Single Reviews: 18 November 2023: Conflict at Serenity Pools, Ian the Idiot, Nashon, Cheery, I Wish I Was A Punk Band


Photo by Enes Bayraktar

Conflict at Serenity Pools - Reflectors

indie rock

Conflicts at Serenity Pools, or CASP for those in a rush, is an indie rock project from Venice Beach, California, spearheaded by vocalist Luke McQueeney, and now based in Los Angeles. The project, which features a cast of collaborators, has recently unveiled the single "Reflectors", a subdued and cooler-than-cool cut from the recent album Ladders of Misfortune. Driven by a hardy bass line, sharp guitars, snappy percussion, strange synths and sinisterly whispery vocals, "Reflectors" has a dark edge to its nonchalant attitude. Not exactly motivational nor entirely depressing, this is a unique and alluring song that knows itself well despite being rather obscure and artistically shrouded in a mysterious attitude. One analogy that could work is that of a tarot card reader who accepts credit cards, there's a mysticism to the underworld intentions of the song, but an economy and sense of getting the job done makes this a tidy and enjoyable track that is hard to pin down but interesting enough to compel you to keep trying. 

Ian the Idiot - Define Yourself

indie rock

LA-based artist Ian the Idiot may earn his bread and butter by working a corporate day job, but when the suit comes off and the Zoom call ends, he can be found producing smoothly emotive indie rock songs with an inspirational undertow. His recent single "Define Yourself" is the opening track from the recent album The Idiot and explores the struggle of forming an identity. There's a specific warmth that emanates from the gently plucked guitars, softly sung vocals, and observational lyrics ("Carpe Diem tattoed upon your arm, it's a phrase that you firmly believe in"). In this way, Ian the Idiot paints himself as a guru to the everyman, offering platitudes that somehow stick while pleasing with lush string arrangements and low-key but persistent percussion. There is nothing but good vibes on offer here, and while this might seem a tad shallow to those looking for a deeper investigation of identity, there's immense value in the simple and feel-good approach that Ian the Idiot employs here. Good tune, too.  

Nashon - God Save the Queen 

indie rock

With an explosive chorus and production sharper than a butcher's knife, "God Save The Queen" is the stylish new single from Californian-based artist Nashon. Originally from New Jersey, Nashon exudes a cool confidence on this track from the EP Martyr; Act II. While it's difficult to analyze the cryptic lyrics, there's a sense of poetry to their stream-of-consciousness construction, and one can decipher their own meaning from the obscurity. I'm not sure Nashon is singing literally about the Queen of England (of which, there currently is none), or another monarchy. Instead, it's more likely he is using the imagery of kings and queens as a poetic device. Here, the narrator ruminates on a relationship built on anxiety, in which two people help each other through emotional famine and the confusion that comes from being "too high". These characters aren't royalty in the traditional sense, but Nashon illuminates the mundane. There's a power dynamic at play, not only between the proverbial Queen and King but also in the music's struggle between industrial post-punk electric guitar sounds and the more sing-along nature of the vocal melody. Nashon achieves balance with this dichotomy, landing on a track with plenty of acidities to counter its saccharine constitution. 

Cheery - A Plea

alternative pop

Originally from Kansas, USA, Cheery is an alternative pop artist now based in Liverpool, UK. That's quite a long journey across the pond, and her music has benefited from the change of scenery, with an oceanic purview apparent in the recent single "A Plea". The seventh (?!) single to be taken from the album "Bliss", which is due out next March 2024, "A Plea" details the pitfalls of anxious/avoidant relationships with astute awareness. There's a wealth of musicality on offer in the hotbed of electronic instrumentation, but it is Cheery's voice that breaks free from the limitations of the grid, existing as a breath of natural fresh air amid the more stuffy but ultimately effective electronic music. Cheery injects a real sense of emotive exploration in this heart-on-the-sleeve song, and the personality and longing of the vocals make this a humanistic endeavour disguised in an ultra-modern sheen. The rustic nature of the artist's voice makes it clear that we're not in Kansas anymore, and that Cheery is willing to bring her music to the furthest corners of the alternative pop landscape. 

I Wish I Was A Punk Band - Let It Rest

indie rock

I Wish I Was A Punk Band is the nom de plume of Seattleite multi-instrumentalist Phil Hamilton. Using a multitude of instruments including a foot-controlled drum machine, Hamilton creates a wholly epic brand of anthemic space-infused indie rock. The futuristic sounds of IWIWAPB come courtesy of heavily-affected guitars and synthetic peculiarities. On the relatively short new single "Let It Rest", Hamilton pits complex musical arrangements and hard-hitting rhythms against soaringly sweet melodies in a style not a million miles away from Animal Collective but with enough idiosyncratic personality to ensure something original and exciting. Inspired by the artist's shifting relationship with prescription medication, this song feels like an important expression from a writer with a need to express.