It’s good, it’s bad, it’s joyous, it is most certainly not and yet one thing we can all agree on is that it is complex and just waiting for insightful, creative souls to capture in all its contradictory glory.
These five artists or groups have done and then some, offering up tracks to look at a whole range of human experiences and give it voice in ways that are damn easy to listen to but then get into your soul and mind and give you plenty to feel and think and about.
You may wonder what the hell life is up to sometimes but at least with songs this good and this thoughtful, you have some hope of making sense of it all and immersing yourself into some stellar music into the bargain.
“That Life” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Hailing from New Zealand, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which sports a name entirely fitting for a band which is known for its supremey well-executed psychedelic rock, have had a very productive time of it since their formation in 2010, offering up five well-received albums.
But at the time of the release of the release of “Weekend Run”, which came out on 25 June, 2021, they hadn’t released any new music since 2018’s Sex & Food.
So, “Weekend Run” and its follow-up, “That Life”, which released two months later, have been very much welcomed by anyone who appreciates accessibly catchy music with some soul and thought behind it.
Speaking about “That Life”, the frontman for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban Nielson, says the song “was inspired by The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych oil painting by the Early Netherlandish maestro Hieronymus Bosch [which brings] together images of ‘luxury, reverie, damnation’, Ruban set out to recreate this symbolism in ‘That Life’, a perverse panorama of modern-day America that sounds like a long-lost Stones loosie.” (We Are: The Guard)
“Ben Zaidi’s Blues” by Ben Zaidi
The last 18 months or so have been proof positive (an ironic word to use in this context) that life can be brutally bad, as if we needed any further proof of its capriciousness.
If ever there’s been a song that captured the mood perfectly and with penetratingly beautiful poetry, it’s “Ben Zaidi’s Blues” which lays out the darkness and trauma of life in all its unnerving sadness and ferocity, the result of a introspective period in the artist’s life.
“Last fall, I sank into a pit of hopelessness. Politically, interpersonally, existentially. Shit was bleak. Since then I’ve been carrying this song around like a burden.” (We Are: The Guard)
Songs like “Ben Zaidi’s Blues”, which combine “the lyrical sharpness of spoken-word poetry with the soft lushness of electronica”, come from a very personal place, both in life experience but in the way they are produced with his site’s artist bio baring its soul when it says:
“Written and produced by himself in his bedroom, his songs bleed with the intimacy of a private journal.”
The substance of these songs might sound like they’d be unbearably intense but there’s something incredibly soothing about someone put a name to your pain and talking about it so eloquently and well, and it is this that makes him such a compelling artist.
“Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” by Holly Humberstone
Here’s another song to rip our soul.
British artist Holly Humberstone is another musically-gifted soul with the power to pour his heart and soul into her tracks with Thomas Bleach noting that she “creating introspective tracks of deep reflection that have been immediately connecting on a universal level since the release of ‘Deep End’ and ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ early last year.”
Written and co-produced with the 1975 frontman Matt Healy, “Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” captures that desperate need we all have to hold tight to the end of a relationship even though we know it’s all but dead and buried.
Being vulnerable in such a situatiion makes perfect sense and Humberstone distills it in all its devastatibg honesty into a song that is gently raw and as emotionally truthful as you’re ever likely to find.
Goodbyes are awful and “Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” is every tragically final farewell formed into a song so powerful it will stay with you for long after the final note.
“Harmonizer” by Ty Segall
Ty Segall is an American garage rock musician from California who has used the COVID-19 pandemic to craft his thirteenth album which was digitally released in August to the great surprise of critics and fans.
The album was described in an accompanying press release as “a synthtastic production redesign that finds Ty dialing up a wealth of tightly controlled beats, thick keyboard textures, guitar and endless harmonies. This glossy sound makes for some of Ty’s cleanest songs and starkest ideas to date, bracing him as he revisits the lonely days and loathsome nights of the alienated, grown-up-wrong soul.”
Title track “Harmonizer” has been rightly described by We Are: The Guard this way:
“With a runtime of five minutes, ‘Harmonizer’ is a chunky, gargantuan garage banger that cranks up the phasers and then some. Combine that with some hot, sexy lyrics about getting up close and personal with a lover (‘I wanna hear you touch my eardrum/I wanna hear our tongues make friction’), and we have ourselves a certified space jam.”
It’s a brilliantly catchy piece of music that wraps itself around you and doesn’t let go, slipping and sliding into all kinds of sonically and existentially seductive places that speaks of the connection we are all craving after so long separated from the rest of the human race.
“Baby” by Sipper
It’s time to kick things up to a musically sunny degree with New Yorkers Sipper who have handed us a rock-influenced pop gem with “Baby”.
It’s fuzzily crisp and jauntily upbeat, a song that might just be about one of life’s most intensely personal and lifechanging experiences, according to We Are: The Guard:
“The opening cut from their recent album Half Young appears to be about the experience of bringing a child into the world, with Joe sounding genuinely wide-eyed with love as he sings: ‘Cause you know I don’t believe in anything/But I’ll believe in you’.”
There’s a wonder and a gloriously happy incredulity to “Baby” which warms the heart lyrically and musically and reminds you that there’s a ton of good things still in the world, all recent evidnce to the contrary.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST EXTRA EXTRA!
There’s lot going on in Eurovision land!
Songs released between September and March are eligible for the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Italy in 2022 which, excitingly, already has one confirmed contestant – Jérémie Makiese from Belgium!
The countdown is also on for Junior Eurovision 2021 which takes place in Paris on 19 December this year.