Here’s some existential folk-pop from singer-songwriter Joel Willoughby; his new single “Last Request”. Listen here!
I first saw Joel Willoughby play at the Biltmore Cabaret a number of years ago, after his song “Hazelnut Moon” had gained some local radio play in Vancouver, BC and the surrounding area which he calls home. I was impressed by his self-deprecating personality, and of course his music which seems to be an amalgam of styles from across the decades, and still seems to be unique at the same time.
This cut is his newest, a reflection on the nature of faith and what drives people to cling to it and to call it into question all at once. Strummed acoustic guitar buoyed up by mandolin, Hammond B3, and a gospel-tinged chorus of backing voices bring it on home with a kind of bluegrass feel to the whole. I’m hoping this is the start of a next big release for him.
You can learn more about Joel Willoughby via these links.
Everyone has an off night. But when it happens when on a date, things can get awkward.
This is the subject of the new single “Ginger Ale” from Vancouver’s Hotel Mira, a blistering volley of guitar-bass-drums-voice power pop with a danceable, push-pull feel.
Take a listen here.
Hotel Mira has gone by a few names and lineups by now; The Beauties, Japanese Girls, JPNSGRLS, and now the aforementioned Hotel Mira, a name not likely to result in confusing Google search results. The band have been well-reviewed in Canada and abroad, particularly in the UK where they’ve been featured on Lauren Laverne’s BBC6 show, and in venerable Q magazine who pronounced that their song “Mushrooms” was a must-hear in 2015.
The band began in its earliest form in 2010, releasing a series of singles, an EP (2013’s Shark Week), and two full-length albums in 2014’s Circulation and 2016’s Divorce, all under the JPNSGRLS moniker. As may be evidenced here, their style is an amalgam of influences reflecting any number of post-punk influenced guitar bands that forged this same kind of direct approach to the business of rocking out, all the while with one eye on the dance floor. The Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys have both been mentioned.
The song was inspired by real-life events, when frontman Charlie Kerr hit the town with a special friend while on tour in London. It didn’t go well, plagued as he was by distractions and unable to hold up his end of the conversation. In part, this song is an apology to “Becky” for this state of affairs, with some self-flagellating lyrics to underscore the point in the strongest possible terms.
This is their third single, featured on their new self-titled EP that’s out August 17.
Our lasting friendships that remain solid from childhood to adulthood are rare and precious. They help us to to stay rooted in what’s important, and to see how the threads in our lives are so vitally connected to the lives of others.
Adelaide, Australia quintet Lost Woods have recently released their single “Cinnamon” which touches upon these very themes wrapped in an aural package that’s texturally varied, atmospheric, and lyrically poignant. Listen to it right here.
The band consists of not one but two sets of brothers; twins Tom and Sam Baird, both guitarists, and Miles and Lucas Sly on drums and bass respectively. Rounding out the lineup is frontman Peter White, who connected with Tom at a party, bonding over music, but also Seinfeld and a mutual sense of social awkwardness. From there, Lost Woods was born, and they began to build their base of fans and media support.
Lost Woods’ previous single, ‘Vodka Ocean’, received Australian national airplay on Triple J and gained huge support from community radio, street press and music media across the country. ‘Secrets In Our Sleeves’, taken from their self titled debut EP, was a finalist in the 2016 Vanda and Young songwriting competition. Latest single ‘Cinnamon’ hopes to build on this success
I connected with Sam Baird and Peter White of Lost Woods via email and asked them about the band, and their newest song “Cinnamon”. Here’s our conversation.
A feminist anthem that doesn’t beat around the bush (or does it?). A love song about the equally creative and destructive nature of love and the spirit of youthful abandon. And a song about what it’s like to be front and centre while wishing for solace.
That’s what’s up for your listening pleasure in this week’s Pack of Three, friends.
So, do not hesitate! Open yer earholes!
“Bush for the Push” by Miss Eaves
Name: Miss Eaves
From: Brooklyn, New York City, NY, USA
Sound: Electroclash and hip-hop with a head full of feminist vigour and an ass meant for shakin’.
Story: Miss Eaves (aka multimedia artist Shanthony Exum) delivers this political celebration of what’s down below, and gets a little hairy while doing so. Full of hip hop dexterity and bounce matched with blippy, dreamy electronics, Miss Eaves sings an ode to that which grows wild on the mons pubis. Narrow-mindedness and even scorn around the subject of hair particularly as it relates to sexuality has always been a burden placed on women. But this song reminds us that the hair down there can be about freedom, too. This track is taken from her ME AF EP coming out August 3, 2018. Miss Eaves kicks off a DIY summer tour beginning on July 21 in the UK and including some dates in continental Europe into August.
Sound: Ethereal, anthemic, and edgy post-punk that fans of Metric should really hear.
Story: “Crushed” is the second single from this band’s newest and upcoming record Other Nature (July 20, 2018), a tune that was written in dedication to lead vocalist Lauren Larson’s daughter. It touches on the transformative nature of love, with destruction and re-creation characterizing the whole. That spark of youthful vitality is also a touchpoint here, with Larson’s memories of front row Fugazi concerts as a guide to its creation, an event inspiring her to make music of her own. Working with producer Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, Loretta Lynn, Modest Mouse), that’s what she’s done with her bandmates with the new record, their follow up to 2014’s Monuments. Catch them on tour starting on July 13.
Sound: Gentle, lilting, light-as-air dream pop – in German!
Story: This song, translated “No Man’s Land”, is an introvert’s anthem as penned by an actual introvert; frontwoman Katrin Kisza. This cut is for anyone who’s ever resented the ringing of a phone while in the middle of a personal reverie, but also for herself using that same impulse to wish the world away that inspired many a session at the piano to write. The song is the second single taken from the band’s newest record, Heaven Is, their third.
Vancouver-based folk pop duo and actual real-life family unit Winsome Kind released “We Call It Home” on June 22, a teaser and title track for their upcoming album set to appear August 24, 2018. It’s their second, following up This Much is True, their debut.
Here’s the heartwarming video that was shot in Mundy Park in Coquitlam BC, not too far from the luxurious offices of Radio Free Lightning Bug, as it happens. It stars the duo but also their kids, one of which is wearing a bee costume!
The duo, Scott Perrie and Leora Joy, met as actors in a production of The Buddy Holly Story in 2012. Love blossomed, and so did a musical partnership. In traveling across Canada by train (a recommended trip if you get a chance, BTW), the two artists solidified their collaboration by playing live venues of all kinds including festivals, train stations and living rooms.
Their most recent adventure was writing, arranging, and recording the new album, We Call It Home while also being attentive parents. The video and indeed this single is certainly a reflection of that, with the song being a paean to family and the sense of connection we treasure while nurturing and being a part of one. The close harmony singing between the two leads sounds like an aural symbol for all of that.
Living in this era where children and families are actively being torn apart in the name of national security, this song isn’t just a feelgood tune of contentment. In our current context, it becomes downright political. But in the another sense, it really is a gentle reframing of the things that most people value, and that often become momentarily forgotten in the middle of busy lives; the vital importance of connection, acceptance, and security that is so sought after in families, and in general.
We’re leaping right into summer this week, everyone. Around here, things are heating up in more ways than one. But let’s focus on the music, shall we?
These three cuts will help to keep things cool.
“Tangerine Tree” by Laura Carbone
Name: Laura Carbone
From: Manheim, Germany
Sound: Ethereal and moody post-punk influenced indie rock ala Beach House and Mazzy Star.
Story: Spending time in LA to write, and taking memories of industrial German landscapes with her, this song evokes the sunshine of one with the somewhat overcast bittersweetness of the other. The song is taken from her new record Empty Sea.
Sound: Relaxed and socially-conscious folk pop with a sixties pop feel and in the spirit of Belle & Sebastian. Also: accordion!
Story: Sometimes in our darkest hours when the world around us has gone completely insane, the small joys in our lives become the most important. That’s the grain of truth to be found in this song from Erin Pellnat, a solo artist and also a member of rock band Caertaker, too.
Sound: Self-proclaimed surf rock, with a languid and hazy guitar-jangle crafting wistful chord progressions (my favourite!)
Story: This is a classic tale of love never realized, a tradition that’s grand in pop music history, of course! The reason for the video for this song according to lead vocalist Craig Almquist? To secure the band’s position as a boy band. Well, listeners; you be the judge! The song is the title track from their newest record out right now.
Sound: Languid and groove-oriented garage rock with some unexpected angles a la The Pixies and The Strokes.
Story: This song is about a dog, the titular Doctor to be exact, and a dog’s life from his point of view. But it’s also about us, carried along by circumstance and very easily manipulated by forces that play on our base desires while real meaning for it all stays out of our grasp so much of the time.
That would be a pretty heavy (although very resonant!) set of themes if the music didn’t provide such a compelling and entertaining counterbalance. The single is a lead to their upcoming new EP Nothing’s On My Mind, coming out this summer.
Sound: Downtempo electronica with hushed and sensual vocals and ambient, 80s synthpop influences
Story: This track represents the new EP Coded Matter from Mexican-born and Miami based producer Leitvox relased just last week. Featuring dance duo Carlota Pradera and Lazaro Godoy in the video, and the vocals of Maye Osorio, this song evokes a melange of emotions with impressionistic lyrics and euphoric electronic atmospheres.
This single and EP is the result of a busy and prolific year for Leitvox, following up 2017’s Floating Promises full-length, and having also recently released yet another video this year, “Ingenue”.
Sound: Retro-sixties countrified lounge-pop as adorned by Nico/Astrud Gilberto-tinged lead vocals
Story: A big fan of Richard Hawley and his Coles Corner album, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Susie Scurry (the artist previously known as The Grand Mazoogi) sought out Hawley producer Colin Elliot. They then recorded the new The Elvis Hour EP in Sheffield. This is the title track, a breezy and downright summery (with a few clouds gathering) tune, complete with a video featuring footage of another hero.
That hero would be Elvis Presley, a cat who covered a lot of ground for a man who died at 42. Maybe you’ve heard of him, kids. The song is packed with the kind of wistful melancholy that I cannot resist. And neither will you! The new EP is out on June 22. In July, Susie Scurry is embarking on an east coast tour of Australia.
Sound: Spacey and relaxed pop music with dreamily ambient electronic textures.
Story: Once monikered “The Exchange”, Becoming Bristol is a new musical entity, with this song being an anthem to starting again while taking responsibility for the past, too. Being in a band and touring since their teens, you can understand how autobiographical this song might be.
Story: This tune is featured on their newest record, Time to Make a Little Mess With …, contrasting the ballsy swing of the music with the socially awkward narrative found in the lyrics. I can relate to both, of course! Also, here’s the live version.
Story: Trading in a sound that hooks into a similar sonic territory as José Gonzalez, Morten Lava’s (nee Larsen’s) music is an exploration across genres, and with plenty of atmosphere to enjoy along the way. The EP In A Daydream, was released today! To those of you within range, Morten is doing an EP launch party today at the Notting Hill Arts Club in Kensington, London.
Peter Cat, a duo from sunny Glasgow, bring their latest single “Hand Through Hair” in video form. Watch it right here.
The song is a follow-up to their first single “Keeping Up With Jacob”, and will serve as a harbinger to their upcoming debut EP produced by songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and front for the indie band Catholic Action, Chris McCrory.
For their part, Peter Cat make pop music that in their words contains “a bit of oddness” that pulls from a variety of sources across the musical spectrum, from the push-pull glittery boogie beat of seventies glam-rock to the arty and urbane music of Neil Hannon and Jarvis Cocker. There’s even a bit of David Sylvian in the vocals, to my ears.
The oddness in their music perhaps is connected to the origin of their name; the jazz club founded in 1978 by magical realist author Haruki Murakami in Tokyo of the same name – Peter Cat . It’s not odd to name your band after a favourite author’s endeavour, of course. But considering the subject matter of Murakami’s novels like trans-dimensional talking cats, the duo have hitched their wagon to the eccentric and surrealistic.
These ingredients are evident in this song and certainly in the video for it, while still touching on and exemplifying what pop music should be; familiar terrain to welcome the listener, complete with provoking an impulse to dance! But there’s a lot that’s unfamiliar here too, which is what makes “Hand Through Hair” unique. It takes some unexpected turns to surprise and delight.
Maybe that has to do with the contrast between genres that the band are playing with in their efforts to bridge the pop music of the past with that of the present. Either way, “Hand Through Hair” has another trait that is essential to pop music beyond all of that. It’s fun. What with all of the other elements at work here, this is the most important.
Peter Cat will be playing dates in Scotland this week, drifting southward during the summer and into the fall, UK readers.
For ten years, I authored a moderately popular blog called The Delete Bin. You can still visit that site right here. If I do say so myself, there’s some pretty good stuff there.
In December of 2017, I retired that noble blog. It was time. Today, June 2 2018, I’ve started this project – Radio Free Lightning Bug. And welcome to it, friends.
Why did I start this? Especially considering that I stopped writing The Delete Bin because I complained at the time that the golden age of the blog had passed. I still believe that to be true.
Yet, here’s the thing and at the danger of repeating myself; I am a music writer. I can’t help it.
With RFLB, I will have an outlet again, free of the format and identity of The ‘Bin. Since I want to preserve that former identity, I thought I’d start fresh. Simple as that.
But how else will Radio Free Lightning Bug differ from its predecessor?
Mainly by focusing on independent music.
During the ten years spent helming the ‘Bin, I kind of sidelined in featuring new music from up and coming, or even struggling, musicians and songwriters. I discovered just how much great stuff is being made now, and so much of it deserves a wider audience.
Maybe I won’t be able to push it to the stratosphere.
But, I can provide some molecules of fuel to help and present it to music fans in a way I feel it deserves to be.
That’s the mission of this project; to amplify, however minutely or otherwise, the music being made by brilliant and perhaps not widely known artists.
I will post showcases of artists. I will create playlists for readers and listeners. I may do some interviews too, if anyone’s amenable.
In any case, thanks for considering this humble project of mine.