5. Crooks & Nannies Are Up Till The Wee Small Hours
Crooks & Nannies are the West Philadelphia duo of Madel Rafter and Sam Huntington. Friends and collaborators since they were in high school together, six years on from their last album, Ugly Laugh, the band ended 2022 on a high sharing the stage with Rubblebucket and touring with Lucy Dacus. 2023 has seen them pick up where they left off, with the January release of their new EP, No Fun. This week they shared their new, “emo-meets-disco” single, 3am.
Described by the band as, “a spiritual companion”, to No Fun track Sorry, 3am explores themes of community and anger, in particular the need to direct it towards someone other than yourself as Sam explains, “I hear myself struggling to stay afloat — grasping frantically for confidence in the face of what felt, at the time, like an impossibly hostile world…The anger and frustration I had been directing inward was beginning to shift towards a more deserving — if incredibly vague — target: the world in general, with all of it’s cruelties and injustices“. Musically, the track is a fascinating amalgam of ideas, starting off like an articulate emo song in the mould of Jonny Foreigner or flirting., before taking an arresting turn into a squawking saxophone vs trumpet honk off (with trumpet courtesy of Madel’s dad John Rafter), plenty of cowbell and everything that made indie dancefloors in the early noughties so thrillingly unhinged. Ultimately 3am is a song about the process of change, moving from isolation into accepting the help of the wider community, of finding people worth caring for and from that learning to care for yourself, as they sing, “I wanna take how mad I get and make it into something good”, and yes this is something very good indeed.
No Fun is out now via Grand Jury Music. For more information on Crooks & Nannies visit https://linktr.ee/crooksandnannies.
4. Born Again Virgin Is Coming To Town
It’s been a few years now since I last featured Born Again Virgin, aka Texas-born songwriter Anna Roenigk, that was around the release of her single Spider In The Snow, which came out via the much-missed My Little Empire Records. Since then Anna has relocated across the Atlantic making a new home in London and returned to released music in September last year with the excellent single King Of The World. With plans for a longer release currently being put into fruition, this week Anna shared the latest Born Again Virgin single, This Town Isn’t Shit Without You.
While sharing her dislike of earnest music, Anna does acknowledge that quality in This Town Isn’t Shit Without You, the track was written back in 2018, a time when her friends and family were scattered around the globe, leaving her feeling lonely in Austin. While the instinct in that situation might be towards self-pity, instead Anna looked outward, exploring the gratitude she felt for the people in her life, “even if they aren’t “here” at the moment”. There’s something of Leonard Cohen in the gentle guitar flourish that starts the track, before Anna’s vocal arrives, unashamedly straight-talking with a charming melding of gratitude and just a touch of aching sadness, “when I’m spinning out, crying on the phone, you leave me crying from laughing and feeling a little less alone”. Earnest perhaps, yet what really shines here is honesty, with little more than a guitar and a dusting of piano notes for accompaniment, Born Again Virgin lays it all on the line, finding the universal in the personal and creating something that’s sure to resonate with anyone who gives it their ear.
This Town Isn’t Shit Without You is out now. For more information on Born Again Virgin visit https://linktr.ee/bornagainvirgin
3. Joanna Sternberg Scales New Heights
A Joanna Sternberg release is always a treat, not least for the opportunity to look at their fabulously illustrated artwork and videos, of course, it helps that the music is absolutely brilliant too. Joanna appeared on these pages last month as they announced their signing to Fat Possum, and the June release of a new collection, I’ve Got Me. This week Joanna shares the second taste of the record, in the shape of their new single, Mountains High.
Discussing the inspiration behind Mountains High, Joanna recalls how it was inspired by trying to be too many things at once, as they explored teaching, their own music, other people’s music, visual art and babysitting, “the song is about being so busy and so tired while schlepping around NYC and anxiously obsessively ruminating“. Musically, the track marks something of a change for Joanna, taking them to the piano, coming across like the middle ground of Schroeder from Charlie Brown and Joanna Newsom. Lyrically, Mountains High falls somewhere between collapsing into tear-soaked exhaustion and keeping your chin up to the sky, “all I can do is try when climbing mountains high, all I can do is try, try not to cry, on mountains high”. It might have been written in a 40th-floor apartment, yet if I’ve Got Me has its head in the clouds, its heart is at ground level, reaching out to all, sharing Joanna’s vulnerabilities, talents and truest self with anyone who needs it, this is an album shaping up to be very special indeed.
I’ve Got Me is out June 30th via Fat Possum. For more information on Joanna Sternberg visit https://www.joannasternberg.com/.
2. Do I Like Big Blood? 1000 Times Yes
Now having lived through the Oasis years, I’m used to bandmates being rude about one another, yet Big Blood’s Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella are really going in hard. Asked to describe how it is having their daughter, Quinnisa, in the band they note, “She can be a real pain in the ass”, but they don’t stop there. If you’re picturing the idyllic life of the family band, stumbling around the piano together sharing a tune, well just stop, “if you don’t have kids, I can imagine that is an obvious assumption”, Caleb says, “however, if you do have children, I don’t need to explain how much of an emotional mess this can be”. Still despite how awful being in a band with your family apparently is, the Portland, Maine band have still found time to write a new record, First Aid Kit and this week shared the first single from it, 1000 Times.
Quinnisa may have been just thirteen when the album was recorded, but it’s nothing new for a musician who has been in recording studios pretty much as long as she’s been alive, and it is there that she shines, Caleb noting how she is, “a complete pro…a lot more reliable than her grumpy parents”. Here Quinnisa takes centre stage with her stunning vocal delivery and improvised lyrics dissecting the ancient art of teenage ennui for the modern age, “I see you at least 1000 times a day, I can’t even say hi, what’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong with me”. It’s all set to a brilliant timeless pop song, steady pounding drums, wavering keyboards and an absolutely fantastic bass line somehow simultaneously channelling the spirit of both Low and The Ronettes, and making that seem like the most natural melding of influences ever. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “in family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony”, so even if her parents do have a habit of kicking their daughter out of the band most practices, Big Blood’s family band is something to cherish because, after all, there’s nothing quite like family.
First Aid Kit is out June 9th via Feeding Tube / Ba Da Bing. For more information on Big Blood visit https://dontrustheruin.bandcamp.com/.
1. You’ll Have Holiday Ghosts On Repeat
Today marks the next statement of intent in the ever-intriguing back catalogue of Falmouth-turned-Brighton garage-rockers, Holiday Ghosts. Following on from last year’s excellent cost-of-living-soundtracking EP, Credit Note, today the band share their brand new album, Absolute Reality, a record of social commentary in the post-truth era. With the band currently on a mammoth UK tour, this week they shared one final taster of the album at large, their new single Again and Again.
Described by guitarist Ben Nightingale as, “an ode to naïveté and the trials and tribulations that often plague those who dance blindfolded in snake pits”, Again and Again is an exploration of the moment when your worldview grows and the blinkers fall off to reveal things are much more complicated than you initially thought. The track falls at the beautiful moment of progress and familiarity. The rapid garage-jangle remains, yet there’s an added swagger, showcasing their love for the New Wave/No Wave crossover, foregoing the South Coast, this sounds like New York in the 1970s, only with a British accent. Urgent and exciting, Holiday Ghosts might be four albums in but they remain as thrillingly fresh as ever, and that well-deserved break-out moment is surely bound to come their way.
Absolute Reality is out today via Fatcat Records. For more information on Holiday Ghosts visit https://linktr.ee/holidayghosts.
Header photo is Holiday Ghosts by Johnny Griffiths.