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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 ensues in tandem with a potentially unhealthy relationship. Having written over 50 songs during the height of 2020’s onslaught of grief, strife and trauma, Rowan whittled that collection down to 12 tracks in the form of their debut album. Does It Make You Happy? garners inspiration from not only collective, societal agony and anger, but the band’s own personal experience with pain as lead vocalist, Dylan Howe, slogged through the aftermath of his own heartbreak.

The album’s intro track, “Apollo,” sets the project in motion with a confining, yet expansive feeling. “We had decided from day one that it was literally going to launch the album,” the band shared about the track, “with a sample from Charles Duke, the space capsule communicator on NASA’s Apollo 10 mission to orbit the moon. We recorded the vocals for this one in a car that we parked outside the studio, to get the tight space that would mirror that of being in a space capsule.” 

Courtesy of Rowan

We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.

Rowan, on writing “Irish to My Bones”

Does It Make You Happy? seamlessly fluctuates between higher energy tracks fueled by anger like “Irish to My Bones” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change” to slower tracks embedded with sorrow and regret, like “I Don’t Wanna Talk” and “Leave Now Go.” “We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness,” the band shared, “with the album starting up high, going through various emotions and then finally ending with a profound cathartic question of ‘Does It Make You Happy?’”

Consisting of only three members, Rowan is unable to realistically recreate each aspect of the song outside of recording. Enjoy watching the music video for “Nothing’s Gonna Change” where the members comically stand, hands-free, as the imaginary bassist plays.

The band, which consists of Dylan Howe, Fionn Hennessy-Hayes, and Kevin Herron, pays homage to, while also rejecting, the current state of their nationality with the lively, punk-infused track, “Irish to My Bones.” The second single from the album, which is frenzied and fuming, was “written to pierce the modern perspective of suppression and shame, brought on by generational trauma in Ireland,” the band shared in a statement. “We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.”

The inception of “I Don’t Wanna Talk” is one that highlights the catharsis of music as well as the healing powers of understanding provided by those who know us better than we may know ourselves. As a way to extend support to Howe, who “was going through a messy breakup around the same time he lost his mother,” Hennessy-Hayes stated. “Unbeknownst to him, myself and Kev made a conscious effort to write lyrics that we thought would resonate with him. My logic was that if I was going through everything he was, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone.” With one line written, the track’s title, Fionn sent it to Howe and within an hour, Howe returned with a finished song. “It’s about confronting the pain, looking it in the eye and acknowledging it,” Howe stated. “Yes, it’s tough and it’ll always be tough, but it’s important to express yourself.”

“It was like a surge of energy just shot through me and it was finished,” vocalist Dylan Howe shared of the album’s title track. The song features Canadian multi-instrumentalist, Ariel Posen, and is dripping with remorse. “It’s the song I resonate with heaviest on this album,” Howe shared, “it deals with abusive behaviors in a relationship and, in retrospect, how I should’ve demanded better for myself.”

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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 album is my favorite breed of melancholy music; cleverly disguised with upbeat instrumentals, Ives sings of an introvert’s amplified anxiety on “Lullaby.” “What a mess, what a lovely mess,” she croons on the chorus. Whether she’s describing life, the spectrum of emotion, or the room in which a potentially agoraphobic individual might find comfort while watching the same movie over and over, she’s right. It’s all a lovely mess, isn’t it?

Ives described the song as the “homebody’s anthem” in a press release for the single, saying, “This song is about the comfort and anxiety that comes with isolating yourself.” The track is Ives’s groundhog day song, as it describes her experience of “living the same day over and over again.” A fitting theme for the cultural atmosphere of the times, “Lullaby” was brought to fruition with the help of producer Justin Raisen, who has worked with other avant-garde pop artists, such as Yves Tumor.

Ives’s discography, which consists of her experimental first album, 2nd, and her 2016 EP titled Really Hot, sees the artist on an expedition of musical exploration. Artists tend to explore different sounds with the hope of expansion. For Ives, it seems less about broadening her audience and more about broadening her perspective. In an interview with The FADER, Ives shared the confusing process of using “music as therapy,” saying, “On some of my songs, I don’t even know if I’m expressing something — but I can hear myself really wanting to say something, like there’s this unsettling feeling inside me.”

Janky Star is slated to be released on June 10th via True Panther Records.

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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 it Caroline 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 […]

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: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path

Sali

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 song plays at regular speed. I am young and I am managing a difficult love. The song is “Please,” the most recent release by independent, Brooklyn-based artist, Sali. 

This single, released today, April 22, follows her debut EP Charming, released March 2021. Graduating from Boston University in 2018, Sali developed her love of music and music production from her time in the BU Acapella community. This experience comes across in her music as angelic harmonies. She’s spent all her life in music, taking jazz and opera lessons as a child. 

“Please” is more alternative than the previous tracks she’s released, as Sali wanted to bring in a bit more of a surf-rock vibe and branch out from the accessibility of hip-hop and pop production that she’s used to. As the first song she’s produced by herself, the shift is inspired by “living in Brooklyn and being more social.” Reggae with the bass, hip-hop on the drums, and a slow build to the ambient chorus are all components of the track that build this unique sound. “I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path,” Sali explains. “I had this in mind with the cool outro that’s not exactly a bridge or an outro.” 

 Sali started writing this song based on some advice that her mother had given her about people who are withholding love or affection, the kind of people that want you to prove yourself to gain their attention. She explains that isn’t inherently romantic or based on a specific romance; she built it around this idea of having a relationship with a withholding person and the frustrating feeling that develops from managing it. “When you see the opposite of the withholding type of love, it’s so much more beautiful, even if you’re hurt or guarded,” Sali says.  

For Sali, producing her own songs has been a liberating learning experience. She’s no longer working solo, but incorporating talented people from her community and from internet friends she made during the pandemic. “There’s a lot of collaging in songwriting and producing,” she states. “As a black woman in music, it can feel like you’re losing control.” Sali notes that she has to always think about who she’s involving in the process to make sure they respect her wishes and artistic vision. She’s grateful that everyone she’s worked with thus far is incredible, respectful, and supportive. “Please” is mixed by Daniel Chironno, mastered by Joshua Pleeter, recorded musician on bass is Jonathan Kim, and the lyrics and production are, of course, done by Sali. Her friends teach her a lot about production, and she relies on her influences and surroundings to inspire her creatively. 

Her next EP called Other People, which includes “Please,” is set to be released this summer, with a scheduled release party to go with it. She’s just recently begun to perform her tracks live, singing and playing with a band this past Monday, April 18th at the East Berlin in NYC. Of the future, Sali laughs as she says, “Production will always be a process because I want to be really, really good.” Listening to “Please,” you can hear the simplistic yet pleading tone she presents, not only through her poetic lyricism but through her production as well. This is a track for young people in the city, created by one and the same. 

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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 an “Albuquerque prom band,” Sun June delicately chronicles the messy evolution of love with their latest album. Think: highly potent adolescent angst, anxiety, adoration, excitement, regret and fear. Swaying under twinkling lights with carefully placed hands, awkwardly protruding limbs we’ve barely grown into, and a nervous bead of sweat dripping down our backs, Sun June takes us Somewhere.

Sun June photographed by Jade Hammer

Consisting of Laura Colwell (vocalist, lyricist), Stephen Salisbury (guitar, lyricist), Michael Bain, (lead guitar), Sarah Schultz (drums), and Justin Harris (bass), Sun June begins the album with “Bad with time.” The song sees Colwell petitioning a lover not to move away to LA. The track tips its hat to Neil Young’s “Unknown Legends” as she sings of riding Harley-Davidsons and the perceived personas we adopt as our own when desperation and expectation intertwine: “I am Jackie O / I am Patti Smith / When you wanted it.”

The album’s second track, “Everything I had” was described by Colwell as being “about feeling stuck and wishing you could go back in time.” Sun June has described their music as “regret pop,” and this track is no exception to that categorization: “Tongue-tied lightning / All that might have been / Throwing five in a cab / You and mе in the back.”

“Everything I had” is a slow-burning reminder that hindsight is always 20/20: “It misses when things were new and easy and full of promise,” the band shared in a press release. “It feels very ‘Austin’ to us, because things change here so quickly and it’s easy to fall into a rut and feel like the city is moving on without you. Friends are always leaving town too, so sometimes it’s fun to think moving to LA or New York would solve all our problems.”

The next track, “Singing” feels like a disoriented and groggy shake of the head after many long, silent hours spent trapped in the passenger seat. “‘Singing’ is our groundhog day song. It’s about being stuck in an old argument with your partner, wishing you both saw the world the same way,” Colwell stated. “Singing” isn’t an attempt to breathe life back into a relationship that is quickly deteriorating, but rather an exhausted relinquishment of energy.

The next track, “Bad girl” was inspired by “a deep manic drive to regress into the person I used to be — back when being bad was cool and being cool was everything,” Colwell stated. We, as humans, have a terrible tendency to grasp for any semblance of control when things begin to unravel. Sometimes that desperation manifests in acts of rebellion and recklessness: “It cycles through self-destructive choices I’ve made in relationships to avoid responsibility, and how my fear of loss has lead me down some dumb paths,” Colwell says. “The tone is sad and resigned, but also self-righteous somehow.”

“Everywhere,” the album’s zenith, maintains the wistful, solemn inflection of Somewhere, and alludes to feelings of shame: “And I made bad moves, baby / Back when I was happy.” The following track, “Once in a while,” piggy-backs on that same theme of regret: “I was drunk, I was lying / I can always take it farther / Moving just like my father.” Nostalgia-inducing, the track is riddled with a very special variety of remorse, the kind of remorse that’s enveloped in gratitude: “I’ve been to heaven / Once in a while in the moonlight / Once in a while when I’m up at night / Once in a while, it can be what you want it to be.”

“Prom isn’t all rosy and perfect,” the band said of the album’s inspiration. “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.” The heady, floaty lyricism of Somewhere is anchored by its lush instrumentals, which are steeped in hues of classic country blues. Listening to Somewhere feels akin to flipping through an old yearbook filled with images of ghosts– ghosts of past loves, lives and selves.

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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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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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: “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 […]

Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path Sali 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 […]

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 […]

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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.

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 […]

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 […]

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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 […]

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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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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 […]

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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.