“Journey to the coast in your mind, down by the waves“. These days the kind of escapism offered by ‘Swim’ is needed more and more. When the world is at its most bleak and absurd, you can spend a few minutes walking in Joe Hicks’ shoes: along a quiet coastline bathed in the golden light of morning, hand in hand with the one you love. They say the best writers explore all the senses. Not just the sights and sounds, but the sensations against your skin and the emotions bubbling away beneath it. Joe does an exemplary job of capturing the dizzying rush of thoughts and feelings in such a scene. Are those goosebumps from the clawing cold water or from the touch of her skin against yours. Is that rising warm glow as you walk upon the shore down to the first rays of the summer sun or the sight of her smile. Are you feeling weightless because of the rise and fall of the waves, or because love has given you wings. The perfect marriage of gold standard lyricism and transcendent score, Joe Hicks’ latest single is a rare and splendid gift.
Though ‘Corners’ is only the second single from Canadian singer/songwriter B.Knox, it speaks with the kind of wisdom and maturity you’d expect from a world weary artist who has spend half a lifetime on the road. He offers his own take on the sensation of life passing by like sand slipping through your fingers. A gritty rumination on the unrelenting passage of time; on all the missed opportunities it leaves buried in the bottom of the hourglass. Reflecting on all the turns not taken when marching onward down a road that seemingly leads nowhere. Though it deals with heavy subject matter, ‘Corners’ merely dabbles in darkness and never fully succumbs to it. There’s an underlying hope shining through the cracks, at its most luminous in the track’s instrumental centrepiece with its old world piano and defiant guitar squalls. A hope that the listener will heed the warning, seize the day, and perhaps chart a course down a road without regrets.
Love can be the source of both the greatest joy and the greatest pain a person can feel. And sometimes, when looking back after a relationship has fallen apart, it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins. ‘My Baby’s No One’s Girl’ explores that grey area in between. The new single from East London quintet North America looks back on the intimate moments from a past relationship, and describes how dwelling on them can come with a feeling of fondness and warmth or with a bitter sting. Equal parts introspective and incendiary, the soft summery swell gradually builds toward a soaring and cathartic guitar solo in one of the best climaxes to a song I’ve heard all year. This standout single warns how one of the greatest tragedies in life is letting love slip through your fingers. But coming in just behind on that list is how much of a tragedy it would be to let a song like this pass you by unheard.
When done right, music can offer you a kind of escapism that is unlike anything else. Perhaps more than any other medium it allows you to simply close your eyes and feel transported to a detailed vignette conjured up by the artist. Singer/songwriter Toria Wooff is wonderfully adept at taking her listeners on just such a journey. The dark cinematic Americana of ‘Collision Course’, taken from her latest EP Badlands, immediately incites an image of the wild west. Of sweeping desert vistas, of dusty canyons scarring the landscape, of an endless horizon where jagged ochre mountains claw at an azure sky. The mere act of pressing play feels as though Toria has rocked up on a rickety horse-drawn wagon to lead you down a well-worn trail on an adventure of her own design. ‘Collision Course’ is a whole other world just waiting for your next visit, provided you ever wish to leave it in the first place.
Canadian duo The Actual Goners have hit it out of the park with this new single. To quote their countrymen “I can learn to resist anything but temptation”, and this earnest offering of heartland rock is damn near irresistible right from the start. With the kind of simple yet striking riffs, bright infectious melodies and ever present effervescent charm that will delight fans of Tom Petty. Depicting the aftermath of a night on the town, and all the ill-made decisions while inebriated that come with it, I’ve never heard anyone make the hell of a hangover sound so sweet. The chorus’ tale of “pebbles on the window in the middle of the night” gives and endearingly romanticised view of how, with a little extra push, we find the strength to speak our hearts and forget the consequences. ‘Temptation’ is every bit of intoxicating as the night it depicts, but rather than leave you reeling you’ll be coming straight back for more.
Brisbane’s Tiny Castle are back with a brilliant new single. From the frenetic retro rocker ‘World’, this new release leads you in a different (but no less stunning) direction. ‘Composure’ is a gorgeous anthemic ballad that once again makes superb use of vintage 80s synths, but this time also drawing from the new romantics and classic indie to create a tender-hearted atmosphere. The way the ballad builds towards a cathartic guitar solo at its conclusion reminds me of Journey’s ‘Who’s Crying Now’, albeit with a more loving vibe. Lyrically ‘Composure’ lives up to its name, as the track is concerned with taking a step back to be able to look at hardships with the necessary perspective to endure them. Musically however it feels more like a slow-dance at the end of the world, offering a feeling that the storm that rages around you can do its worst so long as you can look into the eyes of someone that loves you. It offers the refrain of “I don’t ever wanna drag you through hell”, but the flipside of love is the willingness to walk through hell regardless for the chance to lend a helping hand.
Eighties revivalism has seemingly skyrocketed in recent years. There’s just something about that style that keeps artists coming back for inspiration, and keeps audiences coming back to bask in its charm. Indie pop in particular seems to have a penchant for embracing all things retro, but I can think of few examples that do it quite so well as ‘People Like Me’. With its vibrant synths, energetic rhythm, infectious hooks, and one of the most quirky guitar solos I’ve heard in a while, it’s an endearing track that wins you over right from the first listen. The most uplifting and engaging single yet from Belwood favourite Natalie Shay, it feels like it has been plucked directly from the soundtrack of a John Hughes film. Dealing with the realities of life as an artist, rather than the rose-tinted view we see on social media, it’s easy to imagine it playing over a playful montage of someone trying to find their way in the world. Though it doesn’t shy away from the realities of life, the unrelentingly joyful tone of the song gives you all the positive energy you could ask for to persevere.
This new offering from Brooklyn band Russian Baths is an absolute monster. Not in the usual sense, not something wild and relentless that claws for your attention, but something that makes the hairs on the bank of your neck stand up, that makes you feel small and insignificant. ‘Tracks’, taken from their forthcoming debut album, deals in the kind of existential dread you get from staring into the void and feeling the void stare back. The echoing beat that opens the track, like your heart pounding in your ears, gives way to a mighty post rock wall of sound that towers over you and seems to obscure the whole world around you in its shadow. The sweet crystalline vocals juxtapose this wonderfully; a siren song to lure you into the abyss. Though the song seems more like a soundtrack for summoning Cthulhu, it actually deals with a more familiar horror in seeing the worst in ourselves and others, and the subsequent search for forgiveness and self-respect that follows. Russian Baths are not a band for the faint of heart, but time and again they have proven to be masterful at what they do.
Some styles come and go, while others seem like they could last forever. As much as the new single from Kail Baxley draws from 60s soul, it never for a second feels dated. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and soul has always had a power to connect with people and capture emotion. ‘These Arms Are Open’ makes use of this warm and welcoming atmosphere to bolster the track’s message of reassurance and comfort. Kail’s fantastic vocals, reminiscent of Ray LaMontagne, stand out as this song’s secret weapon. Treading the line between honest earthy grit and silky smooth soul, his voice feels like home. Like watching the last rays of the setting sun through the window, or listening to the logs crackle in the fireplace, there’s something so pure and grounded about Kail’s vocals that makes you feel safe and fittingly enough welcomes you with open arms.
I’ve lost count of how many press releases I’ve read that tell a tale of artists leaving home and heading to L.A. to find themselves. The fact that I’m hearing from them, that they are making music and sharing it with the world, makes them the lucky ones. What about all the artists that risk it all in pursuit of a dream, and find themselves no closer to it. Think too of all the budding actors, or folks starting new business ventures, or those just hoping to find any sort of meaning or purpose. All drawn in by the allure of the city of angels only to find it doesn’t hold all the answers.
The new single from husband and wife duo The Bergamot is in many ways a song about being strong enough to admit defeat and walk away. The heavy thud of the drums and the atmospheric reverb remind me of how in times of deep sorrow you feel numb to the world. You’re so lost in your thoughts that it sounds like a barrier blocking out everything around you. At the same time, within the bittersweet harmonies and gentle guitar, you find glimmers of hope. ‘L.A’ doesn’t mourn the end of a story, it is merely mourning the end of an important chapter. It’s a song to give you the strength to let go of broken dreams and turn instead to see what awaits upon a new horizon.