What we’re listening to: Tuesday, August 18

WWLT 8.17
Album artwork top row left to right: Laura Veirs, Syd Warwick, Xelli Island; bottom row: Sophie Jamieson, PONY, Thanya Iyer

After taking a quick hiatus from blogging, I’m back to share a new mix of music that I’ve been loving lately. I’ve been craving more variety in my music these days, so this round-up includes a blend of orchestral folk, sugar-soaked grunge, dream pop, and more.

Sophie Jamieson, “Forward”

Sophie Jamieson made her musical debut in 2013, and soon was touring with the likes of Marika Hackman and Pale Seas. But when a “disastrous” recording session triggered a breakdown, Jamieson stepped back from the music scene, finding herself caught in an intense period of loneliness and depression. Now, Jamieson is preparing for a new EP: Release, which comes out Dec. 1.

“Forward,” the first single from Release looks ahead, while still honoring the past. “My instinct for years had been to deny that a period of time had happened, to empty myself of its trace — but at this point I began to understand that I could accept it, that it is part of who I am and that I do not have to destroy the evidence of my past in order to move forward,” said Jamieson in a press release.

“Forward” is grounded by a cyclical piano loop that swirls throughout the song and a bass drum that thumps like a heartbeat underneath Jamieson’s dynamic vocals. Instead of finding resolution musically or lyrically, “Forward” calmly circles around a feeling of uncertainty, like the water that flows throughout Jamieson’s self-directed music video.

Thanya Iyer, KIND

In a time when the phrases “self love” and “self care” have been commodified into an indulgent face mask or an extra mimosa at brunch, it can be confusing to understand what the process of being kind to yourself actually looks like. KIND, the sophomore album from Thanya Iyer, shows the messier side of self love. The album blends folk, drone music, and ambient electronic sounds to create a pleasantly mushy blend of flute, bells, violins, and synthesizers.

The album and its accompanying visual component acknowledge the difficulties of accepting all parts of yourself. Song titles like “I Forget to Drink Water” and “Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, For Who I Was” are brilliantly honest and could stand on their own as little self-affirming poems. Listening to KIND feels like sinking into a dream or or stumbling upon a forgotten memory.

PONY, “WebMD”

Holed up at home with no plans and Googling symptoms that might just be all in your head? The opening lines of PONY’s latest single “WebMD” are painfully relatable for anyone struggling through month five of a global pandemic. The Toronto-based quartet pairs sugar-sweet vocals with the thick buzz of distorted guitars, creating a grungy sound reminiscent of the ’90s.

Syd Warwick, “Moon Kin”

Vancouver alt-folk artist Syd Warwick (formerly Abraham) recently debuted a new single, and a new name in early August. “Moon Kin” is a tender, but self-assured song about straying from other people’s expectations to find your own path. “I hope that  ‘Moon Kin’ can inspire listeners to embrace all parts of themselves,” Warwick said in a press release. The song begins with a subtle instrumentation puts the focus on her voice, before crescendoing into a wave of ukulele, drums, piano, and bass that carry the song to its end.

Xelli Island, “02 20 20”

“02 20 20,” the latest single from LA’s Xelli Island takes inspiration from serendipity. In a press release, singer and songwriter Lianna Vanicelli described the “millions of little things that have to work properly” in any given day, from catching the train to making it through a rough shift of serving and eventually making enough money to support herself and release music.

The message of the song is mirrored in its production; each track sets off the next like a musical Rube Goldberg machine. “02 20 20” begins with an infectious synth bass line that passes the baton to Vanicelli’s ethereal vocals and builds to a dreamy swell of electronic bells and whistles.

Laura Veirs, “Burn Too Bright”

“Burn Too Bright” is the first single from Laura Veirs’ upcoming album The Echo, her 11th solo release. The song was inspired by the passing of producer and musician Richard Swift, who Veirs says was a “close friend to many in my community” in the Pacific Northwest.

To create the music video, Veirs, along with her two sons and their babysitter, spent eight hours covering a church parking lot in Portland with chalk. The song steadily builds momentum, adding strings to the strums of acoustic guitar and the song’s lyrics dance across the screen in colorful chalk. In final shot of the video, a drone pans out to reveal their complete work, which includes the songs lyrics surrounded by vibrant illustrations.

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