Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth Album Review

House Anxiety Records – 2021

Genesis Owusu, born Kofi Owusu-Ansah brings about his debut album that is packed full of twists and turns, sights and sounds, and messages of hope that seek to highlight racial injustices and mental health struggles. This album is said to be a document of 12 months of Owusu as an artist and that statement rings true in every aspect. Not only does this album secure Owusu as one of the most exciting new rappers/ pop stars/ funk singers/ any other label you can fit him under, but it sets firmly in stone his statement as an artist that has no limits.

Over the course of this album Owusu shifts through various styles and sounds almost seamlessly. Whether he’s dabbling in R&B on the sensual “Centrefold” or a more psychedelic jazz sound on “Waitin’ For Ya”, there’s a clear level of excellence that passes through every corner of this album. The recording of this album was made with an in house band that consisted of Kirin J. Callinan (who delivers a fantastic vocal performance on “Dive”), Touch Sensetive, Julien Sudek and producer Andrew Klippel, and although each of these artists come from various backgrounds of genres respectively, they unite seamlessly on each track to create an album that subverts these genres. You can hear the influence of styles that Owusu is drawing from, with tracks like the grinding “The Other Black Dog” having the similar synth drives and beats that Yves Tumor packed into their Heaven To A Tortured Mind last year. But thanks to Owusu’s dexterous performances on every track he makes them his own.

His vocal performances are perhaps the greatest aspect of this album that help unite the ever shifting sounds that back them. On “Gold Chains” his smooth melodies dance blissfully over the chorus synthesiser, but then once he enters the almost spoken word rap passages of the chorus you’re left clinging on to every word and syllable as they roll seamlessly from him. Even on the heaviest of moments like the punk infused “Black Dogs!” Owusu feels authentic in every role he takes. He spouts the grinding verses with perfect conviction and then flawlessly switches to his smooth falsetto on the chorus without missing a beat.

This phrase of “Black Dogs” is one that is repeated throughout the album and is Owusu’s way of characterising racism and depression. But it’s not as if Owusu is trying to portray these issues as any less real than they are, but giving them this gothic persona allows the horror of each to shine out. On “I Don’t See Colour” Owusu questions how “somehow my actions represent a whole race” as he describes being watched at the mall simply because of his appearance. And on “Whip Cracker” he holds accountable those who have been still allowed a platform despite their racist views. “Why you askin’ why I’m so jaded?, Who forgot your thoughts on the races?” he questions. Moving then to declare “This ain’t the 50s, you ain’t talkin’ shit” as he reminds these people just how outdated their views are.

The other ‘Black Dog’ of depression is viewed in a few lights on this album. The title track of the album “Smiling With No Teeth” distills the notion of how Owusu puts on a face for everyone that sees him “Slathering honey on our demons for the palate of the apathetic”. He’s covering up his true feelings for those that see him but deep down the depression is tearing away at him until he’s left “Smiling with no teeth”. But once we reach the end of the album on the likes of “No Looking Back”, Owusu is facing his depression with only progression in sight. “I tell myself that, there’s no looking back, I lost the light in those years, locked myself in those tears” he confirms over the yacht-rock style melodies and keys. And this lighter, more free flying sound backs up this feeling of becoming more positive in his outlook.

Perhaps the unsung hero of this album is producer Andrew Klippel, who creates such vibrant and expansive sound palettes that on some listens you just want to focus on what’s happening in the background. Whether it’s the glitch-pop beats of opener “On The Move!”, the cut-up dancing sampled chorus vocals on “Centrefold” or the 70’s Chic-esque funk infused switch up on “Whip Cracker”, there’s so many diverse and interesting moments of sound design that you hope that at some point an instrumental version of this album gets released. That’s not to take anything away from Owusu’s vocals, after all these songs were written by him, but the two aspects individually are equally as versatile; put together they make something truly remarkable.

Being 15 tracks long and standing at just over the 50 minute mark, this album certainly comes packed with a lot. However it’s not as though any of that time is wasted or left as filler. There’s moments within songs here and there that could be shortened or trimmed, but as a complete project this album has so much to digest that the run-time is completely justified. And hey, were certainly not complaining of more Genisis Owusu, in fact, we can’t wait to hear how he expands on this sound next. For the time being though lets keep getting lost in this debut borrows from many different times, but is sure to stand the test of time.

Introducing: REAVE

Reave are the new synth-pop trio you need on your radar. With influences ranging from some of the contemporary greats to classic artists, they hone in their sound with familiarity whilst simultaneously being immediately captivating. Made up of Brandon Darby, Rory Ward & Enya Philips, based in Manchester and London, together they join to make the type of music that just makes you want to get up and boogie as soon as it comes on, whilst concurrently being heartbreaking at their core. Backed by glistening beats and swaying synths, lead singer Enya’s dreamy vocals wash through and shine out of every mix, evoking similar stylings to that of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. They released “One More Night” back in January, the band’s fifth single and are already planning for what’s next. We spoke to the band to get the lowdown on what they’re all about.

What drew each you to music and how did you get into it?

Brandon – I grew up in a very music loving family, my parents had been going to gigs all their lives and were also into the early 90s house/rave scene, going to the hacienda etc. So I think that has had probably brought me towards music. Apart from that it’s just a type of creating that attracted me.

Rory – I listened to the Smiths a lot when I was younger and I was fascinated by the melodies of Johnny Marr, since then I had to learn every Smiths song.

Enya – I grew up in a very musical family, I watched all my siblings perform and make music growing up. They taught me everything I know and I’ve got them to thank for being able to do anything music related. My parents were in a band together and threw us into pretty much every musical class when we were younger! So I think the familiarity drew me into it, it’s all I’ve ever known and is kind of a safe space for me. 

How did the band form?

It started out as a project to create synth music and we eventually saw the potential of having a female vocalist over the music. Once we met Enya and we tried a few ideas, REAVE was formed.

How would you describe your sound?

We try invoke a certain danceable and evocative energy into our music and nostalgic sounds, if that’s even possible. Electric but soft and moody. A Concoction of multiple influences but rooted in the synth-pop music and soundtracks of the 1980’s (without being too cliche 80’s) but with quirky and modern sounding lyrics/vocals. Make of that what you will, haha.

What’s the creative process behind a song?

When we’ve developed an instrumental, Enya has a go at the melody and lyrics from the feelings/vibe she gets from the track. When we’ve decided on something, the vocals are recorded and anything else that fits the track with the new vocal (like new guitar parts) are added before mixing. We spend a lot of time perfecting the sounds but the idea for the track can come really quickly and after that it’s sort of a blur how each song comes to fruition.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Enya – There are way too many to list but to name a few: Tame impala, Euthrymics, Grimes, Talking Heads, Happy Monday, The human league, New order, Yazoo, Modern talking, GL, Sylvan Esso, Methyl ethyl, Porches, Harvey Causon, Robyn, Jack Garratt, James Blake, Franc Moody, Duo Mundi 

Rory – The Smiths, Gorillaz, Pixies

Brandon – Its ever changing and there’s always new ones im picking up on but to name a few: Bowie, Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Johnny Jewel, Vangelis, Julee Cruise, Pure X, Michel Berger, Sharon Van Etten, Pink Floyd, Future Islands, Austra, Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, P. Cowley, John Maus, Moroder, MBV, Ride, Erik Satie, Tamaryn, Wire, Black Marble etc. Mostly dark, melancholic music with gothic undertones 

If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?

Brandon – Beach House would be insane because I feel like the vibes could compliment each other nicely, even though we are different. The lights and effects at their gigs are so cool too, would love to play while being engulfed in blue mist.

Rory – MGMT because it’ll be a good show.

Enya – Tame impala because they are such an inspiration. Almost wouldn’t feel worthy to support them hahaha.

Favourite concert you’ve been to?

Brandon – Hard to choose one – my top three are Beach House, John Maus & Tamaryn

Rory – The Cure

Enya – James Blake but Jack Garratt / Franc moody are a close second.

Favourite show you’ve played?

We unfortunately haven’t had the privilege yet, although individually we have all played live as solo or with bands before.

What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?

Well it’ll be our first gig as REAVE so it’ll be a great experience we reckon.

Any future musical plans after the new single?

Release more singles, an album & play shows eventually. We can’t wait to get together and have a jam in person.

Where would you like to be in a years time musically?

Brandon – Be in the middle of nowhere in a studio recording new tracks

Rory – I would like to own a grand piano!

Enya – Playing and making music together!! In the flesh!!  

If people want to find out more about you where should they go? 

Check out or Instagram, Spotify or give us a search on google.. 

Goat Girl unveil the magic behind their mystifying second album: “We just jam it out. Jam sandwich”

Photo by Holly Whitaker

Hailing from South London, a part of the Windmill Brixton generation, a venue that has been the catalyst for so many big names of modern indie such as Shame, Sorry and Tiña. Goat Girl have spent the last few years establishing themselves as one of the most talked about and exciting post-punk, indie and every other label they can be put under bands. Their debut album Goat Girl was nominated for the Mercury Prize back in 2018, a sign of true artistic brilliance in itself.

This Friday they release their long anticipated sophomore album On All Fours. An album that focuses on the tribulations of the modern day, from climate change to racism in the media to entitled men. But whilst the album takes on the world, the band gives you an insight to their own world through an unbridled amount of intimacy of personal stories of struggles with mental health and the emotive weight that isolation can have on someone. Without knowing it Goat Girl created one of the most 2020 albums possible before the year had really began.

Their sound has also evolved to take on a more smooth, jazzy and vibrantly expansive feel. Synthesisers at their helm, there’s a new found collaborative and groove fuelled tint to the bands sound, whilst still retaining that signature flair of moodiness. Thanks in part to new bassist Holly Hole who introduced the band to her Minilogue synth and to Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, the synth wizard himself, who let the band take residence inside his lair of bubbling and explosive synthesisers. We spoke to the band to give us the lowdown on the ingredients that they brewed together to make their mystifying second album.

What does the title ‘On All Fours’ mean or represent? 
L.E.D: It means a lot of things…and it can mean anything you like. But to me, there’s a strong connotation of animalism. It explores the way in which we’re humans, and therefore disparate from the natural world, and on the other hand, we are also so undeniably a part of the natural world – for all of its beauty, glory and gore. 

Opener “Pest” is about the casual racism that is used within the media as well as the “powers that be” controlling our lives on a daily basis. Were there any particular moments that inspired this song?

 L.E.D: Lottie wrote that song when she read a headline that labelled a storm the ‘beast from the east’. It’s about the propaganda that we in the west are fed, in order for us to believe that environmental issues are a ‘foriegn’ thing, with foreign roots, rather than addressing the fact that the west has a lot to answer for in terms of the climate crisis, as well as humanitarian struggles.

One theme that is consistent throughout the album is self worth and finding ways to deal with issues of mental health and anxieties. What’s the importance to you about talking openly about your mental health in songs?

L.E.D: For ‘tough’ topics like mental health to be buried, sensored and avoided only makes things worse. Everyone struggles, because we are human, but if only we shared our struggles, rather than burying it, and never asking for help, we might be able to heal a bit better from trauma, stress, depression, you name it. I think one of the best things that we can do for others and ourselves is to talk openly about how we feel because through communication comes understanding, empathy, and love. People love helping each other, and you’re never alone, but we have to be reminded of this!

In the writing process for “Jazz ( In The Supermarket” you all switched instruments and for “A-Men” the theme is about coming out of your comfort zone. In doing this do you feel it unlocked part of your creativity as a band and songwriters that you wouldn’t have otherwise? 

L.E.D: Definitely. I think we all became a bit complacent with our usual instruments – feeling like we didn’t know how to play anything that sounded fresh and exciting, so having a break from the usual instruments and switching round definitely helped get that fresh feeling, as well as get excited again about our original instruments.  

What was it like working with Dan Carey as producer? And what did he help bring to the album?

L.E.D: He bought so much! We worked closely with him doing pre-production; using his MPC drum machine which was programmed in time, and included some time changes within some songs. This made it feel more natural for rosy to drum along to (rather than a metronome), and therefore made the album sit in a more electronic world than our first album, without too much sonic rigidity. Dan’s studio is like a dream come true – a world of tangled wires, synths, drum machines, amazing vintage guitars and boutique amps just waiting for you to mess around with and find stuff you like. There’s very much a sense of exploration rather than domination with Dan’s production style. He’s happy to suggest things (and he’s usually right), but he allows everyone to make their own choices with moulding the live sound they want to capture. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CJ84cemnuSU/

The album features a lot more synthesisers than your debut, what was it about these sounds that drew you towards them? 

L.E.D: When Holly joined the band, she introduced us to the minilogue synth (Kylie). This was like an exciting new toy to us guitar heads that were used to having our heads in our pedal boards, amps, and midi keyboards. Rosy is a hidden gem when it comes to keys as well. The interludes on the first album were based around piano songs that Rosy wrote. We all love electronic music, and our home demos often sit more in the electronic world because we’re using Logic to record them, so it was natural for this to shine through in the album. Lottie uses synths loads in her own music too. I (Ellie) got a Yamaha CS Reface which is a really great first synth for a guitarist because there’s no presets, so it’s more like using a pedal board in a way, and experimenting with the knobs til you find something you like. I used to think you have to have this in-depth technical electronic knowledge to play synth, but that’s just not the case. 

The vocals in “Jazz ( In The Supermarket)” were inspired by Bulgarian folk choir, what other inspirations did you have for the sound of this album? 

I (ellie) was particularly inspired by the current UK jazz scene in my guitar playing. I got bored of the standard indie guitar chords. There’s so much great stuff out there at the moment – from Alfa Mist, Demae, Ego Ella May, Yazmin Lacey, to name a few. There’s also a big cross over of jazz in india right now, which is one of my favourite sounds – that kind of loungey/ psych soul, with bands like Crumb, Sault, Holy Hive, and Alice Pheobe-Lou, and KerenDun. Then there’s a load of electronic stuff that I was influenced by like Steve Spacek, Shigeto, Sneaks, keyah/blu and Channel Tres; I see these artists as exerting a kind of dark euphoria, with a gothic undertones, which I relate to and seek to craft myself.

How as a band do you draw together to get each others unique influence to create such a vibrant sound?

 We just jam it out. Jam sandwich 

The Windmill in Brixton has played an important part in becoming who you are as a band today. What does this venue mean to you and as part of the independent scene as a whole?

L.E.D: I’d say it’s our musical home, for sure. We were kind of born there (as a band) if you like, and spent our formative years there. There’s a certain atmosphere with The Windmill that makes you feel welcome and able to be yourself and express yourself freely. This is something that I’ve seldom found elsewhere in London venues.