Saying that something is life changing is dramatic. However, in the case of indie-rock band The Drums, I can make this statement with absolute certainty. They shaped my music taste, influenced my songwriting, and provided the soundtrack to some of my best memories. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the best albums of that decade, in my humble opinion. The production, the songwriting, and all the subtle flourishes and embellishments present within those twelve songs is unbelievable, especially for a debut album. There are few other releases like it.
In 2011, the band released their second album, titled Portamento. In an Instagram post celebrating the album’s tenth anniversary, band leader Jonny Pierce mentioned how the album was considered to be a flop, a victim of the “sophomore slump.” He is not wrong in saying that. Compared to the debut album, the reviews for Portamento were noticeably lukewarm. According to Metacritic, the average score for the album was a 64. YouTube music critic TheNeedleDrop gave the album a 5/10 after praising the debut album. Fans were confused by the album, and I will not hesitate to say that I was as well. After spending so many listens absorbing the shimmering guitars, beachy harmonies, and lovesick lyrics of the first album, I did not know what to make of Portamento, and as a result, I shoved it aside.
Portamento differs from the debut album almost immediately with the song “Book of Revelation.” The production is less shiny, and the tone of the song is more sullen than even the darkest moments of the debut. Jonny is also singing in a much higher register than he did before. On the debut, his singing was safe and fit the music like a glove, whereas on this album, he is pushing the envelope. Considering how flamboyant Jonny’s live presence is, this change makes sense. It also shows that he is not afraid to take risks to get his point across.
As the album continues, it throws more curveballs at the listener. “What You Were” and “Money” feature a much higher emphasis on synthesizers than on previous releases, with various keyboard stabs poking through the thin fabric of guitars. The latter also features some interesting vocalizations that will surprise many fans of the debut album. The dive into synths hits its peak on the song “Searching For Heaven,” which is all synthesizer and saves for some haunting vocals.
However, ten years on, it is safe to say that Portamento has aged remarkably well, turning many of its skeptics into supporters, including me. I love many of the songs on this album. The emotion is more potent, more urgent than on the debut album. While that album dealt with love in a way that was melancholy but also tinged with sunshine. It was broken hearted but still had its composure. Portamento, meanwhile, does not hold back any punches, with its lyrics lacking the poetics of the first album but packing more of a punch, such as on the song “If He Likes It Let Him Do It.” The songs feel brutally honest, and the listener can feel whatever Jonny is feeling without any doubts.
The music is also far more dour, but not to the detriment of the listening experience. The aforementioned “Money” was the first single off the album, and it is one of the catchiest songs The Drums have ever released. Despite its breakneck pace, each instrument is tight to the groove. The lyrics are a bit more tongue in cheek, with the chorus “I want to buy you something / But I don’t have any money” being wryly humorous and relatable.
At the end of the day, I will always adore the debut album, and it is to this day my favorite Drums release. However, I owe Portamento an apology. It is a stripped down, emotionally turbulent album, and an experience completely separate from the debut album. Once you separate Portamento from The Drums, it shines in its own light, where it belongs.
The 1980s were a wild time, to say the least. Teenagers were rebelling – as per usual – and creating their own kind of lifestyle, diverting the general expectations of growing up and maturing that had dominated previous decades. Fashion was outrageous, attitudes were eccentric and controversial, and all of this was reflected in the music. Punk emerged from the underground and, in a symbiotic relationship with the youth, the face of music was forever scarred for the better. Bands like Sex Pistols and the Ramones exploded onto the scene expressing anarchy and distrust in the establishment, loudly displaying their political agenda and providing a voice for like-minded young people. Throughout the decade, punk influenced countless subgenres and subcultures, encouraging political freedom and rebirth of the most riotous kind, while also merging with others to create completely unexpected, but lyrically brilliant, hybrid genres.
This month’s Indie Idol embodies the spirit of punk while exhibiting its versatility within other genres by displaying elements of anti-folk – a musical movement established in the 1980’s to “mock the perceived seriousness” of the decade’s popular music, serving as a protest through clever lyricism. Crywank, a band spontaneously conceived by Jay Clayton in Manchester in 2009 upon receiving their first guitar, expresses a more personal kind of anarchy, announcing displeasure with mundane realism we have all probably felt from time to time, as well as dealing with more serious issues like mental health. I Am Shit from the band’s 2013 Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid album, for instance, serves as a criticism of one’s self, overthinking everything you have said or done, and being stuck in a loop of self-doubt and inadequacy. The lyrics are hard-hitting and emotional, with a characteristic DIY-nature that adds to the charm and meaning of the song.
Arguably, Crywank takes a more comedic stance in some of their productions, helping to lighten the typically downbeat mood of their work while fitting to the anti-folk genre, still providing that dramatic social commentary the band and sub-punk genres are known for. Songs like An Academics Lament on Barbie, whichcomments on the irony surrounding the suggestion that Barbie is a feminist icon for young girls, having had over a hundred different jobs, many in typically male industries, while also being subject to strict and traditional female beauty standards that fail to represent the vast majority of women. Or Tin Foil Hat Crew at the Student House, which discusses constantly being monitored by companies online and other politics while also featuring the highly intellectual lyric, “Slap my thigh call me messy sweaty petty silly sausage,” from the duo’s 2017 Egg on Face. Foot in Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. album, for example. Both of these songs also demonstrate Crywank’s musical diversity by embracing a sound vaguely similar to that of Parklife by Blur, with more melodic speech rather than general singing, while still harking back to their punk-inspired roots – which are especially evident in the final few lyrics of Tin Foil Hat…, “Don’t Be Evil, Ooglie-booglie-googlie-booglie.”
(Check out Story of the Lizard and the Sock for another dark comedy-esque song)
The group’s most recent and final album, Fist Me ‘Til Your Hand Comes out My Mouth, a name that most definitely reflects the outrageous and uncensored nature of the 1980’s punk movement, features an eight-part story about friendship and its effects on the band. And, as the title I Love You but I’ve Chosen Me… suggests, the importance of loving oneself before attempting to love someone else. The album is, overall, fairly different from Crywank’s previous seven albums due to a larger focus on instrumentalism, such as in The Best, poetry, similar to Jamie T’s use of Sir John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist poem in his debut single Sheila, and a more upbeat sound – the existentialist lyrics are still going strong, though.
The band seems to have steered clear of music videos in the traditional sense, preferring to upload live versions or random rehearsal sessions onto their Youtube channel. However, the few music videos that have been created for their most recent album all exude a sense of incomplete chaoticism that perfectly reflects the sentiment of their whole musical catalogue. The videos tend to be stylised in a low budget arts-and-crafts-type manner using watercolour (Egg and Spoon) and torn paper (Ego is a Phoenix) to depict the narrative while making the meanings of the songs feel more tangible to the audience and, once again, hinting at the homemade elements of punk style. Album art for the band is definitely something to behold, ranging from a simple photo of a shelf adorned with wooden cat sculptures to a fluorescent drawing of a two-headed monster with the iconic World War II “Kilroy was Here” doodle looming above. However, I feel as if the variation in album art reflects the large range of topics and emotions discussed and felt through the band’s work and does show progression in the bands freedom of expression over time.
Unfortunately for all who love them, Crywank’s musical career is coming to a voluntary end after their next North American tour, which has been postponed to 2022. However, their music and merchandise will continue to be available on dogknightsproductions.com until it is all sold out. In the meantime, check out Memento Mori and Hikikomori, my two favourites by the band.
The latest installment in Trashmouth Record’s 10th anniversary celebratory series of releases is a remix of Meatraffle’s ‘The Horseshoe.’
Trashmouth Records, an independent label run by brothers Liam and Luke May, is South London’s equivalent of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios. The Mays recorded, engineered and produced the debut records of incendiary artists such as Madonnatron, Warmduscher and the Fat White Family. In the label’s own words: “Trashmouth produced and released records by bands that no one else would touch with a 10-foot pole and not only lived to tell the tale but proved to have been visionary in their blind faith.”
“Trashmouth Records – 10 Years Still Not Dead” marks the 10th Anniversary of the inception of the Trashmouth Experiment and features remixes of some of the label’s favourite tracks and artists…”
In the words of Meatraffle ringleader Zsa Zsa Sapien: “Happy anniversary to Trashmouth, the label that gave birth to Fat White Family, Madonnatron, and most importantly, Meatraffle. The magic of Trashmouth is its vision and ideology and that ideas always prevail over ability and craft, that’s why they saw something in us that we didn’t even see!”
“You gotta love Trashmouth…the greatest small label out there, shamefully written out of the South London scene history books by bandwagonist music journos.”
“Trashmouth is run by Liam and Luke (The May Twins) who are free from any nasty sexual diseases, really softly spoken and polite…and will be permanently saluted by us, forever grateful. All hail the cult! Death to false indie!”
Join the infamous label in celebrating ten years of “Blood, Booze and Tears in Equal Measure…” by purchasing their 10th anniversary record, featuring remixes from their top artists, available on Bandcamp and beyond.
The Glaswegian glam pop outfit Walt Disco have been making waves in the European indie scene since their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome was released in September of 2020. Consisting of six members, James (lead singer); Finlay (guitar and keyboards); Lewis (guitarist); David (synth); Charlie (bass); and Jack (drums) the group’s appearance is reminiscent of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and mid-1970s Brian Eno with a dash of ABBA thrown in for good measure.
Yet Walt Disco somehow remain totally unlike any other band that has gone before them. They have a distinctly 21stcentury feel, a fervent embrace of unapologetic self-expression and decadence (the intensity of which stems possibly from the increasingly alarming structural malfunctions seizing up our current way of life on Earth.) The band have quickly forged their own signature sound, inviting listeners into a colorful realm of rock n’ roll that Dork Magazine has dubbed, “Walt Discoworld.”
The group recently released a single entitled Selfish Lover, accompanied by a video featuring the band parading around an abandoned mansion decked out in glam rock deshabille and kabuki theatre-meets-Pierrot makeup. The Selfish Lover release coincided with an announcement that the group had signed to Lucky Number Records and were planning a tour of the U.K. to promote the single.
On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently caught up with lead singer James Potter and guitarist Finlay McCarthy for a chat on myriad topics ranging from writing pop songs on computers to raiding Grayson Perry’s closet, to the tour gigs they’re most looking forward to.
The interview occurs on Zoom, because, well, of course: it’s 2021. James Potter appears on the screen first, their dark curly mullet pushed back over their ears, and shortly after, guitarist Finlay McCarthy pops up, sporting a Mick Jagger-y shag with the tips dyed blue. “I’m in!’ he crows, after exchanging suitably chummy greetings with bandmate James. (“Thank you, it’s a mess,” he says self-deprecatingly when I compliment his hair.)
We get down to business, starting with the simple stuff: How did the band members originally meet? “Over the space of a couple of years. Me, Dave and Lewis were in the original line-up and then Finlay joined at the start of 2019, then Jack joined during a long tour in autumn 2019, and then Charlie joined in around December 2019,” James explains.
I ask what the main inspiration for starting a band was. “I suppose, personally, it’s just because it’s like the only thing I’m good at,” Finlay says. “Ever since I started playing guitar when I was like, 13, I was just like, ‘Ok. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna leave school and find people to play with…And I’m gonna take a part-time job until it works.’ And now it has.”
I inquire after who the primary songwriters in the band are. Do they all contribute equally, or do they have a Lennon/McCartney thing going on where some work on melody and some write lyrics?
“I don’t think it’s ever been six of us in the same room, but all six of us contribute,” James says.
“We kind of had to look at the way we were creating over lockdown. And we found that a lot of it has come from writing through the computer rather than jamming in a room,” Finlay explains.
“I think often I find lyrics from the feeling an instrumental will give me,” James muses. “So it’ll be quite a lush instrumental often before I start writing lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics’ll come early but more often than not, I have to have a real feeling and emotions already from the music and find something from that. Because a lot of people won’t listen to lyrics. So, you don’t always even need lyrics, but melody is the main thing that moves people in music. And you need the right words to fit a melody.”
We move on to discussing the band’s latest single, a high-energy pop number called Selfish Lover, written during lockdown: “Yeah, it was like, April last year,” James recalls. “Lewis sent a garage band demo. We really liked the energy of the instrumental. We just wanted to make it a wee bit more circusy and interesting, so we gave it the intro bassline and the sort of slightly swingy feel…”
Despite having good bones, the song took a lot of “chipping away,” at before it reached its final state, Finlay says. James grins and admits, “…the guitar riff, the middle eight and the first chorus one, was a guitar riff we stole from another song that didn’t quite make it…”
“You stole a riff from your own song? Self-piracy?” I laugh.
“Yeah, we stole a riff from our own song because the rest of the song just wasn’t strong enough, but it had a really good riff. So, we were like, fuck it, we’ll just put it in this song…David Bowie plagiarized his own songs all the time,” James says. I mention how much James’ voice reminds me of Station to Station era David Bowie on certain Walt Disco tunes, and the conversation turns to the band’s musical inspirations and influences.
“Having six of us, there’s quite a mishmash, but we all share very similar interests, like the Associates,” Finlay says. “We got really into electronic music over lockdown, cos all we were trying to do was write pop songs. And sometimes you just wanted to switch off and listen to a beat or a cool sound. That kind of seeped into the pop songs that we were trying to write.”
James delves deeper into dissecting the band’s writing methodology: “We’d often start with these quite complex, experimental electronic tracks and then complete that as its own little thing, and then send it over to a different computer and then view it differently… and then once the bass and guitar are on, give it a pop structure and pop melody. That’s the most successful writing process we’ve had.”
The conversation veers from songwriting to another crucial part of Walt Disco’s collective artistic practice: getting dressed up. Thinking of the flamboyant mix of costumes in the Selfish Lover video (where the band wore everything from thigh-high black leather boots to baby pink satin corsets, housewifely 1950s half-slips, faux fur wraps and leather harnesses,) I ask if they have a favored designer or stylist.
“For the Selfish Lover video we were working with a stylist called Jack Shanks…he’s great,” James says. “He’s kind of the same build and the same height as all of us and that means he’s got lots of great things in his own wardrobe that fit us, and then we’ll always bring lots of our own wardrobes to the shoots.
“Once everyone’s dressed, I make sure I have a look at everyone, ‘cause I love styling. It’s quite funny when everyone’s ready, and then I go round and am like: ‘I need to have a line-up,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘You’re not done,” and “you’re not done.’” They laugh. “Sometimes they’ll get a wee bit hurt and I’m like, ‘No, it’s for the video.’ It has to be right.”
“It’s always been something that’s been a big part of the band, even before we worked with stylists. Getting ready in the dressing room was always fun,” Finlay reminisces fondly.
I ask if there are any particular designers or fashion icons whose closets they’d like to raid.
“I think the one for both of us would be Grayson Perry,” James says, and Finlay oohs in agreement. “Definitely one of the biggest fashion icons of this century.”
I ask which artists first sparked their interest in music as kids, and Finlay looks a bit sheepish. “This may sound totally mad, but I didn’t like music when I was little. I just wasn’t interested in it, at all, until I got to high school. But I remember in my music class, we got a temporary music teacher that showed me ‘My Iron Lung,’ by Radiohead, and I was like ‘That’s cool.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole.”
James hasn’t heard this story before, and seems vaguely disappointed that Finlay’s “musical awakening,” took the form of Radiohead: “…a shame,” they say. Finlay thinks for a moment and adds, “It’s probably subliminal, but my mum was playing a lot of Kate Bush and stuff in the car, when I was little. I didn’t like it then, but I do now.”
The soundtrack to James’ growing-up years was very different: “There were a lot of very guitar-y CDs in my house. Also, my parents would put on Queen and Scissor Sisters all the time, but I can’t remember if it was my request or not…it would kind of make sense if it was. I remember the CD player and the sound system were a real centerpiece of the living room when I was six or seven.”
I say that with the music industry stopped in its tracks for so many months, returning to the previous cycles of promo, releases and touring must feel almost alien in its strangeness.
“You get used to your face not being anywhere, and then it’s everywhere!” James agrees, laughing.
Starting in July, Walt Disco are set to embark on a thirteen-date tour staggered over the course of four months. I ask which gigs they’re most excited to play. “I’m excited to go back to Edinburgh. That’s my home,” Finlay says, face lighting up. “And the gig we played there in October 2019 was the biggest gig we’ve ever played. Can’t wait to go back and play an even bigger venue.”
After so many months of forced stagnation, live music is back in action, and so are Walt Disco.
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.
“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
You could be taken
You’re just not safe in the evening
No room for doubt
“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!
Minos the Saint are a staple in the southern music scene, as inevitable as king cake at Mardi Gras and crawfish boils in summer. Their eerie, effervescent take on folk and zydeco classics has singled them out as unique amongst local Louisianan festival-circuit bands.
Founded by Ben Herrington in 2013, Minos the Saint is composed of five musicians: Peter Simon (vocals and guitar) Ben Herrington (accordion, keyboards, and trombone) Micah Blouin (percussion and vocals) Joel Willson (violin and mandolin) and Arisia Gilmore (French horn.)
Totally Wired recently caught up with Ben and Peter to find out what Minos the Saint have been up to during the turmoil of the previous year, when we can expect new music, and what their plans for the future are.
Totally Wired: “Awake and Dream” was such an astonishingly beautiful debut. Any plans for a second album in the works? And as the creators of the album, how would you describe “Awake and Dream”?
Peter: “Awake and Dream” is our first work, and really captures a very special time where our joined collaboration was realized. The album is intended to portray our live performances which are often described as dynamic and whimsical. We are finishing up our second album, tentatively titled “Atchafalaya Child” set to be released this summer.
Totally Wired: Like your website bio says, Minos the Saint is definitely not a typical LA folk band. Y’all have such a unique, layered sound, it’s entrancing. How did your different musical backgrounds knit this sound together?
Peter: We started as a duet, then grew to six! This slow burn, “bit by bit” approach helped us realize the creative mind and input of each member.
Ben: Yes, also I think a key is that all the musicians in the band have a wide variety of musical interests. As varied as aspects of our sound can be, I think we really lean heavily on elements which are comfort zones for each of our members. While we’re always trying to push the envelope as a whole, much of what we do is based on expressive techniques that we’ve each been working our whole musical lives to refine. Bringing those individual life-long pursuits together to form a whole is what continues to make it enjoyable and exciting for us.
Totally Wired: The pandemic has obviously been an extremely trying time for anyone with a job in the arts. How have you guys been keeping it together?
Peter: We’ve managed to keep moving forward simply because we have an album to make. So, in a way, the pandemic offered us a time to stop and capture the material we’ve been working through.
Ben: Also, I think the last year has really brought us on this interesting journey of questioning and learning about what it means to express ourselves as a band. For a while, it seemed like there was this momentum forcing us to figure out how to express ourselves remotely. Having gone down that road for a time, I think now we’re maybe at a place where we can see the beauty of small-scale human interaction with new eyes. Everything old is new again.
Totally Wired: This is a bit unorthodox, it’s a reverse interview question! What question have you been dying to be asked—and never have been—by a music journalist? And what’s the answer you’d give?
Ben: The question: If your band were a Labyrinth, who would be the Minotaur? The answer: either me or Joel, but for different reasons: Joel because he’s our chaos agent and myself because I am the most consistent in my demands over a long period of time.
You can find Minos the Saint on Instagram @minosthesaint, on Bandcamp, and on Spotify.
Photo Credit: Aaron Hogan of Eye Wander Photography
As the sun leans in closer for a warm embrace and Mother Earth takes her first steps towards revitalization, the time has come to celebrate spring’s long-awaited arrival. So, what better way to welcome it than with a brand new release that is so beautiful, it’d make even the most gifted of songbirds envious?
Chase Cohl’s EP Dear Dear: Volume I is absolute euphoria. Consisting of four tracks, it embodies a similar feeling to surrendering your skin to the divinity of sunshine; it is nothing short of pure comfort and invigoration. This is my first proper introduction to the enormously talented singer-songwriter who, also, explores the worlds of fashion and poetry. Hearing these songs for the first time felt like coming home after a long and tiring journey, intoxicated with the pure joy of being right where you want to be.
Dear Dear begins with “Special Situation,” a song so blissful and pleasing to the ears, it’s only right to stick around for more. The backing harmonies paired with the flawless intertwinement of Cohl’s voice and the dreamlike, vintage instrumentals make this song an undeniable winner in my book. If you’re in search of a song to dance along to with a glass of wine, look no further.
Track two, “Take It Like A Man,” took on the role as the EP’s single, and it did its job phenomenally. It’s what I had first heard from Cohl while aimlessly scrolling through Instagram just mere days ago, and I knew right off the bat that I needed to write about her. After (very quickly) falling entirely entranced by the song’s colorful, 1960s-inspired sound, I genuinely could not get it out of my head. Watch the music video here!
“Still Crying,” despite bearing somber lyrics about the woes of break-ups, carries such a playful and bright tune. The back-and-forth between Cohl and the backing vocals throughout the chorus is truly satisfying and addictive to listen to. On top of that, its bridge dips into an enchanting pool that lulls you into a brief daydream just before getting right back into the song’s upbeat magic once more.
The fourth and final track, “I Can’t Live Without You,” just might be my favourite. It paints an image in my head so effortlessly, and I could easily see it as the score to a film’s montage scenes. Despite it being the EP’s shortest song, it possesses so much beauty and airiness that you pay no mind to its duration. It strikes something deep within me that is impossible to shake, and to say I adore every single aspect is an understatement.
In short, this is one masterpiece of an EP. Elegance and perfection can be heard all throughout, and because I am a newer listener, I will most certainly be taking a dive into more of Chase Cohl’s material (and you should, too!).
Irish singer-songwriter Orla Gartland gained traction through her YouTube channel and supporting Dodie on tour. Alongside relatable lyrical content, her songs emphasise her passion for music production and perfecting her style.
Orla Gartland’s YouTube channel has content dating back to 8 years ago although she has been active since 2007. Starting out with covers, she has worked her way up to original content. Although her folk roots have been her primary influence, we have seen a shift towards indie-pop. There has been a transition from more acoustically based songs to synthesised instrumentation. Songs like ‘Why Am I Like This?’ and ‘Overthinking’ explore her struggles with mental health and are compellingly honest and raw. Other themes in her music include falling out of love, which is what her latest EP, Freckle Seasons is centred around, and struggling to come to terms with sexuality which can be heard in her song ‘oh God’.
Most intriguing, Orla Gartland is an entirely independent artist using her Patreon to fund her musical developments. This Patreon gives fans extra demos, updates on what is going on in her life and when to expect new releases and competitions. It creates a basis for fans to be able to interact and make friends. It is also a platform for them to share their own experiences with music amongst themselves and with Orla Gartland directly. Patreon, being one of her favourite parts of the internet, has become somewhere she can openly share the progression of her songs and thoughts and ideas. It is fascinating to see lyrics from drafts falling into new songs that become released for everyone to hear. In her latest song ‘Pretending’, the lyrics “I learnt it from a woman on the internet” have been recycled from one of the demos she released on her Patreon.
During lockdown, musicians took to performing on live streaming platforms to replicate the community feeling of going to concerts. Orla Gartland hosted what she called “covers-a-thon” raising £3454 for NHS charities helping frontline workers with hot meals, transport, accommodation and counselling. There is no divide between herself and her music; she uses it to express herself, for escapism and to help people.
It isn’t always easy to come across with such authenticity in the music industry. Still, the transparency between Orla Gartland and her fans makes it easy to believe that it is possible.
If you’re looking for a cinematic journey to detach yourself from the current mundane routine of the world’s lockdown (who isn’t?!), look no further than the smooth, moody, unfiltered odyssey of King Hannah. The Liverpool based duo have had an anything but conventional start to their musical journey together. Developing from Craig’s admiration of Hannah’s solo performances, to working as colleagues in a bar, to finally writing together to produce a sound rich in realism and tailored back production.
Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle released their first single ‘Crème Brûlée’ back in September 2020 and since then released their first EP in November 2020 titled ‘Tell Me Your Mind and I’ll Tell You Mine’. The EP is centred around the details of the everyday, with quite a descriptive nature to Hannah and Craigs lyrics. Starting with an almost ominous prelude (‘And Then out of Nowhere, it Rained.’), it’s like entering into a new and uncharted world. Followed by a more humorous take with ‘Meal Deal’, taking us through the normality of a property viewing, while contemplating whether to make a housemate out of the arachnid inhabitant. Towards the end of the song, Hannah’s vocals are like flickers of light through an immersive jungle canopy of atmospheric sound and smoky instrumentals.
This is then followed by a song, which really epitomises the times we live in. Named after Mindhunter’s ‘Bill Tench’, the song carries some added energy creating a more relaxed and lo-fi feel. This really emphasises the depth to King Hannah’s production, intensifying the feeling of being taken on a journey through this EP. The emphatic ballad of the duo’s first single then follows, becoming much more expressive with drawn-out lyrics and a jaw-dropping guitar solo that you never want to end.
We are led out by a more reflective and vibrant track, ‘The Sea Has Stretch Marks’, brought to a close by an outro called ‘Reprise (Moving Day)’, combining some of the EP highlights with a muffled radio vibe.
If there is a more emblematic band for the times we live in I am yet to find them. King Hannah’s music has been a refreshing reminder that we can escape the madness and once again be enveloped by creative production techniques and bold sound. The duo has already made an impact on the stage, and now following their formal release this past November, I for one am really looking forward to seeing them back in front of the lights and creating more insightful explorations.
A lot has happened in the time since Pale Waves released their first album. Despite the various trials and tribulations, one of which including a tour bus crash, the Manchester indie-rockers have proven that nothing can get in the way of creating absolute magic. Consisting of 11 tracks, Who Am I? taps into the beloved, nostalgic sounds of the 2000s, and going through each song helped me feel more like the ideal, cool-older-sister trope commonly found in movies of that era (Kat Stratford, anybody?).
In comparison to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises, their sophomore album presents a newfound edge that helps listeners unearth a more authentic version of Pale Waves. Now, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adored their debut record, but it only scratched the surface of what they have to offer. That being said, it’s undeniable that they have begun to grow more into their own, unique sound, and my god, it is completely game-changing.
I honestly wasn’t expecting this sort of switch-up at all. From the moment they released “Change,” I knew we were about to witness a brand new, monumental chapter in their career unfold. With a blissfully catchy track and a visually stunning music video to match, it makes sense why this is the way Pale Waves decided to kick off this new era.
Who Am I?’s dizzyingly romantic second single, “She’s My Religion,” brings forth some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop there. “Tomorrow” beckons those who are struggling with their sexualities to take a deep breath and remember, as the lyrics emphasize, you cannot choose who you fall in love with. Not only that, but it also encourages fans who are grappling with their mental health to stick around and see that the world won’t always have you feeling trapped. It’s a truly gorgeous song that wields an impactful message we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.
Ben, I know that you love a boy
Sexuality isn’t a choice
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong
Won’t you just keep hanging on?
And Kelsi, I know life drags you down
Growing up in a small town
Always the odd one in the crowd
You know I’ll never count you out
This sort of vulnerability seen throughout the record is perhaps one of its most striking features. There’s been a distinct progression in songwriting that opens up more personal discussions, ranging from the intimacy of sex and queer romance (“Wish U Were Here”) to the ever-looming uncertainty that comes with reaching a mental and emotional low (“Who Am I?”). Seeing this newfangled sense of self from lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie, as well as the unapologetic comfortability that has come along with it, is incredibly refreshing. It introduces something notably special into their music, and the novel openness and sincerity found throughout this record have put them on track towards becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In short, Who Am I? is a wildly impressive sophomore album. Honest and bold, this record uncovers a new side of Pale Waves that marks a significant turning point for the band. Every track offers a different story that listeners can relate to and appreciate, and they all form a wonderfully cohesive collection of songs without sounding samey or repetitive. This could very well become a defining record for Pale Waves, and I’m eager to see how well it treats them.