5. Danika Smith’s Mellow New Single
Describing her sound as, “soul-skewed indie folk”, Danika Smith has been something of a fixture on the Melbourne-scene for a few years, both as a solo artist and providing backing for other acts. Danika’s debut album, described as, “a cathartic journey of complex emotions as a young woman navigating mental health, sexual trauma and the journey of self-empowerment“, will arrive early next year. This week Danika has shared the accompanying video to the latest single from the record, Sweet Mellow D.
Discussing the track, Danika has declared it, “a song of recognition of my personal growth”. Sweet Mellow D was written on a day where Danika was feeling particularly blissed-out and content, and armed only with a nylon stringed guitar. The result is an expression of gratitude to music, of how it helped her on her journey and remains a guiding light in her life. The recorded version maintains the easy guitar line, accompanying it with a bassy-pulse, and a hypnotic, Indian-folk influenced twang, as Danika’s vocal, reminiscent of early Marika Hackman, picks out some frankly gorgeous melodies. The latest act emerging from the vibrant Antipodean music scene, file Danika alongside Julia Jacklin and Nadia Reid as artists putting their part of the world firmly on the musical map.
4. James Yorkston’s Second Hand Struggle
Sometimes you just have to make music with people you like, and for Scottish songwriter James Yorkston and Karl-Jonas Winqvist, Swedish music producer, leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra, that seems to have been a very good idea. The result of their blossoming friendship is The Wide, Wide River, their first collaborative album, out in January on Domino Recording Company. This week alongside the announcement of the record, they shared the first single from it, Struggle.
James recalls recording the song, sat in the recording room drinking sweet tea, “ I just had to wait for the right moment and jump on board, like when I’m pushing my kids round on a roundabout in the local park“. Despite its title, the track takes on a certain triumphant quality, a communal blast of struggle delivered through everyone freely singing along. The raft of voices are accompanied by an equally expansive musical backing, as shuffling drums, percussive strings and prominent chiming guitars create a winning slice of orchestral folk. Already this feels like an exciting next chapter for the prolific James Yorkston and a thrilling introduction to The Second Hand Orchestra, it might just be a pairing that brings out the best of all concerned.
3. It’s A Long And Lonely Road To The Rose Hotel
2019 was a big year for the Atalanta, Georgia dream-pop band, Rose Hotel, with the release of their acclaimed debut album, I Will Only Come When It’s a Yes. This week the band have released their new, “cassingle”, Drive Alone, backed with Constant, released through the Cold Lunch Recordings label.
Described as a rumination on, “young love fading away in the rearview mirror”, Drive Alone is a welcome return for the band, a moment of serenity away from the heaviness of politics and pandemics. Accompanied by rolling bass, shimmering layers of guitars, and the lilting swing of the prominent snare drum, front-woman Jordan Reynolds offers stunning harmonies as she sings, “did you really love me or did you just wanna know how it felt to be inside a woman’s body and a woman’s mind?” This is a wonderful return, a record that feels at once intimate and universal, a much needed aside to remind us that there’s still some beauty and old fashioned heartache left in the world.
2. Take A Wander With The Sister Wives
Based out of the musical hotbed of Sheffield, Sister Wives are a bi-lingual quartet, formed back in 2018, consisting of members of Nachthexen, Feature, Zealous Doxy and Toucans. The band released their debut EP, Gweler Ein Gofid, translating from Welsh as See My Grief, back in February, and the record will today receive a physical release via Do It Thissen. Ahead of that, the band this week shone some attention in the direction of the record’s opening track, Wandering Along / Rwy’n Crwydro.
Having previously supported the likes of The International Teachers of Pop, Crack Cloud and Porridge Radio, Sister Wives’ sound is laced with a certain mystical quality, seeming to flow out from the planet below them before emerging as a cacophonous wave of psych-tinged post-punk. On Wandering Along, wavering synths and airy, shimmers of vocals carry the melody as cacophonous bass and the steady drive of the kick-drum, create an infectious rhythmic ear-worm, existing like the middle ground of Gwenno and The Wharves. While it is very early days for Sister Wives, there’s plenty here to suggest they’re a band we’re going to be hearing an awful lot more from in the years ahead.
1. Ailsa Tully Takes Us For A Drive
I’ve never learned to drive, yet hearing the many songs that touch on the freedom and escapism that it can bring, I sometimes wish I had. Along with Rose Hotel’s track above, that’s definitely the case with Drive, the new single from Ailsa Tully. The latest signing to Dalliance Recordings, home to the likes of Gia Margaret and Common Holly, Ailsa is a Welsh songwriter, equally influenced by her background in a Church Choir as she is by the worlds of folk and electronica that punctuate her spell-binding music.
Ailsa’s first single for Dalliance, Drive was a song inspired by a fertile blend of the mundane and the desire for something different, as she explains the track is, “about searching to free yourself from the mundanity of everyday life. It was inspired by a time when my brain was festering in a boring job. I needed an escape”. Like much of Ailsa’s music, Drive was written initially on the bass-guitar, serving as an omnipresent point of consistency, the core around which her music takes flight. Here the bass is accompanied by a delightfully meandering lead-guitar line, dextrous percussion and Ailsa’s multi-layered, melodically dancing harmonies, her voice bringing to mind the likes of This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables or Strawberry Runner’s Emi Knight. This is the sound of a songwriter who is marking her place on the landscape, a potent coming together of an array of musical moods and styles to create an atmosphere entirely, and beautifully, Ailsa’s own.
Header photo is Ailsa Tully by Adam Whitmore.