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Listen: Mid-Century Modern Romance (2021) – Dante Elephante

Although life’s one true constant is change, that change appears to approach in a recurrent pattern. What goes around comes around, and goes around again. The resurgence of disco, for example, is among us: roller skates, bell bottoms, and handlebar mustaches have been recycled, yet again, into popularity in the 2020s. A byproduct of this cultural resurgence is Dante Elephante’s EP, Mid-Century Modern Romance.

Dante Elephante’s 2015 garage rock debut, Anglo-Saxon Summer varies greatly from Mid-Century Modern Romance, possibly due to the latest EP being solo venture. Ruben Zarate, the man behind the pseudonym, shared with American Songwriter that the inspiration behind the different sound came from his family, and his home in Santa Barbara: “I grew up listening to Electro-Funk, Disco, Post-Disco, and Boogie music with my parents. This is the first time I’ve finally been able to fully commit to this style,” he said.

Released in January of 2021, via Born Losers Records, Mid-Century Modern Romance is Zarate’s pop solo debut. The EP catapults us straight into mirrorball nostalgia with the first track, “Find Somebody to Love.” The track, with the help of healthy amounts of brass, is an upbeat grant of permission to do exactly as the title suggests: “I’ll make my way back somehow/ So don’t call it the end, you can make some new friends / Until I’m back in town.” With a life on the road, Zarate suggests finding love in the meantime.

Ruben Zarate photographed by Jon Hill

In “E-Motion,” Zarate sweetly embraces every tumblr girl’s favorite trope of friends-to-lovers: “Emotions take control / Who knows me the way that you do? / We’ve been friends so long / How come I’ve never been close to you?” As the second single from the EP, “E-Motions” was released with an equally fun and entertaining music video, starring professional showgirl, Martine.

In a press release for “Las Vegas,” Zarate shared the inspiration behind the song, saying, “My grandmother loved to gamble, and she was good at it. It’s only 5 hours away from Santa Barbara so we would go all the time growing up.” Zarate shared that his partner, Jeni (Zarate’s muse on “Jeni”) had yet to visit, which sparked a spontaneous booking of a room in the City of Lost Wages. The track is a warm, sunny breeze with a perfectly sticky chorus that remains with you hours after listening.

Consisting of 8 keyboard-heavy, disco-kissed, funk-swaddled tracks, Mid-Century Modern Romance is a perfectly fun spring soundtrack, and quite honestly, just a good goddamn time.

Listen: “I HATE IT!” – Caroline Meade

TGG guest writer Molly MacDuff chats with Caroline Meade to discuss her latest single, “I HATE IT!” I don’t understand loving something and not doing itCaroline Meade “I write my meanest songs on my best days,” singer/songwriter Caroline Meade explains to me. On one of these days, “I HATE IT!” was born. As the first…

Listen: quinnie’s “touch tank”

I have butterflies. Wonderful lilac and periwinkle and rosy butterflies flutter in circles around my heart, waking me from my dark dreams, dragging me into the sunlight, dancing me into summer. It’s been a while since I’ve felt love within a song. I’ve only been listening to melancholy music. Angrier guitar riffs, sad lyrics. It…

Listen: “For a Moment You’re Mine” – Little Monarch

It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got. I can picture a flock of monarchs fluttering around in the bright morning sun. Birds chirping in the distance. I am dreaming and white sun peers through blinds, wasting…

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Listen: “God Complex” – Laura Elliot

There is nothing quite like a strong, vocal-lead ballad about a narcissistic boy to brighten your midweek listening. Singer-songwriter Laura Elliot hits the nail on the head with “God Complex,” track seven from her debut album, People Pleaser.

The track revolves around Elliot’s relationship with a boy who has a “God Complex,” and the emotional trauma that results from the experience. Her raw, emotion-filled vocals pair perfectly with her simple yet beautifully accurate lyrics, reminding me of a mix between Anna Nalik and Lana Del Ray. She begins with him, singing, “He’s high again / smokin’ in the front yard / bloodshot eyes.” There is no overthinking or guilty defending, just exhaustion and a bittersweet sense of defeat. 

Elliot introduces character action in the chorus with the lines, “And he’ll try and make me forget / every word he ever said / then he’ll swear and say he loves me / and I’ll believe him in a heartbeat.” He is the one with the ability to act. The dynamic between the two is very obviously one of emotional manipulation. This is made obvious by the end of the chorus, as she sings, “Always promising to walk away / then takes it back when I’m okay with it / God Complex.” Elliot’s role as the passive character in the relationship matches wonderfully with the overarching tone of exhausted defeat that’s so apparent in her belting. Him being the actionable character makes the “God Complex” title she gives him seem something desirable. 

The idea that Elliot can deal with the consequences and emotional damage of loving the boy with the “God Complex” is exemplified through her actions. In the second pre-chorus, she sings how she “Put on a fake phrase / it’s sad but true / I’ll never choose to be alone.” This is the epitome of why she keeps allowing him to control her and ultimately the point of the song: he’s a better option than being alone. 

Elliot has perfectly captured a one-sided relationship, demonstrating altogether what dating in the 21st century can be. The idea that she’s being used and is too depleted to take action on her own is seen in the bridge: “I’ll let him light me up / and let that be enough.” This is lyrically and stylistically profound because she compares herself to his habit of smoking; she’s being lit up just like his joints. She’s become a deteriorating part of him and she knows that, which is equally heartbreaking and defeating. 

Elliot’s lyricism and vocal tone is so pleasing that when I listen, I find myself belting along and feeling everything she feels. That’s the mark of true artistry, when the listener gains some sense of understanding and connection to the artist.

Listen: Does It Make You Happy? – Rowan

We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness.Rowan, on the sequencing of Does It Make You Happy? Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that typically…

Listen: “hate to be lame” – Lizzy McApline ft. FINNEAS

This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice. Lizzy McAlpine is the queen of the soft pop ballad. That’s a bold statement, I’m aware, but her voice has just the right amount of soul and desperation for me to feel everything she sings.  I don’t particularly know much about falling in love. I…

Listen: “Chill Out” – Barcode Pony

Indy’s own Barcode Pony releases first single, “Chill Out” Bringing some local representation to TGG with today’s track, the first single from Indianapolis-based Barcode Pony is one for the young and the restless. Infused with infectious blues guitar and buoyed by an incredibly funky bass line, “Chill Out” reminds us to hurry up and wait.…

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Album Review: Plum (2020) – Widowspeak

So much of it is centered around allowing things to be what they are, and just noticing. I tried to notice more, and I think those observations became the songs.

Molly Hamilton on the origin of Plum

The only word to describe my personal experience while listening to Widowspeak’s Plum is “emotional.” The album’s theme of Spring and Growth permeates, then gently absorbs every single track. Although released in 2020, this album came to me fresh, plucked straight from the tree of Widowspeak’s lauded discography. Primarily consisting of vocalist Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, Widowspeak intended to expand, and to shed light, on the peace that follows acceptance with Plum. “So much of it is centered around allowing things to be what they are, and just noticing,” Hamilton shared in a press release. “I tried to notice more, and I think those observations became the songs.”

The album’s title track, which is cradled gently by Hamilton’s honey-soaked vocals, reluctantly embraces a diversion of growth between two people. On the surface, a perfect pair, but beneath the exterior lies differences and obstacles that are impossible to overcome, resulting in inevitable decay: “Feel the bruising through the skin / It won’t go back to being green again / Try to hold on to the sweet / Where the softness used to be.” The comparison between two very similar, but ultimately differing fruits meant to be harvested separately is representative of “trying to be more present with the fact that all things are temporary,” Widowspeak shared with Flood Magazine.

“The Good Ones” is a subtle jab towards social media and the hyper-positivity that is often displayed as “motivation.” Its parody-based inception is evident via its haunting, inauspicious instrumentals overlaid by seemingly inspirational lyricism. “There are no miracle fixes for life, no formulas for success. So it comes off as a little salty, and the mood of it is a little dark, slinking…” Hamilton shared of the track, “but I had been feeling frustrated with how society often rewards those who are already ‘winning,’ implying that anyone else is “‘losing.'” The track conveys this sarcastic undertone with the lyrics in the last verse: “Used to be an open door / Used to be, you wanted more / Every taste, it’s a feast / Every taste, I bet it’s sweet.” 

The following track, “Money” discusses greed, and almost feels like a temptress’s siren song. The track is “about capitalism and how it trains us to see everything in terms of value, even our experiences, and we get so caught up in seeking some return on investment that we ignore the damage we inflict,” the band shared in a press release. With driving bass, the track circulates, similar to currency– how it’s cultivated and then, sometimes unfairly and unethically dispersed: “To earn your living, it’s worth forsaking / All is forgiven and free for the taking.” 

I’d been sitting with some existential dread for the last year or so; honestly, sort of overwhelmed by the recognition that life is absurd and finite.

Hamilton, on writing “Even True Love”
Widowspeak: Robert Earl Thomas, Molly Hamilton

The fifth track on the album, “Even True Love,” is a humble reminder to enjoy the ride while it lasts, and that beauty– in both love and in life– is fleeting: “It’s nothing but the pull of going under / Maybe you can’t know, but you can wonder / You had the kindest eyes when you were younger / But it’s nothing now.” “Prior to writing ‘Even True Love,’ I’d been sitting with some existential dread for the last year or so; honestly, sort of overwhelmed by the recognition that life is absurd and finite….humans tend to want to possess things: objects, success, money, experiences, people. True Love. Amassing the most and best of whatever while you can,” Hamilton shared. “But that never really landed with me; I think this one is more about being present with the unknown, letting things go a little more, trying not to hold on too tight.”


The thematic presence of growth is felt throughout Plum, which feels alive itself, as though it’s both expanding and deteriorating. Whispering words of wisdom into the ears of all who cross its path, Plum is an album that firmly grasps the listener by the throat then kindly steers them toward the path of peace and acceptance.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

Listen: “No Shame” – Five Seconds of Summer

“Our ambition as a band is to become genreless.” I’ve been caught in a cycle of self-doubt lately. The end of the semester kicked my ass, work sucks, and I’m itching to get out of the house. Summer can’t come soon enough. You know the urge you get sometimes to scream-sing in the car at…

Listen: “Lullaby” – Grace Ives

A beautiful thing to think about is that stars on earth look like blobs, but in space, really defined structures.Grace Ives, on her upcoming album, Janky Star Brooklyn-based DIY artist, Grace Ives announced the release of her upcoming sophomore album, Janky Star in the beginning of April with “Lullaby.” The second single from the forthcoming…

Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational pathSali When I listen to this song, I picture an early spring sunset, blue and pink and yellow form a tie-dye sky. I’m on the train watching the sun slide beneath the city, the world passes by quickly but the…

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Listen: “Umami” – Klô Pelgag

I felt like I was this old man going into himself, for I don’t know how long. I wanted to return with answers.

Klô Pelgag on writing “Umami”

“I wrote ‘Umami’ shortly after revisiting Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea,'” 32-year-old Klô Pelgag shared in a press release. The track is the third single from the Quebec artist’s Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs. “Umami” alludes to the somber necessity of isolation during periods of reflection, as translated in the second verse: “I spent winter in my bed / They told me, ‘You’ve been dreaming for a year and a half’/ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I was thinking’ and you laughed.” “I felt like I was this old man going into himself, for I don’t know how long,” she shared. “I wanted to return with answers. I knew that life had the potential to be greater than what we’re being offered.”

It was natural to me that this song about depression would end in confusion, in a blur that echoes the feeling of being lost and depressed.

Pelgag, for The 2010s

“Umami” is the perfect breed of pop song, with misleadingly upbeat instrumentals serving as the river on which lyrics weighted with sorrow float. The track is an intimate peek into Pelgag’s introspective and creative mind. There is a 90-second outro on “Umami” that’s disjointed and slow, purposefully bleeding into the chords of the following song on the album, “J’aurai les cheveux longs.” The outro serves almost as a brief intermission in which we’re meant to reflect on what we’ve just heard. “There is a natural transition between the two. I enjoy when songs on an album talk to each other. Each one makes the other more meaningful—they are complementary,” Pelgag shared. “It was very instinctive. It was natural to me that this song about depression would end in confusion, in a blur that echoes the feeling of being lost and depressed.”

Co-produced by Sylvain Deschamps, Klô Pelgag‘s 2020 album, Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs is a francophonic diary of Pelgag’s fears and desires. Not unlike Pelgag’s own depression and burnout, Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs was a beast the artist intended to tackle with humility and grace.

The artist shared beautiful prose written about the album in a press release. In it, she wrote of the origin of the album’s title and what it represented for her: “Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs is a place that exists geographically, but it’s also a place that exists in my mind.” Pelgag would see signs for the island while traveling with her family to Rivière-Ouelle for work. “Every time I saw it, I averted my eyes and shivered in horror. That name terrified me. I imagined a dying village with sad houses, empty streets and creaky chairs still rocking with the memory of deserters.”

Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs‘s core theme is one of facing fear, which is represented throughout the album, both sonically and lyrically. “And now, after many years of overwork, I found myself exactly in that place,” Pelgag wrote. “In the middle of all my anxieties, not knowing anymore who I was, taking hits and hating myself more than anyone else. A thick fog settled in my head, with black, opaque skies. I now lived on this island that I built or imagined on my own.”

This is the artist’s first body of work created entirely separate from her brother, Mathieu, who played a large part in composing, arranging and producing Klô’s first two albums. Pelgag, who had previously expressed fear of composition (or rather, of the unknown), bravely faced many demons with Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs, earning critical acclaim for the album.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Peace” – Taylor Swift

“Our coming-of-age has come and gone. Suddenly this summer, it’s clear.” One of my favorite things about music is its ability to draw you in at moments when you really need it. We truly hear and resonate with lyrics and melodies when we’re feeling a particular way. That’s how I feel when I listen to…

Album Review: Somewhere (2021) – Sun June

Prom isn’t all rosy and perfect. The songs show you the crying in the bathroom, the fear of dancing, the joy of a kiss– all the highs and all the lows.Laura Colwell, Sun June Austin-based indie outfit, Sun June’s sophomore album, Somewhere, is described by the band as a “prom” record. Channeling the essence of…

Listen: Mid-Century Modern Romance (2021) – Dante Elephante

Although life’s one true constant is change, that change appears to approach in a recurrent pattern. What goes around comes around, and goes around again. The resurgence of disco, for example, is among us: roller skates, bell bottoms, and handlebar mustaches have been recycled, yet again, into popularity in the 2020s. A byproduct of this…

Listen: “God Complex” – Laura Elliot

There is nothing quite like a strong, vocal-lead ballad about a narcissistic boy to brighten your midweek listening. Singer-songwriter Laura Elliot hits the nail on the head with “God Complex,” track seven from her debut album, People Pleaser. The track revolves around Elliot’s relationship with a boy who has a “God Complex,” and the emotional…

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Listen: “Alrighty Aphrodite” – Peach Pit

My childhood fantasies of Greek and Roman mythology were reignited when I stumbled upon this Peach Pit track a few weeks ago. Initially released in 2017, “Alrighty Aphrodite” was one of the first singles off the Vancouver-based band’s debut album, Being So Normal, in 2018. 

The song uses the goddess Aphrodite to represent a possibly unfaithful or indecisive woman. With continual remarks on her otherworldly beauty, lead singer Neil Smith writes of the woman’s selfish and misleading ways. The lyricism of this track is not only poetic, but it references many prominent artworks inspired by the goddess.

The initial line of verse one, “take a seat back in your clamshell,” references the painting ‘The Birth of Venus’ in which the goddess is depicted standing in a giant clamshell. Verse two makes note of the famous sculpture ‘The Crouching Venus’–which depicts Venus (Aphrodite) bathing in a crouched position–with the lines, “run your mornin’ bath in sea form/ soak your milky skin in the tide.” It is also mentioned in legend that Aphrodite was born of white sea form. Smith is able to unite legend and vivid imagery within each of the verses, which is one of the primary qualities that makes this song so profound. 

The Birth of Venus, painting by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli

Verse two also draws upon the famous painting ‘The Pearls of Aphrodite,’ with the line, “little pearl you think you’re in gold.” But Smith is quick to depict the darker side of the goddess with the following, “But I can see the dirt in your lines.” The whole ocean isn’t enough for her, so neither is the narrator (presumably Smith). 

The chorus lines, “if I’d known you sold on maybe” and “go whip that red for other eyes” signify the contentment of the narrator for his goddess. He feels equally played and betrayed, just as many of Aphrodite’s victims in the myths.

This soft-spoken lyricism pairs perfectly with lead guitarist Christopher Vanderkooy’s guitar riffs. Simultaneously seductive and spooky, the guitar makes the listener feel the true power the goddess possesses. The whole of “Being So Normal” maintains a similar sound, but I find “Alrighty Aphrodite” to be the epitome, the golden pearl, of the album. 

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Listen: “Somebody’s Watching You” – The Jack Moves

People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.

Zee Desmondes, for Passion of the Weiss

Creating what The Jack Moves describe as “sweet soul,” the duo released smooth-as-butter single, “Somebody’s Watching You” last week. The single is a flirtatious, modern funk dance ballad, that generates a whole lot of shoulder swaying and head nodding. The Jack Moves consistently provided sultry, funky throwback-style jams throughout their 2018 album, Free Money, and this single is no different. With nods to the greats like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Caldwell, The Jack Moves rejuvenate a once-dying genre.

Consisting of Zee Desmondes (vocalist, guitarist, producer) and Teddy Powell (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer) the Newark, NJ duo seem to simultaneously reject and embrace modernity with their music. The two first met at a skatepark in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, quickly bonding over their mutual love for 70s, 80s and 90s R&B, soul, hip-hop, and funk. You might be surprised to learn The Jack Moves gained their start, individually and as a duo, without any sort of musical training, just a love for a good groove. The two decided to join forces in an attempt to recreate and build upon the classic sounds they loved, acquiring their first workspace in a rundown building in downtown Newark.

In a 2015 interview with Passion of the Weiss, Desmondes shared, “We just started working on stuff. But we were hitting a brick wall because all of the stuff we were into—like, The Delfonics, Stylistics, all that stuff is kind of a mystery…how they did all that. How they did the strings and horns. The way they would layer the background harmonies—all that stuff. It’s like it was a lost recipe, as far as I was concerned.”

As a prime example of the value of knowing one’s own weaknesses and then taking action to improve, the duo’s frustration resulted in the two seeking mentorship from R&B/soul aficionados George Kerr and Paul Kyser. “We were learning with them for a while, working on some of their songs. Going to master class with the real veterans,” Desmondes said.

The learning process wasn’t always easy– the two described the experience as being somewhat strenuous at times. Desmondes chronicled the countless vocal takes Kerr would insist upon, saying, “The takes weren’t bad, I just think he wanted to drill it into me that it’s so important to put every little ounce of emotion into your singing, and to really push. People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.”

With the help and golden touches of their mentors, The Jack Moves have utilized their learned insight to enlighten, and to pass along The Recipe to another generation of music. Close to a decade after working with Kerr and Kyser, The Jack Moves have– with respect to the classics– successfully replicated The Recipe.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Hell of a Woman” – Papooz

As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves.

Ulysse Cottin, on limiting distractions while writing and recording None of This Matters Now

Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin, the key players in French indie-pop duo, Papooz, have been best friends since meeting at a Patti Smith show in 2008. “We would just be kids, smoke joints, talk shit, play guitar, and make up songs,” Penicaut says of the early years of their friendship. The carefree comradery and fellowship of the two overflows into their creations, resulting in three very different albums.

Papooz released their third album, None of This Matters Now just this month. The band’s funk-driven Green Juice (2019) precedes their recent release and differs greatly from folk-infused None of This Matters Now. The former is high energy, filled with songs meant for nights spent dancing, while the latter seems destined to be played on a weekend trip away with friends among the trees.

The entirety of None of This Matters Now was recorded in an all-wood studio, built by the band’s drummer, Pierre-Marie Dornan. “For a couple of weeks we would rehearse the songs during the day, and then record at night while drinking red wine,” Cottin shared in a press release for the album. The ease of the album’s flow is a testament to the band’s natural chemistry and desire for authenticity.

“As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves,” Cottin shared, “We couldn’t just rely on fixing mistakes later. No one could get distracted by their phone or smoking a cigarette. It’s about focus.” The focus was due in part by being surrounded by likeminded and comfortable collaborators: “Plus it’s way easier to be focused in the room when it’s just your best mates, friends coming to visit late at night,” Cottin says.

Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones.

Ulysses Cottin on co-collaborator, Armand Penicaut’s talent for songwriting

The second single from the album, “Hell of a Woman” channels that revered 70s-inspired psych-rock sound that resembles a ray of sunshine, but be warned: the track is misleadingly melancholy. “Hell of a Woman” mourns the loss of light in a relationship that’s lived past its expiration, and accepting that loss with grace. The pre-chorus is especially bleak: “We’ve been together for so long it’s a crime / I’m stealing thunder from the rims of your eyes / You heard the words right / What in the world went wrong?”

With dreamy instrumentation, it’s incredibly easy to get lost while listening to None of This Matters Now, despite its candid lyricism. “Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones,” Cottin shared. With themes of global-warming-induced anxiety on the title track, of remorse and reflection on “I’d Rather Be the Moon,” Papooz creates a tenderly raw listening experience.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Ta main” – Ariane Roy

In 2021, singer-songwriter and guitarist, Ariane Roy was presented with Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award. Now, although the first, say, 13 times I listened to “Ta main,” it was based on pure vibes alone. After translating the lyrics to English (I do not speak nor understand French– well, maybe a tiny bit now), I see why she was presented with this award.

Ta main,” or “your hand,” is a song written about desire. In the song, Roy describes an exciting, intimate encounter backed by jaunty, infectiously dance-inducing instrumentals. The first verse is pure poetry, even as poorly translated to English: “Your trembling hand / A labyrinth on my skin / All the paths it walks / Get lost on my bones.” The undertones of enchantment in Roy’s voice, the melody, and instrumentals in “Ta main” culminate a perfect spring song.

The single was released in October of 2020 with a beautifully whimsical music video directed by Adrian Villagomez. In the video, we see stunning, sprawling shots of varying landscapes, sexually-spurring shots of lovers and friends, breaking tides and dancers in lobster costumes.

In February of this year, Roy released her debut album, medium plaisir, or “medium pleasure.” In tandem with the album, Roy released Le Grand Plaisir, an incredibly creative visual for the album, also directed by Villagomez. In the 20-minute video, Roy performs in a warmly-lit room with her equally talented band on a circular stage surrounded by walls of curtains.

Performing 6 tracks from the album, Roy and Villagomez create a rollercoaster of an experience. At one point, during “Le paradis de l’amour,” the room is invaded by lovers in rain ponchos, enjoying the physical spoils of human connection. Later, during “Apprende encore,” the lovers return, sans ponchos, and strip the musicians of their instruments, turning the performance into an underwear-clad dance party.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Palm Sunday” – Papercuts

It’s about lost love and unfulfilled potential.

Quever, on “Palm Sunday”

The man behind the curtain of Papercuts, Jason Quever, is a lifetime student of the philosophy of music. Gaining and imparting his wisdom throughout his musical career, his talent for arrangement has graced tracks belonging to Beach House, Sugar Candy Mountain, and more.

Papercuts’ latest single, “Palm Sunday,” was released ahead of the band’s forthcoming album, Past Life Regression, which is set to release April 1. The single is an apt representation of where psych-pop-turned-folk Papercuts excels: lofty instrumentals weighted with wistful lyricism. Quever describes the single as being about “lost love and unfulfilled potential.” In a press release for the single, Quever shared, “It’s about someone you never quite forgot about, but left you feeling epically let down and full of longing.”

The single is paired with a music video depicting phone calls back and forth between lovers. Beautifully capturing the melancholy of “maybes” and “what ifs,” “Palm Sunday” evokes one of the most dreaded human emotions: regret.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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The Benefits are Grounded in Blue Skies

Driving through Northern Iowa, in a 2001 Cadillac Deville packed full with guitars, a drum kit, and various equipment, Connor Wilson and Matthew Gearhart stumbled upon a farm with a small cabin. With the permission of the farm owner, Ann Marie, the boys unloaded their equipment and filmed the “Cost of Living” music video with a red, handheld cam-corder. 

The blurry effect of the cam-corder mixed with the Grant Wood aesthetic of the Northern Iowa farmland created the perfect backdrop for the second track off their debut album, Grounded in Blue Skies. I found myself laughing whimsically, as the video transitioned from scenes of green hills to hay bails to corn fields. If you pay close enough attention, you can see Ann Marie staring in one of the shots, perplexed by two strangers dancing and jamming across her farm. 

For Connor Wilson (21) and Matthew Gearhart (18), founding members of The Benefits, music is a distraction, it is living, and it gives you hope. With these principles, and a surplus of talent, the two found their way together through collaborating with other artists. “We found ourselves working on projects for some other people,” Wilson explains. “That turned into several songs. And then an album.” 

Together, the pair has managed to create an album that sounds like summer in Iowa: rolling hills, farmland, and driving down two-way highways with the windows down.

Their varying musical backgrounds and contrasting styles are part of why they work so well together. Wilson has been involved with music since four, learning the saxophone and developing a love for jazz in middle school. In high school and college, he transitioned to guitar, bass, and drums, taking particular interest in the production side of music. Gearhart, on the other hand, didn’t begin playing guitar until his sophomore year of high school. But he grew up immersed in music thanks to his older brother, who frequently blasted the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead. Gearhart contributes lyrics and riffs so perfectly intertwined from growing up with such substantial influences. 

The Benefits: Matthew Gearhart, Connor Wilson

Together, the pair has managed to create an album that sounds like summer in Iowa: rolling hills, farmland, and driving down two-way highways with the windows down. They’re a blend of folk and rock and roll, reminiscent of the Beatles in each of their songs, including the shaggy hair. 

This is most notably apparent with the whispering and saxophone in the opening of “Despise.” The track has a similar resonance of the psychedelic tracks throughout Magical Mystery Tour and Sargent Pepper. Throughout that song, the band’s goal was to build a song that flows. The key changes and the riffs that blend into one another demonstrate how they succeeded. In “Hope You’re Doing Alright,” the melodic phrases and sun-soaked echoes contribute to create a very Bob Dylan-esque sound. Tracks like “Losing It,” “554,” and “Bounce” that are very guitar-heavy have musings of Hendrix. 

The last song on the album is the title track, a unique positioning to pair with a unique sound in comparison to the rest of the album. This, of course, was intentionally done. “We liked that it wasn’t a hit,” the band says. “We recorded it in one take and decided to keep it.” 

The lyricism in Grounded in Blue Skies is another testament to the amount of potential The Benefits possess, reminding me of modern lyric-focused bands like the Lumineers and The Head and The Heart. Particularly in the opening tracks, “Sunshine” and “Cost of Living,” the story-telling ability of the pair is transparent and beautiful. “We enjoy music that is really thought through,” Gearhart explains. Music with intention. “And doesn’t sound like too much of the same thing.” Maintaining a cohesive album with varying sounds can be a challenge, but their subtle lyricism keeps it together.

Wilson notes that “the songwriting process morphs the song. We spend nearly 10-times as long mixing as we do actually recording.” This meticulous attention to detail enables me to compare these young Iowans to some of the greatest musicians of all time. For The Benefits, the album is more than a collection of songs. “There’s a strung-through sound that holds the album together,” Wilson says. “It’s all these little momentary adrenaline rushes.”


The Benefits are currently working on their second album, while transitioning Grounded in Blue Skies to the live performance. Tuesday nights at Gabe’s in Iowa City is where you can find them live, as they’ve added a third member, Kaden Fields, on drums. Together, they “really just want to make good music that we can look back on and be proud of.” This may seem like a simple goal, but there is nothing simple about what these boys are writing, mixing, and creating from their attic.

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.