Julia Holter – Aviary

Upon hearing 2015’s critically adored ‘Have You in My Wilderness’, it felt as though some of Julia Holter’s sharp edges had been smoothed down. It felt strange in places, still identifiably Holter, but stranger still was the impression that something like ‘Feel You’ could sit happily on a Radio 2 playlist. Three years on, the artist returns with ‘Aviary’, an album grander in scope, bolder in execution, and replete with jagged edges.

Continue reading at Clash

Robyn – Honey

“Can’t take all these memories,” Robyn sings one hundred seconds into her sixth album, “don’t know how to use ‘em.” It transpires that the swirling synth arpeggios of ‘Missing U’ are something of a musical outlier, but the sentiment is one that permeates every strand of Robyn’s artistic DNA: the ability to use those bittersweet memories more effectively than any other musician working today.

Continue reading at Clash

Live Report: Ypsigrock Festival 2018

Credit: Elisabetta Brian Photography

It’s late morning on the outskirts of Castelbuono, and the old ladies have started dancing in the water. At the edge of the pool the instructor has turned on a stereo, sending a stream of radio-friendly reggaeton and Latin pop bangers across the hotel courtyard and out into the mountains, a collection that does not feature ‘Despacito’ but which could feasibly arrive at ‘Despacito’ at any moment.

Towards the end of the class, something strange happens: the music moves into an ambient mix of what sounds like both Enya and Italy’s answer to Perfume Genius, and le danzatrici begin holding hands and floating in concentric circles, a death ritual played out in a sun-kissed leisure complex in the Sicilian mountains.

Imagine my disappointment when I was informed, tears still wet on my cheeks, that this was not the opening ceremony of Ypsigrock Festival 2018, but a weekly hotel aerobics class, and that I would have to travel further up into the mountains to watch the actual, scheduled selection of live performances. Reader, I was incensed and embarrassed in equal measure.

Continue reading at Clash

Sub Pop Founder Jonathan Poneman on the Spirit of Independence

 

All things considered, it would be so easy for Jonathan Poneman to remain anchored to the past. He is, after all, still the man who formed Sub Pop Records alongside Bruce Pavitt in 1988, helping to forge Pavitt’s independent dream into a commercial reality; still the man who, as part of that team, signed Nirvana. He remains the sum of every part in the cultural thrust that saw alternative rock explode into the mainstream in the early 90s, occupying spaces that it wasn’t supposed to back then. He retains that legacy, without question or compromise.

Continue reading at Clash

Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

With the release of 2016’s ‘I, Gemini’, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth opened up several possible futures for themselves. That Let’s Eat Grandma provoked the unusual tag of ‘sludge pop’ was largely indicative of the fact that no one could work them out: were they the new CocoRosie? Gang Gang Dance? Shakespeare’s Sister? All three, somehow?

 

Published in Clash Magazine (and online)

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

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)