Five Things We Liked This Week – 01/10/21

Further Listening:

5. It’s True – You’re Going To Love Chime School

Chime School is the new solo project of Andy Pastalaniec, who cut his musical teeth on the San Francisco scene drumming with the likes of Pink Films, Cruel Summer and currently with Seablite, who appeared on this site previously. Describing himself as, “endlessly charmed by 80s indie and its 60s forbearers (and any record with a 12-string guitar)”, Andy’s music is a perfect fit for his new label home of Slumberland Records, who will release the debut Chime School album next month. This week they’ve shared the latest single from the record, It’s True.

Stepping out from behind the kit, “almost as a dare”, Chime School started with Andy recording on a gifted cassette 4-track portastudio. Listening to It’s True, Andy’s love for the great and good of indie-pop’s past is clear throughout, the rapid tumble of jangling-guitars and half-spoken layers of vocals coming across like the middle ground of The Byrds and The Ramones. The skill to making retro-tinged music sound fresh is to gently pull it into your own image, and it’s a trick Chime School pull off with ease, an honest and beautiful reminder of music’s past that might just showcase its very bright future.

Chime School is out November 5th via Slumberland Records. For more information on Chime School visit https://linktr.ee/chimeschool.

4. Macie Stewart Leaves A Glassy Taste In The Mouth

One half of the duo OHMME, Macie Stewart appeared on these pages last month with her debut solo single, Garter Snake. For the Chicago-based musician, it was a change of approach after spending years working in partnerships, and inspired by realising, “I didn’t know who I was or what I sounded like as an individual”. Last week saw Macie team up with Orindal Records for the release of her debut album, Mouth Full Of Glass, and recently shared the accompanying video to the record’s alternatively spelt title track, Mouthful Of Glass.

Discussing the inspiration behind the album, Macie has suggested Mouth Full Of Glass is a record about, “trying to understand oneself and why we do the things we do”, even if it is ultimately one that, for Macie, threw up more questions than answers. Listening to Mouthful Of Glass, the sense of boundary-less musical exploration is a key factor behind the track’s charms, the sense of freedom reminiscent of records by the likes of Cross Record or label-mate Karima Walker. Throughout, the track seems to exist in a gentle swirl, Macie’s luxurious vocals drawn out like sheets of spun silk, as the rich backing of fluttering guitars, electronics and hovering strings ebb and flow like an aural tide. If the aim of Mouth Full Of Glass was a record of self-discovery, Macie Stewart seems to have achieved that, it sounds fresh, expressive and entirely her own, and already I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.

Mouth Full Of Glass is out now via Orindal Records. For more information on Macie Stewart visit https://www.maciestewart.com/.

3. Furrows Comes Out Of The Wasteland

Furrows is the musical project of the Baltimore/New York-based artist Peter Wagner. Peter grew up in an academic household, surrounded by books, his mother working as a lexicographer for the Oxford dictionary. Throughout his childhood they would share obscure words and sing the folk songs his mother learnt as a child in Texas. After briefly moving to Germany, Peter’s parents separated and he spent a transient period living out of suitcases and alternating between households. It was during this time he found comfort in music, singing in choirs, learning piano and jazz guitar, the latter of which would take him to study at Berklee. It was there, after a break-up that Peter had a musical awakening, rejecting the conformity and masculinity of the jazz community and embracing the alternative music scene, inspired by Grizzly Bear’s album Yellow House. After attempts at forming bands, and living the Brooklyn dream, Peter ended up in Baltimore and wrote his debut solo album, Fisher King, which is out later this month.

This week Peter shared the latest single from the album, Wasteland, which takes its name from the T.S. Elliot poem of the same name. Fisher King’s centrepiece, Wasteland is in a way also its mission statement, “an attempt to work through the feelings of alienation that come from pursuing an artistic life in a society that only finds value in profit”. Lyrically, the theme is dressed in a metaphor, the tides of capitalism crashing on the door of the creative, “empty inner vision, drowning the song in a tide”. Despite its themes that are deeply rooted in “real” life, musically the track is anything but grounded. The steady drive of the rhythm, contrasting with the easy, unhurried vocals, bringing to mind Ultimate Painting in its ability to tie into the reality of the earth beneath our feet while soaring off into the hazy melody that surely shines down from the skies above us. Whilst this is a record unafraid to confront difficult situations, Fisher King is also one that finds reasons to be optimistic, to celebrate being alive and to find the connection that making music can bring, leave the furrowed brow at the door, this is music to bring a smile to your face.

Fisher King is out October 15th. For more information on Furrows visit https://www.furrowsband.com/.

2. Grace Cummings Is Heaven Sent

The ludicrously talented Grace Cummings is a Melbourne-based singer, songwriter, producer and accomplished stage actor. Back in 2019, Grace came to the world’s attention with her debut album Refuge Cove, which was released via King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s label, Flightless Records. This week Grace has detailed the 2022 release of her self-produced second album, Storm Queen, which is due out via ATO Records. Celebrating the release, Grace has shared the first single from the album, Heaven.

Heaven is a stunning introduction to the music of Grace Cummings, not least her instantly arresting vocal, which seems to fuse the untamed flourishes of Janis Joplin with the dramatic poise of Aldous Harding. Despite its divine title, and Ava Maria referencing chorus, Grace is quick to point to her own atheism, “to me talking about God or Mother Mary is a way of labelling something beautiful that I don’t understand, something that’s not quite a part of the world we live in”. The track showcases a delightfully slow-build, at first Grace’s voice is accompanied by just the pulse of acoustic chords, before a slide guitar slowly creeps in, the sound swelling around Grace, although with a voice as powerful as hers, never threatening to engulf her. Despite being a delightfully uncomplicated track, it still manages to bring influences screaming to mind, the raw intensity of Ezra Furman, the ear-catching presence of Nadine Shah, yet it’s very much Grace’s own vision, as she puts it, “I am who I am and I sound how I sound” – when it sounds this good don’t change a thing!

Storm Queen is out January 14th via ATO Records. For more information on Grace Cummings visit https://www.facebook.com/gracecummingsmusic.

1. There’s Nothing Mechanical About Alyssa Gengos’ Sweet Sound

Alyssa Gengons first started making music aged just fourteen, working under the musical pseudonym Kythira. A solo artist to the extent that she states, “I feel most comfortable when I’m completely alone”, Alyssa has always worked in the confines of solitude, an experience she credits with a childhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles separated by distance from her peers. After returning to LA after a stint in New York, perhaps unsurprisingly, Alyssa set about making her new album completely by herself. That album will see the light of day at the start of 2022, and this week Alyssa has shared the first single from it, Mechanical Sweetness.

Discussing the inspiration behind Mechanical Sweetness, Alyssa suggests it comes from, “my immense frustration with the way we form human (and more specifically, romantic) connections nowadays“, a reflection on the way Social Media and Dating Apps have turned human interaction into, “a painful game”. Alyssa is not an artist with an obvious list of influences, she cites everything from The Beatles to Avril Lavigne and Panda Beat to The Arctic Monkeys as influences, which perhaps explains why her sound feels almost magpie-like in its collection of pop gemstones. Mechanical Sweetness opens with Alyssa’s vocal accompanied by electronically-altered guitar chords, from there, there’s a slow build of instruments before the track suddenly explodes into the glorious 60’s pop chorus. Throughout the track, Alyssa seems to be battling between human connection and the joys of solitude, contrasting the mechanical sweetness of a new relationship with her true loves, the musicians in her head, “I got it all so wrong, while my heroes sang along, as they do”. A reminder of the joy that can be found spending some time alone, Mechanical Sweetness is the sound of Alyssa Gengos embracing everything she loves about music and shaping it into her own brilliant image – 2022 might just have got its first unmissable new act.

Alyssa Gengos’ debut album will be out early in 2022 via Egghunt Records. For more information on Alyssa visit https://music.alyssagengos.com/links.

Header photo is Alyssa Gengos by Morgan Hamilton.

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