Aaron Alan Mitchell, the singer, guitarist, keyboardist of The Brush, filmed and directed the video for his single “Squeeze & Turn.” It shows fireworks bursting in the foreground across the faces of statuary figures, many of them Roman emperors, to enhance the song’s message of contemplating the impermanence of all things. Fireworks are not lacking in their visual glory and power for being so fleeting in duration and in the grand timeline of history people come and go and make their mark but in the living it you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t think of it as meaningless and ephemeral and thus insignificant. And yet the resigned tone of the song and its contemplative pace with Mitchell’s vocals shifting seemingly effortlessly from soft introspection to emotive falsetto and back indicates not an abstraction of one’s place in the universe but the realization that even an Augustus or Mansa Musa mean little to the everyday lives of people today. With all the dramatic political and economic turmoil of the past few years and more it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that even though we can only live in the moment we do not have to give more weight to particular events than they warrant. Mitchell brought together a bit of an all star cast to record the track with Eli Thompson on bass (Father John Misty), Joey McClellan on guitar (Midlake, Elle King) and McKenzie Smith on drums (Midlake, St. Vincent). Watch the video for “Squeeze & Turn” on YouTube and connect with The Brush at the links provided.
Gateway Drugs look like they filmed the music video for “Wait (Medication)” in a neglected office in a building abandoned since the 1990s with the drop ceiling utilizing a few surveillance video cameras to catch the band in action. The song has a dynamic like a sustained blues riff blown out to hypnotic, dreamlike proportions. The vocal duet lends the song an emotional vitality that contrasts with a song about romanticizing one’s own loneliness and malaise. The effect is something like writing a song to embrace those feelings as something genuine and deeply felt while dancing out of that seductive death spiral. Fans of The Brain Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols and The Warlocks will appreciate the way Gateway Drugs transform personal darkness into psychedelic, musical poetry while singing out the heartache just a little at a time. The single is part of the band’s sophomore record PSA produced by Sune of The Raveonettes at Josh Homme’s Pink Duck Studios. PSA dropped on May 8, 2020 through Future Shock Records. Watch the video for “Wait (Medication)” on YouTube.
The phasing whorl of pulsing melody that shimmers through and around Phil Danyew’s vocals on the debut Elephant Castle single “Cool To Be Unhappy” immediately puts you in an elevated yet introspective emotional space. This despite the wistfully melancholic tone and subject matter of the lyrics. The song begins asking the question “Are you ever really happy?” to someone who acts like they’re too cool to demonstrate any joy or connection to much of anything. But someone who is a former love about whom conflicted and complex feelings linger. Like someone for whom you still harbor a sense of care and affection even though you’re not sure why and you’re trying to forget even though this person was incapable of loving you back the way you need, the way that would seem normal in even a fairly dysfunctional relationship. The orchestral arrangements of the song lend that interpersonal dynamic the air of a dramatic farewell that honors your feelings even though ultimately they weren’t reciprocated. The dreamlike atmospherics and expert mix of electronics with elegantly composed rock instrumentals is reminiscent of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Losing You” and resonates with that song’s own evocation of conflicted feelings. Phil Danyew spent six years playing multiple instruments and singing backup vocals in the touring version of indie rock band Foster the People and “Cool To Be Unhappy” is a fine introduction to his own songwriting talent demonstrating a clear gift for crafting emotionally stirring ear candy. Listen to “Cool To Be Unhappy” on Soundcloud and connect with Elephant Castle at the links below.
On its latest single “Cookie Cutter” Pave the Jungle sounds like singer Rachael Whittle and the rest of the band woke up one day seething with rage at a world of bullshit jobs and a lifelong imposition of diminished expectations crafted by dullards who place efficiency over building a world we all want to live in. Its explosively ramshackle dynamic is the sonic equivalent of wrecking the well oiled machinery of our mechanized existence under late capitalism. If you’ve had a job in the last forty years or so you’ve been pushed into that increasing tendency toward monetizing every second of every day on the job where no matter what you do there’s always more expected and every ounce of your energy is squeezed out of you and if you’re not in line with constantly improving yourself in the context of that job culture you’re out. But it didn’t stop there. That demented mentality has sprawled into our lives outside of work to make for a deeply psychologically damaged world where it’s easy to feel like you’re not allowed to be a human with your idiosyncrasies valued and with time to cultivate thoughts, feelings and activities that aren’t driven to fit into some program or marketing initiative and plugged into some system to make someone money against your will doing what you’ve been convinced is what you wanted to do all along and all but hypnotized into giving up too much of yourself with your time, your resources (emotional and physical) and your identity in myriad ways including providing content to social media sites that feed into the marketing like some technocratic Ouroboros. By writing a song so eruptive yet not easily fitting into a neatly, easily marketable genre beyond maybe calling it noise rock with punk’s brashness, Pave the Jungle tries its level best to buck even its own conventions as a band. When Whittle sings “Stop the assembly line I want to get off, this place is far too clinical for me” she seems to joyfully express that very healthy and age old impulse to not fit in with societal and economic machinations that don’t serve and honor our natural interests, impulses, instincts and curiosities much less provide a sustainable life and civilization in which we all flourish in harmony with the world of which we are a part and not the center. Fans of the emotional and socio-political catharsis of Mannequin Pussy, Bethlehem Steel and Downtown Boys will appreciate Pave the Jungle’s murky fervor. Listen to “Cookie Cutter” on Spotify and connect with Pave the Jungle at the links provided.
Daisy Moseley’s video treatment of MOLTENO’s single “Tripping Up” echoes perfectly the sounds, storytelling and emotional atmosphere of the song. It follows the path of a young woman, played by Tind Soneby Wäneland, who engages in risky, even self-destructive behavior wandering through dark clubs with cool colors diffused by a haze of fog like her own mental state from which she seeks a distraction with moments of intense if essentially meaningless and interchangeable experiences rather than facing the core of her unhappiness. The lyrics are a running internal monologue with a chorus of “I keep tripping up, I keep tripping up” like a a mantra of personal failure yet one of an awareness that a change is desired even if it’s hard to break out of one’s cycle and cultivated instincts for bad habits. The line “It’s like I wanted it all to go wrong” is so poignant in reaching the awareness that will eventually arrive of discovering what it is one really wants out of one’s life even if right now it seems all kind of pointless. Life can be like that for so many of us for so long and to be honest, it’s easy to get into that kind of stasis and not recognize it for a pattern of self-neglect and low vibration self-destruction. The song expresses how comfortable it can seem to be stuck and following with the familiar and tell yourself it’s what you want to the point that it has its own momentum in your psyche. The lyrics “I don’t want to stop, I don’t want to stop” echo that seeming inability to veer off ingrained habits of lifestyle when you don’t feel like you have an incentive to change. Fans of Sneaker Pimps and of the vocals of Kelli Ali will find a lot to like with MOLTENO generally but “Tripping Up” in particular. Although the production with this song is well in the realm of the modern with touches of trap, its lush atmospherics and vibrant emotionalism is pure downtempo. Watch the video for “Tripping Up” on YouTube and connect with MOLTENO at the links below.
The frayed edges of “Knowledge Pagoda” by Fruit Baby from Bristol, UK suggest some touchstones in the likes of Camper Van Beethoven, 80s jangle-y college rock and, with the edgy violin a bit of the Velvet Underground. The vocals have an unvarnished quality that is masked a bit by expert and emotionally vibrant vocal harmonies and which gives the whole song a freshness and immediacy that catches your ear and doesn’t let go until the end. Not enough modern pop songs command your attention in that way that doesn’t seem to have come out of imitating a popular style. Frankly, the world needs more music that makes an unabashed virtue of what makes the artist unique. Listen to “Knowledge Pagoda” on Spotify, connect with Fruit Baby at the links below and look out for the group’s Huddle EP which released February 12, 2020.
Bloods really nailed the feeling of hurt, anger and disappointment of a recent break-up with someone you’re coming to terms with was probably not good for you on the group’s single “I Hate It.” But instead of centering that agony, Bloods cast it into an upbeat, incredibly catchy, fuzzy pop song whose lyrics are a laundry list of the main points of contention expressed with a charming frankness and humor that turns aggrievement into something fun and not something to sink your psyche into for the rest of your life. The music video is a collection of vignettes as good-natured send-ups of familiar internet video culture tropes: unboxing videos, beauty tip demos, the “Blape Nation” piece, cooking shorts, Tik Tok dance vids, hip-hop groups posing out and the standard, if simple and self-aware rock band video. Sure the words talk about hating how the person to whom those emotions are directed has an impact on your still and how their commitment to you was overestimated but the way Marihuzka Cornelius delivers the lines it feels like all those considerations are so whimsical now and ready to be written into the past by the very act of putting those feelings into words in a song as fun and appealing as “I Hate It.” The Australian group recently recorded its new Seattle EP (out now on Share It Music) with Steve Fisk at Jack Endino’s Sound House to give the recordings some of that cachet of honest and heartfelt angst and irreverent humor that was the hallmark of the best of the Emerald City’s music and certainly that spirit is present in this track. Watch the music video on YouTube and connect with Bloods at the links below.