EP: Goth Lipstick – ‘formless, shapeless’

An EP that the band describe as “a slice-of-life isekai about the adventures of two wraiths”, formless, shapeless from San Francisco’s DIY emo duo Goth Lipstick draws you effortlessly into their candy-coated, glitch-splattered dream world. Following their full length album crystalline corset from earlier this year, formless, shapeless continues to explore themes of identity and queer liberation.

The EP consists of fairly short tracks, with most lasting less than two minutes thirty seconds. The single exception is ‘faceless, nameless’, which reaches a whole four minutes. Every track is incredibly tightly constructed. None of them feel too short; each one feels exactly long enough to tell its story and then wraps without wasting any time, leaving you with the precise impression it wanted to convey.

The collection begins with the titular ‘formless, shapeless’ – a slow, soft rumble that leads into quick, clicking percussion under high chirpy keys and husky vocals. While the tempo, energy and general style of the tracks vary, this opening song establishes some key elements early on that are consistent through the EP.

As a whole, the EP creates a distinctly unique and endlessly interesting soundscape, blending distorted and electronic sounds with gentle, clear piano notes. The relationship between the different types of sound is key to the Goth Lipstick style, with acoustic and electric notes dancing playfully around each other, with those echoing vocals floating over the top.

The use of glitches too gives these songs so much character. The jerks and digital stumbles always hit at exactly the right moment, whether that’s ripping into a vocal that’s well into its stride or distorting sounds that are just starting to build, creating a more chaotic journey from the first couple of beats.

Whilst there are massive differences in feeling from track to track, they fit so well together that they flow beautifully.

The second track, ‘wraiths awake’, brings a bigger energy into the EP. It is broadly more upbeat, but winds down into vocals that have a sense of vulnerability about them, before bouncing back into the hyped electronica.

‘identity thief’, all heavy growling, glitching bass, is followed by the light and chirpy ‘chocolate’, then the rich swollen beats of ‘fangs’, which wouldn’t be out of place heard on a nightclub dance-floor at midnight.

Somehow these seemingly conflicting songs sit very comfortably side by side on this EP. It feels much more like this is down to a matter of attitude than any one particular technical component. The songs sit so well because they feel made to be played together, and you can feel how much fun the artists had constructing every beat of the finished product.

It’s so easy to get drawn into Goth Lipstick’s story, to bathe in the cool, flowing emotions heavy in this EP. It’s not surprising to see that the first edition cassette run is already sold out.

formless, shapeless, the latest EP from Goth Lipstick, is out now. It is available to download via bandcamp.

Kirstie Summers
@ActuallyKurt

Track of The Day: The Crystal Furs – ‘Miss Hughes / Please Fade Away’

Having previously charmed our ears with their debut album Beautiful and True, Portland’s indie jangle pop band The Crystal Furs have spent their career channelling their growth as individuals and as a group into their music. Their sound reflects the shifting, unpredictable nature of life and deftly changes with each curveball thrown. Their two new tracks, ‘Miss Hughes’ and ‘Please Fade Away’ show that same keenness to embrace change and throw the full weight of their creativity behind their own growth.

Both songs are built on a foundation of The Crystal Furs’ ’60s-inspired pop sound, with high lilting vocals harmonising over a chirpy combination of strings and keyboard. This is complemented by a more contemporary-sounding reverb and deep bass, blending the old and new styles in a way that marry together to create something unique and exciting.

Miss Hughes’ opens with the rich boom of an organ, striking a decisive and powerful note that rumbles beneath the lighter vocals and strings as they jump in. You can feel the vintage influences soaking into the sound in the way the harmonies dance around each other, as the delightfully simple yet immersive riffs play around the chord progression. The reverb lends an almost club-like vibe to the track underlying the chirpy upbeat singing, which creates a fun contrast that sees the two styles balance each other out into a playful whole.

‘Please Fade Away’ is another wonderfully constructed song, playing off vocals teeming with attitude against that same bright ‘60s sound. The vocals are absolutely fantastic, with the relatable premise of wishing someone would stop being so clingy and just disappear. The snark comes through the wording in a way that is effectively juxtaposed against tones that are otherwise very gentle in their sound and rhythm. These seemingly simple structural decisions give the track’s details so much character. The delicate tambourine jingles feel almost sarcastic, so lightly played against the lyrics, given power by the throbbing drums and signature chirping guitars.

Both tracks show an evolution in The Crystal Furs’ sound. The way the more contemporary musical elements enhance the effect of the vintage style gives the songs a distinct and timeless flavour that feels at once familiar, yet novel. Two dreamily uplifting offerings that leave us longing for more of The Crystal Furs’ playfully honey-sweet creations.

Kirstie Summers
@ActuallyKurt

Artwork: Kara Buchanan

ALBUM: Nun Habit – ‘hedge fun’

There is nothing about Nun Habit’s debut album hedge fun that would suggest it was recorded in a single hasty weekend between lockdowns. The band describe it as “a rejection of the corporate and mundane and a celebration of everything there is to love about queer DIY music”. They have absolutely lived up to that description in every beat of this record.

The album opens with the smooth, relaxed ‘Slip N Slide’. Deep, gentle notes ease you into the track, with burbling synths and warm vocals dancing around a rich bass line. This sets the scene for the rest of the album, which is constructed expertly out of the band’s signature synth and string combo playing over that rumbling bass. ‘Slip N Slide’ builds into a powerful climax, launching effortlessly into the high energy of ‘Marigolds’.

hedge fun fluctuates in terms of pace and energy. The tracks fit together comfortably, creating a vibe that ebbs and flows with a natural rhythm. Some tracks slow right down so that they feel more like beat poetry, with a gentle pace and cool beats. Others match the fast pace and high energy of ‘Marigolds’, with that raw screaming sound that sweeps you up into a chaotically wonderful whirlwind of synths and drums.

The real magic of this album is how much emotion is packed into every note sang – every vocal note is heavy with expression, whether it’s one of the more nonchalant tracks or the roaring impactful ones.

‘TinderHingeHer’ in particular takes you on an emotional rollercoaster just through its energy. It begins cool and laid-back, as you swipe aimlessly through dating app profiles, at first casual. But it soon ramps up into a raw, emotional cry as you go through the motions getting increasingly desperate to find someone to connect with.

Lyrically, the album touches on so many aspects of contemporary life and the feelings they inspire, both the happy and difficult. hedge fun captures that rare place where emotions intersect – where they clash and where they reach a fleeting sense of harmony, before you’re plunged back into the overwhelming cacophony of reality.

Finally, the collection ends on one of the more relaxed-sounding tracks – the poignant, short-but-sweet ‘One More’ – reflecting on the ups and downs of relationships with the band’s trademark honesty and wit.

hedge fun showcases all there is to love about Nun Habit and their knack for fusing together an eclectic mix of both musical genres and lyrical subject matter in the most uplifting of ways. A cheering sonic exploration that demands multiple listens, and will leave you looking forward with uncertainty but optimism for what this band are going to do next.

Listen to, and buy, hedge fun on bandcamp here.

Kirstie Summers
@ActuallyKurt

LISTEN: Sunken – ‘Show Me Your Mind’

Having previously supported the likes of Babeheaven, and newly signed to 7476 (Matt Maltese, Lizzie Reid, London band Sunken have now shared a dreamy new single. A fierce blend of throbbing bass and sharp synths, ‘Show Me Your Mind‘ is a song “about the subtleties of how someone presents themselves to you“. There is so much scope for exploration in that topic, and this song zeros in on it wonderfully.

The drum beat and the rich bass line form a solid core that carries the song from slower opening bars into its intense ending, as the pace picks up and the synths build until the track swells into bursting emotion. The musicality provides a foundation for Poppy Billingham’s incredible vocals that match its force perfectly. Billingham has a strong, captivating voice that sweeps you into the raw torment of the track.

The lyrics are simple, with repeating phrases that shift as the relationship progresses. They imagine a setting for that feeling that inspired the track; it embodies that sense of being in limbo with someone you can’t quite grasp with any sense of certainty. The lack of specificity allows you to project your experiences of people who are closed off – regardless of how an individual holds their guard up, this song reflects that universal feeling that you’re not getting the whole picture.

‘Show Me Your Mind’ is an intensely emotional song that combines lyrics, vocals and a stirring musicality into a genuine and powerful track. With only slight changes in intonation, it captures the joy in sharing what you know of someone, the fear of what you’re being shut out of, and ultimately the hope that an unfolding relationship may reveal the rest to you. It’s open-ended in a way that’s almost optimistic, but doesn’t shy away from that initial pain.

Kirstie Summers
@ActuallyKurt