Track Of The Day: Real Big Sky – ‘Jess’

A reverb-heavy, atmospheric guitar tune permeated with enigmatic lyrics and swirling, crashing percussion, Gothenburg four-piece Real Big Sky have shared their latest single ‘Jess’. Taken from the band’s self-titled debut album which is set for release in July, the track blurs powerful riffs with melancholic vocals to create a commanding four minutes of brooding indie noise.

Originally created as a distraction for multi-instrumentalist Sara Kleppe (You Break, You Buy, Gold Baby) during the Covid-19 lockdowns here in the UK in 2020, Real Big Sky began life as a solo project which Kleppe worked on at home in her bedroom in Hackney. Making good use of her time during an unpredictable year, Kleppe picked up her old electric guitar and began working out songs and sounds that would eventually form the eight tracks on Real Big Sky’s album. Kleppe relocated back to her native Sweden in 2021, and now Real Big Sky have now blossomed into a full band made up of her friends and family members.

With the help of friend & long-term collaborator Luca Romano – who also played drums and was on recording, mixing and production duties for the record – Real Big Sky’s sound is now fully fleshed and ready to be released into the world. The band’s debut single ‘Long Lost’ was a heavy lullaby which aimed to soothe the sting of loneliness, but their latest offering ‘Jess’ feels darker and more introspective – whilst still retaining the cathartic, moody essence of Real Big Sky’s sound.

Listen to ‘Jess’ below.

 

Follow Real Big Sky on bandcampSpotifyFacebook & Instagram

Photo Credit: Johanna Kleppe

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Real Big Sky – ‘Long Lost’

A brooding, atmospheric musing on feelings of loneliness and isolation, Gothenburg four-piece Real Big Sky have shared their debut single ‘Long Lost’. Full of moody guitar sounds, shiver-inducing cymbal smashes and melancholic vocals, the track is a captivating slice of dark indie noise, taken from the band’s self-titled debut album which is set for release in July.

Originally created as a distraction for multi-instrumentalist Sara Kleppe (You Break, You Buy, Gold Baby) during the Covid-19 lockdowns here in the UK in 2020, Real Big Sky began life as a solo project which Kleppe worked on at home in her bedroom in Hackney. Making good use of her time during an unpredictable year, Kleppe picked up her old electric guitar and began working out songs and sounds that would eventually form the eight tracks on Real Big Sky’s album. After relocating back to her native Sweden in 2021, Real Big Sky have now blossomed into a full band made up of Kleppe’s friends and family members, with debut single ‘Long Lost’ being the first of what’s to come from these intriguing newcomers.

With her tender vocals and expansive guitar sounds, she transcends feelings of isolation, creating a cathartic, heavy lullaby for those who may still be feeling the sting of loneliness. With the help of friend & long-term collaborator Luca Romano – who also played drums & was on recording, mixing and production duties for the record – Real Big Sky’s sound is now fully fleshed and ready to be released into the world.

Listen to ‘Long Lost’ below.

Follow Real Big Sky on bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook & Instagram

Photo Credit: Johanna Kleppe

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

EP: Gold Baby – ‘Rabbits’

Gold Baby’s debut EP, Rabbits, is a real treat for the ears and soul. The band – fronted by singer-songwriter Siân Alex – show their versatility with this accomplished and assured collection of lush, folk-infused dream pop.

Opener ‘Bodie’ is the soothing soundtrack we all need right now. With retro, woozy guitars and drums that thump like a heartbeat, it has echoes of ’60s girl groups. And like those glorious, bittersweet ballads that bands like The Ronettes or The Shangri-Las sang back then, ‘Bodie’’s lyrics dwell on loneliness and longing. It’s a real standout.

The band show their playful, experimental side with ‘2041’ – a punk-inspired number with jerky spiky guitars and a lo-fi, shouty chorus (“And I said NO!”) that act as the perfect foil to Siân’s pure, calming voice. It’s brave and brilliant; the sound of a band who refuse to be pigeon-holed and are keen to grow and evolve.

Closing tracks ‘Betty’ and recent single, ‘Captain Dorego’, are quieter, deeper and more confessional, reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens and The Unthanks – very much in the folk storytelling tradition. ‘Captain Dorego’ is particularly affecting, dealing with Siân’s experiences of being overstimulated by modern life. Something that, in these crazy times, we can all relate to.

Ultimately, with Rabbits, Gold Baby show that they can both soothe you and make you shimmy (check out the video for ‘Captain Dorego’ for more of the latter!). The band’s confidence and chemistry, coupled with Siân’s raw, self-revelatory songwriting and beautiful vocals, come together on this release to create something that’s pure magic. Listen if you want something pretty that packs a real punch!

Rabbits is out now. Download via Gold Baby’s bandcamp

Vic Conway

PLAYLIST: Christmas 2020

Whether you’re a Christmas music fanatic or a misanthropic seasonal Scrooge, there’s no doubt your approach to Christmas is going to be different in 2020. We can’t wait to get off the Government’s ever-changing carousel of chaos, with its flimsy guidelines and confusing restrictions, but while we’re on it, at least we have a decent festive soundtrack to play us out of this insane fairground ride called 2020.

To the bands, artists and labels we’ve worked alongside – you’re all diamonds and we look forward to working with you again in 2021. Let’s raise a glass to those who managed to release something in 2020, and another for those who had to sit this one out. We love you all, Merry Christmas from the GIHE team. xxx

Take some time to read through our Christmas track choices and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post. We’ve also included a few festive gems that are only available on bandcamp/YouTube, so make sure you listen to them too!

Poly Styrene – ‘Black Christmas’
This buoyant sounding festive tune from the one and only Poly Styrene comes with a much needed dose of lyrical realism. Featuring vocals from Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, ‘Black Christmas’ is an anthem for those who feel uncomfortable celebrating at this time of year, a sentiment that feels more poignant than ever in 2020. (Kate Crudgington)

The Crystal Furs – ‘Drinking Alone At Christmas’
A festive offering from Oregon queer indie-pop band The Crystal Furs, ‘Drinking Alone On Christmas’ sparkles with uplifting shimmering synths, honey-sweet vocals and scuzzy hooks, providing the perfect juxtaposition of twinkling festive cheer with refreshingly honest lyricism. Reflecting on the all-too relatable scenario of “drinking alone on Christmas”, it’s a must for all those ‘Christmas parties’ we’ll be having alone in front of our laptops this season. The band describe the track as a “non-traditional holiday pop tune of drinking, catgirls, and holiday ennui”. (Mari Lane)

Basic Bitches – ‘I Hope Your Holidays Are Fine’
A relatable and cautiously optimistic tune from Brooklyn-based riot grrrls Basic Bitches. The band say this song is about “the general sense of dread and disappointment that accompanies the holiday season once you reach adulthood, when the most you can hope for are big leftovers and small hangovers.” (KC)

The Go! Team – ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming!)’
Taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, The Go! Team’s ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)’ flows with the collective’s trademark jangling energy. Fizzing with a twinkling optimism and vibrant, catchy musicality, it’s an instant festive earworm. Of the track, the band explain: “It started life as a loose anti Brexit metaphor – an appeal against small mindedness – to ‘look outside your window’. But the last year has totally changed the meaning. I guess it’s about trying to stay positive when it’s the hardest it’s ever been.” Other artists featuried on Lost Christmas include Rozi Plain, Field Music and The Cornshed Sisters. Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

No Doubt – ‘Oi! To The World’
I couldn’t really have a Christmas playlist without this festive punk-pop belter from Gwen and co. (ML)

Dream Nails – ‘Lonely Star’
The gift that keeps on giving, feminist punks Dream Nails and their joyful Christmas single ‘Lonely Star’. The track is dedicated to those who may be feeling isolated or alone at this time of year – especially their LGBTQ fans – and all the money raised from track sales will be donated to The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Homeless Shelter. You can buy their track bandcamp now. (KC)

Problem Patterns – ‘Christmas Number One’
The new festive banger from Belfast feminist punks Problem Patterns who we’ve championed many times on GIHE this year. Mari and I are big fans of these grrrls and we’re looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021. (KC)

Charley Stone – ‘Merry Christmas Actually’
A familiar face on the London music scene, featuring in many bands including Salad, Charley Stone has now shared her own Christmas offering. Inspired by “the worst scene from the worst film ever”, ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ flows with jangling hooks and a twinkling sense of romanticism, oozing Stone’s sugar-sweet vocals and a delicate, swirling indie-pop charm. ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ was recorded with Donald Ross Skinner. (ML)

Eurythmics – ‘Winter Wonderland’
Eurythmics’ vocalist Annie Lennox was born on Christmas Day, but she is the musical gift that keeps on giving whatever time of year it is. It’s also the tenth anniversary of her solo Christmas album A Christmas Cornucopia, which is a delightful soundtrack to wrap your presents to. (KC)

The Big Moon – ‘Carol Of The Bells’
London four-piece The Big Moon deliver a splendid version of this classic made famous by the ultimate Christmas film, Home Alone. It makes me wish I had a microwave mac & cheese dinner in front of me, just like Macaulay Culkin does before he smashes Marv’s face in with an iron. (KC)

Rachael Dadd, Rozi Plain, This Is The Kit – ‘We Build Our Houses Well’
Another one taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, ‘We Build Our Houses Well’ features Rachael Dadd alongside both Rozi Plain and This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables. Flowing with luscious folk-strewn melodies and sweeping glistening harmonies, it’s a beautifully uplifting slice of winter sparkle. Of the song, Dadd explains: “After the isolation of lockdown, it felt natural to write a Christmas song that was basically like a big sonic party, inviting all my friends and collaborators over my whole life to join together. Feeling blessed to have made so many good friends through music and to have most of them all in one place here on this song, representing connection at a time where so many of us feel isolated.” Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

Alanis Morissette – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
I was supposed to see Alanis Morissette live for the first time this year, but alas, I’ll make do with her cute cover of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s single instead. (KC)

PINS – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’
A festive cover by Manchester trio PINS and a perfect musical accompaniment to drink your festive tipple to. (KC)

Grace Petrie – ‘Fairytale Of New York’
Grace and her band’s take on the Pogues’ classic, this rendition of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ flows with folk-laden strings, soaring harmonies and an up-tempo sense of festive cheer, culminating in the perfect re-writing of that lyric – replacing it with “You scumbag, you maggot, WE LOVE DIANE ABBOTT”. It’s simply impossible not to sing along at the top of your lungs and feel a little bit of hope for what 2021 might bring. (ML)

Girl Ray – ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’
A classic from my faves Girl Ray from back in 2017, ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’ is the perfect smattering of joy we all need right now. With just the right balance of Christmassy sparkle and the band’s trademark shimmering, sunny charm, it’s a song about longing and loneliness at this time of year. Complete with a children’s choir, sleigh bells and even a whinny of a kidnapped reindeer (!), the track is a delightful slice of twinkling garage-pop to get you in the mood for this time of year, when some of us may be struggling to do that right now. (ML)

Gold Baby –Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter’
A Bing Crosby classic reimagined by indie darlings Gold Baby. All proceeds from this single will be donated to the campaign to end loneliness, so head over the Gold Baby’s bandcamp now and give what you can. (KC)

CMAT, Junior Brother – ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’
Irish pop sensation CMAT is the queen of relatable pop tunes and this Christmas tune is no exception. A beautiful duet with Junior Brother, ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’ is the perfect dose of festive melancholy. (KC)

Self Esteem – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’
A soulful festive anthem from experimental pop artist (and Slow Club member) Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’ is an alternative Christmas bop for any of us who may not look forward to Christmas as much as most. Dedicated to those who may cope with these times of “celebration” by immersing themselves in work as a distraction, Taylor says of the track: “I wanted to write a song for fellow people who cope with life by working and creating and moving forwards – the enforced stillness of Christmas can be so triggering… ” (ML)

Piney Gir / Roxys – ‘White Winter Hymnal’
Piney Gir’s cover of the Fleet Foxes classic contains all the soothing festive sparkle you need right now. Oozing sparkling crystalline vocals and a gentle celestial grace, it’s a truly beautiful rendition of one of my favourite winter soundtracks. Recorded originally for the Joyzine Advent Calendar, ‘White Winter Hymnal’ provides a taste of what’s to come from Piney Gir and Roxys, as they’re currently working on an upcoming new EP, set for release in 2021. (ML)

TLC – ‘Sleigh Ride’
Who doesn’t need a bit of TLC-shaped joy at this time of year?! (ML)

The Pretenders – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’
Originally performed by Judy Garland in the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, I love The Pretenders’ festive version of this classic. Praise be for Chrissie Hynde. (KC)

Dolly Parton – ‘Coming Home For Christmas’
This one’s for Tash! Dolly is the star in the winter sky and we all love her un-shakeable optimism. (KC)

 

These tracks aren’t on Spotify, but they’re too good not to include!

Fightmilk – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Christmas)’
Taken from their new festive album, the wonderfully titled Fightmilk & Cookies – a collection of Christmas covers from each of the band members, as well as a couple of seasonal originals – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Year)’ provides just the right amount of twinkling cheer along with the band’s trademark tongue-in-cheek wit. Combining scuzzy hooks, Healey’s distinctive vocals and traditional sparkling melodies, it’s an instantly uplifting festive earworm. (ML)

 

Potpourri – ‘Modern Girls’ (not on Spotify)
A festive offering from Sheffield band Potpourri, ‘Modern Girls’ ponders the idealism of a perfect Christmas amid the bounty of priceless love. Propelled by a swirling, sparkling majesty, it oozes a blissful euphoric aura, whilst maintaining a refreshing sense of realism. A perfect and relatable Christmas accompaniment for any of us ‘Modern Girls’. Of the track, songwriter Lauren Dowling reflects: “I guess I was thinking about the modern phenomenon of gift-giving as a language of love, but also as a point of contention. Whilst we’re more inclined to be charitable at this time of year, we also can’t escape our own expectations for grandeur and luxury, but for ‘Modern Girls’, it’s the former that tends to bring the most joy and warmth.” The band will be donating all proceeds from the track to Burngreave Foodbank and SAYiT charities. (ML)

 

Charlotte Carpenter – ‘A Light Christmas’
A festive cover by Charlotte Carpenter who is a previous guest on our GIHE radio show and the founder of Babywoman Records. All proceeds from this single will be donated to homeless charity Crisis UK, so do head over the her bandcamp and download it if you can. (KC)

 

The Joy Formidable – ‘My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than A Hundred Dead Christmas Trees’
This genuinely is one of my favourite Christmas songs whether it’s been a year like 2020, or the best year of my life. I love busting out this misanthropic anthem and mainlining a bottle of Baileys* to it. (Aldi’s Ballycastle*) (KC)