For the final song round-up of the year, it seemed only fitting and right, after the weight of a long and sad COVID-saturated year, to feature five songs that carry some element of hope with them.
The way this hope is folded into the songs may not be conventional but it is rich and true nonetheless and reminds us that life may feel like a whole lot of exhausting weightiness and darkness at times, it is possible to crawl out and find some goodness there too.
And even if there isn’t, music has a power to soothe and make things better than often transcends anything our minds can process.
So get up, dance fast, or slow, and lose yourselves in the possibilities of words and music and remember how good it is to have five artists or groups that can give them vivacity and life.
“IDFWFEELINGS” by UPSAHL
Get up and dance!
That seems to be the central message from American singer-songwriter UPSAHL, born Taylor Cameron Upsahl, who has an inspired gift for crafting upbeat pop so compulsive that it cannot be ignored, with The Line of Best Fit going so far as to say that her latest album Lady Jesus “refuses any moment to sit down”.
Given how much sitting we’ve all been doing over the last two COVID-ravages years, that can only be a good thing with “IDWFEELINGS” driving the tempo up with a relentless power that muses with extreme prejudice on the perils of letting yourself getting invested with guys who inevitably let you down.
This song is ruefulness set to an energetic driving beat and it will help you get in touch with your inner cynic and dance all the pain and stress far, far away and as Nerds and Beyond observes, take a whole different freeing approach to love and dating.
“IDFWFEELINGS” describes a different stage in UPSAHL’s healing process after the messy end to her last relationship shown at the start of the album. Rather than jumping into another relationship that comes with the chance of getting hurt again, UPSAHL instead revels in the catharsis she gets from one-night stands due to their no strings attached nature.
“On My Knees” by RÜFÜS DU SOL
There’s a delicious sense of dark foreboding as the tremblingly dark strains of “On My Knees” start to unfurl with hauntingly intense vocals washing over them.
L.A.-based Australians RÜFÜS DU SOL (Tyrone Lindqvist, Jon George and James Hunt), who go upper or lower caps with their band’s name depending on their preference on the day, have put together a song that is all swirling intensity, light pop danceability and emotional resonant vocals.
“On My Knees” is a song that takes quite the journey over its evocative run time as Pile Rats observes:
“Over the course of ‘On My Knees” four-minute duration, the trio reckon with these intense and hard-hitting sounds, delving further into the club backbone of their work and the brooding, dark-lit sonics that often exist within that space. It’s something that when combined with Tyrone Linqvist’s aching vocals, creates this haunting sense of longing that drives everything forward; On My Knees storming with emotions that pair perfectly with the song’s firing, dusky production.”
The decision to piush boundaries was quite deliberate, says Hunt.
“For this song we had a lot of fun writing something that was darker, driving and a little more edgy.” (Pile Rats)
It’s a perfect song for a live setting which themselves are finally slowly coming back to life after a long pandemic hiatus.
“Frankie” by Barrie
Another song with intensely appealing edginess woven into its DNA, “Frankie” by Brooklyn-based five piece Barrie – the musical project of Barrie Lindsay, the group is made up of people from across the globe – is a real family affair.
“I knew from the start that I wanted the Frankie video to be a dance video. I imagined an intensive, rhythmic, aerobic video; halfway between a Tae Bo workout video and pop choreography. I have no dance experience whatsoever, and wanted to work really hard and put that effort-fulness front and center in the video. Gabby has similar experience with dancing, so it was very cool and organic to learn together. I’m very grateful she agreed to be part of the video. The producer, Abbie Jones; director, Adinah Dancyger; and choreographer, Matilda Sakamoto, were an incredible team to work with.” (Barrie, The Line of Best Fit)
A charmingly mid-tempo slice of gently propulsive pop, “Frankie” is anchored by light, airy vocals and a neat synth-driven melody that encourages the very dancing seen in the playfully understated video and thoughtully arch observations about social inequality and how people react to that.
“Glen Campbell had just died and the radio was playing ‘“Wichita Lineman.’ It felt relevant to the social justice movements at the moment, to the push for democratic socialism, or at least a rejection of capitalism and where it’s gotten us,” Barrie explains in a statement. “The Wichita Lineman has a shitty oppressive job that isolates and overworks him, as many Americans do, and instead of feeling outraged on his behalf we honor and lionize his commitment to labor. The song is a great litmus test. People either find the character really heroic and noble, or find the whole situation sad and fucked.” (Stereogum)
“Giving In To the Love” by AURORA
Now this is how you make an announcement, especially if you’re Norway’s AURORA, an album who makes statement pop looking effortless and sound brilliantly, epically listenable.
“Giving In To The Love” is the lead single of the singer’s third album The Gods We Can Touch and it came with some very otherworldly supernatural inspiration.
“I was thinking about Prometheus, and how he stole the fire to sculpt us – the humans. I feel like we sometimes forget that we are living creatures, capable of so many beautiful things. And the human’s current obsession with beauty makes us forget and devalue the fire that rests within us. Our inner self, and most important part.” (The Line of Best Fit)
Sporting AURORA’s usual evocative singing style and her penchant for melodies that sound like expand around and subsume in the very best of ways, is a brilliant way to make some noise about the new album which the artist describes her usually sweeping thoughtfulness.
“The spiritual door between the human and the gods is a very complicated thing. In the right hands faith can become the most beautiful thing. Nurturing and warm. And in the wrong hands it can become a beacon of war and death. One thing that has always bothered me is the idea that we’re born unworthy having to deem ourselves worthy by suppressing the forces within us that make us human. Not perfect, not flawless, just human. Could we find this Divine power in ourselves, while still being attached and seduced to the wonders of the world. The flesh, the fruit and the wine. I think that is what intrigues me about the Greek gods. The gods of the ancient world. Perfectly imperfect. Almost within our reach. Like gods we can touch.” (The Line of Best Fit)
With stunningly uplifting music and lyrics that pierce to the heart of things, “Giving In To The Love” is proof that AURORA remains a purveyor of incisively catchy pop that is mesmerisingly good, auguring well for her new LP.
“Call My Name” (feat. Robyn) by Smile
I could quite happily listen to legendary Swedish singer Robyn singer lend her distinctive vocals to just about anything.
While she has yet to sing my grocery list, but how good would it sound if she did, she does sing on the latest song by Smile, the project of Swedish musicians Björn Yttling (Peter Bjorn and John) and Joakim Åhlund (Teddybears, Caesars) and it sounds like all the good things have come at once, especially when you realise how lyrically celebratory the track of one person’s complete commitment to the welfare of another.
It’s the perfect marriage of folk-tinged upbeat pop and affirmingly positive lyrics, all given a luscious sheen by Robyn’s emotionally evocative vocals which always carry such a grounded human element to them.
Keeping with the song’s theme about bring there for people in all kinds of ways, Robyn said in a statement via Scandipop that being part of the song was something special.
“I love singing ‘Call My Name’ and it was a true pleasure to record it and rave around in this beautiful song together with Joakim and Björn.”