The Calgary, Alberta-based singer/songwriter Matthew Swann, who goes by the artistic moniker Astral Swans, declares on the title of his new LP that All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson. Though that influence does crop up throughout the record, it’s also hard to imagine that legendary country singer warbling out lines such as, “Who told the kids in the yard that they¹re mostly dust? / Now they just stay drunk / Keep getting more fucked up”. Such cynicism about the world is an undercurrent throughout All My Favorite Singers, particularly on the song from which the aforementioned lyrics come from, “Beginning of the End”. The track, built on a basic blues structure, incorporates scratchy bits of distortion amidst Swann’s bleak musings, which derive from an act of violence within nature. To hear more about this morbid story and to stream “Beginning of the End”, read and listen more below.
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“By the Waves”, the latest tune by the Swedish outfit Baron Bane, is described by the group as “a dark and dreamlike story about losing your grip on reality and being pulled out by the waves into the unknown.” Far from the kind of flowery language music writers—this one included—often lean on, this description gets right to the brooding heart of “By the Waves”. Opening with a dark, pulsating cloud of distortion and bass drum reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, the band then brings in a moody piano chord progression that frames the song. Then the march-ready drums enter, matching the rhythm of the piano. This builds an intensity that doesn’t let up until the track has reached its last second—when, one would imagine, the unknown has finally been reached.
You might now him as Baron Longfellow—or just Longfellow—but no matter the name changes he’s undergone, Andy Kim (né Andrew Youakim) has never shed his distinctive songwriting voice. Having been active in the music world since the early ‘60s, Kim has a musical pedigree that is beyond reproach. Most famously, he cut the number one 1974 single “Rock Me Gently”, as well as the classic Archies tune “Sugar, Sugar”. It’s been quite a long time since those years, but Kim hasn’t lost any of his verve, as evinced by his latest studio affair, It’s Decided. For this record, Kim teamed up with Broken Social Scene founding member Kevin Drew, who proved to be a boon to Kim in the recording process. One of the fruits of this artistic union, “Longest Time”, can be streamed below. The track is indicative of Kim’s impressively young-sounding voice and his knack for effervescent melodies.
When it premiered “The Night Air” last year, Wondering Sound described the Denver band Shady Elders as “the hazy, heavy-lidded beauty of Mazzy Star… cross-wire[d]... with the shady, shadowy balladry of Beach House”. Such is certainly the case for The Night Air EP as a whole, which finds Fox Rodemich’s intoxicating, dusky vocals married to warm and nostalgic guitar parts. Nostalgia is a key operative element in The Night Air‘s title track, the video of which you can stream exclusively below.
Here’s a choice quotation from PopMatters’ review of Arkells’ 2014 LP High Noon: “Arkells… exist solely on a plateau of their own, and that’s what makes them so darn special.” The group’s creativity and pop smarts are on full display both on High Noon and the music video for the album cut “Leather Jacket”. Below, you can watch a video where the group gives you an exclusive look at the making of the video for the song. Spoiler alert: there’s plenty of beer involved.