ALBUM: Personal Best – ‘What You At’

The tagline (yep, it’s got a tagline!) of Personal Best’s second album, What You At, is “classic rock for tragic lesbians”. And I can’t think of a greater summary. It’s sweet and spiky, sad and uplifting. And it’s going to soundtrack a lot of break-ups.

Opener ‘Just Friends’ sets the tone. It starts out like a torch song – all acoustic guitar and raw emotion – but soon engulfs into crunchy rock riffs. The album has sadder, slower moments, like ‘Near To The Wildheart’ and closer ‘Salute’, but with front-person Katie Gatt’s powerful voice and lyrics, it remains an angry, empowering record.

Standout ‘Radio’ is a proper stomper, as is the single, ‘Baby’. When Gatt sings “I’m getting better”, backed by frenetic, punky guitars and pure pop harmonies, you really believe her. The album’s penultimate song, ‘One More Thing’, brings the record to a silly, splashy crescendo, which begs to be turned up to 11, Spinal Tap-style. I can almost picture the band playing it live, doing that classic rock, duelling guitars thing, and having an awesome time doing it.

It makes me so happy to see Personal Best stomping all over a traditionally male genre with their tongue firmly in their cheeks. As far as break-up albums go, What You At isn’t about feeling sorry for yourself. It’s the equivalent of a messy night out with the people you love. It’s sticky dancefloors and Strongbow; it’s crying on your best friend’s shoulder and putting the world to rights on the nightbus home.

A perfect fusion of wit, honest emotion and luscious harmonies, What You At will leave you elevated and ready to take on the world, break-up or no break-up.

What You At is out now via Sheer Luck Records/Dovetown Records. Order here.

Vic Conway

Photo Credit: Jennifer Doveton

 

ALBUM: Lisa Hannigan & s t a r g a z e – ‘Live In Dublin’

Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan is set to release her new live album recorded at Dublin’s National Concert Hall with contemporary-classical orchestra s t a r g a z e, founded by conductor André de Ridder. This collaboration sees Lisa’s folk/pop songs played with new orchestral ensemble arrangements and has taken her to the stages of London’s Barbican and Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Live in Dublin serves as a treat for old and new fans of Hannigan, capturing her mesmerising shows across a discography-spanning 14- tracks, including new track ‘Bookmark’.

Love is a key theme on the album, as is nature. The songs lend themselves perfectly to an orchestral setting, bringing out the emotional undertones at the heart of the tracks. The bird-like flutes of ‘Ora’ and the stirring violins which create an atmosphere of sad beauty on ‘Prayer for the Dying’ are particularly beautiful. There’s a lovely change in pace on tracks like ‘Anahorish’ which is sung acapella; ‘Nowhere to Go’ which showcases Hannigan’s slow, plaintive voice as comforting and emotional, before the urgency of following track ‘Lo’, which breaks through with its persistent heartbeat-like rhythms.

Other highlights are the haunting atmospherics on ‘We the Drowned’, which will move you to tears, before the fairytale chimes of ‘Lille’ enchant with their ethereal undertones. Overall, the orchestra swell out the songs, stirring the emotions, adding to the soundscape created by Hannigan’s poetic lyrics. The song is the conductor, her voice is the key instrument. The album closes with ‘Fall’, where the orchestra quiets down and we are sung out with just Hannigans’s vocal harmonies, and guitar.

If you are new to Lisa Hannigan’s songs, this is a wonderful album to discover her gems. Now you will hear them transformed, bringing their inherent dramas and colours to the fore, amidst a backdrop of sublime keys, affecting strings and perfect percussion.

Live In Dublin by Lisa Hannigan & s t a r g a z e is due for release May 31st on digital platforms, vinyl and CD via Play It Again Sam.

Photo Credit: Gerry Sugrue

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

ALBUM: Pinky Pinky – ‘Turkey Dinner’

Giving up her music studies, Anastasia Sanchez replaced her violin with a drum kit, favouring the creative energy of DIY indie rock over the mentally-exhausting paragon of classical music virtue. Joining guitarist Isabelle Fields and bassist Eva Chambers, the Los Angeles trio pulled together their influences – from the Sex Pistols to Jeannie Piersol – and evolved into the monstrous Pinky Pinky.

Taking their namesake from a South African urban legend that terrified an entire generation of schoolgirls, Pinky Pinky’s early iterations were punk, then psychedelia, then blues, before the band realised that they needn’t focus on one genre. Following two extended plays – the self-titled Pinky Pinky EP and most recently Hot Tears, their debut album – Turkey Dinner is a an oddball mishmash of ’60s psych, surf-rock, and unpretentious observations.

Biting down gently on lips, opening track ‘My Friend Sean’ fantasises about the hottest boy is school: “Those pattern jeans, his ass busts through the seams!”. All the girls and boys want Sean. Next, Pinky Pinky take us through downtown LA in their ‘Mystery Sedan’ – ’60s garage pop blasting from the tapedeck – , whilst ‘Floorboards’ leads into ‘Lady Dancer’; two tracks that form two halves, with Anastasia displaying shades of Heart’s Ann Wilson and Kate Bush in her shrill vocal delivery during the first half, and Fiona Apple in the second. Both tracks have an infectious raw energy, and Isabelle’s closing guitar solo will leave you with a crick in your neck!

Four tracks into Turkey Dinner and the fresh-out-of-high-school Pinky Pinky have wasted no time in establishing their own style; foot-tapping rock and roll rooted in classic psychedelia, but bolstered by authentic perspectives on everything from passion to distress. The slower paced harmonies of ‘Applecheeks’ is followed by the surfy SoCal acoustic guitar and tropical drum patterns of ‘Do Me Dirty (Charlie)’.

This album provokes so many emotions, but it is the combination of Eva’s solid rock and roll basslines, paired with Anastasia’s vocal honesty in ‘Mr. Sunday’ that left me melancholic – “Can’t seem to feel what he’s done to me. I’m numb from pain ‘cause he don’t love me.”

The acoustic summer sounds of ‘All The Birds’ are contrasted by the echoing guitar tones, spirited drum beats, and themes of unrequited love in ‘If It Didn’t Hurt’, whilst ‘Sticking Around’ also tackles a similar theme of a doomed relationship, and finally, closing track, ‘Loose Change’, closes the band’s first full-length effort with a combination of keys, horns, and Eva’s irresistible bass guitar.

With every single one of the thirteen tracks on Turkey Dinner, Pinky Pinky have crafted a live-sounding album that is not only this year’s head-bobbing soundtrack to the summer, but an honest example of compelling songwriting and storytelling.

Turkey Dinner is out 14th June via Innovative Leisure. Pre-order here.

 

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Barrie – ‘Happy To Be Here’

It’s sort of like waking up from a deep sleep, scattered with dreams, when the first lilts of album opener ‘Darjeeling’ hit you. Barrie Lindsay’s voice, oozing with harmony, doesn’t do much to dispel the slightly woozy feeling that permeates through Happy to Be Here, the debut album from her and the semi-eponymously named fivepiece Barrie. By the time you hear the feet on the stairs of its middle eight (reflecting lyrics of the same phrase), you know you’re in for an imagist ride of many colours, albeit one that’s still meticulously plotted out.

If dream pop is your bag, it’s here in spades. The ’90s video game ether of ‘Dark Tropical’ and its synthy hook; the atmosphere builder of the full fat electronic keys in ‘Saturated’; ‘Teenager’ with its horn-like synth blobs.

That being said, the band are a mixed-up bunch and underneath the sparkle, there’s something slightly more frenetic. Drummer Dominic Apa also plays with Brit electronic rock act, Is Tropical, whilst multi-instrumentalists Spurge Carter and Noah Prebish are DJs who originally bonded over a shared love of house. Sabine Holler, meanwhile, is a German performance artist that the band recruited via a dating app. And somehow, all of this is audible in the mishmash wall-of-sound that typifies the likes of ‘Habits’, with its high-life guitar and post-punk bass, and ‘Chinatown’, with its classic pop-meets-chillwave and delightfully stringy guitar solo. ‘Geology’, meanwhile, crosses genre and decades as its summery West Coast ’60s soul guitar verses flow into ’90s dance-pop choruses.

The standout though is lead-single ‘Clovers’. It, too, shares the mammoth thump in its choruses, as its synths build, blare and bloop all over Barrie’s vocals, extending that middle syllable of the song’s title for what feels like aeons. But here, it’s the contrast with the verses that really make the bombast worth it. Simple, almost childlike lyrics backed by single note piano melodies that stop just as the song explodes back into life. Its harmonised vocal acapella closing is perfect too – syrupy and satisfying.

Shout-outs to album closers too: penultimate track ‘Casino Run’, which evokes synthwavers College (of ‘Real Hero’ from the Drive soundtrack), and finale ‘Hutch’, which is about as close to straightforward pop as the LP gets, piano-led with Barrie’s honeyed voice poured over the top.

The press that came with the album describes it as “snapshots of the band coming together”, and that “inclusivity and friendship is at the heart of Barrie”. Given the disparate nature of how the five individuals came together, and then managed to make it work so well, the latter must certainly be true. It’s the former that sticks with you, though, after the album has finished. The sense of being young, in a squad, kicking around a town. And that’s especially true when you find out that many of these songs were written as part of Barrie Lindsay’s initial career as a solo artist. When it comes to the debut she’s just released, you can take it that her bandmates are indeed happy to be here.

Happy To Be Here, the debut album from Barrie, is out now via Winspear.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Premiere: Beauty Sleep – ‘Rainbow Ballroom’

Beauty Sleep’s liquid sound and lush production have the ability to place them among the pantheon of greats that precede them. Their synth pop radiance is akin to Beach House and Acid House Kings, with interlacing vocal stylings seductive enough for an of Montreal track.

The Belfast trio’s debut LP Be Kind is set to release this month, and upon first listen will easily become your sound of the summer. In fact, the whole release drips like honey from a champagne flute.

According to a statement from the band’s label regarding their genesis: “Beauty Sleep’s music is born of the friendship its three members share,” they detail. “…While chatting, Cheylene, Ryan and Aimee discovered a powerful shared creative bond. Overcome with the rush of inspiration only the prospect of a new project instils, the group decided to seize the moment and focus their energy into forming a new band. Enter the lush dream-pop Beauty Sleep makes today.”

Taking notes from NPR-coined genre Roséwave, their shimmering vocals meld divinely with the twinkling bell tones to create catchy choruses driven by passion. Their sound gets edgy on the track ‘The Feeling Back’ where you can hear distorted guitar and group vocals in the chorus that give a feeling of shouting out into the night with your friends on a rooftop bar.

‘On Repeat’, a soaring beat driven zen overload captures the thrill of a late night “getting lost in the moment”, while keeping the vibe cool enough for an after-club coffee.

Third track, ‘Rainbow Ballroom’ (premiered below!), could easily be a modern interpretation of a Diana Ross hit. The bass funk is apparent in the verses, only to break out into plumes of sound over the chorus using synth pads to fill the sound out infinitely.

‘Lies’ is another breakout track that features the vocalists’ spoken words and airy samples in the intro. This allows the experimentation of the track to really sparkle; downright dirty bass fills carry the morphed vocals and playful lyrics. Another Standout ‘Synthetic Debris’ opens up like a prom slow dance hit from the ’80s. I sensed major deja vu from listening to The Radio Dept. in my teens. It’s quiet and intimate, sparing no details that fill in the detailed background, samples, synths and all.

The band bolsters an electric live sound as well, treating shows and festivals as “a communal celebration of music and dance.”

Beauty Sleep has vivatius and contagious power in their debut LP Be Kind is sure to leave you wanting a blissed out night on the town, slightly tipsy and full of life.

Be Kind, the debut album from Beauty Sleep, is out 17th May. Listen to brand new single ‘Rainbow Ballroom’, for the first time, below:

 

Luke Janke
@Jankeleg

EP: Sive – ‘Sive’

Sive (Sadbh O’Sullivan) is an Irish songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, and has just released her eponymous new EP featuring the eclectic sounds of alternative folk/trad with jazz percussion, all seamed together by her captivating voice. The EP is about navigating self-discovery in a world that can be noisy and overwhelming. It challenges the listener to stop, listen and open themselves up to what can be learned by doing so.

Dream-folk opener ‘Quietly’ starts off with ukulele accompanying an ethereal voice – “hail to the man that lingers on..stares into the noise.. and listens for the silence”, leading into the vocal layering of the chorus where we “dance the language of our bones.”

‘Holding’ is about someone unravelling, built around the sounds of kalimba and chimes, creating a sound that suggests fragility, but gains strength as the song progresses to a faster rhythm and a swirling pastoral aura. This theme carries on into the relatable ‘Do It All The Time’ with its catchy chorus and atmospherics, regarding lying about one’s true mental state – “I don’t know why I do it all the time… it’s a complex work of art.” 

Slipping back to dream-folk with ‘Yukki Onna’, a haunting song about a Japanese mythical figure, and you are carried along by Sive’s captivating voice. The EP ends with ‘Tenlach’ where the beautiful Irish language is featured; a soothing lullaby, reflecting a connection with nature, tradition and roots. The perfect ending to the collection.   

Overall, the EP delivers a balanced introspection; the mood is uplifting and reverential, filled with delightful and unexpected musical turns. I was held throughout by Sive’s emotive and enveloping voice, warming my heart, and undoubtedly yours too when you’re lucky enough to listen to this poignant collection.

Sive is out on 2nd May via Veta Records.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

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