ALBUM: Los Bitchos – ‘Let the Festivities Begin!’

The first week of February. The deepest depths of winter. The coldest time of the year. A couple of weeks on from ‘Blue Monday,’ supposedly the most depressing day of the year. What better time to release an album full of summer party bangers? Enter Los Bitchos, wielding their debut record Let the Festivities Begin!, a bumper pack of the pan-continental band’s signature swashbuckling, psych-swirling instrumentals – the sound of the festival you are already impatiently looking forward to.

This is an album dedicated to joy. It is full of irresistible grooves and winding guitar lines and occasionally punctuated by yells of triumph overheard at the end of takes. The guitar line on ‘Pista (Great Start)’ is almost physically tangible, reaching out of the speaker to tickle your spine. Other tunes, particularly ‘Tropico’, move with the synth pulse and go-ahead danceability of a Tom Tom Club record. Half the song names sound like the captions of polaroids from a summer holiday – especially ‘Lindsay Goes to Mykonos’ and ‘Try the Circle!’ – a feeling heightened by the sunny flange guitars that lead most tunes. The group seem to stand for escape to faraway climes, from their pseudo-Spanish name through to the evident inspiration they’ve drawn from the music of warmer countries, from Turkish and Australian psych to Argentinian cumbia.

With Let the Festivities Begin!, Los Bitchos herald the arrival of summer with an album to thaw your soul. It’s playful and modestly epic, encapsulating the infectious spirit that has led the group to be one of the best loved acts on the scene.

Los Bitchos’ new album Let The Festivities Begin! will be released on 4th February.

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Photo Credit: Tom Mitchell

Lloyd Bolton
@lloyd_bolton

ALBUM: Shoun Shoun – ‘Monsters & Heroes’

Truly exemplifying the do-it-yourself band ethos, Bristol-based four-piece Shoun Shoun (‘shoon-shoon’) have released their debut LP of genre-defying noise, Monsters & Heroes – a fuzz-drenched, lo-fi excursion into don’t-give-a-fuck art-punk experiments.

Following the release of their 2019 EP A Hundred Trips – five tracks of dreamy garage rock – lead vocalist and guitarist Annette Berlin began working with an uncontrollable urge to connect with music. Finding intimacy with sound during a time when the UK was in lockdown, a result of the continuing global pandemic, Berlin fought isolation with creativity. The result is Monsters & Heroes, a record that rewards repeat spins on the turntable.

Opening with Giuseppe La Rezza’s crashing drum assault and Berlin’s distorted guitar grunge, ‘Did I Play Games’ disorients the listener with its loud-soft-loud dynamic, a juxtaposition of propulsive rhythm and delicate psychedelia recounting that one occasion a friend drunkenly slept on Berlin’s kitchen floor: “Just let me lie here with nothing to do / As long as I lie here everything will wait.” Next, the highly danceable punk groove of ‘Much Sweeter’ enters the chaotic spirit of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, before Shoun Shoun lowers the tempo for the monotone ‘Sway with Me’, Berlin’s evocative lyrics swaying in ethereal feedback – “Feel your way through time and space.”

Recorded in a garage and mixed in a loft, the frustration of lockdown is captured perfectly by Berlin on ‘Stuck’, a pandemic prompted coping mechanism. Her loneliness is confronted by infectious basslines courtesy of Berlin’s neighbour and literal garage rock guitar, whilst ‘Follow Me’ rumbles with a slow burn of unpredictable melody. Boris Ming’s abrasive violin strings stand out amongst a cacophony of idiosyncratic instrumentation, whilst Berlin delivers a vocal performance eerily similar to Björk, pre-The Sugarcubes.

Psych-monstrosity ‘Toxic’ allows for eccentric synth experimentation from Ming, who instinctively lets loose across a scuzzy bassline from Ole Rudd, before the mood shifts into the uplifting poppy alt-rocker, ‘My Daughter’. The lysergic wail of the violin pierces through the hauntingly atmospheric Nick Cave-like soundscape of ‘Refresh & Replay’ before Berlin shifts language for album closer, ‘Schwing Mit Mir’ (or Swing With Me), a droning melody building towards a crescendo of Deutschpunk.

Monsters & Heroes is a fractured collection of songs, reflecting a fractured period of time; two years of emptiness defied by experimental ingenuity. Ignoring genre conventions, Shoun Shoun have crafted complex noise that is uniquely their own, delivering an infectious lockdown long play without compromise.

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Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Brimheim – ‘can’t hate myself into a different shape’

“I am going to be completely honest with you,” sings Danish musician Helena Heinesen Rebensdorff aka Brimheim on her exquisitely tender track ‘favorite day of the week’. It’s a simple enough statement, but she delivers it with startling conviction through her crystalline vocals and considered instrumentation. It’s this candid, yet tentative approach that makes listening to her debut album, can’t hate myself into a different shape, such a cathartic, rewarding experience. The follow up to her 2020 EP, Myself Misspelled, her new record is a poignant reflection on love in all its forms; romantic, platonic and the hardest type to articulate and master: self love.

Brimheim – a name chosen as a homage to her roots in the Faroe Islands, translating as “home of the breaking waves” – worked alongside producer Søren Buhl Lassen to create the sublime sounds on her new record, which she mined from a “deep depression hole” during a global pandemic. Despite the raw and confessional nature of her music, the record is peppered with self-effacing humour and a strong sense of self-awareness, proving that even in the darkest moments of isolation, there’s still room for light and laughter, even if it is occasionally through gritted teeth.

Moving between the boundaries of alt-pop, grunge, shoegaze and electronic music, can’t hate myself into a different shape is an intense, brooding listen. “I have noticed that I am see through” Brimheim observes on the opening track ‘heaven help me i’ve gone crazy’, a frank but gentle expression of what it feels like to “pick at the edges” of yourself when your emotions have been muted by depression. What follows is a beautifully bruising unravelling of vulnerability, with title track ‘can’t hate myself into a different shape’ setting the emotionally resilient tone that permeates the record.

Whether it’s her soft plea for reassurance that she’s not “a burden” on ‘baleen feeder’ (a nod to the filter-feeding system inside the mouths of baleen whales) or her disarming reflection on unconditional love for her wife on the atmospheric ‘lonely is beauty’ – “She is all I could need / Everyone else / Makes me feel lonely” – or a nostalgic ode to teenage friendship on ‘hey amanda’, Brimheim is a master at capturing a moment in its purest form. The exquisite, shadowy majesty of ‘poison fizzing on a tongue’ is a superb example of this, and further proof of her skill for transforming self-flagellation – “When I am finished resisting myself / I will be beaten senseless” – into poetic, exhilarating music.

The rawness of her lyrics on ‘straight into traffic’ are punctuated by fluctuating keys, as she resists the urge to give into thoughts of self harm, ending on a note of genuine hope: “Don’t give in, love / You’re more than enough.” On ‘this weeks laundry’ she extrapolates on the painful, yet absurdly relatable need to keep up appearances by “putting on foundation” for a “trip across the street” to disguise the fact you’re barely able to function. Brimheim pulls herself back from the brink each time, and even on the masochistically titled closing track ‘hurting me for fun’ – where she is pulling herself up “by my hair” – her self-effacing tendencies blossom into acute and astoundingly accurate observations of the effects these emotions can have on the human condition.

I felt like I’d been in this black muddy place, not able to see anything and kind of drowning,” Brimheim revealed to us in an interview about creating the songs that formed can’t hate myself into a different shape. Carving her own path out of a deeply vulnerable state, she has managed to craft a stirring, intricately observed collection of life-affirming songs that chime with relatable melancholy, and that will undoubtedly provide comfort for listeners who may be living through a similar experience.

Brimheim’s debut album can’t hate myself into a different shape is released via W.A.S. Entertainment on 28th January. Pre-order your copy here

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Photo Credit: Hey Jack

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Boy Harsher – ‘The Runner’

On their new album The Runner, Boy Harsher expand the remit of their work, situating their signature dark electro-pop amid a set of alternative avenues implied, but unexplored in their earlier offerings. It comes in part as a response to the domestic setting imposed over the Covid years, which took away the natural context for the creation of what they refer to as “club music”. The process going into the project also served as a form of catharsis for the duo in the face of their own personal struggles, with Jae Matthews’ MS diagnosis in particular being cited by the group in discussing the release.

The 28-minute album is framed as a soundtrack to an accompanying short film created by the band. Under the proudly displayed banner of an Official Soundtrack, the duo lean into the sense of drama and shadow created by their music. Opener ‘Tower’ sets out the stall, with ribbons of synth pulse, heartbreakingly unravelling around the mantra ‘you don’t want to know me,’ before eventually exploding into an epic, howling climax. Other tracks like the closing pair ‘Untitled’ and ‘I Understand’ offer time for the listener to breathe and create a sense of narrative within the music, even in isolation from its intended visual accompaniment.

The form also provides a context for excursions into a range of genres, which gives the album the pace of jukebox soundtracks like Morvern Callar and Jubilee (the latter evidently a key influence on the film itself, as the recently released ‘Machina’ section shows.) This effect is heightened by the inclusion of other voices to Matthews on the album, which furthers its dynamic range. Alongside alternately danceable and ambient tracks credited solely to Boy Harsher are features from Mariana Saldaña on ‘Machina’, a robot rock floor-filler, and Cooper B. Handy (aka Lucy) on the antiheroic anthem ‘Autonomy’, a great would-be retro-futuristic pop tune made unique by their distinctive voice and its spartan production treatment.

The unusual conceptual approach to this album makes for a compelling and refreshingly various collection of songs. In spite of its brevity, we find ourselves on a genuinely cinematic journey across these 8 tracks. Perhaps what is most impressive is its assimilation of this new range of sounds and the voices of other artists into something that still feels distinctively like a Boy Harsher release, an impressive feat given the difference in approach and context for its creation. In creating The Runner universe, complete with the motion picture, the duo have managed to craft a world for their music to inhabit in the absence of its natural real-life context.

Boy Harsher’s new album The Runner is released on 21st Jan via Nude Club/City Slang

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Photo Credit: Jordan Hemmingway

Lloyd Bolton

@franklloydwleft
@lloyd_bolton