ISSUE 124 • NOVEMBER 2022 DIYMAG.COM
REKINDLING THE ALCHEMICAL MAGIC OF YOUNG FATHERS
# SUPPORTING LIVE MUSIC IN UNIQUE LOCAL VENUES ACROSS THE UK
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H E Lo
The world's world's biggest emo event When We Were Young finally took place last month in Las Vegas. What acts would we attempt to round up for our own personal dream festivals?
SARAH JAMIESON • Managing Editor I mean, let's be honest: my dream line-up WAS this year's When We Were Young. Shame I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic... EMMA SWANN • Founding Editor Using the WWWY template, my current pop heroes would be Harry Styles and band, and my unexpected reunion (wait for it…) The White Stripes. Also, I too would have Wolf Alice hidden on the poster among some long-forgotten names. LISA WRIGHT • Features Editor Had the time of my little life watching Art Brut earlier this month and now plan to (genuinely) put together a mid-‘00s indie fest exactly like this. If anyone wants to help me try and force The Rakes to reform, slide into my DMs. LOUISE MASON • Art Director Scott Walker, This Heat, The Fall and Aphex Twin are headlining Cronklefest. ELLY WATSON • Digital Editor As a lover of 00s pop, I would recreate
the 2009 Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience, with original guests Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana for the extra cheese factor.
If there’s one band from the past decade who continually defy boundaries and focus on creating innovative and vital art, it’s Young Fathers. Ever since the release of their Mercury Prize-winning debut ‘Dead’ back in 2014, the Edinburgh trio have become renowned as a creative force to be reckoned with and now, having just announced details of fourth album ‘Heavy Heavy’, we are thrilled to welcome them to the cover this month to tell us more about it. Elsewhere in our penultimate issue of the year - yes, really! - we talk the concept of home with Big Joanie, get a little otherworldly with Connie Constance and dive back into Dry Cleaning’s idiosyncratic world. Plus, we gather up a host of DIY favourites - Goat Girl! Phoebe Green! Jelani Blackman! Willie J Healey! - to help us dissect the year that was 2022 in our annual Great Debate… What are you waiting for?
Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert Simz’s live performance of ‘How Did You Get Here’ at a certain awards show last month (see p10 for more) was utterly spine-tingling. An artist who, it seems, is still only getting started, and a winner in all senses of the word. Grease (The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) Not that one ever needs an excuse, but after seeing Courtney Barnett’s (spoiler alert) enviable recollection of the iconic ‘70s flick in this month’s It’s Your Round (p66) it was inevitable this all-time favourite would get a spin. Once more, for the late, great Olivia NewtonJohn: “Tell me about it, stud.” Can Can Gambino It’s not exactly ‘news’ that mashups are back, but where in the early ‘00s it generally featured big pop hits and the alternative, like ‘A Stroke of Genie-us’ or Danger Mouse’s whole ‘Grey Album’ contrasting Jay-Z and The Beatles, we might have gone down a deep, dark TikTok hole to find where classical and contemporary combine. In this instance, Childish Gambino’s ‘Bonfire’ and Offenbach. No idea how it works, but it does.
November playlist Scan the Spotify code to listen.
Sarah Jamieson, Managing Editor
NEWS 6 SHAME 10 THE 2022 MERCURY PRIZE WITH FREE NOW 12 ARCHITECTS 16 FESTIVALS
1 8 DEADLETTER 20 KYNSY 22 GRETEL HÄNLYN
Reviews 5 2 Alb ums
THE GREAT DEBATE 2022
6 0 E P s , etc 6 2 Live
Founding Editor Emma Swann Managing Editor Sarah Jamieson Features Editor Lisa Wright Digital Editor Elly Watson Art Direction & Design Louise Mason Cover Photos: Fiona Garden.
Contributors Alisdair Grice, Bella Martin, Ben Tipple, Bryony Holdsworth, Burak Cingi, Cady Siregar, Chloe Tucker, Christopher Connor, Ed Miles, Elvis Thirlwell, Emma Wilkes, Eva Pentel, Fiona Garden, Ims Taylor, Jacob Flannery, Louis Griffin, Louisa Dixon, Max Pilley, Neive McCarthy, Otis Robinson, Patrick Clarke, Tom Williams, Will Richards. For DIY editorial: email@example.com For DIY sales: firstname.lastname@example.org For DIY stockist enquiries: email@example.com
ll material copyright (c). All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of DIY. Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the information in this magazine is correct, changes can occur which affect the accuracy of copy, for which DIY holds no responsibility. The opinions of the contributors do not necessarily bear a relation to those of DIY or its staff and we disclaim liability for those impressions. Distributed nationally.
Listen on 5
It’s an album about friendship, which is not something you hear [often].” – Charlie Steen
SHAME IO D U T S E H T IN
For the band’s upcoming third album, Shame have prioritised collaboration and made an interconnected ode to friendship. Words: Will Richards.
Back in February, Shame’s management set the band a challenge. After seeing the
London five-piece struggle with initial writing sessions for the follow-up to 2021’s ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, they booked the band two gigs at the Brixton Windmill for just two weeks’ time under the (truly fantastic) pseudonym Almost Seamus. The catch? They had to play entirely new material at both. With these restrictions and a need to write quickly and urgently at the fore, frontman Charlie Steen - speaking from New York as the band wrap up a co-headline tour with Viagra Boys explains that the circumstances led Shame to return to “a more fun way of writing” and “writing to play”. “We didn’t get so fixated and hung up on things,” he notes. “The songs just had to be playable. Obviously they weren’t perfect, but we were able to play them through.”
Before this particular gauntlet was thrown down, the band had “a lot of great ideas” in the works for LP3, but a lack of deadlines and pressure meant that they’d struggled to coalesce them into fully-formed and structured songs. “They couldn’t get past that point,” says Charlie. “When we had the pressure to play them live, that was when we let ourselves
go a little bit.” Playing the new material to an audience, the band could also gauge an immediate reaction as to which songs went down well, and which needed more work. “It was an easier way to understand,” he summarises.
hen releasing debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’ at the start of 2018, Shame were at the vanguard of the post-punk scene that transformed the UK’s underground musical landscape in the late 2010s, heading out on a never-ending tour in support of the record that made them global heavyweights but shredded their minds and bodies in the process. ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, released almost exactly three years later following significant pandemic-related delays, saw the band reflect on this whirlwind time and the recalibration that needed to follow. Over music that was more expansive and inventive than their debut, Charlie ruminated on mental health, self-discovery and facing your problems. After a band releases a hype-building debut and so-called ‘difficult’ second album, the prospect of writing a third no longer makes you a ‘new’ band, and with that comes a need for evolution. And so, following that ultimatum from management, and the scrappy but deeply exciting Windmill gigs that followed, Shame set about enacting this change in earnest. With the skeletons of a number of new songs – the emotionally-hefty ‘Adderall’, menacing ‘Burning By Design’, expansive and melodic ‘Fingers Of Steel’ and more – brought together in the two weeks before the Windmill shows, Shame then began to whittle these instinctive ideas into what would become their upcoming third album - set for release in 2023. During an intensive two-week writing process at Otterhead Studios in Rugby, ideas and instruments were
flying around, with the band working more collaboratively than ever. For the first time, Charlie himself picked up the bass whilst Josh Finerty was absent with Covid. Tuning into the songs’ melodies more than ever before, he explains that the experience then shifted the mindset of his own lyric-writing, with melodic singing overtaking sprechgesang or shouting as his primary method of communication. “With our first album,” the frontman says, “we were always playing in small venues with shit monitors. Nobody actually really knew what the other people in the band were doing until we went into record. Then with the second album, we wanted to do something different. We recorded it all individually, and it was all very naked, with every individual part on its own.” With album three, he notes, the band had a greater confidence. “This record is the most united one we've ever done. Everyone's together, and it made everything become a lot more cohesive. It was back to the
fun side of it.”
hrough this new approach, each member had input on the others’ parts and created a musical togetherness. And, as well as musical innovation, this fresh tactic also naturally fed into the songs’ themes. On ‘Songs Of Praise’, Charlie offered scything social commentary, before ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ saw him turn his gaze inward and reflect deeply on himself. On the new record, thanks to this new level of collaboration, he found himself singing about his friends. “It’s an album about friendship, which I wanted to do because it’s not something you hear much about [in songs] despite being so prominent in
“The ethos of the band is to not be perfect and to expose and celebrate our fragilities.” – Charlie Steen
everyone’s everyday lives,” he offers. “I’ve known Sean [Coyle-Smith, guitarist] for almost 20 years now. Eddie [Green, guitarist] and [Charlie] Forbes [drummer] have known each other for 23 years. It's pretty crazy how much you can still learn about each other. “When we were doing the first album, we were all 20, and were 22 for the second one. At those times, everyone's in weird places in their lives. It doesn't matter if you're in a fucking band or not – when you're 20, 22 or 24, you're probably going to be in a weird place at one of those times. Everyone feels a lot more comfortable now.” For Charlie, this lyrical outlook came naturally. “Unless you're gonna do a fucking concept album, you’re just gonna write about whatever's in your head at that time,” he says. The new album was entirely written and recorded within a five month period, and its themes stand as a time capsule of this moment for the frontman. “That's why I feel like it's so concise,” he says. “A lot of the lyrics on the album are related to one another because we got it when the feeling was fresh, and captured it right then. I knew what we wanted to achieve, and it all came out in this burst of creativity. It all just happened. We're all very proud of it.” In line with the instinctive and spontaneous ethos running throughout the record, Shame opted to record live for the first time with help from legendary producer Flood (Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails, Foals), who agreed to work on the album after hearing the work-in-progress songs at a third Almost Seamus gig at MOTH Club. To explain the process, which he calls “pretty fucking challenging” but that ended up defining this era of Shame, the frontman has an analogy. “I used to work in a kitchen, and there was this expression that all the chefs had,” he begins. “Everyone in the kitchen learns a little bit of what the other chef is doing, so that if someone goes down, you can finish off the plate.” Through a writing and recording process that’s seen the five friends become an even more united force than before, making a record defined by its interconnectedness and celebration of community and mutual support, Shame are a band who’ve nurtured that ability to finish off the collective plate. “The ethos of the band is to not be perfect and to expose and celebrate our fragilities,” he adds - a mantra that has never been stronger than on album three. “All of the reasons why it might not be perfect,” the frontman grins, “are the exact reason I like it so much.” 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.
Swiss army knife, but make it fashion. (@the1975)
Icons only. (@jepicpics)
Photos: Carolina Farola
WINNER IS… The winner of the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW is Little Simz!
GETTING GRASSROOTS 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. Here, we’re highlighting just a couple of the gigs that are happening over the next month and beyond…
hortlisted for her incredible fourth album ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’, 2022 marked Simz’ second inclusion on the shortlist following a nod in 2019 for her album ‘GREY Area’, and followed on from her huge BRIT win, when she bagged the Breakthrough Artist award back in February.
After having to postpone the original awards show from early September, the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW finally got underway last month and unsurprisingly - it was one for the ages. Boasting live performances from eleven of the shortlisted artists (with a lil’ televised throwback from busy bee Harry Styles), the show culminated with the judging panel’s Jamz Supernova announcing this year’s worthy winner: Little Simz.
“It’s incredible,” the London rapper said in a post-event press conference with Huw Stephens. “I’m super happy of course. I’m super humbled and grateful, and just excited to be here amongst so many other great musicians. The shortlist was crazy this year, so I’m very grateful to be amongst that, and to bring it home.” Other artists shortlisted for this year’s Prize included the likes of Self Esteem, Wet Leg, Kojey Radical, Joy Crookes, Yard Act and many more. “I think it’s just more fire in my belly,” Simz replied, when asked what the win meant for her moving forward. “I think this means that my music resonates and connects with people; people live with it, whether that’s them putting their friends on to it, or playing it to their children or siblings. Whatever it is, people are really listening to what I have to say, and I’ve got more to say.” After a series of successes this year, Huw asked, do things finally feel to be paying off? “For sure, it does,” she affirmed. “When you put your 10,000 hours in and you’re like, ‘Am I getting what I’m supposed to be getting out of this? I don’t know’. But bottom line [is] we don’t do it for [accolades], but it’s amazing to know that it’s just resonated. I’ve made the music that I enjoy and love, and that I want to put out into the world, so yeah, this is an incredible moment. Hopefully people can listen back to the music and be inspired, because that’s what I want to do: to inspire people. To say, regardless of whatever walk of life you come from, you can do something amazing in the world. “I remember when Speech DeBelle won [the Mercury Prize] and I think that was the first time I’d even seen a Black woman win an award in music,” she explained when asked why the Mercury Prize feels quite so prestigious. “I did my research more into the Mercury Prize and the kind of albums that get shortlisted, and they’ve just got good taste in music! It’s so credible and every year the shortlist is amazing, so like I said, being amongst it was like, ‘I must have something really special on my hands’. Either way it went tonight, just being amongst it and being in the atmosphere and being recognised is beautiful.” Finally, Simz was asked what exactly her ambitions were when it came to creating ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’. “Honestly, I thought, ‘I want to make something that is gonna shake up everything’,” she said. “That’s all I thought; I wanted to shake everything up. I didn’t know what I was gonna write about, or what the music was gonna sound like, but I just knew I wanted to cut through the noise and make something that stands the test of time, something that lives on forever a classic. I hope I’ve done that.” Brought to you as part of our media partnership with FREE NOW, the mobility super app.
LÉA + THE SUNFLOWERS Grow, Hackney 5th November 2022 One third of London jamming collective Peng Femme Jam, Léa will be playing her first headline show of the year this month; she’ll bring her brand of funky Afro-jazz fusion to Hackney Wick’s Grow.
THE DANIEL WAKEFORD EXPERIENCE New Cross Inn, London 13th November 2022 Ahead of the release of his new album - the excellently-titled ‘The Rock-Pop Album’ - later this year, Brighton’s premier Rock-Popstar Daniel Wakeford (see what we did there?) will play the infamous South London venue next month.
PYE CORNER AUDIO Corsica Studios, London 8th December 2022 If majestic and cinematic electronica is your thing, then Martin Jenkins’ project is the one for you. Pye Corner Audio will be performing at the Elephant and Castle institution in early December, where you can get a taste of their latest album ‘Let’s Emerge!’.
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DIY 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.
“You don't want to carry yourself around thinking, ‘Oh, I'm a Number One-selling artist’.” - Sam Carter 12 DIYMAG.COM
FIGHTING SHADOWS WITH
Over the last sixteen years, Brighton quintet Architects have faced more than their fair share of hardship; on their tenth album, they're diving headfirst into the darkness and pushing themselves to evolve even further. Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photos: Ed Miles.
ake a glance out at the world right now, and it’s not all too difficult to wonder where the title of Architects’ latest album - ‘the classic symptoms of a broken spirit’ came from. Even putting aside the wider world’s horrifying news cycle, the growing sense of turmoil in the UK alone feels like enough to keep our fears maxed out, with the cost of living crisis looming large over many parts of society. After the last three exhausting years of pandemic-based uncertainty and trauma, it’s beginning to feel like many of us may be feeling those symptoms on a daily basis. “Especially in this country, it feels really strange,” nods Architects’ frontman Sam Carter, as he takes a break from the photoshoot taking place next door. “You know, it’s been October 1st and I’m genuinely worried about my next heating bill, and I never would’ve paid that any mind before.” It’s these rather unglamorous markers of domestic life that now seem to be playing a major part in the lives of musicians and creatives. After almost two years of not being able to play shows due to Covid, artists are now having to cancel tours because of inflation and petrol prices, while Brexit has added a fresh layer of red tape to performing overseas. Add to that the more everyday stresses that everyone is facing right now, and it all starts to get a bit bleak. “It feels dark,” Sam adds succinctly. As a band, Architects have rarely shied away from dealing with their hardships head on. Even after guitarist Tom Searle passed away from cancer back in 2016, the quintet completed by drummer [and Tom’s brother] Dan Searle, guitarists Josh Middleton and Adam Christianson, and bassist Ali Dean - vowed to continue on, working even harder to both honour his work and forge a new legacy for the band altogether. The trio of albums released following his diagnosis and in the aftermath of his death (2014’s ‘Lost Forever // Lost Together’, 2016’s ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ and 2018’s ‘Holy Hell’) would go on to solidify the band as one of the standout voices in UK metal, and work as a means to process their grief; it all culminated in a career-high show at London’s Wembley Arena in 2019.
bolder; for last year’s ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’, they expanded their sonic approach, creating a multi-faceted and cinematic opus which saw them pair ferocious riffs with swelling strings and soaring vocals, all across a weighty fifteen-track running time. It also saw them wrestling with more hefty subject matter - political turmoil, the climate crisis and the generally chaotic nature of modern life - which ultimately concluded on the more hopeful note of closer ‘Dying Is Absolutely Safe’. The record entered the UK Album Charts at Number One, and saw their meteoric rise continue. Presumably though, given their impressive history of pushing creatively forward, Architects aren’t ones to dwell too much on their past successes? “Yeah, we don't really care about thinking of any of that,” Sam responds, before self-correcting. “I mean, I do! I do genuinely really care! It just blows my tiny little mind too much. It builds a pressure on you that's not real, and is not a thing that you should think about. Also, you don't want to carry yourself around thinking, ‘Oh, I'm a Number One-selling artist’. It’s a real fucking joy - it was like Leicester winning the league; it wasn't supposed to happen, but it happened and it's absolutely amazing. But it doesn't change the standards that this band holds itself to, and I think, if anything, it made us work harder on this record to make it better, because nothing's given, you know?” Unlike its predecessor, which was mostly written remotely during bouts of lockdowns and restrictions, ‘the classic symptoms of a broken spirit’ took shape in a much more tangible, live sense and saw Architects attempt to stretch themselves in different ways. “With this one, it was like, let's not do strings. We just did Abbey Road as well,” Sam notes, referencing their session at the infamous studio where they re-recorded a handful of ‘For Those That…’ tracks with a full orchestra, “so we’d kind of done our string quota. [Instead] we wanted to lean into the more industrial side of things that we were doing. “It's more focused,” he continues, nodding to the album’s more concise tracklisting. “I think the main thing that we wanted to take away is that it just had to be different to the last one because [their release dates are] so close. I didn't want it to be like, ‘Here’s Side B’, or for anyone to hear it and think that these were leftover songs. Nothing from ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ came over and we had 22 songs. The other six [tracks] just went [onto the scrap pile]; there were B-sides and stuff that we’ve actually recorded, but we just weren’t into. So they're up for sale if anyone wants to buy them…” he laughs. ‘the classic symptoms of a broken spirit’ is out now via Epitaph. Read the full feature at diymag.com/architects. DIY
Their next step would be even
THE WAEVE Drowning
Not so much more than the sum of its parts as working from a completely different recipe entirely, were it not for their familiar vocals you’d be hard-pressed to identify The Waeve’s collaborators - Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall - on their latest. This is, of course, no bad thing; ‘Drowning’ with its spectral, spiralling keys and sweeping, cinematic strings finds both musicians taking their talents into new and gorgeous spaces. A tale of two halves, Dougall’s opening salvo nods to a lush, Scott Walker type of noir before Coxon steers the ship into choppier waters. The Waeve is clearly very much its own entity and all the more interesting for it. (Lisa Wright)
RIHANNA Lift Me Up
Rihanna is a woman of many talents, but knowing when – and how – to make an entrance is clearly her 2022 modus operandi. Confirming her return to music via being announced as next year’s Super Bowl Halftime show star. Casually releasing her first new music since 2016 via the soundtrack to next month’s Marvel smash, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. At this rate R9 will arrive through a banner tied to Santa’s sleigh. A soaring heartstring-tug of a ballad, ‘Lift Me Up’ is easily enough of a tear-jerker without the knowledge that Rih penned it with director Ryan Coogler, producer-composer Ludwig Göransson and Nigerian star Tems as a tribute to King T’Challa himself, the late Chadwick Boseman. Keep those tissues close. (Bella Martin)
HAVE YOU HEARD? HEARD BOB V YLAN FT. LAURIE VINCENT The Delicate Nature
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
I Killed Captain Cook
Now into his second decade releasing as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban Nielson has traversed various sonic terrains from the radio-friendly funk of ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’, to the more introverted lo-fi warmth of ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’, to an odyssey of psych instrumentals on 2018’s ‘IC:01 Hanoi’ release. ‘I Killed Captain Cook’, however, still marks an unexpected about-turn; running solely on vocals and finger-picked acoustic guitar, it comes off as a sweet demo rather than a traditional comeback single. Nielson’s crackled vocals, always full of personality and emotion, make it worth a listen, but for his first new material of the year, ‘…Captain Cook’ couldn’t get more understated. (Lisa Wright)
Now here’s a match made in heaven. While imagining what Slaves’ Laurie Vincent playing on a Bob Vylan track would sound like doesn’t really take the furthest stretch of imagination – Laurie’s signature-style riff, Bobby Vylan spitting uncompromising truths with some smart wordplay here and a little dark humour there – ‘The Delicate Nature’ has them both flexing beyond that. For the bulk of the track, Laurie’s indie side is showing a little more melody than we’re used to from the outfit, and Bobby’s delivery, in turn, has somewhat softened, although losing none of its fire. And then, in an echo of the song’s theme of life-changing, split-second decisions, there’s a 180-degree crash into blistering punk. “Things are changing round here,” it repeats, “in the blink of an eye you can lose your life”, building to a chaotic crescendo, each party in turn challenging the other. It’s exhilarating stuff. (Bella Martin)
SAM FENDER Wild Grey Ocean While some of Sam Fender's more renowned moments so far have arrived in the form of fist-thumping, heart-swelling tracks like 'Seventeen Going Under' and 'Getting Started', the North Eastern singer can still do pensive like no other. It's on 'Wild Grey Ocean' - a cut taken from the forthcoming live deluxe edition of his second album - that his knack for writing darkly gorgeous cuts is showcased once more. A paean to his younger life in his coastal home of North Shields, it's another reflective picture painted of working class life, that strengthens Sam's position as one of modern music's most astute and talented songwriters. (Sarah Jamieson)
HALL FAME of
Art Brut - ‘Bang Bang Rock and Roll’ Into a fertile mid-’00s indie scene populated by unique, larger-than-life characters came Art Brut and their 2005 debut: an explosion of punk-spirited personality delivered by one of the most memorable frontmen of them all. Words: Lisa Wright.
If Art Brut were to have made ‘Bang Bang Rock and Roll’ in 2022, they’d have felt right at home. But as a group prone to shouting meta observations (‘Formed A Band’), narrating speak-sing stories about erectile dysfunction (‘Rusted Guns of Milan’) and writing bouncy mosh-along songs about going to the Pompidou (‘Modern Art’), back in the indie boom of the mid-‘00s they resided in a Venn diagram of one. That’s not to say the landscape wasn’t primed to accept a group literally named for being outsiders; from Franz Ferdinand to Bloc Party, guitar bands on the artier side of the spectrum were thriving. But where those bands’ wares were quickly co-opted by mainstream radio, everything about Art Brut and their wildly entertaining frontman Eddie Argos felt like the definition of cult, from their berating of The Velvet Underground on the album’s title track to Eddie’s explanation that “Yes, this is my singing voice / It’s not irony” on ‘Formed A Band’.
The key was in how the album - and Art Brut as a whole - managed to be constantly funny while never being a joke. Though Eddie had a naturally comic way with a word, the likes of ‘Emily Kane’ (a sweet, wide-eyed tale of how he’ll never get over his teenage girlfriend) and ‘My Little Brother’ (concerning his younger sibling’s excitable discovery of rock’n’roll) were rooted in truths, albeit it very specific ones. When he gleefully exclaims “I’ve seen her naked - TWICE!” in ‘Good Weekend’, meanwhile, you want to buy the singer a pint and congratulate him on his romantic success. It’s ever so silly, but he clearly means every word.
Released: 30th May 2005 Key Tracks: ‘Formed A Band’, ‘Emily Kane’, ‘Good Weekend’ Tell your mates: ‘Formed A Band’’s iconic line about the frontman’s unusual vocal style was ad-libbed on the spot after Argos was stopped mid-record and asked why he was singing like that and if there was a problem.
And yet while Art Brut might never have tickled the upper tiers of the UK charts or landed a spot on their beloved and oft-referenced Top of the Pops, with their 2005 debut LP they carved out their own niche of indie success: one fuelled by ramshackle, free-spirited, sub-three-minute bangers, a live show full of chaotic, hilariously rambling stage chat and a hefty whack of sheer, undeniable personality.
Among a sea of “fashionistas” who “text in Topshop” (eulogised on ‘Bad Weekend’), Art Brut were a band who were completely themselves, in all their overly passionate, slightly nerdy, perpetually amusing glory. Eddie, meanwhile, stands as almost certainly the only frontman to have posed naked on the cover of the NME, written multiple songs referencing his love of comic books and accidentally kicked Paul McCartney up the bum at an awards ceremony. Three truths, no lie.
They may never have reached the dizzying heights of some of their peers but Art Brut remain a completely unique band, beloved for that fact. At the turn of the century they formed a band, and they’ve been fighting the good fight ever since. DIY
Festivals As the end of the year approaches, our sights are firmly fixed on the future. But before we giddily dive headlong into thinking about next year’s festival season, we’re getting warmed up in the capital…
For The First Time As the dark nights start drawing in, it might feel like summer 2023 is a long way off, but don’t get too downtrodden; The Great Escape are here just in time to give us a first taste of what’s to come next year! As ever, the Brighton bash will be holding its opening ‘do later this month when it takes over East London for its nowannual First Fifty event. Giving fans a chance to see some of new music’s finest six months ahead of the full shebang, they’ll host 50 acts from The Great Escape’s line-up across
Get To Know…Nell Describe your music to us in the form of a Tinder bio. Two truths and a lie: I am sad. I am relatable. I am over all my trauma. What’s your earliest musical memory? Off the top of my head my earliest musical memory is listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s albums and screaming the lyrics to ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ when I was about four or five years old. Who were some artists that inspired you when you were just starting out (and why)? When I started writing music I was heavily influenced by Birdy; I have every album on CD and would play her music every day in the car. Then I kind of started going back to country music and early Taylor Swift before finding artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Bon Iver. They are all such incredible songwriters and I wanted to write songs that made people feel heard the way I felt when I put those artists on. You’re originally from Kildare, nearish Dublin! What do you think of the music scene in either place at the moment? I moved to London right when I turned 18 and had music out so kind of missed out on being immersed in the Irish music scene, but there is much incredible music coming out of Ireland right now, it’s really exciting! I’ve also found so many Irish artists here in London, it’s such a lovely community! Are there any other artists breaking through at the moment that you take inspiration from?
eight of the capital’s venues on Tuesday 15th November.
As well as featuring a whole host of DIY favourites including the likes of Grove, Jessica Winter and Witch Fever - we’ll be taking over the MOTH Club to bring you a very special evening of new music, with performances from enigmatic party-starters The Dinner Party, Essex-based quartet She’s In Parties, and spine-tingly songwriter Nell Mescal…
Mescal There are so many! I’m surrounded by so many up and coming artists and friends. Lately I’ve been really inspired by Phoebe Green and Searows. Both artists released incredible albums this year with some of my favourite songs right now I can’t stop listening. Who would be your dream collaborator? This is such a tough one [because] I have so many. I’m gonna say Taylor Swift considering she is currently my screensaver - manifesting that at all times! Although I think if I ever meet Taylor Swift it would just be me sobbing in a corner. Musically or otherwise, what are you most looking forward to over the next year? I’m opening for Phoebe Green on her UK tour and I am so excited, it’s going to be so much fun. Also I’m too excited for Christmas already. If people could take away one thing from your music, what would it be? It might be a simple answer - and probably very cringey - but that you aren’t alone in what you go through and it’s OK to feel like shit because someone relates. I write things to make myself feel better and when that doesn’t work I just hope that it made someone else feel something, even if it’s just from one line of a song. You're going to be playing our First Fifty show this month! What should people expect from your set? Why should they come and check you out? I can’t wait! I’m playing with my band and they are incredible, so you should expect a set full of me telling bad jokes, oversharing, singing a load of new songs and having a lot of fun with my friends on stage. If you like sad songs about feeling angry at people that hurt you, this is gonna be the best night of your life…
DIY at First Fifty MOTH Club, London Tuesday 15th November THE DINNER PARTY NELL MESCAL SHE’S IN PARTIES
Festivals News In Brief
Austrian fest SNOWBOMBING (10th - 15th April) have confirmed that Jamie xx is set to headline their 2023 edition, while other performances will come from Eliza Rose, piri & tommy, Groove Armada and loads more. LIVERPOOL’S SOUND CITY (28th - 30th April) have shared the first wave of artists set to play their 2023 edition. Maisie Peters is set to headline, while other acts announced include Courting, Opus Kink, Malady, Mollie Coddled, and The Goa Express. Two Door Cinema Club have been confirmed as headliners for next year’s LIVE AT LEEDS IN THE PARK (27th May). The one-day event will return to Temple Newsam, and will also feature Everything Everything, The Big Moon, Black Honey and more. WIDE AWAKE (27th May) will return to London’s Brockwell Park this summer, with the likes of Gilla Band, Osees, Arooj Aftab, Ty Segall, A Place To Bury Strangers and Erol Alkan all confirmed to be performing. Fresh from releasing their second album, BLACKPINK have announced that they will be headlining BST HYDE PARK on 2nd July next year. They will join Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (6th and 8th July), Billy Joel (7th July) and P!NK (24th and 25th June). Following the inaugural edition of WHEN WE WERE YOUNG (21st October) festival last month, organisers have confirmed it will return to Las Vegas in 2023, with the likes of Blink-182, Green Day, Good Charlotte, Rise Against and KennyHoopla all confirmed to play.
N E U
Injecting a healthy dose of danceability to their gritty post-punk grooves, DEADLETTER are already branching out into unexpected realms. Words: Elvis Thirlwell. Photo: Joe Mulville.
traight after this interview, DEADLETTER will embark on a 12-hour overnight drive to Leipzig. The reason? With a week’s notice, emo-rock heavyweights Placebo have invited them to support on 11 dates of their European tour. For a band that had just concluded their first major run of intimate UK headline shows - crowned by a sold-out 100 Club in London - the prospect of bringing their caustic postpunk grooves to 10,000-capacity arenas is quite the step up. “This is bizarre, this tour, because it’s such an overwhelming difference to what we were doing even a month ago,” vocalist Zac Lawrence confesses, with a hint of disbelief. “Now to be playing to these numbers of crowds… I don’t think overwhelming is the right word. What’s further than overwhelming? Hyperwhelming! A plethora of whelm!”
time, and I was really frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t able to vote on something that was going to have such an impact on my future,” the vocalist explains. “Politics is intriguing anyway, especially the state of politics when we were that age. You had Trump coming into power, you had Brexit, another hopeless Conservative government. It was boiling over, and it still is.” Relocating to South London, and completing the line-up with guitarists Will King and James Bates, plus Poppy Richler on saxophone, it’s this festering anger and brooding sense of disenfranchisement that supercharges debut EP ‘Heat!’. Off the back of a steady stream of single releases over the past two years, the five-track set provides the most definitive introduction yet to their doom-stricken post-punk barbs. Pumping rhythms and brutish Gang Of Four-style guitars spark and collide beneath Zac’s sing-speak soothsaying. Indeed, the vocalist’s abstract profiles of grim modern Britain are striking. Listen to the language on opening track ‘Weights’ and you’ll hear ‘dead’, ‘hell’, ‘disease’, ‘decay’, ‘plague’ and ‘pestilence’ all before the first chorus. Why so serious?
EADLETTER Not that DEADLETTER are a band wholly unused to strange and spontaneous events. Just as surreal was a call to perform at the Celine Menswear Season
Launch during Paris Fashion Week this summer. Billed alongside New Yorkers Gustaf and Cumgirl8 at Hedi Slimane’s private afterparty, it’s odd to imagine the quintet bawling “Life’s a binge!” to a gaggle of models supping from branded mini champagne bottles. Odder still is the notion that Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker ranked among the attendees, snapping the group on his Instagram.
All this glamourous circumstance is a far cry from the small North Yorkshire towns where Zac, Alfie Husband (drums) and George Ullyott (bass) first met as schoolkids. The trio busked the streets of York, Whitby and Scarborough wielding acoustic guitars, mandolins, and cajons, while their first formal gigs came from kerbside invitations. ”We got asked on the street to play wedding gigs,” recalls Alfie. “We ended up playing some 16-year-old girl’s birthday party, in some weird boules club.” “We were younger than the person whose birthday it was,” adds Zac with a chuckle.
“I DON’T LIKE THE IDEA OF PAINTING A FAIRYTALE
THE REALITY IS THAT SHIT IS HARD
SOMETIMES.” SOMETIMES. ” - Z AC
As their adolescence continued, DEADLETTER became electrified. While Zac educated himself with YouTube videos taken at the Brixton Windmill, Alfie was making life-changing pilgrimages south. “It all changed when we were 16,” he confirms. “My brother had taken me to London to see Dead Pretties and I remember that blew my mind.”
“That’s a question I ask a lot: am I a pessimist?” ponders Zac. “I wouldn’t just like to accept the fact that I am. Everyone has aspects of pessimism and optimism within them. I guess I don’t like the idea of painting a fairytale landscape; I think the reality is that
shit is hard sometimes.
“I try to take from reality,” he continues. “A lot of what I do in terms of writing lyrics is not just projecting myself into some far off mystical place, but just looking around me. It’s good for people to be exposed to the darker side of life sometimes.” While the idea of a socially-aware British post-punk band isn’t necessarily anything new, there’s another altogether more joyful quest at hand here too. Taking their cues from the likes of Talking Heads and Happy Mondays, DEADLETTER made a conscious decision after the stasis of lockdown to make their music danceable. “We live in a world where going to a club is more popular among the general public on a Friday night than it is to go to a gig,” notes Alfie. “If you make your post-punk danceable, you might actually bridge the gap with people who only listen to dance music.” Accordingly, healthy doses of disco and funk douse the grooves of ‘Heat!’ lead single ‘Binge’, which swaggers like an offcut from Talking Heads’ ‘Fear of Music’. Elsewhere, ‘Madge’s Declaration’ and ‘My Kingdom’ frolic with the freedom of early ‘90s baggy. It’s this canny infusion of boogie into such realitychecking grit that garners such impressive results. Little surprise then that DEADLETTER’s crowds are growing and that the offers are flying in - even if from the most unexpected of places. DIY
From the very day of the Brexit vote in 2016, Zac’s lyricism and the band’s music became politicised, too. “I was 17 at the
NEU iara Lindsey has always strived to do something a little out of the ordinary. While most kids at her school in Ireland were spending their time listening to whatever music was being fed to them via the radio, she, meanwhile, was finding inspiration in the music of creative outliers like David Bowie and Talking Heads. “That really lit the spark of, ‘Oh my god, I can be different and it can be cool and interesting,” she reminisces. Flash forward several years and she’s doing just that with her musical project Kynsy. Inspired by the likes of St. Vincent and Micachu & The Shapes, she first made her introduction with 2020’s indie-pop leaning single ‘Cold Blue Light’. But Kynsy always fostered a love of experimentation and, honing her craft over the next few years, her musical vision manifested itself more clearly in this year’s genrespanning ‘Something To Do With Love’ EP.
“I HAVE A FEELING THE NEXT BUNCH OF SONGS ARE GOING TO BE
REALLY WEIRD.” WEIRD.”
From indie beginnings, the Dublin musician is branching out into evermore-experimental new territory. Words: Elly Watson. Photo: Paula Trojner.
“I love songwriting, but what’s really important to me as an artist is creating something different,” she explains. “I feel like in the future, if I don’t protect this authenticity, or protect my vision, even though I might be mad and I might make no money at the end of it, I’m just gonna beat myself up.” Currently working on new music, recently she’s been pushing herself by leaning into writing around a loop (as opposed to a guitar) due to its ability to allow her to access more “interesting” ideas in her brain. “I have a feeling the next bunch of songs are going to be really weird,” she laughs. “They’re probably going to alienate people! “I’ve sort of been writing songs that are self-affirmations,” she continues. “Trying to work through a problem with songwriting and talking about it like that. At first I was writing a lot about pain and anxiety and mental health, and writing these self-affirmations for myself, but then I began to experiment with production too. It’s still at the very start of the process and it will probably be a while before I figure it out, but I’m looking forward to it! It’s fun to figure these things out, you know?” Still playing with ideas for what boundaries she wants to push next with her music, Kynsy’s ultimate goal is to create a body of work that has her own unique slant to it - just like the music that first inspired her when she was starting out. “I’d love to influence another young 15-yearold with something a bit strange and a bit more experimental,” she smiles. “Like, ‘You can do this! You can push the boat out as much as you want!’” DIY
LOZEAK TIKTOK’S LATEST BREAKOUT STAR. While her mother was still pregnant, her parents would blast drum and bass with the hopes that it would seep through into their child’s DNA. Enter Lozeak. Now 19, the Norwich musician has already scored fans in Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes and The Rattlesnakes’ Frank Carter (along with over 600k TikTok followers) for her searing alt-pop anthems that draw influence from Hole, Avril Lavigne and Sugababes. LISTEN: Scorching new single ‘XO’ sees her diving into a new emo sound. SIMILAR TO: GenZ’s newest grunge-pop go-to.
THE WELSH COLLECTIVE PUMPING FUNKY ROCK OUT FROM THE VALLEYS. Wales has become famous for many things in the past - daffodils, leeks, rugby - and over the decades, from Super Furry Animals to Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, they've proven themselves as a nation adept at a tasty dose of psych rock. The country's newest purveyors arrive in the form of CVC - also known as the Church Village Collective, named after their hometown in the Valleys - who very much know how to have a good time; the funky stomp of recent single ’Good Morning Vietnam’ more than proves that. LISTEN: Their EP ’Real to Real’ came out earlier this year, and will be followed by their debut album ‘Get Real’ - see the pattern? - in January. SIMILAR TO: An explosion of danceable fun.
NEW YORK DANCE PUNKS’ CHANNELLING THE FILTH. Let’s be real: you don’t call your band cumgirl8 if you’re going to make music that sounds like Mumford & Sons. And while their name might bring to mind the chat room handle of a cam girl from the Myspace generation, sonically that description weirdly suits the New York punk quartet too. Like a strange hybrid of Suicide and CSS, their output so far comes smeared in kohl but ready to have a sexy party: join them for one when they head to the UK for a show at London’s Shacklewell Arms. LISTEN: Recent single ’dumb bitch’ is a much more pleasurable listen than its title might suggest. SIMILAR TO: An episode of Skins come back to haunt us IRL.
SARAH KINSLEY LEFTFIELD POP FROM NEW YORK CITY. Trained in classical piano and violin, even when performing in youth orchestras, Sarah stood out for her emotional performances. Eventually moving to New York, she transferred that same emotion across into a new alt-pop sound, blending classical touches with heartstring-pulling songwriting to earmark herself as a unique new voice in pop. LISTEN: Last year’s single ’The King’ has over 34 million Spotify listeners, and counting. SIMILAR TO: Uplifting alt-pop for when you’re deep in your feels.
FAT DOG SOUTH LONDON’S NEWEST RABBLE-ROUSING WEIRDOS. With exactly zero songs released to date and an inevitable problem when they attempt to oust the two Fat Dog bands already listed on Spotify (whoops), these South Londoners have already racked up a recent UK tour with Sports Team to their name. How? Because their grubby, frenzied live shows have already become the stuff of London hype mill legend. Think along the lines of Warmduscher’s gnarly little cousins and you’re getting close. LISTEN: Nothing yet; you’ll have to go to a show. SIMILAR TO: Opus Kink having a breakdown.
Amping up the live energy, the West Londoner’s latest material is driving forward with a laser focus. Words: Max Pilley.
Gretel Hänlyn may seem too young for a major change in direction in her music career, but at 20, she believes she is already embarking on one. The West London singer-songwriter's recent single ‘Drive’ builds on the grungy, synth-punk energy of this summer’s debut EP, ‘Slugeye’. But on the new release, Gretel is an altogether more focused and more direct predator. “It’s definitely me entering a new exploration of my own sound and challenging myself,” she tells us. “When you’re in your comfort zone with music for a little too long, you’re not going to do anything that excites you. Pushing myself that little bit, so that my feet are just touching the bottom of the pool but not really, that’s really exciting to me.” ‘Drive’ is a taut, propulsive number that finds Gretel’s vocals charged with a raspy urgency. If it does mark a change, then it’s the result of her renewed desire to synchronise the spirit of her live shows with the enthusiasm she feels when writing. “I realised there was a lot of energy in myself that I wasn’t releasing when I was playing live,” she explains. “That’s when I got my head down with writing, and I started trying to do new stuff. And I did it: ‘Drive’ was the first song I’d written where I was like, ‘Yeah! On stage, this is really going to scratch an itch for me, this is going to feel great’. I think it’s going to scratch an itch for the audience as well.” As well as building on the ‘90s riot grrrl qualities that she established on ‘Slugeye’, ‘Drive’ also finds Gretel honing in on an established songwriting tradition; in among the serrated guitars and Le Tigreindebted mutant synths, there’s an insistently hooky melody holding the structure together. “The classicallywritten ones are the ones that end
Gretel Hänlyn up being good,” she posits. “It’s so much more rewarding than just trying to be trendy or doing something that feels cool. Yeah, you could copy and paste a section, and that would be very easy, or you could actually be a songwriter. I love it when a song can surprise you.” Having recently graduated from music college after being encouraged - in a dramatic reversal of the stereotypical pattern - to drop out of a Physics and Philosophy degree by her mother, Gretel is already finding notable new supporters to her chosen path. While studying she struck up a relationship with Alex Crossan, better known as Mura Masa, who was involved in the creation of both ‘Slugeye’ and ‘Drive’. And with more exciting projects hurtling down the pipeline in 2023, Gretel can expect that Alex is just the first of her high-profile contemporaries that wants in on the action. DIY
“WHEN YOU’RE IN YOUR COMFORT
Z ONE FOR A LITTLE TOO LONG, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING THAT EXCITES YOU.” YOU.”
All the buzziest new music happenings in one place.
“The album is named Amelia, my full first name, as there are two sides of me that I want people to get to know,” she says. “There’s Amelia, the girl from the UK countryside who loves to be at home with her family, friends, and dogs; and Mimi, the pop artist who loves to be up on stage travelling the world. It was important for me to capture this duality with songs written for both of those girls, and I’m excited for you all to get to know them!”
Every week on Spotify, we update DIY’s Neu Playlist with the buzziest, freshest faces. Here’s our pick of the best new tracks:
OLIVIA DEAN - DANGER Olivia Dean may well be concerned she’s in danger, but the only risk here is not being able to take her latest track off repeat. ‘Danger’ is a groove-heavy, heart-on-sleeve track which places her soft-toned vocals front and centre; with heavy bossa nova influences and a playful tale of plunging headfirst into love, it’s a glorious, trumpet-laden return that solidifies Olivia’s justified buzz.
CAUGHT IN HER WEBB Breakthrough pop talent MIMI WEBB has announced plans for her full-length debut. ‘Amelia’ is set to arrive on 3rd March via Epic Records and follows a hugely successful run from the singer which has seen her become the first British female artist since Dua Lipa to land two Top 15 singles before releasing an album.
ROBOT ROCK Following on from last year’s acclaimed ‘Imposter’ EP, MISS GRIT - aka Korean-American musician Margarent Sohn - will drop her debut album ‘Follow The Cyborg’ on 24th February 2023, via Mute. The release comes preceded by St. Vincent-esque single ‘Like You’, which draws from the robotic notions of her album title. “I had the character of Ex Machina in mind as the voice I was singing from,” she explains. “Her arc in the movie felt really beautiful to me, and I wanted to reach the same ending as her in this song.” Listen to ‘Like You’ on diymag.com now.
T APE PLAYER Following a year that’s seen her support My Chemical Romance and traverse the country’s festival circuit, emo-pop-rock favourite CASSYETTE is set to embark on a headline tour of Europe next spring. Taking in eight UK dates and eight dates around the continent, she’ll kick off in Liverpool on 10th March before stopping off at London’s Electric Ballroom and finishing in Milan on 6th April. The tour will follow this month’s ‘Sad Girl’ EP, featuring singles ‘September Rain’, ‘Sad Girl Summer’ and ‘Dead Roses’.
STONE - MONEY (HOPE AIN’T GONE) Naming a song ‘Money (Hope Ain’t Gone)’ is certainly a brave move in the current climate, but if any new band could get away with it, it’d be swaggering scousers STONE. Channelling down into present day anxieties and the question of our collective future, their melting pot of post-punk and Britpop gives everything a much bolder, optimistic edge; maybe proving hope remains, after all.
SPLINT - 145 Cracked yet enticing, the vocals of Giulia Bonometti and Jake Bogacki drive Splint’s latest while fighting the emotional headwinds which carry it to its peak. Allowing the band to provide commentary on the human condition - how society is united yet also divided, and how we often go through life without paying too much attention to the people around us - ‘145’ proves that we never really allow ourselves to be seen as vulnerable.
BLONDSHELL CARTOON EARTHQUAKES A careful balance of realism and metaphor sits at the core of ‘Cartoon Earthquakes’: it’s only Blondshell’s fourth release, but already her woozy balancing act defines her appeal. The LA songwriter calls it the musical equivalent of “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”, and she turns all the playful uncertainty and hope of that silly, familiar question into something gorgeous and evocative.
Want to stream our Neu playlist while you’re reading? Scan the code now and get listening.
HEART 24 DIYMAG.COM
is “We’ve never felt part of a scene, we don’t want to be, but it does make us harder to package and sell.” - Alloysious Massaquoi
Existing in a boundaryless musical world of their own making, YOUNG FATHERS stand as one of the most creative, vital bands of their generation. Returning with fourth album ‘Heavy Heavy’, the Scottish trio are channelling that alchemy into a record that puts human connection at the fore. Words: Patrick Clarke. Photos: Fiona Garden. Art Direction / Design: Louise Mason.
oung Fathers’ studio space is a complete mess. The floor of the small basement room is strewn with loose cables, stray pieces of soundproofing foam, discarded instruments and unidentifiable detritus. The windowless walls are scattered with crumpled pictures printed out and tacked to them – one displays an image of some distant galaxy, some are heavily stylised monochrome portraits, others show crowds engaged in different acts of collective ritual or communion. In the background, an unidentified piece of apparatus emits a quiet but constant static hiss, as if the room is poised to burst back into cacophony at any moment. On the whiteboard, meanwhile, are stickman sketches of a potential stage setup, and half rubbed out above it is the title of the new record that the Edinburgh trio made among this jumble of influences: ‘Heavy, Heavy’. The hub has the atmosphere of a living room belonging to a group of precocious art students, creative energy humming in the spaces where order has been removed. This, says the band’s Graham Hastings, is the point. “These kinds of surroundings are more comfortable,” he says. “It feels organic, authentic to us,” adds his bandmate Alloysious Massaquoi. Kayus Bankole puts it more plainly. “You can hit stuff as hard as you want to,” he exclaims with a grin. After the long and tortuous studio process for Young Fathers’ last record - 2018’s ‘Cocoa Sugar’ - this time, the band wanted to foster spontaneity. “Graham set up the studio so we can all put our hands on stuff, hit things, play things, and see things happen instantaneously,” says Kayus. To demonstrate, before his bandmate has even finished speaking, Alloysious spots a knackered lap steel guitar among the detritus and begins playing. It’s out of tune and half of the strings are broken, the noise he makes is a discordant drone, but even now his playing is thrillingly intense. As much as possible during the sessions, they avoided retakes and didn’t worry about overspill or feedback in the background. The smallness of the studio meant that when the mics were rolling, even a distracted murmur in the corner or a rhythmic stomp of feet could be picked up and used. “When you get that kind of freedom in a creative space, that’s something you just can’t beat,” Alloysious says. “It’s gold dust.” At points ‘Heavy Heavy’ fizzes with more energy than anything the band have done before. Second single ‘I Saw’ is anchored to a pulsing, galvanising beat, all three trading vocals that spill out over one another in their eagerness to be heard. Tracks that slip back into slower tempos, meanwhile, are majestic, brimming at the seams with an emotion that sometimes erupts into overwhelming, joyous crescendos.
aving worked with one another for two decades, after meeting as teenagers at a hip hop club, Young Fathers are aware of how special the product can be when their energies are given so much room to combine. The diversity in those energies is what makes it so fruitful; in conversation Graham is cerebral and analytical, Alloysious speaks in passionate sprawls, while Kayus spends much of his time restlessly thinking before entering the conversation in a sudden charge. “We’re disparate and splintered, we don’t agree on a lot, but the music is where it meets and where it works,” Graham says. The three musicians took a significant amount of time away from one another following the arduous touring schedule for ‘Cocoa Sugar’, so by the time they returned, that clash of energies was even brighter and more intense than ever. “We came back together with so many more ideas, more engagement, cherishing the moments we took for granted before,” says Kayus. He spent the downtime travelling in Africa and gathering inspiration, while Graham had his first child, giving him “a whole new lease of life.” Given the amount they poured into it, however, it is notable that ‘Heavy Heavy’ is so short. It contains ten tracks, none of which are much longer than three minutes. It is called ‘Heavy Heavy’ because it is dense, not because it is big, Alloysious points out. “It’s about the essence of what you’re trying to do or say. You base it on spontaneity, but then you have to package it, put it in a box that will then allow that spontaneity to cut right through.” Conciseness makes for a more intense impact, he argues. Having captured a feeling, they push as far as they can within those constraints “until it's totally maxed out.” Then, crucially, they know exactly when to stop. “Say what you need to say, then leave,” he continues. “Do you need anything more? Nope? So end the song there. That makes people want to hear it again.” In many ways, Graham notes, Young Fathers are still the teenage boyband they formed at that club, writing their own pop tracks and dance routines while everyone else was rap battling. “We love a pop song,” he says. “All of us are of a different upbringing and cultural education, but that’s how we came together. It’s still rooted in a chorus, a rap, then a chorus again. For us, hooks have always been essential.” “In pop music, you need to cut through the fluff,” Kayus adds. And on ‘Heavy Heavy’, they leaned into these roots consciously, avoiding outside collaborators and keeping things strictly between the three of them. “It’s the first time we’ve been in that formation since we were 14, in a bedroom on a karaoke machine,” Graham smiles.
f course, it is more than just pop music that informs Young Fathers’ work, which on ‘Heavy Heavy’ encompasses communal chanting, energising electronic rhythms, staccato hip hop bars, moments of serene psychedelic bliss, experimental vocal sampling, soulful introspection and more. In fact, genre descriptors in general tend to fall short. The three men sometimes play bingo with the various ways journalists have described them, Graham tells us: “The latest was ‘experimental rock trio’; I didn’t mind that one.” For Alloysious, tying them down to genre feels pointless. “When I listen to music, the stuff I’m into is the stuff where I feel like I can swim in it. It’s not so rigid.” He punches his
palm for emphasis. “Not so blocky. I enjoy old school biblical films - Ben Hur and Jason And The Argonauts - where there’s so much texture and imagination that I can move around in it. If we’re doing a song and I can feel it just hitting me in the head, I can’t get into it. I want to create textures that allow the listener to imagine themselves cocooned within it.” Graham admits, however, that he gets frustrated when Young Fathers’ process is described as a mash-up of different styles. “We don’t go in and go, ‘What’s everyone listening to? Drill? Rap? Let’s take all those components’,” he says sharply. Instead, he argues that their work is probably best viewed as the exact opposite: a stripping back of generic and geographical boundaries in search of the inherent, universal power at the core of it all. “With this album there was a lot of analysis on an ancient kind of level. When you look at streams of music from around the world – Aboriginal Australians using didgeridoos, or drones in Celtic music, or this documentary I saw about this little community in Louisiana on the edge of mainline society – there’s this string that goes across all of them that’s since turned into pop music, and even stuff like Kraftwerk,” he enthuses. “It’s stripping things right down to the bare bones. There’s something that all humans need to soothe themselves.” Adds Alloysious: “You can trace it back to Africa. Back to the source.” The conundrum, Alloysious continues, “is how do you define that? You can’t, but you know it when you see it.” You could call it music’s ‘soul’, Graham argues, if only the word wasn’t taken. “People would probably expect us to come up and do some Temptations songs,” he notes, wryly. For Kayus, “it’s a feeling, an emotion, forcing humanity into what you’re doing; forcing soul into yourself in order to release.” Graham says that often, to bolster the presence of that ‘soul’ in their music, they will imagine a person to focus their attention on. “To have a human face or to use a human in a video cuts straight through to that main vein: What do humans like? We like to hear other humans, we like to see other humans.”
bove all else, ‘Heavy Heavy’ is an outward-facing record. It is full of calls and responses, chanting that invites you to join in, simple rhythms that compel you to move along with them. Part of Young Fathers’ focus on spontaneity in the studio was an effort to mirror the kind of energy that they reach at their live shows – “unbridled, raw, visceral,” as Alloysious puts it – and most of all it brings the communal aspect of their performances to the fore. Seeing Young Fathers live can be collective in its joy; ‘Heavy Heavy’ seeks the same level of power. A cynic might fear that the warmth of the record means a blunting of Young Fathers’ confrontational edge - the kind of spirit with which they gave their second album the provocative title ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’, or agreed to soundtrack a Nestlé advertisement only to compose a song that protested the company’s aggressive marketing of baby milk powder in the developing world (the commission fell through; had it gone ahead, they were planning on spending the fee on an anti-Nestlé billboard campaign). At a time where the fabric of Britain is unravelling – we speak in the middle of the weeklong gap between Liz Truss’ resignation as Prime Minister after 45 calamitous days in office, and Rishi Sunak’s ascent as her unelected successor – is it not a little unusual that Young Fathers should be making the most uplifting music of their career? It's not as if the band have switched off. “I mean, where do we fucking start?” Graham exclaims when politics is raised. “It feels like we’re at a fucking dire point for humanity.” It was inevitable that the way in which society has declined so dramatically since they last released a record would inform ‘Heavy Heavy’, he says, it’s just that their response to it is one of defiant joy rather than anger. As Kayus puts it: “To go against everything – to me that’s extremely political. We’ve delivered something overdosed with humanity. It doesn’t get more political than that.” They did not write the refrain on galvanising recent single ‘I Saw’ – “Brush your teeth, wash your face, keep on walking the line” – to be an explicit political statement (“To us, the words just sounded interesting together”), but afterwards Alloysious realised it was a chant of resistance, a tribute to the power of keeping
We’ve never felt part of a scene, we don’t want to be, but it does make us harder to package and sell.” - Alloysious Massaquoi
We’re disparate and splintered, we don’t agree on a lot, but the music is where it works.” -
THE STORY SO FAR 2008: Young Fathers is born at a teenage hip hop club, with Graham, Alloysious and Kayus writing their own original pop hits (complete with dance routines) to the bafflement of their rap-battling peers. 2013: Young Fathers, after a ferocious and soulful change of direction, release not one but two acclaimed mixtapes, ‘TAPE ONE’ and ‘TAPE TWO’. The gorgeous and emotive ‘I Heard’ from the latter will endure as one of their biggest tracks. 2014: Debut album proper ‘Dead’ wins the prestigious Mercury Prize ahead of Damon Albarn, Jungle, Royal Blood, and bookies’ favourite FKA twigs. 2015: The provocativelytitled ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’ arrives. Rather than cement their status by hammering the domestic touring circuit, Young Fathers embark on a tour across Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa. 2018: The poppier and more accessible ‘Cocoa Sugar’ makes it three universally acclaimed Young Fathers albums on the trot, and wins them Scottish Album of The Year. 2022: After almost half a decade away, Young Fathers’ long-awaited return comes in the form of expansive and emotional single ‘Geronimo’, then the galvanising pump of ‘I Saw’, with ‘Heavy Heavy’ due in 2023.
We’ve delivered something overdosed with humanity. It doesn’t get more political than that.” - Kayus Bankole going. “We did a song about Brexit!” he exclaims. If the essence of music they try to extract can be called ‘soul’, “one of the most radical things you can do at this point is have a bit of soul,” Graham argues.
songs and dance routines while everyone else at the club “was trying to rap battle and calling each other the most dire names under the sun,” as Graham puts it, was in many ways a rebuke to alpha male energy.
For all their provocative inclinations in the past, Young Fathers’ most powerful statements are those that they make quietly, their refusal to subscribe to traditional ideals of masculinity for instance. The night before our conversation, Alloysious recalls how a female friend commented on how often the band are physically close with one another in press photographs, and how strange she found it to see three men acting that way with one another. “Most men don’t do that thing unless there’s a problem, or if they’re drunk or watching a football game,” he points out. It’s been there from the start – performing original pop
Kayus, who spent part of his childhood in Nigeria, has always been struck by the cultural differences when it comes to male relationships. There, he says, “I was holding hands with my schoolmates to walk down to the shops. Here, that’s just not a thing, there’s an apprehension to being that open.” It comes back to the release they seek through communal experiences, “letting loose of everything that’s holding you back from expression, not worried about fashion or being cool, just liberated to the max,” he says.
“We’ve always said, thank fuck we make music,” adds Graham. “Thank fuck we can express ourselves.” The band regularly reminisce about one incident in which they got speaking to a man who had been a street fighter. “He was a big lad,” Alloysius recalls. “Graham and I grew up with people like him; he was repressed and bottled up, he didn’t know how to have that outlook.” By exposing him to their music in all its emotional expression, however, they managed to forge an intense human connection. “Maybe we caught him at a vulnerable moment or something, but he saw something in us and thought, ‘That’s in me too’,” Alloysious continues. “He’s had to build himself up in this masculine sort of way to find his self-worth, but speaking to us and having an open and candid conversation, he ended up breaking down in tears.”
he simple fact of Young Fathers’ continued existence as a band is a statement in itself. “We’ve always had to work hard,” Graham says. “There’s the avant-garde, creative side to what we do, but then there’s also the side to us of being three working-class people. For us, making music is not a luxury, it’s not a lifestyle. If we’re not making money, we have to go and get another job.” When they won the Mercury Prize in 2014 for their debut album ‘Dead’, the most important impact it had on their career was not increased sales or bigger festival bookings, but the fact that the people closest
began to realise the commercial viability of their art. “The best thing about that award was that it legitimised us to our family and friends,” says Alloysius. “We’ve never felt part of a scene, we don’t want to be, but it does make us harder for the label to package and sell,” he continues. Kayus points out that there are often racist undertones to the way they’re perceived. “Sometimes we’re not Black enough. Not ‘urban’ enough,” he says. When they first travelled to America, their television bookings were mainly for rap shows; audiences loved it, but they “never got a call back.” He and Alloysious, the band’s other Black member, recall the multiple times they have been mis-captioned as each other in photographs. It’s a source of frustration that their refusal to conform to genre has meant that mainstream pop platforms have been reluctant to feature them. “Why doesn’t 1Xtra play us?” asks Graham. “It’s not perfect enough to fit in there,” answers Alloysious. “But if they just played us, people would like it!” On the other hand, however, the band are proud of their outsider status. “The diversity of people that come to our shows is cool,” says Kayus. “It’s a big middle finger to fashion. Fuck fashion. Fuck being cool. Fuck everything that puts you behind a fucking fence.” ‘Heavy Heavy’ is out 3rd February via Ninja Tune. DIY
MODER “I’m just very Skins world. That should be the genre!”
“I’m surrounded by super strong, feisty women, and I needed to represent that in my music.”
MIXING MYSTICAL MUSINGS WITH REAL LIFE CONCERNS, CONNIE CONSTANCE IS EMBODYING THE SPIRIT OF ‘MISS POWER’ IN ALL ITS MYRIAD WAYS.
like the idea we might all be
descendants of elves and stuff,” Connie Constance smiles over an oat cappuccino. “You might have a bit of fairy blood in you, or elf blood, or you’ve got a bit of troll in you! I like the idea that, instead of them being different things, we actually were them at one point…”
This mystical theory is one that Connie has embraced throughout her life, from her mother giving her cakes to Words: Elly Watson. Photos: Eva Pentel. offer to fairies at the end of the garden when she was younger, to living her full elf fantasy in our DIY photo shoot earlier today. It’s also a theme that manifests itself within her music, especially on forthcoming new album ‘Miss Power’.
With A Little Help From Her Friends At the end of last year we played the album to all of my mates in the studio that we made it. That was the best moment. It was winter and we made mulled wine! They’ve been along with me for this whole journey. All of my mates have had out there dreams compared to where we came from, and at the end of last year we all felt like things were starting to change for us, so having that moment at the end of the year to listen to the tunes and see what everyone’s been up to was so nice.
On the record’s whimsical opening track ‘In The Beginning’, Connie introduces the listener to a 1000-year-old fairy waking up in the modern world. “If they were frozen in ice and they melted and they were in our world now, how would they feel about it?” she muses. “The world has completely changed. It’s not this beautiful, connected thing anymore; there’s a lot of drama and trauma going on. When I’m listening to the album, for me, I am definitely imagining that I am [the fairy], but this fairy is thousands and thousands of years old when the world was just trees. It could have melted right here in Shoreditch and been like, ‘What the fuck is going on?!’” Heading to the New Forest while making the album, Connie recorded the sounds around her as she ran through the trees in order to fully immerse the listener in the world she wanted to create. But ‘Miss Power’ is not all about delicate, fairy-leaning mysticism. Beginning work on the release back in 2020, the follow-up to her 2019 debut LP ‘English Rose’ also finds Connie fully embracing the indie sound that she’s always wanted to explore. It’s the genre that she’s always gravitated to, growing up loving bands like Arctic Monkeys and Blur, but when she first started out in music, outside forces began pushing her towards creating R&B. “It was just confusing,” she recalls. “I would explain my influences but I’d be working with someone that makes completely opposite music because that’s what [the label] had set up. I was like, ‘I need to find my people and I need to find my sound’. I took the power and was like, ‘I need to sort this out’. I couldn’t be relying on people to put me in sessions because they were always going towards the R&B, pop way.”
Eventually blocking her A&R and leaving her label, Connie found herself in a state of limbo, questioning whether she should continue making music at all. “When I first started making music, I was like, I could do this broke, happy, sad, and everything just flowed. But then when I got signed, it all felt rigid,” she explains. “I didn’t believe in everything that I was doing so it all felt wrong, and when I left the label I was like, ‘This all doesn’t feel smooth’ and got into the state of [thinking] maybe I shouldn’t be doing this? Maybe I need to do something completely different. Which is fine - but what the fuck is that?”
elocating to LA to work with like-minded musicians before the pandemic, Connie returned with a newly-refreshed energy and her mojo fully restored. Embracing her newfound sense of creative freedom, it all clicked when she made 2020’s sizzling single ‘Monty Python’. “It was the first track I released independently and I was like, ‘This is it!’” she laughs. “That was the start of my development in sound.” Continuing to experiment, by the time she penned last year’s ‘Prim & Propa’ EP, she knew she was ready to make an album.
we can be in this other state, and that’s kind of good.” Including her favourite lyric - “Mental illness in a feather boa” - she continues: “There’s so much talk about how everyone wants to love themselves and self-love is so important, and it’s good, it’s healthy, but when you’re in that bad place it’s not that glamorous and a selfhelp book really isn’t going to solve the issue. The feather boa is like, ‘Yeah, self-love!’, but actually, mental illness fucking sucks.” Taking the listener on a magical journey from start to finish, ‘Miss Power’ finds Connie embracing her freedom and creating a raw body of work that’s not afraid to get
Citing Florence + The Machine, Daughter and Fiona Apple as her main influences during the creation of ‘Miss Power’, Connie aimed to tap into their energies, also noting how she’d watch videos of Gwen Stefani performing with No Doubt to hype her up. Meanwhile, another inspiration came in the form of everyone’s favourite teen drama. “It’s always got to have a bit of Skins!” she smiles. “I don’t know when this phase is going to end, maybe the next album, but I’m just very Skins world. That should be the genre!” That confident, no fucks given attitude is most notable on thunderous album track ‘Kamikaze’, with its screaming intro reminiscent of The 1975’s ‘People’. On it, Connie tells the listener: “I’m not your perfect little princess, I have my own unique vagina”. “Sometimes, something will come into my head and I’m like, that’s really funny but should I put it in a song or just enjoy it in my own head?” she giggles. “I was actually making the song with two of my boys and they were like ‘What, Connie?! Are you really gonna say that?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, we’re gonna say that!’ “I knew that I wanted a feminist anthem, that was essential,” she continues. “I’m surrounded by super strong, feisty women, and I needed that energy to be out there and I needed to represent that in my music. That was a strong thing throughout the album - if someone is getting ready in the morning and they put on that tune and they’re like, ‘Yes, I am a bad bitch!’. That was really important.” Elsewhere, Connie gets more personal, pinpointing ‘Heavyweight Champion’ with its bridge of “I don’t know why I wait for something new/ When I will change but you’ll always be you” as a prime example of her letting the listener in. “I’ve been wanting to write a song about my dad for ages,” she notes. “I wanted to write this song about how we’ll never actually be able to forgive because of mental health. What he’s going through, we’ll never be able to be great, which is sad. But
deep whilst making you dance. “With my music I want people to listen to it when they’re going through something and not feel the pressure to feel better if they’re not ready,” she explains. “That’s why I write songs, because sometimes I just need something to soundtrack this space and not shift me out of it. “[The album] has quite a scope of energy,” she adds. “I do want [the listener] to go through this journey, but I feel like it’s more about feeling. I want the naughtiness, and also this euphoric sense of freedom.” ‘Miss Power’ is out now via PIAS. DIY
“I’m surrounded by super strong, feisty women, and I needed to represent that in my music.”
LET’S EAT GRANDMA
THE SOFT MOON
ALICE PHOEBE LOU
MR TWIN SISTER
TORO Y MOI
FRIZZI 2 FULCI
GRAHAM COXON IN CONVERSATION
!!! (CHK CHK CHK)
COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS
BOY & BEAR
THE DREAM SYNDICATE
NATION OF LANGUAGE
FATHER JOHN MISTY
03 OCTOBER The Lexington 06 OCTOBER Heaven 07 OCTOBER Islington Assembly Hall 08 OCTOBER EartH 10 OCTOBER Moth Club
12 OCTOBER Hackney Church 12 OCTOBER The Lexington 12 OCTOBER Moth Club
13 OCTOBER Alexandra Palace 14 OCTOBER Heaven
14 OCTOBER The Lower Third 15 OCTOBER Hackney Church
17 OCTOBER The Lexington 18 OCTOBER Lafayette
19 OCTOBER KOKO
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27 OCTOBER Hackney Church 28 OCTOBER Union Chapel
29 OCTOBER Islington Assembly Hall 31 OCTOBER Union Chapel
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26 NOVEMBER EartH 01 DECEMBER The Windmill
07 DECEMBER St Pancras Old Church 01 FEBRUARY ‘23 The Slaughtered Lamb 02 FEBRUARY ‘23 Union Chapel 11 FEBRUARY ‘23 Lafayette 15 FEBRUARY ‘23 Cafe Oto
16 FEBRUARY ‘23 The Lexington 01 JANUARY ‘23 Lafayette 07 MARCH ‘23 KOKO
UPCOMING LONDON SHOWS ‘22 & ‘23
08 MARCH ‘23 Omeara
08 MARCH ‘23 The Dome Tufnell Park
09 MARCH ‘23 O2 Academy Brixton
heaven sent BRINGING TOGETHER THREE UNLIKELY MUSICAL BEDFELLOWS, THE RISE AND RISE OF GABRIELS IS PROOF THAT - AS FRONTMAN JACOB LUSK TELLS US - “THERE ARE MORE THINGS THAT MAKE US ALIKE THAN MAKE US DIFFERENT”. Words: Lisa Wright.
irth and death. Cleansing and renewal. Belief in something bigger than you, but also something you create and nurture yourself.
All of these grand ideas come entrenched in the striking, black and white cover art that adorns Gabriels’ recent LP release ‘Angels & Queens - Part 1’, an image of frontman Jacob Lusk kneeling and submerged waisthigh in the river, the hand of his aunt placed gently atop his forehead. But even these widescreen notions don’t quite cover the meaning for the Compton-born vocalist.
“Working with Ari and Ryan has reshaped my whole life; I had never been embraced or loved in this raw way before.” Jacob Lusk
“Working with Ari and Ryan has reshaped my whole life, not just musically but in the sense that I had never been embraced or loved in this raw way before. They’re two men who are very different - one is this white boy from Sunderland, but they were both just like, ‘You’re gonna be yourself and if people don’t like it they can suck rocks’,” he begins. “So to be loved in that way, and then to be able to share my personal stories and live in this very free way was very new to me. So that was also where the [image] came from - of this renewal, this refreshing. The birth of a new thing or the death of an old thing, it was all of those things.” The story goes that producers Ari Balouzian - an LA native - and Brit abroad Ryan Hope found Jacob while searching for a choir to sing on an advert they were creating the music for. Jacob’s aunt (now immortalised on the record’s cover) pushed him to take the job and arrange the parts for his church singing group; when he sent the choir off to do their thing, the two producers went hunting for the man who’d organised it all, turning up the day after at his church and kicking off a friendship that would lead the trio, slowly but surely, to here - with major spots on US and UK television under their belts and a place as one of 2022’s buzziest wordof-mouth new artists cemented. Jacob had had brushes with the limelight before - first as a contestant on American Idol in his early twenties, and then as a backing singer for such luminaries as Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Beck. But Gabriels, from
his first leap of faith onwards, was different. “We became friends who started making music for fun. Ryan had this house in the desert and he was like, ‘Come stay for a week’. And I was like, ‘White man want me to come stay at his house in the desert?! Um, no!’” he gesticulates wildly, voice raising comedically as he becomes more invested in the bit. “Get Out hadn’t come out yet, but this white man asking me to come to the desert by myself?! Hell no! But something in me was like, just go, and I went and it was cool. Then we would meet up every few months and record just for fun for a year or two, and then we wrote a song for this Prada [commercial] and then the ball started rolling from there.”
atching someone so evidently born for the life they currently find themselves in, it’s hard to imagine the frontman as anything but an endless fountain of confidence. Despite having to Zoom in at 9am following a transatlantic flight the day before, he spends an hour with us hooting and cackling his way through a string of anecdotes, intermittently doing impressions of his own early vocal attempts that would make Mariah seem restrained. Meanwhile, watch the video of Jacob joining Harry Styles on stage in Austin during Gabriels’ support tour with the singer, and a Styles-unaware alien would be hard-pressed to guess which was the superstar and which the relative newcomer.
ANGEL OF AN
At the centre of Gabriels’ appeal sits Jacob’s powerhouse, umpteen-octave voice - a naturalborn instrument of wonder. Or was it… “I was not very good [at singing] as a kid. I’d always do too much. I did an audition for this thing where you could win a chance to perform with Stevie Wonder and I remixed ‘Ribbon in the Sky’ and did this whole skat solo and it was absolutely nuts. Looking back on it now, it was crazy! It just made absolutely no sense! [Learning to use your voice is] like a hammer. If you have a hammer you have to get the nail right and learn to hit it the right way as opposed to just POUNDING at the thing. I used to pound at the thing and then the nail would fall out and put a big old dent in the wall, so you have to learn how to put the nail right and use the hammer right. It’s not precisely there yet but it’s pretty damn good.”
This comfort in his own skin, however, has evidently been a hard-won thing; recalling his early days in the industry, he speaks of the kind of stereotyping and pigeonholing that began with him being called ‘Little Luther [Vandross]’ even from his teens. “I had managers telling me, ‘You’re gonna have to lose weight Jacob, they’re not gonna listen to your music [if you’re] fat’. And I was 50 or 60 pounds lighter than I am now,” he remembers. “The kind of crazy conversations I was in where it was like, ‘Are you gay or are you not? You need to make a decision because people wanna know and it’s kind of confusing’. And I was young, I was 21 or 22, so a lot of my experiences made me tell myself a story that that was what I had to be. I thought I had to do R&B, I had to be the messiah, so that’s what you do.” Throughout Gabriels’ music, from the personal narrativequestioning ‘Bloodline’ EP through to the tales of pain and loss that riddle themselves within ‘Angels & Queens’, there’s a goosebump-inducing juxtaposition of strength and fragility - Jacob’s ship-sinking vocal prowess singing out tales of trouble and heartache. It’s a duality that’s at the heart of both the band and the singer himself.
“I had managers telling me, ‘You’re gonna have to lose weight Jacob, they’re not gonna listen to your music [if you’re] fat’.” - Jacob Lusk 38 DIYMAG.COM
“I’m Harry Styles fanning right now but he has this beautiful song called ‘Matilda’ and at the end it says, ‘You can let it go, you can throw a party full of everyone you know, you can start a family who will always show you love’,” he nods. “You can create the life that you want, and I think that was something that resonated really hard with me because I’m living a life that’s very different from my mother and grandmother and everyone else in my family, so how can I do that? I’m breaking the good things and the bad things in my bloodline. But by me identifying it and sharing it, hopefully someone else will see themselves too and realise they don’t have to do or be something [they’re not].”
eaning into everything that he is, and having the true backing of his bandmates, is evidently serving Jacob well. He describes himself as “a different person” since starting Gabriels, and narrates with still-wide eyes the pinch-yourself moments that have come his way in recent months (“When we did James Corden, I had to wake myself up like, ‘Wake up son, [snaps fingers], you have six dancers with you! You’re Beyoncé!”). Having tried to fit into the boxes he was prescribed - attempting to, at a young age, be an opera singer, then a soul singer and a jazz singer - Gabriels have made their own increasingly singular path by being no one thing. Still, he says, even their closest colleagues sometimes don’t quite get it. “We still have these meetings where people are like, so what exactly are you guys?!” he questions. But in an age of playlisting, where it’s increasingly difficult to occupy the grey areas in between, the trio have stamped their territory by virtue of essentially being too talented to ignore. “We did this showcase and I walked into the Warner Records building and the security guards started clapping,” the singer remembers. “One of them was like, honestly your music is not my vibe but I respect it. And I was like, that’s what’s up. To me it’s a compliment - like, OK it’s not for me but I can’t say that shit’s not good.” Next comes the second part of ‘Angels & Queens’ - due for release in early 2023. Completed and including a reworked version of old track ‘Professional’, Jacob describes it as “a little more fun. It’s still pretty dark, even our fast songs are kinda dark, but it’s uplifting though!” But no matter where these new songs sit on the spectrum, the voice at their core is one that’s able to transcend pretty much any boundaries. “Doing the Harry Styles show, I was very nervous. We’re a little old, I'll be honest - don’t tell nobody! but there are all these young screaming girls and I thought, they’re not gonna like this,” he remembers. “So I was very nervous, but they fucked with it hard. Our first night, they lit up the whole stadium with their phones and they were quiet - you could hear a pin drop. And then I was like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be alright. They don’t know us but we’re gonna be good’.” ‘Angels & Queens - Part 1’ is out now via Atlas Artists / Parlophone. DIY
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“As we’re all children of migrants, the idea of going back home means so many different things.” - Stephanie Phillips
Where The Heart Is Exploring ideas of connection and roots via their most sonically progressive work yet, Big Joanie are twisting punk to their own mould. Words: Emma Wilkes. Photos: Emma Swann.
he notion of home, in all its myriad forms, is one that’s been at the forefront of Big Joanie’s minds in recent years. From a more practical standpoint, having built the foundations of their career in London, now two-thirds of the trio - guitarist and vocalist Stephanie Phillips, and drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone - have uprooted to life outside of the M25. “You just feel so displaced as a millennial, especially in big cities like London, not having somewhere you’ll be able to lay down roots and feel connected to, not only [in terms of] having a roof over your head, but with the local area and having a community,” says Stephanie. “It can throw you off and really destabilise you. You just keep getting priced out and have to move further and further out. I was in Catford when I was last in London – moving any further out, you might as well just move out of London.” “London is an amazing city – you can meet great people, there’s great opportunities, but I think there comes a point where, unless you’re on a banker’s salary or you’ve got some inherited wealth from family, you’re forever going to be living as if you were 25, which is what it was starting to feel like,” agrees Chardine. However, while the band (completed by bassist Estella Adeyeri) were thinking about where they wanted home to be, they were also contemplating what that concept truly meant.
Big Joanie’s second album, ‘Back Home’, witnesses them thinking out loud about it all, often with a profound sense of longing. The delightfully warm indie-punk of ‘In My Arms’, for example, is addressed to the feeling of home as if it were a love interest, while the introspective groove of ‘Insecure’ is laced with a sense of angsty envy for the sense of home and stability others have found. Elsewhere, ‘I Will’ takes a sharper approach, glistening with the spirit of resistance against what Stephanie describes as “the callousness of landlordism”. The idea of home, however, gains another dimension when you’re part of a diasporic community, as all three members of Big Joanie are, and this viewpoint is crucial
to the message that their choice of title is designed to reflect. “As we’re all children of migrants, the idea of going back home means so many different things,” explains Stephanie. “We were all born in Britain and so technically Britain is our home, so the idea of going back home could mean going back to your home town. But also, when our parents and grandparents talk about ‘back home’, it’s another country, somewhere in the Caribbean, somewhere in Africa. “That home they talk about isn’t necessarily a home to us because often we’ve not been [there] or haven’t been for years. I don’t know the language, don’t know the culture. It’s about trying to find a home in a world where your home has been taken away from you or changed, or you’ve been torn away from it to the point where you can’t connect with it.”
he trio began piecing together ‘Back Home’ in 2019 with a week-long residency at Sage in Gateshead during which around half the album came together. The second half would take another two years to finish due to a lengthy, pandemic-enforced break, however a couple of songs were written in the interim including darkly folksy opener ‘Cactus Tree’ and the more experimental, Omnichord-led ‘Count To Ten’, which afforded Stephanie a creative break from working on her book, Why Solange Matters. Big Joanie’s career had a slow-burning start; despite forming in 2013, their breakthrough only came in the form of debut album ‘Sistahs’ in 2018. But since then, the trio have built a distinctive and acclaimed voice, winning support from riot grrl legends such as Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney as well as modern punk heroes IDLES. Now emboldened to think bigger, the band set about making their second album even more ambitious, building on the sounds of their debut while also bringing in radically new elements to the mix. “We wanted to be able to use more than just our own individual instruments. We could go into the studio and actually use the studio and become more than just our individual parts,” says Stephanie. It allowed ‘Back Home’ to blossom into the most eclectic punk record that’s emerged from the UK in years, full of sonic plot twists with splashes of synths, drum machines and the aforementioned Omnichord. The end result is no less punk, mind - even if these aren’t the usual sorts of sounds that might crop up in a record associated with the genre. Indeed, punk wasn’t always about the three-chord, rough-andready DIY template we might think of it as today. “When you think about the early punk scene, it wasn’t so musically monocultural at all,” asserts Chardine.
“Someone can sound like the most punk-by-numbers band, but I wouldn’t call them punk if they’re talking absolute bullshit.” - Chardine Taylor-Stone
“You’d have The Clash and the Pistols and what have you, but then you’d have more experimental [bands], people playing with experimental sounds. It wasn’t just about three chords, jumping up and down and cursing about something. It’s about an approach and an attitude and what we say onstage and offstage, and what we do in our own lives as well. Someone can sound like the most punkby-numbers band, but then I wouldn’t call them a punk band if they’re talking absolute bullshit.”
aturally, Big Joanie lead by example. Stephanie has written extensively on topics such as race and gender in punk, alongside other genres such as indie and jazz, while Chardine was the vice chair of the Musician’s Union Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is currently working on a book about Black feminism. Meanwhile, Estella is part of the collective that organises Decolonise Fest, alongside Stephanie, and also works on programmes like Girls Rock London and First Timers Fest, where Big Joanie made their original live debut. “It seemed a no-brainer to be part of those communities, where you’re paying it forward in a sense and enabling other people to have access to those opportunities,” Estella says. It’s particularly vital in a time where the arts are considered unimportant, and careers in the creative industries are treated by the government as a glorified hobby. “It wasn’t even necessarily a conscious decision
[to be a part of it],” she continues. “Somebody has to do it, otherwise how are the next young people going to know how to start bands or where to try a new instrument?” Plenty of artists are happy to talk. When it comes to tackling the scene’s problems, it’s a natural first step. Few of them, however, go quite as far as Big Joanie in taking action against the injustices they speak of. And when there’s no action to back it up, it’s easy for well-meaning words to feel hollow. “There's a lot of stuff going on at the moment with men in bands talking about mental health and feminism, which is really good,” says Chardine, “but I'm also just a bit like, you could have just listened to women in the first place. Why does another bloke need to tell you to treat women well, or to give women space, for you to start thinking about it? Then when you start pressing [for change], it’s like, ‘You’re saying this, but are you actually putting it into practice?’ A lot of them aren’t.” Big Joanie, however, aren’t just talking the talk. They’re a band who embody this ethos of progressive change in everything they do and they’re here to carry punk forwards. ‘Back Home’ is out now via Daydream Library Series. DIY
“The first record showed us that we could go in lots of different directions and with ‘Stumpwork’, we did.” - Lewis Maynard 44 DIYMAG.COM
Since the release of their acclaimed debut album, Dry Cleaning have been on a
Cleaning giddy upwards trajectory. But while the world around the London quartet has
dramatically changed, follow-up ‘Stumpwork’ is as singularly idiosyncratic as ever. Words: Max Pilley. Photos: Eva Pentel.
ry Cleaning were in the middle of an early recording session for their second album at Monmouthshire’s Rockfield Studios late in 2021 when vocalist Florence Shaw was stopped in her tracks. While perusing her phone during a quiet moment, she happened across a flurry of Album of the Year lists that all featured her band’s debut ‘New Long Leg’ in giddily high positions (including a Number Three placement on our very own).
“It was a bit of a surprise,” she now admits. “I think in my mind, I’ve always had this idea that the audience for what we do is quite niche, and it was harder to imagine that after some of those lists. I had to take a minute to quiet some nerves after that.” For the quartet, the relative social inaction of the pandemic period had partially shielded them from the full reality of their precipitous rise. However, to the outside world, Dry Cleaning had quickly become one of the UK’s most talismanic new bands - a lightning rod for post-punk revivalism, their trademark aloofness somehow capturing something of the spirit of their age. Florence’s deadpan, expressionistic lyrics, spoke-sung with a freeform, stream of subconsciousness logic, were a primary reason for ‘New Long Leg’’s heady acclaim. But with attention now drawn to how well-received her writing had become, the job of penning a new set of tracks suddenly seemed to have become more complicated. “Obviously, your mind starts to drift towards the
people listening instead of just trying to express yourself and please yourself, which is always what I’m doing when I write,” she explains. “I don’t really think about the audience, not very much anyway. I think I write better things that way. So that became a little tricky.” It doesn’t show. The resulting album, ‘Stumpwork’, released last month on 4AD, sees Florence’s lyrics and persona return entirely intact; if anything, her surreal, non-sequitur storytelling has turned even more abstract. From the Emporio Armani builders that pop up on ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’ to the young couple clinging to a bundle of trash on the title track, ‘Stumpwork’ is brimming full of madcap details and bizarre imagery. Musically, too, Dry Cleaning are leaning into their weirdness more than ever. The track ‘Hot Penny Day’ finds them embracing a deep funk groove that they see as borrowing from hip hop crate diggers like Madlib, while ‘Driver’s Story’ is a languid, patient, strung-out cut that shows off a band hitting confident, full strides for perhaps the first time. As bassist Lewis Maynard puts it, “The first record showed us that we could go in lots of different directions and with ‘Stumpwork’, we did. We went more extreme jangle pop, more extreme stoner rock, more extreme ambient.” “On the first record, you’re in your head a lot, thinking every take has to be perfect, whereas second time around, you do trust the process a lot more,” adds guitarist Tom Dowse. “You look at the bigger picture and realise that you can’t always be looking at all the little details.”
tumpwork’ stands as one of the most anticipated album releases of the year, but also one of the most satisfying. For all the tweaks, this is still a record with Dry Cleaning’s now-familiar character written into its every orifice. “We’ve met some of our heroes and been able to have conversations with some of them about what we do,” says Tom. “But as a band, the way we work, the way we relate to each other, it’s just the same. We still write in the same way, the dynamic is the same.”
Nein DANKE “Oh my god, that word needs to die!”
Such is Florence Shaw’s exclamation at the mere mention of the word ‘sprechgesang’. Defined as a style of dramatic vocalisation intermediate between speech and song, it has become one of the dominant strains of current British guitar music vocalists, from Wet Leg to Yard Act, and Black Country, New Road to Sinead O’Brien. “It’s just obviously having a moment, isn’t it,” she continues, calming down. “And so people who are doing it are getting a bit more attention. I think largely speaking, it’s creative to take a different approach to fronting a band, and that can only be a good thing. And it is kind of accessible, you know? Singing can be quite daunting; it’s like drawing, people are quite afraid of it. A lot of sprechgesang is wonderful. My main thing with it is that no one can say it.”
Florence’s delivery, for one, is as distinctive as ever. At select moments on ‘Gary Ashby’ and ‘Don’t Press Me’, however, she allows a delicate, sonorous singing voice to break out. “It’s just a different ingredient to add,” she notes. “My singing has a different quality to my more spoken word stuff - to me at least. I’m not a skilled singer, so that’s got a certain quality; it’s a bit more vulnerable sounding, maybe. If that’s what I want to introduce to a song, that’s where I’ll go with it. Or sometimes I’ll use singing for bits that are more silly somehow. There are all sorts of reasons, but I really enjoy it.” Florence collects fragments of incomplete thoughts and jotted notes of passing inner reflections over the course of her day, whether on a bus trip to a flea market as on ‘Kwenchy Kups’ or on her short walks around Bristol. The overall effect is often that of discombobulation, but with specific details of everyday life sprinkled throughout. With the occasional inclusion of familiar contemporary sentiments (“Nothing works, everything’s expensive and opaque and privatised,” she intones on ‘Anna Calls From The Arctic’), Florence nevertheless tempts us into reading a broader message into her songs. If anything, her disjointed lyrics serve as a perfect accompaniment to our increasingly bewildering modern life. At a time when one is expected to make sense of incomprehensible things like the Bank of England’s asset sales and the rate of maturity of gilt bonds, there is something strangely comforting in Florence’s scattershot, frenetic writing; it brings solace to believe that somewhere among all her mayhem lie the answers we crave. And even better, unlike the inhospitable hard realities of real life, with Dry Cleaning, whatever truth you choose to find is as legitimate as any other. “It’s really up to the listener,” she says, reassuringly. “Lots of people talk to us about the possible meanings of the songs. And then there are lots of people who think they’re about nothing, or that they’re random. And I’m
“If there’s an overarching message, it would be wanting people to feel that individual minds are interesting and valid.” - Florence Shaw
kind of fine with all of the above, I don’t really mind however people want to take them. Occasionally, people understand exactly what I meant, but I don’t write them to be very, very clearly understood. If there is an overarching message, it would be something like just wanting people to feel that individual minds are interesting and valid, as opposed to anything about politics or life specifically.”
he same principle extends to the entire band. Dry Cleaning evidently aren’t prescriptive about how a listener is supposed to feel when responding to their music, believing instead that the best connection is made when both parties are in on the conversation. “Our kind of messaging is not really about directness or being candid,” explains Tom,. “It’s not necessarily about saying, ‘I feel this way and you should feel this way’. It’s more a style of performance that allows the listener to complete the song.” Just occasionally, though, things actually are just as they seem. ‘Gary Ashby’ tells a very straightforward and sweet tale of a titular family tortoise that has gone missing; “Have you seen Gary?” sings Florence. “Are you stuck on your back without me?” Any listeners hoping that the song is another of Dry Cleaning’s arch, ironic flights of fancy might be surprised to hear that Gary is very real. “We don’t know what happened to him,” she says. “There was a lost poster for him near my mum’s house during lockdown that said ‘Gary Ashby’ with a little picture and rip-off phone numbers at the bottom. We don’t know any more than that. I kind of hope they hear the song, I hope they don’t mind.” If these stories seem to point to a whimsical writing and recording process, then conversely there were great sadnesses for the band during that period, too. Tom’s grandfather passed away, as did Lewis’ mother Susan, whose home had lent its name to early EP ‘Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks’, indicating just how central she was to the band’s life. In fact, she was in hospital at the time of their debut appearance on Later...with Jools Holland in March 2021. She would pass away just one week after the release of ‘New Long Leg’, but she saw its eyewatering rise to Number Four on the UK Albums Chart. “It’s hard to judge where it comes out,” says Lewis about the impact of her passing on ‘Stumpwork’. “I always try to react positively to negative situations and try to find the best in it, but it’s obviously a huge influence on the record. It’s been a big part of our lives.” It’s clear that Dry Cleaning are a united and close-knit group of friends, and of all their contemporaries, they must number among the least likely to fall for the trappings of their success. “We’ve been gigging a lot,” says Lewis, “and if anything’s going to humble you, it’s an airport.” “We all see it as being very important to keep our feet on the ground, but often you don’t have to work very hard to do that,” adds drummer Nick Buxton. Suffice to say, when they formed the band just four years ago, the quartet could never have expected all this. But with ‘Stumpwork’ likely to draw similar accolades to its predecessor, it would seem that Dry Cleaning are going to have to get used to their new status. “It feels like a privilege that people care so much about our band, and that they spend so much of their time thinking about it,” says Tom. “We’ve got some amazing fans and we’ll never not be grateful for that.” ‘Stumpwork’ is out now via 4AD. DIY
And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain of 2022. And while, in a wider sense, the year will be remembered as a political and economical conveyor belt of shit, when it comes to music, hey - it was pretty fun tbh! So let’s focus on the latter with a little help from our friends: Goat Girl’s Lottie and Ellie, Phoebe Green, Jelani Blackman and Willie J Healey. In classic endof-year style, we gathered them for a cuppa and a conflab, to discuss their personal highs and some of the year’s biggest musical talking points. Over to them, then… Interview: Lisa Wright. Photos: Louise Mason.
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So guys, let’s kick things off nicely with your personal highlights from the year. Jelani Blackman I played Glastonbury for the first time! I played three times in Shangri La, Rum Shack and in the drum’n’bass bit. Willie J Healey I went for the first time this year and really loved it even though I was staying in a one-man tent and had to get changed outside the tent - that was a bit of an oversight… I haven’t been to that many festivals… Jelani It’s the best one. You know how some programmes only get good on the third series cos they’ve worked out their kinks? That’s how I feel about Glastonbury. It’s got better every time I’ve gone because you get used to it. Phoebe Green The first time I went was with my parents so I’ve definitely figured it out more since then… Have you had any mad Glasto moments while at The World’s Greatest Festival™? Willie I went to see my friends in IDLES play and they asked if I wanted to get up and sing a song with them, which was ‘All You Need Is Love’. They pulled me out and I sang it but I really ruined the song; I hadn’t realised they all had in-ears in, so I went out and they handed me a microphone and I couldn’t hear anything in front of this really big crowd. Jelani That sounds like a set up. Lottie, Goat Girl That’s what happened to Stormzy when he headlined Glastonbury, part-way through he couldn’t hear anything and he had to feel the rhythm through the stage and just go with it. Willie, we heard a certain Mr. Jamie T hopped on stage with you at your recent London show… Willie It was pretty cool! Jamie is someone I loved when I was younger, and then I met him and he leant me this drum machine in lockdown and I wrote a whole album using it. I wrote this song for him as a joke and sent it to him and he asked to sing on it. It was all really silly, and he got on stage with us recently; it was sweet because he looked quite nervous. I was there thinking, this is quite mad. 14-year-old me would have probably shat my pants to think that Jamie was gonna be there. Who would be people’s dream collaborators? Phoebe James Blake would be mine, I think. Jelani I’d like to get Kendrick on a track. You’ve already sung on a track with
WHO: Goat Girl vocalist Lottie and guitarist Ellie. NOTABLE MOMENT OF 2022: Supporting basically every big tour of the year: Sam Fender, Foals, Metronomy, the list goes on…
MEET THE GANG
WHO: Willie J Healey NOTABLE MOMENT OF 2022: Starting the campaign trail towards LP3 with a London show complete with Jamie T guest appearance.
WHO: Phoebe Green NOTABLE MOMENT OF 2022: Putting out instantly joyful, selfeffacing debut LP ‘Lucky Me’.
WHO: Jelani Blackman NOTABLE MOMENT OF 2022: Following his Gorillaz collab with a track alongside the inimitable Moonchild Sanelly.
WHO: Goat Girl vocalist Lottie and guitarist Ellie. NOTABLE MOMENT OF 2022: Supporting basically every big tour of the year: Sam Fender, Liam Gallagher, Metronomy, the list goes on…
“Asking for photos is so stressful, I don’t know how people do it.” Jelani Blackman
Gorillaz - that’s a dream, surely? Jelani Yeah, they saw a track that I did and reached out. It was sick. I didn’t want to think about it until it was definitely a thing but the moment it clicked was when we played the O2 Arena and we did the soundcheck and there was this guy on the left just vibing. Gorillaz’ band set-up is 15 people, and then for the O2 there were 20 people coming out as features. In my dressing room was me, slowthai, Slaves and this other guy, and I asked him what he was up to and he was like, ‘Oh, I did this tune back in the day called ‘Clint Eastwood’’. Like, that was one of the first raps I ever learnt! The younger me was losing my shit! Has anyone else had any similar pinch me moments this year? Lottie We were lucky enough to support my favourite band ever, Metronomy. The first album they put out was very inspiring to me; it’s him making all these different beats out of found objects and it’s very DIY and lo-fi sounding but with some banging tunes. We supported them and I was just at every soundcheck, at the front for every gig, singing all the words back. Willie Did you get a chance to tell them? Lottie At the afterparty I went up to Joe [Mount], but you can’t ever be cool, can you? You can’t keep it in how much you adore someone. Ellie, Goat Girl But as an artist that’s what you wanna hear more than anything, that you’ve changed someone’s life for the better. We played with Patti Smith as well. We didn’t chat for too long but she was like, ‘Ah man I can vibe to this’. So that was cool that she liked us. And SHE asked US for a photo! Jelani Asking for photos is so stressful, I don’t know how people do it. I’ve only done it once when I went up to Wiley, but there was a whole queue of people and it took me so long because I was waiting and by the time I got there he said no, so I just had to sit down like, cool cool… Phoebe Did that change your view of him a little bit? Jelani It changed my view of myself…
One of 2022’s standout superstars is Self Esteem - how was it touring with her Phoebe? Phoebe Not that I’ve ever been egotistical, but I think it’s made me detach from my ego when I perform so much more. I’m way less concerned about appearing perfect and being an ‘artist’. I really enjoy connecting to a crowd and seeing people take the piss out of themselves if something doesn’t go exactly as planned. The way I write, I use a lot of humour to hide behind how vulnerable things are, so seeing another artist like Self Esteem do that is really reassuring. Lottie We have those moments - not moments, pretty much all the time - of fucking up, but I think it’s really nice when that happens and you give a little look to your bandmate and say something silly into the mic. It makes it real and not this polished thing that I don’t think we’d ever want to be. And segueing to the other side, the masters of modern indie mystique Arctic Monkeys are back with ‘The Car’ - what do we think? Willie The guy I recorded my last album with was part of making ‘The Car’, so when I was recording with him he was playing me mixes of the new Arctic Monkeys album. Jelani Ohhhh it’s called that, I was like, have they got a car on stage?! Willie I remember my initial reaction was like, I really respect this because there aren’t really obvious, classic Arctic Monkeys singles on there and I think, even if you don’t like it, as an artist you respect it because it’s kind of bold and there’s longevity to that. I do like it too, though! What’s the dream trajectory for an artist do you think? Jelani I think about it a lot, and for me it always comes down to, what do you feel like you owe your audience? Whether you owe your audience anything or it’s you indulging your own creativity and where it meets in the middle.
“14-year-old me would have shat my pants to think that Jamie T was gonna be at my gig.” Willie J Healey
“I really enjoy connecting to a crowd and seeing people take the piss out of themselves.” Phoebe Green
“As an artist, what you wanna hear more than anything is that you’ve changed someone’s life for the better.” - Ellie, Goat Girl
Phoebe I’ll respect an artist more if they’re willing to lose fans in order to represent themselves authentically at the time. I’m a massive fan of Tyler, the Creator and I really love how he will switch it up all the time and create a world around each album where the visuals and everything are this whole package. Ellie All that’s constant in a band is the people in it making the music, so you just have to be truthful with yourself about what you create. Lottie I like it when artists just do whatever the fuck they want to do and be bad, whatever ‘bad’ is. I love bands that sound shit - not shit, but bands that are not there to be pandered to, who are weird and rhythmically off and strange. Phoebe When it comes to external validation, that’s when it’s gonna be hard to maintain because what people like changes with trends and trends are so fucking fickle. As long as you back it, I think that’s the main thing. Jelani I only suffer when I have expectations of something and they don’t happen, but that’s the same with other people too. Like with being late, if you’ve known me for five years and you still think I’m gonna be on time, that’s on you! Lottie People always think we’re gonna be late and we’re so punctual. What’s that about? I think it’s sexism. ‘Don’t you need a man to tell you where to be?’ People can’t believe it when we can just do our jobs and be really good at them. And finally - what are our Albums of 2022? Ellie I like Greentea Peng’s record. Phoebe I love the Jockstrap album and also the MUNA album which isn’t that new but it’s still this year. Willie For a while I hadn’t listened to Black Country, New Road and I saw them live and was like, ‘Wow, that’s why everyone’s talking about this band because they’re amazing!’ So probably their new one. Jelani I’ve been listening to the Wet Leg album - I saw them at SXSW and that album’s vibes. With thanks to The Old Blue Last. DIY
TAYLOR SWIFT Midnights (Republic)
ARGUABLY HER MOST CANDID RELEASE TO DATE.
Even with nine albums under her belt and a throng of new fans enticed by the brooding wilderness of her 2020 doubleheader ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, Taylor Swift is kept awake at night. Some reasons resonate widely, packing ‘Midnights’ full of deep-seated self-criticism and insecurity. Some less so, as she sings of hypothetical daughters-in-law killing her in her sleep for the inheritance. Taylor is certainly self-aware, unafraid to step back from the realities of superstardom and living life in the spotlight. “They’re bringing up my history,” she states on ‘Lavender Haze’ as part of an attack on a
lack of privacy. The irony that ‘Midnights’ then paints Taylor’s inner demons so intricately is not lost. Sometimes it’s a little clumsy; a rare criticism considering Taylor’s mastery with words. Describing snow at the beach as “weird but fucking beautiful” on the Lana Del Reyfeaturing track of that name feels like it’s lacking some of her usual finesse, yet quickly becomes representative of the conversational nature of ‘Midnights’. In keeping with the record’s theme - thirteen tales of individual sleepless nights - it’s arguably her most
CARLY RAE JEPSEN
The Loneliest Time (604/Schoolboy/Interscope) Carly Rae Jepsen has long perfected the craft of writing the most relatable – and perfect – pop songs. The queen of writing from a place of both euphoric yearning and the ache of a broken heart, she’s never afraid to feel absolutely everything in her music. Her songs teem with self-awareness and wide-eyed optimism, even as she nurses heartbreak; she celebrates self-love as much as the romantic kind. And while feeling too much, all at once, is the common denominator in Carly’s music, it's on the Canadian singer’s latest album, ‘The Loneliest Time’, that she strips her sound back several layers, taking inspiration from predecessors Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper, and putting the spotlight on herself. The soundscapes on ‘The Loneliest Time’ may not be as grandiose, or as sugar-coated, as we’re used to from her, but that doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t still as intense. ‘The Loneliest Time’ is definitely Carly’s most introspective album, asking questions of herself and her own insecurities instead of looking to past and future paramours. It’s a record about how it is OK to be alone; that being alone does not equal being lonely. Opening with the synth-pop fervor of ‘Surrender’, it’s all trademark Carly from the get go. But the singer isn’t content to box herself into one genre, or even a decade of music; there’s the campy, absurdist, funk-inspired ‘Beach House’ that’s an ode to the horrors of online dating; the subdued ‘Western Wind’; the electropop of ‘Bends’; the grooviness of ‘So Nice’, and the soothing remedies of the title track, with its guest spot from Rufus Wainwright. Lyrically, the record explores the different aspects of loneliness and its different meanings. Carly was dealing with the death of her grandmother when writing the album, but also struggling with feelings of homesickness while living in LA during the peak of the pandemic. Then, there’s the kind of loneliness you get even when you’re with somebody, and of course, the yearning of wanting to just get that bit closer to someone else. It’s hard feeling lonely, and, at times, even harder to write about. But with ‘The Loneliest Time’, Carly shows that it’s perfectly OK to feel that way sometimes – and that you’ll be OK, too. (Cady Siregar) LISTEN: ‘Surrender’
SHE’S NEVER AFRAID TO FEEL ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING IN HER MUSIC.
candid release to date. The lost nights are pulled together by the overwhelming insecurity Taylor has faced in both happiness and sadness, told through a sound that lands somewhere between the intimacy of her ‘folklore’ era and the pop production of ‘1989’’s softer moments. Jack Antonoff’s fingerprints are easy to spot. The producer layers Taylor’s intimate stories with electronic drums that push certain moments to understated crescendos. The second half in particular ups the ante, as ‘Question…?’ stops just short of all-out
pop, and ‘Vigilante Shit’ shifts Taylor back to ‘reputation’’s R&B inspiration. It’s here that ‘Midnights’ cements two very different characters, one that both longs for and romanticises companionship, and another that celebrates independence. “I polish up real nice,” she affirms on ‘Bejewelled’, a moment of defiance, confidence, and self-love. It underpins a record that paints a picture of Taylor’s heartbreak and self-worth in the spotlight but finds enough common ground in spiralling night-time memories to take fans with her. (Ben Tipple) LISTEN: ‘Question...?’, ‘Bejewelled’
And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop) Natalie Mering’s first record in three years as Weyes Blood can be summed up perfectly by opening track ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’. The cumbersome album title ‘And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow’ belies its backdrop too – Natalie is interested in a communal response to a universal trauma. There’s no prizes for guessing what she’s referring to, but the way in which she addresses it is fascinating. She takes an abstract view, focusing on the idea of each of us as a beacon in the darkness, speaking out into the void without knowing if there’ll be an echo. The music is the same gorgeous blend of folk-rock in the vein of Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks as on previous albums, and indeed, many of the song titles, such as ‘Children of the Empire’, feel lifted from the dusty cover of a forgotten LP of ballads. Ultimately, Natalie reaches a joyous conclusion – it’s love that matters, after everything else falls away. The album ends on two words that sum up her philosophy: “love everlasting”. It may be dark, but Weyes Blood is still aglow. (Louis Griffin) LISTEN: ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’
Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022) (Atlantic) The world has opened up since Fred Gibson dropped the first in his ‘Actual Life’ series; this third instalment follows a string of acclaimed global festival sets and an unmissable Boiler Room appearance that has fully cemented the producer’s superstar status. Documenting just over the first eight months of 2022, ‘Actual Life 3’ moves beyond the confined intimacy of his COVIDdiarised debut and the tentative euphoria of its follow up, effortlessly jumping between the freedom of his newfound status and the heartfelt vulnerability that underpinned what came before. There’s nothing particularly new here from Fred bar minor switches into previously unexplored electronic styles, but it still boasts some of his best tracks yet - all earmarked as early singles. ‘Danielle (smile on my face)’ and ‘Bleu (better with time)’ elevate the emo-rave that so perfectly captures the conflicting emotions of the past two years, while ‘Kammy (like i do)’ is destined to soundtrack that 2am feeling for years to come. The stripped back moments are rarer, reserved largely for a throwback interlude sampling his own work. It makes sense, with Fred no longer confined to a home studio and unleashing his sound out in the wild. It's this that ‘Actual Life 3’ is made for, a simultaneous celebration of nightlife and an acceptance of ongoing fragility. Few producers have poured this much emotion into their work, and those that have either step away from the club or remain under the radar. Yet with his rise in popularity, it’s obvious that Fred Again.. has accurately captured the zeitgeist, speaking to the vulnerability of a shifting club scene. And with his third outing, he places that vulnerability firmly back on the dancefloor. (Ben Tipple) LISTEN: ‘Kammy (like i do)’
CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS Redcar les adorables étoiles (Because)
Steeped in mythology, and featuring Chris in character as the mysterious Redcar, Christine and the Queens’ third album is an opera of emotion - wrapped in love, sensuality, awakening and suffering. Swerving from ‘80s funk to fluttering electro pop, the red car is always just out of sight - a sign of hope, of creative determination, a new beginning. Opener ‘Ma bien aimée bye-bye’ is draped in beautiful imagery - each lyric a shimmering story. “This life will last an eternity / This colour / Of the very first morning of summer / That ties you to me”. Synths bloom like the early morning rays of the sun, reaching out to a lover lost in the darkness. ‘Tu sais ce qu’il me faut’ celebrates seduction as he lusts over a beau; the way they walk, the way they dance, their body is celebrated in all its glory. This steamy display of virility is a direct contrast to the sweet and tender moments of ‘rien dire’. Less bombastic than the previous singles, Chris is surrounded by quivering electronics and soft drum patterns, his voice drenched in desire: “Oh we learn each other / Oh we wait for each other”. The LP runs like a theatrical production, conjuring a world in which emotions are felt rebelliously and unabashed. He wants the listener to be unafraid to really feel. This intensity is captured best on ‘looking for love’. One of only two tracks titled in English, the disco jam finds our protagonist on the search for meaningful romantic relations amidst synths that burst like heartbeats, where blood pounds and sweat drips. It conjures up dancefloors glowing beneath the throbbing strobe lights, illuminating couples tucked away in the club’s shadowy depths. On 2018’s self-titled ‘Chris’, his swaggering alter ego was brawny and brash - offering gleefully “to make your girl come.” As Redcar, Chris’ purpose on earth is for adoration, and it’s clear his heart is tender. (Bryony Holdsworth) LISTEN: ‘looking for love’
CONJURING A WORLD IN WHICH EMOTIONS ARE FELT REBELLIOUSLY AND UNABASHED. 54 DIYMAG.COM
SHOW ME THE BODY Trouble The Water (Loma Vista)
The third album from Show Me The Body might as well have been dredged from the dirtiest, grimiest corner of their native New York. It frequently dispenses of harmony and embraces the chaos it creates instead with a swaggering confidence, to the point where they make sounds even a seasoned heavy rock listener would firmly classify as noise. They even eke a tone out of the guitar on ‘War Not Beef’ that sounds like a drill, or some other standard building site tool. Elsewhere, ‘Radiator’ is as riotous as can be, with frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt yell-rapping over the sounds of a duel between breakneck hardcore drums and discordant synths, while the pulsing verses of ‘Demeanor’ collide head on with demonic riffs in its chorus in a way that sounds properly dangerous. As content as Show Me The Body are to disobey musical rules, they steer the ship with steady hands for the most part. If they come unstuck anywhere, it’s on the monotone ‘Out Of Place’, which - not-so-ironically - feels a little too odd, and strangely unexciting, to really work. Ninety per cent of the time, however, ‘Trouble The Water’ is a monster of a record in all the most creative ways. (Emma Wilkes) LISTEN: ‘Demeanour’
Back Home (Kill Rock Stars) Think you know what to expect from punk? Big Joanie want you to think again. On their second album, the trio demand you leave expectations at the door, but really, you’ll be all the better for it. While they’re still recognizably punk to their core - the introspective ‘Taut’ has revving riffs and an incredible sticking power about its hooks, while ‘Insecure’ shimmies along with a grooving bassline elsewhere, they’re making astronomical leaps. Indeed, the very thing that’s most enticing on this record is its innovativeness.. Opener ‘Cactus Tree’ has a swirling folksiness to it, while ‘Confident Man’ boasts a curveball of a break with spacey synths and a drum machine, while ‘Count To Ten’ boldly swaps out the guitar for the retro hum of an Omnichord. It’s the most eclectic punk record to emerge in ages, and even though it incorporates elements that might seem incongruous in a style that thrives off its simplicity, they’re carried off with enough class for it to sound intriguing rather than jarring. In fact, there’s a refreshing elegance about the whole thing. (Emma Wilkes) LISTEN: ‘Taut’
LOWERTOWN I Love To Lie (Dirty Hit)
Line up the credentials between Atlanta duo Lowertown and critically-acclaimed London pair Jockstrap and there are some interesting parallels. Both couplings bonded over a love of jazz and have a background in classical music; Lowertown vocalist Olivia Osby and Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery both have groundings in poetry and an intriguing way of fitting lyrics to melody that echoes that idea. It’s a crosssection of interests that perhaps explains why ‘I Love To Lie’ - despite emerging as very much its own, immersive entity - brings to mind a similarly exploratory, unfettered sense of creativity as their UK peers. Across 11 tracks, Lowertown’s debut plays confidently with style and form, moving from the slowly unravelling swoon of ‘It’s It’s It’s’ to the scrappy ten-time-signaturesat-once whirlwind of ‘No Way’; previous single ‘Bucktooth’ is part Courtney Barnett, part Moldy Peaches, while ‘Scum’ finds Osby repeatedly chanting and heavy-breathing “It’s suffocating me” like a panic attack in sonic form. ‘At The End’ allows Avsha Weinberg to take the lead, unleashing an anxious torrent of lyrics about “push[ing] my hand through a double door” in an emo-influenced sonic purge, and then, a mere two tracks later, we’re into the sweet simple piano of ‘Waltz in Aflat Major’. Throughout, Lowertown are overflowing with ideas and the technical knowhow to teeter frequently on the edge of chaos whilst always staying in control; ‘I Love To Lie’ deserves its space among 2022’s most interesting debuts. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘It’s It’s It’s’
Alpha Zulu (Loyaute / Glassnote) That Phoenix found a space within the Palais du Louvre to record ‘Alpha Zulu’ almost feels like a footnote. Instead, the background forces that make themselves known most obviously on this seventh album for the outfit are that it almost fell out of them (guitarist Christian Mazzalai puts it as, “We couldn’t stop producing music”) and was written in the shadow of the death of frequent collaborator and friend, Philippe Zdar of dance duo Cassius. The influence of both brings a lightness to much of the record. Though the sprightly, playful ‘Season 2’ sounds completely unlike classic Phoenix, Thomas Mars’ vocals are unmistakably his; the opening title track, meanwhile, features a playfulness that sits at odds with the band’s somewhat arch nature - its “eh eh eh” offering more than a hint of Rihanna, with the bright lights of the dancefloor that the late Zdar frequently lit up in view. ‘Identical’ layers Thomas’ voice lower in the mix to allow its electronic pulse to up the ante and back again, ‘Winter Solstice’ builds to a euphoric, almost M83-like climax, while ‘All Eyes On Me’ goes hardest - a Chemical Brothers-like bassline propelling a perfect pop song. Phoenix haven’t abandoned their indie-pop side, mind. ‘Artefact’ suggests ‘The New Abnormal’ might just have been on their lockdown stereos, both its chord progressions and Thomas’ delivery pleasingly Strokes-like, and ‘Tonight’ featuring Ezra Koenig - the first time the group have featured a guest on a track is also curiously the most obviously ‘Phoenix-like’ of the lot. ‘Alpha Zulu’ is a fun record, on which the creators’ own enjoyment is audibly palpable. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘All Eyes On Me’
THEY’RE MAKING ASTRONOMICAL LEAPS. 55
TROPICAL GOTHCLUB Tropical Gothclub (Third Man)
Known chiefly for his work in Queens of the Stone Age and The Dead Weather (as well as playing live with The Raconteurs too), Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita more than slakes our thirst for hardline American rock ‘n’ roll with his debut release as Tropical Gothclub. Released via pal Jack White’s Third Man, ‘Tropical Gothclub’ serves up exactly what we want, and in hearty abundance. Gatling-gun riffs chew up eardrums, fat as mutton, grizzled with all the spook and misdemeanour of any prideful QOTSA offering. An ecstatic chorus or nuclear guitar solo means each song exhilarates as much as the next. While much of the record righteously follows these hard-rocking tramlines, there's a few curveballs of wistful intrigue dolloped in the mix to stop us settling. ‘Infernal Inside’ takes on the melodies and glissandos of floaty neo-psych a la Pond, while ‘Double Blind’ embraces the melancholic whimsy of psychedelic folk with equal aplomb. Pieced together from the swathes of spare time the lockdown in Tennessee afforded him, from sketches and fragments drafted throughout his glittering career, the resultant Tropical Gothclub is so polished and pristine that the only pity is that it didn’t come sooner. Given the pantheon of rock stars he’s bolstered over the years, Dean has finally earned a little slice of time in his own limelight. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘Captivated’
With a CV that boasts some of the 21st Century’s most illustrious rock titans, Dean Fertita spills on what drove him to pursue new ‘solo’ outlet Tropical Gothclub. Interview: Elvis Thirlwell. Why did you decide to start this new project? You’ve released ‘solo’ albums in the past. Like the previous one [2009’s self-titled work as Hello=Fire], I never intended to make a record, and I never viewed it as a solo record. In both cases, I went in with the intention that I was demoing a bunch of material that I thought would go somewhere else. It was such a crazy set of circumstances over the last few years that it felt right, along with [having] the encouragement of some friends. It felt like something I should just put out. That made the decision for me. There was so much time of uncertainty and not really knowing what was going to happen, where the next thing was gonna be… It felt good to move on from them, if that makes sense? ‘It’s done. This isn’t not gonna be what I thought it was going to be. Let’s let it live somewhere else.’ So you recorded these demos during lockdown? I was out with the Raconteurs in 2019. We finished in December. And in January, Alison [Mosshart] and I were texting back and forth because we realised we had a few months off and were both going to be in Nashville. Maybe we can work on some ideas, who knows? Maybe there’s room to do another Dead Weather record? She sent me a bunch of demos, and I sent her ‘Needles’, the first song on the [Tropical Gothclub] record. She sent 15 songs that were little snippets of ideas. I went and recorded one of them, called ‘Street Level’, and that ended up being the B-side of the ‘Wheels [within Wheels]’ 7”. That just sparked the whole thing. That got me motivated to start working through some of these ideas and see what I had. Then lockdown happened. A month after that, Josh [Homme] was insistent that this wasn’t gonna be something that stopped us from working. [He said] ‘Everybody go through your stuff and see what
you got!’ It was just a lot of things coming together at one time. I busted through that stuff in a few months, recorded it on anything I had available. Some of it was done on GarageBand! I didn’t have the foresight to say, ‘I’m gonna make a solo record, man,’ to put my band together. It wasn’t like that at all. It was very much ‘use what you got around you in the moment and make something out of it.’ Was it particularly refreshing to focus on a project where you were the main creative force? I like the give and take of playing in bands. I really enjoy that, that friction. [With Tropical Gothclub] there wasn’t anybody to tell me when to stop! So I relied heavily on my friend Dave Feeny, who lives in Detroit. We’ve had a working relationship for a long time. I could send him things in the worst condition ever, and he would revive them and bring them back to life. Or tell me, ‘We have enough here, don’t do anything else.’ So that relationship with him was the closest I had to a band mate. I value it immensely. Obviously, Third Man is Jack White’s label. Was this a natural choice? It does make a lot of sense, right? It was something I was very mindful of though, because I never would want our relationship to be like, ‘You did this thing, we have to put it out.’ I was completely OK with making this and just putting it online somewhere and never doing anything with it. To be honest, it was his encouragement, and [the encouragement] of other people who work at Third Man that made me think about putting it out into the world. They motivated me, and I feel very lucky to have them, as another voice of encouragement, because everybody needs that.
MK3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning (Warp)
The production powerhouse of Mount Kimbie has been neatly divided into its constituent components on ‘MK 3.5’ Dom Maker responsible for the first 12 tracks (‘Die Cuts’) and Kai Compos the latter 11 (’City Planning’). When viewed as a self-sufficient organism, Mount Kimbie are better understood: the logical, fastidious left brain can be attributed to Dom, while the out-of-box creative right brain is fuelled by Kai, but if you dig a little deeper into ‘MK 3.5’, multitudes of dichotomous layers begin to unravel and reveal themselves. On ‘Die Cuts’, Dom embraces both collaboration and collectivism, welcoming slowthai and Danny Brown on the ghostly ‘in your eyes’, chiselling both’s vicious, high-octane deliveries to utilise seldom seen reflective sides. ‘f1 racer’ revels in minimalism, perfectly cut by Kučka’s gossamer rhymes, where ‘if and when’ and ‘somehow she’s still her’ gracefully use ambient recordings to assert a channel-flicking, feet-up mood. Following a melody-driven first half, ‘City Planning’ embraces a more washed-out and overall splintered soundscape, seeing Kai toy with sparse, sawn-off synths and trickling drum movements. Conceptually and sonically looser, the album could lose listeners who are unprepared to venture into Kai’s more esoteric, unpredictable grotto. ‘MK 3.5’ is an often unwieldy and curiously warming project that sees both contributors embrace discomfort in their art. (Alisdair Grice) LISTEN: ‘in your eyes’
CAVETOWN worm food (Sire)
Much of Cavetown’s fifth album is as one would expect, with Robin Skinner’s soft, delicate vocals, acoustic guitars and knack for verbalising vulnerabilities while telling a story all present and correct (see ‘Worm Food’’s safe, comforting title track, or the romantic ‘frog’ - written about the specific way he asked his girlfriend out - for example). He’s also teamed up with some like-minded artists, this time around. Where recent collaboration with Beabadoobee ‘fall in love with a girl’ sees Bea return to her folky beginnings, ‘grey space’ with ‘Chloe Moriondo’ – another fellow bedroom pop breakout – crashes into fully-electric emo life by its conclusion. It’s still so-far-so-expected, however then arrives ‘a kind thing to do’ - featuring Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes - which plays with punk-pop revival tropes in captivating ways. Stripped-back production, vocal effects and a stop-start nature create a tension that’s only ever partially resolved, Vic’s scream cut short before it’s ever fully released. It sounds huge. Cavetown said he wrote the record with the live space in mind; if he’s hinting at sounds this big, he’d better be warming up arenas. (Chloe Tucker) LISTEN: ‘a kind thing to do’
Ultra Truth (Phantasy Sound)
CONNIE CONSTANCE Miss Power (Play It Again Sam)
As we bundle up for autumn, Connie Constance pulls us through the turning leaves. ‘Miss Power’ begins with green whispers, Connie singing of elves, changelings and fairies caught ‘between two worlds’. The album itself feels stretched between two forces, Connie teetering between plucky folk tales and heavier punk anthems but always landing steadily into both. Tracks like ‘Never Get To Love You’ manage to flit between each within a few seconds, a power that proves spellbinding. ‘Kamikaze’ is a winding explosion of feminist fury; her laughs of “I’m not your perfect little princess” ringing out against punching drums and sneering guitar riffs. We hear her at her most raw on ‘YUCK!’, then she’s ‘Con Con’, a pet name shared by her father on intimate voicenote ‘Home’. A mammoth six-minute spoken word, ‘YUCK!’ is the centrepiece that spews Connie’s brains, exploring everything from pesto pasta to shoddy governments and mutant rats. It’s weird, whimsical and even more liberating as she sings, “Life is pretty swell now, I’ve been smiling a lot”. The witching hour is here, and ‘Miss Power’ is mesmerising. (Mia Smith) LISTEN: ‘Kamikaze’
THE WITCHING HOUR IS HERE, AND ‘MISS POWER’ IS MESMERISING.
If 2021’s ‘Together In Static’ came into existence to represent the joys of reunion, then ‘Ultra Truth’ is is Daniel Avery’s divine, well measured follow-up that builds on the groundwork of its predecessor; proudly announcing that collaboration and community is king. With contributing voices from HAAi, Kelly Lee Owens, James Massiah and more, ‘Ultra Truth’ serves as a pivot in Daniel’s previously second wave techno-weighted discography. From the quiet reflection of piano-led opener ‘New Faith’ to the unbroken breakbeat intensity of ‘Devotion’, the record presents as a contiguous listen, paced with the acuity of a seasoned horologist. Minimalistic sequences unhurriedly make way for hushed feedback, heavenly atmosphere and stoic drum machine patterns throughout, grounded by Daniel’s firm production. ‘Lone Swordsman’ moonlights as an ode to the late acid house pioneer Andrew Weatherall, showcasing empyrean, sustained synths in the form of a layered eulogy. Elsewhere there is a sparse yet poised use of vocals on ‘Only’, burrowed beneath tectonic layers of loose, blown-out drumming while ‘Higher’ makes its claim for dancefloor fame as it deals out a pummelling, incessant EDM sequence with the mastery Daniel has become associated with. A truly seminal record, ‘Ultra Truth’ is a radiant voyage for Daniel Avery, and for everyone who dares join him for the experience. (Alisdair Grice) LISTEN: ‘Lone Swordsman’
Missed the boat on some the best albums from the last couple of months? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Myself In The Way (Run For Cover) Chameleon-like Virginians Turnover have found themselves shapeshifting once more. Their most ambitious work to date, ‘Myself In The Way’ sees them enter a new world of expansive sound. Gone are the scuzzy guitars of ‘Peripheral Vision’, or the dreamy sheen on 2019’s ‘Altogether’. Instead, they’re spinning under the glittering cast of a disco ball: psychedelic synths, ‘70s-inspired bass, sexy saxophone lines. It’s a more spatial experience; all-encompassing, each track swirls around with a centrifugal whirl. ‘Ain’t Love Heavy’ calls upon Temple of Angels’ Bre Morell, who provides vocals that seemingly drip smoothly onto the beat; it’s a honeyed track, start to finish. ‘People That We Know’ is no nonsense groove - breezy, sultry and floating, it practically shimmers. Elsewhere, ‘Pleasures Galore’ revels in falsettos and a disco-enthused bassline which keeps the mood unflinchingly light. It’s a total departure for Turnover, but this new look suits them completely. ‘Myself in the Way’ might leave you wondering what form they will take next, but for now it’s an encouragement to relish the delicious sound they’ve created here. (Neive McCarthy) LISTEN ‘Ain’t Love Heavy’
PERSONAL TRAINER Big Love Blanket (The Industry)
Photo: Eva Pental
RECO MMEN DED
Vocalist Willem Smit was still a teenager when his first album with previous band Canshaker Pi was released. It was produced by Stephen Malkmus of Pavement – the touch of indie royalty, in some circles. The problem is, Personal Trainer haven’t yet grown up. On their new record ‘Big Love Blanket’, they nod more than heavily to the ‘90s icons. That’s not to say the record doesn’t capture the same genuine euphoria as that band – it does, in places. The problem is that they don’t seem to have a lot more to say past that. The record gets off to a promising start, with the title track’s mantra of “Write a line a day / keep smiling” summing up the band’s craftlike philosophy, and ‘Milk’ somehow manages to make a rousing chorus from the phrase “I drink milk straight from the carton!”. But when taken as a whole, the album is noticeably weaker past the halfway point, and ultimately doesn’t say much of anything at all. It’s a fine party to go to, but quickly forgotten once you’ve left. (Louis Griffin) LISTEN: ‘Milk’
Out Of Heart The Londoner’s longawaited debut is an irresistible statement of purpose, with urgency to every bar delivered.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS Cool It Down The iconic New Yorkers’ return is exactly what 2022 needed, on many a level.
JEAN DAWSON CHAOS NOW* The Californian’s third album makes like Beck on a diet of ‘00s MTV2.
SPECIAL INTEREST Endure (Rough Trade)
Having bubbled in underground circles for three previous albums, ‘Endure’ marks Special Interest’s debut for Rough Trade and manages to plant a foot in both worlds - the resolutely uncompromising punks of old, and a band capable of infiltrating at least the more alternative end of the radio - with gusto. If crunching, brilliant single ‘(Herman’s) House’, with its Gossip-esque dancefloor stalk and lyrics referencing Black revolutionary campaigner Herman Wallace, earmarked the visceral spirit at the heart of the quartet, then it’s only the tip of the iceberg here. ‘Endure’ is, to put it mildly, not background music. ‘Foul’ is a call-and-response burst of anxiety about the state of modern living that shouts clipped worries (“Calloused hands… Short staffed/ Sleep deprived”) over discordant bass, while ‘Impulse Control’ thunders along with not-even-slightly concealed rage at the trust fund kids with “psychopathic tendencies and shining white veneers”. There is, from ‘Endure’’s title onwards, a tangible sense of frustration and anger, that these songs are less a cathartic endeavour and more a full on exorcism, but there are newly-restrained moments of levity too. ‘Midnight Legend’ shimmies rather than stalks, vocalist Alli Logout offering a softer side to their character, while ‘Cherry Blue Intention’’s sassy chants of “OK alright, let’s ride” are like if Charli XCX teamed up with The Rapture. But crucially, though they might be the most radio-friendly offerings here, these tracks need ‘Endure’’s harsher, more volatile moments to really see the full puzzle. Special Interest, luckily, excel at both. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘Cherry Blue Intention’
ANNA OF THE NORTH Crazy Life (PIAS)
There’s a curse that comes with virality. On its release back in`2014, Anna of the North’s debut single ‘Sway’ spread across the web at a rate of infectiousness even Omicron would envy, getting The Chainsmokers’ A-list remix treatment along the way. To use another clumsy ‘20s analogy: imagine racking up millions of views on your first TikTok, for it to then be referenced in an SNL sketch. Even its subsequent spreads on Instagram (weeks) and Facebook (months) later wouldn’t dampen the fear: how the hell do you follow this up? Little wonder it took until 2017 for debut album ‘Lovers’ to emerge. And while 2019 follow-up ‘Dream Girl’ leaned on the emotional and vibey, Anna Lotterud’s low-key delivery leaning more towards singer-songwriter than Scandipop superstar, ‘Crazy Life’ seems to be aiming squarely at Big Pop. On ‘Living Life Right’, she makes use of zeitgeisty acoustic guitar strums, however the track’s repeated builds ultimately lead nowhere. ‘Dandelion’ and ‘I Do You’ are like the day to Sky Ferreira and Chvrches’ respective night modes – forgetting that the dark side is what makes their own alt-pop so compelling. It’s a pattern. But it’s when Anna channels her understated side that things click into place; the dreamy, jazz-influenced ‘60 Seconds’ allows true personality to seep through, while her vocals on the downbeat ‘No Good’ echo Hayley Williams’ recent solo work. And with the funky bass intro and Nile Rodgers-nodding riff nestled away in the middle eight it may well fit alongside Paramore’s new material, too. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘No Good’
OKAY KAYA SAP (Jagjaguwar)
A conceptual art-pop thesis ,‘SAP’ explores consciousness as it manifests within the body. Lead single ‘Spinal Tap’ uses academia to deduce that dreaming, an abstract cerebral process, improves physiology. Abstraction, then, is married to biology, and Kaya’s signature dreamy, poetic stoicism becomes a pathway to healing. Artsy soft-pop opener ‘Mood into Object Personified’ introduces her body - an intricate, physical structure - as the key case study. ‘SAP’ trickles through her body and mind in search of answers to unasked questions. Its tracks are deliciously metaphysical - on ‘Inside of a Plum’, ketamine therapy pulls Kaya into astral creases of her mind to “scuba dive in space” and escape insecurity - while ‘Like a Liver’’s “reinvention of the wheel” feels like sonic epiphany. Elsewhere, standouts ‘Jolene from Her Own Perspective’, an anthropological study of womanhood within a love triangle, and the lively ‘Jazzercise’, which examines modern dance therapies, offer a necessary return to reality. The album is ultimately intravenous - its ideas pump slowly through its branch-like veins through carefully considered sound, reducing consciousness to a physical liquid in the body - but occasionally could do with a stimulant or two to push it towards a destination. On the album's most transcendental moments, its slow pace tires like the midsection of a dissertation, but nonetheless its beauty and melancholia is infectious. Perhaps that’s its conclusion: coping is a slow biological process. ‘SAP’ ultimately muses on the science of mind, body and emotion: Kaya asks if a person is merely tree goo, how far along the stem you’d travel to “realise you’re the tears of this person and the blood of [another].” (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘Jolene From Her Own Perspective’
THESE NEW SOUTH WHALES TNSW (Damaged)
A pummelling bass tone is the first thing that broadsides you on These New South Whales’ blow-out third album ‘TNSW’. Packing hook-loaded punch after hook-loaded punch, there is nearly no space for breathing on what is shaping up to be an excellent post-hardcore record. Effortlessly tapping into the zeitgeist with political allegiances worn on the chest, hyper-animated choruses, charged grunts and an unmissable pop punk influence, Australia’s punk auteurs are so far flying high. ‘Bending At The Knee’ balances soaring Brendan Yates callouts with gritty pop punk sensibilities, while ‘Changes’ acts as a reflective, thought provoking track. ‘Back To You’ loses some pace before ‘Faceless’ hearkens KennyHoopla in a sprightly, ‘00s emo number but by ‘Going Outta My Mind’, frontman Jamie Timony’s melodious voice begins to occupy a less colourful monotone and the identical guitar tones start to pack a smaller punch than they did from the word ‘go’. Still, rousing, rallying and raucous, These New South Whales are, for the most part, having a whole lot of fun. (Alisdair Grice) LISTEN: ‘Bending At The Knee’
“After cooking, I saw the word SAP appear from leftover burnt cabbage in a pan. As I shaped it into the word it made me laugh out loud at how metal and true it felt in the moment. While this became the obvious album cover for me, I had to convince others of its charm. I added the luminosity of the inside of a shell to the letters and other details working with my frequent collaborators - the very talented artist Austin Lee and designer Michael Brennan - and the final work came to fruition.”
FIRST AID KIT Palomino (Columbia)
Naming an album after the golden-coloured horses originally bred in the plains of America’s South West might seem like a bit of a strange move, but upon listening to ‘Palomino’ - the fifth album from First Aid Kit - its title begins to make a lot more sense. Building upon the reflective folk that sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have become so renowned for over the past decade, their most recent full-length may have been written and recorded back home in Sweden, but it undoubtedly bears a bold Americana heart. More classic influences - Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Tom Petty - can be keenly felt in the swaggering chorus of opener ‘Out Of My Head’, the honeyed harmonies of ‘Angel’, or the groove-laden guitars of ‘Turning Onto You’, while flecks of funky classic rock pepper the album, via the likes of ‘Feeling That Never Came’ and ‘Fallen Snow’. A record of warm and soaring pop-rock that still manages to both delight and intrigue, ‘Palomino’ is the sound of a duo still roaming new territory, but feeling more confident than ever. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘Angel’
ABSOLUTE (BEHIND THE) SCENES! In the studio with First Aid Kit as they record ‘Palomino’.
We recorded a lot of vocals in the hallway which has amazing natural reverb.
Often when recording in a studio we've felt like we've been stuck in a dark cave, but not this time. Studio Rymden is super cosy and has got tons of natural light. It added to the sunny happy feel of some of the songs on the record.
Klara’s dog Pablo is the best studio dog.
Listening to the 20 string players adding their magic touch to the songs. As you can see we are quite happy and emotional. We might even have shed a tear or two.
This is how we recorded most songs! Klara and I always want to be in the same room when recording our harmonies. It just sounds better that way.
JULIEN CHANG The Sale
Given that the record was written while Julien Chang was studying at Princeton, it’d be all too easy to ascribe an escapist nature to ‘The Sale’, or marry his noted academic interest in German philosophy to the track title of ‘Ethical Expectations’. Instead, it’s the Baltimore artist’s cut-andpaste nature that’s at the fore for much of the record; a combination of his background in jazz and classical, and the signature warm, reverby sounds of much of early 21st Century US indie. Opener ‘Heart Holiday’ begins in an eerily similar manner to Harry Styles’ ubiquitous ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’, its chord progression and subsequent crash forming a dystopian mirror to the intro to ‘Harry’s House’. It’d be an untruth, of course, to say that’s where the similarities end: both artists clearly have a lot of love for ‘70s soft rock and an urge to play with songwriting’s conventions. Julien seems to favour switching on a whim, creating a soothing lull, then performing a 180, regardless of where the moment falls. This is seen on the woozy ‘Marmalade’, which transcends with choral repetition, the relatively freeform ‘Crossed Paths’ and especially on the shapeshifting ‘Snakebit’, which takes Prince-like guitar licks and late-career MGMT’s psych deep-dive, and fuses it into a disorientating jazzy headfuck. ‘The Sale’ may often sound soothing – see the plucky ‘Bellarose’ or jangly ‘Sweet Obsolete’ – but don’t let them fool; ultimately, enjoyment of ‘The Sale’ will rest on one’s affinity for the musically erratic. (Bella Martin) LISTEN: ‘Snakebit’
seven songs (Blue Flowers)
Pure Misery (So Young)
Innovation, emotionality, and anthemic intimacy sprawl across this seven-song set that congeals dream-pop, post-rock and grunge into one sumptuous captivation. Opener ‘mill’ straddles caroline-esque orchestral atmospherics with halcyon indie-pop melodics. ‘discreet’ blossoms from acoustic nakedness into full-blown ethereality, while the heavy-as-fuck ‘oan’ bites and rivets, battling against breakdown and bedlam in bonfires of distortion and overdrive. Perforated throughout by Belfast-born piglet’s defiant, thickly-cut vocal, the EP discusses issues of mental health, substance abuse and the nagging search for self-identity with diaristic frankness: “Mesmerised by the thought of being sober like it’s no big deal,” he confesses, for example, on ‘oan’. The undoubted cream of the crop here comes with the brutalising and tender majesty of ‘it isnt fair’. An arena-sized jewel addressing the injustices faced by trans people in the British healthcare system, it’s the apogee of his achievement on ‘seven songs’: bridging the caustic with the tender, the epic with the everyday, piglet brings an urgent voice for uncertain times. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘it isnt fair’
DEADLETTER “Life imitates art, they say / In which case, life must be utter dismay”. In a flurry of furrowed brows and cynical boogie, Londonvia-Yorkshire post-punkers Deadletter are not ones for trite hopefulness or droll optimism, as this chorus from janking opener 'Weights' discloses. Staggering themselves deep into the stagnant misery of British modernity, this debut EP plies that familiar framework of dicey Gang of Four guitars and hollering sing-speak vocals. Despite this, ‘Heat!’ adds a generous spicing of disco and funk to loosen up those well-trodden aesthetics. Lead single ‘Binge’ is an all-consuming delight, balancing sullen angst with a Talking Heads wiriness to birth something insatiably catchy and genuinely danceable. EP closer ‘Zeitgeist’ gives us a sinister, slow-burning build and satisfactory release, with big chord punches and saxophone charms. On the back of relentless tours, national radio play and sizeable London sell-outs, with tunes like this, it’s easy to see why the band have built such excitement. For all their moodiness and arch seriousness, Deadletter are ripe for the spectacle. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘Binge’
Loud Without Noise (Polydor) First thing’s first: ‘Loud Without Noise’ is flawless. Wildly ambitious, it works to showcase perfectly why the Merseysiders have garnered such a fervent fanbase to date – and just how far they could go. While Holly Minto’s way with words shows there’s definitely a touch of the emo about them (“I couldn’t fix you / So I broke myself instead” one standout case in point), and the huge pop choruses of opener ‘I Can’t Drive’ do agree, across these six tracks Crawlers touch on practically every element of alt-rock. The no-holds-barred ‘Feminist Radical’ hints at the metallic with its sheer power, yet simultaneously has hints of Goat Girl’s lackadaisical nature in its resigned moments; ‘Fuck Me (I Didn’t Know How To Say)’ pairs deliciously grungy riffs with a bouncy Weezer-esque bassline to match the track’s internal conflict; there’s early-’00s dance-punk rhythms all over the playful ‘I Don’t Want It’, while the industrial ‘Too Soon’ sounds like Nine Inch Nails remixing Wolf Alice: absolutely massive. Closer ‘Hang Me Like Jesus’ meanwhile, is exactly the kind of lighters-in-the-air-moment fellow rockers Creeper are so adept at. Notable, too, is Holly’s vocal, which has all the power and reach of a soaring Hayley Williams, but with a rasp not unlike Brody Dalle. But best of all is that while ‘mixtape’ may to a cynic (ahem) suggest ‘hastily-cobbled collection to bait the new year’s tipping lists’, ‘Loud Without Noise’ truly feels like a record. And what a record it is. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘Too Soon’
If shouty British post punk can be thought of as a kind of musical Buckaroo, then with every new band adding its two cents to the teetering pile, the whole genre gets a little closer to that final snap. If you’re going to try and elbow your way into this most overpopulated of markets, then, you’d better have something different to say - and while, on paper, Glasgow’s Humour are offering up a familiar set of wares (slicing guitars, vocals that take a liberal approach to the term ‘singing’), on ‘Pure Misery’’s best moments the quartet do bring something new to the table. Opener ‘yeah, mud!’ has a silliness to it that nods to ‘90s oddballs Sultans of Ping F.C, while the EP’s title track is yelped out with such frenzied insanity, you’ve got to give frontman Andreas Christodoulidis his dues for really committing to the bit. ‘jeans’’ howling delivery and ominous stalk have more in common with Viagra Boys than their UK peers, however on dirgey previous single ‘alive and well’, they lose some of that personality, only really harnessing the energy again in a crescendoing final third. Same goes for closer ‘good boys remember well’, which musically feels like it could have been left on Fontaines DC’s cutting room floor. Still, far from the despair of its title, ‘Pure Misery’ has lots in it to love - even more so when Humour go all out and stand firm in their own lane. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘yeah, mud!’
CASSYETTE Sad Girl (Devil Land)
Rounding off what has been quite the year for Cassyette - a stint opening for My Chemical Romance, a slew of huge support slots and a summer of festivals chief among her achievements - debut mixtape ‘Sad Girl’ arrives as a bit of a story-so-far for the Essex singer. Built around her cathartic ‘fuck you’ earworm ‘Sad Girl Summer’ which landed earlier this year, the nine-track release shows off her knack for seamlessly blending together styles and sonics to create a mix-and-match release that’s more about attitude than sticking to genre confines. Darting from the grungy swagger of ‘Mayhem’ through to the scorched metal of the minute-long ‘Die Hate Cry’, and back via the huge anthemic chorus of ‘September Rain’, her brand of punked-up pop is an addictive listen. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘Sad Girl Summer’
TAIPEI HOUSTON Once Bit Never Bored (C3)
‘Nepobabies’ – a term anyone who whiled away more than a few minutes on certain apps this summer will be more than familiar with – are often damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Taipei Houston may have attempted a typical introduction to the musical world, playing Brighton’s Great Escape in May before a debut headline show at Camden Assembly, but few new outfits then go on to play Lollapalooza and Reading & Leeds that same summer. So, to clarify, Taipei Houston are San Francisco brothers Myles and Layne Ulrich. Yes, that Ulrich: a name so synonymous with heavy rock it’s impossible not to imagine the pair growing up in a household where amps don’t go lower than eight and highchairs were replaced with drum stools. That dad Lars confesses his main contribution as offering “maybe too much constructive criticism” is beside the point: the only neural connections required have already been made. It’s just as well ‘Once Bit Never Bored’ is noisy, then. It’s hard not to smile when Myles sprinkles multiple huge drum fills through ‘The Middle’, but what’s really key for giving Tapei Houston’s game away is Layne having opted to play bass. Think bass-heavy two pieces, and it’s always Royal Blood and Death From Above 1979. Put the former’s riffs through the grungey filter of the latter – and on ‘Respecter’, their occasional electronic leanings – and that’s largely the sound on offer. But where Mike Kerr and Jesse F. Keeler’s vocals mostly play with just volume and power, Layne borrows from a third famous duo to round his out. The rhythms of ‘Hello From The Bottom’; the repetition on ‘As The Sun Sets’; the erratic shrieks of the wonderfully disjointed ‘Susie Thin Lips’, ‘Drop Song’ and especially the breakneck ‘Hypocrite’ – it’s pure Jack White. Taipei Houston’s work is definitely of ‘a type’, that’s for sure, but when songs frantically threaten to run away from themselves in as exhilarating a fashion as this, it’s an exciting one. Essentially, ‘Once Bit Never Bored’ lives up to its name. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘Hypocrite’
If You Only Feel It Once (Nettwerk)
Everything echoes and shimmers here on Bleach Lab’s third EP, from the buoyant opening melodies of ‘I Could Be Your Safe Place’ all the way to the end of the melancholy, numinous title track. Across the five tracks of ‘If You Only Feel It Once’, Bleach Lab pull together a cohesive masterclass on smudgy, sunshiney pop, drawing on the influences of those who’ve done it best - not always necessarily on a musical level, but on an emotive one too. ‘If You Only Feel It Once’ isn’t as woozy and soporific as The 1975’s ‘Medicine’, but its moody sprawl throws up the same end-credits catharsis; it lets a little more grungy softness through its sparkling topcoat than the silvery vibes of Alvvays, but the pair match in airy, effortless charm. Penned around topics of growth, moving on, and letting go, it’s natural that there’s a bittersweet core to the EP. Bleach Lab are a dab hand at constructing this kind of emotional mixed bag, and it shines far brighter on the songs that are more surface level light than on its most overtly sorrowful - ‘Pale Shade Of Blue’ is gloomy, but feels more like a pause than a release. Where Bleach Lab really come into their own is where they evoke a million feelings in one. (Ims Taylor) LISTEN: ‘If You Only Feel It Once’
A Mosh Pit In The Clouds (flowerovlove)
By metrics both traditional and deciedly modern, 17-year-old Joyce Cisse is rising rapidly. The singer-songwriter’s newest five track EP offers a brief, but tantalising glimpse at what’s to come. It’s impossible not to fall for the charms of centrepiece ‘I Gotta I Gotta’ - a bass-heavy number filled with sudden drum bursts and playful handclaps that vibrates with the nervous excitement of first love and crushes. Elsewhere she showcases her independence and self-assurance, as she turns understated declarations of “I’m not gonna change my ways” into a rallying cry on ‘All The Same’, as well as the simple joys of adolescence - penning an ode to dressing up and going out with friends on ‘Out For The Weekend’. At the heart of all these songs is her captivating, honeyed vocals. With any justice, flowerovlove will continue rising towards commercial success. (Tom Williams) LISTEN: ‘I Gotta I Gotta’
Compromise (The Orchard)
‘Compromise’ is a textured collection of tracks that captures a glimpse at a rising artist keen to leave her mark, continuing the promising streak seen on 2021 mixtape ‘Slack’. ‘Do It All The Same’ sets the tone with a ferocious intro, and the energy level never wanes. As with the rest of this EP there is a witty lyricism to be found showing her sharpness as a songwriter. ‘Handle’ boasts a softer side built more around her vocals and after a more melodic opening the builds to an epic crescendo showing her ability to draw on disparate sounds. ‘Ruins’ rounds things off in style, with a shift to a more upbeat tempo. This an energetic, rollicking collection of songs showing a clear understanding of her sound and strengths. (Christopher Connor) LISTEN: ‘Do It All The Same’
The Triple Point Of Water (Glasshouse)
There is something otherwordly about Mandrake Handshake. Simultaneously embracing a psych-funk aesthetic that the Manson cult would gawk at while producing organic, lucid and brilliant indie, it’s a verdant combination that set them on the path to create the fascinating ‘The Triple Point Of Water’. With a humble three tracks, each song takes a minute to subtly introduce itself, most notably the motorik dreampop strumming of ‘Vitamin Sunday’, which later evolves in to a Jaws-esque chorus that muses on the alienation of city life. Earworm ‘Emonzaemon’ showcases a deeply aligned krautrock influence, soaring fuzzbox guitar licks and infectious gang singalongs. Whether it be the art-pop noodling on ‘Row's Tinted Glasses // Diogo Jota’ or ‘Emonzaemon’’s foreboding industrial cadence, Mandrake Handshake have tapped into their roots and sprouted anew on this, each psych-pop number here highlighting a novel facet of their sui generis six person army. (Alisdair Grice) LISTEN: ‘Vitamin Sunday’
THE WHOLE THING IS AN UNDENIABLE TRIUMPH. SETLIST
MINOR FEELINGS HOLD THE GIRL CATCH ME IN THE AIR HURRICANES YOUR AGE IMAGINING THE 1975 STFU! FRANKENSTEIN HOLY (TIL YOU LET ME GO) BAD FRIEND SEND MY LOVE TO JOHN PHANTOM TO BE ALIVE LUCID BEG FOR YOU COMME DES GARÇONS (LIKE THE BOYS) XS THIS HELL 62 DIYMAG.COM
RINA SAWAYAMA Brixton Academy, London. Photos: Burak Cingi.
ntering Brixton Academy tonight, it’s clear that the levels of both heat and adrenaline are running high. Even before the lights go down, the excitement is palpable, with the crowd roaring along to the likes of Paramore and Pussycat Dolls before the main act begins; by the time a triple - quadruple?! - denim-clad Rina Sawayama emerges centre-stage, the atmosphere’s at fever pitch. It’s little wonder as to why; over the past five years, the singer has continually risen through the pop ranks, with her sights firmly set to stratospheric. Now, with the release of eclectic but euphoric second album ‘Hold The Girl’ under her belt, there seems to be little stopping Rina from pop domination, and tonight is a real celebration of how far she’s already come. A show arguably more suited to the likes of arenas than the confines of South London’s most iconic venue, Rina brings out all the stops. From the wind machine that whips around her during shadowy opener ‘Minor Feelings’, to the fullychoreographed dance breaks she shares with two backing dancers, her set is a slick lesson in how to put on an unforgettable show. Split into five ‘acts’ - each accompanied by the kind of costume changes Steps would be proud of we’re transported to each different corner of her career so far, from the bold introduction of newer cuts ‘Hold The Girl’ and ‘Hurricanes’, to the numetal-ish stomp of ‘Your Age’ and ‘STFU!’. Later, she emerges dressed as a “couture jellyfish” - in a flowing white dress, tendrils floating behind her - for a third act that sees her soar through the epic likes of ‘Bad Friend’, ‘Send My Love To John’ and ‘To Be Alive’. Unbelievably, there’s still more to come: a bite-sized taste of ‘LUCID’ quickly transforms into a rendition of Charli XCX collab-turnedbanger ‘Beg For You’, before a sizzling combo of ‘Commes des Garçons’ and ‘XS’ dials up the heat again. By the time she closes with glorious hit ‘This Hell’ - cowboy hat, line dancing and deafening shouts of “Wow, that’s hot!” et al - the whole thing is an undeniable triumph. It takes a real sense of determination and showmanship to put on a show as bombastic and brilliant as tonight’s; who knows what Rina’s capable of next. (Sarah Jamieson)
The O2, London. Photo: Simon Niblett.
f proof were ever needed of the fickle, contradictory and unpredictable nature of fame, then Robbie Williams would probably be it. He’ll admit almost as much tonight; half his material, he tells us, is bragging, the other about being lonely. He’ll mention how he’s now the solo artist with the most Number One albums in the UK, edging out Elvis, and then check that the 20,000-strong O2 crowd is still with him. Beloved as Take That’s ‘cheeky’ one (until he had the audacity to think he could party with the indie kids at Glastonbury), Robbie was always the ‘bad boy’ counterpart to Gary Barlow’s ‘upstanding citizenry’; essentially you could take the lad out of the working mens’ club, but hints of light entertainment would always rear their working-class head. For this stop at the London arena, Robbie is nominally touring in support of latest collection ‘XXV’, on which tracks from across his 25-year solo career have been reworked alongside the Netherlands’ Metropole Orkest – but such intricacies are kept to a minimum. It suits the twinkling ‘She’s The One’ (tonight dedicated to barrier regular, Sue), fits right in on ‘Angels’, of course, but confuses on ‘No Regrets’ - the song’s call-and-response messaging all but lost. Largely, however, this is as jam-packed and charm-filled a greatest hits set as anyone’s likely to offer up. Occasionally choreographed to within an inch of its life (autocue screens visible even from the vast heights of the O2’s top tier; an impeccable troupe of dancers; outfit changes that match the many screens’ animations) and yet simultaneously chaotic (an arena-wide chant in search of the retired Jason Orange; the a cappella mish-mash of singalongs Robbie leads solo once the house lights are on), he flits back and forth in his timeline, self-deprecating one minute, swaggering the next. It’s back to the beginning via a clip of Take That’s ‘Do What U Like’ video, featuring a 17-year-old Robbie, leather, various foodstuffs and a lack of clothing. Then there’s a short snippet of his first taste of lead vocals (1993’s ‘Everything Changes’) and on to a faithful cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ because, well, why not? Whether to showcase just how similar his ‘90s records were to Actual Britpop – ‘Strong’ and ‘Old Before I Die’ tonight’s particular cases in point – or just to piss off Noel, it’s a lot of fun. ‘Kids’ sees the backing singers swap roles to fill Kylie’s shoes (despite a criminal lack of the song’s rap outro), ‘Eternity’ is revealed to have been written about Geri Halliwell’s support to a newly-sober Robbie, and newbie ‘Lost’, for which the singer requests forgiveness for his self-indulgence, has a kind of trip-hop undertone to it, though it doesn’t quite reach quite banger level. “I hope I live to relive the days gone by,” he sang in 1997, at a point where, perhaps, the song’s premise was a little tongue-in-cheek. Tonight, the whole O2 has done just that. (Emma Swann)
LIVE BON IVER AT THEIR BEST, DELICATE AND ROUSING ALL AT ONCE. SETLIST
HEAVENLY FATHER 666ʇ CALGARY JELMORE U (MAN LIKE) IMI HEY, MA 10 D E A T H B R E A S T ⚄ ⚄ 715 - CR∑∑KS SPEYSIDE SKINNY LOVE PERTH FAITH SALEM HOLOCENE 33 “GOD” 22 (OVER S∞∞N) NAEEM FLUME RABI
AO Arena, Manchester. Photo: Matt Eachus.
t’s been well over three years since Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver last played a UK show, and one more since he last appeared on an indoor stage. His most recent, a headline appearance at London’s All Points East festival in 2019, concluded with the understated unveiling of then new tracks ‘Hey, Ma’ and ‘Man (U Like)’, both played out of the speakers as the band left the stage and the crowd filtered out of Victoria Park. It marked a subtle shift in sound away from the considered electronics of 2016’s ’22, A Million’ and back to a softer, more insular tone. It also ramped up the scale of instrumentation, adding a beautiful grandeur to the album’s crescendos, many of which dominate his first Manchester performance in some time. Delayed for the usual reasons, the show arrives with whole new experiences under Justin’s belt. His collaborations with pop powerhouse Taylor Swift have pushed him further into the mainstream, and
he’s already been steadily releasing new material leading to a live unveiling of the saxophone-fuelled new track ‘Speyside’. He’s re-embracing his more traditional songwriting, yet adding his distinctive orchestration, the quality of which remains firmly on show in early material such as ‘Flume’ and breakthrough ‘Skinny Love’. Justin is draped in dramatic lighting that matches the mood of each track and surrounded by an array of musicians with an even larger array of instruments. He himself stands under the spotlight, calm and collected and donning sweatpants. It places two of Bon Iver’s characteristics centre stage; the sheer scale of their music paired with its relaxed intimacy. It’s mirrored in tonight’s venue, a sprawling dark space affixed in pin-drop silence. Bon Iver glide through a curated snapshot of their PIXEY decade-plus career, largely giving equal weighting DYLAN
to each record and the occasional rarity between. Arguably beyond ‘Skinny Love’, the setlist is free to twist and turn, devoid of staple fan favourites or hit singles. With that, it lands somewhere between a gig and an orchestral experience, nodding to everything from the expansive prog heyday of Led Zeppelin’s calmer moments to jazz aficionados. Justin’s understanding of music and sound effortlessly bleeds into the live performance, borrowing from and elevating countless more musical styles. It’s all punctuated by his outfit’s uniqueness, be it the subtle drone of ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ or the distorted build of ‘iMi’. What arguably shouldn’t work in a live setting instead thrives in it, washing across mesmerised fans in masterful waves. It marks a welcome return to the UK stage and one that presents Bon Iver at their best, delicate and rousing all at once. (Ben Tipple)
INDUSTRIAL QUANTITIES OF WHOLESOME FUN.
FOUR CHORDS TOTALLY FINE MY LIFE IS OVER AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER DARK DAYS ROBOT WRITES A LOVE SONG FREE AT LAST SLEEP IN THE HEAT MATILDA MORBID STUFF KIDS RESERVOIR EDMONTON SCORPION HILL WAITING FAMILIAR PATTERNS IF THIS TOUR DOESN’T KILL YOU, I WILL DVP
O2 Institute, Birmingham. Photos: Jacob Flannery.
ou guys ready to get sad?” PUP frontman Stefan Babcock asks his band’s Brummie fans in a paradoxically chirpy Canadian lilt. “You come to see PUP for two reasons – to get in a mosh pit and to get sad.” Then he has a better idea. “Can we get a sad pit?”
He certainly knows his fanbase. The Toronto quartet have thrived off being the lovable, self-deprecating dorks of punk with personality as big as their riffs. It feels fitting, then, that they acknowledge their catapulting trajectory with opener ‘Four Chords’, a song speaking of themselves as a “board of directors” at a “quarterly meeting,” with a mock drum solo thrown in for a laugh. It feels euphoric as much as it is sardonic - the crowd roars along, and when they launch into breezy follow-up ‘Totally Fine’, the ensuing mosh pit is half the size of the room. It’s not an overtly aggressive mosh pit, however – it’s a joyful one instead that makes it almost sweet to watch erupt from the outside. PUP rattle through the rest of their seventeen-song set with remarkable efficiency, taking a laissez-faire approach with little crowd intervention but just the right amount of stage banter – Stefan quipping, “You’re bringing up all my traumas here! I thought we were all in this together!” when the crowd, for some reason, chant just his surname (only in Britain, eh?) is one particularly golden moment. There’s plenty of big chuckyour-fist-in-the-air moments, from the spirited, anthemic ‘Kids’ and urgently thundering ‘Waiting’, to a fast, loose airing of ‘Sleep In The Heat’ that’s full of heart, and arguably the most colossal capital-M moment (impressively so for a song about a dead emotional support chameleon). Then again, these are moments made more by the crowd than the band themselves, who don’t give them quite so much energy back, although it becomes a little more forgivable when he mentions they have been on tour for eight months. Nonetheless, as the group carry it home with the closing one-two of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ and ‘DVP’ that bring the show to a screeching halt, it’s undeniable that industrial quantities of wholesome fun have been had in the O2 Institute tonight. Approximately 1,500 “freaks,” as Stefan called them at the top of the show, are heading home happy. (Emma Wilkes)
PAVEMENT Roundhouse, London. Photo: Louise Mason.
n paper, a Sunday night gig populated largely by white men over 40 should be a relatively staid affair. But much as the group on stage have spent a career gleefully screwing up the page and writing their own musical rulebook, so the congregation gathered at their feet tonight have decided to do the same. Returning for the second of a four-night residency at Camden’s Roundhouse, the sheer love in the room for Pavement’s pandemic-delayed return is palpable. It helps that, in the perfect acoustics of the circular venue, tonight the band sound legitimately incredible: loud and resonant, with all the strange idiosyncrasies at their core ringing out for all to hear. But from the moment Stephen Malkmus and co step out to a hero’s welcome, you could bottle the communal excitement directed towards one of American indie’s most pivotal players returning to their natural habitat. The band seem just as giddy, too; there’s a carefree, scrappy spirit that still reigns supreme after three decades in the game, from an early mass singalong of ‘Stereo’ and the fuzzy lollop of ‘Frontwards’, to Scott ’Spiral Stairs’ Kannberg’s occasional turns on the mic that culminate with the rollocking punk shout of ‘Two States’. There’s little in the way of stage chat, but Pavement’s canon is packed with so much personality they don’t really need much more than the songs to do the talking. Where ‘In The Mouth A Desert’’s gritty bass and deadpan call-and-response rumble into the atmosphere before crashing into a cathartic purge of a chorus, fellow ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ cut ‘Here’ is sweet and simple, Malkmus’ famed way with a strangely affective couplet boiled down to its purest form. ‘Range Life’ arrives as an obvious highlight, the singer’s scratchily crooned high notes and cheeky Smashing Pumpkins-dissing lyrics sitting atop a melody so breezily infectious he could get away with murder, whilst ‘Spit On A Stranger’ - saved for the encore - is the sort of strange, beautiful puzzle of a song that a thousand Malkmus-lite bands have tried to emulate since. But, as tonight underlines, Pavement are a genre unto themselves: a group with a back catalogue full of nuance and contradiction that can nonetheless unite a crowd in pure unbridled joy. (Lisa Wright)
IT’S YOUR ROUND THIS MONTH: COURTNEY BARNETT Where: At home in Oz.
SPECIALIST SUBJECT: GREASE
What is Sandy’s surname? Olsen, Sandy Olsen. Easy one to kick off with but that is correct!
In the Harry Potter films, which animal represents the house of Hufflepuff? Not an owl… Hufflepuff? I feel like it’s something cute. Like a… duck?! A magical cute duck?! Alas, it was a badger.
Who is the only student character to also appear in Grease 2? Ooh… I knew I’d have troubles… I don’t know, Frenchy? Good guess, that’s correct! Alright!
In which decade was Marmite invented? Oh wow, I’m gonna say the 1920s? It was actually invented in 1901, so the 1900s.
Why does Sandy get sick when she goes to the Pink Ladies’ sleepover? Because she drinks the alcohol and gets her ears pierced and it makes her queasy. And there is piercing-related blood! Correct.
How many minutes in a game of rugby league? 90? A little too high, it was 80. Rugby isn’t my forte. I like soccer and tennis, but not so much rugby.
What road is Kenickie meant to be racing on before Danny has to take his place? Thunder Road? Another correct answer, you’re on a roll.
How many eggs does the average chicken lay in a year? 160, 260 or 360? I’m gonna say 260 because 360 seems like high pressure. 260 is correct, but that is still a lot of eggs!
Who is the principal of Rydell High? Oh, this I cannot remember. Do you want to take a stab in the dark? I got nothing. I got zero. It was Mrs McGee.
What colour is a giraffe’s tongue? I fed a giraffe once and I feel like its tongue was kind of blueish. Correct! I knew that day would come in handy.
Verdict: “I’m really proud of myself."
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