Five Things We Liked This Week – 30/10/20

Further Listening:

5. You Can Be Famous In Your Own Head

Based out of New York, Famous Letter Writer are the duo of award winning-writer M.I. Devine and multi-instrumentalist, Ru. The pair are set to release their debut album, WARHOLA, next month, the release coinciding with Devine’s debut novel, Warhol’s Mother’s Pantry. This week the band have shared the latest track from the record, All In My Head.

Discussing All In My Head, M.I. explains he wrote it in response to the death of his friend, the poet Sam See, in prison. The track serves as a, “pop elegy” to Sam, it reflects on grief in the time of the internet, searching desperately for meaning in the void. Atop a backing of gently pattering beats, and wavering synths, M.I.’s words contrast biblical ideas with modern social-media trends, as he doesn’t know whether to turn to God or Siri for advice. As the track reaches its conclusion on a strutting glam-rock guitar-line, it’s a beautifully unhinged moment of release. Famous Letter Writer feels like a band who are almost knowingly backward glancing, they nod to Suicide, The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, an almost retro-vision of the artistic life, increasingly out of sync with the modern world, and all the more appealing as a result.

WARHOLA is out November 11th via Big Deep Records. Click HERE for more information on Famous Letter Writer.

4. Get Lunch On The Go With King Hannah

Recent signings to the City Slang label, King Hannah are a Liverpool-based band, led by the duo of Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle. The pair had made music in other bands previously, but had never found anything that really clicked, until King Hannah came along. Next month will see the band release their new EP, Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine, and this week they’ve shared their new single, Meal Deal.

While not a common theme for a song, Meal Deal does deal with a universally troubling event, the search for a decent place to live, ideally without the spiders, and odd amount of rooms, “what d’ya think Mr. Spider, are you moving in with us? You might as well ‘cos, there’s three baths and two of us”. This relatable struggle is set to a gorgeously smoky slice of Americana, the rhythmic guitars, burbling electronics and steady drum pulse producing the perfect back-drop to Hannah’s rich vocal tone, reminiscent of Juanita Stein or Leila Moss. While it’s early days for King Hannah, this already feels like a partnership with a huge amount of potential, a potent reminder that when musical minds come together in harmony, something magic often happens.

Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine is out November 20th via City Slang. Click HERE for more information on King Hannah.

3. Lisa/Liza Are Watching The Leaves Change To Red

Hailing from Portland, Maine, Lisa/Liza is the songwriting project of singer and guitarist Liza Victoria. We last featured Liza’s music around the release of her gorgeous, trance-like 2018 EP, Momentary Glance. Teaming up again with the fantastic Orindal Records, Liza is currently gearing up to the November release of her new album, Shelter Of A Song, and this week shared the latest single from it. Red Leaves.

Shelter Of A Song was written at a time when Liza was suffering from chronic illness, and as such much of it was written, “in my strongest moments of healing”. The idea behind the record was to let it fall into the shape of whatever emotion the listener wanted, “similar to how someone might make a quilt where each piece holds personal connection but in its use it takes on additional shape”. In the case of Red Leaves, the track touches on ideas of, “loss and the pain that comes with it”, of learning to live with that, rather than always trying to run from it. Like the rest of Shelter Of A Song, the track was recorded in the kitchen of a Central Maine studio apartment, and as such it brings Liza’s vocal and finger-picked guitars directly to the fore. Across the track’s six and a half-minutes, connections pop into our head; the way the vocals seem to drift ethereally like Emily Cross; the moments the guitars hit a level of raw honesty like Josh T. Pearson; the emanating sadness of Mt. Eerie. Despite those reference points, there’s something distinctly fresh about Lisa/Liza’s take on this most ancient of musical communication style, no matter the era, beautiful honesty never ceases to amaze.

Shelter Of A Song is out November 20th via Orindal Records. Click HERE for more information on LISA/LIZA.

2. Don’t Just Vote For Cass McCombs

Now unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed there’s an election coming up in the USA next week, as this is a British site we couldn’t possibly comment, but we think you know what to do Americans! To mark the election, Cass McCombs has made the somewhat unusual decision: to troll himself. This arrives in a reworked version of, “a much-misunderstood song of mine from over a decade ago”, Don’t Vote, about which Cass notes, “most people never made it much further than the title, anyway”. This new version, Don’t (Just) Vote, released this week, features an eclectic set of guests, namely, Angel Olsen, Bob Weir and Noam Chomsky.

A songwriter well known for his social-activism and politically charged songwriting, Cass McCombs has previously tackled systemic racism, climate change and female reproductive rights among other topics. On Don’t (Just) Vote, Cass’ message is clear, get out and vote yet, but remember as Noam Chomsky puts it, “real politics is what you do before and after you push the lever. You have to keep your shoulder to the wheel: engagement, activism, organising – that’s what will make the difference”. Throughout the song Angel Olsen and Cass trade verses, spelling out a vision for a positive future and an anger at what has already occurred, urging people to, “vote for rivers and salmon in the streams, vote for oceans flowing from inside your dreams”. Music and politics do mix, no matter what anyone tries to tell you, your vote matters, and what you do afterwards, well that matters even more.

Don’t Just Vote is out now via Anti Records. All royalties after costs from ‘Don’t (Just) Vote’ will be donated to Elevate Oakland, who help fund music education in the Oakland area. For more information on voting, go to headcount.org. Click HERE for more information on Cass McCombs.

1. It’s High Tide You Gave Johanna Samuels A Listen

Los Angeles-based songwriter, Johanna Samuels first caught our ear back in 2019, with her well-received EP, Have A Good One, released on Todmorden’s finest record label, Basin Rock. This week Johanna has announced her signing to a second fantastic label in the shape of Mama Bird Recording Co. who will handle the US release of her new album, due out in Spring, which was recorded by acclaimed producer Sam Evian and features guest appearances from the likes of Lomelda, Courtney Marie Andrews and A.O. Gerber. Ahead of that release, Johanna has also shared the first track from it, High Tide For One

Named in honour of Bob Dylan’s track, Visions Of Johanna, classic songwriting has surrounded Johanna since birth, imbuing the music she makes with a certain timeless quality, evidenced for all to see on High Tide For One. The track was written in response to watching Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as Johanna explains, “my heart was broken for her and I reflected on how much scarcity of space and validation in basic experience there is for all female-identifying people, even in my own privileged, liberal community. It felt a bit hopeless”. If the experience left Johanna feeling helpless, the song seems to have pushed that aside, as to a backing of warm slide guitars, lithe brushed percussion and the warm glow of Rhodes Piano, she declares, “I don’t wanna talk to you, even if you get time to I just don’t need more work to do. It’s no help being sorry”. Ultimately the song is an anthem of solidarity and defiance, you’re either working for change, or you need to move out of the way. This feels like an important moment for Johanna’s songwriting, the sound of someone stepping up and truly finding their voice: on this evidence her new album might just be unmissable.

Johanna Samuels’ new album will be out in Spring 2021 via Mama Bird Recording Co (US/World) / Basin Rock (EU/UK). Click HERE for more information on Johanna Samuels.

Header photo is Johanna Samuels by Ellyn Jameson – http://www.ellynjameson.com/.


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