5. Nightshift Put The Pieces Back Together
One of my 21 for 2021, Nightshift’s debut album, Zöe, is approaching fast on the horizon, with its release set for next week on the Trouble In Mind label. Ahead of that, this week the Glaswegian super-group, consisting of members of Spinning Coin, Robert Sotelo and more, have shared a brand new single, Piece Together.
Discussing the track, keyboardist Eothen Stearn is quick to acknowledge the influence of, “the cheesy homonym”, that Peace and Piece offers, as the track reflects on, “how Neo-age and 70s hippy ideologies of radical left has failed us – and consumed us“. The track questions how politics seems to come in cycles: how the radicals of the past later become the problem that the youth are rebelling against. Musically, the track is built around a bassy-rumble, as pounding toms create an engulfing rhythmic pulse, around which jangling psych-folk influenced guitars and bewitching vocals, reminiscent of Totally or The Wharves. This latest sketch of a song is not just Nightshift’s most intriguing offering yet, it’s a timely reminder of why their debut record might just be one of the year’s most exciting new discoveries.
4. Is It The Ski Saigon Season Already?
Back when gigs were still things, I was lucky enough, alongside Scared To Dance, to put on Ski Saigon at The Victoria. Over two years later, next month the band will release their debut album, the band’s first new material since 2016’s EP, Bring The Storm Cloud. Entitled, Ski Saigon Sees The Albatross, the record is set for release through Too Good To Be True, a new label based in Brest, France, which is the new project from the people behind the acclaimed Beko label.
Discussing the inspiration behind Ski Saigon Sees The Albatross, the band have suggested it finds them, “dreaming of polar exploration”, when they were joined by a, “cursed bird”, and, “clement weather ceased and monsters of the deep made themselves known. In the dark shadows surrounding the vessel, all saw their own worst fears reflected”. This week, ahead of the album’s release, Ski Saigon have shared the latest single from the record, It’s Already Tomorrow. The track seems to have a suitably grandiose feeling, as chopped up radio announcements are dropped in amongst Rhys Griffiths lightly distorted vocals, which seem almost engulfed by the waves of guitar and pounding drum rhythms. Both the sound and the sheer ambition of the piece is reminiscent of early British Sea Power or I Like Trains, bands who equally took influence from the world at large, while injecting a certain sense of self for good measure. Ski Saigon Sees The Albatross is the sound of a band pushing themselves to their limit, throwing everything into a record and being rewarded with something very special as a result.
3.Firestations Music Comes Back Around Again
One of my favourite EP’s of last year, Firestations’ release, Automatic Tendencies, was the first part of a trio of interconnected EPs, each taking on what the band describe as a, “mixtape aesthetic”, featuring remixes, covers and various limited edition releases with custom artwork designed to expand on the musical ideas within. The band are currently gearing up to the release of the second of these records, Melted Medium, out next month on Lost Map, and this week they’ve shared the video to their latest single, The Circular.
Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Firestations have described it as, “a song in praise of revisionism”, a track about learning to look critically at the way history is presented as fact, and not accepting the, “mythologised versions”. While progressive politics can sometimes be painted as negative, even looking to play down the achievements of the past, here it is presented with a wonderful sense of positivity, there’s an almost triumphant moment as the chorus hits, and they sing, “the Circular is here, we have to change, we won’t make it last any other way“. Musically, it’s in many ways classic Firestations, as the steady, almost motorik-pulse of the rhythm is adorned with squelching electronics, walls of warm guitars and lushly understated vocal harmonies. Always intriguing, always striving forward and pushing their music into new territory, Firestations seem to look at the world a little differently to anyone else and their music is all the more compelling as a result.
2. Move Quick Or There’ll Be No Future Left
It was only a few weeks back that I last featured the music of Brooklyn-songwriter Juliet Quick. That was around the release of her single, Circles, the first taste of Juliet’s upcoming EP, Glass Years, due early next month on Substitute Scene Records. This week Juliet has shared the second taste of the record, in the shape of No Future.
A description of, “a panic attack about global chaos and climate change“, No Future is a track that seems to question the point of fatalism, noting how fear and anger often raise their head in place of a more politically productive way of processing these emotions. The track begins with a gentle flourish of guitar-chords, Juliet’s vocal seems to be almost racing ahead of the music, mirroring the chaotic spin of the lyric, “It sure feels like we’re living the end today I’ve never had a god for comfort”. Throughout, Juliet seems to battle with her own hopes and dreams, and her fear of seeing the whole world go down, recalling her father’s words, “it’s still enough if we have love when the sea swallows us but I don’t wanna see it go down”. There’s the odd glimpse of hope mixed in with a genuine fear, as Juliet herself explains, “there is, obviously, a future“, and while the state of the planet is a cause for real concern, she’s right, whatever happens, time is going to carry on, and moments of beauty like Juliet’s music make it well worth carrying on with.
1. Johanna Samuels Is Just As Nature Intended
When I put Johanna Samuels in my 21 for 2021 back in January, it was with a lot of hope that we’d get some new music from the LA-via-NYC songwriter this year, and thankfully that hope has paid off. This week Johanna shared news of her upcoming Sam Evian-produced album, Excelsior!, which will be released by Mama Bird Recording Co. this May. Ahead of that release, this week Johanna shared her new single, Nature’s Way, and its video which features a stellar cast of Johanna’s fellow musicians, including Courtney Marie Andrews, Lomelda and A.O. Gerber to mention but a few.
Nature’s Way is a track Johanna co-wrote with Olivia Kaplan, who also provides some delightful vocal harmonies. The track is on a theme the pair had been, “toying with for a while”, as Johanna explains, the track sets out to, “the pressures that come along with hiding your vulnerability as a woman, which can often manifest by fading out your authentic self”. They cast a fictional male performer in the song’s leading role, a man who is willing to let the girl he’s with, “hold all the weight of vulnerability”, as she goes out of her way to make sure he doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Musically, the track is propelled by a steady tick of acoustic guitars and steady drum pulse, as the rich vocals and meandering lead-guitar add beautiful melodic touches. This feels like a timely statement of intent for Johanna, a record about striving for better, being kinder to others and yourself, and working to make the world a better place for everyone, if 2021 needs a musical blueprint, Excelsior! might just be the perfect choice.
Header photo is Johanna Samuels by Ellyn Jameson.