Recorded in two sessions a year apart, GIHE faves Fightmilk’s second album Contender is worth every second of the wait, following 2018’s Not With That Attitude. The band’s writing and recording process has understandably changed over the past twelve months. Combined with the influence of their new bassist Healey and and an expanded musicality, their style has developed without losing any of the raw emotion at the heart of what makes Fightmilk special.
The album kicks off with an authentic false start. This, along with later interludes, makes for lovely humanising moments that give DIY bands so much charm. Then the music comes in hard and fast. From the first beat, you get big drums, powerful vocals and guitars layered beautifully over each other. The album is rich with riffs, fantastic flourishes of strings that make every song pop. Both in individual tracks and across the album as a whole, the instruments build to roaring climactic moments that launch the vocals to an impressive new reach. The band know how to use their instruments to ramp up the power of every track at exactly the right time.
The songs explore the human experience with Fightmilk’s distinct brand of unapologetic vulnerability. There are wonderfully fuzzy love songs (‘Overbite’, ‘Maybe’) and pettiness-about-your-ex songs and please-dump-your-awful-boyfriend songs (‘Hey Annabelle’). There is also a song about “a hypothetical billionaire and his hypothetical pop-star girlfriend”, which is definitely hypothetical…
The lyrics are intense and personal in a way you can’t help but relate to. Every song is evidently grounded in real experiences and so imbued with emotion. The themes don’t shy away from the darker side of reality, but examine the impact of heartache, the patriarchy or corrupt governments on your soul with a twinkling, scuzzy charm. There’s a great balance between the reflective songs and hopeful ones. It starts and finishes with uplifting tracks that beautifully frame the journey the album takes you on, concluding with a sense of scrappy DIY optimism.
The album captures the essence of 2021 perfectly, drifting easily between plague and feelings and third wave capitalism and exes. The range of powerful energetic songs and more gentle ones fit well alongside each other without jarring. The changes in tone and emotion between tracks flow together with an endearing ease. Contender is at once cathartic, validating and empowering. It’s everything I want in the music that will propel me out of the lockdown slump and into a year that makes up for every lost minute.
Contender is out now via Reckless Yes. Buy on bandcamp now.