DIY, November 2023

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Inside the sonic sorcery of

Jelani Blackman Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes IDLES Sleater-Kinney Tkay Maidza

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard


Jelani Blackman by Louise Mason (p36)



Unbelievably, it’s the penultimate issue of 2023! To celebrate, we rounded up a handful of names for our annual Great Debate, but what are Team DIY’s stand-out musical moments of the year? SARAH JAMIESON Managing Editor It’s obviously been an incredible year for live shows, but getting to see Self Esteem headline a packed-out Hammersmith Apollo (and bring Mr Blobby on stage to boot) back in March really was as brilliant and ridiculous as it sounds. EMMA SWANN Founding Editor In no order at all: ’I’m Just Ken’ (and Pete Davidson’s pitch-perfect SNL homage); the screams as Billie Eilish was about to take to the Reading main stage; the guitar solo in Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘bad idea right?’; Elton’s O2 stairlift; the Bully and King Nun albums. LISA WRIGHT Features Editor Every single moment of Blur’s Wembley Stadium

show was perfection: a gig as big as it gets, that filled every corner of the space but somehow felt genuinely moving and, if not intimate (cos how could it), then personal. The very, very best. LOUISE MASON Art Director Divide and Dissolve at the end of End of the Road were so overwhelmingly astonishing I cried. I also cried at Aphex Twin at Field Day, but in a different manner. DAISY CARTER Digital Editor As a band I never thought I’d get to see in the flesh, the live return of Pulp was pretty special. He may not be as leg-breakingly wild as years gone by, but Jarvis has most definitely still got it.

Editor's Letter Are there any bands quite as prolific as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard? We would bet on ‘no’… Over the past thirteen years, the Aussie outfit have released 25 albums, toured relentlessly, amassed hundreds of thousands of fans and torn up the music industry rulebook in the process; not bad going for just over a decade. So, it’s about damn time we had them on the cover, and we couldn’t be more chuffed to be welcomed into their extraordinary world. Elsewhere, we usher in the newest era of IDLES, celebrate the long-awaited debut of Jelani Blackman, and discover the tragic but affirming story at the heart of Sleater-Kinney’s new album. Plus, since it’s almost the end of the year (how, we’re not entirely sure…) we’ve rounded up a slew of DIY faves to dissect some of 2023’s biggest musical moments.

Listening Post ROBBIE WILLIAMS - SING WHEN YOU’RE WINNING By the time you read this there’s every chance you’ve also watched the singer’s Netflix documentary all in one sitting. Choosing just one from his back catalogue is a challenge for us at HQ, but this time we’ve opted for his celebratory third: ‘Kids’; ‘Rock DJ’; ‘Knutsford City Limits’… what are you waiting for? GREEN DAY - NIMROD While eagerly awaiting more news on the trio’s fourteenth (!) studio release ‘Saviors’, which lands in January, let’s step it back even further in time to bask in the glories of ‘Hitchin’ a Ride’, ‘Redundant’ and - of course - ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’. SPRINTS - LETTER TO SELF If the first few records we’ve heard are anything to go by, 2024 is going to be a loud one. Irish noiseniks Sprints aren’t ones to hold back, and this long-awaited debut is as fiery as it gets. Skip to p34 for more on them.

November playlist Scan the Spotify code to listen.

Sarah Jamieson, Managing Editor










Founding Editor Emma Swann Managing Editor Sarah Jamieson Features Editor Lisa Wright Digital Editor Daisy Carter Art Direction & Design Louise Mason Cover Photo: Maclay Heriot.








reviews 50 ALBUM S 61 EPS ETC 62 LI VE

Contributors: Alex Doyle, Alfie Byrne, Ben Tipple, Dan Landsburgh, Ed Miles, Elvis Thirlwell, Eva Pentel, Hannah Mylrea, Holly Whitaker, Jack Terry, Jessie Brown, Joe Goggins, Neil Anderson, Neive McCarthy, Otis Robinson, Patrick Clarke, Pooneh Ghana, Rosie Cooper, Sean Kerwick. For DIY editorial: For DIY sales: For DIY stockist enquiries:

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.


Announcing the ‘Don’t Be Idle Get Fit With IDLES!’ workout DVD. Coming to a Tesco near you this Christmas.

“I was obsessed with the idea of manifesting feeling in a way that forced people to want to dance.”


- Joe Talbot


Gasin the


Launching LP5 with a sweaty

secret show and a massive new single, IDLES are turning the ignition key on ‘TANGK’: an album all about love. Words: Lisa Wright. Live photos: Emma Swann.

into the world and freeing yourself up to receive it right back. “I need love, and if you need love then you need to show people that you’re open and that you need tenderness and to be held just like everyone else,” he explains, speaking ahead of the show. “There’s a fable about the sun and the wind; if I want someone to take their coat off, I can’t blow, I need to just shine. And to let love in, I think I just needed to let love out, so to speak.”


have no idea how this is going, but together we shall make love, figuratively speaking,” declares Joe Talbot to the packed mass of bodies lucky enough to have signed up for a one-off show from a mysterious band named TANGK at London’s Village Underground. Canny sleuths may have put together the pieces beforehand; for a few weeks previous to the show, TANGK merch had begun subtly popping up in the photos of a rather more well-known outfit called IDLES. Yet there’s still the giddy fervour in the air of a ‘moment’ as soon as the not-quite-surprise reveal is made. ‘TANGK’, it transpires, is the name of the Bristol quintet’s forthcoming fifth album, which will be announced the following day. But tonight, Talbot - tennis sweatband stretched across his temples - is revelling at the helm of their smallest UK show in years and, figuratively speaking, summing up IDLES’ next phase quite neatly. LP5 is an album not so much about making, but creating love; about putting it out

In the run up to beginning work on the record, IDLES had been receiving the love of thousands, nightly - with both 2020’s ‘Ultra Mono’ and the following year’s ‘CRAWLER’ getting their simultaneous post-lockdown live debuts around the world. A third album that pushed the self-described ‘caricature’ of the band to its limit, and a fourth that aimed to destroy that image entirely with bold steps and, for Talbot, a vocal veer into more melodic territory, the experience led to an acute awareness of the playing field they’d created for themselves. “Playing the same songs every night really teaches you about what hits and what you feel from playing certain songs. It all just builds up a vocabulary that you take with you. You can’t switch it off; it’s your craft and you’re learning it all the time,” he says. “There was this backstep where we had this bombastic huge gesture of an album [‘Ultra Mono’] and also our most transgressive album to play with [‘CRAWLER’], and we found a balance,” he continues. “What happened was, we learnt a sense of everything we are artistically, and everything we can be, and everything we can leave behind. And then we started ‘TANGK’.”



“It has has to be big; there’s no point in [working with Nigel Godrich] unless it’s for something worthy.”


here are several figures who came together to guide the steering wheel of ‘TANGK’ over an often-testing period of writing that Talbot simply describes as “taking ages”. Guitarist Mark Bowen resumed co-production duties alongside Kenny Beats, who’d worked with the band on ‘CRAWLER’; joining the ranks this time, and offering a studio base in Brixton where the band would meet up and plough on, several days a week for several months, was Nigel Godrich. Famed for his work with, and fondly dubbed ‘the sixth member of’ Radiohead, Godrich had enlisted IDLES for the first episode of his revamped From the Basement sessions and wanted to progress the partnership further. For their part, the producer represented a statement of intent. “It has to be big; there’s no point in making that marriage happen unless it’s for something worthy. Don’t waste everyone’s time,” affirms Joe. “You don’t need someone like Kenny Beats, and you don’t need someone like Nigel Godrich on your album - you can make an album without them. But you make those choices because you’re making a gesture to the songs that they can be better, they can be more powerful or more poignant or to the point. They can sound how you want them to sound because of all that you love, and if all that you love is made by Kenny Beats and Nigel Godrich then fucking right, it’s gonna sound like that.” He describes the process as “pushing [him] further than [he’s] ever been”. Having become accustomed to working in a certain way - finishing the music first before writing the lyrics “on the microphone”, trusting his instincts - Godrich had other ideas. “Nigel’s philosophy is, it’s not a song without any lyrics or without any voice. There were some real difficulties in his studio with me; I was a bit like a fish out of water,” Talbot admits. “I didn’t want to relinquish any control to someone else but it was part of the process and I had to let go. It was hard at the start, and then it was fun. It could have gone a different way because I can be a real prick to work with sometimes - mainly because I’m scared or I’m in a bad place mentally - but their personalities and our personalities came together beautifully and made something quite explosive and enigmatic. I learnt a lot about myself and what I’m capable of.”


ANGK’, as a result, represents IDLES’ most melodic and nuanced record yet. Where ‘CRAWLER’ saw the frontman draw from the resonant, hitherto-unseen end of his vocal capabilities on lead single ‘The Beachland Ballroom’, across its follow-up Talbot allows his voice to reach tender new places, frequently prioritising rich, inviting singing over his customary gravelly shout. It suits an album with two

- Joe Talbot

central tenets at its core: to make people dance and to talk about love. “I was obsessed with the idea of manifesting feeling in a way that forced people to want to dance. Rhythm was a huge thing, and melody and singing and telling stories and poetry. Bowen was obsessed with rhythm and counts; pushing and pulling on the audience, and definitely pushing and pulling on my patience…” he chuckles. “He had some beautiful ideas in the bag, and we just had to find that thing to push against that we always have, and normally that’s something a bit more rigid but this time I wanted to write a love album. It’s all love. And it’s like, ‘Well what the fuck does that mean, Joe?’” For Talbot, thankfully, it means things like gratitude and empathy and openness rather than any sort of soppy Sheeran-fest. Lead track ‘Dancer’ was written in memory of Talbot’s mother, about “how she danced through her late days before she died and she was always so positive”. “I was the only one to speak at my mother’s funeral and I wrote a lot about her, and most of it was about her dancing,” he nods. “Dancing is an analogy of finding strength from the self and inner peace. Dancing like nobody’s watching is such a powerful thing to see and you know it when it’s true.” For the track, IDLES brought in then-tourmates LCD Soundsystem, with James Murphy and Nancy Whang lending their backing vocals to the track. “We knew how magical and kind they were and they gave us way more than we asked for. They let us use their studio on our day off, so we spent the day at DFA and recorded the backing vocals there and they were fucking stunning. They’re beautiful people, and better than you could even want them to be,” Talbot nods. The other track premiered at Village Underground comes in the form of the propulsive ‘Gratitude’ - a dual-hitter of soft, inviting verse and big, cathartic chorus pay-off. “I think it’s the most accomplished song we’ve written in terms of everything from melody, vigour, rhythm; it’s post-punk but it’s melodic and the poetry in it is beautiful. I’m very proud of the lyrics and it’s succinct: ‘Gratitude’ is about gratitude.”

on the

’Gram 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 catch-up on music’s finest photo-taking action as of late.

The sad girls’ Roman Empire (@lucydacus)

Heading into Album Five, IDLES have a lot to be grateful for. The red-faced, sweat-covered people peeling out of the pit come the end of tonight’s show are testament to a rabid fanbase that’s clearly going nowhere; with ‘TANGK’’s expansive arsenal, chances are they’ll recruit even more to the cause. Having professed the motto of ‘All is Love’ since the beginning, IDLES are finally - musically, completely coming good on the promise. DIY The pop culture crossover we never knew we needed. (@confidenceman_)

“This time I wanted to write a love album. It’s all love.” - Joe Talbot 8 DIYMAG.COM 8 DIYMAG.COM

Taking the phrase ‘musical chameleon’ to a whole new level. (@janellemonae)












C O N C E R T S & F R I E N D S P R E S E N T A T I O N A R R A N G E M E N T W I T H W M E




















the new album ’everything is alive’ out now

by arrangement with primary talent international T I C K E T S











DIY in deep


DIY In Deep is our monthly, onlinecentric chance to dig into a longer profile on some of the most exciting artists in the world right now.

Bella Latham - aka Baby Queen - has spent the past three years steadily amassing a dedicated following of loyal subjects in the form of her Baby Kingdom - a legion of fans who are set to stand by her, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ and all. Words: Daisy Carter. Photos: Eva Pentel.


Queen of H

here’s a satisfying sense of poetic justice that Oxford’s The Bullingdon - which shares its name with the infamous all-male university club known for its old-fashioned elitism and vandalism will, in a few short hours, be packed full of progressive, obsessive, (mostly) teenage girls. The subject of their devotion? Bella Latham: a woman in her mid-twenties who loves Taylor Swift, requests Tangfastics for her rider, and is quickly becoming the vapesmoking, heart-on-sleeve-wearing voice of the TikTok generation. Better known by her stage moniker Baby Queen, Bella is visiting the storied city for the first time as part of an intimate-ish outstore tour, previewing stripped-back versions of tracks from her forthcoming debut album, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’. “We’ve followed her on social media and been big fans for a couple of years now, but we can’t travel too far so we’ve never seen a show,’ says Lucy excitedly, explaining to DIY why she and her sister Yasmin have been sitting on the front step of the venue since 2pm. They’re not bemoaning the wait, though (aside from having to pay £15 for parking - Oxford City Council, sort it out). In fact, far from it. For them, and for the steadily-swelling group of young people gathered on this bit of pavement, their being here for Bella is simply not in question. “I was at uni today,” asserts Rosie, another fan who’s joined our conversation. “I went to my first lecture, and then I skipped my second to come really early so I could be at the front. I have to be at the barrier - I have to have a perfect view.” “Obviously,” Lucy and Yasmin agree simultaneously. “You have to!”

Such is the influence of the queen over her Baby Kingdom - a community of hardcore fans who range from Tumblr-esque teens to middle-aged women and beyond. While the phenomenon of fandom is nothing new, and can be traced right from Beatlemania to the Eras Tour ticket scramble, what sets Baby Queen apart is that she’s perhaps one of the first artists to have cultivated an online network from the off. Not that she had much choice in the matter. As we speak in a nearby pub before tonight’s show, Bella explains that she actually got signed over Zoom during 10 DIYMAG.COM

lockdown, and started sending vinyl or letters to fans in the post as “a way to have some tangibility.”

As a result, many members of the Baby Kingdom - particularly those who’ve been here since her 2020 debut EP ‘Medicine’ - feel a connection with Bella that goes beyond your typical fan-celebrity parasocial relationship. “There are certain fans - for example, these guys over here,” she gestures to a small group a few tables away, with whom she later does a round of tequila shots, “they have my cell phone number. They’ve been fans for the longest time and I’ll always make an effort to see them. I feel like I’ll always honour that; you can’t forget the people that put you on that pedestal in the first place.” Exceptions aside, it’s only more recently that Bella’s been able to appreciate the full force of her Kingdom’s reverence. “You might imagine the people online saying, ‘You’ve changed my life’ or ‘I’m not the same because of your music’,” she says, “but you can’t quantify that, you can’t put a face to it. It’s just an empty phrase; the internet’s an echo chamber, and it doesn’t feel real.” But these more close-knit, acoustic gigs - a far cry from her appearance on the main stage at Reading and Leeds festivals this summer - have allowed her to “see everyone’s faces and actually hear their stories. It’s been a very touching experience”. Many of the fans queuing outside The Bullingdon come bearing gifts for Bella; she has “the most massive collection” of handmade, beaded friendship bracelets, while after the show people clamour to have her sign records and Pride flags, and take their BeReal.


aby Queen doesn’t stop when Bella steps offstage or puts down her guitar; it’s grown into something bigger than herself, something that represents connection and acceptance and all the messy complexities of coming of age. These have always been the building blocks of the project - just listen to early hit ‘Want Me’, a solid-gold obsession anthem written about actor Jodie Comer. But the associations have been reinforced tenfold by Heartstopper, the hit Netflix show with which Baby Queen has become somewhat synonymous.

Hearts “It’s completely changed my career,” Bella smiles. “Alice [Osman] explained how much my music had impacted the show’s writing, so it just felt very natural to be more involved.”

wish that we’d had this’, because I grew up feeling so guilty. That a kid can watch Heartstopper and recognise those feelings and not feel guilty for them - I think that’s amazing.”

A handful of pre-existing Baby Queen songs (‘Want Me’, ‘Dover Beach’, and ‘Buzzkill’) were included on the soundtrack of Heartstopper Series One, after which Bella wrote ‘Colours Of You’ - an understated ode to queer love, and one of the show’s most beloved tracks - specifically for its second season, even making a cameo in the finale herself.

‘Quarter Life Crisis’ is out 10th November via Polydor.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Heartstopper, along with other flagship, teen-focused series like Sex Education, have been seminal in terms of LGBTQ+ representation on screen. Their depiction of young queer people as multi-faceted, nuanced characters who are developed beyond the labels of their sexuality or gender identity is something that just wasn’t on mainstream television a decade ago. “We had nothing like that,” agrees Bella. “We had the gay best friend character, or the two really hot girls that were lesbians, to add a bit of flame,” she rolls her eyes. “But there was never anything that felt like a real version of two human beings falling in love like straight people. That’s what really struck me when I saw [Heartstopper]. I just thought, ‘I

Read the full feature online at babyqueen. DIY

“You can’t forget the people that put you on this pedestal in the first place.”



“The glamour and the romance of living on the edge - I’ve always struggled with it.” Frank Carter 12 DIYMAG.COM

After the frenzied blitz of 2021’s ‘Sticky’, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are emerging with a reflective, grand statement on fifth album ‘Dark Rainbow’. Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photos: Brian Rankin.



hose familiar with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will know that their frontman cuts a distinctive figure. Throughout their live shows over the past eight years - and even with his earlier projects Gallows and Pure Love - Frank’s presence has been a commanding one, throwing shapes in a floral Gucci suit and barrelling headfirst into the crowd, fired up with passion. A version of The Rattlesnakes that’s perhaps less familiar, though, was the one displayed on their most recent tour. A low-key, intimate affair - with tickets only offered to their fan mailing list - their short run last month saw the band strip things back for a handful of shows in churches and cafes, offering up a set that felt a world away from the white-of-your-eyes frenzy more regularly on offer. “They were beautiful,” begins Frank, just a few days on from their final show at The Monarch in Berlin. “It was just the three of us playing an hour of acoustic versions of some of our older songs, and some new ones. It felt like a whole new way of performing, and the setlist was pretty special; early songs like ‘Neon Rust’ and ‘Anxiety’ came back into the fold, with new, slower, much more gentle renditions. It was really really intimate, and it was nice to play a gig and just hear silence between the songs. It was quite powerful.” After the frenetic energy that pumped through the veins of previous album ‘Sticky’, the idea of ushering in their new era with a set of acoustic shows may come as somewhat of a surprise. “When we were making ‘Sticky’ it felt like everything that was missing, we were just trying to put it down into sound,” explains Frank of their 2021 release, which was primarily written as a response to the continuing pandemic and the loss of live music. “It was like a memorial to live music or something; like us saying, ‘This is how it feels, don’t forget this!’ It felt like it was a love letter to punk rock, in our way,” he nods. “We obviously ain’t a punk band, but we have punk rock blood, and it felt like, I dunno, a clinging.” He cracks a grin. “‘I’ll never let go Jack!’ Except we’re the iceberg - know what I mean?” And so, The Rattlesnakes have switched things up again. While the band are never adverse to throwing out curveballs (“I don’t know what [fans] expect anymore,” Frank remarks. “I think they expect the unexpected, and that’s probably as good as you get from us”), their fifth album ‘Dark Rainbow’ seemingly comes from a different place altogether. Gone is

‘Sticky’’s zealous celebration of extroversion, with their latest instead inspired by the feelings of isolation and loneliness that sank in fully in the ensuing years. “Going into this felt complicated for me,” Frank admits. “It felt like we were languishing a bit after the COVID lockdown, and when we came out of it, it felt like the celebration was a bit too soon. [I] didn’t really ever seem to properly recover; even now, I go to gigs and I can feel…” he trails off. “Nothing’s back to normal, certainly not back to the way it was, and that’s sad. It’s interesting because when we were in that lockdown bit, in those early moments, I didn’t feel alone. The loneliness came after the fact - when you’d been isolated for such a long time and then you’re not - and it’s hard to move from that headspace. It’s had a lingering feeling.” or the frontman, the making of ‘Dark Rainbow’ would provide a very real sense of therapy. While his writing came from a “very introspective headspace”, the album’s lyrics see him reflect on his place on stage, in the wider world, and the coping mechanisms he’s found himself developing in the wake of his current life. “A lot of the record is about coping mechanisms, and how overwhelming they can be; how they can sneak up on you, how they’re always around and it’s about the time and the energy that you give to those things and what happens when that happens,” Frank offers up, nodding to the fact that he’s now sober.


“For me, I lost a lot of friends in the last three years - some of them are still alive, some of them aren’t, and it just felt important to recognise that. I’ve always struggled with the…” he pauses. “The glamour, and the romance of living on the edge. I’ve always struggled with it because it’s a really complicated game you’re playing and you don’t often get to choose where or when you get to cash out. 9.9 times out of 10, the house always wins on that one. I feel like I’m the 0.1 and I was really lucky to get out when I did. I certainly didn’t leave with chips; I definitely came out with less than I went in with. But in reality, I’m still alive, I’m healthy, and I’ve learned that I don’t ever wanna play that game again. I certainly won’t ever be going back to that casino.”

Through the creation of their latest record, the band became “a support network for each other”, with Frank and bandmate Dean Richardson working at an easier pace than in the past. “We were a little bit slower and more considered,” Dean confirms. “I don’t know why that is, but it definitely felt a lot calmer in that consideration and not a sprint to the finish line like some of the others might’ve felt.” This change of pace can be tangibly felt within the album itself. Where ‘Sticky’ felt turbocharged and

“We had more room than ever before - to make, to create, to think, to criticise, to analyse.” Frank Carter frantic - a visceral reaction to the tumultuous period in which it was born - ‘Dark Rainbow’ feels more luscious, more brooding. From the Queens of the Stone Age-esque swagger of opener ‘Honey’ to the grandeur of the record’s lead single ‘Man of the Hour’ via the ethereal piano-led ‘Sun Bright Golden Happening’, the space the band afforded themselves has been woven into the record’s very core. “There was no real pressure and there was no deadline to make the record,” Frank nods. “We had more room than ever before - to make, to create, to think, to criticise, to analyse. There’ll be some stuff that feels familiar, but then there’s other things that are like, ‘OK, that’s where they’ve taken this now’.” Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes, ultimately, are keeping us on our toes once more. “We’ve just always loved the ability to do that,” the frontman says. “Just know that there’s gonna be some curveballs.” ‘Dark Rainbow’ is out 26th January via International Death Cult / AWAL. DIY


NEWS Absolutely nothing dodgy about tossing your briefcase in the sea, is there lads.

YA R D ACT Dream Job How do you follow a Mercury Prize-shortlisted, critically acclaimed stormer of a debut album? That’s the question Leeds heroes Yard Act have been grappling with since bidding farewell to the era of ‘The Overload’, and, if new single ‘Dream Job’ is anything to go by, this existential ‘what now?’ angst finds them in fine fettle. Dabbling in discoindebted grooves - pleasingly at odds with frontman James Smith’s recognisably unembellished register - the track draws back the curtain on the band’s all-singing, all-dancing second act (just check out the video). (Daisy Carter)

HAVE YOU HEARD? PEACE Happy Cars Either geniuses, mad men or - as we’ve suspected all along - a reasonable mix of both, the roll-out of Peace’s fourth LP ‘Utopia’ has so far consisted of a passwordprotected website URL gifted to ticket buyers and very little traditional promo. ‘Happy Cars’ then, several months after ‘releasing’ (or not?) the album, lands as its first public-facing offering, and its hippy, acoustic good vibes should prompt a decent whack of website hacking to try and reach the rest. Evoking the misty, mystical dawn of the Henge-adjacent Somerset countryside from which it was created, it’s still an indie earworm as you’d expect from the Koisser boys, but one that might also offer you some mushrooms on the side. (Lisa Wright)



If the top spot for Queen of AltPop was ever in question, Caroline Polachek set those qualms to rest earlier this year with sophomore album ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’. Now, she’s returned with her first new music since its feted Valentine’s Day release - the delightfully idiosyncratic ‘Dang’. Off-kilter beats, unusual percussive flourishes and a Wet Leg-esque scream are unlikely bedfellows for Caroline’s crystal-clear vocals, but she’s never been one for conventionality - precisely why her status as a boundary-pushing pop pioneer remains so assured. (Daisy Carter)

GR EEN DAY The American Dream Is Killing Me

Let’s be honest: it feels like there’s no better time than the present for Green Day to emerge with another scorching politicised anthem, and with their new single - and first from forthcoming album ‘Saviors’ - they really got the memo. Taking aim at their nation’s chaotic political landscape and the very real struggles that people are facing on a daily basis (housing crisis, unemployment et al), ‘The American Dream Is Killing Me’ channels a similar fury to that of their iconic ‘American Idiot’ in a succinct and turbocharged chant. The fact they’re back to collaborating with producer Rob Cavallo - who worked on their whopping 2004 album, too - helps amp things up even more. (Sarah Jamieson)

BEA BA DOOBEE & LAUFEY A Night To Remember Admittedly ‘A Night To Remember’ is a little different from what we’ve come to expect from Beabadoobee, but this collaboration with modern jazz star Laufey is gorgeous all the same. A melding together of the two artists’ singular sounds, the track is the kind of slinky, seductive number that’d be perfect soundtracking a bougie night of cocktails with the girls; the fact that its message is an empowering flipping of the script telling the tale of a woman happily walking away after the titular night to remember - makes it all the more delicious. (Sarah Jamieson)




DIY live

Before They Knew Better


ICYMI, we’ve launched a new podcast! Digging into the cuteness and cringe of our fabulous guests’ younger years, you can listen to a new episode every week via Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Here’s what happened in the last month:


THE ITCH, MEMORY OF SPEKE & RED IVORY kick off the inaugural The first of our monthly shows with Parallel Lines brought a trio of upcoming bands to East London’s Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes. Photo: Neil Anderson.

edition of One Way Or Another

Despite doors opening only minutes prior, there’s already a distinct buzz surrounding Shoreditch’s always-excellent Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes as DIY arrive for the first edition of One Way Or Another - our new monthly gig series, hosted in partnership with Parallel Lines, that showcases some of the best Neu artists about. From the outside, Jaguar Shoes may look like an intimate, trendy cafe-bar (which, by all accounts, it is), but descend down the steps into the basement below and you’re transported to a Santa’s grotto of live music, complete with twinkly fairy lights and a fireplace-nook of a stage. Kicking off proceedings are Red Ivory, a four-piece from South East London who take up their instruments with such collective assuredness that you’d be forgiven for forgetting they’re all still students. Powering through tracks from their debut EP ‘Façade’, the quartet merge big riffs and whiplash drums in a contemporary take on ‘90s grunge that concludes with a glorious crescendo of cathartic screams. Memory of Speke are next, flanked by a fan in the front row sporting their rather fetching merch who, for the duration of the set, leads by example in encouraging the audience to lose themselves in the band’s unique groove. Despite not yet having any material out, the six-piece have cultivated a


word-of-mouth reputation for captivating, compelling live shows - akin to the theatrical flair of, say, The Last Dinner Party, but with added saxophone. Take that as a jumping off point and add on-stage dance routines, sometimes ska-indebted instrumentation, and buckets of charisma, and you’re still probably only halfway to Memory of Speke. Whether it’s running on the spot, coaxing the crowd into copying their movements, or laughingly asserting that they’re “having a reaaally bad chat night”, this is performance with a capital P. Topping tonight’s bill is The Itch, a London-based quintet formed from the bones of Luton trio Regressive Left. What with our cave-like surroundings and some fresh faces amidst the crowd, there’s a renewed sense of intimacy as the headliners assume their positions, inducting us into their world of angular electro-punk. Drummer Georgia Hardy takes on the not-to-be-underestimated task of singing whilst keeping the beat with apparent ease, while bandmate Simon Tyrie cuts a commanding figure as frontman, flitting between a tripartite set-up of his mic, synth keyboard, and effects deck. As the second unreleased band on the lineup, The Itch deftly prove that in an age of viral moments and streaming services, the practice of cutting your teeth via live shows is still very much alive and kicking. And that, ultimately, is the essence of One Way Or Another - celebrating the absolute wealth of underground talent out there and spotlighting some of London’s brilliant independent venues to boot. (Daisy Carter)

The Norwegian pop sensation looks back on her childhood sibling band, giving her cat a wedding and her meticulous approach to The Sims (including a glorious rendition of ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ in Simlish).

OLIVIA DEAN Mercury Prize-shortlisted singer Olivia Dean digs into her musical theatre past, giving us a glimpse into life at The BRIT School, reliving some classic family gatherings and letting us in on the period of her life when she went to ‘cub school’.

BASTILLE’S DAN SMITH Chart-topping frontman Dan toasts the adorable nerdiness of his teenage years, from setting up a Scream 3 fan forum to donning a tiger onesie for Bastille’s first ever Glastonbury gig via Mr Blobby.

MAE MULLER Eurovision hopeful turned proper pop star Mae goes back to days swigging Glenn’s vodka on Hampstead Heath, bumping into childhood hero Lily Allen and a very unfortunate self-administered haircut. Head to to listen.




















Junkyard in the

born yself.”

The yetiloving, instrumentmaking, word-ofmouth trio, taking the buzz overground. Words: Lisa Wright. Photos: Holly Whitaker.

If you’ve attended one of Mary in the Junkyard’s increasingly talked-about live shows over the past year, you’ll have become well acquainted with not just the trio themselves - vocalist / guitarist Clari Freeman-Taylor, bassist and viola player Saya Barbaglia and drummer David Addison - but a few of their handmade friends. Accompanying the band for all engagements are “Brian the face”, as well as a papier-mâché mushroom and spine; since making the VHS-shot video for recent debut single ‘Tuesday’, they can add a mop-like full-sized yeti outfit to their dressing up box too. “For the last few months, I’ve only been able to create yeti art. It got bad. But I’ve been released from that since we did the single,” says Clari, with mock relief. An eagerness to make their shows as immersive as possible - their next London headline at Corsica Studios, they note, will be going “all out with the sculptures” - is but one facet of the group’s seemingly boundless creativity. Not just another buzz band birthed from Brixton’s Windmill, MITJ are the real deal: a group who’ve not only found their own niche of eerie, magical, experimental indie, but who clearly relish every aspect of concocting Mary’s world. Already weaving in classical strings to their more alternative leanings, Saya has also been building her own instruments that they hope to incorporate into their live shows. There’s a slide guitar made out of a skateboard, and the ‘Sayaphone’: crafted from a bunch of bent pipes, found in a bin and welded together. “My favourite one is the friendship flute. It’s a two person flute,” adds David. If that all sounds like the wacky work of a bunch of art school outliers, however, then the word-of-mouth buzz circling the band of late suggests they’ve got skin in the wider game too. Having formed little over a year ago for the purpose of playing a show that Clari had booked and needed a band for, since then Mary in the Junkyard have played knocking on 100 gigs, becoming the Windmill’s “in-house support band” for a stint, and earning a reputation the old-fashioned way. It’s been working. This summer, without a note of music released, they played hyped slots at End of the Road, Green Man and more; for the release of ‘Tuesday’, they returned to headline their old South London haunt, selling it out to a room full of “everyone who we had collected over the last year”. “It was like scooping up a big net of people who liked us and putting them in one room,” grins Saya. “People we’d met at different shows and festivals, childhood friends, our parents met for the first time…” When the band first started gigging, two thirds of their number (Clari and David) were still living in Hertfordshire. After a show in London, they’d take the train back to the countryside, to return to a different type of audience. “There were fields of cows to play to. They like really horrible noises; I think because it’s loud, they go like…” Clari laughs, moving her head in an animated bovine impression. “It’s the test of whether a track’s punk enough, whether it goes hard enough.” These days, their wares are being performed solely to listeners of a two-legged kind, but


MITJ’s remix, ‘Sit Nonchalantly Like An Egyptian’ didn’t quite have the momentum of the original

There were fields of cows to play to [back home]. They like really horrible noises.” Clari Freeman-Taylor

Mary in the Junkyard still like to go hard. They describe ‘Tuesday’ as a song of two halves, with a first portion that’s “tighter and more driving, whereas the end is a real release”. “We like to have tight control of dynamics; pulling it back and then letting go,” notes Clari. Having cut their teeth playing sometimes up to four times a week, the rest of their set has ramped up in energy and confidence too. “We go wild on stage now; we’ve become much less reserved,” says Saya. “There’s a bit in the middle [of new track ‘Ghosts’] where me and Saya howl like wolves,” continues David. “I’m excited to put that out so people know to do it cos at the moment it’s just us when we play…” “I was listening to some voice notes of the early recordings this morning when I was going through my phone and we sounded like tiny children, which is weird because it was only a year ago,” muses Clari of their rapid progression, as Saya cuts in: “But it’s been a huge year”. “It’s been about five years’ worth of how much you’d normally play shows condensed down into one,” Clari nods. Still fresh enough to be creating with a winning sort of wide-eyed enthusiasm, but now seasoned enough on the stage to have the clout to back up the buzz, it’s a combination that feels primed to place Mary in the Junkyard in 2024’s spotlight. DIY




ECLECTIC BUT INFECTIOUS NEW STAR WHO’LL KEEP YOU GUESSING. There aren’t many artists who can say that they’ve opened for Haim at All Points East and enrolled in clown school in the same breath, but that just goes to show there aren’t many artists like Kaeto. Having burst into life with the deliciously funky ‘Good Morning’ last year, the Scottish-born, London-bred singer has already managed to showcase her knack for producing free-spirited, genre-bending pop music, even with just two songs out in the wild. LISTEN: Last month’s ‘No Body’ is a thundering but infectious hit which packs the sort of menacingly whispered punch that Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell would be proud of. SIMILAR TO: A melding pot of slick, inventive pop that’ll keep you on your toes.

MOVING THE GOALPOSTS OF IRISH INDIE. There’s something nostalgic about Cardinals’ music that’s difficult to pinpoint: there being a whiff of The Cure about them, perhaps, or that their resident accordion player brings a curious tinge of traditional folk to proceedings. Either way, they’ve been given the seal of approval by fellow Irishman Grian Chatten, and have already cultivated quite the buzz out on the live circuit. Most definitely watch this space. Listen: Keep your ears pricked for debut single proper ‘Roseland’, with the promise of more to come in 2024. Happy new year! Similar to: If Robert Smith and The Pogues formed a band in noughties New York.


CRAFTING BEAUTY OUT OF BARBS. Born in Trinidad and now based in London, Toni Sancho’s music acts as a canvas on which she paints vignettes of heartbreak, confusion, and tentative hope in vivid colour. Having released a duo of singles this year on her own label, Blue Daisy, she merges rich, gravelly vocals with Caribbean influences - April’s ‘Don’t Wanna Break Your Heart!’ foregrounds traditional Soca drums - in a cathartic reconciling of her dual identity. LISTEN: New cut ‘Goodbye!’ bids a beautifully bittersweet adieu to a broken relationship. SIMILAR TO: Yazmin Lacey, Olivia Dean, Eli Smart - the new set of stunning modern soul.

NEU Recommended � BBY


UNCOMPROMISING BELFAST TRIO, LEAVING NOTHING BEHIND. Some bands by their very nature leave you feeling slightly winded after watching them, in need of a cup of tea and a nap. Belfast trio Chalk sit firmly in this category. A relentlessly visceral group of rhythmically-minded industrial punks, their material - somewhere along the lines of Gilla Band shoved down into Hades itself - has the aura of three musicians putting every scrap of themselves into it; brutal tunes as intense as they come. LISTEN: Debut EP ‘Conditions’ arrived earlier this year. SIMILAR TO: A panic attack in aural form.


OLD SCHOOL FANDOM TACTICS; NEW SCHOOL SOUND. Operating out of a rehearsal room in an East London creative arts building, bby have spent 2023 cultivating a following the DIY way: hosting hang outs and gigs in their instrument-filled hub, recording the antics to make the video for second single ‘hotline’, and sharing TV episode-style videos of jams and rehearsals, offering a window into their world. As you may have guessed from the spelling of their name, however, that world is a thoroughly modern one, where indie, hip-hop and more combine in the most fun-loving, playful of ways. LISTEN: Recent single ‘gold teeth & fenty’ is like The 1975’s weirdest bits, sped up and shoved underwater. SIMILAR TO: The newest frontrunners for Easy Life (RIP)’s recently-vacated niche in the market.

NEU With a visceral viral hit already under her belt, meet the singersongwriter painting rich, multifaceted portraits of womanhood with her songs. Words: Sarah Jamieson.

While a viral hit on TikTok is now ten a penny, it’s not too often that one truly connects in the way that Paris Paloma’s breakout single ‘Labour’ did back in the spring. “That’s one of the things that I don’t think the human brain is made for,” laughs Paris, mid-conversation, as she thinks back to the incomprehensible rate at which the song spread across the internet. A reflection upon her own fears and frustrations with the way that women are continually treated within patriarchal structures, ‘Labour’ bears a potent and powerful message, with devastating lines such as, “All day, every day, therapist, mother, maid / Nymph then a virgin, nurse then a servant / Just an appendage, live to attend him / So that he never lifts a finger”. ‘Labour’’s message was felt viscerally by its listeners and, since its March release, has been listened to over 70 million times, quickly entering both the Billboard and UK Singles Charts. “Again, nothing prepares you for that,” Paris says today, on how it felt to see the song connect so widely. “I think one of the reasons I was drawn to songwriting was the impulse to feel heard. It’s a tale as old as time and it’s very cliche, but when you often feel like, on a personal level, you don’t have a voice, it’s insane to feel as heard as I’ve felt this year.” Despite being at such an early juncture, Paris is already fleshing out a multifaceted world with her warm, folk-flecked output. Having turned to songwriting after cultivating a fevered interest in reading and creative writing from an early age (“I was convinced I was gonna be an author and write novels,” she explains. “I didn’t really have a head for plot, but I loved the world-building of it”), her time at university spent studying Fine Art and History of Art has all fed into the creation of her rich and evocative offerings; much like her own musicals inspirations, Florence + The Machine and Hozier, they’re intensely personal things. “I explore different facets of womanhood and all of my music is derived from what goes on in my head, and the ways in which things frighten or scare me, or anger me, or move me in any capacity,” she notes, nodding to ‘Labour’’s follow-up single ‘As Good A Reason’ and her most recent “empowering and almost quite funny song” ‘Drywall’. “It’s also interesting to see the expectations for what you share after having a song [like ‘Labour’] with such a strong identity - that was also given such a strong identity by so many people. It’s interesting to move on from that and say, ‘Hey, I have all these other songs which are more different facets of my human experience’.” Currently taking a short break between shows to recalibrate and “catch up with the magical runaway train that my music has been on this year,” Paris is coy but confident about what’s next to come. “There’s lots of stuff that’s felt like an absolute baby of mine, where I’m - with trepidation - putting my heart out into the world,” she nods, “but I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve been so grateful just for the human connection that’s come from my music resonating with people.” DIY

Paris Paloma

“When you often feel like

you don’t have a voice, it’s insane to feel as heard as

I’ve felt this year.” 21

Buzz Buz � Feed NEU

All the buzziest new music happenings in one place.



The PLAY LIST Every week on Spotify, we update the Neu Playlist with the buzziest, freshest faces. Here’s our pick of the best new tracks:

HUMAN INTEREST - ALL MY FRIENDS Hot on the heels of recent singles ‘Grounded’ and ‘Step On’ comes this latest cut from Human Interest, a sauntering, introspective number that explores a strikingly relatable phenomenon - that while we’re all ostensibly responsible adults, everyone seems to be feeling, well, a little bit lost. ‘All My Friends’ expertly toes the line of being heartfelt without becoming bleak, while the accompanying video serves as a hopeful reminder that whatever you’re going through, you’re not going through it alone.



Fresh from completing their 11-date UK tour last month, this year’s breakout band The Last Dinner Party have fully cemented that status, announcing their biggest ever headline date at London’s Roundhouse for 1st February (it’s already sold out, natch). The gig will follow the band’s run of shows last month and comes after the release of their latest single, ‘My Lady Of Mercy’. Speaking of their newest offering, the band have said: “We are expanding the world of The Last Dinner Party to encompass a darker, heavier atmosphere. The lyrics explore the anguish of a teenage crush that can only be described through the bloody, carnal language of religious experience, as the soundworld takes cues from Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey and Roxy Music.” Listen to the track now over at

PinkPantheress has announced plans to release her anticipated debut album later this month. Her first full-length, ‘Heaven knows’, is set for release on 10th November, and, in her own words, “is about grief for a loss but being at peace with yourself in your aloneness. Journeying from hell into purgatory, but I’m ok with being there.” The project comes after her 2021 mixtape ‘to hell with it’, and will see her explore the multiple facets of different relationships - with romantic partners, with parasocial connections, and ultimately with herself - over 13 tracks. Alongside the news, she’s has also announced details of shows in the UK, Ireland, and Europe in Spring 2024, ahead of her stint supporting Olivia Rodrigo on the US leg of her ‘GUTS’ world tour. She’ll play six shows across February and March, making stops in Dublin (20th Feb), Manchester (22nd), London (23rd), Amsterdam (27th), Paris (28th) and Berlin (1st March), and tickets are on sale now.

AMARA CTK100 USED TO THINK IT WAS ME BUT IT’S YOU! A Grimes-adjacent slice of skittering, nervy electropop, there’s something fitting about the way Swiss-Italian AMARA ctk100’s hyper-feminine vocals dance confidently over an ominous bass line given the subject matter. A reclamation of power against the female shame instilled over generations of patriarchal conditioning, though the heavy noise still rumbles beneath, AMARA’s light-as-a-feather vocals rise above it; a neat metaphor, if ever we heard one.

MAN / WOMAN / CHAINSAW WHAT LUCY FOUND THERE The latest in a recent line of young bands from the capital making a buzz the old-fashioned, live circuit way, angsty sextet Man / Woman / Chainsaw’s third proper release hums with the sort of layered energy that’s clearly been honed on the stage. Echoes of Black Country, New Road and black midi come through in their orchestration and vocalist Ben’s quivering delivery respectively, but the more traditionally melodic vocals of counter-foil Vera steer ‘What Lucy Found There’ into their own path. Ominous and full of foreboding, if their name wasn’t ripe fodder for spooky season, then their latest track certainly cements that status.

GGLUM - SPLAT! A QUICK QUIP London collective (and DIY Class of 2023 alumni) KEG have returned with their latest single ‘Quip Quash’, their first new music since last year’s ‘Girders’ EP. Talking about the track, the band have said: “Embarrassingly centred around the insecurities of writing music surrounded by your ever better, more handsome and intelligent peers, ‘Quip Quash’ is a flurry of pithy spite and clumsy word bundles.” Check out ‘Quip Quash’ over at now. Their return comes after a string of festival appearances and live dates earlier this year, including their recent UK headline tour. If you missed them, however, they’ve just confirmed plans to play at Liverpool’s What Music? event on 18th November, and Bristol’s Simple Things in February 2024.


Newly signed to indie label Secretly Canadian, 21-year-old songwriter Ella Smoker - better known as gglum - has returned with the tumultuous anthem ‘SPLAT!’. In keeping with the Londoner’s signature lo-fi sound, discordant guitars and punchy drum lines ruminate together, while distorted vocals grapple with the angst of teenage desire. Placing emotional outbursts alongside moments of rationalisation, ‘SPLAT!’ captures the chaos of young love in its rawest form. As the first offering since 2022 EP ‘Weak Teeth’, it signals an exciting shift in a new direction.

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What do you get if you cross a drum kit with a saxophone? Surprise tours, frenetic live shows, and a potential fitness DVD… Words: Daisy Carter. Photo: Jamie MacMillan.

You’d think it would be a truth universally acknowledged that the bigger the band, the bigger the sound, but South London’s O. - made up of drummer Tash Keary and baritone saxophonist Joe Henwood - are a pair who defy convention, from their moniker right through to their music. “Coming from playing in really big bands, in which I didn’t write loads of the music, [O.] gave us the opportunity to do basically the exact opposite,” says Joe, explaining how jamming with Tash pushed them to be more creative, more experimental, and more original in their playing. Isolating in the same bubble during lockdown, they “physically couldn’t play with anyone else”, but soon found that theirs was a partnership which didn’t need expanding anyway. “It sounds corny, but we also just reconnected with music that we both listened to when we were teenagers,” Joe continues. “We were renting this space…” he gestures around their Peckham studio, part of an industrial unit that seems to be a veritable hotbed of buzzy band activity (caroline, PVA, and Tapir! are just a few of their rehearsal room neighbours). “So we’d come here and put on Rage Against The Machine really loudly and just play along to it for fucking hours.” Post-pandemic, the two were ready to road-test their material in a live setting, but what transpired was rather more literal than either had anticipated: after playing a handful of support slots at Brixton’s


“We’ve literally been working on getting fitter and stronger to play the music.” - Joe Henwood Windmill, venue booker Tim Perry stuck them on a bill with black midi, who then invited the pair along on their nationwide tour. “It was fucking crazy,” smiles Tash. “We were finding our feet as we went, but they took us on their tour bus and were so lovely. I’ve never felt anything like the family atmosphere of both the Windmill and Speedy [Wunderground, O.’s label].” Joe agrees, explaining that the two oftoverlapping scenes are communities built on dedication and mutual appreciation: “Because Tim supported [black midi] so much, and they respect him, when he said, ‘You need to watch this band’, they listened.” And watching O. is certainly a sight to behold. Their sets combine the rise and fall of dance music, the layered effects of dub, and the intense physicality of rock to create a wall of sound that belies the instruments involved. “We’ve literally been working on getting fitter and stronger to play the music,” says Joe, slightly sheepishly. “I would love for us one day to create a fitness video or workout: Get Fit With O.! 250 press ups, 50 pull ups…” laughs Tash, mimicking a hammy advert voiceover. “No, it’s just playing blast beats for two hours,” Joe chips in. “Just twatting a cymbal for five minutes straight,” rejoins Tash, as they both crack up at the thought. Before pivoting into the world of personal training, however, O. have an EP to release ‘Slice’, their debut project, which the duo recorded with Dan Carey in his Streatham studio. “If you’re into making weird noises - which we are - it’s an actual playground,” says Joe. Sans vocals, sans guitar, but with near-complete creative freedom, Joe and Tash have opened things up by first reducing them down, and they consequently sound like very little else. Having found a home at the heart of the fertile South London scene, O. are only just hitting their stride. DIY



No one does it quite like


a group of freaky sonic adventurers who’ve moulded success into their own shape and become arguably the biggest cult band on the planet. On 25th (!) album ‘The Silver Cord’, they’re adding yet more unexpected strings to their already-bulging bow.





n paper, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are a band who make no sense at all, whose entire existence is littered with paradoxes. Frontman Stu Mackenzie is a workaholic auteur who concerns himself with the tiniest details (the band have even released swathes of demos, rarities and live cuts for free so they can ensure quality control over bootlegs), and yet the sheer rate with which they put out records means that perfectionism just isn’t an option. Their most recent release, ‘The Silver Cord’, is their 25th album in 11 years and their second in 2023. “This is NOT the band to be stressing about that shit,” says guitarist Joey Walker in direct Aussie deadpan when the topic comes up.

They are musicians who have defied received wisdom about how to embark on a music career, refusing to be drawn into the ‘album / tour / rest’ cycle that has become the norm, doing scant press and lurching violently between genres. “We’ve had people telling us from all sides since forever, ‘You’re not supposed to do it that way’,” says Stu. And yet they have still managed to amass a large and dedicated audience, prepared to follow them down whatever rabbit hole they please. Next summer they headline London’s Wide Awake, as the event’s most-requested booking. In our conversations with Stu, Joey and multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith – taking place over a succession of phone and Zoom calls – they’re friendly, thoughtful, and considered. Stu is usually two steps ahead, with an uncanny ability to pre-empt any follow-up question before it can be asked. With three of the band soon expecting children (they’re dubbing them ‘the triplets’), which will take the total number of junior Gizzards to eight, they’re supposed to be taking a bit of ‘downtime’ during the longest break between shows they’ve had since lockdown, though in reality they’re back in the studio starting work on a new album. There’s also been time for Ambrose’s other band The Murlocs to cram in a sneaky side-tour of their own. “Making new albums, that’s our time off,” Joey grins. “Stu’s crazy, man.” “Downtime, to me, is just not travelling,” explains Stu. “I’ve got a daughter and another kid on the way, a wife, family, and friends, and I do need to just exist in everyone else’s world, but I suppose I don’t do stopping very well. When I’m home, I keep busy because otherwise I just get annoying to everyone around me. If I wasn’t working on music, I’d end up doing something else way less constructive, or get obsessed with something that serves no purpose. I worked out early on that I could never get a video game console. “I feel at peace in mayhem,” he continues. “I think that’s why I’m drawn to playing shows. Even if I’m not always the biggest extrovert in real life, I’ve got that adrenaline junkie gene. It satisfies a part of me that I can’t satisfy anywhere else.”


here have been times, however, when that chaos has spilled over into burnout. The band were forced to abandon their 2022 American and European tour with 13 dates to go, when the symptoms of Stu’s Crohn’s disease - a lifelong gut condition - flared up to the point that he had to fly home to Melbourne for emergency care. At the time, the band admitted that the year’s intensive workload and poor dietary choices on tour had had a “cumulative” effect. In recent months, Stu says he’s been thinking more about balance. “I’ve definitely come to appreciate the Yang to the Yin, and find peace in slowing down and enjoying myself. I’m just starting to figure it out.” Stu also uses the terms of Yin and Yang to refer to the relationship between King Gizzard’s 2023 output: two records that, on the surface, are total opposites. The first, June’s ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation’, exists in the closest thing to familiar territory: the guitar-heavy thrash metal sound many of the members loved growing up and previously explored on their fifteenth LP ‘Infest The Rats Nest’. The second, ‘The Silver Cord’, is a dreamy piece played entirely on vintage synthesisers and an electronic drum kit. The sound of King Gizzard adjusting to a whole new palette, purposefully departing the comfort zone of ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse…’, it’s heavy on process where its predecessor was a storydriven concept album meshing fantasy with environmental collapse. Different as they are, however, they are also companion pieces. Though




Stu wants them to stand apart too, they were recorded at the same time and “birthed from the same womb”. Both have eight tracks whose titles were written simultaneously, and correspond directly to one another in terms of musical themes. ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse’’s supercharged opener ‘Motor Spirit’ is in fact just a blackened and twisted version of ‘The Silver Cord’’s hypnotic first track ‘Theia’. The decision to record two oppositional records at once was made because the band believe they work best within constraints; they’ve previously modified their instruments in order to play entirely in non-Western microtonal tunings (‘Flying Microtonal Banana’), and have written songs to exact predetermined timings (2022’s ‘Made In Timeland’ and ‘Laminated Denim’ contain fifteen-minute songs synced to the ticking of a clock). “It acts as a catalyst if you’re feeling rudderless,” says Joey. He cites 2016’s ‘Nonagon Infinity’, on which the last track flows back into the first so that it can be played on an infinite loop, as a breakthrough. “That was the first King Gizzard album where it really felt like there was something that was unique to us. Something switched over.” Even by the standards King Gizzard have set across the seventeen albums they’ve released since then,

‘The Silver Cord’ has a particular sense of drive behind it. Its link to ‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse’ is “just one of the convergent streams,” says Stu. Another is his desire to return to the “unfinished business” of their 2021 record ‘Butterfly 3000’. Made remotely during lockdown, by necessity it was also synth-based, but when they reconvened in person to figure the songs out live, “it was a disaster. Totally demoralising. We gave up and started working on the next thing, but it felt like we had done the album a bit of a disservice,” he continues. “We were just waiting to do another electronic record that we could make in a room together, waiting for the right moment.” That moment arrived when percussionist Michael Cavanagh impulse-bought a vintage Simmons electronic drum kit. “As soon as he plugged it in,” says Stu, “I thought, ‘That’s the sound of the album right there, it’s so amazing and distinctive. We have to commit to this’.”


n that act of commitment, for their latest King Gizzard were purposefully entering territory about which most of them knew comparatively little. Only Joey, who has a dance side project under the name Bullant, was truly immersed in that world. “I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, this is gonna be dope! King Gizzard does a club album!” he


laughs. Given the rest of the band’s relative amateurism, however, they approached it in the same way they might a guitar jam. “When we started actually making the music, it was completely different to how I’d expected,” Joey notes. “I’m an alien to that world. It was pretty intimidating,” says Ambrose. “When we were tracking, Joey and I were looking at each other and squirming at times. It’s so close to Joey’s heart that it was funny to watch him when there were questionable things going on in the jams. It’s a pretty unconventional garage electronic record.” More unconventional still, there are two different versions of ‘The Silver Cord’: one where their jams are ruthlessly honed into a tight 28 minutes, and another where they’re allowed to sprawl across an hour and a half. At first, Stu says, “I felt like the short version was ‘canon’, but then there was this balls-tothe-wall psychotic version that crazy people like me listen to. I realised that actually, they complemented each other pretty nicely, and I also wanted to get away from the idea of the ‘canon’. I didn’t want it to be like ‘The Director’s Cut’, where there’s still scenes that aren’t graded properly. I wanted it to feel like we made the album twice at the same time, which we did. It’s probably not the smartest thing to just release them both at the same time, but it also feels truest to the project.”


Conventional industry wisdom would dictate that the band should hold the extended version back a while, to be sold as a ‘deluxe’ iteration a bit further down the line in order to maximise revenue. Yet this kind of thing doesn’t concern a band whose methods, though they might not expressly declare them as such, are ultimately anti-capitalist. “I’m pumped on that,” says Stu when the idea is put to him. “I wish I could be more anti-capitalist to be fully honest. It never feels good to ask people to buy shit; it doesn’t really feel in the spirit of being an artist. But if it allows you to keep making art, and keep travelling, making new shit up on the spot in front of people, then maybe it’s a necessary evil.” The band’s earliest incarnation in fact came when Stu, Joey, and former drummer Eric Moore met while they were studying a course on the music industry at university, with bassist Lucas Harwood - an old friend of Stu’s - joining in the year below. “What we took away from it was what NOT to do,” says Joey. “We always questioned the conventions of why certain things have to happen a certain way. Stuff as simple as an ‘album cycle’, ‘have a manager or don’t’, or ‘don’t fucking jump genres with every album’.” “I started uni in 2009,” Stu points out - an era

CROWNING GLORIES Don’t know where to start with King Gizzard’s sprawling back catalogue? Let us help you…

‘Quarters!’ (2015)

Having honed their craft as functional psych and garage rockers across their early releases, ‘Quarters!’ - four very different jazz-prog-psych-pop jams, each lasting exactly ten minutes and ten seconds - was the point that King Gizzard first started embracing the genre twists and conceptual thinking that defines them today.

‘Nonagon Infinity’ (2016)

Still perhaps unmatched over the 17 LPs they’ve released since, the blistering ‘Nonagon Infinity’ was the sound of King Gizzard firing on every cylinder. With the last track flowing back into the first, it’s so good that you could, in fact, play it over and over again forever.

“At the start , labels that we signed to were always trying to get into our heads. I don’t think, even for a second, we ever really listened to them.” them.” - Ambrose Kenny-Smith

‘Murder of the Universe’ (2017)

A sprawling three-part concept album about the boundaries between man and beast, the final third narrates the story of a cyborg on his quest to be able to vomit and die. What else could you need?

‘Butterfly 3000’ (2021)

Despite their native Melbourne imposing one of the strictest Covid lockdowns on earth, King Gizzard’s mission ploughed ahead unabated. Recorded entirely remotely, ‘Butterfly 3000’ saw a necessary pivot to beautiful synth-led songs, while also laying the foundations for new LP ‘The Silver Cord’.

‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse’ (2023)

Of all the forms King Gizzard have taken over the years, their thrash metal incarnation might be the funnest. First explored in full on ‘Infest The Rats Nest’, ‘Petrodragonic…’ was the brutal, bombastic Yin to ‘The Silver Cord’’s dreamy Yang.


in which music was in a state of flux as the file-sharing Wild West started morphing into streaming. “We were encouraged to just not engage with the old system as much as possible. We still sent our first two EPs to every label all over the world, but when no one wanted to do anything with it we were just like, ‘OK, fuck it, we’re gonna start a label. Let’s challenge this thing, and see what we can get away with’. I think we’re just bratty kids; the early days felt kind of naughty.” “At the start, labels that we signed to were always trying to get into our heads, telling us to do all the normal things that every band does,” adds Ambrose. “I don’t think, even for a second, we ever really listened to them. Eventually they just stopped bringing it up!”


he music industry has since changed monumentally, but that naughtiness has served the band well through the instability. It all revolves around that adrenaline junkie gene, Stu says. “My gut instinct is to find that place where we feel a bit frightened and nervous. The flip side to that is that you also feel alive. I don’t go skydiving or ride a motorbike; I just do this stuff instead.” It extends to the road, too. Their ‘no repeat’ shows, for instance, where across multiple nights they’ll perform entirely different setlists; their decision to perform “marathon” three-hour gigs. For their three-night residency at Colorado’s much-revered Red Rocks last year they did both at once: nine hours of playing and 86 different songs from across their discography, released as a 12xLP boxset shortly afterwards, naturally. “There’s always times when it gets difficult,” admits Joey, “but we’re conscious of the things that, if they were allowed to proliferate, would stifle the whole process and make you resent it. The things we do, be it in the studio or onstage, keep us excited and engaged. It’s a mechanism for us to challenge ourselves and further the


process. It can be annoying, or intimidating, but it’s always enriching, and it keeps you excited.” Almost as impressive as the band’s ceaseless desire to be challenged is the way in which all six of them remain equally committed. Other than Eric, who departed in 2020 to focus more on his label Flightless, King Gizzard’s lineup has remained entirely consistent since their first record. That’s thanks in part to an increased focus on collaboration and shared writing beneath Stu’s leadership. Often, as with ‘The Silver Cord’, he now writes prompts for each song’s lyrics before handing them over to different members of the band. Joey is visibly nervous – “You’re revealing some deep shit, brother!” – as Ambrose pulls up an old Google Doc to use opening track ‘Theia’ as an example. “Theia is a hypothesised planet that once had a binary orbit with Planet Earth. Eventually, Theia crashed into Earth, breaking a huge chunk off which coalesced into and became the moon,” he reads aloud. “It’s liberating for everyone to have a bit more input and to keep the lyric realm open, and it’s a fun way to write,” he adds. Crucially, the amount of effort King Gizzard put into their creative output is matched by the amount they also devote to the less visible side of the operation: intra-band relationships, the assurance of equal creative fulfilment and an increasing level of attention to mental and physical health. It’s notable how easily they throw compliments each other’s way through our conversations. “You’re such a good songwriter, you have so much to say and contribute,” Joey tells Ambrose. “It’s taken us a long time to equalise and realise that talent, but now it’s this amorphous thing where our [individual] involvement is really dynamic. For some projects I won’t contribute as much, on some I do, and vice versa for everyone else. It’s the nature of the beast, and that’s really cool.”





(‘Nonagon Infinity’ to be precise)



(‘PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation’)


736 9 hrs LONGEST SET

(split over three nights, sure, but without repeating a single track)



“I don’t think it feels like a challenge,” says Stu on maintaining that equilibrium. “Honestly, it feels like a joy. They’re my best friends and I would literally do anything for all those guys. That really does outweigh the trying moments, the spats and the creative differences. Whenever there’s disharmony, which happens with any group of friends, everyone rallies around to try to fix it. We worked out a long time ago that friendships are way more important and way more special than any of the other shit. The whole thing is too important to sabotage.” As King Gizzard gets larger and larger, by now arguably the biggest cult band on the planet, “I still feel like I’m in someone else’s body,” he continues. “I combat that feeling of guilt by working hard.” To call King Gizzard hard-working is both a cliche and an understatement. What’s really telling, though, is the number of levels on which that work is taking place. Rather than paradoxical, they have simply put enough effort in, both above and below the surface, to be two things at once: family men and nomads; industry eccentrics yet successful by any metric; a cohesive unit through the most stressful of circumstances, thrash metal titans and now, newfound voyagers in vintage electronica. In short, King Gizzard have achieved the perfect balance between their Yin and their Yang. ‘The Silver Cord’ is out now via KGLW. DIY




opular perceptions of the term ‘selfcare’ tend to involve the booking of a spa day or treating oneself to a takeaway. What doesn’t generally spring to mind, however, is facing demons head on: engaging directly with negative emotions, rather than plastering them over with pedicures and pizza. The former can be messy, yes, and undoubtedly uncomfortable. But, as Dublin quartet Sprints exemplify, healing, somewhat ironically, can begin when you stop running.

Channelling trauma into righteous rage, on their debut album ‘Letter To Self’ Dublin punks SPRINTS are finding catharsis in community. Words: Daisy Carter. Photos: Ed Miles.

“It was a case of trying to take what we’ve experienced in our lives so far and almost mark the page, close that chapter of the book,” says vocalist and guitarist Karla Chubb, discussing the creation of the band’s forthcoming debut, ‘Letter To Self’. “It was a process of putting all that pain on paper in the hopes of moving on from it.” We’re sitting in the green room at King’s Cross venue Scala, ahead of a sold-out London show - one of their final gigs of what’s been a very busy year indeed. 2023 has seen them become mainstays of both festival stages and radio airwaves, cementing the band’s wholly-deserved word-of-mouth reputation. But for Karla, the biggest milestone has been something a little less tangible. With ‘Letter To Self’, she’s “putting this very personal part of [her] life out in the public”, and while its writing was hugely challenging, it was also hugely cathartic. “There was so much weight on my shoulders my whole life, and now I feel like a little bit of it is gone,” she says, her voice thick with emotion. “All these stories are like stones weighing me down, and now I’ve shed a few of them.” These aren’t mere pebbles, either. Lyrically, the album explores mental ill-health (‘Ticking’ and ‘Heavy’); internalised homophobia (‘Cathedral’); suicidal ideation (‘Shadow Of A Doubt’) and more. But none of these are crosses Karla has had to bear alone. Born, like so many other bands, out of the pandemic, Sprints was “such a positive thing to turn to in such a dark time,” and the relationship between the four band members quickly flourished into something approaching familial. “We’ve all got so much better at knowing how each other works,” adds drummer Jack Callan, “so you know when to leave someone alone, or when someone needs a bit of extra support.” In conversation, this almost intuitive bond is self-evident. When Karla compliments guitarist Colm O’Reilly’s playing, Jack leads us all in an impromptu round of applause; when she mentions her anxieties over reading the album’s

“All these stories are like stones weighing me down, and now I’ve shed a few of them.” Karla Chubb



reviews, bassist Sam McCann gives her a steadying smile - “We’ll take them as they come”. hese moments, though seemingly inconsequential, capture the band fairly succinctly: a united front that deals in humour and compassion, but with an underlying steely resolve. Take the show they perform just a few hours later. Karla leaves the stage momentarily to don a Taylor Swift ‘Reputation’ t-shirt, before pronouncing: “Support the strikes and fuck the Tories. We’re Irish, what did you think we were gonna say?” They’ve had this keen political edge since their inception (over which time they’ve released two EPs, 2021’s ‘Manifesto’ and 2022’s ‘A Modern Job’), but never has it been more apparent or more important - than right now.


Karla and Sam have both just quit their jobs - “We can’t physically or mentally manage the balance of them and music anymore” - which, while daunting, is a prospect that’s only become feasible thanks to the notable success of Irish artists in the past few years. “If you see people doing what you want to do, it obviously increases the chances of you actually thinking it’s a possibility, tenfold,” Karla states. “You have to acknowledge the cultural significance of bands like Fontaines DC and Pillow Queens. There are so few acts who managed to break out of Ireland and make careers abroad until recently, but if they’ve done it, we can do it.”

Listen Éire! After more smashing sounds from Dublin and beyond? Sprints give us their top picks.

Karla: HOTGIRL I stumbled across them after they played Ireland Music Week, and became obsessed. They only have three singles out but it’s equal parts gothic, grunge and post-punk. Love them.

There is, of course, still a long way to go, however. Karla references a recent interview that Rolling Stone and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame co-founder Jann Wenner conducted with the New York Times, in which he

commented that no women are included in his new book - “the Mount Olympus of rock and roll history” - because “none of them were articulate enough on this intellectual level” (there are also, astoundingly, no Black musicians included - but there is Bono). “[Wenner] said that Mick Jagger was ‘a philosopher of rock and roll’,” Karla says incredulously, “and that Janis Joplin or Patti Smith or Stevie Nicks - some of the greatest songwriters in the world - were…” she trails off and shrugs. “I might appear one day on a list of the ‘best female punk bands’ or ‘best female guitarists’, but I’ll never appear on a list of all-time great guitarists, whereas Colm probably will.” elf-doubt doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and Karla’s proclaimed imposter syndrome tackled on incendiary single ‘Up and Comer’ - is closely tied to her identity as a queer woman in a male-dominated space. While being part of Sprints hasn’t necessarily helped quash her insecurities, it has given her a medium through which to rally against the social structures that supported them in the first place. “Sometimes I think, ‘Am I talking too much about being angry?’” she says. “There is a part of you - a very dark part of you - that thinks, ‘Would my life be easier if I just shut up?’


“There’s always been this idea of the angry woman, or the angry gays, or the angry trans people,” Karla continues. “But anger doesn’t mean bad. Anger means you’re standing up for something; anger means you’re addressing an issue; anger also means collectiveness.” Signed at the bottom of ‘Letter To Self’, then, is a signature of hard-won hope. Hope that “no matter what we’ve experienced as individuals; no matter what habits or hereditary behaviours you may have inherited; no matter what society or city you’re stuck in, we can get out of anything and make our situation better, just by standing together.” ‘Letter to Self’ is out 5th January via City Slang. DIY

Sam: CRUEL SISTER She’s an amazing artist and songwriter. I can hear influences from My Bloody Valentine to Wolf Alice, but still its very own thing. The song arrangements are interesting and she’s a great live act.

Jack: CHALK They effortlessly blend rage and euphoria to make music that’s equal parts anxiety-inducing and uplifting, what more could you ask for? One of the best live acts I’ve seen this year.

Colm: ENOLA GAY It’s heart-pumping adrenaline punk. A band breaking boundaries in Belfast and always keeping you on your toes. There’s not one person left uncaptivated at their live shows.

“Anger doesn’t mean bad. Anger means you’re standing up for something.” - Karla Chubb 35



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His extended search for his definitive musical direction has seemingly been made more complex by the fluid worlds he operates in. His uniquely gravitational baritone vocal, always underpinned by subtle melodic trills, fluctuates between rapping and singing. He’s worked with everybody from Fred again.. to Wolf Alice, Ghetts and Gorillaz. While many are besotted with herding musicians into scenes and tagging them with a neat label, Jelani refuses to be boxed in - not out of protest, but out of necessity.

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“There’s been loads of times in my career where I could have just said ‘This thing is working - let me make more of this’,” he reflects. “But I’ve always wanted to be authentic to myself. I’m a complex person, and I think a lot of artists are able to strip themselves down and reduce themselves to be a one-dimensional thing that is really accessible. But I was never able to do that.”


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have to be calling people out if I see them pouring it wrong,” Jelani Blackman says, smiling over his pint of Guinness in a London pub garden. “I see a lot of people not even letting it settle these days, especially in Central [London].” While the sacred rituals of the Guinness pour are precious to many, these specific requirements are also indicative of Jelani’s current headspace overall. After a slow-burn start to his career, these days he knows exactly what’s right for him. “It’s been a challenge to get into a space where I’ve felt really comfortable in knowing what I want,” he nods. “It took a little while to work out.” Since 2016, he’s steadily made a name for himself across a series of EPs, singles and high-profile features, with the critically-lauded full-length mixtape ‘Unlimited’ released in 2022. Throw in a hotly-received Fire in the Booth session and a viral performance of single ‘Hello’ which racked up over two million views, and you’ve got all the hallmarks of a hype train gradually picking up speed. Similar to his performance on Colors, Jelani is a calm conversationalist who allows his carefully chosen words to flow, but pingpongs into animated peaks when something excites him. While it feels as if he’s unspooling a snowball of thoughts at times, it always comes governed by a friendly, collected composure.

While he understands the practical element of tags and genre for the purpose of discussing music, he also can’t help but recognise the inherent laziness to it. “People just want to say you’re ‘this’,” he ponders, tracing the trappings of an invisible box with his finger. “But it’s never enough for people. If I say I’m a rapper, people want to know what type of rap and artists I compare myself to. Then it’s an annoying answer if I say to just listen to the music, because they’ll listen to two of my tracks and still not have an answer. That’s why it becomes redundant to pin down the music in the first place. I’m me, I’m Jelani - that’s the music I make.”


he multi-faceted sound of Jelani Blackman is suspended in full force across debut album ‘The Heart Of It’, from the silky R&B of stringsoothed opener ‘Feel The Same’ to the fierce fervour of ‘When You Feel It’ and ‘Izit’, the latter of which welcomes a guest spot from Kojey Radical. Between the bangers, there are dusk-lit ballads (the gorgeous ‘Rise’ with Biig Piig) and open-armed soul-bearing (the haunting ‘Line Up’). Allowing space for the lyrics to be heard was paramount and Jelani considered the interplay between his words and the music more than ever. “I wanted to get across everything,” he explains of his intentions for the album. “Everything that makes me, everything that makes my voice. All of the wide scope of things that I think about all the time.” It’s a tall order but Jelani possesses a compelling ability to cast a wide net and reel in sharp observations. The themes across the album scale the vast plains of romance, politics, identity and race, which he trawls with a flow that is both pacy and patient in equal measure. His deep vocal casts a spell of sorts over the words carved out by his sharp penmanship, which brings an addictive clarity to his songs. On ‘Voice’, named after the Black British newspaper, he eyes the flimsy political spectrum. “Nowaday politics has no function / Has no conscience / Too much chat bullshit in abundance,” he observes on the track. “We’re at the start of something and end of something,” he raps, alluding to a political tipping point. Today, he doubles down on the idea. “It’s not sustainable for things to continue in this way without something drastic happening one way or another,” he elaborates. “If the Tories win again, they’ll feel so emboldened that they’ll take a step too far which will change the fabric of what the society is. If not, they’ll be out - and hopefully there’ll be, if not a

“The thing I learnt from working with Damon [Albarn] is that there’s no cutoff point for having fun with music.” 37

massively significant, then at least an incremental change in the next period to better times.” He also thinks the conversation about race is at something of a standstill - a topic he circles on ‘Line Up’ where he unpicks the subtle brutality of British racism against stark piano and cinematic orchestration. “My culture ain’t worth enough / They said alongside yours you’re cursing us, serving us / Messages indirectly that we’re subservient, subversive but it’s what from birth is us”. “I think it’s impossible to talk about racism without talking about capitalism. Prejudice is not just race-related, it’s economic - it’s marginalising people based on their economic backgrounds and because of the proximity of both of those things together, they overlap a lot,” he continues. “It would be impossible for there to be an end to [racism] or any kind of significant difference while there’s still an imbalance in how wealth is distributed, how communities are treated and how policing works.” He pauses for breath. “The short version - it’s fucked!”

“I’m a complex person and I’ve never been able to reduce myself to one thing.”


hroughout today’s conversation, there’s a sense that Jelani’s receptors are constantly left wide open. It’s perhaps an exhausting notion given the modern day barrage of the infinite news cycle, but he doesn’t ever get tangled up in his own thoughts. “I’m very present in the world. I use my senses. I smell everything, I hear everything, I taste everything. Mentally, not as much,” he laughs. “I struggle to maintain a balance of thinking about the present and the future. I’m getting better at dealing with the past.” When the topic turns to albums he was referencing for his debut, Blackman recalls a road trip with his mum and stepfather. “We drove to France in a red Peugeot and there was this Simon & Garfunkel cassette playing,” he recalls. “I love the folk element and the storytelling but the biggest thing is the social commentary which is interwoven into the fabric of the songs. It’s as much a part of the music as anything else; it doesn’t feel heavy-handed. That’s what I wanted to channel on this album.” Music sessions in the car aside, he credits the park after school as an arena that whetted his appetite to express himself through song. Meeting up with his mates in the twilight hours, he’d write lyrics and spit them in front of people. “It was very much a live medium. That energy, the emotion and the nerves - that, for me, is what is fundamental in music.” Born into that baptism of fire, the live arena has always been a place of comfort for Jelani and why he looked so at ease walking out on stage with Gorillaz at an actual arena - London’s O2 - back in 2021 to perform their collaboration ‘Meanwhile’. “The thing I learnt from working with Damon [Albarn] is that there’s no cut-off point for having fun with music,” he reflects fondly. “There’s some people whose ears and voices are made to make music and I felt that with him, the way he wrote on the track we worked on was beautiful.” The experience ultimately allowed him to recognise and celebrate his own strengths. “I’ve been around a lot of greatness and I think you have to find out what makes you great,” he explains. “What I’ve finally tapped into and found out about what makes me great is that there’s nobody who can articulate things like I can.” These sort of certainties and assurances only glisten at the end of a long, hard search. For Jelani Blackman, it feels as if ‘The Heart Of It’ is just the start.

‘The Heart of It’ is out 10th November via 18 Records / MNRK UK. DIY


JELANI’S LITTLE BLACK BOOK Across his debut, Jelani has a wealth of top drawers collaborators dropping in to say hi. Here’s a little bit more about what to expect.

BIIG PIIG Offering the female counterpoint on the most romantic song from ‘The Heart Of it’, Biig Piig brings an ethereal, whispered presence to ‘Rise’. “[She] messaged me on Insta the day before I went into the studio and I just said ‘come through’,” Jelani recalls.

BOB VYLAN The London duo pop up on ‘Voice’, peppering grit on one of the album’s most poignant moments, where the conversational tone quickly elevates into a snarl as the song’s structure whirrs into gear around it. “Last year they offered me 80 thou / Ooh wow, I turned it down,” goes the verse.

KOJEY RADICAL There’s no mistaking Kojey Radical’s rapping chops on the blitz of ‘Izit’, the album’s certified banger. His bars serve up a slice of pure bravado alongside Jelani’s fierce pen; “Aint hit rock bottom in a goddamn minute,” he spits.












“I felt like I was at home every night for every one of the Dua Lipa shows.”


Relocating to the other side of the world and fighting to find her feet - and herself - again, Tkay Maidza’ Maidza s second album is the definition of ‘Sweet Justice’. Words: Hannah Mylrea.


hen Tkay Maidza first started work on her sonically-rich second studio album ‘Sweet Justice’, she had plans to create something else entirely. “I don’t think the outcome of it was what I intended at the beginning,” the Zimbabwe-born, Australia-raised, LA-based artist reflects. “I feel like what I hoped to make, and what I did make, were completely different.”

Initially, she recalls, the album was meant to be more rap-focussed. “But I had this whole ego battle where half of me was like, ‘You’re not really a rapper; just do this, because you’re better at singing’,” she reveals. “Circumstantially I was doing a lot of sessions with a lot of new people, and I tend to sing more if I’m not comfortable, and so that’s why it is the way it is,” she shrugs, before adding: “But I’m totally fine with it, because I really love the songs.” As well she should. Regardless of her initial intent, the multi-hyphenate’s latest release is a triumph; a phenomenal, genre-splicing record, stuffed full of far-spanning ideas and impressive lyricism. “It’s generally a stream of consciousness, through me finding my feet and realising who I am when I moved to LA,” she says, calling in from her still-newish American home. “It’s almost like a breakup album, but [breaking up] with the aspects of people I once knew and who I thought I was - that kind of perspective.” Tkay has been sharing her music for over a decade, dropping her debut single the brilliantly bratty, dubstep-inflected ‘Brontosaurus’ - back in 2013. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of releases including debut album ‘Tkay’ in 2016, but it was with her more recent trio of ‘Last Year Was Weird’ mixtapes that she truly honed her distinct sound. Bringing together influences from dance and electronic music alongside core inspirations such as Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott, ‘Sweet Justice’ arrives as a natural continuation; one that sees Tkay “building on [her] last three EPs” rather than rewriting her musical rulebook.

The biggest change, instead, was happening around her. Having moved to Los Angeles in 2021 after beginning work on the record, she describes the shift as “going through a lot of life transitions, that then made me realise exactly what I was supposed to do”. A place that opened up her creative world as she “had more access to things I wouldn’t have otherwise in Australia”, living in the City of Angels nonetheless still proved a mixed bag. “It was definitely like a fairytale,” she nods, “but then it’s also just like, weird and grim. So it’s kind of a

double-edged sword…” Those rougher edges soon began to manifest themselves in what Tkay was writing, or - suffering from a bout of creative block - not writing. She admits that, in those initial 12 months of living there, she “didn’t really like anything [she made]”. “I’m talking about the same subjects [as on the finished ‘Sweet Justice’], but the perspective I was writing from was, ‘Why is this happening to me? Everything’s dark and sad’,” she notes.


t would take a formative trip to renew her visa in Berlin to shift her mindset. Fed up with the negative forces feeding into her life in LA, Tkay spent three months in the city in 2022, “cutting out a lot of people in [her] life”. Her extended stay in the German capital ended up kick-starting her creativity as it allowed her the necessary distance to spend time “hanging out with people and not really focusing on music”. “That’s where I think I found the new confidence to make sense of what [would come] next,” she asserts. From there, she was able to finally dive fully into the creation of ‘Sweet Justice’, and this mindset permeates through a record that kicks unfair expectations to the curb. Take the electric ‘What Ya Know’ - a house-flecked earworm filled with lush harmonies which sees Maidza scorn those underestimating her, asserting, “Ima show you this and it ain’t what ya know”. Elsewhere, super-producers Flume and Kaytranada join her creative circle; the former on floor-fillers ‘Our Way’ and ‘Ghost’, the latter on the experimental ‘Silent Assassin’. “It was really natural, I met them both out of the studio, so when the time came and the sessions came about, I felt like I was in the studio with friends,” she says of the collaborations. Over the past few years, Tkay has also been on the

road, stepping onto huge arena stages supporting both Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish. “It was insane,” she reminisces of the Dua dates. “I felt like I was at home every night for every one of those shows.” Being on these tours also demonstrated the different musical worlds in which we can coexist. “For Dua’s tour I did more of my dance songs, and the more pop and lighter songs,” she explains, “and for Billie I did the heavier rap songs, but then also the dark-ish pop sad songs. It was just interesting to see what works in different settings and why.” Heading out on her own run of headline dates later this year with a show that she describes as “simple but still impactful”, Tkay nonetheless has a slightly more unusual aim when it comes to the live reception of ‘Sweet Justice’’s hard-won wares. “I want [the audience] to feel relaxed,” she muses, before adding a crucial detail with a laugh: “But in this weird middle ground of, ‘Am I going to dance, or have a cup of tea?’” We’ll see you on the dancefloor, mug in hand. ‘Sweet Justice’ is out now via 4AD. DIY








y the summer of 2022, there was a sense that Sleater-

Kinney had successfully navigated their way out of the fire. A tumultuous few years for the band had begun in 2019 when, perhaps for the first time in their decades-long history, one of their records had met with a lukewarm critical response. ‘The Center Won’t Hold’ made bold strides into pop territory under the guidance of producer St Vincent, but led to a backlash from those who felt the then-trio should’ve stayed in their lane. It was a position that then intensified when powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss departed, awkwardly, at the beginning of the record’s promotional cycle, citing a diminished creative position within the group. That stance is something that remaining members Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker dispute, but nevertheless, when they reconvened to work on its follow-up - 2021’s ‘Path of Wellness’ - they found themselves writing as a two-piece for the first time since 1996. In the middle of a real world that had shut down as a whole, and a creative one that was asking questions of their


place in it as a band, if Sleater-Kinney were no longer the spiky art punks we’d grown to love, then who were they?

perhaps the biggest clues as to the cathartic nature of ‘Little Rope’ come in its flirtations with the past. At intervals, S-K’s newest comes shot through with the kind of soaring vocals (‘Hell’) from Tucker that we haven’t heard since 2005’s ‘The Woods’, coupled with Brownstein’s return to the freewheeling riffery that saw her trouble the business end of Rolling Stone’s recent rundown of the greatest guitarists of all time.

On the evidence of that album, the answer was that they were very much their own people. ‘Path of Wellness’ grasped the opportunity to reinvent themselves again with both hands, as they crafted a handsome, thoughtful set of songs that tastefully worked some of their lesser-spotted influences into the mix. Never before would Sleater-Kinney have been readily associated with classic rock or stylistic nods to the ‘70s, but breaking their own mould previously had allowed for continued, genuine evolution. By last summer, as they toured North America with a now-embedded new live line-up, Carrie and Corin appeared, finally, to be back on firm ground, but it wouldn’t last long. Mere months later, their lives were again upended when Corin - Carrie’s long-standing emergency contact received a call from the American embassy in Italy. They had unthinkable news: Carrie’s mother and stepfather, in Italy on holiday, had been killed in a car accident. “It created a new reality for me,” says Carrie. “And I was met with such uncertainty, and confoundment, and disorientation. Corin, as one of my oldest, closest friends, and also my creative collaborator, she was pulled into that trauma along with me by proximity.”


ost of the songs for Sleater-Kinney’s forthcoming 11th album ‘Little Rope’ were written, Carrie confirms, before the accident happened in the autumn of 2022. But she is in no doubt as to the seismic effect it had on the sound of the record; an album scored through with grief, pain, and no little catharsis.


On ‘Little Rope’, Sleater-Kinney are taking all manner of left turns. Here are some of the record’s finest. ‘Say It Like You Mean It’ Sleater-Kinney have done balladry before (‘The Size of Our Love’), and they’ve done gentle (‘Modern Girl’). This is something else entirely, however; a softly delivered but emotionally fraught affair, with a quietly desperate vocal from Tucker over guitars that pulse with anxiety.

“I think that happened organically,” Corin explains. “With what we were both going through personally, there was a level of heightened emotion that definitely charged all of the vocals. A song like ‘Untidy Creature’, for example, just lends itself to being a place of release. The band, for me, has always been a place of emotional catharsis, where I can have all of these feelings and have a space where I don’t feel the need to censor myself. I think the sound of ‘Little Rope’ logically follows.”


ith every new Sleater-Kinney record, we learn a little more about the relationship between Carrie and Corin; one that dates back more than 30 years and constitutes the creative axis around which the band revolves. On ‘Little Rope’, this may be truer than ever. Corin has spoken about early reservations around some of the album’s songs feeling too open, too nakedly emotional, yet as work on the release progressed, it was Brownstein who helped bring her bandmate to a place where she was comfortable with the album’s rawness.

A year on, she speaks about her experience with startling eloquence, choosing her words deliberately and with great care. “The songs were dragged, kicking and screaming, into that nascent landscape that I just described,” she says. “It felt very liminal; we were in between states. There was a sense of precocity and fragility, on the one hand, and then there were moments of catharsis in the writing, scrawling and scratching, and there were moments of grace, and beauty, and joy, too.

‘Crusader’ As open to pop territory as the band have been since they took a left turn with St. Vincent behind the desk for ‘The Center Won’t Hold’, this track might be as out-andout danceable as they’ve ever sounded, especially on a chorus that explodes with real groove in the guitars.

“‘Say It Like You Mean It’ is not a typical SleaterKinney song. It’s almost like a ballad, and there was an ongoing conversation where I was asking, ‘Is this too vulnerable?’” Corin explains. “‘Am I comfortable with what we’re saying here?’ And it took Carrie’s encouragement to coax the specific kind of performance out of me that I was happy with. I don’t take for granted having the ability to make music with such a talented person, and as we’ve gotten older, we’re more aware of how special that is and how fragile it can be, too. We’re more protective than ever of that relationship, and of the band.”

“It’s all in there,” she goes on. “The songs feel despondent and treacherous at times, but at others, they’re hopeful and gleaming.” She isn’t wrong. ‘Little Rope’ is an emotional maelstrom, one that moves through a number of stylistic gears over the course of its ten tracks, but that maintains, throughout, a sort of exposed-nerve quality. In some ways, it harks back to the kind of thrumming tension that 1999’s ‘The Hot Rock’ is scored through with, albeit in a different musical manner entirely. There’s soft yearning (‘Say It Like You Mean It’), taut, nervy groove (‘Hunt You Down’) and glam-pop stomp (‘Crusader’).

‘Untidy Creature’ They’ve brought the curtain down on albums in dramatic fashion before - see ‘No Cities to Love’’s stormy ‘Fade’, or ‘One Beat’’s swaggering ‘Sympathy’ - but they save the biggest moment of catharsis on ‘Little Rope’ for its closing minute, with one of the most soaring vocals that Tucker has ever committed to record.

As much as the intensity of the pair’s relationship has informed their records over the years, their ability to refract the world around them through their own lyrical prism has been a key part of their identity, too. From the band’s riot grrrl-adjacent debut in 1994 through to the post-9/11 tension that hung over ‘One Beat’ and the rejection of the political status quo encapsulated in both the songs and the title of ‘The Center Won’t Hold’, Sleater-Kinney have always been adept at staring society head-on. There are flickers of it, too, on ‘Little Rope’, especially in the subtle chaos of lead single ‘Hell’.

All of that represents either new territory entirely or a progression of their output from 2019 onwards, but


“Being a writer, having an emotional response to the world around you just becomes a part of your work,” Corin reasons. “Just being human in the world, and especially in our country, there’s a process of reflection that happens that connects to the social and political climate you’re in, whatever it might be at the time. Part of being a writer, to me, has always been holding up a mirror to some of that.” As the band gear up to take ‘Little Rope’ around the world in 2024, Carrie, too, understands more keenly than ever the importance of having Sleater-Kinney available to her as an expressive outlet. “What we’ve been through over the past year, it raised the stakes, which is something you can’t do on purpose,” she says. “You can’t manufacture that. And music, and art, they do take on a different form when the stakes are high. All of these songs ended up thrust into a new environment and kind of stuffed into a cannon. And you can look at that cannon as weaponry, or you can look at it as something that’s ready to burst into a really lovely form.” ‘Little Rope’ is out 19th January via Loma Vista. DIY


“In FIZZ, I’m the Head of the Department of Nagging.” - Orla Gartland 46 DIYMAG.COM



Great 2023 Debate As we draw the curtain on another year, tuck ourselves in for the Christmas season and get ready to wash the metaphorical duvet covers for the fresh new dawn that is 2024, what better time to reflect on the past 12 months of music and merriment? And who better to do it with than a fivesome of DIY faves - namely Matt Maltese, Orla Gartland, Bill RyderJones, English Teacher’s Lily Fontaine and Porij’s Eggy Moore? You can shove your list this year Santa, cos we couldn’t wish for anything more. Interview: Lisa Wright. Photos: Louise Mason.

Let’s kick things off with some personal highlights. Orla, you started an indie supergroup of sorts in FIZZ - what’s it been like being in a band rather than going it alone? Orla Gartland: Supergroup is a strong word but I’ll take it! We’ve all been friends for about ten years so it’s not a Louis Walsh audition situation, it happened very naturally. It’s been good - hard in moments, though, because there’s no frontperson. Bill Ryder-Jones: Like a democracy or something? That sounds unbearable… Orla: I’ve been trying to chat to people who’ve been in bands for a long time and gather advice, and the general consensus is there’s always a frontperson that gets the final veto and because we’re very democratic that’s not the case. Eggy, Porij: I feel like being in a band is 50% music and 50% ‘can you spend every second of the day with these people?’ It’s quite political, but it’s nice to have a community. Lily, English Teacher: I’m such a control freak and I just want to make all the decisions, so I’m learning to delegate. Orla: Sometimes it feels company-esque, delegating heads of department. Matt Maltese: What department are you head of? Orla: I’m the Head of the Department of Nagging. Are there any big no-nos for keeping a harmonious band dynamic? Eggy: Leave your ego at the door. Everyone’s feelings are important and even if three people love it and one person finds it uncomfortable, you need to move as a unit and listen to them. You’ve got to make sure everyone’s happy. DIY: And don’t shit on the tour bus. Matt: I’ve heard about [shitting in] plastic bags… Bill: Pint glasses, it was. How many plastic bags do you think there are on a tour bus versus pint glasses? I’m talking about the early 2000s, when I was shitting in cups. I was in a group with all-male school friends, all uneducated gobshites, so it’s lovely to hear all this [talk about feelings] because my experience wasn’t like that at all. It’s nice to hear that things have changed.

Who: MATT MALTESE From: A prolific, swoony solo career. Notable moment of 2023: Releasing fourth album ‘Driving Just To Drive’ (and notching up even more tens of millions of streams on TikTok fave ‘As The World Caves In’).

Who: EGGY MOORE From: Dancefloor-ready Mancunians Porij. Notable moment of 2023: Recording their forthcoming 2024 debut with legendary producer David Wrench (The xx, FKA twigs, Glass Animals…).

Lily: I’m trying to process how this relates to me because [the rest of my band] are male, but I feel like I have the most masculine energy out of everyone in my band. They’re all really lovely and I’m the one that’s like, shitting on the tour bus. I think I’d probably be the most likely to start a fight. I can be ranting about football and they’re the ones telling me to go to bed at 8pm. Porij supported Coldplay this year - what’s it like walking out to a stadium, Eggy? Eggy: Good craic, to be fair! I quite liked it! We had a week at the Etihad which was totally weird because we used to rehearse in this falling-down old mill in Manchester where you could see the stadium; it was a real full-circle moment. Catering was unreal. I had the best roast dinner of my life on the Sunday. It was crazy though looking out at that many people; it was a bit like seeing a screensaver. Orla: Is Chris Martin as nice as he seems? Eggy: We didn’t meet Coldplay but they did send us a bottle of bubbly so that was nice. There was a big runway but I wasn’t allowed all the way down the end. There was a certain point you can go to which is like, a third down, and then they’d cut [the signal] if I went over. Like when you try to wheel your supermarket trolley out of the bounds of the car park and it stops you or you don’t get your pound back. Bill: Except by pound, you mean career. Eggy: That probably is worth about a pound by now, the state of the music industry… It’s been a big year in general for stadium gigs: Blur, Arctic Monkeys, Beyoncé et al. Did anyone go to any? Orla: I’ve got tickets for Taylor Swift but that’s next year. Matt: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a stadium gig… Oh no, maybe Michael Bublé when I was 11. It was incredible. Bill: That scans so fucking much… Matt: It does scan, I know. He did this incredible thing where he sang off-mic at The O2 and I could

Who: LILY FONTAINE From: Leeds’ lyrically-minded newest stars-inwaiting English Teacher. Notable moment of 2023: Signing to Island and kicking off the campaign trail towards their imminent debut LP.

Who: BILL RYDER-JONES From: Wirral indie stalwart, of solo fame and - way back when - The Coral. Notable moment of 2023: Finishing off expansive LP5 ‘lechyd Da’, and sponsoring West Kirby United FC’s Under 10s team. Cute.

Who: ORLA GARTLAND From: New gang in town FIZZ - plus her own OG individual moves, of course. Notable moment of 2023: Going full OTT fun mode on FIZZ’s debut ‘The Secret to Life’.


still hear him perfectly; it was mental. He was fully locking into the part of like, mums wanting to shag him. There was some filthy chat. All innuendo. Hopefully you’ve brought some of that into your own stage show - of which there have been many all over the globe this year! Any favourite places from your travels? Matt: All of Asia was amazing; it was so far away from everything I’ve ever seen or been to. All the fans are crazy. I didn’t do any karaoke or anything; I’m very boring outside of, I mean maybe even in the show. Early nights. We did 12 flights in 15 days so I couldn’t really do anything mental, but Singapore Airlines was the best airline. People tend to give good fan gifts in that part of the world, it seems… Matt: Yeah, loads of stuffed toys. In America, I got a Lego version of me on a piano. And I got a doll that looked a lot like me. Lily: Someone gave me a book of all of his poems that he’d written - not about me, just in general. Poems and ideas for music, it was very much like a journal so there were drawings and things. Matt: Do you think if you have a big song, he’ll sue you? That happened to Disclosure - they had someone sue them, saying that they’d allegedly discovered this woman’s journal on a tube and used it for lyrics. Eggy: I don’t think I’ve had a gift but people do chuck things of Quaker Oats sometimes. Again, this band name is coming back to bite me. Bill: My old flatmate met this fan of mine online and she came over from Asia to West Kirby where I live and they started dating, and she brought a doll of me and that freaked me out. I remember sitting on the couch when she gave it to me and saying, ‘That must have taken you a long time’, and my flatmate leant round and went: ‘Four months’. But yeah, it did move about a bit.


“I throw so much shit in the sea: phones, photos of girls, all kinds of carry on…” Bill Ryder-Jones

Eggy: What do you mean, ‘It moved about a bit’?! Bill: I’d be like, ‘Has anyone moved that doll of me that used to be under my bed and is now on the kitchen table?’ Then I threw it in the sea. No, I’m joking, but I throw so much shit in the sea: phones, photos of girls, all kinds of carry on… I live by the sea and I just go: ‘Right, what’s going in today?’ Get the fuck in the sea. Next door’s cat…

“The only stadium gig I’ve been to is Michael Bublé when I was 11. It was incredible.” Matt Maltese

“You can’t hate Elton, but he is banned in the house.” Eggy Moore

Moving swiftly on: Lily, you’ve just recorded an episode of Later… with Jools Holland! Was that a big one off the bucket list? Lily: It’s top of the bucket list. I don’t really know where to go now from that. Bill: There’s always the Hootenanny. Lily: We played in Liverpool the night before, went down [to London after] and got into the hotel at 3am so most of the preparation was just sleeping so we didn’t look like freaks in front of the camera.

If you could be on a non-music TV show, what would you all choose? Eggy: 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. I’d be shit but it’d be a good time. Orla: Bake Off? I love a bake. I say bake, what’s the other one… Cooking. Matt: But cooking to a timer is just horrific… Orla: I do think I’d be stressed but I’m OK with that. I like a cook that has lots of different things and they all have to be ready at different times. A bit manic. It’s such a thrill. Matt: I’d go on Who Do You Think You Are?. I’d like to know but I’d just want it to be as good as the Danny Dyer episode - he’s descended from the King or something. Bill: One of my favourite things that ever happened was when he tweeted, ‘I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since them slags drove that plane into the Twin Towers’. As a result of that, I went back and looked at some of his other tweets and they’re all fucking genius. There’s one where he went, ‘Took my little boy to the park today. No ducks anywhere.

“I have the most masculine energy in my band. I’d be the most likely to start a fight.” Lily Fontaine

Fucking slags.’ Everything’s a slag in Danny Dyer Land. Bill, you’ve recently announced Album Five - is there any wisdom you can impart to those in the group still working on their debuts? Bill: No not really - I don’t wanna give anyone a leg up… I don’t think I’ve learnt anything new. I think the thing I very much believe in is that you’ve got to think about a record as a period of your life and there’s no point doing it if it’s not gonna obsess you and surround you and half drive you mad. That’s when I know I’m doing good work. If you haven’t thrown at least five things into the sea… Bill: A couple of songs. Half an album. I’ve lashed an album into the bloody sea before - my fourth record. I binned it. Well, I sea-ed it; that’s the correct term. Orla: In what form? Like the hard drive or an actual disc… Bill: In this case, it was more of a mental sea-ing, but I’m sure I could burn a copy and lash one in. Looking out to the wider landscape of 2023, did anyone catch Elton’s final goodbye set at Glastonbury? Eggy: Don’t talk to me about Elton John at Glastonbury. I was clashing with him for one of my Glastonbury sets and it was rough out there guys! Elton was heavily-attended, I hear… You can’t hate Elton, but he is banned in the house. Orla: I don’t think they should let anyone else play at that time. But then not everyone likes Elton. Eggy: That’s what I thought Orla, but it’s not true babes! They all love Elton! Madonna is another icon out on the road at the moment. She’s got costume changes, she’s got routines, she’s got… Matt: A death wish? My dad one year was talking about James Brown and was like, ‘I thought his heart would have given way by now’ and then two weeks later - dead. Eggy: You’ve got power in your family. Bill: He was taking crack and cocaine for the best part of 60 years though… Eggy: Yeah, but it was definitely because of what [Matt’s] dad said. Lily: Can your dad just say ‘Nigel Farage’ quickly for me… Finally, are there any new year’s resolutions, hopes or dreams for 2024 that we’re manifesting today? Lily: Write a new album. The first one’s recorded but I need to write the second one. I just dumped my boyfriend so maybe that’ll help? Eggy: Bill will throw him in the sea if you need. Bill: I’m sorry, I never throw a person in the sea. I draw the line at murder. Thanks to Colours, Hoxton for the use of their space. DIY



Photo: Louise Mason


King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard The Silver Cord (KGLW)

One of the great British debuts of 2023.

While the fact that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard aren’t ones to rest on their laurels should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s paid any attention to the band over the last decade, it remains nothing short of impressive how the Aussie six-piece still continue to confound all expectation heading into their 25th album. Armed with a newly acquired 1980s Simmons electronic drum kit, as many keyboards as they could fit into one studio and modular synthesisers they could barely operate, King Gizz unleash here an unexpected suite of harsh, leftfield, retro-futuristic, electronic pop. While 2021’s ‘Butterfly 3000’ tickled similarly synthetic fancies, ‘The Silver Cord’ is by contrast far more alarming. Channelling the old-school textures of synth pioneers like Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder while wiring in the dirty club beats of PC Music-esque hyperpop - the results of which are sometimes very strange indeed - ‘The Silver Cord’ is often magnificent and always supremely fun. ‘Chang’e’ zips and soars through space and time with the cutest euphoria; the frenetic drum loops on ‘Swan Song’ could soundtrack a fight scene from blade, and ‘set’ is pure robotic sass - its refrain of “Slay the mind-set” providing an instant earworm. And also, for those willing to completely lose themselves in this cybernetic nightmare, the album comes with a second version of ten minuteplus extended mixes, because why not? (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘set’


Troye Sivan

Something To Give Each Other (Polydor) 

Jelani Blackman

The Heart Of It (18 Records / MNRK) It’s never a good idea to judge an artist on the company they keep, yet a quick glance at Londoner Jelani Blackman’s collaborators instantly encapsulates his appeal. Alt-pop underdog Biig Piig, outspoken rap-rock crossover Bob Vylan, and creative powerhouse Kojey Radical lend their voices to three of fifteen tracks on ‘The Heart Of It’, while Jelani’s long list of musical companions include Fred again.., Ghetts and even soaring indie champions Wolf Alice. Although Jelani’s lowkey, silky vocals easily stand proud on their own, it’s testament to the genre-bending mastery of his sublime debut, a product of the vibrant eclecticism of the city he calls home. Whether on the beautifully nostalgic intro to ‘Arrival’ or the piano-led chorus on ‘Clear’, ‘The Heart Of It’ deliberately toys with expectation. ‘Wavy’ glides from Jelani’s baritone delivery to an all-out pop inspired chorus; ‘When You Feel It’ borrows from James Blake’s playbook for an almost choral break, and the brilliant ‘Faded’ leans gently into electronics. They provide the backdrop for an equally considered deep dive into Jelani’s world, from family to breakups, and poignant observations on coming of age as a Black man in London. ‘Voice’ references the 1982 launched Black newspaper, while the wider realities in inequality drip into ‘Clear’’s reference to gun crime and ‘Damage’’s note on Grenfell – just a stone’s throw from Jelani’s childhood home in Ladbroke Grove. It all comes together on what is one of the great British debuts of 2023. ‘The Heart Of It’ pairs Jelani’s experiences, frustrations, and celebrations with a soundtrack borne out of an obvious respect for the wider homegrown scene. His collaborators, far-reaching in sound, share a desire to push things forward, both in sound and in message. Jelani Blackman carries this torch brightly, elevating every poignant and powerful moment on a record that pairs his abundant honesty with stunningly crafted music, and pushes him swiftly to the very top of British breakthroughs. (Ben Tipple) LISTEN: ‘Faded’

Five years after the lusty reintroduction of ‘Bloom’, on ‘Something To Give Each Other’ we find Troye Sivan in full command of his sexuality. Its lead – the noughties-inspired, gloriously double entendre-utilising ‘Rush’ - is uproarious as it depicts an adoration for a poppers high (and the fun that follows) with a jeering football-style chant. Then, the kitschy ‘Got Me Started’ (which thrifts Bag Raiders’ ‘Shooting Stars’ from 2017 meme hell) oozes the kind of irreverent style that characterises contemporary cool kid pop culture: an air of suave irony, coupled with a not-too-distant throwback reference, a penchant for the gauche, and an aching for tangible experience. The pair of tracks introduce ‘Something To Give…’ perfectly. It’s an album that captures fleeting connection - be it sex, drugs, community or love - through wiry dance pop and popular iconography. It’s brief, kaleidoscopic in scope, but with purpose, and its immediacy grabs at fast-escaping youth with a clammy white-knuckle grip. As whispers of 2020 EP ‘In A Dream’ skirt across the scratchy industrial breakdown of desire anthem ‘Honey’, Troy confesses adoration. Meanwhile, kinetic techno captures longdistance lust on ‘What’s the Time Where You Are?’; creeping grooves weave through down-low hook-ups on ‘One of Your Girls’, and the deep synths and flirtatious sax in ‘How To Stay With You’ dance through being “a little bit fucked”. It’s as fun and messy as it is timelessly trendy; as silly as it is erotic. On ‘Something To Give Each Other’, Troye Sivan’s melancholic pop euphoria encapsulates an entire subculture of modern queer masculinity. (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘Rush’



BLINK AND YOU’LL MISS IT (AKA a quick dip into the band’s back catalogue)



Famous Last Words (XL) There are few storytellers as raw as London’s masked menace, CASISDEAD. After generating hype on his 2013 breakthrough, he retreated to the shadows, only rearing his head with the occasional single or promise of a debut album. Finally, he’s made good on that with ‘Famous Last Words’. These 23 tracks follow a pair of characters (portrayed by Ed Skrein and Emma Rigby) in a dystopian future where apathy can be bought and the resistance is fought with energy weapons. Cas’ narration is perfectly suited to the setting, his gritty accounts of loss and lust described with painstaking detail and surgical precision, overlaying sparkling synthwave soundscapes. As a result, ‘Famous Last Words’ is cinematic in scope and execution: from the subtle arrogance of opener ‘A Spark’, to the high drama of ‘Actin’ Up’, CASISDEAD has a beat and a rhyme scheme to match at every turn. ‘Venom’ also makes claim to be one of the year’s best tracks with its neon pulse and noxious narrative. Cas has also drafted in a supreme cast of talents to help on this record: vocal performances from Kamio and Connie Constance are exquisite, while Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant brings a levity to closing track ‘Skydive’ that makes Cas’ vulnerability one of the album’s greatest strengths. Stranger Things composer Kyle Dixon’s guiding hand is all over the production too, bringing a tenderness to ‘Marilyn’ and a discomforting ambivalence to ‘Traction Control’, ensuring texture and cohesion throughout. CASISDEAD may have kept fans waiting for a decade, but ‘Famous Last Words’ does not disappoint. This stands to be one of the year’s most compelling and engrossing albums - not just in UK rap, but in British music in general. (Jack Terry) LISTEN: ‘Venom’

Compelling and engrossing. 52 DIYMAG.COM

DUDE RANCH (1997) Their second album, major label debut and breakthrough is also arguably their most influential on fellow musicians too: standout ‘Dammit’ has been covered by the likes of FIDLAR, Best Coast and the late Lil Peep. ENEMA OF THE STATE (1999) For anyone who remembers the turn of the millennium, this one was quite literally impossible to avoid, such was its impact. It was also the band’s first record to feature Travis Barker. BLINK-182 (2003) This followed a short break to focus on side-projects (including Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker’s Box Car Racer), and is the home of celebrated meme, Tom’s second verse of ‘I Miss You’. CALIFORNIA (2016) Controversial? Yes, probably. But following the release of this, the first of two albums with Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, the idea of a Tom-featuring blink album, tour and future wasn’t something many could foresee. It also was their first UK Number One album (‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’ only reached #4 in 2001; Scottish indie mainstays Travis’ ‘The Invisible Band’ was released the same week).



ONE MORE TIME... (Columbia) They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, which is perhaps a life lesson blink-182 wish they were a little less familiar with. And yet, here in 2023, the infamous trio of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker have once again united in the face of could’ve-been-tragedy to create an album that glances back fondly over their years as a band together. Granted, to approach ‘ONE MORE TIME…’ without even a whiff of nostalgia is sort of missing the point; the band’s ninth album - and first with Tom since 2011’s ‘Neighborhoods’ - understandably comes steeped in reflection, both of their own friendships with one another, and the band’s place in the wider world at large. As such, the record comes peppered with reflective Easter eggs; opener ‘ANTHEM PART 3’ picks up with the same infectious energy of 2001’s ‘Anthem Part Two’, while ‘TERRIFIED’ (a former Box Car Racer demo) feels more akin to the dark turn of their 2003 self-titled album than any of their earlier output. What’s more, things do - for the most part - feel tonally different. While the band aren’t exactly well-renowned for their sincerity, here, they wear it well, with the likes of ‘YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE GOT’ and the title track striking particularly poignant chords (whichever way you spin it, the latter’s line “Do I have to die to hear you miss me?” will always be devastating). It doesn’t all quite click though; the brilliant breakneck punk of ‘FUCK FACE’ explodes out of nowhere but dissipates all too quickly, while the starry synths of ‘BLINK WAVE’ get lost around the album’s mid-point. Sure, if you’re after something revolutionary, this one’s not for you; but ‘ONE MORE TIME…’ instead succeeds in its mission to reinvigorate the trio’s alchemy, and gives the band a much-needed chance to reflect and celebrate for at least one more time. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘ONE MORE TIME’



RECO MMEN DED Missed the boat on some the best albums from the last couple of months? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.



His patience and craft make for a stunning experience.



Zig (Sumerian)

A Living Commodity (YALA!)


Egyptian Blue

Poppy’s previous few releases Egyptian Blue have had a tumultuous time – the pop-metal hybrid of 2020’s so far. Having toed the line of ‘I Disagree’, the grunge-infused disbandment, they’ve since played to ‘Flux’ in 2021, even through to thousands around the world and signed to covering Kittie’s ‘Spit’ earlier this a record label founded by one of The year – have centred on her ability Maccabees. Armed with enough ups and to juxtapose loud and quiet: downs to fill a career, the Brighton-based piercing a performative femininity alt-rockers use all of that experience and turmoil on their debut with her guttural roar, say, or record ‘A Living Commodity’. From the opening bars of pairing high-pitched saccharine ‘Matador’, Egyptian Blue’s jangly post-punk is infectious and vocals with aggressive riffs. ‘Zig’, save for claustrophobic their experience on a bigger live stage – they’ve racked up closer ‘Prove It’ has none of this. Opener ‘Church Outfit’ dates alongside Foals and IDLES, to name just two - has paid might hint at darkness through lyrics and a tension-building dividends, as an irresistible hook sweeps you into their world. industrial beat, but there’s little release to be found from the Imbuing the melodicism of Bombay Bicycle Club with the second it segues into the wholly bouncy ‘Knock Off’. punky punch of SOFT PLAY, ‘A Living Commodity’ is a restless Instead, we find Poppy’s voice remaining in the middle of her and rewarding experience. The twitchy schisms of ‘Belgrade register through a series of songs which hint at pure radio Shade’ reveals the quartet’s flair for the peculiar, while the pop and the layered textures of cult Canadians Purity Ring frenetic pace of the title track suggests that Egyptian Blue have but succeed at neither. ‘Linger’ wafts by forgotten, ‘Flicker’ their sights set high. Clocking in at a shade over 30 minutes, immediately drops in pace and impact just as it begins to this album doesn’t overstay its welcome, but in being hint at excitement, while ‘Motorbike’ seems to aim for frontloaded with short sharp attacks, it leaves lengthier efforts goth-pop peer Lynn Gunn’s PVRIS recent highs but doesn’t to weigh down the back end of the record, and so the possess any of the impact of the likes of ‘Goddess’. The difference in pacing leaves the second half languishing instrumentation of ‘1s 0s’ is far too uninteresting to justify its somewhat. Still, ‘A Living Commodity’ is a succinct round up of lengthy presence, and the one attempt at contrast here - a the band’s strengths and one can only imagine them going up seemingly random drum’n’bass beat thrown over piano from here. (Jack Terry) LISTEN: ‘A Living Commodity’ ballad ‘The Attic’ – leaves more questions than answers. Weak and boring are never words we’d have ever thought apply to Poppy’s music, but alas here we are – hoping for  the ‘Zag’ to come. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘Prove It’

Tkay Maidza Sweet Justice (4AD)



A triumphant debut that pushes the multihyphenate beyond expectations.



The pair are almost unnervingly impressive on their sixth, with their chemistry once again at the heart of it all.

An auteur of nearly everything, glued to no particular genre, Tkay Maidza’s acclaimed ‘Last Year Was Weird’ trilogy of EPs set a high bar for genre-crossing grit and innovation. Her latest follows similarly: second record ‘Sweet Justice’ pulverises tropes over a cacophony of heavy, unrelenting sound, all while a slick narrative of coming into power manifests between. This self-described break-up album - in which Tkay dumps deadbeats, self-doubt and a warped sense of self traverses insatiable, earthy, metallic R&B and industrial pop until the Aussie artist stands monolithic, and the rapturous party that beats at the heart of ‘Sweet Justice’ is irresistible. At its most hellish, alluringly infernal chants backdrop the outro of ‘WUACV’, and at its most utopian, it’s sun-kissed and syrupy (see ‘WASP’). Tkay’s not alone, too: funk connoisseur Kaytranada commands a crowd on ‘Ghost!’; gratifying highlight ‘Out of Luck (ft. Lolo Zouaï and Amber Mark)’ intertwines three multifaceted artists as they burgeon into power over torn-apart synths, while the bombastic ‘Free Throws’ is undeniably indebted to the untethered experimental rap of Tierra Whack. If the intention of ‘Sweet Justice’ is personal and sonic catharsis, then Tkay stands arm-in-arm with her fellow innovators to ignite armageddon. Amid an existing height of musical Afrofuturism, ‘Sweet Justice’ is a crowning achievement - an assertion of self through distinct and precise perspective at the apex of a movement. (Otis Robinson) LISTEN: ‘WUACV’

A crowning achievement. 54 DIYMAG.COM







The Gaslight Anthem History Books (Rich Mahogany)

In some ways, it seems strange to think that it’s almost a decade since the Gaslight Anthem last released an album, but as soon as the scorched guitars of ‘Spider Bites’ kick in, it feels as if they’ve picked right back up from where they left off. After 2014’s ‘Get Hurt’ saw the band take a gamble by moving away from the brand of soul-infused punk that they’d made their name on, with ‘History Books’, the New Jersey quartet seem to have been pulled back towards their rock’n’roll heartland. A tangle of reflection and coming to terms with their current place in the world - both as people and a band - here they lean into their strengths, as perhaps best shown on the record’s triumphant title track and long-awaited collaboration with Bruce Springsteen himself. Elsewhere, ‘Little Fires’ is a rousing, charged offering that channels their more fierce side, while closer ‘A Lifetime Of Preludes’ captures the similar poignant spirit to that of ‘Handwritten’’s ‘National Anthem’. ’History Books’ is an album that personifies The Gaslight Anthem’s magic all over again. (Sarah Jamieson) LISTEN: ‘Positive Charge’



Here Come The Early Nights (Moth Noise) Spector’s knack for witty, ascerbic pop is nothing new, so that ‘Here Come The Early Nights’ echoes the time it’s released in - the dark, long, November nights that could be as bleak as experienced wrapped up in nostalgia - is fitting. Acutely aware of their strengths from the off, where it soars in sound is where it does so metaphorically: the melancholy of ‘The Notion’, say, or the epic ‘Some People’, which brings to mind one particular arena-headlining Canadian outfit whose name we won’t mention. And still, while Spector’s nights are drawing in, they’ve found space to play with their formula somewhat. ‘Not Another Weekend’, with its deliciously grungy guitar line and the kind of middle eight last seen on a Weezer B-side somewhere is more successful than ‘Pressure’, where what seems to want to echo The Specials ends up far more loungey - but from a band who’d do just fine offering up more of the same as they ever did, it’s a curiously refreshing twist. (Rosie Cooper) LISTEN: ‘Not Another Weekend’


bar italia

The Twits (Matador) Merely five months on from its vaunted predecessor ‘Tracey Denim’, London three-piece bar italia are leaving nobody waiting. Recorded over eight weeks in February at a home studio in Majorca, ‘The Twits’ feels like the former’s looser, rawer, estranged younger brother. Amid the thrilling indie rushes of opener ‘my little tony’ or ‘world’s greatest emoter’ - which, alongside ‘Real House Wibes (desperate house vibes)’ provide some of the most entertaining song titles of the year - ‘The Twits’ distinguishes itself for its slow, sad and snotty numbers. The anxious triple times of ‘twist’ waltz into your daydreams; the haunted acoustic drawls of ‘shoo’ come off like a bedroom-lo-fi Oasis. While palpably drenched in ‘90s nostalgia, it nevertheless feels that no matter how many classic references you might wish to pin upon bar italia, there is, all the while, an unquestionable idiosyncrasy - a ‘bar italia-ness’ - if you will, to every vocal moan, snare tap or strum. For such an intentionally enigmatic band, it’s a marvel how they’ve crafted such a powerful and alluring identity solely through the music alone. All those who lapped up ‘Tracey Denim’ will be satisfied here. ‘The Twits’ may yet charm a few more besides. (Elvis Thirlwell) LISTEN: ‘shoo’


Q&A Frontman Fred Macpherson on how the album took shape and reuniting with old friends along the way. Can you talk a little bit about how the record came together? At what point did you realise you’d got a new record? We were on a bit of an exciting time limit as I knew I had to leave the country for three months (not for legal reasons) so we basically had to have it done in the first six weeks of this year. We thought that would give us ample time but it turned out Dimitri, our producer, only had thirteen days available - unlucky for some. Luckily Jed and I had written a lot of it (‘Never Have Before’, ‘Not Another Weekend’, ‘Room with a Different View’ and ‘Pressure’) on two writing trips as a duo - one on the Coast, near Jaywick, and another in the middle of a lake somewhere he’ll remember. Between me teaching him Magic the Gathering and him teaching me Strictly Come Dancing we got quite a lot done. We also had ‘The Notion’ lying around since the ‘Now or Whenever’ sessions, which we knew was too good to add as an afterthought to that record, and

it helped with the direction for this one. Separately I’d started ‘Here Come the Early Nights’ as a kind of club track (with its lyrics setting a twilight pace for the rest of the album) and Jed had started ‘Some People’ with both becoming our personal Everests. We were finishing those and other songs like ‘All of the World is Changing’ right up until our last day of studio time. It only really became an album when Catherine Marks started sending mixes back a month or two later, and then I was so thankful for that limited time we’d had. As a band who’ve always had a bit of a nostalgic streak - for example, working with Dimitri again, and having Dev Hynes pop up - are there frequent senses of ‘full circle’ moments among the Spector camp? Yes it’s conscious and unconscious. I mean we were writing about feeling old at 23 and young at 33. I do kind of see ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ as our final, overblown, career-ending

album. So much of our work is about time and relationships and friendship that it makes sense to make the actual creation about that too. In a way the time Dev spent with us this time felt like his opportunity to pour so many amazing ideas into this album that he hadn’t really got a chance to with ‘Moth Boys’ when his apartment burned down just before he was supposed to fly to London to work on it. And similarly with Dimitri, the previous songs he worked on with us like ‘Untitled in D’ and ‘Wild Guess’ have become cornerstones of our set and helped build our postmajor record label confidence and culture. So working with them both again was a full circle moment. We also met with Catherine about working on an album that was never to be, so to have her mix this one is an amazing honour. How early is an ‘early night’ to you? These days, about 6PM.




Fronzoli (What Reality?)

Hackney Diamonds (Polydor)

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets Australia seems to have developed a knack for turning out psychedelic rock bands. Pitched between the audacious prog of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and the distorted experimentation of Tame Impala, you’ll find Perth’s Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. On sixth album ‘Fronzoli’ they take influence from grunge, classic rock, jazz and electronic music to create a record that pushes the bounds of their OTT garage rock right to the edge of breaking. Opening with the three singles to have come from this album - ‘Nootmare (K-I-L-L-I-N-G) Meow!’, ‘(I’m A Kadaver) Alakazam’, and ‘Dilemma Us From Evil’ – ‘Fronzoli’ kicks off with the kind of superb bombast in which Psychedelic Porn Crumpets feel most comfortable. From the rousing choruses to the glittering embellishments of noodly guitars and twitching electronics, it’s easy to get swept up in the Aussies’ world. As one continues to careen down these rushing rapids, you are buffeted about on the bluffs of variety; the Muse-leaning grandeur of ‘Pillhouse (Papa Moonshine)’ highlights some arena-worthy aspirations and the swagger of ‘All Aboard The S.S. Sinker’ takes cues from Royal Blood’s earliest work. While styles may change, ‘Fronzoli’ retains an air of fun through the peculiar samples and oddball lyrics that furnish it. (Jack Terry) LISTEN: ‘All Aboard The S. S. Sinker’


Oscar Scheller

Coming Of Age (Handle With Care)

Photo: Eva Pentel

That much of ‘Coming Of Age’ is an instantly familiar listen shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. While Oscar Scheller’s own summery pop trade may have taken a back seat to his collaborative work, his credits have been with some luminaries of the highest grade: Rina Sawayama, Ashnikko, Rebecca Black, PinkPantheress, Shygirl... the list quite literally goes on and on. So his knack for a shiny pop nugget, alongside an obvious ear for the here and now means it’s a thoroughly 2023 record, taking in cues from hyperpop (‘Hole In My Jeans’), alt-rock (‘8 Minute Abs’) and introspective emo (’Somebody Else’s Car’) along the way. On the flip side, however, there’s a sense of having heard it before - in less a comforting manner as a nagging one. The muted synthpop palette he’s opted for - take ‘Black Box’ with its uncanny resemblance to The 1975’s more recent releases for an idea - only cements this. Which, for a songwriter firmly placed in the zeitgeist of alternative pop presents somewhat of a strange situation. Naturally, there’s some stellar songwriting skills on show -‘Nightmare Blunt Rotation’ is a gem - but with his extracurriculars having proved so fruitful in the time since his last full-length, one can’t help but have hoped for an extra gear. (Alfie Byrne) LISTEN: ‘Nightmare Blunt Rotation’

It finds substance in its shedding of the contrived.


The Rolling Stones A band now peerless, whose adoption – and mutation – of American blues is so entrenched now in Western rock canon that they can only reasonably be compared to themselves, to say that ‘Hackney Diamonds’ sounds like a Rolling Stones record is, yes, a somewhat obvious take, but also the most succinct one. That it’s nearly twenty years since their last new material, with ‘A Bigger Bang’, shows they know full well they don’t need to crank out records to remain on the road: they’ve barely stopped in the interim, and one would bet they’ve already queued up at the ABBA hologram creators’ base to continue when even science forbids. A labour of love, then, this must be – and the two threads that run through the record seem to support the idea: while there’s a constant sense of fun, there’s also always a consciousness about who, or what The Rolling Stones are. For reflection, see the slide guitar and pure Americana of ‘Dreamy Skies’, or the frankly iconic use of Lady Gaga’s range on ‘Sweet Sounds of Heaven’, an immediate mirror image of Merry Clayton’s turn on ’Gimme Shelter’ back in the 1960s. Its fun, meanwhile, peaks with the batshit – whichever way you choose to look at it – ‘Live By The Sword’. With such couplets as “If you’re deep in the crime / Well, you’re deep in the slime” and “If you live like a whore / Better be hardcore,” if there were any whispers of taking oneself seriously, it’d be over. These are awful lyrics on anyone’s watch. But here (with the added sparkle of one Elton John, no less) a knowing wink – or exaggerated pout - leads it to merely reek endearingly of cabin fever, a (grand)dad joke taken to extremes, perhaps. Or take the Paul McCartney- featuring ‘Bite My Head Off’, during which one can’t help but picture Abe Simpson’s fist aloft. When you’ve made as deep and enduring a cultural mark as this, what’s a little lighthearted fun? After all, it’s only rock’n’roll. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘Sweet Sounds of Heaven’


Baby Queen

Quarter Life Crisis (Polydor) By all accounts, Bella Latham did not enjoy the process of pulling together her debut Baby Queen album. Although the early hype that surrounded her breakthrough singles back in 2020 and subsequent fame soundtracking Netflix’s instant cult favourite Heartstopper have certainly secured an army of dedicated fans, it also came with an almost unmanageable pressure. Paired with a creative process covering the best part of three years, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ carries its name with a resounding insecurity, jolting its bedroom bubblegum pop from moments of cathartic self-acceptance to overwhelming self-doubt. Its uncertainty takes centre stage through Bella’s lyrical honesty, delving into her relationship to medication, vices, and the self-criticism that has led to a hefty amount of writer’s block. The process has stripped Baby Queen of the more superficial elements that had begun to creep into her 2021 collection ‘The Yearbook’. This debut album proper finds substance in its shedding of the contrived, instead rallying against creative block with a “fuck it” attitude. There’s a beautiful resignation to her album-defining opening on standout midpoint, ‘Grow Up’. “I’m almost 25 but I feel like I’m 17,” she notes in an instantly-relatable pushback to the coming-of-age trope. “If I could grow up, I’d grow the fuck up.” It’s an understandable reaction to existing in a world that demands confidence and assuredness. Instead, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ finds its voice by accepting insecurity, and by realising that life’s answers are not linked to age - that the concept of growing up doesn’t follow a specific path, and there’s a certain magic in the fragile chaos that comes with it. Bella may not have enjoyed bringing ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ to life, but in facing her insecurities head on she chips away at the pristine Baby Queen polish and pairs her distinct brand of pop with real substance. (Ben Tipple) LISTEN: ‘Grow Up’




PAWS (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

Morning Ritual (Communion)

The secret to PAWS’ longevity - this being their fifth full-length - lies perhaps in the Scottish outfit’s ability to sit in the middle of a crowded Venn diagram. At points it echoes the math-rock leanings of Midwest emo, or even the OTT bombast of The Hold Steady; at others closer to home via the explosive heart-on-sleeve indie of Los Campesinos! or the melancholy of Scottish rock titans such as Idlewild or Frightened Rabbit. Similarly the group’s use of lo-fi aesthetics - see the vocal effects of ‘Unfiltered’ and ‘One Nation Under DOG’ for example, or layered guitar sounds of ‘Disenchanted’ - mean it would slot in just as easily among releases from the late-1980s nascent college rock scene as the likes of METZ or Japandroids, to name but two fans of fuzz. Whether that ultimately leaves PAWS without a distinct voice for themselves is arguable - the outfit have long been praised for their lyrical candour, but much of Phillip Jon Taylor’s vocal is barely discernible here - but for their longstanding fans there’s probably just enough of whichever aspect won them over in the first place to be rewarding. (Alex Doyle) LISTEN: ‘Disenchanted’


Storm Franklin

Loneliness In The Modern World (Agricultural Audio) Naming your collaboration after a recent natural disaster might be an ominous move, but the debut album from Storm Franklin contains some suitably heavy weather. The latest in 2023’s run of established indie types teaming up for pastures new (see also: The Waeve’s Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall), the pairing of former Howling Bells singer-turned-solo artist Juanita Stein and producer Ben Hillier is one that makes a lot of sense. Juanita’s resonant vocal is one that harnesses an enveloping, magnetic femininity, while Ben has specialised in creating evocative atmospheres; unsurprisingly, ‘Loneliness in the Modern World’ is very good at both. ‘Why Do I Have To Choose’ questions gender assumptions (“You’ve got it all / I want it too”) over undulating rhythms and airy pop interludes; opener ‘Hush Now’ rolls in on psych-tinged jangles and dreamy, falsetto vocals; ‘Here Comes The Knife’ takes garage rock simplicity and hand claps and wields them with confidence, while ‘Push The Panic’’s uneasy motif and motorik beat evoke the isolation of the album’s title before bringing a flash of danceable synths to ease the pain. Storm Franklin aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but they’re two connoisseurs of it. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘Why Do I Have To Choose’

That Chartreuse’s own messaging has previously made much of their ability to take it slow seems somewhat of an understatement; the band, who emerged around the tail end of 2017 are only now - six years later - releasing a debut full-length. It’s not hard to hazard a guess as to why: the outfit’s brand of folk-influenced indie is an intricate one: see the meticulously-arranged skittishness of the title track for example, where each beat, note and silence is almost clinical in its placement. And therein lies what fails to elevate ‘Are You Looking For Something’ beyond ‘good’: each step feels overly deliberate, from the overwrought lyrical cliches (“I can’t get off my phone,” cries ‘Agitated’) to the repetition, which although perhaps attempting to create a psych-like trance, instead quickly becomes an irritant (‘Whippet’, ’This Could Be Anything’). At points it does seem as if the Midlanders are aware of their own ability to be consumed by their own mellow: the shift into ‘Never To Be Real’ is a much-welcome jolt to the senses. It’s all rich, luscious and well-crafted, and for solo headphone sessions could well offer a pleasant daydream - see in particular the intrigue of ‘Backstroke’. But otherwise, there’s every risk of ‘Morning Ritual’ retreating into the background. (Jessie Brown) LISTEN: ‘Backstroke’

GREEN DAY - SAVIORS If you, like Billie Joe and pals, wish not to be an American idiot, remember that people between Mexico and Canada hate u’s. Album out 19th January.

YARD ACT - WHERE’S MY UTOPIA? Rumours that frontman James Smith has been lost on the M1 since August are entirely unfounded. The outfit’s second album, meanwhile, is out 1st March.





Coming Up



Kojaque isn’t exactly one to stick to convention – he has always defied genre while subverting expectations. Second album ‘Phantom of the Afters’ finds his protagonist Jackie Dandelion quite literally taking flight, ready to land in the UK for a new life that will bring forth a myriad of questions – through the lens of Jackie, Kojaque finds a means to come back to himself and navigate identity, culture, love and a new chapter in life. Throughout it all, he’s honest and upfront, frank and conversational. He paints an image of an artist refusing to be defined easily, as adept at softer vocals over piano beats as he is with a fierce delivery on pounding beats. He’s incendiary at times, mellow and yearning otherwise, but always lit with passion. Enlisting the likes of Biig Piig for ‘WOOF’ and Gotts Street Park on ‘BAMBI’, his journey continues through arguments and revelations alike, deftly traversing the years that have led to this point and the years to come. ‘JOHNNY MACENROE’, featuring Wiki, sees arguably his slickest flow to date, soundtracked by bubbling, bouncing soundscapes. ‘RAINY DAYS’ finds him more soulful, longing for the sun to break and things to ease somewhat. ‘PEEKABOO’ is arguably a highlight, a moment of loss and loneliness made easier to swallow by breezy vocals. By the album’s close, it’s clear Kojaque has crafted an album so grounded in the everyday and real experience that it becomes a visceral, wrenching listen. Cementing himself as a trailblazing creator with wit in droves, on ‘Phantom of the Afters’, Kojaque delivers an album that sees him at his absolute prime. (Neive McCarthy) LISTEN: ‘JOHNNY MACENROE’


SLEATER-KINNEY LITTLE ROPE The answer to ‘how long is a piece of string’ apparently perplexed Carrie and Corin more than predicted. The pair’s latest is set for release on 19th January.

An album that sees him at his absolute prime.

BOB VYLAN - HUMBLE AS THE SUN Move over the Teletubby sun: heeeeeere’s Bobby. Catch the duo’s ferocious rays (and riffs, etc) from 5th April.

EPS, ETC. 

Alex Amor

Super Sonic (Young Poet) 


Slice (Speedy Wunderground) Giving listeners a brief taste of their boundary-pushing creativity, on ‘Slice’ O. demonstrate just how much can be done with a pair of drumsticks, a baritone sax, and some significant pedal wizardry. Borrowing their structural dynamics from dance, the EP’s title track builds at an exponential rate, heightening anticipation for a drop that’s as seamless as it is satisfying. ‘Moon’, meanwhile, is an altogether moodier affair - all reverb and sultry sax lines, it finds the duo tracing the musical lineage of their acoustic drum and bass further back, wearing their dub influences like a well-fitting rudeboy suit. An aptly-named cut in which the synergy between sonics and moniker is apparent, it’s almost hard to believe there’s not a guitar in the mix with ‘Grouchy’, such is its shoegaze-adjacent wall of sound. Rounding off proceedings is ‘ATM’, bringing us back into the realm of frantic pacing and club-like beats in a pleasingly cyclical move that marks O.’s debut EP as a project that’s short but sweet, cohesive and well-rounded - much like the band name itself. (Daisy Carter) LISTEN: ‘Moon’



punkadonk 2 (Polydor) While the idea of ‘overnight success’ has largely been explained away, it did seem as if the whole of Merseyside decided on a whim to back one metaphorical horse as STONE emerged, choruses fully-formed, and with a trail of fistpumping indie kids in tow. That frontman Fin Power is the son of one of the city’s most celebrated sons - Cast and The La’s John Power - won’t have hurt, but the foursome’s reputation came also thanks to their compelling live presence and an uncanny ability to draw huge choruses out of thin air. ‘punkadonk 2’ is, as the name suggests, a successor of sorts to 2022 release ‘punkadonk’, and the six-track EP acts as another split-second capture of the band’s progress - and a look towards where they’re headed. At times, it’s as if they’ve taken the past three decades’ indie releases and borrowed from all; ‘Compulsive’, one of the newer tracks here, moves from early Alex Turner in the verses to fully Liam Gallagher come the chorus, while ‘Left Right Forward’ does similarly between Mike Skinner’s observational wit - in this instance, pure homage - to Sports Team shoutalong chaos. And if, among all this, the radio-friendly choruses bring to mind Liverpool’s last big indie exports, it’ll come as no surprise that Circa Waves’ Kieran Shudall is Fin’s songwriting partner in crime on both the baggy-indebted ‘I Gotta Feeling’ and explosive ‘I’m Still Waiting’. Both earworms and a summer of flying festival pints await. (Alfie Byrne) LISTEN: ‘Left Right Forward’

Although not her first extended release - she’s been bubbling under for some years now - ‘Super Sonic’ is a showcase of sorts for Alex Amor, with a handful of slightly different directions taken - and in turn, various results. Best of the bunch is ‘Like The First Time’, which takes the Scottish singer-songwriter’s obvious knack for a pop chorus - the one factor that plays into every song on the seven-track release - and pairs it with some Jack Antonoff-style synthy production that lands somewhere between ‘1989’ and Ellie Goulding’s early singles. The disco bassline of ‘Wandering Eyes’ similarly hints ambitiously, while the bittersweet ‘Time To Smile’ is an enjoyable slice of summery alt-pop. If there’s a criticism, it’s that it all seems a little one-note: some oomph in the production to give more power to her smart choruses wouldn’t go amiss, while the Mac DeMarco-like guitar sound of the title track and later ‘Losing Me’ jars against the radio-friendly sound of the rest of the EP and wouldn’t be missed. (Jessie Brown) LISTEN: ‘Like The First Time’


Shelf Lives

You Okay? (Modern Sky) The seeds of Shelf Lives’ distinct sound were sown between Toronto, Northampton, and London, as duo Sabrina Di Giulio and Jonny Hillyard came together in mutual musical understanding and shared social dissatisfaction. A few years, a pandemic, and some financial crises later, and here we have ‘You Okay?’ - a hurtling blend of punk and electroclash that suggests the answer to its titular question is a pointed ‘No. But fuck it, it’s fine’. Accelerating out the gate at 100mph, ‘All Grown Up’ pairs skittering beats with defiant vocal delivery in the style of Dream Wife to determinedly set a tone of almost manic nihilism. Over the remaining three tracks, the project incorporates thumping basslines (‘KIDS’), earworm pop hooks (‘PVC Real Estate’) and thrashing riffs (‘Off The Rails’) for a gleefully genre-bending exercise in building and releasing tension. We may be facing a seemingly inevitable race towards societal implosion, but Shelf Lives, at least, are dancing at the apocalypse’s dawn. (Daisy Carter) LISTEN: ‘KIDS’



Title Track (Transgressive) According to UNIVERSITY, they’re “like getting punched in the face by a gorilla but then being cuddled afterwards”. Listening to ‘Title Track’, the outfit’s five-song debut EP, however, is more akin to experiencing a build of anxiety from said impending simian slap - but never getting hit. Or, picture if you will, a perpetual build to a circle pit, the tempo shifting constantly as the hole grows ever larger… but the release doesn’t come. That’s either going to sound thrilling or frustrating, and for the former, this collision of ‘00s math rock and ‘20s shouty post-punk is likely to provide an exciting listen. But if it’s the danceable riffs and the yearn for catharsis that is occasionally hinted at that form the standout parts, it could well leave you still cowering. (Emma Swann) LISTEN: ‘Notre Dame Made Out Of Flesh’


Penelope Scott

Girl’s Night / Mysteries For Rats (self-released)

Both earworms and a summer of flying festival pints await.

There’s a logical reasoning for ‘Mysteries for Rats’ and ‘Girl’s Night’ arriving as two separate but simultaneous EPs rather than one full album. The former, a largely electronic selection (in the most lo-fi, bedroom synth way); the latter based in guitars and piano, there’s a fairly neat sonic split down the middle. What that doesn’t account for, however, is the totally inimitable voice, pacing and witty lyrical style of Penelope Scott herself. Whether she’s evoking pissed-off vaudevillian high drama on ‘Cabaret’, hyperpopadjacent romantic malaise on ‘Gross’, or Moldy Peaches-esque, rough-aroundthe-edges folk on ‘Pseudophed’, Scott’s densely packed, stream-ofconsciousness writing style knits it all together regardless. The aforementioned ‘Cabaret’ is the collection’s meta centrepiece: a dissection of a clearly-unwanted comment on her music, spun out into an increasingly fraught conversation with herself (“My shit all sounds the same to you, I bet it fucking does…”). We’d take that sentiment and switch it up; Penelope Scott’s shit sounds like herself and literally nothing else around right now - and that’s a glorious thing. (Lisa Wright) LISTEN: ‘Cabaret’



Lauren Mayberry KOKO, London. Photos: Emma Swann.


ack in July, when Lauren Mayberry first announced that she’d be striking it out alone, her debut solo live tour was announced alongside a message: “This solo project, I hope, will be my fun, freaky, sad, weird, joyful pop playground,” she wrote, “and I am so looking forward to sharing it with you.” Just a few months on, as the CHVRCHES singer takes to the stage at London’s iconic KOKO, she lives up to that promise.

Tonight is, of course, an evening of firsts. Most notably, the show sees Mayberry debuting an almostentirely unknown set (save for debut single ‘Are You Awake?’, which landed last month); a move that adds an air of intrigue to the night as a whole, and comes delightfully amped up by a series of spoken word interludes and dramatic flourishes. Even with just eight original tracks to perform, tonight is very much a show, replete with nods to the theatrical legends Liza Minelli and Bob Fosse - the iconic Cabaret hit ‘Maybe This Time’ is her intro music, and the stage is decked out with flowers - which help set out the stall for her new, emboldened era. What’s more, Lauren herself feels transformed, with her sparkling dress catching the light during every twirl and dance move, as she possesses a renewed sense of confidence and abandon that comes across in her vocals especially. Each song also gives a peek into the different corners of her new embellished pop world; there’s the glammed-up stomp of ‘Bird’, which gives way to ‘Change Shapes’’ infectious shoulder-shimmying; new single ‘Shame’ - that’s officially released the day following the show - is an angular Eurythmicsish bop denouncing the social conditioning of women, while closer ‘Sorry, Etc’ crashes into cathartic life with its powerful mantra of “I sold my soul to be one of the boys”. Even her covers of choice Madonna’s iconic ‘Like A Prayer’, and Spice Girls’ ‘Viva Forever’ - give a glimpse into the glorious pop heart of this project. “I was never in a band that would let me cover Spice Girls,” she grins, after a few minutes’ chat about the ‘Space Ghettos / Spice Girls in Scottish’ meme. “It was now or never!” A resplendent and celebratory first glimpse into Lauren’s newest chapter - and a night that showcases a whole different side to her talents - tonight really does deliver the goods: fun, freaky, sad, weird and joyful, to boot. (Sarah Jamieson)

Fun, freaky, sad, weird and joyful to boot.

SETLIST Bird Change Shapes Mantra Under The Knife Shame Like A Prayer Are You Awake? Crocodile Tears Viva Forever Sorry, Etc.

The Xcerts


Lafayette, London. Photo: Dan Landsburgh.

o think that, before the release of their latest album, The Xcerts’ fate hung in the balance seems extraordinary on a night like this one. Admittedly, the Brighton-based trio have spent the better part of fifteen years - and almost their entire adult lives - on the road, cutting their teeth in the most traditional of ways, grafting to earn each and every fan. It’s been the kind of slow and steady approach that really paid off; back in 2019, the band celebrated the anniversary of their debut album with a slew of packed out, euphoric live shows that showcased just how passionately their fanbase feel, before the pandemic threw everything out of whack. Now, having weathered the worst of that particular storm, their return to the capital tonight feels triumphant. Building upon the creative playfulness of their fifth full-length ‘Learning How To Live and Let Go’, the band take to the stage to the sounds of a voicemail recording by frontman Murray Macleod - an inspired way of weaving the album’s personal nature in - before crashing headfirst into its thundering opening ‘GIMME’. From then on, their set flits between moments from across their discography - from the soaring pop of ‘Daydream’ and ‘Drive Me Wild’, through to the scorched screams of ‘Slackerpop’ - in what feels like a perfect display of their sonic DNA, helping to connect the dots to their latest release. There’s also an easy confidence that exudes from the trio as a unit, and it’s clear that - especially during one section of between-song chatter about their first night in Southampton - they’re still also having fun. A brilliant balance between artistry and connection, as things round out with a euphoric, fan-led rendition of ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’, it’s hard not to feel even a little misty-eyed at the fact they’ve made it through the other side. (Sarah Jamieson)



BLINK-182 O2 Arena, London. Photos: Dan Landsburgh.

f I’m being totally honest, I cannot stop thinking about them coming,” began the cheeky, on-the-nose video that marked Blink-182’s long-awaited reunion announcement and sent the internet into overdrive. Now - exactly a year to the day since that news first broke - the iconic pop-punk trio play their first show in the UK, and - as you might’ve guessed - it’s the hottest ticket in town. Kick-starting their UK run after an unexpected change of plan with their earlier Glasgow shows rescheduled due to drummer Travis Barker having to return home for a family emergency, by the time bassist Mark Hoppus begins his showtime ritual of streaming live from his Instagram page, the atmosphere inside The O2 is at fever pitch. Tonight, all cynicism seems cast aside, as fans donning merch from across the band’s 30+ year career whip out their phone and join the broadcast from their seats, knowing it means they’ll hit the stage soon. And when they do - their iconic smiley face logo slowly plastered across the video screens - theirs is a heroes’ welcome, a lump firmly in the throats of many who thought this day might never come. This celebratory spirit infuses the show as a whole, as the crowd roar along to every second of their hefty 27-track strong setlist. And while some moments provide proper spine-tingly stuff - Travis’ phenomenal drumming during self-titled

cut ‘Violence’; the volume that ‘I Miss You’’s iconic second verse is sung back at them; the indoor fireworks which are set off during ‘Dammit’ - there is still something a little ramshackle present. Between-song banter between Mark and guitarist Tom Delonge comes off rushed and, at times, nonsensical, while the juvenile jokes - which, of course, have populated so much of their career don’t always land. In complete contrast, the humour of their early tracks - their self-declared “national anthem” ‘Family Reunion’ gets an early look-in, while ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard’ is given a turbocharged second airing - is a giddy delight, serving up a dose of naughty nostalgia for the halcyon days of the 90s. Regardless, tonight is a poignant but joyful affair, perhaps best captured during Mark’s speech introducing ‘Adam’s Song’: “I felt like I was dying, and there were days where I felt like I wanted to die,” he pauses, visibly choked up, referencing his recent cancer battle, as Tom whips support from the crowd. “I was shitty and empty, and then we started recording and touring, and this band - this tour, and every single one of you here tonight - is saving my life a second time.” It’s an undeniably powerful admission, and that it comes from one of pop-punk’s most iconically tongue-in-cheek bands shows just how much this means to them. They might have had to reach the brink once again to get here, but there’s not a person in The O2 this evening that’s not thrilled they did. (Sarah Jamieson)

A poignant, joyful, and - at times - ramshackle night to remember.


The new album


13.10.23 Includes the singles HAVE FUN! STAY FOR SOMETHING and WHERE ARE YOUR KIDS TONIGHT? (feat. John Grant) 65

A once-in-a-lifetime dream gig, designed and curated this month by... Ivo Graham!

VENUE: BRIXTON ACADEMY Forgive the sickeningly straight bat here but it’s got to be Brixton Academy. I’ve been there more than any other venue, and it’s the first place I felt like a grown up in London going to gigs; it’s so iconic that you forgive the sound being muddy AF (obviously it’ll be pristine in this fantasy realm). I’m hoping its doors are open again soon.


I saw Stop Making Sense at the cinema last week and it was a transcendent experience, meaning that this slot can only go to Talking Heads. I’d happily take the same setlist, though ideally I’d throw in ‘Houses In Motion’ for my dad and ‘Television Man’ for me. The latter has this “Na na na na nar-na” call and response which is going to send us wild.


I want Confidence Man on any 2023 bill I’m putting together, but I’m going to arguably pull focus by throwing in an unashamed Teen Graham bucket list item: ‘Off The Map’-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. My favourite band growing up, rewound to the post-’Californication’ crest of the wave; mohawked goons with suddenly all these hits in their pockets. And they loved Talking Heads! Would Mr Big Suit deign to share the stage with Mr Birthday Suit?



The dream remains, as always, the full family outing: brother and sister indulging the Chilis singalong; Dad querying how much of Confidence Man is just a backing track; Mum dutifully doing the “fa fas” to ‘Psycho Killer’ even though she didn’t ask for any of this.


In the fantasy, my Gran is still living down the road in Stockwell, so we’re all having tea in her garden like old times and then walking to Brixton. My daughter isn’t old enough to come to the whole gig, but she gets to come out - on stage? - for her favourite Confidence Man song, ‘What I Like’, and then lets the adrenaline settle during several episodes of DuckTales at Babooshka’s.

IS THERE AN AFTERPARTY? I chewed up some halcyon nights at Four Tet’s £5 Brixton epics, so it’s only right that he’s in charge of the afters - although we’re replacing some of Floating Points’ jazzier noodlings with full-frontal Italo disco, ideally Palms Trax’s 2022 Dekmantel set in full.


The best bit of [Chili Peppers DVD] Off The Map is during ‘Me & My Friends’, when Foo Fighters are raining down spaghetti on Chad Smith and he’s merrily drumming his way through it. Despicable wastage, of course, and not something I’d normally countenance, but I’ve never had a food fight, and what more glorious a night for it? Stage cleared for Byrne and co, of course. Ivo Graham is touring his new comedy show, Organised Fun, across the UK now. He also presents the weekly gig-going podcast, Gig Pigs. DIY

A new weekly podcast digging into the wins, woes and wtfs of youth.




New episode every Tuesday on Spotify, Apple and all major podcast platforms. 67


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