The Saturday Sampler October 15th edition offers a fabulous menu of 10 new music singles. While several countries are represented spanning different genres, there is a common theme to what we’re serving. Each song is highly perceptive, examining how judgmental the world has become and urging us live our lives to the fullest. Like all great meals, the Sampler begins with an electrifying first course to awaken your senses. It finishes with a song by a young woman whose voice will blow you away, bringing this mini-playlist to a sweet, memorable close.
RIYL: Archive, Phoria, M83
Whether it is pop, rock, or electronic, Norwegian artists are leading the way in redefining how we hear and experience music. They pushing the envelopes and throwing out the cookie cutter approaches that permeate mainstream music. The collaboration between electronic duo Atella and Sony Music-signed artist Frøder is a prime example.
Their single “Closer To Life” is stupendous. The song is one part dramatic theatre and another part entrancing electronica. The wave of dark synths and trip-hop effects provide the haunting yet lush soundscape while Frøder’s captivating vocals add the enchantment. Together, they have created a delicious elixir from which we happily will drink in order to travel down the rabbit home and enter their dazzling realm. It is a place where our dreams temporarily become reality. How many songs have this effect? Only by the few who are willing to test our limits.
The collaboration between Atella and Frøder is likely a one-off project, but hopefully they will have something planned in the future. The single is out on Eskimo Recordings.
Deep Sea Arcade – “Learning To Fly” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Jinja Safari, Jagwar Ma, MGMT
In the southern hemisphere, the weather is warming up, and the official start to summer is a mere six weeks away. As such, the summer anthems are starting to arrive, and Sydney-based, indie powerhouse Deep Sea Arcade have given us the first one. “Learning To Fly”, though, isn’t the typical anthem. The song doesn’t blaze with overdone samples and digital effects. Instead, this lush, melodic number is like a cool breeze blowing in from the Tasman Sea, immersing your entire body and lifting your soul in the process.
It’s not just the fabulous arrangements doing this. As you listen to the lyrics, Deep Sea Arcade is telling us to “fuck them when you’re learning to fly”. There is a deeper meaning to the song than just telling us to move on and live our lives, but there is a memory embedded in it. If indeed this is the case, then Nic Mckenzie and Nick Weaver have crafted a wonderful dedication.
“Learning To Fly” is the lead single from Deep Sea Arcade’s forthcoming, sophomore album. The LP is expected early in 2017. The band will tour Australia later this year.
Estrons – “I’m Not Your Girl” (Cardiff, Wales)
RIYL: Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Alice
There are a few guarantees in life. The sun will rise each day even if it’s cloudy. There will be an eventual breakdown along the London Tube. And when Welsh quartet Estrons release a new single, it surely will be a rocker.
They have only released a few other songs, including an EP and the unhinged “Drop” earlier this year, but they have become a favorite in these parts. Their latest single is an absolute monster. With the intensity and the who-gives-a-shit attitude of riot grrrl legends Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag, “I’m Not Your Girl” is a blistering, head-waving banger. Everything in the song – the guitar riffs, the driving bass line, the drum work, and, most importantly, Taliesyn Källström’s vocals – is fierce, and the energy emitted by the band is cathartic. The song is essentially one big middle finger to all the guys who just want to score. As Källström told DIY Magazine: “It’s a big song about insecurities and that cesspool of crap surrounding teenage emotions that still exist in your 20s and 30s.” The song could be about some guy running for President of the United States.
In addition to Taliesyn Källström, Estrons also include Hugh Parry, James Keeley, and Rhodri Daniel.
The Flat Five – “Almond Grove” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Belle and Sebastian, The Beach Boys, Guster
Bright, summery pop music like this will infuse your day with warm, cheery thoughts – even in a contentious election season. The unmistakable voice of Kelly Hogan (a frequent tour mate of The Decemberists and Neko Case) ushers in a new brand of positive pop with her new supergroup, The Flat Five. And we do mean supergroup! The Flat Five includes two members of NRBQ (Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough) along with Alex Hall (The Cactus Blossoms, JD McPherson) and Nora O’Connor (Andrew Bird, The New Pornographers).
“Almond Grove” is an impossibly irresistible track from their debut album, It’s a World of Love and Hope. Its release yesterday comes at a time when negativity and discord dominate the news. Let the positivity from The Flat Five revive your spirits with their heavenly harmonies. Your ears, your heart, and your sanity will thank you.
HOLY FAWN – “Reykur” (Tempe, Arizona, USA)
RIYL: Explosions In The Sky, My Bloody Valentine, Portishead
Often post-rock songs do one of two things: send us into the cosmos or whirl with dazzling effects that explode in our mind. What if these two characteristics came together into one song? The answer can be heard in HOLY FAWN‘s new single “Reykur”.
The quartet from Tempe, Arizona has created an incredible song. It starts off explosively, like fireworks bursting in our ears. It quickly eases into an ethereal, spatial experience filled with shoegaze and crystalline guitars. Where at first we are enlivened and exhilarated, HOLY FAWN paralyze us with a masterful demonstration of lush, crushing instrumentation and haunting vocals. Wherever “Reykur” may be (it translates to smoke and is the name of a character within the Lord of the Rings mythology), we could visit it time and and time again.
“Reykur” is the lead single from HOLY FAWN’s forthcoming debut album which is still in development. It is expected in 2017 via Whelmed Records.
Jim James – “Here In Spirit” (Louisville, USA)
RIYL: Kishi Bashi, Perfume Genius, Fruit Bats
We would be hard-pressed to name a more empathetic songwriter than My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. The guy with the voice of an angel has a heart of gold that aches for the victims of violence. “Here in Spirit“, the newest single from his forthcoming Eternally Even album, honors those lost in the Orlando nightclub shooting. He explains that “It’s a song about speaking out and trying to be there for people in spirit even if you can’t be at every rally and battle. We have such a duty to speak out for equality and for each other. I will always lend my voice to whatever the civil rights issue is of the day, to whomever needs the most help and love.”
The downtempo, subtly R&B-infused music is sensual yet poignant thanks to its lyrics. “Go celebrate what you like / Go on and dance thru the night / Go on be one with the light – full of life.” The repeated chorus refrain (“no matter what it takes, we’re gonna build it back”) is an anthem for enduring optimism. Even if we can’t right the world’s wrongs, this song reminds us that we can still love each other – in person, and in spirit.
Le Grotto – “HWY 160” (Olympia, WA, USA)
RIYL: The Doors, Gotye, The Growlers
The Doors perfected the psychedelic garage-rock sound that felt like an acid trip. The Growlers turned it into a high. Newcomers Le Grotto are blending the two on their new single, “HWY 160“, which feels like a mind-warp.
Actually, if “HWY 160” was written two decades earlier, it could have been the theme song for the film Fear and Loathsome in Las Vegas. The song brings to mind a long drive in the desert and the hallucinating effects the heat and other substances can create. Yet there is also an introspective loneliness in the song, particularly as it temporarily spirals into chaos before easing into a swath of psychedelic reverb. What a ride this song is. Hunter S. Thompson likely would have approved.
“HWY 160” was released in August by boutique label 2060 Records. Le Grotto are Laith Scherer (guitar/vocals), Will Willard (bass), and Alek Gayton (drums).
Slow Riot – “Absent Dreams” (Limerick, Ireland)
RIYL: Eagulls, The Cure, Preoccupations
Almost one year ago to the day, Irish post-punk rockers Slow Riot released their debut EP, Cathedral. The four-song record was a cathartic experience, as the Limerick trio reflected on the impact of religion to how their community crushed the dreams of many. This same thoughtfulness exists in their new single, “Absent Dreams”.
Although the song is a little more restrained in its deliver from their past efforts, it might be the best song they have written, which is saying a lot. The dark, shoegaze-y guitars blur the lines of My Bloody Valentine and Interpol, but the sonic explosion lingers well after the song end à la Preoccupations. Frontman Niall Clancy’s vocals are also deadpan, sounding like a man who has been defeated. A man whose future holds very little, either as result of his own decisions, his mental health, or being crushed by the society in which he lives. Lots of bands can create great rock songs; very few can produce the psychological mind-benders for which Slow Riot have become known. “Absent Dreams” is another shining gem in the band’s catalogue.
Slow Riot have released two other tracks this year (“Awake For Days” and “Trophy Wife”) that can be heard on SoundCloud. The bands consists of Niall Clancy (vocals/bass), Aaron Duff (guitars), and Paul Cosgrave (drums).
Stef Chura – “You” (Detroit, USA)
RIYL: Liz Phair, Colleen Green, Ani DiFranco, Stevie Nicks
It has been 23 years since Liz Phair’s Exile in Guiville was released. Many artists have attempted to recapture the angst and the feeling of isolation of that iconic album. The results have been mixed to date, but there is one young artist who could be the next Liz Phair if her latest single is any indication.
Stef Chura has been for years a part of the DIY indie scene in Detroit, but only now are people (us included) discovering her. Like Phair, her songs are narratives that are one part introspective and another a social commentary of the city she grew up in. Her latest single, “You”, describes the complexities of a relationship, which can be simultaneously euphoric and poisonous if the two parties are not equal. Her coarse vocals, which have a touch of Stevie Nicks, add to the pain that resonates within the song. The gritty alt-rock currents that reverberate throughout are the sounds of her hometown – the crumbling neighborhoods and tough streets where relationships blossom and evaporate.
“You” is lever, thoughtful, and enticing, and it raises expectations for her debut studio album, Messes. The LP arrives January 27th via Urinal Cake Records.
Tia Gostelow – “Vague Utopia” (Mackay, Australia)
RIYL: The Jezebels, Jack River, Sharon Van Etten
There was a collective “Oh my gosh!” when we first spun “Vague Utopia”, the brand new single by Aussie singer-songwriter Tia Gostelow. Then we learned that she celebrated her 17th birthday this past week, and we were floored.
The first thing that strikes you is her arresting vocals. The first words from her voice are like little tremors shocking your mind and soul, leaving you spellbound and in a state of awe. Despite her youth, she has crafted a beautiful song about chasing dreams, false realities, and unfulfilled promises. The crystalline guitar that radiates across the song perfectly complements Gostelow’s vocals and the storyline, adding to the enchantment that one is already in. If this is what utopia sounds like, we never want to leave.
If you cannot get enough of Gostelow’s voice and music, hear more songs on SoundCloud. She’s planning to release her debut EP early in 2017. Again, she is just 17 years old! The next big thing from Australia? Possibly even more than that, as she could be her generation’s Joni Mitchell.
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