Chloe Foy opened the show with the ethereal title track from her 2021 debut album ‘Where Shall We Begin’ (reviewed here) and immediately set the tone for this thoughtful and engaging evening in the spiritual surroundings of this attractive hall. Her songs interweave lyrical honesty with a heartfelt vocal performance supported by a single guitar; combining to great effect particularly on the glorious ‘Evangeline’. Chloe also contributed harmony vocals and multi instruments for the rest of the show.
Headliner Jesca Hoop, brought her evocative songs to shine and intrigue, featuring many from her newest album ‘Order of Romance’. Her sparse guitar lines combine with sensitive percussion and bass as a platform for her distinctive voice and lyrics that pull the listener into a world of abstract imagery and personal reflections.
The music moves in unexpected directions, a balance of dark and light that gently sparkles in the excellent acoustics of this venue. The melodic beauty of ‘Lyrebird’ and ‘Pegasi’ were standout tracks, staying in the mind long after this brilliant show had ended.
A new EP from London quartet Bitch Hunt, following on from their split EP with adults in 2020, featuring the incisive ’23’ and the lo-fi high-concept pop art of ‘Spaceman’ (complete with fun video!)
Opener ‘Out of Eden’ is built around a descending chord sequence that arrives as if from a distant horizon before the arresting lyric sets the sombre tone ‘….under the apple tree…is where I was when he found me…’. The full four-piece sound is dissonant and disturbing to go with the implied subject matter but the music is punctuated with gentler interludes. ‘Identity Clinic’ is a punkier track and shows off the ability of the band to mix up the musical styles from distorted funk guitar under the catchy chorus to a sprawling instrumental workout at the end.
‘Eau Claire’ was previously released as a single and the companionship and water themes seem to carry an undercurrent of darkness, ‘…two died in the river that year…dull water…filled with parasites…’. It could be a companion track to cult classic ‘Next of Kin’ by indie dreamers Alvvays.
‘Shapeshifter’ is probably my favourite, a plaintively sung lyric, ‘….nice to meet you… sometimes I wish I could be you …sometimes I could eat you…’ as the guitar and bass lines quietly jump around. The drums and vocal harmonies control the dynamics of the song, until a short jazz influenced coda. Bonus track ‘I Wanna Be Un/Happy’ pulls many aspects of the band’s music together for a brooding and echoing finale, raising the noise level when the chorus kicks in.
This is a satisfying, energetic and thoughtful EP full of wit, warmth and wisdom.
A rewarding new EP from Leeds based The Harriets, the follow up to their 2021 album ‘Hopefuls’, reviewed here
1.Little Something. This timeless and catchy pop single immediately draws you into the band’s world, where the songs are so intricate and carefully layered that they fold in on themselves with ambiguity and nuance, ‘…I’ll write whatever you like….inspired by the things that you like….you only have to say the word…..the stars will come out of the sky….’. The uncluttered musical arrangement elegantly carries the track along.
2. Days Like These. Probably my favourite on the EP, the lush piano and strings orchestration is the platform for an outstanding ballad. The reflective nostalgia of the vocal subliminally interweaves aspects of Lou Reed’s namechecked ‘Perfect Day’ to gorgeous effect.
3. The Lie. Like an excerpt from a low-key stage musical this is a conversational interlude with a loose and intimate jazz tone, built around a recurring piano line.
4. Jessie’s Song. Led by semi-grandiose piano, this is a strangely addictive song, like track one it self referential about the songwriting art ‘…and the words all come out wrong that I have penned…why should I carry on and why pretend…’. The two voices trade harmonies and viewpoints giving spontaneity and surprise all the way through.
5. For You. In contrast to some of the musical flourishes of previous tracks this starts off as a simple and joyous love song ‘….last night you were on my mind….like you are all the time…’ before an extended playout featuring horns, piano, taut drums and percussion, vocal chorus and a guitar solo. All crammed into four minutes it is a rich and satisfying manifesto for the many facets of the band.
A new EP of indie light and shade from talented London trio Gold Baby, following on from a creative string of singles over the last couple of years.
1.Bodie Serene, shimmering guitar drives this track as the vocal from songwriter Siân cajoles and soars. The overall feeling seems to be one of alienation and disappointment but it is all beautifully done.
2. 2041 The quiet, agitated introduction and verses make you want to decode what is going on in this track ‘…there’s a man screaming in the hallway…and I can’t hear myself think…’ but when it gives way to a very noisy chorus you are carried along anyway.
3. Betty Previously released as a single this is a strange mixture of fantasy imagery with a sinister undertone ‘….let me tell you what happened…somebody ate my mother’s lipstick…somebody tried to read my palm….somebody called me….Cinderella so I hit the fire alarm….’. Musically the song structure pulls you in with its dramatic flourishes and winning melody lines.
4. Captain Dorego My favourite track on the collection, lyrical dreams to escape into ‘….carp fishing maybe bass…out of the stream ourselves at last…as idyllic as it seems….’ sit alongside darker thoughts ‘….can I sing in the small church choir…..fill it up with gasoline….light a match and wait for you to scream…’. It is a delicate treat, the words floats above gentle guitar with bass and drums that handle the poly-rhythmic backing perfectly. The song has its own dance too (see video link below)….
Singer/songwriter Natasha Nicole from Wolverhampton UK has put everything into this debut single, creating five minutes of welcoming meditations.
Beginning with a folk-inspired waltzing acoustic guitar and an immediate, inviting lyric ‘….go home…kick back….cut yourself some slack….you don’t need to carry this load alone…’, Natasha’s pure voice sets the tone. Additional instruments join in and the vocal becomes more ethereal as the music evolves into more dream-pop territory. The listener is eventually immersed in the big, reassuring chorus, ‘…it will be alright in the end…’ which though sounding comforting still has a slight undercurrent of doubt.
The track flies by; at the end a brass solo adds to the polish on the sheen of the production and immediately you want to hear this gorgeous and timeless track again….
With their first LP since ‘Healing Centre’ in 2015, Model Village storm the citadel of sharp but polite pop on this ten song collection.
The distinctive guitar introduction of opener ‘Insufferable’ and immediate lyrical touchstones, ‘….drinking Pinot Noir….embracing failure….what will we do?…’ show that the Village are back with a bang. Lead singer Lily sounds optimistic yet full of regret while the rest of the band add harmonies and a complex musical backing. ‘Oslo’ is a likeable up-tempo jaunt that transposes the action of a relationship to Scandinavia to add to the feeling of uncertainty ‘…..if I dare to speak the language I’d be lost in translation… ‘. It creates an atmosphere a bit like an arthouse film where not much happens, but there is still a winning resolution in the final reel ‘….you know I’ll be coming back for you today…’.
‘Roll It Over’ is driven by the strong melody to give another pacey song with many musical nuances and a dominant vocal performance. A surprise middle-eight makes a welcome appearance near the end. The momentum continues with ‘Otters’, a light, jazzy and summery confection featuring an enigmatic title, imagery and trademark retro electric piano.
A highlight for me is ‘Roles’ – I am very partial to this type of slow blues track and this is a fine example. Over the six minutes there is loads of time to develop the lyrical ideas, ‘….are you smoking to impress me cause that would just depress me my dear…’. Instrumentally the band have a great time, with plenty going on around the guitar arpeggios including a demented solo, roving basslines and the drums only just staying restrained. I like the way that extra syllables are pushed into the main melody to keep up an atmosphere of doubt ‘….its not that easy to throw yourself into a role that you don’t believe in…’.
The band continue to move through different genres and styles; on ‘Sunburn’ a long experimental introduction evolves into a pensive and thoughtful song, ‘Popular Band’ is a wry self-referential resume of the band’s 12 year career while the hypnotic ‘Variety Box’ is another take on the blues and showcases the best vocal performance on the album.
The album closes with the big ballad ‘Miseryguts’, as the strong melody is boosted by extravagant 70s Carpenters style backing vocals. There is more too, on a very satisfying mix of timeless indie-pop from this artful Cambridge-based collective.
The new LP from Texas-based singer/songwriter Katy Kirby is refreshing, lyrically challenging and hints of summers to come in its music.
The short and sparse ‘Eyelids’ sets the dreamlike tone for the collection; acoustic guitar and piano complementing the beguiling vocal. With music and words that seem not quite aligned but very much in a good way ‘Juniper’ has one of those chord sequences that sounds like it is constantly catching up with itself and instantly lodges in your brain. A relaxed voice effortlessly flows above the uncluttered backing, sometimes giving way to just a lone guitar. The imagery of the lyrics ‘…you don’t need a gardener to know…which way the blossoms going to float….’ meshes seamlessly with the instrumentation, with extra nuances through the two and a half minutes running time. According to Katy “This is a song about motherhood, mostly...’.
The jumpier rhythm and hesitations of ‘Peppermint’ is followed by the delicate and playfully addictive ‘Traffic!’. Previously released as a single this gorgeous dancing melody is a winner, with a hook to immerse yourself in. A guitar solo, heavenly choir and electronic voice treatments all add to the mix.
The LP is packed full of treats, including the quiet piano ballad of ‘Portals’ and probably best of all the leisurely musings, big chorus and grand finale of title track ‘Cool Dry Place’ followed by the enigmatic low-key bookend of ‘Fireman’.
At the intersection of indie pop, lo-fi folk and perfectly crafted song writing this is a gorgeous debut album.
The debut EP from Edinburgh quartet Yellow Helen is a varied and rich mix….
1: I Know. The most immediate track on the EP, a confident swagger of 60s pop influences, retro guitars, echoing backing voices and an interplay between verse and chorus that interlocks perfectly.
2: Frills and Lace. A sinister waltz with acoustic guitar and organ as a platform for a complex and surreal lyric, ‘…..circumnavigate once you’re caught in the jaws of a grizzly bear….’, before an edgy guitar solo joins in the end build-up. An ambitious track, and on repeated listens very much an addictive treat.
3: Spooky. Never quite sure where this EP leads to next, this is a built around a lingering descending guitar figure, languid electric piano chords and another set of strange words. This could easily accompany a pastoral interlude in a 70s psychological thriller.
4: Honeymoon Suite. With a wide ranging bass line to the fore the title track is another mini-movie, with wordplay ‘….please concierge….don’t give me the urge to leave a hateful review….’ and a nice relaxed feel to the instrumentation. Reminding me of the eccentricities of current indie stylists Tugboat Captain and back to the acidic reflections of The Divine Comedy, this is a fine conclusion to this excellent EP.
Combining a pure folk voice with the lustre of electronic layers and a pulsing rhythm underlay, composer and singer/instrumentalist Jackie Beverly released ‘Sweet Goodbye’ earlier this year. This continued to build her reputation on the Irish music scene after the soulful tones of 2019’s ‘Someone Else’ (showcased to perfection on a live YouTube version).
Starting with acoustic guitar and vocal, new single ‘Sea Glass’ is a creative weaving together of timeless imagery ‘……. separate the sea glass from the sand….but the waves are strong….’, elegiac reflection (including a poignant sample of Marilyn Monroe ‘….I could easily be alone it doesn’t bother me to be alone….’) and attractive instrumentation. This includes the richness of a cello, echoing acoustic piano and some unhurried and sensitive percussion.
The video carries on the sense of melancholy but tempered with macabre fun as Jackie’s band and friends appear as ghost-sheeted figures in the background. They gradually multiply and take over until they are chasing Jackie down the road in Dublin’s Portobello as the repeated line ‘…..no-one ever told me that the days and nights would feel the same….’ brings this attractive but thoughtful track to an end.
An excellent new single from powerpunk quartet Fightmilk, a preview of their much-anticipated second album, currently being recorded for release later this year on eclectic popsters haven Reckless Yes Records.
As on lead singer Lily’s recent solo EP (as ‘Captain Handsome’) there is a melancholy weaving through the lyric ‘…you said one day you’d fly me to the moon…these days you just make sad songs in your room…’.
Like many of the Fightmilk tracks there are cultural references to mull over and enjoy ‘….watching Interstellar didn’t make it better….reading Carl Sagan, looking kind of vacant….’ as well as a rare namecheck for ‘background radiation’ in a pop song.
The space theme is an apt metaphor for regret and disappointment (see Billy Bragg’s ‘The Space Race is Over’, ‘Jupiter Crash’ by the Cure, ‘Rocketman’ etc etc) but this new track manages to simultaneously embrace those feelings and take a different direction, as well as including a title that is possibly the longest in the history of this genre (beating Klaatu/The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’….).
It is a thoughtful but sharp lyric, well-delivered by Lily over rich ever-changing music with otherworldly guitar shimmers and a thumping bass and drums in the chorus. A short instrumental break has an ascending wall of distortion like Apollo 11 taking off, before the music calms down and celestial harmony is restored…