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

Re-Covered: Sally-Anne’s Illustrated Favourite Albums

If you’re anything like us, throughout Lockdown you may have been seeking refuge in some of your favourite records, perhaps rediscovering some old classics along the way. In the first of a new feature, illustrator Sally-Anne Hickman re-imagines her favourite ten albums of all time by painting their covers in her own unique style, using watercolours.

Check out the first of Sally-Anne’s choices below, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest over the next few weeks… 

Hole – Live Through This
From the opening chords coupled with the lyrics “and the sky was made of amethyst”, ‘Violet’ – the opening track of Live Through This – perfectly captures the powerful raw energy that courses through this album’s veins. Courtney Love’s personal lyrics deal with themes of body image, motherhood and revenge, creating various female characters written from her own pain and trauma. I have played this album thousands of times, its blended melodies sit over the heavy guitar riffs perfectly and were a chaotic soundtrack to my adolescence.

Sally-Anne Hickman
@sallyshinystars

Still Spinning: Hole – ‘Nobody’s Daughter’

Our brand new “Still Spinning” feature focuses on records that we consider to be iconic (whether that’s for popular, or personal reasons), and celebrates our enduring love for them. First up, Features Editor Kate Crudgington talks us through why Hole’s fourth album, Nobody’s Daughter, released in 2010, is still one of her most influential listens.

Admired by plenty, and maligned by equally as many; Hole‘s front woman Courtney Love has been a controversial figure in rock music for over two decades. Actively antagonistic towards the 90s Riot Grrrl movement (even though many consider her music & persona to be the living embodiment of it), Love has carved a career that’s so notoriously independent, I often forget there are four other talented musicians in her band.

That being said, the majority of these musicians were absent from the recording of Nobody’s Daughter, which was initially conceived as Love’s second solo record in 2005. It’s probably worth mentioning that Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins played a role in the writing of this album too, but I don’t want to get in to production credits. What I want to get in to is how Hole (and by default, Courtney Love) have created some of the most cathartic, memorable music I’ve ever heard.

There’s no denying Love has exhibited plenty of toxic behaviour in the past, but I feel her male counterparts in the industry are rarely treated with such judgement, disdain or hatred. I don’t care if her vocals aren’t pitch perfect, or if she plays chords “the lazy way” (as my first boyfriend once put it). What I care about is how her music offers an alternative to angry young women, growing up in a world that consistently tells women to minimise their anger.

Nobody’s Daughter is the first Hole album I listened to in full. I was about to turn twenty-five, and I was livid after being dumped on public transport by my first boyfriend after a 3 and a half year relationship. My cousin Rebecca – an original 90s Riot Grrrl – gave me some of her Hole CDs, and from the opening lyric of the eponymous track, I was hooked. “Made something better, kept it for himself” seethes Love, taking me right back to the rage I felt the morning after the breakup. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated, and so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate that properly to friends and family. I’d been waiting for permission to tell the truth about my post-breakup feelings, and Nobody’s Daughter granted me that permission in a heartbeat.

It’s worth noting I took the lyrics on this album very seriously/personally, which is probably why I prefer the ragers, and not the quieter tracks. The way Love snarls “Don’t tell me I have lost, when clearly I’ve won” resonated with me deeply post-breakup. I needed that level of petty competitiveness to get me through. Love could be referring to any number of things on ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ – including her own complicated relationship with Frances Bean Cobain – but to me, that track is a defiant middle finger to anyone who had a pre-conceived idea of how I would behave or react post-relationship.

Vicious second track ‘Skinny Little Bitch’ is another example of how I framed Love’s aggressive lyrics to fit my own feelings. The track rips into life in such a violent, infectious way, it’s hard not to screech the lyric “You will never see the light, I’ll just obscure it out of spite” without feeling fan-fucking-tastic. Of course, I don’t advocate women tearing down other women – especially not about their weight – but whether you frame yourself as the bitch Love’s hating on in the song, or as the bitch who’s tearing this girl a new one – it’s hard not to find respite in the spite, even if it feels misdirected when I listen to it now.

The third rager is ‘Samantha’. It comes after alt-folk tracks ‘Honey’ and ‘Pacific Coast Highway’, both of which feel like they could soundtrack a Bonnie & Clyde style getaway movie. They’re not bad tracks by any means, but they’re easy to skip over when you know ‘Samantha’ is on the horizon. “Watch her wrap her legs around this world, can’t take the gutter from the girl” seethes Love, over roaring guitars and buzzing bass lines. I love the accompanying video to this track, where she’s tearing through a desolated city, wearing a wedding dress with the word “cunt” embroidered on it.

I think the most vicious line on the record is “If you were on fire, I would just throw kerosene”. I was intoxicated by Love’s ability to speak the psychopathic unspeakable. The follow-up lyric “I love so much I hate, and I hate what you have seen in me” still strikes a chord today. The binary opposites of love and hate, and how they’re a hair’s breadth apart in feeling, is something that fuels Nobody’s Daughter, and is probably why I invested so much time listening to it in the aftermath of a breakup.

I’m out of the ragers zone now, and rolling around in ‘Someone Else’s Bed’. In the midst of hanxiety (hangover anxiety), I would listen to this and take a sick kind of joy from the lyric “I quite enjoy your suffering, Oh I want to watch the view”. Turns out, I’m pretty mean/melodramatic on a hangover, and clearly enjoy stewing in my own emotions. When I listen back now, I smirk at how much time twenty-five year old me dedicated to being angry and upset about something I couldn’t change.

I have to confess, my attention drifts towards the end of Nobody’s Daughter. ‘For Once In Your Life’, ‘Letter To God’ and ‘Loser Dust’ go over my head. Things pick up again when Love starts shouting and screaming on ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean’. It smoulders with her trademark fury, even in the opening verses where it’s just Love and her acoustic guitar. ‘Never Go Hungry’ closes the record with a quiet determination. “I’m hungry for, life a little less cruel” muses Love, a sentiment that still fills me with hope.

Nobody’s Daughter taught me many things, but mostly it taught me that feeling irrational, or angry, or mad at a situation you can’t change is okay. It also taught me how destructive those feelings can be. It was my introduction to Hole’s discography, and led me to discover Live Through This, another Hole album that I feel forever indebted to. Say what you like about Courtney Love – and the whole Hole saga – Nobody’s Daughter is a fierce, frenzied record that deserves repeated listens (purely for the ragers).

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: Ilgen-Nur

If Hamburg-based “Slackerqueen” Ilgen-Nur had listened to the doubts instilled in her mind by the petty comments of her male teenage counterparts, she wouldn’t be preparing to release her debut album Power Nap on 30th August via her own label Power Nap Records. “If some stupid boys…hadn’t given me the feeling that I had nothing on my plate, I would have knocked something out four or five years ago at the age of 18/19” she recounts, “It took me so long to rebuild my self-confidence”.

But that’s exactly what she’s done, having released an EP titled No Emotions in 2017, playing slots at The Great Escape Festival, Eurosonic and Spot Festival, and even having her song ’17’ chosen for Netflix series How to Sell Drugs online (fast).

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Ilgen-Nur to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to her brand new track ‘Nothing Surprises Me’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Kate Nash – Made of Bricks
This album is probably the reason why I’m writing music. Made of Bricks by Kate Nash was the first album I purchased that wasn’t something that was considered “mainstream” or some sort of music I got to know through TV or the radio. Actually, my sister recommended it to me after hearing the song ‘Foundations’ which I feel like to this day is an iconic indie song for an entire generation. I was immediately drawn to the story-telling songwriting and I remember listening to this album over and over again for years and years (starting when I was 11) and just getting obsessed over the lyrics, remembering every single lyric and getting lost in the characters Kate Nash was singing about. For example, ‘Mariella’ — I even have a reference to that song in my own song ‘Cool’! I remember practicing the songs on my piano over and over again and spending endless hours watching Kate Nash interviews. After all, she was my first proper role model and I am more than thankful for that. Through her, I discovered bands like Nirvana and Hole and Bikini Kill. Kate Nash taught me that I don’t have to be professional in playing an instrument to create something that I like, which I cherish to this day. And oh ‘Nicest Thing’ is still a classic to cry to!

2. Hole – Live Through This
When I first started getting into Hole, I read an interview with Courtney Love in which she said “I want every girl in the world to pick up a guitar and start screaming” — I believe that this statement was the ultimate reason why I asked my parents to get me an electric guitar for my 16th birthday. I started playing a bunch of Hole songs on guitar which was super fun and to this day, I love playing ‘Miss World’ on guitar. It’s so simple, yet so energetic. Ultimately, after watching all these videos of Courtney Love perform and re-watching all these dark and dreamy Hole music videos I felt like for the first time in my life I was allowed to scream and be angry at the world. It felt, and still feels liberating to this day. Obviously at the beginning of my Hole fandom I didn’t really get what most songs were about, yet later re-connected and understood the themes of sexual abuse, trauma and feeling angry and empty. It’s a powerful album to me, and it’s also probably one of my favorite artworks.

3. Elliott Smith – Either/Or
This one I have only discovered a year ago or so. Whilst hanging out at my bassists place ‘Between the Bars’ came on and I was drawn to it immediately. My guitarist and roommate had Either/Or on vinyl and I couldn’t stop listening to it, I put it on almost every morning for months, got completely sad and lost in all the songs. I was surprised that it literally took me this long to discover Elliott Smith, but I’m also thankful and excited about it. I’m very drawn to his guitar sound and the overlapping of vocals and the general lo-fi sound. I actually once got asked if the title of my first EP No Emotions is linked to Elliott Smith’s song ‘Waltz #2’ where he sings “she shows no emotion at all, stares into space like a dead china doll“ — but at the time I didn’t even know the song, only later listened to it randomly and that line came up and I was super perplexed and didn’t know what to say. I felt even more connected to his whole persona and music. ‘Angeles’ is by far one of my favorite songs generally and on this album.

4. Jeff Buckley – Grace
Every time someone plays ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ in the van whilst we are on tour, I believe at least one person in the car cries. I don’t know what else to say, other than this is an amazing album to cry to and be melancholic and dramatic. It’s also just perfect to me, and I feel like it’s extremely underrated among other musicians. I actually don’t think that a lot of my friends who play guitar music know or love this album, but I feel like it’s that one album everyone can find a song on that they connect with. Jeff Buckley’s voice is so beautiful, and I don’t even know how and what he plays on guitar because it’s definitely nothing simple but it sucks you in like crazy. His lyrics are so pure and magical, one of my favorites by him on this album is on the song ‘So Real’ – “Love, let me sleep tonight on your couch / and remember the smell of the fabric of your simple city dress”. And “We walked around ’til the moon got full / like a plate”. It’s by far one of my favorite albums, it’s quiet and it’s loud and dramatic – it’s everything. I’m definitely influenced by Buckley’s singing even though I would never compare my voice to his.

5. Soko – I thought I was an Alien
Soko is not only my fashion and makeup inspiration, but also taught me so many things. I love all of her songs, but this debut album is special to me. It’s extremely raw and Soko doesn’t shy away when it comes to being in touch which her negative emotions and being completely honest with her listeners. I love her stories and her calm voice, and I like the way she’s switching instruments when she’s playing live (even though I haven’t seen her live yet, unfortunately). She has this one song on this album called ‘I Just Want To Make It New With You”, which initially made me pick up my bass more when it came to song writing. Overall, Soko was my first queer indie icon and every one of my queer friends has cried at least once to the “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow’ video. I love Soko, and I’m so excited for her future records and videos.

Thanks to Ilgen-Nur for sharing her favourite with us. Follow her on Facebook for more updates.