5. Take A Walk With Dari Bay
Hailing from Burlington, Vermont, Dari Bay began as the solo project of Zachary James when he was still in his teenage years. A fixture on his home town’s music scene, Zachary has gone through various experimental guises without ever really settling in any one musical place long enough for what one might term a “proper” release. Now settled into the current four-piece lineup, Dari Bay are set to change all that this January when they share their new album, Longest Day Of The Year. Ahead of the release this week the band shared the first single from it, Walk On Down.
A song about, “embracing the mundane”, Walk On Down showcases the progression in Zachary’s songwriting as he moves towards a straight-talking brand of Americana, without losing some of his more experimental origins. At its core Walk On Down is a song about accepting the hand you’re dealt as Zachary explains, “there are lyrics about transitory spaces and objects that are used to construct a world. At the end, the background vocals go, “I don’t want to live in another world,” which is true”. Musically the track is a breezy delight, as the chiming lead guitar is adorned with waves of slide guitar and steady drums, Zachary’s vocal taking on more than a hint of Elliott Smith as he sings with an audible shrug, “wake up get dressed, just let gravity do the rest”. This latest incarnation of Dari Bay seems to really suit them, a welcoming musical world, if it’s all this good you won’t want the Longest Day Of The Year to ever end.
Longest Day Of The Year is out January 27th. For more information on Dari Bay visit https://daribay.com/
4. Andy Shauf Won’t Be Wasted On You
A songwriter based out of Saskatchewan, Canada, Andy Shauf has been making music for the best part of two decades, first catching my ear back in 2015 around the re-release of his fourth album, The Bearer Of Bad News. Andy’s major breakthrough came after signing to ANTI- Records and releasing the intriguing, almost autobiographical strains of 2016’s The Party. After releasing the acclaimed Neon Skyline at the start of 2020, Andy had planned to take it out on tour around the globe but instead found himself stuck in his garage studio, producing and playing all the instruments on what would become his upcoming record, Norm, an album inspired by both the shadowy narratives of Mullholland Drive and a desire to make something more modern than he’d ever done before. The album will arrive in February, and this week Andy shared the first single from it, Wasted On You.
What could easily be mistaken for a regretful love song, Wasted On You is in reality a more thoughtful affair, a spiritually minded conversation about death and what we leave behind. Andy seems to almost be asking a question of the universe (or God depending on your preference), “what happens when they die? Maybe eternal life?”, before questioning if we truly appreciate the gifts the world offers, “was all my love wasted on you?” While he’s spoken of the desire to create something more modern, the evolution in Andy Shauf’s music is thankfully not too extreme, the elements, from descending piano runs to warm punches of woodwind are familiar from his previous output, even if they are given a slightly poppier, dreamier quality. While we’ll have to wait to get to know the titular Norm in all his glory, for now, we can just celebrate a magnificent songwriter sounding every bit as good as he always has.
3. Hadda Be Are Mercurial Talents
First appearing back in 2018, under their original name of Foundlings, Hadda Be really stepped into the light with their 2021 album, Another Life. Bristling with modern dissatisfaction, it took feelings of being lost and uncertain and went searching for answers, juxtaposing a certain heaviness with a desire for something uplifting. This week the band shared their first new material of the year in the shape of a brand-new single, Mercurial.
The first taster of where Hadda Be’s music is heading on album number two, Mercurial instantly demands the listeners’ attention. From a wave of buzzing electronics, an urgent guitar line clatters into life, alongside the clattering drums it gives the intro something of the gothic immediacy of Ghum or LIINES. From there Amber’s vocals cut through the fog, “something in the way it moved that day”, a mysterious introduction to a track that doesn’t wear its message openly. Building on the immediacy and intensity of their debut, Mercurial feels like the start of something, it feels both darker and more focused, a musical clarity that suggests Hadda Be are just getting started.
2. Black Belt Eagle Scout Has Music In Her Veins
The world last heard from Black Belt Eagle Scout, the moniker of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community based multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul back in 2019. That was around the release of At The Party With My Brown Friends, a record I liked so much I declared it my favourite album of that year. Three years on, this week Katherine has announced details of her brand new album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, due next February via Saddle Creek. Alongside the announcement Black Belt Eagle Scout also shared her brand new single, My Blood Runs Through This Land.
The Land, The Water, The Sky is an album of reconnection for Katherine, a chance for her to, “reflect upon my journey back to my homelands and the challenges and the happiness it brought”. The opening track on the album, My Blood Runs Through This Land in particular focuses on Katherine’s relationship with her ancestors, as she recalls, “when I run my hands through the rocks at Snee Oosh beach and dip my fingers into our waterways, I am reminded of where I come from“. The song attempts to channel the spirit and energy of her people, reflecting on their shared history, “I like to imagine my blood – all of my ancestors – running through our homelands freely and powerfully”. This intense imagery is reflected in the track’s musical make-up, the blistering guitars that propel the song forward, the clattering drums and the vocal howls, there’s the sense of a damn breaking, of humanity and history pouring forth in a wave of emotions and memories. While we often look at the history of marginalised communities with a sense of despair, Katherine’s music is not bogged down by it, it finds hope and joy in history, a sense of belonging to something far greater. Returning home has given Black Belt Eagle Scout renewed vigour, a sense that when you are where you belong, where your ancestors built your community, you are lifted up higher than ever before and capable of almost anything.
1. H.Hawkline Is Really Milking It
I remember first coming across H. Hawkline back in 2015 around the release of his fantastic, and intriguing album, In the Pink Of Condition. The subsequent seven years have seen just one H. Hawkline record, 2017’s I Romanticize, although the man behind the moniker, Huw Evans, has kept himself busy working with the likes of Kevin Morby, Tim Presley and his decade-and-a-half-long collaborator Cate Le Bon. Getting back to H. Hawkline once more, Huw invited Cate Le Bon onboard in the role of producer, as Huw puts it, “a gentle and knowing hand, Cate did what no one else could have done: it’s what Cate always does”. The result is the upcoming H. Hawkline album, Milk For Flowers, the title track of which he shared this week ahead of its March release via Heavenly Recordings.
The record’s title track, Milk For Flowers is, despite its jaunty piano line, a reflection on grief, as Huw explains, “grief is a song that can’t be unheard: from the moment you learn it, you never stop singing”. Although delivered with his usual flash of surrealism, “I feel like a nun picking roses”, it only takes the gentlest scratch of the surface to see what lies beneath, as he straight-talkingly sings, “and I miss you, so much”. Musically the track seems to be a patchwork quilt of influences, Huw’s rich vocals accompanied one second by a stomp of glam-rock guitars, the next breaking down to a gentle piano line before coming roaring back into a saxophone-laden swagger. Cate Le Bon recalls the sessions for Milk For Flowers, noting how she watched Huw, “fold into himself and extract from a terrible time an album so exquisitely raw, yet deftly graceful“, on this evidence, it could just be his finest moment yet.
Header photo is H.Hawkline by Ren Faulkner.