Five Things We Liked This Week – 28/01/22

Further Listening:

5. MJ Lenderman Has Been Playing Too Many Drinking Games

Based out of Asheville, North Carolina, MJ Lenderman has been a semi-regular feature on this site over the last few years both with his own solo material and as the guitarist in the fantastically noisy band Wednesday. MJ released his debut album, Ghost Of Your Guitar Solo, back in the spring of 2021 and is set to return little over a year later, when Dear Life Records put out his second offering, Boat Songs this April. Ahead of the release this week MJ has shared the record’s first single, and opening track, Hangover Game.

Hangover Game was inspired by Michael Jordan, both his excellent shoes and apocryphal appearance in game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, where he overcame illness to win the game for the Chicago Bulls. While generally attributed to flu, Jordan’s illness has also been put down to a poisoned pizza supplied by Utah Jazz fans, and MJ’s favoured version of events, “MJ was hungover after partying and playing poker, one person says he was at Robert Redford’s chalet, another says he was in Vegas”, although as he’s keen to point out, “remember that I am no detective, just a songwriter”. Musically, there’s both an ease and a confidence to Hangover Game, the drums swagger in, accompanied by fuzzy guitars and MJ’s straight-talking vocal, it brings to mind the like of The Mountain Goats or a considerably more energetic Bill Callahan. What lifts this song above a historical re-telling, or a Basketball themed episode of Murder She Wrote, is the intimacy of the lyrics, while not telling his own story, MJ still shares so much of his personality, present as he sings, “I bought fake Jordans, they weren’t even shoes”, or his open-hearted closing line, “I love drinking too”. All aboard the good ship Boat Songs, on this evidence, MJ Lenderman is back and better than ever.

Boat Songs is out April 29th via Dear Life Records. For more information on MJ Lenderman visit https://mjlenderman.bandcamp.com/.

4. New Insomnia Makes January Into An Indian Summer

A songwriter based out of Washington, DC, Sarah Lettes featured on this page back in September when she released the solo single, Warm. Alongside her own solo material, Sarah also performs as part of the duo New Insomnia, alongside guitarist and drummer Papa Adams. This week New Insomnia shared their new single, Indian Summer.

Taking the idea of an Indian Summer as, “brief periods of unseasonable warmth”, the track compares the weather phenomenon to an on-again-off-again relationship, one where, “the bright moments feel so good that you forget about the dark ones”. The track seems to exist in a similar swirling lo-fi feel to Hannah Jadagu or Hazel English, as layered vocals and steady drum beats are adorned by cyclical guitar chords. These musical ideas all seem to come together to create a swirling, strutting piece that existed in the sweet spot of hazy summer fun and wistful rainy day-dreaming, “felt warm when you kissed me, cold storm seemed to miss me, now the sky’s torn and my achy knees remember”. Indian Summer’s might feel a long way off right now, but New Insomnia are a band ready to shine very brightly indeed.

Indian Summer is out now. For more information on New Insomnia visit https://www.instagram.com/newinsomnia1/.

3. Oh Yeah That’s Some Mild Orange

Something of a cult phenomenon in their native New Zealand, Mild Orange formed back in 2016, and have gone on to release two critically acclaimed albums culminating in their self-titled offering in 2020. Set for release next month, the band’s new record, Looking For Space, is in their own words their most ambitious project yet. Recorded in six beautiful locations across Aotearoa New Zealand over the course of a year, it was the first time the band entered a professional recording studio. Ahead of both the album’s release and a string of European and North American tour dates, this week the band shared the latest track to be lifted from the record, Oh Yeah.

Discussing the inspiration behind Oh Yeah, frontman Josh Mehrtens suggest it’s a track about…well…nothing, as he explains, “there was a quote I came across…it went something like: “with art, there is always meaning”….Even the decision not to have meaning has a meaning”. This accidental discovery of meaning is captured in a spoken-word section, added to the song a month after the original recording, “speak from the heart, let it out from within and then you can begin to move forward”. If the lyrics are a master-class in relaxed nothingness, the music might be even more relaxed, the aural equivalent of staring out over a calm ocean, with waves barely even breaking as the sun slides over the horizon to welcome the onrushing dusk. So here’s to nothing, and the space it gives for creativity, meaning and simplest of all something to come into existence and make the world a little bit brighter.

Looking For Space is out February 11th via AWAL. For more information on Mild Orange visit https://mildorange.com/.

2. Widowspeak Are Well Worth The Wait

It has been over a decade since Widowspeak, the recently New York-based again duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas, released their self-titled debut album. Across those ten years the band have It has been over a decade since Widowspeak, the recently New York-based again duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas, released their self-titled debut album. Across those ten years, the band have gradually honed their craft, bringing the creation of a Widowspeak record to a finely tuned art. Their last album, 2020’s Plum was a critical success, thematically exploring ideas of the value society places on time and labour, and how that affects creativity. These themes seem to also spill over into their new record, The Jacket, a record they describe as, “a full-circle moment”, seeing them return to the city where for the band it all began. With The Jacket set for a March release via Captured Tracks, this week the pair shared the latest single from it, While You Wait.

The record’s opening track, While You Wait is also something of a scene-setter for the loosely conceptual album that follows, the band suggesting the record follows the story of a Satin-stitcher, whose store specialises in County and Western costumery for the city’s novelty bands. He eventually joins a band, and they start dabbling with original material, hit the road and find on doing so the whole thing falls apart in front of them. Although the band suggest the conceptual element of The Jacket eventually became more of an undercurrent than a full story, While You Wait remains as its opening credits, a reflection on the shift change at the end of a day’s work, and, “how there’s always someone ending their day as someone else’s is starting”. The track manages to perfectly capture that feeling of one city waking, as another clocks off, the prominent Mellotron plug-in flutes adding a certain mechanical fluttering to the shuffling drum-beat and guitars that are at once quite relaxed and hugely distorted. Atop it all Molly sings “while you wait, we’ll have it done today”, with a similar repetitive quality to a factory of sewing machines stitching in perfect unison. There’s a confidence to the way Widowspeak approach music now, a band who feel like they’ve got plenty to say, yet nothing to prove to anyone but themselves, nostalgic, warm-hearted and in their own subtle way, really quite exciting – they’ve never sounded better.

The Jacket is out March 11th via Captured Tracks. For more information on Widowspeak visit https://www.widowspeakforever.com/.

1. Lewsberg Confirm There Are Hills In The Netherlands After All

A quartet hailing from Rotterdam, Lewsberg have been sharing their music since back in 2017, yet really burst into the indie world’s consciousness back in 2019 with the release of their acclaimed debut album. Among others, it caught the ear of the co-owners of the Speedy Wundergound label, who after silently obsessing over the band’s potential broached the idea of working together at the start of 2020. While the inevitable delays of being based in different countries in the time of Covid-19 hit, the band went on to release two more excellent albums, 2020’s In This House and 2021’s In Your Hands. Now finally two years on from the original idea, Lewsbergy will be the 39th band featured in the Speedy Wunderground Singles Series, with the April release of their 7″ singles, Six Hills, the digital version of which they shared this week.

If the band’s more recent material saw something of a softening of their more angular-edges, on Six Hills they let their sharp elbows shine, the Motorik-drums bringing to mind Moderate Rebels, while the guitars sIf the band’s more recent material saw something of a softening of their more angular-edges, on Six Hills they let their sharp elbows shine, the Motorik-drums bringing to mind Moderate Rebels, while the guitars squall and snap with the same aimless creativity that made DRINKS such a delightfully unusual collaboration. Across nearly six, seemingly improvisational, minutes the track gives the band’s ever-present way with words plenty of space to shine, here they seem to philosophise on the importance of knowing when to fight your battles and when to kill them with kindness, “she told me she was slightly, stronger than the strongest man, I asked her do you want to fight me? Because I didn’t understand”. It may have taken time to come to fruition, yet this feels entirely worth the wait, Lewsberg at their most raggedly thrilling, the sound of a band teetering on the edge of a terrifying collapse as they fire you a knowing grin, they’ve got this under control, Lewsberg have always got it under control.

Six Hills 7″ is out April 15th via Speedy Wunderground. For more information on Lewsberg visit https://lewsberg.net/.

Header photo is Lewsberg by Els Kuijt.

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