5. Bosque Brown Has Plenty To Say
Bosque Brown are the duo of Fort Worth-based vocalist and songwriter Mara Lee Miller and Seattle-based producer and multi-instrumentalist, Jeremy Buller. The project began in 2005 as a vehicle for Mara’s songwriting, before expanding into a fuller band when the necessity of playing live became apparent. Over the years they’ve released plenty of records and lost a few band members, and the world last heard from them in 2018 with the self-released EP, Little Sea. After a five-year break, this week Bosque Brown shared a brand new single, You Said, the first taste of a long-awaited EP due later this year.
While it’s newly out into the world, You Said was actually one of the first songs Mara ever wrote and has travelled a long way to meet us now. Listening to the music of Bosque Brown feels like being invited in on a secret, as if you’ve opened the door of some ancient tomb and found a treasure that’s only ever been known to a select few. The star of the show is the mesmeric vocal performance of Mara Lee Miller, hers is a voice that commands attention, an instrument to be cherished like a piece of fine porcelain. Yet, what really lifts You Said above pretty, is the almost lack of respect the music offers her, the tendency with something so pure is to leave it almost unadorned, yet here Jeremy coats it a web of electronic silk, a searing buzz of distortion, the steady tick of a drum machine, a shoegazing temple from which Mara can share her gift with the world. Lyrically, the track has a certain cryptic drama, seeming to touch on the seemingly insignificant moments that can tear a world apart, “the leaves turn brown, by the frown on your face, can’t you see the sky has turned inside out”. What makes this new chapter for Bosque Brown feel so special is partly that it never felt guaranteed, while Bosque Brown paused the world kept spinning, and there was never a promise they’d get back on it, cherish this return the results might just be spectacular.
Bosque Brown will release a new EP later this year. For more information on the band visit https://bosquebrown.com/.
4. Sluice Hits Another Hundred
Although a highly collaborative affair, Sluice is ostensibly the solo project of Durham, North Carolina, based musician/engineer Justin Morris. First appearing back in 2019 with an excellent self-titled album, Justin decided for his next move to dig into the talent of his local scene working on bringing his ideas to life. The result is Radial Gate, a new record due out in March via Ruination Record Co, which he previewed this week with a new single, Centurion.
Centurion is something of a slow-burner, it starts off like a torch song, Justin’s vocals accompanied by just the rhythmic pulse of guitar chords, and from there it grows, and then it soars. The hypnotic pulse of the guitars remains throughout but around it an array of sounds comes and goes, a searing blast of feedback, a clattering drum beat, they ebb and flow, and beneath them that steady guitar, always holding everything together, always pinning out feet back to the earth, rooting us to the world at large. Lyrically, the song plays out like a fever dream, the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred to an almost indecipherable place. He starts off like David Byrne in Once In A Lifetime as Justin sings, “whose skin is this? And whose neighbourhood? Where’s my mum? Where are my sisters? Where’s my pa? Where’s my baby?” As soon as they form, those moments of anxiety suddenly snap away and he comes across all Bill Calahan on us, “I’m flying on my Roman Commander, just like that moment when we snuck out and lay by the creek, so sweet, for hours, for hours”. A song that never stands still long enough to fall into any particular categorisation, Centurion is an unassuming triumph, a subtle melding of ideas that feels entirely their own and sets the bar for their upcoming album very high indeed.
Radial Gate is out March 3rd via Ruination Record Co. For more information on Sluice visit https://sluice.bandcamp.com/
3. H.Hawkline Is Made From 100% Recycled Plastic
It has been nearly six years since the world last heard from Huw Evans, aka H.Hawkline. That was around the release of the excellent I Romanticize, and Huw has spent the subsequent years working on a string of other people’s records, all the while plotting his next move. Working with long-term collaborator, and this time around producer, Cate Le Bon, Huw decamped to Monmothsire, called in a string of musical friends and set about recording an ambitious and exciting new album, Milk For Flowers. Ahead of the record’s release this March, this week Huw shared his latest single, and not a cover of The Kinks, Plastic Man.
The last track recorded for Milk For Flowers, Plastic Man is a bounding glam-pop song, nodding to the likes of Meilyr Jones or Field Music as the galloping drum beat is adorned with squalling saxophones and bar-room piano flourishes. Yet if this is a pop song it’s a delightfully disfigured one, for starters it begins with a fizzingly deranged guitar-solo, courtesy of Tim Presley, of which Huw recalls, “I watched him piece it together like a scribble, animating itself into a Muybridge off-cut“. The song stomps and spits throughout, as Huw shares a typically literate array of surrealist snapshots, lyrical puzzles to be gradually unpicked. Whether it’s the enticing opening line, “Tennessee wrote it better, we got caught in the weather, a heat so hot you think you’ll drown” or “you’re right you know, I’m like a lizard stuck on a stone, trying to go home, help me”, H.Hawkline is not one for spelling out the meaning in an easy to read format, instead, he uses words like ornaments, small parts of a greater whole. Perhaps H.Hawkline’s music isn’t easy, and perhaps it’s not meant to be, if you’re willing to meet him halfway and invest in his musical vision then you might just fall for this intriguing, thrilling and anything-but plastic songwriter.
Milk For Flowers is out March 10th via Heavenly Recordings. For more information on H.Hawkline visit https://www.hhawkline.xyz/.
2. Warning! Warning! NOVA ONE Is Dangerous
The project of songwriter Roz Rankin, NOVA ONE first appeared back in 2018 with the EP, secret princess, a homage to the power and impact of 60s girl groups, followed in 2020 by the natural progression of the debut album, lovable. Continuing Roz’s journey into the complexity of self-acceptance, this march they will share their latest offering, a new album create myself, which was previewed this week by the latest NOVA ONE single, Dangerous.
Dangerous is Roz’s attempt to make sense of the complexities of young love, and the sense of, “wanting to figure out all the things NOW“, it serves as something of a warning not to rush in, the classic overcompensation when, “not realizing I was dealing with mental health issues, drinking too much, partying too much“. Where once enthralled with the sound of the 1960s, from the moment it roars into your ears Dangerous sounds considerably more modern, with a squall of guitars and the steady drive of the drums it seems to owe more to contemporaries like Lucy Dacus or Waxahatchee as it recalls the indie-rock sound of the 90s and spins it through a distinctly 2020s bedroom-pop lens. The song seems to teeter on a precipice throughout, Roz stood stoically in a tornado of sound as they sing, “I thought you were dangerous, but I’m still dangerous by myself, sometimes I like it”. Despite sometimes revelling in their own dangerous tendencies, as the song progresses, Roz’s fears slowly start to surface, singing, “the therapist wondered why we never seem to fight, we did it with silence”, before the chorus nods to The Smashing Pumpkins as they sing, “the fear in me, is the fear in you, that no-one will know me like you do”. A thrilling howl of a return, this feels like a huge leap forward for NOVA ONE an artist making sense of the world and their place in it and growing with every record they put into the world.
create myself is out March 31st via Community Records. For more information on NOVA ONE visit https://www.ilovenovaone.com/.
1. Lael Neale Heads Downstream
Lael Neale first came onto my radar back in 2020 when she signed to Sub Pop and released the excellent single, Every Star Shivers In The Dark, an ode to Los Angeles playing out over hazy organs and a retro drum machine. The track was quickly followed by the excellent debut album, Acquainted with Night, which won near-universal acclaim. That same year, Lael moved out of Los Angeles, returning to her family farm in rural Virginia, in an attempt to look, “at the world from a distance and getting in tune with her own rhythms”, two years of solid writing and recording followed. The latest result of those sessions is her upcoming album, Star Eaters Delight, a vehicle for returning to civilisation and celebration, “the unbroken silences on the farm compelled me to break them with sound. This album is louder and more external, calling out to the world”.
Ahead of Star Eaters Delight arriving in April, this week Lael shared the first single from it, I Am The River. The record’s opening track, I Am The River is a perfect convergence of progress and familiarity, on the one hand, the instrumentation, largely drum-machine and omnichord, are classic Lael Neale, yet the feel is entirely fresh, where once she sounded like a lone siren, here she becomes the life and soul of the dance floor. This isn’t a song for quiet contemplation, it’s a song for becoming a flailing mass of limbs and excitement, like the middle ground of Here We Go Magic and Ezra Furman at her most joyous, with an added sprinkling of pure post-lockdown exhilaration. As Lael sings, “remember dancing, remember magic, we are together, I am the river”, before breaking into a wordless chorus of ba-badaba-bada-bada-badum it’s like a pure release, the sound of the colour coming back into the world, like spring in the city as nightclub doors open like the first flowers of springs and we cavort back to the dancefloor’s warm embrace. Sure it didn’t actually quite play out like that, with a slow drip of normality not a grand explosion of togetherness, but doesn’t Lael Neale’s version of history sound so much better than reality, I’m happy to pretend if you are?
Star Eaters Delight is out April 21st via Sub Pop. For more information on Lael Neale visit https://linktr.ee/laelneale.
Header photo is Lael Neale by Alexandra Cabral