I’ve never been able to grasp the fascination with New York. I’ve always seen it as somewhere hostile and unwelcoming, yet it rivals Paris as the most romanticised city in the world. Usually songs about the Big Apple are nothing more than a game of New York cliche bingo, so it’s refreshing to hear a song tackle the darker side of the big city. Canadian born singer/songwriter wonderfully contrasts the coldness of the city with the warm Americana glow of his new track ‘Lonely in America’. The age old adage of “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” neglects to mention how isolating and demoralising it can be for the vast swathes of people who risk everything for the city’s promises only to come up short. Noah’s latest golden track from his new album America, Dreaming stands in solidarity with anyone who’s ever felt like a spare part rattling around some vast and unforgiving machine.
Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours
Progressive Pop | Folk
In today’s music industry EPs are more important than ever. They have usurped the role of debut albums as a way for artists to make a good first impression, with some acts building up a massive following on the back of just a few EPs alone. At the same time however they are never given the respect they deserve. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. Much like how a great actor can say more with just an expression than others can with pages of dialogue, an artist pouring their heart and soul into just a couple of tracks often makes a greater impact than most albums.
With her debut EP On The Run, Belgian born singer/songwriter Margo Raats hammers the point home with a handful of songs that are altogether more moving than perhaps any album I’ve heard this year. ‘Fly’ is as uplifting as its name suggests with its message of reassurance and comfort, while ‘Wondering Why’ wins you over with it’s off-kilter arrangement and bright folk melodies. It’s in the stripped back soul of ‘What Is It Like’ and ‘Remember Me’ that Margo really shines however. The sparse arrangements ensure that Margo’s gorgeous vocals take centre stage. It takes great skill to be so passionate and expressive, but it takes even greater courage to be so open and vulnerable for the world to hear.
Fans of Hannah Grace, Lucy Rose, Gabrielle Aplin and Freya Ridings should check out Margo’s debut EP On The Run.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of bright and breezy indie rock. But when it lurks around every corner sometimes it leaves you longing for something with a bit more bite. You yearn for the sort of song you that makes you feel like a total badass whilst walking down the street. The kind of track where merely pressing play feels like it could conjure a leather jacket and a pair of shades into existence on your person. ‘Cigarettes’ is just such a track. Positively swimming in attitude, this gritty garage rocker from London quintet Black Calavera feels effortlessly cool, walking that indescribable fine line between fierce and nonchalant. There’s plenty of substance to go along with all that style however, with robust bass tones, a blistering guitar solo and vivacious vocals ensuring the band have you right where they want you; squarely in the palm of their hand.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Amber Run – Philophobia
We humans are creatures of habit. We dislike change. Sometimes even when it is change for the better. ‘Strange Game’, the new single from Irish indie outfit Columbia Mills, knows this all too well. The track explores how addiction can define us and the relationships we form. In choosing to get clean and be a better person you can end up alienating those that loved you for your faults. What follows is a struggle between self-improvement and trying to maintain those bonds forged upon shaky foundations. The music itself also plays into this dichotomy, dealing in the same kind of bittersweet embrace as The National. The bright melodies with a dark undercurrent swirling beneath, and the peculiar balance that leaves you feeling both empty and energized all at once, reminded me particularly of ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’. This first single from their forthcoming album CCTV, due next year, certainly feels like a sign for great things on the horizon.
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
It’s all too easy to feel lost in this day and age, to feel caught in a bleak existence with no visible way forward. Between a dying planet, growing divisions in all corners of society, and the hateful and corrupt holding all the power, there is a lot to be angry about in 2019. As tempting as it may be, the new single from Jordan Mackampa doesn’t succumb to rage, instead advocating the Marvin Gaye school of thought that “war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate”. Venting your ire at a broken system only gets you so far, real progress can only come from having a vision of a better world to work towards. With the comforting embrace of his soulful vocals, Jordan sets out his vision for a bright new dawn, and asks the question “what am I to do now?”. Not as the query of someone lost and aimless, but as someone determined to make a change for the better, one act of love and kindness at a time. ‘What Am I’ is the kind of song that restores your faith in humanity and makes you believe for a while that one person can actually make a difference.
Great songs are born twice; first when the artist puts the story they wish to tell and the feelings they wish to express to music, and the second time when the song eventually gets released into the world. That is when a song takes on new life in people’s minds. They attach their own feelings to it, form their own stories, make the song their own. Be it the kind of song suited to staring out the window on a rainy day contemplating life, or for striding down the street with head held high feeling like the world can’t touch you, great songs spark the imagination of all who hear them. Wreathed in menace and mystery, ‘Pickaxe’ is the kind of song that could take on a million and one different meanings. For me the ominous atmosphere, equally menacing and melancholy, conjures up images of some grizzled old gunslinger in the wild west; feared by all and sundry, but tired of a life on the run. Where will this glorious piece of gothic Americana lead you? What will you discover?