This week’s serving of new music cocktails features a triumphant return of a beloved indie band plus an American folk troubadour and a few newcomers who will charm you with their shoegaze, indie rock, and dream pop. These six tunes span the globe from Australia to Canada, England, and the U.S. Let’s get things started with great news out of Montreal.
Land of Talk – “Inner Lover” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Bat For Lashes, Maria Taylor, Sharon Van Etten
Elizabeth Powell of Canadian indie band Land of Talk has one of music’s most stunning voices. If you’re a longtime fan of hers, you know the trials she has overcome in keeping that voice. After a setback in 2009 that forced her to undergo vocal surgery, the band released an album in 2010 – but they’ve been quiet since. Fate kept throwing curve balls at her, thwarting her efforts to record new music. Fans have long pondered when (or if) Land of Talk would return. Now with the release of their upcoming third album, Life After Youth, those questions are answered. Powell’s voice is as strong as ever, and “Inner Lover” proves the seven-year wait has been well worth it. The song is a soaring triumph.
Much like the band’s 2010 album, Cloak and Cypher, this new one also features a star-studded support cast. Powell reunites with original drummer Bucky Wheaton plus members of Besnard Lakes, Roxy Music, Sonic Youth, and Sharon Van Etten. May 19th cannot arrive soon enough!
Christopher Paul Stelling – “Destitute” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: The Tallest Man on Earth, Langhorne Slim, Ian Fitzgerald
Back in November when we were still reeling from the U.S. election, we shared the Christopher Paul Stelling single (“Badguys”) that captured our collective feelings perfectly. Since then he’s been hard at work finishing his fourth album, Itinerant Arias, that’s due in May. “Badguys” is included on this new album, but it’s the lead single, “Destitute,” that has us hitting repeat. Its uplifting lyrics (“You may be tired / you may be broke / you’re not destitute / Keep your mind on the right ideas and keep it there”) offer the boldest sentiments of hope the music industry has heard in a while.
Stelling has a gift for creating beautiful melodies that resonate with the listener and messages that hit your heart like a bullseye. This song is no different. “Destitute” is full of reassurance (plus some soul-stirring violin in addition to his artistic finger-picking) that is needed now more than ever. Get to know this song now, since you’ll be singing it to yourself for a long time to come. It may be one of the finest in his already impeccable catalog.
Luke Fox – “Coasting” (Western Australia)
RIYL: Angus Stone, Lord Huron, Junip
A fresh, mellow breeze is floating in from Western Australia in the form of Luke Fox and his new “Coasting” single. Its gently tropical tones call to mind a seamless fusion of José González and Paul Simon, so it’s no surprise this emerging singer/songwriter is gaining a fast following Down Under. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to take notice. This is a “close your eyes and escape” tune that instantly elevates your mood. Fox’s sunny vocals exude warmth and charm, while the song’s breezy tempo makes you want to head to the nearest beach for some blissed-out rejuvenation. Even on the rainiest of days, “Coasting” provides enough sun-kissed perfection to make you forget about anything but bright, beautiful moments.
Luke Fox is the STA TravelSounds artist for the month of March. You can also find “Coasting” among the downloads at his Triple J artist page. Hopefully he will provide details about an album later this year.
Ulrika Spacek – “Mimi Pretend” (Reading, England)
RIYL: Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Television
The lead single from the forthcoming Ulrika Spacek album, Modern English Decoration, is four-and-a-half minutes of pure shoegaze perfection. “Mimi Pretend” finds the British group at the top of their game – and finds us once again in awe of their talent, much like this time last year when we first covered them. Last February we were struck by the maturity of their sound upon the release of their debut LP, The Album Paranoia. They are even better now.
Throughout the extended intro, the dense textures echo shoegaze greats like Slowdive and Television. The dueling guitars throughout this song rival the intricacies of Marquee Moon. These guys may have studied the Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd playbook, but they’re clearly writing their own chapter, as this single demonstrates.
Ulrika Spacek are: Rhys Edwards (vocals, guitar), Rhys Williams (guitar), Joseph Stone (guitar, keys), Ben White (bass), and Callum Brown (drums).
Tall Juan – “Getting Cold” (Far Rockaway, NY USA)
RIYL: The Ramones, Mac DeMarco, The Beets
Is amazing indie music the official export of Argentina? It must be, since the list of phenomenal artists who hail from there (yet live elsewhere) keeps growing – from José González in Sweden to Fernando Viciconte in Portland, Oregon; now we can add New York’s Tall Juan to the list. The Queens-based singer cites The Ramones as an influence, and you can hear it in his unbelievable catchy, hook-filled garage-rock.
“Getting Cold” is the new single from his official debut LP, Olden Goldies. It’s the follow-up to his 2015 EP, Why Not? (That’s the one he recorded at Mac DeMarco’s Jizz Jazz Studios, in case it somehow slipped your attention.) It’s a bit of a tease at first, with 25 seconds of tentative guitar strums that give no clue of what’s to come. But once he starts to sing, you immediately get the Ramones connection. The energy on “Getting Cold” is more dialed-down than the usual Johnny and Dee Dee riffs, but their spirit of unbridled expression looms large here. Tall Juan is definitely an artist to watch. Like his friend Mac DeMarco, he’s having so much fun making music that you want to join the party. Speaking of which, SXSW attendees can catch Tall Juan playing in Austin on March 15.
No Vacation – “Mind Fields” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Jay Som, Beach House, Best Coast
Sometimes the friendships you make in college become lifelong relationships; sometimes they become dreamy indie pop. That’s how No Vacation began, but there is more to their story. The duo of Sabrina Mai and Marisa Saunders eventually became a five-piece group with an atmospheric sound that captures the carefree days of youth.
When you first listen to their newest single, “Mind Fields,” you wouldn’t know it’s a break-up song about an earlier time in the band’s evolution. Fortunately for their fans, that hiatus was brief and led to this shimmering gem. With its buoyant bass line and breezy vocals, “Mind Fields” is one of those songs that will run circles in your mind for weeks.
No Vacation are: Sabrina Mai (vocals, guitar), Marisa Saunders (bass), Nat Lee (synths), Harrison Spencer (guitar), and James Shi (drums).
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