5. I’m A Fan of Shannon Lay If You Get My Geist
Something of a regular on these pages, Shannon Lay last appeared here back in May around the release of her single Rare To Wake. The track marked the Los Angeles-based songwriter’s first new material since her acclaimed 2019 debut, August. This week, Shannon has detailed her second record, Geist, due out via Sub Pop in October, as well as sharing both the title track and the song that proceeds it on the album, Awaken and Allow.
These two tracks mark the centre point of Geist and showcase two distinct styles on Shannon’s take on folk music. Described by Shannon as, “a prayer and a promise”, Awaken and Allow is a stunning near acapella track digging into Shannon’s Irish roots, as she sings of getting out of her comfort zone, “do not stop change in favour of comfort a bud cannot resist to bloom”. Contrastingly, the title track is a collaborative, full-band affair with Shannon’s percussive finger-picked guitar-line accompanied by the steady-pulse of double-bass, backing vocals and warm flourishes of keyboard. Lifting its name from the German word for spirit, Geist is, in Shannon’s own words, “a testament to the power we all have within”, it’s a track that revels in its own positivity, embracing the idea that we don’t even know the power we have within us to do amazing things. With just a handful of tracks shared, Geist already feels like a special record, emerging from a global struggle with something rich and optimistic, a reminder of the power of creativity and our ability to adapt. At the end of Geist, Shannon sings of, “a smile on my face thinking of you”, when audiences and touring return, she might just find a willing troop of admirers grinning back at her from the crowd.
4. Every Day Should Start With Molly Linen
Back in 2019, Moly Linen, the Shropshire-born, Glasgow-based songwriter caught the ear of many with her brilliant EP, Outside. Released through the Lost Map label it crashed into my top five EPs of the year with its charmingly rural take on folk-music old and new. Molly recently returned with the well-received single, A Lot To Give, the first track from Molly’s upcoming EP, Days Awake, due out at the end of next month. This week Molly has shared another track from the record, in the shape of her new single, The Day Starts.
The Day Starts is a song that seems to exist entirely in Molly’s own mind, her attempt at, “imagining a day in the life of a poet”. Yet despite existing in her daydream, there’s also a personal thread running through the track, a nostalgic look at youth and memories of, “long summer days spent in the dream-like warmth of my grandparent’s garden”. Listening to the track, you can almost feel the warm haziness of the Summer sun, permeating into the cyclical guitar patterns and reflective, easy vocals. Particularly wonderful is the meandering piano line that appears briefly before drifting off, a perfectly judged moment of blissful melodic charm. There’s a serenity to everything Molly Linen does, a songwriter possessing an uncanny ability to create a moment of comforting escape, in her hands even a four-minute-long single is enough to brighten up the greyest of days.
3. Take A Sip Of Torres New Single
One of the greatest challenges in music is re-invention, many bands who show great promise can get caught in a trap, living out their break-out moment on repeat with increasingly dwindling returns. The true greats however pull that chameleonic shifting with ease, re-inventing the wheel without ever forgetting what made it spin in the first place. On Thirstier, Mackenzie Scott’s fifth record under the Torres moniker, she shows everyone else how it’s done.
With the record due out at the end of the month via Merge Records, this week Torres has shared Thirstier’s, “thesis statement”, in the shape of the sparkling title track. As with much of the album, Thirstier is a song that walks that line between our fantasies and the reality of everyday life, as Mackenzie sings, “baby, keep me in your fantasies. Baby, even though you live with me”. Within the track’s words, Mackenzie seems to also be straddling doubts and obsession, attempting to make sense of the difficulty of diving in headfirst, while always worrying the other person might, “shoot your arrow at a new obsession”. While lyrically intriguing, it is not a song that forgets about the power of a musical break-down, as moments of introspective guitars collide with thunder-claps of percussion and raw, soaring vocals that sound destined for the biggest stages around, there’s even room for a distant blast of rambunctious trumpets right as the song threatens to pull off the throttle. It might in some ways be a record of settling down, yet Thirstier is no saccharine love story, it’s a rebellious revolution against the clichés life throws at us as we grow older, a potent reminder to keep the flames burning, keep the passions high, and to revel in every moment of this wild ride they call life.
2. I’m Taking To Skirts Like A Duck To Water
Back in June, Alex Montenegro, the songwriting visionary behind Skirts, shared one of my favourite tracks of the year, in the shape of the majestic single Always. That was the first taster of the Dallas-based songwriter’s upcoming album, Great Big Wild Oak, due out via Double Double Whammy at the end of the month. This week Alex has shared the latest offering from the record, the brilliantly smoky, piano-led wonder, Swim.
Swim had something of a difficult journey to take its place on Great Big Wild Oak, going through a series of re-records, before attempt number five ended up being one of Alex’s favourite tracks on the album. There’s a certain cryptic quality to Swim, the lyrics seeming to chart both missed opportunities and ideas learnt along the way. It begins with an invite, “spare key in the front yard, underneath the bed of flowers, they’re plastic, you can come in whenever you’re wanting“. From there to the sound of a beautifully dense backing of plucked banjo, drifting slide-guitars and deceptively percussive piano, Alex seems to drift back to old memories and future doubts, “I’ll never feel ready for what’s coming”, she sings, with acceptance rather than any particular worry. As the song drifts out on the most perfect moment of instrumental awe, you’re in some ways none-the-wiser as to what comes next, whether this is an ending or a beginning, a memory of what was or a vision of what’s to come, and perhaps Alex isn’t sure either, there’s no resolution here, just a perfect moment, an end of a chapter with the next one just waiting to be written. In the Skirts story, the next few pages might just take Alex wherever her dreams want to go, a gem of a songwriter just waiting to be unearthed.
1. Little Kid Write Their Dear John
Back in 2020, Toronto’s Little Kid, the brainchild of songwriter Kenny Boothby, took almost a decade’s worth of musical experience and shaped it into their brilliantly ambitious sixth album, Transfiguration Highway. The record crashed into my album of the year list, as well as drawing acclaim from seemingly everyone who found the time to cast their ear in its direction. This week, marking their tenth anniversary as a band, Little Kid have announced the re-issue of their 2017 fan-favourite LP, Sun Milk, as well as sharing a brand new, and rather brilliant, single, John Arnott.
As with much of Transfiguration Highway, John Arnott seems to tap into Kenny’s interest in, and sometimes uneasy relationship with, organised religion. The track was inspired by Pastor John Arnott, founder of the Toronto Aiport Christian Fellowship. Kenny recalls how the sermons were, “focused on performing miracles, receiving the Gifts of the Spirit, having direct spiritual experiences with God – frankly, they were all a bit ‘out there”. Musically, the six-minute plus track is a delightfully fizzing blend of post-rock and Americana, bringing to mind the likes of Lift For Experience or The Dirty Three with its howling feedback-laden guitars. pounding drums and distant meandering keys. At the heart of Little Kid’s charm is the way they walk the line between the rough and the smooth, adorning the steady groove of the track with a wild, untamed spirit of noisy creativity. Here’s to ten years of fabulous music, and to many more to come, even in a world full of great music, there’s still nobody quite like Little Kid.
Header photo is Little Kid by Becca Howes.