5. Kindsight Want To Break Free
Darlings of the Copenhagen indie scene, Kindsight released one of my favourite albums of last year in the shape of their Rama Lama Records released debut, Swedish Punk. A busy 2023 for the band is already underway, as they prepare to head over the Atlantic to perform at SXSW. Celebrating the occasion this week the band shared their first material since Swedish Punk, their fabulous new single, Madhouse Breakout Multitool.
Madhouse Breakout Multitool has a somewhat unusual inspiration, as the band explain it, “concerns the true story of two siblings boarding up their house somewhere in the Danish countryside to keep safe from a breakout at the local madhouse...a bygone age when such places could be escaped”. The track opens with a squall, and then an ominous guitar line which accompanies the unashamedly chilling opening line, “my keys could be a weapon…to you”. From there the paranoia never seems to let up, the track despite its lightness of touch and bright guitars, plays out like a horror film, the backing vocals chiming out, “if someone follows you home, you won’t be on your own”, with all the menace of a hellhound on your trail. That sense of unease is mirrored in the stop-start nature of the music, which seems to break down and rebuild at will, bringing to mind the wiry instability of Mothers or Neighbor Lady. Their big break might not have come just yet, but Kindsight show no signs of getting disheartened. When you sound this consistently good, frankly, why wouldn’t you believe your best days are still ahead of you?
Madhouse Breakout Multitool is out now via Rama Lama Records. For more information on Kindsight visit https://linktr.ee/kindsight.kindsight.
4. The Reds, Pinks & Purples Are Out To Break The Curse
I could have nearly dedicated this entire article to Slumberland Records, after they put out a string of stonking singles last week, from the likes of The Laughing Chimes, Chime School and my favourite of the lot, The Reds, Pinks & Purple’s latest offering. That single, The Town That Cursed Your Name, is the title track of the band’s upcoming fifth album, due later this month as a joint release with Tough Love.
As with so much of the music that Glenn Donaldson makes as The Reds, Pinks & Purples, The Town That Cursed Your Name bristles with his love and knowledge of the indie music world. As he explains the track explores how, “when you get involved in music, mostly the world wants you to fail...so it’s better to appreciate moments of joy in the practice space or at the weird gig you played for 10 people”. While still heavy on the gorgeously jangling guitars, the track seems to showcase a more direct side to The Red, Pinks & Purples, as the steady drumbeat and percussive organ chords propel the song forward in a way The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart or even The Walkmen would be proud. Atop it all Glenn flickers rapidly between the difficulties and joys of making music, bringing to mind similar themes to Jeffrey Lewis’ Exactly What Nobody Wanted, as he notes for all the failed record labels, breakthroughs that never happened and bad reviews, “to hear the sound you made was everything, it was everything”. The whole of this new record is a celebration of making music and the contrasting struggles that come with it, in Glenn’s own words, “a song cycle about trying to live while also feeling called to make music”, that might sound a little self-involved, yet with Glenn’s wry wit and generosity he has found a way to invite us in to see the world through his ever intriguing eyes.
The Town That Cursed Your Name is out March 24th via Slumberland / Tough Love. For more information on The Reds, Pinks & Purples visit https://linktr.ee/glenndonaldson.
3. Joanna Sternberg Just Gets Me
The world last heard from Joanna Sternberg back in 2019 around the release of their acclaimed album, Then I Try Some More. Four years on Joanna is fresh from signing to Fat Possum and has this week announced their new album I’ve Got Me, which will arrive this June. The album was written on the 40th floor of a Manhattan tower block, and then recorded and mixed closer to ground level over six days at Brooklyn’s Strange Weather Studios with producer Matt Sweeney. Ahead of the release, this week they shared the first taste of the record, in the shape of the album’s opening number, and title track, I’ve Got Me.
I’ve Got Me is a fine introduction to a record that is formed strikingly in its creator’s own image, with Joanna performing every single instrument themself. Although unsure if they wrote it before or after reading the poem, Joanna notes it shares a similar sentiment to Charles Bukowski’s Oh Yes, a poem they have tattooed on their arm. Lyrically the track is honest, to point of near brutality, noting how, “all my faults and flaws and lies Are no one’s fault but mine between self-hatred and self-awareness is a very small thin line”, before admonishing themself for their own self-loathing, “why is it so hard to be kind and gentle to myself? Take the box of self-deprecation, lock it and put it on the shelf”. Musically, the track is a perfect slice of anti-folk, bringing to mind the likes of Kimya Dawson or Daniel Johnston, with rapid muted guitar chords and occasional pulses of upright bass, the simplicity belying the quality of the playing that has the sort of wonderful swing to it that Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli would be proud of. For a song that touches heavily on a theme of self-deprecation, I’ve Got Me sounds surprisingly confident, a song writ large with the sound of a songwriter who’s growing into something special, keep this up and the world might just cotton on to Joanna Sternberg’s talent even if they never do.
I’ve Got Me is out June 30th via Fat Possum. For more information on Joanna Sternberg visit https://www.joannasternberg.com/.
2. Benedict Benjamin’s Music Is Just White Noise
It was all the way back in 2016 that Benedict Benjamin last appeared on these pages around the release of his excellent debut album, Night Songs. Three years later he shared his second record Truant, and since then, well nothing much. All that changed last month when he returned with his new music in four years, Furlough Blues, lifted from the upcoming album, Tunnel, due out in June. Ahead of the release, this week Benedict shared the second track to be lifted from the record, White Noise
Tunnel was written and recorded at home during the pandemic, while, “listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg and Elliot Smith”, and deprived of any collaborators. The result is an entirely different approach for Ben, who created rhythm tracks by sampling drum solos from old jazz records, creating a sound that blurs the lines of modern and timeless. It’s not just the music that exists at a tipping point, White Noise’s inspiration also came from one, the line between hope and despair as Ben explains the lyrics are about, “the frustration of thinking that maybe this or that moment would be the tipping point when the world might be headed in a more progressive direction but then all that energy somehow or another seems to get countered, things remain the same and I feel naïve for letting myself hope”. Musically, this is something of a departure from the more traditional folk sounds of Ben’s previous output, the playful rhythm tracks adorned with rolling tumbles of bass and the flourish of organs imbued with an almost North African quality, like the middle ground of Grizzly Bear and Tinariwen. Atop it all Ben’s vocal is a masterclass in restrained anger letting, the repeated refrain, “it’s all noise until someone starts singing from the heart” becoming a mantra to open your spirit to the possibility of better times still to come, even if it’s difficult to do so. It might have come from a place of necessity yet this change of approach seems to be working wonders for Benedict Benjamin, this is the sound of a huge talent coming good, and ready for the world to fall in love with his fantastically creative new sound.
Tunnel is out June 9th. For more information on Benedict Benjamin visit http://www.benedictbenjamin.com/.
1. Zelma Stone Is Dancing With The Stars
Sometimes the return of an artist feels like embracing an old friend, and that was definitely the case this week with the welcome return of Zelma Stone. The project of former Bay Area resident Chloe Zelma Studebaker, now based out of Los Angeles, Zelma Stone appeared in my EPs of the year list in successive years courtesy of 2020’s Dreamland and 2021’s The Best. Since then Chloe has been working on new material, and with much more planned for later in the year, this week shared her latest single, A Dance.
A Dance was written in the heart of the pandemic-induced lockdowns, before being brought to life later at Altamira Sound studios with the help of producer Carly Bond. A song full of questions, it touches on a topic Chloe has regularly explored in her music, grief, yet here she seems to, “zoom out of my personal experience and view loss and sadness through a more collective and universal perspective“. The title is lifted from the idea of a society where experience is only shown through movement, “if everyone had a dance to tell their life story, each performance would be extremely emotional and chaotic yet still beautiful”. The mood of the music is a perfect match for the song’s themes, Chloe’s voice starts almost withdrawn and guarded, only gradually opening up as the percussive rattle and rich flourishes of slide-guitar swell around her and she sings, “are you okay? Are you alright? I thought you had it all worked out last time”. The song doesn’t reach a crescendo so much as it just continues to swell throughout, like a pair of lungs taking a gargantuan gulp of air, without ever letting it go. The whole thing becomes looser and more delightfully ragged, the guitars riffing freely and the vocals becoming yelped and pleading, before it can sustain it no longer and the whole thing collapses in on itself. There’s a visceral quality here, the sense of a musician playing straight from the heart, letting her emotions flow out through her fingers on frets and the physical vibrations of her vocal cords. A welcome return from a songwriting favourite, who just seems to get better with every new release.
A Dance is out now. For more information on Zelma Stone visit https://linktr.ee/zelmastone.
Header photo is Zelma Stone by Westley Werner.