Soccer Mommy – Sometimes, Forever Review

It’s been nearly four years now since Sophie Allison exploded into acclaim with the release of her debut full length album Clean, an album that detailed the tragedy and heartbreak of long distance relationships and teenage love. She perfectly captured the constant battle of desire and despair of those formative teenage years when everything feels like the greatest tragedy known to man. Allison was 20 when she released Clean, and now sitting at 25 the demons that she’s always battled with still reside within her but with age has come wisdom about what she needs and in what design.

What set apart Allison’s debut album from the rest of the Americana indie rock heartbreak albums of the time was not just her intimate songwriting but the production of how she gave life to her tracks. From the raw and crystal clear sound of opener “Still Clean” with its sparkly guitars and interjecting synth swirls, to the crashing waves of feedback on “Scorpio Rising”, the trickery was subtle but helped create a wooden forest of sometimes unsettling and often graceful soundscapes. On her sophomore album color theory Allison often leant into elements of shoegaze she’s so often referenced, like on the expansive “yellow is the colour of her eyes”. Now this time with electronic wizard Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never at the helm of production, Allison’s sound has entered a new dimension of spectacular. The usual chugging guitars and backing band are in full force as the album opens with “Bones”, which moves from solitary ballad to grand orchestra of love induced soundscapes with twinkling guitars and distorted rises, this is Soccer Mommy turned up to 11. You can’t help but recall every intimate moment you’ve spent with someone you truly care for as the drums crash and the synths swirl on “With U”, becoming absorbed in the beauty of its grandiose expression of love. Lopatin’s electronic background comes out in full force on “Unholy Affliction” with the distorted synth-bass and hip-hop tinged drums battle out for which instrument can be the most demonic, helping bring a true darkness to Allison’s sound that’s only been hinted at before. Allison is older, wiser and more compelling now than she’s ever been, with her sound growing at an exponential rate, showcasing just how devastatingly beautiful Allison’s work really can be in the hands of a production magician.

Growth and appreciation is what this album is all about. Letting the past go, facing the demons you thought would once bring you down with a new sense of adversity and triumph. And growing to allow yourself to be loved by others. “I’m trying to be someone you can love and understand, but I know i’m not” Allison sings on opener “Bones” facing the self-doubt of her ability to be who she wants to be. And eventually growing tired of the lifestyle she now leads, “I’m tired of the money and all of the talking at me, I’m barely a person, mechanically working” she declares on “Unholy Affliction”. Allison was just 18 when she released her debut tape For Young Hearts, her entire adult life has been swallowed by the forever churning wheels of music stardom; and at this point she just wants to be able to be herself. Eventually facing some of her darkest moments on the Billie Eilish infused and sci-fi horror driven “Darkness Forever”. “Darkness forever, a cold sinking ocean, I want to feel the warm of relief, the devil is chasing hard on my tail” she sings and it seems as though all could be lost to the weight of the world around her. Allison not only instills the feeling of overwhelming dread but submerges you right into it, allowing all its despair to wash over you in a wave of synthesisers and searing distorted guitars.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes Allison finds a light to hold onto, exploding the second half of the album open with the brit-pop stadium rock driven “Don’t Ask Me”. It’s got the big riffs, distorted guitar lines and a soundscape that Kevin Shields would take a double take at and wonder if he could use it on the forever, never fourth MBV album. For all the twists, turns and expansions that this album has taken so far though Allison decides to take it back to familiar ground on “Fire In The Driveway” with a stripped back moment that although is centered around the feeling of wanting to move on, does almost the opposite with the pacing of the album, slowing it down from the momentum it was building.

However like any compelling mystery, this proves to be a red herring as the following “Following Eyes” opens up a new side of this album that’s been lurking in the shadows waiting to emerge; the horror. “Beneath the half moon, the witching hour had me bound, an apparition, called to me without a sound” sings Allison over the skulking guitar lines. A long time Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, Allison abstractly details a calling of an evil force pulling her in as she can’t escape the evil glare that follows her every move; the prominent backbone of many a Buffy encounter. On the surface its Allison showcasing her adept storytelling ability of the supernatural, but within lies something more evil than anything, the demons that bury themselves deep within us waiting to emerge. Allison has always put her emotions at the forefront of her work and now she uses them to detail the abstract, a sign of a truly brilliant songwriter.

“I lost myself to a dream I had” she sings on “Still”. Well it looks like now she may just have found herself again, and the version of herself that she’s found is the most daring and enigmatic we’ve seen yet. Bowing the album about in true Soccer Mommy fashion, Allison summarises her trials and tribulations into one last nostalgia inducing diary entry that washes over you like a wave of serenity. Allison has always been a voice of her times and she’s never showed it more vibrantly and expansively than on Sometimes, Forever. “Got pain in my back, 22 going on 23” she sings on “Feel It All The Time” and i couldn’t have put it better myself.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Black Country , New Road – Ants From Up There Album Review

Ninja Tune – 2022

Black Country, New Road offer up a stunning sophomore album in the form of Ants From Up There, which comes in the wake of lead singer Isaac Wood announcing his departure from the band. Whilst the future of the band is unclear, Wood has signed off from the band with some of his greatest vocal and lyrical performances to date, ensuring that his presence will never be forgotten.

After their second single “Sunglasses”, released back in 2019, a whirlwind of post-rock inspired guitar sections blended with spoken-word post punk witticism that explodes in a frenzy of blaring saxophones, the band were on everyone’s radar. Known for their notoriously good live shows, the band took to the studio to record Mercury Prize nominated For The First Time, released 5th February 2021. Now, almost exactly a year later, the band have to released Ants From Up There on 4th February 2022.

Album two feels like the natural progression for a band like Black Country, New Road to take. They have refined their sound, incorporating more texture and emotion than their previous effort, yet still retaining their distinctiveness, which can be heard in the harmonies of the strings which compliment the post-rock influenced guitars. With the success of their debut, the band have not hesitated to get stuck into making something that they feel is more cohesive, an album that saxophonist Lewis Evans asserts every member loves “every single moment,” containing “a bit more of a musical through-line,” making it “feel more like an album.”

Just like For The First Time, Black Country, New Road begin the album with a short instrumental piece, entitled “Intro”. The saxophone-led piece perfectly introduces the album’s ability to blend snappy instrumentation alongside a distinct tenderness that permeates throughout. The album then moves into a similarly peppy and upbeat “Chaos Space Marine”, a departure from BC, NR’s usual sound, yet Wood describes the creative process of the track as “a really fast, whimsical and silly approach – like throwing all the shit at the wall and just letting everything stick.” Although certainly not to the taste of all existing fans due to the track’s overly anthemic chorus and lively piano, the track demonstrates the band’s ability to not take themselves too seriously. However, the song is arguably the weakest on the album, and would potentially sound a lot more cohesive without it. A fun track on its own, amongst the album’s beautifully tender tracks and lyrical themes, “Chaos Space Marine” is lacking the emotionally powerful quality that every other track possesses.

“Concorde”, the album’s third track, and the second single to be released in anticipation for the album, is a gorgeous slow building track that transcends into an incredible explosion of saxophones and driving guitars. Lyrically, Wood explores humour with direct tenderness, moving from the comic yet painful “don’t tell me your hungry / cause, darling, I’m starving myself / And I heard your on Atkins as well,” to “I was made to love to you / can’t you tell?” in the space of a few seconds. It becomes prominent that failing relationships are a central theme on the album, which continues in “Bread Song”, a minimalistic soundscape driven by mellow guitars and keys to accompany the nervous strain in Wood’s voice. The track proves to be one of the band’s most attentive and delicate to date, with a standout performance from every member.

The album picks up some momentum with “Good Will Hunting”, which features caustic drums that pierce through the track alongside the repetitive keys, before building into a loud intensity matched by Wood’s vocals. In line with the band’s earlier tracks that reference musical icons from Kanye West to Richard Hell, Wood sings “she had Billie Eilish style,” which is repeatedly referred to throughout the album. However, it doesn’t pack the same humorous punch as “Leave Kanye out of this!” from ‘Sunglasses,’ instead coming of slightly rigid and cringy, undermining the far superior quality of Wood’s writing that is evident on the rest of the album.

The following track ‘Haldern” redeems the album from potentially sagging from the weight of “Chaos Space Marine” and “Good Will Hunting”. The track was originally improvised at Haldern Pop Festival in Germany and showcases the band’s immeasurable talent at working harmoniously together to create a song without much prior thought. Wood stated that “every now and then in the middle of a gig we’ll do some improvisation because it can be really fun. When we did it this time, we basically wrote a whole song, which is the first time we’ve ever done that.” Keys player May Kershaw shines on the track, bringing the rest of the instruments together to create a melancholically beautiful sound, which becomes punctuated by the crashing drums of Charlie Wayne. Wood’s writing truly shows its strengths here, opening the track by singing, “Ignore the hole I’ve dug again/ it’s only for the evening.”

A standout moment of the album is “Mark’s Theme”, a tribute to Evan’s late uncle Mark, who died a day before the release of For The First Time. The short piece is a phenomenal demonstration of the band’s classical training, a hauntingly beautiful and sentimental track that is unforgettable. You can only imagine that witnessing a performance of the track live would leave everyone stunned and transfixed by the mournful strings and saxophone that are some of the band’s finest instrumental work.

As the album reaches its final few tracks, “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade” perfectly captures what the band seem to have been alluding to in interviews – that they are “trying to make [their] music really accessible.” The song balances a crowd-friendly chorus with gentle strings and nostalgic backing vocals that chime in near the end of the song, feeling like the musical equivalent of leaving the pub, buzzing off the excitement of catching up with old friends. This “accessibility” is not so evident on “Snowglobes”, a divisive track due to its intense and interfering drum solo that dominates the latter part of the track. However, the drums only elevate the track to greater heights, adding a crushingly hard impact to the song which is mainly intricate strings, sax, and guitars until this point. The drums roll like thunder behind Wood’s heart-breaking delivery, repeating the lines “God of weather, Henry knows/ Snowglobes don’t shake on their own,” with a raw intensity. Violins carry the track to even greater emotional depths, making it one of the album’s strongest tracks.

Finally, the album draws to a close with “Basketball Shoes”, almost thirteen minutes in length, and definitely the band’smagnum opus. If this is the last song we hear from Wood as a part of Black Country, New Road, he has left on an extraordinary high note. The song traverses differing terrains, parts explosive, parts euphoric, parts so incredibly emotional that you may wonder if they could ever top such a track. Wood states that the song is “the whole basis and blueprint for the album,” which is no surprise due to the indelible impact it leaves on all that hear it. The song has been a live fan-favourite for a while, so its official release comes with much anticipation. Divided into three parts, the song scratches every musical itch – erratic strings, immaculate post-rock guitar tones, and an astounding nostalgia-tinged emotional delivery from Wood, who screams the final verse in one of his most memorable vocal performances yet.

Black Country, New Road prove themselves to be one of the greatest British bands to have emerged over the past decade, constantly evolving and adapting with each track, delivering sheer amounts of emotion with every single string and guitar chord. Many of the band’s finest works are to be found on Ants From Up There. Bassist Tyler Hyde asserts that “It was such a pleasure to make. I’ve kind of accepted that this might be the best thing that I’m ever part of for the rest of my life,”and this couldn’t be more evident in these ten tracks.

Advertisements

Kristian Bell – Backfire Album Review

Cable Code – 2021

Kristian Bell, best known for providing distinctive lead vocals and guitar for his grungy/psychedelic band The Wytches, has released his first solo album, entitled Backfire on the band’s own label Cable Code Records. Since the release of The Wytches’ debut album Annabel Dream Reader in 2014, the band have been consistently working with a DIY ethic that bleeds into their music perfectly, making it feel all the more genuine. The three albums and handful of EPs that the band have released since their formation have demonstrated Bell’s ability to perform with a raw and deranged sounding intensity, whilst at times retaining a strong tenderness and delicacy, the latter informing Bell’s debut.

In 2019 Bell and fellow bandmate Mark Breed released Stereo Buzz, under the aptly named Mark and Kristian Band, which took a distinctly softer approach than the sound of The Wytches, often weaving between slow, drawn-out psychedelic guitars and sprinklings of humour in the lyrics (for example “Smoke it to the Roach”). Sonically, Bell’s solo album is more reminiscent of this project, yet retains its own sense of individuality and maturity, showing drastic lyrical growth from the early days of The Wytches.

Album opener and lead single “That’s A Lovely Thing” is reminiscent of nostalgic 90s rock, seeping with a homemade sensitivity and warmth. The guitar tones paired with jolting drums combine perfectly to accompany Bell’s voice, which is well-suited to the overarching sentimental atmosphere. Another standout track is “Backfire”, which often feels like a deranged-sounding Foxygen track. Bell takes an approach that harks back to Annabel Dream Reader, allowing his voice to mutate and move through the track with little regard to sounding polished. This grunginess is equally addictive and mesmerising to listen to.

The album weaves through these moments of intensity with relaxed, melancholic tracks that feel like a musical representation of the days slowing down and drawing in at 4pm; Bell could not have chosen a better time to release the album. Tracks like “Have to Ask” and “Walking Song” demonstrate Bell’s ability to sing in an effortlessly higher and gentle pitch, accompanied by slow and strategic guitars. The textural palette of “Walking Song” is so intricately crafted alongside the sadness of Kristian’s voice, which makes it another memorable moment on Backfire.

The album could have benefitted from more songs with the same intensity of “Backfire” as opposed to the majority of the tracks having a similar tempo, which leaves the album feeling slightly stagnant in the middle. But fear not, the album picks itself up quickly, with “Spotlight” echoing the guitars of Mazzy Star, and the unforgettable “Dog in the Ditch” demonstrating rich albeit lugubrious story-telling.

Bell combines the melancholy sounds of influences such as Elliott Smith and Big Star with the trademark gothic undertones that are ever-present in all of his work. From Annabel Dream Reader to Backfire, Bell has proved himself as one of the most genuine and hard-working musicians in the industry, consistently putting out work that feels truly authentic. Backfire is an overall strong debut album from Kristian Bell, and more solo work is highly anticipated.

Listen to the album below!

Advertisements

Ruby Fields – Been Doin’ It For A Bit Album Review

Self Released – 2021

Australia’s latest export Ruby Fields has been gracing the airwaves with her moving and yet festival worthy ballads for a few years now. First emerging in 2018 with her Your Dads Opinion For Dinner EP. Followed closely by “Dinosaurs”, the lead single from her second EP Permanent Hermit, which reached #9 on the Triple J hottest 100 for that year and became ARIA Platinum certified. Now after nearly 3 years she’s returned with an album that likes most aspects of life in recent times had a very stop-start approach. Recording began at the beginning of 2020 but wasn’t completed until much later in the year for obvious reasons. This period away from the studio allowed Fields to indulge in reflection of life, both in the spotlight and in the everyday. The final result is Been Doin’ It For A Bit, a collection of diary entries from Fields that form a collective picture of youthful tribulation.

The immediate impact of “Song About A Boy” sets the tone for most of this album; direct and emotionally poignant. She doesn’t waste time in moving from melancholy verses to anthemic chorus’, binding the two together with her evocative vocal performance and familiar Aussie twang. It’s this knack that have left some naming her the Australian Phoebe Bridgers, with the track reminding greatly of the structure of fan favourite “Kyoto” off Bridgers’ latest Punisher. This mood continues onto “R.E.G.O” where Fields delivers her first of a few early 2000’s Avril Lavigne-esque bangers, continued later on the likes of “OUCH”. Between the tender moments of the album, these outbursts offer a rage induced eruption, keeping the flow of the album pumping.

What sets this album apart from Fields’ previous workings is her storytelling ability. In our interview with her she described how most songs come as part of real life experiences rather than stories she’s created. And on Been Doin’ It For A Bit she turns simple suburban life into timeless stories of human behaviour. “I woke up and you were in the kitchen / Talking with my mum / She was bitching / You couldn’t care less but you sat there unblinking” she recites on “Kitchen” with a formidable flow, recounting those moments we often tend to overlook but wish we could hold on to once they’re gone. It’s not just home events she sings of however, with “Bottle’O” reminiscing in a trip to a local beer shop and having to explain that she’d lost her ID. It may sound a quaint event but thanks to the intimate sound Fields brings from the rolling piano line and sailor-like harmonies she turns into a collective appraisal for the simplicities of life.

Fields doesn’t just turn days into songs however, but lets some of her most intimate moments and feelings shine through in immediately enthralling ways. On “Pokies” she opens up with the line “My old man loves a slap at the pub” before listing details of addictions to gambling, smoking and drinking. It’s Fields trying to come to terms with the problems that placate those closest to her. She builds up her anxieties until the chorus outcry of “Oh the ages” where you can feel that she’s releasing every last ounce of stored emotion comes flowing out whilst still holding the restraint in her voice to stay collected. She has to be strong for the around her but can’t help let her feeling slip through the cracks.

What helped “Dinosaurs” reached both the chart and emotional heights that it did was in part the nostalgia that Fields induced with the songs sound, but also the way it kept you hanging on until it’s climactic crescendo of grungy and pit-inducing guitars. Fields follows this trend at moments like on the penultimate “Clothes Line” as she questions over wether her life has had meaning “If the reaper comes to claim me and all I’ve gone and done / Is write some shitty music and take some shitty drugs,” she self deprecates with. It may give more hints at its final form than its predecessor but these act as slow wells of emotion as Fields become more entrapped in the idea of being unworthy. The trope can get a little worn out on occasion, with “Airport Cafe” the sparseness suddenly becomes over-flooded with distortion heavy guitars that never really offer much palette-wise that can’t be found on the rest of the album.

The debut album is always a piece of art that will remain as significant to an artist the day it was released until the day the day they stop playing, and for Fields it’s certainly hoped that that day is a long way away. This album not only serves as a new standard for Fields songwriting ability, but also a collective work of everything she’s formed for herself up to this point. Kick back and grab some beers because this is one to enjoy the Sunday sunshine to.

Advertisements

Merpire – Simulation Ride Album Review

ADA – 2021

The newest emerging talent to come from Australia’s ever-fruitful indie rock scene comes in the form of Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt aka Merpire. Emerging back in 2018 after signing to Fright Night Music and being showcased at Bigsound, Merpire has spent the last few years gaining a loyal following thanks to her insightful and emotive lyrical passages and raw indie sound. Support slots for Julia Jacklin, Angie McMahon, Didirri and Olympia on the way, Merpire has now emerged with her debut release, Simulation Ride. And although the album may take its name from the feeling of displacement with reality, this debut album very much keeps it real.

Opening with “Village”, Merpire sets the tone for the rest of the album both lyrically and sonically. Through harmoniously tender guitars Merpire is pacing through her mind, back and forth through the anxieties that encompass. “It takes a village to love you” she declares as the distorted syncopated guitars crash into action. It’s the idea of symbiotic living that she’s battling with, stating that she doesn’t see how just one individual could love her, rather it would take a whole settlement’s worth of people for her to try and compare to until she could feel comfortable.

You soon come to realise that Merpire has a keen attention to detail and placement of moments within her song. On “Lately” she opens with just guitar, slowly adding layers of emotive synthesisers and razor sharp riffs intermittently. They don’t flood the soundscape but rise and fall in patterns of selected emotional outpours. Each guitar breakdown or new layer of sound added feels like a new layer of self doubt being added on until reaching its despairing finale. Some of the emotive heights that Merpire does reach on this album can sometimes be leave subsequent feeling lack-luster or formulaic copies of the previous outings. “Brain Cells” has all the same principal elements of its predecessors, yet never quite reaches gloried heights or offer anything new to the narrative of the album.

Self-described as a “journey through my mind”, this album reaches it’s most poignant when Merpire is at her most intimate, allowing us to walk the path of her psyche with no barrier between emotion and reality. “I was a creature of habit / When it came to coming undone” she sings on the opening line of “Habit”, and it’s this mixture of clever lyricism to counteract the weight of emotion that Merpire touches upon that helps creates a whimsical front for the heavy-hitting convictions that she is laying out for all to see.

What becomes clear towards the end of the tracklist is that Merpire has a certain knack for delivering emotive ballads in quick succession. “Sink In” begins with acute lo-fi textures and whimsical guitars that draw you into a false pretence of subtleness. As the drums kick in and the melodies yearn infectiously you can feel the tension rise until the great cloud of anxiety washes over the track. Searing guitars and emotive vocals surround the soundscape as Merpire tries to fight for her love as she repeats “Stay! / How long do I have to hear it / Before it sinks in”. And on closer “Yusiimi” she evokes the same kind of jealousy and contention that was found all over soccer mommy’s debut album Clean. Whether Yusiimi is a real person or a clever abbreviation for wanting to be taken as you are, Merpire ends this album as devastatingly as it started. Constant comparisons to another that can seemingly never be equated to, Merpire lays out one last cry for some form of acceptance that we can only hope will be found with the exploration of the emotions she addresses throughout here debut.

Listen / Buy

Maple Glider – To Enjoy Is The Only Thing Album Review

Partisan Records – 2021

Maple Glider is the musical project of Tori Zietsch, hailing from Melbourne, Australia, but is someone who is inspired by the world around them. After the fallout of a previous musical outlet, Zietsch switched sides of the planet and made home in Brighton where she formed a majority of the demos that would eventually form this album. Inspired by the long summer days and flowing rivers of the South of France, Zietsch has crafted an album that both loses itself in time and perfectly frames those small instances in-between life’s biggest moments as the catalysts for great change.

The first thing you realise about Zietch’s music when listening is her ability to transcend you into deep pockets of time you thought you’d forgotten. As the sparse piano lines step into action on opener “As Tradition” and Zietch’s crooning vocals, that would make any Angel Olsen fans swoon, swim about the soundscape you become immediately entranced in the tenderness of it all. “Come to me, pretty, pull back my limbs/ It’s the oldest tradition known to my skin” sings Zietsch on the chorus as she recalls lost intimacy. But although her music may be melancholic on the surface, there’s an underlying darkness that swims throughout.

On “Swimming” she questions how earnest her love truly is. “I said I would marry you / If I could get a passport to / Work in the land of riches / Live our lives through pictures” she recalls as if living in a fantasy. False promises that never came to fruition, a daydream that never made it to reality. You can feel the frustration build as the gothic melodies of the chorus juxtapose the infatuation that Zietsch sings of. These moments of unbalance creep up throughout this album and on “Good Thing” Zietsch is living in the space between. “You’re asking me if I’m okay / But I need time to process/ All these things that make me lose my focus / And all these parts of me I had not noticed / Before you came” she sings in a hushed yet deeply passioned opening moment. It’s as if Zietsch has put you front and centre in her mind and you’re the voice she’s debating with. You can’t react but only listen until she bursts out into full stride during the second half in a flurry of sweeping strings and despairing vocals.

For all the heartbreak in this album there’s an equal amount of love found in the smallest moments of life. Zietsch celebrates the company of her cat on the slow burning “Baby Tiger”, an ode to an unwavering friendship. Just as you thought this album couldn’t get any more stripped back Zietsch turns up the dial and delivers a song so sparse that you feel like you’re sat alongside a green riverbank, nothing surrounding you but nature and Zietch’s mythical voice blowing through the breeze. It’s a true testament to her alluring natural and unchallenged talent. It’s not only felines that she’s celebrating, but friends also on the aptly title “Friend”. Rolling guitar lines and a gliding melody that could send you to sleep, Zietsch not only calls back to her long-standing friendship but the struggles they’ve faced amidst change. Further resonating Zietch’s desire to showcase just how much connections have shaped her.

To Enjoy Is The Only Thing is the perfect title for this album. Not only is that statement true about listening to this release, but through tragedy Zietsch teaches us to look for the good in the world. To reach out and find more. To enjoy life for the moments of embrace and happiness wherever we may find them.

John Myrtle – Myrtle Soup Album Review

Sad Club Records – 2021

Home-spun and home-made is the mood that John Myrtle captures on his debut mini-album Myrtle Soup. Written and recorded over various lockdowns, Myrtle set about to capture the feeling of longing and loneliness through tales of actors in love and human-detesting spiders. The name of the album came from the warmth and comfort brings about, and the warmth of this album is its greatest asset.

Paying homage to the recording techniques of the 60’s and 70’s that he embodies through his songwriting, Myrtle recorded the album on his tape machine at home. And thanks to the natural vibrance that this sound brings Myrtle is able to make his songs feel utterly timeless. His use of sound design on the instrumentals “On The Hob” and “Soups Up” is captivating in its simplicity. The dancing synth melodies and fluttering vocals capture the tender glow of an evening spent inside.

The feeling of love is one that’s wrapped around this album with a tight bow. But more often than not Myrtle is lost in self doubt, questioning whether what he’s feeling to be genuine on the sunshine tinted “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?”. Although the chords may be bright there’s an underlying melancholy within the lyrics, putting on a façade to hide his truth. This sense of subtle sadness also appears on “Remember Holly Park” as Myrtle desperately grasps on to that last breaking string of love as he tries to bring back the memories of good times gone by.

The sound that Myrtle distills on this album is one he’s playing with since his early EP days. In our interview he said that he was inspired by 90’s Britpop, namely The La’s. And you can hear the flowing harmonies and glittering guitar of Lee Mavers and co throughout “Just Can’t Seem To Say Goodbye”. But Myrtle doesn’t just replicate this sound, he embodies whilst showcasing his ultimately likeable and jovial personality throughout.

At just under 30 minutes this mini-album is the perfect accompaniment to making you dinner in the evening. Offering a comforting and all-round joyous listen that grows with each and every listen, leaving you to bask in its radiance.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend Album Review

Dirty Hit – 2021

There is an unspoken “curse” placed on artists who win the Mercury Prize that their next outing never quite lives up to its award winning predecessor. What Visions Of A Life showcased was a band at an important moment. Diverging their sound into various territories and sounds of punk, dream-pop, shoegaze and alt-rock; moving anywhere and everywhere. On Blue Weekend the band distill these sounds into a fluid story of self-doubt, longing and emotional triumph.

Throughout the narrative of Blue Weekend the band extract various stories of social affairs like the night out on the raging “Smile” or the trip through Los Angeles on “Delicious Things”. Picked from different worlds and places, they all collide together with the underlying narrative with the desire for freedom and happiness. “Could I belong here? The vibes are kinda strong here / Ask me if I’m from here and I won’t say no” sings Ellie Roswell on “Delicious Things”. She may be dabbling in pills and inhabiting with a “bad man named Adam” but you can feel this great sense of liberation pouring out of every moment. From the swaying harmonies to the coastal drifting guitar lines, the sound of this song is as delightfully delectable as the title.

Speaking of shorelines, the album is bookended by “The Beach”, which acts as the albums cinematic opening and closed with “The Beach II”, a dream-pop ballad that touches on the small beauty of those summer moments spent enjoying the natural world with friends. Not only do these songs set the scene for the album but they help bring about this narrative of connection. Although this album was largely written before any notion of the last year happened, it remains even more potent that these songs should define the journey through the album in this way.

There’s a certain dynamic switch that the band tap into on this album, and it’s one they play on for most of the track-listing. On “Feeling Myself” they switch from sultry mellotron chords and a lounge like beat, to suddenly burst out into a wash of synth-wave balladry. It sweeps and crashes over you like a wave of emotional triumph. It’s not only a switch up within the song itself, but coming straight after the pop-punk driven “Play The Greatest Hits” you feel as though you’re coming down after the excitement of a night-out and feeling the solitary blues you get in the morning after.

The title of the album Blue Weekend, comes from both a literal sense of seeing a blue sky at the weekend. And the melancholia of knowing that your weekend, no matter what happens, is going to leave you feeling blue. This sense of complete and utter disparity from the rest of the world is where the band finds their greatest moments on this album. “The Last Man On Earth” truly is an anthem for the abandoned. “And when your friends are talking / You hardly hear a word/ You were the first person here/ And the last man on the Earth” exclaims Roswell as she pulls apart every last emotion you thought you could hide. It’s that juxtaposition of being somewhere whilst feeling a million miles away that the band capture perfectly through slow building pianos and Beatles-esque guitar passages.

For all the moments of subtle beauty, like the fluttering and gut-wrenching “No Hard Feelings”, there are equal moments of outright bravado and showmanship. Playing it large has always been a trope for Wolf Alice, look back at “You’re A Germ” from debut My Love Is Cool and you’ll find a young band exploding with unkempt energy, packaging everything into every moment. On “Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)” you’ll find a track that is almost overpacked to the brink of spilling out at the sides. This move into folk-balladry is awry with beauty in the vocal and guitar passages, but just feels that slight bit too over-produced. Layers of harmonies sweep over each other to become so angelic that it feels as though the rawness and spirited energy that Wolf Alice has been known for has died a studio induced death.

The curse of the Mercury Prize seems to have been lifted though thanks to the incantations that Wolf Alice distill on this album. It showcases a band that have defined and refined their sound to become their most substantial and free-flowing album to date. Heartbreak and headbangers ensured, this is one for those dark nights sat alone.

BSÍ- Sometimes depressed… but always antifascist Album Review

BSÍ or ‘brussel sprouts international’, the Icelandic pop-duo of Silla Thorarensen and Julius Pollux Rothlaender have returned with their debut album, a collection of two EP’s, Sometimes Depressed… and …but always antifascist. Following on from their debut self-titled EP released in 2018 the band have sought to refine their sound into two distinctive stories and collections. With the title of the album coming from a slogan the band saw at a punk festival, they have crafted an album that showcases the melancholia and abrasiveness that defines them.

On Sometimes Depressed… the band blend together elements of dream-pop, 80’s synth pop and indie rock to make a collection of songs that are ultimately infatuating. From the moment the ethereal synthesisers of “My Lovely” kick in you’re transported away from whatever situation may encompass you and sailed along on a cloud of melancholia, carried by Thoransen’s swaying and soothing vocals. It’s these tender moments that truly allow the band to evoke the true emotional depth of their sound. “25Lue” recreates that feeling of travelling back on the last train of the evening, staring at the lights from the houses as they pass you by, wondering if your story would ever end up somewhere like that. “I guess we were looking for signs, in all the wrong songs” contemplates Thoransen over the dotted synthesisers and sweeping pads. Looking for the answers of the great unknowns in the widest of spaces.

There does become moments when the bands sound is slightly too washed out in momentary sadness that it can be hard to distinguish the tracks from each other, spilling over the sides without too much distinction. On “Old Moon” the band teeter on the fine line of minimalism and vague ambience that never really comes to a conclusion on where it wants to go. Just as they’re about to reach an emotional breakthrough, they decide to float along the river of gentle melodies that extend out for just that bit too long. They ask you to ride along with them, but end up pushing you out too far, waving you by at the shore.

For all the melancholia found on the first EP, …but always antifascist has an equal amount of unbridled joy; the band are simply having fun. Springing into life with “Vesterbæjar Beach” the band fuse elements of surf rock and indie pop whilst playing slight homage to Phillip Oakley’s timeless love tale “Together In Electric Dreams”. Still encompassing elements of subtle sadness, the band flip the script on their sound with “My knee against kyriarchy”, crafting a sound that makes you wanna jump around a small packed basement, then later on the train reading into the lyrics and crying over that long lost love you had 10 years ago.

If the first half of this album was the band sitting in the shower, contemplating the trials and tribulations of life, then the second half is all about throwing the towel away and swinging your hair about, like, to put it simply, you just don’t care. “Dónakallalagið” is the band embracing this attitude in every sense. It’s fast, punchy and ultimately scrappy at its core. The level of juxtaposition that this brings to this album alone shows just how much dexterity the band are giving themselves. Not to be defined by a genre or sound, but by whatever appropriate outfit may suit them at the time.

If anything this album is a springboard for the band to become whatever they want to be. It lives within a space of its own, spawned from two individuals that are able to craft emotion into whatever sound or style they choose, with almost unchallenged success. This is music best served late at night when you are switched off from the world and can enter the one BSÍ have crafted.

black midi – Cavalcade Album Review

Rough Trade Records – 2021

On their debut album Schlagenheim, black midi sought to create a world of their own, distorted and horrifying, but with pieces of the real world cultivated and glued together like Frankenstein’s monster. On Cavalcade the band draw together tales of fiction and fantasy that are presented with a smothering of bravado and a helping of whimsical irreverence. As the title suggests the album plays as a procession of creatures great and small, plucked from distorted worlds and amalgamated fantasies.

The band stated that coming into this album they “Wanted to make the music as exciting as possible” and they certainly deliver on this feat in bounds. Opener “John L” tells the story of a cult leader whose eventual demise comes as his followers turn on him after failing to fulfil his ruling promises. “A man is his country, your country is you, All bad is forewarned, all good will come true” ‘quotes’ Geordie Greep through distorted and hellish vocal effects. The amount of untamed energy and forward flying motion that this song is encapsulated with sucks you in like a vacuum, seeking to find the most exciting hidden detail every time. With its stop-start motions it propels you down into an unforgiving inferno of guitar feedback and screeching violins that creates one of the most eerie and mind-boggling rides that black midi have ventured on so far. As the closing curtains fall on this play of black comedy, the band moves the album to an even grander, yet unexpected side of their sound.

For black midi, the visual side of their work has always been as wild and exaggeratedly fantastical as the music. It may then seem appropriate to determine that many influences from this album will have come from cinema. Whether it’s being inspired by German actress Marlene Dietrich on the song of the same name. Through soft plucked guitars, searing soundscapes and a majestical stride in Greep’s vocal delivery the band tell a tale of love and longing in which Dietrich prominently “takes a piss on the stage”. Or during the opening of “Dethroned” that pays homage to detective movies of the 50’s with its swaggering saxophone intro.

Like an independent film festival this album showcases all the obscure ingenuity and alternative directions that the band have delved into. They are outlining and redefining what black midi can and could be. If they wanted to move into more ambient territories and expressions, then look no further than “Diamond Stuff”. Spending the first half of its run time slowly building through meticulously plucked harps and slow rising wind instruments. Gradually the cinematic camaraderie builds in to create a soundscape that feels like you’re ascending to the divine promise lands; clouds sweeping you by.

For all the tenderness and crooning on this album, there’s an equal balance of explosive and cathartic moments. “Hogwash and Balderdash” tells the tale of two adventurers or “Chickens from the pen” at sea “Picking out fish bones, On unstable rafts” to find settlement and the source of an incredibly foul stench. For the absurdity of the lyrics there also comes an equivalent amount of absurdity in the backing garrison. Each instrument that enters the arena is battling it out to see which can become the most farcical and untamed, backed by a beat that drives like you’re having an anxiety attack. The culminating screech and rise at the end of the track could even lead to one for those of a nervous disposition.

On the subject of anxiety, the heavy drops and overblown distorted explosions of “bmbmbm” makes a re-appearance on “Chondromalacia Patella”, this time with a larger expansion on the apprehension of the sound. Fluttering through jazzy beats, rolling piano and lines and strained vocals the band encapsulate the true emotion of a panic attack within a song; gasping for breath after every hit. But this doesn’t mean to say that it’s not without its flaws. For all the camaraderie this track carries, it can sometimes become overwhelming the amount of layers and textures they try to squeeze in; spiralling together into a Deep Dream-esque canvas.

On closer “Ascending Forth” the band takes their tongue-in-cheek attitude to its extreme. Over its near 10 minute runtime you feel as if Greep is singing of how “Everyone loves Ascending Forths” with a subtle grin and air of whimsy around him. It’s the grand finale, the big bow out, the curtain falling after the heartbreaking final act. But doesn’t end up offering too much in the way of new ideas that haven’t already been heard on this album. Which at its core, is an album that bounds and leaps thanks to its undying stride to shift and change throughout.

The second album is always an important moment in any bands career. Will it still bring the same level of excitement as their groundbreaking debut? Will they hone in their sound to become more succinct? Will they lose the spark of magic that brought attention to them in the first place? The result for black midi is a resounding success that both captures the intensity and explosive capabilities of their debut. Whilst also simultaneously expanding and stripping back their sound to act as a procession of avenues and directions for them to delve into next.