New Music – Palberta | Kiwi Jr | Cowgirl | Tarah Who?

Montage of 4 pictures - band shot of Palberta sitting on the floor, album cover for Kiwi Jr (band name in black and white lettering), cassette version of Cowgirl single and band shot of Tarah Who leaning on railings

New releases – Palberta, Kiwi Jr, Cowgirl, Tarah Who?

Palberta – Palberta5000 (album)

New York three-piece Palberta still have a foot firmly in their post-punk roots, but their latest offering is laced with added pop harmonies and feel-good riffs. The longest track comes in at close to 5 minutes, the shortest squeezed into just 18 seconds, and each song flips into new territory seamlessly. There’s a very raw quality to the sound that can only be made by a band who are anything but raw in their talent. Comparisons with 70s’ underground heroes The Raincoats are not unjustified and fans of Menace Beach may just find the intricate layers of sound right up their slightly surreal street. Go on, have a listen, you deserve a little fun right now.

Palberta5000 is out today on Wharf Cat Records

Palberta

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Kiwi Jr – Cooler Returns (album)

Canada’s Kiwi Jr are back with more charming lo-if indie tales on their new album Cooler Returns. Laid back and with an undercurrent of dry humour, the band saunter through the perils of Undecided Voters and being Only Here For a Haircut. If a young Michael Stipe were to tone down the anger of The Pixies, it might well sound a little like this. The record is a pleasing listen from start to finish and generates involuntary smiles with its askance look at the world. A dash of panache amid the weariness of the pandemic could be just what the doctor ordered.

Cooler Returns is released today on Sub Pop

Kiwi Jr

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Cowgirl – (single)

Independent York label Safe Suburban Home Records have spent a chunk of lockdown helping artists to keep putting out music while sharing their love of physical releases. Their latest output comes from local fuzz rock ‘n’ rollers Cowgirl, with a cassette release of loud and proud single Caroline. Slamming straight into a wall of guitars, Cowgirl could be the sons of Dinosaur Junior (Dinosaur Junior Junior?) on a day trip out with the Mary Chain’s Reid brothers. Seemingly they have a treasure trove of unheard tracks stashed away just waiting for future release; nice to have something to look forward to, and the other acts featured on the label are worth a listen too.

Caroline is out today on Safe Suburban Home Records

Cowgirl

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Tarah Who – Swallow that Pill (single)

Hailing from LA, Tarah Who? form a power duo ready to take on the world with their unapologetically frenetic tunes turned up to the max. New single Swallow that Pill takes no prisoners and comes complete with a demolition-happy video. The track reminds me a tad of Department S’s defining piece Is Vic There?, but perhaps if it had been wrung through a grunge-tipped mangle first. One to sit up and pay attention to.

Swallow that Pill is released today

Tarah Who?

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Hive Mind PR, Prescription PR, Safe Suburban Home Records, Under the Moon PR

22nd January 2021

 

Interview – Robbie & Mona

Will and Ellie who make up the band Robbie and Mona, sitting on a red armchair in front of a large window with heavy curtains

Bringing a Lynchian twist to their darkened dream pop, Robbie & Mona release their debut album into the world this month and propel themselves straight onto the ones to watch in 2021 list. The couple behind the band are Ellie Gray and Will Carkeet, both also members of consummate Bristol collective Pet Shimmers. We asked them about their music, what they’ve been listening to through lockdown and the cinematic value of trampolines…

How are you both doing, where are you right now?

Ellie: We are in Bristol, in Easton, in our bedroom. We’re both enjoying the Saturday sun, listening to / watching a funny old performance by a band called Butch Willis and the Rocks.

Your debut album EW comes out at the end of the month, how has it been recording and promoting it during lockdown?

Will:  We finished recording EW back in March in the first lockdown, but its been a bit of a rollercoaster, waves of frustration in terms of not being able to gig and properly show it to the world. But Spinny Nights have been very great at promoting it for us and being so supportive.

Tell us about the songs, is there a running story throughout the record?

Ellie: The songs have been opportunities for us to have fun going into a world of automatism and surrealism. Will makes his production potions that always get me going and are perfect foundations for me to freely dance with my thoughts and voice across it.

Will: The majority of these songs were written and recorded as we began seeing each other, we look back and kind of realise they were our attempts at impressing each other!

Album artwork for E.W. By Robbie and Mona shows the back of a person wearing a black leather bodysuit and head covering, kneeling on some grass

EW album artwork 

Your latest track Queen Celine packs a lot into a minute and a half, was there any temptation to make it longer or was it always meant to be a short, sharp hit to the senses?

Will: You find the track always tells you how long it wants to be and this one stopped very abruptly and it felt right being as short as it was, any more and we would have upset the song.

The video is like a little burst of film noir with added trampolining – it’s beautifully shot, what was the thinking behind it and who was involved?

Ellie: We saw some work by Max McLachlan and thought he had the perfect twist of humour and doom. He had this idea of trampolines, which felt great, then Arthur from Spinny Nights’ mum and dad ended up being star bouncers in the video. It felt like a really seamless collaboration where everything fell into place, all the right personalities came together. It’s a really satisfying feeling when two different artists get together and their mediums really expose and compliment each other.

You recorded a set for Rotterdam’s Left of the Dial Festival a while back, it looked like they were due to have a great line up – how did you get involved in that?

Will: We played with them in October 2019 with our other project Pet Shimmers, and then when we were on tour they kindly put us up in Rotterdam and invited us to a little gig on a boat. They are so hospitable and giving, since then we stayed in touch and when they heard mine and Ellie’s new stuff they were keen to get us involved. They are great human beings.

Realistically, live music isn’t getting back to how it was pre-Covid any time soon, how do you see it looking moving forward?

Will: From this pandemic I would hope that when things return to ‘normal’, that people approach it more ambitiously in the sense of not just playing a standard venue and standard support act, questioning the traditional way of how a show is constructed.

Who’s been on your lockdown playlist and what have you been watching to while away the hours?

Will: Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes, Butch Willis and the Rocks – The TV’s from Outer Space, the Notting Hill soundtrack, Jessica Pratt, Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby album, Yellow Man – Lost Mi Love…

Ellie: Leonard Cohen Various Positions album, Connie Converse, Brian Eno & John Cale, Cindy Lee,  Sean Nicholas Savage, Playboi Carti – @ MEH, Le Tigre, Beverly Glenn-Copeland , Peggy Lee…

Been watching Surviving Death on Netflix, a slightly cheesy but addictive series about near death experiences and life after the physical body, Unexplained series presented by the wonderful Tony Robinson talking about the Cathars and some spooky premonition stuff with amazing early noughties style dramatisations, Jan Švankmajer animator film-maker DVD set, John Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête, and Breaking Bad, to which I was a virgin pre-lockdown.

If there were no restrictions and you could take us on a tour of your favourite places around Bristol, where would we go?

Ellie: We would take you to Greenbank Cemetery and give you the task of finding the most elaborate headstone and reward you with a hot flask of mulled wine.

And what’s next for Robbie & Mona?

Will: Kick ass second album on its way.

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EW is released on 29th January via Spinny Nights and is available to pre-order now – catch up with Robbie & Mona here.

Interview by Siobhan
Header photo © Ellie Gray

19th January 2021

New Music – Home Counties | Teenage Fanclub | Galactapus | Gary Numan

New releases – Home Counties, Teenage Fanclub, Galactapus, Gary Numan

Home Counties – Modern Yuppies (single)

Heading into 2021 in style, Home Counties’ spiky new single is just what’s needed to blow the lockdown cobwebs away. Taking a funk-fuelled approach with synths aplenty, the track sees the band lean away from a guitar-led stance and crank up the dance hooks, following in the footsteps of a Talking Heads style stroll along the road to nowhere. Modern Yuppies, out today, is the first of two self-produced singles released via the mighty Alcopop! Records.

Vocalist Will Harrison comments, “Synths and drum machines were already something we were very keen to explore and 2020 provided us with an unexpected amount of free time to experiment. We dialled the disco influences up to the max and totally embraced that 70’s-cop-drama vibe for this pair of stand-alone singles. It feels like a bold declaration of who we are and it definitely gives a clearer taste of where we’re heading for our next EP”.

Home Counties

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Teenage Fanclub – Home (video)

After much anticipation, Teenage Fanclub have confirmed their return with studio album number 10. Endless Arcade is set for release on 5th March via their own label PeMa in the UK and on Merge in the US. As a taster, the band have shared a video for the album’s opening track Home. In true TF fashion, the song proffers mixed emotions, an oxymoron of cheerful melancholy and laid back sophistication. The album looks set to be a welcome relief to the trials of the current environment.

“We were very comfortable with each other in the studio,” says Norman. “I think some of the playing is a bit freer and looser than on recent albums. Dave and Euros’ playing is amazing, and Francis on drums is really swinging. The whole process of making this album was very invigorating. Everyone in the band contributed a lot and the song arrangements came together really quickly. Everything felt fresh.”

Endless Arcade can be pre-ordered here

Teenage Fanclub

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Galactapus – I Intend to Stay (album)

Steeped in mystery with masks to put the rest of us to shame, Galactapus offer up psych-punk with a twist of Euro-pop and costumes straight from the house of glam. Relatively new out of the blocks, this sounds like a project worth keeping an enigmatic eye on.

Their PR states, ‘Galactapus is a recording group who plays and sings space-aquatica punk music. They have asked that their personal backgrounds not be provided, but are excited that their first album I Intend To Stay might find the right ears to hear it.’

If you fall into that particular section of the Venn diagram that captures fans of Can, early Doors and Serge Gainsbourg, then I suspect you may just have the right ears – bend them back and take a trip to the curious world of Galactapus.

I Intend to Stay is available to purchase on Bandcamp

Galactapus

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Gary Numan – (single)

Last but by no means least, Gary Numan still holds a hugely loyal following after 40 years in the business. Pending new album Intruder is due for release on 21st May and the lead/title single and video were shared yesterday. Debuted to live audiences on 2019’s (R)evolution tour, Intruder is a strong track and already a firm fan favourite. The intro takes a more industrial than electronic stance until the instantly recognisable vocal kicks in and there’s a message behind the music too.

Numan explains, “Intruder looks at climate change from the planet’s point of view. If Earth could speak, and feel things the way we do, what would it say? How would it feel? The songs, for the most part, attempt to be that voice, or at least try to express what I believe the earth must feel at the moment. The planet sees us as its children now grown into callous selfishness, with a total disregard for it’s well being. It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back. Essentially, it considers human kind to be a virus attacking the planet. Climate change is the undeniable sign of the Earth saying enough is enough, and finally doing what it needs to do to get rid of us, and explaining why it feels it has to do it.”

Intruder is available to pre-order here

Gary Numan

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Words by Siobhan

12th January 2021

New Music – The Underground Youth | The Red Stains | Outlaw Boogie | Nightshift

New releases – The Underground Youth, The Red Stains, Outlaw Boogie, Nightshift

The Underground Youth – A Sorrowful Race (single)

When a song puts you in mind of a refurbished Chelsea Hotel No 2, it’s immediately worthy of your attention. And without denying the hints of Leonard Cohen, The Underground Youth have proffered something a bit different and a bit special too here. Incredibly, this is the lead from the band’s 10th album due in March. Manchester born and now based in Berlin, they have the influence of two cities whose music scenes are revered around the world, the chemistry to seamlessly move towards a darker sound of film noir, and the ability to capture a snapshot of the current isolation we’re all experiencing.

A Sorrowful Race is out now and will be followed by the album The Falling released on 12th March 2021 via Fuzz Club Records.

The Underground Youth

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The Red Stains – Freezer Jesus (single)

Another solid track from Manchester’s The Red Stains with their seasonally flavoured new single Freezer Jesus. Reflecting the original 70’s DIY punk ethic, the song is confrontational and humour-filled at the same time. An ode to the 24/7 consumerism that even lockdown can’t prevent, the tune is spiky and matched with sawtooth vocals and barbed lyrics. ‘Well the joke’s on you ‘cause I’ve seen Jesus, he was buying chicken nuggets out an Iceland freezer’ is a Christmas couplet like no other; sing it in the shopping aisles and don’t go fighting over the last box of Ferrero Rocher.

The Red Stains

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Outlaw Boogie – The Circle (single)

Hazy, trippy and slick round the edges, Outlaw Boogie releases the titular track as a precursor to his forthcoming EP The Circle. In the depths of a freezing winter, a journey back to the summer of love is a bit of a tonic right now. Outlaw Boogie is the pseudonym of London based Michael James Dent; already a respected producer, songwriter and performer. He says of the song, “The Circle is a tribute to a good friend who sadly passed in 2019. I wanted the song to act as a reminder that when somebody passes, they are still alive somewhere and even when you are walking home alone at night, that presence is always with you.”

The Circle EP is due for release on 15th January 2021.

Outlaw Boogie

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Nightshift – Make Kin (single)

Whatever they’re feeding musicians in Glasgow at the moment, it continues to produce a seemingly steady stream of great artists and songs. Very much part of the local scene, Nightshift features members of indie peers Spinning Coin, 2 Ply and Robert Sotelo. They sound like they might be the hidden love-child of Duds and Dry Cleaning, combining layers of sound in a conflation of spoken word and tribal drumbeats. Their pending album from which Make Kin is taken has been pieced together remotely with band members creating and improvising their own sections, proof that quarantine needn’t stop creativity.

The album Zöe will be released on 26th February 2021 on Trouble in Mind Records.

Nightshift

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Silver PR, The Red Stains, One Beat PR

11th December 2020

EP Review – Dirty Freud: Love in the Backwater

Dirty Freud – Love in the Backwater 

Artist and producer Dirty Freud is making quite a name for himself, working with the likes of The Prodigy, Big Narstie and even godfather of everything, Iggy Pop. It’s unsurprising that his stamp is being sought out so widely given the refusal to stick to any one mainstream or underground genre, Freud’s blend of beats and dark electronica demands attention and provides a perfect platform to showcase the talents of others.

With three of the four tracks on this EP already released, it holds limited surprise for those already listening, however, the final packaged product is a fine collection with which to woo new ears.

Opening track Blood Bayou highlights the gorgeous tones of long-term collaborator Ruby Tingle’s vocals, think Jhené Aiko meets Karen O in a darkly lit club, with hypnotic synths and a smattering of opera filling the background. Flanked by previous singles Intentions (featuring Szou) and Moments, the title track Love in the Backwater proves worth the wait, telling the story of surviving a pandemic with a cool intensity that encompasses the entire EP.

From trip- hop to techno, dubstep to dance beats, there’s a whole plate of musical delicacies to pick from here. A skilfully unexpected EP for a wildly unexpected year, Love in the Backwater is released tomorrow, 11th December, via Modern Sky UK – pre-save here.

Words by Siobhan
Photos via Sonic PR

10th December 2020

New Music – The Lounge Society | Maya Lakhani

New releases – The Lounge Society, Maya Lakhani

The Lounge Society – Burn the Heather (single)

Back with their second single and sounding like a band much further into its career, The Lounge Society have released Burn the Heather this week via the ever trustworthy Speedy Wunderground. The track feels its way through the dark dancefloors of The Fall and Fat Whites-esque influences and manages to stand high above similarly veined offerings from many other emerging artists. It bears the test of being played on repeat and still sounding fresh each time. There really does seem to be something quite special about the music these guys are making and, given that their combined age would only just qualify them for a senior bus pass, things bode extremely well for the future. Do have a listen to this one and check out tour dates for 2021; am advised some are selling out already so don’t hang about.

The Lounge Society

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Maya Lakhani – The Line (single)

Releasing her debut single The Line today, Maya Lakhani brings a serving of sophisticated rock to the table. An established musician (most recently as part of distortion guitar outfit Concrete Bones), she has stepped up to the solo podium in style, writing, recording and producing all the vocals and guitar on the record. With hints of PJ Harvey and The Creatures (a la Siouxsie and Budgie rather than the apparently endless other acts with the same name), this is a strong entrance that suggests Maya will be making waves on the ones to watch lists. If 2000 Trees are still booking for next year, there’s a great fit here. Take a listen to The Line here and keep an eye on what comes next.

Maya Lakhani

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Words by Siobhan

27th November 2020

 

Interview – Sen Morimoto

Like a magpie collects shiny gems, Sen Morimoto has dipped into a treasure trove of genres and influences, fusing together jazz, hip-hop and soulful undertones on his new self-titled album. We asked him about his early experiences with music and how the record came together…

How are you doing, what’s life like in Chicago right now?

All in all I’m feeling grateful. Or at least always trying to feel grateful. Chicago’s Covid cases are spiking again, so we’re preparing for another lockdown. Today I’ll stock up on groceries and try not to leave home for a while. While as a country there’s been a brief sigh of relief after the election, Chicagoans are still protesting. The city government has made it clear that its loyalty lies with the police, and not the hundreds of thousands of protesters asking to defund the police and remove them from schools. It’s a big hill to look up at because these pleas are really only the bare minimum but the City hasn’t budged, and has instead consistently responded with violence. All that being said, everything is so uncertain these days that I remain grateful for what I have and the safety and wellbeing of my friends and family.

You’ve been playing music since you were a child, what are your early memories of hearing music at home or with family and friends?

I’ve always loved to sing, although for most of my adolescence I was too shy to try it in front of anyone so I used the saxophone. I remember singing Jackson 5 CDs straight through in the car at the top my lungs when I was really little. My siblings hated it. I did the same with the theme from That Thing You Do!. As I got older my dad’s CD collection became a treasure map of interests for me, and a kind of bible of music to study. I had obsessive phases with a lot of records, mostly stuff from the 60s and 70s. Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Neil Young, Carpenters, Kate Bush, and on and on. I taught myself piano and bass learning as many Stevie Wonder songs as I could. Super grateful for those CDs, they definitely shaped not only what I play but what I enjoy hearing in new music too.

Your latest album was released at the end of October, how long has it been in the making and how does it feel now it’s finished?

After my last record touring, my own music and others’ projects kept me pretty busy for a couple years. I would write lyrics or record voice memo ideas on the road and glue everything together whenever I was home. A lot of times when I sit down to record I’m just exploring sounds to come back to and use for a song I write separately, so it ends up feeling like I’ve been working on each record for years but it doesn’t usually start really coming together until a bit before it comes out. Some of the tracks have elements that I’ve been tweaking for years before I released the previous record even. It feels amazing to finally have it out in the world. My favorite part about releasing a body of work is how free I feel to make something completely different right after.

It’s hard to categorise your music but it feels like the soul/ jazz/ rap fusion holds lots of crossover appeal for listeners who might be less attracted to one of those elements on its own – do you get good reactions from a wide audience?

I think because the music I’m inspired by is so varied there’s something for everyone in some of my songs. But I also feel like that’s becoming more and more common in new music. We have access to so much music and art to draw inspiration from, and are exposed to so much of the same stuff online that it feels more and more like all new music is a combination of a few different genres. It’s something that I am actually pretty excited about. It’s like if all the genres that exist now are elements that have been discovered, then the only way to create new elements is to combine the ones we have. The tricky part is doing it gracefully so your music chemistry set doesn’t explode in your face.

What’s the best or worst review you’ve ever had?

The other day I was with some friends and someone put on Man Of The Woods by Justin Timberlake and said, “You ever notice you kinda sound like him”. Don’t get me wrong I love so much of his music and he’s obviously a legend but to say it while that song is playing and not like… idk Cry Me a River or ‘Pushaaaaa looooovee I’m just a Juj-juh-juh-juh-Junkie for your love…’ I was still flattered though, I’d say that was the best and the worst in one.

Tell us about the collaborations on the album, do you start these with a clear idea of the outcome or just see which direction things take?

I definitely let the song lead the way. I leave a lot of room for error and experimentation because some of the best ideas come from mistakes. With collaboration I like to maintain a similar looseness. I never ask collaborators to use their voice or instrument in a certain way, I just ask them to listen to the song a few times and try something that feels natural to them. We go back and tweak things afterwards that we mutually agree on but I try not to let myself get in the way of their expression. I think the other way of doing it where musicians become kind of instruments of your own expression can make for great art too but for me it’s about our minds kind of turning the Rubik’s cube around together.

You’ve mentioned that you had vivid dreams whilst writing the album – did these make their way into the songs?

Definitely, there’s a lot of reference to my dreams in the lyrics. Some are descriptive of the things I’ve dreamt of, like in The Things I Thought About You Started To Rhyme where the lyrics are almost all supposed to feel like a dream, or You Come Around and Nothing Isn’t Very Cool where I talk a little bit about how these dreams affect my waking experience.

Take us on a tour of your neighbourhood, what should we know about that’s not in the guide books?

There’s a Puerto Rican sandwich joint around the corner called Cafe Colao that I’m at more mornings than not. Their café con leche motivates me to rise in the morning.

You’re receiving an award for the album, who gets a mention in your acceptance speech?

I’m definitely hitting the Cuba Gooding Jr. Jerry McGuire Oscar win speech “EVERYONE INVOLVED I LOVE YOU”.

And what’s next, what does 2021 hold for you?

Honestly I have no idea. I’m excited for a couple projects I’m helping put together on the production end and with my label Sooper Records here in Chicago. I want to make as much music as I can and use this time off touring to think about how I can help people more and continue learning.

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You can keep up with the latest news from Sen here. The album is available to buy digitally and in physical format on vinyl, CD and cassette on Bandcamp, through Sen’s own label Sooper Records. Watch the video for Woof below.

Interview by Siobhan
Photo via One Beat PR

17th November 2020

New Music – Fast Trains | Solidarity Tapes | Van Houten

New releases – Fast Trains, Solidarity Tapes, Van Houten

Fast Trains – The English Way (single)

If you’re wondering how to produce and release music on your own terms, take a closer look at Fast Trains. Eschewing the gargantuan claws of Spotify and aligning the importance of visuals with music, Fast Trains’ material is available exclusively on their website and YouTube. The project has so far seen a range of songs and videos meeting acclaim and an unsurprising rise in interest. New EP ourWorld Volume 1 is due for release next year with lead track The English Way out now confronting the subject of men’s mental health, a topic given much more credence than it once was but still in want of further open discussion. The hard hitting lyrical message is softened with melodic vocals and an understated musical arrangement reminiscent of Radiohead’s High and Dry. In trying times, the parallel society of ourWorld feels like a fine and tranquil place to be, do pay a visit.

The English Way has been released this morning; listen below

(Just going to slip in a reminder here that if things are feeling tough you can talk to CALM and The Samaritans in confidence)

Fast Trains

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Solidarity Tapes Volume 1 – End the Hostile Environment (album)

Solidarity Tapes is a new DIY cultural project set up to raise money and awareness for migrant, racial, social and climate justice. Their inaugural release End the Hostile Environment is available now in the shape of a cassette and illustrated zine and it’s packed with an eclectic mix of music from new and established artists of varying genres. Kaputt bring art pop à la Bis with Parsonage Square, Big Joanie offer up discordant punk track Eyes and Italia 90’s Against the Wall is a well fitting addition with the opening line ‘I don’t wanna hear about the power of love when it’s a substitute for real ideology and thought’. Also on the tracklist Goat Girl, PVA and Garden Centre all make an appearance along with many others well worth checking out. Citing their aim as ‘in the spirit of solidarity not charity’, the project offers a platform for artists to present a united front with oppressed groups in a practical way and some great tunes as an added bonus.

Have a listen and make a purchase or donation if you’re able here

Solidarity Tapes

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Van Houten – Home Alone (EP)

Out today, Van Houten’s EP Home Alone is brimming with their self-proclaimed ‘slacker pop with a cherry on top’. The Leeds 5 piece have a knack for producing effortlessly breezy dream-pop tunes that belie the complexity of the musical layers involved. Recent singles You and Me and What I Need have a definite vibe of Bill Ryder-Jones and early Childhood and those are heady comparisons not made lightly. The soft focus and melancholy are beautifully executed; listen as you go to sleep and sweet dreams are sure to follow. A couple of planned socially distanced gigs have had to be postponed but, when live shows are a thing again, get yourself along to catch Van Houten if you can, this is definitely a band to keep on your radar. The release comes with a limited run of 50 hand numbered cassettes, available here.

Home Alone is out today via Clue Records, video for What I Need below

Van Houten

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Words by Siobhan

13th November 2020

Album Review – Chilly Gonzales: A very chilly christmas

Chilly Gonzales – A very chilly christmas

Christmas songs are often the very antithesis of festive reality and also pretty bizarre in their concept. Santa Claus is coming to town after having spied on you all year, it’s the most wonderful time of the year – to feel under pressure, get into debt and keep a smile on your face whilst you’re rocking around the tree… Merry Christmas everyone!

As we all wait to discover which song has been given the ‘singing from a ditch’ treatment on this year’s John Lewis advert, take the time to seek out something altogether more palatable – the holiday album you didn’t know you needed in your life but which proves to be an unexpectedly cordial companion.

Resplendent in smoking jacket, Grammy award winning Chilly Gonzales has produced an album full of elegance and emotions on this collection of seasonal songs, think Nick Cave at the piano and a smattering of smooth strings mixed with the tinkling expectancy of a silent movie soundtrack. From Silent Night to Jingle Bells, everything gets a sleek update and if you must do a cover of Last Christmas, this is how it should be done, the grandiose addition of cellist Stella Le Page paying the appropriate amount of respect to a songwriter talented above his commercial success.

The collaborative tracks add extra layers, with sugar-coated vocals from singer-songwriter Feist on The Banister Bough and regular associate Jarvis Cocker breathing an almost sinister spoken vocal into In the Bleak Midwinter. Both artists return for one of the optimum moments of the album on Snow is Falling in Manhattan, a track that fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen would surely have approved of, a Hallelujah for the pandemic if you will.

Speaking about the record, Chilly Gonzales says, “Christmas is a time of very mixed intense emotion for me, and the existing canon often sounds like a forced smile. Christmas is a typical time for superficial happiness, but also a time for reflection and mourning the sad events throughout the year. The songs of A very chilly christmas make room for a more authentic interpretation of this very peculiar 2020 holiday season.”

The overall experience draws a hypnotic familiarity that conjures up images of the fireplace draped in holly, whilst a slightly dysfunctional family play charades as grandma falls asleep in her armchair, an empty sherry glass in her hand and a smile on her face. Not your average Christmas album but then it’s not been your average year. All in all, A very chilly christmas is a veritable box of gift-wrapped treats best opened early.

A very chilly christmas is released tomorrow, 13th November 2020 – pre-order and pre-save links here 

Review by Siobhan
Photo via Sonic PR

12th November 2020

Interview – Ostrich

Having recently discovered the sultry sounds of Ostrich with the two sharp singles they’ve already released, we’re very much looking forward to hearing what comes next. In the interim, we spoke to the band about their music, living through lockdown and their local haunts in Liverpool. There may also have been mention of brandy and ostrich racing…

Hello, introduce us to Ostrich – who’s involved and what’s the story behind your name?

Will McTaggart: Hello Breaking Glass! So we’re Ostrich, a five piece from Liverpool. We have Stuart Wilson on drums, Lydia Thomas on sax and keys, Will Bowman on bass, Leo Watkins on guitar and myself doing the crooning. Sadly, there’s not really an interesting story in regards to the name ‘Ostrich’, apart from that I look like one with my long legs. 

You started performing together last year, how did it feel when things came to an abrupt halt in 2020?

Will McT: It was a real shame to be honest. We played our last show in March and I’m sure it was our best to date. We were getting really tight as a band and had quite a few dates in the pipeline. Not to worry though! We’ll keep ourselves fresh, ready to go again!

Lydia: It feels like we jinxed it with that gig! I really miss rehearsing as a band. Luckily, Will McT’s been churning out tunes and sending us demos. I can’t wait to work on them and add some saxy bits. 

You’ve taken the opportunity to release two singles this year, that can’t be so easy in current conditions, how did you make that happen?

Will B: Way back in the distant past – 2019 I think it was – we flew to Prague and recorded 4 tracks in 4 days. It was wild. We drank more Old Fashions than any humans should, became regulars at the local jazz club, and razzed around on scooters ‘til our hearts were content. Those were the days, and listening to these tracks really brings it back. We really want to go back to record some more, but given that we’ve not been able to do that, we decided to release some of them instead. Releasing was a lot less fun than recording, but hey ho, it kept us occupied through lockdown!

The tracks both have quite a different feel, I love the 80s electro leaning on Inside Out (Got No Doubt) and the change up to One Man Band – do you set out to make a particular sound on a song or just see where it takes you?

Will B: I’d definitely agree – Inside Out is all mellow and warm, whereas One Man Band is bitter and angsty. I wouldn’t say that we ever start out with a fixed idea. For us, it’s definitely a case of getting the bare bones of the song, feeling it out a little bit, and then building the sound around that feeling. 

Despite restrictions, you’ve picked up a solid amount of interest and airplay – how does it feel hearing your songs on the radio?

Stuart: Hearing Inside Out on 6 Music was a surreal moment for us; we all listen to 6 constantly and weren’t expecting it at all. It’s a shame any interest we have can’t be translated to gigs yet, but we’ll wait as long as it takes…

How are things with you currently, what’s been the reaction to Liverpool being back in local lockdown?

Will B: At the time of writing, fleets of army vehicles are rolling up the M6, coming to swab each and every one of us. A total, mass test of the Merseyside region. A UK first! News outlets herald a new technological breakthrough, but we fear something more sinister this way comes. We’re the last Labour stronghold and BoJo hates us for it. And we can only wonder – why us? What does he want from us? Is it our DNA? And then what next? Will he build huge steel walls around us, cut us off from the mainland, and strip us of our freedoms and our citizenships? We hope so, because quite frankly, this country’s gone to shit anyway.

Lydia: … my Animal Crossing island is thriving.

Tell us about your home city in better times, there always seems to be loads going on creatively, where are your favourite places to go?

Leo: In ‘normal times’ Liverpool is just the best place. It’s small, but there’s a lot happening, so it’s super concentrated. 24 Kitchen Street remains probably the best venue still going in the city, despite becoming surrounded by faceless student accommodation, it champions diversity and supports local causes. The Grapes on Roscoe Street is probably my favourite pub in the world, it has live salsa infused jazz on Sunday nights. Petit Café du Coin is just round the corner if you’re feeling fancy (their boozy Irish coffee is liquid crack). We’re also blessed with some incredible art galleries: The Walker and The Tate to name but two. Other than that, get yourself out of the city centre. Sefton Park is completely unique, and huge, and always inspirational to me.

Whilst none of us are likely to be popping off to a desert island any time soon, what would your picks be to keep you happy if you did – favourite albums or anything else you couldn’t live without?

Will McT: I’m a bit obsessed with Joni Mitchell at the moment, especially her album Hissing of Summer Lawns. I’m just in awe of her songwriting. I’d take a few of her records and a massive bottle of brandy. 

Lydia: I feel the same about PJ Harvey’s album, Let England Shake. 

Will B: I’ve recently taken to obsessively refreshing the BBC News app, drinking lots of brandy, and crying. It really does get me through the day and is not something I would recommend under any circumstances.

Can you plan ahead right now, have you anything in the pipeline for more new music or playing live again?

Will McT: We’re sitting on a couple of singles that are ready to hatch once the time is right. Just seeing how things go with the Covid situation. We should have a video coming out for One Man Band in the next couple of weeks too. At the time of writing I’ve been filming something that involves an overhead projector, jars of beetroot, and shower gel – so I’ll leave that to your imagination. 

And lastly, because it feels important to end with a serious question, in some countries people race each other on the backs of ostriches – if you were the ostriches who would win the race and why?

I think about this all the time. I’d say Will McT, he’s already got the hang of those lanky legs. Then again, Stuart has a real competitive edge… it could get messy.

Catch up with Ostrich here and have a listen to the singles below


Interview by Siobhan

Band photo © Daniel de la Bastide

5th November 2020

Interview – Better Person

Making music that transports you to the afterglow of nights out in the city, Adam Byczkowski, aka Better Person, has produced a sultry album full of hypnotic tracks in Something To Lose, quite the antidote to everything happening around us right now. New single Dotknij Mnie (translating into English as Touch Me) adds a cathartic wave to the lighter feel of some of the other songs, showing his ability to deftly capture different moods and styles. We wanted to find out more about the influences of other music, people and places and how deeply a brush with Covid is still having an impact…

Hello, can you give us a quick intro to you and your music?

Yes of course, good morning. My name is Adam, also known to some people as Better Person. I write music, record it, release it and then travel to perform it live whenever possible. The music I make sounds like pop ballads and most of the time it talks about my personal feelings and experiences.

What can you see from wherever you are right now?

I’m laying in bed in my apartment in Berlin. I can see a white wall and an open window. There are buildings and trees outside, the sky is blue. There’s this crispy early fall smell in the air that makes me think of too many things all at once.

AND hello again, I came back to this interview to edit it a bit and now it’s night time already. I’m also in bed again but now it’s dark and my girlfriend is next to me, sleeping. It’s quiet.

Your last single Close to You reminds me of UK 80s’ artists like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile, who or what’s influencing the music you’ve been making recently?

Thank you, I like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile!

Artists from that era and genre were a huge inspiration for me, especially when I started this project, as Better Person. For this record I was actually inspired by a whole range of different music, from old French and Italian movie soundtracks through Euro-pop hits and 70’s soft rock all the way to old school balladeers like Julio Iglesias. I think that because I use synthesisers and drum machines to make my music it often ends up being heard through the narrow lens of the 1980s. Ultimately though, I hope that my music sounds like it’s made in 2020 more than any other time.

Tell us about your upcoming album Something to Lose, what can everyone expect?

It’s nine songs, exactly thirty minutes of music. It comes out on October 23rd 2020. The whole album is a bit lighter in mood than my last EP and maybe it’s also my best work yet? I hope that it is! And that people can feel moved by it and use it for having a nice time in this shitty time that we all live in. Heartfelt ballads sung by a Polish man who fell deeply in love. I worked hard on this album and I think that I’ve managed to make something real.

If you could put the album in any one person’s hands to listen to, who would you choose and why?

When I write music I keep my friends and people close to me in my mind. This time I wrote an album specifically for my partner, Jane. She’s the person I made it for so it’s in her hands that the album belongs. She already was forced to listen to it about seven thousand times at different stages and claims to love it every time. So, mission complete!

What was the last book you read?

I re-read some of Raymond Carver short stories the other day, always a pleasure.

You contracted Covid back in March, that must have been pretty scary – how was it then and how are you now?

Yes that is true. Back in March both my partner and I got the virus. It has been a real ride, we ended up having to go to hospitals frequently and we haven’t managed to recover to this day. It’s been six months since I got infected and I still spend most of my days stuck in bed, crippled by extreme fatigue, heart problems and difficulty breathing. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and it’s extremely punishing both physically and mentally.

How has the experience changed your outlook?

It’s made me really appreciate what a gift it is to feel healthy and be able to function normally. People that don’t believe in the virus or won’t wear their masks on (nose out = no mask) truly are idiots. There are online group forums for people who are still recovering and they have been the only valuable source of information and reassurance. I expect this to be a huge thing in the next couple months, more and more people simply not recovering from the sickness. I have no idea what the future holds and I can only hope that I get better in the next couple of months.

You’ve spent time in both Berlin and LA – those two cities seem so contrasting, what are the best things about each one for you?

Berlin is a place where I really came into my own, Better Person wouldn’t exist without it and I love the city for that. Los Angeles provides all the things that Berlin is lacking: great weather, amazing food, breathtaking views and a seemingly endless amount of inspiration and new connections to be made. It makes me devastated knowing that it will be a long time before I’m back again.

Looking forward, what are you hoping for over the next year?

I’m really only hoping to get better and be able to live normally again. After that I’d love to play lots of shows and make new music.

Something To Lose is released on Friday 23rd October via Arbutus Records – pre-order here

Interview by Siobhan
Photos: header image © Geoff Meugens, image on steps © Tess Roby

Date 19th October 2020

New Music – Badgers | Tugboat Captain | Deep Sea Diver | Pet Grotesque

New releases – Badgers, Tugboat Captain, Deep Sea Diver, Pet Grotesque 

Badgers – Why Am I Your Only Friend? (single)

It’s so hard when tracks that were made to be played live can’t be played live but everything suggests that, if anyone from Australia ever wants to come to UK again one day, Badgers will be a very welcome addition to the live circuit. The Melbourne quartet are producing scuzzy psych rock to the max and this new single is a kaleidoscope of riffs, sweet melodies and escalating chord structures.

Why Am I Your Only Friend? was released via Strong Island Recordings yesterday, blow the lockdown cobwebs away for a few minutes and listen here.

Badgers

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Tugboat Captain – Rut (album)

Following the release of a cluster of singles, Tugboat Captain’s album Rut comes charging into the world today. Opening track Check Ur Health sets the tone for their very own mini rock and pop opera. Think XTC meet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on a trip down Penny Lane with twists and turns throughout. There’s a lot going on here and it all slots together beautifully. Set some time aside, listen and enjoy.

Rut is available now on Double A-Side Records, watch the video for Everything About You below.

Tugboat Captain

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Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (album)

Also out today, the latest album from Deep Sea Diver brings velvety vocals with tracks from Shattering the Hourglass to Switchblade full of emotion and personal sentiment. Jessica Dobson explains, “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel, I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own.” If music is the healer, this album is certainly part of the medicine cabinet.

Impossible Weight is out today via High Beam Records, watch the video for the title track featuring Sharon Van Etten here.

Deep Sea Diver

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Pet Grotesque – Pingin’ Alone (single)

Another fine track from Pet Grotesque, a further dimension added with backing vocals from Vanity Fairy and Tiña’s Adam Cartwright. There’s something very understated but nonetheless powerful about the music coming from the Pet Grotesque camp and this track has a feel of Europop mixed with something a little harder hitting. Cleverly mixed by PVA’s Josh Baxter, there are multiple layers to peel away , each of which is a pleasant surprise.

Look out for sophomore album Female Synth Player, due for release in November.

Pingin’ Alone is out now, listen below

Pet Grotesque

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Strong Island Recordings, Tugboat Captain, Chalk Press Agency, Majesty PR – Pet Grotesque © Ella Harris

16th October 2020

Interview – Funeral Lakes

With climate change at critical levels and a lack of action by world leaders, you might ask yourself how best to get the message heard. Amidst the cacophony of protesters waving banners on the streets, Funeral Lakes approach the subject through the wonder of music, their songs an ambient journey through hypnotic folk rock. Showing that a protest song doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops, the Canadian duo have plenty to say and make it a pleasure to listen. We chatted to them about their latest EP, Golden Season, and what’s happening in the world right now, for them musically, and for all of us on a wider scale…

Introduce us to Funeral Lakes, who’s involved and how did it all begin?

Funeral Lakes is Chris Hemer (he/him) and Sam Mishos (she/her). We started the project in the spring of 2018, self-producing music in our apartment in Vancouver, B.C., and then in Toronto, Ontario. The project started as a creative medium to express our fears and frustrations about the world we’re living in.

The world is in a bit of a mess right now, how are you both and how are things in Toronto?

Thank you for asking! We are both doing as well as can be right now. We’ve been reflecting a lot on the collective traumas we are all experiencing, oscillating between feelings of hope and hopelessness. We have just recently relocated from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario to start graduate school, which has made our personal lives pretty busy. It’s a much smaller city compared to Toronto, and we’ve come to appreciate the change of pace. It’s a real privilege to be able to get outside every day and access green spaces around where we live.

Your songs seem very much to be reflections of what’s happening around you, is it hard to stay creative at the moment?

Music has always been a way for both of us to cope and process the experiences in our lives. Our creativity is often tied to the realities happening around us, so our creative output hasn’t changed all that much. That being said, there are days where we don’t feel like singing about much at all. Ultimately, we try to relay whatever emotions we’re feeling – whether it be anxiety, sadness, frustration, hope – through our music.

Tell us about your new EP Golden Season, what was your inspiration for this record and who’s helped you bring it to completion?

Following our first album, which was a pretty somber collection of songs, we wanted to make something much more energetic and charged this time around. These tracks represent where we’re at, and right now it’s a place of transition, of restlessness and urgency, as well as a time of reflection. Many of the themes we address aren’t exactly new (i.e. environmental destruction, heteropatriarchy, petro-nationalism), but these things have presented themselves over the past year in extremely loud ways that have been impossible to ignore. We put some other material on hold as we had the opportunity to realize these tracks in the studio with our friends – Charlie Van on drums and Colin Spratt who engineered, mixed, and mastered the songs.

Do you have a favourite track that you could tell us the story behind?

Eternal Return is a track that is really meaningful for us. It has existed in various iterations for some years now, but took a long time to feel complete. It’s a song about boom-and-bust cycles, false promises, and rampant toxic masculinity – all those factors culminate into what some call petro-nationalism. We tried to paint a picture of this reality playing out here in Canada, but also around the world. The bulk of the lyrics aim to take the listener through a rationale, so that they are feeling the same anger as us when the song takes off at the end. It was exciting to realize this in the studio where we could make it sound as big as we had envisioned. Some of the vocals are done through an actual megaphone, and we had our friends join in with us to achieve a sort of rallying cry with the group vocals.

Who else have you been listening to lately?

There is so much incredible and inspiring talent at the more local level. We’ve definitely been enjoying the works of Zoon, Sunnsetter, Eve Parker Finley, and Tyler Jafelice, to name a few.

Favourite 3 albums ever?

It’s always hard to answer this sort of question, but 3 albums that we always come back to are The Velvet Underground – Self-titled, Typhoon – White Lighter and The Clash – London Calling.

If your music was going to be used for a remake of any film, which one would you choose?

There’s this really hilarious late-90s post-apocalyptic movie called The Postman with Kevin Costner. Tom Petty has a pretty bizarre cameo in it too. Not sure if you could quite call it a cult classic, but it’s become strangely relevant this year… If anyone’s planning to remake this movie, please give us a call!

If you had the power to change anything, what would you love to see happen to make the world a better place?

It would be great for our so-called leaders to stop politicking and address the climate crisis in a meaningful way. There is a terrifying lack of leadership on the issue. Canada has been a resource-based economy and an oil-rich country for a long time. Now that the world is changing in the face of a climate emergency, we’re having an identity crisis. Politicians are abusing this moment we are in for personal/political gains on both sides. On one hand, there is a promise of a clean/green future that never comes to fruition, as we’ve seen with Trudeau federally, or with Horgan in B.C. On the other hand, there is a promise of a future that no longer exists, as we’re currently seeing with Kenney in Alberta. There are too many promises and not enough action, and that needs to change.

And what are your plans and hopes for Funeral Lakes, what happens next?

This project has always been about voicing our thoughts and feelings, so that’s not going to change, but the realities of how we can share our music and play live shows has been put on hold for the time being. We’re always writing and recording in our home space, so you can probably expect another EP from us in the spring. We have another big project in the works that’s a way’s off, but we’re really excited about. Ultimately, making connections and feeling less alone in all this is our hope with this music – that’s why we started this project.

You can catch up with Funeral Lakes here and listen to Eternal Return below. Golden Season is available now on Bandcamp.

 

Interview by Siobhan

5th October 2020

New Music – Teenanger | in earnest | Plants and Animals | The Strifes

New releases – Teenanger, in earnest, Plants and Animals, The Strifes

Teenanger – Good Times (album)

A new album out today from Toronto post-punks Teenanger showcases their development as a band along with an eclectic bunch of very accessible songs. Opening track Beige has hints of Joy Division until the dual vocals take things in a different direction, while recent single Touching Glass plays more to the alt pop audience. As well as making music, Teenanger are keeping the DIY ethos alive, running their label Telephone Explosion and operating a pay-what-you-can studio. The album has been a long time in the making yet retains a sense of urgency, warning of environmental damage and the reliance on technology while giving us some energy filled tunes to ease the pain.

Good Times is available now on Telephone Explosion, watch the video for Touching Glass below.

Teenanger

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in earnest – in earnest (EP)

We’ve previously featured the gorgeous tracks that Southend trio in earnest have released during the year and it’s a pleasure to see their debut EP coming to fruition next week. Fans of the band will already be familiar with the three singles and can look forward to another three equally compelling songs. Whilst the subject of mental health is far from being as taboo as it once was, it’s encouraging to find artists who are comfortable in being open about the difficulties around the struggles involved. Closing track The House encompasses all that in earnest are about, Sarah’s vocal sitting perfectly with from the heart lyrics, ‘These walls remember all that’s said and done, and my heart has chambers where the sadness runs’.

in earnest release their self-titled EP on 7th October, listen to 29 here.

in earnest

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Plants & Animals – Love that Boy (single) 

Ahead of the release of their latest album The Jungle later this month, Montreal’s Plants and Animals have shared new track Love that Boy this week. From the outset, it creates a dreamlike atmosphere with hazy layers of guitar and a soft drumbeat. The song contemplates growing from childhood to becoming part of a different family unit, Warren explains, It’s a song about my family, present and past, but it feels more like a meditation. I was upset, frustrated and feeling like no one knew me – the kid me, the me I still feel I am. And then writing the song chilled me out and put me right. It was a way to connect with my dead parents and with my new life as a dad, and to give everyone a proper hug.” The musical hug it provides offers a good indication that the album will be a welcome addition to the chaos of 2020.

Plants and Animals have live dates planned for February 2021. The Jungle is out on 23rd October on Secret City Records, watch the video for Love that Boy below.

Plants and Animals

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The Strifes – All Day and Night (single)

Hailing from the Southampton scene, The Strifes release debut single All Day and Night today. Pitching classic indie with a hint of Dandy Warhols-esque nostalgia, the three piece have captured a fresh energy filled sound that suggests there are festival anthems to come when that’s a possibility once again. A strong shot from the starting blocks for a band that only formed in May – keep an eye out to see what comes next.

Listen to All Day and Night here.

The Strifes

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Hive Mind PR, in earnest, Sonic PR, Fitz Promotions
(Plants and Animals © Caroline Désilets)

2nd October 2020

 

New Music – Premium Leisure | Better Person

New releases – Premium Leisure, Better Person

Premium Leisure – Remedies

Sounding a little as though someone decided that they would indeed ride that white swan all the way to 2020, new release from Premium Leisure, Remedies, is a psych infused indie-pop tune that momentarily takes away the troubles of the world. Its feelgood factor is high and the recurring mantra of ‘Do whatever makes you feel good’ is infectious (chocolate for breakfast is fine, you heard it here first).

Premium Leisure is the solo project of songwriter and producer Chris Barker, who will already be known to many of you as guitarist for Willie J Healey. An EP is planned for early 2021 and with a supporting cast of fellow Oxford musicians including Ash Cooke of Be Good, Casper Miles & Jack Kendrew of PETSEMATARY, Bassist Harry Deacon and Willie J Healey working with Chris on the project, it looks to be a promising prospect.

Remedies considers a more laid back and outward looking mindset,” Chris explains, ‘to do what makes you, and people around you, feel good.’ And that seems like a pretty fair idea.

The track is the first release on new label, Plum Cuts; watch the video below and look out for more from Premium Leisure and Plum Cuts soon…

Premium Leisure

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Better Person – Close To You

Drawing inspiration from a different era, Better Person, aka Adam Byczkowski, has released new track Close to You, a soulful single with wafts of 80s’ decadence and Europop. The vocal adds a hypnotic layer to the equable backing music, the result is easy listening with an edge, something to close your eyes and relax to with a strong feeling of nostalgia in the making.

Adam says of the track “While I was writing this song in Berlin, I started feeling tormented by never ending obligations to go out and socialize every night. I would force myself out, get way too drunk and waste a lot of time talking to random people. What I was really longing for was a quieter night with someone I truly care about.”

Close To You is taken from Better Person’s upcoming debut album Something To Lose, due for release on 23rd October via Arbutus Records, listen below.

Better Person

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Words by Siobhan
Photos – Premium Leisure © Ash Cooke | Better Person © Tess Roby

25th September 2020 

Album Review: IDLES – Ultra Mono

IDLES – Ultra Mono

The peaks and troughs of appreciation for IDLES have been especially prevalent in the news (or at least the slightly more spurious headlines) lately. It’s been interesting to see how a mass of readers generally happy to slate the NME for its progression into clickbait journalism can be equally swift to transfer that judgement onto its subjects based purely on the fragments of conversation it chooses to print. Following last week’s piece, social media focus was very much centred on IDLES’ lack of female support on their previous tour. No more than a few days later, the band announced an impressive string of female acts to support at next year’s shows and those same detractors seem to have been deafening in their silence in voicing this as a positive move. Mixed reviews of their new album have at times lauded their genius and alternately called out the simplicity of the often shouted lyrics, so what do people want from IDLES on third album Ultra Mono?

As a unit, they’ve never tried to present their music in any way other than raw and rough around the edges other than on the occasional more poignant track. And these guys have been around a long time, years longer than they’ve been in the public eye, and their sound has never been anything but unapologetically confrontational. It’s never going to be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey but IDLES have amassed a huge collective of supporters for whom their music has been a comfort and an opportunity to be part of the ever expanding community that surrounds them. At times, this can play to their detriment as there is an element of their following that has a bit of a pile-on approach if anyone criticises something they do but this is possibly true of any band – no artist can control how their fanbase grows; all they can do is keep making the music they love and hope that it speaks to people (or shouts at them sometimes, why not). Ultimately, whatever your views on the music, IDLES have responded to the criticism and invited some absolutely class acts on tour with them including Big Joanie, Cate Le Bon and Sinead O’Brien, Ultra Mono has some solid tracks on it that beg for the return of live music and their songs will continue to be an escape for many who are struggling with social restrictions, and that’s really no bad thing.

Produced by  Nick Launay (Nick Cave, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire) and Adam Adam Greenspan (Anna Calvi, Cut Copy) and featuring guest vocals from an unexpected collection of artists (Jehnny Beth, Warren Ellis, David Yow and Jamie Cullum) Ultra Mono brings IDLES’ third album release in only slightly more than as many years. Additional programming by American rap producer Kenny Beats takes the mood to a harder place, less singalong, more single minded. ‘How’d you like them clichés? Let’s seize the day, all hold hands, chase the pricks away’ snarls Joe Talbot on what is maybe the most transferable track from earlier days, Mr Motivator.

Throughout the album there are pace changes aplenty. Kill Them with Kindness jumps out with a thumping drumbeat and pure punk riffs and collab with Savages’ Jehnny Beth Ne Touche Pas Moi will doubtless be a live favourite, particularly if social distancing continues, as the references to everyone having their own dance space will be ironically appropriate. Carconogenic showcases IDLES doing what they do best, addressing social issues against adrenalin filled guitar bursts, berating the minimum wage and overworked nurses while providing an apocalyptically fine tune all in less than four minutes. A Hymn carries the role of quieter, reflective track, ‘I want to be loved, everybody does’ showing the universal underlying vulnerability that is often masked with bravado. The accompanying video documents a trip to the supermarket and if anything sums up this year it’s that.

Is there still a place for IDLES? Of course. Will everyone like this? Shouldn’t think so, but for many it will be the horse to their carriage. Does it matter? Not really, just enjoy it if you want to, let it make you happy if it does and don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Ultra Mono is released tomorrow, 25th September 2020 via Partisan Records, album purchase and tour details here; watch the video for A Hymn below

Review by Siobhan
Photo © Tom Ham

24th September 2020 

Interview – The Clockworks

Drawn in by The Clockworks’ balance of angst, humour and spiky tunes, we asked vocalist James McGregor about their music, influences and what’s going on in their world right now…

How are things with The Clockworks, where and how have you been spending lockdown?

We’re all well, thankfully. Three of us went back to Ireland for a bit to spend some time with our families over lockdown, but all four of us are back living together in London again now and working as much as possible on music.

Your Galway roots are often mentioned alongside the flux of new bands coming out of Ireland – what do you think’s driving the Irish music scene at the moment?

I’m not sure to be honest. There just seems to be lots of great bands from Ireland at the moment. It’s funny because we were writing and playing for years in old sheds in the West of Ireland, oblivious to the world and planning how we’re going to someday ‘make it’. Now years later you realise there were loads of other bands in Ireland doing the same thing at the same time and not only that, but they’re starting to make it actually happen too.

You’ve been signed to Creation 23 by Alan McGee, how did that come about and how much were you aware of his previous work and reputation when he made contact?

Sean sent McGee an Instagram message the week we arrived in London. He was really enthusiastic and a couple of weeks later he was at a rehearsal, and that was it.

We were completely aware of his work and reputation. Sean and I had both read his book Creation Stories and were massive fans of his work. I think it was a complete shot in the dark to message him, but that’s the whole game isn’t it?

Tell us about your latest single Can I Speak To A Manager – what’s the story behind it?

The story is basically about being delivered a faulty laptop, and the existential crisis that follows. Lyrically it started off with “My God what a palaver, I swear you could not write it”. I just liked the irony and how dramatic it was and I knew the story that followed it had to be really prosaic.

You’ve been championed by the likes of Steve Lamacq and Annie Mac, how does it feel to hear yourselves on the radio and get that kind of support?

Yeah it’s great. We really appreciate the support from BBC, they’re playing us quite a bit now and radio still seems to have so much pull even in this modern, streaming world.

It’s nice to see John Cooper Clarke regularly noted as one of your influences – do you have a favourite poem or line of his?

Yeah, to be honest he was the first poet that bridged the gap between my love of words and my intimidation in the face of poetry. One line I always wish I’d had is from I Don’t Want To Be Nice:
‘What you see is what you get
You only live twice
A friend in need is a friend in debt
I don’t want to be nice’

What are some of your earliest music related memories and which artists have stood the test of time for you?

One of my earliest memories is from listening to David Bowie – Starman with my family and being swept away by it. I always loved it. I think his music has stood the test of time. My parents used to play a lot of funk, and I think Nile Rogers seems to be as popular as ever which says a lot. The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, Gil-Scott Heron…

First and last gigs you went to?

The first gig I can remember was a Pride Festival “Big Gay Out” in Finsbury Park in 2004. My whole family went and Fun Lovin’ Criminals were playing. It was either that or Busted in Wembley. I think the last gig I went to was The Libertines in Brixton Academy with my girlfriend. It was mental.

2020’s been a harsh year in many ways, what’s been good for you despite everything?

To be honest, despite the tumult, we’ve had a lot of good moments and we’ve been lucky so far this year. We’ve had the opportunity to write loads which is great, and we’ve released two songs over lockdown which have both been received well. Our first Radio 1 play earlier in the Summer felt great. And it’s just been amazing to see our music connecting to people more and more.

And lastly, assuming restrictions continue to lift, what are your hopes and plans for The Clockworks in the coming year?

Keep writing and releasing, and hopefully get back on tour for some gigs. It’s impossible to plan too much at the moment. We’re just looking forward to gigging as much as we can.

Catch up with The Clockworks here and watch the video for Can I Speak to a Manager? below

Interview by Siobhan
Band photo © Oscar Ryan

21st September 2020