Embodying the raucous culture of the East Atlanta Village arts scene, Chick Wallace made its debut in 2017, with the self-titled EP, Chick Wallace. The pop-punk four-piece seems to have been included in every EAV lineup since then, and, now, Chick Wallace is sharing a new collection of briny tunes, with the release of Salt.
The EP places mental health at the forefront of Chick Wallace’s conversation, punctuated by distorted instrumentation and Melanie Paulos’ assertive vocals. Listeners confront Salt’s emotional peak head on, with opener “Arms.” The strident track is an open conversation between Paulos and Bipolar disorder. “It influences a lot of the way I have to live and create honestly. The ups and downs of having the disorder feels like a contract I didn’t mean to sign, sometimes, and I tend to disassociate from it,” Paulos says.
The EP arrives with an accompanying video for the title track, “Salt.” Animated by Jason Potak, the song’s visuals morph sketches of everyday life with video game images. “‘Salt’ is about people that dissolve into whatever is going on around them, instead of making noise,” Paulos says. “I think we’re all guilty of it sometimes.”
Chick Wallace will share the 529 stage with Athens’ Monsoon, psych-pop quartet Wieuca and Atlanta duo Suede Cassidy, for their EP release show, on Sat., June 29. The “salty girl”quartet is currently writing and recording its debut full-length album, and — with a consistent band roster now in place — plans to tour soon.
2019 delivered albums early on that will undoubtedly make end of year lists. By mid-January, we already had Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow — one of her most dynamic releases to date.
Both local artists and genre-leaders made this list. The first six months of this year have us recognizing fifth LPs and second LPs all the same. From ballads to alt-rock to tracks you can only listen to with the window rolled down, it was easy to pick our favorites. Many of these albums will not only likely make reappearances on EOY lists, but also on our own playlists for years to come.
Sharon Van Etten / Remind Me Tomorrow (Jan. 18)
On her fifth album, Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten explores her most soothing, yet agonizing, songwriting to date. The world might have been led to believe Etten was done with music for a time, but as her latest and long-awaited release exhibits, an unyielding creative process is only conquered through the most wild forms of enlightenment. Remind Me Tomorrow is filled with cataclysmic euphoria — faithfully drifting through synth rhythms and reimagined themes of chaos and bliss. Emotionally piercing tracks, like “Seventeen,” remind us all how far growth can take an individual: “I see you so uncomfortably alone / I wish I could show you how much you've grown.” Etten has gifted fans with exhilarated storytelling, crafted with a variety of textured sounds, making Remind Me Tomorrow one of the most visionary and mesmerizingly soulful albums to come out at the start of 2019. — Katie Lipsiner
King of Summer (EP) / How Cool (April 12)
Armed with a devout love for pop music, Atlanta’s King of Summer explores the genre’s feel-good expanse with their 2019 EP, How Cool. The pop-punk hometown heroes have found solace in music, while feeling alone, and had fun while doing it. “I think in the three years that we’ve been doing this band, we’ve unintentionally done a really good job of organically setting the tone where we can be really silly,” explains lead vocalist and guitarist Tim Sterritt. “We got to be a little goofier with this EP than the ones before it, while still pushing forward with what we think are great, serious songs.” How Cool explores the relationship between pop anthems and sonic reverence, producing emotional songs without being weighed down by earnestness. — KL
Kevin Morby / Oh My God (April 26)
Kevin Morby is impressively prolific. He releases an album almost every two years, and they never feel thrown together; each is its own developed piece. His music is always quintessentially him. You can tell that it’s Kevin Morby the second he opens his mouth to sing in the sloping, assertive way that he does, or when the dark strums of his minor-key folk begin. It takes just seconds. His latest release, Oh My God is no different in that way. It does, however, have a structure unlike most of his last releases. This album revolves around motifs; many of the hooks or lyrics recur throughout the album. “Oh My God” is not just an album name, or a title track, but rather an entire feeling that Morby has molded himself around. This LP presents the seasoned musician in a solemn light, as he laments and muses on the modern world and where it’s headed. He repeats the phrases “Oh My God, Oh My Lord” and “Carry Me Home” across multiple tracks, and you can feel a sense of simultaneous exhaustion and urgency in his voice. — Erin Patrick
Big Thief / UFOF (May 3)
The third full-length album from Big Thief is both iron-fisted and delicate. Frontperson Adrienne Lenker’s unmistakable vocal timbre proves itself yet again on UFOF, as she effortlessly controls the lowest and highest ends of her range. Much of UFOF sounds nearer to the solo albums of Lenker and bandmate Buck Meek, than it does to Capacity or Masterpiece. Songs like “Cattails” and “Orange” sway toward folk, and further away from the indie rock that we’ve come to know the group for. Folk has always been in Big Thief’s roots, but their third LP shows that they thrive in the genre; it perfectly accommodates their frequent musings on nature and the passing of time. The folk sound that they produce is far from typical, though. This album especially is more unconventional than those before it — every track has layers, emotionally and in regards to production. The Brooklyn-based quartet creates an entire world within each album they release, and it’s safe to say that UFOF’s world is one of mystical, hopeful sadness. — EP
Faye Webster / Atlanta Millionaires Club (May 24)
A master of yo-yo tricks, Atlanta Braves stats and, most importantly, honeyed ballads, Faye Webster’s latest LP, Atlanta Millionaires Club, is an ode to The A. With each album Webster releases, her songwriting becomes increasingly mature and complex. Pedal steel wanders in and out of each track, eliding one song to the next, and bridging the gap between Georgia and the tropics. Webster’s vocals are simultaneously meticulous and carefree, paralleling the speak-singing intimacy of fellow pop-soul artist Natalie Prass. Songs like “Pigeon” and “Jonny” expertly stack harmonies and add brass instrumentation to the mix. Atlanta Millionaires Club is Faye Webster’s personal invitation to her hometown, and listeners would be remiss to decline the adept singer-songwriter’s offer. — Kristy Guilbault
The Glow / Am I (May 24)
Mike Caridi. You may think this name is unfamiliar, but don’t kid yourself. If you’ve ever listened to LVL UP, or any band on Double Double Whammy’s roster, then you’ve listened to Caridi in some capacity. After the dissolvement of LVL UP, in 2018, Caridi set out to make his solo debut, under the moniker The Glow. Hazy guitar and amorphous vocals linger from LVL UP’s sound, and the album’s lo-fi production aligns with DDW’s family, but Am I contains an aural terrain all its own. The Glow’s debut full-length is more dewy-eyed and nostalgic, and far more polished, than his previous project’s releases. And while similar sonic ground is mined throughout Am I, the album’s final track, “Memories,” turns away from alt-rock, to glossy electronic. With less than a year separating his pivot from LVL UP to The Glow, it will be interesting to see where Caridi takes listeners next. — KG
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
February is coming in hot on “full power mode” with a jam packed month of amazing musicians touring through Atlanta. February, at its very core, is about the celebration of love in all of its weirdest + wildest forms. Whether that be applauding the shifts you encounter, good or what you perceive as to be bad, or simply performing small acts of self care by attending your favorite shows to dance the night away, February has some good energy surrounding the path to giving and receiving more and more love in your life.
With so much music happening this month in Atlanta, we somehow narrowed down a few favorites to spotlight on this month’s concert guide for February.
Read more below >>>>
After releasing Heater in January via Citrus City Records, Atlanta’s True Blossom is ready to officially debut its album at 529. Led by guitarist Chandler Kelley and singer Sophie Cox, the five-piece mixes ‘80s synth with ‘70s disco elements, setting the band apart from the conventional pop scene. Heater’s lead single, “Baby,” teems with disco hi-hats and Sophie Cox’s emotional dream-pop vocals. True Blossom is currently busy planning a spring east coast tour, wrapping up a music video (keep your eyes glued to the group’s social pages) and tracking its next release, but satiate your appetite for funk-tinged pop at 529 in the meantime. — Katie Lipsiner
Slightly ahead of the release of Copeland’s forthcoming album, Blushing — due out Feb. 14 via Tooth & Nail Records — the band’s tour, with support from Many Rooms and From Indian Lakes, will be all the more invigorating. Blushing is Copeland’s first full-length release since 2014’s Ixora Twin. To celebrate the album announcement, the group has released three new tracks. On “Pope,” a voice softly whispers, “Did you dream about anything last night?,” repeating the phrase over entrancing violin. These singles beautifully retain elements of Copeland’s past discography, while also pushing their sonic boundaries. — KL
Atlanta-based group Yukons released its first full-length, South of the Equator, just last year. The trio has dug its heels into the local music scene in the past couple of years, bringing unique and engaging Latinx-influenced punk rock. Yukons will be back at 529 on Feb. 15 with lo-fi four-piece Kibi James, Chicago’s Fran, “space baby rock” quartet Pinkest and DJ Florista. The trio will perform songs from South of the Equator, giving a performance that will undoubtedly be as biting and wild as it is thoughtful, as the group uses music to unapologetically express both its pride in, and struggle with, its members’ identities as Latinx, queer artists in the south. — Erin Patrick
Based in Los Angeles but with roots in Philadelphia, both coasts inform the sound of Mt. Joy. The indie rock five-piece’s first full-length release came last year, following a string of single releases dating back to 2016. The self-titled LP was a long time coming, as a couple members of the band have been playing music together since high school. While Mt. Joy falls within the indie rock realm, its sound can be described as soulful and leaning toward alt-folk. It’s music that feels familiar even upon first listen; it’s comforting and brings on bouts of nostalgia. — EP
It’s been three years since Little Tybee’s last full-length release, but a handful of recent shows and a 2018 single perhaps point to something on the horizon. Atlanta’s own folk-pop outfit has been a staple of both the DIY and social activism scenes. In addition to contributing violin and viola to Little Tybee’s eclectic and seemingly boundless sound, Nirvana Kelly serves as Georgia Artists for Progress’ executive director. The nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization focuses on encouraging political action through art-affiliated events, such as last October’s “Turn Up the Turn Out” partnership with the Bakery, during which Little Tybee performed. So, if supporting local (and extremely talented) artists doesn’t feel good enough already, Little Tybee’s mission to further Georgia’s progressive politics certainly sweetens the deal. — KG
One of Sad Girl Co.’s goals for 2019 is to further our mission of fostering community and catalyzing discussion, by turning that self-expression safe space into something more tangible. As our first step towards making this happen, we’ve partnered with three ____ acts/bands/artists to host our very first event at the Earl. Punk four-piece Chick Wallace, Charleston’s She Returns From War and southern-pop outfit The Underhill Family Orchestra will perform, and donations will be collected for immigrant and refugee advocates Tapestri. The nonprofit is dedicated to ending violence and oppression in immigrant and refugee communities, using culturally competent education, community organization, direct services and southeastern advocacy to stop destructive norms from continuing into the next generation. — KG
Bringing a sense of urgency to indie pop, The Aces stole the hearts of listeners across the country with their 2018 full-length debut, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. The LP overflows with heartfelt lyrics and groovable beats, making it the perfect soundtrack to mending or breaking hearts. Comprised of sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez, and childhood friends McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson, the all-female quartet has a refreshing way of weaving confident pop with familial bonds, solidifying the notion that women are not each other's competition. — KL
Brooklyn duo (once trio) Wet plays at Aisle 5 toward the end of February, following the 2018 release of its second LP, Still Run. Since the group’s first EP in 2014, Wet has been slowly but surely solidifying its sound and making a name for itself as a one-of-a-kind pop/electronic outfit. Comprised of songs written and performed by Kelly Zutrau and Joe Valle, Still Run presents a fuller sound than previous releases, with tracks that have been lived with, molded and remolded by time and experience. Zatrou’s buttery voice can be heard atop hooks and percussion that are often danceable, and you’ll finding yourself tapping your toes even as she sings about the tenderest of emotions. — EP
Dev Hynes is more than just a musician, but an artist able to create a world of “ugly beauty” all his own. Working under the moniker Blood Orange as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, Hynes’ fourth album Negro Swan is a vision of intersectionality, inclusion, Hyne’s personal battles with mental health in the black community and the role that music plays in unfurling those narratives. Capturing the toxicity hurled towards marginalized communities in the current political climate, Negro Swan unveils swirling R&B landscapes of all-consuming bliss and anxiety, while also creating art and love within it. — KL
Who are your top picks to see this February? Let us know!
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.
November is for getting out to vote, protecting your friends’ rights, and enjoying some cannot-miss concerts. Atlanta is making national news as Stacey Abrams continues to make headlines and give hope to many.
In the midst of this political atmosphere, make sure to take time for yourself and enjoy some sick concerts coming to Atlanta.
Read more below >>>
Nov. 3 / Girlpool / The Masquerade
Girlpool is back in motion since their 2017 album Powerplant after releasing two new songs this October, “Lucy’s” and “Where You Sink,”devoting this Fall to touring with PORCHES. Co-vocalists Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker each bring out ghostly harmonies on these tracks, with a Nirvana-like intro on “Lucy’s” coincides with the soft moodiness of “Where You Sink.” “You look like a kid from outer space / Always trying to plan your next escape,” Tividad serenades on “Where You Sink,” bringing up the everlasting theme of figuring things out while feeling a bit lost.
Nov. 13 / Half Waif and Sandy (Alex G) / The Masquerade
Nandi Rose Plunkett brought us one of the most unique and affecting releases of the year. Under the moniker Half Waif, she released Lavender, a record that talks candidly about both love and loss, and everything in between. Lavender is glitchier and more dynamic than anything on Kotekan or Probably Depths, and Plunkett’s voice seems stronger than ever, too. She coos softly but strongly, and begs and pleads with us to listen to her -- and it’s impossible not too. This November, she brings the album to life at The Masquerade alongside Sandy (Alex G).
The former DIY-scene artist has become an indie staple in the past few years, consistently bringing us genre-breaking, unique releases. With a sound that teeters from freak folk to punk rock, his 2017 release Rocket merged these sounds more than ever, and showcased some of his most melodic and innovative tracks to date. Half Waif and Alex G are sure to put on a show full of star power that swings from tender to raucous.
Nov. 14 / Mitski / The Masquerade
Over the course of her past two LP releases, the mononymous artist Mitski has rocked and expanded the playing field of the ambiguous genre of “indie rock.” Throughout her rise, she has maintained her authenticity and shown musically that she has more than one side. She consistently lays herself bare, whether it’s screaming into her guitar, or singing delicately atop thick instrumentation. Her highly anticipated 2018 release, Be The Cowboy is the perfect example of Mitski’s versatility. In place of her usual noisy rock breakdowns, are tracks that seem more composed, with an emphasis on piano and clear inspiration from 80’s disco, she has mastered the happy-sad feeling that her fans crave. Her fourth studio album shows us a more confident and romantic Mitski who has taken ownership of her sadness and her solitude, and knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. This mood is evident in songs like “Lonesome Love” as she slowly crescendos into the line: “Nobody butters me up like you; nobody fucks me like me.” A live performance of Be The Cowboy is bound to be the same: a slow crescendo with a cathartic payoff.
Nov. 16 / Ty Segall (Solo) / Terminal West
The king of rock is back in Atlanta at Terminal West on a solo tour, something special to be seen if you are a regular at Segall’s mosh-filled events. The solo tour will give die-hard fans a chance for a more intimate setting with the psychedelic rocker, offering up a space for new and old tracks from a vast amount of discography. After quietly released his fifth album of 2018 on October 18th during an opening reception for his art show “Orange Rainbow” in Los Angeles, Segall sold a limited amount of 55 tapes also title Orange Rainbow. There is no telling what will come from this mastermind of hard hitting guitar riffs and chaotic vocal rhythms. While Segall has already give us three albums in 2018 let alone- Freedom’s Goblin, collab albums with GØGGS and White Fence, and an all-covers masterpiece entitled Fudge Sandwich, we wait patiently to take the stage on November 16th here in Atlanta.
Nov. 19 / Jim James (Solo) / The Tabernacle
The My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James has been busy making 2018 one for the books. From announcing his short but motivational “Future is Voting Tour” in swing district college towns, to recording an amazing rendition of “Over and Over” with boss bad rocker Angel Olsen, James has proven that he is a progressive and caring music man. After releasing his 2018 solo album Uniform Distortion, James announced a follow-up album just three months later. Uniform Clarity, features acoustic versions of the songs from Uniform Distortion. As heavy rock anthems turn into light-heart acoustic melodies, it’s crazy to think how much Jim James has accomplished this year, and what the future still holds for his music career. As Jim James prepares to take the stage on his solo acoustic tour, we are reminded that these albums reveal each other's rawness and realness of James’ craft to compel great stories into thoughtful songs.
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!
There’s no avoiding that it has been a socially and politically raucous past couple of months. And frankly, we shouldn’t avoid it. But as usual, music is here to offer some sort of release. More than that, concerts are here to facilitate community and creativity. So let’s gather together.
This month is chock full of current indie scene staples — from Adult Mom to Wild Nothing. Read on + get your tickets.
At the time of Natalie Prass’ 2015 self-titled LP release, the level of emotion with which she addressed broken heartedness and insecurity seemed apt. But now it’s 2018, and things are different. Prass has responded to today’s oppressors and backwards thinkers with The Future and The Past — an uproar that is louder, more poignant and unmistakable.
The most conspicuous of her subversive messages comes on the track “Sisters” — a call for female and femme-identifying citizens to stick together, and a gracefully angry retelling of the injustices faced by women. This release feels like Prass has stepped out from behind a curtain and is showing us that she’s more than just a pretty voice, in the form of bouncing percussion, layered vocals and melodies reminiscent of ‘80s disco. Although it would be easy to address these topics with solemnity and sadness, she brings a danceable buoyancy to her cry for change. — Erin Patrick
Wild Nothing has become a synth-pop institution. Jack Tatum kicked off the shimmering project in 2009, with the surf rock standard single “Summer Holiday.” The band has continued to produce hazy chillwave over the years, but its latest effort Indigo leans more towards the ‘80s side of synth.
Lead single “Letting Go” set Wild Nothing’s modified tone, with glitchy keyboard and lush guitar riffs. Sultry “Partners in Motion” followed suit, bringing a modernized retro feel. However the crown jewel of Indigo arrives at its close. Co-written by Mitski, “Bend” takes Tatum’s textured instrumentation, and layers a distinctive Mitski melodic line overtop, as the vocals wind and modulate. — Kristy Guilbault
Capacity is one of the best albums of 2017. That’s an indisputable fact, for both critics and fans. Devastating, arresting and delicate, Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting taps into the power of raw vulnerability.
Arriving as Big Thief’s sophomore release, Capacity details the pain of familial tensions, domestic abuse, young love and death. Within the album’s first minutes, Lenker unflinchingly recounts a near death experience from her childhood: “Blood gushing from my head / You held me in the backseat with a dishrag, soaking up blood with your eyes /I was just five and you were twenty-seven / Praying, “Don’t let my baby die.” Earlier this month, Lenker quietly released an equally gorgeous solo album. abysskiss is more simplistic instrumentally, but the potency of Lenker’s voice remains. — KG
Aside from being Adult Mom’s singer, Steph Knipe leads the group with their personality, placing the quartet at the forefront of queer rock. Knipe is a fiery and spirited songwriter, although Adult Mom’s music is known for its melodic simplicity. This simplicity leaves room for Knipe’s pointed social commentary to breathe and be fully digested.
The group’s most recent full-length, Soft Spots, came in 2017, followed by a release of demos from that same album earlier this year. The LP is a collection of brief tracks that are more tender and introspective than any of Adult Mom’s previous work. “Drive Me Home” shows us Knipe’s vulnerable side, as they plead for acceptance and human company: “If I am good / If I am really fucking good / Will you please take me home / Validate me / And create the space I can’t make.” — EP
Alt-punk band Mom Jeans. is taking over The Drunken Unicorn on October 25. The quartet are known for embracing the sad and emo labels. Their 2018 release Puppy Love bursts with worries of understanding how to figure out one’s life. “Wouldn't it be nice / To not have to care about anything or anyone?...I think that I'm just having trouble / Feeling successful in my own life / Maybe we could take some time to think,” is mused on the track “glamourous” — a calming cloud of truth in communicating what you really need to say. — Katie Lipsiner
Our Halloween plans just have been consumed by the need to see Michael Cera Palin’s farewell show. Aside from a great band name, Michael Cera Palin sought to create interesting emo music, and succeeded. The trio released an excellent EP, I Don’t Know How To Explain It, in February, which is comprised of songs written during the three years between their 2015 debut. “Shoutout to every venue that has let us play, every person who watched us in those venues, every band we've played with, and every dog,” the band says in a Bandcamp statement.
Alongside 529 regulars Blis., YOU and King of Summer, the spookiest night of the year is going to be filled with bounties of cheap beer, great punk music that brings the community together and, of course, some gnarly costumes. — KL