This past Monday, Atlanta’s Terminal West venue was flooded with a crossover of old-school punk fans, new punk fans, indie heads and lovers of hardcore music all the same.
The crowd drawn out by Toronto’s PUP and their equally talented opener from Chicago, Ratboys was a fiery and passionate one.
Ratboys’ set quite literally set the stage for PUP in the perfect way. The duo’s dynamic sound ranges from more delicate, sing-songy indie on tracks like “Elvis Is in the Freezer” or “Molly,” to something heavier on songs like "GL” or “You’ve Changed” that pay homage to their punk roots.
As Ratboys continues to make music, it’s clear that at their core they are not tame, but are something wilder. With each new single or EP, their dynamism is more and more evident, and Steiner’s voice proves to us that sweetness can be strong, too.
Since seeing the band open for Soccer Mommy in January, it’s obvious that the duo only improves with every performance, and that they’re right at home with a crowd as raucous as PUP’s.
Despite originally hailing from Bowling Green, Ky., it hasn’t taken Jordan Reynolds long to settle into the Atlanta music scene. Reynolds’ 2017 EP, Always A Good Reason, served as an intimate introduction to Rose Hotel, with minimal instrumentation supporting Reynolds’ soft vibrato. Since then, Rose Hotel has slowly unfurled — transitioning from a solo project to a full-fledged band, opening for locally and nationally recognized bands and working on a comprehensive album.
Rose Hotel’s debut full-length, I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes, due May 31, is the band’s most ambitious project to date. The album features contributions from 11 different Atlanta musicians — members of Neighbor Lady, Material Girls, Karaoke, Shepherds and Palm Sunday — with flutes, trumpets, vibraphone and backing vocals reinforcing Rose Hotel’s introspective soundscapes.
“It’s a record about running from nostalgia, but also leaning into it,” Reynolds says in a press release. “It’s about transitioning through life, learning from the different phases we endure.”
Last summer, Reynolds embarked on a three-week emotional pilgrimage, in the form of a solo road trip. She had just finished the then unnamed album, and was coming into her own while healing from heartbreak. The album’s title resulted from a conversation with a fellow musician Reynolds had met while traveling. Sitting on a blanket at Postock — a music festival hosted on a farm in Wisconsin — the two women discussed their lives, and Reynolds’ newfound friend shared a piece of enlightenment.
“She said, ‘And finally, I told myself, I will only come when it's a yes.’ As soon as she said that, I felt this heat radiate all over my skin; it resonated so much with me at the time and what the record was about,” Reynolds tells Sad Girl Collective.
Reynolds has partnered the announcement of I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes with the release of “10 K.” The album’s lead single is an effervescent expansion of Rose Hotel’s lo-fi, bedroom pop roots, with darker, shoegaze leanings. Directed by Reynold’s friend Jayme Powell — another Bowling Green transplant — the song’s accompanying Super 8 visuals pay homage to the band’s old and new hometowns, of Bowling Green and Atlanta, respectively.
“I wanted to capture the bittersweet nostalgia of moving away from home, mixed with the excitement of experiencing a new city and moving forward in life. It sort of feels like a home movie in a lot of ways, and the song feels like that to me too,” Reynolds says.
With one foot in Kentucky, and one in Atlanta, I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes not only marks Rose Hotel’s debut as a full band, but also Reynolds’ debut as a full member of the Atlanta DIY scene. — Kristy Guilbault
Ahead of our collab show with headliners The Underhill Family Orchestra at The Earl on Feb. 23rd, the band takes us through their debut album, the challenges of working together from different states, and striking balance among music and other career pursuits.
Bringing southern progressive pop to the forefront of their 5-part harmonies, The Underhill Family Orchestra brings fluid southern elements from their family roots of the delta area. With three lead singers — Joelle Rosen, Steven Laney and Ben Cook — and additional vocals from Roy Durand (Drums) and Joe Grove (Bass), Underhill captures that warm family feeling. After putting out its debut album, Tell Me That You Love Me, last May and touring across the country, Underhill has continued to challenge itself by continuing to work together, despite some members living in different states, and striking a balance between the band and other creative pursuits.
Creating a successful place among the booming Atlanta music scene, The Underhill Family Orchestra has been able to put all its heart and soul behind the diverse and inclusive spaces the scene has to offer. As a DIY hub, Atlanta’s creative community has offered support and encouragement, especially to frontwoman Joelle Rosen. “Mixing your career and passion can be really scary but also really rewarding,” Rosen says. “I kind of bounce between the scary and rewarding on a daily basis.”
As a musician and editorial photographer, Rosen is constantly working to merge her place on the stage and behind the camera. Experimentation and gut instincts play a huge role in Rosen’s career and lifestyle, as her creative pursuits weave and entangle themselves in her path. Rosen finds that her “Patsy Cline on Vacation meets ‘70s couch” personal style translates into her “retro dream grunge” editorial aesthetic, which then finds its way onstage with the band. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I think just experimenting and trusting yourself goes along with getting to know yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin,” Rosen says.
Underhill’s debut album, Tell Me That You Love Me, serves as the band’s introduction and propels these themes of growth and balance, through soulful tracks and cry-worthy narratives rooted in New Orleans elements. Rosen’s has familial ties to the delta, which trickle its way into the album with interludes of her grandmother speaking. One excerpt at the end of the album extends the ancestral bonds, as Rosen’s grandmother laments the loss of her husband over homemade gumbo, describing her last days with him.
Underhill’s strong communication and ability to listen to each other's diverse personal tastes has an effect on the group’s songwriting, since each bandmate contributes to the process. Underhill’s music is personal, combining past inspiration with present day feelings. “Chickasaw Fields” is one track especially teeming with memories. “I remember sitting in my old living room years ago when Steven came to me with the idea. I love the Johnny and June back-and-forth verse style and think it’s definitely a quintessential Underhill vibe,” Rosen says.
The Underhill Family Orchestra continues to change, but the familial ties remain. The band is currently working on their sophomore album, on which they plan to experiment with more unorthodox instrumentation while retaining lyrical themes of love and loss. Whether playing together in Alabama, Louisiana or Georgia, The Underhill Family Orchestra will continue to share vulnerability and warmth with their listeners.
Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan began making music together as close friends. The duo soon came into their own as Ratboys, after discovering their musical compatibility, and mutual love for a good melody and intimate storytelling. The Chicago-based group is now two albums and multiple EPs into their career, with no signs of stopping.
We chatted with Steiner after her opening set for Soccer Mommy, in November of 2018, at Atlanta’s Masquerade. Sitting amongst the cigarette-smokers and abandoned tallboys outside the venue, we talked about Ratboys’ past 3 and a half years of touring, and what comes next.
Sagan and Steiner began collaborating musically during college, after finding each other in a niche group of artists at Notre Dame. While their sound has evolved, it remains centered on melodic songwriting, infectious energy and pangs of nostalgia. Steiner says the most noticeable change in their sound was between 2015’s AOID and 2017’s GN. GN presents tracks that are more storied and nimble, including their well-known hit, “Elvis Is in the Freezer.” Electric guitar is more present on their second LP than their first, taking Ratboys beyond an alt-country or indie band, to something less tame.
The most recent release from Ratboys, GL, may only be a 4-song EP, but it’s packed to the brim with evidence of a more dynamic sound to come on their next full-length release. Steiner notes that her favorite track on the EP, “You’ve Changed,” is one that she’s wanted to record since high school. The song has aged well, seamlessly carrying over from the heaviness of losing friends and enduring dramatic changes under the spell of high school angst, to the impermanence and constant oscillations of your early-to-mid-twenties.
Ratboys expects its third LP to come this year, but the duo hasn’t set a date yet. Steiner and Sagan typically use a stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting, but they have trouble writing on the road, making it difficult to pin down a release date. Some of the tracks are finished, though, and they describe what they’ve recorded so far as having more “live show energy” than anything prior. Despite the writing setbacks due to touring, Steiner says some of her most creative song ideas come during the fast-paced routine of soundchecking, night after night.
Starting in April, Ratboys will be going on tour with PUP, opening for the punk band for a five month stint. This tour comes as a precursor to the next album, and is evidence that Ratboys is expanding their breadth of sound into something that is more punk-fueled than indie rock-based.
Saintseneca’s newest album Pillar of Na brings a simpler sound from the five-piece than previous releases have demonstrated. However, streamlining their recording and production process doesn’t mean sacrificing their signature creative instrumentation. The group’s fourth album is a look at endings, and the memories that lead to them. Listening to Pillar of Na means reconciling your own past and recognizing the need to move forward.
The reconciliation isn’t always somber, though – the overarching feeling is a fond nostalgia, and an acceptance of finality.
>> Read our conversation with the band below >>
Tell me a little bit about your journey from your last record to Pillar of Na. What sort of changes can listeners expect in your sound? What sort of growth?
In the past we created dense recordings with literally hundreds of layers. Maybe sometimes I got a little carried away. I wanted these songs to breathe. I tried to keep this record as minimal and raw as possible, while retaining some mysterious and surreal textures. I wanted to hear the room, to hear the air and the space. We tried to create a document that wasn't overly manicured. The unanticipated moments that might be “accidents” can be the most honest and beautiful. I wanted to provide space for that kind of thing to happen.
How did Pillar of Na get its name?
Pillar of Na has a braided meaning. It is a reference to the Old Testament story of Lot's wife. While fleeing a Sodom and Gomorrah, as the cities are being destroyed, she is warned to not look back. She does, and turns into a pillar of salt. Na is the chemical symbol for sodium. Na is the nonsense song lyric "na na na." It is the passive decline, "nah.” I liked connecting this to the expression "being a pillar," as in, Stalwart, a bastion of universal nothing.
You guys are known for using an array of unique instruments in your music -- what sort of instrumentation is found on this album?
Some of of the more eccentric instruments are mandola, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, mellotron. We also had the opportunity to bring in some folks to play flute, piccolo, bass trumpet. An exciting moment was bringing in a string quartet with members of the Omaha symphony.
Many of the songs on the album seem to deal with mortality and the way we handle it. Is that where your mind was when writing this record?
The overarching theme of the record is memory. Death and mortality certainly can be a part of that. Death is punctuation; endings are an inflection point. As we move forward, we're constantly looking back, forced to reconcile the present to the past. I think those moments of punctuation often facilitate the conjuring of old memories.
On “Timshel,” you sing the line, “Good-hearted Christians / Whip out their weapons / Push them against some sinner’s side.” In the current social and political climate, this seems like an overt statement about where things stand. What did you have in mind with this lyric and this song?
I'd say that line is more about how beliefs can be weaponized, which certainly happens in today's social climate. I first encountered the word "Timshel" in the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The characters are studying the tale of Cain and Abel from the Old Testament. Cain murders Abel out of jealousy, after God prefers Abel's sacrifice to Cain's. Timshel is a hebrew word God says to Cain referring to "Sin lying in wait at the door" — it translates to "Thou shalt triumph over it." In East of Eden, Steinbeck translates it to "Thou Mayest.” I liked how Steinbeck's characters grapple with the notion of inheriting these ancient flaws. They wonder if they are doomed to perpetuate the same mistakes, or if there is hope of transcendence?
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this album, tour or the band’s direction as a whole?
We're on tour, come say hi!
When we sat to go over all of the year's releases (so far), a few things became obvious. First, that this year has brought both genre rebirth (think: the sad punk of Snail Mail and garage punk of Shame) and unexpected favorites (think: Kacey Musgraves). Second, that many of the artists we name on this list are young. Third, that an overwhelming majority of those artists are women.
Most notably, we chose these albums because of musicality, innovation and importance – not gender. But even still, women rose to the top with 15 of our 20 albums coming from female artists or female-fronted groups. A few of those women are under 21, or newly 21. What we're seeing here is the result of profound and important change – it's not that these young, female/female-identifying artists only now exist, but in our current climate many of them finally have a platform on which distribute their message and their art. They weren't given that platform – they had to make it themselves. Female artists before them who refused to back down despite being nearly swallowed by cis-male rock, all-male festival lineups, or the backhanded "girl band" designation are to thank for laying the foundation that has made it possible for us to hear things like Soccer Mommy's Clean, that might have otherwise been stuck between the walls of Sophie Allison's bedroom.
While it's undeniable that women in music and women generally have a long way to go in our fight for respect and an equal playing field, this list shows progress.
As Natalie Prass sings on The Future and The Past: keep your sisters close. – Erin Patrick
*NOTE: These albums are listed by release date.
Shame / Songs of Praise (Jan. 12)
Songs of Praise, the debut album from UK punk rockers Shame, is a raucous ride packed with anger, darkness, desperation and wit. From the opening track, lead singer Charlie Steen’s desire to be heard is obvious, although he has notably rejected the idea of great fame. Throughout the album, the listener hears him go from a monotonous drone to a throaty squall that is undeniably bursting with anger, pain or both.
On “One Rizla,” Steen addresses his own gruffness and self-declared mediocrity, and lets us know exactly where he stands on his music and his life: “My nails ain't manicured / My voice ain't the best you've heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a fuck?” The group seems painfully self-aware of their place in the saturated UK rock scene and wants to level with us. What makes Shame and Songs of Praise stand out isn’t the type of music they’re making, but the attitude they put into it. Although strident and punky, every sound is intentional and demonstrative of the artfulness and talent of the group and the fame that may follow, against their will. – EP
Tune-Yards – I can feel you creep into my private life (Jan. 19)
Merrill Garbus is not one to shy away from the complexity of socially conscious confrontation through her ambitious musicality. On her fourth album as Tune-Yards, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, Garbus takes a deeper look into the crippling political landscape of America with complex lyricism. Since 2011’s w h o k i l l ‘s, the follow up to her 2008 debut release BiRd-BrAiNs, Tune-Yards has continued to give that true sense of value through her music for listeners to explore present day issues of social disparity in the indie-rock backdrop. “I turn on my white woman's voice to contextualize acts of my white women friends/ I cry my white woman tears carving grooves in my cheeks to display what I meant,” Garbus sings on “Colonizer,” leaving questions on how we perceive the way we discuss social inequality and topics of race in present day society. – Katie Lipsiner
Porches – The House (Jan. 19)
New York-based songwriter Aaron Maine released his third studio LP as Porches this year. The House follows 2016’s Pool, which marked Porches transition from a unique brand of semi-soft rock to glitzy dance tracks, a transformation catalyzed by Maine’s exploration of homemade beats.
The House is a magnified portrayal of some of Porches’ most heart-wrenching tracks ever released -- tracks that dive into the thoughts of anxiousness that consume most humans trying to figure out their lives. “I think that I’ll stay inside/If you don’t think that they’d mind/I can’t let it find me,” Maine serenades, the disillusioned confession of overbearing anxiety that keeps your body from moving, that entrances you deep in your own thoughts, all through techno beats and a catchy chorus. – KL
Caroline Rose – LONER (Feb. 23)
With a career long rooted in folk, Caroline Rose has a history with creative isolation. So, true to her satirical form, Rose’s latest and most extroverted release is entitled LONER. Rose’s sophomore release is a far cry from the rockabilly blues of 2014’s I Will Not Be Afraid, which was her objective when creating her latest project. The Nashville musician felt as though her music didn’t properly convey her vibrant personality, and set out to record and produce a LP packed with energy and dark humor.
LONER light-heartedly touches on everything from isolation and death, to misogyny and capitalism, with catchy hooks and surf guitar softening the blows. Lead single, “Money,” set the tone for the album with a raucous critique of selling out in the music industry. But LONER’s saitrical crown jewel is “Bikini,” which exposes the rampant misogyny that female artists constantly battle: “We’re gonna give you everything you’ve ever wanted / Hang a banner with your name upon it / Pour three shots in a glass, call it a martini / All you’ve got to do is put on this little bikini / And dance.” – KG
Lucy Dacus – Historian (March 2)
In early 2016, Lucy Dacus quietly rolled onto the neo-folk scene with her debut album, No Burden. The green-eyed, red-faced singer-songwriter quickly garnered the attention of the music community with her guitar prowess and witty lyricism. Dacus’ 2018 release builds on the cut-and-dry storytelling of No Burden, adding layers of strings and horns to the songwriter’s palette. Historian enters as a sucker-punch, with emotional slow-burn “Night Shift,” and exits as a tender forehead kiss, with the exceptionally intimate track “Historian.”
Dacus touches on universal themes of religion, heartbreak and healing, but also takes time to look inward. Such is the case on “The Shell,” as Dacus introspectively sings, “You don't wanna be a creator / Doesn't mean you've got nothing to say / Put down the pen, don't let it force your hand.” The LP’s 10 tracks dissect the various ways people support and neglect each other, reminding listeners that the Richmond, Virginia musician is a master narrator. – KG
Soccer Mommy / Clean (March 2)
Sophie Allison is 21 years of pure, unapologetic emotion. Under the moniker Soccer Mommy, Allison has quickly become a staple of the indie and punk scenes. Clean, Soccer Mommy’s sophomore studio release, starts slowly but nonetheless forcefully with "Still Clean.” In the first verse, Allison powerfully grabs the listener’s attention with morbid imagery: “Then you took me down to the water got your mouth all clean / Left me drowning once you picked me out your bloody teeth.” From here, the album meanders into its earworm track, “Cool,” the story of the girl that all the boys are in love with – or the idea of her, at least.
The album’s peak arrives with the tension-heavy track “Your Dog,” drawing a frighteningly accurate metaphor between a dog and her owner, and a girl and her partner in a suffocating relationship. Allison has a knack for balancing adolescent laments with deep-seated malaise, as demonstrated by the way Clean bounces from the playful “Cool” and angsty “Last Girl,” to “Flaw” – a slow-burning track about intoxication, mistakes and regret. Throughout the course of the record, you’ll find yourself receding into your rawest emotional landscape for, and scream-singing through a necessary catharsis the next. – EP
Haley Heynderickx / I Need to Start a Garden (March 9)
Haley Heynderickx is a rising name in the singer-songwriter scene, one which often implies simplicity or perhaps a mundane sound, but Heynderickx provides us with compelling compositions and sounds that are concurrently forceful and delicate. I Need to Start a Garden provides glimpses into Heynderickx’s search for her place in the world, while navigating multiple cultural identities. Although the album is short and sweet, clocking in around 30 minutes, it’s packed with powerful moments.
The opening track, “No Face,” feels fragile, as if it’s being sung by someone battling profound pain. Singing “Face me / Face me entirely,” Heynderickx demonstrates her need for honesty and shows her resilience in a time of hurt. Sonically, the album consists of guitar so intimate that you can at times hear her fingers sliding on the strings. Heynderickx’s voice, too, is intimate and yearning – she soars to high notes with ease, and handles “oohs” and “aahs” without losing timbre or tonality. This is an album that can be listened to on a loop – it’s digestible and speaks to the most human parts of each of us. – EP
Frankie Cosmos / Vessel (March 30)
Greta Kline – known on the indie scene as Frankie Cosmos – released her third studio album, Vessel, this spring. Kline shares important two-minute musings on relationships and the human condition via this collection of a whopping 18 tracks, although Vessel only spans 33 minutes. On “This Stuff” she ruminates on the predisposition to keep important thoughts and feelings to oneself when they matter most – just one of the album’s mentions of mental health. The most overt reference is on “Being Alive,” an anthemic track that frequently repeats the phrase: “Being alive / Matters quite a bit / Even when you / Feel like shit,”, in Kline’s voice and her bandmates’.
Frankie Cosmos is known for their minimalism, both musically and lyrically. Often minimalism can devolve into something unchallenging or prosaic, but Vessel’s quick transitions and simple but thoughtful statements regarding everything from taxidermied dogs, to crashing phones, to death after sex, keep Kline’s brand of simplistic indie rock fresh and innovative. – EP
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (March 30)
In the interest of full transparency, country and pure, unadulterated pop aren’t typically genres that we find ourselves venturing into. However, Kacey Musgraves has achieved a crossover album that isn’t simply tolerable, but damn addictive.
Golden Hour is Musgraves’ most accessible project to date, running the gamut of pop, country and most notably disco, on standout track “High Horse.” Album opener “Slow Burn” makes an amiable introduction to Musgraves’ new sound, one that starkly differs from her previously cynical tone, by taking the scenic route: “You know the bar down the street don’t close for an hour / We should take a walk and look at all the flowers / ‘Cause I’m alright with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn.” Golden Hour might be the most aptly named album of the year, bathing listeners in a warm wash of lush instrumentation and Musgraves’ glowing vocals. It’s the perfect soundtrack for sitting on the porch with a beer and watching the world go by. – KG
Hop Along / Bark Your Head Off, Dog (April 6)
Led by Frances Quinlan, Hop Along released their third, and arguably most dynamic, studio album this year. Throughout Bark Your Head Off, Dog, Quinlan ruminates on the power dynamic between men and women, and between those in power and those who go unacknowledged. These are topics she approaches with strength and grace, sandwiching poignant observations between masterful uses of imagery and metaphor.
The album’s opening track, “How Simple,” demonstrates Quinlan’s seemingly innate ability to create, and then adeptly navigate, a warm and addictive melody. That warmth echoes throughout the course of the LP, as do themes of patriarchy and the subsequent strength needed to overcome it. This motif is most overtly exhibited on “Somewhere a Judge” as Quinlan sings, “Somewhere a judge stretches himself out on fine tropical sand,” once again calling out the men who make the decisions without consequence. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is perhaps so successful because each track tells a story. The stories are not the same, but the morals follow the same plot line, and thus an album of distinctive and contrasting tracks becomes undeniably cohesive. – EP
Half Waif / Lavender (April 27)
Nandi Rose Plunkett released her third album as Half Waif this March, showing us the astounding progressions she’s made both musically and personally. Throughout the course of Lavender, the listener experiences simultaneously shows of loneliness and desire. Plunkett displays the emotional intelligence of a true empath who has experienced the gamut of both love and loss. Half Waif is still Half Waif on this record, but the synth breakdowns and glitchiness are more present and pronounced than anything on Kotekan or Probable Depths.
Plunkett’s voice, too, seems stronger than ever. She sings to us not only in the softer coo that we’re used to, but also begs and pleads in a timbre more intense than before. On “Torches,” the vocals start soft and muffled atop clear oscillating beeps, and then come through clear with the confrontational phrase, “I do what I want / And you won’t see me anymore…Don’t make yourself comfortable, love.” All of the feelings expressed thus far in the record seem to come to a head as she sings, “Listen for me now / You’ve got to listen for me now,” on stand-out track “Back in Brooklyn.” What follows is a soul-crushing denouement about abandonment and finding home. – EP
Dr. Dog - Critical Equation (April 27th)
Dr. Dog have been sonically derailing parts of listeners minds for more than a decade, but every great rock n’ roll band needs revitalization in their sound along the way. Dr. Dog’s 2018 release, Critical Equation, does just that, bringing the psych-rockers out of their skin with tight hooks and fuzzy guitar riffs.
Singles like “Listening In” and “Buzzing in the Light” gave listeners a tease of Dr. Dog’s long-awaited evolution. Sincere lyricism, alongside those signature oddball melodies, shows that there are some doors worth opening. “Seems to me I'm watching someone else's dream / Only in the light, buzzing in the light, of this world,” singer and bass guitarist Toby Leaman cooes, invoking the reality of something new to grow into, and then maybe even destroy again. – KL
Beach House / 7 (May 11)
If you’d never listened to Beach House and read through the track listing of their seventh studio album, 7, you’d think you were about to hear something that could be the soundtrack to your next party, or maybe something like French house music. “Drunk in LA”, “Woo” and “Girl Of The Year” are track names in keeping with duo’s band name, which, without musical context, also sounds playful. What you do hear on 7, though, is not party music, but sounds that are somehow both dark and warm.
The duo, comprised of Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally, always produces music that is haunting and easy to get tangled up in, and while 7 is no exception, there’s something undeniably distinctive about it. There’s a heaviness that permeates from the first track to the last, with brief interludes of something a little lighter, like in the breakdown midway through “Dive.” LeGrand and Scally are masters of creating music that mimics everyday sensations; they then put those sensations on a sonic loop, at first bringing the listener face to face with an emotion, and then freeing them of it. 7 does this in a more dynamic and successful way than ever before. It’s 47 minutes of sound that glitters and then dulls, like a dimly lit, oscillating disco ball. – EP
Neighbor Lady / Maybe Later (May 11)
Over the past year, Neighbor Lady has dominated the Atlanta DIY scene with with an arresting blend of indie-rock and country western, all the while lacking a substantial online presence or any recorded music. In May, the eclectic quartet dropped their debut LP, Maybe Later, a spellbinding, studio embodiment of Neighbor Lady’s live performances.
Fronted by Emily Braden’s warbling vocals, the albums’ seven tracks discuss heartbreak, desperation and loneliness. Maybe Later isn’t all fire and brimstone, though, Southern pleasantries sweeten the LP, such as on “Oh Honey,” when Braden sings with a seeming smirk: “Oh honey, what’s all the fuss about?” The album is brought to a volatile end with “Wring Me Out,” as Braden nearly yells over apprehensive instrumentation, before resolving into a minute of ambient synth. Maybe Later finally brings Neighbor Lady’s twang-tinged vigor from the stage to the studio, and oh honey, it’s certainly something to fuss about. – KG
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel (May 18)
On Courtney Barnett’s 2015 LP, she belts, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.” With the release of this year’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, Aussie-born songwriter Courtney Barnett liberates herself of that reality ever ringing true. Barnett makes it clear that she has no time for toxicity, calling out both her professional and personal critics throughout the album’s assortment of brilliantly written melodies.
While we do get a glimpse into her private life, the most powerful aspect of this album is the introspection it provides the listener. Tell Me How You Really Feel is daring and unprecedented, offering more volume and content than its antecedent, and demonstrating Barnett’s impressive musicianship and status as a forerunner of indie-rock. – KL
Parquet Courts / Wide Awake! (May 18)
The most recent album from New York’s post-punk four-piece, Parquet Courts, is packed with social and political commentary that at times listens like a manifesto. Frontman Andrew Savage referred to Wide Awake! as the group’s attempt at making a “punk record you could put on at parties.” Part of achieving that was working with producer Danger Mouse (A$AP Rocky, The Red Hot Chili Peppers), resulting in an album that simultaneously makes the listener want to jump up and down, and then cry or prosthelytize a little bit about where humankind is headed.
“Normalization,” features in-your-face vocals and a clear finger point to human indecency: “Normalization, collective witnessing / Immunization of human sympathy.” As they did on their 2016 release, Human Performance, Parquet Courts’ sound seems to be informed by everything from Velvet Underground-age art rock to disco and 80’s dance on tracks like “Wide Awake” and “Tenderness.” Overall, the group’s sixth studio album is a rambunctious ode to the human condition, maintaining their place as a leader in their genre. – EP
Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer (June 1)
When Josh Tillman announced that he had another album on the way, shortly after the release of 2017’s Pure Comedy, it was hard to decipher if he was joking (thankfully, he was serious). Tillman has certainly kept himself busy over the past few years, by crafting multiple critically and commercially acclaimed albums, and, in turn, creating a complicated empire for Father John Misty – a name which seems to constantly oscillate between a moniker and Tillman’s alter ego.
Written during a six-week period of living in a hotel, God’s Favorite Customer somehow manages to take an even darker turn than the sprawling socio-political commentary of Pure Comedy. Father John Misty’s fourth LP opens with “Hangout at the Gallows,” a (literal) stab at Tillman’s suicidal tendencies, punctuated by chilling falsetto and lyrics littered with religious allegories: “Trouble sleeping / My alarm goes off / So you wanna hang out at the gallows? / Those guys get an early start / Whose bright idea was it to sharpen the knives? / Just twenty minutes ‘fore the boat capsize.”
God’s Favorite Customer is Tillman’s most personal and disturbing release to date. Death, addiction and desperation hide around every corner, while lacking Father John Misty’s typical satirical wink – which makes the listener frequently question Tillman’s sanity. And while that musing goes largely unanswered, he at least leaves the album on a relatively optimistic note with the introspective track “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That).” – KG
Natalie Prass – The Future and The Past (June 1)
From Mitski to Kacey Musgraves, 2018 has proved fruitful for the revival of disco, and at its epicenter lays Natalie Prass. The Richmond, Virginia singer-songwriter’s sophomore album is a mix of all things weird and wonderful, tossing a danceable sheen over the emotionally charged Trump era.
Prass was prepared to release the highly anticipated follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed Natalie Prass, but then the presidential election struck and the record felt wrong. From its ashes rose The Future and the Past, a critical conversation about our current socio-political climate that won’t leave you with a headache. Opener “Oh My” takes a hard look at climate change, fake news and the overarching question of, “What is freedom for the free?” The Future and the Past is a cathartic soapbox for political discussion, allowing listeners to simultaneously boogie and evaluate the state of our nation. – KG
Snail Mail – Lush (June 8)
It would be easy to write off Lindsay Jordan as just another angsty 19-year-old, but Snail Mail’s remarkable debut album, Lush, addresses the overpowering consciousness of teenage shame, by alleviating that pain completely.
Jordan is the poster child for the new wave of female-dominated indie rock, allowing sorrowful feelings to be transformed for a new generation of hard-hitting rockers to be inspired. Through exposed vocals and sage guitar mastery, Lush is the follow up the genre has been waiting for since 2016’s Habit EP. Lush just goes to show that indie rock is not dead: it’s transcending its reality and becoming something refreshingly new. – KL
Lunar Vacation / Artificial Flavors (July 6)
It’s usually best to avoid directly comparing bands, but seeing that Molly Rankin is frontwoman Grace Repasky’s most prominent inspiration, it feels disrespectful to neglect to note the sonic similarities between Alvvays and Lunar Vacation. Dreamy synth and invigorating percussion abound on Artificial Flavors, the band’s sophomore release.
Last year, the Atlanta “pool rock” five-piece self-released Swell, a psych-rock EP wise beyond their years, but it’s clear that Lunar Vacation has been hard at work ever since. Opener “Daytime” takes a groovy look at unrequited affection, while “The Basement” laments the all too familiar feeling of just wanting to go home early from a party. Artificial Flavors is a sharp follow-up that showcases Repasky’s ever maturing songwriting prowess, leaving listeners parched for more tunes. – KG
By Kristy Guilbault
It’s easy to gloss over the bands listed in small fonts at the bottom of lineup posters. Throughout this week, we’re magnifying the fine print of Shaky Knees, with interviews and highlights of artists you won’t want to miss at this year’s fest. Check out the first edition here.
»»» Sat., May 5 «««
Hailing from Nashville, Sun Seeker craft psych rock with a distinctive southern folk attitude. And while the group is frequently labeled as Cosmic American, frontman Alex Benick (guitar, vocals) wants to make it clear that that’s not the case.
“It’s weird a lot of the press that I’ve seen says that we’re self-described as Cosmic American music,” Benick says. “I can assure you that I never self-described us with that term. I honestly don’t really know what it means, but I guess it’s a nice thing. I’m definitely not passionate about it, or feel like that’s a guideline that we set ourselves to. I suppose that it’s like folk music that’s a little bit spacey, because of the cosmos or something.”
Spectral synth and acoustic guitar dot the band’s 2017 EP Biddeford, but the 60s seem to have a more profound influence on Sun Seeker’s sound than the cosmos. The opening track “Churchill” breezes by with Beach Boys-esque harmonies and drummer Ben Parks light yet energetic percussion. Benick notes that Biddeford feels a bit outdated, and even did at its release, but new material is on the way.
Starting in July, Sun Seeker will record their debut album in their hometown, under Third Man Records. Details are sparse, but the band hopes to branch out a bit from their current sound, and will play a few of the new songs on the road this summer, most notably at Shaky Knees.
“I’ve never been to Shaky Knees, but that seems to be the festival to be at,” Benick says. “We have a bunch of friends that have played before, and I’m really liking the lineup this year for sure. I’ve been a big War on Drugs fan for a long time, and we’re playing the same day as them, which I was really excited about. But, also, I think we’re going to stay the whole weekend. So seeing Courtney Barnett will be great, and I have a huge soft spot for Fleet Foxes from middle or high school days.”
It’s rare to come across a band that possess the ability to stop time with their music. In that regard, Charly Bliss is a diamond in the rough, crafting grunge pop that does more than halts time, it transcends it. With frontwoman Eva Hendricks’ honeyed vocals and unruly guitar riffs, the Brooklyn four-piece transports you back to the days of dancing around your high school bedroom to angsty pop punk.
The road to Charly Bliss’ debut full-length was long and bumpy, but ultimately successful. After years of touring, an EP, multiple recording attempts, and a few entire scrapings of projects, Guppy was born, to both critical and commercial acclaim. “People forget sometimes that expressing joy is just as important as examining despair,” says bassist Dan Shure in a press release. “People need joy, especially right now. We’re all about writing tight pop songs, but also giving people this super enthusiastic release. These songs are kind of the sound of expressing something that you can’t really contain. These are songs you play really loudly when you need to freak out.”
This month's guide is belated but nonetheless, April's second half has a strong roster of shows to get you through the month and propel you into May.
Read on for more + keep an eye here for May's guide soon!
Over the past five years, Kevin Morby has made unbelievable strides with his solo career. The former Woods bass guitarist and the Babies frontman made his solo debut in 2013 with Harlem River, a stunning eight-song ode to New York City. Themes of big city living have continuously found their way onto Morby’s material, but never quite like last year’s City Music.
Morby’s fourth studio album is a matured continuation of the sound that was so loved on Singing Saw tracks like “I Have Been to the Mountain,” featuring vocals that are fondly reminiscent of the peaks and troughs in Bob Dylan’s iconic timbre. Morby’s sound is spare in the way that it seems to echo in even the smallest room, embodied on “Come To Me Now” with a percussion line that seems as if it's miles away.
Morby has been compared not only to Dylan but to Lou Reed as well, and on tracks like “Crybaby” that Velvet Underground-esque songwriting style is prevalent, as he croons effortlessly over rhythmic, cyclical guitar. Despite stylistic comparisons, what Morby does is very much his own in the world of modern folk rock. -- EP
Sometimes you just want to start a fight while listening to Ty Segall & The Freedom Band’s double album Freedom’s Goblin (2018). Packed with nineteen tracks of pure rock n’ roll revelation, Segall fully evolves with some of the most powerfully violent and rageful tracks he has ever created – from the hard-hitting guitar psychedelics of “When Mommy Kills You,” to the romantically sinister melodies consuming “Shoot You Up.” Over the course of his decade-long solo career – with a discography boasting 15 full-length albums, six singles and three EPs – Segall has become the poster child for living and breathing garage rock. --- KL
Mental health tends to carry a negative connotation within American culture, however, Nashville singer-songwriter Elizabeth Anne Odachowski, known as Liza Anne, amplifies that stigma into melodies you can’t help but dance to. Her third studio album, Fine But Dying (2018), explores every nook and cranny of depression, isolation, anxiety and paranoia, as well as the larger social issue at hand: “You brush it under the bed/Another time/But it won’t stay down,” Liza Anne sings on the explosive track “Paranoia.”
Although primarily mental health-centered, Fine But Dying also touches on less contentious concepts, such as comparing a lover to a favorite pair of socks that you can’t bear to throw in the wash and potentially lose (“Socks”). The 11 country-tinged tracks harken back to Liza Anne’s southern roots, as a Belmont alumnus and former longtime resident of St. Simons Island, Georgia, making her Atlanta performance a show you won’t want to miss. -- KG
Although both primarily drummers, Austin musicians Charlie Martin and Will Taylor found themselves bonding over an endearment for muted music in the fall of 2014. The duo promptly went on to self-record their debut EP and, later, the acclaimed full-length, Taster, that caught the attention of Brooklyn indie label Double Double Whammy.
2018 brought the release of Hovvdy’s (pronounced “howdy”) excellent sophomore LP. Despite its relatively monotonous sonic pallet, Cranberry deftly achieves a broad range of dynamics and emotions. Album opener “Brave” morosely narrates seeing a love interest for the first time, backed by hushed acoustic guitar; with organ-like synth and overdubbed vocals, “In the Sun” – Cranberry’s second track – evokes soaking up every aspect of a perfect sunny day. Hovvdy has proven that slow-moving doesn’t always mean sluggish, and that some of life’s moments are best experienced at your own leisure. -- KG
Los Angeles sweethearts Haim are back in Atlanta on their “Sister Sister Sister Tour,” in support of 2017’s Something to Tell You. The follow-up to the Haim sisters’ debut, Days Are Gone (2013), proves that the trio are hard-hitting rockers with a soul all their own. Partnering up with Rostam, Twin Shadow and Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, Something to Tell You takes the love ballads and heartbreak bops that caught the music world’s attention in 2013 to a whole new level.
Songs like album opener “Want You Back,” or first single “Right Now” employ new elements of electronic vocal effects, while “Kept Me Crying” shows off Danielle Haim’s guitar prowess. With two excellent albums and a top Coachella spot under their belts, the Haim sisters are showing 2018 who’s boss, with their unique mix of 80s synth-pop and classic rock n’ roll. -- KL
90s indie rock luminaries Built to Spill have been virtually MIA since the 2015 release of Untethered Moon, the band’s eighth full-length album. However, their spring co-headlining tour, with Afghan Whigs, is hopefully hinting at new music on the horizon. Untethered Moon sustains the Idaho outfit’s signature sound, comprised of dark melodies and tethered emo ventures that reign true regardless of what decade they make music in.
There’s something exponentially thrilling about a band that can create a same comforting sound for their fans that have stuck with them through and through. “Like they're waiting for your guard to fall/So they can see it all and you're so/Occupied with what other persons are/Occupied with/And vice versa,” Doug Martsch sings, as “Carry the Zero” continues to bridge the gap of classic 90’s rock that is still so deeply centered around Built To Spill’s music discography to this day. -- KL
Concert season kicks back into high gear in spring, and this March, Atlanta is lucky enough to have a packed month of shows to bookend most weeks.
Take a peek + a listen, and keep your eyes peeled for more in depth looks at some of the touring artists you don't see listed here.
By: Kristy Guilbault
In early 2016, Lucy Dacus quietly rolled onto the neo-folk scene with her debut album, No Burden. The green-eyed, red-faced singer-songwriter quickly garnered the attention of indie label Matador, who reissued the LP as a physical release within the same year, and the young-and-hungry musician has been continuously touring ever since.
Dacus’ latest release reminds listeners that though her voice is meek, the Richmond, Virginia musician is a master of the emotional slow-burn, exhibited on aggressive tracks like “Night Shift” and “Timefighter.” Historian builds on the cut-and-dry storytelling of Dacus’ debut, adding layers of strings and horns to the songwriter’s palette. The LP’s 10 tracks dissect the various ways people support and neglect each other, and is likely to be a fierce contender for the top albums of 2018.
By: Erin Patrick
The sound of Sylvan Esso is comprised of the sweet, smooth vocals of Amelia Meath and the always-engaging beats of Nick Sanborn. The two musicians have struck the perfect balance between driving electronic sounds, old-school samples and melodic hooks to produce two albums that you can simultaneously dance and stare out the window to.
On their 2017 release, What Now, Meath’s voice maintains its soft, siren-like quality overtop tracks that are glitchier than anything the duo has done before. The album was well-received by critics and fans alike, showing off the beloved tenderness of 2014’s Sylvan Esso, while demonstrating an intentional evolution that bodes well for the duo’s future.
By: Katie Lipsiner
New York songwriter Aaron Maine, behind synth-pop project Porches, returns with his highly anticipated January release. Maine’s most recent album, The House, follows his 2016 release of Pool.
At the core of The House the listener will find glittery beats and experimental samples, taking LP one step further into the growing bedroom-pop genre. Maine stays true to the storytelling he demonstrated on his vastly different 2013 LP, Slow Dance in the Cosmos, while supplying an array of dance hits, such as “Find Me” and “Now On Water.”
By: Erin Patrick
Sean Carey is perhaps best known as a Bon Iver backing vocalist and drummer, however, with his 2010 debut, All We Grow, Carey proved to be a talented musician and vocalist in his own right.
Under the name S. Carey, the studied classical percussionist creates ambient folk music, softly crooning alongside trickling guitar textures, strings and understated bass lines. Carey’s most recent release, Hundred Acres, features complex instrumentation and accessible melodic lines. Songs like “Yellowstone” and “Fool’s Gold,” which is likely to grow Carey’s following even further.
By: Katie Lipsiner
Since forming in 2013, Connecticut-based quartet Sorority Noise is back in Atlanta performing from their third album YOU’RE NOT AS __ AS YOU THINK, released last March. The follow up to 2016’s It Kindly Stopped for Me, the most recent LP shows talks of the brutality that comes with attempts at resilience. Grief and loneliness rage through the record in a way that still manages to provide a knowing comfort to the listener. The quartet has shown that they succeed at creating honest music capable of empowering through the recognition of life’s deepest sorrows.
By: Erin Patrick
Singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy is first and foremost a storyteller. She tactfully intertwines personal narratives with somber, but unmistakably edgy, melodies. Bolstered by a voice that’s equal parts hearty and delicate, Glaspy’s lyrics reflect on her emotions from a healthy place of distance and growth, making for a cathartic experience on the side of the listener.
Glaspy arrived on the Brooklyn music scene in 2010, soon after releasing a grouping of songs under in 2012 the title If & When. Tracks such as the popular “You’re Smiling (But I Don’t Believe You)” demonstrate the artist’s ability to and set Glaspy up for her debut studio album release. 2016’s Emotions and Math sustains the singer-songwriter’s signature tender epithet, while adding a rock edge that sets her apart from others in her genre. Glaspy has toured alongside the likes of Lucius, Rayland Baxter and The Milk Carton Kids. Her latest release, Born Yesterday, is a trio of poignant singles, hopefully teasing a new and noteworthy LP from Glaspy in the coming year.