Life is full of mysteries; some perplex and confound me, and others cause me to sigh at the madness of humanity. Yep – I have no idea why Finland didn’t win Eurovision. In fact, how did Monsters do so badly? Just goes to show you, music isn’t all about what is objectively good – it’s more about what people actually like. However, we have ten very good and very likable tracks for you this week, so off we go!
Nava Golchini is an Iranian singer/songwriter. Now based in Milan, she has teamed up with producer and arranger Francesco Fugazza, as well as Elia Pastori and Marco Fugazza, to form the musical project NAVA. Out now via Factory Flaws, their second single Navigate is a real cultural blender. With nuances of Persian music flowing through the track and occasionally coming to the surface, Navigate takes downtempo and trip hop tropes and gives them a slightly darker but more anthemic ambiance. Tempering that is a vocal performance that makes you feel like Nava Golchini is singing to you and you alone, all making the song’s fusion of the urban and the tribal feel like a moment of overwhelming stillness in a busy world.
Dear Japan is a new collaboration between yet-to-be-revealed artists from Hamburg and California, and whilst Kushiro is their first track, it’s certainly not the work of beginners. It has a confident air, as if knowing that it is musical perfection – mournful vocals meet with low key but atmospheric synths and pads to deliver the sensation of being part of someone’s private reverie. With hints of Molly Nilsson and Police Des Moeurs’ ability to fuse emotion with a sense of weary detachment, I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about Dear Japan in the coming months.
Manchester duo Seawaves (Si Van Brussel and Daniel Benjamin) have been capturing the ears of discerning electronica fans for some time now with their combination of brooding electronic and rock textures. Though at times they veer in to more abstract areas, they excel at the creation of listener friendly anthemic pop, as exemplified by The Cosmonaut. Released as part of their The Soundtrack, Vol 1 EP, this is consummate and emotive electropop withcatchy lyrics, heartfelt vocal delivery and a sensually rhythmic arrangement. It you need a soundtrack for falling in love with someone new, The Cosmonaut is happy to oblige.
Chilled electronica has been a theme so far but when you come across a track like Zosia’s Overthrown, you can’t help but fall for it. A track she wrote over two years ago reflecting on the conflicting personal and societal attitudes towards sexual assault survivors, it has gained a real sense of cultural currency as the #MeToo phenomenon has burgeoned. Overthrown isn’t an angry polemic though, more a strong but quiet statement on the need to tackle the conflicting emotions that follow traumatic sexual experiences. Zosia speaks like a survivor, one who has happy to explore musically the effects it had on her and its part in making her who she is today.
Bad Woman by Los Angeles (via Serbia and Sweden) based Alezzandra aches with an ominous, almost oppressive air. If Massive Attack had been asked to do the soundtrack for Tron you could imagine it sounding a bit like this. Broad, dense electronic brushstrokes hint at trip hop and ambient sounds but with a more gothic and majestic air, like a musical Gormenghast. At times Bad Woman feels like the musical accompaniment to a montage scene in an art house masterpiece, and in fact it is of sorts. She says the track ‘represents her transition from an innocent, scared and shy girl, to a powerful, confident woman: a bad woman’. It comes from her Black Rose EP, which is due out soon and has a release party in L.A. this May 25th
Retro inspired music can sometimes be a rather sterile affair, with acts picking up the musical nuances of late 80s and early 90s sounds without understanding the emotion and era the music came from. That’s not something you can say about Homecoming by Sweden’s The Search. A confection of Italo, synthpop and that very L.A. movie soundtrack style; Razmig Tekeyan’s vocals and lyrics perfectly encapsulate the music of the time, whilst avoiding clichés and managing to sound modern and relatable. The track features on the new A Wave from the Sidelines album which is well worth a listen.
Staying in Sweden, Kamikaze Love by Vacation Forever (Zacharias Zachrisson) is a wonderful but curious affair. With an indie approach to an electronic sound, acoustic guitars sweep in and out of the track with a confident swagger, something at odds with the more plaintive vocals and lyrics. Veering at times in to more dreampop and almost psychedelic sounds, with the song’s overall warm tones and stirring synths it’s a tribute to the need in many of us to be loved. Zacharias says about the track; ‘Welcome to the world of broken hearts, tropical emo and glue sniffing pop. They asked me to say something about this song and all I can say is that love is a dog from hell.’
American Nightmare is a sober reflection to the nature of the America today, one where the fabled American Dream seems to be ever more distant for many and for others it’s turning out to be not all it seemed. Jour tackles this head on in a way that’s down to earth, personal and relatable. With a sound reminiscent of CHVRCHES and a voice worthy of comparison to Susanne Sundfør, American Nightmare is like a modern spin on the fabled Great American Songbook, as it talks of dislocation and displacement, of loving your country whist not been sure it’s what you want it to be. Love can be a hard pill to swallow at times, something made plain in a beautiful way on this gorgeous and affecting song.
Ireland’s Why-Axis says Fly With Me is about flying and nothing more, but I’m not quite sure. With a cheeky lyrical conceit worthy of Prince at his most flirtatious and a chilled yet clubby beat that reminded me of de La Soul and Digable Planets, the track exudes a real sense of fun as it unfolds, its Irish take on an American sound serving up a very bewitching brew. The track features on the Dubliners’ Airplane Mode EP which you can check out now on Spotify.
Last up this week is Blow My Mind by Frankie Simone. Written as a love song for her wife, it has the wonderful sensation of capturing the giddy madness of being with – and apart from – someone you truly love. The vocals soar as the catchy and honest lyrics take the listener on a romantic whirlwind, with the warm and upbeat arrangement reinforcing the track’s outpouring of joy and lyrical abandon to emotion and to loving another.
That’s it for this week, hope you found something to tickle you musical fancy and if not then remember there’s a whole world of music out there, so why not go explore?