FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Whether it’s that time-honoured artistic desire to hide behind a persona, an absence of affection for the birth name or just plain shyness, there has always been a steady number of musicians and singers who adopt a new name. From a marketing standpoint, such an appellation gives the artiste a distinctiveness that the respective birth name may lack. It may overcome pronunciation hurdles that the latter could present, or conversely just ordinariness, and so make internet searches much more likely to land on the mark. However unusual your name, you just have to look at social media profiles to realise that there are many more of you than you might expect, and if you’re John Smith, then no chance.
Enter The Dawdler, the alias of Tynesider John Edgar, who has just trailed a forthcoming winter EP, Sign of Growth, with the haunting single, “Lava Lamps”. The song is a tender, enveloping tribute to his friend, Ewan, who took his own life five years ago. Apparently, John Edgar’s friend had a huge lava lamp collection. These lamps have been around since the early sixties and oscillate between being a kitsch period piece to something way cooler. I remember chipping in towards a friend’s 18th birthday present and envying the wax bubbles rising and falling and the shadows playing on the wall from the slim, rocket-shaped lamp we got him. It was the nearest thing to a light show when listening to The Incredible String Band on the Dansette.
Reflecting on the final moments he spent with his friend, The Dawdler’s song embraces those universal thoughts after the untimely passing of someone very close to you. There are no definitive answers to whether you caught the signals, said or did something that might have changed the outcome. These are just natural, human responses to fallibility. Fittingly, the profits from “Lava Lamp”, both via Bandcamp and a limited-edition t-shirt run, will go directly to the mental health charities, Mind and Breathing Space. On the surface, The Dawdler seems to be a self-deprecating moniker. Delve deeper into John Edgar’s world, though, and just like the titular lamp there is beauty and light aplenty.
Names can be tricky to decipher. PYNKIE, the handle of New Jersey’s Lindsey Radice, was originally inspired by a little finger sore from playing one chord too long when she first started making music at college. The eventual spelling relates to something she found in an Irish poem; that and wanting to distance her band name from that of a porn star. That explanation done, PYNKIE’s second album, titled #37, recorded with bandmates John Messina and Josh Bartsch, is out in mid-October and today sees the release of its lead single/video, “Personality”.
“Personality” references Radice’s parents’ divorce when she was young. You sense that she is really grounded and able to offer perspective which is nicely observational; personal and quirky. Maybe it’s her admirable day job as a nurse that keeps her feet planted. That said, she has lots of fun with the eccentric styling of the accompanying video. The modulations in the melody and little unexpected twists in the vocals are a particular delight, while the jangly guitar builds to a kind of psychedelic strength towards the end.
Not quite in need of a new sobriquet is London-based multi-instrumentalist and singer Gillian Maguire who instead has chosen to trade under her surname only as MAGUIRE. Her new single, “Wrestling”, the first to be taken from her forthcoming EP Fantaisies, caught my attention for its stark beauty. The song is perfectly visualised by the elegant video directed by her sister, Anna, with its hidden camera angles providing a compelling vision of lockdown; its clean, uncluttered, monochrome imagery providing a foil to the restlessness played out in the lyrics. MAGUIRE’s plea for ‘Oh sleep, take me under your wing’ is carried by her plaintive vocal and dressed by the ebb and flow of her piano accompaniment. The strings build in the second half of the song adds drama to her conscious battle.
Commenting on “Wrestling”, MAGUIRE described it as “a hopeless struggle with insomnia against a backdrop of longing for the comforts of a past love who once provided peace in the dark lonely hours; pleading with sleep to relieve my incessantly whirling mind”. The song was inspired by John Donne’s poem, The Sun Rising, about two lovers demanding that the sun leave them alone to enjoy more time together. “Wrestling” turns this conceit on its head with the bed becoming more of a prison than a paradise.
The upper case seems to be in vogue today. IAN SWEET, aka the musical project of LA’s Jilian Medford, has a third album in production and has previewed it via a new single, “Dumb Driver”, with a video trailer which has a David Lynchian feel to it. Medford’s candied tone and her spacious instrumentation would not go amiss at The Roadhouse, sorry Bang Bang Bar either.
Photo of IAN SWEET by Lucy Sandler
In “Dumb Driver” she mines familiar songwriter territory, wanting to stop the car rather than relentlessly drive on. The song “is an examination and grieving of, both during and after, a broken relationship,” Medford commented. “It describes the toxic cycle of being so overtaken by your love for someone that you put yourself in harm's way for it - like a car crash you can't look away from. On “Dumb Driver” I am pleading with myself to stop the car, pull over, and get out of the situation before the damage is irreversible.”
The video teaser is shown above but you can access the full song on the usual channels HERE.