Pip Millett, the Manchester-born singer-songwriter, is ready to release her EP Motion Sick to an eager R&B audience.
Speaking on the EP, Pip states: “I have often felt lost when things around me have started to change. In recent times I’ve realized I’m simply ‘Motion Sick’. My core self is still there but without change there cannot be any growth. ‘Motion Sick’ is about the various changes in my life. With this change I have tried to find comfort in the simple things.”
Each of the songs on Motion Sick has a sound that harken back to an earlier time in music, but the song lyrics are very much topical. Pip Millett may have been creating songs that reflected changes in her life, but she is certainly in touch with what is important to others in her generation as well. Additionally, she has a voice quality that invites you to really feel what she is singing. The best examples of this are on “Best Things” and “Sad Girls” ft. Gaidaa.
“Running” ft. Ghetts is the first track on the EP and addresses the racist current that runs through our world. Intertwining Pip’s haunting lyrics with Ghetts’ raps, “Running” is an R&B anthem for our time:
[Ghetts] Another black man lost, worried about what a handbag cost, Whilst it costs to be black, I got a price on my head that’s not any cap. Fed’s are behind, I feel like I’m wanted dead or alive, Even after what I’ve accomplished nobody said they’d be kind.
“Hard Life” and “Braid it Back” round out the five-song playlist that makes up Motion Sick.
Anna Hamilton was the newcomer most hadn’t been acquainted with, winning a contest to open for Dermot Kennedy as a local act. A Kansas native and one of 12 children in her family, Anna’s music dripped with bits of nostalgia and hopeful thoughts for the future. It was also an insanely beautiful experience, her sweet-as-honey vocals accompanied only by a guitar. It was mesmerizing.
By her third song, we caught a glimpse at specificity in a track about a boy that left her for a city – “Me For Barcelona.” The song had never been played in front of a live audience before and is not currently available, but is open for preorder via her link in bio at clever Instagram handle @a.ham.sandwich. Her fourth trach was about leaving Kansas to pursue her singing career in Tennessee, something so many artists struggle with. She has clearly found a safe haven and inspirational options in her relocation, as her last track – “Self Help” – was realized so early on. Of the track, she admitted that it was about taking care of yourself before allowing others to benefit from you. “You need to be 100% before your cup overflows and they can receive it.”
Bishop Briggs emerged, energetic as ever and donning a leather jacket on a pretty balmy night in the midwest. It was shed quickly, to reveal skeleton-printed fingerless gloves and delicate tattoos dancing across both forearms. The first time this town got acquainted with Bishop, she had barely edged into the world of tattoos. Now, you find yourself mesmerized by them as she jumps across the stage with every robust, belted line.
An artist that truly allows you to feel the songs with her, Bishop has cultivated a fandom that spans generations, cultures, and ideals. Perhaps the show’s littlest attendant – a young man no older than 10 or 11 – could be found belting out lyrics and clapping in time with his family during the intense track “Hi-Lo (Hollow)”. Her set included “Someone Else,” “Darkside,” and her most recognizable hit, “River”, among others.
August 7, 2021 was my first show back. Back, from where? Who even knows? While the pandemic rages on, I wonder, more often than not, if leaving my house is even worth it. But I’ve been enjoying – and producing – livestreams and digital concert experiences since COVID-19 took SXSW 2020 from us all, and I knew the joy that came from that massively sustained me over the last 17 months.
The first time I saw Dermot Kennedy was in a church off 6th Street in Austin, Texas during SXSW 2018. I chose to spend the evening with a handful of friends from my hometown, wandering into shows and experiencing new acts to write about and photograph for the (still new) site. But something about Kennedy’s vocal delivery – the vulnerability and intensity with which he delivered some of the most emotionally charged lyrics I’d ever heard – made me forget I was trying to compile content for the site at all. A handful of distanced, “between tall guys’ bobbing heads” photos happened, but the music was so compelling that I spent an embarrassing amount of the set with my eyes closed, or staring up at the vaulted ceilings, marveling at the magic that music creates, and the magic from which it is derived.
When SXSW 2020 was canceled, I decided to make the quick, 4-hour jaunt to St. Louis to see Kennedy. Within a couple of days, the tour was indefinitely postponed. COVID-19 set in, and March saw stages around the world shutter. Deafening silence. And while artists tried to keep the spark alive with their multi-dimensional at-home creations, new directions, and interactive experiences, there was just something missing. That spark that live music incites, the way it can make an entire room feel like it’s on fire, hearts dancing in unison. As someone who once took for granted a 2-5 concert per week schedule, I began to feel lost in a sea of digital analysis and curation. I am humbled by the art that has come from our time locked away, but it never had the energy of a live show.
By the time I realized live music was coming back, Kennedy had sold out his St. Louis reschedule. And his Red Rocks performance. I spoke with a friend who was going to work with me on getting tickets in Wisconsin, which would be my saving grace for his tour since Kennedy was no longer appearing on the postponed Bonnaroo lineup (because of touring conflicts). But my sister happening upon a radio tour announcement a couple of weeks before her big move to Los Angeles and a random discussion that occurred a half-hour before tickets went on sale for the Kansas City stop made it all possible. Me – the woman who often feels jaded by the industry, especially for how little people truly rallied for the arts through this dark time -, I allowed myself to finally get excited about an event. I had something to look forward to that I knew could help me heal.
And still, I wondered, could I possibly stand in a crowded venue again? Could I find joy in the music – the one thing that makes me feel like I have my head screwed on straight on a daily basis – amidst a crowd of maybe-vaxxers from the midwest? (That wild, wild midwest that we have come to know as a largely “denying science” crowd.) I spent days before this show panicking about everything. Would there be space to spread out? The show wasn’t entirely sold out, the venue was more intimate, it couldn’t be too insane. Right? Would I melt in my mask? Would my friends be comfortable?
I almost had no words to explain how it all felt. Sure, I annoyed my +1 (Hi, mom!) and a couple of friends (I see you Anjelica and Kevin!) with some fears about everything. But, I was mostly entirely back in my element. As an observer, an enjoyer. I ensured we got pretty good spots to watch the show, over by the rail on the right side next to the stage. Dermot Kennedy’s Kansas City (Missouri) leg of his Better Days tour was officially sold out at the Uptown Theater, however, there was substantial space on the sides of the stage to ensure that we felt comfortable. I did some people watching like I used to. (I’d like to think that people couldn’t handle their liquor because they hadn’t imbibed at that level in a while, but who knows?) And, truly, I spent the majority of the evening belting out lyrics behind my mask, staring up at the shadows dancing on the ceiling, really indulging in the collective atmosphere of it all.
Set List: Lost Power Over Me All My Friends An Evening I Will Not Forget Outgrown The Corner Rome For Island Fires and Family Outnumbered Better Days Moments Passed Glory Giants Encore: After Rain Without Fear
Thank you to Anna Hamilton, Bishop Briggs, and Dermot Kennedy for “an evening I will not forget.” (I know I’m the first one to use that reference, of course.) I can only say that it helped to inflate my sad, darkened, emo heart. So perhaps I’ll Grinch less for a while. 😉
Anna Hamilton and Bishop Briggs thoughts + photos to come.
From the first haunting chords of the intro track “Home” to the last, intimate notes in sixth song “Strange Fruit,” singer-songwriter and producer Naomi Westwater’s beautiful new EP Feelings delivers just that: Feelings with a level of palpability unlike other albums provide. The topic of “Home” is less relatable, as Westwater sings specifically of her personal struggles with endometriosis and its accompanying reproductive issues. And while the second song “Feeling My Feelings” began in the same realm topically, it slowly developed into an anti-violence track. “Reflecting on the song now, I think it is also a haunting mirror to gun and police violence. It’s for those of us who feel our pain and feelings are ignored by others,” she admits.
“Commune” keeps to a slow, danceable clip, while Westwater observes her own spirituality and how it is defined in her life. Her vocals are absolutely magnetic, just like the way she leans into her own spirituality. While “Strange Weather” launches into a discussion on climate change, it does so in a beautiful and poignant way, never straying from the overarchingly soulful power of the collection. Explains Westwater:
This project felt like a storybook, like a complete collection of things that I’ve been meaning to say to the world, things I need to scream out into the void, and things that I need people to hear. These songs were all written at different times: ‘Strange Fruit’ in the 1930s, ‘Americana’ in 2012, and the others in the last few years, but the stories are so relevant to now.
Isaac and Thorald Koren – or The Brothers Koren – recently released their debut collection of tracks, an exquisite full-length titled I Went To The Sea To Be Free. Dedicated to the memory of their grandmother – who flew her plane over the Southern Ocean on Mother’s Day of 1974 and was never seen again – the album itself is laced with a sense of longing in the emotional lyrics. It’s hard to believe that the brothers approached music separate from each other, and later discovered their co-creating abilities. Their harmonizing abilities are almost haunting in a way, as displayed in tracks like “Say Everything”, “Gold”, and “Like Water”. (And virtually every other gorgeous track in this collection.)
Beginning at a leisurely clip with “Easy,” the album is introduced to us in a lighthearted, open-minded way. The song itself encourages its listener to take things as they come, while the brothers sing of how easy life can be with the right person. They transition with ease into the remaining thirteen tracks, presenting a true storytelling ambiance to the piece. Their cover of Prince’s 1984 hit “I Would Die 4 U” would otherwise fall short however the single has been stripped down into a different realm than its existing danceable pop energy, highlighting the love letter nature of it all. Crowd favorites include “Like Water”, “Beyond the Wild”, and “More Than You Know”.
Canadian duo Mayfly, comprised of Emma Cochrane and Charlie Kunce, have released their first EP ESSENCE. Both women are singer-songwriters, as well as producers, on this gem. The highlight of each song is their extraordinary harmonies.
“The goal of the EP is to bring people in to our musical universe…The essence of Mayfly is simply our voices and how they blend together, how they create this sense of unification and harmony.” Mayfly has accomplished exactly what they set out to do and then some. They have created five songs that move effortlessly from one to another, with no weak songs in the playlist.
Kicking off with ‘to jules’, Mayfly sets the mood with a song that is almost delicate sounding. It is my favorite song on the EP and a great introduction to Mayfly’s sound. ‘When all we knew was us’ starts with an acoustic guitar and one voice, building to both Emma and Charlie harmonizing lyrics with an aching quality that permeates the rest of the song.
The third track, ‘tes larmes’ features Tendresse and Joudi and is sung entirely in French. It has a different vibe from the other four songs on the EP, like you might hear on the soundtrack of a movie, but with the same ethereal harmonies that permeate the other tunes.
‘Sad song’ and ‘show me the way out’ acted as companion pieces in my mind – the breakup song, then the resignation about the breakup song. ‘show me the way out’ has lyrics that we can all relate to on some level, even with a more sanguine melody – “I’m never getting out of here, even if I try.”
Mayfly has produced a very thoughtful and beautiful EP with ESSENCE. I look forward to hearing more from them!