Friday Features: ENZI, Venus Furs and more battle isolation, racial identity and misogyny in these new releases
Worldwide protests continue amid an ongoing pandemic and artistes are discovering more and more about what it means to write honest music from this space
As the world attempts to strike a balance between sustaining a revolution and staving off mental and physical exhaustion, artistes are striving to create music that straddles that balance, including exploring their own identities in a changing world and tackling mental health issues. Here are some of this week's most promising releases.
ENZI - 'Retrograde'
As Mercury appears to reverse its orbit this week, Nashville alternative pop singer ENZI has released her stellar new single 'Retrograde'. 'Retrograde' opens with a lush dreamscape set over a Wurlitzer as ENZI’s soaring vocals move front-and-center, describing impulsive thoughts of an unhealthy relationship at the hands of this otherworldly phenomenon.
Speaking about the track, ENZI shares, "I was roaming around some audio sample websites when I found a voicemail of a guy asking someone, 'when the hell does mercury get out of retrograde because this is driving me batshit?' I thought it was hilarious and I started thinking about what it meant when mercury goes into retrograde. I’m not an astrology expert, but the belief is retrograde throws everyone out of whack and makes people really impulsive and prone to mistakes. So, I thought, what is universally spontaneous and unhealthy? Texting your ex. Generally, that’s a pretty big no-no, and you know your friends will tell you 'dude, don’t you do it!' Of course, we can’t always help but think of someone we probably shouldn't be with in a romantic way. I thought it would be fun to capture that in a song, and then blame it all on mercury being in retrograde."
Moscow Apartment - 'New Girl'
Moscow Apartment creates lush, folk imbued indie rock that is interwoven with the timeless and perceptive writing of singer-songwriters Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla. The harmonious teenage duo is slated to release their sophomore EP, 'Better Daughter', on July 10.
Their latest offering is the single 'New Girl', which follows debut EP cut, 'Halfway'. Speaking about the new track Fry and Padilla share, "Misogyny and catcalling served as the impetus behind 'New Girl'. There was one week where we were catcalled probably 10 times; we felt fed up and wanted to write a song about men not respecting women's boundaries, especially in public. We started working on the song during one of a couple of sessions at Kevin Drew’s house. He has been a huge supporter of our music, and was awesome, giving suggestions and ideas but not wanting to take any credit because he’s such a great guy. He’s super supportive of young artistes – especially young women – and wants to help us stay true to ourselves and our sound."
'Better Daughter' presents an evolution of Moscow Apartment’s sound from acoustic beginnings, such as on their 2017 self-titled EP, to the freedom they now enjoy playing live in a full band, which is translated through the EP’s layered arrangements and can be heard in full bloom on 'New Girl'.
Venus Furs - 'Paranoia'
Venus Furs (the moniker of Montreal’s Paul Kasner, a multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer) is all set to debut with their self-titled LP next month, and their latest offering is the single 'Paranoia', a track that examines mental health, with the experiences of anxiety and depression being backdropped by a groovy bass riff and heavily delayed guitars.
'Paranoia' is accompanied by a video that attempts to capture the feelings of isolation and alienation, running after and away from yourself, and the discomfort of being alone whether you're in a crowd or on your own. Coincidentally, it was filmed just before social distancing was put into effect – a foreshadowing of the isolation we are all currently experiencing.
Speaking about the track and it being rooted in the experience of mental health issues, video director Hart shares, "For me, anxiety is combustible nervous energy of caring too much about small details. At the time of shooting, I felt out of place in my home and in the world, roaming the city at night while feeling more and more isolated. We did our last night of shooting just a week before the quarantine began, with all the editing being done while the pandemic unfolded. This brought an entirely new meaning to the word isolation and the experience of anxiety and stress."
Condola 'Dola' Rashad - 'What I Said'
The latest release from her solo debut 'Space Daughter', a visual project that Dola conceived, produced, and co-directed as an ode to the Divine Feminine, 'What I Said' is a dark lullaby about a victorious re-encounter with a shadow. "We are in the midst of a revolutionary, systemic change in this country that is long overdue," shares Rashad. "This is a marathon, not a race. It will take time, and there will be many practical steps that will need to be taken to ensure that the physical, emotional, and spiritual violence inflicted on black and brown bodies in this country comes to an end."
While previous tracks 'Blue', 'Give Up the Gold' and 'Running in Place' saw Rashad explore various versions of the feminine, 'What I Said' sees Rashad grapple with the experience of being black in America. And just like with all the previous tracks, Rashad is pairing the song's release with a pledge towards an organization relevant to the song's core message.
All of Dola’s personal proceeds from 'Running in Place' were donated to the Vh1 Save the Music Foundation during the month of June, and her personal proceeds from 'Give Up the Gold' benefited Hearts of Gold during the month of May. Personal proceeds from her debut single Blue will benefit Food Bank for New York City indefinitely, while Rashad as well as 'What I Said' co-producer LordQuest and co-writer Alex Saad are pledging their personal proceeds from the single to support Campaign Zero, which was developed with contributions from activists, protestors and researchers to present comprehensive solutions to end police violence in America, for one year.
JonoJosh - 'Half'
At a time when issues pertaining to race are at the forefront of sociopolitical discussions, JonoJosh has found himself grappling with what it means to be mixed race. And out of that space comes 'Half', an extremely personal reflection of what it means to be both black and white in our current era.
"I wrote 'Half' reflecting on my identity as a mixed-race person," shares JonoJosh. "A few years ago I was asked to play Gilbert Blythe in the Charlottetown Festival's production of Anne of Green Gables. It was one of the biggest honors of my life. I was the first person of color to play that role on a professional stage but I didn't realize it until after an article came out where the headline read, 'JJ Gerber first non-white actor to play Gilbert'. I thought to myself, 'That’s not completely accurate'. My dad is white and my mother is black. Culturally I'm both white and black."
"As I played the part I had numerous people come up and tell me what it meant to see a person like them on stage. Thinking about it, I realized that I hadn't ever had that experience myself. I wrote this song because I'm not just 'half', I'm whole. One side doesn't take away from the other. One’s existence is a tapestry of stories, and 'Half' is the embodiment of as many experiences from my life that I could include in a three-minute song."
"I want people who are of mixed race to be proud of their heritage. By showing my pride in who I am, I hope others will be able to do the same." Listen to 'Half' on SoundCloud, Spotify, or Apple Music. Follow JonoJosh via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or JonoJosh.com.
Friday Features is a column that brings you the week's latest releases that you may or may not have heard of yet.