Welcome to September 2019 – 15 songs. Our 15 favourite tracks from September. Enjoy listening and reading the accompanying descriptions. If you’re in a real rush, skip to the bottom for the Spotify playlist. We promise we won’t cry.
Alessi’s Ark – Sacred
It feels strange to hear a song exhuming the joys of summer just as the rains arrive overhead and a chill begins to stand in the air. However, ‘Sacred’, the new single from Alessi’s Ark, the long-running project of songwriter Alessi Laurent-Marke, arrives at the perfect time allowing for the listener to spend cold nights by the record player, dreaming of the summer coming or reflecting on the one just passed. Propelled by a folk-rock stomp not dissimilar from Julia Jacklin, Laurent-Marke flexes her idiosyncratic yet charming vocal over fraught guitars, singing “What a season / hey babe?” Her wants are simple, “I prayed and dreamt of summer / just lying back / hiking, having fun” she sings over bandmate Jason Santos’ soaring synths. The winter implores a longing within all of us, but with ‘Sacred’ to hand, at least we can close our eyes and dream of carefree drives with the windows down, the sun gleaming above us. Bliss.
Amy O – Rest Stop
Amy O’s ‘Rest Stop’ is a lilting ballad reminiscent of that liminal space between sleep and waking up. Ambling lightly on your subconscious, it’s rhythm floats undramatically up and down, a tide going in and out spraying water gently over your bare feet. Written shortly after she moved home and left her job of five years, ‘Rest Stop’ is susceptible to the irresistible glow of nostalgia, its often illusory charm like a beacon of light stealing her gaze from the present day. Like the devil on your shoulder, it says ‘things were better back then’. Amy O though is wise too its oft-used tricks, singing “A lot of things have changed / a lot of things remain the same”. A refreshing and honest take on life and its permutations.
Chastity Belt – Rav 4
‘Rav 4’ frames the story behind Chastity Belt’s best album yet. A record born from adversity, the band cancelled their last tour abruptly, making no agreement to re-convene and make music. Julia Shapiro, the band’s singer/guitarist, decamped to her friend Kate’s in Asheville and spent days driving around in Kate’s Rav 4, ruminating on her future. “Lay in Kate’s bed / its true what she said / that giving up can take some guts” she sings, reflecting on that period. Characterised with the slow-burning quality that permeates the entire record, ‘Rav 4’ enlists a hypnosis in the listener, the meandering guitars and Shapiro’s reverb-heavy vocal causing the song to seep in rather than shout for attention. The sound of a band coming into their own.
Common Holly – Measured
The third single from Common Holly’s forthcoming album ‘When I Say To You Black Lighting’ is a mystical, hymnal thesis on the forever enduring cycle of love and loss. Anchored for the most part by a flute and Laurie Anderson-like vocal instrumentation, ‘Measured’ in its ups and downs, its starts and stops, most closely represents The Mamas & Papas take on ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’. Rather than using those legendary words to symbolise the restarting of the cycle, the return to the verse, Common Holly aka Montreal’s Brigitte Nagar sings ‘Oh, I think we’ve been measured out for pain since birth.’
Each verse or cycle begins with the blossoming of love and ends with its deterioration. By the end, Naggar is tired “Why should I go in now / if it didn’t work then?” She ponders. In the end, our humanity gives us no choice but to re-enter battle even when we know pain, or more morbidly death, awaits us at the end. A tragedy Shakespeare would’ve been proud of.
Coral – Find Me Wrong
Coral’s debut single ‘find me wrong’ is as fragile as an insect navigating a busy footpath; one accidental stomp away from disintegration. Formed around a reeding guitar, the track almost feels perilous, as if you could fall in the silence that lies between each pluck. Sharing characteristics with Tomberlin, ‘find me wrong’ is tender and riddled with emotion. For the most part, she despairs at her friend’s refusal to view her as a love interest, “somehow you only saw me as a friend”. Yet at its conclusion, she turns the anger inward, searching for inadequacies in the mirror – “Why did you find me that wrong?” She soars. A songwriter able to summon all your emotions no matter how minimal the soundscape.
Dana Gavanski – Catch
‘Catch’ is Dana Gavanski’s reminder to herself about the control she has over her own creativity. Imagining it as something fleeting, something fluid that might slip through her fingers, Gavanski laments “I don’t know how to catch”, before offering herself some reassurance, “Open your eyes / It won’t disappear.” The verse quite simply strolls over a springy Cate Le Bon-like bass, swelling when Gavanski shouts with driving toms for company. The instruments then meld to bring ‘Catch’ to a measured, perfect close. ‘Catch’ is a sure sign that Gavanski possesses enough creativity to blow our minds for time to come yet.
Friendship – Clairvoyant
In ‘Clairvoyant’, Friendship have summoned an aura which settles healingly over you. It’s an outer-body experience, its glorious to-and-fro of mournful, whalesong-like synths, restrained guitars and tender drums transporting you to calmer, sun-dappled waters. A thank you note to a friend who offered support during a tough period, ‘Clairvoyant’ reduces to just a guitar before the chorus, the misery felt by singer/songwriter Dan Wriggins reflected in the withdrawal of instruments. The chorus is instantly memorable, Wriggins singing, “You asked if I’d been crying lately / I said “how can you tell?” / You said “I’m clairvoyant, baby” – the last line is particularly anthemic. The format of the song doesn’t err in the remainder, the band conscious that any other additions would distil the effect. ‘Clairvoyant’ gets its claws into you and pries you open. You’re left vulnerable but ultimately, stronger for it.
Great Grandpa – Digger
Great Grandpa have entered new territory on their forthcoming sophomore record, ‘Four of Arrows’. The soundscapes are gargantuan in scale while the lyrics are telling of a band that are ok being vulnerable, ok being raw – it’s truly one of 2019’s greatest records. ‘Digger’ is a song about mental illness and the shocking shifts of pace in the music are suggestive of that whirlwind of emotion; everything seems steady and OK until out of nowhere you’re knocked mercilessly into rock-bottom. The first half of the chorus has the sing-along qualities found in the album’s lead single ‘Mono No Aware’. A thunderous guitar then splits the song in half as Alex Menne roars “that’s why I hate you” – their voice imploding, on the brink of self-destruction. Another surefire sign that Great Grandpa are at their best when they operate on the edge, harnessing their emotion in glacier-shifting guitars and writhing, life-affirming vocals. A band so human it hurts.
Green Gardens – They Held Me Down
‘They Held Me Down’ is assembled perfectly, the peaks and troughs arriving exactly when required. Presaged by the words, “sour grapes / this wine has lost its taste”, the chorus is a luxuriant waltz. It’s so head-boppingly sumptuous that you exist entirely within its ecosystem for those few glorious seconds. The subject matter is ambiguous, the listener left unsure as to whether the lead singer, whose voice resembles Mystery Jets’ Blaine Harrison, is now free of the weight holding him down or still lumbered by it. The singer’s fate may be unknown, but with the resplendent ‘They Held Me Down’, Green Gardens have created a space capable of providing anyone with respite, however momentarily.
Lightning Bug – September Song
‘September Song’ is the stand-out track from Lightning Bug’s full-length ‘October Song’, a collage-like exhibition of Audrey Kang’s sensitivity for moving soundscapes. Bearing the hallmarks of ambient music, ‘September Song’ is transportive, lulling the listener into a sleep-like state. Kang barely murmurs, sounding like an ASMR professional, whispering “let it die, let it go”. A spectre haunts the track though, a mournful gloom that Kang can’t shift. When a whimsical synth blares, the clouds gather blocking out the sun. But for how long?
Molly Sarle – Karaoke Angel
Molly Sarle, 1/3 of Mountain Man, has lived nomadically these past few years, a lifestyle that allowed her to draw upon a hodgepodge of human experience on full length ‘Karaoke Angel;. Sarle’s goldmine though came in the form of a motel-slash-bar called The Fernwood in Big Sur, California which hosted karaoke every other Friday night – the venue for the title track. Whether on stage or propping up the bar, Sarle observes all around her, ruefully riffing on her drinking-mate’s stories while slurping a jack and coke. Jacob always watches the karaoke but never gets up himself, and he is the catalyst for the song’s best line, “Hey Jacob, when are you going to get up and give us one? I was born not to give away my heart to strangers, hon”. Bill Callahan propped up a similar bar on ‘The Sing’, crooning “Beer / thank you / beer / thank you”, and Sarle has all the storytelling talent of Callahan. Canadian singer Feist describes her as a “thunderbolt”, get ready to be struck down.
Old Amica – Collisions
Birds squawk above billowing words at the outset, before resplendent strums of guitar and a sacred, hymnal-like vocal push them out of view. Initially it defies gravity, floating easily in an ether of its own making, before organs and synths ascend it to a higher plain. The chorus is anthemic, reverent, grounding the song with its swaying back-and-forth. The hubbub of people, of land, finally re-enters the frame, as the song is allowed to end like a fire left to burn out – the final flame flickering and dying, long after the people who felt its warmth had dispersed.
Robbie Thompson – Above Us All The Devil Is Laughing
Robbie Thompson’s new single ‘Above Us All The Devil Is Laughing’ is indicative of a man wise beyond his years. Joined by a full band for the first time who bring punching snares and feedback-laden guitars to the party, Thompson sounds no smaller, still asserting his command over a bigger sound. His wearied, husky vocal is the sound of a man that’s lived, as are his words, a hopeless yet humorous contemplation on the pointlessness of life. While he does consider life’s daily battles pointless, he thinks that ‘maybe the real purpose is to find meaning and connection in each battle.’ “At the end of it all / What’s it matter?” He concludes at the song’s end, before the band take him up on his frivolous offer, indulging themselves in one final ‘rock out’, because hey, why not? An artist with a bright, if pointless, future ahead.
Rosie Tucker – Ambrosia
With a title like ‘Ambrosia’, you may envision Rosie Tucker’s new single as a joyful, pop-punk tribute to their favourite sweet treat. Yet, this is Tucker at their most vulnerable. Indeed, it’s more somber than anything from their debut album ‘Never Not Never Not Never Not’, which we hailed as one of 2019’s greatest guitar albums earlier this year.
While drums do eventually join for a triumphant finish, this is mostly just Tucker and the mournful strokes of their guitar. “I am older every second than I’ve ever been” they contemplate, looking their mortality in the eye. They capture the empathy and compassion that Palehound showed for friends and lovers on most recent album ‘Black Friday’. “You’ve got money stress so I pick up the check / I check my balance as I lean to one side” they sing, recalling an instance where they cast aside their own money worries to save a friend from embarrassment and scarcity. The floodlight gleam of the chorus tingles all the senses, clearing your head of all thoughts for a rare moment of total immersion. ‘Ambrosia’ is proof in the pudding that Tucker can inspire awe no matter what genre they lend their hand to.
Sour Widows – Pilot Light
Formed only last year, Sour Widows’ debut single ‘Tommy’ was suggestive of a band who had been perfecting their craft much longer. Today, they release ‘Pilot Light’, an effortlessly cool follow-up. A tightly-wound, prodding guitar provides a playground for singer Maia Sinaiko to exude a Faye Webster-like assuredness over, “My pilot light glows blue / Every time I think a stranger looks like you”, they sing off-handedly. That sheen is blasted off with the fraught, angst ridden chorus; their more passionate vocal now offset against ear-bleeding guitars. This ability to transition from cool to dishevelled on request is just further proof that Sour Widows are amongst 2019’s best new bands. Their forthcoming self-titled EP will set that view in concrete. Trust us.