ALBUM: Brix & The Extricated – ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’

Known as the Super Blood Wolf Moon, this rare celestial event occurs when the first full Moon in a calendar year is at its closest approach to Earth, during a total lunar eclipse; a collision of the Super Moon, the Blood Moon and the Wolf Moon.

Just like the moonscape that inspired its name, the soundscape of Brix & the Extricated‘s latest LP Super Blood Wolf Moon is a collision of raucous post-punk hooks, infectious progressive rock riffs, and euphoric melodies that honour and transcend the historical output of the band’s founders: vocalist/guitarist Brix Smith Start and bassist Steve Hanley, ex-members of The Fall.

Super Blood Wolf Moon is the third record from Brix & the Extricated – following their 2017 debut, Part 2, and 2018’s sophomore release, Breaking State. Opening with ‘Strange Times’, a gentle, shimmering guitar ballad of global despair that musically recalls Brix’s earlier indie pop band, The Adult Net, it continues with ‘Hustler’ – a different beast altogether. The Fall-esque second track combines the musicality of Brix, Steve, and his brother, drummer Paul Hanley’s, ’80s output – referred to lovingly as the “Brix Smith years” – with lyrical elements of unforgiving brutality: “I know, you know / I know, you know / You’re just a two-bit hustler / It’s coming back to crush ya!”

‘Wolves’ is the defining track of Super Blood Wolf Moon; reflecting on pack mentality and driven by the Hanley brothers’ driving basslines, drum beats and the triple cascading guitar collision of Brix, Steve Trafford (also ex-The Fall) and Jason Brown: “I run with wolves and sleep beneath the stars / The clothes I wear is just to hide the scars / The cross I bear is etched into my skin / I run with wolves, they’re my next of kin.”

The edgy, hypnotic, pulsating bass guitar of Steve Hanley on ‘Waterman’ is complemented by Brix’s haunting vocals, transitioning to the catchy, almost upbeat pop of ‘Dinosaur Girl’. But don’t let your ears deceive you. Brix sings honestly of depression and over medication culture – “Below the excavation / Lies the remains of a Prozac nation / Just a dinosaur girl.”

‘Crash Landing’ explores themes of drug addiction and suicide against a psychedelic guitar soundscape, enhanced by the inclusion of violinist Sarah Brandwood-Spencer’s blissful strings, whilst Brix and Steve Trafford share vocal duties, providing fantastical female/male harmonies for ‘Wintertyde’, arranged against spectral harpsichord.

Brix & the Extricated’s social commentary continues on ‘Wasteland’; a dark, operatic track that explores climate change, the destruction of our environment, and conspiracy through intense drum strikes, thunderous guitars, and sweeping strings. Whilst penultimate track, ‘Tannis Root’, is just as heavy, combining staccato rhythm guitar riffs with punchy, powerful basslines.

Closing Super Blood Wolf Moon with a heightened sense of foreboding, ‘The God Stone’ begins with Sarah’s deeply moving strings, building up to a crescendo of eccentric electric guitar. A fitting finale to an often uncomfortable and challenging record seeped in classic pop melodies, abrasive post-punk and brooding social commentary. Prepare to be extricated!

Super Blood Moon Wolf is out now via Grit Over Glamour Records.

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Piney Gir – ‘You Are Here’

Charged by a ’60s reminiscent dreamscape energy grounded in the roots of art rock’s demeanour, Piney Gir demands your undivided attention. Known for her eclectic style ranging from alt-folk to retro pop, she takes us to a new exploratory world in her new album You Are Here.

Opening the record with striking spikes contrasted by distances, ‘Admiral Fleets’ serves as the ideal intro track, feeding us whispers of sounds that are to come as the record continues. The pounding drums and intriguing vocal melodies are immediate hooks that keep listeners pulled along for the album’s duration. With moments of pure boldness and others of soft vulnerability, what stays constant is the resilient rhythmic drive of these songs. Even in the quietest moments of You Are Here, a dynamic bass line, groovy keys and retro-sounding guitar tones carry its stories to a dance floor for your feet. 

In songs like ‘Little Cop’ and ‘Peanut Butter Malt Shop Heartthrob’, both lyrically and instrumentally, the wit of the arrangements is floating in the sky where “…sherbet umbrellas will sing for us.” It’s almost impossible to visualize this record without images of candy skies and a breeze of a sunny day. Even ‘Variety Show’, a song asking for someone’s belief in love, has an optimistic feeling reminiscent of the folky tones of Angus & Julia Stone. Regardless of subject matter, You Are Here continues to lift. 

Psychedelic guitar riffs as in the outro of ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ grounds the emotional experience of the record and ties it to the human infatuation with nostalgia. With both memories of pure bliss and others of bittersweetness, Piney Gir serves a wide palette of reflection and celebration. Brass and string arrangements coupled with vocal duets, provide the sense of a collective experience to the stories told, and make for a brilliantly paced record that is sure to captivate. You Are Here keeps your head in the clouds.

You Are Here is out 1st November via STRS Records. And we can’t wait for Piney Gir to headline for us at The Finsbury in the new year, on 14th February 2020!

Jillian Goyeau

ALBUM: Dearly Beloved – ‘Times Square Discount’

Hailing from Toronto, CA – the Great White North – Dearly Beloved have made their welcome return with their sixth studio album, Times Square Discount; ten tracks of thunderous, anthemic rock and roll.

Dearly Beloved have been crafting weird, compelling melodies for over a decade  – from their 2006 debut You Are the Jaguar to 2016’s Admission. Times Square Discount is no different. Opening with lead single, ‘Race To The Bottom’, the hive mind of vocalist/bassist Rob Higgins and vocalist/percussionist Niva Chow collectively pay tribute to their grandmothers; immigrants to Canada that ran small businesses when Higgins and Chow were just teenagers.

Holding their middle fingers up, Higgins and Chow’s his and her vocals stress the importance of the passionate and dedicated labour force whose front lines are already being run off a cliff”, whilst melting your face off with their hook-laden alt-rock; the erosion of the immigrant dream told through distortion.

Both ‘Vacation’ and ‘LSD’ display Dearly Beloved’s pop sensibilities and experimental nature. Melding scuzzy, pounding bass guitar with sing-song quality vocals from “The Chairman Chow” herself. And before you know it, ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘The Conqueror’ have joined the creepshow with otherworldly riffs ripped straight out of a 1950s B movie.

‘Fuck The Banks’ is a pretty self explanatory track that leads to ‘New Versus’; an abrasive fusion of bass guitar and theremin soundscapes, complemented by soft, harmonised vocals, whereas ‘Dog Food Thumbs’ is propelled by raw energy and a pop aesthetic. And if you thought Times Square Discount couldn’t get any weirder, think again! Meet ‘Al P’, a professional panchinko player from Tokyo. His only form of communication? Catchphrases culled from Al Pacino movies.

Closing track, ‘Super Hero’ is experimental electro hip-hop featuring MC Maia; just one of the multiple collaborators featured on Times Square Discount; including  Dimitri Coats (OFF) who provides much of the guitar riffs, James Di Salvio (Bran Van 3000), Jordan Lawlor (M83), Wylie Hodgden (Chevy Metal) and Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal). 

By the conclusion of Times Square Discount, the loose conceptual framework has become obvious. This LP, as Higgins explains, is “a rabbit-hole record”, one that has collated experiences and knowledge Dearly Beloved have gained from the various cities they have visited through near-constant touring. “Like the way Kubrick made films… Gather shit, learn shit.”

Recorded at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, Dave Catching’s Rancho De La Luna, and Dearly Beloved’s own home studio in Toronto, Times Square Discount is a wonderfully chaotically crafted record, tempered with love to create an impressive, cohesive whole. Just like Stanley Kubrick’s filmmaking process.

Times Square Discount is out 25th October via Future Shocks Records. Catch Dearly Beloved live on the rest of their UK tour with Sebadoh:

1st October – Bristol, @ Fleece
2nd October –
Birmingham, @ O2 Academy 2
3rd October –
Leeds, @ Brudenell
4th October –
Glasgow, @ Broadcast
5th October –
Manchester, @ O2 Academy 2

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Gaptooth – ‘Sharp Minds, Raised Fists’

Gaptooth – singer, songwriter and producer Hannah Lucy – wears her influences on her sleeve (quite literally, if you check out the video for ‘Post-Patriarchy Disco’). And, like the feminist punk bands she loves, Sharp Minds, Raised Fists has purpose and a pure punk attitude. Yet the poppy synths, crunchy guitars and electro beats make it feel accessible, too.

And accessibility is everything when your message is so important. Gaptooth’s impassioned lyrics are a call to arms; a rallying cry against the patriarchy and capitalism. It’s hard not to get fired up by them. In ‘Red flags’, you feel and share her anger: “We wanna stay sexy and not get murdered,” she sings, “We’re still walking home with our keys in our fists.”

‘They Cut, We Bleed’ is peppered with samples from marches arranged by the feminist direct action group, Sisters Uncut. It feels ground-breaking and powerful. Meanwhile, ‘I Am Not My Productivity’ is an anti-capitalist anthem for anyone who feels like work is sucking the life out of them. And God, there’s a lot of us!

Sharp Minds, Raised Fists includes some more personal songs, too. ‘Mixtape Song’ and ‘Why I Left You Standing Outside Pizza Express’ offer an insight into both Hannah Lucy’s life and what it means to be a woman or non-binary person today.

This is an accomplished, important record. It sounds great; a real triumph of song-writing, performance and production. But more than that, it feels like Sharp Minds, Raised Fists could really inspire and empower people. It could soundtrack a movement.

You know the old adage about how everyone who attended the Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester started a band? Similarly, perhaps this record will make people start a revolution.

Sharp Minds, Raised Fists is out 11th October. Pre-order on Bandcamp now.

Vic Conway

Photo Credit: Keira Anee Photography

ALBUM: Freja Frances – ‘The Funeral’

The debut album from singer-songwriter Freja Frances features an emo-pop inspired collection of piano-led songs dealing with experiences of depression and an unhealthy relationship. 

Opener, ‘Catching Fire’ begins with soft piano, minimal atmospherics, and the line “You can’t help me pinpoint exactly when I lost my mind”. The song is beautifully melodic, and builds around the striking imagery of fire, capturing the emotion and passion of a doomed relationship and the consumption of depression.

The story continues with title track ‘The Funeral’, exploring the loss of a lover through suicide. Again, the dark theme is expressed using ethereal atmospherics and gentle melodies. ‘Machine’ follows, dealing with memories and grief, adding the textures of piano, synths and electric guitar. Then there are wonderful fairytale metaphors used in ‘Juliet’ and ‘The Wolf’; the latter about two people who are struggling with mental illness and social stigma – “The wolf is after you and he wants your heart.”

Later, ‘Stay Awake’ tackles insomnia and spiralling thoughts, as it is gently delivered with twinkling piano chords and Freya’s captivating voice cooing “counting the days since I lost my mind.” The atmospherics and vocal harmonies build around the chorus, bringing a different atmosphere each time, until redemption is found in letting go of past experiences; a theme also explored in ‘Implosion’ and ‘Start Again’, closing the album on a gentle note, with the promise of more hopeful times.

For me, this album is resonant, lyrical and melodic. Though it deals with melancholy themes, it is sorrowful but not miserable. It draws on the interior experiences of depression, dreams, madness and lost love, crafting beauty from sadness. One that will stay with you.

The Funeral is out now via ShimmerSun Music.

 

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

ALBUM: The Paranoyds – ‘Carnage Bargain’

Fuelled by 1970s punk and cult horror movies, Southern California garage punk quartet The Paranoyds take on the male-dominated music scene with their debut long-play Carnage Bargain; a raucous blend of dead-pan observations on modern culture and wild, left-of-centre musical influences, because “what isn’t there to be paranoid about?”

The band – consisting of Staz Lindes on bass, Lexi Funston on guitar, Laila Hashemi on keyboards, and David Ruiz on drums – released their debut After You in 2016, followed by 2017’s Eat Their Own EP; establishing themselves as purveyors of do-it-yourself, self-dependent punk rock. With their debut album, The Paranoyds have brought back a few re-recorded classics from those aforementioned releases, like ‘Ratboy’, ‘Heather Doubtfire’, and ‘Bear’, but have also brought along a whole bunch of different for their Carnage Bargain.

The opening hits you in the face with The Paranoyds’ battle cry, a piercing two-note guitar intro of alternating half-tones, leading to ‘Face First’. The opening track draws influence from the 1978 horror flick ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’ and John Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi dystopia ‘They Live’, but instead of humanity being duplicated by extraterrestrial lifeforms, predatory behaviour results from growing obsession enabled by technology: “It’s easy now / I’ve been watching you for some time.”

Attacking consumerism with title track ‘Carnage Bargain’, The Paranoyds layer Lindes’ throbbing basslines, Funston’s scuzzy guitar riffs, the punchy drum assault of Ruiz, and the aberrant keys of Hashemi over scathing lyrical observations, delivered in a rambling vocal style reminiscent of Courtney Barnett. “The grass isn’t green / It’s muddy with gasoline / There’s filth in the swimming pool / They’ve thrown away all the tools.”

Speaking of Barnett, ‘Courtney’ is another snarky stream of consciousness, further showcasing The Paranoyds’ overlapping vocal abilities – particularly from Lindes and  Funston. Whereas thrashing lead single, ‘Girlfriend Degree’ rejects the status quo with catchy surf-rock pop that empowers! “I’m not a shadow of myself / Looking good for somebody else.” 

Carnage Bargain continues to fishtail with genre-mashing tracks like ‘Egg Salad’, ‘Hungry Sam’, and ‘Laundry’; each one getting progressively weirder than the last. This can be attributed to Hashemi’s spooky key tones, which exude the campiness of 60s cult horror soundtracks. Indeed,  Hashemi’s solo on the resurrected ‘After You’ EP track, ‘Rat Boy’, is the perfect way to close this psych-punk fever-dream.

Just like their Los Angeles forerunners, X, The Paranoyds are often off-kilter in their delivery, and all the better for it. So, close your curtains, turn off the lights, and put needle to wax… Carnage Bargain is raw paranoid punk that you won’t be able to escape from. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Carnage Bargain is out now via Suicide Squeeze Records.

 

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Jenny Hval – ‘The Practice Of Love’

A confessional, intimate, emotion-spanning work; Jenny Hval‘s new album The Practice Of Love explores the spectrum of love and relationships through swirling synths and revealing lyrics. It’s a marked departure from the darkness of her 2016 album Blood Bitch, but equally as complex and memorable.

Loosely inspired by Valie Export’s 1985 film of the same name, Hval admits she’s “mostly avoided love as a topic” in her work because she views the intimacy that comes with it as “a lifelong journey”. However, it’s her desire to communicate this truth that’s fueled the creation of her new record.

Opening track ‘Lions’ is brought to life by friend & collaborator Vivian Wang’s measured voice. She guides listeners, instructing them to look across a forest landscape for a holy entity, as Hval’s ethereal vocals overlap her. The duality of the voices form separate parts of the same story, which is simultaneously off-putting and exciting.

A shimmering, textured, surreal take on creativity, second track ‘High Alice’ centers around a re-imagined version of the eponymous character from Alice In Wonderland. Here, Hval plays with the clichés surrounding what it means to be a woman who makes art. Her gentle vocals, looped beats and narrative perspective demonstrate her ability to captivate listeners with her intricate musical storytelling.

‘Accident’ (featuring Laura Jean) is a conversation between two women about birth, life, and an indifference to Motherhood. The oddly poetic line “she found stretch-mark cream in and air b&b” adds a lightness to an otherwise heavy topic. The album’s title track ‘The Practice of Love’ features the voices of Hval, Laura Jean & Vivian Wang, discussing the many strands that make up the web of love. It begs multiple listens so that each voice can be appreciated, but the overlapping of multiple different sentiments makes for a captivating listen. Self love, romantic love, platonic love – all are covered and contemplated on this piece of Hval’s puzzle of intimacy.

‘Ashes To Ashes’ is a strangely uplifting electronic affair. Hval blends gentle vocals, startling lyrics and deceptively catchy beats to communicate issues of morality. Following track ‘Thumbsucker’ (featuring Félicia Atkinson) is a pensive, curious listen that sees Hval “withdrawing word by word, back in to the rabbit hole” for safety. It’s not long before she reemerges with penultimate track ‘Six Red Cannas’ (featuring all three of her collaborators), with its catchy beats inspired by 90s trance music.

Hval closes The Practice Of Love with the humbly titled track ‘Ordinary’. It’s a charming celebration of the desire to share universal feelings, which by default makes us all very ordinary. Except, Hval’s “ordinary” isn’t quite so. Even when she strives for it, her wonderful “otherness” sets her apart from other “ordinary” artists who delve in to the same themes. That is truly worth celebrating, and practicing love for.

Jenny Hval’s new album The Practice Of Love will be released via Sacred Bones on 13th September. Pre-order your copy here.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut