Arooj Aftab is a GRAMMY® nominated, Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer, songwriter and vocalist. Her liminal sound floats between classical minimalism and new age, Sufi devotional poetry and electronic trance, jazz structures and states of pure being. Aftab’s latest offering, Vulture Prince, has been praised in President Barack Obama’s Summer Playlist, best releases of 2021 lists by The Guardian, Pitchfork, Uncut, 6Music, NPR, TIME, Songlines Magazine and has received unprecedented critical acclaim.
Born in Ipswich, England to a military father and opera-singer mother Bartees Leon Cox Jr. had a peripatetic early childhood before eventually settling in Mustang, Oklahoma. Later, Bartees cut his teeth playing in hardcore bands in Washington D.C. and Brooklyn whilst working in the Barack Obama administration and (eventually) the environmental movement. Since charting a path as a solo artist, Bartees Strange has released two records in quick succession: an EP reimagining songs by The National (Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy, 2020) and his debut album proper Live Forever (2020).
On new song “Heavy Heart,” Bartees is letting go of the guilt he has felt for years; guilt for his father’s sacrifices to build a better future for his family; guilt for the recent passing of his grandfather; guilt for the time he spends on tour and away from his partner; guilt for experiencing success while everyone else in his life was suffering after the release of Live Forever during the first year of the pandemic. Relinquishing those feelings Bartees is hoping to move forward and towards an optimistic future – celebrating the wins even when life can be heavy and hard. The first hint of new music in two years, the single is accompanied by visuals directed by Missy Dabice who places Bartees front and center. Echoing many of the themes of “Heavy Heart,” Bartees also proudly wears his father and grandfather’s clothes as a tribute to them.
Azniv Korkejian became a breakout artist in 2017 when her meticulous, self-titled debut Bedouine seemed to open a window in time. With striking, direct vocals and simple guitar accompaniment, her folk songs are not so much lullabies as they are imbued with the same loving focus a mother adopts while singing to a child. Immediately dubbed “a modern folk masterpiece” by Fader and praised as a “future legend” by The New York Times, Bedouine’s songs channel the mysticism of the ‘60s, always undercut by her utterly modern songwriting.
Expanding into the cheeky sophomore effort Bird Songs Of A Killjoy in 2019, Korkejian proved she can craft tracks with versatility and humor as well as perform the gentle and reflective. Repeatedly tapped to support modern folk heroes like Fleet Foxes, Waxahatchee, Kevin Morby, and Father John Misty on tour, witnessing a live performance from Bedouine feels like a sacred thing, a beautiful secret passed among friends. “[She’s] the sort of musician one will later wish to have seen back when,” The Times further declared.
After the lockdown in 2020 led to a canceled stint supporting Mandy Moore, Korkejian began working at home in a newly-designated music room, sifting through old demos and one-offs. Unconsciously, at first, she spent the year in isolation readying what would become Waysides, a collection of older material and a cover that she’s playfully dubbed “LP 2.5.” Given that intimate, in-between feeling, the project will be Bedouine’s first self-release, and it summarizes her creative headspace over the last year and a half, tying together many songwriting threads that act as a prologue of sorts. With more time to focus on the other aspects of self-release, Azniv has been fully involved with the entire scope of the project, from production, to marketing, to video editing, and of course, the songwriting, vocals, and instrumentation.
Waysides represents a moment of reflection and reset for an artist who is still very much exploring the full expression of her sound. Slated for release this coming fall, Korkejian remembers the feeling of “sitting on a mountain of music, a pile of songs” as part of the inspiration for pursuing a self-release. “I’ve enjoyed leaning in and demystifying the process a bit,” she said of releasing an album independently. “For one reason or another, these songs didn't make the records, and I dont think it’s because they're not good enough. I didn’t want to sweep them under the rug, but I also didn’t want to continue to pick from this reservoir. So I created a space for them. It feels like spring cleaning, letting go to start anew. It already feels like a stepping stone to the next record.”
In that sense, Waysides shares DNA with the likes of Tom Waits’ Orphans, the lack of connection between the songs is the throughline that holds them together. Sonically though, the album is more akin to the simple layers of vocals and guitar on Adrianne Lenker’s 2020 release songs, even if Azniv insists she cultivates more of “a beginner’s mind” when it comes to guitar. “The luxury of time afforded this whole album,” she explained. “It feels like going back in time, uncovering little capsules. I don’t think I would ever get to do this if I hadn’t had the time during the pandemic. It was my sliver of silver in all this mess and gave me some purpose.”
Produced and recorded on her own and with Gus Seyffert in Filipinotown and Yucca Valley, Waysides includes appearances from Mike Andrews, who played guitar and mandolin on album standout “This Machine,” Josh Adams on drums, Gabriel Noel on strings for “I Don’t Need The Light,” additional instrumentation from Seyffert across the project, and Azniv on piano, organ, vocals, guitar, and drums (solely on “Sonnet 104”). Some of the songs contain splices of old recordings with new sections added and old fuzz removed, though most of the songs were started by Azniv alone, in the new music room. The ensuing project is a patchwork quilt, co-produced by Korkejian and Seyffert, her long-time collaborator, together. The songs are sentimental, yes, but also reflect a certain level of sparseness due to the context of last year’s necessary isolation.
Anchored by the lead single, “The Wave,” Bedouine once again reveals her uncanny ability to explore the surreal poetics of grief. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “It Wasn’t Me” hints at a rather Shakespearan comedy of errors; this track speaks to the ephemeral nature of intimate connections, all the little mechanisms that have to go right for love to work. “This Machine” is a message about perseverance and self-preservation after the dissolution of young love, and in a different vein, “I Don’t Need The Light” explores the relief of making peace with depression, rather than engaging in the exhaustive process of fighting it off.
The sole cover, a take on Fleetwood Mac “Songbird” is a summary of this past year for Azniv: “This song represents this past year in a way. Such an abundance of time that I’ve been able to learn different covers, and this was an important song to me around the same time some of these songs were written. It’s taken on a new meaning and seems to bridge then and now.” The album is a distillation of an artist coming-of-age, grappling with the essential experiences that make a young person grow wiser, and the complicated emotions that most of us have been facing during this global crisis, and even before it began.
Born in Aleppo, Syria into an Armenian family, Korkejian spent time in Saudi Arabia before her family won the green card lottery and moved to the US, living in places as disparate as Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Houston, Texas. Attending the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and receiving a BFA in Sound Design, she finally settled in Los Angeles and began to pursue a career as a music editor, working on film and TV projects.
In between her working hours, Azniv began writing songs on guitar, mostly as a leisure activity, until the intermittent jamming turned serious. Armed with live versions of her bare bones songs, she began recording her debut completely on analog tape with her abovementioned frequent collaborator Gus Seyffert. The pair developed a creative relationship that was evident on her first album — even more so after its rapturous reception, and demand for the quick, equally well-received follow-up.
Evoking comparisons to savants like Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton, Bedouine has become synonymous with the best songwriters of the last few decades, an artist revered among her peers whose work is treasured by her fans — and all those who recognize a precious and rare gift when they hear it. If Waysides is clearing space for the next phase of Bedouine’s unfolding, then it’s a welcome gift... and a sign of things to come.
Superstar is an underdog story, and one not far off from Caroline Rose’s real life. After a years-long struggle to release what would ultimately become 2018’s LONER, deemed “a singular artistic statement from it’s unforgettable album art all the way down” (Pitchfork), Rose found herself in the midst of a new widespread audience, one both delightfully intrigued and perplexed about how and where to place her. That, combined with a developed set of studio skills and a challenge to “make something from nothing,” marked the beginning of Superstar. Gone are the polished Hollywood hunks and starlets of olde. Here is a shamelessly odd hero, or rather anti-hero, on a quest to become a someone.
Inspired by cult classics such as The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Mulholland Drive and the mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous, Superstar plays out like a film with a beginning, middle, and an open ending. In album opener “Nothing’s Impossible,” the protagonist receives a mistaken phone call from the glamorous Chateau Marmont hotel. Taking the call as a sign toward a star-studded future, they (gender neutral pronoun) leave behind everything in pursuit of a newly established destiny.
What ensues is a cinematic paradox that in one moment finds them strutting down a neon strip in full Saturday Night Fever hip-swing donned in their finest threads, and the next sipping a dirty martini at the rundown apartment complex pool, dwelling on life’s unfortunate turns. It’s a narrative Rose pulled directly from the somewhat shameless desires of her own growing ambition, as well as the public breakdowns of several notable celebrities. “To me, the satire is in what we’ll do and put up with in order to be successful. I wanted to make a story out of those parts of myself that are for the most part undesirable, then inject them with steroids.”
Rose worked on the album in order of the story’s timeline, ensuring each track represented a chapter of the narrative in her head. Songs bursting with self-aggrandizement often reveal moments of vulnerability. “Feel The Way I Want” leads us with boisterous confidence through heartache by refusing to let pain get the best of us. Disguised as a Prince-infused bop, “Do You Think We’ll Last Forever?” expresses the uncertainty and anxiety that come with seeing a new partner, ending in a full blown freakout of bottled up nervous energy. The S&M-fueled love song “Freak Like Me” and the darkly comedic “Command Z” ultimately expose a fragile person coming to terms with their own humanity. Rose sings, “I looked around at all the people there / as I thought everyone we know will know will someday be dead / God, I just don’t want it to end / Undo, I’m gonna do it again”.
Rose began formulating the songs and ideas for a sequel-esque follow-up to LONER in between the band’s near-incessant touring schedule, from playing sold out headline shows across the country and beyond, to becoming fan favorites at some of the world’s biggest festivals. “Two years ago I started touring with nothing, not knowing if I’d even have a career. Then all of a sudden we were playing to hundreds of people in a town I’d never heard of. The whole thing was fascinating. It got me thinking, just how much can you build from nothing?” As a result, Superstar was written, recorded and produced by Rose in her 10’x12’ home studio, as well as on a portable rig she’d set up in green rooms while on tour.
Superstar is a bigger, badder, glitter-filled cinematic pop record for weirdos. “I realized at some point that I’m not going to fit into any one box, and maybe that’s a good thing. This new record is me embracing feeling like an outsider making my own path,” Rose says. One part satire, one part self-reflection, Rose’s anti-hero personifies much of what we as casual on-lookers are wont to poke fun at, dismiss or denigrate, yet deep down likely aspire to be. Someone who, whether warranted or not, refuses to let anyone dictate their own life’s narrative.
In the hands of Courtney Barnett, fragments of everyday life become rich and riveting. A deft lyricist and virtuosic guitarist, she is an emblem of millennial wit and one of Australia’s most successful musical exports.
Based for much of her adult life in Melbourne, Barnett first found critical acclaim with 2013’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, and broke into the mainstream in 2015 with her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Garnering a coveted Best New Artist Grammy nomination and numerous other accolades, the album stands as a generational classic. Barnett followed her debut with 2017’s Lotta Sea Lice, an acclaimed collaborative record with Kurt Vile, and eschewed the vignettes of her early records on 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, her humid, political sophomore record, which featured the Margaret Atwood-invoking single “Nameless, Faceless”.
Barnett is also a powerhouse live act, playing slots at festivals including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Governor’s Ball, Primavera, and Lollapalooza. In 2022, Barnett will embark upon 15 dates across North America as part of her self curated touring festival ‘Here And There’, with a rotating line-up featuring many of the most exciting songwriters in music today.
Raised a backwoods churchgoer in the deep south, “Ethel Cain’s sound defies definition [straddling] a line between alternative rock, folk, pop, and even country” (Billboard). After single handedly writing, producing and mixing her EP Inbred from the basement of a church in Indiana, it was released last year to critical acclaim, receiving overwhelming support from Pitchfork, Paper Mag, The FADER, Line Of Best Fit, NPR, Billboard, NYLON, Vice, Zane Lowe, Youtube, Soundcloud, and Tidal. Serving as Spotify’s first ever transgender EQUAL ambassador, Cain is proud to represent her community in celebration of International Women’s Day this year alongside Spotify in connection with their Created By Women program.
Described by Paper Magazine as “tortured and horrifically cool,” Cain is also the architect behind the gritty, haunting visuals that have amassed her loyal, growing fanbase. “With her pop hooks and her visceral world-building, it’s not hard to imagine Cain’s real-world musical cult only getting bigger and more ambitious” (Pitchfork). Her highly anticipated debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, will release May 12th.
Faye Webster loves the feeling of a first take: writing a song, then heading to the studio with her band to track it live the very next day. When you listen to the 23-year-old Atlanta songwriter’s poised and plainspoken albums, you can hear why: she channels emotions that are so aching, they seem to be coming into existence at that very moment. Webster captures the spark before it has a chance to fade; she inks lyrics before they have a chance to seem fleeting. Her signature sound pairs close, whisper-quiet, home-recorded vocals with the unmistakable sound of musicians together in a room.
I Know I’m Funny haha is Webster’s most realized manifestation yet of this emotional and musical alchemy. Continuing to bloom from her 2019 breakthrough and Secretly Canadian debut Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster’s sound draws as much from the lap-steel singer-songwriter pop of the 1970s and teardrop country tunes as it does from the audacious personalities of her city’s rap and R&B community, where she first found a home on Awful Records.
In the two years since Atlanta Millionaire Club, Webster’s profile has steadily risen—as she played festivals like Austin City Limits, Pitchfork, Governors Ball and Bonnaroo and found her way onto none other than Barack Obama’s 2020 year-end list—and she also fell in love. “This record is coming from a less lonely place,” Webster says of I Know I’m Funny haha, which finds her sound fuller, brighter, and more confident.
Hana Vu writes songs from her bedroom in Los Angeles. She signed to Ghostly International in 2021, leading to the announcement of her full-length debut, Public Storage.
Vu's relationship with music began when she picked up a guitar her dad had lying around and taught herself to play. She'd wake up every day and listen to LA's ALT 98.7, home to '90s and '00s alternative rock; later in high school, she found the local DIY scene. She remembers, "A lot of my peer musicians were surf rock/punk type bands and so I tried to fit into that when I was gigging around. But what I was listening to at that time [St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens] was very different from what I performed."
In 2014, at age 14, she started keeping a journal of bedroom pop experiments on Bandcamp. Her sound — brooding, melodic pop driven by guitar and Vu's distinctive contralto — developed across a series of self-releases, including a low-key Willow Smith collaboration and covers of The Cure and Phil Collins. Her 2018 single "Crying on the Subway" caught the ear of Gorilla vs. Bear, who released Vu's self-produced debut EP, How Many Times Have You Driven By, on their Luminelle Recordings imprint. Early coverage came from Pitchfork, NME, and The Fader, the latter playfully declaring, "the seventeen-year-old is cooler than you and me." She followed it up with a double EP in 2019 on Luminelle titled Nicole Kidman / Anne Hathaway.
As a live performer, Vu has supported the likes of Soccer Mommy, Sales, Nilufer Yanya, Wet, Kilo Kish, and Phantogram. 2021 LP Public Storage marks her first release with Ghostly and her first time working with a co-producer, Jackson Phillips (Day Wave).
“Everything has to be said.” This is the conviction guiding Indigo De Souza’s sophomore album, Any Shape You Take. This dynamic record successfully creates a container for the full spectrum—pushing through and against every emotion: “I wanted this album to give a feeling of shifting with and embracing change. These songs came from a turbulent time when I was coming to self-love through many existential crises and shifts in perspective.”
Faithful to its name, Any Shape You Take changes form to match the tenor of each story it tells. “The album title is a nod to the many shapes I take musically. I don’t feel that I fully embody any particular genre—all of the music just comes from the universe that is my ever-shifting brain/heart/world,” says Indigo. This sonic range is unified by Indigo’s strikingly confessional and effortless approach to songwriting, a signature first introduced in her debut, self-released LP, I Love My Mom. Written in quick succession, Indigo sees these two records as companion pieces, both distinct but in communion with each other: “Many of the songs on these two records came from the same season in my life and a certain version of myself which I feel much further from now.”
Throughout Any Shape You Take, Indigo reflects on her relationships as she reckons with a deeper need to redefine how to fully inhabit spaces of love and connection.“It feels so important for me to see people through change. To accept people for the many shapes they take, whether those shapes fit into your life or not. This album is a reflection of that. I have undergone so much change in my life and I am so deeply grateful to the people who have seen me through it without judgment and without attachment to skins I’m shifting out of.”
Lead single “Kill Me,” written during the climax of a dysfunctional relationship, opens with the lines “Kill me slowly/ Take me with you.” This powerful plea, that begins within the quiet strum of a single electric guitar, is diffused by Indigo’s ironic apathy—a slacker rock nonchalance that refuses to take itself seriously: “I was really tired and fucked up from this relationship and simultaneously so deeply in love with that person in a special way that felt very vast and more real than anything I’d ever experienced.”
Across the table from that irreverence sits the sincerity of the single “Hold U,” a more energized, neo soul-inspired love song that substitutes apathy for a genuine expression of care. “I wrote ‘Hold U’ after I left that heavy season of my life and was learning how to love more simply and functionally. I wanted to write a love song that was painfully simple.”
Growing up in a conservative small town in the mountains of North Carolina, Indigo started playing guitar when she was nine years old. “Music was a natural occurrence in my life. My dad is a bossa nova guitarist and singer from Brazil and so I think I just had it in my blood from birth.” It wasn’t until moving to Asheville, NC that Indigo began to move into her current sound, developing a writing practice that feeds from the currents that surround her: “Sometimes it feels like I am soaking up the energies of people around me and making art from a space that is more a collective body than just my own.”
“Real Pain,” one of the most experimental tracks on the record, is Indigo’s attempt to make that phenomena more intentionally collaborative. Starting soft before dropping down into a cavernous pit of layered screams and cries, “Real Pain” collages the voices of strangers—audio bites Indigo received after posting online asking for “screams, yells and anything else.” “Hearing these voices join together and move with my own was really powerful. The whole record was a release for me. And I hope it can be that for others.”
At the forefront of all De Souza’s projects is her magnetism—her unique quality of spirit that is both buoyant and wise. While her backing band has undergone shifts between releases, her sound has stayed tethered to her vision. Any Shape You Take is the first full-length album that Indigo produced herself. Teaming up with executive producer Brad Cook(Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, The War on Drugs) and engineers/producers Alex Farrar and Adam McDaniel, Indigo recorded the album at Betty’s, Sylvan Esso’s studio in Chapel Hill, NC and finished it with additional production and mixing at Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville. Moving past the limitations of a home studio, Indigo could finally embody the full reach of her sound: “It felt really exciting to lean into my pop tendencies more than I have in the past and to trust my intuition to take the songs where I felt they should go. I had the tools to do it and collaborators who were willing to go there with me.”
“I feel very much like a shape-shifter with my music, I’m always trying to embody a balance between the existential weight and the overflowing sense of love I feel in the world.” It is exactly this balance that Indigo strikes in her Saddle Creek debut, Any Shape You Take. A listening experience that gives back, as you shed and shape-shift along with her.
Any Shape You Take is out on August 27th via Saddle Creek.
From the moment she began writing her new album, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner knew that she wanted to call it Jubilee. After all, a jubilee is a celebration of the passage of time—a festival to usher in the hope of a new era in brilliant technicolor. Zauner’s first two albums garnered acclaim for the way they grappled with anguish; Psychopomp was written as her mother underwent cancer treatment, while Soft Sounds From Another Planet took the grief she held from her mother‘s death and used it as a conduit to explore the cosmos. Now, at the start of a new decade, Japanese Breakfast is ready to fight for happiness, an all-too-scarce resource in our seemingly crumbling world.
Jubilee was released by Dead Oceans in June and quickly became one of the mostpraised albums of 2021, earning a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Alternative Music Album” alongside the band’s GRAMMY nomination for “Best New Artist.”
2021 also saw Zauner release the widely lauded, New York Times Best Selling memoir, Crying in H Mart, which she’s currently adapting for the screen for MGM’s Orion Pictures. Crying in H Mart is an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. She also released the original soundtrack to the anticipated video game Sable, which Entertainment Weekly compared to David Bowie’s 1977 masterwork Low and Pitchfork said is “a streamlined glimpse into her versatility as a narrative artist.”
The second full-length album from Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, Crushing embodies every possible meaning of its title word. It’s an album formed from sheer intensity of feeling, an in-the-moment narrative of heartbreak and infatuation. And with her storytelling centered on bodies and crossed boundaries and smothering closeness, Crushing reveals how our physical experience of the world shapes and sometimes distorts our inner lives.
“This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like I never had any space of my own,” says the Melbourne-based artist. “For a long time I felt like my head was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B, and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.”
The follow-up to her 2016 debut Don’t Let the Kids Win, Crushing finds Jacklin continually acknowledging what’s expected of her, then gracefully rejecting those expectations. As a result, the album invites self-examination and a possible shift in the listener’s way of getting around the world—an effect that has everything to do with Jacklin’s openness about her own experience.
“I used to be so worried about seeming demanding that I’d put up with anything, which I think is common—you want to be chill and cool, but it ends up taking so much of your emotional energy,” says Jacklin. “Now I’ve gotten used to calling out things I’m not okay with, instead of just burying my feelings to make it easier on everyone. I’ve realized that in order to keep the peace, you have to speak up for yourself and say what you really want.”
Produced by Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, The Drones) and recorded at The Grove Studios (a bushland hideaway built by INXS’ Garry Gary Beers), Crushing sets Jacklin’s understated defiance against a raw yet luminous sonic backdrop. “In all the songs, you can hear every sound from every instrument; you can hear my throat and hear me breathing,” she says. “It was really important to me that you can hear everything for the whole record, without any studio tricks getting in the way.”
On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out a mesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composed portrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the room with Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as “Body” wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushing as an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.
From there, Crushing shifts into the slow-building urgency of “Head Alone,” a pointed and electrifying anthem of refusal (sample lyric: “I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine”). “As a woman, in my case as a touring musician, the way you’re touched is different from your male bandmates—by strangers and by those close to you,” notes Jacklin. On the full-tilt, harmony-spiked “Pressure to Party,” she pushes toward another form of emotional freedom. “When you come out of a relationship, there’s so much pressure to act a certain way,” says Jacklin. “First it’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta take some time for yourself’…but then if you take too much time it’s, ‘You’ve gotta get back out there!’ That song is just my three-minute scream, saying I’m going to do what I need to do, when I need to do it.” Crushing also shows Jacklin’s autonomy on songs like “Convention,” an eye-rolling dismissal of unsolicited advice, presented in elegantly sardonic lyrics (“I can tell you won’t sleep well, if you don’t teach me how to do it right”).
Elsewhere on Crushing, Jacklin brings her exacting reflection to songs on loss. With its transportive harmonies and slow-burning guitar solo, “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” ponders the heartache in fading affection (“I want your mother to stay friends with mine/I want this feeling to pass in time”). Meanwhile, on “Turn Me Down”—an idiosyncratically arranged track embedded with hypnotic guitar tones—Jacklin gives an exquisitely painful glimpse at unrequited devotion (“He took my hand, said I see a bright future/I’m just not sure that you’re in it”). “That song destroyed me in the studio,” says Jacklin of “Turn Me Down,” whose middle section contains a particularly devastating vocal performance. “I remember lying on the floor in a total state between what felt like endless takes, and if you listen it kind of sounds like I’m losing my mind.” And on “When the Family Flies In,” Jacklin shares her first ever piano-driven piece, a beautifully muted elegy for the same friend to whom she dedicated Don’t Let the Kids Win. “There are really no words to do justice to what it feels like to lose a friend,” says Jacklin. “It felt a bit cheap to even try to write a song about it, but this one came out on tour and it finally felt okay to record.
Despite its complexity, Crushing unfolds with an ease that echoes Jacklin’s newfound self-reliance as an artist. Originally from the Blue Mountains, she grew up on her parents’ Billy Bragg and Doris Day records and sang in musicals as a child, then started writing her own songs in her early 20s. “With the first album I was so nervous and didn’t quite see myself as a musician yet, but after touring for two years, I’ve come to feel like I deserve to be in that space,” she says.
Throughout Crushing, that sense of confidence manifests in one of the most essential elements of the album: the captivating strength of Jacklin’s lyrics. Not only proof of her ingenuity and artistic generosity, Jacklin’s uncompromising specificity and infinitely unpredictable turns of phrase ultimately spring from a certain self-possession in the songwriting process.
“As I was making this album there was sort of a slow loosening of pressure on myself,” Jacklin says. “There’ve been some big life changes for me over the last few years, and I just found it too tiring to try to cover things up with a lot of metaphors and word trickery. I just wanted to lay it all out there and trust that, especially at such a tense moment in time, other people might want to hear a little vulnerability.”
Leith Ross is a songwriter, singer, and artist born and raised in a small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. They've been a sensitive and overly artistic person since birth and when they started writing songs around the age of 12 it quickly became Leith’s favourite way to be sensitive and overly artistic. Still is. Since then, they've recorded and released two projects, and have a new one underway. Inspired by the likes of Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Disney movie soundtracks, High School Musical, and their dad's horrible parodies of all of the above, their songs attempt to explore themes of gut-wrenching and cheesy love, silliness and extreme existentialism. Their favourite stuff. Leith’s latest single, "We'll Never Have Sex," is soaked in that 'favourite stuff' and ready to be listened to wherever you can find it. Coming Soon To Some Kind Of Live Venue Near You!
Hear ye, hear ye! We are super thrilled to announce that we will resume touring in N. America this fall for the release of our new and fourth album called “The Untourable Album”. We started working on this album amidst the global lockdown and didn’t expect to be able to “tour” these songs. We wanted to take the opportunity to work on new and different material, without necessarily intending to play these songs live. We wrote freely, as if we were suspended in time with no external attachments. The initial release date had to be delayed however, when Dragos got into a motorcycle accident and had to recover for several weeks. So here we are now, almost ready to release the album, while everything is slowly reopening and the lockdown seems to be a thing of the past. It looks like the “Untourable Album” will be tourable after all! We are still in the process of polishing the songs and doing the last tweaks before the album is ready. We will have an official release date super soon, stay tuned. Thank you for your ongoing support and we’re looking forward to see everyone again in real life!
Quinn Christopherson is an Ahtna Athabascan and Iñupiaq songwriter, born, raised, and based in Anchorage, Alaska.
On her 2018 debut album Lush, seventeen-year-old Lindsey Jordan sang “I’m in full control / I’m not lost / Even when it’s love / Even when it’s not”. Her natural ability to be many things at once resonated with a lot of people. The contradiction of confidence and vulnerability, power and delicacy, had the impact of a wrecking ball when put to tape. It was an impressive and unequivocal career-making moment for Jordan.
On Valentine, her sophomore album out November 5th on Matador, Lindsey solidifies and defines this trajectory in a blaze of glory. In 10 songs, written over 2019-2020 by Jordan alone, we are taken on an adrenalizing odyssey of genuine originality in an era in which "indie" music has been reduced to gentle, homogenous pop composed mostly by ghost writers. Made with careful precision, Valentine shows an artist who has chosen to take her time. The reference points are broad and psychically stirring, while the lyrics build masterfully on the foundation set by Jordan’s first record to deliver a deeper understanding of heartbreak.
On “Ben Franklin”, the second single of the album, Jordan sings “Moved on, but nothing feels true / Sometimes I hate her just for not being you / Post rehab I’ve been feeling so small / I miss your attention, I wish I could call”. It’s here that she mourns a lost love, conceding the true nature of a fleeting romantic tie-up and ultimately, referencing a stay in a recovery facility in Arizona. This 45-day interlude followed issues stemming from a young life colliding with sudden fame and success. Since she was not allowed to bring her instruments or recording equipment, Jordan began tabulating the new album arrangements on paper solely out of memory and imagination. It was after this choice to take radical action that Valentine really took its unique shape.
Jordan took her newfound sense of clarity and calm to Durham, North Carolina, along with the bones of a new album. Here she worked with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee). For all the album’s vastness and gravity, it was in this small home studio that Jordan and Cook chipped away over the winter of early 2021 at co-producing a dynamic collection of genre-melding new songs, finishing it triumphantly in the spring. They were assisted by longtime bandmates Ray Brown and Alex Bass, as well as engineer Alex Farrar, with a live string section added later at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond.
Leaning more heavily into samples and synthesizers, the album hinges on a handful of remarkably untraditional pop songs. The first few seconds of opener and title track ‘Valentine’ see whispered voice and eerie sci-fi synth erupt into a stadium-sized, endorphin-rush of a chorus that is an overwhelming statement of intent. “Ben Franklin”, “Forever (Sailing)” and “Madonna” take imaginative routes to the highest peaks of catchiness. Jordan has always sung with a depth of intensity and conviction, and the climactic pop moments on Valentine are delivered with such a tenet and a darkness and a beauty that’s noisy and guttural, taking on the singularity that usually comes from a veteran artist.
As captivating as the synth-driven songs are, it’s the more delicate moments like “Light Blue”, “c.et. al.” and “Mia” that distill the albums range and depth. “Baby blue, I’m so behind / Can’t make sense of the faces in and out of my life / Whirling above our daily routines / Both buried in problems, baby, honestly” Jordan sings on “c. et. al.” with a devastating certainty. These more ethereal, dextrously finger-picked folk songs peppered in throughout the album are nuanced in their vocal delivery and confident in their intricate arrangement. They come in like a breath of air, a moment to let the mind wander, but quickly drown the listener in their melodic alchemy and lyrical punch.
The album is rounded out radiantly by guitar-driven rock songs like “Automate”, “Glory” and “Headlock”. Reminiscent of Lush but with a marked tonal shift, Jordan again shows her prowess as a guitar player with chorus-y leads and rhythmic, wall-of-sound riffs. “Headlock” highlights this pivot with high-pitched dissonance and celestially affected lead parts – “Can’t go out I’m tethered to / Another world where we’re together / Are you lost in it too?”, she sings with grit and fatigue, building so poignantly on her sturdy foundation of out-and-out melancholy. On Valentine, we are taken 100 miles deeper into the world Jordan created with Lush, led through passageways and around dark corners, landing somewhere we never dreamed existed.
Today, in the wake of recording Valentine, Jordan is focused on trying to continue healing without slowing down. The album comes in the midst of so much growth, in the fertile soil of a harrowing bottom-out. On the heels of life-altering success, a painful breakup and 6 weeks in treatment, Jordan appears vibrant and sharp. “Mia, don’t cry / I love you forever / But I gotta grow up now / No I can’t keep holding onto you anymore” she sings on the album closer “Mia”. She sings softly but her voice cuts through like a hacksaw. The song is lamenting a lost love, saying a somber goodbye, and it closes the door on a bitter cold season for Jordan. Leaving room for a long and storied path, Valentine is somehow a jolt and a lovebuzz all at once.
- Katie Crutchfield
The Beths hail from the vibrant and deeply collaborative music community of Auckland, New Zealand. Their blend of propulsive, sing-along choruses, four-part vocal arrangements, and wry, introspective lyrics has earned them fans around the world, as well as opening slots for indie rock titans like The Breeders, Pixies, Weezer, and Death Cab for Cutie. The Beths’ 2018 debut album 'Future Me Hates Me' drew acclaim from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, Stereogum, the A.V. Club and more. After 18 months of touring, The Bethsregrouped to write and record their second album, 'Jump Rope Gazers', a sparkling collection of songs that deepens and expands thebright talent they showed on their early releases. Bonds between the band members only grew after spending so much time on the road together, and their camaraderie shows on their new work. The band's latest single, 'A Real Thing', is out now via Carpark Records and Ivy League Records.
What do we hold on to from our past? What must we let go of to truly move forward?
Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, a lyricist who has always let her listeners know exactly where she is at a given moment, spent much of 2018 reckoning with these questions and revisiting her roots to look for answers. The result is Saint Cloud, an intimate journey through the places she’s been, filled with the people she’s loved.
Written immediately in the period following her decision to get sober, the album is an unflinching self-examination. From a moment of reckoning in Barcelona to a tourist trap in Tennessee to a painful confrontation on Arkadelphia Road, from a nostalgic jaunt down 7th Street in New York City to the Mississippi Gulf, Crutchfield creates a sense of place for her soul-baring tales, a longtime staple of her storytelling.
This raw, exposed narrative terrain is aided by a shift in sonic arrangements as well. While her last two records featured the kind of big guitars, well-honed noise, and battering sounds that characterized her Philadelphia scene and strongly influenced a burgeoning new class of singer-songwriters, Saint Cloud strips back those layers to create space for Crutchfield’s voice and lyrics. The result is a classic Americana sound with modern touches befitting an artist who has emerged as one of the signature storytellers of her time.
From the origins of her band name—the beloved creek behind her childhood home—to scene-setting classics like “Noccalula” and “Sparks Fly,” listening to Waxahatchee has always felt like being invited along on a journey with a steely-eyed navigator. On Saint Cloud, Crutchfield adds a new sense of perspective to her travels. Reflecting on this, she says, “I think all of my records are turbulent and emotional, but this one feels like it has a little dose of enlightenment. It feels a little more calm and less reckless.”
Many of the narratives on Saint Cloud concern addiction and the havoc it wreaks on ourselves and our loved ones, as Crutchfield comes to a deeper understanding of love not only for those around her but for herself. This coalesces most clearly on “Fire,” which she says was literally written in transit, during a drive over the Mississippi River into West Memphis, and serves as a love song to herself, a paean to moving past shame into a place of unconditional self-acceptance. Coming from a songwriter long accustomed to looking in other directions for love, it’s a stirring moment when Crutchfield sings, “I take it for granted/If I could love you unconditionally/I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky.”
Which is not to say that Saint Cloud lacks Crutchfield’s signature poetry on matters of romantic love. Still, her personal evolution in this area is evident too, as this time around, Crutchfield examines what it really means to be with someone and how it feels to see our own patterns more clearly. On “Hell,” she sings: “I hover above like a deity/But you don’t worship me, you don’t worship me/You strip the illusion, you did it well/I’ll put you through hell.”
Crutchfield also looks at what it’s like to be romantically involved with another artist, someone in search of their own truth, on “The Eye”: “Our feet don’t ever touch the ground/Run ourselves ragged town to town/Chasing uncertainty around, a siren sound” and “We leave love behind without a tear or a long goodbye/as we wait for lightning to strike/We are enthralled by the calling of the eye.”
And of course, even when Crutchfield is taking a more nuanced approach to love, her ease with all-encompassing sentiments is still clear, with lines like “I give it to you all on a dime/I love you till the day I die” which sound culled from a classic torch song.
Over the course of Saint Cloud’s 11 songs, which were recorded in the summer of 2019 at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and Long Pond in Stuyvesant, NY, and produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Big Red Machine), Crutchfield peels back the distortion of electric guitars to create a wider sonic palette than on any previous Waxahatchee album. It is a record filled with nods to classic country (like the honky tonk ease of “Can’t Do Much”), folk-inspired tones (heard in the confessional lilt of “St. Cloud”), and distinctly modern touches (like the pulsating minimalism of “Fire”).
To bolster her vision, Crutchfield enlisted Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox, both of the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon, to serve as her backing band on the record, along with Josh Kaufman (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bonny Light Horseman) on guitar and keyboards and Nick Kinsey (Kevin Morby, Elvis Perkins) on drums and percussion. Bonny Doon will also perform as Crutchfield’s live band during her extensive tours planned for 2020, which include the US and Europe.
Saint Cloud marks the beginning of a journey for Crutchfield, one that sees her leaving behind past vices and the comfortable environs of her Philadelphia scene to head south in search of something new. If on her previous work Crutchfield was out in the storm, she’s now firmly in the eye of it, taking stock of her past with a clear perspective and gathering the strength to carry onward.