I’m probably biased as I’m a big fan of one of these artists and not really that interested in the other, but I would say that Becky and the Birds’ cover of Bon Iver’s The Wolves (Act I and Act II) is far superior to the original. Not that we’re supposed to judge music in such a binary fashion (it’s not better just… different), but whatever: I think in this instance – given they’re both treading a similar musical path – standing each version toe to toe with one another and seeing who comes out on top is fair enough. And in my humble opinion, this is richer, more engaging, more spine-tinglingly wonderful. You know, just… well, better.
This is the latest single from Sofi Gev, the solo project of American singer-songwriter and indie pop artist Hannah Lovelady. Blending elements of folk, indie, electronica and pop, You’re The Star features some wonderfully subtle and evocative vocal manipulations reminiscent of Oklou’s recent album. But while Oklou’s music feels sparse and at times detached, You’re The Star is warm and richly populated with a variety of instruments and textures: an intimate, glimpse into both the strength and fragility of desire.
Music was one of the few things that made 2020 bearable, and Gia Margaret’s album Mia Gargaret stood out amidst even the best releases of the year due to its almost paralysing beauty. Solid Gold came out today, and unsurprisingly it’s wonderful, with yearning, Americana-esque guitars lolling gently in the background accompanied by a steady, hushed pulse of percussion. With or without her voice, she’s one of the most consistently mesmerising artists out there, and we should treasure her.
Here comes another entry in the “things I completely missed in 2020 but probably shouldn’t have done” canon, this time courtesy of Raven Mahon and Mikey Young aka The Green Child. Low Desk:High Shelf is taken from their second album Shimmering Basset, the recording and themes of which deal with Raven’s relocation to Australia from California. A week ago I would have casually mentioned that the lo-fi, almost naively wonderful electronic opening reminds me of some of John Maus’s best work, but as it turns out even niche musical heroes of mine can trash their own legacy in a single swoop. So instead I’ll say it’s a brilliant, yearning, melancholic, hopeful slice of electronic folk-pop, and leave it at that.
There’s been a gap of six years between Shallow – the last Sea Oleena LP – and Weaving A Basket, which was released last month. So long in fact that I’d forgotten just how brilliant an artist she is. Weaving A Basket, though, may be a late entry for album of the year: it’s certainly one of the most beautiful, with vocals acting like ambient textures rather than narrative or rhythmic devices, often accompanied by little more than a mournfully strummed guitar. It’s honestly hard to describe just how lovely this album is, so probably best just to go and listen to it.
Nathalie Stern is a Swedish artist now based in Newcastle who served her apprenticeship in guitar-based bands such as Candysuck and Lake Me, before looking to traditional Swedish folk roots and more experimental sounds for her debut solo album Firetales in 2010. Nearly a decade later she released the incredible Nerves & Skin, from which Ember Child is taken: a stripped-down, haunting, electronic-folk ballad consisting of little more than single, lengthy notes and a handful of chords on an especially morose synth and her wonderful vocal. It’s about as minimalist a composition as you’re likely to hear, and one of the most impactful.
Me Lost Me is the music project of Newcastle based musician Jayne Dent, and Nevergreen came out a few months ago as one of the singles from her latest album, The Good Noise, which was released last week. The entire album is brilliant, and ranges from meandering, folky ballads to soaring, ethereal pop, many of which are pinned together with crisp and precise drum programming. Nevergreen itself is a beguiling mix of all of these elements and more: something you could easily imagine soundtracking a hallucinatory scene in whatever mind-bending film Ari Aster currently has in the works.
On a blazing hot Sunday afternoon last June I watched This Is The Kit perform on Glastonbury’s West Holts stage, and it was absolutely magnificent: exactly the kind of relaxed yet quietly invigorating vibe I was looking for, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Was Magician is the latest in a run of singles from her forthcoming album Off Off On which is out later this month, and is delicate, sparse and very lovely indeed.
This is the latest single from Norwegian trio Orions Belte, a band supposedly inspired by “Nigerian 70’s rock, postcards from the French Riviera and Formula 1” and while I’m not an authority on either Nigerian rock or Formula 1, the breezy, heady melodies of Conversations absolutely call to mind sitting on a warm beach gazing out at the gentle swells of the Mediterranean. It’s an intoxicating blend, easily accessible yet with enough of a punch to stay with you for some time afterwards.
Dandelions is one of two Kurt Vile originals on his new five-track EP Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (ep), which also includes three covers: one of Jack Clement and two of US country legend John Prine who passed away earlier this year. From the opening, carefully picked acoustic melody and dreamy background washes to the hushed, muted percussion, this is vintage stuff from an artist who has that rare talent of being simultaneously rousing and reassuring. “That sounded pretty sick” says Vile as the music gradually fades away. I couldn’t agree more.