5. Jeremy Tuplin Is Finding Happiness In The Night (and Day)
Jeremy Tuplin has already made something of a splash in 2020, when his latest album, Violet Waves, arrived back in August, it was quite possibly his finest record to date. The album fused his sardonic vision of the world to a strutting, retro-tinged melding of folk and rock’n’roll. Not wanting to let the year nobody will ever forget slip out without one last hurrah though, Jeremy is today releasing a brand-new EP, Happiness, which he showcased earlier this week via new single, Night and Day.
Featuring cultural references from Bojack Horseman to Chewits, Night and Day is in Jeremy’s words, “a tribute to the mundane”, and one that although written prior to 2020 has taken on a new meaning in a year that’s fluctuated between the unimaginable and the humdrum. The track enters on a lone guitar, as Jeremy jokes to himself, “Monday? Mundane more like, excuse me while I disconnect my brain”, before going on to try his hand at meditation, “so damn boring”, and cutting off society in favour of Netflix box sets. As the track takes a turn for the slinky courtesy of strings and a particularly wonderful bass-line, Jeremy seems torn between the pursuit of happiness and the tranquility of just letting life wash over him. It might arrive late in the day, yet Happiness already feels like a perfect send-off for this most bizarre of years.
4. Ed Dowie Is Making Waves
It was back in 2017 that we last had a new album from London-based musician Ed Dowie. That record, The Uncle Sold, crashed into my favourite albums of the year, as well as garnering acclaim from the likes of The Quietus and Lauren Laverne. Since then Ed has been busy crowd-funding and working on the follow-up, The Obvious I, which will arrive on Pete Paphides’ label, Needle Mythology in February next year. This week Ed shared the latest taster of that record, in the shape of new single, Under The Waves.
As with so much of Ed Dowie’s music, Under The Waves has a certain spectral quality, building from the atmospheric sound of helicopters recorded on Ed’s phone, courtesy of Donald Trump’s security on the day he visited London. The track then shifts to the racing intensity of processed electronics, adding an uneasy quality. Ed’s vocal is held back, only arriving after over three minutes, when the song suddenly collapses down to just a gentle meander of piano and that soaring, haunting voice, appearing on the deliciously enigmatic opening line, “I may not always carry on“. The track ends with the repeated phrase, “under the waves”, like so much of the best music there’s enough left open-ended, a song that keeps you asking questions, and keeps you returning in search of answers. Frankly there’s nobody making music quite like Ed Dowie does right now, and that can only be a good thing, a one-of-a-kind original whose welcome return is going to be a puzzle I’ll treasure getting my head around when it arrives next year.
3. It’s True We Do Like Tacsidermi
It was back in 2018 that Adwaith released their incredible debut album, Melyn, and in my eyes cemented their place as one of the most exciting new bands of recent years. Since then there has been a gentle drip-feed of new music from the band, plus, intriguingly, a number of side-projects, the latest of which arrived this week in the shape of Tacsidermi. A collaboration between Adwaith’s Gwenllian Anthony and multi-instrumentalist, Matthew Kilgariff, the band this week teamed up with Libertino Records to share their debut single, Gwir, translating to English as Truth.
Tacsidermi are in many ways the archetypal new band for 2020, while Gwenllian and Matthew had been playing together already, it was only as a result of deciding to form a Covid-bubble and move in to Matthew’s studio in rural Carmarthenshire that their music really took shape. Gwir is a fine introduction to what the pair have been working on, combining a low-slung bassy groove with textures of psychedelia, like the lost middle ground of Warpaint and Tame Impala. There’s something wonderful about this project, a distinctly positive response to a time of great uncertainty and struggle, and with the band promising more material early next year, they’re giving us all plenty of reasons to be very cheerful indeed.
2. Nightshift Are Make Kin A Real Impression
Emerging from the ever-shifting Glasgow music scene, Nightshift are the latest signing to the always excellent, Trouble In Mind. Featuring members of Spinning Coin, 2 Ply and Robert Sotelo, the band initially formed when guitarist David Campbell and bassist Andrew Doig set out to form a, “No Wave/No New York/early Sonic Youth/This Heat-esque” group, who have now expanded to their current five-piece and shifted their sound along the way. The band will release their debut album, Zöe, in February next year, and this week they’ve shared the first single from it, Make Kin.
Zöe marks something of a departure for Nightshift, foregoing the live conception of their practice room for a more piecemeal approach, allowing them to work remotely and embrace the creativity this shift in approach gave them. On Make Kin this emerges as an amalgam of sing-speak vocals, woozy woodwind and primal pattering drums, a perfect setting for what band-member Eothen Stearn described as, “looking to kinship as a way of engaging with entangled environmental and reproductive issues”. The whole thing has a wonderful sense for the odd, the sharpened edges of the rhythm track contrasting the more drifting qualities of the melody, reminiscent of the likes of DRINKS or label-mates, Lithics. Nightshifts new material might not be quite as they expected it, yet despite that it feels like a celebration, a reminder of the power of friendship, community and the sharing of ideas, and how whatever happens, freedom of expression always finds a way.
1. Katy Kirby’s New Single Is Really Cool
Something of a feature on this site in recent months, the fantastic Keeled Scales label have rarely put a foot wrong as they’ve announced the upcoming release of a series of intriguing records, from the likes of Karima Walker, Sun June and Buck Meek. Continuing this strong run, comes Katy Kirby, a songwriter, “born, raised, and homeschooled by two ex-cheerleaders in small-town Texas”. Her first exposure to music came as a choir member, a melodic, if, “dependably uncool” genre, which on her debut album, Katy has set about dismantling entirely. That record, Cool Dry Place, will arrive in February, and this week Katy has shared the record’s fabulous title track.
Discussing Cool Dry Place, Katy has suggested the track was inspired by, “a very fun habit of getting involved with someone and then getting cagey once they needed or just wanted me more than I was comfortable with”. As Katy further explains, “it isn’t a terrible rule of thumb, considering that people are statistically dangerous”, even if it does make constructing a meaningful connection somewhat tricky. While previous single, Traffic! channelled a certain disoriented-pop quality with its vocodered vocals, here Katy perhaps falls closer to her musical roots. The vocals enter, clean and emotive, with the accompaniment of a lone guitar before gradually building, the intensity of the vocal matched in sparkling musical crescendos. As the song reaches it’s close the whole thing seems to almost collapse in on itself, as the vocals fade out and let the lead-guitar carry on the emotional journey, a howling clatter that threatens to resolve to a meander of keyboard before refusing to depart and re-emerging for one last noisy blast. This feels like a very grown-up pop song, as if it started bright and beautiful, then slowly becomes gnarled and wisened by the passing of time. Like a Kintsugi pot, each crack is a story, a reminder of where we were and where we are, and how each failure only serves to make our whole even more beautiful; Katy Kirby’s music feels exactly like that, perfect in its imperfections and ready for the world’s eye to come her way.
Header photo is Katy Kirby by Jackie Lee Young – http://www.jackielyoung.com.