Interview: Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval

“I say ‘cunt’ in a lot of different ways on this album,” muses Jenny Hval. She does. In the mouth of the Norwegian polymath, words are not so much spoken as they are tasted, chewed over, explored with the tongue for soft and brittle consonants. And when she spits out the word ‘bake’ on the spoken word opening to Apocalypse, girl, 2015’s most playfully avant-garde album, it’s perfectly clear that this is the more obscene word.

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British Sea Power – Sea of Brass

British Sea Power - Sea of Brass

Where next for our intrepid heroes? We return, of course, to the adventures of British Sea Power, a band for whom no amount of critical adulation in the broadsheets will ever translate to a decent festival billing. You sense there was a point around 2005, probably when “Please Stand Up” was released as a single, that they could have gone stellar; could perhaps have been an Arcade Fire, or at least The National. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. (Bittersweet, not least because Win Butler famously followed the English band around on tour, pre-Funeral.) Regardless, it was probably our gain.

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Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts – Manhattan

jeffrey_lewis_manhattan_-_600

The one time I met Jeffrey Lewis, he was folded into the cramped backstage area of a Manchester venue, waiting to go on stage in support of 2009’s ‘Em Are I. It was a brilliant break-up album, barely held together by single “Broken Broken Broken Heart”. He introduced himself, and then his “ex-girlfriend” sat next to him; she was on keyboards and backing vocals for the tour. Of course she was. It was the kind of romantically hapless moment that a previous generation would associate with Woody Allen, and a later one with Michael Cera.

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Interview: Tom Robinson

Tom_Robinson_And_Band_De_Roma_11 copy

Tom Robinson has kept busy. Since bursting into public consciousness with his band’s 1977 Top of the Pops debut, showcasing the irresistible “2-4-6-8 Motorway”, the Cambridge musician has continued to write and record albums throughout the intervening decades. He’s also developed an impressive career in broadcasting, having hosted shows on Radio 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 live, and 6 Music, where he continues to champion new bands to listeners around the country today. Did we mention his work with Rock Against Racism, the political campaigning, the support for LGBTQ and mental health charities? Honestly, some days we feel tired just thinking about the man.

Back with a new album and tour, we caught up with the musical icon to discuss punk authenticity, 70s revivals, dealing with depression, and why he’s had disagreements with Billy Bragg over the power of political music.

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The Art of Getting By

There’s a scene in Family Guy, that cultural behemoth of our times, where Peter Griffin addresses the camera directly in a TV segment he’s hosting called What Really Grinds My Gears. On this occasion, the issue is Lindsay Lohan’s sexualised body: “You’re out there jumping around, and I’m just sitting here with my beer. So, what am I supposed to do? What do you want? Are we gonna go out?” Peter’s frustration isn’t caused by what’s being projected out to him; it’s working out what he’s supposed to do with something he can’t touch or affect in any way.

Watching Sufjan Stevens perform Carrie & Lowell in its entirety at Bristol’s Colston Hall last month, I found myself wondering what we’re supposed to do with the album and, by extension, the performance. It’s a wonderful record, and it’s obviously been hugely therapeutic for Stevens, but what about the audience? What are we getting out of this?

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Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness

Have You in My Wilderness

Form is a wonderful thing to behold. At the peak of its powers, it renders talent both divine and audacious, producing the seemingly impossible from the apparently effortless. It’s a cross-court drop shot that clings to the net. It’s every speculative gesture amounting to ecstasy. About twenty minutes into Have You in My Wilderness, it’s the sound of Julia Holter offering up whistling and sax solos back to back.

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Sufjan Stevens @ Colston Hall, Bristol, 06/09/15

Sufjan Stevens

“No it’s not,” cries a man in the audience, and for a moment, Sufjan Stevens is completely thrown off track. After a little audience dialogue, the artist’s previous assertion that this was his first time in Bristol does indeed unravel, a lapse attributed to “a lot of drugs.” The audience laugh along, and it’s a welcome note of levity on an evening dominated by Carrie & Lowell, Stevens’ seventh studio album and tribute to his late mother.

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Baio – The Names

Baio - The Names

When Chris Baio announced his plans to release a debut album back in April, we were promised “Bowie and Ferry-influenced pop songs and dumbsmart arena techno.” The former seemed feasible; the latter sounded like a night out with Nathan Barley. What none of it sounded much like was Baio’s main band, Vampire Weekend. The New York four-piece have certainly worn their influences on their sleeves, spending formative years cherry-picking from Afrobeat as much as European indie rock, while managing to carve out a unique sound of their own. What remained to be seen was how the bassist would marry his own diverse musical passions.

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