“Loved Out” – Albert Shalmers

Melodic flair w/ old-school production

“Loved Out” – Albert Shalmers

“Not a social media guy” by his own admission, Albert Shalmers is committed to the music in an old-school kind of way. He writes, plays all the (actual) instruments, records and mixes himself, and at the same time steers away from what he deems “modern production tricks,” which can make songs sound “boring and flat” and in any case don’t help you as a musician, he says. I don’t at all disagree, while adding that there could be a chicken-or-egg thing going on here in that the people who lean too heavily on “production tricks” may be doing so because the songs they are capable of writing and performing are uninteresting and uninspiring to begin with.

I, meanwhile, completely appreciate another old-school method Shalmers employs, which is reaching out with a personal email and then backing it up with a song that speaks for itself, minus any long-winded narrative about why he wrote it and the many layers of deep personal significance it has. Everybody has a story; not everybody has a good song.

“Loved Out” is indeed a nifty piece of work, marrying melodic flair to a lyrical deftness that strikes my ear as particularly refreshing: the song delivers its lines in absorbable nuggets, allowing the ear either to tune in to catch the developing story (there is one) or to take in passing phrases that feel meaningful on their own. In either case, the words are powered by three separate, equally strong melodies–in the verse, the chorus, and (talk about old school), a genuine bridge (starting at 2:06) with its own melodic hook.

I could quibble with one or two production moments here–probably the inevitable result of being a bit too much on your own?–but on the other hand I really appreciate some of his choices, such as the wall of backing vocals that suddenly reinforces the hook at 1:17. The fact that the song works on two levels–Shalmers notes that it’s actually about his love-hate relationship with the 21st-century music business–is a bonus. I’m glad that he had the wherewithal to transform his “loved out” feeling into something this worthy and appealing.

After spending some number of years as a session musician in Toronto, Shalmers has recently begun writing and recording his own music. “Loved Out” is his third single to date. He hopes to have an album out by year’s end. MP3 courtesy of the artist.

“Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father” – Rose Brokenshire

Lovely, sensitive cover

“Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father” – Rose Brokenshire

Surely one of the richest and most delightful categories of music ranging back over the past 50 years is the category of Randy Newman deep tracks. Toronto-based singer/songwriter Rose Brokenshire has dipped into that well to come up with a terrific cover of a poignant song from Newman’s Little Criminals album. That 1977 LP went gold, due to the presence of the widely-misinterpreted hit “Short People,” but the real highlights were some of the subtler pieces, including “Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father,” which succeeded on the strength of its minimalism: sketch-like lyrics hinting at a deep back story, and a gentle melody buoyed by Newman’s exquisite facility with string arrangements.

Brokenshire offers a cover that is faithful yet differently shaded. In place of strings she opts for a wobbly synthesizer and a chorus of wordless voices; it works much more effectively than it might sound from that description, replacing Newman’s lush textures with a vibe that enhances the narrator’s understated sense of loss and displacement. And while there was always something plaintive about hearing the froggy-throated Newman singing as the young girl, Brokenshire’s closely-mic’d voice, tinged with a whispery sorrow, works its own tender magic. If it’s a bit of a loss that Brokenshire’s string substitutes steer clear of one or two of Newman’s beautifully off-kilter chords, it may actually be for the best, as such sounds may require the stringed delivery that this version forgoes.

“Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father” was released as a single by Brokenshire last month. You can check out her work on Bandcamp; go ahead and buy something if you like what you hear. Brokenshire, by the way, is another musician who found her way to Fingertips via a personal email; the MP3 is, again, courtesy of the artist.

Don’t act surprised

Eclectic Playlist Series 9.02 – Feb. 2022

There’s that story about St. Francis, hoeing beans in his garden, being asked something to the effect of “If you knew this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?” And his answer: something to the effect of “I would finish hoeing my garden.” I’m not Catholic and it’s apparently told in a variety of ways; I hope I haven’t butchered it too badly. But I think that’s the gist, and I find myself reminded of it a lot lately, in the context both of my own aging and the struggles of this fragile planet and its benighted denizens. I don’t see the St. Francis allegory as an argument for passivity or inaction, I see it as a testament to the simple fact that being present with what one is doing is both our greatest challenge and potentially our greatest gift.

While the moral of the story might appear to presume that one is engaged in a relatively humane pursuit, or at least doing no harm, it might be seen to apply to the gamut of human activity. So even, say, if you are a sociopathic leader, hell bent on invading a neighboring country, compelled by little but narcissistic fantasy, the idea might be that becoming truly present to one’s life and actions might expose the broken psyche underlying such insecure displays of malevolent power and make you think twice. It’s a theory anyway. For the rest of us, I see it as a way to animate whatever it is that you are choosing to do, or are required to do, in your day-to-day life, however haunted or not you might be by the knowledge of how short a time each of us gets here in the scheme of things. I like in particular the introverted resolve supporting St. Francis’s simple declaration. He’s not trying to impress anyone. He’s not expecting anyone even to notice. He’s hoeing his row.

And now, this month’s row (musical commentary below the widget):

“Talk to Me” – Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes (Hearts of Stone, 1978)
“The Down Low” – Nelly McKay (Pretty Little Head, 2006)
“Weight” – Mikal Cronin (MCII, 2013)
“Airwaves” – Thomas Dolby (The Golden Age of Wireless, 1984)
“February” – Dar Williams (Mortal City, 1996)
“Wind” – Circus Maximus (Circus Maximus, 1967)
“Sun is Always in my Eyes” – Kindsight (single; album forthcoming, 2022)
“Roscoe” – Midlake (The Trials of Van Occupanther, 2006)
“Out in the Cold” – Carole King (Tapestry outtake, 1971)
“New Normal” – Caroline Polachek (Pang, 2019)
“Balloon Man” – Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians (Globe of Frogs, 1988)
“How Can I Forget” – Marvin Gaye (That’s the Way Love Is, 1970)
“I Predict a Riot” – Kaiser Chiefs (Employment, 2005)
“Cybele’s Reverie” – Stereolab (Emperor Tomato Kethcup, 1996)
“Seasons Come, Seasons Go” – Bobbie Gentry (Touch ‘Em With Love1969)
“If I Could Breathe Underwater” – Marissa Nadler (The Path of the Clouds, 2021)
“7 Seconds” – Youssou N’Dour feat. Neneh Cherry (single, 1994)
“Running on the Spot” – The Jam (The Gift, 1982)
“Whole World Knows” – Adia Victoria (A Southern Gothic, 2021)
“There is No Other Way” – Pacific Overtures (Original Broadway Cast, 1976)

Random notes:

* I finally remembered to put Dar Williams’ stunning “February” in a February playlist. As you may have noticed I don’t normally do a lot of time-of-year related songs but it’s a brilliant and poignant song that really doesn’t work in another month’s mix so I’m glad it at long last occurred to me at the right time. She’s got a lovely and distinctive singing voice that occasionally, to great effect, merges with her speaking voice, as you’ll hear here when she arrives at the word “March.”

* Emblematic of their late ’60s origin, the semi-psychedelic, semi-jazzy, semi-folky American band Circus Maximus might populate a lost footnote in the history of rock’n’roll by now but for two things. First, they happened to be Jerry Jeff Walker’s first band (he was identified merely as Jerry Walker on their eponymous debut; doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?); second, the song presented here, “Wind,” was a minor hit, gaining a significant amount of play at the time on the wide-ranging progressive FM radio stations that were sprouting all over the country at that point. They’re probably pretty much of a lost footnote here in 2022 anyway, but now you know.

* According to reliable sources, including The New Yorker, the Los Angeles-based musician Caroline Polachek, late of the band Chairlift, achieves her vocal effects through natural methodology–which is to say some tricks she accomplishes with her voice versus employment of Auto-Tune. Listen to “New Normal” and it seems hard to believe, but the more I spend time with 2019’s Pang, the more I’m taken with her artistry and creativity, independent of what she’s doing or not doing with her voice.

* “Out in the Cold” was recorded by Carole King during the Tapestry but was left off the final album. On the one hand, I think you can kind of hear why–there’s something a little off about it, or, at least, a little out of sync with the songs that were included on her seminal album. On the other hand, it’s Carole King! it’s the Tapestry sessions!; so it’s pretty great to hear. According to the internet, this song was actually lost and/or forgotten about until Tapestry was being remastered in 1999, and was released to the public for the first time with that remastered release. It only made its way to a digital release last year.

* Nearly 16 years have passed and, Midlake’s “Roscoe” remains as lyrically elusive as ever, and as welcome-sounding.

* Meanwhile, Marissa Nadler’s reverb-drenched indie noir seems to get deeper and richer with each release. “If I Could Breathe Underwater” is from 2021’s The Path of Clouds, which is roughly her fourteenth album–it’s a bit hard to track because she’s had a number of informal releases over the years, in addition to albums released via record companies. All of her recent work is consistent and compelling.

* Speaking as I was earlier of someone’s last day on Earth, the world lost a musical giant at the tail end of 2021 in the person of Stephen Sondheim. In his honor I close this month out with one of his most beautiful compositions, albeit it one of his lesser-known songs from one of his less-often-performed masterpieces, Pacific Overtures. Note that one character in the song is a woman and one is a man even as both parts, as a nod to traditional Japanese theater, are sung by men. The effect is somehow all the more touching.

“Sunday” – Sea Lemon

Sprightly air, melancholy center

“Sunday” – Sea Lemon

Shall we pretend, at least for the length of time it takes to read a couple of paragraphs, that we are here for the music, for the way it makes us feel, the alchemy involved in the interaction of melody and chords and arrangements of sound with our own individual physical and metaphysical presence? We are here, in other words, for the inner experience of listening versus the outer experience of posturing, marketing, keeping up with what’s “trending” and who’s “rising” and all of that technology-induced bullshit. Oh I know the social-media hustling is (sadly) its own real thing that plenty of people are caught up in, some quite happily, but that doesn’t make it reasonable or humane or (more to the point) remotely music-oriented. Just stream the song, and download if you’d like to. You don’t have to share it, you don’t have to tell anyone else what you’re doing. Just have your own experience; enjoy the internal adventure instigated by a wonderful song.

And “Sunday” is indeed a wonderful song, its sprightly, Cure-ish air belying a melancholy center. One of the song’s signature musical moves is how consistently the lyrics enter past the first beat of the measure. There must be a music-theory name for this but in any case the ongoing effect is both engaging–your ear is unconsciously anticipating a melody once the measure starts without it–and subtly bittersweet, for the same reason. It happens throughout the song but most prominently in the chorus (first heard at 0:42), where the initial hook is the bouncy guitar line, its six careful notes filling up two measures and then the first beat of the third before the lyrics rush in. I’ll point your ear as well to the satisfying way the nearly one-note vocal melody feels like the ideal response to the guitar’s prelude.

Sea Lemon is the musical alias of Seattle singer/songwriter Natalie Lew. “Sunday” is her debut single, self-released; an EP is expected some time later this year. MP3 via KEXP.

photo credit: Raphael Gaultier

“Greenhill” – Naomi Keyte

Understated acoustic gem

“Greenhill” – Naomi Keyte

Unlike many listeners with an affinity for acoustic-oriented singer/songwriters, I do not embrace this style of music indiscriminately. In fact, as much as I can appreciate musicians with acoustic guitars up front, I am more often than not unmoved by performers of this type, who seem frequently to allow the intrinsic sonority of their instrument to stand in for musical value. Which I guess is a kind way of saying “using pleasant sounds to cover up mediocre songwriting.” By that measure, however, when I do come across a musician presenting in this setting with a strong sense of self and craft I am overjoyed. Someone’s still got it.

The Australian singer/songwriter Naomi Keyte, from Adelaide, definitely has it. “Greenhill” is an understated gem, which first and foremost requires the direct attention of the listener. You’ll have to bring it on your own; Keyte has too much integrity and composure to pander or preen like so many of the TikTok-addled musicians who clutter my inbox. Keyte, rather, sings lyrics resonant with domestic details in a near hush, relying on propulsive finger-picking to add momentum to a song replete with what presents as a sort of still-life-in-motion. She herself has described “Greenhill” as “a love song to a house and its inhabitants,” written specifically about life during lockdown. The melody’s downward pattern feels as introspective as the lyrics, lower notes sometimes all but swallowed out of earshot.

The chorus is a particular thing of beauty, from the lovely subtle upturn Keyte’s voice takes at the end of the word “road” (e.g., 0:54) to the elegant way she eliminates the stopping point between the second and third lines, which grabs the ear on the one hand but also mirrors the words she’s singing about the air rushing in through the windows. The second time we hear the chorus (1:59) the arrangement opens up to include drums, piano, and double-tracked vocals, which settles the song into a deep new place. Listen too, at this point, for the male voice blended deftly into the background, via Ben Talbot-Dunn, who also produced the song.

“Greenhill” is a single released in October; Keyte recently dropped a new single, “Gilian”; both songs are slated to appear on a forthcoming LP, and both are available via Bandcamp. The new album will be her second; her first, Melaleuca, was released in 2017, and can also be found on Bandcamp.

“Smile” – Whoop

Charming, charged indie rock

“Smile” – Whoop

Right away the intro hints at this song’s crooked charm: what kind of guitar tone is that, and is it even in tune or on the beat? We don’t have long to ponder these inscrutable questions, as the song is overtaken, at 0:08, by the distinctive presence of Fal, the band’s one-named leader. With a voice that sounds at once like a whisper and a shout, she massages words and syllables into enjoyable new shapes, lyrical lines running into and over each other, enthusiasm bleeding into urgency and back again. The song is worth a listen for Fal alone.

At the same time let’s not give the fellows here short shrift. Playing together only since the fall of 2020, the band seems quickly to have fused into one of those units that can sound like they’re flying apart precisely as they’re pulling tightly together. A tell-tale sign of Whoop’s sharp musicianship is the space they leave for themselves in the mix—often here we get not much more than drum and bass; and when the guitar shows up it’s more to blurt and wobble into the texture than to steal the spotlight. Even the solo (1:58) is a woozy affair, half off the beat, grabbing only 15 seconds of your time, but not before nailing a brief vivid lick, heretofore unheard, into the onrushing tumble of Fal’s narration.

Whoop is based in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Smile” is a track from the band’s exclamatory, self-titled album, Whoop!, which was released in November. You can check out the whole thing, and buy it, via Bandcamp.

Tell me I’m not alone

Eclectic Playlist Series 9.01 – January 2022

January always strikes me as the most elusive of months; it takes the entire 31 days to grow used to it and then, poof, it’s gone. Yes the weather is brutal and the general news is desperate, as usual, but I try to hold onto January, without ever the hope of succeeding. By the way, semantic sleight of hand aside, Yoda was wrong. There not only is “try” but that’s about all we’re ever really doing when we “do.”

I digress. I meant merely to offer the usual January boilerplate here about how the Eclectic Playlist Series works—how my self-imposed rule decrees that no artist appears in more than one playlist in any given year (at least not on purpose; I’ve done it by mistake at least once), and how in January everything is reset and all artists are up for grabs again. The EPS is now in its ninth year, and doing a quick survey of the past mixes I can report that only one artist has so far placed a song in a playlist in all previous eight years, and that artist is David Bowie. I’m surprised that none of my other favorites have managed the same feat, not Radiohead (seven), not Kirsty MacColl (seven), not Elvis Costello (six), not Kate Bush (seven). It’s kind of encouraging, to me, that I haven’t had to lean too heavily on my stalwarts, that the diversity upon which these playlists are founded has kept the mixes truly mixed. The other ongoing dictate here is a conscious spread through the decades, with each mix offering at least two and usually three (sometimes four) songs from each decade of the rock’n’roll past—typically starting with the ’60s but sometimes going further back. It’s been fun these past two years to begin to incorporate yet another decade into the canon as we now start the third year of the 2020s.

I do these for myself—my master Spotify list incorporating nearly every song featured to date has become my in-house radio station when I can’t decide on something specific to listen to—but I am really happy to offer them as well to whatever small number of like-minded music fans who find their way to this off-the-beaten-track, non-commercial, anti-algorithmic musical oasis. I’m okay on my own but a little bit of company is nice too.

“Sorry About That” – Michael Guthrie Band (Direct Hits, 1981)
“Can’t Hide It” – Curtis Harding (If Words Were Flowers, 2021)
“Like a Woman Can” – Kim Taylor (Love’s a Dog, 2013)
“Who Gets Your Love” – Dusty Springfield (Cameo, 1973)
“Come to Me” – Björk (Debut, 1993)
“What I’m Trying To Say” – Stars (Set Yourself on Fire, 2005)
“Space Age Love Song” – A Flock of Seagulls (A Flock of Seagulls, 1982)
“When Will I Be Loved” – The Everly Brothers (single, 1960)
“The Calculation” – Regina Spektor (Far, 2009)
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” – Prince (Prince, 1979)
“Girl of My Dreams” – Charles Mingus (Mingus Ah Um, 1959)
“Dishonor the Stars” – Elvis Costello & The Imposters (Look Now, 2018)
“Guinnevere” – Crosby, Stills & Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969)
“Paprika” – Japanese Breakfast (Jubilee, 2021)
“Somebody to Shove” – Soul Asylum (Grave Dancers Union, 1992)
“Remember Me” – British Sea Power (The Decline of British Sea Power, 2001)
“The Name of the Game” – ABBA (ABBA: The Album, 1977)
“Dear Prudence” – Siouxsie and the Banshees (Hyæna, 1983)
“It’s Cold Outside” – The Choir (single, 1967)
“Tomorrow” – Waxahatchee (El Deafo original soundtrack, 2022)

Random notes:

* There were all sorts of regional and semi-regional bands in the US and the UK churning out some pretty sweet power pop during the new wave years and the Michael Guthrie Band, a trio from Virginia, was one of them. Their debut album, Direct Hits, isn’t streaming anywhere (a mint copy of the LP is selling on Discogs for $99.99), and their much-delayed follow-up, 1994’s Right Honourable Friend, has disappeared entirely. “Sorry About That” was the lead track on the debut album and works as the lead track here as well. The band appears to have had a bit of a 21st-century re-emergence; a 2011 song called “Now We’ve Started” is on Spotify, and their Facebook page is active, with 1,000+ followers.

* Speaking of melody (power pop being the most melody-forward genre in the rock universe), Elvis Costello is on hand to deliver a couple of melodies so strong and appealing I almost can’t believe my ears. And maybe neither can he, since he breaks “Dishonor the Stars” into disparate sections, as if the main melodies, like food that’s both amazing and a bit too rich, can only be taken in limited portions. Initially this frustrated me but I’ve learned to embrace the entirety of this short but intricate composition. It’s not clear what is verse and what if anything is chorus, and it’s not clear what he is singing about specifically. But, when he allows you to hear them: those melodies! Note that Elvis & the gang have another new album just out; this one comes from their briefly-paid-attention-to-but-since-forgotten 2018 album, Look Now.

* Might as well not waste time getting a 2022 release into the EPS, and also might as well not waste time getting Fingertips favorite Waxahatchee back into a mix here as well. Katie Crutchfield has been in quite the groove these past few years and can do no wrong as far as I can hear. This song comes from the just-released soundtrack, an EP, to the new Apple+ TV series El Deafo.

* If you are familiar only with Linda Ronstadt’s top-10 version of “When Will I Be Loved,” from 1974, I think you’re in for a treat when you hear the Everly Brothers’ 1960 original. Ronstadt did a fine job, don’t get me wrong, but she sped up and regularized a song that, in the Everlys’ hands, was full of nuanced, behind-the-beat singing and subtle hesitations. The song is both immediately recognizable and, compared to the ’70s cover, marvelously transformed.

* Curtis Harding is a singer/songwriter who was born in Michigan and raised in Atlanta. He’s been recording since 2014 but I only managed to come across him recently. I’m eager now to catch up on his work, which walks a wonderful line between the retro and the contemporary, with psychedelic undertones (or overtones; and hm what’s actually the difference?). “Can’t Hide It” is a song from his third album, 2021’s If Words Were Flowers. Harding cites an impressive variety of influences, from Mahalia Jackson and MC Lyte to Bob Dylan and (them again!) the Everly Brothers.

* Bonus note for the Elvis Costello curious: I just posted a playlist on Spotify featuring the best of his 21st-century releases. Despite his ongoing output and prodigious capacity for growth and variety, Elvis seems culturally stuck in the past, with his early output being the only music people seem able to remember and refer to. And yet to my ears the breadth and ongoing quality of what he’s been up to for decades now renders his later work even more notable than the early stuff. I offer up 20 songs in support of this idiosyncratic argument.

Free and legal MP3: Carrie Biell

Bittersweet & irresistible

“California Baby” – Carrie Biell

With dusky charm and old-school vibes, “California Baby” is a bittersweet, irresistible head-bobber. Sometimes it’s just not complicated: a crisp, unassuming acoustic strum acquires percussion at 0:06, vocals two seconds later, and we’re off; this, friends, is how you handle an introduction if you have a modest ego and would rather not waste time. The moment Biell opens her mouth, the song coalesces around her warm, slightly-raspy tone, reminiscent of Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) minus maybe a smidgen of edginess. The instrumentation, anchored by good-timey piano vamps, rocks and rolls with nostalgic panache, underscoring lyrics hinting at the isolation imposed by the pandemic and/or the poignancy of the unrecapturable past. You choose. An electric guitar twangs in for a quick solo halfway through but does not overstay its welcome. Nothing about this sad-breezy gem overstays its welcome, making it all the more welcome.

Based in Seattle, Carrie Biell released four LPs between 2001 and 2007, did a bunch of touring, and took time off in the 2010s to concentrate on being a mother to her newborn son. In 2016 she formed the band Moon Palace with her twin sister Cat. The band still exists, but the lockdown of 2020 and 2021 gave Biell both the time and the inspiration to write and record enough songs on her own to give rise to a new solo album. “California Baby” is a track from that forthcoming record, entitled We Get Along, which is scheduled for release in February.

Free and legal MP3: La Loye

Starts quiet & goes places

“About Imagining Things” – La Loye

At once introspective and expansive, “About Imagining Things” is never as quiet and unassuming as it may seem. Turn your radar on and from the outset you’ll sense a song pushing at its constraints, beginning with that itchy-echoey synth loop that starts us up and serves as the rhythm section for the first 1:50. While this and an acoustic guitar comprise the only accompaniment heard for a good long while, that scratchy background sound, increasingly mechanical in demeanor, hints at spaces and ideas that outstrip the “singer/songwriter with a guitar” trope.

The melodies—subtle but sturdy—are also a hint. While the verse might sound like an ordinary chatter-style lyric—I said this thing to that person and now it’s a song–La Loye elevates matters by crafting a melody with grace to it, an eight-bar line with some soft but gratifying resolution. And it sets up the gentle chorus (0:49), a repetition of the line “I can’t figure this out/I can’t figure this without you,” which finds some artful descending intervals to land on as a cello floats into earshot. The first clear sign that we may be heading in unforeseen directions is how the cello ends up droning itself to the front of the mix as the verse starts up again (1:11). At 1:50 we glide into a spacious new landscape, percussion soon kicking in with a half-time stutter, guitar and maybe a mandolin creating with the drumming an oceanic momentum underneath a bridge-like extension to the earlier melodies. We are in pretty much a different song now, driving forward as the guitar gets heavier, a synthesizer sweeping some arpeggios into existence before things de-clutter towards the end and we are left only with that throbbing mechanical rhythm that started us going three and a half minutes earlier. And a lovely, adventurous, rewarding three and a half minutes it was.

La Loye—for the record, she appears to prefer to stylize this in lower case: la loye—is the 24-year-old Dutch singer/songwriter Lieke Heusinkveld. “About Imagining Things” is a song off her debut EP, To Live Underwater, which was released at the beginning of the month.

Free and legal MP3: Erin Rae

Dreamy, seductive pandemic ballad

“Candy + Curry” – Erin Rae

A heartwarming example of the good stuff that can emerge from bad circumstances, the woozy, unhurried “Candy + Curry” was written in the Tennessee countryside by Nashville-based Erin Rae in the midst of 2020’s disconcerting and long-lasting lockdown. The song grabs and holds attention to an unusual degree for such a languidly paced piece of music. This seems to relate to textural touches employed—including a persistent high-hat “drone,” boosted by a bicycle-bell-like chime—that convey a feeling of being carried along on a gentle breeze on a blue-sky day, or maybe just turning slow circles in a fragrant meadow, watching puffy white clouds float by. For 50 seconds or so the bass is the most prominent instrument heard, the other vague sounds providing a bare, white-noise-y background. A cello is the first to make its presence known (around 0:50); and, just when you’ve settled into the dreamy pace, a siren sounds at 1:27. No doubt a synthesizer of some sort but it starts as a genuine-sounding siren, only to perform a bit of a magic trick by transforming what is typically an alarming sound into something friendly and encouraging.

The smart, poignant lyrics, full of resonant short-cuts, reflect both the uncertainty of pandemic life as well as some of its hidden if quirky charms–or, at least, the potential charms available to those lucky enough to have shelter and good health in the midst of the widespread disaster (which, thankfully, was/is still most of us). Rae’s clear, somewhat quizzical tone serves both the words and music fabulously. I urge you to listen to this one a few times; it gets better and better as you grow familiar with it.

“Candy + Curry” is the lead track from Rae’s forthcoming album, Lighten Up, scheduled for a February release. She has two previous full-length albums to her credit, dating back to 2015. You can check her out on Bandcamp, where you can listen to two more pre-release songs from the very enjoyable Lighten Up.