ALBUM: Lost Chimes – ‘Lost Chimes’

Lost Chimes is Gemma and Nicky Kirk, an indie-folk duo from north London. The husband and wife team have now joined musical forces after ten years of playing in separate DIY, folk, punk-rock and post-hardcore bands.

Their new captivating self-titled album blends traditional folk with a contemporary twist. The storytelling lyrics, delicate finger-picked guitar and memorable melodies keep your ears enticed from the first track to the last. 

Opening track, and first single, ‘Island’ is a soothing track about a mystery island. Gemma’s smooth, crystal clear vocals gently bob over lush and jangly guitar lines like a boat upon the waves, with the second verse painting a beautifully nostalgic picture: “You’ll do a lot of talking and I’ll do a lot of listening and one day the records will come out of their sleeves / the one that has my name on the back and the one that has the secret track, and everything between the backdoor and the sea wall…” The accompanying video of overlaid singing, sea, and birds perfectly complements the musical content, which evokes thoughts of nature and water.

My personal album highlight, ‘Voices’, offers a traditional folk-inspired melody, encompassing a fiddle which weaves around the vocal lines with a waltz-like rhythm. The sparse yet present drum beat gets your foot tapping and gives it a sea shanty feel. Gemma’s vocals may be delicate, yet they emit a strength bringing to mind Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee.

‘Stone Steps’ offers Nicky’s most interesting guitar riff on the album, a melancholic yet hopeful refrain. Gemma’s lullaby vocals in the verses erupt into something more powerful and reminiscent of Delores O’Riordan’s vocal in the chorus. Later on in the song, a spoken word section is introduced, giving your ears a new element to enjoy.

The duo’s cover of Joy Division’s iconic song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is both atmospheric and haunting. The finger-style of the guitar combined with the cinematic vocal arrangement does this tricky-to-cover song justice, retaining its sadness and depth whilst adding Lost Chimes’ own spin.

Ella Patenall

Track Of The Day: Desperate Journalist – ‘Personality Girlfriend’

Having been charming us for a number of years now with their hypnotic, ’80s-reminiscent indie soundscapes, London’s Desperate Journalist have now announced a new album, set for release next month. Ahead of the album, the band recently shared new single ‘Personality Girlfriend‘.

Reflecting on society’s obsession with “putting women into boxes/on pedestals...”, ‘Personality Girlfriend’ flows with jangly, scuzzed-out hooks and a swirling, shoegaze-tinged allure. Building with a fizzing energy as the distinctive, honey-sweet vocals of Jo Bevan soar with a subtle power, it glistens with a shimmering anthemic grace and reverb-strewn splendour. Whilst harking back to the grittier Britpop of the early ’90s, here Desperate Journalist once again manage to create something that is entirely their own – exquisitely fusing together their influences, whilst adding their own unique, captivating majesty and immersing the listener in the track’s poignant subject matter. Expanding on the song’s meaning, Bevan explains:

The stupid idea that we are either gorgeous airheads with no inner life, or Plain Janes ‘with a great personality’, is exhaustingly pervasive in the way people talk about relationships, and both ‘categories’ are negging, nasty excuses for not granting respect to the person in question… The song is also a riposte to the tired old cultural trope that in order to be worthwhile or interesting a woman has to be incredibly strong and some kind of paragon of virtue and/or intrigue, when men are rarely held to the same standardI’m a real person with needs and desires and interests and I fucking dare you to discount me.”

Watch the new video for ‘Personality Girlfriend’ here:

Recorded entirely in Crouch End during lockdown, Maximum Sorrow – the upcoming album from Desperate Journalist – is set for release on 2nd July via Fierce Panda Records. Pre-order here.

Mari Lane

Photo Credit: Nick JS Thompson

ALBUM: Fightmilk – ‘Contender’

Recorded in two sessions a year apart, GIHE faves Fightmilk’s second album Contender is worth every second of the wait, following 2018’s Not With That Attitude. The band’s writing and recording process has understandably changed over the past twelve months. Combined with the influence of their new bassist Healey and and an expanded musicality, their style has developed without losing any of the raw emotion at the heart of what makes Fightmilk special.

The album kicks off with an authentic false start. This, along with later interludes, makes for lovely humanising moments that give DIY bands so much charm. Then the music comes in hard and fast. From the first beat, you get big drums, powerful vocals and guitars layered beautifully over each other. The album is rich with riffs, fantastic flourishes of strings that make every song pop. Both in individual tracks and across the album as a whole, the instruments build to roaring climactic moments that launch the vocals to an impressive new reach. The band know how to use their instruments to ramp up the power of every track at exactly the right time.

The songs explore the human experience with Fightmilk’s distinct brand of unapologetic vulnerability. There are wonderfully fuzzy love songs (‘Overbite’, ‘Maybe’) and pettiness-about-your-ex songs and please-dump-your-awful-boyfriend songs (‘Hey Annabelle’). There is also a song about “a hypothetical billionaire and his hypothetical pop-star girlfriend”, which is definitely hypothetical…

The lyrics are intense and personal in a way you can’t help but relate to. Every song is evidently grounded in real experiences and so imbued with emotion. The themes don’t shy away from the darker side of reality, but examine the impact of heartache, the patriarchy or corrupt governments on your soul with a twinkling, scuzzy charm. There’s a great balance between the reflective songs and hopeful ones. It starts and finishes with uplifting tracks that beautifully frame the journey the album takes you on, concluding with a sense of scrappy DIY optimism.

The album captures the essence of 2021 perfectly, drifting easily between plague and feelings and third wave capitalism and exes. The range of powerful energetic songs and more gentle ones fit well alongside each other without jarring. The changes in tone and emotion between tracks flow together with an endearing ease. Contender is at once cathartic, validating and empowering. It’s everything I want in the music that will propel me out of the lockdown slump and into a year that makes up for every lost minute.

Contender is out now via Reckless Yes. Buy on bandcamp now.

Kirstie Summers

ALBUM: Naoko Sakata – ‘Dancing Spirits’

Sweden is better known to most for being home to the beating heart of quality pop music than for its long legacy of experimental and improvisational composers. But what a legacy it is! Women have been at the forefront of this extraordinary scene for decades and in recent years have become increasingly visible. It’s possible, for example, to draw a direct line from artists like 1970s drone pioneer Catherine Christer Hennix through to current critical favourites Ellen Arkbro, Maria w Horn and Anna von Hausswolff.

Since moving to Sweden in 2008, Japanese-born Naoko Sakata has established herself as a major talent. First with her eponymous jazz trio and lately as a soloist of fierce intuition. Dancing Spirits is her second album of solo piano improvs, following last year’s impressive Inner Planets, and the first to be released through von Hausswolff’s own label, Pomperipossa Records.

Recorded in a Gothenburg church over two evenings in August 2020, these seven highly expressive improvisations are the sound of an artist pulling threads of composition not out of thin air – there is no such thing in a church – but from some other unknowable source of energy and emotions. Sometimes those threads unravel wildly, yanking something portentous into focus before resolving into musical dust motes that settle on the floor. At other times, the drama is more gently prescribed and the directionless journeying feels in thrall to something distant and tidal.

Sakata believes in the hidden influence of planetary alignment and in creating sacred spaces where peace and chaos are allowed to coexist and to channel ideas and emotions. As with astrology, part of the enjoyment of Sakata’s music comes from the ability to project one’s own imaginations and stories onto each composition. Anna von Hausswolff’s striking photography suggests a strong folkloric element at play. Dancing spirits, often women, have been referenced in popular stories dating as far back as Neolithic times. These spirits go by many names, from the tragic rusalka of central Europe to the dawn goddess Ame-no-Uzume and other dancing kami of Japanese mythology, and their stories are often linked with fertility, of the earth and of the people.

Whatever their rhyme or reason, Sakata does not discriminate in opening herself up to these dynamic energies and others. Her unobstructed playing gives body to whomever or whatever is drawn into the music, at the mic’d place at the mic’d time. Dancing Spirits, then, functions as a non-canonical window into a cosmic choreography of player, piano and what lies beyond the limits of scientific detection. It’s a challenging listen in that it makes a ritual of fearlessness, but admirable, too, for the very same reason.

Follow Naoko Sakata on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Artwork: Gianluca Grasselli

Alan Pedder