Welcome to November 2019 – 15 songs. Our 15 favourite tracks from November. 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.
Aoife Nessa Frances – Here In The Dark
‘Here In The Dark’, the second single from Aoife Nessa Frances’ forthcoming debut album ‘Land of No Junction’, is as catchy as it is ambitious. Stretching across five-and-a-half minutes, ‘Here In The Dark’ is centred around an infectious, forthright chorus. The instrumentation that surrounds the chorus, however, reveal Frances’ experimental leanings; psychedelic flourishes are at a premium, whilst the strung-out conclusion combines barroom piano, yearning violin and jazz-influenced drums. The washes of psychedelia plus Frances’ ability to really stretch a note, happily invite Weyes Blood comparisons. The lyrics speak of the trivial nature of arguments, and the importance of forgiveness, “Oh the skies won’t fall over things we said / in the hour after light it’s my very last thought”. Speaking on the track, Frances says: “Here in the Dark’ is a song about forgiveness and the fragility of love, making mistakes and owning up to them.”
Camille Christel – Goldsmith Street
It’s pitch black, needles of rain fall in the glow of street lamps, whilst underfoot cars race by in both directions and pedestrians search for a place to shelter. That’s the scene I visualise when listening to Camille Christel’s ‘Goldsmith Street’ – the 19-year-old’s field recordings of pissing rain, bird calling plus her stark instrumentation result in a song that’s as pleasing visually as it is audibly.
The crux of the track is an infectious melodic hook that goes, “I miss train rides and the back of your spine / I haven’t seen it in a while / I haven’t seen you in a while.” Christel isn’t content to sing this hook over again, though that would make a pleasant enough listen, rather she pulls the threads out and nits into existence something new – a soundscape that features slow heartbeat-like percussion, stirring violin and a sample of Christel’s voice spiralling above. Christel is brave enough to transcend traditional song structures, to deconstruct and rebuild anew. ‘Goldsmith Street’ could announce the arrival of a true visionary.
Eve Owen – She Says
At 14 I certainly did not have the presence of mind to realise how much I’d lucked out with my parents. Rather, I was beset by a sense of rebellion, convinced that every telling off was an outrageous injustice rather than a simple attempt to put me on the right path.
Eve Owen, however, was keenly aware of how lucky she was to have parents like hers. So much so that she wrote a gorgeous ballad about their unfailing reliability to be there for her, no matter what. Six years on and Owen is now releasing a more developed incarnation of that teenage-borne track. The National’s Arron Dessner is on production duties – Owen appeared on their most recent record, ‘I Am Easy To Find’ and on the resulting tour – though he’s happy to take a backseat, Owen’s obvious talent granted the space to shine alone. Her voice has a unique tonal depth to it, something that’s accentuated by the track’s sparse instrumentation – little more than a lone piano. “She said, I’m coming for you” she sings in the chorus, perhaps remarking on her mother’s willingness to drop everything whenever her daughter wound up in a potentially threatening situation. Owen goes on to imagine what life would be like without such supportive parents, “You never been there before / I’m not waiting anymore / you said you had an open door”, her voice soaring, its heightened emotion matched by swelling, intensifying keys. The finale of lustrous violin and delicate piano playing absorbs you entirely, before an unremarkable piano drop brings about an abrupt end. The transcendence Owen wrought upon us gone in the blink of an eye.
Friendship – You Might Already Know
Friendship’s ‘You Might Already Know’ recalls the bittersweet experience of receiving a message from a lover whilst you’re so far away from them. “You sent me a picture / you were looking alright / it’s hard to make up / the ocean at night”. In the chorus, lead singer and songwriter Dan Wriggins describes how his partner’s love managed to break down the barriers he’d enclosed himself in. “You found a portal to my door / And you walked right in / I didn’t think there was a door there / But apparently it was wide open”.
Hannah Ashcroft – Landfire
The debut single from Manchester’s very own, Hannah Ashcroft is a tale of two halves. The first half of ‘Landfire’ possesses a country-western like cool to it. The slinky bassline plus Ashcroft’s aloof vocal give off a Texan desert vibe as if a cowboy has just cantered past, leaving a sky filled with circling dust particles in their wake. The second half, however, sees Ashcroft shed this disguise entirely, her voice overtaken by an irrepressible passion, the now rampant guitars adding fuel to her fire. “Get off my case / get off my case” she rails, her voice booming rather than shrinking as the band makes their presence known. Though Ashcroft has previously flirted with acoustic folk, it’s clear she’s at her most potent when leading a band. This is a vital debut single, and though her fire has only just been lit, we expect it to rage on for some time yet.
Ings – Chex Mix
‘Chex Mix’ opens with Seattle-based artist ings detailing her definition of self-care, “Chex Mix for breakfast / listen to queen bitch twice” – it’s no wonder ings lists a Bowie track among her favourite remedies, she celebrated her school graduation by performing ‘Space Oddity’ in a red spandex jumpsuit. That’s not the best piece of advice on ‘Chex Mix’ though, that arrives at the end. “Life is an experiment / best to keep on going” ings declares, something to remember when you feel the world isn’t on your side.
Josienne Clarke – Slender, Sad and Sentimental
Earlier this month, Josienne Clarke released her charming debut, ‘In All Weather’. ‘Slender, Sad and Sentimental’ is easily its most jovial moment, a self-referencing track where Clarke ‘writes about writing a catchy single in the style of a catchy single’. The chorus is a certified foot-stomper, Clarke’s jocular alliteration – “poise, poetry and pride…slender, sad and sentimental” – perching above full-bodied guitars and pulsating drums. Though the chorus is great, the moments of melancholy and complexity that hem it in are perhaps the song’s greatest strengths. The end of the first chorus sees the arrival of a reeding, brooding guitar and lyrics that are both thorny and macabre, “I’m grinning with gritted teeth, I’ve been yearning at you, gurning at you”. While, in another moment, the song disintegrates entirely revealing its bare bones of pensive keys and introspective guitar strums. Catchy, complex and captivating.
Lanterns on the Lake – Every Atom
After releasing ‘Beings’ back in 2015, long-term favourites Lanterns on the Lake return today with new single ‘Every Atom’ and news of a forthcoming record ‘Spook The Herd’ (21 February).
‘Every Atom’ is everything we expected and more. Hazel Wilde has always been capable of summing up feelings you could never illiterate yourself. She once simply sang “I wanna feel human” on ‘I’ll Stall Them’ – words so simple yet relatable that I grow goosebumps just thinking about them. Wilde is as relatable as ever on ‘Every Atom’, this time singing of how she’d do absolutely anything to spend just one more moment with a deceased loved one. “If I have to split every atom / Just to find a trace of you / that’s what I’ll do”.
Lottie Brazier – Washing Machine
It’s often claimed that music journalists are just failed musicians. London’s Lottie Brazier, former music journalist (Guardian, Pitchfork, The Wire etc) and now budding songwriter, puts fire to that frankly ridiculous cliche with ‘Washing Machine’ – a debut single that proves her aptitude for both.
Co-produced by William Doyle, ‘Washing Machine’ is loosely inspired by a friend undergoing treatment for a life threatening illness, as well as fears about the future of healthcare in the UK. Brazier’s haunting, distinctive vocal hangs perilously over fluttering synths and elongated guitar strums, singing “What will it take until she is not a child / when will they kill her?” The soundscape is industrial, concrete-clad dread materialising in both the instrumentation and the lyrics. “So many high-rise flats / when will they be empty / so many high-rise flats / when will they come down?” The ending of reverberating synths and pulsating drums resembles a helicopter flying low overhead, its rotating blade and deafening engine too close for comfort. Brazier’s voice becomes more distant with every word, until it’s gone, swallowed up by a deathly silence.
Neev – Across The Glass
There’s a sense of loss on Neev’s second ever single ‘Across The Glass.’ A love letter to her hometown of Glasgow written from her adopted home of London, she reminisces on times that are consigned to youth. “The fairylights above our heads / made our words taste so sweet” she sings, the memory creating a warm fuzzy feeling whilst coming across like something that can’t be re-created.
Neev’s voice is warm and husky. Initially she’s backed by just the jovial strums of her acoustic guitar, until a heart-rending chillo yearns in the bridge. The chorus bears hallmarks of Big Thief’s ‘Mary’, the rhythmic speed Neev sings at not too dissimilar from Adrianne Lenker’s star turn. “Where were you when reality felt like this / when time went so quick” she sings lastly, despairing that a friend or lover couldn’t share in those days when life felt limitless, when the world felt like a bottomless treasure trove. Beautiful.
Patchwork Guilt – My Home
Manchester-based songwriter Patchwork Guilt completes a trilogy of 2019 singles with ‘My Home’. According to Phoenix Mundy (Patchwork Guilt), each song has ‘followed the culmination of a life chapter dictated by self-discovery, often painful with the facing of certain harsh truths about self-destructive behaviours and patterns’.
‘My Home’ is the most jazzy of the three singles though it still incorporates elements of folk and dream pop as with all of Patchwork Guilt’s work. The instrumentation of delicate piano and wintry tremolo guitar exudes pure sophistication, while Mundy’s whimsical vocal occupies a space somewhere between Jessica Pratt and Aldous Harding. Together they make for a unique and fascinating listen.
Party of the Sun – Drifters
Americana extraordinaries Party of The Sun released their debut LP ‘Trekker’ last Wednesday (30 October). ‘Drifters’ – its standout track – is reminiscent of leaving the house on a fresh Winter morning, the air entirely still, no car engines sounding, your breath appearing like a column of smoke. It’s a fleeting moment of quietude that you’re forever grateful for.
Made up primarily of New Hampshire’s Ethan McBrien and Rory Hurley, the duo compliment one another well – Hurley’s gold-spun guitar the perfect partner to McBrien’s timeless croon. The song’s tenderness is exacerbated further by the muted, delicate drums – drumsticks caressing the snare, a towel thrown over its skin. ’Drifters’ largely stays on the same path, deviating only for the lush chorus where McBrien sings, “Such a long way down / what a restless way to fall / standing on broken ground / what’s a broken heart / mean to you now”. It’s affect is balm-like and as the song drifts off, you feel refreshed, ready to take on the day with a new sense of purpose.
Pet Crow – What We Doin’?
‘I feel seen’ would be an adequate, Twitter-friendly response to Pet Crow’s new single ‘What We Doin’?’ The Derby punks ask, ‘What are we doing?’ – a question that the band and listener alike can’t possibly respond to with a logical answer. Like, seriously what are we doing? Why are we on this planet? Why have we created a system that requires us to ‘go to work’ every day? What is the point of anything when death awaits us all? Luckily, Pet Crow take the edge off such pertinent questions with sharp riffs and a rambunctious chorus. Danielle Ross’ aloof and detached vocals compliment the song’s subject matter perfectly, “We don’t know what we’re doing anymore / who knows what they’re doing? / who’s keeping score?” A drawn-out breakdown fools you into thinking the end is nigh, until the quartet hit the restart button with marching drums and jolting guitar, allowing for one final blast of that chorus. ‘What We Doin’?’ acknowledges the futility of life whilst also inviting us to throw the shackles off and enjoy it whilst we can.
Twain – Royal Road
Twain’s latest single, the second from his frankly remarkable new album ‘Adventure’, interrogates the idea of binaries, good and bad, black and white, better or worse, male and female. As children, my brothers and I would often gather around my grandad, eager for him to impart some wisdom upon us and Davidson takes on a similar role here, gold nugget after gold nugget spouting from him. “Call yourself a man / call yourself a woman / I call myself alive” he sings. In the chorus, Davidson shows his contempt at the process of categorisation that society subjects us to as children. “I know my mind / and it never knew the difference between the two / ‘til they say, ‘hey you, this is what you are’”. Just like you and I, Davidson is beyond categorisation, his music is beyond words, a man-made system of language could never do justice to something so otherworldly.
Winnie Raeder – She
Capitalising on the success of this year’s ‘From Here’ EP, London’s Winnie Raeder is back with ‘She’, a gorgeous, sensory ballad that washes over you like waves of warm water. Supported by tender tugs of the guitar, Raeder’s voice is soulful and husky, her words largely ambiguous and open to interpretation – “If I could I would / I’d build a rocket ship / to gather all the stars and fill your pocket”. The chorus is quite simply hair-raising as backing singers harmonise with Raeder, enhancing her already frighteningly good vocal. A cacophony of voices is present by the end, giving ‘She’ a choral, almost religious edge. The choir soon departs though, Raeder left alone, asking “If I find a way to the moon / will you come too?” Stunning.
Zoe Graham – Gradual Move
“I hate the change of the seasons” Zoe Graham declares on new single ‘Gradual Move’. It’s little wonder Graham is pained by such overt change; in the last 12 months, the Scottish songwriter has lost her dog and fled the family nest for the first time. “The total shift happened gradually over the six months from September 2018 to March 2019. In that time, I had moved out, my family home looked drastically different, a relationship had ended, and my dog had died. I found it quite difficult to adapt to this change, but also coming to terms with the fact that things are only going to change even more – becoming thankful for the important things”, Graham states.
Adorned with wistful guitars and burbling synths, ‘Gradual Move’ is a brutally honest recollection of those six months, and the growth inspired by the challenges it posed. “There’s a dog dying back home / oh god she’s gone” Graham sings, realising how powerless she is to affect things back home. Initially a folk musician, Graham was inspired by the work of St Vincent, Christine and The Queens and Haim to delve into poppier territory. “Everything changes / no it’s not sudden / it’s just a gradual move” she sings in the chorus, acknowledging that change often has both good and bad consequences. A statement that bares little truth in respect to Graham’s artistic changes, as on ‘Gradual Move’ she sounds better and more determined than ever before.