Through pining comes purpose. Paul Cherewick, monikered Paul Cherry, makes a departure from pining for an unrequited love on his debut LP Flavour toward the hunger for creative fulfillment on Back on the Music. “Bouncing off the bottom: this pattern is the problem…” is the melancholic opening line of the new album, a meandering meditation on the life of an artist: chasing inspiration, finding community, and the struggle to maintain both. Throughout the buoyant, alright-on-the-outside tracks that make up his second album, Cherry staggers and stumbles back into love with his life and craft. Music becomes personified inside Tootsie Roll, becoming an ugly, grinning trench coated villain plucked right out of a vintage Max Fleischer cartoon, cooing to the listener, “You know you want me. Take me, take me,” harmonizing over his own voice. Almost as if through excess, inhibition and precise self-analysis, Paul Cherry may find quiet. In the luxuriant arrangement of the title track, Back on the Music he sings, “You love to play, but it don’t pay. Feels like you’re caught in check mate.” Not everything fits neatly within the lines of these songs, as in the lonely, wobbling flute melody that carries us out of It Happens All the Time. Cherry shows us that often the path back to one’s self— disguised in this album as Music—is a wavering one.
Specializing in melodic, jangling indie pop with a lo-fi bent, JW Francis is a New York-based musician whose D.I.Y. ethos and breezy songwriting earned him an international following in the late 2010s. After signing with U.K. indie label Sunday Best, he released a series of engagingly offbeat albums including 2021’s Wanderkid and 2023’s Dream House.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in Paris, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist eventually found his way to New York City, where he began his music career. A D.I.Y. enthusiast from the start, Francis began crafting tuneful lo-fi pop songs that took influence from icons like Jonathan Richman and the Velvet Underground but celebrated the vibrant indie scene of mid-2010s New York. While working as a licensed city tour guide, he began releasing a string of independent singles and EPs, beginning with 2018’s I’ll Love You Forever, Bye. His buoyant melodies and nimble guitar leads, especially on songs like 2019’s “Lofi,” helped Francis build a grassroots audience, and in 2020 he signed with U.K. imprint Sunday Best Recordings, and then in 2023 with Philly based label Born Losers Records.