ALBUM: Anna B Savage – ‘A Common Turn’

An exquisite unravelling of the self that’s layered with melancholy, joy and wit, Anna B Savage‘s debut album A Common Turn is a compelling collection of deftly crafted songs that enrapture the ears. The London-born, Dublin-based songwriter has channelled her feelings of grief and insecurity into a confident and cohesive record, cauterizing the emotional wounds of her past and taking charge of her future.

Released via City Slang and produced by William Doyle, Savage’s debut LP is a raw yet polished affair that brims with her eccentric observations about love, growth, working “really fucking hard” and most surprisingly, her admiration of birds. Having had a fascination with them since childhood, Savage uses birds as a visual motif throughout the record; their recurrence acting as warnings, epiphanies or reassurances that eloquently shift Savage’s narrative perspective.

The skittish, evocative opener ‘A Steady Warmth’ bleeds into the congenial acoustic guitar strums on ‘Corncrakes’, her confessional lyrics bringing her vivid inner monologue to life. Savage admits she doesn’t “feel things as keenly” anymore and struggles to break relatable bad habits: “I want to text you / but it’d mean I’d thought about you.” Her willingness to explore this rocky emotional territory is epitomised on ‘Dead Pursuit’.

An affecting, defiant ballad that sees her tear herself “limb from limb”, Savage penned this track whilst grappling with imposter syndrome after the success of her 2015 debut EP, which caught the attention of Father John Misty and Jenny Hval who she went on to tour with. It’s humbling to hear Savage lay her insecurities bare and comforting to see her desires for quick fixes – “I’m dying my hair and cutting out sugar” – didn’t stop her from fleshing out the sounds on her beguiling debut record.

The urgent line “I want us to thrive” is delivered with deft conviction on ‘BedStuy’, whilst the serendipitous creation of ‘Baby Grand’ and its forthcoming accompanying short film – which Anna worked on with ex-partner Jem Talbot – is “an exploration of the how and why some people just crawl into your heart and make a home there.” She displays the sheer power of her vocal range on ‘Two’ amidst raw guitar twangs and unexpected jagged electronics. They punctuate the track, as Savage sits in pensive reflection in her childhood bedroom, fearing she will “never amount to anything.” She lets the walls echo her doubts back at her, pushing her emotional resilience to its limit.

The album’s title track ‘A Common Tern’ is a brooding exploration of Savage’s need to be free from the shackles of a pernicious romantic relationship. The track shares its name with a seabird, the sight of which prompted Savage to re-think her relationship while on a fishing trip with her ex. These startling moments of realisation are tentatively placed throughout the record, with following track ‘Chelsea Hotel #3’ showing listeners just how empowering a break from your past can be.

It’s an intense, exquisite celebration of female pleasure and how Savage has learned to dismiss the damaging tropes associated with it. Fans of Leonard Cohen will be familiar with the opening lyric – “He was giving me head on my unmade bed” – as it’s paraphrased from Cohen’s track ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’. Through tentative guitar sounds, revealing lyrics and measured vocals, Savage subverts Cohen’s storytelling, re-writing the narrative to rid herself of shame and confusion. When she sings “I will learn to take care of myself” it’s with genuine, unfaltering conviction.

Savage’s lyrics continue to ripple with an earnest beauty on ‘Hotel’. The image of the red foam left in her bloodied mouth after vigorously brushing her teeth is strikingly poetic. “I turn the big lights off / I put my headphones in” she sings, indirectly instructing listeners the best way in which to let her sounds sink into their consciousness. The stripped back, bare nature of closing track ‘One’ is a potent wish to be “strong and fine.” “Jesus I’m too insecure for this / for him to undress me then take the piss” Savage exhales, grappling with emotional sore spots and physical unease with ones self. She handles feelings of shame and melancholy with impressive tact and sensitivity, healing open wounds by confronting her vulnerabilities head on.

“For me, ‘a common turn’ is those moments of decision where you think ‘I’m not taking this anymore,” Savage explains about the title of her record. “Whether it’s the way someone else is treating you or the what you’re treating yourself.” Her poetic refusal to be erased by the pain of her own experiences is what makes listening to A Common Turn so compelling. Savage’s patient, captivating soundscapes traverse intensely personal terrain, and what a privilege it is to be allowed into this vast, wildly honest territory of hers.

Listen to A Common Turn on bandcamp or Spotify

Follow Anna B Savage on TwitterInstagram & Facebook for more updates

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

STILL SPINNING: The Joy Formidable – ‘The Big Roar’

Our “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. Get In Her Ears Co-Founder & Features Editor Kate Crudgington talks us through why Welsh alternative trio The Joy Formidable’s debut album The Big Roar, released in January 2011, is still one of her most influential listens today.

 

At the tender age of nineteen, I discovered The Joy Formidable through a crush who I was trying to impress, and my ears were introduced to a whole new world of music outside of the charts. It’s this priceless personal affiliation with the songs on their debut album The Big Roar that has kept me listening to it for the last decade.

Formed of Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd & Matt Thomas, The Joy Formidable dropped The Big Roar in January 2011, two years after their debut EP A Balloon Called Moaning, and twenty year old me fell head over heels in love with it. It was one of the first albums I owned on vinyl, but before that I’d been listening to it on CD. I’d bought the limited edition boxset which included a pin badge, a CD of live recordings and a piece of Ritzy’s smashed guitar. I worked part-time in retail on minimum wage back then, so it took a hefty chunk out of my pay-check, but it was worth every penny.

As the title suggests, The Big Roar rips and roars with vital, visceral urgency; plunging listeners into overwhelming waves of sound before allowing them to resurface and breathe again. The record was already littered with singles I knew – ‘Whirring’, ‘Austere’, ‘Cradle’ & ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ – so listening for the first time flooded me with both familiarity and excitement. I thought it was a bold move to open an album with a 40 second cacophony of indiscernible clacking noises, but after repeated listens it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate. It laid the foundation for spiralling opener ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie,’ which rushes the ears with its swelling riffs and urgent vocals. This track, along with ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ both brim with cathartic guitar wails and commanding beats, encouraging listeners to be “courage’s child” and break away from the past.

The stomping rhythms of ‘The Magnifying Glass’, ‘Chapter 2’ and ‘A Heavy Abacus’ were already known to me because I’d heard them live. I remember turning up to The Garage in Islington in 2009 to see the band headline, and afterwards having an overwhelming feeling that I’d just seen something that was going to change my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but watching Ritzy Bryan shredding her guitar, singing lead vocals and thrashing her white-blonde hair around the stage with her bandmates galvanized my idea of what a guitar band should be, and quite frankly – who I wanted to be. I wanted to be just like her.

When I used to frequent the dancefloor at The Pink Toothbrush on a Saturday night – one of the only alternative clubs in my home county of Essex – DJ Darren B would play ‘Whirring’ in its entirety, so my friends and I could thrash about to it at the beginning of the night. Its thudding drum beats and punchy lyrics have kept me stomping on numerous floorboards for hours. The track’s enduring power stays with me for this reason, and because its epic disorientating outro differs to the version that’s on the band’s 2009 EP. ‘Cradle’ and ‘Austere’ blitz by in a whir of thrashing guitars and catchy lyrical refrains, and were also numbers DJ Darren B would treat us to on a night out.

The ear-swelling ‘Buoy’ is one of the bands strongest anthems. From the subtle allure of Ritzy’s opening guitar riffs, to Rhydian’s dense buzzing bass lines; it’s an all-consuming aural blur. I love the way they spit the last lines “And you should have talked / and you should talk too / ’cause in twenty years / you’ll be a fucking mute” – their urgency complimented by dizzying riffs and Matt’s relentless percussion. My ribs still remember the thrill of being hit by the sound from the speakers after the ferocious drop in when I heard this live at Kentish Town Forum. Gentle interlude ‘(Maruyama)’ provides a moment of respite on the album following this belter.

Bassist Rhydian takes the vocal lead on ‘Llaw=Wall’, which like ‘Buoy’ has a colossal drop in. I’ve been miming “spit on the window is what you are” into the mirror since 2011, but a quick Google search just informed me it’s “spilt” – which brings me on to another TJF song I’d been singing incorrect lyrics to. The opening track on A Balloon Called Moaning, but the closing one for The Big Roar, ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ still sounds as shadowy and hypnotic today to me now as it did back in 2009 when I first heard it. I thought the chorus opened with the line “Destroy this…” but it’s actually “This dream is…” but who cares about technicalities like that when you’re swept up in the layers of frenzied guitar and Ritzy’s tender vocals. It’s been a song that I’ve turned to at so many different points in my life that my heart overflows with nostalgia when I hear it. “This childish heart won’t wait / it dances, keeps me awake” is my favourite (correct) lyric, and I cherish this Joy Formidable track above all others.

After penning such a passionate essay about The Big Roar, it might surprise you to know that I didn’t review the record when it was first released. When I looked up some reviews of the album by respected music publications, one labelled it as a “brit-pop” revival record. The only nineties influences I can hear are grunge and shoegaze, but these comparisons are all tiresome rhetoric, distracting us from the most important thing – The Joy Formidable just sound really fucking good on this album. Getting weighed down by the technicalities of “who” or “what” a band sound like is tedious. It’s much more enjoyable to just shamelessly fan girl over their record instead.

Listen to The Big Roar on bandcamp or Spotify.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Harkin – ‘Harkin’

Armed with experiences from a life of touring and collaborations, Harkin has taken her first steps towards a solo journey with her eponymous LP. The album is set for release on 24th April via Hand Mirror, a new label set up by Harkin and her partner, poet & live arts organiser, Kate Leah Hewett.

Well known for being a touring member of Sleater-Kinney, Wild Beasts, and Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett; Harkin has teamed up with Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint) and Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak & Bon Iver) to help record her debut album – but this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s all Harkin, through and through.

Opening with the booming guitar of ‘Mist on Glass’, Harkin is off to a powerful start as bold, sharp vocals carry through from one track to the next. The swagger of ‘Nothing the Night Can’t Change’ gives way to the softer sonics of ‘Decade’, before the first highlight of the 10-track production comes in the form of thumping beats and husky vocals of ‘Up To Speed’. Next track ‘Bristling’ follows the same path, with a soundscape of drums and guitar.

At the halfway point, ‘Dial It In’ passes by, followed by interlude ‘Red Virginia Creeper’ before the undeniable stand out track of the album breaks through. The foreboding, looming and brilliant ‘Sun Stay With Me’ is the beginning of an eerie mood that travels through the remaining tracks of the album. Penultimate offering ‘New France’ is soaked in reverb-ridden sonics, and spoken word-esque delivery, vibrating with a presence that’s felt even after the last notes fade.

Harkin closes with the ringing acoustic stylings of ‘Charm and Tedium’, with a razor sharp focus on Harkin’s raw vocals. Completed over 16 days dotted between Harkin’s gruelling tour schedule, Harkin is a collection of gritty but smooth songs that showcase a unique trajectory; combining the warmth of nostalgia, with the glitchy pace of the modern world.

Pre-order your copy of Harkin’s debut album here.
Follow Harkin on Spotify and Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Tomm Roeschlein

Malvika Padin
@malvika_padin26

ALBUM: Nova Twins – ‘Who Are The Girls?’

Driven by devious bass lines and ferocious lyrics, Nova Twins‘s debut album Who Are The Girls? is an aural uppercut that proves the London-based duo’s furious instinct for writing anarchic anthems. Formed of Amy Love & Georgia South, the pair have been praised by Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello for their genre-defying tunes and their debut LP is bursting with their trademark heavy sound.

Released via 333 Wreckords on 28th February, Who Are The Girls? is a raw, abrasive collection of thundering bass lines, uncompromising rhythms and wicked riffs. Opener ‘Vortex’ – home to the lyric the album is named after – is the perfect introduction to their noise. Swirling, distorted bass and pounding beats permeate the track, as vocalist Amy rips through verses with enviable vocal power. She possesses a stunningly clear voice; it’s as if she needs no amplification when switching between shouts, snarls, and smoothly delivered lines with ease.

‘Play Fair’ and ‘Taxi’ are assaults on the senses, with more of Georgia’s mind-melting distortion blaring throughout. Armed with her instrument and her pedal board, she executes ear drums with lethal force on the pulverising ‘Devil’s Face’. Listeners should heed Amy’s warning to “get out my way” on following track ‘Not My Day’, after which the brilliant ‘Bullet’ kicks in. The track is a powerful statement against street harassment and the myth that women are “asking for it” if they dress in a certain way. Amy’s lyrics are the ultimate weapon against such insults, making it crystal clear that those who touch without permission are not fucking welcome.

You can take a walk on the “wild side” when the belting ‘Lose Your Head’ bursts through, before being schooled by more of Amy’s savage lyricism on the menacingly slow ‘Ivory Tower’. Hair-raising screams and ear-shredding riffs dominate penultimate track ‘Undertaker’, before ‘Athena’ closes the record. Named after the Greek Goddess associated with warfare, it’s an apt way to end a collection of genre-defying, lethal new tunes.

Nova Twins’ battle cry for equality and diversity on Who Are The Girls? resonates long after their record stops spinning. They are a force for fun, for fury, and – most importantly – for change in an industry that still can’t/won’t book a female-fronted band to headline a major festival. Nova Twins have us riled, re-energised, and ready to ask for more.

Pre-order your copy of Nova Twins’ debut album here.
Follow the band on Facebook and Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut