Five Singer Punch

And music will rain down upon you as fine spray to gladden your heart

or a fiery shower to incense your soul

or black acid to madden your mind and rip you apart

or the last deluge to wrap you in its tempestuous folds.

Music. It will claim you.

In terms of the sheer quantity of music releases, there’s never been a better time than now. That’s a statement whose truth applies to every following day in these times. Naturally, the quality spans a wide range. In some sort of revival of the few posts in the “Right Now…” series that I used to do years back, I thought I will write occasionally about a set of songs from different artists instead of writing about or around a specific EP or album. These are songs covering quite a few styles that I am consumed by currently and that will probably continue to be among my favourites for a long while.

A band that’s been around for 25 years now and and has produced 6 albums with a 7th one coming out hopefully this year. And I discovered Shaman’s Harvest just a few days back! This just shows how one can miss so much in this perennial flood of music. I stumbled upon this band through a new song, “Bird Dog” while browsing through Dark Art Conspiracy‘s articles. The first things that hits you when you hear this song is singer Nathan Hunt’s textured voice. As one of my friends eloquently described it, weathered; conditioned by time and experiences and the throat cancer that Hunt had to battle a few years back during the making of the band’s 5th album. Lyrically well-written, “Bird Dog” is about neither; the only animal here possibly is the feral beast in some of us. The theme is a familiar one of the darkness enveloping a small town which once you ride into will likely drag you deep into an early grave. What lifts the song miles above the theme is the brooding, tense atmosphere created by Hunt’s voice and the goosebump-inducing moody instrumentation interspersed spectacularly with the soaring chorus. If you are not moved to hum or sing this song along, or at least make your body convulse even a bit to the chorus, then perhaps a shift to the said town is in order 😏

I am Narcissus, and I’m here to feel the taste

Of all the glory in the world, that’s mine to claim or lay to waste

Mocaine‘s “Narcissus” is quite the song for our age of self-obsession and angst-driven disturbia. You can feel the power of the protagonist’s off-the-rails sense of omnipotence build up in the menacing quieter segments and surge with a maniacal roar in the chorus. This is an excellently written song both lyrically and compositionally with the music perfectly reflecting the deranged state of the character’s mind. “Narcissus” is grunge like I haven’t heard before; its urgent, visceral warp woven expertly into a progressive, explorative weft. It’s a tribute to how well the song is crafted and performed that one gets so engrossed in it to not notice its duration. It’s the first release in a series of singles from Mocaine’s ambitious upcoming album which will be accompanied by a novella and a short film to provide additional context to the story that the album relates.

It’s always a pleasure when you follow a trail out of sheer curiosity and in complete ignorance of where it leads and then discover a beautiful, almost secret arbour! As a voracious listener, former live gig promoter and ex-owner of a short-lived record label, such musical serendipity has ever filled me with glee, a reassurance that it’s all worthwhile and marks a refreshing emergence out of occasional jadedness. I came across Rafoo‘s music following one such trail that started from an Instagram post on flora and fauna. “Anthropocene” is the kind of intelligent adult pop that I love. I’m quite astounded by how effortlessly the lyrics traverse through her thoughts on such diverse subjects as matters personal, political obnoxiousness and existential ennui (at least that’s what I read from it); the last lines of the song in particular are gut-wrenching. The song has the moodiness and richness of a Massive Attack and a Portishead at their best laced with a touch of dissonance, the thoughtfulness of a Death Cab For Cutie and a sultry, brooding sophistication that seems all Rafoo’s own. I hope and wish she continues to make more music.

Row, row, row the boat” was a line that I heard very often wafting out of a play-school near our home. Oh, happy children! Albatross‘s recently released song “The Neptune Murders” starts similarly in word but with a chilling sense of foreboding. Adult and ripe with horror. An essential, identifying part of Albatross’s music is that it’s always built on top of a story. Sometimes that makes it a little heavy. It took me some time to learn to appreciate the intricacy of their compositions, the tight knitting of the story with the music, even the sense of drama in its delivery but when I did, I started looking forward to new music from the band. This latest release has their characteristic story-telling loaded with the creeping horror of a serial killer obsessed with the Roman mythological god of the seas, Neptune whom he pays obeisance to with offerings of women murdered by him. The twin, schizophrenic character in singer Biprorshee’s vocals brings out all the menace of the story and the madness of the killer. He sings with an assurance and control that captures the hair-raising drama of the song without letting it stray into the melodramatic. The band as ever is locked in seamlessly but what gives a new flavour to this outstanding track is the addition of a progressive rock element; just enough to lend it an edge, nothing overboard (sorry, there’s no way I could pass up that horrible pun). It seems like Albatross have a few more new songs that they will work on recording once the effect of this pandemic eases up. That’s good news.

Without the vast blackness of the sky, the beauty of stars wouldn’t be brought forth.

It was only after making this playlist that I realised there’s a song here that is coloured differently from the dark albeit rich tones of the rest. Curtis Harding‘s music reaching me is the result of the excessive (is it ever?) but pleasurable amount of time I spend on Bandcamp. The new single “Hopeful” from this versatile artist – he embraces hip-hop, R&B and rock with equal warmth and high capability – is essential listening for the bleakness of these times the world is going through. Please rid yourself of the notion you might entertain that this is some sugary sop even if you get that initial impression. This song is not in denial of the tragedies and hardships of our past and of our present. It passionately acknowledges them but it insists on moving beyond those, in climbing out of these pits with fierce resolve. “Hopeful” is built on a musical foundation of ’70s style R&B on which Harding raises a delightful structure that exquisitely fuses the timelessness of that musical form with the energetic modernity of his singing, further embellishing it with the brass section, a rolling, reverberating guitar part and the string section that form most of the second half of the song. Uplifting. That’s what this song is.

Parting shot: If you like any of these songs, please do listen to the music on whichever platform you prefer and as often as you can and do share the music; I have linked a few below. And please try to dig into more of the music of any artist here that you like. We could all do with more listening.

Post-parting shot: I simply couldn’t resist messing around a bit with a band name for the title of this post. 😁