5. Keeley Forsyth Takes A Stand
Originally from Oldham, Keeley Forsyth has made her name both as an acclaimed actress and a purveyor of bleakly beautiful music. Released in 2020, her debut album Debris was created with the help of regular collaborator Matthew Bourne and drew acclaim from everyone from Pitchfork to the Sunday Times. Next month will see Keeley share her second album, Limbs, and this week she’s shared the latest track from it, I Stand Alone.
I Stand Alone arrives with a hum of harmonium and Keeley’s mesmeric vocal, the whole thing is wonderfully spacious, so much so that at one point it hits complete silence, as if catching its breath ahead of the journey to come. With a cursory listen you could be forgiven for missing just how complex the songwriting here is, the heaving swells of music that start with organ, give way to static and brass, yet do it so organically you barely notice the shifts. Keeley has spoken of I Stand Alone as, “a survival song”, lyrically this seems to come in gentle glimpses of understanding, not grand statements, “in the dark I struggle”. There’s something both unique and compelling about the music Keeley Forsyth makes, it feels like a natural extension of self, her words like tendrils sprouting out from within, as much a part of her physical self as her creative mind, a welcoming hand inviting you to reach a connection much deeper than simple sound has any right to do.
Limbs is out February 25th via The Leaf Label. For more information on Keeley Forsyth visit http://www.keeleyforsyth.com/.
4. There’s Still Plenty Of Life in Carson McHone
Another product of the always brilliant music scene of Austin, Texas, Carson McHone emerged back in 2015 with the country-licked strains of her debut album, Goodluck Man, which had critics falling over themselves to call her the city’s next big star. Six years on, and signed to the legendary American imprint Loose, Carson is gearing up towards the February release of her third album, and this week she has shared the record’s sparkling title track, Still Life.
Still Life is something of a musical roller-coaster ride, crashing through genres with wild abandon. The track opens with a meandering Casio-like keyboard line, before quickly shifting into a classic slice of driving Americana in the mould of Lilah Larson or Jenny Lewis. Then just as you think you’ve got the feel for the song there’s another about-turn, as fuzzy-guitars and crashing piano chords that verge on aggressive take the track to its wild-eyed end. Lyrically the song seems to be one of endings and hints of new beginnings, noting, “I love to see your face, but I know what that means, and when you are here, soon you’ll have to leave”, before ultimate concluding with a steely determination, “a still life, but I’m still alive”.
Still Life is out February 25th via Loose. For more information on Carson McHone visit http://www.carsonmchonemusic.com/.
3. Hemlock Keeps On Trucking
Based out of Chicago, Hemlock is the “phone-fi” bedroom project of Carolina Chauffe, who describes herself as a “swamp-raised” musician. Recorded with a crack team of close friends and collaborators, Carolina’s debut album, Talk Soon was recorded in Astoria, Oregon, reflecting the record’s musing on the, “ever-evolving idea of home”. With the album set for a March release, this week Carolina shared the latest Hemlock single, Garbage Truck.
Carolina has spoken of Garbage Truck as, “a hopeful mantra for those who are trying their best”, mirrored in the lyrical summation, “I’ve always been so afraid of the things I can’t control but I am not bound to make the mistakes I did before”. There’s a touch of the life-affirming folk of Shannon Lay to Carolina’s world view, although laced through with a whimsical side, reminiscent of Eerie Wanda, as fluttering acoustic guitars are adorned with the pulsing bass-drum. Continuing the collective spirit of Hemlock’s music, Garbage Truck even features a cameo from Carolina’s mother Susan, who dusted of her high school flute to add an over-dubbed part from her wardrobe in their Louisiana family home, a part so key to the feel of the track it’s hard to imagine it could have existed without it. Carolina has spoken of making Talk Soon as as, “a journey of making do”, on this evidence it’ll more than do, a celebration of humble roots that sounds every bit as good as any high-cost symphony.
Talk Soon is out March 11th. For more information on Hemlock visit https://hemlocksounds.com/.
2. Crake Have Got Your Winter Soundtrack Covered
My admiration for the Leeds-based quartet Crake is not something I’ve kept particularly quiet, so it was with a deep joy that I greeted this week’s announcement of their upcoming debut album, Human’s Worst Habits, which is due out in April via Fika Recordings. Much of the album, and its title, were inspired by the death of vocalist Rowan Sandle’s friend Anna who died in Syria after being hit by a Turkish airstrike while working in the country for a woman’s liberation group. The resultant record sets out to explore ideas of grief, and how we can learn about ourselves and humanity even from these dark moments. News of the album’s release was also accompanied by the release of a brand-new single, Winter’s Song.
Discussing the inspiration behind Winter’s Song, Rowan has spoken of it as being, “about the absolute mundane beauty of being fallible”. In many ways, the song is a celebration of the mundane, the little moments that remind us to give ourselves the breathing space to be at our best, as Rowan puts it, “be soft, be kind, be honest. Being unremarkable has its own beauty”. Musically, Winter’s Song is a moment of brilliant contrast, the gorgeous glissando of the lead guitar sounding like the finest spun silk, against the heavy pound of the drum that seems to hammer on the door, threatening to drag us out of the fantasy and back into reality. Atop it all are the wonderful vocals, Rowan’s spectral rasp, either alone or accompanied by the distant warmth of the backing vocals, is perfectly judged, even knowing when to step back and let the instruments take the lead on the stunning outro. There’s an alchemy to the music Crake make, spinning humble parts into a magical whole, music that glistens with humanity and bristles with the deeper sigh of the natural world, Human’s Worst Habits is shaping up to be a triumph.
1. Take In All Of Allegra Krieger
Although based out of Brooklyn, it took a car drive across the entire United States to make Allegra Krieger’s debut album come to life. In October 2020, Allegra hit the road and headed to Marin, California to work with producer Luke Temple and a host of talented musicians who brought her music to life. The resultant record, Precious Thing, is set for release in March via Northern Sky, and this week Allegra has shared the first single from it, Taking It In.
Taking It In is the perfect jumping-off point for Precious Thing, a record Allegra describes as being, “about looking”, here she encourages us to gaze hard on what is important to us, because we never know when it could be lost, or fall apart in front of our eyes, “I’ve got my eyes set on the one that I love, feeling the breeze on a salty sticky cheek, taking it in, as if for the first time”. Musically, the track is a delight, the fluttering cyclical guitar and Allegra’s easy vocal take centre stage, yet are adorned by an increasingly bizarre and beautiful collection of backing instruments, from the pulsing thrust of cellos to some delightfully wild crescendos of electric guitar and woodwind. The whole track has a certain push and pull, the music threatening to dissolve into chaos, as Allegra’s voice remains solemn with a comforting sense of perfect indifference. She might just be getting started but Allegra Krieger already feels like one of music’s great observationists, someone who can sit back and take it all in and project it back with her own intriguing take, when it arrives in March Precious Thing looks set to more than live up to its name.
Header photo is Allegra Krieger by Dallas Starky.