In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from Pauline Andrès, Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, Felsen and Shining Mirrors. What have you been listening to lately?
Pauline Andrès, “Loneliest Girl in Nashville”
Pauline Andrès has traveled all over the world in search of a place that feels like home. She’s lived in Paris, London and Berlin—although she now casts her shadow in Nashville. Over the course of a few releases, she’s worked through an impressive array of genres and reckless emotions, but she always comes back to the honest and earnest threads of country and Americana. Recently, she found herself wandering the gray areas between indie rock and country music, building a comfortable relationship with both and taking what she needs to mold her own specific musical perspective. You can observe that wandering outlook in the songs of her new album, “Fearless Heart,” due out Feb. 2.
On her recent single, “Loneliest Girl in Nashville,” Andrès evokes the isolation and fear that come from having to awkwardly insert yourself into a host of new geographic situations, with an emphasis on her recent move to Nashville. By embracing the rustic rhythms of old-school country and the subdued roar of modern Americana, she comes away with both an awareness and reverence for the connections that bind them together. Her voice, all smoky tones and pulsing heartache, delivers an affecting glimpse into what it means to be a transplant in a new city. She isn’t looking for any kind of sentimental sympathy, just the slight shadows of truth that hide within the smallest details of our lives.
Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, “Hero”
The Southern stomp and clatter that Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine create is rooted in two geographies: the sunny grounds of Florida and the humid earth of Nashville. The Florida influence comes from Johnson’s childhood years, while the Nashville portion is because the band currently calls Music City home. Building a crunchy, psychedelic surge of guitar work that’s awash in reverb-soaked vocals, he constructs a sound that explores the sinning, traveling and redemption that have all found their way into his life. After spending time in prison and then a mental institution, Eagle found that music could offer a sense of peace that nothing else could tear down.
On his latest single, “Hero,” which is taken from his forthcoming record, “Tennessee Beach” (due out Dec. 22), he crafts an honest ode to fellow musician Kimbra, a person who has inspired him to push further into his own head space. The track opens with the sound of a train whistle and an organ ripped straight from The Band, but he never allows the track to succumb to its inspirations, opting instead to infuse its blustery rhythms with a unique melodic haze. Wandering through a field of fuzzy guitars and country-rock aspirations, he carefully pieces together spectacular moments that highlight just how comfortable he really is when exploring the deeper emotional places these sounds have to offer.
Felsen, “Vultures on Your Bones”
The forgotten art of sequencing isn’t lost when it comes to the music of Oakland, California, band Felsen. Their latest album, “Blood Orange Moon” (due out Jan. 26 via Mystery Lawn Music), was inspired by lead singer Andrew Griffin’s struggles with cancer, and he created it to be heard as a whole. Peppered throughout the record are moments that stand out for their visceral emotionality. And the songs have been arranged in such a way as to elicit a profound bond between the music and the experiences conveyed within. Filled with lush arrangements, bursts of melodic fluidity and multiple sonic personalities, the record is a brash statement on the experiential nature of pop and rock music.
On their new single, “Vultures on Your Bones,” the band fashions a balance between acoustic and electric guitars, analog synths and a simple but affecting drumbeat that seems to resonate throughout the foundations in your skull. Alternating between a quieter, more introspective gait and a slightly forceful momentum, the track pulls its sounds back and forth through the experiences that Griffin seems comfortable sharing. Recalling the heartland rock of Tom Petty one moment and the subdued pop-rock tendencies of Matthew Sweet the next, the song rockets along toward an inevitable and satisfying conclusion. It’s raucous, volatile and everything fans have come to expect from the band.
Shining Mirrors, “Cardiac”
For Brooklyn-based trio Shining Mirrors, it all began with an implosion. Or, rather, it all began when frontman Drew Robinson’s previous band, Four Fifty One, fell apart after achieving a fair bit of success. Throughout his tenure with that group, however, the name “Shining Mirrors” never really left his thoughts, and in 2012, he brought it into the light of day. With influences ranging from Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix (and go ahead and toss in some Big Star while you’re at it), Robinson and the band sought to build a powerhouse garage pop sound that feels dense and mercurial, the kind of noise that would inspire thoughts of the Ramones and Cheap Trick.
For the video to recent single “Cardiac,” the band wanted “to capture a ‘day in the life’ kind of feel to introduce people to the band and make the viewer feel they’re there with us.” Shot on streets, during practice and at various other locations, it manages to highlight their DIY ethics while still leaving room for all the infectious melodies and jammy guitar lines they can cram into it. Telling the story of “seeing a girl in a subway car, falling in love and watching her go her separate way up the stairs, and never seeing her again,” the song reveals a determined ache and yearning, balanced against the persistent pop instincts that fill the song with such an essential emotional urgency.
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.