In Notes from Left of the Dial this week, I take a look at some songs from Daphne Lee Martin, Days of Elisa, Postcards From Jeff and Rosie June. What have you been listening to this week?
Daphne Lee Martin, “I’d Take a Bullet for You”
Connecticut singer-songwriter Daphne Lee Martin knows that without a steadily beating heart a song is just an empty vessel for empty emotion. But over the course of a handful of records, she has given life to the music that inhabits those albums. Her voice is clear, her words distinct and her music culled from a wide assortment of influences-which makes them feel timeless but also curiously prescient in their examination of current musical trends. There will always be something wonderfully restorative about a simple song told in supreme confidence, and Martin has that inherent conviction running throughout her history.
She’s gearing up for the release of her fourth record, “Fall on Your Sword,” Oct. 2 via Martin’s own Telegraph Recording Co. And in advance of that album, she’s shared the single “I’d Take a Bullet for You,” and it’s an addicting combination of jazzy riffs, brassy horn arrangements and a voice that rings out clearly in the middle of everything. Martin has found an ebullient pop aesthetic that fits her musical tendencies perfectly. This song places a series of spoken word narratives among the music and uses them as a bridge to tell a very specific story. Still, Martin isn’t revealing everything-she’s merely tempting us with the promise of more stories to come.
Days of Elisa, “Under Control“
Stockholm-based psych pop outfit Days of Elisa creates music that’s almost painfully intimate and drawn from experiences that most people would keep hidden away from the light. With all the songs written by Lars Åhlund (who basically is Days of Elisa), the music approaches a kind of darkly cathartic release more closely associated with goth than the moody pop aesthetic that Åhlund cultivates. But he does find some sense of closure through a combination of emotional exorcism and musical liberation. With the release of his debut record, “As Opposed to Going Down,” coming in September, he’s set to expose his listeners to even more expressions of his unleashed rhythmic emotionality.
On recent single “Under Control,” he wraps swells of orchestral strings around his hesitant voice, but there is strength here as well-which makes sense, as his upcoming album was written after a particularly senseless and brutal encounter that left him battered emotionally and physically. You can hear that anguish in the thudding percussion and cosmic guitar sounds that circle around him as the song progresses. “Under Control” may be his comment on taking control of his own life or possibly the futility of thinking we have any sort of control-but either way, it’s a wonderfully affecting and imaginative look into the heart of a man who’s seen the dark underbelly of humanity and come out changed in every way.
Postcards From Jeff, “Modern Language“
The music of Manchester, England, producer Joss Worthington (AKA Postcards From Jeff) is a hazy and half-lit expression of his work within a handful of genres. He sees the inherent possibilities in combining these textures and sounds, and subsequently crafts songs that work through this genre obfuscation in ways that reveal the pure rhythmic inspiration that comes from completely submerging yourself in your influences for extended periods of time. And from this time sorting through the music that set him on his current course, Worthington discovers that inspiration and influence can coexist in the same place and same song at the same time.
On Oct. 23, he will release his debut LP, “Modern Language,” and has shared the title track to get us up to speed on what we can expect. And what we can expect is a mixture of pop, country and folk with bits of electronica thrown in for good measure. The title track is buoyed by Worthington’s nimble voice and some familiar but well-arranged moments of musical realization. You can hear bits from bands such as The National and Guided By Voices circling within the song, but he brings creativity and originality to these particular sounds, which feels refreshing and lacking in all aspects of rote imitation. This is music that latches on to your brain and refuses to let go-not that you’re likely to mind.
Rosie June, “Good News“
Some artists deal in tangible expressions of emotion and experience, while others tread closer to some ethereal, near-nostalgic sense of the past. For U.K. native and current Vancouver, British Columbia, resident Rosie June, the trip into that hazier landscape is what drives her to record and produce music that exemplifies this sort of dreamy synthetic pop aesthetic-a place where melodies seem to dissolve right in front of your eyes and unexpectedly reappear somewhere further down the road. There is always the chance that an artist can dive too deeply and become lost in the fog of their own musical exploration, but June manages to keep her musical identity separate and comes out sounding like she’s seen far too much and is still trying to make sense of it. And we’re allowed to witness the whole thing.
On her forthcoming “Post Listening EP” (which comes out Sept. 25), she finds the warm and comforting heart in the middle of all this dream pop haze. On her latest single, “Good News,” her voice cuts through the music with a loping pop bounce, casting aside everything that gets in its way. The music rolls by, accompanied by washes of synths and filtered guitar effects, giving the impression that we’re simply temporary visitors here. The song absorbs you, giving you little time to think of a way to escape. But once you’re fully immersed in this landscape of gauzy memory and opaque emotion, you really don’t want to leave-you just want to continue traveling with June until she’s ready to lead us out.
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.