It’s not often that an album comes into fruition with such a rich background to it, not only from the musical side of it but the landmark achievement of where it came from. Over the last 7 years London based label Speedy Wunderground have slowly built a cult following in the underground, and of late mainstream, independent music scene. Spearheaded by producer extraordinaire Dan Carey, who produced both of Fontaines D.C.’s albums, Black Midi’s multi-dimensional debut Schlagenheim and DEWEY‘s upcoming two part album Sóller, to name a few amongst a plethora of other sonically challenging and pioneering albums. Gaining attention for their consistently diverse and high quality run of 7″ singles from artists such as Kate Tempest, PVA and Black Country, New Road as well their yearly compilations, Speedy Wunderground have quickly become one of the founding pillars in contemporary independent music. They’ve now taken the next natural step and released their first full length album as a label, and Positive Mental Health Music is quite the opening chapter to their ongoing story.
The main messaging behind this album is simply, really nice, uplifting music that puts a positive influence into mental health and tries to relate the often mundane feelings of depression and anxiety into the stories they tell. “And everyone I know is doing better than me, They say “Josh you’re doing the best that you can”, Well I spent most of the time, Feeling like the laziest man” declares lead singer Josh Loftin on opener “Buddha” as he diarises his daily struggle with motivation and self-doubt. It’s this level of intimacy that can be found sewn throughout this album that hones in the home-grown feel of it. The stories are raw and unaltered, allowing them to be as genuine as possible. “I Feel Fine” was the first official single released by the London based 5-piece last year and is “a song about discovering sexual freedom through finding yourself in deep meditation” as Loftin puts it. And this freedom comes in the form of a timeless psych-pop banger. Hazy soundscapes, vintage instrumentation and catchy tongue-in-cheek chorus lines of “Dicks in the sky, Vaginas in my mind” perfectly accentuate this liberation in a more than joyous fashion. It’ll be quite the feat to hear this chorus live with the chants coming back with it.
This simplistic and almost downplayed sound carries through for most of the album. There’s never really too much variation when it comes to the bands sonic palette. Favouring their tried and true mix of punchy bass, fluttering drums, overstated lead guitar and wobbly synthesisers. Coming straight out of the 60’s psychedelic era, this sound will be familiar to many but thanks to Tiña’s forward thinking messages laid over the top of it, it has been brought graciously into a new generation. There are however moments when it feels as if this sound could do with a bit more depth and flavour, especially coming from a producer who is renowned for his sonic experimentation. The messaging of “New Boi” is as potent as the rest of the album, dealing with the struggles of body images. But the sparse and loose sound has been heard so often at this point in the album that it could just do with that little extra sparkle or magic to make it really stand out. The vibrancy does appear however, and takes you by surprise when it does. “Growing In Age” descends from a gloomy almost western slow burner into a full emancipation of chaos and punk stylings as the feeling of growing older becomes too much to handle for Loftin, delivering one of his most powerful vocal performances of the album. And the monochrome feeling of depression is fully realised on “It’s No Use” as the dragging, drawn out chords and swirling melancholic landscapes perfectly capture the emotion of lying in bed, watching the world go by outside your window. The monotony of this feeling lies deep in the lyrics as well, the only description they give of their surroundings are “The handle has broken off the door”, “There was a dog by the door” and “Blue velvet blanket on the door”. Capturing the confining feeling of only staring at your door, with that literally being the only thing you see throughout the day.
I may be as bold as to say that this album stands as a cultural landmark, made in part by both the band and the label. Tiña have crafted a gloriously uplifting collection of songs to inspire and connect with the often disconnected. It may not be the most expansive sound out there at the moment but leans more on its lyrical content and messaging. But the bigger picture comes from the achievement of Dan Carey and Speedy Wunderground as they’ve further cemented themselves as the label to be. Now with that crucial first album under their belt, who knows where they will go next. Big things lay ahead for both parties involved here and this is just the beginning.