5. 299 Is Finding Treasure In The Trash
299 is the solo-project of acclaimed Welsh multi-instrumentalist and producer Gavin Fitzjohn, who has previously worked with the likes of Gruff Rhys and The Manic Street Preachers. A couple of years back, Gavin set out to truly explore the USA, traipsing from coast to coast, seeking to discover, “the heart of the American troubadour”. The result of his explorations is The 299 Game, his new album due out next month on PNKSLM Recordings, and this week Gavin has shared the second offering from it, Picking Through The Scraps.
Much of this record was written on the road, bricked up in hotel rooms, using “quarters as guitar picks”, and pretty much whatever he could lay his hands on as make-shift percussion. These are songs that romanticise the open road, taking the day-to-day grind of a touring musician and injecting it with a mythologised streak of weirdness in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson or Wim Wenders; as Gavin puts it, “the songs are Polaroids of a man traveling around an unfamiliar place, surrounded by surreal characters”. In the case of Picking Through The Scraps, this emerges as a garage-rock take on Bob Dylan, all chunky guitar chords, distorted vocals and primal pounding percussion, as Gavin wonders whether there’s anything good to be found inside of him, “I’m picking through the scraps, what’s left of me, to see what I can give to my baby”. This feels like an outsiders take on the American dream, a foreigner dreaming of the romanticised land of Route 66 and 24-hour diners and discovering it dishevelled, weird and yet somehow strangely alluring, now gather around gentle readers, 299 has a story to tell, and it might just blow your mind.
The 299 Game is out May 21st via PNKSLM Recordings. For more information on 299 visit https://299official.bandcamp.com/.
4. Wake Up To Lightning Bug Before September Ends
Lightning Bug last appeared on these pages back in 2019, when the band shared their sublime album, October Song on Marbled Arm Records. Now two years on, and freshly signed to Fat Possum, the New York-based quintet are gearing up for the June release of their new album, A Color of the Sky, and this week have shared the latest track from it, September Song, pt ii.
Recalling the inspiration for the track, vocalist Audrey Kang explains it was inspired by memories of a trip to Sweden, “the sun was setting insanely late, like at 11pm and it took hours longer than normal. So I’d watch it disappear, this glowing orb sink into the sea every night to the point where I felt kind of insane, like I was hallucinating“. Reminded of this memory when she found herself camping again in the Pacific North West, Audrey returned to New York and the song came pouring out of her. Living up to its Autumnal title, September Song, pt. ii feels like a song of gentle change, as hypnotic, finger-picked guitars are sent careering on by the patter of brushed drums as Audrey’s hushed vocals linger over her words, “the sunset brings me to fruition, I am raw, I am new in the transition. The colors burn stronger and the feelings burn true and even the flowers smell more like you”. While they’ve always been a band who do lush and luxurious with ease, here Lightning Bug seem to have added a certain dynamism, as showcased in the lightly psychedelic outro, this feels like a band striding forward into the unknown and ready for whatever thrills are set to come their way.
A Color of the Sky is out June 25th via Fat Possum. For more information on Lightning Bug go to https://lightning-bug.bandcamp.com/.
3. I’m A Real Sucker For Rosie Tucker
A songwriter based out of Los Angeles, Rosie Tucker burst into the musical world back in 2019 with the acclaimed Never Not Never Not Never Not, released via New Professor Music, and has gone on to share stages with the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon and Soccer Mommy. Now two years on, Rosie is set to return with their new offering, Sucker Supreme, due out via Epitaph Records later this month. This week Rosie has shared the latest track from the record, Barbara Ann.
Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Rosie has spoken of it as both about, “how corn and soy monoculture relate both to wider industrial food systems and to farmers trying to make a living“, and also a tribute to their grandmother. The track was inspired by childhood visits to Illinois, memories of run-ins with electric fences, and an inspirational woman, who taught Rosie, “that survival means laughing a lot and refusing to yield to the will of any man, be it boss or husband“. Musically, Barbara Ann is probably the most straight-up rock song Rosie has released to date, a driving guitar line carries the song galloping along atop steady drums and Rosie’s charismatic yelp of a vocal, it’s a sound that will appeal to fans of Kane Strang and Diet Cig in equal measure. The opening track of an album that’s all about self-definition, Barbara Ann is a reminder that when the world wants to throw people into boxes, Rosie Tucker remains wonderfully, majestically uncategorisable, and all the better for it.
Sucker Supreme is out April 30th (June 18th physically) via Epitaph Records. For more information on Rosie Tucker visit https://www.rosietuckermusic.com/.
2. Angel Olsen Is Alive And Thriving
When Angel Olsen began working on the music that would become 2019’s album, All Mirrors, she probably didn’t realise quite how much material would emerge from those sessions. Last year Angel shared Whole New Mess, the second part of a larger whole, it re-imagined the orchestral grandeur of All Mirrors back to its stripped-bare acoustic roots. In May this year, the album will perhaps finally come out as it was originally planned, a double album, Song of the Lark and Other Far Memories, incorporating both albums, alongside a bonus EP, Far Memory, and a forty-page book. It’s a delicious, decadent looking collection, and ahead of its release this week Angel has shared a new recording, Alive and Dying (Waving, Smiling).
Alive and Dying (Waving, Smiling) is an orchestral take on one of the few tracks that appeared on Whole New Mess, but not on Two Mirrors, Waving, Smiling. Described by Angel as, “very me”, the song is in her own words, “about chapters closing, and learning to let go of things I can’t understand“. While the original take on Waving, Smiling was all about the arpeggiated acoustic guitars, here we’re greeted by waves of luxurious strings, weaving around the prominent vocal line, that stands front-and-centre, demanding we listen to every word of Angel’s pained, poised delivery, “I’m waving, smiling, at love forever, alive and dying”. Serving as a final farewell to the Two Mirrors-era, Song of the Lark and Other Far Memories serves as a definitive collection, a vision of a project from its earliest inception to its triumphant finale, its the sound of one of the world’s finest songwriters on her most intriguing, ambitious journey yet.
Song of the Lark and Other Far Memories is out May 7th via Jagjaguwar. For more information on Angel Olsen visit https://angelolsen.com/.
1. It’s Confession Time For nudista
Based out of London, nudista are the duo of guitarist Robbie Carman and Spanish-born vocalist, Pilar Matji Cabello. The pair met at University, and both having musical backgrounds, Pilar learning to sing in choirs as a child before teaching herself to play guitar and Robbie performing in various bands since he was a teenager. Bonding over a shared love of Yo La Tengo, Phoebe Bridgers and Neil Young (a fine melting pot of ideas I’m sure you’ll agree) the pair formed nudista. Freshly signed to Sad Club Records, this week the band have shared their new single, Confess.
Despite only being written at the start of 2020, Confess already, in some ways, feels from a distant time. Thematically it tackles ideas of being overwhelmed by the fast pace of life around you, as Pilar explains, “I was coming to terms with life in all its mundanity…confess is about coming to terms with that process and, eventually, being okay with it – sitting in that feeling, it’s sad but it’s all good”. A thing of honey-dripped beauty, Confess enters on a rush of slide guitar creating the same hazy atmosphere Mazzy Star perfected on Fade Into You. From there on in, the track continues in the same relaxed melancholy, “I’m growing old, I’m feeling tired, another day goes with nothing to do”, before easing into the chorus, and the repeated, broken refrain, “I must confess that I don’t know the rules”. On this track nudista, seem to have struck onto a nerve many of us feel, of being part of a game where we have no say in the rules. Perhaps confess is a reminder to breathe, stop for a moment, and find our own ways to make life a little less overwhelming: giving a song this utterly charming a listen seems to be a very good place to start.
Confess is out now via Sad Club Records. For more information on nudista visit https://nudistaband.bandcamp.com/.
Header photo is Nudista by Maite de Orbe.