In The Dark: The Solitary Craft of Hilary Woods

 

“In the dark,” Hilary Woods sings, “our stars shine.” For an artist thrust into the spotlight at an early age – it’s easy to forget that Woods was still a teenager at the time she was touring the world with JJ72 – her spirit comes through most vividly in the dimly lit scenes that make up ‘Colt’, the immersive debut album she’s releasing on Sacred Bones. Following a couple of similarly stark EPs released over the years, it feels like an honest document for a musician more at home with the piano, more at home with something still and contemplative than indie-rock bravado.

Not that she couldn’t do both if she chose to; at this point, it seems the artist is capable of just about anything she puts her hand to. Between raising a daughter, studying for a degree, and occasionally performing in bands, Woods also spent a great deal of time painting, and one imagines her working from the same palette that her music draws from: pitch black, pallor white, bruise violet. Perhaps. Perhaps she just paints sunflowers.

Continue reading at Clash

DiScover: LUCIA

As Lucia Fairfull strides off stage, finding her way into the sunniest corner of Brighton Palace Pier, I’m still catching up with what’s just happened inside Horatio’s. Her band LUCIA close their set with ‘Melted Ice Cream’, rounding off a glorious racket that’s caught more attention than you’d expect for an early afternoon slot. Though the single came out last year, it seems destined to live on as a timestamp for 2018, as evocative of its era as anything by Weezer or Best Coast – perhaps the two bands most identifiable in its genetic make-up – immediately recalling a specific time and place in our lives, a history shared by our own experiences as much as the rock hagiographies that stack up around them.

Continue reading at Drowned in Sound

International Brighton Thing: Europe Dazzles At The Great Escape 2018

Credit: @SamNahirny

Something incredible is happening in Brighton. I know this, because people keep coming up to me and saying things like “this hasn’t happened for years” and “you don’t realise how luck you are” and “I might take my pint outside”. Has the rapture arrived? Lord, have The Rapture arrived? No. It’s The Great Escape 2018, and the sun is beating down on Brighton like it owes him money. Welcome to festival season.

Continue reading at Clash

The Silence Is So Loud: Are Music Festivals Finally Committing to Equality?

I’m sure there are worse offenders. Somewhere, across the unfathomable spread of corporate shindigs and boutique getaways that make up the modern festival scene, there has to be at least one line-up that reeks of IPA and second-hand Bill Hicks biographies more than this one; a metal weekender somewhere in Coventry, perhaps, or Kendal Calling.

But then, Lollapalooza is a particularly massive event to be working this hard to avoid booking women. “Literally the first four lines of the poster are all male artists or bands,” Nandi Rose Plunkett – AKA Half Waif – told me recently, recounting the moment she saw the legendary Chicago festival’s 2018 line-up for the first time. “That’s really not acceptable. These bigger festivals have a responsibility to be representative.”

Even where relatively major female acts are booked, such as St. Vincent or Camila Cabello – appearing 16th and 24th respectively on the Lollapalooza poster – they end up with the kind of billing that, in a just world, Catfish & The Bottlemen would be occupying. Clearly, there’s work to be done.

Continue reading at Clash

Beach House – 7

The first time we fall in love, the world feels uncomfortably bright. Everyday life takes on an oversaturated quality, as if the scenes playing out before us were flecked with magentas and blues that don’t quite belong, a vividness distilled into one person. Like a chemical high — which love is, of course — we momentarily drift into a consciousness that we can’t quite contain. It’s a dream performed with eyes wide open.

In generic terms, the concept of “dream pop” as soporific feels somewhat nebulous, not least because the classics of the genre — in particular, anything by Cocteau Twins, but certainly their twin masterpieces Treasure and Heaven or Las Vegas — are so violently neon, plastered in a sheen that shares nothing with the relief of sleep. Instead, they belong to that primal understanding of dreams: abundant fantasy, that cartoon version of love where hearts beat out of chests; avatars for a world that defies reality to celebrate something more precious. On their seventh album, Beach House are fully in thrall to the latter.

Continue reading at Tiny Mix Tapes (also reviewed for Clash)

Next Wave: Joy Crookes

The first time Joy Crookes laughs in the video for ‘Power’, it’s a disarming moment. The video, shot entirely in black and white, matches the song’s ele-gance in both purpose and style: classic yet modern, collective yet singular, softly spoken and sharp-tongued all at once. If that’s the case, it’s perhaps be-cause Crookes seeks to celebrate women, to exhibit joy, as much as denigrate those who seek to compromise their integrity. “You came here through a woman,” she sings. “Show some fucking respect.”

Published in Clash Magazine (and online)

Jon Hopkins – Singularity

Whatever proximities we care to chart across the star maps of ambient and electronica, both share a light that typically burns in cooler shades. On 2013’s ‘Immunity’, Jon Hopkins supposedly charted the course of a night out; in utilitarian terms, the bangers were at the front. This year’s leitmotif is the intersection of city and forest, but if there’s a discernible change of pace on ‘Singularity’, it’s perhaps that the record’s harder and softer moments are less discrete.

Continue reading at Clash

Grouper – Grid of Points

We’re going to the beach. Not the clean, iridescent shores of film scenes or sepia photographs, signifiers of a landscape that privilege the temporal over the spatial — it is always the childhood or the honeymoon that we beckon toward, and whether the sand in the picture belongs to Blackpool or New Jersey is mostly irrelevant — but the real beach. The sun is not shining. It rained a few hours ago, in fact, or is just about to, because there’s a dull kind of sadness in the air that lingers either side of the storm. To your left is a row of shops and cafés, closed on Sunday. To your right is a parking lot, asphalt grey in keeping with the weather, littered but otherwise empty. In front of you is the sea.

The sunless beach is a powerful image for the same reason that suicide rates spike at Christmas: from early childhood, we are inundated with words and pictures reinforcing the idea that happiness is something to be manually allocated, that weekends and holidays are the ecstatic reprieves that we deserve from our institutional labor, and that these times and places represent our best shot at real joy. When reality doesn’t match the picture, our first assumption is never that the picture needs fixing, but that our lives are out of sync. The map supersedes the territory. Like no other artist, Grouper’s Liz Harris seems to sing from these points of dislocation, lighting up lost or forgotten neural pathways like a lighthouse in the fog. In contrast to 2014’s colossal RuinsGrid of Points feels relatively slight, though it remains incredibly spacious.

Continue reading at Tiny Mix Tapes

“I’m not afraid to be vulnerable”: DiS Meets Half Waif

 

Sifting through the embers of a year, extinguished across all but a few scattered patches of colour or warmth, we find ourselves longing for either the fire or the ash. To remember the vibrancy of our hurts as brightly as the healing pleasures that allayed them, however briefly; or else to stub it out, to usher in the comfort of a charcoal totality that doesn’t hurt this much. Listening to ‘Lavender Burning’, the heartbreaking introduction to what might be Half Waif’s first masterpiece, neither suffices. It is a record that lives and breathes the ‘strange kind of loving’ that occupies the embers, the infinite split between love and loss.

Continue reading at Drowned in Sound