowley, New York
Did I think Jenny Lewis’ new record would be good? Yeah, sure. It’d probably get a couple decently rated reviews, and then we’d all forget about On the Line.
Was I blown away by how good it was? Yes, very much so. Lewis harkens back to both seventies rock, but she also provides a certain level of swagger that’s much more in line with modern pop. Take a look at the blistering “Red Bull & Hennessy,” it has the drive of a fun new wave song, the posture of a pop song, and a guitar solo that absolutely shreds. “Wasted Youth” could and should be played on every radio station alongside Ariana Grande and Khalid on pop stations and Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac on rock stations. Lewis’ upcoming tour is sure to be exciting.
:: “Up All Night” – The Royal Concept ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
In a display of how very difficult it is to keep up with your favorite acts these days, Sweden indie pop band The Royal Concept self-released a new four-track EP last year and I’m just finding out about it today. There is a silver lining, though: While The Wake Up is out in Asia, it has yet to release in North America and Europe. Since parting ways with Republic Records, it would seem the Stockholm-based band have redoubled their efforts to connect meaningfully with fans and audiences around the world, and 2019 seems The Royal Concept turning their focus back to the Americas.
Dancey lead single “Need to Know” released in early February, followed by “Up All Night” today. An expressive pop/rock jam tailor-made for those late, intimate moments spent between two souls, “Up All Night” burns the midnight oil in all the right ways. The Royal Concept are tighter than ever (have they ever been loose, though?) as they craft a marvelous in- and outward expression of passion and knowing:
In your touch
I’m gonna lose it all my love
Like a ghost
You’re gonna keep me up all night
Heaven can wait
This is such a lovely place
All I know is
You’re keeping me up all night
Shut the door
You’re keeping me up all night
We could be dreaming
That’s what they say
We could be flying one day
I have no idea when The Wake Up will release in the United States. I suppose I could check the band’s website or Facebook page for details, but I’ve been too busy listening to “Up All Night” on repeat. I once wrote a song titled “Up All Night,” too.
This one’s better.
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