5. Paul Thomas Saunders Is The Perfect Soundtrack To A TV Dinner
It’s been at least a decade since I first heard the music of Paul Thomas Saunders, and frankly a voice like his is not something you’re likely to forget, even if he has been conspicuous by his absence since releasing his widely adored debut album, Beautiful Desolation, back in 2014. A fleeting return with a pair of singles in 2017 aside, Paul has largely been doing other things, training as a paramedic among them. The creatively barren period came after events left him feeling that his art was of no value, a fog he only shook after one of his idols, Bon Iver, asked him to perform at a festival he was curating in Ireland. The invite served as the wake-up call Paul needed to rekindle his musical fires, resulting in a collection of new recordings, the first of which emerged this week in the shape of a new single, TV, Junk Food & Bed.
While he may have been away from music, Paul has clearly not been away from inspiration, indeed TV, Junk Food & Bed was heavily influenced by his new career choice, as Paul explains, “TV, Junk Food & Bed came from messaging a friend after finishing a night shift. I was in bed at 9am, eating fast food I’d picked up on my way home”. There he saw a chat show and realised how far removed from the guest, in this case, Judi Dench, his life felt, it sent him on a thought spiral about perception and reality, “at this point in my life, at times I feel a great dissonance between what I should be, and what I feel I am”. If his worldview has moved on, his talent for a widescreen musical vista remains, the whole track feels huge, like staring up at the night sky and marvelling at the unique light shining off every single star, the stunning richness of the music contrasting the almost mundane nature of the scene the song depicts. It’s always special when a talent like Paul Thomas Saunders returns, yet to think how close he was to leaving music altogether somehow makes this seem even more special. It might be hard to put a value on art, creativity and connection, yet for these five minutes, it feels priceless.
TV, Junk Food & Bed is out now. For more information on Paul Thomas Saunders visit https://linktr.ee/PaulTSaunders.
4. Best Breakfast Are Shifting Expectations
A trio of Brooklynites, Best Breakfast made the decision to overcome the potential for Covid-inactivity by instead embracing a period of, “ultra-productivity”. The three members hunkered down together, as frontman Ben Majest recalls, “I was, like, ‘we can just live together and then continue to write and compose and make that part of our routine.’ So that’s what happened“. After releasing their pre-pandemic debut album, Late 80’s Baby, in the Summer of 2020, they shared a second record, Seconds, before the year was even out, and continued their hot streak with last year’s offering, Panacea. A band who seemingly don’t like time off, they’re set to return at the start of the summer when they share their fourth album, Clap If You Can, and ahead of that release, this week they shared their new single, Shapeshifter.
Described by Ben as, “a song about life being a giant performance“, Shapeshifter is about the expectations society puts on us all, and how meeting them, “can be taxing but shirking them is not okay either“. Musically, the track seems to walk the line between strutting lo-fi rock and soaring technicolour pop, like the middle ground of Savage Mansion and Here We Go Magic. There’s a grittiness to the driving guitars which sits beautifully against the more tender warmth of Ben’s vocals, as he sings out his relatable troubles, “it’s often hard, hard to play this game, when I got out at night, I still feel the same”. There’s a delightful urgency to Best Breakfast, a prolific band throwing out music into the world and letting us as listeners make of it what we will, Clap If You Can is shaping up to be a record well worthy of your applause.
Clap If You Can is out June 17th. For more information on Best Breakfast visit https://www.bestbreakfastmusic.com/.
3. Crake Are Truly For The Rabbit
Despite a few delays and cancellations along the way, 2022 is shaping up to be a pretty special year for Leeds’ Crake, with the release of their hotly anticipated debut album, Humans’ Worst Habits, coming at the end of next month. With a slew of excellent tracks already shared from the record, this week the band released the latest offering from it in the shape of their new single, Rabbit.
As ever with Crake’s music, there’s a fusion of nature and humanity at the heart of Rabbit, a song the band’s chief songwriter Rowan Sandle suggests is about, “coming to terms with cruelty and acting unkindly“, and crucially, “an attempt to understand where this comes from – the freezing with anxiety, the defense of it all“. Ultimately Rabbit taps into a fundamental belief that we’re largely all trying our best with the hand we’re dealt by life, as Rowan explains, “it’s not that we are not trying hard enough, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept that this best couldn’t be better…often I think it’s about trying differently“. Musically, the track is a classic slice of Crake, Rowan’s prominent vocal meandering through a forest of steady drums, propulsive chords and wiry country-licked guitars, as the lyrics prod and poke at social conventions and the thrill of going against them, “my neighbour’s vines are growing all the time I said that I would water them last weekend, I stayed inside, hoped that they would die I guess it’s me taking the easy way out”. As intriguingly unique as ever, with their own vision of the world Crake are a band to fall in love with, bad habits and all.
2. Langkamer’s Soulful New Single
Bristol’s Langkamer have been on something of a hot streak of late, following up their acclaimed debut album, West Country, with the brilliant stand-alone single, Teeth. Alongside those releases, the band have also been touring extensively, supporting the likes of Bull and Fenne Lily last year, before embarking on a gruelling schedule of headline shows earlier this year. Wasting no time the band are back on the road once more, and alongside those dates, this week they’ve shared another new track, Soul Bucket.
Recording once more with regular producer Tim Rowing-Parker it’s a typically uncategorisable sound, here dialling up the gentler folk and country influences alongside their ability to be a fizzing rock band. Thematically, it’s also noticeably tender, described by singer Josh Jarman as, “an ode to ageing”, the track reflects on, “realising that the time is rolling away from you and you can’t catch up no matter how fast you run“. The track opens with a blast of widescreen Americana, the steady propulsion of the Kevin Morby like acoustic guitar is joined by a soaring blast of slide-guitars, which makes welcome returns throughout. As the song unfurls the drums and meandering bass-lines increasingly come to the fore, and there’s even a banjo, as Josh sings, “I’ll die before I reach the summit, and as for the climb I may well die from it”, coming equal parts thoughtful and darkly comedic. Seemingly out of step with any particular musical trend, Langkamer are all the better for it, a band skirting around any pigeon holes and just making music that’s really rather wonderful as they do it.
1. The Right Thing To Do Is Listen To A.O. Gerber
A musician based out of Los Angeles, A.O. Gerber caught my ear back in 2020 with her brilliant debut album, Another Place To Need, which crashed into my top ten records of the year. Another Place To Need was a bold and ambitious statement of intent for an artist, one that while already hugely accomplished was also a record that felt like someone just getting started. With upcoming dates at Brighton’s Great Escape, this week A.O. has shared her first new material since her debut, in the shape of a new single, Looking For The Right Things, co-released via Hand In Hive and Father/Daughter Records.
Written back in 2017, Looking For The Right Things was initially earmarked to appear on Another Place To Need, but only started to make sense when she went back to it sometime afterwards. Discussing the inspiration behind it, A.O. recalls how it came from a, “moment of exasperation”, a period where “my desire to show up as my honest self and let someone else show up as theirs felt impossibly difficult“. While not unrecognisable from her previous release, Looking For The Right Things still feels distinctly fresh, as the song’s initial sparseness gives way to a wide sonic blast, as the electronic swirl is punctuated by pummelling snare rhythms and the vast sounding guitars, reminiscent as much of the early sonic ambition of Genesis or Talk Talk as it is contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Sharon Van Etten. For all its distinctly electronic flourishes, Looking For The Right Thing remains a deeply human listen, it wears its musical textures like armour, protecting the fragility and undeniably human flaws which are only exposed with time. Life doesn’t always fit neatly into right and wrong, and it’s none the worse for it, the blurry bits add a much-needed richness, and in her beautiful music, A.O. Gerber lets them shine like few others can.
Header photo is A.O. Gerber by Seannie Bryan