5. Two Hands Really PACKS A Punch
PACKS are a Toronto-based band, acting as a vehicle for the songwriting of band-leader Madeline Link. Now expanded to a four-piece, PACKS recorded their debut, Take The Cake, between Toronto, and the Ottawa suburbs where Madeline isolated with her parents at the start of 2020. The album will come into the world next month as a joint release between Fire Talk and Royal Mountain, and this week PACKS have shared the latest track from it, Two Hands.
Described by Madeline, as, “quite literal”, Two Hands is a song about the joys of taking a walk, an experience Madeline suggests, “can transform your outlook on life, whether you are enraptured by a sunset full of colours only imagined in cartoons, you receive a sweet acknowledgement of existence from a stranger, or you get into a yelling match with a raving skeletor“. Musically, the track has a certain stomping-through-muddy-puddles charm, with the chugging guitar-line serving as a base for Madeline’s expressive vocal melodies, the whole thing bringing to mind the likes of Colleen Green or Forth Wanderers. There seems to be a certain amount of buzz around PACKS at the moment, and it is easy to see why, at a time when the world seems heavy, they have the ability to take your mind somewhere else, and remind you of all the little joys that life still has to offer for us all.
4. Cheekface Are Too Big For The Trash
2021 has already been a busy year for Los Angeles indie-rockers, Cheekface, following the January release of their extremely well-received second album, Emphatically No. A collection of songs about the surprisingly mundane everyday experience of watching a world in crisis, Emphatically No was a record that was equal parts wryly comic and crushingly real. With touring understandably on hold, the band have wasted no time in getting back to releasing music, and this week shared their new single, We Need A Bigger Dumpster.
The track picks up where Emphatically No left off, as the band explain this is a song about, “boredom, panic, disease, consumer products, self-sabotage and Fritos“. Throughout the track, vocalist Greg Katz, seems to look at what the world tells us we want, and how that contrasts with our actual needs, how products are forced on us when all he really wants is, “to be with other people like me”. Musically, it is classic Cheekface, as sing-speak vocals in the mold of Jonathan Richman, meet clattering slacker-rock guitars, with the addition of a subtle touch of Darwin Deez-like indie-pop charm. While between-album singles can sometimes feel a little throw-away, this feels the opposite, a song so good they just couldn’t wait to get it out into the world, as they shout repeatedly in the tongue-in-cheek chorus, “everything is fine”, and with Cheekface in your headphones, for a few moments it really feels like it is.
3. Watch The Sunset Over The Pastel Coast
Listening to the music of Pastel Coast, it’s not at all surprising that they hail from a city by the sea. The music that the French indie-poppers, from the shores of Boulogne-sur-Mer, make seems to walk the line of hazy sunshine and crashing waves. The band, fronted by Quentin Isidore, first emerged back in 2019, with their well-received debut, Hovercraft, which saw them tipped as the future of French-indie music. Two years on the band are set to soundtrack your summer, with their new album Sun, arriving in June as a co-release between Shelflife and Groover Obsessions, and this week Pastel Coast shared the latest single from it, Sunset.
On Sunset, Pastel Coast seems to tap into a distinctly trans-Atlantic sound, melding the euphoric danceability of Phoenix or M83 with the grittier, surfy-jangle of American bands like The Drums or The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Like much of the best indie-pop, Pastel Coast seem to be able to blend initially joyous highs with a gently wistful undercurrent, a theme matched in the Wes Anderson-like, plant-filled video. With the evenings lengthening and the sense of summer just around the bend, Pastel Coast have written a perfect sound for chasing after love as the sun goes down, just don’t leave it too long before you go searching for your own little slice of happiness.
2. Dan Wriggins Isn’t Feeling At Home
It’s only a matter of months since Dan Wriggins appeared with his superb debut EP, Mr. Chill, yet the Friendship front-man is wasting no time in getting back into our ears. Next week Dan will share a new collection of five tracks by American labor organizer, musician, and storyteller Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips. Phillips, who died in 2008 wrote songs exposing the truth of the American dream, singing of pacifism, the rights of American workers, and his love for trains. Ahead of the EPs release next week, Dan has recently shared the opening track from the record, This Land Is Not Our Land.
As you might have guessed from the title, This Land Is Not Our Land is a re-working of Woody Guthrie’s more optimistic original, This Land Is Your Land. Recorded direct to tape at Big Nice Studio in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Dan’s version lets the words shine to the fore, with just an acoustic-guitar for company. There’s a distinctly anti-greed thread running through the track, as he contrasts the plight of the truck-drivers and migrant workers who keep America running, to the investment bankers, whom he, “just can’t think of one single use for”. With the spirit of Woody Guthrie running through it, the track ends with a plea for the people to unite against the enemy within, “so take your slogan and kindly stow it, if this land is our land, we’d never know it. So lets get together and overthrow it. This land was made for you and me“. A perfectly timed reminder of the joy of Utah Phillips, how the struggles we face today are the same struggles we’ve faced before; the sound of the past, reminding us never to take the freedoms of the future for granted.
Still Is: Dan Wriggins Sings Utah Phillips is out May 7th via Orindal Records. For more information on Dan Wriggins visit https://orindal.limitedrun.com/artists/danwriggins.
1. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Hannah Jadagu
Originally from Mesquite, Texas, although now based out of New York, Hannah Jadagu is in many ways, despite being signed to one of the best labels on the planet, the epitome of DIY. The songs of her debut EP, What Is Going On, were all written and recorded through her mobile phone, yet despite her limited resources, the songs sound lush, and perfectly formed, showing what can be done if you find a method that works for you. With, What Is Going On released last week via Sub Pop, Hannah has celebrated by sharing the video to the EP’s stand-out moment, Sundown.
Somewhat remarkably, Sundown was one of the first songs Hannah ever wrote, as she explains, the song, “takes place when I was a junior in high school and I decided to write a song about how I was feeling at the time…Sundown was a way for me to express thoughts I’d kept to myself”. Musically, Sundown is a track that seems to blur lines between genres, her bedroom-pop stylings fused into the shoegaze-gone-pop of Hazel English or Japanese Breakfast, as layered vocals are manipulated through chorus and reverb, into a hazy, swirling cacophony. With a suitably wonderful video, also created using her trusty iPhone, Hannah seems to capture a certain spirit of modern-day youth, a world that’s confusing and beautiful, full of doubts and friendship. With her music Hannah celebrates this period of her life, and how the events brought her to where she is now, on the cusp of an incredibly bright future.
Header photo is Hannah Jadagu by Axel Kabundji