Bright Sparks is posted once a month and offers a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let pass us by and beat our blogging bat. Here’s the Vol. 23, freshly shined just for you.
Esther Rose – Don’t Blame It on the Moon
Based in New Orleans, Esther Rose is a singer-songwriter whose work continues the long and storied tradition of American folk. Rose’s latest single ‘Don’t Blame It on the Moon’, her first new music since 2017’s debut album This Time Last Night, is a wonderfully simple but bitingly honest folk song, a dialogue between two lovers that has all the barely restrained heartbreak of the country greats.
“I hope you’re worth all this heartache”
She said / outside the bar at 2 A.M.
She said, “All this pain is gonna break us down, I can’t take it”
She said, “Don’t make me cry, I’ve got my makeup on
and I haven’t had a drink in so long
Blood Cultures – Flowers For All Occasions
Blood Cultures is a cryptic “individual (or group of individuals)” from New Jersey that make a compelling brand of psych-pop while masking their identities with balaclavas. The inspiration came from a mass hijacking of local television broadcasts in 1990s NJ, the usual programming replaced by mysterious sounds and images by an anonymous infiltrator. Blood Cultures position themselves as the second coming of this unexplained phenomenon, a faceless, nameless entity looking to worm its way into your homes and minds, perhaps hoping to leave an impression on a new generation so that esoteric message might live on.
The Painters – Pieces of Life
Montreal indie pop band The Painters, led by Alex Bourque, have a new album on the way on Egg Paper Factory. This is good news in itself, but what’s even better is that the band have released an outtake from the record to raise anticipation a little. ‘Pieces of Life’ sees the band, led by Alex Bourque, continue with their bright and nostalgic indie pop aesthetic that we last heard on 2016’s Specks of Dust. There are shades of Velvet Underground and Nap Eyes in the laid-back vibes and pseudo-philosophical musings, but with more of a lo-fi folk angle, right down to the withering birdsong at the end.
Why do I need everybody to like me?
If I’d rather be alone
You can get the track now from Egg Paper Factory or The Painters Bandcamp page.
Craig Finn – Something To Hope For
Following on from 2017’s We All Want the Same Things, Craig Finn is set to release his third solo album this spring. I Need a New War continues Finn’s brilliant and humane songwriting while adding further dimensions and textures through a larger instrumental palette, leading to what might be his richest, most atmospheric release to date. This is displayed in latest single ‘Something To Hope For’, the light, almost celebratory tone balanced against Finn’s distinctive sing-speak delivery.
The only kind of dreams you ever seem to have
are bad dreams
I Need A New War is out via Partisan Records on the 26th April and you can pre-order it now.
Pieket – Eternal Recurrence
Pieket are a band from Dhaka in Bangladesh. Sinjan Saadat, Syed Wadud, Hasib Mahmud and Rushnaf Wadud combine to create lo-fi indie pop in the fashion of Mac DeMarco. Their latest EP, Powerpoint Depresentation, is out now, and opening track ‘Eternal Recurrence’ acts as a good introduction. The song begins with a ruminative intro, eventually giving way to languid percussion and slacker-inspired vocals, bright guitar lifting everything out of bummed-out bedroom pop territory.
Emily Fairlight – Body Below
Emily Fairlight is a folk singer who lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. Fairlight makes self-described “doom folk,” which has earned comparisons with PJ Harvey (for the vocals), Will Oldham (for the writing) and Calexico (for the conjured atmosphere). Her new album, Mother of Gloom, was recorded in Austin, Texas, adding a Southern Gothic edge to the collection of rich and emotive folk songs. The album’s first track, ‘Body Below’ delves straight into weighty emotion, the label describing Fairlight’s voice as “stark and haunting […] teak-hard yet soft as crushed velvet” in some indication of the juxtaposition of power and vulnerability on display. If this is anything to go by, Emily Fairlight is about to follow the likes of Nadia Reid and Aldous Harding as the next breakout New Zealand folk artist.
Barrie – Saturated
Brooklyn’s Barrie might revolve around the work of lead Barrie Lindsay, though it’s anything but a solo project. Drawing on the talents of Dominic Apa, Spurge Carter, Sabine Holler and Noah Prebish, Barrie has recorded Happy To Be Here, an album that celebrates collaboration and inclusivity to become something larger than the sum of its parts. New single ‘Saturated’ is as good a place as any to dive into the band’s silky pop sound, with the track standing out as pure even to the band themselves. “It came out fully formed, sounding mostly like how it sounds now,” explained Lindsay. “It’s minimal and exposed, kind of vulnerable but in a confident way. I want people to relate to that state of pure, open saturation. I want this song to feel like a crush.”
Happy To Be Here will be released on the 3rd May via Winspear and you can pre-order it now.
Shane Leonard – Empire Builder
Shane Leonard is a name that pops up periodically here at Various Small Flames, with his work as Kalispell and appearances on records from the likes of Field Report and Jeremy Squires. (not to mention helping to record and produce music with Simon Balto and Anna Tivel). However, Leonard also records solo under his own name, and 2019 will see the release of a brand new album, Strange Forms.
Giving a taste of what’s to come, lead single ‘Empire Builder’ is a bright amalgamation of folk and rock, the calm energy of the song complementing Leonard’s quiet philosophising. The lyrics are balanced between confusion and peace, the unanswered and unanswerable questions of life framed not as sources of crippling doubt but mysteries to acknowledge and appreciate from outside.
Gold Light + Snakemusk – The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
Meeting in Asheville in 2017, Joe Chang (aka Gold Light) and Beau Campolong (Snakemusk) found they shared an appreciation of the tragic heartbreak of classic country records and started making music together. Full-length album Shadows In The Shallows is the result of the collaboration, channelling the big players in folk and country to create a traditional Americana fit for the twenty-first century. Lead single ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’ is the perfect example, a narrative-driven, lovelorn track with an almost otherworldly edge, 70s folk coloured by the strangeness of Carson McCullers’ South Gothic style.
Cus the heart is a lonely hunter it seems
But your heart will miss it’s mark if it comes after me
Like a dog gone and barked up the wrong tree
Cus the heart’s gonna go wherever it please
The Chats – Pub Feed
The premiere practitioners of in-your-face, off-the-wall punk, The Chats burst onto our radar in 2017 with the raucous tongue-in-cheek EP, Get This In Ya. After a year of growing success, the Aussie trio are back with a brand new single, ‘Pub Feed’, and it’s a pleasure to report that the growing recognition has done nothing to dampen their forthright, absurd style. As the title suggests, the song finds the band hungry in a pub chain and slavering over the options. Whether it’s beef and gravy, chips and tomato sauce, chicken schnitty or parmigiana, it doesn’t really matter. Only one thing is important:
All I want, and all I need
All I crave is a good pub feed.
The track comes complete with a video directed by Matt Weston and shot by Ben Blenner, with
camera assistance from Wilson Bambrick.
The Pub Feed “7 is out now and you can get it from The Chats webpage.
JW Ridley – Homesick (Out The Blue)
JW Ridley has been steadily building a collection of songs demonstrating his incisive, emotionally-resonant sound, and latest single ‘Homesick (Out The Blue)’ is no exception. Blending the woozy melancholy of Radiohead with an insistent energy more akin to post-punk, the song is something of a juxtaposition, the momentum of the sound masking something altogether more drifting in the sentiment of lyrics. Indeed, such a contrast could be said to be a key theme of the track. “It’s about the things we hold on to,” Ridley explains, “or the things that never really leave us.”
‘Homesick’ is out now via Handsome Dad Records.
Ruthie – Spirit Now Moves
Ruthie is the new recording project of Naomi Baguley, who you might know as the former front of cult punk outfit, Bruising. Taking a new direction, Ruthie now peddles an altogether more luscious sound, taking equals parts folk and indie rock and crafting a 70s-inspired middle ground. Inspired by David Szalay’s novel All That Man Is, new single ‘Spirit Moves Now’ not only highlights Ruthie honeyed style but also the considered approached to songwriting that underpins it, Baguley creating an admirable thematic and emotional depth.
The Curfews – Rose
The Curfews are a fuzz pop band who have recently relocated from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Santa Cruz, California. Their latest single ‘Rose’ shows off their style very nicely, the hazy style distorting an otherwise upbeat sound and giving the whole thing a carefree edge, a kind of loose-limbed stride forwards irrespective of whatever might be weighing you down.
Blush – Forever Is a Long Time
The recording project of Maura M. Lynch, along with Jonathan Campolo (drums, piano, vocals), Nicholas Campolo (guitar) and Andrew Chugg (bass, synth), New York’s Blush makes an intimate brand of bedroom pop that hinges about Lynch’s restrained vocal style and the warm instrumental arrangements. Following on from 2017’s self-titled debut album, Blush is back with a brand new single, ‘Forever is a Long Time’, taking the soft earnestness of Free Cake For Every Creature and adding something a little more pressing so as to exist halfway between bedroom pop and garage rock.
Shutups – Yellowjacket
Oakland-based duo Shutups is a band based on a connection deeper than most. After being college friends, life and geography separated Mia and Hadley, but after an accident left Hadley housebound, the bond persevered and grew. Shutups became the mechanism with which to realign life, a reason to continue despite difficulty. “It didn’t feel like a happy ending movie plot,” Hadley says of his eventual re-emergence into the world. “I came out depressed and not wanting to do anything. The band saved me.”
Four EPs later, the band have honed their angular pop punk style for a debut full-length, Every Day I’m Less Zen. Lead single ‘Yellowjacket’ serves as an introduction, it’s urgent and off-kilter style creating a frantic abandon that lifts the act above its peers, the pair’s obvious connection allowing a tight-knit yet idiosyncratic sound. Check out the video shot edited by Braith Miller below:
Head to Bandcamp for more from Shutups.