Bright Sparks is posted once a month and offers a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let slip past our radar. Vol. 24 is fresh from the vine.
Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else – Hot Spring
Joined by Ben Austin (cello), Grant Engstrom (lead guitar), Pat Lyons (pedal steel),
Tina Scarpello (vocals) and Jack Schemenauer (percussion)—AKA Everyone Else—Spencer Radcliffe has made a new record to be released this month on Run For Cover Records. Adopting something of a country vibe, the release of Hot Spring is timed perfectly, the record concerned with transitions and seasonal change. The title track finds snow once more, winter clinging on or returning unannounced, while second single ‘Bloodletting’ finds something of a reprieve. “Spring is done, the battle’s been won,” Radcliffe sings. “Everyone survived the unloading of guns.” The order of the tracks is flipped on the album itself, lending a new weight to a line in the former: ” You know it’s best not to believe in everything you’re told.”
Christelle Bofale – U Ouchea
Based in Austin, Texas, Christelle Bofale combines soul, dream pop and jazz to form a distinctive sound, drawing upon her Congolese roots to further add to the personal nature of her music. Thematically, the record is one of conflict, from the juxtaposition of gentleness and ferocity in the sound to the lyrical explorations of bravery, honesty and doubt—coalescing into an evocative meditation on the contemporary black experience. Single ‘U Ouchea’ is a worthy introduction, its cyclical nature unfurling slowly across the seven-minute run time, yet underpinned by an oblique tension, some inner force running against the ethereal style.
Emma Frank – I Thought
There’s no one genre tag that will adequately describe the music of Emma Frank. With the pursuit of a number of styles, often within the same song, the New York artist has created a uniquely shifting sound that is never satisfied with remaining in any one place. Be it folk, pop, jazz or R&B, Frank dips into any number of stylistic influences, though the sound is tied together by the honeyed warmth of her vocals.
Having signed with Justin Time Records/Nettwerk, Frank has recently released a brand new single, ‘I Thought.’ The track confronts the impulsive and drastic, the people who change their lives on the whim of tenuous crushes, burning bridges with all that came before in the blinkered blur of the moment. Frank considers herself a member of this group, but the track is a reminder of the value of a slower kind of living—the meaning of things cultivated over time, weathering fleeting fancies to achieve a more substantial weight.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Don’t burn the bridge that you’re walking over
But I lay the first brick down in the wall between us
I kept the first secret
I kept the first secret
There’s never a limit to how much we change
And I thought we’d finished
I thought I was to blame
Check out a video from the visual artist Ayo Tsalithaba below:
Keep an eye on the Emma Frank website for news of more releases.
Operators – Faithless
Montreal-based project Operators sees Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs), Devojka and Sam Brown (Divine Fits, New Bomb Turks) combine their talents to form an urgently electronic sound. The project feels like the sonic progression of Handsome Furs, synths and beats weaving a pressing sound somewhere between Cold War and sci-fi, Boeckner’s familiar vocal style only adding to the insistent motion.
Ahead of new record Radiant Dawn, Operators have released the single ‘Faithless’. With its rigid beat and cold synths, the song opens as a kind of brutalist pop song, though eventually takes on a variety of other elements so as to form an almost transcendental crescendo.
Radiant Dawn is out on the 17th May via Last Gang Records.
Bad Books – Lake House
Bad Books is a collaborative project between Kevin Devine and Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra. Their first album in seven years, III will be released this summer on Loma Vista Records, and sees Devine and Hull alternate writing duties. The first single, ‘Lake House’ is Hull’s creation, leaning closer to his Right Away, Great Captain! sound than Manchester Orchestra, his distinctive brand of morose hope feeling as striking as ever. “‘Lake House’ is quite a personal song to me, Hull explains. “We tried to place it in a sonic environment that felt three dimensional. Instead of just hearing the song left and right, we wanted to have the sounds feel forward, backwards, above and below.”
III will be released digitally on the 14th June, and physically on the 21st June via Loma Vista Recordings.
Robert Stillman – Reality
Hailing from the northeast United States but now based in the UK, Robert Stillman composes experimental music that incorporates features of classical, jazz, minimalism, electronic and folk, pairing the futuristic digital sounds with a more traditional American style. His latest record, Reality, intends to, as Stillman puts it, “draw attention to, and unconditionally praise, the directly experienced world,” something achieved through an intense attention to detail that conjures a sense of intricacy and wonder. With an intuitive, spontaneous style, the album possess an organic, living spirit, each track its own ecosystem within which the various elements interact and converse.
Rose Hotel – Running Behind
Marking a change from the lo-fi intimacy of debut EP, Always A Good Reason, the forthcoming Rose Hotel (AKA Jordan Reynolds) album embraces a full-band sound. But the record promises to retain the earnest tone that made the debut so special. As such, while I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes displays a variety of influences, from shoegaze to retro girl group, Reynold’s burning spirit acts as the through line. ‘Running Behind’ attests, the track’s upbeat country rock distorted in a kind of Neutral Milk Hotel manner, Reynold’s vocals soaring and swooping within the clamour.
Check out the video directed by Reynolds and filmed/edited by Casey Doran:
I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes is out on the 31st May and you can pre-order it now.
Yammerer – Poisonous Reptilian Colleague’s & Co
One of Liverpool’s best kept secrets, Yammerer eschew promotion and social media presence in favour of old fashioned hype, developing a psych-tinged brand of post-punk that’s only as odd as the world from which is emerged. Take new single ‘Poisonous Reptilian Colleague’s & Co’, which combines the dark prophecies of Nick Cave with The Fall’s caustic charm and creates a sonic beast of many heads—each snarling and sneering and prone to howls of execration.
Anna Wiebe – Fortune
New Behaviour, the 2016 debut record of Guelph songwriter Anna Wiebe, might have utilised relatively simple folk arrangements, but rich harmonies and Wiebe’s offbeat style transformed them into nuanced and genre-challenging songs. Her follow-up record All I Do Is Move, said to be concerned with “cycles, and the mental growth and movement that comes with life’s lessons,” promises to see an embrace of more complex arrangements. Though it is Wiebe’s idiosyncratic eye that will again prove to be its biggest strength. Lead single ‘Fortune’ gives us a glimpse at the evolution, the creeping, snaking vibe grown vivid by a full band, Wiebe’s vocals combining with the instrumentation to form a near-hypnotic rhythm.
Merin – Coral Island
Describing themselves as a “melancholy power pop quartet,” Winnipeg-based band Merin combine the bummed-out vibes of slacker rock with a more hopeful spirit, leading to a sound that’s at once grounded and bright. The title track of their latest EP, Coral Island, is perhaps the perfect example. “As I get older and fatter,” sings lead Cole Neusteaeder in the opening line, “I try my best not to just get sadder,” imagining an escape to a tropical island as though warmer climes might stave off the concerns. Only this is the twenty-first century—the coral reefs are dying and the pacific islands are being reclaimed by the sea. At least at the end of the world, we no longer have to worry about growing old and fat.
Check out the literal garage rock video below:
Coral Island is out now and you can get it from the Merin Bandcamp page.
Wild Yawp – Femme Girl
New York’s Wild Yawp is perhaps best described by their own name—WILD (adj): uncontrolled or unrestrained, especially in pursuit of pleasure, YAWP (n): a raucous noise; a cry; a shout. With Emily Bielagus on vocals/guitar, reba hasko drumming and sid solomon providing bass/backup vocals, the band create a boisterous, in-your-face sound that is equal parts fun and aggressive. New single ‘Femme Girl’ being a case in point, taking on the arrogance of Straight White Males with all the energy of a runaway train—combining the caustic wit of The Coathangers with the breakneck snarl of Priests to transform an uncomfortable situation into an affirming one.
Eamon McGrath – GUTS
Eamon McGrath’s prolific career has encompassed a wide range of styles and genres, though his music has always been united by a heartfelt spirit and DIY attitude. Latest single ‘GUTS’ sees an introspective turn, tackling addiction and its accompanying emotions of guilt and sadness with an affirming openness and vulnerability. The tone therefore veers between self-deprecation and a strange kindness, working to acknowledge the frustration of dependence and the poison that brings, while trying to carve out an opening to relieve the pressure in order to start the slow healing process.
The song comes complete with a video by Sheila Roberts and Ryan Brough, with art and performance direction from Michael Bright. Check it out below:
‘GUTS’ is out now and you can get it from the Eamon McGrath Bandcamp page.