ALBUM: Queen Zee – ‘Queen Zee’

Making weirdness in to wonderful, inclusive, explosive new tunes; GIHEs favourites Queen Zee have shared their debut self-titled album and it’s every bit as glorious as we’d hoped. Released via their own label Sasstone Records, the group have created ten tracks that gleefully cut down any of the forces that attempt to stand in the way of equality.

The tongue-in-cheek ‘Loner’ opens the record, and it’s an in-your-face anthem taking the piss out of being a solitary, socially inept loser. Zee’s vocals dominate the track as swirling guitar and non-stop percussion keep the riot going. It’s followed by the equally punchy ‘Lucy Fur’ and ‘Sissy Fists’, which are belting fusions of grunge & punk. The latter smashes apart any associations of weakness and is a proper hardcore two minutes of pure adrenaline.

‘Idle Crown’ is a riotously executed piece of Marilyn Manson-esque pop sleaze. The narrative centers around two LGBTQ+ characters trapped in a toxic heteronormative relationship, who are unable to live as their true selves. It’s hard to resist screaming along to the chorus of ‘Porno’ and ‘Victim Age’, both of which will have you kicking and screeching around a dance floor.

The album’s standout track is undoubtedly ‘Boy’. It’s an anthem for trans-gender rockers and their allies who refuse to be ignored, or oppressed by transphobic or homophobic attitudes. “You can try and bury my head in the sand, but that won’t make the body at the surface a man’s” sings Zee, as manic guitar and heart-pounding drums smash out for just shy of five minutes. ‘Hunger Pains’ follows with Zee’s ravenous screeching and more trademark corkscrew guitar riffs, whereas the brief interlude ‘Anxiety’ is a mellow yet candid admission to not feeling well.

Whether you admit to it or not, we can all relate to closing track ‘I Hate Your New Boyfriend’. It’s a hilariously vicious take-down of a misogynistic partner who drains your friend and by default drains you too. Turn it up extra loud anytime you know said antagonist is in the vicinity. With their punk attitude and ability to write abrasive and infectious tracks, there’s no danger of Queen Zee being melted in to a “masculine mould” – and we’re rejoicing in support of this “whipping girl born into a big man’s world”. What a debut, invest immediately.

Photo Credit: Jon Mo Photography

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Le Butcherettes – ‘bi/MENTAL’

A vivid exploration of maternal relationships, enduring grief, and coping with the many faceted mental health issues encountered along the way; Le Butcherettes‘ new album bi/MENTAL is a potent infusion of almighty vocals, hefty guitar riffs, and commanding percussion. Released via Rise Records, the band’s fourth album was produced by Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison (No Doubt, Violent Femmes, KD Lang) and recorded at his home studio in Northern California.

Cited as their most personal album to date, bi/MENTAL is an ode to frontwoman Teri Gender Bender’s mother. She states that with the aid of producer Jerry, she was able to be “vulnerable and in-your-face at the same time” and that freedom permeates bi/MENTAL. Opener ‘spider/WAVES’ is six minutes of off-kilter unhinged sound, dominated by Teri’s trademark falsetto vocals and accompanied by spoken word from Dead Kennedys’ front man, Jello Biafra. It leads in to the knockout ‘give/UP’ lamenting the struggles surrounding grief. The opening line paints a morbid picture – “I’ve been putting off for days / a visitation to your grave” – but Teri’s passionate delivery and the infectious, rolling rhythms make this track a real blood-pumping tune that’s hard to sit still to.

‘strong/ENOUGH’ is an anthem of defiance and acceptance – “I’m not the kind of girl you thought I was” – whilst ‘father/ELOHIM’ explores a narrative of reckless behaviour and freedom. ‘little/MOUSE’ follows, before the scratchy nostalgic opening of ‘in/THE END’ breaks through, developing in to a retrospective ballad about faithlessness. A seething, buzzing bass line dominates ‘nothing/BUT TROUBLE’, whilst the sultry vocals of Chilean vocalist Mon Laferte take centre stage on ‘la/SANDÍA’.

Gritty guitar and psych-tinged keys meet on ‘struggle/STRUGGLE’ where pain and grief culminate in a speaking-in-tongues outro from Teri. ‘dressed/IN A MATTER OF SPEECH’ follows, before the unsettling screams and screeches of ‘mothers/HOLDS’ conquer the next three minutes of the record. Featuring the vocals of Alice Bag, ‘mothers/HOLDS’ is an example of the dark magic that’s conjured when two assertive, defiant women come together to create art.

The heady, mesmeric sounds on the penultimate ‘sand/MAN’ are followed by closing track ‘/BREATH’. It has a gentle opening, with slow guitar and a child-like voice sample interrupting intermittently like an old memory, but that’s swiftly discarded around the two minute mark. The track kicks back in in true raucous Le Butcherettes fashion, closing the record on a willful, assertive note.

Inspired by the “the death of a living mother”, the duality of life, and the inevitable strife caused by the fluctuation of mental health; Le Butcherettes bi/MENTAL is a cathartic burst of emotional rock music designed to clear the cobwebs between your ears.

Listen to bi/MENTAL on Spotify here.
Follow Le Butcherettes on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Boy Harsher – ‘Careful’

A record to cry, kiss, or dance to; Boy Harsher’s latest album Careful is a heated, heartfelt affair. Full of beats designed to ricochet around dark dance-floors or lonely bedroom walls, the Massachusetts duo blend nostalgic 80s percussion with sharp modern production to create an immersive, magnetic listening experience.

Formed in 2014, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller released their first EP Lesser Man in the same year, and their sophomore record Yr Body is Nothing in 2016. Country Girl followed in 2017, and now the pair explore their “morose pop sound” further on their latest release. Named after the seemingly prophetic tattoo that Matthews has across her back, Careful smolders with a brooding, lusting aggression.

Inspired by traumatic personal experiences – the breakdown of a romantic relationship, losing a parent to debilitating illness, and a chronic fear of losing control – Boy Harsher offer a momentary glimpse in to their seething world via minimal electronics. The cinematic ‘Keep Driving’ opens the record, with whispered vocals and moody stretched out synths that could score a jaded night-ride, or an escape from a crime scene.

Hazy electronics, sultry vocals and 80s inspired beats combine in hypnotic style on ‘Face The Fire’, before the elusive ‘Fate’ bleeds in. It’s four minutes of off-kilter synths, breathy vocals and dance inducing beats. Grand synthesizers announce the arrival of next track ‘LA’, whist the throbbing synths and pounding beats on ‘Come Closer’ are intoxicating. It’s easily one of the strongest tracks on the record. ‘The Look You Gave (Jerry)’ flows in the same vein, before the punchy percussion on ‘Tears’ changes the pace. The track’s buoyant rhythms contrast well with the ominous, dramatic three minute interlude ‘Crush’.

Penultimate track ‘Lost’ meanders for just shy of five minutes, before the eponymous ‘Careful’ closes the record. It’s a brief affair with a mysterious voice sample, artistically book-ending this collection of alluring, seductive sounds. Whilst at points Boy Harsher’s Careful may may feel repetitive, it’s hard to deny the record’s flirtatious, infectious nature. Make sure you catch the band at HEAVEN on 27th February.

Order your copy of Boy Harsher’s Careful here.
Follow the pair on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Tallies – ‘Tallies’

Blending elements of shoegaze, jangly guitars and indie pop, there’s much to be excited about with the release of Tallies’ eponymous debut album. They are a Toronto-based four-piece, fronted by Sarah Cogan, with lead guitarist Dylan Frankland, bassist Stephen Pitman, and drummer Cian O’Neill. One of the themes of Tallies is the universal impact of adulthood hitting you whether you’re ready or not. It’s the band’s soundtrack for adjustment throughout a year of change.

Opening track ‘Trouble’ is a song about naivety and being unable to foresee potential danger, especially as a woman. ‘Mother’ touches on the transition from being an adolescent -dependent on your parents – to a mature, independent adult (“leave your past tomorrow, don’t leave those skulls to dry”). There is a mixture of joy, nostalgia and sweet sadness, like memories of lost childhood and adolescence put to music, in tracks like ‘Mother’, and ‘Eden’. The music may be uplifting but the lyrics offer a dark undercurrent, put to exceptional guitar lines.

A more reflective mood features in the swirling textures of ‘Trains and Snow’ and the dreamily acoustic ‘Midnight’, whereas lead track ‘Beat the Heart’ explores the lack of empathy that exists, capturing our ears with the perfect production of smooth pop vocals, melodic hooks. Similarly, ‘Easy Enough’ reflects on changing relationships, whilst ‘Giving Up’ addresses global warming (“the embers they’re burning… cover me like a white sheet…giving up, no sign of change”).

Listen to this album as you gaze out at the January moon, the dreamy memories of salad days in your ears, and you will love this album as much as I do. If you’re old enough to have danced to the likes of The Smiths, Cocteau Twins and The Sundays, then you’re in for a trip down memory lane, as Tallies rework the best of their influences into their own fresh sound. If not, then welcome to the rediscovery of a sound that remains timeless (if the music doesn’t grow old, neither will the fans!). 

Tallies is out now via Fear Of Missing Out Records.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

Photo Credit: Alex Gray

ALBUM: Sara Forslund – ‘Summer Is Like A Swallow’

The second album from Swedish songwriter Sara Forslund may have been three years in the making but musically it picks up from her debut Water Became Wild. Bringing together sparse arrangements and natural sounds, as well as co-production from John Wood (Nico, Nick Drake, Pink Floyd) Summer Is Like A Swallow is folk noir perfect for dark days and long nights.

Opening with the soft turn of waves beneath a gently picked guitar line the soft-vocal drifts through the nature imagery on River of Dreams. A familiar poetic lyrical style builds the sense of space, the vast landscapes of Forslunds surroundings and the caverns of emotion we hold inside.

It is this dream-like way of exploring the intimate, of reflecting introspection in the expanse of the environment which was so well done on the debut, and here is rendered with growing confidence and curiosity around how to shape sound. The mix of electronic and more traditional instrumentation, as well as the tiny but present descriptors of her kitchen table recording set up (rain against window here, a creaking chair there) add a warmth to an album with many cool tones and nod to an artist embracing a DIY aesthetic by choice as much as need.

Title track Summer is Like a Swallowremains gauzy and with a lyrical wistfulness, a reserved melancholy for the time passing. As imagery seagulls may not immediately spring to mind as birds of grace and freedom (perhaps – like most things – the domestic type is more uncouth than its continental counterpart) but in Seagull’, as the melody soars, theres a rare but powerful romanticism conjured.

Hardis the highlight of the album – a more rounded sound and conviction strengthening the vocal. Here the rhythmic call of birds becomes part of the rhythm, and the magic and mystery found in nature and that which is created through music is bound tighter again. Gonebrings with it the feel of Both Sides Now Joni Mitchell while closer Toadis a seven minute opus of overlapping melody; soft picking and lullaby refrains, gentle harmonies and again those nature sounds woven into the song and reflecting the lyrics.

Wearing its vulnerabilities openly and with a stark, unflinching honesty lyrically and a sparse take on folk in its sound Summer Is Like A Swallow repeats the themes and sounds of predecessor Water Became Wild, and like that record is an understated (and likely underrated) triumph for Forslund.

With echoes of Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan and Marissa Nadler, this is an album you can sink into, cosseted by the intricacies and soft layers, as you become comfortable with your uncomfortable parts.

Find out more about Sara Forslund on her website now.

Sarah Lay
@sarahlay

 

ALBUM: Big Joanie – ‘Sistahs’

DIY punks Big Joanie release their debut album Sistahs today, and it’s a mix of the personal and political; coupled with riotous rhythms and a sistah-hood ethos. Recorded at Hermitage Works Studio with producer Margo Broom, and released via Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s new label (The Daydream Library Series), Sistahs is a strong debut from a band who have been actively working on and off-stage within London’s DIY scene for years.

Together, Steph, Estella & Chardine have been busy running the Decolonise Fest for punks of colour, volunteering at Girls Rock Camp, and leading the Stop Rainbow Racism campaign, which works to stop racist performances in LGBTQ venues. Their combined pro-active efforts have resulted in the creation of 11 songs that tackle issues of self-motivation, race, equality, and letting go of unhealthy relationships.

The pensive and highly relatable opening track ‘New Year’ brims with a quiet yearning to kick start something, to stop waiting. It’s followed by ‘Fall Asleep’, with its infectious bass lines and wicked guitar riffs. The introduction of electronics 1:44 minutes in is ultra cool, and was inspired by the likes of Joy Division and New Order (which is why Producer Margo added a wall of synths and drum beats).

‘Used To Be Friends’ is an anthem everyone can sing with confidence, with a sarcastic smile and no real sense of aggro – just the care free attitude of someone who’s shed the skin of an unhealthy acquaintance. ‘Eyes’ is a cacophony of guitars, percussion, and recorder. It’s one of the first songs guitarist Steph wrote aged nineteen, inspired by her disdain for “working a part time job handing out over-priced artisan bread at Waitrose”.

‘Way Out’ is a wonderful, reverb-soaked, 90s-esque tune, whilst the brief ‘Down Down’ spirals along with its driving percussion for just shy of two minutes, before the surf-pop-style ‘Tell A Lie’ lifts listeners up again. Much like ‘Used To Be Friends’, ‘Token’ laments an unhealthy friendship, although this time it’s about the feeling of ‘tokenism’ experienced by people of colour, when middle class white people decide to befriend them as a lame act of liberalism. Following track ‘It’s You’ was born from a bad situation. After the lead singer from Steph’s first band (My Therapist Says Hot Damn) left just three days before their next gig – ‘It’s You’ was one of the many songs she had to write from scratch to play at the show.

The penultimate ‘How Could You Love Me’ will have you swaying from side-to-side as it rings out in “60s girl group style”, whilst closing track ‘Cut Your Hair’ is a vulnerable but optimistic ode to predicting a relationship is over before you or your partner are willing to admit it. Despite their breezy, confident nature; the contexts of Big Joanie’s songs are powerful because the relay the struggles of everyday – whether that’s having your mind turned to mush by a boring job, falling out with yourself, or others around you. They’re three women of colour talking about their life experiences to the backdrop of marching beats and punk-inspired riffs – and that’s something the world needs plenty more of in our opinion.

Order your copy of Sistahs here. Follow Big Joanie on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Fightmilk – ‘Not With That Attitude’

There’s something about Fightmilk’s debut album, Not With That Attitude, that takes me back to my youth. I realise that nostalgia is a given as a writer, but it takes a special band and a special punk pop-rock sound to do it for me. Keep your Something Corporates, I’ll take ‘Dream Phone’ and ‘Your Girlfriend’ over Fall Out Boy and Paramore any day.

With relatable lyrics that never cease to be less than blamefully self-deprecating and angsty, Not With That Attitude has created itself a lie in just its title. Fightmilk are going somewhere. They’re going through the motions and creating art. More than that, listening to this album makes me want to be young again. To feel okay with feeling not okay. Morein, to feel not okay with feeling not okay, and it being acceptable to do that.

In parts, such as one of my favourite tracks on the album, ‘Solving Crimes in Sweden’, the album could add to the perfect soundtrack of one of those alt-teen movies of the ’90s. The kind where Dawson was a dick and cried all the time and Ryan Phillippe was a dick but hot, not the kind where Freddie Prince Jr. is falling for the “ugly girl” and there’s a happily ever after.

It’s an album that marries pop-punk sensibilities with Natalie Merchant vibes, with both halves somehow seamlessly interjecting with one another; the same beast with an entirely different piece of lore. It’s also an album that reminds you that no matter what mistakes you make or how much you fall down, there’s always a “then…”

Not With That Attitude is the perfect record for those burgeoning onto the scene of adulthood. But it’s also magic at speaking to those of us still trying, twenty years on.

Favourite tracks: ‘Solving Crimes in Sweden’, ‘Get A Grip’, ‘Over’. 

Not With That Attitude is out now via Reckless Yes. Catch Fightmilk live headlining for us at The Finsbury on 14th December!

Em Burfitt 
@fenderqueer