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.
This week’s weekly roundup features music by Ainslie Wills & Old Sea Brigade, The Staves, Izza, Osees, Bella Hutton, Joaquin García, Ella Isaacson, Tafari Anthony, Rufus Wainwright, GHEDI, Wayside, Gem and Eye, Soft Fabric, King No-One, Elizabeth, and Treasure!
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:: “Detour” – Ainslie Wills ft. Old Sea Brigade ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
Soulful and intimate, dreamy and nuanced, “Detour” is the main road we need to get us where we’re going – a song we will keep driving down time and again for its smooth rhythms, smoky sounds, and stirring warmth. The duet between Melbourne singer/songwriter Ainslie Wills and American artist Old Sea Brigade (Ben Cramer) is soothing in all the right ways – a passionate, groovy recording reminiscent of such greats as Leif Vollebekk, Land of Talk, Laura Stevenson, Angie McMahon, and so on. It’s a beautiful, harmony-rich indulgence of deep emotions brought to the surface:
I can read your mind
Wouldn’t change it
‘Cus I fall this way
And feels so right
Yeah it all feels right
I can’t believe that I would ever stand so close to you
It doesn’t matter where this ends up, I ain’t leaving
Know what I’m doing, I’ve already thought all this through
“‘Detour’ is the universal story about knowing that you may be someone’s rebound and still falling hard, despite knowing the risks… love wins every time,” Ainslie Wills says of the new song. An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick, Wills released her emotive, impassioned sophomore album All You Have Is All You Need back in 2018; “Detour” arrives as her second release of this year, following the single “Two Strong Hearts” this May. Despite living half a world away, Wills and Old Sea Brigade have tapped into a special depth of humanity in their collaboration.
“The making of Detour has been one of the most unique projects I’ve been involved with,” Old Sea Brigade’s Ben Cramer shares. “The recording process has been a worldly collaboration amongst such talented people, most of whom have never met in person. I feel so inspired by everyone involved with this process and am really grateful to sing with Ainslie.”
I know I know
Maybe I maybe I’m
Just a detour back to
Maybe I maybe I’m
Just a detour back to
I don’t mind no ‘cus I know that it’s gonna hurt
I’m just a detour back to her
“Detour” is a muted overhaul: Inner turmoil channeled through subtle serenity.
:: “Good Woman” – The Staves ::
Emily Algar, Charlbury, UK
I am not sure what “Good Woman” is about, or rather I think it could be about so many things. From trying to convince the person you’re with that you are a good woman, to being comfortable in your own skin as a woman; from carrying the weight of all women on your back, to letting that weight go.
The sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla’s, vocals intertwine around each like silk, the instrumentation falling away into the background. Camilla’s opening vocals start off soft but there is a steely defiance to them. “Good Woman” incorporates subliminal snatches of conversation from their late mother and grandmother, who both died in 2018 within months of one another. The track feels overwhelmingly comforting but also bittersweet at the same time. As if there’s a knowingness that perhaps came too late. It is a track I have gone back to over and over again this week, and there’s still more to find on each listen.
Surrender is sweet
But who will build statues of me
When I leave you all behind
And I’m carrying weight
But I know it’s not mine
With half a heart it’s hard to stop
But I feel as though
I’m a good woman
:: “I Miss You” – Soft Fabric ::
Francesca Rose, Montreal
Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, one half of the Montreal-based duo Milk & Bone, has launched a solo project called Soft Fabric. The first song was released on Tuesday and it’s a cover of Blink- 182’s “I Miss You.” Covers are interesting because in a way they bring up the question ‘why?’ Why recreate something that’s already been done? Why not be original instead of leaning on the success of others? But when they’re executed in a way that’s distinctive to the artist covering it, it’s more like an appreciation of how music is interpreted and the longevity that songs can have.
“I Miss You” by Soft Fabric is led by dreamy synths and a sound conjuring up spacey glittering colour palettes that are familiar to Milk & Bone. The vocals are slow, hypnotic, and trailing with autotune, a combination that is overall sweetly addictive. As a cover and introductory single, it suggests that Soft Fabric is a project of playfulness- that it’s not taking itself too seriously but is all about embracing the sound that Laurence Lafond-Beaulne does best.
:: “Lows” – Izza ::
Ben Beamish, Brisbane, Australia
Inspired by a variety of artists from the likes of Bill Withers and Amy Winehouse and Disclosure, London-based singer, songwriter IZZA is concocting her own stunning brand of dark-pop music mixed with subtle soul influences. Uniting with critically acclaimed artist Amy McKnight, who produced the track, the two find the perfect balance in sound, crafting a catchy piece driven by tasteful songwriting.
“Lows” is a perfect encapsulation of IZZA’s sound. Bright vocals and infectious hooks characterise the single, while the instrumental is heavily influenced by popular RnB and synth sounds. Heavenly atmospheres and groovy basslines introduce the single, and groovy drums help glue all the elements together. “Lows sends a message that it’s OK to have your demons,” explains IZZA. “You can learn to live with them. Invite them to a party and make them dance!”
:: We Three – Hey Elbow ::
Josh Weiner, Washington DC
Sure, 2020’s been a year where we’ve all had to spend a lot of time in isolation… but that doesn’t have to be the same thing as spending time in confinement. Rather than shut themselves in their apartments as the lockdown commenced, the three members of Hey Elbow hit up the wide open spaces of the Southern Swedish countryside, and there they got to work on new music. “We spent days just writing together and playing,” they say, without another soul anywhere near their cabin. The resulting music “reflects us as a band where we don’t have any front person or band leader. We are We Three.”
Although We Three later expanded to We Five as the group returned to Stockholm and hammered the record into shape with the help of two friends and producers, Max-Måns Wikman and Joakim Lindberg, the chemistry between the main members of the band still shines through on the finished project. Lead singer Julia Ringdahl contributes some alluring vocals– including on “Vignette,” with echo-y sounds that I found somewhat reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory”— while accompanying instrumentalists Ellen Petterson and Liam Amner contribute. I especially enjoyed the trumpet-playing by the former on tracks like “Layers.” Overall, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on sonically across these nine tracks, which makes We Three a record fully worth exploring.
:: Metamorphosed – Osees ::
Sophie Prettyman-Beauchamp, Long Beach, California
Ever-prolific LA-by-way-of-SF psych rockers the Osees are at it again with polished thrasher Metamorphosed, their third release this year. Consisting of five tracks from the 2019 Face Stabber sessions, this is definitely the John Dwyer brainchild’s annual jam album. Leaning further into the realms of prog rock and noise, their talents with stretching and compressing time are at their best with three raucous bangers just under 2 minutes long, and epic closers “The Virologist” and “I Got a Lot”—14 and 23 minutes long. It’s a perfect mix of punk brevity and driving virtuosity, crashing into a tasty slow burn. Metamorphosed is an intimate look into the group’s process and what makes them tick, a definitive collection of deep cuts from behind the emerald curtain.
Despite a couple rounds of name changes, the Osees consistently reveal new dimensions of their sound, nuanced as differences between iterations may be for a band that has released over twenty albums so far (not including live albums). Metamorphosed follows suit, with the familiarity of a wild and enigmatic friend who you never stop learning about. For more than two decades now, Dwyer continues to strike a balance between keeping things fresh and giving fans what they know and love—a constantly evolving saga deeper into the crevices and chasms of the Osees wonderfully weird microcosm.
Metamorphosed is out now via Rock is Hell Records. If your appetite for the Osees still isn’t satiated, you can also check out their other 2020 releases, live album Levitation Sessions and Protean Threat. They also recently announced Panther Rotate, a remix of and companion to Protean Threat, which will be out on December 11th via Dwyer’s own label Castle Face Records.
:: “Only You” – Bella Hutton ::
Hermione Kellow, Cambridge
A gorgeous track filled with impressive harmonies and delicate vocals, Bella Hutton’s latest release “Only You” is a credit to the young artist. With a sound evocative of The 1975 and Billie Eilish, Hutton explores a dreamy sonic landscape, guiding the listener through a subtle yet heartfelt classic lovesong and transporting one to a place of aural tranquility.
As Bella explains, “In the intro there are some really juicy harmonies, we went for a choir vibe and layered it lots with backing vocals. It’s kind of a sad song but happy at the same time because it’s slow but also uplifting. It’s about when you are in love with someone but it’s good for once and there are no heartbreaks…which is unusual!”
:: “Not The Ocean” – Joaquin García ::
Diego Morales, Mexico City
Joaquin Garcia’s unique blend of indie-folk has gone under the radar outside of Mexico City, where he has earned local praise and shared the stage with important acts like Patrick Watson or Ryley Walker. We might expect that to change soon enough because this year he has released a trilogy of brilliant singles that sound like nothing else out there. Garcia experiments with acoustic elements and ambient effects in a way that compels deep emotion, but challenges the cliché of pretty and forced “heartfelt” songs so often found in the singer-songwriter world.
His latest composition –“Not The Ocean”– is a seven minute track that waves unpredictably up and down. A bluesy riff starts things smoothly, but it all becomes more complex when the drums kick in with an intricate blend of rock and jazz, while Joaquin’s mellow voice flows on top of dark atmospheres and electric guitars. The song is structured in three distinct parts. Between verses in which Garcia contemplates drinking himself to death and a hypnotic fast paced outro, there’s a hushed break that feels like a long breath. Sparse guitar notes prolonged by reverb pedals accompany a haunting melody that will stick with you long after listening.
:: “Hard Lessons” – Ella Isaacson ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Life has a funny way of testing us. We have all at some point been through various trials and tribulations. Nothing though is ever truly a failed experience because we all learn and grow immensely from that adversity. No one understands this better than pop talent Ella Isaacson. Her latest release “Hard Lessons” showcases passionate, bold vocals floating atop a driving electro beat. With all the struggles the world is currently facing, we must stand up and confront these difficulties head on. Her aim is for listeners to see that pain can turn into inspiration and as a society we can overcome anything if we join together.
Possessing a deep love for theatre, poetry and choir, she channeled her creativity into recording her first demo at just 13. Battling with OCD from an early age, her music focuses on feelings of anxiety and being misunderstood. Learning how to produce and engineer her own music, she has been able to execute her vision exactly how she sees it and gain a strong sense of control.
:: “No Good” – Tafari Anthony ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
Tafari Anthony says enough is enough in his new heart-breaking ballad “No Good.” We’ve all been there – trying to make something work for the sake of it, pushing and pushing until things crack beyond repair. Well Tafari has hit that stage and it’s just “No Good” anymore. The agonizing track brings back memories of past relationships and the pain that comes hand in hand with love. His emotional and raw vocals pull at each and every heartstring, making it almost impossible to have dry eyes while listening to the song.
Fiery and stirring, “No Good” has all the soul of Sam Smith and all the pop vitality of Seinabo Sey. Combined it’s a force that both demands attention and reaps rewards. Intoxicating to say the least, Tafari Anthony will be your new playlist addition. You can thank me later.
:: “Romantical Man” – Rufus Wainwright ::
Kelly Liu, Philadelphia
The fifth track off his first album in eight years, Unfollow The Rules, “Romantical Man” harks back to Rufus’s tragic, melodramatic style likening his 2007 hit song “Going To A Town.” The track begins with a steady, throbbing piano rhythm and gradually ascends to orchestral highs. Electric guitars, strings, and haunting choral vocals fill up the atmosphere. Fittingly, Rufus sings with operatic histrionics, laying bare his emotions in lamentations of being a romantical man in lines like “Wish I was sarcastic / but I’m feeling it / like every second.”
Like curtains opening and falling, the first and last line of “Romantical Man” are both “Sarah Siddons overlooking the motorway.” Monuments and places like the Sarah Siddons statue, Paddington Green, and Belsize Park weave together what is essentially an ode to London and Romanticism, and against harsh realities of “The forests, they are dying,” Rufus finds refuge in familial cityscape, in calls for his mother (“Mother, can you hear me?”), in a simultaneous belief in, and yearning for, a better world.
:: “Autopilot” – GHEDI ::
Dimitra Gurduiala, Milan
Every so often, TikTok lets you discover unique artists – sometimes they even have a good sense of humor. This is exactly the case with GHEDI, whose first EP Internet Sounds has been quite successful. The opening, “Autopilot”, is a fresh and catchy track, despite the discomfort that the artist expresses in the chorus.
I feel like I’m on autopilot
Can’t deny that I’m going through the motions
I think my system is malfunctioning
I’m plugged in but I always feel like I’m broken
Even if his career has just started, keep an eye on GHEDI and his music; he will not disappoint you. And neither will his TikToks about bisexuals.
:: “Cherophobia” – Wayside ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
Something about Wayside’s grungey, unrelenting force speaks to a part of me deep down inside. Named after the fear of being happy, “Cherophobia” is visceral and dramatic, heavy and loud: An uproar of alternative rock, ’90s grunge, and ‘00s emo indie energy that hits all the right notes.
Does this world feel cold?
Tears fall at your feet.
Remember what you’re told,
About how love fades when you grow old.
Say something that you mean,
You’re lying through your screens;
That, I can’t relate to.
I’ll gravitate to isolation
The Melbourne-based duo of vocalist Thomas Davenport and guitarist Josh Ehmer, Wayside released their debut EP Midnight Sky in 2017. Following this past June’s single “Shine (Onto Me),” “Cherophobia” is one more subtle upheaval worth the listen. “It’s about believing that I’m the best version of myself when I’m alone,” Thomas Davenport explains. “I typically go a little insane when I care a lot for a person, and I don’t like myself when that happens. When I’m alone, no one’s thoughts, words nor actions can influence my mind. There’s also an element of choosing to be alone, rather than settling for something that is mediocre / I’m not certain about. I guess the message I’m trying to deliver is that it’s okay to choose yourself, not to settle for something that you’re not certain of. As someone whose feelings can fluctuate a lot, I like the certainty and consistency of just looking after myself.”
Wayside’s driving music perfectly complements their lyrical depth. “When I was writing the guitar for the song, I think one of the main things I wanted to do was to focus on and play with dynamics between sections of the song,” Josh Ehmer explains. “So, we went for a loud and driving sound in the verse and a more quiet open chorus. I remember at one point thinking we’d tried to do a ‘reverse Nirvana’ in that sense.”
I need you here,
So far from here,
I’m just breathing.
Crippled by fear,
I’ll just stay clear,
Guess I’ll just disappear once more.
I’m better on my own,
So far from home.
Whether they’re doing Nirvana or reverse Nirvana, Wayside have tapped into something very cool in “Cherophobia.” I can’t wait to hear what they cook up next.
:: Gem and Eye – Gem and Eye ::
Josh Weiner, Washington DC
Sibling rivalries can lead to bands’ undoings in the long run– Oasis being the perhaps the best-known case in point– but so far, no cracks seem to be showing in the strong creative bond achieved by Dillon and Harley Pace. Far from it, really: this brother-sister duo hailing from New York City really has achieved something special together on their self-titled debut album, Gem and Eye.
I first came across Dillon’s stellar production on Syld Silvair’s Reverie, which I reviewed this past May, and it’s terrific to see him do every bit as high-quality work on Gem and Eye. The record is permeated with an appealing blend of rock and psych-pop, generating such exciting sounds as the soaring guitar on “If The Old Times Knew Me” and the pulsating drums on “Riding Shotgun.” Meanwhile, Harley has a BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, and it certainly shows on her impressive songwriting here. One that I particularly enjoyed was “Roaring Twenties,” a term she casts as a double entendre both for the historic era– which is now up to our generation to replicate, 100 years later!– and for the tumultuous age of life she’s currently experiencing. Overall, I can definitely recommend Gem and Eye as one of the most exciting new releases I’ve heard in all of 2020.
:: “Get You Right” – King No-One ::
Hermione Kellow, Cambridge
Written over lockdown in response to a traumatic mugging, the brilliant King No-One continue to excite with their latest release “Get You Right.” It’s a rousing, synthy track with an addictively danceable beat and a brilliant DIY-style ethos across the board. Be it the quirky music video featuring a cardboard cut-out car or the release of the single itself through innovative fan-led label Corite, these independent Kings continue to inspire through their positive message.
As frontman Zach Lount explains, “‘Get You Right’ is a song for anyone to relate to in their own way, that has felt low, insecure, or uninspired in recent times. It’s a bitter sweet message to focus and look after yourself. I wrote the song during lockdown after I was seriously attacked in a street mugging, it incurred a long physical and mental recovery cooped up in our tiny flat. So writing the song was my key to bouncing back, and once lockdown was lifted, We immediately hit the studio and finished the record.”
:: “Death Toll” – Elizabeth ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Aussie indie pop artist Elizabeth is known for her chic style and enchanting, moody vocals. Her reinvention of her song “Death Toll” exudes those same entrancing vibes, taking you on an impassioned ride with each note. Her stark instrumentation paired with soft yet soaring vocals makes this offering a truly touching triumph. Gently singing, “Flying straight like a dart, tearing us apart,” she knows she has become another relationship casualty.
The singer has gone through major heartache in her life. Marrying young but now divorced, she channels that hurt of lost love and crafts stunning music bursting with raw emotion. The piano rendering of “Death Toll” is off her deluxe version of her 2019 debut album The Wonderful World of Nature.
:: Nostalgia: The Prelude – Treasure ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
London singer/songwriter Treasure is a man of many talents. His latest EP, Nostalgia: The Prelude, sees the artist self-producing, performing and recording the entirety of the record from the comfort (and safety) of his own bedroom. His impressive musicality and deep understanding for bringing different genres together, gives his music a whole new dimension. The new seven-track release is yet another milestone for Treasure, embodying his love for all things psychedelic pop, jazz and neo-soul.
A standout on the EP is “Acceptance.” Four minutes and 21 seconds of Treasure, a.k.a Kelvin Beyioku, exploring minimalist guitar melodies, quirky synths and textural vocal harmonies. His unique sound creates a memorable listening experience that’ll keep you coming back for more. Nostalgia: The Prelude is all about reflecting on life’s moments – both good and bad, and taking a trip down memory lane. Through honest and sincere lyrics, we get a glimpse into Treasure’s most vulnerable times and it’s an exhilarating change from the norm of people hiding behind social media and Instagram filters. Let Treasure be an example of what the music industry needs more of in 2021.
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