In Notes from Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from Jenny Gillespie, Crown Larks, Suntrodden and De Montevert. What have you been listening to this week?
Jenny Gillespie, “No Stone”
Singer-songwriter Jenny Gillespie has always known how to draw out every last bit of emotion from her words and music-it’s the natural ability of a gifted musician and storyteller, and one that she has never had any trouble expressing. But Gillespie goes even deeper, tracing theses stories of love, loss and unconventional experiences into something that’s both communal and almost voyeuristically personal. She invites us into her world and casts a light on every corner and recess. On her previous record, “Chamma,” she experimented with a spontaneous method of composing and recording her music, but there was still the core of her own thumping heart at the center of each track.
On her recent single, “No Stone” (taken from upcoming album “Cure for Dreaming”), she once again pours herself into the music and finds that balance between inclusivity and intimacy that has worked so well for her in the past. Full of fluid piano movements and her inimitable voice curling around the music, this track bounces and shifts as we are drawn into its depths. Ostensibly about the way love molds us, she investigates both the tangible and intangible aspects of this uncontrollable, unpredictable emotion. Though we’ve all known heartache and the need for companionship, Gillespie is able to wring something quite honest and affectionate from her own experiences, regardless of whether she might have wanted to keep these particular experiences hidden away.
Crown Larks, “Chapels“
Chicago psych rock band Crown Larks recently put out a record of swirling, jagged melodies and crunchy guitar riffs called “Blood Dancer.” Although it’s been some months since its release, there’s no better time than now to hear these songs if you haven’t already done so. The band combines an oddly krautrock-ish sound with muscular psychedelic flourishes-when was the last time you heard a saxophone, trumpet or clarinet used on a modern psych record? But as much as the band looks to the past for inspiration, they are also confidently striding forward to some clever rhythmic future where influence and experience mesh together in an interchangeable mass of texture and tone.
One of the standout tracks from “Blood Dancer” is “Chapels,” a whirling, psych-infused song that’ll leave your head spinning, grasping for something to steady itself against the onrush of noise and squall. The band peels back each instrument, revealing a far greater depth of understanding than is initially expected. The guitar riffs are spastic and serrated but not without a certain pop inclination, and the percussion and assorted musical accompaniment are all aimed squarely at your body, looking to rattle your chest. If you’re looking to scratch that psych itch you’ve been having, “Blood Dancer,” and “Chapels” in particular, is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Suntrodden, “Sunrise to Sunset”
Some artists use music as a way of shielding themselves from the outside world and prying eyes and ears; others use it as a means of communication, a kind of reflective conversation that would otherwise be lost to the din of everyday life. For singer-songwriter Erik Stephansson, this idea of recoiling back into music is something that goes against the very idea of why music exists. He would rather music be a two-way mirror, a sort of opening up between individuals about common problems and experiences. And this inclusive approach is evident all over his upcoming record, “Suntrodden I,” the first of three EPs that make up a complete statement about how he sees himself and his surrounding physical and emotional environment.
With “Sunrise to Sunset,” he draws back on the instrumentation, creating a haunting and affecting portrait of self-determination and the resolute intent that forms the foundation of his creative vision. With his whispered voice making loops around some skeletal acoustic guitar and a persistent though subtle rhythm pushing everything along, he creates a minimalist expression of this kind of impressionistic pop. And with his repetition of the line “gonna give you all I got,” Stephansson further cements his position as someone who’s willing to open himself completely to anyone who wants to listen. The music may revolve around a subdued momentum, but as the track unfurls, you’re left with the feeling that every note has been precisely placed to elicit the full breadth of emotions.
De Montevert, “Let’s Not Run Away Together”
Swedish songwriter Ellinor Nilsson records under the name of De Montevert, and through this guise, she creates sounds that sink carefully into your heart, leaving barely a trace-often with just the remnants of the notes left clinging to your skin. It’s all rather impermanent, but that’s what she does best. With help from producer Kalle Johansson, she recorded her upcoming self-titled debut over the course of two weeks in a small studio in northern Sweden, and you can hear the echo of that space within her songs. Everything feels whispered and personal, as if each syllable uttered and note played comes with a detailed history all its own.
For her new single, “Let’s Not Run Away Together,” Nilsson distills the essence of love and the lack thereof, and fashions a darker, more atmospheric take on why we try so hard to capture and release this particular emotion. You get the feeling that she has touched on an open nerve (possibly her own) and peels back the experiences one by one until we’re left with the most pared-down expressions of affection and disillusionment. But there’s a rollicking rhythm here that keeps the song moving along despite its emotionally subversive nature. She may not be the first person to tread these familiar melodic alleyways, but she certainly illuminates our desires and needs better than most other artists.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 10:33 a.m. on 10/30/15.