Five Things We Liked This Week – 12/08/22

Further Listening:

5. Float Away With Little Mazarn

Although both members are originally from Dallas, it was in Austin that Little Mazarn came to be, in fact, they can be more precise, it was at the cities, “legendary dive”, Hole In The Wall. Located near The University Of Texas, the venue has hosted everyone from Townes Van Zandt to Lucinda Williams, and is described by Little Mazarn’s Lindsey Verrill as, “sweetly frozen in time”. It was there Lindsey, and bandmate Jeff Johnston started playing, “droney space versions of folk songs”, and eventually formed Little Mazarn. After years on the road not feeling like they really belonged in any place, the band, like all of us, suddenly found themselves spending a lot more time at home in the Spring of 2020. The experiences triggered a reawakening for Litte Mazarn, a moment of reconnection with their home state, and the inspiration for their upcoming album, Texas River Song, the title track of which they shared this week.

Texas River Song is a reflection of a year where, for Lindsey, life on the road was swapped for life on the river, “the rivers soaked up the burden of my sorrow and loss. I watched ospreys and bald eagles catch fish…time on the river has no meaning. The return to the outside world feels like a far away appointment you know you’re going to be late for anyways”. Returning to the studio the songs came out like a love letter to the sites and sounds of Texas, the title track is a public domain song of unknown, but unquestionably Texan, origins. Texas River Song is delightfully stripped back at first, Lindsey accompanied just by her banjo and a chorus of insects in the background, taking their moment to shine as the featured backing vocalists. While the track remains even-paced throughout, it does ebb and swell like the titular river, its six meandering minutes seeing brief flourishes of double bass, piano and a particularly triumphant trumpet section. Lindsey has spoken of feeling like a rootless musician belonging to nowhere, yet without planning it she found belonging was there beneath her feet, as she puts it, “I am a Texas musician simply by not trying to be anyone else or go anywhere else”. That sense of truthfulness has resulted in an album that will resonate not just in the Lone Star State but with anyone searching to find their home.

Texas River Song is out August 19th via Dear Life Records. For more information on Little Mazarn visit https://www.littlemazarn.net/.

4. Ainsley Farrell Is Not A Food Group

Ainsley Farrell is something of a rarity in the music world, a musician who moved to Australia rather than away from it. Based in Sydney, Ainsley came to the world’s attention with her 2018 EP, Dark Hours, which saw her invited to play at SXSW, garnered radio play across Australia and led to support slots with the likes of Julia Jacklin, Stell Donnelly and Nadia Reid. With a new album, Dirt, set for release at the start of next year, this week Ainsley shared the second track from it, her new single Buffet.

Discussing the track, Ainsley explains it came from a place, “of feeling angry, powerless and minimized after a few different experiences where men thought they could violate my space and then just go about their day”. Ainsley saves particular scorn for one event when “an old man hit on me at a buffet by comparing me to the food”. Musically, Buffet is a smouldering bass-heavy track, all low-slung Babehoven-like guitars and Ainsley’s crushing, swooping vocals that hit the middle ground of Anna Calvi and Squirrel Flower. There’s a sense throughout of Ainsley sharing both her anger and the strength she’s found in processing the events that led to it, “singing this song helps me take back my power and stand up to them when I wasn’t able to at the time”. Buffet feels like a real moment for Ainsley, a songwriter who feels on the cusp of a breakthrough and is more than ready for whatever chances come her way.

Buffet is out now. For more information on Ainsley Farrell visit https://linktr.ee/ainsleyfarrell.

3. You Need Ylayali In Your Life

Best known as the drummer in Free Cake For Every Creature and 2nd Grade, Ylayali is the recording project of Francis Lyons. With three albums in the last three years, and countless others released over the last decade and often now impossible to find outside of a few cassettes and obscure indie websites, discovering Ylayali is like discovering a treasure chest of music to explore. Teaming up with Dear Life Records, next month will see Francis release his later offering, Separation, and this week he shared the latest track from it, He Needs Me.

Separation is a record born out of a dream, as Francis explains it was written as a “dialogue between me and a character from a dream”. The album’s centre-piece, He Needs Me is also, “the theme of our relationship”, and a track with the unusual inspiration of, “the Popeye soundtrack classic sung by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl”, although you’ll do well to hear that on first listen. While certainly possessing a dream-like quality, He Needs Me is particularly good at finding focus in the haze, while harps dance and strings swell, the drums pick out a fairly straight driving rhythm that the ear instantly locks into, and that wouldn’t sound of place on one of Eels’ more harmonious records. Amongst the musical conversation sits Francis, his hushed vocals carrying a certain serenity, channelling the surprising calm of Sunday Morning-era Lou Reed with a touch of the subtle heartache of Jeff Tweedy. It may take inspiration from the subconscious mind, yet He Needs Me feels like it’s working way through something, as if Francis is unpicking the threads, slowly starting to make sense of this often baffling world and getting closer to the full picture with each new record he shares.

Separation is out September 2nd via Dear Life Records. For more information on Ylayali visit https://ylayali.bandcamp.com/.

2. Eliza Edens Needs You In Her Life

It was back in 2020 that Eliza Edens first appeared with her well-received debut album, Time Away From Time. Two years later the Brooklyn-based songwriter has this week announced her second long-player, We’ll Become The Flowers, an album grappling with heartache and mortality, the record sets out with the lofty aim of reimagining, “endings not as finite events but as devotional experiences that give way to new beginnings”. Alongside the announcement, Eliza also shared the first single from the record, I Needed You.

I Needed You is a track that exists at an ending, in this instance a relationship coming to a close as you oscillate between two seemingly antithetical states, “I need them” and “I don’t need them”. The track was originally pictured as what Eliza describes as, “a sad little breakup waltz“, yet when she presented it to her band it became something different, a slow-burning folk-rock song, all rolling bass lines and country-licked guitars. In the same way that the music evolved, so too did the song’s themes, on the one hand, its a song about breaking up, yet digging deeper it’s more a song about embracing your own needs, and even learning to live in a place where you’re not sure what you need, “city lights, country nights, playing pool, tossing dice, never know who’s arms I’ll lay in”. Fittingly the song ends not with tears, but instead with laughter as if Eliza is recalling how in love she was and now finding the whole thing faintly ridiculous. It’s always tricky to introduce a record of endings, yet here Eliza does it in style, an enticing first chapter to a record that already feels like it could be very special indeed.

We’ll Become The Flowers is out October 14th. For more information on Eliza Edens visit https://www.eliza-edens.com/.

1. Carpet Refuse To Fade Away

The project of Leeds-based musician Rob Slater, Carpet released one of my favourite EPs of last year, with their excellent self-titled record, a collection of songs written in spare moments at Greenmount Studios where Rob works as an engineer and a producer. Rob is something of a feature on the West Yorkshire DIY scene, performing and recording the likes of My Mye and Yard Act, as well as being the drummer in the much love (by me at least) Crake. Finding time once more for his own music, this October will see Rob release a new Carpet EP, Maldon Salt / Men Like Us, and this week he shared the first single from it, Atrophy.

Listening to Atrophy, it’s instantly obvious this occupies a different space to the songs of his debut, while those were densely layered explorations of tension, the musical equivalent of a knot in your stomach, here there’s a clear sense of letting it all go. The opening guitar line could almost be described as summery, even if it’s more dipping a toe in wistful optimism rather than diving in head first. Despite the positivity of tone, there’s still room for some self-admonishment as he begins by singing, “I fell from my pedestal just the other day, it’s only right” as if mocking himself for taking himself too seriously. As you’d probably guess from the title, Atrophy is a song of degeneration, yet it isn’t downbeat, it seeks to find some positivity in the possibilities change can bring, “I climbed from my safety net to check that it was safe, it’s alright, shame I wasted so much time”. The initially stripped-back nature of the songs, shifts with a crescendo of sorts, however, it’s not a clattering, booming destructive moment instead it’s like a lapping wave in a warm ocean, as meandering pianos and a steady drum beat emerge, followed by a wave of strings that coat his closing line in tender revery, “masterpieces crumble from my wall, a great atrophy of nothing much at all”. Carpet continues to showcase Rob’s ability as a songwriter or great subtlety, the reposeful quality of his music belying the confidence it takes to produce something so brilliantly unflashy. It might not be garish enough for a stately home or a Weatherspoons, but this understated Carpet might just be my favourite one of all.

Maldon Salt / Men Like Us is out October 14th. For more information on Carpet visit http://carpetsongs.bandcamp.com/

Header photo is Carpet by James Adrian Brown.

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