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Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Looking Back: Submarine EP

10 years ago, Alex Turner’s ‘Submarine’ EP released, featuring songs written for the film of the same name. If you’ve seen Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, then you’ll know how perfect a match Turner’s songwriting was for that film, the jaded atmosphere of Oliver Tate’s empty and almost stunted world, as he goes through the struggles of his parents dwindling marriage and his own love spell with a girl at school.

The matched reverb riddled and stripped-back approach to Turner’s songwriting makes for such an interesting experience with the context of the Arctic Monkeys’ albums that sandwich the EP. Relinquished from the deep desert production of Humbug, and far from the polished production of Suck It And See, Submarine acts as a transition period between the two like a palette cleanse. In fact track ‘Piledriver Waltz’ getting a rework on Suck It And See, with even lyrical references spilled over the album, it’s clear the intrinsic connection between the two records.

Is it any coincidence that Turner’s songs here make you feel desolate and floaty? Like you’re drifting through the sea in a Submarine? I don’t think so. Whether you’re entranced by the opener, ‘Stuck On The Puzzle – Intro’, or whipped away by the deeper cuts of ‘It’s Hard To Get Around In The Wind’, ‘Hiding Tonight’ or ‘Glass In The Park’, you immediately get a feel for what this story is about.

Turner set out to write songs for Oliver Tate, love songs, and how the simple bliss of those feelings especially as a teenager can feel so strong, where tunnel vision makes the rest of the world seem irrelevant for the time being. Submarine really enhances those feelings and makes for such an intimate listening experience, in an almost bittersweet way depending on how you the listener perceive his words.

Although the whole EP is filled with magic through its 6 songs, it’s clear to all that its two ‘singles’ are the ones most favoured and listened to. Of course, I’m talking about the previously mentioned ‘Piledriver Waltz’ and ‘Stuck On The Puzzle’.

I’m not the kind of fool who’s gonna sit and sing to you about stars, girl / but last night I looked up into the dark half of the blue, and they’d gone backwards

Turner really pours his heart out here. And I don’t think it matters whether he’s talking from his heart, or through the character of Oliver Tate. He clearly understood Tate to the point where he could construct such a symphonic tone to serenade the film’s story so perfectly, and 10 years later that film and that soundtrack, are still being spoken about today.

If you haven’t come across the film Submarine yet then you really absolutely must, it’s a brilliant motion picture and the best way to experience Turner’s music for the first time. Trust me when I say it’s an experience you really won’t forget.

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Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Richard Hawley

A former member of era-defining bands Longpigs and Pulp, is it any surprise that the solo work of guitar hero Richard Hawley would be any less than pure magic? But don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself the reasons why Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and Paul Weller are lifelong fans of his music too.

A young boy from Sheffield with a guitar on his back and a dream to become the next Elvis Presley ends up shaping music forever. Richard Hawley has surely woven his genius throughout not only the songs of various legendary bands but even more so through his work as a standalone artist. Moving on from his days as a Britpop legend, Richard Hawley’s later work takes on a very different turn. His songs have found a beautifully touching power all of their own. With tracks full of feeling and wonder, love and heartbreak, listen as Richard Hawley takes you away to another world in a way you never before thought possible.

Richard Hawley is very much the Johnny Marr of lush, orchestrated ballads. To be able to craft so many human emotions into his songs truly makes you feel part of something big and wonderful. I’d go so far as to say Richard Hawley is the Johnny Cash of his generation.

His debut album Coles Corner, our favourite of his many spectacular records, is pure bliss from start to finish.

Any die-hard fans of the Arctic Monkeys out there may remember the band’s side project/alias name, ‘The Death Ramps’, who invited Hawley to record with them in 2012, releasing their collaborative song ‘You and I’ as a B-side to the single Black Treacle the same year.

Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, makes no secret of his admiration for Richard Hawley’s music for very good reason.

To play us out, Richard Hawley’s early song ‘Valentine’ from his Mercury prize nominated album Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Press play, lie back and be transported.

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Indie/Indie Rock Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Alexandra Savior

Gifted with a velvet voice that will make you swoon, lyricism to rival great literature and a ‘Mystery Girl’ aura that helplessly lures you in, Alexandra Savior is an enigmatic force to be reckoned with.

Not only a talented creative musically, she utilises her artistic capabilities to the full, bringing a personal touch to all elements of her work. Each of her aesthetic music videos that perfectly accompany her chilling tracks is self-directed and she even designs her own album covers and merchandise. Overall, she creates a coherent experience and is certainly proving that she really is a ‘Savior’ to modern female rock.

Born and raised in Portland Oregon as Alexandra Savior McDermott the 25-year-old immediately showed musical promise and received her first wave of attention at the age of just 17 when Courtney Love proclaimed “This girl is gonna be huge!”. Love clearly wasn’t the only one who thought highly of her as the following year a bidding war between labels started; with Columbia Records eventually snapping her up. Upon the deal, Savior moved out to Los Angeles and although she admits that she didn’t feel fully prepared at the time she evidently came into her own as this doesn’t show in her precise work produced out there. 

This flourishing development was partly thanks to Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner because fortunately, rather than someone pushing her in the direction of ‘Katy Perry’ like many labels intended she had the modern-day rock icon around to keep her on the right track. A huge supporter from the get-go, Turner first suggested she drop her last name and go by her middle instead, doubling the impact after initially giving the stage name Alexandra Semitone a shot.

In addition to helping her settle on a pseudonym, he also brought his well-known wit and wordplay to the table as a co-writer, as well as joining forces with his frequent collaborator James Ford to produce Savior’s debut record ‘Belladonna of Sadness’. Make no mistake though; this isn’t Alexandra Turner. Savior is one hundred per cent her own artist and had Alex collaborated with anyone other than the rising star an album couldn’t possibly come close.

Dark and brooding, Savior’s first LP was released in 2018 and chills you to your ‘Bones’ with rich, murderous tones but also has a ‘Girlie’ touch from its sweeter melodic notes. Thanks to elements such as her stand-out smokey voice; even backed with faint screams and wicked laughs on tracks like M.T.M.E to spooky organs, thudding drum beats and shredding guitars she creates an eerie cinematic aesthetic reminiscent of glamorous old Hollywood with a desert twist.

Influences she cites seep their way into tracks, with a prominent example being the late great Amy Winehouse whose characteristics are not only present in the soul Savior sings with but also her strong stance and powerful attitude on songs like Shades, as well as Jack White whose essence is felt in the American ‘Rock n Roll’ grit of the bluesy instrumentals. She also takes inspiration from outside the realm of music with comedy legend and filmmaker Terry Gilliam being a creative influence that not only reveals itself in her artsy music videos but also in the lyrical magic delivered by her haunting vocals.

Proving that she can paint a picture in more ways than one, vivid imagery is evoked in all songs with lyrics like ‘Dress me like the front of a casino, push me down another rabbit hole, touch me like I’m gonna turn to gold’ standing out in opening track Mirage. Alongside Turner, she projected her own feelings onto stories and characters, displayed beautifully in Girlie; the analysis of females trying to make it in the industry featuring lines like ‘Until her eyeballs start to bleed, she don’t wanna go to sleep’ and in Mystery Girl’s tale of infidelity singing ‘Hush now, don’t explain. Wound up with a heavier heart, from waiting in the rain’.

Belladonna of Sadness truly provides listeners with a whole world. Even songs that didn’t make the cut such as ‘Miracle Aligner’ now best known for being recorded by Turner and Miles Kane as The Last Shadow Puppets are packed with a punch but the perfect tracks were chosen; all piecing together to create a dark dream that you’ll never want to awaken from. 

At the beginning of this year, Savior followed up ‘Belladonna’ with the release of sophomore album ‘The Archer’ and although she found such a distinctive style with her first album, it was exciting to hear that she didn’t play it safe and stick to the same recipe (despite it being devoured by many). Instead, she delivers a heart-break fantasy that hypnotises you into floating along on her fresh journey, with the darker side only creeping in rather than being at the forefront.

An even more personal endeavour that her first, Savior was truly left to her own devices for this record after being dropped from Columbia, her manager quitting and receiving no aid from Alex Turner. None of this held her back though and only resulted in an album that’s soaked in assertive independence and is every bit her own.

Opening with a melancholic piano solo and heartfelt words she embraces the title of the track ‘Soft Currents’ throughout, delivering more vulnerable emotion in songs like this and The Archer. As a whole, it feels more of a woozy, gentle daydream in comparison to the dangerous vibes radiated previously but as mentioned, the darkness lurks. Harkening back to the ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ days are the thick riffs and thumping rhythm of Saving Grace and the suave single Howl with its strong synth and delivery. In addition to this, she further boasts her range by delivering a tune made for the likes of Mad Men with Send Her Back featuring a wonderful big brass intro and even takes you to the seaside with the beach swept Can’t Help Myself.

Although the overall direction is a departure, the key elements that make a Savior track remain. She doesn’t disappoint on effortlessly cool sounds, oozing vocals and of course those lyrics such as ‘The wilted edge of a lonesome mattress, I lay my head there until the feeling passes. It’s sinking in just as time relapses’ that I ‘Can’t Help Myself’ from quoting.

Although she might seem like an impossible ‘Mirage’, Alexandra Savior is as real as ever. So, if you’re looking for some dreamy desert rock, the perfect revenge soundtrack or spooky psychedelic pop then she really is the ‘Saving Grace’ that you’re looking for.

Listen to Alexandra Savior on Spotify now.