ALBUM: Wilsen – ‘Ruiner’

A collection of thoughtful songs that allow space for reflection and growth; Wilsen‘s latest record Ruiner is a deceptively quiet listen. Released via Dalliance Recordings, the album is soft in terms of volume, but lyrically it speaks loudly about overcoming and accepting inherent introversion, and self-doubt.

“Making this record was somewhat of a coming of age process,” guitarist & vocalist Tamsin Wilson explains. “We’re getting older and becoming more deliberate, less precious, less measured, trusting [our] instincts more.” Perhaps it’s this trust that led the band to partner with acclaimed producer Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Bon Iver) and mastering engineer Sarah Register (Protomartyr, U.S. Girls) on their new record.

“I can be a ruiner…” confesses Wilson on the album’s eponymous opening track. Written in a moment of “self-sabotage”, her vocals float beautifully over Johnny Simon Jr’s atmospheric, shimmering guitar sounds, belying the negativity that informed the song’s context. The gently tumultuous ‘Align’ follows, with more layered guitar and meandering lyrics about having the guts to go steady with someone.

The catchy refrain and Drew Arndt’s bass lines on ‘Down’ stick in the memory, while the gentle acoustics on ‘Wearing’ compliment Wilson’s lyrics about being worn down (“like a bag stuck in a tree / I’m helplessly clinging on”). ‘YNTOO’ flows in the same vein, before the guitars slowly swell for the final minute of the track.

The brief ‘Birds, Pt.1’ and the thoughtful, extended ‘Birds, Pt.2’ beautifully bookend each other, with the poignant ‘Wedding’ sitting in between. The infectious, full-sounding ‘Feeling Fancy’ celebrates the power of inherent shyness. As Wilson states in the song; “Everybody’s got a story”, and regardless of the volume it’s told at, it deserves to be shared and acknowledged.

The penultimate ‘Fuse’ looks forward with reassuring confidence, leaving you “ready to disco, baby”, whilst closing track ‘Moon’ is the most stripped back on the record. Tentative and delicate, it reiterates the idea that shyness and confidence can exist comfortably side-by-side.

A subtle, but powerful record that speaks to those who are trying to find the balance between being comfortable with themselves, and trying to refrain from being a Ruiner; Wilsen’s latest offering is a poetic, reverb-strewn, dreamy affair.

Listen to Wilsen’s new album Ruiner on Spotify.
Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: CF Watkins

Kate Crudgington

ALBUM: Katie Gately – ‘Loom’

Both a piercing cry into the gulf of grief, and a collection of dark lullabies that provide momentary distraction from it; Katie Gately‘s second album Loom is a poignant ode to her late Mother, who she lost to cancer in 2018. Set for release via Houndstooth on 14th February, the electronic musician & producer has channelled her grief into eight new songs.

Gately created Loom in the aftermath of her Mother’s cancer diagnosis, thus giving the record it’s dark, melancholy, intensely sobering feel. She used real earthquake recordings in her productions; as well as samples of peacocks screaming, pill bottles shaking, and heavily processed audio from her parent’s wedding to reflect the void left by the loss.

Loom opens with the quiet, hypnotic ‘Ritual’. Layers of Gately’s beguiling vocals ring out over cautious electronics that gently rise and fall in time with her voice. The at times claustrophobic ‘Allay’ personifies the cancer that stole Gately’s Mother. Even without knowledge of this context, it’s still an unsettling listen, with its severe electronics and dense beats.

Inspired by Leonard Cohen – one of her Mother’s favourite artists – ‘Waltz’ is a haunting, powerful call to arms encouraging listeners to dance, even in the midst of overwhelming grief. Gately wrote it after listening to Cohen’s track ‘Take This Waltz’ on repeat for an entire day, resulting in five minutes of dark, energized sound. Following track ‘Bracer’ is a powerful, ten minute eerie epic. It’s also worth noting that it was Gately’s Mother’s favourite track on Loom. 

Along with ‘Waltz’, Gately describes these songs as being about the same thing: “They’re about being disoriented and wanting to check out with a substance. I used whisky.” Both tracks have a manic, kinetic quality; as if the whiskey that fuelled their formation is flowing through the veins of her listeners, encouraging them to perform a contorted dance to Gately’s soundscapes.

Much like opener ‘Ritual’, ‘Rite’ provides a few minutes of breathing space, before dense beats and a menacing blur of sounds on ‘Tower’ make the hairs on the back of the neck twitch. Here, Gately inhabits the medicine that confronts her Mother’s cancer. For the first four minutes, it’s abrasive and severe, but it switches for the final two; with Gately’s soothing vocals acting as a tonic to the toxicity.

The startling, cathartic sounds on penultimate track ‘Flow’ ring out for six powerful minutes. Written from the perspective of her Mother, this track is one of the strongest on the record. Final track ‘Rest’ is announced through Gately’s poignant vocals, closing an album that’s both shocking and soothing in equal measure.

Gately has said that the process of creating Loom is “blurry” to her now, perhaps repressing some of the darker, more desperate feelings that must have permeated it. Whilst her discomfort and grief are audible throughout the record, the fact she confronted her complex emotions proves she is both a genuinely talented musician, and an incredibly brave woman.

Pre-order Katie Gately’s new album Loom here.

Katie Gately UK Live Dates 2020
March 31 – Manchester – The White Hotel
April 1 – London – Cafe Oto (with support from Hinako Omori)

Photo Credit: Steve Gullick

Kate Crudgington

ALBUM: Pet Crow – ‘Take The Edge Off’

Smashing through insecurities and personal ailments in refreshing garage-pop style; Derby-based band Pet Crow have returned with their second album, Take The Edge Off. Self-released in the UK on 7th Feb, it’s an apt title for a collection of songs that provide momentary relief from the everyday stresses of being an adult.

Formed of Danielle Ross, Dan Barradell, Sean Kenny, Conor Wallis, and Sophie Prosay; Pet Crow are facing up to their demons on their sophomore record. Speaking from direct experience; the band explore anxiety, depression, drug addiction, recovery, OCD, and ADHD across the ten tracks on Take The Edge Off.

The first three songs – ‘Limbo’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘NOCD’ – fly by in a blur of fuzzy guitars, punky percussion, and moody vocals. They’re restless, cathartic laments about not being able to switch off, or switch back on when you most need to. The band channel not having a clear direction in life into well directed sounds on ‘What We Doin’, whilst the riotous ‘One Whole Summer’ is a strung out two and a half minutes about cutting loose, and the repercussions of going wild a little too often.

‘Controlling’ explores a toxic relationship, but the buoyant, surf-rock guitars distract from the darker context of the song. The same can be said for eponymous track ‘Take The Edge Off’, which does exactly that for just shy of two minutes. The band are “flitting between caring, and care free” on ‘Hostage’, and the manic instrumental mid-way through penultimate track ‘Scars’ is equally as freeing.

The joyfully named ‘Prick’ closes the record. It’s an infectious four minute take down of another toxic relationship, and the repeated line “You make me sick” will draw a wry smile across your face as you sing along to the catchy guitar riffs. Pet Crow firmly believe you can dance and sing your way through your problems, and Take The Edge Off will help you to do just the same.

Pre-order your copy of Pet Crow’s Take The Edge Off via Bandcamp
Follow Pet Crow on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington

ALBUM: The Just Joans – ‘The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of The Just Joans’

January is no-one’s favourite month: you’re skint, you’re cold and you’re pretty sure you’re over the hill. Fortunately, Glasgow’s own The Just Joans feel much the same, and this January brings their fourth album: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans.  The title alludes both to James Hogg’s gothic novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (a depiction of Calvinist Christian fanaticism, published in 1824), but also the memories, however vague, of songwriter David Pope, and his increasing awareness of “the onset of middle-aged ennui”.

Thematically, the latter pretty much sums up the theme album’s opener ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Not Go’ with David sounding perfectly justified in wanting to just watch Match of the Day whilst fellow vocalist, his sister Katie, reminds the album’s narrators of the old times and nights out in the battleground of town. If the song’s lyrics are negative and insular, however, that’s a counterpoint to the bold brass that opens the album – a deliberate choice by the band to open up their sound, by roping in multi-instrumentalist Arion Xenos and keyboardist Alison Eales (from fellow Glaswegians, Butcher Boy). 

Second track ‘Who Does Susan Think She Is?’ is hilariously cynical, focusing on that one friend who suddenly decides to go to art school and turn vegan, whilst ‘Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung)’ contemplates acts of violence involving lads on the street.  

The album’s middle section contains its most heartfelt tracks, dominated by Katie’s winning vocals. Ranging from ‘Dear Diary, I Died Again Today’ – a lush string-laden ballad, and ‘When Nietzsche Calls’ – a sort of twisted torch song with a growing brass section, to ‘The One I Loathe the Least’, a minor key lilt whose stand-out lyric refers to the population as “subhuman scum”. 

So far, so sophisti-pop, but there’s C64 cred here too, with the squelchy synths and guitar wash of ‘My Undying Love For You Is Beginning to Die’, the dating disaster synth-pop of ‘Another Doomed Relationship’, until the album closes with the echoey Visage vocals of ‘Like Yesterday Again’, which sounds like the album sweetly expiring under the weight of its own efforts. There’s also pop-rock in the form of ‘The Older I Get The More I Don’t Know’ and the Ben Folds-y ‘Holiday’, whilst the album still has space for a nostalgically baroque tune in the shape of ‘People I Once Knew’.

Named for the agony aunt Joan Burnie, and her ‘Just Joan’ column in The Daily Record, it’s appropriate that The Just Joans may not necessarily tap into your best emotions – but they certainly make you feel a lot better about having them. For a band whose lifespan now stretches to four albums, it’s impressive that the cynicism, the bitterness and, most damning of all, the optimism of life as an outsider are still felt as strongly. It may say more about this writer’s age than the album, but there’s something reassuring about knowing you’re not the only one having a tough time and The Just Joans capture that feeling just so.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans is out now via Fika Recordings. Listen/buy on Bandcamp.

John McGovern

Photo Credit: Allan Whyte Photography

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

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