Five Things We Liked This Week – 21/07/19

Further Listening:

5. Step Away From The Joanna Sternberg Record (If You Can)

Both born, and based, in New York, Joanna Sternberg is a 28-year-old singer, songwriter, musician and visual artist. Joanna’s parents spotted her musical talent when, aged just two, they, “overheard them humming the entire melody to “Oh What A Merry Christmas Day” from Mickey’s Christmas Carol”.  Piano lessons followed shortly after, Joanna then attended music school, got a scholarship to study classical double bass at university, before taking a year and a half out to sit in their room and draw comics. Joanna is about to head out on a US tour with Conor Oberst, which neatly ties into the July release of their upcoming album, Then I Try Some More.

This week, ahead of the album’s release, Joanna has shared the latest track from the record, Step Away. Like the best of Joanna’s music, Step Away, is a complex blend of emotions, here insecurities and unrequited love are laid bare for the world to see. Musically, it is a gentle slice of anti-folk, with Joanna accompanied by just a guitar line, punctuated with prominent up-strokes, and latterly a meandering Casio-like keyboard. The minimal backing allows Joanna’s words to take centre stage, detailing their attempts to woo a romantic partner, and the pain that comes with the subsequent rejection, which can even spill into anger at the other person for not setting you free. “I got too close too fast like I always do. I could see it coming, yes I could couldn’t you? I tried to kill it but got smacked in my face.Now I’m trembling and trying to get out of this place”. The track ends on a quietly heartbreaking, but hugely relatable feeling of inadequacy, that so often comes with rejection, “step away from me dear, it’s so easy to see, ’cause anyone who’s watching knows you’re too beautiful for me”. As a listener you want to jump inside the tape, tell Joanna that’s not true, that’s there’s someone out there for everyone, yet it’s not your place, these are their feelings, their truth, we can only sit back, listen and be thankful that Joanna is willing to share this with the world.

Then I Try Some More is out July 12th via Team Love Records. Click HERE for more information on Janna Sternberg.

4. Steve Gunn Goes Off The Record

Steve Gunn has long been something of a critical darling, garnering near universal acclaim, and his recent album, The Unseen In Between, was no different. Ahead of a ludicrously busy looking summer of touring, Steve has this week shared two new cuts from the album sessions, Be Still Moon and Shrunken Head.

Be Still Moon is, on first listen a fairly simple affair; a gentle acoustic number, built around a steady waltz beat. Yet in that simple rhythm, Steve manages to showcase his guitar virtuosity, combined with his easy vocal, there’s a touch of Bert Jansch or Ryley Walker in it, which is never a bad thing in our ears. Shrunken Heads is arguably the more expansive and experimental of the two, with the stop start rhythms and soaring wide-screen guitar lines showcasing a bit of William Tyler-like ability, to paint a picture from seemingly simple musical tools. With album off-cuts sounding this good, Steve Gunn is clearly a songwriter at the peak of his powers.

The Unseen In Between is out now via Matador Records. Click HERE for more information on Steve Gunn.

3. Wilder Maker Sound So Well On Their New Track

On their well received 2018 debut, Zion, Brooklyn’s Wilder Maker set out to paint a picture of present-day America. A reflection on the struggles of, “every over-educated, over-worked, under-paid millennial”, and an attempt to rebuild the confidence they feel this generation has lost. The band are currently out on the road sharing their musical landscape with America, and have shared a pair of new tracks, both as a celebration of Zion and as a snapshot of what comes next.

The two tracks show contrasting pictures of where Wilder Maker’s music is, Love So Well, is a farewell of sorts, as it’s the last track Katie Von Schleicher recorded with the band; a smoky country rock song about, “giving up on the greatest love you’ve had in your life, and the strange calm that follows”. Rose Room is a more angular and awkward affair, fizzing riffs and a quietly creepy vocal are to the fore, as frontman Gabriel Birnbaum muses on the battle to stay sane when the world seems to be cracking up around you. Wilder Maker continue to paint sketches of the world around them, live reproductions of everyday living, gritty, sometimes glorious and always wonderfully, brutally real.

Love So Well is out now Northern Spy. Click HERE for more information on Wilder Maker.

2. Oh, Rose’s New Single Rhymes So It Must Be True

Oh, Rose is the Olympia, Washington based project, based around the songwriting of front-person and creative driver, Olivia Rose. The band’s upcoming album, While My Father Sleeps, is both a reflection on the complex dynamics of a familial relationship, and a homage to Olivia’s mother. The title comes from a book Olivia’s mother, who died in January 2017, wrote throughout her life but never finished, which details her relationship with Olivia’s grandfather. While not directly borrowing stories from the book, it was that text that inspired Olivia to share her own story, the first of which arrives this week in the shape of new single, 25, Alive.

The track’s themes are laid bare in the open line, “am I strong enough to tell my truth? 25, I am alive and I am angry”. From there the track continues in a place of raging, raw emotion, matched in pounding rhythms and fuzzy guitar thrashing. There’s an undeniably cathartic quality here, a songwriter declaring a desire to free herself from the potential damage anger can bring, as Rose explains, “this song is me saying I don’t want this anger because I know what it does to a person if they hold onto it”. A spectacular and honest account of the difficulties of both coping with, and emerging from, grief, Oh, Rose are throwing off the anger and ready for whatever is coming next.

While My Father Sleeps is out August 23rd via Park The Van. Click HERE for more information on Oh, Rose.

1. Frankie Cosmos Close The Window Quietly

Joining the ranks of the impressively prolific, Frankie Cosmos only released the eighteen-track indie-pop opus, Vessel, last year, yet despite being on the road pretty much ever since, the band are set to return shortly with their fourth studio album, Close It Quietly. The record, which has an even more weighty twenty-one tracks, will arrive in September on Sub Pop, and this week the band have shared the lead single from it, Windows.

Recorded close to the band’s home at Brookyln’s Figure 8 Studios, Close It Quietly looks to be the record that completes the band’s transition from the solo project of Greta Kline to a full band prospect. Windows certainly seems to be the band at their most obviously collaborative, the rhythm sections in particular seem to feel more prominent and key to the sounds energy and flow. Discussing the track’s influence, Greta suggests it exists in the, “place during the waiting period of healing, not knowing how to proceed or how to find the path to forgiveness”. Windows isn’t a track of big changes, or life’s grand romantic shifts, more it details the subtle way we slowly evolve to find our place within the world and in our relationships: “slow leak, slow dream. Oh, never noticed you boiling, but the fill up is quick. You just have to wait for it”. An almost insidious prospect, Windows creeps into your brain and almost without realising has you coming back for another hit; slip inside the Frankie Cosmos universe, it’s a wonderful place to be.

Close It Quietly is out September 6th via Sub Pop. Click HERE for more information on Frankie Cosmos.

Header photo is Frankie Cosmos by Jackie Lee Young

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