Track Of The Day: 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, I was excited to see that she has shared a brand new single.

Reflecting on the realisation that even though something is beautiful, it may not last forever, ‘Not All Flowers Bloom’ is an an utterly dreamy offering. As chiming beats and twinkling hooks accompany the beautifully luscious vocals, a truly euphoric electro-pop soundscape is created. Of the track, Blonde Maze expands: 

Something may grow but not fully bloom. This song is about the acceptance and awareness of that realization. The cover art is a girl watering a flower that’s dying, trying to revive it. But she’s also looking out into the field of blooming flowers, because she knows in the back of her mind, her blooming flower is somewhere out there.”

‘Not All Flowers Bloom’ is a perfect example of Blonde Maze’s knack for creating exquisite soundscapes. I could listen to everything she creates on a loop forever – I just find her music so completely calming and blissfully cathartic. Essential listening for these anxiety-inducing times. 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

ALBUM: Screaming Toenail – ‘Growth’

Having blown us away with the impassioned magnificence of their live show at The Finsbury last December, and with performances for the likes of Decolonise Festival and Afropunk Battle Of The Bands under their belts, anti-colonial queer punks Screaming Toenail have become firm favourites here at GIHE and their message is more resonant now than ever before. With singles such as ‘I.O.U’ and ‘Sever’ already out in the world, they have now shared their new album Growth

Opening with a jarring recording of reports of trafficking migrants and “swarms” of refugees coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, the album starts as it means to go on: honest, politically charged and utterly necessary. As the swirling, whirring soundscape of ‘Swarm’ builds the tension against the raw, impassioned drive of front person Jacob Joyce’s vocals and poignant lyricism, Screaming Toenail hold no punches in immediately deconstructing ideas of colonialism and empire. 

Continuing these themes, ‘White Saviour’ is a glaring commentary on the way in which white supremacy and institutionalised racism can so often be overlooked in society, particularly when assigning the roles of ‘celebrity’ or people that are revered within our communities. With a tongue-in-cheek sense of pride, Joyce denounces individualistic colonial mentalities with a distinctive seething energy.

With shades of ‘80s post-punk, ‘Define and Conquer’ speaks for itself; with striking imagery and an angst-driven drive, Joyce reflects on the damage of Britain’s “conquest and expedition”, whilst ‘I.O.U’ asserts with a fierce intensity that we are so much more than our wages and that we don’t owe our bosses, landlords, or this racist government, anything. Propelled by an impassioned cathartic rage and swirling magnetism, its raw, riotous power immerses the listener in its striking, empowering message. 

Propelled by a dark, visceral drive, ‘Sever’ envelops the ears with a stirring resonance. With shades of the anthemic, emotive energy of The Cure, it showcases Screaming Toenail’s ability to create truly compelling offerings with exquisite musicality. Of the meaning behind the track, the band explain: 

‘Sever’ is written in response to the never ending saga of getting your hair cut as a gender non conforming person. Or is it our response to the displacement so many of us feel as black and brown people in the diaspora? Or maybe building queer community and resisting shame...”

With an empowering energy, ‘Crystal Queer’ celebrates the growth of black, queer resistance with a racing force and uplifting, vibrant power. With its colourful spirit, it’ll leave you feeling hopeful – fists clenched – ready to come together and rise up against the forces seeking to oppress. 

Continuing the uplifting vibes, and with a beautifully witty lyricism, ‘Get Cute’ is guaranteed to make you smile. With spot on ‘cute’ imagery (including personal highlight “You’re like a little old lady shoplifting from Boots”), it’s the perfect invigorating and cheer-inducing anthem to sing along to, know that you’re worth it and soothe any insecurities you may be feeling. And anyone who was at our gig at The Finsbury in December will have glorious memories of Screaming Toenail performing this live, and the comforting sense of unity and cathartic joy that filled the venue, as like-minded people came together to dance and sing in solidarity. 

‘Giant Woman’ closes the collection with all the empowering, patriarchy-smashing energy you’d expect; naming a number of visionary “giant’ women such as Diane Abbott and Reni Eddo-Lodge, it encourages you to take inspiration from others, as well as yourself, when facing the world and overcoming its challenges. A perfect motivational end to Growth’s stirring call to arms.

Despite my focus on the album’s words, it’s not simply Growth’s subject matter that demands to be heard: it showcases the eclectic and innovative musicality of the band. From immense, reverb-strewn riffs and racing punk beats, to fizzing electro-driven soundscapes and a swirling dark mysticism, it provides a perfectly danceable soundtrack to its resonant content. 

As a sort of ‘P.S’, I just wanted to add that I really have struggled to put into words just how completely important and strikingly poignant Screaming Toenail are, and I think really the album needs no explanation. You need to listen to the lyrics, the commentary on what is happening in this country right now, the raw angst and emotion that shines through every track, the magnificent cathartic energy that the band put into everything they create, to understand. I was, in fact, almost reluctant to write about it, as I don’t want any of my words to take away from the raw and necessary power of the band’s.

Growth is truly a soundtrack to our times; starkly reminding us that on returning to ‘normality’, we need to create a new normal. One in which voices like Screaming Toenail’s can be amplified to the max; one in which we prioritise creating safe, queer, intersectional communities and spaces for people to share their art together. One in which we are all continually fighting for change and feel able to grow bigger and louder in the face of challenges, and feel excited for the future. 

 

Growth is out now via Hell Hath No Fury Records. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Track Of The Day: Byenary – ‘Princess Give A Fuck’

Set to release their self-titled debut album later this month, Byenary – Chuck SJ and Jodi Freer – are set on bringing trans experiences to the forefront.

Taken from the album, new single ‘Princess Give A Fuck’ races with a seething energy, as it rages against society’s preoccupation with gender norms and stereotypes. A formidable slice of queercore punk driven by an unrelenting angst-fuelled power and the fierce, visceral refrain “I’m not your fucking princess”. An absolutely essential listen right now, smashing through the confines of heteropatriarchal binaries and pushing for trans liberation, at a time when voices like these need to be heard more than ever.

Of the upcoming album, Chuck SJ asserts: I wanted to write a record that makes trans people feel empowered. When we talk about trans issues, we tend to talk about the violence that we experience. We spend more energy educating cis people than we do creating spaces to lift each other up. We’re an incredible community capable of extraordinary things, we need more spaces where we can celebrate each other.

 

Byenary, the new album, is out 28th August via Hell Hath No Fury. 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

ALBUM: The Crystal Furs – ‘Beautiful And True’

Growing up, changing and moving on always involves a certain degree of tension. And for cuddlecore trio The Crystal Furs, a move from the more conservative surroundings of Forth Worth, Texas, to the Pacific Northwest’s alt. capital, Portland, has seen a shift in more than just surroundings. The move led to a change in bassist – Rowan, who has also produced their latest album Beautiful and True. But, for keyboardist Kara and her spouse Steph, it meant the discovery of a new identity, mentally, emotionally and sonically. That’s not to say that the band, whose previous releases included their self-titled Texas debut in 2016, and last year’s sophomore Psuedosweet, have entirely left their old stomping ground behind. Indeed, Fort Worth – known colloquially as the ‘Panther City’ – stalks many of the songs herein.

In many respects, the tracks on Beautiful And True fit largely into the two halves of its title, with roughly half sitting in the observational (and therefore ‘true’ category) and the others odes to the beauty of others, and life itself. That the former are often melancholy, whilst the latter are brimming with optimism, probably tells you where band’s emotions are at. Throughout, the album shimmers with its jangly guitar and sweeping organ, as well as Steph Buchanan’s consummate indie-pop vocal delivery (along with occasional harmonies).  While ‘Comeback Girls’ opens things with a twinkling ballad, ‘Expo ’67’ is arguably the LP’s standout in this respect, with Green-era REM meeting The Breeders at the Montreal World Fair of the title, as its narrator finds that their retro-future dreams have faded from fantasy to grey concrete reality.

‘Pretty Mind’ picks up the ’60s style emotional pop, as an ode to the musical escapes of the small-town outsider. ‘Panther City Pariah’, meanwhile, is, thematically, the grown-up sister song to ‘Pretty Mind’ – finding its outcast narrator finding pride in “finish[ing] last” and “fail[ing] in public” out on the street. Musically, its tight guitar chords and organ melodies give it a pleasingly deconstructed blend of upbeat chamber pop and twee indie-disco. This gradual sonic opening up is continued by ‘Too Kind to be Cruel’, which features the album’s first guitar solo and lyrically inverts the old cliche’s message in an attempt to appeal to a friend’s good side, despite negative pressure from others and the wider world.

Appropriately, the album’s middle point encapsulates the themes at its core. ‘Like You’ has vintage doo-wop rhythms and guitars, mirroring the melancholy subjects of the girl groups from the era, with its lyrical take on the envy of the outsider, observing those considered both “beautiful and true”. ‘Burn Us Down’, meanwhile, is thematically and musically the LP’s true outlier: a bass-heavy garage rocker with stabs of organ. With this in mind, it’s hard to avoid the obvious interpretation that the sound is driven by the anger redolent in its lyrics: “your pocketbook against my personhood” presumably relating to the difficulty of accessing healthcare in the USA, while “you wanna cure me / you wanna fix me…our colours bleed across the land” sounds like a strong reference to the battleground of LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

‘Hey Maxine’ is a handclap-backed plea to someone unfairly treated; ‘Artoria’ is an upbeat lilt with a big chorus, an ode to the famous ‘tattooed lady’ carnival attraction Artoria Gibbons – whose ink now makes her seem less of a ‘freak’ and more of a forerunner; ‘Drag You Away’ is a C86-hued reflection on the horror nightmare of ‘podunk’ towns, replete with a doomy bass breakdown, although whether the zombies of its lyrics are literal or metaphorical is up to the listener to decide.

Penultimate track ‘The Robber Barons of Lombard Street’ is a tale of revenge against gentrification and the co-opting of the rainbow flag by capitalism, with arguably the album’s darkest imagery of “pistol loads” and a “building swallowed by flames” as “two femmes” take revenge.  However, it’s a contrast when it comes to album closer ‘Second Time Around’ – a celebratory hymn to second chances – and the album’s other standout, with its simple instruction to those listening: “Join a band and play guitar”, and make the most of being young, all over again.

To craft one album of three minute pop gems is impressive. To release two in a little over a year borders on compulsive creativity. And to suffer no let up in quality across the course of that time demonstrates that, as my grandmother was found of saying: a change is as good as a rest. It’s something of a well-worn expression, that adult life is about ‘finding oneself’, but it certainly seems for the Buchanans, and their band, that all of the changes in their life have enabled them to do just that. And what they’ve found are winning alt. indie-pop purveyors in the mould of Helen Love. Beautiful And True is an album whose title could not be clearer: it is what it says it is.

Listen to Beautiful And True on Bandcamp now:

 

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego