I’ve always found it curious that most of our books, films and TV shows focus on character driven storytelling, but rarely our music. That just makes songs like ‘The Duke’ that manage to pull it off all the more memorable. In telling the tale of a boxer refusing to take a fall in spite of the dodgy deal he’s made, Western States paint a vivid scene with their rich imagery and create a character to empathise with thanks to their adept songwriting. This lead single from their forthcoming debut album From The Centre Out, released 19th July, channels Springsteen in his prime thanks to its lush Americana sound and potent hooks (pun definitely intended). The band clearly pulled no punches when it came to crafting this slice of heartland heaven. A genuine delight in every way.
It’s one thing to make a great hook, one that stops you in your tracks and grabs your attention right away. It’s another thing entirely to craft a compelling atmosphere that seeps beneath your skin and grows on you a little more with each passing moment. It takes a lot of disparate elements working together in perfect harmony, which is something that this London based alt pop duo have nailed with their dark and stunning debut single. From the intricate and expressive bass, and the rising tension in the drums, to the stark monochrome imagery; it all comes together to build a vibe that succeeds in being both dreamy and sinister. With an air of confidence and a smoky veil of mystery, this entrancing offering is the kind of menacing, slow-burning pop record that you never knew you needed.
It’s easy to get lost in the day to day. To lead a life focused on just surviving rather than thriving. Going through the motions until regret eventually hits. Not only does the new single from New York’s HOAX touch on this issue with their empathetic lyricism, but it also gives you the opportunity to thrive, for just a few minutes, in the rich sound they have created. Combining slick indie pop hooks with soulful R&B melodies, ‘Could’ pulls out all the stops. This first single from their forthcoming debut album b?, boasting a striking guitar solo and a wonderfully accomplished and animated rhythm section, shows that they are ardent followers of their own advice. ‘Could’ simply oozes joie de vivre. It’s a celebration of the beauty of being that you can’t help but join in with.
It’s curious how memories, even the most important defining experiences, fade over time. For most of us the finer details never seem to last. The scent of spring flowers, the way her eyes sparkled in the sunlight, the feeling of her hand in yours; all doomed to disappear in time. What lingers on, the spark of a memory that refuses to fade, is the way that moment made you feel. That’s what’s captured in Ren’s nostalgic look back on a former relationship in ‘Spencer Street’. It embodies the feeling of being in love and loved in return. The warm glow of knowing that there is a place and person that makes you feel at home, that makes you feel like you belong. Close your eyes and you can lose yourself in the sensation that all is well with the world. Even when time moves on, love fades, and the finer details get lost by the wayside, that feeling remains tucked away safe and sound deep down.
“Keep your eyes on me” seems a fitting refrain for the new single from Belgian indie pop outfit The Lighthouse, as ‘Cover Story’ is a song that demands your attention. A track that revels in stealing the spotlight with its ever present pop sensibilities. Taken from their forthcoming debut album Whatever Comes Our Way, out 27th September, it is aglow with infectious melodies and shimmering synths. It carries the pop banner proudly but does so with an air of authenticity and maturity. Channelling the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and Clean Cut Kid, this simple but striking offering is a definite earworm. All it takes is one listen and this track will be your faithful companion all day long, its melodies weaving their way through your thoughts.
The pursuit of perfection is often counterproductive. In trying to make things as polished and precise as possible, much of the humanity gets lost. There’s something about ramshackle art, the sense of something being thrown together in the heat of the moment, that adds no end of charm. Life itself is one great mess after all. ‘White Noise’ captures that feeling perfectly; not only in its message that the everyday chaos blinds us to the things that really matter, but more so in its endearingly haphazard delivery. Combining the rustic charm of Americana with reckless punk energy, the end result is so raw and invigorating. The studio chatter that bookends the song, the raucous bombastic approach and the raw untamed guitar solo at the centre speak of a band that are in it for the music, just for the sheer fun of playing. That’s the kind of band you want in your life. Let their joy become your own, just dive in to the music and ride the wave as they do.
They say that love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to, and in some ways a similar principle can apply to friendships. Our friends are the ones that know us best, that we share a deep connection with. Those closest to us know all the buttons to push to bring us down as well as all the right words to say to lift us back up again. That’s the kind of friendship I picture from Bess Atwell’s new single ‘Harvested’, taken from her latest EP Big Blue. From the song’s dreamy atmosphere, thanks to Bess’ crystal clear vocals and the kind of warm, still vibe that presents the perfect soundtrack for the summer nights, I’d like to think that this is ultimately a friendship with a happy ending. One where the comfort of closeness outweighs the consequences. Even so, this is a song perfectly crafted to tug at your heartstrings. Give ‘Harvested’ the power to destroy you and it will do so gladly, and you’ll find yourself pressing play to surrender yourself to it all over again.
My first listen of ‘Foreign Language’ was almost enough to make me do the auditory equivalent of a double take. We’ve been big fans of Caleb’s wanderlust inducing Americana, so this foray into synth driven territory marks an ambitious shift in sound. Altogether more lush and nuanced, it builds upon layered synths, expressive bass tones and atmospheric guitar textures to construct a song that feels very much like being a small figure in a big world. Walking the streets of a sprawling city aglow with neon lights in search of something real. Lyrically it seems fitting that it deals with our over-reliance on technology to form and maintain connections, almost like a nostalgic look back on his own work and the simple life of the open road. Caleb nails his new sound with real flair and conviction, but still carries with him a knack for potent hooks and addictive melodies.
There are so many songs about love, or loss, or everyday life. It feels good every now and then to delve into a song like ‘Coming Up For Air’ that elects to break the mould and play around with different ideas and narratives. This first cut from Mars Motel’s debut album Passenger X tells the tale of an android longing to be human and trying to change to find acceptance. Whether you take the story at face value, or use it as a mirror for our own need to connect and be understood, it is a unique and fascinating foundation to build a song upon. The music built around the story offers up a great blend of retro 80s vibes, bright and airy indie soundscapes, and perfectly polished pop melodies. The winding bass line gives the track an inescapable energy, and it carries the kind of infectious hooks that stay with you all day.
A great voice can easily steal the spotlight and be the highlight of a song. When it comes to ‘Don’t Run’ however, Jaz Ellington’s voice is the song. It is woven into the very soul of the track, feeling like a full band in itself rather than just a single element. Whether it is in the soothing softer tones that you can feel brush against your skin like fine silk, or in the resounding calls to the heavens that command your attention and seem to make the very ground tremble, Jaz pulls out all the stops on this latest single. I don’t know many songs that can both shatter you with an imposing wall of sound, and then nurse all the pieces back together with a gentle caress the way that ‘Don’t Run’ does. A voice is an instrument like any other and Jaz is clearly a master of his craft.