John Myrtle – Myrtle Soup Album Review

Sad Club Records – 2021

Home-spun and home-made is the mood that John Myrtle captures on his debut mini-album Myrtle Soup. Written and recorded over various lockdowns, Myrtle set about to capture the feeling of longing and loneliness through tales of actors in love and human-detesting spiders. The name of the album came from the warmth and comfort brings about, and the warmth of this album is its greatest asset.

Paying homage to the recording techniques of the 60’s and 70’s that he embodies through his songwriting, Myrtle recorded the album on his tape machine at home. And thanks to the natural vibrance that this sound brings Myrtle is able to make his songs feel utterly timeless. His use of sound design on the instrumentals “On The Hob” and “Soups Up” is captivating in its simplicity. The dancing synth melodies and fluttering vocals capture the tender glow of an evening spent inside.

The feeling of love is one that’s wrapped around this album with a tight bow. But more often than not Myrtle is lost in self doubt, questioning whether what he’s feeling to be genuine on the sunshine tinted “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?”. Although the chords may be bright there’s an underlying melancholy within the lyrics, putting on a façade to hide his truth. This sense of subtle sadness also appears on “Remember Holly Park” as Myrtle desperately grasps on to that last breaking string of love as he tries to bring back the memories of good times gone by.

The sound that Myrtle distills on this album is one he’s playing with since his early EP days. In our interview he said that he was inspired by 90’s Britpop, namely The La’s. And you can hear the flowing harmonies and glittering guitar of Lee Mavers and co throughout “Just Can’t Seem To Say Goodbye”. But Myrtle doesn’t just replicate this sound, he embodies whilst showcasing his ultimately likeable and jovial personality throughout.

At just under 30 minutes this mini-album is the perfect accompaniment to making you dinner in the evening. Offering a comforting and all-round joyous listen that grows with each and every listen, leaving you to bask in its radiance.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend Album Review

Dirty Hit – 2021

There is an unspoken “curse” placed on artists who win the Mercury Prize that their next outing never quite lives up to its award winning predecessor. What Visions Of A Life showcased was a band at an important moment. Diverging their sound into various territories and sounds of punk, dream-pop, shoegaze and alt-rock; moving anywhere and everywhere. On Blue Weekend the band distill these sounds into a fluid story of self-doubt, longing and emotional triumph.

Throughout the narrative of Blue Weekend the band extract various stories of social affairs like the night out on the raging “Smile” or the trip through Los Angeles on “Delicious Things”. Picked from different worlds and places, they all collide together with the underlying narrative with the desire for freedom and happiness. “Could I belong here? The vibes are kinda strong here / Ask me if I’m from here and I won’t say no” sings Ellie Roswell on “Delicious Things”. She may be dabbling in pills and inhabiting with a “bad man named Adam” but you can feel this great sense of liberation pouring out of every moment. From the swaying harmonies to the coastal drifting guitar lines, the sound of this song is as delightfully delectable as the title.

Speaking of shorelines, the album is bookended by “The Beach”, which acts as the albums cinematic opening and closed with “The Beach II”, a dream-pop ballad that touches on the small beauty of those summer moments spent enjoying the natural world with friends. Not only do these songs set the scene for the album but they help bring about this narrative of connection. Although this album was largely written before any notion of the last year happened, it remains even more potent that these songs should define the journey through the album in this way.

There’s a certain dynamic switch that the band tap into on this album, and it’s one they play on for most of the track-listing. On “Feeling Myself” they switch from sultry mellotron chords and a lounge like beat, to suddenly burst out into a wash of synth-wave balladry. It sweeps and crashes over you like a wave of emotional triumph. It’s not only a switch up within the song itself, but coming straight after the pop-punk driven “Play The Greatest Hits” you feel as though you’re coming down after the excitement of a night-out and feeling the solitary blues you get in the morning after.

The title of the album Blue Weekend, comes from both a literal sense of seeing a blue sky at the weekend. And the melancholia of knowing that your weekend, no matter what happens, is going to leave you feeling blue. This sense of complete and utter disparity from the rest of the world is where the band finds their greatest moments on this album. “The Last Man On Earth” truly is an anthem for the abandoned. “And when your friends are talking / You hardly hear a word/ You were the first person here/ And the last man on the Earth” exclaims Roswell as she pulls apart every last emotion you thought you could hide. It’s that juxtaposition of being somewhere whilst feeling a million miles away that the band capture perfectly through slow building pianos and Beatles-esque guitar passages.

For all the moments of subtle beauty, like the fluttering and gut-wrenching “No Hard Feelings”, there are equal moments of outright bravado and showmanship. Playing it large has always been a trope for Wolf Alice, look back at “You’re A Germ” from debut My Love Is Cool and you’ll find a young band exploding with unkempt energy, packaging everything into every moment. On “Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)” you’ll find a track that is almost overpacked to the brink of spilling out at the sides. This move into folk-balladry is awry with beauty in the vocal and guitar passages, but just feels that slight bit too over-produced. Layers of harmonies sweep over each other to become so angelic that it feels as though the rawness and spirited energy that Wolf Alice has been known for has died a studio induced death.

The curse of the Mercury Prize seems to have been lifted though thanks to the incantations that Wolf Alice distill on this album. It showcases a band that have defined and refined their sound to become their most substantial and free-flowing album to date. Heartbreak and headbangers ensured, this is one for those dark nights sat alone.

BSÍ- Sometimes depressed… but always antifascist Album Review

BSÍ or ‘brussel sprouts international’, the Icelandic pop-duo of Silla Thorarensen and Julius Pollux Rothlaender have returned with their debut album, a collection of two EP’s, Sometimes Depressed… and …but always antifascist. Following on from their debut self-titled EP released in 2018 the band have sought to refine their sound into two distinctive stories and collections. With the title of the album coming from a slogan the band saw at a punk festival, they have crafted an album that showcases the melancholia and abrasiveness that defines them.

On Sometimes Depressed… the band blend together elements of dream-pop, 80’s synth pop and indie rock to make a collection of songs that are ultimately infatuating. From the moment the ethereal synthesisers of “My Lovely” kick in you’re transported away from whatever situation may encompass you and sailed along on a cloud of melancholia, carried by Thoransen’s swaying and soothing vocals. It’s these tender moments that truly allow the band to evoke the true emotional depth of their sound. “25Lue” recreates that feeling of travelling back on the last train of the evening, staring at the lights from the houses as they pass you by, wondering if your story would ever end up somewhere like that. “I guess we were looking for signs, in all the wrong songs” contemplates Thoransen over the dotted synthesisers and sweeping pads. Looking for the answers of the great unknowns in the widest of spaces.

There does become moments when the bands sound is slightly too washed out in momentary sadness that it can be hard to distinguish the tracks from each other, spilling over the sides without too much distinction. On “Old Moon” the band teeter on the fine line of minimalism and vague ambience that never really comes to a conclusion on where it wants to go. Just as they’re about to reach an emotional breakthrough, they decide to float along the river of gentle melodies that extend out for just that bit too long. They ask you to ride along with them, but end up pushing you out too far, waving you by at the shore.

For all the melancholia found on the first EP, …but always antifascist has an equal amount of unbridled joy; the band are simply having fun. Springing into life with “Vesterbæjar Beach” the band fuse elements of surf rock and indie pop whilst playing slight homage to Phillip Oakley’s timeless love tale “Together In Electric Dreams”. Still encompassing elements of subtle sadness, the band flip the script on their sound with “My knee against kyriarchy”, crafting a sound that makes you wanna jump around a small packed basement, then later on the train reading into the lyrics and crying over that long lost love you had 10 years ago.

If the first half of this album was the band sitting in the shower, contemplating the trials and tribulations of life, then the second half is all about throwing the towel away and swinging your hair about, like, to put it simply, you just don’t care. “Dónakallalagið” is the band embracing this attitude in every sense. It’s fast, punchy and ultimately scrappy at its core. The level of juxtaposition that this brings to this album alone shows just how much dexterity the band are giving themselves. Not to be defined by a genre or sound, but by whatever appropriate outfit may suit them at the time.

If anything this album is a springboard for the band to become whatever they want to be. It lives within a space of its own, spawned from two individuals that are able to craft emotion into whatever sound or style they choose, with almost unchallenged success. This is music best served late at night when you are switched off from the world and can enter the one BSÍ have crafted.

black midi – Cavalcade Album Review

Rough Trade Records – 2021

On their debut album Schlagenheim, black midi sought to create a world of their own, distorted and horrifying, but with pieces of the real world cultivated and glued together like Frankenstein’s monster. On Cavalcade the band draw together tales of fiction and fantasy that are presented with a smothering of bravado and a helping of whimsical irreverence. As the title suggests the album plays as a procession of creatures great and small, plucked from distorted worlds and amalgamated fantasies.

The band stated that coming into this album they “Wanted to make the music as exciting as possible” and they certainly deliver on this feat in bounds. Opener “John L” tells the story of a cult leader whose eventual demise comes as his followers turn on him after failing to fulfil his ruling promises. “A man is his country, your country is you, All bad is forewarned, all good will come true” ‘quotes’ Geordie Greep through distorted and hellish vocal effects. The amount of untamed energy and forward flying motion that this song is encapsulated with sucks you in like a vacuum, seeking to find the most exciting hidden detail every time. With its stop-start motions it propels you down into an unforgiving inferno of guitar feedback and screeching violins that creates one of the most eerie and mind-boggling rides that black midi have ventured on so far. As the closing curtains fall on this play of black comedy, the band moves the album to an even grander, yet unexpected side of their sound.

For black midi, the visual side of their work has always been as wild and exaggeratedly fantastical as the music. It may then seem appropriate to determine that many influences from this album will have come from cinema. Whether it’s being inspired by German actress Marlene Dietrich on the song of the same name. Through soft plucked guitars, searing soundscapes and a majestical stride in Greep’s vocal delivery the band tell a tale of love and longing in which Dietrich prominently “takes a piss on the stage”. Or during the opening of “Dethroned” that pays homage to detective movies of the 50’s with its swaggering saxophone intro.

Like an independent film festival this album showcases all the obscure ingenuity and alternative directions that the band have delved into. They are outlining and redefining what black midi can and could be. If they wanted to move into more ambient territories and expressions, then look no further than “Diamond Stuff”. Spending the first half of its run time slowly building through meticulously plucked harps and slow rising wind instruments. Gradually the cinematic camaraderie builds in to create a soundscape that feels like you’re ascending to the divine promise lands; clouds sweeping you by.

For all the tenderness and crooning on this album, there’s an equal balance of explosive and cathartic moments. “Hogwash and Balderdash” tells the tale of two adventurers or “Chickens from the pen” at sea “Picking out fish bones, On unstable rafts” to find settlement and the source of an incredibly foul stench. For the absurdity of the lyrics there also comes an equivalent amount of absurdity in the backing garrison. Each instrument that enters the arena is battling it out to see which can become the most farcical and untamed, backed by a beat that drives like you’re having an anxiety attack. The culminating screech and rise at the end of the track could even lead to one for those of a nervous disposition.

On the subject of anxiety, the heavy drops and overblown distorted explosions of “bmbmbm” makes a re-appearance on “Chondromalacia Patella”, this time with a larger expansion on the apprehension of the sound. Fluttering through jazzy beats, rolling piano and lines and strained vocals the band encapsulate the true emotion of a panic attack within a song; gasping for breath after every hit. But this doesn’t mean to say that it’s not without its flaws. For all the camaraderie this track carries, it can sometimes become overwhelming the amount of layers and textures they try to squeeze in; spiralling together into a Deep Dream-esque canvas.

On closer “Ascending Forth” the band takes their tongue-in-cheek attitude to its extreme. Over its near 10 minute runtime you feel as if Greep is singing of how “Everyone loves Ascending Forths” with a subtle grin and air of whimsy around him. It’s the grand finale, the big bow out, the curtain falling after the heartbreaking final act. But doesn’t end up offering too much in the way of new ideas that haven’t already been heard on this album. Which at its core, is an album that bounds and leaps thanks to its undying stride to shift and change throughout.

The second album is always an important moment in any bands career. Will it still bring the same level of excitement as their groundbreaking debut? Will they hone in their sound to become more succinct? Will they lose the spark of magic that brought attention to them in the first place? The result for black midi is a resounding success that both captures the intensity and explosive capabilities of their debut. Whilst also simultaneously expanding and stripping back their sound to act as a procession of avenues and directions for them to delve into next.

Fiddlehead – Between The Richness Album Review

Run For Cover Records – 2021

The term ‘Supergroup’ more often than not is associated with one time projects that might seem interesting at the time but ultimately do not live up to the expectations or sounds of the band members main musical projects. This is not the case with Fiddlehead. After beloved emo group Title Fight announced their indefinite hiatus in 2017, hardcore fans were craving more bands that channelled Fugazi, Jawbreaker and Lifetime just as they did.

Formed by members of Have Heart, Basement, Youth Funeral and Big Contest, Fiddlehead’s first record Springtime and Blind, which came out in 2018, filled that niche incredibly well. I was lucky enough to catch them at the New Cross Inn on their December UK tour where they were welcomed with open arms and a fuck load of stage-dives along the way.

For vocalist Pat Flynn, grief has no expiry date, no time limit and absolutely no one’s place to tell someone to “Get over it”. Alluding to the passing of Flynn’s father, we have a life affirming intro to Fiddlehead’s second full length record on “Grief Motief”, a quote from poet E.E Cummings; “I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go.” Following this, the Boston quintet launches into hard hitting instrumentation, Flynn giving us the long term symptoms grief we all must face when faced with a sudden loss of life; “Wake up and fall apart, sleep in and fall apart.” 

At face value, the songs follow a similar structure from last time, albeit with slower tempos in some areas, and Flynn occasionally unleashing his shouted vocals, not heard since members of Have Heart released a one off EP under the name ‘Free’ in 2015. The guitars still have that signature melancholic rock tone that feels familiar but just as impactful at the same time. Guitarist Alex Henery has a bigger role in terms of backing vocals, especially on “Get My Mind Right” and “Million Times”. Much like in Basement, his vocal contributions serve mostly to intensify the chorus rather than a dual singer-songwriter dynamic. They work incredibly well and help solidify the catchiness of each sticky vocal hook into aggressive chants when the group inevitably start playing live shows again.

As an academic himself, “Down University” is a recognition of the pressures in education to succeed painting an all too familiar picture in your head with the line; “Rising pressure and stress to measure up to standards set so high in your mind”. On the upside, Flynn urges the listener that all the prestigious American colleges listed are merely names, with the following mantra “You are worth more than your degree”. It’s a relatable tune that will undoubtedly bring comfort to those like myself who have struggled or are struggling to succeed and make their families proud. Shawn Costa’s drum fills are a notable highlight on this track, giving you the energy to jump off the nearest thing in your room and pretending that shows are still happening as normal.

“Stay in the Blue” and closer “Heart to Heart” show Flynn directly addressing his son Richard, who shares the same name as his late father. It is an optimistic side to the songwriting that feels warm and hopeful as well as deeply relatable. These songs are not only meant to be a time capsule of sorts but could also be passed on to anyone who’s recently brought a child into the world. These cuts also resonate the most emotionally, with gritty melodies and ear-worm worthy charm.

Ultimately, the world needed more Fiddlehead after Springtime and Blind, and we got more than we asked for, helping all of us to regain balance and catharsis in these uncertain times. I have no doubt in my mind that with time this will go down as one of the finest emo/post hardcore records of the 2020’s thus far.

Squid – Bright Green Field Album Review

WARP Records – 2021

White boy summer is certainly looking exciting this year. Another of the Windmill Brixton generation have brought about a whole albums offering of material, following the likes of Black Country, New Road’s For The First Time, Shame’s Drunk Tank Pink, Goat Girl’s On All Fours and Black Midi’s upcoming Cavalcade. This sense of intertwined musicianship not only follows the band outside of their own collective but throughout this album. With features coming from the likes of BCNR’s Lewis Evans on saxophone as well as having Speedy Wunderground’s own mastermind of sound Dan Carey on production duties. This album is in every aspect a working of five brilliant minds coming together to create expansive, ever twisting and shifting and at times outright cathartic works of art.

For a few years now it’s felt as though these so called ‘guitar bands’ have had much more creative freedom when it comes to finding a sound that is truly theres. Gone are the days where everyone had to sound like the eternally reachable yet ultimately bland Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys to even consider breaking into the charts, let alone top them. But now the time of self-sound is here. And Squid are very much making the music they want to. Although “Boy Racer” may have all the quirky licks and upbeat drive of a mid-2000’s era Foals track to begin with, it soon descends into a synth-wave, ambient, noise rock outro that washes over like a lucid fever dream.

The band have said before that their approach to this album came by sending different aspects of songs back and forth to each other online, eventually to all be layered and structured together. And this sewing together of movements and sounds is what makes this album so enticing. On “G.S.K” the band piles together sleek bass lines, funky beats and sly saxophone hooks to create a piece that is ever twisting and turning; becoming more infatuating with each and every change. All tied together with drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge’s unhinged vocal cries. At first the vocal styles that Judge chooses can often seem too over the top or even obnoxious. But you soon begin to realise as this album progresses that Judge is displaying and incredible amount of control and natural charm in an almost brutalist fashion. This isn’t the most heavy sounding music to sing along to but Judge brings an assured helping of anxiety that just pumps raw nervous energy into every sound. I don’t think you’ll find a more distraught reading of the weather than on “Documentary Filmmaker”.

One of the greatest showcases of the band’s succinctness comes in the form of lead single “Narrator”. Over its 8 and a half minute course the band manages to capture a sound that can only be described as a tumultuous breakdown. Over sparkly guitar lines and tapered beats Judge sings of being in control of his life “Losing my flow and my memories are so unnatural, I am my own narrator” he declares with an unhinged discourse. Moving into slasher flick punctuated guitar strikes the band slowly builds up this sense of dread washing over the track, all whilst being perfectly smoothed over by Martha Sky Murphy’s spoken passages that are delivered as if these are your last rites. Eventually devolving into an all out nightmare. With Judge’s repeated delivery of “I play my!” you can’t help feel like you’re on the edge of sanity, eventually falling in as Murphy’s horrifying screams soundtrack your descent.

Lyrically the band like to leave a shroud of mystery over what stories are really being told, not ones to pull back the veil. The title itself comes from the ever looming gentrification and industrialisation of otherwise natural parts of the country. But it’s not only the ravaging of natural beauty that the band touch on, they also question the growing feeling of numbness to global events. “What’s your favourite war on TV? Just before you go to sleep, And then your favourite sitcom, Watch the tears roll down your cheek” asks Judge on “Global Groove”. And on closer “Pamphlets” the anxiety of social acceptance overwhelms Judge as he sings “I’ve got a brand new car right out my drive, But there’s pale bricks and white smiles, It’s why I don’t go outside”. You can’t compare so there’s no point trying to appease.

This album has everything you could want from a debut and more. It perfectly showcases every minute of detail the band meticulously places into their music, whilst leaving room for overly catchy and intoxicating choruses. They take influence from every genre under the sun and weld them all together into an automobile of sound that is ever chugging forward. They have made the perfect springboard for wherever and whatever they want to go and do next. It seems there’s no limits to what Squid can be and we hope there never will be.

You Nothing. – Lonely // Lovely Album Review

Floppy Dischi / Non Ti Seguo Records / Dotto – 2021

Finding a hidden gem in music is like finding a new friend later in life. You wonder how you got this long in life without knowing about them, yet feel instantly comfortable and in sync with everything they do. The same can be said about listening to this album. The debut release from Italian shoegaze/ dream-pop four piece You Nothing.

The bands ability to combine various sounds and styles into one cohesive, enjoyable listen is at the core of this album. Whether your taste leans towards the heavier end of shoegaze with the likes of Slow Crush and Nothing, you’ll be immediately welcomed by the intense and unforgiving driving riff of opener “Identity”. With its post-punk centric beat and rapid fire breakdowns it cascades you into full motion with an immediate drive. Then moving into ever expanding sonic landscapes on “Reflective” that bring about elements of Beach House’s dream infused sound with added kick drum. There’s an underlying melancholy to this sound that washes over you like an old memory of longing coming back to you late at night.

They also lean into elements of slowcore on “Sonder” with a devastating brutality. As the guitar lines battle out to see which can be the most devastating, you’re raced along the sonic speedway to a heartbreaking conclusion. As lead singer Gioia Podestà repeats the lines “Try again, fail again” you’re left to wallow in the feeling of despair, each repetition becoming more and more engrained in your psyche. These contemplations of anguish are a theme that runs throughout the album. On “Waves” Podestà sings “I’m feeling like a stranger tonight, like stepping out my body” as she tries to understand truth both in herself and of another.

Perhaps the most exciting part of listening to this album is realising that the band are on the cusp of greatness as each member and part feels ultimately succinct and forever moving forward at every moment. Even on the slower, more ethereal moments of this album like on the 80’s nostalgia fuelled “Closer” the band still feels vibrant with every sound. Every element of a Top Of The Pops classic is here, reverb drenched drums, sparkly synthesisers and catchy melodies. But bringing it all together is the bands eclectic personality. And their ability to switch from sound and genre seamlessly and coherently with each track is their greatest asset.

There isn’t really a moment on this album where you aren’t enjoying every movement and sound the band shifts and curves between. They bookend the album with intense, driven and head-bang worthy cuts that assure you leave the album as excited as you are when the opening riff kicks in. The punk moments have you wanting to reach out punch a fist in the air as you nod along to the beat whilst listening on the bus. And all the while you’re left in awe at the bands ability to surprise and evoke you at every moment.

girl in red – if i could make it go quiet Album Review

AWAL – 2021

Norweigan bedroom pop queer icon Marie Ulven aka girl in red has had quite the anticipation built up coming into this album. From her early days of releasing the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 EP’s Ulven gained a following for her catchy, warm and explosively queer bedroom pop recordings. She was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2020 Norwegian Grammy Awards and her singles “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” and “We Fell In Love In October” are certified gold in America. She now returns with her debut full length album that is bundled with queer love, open sexuality and more than a few infectious melodies.

The first thing you realise about this album is Ulven’s transition from breezy guitar tunes to weaving in elements of hyper pop to create ballads of love and longing. Following on the trend of the likes of Claud and beabadoobee, Ulven has made sure her sound is exciting as possible. From the moment this album starts with “Serotonin” you’re welcomed in with music that’s travelling at 100 miles an hour. Moving through passages of glowing riffs, rapped verses and distorted solos there’s never a moment you don’t feel like you want to run around in the rain whilst crying. And this explosive sound is one that continues throughout most of this album. On the candid “Did You Come” Ulver wastes no time building intensity over rolling beats, cascading guitars and downcast piano lines as she explores jealousy of sexual ability with an unreserved mark. “Roll your tongue, make her come 20 times, Don’t tell me to relax or try to get me back, I’m packing up you bag” she declares with an abrasive unforgiving drive. It’s in these candid moments that Ulven is gloriously defining a new generation of sexual identity by being openly plain-spoken.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this album is Ulven’s newfound anthemic songwriting flair. On “You Stupid Bitch” Ulven moulds together elements of pop punk and indie rock to create the ultimate lovesick banger. It’s chorus of “You stupid bitch, can’t you see, the perfect one for you is me” will be sure to be belted out by adoring fans at what will surely be an eventual big run of festival lineups. And on “Rue” Ulven blends turns the folk ballad outset into a dystopian ballad of intoxication. “I try to get it off my mind, to leave it all behind, don’t wanna make it worse, i’m gonna make it worse” she declares as the haunting soundscape around her builds. She’s locked into this connection that she knows is doomed to fail, yet strives at every moment to push it towards reality.

Even in its most tender moments Ulven brings every sound to devastating heights. On “midnight love” she builds through swaying layers of piano rolls and plucked guitars. All whilst the club-like beats pounds like a tender heart in the background, eventually crashing into a sea of impassioned and reverb drenched vocals. She even evokes the nostalgia of early 2000’s pop on “I’ll Call You Mine”, through its swinging beat, Ibiza dance floor infused slow burn chords and emphatic emotional bursts she turns tender longing into an assured queer anthem. With the climax finding that delicate balance between intensity and unrequited tenderness.

Towards the backend of this album though Ulven seems to reach an emotional plateau in which the heights and depths of the opening run of tracks seem to be dulled down and feel slightly underwhelming. On “Apartment 402” Ulven looks to lay find an answer as she contemplates her place in the world. But sonically this song doesn’t offer much else that hasn’t been heard earlier in the album, with the cascading soundscape and exaggerated piano. The intensity of the song never seems to reach its climax, rather just fading out after a few verses of beat driven disparity. And closer “it would feel like this” the album transitions into the closing credits as strutting violins swoon over a melancholic piano line that just feels slightly too awkward to big the closing finale of an album that’s built on emotional intensity. As if you’ve reached the peak of this emotional mountain and now are listening to the music in the elevator on the ride down.

With that being said it’s clear to see how and why Ulven has gained the level of acclaim she has up to this point. By spearheading a new generation of openly queer storytelling through power ballads of love and regret she’s furthering the movement of ability to love freely. And that’s what this album is at its core. A story of love, regret, longing and sexual frustration set to a backdrop of explosive soundscapes.

Juan Wauters – Real Life Situations Album Review

Captured Tracks – 2021

Juan Wauters is becoming as prolific as he is emphatic to listen to. This is his first full length album since 2019’s La Onda De Juan Pablo, with his Más Canciones de La Onda EP coming in between. At its core this album celebrates the many connections and friendships that Wauters has established over the years, both musical and personal. In our interview with Juan he said that the idea of this collaborative album came about after realising how many crossovers appear in rap music and wanting to do the same. He then enlisted a bunch of musical companions to make an album that breezes through hip-hop, Latin folk, indie rock, synth-wave and everything in between. Like walking through a contemporary club with various rooms of throwback disco, heavy hitting beats and laidback lounges, there’s something for everyone on here.

This album acts as almost a diary turned radio station of Wauters life through 2019 – 2020. The initial recordings were done before the pandemic started but as it was being completed suddenly all these connections that are captured on this album had to stop. And although we may never know what others could have happened, this fact simply just makes the cameos and features that much more special. From the synth-pop infused “Monsoon” featuring Homeshake and his signature style of digital landscapes, to the ballad turned folk “Real” with former label-mate Mac DeMarco there’s an underlying sense of joy within all these songs. In our interview with Juan he said “when I met with all these people to make the songs with, those were definitely real life situations” and you can hear this authenticity of sound throughout. Wauters mixes the home style recordings he’s become known for on the likes of “Carmina Pensá” with the symphonic “Powder” to create a collection of songs that have one core element tieing them all together, Wauters resoundingly vibrant personality.

One of the biggest influences Wauters had coming into this album was falling back in love with hip-hop, namely Outkast. There are course Wauters takes on hip-hop classics with the likes of the 90’s nostalgia driven “Unity” with Cola Boy. And “Presentation” with Nick Hakim and Benamin that’s beat would be a producers dream to sample. But the biggest influence perhaps comes in the way this album is tied together. Through various audio samples, field recordings and voice notes there’s a human element tied directly into this album. Almost like the skits found throughout hip-hop classics these moments not only introduce the album, but bring the real world into every aspect.

Fans of Wauters classic works haven’t been forgotten of course. There’s still flavours of Latin folk mixed into the playlist with the likes of “Estás Escuchando” featuring El David Aguilar that’s melody will be left floating around your head for weeks. And “Lion Dome” with Air Waves that’s as melancholic as it is encapsulating; getting lost in a song never felt any easier than this. It’s in these moments that you realise how far Wauters has come as an artist since the breezy days of “North American Poetry”. He’s kept true to his sound whilst also incorporating more and more expansive and vibrant songwriting. “You thought my music was like this, now you think my music is like that” Wauters declares on “Unity”.

Although this album was completed during lockdown it’s very much not a lockdown album. Rather a celebration and reflection on those connections we so dearly long for. It’s a joyous listen that only becomes more vibrant on each repeat. With it’s depth in styles and sounds you find a new favourite each and every time.

Benny Sings – Music Album Review

Stones Throw – 2021

Amsterdam native Tim van Berkestijn aka Benny Sings returns with his 8th studio album, Music, which also marks his second release on contemporary indie, jazz and electronic label Stones Throw Records. Up to this point if you’ve graced Benny’s music before you have become familiar with his tried and true approach to clean, funky and melodically rich style of piano driven sounds. On this new project he continues once again in this movement, but that doesn’t mean the magic has worn off just yet.

From the moment the opening chords of “Nobody’s Fault” kick in you know that this album is about to take you on a gloriously vibrant journey. With its upbeat groove and silky smooth production it’s simply hard not to get up and dance along to the infatuating melodies and harmonies. But look deeper into the song and you soon realise the juxtaposition of the swinging melody to the defeatist lyrics that seek to give comfort to those that try to hide their pain. And this contrast is one that appears frequently on this album. Going straight into “Here It Comes” the melancholic piano melodies and slugging beat have all the elements of a heartbreak ballad, but lyrically Benny is his most optimistic. Reminiscing in childhood happiness, he looks back at a time when he believed he could be anything. “When we move up the hill, I promise I will, Start to life that we dreamt of, I know it, I feel it” he sings with a subtle allure.

This subtlety is a trait that Benny has been using in his works for a number of years now and it seems like he’s perfected it on this album. On “Sunny Afternoon” Benny’s vocals offer an alluring border almost on spoken word, with minimalist melodic inflections being added in on the chorus as the layers of sound build. Even the chords are sparse over the motioning beat, but this only makes the eventual build of strings at the climax of the track that much sweeter. And on “Run Right Back” there’s so much untapped cool lying within the breezy reggae infused melody that it feels as though you’re floating on a cloud high up in the summers sky, watching the people below. Then as Cautious Clay comes in with a killer sax solo you can just feel the smoothness of this track seeping out at every corner, all whilst staying humbly grounded.

What sets this project apart from other Benny Sings albums is the variety not only in sound mixtures, from the neo-soul ballad of “Miracles” to the trap-funk tinged “Kids” with KYLE, but the collaborations that Benny sows throughout. The highlight of these being “Rolled Up” with Mac DeMarco, which we named as one of last years best songs. There’s so much of Benny and DeMarco’s individual personalities shining through on this track that it makes you wish they’d made a whole album. The woozy piano and stripped back guitar has every part of DeMarco’s latest album Here Comes The Cowboy mixed in over the joyously catchy melody. Then as Benny croons in over the simplistic synth rise you feel instantly elated just at the sound of his laid back voice as he grapples with self doubt. “Is this my life? It’s not too bad, Still I’m rolled up, tossed out” he declares, going back to the juxtapostion of melancholy over uplifting chords.

This is definitely a sparkly clean album that shines with a natural delight in its often tender and funk filled movements. If you’re a longtime Benny Sings fan this album will be everything you want and more. And if you’re a casual listener then prepared to enjoy the chattering piano lines of one of indie jazz’s most prolific artists.