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Jodie Brooksbank

TRACK RELEASE: Lucy Rose – ‘Conversation’

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK

‘Conversation’ is the first single to be released on Lucy Rose’s upcoming forth LP, ‘No Words Left’, due to be released later this year. It’s been 7 years since her first album and the days of doing backing vocals for Bombay Bicycle ClubLucy Rose was the twee, pixie-like singer, in her 20’s. She’s now a married woman in her 30’s – and the maturity shows.

It’s not just musically that her sound has developed, her vocals are definitely more assured, but still in the classic Rose understated way. There’s a lightness to her voice that has carried through her previous albums but it doesn’t get lost in the instrumentation. It blends and moves perfectly with the music.

As with every song she writes, the lyrics tell a story. Not obvious enough to sound cliché but not abstract enough that we can’t tell what she’s singing about. It seems to depict a failing relationship, one that needs time and dedication as she battles with conflicting emotions, she sings; “No-one loves me quite like you do/But no-one lets me down like you do.” The string section adds an extra layer of emotion and takes the song up a notch.


She’s always drawn comparisons to Laura Marling but I think the darker edge to this new single makes that comparison even more solid and less of a cop out just because they’re both women with acoustic guitars. Having said that, it does not mean the two are entirely indiscernible- Lucy has spent years forging a sound for herself and we are excited to see what else lies on this fourth album. A more mature sound and perhaps taking influence from her extensive travels as she is known to tour the lesser explored countries, and perhaps this will have an impact on her new music.

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LIVE: Ben Fenner @ Gullivers

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK

Ben Fenner’s first Manchester headline gig was a triumph. It was clear he had the support of the audience, it really did feel like 300 of his closest friends had turned out to support him. Support came from DIIVES; bringing Frank Turner-esque acoustic punk sounds, followed by Sam Leoh whose airy vocals and synth-y dream pop is reminiscent of CHVRCHES.

Fenner took to the stage with his 7-piece band including backing vocals. Each musician brought something unique and created an all-encompassing sound captivating the packed-out room by opening with 2017 single ‘Made to Love’ starting with sparse keys and leading to an explosive harmonic crescendo, it has slightly darker undertones than his other work but shares the same themes of heartbreak and lamentation.

Multiple times Fenner stopped mid-set to thank everyone for the support and to give background on the songs he’s written, it’s obvious that his heart and soul goes into the lyrics he writes, and it takes guts to share that on stage. He explains how ‘I’m Yours’ was the first song he ever wrote and how it led to him moving to Manchester to pursue music.

A break up was the catalyst to most of his songwriting which is what makes it so emotive and so universally relatable. A man excuses himself from the back of the room, picks his way through the crowd to in front of the stage just to shake Fenner’s hand and give words of encouragement. I think that sums up the feel of the entire show. It’s hard to deny that he has a good voice, it’s classically good, strong and impressive. Each song reaches a timely crescendo and his voice builds with the music, it’s a big sound and one which easily fills the venue.

A highlight for everyone seemed to be ‘Perfectly in Love’, his defining single from summer 2018. More upbeat but still as emotive as the rest of the set, he introduces it as a song which celebrates love in all its forms. It appears to resonate with everyone and bring the whole room together. Everyone chanted for more as Fenner exited the stage, but with nothing left to give but love and appreciation the gig was over. The vibe afterward was one of overwhelming goodwill and pride.

Fenner is London-born but now Manchester-based and the support from those he’s met in his *now* home city has led to features on BBC Introducing and having his first packed out headline Manchester show this early on in 2019 at Gullivers NQ it seems a sure-fire that he’ll continue on to sell out venues and most importantly, create music that people connect to.a

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LIVE: SABOTAGE XMAS @ Jimmy’s

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK     PHOTOS BY CONNOR WHELAN

Beers were flowing, Christmas hats were being worn and good times were had. The crowd was engaged and excited, there was a general feel, as there always is in December, that everyone was in the party spirit – it is the most wonderful time of the year after all.

Cave Girl is first on, bringing their psychedelic, indie-glam vibes to Jimmy’s. Swirling, all-encompassing guitar riffs coupled with prominent drums and cool snarling vocals. Their debut self-titled single is out now and is well worth a listen. They’ve nailed their sound, it’s familiar enough to be immediately on board with and fresh enough to feel new.

Spilt were next up, Runcorn grunge/psychedelia fusion, they’ve recently supported MCR Live favourite, Halifax band, The Orielles. They’ve also played with iconic LA surf rock four-piece, FIDLAR. Singer Mo brings raw onstage energy and an impressive presence. With heavy, dirty guitar riffs, they’ve established themselves as an exciting new band. They’ve already released their scuzzy singles onto their SoundCloud and live, they were truly captivating.

Headliners, Good Foxy appears to have taken influence from the halcyon rock of the ’70s with obvious and welcomed nods to The Doors and Led Zeppelin. Hailing from Clitheroe, they brought big retro guitar riffs to the northern quarter. Atmospheric and almost dreamy, their set feels kind of like being on an acid trip, in the best way possible. They’re a little bit bluesy, a little bit psychedelic and a lot of fun. Their 2015 self-titled album is in desperate need of a follow-up and we’re beyond excited to see what they do next.

The night was a rousing and apt send-off for Sabotage’s last gig of the year. Their next gig will be in February at The Castle Hotel with Deja Vega, Psyence and Deh – Yey. See you in the queue.

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LIVE: Julia Jacklin @ YES

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK

The Manchester date was sandwiched between London and Glasgow, the second night of a three date exclusive UK tour, Julia Jacklin plays the basement at YES. She takes to the stage and has an all-encompassing, enchanting quality that endears her to the crowd. Throughout the set the Sydney based singer’s vocals are technically impressive. Haunting but with a sense of raw urgency that makes her so captivating.

She opens the set with ‘Body’, deeply emotional and moody. The lyrics, “I said I’m gonna leave you/I’m not a good woman when you’re around” create a stark picture of heartbreak and loss. She smoothly transitions into the second song of her set, ‘Eastwick’, her 2017 single of grieving and sadness. There’s a certain calmness that falls over the audience as it feels as if we’ve been washed over by a quiet, blissful nostalgia.

She plays a few new songs mid set. The first of which she introduces as ‘Pressure to Party’ it’s more upbeat than her past work but still has the same sense of underlying melancholy with a strong bassline and relatable, human lyrics that explore forced conversation, trying to fit in and giving into peer pressure. The next is called ‘Good Guy’ it’s gentler and slower than the previous song and the lyrics “Tell me I’m the love of your life/Just for a night/Even if you don’t feel it” are sung passionately, almost desperately.

 

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Later on in the set before playing another new track, ‘Don’t know how to keep on loving you’ she announces that her new album, ‘Crushing’ is set to be released February next year and she speaks of the awkwardness of ‘having to do press’ telling the crowd that she is continually asked- “There’s a lot of women making great records right now, do you feel like you’re part of a movement?” she timidly explains that maybe she is. She’s been grouped in with the likes of Phoebe Bridges, Big Thief, Molly Burch and Julien Baker and rightly so, there are many brilliant female vocalists creating wistful atmospheric folk music and Jacklin appears to be at the forefront.

Support came from Jade Imagine, who later joined Jacklin during the encore to provide close harmonies and their voices blend perfectly. After such an intense and emotive set, Julia allows herself to get carried away, Jade appears at ease as she dances and leans into the mic for the soprano harmonies. Jacklin is visibly having a good time as she grins between the chorus and the verse, importantly, their clear joy does not detract from the song’s message.

After hearing Jacklin debut the new songs from her forthcoming album it is clear that she has honed her craft and can hold her own amongst the female folk singers of this generation. People leave the basement of YES crying and discussing life’s intricacies with their friends. There’s a sense of community and a definite excitement surrounding Jacklin’s music.

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LIVE: Matt Maltese @ Band On The Wall

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK      PHOTOS BY REBECCA CRIBB

Matt Maltese wooed Band On The Wall with songs from his latest album ‘Bad Contestant’. Opening with ‘Guilty’ he showcases his tongue-in-cheek lyrics with an alternative sense of romance – “8am and my poor heart sure feels tender”. Sensitive and wise beyond his years, he’s been ushered into the genre of Schmaltzcore along with his counterpart, Tom Misch. Jaunty piano riffs and dark humour-filled lyrics are metaphorically splendid and very reminiscent of Father John Misty.

Support came from FUR, their dreamy guitar riffs swirled around the iconic Manchester venue. They play dreamy DIY pop with a folky edge which acts as a perfect warm up for Matt Maltese. Backed with dreamy heart shaped lighting, it seemed Maltese was making an almost ironic statement as he sung of Shakespearean-style heartbreak. He expertly tackles themes of melancholy and depression; with these themes immaculately depicted on the sardonically named album ‘Comedic Life’.

‘Greatest Comedian’ is a set highlight, which is slightly rockier and breaks up the ballad-heavy setlist. With a fuzzy bass-line, whirring guitars and melodic backing vocals it brings the set to an undeniable peak. It also allows Maltese to leave his keyboard behind and be up on his feet for the first and last time in the set.

Before giving a rousing and emotive performance, ‘As the World Caves In’ he introduces it by saying, “this is about being eighteen and heartbroken”. The theme echoes that of Father John Misty’s ‘I Love you, Honeybear’, with dramatic declarations of love, he builds up a perfect picture of theatrical romance with “Yes it’s you I welcome death with/As the world caves in” but there’s a sad sense of unrequitement.

Endearing himself to the Mancunian audience he tells a story of when he’d agreed to go ice skating with his mother but it was the morning after a bender and “taking too much of a stupid drug”. He seems so human and has an undeniable gift for summing up the intricacies and sometimes just plain ridiculous parts of human existence. His stories and lyrics of one night stands, love triangles and giving into peer pressure enchant the crowd with their overwhelming realness.

Although he seems to be an old soul, Maltese captures the confusion and sense of “fumbling through life” which is so familiar to anyone in their early 20s. There’s a comfort to his words and a sense of unity amongst his fans, which is sorely needed in a time of such uncertainty.

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LIVE: Lucy Dacus @ YES | 28.10.18

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK        PHOTO BY DUSTIN CONDREN

With Fenne Lily as the support slot, Lucy Dacus astounded at YES. Sonically tight and with perfectly crafted songs, Lily had a courteous on-stage presence, something reminiscent of Laura Marling’s early days – wise beyond her years but still holding a youthful charisma. The audience were receptive and attentive as Lily announced mid-song that she’s suffering with tonsillitis. She explained that she’d subconsciously curated the set-list to be a chronological telling of her life, introducing ‘Top To Toe‘ and endearing the crowd to her by saying, “this is about being fifteen and sad.” She jokes that her songs are now just ‘muscle memory’ and she doesn’t really care about them anymore, but her performance made it clear that this isn’t the case.

There is an air that we’re all in this together as Lily sings of heartbreak, prefacing her songs by explaining how she was dumped. You get the feeling that you’re catching up with an old friend. Even when Lily plays new songs mid-set, the crowd listen intently, there’s no shuffling and chatting as is often the case when musicians decide to play fresh material.

Lily’s set peaked with ‘Brother’, which felt transcendent and poignant and ‘More Than You Know‘ swept the crowd away as the lyrics “Cause lately I’ve felt a change/Maybe there’s a truth to fear” echoed through the room. She referenced the fact they were playing the pink room at YES and her bassist played the opening cords to p!nk’s ‘So What’ which adds to the ‘we’re all friends here’ vibe and strangely, left the crowd wanting more.

 

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“Make me invincible, invisible or brain dead” – Lucy Dacus

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Lucy Dacus appeared confident on stage, letting her songs do all the talking. Musically, she sounds similar to her female contemporary Mitski but brings an extra level of emotion and rawness. Not one to shy away from highly personal themes, her lyrics, revolve around small town living, feeling trapped, coping with grief and falling into old vices are familiar and relatable, her songs feel very human.

‘Green Eyes, Red Face’ from her debut album – ‘No Burden’ – is a particular highlight. The Manchester audience were enthralled when she sang, “I’ve got plenty of affection/I’d be glad to show you some time.” She masterfully strings together haunting melodies and heart-felt lyrics. She closes out with ‘Historians’ and there’s a compelling realness to her slightly ‘rough around the edges’ approach, no frills or gimmicks just everything in its right place. Both Dacus and Lily have nailed their distinct styles, each with a certain intimacy and immediacy, there was an obvious love and appreciation between the two artists and the whole live show was an absolute pleasure to watch.

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LIVE: Snail Mail @ YES | 24.10.18

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK         PHOTOS BY PIRAN ASTON

Snail Mail played the pink room at YES and the hue of the soft rose-coloured lighting matched their daydream style. After the success of her debut album, ‘Lush’ and with Pitchfork describing her as having the ‘emo soulfulness’ of Hayley Williams and the ferocity of Fiona Apple, the general consensus is that Snail Mail brings together elements of true indie rock but fetches them up to date by giving them a modern edge.


Support comes in the form of the acoustically themed, dream pop songstress Hachiku. Cutting a similar figure to the headline act, the Melbourne indie kid ignites the memory of being a coy, awkward teenager within most of the audience at the new Manchester venue. But of course, her disarmingly selfless comments are aired through her hypnotic shoegazer sound, instead of being scrawled into a creased up journal.

Snail Mail take stage as American native Lindsey and her band open with ‘Heat Wave’, which immediately grips the audience whilst the teenager appeared at ease on stage. When speaking to the crowd between songs she was refreshingly self-aware, playing on her slight awkwardness and apologising for her intense touring schedule straining her voice.

After ‘going too hard’ the previous night, Lindsey sounded raspy, giving more oomph to her usual dreamy, wispy vocals. The raw vocals gave poignant meaning to the chorus of hit ‘Pristine’ with “I’ll never love anyone else” making it hard to ignore the emotion behind the lyrics. Having previously played Gullivers earlier in the year, Snail Mail’s lo fi bedroom pop was perfectly suited to the size and the aesthetic of the pink room.

Skilfully blending indie guitar riffs with soft vocals Snail Mail enchanted the sold-out Manchester crowd. Spearheading the indie rock renaissance along with the likes of Soccer Mommy, Adult Mom and (Sandy) Alex G, the 19-year-old Maryland native is definitely one to watch.

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