A thousand thank yous / a new beginning

Picture by Paul Kintzing (German Error Message)

As I write this and relive our time from start to end ~ as a music blog, tears moisten my eyes, the mud at the riverside left soft and sticky, the defences specked with salt but not overcome.  When I started this, I thought my motivation was simple – the hope that my love for new music, my unhealthy obsession with finding new bands, new acts, might throw aerosol on the fire for fellow obsessives and those who still wore the black on their thumb from a candle snuffed out too soon. Yet, now I realise it was much more than that, what I desired more than anything was to belong. You and this have given me that. Life has very few certainties – by god don’t we know that more than ever right now, but I know unquestionably that I will never receive a greater gift. 

Around a week ago, I watched a video anticipating to glean maybe a second of joy from it – hearing Andrew Lloyd Webber utter the words Porridge Radio. Yet I continued long beyond that unlikely shout-out, watching its entire ten minutes and five seconds, even returning for a second and third viewing. It dawned on me that I ache to see people cut loose, eyes wild as they speak breathlessly about the thing they hold most dear. You can hear the smile in their voice, you know? Before Balloon Machine I was gagged, the memory of being called pretentious in a grayscale cinema hall, silencing me whenever words about my first and most intense love threatened to slip through the bars. Never underestimate the power of your words. Yet the way in which you’ve received my passion and even thanked me for it, has given me and it a sense of acceptance, a sense of legitimacy. Now, I am Andrew Lloyd Webber and if you aren’t there yet, I desire nothing more than for you to feel the banks burst, for your ship to unmoor. 

The key to that was your reception, something that I felt would remain didactic and seen by very few, transforming into a two-way conversation. I will cherish those interactions more than anything – someone buying an album off the back of our review, the excitement in an artist’s voice reacting to their first ever review, the handwritten notes folded and hidden in the sleeves of records sent unexpectedly as a thank you (you’ll find these collated on our Instagram page). I’d never had pen pals and doubted that true friendships could be forged without skin touching skin, eyes meeting eyes, yet now I know that to be utter rubbish, so many of you have gone on to become friends, this shared passion making our skin nick less easily, our shared vulnerabilities firing soft clay into permanence. 

Remembering where I was then and where I am now, both mentally and professionally is overwhelming. We did that. Now my days are spent in the same room as those I admire most, musicians. Not idling awkwardly in the corner but stood proudly with something to offer, something that might help their art reach all the ears it rightfully deserves. Helping bring other’s art into the world has become a true passion, so much so that Balloon Machine will now become a record label. This, if anything, is due to this site increasing my passion for music rather than the reverse – nothing has been more instrumental to that than you. More on the label in the coming weeks. 

When we could still travel, I was lucky enough to see Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls. The sound of the water hurtling itself over the cliff edge and thrashing against the pool below is deafening; it’s an ego check that leaves you truly aware of your inferiority. That is how I feel in the face of song, and the desire to share the feeling of giving myself up to that tide will never die. I and Balloon Machine’s so cherished contributors, I can truly never thank you enough, will still reach for the pen, now sharing our words over on Secret Meeting as we attempt to make a mega blog of sorts, a blog that endeavours to cover all it can within the alternative canon. I hope to see you there and I hope to see you here, eager to learn more about the next installation of Balloon Machine.

I thank you so much for reading, for caring, for being here, but most of all I thank you for your friendship.

Much love, 

Balloon Machine ~  the blog  

New Song: Green Gardens – Buried in Snow

Previously we described Leeds’ Green Gardens as a group with impeccable harmonies and charmingly restrained rhythms. The desert rock riff that opens new single ‘Buried in Snow’ downright near sandblasts that restrained tag off. Taken from forthcoming EP ‘Sauna, Teach Me How to Breathe’, the single is frankly dizzying, its waves calming and crashing at a rate not even possible of this earth. Described by the band as a ‘call for action to the inactive’, it couldn’t feel more ill-advised right now, when lying on the sofa and binge eating popcorn is an act of heroism. Our inner saboteurs remain ever-present, no matter the state of the outside world, and when together they harmonise, “quick becomes slow as you’re buried in snow to your throat”, that lumpen weight presses down on us like a corpse again, its power reawakened fleetingly. If I was to have one criticism, it is that the desert rock riff zig zags in and out too regularly, its arrival occasionally feeling forced and unwanted. For the most part though, ‘Buried in Snow’ is instantly relatable and yet another sign of Green Gardens’ emergence as an increasingly vital component of our ecosystem.       

‘Buried in Snow’ is out now

New song: BUGS – Nick Gowland

Screenshots of middle-aged men proffering advice to wxmen musicians are tragically commonplace on social media feeds. “Love the song but at this point I would’ve done that”, “Have you tried your guitar in this tuning?”, yada yada yada. To South London four-piece BUGS those men are what you’d call Nick Gowlands – a common noun of their own invention for those most likely to drop by the merch table and ‘educate’ you on guitars. The rage simmers on their debut single never combusting into the inferno threatened by the song’s subject matter. The shoegaze-indebted guitars are light and stretched out like that final drop of drink when you’ve fallen on hard times. Alice Western’s voice is nasal, teetering over the edge to get a look at the drop but never letting the wind take her. They espouse a restraint that Nick Gowlands across the world should exercise when their fingers hover over the dm button, when their bodies turn toward the merch stand. Perhaps quarantine may offer a rare moment for re-valuation, an unending stare into the void. Until then though, we join Western in proclaiming, “Fuck Nick Gowland. Fuck all Nick Gowlands!”

 ‘Nick Gowland’ is out now on Sad Club Records

New song: Talitha Ferri – Porcelain

Few artists enter the arena with a trio of singles as impressive as those of Talitha Ferri’s. The ever-reliable Gold Flake Paint first introduced us to her back in February when they premiered her debut single ‘Home’. The Copenhagen-based songwriter has since gone on to release ‘The Sadness Lasts Forever’ and now ‘Porcelain’. The latter finds Ferri riffing on feelings of guilt that often accompany depression over resplendent guitar and writhing strings. That moment under depression’s dark cloud when you look at lives much worse off than your own and feel unworthy of the sadness that rests on your stomach. It’s something Soccer Mommy wrestled with on her recent album ‘Color Theory’, to all else’s intents and purposes she was living out her childhood dreams on the road and yet inexplicably an unspoken darkness prevailed within. 

Like her contemporaries, Ferri sings in similarly unvarnished terms, “Got it so damn good that it hurts / and I should feel much better / but I don’t feel much better” she regrets in a dejected, mournful tone.  The arrival of wrenching strings transports us to more visceral territory as Ferri matches the sharp yank of the violin bow with words no less cutting, “I’m standing here with blood in my mouth / trying to keep from spitting it out”. In expressing her feelings so vividly, she gives legitimacy to your own feelings, resulting in the track representing a two-way exchange rather than the simple portrayal of one’s own experiences.  Creating a space where others can enter on a level-playing field and work through struggles of their own is not an easy craft to master, yet Ferri manages it with ease. Laura Marling’s ‘Song For Our Daughter’ has provided the soundtrack to my lockdown so far and I’m sure that when Talitha Ferri’s debut full-length ‘Get Well Soon’ arrives on May 01 it will provide a similar comfort, just when we need it most.

‘Porcelain’ is out now on soulpod collective

Five Right Now: TOPS

I remember experiencing TOPS live for the first time nearly five years ago. Happily it’s a blur, though I can still feel the heat of the room and hear the sound of feet whacking against the wooden floors of Manchester’s Gullivers as people hurled their bodies back and forth. Few bands permit you to live outside yourself so entirely, silencing any fears of other’s perceptions as your spirit flagrantly flees your bodily confines for a little while.

That night Jade Penny, the band’s vocalist and songwriter, sported a Chastity Belt t-shirt long before the Seattle group reached the heady heights they occupy now. So it’s little surprise that Penny, a week on from the release of her band’s fourth record ‘I Feel Alive‘, still has her finger so firmly on the pulse as her ‘Five Right Now’ selections go to show.

Cecile Believe – Last Thing He Said To Me In Person

We’ve been big fans of Cecile’s production and vocal performances for years now. She’s a bit of a shape shifter, but if you’re a devoted fan you’ll recognize her voice from the latest Sophie record and her previous solo project Mozart’s Sister. She entered the game with more talent than the rest of us but she’s constantly honing her craft, everything she releases is better and better. 

Forever – Make It Happen

Local Montreal poetesse who makes club hits. This song was produced by Project Pablo and I love the instrumental, super lush and supportive. Also love the feature by Just John, it brings the track to a whole other level. It’s always impressive when a featured rap is the earworm that stays in your head after listening. 

Dana Gavanski – Yesterday Is Gone

I love this song and video, shot in the metro stations of Montreal. Completed for the 1967 expo, the metro stations all have a colorful pop art meets brutalist architecture, and each station has its own unique design. She chose some of our favorites. The song has a casual and honest feel.

Gazm – Space Truckin’

Montreal’s finest hardcore band, maybe even the planet’s… This self aware country rock anthem is summertime beer drinkin’ perfection. 

Anemone – Sunshine (Back To The Start) 

More Montreal. Ultimate psych-rock slash 80s disco-pop, it’s really fun! Chloe might appear to be the lead singer but in fact she’s the mastermind behind all the song-writing and production. We played in an Abba cover band together this last halloween, and it was quite a good time! 

‘I Feel Alive’ is out now on Musique Tops

New song: Uma Bloo – Coming Home

By Sage Shemroske

In this spring of constant change Chicago outfit Uma Bloo has finally released ‘Coming Home’, a single that frontperson Molly Madden has been teasing for a while now. ‘Coming Home’ starts with a simmer, the band appearing larger than ever before with Madden’s voice all encompassing. Her ability to take up all the air in the room and let it rest on her is singular. She’s never overpowered by bass or guitar, she allows it to build, playing each moment to its fullest extent. It’s a song with a maw opened wide enough to swallow all lovers. “Sometimes I wonder if you just got some sleep if you would’ve been a little bit nicer to me” she sings, looking for a reason to forgive, a justification for her treatment. It’s as if Madden is constantly battling her own empathy. Baked inside each Uma Bloo song is a note to those who tend to be ruled by the moon as well. The song comes to a boil with the drums steadying out and filling the space. “I never did quite get to know ya” Madden repeats with increasing intensity. Somewhere in the distance a chime makes itself heard, elevating the grated ringing of the guitar. The track keeps stepping forward until Madden finally shrieks and it’s seared shut. If you have always come from elsewhere you need to create your own return.

‘Coming Home’ is out now

New song: Forever Honey – Twenty-Five

Age anxiety feels particularly prevalent right now. Ever since the global pandemic hit, each and every one of us is facing the precarity of our existence head-on. Though I should be adjusting to the new circumstances of my existence, internally I’m presiding over selfish arguments, questioning whether I’ve made the most of my twenty-seven years. New York City group, Forever Honey relay their own age anxiety story on new single ‘Twenty-Five’. An age that induces a harsh self-reckoning, twenty-five is the point where you begin to battle with the expectations of what a twenty-five-year-old should be – I’m 25 now I should be at this point in my career, I’m 25 now I can’t be having late nights like this anymore. 

“I thought I’d never say / I’m looking more like you every day / it’s not a bad thing / I just wanna recognise my face”, Liv Price sings in the chorus, feeling the vigour of youth slip through her fingers as she starts to resemble her mother more and more with every day that passes. An electrifying riff rumbles in the background implausibly partnering with glistening dreampop keys. On paper it sounds impossible but in practice they work together like legendary crime detectives, one needing the other to reach their true potential. Forever Honey are not afraid to indulge in big pop moments, Price repeatedly sings “hey yay yay” in the starbursting finish where you’re invited to plunge into the revelry one final time. Price may be having an existential ageing crisis, however, if her band continues to break boundaries, matching styles you never thought would complement one another, tiring of them will be nigh-on impossible.

‘25’ is out now 

Album of the Week: Family Selection Box – Here Comes The Wave

No matter how much we try to impose structure, life will forever remain chaotic. Mundanity might be the standard setting, but the pendulum is always susceptible to shifts, vaulting upwards or careering downwards. Family Selection Box’s Tom Diffenthal likens it to a “giant log flume” – “I was after a gentle fairground ride / I never wanted this giant slip and slide” he laments on ‘Trying to Forget What’s On Your Mind”. 

Though Diffenthal’s inclination might be to shut out the highs and lows, he is too good of an anthropologist for that as you’ll discover on ‘Here Comes The Wave’ – a record that’ll make you as appreciative of life’s troughs as its peaks. Holding an umbrella aloft to the dank Sheffield sky, Diffenthal leads us on a trail from life’s simple joys – cheese sandwiches, Sunday mornings, Springsteen best ofs – to life’s simple tragedies – plant-less windows, scraps over a Tesco plastic bag, the house cat going missing. 

“On The Bridge” captures this transition best. Initially Diffenthal clashes his chaffed vocals against gnarly, grunge-indebted guitars, before they give way to woozy synths, bandmate Lauren Dowling entering the frame with erudite vocals that have you picturing tan shag rugs and woodburning fires. Their soundscapes are hoppy, characterised by a near ever-present verve. The psychedelic keys and wistful guitars of ‘Super Market’ make for a stark contrast to Diffenthal’s despair at faceless supermarkets swallowing up childhood memories born on bowling greens, village parks – “They’re flattening out the past and constructing a supermarket”. 

Diffenthal invites us for a drive in his Škoda Fabia on ‘Melancholic Car Journey’ parts I and II. Mirroring the title, the instrumentation is sombre and rueful, Diffenthal’s voice infusing calm and guidance unlike the recklessness it imbues on other tracks. Together these yarns break the wave in its tracks, their melancholy giving you one final reprieve before sweeping you up in the tide of adventure and folly once more. 

An accompanying zine that comes with the record finds Diffenthal writing a letter to his house cat Peggy. Within it he tells her of Bingo Records, a label set on the top of Sheffield’s Spital Hill. According to Diffenthal, Bingo requires more than just a strong set of demos, they require ‘a display of extreme sporting talent’. Bingo challenge you to surf to the top of Spital Hill, promising to “etch the grooves one carves into the concrete waves of Spital Hill into a plastic playable disc if one can successfully surf all the way to the top”. 

Album closer ‘Goodbye Wave’ marks the moment they reach the summit, Diffenthal and Dowling knocking their flag into the brawny concrete. This is not a road they’ve travelled alone though, a tailwind carries their listeners on to the peak with them. Having successfully overcome Bingo’s ‘Spital Hill Surfing Challenge’, they invite us to join in a communal singalong – “Good / goodbye wave / I’m glad that you came / the ride it was great”, we shout as the sun sets on the steel city below. 

‘Here Comes The Wave’ is out Friday April 10 on Bingo Records

Album of the Week: Anna Burch – If You’re Dreaming

Anna Burch started the follow up to 2018’s ‘Quit The Curse’ with intentionality. Returning from tour with a handful of songs, Burch unspooled the patterns she had knitted, remodelling the songs from the common threads she discovered. A sense of weariness lay hidden underneath the blankets, a sonic tapestry which she’d eventually shroud the album in once she’d decamped to the Catskill mountains of upstate New York with producer Sam Evian. If Burch’s indie pop debut hit like a gale-force wind, ‘If You’re Dreaming’ is content to unlatch the window, the cold chill gradually gaining on the room’s farthest corners.  

‘Jacket’ is perhaps where this gravitational shift pricks most sharply. Drowsy guitars blossom ever so slowly, as Burch half-awake, observes “She left her jacket / guess she don’t need it”.  Sometimes, self-destructively, we house ourselves in the clothes left behind by former lovers, longing for their touch, their warmth. Burch is forever asking for people to stay a while longer, the disappointment when they don’t filtering through to the record’s pervading inertia. On ‘Tell Me What’s True’ she craves for the presence of a friend who knows her more than herself, “Don’t go I need you / to tell me what is true”. She’s threatened by a sense of incompleteness when loved ones aren’t there to fill the gap, “I’m so much better when you’re around” she regrets on ‘Not So Bad’, the record’s most immediate track. 

Two guitar-led instrumentals, ‘Keep It Warm’ and ‘Picture Show’ highlight Burch’s unwavering dedication to craft a perfect tapestry, these gentle idles transforming her vision into high-definition. She loses her aim ever so slightly on ‘Every Feeling’, pushing her point home so hard that it becomes a little cumbersome.

That aside, ‘If You’re Dreaming’ is a remarkable success. Whilst ‘Quit The Curse’ was invested in the immediate, her follow-up succeeds in germinating an initial thought, its impact growing over time. 

‘If You’re Dreaming’ is out Friday 03 April on Heavenly (UK) and Polyvinyl (US)

New song: Francis of Delirium – Circles

By Sage Shemroske

“Stayed way too close to let you go / not close enough to feel like home” sings Jana Bahrich on ‘Circles’, Francis of Delirium’s new single. At just 18 she’s familiar with the pitfalls of intimacy, of feeling completely entwined with someone and yet not allowed in. Her songwriting gives the idea that she has done a lot of traveling and changing of paths, but this feels like a final molting with the strongest skin yet emerging. Her voice strains against the idea of suffocation, “I can’t breathe at all”. She pushes against what restrains her or what keeps her stuck in the same cycle. Her guitar gains speed acting as more of a pulse than a pillar, not generating the blood but rushing it out. It’s a layered sound with indie rock’s edges but emo’s soul and struggle. ‘Circles’ works in a series of build and release, build and release. The track pauses ever so slightly to reveal its own intricacies- the scratch of fingerpicked guitar strings, Bahrich’s voice lowering with a delicate piano softening the blows, all before getting caught up in Chris Hewett’s drumming again. Hewett allows for a glint right before the chorus pulls the tide again. The track does a tight walk between despair and clarity, there are moments of certainty but the band is never entirely unencumbered. ‘Circles’ starts solemn and gains ferocity as it expands. Here we find Bahrich trying to find the light, fingertips stretched outward. Bahrich picks up the pace “my head’s not going under”, refusing to stop or maybe unable to before finally letting go. Francis of Delirium manage to change the current right before they slip down the drain.

‘Circles’ is out now on Dalliance Recordings

The long read: Jennah Barry

By Mia Hughes

When Jennah Barry was in a bad place, she was given the advice to ask other people how they are. “It sounds simple in a way, but it was just huge to me in that moment,” she says. “Because it was a relief to me to just ask other people how they are. It took my mind out of the ruminating I was experiencing. It changed how I dealt with everything.” 

Barry hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, where she lives with her partner and producer, Colin Nealis, and their young daughter. Her album ‘Holiday’ is out today (March 27). It’s her first work since her 2012 debut, ‘Young Men’ – a time that seems an age ago now, maybe was an age ago, given what a full and chaotically paced eight years followed. An eight-year gap between albums seems almost unthinkable, in an age characterised by things moving quickly; but for Barry, there were things to be dealt with; things that left her needing to step outside of herself.

Chiefly a throat injury that left Barry recovering from vocal surgery. “I don’t know how to say the condensed version yet,” she sighs. “It wasn’t a singing injury; it was more of a stress and alcohol injury. I just was touring by myself and driving alone – I was alone constantly. I got burnt out, and needed surgery – and therapy. I had all these songs written, but I was just in such a dark hole that I didn’t know how to put any of it out.”

The injury, it turned out, was one catalyst for Barry to recognise what needed to change. It led her to realise how unhealthy the glancing, superficial interactions that solo touring brings had been for her. “I’m malleable as a person, I’m pretty porous. Some people are stronger, and are able to move through people and have superficial interactions without losing it. But in touring, it’s something I need to reflect on.” Different now is that she has a team around her in her record label, Forward Music Group, also based in Nova Scotia. “I’ve never been on a label. I’ve never been able to say to someone who’s on my side, ‘No, I don’t wanna do that’. I used to write my own emails and answer them with a different name, just to have a little protection. So everyone was looking for ‘Gloria’, and answering to ‘Gloria’, and she didn’t exist,” she laughs. “Having someone to sort of constantly suss out the business aspect of doing this is everything. ‘Cause then I do my job; what I’m good at.”

Another shift in Barry’s life – maybe the largest shift possible – came with the arrival of her daughter. Entering into motherhood, she came to discover more things she had to face in herself. “I freaked out when I got pregnant. I just couldn’t imagine myself being able to handle the fact that they’re eventually gonna be my age and maybe older. I needed to nip some things in the bud in my brain, put some stuff to bed – some body issues and just things that I hadn’t worked out yet. I wanted to be able to help her, because I’m forcing her to be here.” By extension of that came the realisation that indeed all of us are figuring out our way through a life we didn’t choose. “If you let it, [becoming a parent] makes you extremely more empathetic. ‘Cause you realise that everybody was here and they didn’t ask to be here, and they’re trying. It’s changed me forever.”

When she did begin to record what would become ‘Holiday’ (the title itself an ironic joke about her fraught time off), the weight of those years away became almost paralysing; Barry figures that the worrying itself added an extra year. “I was so worried, I was so overwhelmed,” she says. “I just didn’t know where to start.” Largely, having a musical partner in Nealis allowed for her to get the ball rolling again. “He’s the only person I really like showing songs to. I’m very precious and have a lot of hang-ups, and so it was really hard for me to write this stuff. I’m not gonna say it was just him that got my writing moving, but it was helpful to be bouncing this stuff off of someone else that I trusted. That was important to me. Even the criticism – I just needed someone to throw songs in the garbage.”

The writing process was “chaotic and confusing,” as Barry puts it. She would write as she recorded, with Nealis’ input helping to form the work into the shape of a record. They also had to fit recording sessions around their newborn baby’s sleep schedule, allowing Barry to discover that she works best when low on time – “Having endless time is the worst for me,” she says. 

The record that came out of it is extraordinary. ‘Holiday’ is an album that moves like a dance, unfalteringly elegant, fluent, moving with purpose but not without grace. The songs feel classic, set aside from the modern world; Barry cites influence from Nina Simone, something that can be sensed in the record’s jazzy arrangements and soulful vocals. Barry likes to write songs as songs, she says, pieces that can exist outside of their production – in that sense, she feels, they are timeless. 

She describes the track ‘Roller Disco’ as encapsulating the feeling she wanted to depict with the album as a whole. There’s an intense melancholy to its melody and its soft strings and horns, a devastating yearning in its lyrics. The central image is of that roller disco, Barry singing, ‘Round and around to the sound of the radio’. “I pictured rolling around, and all the lights and the party aspect of a roller disco, but you’re alone,” she says. “You know when you’re driving in a car, and it’s raining – you’re not the one driving and you’re listening to music in your headphones, and you’re kind of putting yourself in a film? It’s like, you’re experiencing melodrama, and it kind of feels good, but you’re sad.” She adds that the feeling of “being alone, for an extremely social person,” is key to the entire record.

 It’s clear that ‘Holiday’ is a true culmination of the years of self-examination that came prior; Barry’s lyrical voice is self-assured while introspective, asking questions while almost simultaneously answering them, digging deep but remaining entirely comfortable. Those eight years, while no holiday, allowed for Barry to create a masterpiece. At the least, Barry says, it granted her an understanding of why she creates art at all. 

 “I didn’t know before, honestly. And I was mad at it; I thought maybe I was just making art because it’s the only thing I ever did. I lost it, and now I have it again, and so I’ve had this different value for it. I know [now] that not everybody gets to express themselves, and feel that feeling – feel how good singing feels and where it can take you. My dad has a construction company, he’s been working his whole life, and he’s about to retire and he’s just petrified. Because he expresses himself through rocks. He’s really good at piling, making beautiful things with rocks. But he doesn’t value it that way.

“I have this aspect to my life that is massive and universal, and intangible in a way. And it’s precious.”

‘Holiday’ is out now on Forward Music Group  

Album of the Week: Dana Gavanski – Yesterday is Gone

Serbian-Canadian songwriter Dana Gavanski’s debut album ‘Yesterday is Gone’ started to take shape from her bedroom desk in Toronto, a city new to Gavanski. She had not long emerged from a break-up and with roots not yet planted in the soil of her unfamiliar home, she was able to implement 9-5 office hours to craft her debut. It was only through injecting such routine and rigour that she learnt the unreliability of creativity, that it can’t be induced with timetables and calendar slots. A phenomenon she explores on ‘Catch’, an epiphany-like moment where she acknowledges the flubber-like quality of creativity, how it slips and slides through your fingers. “You have to be able to let things happen, to accept losing control”, she declares. 

It’s little wonder that the resulting record incorporates both the control she originally plumbed for and the exploration that came after. Its songs each possess a slowly bobbing rhythm and a loping, Patsy Cline-like bass, they all sail off course from here though, their individual peculiarities coming to define them with repeat listens. ‘Trouble’ is initially centred by dirge guitars dipped in black oil, however, its ending sees Gavanski indulge in prog-rock; cartwheeling synths and a wider instrumental meltdown helping you to picture an endless vista. ‘Everything That Bleeds’ has elements of desert rock that Queens of The Stone Age would be proud of, ending with Gavanski and co galloping off into the wilderness, the brass becoming mangled and disorientating over cantering drums.  ‘Other Than’ may start sparely but then out of the haze in strides a kaleidoscopic chorus reminiscent of fellow Canadians Tops at the peak of their powers, for a moment you’re invited to slip the shoes off your feet and let go. Gavanski has always been passionate about her Serbian heritage and she submerged herself in it in the autumn of 2018, obsessively listening to high-energy Kafana and café music. Something which I’m sure surfaces in these peculiarites, in how Gavanski uses the backing ‘ahs’ and ‘ohs’ of her bandmates to frame her songs.

During those months spent reconnecting with her Serbian heritage, Gavanski took singing lessons to learn how to sing with the resonance that defines traditional Serbian song. Her voice is pleasingly off-kilter, its innate eccentricity delineating her from the pack. Her words have an oddball quality too, ‘Yesterday is Gone’ sees her process a break-up and reckon with herself in a way only Gavanski can. She’s adept at penning short statements that leave questions hanging in the air, “Everything is also nothing” she declares on ‘Small Favours’, ‘How can I be good instead of bad?’ she questions ambiguously. If one thing comes through most clearly on ‘Yesterday is Gone’ it’s that there’s rarely a resolution, questions rarely have a direct answer, indecision and unknowing are a mainstay in the human experience. Once we accept that upward and inward growth can resume. 

Contrarily though Gavanski does close ‘Yesterday is Gone’ with a clear conclusion. “Memories of winter / long stalls in the park / now the birds sing summer / as our love fades in the dark” she sings on the sparse closing track. She has worked through the remnants left behind by her past relationship so much that it can now be untied, floating off into the air with the changing of seasons. Gavanski looks out at her future with relish. We do the same. 

‘Yesterday is Gone’ is out now on Full Time Hobby

New song: A.O. Gerber – In The Morning

‘In The Morning’ is the towering lead single from LA-based artist A.O. Gerber’s forthcoming debut record ‘Another Place to Need’. After a cleansing, revitalising start, the true colours of ‘In The Morning’ shine fiery red, Gerber letting loose in a rage which refuses to simmer until the song burns out. Though balm-like in the beginning, her voice turns malignant as she contrasts the wincing pain of a tumultuous past relationship with the surrounding natural beauty visible from her car window as she races on to Oregon. A collective wolf howl skirts her despair, rising and falling, appearing and vanishing. James Bond-like drama, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on Angel Olsen’s latest record, arrives in the form of whole-bodied brass and strings, they bounce off one another emitting a sense of foreboding as if the ground is preparing to give way under Gerber’s wheels. She does reach her destination however, one final gasp of relief escaping her before she turns the key, the engine rumbling to silence.

‘Another Place To Need’ is out May 22 via Hand In Hive / Copper Mouth Records

New song: BABii – Snake

On new single ‘Snake’, Margate-based sound architect BABii realises that the only way to free herself of a bad spirit is to express it through song. ‘A vicious ode to a manipulative spiteful person who has caused me, and a lot of people who are close to me, so much emotional pain’, ‘Snake’ is proudly petulant, an expulsion of hatred atop bombastic, bone shaking beats. Cresting and breaking synths make for an air of malice that bubbles under throughout, the foundations finally caving in when slithering, winding electronics clash with a bass that could crack firm gravel. A builder in all senses, BABii constructed the set for the ‘Snake’ video and has previously built machines that allowed attendees at an interactive clubnight, hosted alongside collaborators Chk Chk Chk (!!!) and Why?, to insert tokens to change the music and visuals onstage. ‘Snake’ is proof she’s just as comfortable at tearing the wall down as raising it from the ground up.  

‘Snake’ is taken from forthcoming EP ‘iii’, out March 27 on GLOO

Album review: Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Porridge Radio’s first album, 2016’s ‘Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers’, was the musical equivalent of a rag and bone man’s daily haul.  Gleams of gold glistening out from beneath the rubble. Recorded in drummer Sam Yardley’s garden shed, the Brighton quartet led by Dana Margolin finally gained access to a proper studio in 2018, the result of which was first presented to us through single ‘Don’t Ask Me Twice’. Despite the inconsistency of their debut, so many had their ears pricked for this moment due to the band spending the intervening three years building a reputation as one of the country’s must-see live bands. There’s something cleansing about having Dana bawl in your face, her bucket hat wearing keyboardist Georgie Stott creepily repeating her every word. 

And that is the central feature of Porridge Radio. Repetition. As Dana herself says, “it feels really good to just repeat shit over and over again until it becomes something bigger.” Scream “I don’t know what I want”, scream “I’m kind, I’m kind, I’m kind”, scream “I don’t want to get bitter / I want us to get better” – see how good it feels? Margolin makes mantras for the millennial age, statements particularly poignant now our identities are permitted to be as malleable as we’ve always known them to be. As a teenager I designed lyrics and quotes in word art, sticking them up haphazardly across my bedroom wall. “How do I say no / without sounding like a little bitch?” would’ve earned its place alongside Nina Simone’s quote “I tell you what freedom is to me. No fear” I’m sure.

If you’ve been lucky enough to witness these live performances, you would’ve seen Porridge Radio grow closer in real-time. Live, they fold into each other, prop each other up, make ‘in’ jokes with one another. Imperfections and faults are OK within the safe space of Porridge Radio. “Sometimes I forget to love / but that’s ok” Margolin sings on the electronic ‘(Something)’ and somehow you feel as if it was the musicians around who made her realise that. Margolin describes the sea as a place to ‘wash off your insecurities’, now having spent years revealing their closest secrets to one another, Porridge Radio invite you into the water, yours swallowed up by the deep blue for ‘Every Bad’s’ duration. “My body’s so uncomfortable” Margolin sings in the opening line of ‘Lilac’ and an entire generation feels seen. 

For the most part, their songs, visceral and unnerving, build to a violent crescendo, Margolin’s voice demented by the frenzied close as her band rally around her. They do diverge from this formula though, most impressively on ‘Pop Song’. Stoner in feel, Clams Casino could’ve been at the ones and twos here, the skygazing guitars could soundtrack the spiralling of smoke into the air. Margolin is equally laconic though her demand, “please make me feel safe” is less so. This could perhaps be an intriguing jumping off point for whatever they do next.

‘Every Bad’ is the kinda album you’d mix up with your identity as a teenager. If people didn’t get that, they didn’t get you. Whenever I play it, it takes me back to the first time I played Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’, jumping from the bed to the chair and back again whilst still in my school uniform, thinking ‘this band are my band’. Porridge Radio are a band to call your own. 

‘Every Bad’ is out now on Secretly Canadian

Premiere: Hollan – Wild Man

I listen through our submissions whilst working, few waking me from my inertia. I still remember hearing Hollan’s music for the first time, having to push my chair away from the desk and sink into the fabric of my chair. This is the moment I’d been waiting for; this makes working through all the chaff worth it. Anna Manotti’s (Hollan) vocal could’ve come from any era, its deep reverence subsuming you whole, whilst her songs sound as if they’d sprung from the soil, the early recordings of Adrianne Lenker whirring round my mind. 

Latest single ‘Wild Man’ sees Manotti confront the reality of a break-up after returning home from vacation. “I was warring with my mind, struggling with my mental health and I felt an urgency that I needed to be rescued from the state I was in. During those couple of hours of feeling the rawness of life in a dark moment, I realised that a part of me and my soul will never be completely present. A part of me will always be somewhere else, somewhere better, somewhere right. And sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can go there”. 

Manotti’s words are so rich that she ensures you come along too. The scorched grass, the fading blue of the pick-up truck, the flower hanging from one’s mouth appearing in stunning high definition. “Somewhere I’m with you / Riding through the tall grass / And my feet are dangling out the back” she sings in the chorus, its beauty making you feel like you could keel over in front of your speakers. There’s a mourning, a sense of regret perhaps to her voice not distilled by the arrival of strings and swelling percussion. The ambiguity of her words steal you away from the day-to-day as you comprehend why the words “you know I carry rain” make you fall apart every single time. 

Whenever I listen to Manotti I imagine I’m watching her live. Stood in the crowd, my eyes are closed, the words to her songs escaping from my mouth though I have no awareness that I am singing.  The thought of it makes me feel warm. 

‘Wild Man’ is out Saturday 14 March

Album of the Week: JFDR – New Dreams

New Dreams’ is the eighth album Jófríður Ákadóttir (JFDR) has released in eight years. It is only her second full-length under the JFDR moniker, the other six emerging from projects like Pascal Pinon, a folk duo she formed with her twin sister at the age of 14, Samaris, an electronic trio she started at the age of 17, and Gangly, an Icelandic supergroup she joined at the wizened old age of 19. JFDR’s experimental spirit is obvious from the potpourri of guises she’s worn, yet never has she taken such a leap of faith as on ‘New Dreams’,  a record so stark it hangs like loose clothes swaying and blowing in the wind, your skin exposed to the elements at even the flimsiest of gusts.

With this record, Ákadóttir announces herself as a true architect of sound. The minimalist structures she consigns herself to amplify her flair for nuance. The songs start life as a lone raindrop falling down a windowpane until it spools with another only to split and return to its skeletal bedrock before finding a new partner. Each spooling represents a deft embellishment, an addition or subtraction that exorcises the listener, permitting them to levitate above the heap of blood and bone that sits below. New Dreams is a lesson in the power of space and silence, Ákadóttir knows how to activate imaginations, she understands that it’s what isn’t there than what is there that matters most. 

Language is ill-equipped to describe the affect ‘Gravity’ has. Though it is just Ákadóttir’s voice set to a whirring, air-raid mimicking synth, when it closes and the world re-emerges around you it hits like a spook in the night, an audible shock leaping from your throat. This sudden ending is an anomaly though, for the most part, Ákadóttir leaves the record button pressed down, capturing the hubbub leaking into the Brooklyn loft that made for her recording studio. 

Her voice is the focal point on ‘New Dreams’. As is her nature, Ákadóttir would spend her time on the tour bus stitching together beds of vocal samples for no other reason than her own enjoyment. It was her mix engineer that made her realise how these recordings could furnish the bedframes of her songs. This revelation bestowed ‘New Dreams’ with a voice that travels in the wind, the vowel sounds travelling like waves, unpredictable in their length or closeness. Just as her Icelandic counterparts Sigur Ros sang in Volenska, a language of their own making, Ákadóttir’s words are often unintelligible; at the end of ‘Dive In’ she espouses primal noises sounding like a woman in the final throes of labour. Elsewhere her elongated groans and grumbles are like a tunnel where you don’t want the light to enter, they achieve a transcendence you might previously only have thought Julianna Barwick capable of.  

‘New Dreams’ feels like an album that Ákadóttir had to get out of her system. She will never make a record of its like again. It is exclusive to the hermetic life she led in that gear-loaded loft and the thoughts and feelings that weaved through her in the moments leading up to her taking base there. It is an exercise in deadening weight, in unmooring a ship and letting it sail off unbounded. It is a record that flushes out and renews, gifting you with new eyes in which to see the world. When she sings, “thank you for taking me higher / thank you for everything” on ‘Taking A Part of Me’, one of just two percussive songs on the record, Ákadóttir might as well be addressing the process of making ‘New Dreams’ itself. The affect it has on us, the listener, is even more profound. ‘New Dreams’ is an immersive, sacred space we can drift off to whenever outside noise starts to overwhelm. A levitational phenomenon we can never begin to thank her enough for.   

JFDR headlines our showcase on Sunday May 10.

New Dreams is out March 13 on White Sun Recordings

Album review: Hilary Woods – Birthmarks

By Nina Maria Schaarschmidt

We’ve all got scars on our bodies, it does not matter if they are visible or not. Everyone’s got their personal unhealed scars and open wounds, which they tend to hide instead of letting them heal. Hillary Woods’ ‘Birthmarks’ invites and encourages everyone to identify their scars, wounds or birthmarks and let them heal, no matter what it takes. It advocates for the revisiting and caressing of old wounds, an auditory bath for you to soak them in until the dead skin regains life. 

Hilary Woods wrote ‘Birthmarks’ over the course of two years. She recorded it in Galway and Oslo last winter while heavily pregnant. Based on personal experiences and healing, she wrote about topics like selfhood and becoming, hidden growth and the birthing of the self. Following her vision for the record, Woods collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer and filmmaker Lasse Marhaug. They made field recordings, used analogue bass synthesizers and recorded heavy breaths underpinned with heavy noise processing, fierce and gawping cello, rich percussion, sable saxophone and electronics. It’s Inspired by everlasting anxiety in modern society, abstract artwork, the experimental collapse of human community and the power of the lone human voice.

It celebrates the art of alchemy and the world of the unseen. It is a guided journey which includes sonic exorcism and poetic healing along the way. The record includes eight tracks, which merge together to make one story. Musically and lyrically, Woods has got a lot to say. For the most part, she expresses her desire to heal to the backing of primal beats. By the end though we reach quiet. ‘There is no moon’ sees peaceful melodies merge with Jenny Hval-like murmurs, communicating that the journey of healing has now come to an end. The transcendence Woods bathed you in permitting you to re-enter the world with newfound vim and vigour. 

‘Birthmarks’ is out Friday 13 March on Sacred Bones

Premiere: Alf Whitby – Mountain (For Change)

It’s funny that Manchester songwriter Alf Whitby’s artwork always features nature. His songs suspend you in a silence similar to that experienced by neighbours looking out at a blood moon, a solar eclipse, a crimson sky. You just stand and admire, watch it play out in front of you. Words cannot suffice. 

‘Mountain (For Change)’ is the most forthright of the three singles to come from forthcoming debut ‘Sistine Dreams’, the swell of its second half swallowing you whole.  Whitby’s voice acts like a gusty swirl, occasionally unintelligible, he layers its rises and falls elevating it to an instrument all its own. Though initially you might compare it to Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe, it’s more Anohni by the end, when he declares “I want it all / your grandmother’s throw / the honeycomb pillow / your favourite bowl”, his words carry the power of a fire burning inside finally given air. A song about the precarity of love, Whitby penned it after seeing the end of a close friend’s relationship that to him looked like everything he ever wanted. “That’s why love’s the sacrificial stone / The precipice I groaned to / The hardest to leap off”, he sings. 

‘Sistine Dreams’ is out March 13 on My Little Empire. 

Album of the Week: Snarls – Burst

By Sage Shemroske

“Walked down to the Walgreens and bought myself something to drink / sugar messes with me but not as bad as when you leave” sing Chlo White and Riley Hall on Snarls’ debut album ‘Burst. I think back to the summer of 2017, I have maybe $100 in my bank account but I’m at the Walgreens several blocks from my friend’s apartment trying to buy something caffeinated before a long retail shift, some of the only human interaction I’ll have all day. “I think I’ve lost my marbles” they continue between walls of snare. Who among us hasn’t lost it so completely? Struggled to shower and leave the house? The band is transparent in their experiences. And it’s not hard to see yourself in the album’s growing pains. Snarls blossom as glittering protagonists in a coming-of-age album. “Twenty seems further than it oughta be” they sing on ‘Twenty’. Further from childhood or further from adulthood? The track moves through a gilded reverb with a somber voice. Snarls are always peering over the ledge, questioning what has gotten them to this moment and trying to get a glimpse of what’s next. White and Mick Martinez slide the guitars down before Max Martinez’s drumming flares, “I’m not who I thought I was gonna be”. 

The band has an emo ethos with a shiny coating- more shimmer than twinkle accompanying their constant series of emotional declarations. Lyrics like “I can’t quit you, baby!’ on ‘Walk in the Woods’ take a pop command and wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Carly Rae Jepsen’s brand of vulnerability. Snarls move through a headrush of feelings, dynamic in their ability to shift tone and change texture throughout the album. They’re at their most controlled on ‘Hair’, a grunge tinged track. They briefly pull back the rhythm to catch your attention, “have you got nothing clever to say?” they taunt. It’s a controlled burn with a heavier bass sound and the drums punching up the latter half of the track. The instruments and lyrics act with equal bark and bite, “you can’t tell me what to do” they repeat.

On the jangling and sticky ‘What’s It Take’ White and Hall accuse a distant lover they can’t seem to escape  “…you like the taste of blood on your teeth”. They slow down the track with a slurry guitar interlude that would act as the storm before the breakdown on a pop punk album but instead precedes an eruption of dreamy layered synth. “What’s it take to be touched by you?” they beg, knowing the answer is always more complicated than it should be. But they have the courage to ask for help, White and Hall’s voices rise and catch air, “how do you fall like that?”, they sing on ‘Better Off’ and I think back to my broke summer where I didn’t even know how to say something was wrong in the first place. 

‘Burst’ is sprawling, bubbling with empathy. Snarls write lyrics to carry in your pocket like change, sifting through your jacket you realize you’re glad to find them. This is the sunny side of alternative, providing a soft landing for the heaviest of burdens. “Someone say when all of this will end” they demand to no one in particular on ‘All of This Will End’ as the bass rises up to match the kicking drums and straining vocals. They easily go from swooning and woozy to unfiltered and existential. There’s a beauty in listening to ‘Burst’, hearing it flourish. It catches the most pungent moments of joy and sadness and sinks its teeth in. Listening to Snarls feels like stepping into the sunshine after not having been able to leave your bed for days or the release that comes with crying into your pillow. It’s best listened to on a walk through the city or on a long drive when it can best expand. ‘Burst’ moves through the fluidity of life with you, seeping into every moment.

‘Burst’ is out now on Take This to Heart Records

Five Right Now: Chloe Foy

February saw Chloe Foy release ‘Callous Copper’, a collection of songs old and new re-imagined within the setting of a string quarter. Time and time again female singer-songwriters are wrongly pigeonholed as heart-stopping or angelic, yet Foy’s songs, particularly with the added heft of a string quartet, overwhelm you with their power, submitting you into a stunned silence. The title track is instant, you’re bewitched from the off by the intricacy of Foy’s winding guitar arrangements coupled with her distinctive vocal that lands somewhere between Kate Bush and Joanna Newsome. Whilst ‘Song For D’ finds her operating in the trad-folk territory, the type of song that Bonnie Light Horseman might’ve reimagined for their latest LP. ‘Callous Copper’s’ most impressive feature is the variety it contains, as illustrated by the cover of Neil Young’s ‘Birds’ that falls between the aforementioned tracks. For those new to Foy’s work, it makes for a neatly packaged introduction to an artist ready to forsake the well-beaten path of those who have gone before. 

Check out Foy’s ‘Five Right Now’ selections below: 

Madison Cunningham – Pin It Down

This lady is a force to be reckoned with. This is nose-wrinkling stuff and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve been listening to her album on repeat for the last few weeks. She is hugely talented and I can’t wait for her to play in the UK. 

Mick Flannery – Wasteland

This guy has been around for a while and is pretty big in Ireland but I’d never come across him. I saw him perform at Folk Alliance in January and I was utterly captivated. He made me cry and I had shivers. There’s just such raw emotion in his voice and performance.

The Clementines – Calm Down

Well this is just delightful, whimsical and clever. I love their use of instrumentation, led by strings with a chamber-like feel. Though it’s non-conforming it leaves me wanting more of the very catchy main melody. I can’t wait to see what their album will be like.

Hannah Ashcroft – Landfire

A fellow Manchester artist, Hannah Ashcroft has been grafting away in the last couple of years, playing superb guitar and BVs in a few Manchester bands, but her main thing is her solo project and she’s just released this absolute stunner of a track.

Kate Davis – Daisy

Someone introduced me to this tune recently and it’s wonderful. It’s like folk-grunge-rock or something and is very clever with its lyrics and use of rhythm in the vocal. She co-wrote Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Seventeen’, and you can hear the thread run through here. Super cool.

‘Callous Copper’ is out now via AntiFragile

Album review: Ratboys – Printer’s Devil

By Sarah Ross

If you read any music blogs or follow any indie music Twitter accounts, chances are you’ve heard of Ratboys.

If you follow the Canadian outfit PUP, with whom Ratboys toured last fall, you’ve almost definitely heard of Ratboys.

And if you follow Bernie Sanders and his campaign stops, particularly that of Jan. 11, 2020, you’ve definitely heard of Ratboys. 

If you’re still wondering who Ratboys are, don’t worry. Their latest album, ‘Printer’s Devil‘, gives us the answer: a tight-knit band with soaring sounds ready to be put on repeat.

Guitarist-vocalist Julia Steiner demoed much of the album in her just-sold childhood home. Consequently or coincidentally, the record reflects a sense of transience, memory, and the shift from uncertainty to embracing change. Whether you know the stories behind each song or not, ‘Printer’s Devil’ readily extends a welcoming hand into narrative (‘I Go Out at Night’), memories (‘Anj’) and figuring everything out.

Steiner and guitarist David Sagan met one another at the University of Notre Dame, combining their individual musical influences to push Ratboys further and further. Now, after years of having friends and members of other bands filling in, ‘Printer’s Devil’ welcomes drummer Marcus Nuccio of Pet Symmetry and Mountains for Clouds and bassist Sean Neumann of indie pop project Jupiter Styles.

These additions make all the difference, not just because the sound is more full and consistent, but because they give the lyrics and emotional riffs the space to soar. The rocking rhythms set the tone for whatever destination each song holds. 

‘Printer’s Devil’ demonstrates a level of technical skill that allows each song to come out as a fully developed, coherent thought. Catchy riffs, distortion and quiet moments do not dominate a song but add detail. In a world where it’s easy to get distracted from what matters, Ratboys’ ‘Printer’s Devil’ delivers an honest, intelligent look at life. 

Perhaps that’s why you might have heard so much about them— the level of thought and emotion evident in each note gives you no choice but to say, quoting Bernie Sanders: “Let me thank the Ratboys for their music.” 

“Printer’s Devil” is out now on Topshelf Records

New song: Chase Weinacht – Leap Day

Leap Day‘ is the debut solo single from Marmalakes singer & guitarist Chase Weinacht and his first release with Balloon Machine favourites Keeled Scales. Written in 2015 about the events of a leap day seven years previous, the weightless indie folk of ‘Leap Day’ is the type of song you’d want in your ears whilst freely strolling down a sunlit path. It’s the small embellishments that make it whole, the fidgety synth on the chorus, the ‘ba ba ba’ of the backing vocal. 

Written about the realisation that a lover’s world doesn’t align with your own, ‘Leap Day’ deviates into darkness when Weinacht sings “I am still in love with that woman / why does that make me feel so lost?”, the song structure collapsing around him. Weinacht reassembles the pieces quickly enough though and while this realisation may have devastated him initially, he’s content and glad of the experience seven years down the line. “I think I might go for a swim / I hope it’s cold out / I hope it’s empty” he resolves. 

‘Leap Day’ is out now on Keeled Scales

Album of the Week: Sour Widows – Sour Widows

As a child I used to unbutton my bed sheet and clamber inside the duvet, discovering an inner sanctum all of my own. I find myself back there, my body sinking into the exposed cover, my nose pressing against the sheet, whenever I listen to Bay Area’s Sour Widows.  They define their style as ‘bedroom rock’, accurately noting that they “expose tender moments with an edge”. 

It’s in the converging of Maia Sinaiko and Susanna Thomson’s voices where we feel that transition from tender to fraught. For the most part they reference the latent, assuredness of Faye Webster, yet on each of the EP’s six songs, they expel the breath they’ve been holding inside, a fiery passion ripping their throats raw as it escapes into the atmosphere. 

While their vocal inflections might change, Sinaiko’s words all derive from the same place – the desire to mine and process their sharpest emotions. On ‘Whole Lotta Nothing’, they want to escape reality now that their lover has moved elsewhere, “I want to put my lights out” they yearn. Written “by and for my body”, ‘Open Wide’ sees Sinaiko reflect on an intense period where they finally came to understand themselves as a nonbinary trans person. “My body wants to let every fucking word fly”, they sing.  

Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson and Max Edelman (Sour Widows) are longtime friends. Like inspirations Big Thief, their unbreakable bond is palpable in how their instruments enmesh and fold into one another. Sinaiko and Thomson harmonise like they’ve sang together their entire life. They’re each others shadow, exuding an intimate companionship as their voices spiral and float together. They both play guitar too, their velvety riffs recalling the puffy lines that trail in a plane’s wake, whilst Edelman’s drums never overawe, they sound dampened as if he’s laid towels atop their skins. 

Pilot Light’, the EP’s most immediate track, impacted us so much when we first heard it that we hailed Sour Widows as one of our best new bands. We couldn’t have predicted that the rest of the EP’s tracks would actually surpass ‘Pilot Light’, that they’d transcend further, that they’d endure longer, that they’d lift us onto another plane entirely. ‘Sour Widows’ is a document of growth, of personal growth, of professional growth, of friends growing closer together. Cherish its every moment.  

‘Sour Widows’ is out now

Premiere: Tom John Hall – Human

As an announcement rang through Manchester airport a few weeks ago, it struck me that for all intents and purposes I was now a passenger and that I’d remain so until I passed through the border on the other side. We shed our individual status more often than we realise, we’re patients, employees, customers, students. The individual requirements and responsibilities of each role require a different performance. It’s something Derby upstart Tom John Hall explores on new single ‘Human’, “a song about the tiny performances we put on in our everyday lives, and the nerve-wracking sensation of living in a permanent state of pretending”.

That wracking of the nerves is reflected in the song’s instrumentation; the spine-splitting solos, the frantic, galaxian synths, the hubbub of peripheral external voices that threaten to overpower Hall. Following an intro that recalls early Django Django, a slowly undulating riff comes to the fore, like a snake slithering out of a canyon. Hall regrets “it’s not me that people meet / when they meet me”, eventually declaring “we lie / we lie all the time”. The sheer hysteria that ensues from this point reveals Hall’s penchant for the eccentric, he ploughs a ship through rocky waters, challenging you to stay upright. Though fluid in the day-to-day, his identity as a songwriter is unbreakable, something that won’t bend no matter how great the pressure.  

‘Humans’ is the lead single from forthcoming debut ‘My Big Album’, out July 31st via Year of Glad