5. Dummy Don’t Want To Be On Your Stereo
Based out of Los Angeles, Dummy came to the attention of many last year when they teamed up with Trouble In Mind for the release of their debut album, Mandatory Enjoyment. After extensive touring, the band went into a whirlwind month of writing and recording, and this week they share the fruits of their labour in the shape of two new tracks, Mono Retriever and Pepsi Vacuum, released via the Sub Pop Singles Club.
Discussing the tracks Dummy have suggested they’re designed to serve as a mirror to one another, sharing oceanic lyrical themes and music references, yet standing alone as two distinctly different pieces. Mono Retriever harnesses the band’s love of 60’s pop and spins it through a lens inspired by a fan’s comment that “Dummy sounds like if Stereolab was a hardcore band”, it somehow manages to be both drifting and driving, a melodic aural assault that takes repeat listens to find the magic within. Perhaps even more intriguing is Pepsi Vacuum, it tackles the “spirituality of nature” exploring connection all the way down, “to the molecular level”. Musically, it’s a huge departure for the band, exploring audio editing to create a droning, looping soundscape nodding to the likes of The Leaf Library or Aphex Twin. With a string of US tour dates with Horsegirl just getting started and plans for their new LP well underway, Dummy’s contrastingly intelligent pop music might just be more intriguing than ever.
4. Tunnel Has Been Listening To The Lemonheads
Hailing from Los Angeles, by way of Washington D.C., Tunnel is a vehicle for the songwriting of Natasha Janfaza, a classically trained violinist, and veteran of the D.C. Hardcore Scene, who can even call Fugazi drummer Brendan Carty a bandmate. Next month Tunnel will release their debut EP, Vanilla, and this week they shared the latest single from it Lemonhead.
Possessing the same gentle crushing quality of Evan Dando’s similarly named band, Lemonhead is a track very much indebted to the 90’s alternative scene, taking the same moody indifference of the era, dressing up straight-talking in an outfit of strangeness. Lyrically the track takes aim at the way society asks us to pursue love at all costs, as she sings in the breakdown, “love is fine, love is boring”, she sounds less heartbroken and more indifferent, as if she’s got bigger things to worry about like quesadillas or sourcing loads of lemons for the accompanying video. What really shines on Lemonhead is Natasha’s honesty, there’s a sense of unwavering questioning, of dauntless exploration, let the guitars clatter, ask the awkward questions, make yourself uncomfortable, this is life, this is living, and Tunnel are doing it just right.
Vanilla is out July 15th via House Of Joy. For more information Tunnel visit https://tunnelll.bandcamp.com/
3. Naima Bock Gets The Campervan Ready In Time For The Summer
Regular readers will be well aware of South-Londoner Naima Bock, one of my 22 for 22, and a recent guest as part of my In Their Own Words series. With the release of her debut album, Giant Palm, just weeks away, a recent sold-out show at The Lexington set to be followed by a string of high-profile festival dates and a headline tour this October, this week Naima has shared the fittingly named single, Campervan.
A collaboration between Naima and producer Joel Burton, Campervan is a song that exists in the pained end of a relationship, both, “the bleak impact that it seems to have on us as humans and the renewal that it can provide afterwards”. Now if that might have you expecting a pained gentle ballad, think again, the music here is delightfully playful, inspired by, “cowboy nostalgia” and the soundtrack of “the 1971 Willly Wonka film”. The result is a track that drifts and darts like a swallow, Naima’s vocal seeming to underpin the whole piece as the music journeys from genre to genre, starting off with a sombre Britishness and a touch of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, before waltzing into a bar Paris in the 1920’s and then sliding into the sort of expansive psych-folk Ryley Walker does so well. Throughout, you can hear the fizz of the creativity that must have existed in the studio, the sense of making magic out of heartache, as Naima puts it, “turning something depressing into something that doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst preserving the poignancy and melodrama of heartache“. It’s music as alchemy, weaving raw emotions and generations of shared sound into something truly magical, Naima Bock is onto something very special indeed.
2. Scarves Can Barely Keep Their Eyes Open
A trio based out of Seattle, Washington, Scarves’ new album, Delicate Creatures, is a card-carrying pandemic record. Written and recorded in the midst of Covid-19 restrictions, lyricist Niko Stathakopoulos grappled with the question of what the world needed in the face of so much darkness, taking what initially felt downbeat and flipping it into what they describe as, “a vivid portrayal of the unlikely optimism”. With the record due at the end of August, this week Scarves shared the latest single from it, Dead Batteries.
Dead Batteries is a track that sets its stall out early, the slow, steady pulse of the drums, an atmospheric accompaniment to Nessa Grasing’s wordless backing vocals and Niko’s lead vocal, rich with disillusionment. In Niko’s own words, Dead Batteries is, “about licking your wounds in that moment where you’re really frustrated”, the track was written at a period when he felt his music was going nowhere and he was struggling to find work. The lyrics are written from an outsider’s perspective, as if he’s staring in at the privileged few, “I’m knocking on the door of a future that won’t let us in, cuz every handshake In this city will cost ya an arm and a leg and I’m all out of limbs”. While it could easily slide into self-pity, Niko is quick to point to the power in existing outside the golden gates, “if you’re waking up and going against the grindstone in any capacity, that’s an optimistic act”. Musically, the track nods to the turn-of-the-millennium indie scene, bands like Wolf Parade or Built To Spill, with its lurching rhythms, wiry guitars and ambitious arrangements. At one point Niko sings, “I’m just trying to make something real”, job done, this latest incarnation of Scarves sounds alive with possibilities, kicking against the darkness in the way only honest songwriting can.
1. Friendship Only Live Twice
I make little secret of my love for the songwriting of Dan Wriggins and his Philadelphia-based band, Friendship. The band’s 2019 album, Dreamin’, was one of that year’s finest, while Dan’s solo offering, Mr. Chill, topped my list of last year’s best EPs. Last month the band announced their signing to the Merge label, with a new album Love The Strange set for release at the end of July. Ahead of the record’s release, this week Friendship shared their latest single, Alive Twice.
The track lifts its title from a dedication in Linda Gregg’s poetry compilation Too Bright To See, written in all caps to her lover Jack Gilbert, “IT WAS LIKE BEING ALIVE TWICE”. Dan recalls how, “I wasn’t going to steal it”, before realising it’s a much older phrase, traceable back to Tang Dynasty poet Li Po. Musically, the track is delightfully odd, at first listen it isn’t quite obvious how disjointed it is, all delay-drenched Wurlitzer, improvised piano chords and buzzing organs, it has a stop-start quality as if disparate songs just happened to fall into a singular whole. Atop it all is a beautifully simple reflection on the ability of that one person who can drag us out of whatever hole we find ourselves in, “I remember a day, Cedar Park Cafe, I was in a bad place, and you set me straight, with your on the nose advice”. In a way it’s a song that can be left open to interpretation, on the one hand, it’s a beautiful love song, “didn’t matter we got up to, every minute with you was like being alive twice”, yet there’s something in the tense that nags at me, throughout it’s presented in the past tense, then it ends on the sound of heartbeat drum that abruptly stops. There’s a joy in that open-endedness, Friendship’s music meets you halfway, lets you put yourself into their world and welcomes you in however you see it at the time, and if that isn’t a sign of true friendship, I don’t know what is.
Header photo is Friendship by Abi Reimold