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Creators Monthly Punk/Rock Reviews

Don’t Die in the Waiting Room of the Future

Tim Mohr’s Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall is an essential history that reveals punk’s wrath and how it contributed to the downfall of the East German dictatorship.

Throughout history, reigns of terror crushed hopes, ideas, behaviours; we’ve seen it all – intimidation and manipulation, violence. We’ve seen walls. Tall, made of concrete and strengthened with steel, with a strip of land guarded by merciless apostles of havoc by whose hands hundreds died. You would think nothing can break through it, but soundwaves don’t stop at borders. Soundwaves travel.

Mohr’s book is a compelling account of untold stories that starts with a handful of Berlin youths who heard the Sex Pistols on a military radio broadcast. Unlike British punks, who were living in a society that couldn’t guarantee them a bright economic future, East Berlin punks fought the battle of Too much future – the dictatorship had everything planned for them. Punk was a cathartic discovery, where chopped-up hair and clothes, loud singing and buzz saw guitars turned into a revolutionary philosophy of resistance.

Tim Mohr was able to closely observe this uniquely Eastern phenomenon when he moved to Berlin in the early 90s. Oblivious to the reality of the post-Wall city, he started exploring the nightlife scene, the clubs, the squats. He worked as a DJ for 6 years, a time during which he befriended many of the East German punks who were interrogated by the Stasi and imprisoned by the GDR – and ultimately helped build a fascinating, progressive DIY world.

East Berlin punks on Lenin Platz, Friedrichshain, ca. 1982

Mohr spent ten years researching Stasi files, tracking down and interviewing the punks whose stories were indispensable – teenagers who were spied on by families and friends, fired from jobs, beaten up and imprisoned, but not just because of their clothes or the lyrics they sang. It was more than that. Punk rock was a weapon against the tyranny that smashed protestors and militarized the police. It was a tough fight that had its manifesto disseminated in churches, safe havens offered to the teens by compassionate deacons. Not even jail could stop these kids. They got out, put their leather jackets back on and boy, did that hell break loose.

Burning Down the Haus is a fiery, dramatic history about the grit and spirit of a bunch of young punks who played a fundamental part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. Intensely researched, riveting and satisfying, it is a great book that passes on the legacy of grassroots oppression fighters. Maybe the lesson here is what they used to spray on walls: Don’t die in the waiting room of the future.

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall is available in Rough Trade physical stores and online at World of Books.

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Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Uncategorized

Indie Idols: Will and the People

Image by Daniel Harris

Have you ever attended a concert and decided to skip the support acts? After all, they’re not who you’re there to see and one more drink in the bar is so tempting! If you have, I must say I think you missed out on some possibly brilliant music. I used to think that the support acts were just an unnecessary warm up to the main event, however, I have come to realize the error of my ways, and have since discovered some impeccable artists supporting others. This month’s Indie Idol is evidence of that. In 2019, I attended a Barns Courtney concert at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, and had looked up the support acts, Ulysses Wells and Will and the People, on Spotify before going in. Now I must admit, I was not entirely convinced of Will and the People’s music when I first heard it but after seeing them perform, in their underwear I might add, I was hooked. Their performance was incredibly energetic, charismatic and addictive, and I have since seen them again – most recently at Boardmasters festival just over a week ago. At which their performance was once again sublime and full of frontman Will Rendle’s usual antics – crowd surfing for example.

Hailing from Brighton, Will and the People formed in 2010 with brothers Will and Jamie Rendle (although Jamie joined later), Charlie Harman and Jim Ralphs and are considered by many as one of “the most down to earth bands, who appreciate every single one of their fans and put 110% into their live shows!”* It is with no doubt that Will and the People definitely go over and above with their gigs, the atmosphere is electric and shows tend to be a generally riotous experience, whether they’re the support or headline act, Will and the People will be a highlight of your night. The band have so far released four albums, with a new one promised for November, and it is difficult to classify Will and the People’s music into a single genre as every song is so distinct from each other that the variation is like a signature of the group. One of the band’s earliest tracks, Lion in the Morning Sun, for instance, has some very obvious pop music vibes but is full of ska and reggae fervour, with a strong but fast paced walking beat, almost reminiscent of the ska-punk or 2 tone genre that rose to popularity with bands like The Specials or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, whereas more recent tracks like Justify, a track released in September of last year, has a more emotional rock ballad sound merged with rap elements and ethereal aspects similar to that of the band Evanescence. 

Of the band’s work, the song that stands out most to me as something special is the 2019 single Gigantic. Lyrically, the track tells the story of love, specifically familial love and how the people you choose to surround yourself with and those who love you can make the world better than anything. It discusses the sentiment that you would do anything for your family and friends, as evidenced in the first lyric, “I could be there for you, if you want me to,” as well as, the idea that even if you’re feeling down or lonely you will always have your family and friends to fall back on, just as they would have you, no matter how far away you are. The accompanying music video effortlessly depicts the warmth and sentimentality of the song, as it is presented as a sort of home video, going from door to door collecting relatives, young and old, to go to a large family get together. Hearing Will call his grandmother in the opening seconds really elevates that feeling of the music video and overall creates a human connection with the audience as you almost feel like you are part of the family.

Lucky for all who love them, Will and the People have a new single coming out on the 27th. In two days! Animal, a long awaited song that has been all over the world in its production stages, is sure to blow your mind. And! To add to the excitement, are on tour around the UK right now, and then all over Europe in the first few months of 2022.

*Quote from Tom Embling, who saw WATP on the 22nd in Bristol, where they, once again, performed in underwear. The tour wardrobe must be very compact!

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Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews Why We Love

Why We Love: Kitner

Kitner. From left: Conor, James, Will, Brianne

The local music scene is an ever changing landscape no matter where you come from. When I started making music with my band Friday Life back in 2017, there were around five bands that comprised the music scene, maybe a few more. However, four years on, Friday Life is the only band left standing, and that’s remarkable even to me. Local bands breaking up happens for a multitude of reasons: people begin going to college, members move out of state, scandals radically shift the prospects bands once had, the list goes on. It is as common as it is unfortunate.

For awhile, Boston based band Kitner seemed to be another local band come and gone. Forming in 2015, the band started as a five piece featuring Conor Maier (guitar, vocals), Brianne Costa (keys, vocals), James Christopher (guitar), Christine Atturio (bass), and Will Buiel (drums). They quickly recorded an EP of home demos, followed shortly by the release of a self-titled EP in September of that year. 

The EP gained momentum, with many people downloading it on bandcamp. The band played a few shows in Massachusetts over the next year as well. They even teased a return to the studio. However, due to their commitments to other bands as well as some member changes, the band vanished. For over four years, Kitner seemed to be just a memory, with the self titled EP being all that remained.

However, in 2019, Kitner quietly returned to the studio. Now a four piece consisting of Conor, Brianne, James, and Will, the band recorded their debut album, titled Shake The Spins. Announcing their return in April of 2021, Kitner set to work promoting their new album, set to be released in October through Relief Map Records. The hype was immediate, not just because the long absence had allowed their previous EP to garner a larger following, but because the music involved sounded incredible.

The first single from the album, Beth Israel, was premiered on July 29th by The Alternative. Starting with some mellow but present acoustic guitar, the muted vocals soon enter, giving the song a primitive feel, like a bedroom demo recorded on tape. It is warm, and it builds anticipation for when the wave comes crashing down. 

Sure enough, the wave hits a little over a minute in. Roaring, anthemic guitars meet steady, powerful drums that hit you like a train. The hushed vocals are replaced by rough, raw shouting from Conor that brings to mind an alternate universe where Jim James of My Morning Jacket fronted an emo band. Brianne’s light voice perfectly compliments Conor’s vocals, adding a dimension to the music that fits in your ears just right.

The wall of sound soon breaks in the final act of the song, with the acoustic guitar and softer vocals returning, accompanied by the solemn wail of a feedbacking guitar. The interplay of Conor and Brianne’s voices is clearer here as the two sing different lines, creating a tapestry of words and sounds. The drums begin building up again before sending the song off with bluster accompanied by some retro sounding keyboards.

Kitner’s return can only be described as triumphant, and that’s after just one single. If the rest of the album sounds like this, then Shake The Spins might easily be the album of the year. 

Kitner. From left: Brianne, Will, James, Conor. Photo by Brittany Rose Queen

Bandcamp: https://kitner.bandcamp.com/album/shake-the-spins

Spotify:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kitner.ma/

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Reviews

Woo! Strange Happenings at the Windmill and Other Tangential Rants-A Review

Madonnatron, Shame, Warmduscher, Fat White Family, Meatraffle, the Moonlandingz, Goat Girl, Sorry, Pregoblin, Insecure Men and, yes, Secure Men—they’re all there. Large as life and almost as loud. It’s a testament to his storytelling ability that Dave Thomson, author of Woo! Strange Happenings at the Windmill and Other Tangential Rants, a free-wheeling gonzo history of the last ten-plus years of south London’s fertile music scene, can conjure up such a diverse cast of characters. While the rest of the so-called civilized world suffers through a banal, auto-tuned repetition of vanilla pop, south London has been blessed with artists unafraid of criticism or cancellation and therefore transcendent. 

Thomson, who has been an initiate of London’s diverse music scenes since his twenties, hadn’t thought of writing a history of the south London scene in particular, until, as he says: “… after a drunken conversation with Alex Sebley of Pregoblin, during Madonnatron’s debut album launch party (held at the Windmill Brixton in 2017), in which he practically challenged me to write it down, to document it all in some way and capture some of the magic brewing. So, I had a go, the result of which is this book.”

Saul Adamczewski ( Fat White Family, Insecure Men) and Alex Sebley (Pregoblin.) Photograph by Lou Smith.

Written with a cutting perceptiveness akin to Hunter S. Thompson, and with Anthony Bourdain’s ability to nose out juicy metaphors and similes, Woo! is a satisfying read. Like that venerable punk bible, Please Kill Me, or Henry Rollins’ hallowed tome, Get in the Van, Woo! is equal parts how-to DIY guide and spiritual helpmeet for the souls of the moshers, the music-addled and the amp-deafened. It’s a balm of Gilead for feedback-starved formerly (ie, pre-Covid) avid gig-goers, interspersed with canny socio-political commentaries and run through with threads of events from the author’s personal life, including an all-too-familiar tale of friendship on the rocks.

Madonnatron and La Staunton. Photograph by Lou Smith.

Thomson, who owned and operated an alternative record store in northern Lincolnshire before moving to London aged 20, became a confirmed devotee of south London’s musical progeny upon seeing the Fat White Family play at the Electric Ballroom in 2014. As he describes, he was, “…instantly smitten and before long found myself drawn into the heart of this peculiar musical community. I soon realised something uniquely special was happening, but moreover, why it was happening – because unlike the Thatcher years, this time London was suffering too. People felt battered by austerity, exasperated by corruption and angered by gentrification – all of which gave everyone involved a sense of purpose and solidarity, the like of which I had not seen since moving to London all those years ago.”

From attending Madonnatron’s first album launch party (“like a witches’ choir in a Tim Burton movie,”) to Zsa Zsa Sapien’s of Meatraffle’s gold front teeth (“like he’s been punched in the mouth by Midas,”) to the origins of Fat White Family (“Barely noticed at first, like bacteria left to fester within a neglected Petri dish, something alien, unwholesome and seriously strange took form… Something very fucking special,”) Woo! is a series of candid snapshots of a unique place in time. To preserve a history is to perpetuate it; Woo! helps to cast the scene in amber.

Ben Romans-Hopcraft (Warmduscher.) Photograph by Anna Yorke.

At the heart of the book, is, of course, the legendary musicians’ haven known as the Windmill Brixton, described by Thomson as: “… a veritable microculture, a disparate melting pot of musicians, artists, poets, chancers, DJs, bloggers, blaggers, filmmakers, producers, youtubers, self-abusers, ‘oholics of all colours, all persuasions, it takes in the young, the old and every imaginable slice of humankind in between. No one is judged, all and everyone’s accepted, except, perhaps, anyone who turns out to be a cunt.” 

“…The role the Windmill plays in a band’s development is significant, for they are channeling something fantastically unique, an interstellar nursery for all manner of burgeoning talent or any nutter with a mad idea.” (Of course, in world of the Windmill, “sanity is so fucking relative…”) 

Saul Adamczewski and Ben Romans-Hopcraft. Photograph by Lou Smith.

Primarily written and edited during the onset of the pandemic, Woo! delves into many of the terrifying new variables that continue to affect our lives. It may be a book about the past, but it looks to the future, and what we’ll have to do to get there: “We are living through strange, febrile times…Truth and reason so far out of reach there’s nothing left to grab hold of, just a feeling in our bones that we’re at the end of something and the beginning of something else, yet unable to envisage precisely what.” 

You can order your very own copy of Woo! on Warmduscher’s Peasant Vitality website (linked here.) All UK proceeds will go directly to the Brixton Windmill. 

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Reviews

notes from the trenches

After a month of an environmental microbiology summer course at uni, and two months of unloading produce trucks at farmer’s markets, I return to you a changed girl. This means I’m absolutely exhausted, so tanned my dermatologist is frightened, and I’ve cut my own bangs again. The good thing is I’m still 20 and according to everyone I know who’s over 40, completely exhausted, broke, and sporting a questionable hairstyle is just how I’m supposed to be at this particular age, so at least I’m living up to someone’s expectations. 

Speaking of expectations, the Berlin-based chanteuse Anika’s sophomore album Change recently appeared on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart, an exciting development in the trajectory of a very worthy artist’s career. Limited edition, cherry-red vinyls of the album are available on Bandcamp, and tickets for her upcoming fall tour are available via a link in the recent interview Totally Wired conducted with her.

2021 is the 10th anniversary of Trashmouth Records, and as Charlie Steen of Shame says: “Trashmouth fear no fever, no nausea or fatigue, no symptom can scare them; they are the antidote.” In light of that statement, I think we should place all our trust and possibly also all of our money into Trashmouth, as an antidote is exactly what we need right now, in so many ways.

Before I was exposed to the sonic wonderland created by the Trashmouth tribe, I foolishly thought all modern music could either shuffled into the category of Taylor Swift or Avenged Sevenfold, and therefore I didn’t listen to much, as when given the choice between songs about sad cheerleaders or necrophilia, I’d rather hear the sound of silence. And then along came Madonnatron and Warmduscher on Iggy Pop’s BBC 6 radio show, and I was hooked, enchanted, a devoted convert.

Trashmouth’s latest release is a single that will feature on their anniversary compilation album, a remix of Weston Decker’s “Lazy.” Weston Decker is an American artist based in Boulder, Colorado; in his Spotify bio, he purports to have been conceived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I consider DFW to be the first circle of hell in my own private model of the inferno, so I tip my hat to anyone who has been summoned into being somewhere in its chaotic grey arteries, and managed not be plagued by demons, etc. “Lazy,” is a tasty little indie pop number with an infectious rhythm, and the Trashmouth remix of the song has sharpened it–brought out its cheekbones, as it were—the driving electronic beats making a good thing even better.

Also on the Trashmouth release radar is a remix of Madonnatron’s “Venus and Rahu,” out today on all platforms. According to their Spotify bio, Madonnatron formed by “arising unabashed from the mists of the Thames.” In 2019 the band released Musica Alla Puttanesca, a much-lauded musical experience (the album cover of which depicts the laser-eyed gaze of the Madonna setting the world aflame, a theme which falls perfectly in step with Madonnatron’s usual agenda of the more darkly delicious art forms) on the Trashmouth label.

The Spanish rock supergroup Hinds recently collaborated with the German musician Kid Simius on a driving, upbeat, club track entitled “We Like to Party,” out now on Jirafa records. It’s the ideal track to make summer last a little longer, to stretch out those last lingering days of warmth and relative freedom. Hinds like to party; I remember watching them give a full-throttle rock n’ roll performance in an abandoned church at 2 a.m. one hot summer night a few years ago, and being duly impressed with their IPA consumption, as well as their musical prowess. 

This, then, is my final “notes from the trenches,” as I think everyone has swallowed quite enough of my opinions over this long, hot, pandemic summer. In the words of Groucho Marx, “Art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew ‘em they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now… you tell me what you know.” It’s someone else’s turn to give you their opinions on life, music, the universe, and everything. If you need me, I’ll be in the bar. All you have to do is whistle. 

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Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

notes from the trenches

I don’t like festivals all that much (mud, granola and hallucinogens are a very bad combination in my opinion, especially when you could be going swimming), but I missed them like hell last summer when they were a total impossibility. It’s cheering to have them coming back, albeit in a small capacity. Instead of having a quiet cry whilst reading Glastonbury According to AA Gill, we can experience festivals in person again—at least to a certain extent. 

Anyone who thinks they can socially distance a mosh pit has another thing coming, however, as a socially distanced mosh pit would basically be paying to go for a three-mile run. Imagine what the aliens would think. Humanity must be a sort of never-ending Marx Brothers film to extraterrestrial lifeforms…

But never mind that, onwards to Very Important Music News. The Cambridgeshire-based indie-pop duo Collars debut EP Everything Present 1 dropped on July 16th, and it’s prime summer listening. You can catch the duo live at any number of venues across the country this summer and fall.

Lil Simz’ recent collaboration with SAULT, Nine, is absolutely unmissable. It’s the only album I’ve had on repeat all month. Come for SAULT’S signature smooth melodies and addictive beats, stay for Lil Simz’ witty, introspective raps.

Nathan Saoudi’s band Brian Destiny debuted loads of exciting new material at a socially distanced show last month. Totally Wired’s very own James George Potter went to investigate and was instantly hooked by the Brian Destiny sound, “I Wanna Be Gay,” being the stand-out tune of the evening. 

Trashmouth Records have released a remix of Meatraffle’s The Horseshoe. I could write a lot about it but there’s already an article up on it, so I’ll just say it’s an absolute bop, because it is.

It’s a short column this month, as the heat is affecting my cognitive abilities. Signing off now to submerge my head in ice or to listen to Everything Present 1 again–both are equally effective ways to calm down and cool off. It’s either that or move north, and I just don’t have the patience to deal with snowshoes and the possibility of getting involved in rumbles with polar bears over fish finger sandwiches. It’s just not worth it, and I’m not going vegan again. Much like this column, life is far too short.

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays,

Annie x

Header Photo Credit: Brian Destiny live at Oslo Hackney by James George Potter

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Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews Why We Love

Why We Love: Cabin Boy

I remember my friend John “Guppy” Guptill first mentioning the idea of Cabin Boy to me last July. What immediately stood out to me about the band was that each member was from a different area of the world. He then played me a demo they were working on, and I was even more intrigued.

In recent years, I personally feel that the emo/math rock genre has become somewhat tired. While there are many bands who pull off the style well, there are several more that don’t do anything new with the sound, leading to some aspects of the genre becoming tired tropes. That’s why when there is a band that not only improves upon the sound, but also makes it their own, it immediately stands out. 

A few months after this initial reveal of the band, Cabin Boy began building up hype incredibly quickly, and they hadn’t even released music yet. The buzz was largely due to the kinetic chemistry displayed by the band’s members: the aforementioned Guppy, a bass player from Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Josh Cartwright, the vocalist and guitarist of the band who hails from Liverpool, England; and Dan Goellner, drummer extraordinaire from Berkeley, California. Meeting through an online music community, the three bonded over shared musical tastes and began sending music to one another to build songs individually—a perfect setup during the pandemic.

Recruiting producer Max Mayman, who Guppy has described as “the secret fourth member of the band” and who Dan met at a concert in California, the band debuted their highly anticipated first single, “Falcon Brunch.” Released on February 14th, 2021, the song was a smash hit and received raving reviews from fans; it is truly a gem. Featuring bright, jangly guitars reminiscent of 90’s power pop, the song kicks into gear once Dan’s confident, upbeat drumming and Guppy’s melodic bass lines come into play. Josh’s voice is interesting as well; it sounds effortless and carefree, while also carrying an emotional weight that feels natural. The song bounces along, and even during the instrumental break in the middle, which features some gnarly finger-tapping, it remains unpretentious and fun.

The single proved that Cabin Boy could take their lively personalities and instrumental talents and turn them into something great, despite thousands of miles being between them. They did this so well that a few months later, they signed to notable emo label Flea Collar Tapes on May 16th. Shortly after this big news, they also released a music video for Falcon Brunch. A visually stunning affair, the video utilizes green screens in an incredible way, courtesy of Dan. Each member’s charm and charisma are on full display throughout the video, and it is a joy to watch.

The wave that Cabin Boy were riding grew in June when they released their follow-up single, “Tokin’ Tree,” on the 19th of that month. The song starts with jagged acoustic guitar chords and passionate vocals from Josh. After a little under a minute of this, the electric guitar, bass, and drums burst onto the scene ferociously. The song features a far more distorted, darker sound, but the punk ethos of Falcon Brunch is still there in the undertow. Dan’s drumming is crazy on this track, highlighting how great of a drummer he really is. Overall, the song shows a remarkable maturity in the band’s sound, and it’s only their second song. 

Cabin Boy hit a new high when renowned music critic Anthony Fantano reviewed the song and praised it. This, combined with their record deal, indicates a remarkably bright future for Josh, Guppy, and Dan. Despite the distance between them, they have proven that great bands can conquer all odds to make amazing music. Their unique energy and uplifting personas are sure to continue to win over music fans far and wide, and hopefully someday, we will get to see them come together and perform.

From left: Guppy, Dan, and Josh

Support Cabin Boy on Bandcamp!

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Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Billie Marten – Flora Fauna

Billie Marten has returned with her third album, Flora Fauna. Back in January when its release date was announced, I immediately called dibs on writing about this record. After stumbling upon Billie’s music through the wonders of Spotify around this time last year, I have been fully captivated by her ever since. A sound so euphoric and otherworldly, her music is the embodiment of stepping into a stray patch of light where the sun managed to peek through. 

With a two-year gap between Flora Fauna and its predecessor, Feeding Seahorses by Hand, I fully believe that it was well worth the wait. Each song is masterfully crafted with an almost entrancing sort of magic that envelops you in a warm embrace. With a voice comparable to silk, effortlessly gliding through the soothing instrumentals of each track, a moment of bliss is promised the second you press play. 

“Garden of Eden” was the first track unveiled to the public, and it is—without a doubt—one of my favorites. Everything about it is utterly stunning, but do not even get me started on that chorus. It’s one that makes you feel truly alive and elated to be so. Evoking feelings of freedom and contentment, this track has been on repeat. I mean, can you blame me? Absolute goosebumps.

In an Instagram post, Billie writes:

“It’s about the competition to grow and constantly be better, about how we all desperately need to be fed and watered and given space to thrive, and yet we’re so subscribed to this idea of pushing and evolving that we’re not actually doing the living part.”

“Creature of Mine” and “Human Replacement” were the other two tracks revealed prior to the release of Flora Fauna. Both of these songs are divinely rich and mellifluous, and although they bear different musical qualities and approaches, they complement one another magnificently. Out of the two, I would choose “Human Replacement” as my personal favorite; the lyrics, the band, the melodies… everything.

The meaning behind this track is significant as well. Shedding light on a devastating reality, Billie emphasizes just how unsafe every little task can be for women. Her impactful words have a thunderous music video to match, and I strongly encourage you to give it a watch.

You’re just not safe in the evening

Walking around

You could be taken

You’re just not safe in the evening

No room for doubt

Human replacement

“Ruin” is another show-stopper. I’m obsessed with how the instruments interact with each other in this song, going from somewhat of a playful riff in the verses to a brilliant explosion in the chorus. It’s an extremely clever arrangement that undoubtedly serves its purpose in telling the story lyric by lyric. On that same note, these lyrics are incredibly compelling as Billie expresses her personal struggles with self-love. 

“If I spoke about another person the way I do about myself, it would be horrific, it would be bullying,” the young singer confessed in an interview with Independent. “I was really not good on tour. I was so tired and cold all the time and couldn’t project my voice.”

The album in its entirety is mystifying. Each individual second in every song dances into one another so intricately, it’s impossible to only listen to one. With additions like “Liquid Love” and “Walnut,” why would you, anyway? This is a record you genuinely want to take the time to appreciate in full.

Like what you hear and live in the UK? You can catch Billie Marten on tour later this year, so grab tickets while you still can!

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

Like a lot of people, I first heard of Olivia Rodrigo through her record-breaking song ‘drivers license’ that spent eight weeks at number one. What I did not know was that she had originally become famous through acting on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Because of her multipotentiality, however, she has excelled in both. Having released her debut album SOUR on the 21st of May 2021, there is a lot to marvel at.

Aptly named, SOUR reflects the post-break-up resentment and bitterness and the melodramas of teenagehood. The first track of the album is ‘brutal’, a heavy riffed self-deprecating song that feels reminiscent of punk rock. It reminds me of songs from Kate Nash’s album Girl Talk, which also acts as a representation of a modern angry sceptical female perspective. This musical depiction of Olivia’s emotions is something that is consistent throughout the album. As a consequence, the listener is drawn into her story over and over. In particular, I was captivated by the depiction of the repercussions of her relationship ending. This can be seen in the songs ‘traitor’, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ and ‘good 4 u’.

Had this album come out during my first break-up, I would have sobbed along to these songs. There is something so very pure and relatable about ‘traitor’. Yet, for me, it is missing the anger that ‘good 4 u’ skillfully conveys. In addition to this, it seems a little naïve, which can be seen as endearing and feels like a type of hindsight. If I had it my way, I would have ordered the songs differently as it is somewhat jarring to have all these different emotions crashing into each other track by track. However, at the same time, it makes sense for this to be the resounding theme of the album, a confusing reevaluation of identity. Therefore, if a stylistic choice, it is artful and introspective.

Continuing on from this, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ hurts in a young, vulnerable way. With the twittering of birds in the background and a laughing lilt to her singing, Olivia has managed to write a song that paints a picture with the listener as its protagonist. You are welcomed into her bedroom to watch her phone her ex-partner and can see her hanging out of her window on a late summer afternoon. The way the piano is played seems almost playful and enticing. Contrastingly, ‘good 4 u’ has a deep bass groove that makes you want to dance around irrationally. The sharpness in her tone is exciting and makes the lyrics all the more raw and honest. Currently, this is my favourite song on the album and really epitomises the amount of effort and emotion poured into SOUR

At the age of 18, Olivia Rodrigo has all the potential to keep on bringing out bops and SOUR is proof of that.

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

notes from the trenches: from Black Flag to Black Books

Black Flag vocalist and renaissance man Henry Rollins practices something he calls Protein/Carbohydrate listening. It’s a system in which he organizes his sonic consumption into two categories. New music—stuff he’s never heard before—is classified as protein, while old favorites are classified as carbs. He tracks his daily intake of ‘protein’ and ‘carbs’ in the obsessive manner of any fitness fanatic or health freak.

So far this month, my carb consumption has been way up, and my protein consumption has been way down, nonexistent but for the excellent, Austin, Texas-based band BLACK BOOKS, whose recent single Goodbye Cool (released in early 2020) is eerily prescient in the same sort of way that Contagion is eerily prescient. Watch it and see for yourself…

My roommate’s been playing the most recent HINDS album, The Prettiest Curse, on repeat 24/7, and I don’t mind a bit. The neighbors, however, are absolutely losing it–but then they always behave as though loud music is something physically threatening, like a crazed triceratops bulldozing through the front door. (An absolutely absurd stance on their part, and I find it’s best to help them work through it by blasting Frank Zappa.)

You know what Eve Babitz (cult writer and demi-monde darling of 1970s L.A.) said about really good songs? She said they were like booster shots, like concentrated doses of vitamins. The Prettiest Curse (despite its title) is like having an IV of healthful, revitalizing stuff. Through my roommate’s love of Hinds I’ve discovered the Spanish indie pop singer ESCORPIA, whose recent single Ten Cuidado has a promo video not unlike a three minute snippet of an Eric Rohmer movie. 

In other news of tremendous importance, INSECURE MEN have confirmed via a reply to an Instagram comment that their third album is forthcoming, a joyous prospect indeed.  There’s been a gaping hole in my soul ever since it became obvious that Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s supremely excellent outfit Childhood were not going to be continuing on in the immediate future, and hearing his work in Insecure Men consoles me greatly.

Totally Wired’s favorite “synth sensation,” JESSICA WINTER, has also hinted at new music. (Which reminds me: limited edition clear vinyls of her LP Sad Music, are currently available on her Bandcamp site, and I’d highly advise snapping one up for your record collection.)

DECIUS, a techno/acid-house outfit comprised of members of Paranoid London, Trashmouth Records and the Fat White Family (a combination calculated to make any self-respecting music geek hyperventilate) have released their first EP, entitled Bread and Butter, available wherever you get your music–I can’t keep track of all the ways to get music anymore–but it’s out there, so go get it.

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays,

Annie

xxx

header art credit: @judehavoc