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 Sly Jr., The Vaccines, LØLØ, Ariana Grande, Softcult, Skateland, PINES, Newport, Bleachers, TANSU, Swimming Bell, & Albert Newton!
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:: “piggy bank” – Sly Jr. ::
Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York
Sir Sly frontman Landon Jacobs is in a good place – with himself, with the world, with where he is in life. At 33, he’s found joy and purpose as a happily married husband (to Sarah McLaughlin, known to most as Bishop Briggs) and as an engaged and active father to his baby son. It’s a stark contrast to where he and his bandmates were ten years ago, on Sir Sly’s 2014 debut album You Haunt Me – an achingly intimate, unflinchingly honest record about alcoholism, grief, trauma, religion (or the loss thereof), and finding meaning in a seemingly meaningless world.
Reintroducing himself today as Sly Jr. (a cute play on words), Jacobs is keenly aware of how much he’s changed – and his debut single “piggy bank” captures an instinctive desire to savor this new, brighter chapter in his life. Still achingly intimate (that’ll never go away), beautifully angsty, and raw, “piggy bank” is a song about loving something with all your soul, so much so that you wish the world would slow down so you can embrace every second of your time together.
“It feels like I’ve lived a very full, happy year and a half of trying to soak up all of the moments,” Jacobs says, smiling. “I’m squarely there; I’m not wishing to be somewhere in the distant future.” He expresses as much in the song’s opening verse:
Life’s not all bad when I really think
I’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink
at it; wouldn’t bet my piggy bank on it
Please drive me slow while I cherish it
So many things I can’t bear to miss
Like piggy banks and Christmases
Jacobs wrote and recorded all the instruments for Sly Jr. himself, with mixing help from recording engineer and friend Thomas Wolseley. “piggy bank” will be plenty recognizable to Sir Sly fans – that cathartic, emotionally charged “sly-fi” DNA is still there – and while Hayden Coplen’s singular drumming and Jason Suwito’s high-caliber production are certainly missed, in Sly Jr. one finds a man reflecting on who he once was, basking in who he’s become, and (according to Jacobs) still very much wrestling with life’s bigger questions.
But with a wife and kid to take care of (and who in turn take care of him), the Jacobs we meet through Sly Jr. is without a doubt in a good place. His chorus can be seen as an ode to that long-sought fulfillment and contentment – something he for years didn’t think existed, at least not for him:
I could spend a lifetime
Leaving all your white lies
Tell me it’s the right time
I’ll follow you anywhere
I don’t give a goddamn
What’s hiding in your offhand
Love has been a godsend
I’ll follow you anywhere
“I know exactly what I need to do,” Jacobs says, reflecting on his place in this world. “Make sure my son is well taken care of, that he feels important and listened to, and that Sarah feels supported so that she can do what she wants to do. I don’t know if God does send anything, but if God does send stuff, it’s definitely these two people to me. It’s the best; I live the best life ever.”
“And that’s what this song is about: I take a brief moment looking back, but then it’s all eyes ahead: What’s happening, right here, right now is the most important thing to me, with these two people, always.”
:: “Sometimes, I Swear” – The Vaccines ::
Frankie Rose, Montreal
While there are songs on The Vaccines’ latest album, Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations (released January 12), that have a rush of fun energy (the playfulness of “Sunkissed” and dreaminess of “Discount de Kooning (Last One Standing)”), it’s still “Sometimes, I Swear” that stands out above the rest as classic Vaccines. It’s the kind of song that immediately makes you want to run, jump and shout along to, the latter intensified by the simplicity and relatable nature of the lyrics: ‘Sometimes, I swear/ It feels like I don’t belong anywheeerrreeee/ I swear, sometimes/ It feels like I don’t belong anywheeerrreee.’
The start of the song trails with sweetness, the mind whirling into a daydream, before erupting into the chorus. The energy picks up and increases throughout, like a way of compiling all of your inner stress and frustrations, then there’s another explosive chorus and the song ends abruptly as though snapping back into reality.
“Sometimes, I Swear” was released as a single in October and is now the opening track on the album. While the group has changed (different band members), experimented and evolved over the past 13 years, it is songs like this one that capture the charm of Justin Young’s early musical vision.
:: “2 of us” – LØLØ ::
Rachel Leong, France
That skinny jeans diss line? Um yes. LOLO recently released her new single, “2 of us” amidst a trail of new releases. Marked by her driving pop-punk sensibilities, the track is a tongue-in-cheek letter to a toxic ex she can’t let go of. Spread out with fun synths and percussion, fuzzy electric guitars permeate the buildup to an explosive chorus.
LOLO recently wrapped a UK and Europe tour late last year supporting Against the Current. The Toronto-now-LA artist distinguishable from her effortless stage presence reminiscent of old school punk rock but with a modern twist. From lost love to new love, LOLO’s characteristic storytelling is consistently backed by dynamic production. Defiantly empowering and fun, she makes these familiar moments of uncertainty relatable and poignant.
:: “yes, and?” – Ariana Grande ::
Josh Weiner, Washington DC
2024 marks 10 years since I first became an Ariana Grande fan following the immortal single “Break Free,” and I’m very glad I’ll be able to celebrate that tin anniversary with some new music of hers! More will come when the Eternal Sunshine album is released in March, but for now I’m enjoying the lead single, “yes, and?”
It was rough going three-plus years without much new Ariana Grande – although I guess we were all spoiled by the fact that she’d put out three albums over the preceding two-ish years – and it’s great to have her back in her pristine “protective, sexy, discerning with my time” self.
Even better, she is accompanied by the house-pop production of ILYA and Max Martin, and a music video where she and her fellow dancers do their thing inside the Grand Hall of the Powerhouse Arts venue in Brooklyn, before ultimately meeting the same fate as the trolls in The Lord of the Rings. Welcome back to the limelight, Ari!
:: “Heaven” – Softcult ::
Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York
Dreamy, gauzy wonder has been Softcult’s bread and butter since their debut, and yet somehow the Canadian twin duo’s latest song still sends countless shivers down the spine. “You fell down from heaven and burned a hole in the earth,” lead singer and guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn sings on “Heaven,” her voice a delicate whisper in a sweltering sonic haze filled with raw, haunting emotion. “With a halo around you, you dug me out of the dirt.”
Like a liar you set me on fire…
And I don’t mean to blaspheme
But God doesn’t love me like you do
I was given body that doesn’t fit on me
I can’t stand the mirror’s point of view
Released December 12 via Easy Life Records, “Heaven” is a powerful portrait of life not as it is today, but as it could be. A hushed and heavy wave of warm, shoegaze douses the mind, body, and soul as the Arn-Horn twins (Mercedes and Phoenix) do their best to manifest a better, healthier world for all.
“This song describes a world where everyone is accepted for who they are, where one’s background or identity does not dictate how they are perceived by society, where privilege and advantages are recognized and shared to build stronger communities, and a society that celebrates diversity, difference, and otherness as strengths,” Softcult tell Atwood Magazine.
Like a liar you set me on fire
Like a liar, you set me on fire
You fell down from heaven
And burned a hole in the earth
With a halo around you
You dug me out of the dirt
If “Heaven” is a lush, intoxicating, and immersive cloud where we can love ourselves and others freely and unapologetically, then sign me up. Musical and lyrical visionaries for three years running, Softcult are dreamweavers worthy of everyone’s radar – and this song is their gift of aching ethereal bliss.
:: “Autobahn!” – Skateland ::
Chloe Robinson, California
It is easy to fall in love, but love isn’t always easy. Blissful bedroom pop artist Skateland has crafted a captivating track entitled “Autobahn!” With warm, silky vocals sliding atop euphoric bird chirping backgrounds, there is a calming nature to the piece contrasted by a message of turmoil. Singing of the deep highs and lows of relationships Skateland shares, “The narrator begins the song with what he presumes is a breakup speech, but somehow along the way concedes that for better or worse he will always love this person, and that the tough parts of loving someone are what make it worth it in the end.”
Dorian Williams II, the mastermind behind Skateland, is a truly talented musical force. The Austin, TX based project was conceived through dabbling with various instruments in his room. That experimentation led Williams to become the accomplished singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist he is today. He made waves with his debut EP New Wave Revival released in early 2023. Self produced and recorded, it showcased hazy shoegaze at its finest. “Autobahn!” emits that same delicate, dreamy quality.
:: Life As We Know It – PINES ::
Julius Robinson, California
Kaleidoscopic Australian electro duo PINES’ new album Life As We Know It takes listeners on a dreamy journey. With glistening synths, pulsing beats and airy vocals, the offering sucks you into another world. Opening with the title track, the piece swirls with an intense electronic landscape. The song starts off dark, then transitions to a lighter, upbeat groove – creating a captivating, sensual background. The more hard-hitting “Mànya” evokes the feeling of a tribal chant drawing us in with its vibrant energy. The delicate, silky tone of “Lost” is pure seduction. The ethereal song soars transporting you to a spacey dance floor. Concluding with “I Know That I Need You,” it is the perfect end to the radiant record. The track drenches with wistful, watery sonics both refreshing and eerie at the same time.
The twosome craft smooth, ambient vibes that are utterly tantalizing. Years in the making, PINES’ album Life As We Know It is inspired by everyday events and also those once in a lifetime moments. On this offering PINES teams up with guest vocalists and each track possesses a myriad of emotions. Through the profound highs and lows we are brought on a ride we do not want to get off of.
:: Growing Pains EP – Newport ::
Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York
Perth singer/songwriter Dylon Newport has a penchant for slick beats and sun-kissed grooves, and he packs his debut EP full of them. Released December 1 via Liberation Records, the aptly-titled Growing Pains is a 7-song coming-of-age introduction full of soul – both the emotional and musical kind. Narrating the full arc and journey of a relationship, from those early butterflies to the sweet honeymoon phase, to I love you’s, to bittersweet goodbyes, Newport takes his listeners on an intimate adventure – one he knows all too well. Eighteen minutes full of lush production, candid lyrics, cool guitar licks, and visceral, vulnerable performances see love blossom and burn as Newport, heart on his sleeve, shares his ill-fated love story with anyone who wants (or needs) to hear it.
“The EP was made whilst an entire relationship happened in my life,” he explains. “From start to end; there’s a hint of every part of it in this EP. Anyone who has experienced any stage of love will hopefully be able to resonate with a song or two or hopefully more.”
Each track is worth its weight in gold on this tight, tender collection, but no song resonates deeper (for me) than opener “Handmedowns,” a love-soaked immersion written when Newport was in peak honeymoon phase with his partner.
“The idea for ‘you wear my handmedowns way better than I could’ came from an actual conversation we’ve had many times,” he recalls. “Whenever she would try on any of my handmedowns, I’d always jokingly say they looked better on me, so in a way this song is really just a confession. It’s me being completely honest, but not just about who wears my clothes better; it’s about my whole range of emotions and how I genuinely feel about the relationship. It was a moment of letting my walls down and being vulnerable enough to express that I ‘don’t ever think I could fall in love with another face or another name.’ This song is like the first time saying I love you.”
Calling to mind artists like Ruel, Dominic Fike, and Daniel Ceasar, Newport takes elements from the pop, alternative, hip-hop, and soul worlds, and makes something authentically his own.
Growing Pains is a phenomenal first look at an artist clearly ready to take the world by storm – not through force, but through sharing genuine pieces of himself and his world, one song at a time.
:: “Tiny Moves” – Bleachers ::
Rachel Leong, France
In the run up to their highly anticipated fourth album, Bleachers dropped their latest single, “Tiny Moves,” this week. The third track of the self-titled album, the song follows upbeat “Modern Girl” and powerfully understated “Alma Mater.” The latest takes an in-between: marked by tinkling percussion elements and rhythmic synths, “Tiny Moves” is the characteristic Bleachers sound but more.
Storytelling the visceral experience of being absolutely infatuated with the other person, “the tiniest moves you make/watching my whole world shake” hook the listener in to a treasure trove of sparse guitars, keys, horns, and percussion. The third in its visual universe, the accompanying video was brought together by frontman Jack Antonoff’s wife, Margaret Qualley – a self-choreographed musical-esque ode to a daydream romance.
:: “Easy Love”- TANSU ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Have you ever had a friend who was a part of so many fond memories and though they are no longer in your life, you can look back and think, hope they are doing well. TANSU’s laid-back neo-soul single “Easy Love” is all about admiring a strong past relationship and respecting it for what it was. The warm, mellow beats and piercing powerhouse vocals make for a wholly mesmerizing track. The song reminds us to not only express support and kindness to others, but also ourselves.
TANSU is a Harlem based artist beautifully melding pop, soul, R&B and electronic. Being born in New Jersey and raised in London and Connecticut, it has influenced her sound, providing her with the deep adoration for soul music. Through her love for musical divas like Whitney Houston and Mariah she’s gained an intense dedication to her craft. That devotion is clear in this passionate new release.
:: Charlie – Swimming Bell ::
Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York
Swimming Bell’s sophomore album is as tender as it is breathtaking: A lilting and lush indie folk reflection on the ebbs and flows of a life lived in the moment. Released today, January 19 via Permanent Records, Charlie gently stirs the heart while simultaneously nourishing the soul as LA-based singer/songwriter Katie Schottland treats listeners to ten intimate confessionals – a personal collage of her last three years.
“I had begun writing and recording it in Brooklyn in my studio. As time went on, the world was changing rapidly, and new songs were added from the experiences I was having,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “Once I was settled in California, we finished in my new little home and the album unfolded into a tapestry of different shapes, shades, and colors. I would put it down and come back to it, never feeling like it needed to be rushed. It’s a time capsule for me – full of love, grief, loss, daydreams, and the untethered feeling of change.”
Swimming Bell sets the bar high with the raw passion, grit, and candid grace of opener “I Believe in Us,” a melodically rich and radiant declaration whose message of trust is made all the more potent (and memorable) thanks to a smoldering and spirited trumpet that nearly steals the show. Charlie is full of little sparks of musical magic like that – from Schottland’s golden vocals and the gorgeous assortment of harmonies she employs, to tasteful instrumental flourishes perfectly timed to make our ears perk up and our spines tingle.
Highlights include the spirited “Ash in the Jar” and the spacious, ruminative “Dekalb Ave.,” but a personal favorite is the final single “For Al and Lee,” written for as a blessing for the artist’s dear friends Allison and Lee, “as they embarked on their next chapter in life,” she explains. “Inspired by Neil Young’s love song to his truck, ‘Long May You Run,’ it captures the impact our time together in New York had on me. We shared incredible moments playing in a band, and our lives intertwined and grew during our time in the city. This song is a reflection of the gratitude I hold for those experiences and the growth with my friends. The video, brought to life by the talented Isaac Teixeira, perfectly complements the song’s essence. I made the little clay flowers.”
Came out a little wiser
From the garden that you made
Moon hangs higher
On the path to guide the way
Oh light the way
Oh guide the way
May the road that you find be the right one and
May your songs be sung
May the road that you walk down lead you to
All the things that you love
All told, Charlie is food for the soul: A heartwarming, smile-inducing folk record ready to soundtrack winter’s cold nights.
:: “Somewhere in the Dark” – Albert Newton ::
Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York
Slick synths and strutting drums ring bold and bright as Albert Newton’s first song of the year lifts us out of our stale funks and into a more soulful one: Released January 10 via byebye records, “Somewhere in the Dark” instantly fills the airwaves with light: The lead single off his forthcoming debut album Twin Earth (out February 9) is a propulsive, pulsating reflection on a life filled with random, often unpredictable moments of wonder and enlightenment.
“Going to a party that you don’t want to go to, learning about the particle accelerator in Switzerland and meeting a Buddhist monk in the English countryside, all have very different outcomes, but they’re also linked by how they each provide unexpected moments of knowledge or ‘light,’ the Franco-British singer/songwriter tells Atwood Magazine. “I put these three together as lyrics but then they floated round for a while.”
“It was only when my DJ friend Marine Neuilly asked me when I was going to make a song she could play during her sets that the beat appeared and the lyrics found their place.”
Newton’s writing is thoughtful and smart, his performance emotive and laid back all at once. In this song, he encourages us to live in the moment and to live unapologetically, approaching every day with wide eyes and an open mind. Miracles are everywhere – so don’t hold back in living life to the fullest.
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