INTERVIEW: Kynsy

Since the release of her debut single ‘Cold Blue Light‘ last year, GIHE have been big fans of Dublin-based multi-instrumentalist Kynsy (aka Ciara Lindsey.) Her lyricism offers a refreshingly honest perspective on the world around her, whilst her self-described “rowdy pop” sounds provide space for reflection and escapism, often within the same song.

We caught up with Kynsy ahead of the release of her debut EP, Things That Don’t Exist, to talk about lockdown-learning curves, how working with co-producers and her band mates has helped to flesh out her sound, the underrated trait of humility, and to reminisce about the deeply humbling and emotional experience of seeing David Bowie’s cocaine spoon at an art exhibition in Brooklyn…

 

Let’s start at the beginning – who, or what would you say first got you into writing and playing music?
My Dad’s a musician, but he never really showed me any specific rock artists, maybe he was waiting for me to turn the right age, but I was always listening to stuff that was in the charts, even though I wasn’t that inspired by it. When I was having a really low point as a teenager, my Dad showed me this music video – ‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie – and I thought it was amazing. I think I was at that age where you begin to realise that it’s actually okay and kind of cool to be weird. Bowie just clicked with me and I knew then that I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to write music like that.

David Bowie seems to have that kind of affect on most people. He’s definitely one of my favourite artists.

He’s an absolute hero. So many people I know cried when he died. I went to New York in summer 2018, and I went to see the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It was really hard to get tickets for, but I somehow managed to swing it and I went and I walked around and I was crying the whole time. I got to see all of his famous outfits which was mad.

I went to the same exhibition in London at The V&A in 2013! Did you see his coke spoon too?

I remember that as well! I told my friend about it, it was mad. I was really hungover when I went to the exhibition, so I remember walking around feeling a mixture of being really emotional and being extremely hungover as well.

That’s a good way to approach anything in life.

Let’s talk about the singles you’ve released prior to your debut EP – ‘Cold Blue Light’ & ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’. They were both born from personal experiences. Would you say your song-writing process is usually autobiographical? Do you find it more natural to write what you know?

The majority of the time I do prefer to write from personal experience. I think you can be much more emotional and vulnerable, and you can connect with the audience more if you’re talking about a real incident that’s happened to you.

Congratulations on releasing your debut EP, Things That Don’t Exist. Talk me through your memories of making the record, and the context behind your latest single ‘Elephant In The Room’…

Things That Don’t Exist is a collection of four songs that I’ve worked on over a couple of years. The reason why I chose these songs is they’re all very different, they all have this high energy to them that I really like. Each one has their own personality, but I also felt they were kind of contrasting as well, and I like to create contrast and juxtaposition in my music.

‘Elephant In The Room’ is the first song on the EP and it’s a lot poppier than the other stuff. Lyrically it’s reflecting on a darker time in my life when I was using escapism to deal with my problems. I was feeling kind of alienated from myself and trying to run from myself. ‘Elephant In The Room’ is that known metaphor – something you don’t want to mention or talk about, but that everybody knows is a thing – so this song in particular is about being 18-19 years old with my friends, going through a dark time and partying too much and realising that it was something that had to stop, but no-one would ever say it out loud. When I was writing it I was reflecting on that, and I was using the song as a conscious kind of wish to not go back and make the same mistakes when trying to deal with my problems.

But there’s an element of hope in there too. All of the songs on the EP are a bit sad and melancholic, but there’s a glimmer of hope. I like to try and have a positive message, even if it’s only something small.

That’s definitely a good way to frame a song. What are your main memories of recording the EP?

I recorded most of the songs in a studio in my college before Covid, and one of the songs called ‘Dog Videos’ was recorded during lockdown, which was interesting. I had to email my band being like “can you send me a bass line? Can you send me some trumpet?” so everyone recorded from home and sent their stuff over to me so I could mix it myself. Then I got my friend Joseph to go with a drummer and record in a studio in London, then he sent over the drum stems to me and I had to compile it all myself and send it off to be properly mixed. I usually work with a co-producer, so it’s the first time I’ve had to do it all myself. I learned an awful lot, it was really stressful but really good at the same time. I was forced to learn how to bounce out stems and get into the nitty-gritty of the technology side of it.

Equally, I learned a lot from the co-producer who I worked with when I was working in the studio, watching how they work and how they think when it comes to arranging songs. So it was a combination of both of those things.

In future, do you think you’ll have a 50/50 split when it comes to working by yourself and working with other people on new material?

A bit of both, but I would lean more into doing it with people, especially producers. Right now, I don’t think I’m confident enough in my own skills to completely get a track together properly by myself. That’s not me being down on myself, that’s just how it it. I know I did it for ‘Dog Videos’ on the EP, but it was very stressful and I get into my own head a little bit. It’s so easy to do when you’re just starting out with producing, so you need someone else to turn around and say “that’s done” or “send me the stem, I’ll fix that,” instead of me trying to get into all of these technical areas. I do think I would lean more into working with other people. Their ideas can help to get you out of your own rabbit hole sometimes, you know?

I will probably always write and demo stuff on my own though. I will layer guitars and come up with bass lines and stuff like that. The initial ideas I will do on my own, but bringing those ideas to the band and the producer just brings it such a level higher. The songs wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for that group of people being there. You need those extra voices there sometimes.

It sounds like you have the balance right. Do you have a favourite track on the EP? If so, why?

Probably ‘Dog Videos’ because I think I’ve been the most vulnerable with my lyric writing in that song. One of my goals as a songwriter is to try to be as vulnerable with myself as possible, just because I think that’s how you connect with people properly. It’s great to hear a song and be like “Oh wow, I feel like that too! Why does no-one ever talk about this?” I like the instrumentation on ‘Dog Videos’ too. I got a really good drummer and I got trumpets on it, which I never thought I’d end up doing. I have a really good friend who plays trumpet who I just hit up and asked if they’d play something for me and the next day he sent the stems over, which was really cool. I feel like I really hit the goal of opening up and being vulnerable with this song.

NME named you in their TOP 100 LIST, The Irish Jam named you as one to watch for 2021, and GIHE featured you on our Tracks Of 2020 list. How are you feeling about having the spotlight on you? Is it a bit nerve-racking or is it exciting?

Overall I’m happy with the attention. Everyone wants to work hard on something and for it to go well, and the main thing for your music is you want it to reach fans so that you can get a following through them. Everything in the press about me means I’ve been able to reach more people. Even with the NME thing, a few teenagers have messaged me personally about it and I just thought that was really nice, so I messaged them back to say thank you, because it means people are really listening which is nice!

I try not to think about the press stuff too much though, because any form of validation can mess up anyone’s head. Even though it is nice and positive, I don’t want to get stuck on it. In my head, there’s still a lot of work to do and I’m always trying to get deeper into the writing process and deeper into myself, that’s the main thing. They’re my main values. Trying to be a better writer, write like myself and trying to create meaning. The reviews are great and all, but they can really obscure your goals and style and I’ve seen that happen to people.

One of the down sides of today is because of social media – and the lockdowns as well – artists aren’t having natural interactions with their fans, they’re just seeing everything online. It’s so easy to slip into the idea that people are only liking this, or liking that. Obviously there’s no gigs at the moment either, so there’s no way you can actually physically see people’s reactions to your music. I think the main thing is just being aware of that and keeping on your own path, focusing on why you started making music in the first place.

I don’t want to come off super negative about it, but I think people will know what I mean. It’s just if people are telling you you’re great all the time, it’s going to get to your ego and your music’s going to suffer. Humility is one of the strongest personality traits you can have and it’s only going to do you good.

I think you’re right, it’s so important not to get side-tracked by other people’s opinions of you.

Finally, do you have any new artists or bands you’d recommend we listen to?

Sorry had an album come out last year and I listened to that a lot. I think they’re really cool, kind of like The Kills, I love the mix of electronic and rock stuff. Another band called Do Nothing. I went to one of their gigs in December in Dublin and unfortunately there weren’t that many people at the gig, which was bad for them but good for me afterwards because it meant I got to hang out with them for a bit!

I’ve been listening to a lot of Micachu & The Shapes as well, they’re kind of like sorry but more experimental rock stuff. Mica Levi is a producer and a writer and she is unreal, she’s someone I’d love to work with.

Thanks to Kynsy for answering our questions!

Listen to Kynsy’s debut EP Things That Don’t Exist here.

Follow Kynsy on Twitter, Facebook, Spotify & Instagram for more updates.

Photo Credit: Paula Trojner

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

GIHE: Personal Highlights Of 2020

2020 has been a year unlike any other and we’ll be glad to see the back of it, but before we wave goodbye, the GIHE team would like to share some of their personal highlights. Thanks to everyone who has been following, reading or listening to GIHE this year. It really does mean the world to us and we couldn’t do this without you.

Shared Highlights

Seeing the GIHE name appear in a PHYSICAL BOOK was a landmark moment for the team this year. Music journalist Lucy O’Brien mentioned us in her 25th anniversary edition of She Bop, a fantastic book that explores the role of female artists and how they’ve helped to shape the music industry. You can buy your copy here.

Fellow GIHE Co-Founder Tash Walker was super busy recording & producing series 2 of The Log Books throughout 2020, a podcast which explores the history of the LGBTQ community via the phone archives of LGBT+ charity Switchboard. Tash is a co-chair at Switchboard and she is dedicated to celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ community through her work with them, and through her work with GIHE. She is one of the most resilient, informed and hilarious people we know and it’s a privilege to work alongside her and call her a friend. The Log Books are a truly necessary listen for all.

Now for some personal highlights…

Kate Crudgington (Features Editor)

GIHE usually takes up a big part of my life, but it was a lifeline for me during March of this year when the government text me (lol) telling me to shield for 12 weeks. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to talk to the people who were making the music that was distracting me from the panic-inducing headlines, reminding me what a huge privilege it is to have access to this amazing platform.

As our followers already know, Lockdown 1.0 instantly put a stop to our weekly GIHE new music shows on Hoxton Radio. We had 16 weeks off air, so when it was “safe” for me to go back in to the studio in July I was buzzing with excitement (which you can hear in my voice if you listen back to the show here.)

Like most platforms during the pandemic, we embraced technology and started interviewing artists over Zoom instead of inviting them in to the studio for the usual chat and live session. We managed to get time with Jessica Winter, BISHI, Lucy O’Brien, Tessa from Girlhood, Julia-Sophie, Lizzie from Bitch Falcon, Grave Goods, Problem Patterns, ZAND, Hannah from PELA, Seraphina-Simone & Penelope Trappes. It was so lovely to see Tash in person in the studio most weeks, and while we both missed seeing Mari a great deal, her weekly track contributions to the show still made it feel like a GIHE team effort.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by Niall Jackson, one of the hosts of Riverside Radio’s The Irish Jam, to be a contributor to their New Music Sunday section. Co-hosted by Kealan, Mel and Rob, The Irish Jam is a London based radio show that celebrates and promotes music from Irish artists. The crossover of favourite bands between GIHE & the Jam is huge and something I’ve enjoyed chatting to the team about both on and off air. They’ve introduced me to the likes of CMAT, fears, Denise Chaila, Silverbacks and Celaviedmai, whilst I’ve shared tracks by Kynsy, Party Fears and CAMI with them. Listening to their show on a Sunday evening continues to be a wonderful distraction from life.

Who could’ve predicted that bandcamp would become the musical hero of 2020? When the streaming platform announced that on the first Friday of every month they’d be waiving their fees so that 100% of profits would be going directly to artists, my newsfeeds were awash with new music recommendations. Moving home to Essex from London in March meant I actually had some expendable income to buy new records, so I was furiously typing bespoke recommendation threads on Twitter every time the date rolled around. bandcamps’ generosity meant you were able to genuinely support your friends (and the artists you secretly wish you were friends with) during a truly depressing year for music.

Normally, we’d be picking our live music highlights too, but for obvious reasons, we’ve hardly been to any gigs this year. Mari had to cancel half of the gigs GIHE she had booked pre-pandemic and it’s fucking depressing to not know when it will be (properly) safe for her to book more. That’s why I feel incredibly fortunate to have wedged in one last GIHE gig before Lockdown 1.0. GIHE worked together with Sofar Sounds to put together a special International Women’s Day gig at their Hackney HQ in March, with Beckie Margaret, Amahla and Indian Queens on the bill. It was so exciting (and nerve-racking) to host the evening with fellow GIHE pal Tash too. Even if I’d had a year full of gigs, this one still would’ve made my highlights list.

One last gloat – I published some of my all-time favourite features on our website this year. My Zoom interviews with the wonderful A.A Williams, the hilarious CMAT and the ultra talented Lido Pimienta are well worth a read.

Mari Lane (Managing Editor)

It goes without saying, most of the highlights I’d normally mention at this time of year were not able to go ahead in the void of 2020. They would normally consist of the monthly gigs that I host at The Finsbury, whereas this year I was only able to put on two before Covid hit. And, in addition to having to cancel at least seven of our regular gigs, we were pretty heartbroken to cancel what would have been our very first festival, due to take place in July. However, I did manage to fit in a couple of memorable live experiences before being confined to being permanently pyjama clad; my only weekly highlight being our regular beer delivery from Croydon’s Art & Craft bar.

The first gig I hosted this year felt particularly special. Personal Best headlined a night filled with all the best vibes. Drawing the night to a memorable close, front person Katie Gatt dedicated their set closer to the queer community. As a sea of buoyant voices joined in with “I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see / ’cause this is what we look like,” the poignancy of the lyrics was overwhelming and an empowering sense of unity took hold. The night also included the shimmering folk-strewn offerings of Athabaska, the quirky energy and sparkling charisma of Nun Habit and the sun-drenched swirling anthems of Hurtling. There is nothing quite like that joyous sense of togetherness that comes from hosting gigs filled with like-minded wonderful people.

I was also lucky enough to fit in seeing one of my all time favourite bands with a few of my all time favourite people. The last time that Tash, Kate, Paul and I were all together pre-Covid was for Sleater Kinney at Brixton Academy – a pretty special night. Not only did I get to see the legendary Carrie Brownstein deliver her distinctive gritty, scuzz-filled riffs alongside Corin Tucker’s unmistakable swooning vocals in the flesh, conjuring up massive feelings of awe and nostalgia, but they were supported by one of our favourite current bands. The second time we’d seen Big Joanie on the Brixton Academy stage (the first being opening for Bikini Kill last year!), they showcased just how deserving they are of their rising success; with their unique, raw, post-punk soundscapes and poignant lyricism, they delivered an absolutely incredible set. A truly memorable night.

My last ‘outing’ before lockdown was to the BBC 6Music festival for International Women’s Day at The Roundhouse. An epic line-up consisting of some incredible women and non-binary folk that I’m incredibly grateful I got to witness before everything fell apart. In addition to the immense poignant power of Jehnny Beth, the utterly beguiling splendour of Nadine Shah (who I fell in love with there and then), and the completely mind-blowing presence of hero Kim Gordon, Kae Tempest delivered a fiercely moving, truly breath-taking headline set.

And then gigs were gone. To be replaced by online streamed “events” which I think have had mixed reviews over the last few months – they’re of course no replacement for the “real thing” and it’s hard to feel motivated to “attend” things when you’ve been on the sofa in your pjs for weeks. However, I have managed to organise a few GIHE Instagram ‘Takeovers’, featuring some of our favourite bands and artists. From ARXX’s drum and guitar lessons, LibraLibra’s quirky tele-sales style feature and Tiger Mimic’s interviews with others on the scene, to inspiring chats with Amaroun, Eckoes, Foundlings and Husk, beaut “live” sessions from Gold Baby, Scrounge and KIN, and King Hannah’s EP run through, I feel grateful that so many creatives have wanted to be involved.

It’s a strange time, no doubt, but one which is made that much better by a sense of togetherness within the community. One positive from all this really has been the mutual support and genuine care that I’ve seen musicians and those within the industry show for each other.

John McGovern (Contributor)

On the one hand, there’s been almost no gigs, no festivals, much fewer physical releases and closed record shops. On the other, BBC 6Music’s response helped me stay indoors and make the most of my furlough life. Lauren Laverne‘s show was extended to cover the late morning, running to nearly double the length of most of the other shows on the station and basically saw her appointed as chief mood-lifter for the BBC’s flagship alternative music station. Amongst the days of uncertainty, where even leaving the house offered the risk of serious illness, with no guarantee of a job at the end of the summer, having Lauren there to soundtrack breakfast/brunch made a world of difference. It produced a kind of odd stasis: the background radiation of a pandemic, but an excellent range of music, usually featuring a smattering of classics, new music and obscure gems. The only disappointment was when the schedule reverted back to usual come the end of lockdown. Hopefully, that same semblance of normality will be back for us all, soon.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read our highlights!

You can read about our GIHE Albums of 2020 here and our GIHE Tracks Of 2020 here.

Keep an eye out for our Ones To Watch in 2021 feature next week!

GIHE: Tracks Of 2020

It feels strange to be celebrating anything in 2020, but the GIHE team want to shine a light on some of the brilliant music that’s been released against the odds during the last 12 months. If you or your band managed to release some music this year – congratulations! You should be super proud. If you didn’t manage to write anything new this year though, we fully understand and we’ll still be here to sing your praises when you feel ready to write again.

Following our album round-up yesterday, today we share our ‘top tracks’ of 2020. As you can tell, we haven’t held back, as there’s just been so much amazing music released this year that we felt deserved a mention. So, read about our forty two favourite songs of the year (told you we weren’t holding back!), and then hit play on our mammoth, and super eclectic, playlist at the end of this post….

HAWXX – ‘Deadlands’
Having previously blown us away with their immense live show, heavy rockers HAWXX this year released their epic four track debut Deadlands. And the immense title track has been on heavy rotation around my ears since first hearing it back in May. With an explosive frenzied energy propelling raging hooks and the seething vocals of front woman Anna Papadimitriou, it’s an utterly compelling whirlwind; a fantastically fierce accompaniment to the chaos of 2020.
(Mari Lane: Co-Founder/Managing Editor) 

Vulpynes – ‘Sister’
Having been majorly disappointed when we had to cancel our April gig at The Finsbury that Dublin duo Vulpynes were set to headline, it came as some consolation that they released a perfectly riotous EP Us Against Them later in the year. Taken from the EP, ‘Sister’ is a powerful ode to ‘pseudo sisterhood’. Propelled by Molly’s raw, impassioned vocals, it oozes an immense sense of urgency amid a seething eerie underlying force. With swirling, reverb-strewn hooks and pounding primal beats, it’s a fantastically fierce, empowered slice of ferocious rock magnificence.
(ML)

Guitar Gabby/The Txlips – ‘The Dead Pool’
With a mission to change the narrative in which the music industry showcases women, Atlanta based Guitar Gabby and The Txlips partner with Girls Rock Camps internationally and nationally to bring classes about home recording, equipment set up, copyright law and more to young girls. Taken from their explosive album Prison Of Life, ‘The Dead Pool’ is filled with scuzzed out riffs as Gabriella Logan’s seething growl soars. Oozing a gritty emotion, it’s a ferocious, empowering anthem; a completely necessary angst-driven offering for these strange times.
(ML)

Problem Patterns – ‘Sell By Date’
Taken from The Fight Is Not Over – a collaborative record with songs from Strange New Places, Gender Chores and Sister Ghost, in addition to Problem Patterns – ‘Sell By Date’ is a perfectly raging anthem rallying against societal gender norms and the pressures and expectations put on women of a certain age to have children (something I relate to HARD). Propelled by an empowering seething energy, it’s a frenzied fist-clencher that leaves me longing to witness it in all its live glory. The Fight Is Not Over addresses the need to continue pushing for more inclusive and diverse spaces and was recorded by Rocky O’Reilly to raise money for  The 343, an Artist-Focused, Feminist-led, Queer Arts Space in East Belfast. Read our interview with the four bands and find out more about the project here.
(ML)

New Pagans – ‘Yellow Room’
I love it when my feminist literature and new music worlds collide! Inspired by the semi-autobiographical short-story The Yellow Wallpaper by American author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Belfast-based New Pagans’ penned ‘Yellow Room’ to highlight the need for a specialised parent-and-baby mental health unit in Northern Ireland. Through the medium of Gilmans’ text, the band explore the isolation faced by new mothers, with Lyndsey McDougall’s urgent vocals leading the way. I loved listening to the band’s EP Glacial Erratic earlier this year too and I can’t wait to hear more from them in 2021.
(Kate Crudgington: Co-Founder/Features Editor)

LIINES – ‘Sorry’
Having received acclaim from the likes of Sleaford Mods, John Kennedy and BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq, as well as blowing us away headlining for us at The Finsbury, Manchester trio LIINES consistently impress with their distinctive, raw post-punk. Oozing the band’s trademark dark, brooding power, ‘Sorry’ builds with deep, intense bass lines, the gritty, commanding growl of vocalist Zoe McVeigh and Leila O’Sullivan’s consistent pummelling beats. Propelled by a thrashing sense of urgency, it’ll captivate the ears with its punk-fuelled bewitching allure.
‘Sorry’ is out now (with B side ‘On and On’) via Reckless Yes.
(ML)

Tiger Mimic – ‘Where The Fire Used To Be’
Disappointed that we had to cancel what would have been their debut gig for us in April, we were glad to hear Tiger Mimic’s new releases this year. Propelled by a driving energy, ‘Where The Fire Used To Be’ blasts out racing riffs alongside the soaring splendour of front woman Jess’ striking vocals. Building to an immense climax, it offers a sense of hope in these seemingly hopeless times, reassuring us that “the whole world will start over in the spring”.
(ML)

Bitch Hunt – ‘Spaceman’
Since forming at First Timers Fest, London based all queer/non-binary band Bitch Hunt have been going from strength to strength; last October impressing us at GIHE us with their immense live set at The Finsbury. Taken from a split cassette that they released with fellow faves adults earlier this year, ‘Spaceman’ is an observational and relatable slice of punk-pop. With Bitch Hunt’s trademark impassioned energy and swirling harmonies, it’s a spot-on reflection on the sickening arrogance of all those cis male ‘splainers and ‘spreaders we so often have to endure in our day to day lives.
(ML)

Porridge Radio – ‘7 Seconds’
In a year where so much went wrong, watching the unstoppable rise of Porridge Radio felt so right. With ‘7 Seconds’ the band moved away from the guitar-heavy sound of their Mercury-nominated album, Every Bad, towards alternative ’80s synths. The result is reassuringly nostalgic, like it’s jumped from the soundtrack of a badass John Hughes film; melancholic, but still upbeat and unbelievably catchy.I’m in love with front-person and songwriter Dana Margolin’s voice. Bold and strong, but vulnerable too, they sing of wasting, waiting and rising above it all. Against the backdrop of a rather tedious few months, ‘7 Seconds’ feels hopeful and exciting. When it comes on the radio, as it frequently has, I feel a little jolt of electricity run through my veins. And it’s a jolt that’s wired straight to my heart, mind… and my feet. The song – and the band – are something very special, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
(Vic Conway: Contributor)

CMAT – ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’
“Always the cowboy, never the cow / I hate the way my life turned out” might just be the lyric of 2020, provided by Irish pop sensation CMAT. “[The song is] based around a VINE that was really popular from a couple of years ago of a load of guys drinking cans outside in a playground saying “I wanna be a cowboy baby!,” CMAT explained when we spoke to her about the single in September. The popstar has a talent for taking obscure scenarios and molding them into intensely relatable, catchy pop tunes and ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ is a charming slice of  Americana-tinged pop that laments the struggles of urban isolation.
(KC)

Kynsy – ‘Cold Blue Light’
Based on her own experience of being at a New Years Eve party watching a man spout racist remarks, Dublin-based multi-instrumentalist Kynsy’s single ‘Cold Blue Light’ is a dark synth-pop gem that oozes with defiant attitude. I love her genre-blending sounds and I’m excited to hear more from her in 2021.
(KC)

Jessica Winter – ‘Sad Music’
This is the title track from Queen of sad bangers Jessica Winter’s debut EP, and it’s an electro-pop gem. Inspired by the need to relieve heartbreak through the medium of music, Winter effortlessly blends elements of electronica, pop, R&B and industrial music to create her intensely dance-able sounds. I pranced around my bedroom miming to ‘Sad Music’ for most of Lockdown 1.0.
(KC)

Husk – ‘Heal With Time’
One of our favourite discoveries of 2020, Manchester-based trans non-binary artist HUSK creates uptempo pop gems. Released in the summer, ‘Heal With Time’ oozes a celebratory sound juxtaposed with a poignant, reflective lyricism. Propelled by ’80s-inspired glistening hooks and synth-soaked uplifting summer vibes, it’s a vibrant, danceable anthem, shimmering with a sparkling empowering energy.
(ML)

Kadija Kamara – ‘Best Moves’
Even in uncertain times, London-based songwriter Kadija Kamara remains focused on her ‘Best Moves’. On this single, she calmly reminds listeners to own their “magic” and recognise the value of their own work, reassuring them with her warm beats, grooving bass lines and smooth vocals. With a sound best described as “alt-soul” which combines her love of ’60s and ’70s analogue sounds, Kadija’s passion for nostalgia permeates her musical output.
(KC)

Evil House Party – ‘Wicked’
An intoxicating blend of hazy vocals and sultry synths, Evil House Party’s debut single smoulders with the intensity of a hot summer night fuelled by Bonnie & Clyde-esque musings. ‘Wicked’ is a “bittersweet revenge pop anthem” that seduces listeners with its yearning vocals and heady beats.
(KC)

CIRCE – ‘Ten Girls’
London based dark-pop artist Circe is inspired by the films of David Lynch, the brutality of Margaret Atwood’s fiction, the soundtrack to Stranger Things and Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & JulietThis single ‘Ten Girls’  takes its title from a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale. Of the track, Circe explains: “[Atwood’s novel] is a poetic but disturbing view of women living in a dystopian oppressive world. This chimes with my own fractured generation of cancel culture, swipes of sex, and revenge porn.” I’m obsessed with Circe’s debut EP She’s Made Of Saints, which is full of sweeping, cinematic gems.
(KC)

Notelle – ‘Bugs’
I love the industrial-tinged production and wispy vocals on Nashville-based “nightmare-pop” artist Notelle’s single ‘Bugs’. She wrote this song after a break-up when she felt like part of her ex was still invading her body and it’s an intoxicating, feverish effort to rid herself of this unwanted sensation.|
(KC)

Noga Erez – ‘You So Done’
A resilient, emotionally charged offering from an uncompromising artist, Noga Erez’s single ‘You So Done’ delves deep into the memories left behind by a toxic relationship. Far removed from the joviality of her lockdown inspired single ‘NO News On TV’, Erez channelled her fears, frustrations and un-nerving flashbacks into this track, which radiates with artistic confidence. Accompanied by a stunning set of visuals directed by Indy Hait, also featuring her musical partner Ori Rousso, the Tel Aviv-based artist continues to blow us away with her mesmerising musical accomplishments.
(KC)

Eilis Frawley – ‘Stats’
Taken from her incredible EP Adult Life, Eilis Frawley’s ‘Stats’ is one of the most stunning and necessary listens of 2020. Offering a completely unique soundscape from the classically trained percussionist, it combines arresting drum-beats with Krautrock-infused spoken word, as the lyrics see Frawley recite hard-hitting stats, highlighting the everyday injustices facing women today. Tackling issues such as period poverty, FGM, domestic violence and other vital issues, it’s a beautifully striking and necessary listen. A poignant protest song that you can dance to. Adult Life is out now via Reckless Yes.  
(ML)

Princess Nokia – ‘Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T)’
Openly queer rapper and all round inspiration, Destiny Nicole Frasqueri – aka Princess Nokia – writes powerful, feminist anthems promoting self love and raging against the patriarchy. Fusing together infectious beats and a powerful, angst-driven energy, along with her trademark tongue-in-cheek wit, with ‘S.H.I.T’ Princess Nokia once again offers an empowering and playful presence in these times when pushing for change is so important.
(ML)

Æ Mak feat. Seba Safe – ‘i dance in the kitchen’
Joyfully schooling listeners how to make uplifting kitsch-pop tunes under the strangest of circumstances, Irish artist Æ MAK’s single ‘i dance in the kitchen’ was made with “100% childsplay and solo belly laughs.” Featuring the vocals of fellow Irish artist Seba Safe, the track is lifted from her EP how to: make a kitsch pop song to show the world, which she produced from home during Lockdown 1.0. I loved bopping around my bedroom to this record and of course, dancing in the kitchen to it too.
(KC)

Lido Pimienta – ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’
No-one else makes electronic music sound as warm and meaningful as Colombian-born, Toronto-based artist Lido Pimienta does. This track ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’ (translated roughly as ‘That Thing You Do’) is one of many triumphant singles lifted from Pimienta’s Grammy-nominated album Miss Colombia, which is a vivid celebration and criticism of her Colombian heritage. I have spent many an hour marvelling at the artwork on this record and singing along to my baby pink vinyl, despite knowing only three words in Spanish.
(KC)

Eckoes – ‘The Light’
Having dazzled us playing live at The Finsbury a few years back, London-based Eckoes consistently creates beautiful, soothing soundscapes. Filled with strobing synths and shimmering guitars, ‘The Light’ showcases the truly spellbinding power of Eckoes’ soaring vocals, as it lulls the listener into a cathartic sense of hypnosis with its alluring grace. A truly captivating offering from an artist on the rise.
(ML) 

Serena Isioma – ‘King’
Chicago-based musician Serena Isioma’s single ‘King’ is full of seductive beats and brooding bass lines. It’s a shimmering reflection on the problematic friendships 20-year old Isioma has found themselves in. “’King’ is about remembering your worth,” the songwriter explains. Isioma’s latest EP The Leo Sun Sets is every bit as poignant and dreamy as this single.
(KC)

Despicable Zee – ‘We Won’t Stop’ (Tiiva Remix)
A captivating, left-field electronic exploration of dual heritage, motherhood and self-autonomy, Oxford-based drummer and producer Despicable Zee (aka Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani) released her third EP Atigheh in 2019. This year, with the help of an eclectic mix of collaborators, Zee shared a remix of the recording titled Atigheh Reimagined, which opened with this track by Tiiva. Keeping the hypnotic qualities of the original, Tiiva’s treatment of  ‘We Won’t Stop’ fuses smooth, breathy vocals together with dense yet ambient beats. I can’t recommend listening to this EP enough, it also features collaborations with Tiece, Planningtorock and Young Knives.
(KC)

MJ Guider – ‘FM Secure’
Lifted from her album Sour Cherry Bell, MJ Guider’s shadowy single ‘FM Secure’ is permeated by murky industrial sounds and atmospheric, beguiling vocals. Based in New Orleans, MJ Guider (aka Melissa Guion) blends elements of shoegaze, gothic pop and industrial sounds to create her hypnotic music. On Sour Cherry Bell, Guider explored power dynamics and the notion of “lost and found” and these musings extended to ‘FM Secure’, its ominous glow intensifying with each listen.
(KC)

Two Tribes – ‘Cruel Sensuality’
Full of commanding beats, jagged synths and soaring vocals, Two Tribes‘ single ‘Cruel Sensuality’ is a cathartic oscillation between emotional resilience and the unexpected apathy that comes with the ending of a relationship. Taken from their upcoming EP, which is set for release in 2021, the London-based trio blend vivid electronic textures with jolting rhythms to create an anthemic new sound. This is a grade A BANGER.
(KC)

Kelly Lee Owens – ‘L.I.N.E’
I could have picked any track from Kelly Lee Owens’ second album, Inner Song, having listened to it on repeat so often that it’s become like listening to one continuous ambient epic.  ‘L.I.N.E.’ stands out, as the most deeply emotional song on the album, and because it gives some exposure to Owens’ vocals, also a central feature of  ‘Luminous Spaces’, her collaboration with Jon Hopkins, and one of my favourites from last year .  It’s also a reflection of how much more electronic music I’ve listened to lately (other notable acts from the last 18 months have included Peggy Gou, Bicep, and HAAi).  It could be that I’ve missed the old days of being out and about, at venues packed with bodies, light and sound – but I also think there’s something valuable in the (often) unspoken emotion of electronic music at a time when connections between us all have been strained.  Given the domestic nature of much of recent times, and paraphrasing a Jarvis Cocker single from 2020, I’ve been listening to House Music all year long.
(John McGovern: Contributor)

Grawl!x – ‘Epicene’
Having headlined the last gig we held at The Finsbury before the world changed forever, Grawl!x creates euphoric cinematic soundscapes filled with twinkling electronic hooks and spellbinding harmonies. Characterised by Maria’s distinctive impassioned vocals and a poignant stirring emotion, each offering from the Derby-based artist is utterly captivating.
‘Epicene’ is taken from Grawl!x’s album Peeps, out now via Reckless Yes.
(ML)

Penelope Trappes – ‘Eel Drip’
A goose bump inducing electronic soundscape, ‘Eel Drip’ is the title track from London-based, Australian-born artist Penelope Trappes’ most recent EP. It’s a dark, delicate rumination on accepting the inevitability that our lives will all be touched by death at some point. Through her arpeggiated electronics and beguiling vocals, Trappes extrapolates on these themes and invites her listeners to experience the comfort and the catharsis that comes with this acceptance.
(KC)

Mentrix – ‘Walk’
Born in Iran but now based in Berlin, Mentrix (aka Samar Rad) blends her experiences of eastern and western culture along with traditional Sufi instrumentation to create her beguiling, bold soundscapes. ‘Walk’ is full of captivating vocals, atmospheric electronics and commanding percussion. It’s taken from her debut album, My Enemy, My Love, which is a powerful exploration of female resilience, independence and what happens when women are caught between two cultures, each filled with their own flaws and freedoms. It’s a stunning record and this track is a definite highlight.
(KC)

Blonde Maze – ‘Not All Flowers Bloom’
Having been a huge fan of New York artist and previous guest on our radio show Blonde Maze for a long while now, it was wonderful to hear her new releases this year. Reflecting on the realisation that even though something is beautiful, it may not last forever, ‘Not All Flowers Bloom’ is a truly euphoric slice of electro-pop. A perfect example of Blonde Maze’s knack for creating exquisite soundscapes. I could listen to everything she creates on a loop forever; it’s just so completely calming and blissfully cathartic.
(ML)

CATBEAR – ‘Girl Crush’
A dreamy electro-pop rumination about wanting a friendship to develop into something more romantic, London-based queer duo CATBEAR’s single ‘Girl Crush’ was written during Lockdown 1.0. Recorded and produced in Zoe  Konez’s home studio in Brixton, the single is a completely DIY affair, with Sarah Smith laying down her vocals in her spare room wardrobe. The pair playfully ponder the “could-have-beens and what ifs” when it comes to thinking about that certain someone. Their charming pop creations were a welcome distraction for those caught up in a crush during unusual times.
(KC)

Ellis – ‘Fall Apart’
Released in early January, Canada’s alt-indie angel Ellis released this swirling single. Dawning at a time of blissful ignorance during a quiet moment before the storm to come, Ellis couldn’t have anticipated the level of comfort ‘Fall Apart’ would bring to her listeners in 2020. With dreamy, personal moments illustrated so softly, Ellis’ peaceful scenes of whispers under sheets served as a euphoric escape that also acknowledged hardship through self-awareness. Both humility and hesitation are felt through Ellis’ symbolism of what it means to accidentally fall apart. Her delicate depictions and flustered lyrics are realities felt by so many. Hushed vocals and warm guitar tones embody the closeness and tenderness that ‘Fall Apart’ illuminates. A nostalgic essence is met with a small amount of weariness that captivates the complexity and fear of being unconditionally seen by another, even on our worst days. In an uncertain time it has served as a utopian narrative of relatability and release. Ellis’ ‘Fall Apart’ is a therapeutic moment that exists in a cloudy sky, gloomy, but kissed by the sun.
(Jill Goyeau: Contributor)

Talking Violet – ‘Indigo’
Canadian band Talking Violet’s first single in two years,  ‘Indigo’ offers an ethereal dreamscape oozing a shimmering haze and immersive shoegaze-tinged hooks. Flowing with the Cocteau Twins-esque vocals of front woman Jill Goyeau, and swooping other-worldly melodies, it’s an utter sonic delight. A truly immersive listen that’ll leave you longing for more. (Jill also happens to be an excellent writer for us at GIHE!)
(ML)

ARXX – ‘Call Me Crazy’
Following the release of last year’s EP Wrong Girl Honey, and 2018’s debut Daughters Of Daughters, total faves ARXX this year returned to our ears with ‘Call Me Crazy’. Whilst it may be a bit of a change in tone for the Brighton duo, it loses none of the emotion-strewn power we’ve come to know and love. Showcasing Hanni and Clara’s more reflective side, it offers a heartfelt offering reflecting on mental health struggles, at a time when this topic is more resonant than ever before. Whilst dealing with an affecting subject, however, ARXX manage to create a truly uplifting and instantly catchy empowering anthem.
(ML)

Emma Kupa – ‘Nawlins’
Already a big fan of her band Mammoth Penguins, I’m no less in love with Emma Kupa’s solo material. Taken from this year’s beautiful album It Will Come Easier, ‘Nawlins’ flows with lilting, folk-strewn melodies and Kupa’s distinctive raw vocals. Filled with a heartfelt lyrical storytelling and euphoric uptempo musicality, it builds with glistening hooks to a stirring slice of perfect indie-pop. It Will Come Easier is out now via Fika Recordings.
(ML)

Captain Handsome – ‘Halloween’
Taken from Captain Handsome’s debut EP I Am Not An Animal, ‘Halloween’ flows with silky-smooth vocals and a twinkling, stripped-back musicality. With its delicate lo-fi scuzz and tongue-in-cheek relatable lyricism (“It was halloween, I was 24, I had a bad time on the bathroom floor”), it’s a sensitive, yet not sentimental, effervescent offering. Captain Handsome is the solo project of Lily from Fightmilk, and her EP I Am Not An Animal was released in January via Reckless Yes.
(ML)

Finish Flag – ‘Garden’
Having first fallen in love with Finish Flag when they played for us live at The Finsbury last summer, this year their album Swimming Pools has provided a lot of comfort. Taken from the album, ‘Garden’ flows with twinkling hooks and luscious harmonies, creating a dreamy slice of lo-fi indie-pop. Another band who I’ve sought soothing catharsis in throughout 2020, I bought Finish Flag’s beautiful pink vinyl on bandcamp day a couple of months ago, and I recommend you do the same.
(ML)

Gold Baby – ‘Versaille’
Having been following Gold Baby for some time now, last year front woman Siân Alex joined forces with Sara Kleppe and Scott Hislop to form the band as we know them today. And it’s been wonderful to see them go from strength to strength. Recent single ‘Versailles’ showcases all there is to love about them. With shimmering guitars and swooning melodies flowing alongside Siân’s luscious, crystalline vocals, it oozes a stirring heartfelt emotion. A beautifully rich slice of melancholy dream-pop.
(ML)

LibraLibra – Listerine
Brighton-based LibraLibra have been firm favourites of GIHE for a couple of years, never ceasing to impress. And this year they released their phenomenal debut EP Hail Mary. Taken from the EP, ‘Listerine’ is a step away from the usual high energy riotous cacophonies of previous releases. Showcasing the incredible soaring splendour and versatility of front woman Beth Cannon’s vocals with an almost operatic force, it builds to a magnificent, immense anthem of self-realisation.
Hail Mary is available on bandcamp now.
(ML)

Beckie Margaret – ‘God’
Essex-based songwriter Beckie Margaret has a flawless voice and a talent for writing beautifully bruising lyrics, something that her single ‘God’ showcases perfectly. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear when I first listened to this track, which is a cinematic reflection on unreciprocated love. Margaret releases through Cool Thing Records, who are a collective of people who absolutely love the music they’re making and promoting. It’s always a good day when an email about one of their artists appears at the top of my GIHE inbox.
(KC)

Massive thanks to all the artists and bands creating wonderful tunes this year! Keep an eye out for our Ones To Watch for next year, and listen to our Tracks Of 2020 playlist now:

Track Of The Day: Kynsy – ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’

Through jagged guitar riffs and succinct lyricism, Dublin-based artist Kynsy offers a fresh perspective on a breakup on latest single ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’. Balancing a painful reality with a buoyant optimism, the multi-instrumentalist navigates the push and pull between the head and heart, post-relationship.

“It’s about accepting the fact that sometimes you have to laugh the pain away, or look at negativity head on in order to feel positive emotions and have positive thoughts again,” explains Kynsy (aka Ciara Lindsey). “It’s a tug of war between the positive and negative thought processes that occur when a relationship ends.” Kynsy tackled writing and co-production duties head on with this single, enlisting the help of mixer Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Sorry, Parquet Courts) to add a sheen to her edgy sound.

The track is also accompanied by a self-directed video, shot in Dublin by Tim Shearwood featuring Kynsy and her friends. “[The visuals] needed to be fun and playful but with moments of emotional vulnerability in there too,” Kynsy explains. “A sort of ying and yang of simple fun against complex emotions.”

Check out the video below and follow Kynsy on Spotify & Instagram for more updates.

Photo Credit Paula Trojner

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut