NewMusicMondays – 2 November 2020

Picking up the threads from last week’s #NewMusicMonday choices, first up this week (and not only because they were gracious enough to like my tweet for last week’s post featuring Rozi Plain – that would be terribly, shamelessly venal of me) is Lost Map‘s Firestations, whose ‘Automatic Tendencies’ EP is out ‘on or around’ this coming Friday. From it, here’s ‘Small Island’:

There is apparently a video associated with this from Jack Alexandroff, an award-winning animator, featuring ‘striking time-lapse footage of clay statues melting, islands dissolving into seas of milk and watercress growing from clenched fists,’ which not only sounds absolutely fascinating but an apt description of the small island life of the title (though surely ‘watercress’ is the townie version, rather akin to ‘creamed avocado’ in the Hartlepool chip shop – they must mean chondrus crispus). Regardless, Lost Map seem to be hanging on to this piece of artistic wonder for the time being, so you’ll have to make do with staring at a fixed image while Firestations’ music, pastoral yet gently insistent driven by melancholy guitar counterposed against cheery synths, and soaked in harmonies, washes over you. Dreamy yet with a surprisingly upbeat chord on which to close, ‘Small Island’ conjures up the impression that a ‘familiar future’ may not after all be something to fear.

In yet another Lost Map marketing masterpiece, ‘Automatic Tendencies’ is in line for no less than three releases over the next six months, each one accompanied by alternative versions, covers and remixes as well as a collection of artworks curated by Firestations member and visual artist, Laura Copsey. The first set – of an extremely limited release – is already sold out, but you can pick up a copy, or bide your time for a future release including artwork, at Firestations’ bandcamp.

‘Small Island’ had two plays on Marc Riley’s show this week, the second accompanied by the comment about how good it was when bands just tip up from nowhere as the finished article. Firestations have been around for a couple of years but this was otherwise typically apt from Mr. Riley: Firestations have an accomplished vibe which makes them seem like they’ve always been making hits.

Also of a wistful orientation, the second track this week is ‘to Perth, before the border closes’, by Australian artist Julia Jacklin. Having lived in St John’s Toun myself, I’m naturally attracted to anything with ‘Perth’ in the title and the notion of getting there before the border closes thus makes a connection for me. Written earlier this year while Julia was striving to get back home before Australia’s Covid-19 quarantine lockdown shut her out (and closed down her tour promoting her album), the video includes a succession of scenes of smalltown, sleepy rural life with a recurrent motif of eyes watching you amidst important ‘stay safe’ messages, both old and new:

With its refrain of ‘everything changes/is changing’, ‘to Perth…’ well encapsulates the mood of 2020 – of life being oddly on hold, as if in a dream; while Julia’s gentle minor key strumming and vulnerable vocal echoes a timeless 60s folky country rock vibe whose specific origin just eludes you; before, that is, the drums step in (and later step up) to remind us that this is not a dream, but real, with the present time (and the future) carrying an urgent unseen danger. Isolation presents specific challenges but the positive side of the double meaning implicit in the song’s closing lyric (‘I’ve got a feeling I won’t do it alone / It’s just a feeling though’) highlights that everything does change and, if we’re all isolated, that the collective nature and spirit embodied in us all doing that, to keep each other safe, may yet help to bring us together.

Released on October 12, you can pick up ‘to Perth…’ alongside ‘CRY’, it’s double A partner and which has also attracted a bit of radio play, at Julia’s bandcamp for the princely sum of a couple of dollars.

Hauntingly, in a closing scene to the video, a carved clay rabbit wields an accordion by a stone marker, silently observing…