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Bringing the highlife-afrobeat-electronic fusion to YES and beyond...
Ibibio Sound Machine Interview

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Ibibio Sound Machine

WORDS + PHOTO – JAMES WARD

My interview with Ibibio Sound Machine did not start well. Within less than a minute of sitting down with Eno Williams, I’d fumbled the word “Ibibio” and was questioning my worth as a journalist who can’t even say the name of the band he’s interviewing. Having corrected my mistake and Eno having graciously accepted my apology we began the interview proper.

Ibibio Sound Machine are a unique band. They play a blend of West African and electronic music that has found a mainstream audience. This year they are playing Live at Leeds, All Points East and Handmade Festivals (amongst others) where the typical punter is less likely to have had a wide exposure to the modern forms of Highlife they play then if they were playing at a jazz or “world music” focused festival. I started by asking Eno what artists people who discover Ibibio’s music at a festival should investigate to get to know their sound a little better…

“Well there are people like Oumou Sangare, Fatoumata Diawara, Angelique Kidjo, there are so many of these African artists who are in the style of music that we do. What we’re trying to do is bring that with a mixture of funk and electronic stuff as well.”

Today, Ibibio Sound Machine are part of a larger movement of West African music present within the UK but this wasn’t the case when they started out. Around the release of their second album, Eno spoke of how Ibibio’s appearance on Jools Holland had felt like a moment of acceptance from the UK music establishment. As the band looks to find their way out of the 6 Music bubble, one wonders what factors contributed to this mainstream acceptance.

“I think to be honest that it’s to do with the sound, the vibe, the electronic, the high-life. The fact that the music itself is quite positive, quite high energy, high octane and there’s a vibrancy to it. It feels like in the times that we live in that sometimes there’s a bleakness or a shadow over people and people just want something to lift them up to take them to a different space and just escape from the norm and the everyday bleakness. I think that’s why I guess that it’s being accepted, it’s kind of a different sound and people like something different… and people like to dance! That’s what we’ve realized, the set is like a work out session so I’m really sorry if I get people dancing too much and sweating.”

We turn our attention to the new album at which point Eno jumps in enthusiastically.

“22nd of March, one week today, the album comes out. There’s a lot of influences in that we kind of joined influences from our highlife and electronic genres. We’ve been trying to make it very much a live album as well. We’ve been playing quite a lot of gigs in the last few years and found that it felt very organic to get all of us in the room and create something that was reminiscent of that.

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE INTERVIEW

The title is called ‘Doko Mien’ which means “Tell Me”, which has two sides to it: one side asking the universe “tell me/direct me what to do” and then there’s the flipside – the commentary on women often being told what to do. So, it’s about speaking up and having a voice and being able to express your opinions. For example, in the creative process of writing that particular song we got into a bit of an argument. I was trying to do one thing and Max the producer going “oh well I think we should do it this way!” and I’m like “yeah yeah yeah, I know your way is the right way so just tell me what to do and I’ll do it… but you need to hear my voice!’”

Ibibio Sound Machine albums are themed, the first (self-titled) was an opportunity for Eno to share old Ibibio stories in a musical setting. The second Uyai or “Beauty” has a much stronger focus on female empowerment which the new album continues.

“Doko Mien continues that empowering ideal with more of a live connection, and more focus on the ebb and flow of life more generally, whilst still touching on culture, storytelling and the things that make our sound “good”. We’ve tried to include English lyrics this time to include the listener, to get them into the backdrop of what I’m singing about.

Most of the lyrics and the melodies come with the Ibibio language, as it is quite lyrical and quite rhythmic, so that comes first and then we do the translation. The English and Ibibio languages as sort of two poles apart; a word in English translated to Ibibio could be three or four phrases. Trying to make that move and that shift in English can be really tricky but we just try to keep the rhythms and the melodies flowing in tandem”

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE INTERVIEW

In May 2017 Ibibio Sound Machine played in Morocco, their first gig on the African continent. For a band whose identity is so steeped in Nigerian culture and West African music more broadly, it seems strange that they haven’t had the opportunity to play there more often.

“We’ve had a couple of invitations, but they clashed with other tours so sadly we haven’t made it yet. [We would want to] be in Nigeria of course, because that’s the Heritage of the band-name. Then maybe Ghana, maybe South Africa. We’re looking at exploring Africa in the future…

As there’s 8 of us in the band, it’s the logistics – touring around England and Europe is already a challenge! These are places where everything is already in place, but somewhere like Nigeria… it’s just the logistics of making it happen. In the near future, we really want to make it happen. I just keep thinking ‘it will happen but it has to be the right time.’”

Doko Mien is out on the 22nd of March and you can catch Ibibio Sound Machine at festivals across the UK this summer. If you want to explore their sound a little more, see the playlist below to introduce you to more West African music.

56

ALBUM RELEASE: Woman’s Hour – ‘Ephyra’

WORDS BY: CALLUM MITCHELL-SIMON

It’s been a long five years since we last heard from Woman’s Hour, when their stunning 2014 debut LP, Conversations, swiftly put them on the rise to becoming a household name, alongside the likes of contemporaries The xx & Daughter. They were a band with their own distinct identity and sound, and an incredible run of singles to support them, including Darkest Place, Her Ghost and In Stillness We Remain.

However, a lot can happen in five years. A relentless touring schedule, and the now fevered anticipation now placed on the band, added to their pressures. They began recording demo material for a second LP, but following a tense number of sessions, in 2016 the band decided to call it a day, citing “deteriorating mental health”. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when the remaining band members decided to reconvene in an attempt to finish the recording process that they started, which leads us to their present state, and their new, final album Ephyra. A band, not quite fully with us, but here in all their honesty to present their hard toiled over work. It’s a definitive take on the time old “difficult second album” story.

First track and lead single from the LP Don’t Speak sets the tone for the record from the start. It presents itself as more of a mood piece than a conventionally structured song. The title, plus a few more fragmented lyrics, are repeated over and over various shifting and modulated soundscapes, like an ever-changing state of mind, in flux of it’s own self.

This continues into second track From Eden To Exile. There’s a jittery, restless feel to the song, with several false starts and snippets from other songs and spoken word excerpts before the central melody kicks in. The effect is like a radio dial constantly being re-tuned, unable to settle on a frequency. This restless energy is found again on second single Luke, which builds itself up over a single synth line. “Am I shouting in a vacuum? Can you hear me?” lead singer Fiona Burgess calls out, before a simple chorus of a repeating piano note and the word “breath”, like a mantra to encourage a state of calm.

This sums up the album as a whole. It’s breathlessly inventive at times, a real artistic step up for the band. You can hear them really pushing to create something unique, not to settle on a sound that will define them. It’s impeccably produced – the songs don’t fit into set forms and structures, they’re much looser and free-form, compositions that seek to explore various emotional states. They reflect a fragmented, scattered state of mind – constantly shifting and changing in rhythm and tempo. The off kilter effects on I Can’t Take You Seriously, which starts off relatively straightforward, a clear guitar line guiding the way, then begins to build upon wave after wave of electronics, with various vocal modulations and pitch bends making it feel as if the foundations of the songs are slipping away from underneath you. There’s a pervading feeling of tension underlying the album, an edge, a sense of darkness, that all is not well. This informs and infuses it’s way into the sound and texture of the music.

The flip side of this, however, it that there’s not a great deal of consistency to be found.There’s no tracks on here that lift it to a level of greatness, and nothing to match some of the peerless work on Conversations. It can feel patchy at times, like a work in progress – which, in fairness, is what this record always was. It’s A Blast and Removal Of Hope in particular don’t feel fully finished, and wrap up before having made a distinct impression.

The band have been unflinchingly honest in saying that this is an album pieced together from the fragments of original demos, recorded in their hometown of Kendal. In their own words: “They contain the thoughts, memories, ambitions, fears and sleepless nights that have come to define the narrative of our lives over the last three years. These songs are letters to you, and once you’ve sent a letter you can never ask for it back”. It’s not a perfect album, but deliberately so. It’s an honest record, capturing a band in a state of uncertainty and complete emotional honesty.

Hopefully we haven’t heard the last from Woman’s Hour. They are one of the most deftly creative and emotionally resilient bands around at the moment. If not, then this album acts as a bittersweet finale for their story, a taste of what could have been.

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25

LIVE: Eliza @ YES

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

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.

 

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TEETH MAG

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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.

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93

ALBUM RELEASE: YAK – ‘PURSUIT OF MOMENTARY HAPPINESS’

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

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.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Foals- ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1)’

WORDS BY: EVE WHITESIDE

This record is one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent years, as the Oxford alternative indie-rock group return with a vengeance after their four year break from releasing music. With the suspense bubbling over during their silent period, the bar was set very high for their comeback. Returning for this year’s tour, with a borrowed bassist from Everything Everything, things are visibly different this time which aptly reflects the state of the world portrayed through this album. The focus is direct and clear: doubt and caution for our threatened planet are saturated throughout the record, and intertwined through every track and lyric.

Our very first glimpse of the record was standout track, Exits, which encapsulates the current state of crisis our planet is in. Front man Philippakis’ brooding vocals echo throughout regarding how completely upside down and fated our world has become as he remarks “I wish I could figure it out, but the world’s upside down”. This track is a statement, possessing the band’s signature sound that sets them apart. With this track and the rest of the album still featuring an array of their familiar confident plucky guitar riffs that were ever-present in What Went Down and Holy Fire – there is a definitive move onto something new and futuristic.

Throughout Syrups there is a prominent striking bass line and slow burning melody, whilst the overall air of the track is ladened with the disappointment of the world. The landscape of the track hinting at the way digitisation has developed and our cities decimated around us – “all the kids have left the towns, foxes howl and preachers bow down”. Similarly, On The Luna features the ominous bridge “we had it all, we didn’t stop to think about it” which echoes the naivety of our nation when facing the issues of climate change – particularly fitting with the tropical February we experienced just a week ago. This is also reflected in the album title itself, with the underlying message to make the most of what you have while you have it, and save it. Despite this underlying message the track itself is simultaneously a classic, feel-good indie anthem.

 

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In particular with the high-tempo, urgent and punchy tracks White Onions and In Degrees, there is a certain familiar energy that would sound incredible in a live set. In Degrees stands out as it shows signs of something new from the group, almost as if it could be played in a nightclub. This track in particular showcases Foals’ new sound and versatility, with synthesised grooves featuring heavily throughout. As you reach the end of the record you find yourself experiencing a much more pensive note that exists in Sunday and I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me), both featuring serene melodies and with melancholy piano whilst Philippakis’ vocals take centre stage.

Only Foals could take on the current anguish and frustration currently felt in the world and transform it into something wonderful and euphoric, taking the listener on a journey from beginning to end. As front man Yannis said, we will not witness the full impact of the album until we hear the second part, so until then, to be continued…

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154

SINGLE RELEASE: Foals – ‘On The Luna’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Foals are back, as though they had never left, and they are here with this very cryptic, cowbell heavy, lyrical conundrum; On The Luna, the second single release taken from the unreleased album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1, due to be released 8th March this year.

Packed to the brim with slick and punchy ‘80s keyboard synth sounds, rhythmic lead guitar riffs and that old symbolic rock essential; the cowbell, banging away like a metronome throughout the whole piece – On The Luna is an instant indie rock anthem.

Lyrically,  I am at a complete and utter loss with this song. What the hell are you boys going on about? Although, Foals did very kindly transcribed the lyrics of the song which were then left for us curious enquirers to read in the description of the YouTube video. However, after close inspection of said lyrics, I’m still non-the-wiser. There are a few bread crumbs here and there though, which elude to perhaps a somewhat subtle message in the song. The lines;  “Trump clogging up my computer” and “Agitator. Extricater. Won’t you come evacuate her” lead me to believe this could be some sort of politically driven song, making reference to Trump. But again, I have no clue.

The production, as always with Foals, is anthem inspired and full of awe. Lots of reverb and delay on the heavily layered vocals, tonnes of intonation on the lead guitar and then some very  deep, synthesised pad sounds that give the song its signature, choral effect. They just sound massive. I can hear that they record in an old hall, or a very large room. This also adds to the sound described.

What gives this song its salt has to be the silky voice of lead singer and guitarist, Yannis Philippakis. When a Foals song plays, there tends to be a yearning feeling pulsating from the front-man that is unique to this band and gives them the instant familiarity and the likeability that they now have as an institutionalised U.K. indie band. Welcome back Foals, we missed you!

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53

ALBUM RELEASE: Julia Jacklin – ‘Crushing’

WORDS BY MATTY PYWELL

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.

 

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#JuliaJacklin’s brilliant new album #Crushing, with bonus flexi track “Why Won’t My Friends Read My Mind”

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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.

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82

ALBUM RELEASE: FLING – ‘FLING OR DIE’

WORDS BY JOEL MALLEN

Bradford psych rockers FLING play “wonky pop”, according to them, and much more besides. They’ve had incredibly successful debut and sophomore years, rising out of a white-hot arts scene in West Yorkshire, standing out with a committed following to a unique live show and old-school glam rock aesthetic, with all the lipstick, stripy jumpers, dungarees and bright colours that come with it. Working with Lee Smith at Leeds’ Greenmount Studios, FLING record FLING OR DIE, a fruity cocktail combination of reworked singles and new releases, put out into the world on the 22nd February.

In short, the record holds up really well, especially as a profile and introduction to what this band is all about. Kicking off with Welcome To The City, a glam song about a refugee alien running away from his own planet, an opener you really lose yourself in, yet also hear their influences brazenly. Ziggy-era David Bowie and T.Rex spring to mind, with the singers sliding ’70s half rock voice heavily recalling to Marc Bolan (there’s even a bonus “radio-oh-oh” reference a la Starman chucked in there for good measure). This and the entire album set a great tone; jangling acoustic guitars, organs, under a picked indie bass and combined with surreal lyrics and nasal, catchy melodies.

FLING OR DIES’s strength is in the individualism of each track; not enough that it becomes non-cohesive, instead additional sounds and instruments add to the character. Some are absolutely out of left field, like steel drums, recorders, sequenced synthesisers, kalimbas, upright piano, ultra-compressed vocals, and the droning sitar which dominates Revolution. It’s this kind of disrespect for the pop rulebook that gives the album such a life to it, whilst the songwriting absolutely and 100% sticks the landing in setting the mood. Whether it be softly spoken like Je T’aime, cheeky like Just A Dog or Banjo Billy, or tub-thumping like Revolution and Black and White Fibbers.

But it’s more than that: every one of the 11 songs feels intensely involving, with all the energy of a hitchhikers-by-the-fire novella, stored in the crevices of the brain. An album that champions the slightly psychedelic and the bizarre, a cavalcade of expressive joy that leaves you with no choice but to go along for the ride of every song. If you can get your hands and ears on this album, for it is certainly worth the upside down ride.

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136

ALBUM RELEASE: Maggie Rogers – ‘Heard It In A Past Life’

WORDS BY MWIKA BULAYA

Heard It In A Past Life is a piece of a reflection written, arranged and co-produced by Maryland native, Maggie Rogers. The debut album from the 24-year-old presents itself as a collection some of life’s uncertainties: love, anxiety and self-image.

The opening single Give A Little does exactly that – not too much is given, to begin with, creating a sense of curiosity of what is to come. Rogers eases us into the project with this song as her effortless vocals are layered with harmonies accompanied by a slightly electronic feel. Within the 12-track album, Maggie Rogers reveals so much of herself and her experiences which is not so common within debut projects. We slowly begin to learn about her feelings towards entering the music industry in songs such as Overnight and Light On. Both are incredibly candid accounts of Rogers’ journey so far and how her new found fame and success has affected her.

 

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for a few hours, everything made sense. thank you MR ✨

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An honourable mention must be given to the single Alaska that put Rogers on the map when it was first heard in 2016. This song caught the attention of music mogul Pharrell Williams when he heard the track during a masterclass he held at NYU, the university that Rogers attended. Inspired by a real-life hiking experience in Alaska, Rogers accounts a time where she took a year long break from music and learned more about herself. Self-discovery becomes a repetitive premise as the album goes on.

Much of the project feels as though the same template was used to begin with and then branched out into versions of a similar sound. Rogers often uses distinctive folk accents as well as the experimental use of electronic beats which shouldn’t work but somehow it does. One thing that can be taken from Heard It In A Past Life is that Maggie Rogers knows how to write a relatable love song. In Say It, Rogers sings about a crush that is quickly turning into something more than that – it’s almost becoming an infatuation, this is suggested by the lyrics: “I cannot fall in love with you / I cannot feel this way so soon.” A feeling that many of us have had.

Past Life is arguably the most vulnerable of all the tracks on the album. Rogers presents a heart-wrenching piece that is stripped back to reveal her haunting vocals. It is a truly special song hidden between two powerful vocal performances in the track list. Here, she reflects on what life once was before her success.

The album closes with the song Back In My Body and is a near-perfect ending. The uplifting track is about returning to your true self after going through periods of hardships that she experienced whilst touring. It is simple yet effective song about finally being grounded. Heard It In A Past Life is a beautiful and honest album – Maggie Rogers is definitely one to watch this year.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Honeyblood – ‘The Third Degree’

WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON

Honeyblood is back once again with The Third Degree, the blues-heavy, punk-inspired, grunge rock single taken from upcoming album; In Plain Sight, due to release 24th May this year.

The Glaswegian singer and songwriter, Stina Tweeddale, formed Honeyblood in 2012 as a duo along with guitarist Shona McVicar, whom left and was later replaced by Cat Myers. After signing an exclusive recording contract with Marathon Artists, a London-based independent record label, in 2019, the band announced that they would release their third studio album. The Third Degree is the first single release from the same album; a bluesy, post-punk piece somehow incorporating a 1960s wall of sound.

Deep and heavy, live kick drums introduce the song to the listener as if The Third Degree, was somehow produced by Jimmy Bowen of Phil Spector for a band like The Blossoms or The Ronettes in the early ‘60s. The whole song has such an analogue feel to it, as though nothing digital was used to engineer it. It sounds like the whole thing was recorded on an old reel-to-reel Akai recorder and sent through some archaic multitrack mixer from Chuck Berry’s basement. Conversely, the lyricism and tone of the vocals throughout the song are quite evidently influenced by the punk era. There’s a level of angst in the singer’s voice that neatly contrasts with this ‘60s production and arrangement giving the whole song the post-punk element that Honeyblood has crafted over the years.

The mastering and sound maximisation for this track is awesome. The whole thing pops out of the speakers while leaving room for every sound made available without upsetting or taking away from any other layer. Each instrument resides within its own shelf or frequency perfectly, something I rarely hear from even the most commercially produced musicians. The Third Degree, is such a great track. Showcasing some fantastic production work and instrumentation, great use of the traditional rock and roll sounds and then it is very cleverly topped off with a touch of punk. Lovely.

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