Exclaim!'s Staff Picks for November 14, 2022: Hemlocke Springs, Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn, Pony Girl

Photos (clockwise from top left): Hemlocke Springs by Mishi Mode, Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn by Clifford Usher, Pony Girl by Curtis Perry, MAVI by Wyeth Collins

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Nov 14, 2022

This probably goes without saying, but we are not Dolly Parton; Jeff Bezos has not given us $100 million to "do good things." (It's blood money, but we'd probably still accept.) In any case, we're still trying to make a positive impact on your ears with another weekly edition of Exclaim!'s Staff Picks. Among this batch are an indie sleaze viral hit, a pigmented collaboration and the art rock equivalent of Semisonic's "Closing Time."

Still hungry for more? Seek what new music ye shall find in our reviews section.

Joe Abbott
A Toothache in Spades
(Baby Horse)

Last we heard from Joe Abbott, one of Exclaim!'s Canadian alt-country artists pushing the genre into the future, he had released his 2021 EP Little Cuties. Now, the Vancouver crooner is back, teaming up with a full band for plenty more pedal steel, upright bass, banjo and breezy vocals on A Toothache in Spades — a collection of folk and country tunes ripe for warming hearts in the cold months to come. 
Allie Gregory

Alicia Clara
(Hot Tramp)

Velveteen is aptly named. Following 2021's Outsider/Unusual, the new EP from Montreal-based dream pop songwriter (and Exclaim! New Faves alum) Alicia Clara approximates the smooth, silky texture of velvet with four songs draped in gossamer coos and soft-focus arpeggios. It's hard to make out Clara's gently murmured lyrics, the EP's mid-tempo ballads drifting past in a haze that's almost narcotic.
Alex Hudson

Hemlocke Springs
(Good Luck Have Fun)

Hemlocke Springs has shelved her med school plans now that her second ever single has gone viral on TikTok. Leaning into the indie sleaze revival, she evokes early MARINA and MGMT for a synthpop quick-hitter with an explosive bridge. "Secretly I'm aiming for a freedom that exceeds my expectations," she nearly shouts, alluding to the loss of self that comes with being tethered. 
Sydney Brasil

Laughing so Hard, it Hurts
(Mavi 4 Mayor)

Years after bursting from a low-fi movement underpinned by Earl Sweatshirt and MIKE, MAVI's mind and music come into clearer view on Laughing so Hard, it Hurts. It's a variegated, unguarded account of self from the North Carolinian whose performance remains imbued with agility and astuteness, as verdant production from Dylvinci, Wolf Morpheus and more guide the artist's continued maturation both inside the booth and beyond.
Calum Slingerland

Pony Girl
Enny One Wil Love You
(Paper Bag)

The follow-up to 2015's Foreign Life, the latest album from Ottawa art rockers Pony Girl begins somewhere around the final song of the night. Suspending the time between last call and the dawn, "Talking About You" lingers in the air drowsily until the title track breaks through with caterwauling guitar pinwheels. The "In Wartime" theme presented early on returns as an instrumental interlude after the fizz of "Makeup" — before the realization of being fated to do it all over again lands with siren wails and industrial synths on "Running in Circles."
Megan LaPierre

Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn 

Dawn Richard's music has always felt just to-the-side of the real world, her deeply-felt art pop and sideways R&B taking common sounds, stories and feelings to entirely new planes. Pigments, her new collaboration with bassist and neoclassical composer Spencer Zahn, reveals new depths to her voice and songwriting. Richards and Zahn craft diaphanous, otherworldly visions, weaving Richard's voice amongst burbling electronics, swinging strings and washes of atmosphere. It doesn't sound quite like anything either artist has done before, but it feels like where they were always meant to be. 
Kaelen Bell

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