ALBUM: The Gravity Drive – ‘The Wildlight’

The Gravity Drive are a harmony driven, alternative pop band led by spouses Elijah and Ava Wolf. They independently release records on their own label from their house near Bridport in Dorset. Having received acclaim from the likes of BBC Radio 2, their second album, The Wildlight, features a series of powerful songs that promote self-worth, self-discovery and self-actualisation. They cover different styles (psychedelia, pop, dance) and embellish the atmosphere of the songs by experimenting with sounds. The result is an upbeat, inspirational album which showcases their range.

Opener, ‘Hits Like a Fix’, is a gentle intro; a piano-led pop ballad, with cinematic leanings, the prophetic lyricism shines through with a poignancy – “we lost our freedom to the fever again”, suggesting the chemistry of fated love.

Loving relationships are also explored in songs such as ‘Shooting Star’, ‘Inside Out’, and the beautifully lyrical ‘Forever’ – inducing romanticised longings.

There are also heavier moments… as more rock-inspired songs also stand out with enlightening themes of self-empowerment. For example, title track ‘The Wildlight’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, and closing track ‘Wake of the Dawn’ have a spiritual and theatrical feel in their exquisite layering of voices and thrashing guitars, creating a majestic, sweeping atmosphere.

The collection ends with a bang to the rallying cry of “This is a call”… And so it is. This album will have you believing in the power of Love, and the light at the end of the tunnel. What more do you need in these strange times?

 

The Wildlight is out now. Listen on Spotify or buy on iTunes.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

ALBUM: Screaming Toenail – ‘Growth’

Having blown us away with the impassioned magnificence of their live show at The Finsbury last December, and with performances for the likes of Decolonise Festival and Afropunk Battle Of The Bands under their belts, anti-colonial queer punks Screaming Toenail have become firm favourites here at GIHE and their message is more resonant now than ever before. With singles such as ‘I.O.U’ and ‘Sever’ already out in the world, they have now shared their new album Growth

Opening with a jarring recording of reports of trafficking migrants and “swarms” of refugees coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, the album starts as it means to go on: honest, politically charged and utterly necessary. As the swirling, whirring soundscape of ‘Swarm’ builds the tension against the raw, impassioned drive of front person Jacob Joyce’s vocals and poignant lyricism, Screaming Toenail hold no punches in immediately deconstructing ideas of colonialism and empire. 

Continuing these themes, ‘White Saviour’ is a glaring commentary on the way in which white supremacy and institutionalised racism can so often be overlooked in society, particularly when assigning the roles of ‘celebrity’ or people that are revered within our communities. With a tongue-in-cheek sense of pride, Joyce denounces individualistic colonial mentalities with a distinctive seething energy.

With shades of ‘80s post-punk, ‘Define and Conquer’ speaks for itself; with striking imagery and an angst-driven drive, Joyce reflects on the damage of Britain’s “conquest and expedition”, whilst ‘I.O.U’ asserts with a fierce intensity that we are so much more than our wages and that we don’t owe our bosses, landlords, or this racist government, anything. Propelled by an impassioned cathartic rage and swirling magnetism, its raw, riotous power immerses the listener in its striking, empowering message. 

Propelled by a dark, visceral drive, ‘Sever’ envelops the ears with a stirring resonance. With shades of the anthemic, emotive energy of The Cure, it showcases Screaming Toenail’s ability to create truly compelling offerings with exquisite musicality. Of the meaning behind the track, the band explain: 

‘Sever’ is written in response to the never ending saga of getting your hair cut as a gender non conforming person. Or is it our response to the displacement so many of us feel as black and brown people in the diaspora? Or maybe building queer community and resisting shame...”

With an empowering energy, ‘Crystal Queer’ celebrates the growth of black, queer resistance with a racing force and uplifting, vibrant power. With its colourful spirit, it’ll leave you feeling hopeful – fists clenched – ready to come together and rise up against the forces seeking to oppress. 

Continuing the uplifting vibes, and with a beautifully witty lyricism, ‘Get Cute’ is guaranteed to make you smile. With spot on ‘cute’ imagery (including personal highlight “You’re like a little old lady shoplifting from Boots”), it’s the perfect invigorating and cheer-inducing anthem to sing along to, know that you’re worth it and soothe any insecurities you may be feeling. And anyone who was at our gig at The Finsbury in December will have glorious memories of Screaming Toenail performing this live, and the comforting sense of unity and cathartic joy that filled the venue, as like-minded people came together to dance and sing in solidarity. 

‘Giant Woman’ closes the collection with all the empowering, patriarchy-smashing energy you’d expect; naming a number of visionary “giant’ women such as Diane Abbott and Reni Eddo-Lodge, it encourages you to take inspiration from others, as well as yourself, when facing the world and overcoming its challenges. A perfect motivational end to Growth’s stirring call to arms.

Despite my focus on the album’s words, it’s not simply Growth’s subject matter that demands to be heard: it showcases the eclectic and innovative musicality of the band. From immense, reverb-strewn riffs and racing punk beats, to fizzing electro-driven soundscapes and a swirling dark mysticism, it provides a perfectly danceable soundtrack to its resonant content. 

As a sort of ‘P.S’, I just wanted to add that I really have struggled to put into words just how completely important and strikingly poignant Screaming Toenail are, and I think really the album needs no explanation. You need to listen to the lyrics, the commentary on what is happening in this country right now, the raw angst and emotion that shines through every track, the magnificent cathartic energy that the band put into everything they create, to understand. I was, in fact, almost reluctant to write about it, as I don’t want any of my words to take away from the raw and necessary power of the band’s.

Growth is truly a soundtrack to our times; starkly reminding us that on returning to ‘normality’, we need to create a new normal. One in which voices like Screaming Toenail’s can be amplified to the max; one in which we prioritise creating safe, queer, intersectional communities and spaces for people to share their art together. One in which we are all continually fighting for change and feel able to grow bigger and louder in the face of challenges, and feel excited for the future. 

 

Growth is out now via Hell Hath No Fury Records. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

ALBUM: Girl Friday – ‘Androgynous Mary’

Hardly Art are hardly novices at breaking new bands – the label gave early releases to the likes of Tacocat, La Luz, Shannon & The Clams and Colleen Green, amongst many others – but for LA four-piece Girl Friday, this debut album release on the label reflects a massive step forward for a band after just two EPs, which were self-released. But equally, for a group with this diversity of influence, and this originality of expression, perhaps it’s not so surprising that they’re hosting the band’s new album Androgynous Mary. 

The group came together via a chance encounter when guitarist Vera met bassist Libby at a friend’s house, at UCLA. Impressed by Libby’s particular style of playing bass – the Peter Hook merged with Kim Deal style of which certainly informs the ten tracks on Androgynous Mary. Vera introduced herself and the pair began making music together, bringing in additional guitarist Sierra and drummer Virginia through friends of friends.

What really marks the group out is their refusal to pigeon-hole themselves, generically, with this LP displaying flashes of surf-rock, garage, post-punk, goth, art-rock and pop-punk. And, although the foursome certainly have a broadly feminist identity, this is no mere political screed. Rather, it’s a collage of sounds and ideas from their time together, as informed by “parking lot murals” as the SCUM Manifesto, in a way not dissimilar to Girl Friday’s  hero, Courtney Love.

Album opener, ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’, is a case-in-point. It’s initially a gentle lead-in that shows off Girl Friday’s gorgeous vocal harmonies and soaring guitar lines, all contained in a mid-tempo post-punk ballad. But, in perhaps a meta callback to its title, the song falls apart into a free-form breakdown a few minutes in, before returning to its original style.

Second track and the album’s lead single, ‘Amber’s Knees: A Matter of Concern’ is built around a choppy, spikey slice of lo-fi indie-punk guitar.  Described by the group as a consideration of “the borders of culturally sanctioned dissociation and the wilful ignorance we often employ to keep things functioning”, its juxtaposition of post-punk and lyrical density gives it a substantial atmosphere that belies the accessibility of its sound. This is also true to some extent with ‘Eaten Things’, which veers more towards a gloomy, grunge sludge bass-led sound, and thumping percussion – “I want to eat you up” goes its chorus, before a grim sounding middle eight that sounds epically gothic.  

Lyrically, ‘Public Bodies’ is a return to the observational nature of the first two tracks, whilst sonically shifting the album into Allo Darlin’ style melancholic indie-pop. Musing on mainstream rejection, isolation and the inaccessibility of healthcare in the USA (that’s one interpretation), it uses images of religion and bodies consumed by capitalist machinery, stating “…if you want your independence, then you trade your health for cash”. The song closes with a Goo-era Sonic Youth style coda, underlining the band’s ability to re-construct their songs, seemingly on the spur of the moment, like an act of collective will. This is also true of what follows in ‘What We Do It For’ – opening with 90 seconds of post-punk instrumental led by spectral guitars (not far from the early days of Interpol), leading to a middle section of balladic harmonies, and closing with a flurry of guitars and drums; it’s like three different songs beautifully crashing into each other.  

‘Earthquake’ is a more immediate, Runaways style garage banger, replete with a shouty chorus which, somewhat appropriately, leads to an emotional shift in the album. ‘Clotting’ contains soft vocalisations and more personally emotive lyrics, not dissimilar to Sleater Kinney’s quieter work, whilst ‘Gold Stars’ is a mid-tempo grunge tale of an unwanted relationship (“I said leave, but you heard love”), underscored by Libby’s bass melodies. 

Closers ‘Favourite Friend’ and ‘I Hope Jason Is Happy’ form a dovetailing pair, sharing a stadium-filling guitar line that shines throughout both – “My head doesn’t fit the crown, does it matter anymore?” opens the lyrics on the mournful former, and the track slowly grows in intensity, dropping away to leave only the sustained guitar lead-in to the LP’s closer. Over a marching drum beat and fuzzy guitars, Girl Friday’s four members sing “My head is on your chest / In the end I’ll be happy if you do your best / You’ve got to fight to keep your breath in this world” and, with that, it finishes.

Precocious, without being naïve, and intelligent, without being pretentious, Girl Friday have crafted a debut that is no mere polemic, but allows imagist lyrics and inventive song-craft to create a palpable sense of character for the listener to lean into. It cuts a slice through influences, that stretch from the early ’70s, up to the present day – sifting, magpie-like, through the works of The Breeders, The Slits, Girlpool, Placebo, and (perhaps unconsciously) the C86 movement. Throughout, that bass sound flows, like a dark river, stretching a taut string across ten tracks, that each ring with their own distinct power. In short, Girl Friday have constructed a debut that’s suitable for all the days of the week.

Androgynous Mary is out 21st August via Hardly Art. Pre-order here.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Al Kalyk

EP: Sandunes – ‘Spare Some Time’

A calming, electronic mediation on the necessity of expressing emotion; Sandunes has shared her new EP, Spare Some Time. Released today (May 22nd) via !K7, the four track creation is an aural salve for overwhelmed ears, flowing with shimmering synth textures and soothing beats that remind listeners to take stock of the love in their lives.

Based in Mumbai, Sandunes (aka Sanaya Aredeshir) has focused less on musical technicality, and more on emotional catharsis on this collaborative offering. While for some this decision might compromise high production standards, that’s not the case here. Spare Some Time is equally as polished as Sandunes’ previous releases, which are predominantly created from her home studio in Bombay.

Ambient electronics and stretched out beats permeate opening track ‘Love It Less’. Featuring the smooth vocals of Jbabe, the track was crafted from an intimate jam session between the two producers. It blends seamlessly into the atmospheric ‘Burn Every Bridge’. “The only way out is through / Burn every bridge to you”, muses vocalist Landslands, cautiously urging listeners to let go of the past. Sandunes’ tentative beats and fluid synths help to relay this gentle message too.

“Bittersweet acceptance” sounds intoxicating on ‘Fifty Percent’, thanks to the soulful vocals of Mumbai songwriter Ramya Pothuri. The vulnerabilities expresses in the lyrics are softened by Sandunes’ use of bright electronics. Closing track ‘Simple Thing’ sees the producer subtly celebrating the restorative nature of love in all its forms, through uplifting synths and IAMI’s buoyant vocals.

“I feel like it’s very important for me to be prudent, but also celebratory about feminine freedom, as a working, performing, producing, musician from India”, Sandunes explains. Her ability to be clear about her her status, and the emotional response that sparks is what makes Spare Some Time such a cathartic, reassuring listen. “We’re deprived in our isolation of the tremendous benefit that togetherness and connection brings” she continues, but with records like this; that connection is ultimately strengthened.

Listen to Sandunes new EP on Spotify. Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Photo credit: Viktor Sloth

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut