In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with new music from Megan Bonnell, Sofia Hardig, Wolkoff and Lionlimb. What have you been listening to this week?
Megan Bonnell, "Can't Have You"
The music of Canadian singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell is marked by a remarkable warmth and welcoming spirit. That's not to say that she doesn't touch on some dark thematic material, but it's all presented in a way that lessens the sting a bit. She's still managing some weighty emotional scars and bruises, and balances those realities with something a bit more fantastical and inclusive. Her songs have the oddly tender and occasionally jarring feel of exposed nerves and emotions, a kind of handwritten letter to all the successful and doomed loves in her life. Her past experiences provide even more material for her upcoming sophomore record, "Magnolia," due out April 15 via MapleMusic Recordings.
On her new single, "Can't Have You," Bonnell reveals the desire to let love go after finding herself on the other side of a failed relationship. The song is poignant and realistic, though she's not necessarily bitter about the whole experience. The ending is just as gradual as the beginning—there are no sudden movements, just a slow crawl toward a dramatic realization. Her voice is equally warm and redemptive, exactly what you'd expect from someone who sees love and its subsequent difficulties as something to be anticipated and not held at a distance. The shuffling beat gorgeously cocoons her brisk melody and gives it just the right amount of cushioning. It's a breathtaking bit of emotional awareness that so few people ever manage to attain.
Sofia Hardig, "Sitting Still"
Swedish musician Sofia Hardig is no stranger to collaboration, having worked with artists like The Hellacopters, Bob Hund, Kim Gordon and many others. Her music is strident and infused with a natural punk attitude and riotous rhythmic sensibility. Her voice casts a bewildering spell as the music crashes down around you. Luxuriating in post-punk's roiling waters, she treads out further than many of her astringent peers and finds an entirely new noise out there in the deep. For her forthcoming two-EP collection, "The Street Light Leads to the Sea," she brought on musicians specifically versed in improvisational work and just let them loose on each track.
With new single "Sitting Still," she displays a feral vocal viciousness, not unlike early PJ Harvey, drenching it in distortion and a thudding beat that tears at the walls of your brain. But underneath the noise is a melody that just won't leave your head—her ability to pair the ragged sounds of her music with an unforgettable melodic precision is exactly what keeps her two steps ahead of anybody else who happens to be treading these waters. Guitars strike out quickly and recede, but not before doing significant damage. The song is abjectly ferocious and is barely contained by Hardig's impressive force of will. You'll be covered in sweat and grime by the time the song ends, and you'll absolutely be anxious to do it all again immediately.
Wolkoff, "The Homecoming"
Brooklyn-based electro pop alchemist Wolkoff makes music with ties to the new wave synthetics of the '80s but also maintains a more modern production aesthetic. Over the past few years, Joanie Wolkoff has been in a state of rhythmic flux—first making music as Her Habits and then under her last name. But through these transformations, her love of melody and skewed reality has driven her to explore those emotional shades that most artists tend to veer away from. On her new record, "Without Shame," she dives headfirst into the decisions we make because of and in spite of the shame that creeps into our lives. No crevice is left in the dark, and we're given a renewed appreciation for how the smallest experiences can affect us in unanticipated ways.
On "The Homecoming," she flashes a synth pop smile before pulling everything apart and reconstructing the song from its bare elements. The song moves quickly, building a steady momentum before firing sparks directly into your eyes. Your vision lights up with the possibilities that she explores. It's a perfect example of the transformative experiences that have left her with an appreciation for the things that are out of the ordinary and require some effort to achieve. "The Homecoming" didn't just happen—Wolkoff deliberately pulls these sounds from some dark corner of her mind and blows them directly into our faces like iridescent dust.
Lionlimb, "Just Because"
Nashville outfit Lionlimb mixes their influences in a whir of psych flourishes and singer-songwriter earnestness. The resulting introspection feels slightly skewed, as if we're hearing the music from an odd angle. There's a melodic joviality that obscures a deep emotional heft, with piano, organ and various other instrumentation vying for attention in the resulting mélange. The music isn't wisp-ish or threadbare—it feels packed with enough ideas to fill an entire album. And that's exactly what the band has done with their upcoming debut record, "Shoo." Composed of Stewart Bronaugh and Joshua Jaeger, who are part of Angel Olsen's backing band, Lionlimb makes the kind of music that drifts through your subconscious in the early hours of the morning, equal parts dream and intense memory.
On their latest single, "Just Because," they infuse this mix of noise, melody and emotion with some classic folk inclinations. The guitars are just fuzzy enough to invoke the psych qualifiers, but the track also features a wonderfully warbling Wurlitzer and a bouncy piano line that leaves the music hanging in your ears for days. The band builds a considerable head of steam from these separate parts and then masterfully brings them together in a rush of genres and rhythms. Lionlimb isn't looking to be constrained by labels and is building songs that play to their strengths. "Just Because" shows that they have the ability to transcend categorization and allow their music to simply be heard.
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.