5. Charlotte Bumgarner’s Music Comes In All Colours – As Long As Its Red
Hailing from the DIY-scene of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Charlotte Bumgarner has been earning her musical stripes for a number of years, both as a solo artist and as a member of, “spooky riot grrl pop”, band, Graveyard Party. After releasing her debut EP, Night Blooming Flowers, back in 2018, Charlotte caught the ear of Manor Records, who are currently releasing a series of her singles, culminating in this week’s offering, Red With Love.
A self-styled, “specialist in quiet music”, Charlotte’s music is more about subtle details than grand flourishes, this is showcased on Red With Love, as lightly brushed guitar chords are sporadically accompanied by plaintive piano chords and burbling electronic pulses, the whole thing designed to pull focus to her subtly beautiful voice. Charlotte seems to almost deliberately mix her voice down low, drawing the listener into her world, leaning in close to not miss a word. Recalling the likes of Skullcrusher or Strawberry Runners, at times there’s an almost spectral quality, as if Charlotte is singing to us from another plane or another time, “you always told me not to cry unless it was over you, then it was fine, you’d just look at me and sigh”. Charlotte has long been an advocate for female songwriters and the need for their work to be respected, and now seems the perfect time to cast your ears her way, a serious talent at the start of something special.
4. Combining Equal Parts John Murry And Oscar Wilde Makes Everything Fun
Back in 2012, John Murry was the talk of the town, or at the very least the talk of glossy music magazines, as the likes of Uncut and Mojo queued up to throw praise in the direction of his superb album, The Graceless Age. That break-out moment, was followed by 2017’s A Short History Of Decay, and continuing his uncanny ability to come back just when you start thinking you haven’t heard from in a while, this week John has announced his upcoming third album. The Stars Are God’s Bullet Holes will arrive in June via Submarine Cat Records, as well as sharing the first track from it, Oscar Wilde (Came Here To Make Fun Of You).
As with much of John Murry’s work, Oscar Wilde is a song that walks the line between comedy and tragedy, his jet-black humour showcased in lyrics resplendent with literary references, and his final conclusion, “if I didn’t have to hustle all these second-hand stories, along with some sick need to dance to ’em this wouldn’t be a joke”. Perhaps what really makes the song stand out is lurking beneath the comedy and the literary references, a dark undercurrent of violence, explored unflinchingly without a hint of glorification, from both a personal and a systemic perspective, “the giving of blood begets the drawing of it by thieves”. As always with his songwriting, here John clads his raw, vocal honesty in a veneer of bruised beauty, as the warm buzz of Rhodes-piano and slide guitar are cut through by a contrastingly jazzy-drum line and brilliant 60’s girl-group like backing vocals, his new partnership with producer Josh Parish serving to lift John’s songwriting to thrilling new levels. In a world that can feel homogenous and sanitised, John Murry’s music feels distinctly real and at times brutal; it might not always be easy to hear, yet it’s all the more rewarding when you do.
3. Molly Linen Has An Awful Lot More To Give
I first came across the music of Molly Linen back in 2019, when the Shropshire-born, Glasgow-based songwriter shared her wonderful debut EP, Outside. Released via Lost Map it came crashing into my EPs of the year with it’s refreshing take on woozy escapism. After a year where many of us have reconnected with nature, Outside’s beautiful portraits of rural living somehow feels even more relevant and more compelling than they did at the time. This week Molly has shared her first new material since then, in the shape of her new single, A Lot To Give, which excitingly is promised as the first of a string of releases from Molly this year.
Discussing the track, Molly has suggested A Lot To Give is, “an imagined conversation with an imagined person who lacks empathy” even as they leave a person in pieces, “a heart broken like a carelessly dropped vase”. Musically, this track is a stunning way to spend four minutes, entering on the drone of an old air-organ and a delicate guitar, that gradually builds in intensity along with the burbling anger in Molly’s vocal, “can you feel? you don’t show it”. As it seems to almost break-down towards the end as the guitar line is uneasily mirrored by choppy piano notes, this feels like a subtle shift for Molly’s songwriting, while the folky roots of artists like Vashti Bunyan remain, there’s also a hint of the more experimental work of Adem or King Creosote. Perfectly timed for the lengthening evenings, and wistful sunsets of Spring time, the first shoots of Molly Linen’s return suggest this most special of talents is sounding better than ever.
2. heka Hits (A) Wall
Although hailing originally from the Italian hills, multi-disciplinary artist, Francesca Brierley aka heka, now hails from the altogether less sedate city of London. Describing her music as an attempt to, “explore the connection between sound, space and memory”, heka’s music is a perfect juxtaposition of genres, eras and cultures, creating an amalgam distinctly of her own vision. Recently signed to Balloon Machine Records, heka’s upcoming EP, (a), will arrive in May, and was previewed this week by new single, (a) Wall.
Entering on a processed beat, and smooth combination of guitar and keys, Francesca’s voice might have anyone instantly reaching for Laura Marling comparisons, yet musically this seems to inhabit another world; one of dark corners in maudling jazz clubs, this is music for sipping strong cocktails and sliding low in oversized leather armchairs. Particularly magnificent is the trumpet, courtesy of Jemima Coulter, that seems to drift in and out of the track, like a wisp of smoke, slowly encircling the light before slowly dissipating to nothing. Discussing the track, Francesca has suggested it’s an, “ode to anger”, not in the destructive sense, but as a contrast to numbness, “hate in this sense is seen as a way to eventually move past the grief, especially in the face of someone else’s lack of action, or evasiveness, which can be overwhelmingly paralysing”. This is a fascinating introduction to the music of heka, an artist who even in just one song seems unaffected by any preconceived notions of genre or what music is supposed to be, where she might take her music on (a) is anyone’s guess, but I for one can’t wait to find out.
1. The Return Of Squirrel Flower Wouldn’t Hurt A Fly
My love for the music of Squirrel Flower, the musical moniker of Ella Williams, isn’t much of a secret, after all, her debut album, I Was Born Swimming, crashed into my top albums of 2020 at number one. As with any artist who released an album last year, Squirrel Flower’s plans were somewhat thrown off by a global pandemic, and it seemed particularly cruel on artists like Ella, who should have been experiencing their break-out moment. Thankfully, resting on her laurels isn’t Ella’s style, and making the best of a bad situation, she set about work on album number two. Largely written prior to Covid-19, the songs that make up Planet (i) were initially demoed in Ella’s own home in Boston, before she formed a bond with Bristol-based producer Ali Chant, and courtesy of some newfound antibodies, she found herself in the UK last Autumn, turning those ideas for songs into the finished product. With the album set for release in June, this week saw Squirrel Flower share a brand new track, Hurt A Fly.
Discussing Hurt A Fly, Ella has suggested it is her embodying, “a persona of gaslighting, narcissistic soft-boy type shit”, embracing the chance to see what it’s like to be, “a character trying to skirt around accountability”. Perhaps unsurprisingly the resultant track has a distinct rage to it, present as much in the music, with the pounding drum beat and choppy, urgent piano chords, as it is within the lyrics. With her words, Ella seems to inhabit a bruised ego while simultaneously poking it with a stick, wallowing in self-pity the song’s protagonist seems to demand sympathy, even as they are the one in the wrong, “you know I could never hurt a fly, unless it wasted my time”. As the song gradually seems to unravel into a spiral of unhinged guitars, you begin to see the pattern of repeated let downs and pleas for forgiveness, popping up in the song via the repetition of the all-to-certain phrase, “I’m never wrong”. While promising that Planet (i) is a record of disaster, the title is a fictional world Ella imagines we’ll inhabit once we inevitably ruin this one, on this evidence, it’s one that seems to almost revel in it, the world is burning and Squirrel Flower is writing a love letter to the fire, who knew the apocalypse would sound this good?
Header photo is Squirrel Flower by Tonje Thilesen