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Pickled Priest Mixtape: Favorite New Songs of 2023: Q1 Edition

In the musical appreciation system, there are two separate yet equally important groups. The artists who create the songs and the passionate listeners who compile them on mixtapes. These are their stories.


01 "I Play My Bass Loud" | Gina Birch

Why We Like It:

If you needed more proof that creativity isn't just a playground for the young of mind and spirit, here it is. Gina Birch, co-founder of the influential Raincoats (who were doing post-punk while punk was still going strong), has checked in out of nowhere, and a few years past the standard retirement age I may add, with a deliriously odd and vital record that proves the pilot light for the fire she set back in 1977 is still lit and ready to ignite at any moment. If you look at her now, she may indistinguishable from any older lady playing bingo at the VFW hall on a Friday night, but inside that brain remains a funny, eccentric, mouthy, playful feminist who cranks her bass real fucking loud to piss off the neighbors. Her new album, from which this title-track is pulled, is one of the best records of 2023 so far and that's why she gets the coveted first slot on our Q1 mixtape.

02 "Terror" | Tianna Esperanza

Why We Like It:

It's a pretty cool coincidence that Tianna Esperanza's "Terror" falls into the slot immediately after Gina Birch on this tape because Tianna is the granddaughter of none other than Palmolive (aka Paloma McLardy), legendary drummer for the seminal 70's punk band, the Slits, and onetime member of, you guessed it, the Raincoats (coming onboard for that band's revered debut album)! Life can deliver curveballs better than any Major League pitcher, that's for sure. So, it's not shocking that the same trailblazing, fiercely independent attitude of her Abuela is laced into the genetic material of Esperanza, two generations hence. Her new record is similarly the work of a daring artist capable of pulling off many different styles, some of them gorgeous and traditional and some raw and confrontational. Classify "Terror" in the latter group (as you might have guessed from the title), a song that in blatantly honest terms recounts childhood trauma that has now been converted into adult rage. It's a remarkable thing to bear witness to and it marks the arrival of a singular talent to watch closely.

03 "No Fun/Party" | Kara Jackson

Why We Like It:

It's often said that songwriters are musical poets, which is a fair claim, but in this particular case that's more true than usual. Kara was named America's Youth Poet Laureate in 2019, the very same honor given to 2021 Presidential Inauguration celebrity Amanda Gorman. Now that Kara (from right in my boyhood backyard of Oak Park, IL!) has moved toward a music career, you'd expect her lyrics to be, to paraphrase Van Morrison, a poetic champion composing. And that's just what we get.

It's hard to have patience when you're waiting on luck

Like a postal truck, like a postal truck

To bring you a love as tough as elephant tusk

No chance of rest, no chance of rest

Her poetic muse remains intact, thankfully. Her economy of words also leaves a pleasing amount of white space for deceptively simple melodies to sidle up next to her rich, textured voice—a voice that can command a room even at its most hushed tones. She conveys a lot with a little, just enough for you to want to hear her songs again and again. But don't expect a folk record when her new album Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? comes out. She's got the potential to blow the doors of expectations and based on what I've heard so far, there's a potentially important artist at work here. Poetry in motion.

04 "Haut là Haut" | Moonlight Benjamin

Why We Like It:

There's an art to establishing your "web presence" and Moonlight Benjamin's seems like it was tailor-made to reel me in like the big, lazy, largemouth bass that I am.

Garage blues rock by a punky voodoo queen from Haïti.

The Caribbean Patti Smith. Singer, blues & rock woman, real voodoo priestess.

A Pickled Priestess? You're damn right we're game. Sign me up. I'm pleased to report truth in advertising here. Not just a well-written press kit, which is often the case. In fact, it might be a bit of an understatement, believe it or not. To say the least, her new album, Wayo, is not your usual "blues and rock" fare. Moonlight Benjamin—yes, her real name apparently—is of Haitian descent, now living in France, and her music comes off as a cultural melting pot of the kind you might find emanating from the backrues of New Orleans. It's a gumbo of sorts, mixed with some shrunken skulls and boiling pots of voodoo charms and one thing that's for certain is a wicked spell this way comes.

05 "Mana Takatāpui" | Jen Cloher

Why We Like It:

Jen Cloher, a 49-year-old Australian singer/songwriter of Māori descent (New Zealand Polynesian), has been releasing music for 20+ years now, none of which I listened to prior to 2023. You're welcome, Jen! As luck would have it, I locked into her orbit a couple months ago and have really locked into her new record, I Am the River, the River is Me. She's a clever lyricist and able vocalist with a knack for writing catchy melodies. Interestingly, this is the first time she's incorporated the Māori language into her lyrics and this is what takes what could've been a really solid singer/songwriter affair and turns it into something wholly original. When she kicks into the chorus of album-opener, "Mana Takatāpui" (which is the Māori uequivalent of LGBTQ+ I'm told), there's a distinct Hawaiian tempo to it that would be the perfect accompaniment for a Honolulu sunset or a tiki-torch-packed luau. You don't need to be within the Polynesian Triangle to enjoy this record, but it will certainly take you there if you let it.

06 "This Is Why" | Paramore

Why We Like It:

Wow. We've absentmindedly opened our Q1 mixtape with an amazing string of six strong, dynamic women completely by accident. I just put the songs where they make sense to me and see what hapens. Over the years I've become a big fan of Hayley Williams' unique brand of pop songwriting, albeit more for her solo work than her stuff with main squeeze, Paramore. In other words, the reverse process of most everyone else. That changed this year with the band's new album, This Is Why. It's what a pop-rock album should be; innovative and catchy with well-written and performed songs. The last part is a piece of cake for Hayley. She's a star from all angles, the epicenter of Paramore's earthquake. The album's title track is a good example of what makes this band different from so many others plying the same trade. It follows Roxette's "Don't bore us, get to the chorus!" mentality, delivering a hook that I could see tearing the roof off the sucka at a Funkadelic show in the mid-1970s. It's distinctly modern, but classically-sourced from a much funkier place and time. The interesting thing is that the rest of the song is something completely different, like a weird 80s nightclub vibe or something. Totally off-kilter and weird, which I like. It's also a new addition to my latest "Introverts Only" playlist thanks to its catchphrase, "This is why / I don't leave the house / You say the coast is clear / But you won't catch me out." Joy rides for shut-ins, if you will.

07 "Rice" | Young Fathers

Why We Like It:

One of the best records of 2023 so far is from Scotland's Young Fathers and their intriguingly titled new record, Heavy Heavy. I can hear the debate now. So, is it heavy? Or is it heavy heavy? Actually, fucking jubilant is what it is, the whole lot of it. "Rice" starts things off, and how could anything be more joyous than a song with lyrics that state "I need to catch more fish, baby / I need to eat more rice"? It's basically begging you to dance. The secret to Young Fathers' music is the bones of each song provide needed structure. Then Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and the disappointingly-named Graham Hastings kick into gear, layering sonic elements on and around those bones to create a kinetic energy that positively radiates from the tracks. The last time I experienced the same electrical phenomenon is when TV on the Radio emerged out of Brooklyn with their Young Liars EP in 2003. There's a new source of energy being created here, something inherently spiritual and soul cleansing. It's hard not to get caught up in it all.

08 "Sniveller" | The Tubs

Why We Like It:

Ever since their debut EP, Names, from 2021, I've been a bit of a Tubs-thumper. I put "Illusion" in the #15 spot on my Favorite Songs of 2021 list and Names ranked #1 on my Favorite EPs list. There was simply something about this band that resonated with me. And now, finally, here's their long-awaited debut, Dead Meat, and it more than lives up to my expectations. In fact, I really like/love every song on the record, something that doesn't happen that often anymore. A tiny bit of backstory first. The band formed from the remains of underrated Welsh band Joanna Gruesome with guitarist Owen Williams taking the reins as the Tubs' frontman. And he's a great one, too, somehow sounding like a jangle-pop version of Richard Thompson suffering from seasonal affective disorder. In other words, he's a bit of a mope, but an endearing one at that. But along the way, the Tubs

might've realized all mope and no joy makes the Tubs a dull band, at least for a full-length album. So what did they do? They enlisted the help of Joanna Gruesome singer Lan McArdle to add some female counter vocals to some of the songs and the chemistry between her and Williams is a major highlight of the record. So far, she's just a guest, but if we can get them to binge watch Daisy Jones & the Six, perhaps we will get McArdle to make her role permanent. I mean, if it can work for a fictional rock band with mediocre songs, imagine what it can do for a real band with great songs.

09 "Taken By Force" | Civic

Why We Like It:

It's no surprise to hear an edgy Australian rock band like Civic has been influenced by other edgy Australian rock bands like Radio Birdman. It would be bizarre if they hadn't been. Civic's follow up to 2021's amazing Future Forecast (our #21 album of that year) is Taken By Force and it rides the same sonic wave (as featured on the cover?) discovered by Birdman back when they released their cult classic, Radios Appear, in 1977. It should come as no surprise then that this record was produced by Radio Birdman singer Rob Younger. I love it when a plan comes together! Predictably, "Taken By Force" immediately sounds like a punk classic from another era and it would easily fit in on a punk classic mixtape right next to "Aloha Steve and Danno." Not even the most indoctrinated punk would question its presence.

10 "Hard Livin'" | The Men

Why We Like It:

At least they didn't call themselves the White Men. That's about the only way their name could be more off trend at the moment. I always appreciate when a band makes a "New York" album, especially if they're actually from New York. The city is inspiring and holds a million stories as the saying goes. While The Men's New York City isn't going to make anyone forget Lou Reed's New York (or any Lou Reed-affiliated album for that matter), The Ramones, Patti Smith's Horses, or even PJ Harvey's Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, it still comes from their own experiences, so there's that. Actually, an even better New York album from the Men might've been their debut, Leave Home (which was also titled in homage to the Ramones LP of the same name), but this has the title, so it gets the nod. One thing nobody can take away from them is "Hard Livin,'" a New York City song if there ever was one. Yes, it's hard as advertised, but it's dirty, too, stinking like a pile of garbage stacked on the curb all night for the rats to feast upon.

11 "Trouble" | Say She She

Why We Like It:

I know what I don't like about it: the reminder of the living hell that was the soul-crushing, time-sucking, sanity-testing rotary telephone. If you have no memory of it, imagine ringing your parents for a ride from a freezing phone booth when their number is 889-0442 (or as they called it in Chicago, "TUxedo 9-0442"). Do you have any idea how long those first-four numbers took to execute? Full dial, four times, to start! And if you fuck up once by not allowing the dial to swing fully back to home base you had to start fucking over. It was a nightmare. This song is from Colemine Records offshoot Karma Chief Records, as reliable a source for retro-soul singles as any place on the planet right now, and this one lives up to high expectations. A classic girl group single about love and betrayal that positively jumps from your speakers thanks to some modern production from a couple dudes on loan from Daptone. So dial this one up and check it out. While you're on the line, check out the B-side, the Hammond organ-accented "In My Head." This is a good old-fashioned, double-sided 45 like they used to make.

*Side Note #1: If you're wondering, the number on the phone pictured above (513-285-8416 or ATlantic 5-8416) is for the Sage Motel, made famous by the Monophonics album of the same name from last year, a place now legendary for its tolerance, and some would say encouragement of, infidelity. Trouble brewing indeed.

*Side Note #2: The label on the inside of the single (see below) also replicates a phone dial, so while it is spinning on your turntable it simulates, at 45rpm of course, the movement of the rotary. Nice touch.

Try it for yourself: 889-0442

12 "Adderall" | Shame

Why We Like It:

The third album is often a time for a successful band to push the creative envelope a little bit, especially if it comes on the heels of two great albums in a row like London's Shame has (Songs of Praise and Drunk Tank Pink). There are lots of precedents for such a maneuver: Fontaines D.C. followed two successful records with the brooding, difficult Skinty Fia last year, seriously but successfully challenging die-hard fans in the process. Oasis followed two Britpop classics, Definitely Maybe and What's the Story (Morning Glory), with the overly-ambitious and seriously bloated Be Here Now. So not every risk pays off, but that's not the point. Hell, even the deified Led Zeppelin checked in with a more restrained third record after two balls-to-the-wall rockers, and while considered a letdown by some at the time, many now rank it as their favorite Zep album ever (even though they're lying). It does seem to me that the Brits are more likely to push the needle once they've gained a fan base than their U.S. counterparts. I may be imagining this. Which brings us to Shame's latest album which, predictably, is being viewed as the lesser of the first three, but it also has the whiff of a record that might be more revered as history adjusts perception. Hell, does Oasis's Be Here Now sounds pretty great years later or am I wrong? What I do know is that every time I take Food for Worms out for a ride, it pays dividends. One song that proves Shame to be more than we ever expected is "Adderall," a somber message about love and loss from within the throws of addiction. That it still shimmers and soars is a tribute to a band that knows how to make just about any kind of song stick. But will others see it the same way? Time will tell.

13 "Spiritual Healers, Defence Lawyers" | Eternal Dust

Why We Like It:

Australia again—the third song from Down Under on Side A alone! This time we're leaving the snotty punk rockers and indigenous singer/songwriters behind in favor of something completely different, Sydney's Eternal Dust, a band that knows how make to make their guitars shimmer in the heat and their voices echo like they were recorded in a canyon. It's a full-record effort that works best when you are fully immersed. I can't recommend this approach highly enough. Headphones mandatory, too. I give you a taste here if you promise to follow my instructions later.


14 "I Don't Know What You See In Me" | Belle & Sebastian

Why We Like It:

Belle & Sebastian have apparently discovered a goldmine in the Scottish Highlands of their beloved homeland. Two records in two years, both teeming with life. Fire up the bagpipes, leash up the Loch Ness Monster, and break me off a piece of that Haggis loaf, that's something to celebrate! This delightful gem on side two of the vinyl sounds very 80s, thanks to a hearty helping of synthetic bounce, and tells the age-old tale of a guy who failed to punch his own weight in the romance department and now has to live his life pathetically holding on for dear life, praying his self-esteem issues don't implode the whole affair from within.

15 "Light Me Up" | Margo Price ft. Mike Campbell

Why We Like It:

Maybe I've been watching too much Daisy Jones & the Six (a given), but this song brings that 70's wah-wah rock vibe and I'm unapologetically into that. So, Margo, good move allowing heartbroken Heartbreaker Mike Campbell to go wild on his guitar every time your finger is pointed in his general direction. She's no dummy; if she's got Campbell in the room, she's gonna get her Campbell's-worth and his presence here is mmm mmm good whenever he opens up a can of whoop-axe. Interestingly, that's not on the song titled "Change of Heart." There's even a little Led Zep feel to the soft/loud dynamics here, almost like she needs a new set closer or somethin'.

16 "Sunset" | Caroline Polachek

Why We Like It:

I was digging "Bunny is a Rider," the early single from Caroline's new album, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, but I was holding out for the full record to see if all the advanced fuss was merited. It is. Her new record has about five or six killer singles on it at a minimum. "Sunset" gets the nod here because it has a light Latin undercurrent to it, which we like around here. "I Believe" could have just as easily been the choice. That this song overcomes our aversion to Auto-Tune (used minimally, but still) is a minor miracle. The presence of Auto-tune is one of the worst things you can tell us about an album in advance, second only to a Red Hot Chili Peppers influence. It's a tribute, then, to Caroline's gift for crafting indelible pop hooks using unusual, and verboten, ingredients, that we find ourselves returning to her new album, and this song, over and over again.

17 "Angelina" | Rob Jungklas

Why We Like It:

Oh man, this song punched me in the gut when I first heard it and has every time since. I normally try to keep my quarterly mixtapes upbeat, but sometimes a song comes along that I just can't shake, even if it's painfully, heartbreakingly sad. Memphis's own Rob Jungklas has put out some amazing music during his career, much of it long after his stab at mainstream acceptance gave way to the kind of music he really wanted to make—a dark form of soulful blues. His later work is a labor of love that has gone woefully under-appreciated over the years. He released an album called Rebel Souls last year and I mistakenly left one of the songs ("Ruination") off my year-end mixtapes because I thought it was a little too heavy for the context. I regret it now. I get to make up for it here because Rob has released some "outtakes" from those sessions on Bandcamp. Outtakes normally don't pan out, but not the case this time. Why, I wonder, would a song as good as "Angelina" get left on the cutting room floor? Perhaps he, too, thought the song was a bit too heavy for his own album. It's about a young girl hopelessly addicted to Oxycontin, struggling unsuccessfully to find a reason to live despite having people who care for her. It turns out she's too far gone and no love can save her. There's a crushing line near the beginning of the song that sums up an acceptance of her certain fate.

I don’t want to live in this world no more

I am longing for that distant shore

I am wasted, I am spent

That’s not what she said

But it’s what she meant

It's one of those songs you hope isn't a true story, but deep down you know it is. One that's been replicated many times in many places before and since. Gulp.

Note: As if Angelina's story isn't tough enough, also check out "John Doe," another so-called "outtake" about the indignity of dying alone under tragic circumstances that's equally as powerful and decidedly more callous.

18 "Looking for a Ghost" | Fever Ray

Why We Like It:

We go without them for a long time, then suddenly all our troll-like, chalk-boned eccentrics from the Great Frozen North open up their coffers all at once. Late in 2022, Iceland's Björk returned with a new record, Fossora, after five years in relative seclusion. Now, Fever Ray (aka Karin Dreijer) has shipped us a delightfully demented new record (check out the cover below) after six years packed in dry ice. She's called it Radical Romantics and "Looking for a Ghost" documents a bizarre search for love. If this is her updated dating profile, a ghost may be all she's gonna get, too: Looking for a person / With a special kind of smile / Teeth like razors / Fingers like spice. I sense a lot of left-swiping in her future. No matter, those who take the plunge and give her a fair hearing will find an artist of rare originality whose music captivates with perplexing beauty and a welcome, wicked sense of humor. No wonder there's such a buzz whenever she thaws out.

Must love dogs

19 "Beyond the Void" | Screaming Females

Why We Like It:

Do you have certain bands you'll always love despite their critical reception? Screaming Females are one of those bands for me. When I saw Pitchfork drop a 6.8 score on this record I knew it would still be great. And it is. All those pretentious Condé Nast fucktoids who have sold their souls in exchange for roles as the arbiters of our haute couture culture can kiss my ass. What was I even talking about? Oh, there aren't many band leaders who have both a distinctive singing voice and the ability to shred on guitar. Marissa Paternoster is just such a band leader. She also writes cool songs that manage to sound like nobody else's. And they're catchy as fuck, too. Nobody can tell me the Screaming Females are anything but one of the best indie rock bands in existence right now.

20 "Foreground Music" | Ron Gallo

Why We Like It:

It's about time someone put out the alternative to background music. We need foreground music now more than ever to drown out the pain and absurdities of life, many of which are delineated in the lyrics to this song.

Will I die if I don't make this deadline?

Should I get a haircut or just cut my whole head off?

Will any of this matter in one year?

Did it ever? What do you wanna eat tonight?

We've all been there. When all of life's complexities hover over you in the middle of the night waiting to pounce the second you open your eyes. Each individually suffocating, but worthy of a panic attack in the aggregate. Meanwhile, Ron claims to be "a forward person in a backwards world," but wrestling with that dichotomy takes up pretty much all of his free time and most of his medicine cabinet. We sympathize with him as he concerns himself unnecessarily trying to understand superfluous incongruities, like how there could possibly be enough raw material available to maintain the world's t-shirt supply, mainly because in the heat of the night everything seems important. It ain't easy being him, that's for sure. His songwriting perspective has always been addled by the darkness behind everyday events, but has also been made infinitely more tolerable by a razor-sharp wit and a cynical worldview. One that allows him to function in the foreground, despite what's percolating in the background.

21 "I Can't Figure You Out/Backwards" | Tee Vee Repairmann

Why We Like It:

Australia's back! This time with Sydney's Tee Vee Repairmann, a mate with a low-fi, high-snot quotient in tow. The prolific mastermind behind this DIY set of miniature garage-punk rippers is Ishka Edmeades, who has the X-factor needed to separate him from a slag heap of similarly-inclined wannabes. Every song is short and sharp with a memorable hook to bite on. Think a more Ramones-y Tony Molina and you'll get close to approximating what's going down here. Twelve songs, 24-minutes, Xeroxed album cover, hand-drawn cassette label (now sold out), the whole bit. I've stacked two tracks on top of each other here mainly because they collectively only take up one parking space, so it seemed a fair violation of our long-standing "one song per artist" mixtape bylaws.

22 "Workin' On a World" | Iris DeMent

Why We Like It:

From the first time I saw her mesmerize a crowd as the opening act for Nanci Griffith (now over thirty years ago) to the time she absolutely took my breath away in a small club, Iris has been one of those very special artists for me, capable of reducing life's complexities to the real heart of the matter. Her voice, oh that voice, is as bountiful as a cornfield, as natural as a free-flowing river. She was created to sing, but she's not your typical artist. She lives a simple life in Iowa and doesn't come out to play unless she's got a defined purpose. Well, she's got one now, and she takes no prisoners on her new album, Workin' on a World. Not one to hold back from a political statement, here she's brandishing some serious angst, clearly disappointed with the state of her world. The title-track starts things off in no uncertain terms with a much needed slap in the face, taking a swing at those living for only themselves, unconcerned about the greater good or a future they will never see. Again, she's boiled it all down in a single song, one we should all listen to before it's too late. Which, of course, we won't.

23 "A Quiet Night" | Fastbacks

Why We Like It:

I was giddy when I saw a new single by the Fastbacks come across my desk! It's been almost twenty years since they split, so in my mind this wasn't even a possibility. And guess what? It sounds exactly like the Fastbacks we've always known and loved! Kurt and Kim and Lulu (and Mike on drums) back at it like they never left. How does this happen? How can it be? I didn't even know I needed it, but it sent me back down a rabbit hole to dust off some of my favorite Fastbacks albums and songs from their glorious 90's prime (New Mansions in Sound a personal favorite even now). "A Quiet Night" proves Kurt can still write great pop hooks and unleash thrilling riffs and the vocals are spot-on and ageless. What a joy to behold! And, if that wasn't enough, there's a bonus on the flip-side—a real sweet, and restrained, cover of the Muffs' "Outer Space," in belated tribute to their dearly-departed friend, Kim Shattuck, who passed in 2019. What a nice little surprise this is. Is an album imminent? Please say it's gonna happen.

24 "Sixteen Ways" | Frankie Rose

Why We Like It:

Drummer Frankie Rose has been a part of some great bands over the years (Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls), all of which have, in one way or another, added a modern, dreamy haze to the classic girl group sounds of the 1960s. She's been on her own for over a decade now and while her solo work has carried a similar vibe to past projects, along the way she's proven herself to be an able songwriter and singer. Her latest, Love As Projection, is no different. I've already latched onto two of the record's songs, the killer first single, "Anything," a candy-pop confection with a sugary hook, and "Sixteen Ways," a moodier affair that positively smolders, almost like it was written for a Twin Peaks sequel. While the former is the obvious mixtape choice, it's the latter that has firmly embedded itself in my cranium, mainly because there's a haunting mystery hovering above the song. There are sixteen ways into Frankie's heart, only six of which have been discovered so far and I can't help but speculate what else lies undiscovered. You get the impression that Frankie doesn't know what they are either, which only heightens the suspense.

25 "What Does a Man Do All Day" | Jeb Loy Nichols

Why We Like It:

American expat Jeb Loy Nichols has been living on the Welsh countryside for years now, coming up for air now and then with his latest creations, be they music, painting, prints, or books. He's been on our radar since he came out of nowhere and pulled one of the biggest upsets in Pickled Priest history by landing at #1 on our 2016 Favorite Records of the Year list with Country Hustle. I've liked all his subsequent records, but I have been patiently waiting for another substantial statement from him. Well, it has arrived this year with The United States of the Broken Hearted (technically dropped in late-2022, but physical copies didn't arrive until 2023). It's a striking album that finds him in an troubled mindset, clearly at odds with the world around him—especially his former home (as the title suggests). He goes about his business with his usual laid back disposition, crossing genre lines at will, but this time there's unease in his message. The song selections, some originals, some covers, give you a pretty clear idea what's on his mind: "I Hate the Capitalist System" (a folk song dating back to 1939), "Deportees" (Woody Guthrie), "I've Had Enough of This Good Life (As I Can Take)," and the title track, an ode to the forgotten and downtrodden in his country of origin, are all you need to get the gist. "What Does a Man Do All Day" is a perfect Nichols gem, sounding all the while like a pleasant little folk ditty until its true meaning emerges. The record was produced and released by reggae/dub-legend Adrian Sherwood (on his On-U Sound label), so suffice it to say it sounds pristine, with subtle grooves and not-so-subtle messages everywhere.

26 "Turpentine" | H.C. McEntire ft. Amy Ray

Why We Like It:

North Carolina's H.C. McEntire (ex-Mount Moriah) got my attention with her 2018 debut, Lionheart ("A Lamb, A Dove" still gets me every time), but she's secured it with Every Acre, a front-to-back stunner that delivers on past promise and then some. She's got the pen of a poet, which means you may never fully understand the motivation behind her word choices, but you will still get all the information you need to emotionally connect. Which is the gift that separates the amateur wordsmith from the published poet. That said, the thing that really pleases me about Every Acre is that the music is given equal consideration to the words. This is not poetry set to music, these are songs first and foremost. "Turpentine" is a perfect example of why her songs stand out. Yes, of course you'll hang on every word, but you'll also get some gritty backing vocals from Indigo Girls' Amy Ray, an unsettling yet captivating chorus, and, best of all, about 100-seconds of blistering electric guitar that would even impress the boys in Crazy Horse. When I heard it for the first time, I knew I had just experienced a moment of conversion.


Well, gotta start on Q2 now. Lots of listening to do. Plus, someone just told me there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd., so now I'll need to check that out. The Priest's work is never done.


The Priest


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