5. Art Moore Will Be With You Around Sixish
Something of a supergroup fronted by Boy Scout’s Taylor Vick and featuring Ezra Furman collaborators and bandmates Sam Duerkes and Trevor Brooks, Art Moore first appeared in these pages back in May when they released the excellent single, Muscle Memory. That was the first track to be lifted from their upcoming self-titled album, out next month via ANTI-. Ahead of the record’s release, this week the trio shared the latest track to be lifted from it, Sixish.
Sixish is a track where the music came before the words, as Taylor recalls, “When I first heard the instrumental demo version of Sixish, the choruses had a heavy and heartbroken feeling to them so I tried to write lyrics to match that“. The resultant track is an exploration of heartbreak, in particular the version where, “you feel like you’ve got an infinite amount of love and energy to give someone but they’re no longer able to reciprocate“. Listening to the track you can certainly feel where Taylor’s inspiration came from, the languid guitars and easy drums have a definite wistful quality, later driven home by the almost luxurious sadness of the piano runs, that accompany her crushed words, “you never loved me more, your limit was the floor, look what good that did me for”. Art Moore started almost by accident, an attempt to make incidental music that lit a flame that became a full band. Thank goodness it did, this is music far too exciting to be in the background, a richly talented trio at the start of something very exciting indeed.
4. There Are Two Certainties in Life Megadead And Taxes
Whether under the Megadead moniker or his own name, Benjamin Shaw has been one of the most consistently intriguing songwriters. Previously releasing records on the brilliant Audio Antihero, Benjamin now finds himself signed to the West Country’s finest experimental label Hand Drawn Hand, who released last year’s, “crate-digging hodgepodge”, Authentic Country Music. Next week the Lincoln-born, Melbourne-based songwriter will release the second Megadead album, Tragedy, Doom And So On, and he marked the news by sharing the latest single from it, You Died.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering its title, Tragedy, Doom And So On is a record of contemplative grief, inspired by significant deaths in Benjamin’s family, as he explains, “I wanted to make something that purposely came from these feelings…I’d have to spend a lot of time listening, editing and mixing these compositions and so actually spend time feeling this stuff rather than pushing it away”. You Died is probably the most straight-talking moment on the record, a song of solitude and sadness, it reflects on the feelings, not always positive, that are left when someone dies, “you’re not that guy for walking out that door, you’re not anything anymore, you died but all’s forgiven”. The song is built on ebb and flow, the electronics swirling and swelling around Benjamin’s vocal, the lead line one moment sparse and alone, suddenly engulfed in bassy intensity, then back again to almost nothing. For a record that comes from our bleakest moment, Megadead’s music seems almost comforting, a beautiful reminder that all of us will experience loss, in all its unrestricted complexities, death is part of life, even if very often we’d rather it wasn’t.
3. Skullcrusher Is Going To Fit In Everywhere
The musical pseudonym of Los Angeles-native Helen Ballentine, Skullcrusher has made quite a splash since the release of her 2020 debut EP, which she understatedly describes as, “songs I wrote in my bedroom while unemployed”. After returning in 2021 with the well-received Storm In Summer, next month will see Helen make her pandemic-delayed UK debut with a London headline show and a string of festival dates. Continuing a year of firsts, Helen has also announced that October will see the release of her debut album, Quiet The Room, which she showcased this week with her new single, Whatever Fits Together.
Discussing the track Helen explains Whatever Fits Together is a song about looking back on your younger self, “reflecting on my past and wondering how I might begin to explain it to someone”. The track is almost an attempt to piece together who you were and how that made you who you are now, “I saw my life in pieces: some moments blacked out, some extremely vivid, some leading nowhere. Through the song I attempt to piece it together in some non-linear form and accept my disparate story”. Musically, the track is as beautiful as we’ve all come to expect from Skullcrusher, propelled by the constant pulse of banjo, it’s adorned with a wash of sound from Helen’s layered, sometimes processed vocals through to rich, ringing piano notes and ticking percussion. Whatever Fits Together is ultimately a song about facing your demons, or perhaps deciding not to face them, as Helen sings at the song’s conclusion, “Do you ever look back? Does it all fit together? If we’re here does it matter?” Wherever it came from, wherever it’s going, raise a glass to Skullcrusher’s music because in the here and now, it sounds like magic.
2. Johanna Warren’s Fruity New Single
Ten years on from her debut album, Fates, Johanna Warren could be considered something of a musical veteran, and approaching her upcoming sixth record she decided to do something completely different. After years of touring, she relocated from her previous base of Los Angeles to a small mid-Wales town, just in time to find herself quarantined as the world closed its borders. Tracking for her new album, Less For Mutants actually pre-dates the move, with tracking starting in New York in 2018, before it was finished in the UK, “surrounded by sheep, cows and a forager’s paradise of wild edible plants”. With the album due out in October, this week Johanna shared the first single from it, and the record’s opening track, I’d Be Orange.
A scene-setting opening track, I’d Be Orange is a brilliantly breezy slice of strutting indie, reminiscent of the likes of Jenny Lewis or Metric, as Johanna’s joined by the steady thrum of the bass-guitar and cooed Beatles-like backing vocals. Lyrically the track seems to touch on themes of falling into old habits, “if everyone’s a colour you’d be red, and I’d be orange, even though I don’t like orange just so I could sit next to you”. Elsewhere she steps further into the idea of her own flawed judgement, as she sings of her, “thirst for power, hunger for fame, always was a junkie for pain”, the song feeling almost like a jumping-off point for the album as a whole. Johanna has spoken of this record as an act of resistance a rebellion against a modern world ruled by the idea, “that everything needs to be Auto-Tuned and on the grid“, it’s a reminder to embrace our flaws, step outside of the internet and live a little, while that probably doesn’t need a soundtrack, let alone one you’re probably streaming off the internet, but if it does Lessons For Mutants might just be perfect in all its celebratory imperfections.
Lessons For Mutants is out October 7th via Wax Nine. For more information on Johanna Warren visit https://www.johannawarren.com/.
1. Field Medic’s Dreamy New Single
The project of Los Angeles-based musician Kevin Patrick Sullivan, the world last heard from Field Medic back in 2020 following the release of the well-received album, Floral Prince. That record, as with all of his previous records, was recorded using Kevin’s, “full-time freestyle” method, recording while he wrote, creating records that flowed from him in a stream of consciousness. Following the release he set about doing something different, “I didn’t want to write the same song again”, he explains, so he moved on from the solo approach, enlisted the help of producer Gabe Goodman and put together a band. It might not be rocket science, but the new approach brought new inspiration, and resulted in his upcoming fifth album, grow your hair long if you’re wanting to see something that you can change. The record’s October release via Run For Covers Records was announced this week, alongside which Field Medic shared the first single from it, i had a dream that you died.
Discussing the role of music in his life, Kevin has suggested he uses it to make sense of the world, “music is definitely a vessel for some form of healing…sometimes the best way to get out of your own head is to just get to work. Making this album helped me find my happiness again”. Musically, that sense of freedom is evident, the vocal melodies, reminiscent of The Decemberists accompanied by a breezy flourish of processed beats, and meandering keyboards, you can hear the joy that went into making the record pouring out of the speakers. Not that it’s necessarily an obviously happy song, yet it is a song that’s trying, a song that wants to see the good in the world, “I had a dream that I saw a blue whale jump out of the water standing on the docks it took me back to Omaha for no reason other than the happiness I felt that so often seems lost”. Throughout he seems to be striving for something, searching for some light, “I keep fighting each day against this avalanche”. From a bedroom troubadour with a boombox for a backing band to a band leader ready to make a splash, Field Medic is breaking new ground without losing any of the charms of his earliest explorations and sounding more exciting than ever as a result.
Header photo is Field Medic by Kevin Patrick Sullivan.