Bright Sparks is our attempt at rebranding our Best of the Rest series. In case you missed it, here’s our description of that series, “One of the best/worst things about the whole blogging game is the abundance of great music. Unfortunately there are (still!) only twenty-four hours in a day, most of which are consumed with non-VSF things, so even if we get sent ten great albums then chances are we will only be able to cover three or four. While trying to avoid falling into the listicle trap, we thought the best way to remedy this problem would be a semi-regular round-up”.

A new volume will be posted every few weeks and will offer a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let slip past our radar.

Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

Last year we spoke with Courtney Marie Andrews about Honest Life, the record that seems to have been her breakout success, despite being in the business for over ten years. Hot on the heels of this newfound recognition, Andrews is back with a brand new album, May Your Kindness Remain, to be released this spring. So far we only have the title track to go on, but the signs suggest Andrews expanding her sound beyond acoustic folk, with strong elements of soul, rock and gospel, giving the song a spirit that seems lifted from some bygone time, and likely cementing Andrews amongst the very best songwriters working today.

May Your Kindness Remain will be released on the 23rd March via Loose (UK) and Fat Possum Records/Mama Bird Recording Co. (North America), and you can pre-order it now.

inning – Feels Like It Did

“Last night, I taught viola to aliens in dreams.” Not many songs aim for territory as weird as this, and even less manage to weave it into such a sad and serious mood, but Virginia-based inning does so with aplomb. The track was inspired by one of those soul destroying college entrance questionnaires, albeit a relatively cool one, which asked “If you could send one thing to aliens that represented human life, what would it be?” inning decided that an instrument might be a good choice, in the hope that, should the contact ever develop into something more face-to-face, we might have something in common, and a way to communicate. Which maybe explains the kind of desperate loneliness that seems to smoulder behind this track, a metaphorical viola solo aimed skyward, not knowing if they could figure out how to play the thing, or even got the package in the first place.

Après​-​Ski EP is available now from the inning Bandcamp page.

Rosie Tucker – Spinster Cycle

Taken from an upcoming EP, Rosie Tucker’s ‘Spinster Cycle’ is a break-up song based, of all places, in a late-night laundromat. Picture the scene: your most treasured relationship failing amidst artificial lighting and a constant mechanical whirr, while muted TV screens try to sell you stuff as an awkward audience of semi-attentive strangers look at their feet. Here is a classic tale of miscommunication and banal distraction, the impossibility of truly knowing another person working its way into the cracks of even the most promising pairings, meaning that instead of trying to talk it through, they just lie back and let the drift carry them apart, even while their clothes share the same hot water, the dyes leeching and mixing into one dull shade.

“My parents met in a laundromat parking lot
I almost tell you but then I think not to
We focus on pulling our lights from our darknesses
We separate even though we’ve got sparks
While the colors bleed”

‘Spinster Cycle’ is available now from the the Rosie Tucker Bandcamp page, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the EP.

Why Bonnie – Made of Paper

Ahead of their debut EP on Sports Day Records, Austin band Why Bonnie have unveiled lead single ‘Made of Paper’ to get us suitably excited. Fuelled by a loose sound which belies the surprisingly insistent tempo, lead Blair Howerton explores vulnerability and perseverance through the lens of history and image, challenging preconceptions and expectations in search of some deeper truth. As such, ‘Made of Paper’ feels like a motivating call from Why Bonnie, helping us all shake free of a clinging inertia, or at least urging we test its grasp in preparation for a future escape.

“I never knew my great grandmother,
but I’m always told i have her skin.
although I think I’ve talked to her,
I know I can’t escape the skin I’m born in.
Reading my fortune
in the mess I’ve made in the kitchen
dirty spoons
to show that I’m still going”

In Water is set for release on the 16th February via Sports Day Records and you can pre-order it now from Bandcamp.

Sonny Baker – Comfortable

At the very end of 2017, Buffalo’s Sonny Baker put out a new record, steady hands, dead tired via Admirable Traits, following up an EP, easier, which came out in April. Don’t let the late release date slide under your radar amidst all the end of year lists, because this is an energetic, at times furious, slice of indie rock. Single ‘Comfortable’ serves as a good taster, railing against the chains of routine and comfort zones, the frenetic tempo aiming to shock you from your tracks, scrub the grey film from your eyes.

“I’m at the point
to set it all
on fire
dump the rest
into a garbage can”

steady hands, dead tired is out now via Admirable Traits Records and you can snag it from Bandcamp.

Andrew Goldring – Lost in the Motion

Following up last year’s EP Morning Light, Salt Lake City’s Andrew Goldring is back with a brand new single, ‘Lost in the Motion’. Pitched somewhere between the gruff melancholia of Water Liars and psych-tinged rock of The War on Drugs and The Wooden Sky, Goldring ticks both boxes—managing to represent a clear-eyed stride forward while remaining haunted by lingering images of the past. As such, the single serves as both a confident driving song and introspective examination, and should be a regular in your headphones on just about any occasion.

‘Lost in the Motion’ is out now and you can get it from the Andrew Goldring Bandcamp page.


Field Report – Summertime Songs

Finally, Milwaukee band Field Report have unveiled a new single, ‘Never Look Back’ ahead of their forthcoming record, Summertime Songs. Those unfamiliar with Chris Porterfield’s writing are well advised to check out their previous releases, with both their self-titled debut and 2014’s Marigolden up there with our favourite albums of the decade (no exaggeration). As we wrote in our review of the latter, “Porterfield’s writing is humble, real, able to be all shades of sad and beautiful. He leaves it to the listener to decide what they take from it, be it comfort or disturbance.”

Summertime Songs was written pre-election, and also in the run up to the birth of Porterfield’s first child, and the anxiety and fear of the unknown allows the songs to form “a dialogue about the fragility of America” and it’s various ideals. With that said, the press release leaves us with the promise that “Field Report will grab you by the short hairs and make you see yourself,” which sounds just like the Field Report we know. The record is out via Verve Forecast on the 23rd March, and you can get more information from the Field Report site.

‘Never Look Back’ is streaming now over at Stereogum.

That’s all folks. If you’re still not sated, why not check out previous editions of Bright Sparks?