Wednesday 23 February 2022

WATCH: Deanna Petcoff - ‘Devastatingly Mediocre’

I'm digging this one, and loving the video too.... the track is Devastatingly Mediocre (brilliant name, but it is anything but...) from Deanna Petcoff. The Toronto-based artist is releasing her debut album To Hell With You, I Love You via Royal Mountain Records on 8th April and the lead track is brilliant, right?

Deanna explains: "I wrote this song when my friend was dating the most boring guy alive. He really was so normal, met the bare minimum of being a decent person, and yet she was so infatuated with him. At first I wrote this as a joke because I always called him devastatingly mediocre just to tease her, but when I showed it to my band they loved it and we decided to make it something real. I think it actually holds a lot of meaning for a lot of people - it's so easy to fall in love with someone just because you want to be in love, regardless of whether or not it really works."  

The video was directed by Michael Pugacewicz and Paige Foskett, who shared: "we wanted to capture the essence of repeating a vicious cycle with dating - how easy and relatable it is to keep dating the same person over and over until you learn whatever lesson you're supposed to learn. We felt like this song really begged us to lean into the campy early 2000s Avril Lavigne skater boy visuals, including the use of a handy cam to elevate the timelessness of this type of love interest, especially since we are seeing a comeback of this era. It was fun for us to put Deanna on a pedestal and give her the power in this video."

Follow Deanna Petcoff - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

LISTEN: Cj Pandit - '1, 2, Free'

Ahhhhh I love this. A reminder to 'back yourself and trust your instincts' from Cj Pandit, new track 1, 2, Free is a delight. It really feels like he is at once settling into his sound and constantly pushing the envelope - finding his unique sound, moving further away from the earlier Magique days (one for the OG fans) and firmly placing himself into our hearts and our playlists with this absolute gem. Each new release has me saying "I think this is my new favourite..." and I love that. This one is from his upcoming second EP, which I can't wait for. It's Cj Pandit's world for the taking, and I'm excited to be on the sidelines cheering him on. 

On the new track, he shares: "When we're falling head first into new relationships, it's easy to second guess each other's expectations and become over reliant on approval, when maybe we should be slightly more selfish. It's not always a bad word. That's what 1, 2, Free is all about, relying on your impulses and not holding people back."

"I was so heavily influenced by the Bee Gees songwriting and recording through the whole process and wanted to cover the song in as many voices and harmonies as possible to let myself float through the messy little world inside my head. It feels like a lift off to me." 

Cj Pandit tours the UK this October - find dates & tickets here!

Follow Cj Pandit - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 17 February 2022

WATCH: Wallice - 'Little League'

All sorts of excited to see this in my inbox this week... new Wallice!!!! The LA-based musician is one of my favourite discoveries of recent years - a little bit in love with last year's Off The Rails EP. Brilliant news, then, that she's signed to Dirty Hit and is releasing her second EP this Spring. As a taster of the EP, Little League hits the spot perfectly. In fact, Wallice never misses. 

On the track, Wallice shares: "Little League is about my love of games (board and video) and my competitiveness. I also think people can relate to the fear of not being liked. I can hang out with a single friend for 5 days straight, and still each time they leave I feel like  - "oh no, they probably hate me because of something silly like being too competitive during a video game. This song was influenced by "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" by Radiohead, a band I grew up listening to." 

The video sees Wallice and her producer marinelli starring alongside fellow LA musicians spill tab, Mykey and mazie, as they play Mario Party esque mini-games within a board game. Wallice explains: "I immediately reached out to director Philip Stilwell when I came up with a concept for this video. He did such an amazing job when we had previously worked on my 'Hey Michael' video last year. I knew he could execute the right balance of serious and funny within a short video."

Wallice just announced her first London headline show at The Lexington on May 17th - tickets available here.

Follow Wallice - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

WATCH: Low Island - 'Everything Before Us'

Alright, I love this. My faves Low Island are back with their first new music since last year's If You Could Have It All Again, their brilliant debut album. New track Everything Before Us gets straight to the core of what we all love about the band, the very essence of them. Can I call it groovy?! Because it definitely is... sumptuous synths sit atop Carlos' silky-smooth lead vocals... every element is meticulously placed, and the finished product is a dream. I'm really into this one (can you tell?) and loving the freshly released live video even more... though it's just reinforcing that I really need to get to a Low Island gig this year. 

Carlos describes the new track as being about "profound care for another, looking at love not as a final destination, but as a continuous journey: something to be nurtured and looked after."

Low Island play their biggest headline show to date at London's Village Underground on April 14th, alongside their first European headline tour in Autumn. Full dates and tickets here.

Follow Low Island - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

WATCH: Everything Everything - 'Bad Friday'

Not going to lie, I saw all of the teasing on social media and somehow managed to miss that there was a new Everything Everything track on the way. I hopped on the train back from London last week and took out my phone to catch up with notifications from the evening... and... wait! A new EE song?! Cue back-to-back listens all the way out of London, of course. 

Did I ever mention how much I love this band?! In love with this track - it's EE at their best, and the video is one of their best, too. The excitement, however, doesn't stop there. 

Bad Friday is the first single to be taken from their upcoming album Raw Data Feel, due 20th May. They're even releasing a book (!) - Caps Lock On is a collection of lyrics, photos and archive material from the past 15 years. AND (more!) they're touring the UK in March and April. I think that's you just about caught up...

Head to the Everything Everything site here for album & book pre-order, and to check out the tour dates.

Follow Everything Everything - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 14 February 2022

LISTEN: néomí - 'if i wasn't made for love'

A dream of a debut for you today - I think this one is a little slice of musical perfection. if i wasn't made for love is the first release from néomí (aka Surinamese/Dutch folk-pop singer-songwriter Neomi Speelman). Neomi cites Bon Iver, Bob Dylan and Ben Howard as her main influences, referring to their music as art and poetry - "that's something I also really try to do; make little poems instead of songs." It's a solid trio to look up to, and Neomi's debut has some of the angelic harmonies of The Staves and First Aid Kid. For a debut, this is an all round gem. While the pandemic slowed things down for Neomi, she has signed to [PIAS] and has a selection of songs ready to share - I for one am certainly ready for more!

On the new track she shares: "'if i wasn't made for love' was written in a time where I doubted love in the most possible way ever. And let's be honest, love is the most stupid thing in the world. Think about it: you want someone, you fall in love, you love each other, you hate each other, it hurts, you break up, and you keep doing that because every time you think once more 'this is the one'. With 'if i wasn't made for love', I sing about the beauty and mystery of life. And what love brings to me, and I think also to others. The idea is: if life were simple, love would be simple as well. But in the end, it's wonderful that love is complicated. I'd rather be 'not made for love' than understand it." 

Follow néomí - Facebook | Instagram.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

An evening Lost in the Cedar Wood with Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane

I went to a gig a couple of days ago! Rejoice. Although ‘gig’ perhaps isn’t the right word, and doesn’t do the evening justice. In the candlelit setting of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a 340-capacity space that is part of the Globe Theatre no less (!) I saw two of my favourite writers, Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane, performing their album Lost In The Cedar Wood. Music there was, but it was so much more than a gig - a journey… a magical, bewildering evening of story and song, traversing across timelines and continents. Genuinely mesmerising. Tickets were difficult to come by and I feel SO incredibly lucky to have been there.

Music, stories, nature - this show couldn’t have been any more my cup of tea.

Having seen Johnny once before at the Roundhouse (the performance of Live at the Roundhouse album fame) I was very excited to get tickets to see him and Cosmo Sheldrake playing as part of a series of socially distanced folk gigs in Hackney towards the end of 2020. Sadly it wasn’t to be and the shows were put on hold and were eventually refunded a few months ago - the announcement of this pair of shows at the Globe came at around the same time. The world might not make it easy for me to see Johnny perform live, but it had offered up some kind of gig exchange.

While I’ve been in love with Johnny’s music for nearly a decade now (after buying the Country Mile vinyl at my local HMV on a whim) my love of Rob’s work is a more recent thing. Since starting work as a bookseller in 2019 I’ve gradually been made aware of Rob’s writing - for me, The Lost Spells was my introduction. The pocket-size (ish) follow-up to Rob and Jackie Morris The Lost Words (look it up), I couldn’t resist it upon its arrival into the shop, and have since been gradually acquiring most of Rob’s books. I’m currently reading Underland - slowly, savouring each page. Rob is genuinely a magician with words, and when I found that he and Johnny were collaborating on some music, my heart skipped a beat. The album was one of my favourite releases of last year… here’s what I wrote about it in my AOTY post:

In the past couple of years, my interest in and love for the natural world has increased dramatically, with furlough offering up more time to get into the garden and to go on walks locally. As my curiosity has grown, I've been seeking out writing on nature, and was unbelievably excited earlier this year to find that one of our best natural history writers, the great Robert Macfarlane, was releasing an album with one of my favourite folk artists, Johnny Flynn. A masterpiece waiting to happen, surely.

As I expected, the pair did not disappoint - Lost in the Cedar Wood is something to treasure and an album I will love for years to come. It arrived at exactly the time I needed it and perhaps could most appreciate it. My favourite line, from Enkidu Walked, describing my experience of the past two years - "the birds have my heart and they won't give it back to me." When two brilliant writers come together to make art it was never really in doubt that it would be something truly special...

Fast forward to Monday… negative covid tests, masks on - ready for the first train journey of the year. A novelty at the moment, that’s for sure. Wanting to make the most of the day out, we first visited the eight miles of bookshelves that make up Waterstones Piccadilly, before my first trip to the Natural History Museum in years. The foundations of a dreamy day, by all accounts. Food consumed (Wahaca - yum) it was almost time for the show, so we wandered along the south bank towards the Globe, passing the National Theatre and Tate Modern, and admiring that night-time London skyline for the first time in a *long* time.

There was time for a spot of birdwatching along the way, as a pair of Mute Swans bobbed around in the Thames, with Greylag Geese resting nearby, one eye open to observe passersby. The entire day had this vibe - spotting Great Tits flitting between trees outside the NHM, a Moorhen rooting around in the grass, and a pair of Cormorants flying over… Robins trying to out-sing one another near the Royal Albert Hall… Goldfinches in a tree just off of The Strand… the train journey too offered up Buzzards, Red Kites, Herons and an Egret. I’m incredibly grateful and excited by this new found love of just observing, of watching. There’s a lot to see when you take the time to look.

After an introduction by Robert and Johnny to the ‘world premiere (part 2)’ of the record, we settled in for an evening of stories and music, all surrounding the Epic of Gilgamesh, the inspiration for the record. It was unlike anything I have experienced before - Rob’s narration transporting us into these far distant settings - that of the Epic itself, and of George Smith, who translated it in the 1800s. Johnny portrayed Gilgamesh and George, intercepting Rob’s narration with lines, often witty. The script contained echoes of the music, and of Rob’s work more generally, I think - and suddenly, Johnny would fill the intimate venue with his song, no microphone needed - the audience were silent, and his voice carries with it a certain power. Some of that power is in knowing when to use it, with moments of tenderness interspersed throughout - if they wanted me to leave having felt a spectrum of emotions, they succeeded.

The songs (including two new ones…!) were utterly transfixing. It was incredibly special to experience tracks from an album that I love so much performed in such an all round beautiful setting. A highlight for me, though, was seeing firsthand the love that both Rob and Johnny have for one another’s art. Johnny clearly found Rob’s words as magical as the rest of us, and Rob’s love of Johnny’s music is no secret… at one point he broke the fourth wall (forgiven) to declare just how much he was enjoying sitting beside Johnny while he performed.

Theirs is one of my favourite working friendships, where both genuinely admire the other’s work, and they make up part of a beautiful ecosystem of musicians and writers with an interest in the environment that I very much wish to be part of. I guess, for the evening, I was…

Loitering in the foyer after the show, checking train times, adjusting coats and scarves… and full of the requisite emotions. I’d had a little cry and was full of adrenaline from the final song (with the audience erupting into a cacophony of clapping for the outro of The World To Come, reflecting the album recording which ends with pans clattering). All of a sudden I look up and… Cosmo Sheldrake! Ah! You all know how much I love Cosmo (and was gutted to not get to see him at the initial show with Johnny) and there he was… and just past him, Sam Lee! Folk musician and general hero of the scene, but also the author of the brilliant book The Nightingale.

We had a train to catch, and I didn’t want to interrupt friends reuniting… but just knowing that I’d seen them was a treat. Since the show, I’ve found this thread of tweets by Dr Amy-Jane Beer (author of, most recently, A Tree A Day) who was at the show with Sam as well as Nick Hayes (author of The Book of Trespass). A little bowled over to find in the replies that Merlin Sheldrake was there too - I’m traipsing slightly away from the ‘cool music’ and into the ‘things’ (about time) but my last year or so of bookselling have found me recommending Merlin’s book Entangled Life to just about anybody who will listen. While I didn’t talk to any of these incredible writers, I’m finding something really special in the fact that I got to share the experience with them, spending a couple of hours in that special venue on that lyrical journey…

There’s a chance this show could be taken on tour and I can only implore you to keep an eye out and get a ticket if you’re able to. Pure magic.

Thursday 3 February 2022

WATCH: Mia Nicolai - 'Dream Go'

I've been a little bit in love with this one from Mia Nicolai since the track released a couple of months back, but didn't find time to write about it then.. loving it even more with this new video and just had to share! Born in Amsterdam to a Russian mother and Dutch father, Mia has been musical from an early age, and eager for new experiences too - this hunger took her to London, Melbourne, New York and Los Angeles (where this gorgeous video was shot.) The track and video, to me, are both bursting with personality - and I'm excited to see what Mia does next! 

Dream Go finds Mia exploring the disappointment of meeting somebody special, making plans, having dreams, and things not turning out how you'd expected. She shares "I was in pain, it felt like the dreams I had in the relationship weren't even close to coming to the right fruition, it hurt cos I really wanted it to work out but it somehow didn't seem to, no matter how hard we worked at it." 

Follow Mia Nicolai - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.