There’s only one day left in the decade, y’all. Like it or not, 2020 is almost here. Whether you’re ready to send it out with a bang or trying desperately to figure out where the last twenty years went, there’s no denying: the time has flown, and we’re on the cusp of a brand new decade.
Time to put some serious thought into those New Year/New Decade Resolutions, huh?
While you’re working on those resolutions — or just trying to detox after a month of nonstop Christmas music — PLAYING ATLANTA is here to offer a break from the jingling and jangling and remind you that not all music insists that it is, in fact, the most wonderful time of the year.
Full of sultry melodies, blazing rock ’n roll, and enough swampy Southern soul to call forth the dearly departed of Capricorn, FAME, and Stax, PLAYING ATLANTA has been a joy and an ongoing surprise to write. Over the last year, we’ve explored loss, self-love, and life’s long roads, traveled to Colorado with Sam Burchfield, and brought it all the way back home to witness the soul-stirring rock power of The Pinx.
All of that in a year, too. Who knows what the new decade will sound like.
And now, without further ado, PLAYING ATLANTA’s Top 10 of 2019:
10. Lesibu Grand // The Legend of Miranda
Atlanta indie-rock group Lesibu Grand, founded by lead singer Tyler-Simone Molton and bassist John Renaud, blends sharp vocals with a Debbie Harry nonchalance, zesty synth, and new-wave-meets-hip-hop prowess to craft a debut EP that sounds like anything but. Weaving introspective lyrics between tracks like “Miranda,” which tells the story of a loveless suburban marriage launched into out-of-this-world adventures following an alien invasion, The Legend of Miranda is a zingy debut by a band who has already made a name for themselves.
9. The Pinx // “Mercy!”
The Pinx rock… and roll, and boogie-woogie all night long, especially in their latest music video, “Mercy!” Shot in the ballroom of a haunted hotel, The Pinx disturb a few guests and draw listeners out of the mundane with each single, music video, and concert.
Featuring the lead vocals and guitar work of Adam McIntyre, lead guitarist and vocalist Chance McColl, bassist Charles Wiles, and drummer Cayce Buttrey, The Pinx takes rock back to its roots and reminds us all of the true meaning of rock ‘n roll: to break down barriers and get everyone dancing.
8. Victoria Blade // Lo-Fi Love Songs
Actress, filmmaker, indie label co-founder, and singer-songwriter Victoria Blade wear a lot of hats, but she wears them with an incomparably jaunty ease. The Brooklynite-via-Chicago-turned-Atlantian has an uncanny ability to craft an EP that listens more like a diary, chronicling the life and love of a creative nomad. Equal parts studied and effortless, good-natured and introspective, Blade blends lo-fi folk with the sweet sensibility of indie pop, resulting in the breath of fresh air that is Lo-Fi Love Songs.
7. Sarah Zúñiga // “Heart of Mine”
Athens-based, New-York-born, Ecuadorian-and-Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Sarah Zúñiga brings an intimate sensibility to her unique brand of alternative folk, blending sharp observation with the textured poeticism of traditional Spanish folk music. When we last checked in with her, she had released her latest single, “Heart of Mine,” gearing up for a few highly anticipated winter releases.
The stop-you-in-your-tracks single was followed by a two-song EP featuring Fish, What Is Love To You, and the single “I Like Knowing You’re Around,” but there’s something about the deeply personal “Heart of Mine” that I love. Tackling the weighty, often indescribable effect anxiety has on the heart, “Heart of Mine” features Zúñiga’s unique vocal styling and showcases her ability as a songwriter and musician.
6. Sam Burchfield // “Colorado”
Sam Burchfield’s wanderlust-inducing, Appalachian-folk inspired single “Colorado” was the perfect track to usher in autumn (and I’m still listening to it now!). Based in Atlanta but born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Burchfield returned to his roots and crafted a stunning ode to the natural world – and the breathtaking beauty of Colorado – with this track.
5. Seersha // “Lecture Me”
Atlanta’s chillest electro-pop artist and producer Seersha – aka Kara Revnes – spent two years crafting her latest release, but it was definitely worth the wait. Her seemingly effortless ability to create ambient soundscapes that are equally driving and oh-so-chill is unrivaled, but it was her onstage presence that drew me in from the start. Calm, subdued, and self-assured on stage, she takes that easy confidence with her into the studio, imbuing each song she writes and produces with her own indelible style.
4. Death Mama // High Strangeness
Blues-rock quartet Death Mama is one of the newest – and loudest – players in the rock scene. Committed to a shroud of mystery that envelops the slinky, smoldering sound, the foursome has already made a name for themselves in the Atlanta area. Following the release of two singles, the group dropped their debut album, High Strangeness, featuring seven tracks as jolting as the band’s name.
3. Sarah and the Safe Word // Red Hot & Holy
Atlanta sextet Sarah and the Safe Word had me hooked before I ever heard their music. Their one-line bio – “Jay Gatsby died, we played the funeral.” – wraps the group in their own brand of the operatic, twisted rock ‘n’ roll ethos. Crafting stories that range from a demon-powered car race in “Formula 666” to the swashbuckling battle on the open sea in “Dead Girls Tell No Tales,” the group manages to create a world that’s as outrageous as it is inclusive, a place for anyone and everyone to join in and enjoy the dark, swinging sounds of the 1920s.
2. Cicada Rhythm // Cecilia
Melodic and unassuming, Cicada Rhythm has a way of subtly blending the sweet simplicity of ’60s and ’70s folk music with the hustle and bustle of 21st century life between the slide of fingers on acoustic guitar strings, the swell of a stand-up bass, and crisp harmonic vocals. Featuring bassist Andrea DeMarcus and guitarist Dave Kirslis, Cicada Rhythm has the most down-home sound of any group I’ve heard this year, perfectly showcased in their take of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Cecilia,” the latest installment in their Stuck in My Head cover series.
1. Pip the Pansy // “Siren Song”
Combining haunting piano melodies with fuzzy synth and driving rhythms – and the occasional flute solo – Pip the Pansy dispels every notion I ever had about pop music and replaces it with a lilting, quirky melodicism. Uniquely creative, she has a way of entrancing listeners with the effortlessness of a Greek siren, weaving a hazy dreamworld of myth, magic, and melody.
With a powerful live show and a brand new EP, Love Legends, Pt. 1, Pip the Pansy is proof of the magic of reinvention, a perfect send off into a brand new decade.
Keep on rocking, Atlanta – wishing you the happiest of days and a wonderful new year.