Favorite Song: Spencer Krug “Winter Sings to Fall” – to fall for Fall

I have a deep fondness for love songs that voice the many whirlwinds of emotion, to not just show the saccharine sweet aspects but the anxiety, the feelings of being overwhelmed by all of it, this maelstrom of everything.

“Winter sings to fall” is such a song if you like to read it this way. This could be a song about someone who is being loved but nearly unaware of the amount, the intensity of this love. It might even be the love of someone who puts too much on this loved one (“while a bitter winter watches”) and who seems to nearly wish it weren’t so or at least wants just as much love in return (“you owe me for how much I love you”) which sometimes is not granted.

And if “Winter sings to Fall” is the title, then maybe it’s about an older person being in love with a (somewhat) younger person? Or maybe it is very literal, well, as much as it can be if winter sings.

Therefore, it could also be a song about the change of seasons and how winter watches as autumn gracefully moves through the world. Krug’s mentioning “Spider Season” which is apparently the time between September and October when all the spiders look for warm places inside houses and scare all the people “on top of our chairs”. A song about how autumn is this beautiful grace, the leaves in love with the wind who takes them for a dance. How winter watches, yearning, bitter even, because where the leaves are dancing for fall, they only lie dead for winter.

Who knows. Maybe I am completely off. But isn’t it a nice song?

Favourite Song: Bad Nerves ‘Baby Drummer’ is a juicy throwback

Favourite Song: Bad Nerves ‘Baby Drummer’ is a juicy throwback

This meta song is about yearning for a band, a song, an album or a baby drummer to really excite you. As someone who used to listen to tons of bands, I can tell you that there isn’t necessarily something like too much music but listening to a lot of bands from the same genres can easily soften all the edges of every new song you listen to and it takes a lot more to get you really excited (weirdly, I have not found this with 80s/retro 80s pop – yet).

So, color me happy and surprised that Bad Nerves actually, ironically are somewhat my Baby Drummers because their frantic, self-titled album is a beautifully catchy, glam-inspired speedrace through tight rock songs that light up the disco, electrify your tape deck and get your heart pumping.

At first glance, I was a bit surprised that they are from Essex, since they could just as well get noise complaints from a grumpy New York neighbour but especially the melodies do indeed have that Britrock glamour that is always a bit more playful than their American counterparts. In fact, there are instances when T.Rex or the Sweet peak around the corner and this album is all the better for it.

I am a little less enamoured with the songs that lean more into the pop punk direction such as “Radio Punk” but the great thing about a short album is that it’s less than a cigarette break till the next song (which in this case is “Bored of Babies” that I like for its frantic vibe but am not really not agreeing with since it’s about “losing” friends who start a family, like, dude, not everyone can and wants to be a punk rocker till the end of time).

Anyways, all in all I really love this album, there’s enough for any playlist, dancefloor and summer night.

Favorite Song: The Replacements – Answering Machine

A beautiful thing about the Replacements was, that they went through different styles of punk music but with a spirit that fit their legacy: trying things out and trying to have fun and trying to avoid rules, even those hiding in the anarchist punk movement. Playing pop and glam cover songs during a show full of hardcore punks to piss them off is a beautiful thing because it shows that dogmatic rules on what is and isn’t punk were counter to what the scene actually wanted to be.

The Replacement’s “Answering Machine” is the perfect example how melodious punk really was (and still is). And how much emotion it could convey. It’s teenage angst perfectly distilled in 3 1/2 minutes. Admitted, The Replacements where in their 20s when they released “Let it be” in 1984 (and their harder punk style had been softened a lot) but a song about how difficult it is to put raw emotion into a letter or – worse even – on the silly little tape of an answering machine is basically every 80s and 90s teens woes.

I also want to mention “Androgynous” which is a beautiful love song about two people who love each other.

It’s a little bit sad reading lines like “kewpie dolls and urine stalls will be laughed at the way you’re laughed at now”, when nearly 40 years later, today’s trans rights are being threatened with – of all the things – a weird disturbed horror scenario where trans women roam bathrooms to attack cis women. But maybe that’s just the weird, off-putting hurdle we have to get away with (soon, please)? Eh, I could live without those hurdles, honestly.

As to not end on such a super bummer note, here’s an adorable cover of the song by my problematic face Miley Cyrus, punk icon Joan Jett and punk icon Laura Jane Grace. What a holy trinity of not giving a fuck right there!

Favorite Song: Willy Mason ‘Outwit the Devil’ – I can’t, I am not smart enough!

In my fantasy, this song is the older, nerdier brother of Laura Mvula’s catchy “Church Girl“-song (which has the line “how can you dance, with the devil on your back”) and given that Willy Mason even dances in the devastatingly charming music video makes me believe that these two songs are soulmates, destined to be tied together as the two songs that will guide you through the Summer of 2021.

The song is beautiful, even without its little sister. It’s the kind of cute, slightly sinister ballad about evading the devil that will come for you because in a moment of weakness you made a deal and now you have to get out of it, clear your soul, make things better. Although, to be quite honest, it is unclear via the video, whether it actually was supposed to be “outdance the devil.”

It’s coincidentally also a great song for the game “Mundaun” which is about a sinister contract with a devilish creature that you as the player have to undo. And no, I have no idea why so many things in my pop cultural life are currently revolving around the devil, it’s surely a coincidence and has nothing to do with the pact I made with that strange looking fellow on that crossroads in March …

Anyways, Mason will release a new album soon (just like Laura Mvula), so get on it!

Pop goes: Laura Mvula ‘Church Girl’ could be your Summer jam

I LOVE LOVE LOVE a musical evolution. I only recently mused how impactful Laura Mvula’s “Make me lovely” was for me and here she is with the amazing single “Church Girl” with the absolutely genius line “how can you dance with the devil on your back”.

Also, that suite is one big David Byrne-moment and I love it

Ok, so can we talk about this song? That Prince meets Janet Jackson dance glitter bomb? It’s basically a song about shedding self doubts and limitations and free yourself. According to Mvula, she wrote it after she started to realize that her self image was too tied up with the things that happened to her and the things she did. It’s actually quite transcendal how she talks about it (read it here).

“Church Girl” is the second single after the equally fantastic “Safe Passage” and leads the way to the album release for “Pink Noise” which will come out July 2nd.

I secretly hope that those jackets will become bigger and bigger with every single.

Favourite Songs: Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’ ‘My Blue Suit’

I adore love songs that can be about more than romantic relationships. The absolutely gorgeous, sad, moving, timeless “My Blue Suit” is the kind of song that might be about someone giving their all to their partner as well as about a parent seeing so much potential in their kid and loving them because they still can be and do everything and everything is ahead of them, a future full of wonders and big emotions and whirlwinds. Especially when it comes to surrendering everything, this does remind of many parents who give up so much to let their kids have a better life.

You know, I read so many stories about people coming to America and working double shifts and safe every penny, so their kids could go to college. There is a bittersweet episode in “Master of None” (yeah, I know but it is a good episode) about parents and their “ungrateful” kids who got all the chances and then turned out to be Comedians and get arts degrees. It’s funny but also moving because often, you only realize later how hard it was for your parents (but also: if you had abusive parents – fuck them).

Anyways, this song makes me feel all the feelings. It’s the kind of song that will hit you like a brick with all the emotions, memories and whatever you read into the lyrics. Also: I would love to have a well fitting blue suit.

Songs from the Inbox: Nuns of the Tundra – Heavy stuff, mates

In Germany, we have the wonderful description of music that throws a punch: “was’n brett” (what a plank – yeah, it translates poorly). Nuns of the Tundra throw punches, planks and riffs right at you. Nuns of Tundra are from Bristol and describe their philosophy as “loosen hips and blow off faces” – how rude.

The band consists of Tom (bass), Daniel (guitar), Finn (drums) and Troy (vocals and guitar). Their older tunes are heavy stoner rock probably inspired just a tiny bit both by Masters of Reality and the Desert Sessions. In fact, “Signs of Blood” is a fantastic little song that sounds like Josh Homme tried to write a Sparks-song – and it works. I am kind of obsessed with it.

From the three songs of the upcoming album “The World’s Gone Crazy and So Have I” the band let me pre-listen, I particularly enjoyed “Gods and Wine” even though I am an atheist and don’t drink alcohol, so the song has to be good, right? It’s leaning a lot more towards metal and dips less into the sandy desert but it works, especially when they lean into the “heavy” part of metal. I love myself a good wall of noise to drown out the news, am I right.

Their new album will be released on March 19th and since no one can go on concerts currently, I recommend buying the album instead to support them.

(C’est la vie? More like c’est la heavy – *drum roll)

Favorite Song: The Staves ‘Good Woman’ – inhale, exhale, feel the warmth

Ooooooh, that low hum, that sweet low hum and then a song that has a bit of Fleetwood Mac and then a little more and then the production throws in a bit of background conversations because this is somewhat escapism, a warm Summer day, you’re going out of your house, there’s people (everyone is vaccinated) and you look great and you feel good and you strut your stuff.

The lyrics hint at my favorite sort of break-up song which is the one that’s beyond the tears and the sobs and has worked its way straight through the realization that you will get through this because you haven’t lost a thing, you’re still good and your heart is strong and you are magic, baby.

The Staves are from England (miss you, England) and they are an indie folk trio of sisters and their current album (which is the 5th studio album) was just released under the name “Good Woman” and having heard a few songs from it, it’s a beautifully produced, very airy, light album that will carry you a while on dark days.

Favourite Song: Kings of Leon ‘The Bandit’ – Between yearning and contentment

Damn, does anyone who was a super big fan of “The Bucket” still get exited over new Kings of Leon releases? I feel like the fans of early KoL are completely detached from the fans of the current KoL and vice versa. But here’s the thing: if you ignore the squeaky clean production and bigger – much bigger – pathos of the current KoL, you still have that yearning, that heart-pumping yearning, like there surely is something out there, something waiting for you, something bigger, something exciting.

“The Bandit” is a gorgeous but also sad song. The lyrics might read like a lone ranger’s heatstroke diary entry in the middle of the desert but could just as well be about addiction and how straining it is to search that feeling of the first high, or maybe even something better, something purer. Maybe I am completely off here but lines like “And they’re walking around, with their heads in the clouds screaming, must catch the bandit, reckless abandon, rundown and stranded”, sound a lot like the worst days you might have as an addict, when you already see yourself, loath yourself but can’t help yourself.

It’s also a song that feels at its core like the – in my humble opinion – masterpiece “Because of the Times”, an album that already shed its skin of the early garage rock to create a Springsteen-esque roadtrip masterpiece of incredible songwriting, storytelling and a tugging war between the life of fame the band already had at that point and the dreamy short stories of a typical (very masculine) and aimless youth in rural America.

It’s a bit of a shame that this promising glimpse into the upcoming album is followed by a little bit of a snooze-fest called “100.000 people” a love song that sounds tired and exhausted, as if waiting for all this was maybe just a tiny bit too long. That chorus of neverending “you do”s alone makes me look at my watch, sigh audibly and drum my fingers. Or maybe it’s just the sound of contentment, which can be an awful bore if you’re not the one who’s content but the one who was invited over for tea.

Songs from the Inbox: Kima – up and coming British pop and RnB

This entry has been a bit longer in the making since some “left on read”-mails but now we’re all set. Kima is a British songwriter who contacted me due to a lovely pop-song that would fit perfectly on the “Love Actually”-soundtrack, it has this great epic Christmas/Winter-pop-ballad feel (think of Natasha Bedingfield or Leona Lewis) and that orchestral arrangement is the kind of pathos I adore. The song was written during lockdown and is supposed to give a little hope to everyone who felt/feels down like a clown in a drown pound during this time of isolation.

(Honestly, this is the kind of pop song that’s on my morning-playlist)

Kima has recently released a song for a charity project for homeless people (Shelter). It has been a hard year for all of us due to the pandemic but homeless people have suffered immensely because there were fewer people in the cities to give them some money but also, due to social distancing measures, etc. it was a lot harder for charity organisations to work with the people in need, since they often could not afford all the measures that we could take in all our privilege.

I also did a small mail interview with Kima, which you can read here because why not?

Did staying mostly at home influence the way you write songs? Did it change the way you look at your music? Was it harder/easier?

Staying at home actually did change the way I write songs! I think it made the process a lot easier, because I had so much more time to just ‘be’. Since I was reflecting so much on things that have happened in my life, my values and priorities, and the world seemed to be crashing and burning around us all – there was so much content to write about and so much time to write. I also found it really therapeutic, because the beginning of lockdown was quite scary. I’ve had to shield for 5 months because I’m considered to be at ‘extreme risk’ to getting coronavirus. At first seeing all the news headlines about the virus was absolutely terrifying! So writing music at my piano was my escape. 

Your new single “If nobody told you” is a total bop! I wondered whether you had a specific person/audience in mind when you wrote it? (Like a person you want to adress)

I wrote my new single, ‘If Nobody Told You’, as an inspirational piece to help lift people’s spirits after long periods of isolation during lockdown. While shielding in my house and with so much craziness is happening in the world, (coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protests), it’s so easy to feel powerless. This song is written from God’s perspective and it reminds me of how God sees me, and how He sees you too. It was a reminder to me and everyone that we’re still loved, we’re still powerful, we’re still heard. We can make a lot of impact from our own homes.

Also, how did you produce it? Can you talk a bit about the process from first idea to finished song? Was it all home produced (aka lockdown-studio?)

Thankfully I have a home studio set up! It’s suuuper basic and is essentially just a laptop, microphone, audio interface and reflection filter but it’s good enough that I can record full on singles from there. I work with a producer who lives in Birmingham, so for this song I did a first draft on Logic Pro of what I wanted it to sound like, with the strings and the orchestral feel. Then I sent it to him and he added his magic to it!

If you were to write an album, would you want to stick to a genre or rather explore different musical avenues?

I would definitely explore! I’m planning on releasing an EP in early 2021, and it will definitely be ‘multi-genre’, I have been described as ‘genre bending’ and I absolutely love that title. There are so many different sounds that influence my music. Being in the Welsh National Youth Opera when I was younger made me fall in love with classical music. Then at home, the sounds of Motown music and gospel defined my childhood. So I have a wide array of influences, which definitely reflects in my music. I did previously struggle with the thought of not having one specific “sound”, but I think that’s such a closed and archaic way to approach music. I think a degree of variety within an artist is authentic and also really interesting for listeners too! They’ll never know exactly what to expect.

I am also super interested how performing for youtube differs from performing on stage. Does it change the way you sing, do you have to prepare differently?

This is such a good question! I think performing for videos is a lot more laid-back and relaxed. I’m aware that if I’m doing too much, or too expressive, it might come across strangely on camera and I might look like a bit of a psychopath. But in real life, on stage, there are no limits. I can literally be as crazy as I want (well, nearly as crazy as I want to be!).

Also, I am obsessed with Wales (spent an exchange year there and will never shut up about it), what would the three hot spots in Pontypridd be? Just in case, we’ll ever get to travel again.

Oooh what a cool question! I think it’s awesome that you spent a year in Wales! I mean, Ponty is a small town but there are still some things to see and do. If you go, check out the Old Bridge which, when it was built, was the longest single spanning bridge in Europe. Pontypridd has a lot of beautiful countryside, which I think people forget, so do take the time to go for walks.