EP: Sophie Kilburn – ‘My Room Made Public’

Sophie Kilburn is a London based, Derbyshire born singer-songwriter who merges a classic rock vibe with a modern alt-pop twist. My Room Made Public is her debut EP, featuring four tracks with an emphasis on digging deep to ask how much of our lives we should share with the world. 

Self-empowerment is a theme that runs throughout. Each track scratches the surface on different aspects we share and how we deal with the challenges life throws at us. For example, stirring opener ‘Movements’, with its driving guitar and percussive synth with shades of later Fleetwood Mac (“you’re the wildstar on my fan poster”) reflects on the acceptance that a relationship is over, whilst ‘I’m In love With My Therapist‘ – with its slow rock beat, and soulful refrain of “gotta get out of here” – explores the claustrophobia of self-analysis, using classic ’80s pop-rock sounds.

Although ‘Ruthless’ is a slightly more uptempo dance-pop track (although the lyrics deal with being unsure of oneself), the collection ends on a more reflective note with ‘Under The Heat’ – an emotionally open exploration of the social pressures of misogyny: “Under the heat, since I was young… My voice is strong enough to speak on its own.” That is the message of this EP as a whole; finding your voice and your place in the world, and having fun while you do it. And what is particularly clever is how it uses an old school classic sound to reflect modern pressures in this social media age, all delivered through Sophie’s exquisite, powerful vocals and poignant, emotional lyricism. It is both relatable and catchy, so let it be your therapy.


My Room Made Public is out now. Listen here.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

Photo Credit: Percy Walker-Smith

EP: Porij – ‘Baby Face’

Balancing their love for pop & dance music alongside their social and emotional conscience, Manchester-based four piece Porij have created a bright, spirited collection of songs on their new EP, Baby Face. Whether they’re trying to rebuild the rattled confidence of women walking alone at night on buoyant opener ‘Nobody Scared’, or soothe the sting of a brief break-up on ‘Divine’, Porij do it with playful flair and infectious optimism via their dancing beats and quirky electronics.

Greatly influenced by the carefree time they spent studying, living together and playing to crowds who craved a mixture of genres in Manchester, Porij have leaned into their poppier tendencies on this latest offering. Whilst their debut EP Breakfast hinted at a love for the genre, on Baby Face they unabashedly embrace the joy that comes with writing a succinct pop song. “We’re all pop people,” vocalist & keyboardist Eggy explains. “A lot of bands are quite anti-pop, but I think the art of writing pop is ridiculous! Pop is hard to write.”

Finding method in their “mish-mash” of pop and dance, the bandmates have written four fun-sounding tracks fuelled by everything from lust to disgust. Penned after Eggy learned about the origins of the Reclaim the Night marches whilst watching a crime documentary on Netflix, ‘Nobody Scared’ is designed to empower listeners with its mantra-like chorus, lulling them into a state of security. There’s a healthy dose of self-love on ‘Divine’, with Eggy’s smooth vocals urging listeners to declare “Bitch, I’m divine” when they reach those “pearly gates.”

Guitarist Tommy’s lilting riffs on ‘Ego’ slide smoothly over drummer Tom’s buoyant percussion and James’ edgy basslines, but it’s the pure UK garage club vibes of ‘Can’t Stop’ that provides the real dancefloor-filling energy. They linger on and provide a remedy for the post-hook up blues. Lusty closer ‘Heaven Knows’ pleases with its direct lyrics, contrasting synth sounds and more of the band’s playful beats. It bookends their joyful dive into pop, patriarchy and finding pleasure in skipping through genre loop holes.

Light in all the right places, Porij’s new EP Baby Face provides a brief but lively distraction from everyday life.

Porij’s new EP Baby Face is set for release on 22nd September.

Follow Porij on bandcamp, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Kate Crudgington
@kcbobcut

EP: Goth Lipstick – ‘formless, shapeless’

An EP that the band describe as “a slice-of-life isekai about the adventures of two wraiths”, formless, shapeless from San Francisco’s DIY emo duo Goth Lipstick draws you effortlessly into their candy-coated, glitch-splattered dream world. Following their full length album crystalline corset from earlier this year, formless, shapeless continues to explore themes of identity and queer liberation.

The EP consists of fairly short tracks, with most lasting less than two minutes thirty seconds. The single exception is ‘faceless, nameless’, which reaches a whole four minutes. Every track is incredibly tightly constructed. None of them feel too short; each one feels exactly long enough to tell its story and then wraps without wasting any time, leaving you with the precise impression it wanted to convey.

The collection begins with the titular ‘formless, shapeless’ – a slow, soft rumble that leads into quick, clicking percussion under high chirpy keys and husky vocals. While the tempo, energy and general style of the tracks vary, this opening song establishes some key elements early on that are consistent through the EP.

As a whole, the EP creates a distinctly unique and endlessly interesting soundscape, blending distorted and electronic sounds with gentle, clear piano notes. The relationship between the different types of sound is key to the Goth Lipstick style, with acoustic and electric notes dancing playfully around each other, with those echoing vocals floating over the top.

The use of glitches too gives these songs so much character. The jerks and digital stumbles always hit at exactly the right moment, whether that’s ripping into a vocal that’s well into its stride or distorting sounds that are just starting to build, creating a more chaotic journey from the first couple of beats.

Whilst there are massive differences in feeling from track to track, they fit so well together that they flow beautifully.

The second track, ‘wraiths awake’, brings a bigger energy into the EP. It is broadly more upbeat, but winds down into vocals that have a sense of vulnerability about them, before bouncing back into the hyped electronica.

‘identity thief’, all heavy growling, glitching bass, is followed by the light and chirpy ‘chocolate’, then the rich swollen beats of ‘fangs’, which wouldn’t be out of place heard on a nightclub dance-floor at midnight.

Somehow these seemingly conflicting songs sit very comfortably side by side on this EP. It feels much more like this is down to a matter of attitude than any one particular technical component. The songs sit so well because they feel made to be played together, and you can feel how much fun the artists had constructing every beat of the finished product.

It’s so easy to get drawn into Goth Lipstick’s story, to bathe in the cool, flowing emotions heavy in this EP. It’s not surprising to see that the first edition cassette run is already sold out.

formless, shapeless, the latest EP from Goth Lipstick, is out now. It is available to download via bandcamp.

Kirstie Summers
@ActuallyKurt

EP: all cats are beautiful – ‘the things we made’

Released at the beginning of the month via Moshi Moshi, all cats are beautiful’s latest EP the things we made provides a heartfelt, off-kilter take on pop in the twenty first century with a beautifully developed sense of melody and texture. Where more self-conscious artists might have slipped into irony or even parody when playing with genre in the way this record does, the honesty and vulnerability of the lyrics instead steer it down a far more rewarding path; one that combines the hooks and emotional kick of the best pop with a willingness to experiment, keeping the listener guessing.

The band consists of “queer best friends” Elena and Kyle and this seven track release has a truly collaborative feel to it. Both are credited with playing multiple instruments and switch vocal duties throughout, while the way that the songs have been pieced together – often relatively sparse arrangements which sound nonetheless full of feeling – seems, somehow, reflective of the process of sending and receiving musical ideas across the internet during lockdown. The opening track of the EP – ‘(u know) u mean a long minute 2 me’, in which the lyrics apparently came from Kyle mishearing a line of dialogue in Netflix docu-series Tiger King, a fact that in itself makes the early-lockdown writing period extremely clear – was also the EP’s lead single. It sets the scene for what follows beautifully: a long, soft, introduction to the record which finally kicks into gear with the introduction of drums about two and a half minutes in, shifting from atmospheric pop to a shimmering lowkey take on disco.

If you’ve ever wondered (and I’m not sure why you would) what it would sound like if The XX tried their talented hands at making early 2000s slow jams, it might not sound a million miles away from ‘u c right thru me like a windowpane’. Certainly the atmospherics and soft vocal delivery which The XX made their trademark is evident here, but ACAB have far greater warmth in their lyrics and have more fully embraced pop sensibilities. So, in fact, a comparison to XX solo project Romy is probably more apt. The band themselves credit Owen Pallett’s ‘I Am Not Afraid’ as an inspiration for this track and the connection extends beyond a lyrical reference – both treat genre with the same flexibility while remaining refreshingly earnest. Julia Holter is another useful melodic reference point for the EP as a whole.

Other highlights include the rolling melodies of ‘skippin down the stairs like a slinky’ and the Blood Orange-esque ‘i get dayblindness when ur nearby’ which skitters along, built around a chorus to make connoisseurs of 2010s R’n’B swoon. Meanwhile, EP-closer ‘tryna b the 1 2 solve ur shape’ is the kind of ambient-inspired pop which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Frank Ocean’s Blonde

There has clearly been a great deal of care taken in the construction of these songs – in their lyrics, their melodies, their arrangements and their recording and engineering. As a result, there isn’t a loose moment across the seven tracks; not a wasted or superfluous second, just twenty two and a half minutes of wonderfully imperfect pop.

the things we made, the new EP from all cats are beautiful, is out now via Moshi Moshi Records. Listen/download here.

Gregory Metcalfe
@GregorysParty

Photo Credit: Aaron Price