5. Karima Francis Is On Fire Right Now
Originally from Blackpool, Karima Francis burst onto the scene over a decade ago with her acclaimed debut album, The Author. Since then Karima has gone on to release a further two albums, perform with the likes of Paul Simon and Amy Winehouse and work with acclaimed producer Flood. Some four years on since her last album, 2016’s Black, Karima has been inspired by a somewhat different coastal city, Los Angeles, where she worked with Tim Carr on a series of recording sessions. This week Karima shared the latest offering from those sessions, in the shape of new single, Carelessness Causes Fire.
Like much of Karima’s latest material, the track seems to deal with the difficulties of pressure and expectation, as she explains, “when the pressure is too much an explosive eruption can happen, which can be dangerous and destructive“. The track seems to take aim at the industry that put so much expectation on her and offered so little support to go with it, “in the smoke of the industry, I’m building a home around all my dreams”. Musically, the track pairs Karima’s distinctive husky vocals, to a lush, wide-screen backing that wouldn’t sound out of place in the back catalogue of Horse Thief or The War On Drugs. This feels like something of a redemption for Karima, a songwriter who has seen both sides of life as a musician, and now is coming out the other side with her best material to date.
Carelessness Causes Fire is out now. Click HERE for more information on Karima Francis.
4. Today Is Not The Day To Let Clara Mann Leave You Behind
Sometimes when you press play on a record, it instantly stops whatever else you were doing; for a few minutes the world slows down, and all you can do is listen. That’s exactly what happened when I pressed play on Clara Mann’s new single, I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today, released earlier this week on Sad Club Records. The track is the Bristol-based newcomers debut single, and was recorded remotely from Clara’s bedroom with the help of a pair of artists who’ve featured on this page previously, producer Benjamin Spike Saunders and BUGS’ Alice Western, who mastered the track.
I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today is a song of perfect clarity, entering with just a gentle strum of guitar, before Clara’s poised vocal enters with the perfect scene setter of an opening line, “I didn’t know you were leaving today, time runs from me like a girl, I ruined the calendar counting down days”. Later Clara is joined by a gorgeously atmospheric whisper of fiddle, and some perfectly judged backing vocals, the whole thing existing between the ancient charms of folk music and more contemporary artists, like Haley Heynderickx or Shannon Lay. Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Clara has suggested it is a musing on the fragility of humanity, searching for excitement and adventure and having it always appear just out of reach, Clara painting herself as a soul stuck indoors, waiting for better days to come her way, “I’m patient but quiet, the waiting wife, If I’m driving I’ll drive you away”. This is a jaw dropping introduction, a fusion of musical worlds, from chamber-pop to traditional folk, from the complexity of classical training to the spirituality of choral singing, there’s enough here to suggest Clara Mann is a songwriter more than worthy of your time.
3. Burr Oak’s Music Is Just Starting To Bloom
Burr Oak, the new project from Chicago-based songwriter Savannah Dickhut, caught my ear back in October with her brilliant single, Trying, a brilliant reflection on addiction and battling your own instincts. Currently gearing up to the release of her debut album, due next year, this week Savannah has shared the latest Burr Oak single, Flower Garden.
Discussing the track, Savannah has suggested Flower Garden is a reflection on, “a past relationship, one from a few years ago that only lasted a couple of months but had a lasting effect on me”. Here the former lover is cast as a flower garden, “so beautiful and lush at first sight”, yet as the seasons turn and the days draw in, what once seemed so positive loses its sheen, yet leaves you still questioning, “why did you have to go away?” The shifting of seasons are reflected perfectly in the tracks musical threads, what starts off as an almost genteel dreamscape gradually swells and towards the end builds to a wailing crescendo of guitar-soloing, reminiscent of Squirrel Flower or Big Thief. A perfect offering for the nights drawing in and winter clasping the Northern Hemisphere in its icy grip, Burr Oak seem to be tapping into a rich vein of songwriting gold, on this evidence 2021 might just be the year Burr Oak makes a very big impression.
Flower Garden is lifted from Burr Oak’s upcoming debut album, Late Bloomer. Click HERE for more information on Burr Oak.
2. Lael Neale’s Music Is For Everyone For Now
Lael Neale burst onto the scene back in October when the Los Angeles-based songwriter signed to Sub Pop and released her sublime debut single, Every Star Shivers In The Dark. With an album in the pipeline, this week Lael has shared a brand new track, For No One For Now.
Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Lael suggests it comes from the freedom of driving the roads of the San Fernando Valley, “I’ve always loved these stretches of road where the magic of the city seems hemmed in by the mundane”. The track too seems to flitter between the banality of everyday living and the enticing draw of freedom, as Lael trades making toast and folding sheets for the open road, “it’s a new day but I’m making plans on the freeway for no one, for now”. Musically, the track is the latest to make use of Lael’s relatively recent discovery of the Omnichord, which inspired so much of her new material; here a delightfully ancient-sounding drum machine beat provides a sprightly rhythm, as the rich waves of electric-organ produce a sound that’s at once perfectly lo-fi and oddly arena worthy, akin to those wonderful early Beach House records. There’s a charming simplicity to Lael Neale’s music, laced with a purity and a clarity that can get lost when musicians head into high-budget studios, here Lael invites the listener into her world, and when it sounds this good, don’t expect that you’ll want to leave anytime soon.
1. Kate Davis’ Oh No, Oh Yes!
It’s over a year since Daniel Johnston shuffled off this mortal coil, a unique and brilliant musical talent, whose influence continues to linger large on alternative music. Back in 1984, Daniel released the album Retired Boxer, and some 36 years later it has found a new fan in one of the best new musicians of recent years, New York-based songwriter Kate Davis. Kate’s debut album, Trophy, was one of the finest of last year, and she’s currently gearing up for the January release of Strange Boy, her re-imagining of Retired Boxer in its entirety, released in collaboration with both Solitaire Recordings and mental health non-profit organisation, Hello, How Are You? Ahead of that release, Kate has this week shared her version of Daniel’s track, Oh No.
Thinking back to her memories of Daniel Johnston’s music, Kate recalls how she, “was struck by the directness and clarity in his writing”, which inspired her to take her own approach to re-imagining them, “my main objective was to echo his original spirit…it encouraged me to push and stretch myself musically“. On Oh No, a track Kate has described as, “brain melting”, she set out to unpick the original, producing something that’s heavier and more frenetic than Daniel’s interpretation. The result is a track that carries some of the DNA of the track, yet drags it into Kate’s world: as the fuzzy piano led original becomes a roaring grungy slice of 90’s influenced alt-rock, with Kate’s vocal at its most snarlingly wonderful throughout. Wading into the back catalogue of a songwriter as loved, and as perfectly idiosyncratic as Daniel Johnston was always going to be a tricky act, yet with love for the originals and enough of her own flair thrown in, evidence is pointing to Kate Davis making Strange Boy a more than fitting tribute.