Now this is music #106: Jesse St John, Kero Kero Bonito, bülow, MGMT, Sasha Sloan

(image via CanStockPhoto (c) Lee Campbell)

Life is a daunting undertaking.

No news there, of course, but often times we struggle, despite sensing a great many things, with articulating exactly what we’re feeling and thus, finding a way to confront it and deal with it, at least in part.

That’s why artists like the five featured here are so important – they give voice for feelings without description, thoughts without clear delineation and in so doing, making the business of life that little bit more understandable, and possibly enjoyable.

If nothing else, and it’s doubtful it ends there with artists as thoughtful and authentic as these, we get to listen to some sweet, beautiful, meaningful music, and that is never a bad thing …

“Move” by Jesse Saint John

Jesse Saint John (image courtesy official Jesse Saint John Facebook page)

“Move” may be the debut single for L.A.-based singer/songwriter Jesse Saint John, but his history in the music industry goes back a long way, with the distinctive-looking and sounding artist having worked with likes of Britney Spears (“Love Me Down”) and Charli XCX (“Cloud Aura” feat. Brooke Candy), and Sia.

As part of stepping out of the background and into the limelight, the artist has crafted an incredibly infectious, upbeat that Interview Magazine has winningly described this way:

“Saint John’s debut single ‘Move’, released recently, is an adrenaline rush of a song with shades of The Ting Tings, Uffie, and The All-American Rejects. It’s bombastic, hedonistic, whimsical and totally sure of itself, a blast of flavorful pop-rock ear candy that makes me wish I was of legal age in 2005, so I could’ve experienced these sounds on the dance floor with a can of Sparks in my hand.”

That’s quite an accolade for a song that came with some pretty cool, decade-specific inspiration.

“When I was approaching writing for myself, I found myself inspired by a lot of ’90s cinema, quirky, dangerous, wild films — like Go and Doom Generation. It felt energetically driven and somewhat icy and desolate, but still so fun.” (Billboard)

It’s all that and more, an driving piece of engaging pop redolent with all kinds of emotions and insight that is the perfect introductory calling for this pleasingly one-of-a-kind artist.

“Only Acting” by Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito (image courtesy official Kero Kero Bonito Facebook page)

The thing that you notice most about London trio Kero Kero Bonito (vocalist Sarah Midori Perry, producer Gus Lobban, and producer Jamie Bulled) is how much passion they put into their music.

In the case of “Only Acting” which tells the story of an aspirational actor who goes through all the stages you’d expect someone pursuing their dream to go through, suffused with what SPIN calls “[a] quintessentially earnest and positive KKB story”.

In amongst all the edgy guitarwork, drums and bass, and some artfully-creative distortion midway through – no, your download is not corrupted; it’s supposed to sound that way and in the wider context of the song makes a lot of narrative sense – we’re treated to Perry’s breathily child-like voice that adds some lovely humanity and truthfulness.

“Only Acting” is a fun, quirky piece of pop with a meaningful message that stamps Kero Kero Bonito once again as a pop band with brains and heart, and a visual aesthetic to match.

“Not a Love Song” by bülow

bülow (image courtesy official bülow Facebook page)

Love is a complicated beasty.

We all know that but artists like The Netherlands-born, Canada-resident bülow aka Megan Bülow have a knack, packaged within catchy af songs like “This is not a Love Song” of articulating what we know but can’t exactly put into words.

In this case, she’s breaking it to a far more ardent suitor that her feelings don’t match theirs: she’s not cold and cruel about it either, with this amazingly talented nascent artist wishing desperately that she felt the same but alas does not.

Let’s hear it for honesty in this beat-heavy, emotionally-redolent slice of light & dark pop that perfectly marries a heavy message about love with some trippy, fun upbeat music that will have you skipping along even as someone’s heart breaks …

“Me and Michael” by MGMT

MGMT (image courtesy official MGMT Facebook page)

MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser), kicking around since 2002 after their formation in Middletown, Connecticut might be up to album four, Little Dark Age, but they show no sign of suffering from creative exhaustion.

“Michael” is a joy to listen to and to watch, with its clip telling a brilliantly-imaginative tale of musical plagiarism and ill-gotten gains:

“… the truth behind the shimmering Europop ballad is finally brought to light in the bizarrely meta Joey Frank and Randy Lee Maitland-directed clip, which documents the rise and fall of MGMT after it’s revealed that they stole ‘Me and Michael’ from a Filipino band called Truefaith.” (We Are The Guard)

It’s a clever way to publicise a song that MGMT most definitely did write, a song that Consequence of Sound perfectly describe as “a dusky summer jam, a shimmering ode to friendship and a reminder that even the closest bonds can break.”

“Normal” by Sasha Sloan

Sasha Sloan (image courtesy Sasha Sloan Facebook page)

Like Jesse Saint John, L.A.-based Sasha Sloan is stepping out from behind artists like Charlie XCX and Camilla Cabello for whom she has written chart-topping tunes, and people such as Kygo (“This Town”) and Odesza (“Falls”) for whom she has sung, to show the world that she can give voice to her songs in a style very much her own.

“Normal” is a departure from the EDM-sound of her none-too-distant past – she is only 22-years-old after all – examining something we’ve all struggled with, which is wanting to escape the burdens and existential exhaustions of life, if only for a little while:

“I wrote ‘Normal’ at a time when I was partying a lot. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but I was avoiding all the real problems in my life by going out and pretending to be someone else. I did this a lot in high school too — most of my life I’ve felt like an outsider so I would go to parties to feel like I fit in. There isn’t a single lyric in this song that isn’t true. I’ve definitely sang along to songs I hated and made out with guys I wasn’t really into just to seem cool. Normal is about wanting to blend into the crowd for a night and I hope someone out there can relate. (Billboard)

I think we can relate to feeling like we’re the only weird one in the world and everyone is happily sane and together in ways we are not; we know that’s simply not the case in a rational sense but tell that to our psyche which seems to repeat the message on a loop.

“Normal” is the soundtrack for the lost and the uncertain, a richly-anthemic piece of upbeat pop that is refreshingly, winningly honest and real in a way that will have your heart just as engaged as your ears.


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

Unless you have been living under a soundproofed Swedish music-resistant rock of late, you couldn’t help but have heard that ABBA, who haven’t been in the studio together since 1982, are going to release two new songs.

The brand new material – “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” – were recorded in the service of the Swedish foursome’s ABBAtar tour in 2019 which will use sophisticated holograms of ABBA at their touring height in 1979 to perform concerts around the world.

Could the news get any better. It could! The Sun newspaper in an interview with the group’s songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson reveals that ABBA is open to recording yet more sparkling new songs, great news for many devoted fans including yours truly.

My love of quirky, interesting artists with their own distinctive message and sense of self knows no bounds which is why when I first heard New Yorker Regina Spektor via 2006’s Begin to Hope, I fell in love, heart and soul and mind.

Spektor makes incredibly clever, beautifully melodic pop that thinks deeply about life so it makes perfect sense that, as part of the annual Poetry & the Creative Mind event at Lincoln Center hosted by The Academy of American Poets, she would deliver the poem “The Everyday Enchantment of Music” by much-love poet Mark Strand with such power, truth and conviction. (Brain Pickings)

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