Soda Blonde – Small Talk: a journey of self-discovery, wrapped in 80s vibes

Photo: Ste Murray

Genre: Alt-Pop

Many know the feeling of a great and unexpected road trip at dusk. The time when the sky is slowly emerging into darkness, making sure to ascend into beautiful shades of dirty pink or purple beforehand. The air turns colder, time feels slower and the music gets louder inside the car. If you mix this all with only a little bit of longing, the outcome will be Small Talk, the debut album of the Dublin-based Soda Blonde which came out earlier this year, in July.

“Down that avenue
Through the lane that we go through
I can tell by the way that you lean
That you’re fine on your own now”

Faye O’Rourke, the lead singer of the band described the tracks on this record as somewhat a feeling of lingering around. In her words, the album is “about life in our 20’s. Every part of us is in here, both subliminally and literally. Lyrically, this record is like a collection of my flaws and insecurities. They’re lingering awkwardly by the bar at a crowded social gathering, waiting to integrate with the wider world” – she described it for Nialler9 back in March, before the release of Small Talk and I have to say, her words are in perfect alignment with the outcome. The way the lyrics, the sounding, and even the colors on the cover picture are able to radiate the feeling of nostalgia, but at the same time give us a clear message about a change waiting just around the corner is exceptional, and as a young woman in her 20s myself, I understand perfectly how she tried to capture all the bottled up emotions of someone who is ready to begin his or her life but is also deeply terrified of it, not to mention the highs and lows of making new connections and letting go of the ones which no longer serve us and help us become the best version of ourselves. Somewhat it is a journey of self-discovery too; scraping bits of ourselves and shaping them into one big feeling through the power of music.

“Afraid of everybody’s success I confess
Everyone’s dangerous to my ideas of myself
I was lookin’ for a feeling, validate me, shape me, hеal me with love
But from my family and friends and еven you my darling’s not enough”

Faye’s voice and the melodic composition take us back into the 80s in some ways, making it sound like that time where everything seemed simpler, yet it was also a time of transitioning into something different than what people were used to before. I’m not sure if the composition was precisely thought out like this, but it was definitely a good choice for the album to give such vibes (I mean… who wouldn’t want to have a random road trip at night in the middle of the 80s, right?). Nothing captures the feeling of standing in the hallway better, than waiting to be let inside as our society gets modernized day by day throughout the 80s. Small Talk is exactly this waiting time, the borderline between old and new, and the nerve-wracking overthinking of letting go and moving on. If we ever get another album, maybe we will finally be able to step into the challenges of adulthood and the hardships of growing up, but until then, let’s enjoy the bittersweet youth that Soda Blonde served us on a silver platter.

Listen to ‘Small Talk’ here

  

Follow Soda Blonde on social media:

Composition
5/5
Production
4.5/5
Lyrics
5/5
Performance
5/5
Album cover
4/5

Pom Poko Live at the Mash House – Review

The Mash House in Edinburgh is a small venue, its performance space being a straight edged, low ceilinged, oblong black box about the size of a double garage room. There’s nothing superfluous about the space, nothing to hide behind, and to that end Pom Poko set the stage alive.
With a beaming, broad smile and arms cast wide to a packed room, Ragnhild Fangel enveloped the crowd. As Pom Poko’s lead singer, she never once faltered in her performance while she joyously moved from careening punk-rock chants to angelic melodies, sung at the tip of her register. She has a salt-of-the-earth presence about her which is hard not to like, and watching her hands dance; wrists twisting, fingers twirling as she sung, any air of pretence that might have been perceived, simply melted away. Wholesome is the adjective that came to mind when she first spoke to the crowd and said “We are here to play you a… concert”, her non-idiomatic phrase served only to make the Norwegian musicians come across as ever more likeable to the English speaking listeners in attendance.
Across the drums, bass, and guitar, you got the sense that these were well trained musicians. They carried off crunchy, sharp, jangling riffs, set to odd jazz time signatures, calling to mind the Japanese band Zekkei Kujira. Thinking of another Japanese influence, it became more plausible that Pom Poko could be a reference to the 1994 Studio Ghibli movie by the same title, which featured adorable Tanuki’s, often described as raccoon dogs, set out to save their land from environmental disaster. Pom Poko (the band) play with a similar zeal where on one hand they embody a carefree, joyous, and wholesome spirit, while on the other they push interesting song structures and play with an effervescent life of a young band who are hungry for more. And its wonderful.
For most of the crowd who were thrashing away in the little black box room, Pom Poko was a convincing reminder of the ecstasy of live music.

From Slowthai to Carson Coma – What is it like to attend a festival in the middle of a pandemic?

As a devoted fan of concerts, festivals, and music in general, I, like many others, were devastated when the whole World went under lockdown last year. That meant that not only we couldn’t leave the house without a mask and had to minimize social interactions, but we had to say goodbye to all our beloved summer festivals too. Personally, it was especially hard to let go of Electric Castle, one of the most popular festivals held in Romania, because it would’ve been the perfect graduation gift to attend the concert of an amazing line-up after finishing my university studies, thus including Twenty One Pilots, Machine Gun Kelly, The Neighbourhood, Alec Benjamin or Foals. The waves of the pandemic covered everything in the blink of an eye and washed away all my hopes and dreams for the best festival experience I could’ve ever had. 

Thankfully, this year the organizers came up with the idea of Electric Castle Special, which was similar to the original festival, only shaped in such ways to align with the criteria of holding concerts in the middle of a pandemic, which meant that those who were vaccinated or did a PCR test before entering the festival, could fully enjoy live music this August. One part of the festival was held in Bontida, the other took place in Cluj and included multiple locations with various stages. I had the sheer luck of my workplace collaborating with the festival, and this is how I got in, free of charge (of course, with the Vaccination Certificate and the intention to work), and was able to attend two concerts I was looking forward to the most – Slowthai and Carson Coma.

Slowthai is a British rapper from Northampton, and I have to admit, I only discovered his existence maybe a month before the festival started, thanks to an ad on which you could hear Doorman, a song he made in collaboration with Mura Masa. His music is a combination of hip-hop, punk-rap, and grime, some containing his views on political issues regarding Great Britain, which lead to a little bit of controversy around his name. I went specifically for this one song (worth it, I still remember how an old man was dancing next to me and just vibing to his music, probably having zero clue about what the lyrics meant), but I ended up staying for the whole concert because he was not only a genius on the stage but also very inspirational in all he was saying. To be frank, he made his way into my heart pretty fast and I just loved how open and outspoken he was. I would definitely recommend giving his music a go if one is not afraid to hear some spicy manifestations here and there.

Now you see, Carson Coma is the other end of the spectrum when it comes to my taste in music. While Slowthai could be called bold, fearless, and vulgar, Carson Coma is just a bunch of guys who give you the silly and awkward “boy next door” vibes, they are like the epitome of what a bohemian is. I became a fan of this Hungarian band a year ago when they released their album called Lesz, ami lesz (What will be, will be) which gained a lot of popularity and not by accident! They are a fresh addition to the Hungarian musical palette, mostly thanks to how they are able to combine and cover multiple genres, from alternative rock to the beat music of the 60s, and the way their lyrics work so well with what they intend to communicate into the World (a little fun fact is that they sing in English too, and even have a song in Italian). 

The connection they have with each other and with their fans is insane, not to mention how purely talented and bright these guys are. Me and my friend who loves Carson Coma just as much as I do, couldn’t skip the opportunity to attend their concert. And we are so glad that we went! I can’t say there were many people there (If somehow any of the Carson Coma members ever stumble across this article, I have a message for you guys: Please don’t let this discourage you and come back to Cluj someday to play many more amazing shows! In fact, I know people who couldn’t attend the festival, but would’ve loved to be there.), but these guys had so much energy, put their heart and soul into the whole show, and were really humble and kind to the people who gathered to see them, as they came down to chat a bit and take some photos with the fans. It was such a great experience to see and hear them live in so many ways, and I am really grateful that I could be a part of it.

To conclude all, Electric Castle Special was an amazing experience, even if I couldn’t enjoy all the concerts held. My heart is still aching for the Aurora concert I had to skip because of work, but I believe that both Slowthai and Carson Coma did a great job fulfilling the “withdrawal symptoms” that last year caused in me with the canceled festival season. My advice for you is: don’t waste your youth by not attending festivals. It could change your life and get you out of your comfort zone in the best way possible! And yes, I know, the pandemic isn’t something that should be toyed with, but as the example above states, it is possible to have fun in a carefully checked and well-organized environment, if people decide to behave like decent human beings, and follow the rules required.

I hope that next year will bring back the original festival too, and we will be able to enjoy the live music experience further!

cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air – Album Review

FOTO: THERESE VADUM

Genre: Jazz-fusion, Instrumental

‘cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air’ is Athletic Progression’s third album, released last month on Touching Bass (13th August 2021). The Danish-trio hailing from Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, reference the likes of Herbie Hancock, D’Angelo and Flying Lotus as inspirations for their distinctive sound.

The album opens to the simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar sounds of a ringtone. It resonates in a minor key with a descending cadence that acts as a precursor for the album’s subsequent earthy jazz meanderings. The 7 second prelude jump cuts to percussive bass kicks, introducing us to the distinctive drum patterns of Jonathan J. Ludvigsen in JUNGELEN. Then enters Jonas Cook’s ethereal keys and Justo Gambula’s bouncing bass licks.

There is a fury to the jazz that is interspersed with melodic narrative, keeping things hopeful and undeniably funky. The drums trip over one another in cascading rhythm reminiscent of the late Tony Allen and Afrobeat. The track OSAKA, clearly speaks to this with the footwork and uptempo bounce of the hi-hats and snare overplayed with luscious key melodies. 

The album oozes dramatics and the Officer Jimmy interlude recordings beautifully juxtapose the Danes’ sound with the new jazz that has permeated South London’s scene since the seminal work of Yussef Kamaal’s 2016 ‘Black Focus’ (which producer Eric Lau also worked on).

Cooked Ones, Pt. II  offers a sumptuous slow groove that earths the listener after the freneticism and intricate journey through DEBRA. The highlight of this album for me is definitely MOUSSAS FINEST. The soulful base groove and the high energy drums immediately had me on my feet, before it breaks down into rippling piano keys and rising bass lines. The discordant chords that end the track perfectly encapsulate the album’s title ‘cloud high in dreams but heavy in the air’.

There is a fury to the jazz that is interspersed with melodic narrative, keeping things hopeful and undeniably funky.

Although the album would be in safe hands as a jazz record this would be too simplistic a diagnosis, as there are undeniably cross-genre influences from hip-hop, afrobeat, neo-soul and broken-beat to pick a few. While I had the pleasure of first listening to the album on vinyl, it would be foolish of me not to state that this impressive album would be best appreciated live. 

If you like the following artists, then this album will be right up your street: Yussef Kamaal, Mansur Brown, Kaidi Tatham, KOKOROKO

Favourite Track: MOUSSAS FINEST.

Upcoming Athletic Progression UK tour dates: 9th – 16th November 2021

Highlight upcoming gig:

16th November 2021 – Touching Bass with Athletic Progression & Demae – The Blues Kitchen, Manchester.

https://www.seetickets.com/event/touching-bass-with-athletic-progression-demae/the-blues-kitchen/1819824

Buy full album on vinyl + digital album

https://athleticprogression.bandcamp.com/album/cloud-high-in-dreams-but-heavy-in-the-air

 

Composition
4.6/5
Production
4.4/5
Performance
4.7/5
Album Cover
4.3/5

Fine dine with Elephant Castle after living in isolation for a year

Genre: Indie rock

Elephant Castle is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Phil Danyew, former member of Foster the people. He left the band in 2020 to pursue a solo career and released the first single “Cool To Be Unhappy” to a very pleased audience. His latest song “French Food” is a reflection filled with relief due to the loosening of restrictions during lockdown and coming back to normality.

Vast rhythmic guitars over a funky drum sound topped by luscious airy vocals support his daydreaming about post-lockdown activities and fine dining. Psych-rock and pop merge in this refreshing 3 minute 8 seconds long tune and contrary to what you might think, it is not about french food…. Or at least not exactly. The past year and a half has changed the entire world, our habits, our routines, our priorities, everything. This summer, however, with the arrival of the vaccine, the road back to the old “normal” has begun, and our daydreams about finally being able to have dinner with someone other than ourselves in an actual restaurant.

I can see it when I close my eyes
Long overdue
A table for two
I’m honestly about to lose my mind
I miss the views I miss the French food… cuisine française

I have a feeling that a lot of people will relate to this song as the lyrics are far from being cryptic, the melody is catchy and the theme… well the theme can apply to the vast majority of earthlings…and the bass line is cool. I definitely miss pretending to be fancy from time to time, especially after being in my pyjamas for a year and a half.

Listen to the song here:

 

Composition
3.4/5
Production
4.5/5
Lyrics
3.7/5
Performance
3.5/5
Album cover
4.7/5

Earth Tones – Album Review

Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Ambient Pop In July, Michigan singer-songwriter Izzy Johnson released her meditative debut album Earth Tones. With any music that aspires towards contemplative meditation, it’s a fine balance between repetition and musical interest. While not always getting that balance just right, it is Izzy Johnson’s sincere performance that resulted in Earth Tones being included in NPR’s podcast All Songs Considered, as one of the Top 6 album releases on July 2nd.
Providing guidance on the album are comforting folk-inspired guitar melodies and what feel like translucent, heavenly vocals. Each song evolves at a gentle pace much like the passing of time in the still, snow-covered landscapes featured in her music videos. However, the downside of painting such an uncomplicated musical landscape is that songs begin to sound too similar. In this case, it means that the ‘Intro’, ‘Outro’ and ‘Opening’ tracks could largely be left out without anyone noticing they are absent. Its only when you distil the album down to its essence that you really discover the best of Johnson’s songwriting.
Amongst the top tracks on the album are the three singles ‘Existing’, ‘Loving’ and ‘Seeing’, which feature warm flute melodies alongside Johnson’s drifting, dream-like voice. On ‘Existing’ there is an unexpected shift to an upbeat groove that joyfully sparks interest; while it’s the smooth electric guitar and thick-like-honey reverb on ‘Loving’ that keeps you happily blissed out. These are the songs that I imagine feel right at home being played on a summer road trip. With near daily news of the planet’s dire situation, Earth Tones at its peak achieves beautiful moments of introspection to sooth the soul.
Composition
3/5
Production
4/5
Lyrics
2.5/5
Performance
3.5/5
Album Cover
3/5

Mar Malade will make you want to travel to Mexico

Genre: Indie/Pop/Folk

Woke up early this morning. Went directly to the bathroom and got into the shower, but not without starting my Discover Weekly playlist. Some decent songs were recommended to me but one particularly caught my attention. It had unusual lyrics like “spice my love/ I wanna chop you into bites” and “make a sandwich outta you/ put some ham on, make me chew”. I am a sucker for compelling lyrics so as soon as I got out of the shower I had to save and revisit the song.

The lyrics wasn’t the only thing that got me interested. “Mexico” is just the perfect feel-good song, I wanted to grab my guitar and sing along. I imagined this tune playing on a road trip and everybody in the car shouting the lyrics, I saw it being played at a bonfire.

The production sounds very simple but incredibly refreshing and unique. From the description in their Instagram bio, Mar Malade are very conscious about the fact that their music makes you want to travel:

“Music that makes you travel – even from your window to the carpet!”

Their entire brand is built around “heartwarming and handmade” postcards, the ones your grandma sends you along with home-made marmalade. And if you were thinking what I was thinking… asking yourself if they’ve wrote about marmalade before, let me tell you that they have. “Marmalade” is another single that came out this year and is part of their “Postcards” EP that includes 5 tracks.

Mar Malade is not completely unknown, they have quite a good following on Spotify and are part of really influential editorial playlists, but I still wanted to write about “Mexico” because I believe they deserve even more. Their consistent and appealing style makes me really excited about their music and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them.

Listen to “Mexico” here:

Follow Mar Malae on Instagram:

Composition
4.5/5
Production
3.6/5
Lyrics
4.5/5
Performance
4.2/5
Album cover
5/5

Reaper’s Scythe is a heavy one but it is ABSOLUTELY worth listening to

Genre: Psych-doom/Proto-metal

It isn’t October yet, but it sure can feel like it, provided that you have a cold room equipped with a speaker to chill in. Green Lung has been present since March of 2019 and they are one of the leading bands of the UK’s underground music. What they play is mostly a mixture between psychedelic rock and proto-metal, but I don’t think I can dumb their genre down to just those two.
Green Lung will come out with a full new album, Black Harvest on October 22nd, but the band made sure we have something to listen to before the summer ends.

Well, first of all, I would like to draw your attention to the band’s previously published music because this album and in it this single will be a followup to those. The wonderful artwork is also worth mentioning, take a look at Black Harvest’s design, it is brilliant. The theme is the same, their music represents the beautiful (sometimes terrifying) and rich British folklore, magic and some other pretty occult stuff. Have a listen here, this is the new single:

Reaper’s Scythe is a complex song with tons of references, I will do my best to explain all of them but I highly advise listening to it just for yourself first.

The first 26 seconds of this song are pretty chill which makes the real start much more epic. This melody comes back later at 2:37. The lyrics are starting out with something epic too,

“Reap what you sow”

a saying which means something like this: you will experience the same bad things that you did to other people. The full lyrics will send chills down your spine, they paint a picture of hopelessness and dread.

“Set the watchfires a-burning This Kindling Night For the psychopomp has taken flight”

After the refrain the song mentions a creature, the psychopomp, which is Greek for ‘the guide of souls’. This big winged, scary looking creature is a guide for newly deceased souls from the Earth to the afterlife. Pretty sinister if you ask me.

“By the corn rigs they’ll see him Send up the crows Welcome, He Who Walks Behind the Rows”

The next to appear is He Who Walks Behind The Rows. This enigmatic demon was created by Stephen King, I’m sure everyone heard about him already. He Who Walks Behind The Rows doesn’t take form as anything that could be described. He manifests himself as a couple of things, but the most important part is this: He influences the corn-fields and the people around Him. He can see and hear everything, he can control everything.

“Hooden, on a pale mare He’ll ride” “See the Pale Rider He’s sharpening his blade See the Pale Rider Now he’s calling out your name…”

Hoodening is also mentioned, this was a tradition in Kent, south-eastern England. The meaning of this tradition is argued so I’ll leave this as something for you to look up. You can decide what you interpret it as.
The pale mare and the pale rider are in my understanding a reference to the last one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. His name is Death, what a surprise. He’s commonly portrayed with a scythe.

“Now hear us as we gather round the shrine We’re singing out John Barleycorn must die”

John Barleycorn is a Scottish folk song about a man who is the personification of barley and the beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song he suffers through the stages of the harvesting of barley. Pretty dark for a folk song, isn’t it? Well it is theorised that this figure was used in the wicker man ritual in which a big wicker man was burned, sometimes with a live person in it as a tribute to the gods.

Ugh, if you read this far, I am so proud of you for this song is brilliant but heavy. It is really a treasure and a procedure to figure out all the references.

This track is a good example of how good Green Lung’s lyrics and songs are. If you are listening to them for the millionth time you will still find something you haven’t noticed before. Until the full album comes out, listen to their other creations for they are impressive as well.

Listen to Reaper’s Scythe here:

NAHreally doesn’t care what you think

Genre: Hip-Hop

Brooklyn-based rapper NAHreally makes hip-hop to kick back to. Forget trap bangers. Forget sizzling hit-hats. Forget overproduced vocals. This is music to hang out to. Bust out your Bluetooth speakers in a park, and you’ll have heads bopping along to his silky smooth beats and hyper-relatable rhymes in no time.

On his latest project, Loose Around The Edges, what stands out is his attitude. The way he shrugs his shoulders in the general direction of his haters. Or maybe they’re versions of himself that he has left behind. That seems the only explanation for lines like: 

it’s a piece of cake to hate, it takes work to love,
and therein lies the rub,
that internalized lifestyle of living in a rush,
knee jerk jerks shirk the hard work and get worse

from Curmudegeon Emerge In Me

This is a lyricist who has taken time to build not only his ability on the mic, but also his perspectives on life. The mix of self-depreciation and honesty makes for rough-and-tumble bars that empower listeners to trust themselves and not be dragged down by what other people think. To my ears, he’s always finding new ways of repeating the oldest trick in the book, namely “you do you homie.” And it works because he does:

i try to keep my mouth shut,
people do stupid shit, so what?,
i might pull up with a bowl cut,
30 minutes late, but i showed up

from Bowl Cut

Those who listen for substance in hip-hop are always on the lookout for a sense of clairvoyance from their MCs. On standout track Civic, NAHreally hits us with truth. He takes a subtle dig at cancel culture by invoking R. Kelly’s failings, and our collective reaction to celebrities who commit crimes. Should you no longer listen to the remix to Ignition? Or is the real problem that you are letting the experience of experiencing music be tainted by the actions of the creator?

yo, i don’t need to be omniscient,
to know some of you still listen,
to the remix to Ignition, admit it

from Civic

i’ve been embellishing intelligence since,
elementary. essentially i’m just good at spelling,
dwelling on the past is not compelling,
don’t send me clips of people rapping on Ellen

from Don’t Send Me Clips of People Rapping On Ellen

So I jumped on a WhatsApp video call with him to see if we could get some insight into the man behind the music. Here is what happened.

——-

To kick things off, tell us a little about yourself outside of music.

I’m from Massachusetts, and I’ve lived in New York City since 2015 (Brooklyn for most of that time). I live with my girlfriend and dog and spend most of my time finding new music to listen to or watching the Boston Celtics.

What attracted you to making hip-hop?

When I was 15 or 16, my friend put me on to a lot of 90s East Coast hip-hop—Wu-Tang, Big L, Das EFX. I couldn’t get enough and eventually we started recording some not great music (not totally awful though), but it stuck with me. I rapped on and off until I moved to New York and started going to open mics at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The idea of trying to make music had never left my mind, so I had to give performing a shot. The response was positive and I met a lot of great people, so I kept going.

Tell us about your process. How do you go about writing your songs?

I try not to overthink it. I don’t edit lyrics too much, so I try to make sure I’m happy with a line before I move on to the next one. I want to make myself laugh while I’m writing—not because it’s funny per se, but just because that’s how I know I like a line. It’s a lofty name to invoke, but I’ve always loved this DOOM quote from his 2009 New Yorker with Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“When I’m doing a Doom record, I’m arranging it, I’m finding the voices. . . . All I have to do is listen to it and think, Oh shit, that will be funny. I write down whatever would be funny, and get as many ‘whatever would’ funnies in a row and find a way to make them all fit. There’s a certain science to it. In a relatively small period of time, you want it to be, That’s funny, that’s funny, that’s funny, that’s funny. I liken it to comedy standup.”

I try to do the same with beats. Once a loop makes me want to rap, I start writing to it. Sometimes I don’t even go back to change anything once I get writing. If I wanted to rap on it, the beat must have been finished.

I read you made your own beats for this latest project. Where did you get the samples?

It’s mostly mid to late ’60s and early ’70s jazz with a little Brazilian music from the same period in there. Really standard hip hop stuff but hopefully not anything others have used already. I find samples online—no vinyl at the moment because of COVID and space/time constraints. I wouldn’t rule out a switch to vinyl though. I made the beats for LATE in Logic with an SP404 for effects, but now I’m working more with an MPC1000 for my next tape, so the process is always changing.

What does the future hold for you?

Keep going. I’ve put out a tape every year since 2016. Hopefully I can keep that pace or increase it. I don’t have a business plan or any other type of plan other than keep working. I’ll continue to rap and make beats until I don’t want to anymore.

Lastly, if you had to have three records spinning in your grave what would they be?

Bill Evans – Explorations (need some jazz in my afterlife)

Sublime – Sublime (I need some punk and some chill rock, and I think this covers both bases. I may be biased because this one just hit its 25 year anniversary though)

MF DOOM – Mm..Food? (Tough call between this, 36 Chambers, and Madvillainy, but I think I want to go with the more whimsical album)

Thanks for taking the time to chat with Undies! Hoping to hear more from you soon. 

 

Two-Minds – Album Review

Genre: R&B, Classical Minimalist, Electronica
A lilting falsetto voice breathes, falters and soothes on Two-Minds, the beautifully considered new album by Sheep, Dog & Wolf. Each song is packed with organic textures – clarinets, saxophones, flutes, and horns – alongside a balanced use of electronic effects and samples. Considering the number of instruments in the mix, you might expect a complete line-up of band members. Incredibly, the album is weaved together at the sole hands of young Aotearoa New Zealand artist, Daniel McBride. This reveals how the theme of isolation core to Two-Minds directly mirrors McBride’s music-making process, giving an immediate sense of how deeply poignant this album is. Amongst restrained wails and softly croaked melodies, McBride sings lines like “Isolation is my home” as he wrestles with themes of mental illness.
The depth of McBride’s musical storytelling is evident in Two-Minds, particularly when he weaves together music and lyrics through use of metaphor. Take the opening track, ‘Months’. If the music was an engine, it would be that of an old car left unused and in disrepair for too long. The key turns and the engine hums to life before it quickly chokes out leaving you in silence. A second attempt is somewhat hopeful. In McBride’s case, breathy wind instruments play slow chords with a tired energy. There is a sense of fighting against a heavy inertia. The ensemble comes in and out, each time trying to gather momentum. The first words he sings? “Months out of time/I feel nothing but this pain and exhaustion”. The rest of the album follows in a similar effort to overcome inertia as McBride asks of himself, or the music, or perhaps anybody listening: “Give me something/I haven’t been me in a year”.
Released in April of 2021, Two-Minds comes a year after the pandemic took hold, landing at a time when ‘not feeling like yourself’ was a symptom many of McBride’s listeners likely shared. McBride tackles the ugly multi-headed beast that is depression, anxiety, and isolation with catchy rhythms and memorable melodies. With a touch of dark humor and a quick pace from the opening track, McBride asks: “Who would I even be/Without my anxiety?”. The approach to scoring these heavy emotions is clever and can often leave you caught off guard. Take, for example, the track ‘Fine’, where words “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine…”are looped, growing from a faint background texture until it squeezes into the foreground. The realization of meaning is hard hitting as you consider the voice, echoing endlessly, is akin to the cycling nature of depression. The loop continues until the cycle finally falters and the rest of the song fades away.
On the track ‘Cyclical’, McBride sings “Stagnation/The screams come through the walls/I’m losing the day”. Despite these lyrics, the music never feels stagnant. Each song is a careful observation with McBride choosing to re-cast dark and deeply personal experiences as colorful jazz chords mixed with pop-sensibilities. The result is a highly relatable album that suggests mental illness could be more common than we think. It’s easy to assume that this was an album created during the pandemic when we were all feeling these emotions to some degree – disconnected, worn down, exhausted, and unable to get on with normal life. In reality, McBride completed this album four years earlier in 2017. This might owe to the reason why Two-Minds carries a great deal of authenticity; it draws on experiences that precede the current moment and will likely hold up for future listeners to come.
But it’s not all a foregone conclusion. In the album’s final track titled ‘Feeling’, a driving snare drum conjures an image of a beating heart while a rolling piano line gathers momentum. The music swells and with unbridled joy McBride sings: “Happiness as I find/I’m alive/and feeling”. Finally, we reach that high.
Necessary, real, and above all else, a pleasure to listen to, the pure honesty of Two-Minds is a much-needed album that captures our post-pandemic Zeitgeist.

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Composition
5/5
Production
5/5
Lyrics
5/5
Performance
5/5
Album Cover
3/5