Five Things We Liked This Week – 10/07/20

Further Listening:

5. Bill Callahan Strikes Gold

Like the apocryphal buses, we waited a long time for a new Bill Callahan record, and following last year’s Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, another album is already pulling in to take us on a journey. Bill’s latest offering, the optimistically titled, Gold Record, will arrive in September, with Bill releasing a new single from it every Monday until then. The first two offerings, Pigeons and Another Song, are already out into the world, and serve as a suitably wonderful introduction.

Like much of Bill’s more recent output, Gold Record is something of a character study, Bill effortlessly taking on the part of a series of narrators, likeable or otherwise, and relaying their world views to his listeners. The trademark Callahan wit is there from the moment Pigeons pulls the record into view with that inimitable baritone, “Hello…I’m Jonny Cash. Well, the pigeons ate the wedding rice and exploded”. From there he takes on the role of a limousine-driver, picking up newly married couples and exploring the variety of people who step into his car on the happiest day of their lives. Bill listens, gives advice and mainly just quietly observes the happy couples, before signing off almost where he started with a, “sincerely L. Cohen”. While he’s perhaps got a somewhat surly reputation, Bill’s ability to write about romance remains unabated, and that’s where Another Song picks up, a tale of heading home for lunch, and deciding to stay home with your loved one rather than return to the toil. Starting off with a ukulele strum before shifting to a gently psych-influenced outro, the track is full of optimistic hope for the future to be as full of love as every moment of the past was, “we’ll start working for love not pay, when work ain’t be working all day, we will finish our songs another day”. While it might not shift the units to be gold in the eyes of the world at large, for those who know and love the work of Bill Callahan, Gold Record is shaping up to be the 24 carat good stuff.

Gold Record is out September 4th via Drag City. Click HERE for more information on Bill Callahan.

4. Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow To Listen To Renée Reed

Based out of Lafayette, Louisiana, Renée Reed emerged earlier this year, with her self-described, “dream-fi folk from the Cajun prairies”. Teaming up with the frankly wonderful Keeled Scales imprint, Renée had up until this week shared a pair of rather excellent singles, Moi, Tante Anaïs and Out Loud. This week she has shared her latest offering, Until Tomorrow.

Until Tomorrow is a track that instantly transports you somewhere else, listening to the perfectly plodding guitar strums and hushed vocals, our mind places us in a scene, a person sat at a bar, knocking back bourbon, trying to get over the one that got away, as the soundtrack poignantly sings out, “wait ’til tomorrow, love is kinder then, wait ’til your birthday, when the fun began”. Combining elements of Southern-Gothic, Americana and lilting folk lullabies, we’re put in mind of acts like Cass McCombs or Vera Sola, company Renée sounds more than ready to keep. While we don’t know what’s coming next for Renée Reed, we can’t wait to find out.

Until Tomorrow is out now via Keeled Scales. Click HERE for more information on Renée Reed.

3. Make Some Space For El Tee In Your Collection

Californian-Melbournian artist El Tee, the musical moniker of Lauren Tarver, has been slowly releasing her music into the world since 2018. Debut single, Hold On, caused a ripple of acclaim across the internet, while 2019’s How I Like It showcased a more refined and polished sound, suggesting an artist very much on the rise. Lauren is currently building towards the September release of her debut album, Everything Is Fine, and has this week shared the latest offering from it, Space.

To our minds, there’s something entirely un-reassuring about the album title Everything Is Fine, and Space does little to convince us otherwise. Discussing the track, Lauren has suggested it is, “about giving so much to others, but forgetting to look out for yourself”, a theme mirrored in the lyrical pronouncement, “I hold my arms out as I call out for you, I never hold space for myself”. Musically, Space is El Tee at her most serene, with warm guitar chords, punctuated by the tick of drums and Lauren’s easy, husk of a vocal, equal parts Mazzy Star and Holly Macve. While we’re not convinced that everything is fine, we’re rapidly becoming convinced Everything Is Fine is going to be one of the year’s most compelling debut albums.

Everything Is Fine is out September 18th. Click HERE for more information on El Tee.

2. Sufjan Stevens Finds The American Dream

While we like to think we’re often bringing you something new, something you might not already know about, there’s probably very little chance that a new Sufjan Stevens track has passed you by entirely. The track, America, is the first one lifted from Sufjan’s upcoming eighth studio album, The Ascension, his first new record since 2015’s Carrie & Lowell, and no, we can’t believe that was five years ago already either. As introductions to an album go, America, a twelve-minute plus state of the nation address couldn’t be a much more compelling one.

Originally recorded during the Carrie & Lowell sessions, Sufjan initially seemed to write the track off as just a bad day, as he recalls, “I was dumbfounded when I first wrote it, because it felt vaguely mean-spirited…so I shelved it”. Re-visiting the track years later though, it had taken on an almost eerie prescience, and it became a blueprint for the album that followed. The album has in some ways a simple sounding goal, “interrogate the world around us”, as on America, Sufjan sought to find personal progress through a, “refusal to play along with the systems around us”. The resultant track, is unquestionably a protest song, a reflection on a sickness Sufjan sees in American culture, and the visceral feeling of being let down by something you adored, “I have loved you, I have grieved, I’m ashamed to admit I no longer believe”. There’s something fabulously relentless about America, as layers of vocals crash upon the listener like waves breaking onto rocks, accompanied by an array of arresting electronic pulses and distant pounding percussion; it’s a track that’s engulfing, compelling and wonderfully intense. Sufjan Stevens has never been a songwriter to take the obvious road, the way Carrie & Lowell grieved for what was, and what might have been, America seems to suggest a record that’s more rooted in the here and now. The Ascension is shaping up to be full of anger and a genuine passion to make the world around him better, a call to arms that for many of us, might just be impossible to ignore.

The Ascension is out September 25th via Asthmatic Kitty Records. Click HERE for more information on Sufjan Stevens.

1. You Won’t Regret Listening To Rosehip Teahouse

One of our favourite new bands to emerge from the UK’s DIY scene in recent years, Cardiff’s Rosehip Teahouse started life as the project of songwriter Faye Rogers back in 2015. Now expanded to a five-piece live band, they caught the ear of many with last year’s Growth, before recently returning with the home recorded charms of It’s The Wrong Time. As we await news of the band’s debut album, this week they’ve shared their latest single, Regretting It via the Sad Club Records imprint.

Discussing Regretting It, Faye has suggested it comes from a place of, “feeling totally overwhelmed”, and deals with, “making decisions that I knew were bad for me and trying not to sink under the weight of it”. Despite that undeniable heaviness, it’s an atmosphere that is punctured by a raft of musical ideas, whether it’s hand-claps, synths solos or the steady rhythmic pulse of an acoustic guitar. This is a song that seems to be almost deliberately playful in response to its content, even as Faye sings, “I don’t know if I’ll be alright when things go back to normal and I’m on my own again”,  it’s accompanied by a certain flourish that stops it sinking into the mire. A sparkling return for this most exciting of bands, roll on the Rosehip Teahouse album, all the evidence is pointing to something really quite magical.

Regretting It is out now via Sad Club Records. Click HERE for more information on Rosehip Teahouse.

 

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