FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: THE WEATHER FORECAST
Traditionally we British are obsessed by the weather and right now it’s pretty cold out there. Not full-on Arctic cold maybe but quite enough not to watch another advert for Coors Light without wincing. So, to take your mind off the white stuff, consider the new musical offering of one who adopted The Weather Station as her trade mark originally so she could put ‘weird atmospheric recordings with no vocals’ up on MySpace and have fun pretending to live in an abandoned arctic weather station.
Photo of The Weather Station by Jeff Bierk
I absolutely loved The Weather Station’s single “Tried To Tell You” back in November and now that the new album, Ignorance, has appeared I would be very surprised if it does not feature in those best-of lists come December. It’s a break-up album on a personal and a societal level, as it infuses relationship failings with an overriding sense of damage being done to nature and through it to society at large. Whether she is laying waste to the lies of capitalism in “Robber” or giving a widening gulf between two people a whole planet perspective in “Separated”, Tamara Lindeman aka The Weather Station successfully blends personal feelings with more conceptual anxieties.
To announce the album release, the Toronto artiste has unveiled a further single and video from it, “Parking Lot”.
Lyrically, “Parking Lot” spills out like an inner soliloquy; like a Shakespearian aside that moves the plot on yet allows the commentator to dish out revealing truths. In common with the majority of the songs on the album, a straight 4/4 drum beat underpins everything, and the effect is to give rein to Lindeman’s vocals which flit up and down the scale with a freedom she clearly relishes. She elevates a random encounter with an unknown bird against the backdrop of a venue car park to an occasion where her conflicting emotions are given voluble flight. You can hear The Weather Station’s full band livestream performance of the complete album on 11 March. Tickets are available here. Make a date. It will be a tenner well spent.
Photo of Maguire by Jeff Hahn
Another making a welcome reappearance in Fifty3 Fridays is London-based multi-instrumentalist and singer Gillian Maguire who is known by her surname only as MAGUIRE; in caps, of course. She returns with a third single, “Melt”, from her yet to be released EP Fantaisies. Her classical leanings are once more to the fore in the dampened piano melody and stunning choral crescendos in which her vocal layers coalesce exquisitely. The song is accompanied by an equally striking video featuring MAGUIRE entwined with the dancer, Xavier.
Much of the forthcoming EP is inspired by Zen Buddhist theory and “Melt” explores the wish to rise above the material waking world and cross over into a pure spirit world. “The video was inspired by this struggle with the physical world, the dancer representing my battling subconscious” MAGUIRE elaborated. “As the dance unfolds, we gradually give in to each other to become one; the struggle is finally over.” As she approaches the planned April release of Fantaisies, MAGUIRE will be sharing alternative versions of each of the songs, reimagined as instrumentals.
Similarly slated for an April EP release is Apteekii, the Cambridge and Lincolnshire-based trio comprising Matthew Moore, David Gane and Mark Hatcher, who scored a Fresh Fave on Fresh on the Net’s Listening Post this week with its debut single, “What’s Real?” The band chose its name, a derivation from the Finnish word for pharmacy or drugstore (apteekki), to express the neat idea of music being a medicine with the players dispensing the remedies. Recorded entirely remotely, its music rather defies the notion of the band members never being in the same room together such is the intimacy of the performance.
While the video scrolls through the total absence of wisdom that ultimately contributed to the demise of Donald J Trump, the bigger point behind “What’s Real” is sheer sense of overwhelm brought on by a surfeit of information you can’t trust. The skittish percussive effects that embed the track echoes the incessant chatter of social media while relief comes from the rich synth layers and an earnest, soaring lead vocal assisted by exquisite close harmonies, all courtesy of Matt Moore here. Apteekii has been on the planning board for around five years but the pandemic really brought the project to fruition, allowing the trio to channel emptying calendars into productive writing and production.
From a start-up to a well-established band now which dropped its fifth full-length offering last month, entitled The Last Exit. The British/American duo of songwriter/producer Greg Hughes and vocalist Tessa Murray go by the name, Still Corners. As one who loves a bit of cinematic sweep to his dose of dream pop, I was quickly drawn to the latest single from the new record, “White Sands” which seems to echo to the tumbleweed off a lonesome highway. Like all great journeys this one just rolls on gracefully propelled by a gilded vocal and cut-glass guitar over a repeating keyboard motif and a fast beat. En un Camino Solitario. Students of Spanish can follow the story here too!
The shadowy figure in the lyrics – “the last drifter from the white sands” who has roamed these Badlands for 200 years – sets a malevolent tone which is offset by the song’s drifting ambience spaced out across five and a half minutes, though never dragging. Something in the heat haze atmospherics of the song and Tessa Murray’s breathy melancholy also put me in mind of Anne Gilpin from the UK’s own Morton Valence, though this time for urban country read desert noir.
A reminder that great things can come in twos is also offered this week by Portland, Oregon roots duo Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno whose eponymous album will be out on 12 March. While the names themselves might elicit a surfeit of spellcheck, there is no doubting the quality the young pair bring to their music, combining old time and classic country sensibilities with bittersweet reflections on modern times. “Love and Chains” is the second song to be shared from the forthcoming album. Trading verses as the song progresses and coming together in flawless harmony, the duo show the way to a brighter, kinder future as they reflect on the setting of the sun and enjoying the moment for what it is. Quietly stunning.
And now something of a different hue to close this week’s song selection. I’ve followed the fortunes of Bristol three-piece, iDestroy since its opening EP, 2016’s Vanity Loves Me and around that time interviewed Bec Jevons who fronts the band. The band formed a year earlier having met at Bristol’s BIMM Institute. Singer, guitarist and songwriter, Bec Jevons and drummer Jenn Hills have been in the line-up since the off while bassist Nic Wilton-Baker is a newer recruit to the band. As iDestroy’s very being is fed by the adventure of performing live, the past year must have presented an even greater challenge than that many have faced but the good news is it has allowed them to fully form and deliver a debut album, We Are Girls.
The album’s title track successfully bottles the band’s live sound, its energy and attitude. Bec Jevons is a confident frontperson, a strong vocalist and no mean guitar player while her bandmates are fully in sync, tight and empathetic. Though the song challenges stereotypical male responses to women in music head on, it’s fun throughout, peppered with humour rather than right-on indignation, and all the more convincing for it. “Why be surprised that we do what we do well?” is a question she candidly poses in “We Are Girls”. Really there is no contest.
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