ALBUM: Shitkid – ‘Detention’

Starting off as a solo project from Åsa Söderqvist in 2015, ShitKid has blossomed into a pop-punk revival as of late. Söderqvist and new bandmate Lina Molarin Ericcson have returned to their school days to unearth material for their new album Detention. The album, an eight-track EP, takes inspiration from the likes of old-school punk bands like Weezer, The Offspring and Simple Plan which is evident from the moment the title track ‘Detention’ hits. 

On deciding that the album should follow the pop-punk genre, Söderqvist says, “It’s a genre that’s quite embarrassing to go back to, and i knew that would make it really fun. I used to be emo in 2008, and no nobody plays that music anymore!

The genre is definitely not what it used to be, and for those that used to listen to it who may be stuck in a rut, repeating the same artists and albums that they always have, Detention gives way to a new artist to the scene. As a fellow former emo-kid, I can relate.

While listening to title track ‘Detention’ my mind immediately floats to The Runaways, a comparison I’m sure they’ve gotten before. Other inspirations in the form of bands like Green Day or Sum 41 are apparent throughout other tracks like ‘Last Mistake’ and ‘Summer18’, which bring with them a heavy dose of nostalgia.

‘Home Wondering (I Don’t Wanna Go To Prom)’ holds stoic guitar riffs alongside the vocals that give the track personality, especially with the lyrics coinciding with the old-school throwback, whilst ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ is a lightweight and heartfelt anthem to round off the EP, tying the rest of the tracks together perfectly.

If you’re tired of listening to American Idiot and Conspiracy of One since release and want a new band to jump around your flat to whilst head-banging and reliving memories of your teenage years, ShitKid is the artist for you. They are leading the way for a new era of pop-punk with emotions we only saw 20 years ago, and it’s certainly good to have a dose of nostalgia in 2019.

Söderqvist also promises that they’ll “definitely do a pop album next, and we want to make a screamo record too!”. So, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see where the band decide to walk with their next release.

 

Detention is out via PNKSLM Recordings on May 10th. Pre-order here.

Bekky Smart
@bekkymays

ALBUM: Heather Woods Broderick – ‘Invitation’

Oregon-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick releases her third album Invitation this month. Having toured with Sharon Van Etten, Efterklang, and Lisa Hannigan, her new album is laden with dreamy Baroque pop sounds, built around piano and vocal melodies, with poetic lyrics inspired by her move to a quiet corner of the Pacific North West.

Opener ‘Stilling Wind’, with its gentle electronics and slow dreamy guitar, deals with memories invoked by once familiar landscapes – “how did you slow the tide and disappear so quickly… Have I changed yet, or do my habits still remain?” The lush atmosphere leads into the beautifully poetic ‘I Try’, whilst imagery of the natural surroundings intertwines with the music in the country-sounding ‘Nightcrawler’, and in ‘Where I Lay’ producing a haunting effect.

The piano opens out into an elegiac chorus, like the powerful, crashing waves of the landscape in ‘Slow Dazzle’, and ‘A Daydream’ provide moments of pleasure in solitude, before the pace picks up again on ‘White Tail’ with its nocturnal forest sounds and ethereal vocal exploring Heather’s experiences with depression and finding a transcendence.

The beautifully personal piano ballads ‘Quicksand’ and ‘My Sunny One’ deal with alcoholism and failed relationships respectively, whilst closing track ‘Invitation’ completes the journey of self-acceptance: “I left that candle burning… I dreamt it took me last night into the darker side of life.”

I too accept the invitation this delicately-crafted album offers for introspection and the beauty found in stillness. The sentiment, that it is not the fear of falling, but getting back up again, recurs throughout each captivating song, offering hope and light.

Invitation is out 19th April via Western Vinyl.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

ALBUM: Mally Harpaz – ‘Zoom In, Zoom Out’

There are some compositions that were created to inspire, and Mally Harpaz’s self-released album, Zoom In, Zoom Out, is fuelled by them. On 5th April, Mally Harpaz released an album that has been almost two years in the making. For anyone that has been lucky enough to attend one of the primarily North London-based Blind Dog Studio gigs, you’ll at least have a sense of the material contained within.

Trite though it is for me to say (again) but wholly true, Mally Harpaz is a musician. She is an artist, a composer, a percussionist, and a beautiful soul. Mally is a musician’s musician and the musical landscape that she’s created on Zoom In, Zoom Out is every bit as artful as the stunningly poignant video art by Clara Aparicio Yoldi projected behind each live show.

While the live show visuals aid the music in reaching epic heights, one listen to the record and you’ll see your own. Recorded between Harpaz’s own Blind Dog Studio – a studio on her property named after her dog – and Hackney Road Studios with sound engineer, Shuta Shinoda, listening to Zoom In, Zoom Out is every bit the spiritual experience it should be.

All too many times people have uttered the phrase that they need words to music, but all I can think is that they don’t quite appreciate the atmosphere of a score. Zoom In, Zoom Out is a score; tracks like ‘Voices’ and ‘Not Without Pain’ say everything that has to be said: to anyone, wherever they are when listening. For me, a dark room through studio headphones with an aching soul.

Any vocal accompaniments are from Blind Dog Studio regulars Hazel Iris, James Marples, Eran Karniel, and Anna Calvi. And of course, the heartbreakingly sound ‘Not Without Pain’ mixing somber spoken word from Harpaz with Calvi’s haunting vocals washing in like a tidal wave alongside the great swell of instrumentation composed from the stunning depths of Harpaz’s mind.

Words don’t do justice to a record built on feeling, but then again, without the pursuit, music would be far duller a landscape. Thanks to artists like Mally Harpaz, however, that’s never gonna happen.

Zoom In, Zoom Out is available now via Bandcamp.

Em Burfitt
@fenderqueer

Photo Credit: Stéphane Guilley

ALBUM: Tacocat – ‘This Mess Is A Place’

It’s probably best to lay my cards out early: I think Tacocat are the best band in the United States and they’ve rarely been off my headphones since their 2016 album Lost Time. But, whereas Lost Time and 2014’s NVM dealt with the minutiae of life, celebrating cult figures and taking off-kilter looks at some of life’s difficulties, recent events have forced the band to take a wider view. This Mess is a Place is Tacocat’s response to darker times, and its tunes come plastered with rainbow-coloured glitter.

Opener ‘Hologram’ is an ideal case-in-point. How else to respond to the current US President than by remembering “Power is a hologram” and leaning back to think of the Milky Way? It’s a spaced-out political statement that doesn’t name names, with a chorus that you can’t forget and an ending that’s hopeful if uncertain. ‘New World’ is a Bangles style garage-lite exploration of wanting to escape from the day-to-day, not dissimilar to ‘I Hate The Weekend’ from Lost Time.  

Lead single ‘Grains of Salt’ takes Tacocat in a synth-led, pop-rock direction with lyrics that move from the imageist – “Feeling so other / Like too many sunsets” – to the pinpoint – “Dont forget to remember who the fuck you are!”. It’s a curiously introspective track, particularly for a Tacocat single, with a chorus whose “tears in the oven” line appears to be an Adventure Time! reference, and whose lyrics in general show a bruised self-consciousness.

‘Grains Of Salt’ appears to set up a central plank of the album; ‘The Joke of Life’ with its surf-style and prominent vocal harmonies at odds with its lyrical negativity; ‘Little Friend’ a blast of pop-punk, forming an ode to (what else?) pets. Naturally, for a song about small animals, this track is the heaviest on This Mess is a Place.

‘Rose Colored Sky’, meanwhile, is a rumination of those born into success and their distance from the rest of society – “I wonder what it feels like not to even have to try” sings Emily Nokes, in a voice that’s unusually frank and direct, whilst recognising “If I wasn’t on the battleground/ I bet I could’ve gone to space by now”. Even for a band with a tendency to punch up, this is a pretty straightforward piece of criticism – a comment on the inadequacies of silver-spoon-in-mouth types.’The Problem’ takes a similar tack to Lost Time‘s ‘You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit’, albeit in a simpler form and with spikier guitars.  

The album’s closing tracks are near-ballads: “What a time to be barely alive” laments ‘Crystal Ball’ – a reflection on the news cycle and our constant state of semi-engagement. ‘Meet Me At La Palma’ verges on AOR with some tropic-cool guitar licks courtesy of Eric Randall. Its lyrics detail drinking and dancing in inappropriately themed bars festooned with “pictures of palm trees where no palm trees ever grew”, all for the excuse of re-uniting with an old flame. If that’s an unusually romantic side to the group, then ‘Miles and Miles’ is like a shonky take on country (at least initially) before it settles into the more familiar Tacocat trademark pop-punk anthem chorus.

Not as easily approachable as NVM or Lost Time, This Mess is a Place is a bold direction for Tacocat’s first album on Sub Pop, having previously been on the label’s Hardly Art subsidiary. But it’s also a grower, and one that should solidly cement the band’s place as outsiders with a knack for crafting hooky choruses. Particularly impressive are Emily Nokes’ vocals, with producer Erik Blood always knowing when to double, to echo or to let them ring more naturally.

Of the album, Nokes has commented: “We can examine some hard stuff, feel some rage feelings, sift through memories, feel wavy-existential, and still go get a banana daiquiri at the end”. In other words: no matter how hard times are, Tacocat always appeal.

This Mess Is A Place is out 3rd May via Sub Pop.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

ALBUM: Ioanna Gika – ‘Thalassa’

Ioanna Gika is a Greek American artist whose debut solo album Thalassa is out today. The album is named in honour of the Greek spirit of the sea, which I mention if only to highlight the sense of aural vastness and awe that Gika is establishing here. The epic opening track ‘Roseate’, in all its sophistication and variety, complexity and beauty, acts as a sonic manifesto. It points the way towards what Gika intends to do with the rest of the album. The sound is both expansive and complex, atmospheric and soundscape-y. It is all absorbing and overwhelming.

Within this piece of work there are industrial percussion elements set against soaring ethereal vocals and electro atmospherics, while at the same time light and dark sonic elements wrap themselves around each other in tendrils. From the eerie piano of the title track, to the exhilarating giddiness and elemental wildness of ‘Messenger’, with its fast electronic percussion and soaring vocals, it feels primal in nature. There are jagged string sections, layers of reverb, and passages of dark, sonic foreboding alongside ethereal beauty.

The single ‘Swan’ is an atmospheric and minimalistic piece, complex and poignantly raw in its emotional palette. Whereas ‘Weathervane’ has a ghostly, wistful element to it which is underpinned by industrial style percussion. Gika sounds like a mournful siren, standing on the rocks and looking out to sea during ‘No Matter What’, but ‘Ammonite’ is a dark pop song with solid foundations. Closing track ‘Drifting’ is simply elegant in its concept, the aural equivalent of a dragonfly flitting across a lake lit by sunshine; its motif is what sounds like a high speed harp, twinkling magically in the sunshine.

This is a tremendous album, one that is awe inspiring in scale and haunting in quality. Not to be missed.

Thalassa, the debut album from Ioanna Gika, is out now via Sargent House.

Cazz Blase
@CazzBlase

ALBUM: Witching Waves – ‘Persistence’

Founded just over five years ago by Emma Wigham and Mark Jasper, Witching Waves are a DIY post-punk trio hailing from London. Sharing the name of an amusement ride from Coney Island, New York (and later Blackpool, England) Witching Waves is as raw as its namesake; a juxtaposition of metallic melodies and propulsive rhythm.

Having released their debut LP, 2014’s Fear of Falling Down, and 2016’s Crystal Cafe, on the now-defunct Soft Power Records, Witching Waves are now set to release their third album. Joining Wigham’s infectious drumming and Jasper’s angular riffing is Estella Adeyeri on bass guitar. Adeyeri’s addition to the band in 2016, in addition to a relentless touring schedule, sparked the creative energy that culminated into their most confident record, Persistence.

Writing for Persistence started in 2016, with the music recorded over two days in 2017, and mixing done in 2018; hence the name of the album. With their debut, Witching Waves were simply experimenting; Wigham was learning how to play the drums at the time, in the studio, and in front of a live audience. Songs were often recorded not long after they were written. But on Persistence, Witching Waves have taken their time – preforming new songs live, laying the foundations for the LP – resulting in a much more focused release.

This is not to say that Persistence is a more polished record. Recorded live directly to tape within Jasper’s Hackney warehouse studio, Sound Savers, Witching Waves have lost none of their DIY ethics; as is evident from the opening track, ‘Disintegration’. The band recorded the album on their own – with minimal help with the mixes – resulting in much welcome distortion. Without being able to monitor the levels on the tapes, Jasper’s guitar frequently went into the red and Persistence is all the better for it! ‘Disintegration’ is a great example of how these live takes make the record sound so authentic.

Next, Wigham goes full throttle on ‘Best of Me’ – the latest single to be released. Crashing against the drums with ferocity, Wigham displays a sense of discomfort with lyrics that touch upon self-worth and identity. “I can’t move on / I can’t go back / You’ve got the best of me.” The tension throughout is inescapable, but it is the frantic raw energy of ‘Eye 2 Eye’ – a self-described ode to conflict” – that displays the maturity of a band pissed off. Wigham and Jasper trade vocals that demand your attention amongst scratchy guitar riffing, pulsating bass lines, and clashing cymbals: “When did we decide to talk about it? / How do we begin to talk about it?”

 

Persistence continues to see Witching Waves channel their internal tensions regarding relationships and society into each unapologetic track. An obvious example would be ‘Money’, a song focused on the English capital that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for its many residents. The band’s honesty and emotion is admirable, with each member revealing themselves to the world; their frustrations and discomforts captured on this very personal record.

With Persistence, Witching Waves have produced a brash, complex, and dark post-punk record with pop sensibilities that documents an authentic, ongoing struggle worthy of repeat listening.

Persistence, the upcoming album from Witching Waves, is out 5th April via Specialist Subject Records.

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: The Coathangers – ‘The Devil You Know’

Let’s face it, the human mind is a complex thing. It can be difficult to have more than one thing going on, and half of the time you don’t even know what’s happening up there… Some things just can’t co-exist. Expelling this rule in a fantastically riotous half-hour are The Coathangers with their seventh album, The Devil You Know.

Pre-released single, ’Bimbo’, is the infectiously upbeat opener. Completely innocently, the track opens with a straight bassline, with quintessentially on beat, twinkling top notes of a keyboard. This is later ripped apart and kicked into overdrive with raucous thrashes of fuzzy guitar and a semi-sung chorus. The rest of the album follows suit with an angst-infused collective of fiery ditties, ‘5 Farms’ and ‘Crimson Telephone’.

Then I have an epiphany. This ain’t no ordinary album. This lot have an agenda. Political and social commentary bursts through the foundations of the album like a balloon on a cactus. This is most evident in the fourth and seventh tracks, ‘Hey Buddy’ and ‘F the NRA’. In ‘Hey Buddy’ a guttural and hoarse voice croaks through the song laced with simple yet powerful twangs of guitar, proving less is more as they growl “Hey buddy are you looking at me? You call me a faggot and you call me a sleaze”. ‘F The NRA’ does just what it says on the tin; a poignant, impassioned plea against gun violence, propelled by a gritty, punk-driven energy. 

The album winds to a close with quieter and melancholy, but nonetheless badass, tracks ‘Last Call’ and ‘Lithium’. Both include a gentle and heavily reverberated vocal resonating the sound of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. The guitars sound like they’re crying. And now I’m crying.

The Devil You Know takes you from wanting to go out, make some noise and paint the town red, to staying in bed and never getting up again. And we love every second of its racing thirty minutes. 

The Devil You Know is out now via Suicide Squeeze. Catch The Coathangers live on their upcoming tour:

24th April – The Latest Music Bar, Brighton
25th April – Studio 9294, London
27th April – The Cookie, Leicester
28th April – SWG Poetry Club, Glasgow
29th April – Soup Kitchen, Manchester
30th April – Arts Club (Loft), Liverpool
1st May – The Key Club, Leeds

Megan Berridge
@noisygal_