5. Well Wisher Cause A Panic
Based around the songwriting of DIY mainstay Natalie Newbold, Well Wisher are a quartet based out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Following the release of their 2018 debut, This Is Fine, Natalie found her songwriting in a strange place, turning out solemn acoustic songs, and unsure where to go, “I was in this darker headspace of writing sad, slow songs”. With all the chaos 2020 brought and reconvening with her bandmates, she realised those songs weren’t working, “there was so much time to reflect, nothing’s going on and I’m angry”. The result was a process of ripping it up and starting again, making the raw emotional record that resonated with the whole band, and becoming the second Well Wisher album, That Weight. With the record due out this September via Egghunt Records, this week the band shared the latest single from it, Panic.
Described by Natalie as, “a guiding light for the rest of the record”, Panic was one of the first songs that came together during the writing of That Weight, the song melding all the band members’ influences into something they love to play together, and it shows. The track explores “the roller-coastering struggles with mental health”, Natalie cathartically reflecting on how anxiety and depression, “can hold you back and captive”. Musically the track seems to showcase the band’s ever-expanding array of influences, channelling both the raw punkish strains of their debut and a more melody-driven approach that’s thrillingly creeping into their sound. The song starts with a lone guitar, Natalie half whispering the line, “I may or may not be back in bed”, the whole thing feels claustrophobic, an almost uncomfortably intimate glance into Natalie’s world. The only sign of the noisy thrills to come is the gentle tick of the drums, they sound anxious to explode, a coiled spring ready to explode into the rambunctious chorus, where it’s joined by searing guitars as Natalie half sings-half yells, “somewhere I lost motivation, always stuck inside my mind, somewhere I lost motivation, I can’t seem to get it right”. By all accounts, That Weight didn’t come easily, a lot of soul searching and effort went into it and it shows, old sounds with new emphasis, a band growing in spite of the heaviness and feeling all the more real, raw and exciting as a result.
4. The Problem With It Is Plains To See
There’s a time to go your own way, to stick to your guns and follow your own path, and then sometimes there’s a time to let someone else in. Two prodigiously talented solo artists, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson have made their names on their own terms, focusing on intimacy and their lived experience. Having met many years ago, the two possess a shared musical memory, the sounds of their youth, as Jess puts it, “the kind of classic timeless songs that we both grew up singing along to”. The result of this meeting of minds is their new project Plains, and their debut album, I Walked With You A Ways, recorded in North Carolina with super-producer Brad Cook, and recorded with an almost on-the-spot spontaneity. Announcing the project this week, and the album’s October release via ANTI- Records, Plains also shared their debut single, Problem With It.
Listening to Problem With It, is an instant delight, from the breezy harmonies to the flourishes of banjo and bombastic electric guitars, a country-pop song in the mould of Jenny Lewis or Courtney Maries Andrews delivered with a sense of real love for the genre that inspired it. Particularly wonderful is the way their voices dovetail together, two distinctive voices melding together into a smooth as caramel chorus, channelling classic country kiss-offs as they sing, “if you can’t do better than that babe, I got a problem with it, justified it my own way, lost myself in it”. Both Katie and Jess have spoken of this as, “a one-time only collaboration”, an album, a tour, and then an ending. This fleeting thrill isn’t a cause for sadness though, it’s a perfect moment captured vividly to tape, never to be repeated but well worth savouring while you can.
3. Why Bonnie Ain’t Going Nowhere
Texan-natives now based out of New York, Why Bonnie are great chroniclers of place, a band who seem to see all the memories and emotions tied up in towns, their ability to send you spiralling back to your youth or send you screeching back into the present day. Following a string of excellent EPs, and freshly signed to Austin-institution Keeled Scales, this August will see Why Bonnie release their debut album 90 In November, and this week they shared the latest single from it, Nowhere, LA.
The LA in question here isn’t Los Angeles, but Louisiana, and a true story, “of breaking down in the middle of nowhere Louisiana with an ex“, the track is a reflection on a relationship, “through the rearview mirror”, and the clarity that distance from an event can bring. Musically, it is a delightful affair, with layers of perfectly entwined guitars and low-key drums, at one point it threatens to explode into a crescendo before slipping easily back to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it piano line, so exquisitely detailed that it brings to mind Boxer-era The National. At the heart of the song is Blair Howerton’s vocal, there’s something beautifully posied about her delivery here, even as her relationship crumbles in front of our eyes she’s a picture of serenity, “I don’t miss chapping my lips from saying sorry, still I wish I could say it one last time”. Throughout there’s no sense of wondering what might have been, right up until the final line, when the question of what might have been emerges, “Louisiana in a broken down car, what if we only got that far”. There’s a magic to Why Bonnie, a band capable of painting pictures, placing you as a listener inside a series of elegant snapshots, transporting you to a bar-room or a broken-down car and showing you their world. 90 in November is shaping up to be a very special debut, and with a band this talented, was that ever even in doubt?
2. Chorusgirl Go Back To The Future
From Germany to South London and back again, Chorusgirl’s musical journey has always been one well worth keeping an ear out for. A vehicle for the songwriting of Silvi Wersing, Chorusgirl released their debut album back in 2015 via Fortuna Pop, briefly becoming something of a regular feature on 6Music courtesy of their ludicrously catchy single, Oh To Be A Defector. 2018’s follow-up, Shimmer and Spin was released back in 2018, before life got in the way and music took an inevitable backseat. The result was returning to where it all began, Silvi working from home, recording in, “stolen moments, an outlet for the intensity of the every day”. The result is a brand new, and excellent titled, Chorusgirl record, Colapso Calypso, which is due out in October, and which Silvi previewed this week in the shape of new single, Don’t Go Back To ’89.
Built around a typically reverberating guitar line, Don’t Go Back To ’89 is a perfect return for Chorusgirl, it has an almost cinematic flourish as swirling layers of vocals seem to almost detach from reality, as Sylvie is directing her own life from a distance, “Fade out, fade in, crossfade and Fade, and Fade, and Cut!” Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Sylvie suggests it went through multiple re-writes and ended up less literal than originally envisioned, “this song is about deep regret and wanting to travel back in time in order to save someone who died in an accident. However, it turns out that that person cannot be saved and so you’d have to travel back again and again, failing each time in Groundhog Day-like fashion”. Ultimately, it is perhaps not a song about time travel, but instead about the natural desire to not let go of someone you cared for deeply, and instead ask for a re-write for their ending, Sylvie kicking against acceptance as she sings, “I need you to be living, dying’s not an option here”. Yes we cannot change the past, cannot ask for a new ending or bring back what was lost, yet it doesn’t make it any easier to accept, so if you can you’ll keep trying, “don’t count the tears you dried, set the dial alright”, and as Dylan Thomas put it, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
1. A.O. Gerber Is Hungry For Success
Something of a breakout star in recent years, A.O. Gerber released one of my favourite records of 2020 in the shape of the fabulous, Another Place To Need. While that record was a deeply collaborative affair incorporating various luminaries of the Los Angeles and Bay Area music scenes, for her new album, announced this week, A.O. Gerber stripped back the cast to just co-producer Madeline Kenney and drummer Alex Oñate. Recorded on nights and weekends and any spare moments between day jobs, the record, Meet Me At The Gloaming will come out this October, and this week A.O. shared the latest single from it, Hunger.
Discussing Hunger, A.O. Gerber has described how the “song sort of wrote itself in the midst of a really devastating fire season in LA“. The song deals with, “the opposing forces of desire and negation”, A.O. recalling how, “I’ve spent so much of my life vacillating between these polarities, making myself small physically and spiritually”. The track enters on a flourish of electronic pips before the steady pulse of a muted guitar arrives alongside A.O’s easy, lilting vocal. Throughout the track it seems to ebb and flow from moments of cathartic howls to more withdrawn gentler sections, the lyrics flickering between the desire to be the person you want to be and the person society has let you be, “wish that I could pay attention, write it down so I don’t speak, be the person you imagine cardboard cutout of the week”. Meet Me At The Gloaming might be a more secluded record than its predecessor, yet it feels no less ambitious, a record of grief and growth, presented in the gorgeous hews of twilight, where night and day collide like two worlds combining into one perfect, glistening moment.
Header photo is A.O. Gerber by Seannie Bryan.