FEBRUARY HLE Lo
Pa ramore are taking two DIY faves (Foals and Bloc Party) on tour with them soon - who would Team DIY want to support them at their own sell out arena tour?
SARAH JAMIESON • Managing Editor
Just because I'd need a hefty dose of girl power to actually get myself on stage in the first place, I think it'd have to be a Spice Girls greatest hits set? OG line-up, of course.
EMMA SWANN • Founding Editor
After seeing the price of water now hovering close to where pints used to, I’ll opt for late doors instead: let the people hydrate somewhere less extortionate.
LISA WRIGHT • Features Editor
I think the key here is to lower the audience’s expectations sufficiently that whatever came next (me) would be a glorious treat. Therefore I’m plumping for Pete Doherty circa 200990% not gonna turn up, if he does he’ll be five hours late and miss his slot anyway. Perfect.
LOUISE MASON • Art Director
I'd like a magican and Fleabag, so Fleabag doing a magic show please.
ELLY WATSON • Digital Editor
Tell me you wouldn’t feel pumped for a (however questionable) headline set after hearing a full orchestra banging out the theme song for Succession just before it… You can’t, can you?
Hello readers, and welcome to DIY’s first issue in 2023! We are incredibly happy to have you back for what promises to be a mammoth month for music. And what better way to kick off the year than by inviting one of the biggest artists on the planet back to our cover? We are supremely excited to have the mighty Paramore return to DIY to talk us through what went into the creation of their phenomenal new album ‘This Is Why’.
Elsewhere this month, we talk camaraderie with rabble-rousers
Shame, delve into Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall’s collaboration for their new project The WAEVE, and get a hint - just a hint, mind you - of what to expect from Squid’s new album. Plus, there are chats with The Murder Capital, RAYE and Samia, as well as our verdict on The 1975’s viral video-making At Their Very Best tour. Told you we were kicking things off in style!Sarah Jamieson, Managing Editor
As we wound down for the extended break between issues, we learned of the untimely passing of what felt like a deluge of iconic musicians. So we’re honouring them in the only way we know how: cranking their work up to eleven.
THE SPECIALS - GHOST TOWN
A track written and recorded after witnessing the brutal effects of deindustrialisation on the group’s Midlands home, a video of a desolate Coventry underlines the poignant, doom-laden messages recounted by the late Terry Hall on a song which - 40 years on - feels all too relevant once more.
PRIMAL SCREAM - MOVIN’ ON UP
Keyboardist Martin Duffy joined Primal Scream full-time following the end of previous band, Felt - a period which coincided with the making of what was to be their breakthrough - and still much-celebratedalbum,‘Screamadelica’. Frontman Bobby Gillespie‘s tribute described him as “opinionated and stubborn in his views,” which from him, must be the highest of compliments.
FAITHLESS - INSOMNIA
The late Maxi Jazz once said of Faithless’ signature hit “If I had a quid for every time someone’s come up going ‘I can’t get no sleep’ I’d be living on the space station.” No surprise that it connected with ‘90s ravers, a re-release in 1996 reaching Number Three and going double platinum.
Contributors Adam England, Alisdair Grice, Bella Martin, Ben Tipple, Bryony Holdsworth, Charlotte Gunn, Charlotte Krol, Christopher Connor, Elvis Thirlwell, Emma Wilkes, Louis Griffin, Louisa Dixon, Neive McCarthy, Otis Robinson, Rhian Daly, Sean Kerwick.
Readying the follow-up to Top Five debut ‘Bright Green Field’ with a prolonged period of experimentation, a work-in-progress live tour and a little help from Tom Jones (!),
are diving back in for a second round. Words: Louis Griffin. Photos: Ollie Judge.
“Animal, vegetable or mineral?”
Squid are playing a game
of twenty questions about their new album, trying to talk about their next body of work without giving too much away. Nothing’s officially been announced, but the band have new music – some of which we’ve heard – and have sat down for a chat about the follow-up to 2021 debut album ‘Bright Green Field’.
It reached Number Four in the UK charts – an almost staggering feat for a dense, knotty LP steeped in experimental, progressive rock. A relentless touring schedule followed, seeing the band take in multiple runs of Europe and the USA, including a Glastonbury slot and a performance on Later… with Jools Holland.
So, to its follow-up, and a game of binary choices. Singing drummer Ollie Judge and guitarist Louis Borlase have been instructed to avoid specifics about the forthcoming record, but gamely narrow it down for us nonetheless. Is the album more optimistic, or pessimistic? “I think more pessimistic,” Louis offers. “Yeah, definitely more pessimistic,” Ollie nods. “Well, actually not MORE pessimistic. Just the same amount of pessimism…”
Is it a nicer album than ‘Bright Green Field’, or more horrible? “A nicer album for sure.” More of a continuation of their debut, or a reaction against it? “Is your answer neither of the multiple choice suggestions, Ollie?” Louis laughs. “Is it Option C?” Ollie stops to think. “No no, in my opinion it’s quite reactionary. My approach to vocals is definitely reactionary - I got a bit sick of just screaming and shouting as loud as I could.”
Louis nods in agreement. “I think also musically we were getting sick of wonky, augmenteddiminished guitar lines that all sound angular. We were more excited by the idea of consonance and counterpart. The way in which you can involve several different melodies that has the effect of a singular harmonic movement. We suddenly got excited about making music that felt more melodic. This new album is more melodic and more cacophonous than ‘Bright Green Field’ at the exact same time,” he manages, before they both collapse into laughter at how much they sound like serious musos.
Let’s take stock. Immediately following the release of their debut, Squid set off on an endless tour – after all, they are fundamentally a live band. “We put so [many] of our compositions into the live show; taking [nuggets] from the live show into the writing room, that’s still one of the more central ways that we
come up with new ideas”, Louis explains. “I think that’s how quite a lot of the ones from the new album came into being, just having really bare-boned things that we jam live and then let develop over the course of like, a thousand gigs.”
In fact, the band’s first concern after releasing ‘Bright Green Field’ was to embark on a tour they called Fieldworks, where they decided to “road test some new material, playing sets of completely work-in-progress new music” at smaller venues than they’d usually play. Their debut was less than a week old, but they’d immediately turned their attention to the future, and to getting match-fit again after the enforced break of lockdown.
“I remember being really, really nervous for the first gig,” Ollie reminisces. “But it felt really good to do that tour, because pretty much everything we were playing on it has ended up on our next record. We wouldn’t have this record if we didn’t do that tour.” Louis smiles. “After so long of being in a domestic environment, the idea of going back to doing shows in massive venues was quite daunting, so these were little shows that we would try out ideas at - in a church in Torbay, and then a brand new venue in Falmouth, getting off the beaten track.”
The Fieldworks tour seems to be the genesis of the upcoming second Squid album – and geographical location, as Louis mentions, seems to be vital to the band’s creative process. One of those shows was outdoors at The Silver Building in London’s Docklands, which the guitarist credits as a “fun dystopia that matched the elements of ‘Bright Green Field’”. That album’s title evokes a physical space, too, and when pushed for a location that suits this new material, Ollie offers “Stonehenge, maybe?”. “Yeah, there’s definitely some folky elements that I think we thought were running through it,” Louis agrees, “although I’ve listened back and wondered where they’ve gone. I think they’re [still] there, in a way.”
More than Stonehenge, however, there was one place that defined the album more than any other, and that’s Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Wiltshire - a home for the band over the duration of the writing process.
“They’ve got these long bunkers out the back, just by the car park, and we did loads of the writing there over the course of about 18 months,” recalls Louis.
“In the middle of winter it would be freezing cold - we couldn’t really even play because it was so cold - and then it was the height of spring when we recorded it. The whole album, the conception of it all, is totally focused on Real World, which is really nice.”
“My approach to vocals is definitely reactionary - I got a bit sick of just screaming and shouting as loud as I could.”Ollie Judge
Squid weren’t the only residents of the studios during their two-week recording spell, though. “It was peak springtime,” Ollie smiles, “and it was the first day where you could feel the heat of the sun coming down. I went outside, and I saw Tom Jones sat on the bench, sunning himself, just sat with his eyes closed. I went up and made some British small talk with him - ‘Nice weather we’re having’ - and he was just like, ‘Aye, it’s fucking lovely!’,” Ollie cackles. “I can’t believe I heard Tom Jones swear!” Louis nods: “He was such a force of good energy across the two weeks. Me and Arthur were sleeping in my parents’ camper van, which my dad lent me, so we’d finish a day of recording in a big spacious room, walk by and say, ‘Goodnight Tom Jones!’, and go and get in our sleeping bags. It was like a really, really weird dream.”
With of-the-moment producer Dan Carey having manned the desk once again, some of the new material will get its first public airing when Squid make their belated return to London’s Scala this month. “There are certain tracks on the album that we’ve been playing in the same format and arrangement as to how they are recorded, and there’ll be ones, I think, where we need to be a bit delicate with ourselves going into their first outings,” Louis smiles. “But it is really exciting, and it’s coming up pretty soon, so it’s going to be a really nice way to start feeling like this is a year for touring our second album.”
Are the band concerned about the practical difficulties of playing any of the new material live? “Pretty much all of it,” Ollie laughs. “Well for me anyway, because a lot of the songs aren’t in 4/4.” “It comes down to interesting arrangements,” Louis nods, “and not necessarily always using the stage as a platform to play your studio recordings note for note.” Indeed, the band’s songs are always in flux; the version they play of a song live at any moment is as close to a definite article as they get. Ollie is reminded of a comment they received from a fan at a gig, just after the initial success of early track ‘The Cleaner’. “[They] had gotten so used to the radio edit, which lops off huge sections of that song, and they came to a gig like, ‘Wow, you played this amazing extended version of ‘The Cleaner’.’ And we were like, ‘No, that IS ‘The Cleaner’!’ For Squid, the live moment is all that matters – everything else is secondary.
Nonetheless, heading into LP2, the fan anticipation for a new recorded body of work is clear. Despite having spent long enough writing and recording the album that a sense of grandiosity would be understandable, at least today, Squid have no such thing. When we ask if there’s anything else they’d like to add, Ollie grins. “It’s called ‘Back In Black’, and it’s a rock record, basically.” Whether that’s true remains to be seen, but there’s one certainty about where Squid are headed – things can only get weirder. DIY
’Gram on the
These days, even yer gran is posting selfies on Instagram. Instagran, more like. Everyone has it now, including all our fave bands. Here’s a brief catchup on music’s finest phototaking action as of late.
We’re not saying the fame’s gone to Yard Act’s heads but this is the demand we were sent when we requested a recent interview. (@yardactband)
Believe it or not, musicians sometimes do normal things, too. They get lost, buy milk and catch buses – all sorts. This month, we clocked a fair few of them roaming around…
Anne-Marie loitering at the back of boyf slowthai’s Soho album playback; a gaggle of band lads (Murray from The Xcerts, Woody from Bastille and Josh from You Me at Six) watching The 1975 in Brighton, as Queen Denise Welch held court in the crowd in front of them; Saoirse Ronan in full sparkly ABBA garb watching their hologram gig.
“We'd finish a day of recording, walk by [his digs] and say, ‘Goodnight Tom Jones!’, and go and get in our sleeping bags.” - Louis Borlase
A VERY DIY
It might feel like we took the tinsel down months ago now, but hop in our festive time machine and revisit the Very DIY Christmas Party with us… Photos: Emma Swann.
We all know the score: music is for life, not just for Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of a festive knees-up to mark the occasion. So, that’s exactly what we decided to do to draw 2022 to a close; invite a load of our favourite artists - some old, some new - to take over a snazzy new London venue and have a merry ol’ time!
Brought to you with the help of our friends at the BIMM Institute, Focusrite, Marshall and Super Bock, our A Very DIY Christmas Party saw us head to new Central London venue, The Lower Third, to both celebrate the release of our Class of 2023 issue, and send off the year with a bang. First up, scuzzy youngsters - quite literally just 18; we’ve checked their IDs… - Noah and the Loners take to the stage for a hefty dose of thumping pop-punk indebted bangers, before Bleach Lab change the pace with their set of dreamy offerings, including tracks from their recently-released ‘If You Only Feel It Once’ EP.
Helping to honour the Class of 2023 this evening, electro-pop star extraordinaire Jessica Winter is up next, giving us a taste of new EP ‘Limerence’ and getting us dancing. Transforming the basement venue into more of a pulsating club, the likes of ‘Sad Music’ and ‘Funk This Up’ are deliciously groovy, while an early preview of her collab with Lynks - new single ‘Clutter’ - is a throbbing sonic treat.
If there’s one band out there who know how to get a party really started, it’s Dream Wife. Donning a variety of lycra - Rakel Mjöll in long gloves, while guitarist Alice Go has gone the extra mile with a full Britney ‘Oops I Did It Again’-era red bodysuit - and ready to let rip, their set is a no-holds-barred rattle through their discography to date. From the boisterous opening of ‘Hey Heartbreaker’, through to the defiant chant of ‘Somebody’, Rakel is a master at whipping up the crowd, while the slow-burn of latest track ‘Leech’ soon explodes into a deliciously chaotic frenzy. Closing proceedings with the feverish one-two of ‘F.U.U.’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’ - and a full-blown mosh pit, for good measure - tonight’s real proof of the cathartic power of live music. If that’s not the best Christmas pressie going, we don’t know what is.
As well as sponsoring the 2022 Mercury Prize, FREE NOW have also teamed up with Music Venue Trust to provide some well-needed support to Grassroots Music Venues across the country, underwriting 120 gigs until the end of April 2023. This month, FREE NOW are also putting on a very special Spotlight show, with none other than Nova Twins.
Fresh from having their second album ‘Supernova’ shortlisted for the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW, the duo - Amy Love and Georgia South - will be taking to the stage at London’s iconic venue The Lexington, for a very special intimate show on Wednesday 8th February. The show is part of FREE NOW & Music Venue Trust’s #MoveToTheMusic campaign, which is focussed on supporting live music in grassroots venues, and previously saw Public Service Broadcasting perform at Peckham Audio last summer, before Benjamin Clementine took to Bush Hall for two performances in December.
Speaking on the importance of grassroots venues, Nova Twins have said: “We owe so much to grassroots venues. They are the only way new bands can gain experience and start their careers! They support new artists and bring together an incredible community of local music lovers and musicians. They are essential for smaller bands touring around the UK. Without them, we don’t know where we’d be today!”
Brought to you as part of our media partnership with FREE NOW, the mobility super app!
Move to the music with FREE NOW and get 50% off your first 2 rides with code FNXDIY22
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“There’s a statistic that there’s .. more CEOs called John than ,, there are female CEOs.”..
Following a public battle for independence from her original label, RAYE has emerged free, thriving and with a Number One single to show for it. With long-overdue debut ‘My 21st Century Blues’ finally coming into the world, it’s a chance for the singer to exorcise her demons and reclaim her power once and for all.
Words: Charlotte Krol.
It's been a couple of weeks since RAYE achieved her first Number One single with ‘Escapism.’ and, says the singer, songwriter and producer, things “still don’t feel real”. Rather than peddling a line in faux-modesty, however, the overwhelming sentiment is evidently very real: over the past year, RAYE has been at the centre of one of the most unforgettable redemption arcs in modern UK pop history.
Speaking from her tour bus midway through a supporting run with pop superstar Lewis Capaldi, it’s clear from RAYE’s tone that she’s already exhausted by the new attention and increased demand for her time. It’s no understatement to say that debut album ‘My 21st Century Blues’ has been in long gestation. RAYE, real name Rachel Keen, now famously spent years fighting her former label Polydor to green light her first full-length. It took severing ties to deliver it. But now, repeatedly discussing album themes including sexual violence and substance abuse - which we’re told RAYE has been questioned about rather clumsily thus farhas left her feeling fragile.
However, even if the Croydon-raised singer, 25, sounds like she’s experiencing something like delayed shellshock, there’s nothing to suggest that the path she’s on now as a successful independent artist isn’t one that she’s thrilled to be treading. “It's been so empowering and liberating,” she says of taking control of her artistry. “It’s kind of incredible to be like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna release ‘Hard Out Here’, ‘Black Mascara’ and then ‘Escapism.’, then I’m going to do the album, then we’re going to do these
songs. Even that alone – being able to decide what I think is best, how I present creatively, what order things come in - is just such a new feeling, which is crazy.”
In the summer of 2021, RAYE parted ways with Polydor having been stuck in a fouralbum deal for seven years without releasing even one. She aired on Twitter her grievances with label bosses, whom she said had been unwilling to back a debut. Releasing her first record had been her dream since signing to the Universal subsidiary, aged 17.
Between 2014 and 2020, RAYE released a handful of EPs and a mini-album but was spotlighted most markedly by guest appearances on charting floorfillers such as ‘You Don't Know Me’ by Jax Jones and her David Guetta and Joel Corry collaboration, ‘BED’. To land a Number One with her own song, featuring 070 Shake, then was vindication in RAYE’s fight for her own voice. “For so long, [I was] told repeatedly that I had a problem with my identity, like not knowing who I am as an artist, what genre I want to choose, what kind of look I have,” she says. “I really struggled with that. I needed this album to be a rebellion of all of those lies that were fed across the years.”
She adds, intimating her British-Swiss-Ghanaian heritage: “I think also, as a woman of mixed heritage, I was raised with lots of different cultures. I don't necessarily identify with being one specific thing and I can’t expect my music to do the same. So I wanted to just actively rebel against those kinds of words and negativity that sat on me for a while.”
‘My 21st Century Blues’ is undoubtedly an honest album made by a woman wronged - created, as RAYE says often, as a “medicine” for herself and for others under the boot of the patriarchy. “I just think it’s important for women to be able to decide what's best for them. There’s a subconscious – I don't know if it’s subconscious or because it’s so traditional in the past that men decide what women do and what pop stars do… [but there’s] a huge lack of women in positions of power to define what they want to do,” she says.
“There’s a statistic that there’s more CEOs called John than there are female CEOs,” she continues. “My experience in the music industry is a really clear testament of that, and also a lot of female artists I know struggle with the same thing. It's important to be able to be like, 'This is what I want to release’.”
Currently, parallels have undoubtedly been writ large between these statistics and the recent BRIT Awards nominations. The ‘Best Artist’ category, which was gender-neutralised last year, has resulted in 2023 with a group of all-male nominees.
“There are so many incredible women making so much incredible music,” she says, name-checking PinkPantheress, Olivia Dean, Anne-Marie, Bree Runway, FKA twigs and her album feature guest, Mahalia, as prime examples. “It’s so important that women get these opportunities the same way men do. You just want to see at least the balance, you know? It's a shame.”
‘My 21st Century Blues’ is out now via Human Re Sources.
Read the full feature at diymag.com/raye. DIY
THIS MONTH IN MUSIC ... NEWS
On the 21st February 2012, another ‘21’ - and its rightfully irked author - was causing the biggest stir of the night. Winning the BRIT’s most coveted award for Album of the Year, Adele’s speech was cut short midway through in order to screen Blur’s Outstanding Contribution closing performance. Justifiably miffed, Adele gave a big middle finger as embarrassed host James Corden switched to the other stage and Twitter erupted in a storm of support for the singer. Thankfully, Adele would go on to win approximately 34067 more BRIT Awards in the years following so, all in all, she’s probably not losing that much sleep over it.
THEY SAID WHAT?!
“It’s absolutely awful, the songs. The whole thing of it is disgusting to me. I’m a songwriter, I perform live, and these shows just come across as so dreadfully phoney to me.”Former Sex Pistol John Lydon on the Eurovision Song Contest… which he is currently attempting toDIY In Deep is our monthly, online-centric chance to dig into a longer profile on some of the most exciting artists in the world right now. Photo: Callum Walker Hutchinson.
Back with her first new music since her 2019 self-titled album, Lætitia Tamko - aka Vagabon - has returned with dreamy new track ‘Carpenter’. Co-produced by Rostam, the captivating new track is described by Vagabon as “about that A-HA moment, when a lesson from the past finally clicks and you want to run and tell someone who bore witness to the old you, ‘I finally get it now.’” Blending thumping beats with her soaring vocals, it’s an exciting first glimpse at her forthcoming third album. (Elly Watson)
THE NATIONAL Tropic Morning News
The first taste of the band’s forthcoming ninth studio album, ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’, ‘Tropic Morning News’ is a departure from The National’s trademark sound, possessing more of an electronic tinge, backed by a persistent beat that brings to mind NYC near-neighbours, LCD Soundsystem. It’s a lively five minutes that is a warm and encouraging welcome back to one of the best-loved acts around. (Christopher Connor)
FALL OUT BOY Tropic Morning News
Is it 2005 all over again? Not only are Fall Out Boy back with their first music for five years, but their guitar-driven sound of old has returned too. ‘Love From The Other Side’ is a big, warm, nostalgic hug of a track, but its production is shiny enough for it to feel thoroughly modern. If the off-kilter experimentalism of ‘M A N I A’ wasn’t quite your cup of tea, ‘Love From The Other Side’ is more than enough to reignite your love affair with this band. (Emma Wilkes)
Nearly five years since their last release, boygenius - Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker - have continued to carve out their own independent successes, and one of three newly-released collaborations, ‘$20’, sees them at their most formidable yet. A wry assessment of middle-American life, ‘$20’ is a non-linear, exploratory track that allows each member to voice their contributions to the band, featuring hair-raising yelps from Phoebe, Julien’s interstitial harmonies and Lucy’s sweet explosivity. A pitch-perfect return. (Alisdair Grice)
HAVE YOU HEARD?
ARLO PARKS Weightless
If tender indie pop is being sought, Arlo Parks is surely one of the first ports of call. Debut album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ was awarded the Mercury Prize in 2021, and the singer-songwriter continues where she left off with ‘Weightless’, the lead single from forthcoming second album ‘My Soft Machine’. “Cardamom and jade as your eyes screamed,” she begins, but the song’s crowning moment comes with the bridge as Arlo sing-speaks before a final rendition of the chorus. Is one of our finest talents moving up yet another level? Quite possibly. (Adam England)
the RECORD ON NEWS
On The Record is a chance for DIY’s esteemed writers to wax lyrical about the subjects close to their hearts and populating your timelines. This month, Ben Tipple on why breakthrough superstar Ethel Cain has become a figurehead for othered outsiders everywhere.
Take a moment to scroll through Ethel Cain’s online presence and it’s immediately obvious that the singer - born Hayden Silas Anhedönia - is embracing the full extent of her true self. The imagery matches the dark, gothic-tinged confidence of her music: something that stopped me in my tracks after stumbling across her ‘Inbred’ EP, having been initially attracted almost entirely by the provocative religious iconography of its artwork. The EP’s bleak lyrics about deep-seated trauma and a damaged society, teamed with beautifully off-kilter alternative pop, was enough for this gay son of a preacher to be instantly hooked. It was more than apt that her follow-up would be called ‘Preacher’s Daughter’.
I’m by no means alone. Her followers – affectionately called the Daughters of Cain – flood across her socials to interact with their “mother”. On the surface, it has all the hallmarks of a cult (if not a beautiful one), but it’s exactly this that Ethel is pushing against with her complex love and hate of religion and the life it has brought her. “God loves you, but not enough to save you,” is etched across her skin - a mantra repeated in album highlight ‘Sun Bleached Flies’ in a moment that resonates massively to those that, like me, fall outside of societal norms. “‘SBF’ put me in the foetal position at first listen and made me cry no less than five times,” one fan replies on social media to
a picture of the tattoo.
For me, it’s the simplicity of her words that carries so much weight. There’s something incredibly powerful in the ongoing battle between who you were and who you have become, retrospectively soundtracking a journey from youth to adulthood that involved rejecting the identity that was placed upon her and that forced her to find her own: a path that every queer kid will understand. It’s those ties to the past that remain, and that fill the hour-plus running time on ‘Preacher’s Daughter’, met by music that mirrors her total lack of interest in the conventional. It perfectly captures the overwhelming isolation of being othered, and at the same time promises hope through a powerful and supportive online community. Her rebirth as a modern-day icon is evidence that you can be yourself while still living with the fallout of what the world expected from you.
This world Ethel has created for her ‘daughters’ offers the space for authentic expression and escape when it gets too much. Her identity, something that hasn’t come easy, spreads beyond the music into everything she touches, and continues to draw in new followers at every turn, attracted by the easy confidence that comes out of rebellion. The unfiltered disregard for convention carries into it all, from the wood-clad walls of the Salem-esque house she recorded the album in, to her music’s subtle crescendos. In fighting to be herself, Ethel Cain has created something that sits proudly outside of everything else; that isn’t afraid to challenge but that does so in its own curated setting that doesn’t appear to care what anyone else thinks. It’s the holy grail for misfits, a place to be ourselves in a community that celebrates it. DIY
“Ethel Cain has created a world that sits as the holy grail for misfits.”
At the end of this month, everyone’s favourite masked singer Lynks will kick off DIY’s inaugural Now and Next Tour 2023, supported by Class of 2023 rave-punks VLURE. And so, to get them in the mood, we asked Lynks to reveal their current and future faves from a host of deeply important topics… Interview: Lisa Wright.
Now: My most recent binge was a show called Big Boys, which I thought was very sweet and heartfelt. Jack Rook is a great comedian; I saw his live show at the Edinburgh Fringe and it made me weep with both sadness and laughter.
Next: I want to watch The Last Of Us which is based on a zombie video game. I love horror a lot; I think it puts your problems in perspective. Like yeah, I guess I’m having a hard time finishing my album but I have all my limbs so it could be worse.
Now: I made eight masks for a music video shoot last week. I had a bunch of amazing outfits from different designers, but they don’t make masks so I have to go down to Brick Lane and try and find the closest matching fabric to whip something up.
Next: I’ve got an amazing artist friend who’s been a babe and printed out some of her paintings onto fabric, so I'll make something out of that. My sewing skills are limited to body suits and big trousers, so I imagine it’ll be one of those.
Now: This is shameful, but I’m really obsessed with Anthony Fantano, The Needle Drop blogger guy. He did an end of year list of his Top 50 singles and he’s just got very good taste. I’ve not stopped listening to the Jockstrap album, and I only recently discovered Japanese Breakfast and I’ve been rinsing that, but Anthony Fantano’s Top 50 is, if I’m being honest, what I’m actually listening to.
Next: I’m really excited about the Caroline Polachek album because all the singles have all been a bit nuts and it feels like it’s going to be very weird but great. Also the Jessica Winter EP is so good. Why isn’t she the biggest star in the world? She deserves everything!
[Ed - well, we
Now: I’ve quit smoking which is pretty good. Well, I think cold turkey is a disaster, so I’ve been doing a thing where I can only smoke when it’s night time, I’m with friends, I’m drunk and I’m out of the house. If all four of those things are met at the same time then I’m allowed to have a cigarette - and it’s working!
Next: I had a resolution last year that I was gonna do five minutes of stand-up and I didn’t do it, so maybe that. By this point, I’ve done almost every frontier of terrifying on-stage experience: I’ve acted, I’ve done drag, I’ve sung, I’ve done poetry. But the one that still fucking scares me so much is stand-up, but I can’t do it as Lynks because that would be cheating.
POP CULTURE MOMENT
Now: I thought it was funny that [Prince] Harry publicly talked about using his mum’s lip balm on his dick. That was fun. That was camp.
Next: There’s a new American season of Drag Race out and there’s a pair of identical twins competing against each other. What I bet will happen is the twins will lip sync against each other, one will be eliminated, the other will say, ‘STOP! If they’re going then I’m going’, and then they’ll both leave together.
OUTRAGEOUS STAGE MOMENT
Now: It wasn’t that recent, but on the two-year anniversary of being Lynks I bought a piñata in the shape of a ‘2’ with a mixture of Maoams, condoms and confetti in it. I was blindfolded and whacked it with a log we found on the street, missed it and broke Laura’s, one of the Lynks Shower Gel girls, fingers
Next: There was another gig at the Windmill where [Shower Gel Girl] Ella got a broken nose on stage, so on the DIY tour I think Kate needs to break something, maybe a rib. She’ll just have to work with it, there’s no HR department at Lynks.
“Writing these songs felt like a different side of myself, like I wasn’t performing. They’re just like journalling.”
A week before Sabrina Teitelbaum released her debut single as Blondshell, she shared a short message about the nature of the new project: “It’s the music I’ve always wanted to make, but have been too scared to.” Days later, ‘Olympus’ followed - a grungy, melancholy portrait of the aftermath of a relationship, with the embers of love still glowing orange as the heat dies down. “I’d still kill for you,” she sings. “I’d die to spend the night at your belonging.”
In that song and the incredibly personal, often cutting singles that have followed, it’s easy to see why Sabrina might be afraid. “I had a lot of concerns, like being judged for talking about these subjects, or I was worried that people would be like, ‘Oh my god, is she OK?’ because the subject matter [in these songs] is so heavy,” the New York-born, LA-based musician explains. “It’s stuff that everybody feels but I felt like if I talk about the most heightened, intense things that go on in my head, people are going to be taken aback in a bad way.”
Fortunately, that prediction was wrong. In the eight months since ‘Olympus’ was released, Blondshell has swiftly become one of indie’s brightest new hopes. It’s largely thanks to the part of her music that she previously shied away from – laying out her most extreme feelings, flaws and issues with effortless relatability and wry self-deprecation. “I’m going back to him / I know my therapist’s pissed,” opens ‘Sepsis’, later adding: “I think I believe in getting saved / Not in Jesus’ validation, in some dude’s gaze.”
If Blondshell is instantly clicking with those that hear the project, it had the same effect for Sabrina when she began writing these songs. Previously, she worked under the moniker BAUM, but something wasn’t quite right. “I finished an EP for [BAUM] and I was like, ‘OK, that’s gonna come out at some point – now I can write for myself’,” she explains. “Then I started writing all these songs and they felt like a different side of me, or like I wasn’t performing. They’re just like journalling.”
The singer-songwriter’s metamorphosis comes down to, she says, the simple act of growing up. “I just hadn’t figured out things about myself that I had figured out when writing these songs,” she notes. “It was just by the nature of being younger that I didn’t have the same clarity.”
With things a lot more lucid, Sabrina is ready to go all in with music: a relationship she describes as “the most consistent” in her life. Now signed to Partisan, home to the likes of IDLES and Fontaines DC, she’ll release her self-titled
debut album in April. It’s a record that blisters and burns, its creator stepping into her personal power and shrugging off onlookers’ stares.
‘Blondshell’ the record, meanwhile, might not have happened without the encouragement of collaborator Yves Rothman - a member of Yves Tumor’s collective. After meeting a few years ago in sessions for BAUM, Sabrina showed him ‘Olympus’. “His reaction was like, ‘Can we make an EP like that song?’,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can write more songs that are like that song…’”
With the producer’s encouragement, she tapped into a well of biting indie-rock gems, following his advice to be authentic to herself. Between showing him the latest tracks she’d come up with, the pair would sit and watch Smashing Pumpkins videos and listen to Depeche Mode. “It was this very immersive thing where he was showing me the things he loved from the style I was pulling from. I learned a lot from him,” she says.
Being authentic to herself manifests on Blondshell’s forthcoming album in the form of radical honesty in spite of society’s expectations. If women are rarely given permission to get angry or spiteful, or to speak candidly about the intimate details of their sex lives without reproach, Sabrina thrusts two middle fingers up at the world and gives those
thoughts and feelings a loudspeaker. “I think I’d had a lid on a lot of those emotions which made them more intense, and not being able to air them out made them so much more so,” she reasons. “When I was writing about all these things, it was a huge relief and I was able to let go of a lot of things that way.”
The album, she hopes, will be a guide for others to let go in a similar way. “I didn’t hold back on the size of my anger, my sadness, my longing and all these things, so hopefully people who hear it can feel less ashamed of those things,” she smiles. DIY
Permitting herself to write with extreme, undiluted honesty for the first time, Sabrina Teitelbaum’s forthcoming debut is an outpouring of emotion to cling onto.
Words: Rhian Daly.
An excitable, effervescent gang of mates with a withering line in patriarchyblasting punk bangers, it’s easy to see why Panic Shack should be put on the curriculum for teenage girls. But, as it turns out, those in the 30+ age bracket could learn something from their can-do attitude, too.
“We had partners in bands but they were just boring,” begins bassist Em Smith of the group’s formation. “It’s scary when you see boys on stage with their millions of pedals, and you think you can’t do it, but you can! Why do you have to overcomplicate things? You can literally use one distortion pedal, three chords, and a song can sound better than a million songs that are like…” We’re not sure how to fully pen the gesture that follows, but we’ll label it ‘wanking eyeball roll’.
Formed in late 2018, Em is the only member of Panic Shack who’d been in a band previously (a short-lived duo, comprising her and her dad). Vocalist Sarah Harvey and guitarist Meg Fretwell worked in Lush, spending their days plotting karaoke sessions and lamenting the musical dream they’d never made a reality; however, when the quartet - completed by guitarist Romi Lawrence - came back from a group trip to Green Man festival, they decided enough was enough. Inspired by watching Amyl and the Sniffers’ unstoppable Amy Taylor, they bought instruments, taught themselves how to play them well enough to begin to write songs and, thus, Panic Shack was born.
“The vibes and energy, that’s what we prioritised, and we have fun which is what people are connecting with. We have a laugh and we’re mates and no one’s really looking at your feet anyway,” grins Sarah. “We’re living out our childhood dreams.”
Citing the punk spirit of The Slits and riot grrl, coupled with the brightness and sparkle of classic pop (Riot Grrls Aloud, anyone?), the group’s live shows are where the vision comes most fully to life. “We wanted to combine the dance moves and the outfits of [pop] with guitar music,” explains Meg. ‘Mannequin Man’ lambasts London poseurs with a section in which the band all do their own on-stage mannequin-robot dance,
Proving that girls can wanna have fun while also sticking two fingers up to the pricks, Cardiff quartet Panic Shack are a bundle of unapologetic energy that harness the power of both. Words: Lisa Wright. Photo: Emma Swann.
‘Who’s Got My Lighter?’ closes the show in sweaty, chanty carnage, while ‘Jiu Jits You’ distils the essence of Panic Shack into one giddy three minutes: funny and angry and sweary and just the right amount of silly, all in one go.
“We want to get our point across but we ain’t serious girls,” notes Em. “All of our songs are so literal; there’s no bigger meaning. ‘Jiu Jits You’ was about this one guy who was pissing us off in a bar in Liverpool; I'd been to a jiu jitsu class and was like, ‘I’m gonna jiu jits you!’ and then the song was done in a night.”
Entirely, depressingly unsurprising is that, with the band’s increasing popularity (2022 saw them collaborate with Metronomy, tour with Yard Act and release debut EP ‘Baby Shack’), the trolls taking onus with their fun, celebratory feminism have come out in force. “There was this one video from Reading and Leeds of our song ‘The Ick’ and people were going fucking crazy. Overnight, we were inundated with about 5,000 horrible comments on us, our music, our outfits; they were trying to say we were cosplaying as working class,” recalls Sarah. “The worst comment that caught on was someone who said, ‘Join the 27 club early’ - which in a way is quite nice because we’re all older than 27…” Em succinctly picks up: “When Wet Leg popped off they were calling them industry plants, and then they started calling Crawlers industry plants and it’s the same with us. People just can’t take it that women can make it without being fucking rich or knowing someone.”
Panic Shack, we can confirm, however are the real deal. A band to believe in, who’ve rallied themselves to chase their dreams and are watching them become a reality.
“It’s exceeded every expectation I’ve ever had,” Meg smiles as Sarah affirms: “I just wanted to be in a band, I thought it was over and now here I am.” DIY
“People just can’t take it that women can make it without being fucking rich or knowing someone.”
- Em Smith
THE BRIGHTON TRIO SERVING UP A HEADY MIX OF GENRES.
It’s no secret that artists these days love to dabble in different genres, but for Brighton-based trio CIEL, it really does come second nature. Having whipped up a melding pot of shoegazey, goth-tinged offerings for their debut EP ‘Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark’which came out last October - the three-piece have already made their mark at DIY: not only did they play our annual Hello 2023 gigs last month, but they’ll be opening up for Lynks and VLURE at a few shows on our Now + Next Tour in February to boot.
LISTEN:The sugar-coated ‘Baby Don’t You Know’ is the big-hitter so far.
SIMILAR TO: A more shoegazey take on Placebo.
EMOTIVE SWEDISH POP DIGGING BACK INTO A RICH MUSICAL HISTORY. Named for the venue that became an integral safe space for Black South African musicians during apartheid, Stella Explorer’s debut EP ‘Dorkay House’ is indicative of an artist drawing from not only the sparkling Scandipop sounds around her but a wider musical lineage stretching back decades. The likes of recent single ‘Gold Rush’ are demonstrative of this fusion: mixing hypnotic drumming and a panpipe-like hook with crystalline pop vocals.
LISTEN: ‘Dorkay House’’s four tracks make sense of her exploratory moniker.
SIMILAR TO: The sort of new artist Caroline Polachek would definitely fuck with.
METRONOMIC COLD WAVE PURGES THAT YOU CAN DANCE TO.
On paper, a woman repeatedly screaming “Ugly is the man / He’ll chew his eyes” with increasing, frenzied intensity doesn’t sound like an obvious cure for the winter blues. And yet ‘Consistent Dedication’ - the opening track from next month’s debut EP ‘A Comforting Notion’ - heralds the introduction of an artist more than exciting enough to give us a hot flush of intrigue. Deliciously harsh and uncompromising, but with one foot on the dancefloor, you wouldn’t want to run into Heartworms down a dark alley but we’ll be rinsing her on the stereo for the foreseeable.
LISTEN: Second single ‘Retributions of an Awful Life’ is an early contender for 2023’s best new artist offering.
SIMILAR TO: Siouxsie Sioux by way of South London.
THE SCOTTISH SINGER SOUNDTRACKING HEARTBREAK. If at any time you opened TikTok last year, you probably saw someone crying to Katie Gregson-MacLeod. Sharing an early demo of single ‘complex’ on the app, the piano-led power ballad quickly went viral thanks to its lyrics perfectly capturing heartbreak (“I cry in his bathroom / He turns off the big light”). Since then, she’s followed the track with an equally heartstring-pulling EP ‘songs written for piano’, full of goosebump-inducing vocals and songs ready to sob to.
LISTEN: Get the tissues out and stick on ‘complex’.
SIMILAR TO: Phoebe Bridgers if she hailed from Inverness.
BRONX-BORN FUTURE-RAP SUPERSTAR. You know you’re on to something special when Drake picks your track to play on his radio station, and that’s exactly what happened to US rising star Ice Spice last year. Tipped by Champagne Papi, the rapper’s singles ‘Munch (Feelin’ U)’ and ‘Bikini Bottom’ quickly blew up, thanks to her fun-filled take on Bronx drill.
LISTEN: ‘Bikini Bottom’ might be the biggest bop named after SpongeBob yet…
SIMILAR TO: If you like your bad bitch anthems with an extra dose of fun.
There’s a queue to the door, while upstairs, the atmosphere is more like a rowdy meat market. Why? Because tonight’s lineup is stacked, and it begins with an opening set from Glasgow postpunks Humour. Close your eyes and the manic vocals of Andreas Christodoulidis sound like a cross between scatting and a panic attack. Open them, and the frontman is an unnervingly still presence, as though whatever’s possessed his vocal chords hasn’t bothered to enter any other part of his body. It’s a strange juxtaposition, but one that aligns with Humour’s strain of ominous brood.
Human Interest, meanwhile, are a far more free and celebratory prospect. In alternate turns nodding to the smokey cool of The Kills (‘Mixing Paint’) and melodic ‘90s slacker rock (‘Alive’) before ending on the rock’n’roll thrills of ‘Cool Cat’, bassist Tyler Damara Kelly and vocalist Cat Harrison clearly bring opposing energies to the table but together they combine as more than the sum of their parts.
When it comes to insatiable, joyful punk energy, however, we wanna be in Panic Shack’s gang. The quartet look like The Runaways, sound like a Welsh take on Amyl and the Sniffers, and come armed with both political savvy (‘Solidarity with strike workers’ reads vocalist Sarah Harvey’s top) AND a healthy smattering of choreography. Get yourself a band that can do it all.
With only one EP to their name (last year’s ‘Euphoria’), Glasgow’s VLURE are still in their nascent stages, but the gaggle of hardcore fans gathered at the front for their headline set are testament to the following they’ve built in that short time. Destroying the line between the rock show and the rave, their canon is a heady, hedonistic whip through both; there are people on shoulders and full on mosh pits, but there’s also a Faithless cover and enough pulsing, endorphin-rushing electronics to feel more like Fabric on a Friday than the upstairs of a pub on a Tuesday.
Tonight shows that you also need to watch out for the quiet ones. Case in point, Nina Cobham Having split her adolescence between Spain and the North of England, the 21-year-old singer’s superpower is in seamlessly fusing both languages, crafting hushed, intimate stories that slip between the twosometimes within the space of a sentence.
The casual observer, meanwhile, would never know that tonight marks the debut live outing for Bognor Regis-born pinkpirate in their current form (and their first live show of any kind in three years). A one person band, Caitlin Brown’s set-up finds them flitting between guitar and laptop, building hypnotic layers of heady alt-pop that could happily file next to The Japanese House or early Shura.
The most pin-drop crowd of the evening comes courtesy of Ireland’s Amy Michelle. Tracks from last year’s debut EP ‘is that all there is?’ are delivered in an almost-whisper at points; if there’s a criticism, it’s that the dynamics could be pushed further, the crescendo of certain tracks capped by their low on-stage mix. But that’s something that’s easy to remedy - more important is the bones of the songs, which are already full of promise.
It’s a switch up in tone for tonight’s headliner Surya Sen, who puts a lid on the previous mood of quiet attentiveness and replaces it with a set full of club-ready beats. Backed by a woozy screen of undulating visuals and joined for a climactic closer by rapper Di-Vincent, highlights ‘Earn It’ and ‘Jessica’ are a bop-filled way to close out the night.(Lisa Wright)
Coming of age
in Canadian rave culture, Debby Friday is making darkly industrial music with emotion at its core. Words: Elly Watson.
When Debby Friday began to reflect upon her life while creating her forthcoming debut album, there was one phrase that she wished she could go back in time to tell her younger self: “Good luck”. “I feel like this album is an ode to my adolescence,” she explains over Zoom from her home in Toronto. “An ode to the time in my life when I was so confused and lost, and I felt like such an outsider. I wanted to make something that would speak to that, but speak to it from the other side.”
Eventually becoming the title of her upcoming project, ‘GOOD LUCK’ finds the producer and songwriter exploring “the struggles, the trials, the tribulations, but also the joys and the triumphs and all the stuff in between” over a soundscape that flows between electronic experimentation and music ready for a sweaty, 2am warehouse rave.
It was in a similar setting that Debby first found her love of music. Born in Nigeria before emigrating to Canada, while she was studying for a degree in political science during the day, at night she would find herself drawn to Toronto’s underground music scene, spending her evenings immersed in the “complete creative freedom” that it brought. “I loved going out and partying and going to clubs,
so I thought I might as well DJ and get paid to be there,” she recalls. “In a parallel universe, maybe I’m a lawyer, but definitely still going to raves!”
Finding her place among the scene, Debby scoured YouTube for tutorials on how to make her own music, aiming to create sounds that resonated with her and pushed her discoveries and influences into new realms. First came 2018 EP ‘Bitchpunk’ and its 2019 follow-up ‘Death Drive’, and next month her industrialleaning experimentation will give way to the full-throttle sonic ride of her debut fulllength. “I like things that make me feel something, whether that’s a positive or negative emotion, or a destructive or constructive emotion,” she explains. “I just like things that make me feel because that’s the whole point of music, right?”
Hitting you square in the feels, ‘GOOD LUCK’ veers from hedonism to melancholia across its ten arresting tracks, creating a debut album that’s impossible not to be pulled in by. “I think often with musicians, your early stuff is not as personal, but I did that in reverse,” she smiles. “I just wanted to bare it all!” DIY
“I like things that make me feel something, whether that’s a positive or negative emotion, or a destructive or constructive emotion.”
Every week on Spotify, we update the Neu Playlist with the buzziest, freshest faces. Here’s our pick of the best new tracks:
STOP: HAMMER TIME
Released on 7th April via XL Recordings, NYC-via-Seoul’s Yaeji has unveiled the details of forthcoming debut LP ‘With A Hammer’. The full-length sequel to 2020 EP ‘What We Drew 우리가 그려왔던’ which has been described as a prologue, ‘With A Hammer’ was written between London, New York and Seoul and is set to feature guest spots from the singer-DJ-producer’s collective SLINK NYC.
Listen to first single ‘For Granted’ - which builds from buoyant, coy pop to a full-on drum-n-bass breakdown - on diymag.com now.
Freshly inducted into DIY’s Class of 2023, pop punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar have announced news of debut album ‘Past // Present // Future’. Set for release on 10th March via scene leaders Fueled by Ramen, the record follows on from recent internet troll-lambasting single ‘Say It (To My Face)’.
“The things we hold from our past inform who we are now and where we might go,” the group explain. “This album pays homage to the music we loved growing up while reflecting our modern-day lives, sounds, and experiences - we can’t wait to share ‘Past // Present // Future’ with the world.”
NELL MESCAL • HOMESICK
“I’m a little bit homesick but I don’t wanna go home yet,” sings Nell Mescal on her rollicking new offering. Building upon her more reflective, melodic singles - 2020’s ‘Missing You’ and last year’s ‘Graduating’ - but still channelling the awkward confusion of life’s changing seasons, ‘Homesick’ is a fuzzy but cathartic track that not only highlights but celebrates the uncertainty that moving to a new place - and, in turn, beginning a new life - can bring.
GIRL SCOUT • WEIRDO
Fusing the free-flowing nature of their jazz background into a wistful slice of indie-pop, ‘Weirdo’ blends moody melancholy with laidback mildness - an instant musical tonic to the song’s anxiety-ridden themes. On it, vocalist Emma Jansson goes back and forth, over-analysing herself from the outside and picking apart all her feelings as soft guitars and swimming textures wrap the Stockholm band’s latest up like a comfort blanket, the gloom giving way to a sunny, cautious optimism.
SUN ROOM • CADILLAC
TikTok got you down? Bored of life in the endless scroll? Take a trip back to the swinging ‘60s with south California’s Sun Room. ‘Cadillac’ is 2mins30 of moptop-shaking, throaty-vocalled goodness, with the authentically twanging, toe-tapping crescendo and analogue-sounding production of a simpler time. It’s a ride we’re fully up for.
CONNIE CAMPSIE • UNEASY
Following the recent release of anthemic new single ‘White Shirt’ - an ode to their hometown of Driffield - East Yorkshire’s Priestgate have announced new EP ‘One Shade Darker’, due 3rd March via Lucky Number.
“It’s our attempt at pushing the sound to another place,” the band’s Rob Schofield says. “It’s just how we are as a band; we’ve always found ourselves wanting to see what will happen next. It’ll always sound like us to a certain degree, maybe just with a different haircut if you will.” Listen to ‘White Shirt’ on diymag.com now.
Sometimes it’s best to just sit back, let some very good songwriting wash over you and leave it at that. ‘Uneasy’ - the latest from London’s Connie Campsie - is a good example. Comprised of a simple finger-picked guitar, a pure vocal line and some occasional extra flourishes (a subtle harmony here, a little atmospheric twinkle there), on paper it’s straightforward but on record it’s far more than the sum of its parts.
Want to stream our Neu playlist while you’re reading? Scan the code now and get listening.
All the buzziest new music happenings in one place.
Heading into a sixth album that shakes up the formula once more, Paramore stand in 2023 as objectively one of the most influential, beloved groups on the planet. Reunited after a much-needed self-care time out, ‘This Is Why’ finds Hayley Williams, Zac Farro and Taylor York embracing the core of the band and fully owning their place at the top of the podium.
Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photos: Zachary Gray.
fter almost twenty years as a band, with five albums already out in the world, it’d be easy to assume that gearing up to release a new one would be business as usual for Paramore. But ask Hayley Williams how she’s feeling just a month away from the wildlyanticipated ‘This Is Why’, and the answer’s not what you’d expect. “Nervous, man!” she half-laughs. “It doesn’t get less nerve-wracking. I thought maybe this one would feel like the one. I’d feel like, ‘OK, I’ve got all my shit together’, but I dunno… Maybe nerves are healthy.”
Today, the trio - completed by guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro - are in their home town of Nashville, embarking on final preparations for the release. Their first new album in almost six years, its jagged punk follows 2017’s ‘After Laughter’ - a funky, technicolour delight which, in contrast, saw Hayley’s lyrics unconsciously exploring mental health issues that would later be diagnosed as depression and PTSD. It also marks the band’s first new music since they took a self-imposed break in 2018 following their specially-curated Art + Friends event in their home city that September.
“The interesting thing is, [After Laughter] was one of the most positive and liberating album cycles that we’d ever had, as friends and as a band,” Hayley explains. “But also, there was this realisation that, in our late twenties, we’ve never…” she tails off. “[Aside from Zac’s period away from the band] we were in our late twenties and we didn’t feel like we’d gotten to just be adult humans that weren’t in this machine.
“There were a lot of reasons,” she continues, "but some of that contributed to identity being misplaced and mental health issues; I certainly had a lot of undiagnosed shit going on. [Then there] was this point where Taylor’s family had lost a family friend and that was really hard on them. That culminated in us having a conversation that was like, ‘What’s important to us and how can we treat those things with the type of value and care that we’ve treated Paramore?’” Returning home after such a success was admittedly a risk. “It’s not a decision people thought was a lucrative one, but that didn’t matter.”
Then, having spent close to eighteen months off the road and away from anything to do with Paramore (“We told our manager Mark and our team, as long as we say we’re away from it, we didn’t want them coming to us with any requests,” says Taylor. “What’s amazing is that he really honoured that and protected us”), in March 2020 the pandemic hit. “I hadn’t been so still and quiet and calm since I’d started doing music,” Zac reflects.
Admittedly, the three members of Paramore still managed to be creative. In 2020 and 2021 concurrently, Hayley released two solo albums - the latter produced by Taylor, while Zac worked alongside ELKE on her EP, before completing another album as HalfNoise. But on the whole, their time at home was similar to the rest of us; a see-saw between trying to maintain self-preservation in the wake of such global trauma, and trying to comprehend the political and social issues that were unfolding as a result.
“We talked about this a lot in the studio,” Hayley offers, “the slowing down of everything and, at the same time, [how] all these social justice issueswhether it be racial injustice or food insecurity, which is intersectional with the race issue - all these things had everyone’s attention at one time. It was great for us to be at home while some of these things were happening
“I have always been very afraid of what people have said about me in the context of Paramore, and I don’t know why.” - Hayley Williams
“I’ve always had this thing with people I perceived as bad men - like, ‘Ahh I’m gonna show you one day’.”
- Hayley Williams
so that we could be connected with our own city and community; we pitched in where we could, partnered with people and, at the least, just became aware and not ignorant of it.”
“Every time we got together with the three of us, or other friends around us, especially being in Nashville with the political and injustice climate, we couldn’t not talk about it,” Zac picks up. “Because there was only time, there was time for really in-depth conversations - and a lot of just goofing off and having fun too! - but I’d say 75% of the time, it was us talking about what’s going on and what it all means.”
It’s upon these deeply-invested foundations, then, that ‘This Is Why’ is built. “It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s make a record where Hayley starts to get political,’ but it’s hard to not reflect that when you really do want to speak from the heart,” notes Zac. Yet despite the opening one-two of its world-weary title track (“This is why I don't leave the house / You say the coast is clear / But you won't catch me out”) and the compassion fatigue battle cry of ‘The News’ (“Turn on, turn off, the news!”), the album still resolutely deals in the personal. “Lyrically, it goes from being more looking around and a bit external to really going inward,” Hayley explains.
The likes of ‘Running Out Of Time’ and ‘C’est Comme Ça’ find Hayley facing up to her own limitations; “‘C’est Comme Ca’ is one that’s like, ‘I want to get better but oh my god, it’s so boring to take care of myself’,” she laughs. “It’s so much more sexy and interesting to be a wreck.” Elsewhere, meanwhile, ‘This Is Why’ finds the vocalist leaning into the rawer flaws of herself. “I think one thing that surprised me writing the record was that there are two songs on there that are very vengeful, and speak to the part of myself that I find to be very young in age,” she says, nodding to ‘Big Man, Little Dignity’ and ‘You First’. “Because of situations I’ve been in in my life, or that I’ve witnessed, that were traumatic, I’ve always had this thing with people I perceived as bad - like bad men. I was always like, ‘Ahh I’m gonna show you one day’. [Those songs] are very much commentary on karma.
“I feel like everybody probably has that darkened corner of their brain that’s reserved for those intrusive thoughts, and I’m trying to really examine them,” she continues. “Because the truth is, if you’re expecting karma to work on someone, then it works both ways, and I think that’s really an interesting thing to finally realise as an adult; everything is connected, it’s all connected.”
Perhaps most striking on the album is its closing track. The first song written for the record - which came together on the first day they entered their Nashville studio to begin writing - ‘Thick Skull’ is a searing but slow-burning offering that, on the surface, tells an altogether darker narrative of buried bodies and bleeding fingers. In reality, however, it delves into a deeply personal story.
“It kind of surprised me to start writing the lyrics for the album that way,” Hayley nods, “because I think it feels autobiographical in a very literal sense about the band.” Throughout Paramore’s lifetime, Hayley has regularly become the eye in a storm whipped up by former members, throwing accusations and lawsuits the band’s way as they departed, all the while fuelled by a media intent on painting a picture of division.
The Brit School
Across the making of ‘This Is Why’, Paramore found themselves leaning further into the guitar-driven energy of indie legends such as Bloc Party, Foals and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It wasn’t just the old guard that the trio found themselves inspired by though: the new crop of brilliant British acts were also very much on their stereos, as Hayley and Taylor reveal...
Taylor: Y’all have the best bands of all time! It’s just true. Hayley: It is! It’s insanity. Even if you don’t get nostalgic and you just think about the last couple of years… I was listening to Lime Garden on the way to the studio, and Wet Leg, of course. They started popping up on generated playlists randomly for me, and it was such an amazing discovery that felt so akin to being a teenager and accidentally hearing your new favourite band. Also, [there was] Shame, and Taylor listened to a ton of Loathe, which is the heavier side of what we grew up on. And I’m obsessed with Yard Act! Are Dry Cleaning big over there?
Taylor: Rozi Plain is my new favourite artist in the world. She’s unbelievable - shout out to Rozi Plain! Hayley: There’s so much great history in the bands we grew up loving - like Blur - from the UK, but I think what’s cool is that it’s not ever stopped, and it’s continued to be innovative and fun and punk. It was really exciting that there was that amount of inspiration and excitability in the car on the way to the studio, and just feeling like, ‘OK, we’re coming back into music when there’s a lot of really
“The way I always felt, especially as a teenager and in my early twenties, [was] that people tried to villainise my character in the band because we were just going through real-life things in a public arena,” she says. "As a young girl, it forced me to take my femininity and creativity into hiding and simplify or dumb myself down a lot of times. I think while we were writing this song and those lyrics, I was just like, ‘What would’ve happened if I had just been like, ‘Yes, everything that you’re saying or that has been talked about - this entire narrative - is true?’’
“The second verse is a lot more extreme and exaggerated about what people will say about people not being in the band anymore. That being such a real, personal part of our journey and friendships - friendship break-ups, these things that were really hard for us - people trivialise it because it makes a great headline,” she continues, in reference to the refrain of “Only I know where all the bodies are buried / Thought by now I’d find ‘em just a little less scary / Might get easier but you don’t get used to it”. “So I just decided to go fully into it and be like, ‘Yes, I know where the bodies are buried and it’s my fault’,” she grins, “and embody that to see why I’ve always been so afraid of people saying those things about me, to try and take the power back.”
It does also, she admits, provide something of a mental conclusion for the band. “It’s interesting that it ended up being the last song on this album, which is also a big milestone for us because it’s the last album of this season, and the contract that we have [with Atlantic Records],” she notes. “All these things feel like a culmination of something. I don’t quite know what, but it was nice to be able to put those thoughts down, because I have always been very afraid of what people have said about me in the context of Paramore, and I don’t know why. I know those things aren’t true and they don’t actually define us.”
“We were in our late-twenties and we didn’t feel like we’d gotten to just be adult humans that weren’t in this machine.”Hayley Williams
13Going On 30
After almost 20 years of friendship, Paramore have entered a whole new phase of life in their thirties. Here, they speak about the increased importance of engaging with the wider world, and how they’re navigating it all.
Hayley: I’ll speak for myself more, but I definitely feel a pressure [to engage politically], especially if I’m really online. If I’m using social media, I’ll be feeling like I have to repost every fucking GoFundMe, every natural disaster, and it’s really… Compassion fatigue is a real thing. I try to use that side of my brain in terms of what we do about it, because we have a platform for it. That’s what’s great about the band and the fact that the three of us are learning all the time [about] how to activate that side of our career, and figure out where to put focus; these ticket sales are gonna go to this, or we’re gonna partner with this organisation.
Zac: There’s a different weight to it too; when you’re a kid and you say something, and then when you’re in your thirties. I’ve found it where you say it to a younger friend, and they don’t see it as someone the same age saying something, it’s like they’re looking up to you; there’s just more weight to it as you get older to what you bring, especially in our position.
Taylor: Also, at the same time, it’s understanding [that] when you go into new seasons in life, sometimes they can feel a bit clumsy. We do feel a greater responsibility to use what we’ve been given. We would love to do our best to leave this world in…
Hayley: In better shape.
Taylor: Yeah, in whatever tiny way we can, but we’re also learning that no one has it 100%.
In many ways, the release of ‘This Is Why’ and this new era feels like a truly full-circle moment. Having finally stepped away from constant pressures in an attempt to rebuild their home lives, they’ve managed to strengthen both their bonds with one another and their own selves personally. And while previously the band had found themselves on the fringes - never quite fitting in with the emo-rock labels they were tagged with - they’ve now risen through the ranks to spearhead a new, more inclusive scene.
It’s something perhaps best demonstrated through their recent headline at When We Were Young festival. You might assume that being given top billing at the Las Vegas emo extravaganza would’ve felt like a real cause for celebration, but in reality it sat awkwardly with a band who had never really felt embraced by that crowd to begin with. “It was not a big, warm hug like I think we all wanted it to be,” Hayley admits. "We were not stoked necessarily on the idea of a nostalgia cash-grab festival. It was like, ‘We see what you guys are doing…’”
And yet, instead of ignoring their gut feelings about the event, they transformed it into a pivotal moment for the genre itself. “To grow up in this scene was not a simple thing,” Hayley wrote in an open letter, posted to social media on the eve of the show. “Fuck the ones who doubted! Hugs to the ones who watched on and even sort of believed. Young girls, queer kids, and anybody of any color… We have shifted this scene together, messily, angrily, heartbroken, and determined. Tonight, for me at least, is about celebrating all the facets of what punk music actually represents. All the things it wasn’t allowed to be when we were young.”
Detailing both the band, and her own, struggle for acceptance from those she looked up to most, her message felt vital. “It might’ve all been worth it for her being able to say those things,” Taylor responds.
“Ultimately, if you believe in the universe working shit out for you, I do feel like that’s the reason that we played it,” Hayley nods.
It’s in these kinds of moments that Paramore’s success feels the most tangible. Despite continually facing petty criticism and being unnecessarily boxed in, they
have constantly evolved to become more than just titans of their scene, but a real influence on contemporary music as a whole. Within the past five years alone, they’ve grown into one of the most well-regarded alternative bands in the world, with a slew of younger musicians declaring themselves fansBillie Eilish, Snail Mail, Olivia Rodrigo and more among them - while a whole new wave of supporters have emerged. “The craziest thing is that we went away and people started discovering things about our band that I don’t think we could’ve forced them to had we tried,” Hayley laughs.
“One of the coolest things,” offers up Zac, reflecting on their recent US tour, “is that Hayley would ask the crowd every night whose first time it was seeing us, and almost the whole crowd raised their hands. I don’t know if they were just excited to be at a show or… I know my mom was at one and she was the first person to raise her hand,” he quips, “and she’s seen SO many shows…”
“It feels like not touring together for four years, it puts so many things into perspective,” Taylor adds. “Coming back to it this time, we were able to see what we do in a fresh way. It is wild that people still want to come and watch us play. We started playing together - writing songs and playing covers - when we were 12,” he says, as Hayley splurts with laughter at the memory, “and people still want to see us play music! Seeing that in a new way was really special.”
Ultimately, though, it’s not sold-out tours or famous fans that keep them going: it’s each other. “The band is the thing that we’ve all put the most hours into, and our friendships are at the root of it,” Hayley says. “So, even though our friendships aren’t determined by the band anymore - especially after the break - it’s just such a great connector for us. Paramore is one of the reasons we’ve grown as people, and it’s forced us to have to be accountable to each other, and forced us to have conversations that we probably would never have needed to have. I just feel like it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and it’s not because of a magazine cover, or a trophy, y’know? It’s because we have this bond to show for it.”
‘This Is Why’ is out 10th February via Atlantic. DIY
“ I just feel like Paramore is the best thing that’s ever happened to me” - Hayley
The result of a chance meeting between musicians Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall, The WAEVE and their self-titled debut album would become a life raft for the pair to weather the storm. Words: Lisa Wright. Photos: Louise Mason.
If Hollywood had drafted up a storyboard of The WAEVE’s formation and development over the past two years, the resulting plot summary might have sounded a little too perfectly on-the-nose for even the film industry to believably buy into. Two seasoned musicians, both going through a patch of jaded fatigue; a fleeting meeting against a backdrop of harrowing plague and global panic; a resulting, tentative union that would blossom into some of the best music either have made in years and, as the credits roll, a personal cherry-on-top complete with the birth of a new baby. It’s the stuff of indie fairytale, but an accurate document of the last 24 months for Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall.
The former, of course, needs little introduction. Blur’s inimitable guitarist and a longstanding solo artist in his own right, Graham’s place in music lore was secured decades ago and yet, come the end of 2020, he was feeling just as lost as everyone else. “I hadn’t done any work that whole year and I just felt really shut behind glass or underground. It hadn’t really crossed my mind even the idea of work and, when it did, I wasn’t enamoured with the idea of trying to process into music or songs how I was feeling at that time - which was awful,” he recalls.
In a brief window between lockdowns, Graham had agreed to play a set at London’s Jazz Cafe as part of a charity gig raising money for Beirut. Also on the bill was Rose who, following her third solo album and with a series of collaborative projects alongside the likes of Mark Ronson and Baxter Dury to her name, was feeling similarly disillusioned. “Trying to get another well of energy to do another project, especially when the outside world is imploding, it’s a tough thing for anyone to do,” she begins. “And the older you get, the harder it is. I think it’s the same thing as embarking on relationships as you get older with all the baggage you carry with you. It all ties into the same thing, so it’s a bit like, ‘Oh fucking hell, am I really
gonna put myself through this again?’”
Though both musicians had existed in vaguely orbiting circles for years, their interactions until this point had been limited to a couple of brief encounters at awards ceremonies and a conversation almost two decades previously, when the guitarist had attended a gig of Rose’s first band The Pipettes and been ordered to buy her “a triple brandy and coke - that’s what I was drinking at the time…” The bolstering power of booze is somewhat to be thanked this time around, too. Following what Graham describes as “a couple of shy little chats in the smoking bit”, Rose left the evening with a suggestion: “I was thinking about maybe dragging myself into making another record but feeling pretty despondent about everything, and I’d had enough tequila to say, ‘Oh, one day we should write a song together’ as I was walking out the door, thinking it wouldn’t come to anything.”
A continuing correspondence of swapped YouTube links and a socially-distanced walk across Hampstead Heath later, however, and the potential for fruitful collaboration seemed too big to ignore. “When this idea came up it kind of flooded my head with sudden positivity, like maybe this is the key to get me out of a really gloomy space and to not have to do it on my own,” Graham says. “We went for a walk, and it was extremely bright and the sun was low, and we talked and it just seemed easy.”
There’s a symbiosis to ‘The WAEVE’ - an album that pushes both its authors into audibly new territory, creating a sonic palette full of intensity and melodrama - that resonates in conversation with the pair. Rose is warm, sweary and endearingly unguarded, bemoaning the mental mindfuck of navigating photoshoots, post-pregnancy; Graham - famously not the biggest fan of a press appointment - is on chatty and enthusiastic form, only clamming up when we briefly mention Blur’s forthcoming summer schedule. When writing their collaborative debut, they
“WE ALWAYS SAW IT AS A CONVERSATION WHERE BOTH VOICES HAD TO BE EQUALLY [IMPORTANT].” - GRAHAM COXON
explain, this sense of pushing each other and drawing the best from the other was central to ‘The WAEVE’’s exploratory nature.
“You become mirrors to each other,” Rose explains. “He’ll be like, ‘Come on then Rosie, I want you to shout at the end of this track’ which I would never normally do, but it was really freeing. And equally you can be a bit throwaway with your vocal and I really pushed you to just sing it properly and perform it a bit more,” she continues to Graham. “You were a little bit reticent to do a guitar solo and I was like, ‘I’m fucking having some guitar solos on it because otherwise what am I doing here?’ That’s what I’m here for, man!” “Someone’s normally a bigger presence, but we were both such equal presences in writing it and singing it, and I think we were always bearing the other one in mind,” Graham nods. “We always saw it as a conversation where both voices had to be equally [important].”
On some of the record, this notion of conversation manifests almost literally. Take opener ‘Can I Call You?’, which begins with a poised, centred verse from Rose on piano before speeding up and exploding out, as Graham’s response careers along filled with panic and trepidation: “I’m tired of being in love / I’m sick of being in pain”. On six-minute centrepiece ‘Drowning’, blustering images of rising tides frame a song in which the two voices address ideas of acquiescence and surrender; Graham describes the saxophone-laced ‘Undine’, meanwhile, as “almost like a folk tale, based on a boy going off to sea, saying goodnight to his sweetheart as the ship is coming closer”.
Throughout ‘The WAEVE’, there’s a particular visual language and atmosphere that the two musicians found kinship in creating. Set along cliffs and coastlines, and drawing from a very traditionally English sense of romance and folklore, on one hand these forays became a way for the pair to escape the very real confines of life in early 2021. As Rose succinctly summarises: “We painted landscapes for ourselves because we didn’t have any landscapes in the real world.” In a more abstract way, however, the terrain of the album allowed the two to lean into the “Englishness of both of [their] outputs” in a way that felt far-removed from the current murky reality of their homeland.
“I think what it is to be English now is a really complicated, conflicted thing, whereas the thing we both find solace in is the landscape of this island, so those images were in our consciousness,” Rose explains, “forests and coastlines and that sort of stuff. Somehow, that felt like something to cling on to amidst a pretty unpleasant co-opting of what that national identity might mean, and a way of subverting that stuff.”
Musically adventurous and varied, from the krauty pulse and warped harmonies of ‘Kill Me Again’, through the sombre strings of ‘Sleepwalking’, to the crotchety, robotic rock of ‘Someone Up There’, where The WAEVE’s debut treads diverse sonic paths, lyrically it has togetherness in mind. On ‘Over and Over’ they ask “Would you keep me safe from harm?”; on ‘Drowning’ they question “Is there peace to find in you?”. Throughout its ten tracks there are images of hands held and hearts laid on the line.
It’s not hard to translate the frequent mentions of finding solace in the life raft of another human to the authors’ own story. “Yeah, that’s what’s happened!”
Rose laughs, matter of factly. Graham nods, “like a log in the sea,” as his partner justifiably raises an eyebrow at his choice of woody metaphor. “It was finding someone who I felt like I could face it all with, and the music we created became some sort of support at a time when we thought we were gonna jack the whole thing in as a bad lot,” he continues. “I’ve always been too scared before that [collaborating] would be a disappointment and that the awkwardness would just be too much for me. [But because of lockdown] it felt like our audience didn’t exist and it was for nobody but ourselves.”
Rose picks up: “I have done quite a lot of [collaborating] in my career, but the amazing, magical, mercurial thing about making music is that it doesn’t have a formula, and there’s no guarantee that it will work. I was kind of shitting myself because I was so excited to work with Graham, and the potential for it not to work would have been such a heartbreak for me, but I was ready for it and at that moment there was fucking nothing to lose.”
Far from any potential loss, with The WAEVE the two musicians have found a partnership that’s more than the sum of its parts - one that’s evidently given its creators a new lease of artistic life, and that, from a beginning rooted in zero assumptions, now feels like a project that could stretch on indefinitely. “It’s amazing really,” smiles Graham, “because we didn’t expect it at all.”
‘The WAEVE’ is out now via Transgressive. DIY
“WE PAINTED LANDSCAPES FOR OURSELVES BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE ANY LANDSCAPES IN THE REAL WORLD.” - ROSE ELINOR
THU 23 LEEDS BRUDENELL SOCIAL CLUB
FRI 24 NEWCASTLE THE CLUNY
SAT 25 GLASGOW STEREO
TUE 28 BRIGHTON KOMEDIA
THU 02 BIRMINGHAM HARE & HOUNDS
FRI 03 BRISTOL EXCHANGE
w/ NO WINDOWS
w/ GAG SALON
Third album ‘Food For Worms’ might find SHAME touting their most melodic wares yet, but as they strap back in for more tours and trouble, don’t expect the South London jokesters to start getting serious any time soon… Words: Charlotte Gunn. Photos: Louise Mason.
THE INFAMOUS FIVE
On the south bank of the Thames, there’s a floating boozer that almost every Londoner has stumbled off at some point in time. The Tamesis Dock is usually a destination for hen dos, retail Christmas parties and tourists who want to gawp at Big Ben. On this November evening, however, the vibe’s a little more… lairy. Shame have commandeered the ship to launch their third album, ‘Food For Worms’: an LP the lads are calling the “Lamborghini of Shame records.” It’s an album that, after much dilly-dallying and a spot of writer’s block, came together in a flash when, less than a year ago, their impatient label set them a Mission Impossible-esque task: “Get ready for a gig in two weeks. You have to play all new songs.”
Tonight, those songs are getting their first outing since that less-than-polished showcase and, judging by the sweat dripping down the walls and an increasingly seasick feeling in our bellies, you could say they’ve gone down pretty well.
“It might have sounded high-pressure,” recalls guitarist Eddie Green of the original challenge. “To write and play all new songs in a fortnight. But actually the gigs were just at the [Brixton] Windmill and MOTH club, so it wasn’t like Knebworth or anything.”
Whether all in their stride or not, it was the rocket up Shame’s collective backside that the band needed to get to work properly on Album Three: a record that ushers in a new, ever-so-slightly more mature sound, with choruses and melodies and things you wouldn’t really expect from the bastions of South London’s now sprawling post-punk scene.
Fast forward a few weeks, and we’re sitting in a warehouse in East London to talk about how it all came together. Charlie Steen has grown his hair out. The now mop-topped frontman arrives a little late [“Sorry, I’ve been at the hygienist”] and camera-ready in an oversized tweed suit, shirt and tie, looking like if The OC’s Seth Cohen and Tom Hanks’ Big character had a baby. He’s seemingly the only one to have dressed up for the occasion; the rest of the rag-tag bunch turn up in dribs and drabs, in more, shall we say, everyday attire. They’re nice boys; polite, funny, but when they start collectively telling a story, you’ve lost them for a good ten minutes. It’s a wonder how superproducer Flood – famed for his work with slightly more ‘serious’ musicians such as Nick Cave and PJ Harvey – managed to wrangle them.
“Flood was unlike any producer I've ever worked with,” says Eddie. “Usually, when you've got a five-piece band of people like us, who aren't necessarily the most organised people ever, sometimes the producer is like, ‘Let's stop doing this now guys and actually get something done.’ But with Flood, there was no deadline on anything. We’d be like, ‘Er, we’ve only got a week left’ and he’d just say, ‘It’s fine.
DRUNK TANK, INC:
THREE NIGHTS OUT WITH SHAME
Guitarist Eddie Green fills us in on some classic Shame scrapes…
The One with Phoebe Bridgers’ Mum
When we were in LA we went to an after party at Phoebe Bridgers’ mum’s house. There was tarot and sushi and vegan tacos, and a bartender making picantes which are like a spicy margarita. I made friends with Phoebe’s dog. Forbes got in the pool. Steen made a beeline for Paul Mescal. I was already planning a couple of, ‘Is this man bothering you?’ gags but it turned out they got on rather well.
The One with All The Wins
When we were touring with Viagra Boys in Kentucky, we played them at football and won. We went to this bar where they had cornhole and $2 beers, so it was already a great night. Viagra Boys are a couple of hundred quid down and we’ve got the most fun pub game of all time. Cornhole turned into another challenge and let’s just say, it was a day of losses for them.
The One with the Screwdrivers
In Pasadena, California we went to some horse racing-themed bar. Steen was all about screwdrivers on this tour. Every bloody bar we went to, he’d have a screwdriver. And obviously in America they free-pour, so that’s a lot of vodka. Steen had like, 17 screwdrivers and was so bad. All he wanted was a packet of cheese and onion crisps which I repeatedly told him are not a thing in America. So he started being unbelievably obnoxious in the 7Eleven. He found some sour cream and onion crisps and just started going, ‘This isn’t the fucking same, I hate it here’. He looked so broken, like he’d seen into the Matrix.
“It would be very typical for us to do something outlandish to try and go viral and for it to go very wrong.”
I'll get more money’. It's great until you’re on your third 5am finish in a row and you need to start sleeping.” Much like that early gig, Flood’s approach involved the band recording everything live in the room rather than laying down separate parts or re-doing sectionssomething that, they collectively agree, kept things interesting.
Thematically, meanwhile, it’s an album about friendship. Second LP ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ was released in early 2021 but written before COVID lockdowns forced the childhood pals to go months without seeing each other. It was a rough time for the band – “I felt like a literal piece of shit,” says drummer Charlie Forbes – but by the time they came to write ‘Food For Worms’, the world was somewhat righted and they were back together again, frequenting their old haunts, getting up to no good. And though they’re not exactly gushing about how much they love each other, the underlying theme of being grateful for your mates is there.
“It’s about the wider thing really,” Steen explains. “The friends you see and who you feel close to is a pretty personal thing. All these things go on: frustration, compassion, love, happiness or whatever – there are some pretty big themes to talk about. We didn’t go out to make a concept album or anything, [but] apart from three songs that were done prior [‘Different Person’, ‘Orchid’, ‘Six Pack’], this album was made in three months. It’s our most concise album and a snapshot of what was being talked about at that time.” “It’s informed by the transition into proper adulthood,” adds Eddie. “We’ve obviously been adults for a while, but not properly.”
As founding fathers of the much-lauded post-punk resurgence that emerged from Brixton’s Windmill pub, these days, Shame are feeling their status as elder statesmen of the scene and how it’s morphed into something quite different: band sizes verging on the ridiculous, the experimental nature of the music challenging even the most avant-garde.
“Whenever I go to the Windmill now, I feel very old”, says Eddie. “Some seventeen-yearold will come up to me and be like, ‘Aren’t you in Shame? My dad listens to you all the time’.”
“With the first album there was this group of bands we came up with and were very much friends with, and then we fucked off for ages,” Forbes adds of the four years of relentless touring the band embarked on pre-COVID. “When we came back, there were all these crazy new bands with their new-fangled identities.”
“It’s a strange world out there. The black midi influence is really interesting,” says Eddie. “You’re always going to have this slightly oldman mentality seeing all these kids with their jazzy clothes and angular haircuts.” “They do wear big shoes,” says Forbes, in his slightly hushed monotone. “There are a lot of big shoes at the Windmill.”
Could the shift in sonics for Album Three be a rebellion against that scene? “Basically we just want the biggest paycheck you can have. We’re consciously aware that there are now a lot of people making music like that, and we don't really want to sound the same as them,” admits Forbes. “Yeah,” chimes in Eddie. “Those clowns don’t even know that we started it all.”
They do draw the line at what they’ll do for a fat paycheck though. “It would be very typical for us to do something outlandish to try and go viral and for it to go very wrong,” says Eddie. “I’m going to suck every member of the audience’s thumbs,” jokes Forbes. “Take that Matty Healy.”
Given that the songs on ‘Food For Worms’ were quite literally born to be played live, Shame are naturally gearing up for a mammoth 50-date tour next month, including a night at London’s hopefully-reopened Brixton Academy: their biggest London show to date, and a venue only a stone’s throw away but approximately 100 times bigger than their old pub venue haunt. A little older and wiser, they’re keen to not rely on the same old tricks.
“We’re gonna amp up the live show,” says Steen, now bored of the interview and walking backwards out the room. “I’m gonna play guitar for a song. We’re gonna work on the songs we have to make them more interesting. Work on the lighting. Just try and not repeat ourselves.”
Bring your sea legs, things are about to get wobbly.
‘Food For Worms’ is out 24th February via Dead Oceans. DIY
“All these things - frustration, compassion, love, happiness – there are some pretty big themes to talk about.”
- Charlie Steen
22 years since they first illuminated our screens and infiltrated our ears, Gorillaz’s eighth album ‘Cracker Island’ lands this month. As we’ve come to expect from the Damon Albarn-helmed, boundary-pushing outfit, there are all manner of glorious guest stars on board for the ride - from bonafide legend Stevie Nicks via modern masters Tame Impala and Thundercat to current chart superstar Bad Bunny. "What’s great about working with collaborators is that it’s a process that never repeats itself, a perpetual experiment if you like. Is there a method? No, not really - just being open to joy,” Damon tells us. In celebration of their latest crew, we’re revisiting Gorillaz’s greatest primate pairings - but first, a word from the band’s own Murdoch Niccals…
"I still remember the first time Del the Ghost Rapper burst out of Russel like a hip-hop firework. Proper eureka moment. I knew then that my destiny was to bring artists together, like a kind of musical marriage counsellor.
Over the years I’ve recorded with the best in the biz, and it’s been an absolute pleasure – for them, mostly, but also for us ‘cos it takes us to new places, and not just musically. Lake Como, Morocco, Saturn, etcetera. I recall, during the Feel Good Inc. shoot, I went on a little joyride with Pos from De La Soul. Turns out helicopter controls are not at all intuitive for first-time flyers. Think we ended up in Tahiti. Point is, got a lovely holiday out of it AND a banging tune! All thanks collaboration. What’s not to like?”
Words: Lisa Wright
ft. Del The Funky Homosapien (2001)
Gorillaz’s debut single, ‘Clint Eastwood’ set the bar for the band’s collaborative ethos. Considering the track’s two-decades-andcounting legacy, its inception was a somewhat more off-the-cuff process however, with Del the Funky Homosapien’s verses written in half an hour after some cajoling to take part from producer Dan the Automator.
ft. Bootie Brown (2005)
Juxtaposing the sweet chorus of the San Fernandez Youth Chorus with Pharcyde rapper Bootie Brown’s taut, strained vocal, ‘Dirty Harry’ tackled themes of war and masculinity in typically contrary style. On stage, the track’s “all I do is dance” refrain feels celebratory; in the context of the recording, its true meaning is far more ominous.
ft. Shaun Ryder (2005)
Who could have guessed that a mispronounced lyric (“it’s dare” was originally intended as “it’s there”) from a Mancunian wildcard would lead to Gorillaz’s only UK Number One single?
But such was the semiridiculous magic of ‘DARE’. Add a video featuring Shaun Ryder’s roboticised, disembodied head and you get the apex of Gorillaz’ mid-’00s chart peak.
‘FEEL GOOD INC’
ft. De La Soul (2005)
Think of a Gorillaz song and you’ll probably be thinking of ‘Feel Good Inc’. It’s their quintessential hit, a track so ingrained in the fabric of modern music that even your Great Aunt Susan would probably know where the “ooh oooh”s go. Couple that with De La Soul’s frequent appearances during Gorillaz’ live sets and you’ve got a classic that isn’t going away any time soon.
ft. Mos Def and Bobby Womack (2010)
‘SOME KIND OF NATURE’ ft.
Lou Reed (2010)
One of Lou Reed’s final appearances before his death in 2013, ‘Some Kind of Nature’ was the successful end product of a series of attempts to get the famously unbendable musician on a Gorillaz track. “I sent him quite a few tunes, and he just said they were all shit. Finally, I did this tune, and he liked it,” Damon previously told Rolling Stone of the collaboration, with the deal sealed during a now-legendary live performance during the band’s 2010 Glastonbury headline set.
The result of a long-delayed one-night session, ‘Charger’ was never released as a single but remains an underrated gem of Gorillaz’s canon: a hypnotic track that drills down into the legendary star’s powerful mysticism and underlines Damon’s ability to adapt without losing sight of the band’s musical core.
‘OIL’ ft. Stevie Nicks (2023)
One of two ‘Plastic Beach’ tracks to feature Bobby Womack’s tones, ‘Stylo’ began a short but powerful working relationship between the iconic singer and Damon, who then went on to produce his 2012 final album ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’. ‘Cracker
By this point, Gorillaz’s guest spot bucket list is probably running low, but scoring the Fleetwood Mac icon for a turn must be up there with their finest coups. Even classier is the way in which Stevie is deployed, her famously earthy tones harmonising with Damon in a subtle duet, neither fighting for space, both simply excelling at what they do best.
BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY
There are precious few times in an ordinary life when you know you’re probably about to make someone cry, but for Samia Najimy Finnerty - better known mononymously as Samia - it’s become an evermore recurring theme. In fact, almost every time she steps on stage, there’s a fairly high likelihood that tears are going to be shed. “I’m always on the brink and then I see someone cry and I’m like, ‘Oh my god!’” she laughs. “It’s just really wild and special to see a human being that was a stranger before, and [now] we’re just sharing this deeply emotional thing.”
It’s no surprise, however, that Samia gets this kind of reaction. In the six years since she’s been releasing music, her songs have cut to the core of pretty much every emotion that could be experienced as a young woman. Her first singles ranged from exploring the struggles of growing up in ‘21’ (“You’re alive and you’re on fire / Why are you so tired?”) to the fall-out of young love in ‘Django’ (“Oh, how easily you let me go / How I matched you in the moment, I don’t know”). In ‘The Night Josh Tillman Listened To My Song’, she even tackles the universal desire to get a nod from Father John Misty - and the subsequent fear of his rejection (“Do you like me? Never mind, don’t tell me”).
“Usually, it’s just that I’m very upset,” she says of her lyrical inspiration. “The [songs] that end up sticking are
usually for times that I just need to get something out, or it’s something I want to communicate but I don’t know how to say it to someone, or I’m afraid to say it to someone.”
Samia first began writing to express her feelings when her school teacher, also a poet, introduced her to the form at 12 years old and encouraged her to give it a go. “[My poetry] was really melodramatic, so not much has changed,” she smiles, citing Maya Angelou, Anne Sexton and William Carlos Williams as perpetual poetic favourites. “I was always shy, and I still am, and I have a really hard time with conflict and confrontation. Poetry has always given me a means to communicate stuff that’s too scary to say to someone in a conversation.”
It was around the same time that Samia began falling in love with Elliott Smith, The National, Nirvana and Daniel Johnston. Initially, she went around her New York high school begging everyone she could to let her in their band, before she started to form the roots of her solo project shortly after starting university. “I would have been in a band, totally!” she reminisces. “But I think, because writing was the most important thing to me, I didn’t want to drag anyone into my shit or be the hysterical mascot for anybody else.”
Embracing her distinct viewpoint, her breakthrough came with 2020 single ‘Is There Something In The Movies?’: a heartstring-pulling depiction of her
disenchantment with the entertainment industry (“Everyone dies but they shouldn't die young / Anyway, you're invited to set”). As the child of actors Kathy Najimy and Dan Finnerty, Samia has experienced what it’s like to be inside of that world firsthand. “I witnessed people having really bad experiences at a time when I was just starting to understand the world,” she explains. “I was always really confused about why people were prioritising these things that were ultimately hurting them, and it took me a really long time to understand the mechanism of the industry and how it gets people.”
Samia has evidently taken in and learnt from these early life lessons. Surrounding herself with a supportive and loving circle as her star-power grew, she emphasises her gratitude at being involved with the indie scene and a community that doesn’t put pressure on her to be anything other than herself. However, as a young woman singing about emotional topics, she has found herself inevitably paired with the ‘sad girl music’ label. “I get why that label is so annoying to a lot of people, especially because it ends up being pretty sexist when people are just grouping women together and calling them ‘confessional’ when they’re not, and calling them ‘sad’ when their music is just not incredibly upbeat. It just proves that they’re not really listening to it,” she shrugs. “But I think, with my music in particular, it is really sad and it is also really confessional, so I never
On second album ‘Honey’, SAMIA is staking her claim to join the confessional singer-songwriter elite. “I feel like hope is the saddest human emotion,” she explains. Words: Elly Watson.
“My music is really sad. and really confessional,. so I never get offended by. being called a ‘sad indie. girl’. I get it!”
get offended by being called a ‘sad indie girl’. I get it!”
Second album ‘Honey’ embraces this ethos and drills down even further, picking the baton up from the coming-of-age situations that informed 2020 debut ‘The Baby’ and dissecting them across 11 poignant pop songs. Created during the pandemic, that time of intense reflection allowed Samia to really sit with herself and make sense of past decisions. “It was a lot harder to do this time,” she explains of the writing process, “because last time it was all so immediate and chaotic and I was drinking a lot. This time I wasn’t. I had to be very present, and thoughtful and honest.”
She highlights ‘Honey’’s closing track ‘Dream Song’ as encapsulating the thesis of the album as a whole. All about zooming in and out on certain moments in life, its lyrics “You can see it in your daughter’s eyes / That’s the purpose and the price” sit at its centre, conveying the scope of ideas that she wanted to portray. “It’s sort of a nod to it all being cyclical, and the life and death themes that are all really present on the record,” she nods. “I think that the record is, at some points, really incredibly sad and also hopeful, and I feel like hope is the saddest human emotion. That line encapsulates all of that for me, where it can be both.”
Elsewhere ‘Honey’ delivers lyrical gems that can resonate with anyone growing up. ‘Kill Her Freak Out’ hints at post-breakup anger (“I hope you marry the girl from your hometown / And I’ll fucking kill her, and I’ll fucking freak out”), while ‘Sea Lions’ deals with
relationship downfalls (“I don’t wanna talk / I don’t ever wanna work it out”) and ‘To Me It Was’ reflects on the past (“How much better can anything get / Than sitting on your porch remembering it?”).
“I was trying to understand how you can be trying to broaden your perspective and think about life in this enormous way, and also obsess over these tiny things that are happening in your life,” she says. “I think that’s an experience that a lot of my friends have as well, like, trying to understand why you care about the things you care about.”
The final result is a record that feels like revisiting a teenage diary while simultaneously trying to find your place in the world as an adult. Already drawing comparisons to the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Honey’ is both personal and universal, and sees Samia diving deep into the moments that have shaped her. “I think everyone’s dream of consciousness is totally unique and sometimes the way that we talk to each other isn’t, because we’re trying to find a point of connection to survive,” she notes. “But then there’s this whole inner world that is really magical and beautiful and everyone has their own and everyone perceives things totally differently. I just love songs that are a window into that person’s totally insane unique world.”
‘Honey’ is out now via Grand Jury. DIY
“I just love songs that are a window into that person’s totally insane unique world.”
PULLING THEMSELVES FORCEFULLY OUT OF THE MIRES OF GRIEF THAT DEFINED BANDING TOGETHER, LINKING ARMS AND LOOKING TOWARDS THE LIGHT.
“THIS ALBUM IS ABOUT POSSIBILITY. WE'RE NOT BOUND BY THE PAST, WE'RE ABLE TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE AND WONDER WHAT IS POSSIBLE.”
- JAMES MCGOVERN
It’s been four years since The Murder Capital released ‘When I Have Fears’ into a considerably different musical landscape to the one that we know today. Immediately making a notable impression on airwaves and festival bills alike, it was a debut that pushed the quintet to the precipice of the conversation around alternative music in a year which also saw both IDLES and Dublin compatriots Fontaines DC announcing themselves in a big way; ushering in an era of post-punk dominance.
Superficial familiarities aside, however, ‘When I Have Fears’ was a very different offering to IDLES’ politically-charged ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ or the anachronistic lyricism of Fontaines’ ‘Dogrel’. Written while several band members were in the grips of grief, ‘When I Have Fears’ was a spacious yet personal album that married the frustrated urgency of punk with a more serene, shoegaze-esque willingness to let the songs breathe, swelling and shrinking as naturally as the tide. This combination of opposing deliveries made for one of the most aggressive releases of 2019 that simultaneously remained one of the year’s most vulnerable.
Parking their emotions in a place of grief and anger for a sustained period of time - simmering below the surface to be unpacked on stage on a nightly basis - was soon to take its toll, however. “My relationship with that campaign became very strained,” vocalist James McGovern says of that period. “I would try to enter into the emotion as intensely as I could every night, even catching myself feigning emotion and then being awash with guilt having done that.” Bassist Gabriel Paschal Blake recalls his own fatigue. “The dissociation was probably the toughest part. I remember ringing my best friend before heading to America and saying, 'I really don't know if I can play these songs anymore’.”
Unbeknownst to them at the time, that US tour was doomed to be pulled after its opening two sell-out performances, the pandemic subsequently granting the outfit some muchneeded respite and an opportunity to ground themselves. “It was the first time in ages that we realised we were individual human beings,” recalls Gabriel. “Being in the band was so allencompassing.” Time passed, and the five band members kept their distance as the fate of The Murder Capital remained undiscussed. Was the arrival of album two always taken as read?
Nobody answers for a moment, until guitarist Cathal Roper steps up to the plate: “It was definitely an ‘if’, rather than a ‘when’. I thought
we were going to break up for a little bit.” “I never thought that,” James responds, “but perhaps that's because I put the blinders on through the uncertainty.”
Today’s meeting has several of these intersections, where they converse with each other through their responses, lending an ear to the other’s points, communicating via their own seminar-slash-therapy cosplay. Even after a hefty photoshoot which leaves the troupe covered in paint, answers feel considered, yet with a willingness to be present in the conversation.
When LP2 began to feel like more of a tangible prospect, they recall searching for a base to write together again: a physical place where they could regroup. As luck would have it, a cousin of James’ dad had a remote house in Wexford, sat vacant on Ireland’s south-eastern tip. Channelling their inner Withnail and I, The Murder Capital set up shop in the countryside dwelling for a six-week writing retreat - and left nine months later. Gabriel was living in the north-west of the island at the time, in Donegal, a five-hour drive from Wexford. “We picked James up on the way,” he remembers. “And I remember his dad saying, ‘Yous are far too focused on having a record written at the end of all of this’,” thickening his already-strong Irish accent slightly to relay McGovern Sr’s words of wisdom. “’Your real success will be if you're still a band; making another album isn’t the main priority’. Once that clicked,” Gabriel continues, “we realised that rebuilding a sturdy relationship and surviving as a band was the first focus.”
Redrafting their outlook on self-care and communication, ‘We are the work’ became
THEIR DEBUT, ON ‘GIGI’S RECOVERY’
Words: Matt Ganfield. Photos: Louise Mason.
something of a mantra, with each member in agreement that existing together and making music in a depressive or combative state was going to yield nothing of value. That’s not to say that this philosophical approach and newfound patience came freely to a group who released their debut album just nine months after forming as a band. “We had to learn to take things easier on ourselves,” says Gabriel. “And stop punishing ourselves when things were going nowhere.” “Which was hard,” James takes the reins. “Because that’s what the band was built upon.”
This revived zest for the cause permeates throughout every inch of new album ‘Gigi’s Recovery’. On it, The Murder Capital crack the shutters to allow light to creep into the room and shed colour onto their monochromatic punk. There’s more buoyancy in James’ songwriting, with indie idiosyncrasies and a greater emphasis on movement incorporated into the mix. The cold snarls from their debut are still there to be found, but now they come balanced with a more melodic delivery that nonetheless retains its punch. The band insist that, from the seeds of its conception, ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ was a mission to achieve a feeling, a vibe.
The sound of the album itself was to be the vehicle that fuelled proceedings as opposed to the emotional, lyrical lead of their first. “I didn't know what to write about in the beginning, I was detached from my writing in a sense,” James recalls. “Grief is a very rewarding place to write from because of how much emotion there is to find. [Whereas] coming into this record, we started out with just the instrumentation and sounds that the lads had brought in.” This desire – or necessity – for the five members to draw a line in the sand and move on from their old writing habits soon begat an aphorism of its own: ‘The evolution will not be compromised’. And, soon enough, the purpose of their new project began to reveal itself.
Integral to the development of ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ were a sixth pair of hands that the band added to the mix in the form of American producer John Congleton, who, on paper, would appear to be the dream appointment for a band straddling the worlds of dark and light. A mercurial force equally adept at creating warm, sweeping soundscapes as spearheading concise, assertive climaxes, he’s left his fingerprints on releases by post-rock luminaries such as Explosions In The Sky and This Will Destroy You, as well as records by St Vincent, Sharon Van Etten and Alvvays.
“We each had different reasons for wanting to work with John,” says Cathal. “But I think overall it was the variety of stuff that he’s created; it's such a wide spectrum.” James interjects: “Angel Olsen's album ‘All Mirrors’ was definitely what sold it for me. The production was perfect; this crazy, almost James Bond string section.” Impressive CV aside, the three bandmates around the table are in agreement that the producer’s most valuable contribution was the pragmatic, clinical presence that he brought to a room full of lofty romantics. “John was no romance,” Cathal continues. “He was like, ‘OK, a couple takes. Good. Next.’”
The fears which plagued their debut haven’t disappeared entirely but, second time around, they’re there to be acknowledged and pondered rather than become an all-encompassing force. ‘Existence’ and ‘Exist’ - the tracks which respectively open and close ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ - are undeniably cut from the same shadowy cloth as their predecessor. The word switches like a hinge from a noun to verb, playing out like a philosophical meltdown in real-time, as James sings “Existence fading. Existence. Exist.”
For all of the swing and momentum within its delivery, however, The Murder Capital’s newest is fundamentally a record about the yin and yang of moving beyond a dark period, of figuring out who you are as you look into the abyss of adulthood. Major and minor chords tessellate within one another; sometimes harmoniously, sometimes with a hint of discordant violence as the joys of romance and building meaningful relationships battle with the unanswered questions that we try our best to quell, those pieces of the puzzle that we assumed would assimilate with age. Those itches that you just can’t scratch.
“I'm getting sick of seeing the word 'optimistic' to describe this album, because I don't think it is necessarily an optimistic record,” James says assertively. “But we spent so much time in the dark together on the first campaign. Coming out of that, you start to find the light.” And the ongoing battle between existence and existing? Is that documenting the band’s journey out of an existential crisis, or the words of a band making peace with that inner dread? James considers his response. “I think it’s about making peace with it: peace within oneself comes from realising which things are out of your control and letting go of that.” He
continues: “This album is about possibility. We're not bound by the past that immediate grief binds you to, we're able to look to the future and wonder what is possible.”
Optimism may not be their buzzword of choice, but once you scratch beyond the abrasive surface of ‘Gigi’s Recovery’, there is a world of comfort to be found within its midst. Those tentative first steps out of the darkness and into the light are fraught with apprehension, but The Murder Capital are learning to love their past whilst looking to the future. “There was a lot of turning our backs against our first album in order for us to move forward and evolve,” James concludes. “But once we finished recording this album, there was a whole different appreciation for ‘When I Have Fears’. ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ opens with a crisis and need for control, which is where the last album left off; for this record to begin there and progress to a place of peace feels like a hopeful reflection of a real, human timeline.”
‘Gigi’s Recovery’ is out now via Human Season. DIY
“WE REALISED THAT REBUILDING A STURDY RELATIONSHIP AND SURVIVING AS A BAND WAS THE FIRST FOCUS.”
- GABRIEL PASCHAL BLAKE
“WE SPENT SO MUCH TIME IN THE DARK TOGETHER ON THE FIRST CAMPAIGN. COMING OUT OF THAT, YOU START TO FIND THE LIGHT.”
- JAMES MCGOVERNWhen we asked The Murder Capital if they were fans of Warpaint, this wasn’t quite what we meant.
UNIQUE, RAW AND TOTALLY JOYOUS.Photo: Fiona Garden
Heavy Heavy (Ninja Tune)
Across their first three albums, Young Fathers created their very own sonic universe; a sound which remains truly genreless, hovering between a multiverse of influences. An artist’s fourth album always makes for an interesting move - typically groups shake up the formula or cement their identity further at this juncture; ‘Heavy Heavy’ is the sound of an intense resurgence where Young Fathers’ sonic identity is celebrated front and centre. Cooked up after some time away from each other following a hectic schedule in the wake of third LP ‘Cocoa Sugar’, we hear the electrifying results of the Scottish trio reuniting in a back-to-basics studio setting.
The ten songs here are expansive but seldom dribble over the three-minute mark. Tightly wound over its 33-minute running time but dense in its substance, the busy chaos of life surrounds the tracks like the city: sounds bleed in from the outside, voices fade in and out whether they’re whispering, shouting, screaming or singing while drums pound away as the beating heart at the centre of it all. Ultimately though, joy flows throughout this record, in all its various ways.
Opener ‘Rice’ with its pogo-ing bassline morphs from a jangly shuffle to an eruptive finale like a magic trick. The layers continue to shift like tectonic plates across the record, smoothly rearranging the terrain beneath the songs as they go. The group’s knack for hooks allows this trick to be pulled off, acting as a distraction while the scene around it changes, as is evidenced on ‘I Saw’ and ‘Drum’; their vocals collide on the former to stunning effect exorcising the spirit of the song while percussion and synths flutter behind the addictive melody of ‘Drum’.
‘Tell Somebody’ offers a little breathing spaceslowly architected around a cyclical melody and a swelling organ, it builds and grows receding only when it feels literally on the verge of exploding out the speakers. Lyrically, their abstract approach remains but often brushes shoulders with fragments of reality you can hold onto. “I wanna be your lady forgetting I’m the man,” they sing on closer ‘Be Your Lady’. ‘Geronimo’ is draped in paternal imagery, the phrase “Breathe in like a lion / Breathe out like a lamb” is whispered like a mantra to oneself before they sing “Being a son, brother, uncle, father figure / I gotta survive and provide.” Consistently, it feels as if the words pull from a place of experience offering advice: “And for one night only don’t procrastinate,” they plead atop the jittery instrumental of ‘Holy Moly’.
What remains evident about this group is the preservation of themselves as an entity - it’s very difficult to pinpoint which member is providing the vocal at any one time which feels like a deliberate ploy to celebrate their bond. ‘Heavy Heavy’ finds Young Fathers fired up in each other’s company again venturing deeper into a world only they can occupy. Unique, raw and totally joyous. (Sean Kerwick) LISTEN: ‘Drum’, ‘Geronimo’
This is Why (Atlantic)
Paramore are no strangers to evolution. While the first half of their career so far was built on a foundation of punky pop-imbued anthems, with their fourth, self-titled album they began to push against the boundaries and labels once placed upon them. The sprawling seventeen-track record would mark the first chapter in their metamorphosis - and win them a GRAMMY in the process - before 2017’s ‘After Laughter’ saw them shape-shift yet further, refining their funky prowess into one of the year’s best albums. And so, for anyone who thought that Paramore would confine themselves to that same space on their sixth, it’s time to think again. ‘This Is Why’ boasts another bold and brilliant transformation for the trio.
Marking their first music together after an extended break, there’s a real sense of self-assuredness to the record. Channeling deep into the more quoteunquote indie side of their tastes - Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture and Foals all get a look in - ‘This Is Why’ is a blistering melding pot of artistry: from the angular dance-punk of its opening title track, through to the creeping grandeur of closing number 'Thick Skull', it’s an invigorating and breathtaking lesson in rewriting the rulebook. Granted, the odd moment - such as ‘C’est Comme Ça’, with its post-punk-indebted speak-singing verses - might feel a little alienating for fans more used to the likes of ‘Still Into You’, but in the context of the album, it makes perfect sense.
Further highlights come in ‘Big Man, Little Dignity’, and the soothing lullaby of Hayley Williams’ vocals, working to mask the vengeful message lying beneath, while ‘Figure 8’ is a gorgeous, swirling offering that feels like an empowered sequel to ‘After Laughter’’s ‘Pool’. It’s ‘Thick Skull’, however, that provides the ultimate stand-out moment; its crashing crescendo a powerful and poignant conclusion to both the album itself, and Paramore’s most ambitious record yet. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘Thick Skull’
THEIR MOST AMBITIOUS ALBUM YET.
Cracker Island (Parlophone)
The sentiment at the crux of ‘Cracker Island’ you suspect comes as the warm mid-tempo of Stevie Nicksfeaturing second track ‘Oil’ reaches its drum-pounding crescendo. Though, in classic Gorillaz fashion, the preamble to the record arrived with an array of wild storylines and an invitation for listeners to join The Last Cult, there are evidently very real preoccupations nestled just below the surface of their animated escapades. “Individual actions change the world,” harmonise Damon and Stevie. “Fill them up with love.”
‘Cracker Island’, then, is a failed paradise: a place, as its twitchy title track suggests, that came filled with promise until its population “autotuned” itself into misery. On the plaintive synths of ‘Silent Running’, Albarn and Adeleye Omotayo are scrolling through the “infinite pages”; on deceptively funky early single ‘New Gold’ (ft Tame Impala and Bootie Brown), the latter declares “Trending on Twitter is what some of us live for”; one track is literally called ‘The Tired Influencer’. It’s not hard then to draw the threads together, and the world-weary screen fatigue that populates the record goes some way to explain its more sedate tempo.
Where 2020’s ‘Song Machine’ felt excited and invigorated with the potential of collaboration, bringing together their most diverse and impressive cast yet, ‘Cracker Island’ uses its voices more subtly. Though the aforementioned ‘New Gold’ and ‘Tormenta’, featuring a Spanish language verse from Bad Bunny, push their contributors to the fore, on other tracks Nicks, Thundercat and Beck are brought in almost solely to augment Albarn’s vocal. Where that last record was about its individual components, ‘Cracker Island’ is very much a set piece that prioritises concept and narrative, resulting in one of Gorillaz’s most restrained, contemplative releases yet - one that will perhaps appeal to fans of Albarn’s solo work more than devotees of his monkeys’ more genre-hopping forays. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘New Gold’
Let Her Burn (self-released)
For Rebecca Black, her past has often overshadowed her present. Shooting to fame in 2011 with viral hit ‘Friday’, for a while it seemed like she would never escape from its clutches. But, if in doubt, team up with 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady and release a 10th anniversary hyper-pop remix, right? Two years on, Rebecca is armed with debut full-length proper ‘Let Her Burn’ and ready to establish herself as a pop frontrunner, far away from any weekday-loving anthems. Aiming to “explore the vulnerability [she’s] felt in finding balance with submission, dominance, and sexuality” alongside “the deeply powerful but also dangerous feelings of relinquishing control”, ‘Let Her Burn’ is a compelling pop cocktail soundtracking Rebecca’s self-discovery. ‘Doe Eyed’ is a sex-fuelled sugar-pop anthem (“Can you keep a secret, I’m tongue-tied / But I wanna fuck you ’till sunrise”), the pulsating ‘Crumbs’ explores an all-encompassing love (“There’s nothing you could do to make me love you less / At your worst, you’re still my best”), while power-pop-leaning ‘Performer’ allows Rebecca to look at the walls she’s built in relationships (“I’m a performer / That’s what I know how to do / But is it stopping / Me getting close to you?“). Like a pop phoenix rising from 2011’s ashes, ‘Let Her Burn’ is Rebecca Black showing us just what she’s capable of. (Elly Watson) LISTEN: ‘Crumbs’
RAYE My 21st Century Blues (Human Re Sources / The Orchard)
It’s taken the best part of a decade for RAYE to reach this point. Signing to Polydor in 2014 aged just 17, the relationship ended in 2021 in a thunderous mix of contradictory statements. RAYE, frustrated at making repeated attempts to get the label to allow her to record an album in vain, called them out with a poignant attack on industry misogyny. High-profile collaborations and songwriting credits for some of the world’s biggest artists were set aside; “ALL I CARE ABOUT is the music,” the London born singer tweeted. “I’m sick of being slept on and I’m sick of being in pain about it.”
Stepping out on her own has undoubtedly worked: starting 2023 with her affirmative 070 Shakefeaturing trip hop-infused ‘Escapism.’ sitting at the top of the UK singles chart, the sweet irony of the track’s fan-led viral success isn’t lost. For RAYE at least, major label prioritising can’t compete with the power of a truly great song and a dedicated audience.
With confidence, ‘My 21st Century Blues’ pushes against the boundaries previously placed on her music. There’s an empowered defiance on display, the record’s opening tracks cementing this moment as all her own.
“I’m a very fucking brave strong woman,” she demands on powerful midpoint ‘Ice Cream Man’, a fact that underpins the record’s blend of soul, hip hop, blues and a multitude of other styles. Even its occasional musical inconsistency makes complete sense, mirroring RAYE’s desire to explore all facets of herself, and it is autobiographical to its core, whether touching on heartbreak, discrimination, or distorted self-image. Fundamentally, this is her through and through.
“I’ve waited seven years for this moment,” she exhales on outro ‘Fin.’. The pain and frustration of that time bleeds throughout the record, ultimately underpinned by her eventual cathartic freedom. With the emotionally charged beats of ‘Black Mascara’, the candour of ‘Body Dysmorphia’ and the unfiltered soul of ‘Buss It Down’, it would be impossible for anyone to sleep on RAYE anymore.
(Ben Tipple) LISTEN: ‘Ice Cream Man’
IT’D BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANYONE TO SLEEP ON HER ANYMORE.
That ‘7s’ is the product of Avey Tare’s isolation-addled brain won’t come as any surprise: its repetitive nature, and at points whisper-level stillness, tracks perfectly with its home-recorded beginnings. Built largely around repetitive loops - whether the piano plink of opener
‘Invisible Darlings’ or the wooze of ‘The Musical’, it’s as expected from the Animal Collective man; a mish-mash of sounds, picked up magpie-style to create something which consistently skirts the line between warm and distant, familiar and disconcerting, hypnotic and, well, irritating. ‘Hey Bog’ begins by constructing an uneasy atmosphere as seemingly freeform sounds spit over beats before building towards a subdued euphoria; the wonderfully weird ‘Neurons’ uses discordant electronic sounds and fires them across a cacophonous beat while Avey repeats its title to the point it loses all meaning - a fever dream of a track. Conversely, the mix of closer ‘Cloud Stop Rest Start’ has his vocal so intimately placed it’s almost ASMR (as divisive as it gets, surely) and the featherlight loops of ‘Lips at Night’ might emanate a vintage warmth, but the line towards irritation is easily crossed barely a minute in. Still, if only all boredom could be so productive. (Louisa Dixon) LISTEN: ‘Neurons’
Food for Worms (Dead Oceans)
Given three weeks by their management to debut two sets of entirely new material at London venue Brixton Windmill, the final result of that experiment shows, at the very least, that Shame are a band who thrive under pressure. Dubbed “the Lamborghini of Shame records” by vocalist Charlie Steen, not only do Shame sound rawer and more unbridled than they’ve ever done before on ‘Food for Worms’, but they also might have produced the finest album of their career in the process. Foot rarely off the throttle, and able to unleash pure thunder seemingly ex nihilo, here Shame feel permanently akin to the state of a long distance runner exhausting the last of their energies on that final lap sprint, plumbing for that last drop of gas in the tank and, without fail, always finding it. Between the punkish rip-snorters (‘Six Pack’; ‘Alibis’), there are also moments of considered maturity. Whether it’s the American slackerisms of ‘Burning By Design’, the balladry of ‘Adderall’, or the epic ‘Orchid’ - swishing from folkish shanty to blitzing hard rock with immaculate design - ‘Food For Worms’ bulges with high-octane surprise. This is the sound of a band performing at the peak of their powers. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘Orchid’
YOU CERTAINLY CAN’T DOUBT THEIR AMBITION.
For anyone who remembers the infamous online campaign to get Rage Against The Machine the Christmas Number One spot - ahead of X Factor winner Joe McElderry - back in 2009, it must be strangely amusing to know that over a decade later, the band’s Tom Morello would himself appear on an X Factor alumni’s album. But if that’s not example enough of the meteoric rise of Italy’s 2021 Eurovision winners Måneskin, then who knows what is. Since being crowned a little under eighteen months ago, the quartet have been propelled to global notoriety; life as a TV talent show act well behind them, swapped instead for sold-out arena shows and a spot on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. It’s upon this level of bombast that the stage for ‘Rush!’ is set;
their first record sung primarily in English and the follow-up to 2021’s ‘Teatro d’ria’, this third full-length builds upon the hard-rock-meets-earwormy-pop edge of its predecessor, while adding yet more swagger. Opener ‘Own My Mind’ is made from the same anthemic recipe as the likes of ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ and ‘Zitti E Buoni’, while the Morello-featuring ‘Gossip’ is a funky stomp of a track; the crunchy industrial beats of ‘Gasoline’ are intensely satisfying, before the soaring, lighters-aloft moment, ‘If Not For You’ suits them perfectly. But for all their altpop nous and passion, ‘Rush!’ is just that bit too long. Running over seventeen tracks and almost an hour’s worth of time, it soon meanders away from their core talents - their take on shouty post-punk in ‘Kool Kids’ feels cribbed from a different album entirely - while previous singles ‘Mammamia’ and ‘Supermodel’ seem somewhat relegated to the end of the tracklisting. A huge and varied album that’s challenging to get truly invested in, one thing’s evident about ‘Rush!’; you certainly can’t doubt Måneskin’s ambition. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘Gossip’
SAM SMITH Gloria (Capitol)
“By giving this record to you I am giving you part of my heart and soul,” said Sam Smith when announcing their fourth fulllength, ‘Gloria’. Arriving three years after third album ‘Love Goes’, Sam’s latest finds them exploring self-acceptance and self-growth across their now-classic style of soul-tinged pop. Previewed by sultry synth-pop hit ‘Unholy’ alongside Kim Petras, the chart-topper is an undoubted standout, allowing Sam to break away from their previous sad-ballad image and explore different sounds and themes. Sonically, similar vibes land in ’Lose You"s pulsating dance-pop grooves and the sleek sexy sounds of ‘Gimme’, which features Canadian songwriter Jessie Reyez and Jamaica’s Koffee, however nothing packs quite the same punch as the undisputed banger which cheekily details family betrayal
(“Mummy don’t know Daddy’s getting hot at the body shop / Doing something unholy”). Yet while ’Unholy’'s catchy melodies may be elsewhere untouchable, it breaks down the boundaries of topics to explore throughout the rest of ‘Gloria’. Raised in a Catholic household, Sam’s fourth album finds them detailing accepting themself and their queer identity. They confront those preaching harmful opinions in the soulful ‘No God’ (“Just because it’s your opinion / Doesn’t make it right”), and turn the spotlight back on their own feelings towards themself, detailing their self-growth in opener ‘Love Me More’ (“Every day I’m trying not to hate myself / But lately it’s not been hurting like it did before / Maybe I am learning how to love me more”). Throughout, Sam peppers the album with samples of queer voices, including a snippet in ‘Hurting Interlude’ about closeted peoples' difficulties finding support during heartbreak from the 1970 documentary Gay and Proud, as well as introducing the disco-infused ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ with RuPaul’s iconic line “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?“. “‘Gloria’ got me through some dark times and was a beacon for me in my life,” they previously said of the album, and it’s likely this collection of songs will do the same for many who hear it. (Elly Watson) LISTEN: ‘Unholy’
QUASI Breaking the Balls of History (Sub Pop)
Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss are already ledgered in the prestigious Sub Pop pantheon. While Quasi themselves stand proud with a catalogue of alt-classics from the late ‘90s and beyond, their individual CVs alone are enough to boast about. Returning with this tenth studio album - their first in a decade – ‘Breaking the Balls of History’ withstood a broken collar bone, two broken legs (Janet suffered a horrific car crash in 2019) and a pandemic in order to whirlwind itself into existence. And the result is an effervescence of headlong, wind-slicing garage-rock that’s equal parts brazen, jubilant and loud. Propelled across its twelve tracks with eruptions of keyboard overdrive, cannoning drums, and Sam’s corn dog vocals - think Stephen Malkmus after a hat-trick of Red Bulls - Quasi land someplace cool between corny absurdity, and wry sincerity. Littered with askew lyrical turns - “I was a teenage porcupine / A bed of nails running up my spine” – ‘Breaking…’ offers up a feast of exuberance, standout track ‘Riots and Jokes’ musically epitomising the album’s forward-charging freedoms, and neatly sums up Quasi’s modus operandi there in its very title. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘Riots and Jokes’
Five Easy Hot Dogs (Mac‘s Record Label)
That Mac DeMarco went on a road trip to create ‘Five Easy Hot Dogs’ makes a whole lot of sense - and not just because the tracks are named sequentially after a handful of cities in geographic order. The songs contained within are audibly his, with the same laid-back, cassette-recorder-low-onbattery sound that takes its cues from ‘70s soft rock on show, but their limited palette causes each to blend into the next - especially when consecutive recordings from cities (‘Gualala’ and ‘Gualala 2’, the Vancouvers 2 and 3, etc) carry motifs over from one another. It’s akin to being shown a slideshow of holiday photos, each frame not immediately visibly different from the last. One for only the most dedicated Mac-heads, then. (Louisa Dixon)
The WAEVE (Transgressive)
‘The WAEVE’, this self-titled debut from the pairing of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and journeywoman songwriter Rose Elinor Dougall is a curious collection of contrasts. Most notably, that between the protagonists’ own voices; Rose’s a strong, smooth and often deep one with an almost RP accent; Graham’s his signature twang, faltering and vulnerable. The rough and the smooth rub up against each other - the squall of Graham’s guitar juxtaposed against slick brass, soaring strings or - in the case of ‘Undine’appearing just as the lyrical content threatens to veer into soppy territory. A contrast between Graham’s perceived persona - spiky, contrary, a man who refused to participate once Blur’s exploration of pop culture’s depths went too far - and the lyrics he’s boldly presenting here (“Find the right dream / Taking a chance on forever”). That said, the duo know when to complement each other, too: ‘Drowning’ makes like its title, its layered cacophony creating aural overwhelm. And the clear highlight, ‘Someone Up There’, revels in its convergence: whirring guitars, a punkish bassline and an ‘ooh ooh ooh’ chorus refrain of “You’ve lost your power / It’s all gone sour.” Cinematic in scope, often luscious in its arrangements, it’s a singular gem. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘Someone Up There’
EXPLORING SELFACCEPTANCE AND SELFGROWTH WITH SOULTINGED POP.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN Late Developers (Matador)
Kickstarting the new year with the news that they’d recorded a further album during the pandemic, ‘Late Developers’ comes just eight months after 2022’s ‘A Bit Of Previous’ landed Belle and Sebastian a Top Ten charter. Recorded during the same sessions as its predecessor, their fourth album in as many years represents a prolific purple patch for these legends of Scottish indie. Soft-bellied, jangly, and as cute as a litter of fresh-born kittens, ‘Late Developers’ is as wholesome and uplifting as even the most cursory consumer of ‘The Boy With the Arab Strap’ might come to expect. Alongside the trademark acoustic-strum moments like ‘When the Cynics Stare Back at the Wall’, ‘Late Developers’ largely brims with the energies of gospel, disco and soul. ‘Give a Little Time’, with its sugary stomp, and the surprisingly sublime ‘When You’re Not With Me’ offer some standout moments. And though the LP is not without its misses - the auto-tuned attempts of ‘I Don’t Know What You See In Me’ prompts something stronger than a cringe - there’s enough joy here for all the dreamers and believers that have flocked to Belle and Sebastian over the past three decades for their wistful crumbs of comfort. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘When You’re Not With Me’
SOS (TDE / RCA)
To survive the five-year long SZA album drought was a test of faith, but her fans’ loyalty didn’t waver. The 67-minute runtime of ‘SOS’ allows it to cover a lot of ground - from contemporary R&B and hip hop to punky pop rock and big radio-friendly bangers - and at times it even transgresses - not too far, mind - from her staple sound. Its content is not dissimilar to previous releases: SZA soundtracks the rocky terrain of break-up grief - denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance - to make it survivable. But even at its most vulnerable moments - the resentful ‘Special’, lonely ‘Nobody Gets Me’ and pleading ‘Too Late’ are heart-wrenching - SZA remains self-assured. By toe-dipping into various influences, ‘SOS’ is like a greatest hits collection. There are whispers of 2017 debut album ‘Ctrl’ on ‘Blind’, and ‘Special’ is the spiritual sister of ‘Drew Barrymore’. Later, hip hop numbers ‘Conceited’ and ‘Notice Me’ sound referential to DJ Khaled’s R&B pop, meanwhile the brilliantly cathartic early‘00s pop-rock of ‘F2F’ - which unravels post-break-up love/ hate chaos - and the near-experimental sci-fi of ‘Ghost in the Machine’ sound stripped from an alternate universe pop-punk record, the latter a commentary on the terminally online (with a guest spot from Phoebe Bridgers, no less). And its unforgettable singles - those drip-fed over the years to satiate fans, including the sparkling ‘Good Days’ and the low-fi ‘I Hate U’ - make the project, as she recently promised herself, “a little bit of everything.” The drought may be over, but SZA left no crumbs. (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘Ghost in the Machine’
Good Riddance (Polydor)
Since releasing her debut EP back in 2020, Gracie Abrams has shown a knack for plunging headfirst into the depths of her mind with each lyric, unflinchingly baring all. This continues with ‘Good Riddance’, a gut-wrenching yet joyous journey into the thick of her every feeling, with neither sugar-coating or shame. It’s a walk on a tightrope, balanced precariously between a downward spiralling cascade of thought: recounting the downfall of a relationship; worrying over moving away from home; reminiscing on the people who have impacted her along the way. She’s always candid - and always shifting. One second she can’t get her thoughts out quick enough, tumbling through her overthinking with seemingly nothing to break her fall. The next, she’s sagely reflecting on what she has to learn. ‘I Should Hate You’ is a case in point - dejected, intensifying pop, wrought and unravelling sonically throughout a few minutes. ‘Full Machine’ almost pleads, while ‘This Is What The Drugs Are For’ sees her hushed vocals and muted guitars get lost in memories of the past. ‘Right Now’, the final track on this debut full-length, leans on simplistic production to conjure something far more complex. “I’m so high, but can’t look down,” Gracie exhales, in one final shift. Once unsteady feet become more self-assured than ever as she draws ‘Good Riddance’ to a close. (Neive McCarthy) LISTEN: ‘I Should Hate You’
RECO MMEN D E D
Missed the boat on some the best albums from the last couple of months? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
404 GUILD False Dawn
The outfit’s long-awaited debut is at once bleak, beautiful, emotionally charged and completely heartbreaking.
If 2021 belonged to Olivia Rodrigo, and 2022 saw Phoebe Bridgers become everyone’s go-to, then it looks like 2023 is primed to be Samia’s year.
YOU ME AT SIX Truth Decay
This time around they’ve delved back into the hooky pop-rock rhythms and epic singalongs they made their name on.
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS
Land of Sleeper (Rocket)
Four albums in, Pigs x7 are far more penetrable, learning over time to be more immediate than, say, their debut consisting of three tracks, each stretching past the 15-minute mark. Nonetheless, their music remains as unkempt and feral as ever, propelled by the sort of chunky Sabbathian riffs that make the chiselled ‘Ultimate Hammer’ and the clattering ‘Mr Medicine’ sound like the Goliath to Royal Blood’s David. However, the album’s discordant slow burner of a centrepiece, ‘The Weatherman’, offers a stark change, bringing in a choir who sing an almost otherworldly, nearly a cappella chant before the band takes the reins again in almost seven minutes of pure doom. It’s eerie, it’s weird, and maybe a tad too long (it could still perhaps work as a three-minute interlude or similar) but regardless, it still somehow manages to feel like Pigsx7 while offering a welcome change. By its last quarter, ‘Land of Sleeper’ feels like it’s said all it can. (Emma Wilkes) LISTEN:
ABSOLUTE (BEHIND THE) SCENES!
M(H)AOL Attachment Styles
When M(h)aol’s fury hits the spot, it really hits. Opener ‘Asking For It’ repeats its hypothetical question - “Was I asking for it?” - while the track descends into wild cacophony, an angrier sister track, perhaps, to Dream Wife’s recent ‘Leech’: both contrasting crystal-clear vocals and unhinged guitars to force uncomfortable introspection. That bassist Jamie Hyland was behind the desk for Gilla Band’s first two albums is all but given away come ‘Nice Guys’, as discordance rules: ‘Attachment Styles’ uses a similar set of textures to their Irish neighbours, albeit with a message more pointed than, for example, a popular chocolate spread. When the repetition works - say, the “I don’t want attention” of the discordant ‘Nice Guys’ serving to suggest anything but - it’s trance-like. But at other points - namely ‘Bored of Men’ - it verges on the grating, voices and instruments creating an incessant, claustrophobic spiral. Similarly, while ‘Anxiety’ conveys the emotions within well, its spoken-word delivery doesn’t. Still, it’s no easy task to impart such emotionally-fraught issues in song, and for the most part, ‘Attachment Styles’ succeeds. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘Asking for It’
PILE All Fiction
(Exploding In Sound)
If for every action here is indeed a reaction, then ‘All Fiction’ is arguably the product of Pile’s two previous endeavours: first, leader Rick Maguire having dissected the outfit’s previous work in order to tour it solo, and secondly the recording of ‘In The Corners of a SphereFilled Room’, a completely improvisational record. Their latest is a full-bodied work, full of intertwining layers that are often wholly unpredictable. Sprawling, drone-like textures emit a sense of sadness, while guitars veer from the clanging to riff-heavy in the blink of an eye. ‘Loops’ is a kind of muted hardcore, Rick’s anger simmering wildly but never given the chance to bubble over. ‘Blood’, meanwhile, is a meandering, softer effort, with curiously soothing backing vocals. ‘Forgetting’ makes use of militaristic drums to jolt the senses amid an otherwise abstract structure, and ‘Neon Gray’ is as subtle as it gets. ‘Poisons’ is the most conventional of the lot, its discordance bringing to mind Cloud Nothings or even Drenge at points. It’s all washed over with a layer of fuzz, the distorted sound making it impossible to discern precisely what’s going on - which is, one would imagine, precisely the point.
(Louisa Dixon) LISTEN: ‘Poisons’
Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century
(Father / Daughter)
Just last year, Eva Liu released an album as one-third of scuzzy indie-rock trio Dama Scout. And now, under the solo moniker of Mui Ziu, the Hong Kong-British artist is making strides into more mysterious, digitised terrains with ‘Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century’. Mingling the intimacies of bedroom indie with the stained-glass sublimities of panoramic dream pop, her full-length debut sees Eva take a comprehensive deep-dive into the nuances of her heritage. Taking inspiration from the folkloric writings of Pu Songling and incorporating traditional Chinese instruments like the guzheng and erhu, Eva even takes a moment to savour Hong Kong’s culinary delights during this cultural immersion: ‘Ho Bao Daan (interlude)’ features a recording of her father describing how to make the titular classic over spectral ambience. Right down to 16-bit synths scattering the record - recalling Eva’s love of video games - ‘Rotten Bun…’ is in every aspect a deeply personal record. While for the most part stunningly pretty, as on cascading opener ‘Rotten Bun’, the LP also plumbs some horrifying
ROBBIE & MONA
Tusky (Spinny Nights)
Robbie & Mona's debut album begins how others might choose to end theirs: with a grand, twinkling slow dance. ‘Sensation’ is cavernous and conclusive, its emotions drained and gathering in pools on the floor. It’s with this sense of fatal melodrama and exquisite spectacle that Bristol-hailing duo William Carkeet and Ellie Gray ground their operations. Embracing the grandeur of cinema (William has a side line in film soundtracks), ‘Tusky’ provides an ornate and engrossing listen of ambitious proportions. At one moment, it’s flaunting a candlelit romance of sweaty-hot saxophones and upright pianos as on the waltzing swing- jazz of ‘Flauneral’. Next, we’re served up coldly programmed synth-pop futurisms - check the overwhelming crystalline purity of ‘Sherry Prada’, or the shimmering dream-raves of ‘Clapback’. Then there are disorientating moments where ‘Tusky’ tosses us side-to-side between aesthetic extremes: ‘Dolphin’ serenades with a cathedral choir before an onslaught of extreme electronic abrasions subverts the elegant and glitches the beautiful. As intimate and sultry as a slow wet kiss, yet as cool, and expansive as a starlit sky, Robbie & Mona have crafted a remarkable, multi-edged debut that twists, turns and simply delights with the sheer breadth of its creative vision. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘Dolphin’
Strange Dance (Bella Union)
Load up a search engine and type in Philip Selway, and the first handful of promotional images it’ll display show him sat casually, yet holding drum sticks. It’s testament to the level of anonymity he’s been able to keep despite being in one of the world’s most revered bands: without the visual clue, nobody would ever guess there sits the drummer in Radiohead. ‘Strange Dance’ is Philip’s third studio album, and just as 2014’s ‘Weatherhouse’ was more sonically rich than the somewhat sparse, acoustically-driven solo debut, ‘Familial’, it sees him add further layers to his sonic mixture, most notably strings, which serve to augment the songs’ moods, whether melancholy (‘Make It Go Away’) or with a sense of unease (‘What Keeps You Awake At Night’). The expanded palette allows him, for instance, to take opener ‘Little Things’ from the kind of piano croon not unlike something Richard Hawley may write to a near-euphoric crescendo. Or evoke ‘80s new wave on ‘Salt Air’, where Philip’s vocal bears a passing resemblance to that of Ian McCulloch, the line “I won’t make the same mistake twice” filled with a silent-yet-piercing tension. The richness of its sounds is what makes ‘Strange Dance’ a warmly familiar, if not entirely compelling listen. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘Salt Air’
Rich, electronic R&B paints a vivid, prophetic image of selfassertion on ‘Raven’, Kelela’s second record seeing her journey through an afrofuturist metropolis. Where debut ‘Take Me Apart’ conjured emotional dystopia, ‘Raven’ displays utopian clarity. Her staple melancholia remains, though. On the sanguine, liquidy ‘On The Run’, she refuses to chase anymore, while the nu jazz of ‘Let It Go’ sees the singer release herself from said chains over a flirtatious bassline. The record notably embraces dance and drum and bass to express this evolution: an experimentation that is effortlessly smooth, melodic and airy. Sirens blaze over clubby beats and sultry vocals on ‘Happy Ending’, allowing Kelela to lay her cards on the table. Later, it's ravenous with its approach: erratic drum and bass evokes a transcendent liveliness, as heard on the excitable ‘Missed Call’. At other moments, it’s perfectly restrained and alien: ‘Raven’ boasts an infectious, controlled otherworldliness, like on the saccharine and sticky ‘Sorbet’. A fiveyear hiatus means ‘Raven’ is a statement record, empowered by its carving of a new niche, and it’s cleverly written and produced too, with motifs (both sonic and lyrical) seeping from one track to the other. In all, this makes ‘Raven’ completely alluring, and offers a soundtrack for melancholic late-night drives through buzzing cities. (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘Missed Call’
BOYGENIUS - THE RECORD
The singer-songwriter supergroup (that’s Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, if you’ve been hibernating) will release this debut on 31st March.
ARLO PARKS - MY SOFT MACHINE
The all-conquering Arlo will follow up debut ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ on 26th May.
NATIONALFIRST TWO PAGES OF FRANKENSTEIN
A star-studded release from the indie veterans, let’s hope they’ve at least finished the first chapter come 28th April.
MEET ME @ THE ALTAR - PAST // PRESENT // FUTURE
The pop-punk trio and Class of 2023 stars’ debut will be released on 10th March.
DAINE Shapeless (Warner)
‘Shapeless’, thesecond mixtape from daine, is an irresistible glimpse into their checkerboard of influences - blending hyper-pop, emo and glitchy electronics with seemingly effortless dexterity. The title track rumbles with eerie kick drums as the artist rapidly transforms into an amorphous being: “Lips fake, eyes fake, teeth fake, facelift / I got it all, now I'm shapeless,” they muse over skittish beats. ‘Portal’ shudders with rolling drum patterns and propulsive drum and bass beats as they settle into their skin: “Got my face up on these posters / Think and feel like a brand new person, that I don’t know.” While the majority of this release was written when daine was just 16, it’s here they shed their teenage torment and turn their head firmly towards the future: “It’s better than I’ve ever felt before.” The project is outwardly popwhether through ‘Skin Deep’’s buoyant, bubblegum melodies or the introspective dancehall of Palmistry’s production on ‘Shapeless’ - and it’s these polished moments give way to the mixtape’s darker moments. ‘Writhe’ comes awash with blistering guitar licks, its splintered exterior leading to a moment of euphoric catharsis. The maximalist production on show is boundless, and in turn, is a celebration of daine’s spiritual transformation. (Bryony Holdsworth)
Limerence (Lucky Number)
In typical grandiose fashion, on third solo EP ‘Limerence’, Jessica Winter consumes all the infectious tropes of pop music, ferociously chews them up and spits them back out. It’s a neon stage that blends all her sinewy and sparkling influences –musical theatre, punk, ‘80s glamour, glam rock, Eurodance, art pop and a sprinkle of hyper pop – to paint and embrace the person she becomes in relationships. Winter seeks disorganised and imperfect infatuation on dance-in-the-rain single ‘Choreograph’, a cinematic, hyperbolic track so lovesick that it frees the lovelorn from the shame of addiction. Then, there’s the oppositional ‘Clutter’, an electropop entry – with guest spot from Lynks - that viscerally laments time wasted on useless boys, while contradictory dancefloor filler ‘Let Me In’, with its leathery, trancey and euphoric Eurodance is a welcome flex of versatility. Next, ‘Funk This Up’, strengthens ‘Limerence’’s unhinged-yet-lovable nature. Finally, ‘The Love Song’ uses ghoulish production to turn love song tropes on its head, instead haunting its way to infatuation. In celebration of inconsistency, ‘Limerence’ is musical Picasso – it’s vibrant, paradoxical, and all-in-all, exuberant and theatrical. (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘Choreograph’
DAMEFRISØR Island of Light
Bristolian six-piece DAMEFRISØR trade in an urbane brand of gothic disco rendered in a retrograde new wave polish. Adjacent to the grimy realism of Glasgow’s VLURE, this debut EP delivers a bumper package of colossally stylish despair: think the elemental widescreen of Echo and the Bunnymen’s baritone fantasies with all the shoegaze swirlscapes a passing obsession for the Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’ could provide. Just as the pulsations of opener ‘The Grip’ or the brittle techno drifts of ‘Horizon’ captivate through a mechanised hypnosis, the thumping slow-burn drama of ‘Above Board’ or ‘52a’ rock and cascade with steaming-hot bloody mindedness. The epic drudgery of the former soundtracks the most would-be tragic coming-ofage romance of all time; the latter slyly and magnificently moulds itself into a My Bloody Valentine-esque seductive supernova. Like their titular image of the ‘Island of Light’, DAMEFRISØR manifest dazzling brightness within the considered greyness of their creation. And while this debut so blushingly kneads through the key inspirations that fill its heart, its urgency, and its will to stir up desires, slot so comfortably into the here and now.
(Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘52a’
All Pressure, No Diamonds (Modern Sky)
Transforming the minutiae of everyday life into dancefloorready rhythms, London four-piece Malady create glittering soundscapes punctured with the sounds of their city. Inspired by the brutalist beauty of London, ‘All Pressure, No Diamonds’ is a kaleidoscopic glimpse into the band’s creative partnership. Leading with the infectious dance grooves of ‘Hyperreal’, Percy Junior Cobbinah’s vocals melt into the deep grooves and jagged synths, delving into a feeling of living perpetually online. Detailing contemporary life with ease, the outfit agitate about “being past their prime” on ‘Fools Errand’. Matching their anxiety with jittery electronics and searing sirens, Percy frets over life passing him by: “All I do is wait in line / Waiting on the things that could never be mine”. This narrative flows throughout this debut EP, as he wrestles with life’s melancholy on ‘Black Dog’: “I find the black dog always bites my behind.” The indifference of the city can be isolating at times. The pulsating ‘Pressure Builds’ hustles through a system that is “set up to work against you”. Among the ominous synths, though, there are soft glimmers of hope as the electronics dance across the track’s surface. It may be all pressure, no diamonds, but Malady are still going to try and find the joy of life. (Bryony Holdsworth) LISTEN: ‘Fools Errand’
WESLEY JOSEPH GLOW
At eight easily-defined tracks, that ‘GLOW’ is not in fact a debut album from Wesley Joseph is up for debate, but one senses the multi-hyphenate - songwriter, producer, film-maker; singer, rapper - would place a greater pressure on requiring a more concrete throughline if that were the case. Instead, the songs here, from the intricate vocal effects on ‘I JUST KNOW HIGHS’ merging voice and instrument seamlessly and disconcertingly, to the more straightforward hip hop of ‘COLD SUMMER’, are given the space to be somewhat scattershot in style, showing off Wesley’s range, both as an artist and of influences. UK garage-style skittish beats sit alongside smooth neo soul vibes on ‘SUGAR DIVE’, while ‘MONSOON’ offers a funky strut alongside Wesley’s soft delivery. Whether an introduction or re-introduction, ‘GLOW’ sets the artist’s stall out in technicolour fashion. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘COLD SUMMER’
“This record felt very intimate and therapeutic. The songs were made introspectively and led by feelings, ultimately 'GLOW' is a time capsule of my growth and emotions in each period of its creation. Because of this it made sense the cover was a self portrait. I set the frame up with a camera with lighting in a set by Sarah Asmail, I was styled by Zara Asmail in a way that captured the human yet eccentric feeling of the music. The concept of ‘GLOW’ came from a feeling of the duality, the dark chilling reality of life against the warm glow of euphoria & escapism. As much as it is a simple portrait of me, there’s subtle feeling or eeriness and depth. I’m staring deeply into an unidentifiable glowing source of light past the camera, my facial expression suggests the light is daunting yet some things that make us feel that way aren’t not necessarily for a bad reason. My relationship with the idea of light was a big theme when conceptualising the cover. I love imagery that is immediate but the more you look, it offers more. I felt like the music shares this sentiment, something that grows with you and is to be appreciated with time and can be taken in different ways at different points in life.”
SLØTFACE AWAKE / ASLEEP (Propeller)
Ripping it up and starting again is an overwhelming idea in any instance, so when Sløtface’s Haley Shea was faced with being the only remaining member of the band during what had already been a tumultuous time, it might have been an easier option to decide to record under her own name as opposed to that with a history and established sound. Fortunately, part of the Norwegian outfit’s familiarity comes with her vocal delivery - so while the sonic choices made alongside what is now a rolling cast of collaborators are somewhat different, it’s not a complete 180-degree shift. Split into two halves - the ‘AWAKE’ and ‘ASLEEP’ the title suggests - the first half owes much to Jack Antonoff’s style: a softer sound from Sløtface, sure, but it is easy to imagine the likes of Lorde delivering ‘Beta’, or ‘Come Hell or Whatever’, with their familiar chord changes. ‘Cowboys in the Dark’ is perhaps the closest to ‘old’ Sløtface, just a little janglier, while ‘Nose’ is the complete opposite, even Haley’s voice sounding so different from previous releases. The winner here, though, is definitely ‘HAPPY’, while production choices may have it coming across a little muted, there’s no way it won’t be a future live favourite with its infectious chorus and ultimately hopeful refrain.
(Louisa Dixon) LISTEN: ‘HAPPY’
Your two bandmates left Sløtface last year to pursue other projects. How did that initially impact you on an emotional level?
It was mixed. I think it’s the closest I’ve ever been to being really hardcore dumped in my life, because it all happened really suddenly. But at the same time, I just also immediately felt really supportive of the choices that the other guys wanted to make in their lives. It was definitely bittersweet, because I was really proud of them for making that decision, but it also happened kind of suddenly. I had to go through a little bit of a heartbreak period, being like, ‘What am I going to do now with everything we've worked for, for tmhe past 10 years? I have to do it in a different way now, or maybe I need to stop doing it completely.’
How did you end up deciding to carry on under the Sløtface moniker?
My solution for most things, whenever work related to the band has got hard, is to just start writing songs and to try to actually do the thing. So I started working a little bit with [producer and writer] Mikhael Paskalev, and at first we didn't really know if it was going to be a solo project or if it was going to be still Sløtface. As time went on, I realised that I wasn't ready to give up Sløtface and the connections we'd made. I felt like I could take over the project in a different way. We call it a collective now because it's fronted by me but [it has] a rotating cast of partners. It's also been a fun way of incorporating people that we've always worked with, but now we can incorporate them in a more upfront way by
including them in the collective that is Sløtface.
This record largely explores the themes of joy and happiness. Why were those themes on your mind?
II mean, it's fucking boring, but it's just because of Covid. When we first started talking about the changes in the band, we were still pretty heavily locked down in Norway and all those things hit at the same time; it just felt like a lot. So I needed to get into what happiness or what joy can feel like or what feelings stand in the way of finding that. IDLES’ ‘Joy As An Act of Resistance’ was a big inspiration for starting to think about themes.
How do those central themes relate to the title?
The EP goes through very different feelings and phases and ways of reckoning. It has what we call the ‘Awake’ songs, and the ‘Asleep’ songs, where the songs that are more about escape or distraction go into the ‘Asleep’ category, and then there are the songs where you're more present, which go into the ‘Awake’ songs. We’ve always been very sleep focused. I can't seem to not write songs about being asleep, it’s a subconscious thing. I think that's also because it's a very steady coping mechanism. For me, sleep is definitely a form of escape. It also felt like a good metaphor. Dreams and stories and movies, and all those things connect for me with different methods of escape or finding happiness somewhere when you can't really find it in the here and now.
Originals / AWAL)
2021’s ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ arrived with fanfare. It was explosive, assertive, a bold declaration of exactly what Little Simz had been showing she was capable of for the best part of a decade. Just over a year later, and the queen has returned to her throne with ‘NO THANK YOU’. This time, it’s a more subdued, stripped-back affair. Gone are the larger-than-life, triumphant production tones, for the most part. Instead, the focus is on the incendiary Simz. Battling through the worst of the music industry and the deeply entangled nature of mental health, this is a Little Simz who refuses to bite her tongue, and rightly so. Yes, the last year has seen her heralded as a star, but it was also a year in which she was awarded Best New Artist at last year’s BRITs, despite ten years in the game, a year when she frustratingly had to cancel her US tours because it wasn’t sustainable. ‘NO THANK YOU’ sees her expel those aggravations, baring all and allowing her fury to become a ferocious current which runs through even the most muted moments of the album.
‘Broken’ sees her despondent, whereas ‘Sideways’ is laughingly indignant against steady, unwavering beats. While the choral ‘Silhouette’ allows Inflo’s production its moment in the sun, it is Simz and her inimitable lyricism which is the star of the show. In learning to say no and to unleash the true force inside her, Little Simz unlocks a quieter power than most are used to hearing from her, and she is at her greatest because of it. (Neive McCarthy) LISTEN: ‘Sideways’
A FEROCIOUS CURRENT RUNS THROUGH EVEN THE MOST MUTED MOMENTS.
LIVE THE KIND OF BRAVE AND INTRICATE PERFORMANCE THAT’S
How many damp thumbs can you count in this picture?
NORMALLY RESERVED FOR THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS OF STADIUMS.
Brighton Centre. Photos: Jordan Curtis Hughes.
For a band like The 1975, giving their current world tour the tagline ‘At Their Very Best’ didn’t really raise too many eyebrows. Having spent the best part of ten years walking the tightrope between hyper self-awareness and tongue-in-cheek brashness, to hear the quartet make such a bold claim almost felt like business as usual; even more so after their ballsy introduction at last summer’s Reading Festival.
What isn’t so expected is the show itself. Having previously kicked things off over in the US back in November, the antics of frontman Matty Healy have already been welldocumented across a myriad of social media platforms, sure, but even those don’t adequately prepare the audience for what’s about to unfold.
Ambitious from the off, tonight’s show at The Brighton Centre - and the first night of their UK run - may be a relatively intimate affair (in comparison with their upcoming double-header at The O2 in London later this week) but it’s no less striking in its scale and courage. Closer to a sitcom than your regular run-of-the-mill concert, the stage is set up as a bougie flat, littered with instruments and intriguing details; lamps of varying sizes flash on and off in tandem with the music, while a ceiling fan turns dutifully throughout, in the top right corner of the stage; TVs flicker ominously, while Matty’s piano boasts a rotating cast of vices - bottle of red wine, pack of cigarettes, hip flask - to call upon throughout his performance.
Split into two acts, the show’s first half might be musically dominated by the pop nous of their most recent album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ but it’s the insular play-within-a-play performance that really dazzles. Inhabiting the role of spiralling protagonist, Matty is almost uncomfortably convincing, especially as he takes to the stage’s faux rooftop for a spine-tingling rendition of disillusioned anthem ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’. For most of the show’s first hour, he barely even acknowledges the audience’s presence. At one surreal point, the house lights come on after he apparently fluffs his lines and the stage is set back up for another take, clapper board and all. It’s completely jarring, but somehow draws the audience in deeper. By the time his bandmates exit - after the gorgeous warmth of ‘When We Are Together’ - he’s left alone to ponder his masculinity and the state of the world, before - in a somewhat Lynchian twist - gnawing on a hefty chunk of raw meat and crawling through a buzzing television screen.
THE 1975 LOOKING FOR SOMEBODY (TO LOVE)
PART OF THE BAND OH CAROLINE
I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU ALL I NEED TO HEAR
ROADKILL I COULDN’T BE MORE IN LOVE
I LIKE AMERICA & AMERICA LIKES ME ABOUT YOU
WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER IF YOU’RE TOO SHY (LET ME KNOW)
TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME CHOCOLATE IT’S NOT LIVING (IF IT’S NOT WITH YOU)
PARIS ROBBERS SOMEBODY ELSE LOVE IT IF WE MADE IT THE SOUND SEX
GIVE YOURSELF A TRY
And just as soon as the stage fades to black on one of the more out-there show concepts of recent years, things do a complete 180 and The 1975 re-emerge to live up to the show’s name. Bounding headfirst into the sleek and sexy ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ and the giddy bounce of ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, the crowd are quickly reminded of the band’s mastery of pop hits. Matty’s transformation comes full circle too, his between-song banter returning to support striking workers (“We support the union strikers, it’s simply how industrial action works, can’t demonise it”), before later - after a scorched and visceral take on ‘Love It If We Made It’ - contemplating the phallic nature of his microphone.
Under anyone else’s command, tonight’s show could’ve felt unhinged and bewildering. And while, at times, it does, in reality, it’s the kind of brave and intricate performance that’s normally only reserved for the dizzying heights of mainstream stadium pop. For that reason alone - for being ballsy enough to put on a show like this - it’s a triumph, and might well be The 1975 at their very best, after all. (SarahJamieson)
Much like festivals across the globe, the last few years have been a challenge for The Netherlands’ premier new music festival ESNS, but in 2023 it’s finally full steam ahead. Getting back into the swing of a fully live event - last year’s was split between in-person gigs and online streams - ESNS 2023 sees a slew of the most exciting artists from across Europe convening in the picture-perfect town of Groningen.
First up on Wednesday night, taking to the city’s iconic VERA venue comes the extremely-difficultto-Google O.. Born in lockdown and with only one song out in the open as of right now - their Speedy Wunderground-released ‘OGO’ landed in November - the duo may come across as elusive, but there’s nothing mysterious about their talents. Made up of baritone saxophonist Joe Heywood and drummer Tash Keary, their offerings tonight are a glorious mix of control and maximalism; Joe’s instrument whipping up a sonic storm atop Tash’s tight drumming.
Taking to the stage after a slight sonic diversion - Spain’s Ghouljaboy and his uncanny Alex Turneresque vocal provides quite the contrast - VLURE are a taught and menacing machine. Blitzing through cuts from last year’s ‘Euphoria’ EP, and previewing new single ‘Cut It’, their frenetic brand of dark but euphoric electro-punk is intoxicating to the last.
Making a somewhat unexpected appearance for the Groningen locals on Thursday, Katie GregsonMacLeod’s lunchtime set transforms a café from a bustling brunch spot to the hottest ticket in town. Her stripped-back set boasts a full run-through of the gorgeous EP ‘songs written for piano’, with people even clamouring outside the windows to try and get a glimpse.
Next door at record shop Plato meanwhile, comes a glorious one-two of Heartworms and CIEL . The former, a dark but commanding force even in the cold light of day at the back of a record store - while the latter’s gothed-up grunge sounds even heftier in person. “My whole teenage CD collection came from this shop,” says former Groningen resident and vocalist Michelle Hindriks, nodding to what’s clearly
a particularly special moment for the Brighton-based trio.
Venturing up to Machinefabriek later that evening, Dublin quartet Sprints are dead set on getting the crowd going; last year’s single ‘Literary Mind’ is a heady but earwormy offering, while early tracks ‘Manifesto’ and ‘The Cheek’ are even more searing live than on record. It’s KEG, however, that provide one of the festival’s more captivating moments, with their brilliant but bonkers blend of genres sounding even more chaotic on stage. Their irreverence is perhaps best illustrated during ‘Kids’, frontman Albert Haddenham repeatedly screeching “Daddy, I want an Itsu!” - their madcap blitz of a set is hard to tear your eyes from.
As things begin to draw to a close on Friday evening, a handful of Spanish artists take to the more grand confines of Stadsschouwburg. Primarily delving into her 2022 album ‘Strange Times Forever’, Marta Knight ’s warm but laid-back songwriting feels reminiscent of the likes of Julien Baker or Maggie Rogers, and even on their third show of the day, her band still manage to pull it out the bag.
Next up, Dublin’s Kynsy - fresh from a 4am flight - arrives to a packed out Huize Maas to offer up a serving of tracks from her recent ‘Something To Do With Love’ EP. Blending together Strokes-y guitars and electro-pop with her Gwen Stefani-like vocals - perfectly swaying from sugary sweet to biting in a split second - her live presence is even more potent than on record.
Towards the end of the festival, the whole town seems to have that Friday feeling meaning that venues are - for the first time so far - that much more crowded. And while the likes of Dutch acts Personal Trainer and Historian - the latter’s brand of bluesy rock seeing him don his finest Jack White impression - have queues snaking around the block, it’s left to dynamic punk pros Big Joanie, appearing at Blauwe Hemel in the town’s main square, to close out ESNS in style. Deliciously scuzzy and vibrant from the opening riffs of ‘Cactus Tree’, the London trio provide the perfect note to end this much-missed musical celebration on. So same again next year, then?(Sarah Jamieson)
HOTEL LUX Hands Across The Creek OUT NOW
"Lush, intelligent songwriting" Clash "Skew-whiff indie anthems" Loud & Quiet
"An absolute corker" The New Cue
"These guys are awesome" Amy Lame, BBC 6 Music
"Bill Ryder-Jones' production and piano adds a tenderness, on an album that feels intenton proving Hotel Lux aren't just another post-punk throwaway" Uncut "Razor-sharp sound with new-found emotional depths" YuckLOU TERRY Warmly, Alexandria 4 Track EP - Out 10th Feb GROVE Sound Of The Underground 7” Single - Out 17th March First release on Greed
A once-in-a-lifetime dream gig, designed and curated this month by… JAMES ACASTER!
HEADLINER: NINA SIMONE
I’ve based all the acts on my favourite live albums, and her ‘Live in Montreux’ album is one of my absolute favourites. I love how so much of it is just her and a piano. On that album, she’s fucking up sometimes, and she’s telling the audience that they’re shit and not worthy of her songs, and I’d just really love to be watching something like that where it feels life-changing and emotional.
SUPPORTS: NIRVANA & SAM COOKE
To open, I’d like Sam Cooke, specifically the energy he has on the ‘Live At Harlem Square Club’ album. I’ve put him first because the energy would get people ready for a good night. He’d have people dancing, but I won’t be one of those people because I’m too self-conscious. And then in the middle, I would like Nirvana doing their ‘Unplugged’ set up. ‘Nevermind’ is one of my favourite albums ever, so I’d like a lot of tracks from that.
VENUE: FAT SAM’S GRAND SLAM
I definitely want to be seated, I hate standing up at gigs, and Fat Sam’s Grand Slam [from Bugsy Malone] looks really fun; I love the layout of the room and a pie fight could break out at any second. I’d want it to be full of adults though, I don’t think it would feel good if Nina Simone was berating kids for being rubbish.
WHO ARE YOU GOING WITH?
I wanna go with my girlfriend, my parents,m my friend Gabriel and we will invite Ed Gamble but I’m not sure it would be his cup of tea so he can only come if he likes those groups ‘cause I’m not having anyone come and complain afterwards. I’ve been to a lot of gigs with Ed and he’s put up with a lot; we went to see Death Grips and, instead of a support act, they put on a noise that was just one single sound that got progressively louder in pitch for an hour and a half. I thought he was gonna kill me.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING BEFORE THE GIG?
I’d like to go to The French in Manchester for a full tasting menu; it’s my favourite restaurant in the world and it’s got the best mouthful of food I think I’ve ever had in my life which is drunken prune, on top of that is a slice of St. James’ cheese, and then a walnut cracker and a spoonful of honeycomb.
WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING?
I would like Old Fashioneds and Cherry Pepsi Max, alternating throughout the night. And just before Nina Simone comes on, I’d like a huge malted vanilla milkshake please. I love milkshakes and I’m just at the point in my life where I’ve had a hankering for a milkshake for a long time and not had one, so maybe that’s just where I am at the moment. If I’ve got the taste of ice cream in my mouth while watching Nina Simone do her first song, I think that’ll be pretty great.
IS THERE AN AFTERPARTY?
I don’t want to keep things going; all that’s going to happen at an afterparty is I’m gonna end up ruining the night at some point. My favourite thing after a gig is when there’s a long-ish train journey home and you have a carriage to yourself with the friends you went to the gig with. I think we’d all have to get a train to Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, so I’d like a warm carriage to ourselves, for maybe an hour, talking about what happened and reliving the best moments.
ANY OTHER REQUESTS?
I used to live in Crystal Palace and in the park there’s an old stage where Bob Marley and the Wailers performed back in the day. I always thought it would have been amazing to see that gig, so maybe what I’d like is that those three bands are who I bought a ticket for, and then somewhere in the evening there’s a surprise slot and it’s just a full set from Bob Marley and the Wailers.
‘Party Gator Purgatory’ - the debut album from James Acaster’s new project Temps - is out 19th May via Bella Union.
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