5. Dougie Poole Has Been Hitting The Gym
Dougie Poole is a musician who did the opposite of most, moving away from New York City to his current base in Maine. Back in 2020 teamed up with Wharf Cat Records for the release of his acclaimed album, The Freelancer’s Blues, a record that saw one reviewer label him the “patron saint of millennial malaise“, with his dissection of the difficulties of the day-to-day routine. Two years on, Dougie has returned this week with a brand new single, High School Gym.
For a songwriter known for his articulate summaries of real life, High School Gym is something of a departure, Dougie recalling a dream he had, where, “everybody I know who is dead gathered together in my high school gym, a place that disappeared a long time ago”. The dream acts as a vehicle for an exploration of grief more generally, “the conversations continue, and feel perfectly real. Little gifts your brain can give itself”. The accompanying music is suitably dream-like as well, as synths blend with slithers of slide guitar, Dougie working with producers Katie Von Schleicher and Market’s Nate Mendelsohn to bring his vision into a beautiful reality. The song ends with Dougie awakening, tears running down his face, “I’m alright but you know where I’ve been, I was going somewhere, but I got lost on the way in my high school gym”. Ultimately it’s a song about processing what you’ve been through, of holding onto memories and wishing you could have longer with the ones you’ve lost along the way, even if they do only live on in your dreams.
4. Rachael Dadd Keeps Her Head Down
A songwriter based out of Bristol, Rachael Dadd is one of those songwriters who’s consistently intriguing, always pushing the boundaries of where her music is, and where it’s going next. Back in 2019, Rachael shared her debut album, Flux, and was out on the road when the Pandemic struck and threw everyone’s plans into disarray. That enforced break was a major influence on her upcoming album, Kaleidoscope, a record celebrating, “the magical rekindling of human connection when me and my band got back in a room together again”. Kaleidoscope will be released into the world in October and this week Rachael shared the latest single from it Heads Down.
Heads Down came with a somewhat unusual collaborator, Rachael’s youngest son, with what started as a playful music session turning into a song Rachael says felt, “fun and energising”. The lyrics are a study in the dangers of cockiness and misjudgement, “qualities of brazen teenagers and arrogant politicians alike”. The song attempts not to blame, but to question why we are driven by an impulse to push our conceptions of common sense, and what we can learn by acknowledging that part of ourselves. While likely more polished than the original session that inspired it, Heads Down still has a playful side, courtesy of wavering Theramin-like electronics, wheezy horns and in particular the brilliant rolling bass that runs throughout the song. This next chapter of the Rachael Dadd already feels like it could be a special one, a celebration of the humanity that exists even in our darkest hours, a reminder of the magic people and music still possess to shape the world for the better.
3. Everyone’s Going To Be Asking About 7ebra
The latest signing to the consistently excellent Stockholm-based label, PNKSLM Recordings, 7ebra are Inez and Ella, twin sisters from Malmö Sweden. The duo already have a burgeoning reputation in their home country, having supported the likes of Bob Mould and The Dandy Warhols. They’re currently building to the release of their debut album due out next Spring and recorded with the legendary producer Tore Johansson. Ahead of the record’s release, and a date at the Shacklewell Arms tomorrow, this week 7ebra shared the latest single from it, If I Ask Her.
7ebra have an intriguingly busy set-up, with Inez playing electric guitar, while Ella plays a keyboard, organ and Mellotron – whilst manually playing drum samples with her feet, and both adding those beguiling harmonies you only seem to get from family members singing together. The result is both minimal and deliciously unusual, a fusion of garage rock swagger and indie-pop playfulness, like some unexplored middle ground between The Strokes and Warpaint. The track begins on a wave of early Beach House-like organs before the urgent guitars send it spiralling into a dingy early noughties indie club, propelled by the twitch of the drum machines, and wavering keys that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Hammer Horror film. This feels like just the beginning for 7ebra, and while I have some questions about any band name with a number in it, it feels like they could be at the start of something that could take them wherever they want to go.
2. Caitlin Rose Is Back In Black
It has been a somewhat remarkable nine years since the world last had a Caitlin Rose album to celebrate. That’s a long time by anyone’s standards, particularly someone who after 2013’s album, The Stand-In seemed to have the world at her feet. After seven years of, “false starts and career blocks”, work on the follow-up began back in February 2020, only to hit an inevitable road-block a month in, all be it one that gave Caitlin time to rethink and redefine what, “a Caitlin Rose album” should be. The result of all this work will finally see the light of day this November when Caitlin’s third album Cazimi arrives via Names, and this week she shared the first single from it, Black Obsidian.
It might be over a decade since Caitlin released the song that gave this website its name, yet listening to Black Obsidian, it has some distinct similarities. The song reflects on the ease of falling back into the comfort of difficult relationships, “it gives you this mostly impossible puzzle of trying to figure out what it is the other person is missing, what you could give them to make them whole, then depriving yourself of it in the process”. If the theme of falling back into bad habits remains, musically the track feels like a real step into a new phase, the song enters with a dramatic flourish, as guitars crash and bells chime, before the acoustic guitar slides in, taking the track to somewhere entirely different as Caitlin’s unmistakable vocals burst through, reminding you what we’ve all been missing in her absence. The song exists with a brilliant push-and-pull, we’re showing the glittering prize on offer then crushed by the compromise it requires, one second Caitlin is trying to make things better, “wash away what’s hurting you so much, what’s haunting you is always haunting me”, the next she’s being bitten by the sting of reality, “why in the hell do we keep looking back, with the devil always running after us?” It’s been a long time coming, and not an easy journey, Caitlin Rose knows better than most the difficulty of burn-out, expectations and being thrust into the limelight before you’re quite sure what you’re doing there, yet by rejecting, “being in the rush of it all”, she has emerged as brilliantly herself as ever, as she puts it, “I want to have all the time in the world”, with music this special, there’s no expiry date required.
CAZIMI is out November 18th via Names. For more information on Caitlin Rose visit https://www.caitlinrose.com/.
1. Take Two Cups Of Tenci
The musical project of Jess Shoman, Chicago’s Tenci announced themselves to the world back in 2020 with one of that year’s finest albums, My Heart Is An Open Field. A stunning record it was an album to get lost in, it felt like an escape from the clatter of the world around it, a place to rest and soak in the beautiful pictures it created in your mind. It was a source of great excitement this week with the news of a second Tenci record on the horizon with A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing, set for release in November via Keeled Scales. Ahead of the release the band also shared the first taste of the record in the shape of their new single, Two Cups.
Discussing A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing, Jess suggests it’s something of a departure from My Heart Is An Open Field, if that was a record of grief and letting go, A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing is what comes next. The record is inspired by the idea of self-rejuvenation, Jess offering a series of potential vessels, be it puddles, fists or in this case cups, to hold onto love and joy with, as Jess puts it each song is a spell to, “fill my heart back up”. Two Cups is a perfect introduction, it has a celebratory quality, revelling in the sense of not having to wait for joy to come to you, “I didn’t know I had to wait to fill my cup, I won’t wait, I won’t wait to fill my cup”. Musically, too it has the feel of the sun breaking through the clouds, sticking to the worlds of folk and indie that inspired Tenci’s debut, yet finding new playfulness within those boundaries to stretch their music beyond any preconceived notions of the Tenci sound. To the fore is the grilling interplay of the guitars, as searing solos give way to more muted moments of contemplation, and then back to bombastic again, all contrasted by Jess’s vocal sounding as brilliantly unique as always. Particularly wonderful is the song’s outro, as everything breaks-down to just a single guitar and some frankly jaw-dropping vocal harmonies. Tenci were already special, yet now they seem ready for the whole world to know about it, and we’re very lucky to have them.
Header photo is Tenci by Henry Hanky