5. And The Prizes Go To…Savage Mansion
With 2020 setting the release of their acclaimed second album, Weird Country, right at the start of what was, for many of us, one of the weirdest years in recent memory, you could have forgiven Savage Mansion for thinking their luck was out. Rather than let it drag them down, the band decided to forge on, and plans are already afoot for album number three. Ahead of any news on that, this week the band have shared a new stand-alone single, Prizes, due out as part of Lost Map’s PostMap Club.
Prizes is a track that feels slightly unhinged in the best way possible. Recorded with regular live-engineer, Ross McGowan, it combines a delightfully primal, run-away-mine-cart of a skiffle beat with a languid slide-guitar, and some delightful close-harmonies, like Johnny Cash and June Carter if they lived in modern-day Glasgow. Discussing the track, songwriter Craig Angus has suggested it is about, “expectations, memory, and really trying to move past all of that in the pursuit of happiness“, as the tumble of lyrics question what is really important in life, when there’s “no business speaking of prizes, no business dreaming of prizes”. A sprightly return that hints Savage Mansion are leaving this Weird Country behind, and sailing into new, and rather thrilling waters.
4. Sara Bug Has A Whole Lotta Pride In Her Music
In her own words, “born in Mississippi, raised in Louisiana, stuck in Nashville“, Sara Bug never really planned on sharing the ten songs that make up her debut album with the world. They were written for own sense of self, a way of making sense of her life and her place on this planet; the result, perhaps confusingly, of giving up on music being a career, and the freedom that brought to her songwriting. After previously featuring on these pages with her single, Rosebank, this week Sara has shared the latest track from her album, Lotta Pride.
Lotta Pride actually dates back the best part of five years, written back in 2016 after Sara returned to the South after a period living in New York and working in the fashion industry. The track reflects on a time of great change in Sara’s life, as she recalls it, “is an accumulation of thoughts I had during that time of grief and letting go of old hopes and dreams“. Ultimately, it’s perhaps less about what we lose when we leave our youthful dreams behind and more about celebrating the good times we had along the road to following them, “I had a good time, I really did, I think we had a good one, a pretty good run”. Musically, it’s a more sedate affair than the driving Rosebank, with Sara’s characterful vocal, nodding to the likes of Steff Chura or Jessica Lea-Mayfield, to the fore, atop a backing of loose-guitar chords and luxurious string flourishes. Sara Bug’s debut is set to be the best kind of letting go, the sound of someone questioning every decision they make and thriving with the freedom that comes with starting again.
3. Nightjars Modjestic New Track
Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Nightjars is the solo project of singer-songwriter Adrian Jade Matias Bell. After sharing their music with the world for the best part of six years, Adrian is set for a big step-forward with the May release of their debut album, Modjeska. Produced by acclaimed songwriter Rosie Tucker, Modjeska is, “a collection of songs written about and in their childhood home of Orange County”. Ahead of the release, Adrian has recently shared the record’s rather wonderful title track.
Describing their music as, “a California coming-of-age”, Nightjars has a distinct West-Coast feel, nodding to the Laurel Canyon scene of the 1970’s as much as it does to contemporaries like Haley Heynderickx or Adult Mom. The track begins with a plaintive acoustic guitar and a lush, soaring vocal, then gradually builds as the guitar becomes more urgent and driving, as Adrian details their thoughts of a home-town and all the memories that lurk within it, “loved the city the most when I wasn’t up close”. As with any song about place, it’s as much a story of relationships and people, of the way our hometowns, and the growing we do within them, can seem to define the way our entire life plays out: for the best and the worst. There’s both a warmth and delicacy to Nightjars sound, at times ratting along with intensity, at others pulling back into more contemplative moments. When their album arrives, I can’t wait to hear what stories are lurking within, ready to be told to the world.
Modjeska is out May 7th. Click HERE for more information on Nightjars.
2. Esther Rose’s Songs Remain Very Good
There are few songwriters better at detailing the intricacies of the everyday as New Orleans’ Esther Rose. On her new album, How Many Times, out later this month via Full Time Hobby & Father/Daughter Records, Esther seems to chart the two years she spent writing the album, taking in moving home, break-ups and a whole lot of touring, and finding the magic in all of those things. Ahead of the album’s release, this week Esther has shared the latest offering from the album, the records thematic, “peaceful valley”, Songs Remain.
With a sound she describes as not being, “country enough for country” , Esther’s music seems to exist as a musical cross-road, a special sonic pocket where genres be damned, and honest story-telling, perfect harmonies and rustic charm are to the fore: Songs Remain is certainly no exception to the rule. Country-tinged heartache might be nothing new, yet Esther’s version blows away the cobwebs on the clichés, detailing how, even when things end in heartache, you can still be happy for the extent of the love you felt, “to know you is to be forever changed, I am glad it was you who broke my heart”. Musically, the track is something of a departure from the material Esther has shared so far from How Many Times, recorded at home over three scorching summer days, it’s a beautifully stripped back affair, with just a gentle waft of guitar and a magical Pasty Cline-like vocal, showing how little is needed to make a great-song shine. Esther Rose has been something of a fixture on this site in recent years: if she keeps writing music this good, don’t expect that to change any time soon.
1. Czech Out Renée Reed’s New Single
Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana, Renée Reed is one of my favourite new voices of 2021. With her blend of Cajun Music, alt-folk and whatever else she could wrap her ears around at the music festivals of Southwest Louisiana, Renée creates a musical style that’s not quite like anyone else I’ve stumbled upon. With her self-titled album just a fortnight away, this week Renée has shared the latest single from it, Neboj.
If you needed any further evidence of the eclecticism of Renée’s influences, Neboj, translating roughly as Don’t Worry, lifts its name from a word discovered on a deep-dive into Czech animation. Lyrically, the track touches on the idea of being open to falling in love, of letting go of your worries and trusting your heart to lead the way. The whole thing is set to a musical backing of stunning finger-picked guitar work and Renée’s voice, timeless and compelling, bringing to mind the likes of Vera Sola or labelmate Erin Durant. Renée has described her music as, “dream-fi folk from the Cajun prairies,” while that might be the origin, it is not the full extent; this music resonates in the wider-world in the manor that sun-dappled, beautiful sounds always seem to have a way of doing.
Header photo is Renée Reed by LeeAnn B Stephan.