5. Bill Callahan Adds Some Bark To His Bite
It is thirty-two years since Bill Callahan first emerged with the debut Smog album, Sewn To The Sky. While there is barely a bad record in the bunch, listening to Bill’s recent output, we do seem to be living in some boom time, a thick vein of musical gold from an artist at the top of their craft. Both 2019’s Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest and 2020’s Gold Record were instant classics, gracing many an album of the year list and drawing almost universally good reviews. Two years on, Bill’s set to share his latest offering in the shape of a new album, YTI⅃AƎЯ, out October 14th via Drag City, which Bill premiered this week with a new single, Coyotes.
The song was inspired by the time Bill spent living in Coyote Hills, and the inspiration that came from getting to know their titular animal, “the coyotes would start their song at dawn. Dawn and dusk were their main appearance times. Our dog would sleep outside sometimes in the morning and our boy was still bite-size“. As Bill recalls, the coyotes would gradually edge closer to the human world, “predator and prey, blurred. Past and present, blurred”. Listening to the track, it seems to be a relatively oblique influence, the coyotes sending Bill’s mind whirring into the passing of time, the way love spans lifetimes, the ageing dog that dreams of running wild with her coyote forebears, the humans, “holding hands through many lives”. The song ends with the repeated refrain, “yes I am your loverman”, in lesser hands it could feel almost trite, yet Bill says it with such gentle tenderness, with the idea of being with someone not just for now, or a lifetime, but for eternity, it seems strangely poignant. Bill Callahan paints such vivid lyrical pictures, that his return can feel like catching up with an old friend, let him take you by the hand and invite you into his YTI⅃AƎЯ once more, it’s a very special place to spend some time.
4. Smut Strike Silver
Based out of Chicago, Smut are a quintet based around the songwriting of Tay Roebuck. Following the death of her sister in 2017, Tay turned to writing to try and find a way through the “moment in which my life was destroyed permanently”. Stepping up to help her in her hour of need, her band mates ploughed on with making music to accompany her words, and in 2020 they released the acclaimed EP, Power Fantasy. The band are now building towards the release of their new album, How The Light Felt, out this November via Bayonet Records. This week the band shared the record’s lead single, After Silver Leaves.
Written about a former toxic relationship, the song exists with almost deliberate contrasts, as Tay explains, “the song sounds so happy, but I’m talking about driving someone to a hospital when they’ve overdosed. And having to detach myself and realize that maybe it’s not my job as a teenage girl to save some sad sack of a guy. I think a lot of young women will relate to that, unfortunately”. This dark tale is set to a soaring retro dream-pop backing, nodding to the likes of The Sundays or The Cocteau Twins as ice-cold vocals are drenched in glistening shoegazey guitars and shimmering New-Wave synth. After Silver Leaves feels like the perfect introduction to where Smut are right now, smiling on the outside, just scraping by inside, as Tay puts it, the album is, “the story of a person working through living with a new weight on top of it all“. This record is a tale of just about coping, finding the slither of hope in a wave of grief, bruised undeniably but with the love of others not quite broken yet.
3. Chorusgirl Show Us The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
Chorusgirl is the musical project of Silvi Wersing, who made their name on the UK scene with albums released via the likes of Fortuna Pop and Reckless Yes. Now back in her native Germany, Silvi is gearing up towards the October release of her third album, Colapso Calypso. The album took a somewhat different approach to previous Chorusgirl records, written not as the focus of attention but instead in the stolen moments when life briefly gave her a break from the weight of everyday living. Somehow by life overshadowing music, music seems to have taken ever greater resonance, a crucial outlet in the most difficult of times. Ahead of Colapso Calypso’s October release, this week Silvi shared the latest track to be lifted from the record, In The Business Of Dreams.
Taking inspiration from Mullholland Drive, and by association Sunset Boulevard, Silvi suggests the track is a musing on what it’s like to enter, the “business of dreams”. As she further explains it questions the danger in turning your self-loathing into gold, that is, “to use your very real vulnerability to create something that may end up becoming a commodity in an indifferent industry”. Starting with a clang of atmospheric guitars, the track gradually resolves as the drum fades in, taking the track to an almost The Strokes-like canter, before Silvi’s unmistakable sing-speak vocals enter, “I got my eyes on you, you excavate your hidden truth, your nightmares might seem like a transmission from a dream”. At times the track seems to take on an almost robotic quality as if the underlying humanity is being uploaded into a dystopian emotion harvesting machine, “dig deeper for those precious human feelings, you’re so loved”. There’s of course an irony to Silvi sharing her truth with us while warning of the dangers of doing just that, yet with Colapso Calypso there’s a sense of letting all that go, a record thriving in the face of no longer trying to play the game by anyone’s rules but your own.
2. Katy Rea Is On The Comeback Trail
The story of Katy Rea’s debut album, The Urge That Saves You, began around twelve years ago. That was when Katy made the decision to leave Texas behind for the promise of New York, “a city where it seemed like everything was happening, and it was”. There she worked as an actress while pursuing, “those who couldn’t love well”, as well as her true passion, songwriting. After deciding to kick her bad habits and make an album, Katy along with her band went to Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn and decided to lay it all down live, an inspiring experience that made Katy decide to dive feet first into music. Ahead of The Urge That Saves You’s release in November, this week Katy shared the latest single from it, We Come Back.
The closing track on the album, We Come Back is conversely key to the record’s themes, a song about accepting, “past selves and a promise to ultimately come back as someone new to love”. As Katy explains, “I learned that it isn’t boring to be kind to yourself – it opens your world. It takes a lot of forgiveness to gain self-respect”. The track starts with a steady tick of drums and rhythmic guitars, before meandering lead guitars and Katy’s vocal, like the middle ground of Angel Olsen and Erin Durant, and a melodic flourish. As the track progresses it seems to gradually slide into something wilder and more chaotic, the voices swelling to a howl, accompanied by ornaments of spectral brass and distant shrieks, before almost collapsing in on itself for the gentle outro, as Katy sings, “I hope you lose touch with yourself, so we come back”. This feels like a record of great progress for Katy, a sense that as we’re discovering more about her music, she’s discovering more about herself, about who Katy Rea is and crucially where she’s going next, for Katy Rea the future might just be thrilling.
The Urge That Saves You is out November 11th. For more information on Katy Rea visit https://katyrea.bandcamp.com/.
1. Wednesday Make A Bulliever Out Of Me
A quintet based out of Asheville, North Carolina, Wednesday have spent the last few years making some of the most intriguingly visceral music I’ve ever come across. I first came across them on 2020’s I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone, released via Orindal Records. It was an album that bristled with energy, an anxious clatter of guitars and in Karly Hartzman, the sort of vocalist that stops you in your tracks. The 2021 follow-up, Twin Plagues, was arguably even better, so good in fact it caught the ear of the Dead Oceans label, and this week they announced that Wednesday are the latest band to join their roster, an event they celebrated by sharing their epic new single, Bull Believer.
Described by Karly as, “an excuse for me to scream on stage”, Bull Believer clocks in at over eight and a half minutes, and was originally written as two separate tracks. The first half, Bull, deals with the experience of a loved one grappling with addiction, while the second half, Believer, “a memory of ultimate teenage sadness, an elegy for anyone who ever loved a shitty boy in the hazy glow of the television”. Together the two tracks seem to come together as a flurry of memories, the lyrics littered with references from country music podcasts to Mortal Kombat, as the words tumble out of Karly in a stream of emotional bloodletting. Musically, Bull Believer seems to go through distinct stages, the roller-coaster-like guitars of the intro that seem to constantly be ramping up to something before crashing down into a sludgy haze, the warm middle section where everything suddenly takes a turn towards twinkling prettiness, or at least Wednesday’s version of it, punctuated with sudden flares of pure noise. The love it or hate it moment probably comes as the song goes from the poignant country sound that accompanies Karly’s repeated refrain, “finish him, finish him” into what is essentially screaming over a wall of feedback. It’s raw and divisive and in my personal opinion exactly the sort of emotional howl of rage the world needs about now. Wednesday occasionally make me think of other bands, a less maths rock influenced Mothers perhaps, a noisier version of early Bright Eyes maybe, yet ultimately they’re just uniquely, brilliantly Wednesday, let us hope they never change.
Header photo is Wednesday by Zachary Chick