PLAYLIST: February 2021

We’ve made it through the first two months of 2021! Despite the current lockdown here in the UK, the GIHE team have been busy unearthing more new music gems to help you get through these long and tedious days. We’ve put together an eclectic mix of alt-pop gems, atmospheric electronics and gritty guitar tunes on our February playlist.

Take some time to scroll through our track choices below and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post. Follow GIHE on Spotify to hear all of our previous playlists too.

 

Scrounge – ‘Leaking Drains’
The new single from South East London duo Lucy and Luke – aka Scrounge – ‘Leaking Drains’ offers a stark soundscape reflecting on the state of society at the moment. Propelled by Lucy’s raw, snarling vocals and slashing guitar alongside Luke’s immense, thrashing beats, it builds to a colossal cacophony before coming to a disconcerting, abrupt end – only adding to the stirring tension that has built up throughout. Oozing a ferocious power, the duo have created something that is striking both in its jarring potency and rage-driven force.
(Mari Lane – Managing Editor)

HAVVK – ‘Home’
The first single to be shared from HAVVK’s upcoming new album, ‘Home’ is 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. (ML)

Softcult – ‘Another Bish’
Informed by their love of Bikini Kill and Smashing Pumpkins, alternative duo Softcult blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and bittersweet vocals to create their hazy, antagonistic sounds. Formed of Ontario-based twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn, this single ‘Another Bish’ was born from their desire to resist and relieve the pressures of existing in a patriarchal music industry. I had a lovely chat with the grrls over Zoom a few weeks ago which you can read here.
(Kate Crudgington – Features Editor)

New Pagans – ‘Harbour’
A tenacious celebration of women’s strength and resilience throughout pregnancy and childbirth, New Pagans’ latest single ‘Harbour’ is based on the experiences of vocalist Lyndsey McDougall’s pregnancy with her own daughter. Full of the Belfast band’s trademark urgent riffs and catchy melodies, it’s an empowering examination of the fears and triumphs that accompany this unique time in a woman’s life. I can’t wait to hear New Pagans’ debut album, The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, when it’s released on 19th March. (KC)

Grandmas House – ‘Always Happy’
A thumping post-punk anthem that seethes with sardonic wit, ‘Always Happy’ is the latest single from Bristol-based trio Grandmas House. Released via Brace Yourself Records, the track is a raucous juxtaposition of the confident image we project externally to others, when internally we often feel the complete opposite. (KC)

Pretty Happy – ‘Salami’
A wise-cracking anthem about the complexities of processed meat, ‘Salami’ is the new single from Cork art-punk trio Pretty Happy. Full of sarcastic lyrics, gutsy vocals and crashing percussion, the track is a ridiculously good off-kilter banger that rambles through the band’s many absurd thoughts and feelings about the pork-based snack. (KC)

Hadda Be – ‘Another Life’
Complete with a refreshed line-up and new name, Hadda Be (formerly Foundlings) bring their shimmering joy to latest single ‘Another Life’. Despite the track’s somewhat melancholic sentiment – “it covers me in worry, now that’s all I ever know” – it’s buoyed by an infectious jangling energy as scuzzy hooks whirr alongside frenetic beats and Amber’s rich vocals. An uplifting slice of indie-fuzz-pop that’ll leave you longing to dance along to its sparkling sounds live. (ML)

Lauren Auder – ‘Heathen’
“I think this may be my favourite song I’ve ever worked on,” explains London-based songwriter Lauren Auder about this track, and I can see why. ‘Heathen’ is actually my first introduction to her sound, but what an intro it is! It mixes everything I love about electronic music – yearning vocals, urgent beats, rapturous synths and guitar noises – it’s all here and it gives me goose bumps every time I listen. Definitely check out Auder’s new EP, 5 Songs For The Dysphoric, if you’re into this. (KC)

Tyler Holmes – ‘Nothing’
I’ve only recently become acquainted with Tyler Holmes, but I have fast fallen in love with their poignant, affecting and utterly unique sweeping electronic soundscapes. Holmes has spent a lifetime crafting their own Black, Queer narrative by pushing the limits of their imagination and their innovative ability to fuse together genres to create truly stirring, instantly immersive sonic trips is showcased perfectly on ‘Nothing’. Holmes is set to release their new album next month via Ratskin Records. Watch the video for ‘Nothing’ here. (ML)

SPIDER – ‘Water Sign’
Born in Nigeria but raised in Dublin, London-based twenty-one year old SPIDER blends jagged electronics and brooding guitar riffs alongside her distinctive vocals to create her evocative sounds. Her focus is on how a track makes you feel – whether that’s a feeling of power, fluidity or chaos – and on ‘Water Sign’ she weaves these emotions into a cohesive, stirring electronic soundscape. (KC)

Roma – ‘Stay Like This’ (Tiiva Remix)
I’ve been following queer artist & producer Tiiva since I heard their re-working of Despicable Zee’s ‘We Won’t Stop’ last year, and I’m continuously impressed by their instinct for choosing talented and interesting artists to collaborate with. Tiiva reached out to songwriter Roma during lockdown after hearing her track ‘Stay Like This’ and the pair have worked together to create this lush, dreamy electronic tune. Roma originally wrote this song from the perspective of her daughter, exploring what it means to grow up in a modern world and Tiiva overcame their own adult cynicism to create this woozy new remix. (KC)

Show Boy – ‘Turn It On’
Following 2019’s Surreal, London artist and producer Show Boy has today released his much awaited brand new EP Ishtar Lion. A wonderfully eclectic collection, the EP showcases Show Boy’s knack for blurring genre boundaries, combining influences from across the musical spectrum to create perfectly catchy offerings oozing an uplifting, vibrant energy and heartfelt emotion. Driven by the soaring power of his unique vocals, ‘Turn It On’ interweaves an intricate musicality with a sparkling soulful splendour, resulting in a euphoric ode to new beginnings. (ML)

Callaz – ‘Queima Essa Ideia’
Recorded in Berlin and produced by the brilliant Ah! Kosmos, the title of this latest single from songwriter Callaz translates roughly as ‘Burn That Idea’. Based between Lisbon and Berlin, Callaz has recently released her second album, the brilliantly titled Dead Flowers & Cat Piss, and it’s full of her soft vocals, candid lyrics and alt-pop soundscapes. (KC)

Grove – ‘Ur Boyfriend’s Wack’
Bristol-based hyperpop artist Grove blends chaotic synths, warped beats and wicked rap verses on this high octane track ‘Ur Boyfriend’s Wack’. Taken from their debut EP, QUEER + BLACK, this song forms part of Grove’s aural journey through their experiences of being young, black and queer. (KC)

Ci Majr – ‘Summer Drug’
Ci Majr is an emerging non-binary artist from Atlanta and this new single ‘Summer Drug’ is a flirty, joyful dose of dancing beats and smooth vocals. Of the track, Ci explains: “I think a lot of us have been in a place where we’ve been hurt from a relationship and have a hard time opening up again…so this song is saying ‘yes, you can absolutely satisfy my physical needs but we’re not taking it further than that’; likening ‘using’ someone for their body just like you’d use a drug of some sort.” (KC)

Desire – ‘Zeros’
The latest single from Desire, ‘Zeros’ will capture the ears with its sweeping celestial aura. As a majestic, electro-driven soundscape provides the backdrop for Megan Louise’s honey-sweet soaring vocals, glitchy beats and twinkling hooks create a truly moreish offering, oozing an ethereal, effervescent grace. Of the track, Desire explain: “As the calendar pages fly by, we are all reaching for a new normal on what sometimes feels like an endless loop. The cyclical music echoes flashback sequences of a recurring dream.” (ML)

Blonde Maze – ‘Fade Into You’
An exquisite rendition of a Mazzy Star classic, Blonde Maze’s ‘Fade Into You’ oozes all the poignant, rich emotion of the original, whilst adding her own unique blend of soaring electronics and uplifting chiming beats to create something truly euphoric steeped in its own ethereal splendour. Another blissfully cathartic creation from Blonde Maze, showcasing her ability to take an already beautiful track and transform it into something that is completely, undeniably, and majestically, her own. (ML)

Kalbells ft. Miss Eaves – ‘Pickles’
A dreamy tune about escaping a romantic pickle, ‘Pickles’ is a delightful new offering from cosmic-pop collective Kalbells, featuring rapper Miss Eaves. Kalbell’s will be releasing their new album Max Heart on 26th March, which they describe as a “portrait of badass women harnessing their improvisational magic.” (KC)

pecq – ‘Stranger’
‘Stranger’ is the debut single from Oxford psych-pop duo pecq, aka Nikò O’Brien and Hannah Jacobs. It’s a delicate, lush soundscape which the pair wrote, produced and self-released through their own label, Upcycled Sounds Records, earlier this year. pecq are set to release their debut EP, also called Stranger, this summer. (KC)

Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business – ‘Woman Is A Word’
A cover of Empress Of’s ‘Woman Is A Word’, this latest offering from the six-piece choral punk ensemble highlights the power of voices coming together in unity. Oozing a sweeping, celestial splendour, the many vocals flow together in harmony, propelled by an upbeat, jazz-infused musicality. Adding their own unique euphoric energy to the poignant sentiment and soulful passion of the original, Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business have created an emotive and empowering rendition. (ML)

BAXTR – ‘Grace On Fire’
The latest single from London-based trio BAXTR, ‘Grace On Fire’ reflects on the feelings of helplessness that come with seeing someone you love suffer. A sweeping, uplifting slice of alt-pop it oozes nostalgic tinges harking back to the anthemic indie classics of the early noughties, whilst maintaining its own unique shimmering power. As Floss’ honey-sweet vocals flow with a celestial majesty throughout, the track builds with explosive, soaring riffs and a swirling heartfelt emotion to create something truly stirring. (ML)

Samantha Crain – ‘Bloomsday’
Taken from her upcoming new EP, I Guess We Live Here Now, Samantha Crain’s latest single ‘Bloomsday’ is a poignant slice of Americana combining beautifully strummed melodies and a stirring warmth. As the impassioned subtle power of Crain’s rich vocals ooze shades of the raw emotion of Sharon Van Etten, twinkling hooks flow with a rustic charm to gently grace the heartstrings. I Guess We Live Here Now, the upcoming new EP from Samantha Crain, is out 9th April via Real Kind Records/Communion Records. Watch the video for ‘Bloomsday’ here. (ML)

Ex:Re – ‘Where the Time Went’ (with 12 Ensemble)
This song stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. The title, Elena Tonra’s vocals and lyrics, composer Josephine Stephenson’s cinematic string arrangements – they all resonate so much deeper during this extended period of lockdown. ‘Where The Time’ went is one of ten beautiful tracks on Tonra’s new collaborative album, Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble, and it’s accompanied by a wonderful music video that she directed too. Watch it here. (KC)

Hannah Peel – ‘Ecovocative’
I’m very late to the Hannah Peel party, but I’m in love with her ambient electronic soundscapes. This single ‘Ecovocative’ is lifted from her upcoming album Fir Wave, which is set for release on 26th March via Peel’s own label My Own Pleasure. (KC)

 

INTERVIEW: Softcult

Inspired by their love of 90s alternative music icons Bikini Kill and Smashing Pumpkins, Ontario-based duo Softcult blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and bittersweet vocals to create their hazy, antagonistic sounds. Formed of twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn, Softcult cut their teeth playing live shows in their local town of Kitchener, before moving on to bigger audiences on the North American tour circuit.

Their experiences of playing and working within a male-dominated music industry formed the foundation for their current sound, which is born from the desire to resist and relieve the pressures of existing in a patriarchal world. We caught up with Mercedes (guitars, vocals) and Phoenix (drums, production) to talk about their debut single ‘Another Bish’, their last gig before covid-19 hit, and what their dream festival line-up might be…

Hello girls, how are you both doing? Are you in lockdown in Canada at the moment?

Mercedes: We’re doing alright, we’re locked down like you guys are in the UK. It’s a lot of time to focus on music and writing and recording, so we’re very lucky that we have a home studio right now. I feel very blessed right now, because for some people I know, being in lockdown has meant they’ve been very unmotivated and unable to write, whereas that hasn’t been our experience at all. We’ve been writing and recoding loads and it’s been a God send to us, it’s kept us sane and active and motivated.

That’s good news! Let’s start at the beginning, who or what originally inspired you to start making your own music?

Mercedes: We’re twin sisters and we’ve been making music together forever. We’ve been in different bands over the years playing and getting some experience, but for this project we felt motivated by everything that’s going on right now. Having been in the music industry already for some time, we’ve experienced misogyny and sexism. At this point, I feel like this band has been put on this planet as a voice against abuse, or for people who don’t feel seen or feel like they don’t have a voice. A lot of our songs are about that.

We speak to lots of women who have unfortunately experienced misogyny in the music industry. Do you think your experience of it is somewhat heightened because you’re twin sisters? I only ask because I have younger sisters who are twins, and when we’ve been on nights out together before people have made inappropriate or creepy comments towards them without any hesitation…

Phoenix: Only another person who really knows twins would ask that, and it is so true. There’s a weird fetish around twins and it’s very creepy.

Mercedes: We find a lot of the time there’s insinuations about incest and weird stuff like that. I know a lot of women in bands who aren’t even related who have experienced that. Heart are a good example actually. The sisters in that band are constantly being pitted against each other and I think that happens a lot with women and siblings in the industry and it’s just so weird. It’s a definite downside to being a twin, but there’s also an up side too.

Phoenix and I have such a close connection and that helps a lot with our music. She’s always a step ahead of me, or finishing my sentences creatively for me. She handles all of the production side – everything we make is recorded and produced from our home studio. Then I handle all the stuff on the video/visual side of things and it just makes for a good team. There’s a closeness and and understanding and an empathy that we have from being twins, it’s not all just creepy dudes!

That’s true! Talk to me about your debut single ‘Another Bish’. What’s it about? How did you put the video for it together etc.?

Mercedes: The song is about misogyny. Phoenix and I hate the word “bitch” so we couldn’t even put it in the title, we literally felt skeeved out writing it down! The lyric “I’m just another bish that you’ll never tame” was supposed to be aimed at that typical misogynist dude who thinks all women are the same, and they’re there to be controlled and conquered. The song is from the perspective of the woman who’s sick of it and feels like the dog who’s finally going to bite its owner. It’s about fighting against that but also owning it. We noticed the type of guys who often say “she’s such a bitch” are just saying that about women who they think are outspoken. They just label them as “aggressive.”

For the video, we used paper cut-out clips of different women’s facial features – eyes, lips, nose – which we replaced with dog mouths. The dog mouths reflect the feelings of those guys who think that when you speak out about sexism you’re just some yappy dog who never shuts up. They’re also supposed to be a comment on how there’s so many double standards for women, not just in music but in the beauty industry as well. Women are having to basically try and be something that’s unattainable and if you’re not that thing, then they make out like you’re not trying hard enough. So we took those themes and put them into the video.

Are there any women in music at the moment who you admire who are standing up for themselves and not taking any sexist bullshit?

Phoenix: Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! – big time. We were just little teeny boppers when we first found out about Against Me! and we were obsessed. She’s a huge icon for a lot of reasons, but something I’ve always admired about her is that she is really outspoken about who she is. It’s so brave to go through the transgender transformation when you’re in a very male dominated space in a very male dominated music genre, and just rebelling against all expectations and being yourself. That’s a huge inspiration.

Do you remember the last gig you went to before Covid-19 hit?

M & P: Yes!

Mercedes: It was another music project that we in at the time and it was at this dive bar. It was in March (2020), right after the stay-at-home orders happened and we were trying to play our way home, but we realised we had to cancel everything because it was just not responsible to have shows. So it was our very last gig and the vibe was very depressing.

Phoenix: People obviously didn’t show up, quite rightly, and we just wanted to go home.

Mercedes: We actually ended up staying over at a girls house. Up until then we were just crashing on floors on the tour, we didn’t have hotels booked or anything like that. So this girl kindly let us stay at her place and made us pizzas.

Phoenix: We were like “are you sure you still want us to stay? It’s totally cool if you don’t, we can sleep in the van!” but she still let us crash.

Mercedes: Her Dad had all these cool guitars so we just had a jam session with her. So after a kind of depressing show, we had this jam session in her living room and it was probably the most uplifting thing ever. That was probably the last real hang time we had with anyone outside of our house since lockdown started.

When we can all hang out properly at a festival again, who would be on your dream line-up?

Mercedes: I keep watching all these old videos from Reading & Leeds festival and wishing we could play that somehow…one day!

Phoenix: We’ve watched the Reading & Leeds Veruca Salt set a million times!

Mercedes: We love the UK. Every time we’ve been there we’ve had such an amazing time. I think the scene for music in the UK is sort of unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The fans are so in to the music. They know the lyrics, they know about the meaning behind the little pieces of art on your albums covers – I feel like they’re really into it and that’s really cool. Our dream line-up would be a dope festival somewhere in the UK and we’d have Bikini Kill, Veruca Salt, Against Me! playing…

Phoenix: …and Radiohead, they’re one of my all time favourite bands.

Mercedes: We’ll play the opening slot at 11am so that we can watch all the other bands.

Good decision! Finally, if you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Mercedes: Rebellious would be one, empathetic might be another. It’s not all just angry stuff though, sometimes it gets pretty feelsy and sad.

Phoenix: Fuzzy? (laughs). On the production side, people always think that distortion and fuzz are for loud music, which typically they are, but you can also make super dreamy, fuzzy distorted music and we try to do that as best as we can.

Huge thanks to Mercedes & Phoenix for answering our questions!

Follow Softcult on SpotifyInstagramFacebook & Twitter for more updates

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Softcult – ‘Another Bish’

A 90s inspired guitar tune that defies the feeling of being overlooked, Canadian duo Softcult have shared their debut single ‘Another Bish’. Informed by their love of Bikini Kill and Smashing Pumpkins, the band blend atmospheric guitars, energetic percussion and bittersweet vocals to create their hazy, antagonistic sounds.

Formed of Ontario-based twin sisters Phoenix and Mercedes Arn Horn, Softcult cut their teeth playing live shows in their local town Kitchener, before moving on to bigger audiences on the North American tour circuit. Their experiences of playing and working within a male-dominated industry formed the foundation for their current sound, which is born from the desire to resist and relieve the pressures of existing in a patriarchal world.

‘Another Bish’ is an ultra cool example of what their resistance sounds like. Despite its confident delivery, the track aches with anger and is underscored by insecurity, as the band say “even the baddest bish probably has a little bit of self doubt” at some points. With lyrics like “It feels like I’ve been pulling teeth / just trying to break off from your leash,” the duo reveal their desire to break free from the restrictions that they’ve encountered so far, whether that’s internally or externally.

Watch the self-directed video for ‘Another Bish’ below.

Follow Softcult on Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut