Fiddlehead – Between The Richness Album Review

Run For Cover Records – 2021

The term ‘Supergroup’ more often than not is associated with one time projects that might seem interesting at the time but ultimately do not live up to the expectations or sounds of the band members main musical projects. This is not the case with Fiddlehead. After beloved emo group Title Fight announced their indefinite hiatus in 2017, hardcore fans were craving more bands that channelled Fugazi, Jawbreaker and Lifetime just as they did.

Formed by members of Have Heart, Basement, Youth Funeral and Big Contest, Fiddlehead’s first record Springtime and Blind, which came out in 2018, filled that niche incredibly well. I was lucky enough to catch them at the New Cross Inn on their December UK tour where they were welcomed with open arms and a fuck load of stage-dives along the way.

For vocalist Pat Flynn, grief has no expiry date, no time limit and absolutely no one’s place to tell someone to “Get over it”. Alluding to the passing of Flynn’s father, we have a life affirming intro to Fiddlehead’s second full length record on “Grief Motief”, a quote from poet E.E Cummings; “I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go.” Following this, the Boston quintet launches into hard hitting instrumentation, Flynn giving us the long term symptoms grief we all must face when faced with a sudden loss of life; “Wake up and fall apart, sleep in and fall apart.” 

At face value, the songs follow a similar structure from last time, albeit with slower tempos in some areas, and Flynn occasionally unleashing his shouted vocals, not heard since members of Have Heart released a one off EP under the name ‘Free’ in 2015. The guitars still have that signature melancholic rock tone that feels familiar but just as impactful at the same time. Guitarist Alex Henery has a bigger role in terms of backing vocals, especially on “Get My Mind Right” and “Million Times”. Much like in Basement, his vocal contributions serve mostly to intensify the chorus rather than a dual singer-songwriter dynamic. They work incredibly well and help solidify the catchiness of each sticky vocal hook into aggressive chants when the group inevitably start playing live shows again.

As an academic himself, “Down University” is a recognition of the pressures in education to succeed painting an all too familiar picture in your head with the line; “Rising pressure and stress to measure up to standards set so high in your mind”. On the upside, Flynn urges the listener that all the prestigious American colleges listed are merely names, with the following mantra “You are worth more than your degree”. It’s a relatable tune that will undoubtedly bring comfort to those like myself who have struggled or are struggling to succeed and make their families proud. Shawn Costa’s drum fills are a notable highlight on this track, giving you the energy to jump off the nearest thing in your room and pretending that shows are still happening as normal.

“Stay in the Blue” and closer “Heart to Heart” show Flynn directly addressing his son Richard, who shares the same name as his late father. It is an optimistic side to the songwriting that feels warm and hopeful as well as deeply relatable. These songs are not only meant to be a time capsule of sorts but could also be passed on to anyone who’s recently brought a child into the world. These cuts also resonate the most emotionally, with gritty melodies and ear-worm worthy charm.

Ultimately, the world needed more Fiddlehead after Springtime and Blind, and we got more than we asked for, helping all of us to regain balance and catharsis in these uncertain times. I have no doubt in my mind that with time this will go down as one of the finest emo/post hardcore records of the 2020’s thus far.

Squid – Bright Green Field Album Review

WARP Records – 2021

White boy summer is certainly looking exciting this year. Another of the Windmill Brixton generation have brought about a whole albums offering of material, following the likes of Black Country, New Road’s For The First Time, Shame’s Drunk Tank Pink, Goat Girl’s On All Fours and Black Midi’s upcoming Cavalcade. This sense of intertwined musicianship not only follows the band outside of their own collective but throughout this album. With features coming from the likes of BCNR’s Lewis Evans on saxophone as well as having Speedy Wunderground’s own mastermind of sound Dan Carey on production duties. This album is in every aspect a working of five brilliant minds coming together to create expansive, ever twisting and shifting and at times outright cathartic works of art.

For a few years now it’s felt as though these so called ‘guitar bands’ have had much more creative freedom when it comes to finding a sound that is truly theres. Gone are the days where everyone had to sound like the eternally reachable yet ultimately bland Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys to even consider breaking into the charts, let alone top them. But now the time of self-sound is here. And Squid are very much making the music they want to. Although “Boy Racer” may have all the quirky licks and upbeat drive of a mid-2000’s era Foals track to begin with, it soon descends into a synth-wave, ambient, noise rock outro that washes over like a lucid fever dream.

The band have said before that their approach to this album came by sending different aspects of songs back and forth to each other online, eventually to all be layered and structured together. And this sewing together of movements and sounds is what makes this album so enticing. On “G.S.K” the band piles together sleek bass lines, funky beats and sly saxophone hooks to create a piece that is ever twisting and turning; becoming more infatuating with each and every change. All tied together with drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge’s unhinged vocal cries. At first the vocal styles that Judge chooses can often seem too over the top or even obnoxious. But you soon begin to realise as this album progresses that Judge is displaying and incredible amount of control and natural charm in an almost brutalist fashion. This isn’t the most heavy sounding music to sing along to but Judge brings an assured helping of anxiety that just pumps raw nervous energy into every sound. I don’t think you’ll find a more distraught reading of the weather than on “Documentary Filmmaker”.

One of the greatest showcases of the band’s succinctness comes in the form of lead single “Narrator”. Over its 8 and a half minute course the band manages to capture a sound that can only be described as a tumultuous breakdown. Over sparkly guitar lines and tapered beats Judge sings of being in control of his life “Losing my flow and my memories are so unnatural, I am my own narrator” he declares with an unhinged discourse. Moving into slasher flick punctuated guitar strikes the band slowly builds up this sense of dread washing over the track, all whilst being perfectly smoothed over by Martha Sky Murphy’s spoken passages that are delivered as if these are your last rites. Eventually devolving into an all out nightmare. With Judge’s repeated delivery of “I play my!” you can’t help feel like you’re on the edge of sanity, eventually falling in as Murphy’s horrifying screams soundtrack your descent.

Lyrically the band like to leave a shroud of mystery over what stories are really being told, not ones to pull back the veil. The title itself comes from the ever looming gentrification and industrialisation of otherwise natural parts of the country. But it’s not only the ravaging of natural beauty that the band touch on, they also question the growing feeling of numbness to global events. “What’s your favourite war on TV? Just before you go to sleep, And then your favourite sitcom, Watch the tears roll down your cheek” asks Judge on “Global Groove”. And on closer “Pamphlets” the anxiety of social acceptance overwhelms Judge as he sings “I’ve got a brand new car right out my drive, But there’s pale bricks and white smiles, It’s why I don’t go outside”. You can’t compare so there’s no point trying to appease.

This album has everything you could want from a debut and more. It perfectly showcases every minute of detail the band meticulously places into their music, whilst leaving room for overly catchy and intoxicating choruses. They take influence from every genre under the sun and weld them all together into an automobile of sound that is ever chugging forward. They have made the perfect springboard for wherever and whatever they want to go and do next. It seems there’s no limits to what Squid can be and we hope there never will be.

You Nothing. – Lonely // Lovely Album Review

Floppy Dischi / Non Ti Seguo Records / Dotto – 2021

Finding a hidden gem in music is like finding a new friend later in life. You wonder how you got this long in life without knowing about them, yet feel instantly comfortable and in sync with everything they do. The same can be said about listening to this album. The debut release from Italian shoegaze/ dream-pop four piece You Nothing.

The bands ability to combine various sounds and styles into one cohesive, enjoyable listen is at the core of this album. Whether your taste leans towards the heavier end of shoegaze with the likes of Slow Crush and Nothing, you’ll be immediately welcomed by the intense and unforgiving driving riff of opener “Identity”. With its post-punk centric beat and rapid fire breakdowns it cascades you into full motion with an immediate drive. Then moving into ever expanding sonic landscapes on “Reflective” that bring about elements of Beach House’s dream infused sound with added kick drum. There’s an underlying melancholy to this sound that washes over you like an old memory of longing coming back to you late at night.

They also lean into elements of slowcore on “Sonder” with a devastating brutality. As the guitar lines battle out to see which can be the most devastating, you’re raced along the sonic speedway to a heartbreaking conclusion. As lead singer Gioia Podestà repeats the lines “Try again, fail again” you’re left to wallow in the feeling of despair, each repetition becoming more and more engrained in your psyche. These contemplations of anguish are a theme that runs throughout the album. On “Waves” Podestà sings “I’m feeling like a stranger tonight, like stepping out my body” as she tries to understand truth both in herself and of another.

Perhaps the most exciting part of listening to this album is realising that the band are on the cusp of greatness as each member and part feels ultimately succinct and forever moving forward at every moment. Even on the slower, more ethereal moments of this album like on the 80’s nostalgia fuelled “Closer” the band still feels vibrant with every sound. Every element of a Top Of The Pops classic is here, reverb drenched drums, sparkly synthesisers and catchy melodies. But bringing it all together is the bands eclectic personality. And their ability to switch from sound and genre seamlessly and coherently with each track is their greatest asset.

There isn’t really a moment on this album where you aren’t enjoying every movement and sound the band shifts and curves between. They bookend the album with intense, driven and head-bang worthy cuts that assure you leave the album as excited as you are when the opening riff kicks in. The punk moments have you wanting to reach out punch a fist in the air as you nod along to the beat whilst listening on the bus. And all the while you’re left in awe at the bands ability to surprise and evoke you at every moment.

girl in red – if i could make it go quiet Album Review

AWAL – 2021

Norweigan bedroom pop queer icon Marie Ulven aka girl in red has had quite the anticipation built up coming into this album. From her early days of releasing the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 EP’s Ulven gained a following for her catchy, warm and explosively queer bedroom pop recordings. She was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2020 Norwegian Grammy Awards and her singles “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” and “We Fell In Love In October” are certified gold in America. She now returns with her debut full length album that is bundled with queer love, open sexuality and more than a few infectious melodies.

The first thing you realise about this album is Ulven’s transition from breezy guitar tunes to weaving in elements of hyper pop to create ballads of love and longing. Following on the trend of the likes of Claud and beabadoobee, Ulven has made sure her sound is exciting as possible. From the moment this album starts with “Serotonin” you’re welcomed in with music that’s travelling at 100 miles an hour. Moving through passages of glowing riffs, rapped verses and distorted solos there’s never a moment you don’t feel like you want to run around in the rain whilst crying. And this explosive sound is one that continues throughout most of this album. On the candid “Did You Come” Ulver wastes no time building intensity over rolling beats, cascading guitars and downcast piano lines as she explores jealousy of sexual ability with an unreserved mark. “Roll your tongue, make her come 20 times, Don’t tell me to relax or try to get me back, I’m packing up you bag” she declares with an abrasive unforgiving drive. It’s in these candid moments that Ulven is gloriously defining a new generation of sexual identity by being openly plain-spoken.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this album is Ulven’s newfound anthemic songwriting flair. On “You Stupid Bitch” Ulven moulds together elements of pop punk and indie rock to create the ultimate lovesick banger. It’s chorus of “You stupid bitch, can’t you see, the perfect one for you is me” will be sure to be belted out by adoring fans at what will surely be an eventual big run of festival lineups. And on “Rue” Ulven blends turns the folk ballad outset into a dystopian ballad of intoxication. “I try to get it off my mind, to leave it all behind, don’t wanna make it worse, i’m gonna make it worse” she declares as the haunting soundscape around her builds. She’s locked into this connection that she knows is doomed to fail, yet strives at every moment to push it towards reality.

Even in its most tender moments Ulven brings every sound to devastating heights. On “midnight love” she builds through swaying layers of piano rolls and plucked guitars. All whilst the club-like beats pounds like a tender heart in the background, eventually crashing into a sea of impassioned and reverb drenched vocals. She even evokes the nostalgia of early 2000’s pop on “I’ll Call You Mine”, through its swinging beat, Ibiza dance floor infused slow burn chords and emphatic emotional bursts she turns tender longing into an assured queer anthem. With the climax finding that delicate balance between intensity and unrequited tenderness.

Towards the backend of this album though Ulven seems to reach an emotional plateau in which the heights and depths of the opening run of tracks seem to be dulled down and feel slightly underwhelming. On “Apartment 402” Ulven looks to lay find an answer as she contemplates her place in the world. But sonically this song doesn’t offer much else that hasn’t been heard earlier in the album, with the cascading soundscape and exaggerated piano. The intensity of the song never seems to reach its climax, rather just fading out after a few verses of beat driven disparity. And closer “it would feel like this” the album transitions into the closing credits as strutting violins swoon over a melancholic piano line that just feels slightly too awkward to big the closing finale of an album that’s built on emotional intensity. As if you’ve reached the peak of this emotional mountain and now are listening to the music in the elevator on the ride down.

With that being said it’s clear to see how and why Ulven has gained the level of acclaim she has up to this point. By spearheading a new generation of openly queer storytelling through power ballads of love and regret she’s furthering the movement of ability to love freely. And that’s what this album is at its core. A story of love, regret, longing and sexual frustration set to a backdrop of explosive soundscapes.

Juan Wauters – Real Life Situations Album Review

Captured Tracks – 2021

Juan Wauters is becoming as prolific as he is emphatic to listen to. This is his first full length album since 2019’s La Onda De Juan Pablo, with his Más Canciones de La Onda EP coming in between. At its core this album celebrates the many connections and friendships that Wauters has established over the years, both musical and personal. In our interview with Juan he said that the idea of this collaborative album came about after realising how many crossovers appear in rap music and wanting to do the same. He then enlisted a bunch of musical companions to make an album that breezes through hip-hop, Latin folk, indie rock, synth-wave and everything in between. Like walking through a contemporary club with various rooms of throwback disco, heavy hitting beats and laidback lounges, there’s something for everyone on here.

This album acts as almost a diary turned radio station of Wauters life through 2019 – 2020. The initial recordings were done before the pandemic started but as it was being completed suddenly all these connections that are captured on this album had to stop. And although we may never know what others could have happened, this fact simply just makes the cameos and features that much more special. From the synth-pop infused “Monsoon” featuring Homeshake and his signature style of digital landscapes, to the ballad turned folk “Real” with former label-mate Mac DeMarco there’s an underlying sense of joy within all these songs. In our interview with Juan he said “when I met with all these people to make the songs with, those were definitely real life situations” and you can hear this authenticity of sound throughout. Wauters mixes the home style recordings he’s become known for on the likes of “Carmina Pensá” with the symphonic “Powder” to create a collection of songs that have one core element tieing them all together, Wauters resoundingly vibrant personality.

One of the biggest influences Wauters had coming into this album was falling back in love with hip-hop, namely Outkast. There are course Wauters takes on hip-hop classics with the likes of the 90’s nostalgia driven “Unity” with Cola Boy. And “Presentation” with Nick Hakim and Benamin that’s beat would be a producers dream to sample. But the biggest influence perhaps comes in the way this album is tied together. Through various audio samples, field recordings and voice notes there’s a human element tied directly into this album. Almost like the skits found throughout hip-hop classics these moments not only introduce the album, but bring the real world into every aspect.

Fans of Wauters classic works haven’t been forgotten of course. There’s still flavours of Latin folk mixed into the playlist with the likes of “Estás Escuchando” featuring El David Aguilar that’s melody will be left floating around your head for weeks. And “Lion Dome” with Air Waves that’s as melancholic as it is encapsulating; getting lost in a song never felt any easier than this. It’s in these moments that you realise how far Wauters has come as an artist since the breezy days of “North American Poetry”. He’s kept true to his sound whilst also incorporating more and more expansive and vibrant songwriting. “You thought my music was like this, now you think my music is like that” Wauters declares on “Unity”.

Although this album was completed during lockdown it’s very much not a lockdown album. Rather a celebration and reflection on those connections we so dearly long for. It’s a joyous listen that only becomes more vibrant on each repeat. With it’s depth in styles and sounds you find a new favourite each and every time.

Benny Sings – Music Album Review

Stones Throw – 2021

Amsterdam native Tim van Berkestijn aka Benny Sings returns with his 8th studio album, Music, which also marks his second release on contemporary indie, jazz and electronic label Stones Throw Records. Up to this point if you’ve graced Benny’s music before you have become familiar with his tried and true approach to clean, funky and melodically rich style of piano driven sounds. On this new project he continues once again in this movement, but that doesn’t mean the magic has worn off just yet.

From the moment the opening chords of “Nobody’s Fault” kick in you know that this album is about to take you on a gloriously vibrant journey. With its upbeat groove and silky smooth production it’s simply hard not to get up and dance along to the infatuating melodies and harmonies. But look deeper into the song and you soon realise the juxtaposition of the swinging melody to the defeatist lyrics that seek to give comfort to those that try to hide their pain. And this contrast is one that appears frequently on this album. Going straight into “Here It Comes” the melancholic piano melodies and slugging beat have all the elements of a heartbreak ballad, but lyrically Benny is his most optimistic. Reminiscing in childhood happiness, he looks back at a time when he believed he could be anything. “When we move up the hill, I promise I will, Start to life that we dreamt of, I know it, I feel it” he sings with a subtle allure.

This subtlety is a trait that Benny has been using in his works for a number of years now and it seems like he’s perfected it on this album. On “Sunny Afternoon” Benny’s vocals offer an alluring border almost on spoken word, with minimalist melodic inflections being added in on the chorus as the layers of sound build. Even the chords are sparse over the motioning beat, but this only makes the eventual build of strings at the climax of the track that much sweeter. And on “Run Right Back” there’s so much untapped cool lying within the breezy reggae infused melody that it feels as though you’re floating on a cloud high up in the summers sky, watching the people below. Then as Cautious Clay comes in with a killer sax solo you can just feel the smoothness of this track seeping out at every corner, all whilst staying humbly grounded.

What sets this project apart from other Benny Sings albums is the variety not only in sound mixtures, from the neo-soul ballad of “Miracles” to the trap-funk tinged “Kids” with KYLE, but the collaborations that Benny sows throughout. The highlight of these being “Rolled Up” with Mac DeMarco, which we named as one of last years best songs. There’s so much of Benny and DeMarco’s individual personalities shining through on this track that it makes you wish they’d made a whole album. The woozy piano and stripped back guitar has every part of DeMarco’s latest album Here Comes The Cowboy mixed in over the joyously catchy melody. Then as Benny croons in over the simplistic synth rise you feel instantly elated just at the sound of his laid back voice as he grapples with self doubt. “Is this my life? It’s not too bad, Still I’m rolled up, tossed out” he declares, going back to the juxtapostion of melancholy over uplifting chords.

This is definitely a sparkly clean album that shines with a natural delight in its often tender and funk filled movements. If you’re a longtime Benny Sings fan this album will be everything you want and more. And if you’re a casual listener then prepared to enjoy the chattering piano lines of one of indie jazz’s most prolific artists.

iogi – everything’s worth it Album Review

Raw Tapes – 2021

Tel Aviv native Yogev Glusman aka iogi returns with the follow up to 2018’s the ceiling. The multi-instrumentalist premiered his incredible songwriting and production talents on his debut after years of playing as a session musician with bands and artists such as A-WA and Idan Raichel. He now returns with an album that not only expands on the sounds and sights he brought to his debut album, but refines them to their most resonant form.

One of the most immediately captivating elements of this album is the production and sound design that iogi uses to transform these songs from longing ballads into swirling soundscapes that draw you into every sound and movement. From the moment the album opens with “you/me/everyone” you are drawn in by the funk infused guitars and synth-wave synthesisers that could have been taken straight from Jerry Paper’s Chameleon World. Every sound is vibrant and rich with definition and the short cut panning synth samples that speed by are a super smooth speedway to the next portion of the song. Then moving into the emphatic “oh yes” the searing guitar lines propel you along with immediate motion. Basking in a summery groove in the chorus you can feel the distinct free-flowing emotion pouring out at every moment, especially at the tracks climax as a wall of harmonies and fast paced guitars build to create the feeling of true captivation.

And this deep driving emotion is one that can be heard throughout this album. On “disney world” he compares the feeling of being with someone to the most magical place on earth. “Every time I think of her, it just puts my mind in such a place I can’t ignore, sometimes it makes me feel like i’m really in Disney World” he sings before the swooning guitar lines lead into the instrumental break. If you’re looking for a moment on this album to really blow you away at how captivating the sound is then look no further than “bliss”. Opening with a twinkling piano that makes you feel as though you’re sitting on the edge of an ocean, staring out as the sun slowly sets in front of you. “You will never really understand the way you make me feel, I would not be lying when I tell the truth that you’re the only thing thats real” he sings over a palette of warm synthesisers and comforting guitars. The deep connection that iogi is describing can be felt in every aspect of this song, bringing you right into this state of euphoria as the sounds swirl around you.

In our interview with iogi he described the sound of this album as “indie-pop, with influences from 70’s folk and psychedelic music” and the way that these sounds are blended so seamlessly together help make this album feel timeless. On “symphony of blue” the track opens with a tender folk piano ballad that exuberates some of the same 70’s nostalgia that was found on Montero’s 2018 album Performer. But the track quickly switches up to induce a sexy and groove filled funk chorus that is oozing with unapologetic sexiness, saxophones and all. Then on title track “everything’s worth it” you can find all the elements of a psych pop classic. The woozy soundscape is warm and encompassing and the add flairs of jazzy guitar lines glide over you like a soft summers breeze as iogi sings of the acceptance of self, “I try to be like myself, I would never choose to be someone else, That way I could meet some beautiful people”.

Throughout this album the one key element that binds this joyful journey together is the consistency of punchy and colourfully vibrant songwriting. There isn’t a moment where you aren’t dancing along, reminiscing about loved ones or just lost in the blissful soundscapes that encapsulate this album.

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg Album Review

4AD – 2021

Sometimes the best things are those that take time to grow on you. This album is certainly an example of just that. When first listening to Dry Cleaning it’s easy to be put off by the minimalist instrumentation and lead singer Florence Shaw’s deadpan spoken word vocal delivery. It’s abrasive, harsh, very often weird, but then isn’t that all the key elements that a punk album needs? After a while of listening to Dry Cleaning you soon begin to realise that this is the work of a truly special collective force. Formed out of various post-punk bands in the London post-punk scene, Lewis Maynard, Tom Dowse and Nick Buxton joined forces as a collective after finding common ground at a karaoke party. Dowse later then bringing in university friend Shaw to add vocals. On their debut EP Sweet Princess, the sound incorporated elements of surf-rock, punk and occasional flairs of psychedelia. All whilst Shaw’s seemingly disjointed thought trails drove the songs into weird and wild corners of her psyche. Now returning with the first full length project, the band have defined their sound both sonically and lyrically.

The first thing you realise about this album is just how poignant and humours of a lyricist Shaw is. You can’t help but laugh at some of her seemingly abstract musings that make you marvel at mundane situations. From the moment this album opens with “Scratchcard Lanyard” you are drawn into Shaw’s surrealist world as she says “Pat Dad on the head, Alright, you big loud mouth, And thanks very much for the Twix”. It’s absurdist at its core and you often wonder how any of these thoughts connect. But perhaps that’s the point, they’re not supposed to, just like real thoughts. You can interpret them however you want but you’ll never know the true meaning behind them. “I bought 17 pounds of mushrooms for you, because I’m silly” she states on “Strong Feelings”, later saying that “Things just come to the brain”. And this is perhaps the perfect summary of Shaw’s lyricism.

It feels as though you’re watching through her mind as these mundane situations bore her to the point of wandering off into paths of thought that ponder why the Antiques Roadshow isn’t quite the same as it used to be on “John Wick”. And on “Leafy” she embodies the torturous monotony of trying to share common ground with someone. “An exhausting walk in the horrible countryside, A tiresome swim in a pointless bit of sea, Knackering drinks with close friends” she lists off. But laced throughout though there are at times very dark situations that Shaw leads you into. On “Her Hippo” she speaks of using the ideation of an escapist fantasy land to give her reason to leave the relationship she’s in. Describing her toxic environment with great unease, “His shadow looms around, A feeling of bees’ legs on my face, Safe inside a secret love, Let’s run!”. And although Shaw’s tendency is to give a straight cut delivery on most of her lyrics, you can feel the anger bursting out in places as declares “Her hippo, Everyday he’s a dick”.

Instrumentally this isn’t the most experimental sounding album you will ever hear, leaving that side of things to Shaw. But it’s not trying to be. Rather each funk infused guitar riff and driving bass line is acting as a gliding platform to allow Shaw’s lyrics to become their most poignant. With each movement there’s careful precision taken to ensure that each emotive burst out or change emphasises Shaw’s vocals with pin point accuracy. Like on “Scratchcard Lanyard” as Shaw seamlessly tumbles from her static listing of various types of bouncy balls to the line of “Wristband theme park, scratchcard lanyard” that hits every beat of the song with a flow with solid conviction.

The instrumentals have a unique ability to sound both tiresome and alive at the same time. Almost revelling in the every day drag that Shaw describes. On title track “New Long Leg” every instrument is telling a weird story of its own, the guitar seeming both frantic and disparaging within fleeting moments. And the guitar and bass lines keep everything on this steady and winding track. But look deeper and you can hear moments of brilliance in each part; together making something truly uniquely weird. And on closer “Every Day Carry” the track builds through swirling guitar lines, chugging drums and uniform bass lines as Shaw daydreams over chocolate chip cookies and wondering what it must be like to be the last tree left after a land has been deforested. Creeping in as the track chugs along are various uneasy samples and grinding sirens that help build this true sense of agitation and anxiety. Eventually leading into an instrumental break of guitar feedback that feels like it’s gotten stuck on a loop. But this is all precariously building towards the bands final flurry of intensity as Shaw declares “What a cruel heartless bastard you are, Welcome to hell”.

Albums are often judged on their ability to entice you into repeat listens, and this album is without a doubt going to have many of those. Each time you discover some new unearthed element that just makes you marvel at how many strange and surreal situations Shaw and co have packed into this album. From Llama Plushies to dentist’s back gardens, this album has everything you never knew you wanted.

Clever Girls – Constellations Album Review

Egghunt Records – 2021

Vermont based indie quartet Clever Girls return with the follow up to 2018’s Luck and there’s certainly been a long wait for its arrival. Originally writing began before the band even released their 2018 debut, surrounded by months of tiresome touring supporting their debut. Then releasing the first single “Remember Pluto” back in 2019 and now nearly a year and a half later they have delivered the finished product.

One of the biggest themes of this album is lead singer Diane Jean’s journey of self discovery and questioning their identity, something that eventually lead to them coming out as queer and gender-nonconforming person. On “Stonewall” they sing “I don’t feel as good as you” as they question their role within relationships as someone whose assigned to female at birth. You can hear the despair and longing in their voice, Jean has even said that they recorded the vocal take in one go in a sleeping bag. It’s that realisation that the relationship you’re in isn’t equally weighted from both parts, but the roots of the problem lie deeper in the way you are raised. This lack of worth within a relationship returns on closer “Fried” as Jean sings “Wanted to seem like I’d picked up my pride, turn down the bed and switch off the lights, go down on you anyway” over woozy melancholic piano chords. Sharing this intimate moment as to them it feels as though it’s become a necessity rather than an actual desire. “You exist in a place that I never did, And i’ve never forgiven” they repeat on the chorus, further emphasising the disparity.

This sense of isolation is fully realised on “Baby Blue”, as although the guitar riff may sound hopeful and uplifting it’s juxtaposed with a journal of Jean’s solitary. “I’ve been standing on the corner, I’ve been sitting at home, I’ve been pacing the floor boards and spending too much time alone” they sing. Although this track was written nearly 3 years ago, the message seems even more relevant now. On “Saturn” however Jean is taking a look at the ways she can change her life. “You keep me falling, meet me in the middle” Jean repeats on the first half of the song, showing how they feel tied down to their current situation. Come the second half Jean is being reborn, moving forward and upward as they sing “Spit me back up, i’m a killer”. Taking the reins and finding a new lease of life.

From the opening moments of this album you realise that although Jeans’ vocals are often tender and intimate, the soundscape that backs them has a tendency to burst out into full blown rage at any moment, mostly when you least expect it. On “Come Clean” the song starts with an uneasy drum beat and gentle guitars. Then around the 1:20 mark the song explodes into a wall of cacophonous sounds, as if the inner emotion that Jean is feeling is trying to burst out. This trope is explored many times on the album, like on “Womxn” where the track builds through creepy and sleazy chords and melodies until it detonates into its epic ending of chaos and controlled erraticism.

This tendency to move into this heavier sound however does leave the album becoming somewhat stale at points and almost lacking in textural depth. Jeans’ vocals are the guiding force through the journey that this album takes you on, however at many points they almost become unintelligible. The band may have been trying to tap into more of a lo-fi aesthetic at these points but it comes at the cost of any memorable moments. Like on “Baby Blue” the sound becomes so blown out and full towards the latter half of the track that everything feels like it’s being submerged in a muddy mix of contrasting ideas. It does lead into the atmospheric and dream like title track “Constellations” that adds a bit more sonic range to the album but it’s all too short and sweet; a fleeting glimpse of something more.

That being said this is certainly an enjoyable listen and showcases the bands potential for dynamic songwriting, and will surely be exciting in a live scenario. The storytelling is intimate and Jean’s voice acts as a comforting companion through this journey of self exploration.

serpentwithfeet – DEACON Album Review

Secretly Canadian – 2021

Josiah Wise has returned with his sophomore album, the follow up to 2018’s soil, an album that saw Wise incorporate more of his gospel routes into his R&B tinged sound. On new album DEACON Wise has expanded these sounds and movements to great heights and tinged everything with a sunkissed glow, allowing the Black queer love to shine through at every moment.

The greatest aspect of this album that constantly at consistently drives the sound throughout is Wise’s lustful, emotive and exceptionally vibrant vocal performances. Opener “Hyacinth” builds through layers of harmonies and vocal melodies to create a truly infatuating sound, glistening with an exuberant emotional wealth from Wise. You can hear this on every vocal inflection and as the chorus of “Don’t tell me the universe ain’t listening, I went to bed single now I’m kissing” flows in you truly get a sense of the infatuation Wise is feeling, a feeling that is carried through most of this album. On “Malik” Wise infuses his gospel routes with a flavour of soul in its melodies, the song may be short and sparse in instrumentation but still Wise’s vocal harmonies carry the song.

Wise, like most of us at the moment, is longing for companionship on this album. Although it may not be centered around the notion of the time we’re living in, it makes it just that bit more relatable. On “Derrick’s Beard” he simply repeats the line “Come over here, missing your beard” whilst adding gliding layers of harmonies each time. But in this simplicity you can feel the deep longing that Wise is feeling; this thought is the only thing on his mind. This longing at times can almost turn into obsession as on “Wood Boy” Wise describes intimate desires, “I need you more than I admit sometimes, I want you on top of me” that later on turns to Wise forgetting simple facts as the person he is desiring is starting to push everything else from his mind, “Where’s the grocеry store? What’s my address? What’s my name again?” he sings. And you can almost hear the claustrophobia that Wise is feeling through the closed in vocals and uneasy glitchy beat create an underlying sense of discomfort in the soundscape.

Through all the longing and wanting however, the main message that Wise is delivering on this album is a celebration of connection, and friendships. On closer “Fellowship” Wise is literally saying that he’s “So thankful for, my friends” and basks in the marvel of small moments spent with dear company. “Our fascination with Prosecco, The silly face you make when I say, “Hello”” he sings over the Afro-beat like groove. You can hear the sweetness of the sound in Wise’s vocals once again, he’s more restrained and yet powerfully emotive at the same time. It’s those unspoken words and fleeting moments that he’s revelling in.

After a certain point in this album however, the sparse sound that Wise inhabits can become slightly too loose and lacking in emotional gravitas. On “Sailors’ Superstition” Wise taps into that club infused R&B sound that has propelled artists like The Weeknd to chart topping fame. Except on this outing the song just feels like another example of the same old formula, one that works for sure, but not as fresh feeling as other cuts on this album.

What Wise has achieved on this though album is capturing his personality from every aspect. Through the stories of love and lust he tells, to the fusion of gospel and R&B this is an emphatic portrait of a person and journal of passioned love.