Bright Sparks: Vol. 20

Bright Sparks is posted once a month and offers a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let slip past our radar. Vol. 20 is fresh out of the oven.

Stella Donnelly – Boys Will Be Boys

After the success of debut EP Thrush Metal, Australian songwriter Stella Donnelly is preparing to release her debut full-length album, Beware of the Dog, this spring on Secretly Canadian. The record looks set to continue the defiant tone that made her previous release so striking, confronting personal and social issues by looking them right in the eye, and refusing to move until they flinch.

That this is achieved through delicate folk rock is a testament to Donnelly’s writing abilities, and single ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is a case in point. The track laps in gentle rhythm no matter how dark and violent the lyrics, Donnelly’s tone somewhere between earnest, wistful and searingly sardonic. A nightmare in lullaby clothing, that just so happens to be waking reality.

Beware of the Dogs is out via Secretly Canadian on the 8th March and you can pre-order it now from the Stella Donnelly Bandcamp page.

Go Fever – Olivia

The recording project of Australia born, Texas-based songwriter Acey Monaro, Go Fever look to explore themes such as love, sex, outsiderness and mental health through a feminist lens, using a New Wave-inflected indie rock as the vehicle. Following up 2017’s self-titled album, Go Fever are back this winter with a brand new EP, Daydream Hawker, and single ‘Olivia’ gives a hint as to what we should expect from the album.

Part dreamy, part surfy, and with more than a hint of 70s sensibility, the track is a vivid take on a friendship turned sour. “You don’t have to pretend anymore,” Monaro sings, hinting at the anger stitched into the warm textures of the song. “I’m tired of the sight of you.” Understandably, the song is far from a happy one, though the buoyant sound of the instrumentation lifts the tone from self-pity into grim celebration.

Daydream Hawker is out on the 1st February

Nigel Wright – Overcast

Raised in Georgia but now working out of Bandon, Oregon, Nigel Wright is a songwriter, composer, artist and former carpenter’s assistant who put out his first record in 2010. After the experience of a European tour, Wright worked on his second album in 2014, and has since been storing up his songs for a new full-length, Kyht, that will see the light of day at the end of February.

‘Overcast’ serves as a strong introduction to the record, the instrumentation imbued with a sense of lightness and motion, Wright’s distinctive vocals like weather-worn rocks within the flow. Thematically, the track is clearly that of an artist, the push and pull of obsession and obscurity, where a keen vision burns brightly, but always just out of frame. Wright’s role it seems, is to get as close to that clarity as possible, and hope that it brings focus for others too.

“You said so long to my meaning
back to as you were
no it aint your assignment to measure your worth
you just gotta do the work”

Kyht is set for release on the 28th February so keep an eye on the Nigel Wright Bandcamp page.

Priests – The Seduction of Kansas

When Washington D.C.’s Priests put out Nothing Feels Natural back in 2017, the band cemented their position as one of the most interesting bands around, their fierce, freewheeling sound pitched somewhere between furious and funny. The band are back with a brand new record, The Seduction of Kansas, and the title track suggests a slightly different direction for Priests, swapping out the raw punk sound in favour of sinuous art rock. Still, the writing and delivery is as cutting and arresting as ever, the band taking on ideas of national identity and Americanness with acerbic wryness, referencing everything from the Koch Brothers to Castle Pizza.

The track comes complete with a video by singer Katie Alice Greer, and the film belongs to the valuable bracket of music videos that actually seem to add to the meaning and impact of the song. Check it out below:

The Seduction of Kansas will be released on the 5th April via Sister Polygon Records and you can pre-order it from the Priests Bandcamp page.

Polyan – Dan Song

Polyan are a psych-folk band for the post 9/11 age, their old timey twang having one foot in dusty campfire tunes and another in the twenty-first century. ‘Dan Song’ shows this off, the hypnotic flow of the instrumentation and the lazy slur of the vocals lendimg a dangerous, temperamental dimension, threatening to spill over into something altogether more unhinged. Eventually, the song follows through on this dark promise, the vocals rising into a deafening screech that blows through the mics and stings your soul.

You can find Polyan on Bandcamp.

Sir Babygirl – Flirting With Her

Sir Babygirl was born when new Hampshire’s Kelsie Hogue had an Ebeneezer Scrooge-style experience, the ghosts of pop past and present (the holy trinity of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston) visiting her in a dream and convincing her that there is no higher form of art or self-expression. The epiphany saw ambitions in Chiacago’s DIY and comedy scenes dropped, Hogue now devoted to creating a pop persona worthy of her heroes.

Taken from debut album Crush On Me, single ‘Flirting With Her’ provides a tour through the gaudy pop world that has been crafted in response, the flashy plastic decorations and glitterball diva energy making what the press release calls “unabashedly bubblegum, unashamedly queer pop for a future free of genre boundary and the gender binary.”

Crush On Me is out via Father/Daughter Records and you can get it from Bandcamp.

Mesa Luna – Dispel

The recording project of Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Justice McLellan, Mesa Luna melds dream pop and shoegaze to form shimmering soundscapes, the rich textures tied together by resolute rhythms that pull you through the spacey haze. Taken from the debut Mesa Luna album that’s due out early this spring, ‘Dispel’ shows off McLellan’s balance between energy and space, where the fuzzy tones are guided by a lucid conviction, leading to a sound translucent yet crystalline.

The album will be released via Afterlife Music Ltd. on the 22nd March.

Body Meat – Nairobi Flex

Philadelphia’s Body Meat is primarily a duo of Chris Taylor and Matthew Anderegg (of Mothers and Infinity Dance Complex). They create contemporary pop/R&B that’s made weird by skewed time signatures and superimposed polyrhythms. There newest song, ‘Nairobi Flex’, is a great example. At once jittery and smooth, the song combines collaged staccato samples and smooth pop vibes, creating something that’s as infectious as it is adventurous.

The song comes complete with a video by Daniel Patrick Brennan, which you can check out below:

Head to the Body Meat Bandcamp page for previous releases.

yot club – jaded

Not much information exists about yot club, the recording project of someone named Ryan that pitches a glimmering blend of dream pop and chillwave. This month saw the release of aquarium, the debut yot club release, a deliciously lo-fi synth pop album that combines sadness and bounce to create its infectious sounds. Bringing to mind the likes of Pizzagirl, lead single ‘jaded’ puts bummed out disaffection next to tropical pop, like watching a day end from the bottom of a chlorinated pool.

The EP is out now so head on over to the yot club Soundcloud page.

Lala Lala & Why? – Siren 042

Yoni Wolf and Lillie West of Chicago’s Lala Lala have known each other since the “golden, olden days when Lillie used to sneak backstage at Why? shows,” and have now come together to make a collaborative single. ‘Siren 042’ sees West take the lead, infusing the track with a sense of melancholic self-confrontation, while Wolf and some beautifully dreamy guitar brighten the palette. The accompanying video, directed by Scott Fredette, sees the pair running through a variety of landscapes, constant backward glances suggesting they’re desperate to flee rather than get somewhere new.

“and i’m sorry i was evil
i don’t do that anymore
i just copy other people
try to forget what was before”

Imp of Perverse – Tripping Thru a Hallway On Fire

In addition to drumming for Austin band Sherry, and his membership of now-defunct favourites π and The Halfways, Sean Lochridge also records solo as Imp of Perverse, where he gets to show off his skills as a multi-instrumentalist. As the title might suggest, new album Imp In Reverse collects four of Lochridge’s previous releases and presents them in reverse chronological order, creating what the label describes as “one gigantic, shifting, psychedelic auditory flashback totaling in 22 songs and nearly an hour and a half in runtime.”

Such a project might sound impenetrable, so why not cut your teeth on opening (and potentially most accessible) track ‘Tripping Thru a Hallway On Fire’? In opposition to the titular immediacy, the song is a detached dream-float prone to eddies and swirls in its tempo. For their part, Lochridge’s vocals remain even and barely audible. It’s is something of a trap door through which you fall into the truly weird recesses of the album, though it is certainly worth trusting Imp of Perverse to be as delightfully odd as possible.

Imp in Reverse is out now via Under The Counter Tapes, and you can get it from Bandcamp.

Swim Camp – Circle K

Swim Camp is the bedroom pop project of Philadelphia’s Tom Morris. His latest single ‘Circle K’ is a soft and mumbled song that combines the intimacy of a home-recording with a touch of lush studio production. Guitar sits at the forefront, slowly unfurling as percussion ambles along in the background, creating something akin to slo-mo indie rock. Morris’s vocals only adds to the atmosphere, sounding weary and sober as he delivers minimal lines that nevertheless have distinct emotional resonance.

“to tell the truth
i forget what i want
so ill keep on asking
and praying to god”

You can find Swim Camp on Bandcamp.

Thelma – Take Me To Orlando

Natasha Jean Jacobs established herself as Thelma with a self-titled record back in 2017, exploring the pure/impure dichotomy with a tone at once delicate and caustic, proving a valuable meditation of self-worth. Much has transpired in the meantime, but this February sees Jacobs back with a brand new Thelma record, The Only Thing.

Lead single ‘Take Me To Orlando’ employs a similar ambiguity, drawing on the nirvana of simulacra that is Disney World to dig into ideas of performance, fantasy and longing. “I love how you play with illusion,” she sings to someone/thing she’d decided to call Orlando, “cause you know how badly we need them / to live our silly lives.” Check out the video directed by Stephanie Gould below:

The Only Thing is out on the 22nd February and you can pre-order it now.

German Error Message – Murmuring

We’ve covered German Error Message numerous times in the past, from the beautiful album Haunts and a spilt with Lung Cycles to standalone single ‘2017‘, the latter of which we describes as “quietly devastating […] late-night solitude made strange by stark, staccato forces emerging from the sky or within the skull.”

The good news is that German Error message is putting out a brand new record, Mend, in 2019, and we’ve been given ‘Murmuring’ to set the scene. As ever, the song is one of great atmosphere and feeling—joy and dread creeping side by side, twin forces of transcendence that promise to lift us from the contemporary loneliness.

Mend will be released later in 2019, so keep an eye on the German Error Message Bandcamp page, and we’ll be back with a full review in good time.