GIHE: Ones To Watch 2021

Whilst 2021 may not be looking too promising in the grand scheme of things at the moment, the array of amazing new music to look forward to is giving us some hope. So many fantastic bands and artists over the last year have been getting us through the nightmare of 2020, and here we’ve selected just a few who’ve made a particularly lasting impression, and who we’re hoping to hear a lot more from over the next twelve months.

Following our Tracks, Albums and Highlights of 2020, here’s our Ones To Watch in 2021…

deep tan
With acclaim from the likes of The Quietus, NME, So Young and BBC 6Music already under their belts, Hackney based trio deep tan have been enchanting our ears this year with their immersive, hypnotic splendour. First capturing our attention with the swirling grace of 2019’s ‘Air’, they continued to cast their majestic spell over us with this year’s ‘deepfake’ – a poignant comment on the worryingly sexist ways the strange internet phenomenon is used in society. Fusing together the cold-wave side of post-punk with their trademark eerily captivating allure and illustrious, swooning French and English vocals, deep tan have already shown their knack for creating utterly bewitching, sonically complex, soundscapes. I expect their dreamy, effervescent charm to continue drawing in more listeners throughout 2021.
Listen to deep tan on Spotify or bandcamp now. 
(Mari Lane: Co-Founder/Managing Editor)

CMAT
I have The Irish Jam radio show to thank for introducing me to CMAT! The pop sensation released some stellar singles throughout 2020, including ‘Another Day (KFC)’ – a bop about crying your drunken heart out in a chicken shop – and ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ – a witty, melancholic anthem about struggling with urban isolation. I interviewed her via Zoom earlier this year and she was just a joy to chat with (read the full thing here.) Even though things still look shaky for the music industry in 2021, I reckon CMAT will release more singles that manage to hit the nail on the head, and I hope that she’ll continue to be a stand-up comedian via her Twitter and Instagram accounts too.
Listen to CMAT on Spotify or bandcamp now. 
(Kate Crudgington: Co-Founder/Features Editor)

Amaroun
Having already caught the attention of BBC 6Music and BBC Introducing, Jay Brown – aka Amaroun – spent the first part of 2020 releasing a new single each month. With each single touching on a different theme surrounding life as a queer woman, she has had us hooked on her scintillating alt-pop. From the poignant, swirling power of ‘Rise’ to the gentle romanticism and playful wit of love song ‘Scarlet’, and the grimey groove of latest single ‘Highest Head’ (a collaboration with Jung Mergs), Amaroun never fails to impress with her unique creations – in equal parts soulful and gritty. I can’t get enough of her stirring, effervescent power, and I’m excited to hear what she has in store for us in 2021.
Listen to Amaroun on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)

Divide and Dissolve
Formed of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, Divide and Dissolve create eerie, thunderous instrumentals designed to rouse their listener’s state of awareness into questioning what it means to be truly free. I was thrilled to see the duo were back releasing new music this year and that their new album Gas Lit – the follow up to 2018’s Abomination – will be released in January 2021. With their dense and intriguing sounds, Divide and Dissolve are instrumental activists who seek to disrupt toxic white supremacy, reclaim indigenous rights and invite others to join their fight. Their elegant, doomy battle cries will be the perfect soundtrack to 2021.
Listen to Divide and Dissolve on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Nuha Ruby Ra
With her diverse range of influences, background in art and satire, and the unique style of both her fashion choices and music videos, Nuha Ruby Ra feels at once a familiar composite of acts from the darker end of alt-pop, and something completely fresh. With two singles released earlier this year, Ra has recently dropped what looks to be a breakthrough. ‘Sparky’ is a tale of escapades in a post-punk, dark synth-pop style, the track is her first release on her new label, Brace Yourself Records, and is taken from the forthcoming EP, How to Move. Ra has been a burgeoning, if slightly less prominent artist for sometime, having appeared on stage with a number of indie favourites, including Warmduscher, but the spotlight seems to suit her perfectly. With her latest release having got radio airplay almost from the minute it was released, and a string of tour dates already planned for live return, don’t be surprised to see Nuha Ruby Ra’s name up in lights in 2021.
Listen to Nuha Ruby Ra on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(John McGovern: Contributor)

KIN
Having first charmed our ears when they played their second ever gig for us at The Finsbury back in January 2019, London trio KIN are already receiving plenty of acclaim for their euphoric alt-pop sounds. As evidenced by receiving over 70,000 streams on Spotify for recent bewitching single ‘Sharing Light’ (and nearly that many for other singles ‘L.O.V.E’ and ‘Wander & Lost’), they seem to be quickly rising to success; their alluring majesty providing a soothingly cathartic listen for fans of all genres. Consisting of Grace, Ritu and Adam, KIN have already completely stolen our hearts, both with their exquisite celestial soundscapes and their unwavering dedication to consistently championing fellow females in the industry. I cannot wait to hear more from them in 2021, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in my excitement!
Listen to Kin on Spotify now.
(ML)

ZAND
Self-proclaimed “ugly pop” star ZAND creates delightfully wicked tunes that take down slut-shamers and whorephobes, whilst revelling in the joyful feeling of not fitting the mould. The Blackpool-based artist has cultivated a defiant sound and image for themselves, mixing their sweet vocals with savage rap verses laid across warped and wonderful electronics. They’ve got a lot to say and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021.
Listen to Zand on Spotify now.(KC)

King Hannah
Although I did feature King Hannah as One To Watch last year too, I think it’s completely necessary to include them again. Not only does 2020 not really count anyway, but I think it’s fair to say that, with the immediate success of their recently released debut EP Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine and signing to City Slang Records (also home to Noga Erez, Lampchop and Laura Gibson), King Hannah are now on the cusp of something very, very exciting… I first fell in love with the Liverpool band (thanks to our writer, John!) on hearing their debut single ‘Crème Brûlée’ (which now has over 60,000 streams on Spotify) back in 2019 – its sweeping, ethereal power and majestic musicality completely casting me under its spell on first listen. And now the entirety of the EP remains utterly compelling; with shades of the likes of War On Drugs propelled by the unique melancholic splendour of Hannah Merrick’s vocals, it’s an emotion strewn listen, oozing a stirring, bewitching allure.
Listen to King Hannah on Spotify or bandcamp now. (ML)

CIRCE
London-based dark-pop artist CIRCE had me under her spell from the moment I read that her track ‘Ten Girls’ was inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Her debut EP She’s Made Of Saints is a majestic blend of her bittersweet vocals, cinematic electronics, her feminist awakenings and obsession with the dark side of LA glamour, epitomised by tracks like ‘Dancer’ on which she explores the dangerous allure of Californian cult The Source Family. She’s crafted this mysterious, David Lynch inspired image that fits her sound perfectly too.
Listen to Circe on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Ailbhe Reddy
Ireland-based artist Ailbhe Reddy made her debut appearance on the indie circuit in 2016. However, it was 2018’s beautifully poignant single ‘Shame’ which introduced me to Reddy’s sharp songwriting. Having completed the checklist of performing at various UK festivals, Ailbhe Reddy was poised to make the leap across the pond with a slot at SXSW festival before 2020 pressed pause on the live music industry. Despite the setback, Ailbhe Reddy provided the soundtrack of my lockdown 2.0 with her debut album Personal History. An introspective snapshot of everyday emotional turmoils, coupled with a polished production, Personal History is Ailbhe Reddy’s armour to march back into the live music scene in 2021.
Listen to Ailbhe Reddy on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(Nicky Lee-Delisle: Contributor)

New Pagans
Another Irish Jam find! Belfast-based New Pagans’ debut EP Glacial Erratic is an impressive collection of urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history and gender roles. The band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge and indie rock and transform them into beautifully melodic noise, and this is epitomised on ‘Yellow Room’, the single they released shortly after their EP. They’re currently working on a full length record, so fingers crossed they’ll be able to share that with us in 2021.
Listen to New Pagans on Spotify or bandcamp now.
(KC)

Fräulein
Having only come across Fräulein earlier this year, through seeing them perform a stripped back ‘live’ set for Hanni from ARXX’s Coming Out Staying In festival back in April, I’m already a big fan of the duo’s raw, visceral sound. Oozing a captivating dark energy, this year’s singles ‘Drag Behind’ and ‘Mary’ are propelled by the gritty power of Joni’s raw sweeping vocals, as abrasive, grunge-infused hooks steadily build an increasing tension with the help of Karsten’s immense beats. With shades of the mysterious allure of underrated ’90s band Slint, Fräulein offer a unique, spellbinding majesty. A new favourite, in ‘normal’ times, I’d be booking Fräulein for a gig with us at The Finsbury as soon as possible, but for now I will have to settle for listening to ‘Drag Behind’ on repeat, and dreaming of the day I can witness their dark energy live in a room full of sweaty fans.
Listen to Fräulein on bandcamp now. (ML) 

Get In Her Ears x Festive Special 17.12.20

Kate and Tash were back in the Hoxton Radio studio for the last GIHE show of 2020, with a playlist full of festive tunes and some of their favourite tracks of the year. Thanks to everyone who’s been listening to us throughout 2020, it means the world to us and we hope this show brings you a little bit of Christmas Cheer! We’ll see you in 2021 xxx

Listen back here:

Tracklist
Poly Styrene – Black Christmas
Eurythmics – Winter Wonderland
The Big Moon – Carol Of The Bells
Donna Missal – Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby (Cigarettes After Sex Cover)
Despicable Zee ft. Tiiva – We Won’t Stop
Evil House Party – Wicked
Lande Hekt – December
The Go! Team – Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)
The Joy Formidable – My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than a Hundred Dead Christmas Trees
Big Joanie – Fall Asleep
The Crystal Furs – Drinking Alone On Christmas
Pet Wife – Ask
Anita Ward – Ring My Bell
Desire – Under Your Spell
Kynsy – Cold Blue Light
Gold Baby – Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter
Table Scraps – Doom Generation
Problem Patterns – Christmas Number One
Dream Nails – Lonely Star
Mabel – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
PINS – Come On Home (It’s Christmas)
MJ Guider – FM Secure
Geiste – Tide
Charlotte Carpenter – A Light Christmas
Potpourri – Modern Girls
Catgod – Sometimes I Care For You
Jess Kemp – Leave A Chair Out
Kadija Kamara – Best Moves
Jessica Winter – Sad Music
Hilary Woods – Orange Tree
Dolly Parton – Holly Jolly Christmas

PLAYLIST: Christmas 2020

Whether you’re a Christmas music fanatic or a misanthropic seasonal Scrooge, there’s no doubt your approach to Christmas is going to be different in 2020. We can’t wait to get off the Government’s ever-changing carousel of chaos, with its flimsy guidelines and confusing restrictions, but while we’re on it, at least we have a decent festive soundtrack to play us out of this insane fairground ride called 2020.

To the bands, artists and labels we’ve worked alongside – you’re all diamonds and we look forward to working with you again in 2021. Let’s raise a glass to those who managed to release something in 2020, and another for those who had to sit this one out. We love you all, Merry Christmas from the GIHE team. xxx

Take some time to read through our Christmas track choices and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post. We’ve also included a few festive gems that are only available on bandcamp/YouTube, so make sure you listen to them too!

Poly Styrene – ‘Black Christmas’
This buoyant sounding festive tune from the one and only Poly Styrene comes with a much needed dose of lyrical realism. Featuring vocals from Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, ‘Black Christmas’ is an anthem for those who feel uncomfortable celebrating at this time of year, a sentiment that feels more poignant than ever in 2020. (Kate Crudgington)

The Crystal Furs – ‘Drinking Alone At Christmas’
A festive offering from Oregon queer indie-pop band The Crystal Furs, ‘Drinking Alone On Christmas’ sparkles with uplifting shimmering synths, honey-sweet vocals and scuzzy hooks, providing the perfect juxtaposition of twinkling festive cheer with refreshingly honest lyricism. Reflecting on the all-too relatable scenario of “drinking alone on Christmas”, it’s a must for all those ‘Christmas parties’ we’ll be having alone in front of our laptops this season. The band describe the track as a “non-traditional holiday pop tune of drinking, catgirls, and holiday ennui”. (Mari Lane)

Basic Bitches – ‘I Hope Your Holidays Are Fine’
A relatable and cautiously optimistic tune from Brooklyn-based riot grrrls Basic Bitches. The band say this song is about “the general sense of dread and disappointment that accompanies the holiday season once you reach adulthood, when the most you can hope for are big leftovers and small hangovers.” (KC)

The Go! Team – ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming!)’
Taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, The Go! Team’s ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)’ flows with the collective’s trademark jangling energy. Fizzing with a twinkling optimism and vibrant, catchy musicality, it’s an instant festive earworm. Of the track, the band explain: “It started life as a loose anti Brexit metaphor – an appeal against small mindedness – to ‘look outside your window’. But the last year has totally changed the meaning. I guess it’s about trying to stay positive when it’s the hardest it’s ever been.” Other artists featuried on Lost Christmas include Rozi Plain, Field Music and The Cornshed Sisters. Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

No Doubt – ‘Oi! To The World’
I couldn’t really have a Christmas playlist without this festive punk-pop belter from Gwen and co. (ML)

Dream Nails – ‘Lonely Star’
The gift that keeps on giving, feminist punks Dream Nails and their joyful Christmas single ‘Lonely Star’. The track is dedicated to those who may be feeling isolated or alone at this time of year – especially their LGBTQ fans – and all the money raised from track sales will be donated to The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Homeless Shelter. You can buy their track bandcamp now. (KC)

Problem Patterns – ‘Christmas Number One’
The new festive banger from Belfast feminist punks Problem Patterns who we’ve championed many times on GIHE this year. Mari and I are big fans of these grrrls and we’re looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021. (KC)

Charley Stone – ‘Merry Christmas Actually’
A familiar face on the London music scene, featuring in many bands including Salad, Charley Stone has now shared her own Christmas offering. Inspired by “the worst scene from the worst film ever”, ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ flows with jangling hooks and a twinkling sense of romanticism, oozing Stone’s sugar-sweet vocals and a delicate, swirling indie-pop charm. ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ was recorded with Donald Ross Skinner. (ML)

Eurythmics – ‘Winter Wonderland’
Eurythmics’ vocalist Annie Lennox was born on Christmas Day, but she is the musical gift that keeps on giving whatever time of year it is. It’s also the tenth anniversary of her solo Christmas album A Christmas Cornucopia, which is a delightful soundtrack to wrap your presents to. (KC)

The Big Moon – ‘Carol Of The Bells’
London four-piece The Big Moon deliver a splendid version of this classic made famous by the ultimate Christmas film, Home Alone. It makes me wish I had a microwave mac & cheese dinner in front of me, just like Macaulay Culkin does before he smashes Marv’s face in with an iron. (KC)

Rachael Dadd, Rozi Plain, This Is The Kit – ‘We Build Our Houses Well’
Another one taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, ‘We Build Our Houses Well’ features Rachael Dadd alongside both Rozi Plain and This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables. Flowing with luscious folk-strewn melodies and sweeping glistening harmonies, it’s a beautifully uplifting slice of winter sparkle. Of the song, Dadd explains: “After the isolation of lockdown, it felt natural to write a Christmas song that was basically like a big sonic party, inviting all my friends and collaborators over my whole life to join together. Feeling blessed to have made so many good friends through music and to have most of them all in one place here on this song, representing connection at a time where so many of us feel isolated.” Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

Alanis Morissette – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
I was supposed to see Alanis Morissette live for the first time this year, but alas, I’ll make do with her cute cover of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s single instead. (KC)

PINS – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’
A festive cover by Manchester trio PINS and a perfect musical accompaniment to drink your festive tipple to. (KC)

Grace Petrie – ‘Fairytale Of New York’
Grace and her band’s take on the Pogues’ classic, this rendition of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ flows with folk-laden strings, soaring harmonies and an up-tempo sense of festive cheer, culminating in the perfect re-writing of that lyric – replacing it with “You scumbag, you maggot, WE LOVE DIANE ABBOTT”. It’s simply impossible not to sing along at the top of your lungs and feel a little bit of hope for what 2021 might bring. (ML)

Girl Ray – ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’
A classic from my faves Girl Ray from back in 2017, ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’ is the perfect smattering of joy we all need right now. With just the right balance of Christmassy sparkle and the band’s trademark shimmering, sunny charm, it’s a song about longing and loneliness at this time of year. Complete with a children’s choir, sleigh bells and even a whinny of a kidnapped reindeer (!), the track is a delightful slice of twinkling garage-pop to get you in the mood for this time of year, when some of us may be struggling to do that right now. (ML)

Gold Baby –Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter’
A Bing Crosby classic reimagined by indie darlings Gold Baby. All proceeds from this single will be donated to the campaign to end loneliness, so head over the Gold Baby’s bandcamp now and give what you can. (KC)

CMAT, Junior Brother – ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’
Irish pop sensation CMAT is the queen of relatable pop tunes and this Christmas tune is no exception. A beautiful duet with Junior Brother, ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’ is the perfect dose of festive melancholy. (KC)

Self Esteem – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’
A soulful festive anthem from experimental pop artist (and Slow Club member) Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’ is an alternative Christmas bop for any of us who may not look forward to Christmas as much as most. Dedicated to those who may cope with these times of “celebration” by immersing themselves in work as a distraction, Taylor says of the track: “I wanted to write a song for fellow people who cope with life by working and creating and moving forwards – the enforced stillness of Christmas can be so triggering… ” (ML)

Piney Gir / Roxys – ‘White Winter Hymnal’
Piney Gir’s cover of the Fleet Foxes classic contains all the soothing festive sparkle you need right now. Oozing sparkling crystalline vocals and a gentle celestial grace, it’s a truly beautiful rendition of one of my favourite winter soundtracks. Recorded originally for the Joyzine Advent Calendar, ‘White Winter Hymnal’ provides a taste of what’s to come from Piney Gir and Roxys, as they’re currently working on an upcoming new EP, set for release in 2021. (ML)

TLC – ‘Sleigh Ride’
Who doesn’t need a bit of TLC-shaped joy at this time of year?! (ML)

The Pretenders – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’
Originally performed by Judy Garland in the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, I love The Pretenders’ festive version of this classic. Praise be for Chrissie Hynde. (KC)

Dolly Parton – ‘Coming Home For Christmas’
This one’s for Tash! Dolly is the star in the winter sky and we all love her un-shakeable optimism. (KC)

 

These tracks aren’t on Spotify, but they’re too good not to include!

Fightmilk – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Christmas)’
Taken from their new festive album, the wonderfully titled Fightmilk & Cookies – a collection of Christmas covers from each of the band members, as well as a couple of seasonal originals – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Year)’ provides just the right amount of twinkling cheer along with the band’s trademark tongue-in-cheek wit. Combining scuzzy hooks, Healey’s distinctive vocals and traditional sparkling melodies, it’s an instantly uplifting festive earworm. (ML)

 

Potpourri – ‘Modern Girls’ (not on Spotify)
A festive offering from Sheffield band Potpourri, ‘Modern Girls’ ponders the idealism of a perfect Christmas amid the bounty of priceless love. Propelled by a swirling, sparkling majesty, it oozes a blissful euphoric aura, whilst maintaining a refreshing sense of realism. A perfect and relatable Christmas accompaniment for any of us ‘Modern Girls’. Of the track, songwriter Lauren Dowling reflects: “I guess I was thinking about the modern phenomenon of gift-giving as a language of love, but also as a point of contention. Whilst we’re more inclined to be charitable at this time of year, we also can’t escape our own expectations for grandeur and luxury, but for ‘Modern Girls’, it’s the former that tends to bring the most joy and warmth.” The band will be donating all proceeds from the track to Burngreave Foodbank and SAYiT charities. (ML)

 

Charlotte Carpenter – ‘A Light Christmas’
A festive cover by Charlotte Carpenter who is a previous guest on our GIHE radio show and the founder of Babywoman Records. All proceeds from this single will be donated to homeless charity Crisis UK, so do head over the her bandcamp and download it if you can. (KC)

 

The Joy Formidable – ‘My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than A Hundred Dead Christmas Trees’
This genuinely is one of my favourite Christmas songs whether it’s been a year like 2020, or the best year of my life. I love busting out this misanthropic anthem and mainlining a bottle of Baileys* to it. (Aldi’s Ballycastle*) (KC)

GIHE: Personal Highlights Of 2020

2020 has been a year unlike any other and we’ll be glad to see the back of it, but before we wave goodbye, the GIHE team would like to share some of their personal highlights. Thanks to everyone who has been following, reading or listening to GIHE this year. It really does mean the world to us and we couldn’t do this without you.

Shared Highlights

Seeing the GIHE name appear in a PHYSICAL BOOK was a landmark moment for the team this year. Music journalist Lucy O’Brien mentioned us in her 25th anniversary edition of She Bop, a fantastic book that explores the role of female artists and how they’ve helped to shape the music industry. You can buy your copy here.

Fellow GIHE Co-Founder Tash Walker was super busy recording & producing series 2 of The Log Books throughout 2020, a podcast which explores the history of the LGBTQ community via the phone archives of LGBT+ charity Switchboard. Tash is a co-chair at Switchboard and she is dedicated to celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ community through her work with them, and through her work with GIHE. She is one of the most resilient, informed and hilarious people we know and it’s a privilege to work alongside her and call her a friend. The Log Books are a truly necessary listen for all.

Now for some personal highlights…

Kate Crudgington (Features Editor)

GIHE usually takes up a big part of my life, but it was a lifeline for me during March of this year when the government text me (lol) telling me to shield for 12 weeks. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to talk to the people who were making the music that was distracting me from the panic-inducing headlines, reminding me what a huge privilege it is to have access to this amazing platform.

As our followers already know, Lockdown 1.0 instantly put a stop to our weekly GIHE new music shows on Hoxton Radio. We had 16 weeks off air, so when it was “safe” for me to go back in to the studio in July I was buzzing with excitement (which you can hear in my voice if you listen back to the show here.)

Like most platforms during the pandemic, we embraced technology and started interviewing artists over Zoom instead of inviting them in to the studio for the usual chat and live session. We managed to get time with Jessica Winter, BISHI, Lucy O’Brien, Tessa from Girlhood, Julia-Sophie, Lizzie from Bitch Falcon, Grave Goods, Problem Patterns, ZAND, Hannah from PELA, Seraphina-Simone & Penelope Trappes. It was so lovely to see Tash in person in the studio most weeks, and while we both missed seeing Mari a great deal, her weekly track contributions to the show still made it feel like a GIHE team effort.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited by Niall Jackson, one of the hosts of Riverside Radio’s The Irish Jam, to be a contributor to their New Music Sunday section. Co-hosted by Kealan, Mel and Rob, The Irish Jam is a London based radio show that celebrates and promotes music from Irish artists. The crossover of favourite bands between GIHE & the Jam is huge and something I’ve enjoyed chatting to the team about both on and off air. They’ve introduced me to the likes of CMAT, fears, Denise Chaila, Silverbacks and Celaviedmai, whilst I’ve shared tracks by Kynsy, Party Fears and CAMI with them. Listening to their show on a Sunday evening continues to be a wonderful distraction from life.

Who could’ve predicted that bandcamp would become the musical hero of 2020? When the streaming platform announced that on the first Friday of every month they’d be waiving their fees so that 100% of profits would be going directly to artists, my newsfeeds were awash with new music recommendations. Moving home to Essex from London in March meant I actually had some expendable income to buy new records, so I was furiously typing bespoke recommendation threads on Twitter every time the date rolled around. bandcamps’ generosity meant you were able to genuinely support your friends (and the artists you secretly wish you were friends with) during a truly depressing year for music.

Normally, we’d be picking our live music highlights too, but for obvious reasons, we’ve hardly been to any gigs this year. Mari had to cancel half of the gigs GIHE she had booked pre-pandemic and it’s fucking depressing to not know when it will be (properly) safe for her to book more. That’s why I feel incredibly fortunate to have wedged in one last GIHE gig before Lockdown 1.0. GIHE worked together with Sofar Sounds to put together a special International Women’s Day gig at their Hackney HQ in March, with Beckie Margaret, Amahla and Indian Queens on the bill. It was so exciting (and nerve-racking) to host the evening with fellow GIHE pal Tash too. Even if I’d had a year full of gigs, this one still would’ve made my highlights list.

One last gloat – I published some of my all-time favourite features on our website this year. My Zoom interviews with the wonderful A.A Williams, the hilarious CMAT and the ultra talented Lido Pimienta are well worth a read.

Mari Lane (Managing Editor)

It goes without saying, most of the highlights I’d normally mention at this time of year were not able to go ahead in the void of 2020. They would normally consist of the monthly gigs that I host at The Finsbury, whereas this year I was only able to put on two before Covid hit. And, in addition to having to cancel at least seven of our regular gigs, we were pretty heartbroken to cancel what would have been our very first festival, due to take place in July. However, I did manage to fit in a couple of memorable live experiences before being confined to being permanently pyjama clad; my only weekly highlight being our regular beer delivery from Croydon’s Art & Craft bar.

The first gig I hosted this year felt particularly special. Personal Best headlined a night filled with all the best vibes. Drawing the night to a memorable close, front person Katie Gatt dedicated their set closer to the queer community. As a sea of buoyant voices joined in with “I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see / ’cause this is what we look like,” the poignancy of the lyrics was overwhelming and an empowering sense of unity took hold. The night also included the shimmering folk-strewn offerings of Athabaska, the quirky energy and sparkling charisma of Nun Habit and the sun-drenched swirling anthems of Hurtling. There is nothing quite like that joyous sense of togetherness that comes from hosting gigs filled with like-minded wonderful people.

I was also lucky enough to fit in seeing one of my all time favourite bands with a few of my all time favourite people. The last time that Tash, Kate, Paul and I were all together pre-Covid was for Sleater Kinney at Brixton Academy – a pretty special night. Not only did I get to see the legendary Carrie Brownstein deliver her distinctive gritty, scuzz-filled riffs alongside Corin Tucker’s unmistakable swooning vocals in the flesh, conjuring up massive feelings of awe and nostalgia, but they were supported by one of our favourite current bands. The second time we’d seen Big Joanie on the Brixton Academy stage (the first being opening for Bikini Kill last year!), they showcased just how deserving they are of their rising success; with their unique, raw, post-punk soundscapes and poignant lyricism, they delivered an absolutely incredible set. A truly memorable night.

My last ‘outing’ before lockdown was to the BBC 6Music festival for International Women’s Day at The Roundhouse. An epic line-up consisting of some incredible women and non-binary folk that I’m incredibly grateful I got to witness before everything fell apart. In addition to the immense poignant power of Jehnny Beth, the utterly beguiling splendour of Nadine Shah (who I fell in love with there and then), and the completely mind-blowing presence of hero Kim Gordon, Kae Tempest delivered a fiercely moving, truly breath-taking headline set.

And then gigs were gone. To be replaced by online streamed “events” which I think have had mixed reviews over the last few months – they’re of course no replacement for the “real thing” and it’s hard to feel motivated to “attend” things when you’ve been on the sofa in your pjs for weeks. However, I have managed to organise a few GIHE Instagram ‘Takeovers’, featuring some of our favourite bands and artists. From ARXX’s drum and guitar lessons, LibraLibra’s quirky tele-sales style feature and Tiger Mimic’s interviews with others on the scene, to inspiring chats with Amaroun, Eckoes, Foundlings and Husk, beaut “live” sessions from Gold Baby, Scrounge and KIN, and King Hannah’s EP run through, I feel grateful that so many creatives have wanted to be involved.

It’s a strange time, no doubt, but one which is made that much better by a sense of togetherness within the community. One positive from all this really has been the mutual support and genuine care that I’ve seen musicians and those within the industry show for each other.

John McGovern (Contributor)

On the one hand, there’s been almost no gigs, no festivals, much fewer physical releases and closed record shops. On the other, BBC 6Music’s response helped me stay indoors and make the most of my furlough life. Lauren Laverne‘s show was extended to cover the late morning, running to nearly double the length of most of the other shows on the station and basically saw her appointed as chief mood-lifter for the BBC’s flagship alternative music station. Amongst the days of uncertainty, where even leaving the house offered the risk of serious illness, with no guarantee of a job at the end of the summer, having Lauren there to soundtrack breakfast/brunch made a world of difference. It produced a kind of odd stasis: the background radiation of a pandemic, but an excellent range of music, usually featuring a smattering of classics, new music and obscure gems. The only disappointment was when the schedule reverted back to usual come the end of lockdown. Hopefully, that same semblance of normality will be back for us all, soon.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read our highlights!

You can read about our GIHE Albums of 2020 here and our GIHE Tracks Of 2020 here.

Keep an eye out for our Ones To Watch in 2021 feature next week!