LISTEN: Maija Sofia – ‘The Glitter’

Following the success of last single ‘Flowers’, Irish artist Maija Sofia has now announced the release of her debut album, Bath Time – a collection of songs that were written in the run up to the Repeal The 8th Movement, and all addressing the issue of the silencing and misrepresentation of women.

In keeping with this theme, new single ‘The Glitter’ tells the story of Jean Rhys, a Carribean novelist who came to England aged sixteen and struggled with feelings of displacement. Flowing with beautiful, folk strewn melodies and Sofia’s rich luscious vocals, it sparkles with a raw emotion, creating a poignant, stirring slice of alt-folk. 

Listen to ‘The Glitter’ here:

 

Bath Time, the upcoming new album from Maija Sofia, is out 22nd November via Trapped Animal Records and Cargo Records.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

 

ALBUM: Gaptooth – ‘Sharp Minds, Raised Fists’

Gaptooth – singer, songwriter and producer Hannah Lucy – wears her influences on her sleeve (quite literally, if you check out the video for ‘Post-Patriarchy Disco’). And, like the feminist punk bands she loves, Sharp Minds, Raised Fists has purpose and a pure punk attitude. Yet the poppy synths, crunchy guitars and electro beats make it feel accessible, too.

And accessibility is everything when your message is so important. Gaptooth’s impassioned lyrics are a call to arms; a rallying cry against the patriarchy and capitalism. It’s hard not to get fired up by them. In ‘Red flags’, you feel and share her anger: “We wanna stay sexy and not get murdered,” she sings, “We’re still walking home with our keys in our fists.”

‘They Cut, We Bleed’ is peppered with samples from marches arranged by the feminist direct action group, Sisters Uncut. It feels ground-breaking and powerful. Meanwhile, ‘I Am Not My Productivity’ is an anti-capitalist anthem for anyone who feels like work is sucking the life out of them. And God, there’s a lot of us!

Sharp Minds, Raised Fists includes some more personal songs, too. ‘Mixtape Song’ and ‘Why I Left You Standing Outside Pizza Express’ offer an insight into both Hannah Lucy’s life and what it means to be a woman or non-binary person today.

This is an accomplished, important record. It sounds great; a real triumph of song-writing, performance and production. But more than that, it feels like Sharp Minds, Raised Fists could really inspire and empower people. It could soundtrack a movement.

You know the old adage about how everyone who attended the Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester started a band? Similarly, perhaps this record will make people start a revolution.

Sharp Minds, Raised Fists is out 11th October. Pre-order on Bandcamp now.

Vic Conway

Photo Credit: Keira Anee Photography

ALBUM: Jenny Hval – ‘The Practice Of Love’

A confessional, intimate, emotion-spanning work; Jenny Hval‘s new album The Practice Of Love explores the spectrum of love and relationships through swirling synths and revealing lyrics. It’s a marked departure from the darkness of her 2016 album Blood Bitch, but equally as complex and memorable.

Loosely inspired by Valie Export’s 1985 film of the same name, Hval admits she’s “mostly avoided love as a topic” in her work because she views the intimacy that comes with it as “a lifelong journey”. However, it’s her desire to communicate this truth that’s fueled the creation of her new record.

Opening track ‘Lions’ is brought to life by friend & collaborator Vivian Wang’s measured voice. She guides listeners, instructing them to look across a forest landscape for a holy entity, as Hval’s ethereal vocals overlap her. The duality of the voices form separate parts of the same story, which is simultaneously off-putting and exciting.

A shimmering, textured, surreal take on creativity, second track ‘High Alice’ centers around a re-imagined version of the eponymous character from Alice In Wonderland. Here, Hval plays with the clichés surrounding what it means to be a woman who makes art. Her gentle vocals, looped beats and narrative perspective demonstrate her ability to captivate listeners with her intricate musical storytelling.

‘Accident’ (featuring Laura Jean) is a conversation between two women about birth, life, and an indifference to Motherhood. The oddly poetic line “she found stretch-mark cream in and air b&b” adds a lightness to an otherwise heavy topic. The album’s title track ‘The Practice of Love’ features the voices of Hval, Laura Jean & Vivian Wang, discussing the many strands that make up the web of love. It begs multiple listens so that each voice can be appreciated, but the overlapping of multiple different sentiments makes for a captivating listen. Self love, romantic love, platonic love – all are covered and contemplated on this piece of Hval’s puzzle of intimacy.

‘Ashes To Ashes’ is a strangely uplifting electronic affair. Hval blends gentle vocals, startling lyrics and deceptively catchy beats to communicate issues of morality. Following track ‘Thumbsucker’ (featuring Félicia Atkinson) is a pensive, curious listen that sees Hval “withdrawing word by word, back in to the rabbit hole” for safety. It’s not long before she reemerges with penultimate track ‘Six Red Cannas’ (featuring all three of her collaborators), with its catchy beats inspired by 90s trance music.

Hval closes The Practice Of Love with the humbly titled track ‘Ordinary’. It’s a charming celebration of the desire to share universal feelings, which by default makes us all very ordinary. Except, Hval’s “ordinary” isn’t quite so. Even when she strives for it, her wonderful “otherness” sets her apart from other “ordinary” artists who delve in to the same themes. That is truly worth celebrating, and practicing love for.

Jenny Hval’s new album The Practice Of Love will be released via Sacred Bones on 13th September. Pre-order your copy here.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: HAVVK – ‘Cause & Effect’ (Pt.1)

From the moment Cause & Effect begins, until the last riff of latest single ‘Shifting Shape’ ends, HAVVK have your complete attention… And this is only the first chapter! Never wanting to be conventional, HAVVK have chosen to release their debut album in two halves; with the latter set for release on 22nd November. 

Beginning life in London, HAVVK now consists of Julie, Matt and Sam, who – over the years – have developed their own style of feedback-laden, ethereal alt-rock, resulting in two incredible extended plays: the self-titled HAVVK (2016) and She Knows EP (2017).

Alternating between London, Dublin, and Berlin (the latter where Cause & Effect was recorded with producer Rocky O’Reilly), the trio approach Part 1 unrestrained with a take no prisoners/punk rock attitude. Opening with ‘If I Don’t Tell You’ – a biting social commentary on social media discord – you are instantly captivated by the shimmering guitar riffs, pulsating drum beats and brooding basslines, before being transported seamlessly into ‘Birds on a Wire’.

‘Birds on a Wire’ introspectively analyses a destructive relationship through Julie’s raw, honest vocals and an expansive, melancholic sound – “When I’m trying to speak, are you listening? Do you want to hear me scream?” This is followed by ‘Always the Same’, which confronts female objectivity and toxic masculinity, as we hear Julie challenge men who make women feel unsafe as a result of their gender.

On ‘The Factory’, Julie’s vocals soar as the track ascends into a crescendo of meticulous noise, before transitioning into the post-punk x shoegazing of ‘Tunnels’.

Throughout the album, the contrasting narrative of each song is structured into a cohesive whole with each seamless transition. HAVVK have always explored lighter and louder soundscapes through political and social songwriting, and Cause & Effect is the perfect example of their euphonic activism.

HAVVK continue to agitate societal bullshit with their final track, ‘Shifting Shape’. Armed with an abrasive edge, and a quiet/loud dynamic, HAVVK waste no time in getting straight to the point: Fuck constraints, fuck traditional assumptions surrounding gender, and fuck the unwarranted, unnecessary pressure it causes.

HAVVK craft music to make a statement, and with the first six songs from Cause & Effect the band have covered a lot of ground; from inequality to gender-preconceptions. It can be exhausting, but change is happening, so let’s keep this momentum going. Bands like HAVVK are needed now more than ever.

Cause & Effect (Pt.1) is out now via Veta Records.

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Shitkid – ‘Detention’

Starting off as a solo project from Åsa Söderqvist in 2015, ShitKid has blossomed into a pop-punk revival as of late. Söderqvist and new bandmate Lina Molarin Ericcson have returned to their school days to unearth material for their new album Detention. The album, an eight-track EP, takes inspiration from the likes of old-school punk bands like Weezer, The Offspring and Simple Plan which is evident from the moment the title track ‘Detention’ hits. 

On deciding that the album should follow the pop-punk genre, Söderqvist says, “It’s a genre that’s quite embarrassing to go back to, and i knew that would make it really fun. I used to be emo in 2008, and no nobody plays that music anymore!

The genre is definitely not what it used to be, and for those that used to listen to it who may be stuck in a rut, repeating the same artists and albums that they always have, Detention gives way to a new artist to the scene. As a fellow former emo-kid, I can relate.

While listening to title track ‘Detention’ my mind immediately floats to The Runaways, a comparison I’m sure they’ve gotten before. Other inspirations in the form of bands like Green Day or Sum 41 are apparent throughout other tracks like ‘Last Mistake’ and ‘Summer18’, which bring with them a heavy dose of nostalgia.

‘Home Wondering (I Don’t Wanna Go To Prom)’ holds stoic guitar riffs alongside the vocals that give the track personality, especially with the lyrics coinciding with the old-school throwback, whilst ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ is a lightweight and heartfelt anthem to round off the EP, tying the rest of the tracks together perfectly.

If you’re tired of listening to American Idiot and Conspiracy of One since release and want a new band to jump around your flat to whilst head-banging and reliving memories of your teenage years, ShitKid is the artist for you. They are leading the way for a new era of pop-punk with emotions we only saw 20 years ago, and it’s certainly good to have a dose of nostalgia in 2019.

Söderqvist also promises that they’ll “definitely do a pop album next, and we want to make a screamo record too!”. So, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see where the band decide to walk with their next release.

 

Detention is out via PNKSLM Recordings on May 10th. Pre-order here.

Bekky Smart
@bekkymays

ALBUM: Heather Woods Broderick – ‘Invitation’

Oregon-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick releases her third album Invitation this month. Having toured with Sharon Van Etten, Efterklang, and Lisa Hannigan, her new album is laden with dreamy Baroque pop sounds, built around piano and vocal melodies, with poetic lyrics inspired by her move to a quiet corner of the Pacific North West.

Opener ‘Stilling Wind’, with its gentle electronics and slow dreamy guitar, deals with memories invoked by once familiar landscapes – “how did you slow the tide and disappear so quickly… Have I changed yet, or do my habits still remain?” The lush atmosphere leads into the beautifully poetic ‘I Try’, whilst imagery of the natural surroundings intertwines with the music in the country-sounding ‘Nightcrawler’, and in ‘Where I Lay’ producing a haunting effect.

The piano opens out into an elegiac chorus, like the powerful, crashing waves of the landscape in ‘Slow Dazzle’, and ‘A Daydream’ provide moments of pleasure in solitude, before the pace picks up again on ‘White Tail’ with its nocturnal forest sounds and ethereal vocal exploring Heather’s experiences with depression and finding a transcendence.

The beautifully personal piano ballads ‘Quicksand’ and ‘My Sunny One’ deal with alcoholism and failed relationships respectively, whilst closing track ‘Invitation’ completes the journey of self-acceptance: “I left that candle burning… I dreamt it took me last night into the darker side of life.”

I too accept the invitation this delicately-crafted album offers for introspection and the beauty found in stillness. The sentiment, that it is not the fear of falling, but getting back up again, recurs throughout each captivating song, offering hope and light.

Invitation is out 19th April via Western Vinyl.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

ALBUM: Mally Harpaz – ‘Zoom In, Zoom Out’

There are some compositions that were created to inspire, and Mally Harpaz’s self-released album, Zoom In, Zoom Out, is fuelled by them. On 5th April, Mally Harpaz released an album that has been almost two years in the making. For anyone that has been lucky enough to attend one of the primarily North London-based Blind Dog Studio gigs, you’ll at least have a sense of the material contained within.

Trite though it is for me to say (again) but wholly true, Mally Harpaz is a musician. She is an artist, a composer, a percussionist, and a beautiful soul. Mally is a musician’s musician and the musical landscape that she’s created on Zoom In, Zoom Out is every bit as artful as the stunningly poignant video art by Clara Aparicio Yoldi projected behind each live show.

While the live show visuals aid the music in reaching epic heights, one listen to the record and you’ll see your own. Recorded between Harpaz’s own Blind Dog Studio – a studio on her property named after her dog – and Hackney Road Studios with sound engineer, Shuta Shinoda, listening to Zoom In, Zoom Out is every bit the spiritual experience it should be.

All too many times people have uttered the phrase that they need words to music, but all I can think is that they don’t quite appreciate the atmosphere of a score. Zoom In, Zoom Out is a score; tracks like ‘Voices’ and ‘Not Without Pain’ say everything that has to be said: to anyone, wherever they are when listening. For me, a dark room through studio headphones with an aching soul.

Any vocal accompaniments are from Blind Dog Studio regulars Hazel Iris, James Marples, Eran Karniel, and Anna Calvi. And of course, the heartbreakingly sound ‘Not Without Pain’ mixing somber spoken word from Harpaz with Calvi’s haunting vocals washing in like a tidal wave alongside the great swell of instrumentation composed from the stunning depths of Harpaz’s mind.

Words don’t do justice to a record built on feeling, but then again, without the pursuit, music would be far duller a landscape. Thanks to artists like Mally Harpaz, however, that’s never gonna happen.

Zoom In, Zoom Out is available now via Bandcamp.

Em Burfitt
@fenderqueer

Photo Credit: Stéphane Guilley