Good lord but the current pandemic-addled state of the world is anxiety inducing isn’t it?
As you survey a world where normal is no more, and is constantly abruptly and messily changing, it’s hard to imagine how you could possibly ever sit back, relax and watch life go by.
And yet, somehow and with great thanks to their innate, gifted artistry, that is precisely what happens with these five artists, all of whom possess a rare ability to think hard, deep and long and with rare insight and pour it all, hearts very much on sleeve, into melodies and words that make sense.
Even better, they force us to stop, to dial the frantic hamster wheel of our soul and lose ourselves in the unexpected bliss of just listening and being and feeling everything slow blissfully down.
So, if life and the world and the universe is all feeling a bit, or a lot, too much, then take a load off and listen to five artists who know you need to ruminate a whole lot more and stress walk a whole lot less and are here to help you do that as they work through the big issues that concern them.
“daytime” by Frances Forever
Born Frances Garrett, Frances Forever is an American singer-songwriter who first sprang to the world’s attention in 2020 when their song “Space Girl” became a viral hit on TikTok.
But like most music artists, their journey began far earlier, with piano lessons at age 6 and songwriting in their teens, all of which led to the chilled aural splendour of “daytime”, a song which We Are: The Guard called “a lush, soothing listen that hears Frances Forever trying their hand at a trip-hop sound similar to Massive Attack or Portishead. With lyrics about love and escape coming paired with richly sweeping horns, “daytime” is a jazzy-soft reverie for daydreamers everywhere.”
With tertiary study in music technology under their belt, Frances Forever is one of those gifted people who can pour their heart and soul into a sometimes cold digital vessel and make it feel warm, human and inviting.
With DORK noting that Frances Forever is “ready to take the leap from bedroom ukulele strumming student to bona fide alt-pop icon in the making”, the artist has a lot of exciting things on the horizon, including new project Paranoia Party which offers even more of the lush emotiveness that is infused through the laidback pop gem that is “daytime”.
“Thief” by ella jane
Anyone who goes seeking out truly emotional thoughtful pop will long be used to artists who wear their hearts well and truly on their sleeves.
Pop as musical confessional is hardly a new idea but ella jane is one of those preternaturally imbued music artists who is able to not only open her heart and soul to the world but deliver, thanks to a richly emotionally resonant voice, her raw openness with a passionate truthfulness than can’t but strike deep into your soul.
Observing this, We Are: The Guard introduced a profile of the artist with this insightful paragraph:
“Ella Jane (stylized ella jane) is wise beyond her years. Her voice has the maturity of someone at least 10 years her senior while her sophisticated indie pop – which she describes as “substance pop” – glows with a self-assuredness that many singer/songwriter/producers never achieve, while still maintaining the popping, fizzing effervescence of youth.”
Clearly gifted with an ability to take a myriad of influences and make them very much her own, ella jane, who first rose to notice with the similarly honest “The City” and its placing on Spotify’s Chill Vibes playlist, is someone to listen to if you want gorgeous melodies combined with vibrantly honest lyrics that speak of the human condition in a way that is profoundly and lastingly affecting.
“Sundress” by Bathe
Hailing from the frenetic bright lights and big city vibe of New York City, Bathe have a way with a headily relaxed tune.
“Sundress” is one of those songs that wraps itself completely and totally around you, subsuming you in lazy summer chills and contemplative moments which EARMILK have deemed “a mood, a vibe and a jam all in one”.
One listen and you can see exactly what they mean, with the song all luscious sensibilities, langourous mleody and pithc-perfect kicking-back vocals that feels like they are wafting over while remaining full of passion and longing.
It’s art and an experience as much as pop, and Bathe are masters at generating a vivaciously chilled sense of time and place with EARMILK again saying this about the band.
“Something that doesn’t get talked about enough in the world of alt-R&B is the ability to generate steady narratives through sound. This underappreciated skill for storytelling is at its forefront with Bathe; consistently generating flawless little bits of audio cinema that just wash over the listener, bathing them in a lushly organized soul wonderland.”
“Pyro” by Ruby Haunt
Six albums in (Watching the Grass Grow releases today), it’s a safe bet to say that Ruby Haunt, one of the most beautifully evocative of band names, know their way around music that seeps in your soul and stays there for the duration.
Case in point is “Pyro”, a stripped back, guitar-centric piece of amiably intense pop that captures a recurring feel and vibe to the group’s music as We Are: The Guard observes.
“The song hears Ruby Haunt continuing to hone their Twin Peaks-esque breed of atmosphere-pop, with guitars rising and falling with cinematic cadence behind the California duo. Lyrically, meanwhile, ‘Pyro’ focuses on a relationship in ruins, with Ruby Haunt practically fracturing listeners to pieces as they sing: ‘Never’d guеss how it would shatter/In the palm of my hand.'”
It’s a brilliantly immersive song that swirls and eddies and banks around with adroitly quiet ease, taking you on a journey that subsumes you in gloriously good music such that all that matters in the song, with Sputnik Music noting that “It’s the type of song that swallows the listener whole, draining every ounce of capability for critical analysis from my body.”
(For the record, they do try even so, saying that “‘Pyro’ is built on the foundation of one simple, meandering riff: it gently increases in prevalence for two minutes before Wyatt Innins’ soft vocals add an even greater sense of comfort to the song. Its post rock-infused beauty is the perfect vehicle for lyrics of despair and destruction, adding bewitchingly wistful touches to words describing anything but bliss.”)
“Agreeable” by Lucky Idiot
In a world full of copycats and soundalikes, discovering and cultivating your own unique sound is special and wonderful gift for any music artist.
According to Acid Stag, Lucky Idiot (kalem woo – guitar + vox maxwell byrne – bass + vox rei sakakibara – drums; courtesy triple j unearthed), who hail from sunny Brisbane, Queensland (Australia), are one of those bands that has accomplished this rare and precious thing.
“When they [Lucky Idiot] released their debut EP Low Ceiling last year, it became pretty clear the trio had a gorgeous sound that’s so unique to them. You can’t hear music like this anywhere else.”
Now with new EP Eat Up, it becomes abundantly and magically clear that they have continued on their own journey to making music that is completely their own, with song “Agreeable” proof positive of their one-of-a-kind groove with Acid Stag saying this about the track:
“‘Agreeable’, [is] a song about leaving the city behind for a quieter space. Sweet acoustic guitars are placed over layered vocals creating a very delicate introduction. Echoing electric guitars and soft drums then slowly creep into the mix and increase the amount of energy the song has. It was as if, in the beginning, you’re standing still, with the minimalistic guitar track, and when the drums kick in you’re suddenly on the move. Driving somewhere new.”
Play “Agreeable” and indeed any of the songs from Eat Up and you will discover what it is to listen to music that restores the soul in way in which no one else is capable and which will make the world feel summery and positive even when it manifestly isn’t.
Quite some years ago, a dear friend of mine decided that after Australia, where I was born and where I am a citizen, and Canada, which feels like my second home, that Lithuania was my spiritual homeland.
And you know what? I think she is right. I love the sheer vivacity and quirk Lithuania brings to their entries – this year’s entry “Discoteque” by The Roop was a bright yellow JOY – and so it brings me great pleasure to present a look at how the Baltic country I love does Eurovision …
But wait, you ask! What else is happening in Eurovision Song Contest land right now? Why lots!
And finally one of my favourite acts from 2021 (and 2020 to be fair), Ukraine’s Go_A were interviewed by the folks at Eurovision where “Hot from performing at Ukraine’s 30th anniversary of independence party, the band spoke about the popularity of Ukrainian music, their upcoming gigs, and THAT potential collaboration with Måneskin.”
OK I lied! Not finally – how about Eurovision 2021 rendered with LEGO? Of course! It’s as gloriously good as you might expect …