Atwood Magazine’s Weekly Roundup: April 30, 2021

Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup April 30, 2021
Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup April 30, 2021
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 NOVA, Mattiel, MOD SUN & Avril Lavigne, Allison Russell, Yautja, Nightjacket, UNKLE, Gorillaz, Les Filles de Illighadad, YAOUNDÉBOXINGCLUB, Julietta, Sycco, The Collection, Scott McKeon, & Beacon Bloom!
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Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup

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:: “Precious Diamond” – NOVA ft. Katasha J ::

Mitch Mosk, New York

I miss dancing; I miss getting hot and sweaty all night long, channeling pent-up emotions into physical expression. I miss letting go of inhibition and surrendering myself to song. A heated, hypnotic immersion, “Precious Diamond” is an intoxicating ode to intimacy – and though my living room is no substitute for a club’s dance floor, for now it will have to do.

Released back in February, the smoldering duet from Toronto singer/rapper NOVA and songstress Katasha J blends gripping afrofusion rhythms with impassioned R&B melodies to foster an irresistible experience. Together, the two artists immerse their audience in a tantalizing web of smooth sounds and equally caressing lyrics – a full-throttle embrace of the moment, intended to be experienced on one’s feet.

Cocoa butter kisses
Lips taste just like Hersey
too sweet baby take time
Candy crushing on you cus yuh so fine

“The song is about appreciating someone important; letting them know you value them,” NOVA tells Atwood Magazine. “I believe it’s good to be vulnerable sometimes, so on this record I tuned into some of those feelings.  While working on it I felt like this could be a soundtrack to those special shared moments. What was interesting about working on Precious Diamond is that the day the song was recorded was the first time I ever met Katasha J. My cousin told me about her after seeing Katasha perform at a park in summer 2020. He connected us through Instagram then Katasha and I linked up about a week later to lock in.”

“As soon as Katasha and I connected, the rest for the song came together easily. I felt she would be the perfect person to add some divine R&B vocal to the afrofusion mix – and she absolutely killed it. On my previous album, S.T.A.Y, I did not collaborate with other artists, however on this project I decided I was going to bring other creatives into the S.T.A.Y universe. Working with Katasha and Toye was an amazing experience. I’m glad we were able to have a seamless digital collaboration with Toye based in The States, Katahsa and me based in Toronto and BankyOndBeatz (sound engineer) based in Lagos. After going over several mixes with Toye and Banyondbeatz we decided there was something missing so we reached out to Kingsley from The Cavemen; he came through with a fire bassline that really helped bring the track to life.”

I still miss dancing, but I’ve done a lot of it ever since I heard this song.

:: “Those Words” – Mattiel ::

Sophie Prettyman-Beauchamp, Long Beach, California

Back with two new tracks recorded in quarantine, Atlanta rocker Mattiel Brown and company are already dreaming of a summer back in the sun. “Those Words” is a breezy surf ‘n turf daydream of jangling guitars, a dash of synth nostalgia, just the right amount of static fuzz, and, of course, Brown’s subtle country twang. A visionary in her own right, she puts even more of her talents (and the group’s effortlessly cool chemistry) on full display in the retro-inspired music video, which she produced, directed, and edited.

Confidently declaring her refusal of tradition and unwarranted opinions, Brown and her band explore wider sonic territory with renewed enthusiasm, embodying the energy of what she describes as “the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.” Mattiel will be performing a virtual gig live from Spirit & Truth Sanctuary today at 3pm ET, which will be streamed again later on at 8pm ET.

:: “Flames” – MOD SUN & Avril Lavigne ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

We all have our guilty pleasures. Not all of us will admit to them. But I have no regrets in confessing that I’ve been listening to Avril Lavigne regularly for close to 20 years and loved every single minute of her “Head Above Water Tour” show that I attended in 2019. My Canadian homegirl has kept her remarkable hot streak alive with the acoustic version of “Flames,” her collaboration with Minnesota rapper and current beau, MOD SUN.

“Flames” was released a few months ago as an emo punk rock track, serving as the third single from MOD SUN’s recent album, Internet Killed the Rockstar. The new acoustic soundscape serves the song’s themes of enduring mutual compassion especially well. In addition to Avril’s ever-stellar guitar work, recruiting some glockenspiel, violin and cello players makes this new version of “Flames” all the more tender. “I love how the acoustic version turned out,” said Lavigne. “It really brings another layer of emotion to the song.” Hard to disagree on that one.

:: “Persephone” – Allison Russell ::

Erica Garcia, Los Angeles

Allison Russell is an artist of her own accord. From writing music to publishing editorials in Rolling Stone, any space her voice leads her to is one that is graced by her talent. Her latest song “Persephone,” is no exception.

Born in Montreal, Russell is a mother, poet, musician, and writer. Drawing from her strength as a mixed-heritage, queer, black woman, her songwriting reflects an intelligent perception of emotion that is often hard to find in popular music today. With sweeping grooves and a gentle voice that gives a new meaning to the folk sound, Russell uses both her poetry and voice to move audiences. “My petals are bruised, but I’m still a flower,” she sings in a song turning to the mystery of a Greek goddess for solace. It’s incredible to watch and listen to women of color bring their own voices to soothing folk sounds as it solidifies the calmness and serenity they too have a right to own, no matter what song story they’re telling. Russell is that blueprint, and thank the gods that she is.

:: “The Spectacle” – Yautja ::

Nick Matthopoulos, Chicago

In preparation for their upcoming album and Relapse Records debut, The Lurch, Yautja offers “The Spectacle.” Yautja are a three-piece metal, noise, and hardcore act that are every bit as intricate as they are pummeling; traits that have helped to secure the band as metal and hardcore innovators. Sonically, the guitars are heavy and abrasive throughout, all while providing the song some semblance of rhythm and stability especially during its first leg. The drums on the other hand, are chaotic and seemingly unstable as they constantly flip back and forth between blast beats, grooves, and what are, effectively, Dailor-esque tangents and fills. As for the vocals, the trio all contribute to the ferocity with their growls and, at times, shouted harmonies, if they could be called that. The performances, along with the additional noises and accents that pop-up in the background, are tight and impressive. All in all, “The Spectacle” is a brutally dense, sometimes erratic, yet promising glimpse into the group’s newest album.

:: “Burn Through The Atmosphere” – Nightjacket ::

Mitch Mosk, New York

Los Angeles dream pop band Nightjacket got a new lease on life when they brought in lead singer Andrea Wasse, whose enchanting vocals add the final magic touch to an already refreshingly immersive sound. Their upcoming EP Following the Curves packs a heavy alt-rock punch, as has already been exhibited by its first two singles, “Just a Little” and “Burn Through The Atmosphere” – each of which balances tenderness with uninhibited, boundless energy.

somebody’s breaking the silence
I hear them callin’ your name
comin’ in cool and inviting
isn’t it always the same
I know I know the end is here
I saw you burn through the atmosphere
I only wanted to keep you near
But go, baby, go baby, fly on

“‘Burn Through The Atmosphere’ is about being at the point in a relationship when you can sense that the end is near, and realize that your time is fleeting,” Andrea Wasse  explains. “It’s about trying to let go of a once shared dream with as little bitterness as possible, urging the former lover to just, well, fly on.”

“Along with “Lonely Archer”, “Burn Through The Atmosphere” was one of the first songs that we worked on with Andrea,” adds Jordan Wiggins. “Sonically, I think it’s fairly clear as far as the setting we were conjuring, and it was fun to have this spacey, futuristic palette to work from, including the big synths, shooting star guitar feedback elements and drums with added delay.”

“Burn Through the Atmosphere” absorbs the ears in deep synth pads and heavy, amplified drums; along with ethereal guitar strums and keyboard riffs, the band carefully craft a dramatic soundscape ready to support the weight of splitting up and moving on. Reminiscent of Achtung Baby-era U2, Nightjacket ultimately take to the skies and soar in a song radiating with emotion, upheaval, and a hard-won release.

:: “Nothing Here But You” – Beacon Bloom  ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

New Zealand electronic trio Beacon Bloom, are setting a new standard with their techy new music video for “Nothing Here But You.” Their festival-inspired music video is now the world’s first for integrating NFT technology. This allows their fans more opportunities to interact with the group, including the chance to win a private concert!

“Nothing Here But You” is a tropical, trance tune perfect for a neon club night. The track narrates the feelings of mania, the breakdown of consensus reality and the conviction that you are the only thing in existence. I’m pretty sure this is something you won’t have seen before and believe me when I say you don’t want to miss out!

:: Rōnin 1 – UNKLE  ::

Adam Davidson, South London

UNKLE’s stylistic range has been laid bare over two decades, through a clutch of cult classics that artfully capture the popular alternative zeitgeist. Though Rōnin 1 is much leaner, it still contains many of James Lavelle’s well-worn calling cards. It’s got new material as well as remixes, essentially what Lavelle would be playing at a DJ set if he were able to. Through the gold-quality soul sampling on “If We Don’t Make It,” the cathedral-high optimism on “The Other Side,” and the masked ninja trip-hop of “Ar.Mour,” Rōnin 1 starts as brightly as UNKLE’s finest records. After a while it becomes more homogenous, diving into mid-tempo big-beats with a dash of house here and there, echoing the vestiges of club memories already decaying in our heads. Oh, to be in a chilly smoking area at 2am once again!

This is described as a mixtape, a term that has become so vague as to be almost useless in this day and age, but it’s fitting for Rōnin 1. Based around the rituals and anticipatory glee of a night out from beginning to end, this is unequivocally UNKLE, but smoothed out, a streamlined version of their usual superstar-laden releases. It’s something Lavelle largely crafted at a whim, with a 2nd part promised later in the year. Rōnin 1’s hopeful genre throwbacks are there for comfort over innovation. This is a tried and tested route which doesn’t push the envelope, but does music have to do that to be worthy? Rōnin 1 is an exploration into a world which hopefully will be known to us again sooner rather than later.

:: “Humanz (Gorillaz 20 Mix)” – Gorillaz ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

Since I’ve been a fan of the Gorillaz for the solid majority of my 29 years, I was quite enticed when Spotify informed me that a new release of theirs was available. It turns out that 2-D, Noodle and the lot are planning a variety of special ways to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. Among these is to “re-imagine” a number of hits from throughout their catalogue; first out of the gate is “Humanz (Gorillaz 20 Mix),” inspired by the album Humanz that turned 4 this past Wednesday.

The Gorillaz have been known for channeling old-school hip-hop acts in their music– De La Soul, Bootee Brown, and Del the Funky Homosapien all scored their biggest hits in many a moon by collaborating with the virtual brainchildren of Damon Albarn. In the case of “Humanz (Gorillaz 20 Mix),” it’s easy to be reminded of the works of Grandmaster Flash, Eric B. & Rakim, and other veteran rap musicians who, in an age before stiff copyright laws emerged, were able to stitch together bits and pieces of limitless tracks into a single cohesive soundscape. That same effect is largely achieved on this new Gorillaz song, which selects excerpts from throughout their 2017 album and lines them up in such a way that a 50-minute record is now condensed into a 3.5-minute song. It winds up being a nifty highlights-reel experiment, and it leaves you curious to see in what creative ways the rest of the band’s records might be subject to a “Gorillaz 20 Mix.”

:: “Irriganan” – Les Filles de Illighadad ::

Sophie Prettyman-Beauchamp, Long Beach, California

Niger’s Les Filles de Illighadad, or “daughters of Illighadad” are Tuareg folk innovators. Fusing poetic choral chants, desert guitar, and regional percussion styles, their music is a reflection of their secluded village’s cultural history, nomadic roots, and ancient music traditions as interpreted through a female gaze.

The globe-trekking band is led by Fatou Seidi Ghali, the first female Tuareg guitarist, who taught herself how to play by secretly borrowing her brother’s guitar. As music in their region has been shaped and divided by gender roles, Les Filles de Illighadad’s reclamation of tende as both an instrument and a woman-led musical tradition is a revolutionary act of joy. Their live album At Pioneer Works, recorded in 2019 during their first performance in New York City, will be released on May 28th via Sahel Sounds and Pioneer Works Press.

:: “Not Today” – Julietta ::

Mitch Mosk, New York

The resounding finale taken off Julietta’s recently released Levitate EP is a triumphant and empowering hybrid piano ballad/anthem. As tender and buoyant as it is catchy, “Not Today” is a powerful display of resilience and inner strength. The up-and-coming indie pop artist details the turbulence involved with her move from the East Coast to the West on a song that refuses to surrender or succumb to anxiety and depression.

It’s not the first, no it’s not the last
I feel the weight, is it gonna crash?
Every day I find a way ‘cause I’m not a fan of looking back 
No not the type to dwell on that
I don’t wanna feel it but I know I’d be losing if I stay 
Cuz I know all the reasons why I like it better
When we hide away, but no not today, no not today 
I know all the reasons why I hold me back but no not today
I’m not going back to the bottom hey hey not today

“I wrote “Not Today” when I found myself in a time of physical transition and mental transformation,” Julietta tells Atwood Magazine. “I moved to Los Angeles from NYC and felt like although there were so many new opportunities, I carried around a lot of the same fears that I tried leaving behind. Fears of failing, fears of not making the right decisions. Although these fears felt familiar, the one thing that was different was my mental strength. I felt stronger than I did before. Once upon a time my fears would lead me to my demons. My addictions. A place that was hard to crawl out of on my own. But this time I told myself that no matter what happens within this time of change, I’ll never let the demons win again. I know what rock bottom feels like. To be in the dungeons of my mind. I’m not scared of it, but I refuse to go back.”

The final track off a dazzling record that pops and bops the whole way through – all while diving into the depths of the self – “Not Today” proves a fittingly expressive conclusion that leaves us inspired and ready for more from Julietta – and hopefully soon.


Dimitra Gurduiala, Italy

There is one thing I will always be firmly convinced of, and that is that sad songs are always the most therapeutic. They say openly what we would never be able to say and they effortlessly reveal the darkest ills that plague us every day. YAOUNDÉBOXINGCLUB’s ‘Youth’ confirms my theory. The artist manages to put an immense whirlwind of emotions into an R&B song, ranging from despondency to fear – with a tiny hint of hope towards the end. YAOUNDÉBOXINGCLUB is openly about fear for one’s future, the mental exhaustion that makes you feel older than you should be, the remorse for not being able to fully enjoy what are considered the best years of our lives.

A real marvel with a reassuring and warm voice, which could very soon become a source of comfort for anyone who feels lonely and incomplete, especially at a time like this.

Feeling so upside down
No sound could save me now
Sad faces all around
I’m lost and won’t be found
I spend my days holding my telephone
I’m terrified of never going home
Buried my feelings deep inside my soul
And if I’m so young why do I feel so old?

:: “My Ways” – Sycco ::

Maggie McHale, Philadelphia

19-year-old Brisbane artist Sycco (pronounced psycho) has tapped into humanness with their first single of 2021, “My Ways,” released at the end of February. While the song seemingly harps on the doldrums of life, its true meaning is rather the opposite. In “My Ways,” Sycco encourages taking moments to oneself to truly pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on one’s surroundings; an idea that, especially during a pandemic in which we all have needed to take pause and focus on what our bodies are telling us, feels poignant and deftly resonant.

“My Ways” is glossed with sugary pop hooks and sirenic vocals, allowing Sycco the opportunity to illustrate this narrative of self-care and self-reflection. The song dances its way out of tedium, offering an intention for a dreamier, more gratifying existence. It can often feel easy to get stuck in cyclical routines and lose sight of oneself, but Sycco aims to remind us to push through the thick fog of monotony and take care of one’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, even in the most minimal of ways.

:: “Blue Day” – The Collection ::

Mitch Mosk, New York

Described by one as “the most cathartic pandemic song you didn’t know you needed,” The Collection’s heartfelt acoustic ballad “Blue Day” is simply beautiful: A warm and sentimental wash of colorful harmony and haunting emotion that we could all benefit from. Sometimes all you need is someone to spill their hearts out, and that’s exactly what lead singer David Wimbish does on the Saxapahaw, North Carolina band’s first song of 2021:

Rode out the morning on the saddle of my porch
Some leaves are still green, yet some other ones got scorched
I didn’t think that things could ever feel this forced
Just took a drink and let the evening cut the cord
It’s a blue day, and I am not sure why
Sometimes it feels like they sneak up from behind
And if they do stay, it toughens up my mind
Just like a huge wave on a greater tide

“It was a song idea that sparked on my front porch while I was enjoying this otherwise perfect day, but I found myself looking down at this sun-scorched plant – and I just had the realization that, no matter how well things may be going, the blues can and will sneak their way in – and often with no perceivable reason or cure,” Wimbish says. “I guess one of the song’s main messages and what I hope people take from it is just a lot of what we’ve been hearing and facing during this pandemic – we just have to be kind and patient with ourselves and ride it out as it comes.”

“Blue Day is a song born, developed, and rehearsed on porches,” he adds. “And while it’s not the first of ours to grow from that environment, we wanted it to sound like it stayed living in that place, in those kinds of spaces we retreat to for a little sun and hope when our house and minds have grown a bit dark.”

“Blue Day” is a darling song: As bright and charming as it is somber and sobering. If you yourself are in a good mood, it can serve as something of a springboard; likewise, if you’re in a darker place, it’ll be both catharsis and a beacon of understanding. The Collection have weaved a bit of moving acoustic gold in “Blue Day,” and while joy and sorrow may ebb and flow together, one thing that will always remain constant is this song’s sheer, undeniable luminescence.

The minutes are a symbol of my impatience
Waiting for someone to convince me I’ve made it
Repeating actions, hoping something changes them
Every direction seems to go against the wind
It’s a blue day, and I am not sure why
Sometimes it feels like they sneak up from behind
And if they do stay, it purifies my mind
Just like a cool wave on a raging tide

:: New Morning – Scott McKeon ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

Scott McKeon’s latest album New Morning is a live recorded masterpiece. Featuring a list of talented musicians including Paul Stacey (Black Crowes/Oasis) and Rocco Palladino (Tom Misch/ D’Angelo), to name a few, the album is based around raw, earthy jams and improvisations, demonstrating an array of pure talent.

New Morning is a burning fire of face-melting guitar riffs, to more mellow, bluesy, jazz-tinged melodies. It’s likely you’ve heard McKeon perform before, with the guitarist sharing the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, Lana Del Ray, Gary Clark Jr and Joe Bonamassa. It’s no wonder why he’s a sought after guitar player and the new album showcases just that. Fun fact: McKeon also has his own signature fuzz pedal and pickups!

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