FIVE FAVOURITES: Aerial East

Described as a deeply personal coming-of-age record, New York-based musician Aerial East is preparing to release her poetic new album, Try Harder, on 12th February. Set to be released via Partisan Records, the LP tentatively explores East’s experiences of disconnection, loneliness, suicide, friendships, gender roles and breakups, whilst also embracing the simple beauty that life can unexpectedly bestow upon us.

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 Aerial East to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch Aerial East’s latest video for ‘Try Harder’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
This album just keeps giving. When I first heard it in 2010 I had a really negative reaction to it. I was already a big fan having binged The Milk Eyed Mender and Ys after high school. A friend of mine made a comment about her during this time that was something like “I would marry her without even meeting her” and I followed an immature impulse to prove that she wasn’t that amazing by rejecting the overwhelming 3 disc record. By 2011 though I was feeling heartbroken and I found myself uncontrollably humming and singing ‘On a Good Day’, the most digestible song on the epic breakup record. The more heartbroken I felt the more I threw myself into the record. I must have listened to this album thousands of times – probably more than any other. It is so familiar to me and feels like home. It still makes me cry. My friend Kelly once said that she feels like herself when she hears it. I feel that way too. I still don’t always know what is going to happen next when I listen though. I haven’t yet memorized the lyrics, melodies and structures of the songs and that makes for stimulating repeated listens. I saw her perform again in 2019 and it sent me into a satisfying spiral of obsessively analyzing her lyrics and reading about her that really helped me think and write about my own songs.

2. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
The Kick Inside gives this one a run for its money but Hounds of Love is the record I put on to cheer myself up when I’m feeling depressed. I actually first heard the song ‘Hounds of Love’ in high school when the Futureheads covered it and didn’t discover Bush until years later when I moved to New York. I was immediately drawn in when I first saw her dancing in the red dress video for ‘Wuthering Heights’. I remember thinking I had heard the song as a child but I later realized I was remembering ‘Come to My Window’ by Melissa Etheridge. Anyway, Bush’s videos are all amazing. I wanted to study mime for a long time because of her. I still kind of do. Hounds of Love is one of the best records ever made.

3. Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Ethiopiques, vol. 21: Emahoy (Piano Solo)
This record centers me. It was all I could listen to in 2016 and I don’t play piano but I wanted my record Try Harder to feel like this. I first heard it when I was working at Dimes, a restaurant I have worked at since 2013. I used to listen to it often while setting up for my night shift that the closing daytime server would put it on when they saw me arrive. Emahoy, homemade pizza, and David Attenborough got me through 2016. A good remedy for anxiety.

4. Joni Mitchell – Blue
I mean, come on. It’s so good! I actually didn’t get into Joni Mitchell until Teeny Leiberson and Rachel Pazdan invited me to perform in their HUM Joni Mitchell tribute show. There was a lot to dig into and I said yes obviously, but then I had a deadline to familiarize myself with her work – she is pretty prolific – and choose a song I wanted to sing. I ended up doing ‘My Old Man’ because I don’t really write love songs even though I’m very romantic and ‘Hana’ from 2007’s Shine, because I wanted to acknowledge her as a contemporary artist. This is one of those records that just makes me feel good when it comes on. It came out the same year as Carole King’s Tapestry and I like thinking about the two different song-writing styles. Tapestry has so many crazy big hit songs that you are like “wait, she wrote that song too?!” They are such perfectly written pop songs but Blue is full of weird idiosyncratic songs that only really make sense if Joni is singing them. I love both albums so much and I imagine Carole made more money off of Tapestry because those songs are so widely covered and licensed, but if I could choose I would rather have made Blue.

5. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Beautiful melodies, beautiful harmonies, dizzying layered vocals, heart-breaking lyrics produced joyfully. I’m not sure if it was the first time I heard this record but I remember listening to these songs upstate and crying and everyone in the room politely pretending not to see. Pet Sounds was a big reference when I was producing my first record Rooms.

Thanks to Aerial for sharing her favourites with us!

Watch Aerial East’s video for ‘Try Harder’ below.

You can pre-order Aerial East’s new album Try Harder here.

Follow Aerial East on Spotify, bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook 

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

Guest (video) Blog: ARXX

Covid 19 and the necessary restrictions surrounding it have brought about a number of cancellations of music events, including what would have been Get In Her Ears’ very first festival. It would have taken place on Saturday, 18th July, and was set to be a pretty special day, filled with some of our favourite female and non binary artists. Fingers crossed we can finally make it happen next year…

One of the bands set to play was total faves ARXX. The Brighton duo have been wowing us for some time now and, with their raging ferocious energy and unmatched raw power, they’ve blown us away live at The Finsbury on more than one occasion. We just can’t get enough of their immense, empowering anthems, and had been really looking forward to hosting them again.

In the absence of our festival, and any gigs, at the moment, Hanni and Clara from ARXX have recorded a special video, just for us – all about their favourite albums and the music that’s been getting them through lockdown. Have a watch!

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, Co-Founder & 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, Hole.

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 into production credits. What I want to get into 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 women and girls, growing up in a world that consistently tells them 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 film. 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 “c**t” 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 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