“Port Boys” sounds as if it has randomly landed on earth inside a glittery spaceship full of runny mascara from some far off universe where it is currently 1972. It’s a glam ballad that could sit comfortably next to David Bowie’s “Lady Stardust” or, coincidentally enough, a ballad by the guy that very song was actually written about, Marc Bolan. The sound ghosts don’t stop there as there are touches of Nick Cave and Placebo lurking in it’s DNA as well. Yes, that’s a lot of stuff to absorb but want to encourage the wonderful context it should be considered in. Theatrical, mournful and gloriously peculiar.
Caroline Kingsbury makes pop records so good they’ll get you misty. “In My Brain”, her first single release of 2019, was a beauteous, fist pumping pop anthem of the highest order. That was followed by “U Take It Back” , a glorious bit of neon tinged heartbreak that you could still dance to. Her latest “Breaking Apart” is anchored by a fat foggy drumbeat, shiny synth and may be even more perfect than the 2 aforementioned perfect tracks. It has the same emotional, widescreen feeling as Cyndi Lauper’s superb synth pop cover of “What’s Going On”, as well as some New Order-esque flourishes and soul crushing Robert Smith style lyrical heartache. It’s for driving away in tears but still feeling strong as fuck. All 3 tracks appear on Kingsbury’s new EP, also titled “Breaking Apart” and yes, it is very special.
Don’t be fooled by the delicacy on display in “Destiny”, for underneath the fluttery acoustic guitar, wandering flute and Rasmus Littauer’s (aka School of X) Jonsi-esque falsetto, exists a sentiment of genuine bitterness and frustration. It’s just delivered in the sweetest way imaginable and is ineffably pretty…and who doesn’t love a little iron fist in a velvet glove in their pop songs ?
There was a time I felt like I could hear Wheatus’s 2000 megahit “Teenage Dirtbag” in literally every song with a freakin’ guitar in it. It was bizarre. It felt like every remotely rock-ish track loudly rang with the “Dirtbag” vibe, both it’s fat riff and supremely bratty chorus. But as time has gone by, that song has been replaced and my ears now regularly hallucinate that every song is in fact Nada Surf’s 1996, (also) megahit “Popular”. And “Charlie Has the Face of a Saint”, the new single from Belfast band New Pagans did initially bring it to mind with it’s gorgeous little hook and the cynical storyline…but overall, it’s true sound foremothers are kick ass, grinding alt greats Veruca Salt and hearing that anthemic 90’s thing done this well in 2019 is an absolute treat.
Tawiah has been around a bit. She’s toured the world with Mark Ronson as his featured vocalist, guested on tracks by Blood Orange and Cinematic Orchestra (amongst others) and dating back to 2007, has released 3 EP’s under her own name. Her official debut album “Starts Again” is being released this month, finally, via First Word Records. But frankly that title is too modest a reference for what this LP actually is, namely Tawiah STARTS FOR REAL .“Recreate” is a cool beauty, craftily mixing neo-soul, and vintage Young Disciples while nodding respectfully in the direction of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm”…which is to say it’s touched by a lot of brilliant things and is as fine a piece of soul as you’re gonna hear this year.
“Music In A Mellow Mood” is a 4 LP set from 1969. Despite the fact that it’s been living in my house for several years, I have never listened to it. I found it in a box on the curb outside this record store that was closing down, which means it was my equivalent of an abandoned puppy. I couldn’t heartlessly leave it there, ignored, unloved and vulnerable to the elements. And so here it lives, leaning against a shelf, being especially mellow since it doesn’t ever come anywhere near the turntable. I’m never motivated enough to actually play it. I sometimes find myself staring it for no apparent reason. In the game of life, it’s clearly won.
The latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST is a big one. It is in fact TWO WHOLE WEEKS worth of amazing new music. It doesn’t feature as many songs as “Music In A Mellow Mood” but it does have a few of the same attributes in that it is Pleasure Programmed ™, parts of it are hypnotically mellow and some of the songs are about love being blue. But seriously, there are some real beauties in here this week, we hope you find something to steal your heart…
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Fire In Her Eyes are a young trio who sound unashamedly and brilliantly old. They’ve name checked Stevie Nicks, Erykah Badu and Grace Slick as influences. They’ve expressed admiration for the incredible disco lords Heatwave and say they wish they’d written “After The Love Has Gone”, the most glorious Earth Wind and Fire ballad ever. I only heard about them for the first time this past week after reading a lukewarm review of this, their latest single, “Presenting”. We’re not going to be lukewarm. “Presenting” is an unquestionably beautiful thing, ridiculously sophisticated, soulful and slightly psychedelic and features some pretty immaculate harmonizing. It’s a sweet mix of vintage Sugababes ( the original 3 ), Wilson Phillips, and Carole King, which is to say it’s a proper song and it’s mighty, mighty fine.
Ed Zed wants to tell you about the new single from The Cravats and we’re not gonna stop him…
The horns of glorious delirium blare once more, sounding the arrival of a blistering new single from those Dada-damaged delinquents, The Cravats.
‘Shy’ finds our boys in black injecting a dose of warped Motown into their art/anti-art punk sound, though far from being a three minute celebration of love, the track in question celebrates what it means to be a shrinking violet in a world of tall, imposing weeds.
Whilst ‘Shy’ is at once a frank admission of social reticence to which so many of us can relate, it can also be read as a sardonic swipe at the so-called ‘alpha male’ posturing that much of the world seems finally to be sick of.
The darkly psychedelic b-side ‘Good for You’ pillories the I’m-alright-Jack mentality certain members of the ‘haves’ branch of our polite society cling to so fervently – all too poignant during these increasingly desperate times.
This spectacular 7 inches of plastic is waiting to be devoured right now, in anticipation of The Cravs’ new album which drops in early 2020. Get ur freak on.
No the title is not a metaphor. This song is about actual hypothermia and is based upon a particular sub zero temperature night in the mountains Fletcher Gull suffered through. It’s a subtly delirious pop song that’s not a million miles from The Flaming Lips with an undercurrent of anxious mania running through it. Infectious, and full of hallucinatory elation, “Hypothermia” makes the act of survival sound positively joyful.
“When I’m With You (I Feel Love)” is a dizzy, lo-fi, otherworldly collage of a pop song that exudes love from it’s every corner. It’s chorus is plush, emotional and euphoric enough to be the centerpiece in a hymn book of a benevolent religious cult. Nancy describes it as “my love letter to the people I meet in my dreams at night” which is to say mission accomplished, perfectly.