We’ve got Canadian pop from Dan Mangan, alt-country gone minimalist from Rhett Miller of Old 97’s, folk from Hand Habits, a synth-pop lullaby from mmeadows, bruk revival from WheelUP and Kaidi Tatham, trumpet-flavored rock from Red Rum Club, shoegaze dream-pop from Bolinas and folk-pop harmonies from Frances Luke Accord.
Dan Mangan, “Just Know It” – Dan Mangan is kind of a big deal in Canada, where he’s won two Juno awards and a bunch of other prizes. But he’s not as well-known here. He’s also the co-founder of Side Door, a service through which musicians can get paid to stream concerts.
His visibility here in the states might change with the release of his upcoming album, Being Somewhere (Oct. 28), produced by Drew Brown (Radiohead, Beck). Check out the first single, “Just Know It,” a drum-less, piano-led number of quiet resignation. “Truth hurts, and it always shows up/ Dead last when the party’s over/ Wouldn’t you just know it,” Mangan sings. For a song about a heavy subject – being worn down by arguments – it’s a surprisingly light, catchy ditty. That hook (“You’re gonna wear me out/ I just know it”) will get stuck in your head.
Rhett Miller, “Heart Attack Days” – Those who know Rhett Miller best for fronting alt-country favorites Old 97’s might be surprised by the turn his solo work has taken. Working with producer Sam Cohen (Kevin Morby, Sharon Van Etten), Miller uses synths and a lot of guitar effects in this song to tell of “a bittersweet longing for a bygone time.”
Miller, who’s usually quite romantic in his solo work, is acerbic here: “Sunset on a wrecking ball/ Sweet nothings and the end is near/ We are lying here to one another’s face/ Heart attack days.”
There’s even a brief lyrical nod to the Rolling Stones, except Miller says the quiet part out loud: “Let’s spend the night together/ Let’s spend the night and never/ Spend the night together again.” It’s a different direction but I think it’s working for him. Listen for yourself on his new LP, The Misfit, which came out last week.
Hand Habits with Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, “Under the Water” – Meg Duffy, who records and performs as Hand Habits, released two new singles, “Greatest Weapon,” and “Under the Water,” as part of Psychic Hotline’s Single Series. They’re both good, but the acoustic “Under the Water,” with Duffy on guitar and Meath on lead vocals, is transfixing.
The song is about learning to hold one’s head underwater to swim, and it’s giving off major Elliott Smith vibes. Duffy has played on albums by Weyes Blood, Flock of Dimes and Kevin Morby (and was in Morby’s touring band for a few years). Hand Habits is due for a breakthrough, and this assist from Meath might be just the thing to do that.
mmeadows, “Baby-by” – NYC art-pop duo mmeadows — married couple Kristin Slipp (Son Lux, Dirty Projectors) and Cole Kamen-Green (Beyoncé, Lorde, Harry Styles) – brings us a lovely ode to a long-term relationship with “Baby-By.” A synth-led lullaby that’s both calming and catchy, “Baby-By” is sweetly romantic (“I kiss your forehead/ Delicately/ And thank God that He made you for me”) even while admitting things aren’t always perfect (“You treat me better/ Than I treat you/ And you let it hang in the air/ Like you always do”).
It features some killer bass clarinet by Alec Spiegelman, and just try to keep that sticky chorus out of your cranium: “You can fall asleep, baby-by/ In 13 years/ We never said goodbye/ Early this morning I thought I saw you cry/ Let’s while away the hours/ While the rivers dry.”
WheelUP, Kaidi Tatham and Brint Story, “More Love” – If you’re not familiar with the West London sound known as broken beat (bruk), get into it with this track from a revivalist and pioneer joining forces to make you move (and think!).
Kaidi Tatham has been called the U.K.’s Herbie Hancock. He and DJ WheelUP (Danny Wheeler) go way back. They were in bruk group Bugz in the Attic together. This upbeat track also features Alabama rapper Brint Story; his bars express a message of positivity over an incredibly catchy track fusing EDM with funk, neo-soul and hip-hop.
Red Rum Club, “Vanilla” – Red Rum Club is an independent U.K. rock band with a trumpet player. It’s opened for The 1975 and Noel Gallagher, and played the Glastonbury and Isle of Wight festivals.
“Vanilla” has a bass line that sounds a little like the The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” but a much fuller musical sound, since the band is a sextet. The song is about a lover who leaves because she finds the narrator boring: “She said my darling, my dear/ I’m filled with a fear/ Concerning a flaw that/ Continues to appear/ You’re living for Monday/ Your living is mundane/ Your presence is a killer/ Your flavor: vanilla.”
The contrast of the criticism with how not-vanilla the music is in this rocker is striking. The video shows the band in various places around its native Liverpool and is just generally pretty funny. Catch Red Rum Club at Cornerstone Berkley on Oct. 11.
Bolinas, “Ge” – Bolinas, the project of multi-instrumentalist Chris Thomas, has a sound that’s part shoegaze, part emo and part dream-pop. If you liked the last Deafheaven album, you’ll definitely want to check out this track. The heavy, distorted guitars married with a pop sensibility is like the best of both worlds. The song, about ruining a relationship and feeling powerless to repair it, is also the intro track to Bolinas’ forthcoming debut album, Heavy Easy Listening (out Oct. 7).
The video features Thomas running down his childhood streets in possibly every shirt he owns, for some reason? But it’s weirdly compelling; like we’re watching him repeatedly fail to run away from his mistakes.
Frances Luke Accord with Darlingside, “In My Life” – Frances Luke Accord is the New York pop duo of Nicholas Gunty and Brian Powers. This collaboration with folk-pop friends Darlingside sounds like if someone mashed up José González with the Lumineers. There’s guitar, piano and beautiful harmonies in this song about the ups and downs in the adventure of life. “In my life/ I’ve grown upside down/ Caught my string on the ground/ Where the river won’t run/ Where the sparrow won’t dive/ Where the spirit can’t sing/ And the arrow won’t climb/ Oh I’ve seen the sun go down/ And the moon on the rise,” they sing. FLA’s next album, Safe In Sound, is set for release on Feb. 9.
Rachel’s pick: I’ve gotta go with Red Rum Club’s “Vanilla.” It’s such a fun, catchy track! I love the rock and roll stomp, I love the trumpet, and frankly, anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a band of funny Scousers.