Sunday 7 July 2024

EP NEWS: Hohnen Ford - 'I Wish I Had A God'

... is this thing on? So much brilliant music, so little time to share it!! Dropping in to share something that stopped me in my tracks in my inbox yesterday - the latest from North Londoner Hohnen Ford. Hohnen has announced her second EP I Wish I Had A God and shared the beautifully sentimental title track. 

On the track, she shares -  "'I Wish I Had A God' emerged from the depths of grief, as an attempt to make sense of losing one of my best friends last year. Songwriting can be a vessel for grappling with the ineffable. This is the most painful song I've ever written, and has also been a bittersweet gift to watch it resonate with so many as I've performed it live over the last year. Our shared human experience of grief teaches us so much." 

The EP I Wish I Had A God arrives via Young Poet on 3rd August. 

Follow Hohnen Ford - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

ALBUM NEWS: MICHELLE - 'Songs About You Specifically'

Only the best news from Transgressive Records, always. They're celebrating their 20th (!!) anniversary this year with a run of shows later in the year and festival showcases, starting with Glastonbury later this week. For now though, album news from the label: New-Yorkers MICHELLE are back, following up their recent EP GLOW with news of an upcoming album. Their third studio record, Songs About You Specifically is due on September 27th, and features first single Oontz which you can hear below. Silky smooth and groovy as ever, I'm adoring this, and them. They're such a refreshing, exciting collective - a group that I'm always so thrilled to recommend to anybody who'll listen.

On the new record, the group have a new found closeness and vulnerability, formed through time spent living and writing in a house in Ojai, California and on the road. Talking about the developing bonds between the band, Emma shares: "there are friends I've had for almost my whole life who I won't know as intimately as I know members of this group. There isn't really an opportunity for that in any other kind of relationship in your life."

MICHELLE are Sofia D'Angelo, Julian Kaufman, Charlie Kilgore, Layla Ku, Emma Lee and Jamee Lockard.

You can pre-order and pre-save the album here.

Follow MICHELLE - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 17 June 2024

LISTEN: Stornoway - 'Excelsior' (Edward Nesbit and Tom Hodgson Rework)

Somehow, criminally, I haven't posted about Stornoway here yet this year. Let's fix that. It is a Monday night (almost) in June, after all (IYKYK.) They've a new acoustic version of Anwen on the way this week which I am very excited to hear having listened to Brian and Fyfe Dangerfield playing the track a few times at the London Wetland Centre during and after their album launch event there last year. 

For now, though, I'm enjoying this latest version of Excelsior, a reworking of the track by composer Edward Nesbit and my friend Tom Hodgson, a beloved member of the extended Stornoway touring party, featuring Sydney Wang on piano. The track was already beautiful, a highlight of one of my favourite records of the last few years, and this version is a stunner. Tender and poignant and somehow mournful and celebratory at the same time, I love it. 

I'm reading How To Read A Tree by Tristan Gooley at the moment (among far too many other books to admit) so trees are very much on the brain at the moment, and this song is about ash dieback, a fungal disease affecting our ash trees. The ash tree's scientific name is 'Fraxinus excelsior' (hence the name of the song) with excelsior translating from Latin to 'ever upward'. I think that the song is a kind of call to arms to do what we can to protect nature, to appreciate the wonders of nature around us - something that is at the heart of everything the band do. 

Talking about the track, Ed and Tom share: “When we first heard Excelsior, we were struck by its expressive beauty and lyricism, and immediately started to think of ideas for a new arrangement. Our version, with a new accompaniment inspired by romantic piano writing, attempts to capture the beauty of nature, as well as sorrow at its loss.”

You can catch Stornoway at a few more festivals before the year is out - all the info on upcoming shows here.

Follow Stornoway - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Sunday 2 June 2024

LISTEN: Hailaker - 'Co-Star'

Goodness. We've made it to June and I've only posted on the blog ten times this year. So much has been happening, and it is so difficult to find the time. I've spent much of May travelling on buses and trains to get to work. I promise I am always on the look out for new music, even if I've not been so great at sharing it here. As I am always saying however, I reaaaaaally want to write more. I have so much great music to share - and I really love flexing those writing muscles too.

Jumping in on a Sunday off work to share the latest from Hailaker. They're releasing third album Serenity Now on June 26th (a belated birthday present to me, very much appreciated) and Co-Star is the final single taken from it. Jemima and Ed are both brilliant on their own, but I have such a soft spot for this project and this track is no exception. 

Writing about the new track on Instagram, they shared: "I’m realising there is a theme throughout the whole project, or more like a personality to it. It’s that of someone who sits somewhere in the middle of things, is unenthusiastic about doing anything, feels as though their life is hurtling past them and they can’t catch up with it, slightly and often overwhelmed with insecurity. Maybe what we (Hailaker) draw from is just snippets from that life and that personality, relationships, dreams, memories, tiredness, lots of tiredness ahaha.

Co-Star is a mantra to that life, the keeping going, riding the emotions. It expresses something near to a taoist philosophy: ‘it is what it is’… That maybe all this feeling of not being good enough just comes down to accepting and moving on. In that way Co-Star pinpoints the shift from the stories told in Holding to the ones of Serenity Now."

Hailaker play shows in Bristol and London this September - dates and last tickets here.

Follow Hailaker - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

LIVE: Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane - River Calls tour (May 2024)

I started writing this post a few weeks back, but life got in the way and I’ve just unearthed the half written post, so here goes nothing for take two...! One of my most well received posts of the last couple of years (and one of my favourites to write, too) was a write-up of a Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane show at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the start of 2022. Opening the post, I wrote:
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.
Looking back a couple of years later, it really was a genuinely transcending and magical experience, a celebration of one of my favourite musical pairings, and of one of my favourite albums of recent years, surrounded by some superb writers on nature. The bookseller and nature writing nerd in me is still giddy with excitement when I think of being in the same room as all of those writers, even (and perhaps especially) having met a few of them at subsequent events (Amy-Jane Beer at Gathering FestivalSam Lee at the Stornoway album launch, Merlin Sheldrake at a Cosmo Sheldrake show, and of course Rob himself!)

You’d think that it might be difficult to replicate the magic of that evening - the venue, the fact that it was one of the first shows most of us had been to out of lockdown (squished up against strangers), the combination of gig and theatre. It was truly special. Luckily for me (and for all the others who managed to secure some very sought after tickets) the pair have just been on tour across the UK with a full band. 

In venues across the UK (I saw them at Cambridge Junction) audiences were taken on a musical, lyrical journey through songs from the two recent albums, Lost In The Cedar Wood and The Moon Also Rises. Storytelling weaving through the music - as each song finishes, Rob, on stage for the duration of the show, dives into some spoken word. Poetry? Not easy to define, but utterly enchanting. The setlist was clearly very carefully thought out - taking us on a journey through storytelling and song - an extension of what they set out to do in those first shows. With a band too - who are utterly wonderful also.

I saw Johnny with a full band in 2017 at the show which became the Live at the Roundhouse album and I think I’m right in saying that until now, he hasn’t been on a full band tour since then. I’m sure I’m far from alone in being grateful that they found the time to put these shows on, they’ve been a long time coming and they were more than worth the wait! Mainly taking songs from the recent two albums, the show was a true celebration of Johnny and Rob’s collaboration (Bonedigger live is just the absolute BEST, for a start) but they managed to find room for a couple of older favourites (The Ghost of O’Donahue and The Water - both stunning.)

I won’t be missing the old favourites for too long, as I’ve just secured a ticket for Johnny’s show with the band in London in September, as part of Transgressive Records’ 20th anniversary celebrations. Can’t wait!

I’ve written a lot already about how much I love both Johnny and Rob’s work individually, and this project is such a treat. Whether they continue to write music together or not (my fingers are crossed) I’m glad that they got a chance to take it on the road. To see others responding to the shows so positively and enjoying them so much was the best. In a way there’s an element of bravery in putting on a tour that is quite unlike other things that are out there in format, but it worked so well, and I’ve seen nothing but love for the shows.

With the London show on the horizon, and plenty of Johnny’s acting endeavours to catch up on (I am desperate to watch Ripley!) my interest (as a bookseller and book lover) turns to the books, too. Rob’s work in progress at the moment is Is A River Alive? - I’ll be pestering the publisher for a proof of that as soon as I get a sniff of those existing. (Sorry HH.) Elsewhere, Rob and Johnny are collaborating on a couple of book projects - a graphic novel of the Epic of Gilgamesh (focus of Lost in the Cedar Wood) with artist Dave McKean (very exciting!) and a picture book surrounding the track The World To Come, illustrated by Emily Sutton, due later this year. Truly a marvellous time to be a fan of these two! They’re very busy guys, and I am very happy to be enjoying the fruits of their work.

Now, off to carry on reading Mountains of the Mind with a Johnny Flynn shaped soundtrack. What could be better?

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Favourites being favourites

I've been kind of dreadful at sharing much here this year (and for a while before that, to be honest) for various reasons. It's so hard to find the time around bookselling full time, volunteering a little online, and... life stuff. I wanted to drop in and write something, and was selecting from a few recent songs I've been loving, when it struck me: why limit myself to just one thing?! Three of my absolute favourite artists (no overstatement, I adore them) have released new albums in the past couple of weeks and I love each of them. There's a beautiful unmatched joy in an artist you love with basically every fibre of your being releasing an album you love. So three at once? I'm dreaming. 

Queen Maggie Rogers is back with her third studio album Don't Forget Me. (No risk of that.) She's just announced a big ol' US tour, and ran a week or so of physical box office sales to get tickets into the hands of real fans. Queues galore, Maggie turning up in person to sell tickets, small shows in the evenings - I've been admiring it all from afar. Patiently awaiting a UK show I can get to because it has been far too long and I need a Maggie show in my life. For now, I'm happily listening to the album on repeat - particularly The Kill. 

When I want a break from Maggie (not often) new Novo Amor is straight in the headphones. Collapse List is another stunner - following up Cannot Be, Whatsoever (2020) and Birthplace (2018) - which is when I discovered Ali's music and fell ever so slightly in love. He's still got it, and then some - this is a beautiful record - envious of everyone seeing the guys live at the moment. The power and beauty of these songs in the live setting... ah. 

On the record, Ali wrote: "made in the studio that sits beside my home in Wales, it's a record of personal growth. It means a lot that I get to share this with you. I hope you get something from this music. Go listen." 

Last but not least, my favourite musical magician Cosmo Sheldrake just shared his album Eye To The Ear - released independently on his own label Tardigrade Records. I saw a few of the tracks performed at Rough Trade East on release day, but the album is a mammoth twenty-one (!) songs, an hour of absolute wizardry. As always, field recordings play a huge part in the music, and some of the tracks will give streaming income directly back to relevant charities and organisations. As if 21 songs weren't enough, Cosmo shared Soil last week as part of an EarthPercent campaign celebrating NATURE as an artist, with revenue from streams going through EarthPercent to various conservation and restoration projects. 

Music that does good, and is also absolutely brilliant. Yes please! Soil is "a homage to subterranean ecosystems" featuring honey fungus, an oyster toad fish, nightingales... you name it, it will probably be in there somewhere.

Why not follow my 2024 playlist to hear more of what I'm listening to?

Wednesday 3 April 2024

LISTEN: Bess Atwell - 'Fan Favourite'

Ooft. My fave musical gals are very much smashing it at the moment - I'm devouring The Staves new record on a loop, we're just over a week away from a new Maggie Rogers record (remain calm) and there's new Lucy Rose on the way - what a time!!! I can't get enough of this either - with an Aaron Dessner produced record on the horizon, Bess Atwell recently shared new single Fan Favourite and it is exactly that. Sublime.

Speaking about the track, Bess said: "I wrote Fan Favourite after watching some behind the scenes footage from a popular TV show. Not even a die-hard fan of the show myself - I can't remember what it was now - I found myself emotional watching the cast's wrap party. I felt jealous of the sense of community and opportunity to reflect on shared experiences and history. I pictured my own family's "wrap party" and what that would look like. The sadness, humour, disappointment and joy that would come with acknowledging the huge shared experience we've had in this life. The song also touches on the passing of time, a sense of dissociation, and feeling as though you've missed out on life despite still living it.

Fan Favourite is an attempt at a self-wake-up call so I wanted the production to sparkle, breathe and feel alive, the instrumentation a reminder that life is indeed still there to be lived."

Light Sleeper is due on May 24th via Real Kind Records - pre-order the album here.

Follow Bess Atwell - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 25 March 2024

WATCH: Cosmo Sheldrake - 'Interdimensional (Live from the studio)'

Worth a watch for the snazzy jumpers alone, I couldn't let this video pass by without featuring it here. The magnificently talented Cosmo Sheldrake just shared the latest pair of tracks from his upcoming album, alongside a video of a live studio performance of Interdimensional, featuring HOWL and a brilliant array of accompanying musicians. I'm obsessed with all of it, to be honest. I've said it before and I'll say it again - imagine NOT being a fan of Cosmo! This is just all sorts of magic. 

On the song, Cosmo says "Interdimensional felt as though it came almost in one long thought, but it took about four all night sessions for it to emerge. It is another one that came to me while on a solo musical retreat in Somerset. It is about the feeling of losing the normal sense of self." 

Cosmo's new record Eye to the Ear is due for release on April 12th - pre-order it here.

Follow Cosmo Sheldrake - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

WATCH: Half Moon Run - 'Can't Stop Loving You'

Aghhhhh, how great are Half Moon Run?! MontrĂ©al's sweethearts are back with new track Can't Stop Loving You (which is ironic because I can't stop loving them either!!!) from the Salt album sessions and it is a stunner. I'll be honest, they've never disappointed - since stumbling across them almost by accident when I picked up their debut album in a multi-buy in HMV over a decade ago (say what now) I've been firmly in camp HMR, and I'm adoring this new track. 

On the release, the guys share: "Back when we we deep in the writing process for Salt, we had been working very hard on a different song for many hours, and were starting to consider going home for the night, when Devon started singing the chorus-line. He later mentioned it had popped spontaneously into his head in the day or two since we’d last been together. We whipped together the arrangement very quickly and recorded the demo-version that very night. 

We always knew we'd find the right moment to release 'Can't Stop Loving You' and the time has now finally come!"

Follow Half Moon Run - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

WATCH: Cosmo Sheldrake - 'Old Ocean'

There's a new Cosmo Sheldrake album on the way. What a time to be alive!!!! Eye To The Ear is due via Cosmo's own Tardigrade Records on 12th April (not long!!!) and somehow I managed to get myself an early listen - it is magnificent. Obviously. Twenty-one tracks! All beautiful and inventive and wild and bonkers and just brilliant! Run is giving me allll of the heffalumps and woozles vibes. Just you wait! More on the record in due course...

Cosmo recently shared a couple of tracks from the album, including the superb single Old Ocean, which arrives with an equally superb video. 

On the track, Cosmo shares "Old Ocean, like many songs on this album, was made almost entirely using solar power. I spent much of 2020 and some of 2021 living in a small off-grid cottage powered by an unpredictable generator, so I made a temporary solar powered studio. Around this time there was a lot of discussion of so-called 'alternative facts', and the idea of truth was becoming ever more slippery in public discourse. In this song I try to make sense of these developments against the ever present back drop of acidification, dead zones, deep sea mining, coral reef bleaching, over fishing, noise pollution, and many other threats that the ocean faces."

“I am very excited to share the music video for Old Ocean directed by Narna Hue. We had a lot of fun making it. Narna created wonders with the amazing sets, costumes and choreography. Shot by the wonderful Tom Jacobs. Many thanks also to the brilliant dancers and collaborators, Wilm Danby, GrĂ¡inne Young-Monaghanm and to Flora Wallace, who also helped make the costumes.”

Follow Cosmo Sheldrake - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 15 February 2024

WATCH: Maggie Rogers - 'Don't Forget Me'

I just stumbled onto the blog, thinking that I should probably write something soon.... and I was greeted with the glorious sight of 500,000 (!) all-time views. Say what?! That's a big number. Whether you're here by accident, or you're a regular scroller of my infrequent rambles - hi. Thank you! 

Now, there couldn't really be anything else that I need to write about right now when my headphones have been slightly consumed with one particular piece of new music for the last week or so. In fact, I got an early listen of this and cried in the staffroom, of course I did. Absolute queeeeen Maggie Rogers is back with Don't Forget Me, the title track from her upcoming third album, due on 12th April (the same day as Cosmo Sheldrake's new album - lord help me.) I've listened a fair few times already and I am adoring the new track. Maggie is making exactly the music she wants to right now, and you can tell. It's gorgeous. 

I have had so much fun at every stage of making this album. I think you can hear it in the songs. And I’m finding it’s sort of the key ingredient to making all of this really fly.

This album was written over five days, two songs a day — three days in December 2022, two in January 2023. It was written in chronological order.

Some of the stories on this album are mine. And for the first time really, some of them are not.

I wanted to make an album that sounded like a Sunday afternoon. Worn in denim. A drive in your favourite car. No make up, but the right amount of lipstick. Something classic. The mohair throw and bottle of Whiskey in Joan Didion's motel room. An old corvette. Vintage, but not overly Americana. I wanted to make an album to belt at full volume alone in your car, a trusted friend who could ride shotgun and be there when you needed her.

This has been such a transformational and special time in my life. I’m so grateful for many years of support and care I’ve been offered to let me come to all of this in my way and in my time. I can honestly say I’m more ready than I've ever been…and most importantly, I’m having a blast. I hope you love this record as much as I do.

Maggie Rogers - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 2 February 2024

LISTEN: Hailaker - 'Lorely'

Picture the scene. You've been living under a rock, and somehow you missed the real beaaaaautiful return of Hailaker. Hey, you might even have somehow slept on Hailaker in the first place? Poor you. Fear not, I'm here to rectify that. The duo (brill artists Jemima Coulter and Ed Tullett) just came back with Lorely, their first new music in almost three years (wild?!) and it is a pure delight. On repeat. 

I should be getting to sleep, so... maybe that's all I have to say at the moment. They're brill - you should listen to them. Let me know when you do!

Follow Hailaker - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 25 January 2024

WATCH: Siv Jakobsen - 'America'

Just over a year ago, Siv Jakobsen kicked off 2023 with one of my favourite albums of the year, her third album, Gardening. It's properly beautiful stuff. If you haven't listened yet: sort it out. It turns out there was a song missing, kind of. One that had been intended to be the opener for the album, but that Siv wasn't quite ready to put out at the time. A year on, America is out in the world and is, unsurprisingly, a stunner. Over to Siv... 

I moved to America in 2009, shortly after my 20th birthday. Fueled by endless episodes of Gilmore Girls and Friends, I wanted to live out my version of the The American Dream. The song “America” is about the substantial grief I felt when I packed up my life and left the US again only 5 years later. After having been convinced for most of that time that I would make it my forever home, giving up that dream felt like a massive defeat.

In most ways I had an incredible experience in the US. I made friends for life and wouldn’t ever take back the time spent there. But when I realised that I wanted - needed - to go home to Norway, it felt like a real defeat. I felt like I had failed; at my life in the US, at my then crumbling relationship, and at my music-career that I was trying to get off the ground at that point. I went home, tail between my legs, realising that 20 year old me had been wrong.

America was the very first song recorded for Gardening. For a long time it was set to be the opening track, a subtle intro to the album ahead, with it’s Disney-esque intro and soft arrangement. However, as the recording process developed it became increasingly clear that although it is part of the Gardening universe for me on a personal level, it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the record. A bit of an odd one out thematically, and yet right at the heart of it all.

Follow Siv Jakobsen - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Sunday 14 January 2024

WATCH: The Vaccines - 'Discount De Kooning (Last One Standing)'

Ah, the glorious feeling of a new year with so much exciting new music ahead of us! As if my list of upcoming releases didn't already look completely beautiful, Cosmo Sheldrake just announced that he's releasing the first two tracks from his new album this week. Novo Amor seems to be teasing new music too... and albums from The Staves, Everything Everything, Sam Lee and MGMT are on my radar. 

Two weeks into the year and already so much new music to wrap our ears around! I can't wait to give the new records from Marika Hackman and Emma Gatrill a listen. For now, though, I've been a little caught up with Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations from long-time favourites of mine, The Vaccines. Way to start the year with an album of the year contender. Their sixth studio album and arriving three years after Back In Love City, it is 31 minutes and 34 seconds of pure joy. I love those guys. 

Whetting your appetites here with the current single, Discount De Kooning (Last One Standing). Superb!

Follow The Vaccines - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.