Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain

Red Earth & Pouring Rain

Red Earth & Pouring Rain marks the return of Bear’s Den, British alt-folk’s heirs apparent, released on their founder’s imprint. If you’re not familiar with the name, Communion began life in 2006 as an “artist-led organisation”, the dream of multi-instrumentalist Kevin Jones, Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons), and producer Ian Grimble. In 2010, Communion Records was established, pressing the likes of Ben HowardDaughter, Matt Corby and Nathaniel Rateliff. Now, you should already have a few genre tropes fizzing through your mind: gently picked guitar chords thrumming with reverb; perhaps a man’s voice, nominally pruned from southern England, that somehow has a Californian twang to it. Most of all, if you’ve paid attention to the last decade’s banjo-rock explosion whatsoever, there should be one word on the tip of your tongue: dear.

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Martha – Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

The events that make up Blisters in the Pit of My Heart primarily take place in transitory places: buses, shopping aisles, streets, school corridors, low-paid jobs, gender-neutral toilets. It’s a record that wonders where it is you’re supposed to be going, what you’re supposed to be waiting for, and when might be reasonable to expect its arrival. It’s a record that celebrates life’s sharp edges, while recognising that they’re often just four isolated incidents on an otherwise uninterrupted expanse of white photocopy paper. It’s a record that could only have been written by a group of vegan, straight-edge anarchists who genuinely hail from an old pitting village in County Durham called Pity Me. Which is to say, it could only belong to Martha.

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Interview: Johnny Foreigner

Spiralled out across temp jobs and club nights, the galaxy that Johnny Foreigner inhabits has always been one of immuteable uncertainty. It’s not unusual, of course, for the everyday life of the artist to filter into their work, often manifested in the bleeding heart, life-on-the-road complaint track. But nowhere else does the hard work feel like part of the reward; like few of their peers, the day-to-day grind of just making it work feels intimately stitched into the fabric of everything that Alexei, Kelly, Junior and Lewes create. “I’ve a confession,” Alexei begins on Mono No Aware, the Birmingham quartet’s fifth LP. “It stings to admit: I can’t foresee a day when we’ll buy speedboats from this.”

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Shura – Nothing’s Real

Nothing's Real

Shyness, as a young man once mused, is nice. It’s always a submissive play, and therefore a source of enormous power in any romantic encounter, regardless of whether it arrives as a conduit of blushing anxiety or professional coquetry. For Shura, another coy Mancunian, it’s the emotional bedrock of her work, stitched together from a young lifetime’s archive of rom-com cliché: hair nervously swept out of faces; stolen glances across classrooms and lockers; awkward smiles exchanged over the protagonist’s frankly bizarre refusal to carry her books in a goddamn bag like everyone else. Now she’s roped in pop ubiquity Greg Kurstin to co-write some bangers for her debut album, Nothing’s Real, is the 25-year-old about to start using her outside voice?

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