A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1, the newest LP by the Provo, UT-based band The National Parks, is set for release on October 8. The eight-song collection “…was inspired by love and life, and chronicles the fear, joy, uncertainty, and peace that life might look like at the end of the world.”
A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1 is an album that you will want to hear again and again. I would recommend listening to it from beginning to end, at least the first time out. The first piece, “At the End”, serves as a short (52 seconds) introduction to the music coming next. They have incorporated the same device with “Continuum” – a 41-second interlude leading to the end of the album. Both allow your ears to adjust to the next music.
My two favorite songs on the release, “Headlights” and “Dizzy”, showcase the very lyrics, tunes, and harmonies that have made The National Parks a band that has developed a strong national following.
The National Parks will finish 2021 with a 15 city tour in support of Mat Kearney.
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of both John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. I have seen them both in concert, multiple times, and still regularly listen to their music. Seeing the invitation in my inbox to write about this collaboration was a Valentine! Would the song be something that their fans would like? Absolutely.
John Mellencamp has new music due to be released in 2022. The first single from that upcoming album is “Wasted Days”, a duet with Bruce Springsteen. Both are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but this marks the first time that the two artists have recorded together.
The lyrics in “Wasted Days” lament the lack of time left in ones’ life and the value of that time. Both artists have written songs throughout their careers that reflect all stages of the human condition, so this theme was not unexpected. After all of these years of music and art success, John Mellencamp (who wrote and produced “Wasted Days”) can still tap into feelings of melancholy and remorse that everyone can relate to.
Musically, Mellencamp and Springsteen sound like they have been playing together forever. The only question to me was, what took them so long?
Harborcoat’s newest LP, “Joy Is Elusive”, debuts on October 1. The sextet, based in Lansing, Michigan, has created a set of songs that are lyrically thoughtful and musically varied. The band’s influences include R.E.M. (the name Harborcoat is from an R.E.M. song), The Smiths, and Billy Bragg and you can hear the impact of those artists on “Joy Is Elusive”.
Band founder and primary songwriter Matthew Carlson explains:
A record titled ‘Joy Is Elusive’ is almost certainly going to be about depression, anxiety and a lifelong struggle with mental illness. That much is true, but there’s more. I think for so many of us, we deny ourselves true joy, or are too afraid to go out and find it. I know that is certainly true in my own experience. The people and the stories in this record are living lives of survival, not a full life. They’re eking out these threadbare existences of shabby surroundings, little hope and the occasional diversion from their struggles. Those diversions most often come by way of self medication or desperate choices with dire consequences. The lyrical content of the album is buoyed by joyous and dense musical foundations. These songs embrace the ethos of what Tom Waits once called, “Beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” These songs are like short stories with chords. The band name is pulled from an early R.E.M. gem, and the music brims with nods to our heroes. The songs recall the crunchy power pop and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub; the introspection and melodic storytelling of Billy Bragg; and sprinkled in are moments of 80’s esque Brit-Pop or working-class anthems. These influences, however, do not define the record, but they are merely a strand of DNA in Harborcoat’s collective musical helix.
Just before we began recording the record, my Dad died very suddenly. It seemed very likely, I was not going to be in a spot logistically or emotionally to go through with the sessions. My family, and friends all stepped up and convinced me what a tremendous relief it might be to spend a week recording with friends at the family cabin. It was the best possible diversion. I maintain that you can hear our collective grief between the notes of the record, but maybe I just can’t remove myself from it. The loss of my Dad, the uncertainty of the pandemic and the collective anxieties that come will all of that certainly informed the process and the finished product. It feels now like a tribute to ho him that we were able to create something beautiful from all of that darkness.
Two particular track favorites of mine are ‘Help Me Out Somehow’ and ‘Hear Me, I’m Courageous’. Both have spirited, Indie rock melodies with poignant lyrics. Following the release of “Joy Is Elusive”, Harborcoat heads out on an eight city tour to finish up 2021.
Artist Brandon Calano, known by alias Becoming Young, has introduced their latest single “Wild & Free”. Utilizing robust vocals and urgent music, Becoming Young delivers a message of hope and freedom:
I’m picking up speed Like a warrior, you’ll see I’m gonna take the power back, Nothing’s ever gonna stop me.
The Nashville-based artist explains, “’Wild & Free’ is about rediscovering your power and finding freedom in knowing you can overcome anything. We’ve all had our tribulations. It’s easy to get caught up in them, and we often let missteps and struggles weigh us down. But this song is an acknowledgment that we are collectively coming back stronger—no matter what happened in the past, we are resilient.”
The latest release from the Los Angeles-based trio MUNA is “Silk Chiffon”, an exuberant pop melody with appealing lyrics that will inhabit your spirit long after the song is over. Or, as producer and guitarist Naomi McPherson has described it, “a song for kids to have their first gay kiss to.”
Life’s so fun, Life’s so fun Don’t need to worry about no one She said I got her if I want, She’s so soft like silk chiffon.
MUNA has recently signed to Phoebe Bridgers’ label, Saddest Factory Records. Bridgers is featured on the song and in the video of “Silk Chiffon” and the sound that they create together is fantastic.
MUNA is headed out on a North American tour this month, opening for Bridgers; then will be on Kacey Musgraves 2022 tour.
“Silk Chiffon” – the single and the video – is out now.
Broken Stars is the latest EP from Jake Benjamin. With Broken Stars, he has created a set of five songs that move effortlessly from one to the next. Benjamin very intentionally has taken us on a journey through not only his mind, but the mind of Vincent Van Gogh. The project “…was inspired by reading the Letters of Vincent van Gogh, a collection of correspondences from Van Gogh to his brother, Theo.”
The first single off the EP is “Hemingway” and it sets the table for all that follows. Benjamin has utilized jazz influences in each song, some more heavily than others – “Hemingway” is one of those. It also has some lyrics that really spoke to me: “You should enjoy, what you don’t understand/I have lost all sense of control/I am on the surface of a life I’ve never known.”
My personal favorite of the five songs is “Heartfelt”. Musically, there are nods to Steely Dan in the arrangements – lush and full of horns. Jake Benjamin’s voice is a perfect accompaniment to his music.
Broken Stars is part of a larger project that is in the pipeline – an LP of the same name. After the release of this EP, we are very excited to see what will be on the LP of Broken Stars. Expands Benjamin:
This EP is a small serving of what the LP version of Broken Stars will be in March 2022. These songs were definitely the earlier writings on the record, they were the gateway into me finding the overall theme of mentality and space. They venture through different atmospheres of mind, artists, and cities. I really consider this collection to be a step further out of my comfort zone lyrically and harmonically.
The recording process of creating these tracks was probably the most ambiguous one I could ever have imagined. I recruited many musicians of many different instruments to play; I got to work with a string quartet, a horn trio, and include artists who brought beauty to these songs. Some of the arranging developed at the studio before Pascal would hit record while other arrangements I had fleshed weeks before the sessions took place. The pandemic really made this into a collecting pieces of the tracks over the course of a year.
Lowertown, the duo comprised of Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg, are excited to release their new single “Seaface”. This is the first song from their upcoming EP The Gaping Mouth. Osby and Weinberg spent time in London recording the EP “that they call their most honest, interesting, and mature work to date”. “Seaface” is a tune that combines dreamy lyrics with music that builds from a single guitar to a full mix.
Pick what you want to be, It can be anything. If you close your eyes, It’s fun to imagine Another body, another life.
Despite the constraints of the pandemic, 2020 proved to be a productive time for the pair of 19-year-olds – they graduated high school (where they met in math class), signed to label Dirty Hit and released their EP Honeycomb, Bedbug. 2021 looks like it could be as big a year for Lowertown.
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.
Like many sidelined performers during the lockdown, Irish artist Luz flexed her creative muscles, releasing three singles in 2020 (‘we’ll be fine’; ‘I’m lonely’; and ‘the author’) and one in April of 2021 (‘counting houses’). Her most recent single ‘permanent +1’ drops on August 5 via Platoon. Luz has this to say about the new single:
’permanent +1’ is about the person in your life who is always there. Yes, they are the person you take with you to your cousin’s wedding, to a birthday party and to your family’s Sunday dinner. But they are also the person you take grocery shopping, who comes with you to a doctor’s visit and who helps you do your laundry.
Luz has employed spare instrumentals on ‘permanent +1’, relying primarily on her voice which was the perfect choice. Luz also has a skill for storytelling that belies her age of 20 years. Her lyrics in ‘permanent +1’ put you in the middle of conversations that you know you have had with that person in your life:
When you’re trying to sleep and I’ve lots on my mind, …My over explanation is irritating and you say it’s fine, it’s always fine,
…And you want my advice on something that we’ve been through about a hundred times, You’re overanalyzing it, it’s always fine, it’s always fine with me.
Luz is celebrating the relationships in our lives that sustain us. I love this song and the message Luz has communicated. It will definitely find a spot on my newest playlist.