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 the 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
If this September is noted for anything, it's remarkable live music. We rounded up some must-see gigs for your enjoyment and social life. Check these artists out, listen up and get out there for some amazing Atlanta shows.
Punk music is often viewed as cacophonous snippets of impulsive rage, but Empath is proof that the rowdy genre can spit out a great deal of compassion, too. The Philly-based four-piece has released two ambitious projects this year, Liberating Guilt and Fear and Environments. The former is a raucous exploration of the concept of healing frequencies, while the latter is an ambient, lo-fi portrayal of water and wind.
Liberating Guilt and Fear is equal parts refined and unruly – a nod to the tape’s recording process, which occurred in both a Brooklyn studio and frontwoman Catherine Elicson’s bedroom, where a Rock Band USB microphone was employed. Empath brings comradery, catharsis and queerness to a genre that has long been ruled by pretentiousness and heteronormativity. – KG
Comprised of John Pierce and Alex Teich, Atlanta-based duo Post Hunk released their first LP this year – a raucous post-punk rambler complete with samples from the Simpson’s and Andy Kaufman. Celebrity Pets is a well-constructed mash-up of malaise and satire that pokes fun at life’s struggles via honest and at times humorous lyricism. Pierce brings his deep, brooding voice to the tracks, at once exploding into near-screams that accompany pronounced guitar licks. The outcome is a danceable catharsis and a chance to dig in and access the angsty punk inside you that you’ve forced to lay dormant. The duo ends their tour on September 8 with a show in their hometown at East Atlanta’s 529 with Palm Ghosts, Tears for the Dying, Peeko and Mannequin Lover. – EP
Field Medic’s leading man Kevin Patrick Sullivan has mastered his brand of lo-fi freak folk, bringing us tracks that are as warm as they are fussy with emotion. Late last year, the San Francisco-based artist brought us Songs from the Sunroom, an aptly named 15-track LP that is both declaratory and inquisitive. As Sullivan sings to us about what “powerful love” feels like, he seems unsure of that power still.
Listening to Songs from the Sunroom or his 2018 EP boy from my dream, the feeling is that of satisfied melancholy. You’re bobbing up and down to the twinkling guitar picking and percussive shaker, cracking smiles at the quirky and honest lyrics, all while in the midst of honest emotions that are at times, profound. Opening for Remo Drive and Prince Daddy & The Hyena at The Masquerade, Field Medic is sure to impress the unsuspecting listener. – EP
The Athens and Atlanta music scenes have long been intertwined, exhibiting that great musical experimentation is often times the result of home recordings. Since their first EP release in 2010, Andrew McFarland (Reptar, Neighbor Lady, Giant Giants) and longtime collaborator Ryan Engelberger (Reptar, Giant Giants) have brought the rebirthed sound of Athens DIY to Atlanta with their dynamic project Semicircle.
Semicircle's first full-length record, Blown Breeze, Grown Grass and We are Part of the Earth (2014) is teeming with dark, soulful sounds that remind us why it’s nice to talk a long stroll alone, as fall takes over the city landscape. The hometown heroes are taking over 529 on September 10, alongside Atlanta’s own Rose Hotel and Honyock. – KL
For the past 11 years, frontman Zac Little has led Saintseneca to redefine folk rock and Americana for the modern era. The Columbus, Ohio five-piece melds a comprehensive collection of acoustic instrumentation (balalaika, mandolin, dulcimer, Turkish Baglama, floor percussion) with more conventional sonic elements such as electric guitars and synth.
Saintseneca’s 2018 most recent release Pillar of Na is the eclectic group’s most ambitious album to date. Opener “Circle Hymn” sets the cyclical tone of the album, which is resolved in the outro of the LP’s final track, “Pillar of Na,” with the nearly identical lyrics: “Turn all eternal / Eternity round / A circle in circle / May be unbroken now.” Saintseneca specializes in the weird, wonderful and otherworldly, and their live mysticism is a spellbinding spectacle that should not be missed. – KG
Greta Kline has been recording under the moniker Frankie Cosmos for the past decade, but her latest release, Vessel, shows us that Kline is still diving deeper and reinventing herself. Vessel tackles real world factors such as love, friendship and the deep, dark spaces where anxiety hides: “Being alive / Matters quite a bit / Even when you / Feel like shit / Being alive / I’m collapsing inwardly,” Kline plainly states on “Being Alive.” Frankie Cosmos has long been a forerunner of the ever-changing DIY scene, bringing authenticity and pure joy to everyday occurrences. – KL
Lucius owes their acclaim not only to their tantalizing vocal melodies and seamlessly woven harmonies, but also in part to their strong stage presence and unmistakable style; the bold ensembles they wear on and off stage mimic the strength and identity of their music. The female-fronted foursome released their second LP Good Grief in 2016, followed by this year’s Nudes – a collection of stripped down, acoustic covers and tracks from their past albums. Good Grief is marked by clear, powerful electric guitar and percussion that many times is just as much on the forefront as the melodic line. Above all, their music is marked by their explosive harmonies that remind us that harmonizing isn’t just for choir girls or slow burning acoustic diddies. Often calling back to the synth and dance music of the 80’s, Lucius puts on an exciting live show, complete with frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig often playing drums together at the top of the stage, while singing, and never missing a beat. – EP
Will Toledo is a master at taking past projects and making them feel completely brand new. From the reworked single versions of Teens of Denial, to the re-recording of Car Seat Headrest’s breakout album Twin Fantasy (2011), Toledo seems to have an obsessive knack for reinvention and an uncanny understanding of the density of human connection, that continues to grow throughout his music.
The 2018 re-release of Twin Fantasy is an ambitious exploration in mental health, swarming with dense feelings of anxiety and self-reflection: “You never lifted your voice / You never raised your hand / You never showed me your inhuman / You understand,” Toledo says on “Nervous Young Humans.” The “new” album lends a hand to Car Seat Headrest’s legacy of hard-hitting emo anthems for the lost and the emotionally riveted, bringing newfangled relevance to young sad boys and gals, alike. – KL
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
When Atlanta’s own Tim Sweetwood put on the first Shaky Knees festival in 2013, he wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into. Sweetwood wasn’t looking to create a mega-corporate event like Coachella or Bonnaroo, yet, five years later, the regional-focused passion project has flourished into a three-day phenomenon, complete with a national festival badge.
And while we’re all aware of the heavy-hitters like Fleet Foxes, Courtney Barnett and the National, it’s easy to gloss over the bands listed in small fonts at the bottom of lineup posters. Over the next week, we’ll magnify the fine print of Shaky Knees, with interviews and highlights of artists you won’t want to miss at this year’s fest.
»»» Fri., May 4 «««
Sunsets, surfing and stars typically come to mind when conjuring quintessential California images, and while a tambourine and heavily reverberated guitar open L.A. Witch’s debut album, don’t let them fool you: this trio prefers the punked out side of the Golden State.
Sade Sanchez (vocals, guitar), Irita Pai (bass) and Ellie English (drums) toured non-stop for three years – sporadically releasing songs on limited edition singles – before finally recording a proper debut. With sultry yet ominous vocals, the self-titled LP is a bullish reminder that all that glitters isn’t gold.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever deliver energetic rock with confident hooks and wry wit. The “tough pop” five-piece blindsided the music industry in 2015 with their critically and commercially acclaimed debut single “Clean Slate.” Two successful EPs – Talk Tight (2016) and The French Press (2017) – quickly followed, leading up to Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s forthcoming full-length, Hope Downs.
The inaugural album, due out June 15 via Sub Pop, receives its title from an open cut mine in the middle of the Aussies’ homeland. “The album title...refers to the feeling of standing at the edge of the void of the big unknown, and finding something to hold on to,” the band explains in a press release. “It’s a record that focuses on finding the bright spots at a time when cynicism all too often feels like the natural state.”
Katie Crutchfield’s solo project evokes a glowing sense of home, from her intimate lyrics to the moniker Waxahatchee itself, which is named after a creek near her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Crutchfield's unrefined acoustic arrangements swiftly pull listeners into her poignant chronicles of self-discovery and new beginnings.
Waxahatchee’s critically acclaimed fourth LP, Out in the Storm, opens with a scathing dissection of toxic masculinity and the arrogance that often comes with it: “You walk around like/It's your god-given right/And you love being right/You've never been wrong.” Out in the Storm is a triumphant breakup album that celebrates rising from the ashes of a destructive relationship with sharp wisdom and indelible hooks.
Candler Park Music and Food Festival returns this summer, with a food and artist market and, of course, live music taking place on Fri., June 1 and Sat., June 2.
Southern jam band Gov’t Mule – the funky side project of the Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody – and Boston’s jazz-funk outfit Lettuce will head the nine-act lineup on the Candler Park stage.
Busty and the Bass will serve up some soul, contrasted by folkier sets from alt-country five-piece Susto, Indiana’s Houndmouth, sister duo Larkin Poe and Keller Williams’ Tom Petty-inspired project, Pettygrass. Jam bands like neighborhood favorite Webster, playing their 10th consecutive Candler Park festival, and Vermont’s jam band Twiddle round out the rock-driven lineup.
Previously known as the Midsummer Music & Food Festival, 2018 marks the 10th edition of Candler Park’s fest. Tickets for the two-day event are $25 for general admission (all ages), $60 for VIP (21+).