Loyle Carner‘s debut album Yesterday’s Gone was a fantastic record that established Carner as one of the UK’s most intriguing rappers. He writes biographical and often poignant lyrics which take an introspective look in to his life. His flows are at a slower pace than other MC’s, as if he’s taking as much time as possible to choose the perfect word, or the perfect line to best describe a thought, observation or moment.
On his latest single, Loose Ends, Loyle has enlisted the help of Jorja Smith, who recently won the Brit Award for ‘British Female Solo Artist’ after her critically acclaimed debut album, Lost & Found. The track starts with Smith’s typically striking vocals, she has a habit of making her high notes seem effortless. There’s a remorseful and emotive feeling to the song, created by the downcast piano notes and the simplistic, rhythmic drumming track. Loyle‘s vocals take centre stage, he uses his conventional, thoughtful flow, paced expertly by his habitual “uh’s”, which are little bits of vocalisation he uses to help space out the lyrics.
The track sees Loyle speak about some of the downsides of his success, which has seen him fly all over the world, but means that he hasn’t been able to keep up with friends and loved ones as well as he’d like. “I feel ashamed, I know there ain’t no savin’ away. They went astray, I went to Australia, so what am I supposed to say to ’em?” Overall, Loose Ends is a fantastic blend or soul and rap. It’s brought together two of the UK’s finest young talents and is one hell of a powerful match. This is the third single Carner has released in the last five months, and he’s heading out on tour next month, which is hopefully a sign that he will be releasing a follow-up to Yesterday’s Gone soon.
Due to growing frustrations and worries of a career seemingly stalling, Rebecca Taylor, formerly one half of Slow Club, left behind folk to create a pop/R&B music project. Thus, Self Esteem was born, with Rebecca releasing her debut album Compliments Please on March 1st, to critical acclaim.
They band come out and go straight in to Rollout, the stage is lit in a radiant red and so are the band in all red top/trouser combinations. Every member apart from Rebecca is wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “believe in women” and female empowerment is a key theme throughout the set. Rollout sees Rebecca assert a dominant stage presence, she is front and centre, as they begin going through choreographed dance sections, that aren’t exactly strenuous but none the less are perfect visual aids to the grooves of the songs. It was interesting to note that when the backing singers weren’t needed, they stood perfectly still and expressionless, as if they were androids in low power mode. This suited the mix of electronic R&B on wrestling perfectly.
The longer the set went on, the more endearing Taylor became, her sense of sarcastic humour winning over the crowd by being naturally disarming. At one point saying, “this is the Self Esteem live experience, lets keep doing it I suppose”. At one point she notes that she’s been going through the set too quickly, so resorts to asking the crowd what they for tea. Out of the various answers, Risotto is the answer that strikes her as the oddest, the whole moment feeling like a off-kilter fourth wall break.
Taylor still hasn’t quite left behind all of her folk roots, the track Girl Crush sees the singers lay down finger clicks as a kind of makeshift bass line, mixed with some soaring fiddle parts in the backing track. A lot of the tracks off of Compliments Please dealt with Taylor‘s sense of identity, in both a sense of doubt and contrastingly in a sense of self-positivity. Self Esteem‘s live show focuses more on the positive aspects, in fact it is an experience of unbridled joy.
The performance of In Time is a monumental moment of bliss. Rebecca‘s vocals are completely transparent, she sings with a booming, crystal clear clarity. A singalong starts and Taylor breaks her composure occasionally to laugh in disbelief at the overwhelmingly positive reception from the crowd. “I feel like Robbie Williams“, she exclaims before starting The Best. There are further moments of disbelief and outbursts of laughter before they go off for the encore. The reciprocal joy felt between both audience and artist was quite remarkable to behold.
Taylor comes back, almost in tears and says, “is this what getting married feels like?”, the first track in the encore is Favourite Problem, which has a gloriously anthemic chorus, especially with the triple threat of the vocalists in full swing. The highlight of the night was the final song, I’m Shy, which was performed in the middle of the crowd acoustically. It was a truly special moment to end a special night, a real focus on mesmeric vocal highs that brought the room to a standstill. The band members form a makeshift conga line and leave the room. It was a stunning set that gathered more and more joyous momentum the longer it went on, it was a shame that they had to end their set.
It’s looking like 2019 is going to be a crucial year for London-based singer/songwriter NilüferYanya. Her debut album, titled Miss Universe is scheduled for release on March 22nd. The record will feature an ambitious and intriguing thematic premise, that of a shady fictional company called ‘WWayHealth (We Worry About Your Health)’. The premise influenced by one of Nilüfer‘s favourite TV shows, Charlie Brooker‘s dystopian and often misleading anthology series, Black Mirror.
Tears is the second single released by Nilüfer this year after In Your Head, a track which instantly became one of the artists’ best songs and featured some of her strongest hooks to date. On her earlier tracks, Nilüfer utilised the technique of leaving ’empty’ space in the backing to some of her tracks, which I found to be a bit hit and miss. At times it could add tension, as you waited for the next note to be played, but sometimes it just left a couple of her songs lacking any kind of tangible punch. But on the 2019 singles, that space has been filled, Tears has a stuttering, jumbled synth-pop backing that never feels empty, instead of giving the impression that it’s constantly evolving.
The song sees Yanya accepting past mistakes and coming to realise what she really appreciates. I really enjoy her vocal delivery, her London accent adds character to her vocals and it gives a lot of her vocal highs a unique twist, particularly on the song’s chorus. Towards the end of the track, the synth backing becomes more and more distorted, sounding like something halfway between a computer malfunction and a video game glitch. Overall, it’s another really promising single, Nilüfer is building up a lot of positive momentum now and her album Miss Universe has become one of my most anticipated debuts of the year.
You may know ELIZA from her old pseudonym, Eliza Doolittle, which she dropped after her 2013 album, In Your Hands. Her flirtatious brand of pop has been swapped out for sultry R&B, allowing her to become even more of a temptress. She released an album back in December and has taken to the path of self-releasing, something which is becoming an evidently more popular trend, the most notable self-releasing artist being Chance The Rapper. Going out on a UK tour gave ELIZA a chance to show people the vision behind her new project in the flesh.
ELIZA comes on stage, adorned in a skin-tight dress and a red glove over her right hand, she’s ready to go and attempts to perform Game, but the microphone isn’t working. In fact none of the vocalists microphones are working and there’s a lot of confusion, before ELIZA has to go off stage. She tells the crowd to go for a drink as they sort out the technical issues. It was a factor that was out of ELIZA‘s hands and was an embarrassing blip for one of Manchester’s stand out venues. After about 15 minutes, the problem is solved, there’s still a hint of anxiety in ELIZA‘s performance, but by the end of the track she’s back to full confidence, providing the crowd with a shoulder shimmy or two.
All credit to ELIZA, she didn’t let the technical glitch hamper the rest of her performance, “let the show go on”, she says triumphantly. They play All Night, which changes the dynamic of the gig completely, the change from slight anxiety to full on vibing in the room happens faster than a click of the fingers. When performing Loveable, ELIZA sings some really soft, yet still incredibly effecting high notes, helped by her backing vocalists who harmonise in tandem in the background. The instrumentals are extremely minimal, a bass guitar and drum kit set the tone of the evening, creating a slow, smoke-screened backing track. The whole crowd is moving along to the groove, ELIZA tells the crowd that this is exactly what she envisaged her shows would be like, she wanted people to, “move all slinky” and slinky is definitely an accurate description.
There’s are a few choreographed dance sequences throughout the set, nothing too strenuous but each one is met with shouts and screams of affection. The track Livid is an ode to the intimacy and vulnerability involved with sex, it sees ELIZA describe making love with her partner as a form of escapism from the outside world. It comes across as a beautiful interpretation of what sex should be. The more the set goes on, the more she gets in to her stride. At times seemingly prowling and patrolling the stage, marking it as her own territory. There are shows of discontent from both ELIZA and the crowd, as it seems as though they’re going to cut the set short.
She refuses to cut it and goes back to performing with a beaming smile. Alone & Unafraid receives a fantastic reception, there’s a symbiotic rapport between artist and audience, the bass line managing to create a fantastically nocturnal atmosphere. “You never met a girl like me”, ELIZA sings during the final song of the night, Wasn’t Looking. She plays the part of a seductress, there isn’t a man she can’t have and she wanders the stage with a confident air of swagger. It was such a shame that she had to endure technical problems at the beginning of the night, but all credit to ELIZA she did not let it knock her performance. It was a treat of an R&B show, wrapped in mystique and seduction and on International Women’s Day, ELIZA showed herself as a strong, inspiring female character.
Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness is Yak‘s sophomore album, coming almost three years after their debut record Alas Salvation. British indie music has had mixed fortunes of late, not many of the artists can really claim to be making music that’s very original or thought-provoking, a lot of them relying on re-hashing the sounds of old, to keep hold of a demographic fiercely loyal to anything with a guitar in it. This isn’t to say that all British indie bands are terrible, quite the opposite, you just have to wade through a swamp of mediocrity to get to the good stuff. I am here to tell you whether the new Yak album belongs in the swamp, or the green grass beyond it.
The first sound you’ll hear on this record, is that of a pan flute on Bellyache, used to signal the start of the industrious and mechanical repetition of, “you’re tired of greedy bodies”. The song’s lyrics point towards gluttony within society, the belief that money is power and once we get money we want more and more and more. Perhaps it could be perceived as a slight jab at capitalism. The track is erratic, there are ever so slight elements of psychedelia buried deep within the sound, under the brash riffs. Starting off slowly, Fried bursts into a more volatile and chaotic punk-rock track, boasting riffs that remind me of last years Shame record Songs Of Praise.
Words Fail Me sees singer Oliver Burslem being unable to open up and express his feelings in key moments. It features some really crisp and momentous orchestral sections, which pop up every so often throughout the run-time. They peak during the songs outro and it makes for a thrilling climax, but before we get to that point, the track is such a slow-burner that It’s doesn’t really justify the buildup to get to the momentary climax. In contrast, Blinded By The Lies is a non-stop adrenaline rush, the guitar riffs shred to the effect of an incoming stampede, as the lyrics point a middle-finger towards people of upper-class backgrounds who are drawn to big cities like bees to a hive. On one bridge, Oliver screams, “Kick em’ in the face!” over and over, while the drum-kit sounds as though its being butchered by a mace, it’s beautifully violent, one of the most satisfying kicks in the eardrum you will ever have.
Then there’s a rather pointless interlude track, that is honestly on the album for no real reason other than to fill space, there’s nothing particularly interesting about it at all. But then we’re straight back to where Blinded By The Lies dropped us off, with the equally vicious White Male Carnivore. But aside from having some gloriously animalistic hooks, what impresses me most about this song is the lyricism, seemingly pointing towards the sense of toxic masculinity within society. “With a low pain threshold. Am I the glass house throwing stones?”, in my interpretation, theses lyrics refer to how, stereo-typically, men are supposed to be big and tough, almost unfeeling, which is complete rubbish, men have a right to feel comfortable talking about their feelings. The culture of ‘bottling it up’ is toxic and a killer.
The final cut on the album, This House Has No Living Room is a little bit of a mixed bag. Running for about 8 and a half minutes, the track has a lot of space to fill, the first part centering around this decrepit house, which is seemingly stuck in a soulless, empty land. The first part of the song does get a little bit repetitive though and doesn’t really have anything interesting to say. It suffers from similar problems to Words Fail Me, there’s a brief moment of intrigue as the song reaches a slight crescendo half way through, but this then dissipates in to a combination of bird noises and synth. While the bird noises are relaxing, it adds nothing to the meaning or context of the song, I feel like the last two minutes of the track should have been cut completely.
Overall, this record confidently makes it over to the green grass. There are some fantastic guitar hooks on this record, especially on Bellyache and Blinded By The Lies. I feel as though the lyrics give an accurate portrayal towards modern-day societal attitudes, especially concerning capitalism, greed and our everyday struggle towards finding what makes us happiest. A couple of the tracks get bogged down by being a little bit too ponderous in their buildup and the last song is a disappointing bookend, but overall Yak have made an album that encapsulates the best elements of modern-day guitar music.
Sophie Allison AKA Soccer Mommy had a fairly outstanding 2018, her debut album Clean garnered heaps of praise and was widely accepted as one of the best records of the year. She’s part of a wave of incredibly talented young American songwriters, taking the indie/folk genres by storm. The artists latest single release, Blossom/Be Seeing you is an alternate demo version of the former and a re-release of the latter.
You can definitely tell that Blossom is a demo track, the production and the recording of the guitar parts is certainly a bit fuzzy around the edges but not in a way that reduces the quality of the chord progressions. It’s quite different to the album version, which sounds a lot tidier with these very piercing scratches on the guitar strings, and utilises empty spaces in the background to accentuate a feeling of loneliness and reflection within the mind. On the demo version, the chorus has a gorgeous vocal hook when Sophie’s voice goes slightly more nasal.
The track is a love song and tenderly describes the experience of being with someone who you’re not quite gelling with to finding someone who you instantly click with. Be Seeing You is a fantastic single, and features one of Soccer Mommy‘s best dreamscapes, its like running through strawberry fields hand in hand with your favourite person under a gold horizon.
The spirit of love is captured gracefully on this track, helped along by the honey-sweet hooks. The lyricism describes the feeling of teenage romance, where you find yourself falling hopelessly for someone, “kissing you felt like a lack of strength. The touch of your lips made my legs go weak, it was warm and sweet”. Soccer Mommy has found a way of summing up teenage attitudes and feelings towards love and wrapped them up in a neat little bow. These are two strong pieces of writing from an incredible songwriter.
From working in an essential oils factory to becoming a singer-songwriter. It took a bit of an epiphany for Julia Jacklin to start her musical career, after realising that life could pass her by, she decided to turn a hobby into a career. Her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win was released back in 2016 and three years on from that, the ending of a relationship and the experiences in-between have led to Jacklin writing introspectively on her new album Crushing.
The album’s first track, Body is one which Jacklin described as, “a very long and exaggerated sigh”. The lyrics tell us of a man who isn’t exactly the best influence/person for Julia to be around, she comes to realise this and ends up leaving in order to feel like herself again. The piano keys on this track ring out like a call to the distance, giving the song a feeling of thought, with a tinge of remorse. Head Above finds Jacklin frustrated at a partner who is a bit too hands-on with her, seemingly unable to show his love in a different way, she constantly reminds him that, “you can love somebody without using your hands”. The melodic guitar playing on this song, gives it a great rhythm, particularly in the latter part of the track when the tempo increases.
Pressure To Party is one of the more upbeat numbers on the album and is instantly memorable for how anthemic it is. Lyrically, Jacklin speaks of the social pressures people are faced with when going through a breakup. The pressure to take time alone, to feel alright and then go out and party as if you’re completely fine. Jacklin rebels against this, puts her foot down and states her intent to do things at her own pace. The frenetic mood of the track, perhaps reflecting the way that your mind can frantically switch between moods, as a repercussion of heartbreak. The lyricism on this track is at the highest level, I honestly believe that Jacklin has written the perfect breakup song.
Crushing is quite an emotive album, a few tracks are written about the strain and fatigue that start to seep into relationships and others are about the ways in which Jacklin wants to be treated and the perception of her body. One of the most emotional peaks is on the track, Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You, where she finds herself in a situation, where that fatigue has set in and the relationship just isn’t the same anymore. There’s an overriding sense of confusion as Jacklin seems to be struggling to distinguish the positive from the negative, “Into the darkness or is this the light? Should I be waking up or finding a place to sleep tonight?” The electric guitars that start to chime in towards the end of the song, sound like the tearful cries of someone who is simply just tired.
There’s an influence of country music to the track, Turn Me Down, the guitar notes feel like a walk down a long dusty road. Throughout the album, Jacklin’s vocals are consistently to a very high standard, she is a distinct vocalist. On this song she reaches some of her most impressive octaves, the way some of her vocal highs hang in the air is breathtaking, they can cut right through you. For a song that wasn’t originally going to make the final cut, Comfort is a perfect bookend to the album. It’s a bit of a reverse to Pressure To Party, except this time Jacklin is thinking of the man she left and is hopeful for his sake, as well as hers that he’s going to be okay after she left him. It offers a slightly different perspective than the other tracks on the album and it helps to summarise some of the records main themes.
Crushing is an example of how to write about love, breakups, and self-worth. Jacklin doesn’t care about societal perceptions of how she’s expected to deal with these issues, instead, she does it her own way. It’s an album that sees her confused, upset, awkward and reflective. As well as her outstanding lyricism, her brand of folk, country and pop music isn’t overly-reliant on distinguishable hooks, instead, it successfully immerses the listener in evocative palettes of emotion.
Julia Jacklin‘s musical career started from a very common sense of frustration, that of being in her mid-twenties and having life seemingly pass her by. To break out of this duck, Jacklin decided to drop her job in an essential oils factory and transform her hobby of making music into a career. This led to her debut album, Don’t Let The Kids Win, released via Transgressive in 2016. A record about coming-of-age, it introduced us to Jacklin’s mixture of Folk, indie, and pop.
Now, almost three years on from her debut, the Australian songwriter is about to release her second record, Crushing. The most recent single being called Comfort, the lyrics intend to do just that. They deal with the aftershock of a breakup, the brutal reality of how people react when meaningful relationships fall apart. Jacklin shares a veiled optimism that her ex will feel better with time, “you’ll be okay, you’ll be alright, you’ll get well soon”. As well as wishing him better, you can’t help but feel as though Jacklin needs him to be better, to propel her own self-healing. In the last verse, the perspective is flipped to how Jacklin was equally affected, and how she can’t comfort her ex because she’s the one who left.
Despite being just 28, Jacklin sings with the poise of a seasoned performer, her vocals have an air of observational wisdom as if she’s been there and seen it all, she manages to make each individual word stand out in clear, concise, clarity. The vocal layer dominates the track, the soft, hollow guitar notes act as a cushion of comfort for the emotive context of the song. Overall, I think Comfort is quite a strong single release, in the buildup to Julia Jacklin‘s new album Crushing and I enjoy her style of open and confessional lyricism.
Irish trio whenyoung have come a long way since their debut single back in 2017. Just over a year later, the band have released their first EP – Given Up – and 2019 will see the release of their debut album. I recently caught up with the band ahead of their show at The Deaf Institute, to feed my curiosity about the intriguing indie pop/rock group.
Initially hailing from Limerick, the band members Aoife Power (vocals/bass), Niall Burns (guitar) and Andrew Flood (drums) bonded over their mutual passion for music and art. However, the formation of the band didn’t start until they moved over to London. I wondered whether the contrast between Limerick and London was a culture shock for the band, “It was in the sense that the city we’re from is really small and coming to London, you forget that you don’t have to say ‘hi’ to everyone on the street, and actually you probably shouldn’t because they’ll think you’re really weird” Aoife replied. “Where we’re from, if you’re walking down the road and there aren’t many people on it, you’d probably salute the person”. Moving to London gave the group a chance for a fresh start, “it felt like a holiday for a long time”, Niall revealed.
When asked about the benefits of immersing yourself in different cultures, the band are all in agreement about its importance and see London as a hub for multiculturalism, “It’s amazing to experience different cultures within one place, you can go to an area of London, walk down to an area with Turkish shops, there’ll be Ethiopian restaurants, and you can just soak that up” said Niall.
One of the most famous people to come out of Limerick was Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, who tragically passed away last year, whenyoung were performing at Shane McGowan’s birthday on the day she passed, “it was such a weird night, all these Irish artists were brought together and we got the news just before we were going on stage”. This was part of the reason why whenyoung released their own cover of The Cranberries song Dreams, a poignant rendition with an obvious sense of respect and gratitude towards the original.
A marker of just how far the band have come since moving over to London, is the fact that they were asked to perform at the Barbican recently, to celebrate Irish artists making a name for themselves in the UK. “we were quite surprised when we were asked to do that, because a lot of the musicians were of high esteem, in the Irish traditional scene, which we wouldn’t necessarily feel that close to, the talent on the stage was amazing”, Niall told me. A huge passion of the band is their interest in fashion, not high-street fashion but finding outfits that make them stand out in the crowd, usually sourced from charity shops. As they took to the stage at The Deaf Institute, they certainly look the part, Aoife illuminated under a spotlight, contrasting her black blazer and trouser combination. Niall has chosen the same blazer/trouser combination but in a startling bright yellow, while Andrew heads towards the drums in a bright orange boiler suit.
One of the first songs played is Pretty Pure, a track which encapsulates the nature of a lot of whenyoung‘s discography, in that there’s a veiled disguise of joy over melancholy lyrics. “Don’t think I’m human anymore”, reverberates around The Deaf Institute on the track’s chorus. One of the night’s highlights is Heaven On Earth, a track which is pessimistic in nature but through its soaring hooks, manages to add dynamism to the live set.
Their latest single release, Never Let Go is all about remembering that there’s hope, even within the most trying of times. “I think with a lot of our songs, they’re about quite sad things but we always try to bring hope to the subject and in a way they’re all personal affirmations and we want them to connect with other people. The best books and songs are the ones that stick with you, the ones that have moved you and made you feel inspired” Aoife told me.
In addition to the release of Never Let Go, the band also released a run of t-shirts to help raise money for Mind charity. “We contacted them because we wanted to support a mental health charity because we’d lost a best friend to suicide”. The song has whenyoung‘s most uplifting hook, it achieves the desired effect of bringing hope, the kind of track I’d want to hear just as I was finishing a marathon. The set is slowed down for Sleeper, the backing track is simplified and this gives a sense of introversion to Aoife’s vocals, adding an extra air of vulnerability to her performance.
They then go on to play The Others, a song which was written about the Grenfell Tower fire and probably the band’s most far-reaching and socially conscious track to date, it pays a closer homage to one of their biggest influences, The Clash. I’d be interested to see whenyoung write more politically engaged songs. The set finishes with Given Up and the difference it holds to the recorded material is that the verses feel darker, and moodier than ever, while the chorus is more euphoric a suitable ending. I asked the band how they wanted people to feel after their live show and Andrew replied with, “we want people to feel a sense of euphoria or to be crying while laughing”. That bittersweet sensation is definitely felt and their fans definitely feel a connection to the themes of the various tracks.
A couple of new songs were debuted as well including Future and In My Dreams, the former seemingly encapsulating that overlapping sense of optimism that whenyoung seem to be imprinting within their brand of indie-pop. The band are all set to release their debut album this year and I recommend you keep your eyes peeled for its release!
Four years on from What Went Down, Foals have returned with not one, but two new albums to be released in 2019! (They do know how to treat us) Titled, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 & 2, front-man YannisPhilippakis confirmed with NME that while both records are part of the same project, both albums will have slight stylistic differences, “the first record is probably more keyboard-driven and has slightly more of a new wave feel to it. Then album two has more of the heavier rock frenetic energy.”
The first taste we’ve gotten of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1, released on March 8th, is the new single Exits. A bold statement from the band, affirming their position to constantly keep on evolving their sound on each new record. Exits paints the picture of a dystopian future, a world gone backwards and flipped entirely on its head. Starting off with a disjointed keyboard rhythm, the track drops instantly from fun to serious, as a temperamental shift leads to petulant and brooding riffs. Then Foals‘ signature keyboards and synthesizers paint a picture of this chaotic and unruly land, through irresistible and vivid grooves, at times sounding like a waterfall of shattered glass.
What impresses me most about this track is how Foals have used song structures that are so familiar to them but have still managed to create a completely fresh and new sound. Exits is a bold statement from a band who show no signs of slowing down or having any lapses in creativity. The continuous evolution that the band goes through is nothing short of remarkable and has made Foals one of the most consistent British bands over the last ten years. And with a new tour and various festival slots booked already, 2019 is shaping up to be Foals‘ year.