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Indie Roundup | Ten New Songs To Start Your Week Off Right

Sample some new tracks from Chai, Ian Sweet, Luther Russell and plenty more.

Ian Sweet raise a holy racket, Jackie Greene takes five, Luther Russell goes deep, Almost Honest show they’re no Vikings and more in today’s Roundup. I can’t tell anymore whether my cat is kneading my stomach for attention or because she’s probing my internal organs for weakness.

1 Multi-coloured blobs of flying doughnut batter. Clouds of green and yellow tennis balls. Swarms of swirling metallic and checkerboard gloves — all left-handed. Wormholes of Jackson Pollock paint spatter. And a zero-gravity ballet of takeout coffee cups and acoustic guitars. It could be the coolest screen-saver ever. But it’s actually the video for Holographic Jesus, the sugary noise-pop confection from Ian Sweet’s most recent album Crush Crusher. If it were any more enjoyable, some smug-faced bedwetting politician would likely want to criminalize it. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Directed by Marty Tzonev (whose recent credits include tour visuals for Julianna Barwick), the video centers around things that Jilian does using her wrist, featuring an array of colorful objects in perpetual motion, all inspired by the lyric in the song “The sun on my wrist, on my wrist, it’s never felt like this.” Praise:

2 Life is a carnival. Believe it or not. Jackie Greene apparently does. For better or worse. The sleepy-eyed Nashville singer-songwriter’s video for the tenderly romantic ballad Fragile and Wanting is set to shots of a young family at a midway — which is sweet and all, but doesn’t really fit the song. Even weirder: The rest of the clip features five versions of Greene playing all the different parts of the song (which he did on the album) a la Paul McCartney’s Coming Up. Believe that or not, too. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Like most romantics, I’ve always been a sucker for a sappy ballad. Especially the kind you listen to privately, on headphones. This is that type of song. Meant to be enjoyed alone. On headphones. But, if you end up blasting it in your car while you cruise around on the weekend, that’s cool too. You might get some funny looks, though.” That I believe:

3 If you don’t know Luther Russell, it’s high time you were properly introduced. After all, the L.A. singer-songwriter has been at this game for a couple of decades now. He’s been in bands with Jakob Dylan and Big Star’s Jody Stephens. He’s led his own band The Freewheelers, produced a slew of other artists, and released several solo albums — the latest of which arrives Feb. 22 and is called Medium Cool. That is almost guaranteed to be a lie: Based on the scrappy Alex Chiltonesque single Deep Feelings, the disc should most assuredly be completely and totally cool. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “With these songs, I thought I could maybe capture the essence of growing up in the San Fernando Valley during the heyday of rock ’n’ roll radio,” explains Russell. Tune in:

4 Some folks say perfection is a moving target. Others say it’s truth. I’d say a decent song is just as elusive. But Toronto indie-folk quartet Wild Rivers — formerly known as Devan and Khalid — comes as close to the bulls-eye as anyone with their tender and yearning new single, quite appropriately titled Moving Target. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE:Moving Target is the message you leave for the person back home. It’s about what we do to protect ourselves when relationships get difficult, and the realization that cutting yourself off can do more harm than good.” Their aim is true:

5 You learn something new every day. Today, for instance, I learned what “groovy sexy Viking funk doom rock” is. Or at least I learned what Pennsylvania power trio Almost Honest (how’s that for an ironic band name?) think it is, based on listening to the single Keystone from their upcoming album Seiches and Sirens. Turns out it’s basically boogie-rock with a heavy Clutch influence. Go figure. Something else I learned: Groovy sexy Vikings wear cargo shorts, jeans and T-shirts in their promo photos. Thanks for dressing up, Torvald. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE:Keystone was written in the harsh weather of a PA winter. The winter where it hurts to go outside because it’s so cold. That weather and just seeing its effect on local day-to-day life really took hold on us. We tried to capture what makes it so brutal and put it into a song. Normally our songs are all fun and games but once you experience cold like this, then you’ll understand.” Apparently Vikings also white about winter:

6 We could all use more honesty in our lives. And our music. Singer-songwriter L.A. Foster — a former Edmontonian who has more recently divided her time between Montreal and Buenos Aires, according to her Bandcamp page — certainly isn’t short of sincerity on her lush, meditative trip-hop gem Honestly. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE:Honestly, just as the name of the song suggests, is about the raw truth. Having lived in many places far from where I was born has left me vulnerable, exposed, and at the mercy of others. In that experience, there has been a lot of darkness and of course much light. Honestly is an ode to healing ourselves, loving ourselves, and fighting for our purest honest self and trying to maintain that through the harsh obstacles that we face in our lives.” Hear her truth:

7 Making music — especially pop music — is like batting. You have to get up and take a swing. Most of the time you don’t connect. Sometimes you totally strike out. But every now and then, you hit one out of the park. Toronto singer-songwriter Andrew Austin has been in the game for a while now — he’s written jingles, played with Andy Kim and worked on TV shows in addition to making his own music. I don’t know if his vibrantly bouncy electro-pop single Make My Head Go — from his Feb. 15 album Starts and Fits — be a grand slam. But it could easily be a pop hit. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Andrew revelled in the ability to write from an adult perspective again, and overall Starts And Fits is the sexiest collection he’s offered thus far. Moreover, as the process unfolded and Andrew felt like he was finding a new voice, he had to keep some of his best ideas for himself while continuing to co-write with other artists.” There’s no I in team:

8 There are as many ways to be lonely as there are lonely people. Still, you’d think by this time most of the permutations and possibilities had been covered by the countless songwriters who have broached the subject. You’d be wrong. Toronto singer-songwriter Darcy Windover has put a new and personal twist on the familiar theme with his stirring heartland-folk cut How To Be Lonely, the first single from his upcoming album Cope. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “That song was written a few weeks after my mother was moved into a nursing home in Toronto,” Windover explains. “Having spent most of her life in Sarnia, and in spite of being closer to her sons, she said, ‘Well, I guess this is how to be lonely.’ That phrase stuck with me and the song wrote itself in about five minutes. The intention was to capture the feeling of someone who is feeling overwhelmed, mentally fragile and alone.” Listen now, then call your mother:

9 Who’s up for seconds on Chai? No, I’m not offering you another serving of a delightful beverage. I’m offering you another taste of kitschy-cool Japanese foursome Chai. Late last year they popped up in this column with with their happy-fun-time-go-go video for the Devo-style single Great Job! And it was. Now they’re back with the typically eccentric but undeniably groovy followup single Fashionista, reminiscent of Tom Tom Club and Rapture-era Blondie. It comes from their upcoming album Punk. Which probably won’t be. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE:Fashionista is a rebellious demand for self-acceptance in the face of society’s pressures: Even if you don’t dress or do your makeup like how society expects you too, you’re still a Fashionista by expressing yourself how you want to. You decide what you want to wear, how you want to look, what you don’t want to wear, and that is what makes you a Fashionista!” Drink up:

10 Who says you can’t have it both ways? Donovan Woods seems to be pulling it off. The Sarnia-born singer-songwriter’s 2018 album Both Ways lived up its title, garnering both critical acclaim and radio play. Now he’s back with another double-barrelled single: Go To Her, an urgently powerful heartbreaker that balances fingerpicked guitars and shivery strings with an unforgettable refrain. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The song wrestles with anxiety arising in the aftermath of a devastating relationship development. Originally recorded at the same time as Both Ways, but cut from the final tracklist, Go To Her is a fitting complement to an album that’s a study in contrasts.” Do not pass Go:

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