EP: Bitch Hunt – ‘Shapeshifter’

Bitch Hunt have just released their debut EP and we couldn’t be happier. The non-binary alt-rock four-piece (and I’m sure there are plenty of other hyphenated terms you could apply – this is a band with range!) are alumni of the 2017 edition of London’s First Timers Fest – a festival with an impressive track record of assisting in the formation of some of the best music coming out of the city in the last few years (Big Joanie and Charmpit both played their first gigs at the festival). As such, it’s been something of a wait for this debut EP for those of us who were already aware of the band, but the wait has proved to be very much worth it.

Shapeshifter offers a shimmering collection of five songs characterised by a lo-fi aesthetic and heartfelt lyrics. EP highlight ‘Eau Claire’, which was released as a single back in April and described by us as “perfect punk pop”, is a nostalgic song (though a nostalgia with the rose-tint wiped clear) written about singer Sian’s time spent in a Wisconsin town of the same name. Fittingly then, Twin Peaks fans might even detect a hint of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack in the slacker bassline in the verse here, but a closer point of reference might be The Breeders’ ‘Oh!’ from 1990 album Pod. There’s a similarly woozy feel to the guitars and vocal delivery which accentuates the bittersweet content of the lyrics. In fact, the EP as a whole warrants favourable comparison to the early 1990s output of Kim & Kelley Deal’s band. That’s not to say there is anything derivative about this, though, Bitch Hunt have carved out their own distinctive sound and on this track in particular there’s a real sense of a landscape portrayed in the breadth of the sound – no mean feat considering the relative simplicity of the arrangements.

Closing track, ‘I Wanna Be Un/Happy’, showcases another side to the band’s sound. Here the guitar and bass interweave in a manner reminiscent of Interpol on the verse before the song bursts into life in the chorus. The contrast hinted at in the ‘Un/Happy’ of the title is reflected in the difference in sound between the doom-filled verse and uplifting chorus.

A spiky guitar part on ‘Identity Clinic’ provides the clearest link between what appears to be some of the influences on this EP – ’90s britpop a la Elastica & the bluesy end of the early 2000s garage revival (White Stripes, Black Keys etc). The lyrics are disarmingly open while remaining playful – “leave me out to cry”, we’re implored – and listening to the EP as a whole, the listener is left with the feeling that this mix of honesty, heartache and a sense of humour might be the defining characteristic of Bitch Hunt’s songs. ‘Out of Eden’’s biblical references serve a similar purpose – playing with our familiar understanding of phrases to provide counterpoint and illumination to what appears to be a story of two relationships – one destructive and the other restorative.

The EP can be bought for the low low price of £5 over on the band’s bandcamp page and has been released by Reckless Yes – a label with impeccable taste – so this reviewer would urge you to do so. It’s a real treat.

Shapeshifter, the new EP from Bitch Hunt, is out now via Reckless Yes.

Gregory Metcalfe
@gregorysparty

ALBUM: Girl Friday – ‘Androgynous Mary’

Hardly Art are hardly novices at breaking new bands – the label gave early releases to the likes of Tacocat, La Luz, Shannon & The Clams and Colleen Green, amongst many others – but for LA four-piece Girl Friday, this debut album release on the label reflects a massive step forward for a band after just two EPs, which were self-released. But equally, for a group with this diversity of influence, and this originality of expression, perhaps it’s not so surprising that they’re hosting the band’s new album Androgynous Mary. 

The group came together via a chance encounter when guitarist Vera met bassist Libby at a friend’s house, at UCLA. Impressed by Libby’s particular style of playing bass – the Peter Hook merged with Kim Deal style of which certainly informs the ten tracks on Androgynous Mary. Vera introduced herself and the pair began making music together, bringing in additional guitarist Sierra and drummer Virginia through friends of friends.

What really marks the group out is their refusal to pigeon-hole themselves, generically, with this LP displaying flashes of surf-rock, garage, post-punk, goth, art-rock and pop-punk. And, although the foursome certainly have a broadly feminist identity, this is no mere political screed. Rather, it’s a collage of sounds and ideas from their time together, as informed by “parking lot murals” as the SCUM Manifesto, in a way not dissimilar to Girl Friday’s  hero, Courtney Love.

Album opener, ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’, is a case-in-point. It’s initially a gentle lead-in that shows off Girl Friday’s gorgeous vocal harmonies and soaring guitar lines, all contained in a mid-tempo post-punk ballad. But, in perhaps a meta callback to its title, the song falls apart into a free-form breakdown a few minutes in, before returning to its original style.

Second track and the album’s lead single, ‘Amber’s Knees: A Matter of Concern’ is built around a choppy, spikey slice of lo-fi indie-punk guitar.  Described by the group as a consideration of “the borders of culturally sanctioned dissociation and the wilful ignorance we often employ to keep things functioning”, its juxtaposition of post-punk and lyrical density gives it a substantial atmosphere that belies the accessibility of its sound. This is also true to some extent with ‘Eaten Things’, which veers more towards a gloomy, grunge sludge bass-led sound, and thumping percussion – “I want to eat you up” goes its chorus, before a grim sounding middle eight that sounds epically gothic.  

Lyrically, ‘Public Bodies’ is a return to the observational nature of the first two tracks, whilst sonically shifting the album into Allo Darlin’ style melancholic indie-pop. Musing on mainstream rejection, isolation and the inaccessibility of healthcare in the USA (that’s one interpretation), it uses images of religion and bodies consumed by capitalist machinery, stating “…if you want your independence, then you trade your health for cash”. The song closes with a Goo-era Sonic Youth style coda, underlining the band’s ability to re-construct their songs, seemingly on the spur of the moment, like an act of collective will. This is also true of what follows in ‘What We Do It For’ – opening with 90 seconds of post-punk instrumental led by spectral guitars (not far from the early days of Interpol), leading to a middle section of balladic harmonies, and closing with a flurry of guitars and drums; it’s like three different songs beautifully crashing into each other.  

‘Earthquake’ is a more immediate, Runaways style garage banger, replete with a shouty chorus which, somewhat appropriately, leads to an emotional shift in the album. ‘Clotting’ contains soft vocalisations and more personally emotive lyrics, not dissimilar to Sleater Kinney’s quieter work, whilst ‘Gold Stars’ is a mid-tempo grunge tale of an unwanted relationship (“I said leave, but you heard love”), underscored by Libby’s bass melodies. 

Closers ‘Favourite Friend’ and ‘I Hope Jason Is Happy’ form a dovetailing pair, sharing a stadium-filling guitar line that shines throughout both – “My head doesn’t fit the crown, does it matter anymore?” opens the lyrics on the mournful former, and the track slowly grows in intensity, dropping away to leave only the sustained guitar lead-in to the LP’s closer. Over a marching drum beat and fuzzy guitars, Girl Friday’s four members sing “My head is on your chest / In the end I’ll be happy if you do your best / You’ve got to fight to keep your breath in this world” and, with that, it finishes.

Precocious, without being naïve, and intelligent, without being pretentious, Girl Friday have crafted a debut that is no mere polemic, but allows imagist lyrics and inventive song-craft to create a palpable sense of character for the listener to lean into. It cuts a slice through influences, that stretch from the early ’70s, up to the present day – sifting, magpie-like, through the works of The Breeders, The Slits, Girlpool, Placebo, and (perhaps unconsciously) the C86 movement. Throughout, that bass sound flows, like a dark river, stretching a taut string across ten tracks, that each ring with their own distinct power. In short, Girl Friday have constructed a debut that’s suitable for all the days of the week.

Androgynous Mary is out 21st August via Hardly Art. Pre-order here.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Al Kalyk

Five Favourites: Why Bonnie

The latest full-band project from Texan artist Blair Howerton, Why Bonnie released their debut Water back in 2018 and have now returned, announcing their upcoming EP Voice Box, set for release next month.

Title track and lead single, ‘Voice Box’, oozes sunny uplifting vibes as shimmering hooks and Howerton’s rich, luscious vocals flow with a soaring emotion; a truly dreamy offering fuzzing with a dazzling, effervescent charm.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. We caught up with Blair, who has shared her “Five Favourites” – five albums that particularly resonate with them. Check out her choices below, and make sure you watch Why Bonnie’s new video for ‘Voice Box’ at the bottom of this post.

Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville
I first heard this album in college and haven’t found anything to top it since. I‘d grown up with her big pop hits, but this album was a totally different vibe. She blended that classic ’90s angst with heartfelt sweetness so beautifully and all of the melodies are really subtle yet effective. The whole sound felt very familiar but in an exciting way. I’ve listened to the track ‘Explain It To Me’ maybe a thousand times and I never get sick of it. The album is also really long and has a really good variety of sounds, so I recommend it for anyone that’s currently self isolating!

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
This album will always remind me of my childhood. Out of all of the classic rock albums that I grew up with, this one was the most formative. Stevie Nicks was my idol growing up and we have the same birthday, so I’ve always felt weirdly connected to her. ‘Dreams’ is one of those tracks that will always bring me back to being seven years old on a beach in Galveston, Texas, twirling around with a towel doing my best Stevie impression. Also, that bass line is catchy as hell. 

Dear Nora – Three States: Rarities 1997 – 2007
This was my first introduction to Twee and the genre really resonated with me. This album in particular was sweet and sentimental but still had a fun, kinda sloppy, and whimsical edge to it. It’s poetic but not pretentious, and always puts me in a good mood.

The Breeders – Last Splash
Kim Deal is just a true fucking icon. Last Splash has such a good blend of disjointed scuzzy rock and pop sensibilities, which is something we strive for in our music. It’s the epitome of noise-pop and I believe it paved the way for a whole genre. Obviously we love Pixies as well, but The Breeders really honed in this sound in such a brilliant way.

Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Picking the best Pavement album is like talking about politics or religion with your family at Thanksgiving. Crooked Rain was my first introduction to Pavement, so that’s kind of the main reason for choosing it. What makes this record so special (and inspiring) is really the way they combine (both from a songwriting and performance standpoint) catchy, earworm-y melodies with absolute chaos. Pavement is such a special band because they’re able to mix seemingly contradictory elements into songs that you find yourself humming on a walk, in the grocery store, or waiting for the train. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics that with a beautiful guitar melody, dissonant guitar noise with heartfelt lyrics, or trying to play jazz as a slacker rock band. They remind me that it’s ok to not take yourself too seriously, and in doing that you can end up making music that’s incredibly catchy, inspiring, and meaningful. They kind of invite the listener to apply whatever kind of meaning they want to the songs, and inspire me to write whatever I’m feeling like playing or singing, knowing that it’s ok if a wrong note or nonsense lyric (or several) find their way onto the record. 

Massive thanks to Blair for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Why Bonnie’s new EP Voice Box is out 10th April via Fat Possum Records. Watch the video for the title track:

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

PLAYLIST: October 2018

The dark winter nights are creeping in, but our brand new October playlist is filled with bright, vibrant new sounds from a range of unusual and inspiring new artists. If our selections are anything to go by, the October 5th is THE date to release a record, and we’re excited to share our track selections with you. Take some time to scroll through our words and hit play on the Spotify link at the bottom of the page…

Health (feat. Soccer Mommy) – ‘Mass Grave’
I’m obsessed with this new track from L.A. noise rockers HEALTH, which features the divine vocals of Soccer Mommy. Produced by Corin Roddick (Purity Ring), ‘Mass Grave’ is a haunting fusion of alarming synths, apathetic vocals and spaced out percussion. (Kate Crudgington)

Kill J – ‘Strange Fruits of the Sea’
Kill J’s latest offering tackles issues of immigration and racism, with a subtle nod to Billie Holiday’s  iconic ‘Strange Fruit’ (1939). Speaking about the track, Kill J explains: “It’s a protest song about boarders, walls, barbed wire fences, and people trying to survive on small boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. While some people dream of just surviving their journey across the boarders, others dream of wealth and power at the expense of others”. I’m a big fan of Kill J’s defiance, which she explores through hypnotising electronics. ‘Strange Fruits of the Sea’ is taken from her upcoming album Superposition, released 5th October via Nettwerk. (KC)

Pip Blom – ‘Come Home’
Catchy AF, ‘Come Home’is the latest single from Amsterdam favourites of mine Pip Blom, taken from their upcoming EP Paycheck which is out on 5th October. I had the pleasure of seeing these guys support The Breeders earlier in the year at the Roundhouse, an abundance of energy and an abundance of hair. Catch them if you can, they’re playing all over the UK this November including The Lexington on the 22nd. (Tash Walker)

Big Joanie – ‘Fall Asleep’
‘Fall Asleep’ is the latest single from Get In Her Ears faves Big Joanie, I only heard this for this first time a week or so ago but it’s firmly got into my head.  They’ve recently announced their debut album Sistahs is going to be released this November by The Daydream Library Series, and I can’t wait to hear the record in full! (TW)

Gold Baby – ‘What Party?
Having charmed us with their with their twinkling charisma and catchy offerings live at The Finsbury, East London’s Gold Baby have now shared new single ‘What Party?’. Reflecting on self-induced boundaries and the limits we often place on ourselves, ‘What Party?’ is propelled by a scuzzy, sparkling energy. Catch Gold Baby live at The Shacklewell Arms on 5th October. (Mari Lane)

Mammoth Penguins – ‘When I Was Your Age’
Having finally been lucky enough to catch Cambridge-based Mammoth Penguins supporting Adult Mom at The Shacklewell Arms last week, my love of their 2015 album Hide and Seek has been freshly revived, and I once again cannot stop listening to it. Fronted by Emma (also known for playing bass for GIHE faves Suggested Friends, and being part of the wonderful Indietracks Festival team), live the band ooze an utterly infectious, shimmering energy, with a highlight being the highly relatable (and seemingly appropriate – it’s Emma’s birthday) ‘When I Was Your Age’. Reflecting on the common pressures of growing up and habits of people to constantly compare themselves to each other, it’s a twinkling slice of impassioned indie-pop, fitting perfectly into the band’s collection of dreamy, scuzzy, emotion-filled delights. A totally uplifting set that stands me in good stead for crying the night away (in a good way) to the lush sounds of Adult Mom. (ML)

Chorusgirl – ‘No Goodbye’
Following 2015’s wonderful self-titled debut, GIHE faves Chorusgirl have now announced their long-awaited new album Shimmer And Spin, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Taken from the album, new single ‘No Goodbye’ is filled with jangly hooks and sunny uplifting beats, despite perhaps a lingering dark undercurrent. As Silvi’s distinctive, lush vocals soar throughout, effervescent harmonies and impressive driving riffs flow, creating Chorusgirl’s utterly unique, shimmering sounds. Another truly dreamy slice of sparkling garage-pop, ‘No Goodbye’ proves that it’s impossible to listen to Chorusgirl and not feel instantly better. Shimmer And Spin, the upcoming new album from Chorusgirl, is out 16th November via Reckless Yes. (ML)

Praa – ‘Y’
This new single from Praa was released at the end of September, and it’s all about questioning our human connection with virtual relationships maintained via our screens. I think it’s a beautiful example of modern neo-soul. Thank you Praa. (TW)

Hazel Iris – ‘A Prince’
‘A Prince’ by classically trained Hazel Iris, is a totally enchanting piece of music, loaded with emotion and fusing classical, indie folk, and a bit of jazz. Her debut album Nine Sisters is due out on 26th October and she’ll be performing at St Batholomew-the-Great in Smithfield’s on the same date, which will no doubt be a mesmerising show. The track’s not up on Spotify just yet, but you can listen to it below (TW)

Ah! Kosmos – ‘June’
Taken from her new album Beautiful Swamp (due 5th October via Compost Records), ‘June’ is another example of Ah! Kosmos’ stunning ability to create powerful, rapturous soundscapes. Born in Istanbul and now based in Berlin, Ah! Kosmos (aka Başak Günak) is a sound designer, producer and multi-instrumentalist – and I can’t wait to review her new record for the website this week. (KC)

Aisha Badru – ‘Splintered’
Following the lush, enveloping sound of previous single ‘Bridges’, New York’s Aisha Badru returns to charm our ears with a sparkling new offering. A call for people to take control of their lives‘Splintered’ flows with the beautiful, sweeping splendour of Badru’s delicately emotion-strewn vocals. Oozing a majestic grace, alongside twinkling melodies and a soaring musicality, it’s filled with a raw emotion that’ll send shivers down the spine on first listen. Pendulum, the latest album from Aisha Badru, is out now. (ML)

Varley – ‘Lonely Were The Days’
Reflecting on the ever-growing demands of today’s society from the effects of social media and the pressure this puts on a whole generation to “be something”, ‘Lonely Were The Days’ is an instantly infectious slice of dreamy alt-pop from Berlin-based Varley. As pulsating beats propel the track alongside the shimmering splendour of front woman Claire-Ann’s vocals, a captivating soundscape is created, leaving you no choice but to bask in its glorious, glistening glow. Catch Varley playing for us live at Notting Hill Arts Club on 1st December alongside Alyss, Elsa Hewitt and Temples Of Youth! (ML)

Art School Girlfriend – ‘Distance (Blank)’
Art School Girlfriend is the moniker of producer & multi-instrumentalist Polly Mackey. Her latest single ‘Distance’ is taken from her recent EP Into The Blue Hour, which was influenced by her move from London to the seaside town of Margate. I love her calm vocals and subtle, yet grand use of synthesizers on this track. She makes being “in over [your] head” sound so, so appealing. (KC)

TAYNE – ‘Sacrifice’
This TAYNE track dropped in to my inbox in January, and it’s been swirling around my head ever since. I’ve also been singing the lyrics incorrectly for the last nine months (the chorus is “I want hope”, not “I want her” as I initially thought) – but I’m not going to let a blip like that stop me from praising this synth-laden, noise-pop gem. TAYNE are celebrating the release of their debut album Breathe at The Old Blue Last on Thursday 4th October (with support from Birthmarks & Volkova Sisters). It’s a free gig, and you can pick up a copy of the clear magenta vinyl (which features ‘Sacrifice’) on the night, ahead of its official release on 2nd November. Us Get In Her Ears girls will all be there, so we’ll see you at the bar! (RSVP here). (KC)