5. Honeyglaze Take The Lead
One of my 22 for 2022, Honeyglaze are currently building towards the release of their self-titled debut album, due out later this month on Speedy Wunderground. With an admirably busy touring schedule, including numerous festivals and dates with the indie band du jour Wet Leg, the band are set for something of a breakout year. This week they shared the latest track from the record, in the shape of their new single, Female Lead.
Female Lead was inspired by a very relatable topic, as vocalist Anouska Sokolow explains, “I was overwhelmed by the state of the world during the first lockdown and constantly being surrounded by bad news“. Rather than slide into a downward spiral, Anouska set out to write a delightfully unimportant song, “I decided to write about something as completely arbitrary as dying my hair”. Anouska cites the iconic Leader Of The Pack by The Shangri-las as the song’s major influence, alongside, “narrative heavy pop songs that were coming out of the Brill building during the 60s“. The result is a track that’s considerably sunnier than you’d expect from an isolation inspired anthem, combining the bouncing indie-pop of early Girl Ray with the retro-glamour of The Pipettes. Female Lead is further evidence of the eclectic joys of Honeyglaze, a band with a magpie-like approach to music, borrowing from the great and good and filtering it into a sound entirely of their own, this is a band truly deserving of all the praise that’s coming their way.
4. Crake Set Out To Tell Bobbie’s Story
Leeds’ finest musical offspring, Crake have been one of the most intriguing bands on the UK scene for a few years now, a role they’re set to cement in the coming months with the release of their debut album, Humans’ Worst Habits. Now set for release at the end of May on Fika Recordings, Humans’ Worst Habits is an exploration of the grey areas of life, how things aren’t as binary as they first appear and how “queer nature may hold the key to revealing the true nature of human experience”. Ahead of the album’s release, this week the band have shared their brand-new single, Bobbie.
Bobbie, as with many of vocalist Rowan Sandle’s lyrics, takes inspiration from nature writing, in this instance Frank Frazer Darling’s ‘Island Years, Island Farm’, a book about creating temporary accommodation on a remote Hebridean Island whilst researching seabirds and seals. The song focuses on Frazer’s wife Bobbie, Rowan placing herself in the shoes of a woman who is reduced to a character in the background of her husband’s book, despite her vital role in allowing his research to take place. The song flits between fact and fiction, exploring her love of chickweed and recalling how, “we had to call a vet as no doctor was close”. These truthful accounts are fused with more speculative narratives as Rowan tries to imagine life in Bobbie’s shoes, and wonders whether she chose to live in her husband’s shadow or had no choice. The track is set to a suitably bruising soundtrack, the drums crashing like waves against a Hebridean cliff-face, as the soaring guitars meander like gulls in the wind, and Rowan’s voice sings out as if she’s standing amidst all the chaos of nature quietly screaming into the void. As fascinating, unique and exciting as ever, there simply isn’t another band like Crake, and they’re all the better for that fact.
3. If You Thought Maria BC Was Good Before, Just Wait Until You Hear Her New Single
Ohio-born, and now Oakland-based songwriter Maria BC burst onto the indie scene last year with their brilliant debut EP, Devil’s Rain. Although that was Maria’s first release, it came from years of songwriting practice, the result of a childhood spent seeking, “solace in spending time alone”. This week Maria has confirmed details of their debut album, Hyaline, set for a May release via Fear Of Missing Out and Father/Daughter Records. The album was recorded all across the Brooklyn flat Maria previously occupied, “like a wandering spirit gaining energy from different spaces”. Ahead of the release, Maria has this week shared the latest single from the album, Good Before.
Written in 2019, Good Before pre-dates all the other songs on Hyaline, and all the songs on Devil’s Rain as well, as Maria explains, “I put it away for a while because I thought it was too pop-y, but eventually I got over that. Now it holds a special place in my heart“. The track takes its lyrical inspiration from seeing the sun-rise while out driving and, “running on no sleep”, an unusual experience from Maria’s normally studious approach, “when inspiration comes to me out of nowhere, I’m immensely grateful“. If Maria was worried about the track being too poppy, they needn’t have been, while it does perhaps show a modicum of pop prowess, it still delightfully minimal, starting with echoing fuzzy guitars reminiscent of another road-song expert Squirrel Flower, with whom Maria will soon share a stage. The track resolves to driving chords, the perfect accompaniment to Maria’s classically-trained mezzo-soprano voice – and what a voice it is, there’s an intricacy to their melodies, yet a sense of power and volume as well. Perhaps the true joy of Good Before, and indeed all of Maria’s songwriting, is their ability to slow down time, to make you take a breath and let the music wash over you, for a few moments the world slows and there’s just you and the music, and in the world of 2022, I think we all need that from time to time.
2. Melissa Weikart Is Going Here, There And Everywhere
The music of Melissa Weikart is a truly transatlantic concoction. Born in Paris, the French/American vocalist, pianist and composer moved to Boston at a young age, and currently calls Strasbourg home. More than just location though, Melissa’s music borrows influence equally from her two home countries, her piano playing influenced by Stephen Sondheim and Claude Debussy, her vocals equally reminiscent of Regina Spektor and Clémentine March. Following on from the recent single Diamond, this week Melissa has confirmed details of her upcoming debut album, Here, There, due out in May via Northern Spy, as well as sharing the record’s fabulous title track.
Discussing the track, Melissa has suggested it’s one of many “twisted love songs” that appears on Here, There. As Melissa explains, the track was written several years ago, “while living the intensity of a fleeting summer romance with an expiration date”. The track reflects on the enticing draw of impossible love, “a portal to our most impassioned states of being, triggering the highest of highs and the lowest of lows”. Musically, the track showcases Melissa’s status as a conservatory-trained classical pianist, here she digs into a raft of influences, her playing is an ever-moving force, shifting from sweet and melodic to discordant noise, sometimes the two hands seeming like they are battling one another to take the song in a specific direction, the contrasts touching on both classical influences and the gothic cabaret of The Dresden Dolls. While a song of doomed romance, it is also one of autonomy, of the dangers of letting yourself become entirely wrapped up in another, as Melissa sings, “all I want is wrapped up, all I want is to be wrapped up in your arms”, she sounds suitably unsure, as if working out whether she has to give up a part of herself to find love, and whether she even wants to. While the combination of voice and piano is by no means a unique one, Melissa Weikart’s music does sound delightfully different to the massed guitar-wielding singer-songwriters. To create so much contrast and conflict with just her voice and a single instrument is a remarkable achievement, to do that and to also have something to say, well that’s the work of a very rare talent, one ready to make a huge splash.
1. Kevin Morby Offers Up A Snapshot Of His New Album
Nine years on from his debut solo album, Harlem River, Kevin Morby has established himself as one of America’s great musical chroniclers, seemingly always on the move, his albums seem to pop up like snapshots of life in various cities across the United States, from Texas to Los Angeles, New York to Kansas City. His upcoming seventh studio album, This Is A Photograph out in May via Dead Oceans, is his Memphis album, inspired by visiting the banks of the Mississippi River where Jeff Buckley met his end, cruising past Graceland, traversing Highway 61, letting the musical ghosts sink into his mind. Ahead of the album’s release, this week Kevin shared the first music from the record in the shape of its sparkling title track.
This is a Photograph is in many ways the jumping-off point for the album as a whole, the track was inspired by Kevin’s father, in particular a photograph Kevin found of him shortly after his father had collapsed in front of him and had to be rushed to the hospital. “In the photo he looks young and full of confidence, puffing his chest out at the camera as if he were looking for a fight,” explains Morby. “It was not lost on me that this was the same chest, just hours before, I had seen the ambulance put a stethoscope against as he lay on the kitchen floor of my sister’s house“. As his father recovered, Kevin kept the image in his mind, the youthful mix of pride and confidence, an image of the hope of the American dream that contrasts the reality that we’re all fighting against the clock, all trying to make life better for our families and loved one while we’ve still got time. Recorded with regular collaborator Sam Cohen, This Is A Photograph’s recording began in upstate New York, before fittingly ending with live sessions in Memphis at Sam Philip’s Recording Co. The title track was recorded on the last day of those sessions, with a series of Stax Alumni adding backing vocals, which lends the whole track a celebratory air, the massed singing a reminder of the power of people getting together to make music in a way remote recordings can never quite replicate. Towards the song’s close over a guitar-line that wouldn’t sound of out place were it included in the Saharan songs of Tinariwen, a multitude of voices sing, “this is what I’ll miss about being alive and this is what I’ll miss after I die”, celebrating life, in all it’s fleeting beauty and celebrating the togetherness that makes it all worth living. Further evidence of the talent of Kevin Morby, if this is a sign of what to expect from the rest of This is a Photograph, it might just be his finest work to date.
Header photo is Kevin Morby by Chantal Anderson