Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: The Cleaners from Venus (aka Martin Newell)

Martin Newell, the man behind The Cleaners from Venus

Martin Newell is a fascinating character.

In 1980, Newell formed The Cleaners from Venus with Lawrence “Lol” Elliot, though since then, he has remained the only consistent member. Under this moniker, Newell has released a multitude of albums, and this isn’t even taking into consideration his wealth of material under his own name. Starting with Blow Away Your Troubles, Newell showed the world what to expect from The Cleaners from Venus: wonderful, jangly music that was staunchly lo-fi.

While Newell certainly has impressive melodic sensibilities, showcased particularly on the 1982 album (well, one of them, anyway) Midnight Cleaners, he also refused to let his songs get to the point of being “pop.” The closest The Cleaners from Venus came to this disgusting term was the song “Only a Shadow,” a tune with an earworm of a guitar melody and an anthemic chorus. However, everything is coated with a lo-fi hiss that behaves almost like the needles of a cactus. By this, I mean that it will scare off any surface level listener. However, for others, the almost demo quality of the recordings makes them more endearing.

Newell and Elliot, upon starting out, used hardly any equipment to record their music, sometimes even using homemade instruments. Eventually, a four track recorder was brought into the mix, which became Newell’s preferred method of recording. Rather than upgrade to a professional studio environment, he stuck to his D.I.Y. guns and continued letting the substance of the music speak instead of the style. And what an amount of substance there was!

The lyrics to each Cleaners from Venus song are woven together like the finest wicker basket. Whether they are painting gorgeously detailed pictures of life in England (“Wivenhoe Bells (II)”), highlighting working class angst (“Summer in a Small Town”), or outright damning the state of the world (“The Jangling Man”), each word is fascinating to listen to. Newell’s gift for writing is one that is truly overlooked, with each song packed with enough meaning to make the most stubborn folk music enthusiast blush. The sparsely recorded (and sparsely produced) instrumentation acts as the perfect canvas for these poetic yet direct verbal drawings.

During The Cleaners from Venus’ initial decade-long run, they largely avoided record labels and did not tour often. Newell has been quoted as saying that the music business and media “tend to ruin everything.” This only added to the mystique of the enigmatic band, and early cassettes of their work became highly prized collectors’ items. The sheer amount of support for the band’s works actually inspired Newell, who had largely decided to back away from music, to start recording under the Cleaners from Venus moniker again in 2010. Since then, he’s been prolific as ever, and he continues to record music even to this day, with his newest single “Lo-Fi London” coming out last month.

Outside of The Cleaners from Venus, Newell has lived an extraordinary life. He has been a successful poet and writer, even touring as a spoken word artist. In 1989, he teamed up with a fellow cleaner from Venus, Nelson Nice, to form The Brotherhood of Lizards, an acoustic duo that gained much attention for completing a tour by bicycle, riding their bikes to every show. Newell has also released six solo albums, with his first, 1993’s The Greatest Living Englishman, being his most successful release to date.

To this day, Newell embodies the idea of D.I.Y. done right. He does whatever he wants, and because of this, he has many dedicated fans. The Cleaners from Venus proved that, in the decade of excess and beyond, true heart and creativity will always stand the test of time. In a time where mainstream music has lost even more of its nutrients, Newell’s work past and present remains an organic field. All you have to do is take a bite.

Trailer for a documentary detailing the life and times of Martin Newell
Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: Pons

Pons. From left: Jack Parker (drums), Sebastian Carnot (drums), Sam Cameron (vocals/guitar). Photo courtesy of IDIOTEQ

I’ll start off this article with two words: two drummers. I’ll add another two for good measure: no bassist. That’s right, Pons is a three-piece band featuring a guitar, vocals, drums, and more drums. They’re truly a sight and sound to behold.

Pons formed in North Carolina in 2018 shortly after the two founding members graduated high school. The two members in question are Sam Cameron, who sings and plays guitar, and Jack Parker on drums. Shortly after, the duo released their debut EP, titled They Look Like People. The EP features five loud, noisy, raw tracks that only hint at the power Pons was yet to harness. 

The start of Pons: Jack and Sam circa 2018. Photo courtesy of Pons’ Instagram

At first, progress was slow for Pons due to Jack attending college at the University of Vermont, where he became part of the short-lived but very popular emo band Boys Cruise. However, behind the scenes, the duo was still keeping the flame of Pons alive. After releasing a few more songs and embarking on a mini-tour in early 2019, the floodgates opened. That summer, Pons released Dread, their second EP. With this EP, they went on their longest tour yet, traveling from North Carolina all the way to Canada and back. This ambitious outing showcased the incredible work ethic that powered the band, and it was only the beginning.

As fall came around, Pons continued to build on the momentum of the previous summer. Sam moved up to Vermont in order to continue working on new material and play shows in the area. They also expanded, introducing auxiliary percussionist Sebastian Carnot, also known as DIE the Monk, at a show in September. While based in Vermont, the trio built up a reputation for pulling out all the stops live. One of their most popular antics was ditching their instruments and shouting lyrics discordantly over a pre-recorded backing track, wading out into the audience and dancing maniacally as they did so. The addition of a second drummer also meant that their shows became even noisier.

After releasing their debut album Intellect in 2020, Pons once again made a drastic move: they relocated to New York. Despite the high saturation of strange and unusual bands in NYC, Pons immediately stood out due to their raw power and noise. They began playing shows all over the country, darting from one state to another on a whim. Oftentimes, they would pay visits to Vermont, where they were still heroes of the underground. This included playing a show at Higher Ground with Vundabar.

Fast forward to today, and Pons are often cited as people’s favorite band to see live. Their commitment to their sound, style, and persona has also helped them stand out in a world where weirdness is often watered down and turned into a commodity. Their fierce work ethic also makes them stand out as a beacon for other underground bands that are looking to make a name for themselves on the road. Even if Pons’ music isn’t your cup of tea, their determination and passion will have you keeping your eyes on them.

The band’s latest single, “Leave Me To My Work,” is out now on all streaming platforms.

Categories
New Wave Pop/Indie Pop

An interview with Jimkata

Feel-good upbeat electro-rock flows through Jimkata’s Bonfires, released in July of 2021. With influences spanning from 80s new wave and 90/00’s hip hop and electronic, the band create a well-developed sophisticated palate to the ears. Playfully “dancy, melodic and energetic”, the music reflects the nature of the band, as I found out when interviewing them. 

Like many other bands, Jimkata started out by covering songs by punk and grunge bands such as Nirvana, NOFX, Rage Against the Machine and Primus. Yet, besides this, they were also influenced by an array of different genres which was a perk of having grown up in the 90’s/00’s, “a time where genres were opening up and cross-pollinating. You could be a fan of vastly different artists at the same time. And bands were sort of creating their own unique, hard to classify sonic worlds – like Beck, Gorillaz, Muse and Radiohead. Music production technology has become exponentially more accessible too and I think that’s been a huge influence on us developing our sound”. A sound eminently contrasting to what they’d originally envisaged making.

Perhaps due to this, there is a diary-like element in listening to the evolution of their music, glimpsing past versions of their personalities in older songs. “You make music according to who you are in a moment and with what means and knowledge you have at that moment so there’s no sense in regretting anything. It’s a natural evolution. You learn as you go”. This can be heard in their maturing musical production and the varying nature of each song. 

The cosmic musical calling was a subtle one for Evan Friedell, lead singer and guitarist for Jimkata, “It’s strange but I never felt like it was a deliberate choice. I started playing the guitar one day and this natural love of music found a way out. There’s definitely catharsis in making music and looking back at how I first started writing, I think it was a way to process some deeply complex and emotional aspects of life in some kind of coherent yet alchemistic way.” Through this, perhaps, the fans can see elements of themselves and their own struggles, something that makes this band and their music much more accessible to a wide audience.

Having just finished their US tour, they mention that the highlight of their career so far was the anticipation of playing again after both their hiatus and the pandemic, “especially with the isolation and struggle of the last couple years, the shows just feel much more meaningful and fun”. A humble band, Jimkata seem to be fan-oriented, revelling in the fans identifying with them and the reciprocal nature of live music.

Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Young Guv

Ben Cook, the man behind “Young Guv”

Instagram has changed my life in many ways. On the bright side, it has given me many international opportunities, such as writing for this brilliant magazine. On the negative side, it has rendered my attention span so useless that chances are, I reached down and stared at my phone screen before I even finished typing this sentence (I actually didn’t. There is hope for me.). However, in the former category, I have been introduced to countless new songs and bands thanks to a mixture of advertisements and random posts on the site. 

Recently, I was scrolling mindlessly through my phone when I stumbled across an artist by the name of Young Guv. I vaguely recalled having seen the name before, but I hadn’t investigated further because I figured he was just another rapper. However, I stopped on the post that had come up in front of my indifferent eyes and took a listen to the clip. Immediately, I emerged from my stupor as the chorus of the song, which was called “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” floated into my ears. The song had the trappings of late 70’s power-pop mixed with the sheen of mid-90’s alt-rock. Shining guitars popped out over crisp drums, melodic bass, peppy tambourine, and the almost saccharine vocals of the project’s mastermind, Ben Cook.

Stunned, I played the clip over and over again before it occurred to me that I ought to go and listen to the actual song. I listened to it a few times and enjoyed it greatly. It almost felt like a guilty pleasure; surely this was some cynical cash grab. The production was too clean, the vocal harmonies too ear-catching, the guitar tone too sunny. However, over the course of the past month, “Only Wanna See U Tonight” has repeatedly floated back into my head until I relent and listen to the song again.

I then took the big risk of exposing myself to the rest of Young Guv’s catalog. From the beginning, I was worried that Guv’s other songs wouldn’t stack up to the pop glory of “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” so I approached them with trepidation. I was proven joyfully wrong. “It’s Only Dancing” brings the energy of the earliest days of new wave, with guitars caked in the chorus and the drums providing an insistent and instantly groovy treadmill for the song to run on. The song brings to mind Joe Jackson, Rick Springfield, and Bruce Springsteen. If you told me that this song was from 1981, I would absolutely believe you. Even the production works on that level, which is a surprising feat in a world where a lot of pop stars try to ape the 80’s “sound” by throwing atmospheric synths on their music.

Other gems in Guv’s catalog include “Lo Lo Lonely,” which cranks the distortion to a point reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. Emphasizing the influence of the latter band, Cook’s vocals ooze through the song like Matt Sharp’s on The Rentals’ sophomore album Seven More Minutes. Moving in the complete opposite direction is “Caught Lookin’,” a song that sounds like what you’d get if you stuck Mac Demarco in a DeLorean. Gently plucked acoustic guitars meet swirling synths and grooving bass. The overall feel is funky and suave, which is punctuated by female backing singers and a subtle drum machine that hits at just the right moments. An airy saxophone firmly ends any debate.

Overall, Ben Cook and company have shown that they can write some real fine songs. They accomplish the difficult task of writing guitar pop that isn’t overproduced but doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia. Their next release, a double album consisting of Guv III and Guv IV, is expected on March 11th through Run For Cover Records.

Young Guv, courtesy of Run For Cover Records
Categories
New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

ANIKA: the Totally Wired Interview

The artist currently known as Anika is no stranger to the feelings of separation and isolation that we’ve all struggled with over the past 18 months. Born in Surrey, and currently based in Berlin, she sees herself as “…a foreigner in both lands, belonging to neither…” Anika is a musician, a poet, a political journalist, and a DJ, and she’s spent the majority of the pandemic busily weaving the threads of her multiple artistic practices into the creation of Change, her first album in 11 years.

Her debut album, Anika, released in 2010, was produced and co-written by Geoffrey Barrow and his band, Beak. Anika’s choice to include a cover of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang,” (a prescient song that explores the mindset of a sleazy politician and his scurrilous dealings) on her debut garnered attention as the sign of a precocious talent with encyclopedic musical knowledge and a keen-eyed perspective influenced by her training as a political journalist—think The Velvet Underground and Nico meets Yaeji, meets Nilufer Yanya.

Change is an album full of both hope and warnings (Anika wrote “Never Coming Back,” after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a wake-up call to the devasting effects of humankind on the natural world,) but on the title track, Anika’s trademark, icily cool Nico-esque drone takes on a certain tenderness, assuring her listeners that, “…I think we have it all inside…I think we can change…”

Change has already been named by Rough Trade as one of the best albums of 2021. Stereogum, Uncut, and Mojo have earnestly sung its praises. Anika is soon to embark on touring efforts, playing across Germany, France, and finally reaching the U.K., which will be her first trip to her homeland in two years.

TWM: It’s been 11 years since the release of ‘Anika.’ How has your approach to creating music changed and evolved since then? 

Anika: Quite a lot of time has passed. I have done a lot of collabs and learnt with each one, the most significant of which was Exploded View; that one really taught me how to be in a band, how to talk to each other, how to compromise, be compassionate, be honest and respectful. 

The first album was recorded without the intention of purpose or ever releasing it. This one was written very much with purpose, though the songs seemed to write themselves. That’s the thing about the texts, I don’t like to sit and write about specific topics. I bring diaries, books and notes to the demo recording session and then the music takes hold and I flick through the notes and the right ones float out; the music acts like a key to unlock all the stuff that is on my mind, but I hadn’t quite registered. 

I recorded it in stages. I’d make drum loops the day before and layer some chord progressions on top and go in armed with these. I’d loop the drum, play it in the back, then try the chords on different instruments, change it up, push against it. Last would be the lyrics. With ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Finger Pies,’ I did those at home, during some crazy night sessions, playing layers over each other. 

As for the lyrics being a freestyle gateway to the unconscious, it was very much like that with ‘No One’s There,’ from the first album (2010’s Anika.) Also, all the Exploded View records were recorded like this. 

This time around, I also wrote the music, which is a big difference from the first album because Beak were fully responsible for that. I also really wanted to co-produce this time and that was important. Once I was done with the rough track ideas, I did speak briefly to Geoff (Barrow) about whether I should take them over to Bristol to record there but with corona, this…was off the cards and to be honest, I am happy the way it turned out because it pushed me to do even more myself and learn more that way. Geoff is also cool like that; he likes to give space for growth and doesn’t try to hog projects. Probably because he is so busy and in demand! 

TWM: What was the process of creating and recording an album during a pandemic like? 

Anika: Yes, that was weird. It was very intense. Specifically, because my home situation was very intense and I was going through quite a lot of personal stuff at the time, on top of corona and the apocalyptic news events. I had to trust somehow and keep going, without overthinking what or why i was doing this. There were less people involved, that also made it more intense.


TWM: ‘Change,’ is an extraordinarily hopeful song, especially in the face of an increasing deluge of frightening news and events…I find it incredibly moving for these reasons, and I think it’s a very important song for people to hear and to fully absorb. What inspired you to write it?

Anika: I was reading all this stuff in the news about people doing bad things. I was also seeing people close to me do bad things. People do bad things. Sometimes it’s just for a time, it may be due to circumstance, their history, we can never really know what leads to it. Especially in this climate of distorted news and news bubbles, people are led into traps and false perceptions of reality. I think it’s important to stick together in these times and see these bad decisions and actions as transient and that most people have the capacity to change.


TWM: You posted on Instagram that you kept, “Covid19 Diaries.” Did anything you wrote in them end up on the new album, in the form of lyrics or otherwise?

Anika: I think ‘Sand Witches,’ actually came from this, or parts of it. Also ‘Change,’ had parts and for sure ‘Never Coming Back.’ All of them were a little from it. It was really important to keep these diaries because it kept my mind active and interactive with events and things going on. The instinct is to shut off, [to] numb. I wanted to embrace the thoughts I thought I should be scared of. 

TWM: How has your background as a political journalist influenced your artistic career? 

Anika: The way I consume information, books, news and process has a lot to do with my education in this field. English was actually my worst subject at school. My spelling was/is terrible and sometimes I would feel like words were road blocks to my expression, blocking me into corners, as opposed to rivers. Luckily, studying journalism helped break down this fear and also helped my ability to process information better. Before I mostly studied math, so my brain was wired a little differently. 


TWM: What music did you listen to most during lockdown?

Anika: I listened a lot to the John Peel sessions. There are so many good ones and his lovely nature seemed to coax out these very personal and unique performances from many great artists…Bowie, PJ Harvey, Basement 5, Archers of Loaf, Flock of Seagulls, A Certain Ratio, A Guy Called Gerald, etc. The curation is very special. It was also the nearest I got to live shows. They are raw, yet very well recorded. Great stuff.

TWM: Which dates of your upcoming tour are you most looking forward to?

Anika: I love playing at Bad Bonn Festival, it’s so much fun! Also, France is a great place to play. The venues are so friendly, and the crowds are very cool. I’m nervous and excited about the UK, too. I have never really toured there, and I haven’t been (home) in about two years now! That will be strange. I’m very excited to play with the new all-girl lineup, they are killa.

You can find Anika on Instagram @annika.henderson. Her new album, “Change,” is available for purchase on Bandcamp. https://anika.bandcamp.com/album/change Tickets for her upcoming tour are available at: https://anika-music.com/tour-dates

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Why We Love: Will Orchard

Will Orchard is one of the most astonishing musicians of recent years. Originally hailing from the state of Rhode Island, he began making music in 2014 under the strange and immediately eye catching moniker “LittleBoyBigHeadOnBike.” 

Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, he released his self-titled EP on December 30th, 2014. However, he did not even come close to slowing down there, proceeding to release an EP every week from December 30th, 2014 up until 2016. To date, he has amassed over 100 releases under his belt. 

Most of these EPs contain sparse, plaintive songs featuring Will and his acoustic guitar. However, other EPs feature instruments such as bowed guitar and keyboard, as well as guest vocalists. 

As he put out more and more music, Will also began to cultivate a following by playing live frequently. Although he started out hovering around Rhode Island and Massachusetts, by the middle of 2017, he was venturing out to states such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

Around this time, he began to update and remodel the music that he released, recruiting other musicians to help him round out his ideas. His official debut album, God Damn Wonderland, came out on June 23rd, 2017, and contains some of the most beautiful and unique music to date. While the sounds and styles of his previous works still dwell in the undertones of the album, they have been augmented with atmospheric yet personal production, as well as a wide variety of instruments including banjo and clarinet. The album truly catapulted Will into a league of his own as a musician, displaying his knack for crafting intricate melodies and nostalgic lyrics that emit an almost childlike sense of wonder. 

The touring became even more constant as Will and his band canvassed the country multiple times every year. What makes this even more shocking is that Will did all of this independently; there was no record label backing him. Even more mind blowing is the fact that during this time, Will joined another band, The Brazen Youth, as their touring bass player, meaning that he then went on even more tours. The Brazen Youth have also done well for themselves, even playing a coveted set on Audiotree. 

Following the release of his debut album, Will continued to release self-recorded EPs as well as two other albums, 2018’s Big Blue Butterflies and 2020’s Old Friends On The Mountain, the latter of which was the first album released under his own name rather than LittleBoyBigHeadOnBike. Both of these albums were very well received by numerous indie publications as well as his audience. 

Despite the pandemic, Will has stayed productive: he has played on numerous live stream concerts, signed a record deal with Better Company Records, and released a new album, I Reached My Hand Out, on May 7th, 2021. 

Will Orchard live at Askew in Providence, Rhode Island on November 9th, 2019.
Photo by Jack Downey

Listen to Will Orchard on Spotify now.

Categories
New Wave Uncategorized

Why We Love: Zalagasper

The unmissable Slovenian duo known as ‘Zalagasper’ (za-la-gas-pah) are an ambient fueled daydream who weave electronic soundscapes with deadpan vocals to create their uniquely supernatural sound.

In a small city in northern Slovenia, a sudden unexpected partnership occurred after singer Zala Kralj met with songwriter and producer Gašper Šantl via Instagram. Teaming up allowed these two already talented songwriters to interpret each other’s work and craft a sound all of their own.

The two soon became musically inseparable and stood out amongst their local music scene with a sound they simply describe as ‘sensitive story-telling.’ Their explosive popularity led them to represent their country on the world stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.

The strong bond between the two is beautifully apparent and their enigmatic performance certainly secured a mass of new followers from around the globe who were similarly held captive by their mysterious yet enchanting nature.

Kralj’s soft, eerie singing style is arguably what first strikes you about this band. Since the memorable performance of their single ‘Sebi’, the band soon went on to release their debut album ‘4’ which received much praise from their growing following, especially across Germany, Poland and other regions across the world who were similarly taken in.

The album is built around much the same charming and detailed instrumentals, quickly becoming the bands signature theme. The album owes a great deal of it’s effect to Gašper Šantl’s own talents as a trained producer, who has certainly taken them from one level to the next.

Storytelling seems to be a popular theme throughout this duos work together. Through intrinsic melodies and soft-spoken lyrics, these two musicians fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The picture they paint in their collaboration is one that needs to be seen (or felt) to be believed.

The bands most recent single, ‘sto idej’ suggests a promising follow up to their first album with a somewhat change in mood. With more experimentation, their sound is slowly beginning to evolve – I hope you’ll agree that a staple of any great band is to keep on surprising their listeners. With no sign of their success dwindling, these two performers from a small corner of Europe might just take over the world yet.

Listen to Zalagasper on Spotify now.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Looking Back: I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

Five years ago The 1975 dropped their monumental album I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, or as I’ll be referring to it (because effort gah) as ILIWYS. If you thought the 80s vibes couldn’t be topped after their self-titled debut, “aha, you are dead wrong”. The 1975 are a band with so much more to offer than your typical indie-pop band, delivering an entire era defined by it’s words and art, to the point of their live shows encapsulating the entirety of their songs personalities, The 1975 are a statement to the word ‘Artist’. I think it’s an underappreciated art to produce an album, make it go in various musical directions but seamlessly tie it all together and create a genuine universe for all its songs to coexist. But here proves that its all possible, and is utterly majestic when that happens. So as a brief inquiry (aha – nice right?) into the realm of ILIWYS, I hope you can look back on this album with me and appreciate the ingenuity that makes this record so bloody great.

After two years of so much identity with a black and white aesthetic, what better way to revitalise your sonic vision than with the bombastic colour of pink and the intro that is Love Me. A song that takes your hands and dances with your bones like a piss up that snogs you when you sit back down. Leading straight into the 80s drooling UGH! which delves into the topics of addiction, something frontman Matty Healy has been more than open about over the years. The music video based upon the incredible live show set, designed by Tobias Rylander which just has to be mentioned because it is enriched in beauty.

Then changing the pace the album goes into A Change Of Heart, a slow ballad that swoons you to sway during the comedown of a party. A pretty coloured song that blinds the facade of a story about two people falling out of love with each other. The 1975 have a knack for writing tear-jerking relatable hits, curse you Matty with your big words giving me the biggest feels. She’s American blasts in next, a personal highlight of 80s pop perfection, the synth bassline, the Johnny Marr / shoegaze-like hybrid guitars that caress you into a dream, goodness me that song makes me feel things on an inhuman level.

If I Believe You is a fan favourite that takes off next (although I have no idea why I say fan favourite as if other tracks aren’t faves also) a waltz that opens up a conversation between Healy and God, begging the question; “And if I believe you will that make it stop”, questioning Healy’s lack of faith and desire to have something to believe in, during a period of uncertainty, proclaiming “I’ll be your child if you insist, I mean if it was you that made my body you probably shouldn’t have made me atheist” Please Be Naked accompanies us next, an instrumental track that whispers in your ear so much with so little. A piano-led track that drowns you in the sweet sorrow of this little album I love.

Lostmyhead and The Ballad Of Me And My Brain drift into your ears, starting with a track with a lyric that quotes back to a song off the band’s debut EP. “Then he said I lost my head / Can you see it?” With that calmic haze being stripped away for a loud angry tantrum about the disconnection between Healy and his mind. It’s the subtle transition between the frail state of mind (ha reference) Healy has to deal with that makes this pairing so devastatingly divine.

Somebody Else, arguably the bands most popular tune is a slow ballad about the pain of moving on after a relationship and it’s hauntingly sad. The line “I don’t want your body but I hate to think about you with somebody else” is so simple yet so resoundingly relevant within so many of our lives. Somebody Else creates an involuntary emotional attachment to you and because of that makes it one that you can’t get out of your head.

It disapparates into Loving Someone, which has become an LGBTQ anthem. Delving in the topics of how disenfranchised the population is and the systematic homophobia within that.

“It’s better if we keep them perplexed,

It’s better if we make them want the opposite sex”

Which all leads to a Healy delivering a spoken-word piece to end the song that just pauses for thought but demands to be heard. With the backing music continuing with thumping bass and twinkling synths, drummer and producer George Daniels is a genius and the talent he shreds throughout this album is nothing shy of blessing upon the music scene. The almost instrumental ambient synth-scape title track of (okay I’ll do it just this once – deep breath) I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it injects a pure sense of vulnerability here, and if the work of Daniels and co haven’t impressed you yet then this surely shall, and the standalone lyric of “Before you go, turn the big light off” just gives me chills it’s beautiful… yET sO uNAWARE oF iT!!

Jokes aside, the albums biggest radio hit comes on in the form of The Sound that really bops with you no matter where you are. That hook of “I know when you’re around cause I know the sound of your heart” being tattooed on people all over, reposted all over Tumblr and such, covered to death but purely because it’s such a danceable and sing-a-long track. It’s music video flashes on screen with quotes of harsh remarks on the band from critics and such, many of whom now absolutely love the band so I don’t know what that says about media pandering.. But it’s a great song with a great video, check it out if you haven’t. The 1975 is a band that’s very self aware, it knows when to take itself seriously and when not to and I think this video is a brilliant example of that.

My favourite track on the album succeeds that one, This Must Be My Dream being this 80s pop powerhouse that screams in your face, god I just love it so much. Although it doesn’t get played very often, Healy once stating he didn’t like the song because it was so hard to sing. But I mean this was before the days of Love It If We Made It and People, so what gives Matty? But the cute Paris succeeds my favourite track, and this is another one of my faves, another fan fave and recently (well as recent as the last time they were on tour – yikes) revealed to be Healy’s favourite of the album, which is a very valid statement as the song is wonderful.

I give you that acoustic rendition because one, it’s stunning, two, it doesn’t get enough recognition and three, the next 2 tracks on the album take a more acoustic approach, completely bookending the last part of the album. Nana and She Lays Down close the album on possibly some of the most personal lyrics Healy has penned down. Nana about the way Healy deals with the then-recent passing of his Grandmother, and She Lays Down about the postnatal depression his mother had just after having Healy. Two incredibly personal tracks that expose the innards of Healy’s brain even more so than some of the other deeper cuts of this album. I shan’t quote from either as I think it’s best to listen to those songs fully to respect and appreciate the messages of each, but trust my they are witheringly pulchritudinous.

ILIWYS ends there, going through various sounds and heaps of emotion and is just such a phenomenal album. One of my favourite records of all time that I know I’ll cherish till the day I die, as will so many others. ILIWYS defines a generation of woe, lust, highs and downfalls that embedded within the DNA of Healy and The 1975, manages to enchant their audience in such a way that has never really been done before. The 1975’s fanbase is something different let me tell you that, but it’s a wonderful community I’m proud to be a part of. There’s a quality of emotional imperfection that ILIWYS narrates which touches a generation of music fans. From only 5 years, the impact it’s had is immeasurable, and I really believe will keep inspiring kids for years to come.

Happy Birthday, ILYWYS.

Listen to I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it on Spotify now.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Dan Haggis

Yeah okay, I did plan on just doing a review of Haggis’ latest solo album Brightly Coloured Creatures but truth is, I couldn’t with a healthy conscience ignore the other work that he’s strived to make. Now I’ve written a review of his solo album Circadian Circus which if you missed you should definitely check that out, but I think (especially right now) with the state of the world and how disproportionately it’s affected the livelihoods of musicians, I think it’s only right to share with you even more of Haggis’ work, give him the rightly deserved streams he deserves. So to focus on Sunship Balloon’s Everywhen (his 2020 album with Tord Øverland Knudsen) and of course his very recent follow up to his 2017 solo album, here’s why we love Dan Haggis.

Obviously, anyone who’s anyone has heard of The Wombats, and if you’re someone with taste you’ll know the absolute passion that goes into making those albums and how brilliant they are, but when it comes to making music outside of that well-established name, Dan gets even more of a chance to show off his skills. Whether you’re falling in love with his solo work for something painfully relatable to, or getting an escape through the space journey of Sunship Balloon, there is absolutely everything to fall in love with.

With 2020’s Everywhen, Haggis and Knudsen created an album full of futuristic sounds coincided with analogue 80s synths, all which whisk you away into an alternate reality to ponder life’s most curious questions. When I first listened to Everywhen I immediately felt some sort of instrumental connection to like likes of The 1975, but even more so to the legendary Brian Eno, the ambient instrumental tracks especially that just change your perspective of the world, sounding like they could have been taken straight off one of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy records or an album like Eno and Robert Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. It just makes for such a surreal listening experience (a crime that it’s not available on vinyl really) and you can just really hear the fun that went into making this record.

The entire album is perfect, there are so many amazing tracks to choose, from the electronic rock blaster that is Interstellar Ride, 1224 Fantasia which just desires to be played on a show like Top Of The Pops back in 1985, to the more experimental Eno inspired tracks such as title track Everywhen and the albums closer Flat Earther’s that really does sound like it belongs with the likes of Neuköln on Bowie’s Heroes. The energetic anthem A4 Life is superb though, it’s here where you can really hear some of those familiar Wombats and even some of Knudsen’s other band Imitating Aeroplanes vibes (I mean why wouldn’t you), but all the same completely turned on their heads to create a sound that’s so presently fresh but heartwarmingly nostalgic.

Glossing over Sunship Balloon and now moving to Brightly Coloured Creatures, after working on Everywhen, Dan The Man’s third solo outing definitely takes some of those 80’s sounds and finds a wonderful home within his new music. Circadian Circus was a brilliant album, but Brightly Coloured Creatures is completely its successor. Everything that was brilliant about the 2017 venture has been put on steroids and increased tenfold. The songwriting, melodies and production have all stepped up and each track is uniquely warm. Thematically it does continue a lot of similar themes that of Circadian Circus, but perhaps a little more universal than the depth into Haggis’ soul that we were exposed to with the last album.

Muscle Memory kicks off the album in such a flawless way, being ever so reminiscent of his previous release, but with bigger everything. Genuinely feels like it’s the opening track to a film, it gives meaning to whatever you could be doing when listening to it, making a cuppa? That cuppa’s DEEP now. Young Lovers the albums second track and first single is where you can really hear how much musical progression Haggis has developed since 2017, sounding more like the kind of track you’d hear off Everywhen but because of that oh so personal touch Haggis effortlessly shines over his lyrics, you know exactly where this track truly belongs.

This album, like its brother, is absolutely perfect and every track is a real gem. From blissful melancholy meanders like Obsolete and Earthmover, which are such beautifully constructed tracks, and the line “Can we just go back and reset it all, Now we’re obsolete” is just *chef kiss*, who hasn’t felt like that at some point? And especially after the year we’ve just been through (yeah happy anniversary to that by the way) it’s such a poignant practice that Haggis just nails every time. It sounds like something you’d find on a Beach House record and is absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the breakdown in Obsolete, which is fantastic. Shaping this woeful helplessness into offset anger mixed with motivation, drenching the line “Swallow the pill” in reverb the way some use medication to put a damper on depression, man Haggis you absolute genius.

See You In Hell is such a tasty track, coming out of nowhere as this almost doo-wop inspired song, albeit with a lot of other influences clearly thrown in the mix, it’s a faster, more energetic and textured sound, evoking vibes of Richard Hawley‘s work and Arctic Monkey’s Suck It And See album. Just magnificent.

Another one of my personal favourites, Unravelling combines so much sonic identity it’s hard to pin it down, but I mean it sounds like Dan The Man so what more could you want? The combined acoustic and spacey lead guitar, and as always Haggis’ vocals are simply a delight here. Lyrically the tracks about DNA, which with the “unravelling” hook makes a lot of sense, but I think the substance behind that goes way beyond where your mind initially registers with it. I think there have been times where we’ve all felt like our very being is “unravelling”, stuck in the fragmentation of crisis and rebirth, along with the prospect of the unknown, and I think this song defines those feelings. I mean it’s either that or it’s a song about DNA but take your pick.

Brightly Coloured Creatures is already one of my favourite records of the year, and we’re only in February. That’s not me being ignorant in the face of what an entire year’s worth of music might bring to my attention, but a statement that Dan Haggis is one of the brightest musicians of our time and I think that goes without saying. Tracks like Memory Lane, Let Me Down and Obsolete are just streamlined perfection and you absolutely must go and listen to the whole album as soon as you can.

I’ll leave you with Peter Pan, a track off Dan’s first solo album which is equally brilliant as both the albums we’ve been over today. Enjoy its festive vibe and take aboard the backlog of music you’ve now got to bathe in. For fan’s of Dan The Man, the music’s going nowhere, and there’s plenty to go around.

Check out Sunship Balloon’s discography here,

And check the rest of Dan’s solo work here.

Categories
New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: VIDEOCLUB – Euphories

If you haven’t already been introduced to the playful, 80s-inspired music of French duo VIDEOCLUB, let this be your guide. Adèle Castillon and Matthieu Reynaud are undeniably one of the coolest power couples out there, and after officially releasing music since 2018, their highly-anticipated debut album Euphories was gifted to the world on 29 January. 

Featuring pre-released tracks from over the past few years along with plenty of brand new additions, Euphories serves as the perfect introduction to the young musicians. Throughout the album, you’ll discover wondrous, lively energy that invites you to set your responsibilities aside, just for a moment, and let yourself have some well-deserved fun. 

There’s something incredibly enchanting about this record. I have been a fan of VIDEOCLUB for quite some time now, so hearing the singles I’ve been playing on repeat be finally compiled into a full-length album is something truly special. It was well worth the wait, too, because it’s undeniable that Adèle and Matthieu put their heart and soul into Euphories. Each song seamlessly leads into the next, creating an excitingly hypnotic record that once you start, you’ll want to stick around until the end. 

The first song I had ever heard from VIDEOCLUB was “Amour Plastique,” which now has an impressive 58M views on YouTube. So, seeing that they kicked off their album with this track made me feel an immense amount of pride. It’s what thwarted them onto people’s radars, and because of everyone’s massive love and support for “Amour Plastique,” Adèle and Matthieu have been given a fantastic opportunity to continue sharing their talents with the world. They certainly have not dropped the ball as every release since then has been widely well-received. With these new songs hitting airwaves, I have no doubt in my mind that their fanbase will consistently grow more each and every day. 

One of my absolute favourite new tracks is “Polaroïds.” I adore how they utilize the distinct sounds of a Polaroid camera within the beat; it adds a unique and clever touch that makes the song all the more charming. The lyrics, which reminisce on cherished memories, are really refreshing as well, and they can definitely be relatable in times like these. All of these elements combined create something that feels like pure bliss manifested within a single song (as well as a phenomenal addition to any sort of “Late Night Drives” playlist).

“SMS” is another song I am completely obsessed with. The beginning of the song sounds like an explosion of real, genuine happiness, and I can’t help but smile whenever it comes on. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so when I read the translated lyrics (I’m still learning French, leave me be!), I was smiling like such an idiot. It represents love in a fun, wholesome light and emphasizes the excitement behind new love unfolding. Towards the end of the track, you can even hear the synth riffs from “En Nuit,” “Amour Plastique,” “Mai,” “Enfance 80,” “Roi,” and “What Are You So Afraid Of,” which wraps up their debut record flawlessly. 

As a whole, I have fallen completely in love with Euphories. There’s a song that can match whatever mood you may be in—hear me out. In the mood to relax and shut out the world for a bit? “Trois Jours.” Need something to listen to while you’re out-and-about that’ll help you feel like the main character? “Suricate.” Don’t speak a word of French but you still want to sing along? Don’t worry, “What Are You So Afraid Of” and “Petit Monde” have got you covered with some English lyrics.

There’s truly something for everybody throughout this tracklist, and my joy goes far beyond anything words could express. Adèle and Matthieu have absolutely smashed it with Euphories, and I cannot wait to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves. 


To keep up with VIDEOCLUB, follow them on Instagram and Twitter.