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Songwriters





FRESH CUTS: “Do I Have To Feel Everything” Finds Sara Noelle In Full Bloom

Photo Credit: Erik Hayden

L.A. based singer-songwriter Sara Noelle is a self-described “ambient-folk” artist and she’s released the first single for her upcoming album (title and release date TBD). Entitled Do I Have To Feel Everything, it’s her first release since her late 2020 single Christmas at Sea.

Produced by Dan Duszynski, the new track begins with insistent harmony synths, before a lush, lightly vocoder-tinged chorus of Saras fills the listener’s ears. Throughout, liquid synth pads tastefully bathe the arrangement, like layers of crystal blue seawater. A simple but weighty bass drum heartbeat holds down the rhythm while toms occasionally tumble through. The song gently crescendos with a full complement of electronic drums and angelic, wordless vocals. Melodically, there are (not unwelcome) similarities to Fleetwood Mac and Death Cab For Cutie, but overall the track gives the impression of being both propulsive yet meditative. It’s a difficult balancing act but one that Noelle and Duszynski pull off with grace, as nothing seems out of place, although many things are happening at once.

Lyrically, the mention of the “silent year/like time stopped,” instantly brings to mind our collective Covid year. And while the vibe of the music is a positive one, lines like “I don’t know where and I don’t know where I am/The closer I get, the farther I am” hint at a persistent sense of limbo and uncertainty about the future that many of of are likely feeling. Although it’s especially resonant at this time in history, Sara Noelle’s track carries a certain timelessness in its lyrical feelings of alienation. Gabe Hernandez





"Subversive To Care" comp released to benefit AAPI communities

In today’s fast-paced modern era of music streaming and profligate playlist making (not to mention Twitch DJing and all the other means of assembling original musical mixes) the notion of an old-school compilation album (or “comp”) may seem hopelessly out of date. But comps can still be wonderful things, and Subversive To Care (referred to as Sub2Care forthwith), which has been released to coincide with the launch of Paul Is Dead Records, checks off many of the boxes that make them good things.



For one thing, comps are often assembled to raise money for charitable/activist organizations and this one fits the bill with proceeds going to several AAPI organizations—The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (www.NAPAWF.org), Asian Mental Health Collective (www.ASIANMHC.org) and The Tibet Fund (www.TIBETFUND.org)—in response to alarming levels of hate crimes and ongoing struggles against prejudice against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What’s more, a good comp is a great way to discover new music and new artists without having to continually troll Spotify’s Teen Beats playlist (granted, SyKo’s “#BrooklynBloodPop!” has its pleasures). And with 60 original songs by the original artists Sub2Care should keep you occupied for a while as you make your way from the start (Wake Up’s “Hurricane” in exclusive demo form; the band is pictured above) to the finish (Squires’ “Tombstoning”) so you basically have got a conceptual theme here of moving from wakefulness to the Big Sleep—not that you can’t skip around within and between individual tracks which is another one of the nice things about comps. They’re basically sampler platters in musical form.

Sub2Care was put together by the new LA-based label Paul Is Dead Records (with satellite offices in New York and Wisconsin apparently) and is likely named either after the notorious Beatles urban legend, or the recent death of Paul Van Doren, patriarch of the Van’s sneaker empire. And while LA artists predominate on the comp (speaking of Vans some of these LA artists no doubt look a lot like Jeff Spicoli or perhaps Phoebe Cates) there’s also a decent number from other locales including New York/New Jersey like Frankie Rose, New Myths, Mevius, Dahl Haus, CITYGIRL, Skyler Skjelset (Fleet Foxes), The Natvral (Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and Shana Falana (featuring Shana Falana).

Across musical history, comps have occasionally played a key role in defining the sound of a nascent genre or a new record label—like the Lenny Kaye-compiled Nuggets (1972) that set an early template for punk rock, or the 1988 Sub Pop 200 comp that was a who’s who of future grunge all-stars—and while Sub2Care isn’t strictly speaking a “label comp” since it’s made up of tracks donated by “artists who are close friends and family members of our label” quoting label head and co-founder Evan Mui, it’s still got a certain vibe or aesthetic, if you will, while being pretty darn eclectic at the same time.

I would prospectively call this vibe or aesthetic Twilight Music. By Twilight Music I mean songs that’ve got a certain hazy/dreamy/slightly off-kilter quality whether they’re upbeat or downbeat or mid-beat. And in this way it’s good music for putting on around twilight say when you’re pregaming for a Saturday night out (tracks #13 and 14 are two good examples: Smirk’s “Do You?” and Eternal Summers' “Belong”) or waking up Sunday morning trying to recall what happened the previous night (rewind to tracks #10-12: Four Dots’ “I Left My Heart Pump In San Francisco,” D.A. Stern’s “Funky Holocaust (Drunk Demo),” and Big Nitty’s “Chemical Plant”) or songs that fit equally well for either scenario (for example, tracks 32-34: Dahl Haus’ “Silhouettes and Alibis,” Black Needle Noise’s “And Nothing Remains,” Built Like Alaska’s “Ran Into A Coroner").

So throw a few bucks in the Bandcamp bin for Paul Is Dead Records if you like what you hear. And in return you may discover a new favorite artists or two--whether one of the ones mentioned/displayed here or some other deserving object of your musical admiration. (Jason Lee)









 








VIDEO: “It’s All Right” Finds DIY-er Tatiana Hazel Working on Herself

Photo Credit: Yanin Gzv

L.A.-based Chicago native Tatiana Hazel’s latest track/video, <i>It’s All Right</i>, is a preview of her latest EP (after 2020’s <i>Duality</i> EP), and it’s difficult not to enjoy the track’s laid-back danceable groove and breezy vocals, while also being touched by it’s casual honesty about facing mental health challenges.

At points throughout the song, Hazel delivers some sobering lines about facing ones mental illness as well as general disillusion with “truths” presented by the larger world: “maybe i should take a good look at myself / and mirror check on mental health / couldn’t be clearer that I’m not doing well, darlin’ / and maybe everything you told us was a lie / maybe all we gotta do is pass the time / maybe everything is gonna be all right.”

Ultimately, though, the chorus takes solace in the idea that, as crazy as this life can be, having someone who loves you along for the ride can make things somewhat more tolerable: “It’s all right / It’s all right / as long as I know that you love me / as long as you are thinking of me.”

Listeners will find Tatiana Hazel’s pleasingly unaffected voice similar to other electropop chanteuses such as Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso. However, if one looks past her admittedly polished, Top 40-ready public image, one will quickly realize that, with Hazel not just singing, but writing, producing, recording, mixing, and mastering all but one of her EPs tracks herself, she’s a one-person indie pop dynamo well on her way to bigger, better things. Gabe Hernandez





Danny Golden Delivers a Heartfelt Haymaker in Latest Single

Danny Golden puts his heart out on a limb in his latest single, “Cigarettes and Sunburn.” The track is a cohesive blend of folky acoustic guitar, ethereal electric guitar overdubs and crisp, plaintive vocals. It’s obvious that Golden has no issue conveying emotion in his music -- the pain in his voice is palpable, as he sings about an impermanent lover. Paired with his latest single is a black and white music video that perhaps symbolizes the lack of color in his life after dealing with the transience of his relationship.

Many artists come to mind while listening to “Cigarettes and Sunburn.” His tender, emotive style of singing reminds me of Fleet Foxes’ lead vocalist, Robin Pecknold, as well as Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice. The subtlety of the instrumentation allows the vocals to really shine, while providing texture that perfectly ties the song together as a whole. The spacey, electric guitar sounds are reminiscent of Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album and Jeff Buckley’s classic album, “Grace.” I applaud lead guitarist Ben Brown for his minimalistic approach. There’s not a wasted note, as he fills in the space and complements Golden’s voice beautifully. Everyone associated with the making of “Cigarettes and Sunburn” deserves credit for crafting such a unified piece of music; there’s nothing extra, but every chord and note sung is impactful. 

With lyrics like “I told you I was falling and you told me not to talk/just treat it like a sunburn and let this moment be enough,” one can assume this track is about falling in love with someone, but both people know it can’t last forever and all they can do is live in the moment as much as possible. It’s clear that the narrator is having difficulty accepting this reality with lines like “You’ll go back to Paris and I’ll go back to sleep.” Sometimes love is, unfortunately, impermanent. Though you can do your best to accept that something won’t last forever, accepting this is far from easy, and I believe that’s the main message in “Cigarettes and Sunburn.”

Additionally, the music video contributes to the song’s overall melancholy. It is shot in black and white, which seems fitting given the relatively bleak, colorless mood of the song. Golden appears to be singing to a girl in the video but it never shows them actually together until the end, presumably depicting a memory.

Simply put, “Cigarettes and Sunburn” is a beautiful piece of music. Golden’s voice and lyrics serve as the driving force of the song, but the understated instrumentation allows this to happen. Not to mention, the music video itself could stand alone as an aesthetically pleasing, expressive form of art. Danny Golden’s latest single hits on all cylinders and we should all be excited about his future releases.

- Quinn Donoghue

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VIDEO: “Half Life” Finds appleby Brimming With Life

Photo Credit: Annie Rhodes Kane

L.A.-via-Chicago artist appleby spent much of his early childhood competing on the international tennis circuit, before reassessing his priorities as a young adult, shifting to pursue his music-making ambitions. Judging by his latest single, the soothing yet cathartic “Half Life,” and its accompanying zen-like poolside video, it seems his dedication to honing his craft hasn’t wavered a bit.

The track begins with a simple repeated electric piano note, setting the stage for appleby’s soulful harmonized vocals to enter shortly thereafter, followed by warm and full-bodied piano chords, all of which are later joined by a skittering electro-acoustic beat that propels the track just enough to inject it with energy without shattering the overall life-affirming vibe. The track gets fuller throughout, but it never gets too busy. And all the while, appleby’s vocals—which brings to mind other alt-soul auteurs such as Moses Sumney—keep things comforting and uplifting until the track gently crescendos, his vocal finally fragmenting like the beat.  Perhaps it’s a fracturing or, possibly, a transcendence? 

There’s hardly any help in his lyrics, which find him in a state of limbo: “I’ve been stuck in this half-life full time / and I don’t know what to do.” In press releases, though, appleby describes the genesis of his latest track as “…organic and borderline magical…” If that’s the case, here’s hoping he indulges his taste for both on his upcoming releases. Gabe Hernandez

 

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