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CQ Roundup, May 25

By Christopher Treacy

Photo Credit: Morgan Jones

Some weeks the music is more hard-hitting than others. Maybe it’s all about perception, but this week’s songs seem weightier to me. Which isn’t a bad thing for those of us that prefer emotional resonance over fluff. That said, too much contemplation can get us stuck in the mud. As I begin a new life in a new location, these songs are begging me to ponder authenticity: how do we know when we’ve become our authentic selves? Do we ever get there, or is it really all about the journey? Sometimes there aren’t any answers. Instead, it’s just about asking questions of ourselves and considering possibilities.


Song of the Week: Katy Guillen & The Drive – “Set in Stone”

Striking hot with a menacing electric crunch, it’s clear that Katy Guillen & the Drive means business. Guillen’s polished vocal still injects just the right amount of outlaw snarl into this humid rocker while musical partner-in-crime Stephanie Williams keeps the rhythmic propulsion on track. “The song’s vigorous structure and deliberate rhythms convey that feeling of defeat and darkness, but with a sense of resolution and surrender through the guitar solo – a favorite moment on the record for me. While it started on shaky ground, coming out on the other side meant starting over and building something new,” Guillen said of the track in the accompanying press materials, which also makes an accurate comparison to The Black Keys if fronted by Sharon Van Etten. Born from the embers of the now-defunct outfit Katy Guillen & the Girls, Guillen and Williams will release Another One Gained, their debut as Katy & the Drive, in August. “Set in Stone,” meanwhile, is our Song of the Week.

Reilly Downes – “Smoke and Mirrors”

A heavy dose of reverb and the bent notes of a pedal steel guitar establishes the nostalgic tone of the new Reilly Downes single, “Smoke and Mirrors.”  “So rest your head and unfurrow your brow in my bed, those thoughts can’t hurt ya now, let me quiet your mind the best that I know how” the Chicago-by-way-of-Texas songstress sings, offering respite to a troubled lover. Downes cut her teeth singing backup for many Americana greats, but she’s readying her full length debut, Spent, out June 9.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

The Feelings Parade – “The Tides”

Where do we go when “home isn’t safe anymore”? Gender queer duo The Feelings Parade suggest we “give in to the spinning” to achieve some stillness on “The Tides,” which opens their forthcoming full length, Let It Move You with modular synth wave sounds created by electronic legend Suzanne Ciani. In discussing the song in the accompanying materials, singer-songwriters Scott Ferreter and Morgan Bolender both said, “In some ways, the song represents the mindset we both met in. Practicing choosing the truth of the unknown over comfort and safety.” They continued, “Both verses sing, ‘your job my son…’ and ‘your job my daughter…’ are Scott singing to himself. In that way, there’s an honoring of a sort of spiritual queerness.”

Seth Witcher – “We’re All Human”

Seth Witcher’s latest applies a slightly more organic sounding production than his previous singles to a track about the humanness that unites us all. “I’m there for you as much as I can be, ’cause we’re alone and naked in the grand scheme of things,” he sings, simultaneously reminding us of the common denominators that make us feel vulnerable while also stripping away the differences that we cling to as individuals. The  fan-made video is a nice touch.

Angel Olsen – “Through the Fires”

“And the feeling I found showed me how I could love/To love without boundary and put it to use,” Olsen sings on this torchy, piano-based tune that rounds out the advance singles from her new album, Big Time, out 6/3 on Jagjaguwar. Seemingly a summation of the all that’s been revealed about the album thus far, the stillness in “Through the Fires” is very gently augmented by a brushed drum as Olsen croons about letting go of inhibitions and walking through darkness to win big. The accompanying clip is part of the short film project that complements the album.

Bloomsday – “ISO”

Achingly pretty and steeped in memories—some sweet, some pain-inspiring— Brooklyn-based indie duo Bloomsday’s second single in the run up to their debut, Place to Land (Bayonet, June 10), brims with compelling lo-fi charm. Based on a simple repeating strum, the song takes its best sonic attributes from Alex Harwood’s electric guitar punctuations, filling out the lyric-less passages while elsewhere, recently transitioned Iris James Garrison whisper-sings about a parental relationship. This is a must-listen for the Phoebe Bridgers crowd.

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Waitsfield, VT.

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