Welcome to May 2019 – 15 songs. Our 15 favourite tracks from this month. Enjoy listening and reading the accompanying descriptions. If you’re in a real rush, skip to the Spotify playlist at the bottom. I promise I won’t cry.
Bedroom – Count to Five
Formed around a largely repetitive piano structure, Bedroom’s first single in five years, ‘Count to Five’ is so intimate it feels like it’s happening just yards away. That if you endeavored to, you could hear his bare feet slapping against the piano pedal just as you can hear him turn off the recorder at the song’s close.
Recorded with fellow Nashville songwriter German Error Message, our recent track-by-track guest, ‘Count to Five’ was written after Noah Kittinger, the IRL name of Bedroom, found himself in a hard place creatively, struggling to finish off any music. German Error Message makes his presence known on ‘Count to Five’, particularly when the shrill noise of a tape fast-forwarding makes its’ entrance.
Layered vocals and marching drums make for a heart-swelling build up before the song caves in on itself leaving Kittinger’s faltering vocals alone, playing off against the discordant tones of his piano. A little wonder.
Big Thief – Betsy
The soundscapes and lyrics on Besty are so vivid, you feel you’re in the song, sat behind the wheel of a black cab, nodding your head passively to Adrianne Lenker’s every whim, ‘drive into New York with me.’ The humans rushing alongside, the traffic lights and the bus stops all appear in a fog, the next one comes along before you’ve even had time to register the last. Lenker’s voice is hidden under a thick layer of gloom, sounding more like Nico than ever before, and the soundscapes are brooding, bloodcurdling even. If there’s one thing ‘Besty’ depicts most, it’s the weather the taxi is providing cover from. Within the song’s structure, you hear a howling wind, the sound of sleet falling slowly on to the road and the passenger window, its presence vanishing almost as instantly as it landed. ‘Betsy’ is fleeting, a journey with no ending, no final destination, kind of like life really. And by god it’s beautiful.
Crake – Glycerin
Leeds group Crake write songs about ‘flora, fauna and the tough stuff’. ‘Glycerin’, the first single from their Dear Natalie EP, is packed with plucky percussion, the verses sounding as if Crake are climbing a rugged mountain, grabbing onto craggy rock after craggy rock. They reach the ascent on the chorus, when Rowan Sandle’s hoarse, faltering vocal is backed by Rob Slater’s haunting, monotone as together they sing “If you see I’m struggling then cast me out of line.” With a shout out from Saddle Creek on Twitter and a support slot with their former signees Big Thief, Crake ain’t coming down that mountain any time soon.
Crumb – Ghostride
‘Ghostride’, from their forthcoming full-length ‘Jinx’, begins with lead singer Lila Ramani people-watching from the leather upholstery of a taxi backseat – “press my face up closer to the glass, I see the people when they pass, they move so automatic” she muses wryly. In the next scene she’s idling in bed, “Lazy day, I’m so hungry, you melt me like a candle.” Ramani releases these one-liners from a state of malaise, her sardonic tone unknowingly drawing you in.
There’s no end to the story, just a patchwork of occurrences that lead nowhere. Like heirs Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and heiresses Frankie Cosmos and Florist, Ramani is a master of observation, accepting of the fact that our life events often have no ending other than the ultimate one.
Dude York – Falling
Our teenage years are spent in a state of total immersion. Love is usually the cause. Consumed completely by our search for love and an overwhelming desire for sex, we’re predisposed to count any shared interest – ordering the same thing from the takeaway, obsessing over the same artist, repeatedly watching the same film – as a sure sign of love.
That naivety, desperation and confusion are overflowing on Dude York’s new single – the title track from their forthcoming album ‘Falling’. Dude York’s Claire England spends the verses battling with internal questions – “We used to like all the same shit, do you think we’d be friends in 2006?” – and obsessing over any shared interests she can latch onto, “that song means everything to me.” By the time we reach the chorus England is preoccupied by what love might feel like, “I was starting to think that it would be when passion lines up with practicality, but I secretly hoped, the way it happened to me, there’d be no doubt it’d feel like falling.”
There’s a sense of longing here, but the driving drums, pulsating guitar and lightning synths stop you from lingering. A gleeful pop-punk throwback to those messy, light-headed years.
Faye Webster – Right Side of My Neck
With a blue grass musician Grandfather, a brief Nashville education and her signature visor cap, Faye Webster has all the makings of a Country singer. Yet the Georgian is the only singer on the books at Hip Hop collective Awful Records, the label that launched the careers of Abra and Playboi Carti. This isn’t them trying to be different but instead a nod of the visor to Webster’s infusion of R&B with more traditional sounds. On ‘Right Side of My Neck’ you hear the effortless R&B inflection Webster possesses in her voice, flicking away concerns like a piece of rolled up blu tack sat perilously on the edge of your desk. ‘You said you can’t change your haircut, but it looks good anyway’ she sings. With a bristling groove, a strung-out steel pedal and an infectious jazz piano fraying at the edges, ‘The Right Side of My Neck’ is quite simply a vibe. Swagger in its magnificence.
Florist – Shadow Bloom
The lead single from Florist’s forthcoming album ‘Emily Alone’ is sublime. It’s otherworldly, a kind of sprawling nature that causes emotion to swell in your stomach before, like marauding ants, it spreads unrelentingly across your whole being. Alone, Emily is stronger and more formidable than ever before.
Haybaby – Get Down
Get Down’, the second single from Haybaby’s forthcoming album ‘They Get There’, is an epistle on self-preservation. Over slowly rolling drums and slumbering guitars, singer/guitarist Leslie Hong delivers a tantalising, Palehound-esque vocal, whispering “I don’t need your help, I get down, I get down on myself, I don’t need, I don’t need your help.” It’s clear from the off that Hong stands on her own two feet, but the pain that lingers there soon surfaces as she impassionedly sings “I’ve been doing just fine on my own, I’ve got one, two, three reasons to feel rare.”
The slow simmer boils over into a blaze by the end as the guitars scrag and the drums fray. Haybaby may not need us but we certainly need them.
Halfsour – Cowboy
Zoe Wyner’s ode to anonymity, ‘Cowboy’, is our pick from ‘Sticky’ – their sophomore album which they guided us through in our track by track feature. Over sludgy, dirt-infested guitars, Wyner imagines simply playing music and disappearing into the ether. This imaginary Wyner has no social media accounts, no marketing campaign for her latest single and no small talk after sets – “I’ll see you at the show, do I have to say hello?” she questions. In this world Wyner is quite simply a performer of music. And yeah it might be what she’s best at and yeah there are strong parts to her argument but y’know what? We’re not standing for it. Halfsour ain’t going nowhere!
Jade Imagine – Big Old House
I ventured out to see Julia Jacklin a couple of months ago, bearing absolutely zero knowledge about the support act Jade Imagine. So impressed was I by their set that when I saw a post on their Instagram hinting at new music, I instantly sent an email their way not realising the song was already sitting in my inbox! The single in discussion, ‘Big Old House,’ proved more than worthy of that excitement. It’s fuzzy, shoegaze vibe is made up of restrained guitars overlapped by wonderful ghost-like vocals from band leader Jade McInally. With a chorus that shares overtones with Amber Arcades, the stage name of Dutch songwriter Annelotte de Graaf, on this showing McInally stakes a claim to earn her own place at the table, no longer looking up at artists like de Graaf and Jacklin but instead sitting alongside them as equals.
Julia Shapiro – A Couple Highs
Under a layer of murk, we find Chastity Belt lead singer Julia Shapiro trying to project her voice above the dank atmosphere. It’s a place Shapiro commonly finds herself in on ‘Perfect Version,’ her solo debut for Hardly Art. Made following a tough break up and a cancelled Chastity Belt tour, Shapiro operates with a clear sonic palette making for one of 2019’s most idiosyncratic, meticulous sounding records. ‘A Couple Highs’ is that palette in microcosm. Battling against past insecurities, Shapiro sings ‘I was so insecure’ before the beautiful, spellbinding chorus emerges for the first time as soaring guitars beautifully wind around her faltering vocal. ‘There’s been a lot of lows and a couple highs’ she muses on the single. For us, ‘Perfect Version’ is an all-time best.
Mannequin Pussy – Who You Are
‘Who You Are’ opens with singer/guitarist Marisa Dabice bemoaning the current state of things over restrained guitars and soft drums, before she rises out of her depression as the guitars ramp up or notch or two and the drums roll, singing “I love who you are/you don’t have to change.” Eventually Dabice sings “I felt the earth move in your eyes.” She was looking in the mirror.
Soft Blue Shimmer – Fruitcake
Disposable America’s second appearance on this list – god, those guys are smashing it right now – comes in the form of Los Angeles quartet Soft Blue Shimmer. On ‘Fruitcake,’ the aptly named group fuse dreamy vocals and spun gold guitars to make a sound that’s quite simply heaven made. Written about not being able to shut off your thoughts, contrastingly ‘Fruitcake’ provides an illusory island of calm where worries are dispelled as soon as your feet hit the beach. My happy place.
Slingshot Dakota – Weird Like Me
With keyboard structures straight out of Hollywood, emotive vocals rawer than a hungry child and drums that fire you from a cannon, Slingshot Dakota make music that has literally no shame. Standout ‘Weird Like Me’ is set to sound from the bedrooms of teenagers failing to make the ‘popular kids’ cut. Written for lead singer/guitarist Carly Comando’s god daughter Lexi, ‘Weird Like Me’ is an affirmation that there’s no right way to live your life. It’s Slingshot Dakota’s anthem. One for you to stick your lighters in the air to as you sing ‘please know that there’s no normal’ along with the husband and wife duo. A poignant reminder to embrace everything that makes you, you.
The Sonder Bombs – I Don’t Have One Anymore
Book More Women is quite simply one of Twitter’s finest accounts. Using flashing gifs, the account shows a festival’s full line up before removing the all-male acts to show the remains of the lineup. It makes for shocking viewing. The acts featuring women from the last three festivals they posted made up 24%, 0% and 19% respectively. It’s this male-dominated industry that Sonder Bombs rail against on ‘I Don’t Have One Anymore.’
Not steeped in doom though, ‘I Don’t Have One Anymore’ is Sonder Bombs’ announcement that they’re out here on the battlefield fighting for a better future. They don’t do this with melancholy acoustic guitars or maudlin lyrics but instead bring handclaps, the best backing singing I’ve heard in yonks and a fucking huge chorus, where they sing ‘I’m worn out on you’ over and over. The song opens with a snippet from Lady Gaga’s feature film ‘Five Foot Two’, where the pop star remarks “I don’t really have a threshold for that bullshit anymore.” And Willow Hawks, Sonder Bombs’ lead singer, is done with your bullshit too. Towards the song’s close Hawks sings “Moving forward from here I think you should stay clear of me.” Stand in Sonder Bombs way – or any woman making music for that matter – at your peril.