On “Don’t Save Me” Glass Spells uses the sound of an upbeat melody and urgent rhythm, in the classic mode of post-punk, to make a disheartening point about humanity while giving you something for the message go down better. The lyric “I took the darkness of your lies, the unknown pleasures of your past” speaks much when followed by “Don’t save me now, don’t tell me how” to the way so much, not just online but in our everyday lives, is mediated so that many people think they can just change in and out of identities and personalities like their personal history never happened and as though regular human attachments including the reality of your life as a mortal human is contingent as long as it suits a narrative however questionable. The song is like a plea for something authentic in a person and in experiences in an era where presentation seems to have more cachet than the genuine article. Fans of Violet Tremors, early Ladytron and The Vanishing will appreciate the way this trio crafts synth-driven post-punk in a way that transcends the conventions and embraces the way you can make a disco and electroclash beat moody and urgent. Listen to “Don’t Save Me” on Soundcloud and follow Glass Spells at the links provided.
“Let’s Get Out” on the surface level is a summer love chillwave anthem. The ascending, bright melodies and expansive vocals and the kind of rhythm that sounds like you’re gearing yourself up to be motivated to make it a great summer or at this late stage in the season one last hurrah before the weather begins its descent into colder temperatures. It’s a celebration of long nights indulging hedonistic fun. But David Provenzano, whose solo project Margot Polo happens to be, gives us details about the experiences he relates outside the choruses that give the song some concretizing vividness including some inside jokes for those in the know as with the line “Have you ever felt like you’ve come undone, like you want to go west on Highway 1” to indicate that you want to do something reckless since Highyway 1 runs north and south. References to the moon on the ocean and being shown the constellations on someone’s phone and other refinements makes the song a kind of fantasy about getting away from the humdrum of the everyday which is perfectly safe in the daydream world of a song and Margot Polo (points for an inspired project name) invites us to take that mythical road trip in our minds for a few moments to transport us to a place where summer never ends and it’s a time when some, if not most of us, can remember a time when we were free to do as we will for what seemed like forever. Listen to “Let’s Get Out” on Soundcloud and follow Margot Polo at the links below. Look for Margot Polo’s debut, 5-song EP out in the fall.
You probably don’t need to know that Dominic Sen is something an alter ego of Alexandra Lily Cohen and the seventh only surviving child of the black hole at the center of the galaxy called M64 who barely survived being swallowed by the event horizon and made their way way to Earth where pop music, fandom and the mythology of stars (movie, music etc.) proved enduringly fascinating to appreciate “Hear Me.” You probably don’t need to be immersed in a ton of nerdy lore to appreciate the signifiers in the retro-futurist science fiction themed music video. You don’t even need to have read John Christopher’s The Tripods, A.E. Van Vogt, Octavia Butler, Ada Palmer, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Jy Yang or Samuel R. Delaney to understand the song or its video, though that knowledge helps contextualize how deep the creativity and conceptualization runs with the song. But none of that would matter as much of the song itself wasn’t an emotional journey written as a charming dream pop song with unconventional percussion to give it exotic highlights. The song is a evocation of the experience of being objectified rather than being heard and appreciated as a full human being. That the song is upbeat and bright more than hints that Dominic Sen isn’t interested in being so defined by other people and free to let go of attempts to pen them in. In a way it’s symbolic of Cohen’s writing songs as Dominic Sen as a reconciliation of a writer of cool pop songs and nerdy pursuits and interests from a young age. Watch the video for “Hear Me” below and follow Dominic Sen at the links provided.
“CAER” was TROVA’s first single in 2017 but we’re featuring it here on Queen City Sounds and Art in the context of the project’s “Elements” series in which TROVA took a concept and the ideas inherent to that element to craft an evocative ambient composition. “CAER” is under two minutes long but its nimbus of phased, streaming melody suggests the imagery of a mysterious, mythical place. Those familiar with The Chronicals of Narnia will know the name Cair Paravel, derived from the same word in Welsh, as the seat of power for the characters who come to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to cast down the wicked regime to rule with benevolence and wisdom. The legendary Welsh king Arthur similarly ruled from a castle, a caer, Camelot and later perhaps reigned in absentia on the mysterious island of Avalon in a similar setting. C.S. Lewis and earlier storytellers used this imagery to suggest a place that represents the best of human ideals and achievements. This song, though short, suggests a glimpse of such a place we might attain if we have the imagination and will to decency to try. Listen to “CAER” on Soundcloud and follow TROVA at the links below.
Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child and Glorietta uses a sort of funk sound palette to craft a 70s A.M. radio R&B-inflected pop on “Making Love,” her second single with new project Sir Woman. The insistent electronic tambourine, warbling, Worrell-esque synth and fluid, soft-edged bass line sounds like the kind of disco song you wish you would have heard at skating rinks in their heyday in the 1970s. Wilson deftly navigates that aesthetic with lyrics that reflect a modern sensibility on the nature of gender and relationships. The swagger expressed in the song is framed in a way that inverts the misogynistic viewpoint of a lot of music of the era it’s invoking while casting no judgments as there is something about that vibe and that way of songwriting that has resonance for the present. Listen to “Making Love” on Soundcloud and follow Sir Woman on Spotify. Look for the debut Sir Woman album Party City out soon.
Mariami reveals her own experience of managerial abuse in the music industry in her song “Fit To Heal The Devil.” With drifts of moody atmosphere and bright, melodic vocals Mariami outlines how so much of that abuse is internalized as she felt she had to bury her pain and sense of having to hide what was going on under the idea that maybe that was what everyone had to tolerate in order to have a real career in music. Fortunately Mariami found pretending that everything was okay intolerable enough to part ways with her manager but the poignancy of the tone of her vocals evokes the time before she had the impetus to seek better for herself. Sure, the song is specifically about the music industry, which was revealing itself to have more than a few pockets of shady behavior before the #MeToo movement got off the ground for example when it was revealed that a well-known PR company representative turned out to be an abusive creep, but it could be relatable to anyone who has been suffering abuse and exploitation in any context. The power and clarity of Mariami’s voice in the song shining through the haze and downtempo beat of the song, even as they compliment and highlight the message, is stirring stuff. As the title of the song suggests it’s not a moment to sink into despair but a starting place of reconciliation, holding the violators to account and to heal from the effects of abuse. Listen to “Fit To Heal The Devil” on Soundcloud and follow Mariami at the links below.
Blarg, which is a name many of us wish we had thought of before these guys did to express our contempt and disgust for so many things in the world and to put a humorously on the nose name on the project, really take us to strange places in space and time on its new single “Suburban Lawn (Su, Where Are You Now?).” It slips effortlessly in and out of a kind of psychedelic surf rock song but not the kind that got so played out between 2009 and 2018. It’s far noisier and Blarg seems to have no time for staying on script as there is an aspect of the cut-up method to the songwriting. At the end it sounds like someone just turned down the delay on the whole track and then a sound like someone ejected the VHS tape that was the source of the recording with the audio version of visual glitches mixed in with the song. Somehow Blarg wrote and recorded a song that sounds paradoxically futuristic and retro at the same time partly by grounding itself on a classic rock and roll structure and then dispensing that entirely when it goes into the tripped out section where most of the instrumentation drops out and extended synth blips convey a sense of being in outer space then back into a garage rock at the drive-in-theater-to-watch-campy-horror-movies vibe. But across the song there are sonic anomalies like bits of trap beats dropped expertly and perfectly into choice moments. Like some songwriter from the future who fell in love with various eras of past music and culture and didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t all be reconciled. Kudos to the nod to Su Tissue of weirdo post-punk band Suburban Lawns. Maybe VH1 can revisit one or more of its old series to answer the question in the song title. Listen to the track on Soundcloud and follow Blarg at the links below.