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. Time to break the seal on Vol. 21.
runnner – eggshell
runnner is the project of Noah Weinman and Nate Lichtenberger, who make muic that they describe as “fus[ing] electronic and experimental elements into ragged, heart-on-your-sleeve folk-rock.” In May last year we premiered a video from their debut album Awash, and now the band are readying a follow-up EP entitled Fan On. In anticipation, runnner have released the first single, ‘eggshell’, a song that sees them inject a little lo-fi folk aesthetic into their bedroom pop. It’s something like the breezily reflective folk pop of Pinegrove meets the kitchen-based everyday introspection of early Trace Mountains. Lyrically the song is both smart and sad, probably the most affecting song you’ll hear about cooking eggs all year.
Stay tuned to the runnner Bandcamp page for news on the new EP.
Wy – Pavements
We wrote about ‘Gone Wild’ by Malmö’s Wy back in 2017, describing the track as “representing the sensation of being stuck in your own head, a vast lonely place that’s somehow claustrophobic too.” The track was taken from Okay, an album which existed within a great cloudy haze of atmosphere and emotion, though latest single ‘Pavements’ expands upon the record’s style and pushes into more urgent, aggressive territory. The evolution serves to increase the intensity and ferocity of the Wy sound, the insistent rhythm driving Ebba’s ominously threatening vocals and forthright lyrics.
‘Pavements’ is out now and you can get it from the Wy Bandcamp page.
Westkust – Swebeach
Based in Gothenburg, rock band Westkust have been quiet since the the release of Last Forever back in 2015, though this year will see that put right with a self-titled album with Run For Cover Records. Lead single ‘Swebeach’ gives an indication of what to expect, fun-filled garage rock as filtered through a shoegaze prism, Julia Bjernelind’s vocals emerging through the wall of noise with a sense of assurance and warmth, like a hand reaching out in the dark.
Westkust is out in the 1st March via Run For Cover Records and you can pre-order it now.
Merival – Sinner
Merival, the project led by Toronto’s Anna Horvath, make lush and emotive songs that combine self-searching introspection with slow-burning catharsis. Their latest single ‘Sinner’ is what Horvath describes as a song “about being caught between two places, one known and comfortable, and the other intoxicatingly new and impossible to avoid.” It combines the lyricism commonly associated with folk with sparse guitar arrangements and confident vocal delivery. The sense of grand emotion is heightened in the track’s second half as elegant strings weave onto the scene, proving that you don’t need to write a sad-sounding song to convey real feeling.
You can buy ‘Sinner’ from the Merival Bandcamp page.
community college – novocaine / karaoke
The side project of Horse Jumper of Love bassist John Margaris, community college are readying their debut album on Disposable America. Joined by his brother Dan on drums and fellow Horse Jumper Dimitri Giannopolous on bass, Margaris makes downbeat lo-fi pop songs that are nevertheless crunchy and catchy. The opening two tracks have been released into the wild early, and both ‘novocaine’ and ‘karaoke’ are short and moreish, the former feeling as numbed as the title suggests, while the latter has a bit more life, tentatively shambling towards glorious basement indie rock.
You can pre-order comco now from the Disposable America Bandcamp page.
Seamstress – Everything
New Jersey’s Gabriella Chavez met Charlie Sztyk in their local music scene, and the pair formed Seamstress, a band that take Chavez’s personal history of heartbreak and moulds it into songs that sweep and shift around a solid emotional core. Their latest single, ‘Everything’ is a case in point, a vulnerable admission of the difficulty of communication in trying times. Chavez’s vocals sound strong and still despite this sense of fragile yearning, resulting in the kind of sincere folk rock that Sharon van Etten has made her own.
I don’t wanna talk about it, anymore,
I don’t wanna talk about it
Tender Glue – Dear Peri
Tender Glue is Tom Gluewicki, born and raised in Poland but now residing in New York. ‘Dear Peri’ is a track from the latest Tender Glue album, Closet Leftovers, an achingly emotive song inspired by the death of a Polish climber on Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas. The Peri of the title is a ghost of local legend which protects the mountain, and the lyrics confront imagined details of the climber’s last moments as he succumbs to the will of the mountain. Built on an anchoring guitar line, the song sways with waves of atmospherics as Gluewicki’s vocals deliver his words with an intense melancholy.
Closet Leftovers is out now and available from the Tender Glue Bandcamp page.
Charlotte Cornfield – Andrew
Charlotte Cornfield is a singer-songwriter from Toronto. Her third LP, The Shape of Your Name, is on its way in the Spring, and is set to feature a stellar cast of collaborators, including Leif Vollebekk and Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin (all of Broken Social Scene). In anticipation of release, Cornfield has unveiled the record’s first single, ‘Andrew’. She describes the song as a “reminder to step back and look at the bigger picture instead of dwelling on the minutiae,” and says that it could be about a partner both platonic or romantic. The press release promises something contemplative and contemporary, funny and heart-wrenching, and Cornfield makes good on the pledge, creating a folk rock song that feels both spry and tender, a clear-eyed and confident confrontation with the truth of a situation.
The Shape of Your Name will be released on the 5th April via Outside Music’s new imprint Next Door Records.
Zelma Stone – Light Bulb Boy
Zelma Stone are from San Francisco, with lead Chloe Zelma joined by Haley Pan (bass), Jake Kissner (drums), Jewelz (keys) and Kevin Fielding (lead guitar). Citing Big Thief and Angel Olsen as major influences, the band have recently released their debut EP, Layla, which promises to “channel grief and pain into a dreamy soundscape of empowering arrangements and addictive melodies.” ‘Light Bulb Boy’ is the third track on that EP, a song that builds from mellow folk rock beginnings into something altogether more stirring.
Being here where things are breakable
I guess we’ve chosen this path
It’s a long familiar road now darling
and these seasons just keep on coming back
Field Medic – henna tattoo
We’ve been fans of Field Medic, aka Kevin Patrick, for a long time here at VSF, and have been pleased to watch his progress as he has made music his full-time endeavour. His latest album, fade into the dawn, is on the way via Run For Cover Records, a release that promises to blend “black humour and bold introspection” to find meaning in the mundane. As a taster, Field Medic has unveiled first single, ‘henna tattoo’, a characteristically sincere song recorded to 4-track tape recorder. Acoustic guitar is joined by Patrick’s earnest vocals and subtle beats from his drum machine, making for a track that lands at the folkier end of the bedroom pop spectrum.
Shady Bug – Make it Up
The latest addition to the ranks of Exploding in Sound, Shady Bug are an indie rock band from St Louis. Their forthcoming album Lemon Lime is due to be released next month. The first single, ‘Make It Up’ is available to stream right now, and it’s immediately apparent that their sound feels right at home next to their new label mates. Lead Hannah Rainey says the song is about sharing Sprite with a crush, although the sweetness is offset somewhat by the chorus which covers worries both personal and what Rainey describes to Flood Magazine as “anxiety caused by the trees blooming early and dying in my neighborhood because of global warming.” The thrashing, cathartic finale helps too, proving that Shady Bug have the indie rock chops to support their fun songwriting.
UV Rays – Flowerhead
Though originating as the solo project of Adrien DeFontaine, Brooklyn’s UV Rays soon grew into a four piece and found their groove as a raucous indie rock band. New single ‘Flowerhead’ serves as a great introduction for the uninitiated, driven forward by the drums and vocals of Erica Warner, the guitars and bass surging behind with warm energy—like a shoegaze track as imagined by a power pop band, all melancholy blown away by the sheer momentum.
‘Flowerhead’ is taken from the band’s debut EP, Try and Begin, which is set for release on the 1st March, so keep an eye on the UV Rays Bandcamp page.
a. harlana – faces
Juno Roome leads a. harlana, a band that make gauzy and vaporous ambient pop songs with a raw and emotional edge. They have recently released an EP, ada belle, three tracks that shift and swirl with dreamy feeling, or as the press release accurately puts it, “elegaic, elegant, enigmatic and extra-good.” ‘Faces’ is the initial standout, a 7+ minute lesson in patience and atmosphere, lingering like tendrils of fog over sparkling guitar and lovelorn vocals. The overall aura is one of yearning, especially with the final line of “but i can’t seem to will your face next to mine.”
ada belle is out now and available from the a. harlana Bandcamp page on a name-your-price basis.
Okay Embrace – Phantom Text
We first featured David Schaefer’s Okay Embrace back in November when we premiered their single, ‘Moving’. “The delivery has a breathless quality,” we wrote of the track. “like the words of a person who has withheld their feelings for too long, the mounting pressure breaching some threshold and spewing forth in manic flow.” ‘Phantom Text’ is the second song from the release Moving/Improving, a song that builds from uncertain beginnings and kicks into a tighter rhythm. Again, the track builds into an increasingly pressing emotional state, bringing to mind the likes of Bright Eyes and Slaughter Beach, Dog in its ability to craft personal struggles into affirming, searching tunes.
Moving/Improving is available now from the Okay Embrace Bandcamp page.
Lady Dan – What Sanity
Working out of Texas but with roots in Birmingham, Alabama, Lady Dan makes music which is self-described as “Melancholic cowboy sounds you can cry in front of your cat to.” Taken from a forthcoming EP, ‘What Sanity’ takes this aesthetic and runs in the direction of unrequited love, detailing the soul-sucking sensation of falling for someone when they are indifferent to your very existence.
Bellows – What Can I Tell You About the World?
Recording as Bellows, Oliver Kalb has made his name as an interesting, ambitious songwriter that deals in heartfelt honesty. The Rose Gardener, his forth record that’s coming soon on Topshelf Records, looks set to continue the trend, stretching the limits of the bedroom pop genre and calling into question the use of such terms. Still, leads single ‘What Can I Tell You About the World?’ keeps things simple, a humble, touching folk song that comes complete with an intimate video from Richard Gin, setting the tone for an album that looks to address the poisonous culture of judgement and loneliness that marks the contemporary Western experience.
The Rose Gardener will be released on Topshelf Records on the 22nd February and you can get it on Bandcamp.
The This – The Strangest Ritual
Beginning life as a solo project of Evan Matthiesen, the ungoogleable Victoria, B.C. band THE THIS put out a debut EP back in 2017, and have since followed up with a series of single in preparation for a full length album. After the dejected weariness of ‘Casual Encounters’, the band are back with ‘The Strangest Ritual’, a frantic slice of punk rock that trades any hesitancy for frantic forward motion. As Matthiesen shouts over runaway instrumentation, you get the sense that the song is determined to have a good time despite whatever might be happening around it, as though fun and assured energy can be willed into existence with enough desire and dedication.
Bleeder – Rusted and Raw
Bleeder is the recording project of Shelby Smoake a writer and musician who focuses much of his attention on his experiences as a haemophiliac. His memoir, also titled Bleeder, was published by Michigan State University Press back in 2013, detailing the quest for life and love when suffering from haemophilia and HIV, with what Joanna Smith Rakoff described as “not just brutal honesty, but also with humour and grace.”
Bleeder the band emerged from the book’s ashes, looking to explore similar themes through a different form and tone. The second video in the outfit’s Singles Series, ‘Rusted and Raw’ takes the emotion, fear and loneliness of the memoir and weaves it into a wistfully retro brand of indie rock—once again breathing human life into a story of suffering and perseverance.