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!

Indie/Indie Rock Uncategorized

Meet Malcolm.

Stumbling upon Malcolm.’s music was by pure chance, thanks to the ever-elusive ways of the Instagram algorithm. As soon as I heard the preview for his latest release, “Nobody,” I instantly wanted to put a spotlight on this up-and-coming artist. For fans of indie and surf rock, this one’s for you.

To start things off, how would you describe yourself and your music to a new audience?

Describing myself is definitely weird, but I guess I’m what happens when someone bases their personality on sitcom characters. I’m pretty introverted, I self deprecate a lot, I’m gifted at avoiding drama, and I’m in a constant state of confusion. My music is a little easier to explain. It’s mostly a blend of rock and R&B. I use mostly real instruments, and I usually put groove first. It’s pretty much modern soft rock.

You recently put out a song called “Nobody” (which is an absolute tune, might I add). What do you want your listeners to take away from the track?

“Nobody” is a song that’s all about contemplating being single. If fans can take anything away from it, it’s to not worry if you don’t have anyone, and don’t force yourself into anything if you’re not ready.

You also released your debut album Vibey Rock. back in May—congratulations! What was the overall process like, and what helped inspire each track?

Vibey Rock. was a long time coming. I had the idea for it after I released my first EP, Khaki, in 2017. That’s when I started morphing my sound into a more 70s style, using a lot of warm and bright sounds as well as a more organic approach. The first track that kind of pushed me in that direction was “Far Away,” and although it’s not actually on the album, it really showed me the type of vibe it could be.

“ADHD” was written after finally being diagnosed. It started mostly as a joke song, but it’s also just a good introduction to who I am. “Slow Motion” is a feel-good track about a crush, and also one of the best basslines I’ve made. The collaborator, RUSUR, is a guy I met online around five years ago after entering a remix contest for one of his tracks, back when he still went by Johnny Gr4ves. “Sorry Girl” was literally just me wondering if I could make a filler track, and “Manly Man” was what happened when I decided to try to make an early-60s sounding track; it’s all about making fun of my lack of traditional masculinity. 

“Same Mistakes” was written after I sent a drunk text to a girl and instantly regretted it. Luckily, she was in another country and it didn’t actually go through! “Leave Me Alone” is just an introvert anthem; if you’ve ever had your social battery run out at a party, you know the feeling. Next, “Lonely Sun” came after hearing Vampire Weekend’s “Sunflower.” I was just amazed by the complexity of it without it taking away from the overall feel-good vibe of it. Lastly, “Ride Again” is my favourite song I’ve made; it’s kind of a finale for songs about the girl most of my lyrics have been about. Writing this track helped me accept that we may never get back together, and it’s okay.

As we make these first few steps into the new year, it’s safe to say that it’s a relief to leave 2020 behind. As a musician, how did the year affect you?

Honestly, I got lucky this 2020. I rarely played shows before 2020, and I got a lot of time to spend making new music. Yes, not everything went well for me, but compared to other artists, I didn’t suffer many losses.

Livestream concerts became the norm last year as well. Do you have any plans of doing your own in the coming months?

I don’t think I’ll be doing any livestream concerts in the near future. I’m not against them, but I’d rather just wait until the world opens up again and, in the meantime, push my energy into making as much music as possible. The thrill of performing isn’t really there without a live audience.

Steering away from the super fun topic of COVID, I absolutely adore your sound. How did you develop it, and are there any musicians that helped inspire it? 

I’m glad you like it! My sound choice is very inspired by classic rock and soul, while my songwriting mostly comes from alternative R&B. The artists that have had the biggest impact on my sound are definitely more modern ones, like Anderson .Paak, Childish Gambino, Harry Styles, Asher Roth, Rex Orange County, Leon Bridges, and Dominic Fike.

“ANTIGLOW” is a really incredible track, and I read on your Instagram page that you wrote it as a follow-up to an older song of yours called “Glow.” What drove you to write this newer track? 

“ANTIGLOW” and “Glow” are set in the same environment, yet have totally different perspectives. When I wrote “Glow,” I made it with one of my best friends. We would go to a lot of local dances, and being the few kids that were good at dancing, we always killed it. Now, I’ve lost interest; it just doesn’t feel the same anymore. I don’t like showing off as much, I’m not big on hitting on strangers, and I suck at drinking. 

The main connection between the songs is a callback line to “Glow.” The first line of it is, “It’s feeling like a disco,” so in “Antiglow,” I put, “It’s no longer feeling like a disco,” kind of as an easter egg for some of my older fans. It was actually my roommate Brody Larson that came up with the title idea, though! He’s also a musician and is obsessed with unique titles.

Another song of yours, “Jim & Pam (Goddamn),” has raked in over 70k listens on Spotify, and it was released just a couple of months ago in August. It goes without saying that this is an amazing accomplishment; did you ever expect it to receive as much attention as it has so quickly?

I’m super grateful that “Jim and Pam (Goddamn)” is getting the love it is. I kind of knew when I wrote the hook that it would be one of my more popular songs. So, I put more money into the ads for it than usual, and I guess the Spotify algorithm gods rewarded me for it. You can never tell how well a song will do, so I always hope for the best and expect the worst. Sometimes, it works out!

What can we expect coming up? Any more new songs on the horizon? 

For new music, I’m releasing one single a month for as long as I can keep it going. I started doing that with “Jim & Pam” and have been keeping it going since. My next song, titled “Friends,” is going to come out on the 25th of January. I also plan on releasing two remakes of some older songs of mine that haven’t aged too well, those being “Pretty Please” and “Betty White.”

To wrap up, what would be your absolute dream gig?

That’s definitely a cool thing to think about; I think a big outdoor show would be super fun! Having it somewhere warm like Australia or Hawaii would make it even better. I don’t think anything else would suit my music better.

To keep up with Malcolm., follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Spotify.