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Can You Always Go Home? Canadian Folk Singer-Songwriter Cassidy Waring Debuts Lonesome Reunion

An album that feels like an unchaperoned walk through dark and empty streets on a holiday back home– Lonesome Reunion is Cassidy Waring’s tormented debut.

Picture: families cozied up in warm houses, with bellies full and throats sore from a healthy balance of laughter and bickering as you carry on with your solitary stroll. Canadian folk singer-songwriter, Cassidy Waring‘s Lonesome Reunion is comparable to holding a snow globe. As an omnipotent outsider, you peer into a world so perfect, it’s almost fictitious. Knowing that life imitates art somehow makes beholding this tiny treasure more isolating– to know there are little towns with little houses and little families as happy as the replica you hold in your hands and yet, still so far removed from you.

Cassidy Waring photographed by Emile Benjamin

Everything you lose, needs to lose you.

Waring, “Everything You Lose”

A poignant, personal display of loss of innocence, Lonesome Reunion is somewhat of a study on the complexities of family and grief. Recorded and mastered by producer Jonathon Anderson, Lonesome Reunion features deep, folk-rooted instrumentals and sweeping, catchy melodies. Waring’s debut came to fruition after she sat for hours on end watching old VHS tapes of her family. The album’s intro, “Everybody’s Good,” features audio from one of these tapes. In the intro, we hear intimate, playful banter between Waring’s grandfather– to whom she affectionately refers as “Grandug”– and then-3-year-old Waring. “The tapes have become fascinating to watch because they are such a contrast to my painful memories as a teenager,” Waring stated in an email to The Greater Good.

The tapes, to Waring, are an ode to the glory of innocence and blissful ignorance only possessed in early childhood. “Part of me is comforted by them, they have served as proof that I have never been wrong about the amount of love and warmth that surrounded me as a kid and that we really were as happy and healthy as everyone remembers. It’s also confusing and devastating to watch these videos knowing what will happen for us in the future,” Waring stated. “When I was seventeen my mom died and her cause of death was chronic ethanol abuse,” the artist shared with me. “She and I were still very close when she passed. The main statement from anyone in and around my family is usually ‘But they were so happy, what happened?'”

Lonesome Reunion cover photo by Emile Benjamin

On the outside, Waring’s family could have lived in that aforementioned snow globe: “We were one of those families that went on bike rides together every week and talked about our feelings at the dinner table. It’s something I am still trying to understand, what pulled both my parents into addiction when I was about twelve. Very quickly, our house became a dangerous place to be, physically and mentally. I’ve just been trying to understand both of my parents and their relationship in a deeper way, after the fact.”

Waring released a music video for the fourth track on the album in September. In it, we see the songwriter through several days of sitting in front of an old CRT TV, captivated by family pictures in motion. “Leaving” is a wistful track about managing grief, with guitars sounding similar to what you may find yourself doing after listening this song (crying). I’d wager it nearly impossible not to feel a catch in your throat as Waring sings, “If I believed in ghosts, would you haunt me just to talk?”

Led by melancholy piano keys, “Everything You Lose” is another painfully intimate look into the stages of grief. The song was written after Waring experienced a series of losses including the ending of a romantic relationship and the break-up of her last band, all while still grappling with the loss of family years later. “I lost the sympathy cards from my mother’s funeral,” Waring sings.

When asked about this line, Waring said she was with her boyfriend at the time when she lost them: “Someone broke into his car in the mall parking lot and stole everything, including my big stack of unopened sympathy cards everyone gave me– I wasn’t ready to open them yet. What are the chances! After that verse poured out, so did the rest of the song.” Waring sings, “Everything you lose, needs to lose you.” Perhaps that sentiment works in reverse and everything that finds you, needs to find you.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Interviews

Listen: “I HATE IT!” – Caroline Meade

TGG guest writer Molly MacDuff chats with Caroline Meade to discuss her latest single, “I HATE IT!”

I don’t understand loving something and not doing it

Caroline Meade

“I write my meanest songs on my best days,” singer/songwriter Caroline Meade explains to me. On one of these days, “I HATE IT!” was born. As the first single since her 2018 debut album Grow Up, the August 9th release is an exclamation of frustration and emotion. It’s a call to a new era for the NYU Clive Davis student. A true culmination of Meade’s personal style and intuition.

Beginning with an emotive intro of “There are a billion people in the world, how the fuck did I think you’re the one?” the listener gets a scope into the artist’s attitude. It sets the tone for the song, the idea that when we grow up, we think that one blimp in your life is going to be it, and it’s so obviously not. This sentiment is continued through lyrics like “I wanted it so badly, everything that I have now,” and “if I seem happy to be happy, I’m faking it.”

As to the central theme of “I HATE IT!” Meade explains, “It’s really just a song about grief. I was grieving over the idea that I was living my life as I imagined it but without that one person in it, that person that I imagined it with.”

Co-producing the song with fellow Clive musician, Alejandro Villarasa Corriero, Meade knew the production of the song needed to match the punchy lyricism. Personal style and intuition are at the forefront of her creative process. “I write all my songs in twenty minutes,” Meade casually says, joking that “Patience is the name of the game [with songwriting] but unfortunately I have none of it.” Her editing process, of course, takes more time, but the skeleton has to be done within about twenty minutes.

In terms of the production of “I HATE IT!,” Meade wrote that skeleton on guitar, noting that she only changed one or two lyrics for the final track. Her vision of the final production was clear as well: she knew she wanted the track to be acoustic-driven with a heavily distorted, grand chorus and an extremely percussive feel to match the emotion within the lyrics. The “I HATE IT!” in particular needed to sound as exclamatory and angsty as the all-caps lyric.

The Staten Island born singer/songwriter spent most of her childhood as a theatre kid, auditioning for Broadway shows and writing truly awful acapella songs. “It was so good that I had time to get out all the bad music,” she laughs. Her love and talent for songwriting came from spending time alone: “I think it’s so important to let kids be bored,” she says, as a reason for her intense creativity. “You have so much more bravery and fierce-individualism as a child; the worry and failure of whether someone likes what you’ve written isn’t there.”

Music has been a vital part of Meade’s life. She has become so attached and impacted by it that to her, it feels like the natural order of things to have her own take on it. “I don’t understand loving something and not doing it,” Meade says. “[Music} is touching me and reaching out to me on such a degree that it doesn’t feel like a choice. It’s just my path of living and appreciation for what I love.”

I think I’m most inspired by the music I haven’t written yet

For Meade, songwriting became a portal to her actual self. “You go through phases of fearlessness, being very scared, then comfortable, then scared of something new,” she says. The worry that no one will resonate with songwriting is real. “It took me a long time to actually like myself and my songs, and now I have to convince other people of that too.”

Meade describes “I HATE IT!” as a prologue to her upcoming album. She’s been in the writing process for quite a while, as some of the songs on the upcoming album are up to four years old. Where Grow Up was straight-forward indie rock, “I HATE IT!” and following singles are heavier and smarter. “This song is a good intro to grown-up Caroline music,” the artist says. “It’s a combination of deaf tones and Maggie Rogers, like really heavy rock music but with a glitch.” With plans to release several singles throughout the year before introducing her album, Meade’s goal is to have a bunch of songs that are people’s favorite songs. Meeting an artist who takes time with creation, someone who is more interested in creating re-listenable songs rather than simply churning out something meaningless, is admirable. It changes you, makes you see the art in a new light. As Meade earnestly says, “at the end of the day, I just want to be entertaining.” Meade

“I think I’m most inspired by the music I haven’t written yet,” she says. “You can’t lose your creativity, you’ll always have another idea, because you haven’t run out of ideas yet.” The excitement of feeling charged and spent in creating a song is what draws Meade to music, what makes it a vital part of her life. This is the same energy that flows through her music.

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Reviews

Listen: quinnie’s “touch tank”

I have butterflies. Wonderful lilac and periwinkle and rosy butterflies flutter in circles around my heart, waking me from my dark dreams, dragging me into the sunlight, dancing me into summer.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt love within a song. I’ve only been listening to melancholy music. Angrier guitar riffs, sad lyrics. It seems that my teenage angst has lingered into my twenties. And in the past few weeks, as I’ve felt immense uncertainty and confusion, these songs linger still. But there comes a point in the confusion and anger and frustration when I need to be lifted up. Music helps me feel and contextualize my feelings, but it also wakes me from my slumber. And that is what “touch tank” by quinnie does. It sends serotonin and smiles through my veins. 

Released as a single on July 1st of this year, quinnie brings summer into this alt-pop track with faded vocals, a warm acoustic guitar, and swimming metaphors.  

Beginning with the sound, the first verse reminisces on old-timey movie projector audio, where the sound comes out muffled and light and romantic. The chorus picks up the guitar and quinnie’s vocals more clearly, but the tone is still light and bright, making it the perfect song for the beach or the pool or any body of water really. Verse two brings in percussion and more echoing vocals, giving the aural experience of being under or near water. 

It would be very unlike me to fall in love with a song that doesn’t have beautiful, relatable lyrics. This song is no exception to that. Detailed descriptions like: “gold-skinned, eager baby, blue shirt out the laundry” in the chorus that bring the listeners attention to the object of quinnie’s desire. And again in verse two with: “to you, deep sea pearl, my soft manta ray.”  It’s these minute details that could only be noted by a poet, and a poet in love at that. 

My favorite lyric comes in the bridge as quinnie sings, “you took my breath away, so now I can’t suck in my stomach around you anymore.” To me, this is the ultimate sign of comfortability within a relationship. You suck in your stomach so no one has to see who you really are, what you may really look like, but when someone takes your breath away like that (figuratively, of course), you don’t even get the chance to overthink. You just are who you are and, miraculously, it isn’t more complicated than that. 

“Touch tank” is also a song so openly about female pleasure and the female enjoyment of said pleasure. The chorus begins with, “he’s so pretty when he goes down on me.” Another verse two includes, “two tender fingers to touch the display” (this imagery is mirrored in the music video). I think it’s rare to find a song that is just so simply about a woman enjoying herself. She’s falling in love, but it doesn’t come across as overly romantic or dramatic. It’s the simplicity of the little things quinnie notes throughout the lyrics that makes her song genuine. That make love seem genuine and not overly complicated. 

It’s just one of the prettiest and loveliest songs I’ve heard in a while. The line “We’re too old to live with our parents; Do you wanna wake up to me every morning?” is so simple, and by no means original, yet quinnie transforms that simplicity into the only thing I desire. And I cannot stop singing it; it plays on repeat in my head at all hours of sunshine. 

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Listen: “I HATE IT!” – Caroline Meade

TGG guest writer Molly MacDuff chats with Caroline Meade to discuss her latest single, “I HATE IT!” I don’t understand loving something and not doing it Caroline Meade “I write my meanest songs on my best days,” singer/songwriter Caroline Meade explains to me. On one of these days, “I HATE IT!” was born. As the […]

Listen: “For a Moment You’re Mine” – Little Monarch

It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got. I can picture a flock of monarchs fluttering around in the bright morning sun. Birds chirping in the distance. I am dreaming and white sun peers through blinds, wasting […]

Listen: Does It Make You Happy? – Rowan

We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness. Rowan, on the sequencing of Does It Make You Happy? Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that […]

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Interviews Reviews

Listen: “For a Moment You’re Mine” – Little Monarch

It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got.

I can picture a flock of monarchs fluttering around in the bright morning sun. Birds chirping in the distance. I am dreaming and white sun peers through blinds, wasting the morning away in bed with you. For a moment I’m yours.

The most recent single from Little Monarch, “For a Moment You’re Mine,” is the epitome of sun-soaked indie pop, as “listeners are taken through a fleeing moment.” In speaking with Casey Kalmenson, creator and lead singer of the project, she described this as the basis for the track. “This song is a fleeting moment in macros and micros,” Kalmenson said. “It feels fleeting sonically because there are very short bursts of tempo and energy in the song.” In micro, the song evolves in tempo and in lyricism, as the title itself is a sentiment of how momentary love and feelings can be. From the macro perspective, Kalmenson noted that, “this feels like a fleeting moment because it was a change that I took when choosing which sonic path I’d take.” It’s more of a “hybrid-acoustic” track than her previous and upcoming songs.

Kalmenson, who began her musical journey with the piano around 8 or 9 years old, explained how the varying sound of “For a Moment You’re Mine” was partly due to writing during a more isolated period. The track, which was co-produced and co-written with Daniel Pashman, “just sort of happened,” Kalmenson explained. “It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got.”

With For a Moment You’re Mine, she felt that she was able to maintain control and freedom with her creation, knowing that it’ll reach the right audience. To Kalmenson, the beauty of independent artistry lies in the fact that it’s about the artist. “It’s a different world putting out music now. You feel like maybe you’re not encouraged to put something out at the moment unless there is some specific precursor, which is not a healthy way to create.”

Kalmenson, who prides herself in dabbling in a bit of everything related to music, has acted (as she graduated with a theatre degree from USC), worked as a background singer and musician, done sync and licensing, and shared her skillset through teaching and mentoring before creating Little Monarch. The band, whose name pays homage to the abundance of monarch butterflies outside their LA studio, initially formed as a five-piece indie band for their first EP. Since then, the band has transformed with her, as it follows her journey as a writer and producer. Little Monarch has metamorphosized into a representation of Kalmenson and whomever she is working with (which is often members from the original five).

Most recently, Kalmenson joined Gracie Abrams on her North American and European tour. She noted that this experience was much different from touring your own project. “It’s fun to be in support of someone else as the whole show isn’t on your shoulders.”

For Kalmenson, curiosity is king, and music is the thing she is most curious about. She has goals of creating a group of songs that feel hopeful and positive. Though she continues to dabble in production, sync work, and will be playing more shows with Gracie Abrams, she most simply enjoys writing and composing her own music. “Music [as a whole] helps us become more innocent and hopeful. There are no biases, just listening,” Kalmenson said. “You’ll never totally figure it out. You can never master it and there’s always more to discover.”

Overall, Kalmenson feels that “For a Moment You’re Mine” reflects her personality: chill optimism. Her own genre and playlist, I find her sound to be more relevant than ever. With longing lyrics like “hope is slowly growing in the darkness of my own fears, I wish I gave you this whole year,” Kalmenson captures regret in the loveliest way. She drives through the point of these emotions with the line, “Our worlds still collide, for a moment you’re mine.” There is great beauty in accepting that some things only last a moment.

Kalmenson describes music as a magic potion, something that dictates your mood and feeling. “For a Moment You’re Mine” makes you remember the feeling of being with someone you loved. It’s waking up to coffee in bed. Walking through the park and holding hands in the sunshine. It’s equally somber and romantic, a movie scene.

Listen: quinnie’s “touch tank”

I have butterflies. Wonderful lilac and periwinkle and rosy butterflies flutter in circles around my heart, waking me from my dark dreams, dragging me into the sunlight, dancing me into summer. It’s been a while since I’ve felt love within a song. I’ve only been listening to melancholy music. Angrier guitar riffs, sad lyrics. It […]

Listen: “hate to be lame” – Lizzy McApline ft. FINNEAS

This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice. Lizzy McAlpine is the queen of the soft pop ballad. That’s a bold statement, I’m aware, but her voice has just the right amount of soul and desperation for me to feel everything she sings.  I don’t particularly know much about falling in love. I […]

Listen: “Chill Out” – Barcode Pony

Indy’s own Barcode Pony releases first single, “Chill Out” Bringing some local representation to TGG with today’s track, the first single from Indianapolis-based Barcode Pony is one for the young and the restless. Infused with infectious blues guitar and buoyed by an incredibly funky bass line, “Chill Out” reminds us to hurry up and wait. […]

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Reviews

Listen: Does It Make You Happy? – Rowan

We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness.

Rowan, on the sequencing of Does It Make You Happy?

Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that typically ensues in tandem with a potentially unhealthy relationship. Having written over 50 songs during the height of 2020’s onslaught of grief, strife and trauma, Rowan whittled that collection down to 12 tracks in the form of their debut album. Does It Make You Happy? garners inspiration from not only collective, societal agony and anger, but the band’s own personal experience with pain as lead vocalist, Dylan Howe, slogged through the aftermath of his own heartbreak.

The album’s intro track, “Apollo,” sets the project in motion with a confining, yet expansive feeling. “We had decided from day one that it was literally going to launch the album,” the band shared about the track, “with a sample from Charles Duke, the space capsule communicator on NASA’s Apollo 10 mission to orbit the moon. We recorded the vocals for this one in a car that we parked outside the studio, to get the tight space that would mirror that of being in a space capsule.” 

Courtesy of Rowan

We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.

Rowan, on writing “Irish to My Bones”

Does It Make You Happy? seamlessly fluctuates between higher energy tracks fueled by anger like “Irish to My Bones” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change” to slower tracks embedded with sorrow and regret, like “I Don’t Wanna Talk” and “Leave Now Go.” “We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness,” the band shared, “with the album starting up high, going through various emotions and then finally ending with a profound cathartic question of ‘Does It Make You Happy?’”

Consisting of only three members, Rowan is unable to realistically recreate each aspect of the song outside of recording. Enjoy watching the music video for “Nothing’s Gonna Change” where the members comically stand, hands-free, as the imaginary bassist plays.

The band, which consists of Dylan Howe, Fionn Hennessy-Hayes, and Kevin Herron, pays homage to, while also rejecting, the current state of their nationality with the lively, punk-infused track, “Irish to My Bones.” The second single from the album, which is frenzied and fuming, was “written to pierce the modern perspective of suppression and shame, brought on by generational trauma in Ireland,” the band shared in a statement. “We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.”

The inception of “I Don’t Wanna Talk” is one that highlights the catharsis of music as well as the healing powers of understanding provided by those who know us better than we may know ourselves. As a way to extend support to Howe, who “was going through a messy breakup around the same time he lost his mother,” Hennessy-Hayes stated. “Unbeknownst to him, myself and Kev made a conscious effort to write lyrics that we thought would resonate with him. My logic was that if I was going through everything he was, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone.” With one line written, the track’s title, Fionn sent it to Howe and within an hour, Howe returned with a finished song. “It’s about confronting the pain, looking it in the eye and acknowledging it,” Howe stated. “Yes, it’s tough and it’ll always be tough, but it’s important to express yourself.”

“It was like a surge of energy just shot through me and it was finished,” vocalist Dylan Howe shared of the album’s title track. The song features Canadian multi-instrumentalist, Ariel Posen, and is dripping with remorse. “It’s the song I resonate with heaviest on this album,” Howe shared, “it deals with abusive behaviors in a relationship and, in retrospect, how I should’ve demanded better for myself.”

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Listen: “hate to be lame” – Lizzy McApline ft. FINNEAS

This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice.

Lizzy McAlpine is the queen of the soft pop ballad. That’s a bold statement, I’m aware, but her voice has just the right amount of soul and desperation for me to feel everything she sings. 

I don’t particularly know much about falling in love. I mean, I do know a good amount. I read loads of novels, watch endless movies, and listen to music like McAlpine’s on a regular basis. Occasionally I experience a flurry or a flint of the magic myself. But the stories that she’s created in her songs, the blunt lyricism and the raw emotion, they get me there.

Hate to be lame” is one of these songs. Released April 5, 2022 and the 11th track off her sophomore album five seconds flat, McAlpine featured pop artist FINNEAS to help her contextualize when you know you’re in love. Love songs are about as popular as mosquitos in summer, so it’s difficult to find something as original and equally relatable as “hate to be lame.” The song not only captures what it feels like to be on the verge of saying “I love you,” but it demonstrates the anxieties that come with saying those words. It’s a love song, but it’s also a song about the fear and anxiety of what happens once those words are said. 

It’s her simple, yet relatable lyrics that draw me in, captivated by that first feeling. She begins this immediately, with the opening line, “It’s always on the tip of my tongue.” This is McAlpine’s first image for what this love feels like, how the words seem to come to her without further thought or questioning. It’s followed by, “I read an article on the internet, told me that’s how you know you’re fallin’ in love.” I love how simple and relevant this image is. It makes me remember the points in my life where I questioned it too, where I typed the words into google hoping I’d gain some sense of clarity from a Seventeen article titled something like “Five Ways You Know You’re in Love.”

When we arrive at the chorus, we feel the anxiety, bordering on embarrassment. McAlpine sings, “Hate to admit but it might be true. Hate to admit but I think you knew. Hate to be lame but I might love you.”  It’s like she’s apologizing for her feelings, trying as hard as she can not to feel that way. Not to ruin anything. Not to say something she shouldn’t. This is contrasted by the lines in FINNEAS’s verse. He sings, “If I could rewind, would there be some butterfly effect? What if we never met? What if the stars never aligned?” The butterfly effect represents the idea that FINNEAS wishes they could go back to the beginning of their relationship to stop it from starting. They’re both falling in love apprehensively, regretfully. 

I think it’s important to note the tone behind the lyrics as well. It’s obviously not happy-go-lucky. The beat drop during the bridge intensifies the song and matches the questioning in her lyrics: “Do I love him? Do I need him? Do I want him? Do I care enough to say that I love him, that I need him?” Her anxieties are apparent; her emotional spiral parallels the tempo during this moment. And it’s brought to fruition with the end of the bridge: “If I need him, maybe that will make him stay. If I lie, will I still feel this way?” The doubt becomes obvious as McAlpine questions whether saying “I love you” will soften the damage that’s already apparent within the relationship.  

What’s so beautiful about this song is that it attempts to examine what it feels like to be in love but have severe anxieties and regrets about the relationship to begin with. It’s about feeling it and wanting so badly for some sense of relief from the questioning inside an anxious mind. But, at the same time, feeling embarrassed and “lame” for wanting to say it, knowing that neither person is falling willingly. This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice. Could the words “I love you” save them or tear them apart?

Listen: “No Shame” – Five Seconds of Summer

“Our ambition as a band is to become genreless.” I’ve been caught in a cycle of self-doubt lately. The end of the semester kicked my ass, work sucks, and I’m itching to get out of the house. Summer can’t come soon enough. You know the urge you get sometimes to scream-sing in the car at […]

Listen: “Lullaby” – Grace Ives

A beautiful thing to think about is that stars on earth look like blobs, but in space, really defined structures. Grace Ives, on her upcoming album, Janky Star Brooklyn-based DIY artist, Grace Ives announced the release of her upcoming sophomore album, Janky Star in the beginning of April with “Lullaby.” The second single from the […]

Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path Sali When I listen to this song, I picture an early spring sunset, blue and pink and yellow form a tie-dye sky. I’m on the train watching the sun slide beneath the city, the world passes by quickly but […]

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Listen: “Chill Out” – Barcode Pony

Indy’s own Barcode Pony releases first single, “Chill Out”

Bringing some local representation to TGG with today’s track, the first single from Indianapolis-based Barcode Pony is one for the young and the restless. Infused with infectious blues guitar and buoyed by an incredibly funky bass line, “Chill Out” reminds us to hurry up and wait. As they say, anything worth having is worth waiting for, and this track mimics that sentiment. From working a 9-5, to bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-465, “Chill Out” reminds us to do exactly that.

Plucked from a flourishing garden of musical influence, such as funk, R&B, blues and pop, “Chill Out” precedes Barcode Pony’s second single, titled “Perception,” set to release on June 3rd. The first single is emblematic of the patience needed while attempting to maintain some semblance of autonomy in a very success-driven society. Written for anyone who may be in between plans, “Chill Out” also encourages us to clip the strings that connect us to the things that don’t serve our purpose– if it doesn’t work, fix it, and if you don’t like it, change it. “Misfit, therefore not the right match,” McDermott-Sipe sings.

Comprised of Elias McDermott-Sipe, Isaac Vining, and Rowan Stewart, the band hopes to perform at the Garfield Park Art and Music Festival in Indianapolis on June 25th.

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Listen: “Peace” – Taylor Swift

“Our coming-of-age has come and gone. Suddenly this summer, it’s clear.” One of my favorite things about music is its ability to draw you in at moments when you really need it. We truly hear and resonate with lyrics and melodies when we’re feeling a particular way. That’s how I feel when I listen to […]

Album Review: Somewhere (2021) – Sun June

Prom isn’t all rosy and perfect. The songs show you the crying in the bathroom, the fear of dancing, the joy of a kiss– all the highs and all the lows. Laura Colwell, Sun June Austin-based indie outfit, Sun June’s sophomore album, Somewhere, is described by the band as a “prom” record. Channeling the essence […]

Listen: Mid-Century Modern Romance (2021) – Dante Elephante

Although life’s one true constant is change, that change appears to approach in a recurrent pattern. What goes around comes around, and goes around again. The resurgence of disco, for example, is among us: roller skates, bell bottoms, and handlebar mustaches have been recycled, yet again, into popularity in the 2020s. A byproduct of this […]

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Listen: “No Shame” – Five Seconds of Summer

“Our ambition as a band is to become genreless.”

I’ve been caught in a cycle of self-doubt lately. The end of the semester kicked my ass, work sucks, and I’m itching to get out of the house. Summer can’t come soon enough. You know the urge you get sometimes to scream-sing in the car at the top of your lungs? That feeling has been constantly pumping through my veins, making me restless. 

I, of course, have a specific playlist for this type of feeling, as most Type A, anxiety-ridden Spotify users do. And one of the songs on it has been running through my mind: “No Shame” by 5 Seconds of Summer. Initially released February 5, 2020, “No Shame” was the third single off the band’s 2020 album CALM (named such after each band member’s first initial). The track is now over two years old, but I don’t think it got enough attention at the time. It has everything required for a proper head-banging, bedroom dancing, anxiety-curing bop: emotive vocals, a wicked bass drop, and a screamable chorus. 

As drummer Ashton Irwin discussed on an Instagram live on March 27, 2021, one year after the album’s release, the concept of the song is based on the one-dimensionality of celebrity and the evil behind attaining such status. It’s exemplified with the opening line of verse one: “Angel, with the gun in your hand, pointin’ my direction, givin’ me affection.” The irony of this line comes from the power that the general public (the angel) holds over the celebrity. They can either kill them or give them affection. 

The simile in the pre-chorus of “go on and light me like a cigarette, even if it might be something you’ll regret” gets at the notion of the effect the celebrity has on the public. It also demonstrates their dehumanization process: they willingly become pawns in order to gain a sense of immortality. This is heard in the chorus with lines like “I only light up when cameras are flashing,” which touches on the fake-it-’til-you-make-it ideal. The following line “never enough and no satisfaction,” is a reference to the Rolling Stones’s “Satisfaction.” The extreme, of course, is fully exemplified with the chorus lines: “Diggin’ my grave to get a reaction. Changin’ my face and callin’ it fashion.” You have to absolutely have no shame to be capable of these things. 

With the lyrics “I love the way you’re screaming my name” in the chorus and “I’ll give you my permission, you’ll always be forgiven” in verse two, 5SOS paints the power of the public in creating and building celebrity, while simultaneously demonstrating how they’re never held responsible. And then the darker side comes to light with the lines, “Go on replace me, when you’re cravin’ somethin’ sweeter than the words I left in your mouth. Go on and spit me out.” Irwin noted this as a particularly dark lyric because it illuminates the lifecycle of celebrity: you’ll eventually be replaced. 

Stylistically, Irwin discussed how the sound and instrumentation mimics the theme. “The opening guitar riff is very grunge, new metal, and we were definitely influenced by Nine Inch Nails,” he said, describing lead guitarist Michael Clifford’s work as “melodically haunting.” He also mentioned lead singer Luke Hemmings, noting these vocals as some of the best recordings of their career, and bass player Calum Hood’s synth playing which made the track bolder. Each member of the band’s talent helped depict the brutality of the entertainment industry. Irwin concluded the Live by stating that “our ambition as a band is to become genreless.” This song is a long way from “She Looks So Perfect” and “Don’t Stop.” The maturity as a band is apparent through their developed lyricism and ambition to jump genres. Celebrating ten years as a band, this maturity is continually seen on their most recent releases, “Complete Mess” and “Take My Hand.” 

I, however, am not a celebrity (despite how often I get interviewed by my bedroom mirror), so I cannot relate to the song in that particular way. To me, this song is a release. It’s a chance to be free of fears and sing and dance and live without judgment. And in rediscovering one of my favorite bands from my teenage years, I’m pleased to say that my YouTube homepage is once again full of 5SOS interviews. I feel like a proper 15-year-old fangirl. Which is much more fun than feeling like a burnt out, 23-year-old corporate employee. 

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Listen: “Lullaby” – Grace Ives

A beautiful thing to think about is that stars on earth look like blobs, but in space, really defined structures.

Grace Ives, on her upcoming album, Janky Star

Brooklyn-based DIY artist, Grace Ives announced the release of her upcoming sophomore album, Janky Star in the beginning of April with “Lullaby.” The second single from the forthcoming album is my favorite breed of melancholy music; cleverly disguised with upbeat instrumentals, Ives sings of an introvert’s amplified anxiety on “Lullaby.” “What a mess, what a lovely mess,” she croons on the chorus. Whether she’s describing life, the spectrum of emotion, or the room in which a potentially agoraphobic individual might find comfort while watching the same movie over and over, she’s right. It’s all a lovely mess, isn’t it?

Ives described the song as the “homebody’s anthem” in a press release for the single, saying, “This song is about the comfort and anxiety that comes with isolating yourself.” The track is Ives’s groundhog day song, as it describes her experience of “living the same day over and over again.” A fitting theme for the cultural atmosphere of the times, “Lullaby” was brought to fruition with the help of producer Justin Raisen, who has worked with other avant-garde pop artists, such as Yves Tumor.

Ives’s discography, which consists of her experimental first album, 2nd, and her 2016 EP titled Really Hot, sees the artist on an expedition of musical exploration. Artists tend to explore different sounds with the hope of expansion. For Ives, it seems less about broadening her audience and more about broadening her perspective. In an interview with The FADER, Ives shared the confusing process of using “music as therapy,” saying, “On some of my songs, I don’t even know if I’m expressing something — but I can hear myself really wanting to say something, like there’s this unsettling feeling inside me.”

Janky Star is slated to be released on June 10th via True Panther Records.

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Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path

Sali

When I listen to this song, I picture an early spring sunset, blue and pink and yellow form a tie-dye sky. I’m on the train watching the sun slide beneath the city, the world passes by quickly but the song plays at regular speed. I am young and I am managing a difficult love. The song is “Please,” the most recent release by independent, Brooklyn-based artist, Sali. 

This single, released today, April 22, follows her debut EP Charming, released March 2021. Graduating from Boston University in 2018, Sali developed her love of music and music production from her time in the BU Acapella community. This experience comes across in her music as angelic harmonies. She’s spent all her life in music, taking jazz and opera lessons as a child. 

“Please” is more alternative than the previous tracks she’s released, as Sali wanted to bring in a bit more of a surf-rock vibe and branch out from the accessibility of hip-hop and pop production that she’s used to. As the first song she’s produced by herself, the shift is inspired by “living in Brooklyn and being more social.” Reggae with the bass, hip-hop on the drums, and a slow build to the ambient chorus are all components of the track that build this unique sound. “I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path,” Sali explains. “I had this in mind with the cool outro that’s not exactly a bridge or an outro.” 

 Sali started writing this song based on some advice that her mother had given her about people who are withholding love or affection, the kind of people that want you to prove yourself to gain their attention. She explains that isn’t inherently romantic or based on a specific romance; she built it around this idea of having a relationship with a withholding person and the frustrating feeling that develops from managing it. “When you see the opposite of the withholding type of love, it’s so much more beautiful, even if you’re hurt or guarded,” Sali says.  

For Sali, producing her own songs has been a liberating learning experience. She’s no longer working solo, but incorporating talented people from her community and from internet friends she made during the pandemic. “There’s a lot of collaging in songwriting and producing,” she states. “As a black woman in music, it can feel like you’re losing control.” Sali notes that she has to always think about who she’s involving in the process to make sure they respect her wishes and artistic vision. She’s grateful that everyone she’s worked with thus far is incredible, respectful, and supportive. “Please” is mixed by Daniel Chironno, mastered by Joshua Pleeter, recorded musician on bass is Jonathan Kim, and the lyrics and production are, of course, done by Sali. Her friends teach her a lot about production, and she relies on her influences and surroundings to inspire her creatively. 

Her next EP called Other People, which includes “Please,” is set to be released this summer, with a scheduled release party to go with it. She’s just recently begun to perform her tracks live, singing and playing with a band this past Monday, April 18th at the East Berlin in NYC. Of the future, Sali laughs as she says, “Production will always be a process because I want to be really, really good.” Listening to “Please,” you can hear the simplistic yet pleading tone she presents, not only through her poetic lyricism but through her production as well. This is a track for young people in the city, created by one and the same. 

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Listen: “Peace” – Taylor Swift

“Our coming-of-age has come and gone. Suddenly this summer, it’s clear.”

One of my favorite things about music is its ability to draw you in at moments when you really need it. We truly hear and resonate with lyrics and melodies when we’re feeling a particular way. That’s how I feel when I listen to “Peace.” 

The second-to-last track on Taylor Swift’s 2020 Folklore album, these words and melodies are far from new but remain near as cherry blossoms bloom and green returns. Folklore represented a shift in Swift’s sound to a more acoustic, broken-down version of her earlier country and pop albums. “Peace” is one of those songs that leaves me feeling tingly.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes me feel the song more than I used to. Maybe it’s because I live in a city and am perpetually surrounded by people and movement. Or maybe it’s the guitar intro, gentle and forthcoming, lingering in my ears and floating to my heart. Like I’m falling in love. And then comes her voice, and I know I am:

“Our coming-of-age has come and gone. Suddenly this summer, it’s clear.”

As Swift discusses in the Long Pond Studio Sessions, “Peace” is about the fear of her own fame and how that affects the relationships that she’s had and continues to have. It is that moment of clarity and utter terror combined. How do you love someone when you’re constantly afraid that the love will never be enough to outweigh the bad?

Per usual, Swift uses metaphor and descriptive imagery to put modern poetry to shame: “But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm. / All these people think love’s for show, but I would die for you in secret.”

These descriptions are not only lyrically beautiful, but they’re pleading. They represent her actions. To know that you love someone so much that you would sacrifice publicly acknowledging that love for the safety of someone else is possibly the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. But it also shows that despite the fire she has for another, she isn’t content and at peace. There will always be a lingering fear of failure, or exposure. How can any of us ever truly give someone peace?

“I’d give you my sunshine, give you my best / But the rain is always gonna come if you’re standing with me.”

Her pleading, dreamlike voice and her lyrics are simply so honest. Swift has always been known for that, but you can see her growth in this album and in this song. It isn’t homecoming dances or being pretty enough for the boy on the football team (though there is equal importance in those tracks that marked our childhood), it’s about building a strong, honest, and communicative relationship.

I think all we can really ask for in our own lives is for someone to give us their best. It’s not sentimental. It’s not cliché. It’s honest. And honesty, to me at least, is the most beautiful thing. Because eventually it sets us free.  

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.