5. Jess Locke Is Neither Gone Nor Forgotten
For over a decade now, Melbourne-songwriter Jess Locke has been peddling her winning blend of melancholic indie-pop. Teaming up with Antipodean-label, Dot Dash Recordings, Jess is currently building towards the release of her third album, Don’t Ask Yourself Why. Following on from last year’s singles, Fool and Destroy Everything, this week Jess has shared the latest track from the album, Dead and Gone.
Discussing Dead And Gone, Jess has described the track as, “a catharsis, a shedding of the old and an embrace of what’s to come“, mirrored in the repeated words of the chorus, “don’t go worrying about what’s dead and gone”. Musically, the track starts life as a beautifully wistful slice of alt-folk, as the gentle guitar and rolling-bass provide a backing for Jess’s easy vocal, listening to her delivery it’s no surprise that Jess has said this is one of her favourite songs to sing live. From its humble beginnings, the track suddenly takes a turn for the transcendent or even lightly psychedelic as a warm buzz of organ and a fizzing electric guitar take it spiralling off into the sky for a stunning finale. The sound of a songwriter embracing the full range of styles and genres available, Don’t Ask Yourself Why is shaping up to be not just Jess’s most ambitious record yet, but her best as well.
4. Bleach Lab Fall Back Into Their Old Ways
Formed in Buckinghamshire, the dreamy-pop quartet Bleach Lab have subsequently relocated to South London, where they’ve been squirrelled away working on the tracks that make up their debut EP, A Calm Sense Of Surrounding, out later in the Spring. After the break-out moment that was their last single, Never Be, which was something of a sensation with the online blogging community, this week the band have returned with a brand new single, Old Ways.
Discussing the inspiration behind Old Ways, vocalist Jenna Kyle has suggested it is about, “the angry side of the grieving process at the end of a relationship”, and how that anger is aimed both at the way the other person treated you, and, “towards oneself for still missing them regardless”. The band’s exploration of a relationship in collapse is set to a backing of lush, textural guitars and distant rumbling drums, a perfect back-drop to Jenna’s soaring vocal, reminiscent of the likes of Night Flowers or Winter Gardens. As the band note, anger is the first stage of grief; with the rest of the record they seek to explore the other stages, and while that might not be the easiest journey, it’s going to be intriguing to follow Bleach Lab every step of the way.
A Calm Sense Of Surrounding is out March 19th. Click HERE for more information on Bleach Lab.
3. You’ve Got A Friend In Macve
Brighton-based songwriter Holly Macve first appeared on these pages when we tipped her for big things back in 2017. That was prior to the release of Holly’s acclaimed debut album, Golden Eagle, a record which saw her share stages with the likes of John Grant and Ryley Walker. After recording Golden Eagle, Holly returned to the studio, seeking to create something, “more expansive” than the rootsy Americana of that record. Three years on the result of the ambition is set to see the light of day with the April release of her new album, Not The Girl, and this week Holly has shared the latest offering from it, Be My Friend.
Much of the inspiration behind Not The Girl came from the touring that followed the release of Holly’s debut album, as she recalls, “my little world grew and I realised there was so much for me to learn about how I can use my skills as a singer and writer. I didn’t want to limit myself – I wanted to push my boundaries”. That new ambition is evident listening to Be My Friend, as Holly’s country-tinged vocals are joined by rich flourishes of slide-guitar and the propulsive smoulder of the excellent bass-line. Fans of Holly’s previous output will still find much to admire, yet this equally feels like a step into something new, an artist finding the confidence to stride out with a sound all of their own, and sounding wonderful as they do it.
2. Dan Wriggins Goes From The Dent To The Diner
Regular readers may already be aware of the work of Dan Wriggins as the front-person of Philadelphia alt-country band Friendship, who featured on these pages back in 2019 around the release of their superb album, Dreamin’. Teaming up with Orindal Records, Dan has made the decision to release some tracks under his own name, as he explains, “writing songs for Friendship, I would sometimes come up with one that felt more like a solo song and less like a band song”, even if he does admit, “the distinction is blurry”. This week Dan has shared the first two of these solo offerings The Diner and Dent.
The Diner was inspired by something many of us are missing at the moment, the sense of community that comes from a venue, in this case The All Night Diner in Philadelphia, a venue that in Dan’s words, “helped me understand that a supportive scene and community doesn’t just happen, and I was lucky to be a part of that one”. Musically, the track is built around a lilting drum-beat and the warm tones of what sounds like a nylon-stringed guitar, before Dan’s vocal, with its rich, croaked tones enters and instantly grabs all of your attention. Dent is a slightly more mysterious affair, Dan admitting he’s not quite sure where it came to him from; the track slowly fades out of static with the tones of rhythmic guitar and distant flourishes of brass, like the lost middle ground of Elvis Perkins and Neutral Milk Hotel. These are songs that seem to amplify rather than diminish Dan’s previous output, different enough to Friendship to be a worthwhile experience without losing the essence of a songwriter who is increasingly making a case to be one of the most intriguing musicians around.
1. The 4th Of July Is A Lasting Habit
Hand Habits, the project of Los Angeles based songwriter Meg Duffy, seemed to reach new levels of acclaim last year with the release of their latest album, placeholder, recorded with acclaimed producer Brad Cook at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studio. After a record that felt like a stride into the world at large, it was perhaps inevitable in the current climate, that the next step would be somewhat more insular. The result is Meg’s new EP, dirt, recorded in the home they share with musicians Sasami Ashworth and Kyle Thomas, who each co-produce a track on the record. Ahead of the EP’s release next month on Saddle Creek, this week Hand Habits have shared their new single, 4th Of July.
Like much of dirt, 4th Of July deals with themes of letting go of the past, as Meg explains, the track, “feels like trying again, rolling around in the wreckage of the past and finding new ways out of the maze of memory“. Musically, the track begins with a steady, chug of guitar that gradually builds to a surprisingly danceable crescendo resplendent with triumphant country-licked guitars and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blasts of brass. Perhaps fittingly, the track ends in a way where it begins, the melodies of the beginning re-imagined, re-invigorated and offering a new perspective on old ideas. In the crowded back catalogue of Hand Habits, a three-track EP could easily be lost, yet dirt feels like it deserves more than that, this feels like an exciting new chapter from a songwriter at the top of their game.
Header photo is Hand Habits by Kovi Konowiecki