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EP Review

EP RELEASE: Soccer Mommy- ‘Blossom/Be Seeing You’

WORDS BY MATTY PYWELL

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.

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EP RELEASE: ‘King Of The Dudes’ – Sunflower Bean

WORDS: MATTHEW PYWELL    PHOTO: MANC WANDERER

New York! New York! One of the greatest cities on the planet, a cultural hub and more importantly the birthplace of so many great artists and bands. New York isn’t just a place where some bands were formed, New York has its own style, its own attitude. Responsible for artists such as Blondie, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and The Strokes. Sunflower Bean are helping to carry the torch, passed over by those before, no more so than on their latest EP ‘King Of The Dudes‘.

King Of The Dudes feels like an ode to those that came before. The title track explodes into life just like the soda can on the EP’s cover art, singer Julia Cumming has the fierce, untamed swagger and determination in her voice, just as Debbie Harry before her. She sings of being a leader of men, not by choice but by circumstance. The second track, Come For Me, is a pretty obvious innuendo which details a night for Julia where she’s, “looking for some handsome distraction”. The guitar riffs take in the influence of disco, conjuring up thoughts of flares, vibrant oranges, and fluorescent greens.

On Fear City, riffs rise and fall to constant crescendos, before erupting into Julia’s soaring vocals on the chorus. There are so many good guitar hooks on the track, particularly in the last third, it feels as if they’re fully freed from chains and let loose. The concluding track, The Big One sees the band retreating into the gritty, cataclysmic realms of punk. It has the feeling of a song crafted out of expression rather than methodology, a sweet release of anarchic creative freedom, reminiscent of bands like The New York Dolls.

On King Of The Dudes, Sunflower Bean have taken hold of the fabled style of New York band’s past. With some glorious rock hooks and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While there’s not anything particularly innovative with what Sunflower Bean have done, they do their city justice by representing their own interpretation of rock, punk and disco elements from the ’70s/’80s.

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EP RELEASE: Grace Carter – ‘Why Her Not Me’

WORDS: MATTHEW PYWELL        PHOTO: SHOT BY PHOX

Why Her Not Me is a record steeped in tragedy. Brighton based singer-songwriter Grace Carter draws on personal experience to create deep and impactful RnB ballads on her first EP release, which bookended a great year for the artist. Signed to Polydor Records and boasting a voice which has all the hallmarks of influences such as Lauryn Hill, the future looks bright for Grace Carter.

Why Her Not Me, is the question Carter found herself asking after finding out at age 18 that her estranged father had left her mother for someone else. This song was written on the day she received that news and it shows, her vocals express such hurt and sorrow, that it feels like a kick in the groin, you may need a long shower and have to adopt the fetal position after listening to this one. It’s a stunning single that sets the tone for the rest of this EP. The second track Silence is very similar to the first track and rides off the back of Why Her Not Me’s emotional wave. It’s a little bit too similar to stand out on the EP.

Silhouette is a beautifully haunting track, where Carter’s vocal high notes linger in the air and float around an echo chamber of soul. In terms of lyricism, Carter has a thing for creating emotionally anthemic chorus’, “There’s a fire in your eyes when you’re holding a cigarette, but you won’t hold me, no you don’t hold me. You keep blowing smoke till you fade like a cigarette”. That part of the chorus alludes to her relationship with her father, a reoccurring theme throughout the EP, which becomes more of a testimony/summary about how growing up with a single parent affected her and made her the person she is.

For Ashes, Carter worked with legendary producer Mike Dean (Frank Ocean, Kanye West) and this track is a little bit different stylistically to the rest of the EP. Carter’s vocals are still at the forefront but instrumentally, there’s a more electronic element. The piano is taken away and replaced by a backing track with a beat-driven drumming pattern and there are some synthetic effects which sound like ghosts whispering in the background. The final track of the EP, Half Of You (Demo) sees the themes of the EP come full circle. Until now, Grace was reflecting on how her dad leaving affected her life but Half Of you sees her rising triumphantly from the ashes of that relationship, “Cause you’re the one who’s lonely, I know you’ll be calling on me now I’m somebody. The best thing that you’ll never have”. It creates a really satisfying narrative for the EP.

Grace Carter has put down a marker with her first EP. She’s presented us with some absolutely stunning vocalisation and some fantastic lyricism. The narrative over the seven tracks is really interesting, it’s nice to see Grace grow from a place of frustration and anger to a place of acceptance and renewal at the end. You could say that instrumentally, the piano-driven tracks can be a little bit similar and maybe a couple of them should be a bit more distinguished from one another, but in the context of the EP she just about gets away with it. This is a pretty firm stepping stone to greater things for Grace Carter.

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EP RELEASE: Blanketman – ‘Sick & Tired/Flip It Over’

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY     PHOTOS BY THROUGH THE EYES OF RUBY

Manchester post-punks Blanketman have something new for their growing following to enjoy. They have been paying their dues in town for the past few months, with some successful outings with the likes of Phobophobes and Liverpool’s SPQR And now they’ve put out two new tunes; ‘Sick & Tired’ & ‘Flip It Over’ and boy are they are two interesting tracks indeed. The single is full of vitriol, menace, and eye-shifting paranoia.

Like any good double A single, there’s a lot of space between these tunes, the band are getting the most out of the format and showing off their range. ‘Sick & Tired’ is a sprawling, moody track. There is something tangibly Mancunian about the grand and commanding guitar sounds, and the purpose with which this track pushes on. ‘Sick & Tired’ is not a melancholic song. This is goodbye, and thanks for fuck all. Sick and tired of vacuous promises, “five more years” indeed. The track is raucous but disciplined, pulling you near the anti-symphonic atmosphere of the very best of the genre. The rolling bass and drums are trying to get you there, seemingly streaming straight out of Public image Ltd. in about nineteen eighty five.

Singer Adam Hopper’s scours pessimistically through most of the track, pub-pissed off and cynical, briefly hitting a melodic touch, if nonchalantly, before pushing you out of the way and getting back into the rancour of the song. We thrust towards the end with expected thorns, thumps and rattles . ‘Sick & Tired’ is a song that forms in front of you, and as such comes in rather long at over five minutes. But as one of Manchester’s more famous sons said, “it’s not repetition…”

‘Flip it Over’ is more of a flash in the pan. It is a little pocket of shouty flat earth paranoia. Who doesn’t want more songs about Flat Earthers? ‘Flip It Over’ is a great little tune, with wonderfully drizzly bass and tinker guitar. Along with the pavement slab drums this sounds almost like a summer number. Of course, this is not the outcome of the song.  This pogo-ing rhythm starts to layer in under the dark delivery of Hopper, in which even waking up on your back sounds like a nightmare. There is a sweaty and paralyzing feeling to this track, if Dostoevsky had seen the dark side of the internet and got really into ‘Unknown Pleasures’. God does not smite us, and the track bops along with some more grouchy guitar and fearful wailing and howling vocals demanding not to flip it over. You should ignore this. Flip it over and play it again (digitally of course).

Both tracks are available on Spotify right very much now! Blanketman have a likely to be last gig of the year at night people on the 8th of December at night people. They have also just their first trip out of greater Manchester, all the way to lovely Hebden Bridge supporting Brix & The Extricated on the 24th of November. Go and catch them whilst you can. There will be big things in the future.

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EP RELEASE: King Nun – ‘I Have Love’

WORDS BY MARIA PASSINGHAM

How King Nun haven’t become the nation’s indie sweethearts yet is a crying shame. Debut EP ‘I Have Love’ (out now on Dirty Hit) makes me want to scale the nearest building and shout their name from the rooftops. “People of the England, you’re living in darkness if you’ve not listened to King Nun yet!”.

Actually it might have been helpful had I publicly proclaimed my love for the London four-piece a month ago, then perhaps more than a handful of new music fans may have shown up to the band’s first ever headline show, at Jimmy’s in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Kudos to the band though, they put on a proper energetic show for the loyal followers, and at least one day I’ll be able to say smugly that I was in the limited audience at that landmark gig. ‘I Have Love’ follows a number of memorable singles over the past couple of years (since signing to Dirty Hit, home of acts like Wolf Alice and Superfood) and each of its five tracks are perfectly formed indie anthems.

Opener ‘Heavenly She Comes’ kicks down your front door with a riot of distortion, while ‘Family Portrait’ shows a little more vulnerability with  a rawer vocal track and cleaner guitar sound, impressing Jack Saunders of Radio 1’s Indie Show who made the song his Tune Of The Week not too long ago. ‘Chinese Medicine’ seems destined for continuous airtime too with one of the catchiest choruses this year.

The EP recalls a range of sounds from the formative indie from my youth – The Pigeon Detectives, Good Shoes, Dirty Pretty Things – and yet somehow avoids transporting me back to my cringe-laden teenage years – a feat worthy of celebration in itself, and produces an energetic noise that would be equally at home in a dingy bar backroom and a huge concert hall.

A band that can’t seem to sit still –four singles, an EP, and their first headline tour in 2018 alone – it seems likely they’ll hit the road again soon, and **think of this as my metaphorical drain-pipe climb** you must get yourself a ticket. Get to the front of the crowd while you still can, because if ‘I Have Love’ is any indication of their talent, it’s not long until King Nun make it to the bigtime.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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EP RELEASE: SG Lewis – ‘Dark’

WORDS BY EVE WHITESIDE

Sam Lewis, an innovative producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist has recently produced an exciting five-track project, which is a part of his ‘Dusk, Dark, Dawn’ sequence under his acronym SG Lewis which aim to represent the three stages of a night-out. All of these will finally come together to form his combined full-length album.

Underneath all his tracks feature a signature electronic undertone that make him recognisable as an artist, which shine through this EP. His music draws upon a rich blend of influences such as James Blake and Bon Iver. However, this album is a step forward from this, whilst also remaining strangely familiar to his previous releases. One of the elements of this EP that stands out is SG Lewis’ distinct talent for collaboration with other emerging and established artists alike, from ranging genres.

A large contrast to ‘Dusk, Dark’ takes a different approach, moving away from the funky disco vibe of the previous EP to reveal something deeper. In a way, ‘Dusk’ was the lively warm-up for the darker things to come. ‘Dark’ aims to represent the magical, mysterious ins and outs of the very height of the night. Building an atmosphere that echoes excitement and bass lines that fill the mind and imagination.

The track ‘Again’ is a personal favourite which won’t be forgotten in a hurry, featuring Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, which begins softly then develops to meet with a warm house bassline, with deep ethereal beats running throughout.

The obvious standout track ‘Hurting’ also possesses a hypnotic, catchy and unforgettable hook with AlunaGeorge’s distinctive vocals. When the track kicks in, the listener is willingly transported to the midst of a bustling club night, the beat alluring and prominent throughout. The soulful electronic nature of Bruno Major echoes clearly throughout ‘Dreaming’, which possesses its own unique, intoxicating aura whilst simultaneously hushed and intimate.

Featuring huge names such as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and AlunaGeorge, we can only speculate and await the release of the final part of the night, ‘Dawn’. Overall, this part of the album builds momentum for what is to follow, the album capturing a true and accurate snapshot of today’s club culture.

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