5. The Orielles Are Lurking in Dark Corners
Quite possibly Halifax’s greatest export, The Orielles formed a decade ago, but really emerged back in 2018 with their fabulous debut album, Silver Dollar Moment. They’ve remained prolific, and eclectic, ever since, and back in October released their fourth record, Tableau. The album was the result of a summer spent holed up in a studio in Eastbourne, playing around with ideas of improvisation, minimalism and experimentation. The result feels like a fresh start for the band, a new approach creating an entirely new sound. This week alongside a string of dates for 2023, the band also shared a video for the record’s latest single, Darkened Corners.
Feeling like something of a shift in tempo for the band, Darkened Corners serves as something of a statement for the album as a whole, as the band explain, “its musical narrative best describes emotionally what creating this record felt like for us”. The track starts with an almost motorik-drive, the spacious twin vocals contrasting the driving rhythm, like the middle ground of Black Country, New Road and the Beta Band. As the song progresses the rigidity of the early repetition seems to slide away, the track taking a turn towards disorienting dreaminess, before collapsing entirely into a complex crescendo of strings and wiry guitars, like the melodic child of Kiran Leonard and John Cale. As will all of Tableau, there’s a freshness to Darkened Corners, the sense of a band evolving without losing a sense of structure, swapping the old rules for new ones, and coming out different, yet just as exciting as ever, The Orielles 2.0 is an update they should be very proud of.
4. Ailbhe Reddy Puts On A Show
2020 saw Ailbhe Reddy burst onto the scene with her acclaimed debut album, Personal History. Since then Ailbhe’s rise has shown no sign of slowing down, with high-profile slots at Visions Festival, The Great Escape and Latitude taking her music to an ever-growing audience of admirers. With a swathe of headline shows across Europe planned for early next year, Ailbhe has this week announced the release of her second record, Endless Affair, as well as sharing the first single from it, Shitshow.
Recorded in Donegal, with co-producer Tommy McLaughlin, Shitshow is a song written from the perspective of the morning after, “it’s about looking back on a night out with regret while also addressing and apologising to an ex-partner about my antics…It’s kind of a tongue in cheek examination of a bad hangover”. The track opens with Ailbhe channelling the spirit of Alvvays’ Molly Rankin, as she sings out the crushing opening lyric, “so tell me how did I get here, some endless pitiful affair”, with an air of nonchalant disconnection. Quickly though the initial dreaminess of the guitars gives way to something fuzzy and more urgent, as Ailbhe sings, “I need to forget everything if I stand a chance of beginning again”, over a backing of crashing guitars and clattering drums that nod to the likes of Pip Blom or Tanya Donelly. Shitshow feels like an artist at a thrilling transition, as if Ailbhe is hovering above herself, looking at the parties, and the love affairs and wondering if this is really her, “my god look at the state of me”, she sings, somewhere between a hungover Sunday morning declaration that she’ll never drink again, and a real desire to change. Whether Endless Affair answers the questions that Shitshow asks, we’ll have to wait and see, yet one song in Ailbhe Reddy’s story has already got me hooked.
3. Gena Rose Bruce Digs Deep
Back in 2019, Gena Rose Bruce released her debut album, Can’t Make You Love Me. It drew widespread acclaim, was nominated for the Australian music prize, and its success inspired Gena to plan international success with a string of tours across the US, Japan and Europe. Sadly you probably already know what happened next, with Melbourne plunged into one of the world’s longest lockdowns, Gena’s plans screeched to a halt, and she found herself in a tiny apartment, with a partner grieving the death of his mother and her music career in serious jeopardy. Feeling claustrophobic and disconnected she turned to books, to gardening and as any musician would, to writing songs. The result is her upcoming second album, Deep Is The Way, due out at the start of 2023, and this week Gena shared the title track, which features the talents, and unmistakable vocals, of indie-icon Bill Callahan.
In many ways, Deep Is The Way is a celebration of late bloomers, a reminder that just because you haven’t found that thing that makes your heart sing yet, you still could, and that it’s okay to take things slowly. As Gena explains, “this song really is a dedication for those people who may be slower in finding themselves, who like to dream, think deeply and take their time to make decisions, for them to appreciate and honour their thoughtful process“. Set to a backing of steady drums, and beautiful piano lines, the song’s key charm is in the twin vocals, Gena and Bill sharing sentiments like old friends reminding each other to stay true to their wandering minds, “you’ve got a mind for drifting and dreaming, a beautiful mind that will both terrify and free you”. There’s a certain classic quality to the track, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Carole King of Joan Baez, yet there’s a freshness here too, the vocals given a luxuriously warm production, like a modern reworking of an old favourite. Gena has spoken of her desire to follow the creative tides, to let her music breathe and take her where it wants to go, the sound of contentment, an artist at ease and reveling in a thrilling streak of creativity that could take Gena Rose Bruce wherever she wants to go.
2. Shirley Hurt Goes Home Empty Handed
Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Shirley Hurt burst onto the scene last month with her well-received debut single, Problem Child. That track was an appetite-whetting first taste of Shirley’s self-titled album, due at the start of next month via Telephone Explosion Records. Recorded in her home town, the album was written on the back of a long period of touring, and Shirley has spoken of it as a musical vista, a wistful reflection on loneliness and the expanse of the open road. Ahead of the release, this week Shirley shared the record’s second single, Empty Hands.
Discussing the inspiration behind Empty Hands, Shirley is quick to note that it’s a little bit meta, “it’s written from the perspective of someone’s idea of someone’s idea about them…I find myself doing that a lot—projecting ideas about myself onto other people and believing they feel this or that way about me when in reality it’s just how I feel about myself”. Starting off like a classic slice of 60’s folk, Empty Hands seems to slowly expand its horizons, as sultry saxophone lines and flourishes of rich piano chords bring to mind the likes of Naima Bock or Iron & Wine. The track reaches something of a crescendo, as the drums and piano unite into a single percussive crash, joined by Shirley’s repeated refrain, “or so they say”, as Joseph Shabason’s saxophone takes a swirling melodic lead. Two songs isn’t a long time to fall for an artist, yet I’m head over heels for Shirley Hurt’s music; timeless, warm and inviting, to quote Rick Blain in Casablanca, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
1. Kate Davis Deals With The Consequences
Back in 2019, Kate Davis released her debut album Trophy, while it arrived with relatively little fanfare it was something of an underground masterpiece, crashing into my top ten records of that year. The record showcased everything the Portland-raised songwriter had learnt during her time in New York, both while studying the regimented world of jazz at the Manhattan School Of Music, and while sneaking out to Brooklyn to see game-changing indie bands from Grizzly Bear to the Dirty Projectors. Three years, and one Daniel Johnston covers record, later, Kate has this week announced she has signed to ANTI- Records, a fact she celebrated with a brand new single, Consequences.
Described by Kate as diaristic, Consequences has a sense of looking back at your life choices and asking what you learnt along the way, “I experienced a major low point in 2020, tangled up in a chaotic love affair where I really met myself”. Despite being presented from a later time, there’s still clearly a rawness to Kate’s words, as she sings, “nothing wants anymore, nothing hurts anymore, when you’re not a second thought”. Ultimately perhaps this is a song of freeing yourself, of casting off a shadow that dragged you down to your lowest point, certainly the music feels that way, recalling Margaret Glaspy, as thrashing guitars play off against vocals that start off stoically before building to a potent howling plea to, “spare them of the consequences”. While plans for Kate’s next move remain a closely guarded secret, this return of one of music’s most intriguing new voices is a stand-alone success well worth celebrating.
Header photo is Kate Davis by Maciek Jasik.