5. Charlotte Cornfield Hits The Headlines
Hailing from Toronto, Charlotte Cornfield made a huge impression back in 2019 with her album, The Shape of Your Name. The album received widespread rave reviews and even found itself long-listed on Canada’s most coveted music award, The Polaris Prize. While that record was almost entirely solo, for its follow up Charlotte set out to create something more reflective of her roots in the DIY scene of Toronto, and the musical friends she has made along the way. The resultant album, Highs In The Minuses, is out in October, and this week Charlotte has shared the first track from it, Headlines.
Headlines is a song heavily influenced by the recent churn of near-apocalyptic news stories, a reflection on the anxiety and isolation of scrolling through your phone as your brain whirs on a spiral into the darkness. That sense of repetition is mirrored in both the music and the repeated chorus refrain, “skimming headlines, walking slowly, circling around”. Musically, the track seems to walk a similarly straight-talking path as Julia Jacklin or Lucy Dacus, as a steady drum-beat is permeated by a languid, distorted lead guitar, and Charlottes easy vocal delivery. There’s something deeply universal about the music Charlotte Cornfield makes, like the great story-telling songwriters she invites you into her world, and invites you to be a part of her stories. Her words resonate as if she’s dipped into your head and pulled your thoughts out to place them onto her lyrical page. If all of the Highs In The Minuses are this thrilling this could be a truly magical record.
4. Squirrel Flower Hits The Road
Regular readers will be well aware of my love for Planet (i), Squirrel Flower’s second album and, “love letter to disaster in every form imaginable”. Working during a pandemic, and some 3170 miles away from Ella’s home city of Boston, Planet (i) was recorded in The Playpen studio in Bristol, working with acclaimed producer Ali Chant. Released back in June, the album has drawn near-universal acclaim, and this week Squirrel Flower has shared the video to the latest feature track from it, Roadkill.
In one of Planet (i)’s stand-out moments, Roadkill arrives on the steady pulse of rhythmic guitar-chords, and Ella’s initially sedate vocal, “sunburn in your eyes, you’ll take the long way round”. From there it suddenly explodes into life, with a slight nod to Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey, as the crashing drums, join the distorted guitars and the voice becomes an impassioned howl, “slow down, I don’t want to risk the roadkill”. As with much of Planet (i), there’s a certain crashing, end of the world, everything’s on fire feel to Roadkill, as much in the urgency of the playing as any lyrical content, even if it does end with the particularly damning lyric, “I just want to drive while we still can, speed up, leave the house while we still can”. This is a record that smoulders, less a call to save the planet and more an invitation to nonchalantly watch it burn, as you scream off into the distance of a red sand desert on the back of a homemade motorbike, and it is every bit as thrillingly unnerving as that sounds.
3. Hand Habits Is Many Shades Of Blue
An acclaimed songwriter in their own right, and a frequent appearance maker on some of the best US-indie records of the last decade, Meg Duffy has been making excellent records as Hand Habits since back in 2017. Meg decided to embrace the collaborative spirit they have always put into other people’s records and channel it into their own for their latest record. Working with producer Sasami Ashworth and engineer Kyle Thomas, Meg has created their most sonically ambitious record to date, Fun House. Due out next month via Saddle Creek, this week they’ve shared the first single from it, Aquamarine.
Aquamarine began life as an acoustic ballad, before being re-shaped into Meg’s attempt to, “bring grief into the metaphorical club“. Lyrically, the track is a recollection of events in Meg’s life and an attempt to answer the question, “what informs my identity, the silence in the questions left unanswered that become the shape of understanding who I am“. Musically, the track is both beautifully intimate and an undeniable banger, with the hushed vocals accompanied by wistful synths and the constant tick of the drum machine. While staying true to Meg’s musical vision, Fun House already feels like Hand Habits’ most ambitious record to date, a soothing beautiful world that I just can’t wait to explore.
2. Hamish Hawk Is Going For Gold
A graduate of St. Andrews University and a resident of Edinburgh, Hamish Hawk has been making increasingly well-received music for a number of years now. After a chance meeting with former Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones at the Iona Village Hall Music Festival in 2016, a conversation became a record session, a friend became a producer and rough musical sketches became Hamish’s forthcoming album, Heavy Elevator. Ahead of the record’s release next month, this week Hamish has shared the superbly titled latest single from it, The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973.
Discussing the track, Hamish has suggested it a pop song inspired by, “all the classic pop bases, namely death, badminton, and cathedrals”. The track was initially inspired by Christopher Wren and his most famous legacy, St Paul’s Cathedral, which got Hamish to thinking of his own legacy, and how that might end up being a song, even if it is one that ends in somewhat brutal tragedy. Musically, Hamish Hawk’s sound seems brilliantly out of step with musical trends, his rich, enunciated vocal recalling Scott Walker or Neil Hannon, accompanied by the prominent bass and wiry wonders of the lead guitar. Even the lyrics, whether picturing his own funeral, or dreaming of, “a wife with a perfect serve”. Discussing Heavy Elevator, Hamish has suggested it is a record that, “reads like my diary”, and while that might be frowned upon in polite company, when it sounds this good who wouldn’t want to read every last page of this intriguing life story.
1. Whatchoo Singing About Caitlin
A decade ago Caitlin Rose came crashing to the world’s attention with her critically lauded debut album, Own Side Now. It was a record I loved so much that I named my entire blog after its finest track, For The Rabbits. With a long-overdue new record apparently already recorded, this week Caitlin has announced it will be preceded by some anniversary celebrations, with a deluxe new edition of Own Side Now due out in October. Alongside a re-mastered take on the original, the record also features two bonus tracks, and this week Caitlin has shared the first of them, Whatchoo.
Recalling the origin story of Own Side Now, Caitlin recalls how it came from a time, “when I was at my most naive that nobody doubted me and I could create something so temporal and honest”. The record was heavily influenced by Nashville, as was Whatchoo as Caitlin explains, “this album came out of a city that didn’t need people telling it who it was. ‘Whatchoo’ is the lament over a city that seems to have forgotten itself”. The song builds from a gentle opening, and the vocal remains delightfully serene throughout, even as she’s pulling a knife from her back, left there by someone, “who wants to win the fight and then destroy everything”. Own Side Now is a record that has gone down in the annals of Americana-history, and while it might never quite hit the acclaim I think it deserves, this is a well-deserved reminder of just how special it truly is.
Header photo is Caitlin Rose by Danielle Holbert.