ALBUM: New Pagans – ‘The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All’

An intuitive rumination on the personal and the political, New Pagans‘ debut album The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All is a gritty, deeply poetic consideration of inequality and social injustice. Released via Big Scary Monsters, the Belfast band’s first full length record dives into the paraphernalia surrounding religion, romance and women’s pain, and resurfaces having transformed these tired archetypes into aural talismans of strength and defiance.

Formed of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley and Lyndsey McDougall, New Pagans blend elements of post-punk, grunge and pop to explore internal & external conflict in their music. On their 2020 debut EP Glacial Erratic, the band crafted six abrasive, yet melodic tracks that have formed the foundation for their first full length record. With the addition of five new songs, The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All is a sharper, fully fleshed out vision that sees the band’s scathing, yet sensitive approach to song-writing flourish with defiant flair.

“The demand for perfection is disturbing,” sings vocalist Lyndsey on opener ‘It’s Darker’. Based on a real life confrontation she had at a party with an aggressive male musician, the track will strike a chord with anyone who has had their opinion publicly devalued. “Everyone’s looking and I’m upset” she reveals, working through the unsettling feeling of being spoken down to via relentless riffs and commanding percussion.

Informed by overheard conversations on a Belfast bus, ‘Charlie Has The Face Of a Saint’ flows with a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Throwaway phrases like “I’m doing my part” or “You’re easy to have when you’re down on your knees” float above the loud/quiet verse/chorus structure, with the conflicting voices unable to provide answers, they simply exist in the ether. The spiralling ‘I Could Die’ follows, with its manic riffs and urgent vocals, before the powerful ‘Bloody Soil’ breaks through. It feels like the soundtrack to a social uprising, with its intense riffs and chant-able chorus.

A tribute to the sister of artists William Butler and Jack Butler Yeats, ‘Lily Yeats’ is an aural confidence boost to the song’s protagonist, and to the women who need encouragement to step out of their brother’s shadows. “My daughter needs to know that she can do the same,” sings Lyndsey over erratic riffs and pummelling beats, before dual male/female vocals drive home the message that it’s everyone’s responsibility to amplify the volume of women’s stories.

Lyndsey’s sharp focus on weaving her own stories of pain, self-autonomy and motherhood with other historic female narratives is the lyrical lifeblood of the album. She allows her own joy, grief and frustration to run parallel to others, with the band’s driving rhythms creating a musical space for the resilience and strength of these women’s histories to shine through. Singles ‘Harbour’ and ‘Yellow Room’ epitomise this.

On ‘Harbour’, Lyndsey celebrates the joy and the struggle of her own pregnancy, while on ‘Yellow Room’ she unravels the conversations around women’s mental health and the lack of support that new mothers often receive. Inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s semi-autobiographical short-story The Yellow Wallpaper, ‘Yellow Room’ is a racing, urgent exploration of female isolation. Through the medium of Gilmans’ text, the band traverse these underlying doubts via crystalline vocals and charged, powerful riffs, challenging and updating the narrative around women’s mental health.

A humble, shimmering ode to the perseverance that’s needed to keep a long-term relationship going, the band’s treatment of love and its many faults on ‘Admire’ is far more romantic than any Valentine’s bouquet. “Let’s preserve our old ways / let’s preserve them always” sings Lyndsey, her voice floating above atmospheric guitars and swirling bass lines. The song builds to a cacophony of shoegaze noise, removing all sense of doubt about remaining faithful to your partner.

On ‘Ode To None’, the band rip up more outdated traditions of conventional storytelling, declaring “We’re the new pagans / dedicated to nurture”, while on the aspirational ‘Natural Beauty’, Lyndsey dismantles what it means to be an ambitious artist. It serves as a reminder to take your art seriously and to have confidence in your abilities, which is wonderfully expressed in the empowering sentiment: “It’s in her destiny to be better than you.”

A riotous, refreshing call for accountability and a take down of sexist double standards, ‘Christian Boys’ seethes with righteous fury against the unfair judgement of women who are involved with hypocritical men. Based on the experiences of Lyndsey’s friend – who had been having an affair with a Christian leader in Northern Ireland before his marriage to a virgin bride – The urgency in the repeated lyric “Christian boys are the worst I know / Christian girls should take it slow” exposes the hypocrisy underscoring the track’s narrative, calling out those who blame others for their own mistakes. It’s a powerful and necessary statement to close the record with.

On The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, New Pagans uproot musical genres, challenge stunted narratives around social history, gender and relationships and manage to cultivate a powerful sonic resilience against them. It’s a hugely refreshing and impressive album that deserves all of the praise it’s received so far.

Order your copy of The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All here.

Follow New Pagans on bandcampTwitterInstagramFacebook & Spotify

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Zilched – ‘The Knife’

A murky grunge-pop tune exploring the unexpected emotions that continue to interrupt us after a breakup, Detroit-based musician Zilched has shared her latest single ‘The Knife’. Taken from her debut album DOOMPOP, released in 2020 via Young Heavy Souls, the track smoulders with a feeling of unrest, ushered along by reverb-heavy guitars and Zilched’s sweet yet sullen vocals.

“‘The Knife’ is about love/hate,” Zilched aka Chloë Drallos explains. Working through the simultaneous disbelief and genuine upset that follows heartbreak, Drallos’ new single fizzes was palatable yearning, reflected in the track’s accompanying self-directed video. “I wanted the video, with dancing improvised by Morgan McCaul, to visualize an inner monologue where those different emotional powers start to take over and ultimately lead to release of that power,” Drallos explains.

Inspired by 90s guitar icons like Nirvana and The Jesus and Mary Chain, Drallos channelled her influences into a collection of compelling noise-pop tracks on debut record DOOMPOP. “It’s an honest reflection of my attempts to grow up and make sense of absurdity,” she explains about the album. “I wrote the first song in my last month of high school at 18, and finished recording & producing just a month after my 20th birthday. With these songs, I wanted to go as deep into my insecurities and confusion, however immature I felt. Just write what I felt when I felt it in order to move on.”

Fuelled by her desire to move on from a difficult time, ‘The Knife’ is a cathartic slice of grunge-pop that gracefully faces up to the gritted teeth and flowing tears at the end of an intimate relationship.

Watch the self-directed video for ‘The Knife’ below.

Follow Zilched on bandcamp, Spotify, Instagram & Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCult

LISTEN: Bad Idea – ‘Happy’

An atmospheric, dizzy guitar tune about the unexpected relief a change of emotions can bring, Leeds four-piece Bad Idea have shared their latest single ‘Happy’. Released in partnership with RoseColoured Records, the track is a lush, woozy extrapolation on how refreshing your positive thoughts can be after you’ve been caught in the grasp of a low mood for too long.

Formed in 2016 on a drunken night out dancing to Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’, Bad Idea’s Sarah Sefton and Daniel Johnson chose the band’s name after entering into a new creative project and a new romantic relationship together at the same time. They put aside their concerns about how this might affect their musical dynamics and enlisted the help of new bandmates Charlie Peacock and Liam Lambert in 2019 to flesh out their lo-fi sounds.

In 2020, the band released their debut EP, the ironically titled I Just Want To Go Home, after recording the tracks intermittently between lockdowns in a friend’s basement. The result of their efforts is a joyful, fuzzy exploration of love, loss, nostalgia and moving on to new experiences. New single ‘Happy’ follows on from previous release ‘Winter’ and showcases the band’s ability to take simple concepts like a shift in mood and transform them into swirling, melodic aural head rushes.

Listen to ‘Happy’ below.

 

Follow Bad Idea on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: HAVVK – ‘Home’

Having been big fans of Dublin-based HAVVK since they headlined our first gig at The Finsbury back in 2016, we have been continually impressed and consistently charmed by all they’ve created since. Now, having received support from the likes of BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne and John Kennedy on Radio X, and following 2019’s debut full length album Cause & Effect, the trio have announced a brand new album set for release in July this year.

The first single to be shared from the album comes in the form of ‘Home’ – a stirring reflection on appreciating those closest to you. Propelled by a shimmering ethereal fuzz, the track showcases the soaring celestial majesty of front woman Julie’s vocals, as they float with an impassioned splendour over scuzzy hooks and a gritty, driving energy. Fusing together tinges of ’90s grunge-fuelled angst with twinkling shoegaze sensibilities and the band’s own unique poignant grace, it’s a truly captivating soundscape.

Of the track, Julie explains:

‘Home’ is about the freedom of youth and being oblivious to the protections you have around you. It’s about appreciating the people who have always been there for you even when you were at your worst – even if you weren’t grateful for it – and who’ve helped you get back up again every time. I feel really connected to this song right now. Over the past year, we’ve all had our social structures pulled out from underneath us and we’re missing the basic nourishment of human connection. I do miss the obliviousness of normal life (and dancing, and gigs, and hugs!), but I hope I’ll go back to the world a bit more grateful – far less transactional – and really value the humans around me.”

Produced by Rocky O’Reilly, ‘Home’ proves once again that HAVVK are a band on the rise; one who are consistently honing and developing their sound, continuing to impress and enchant the ears, not content to stick within the confines of any one sonic genre.

 

‘Home’ is out now, taken from HAVVK’s upcoming second album Levelling, produced by Rocky O’Reilly and set for release in July this year.

Mari Lane
@marimindles