Anna of the North – Lovers

Reminiscing on the countless albums that have been signposted as eighties nostalgia, it’s striking how few of them actually sound like anything from that decade. Sure, the drums are loaded with gated reverb, the synth modules are preset to soft tones that were disowned in the nineties, fade-outs are a thing again, and the saxophone is suddenly an acceptable replacement for the electric guitar.

What’s perhaps unsurprising is that all these records represent exactly what they are: a loving pastiche recreated from memories, a tribute rather than a precise facsimile. Anna Lotterud – AKA the vocal half of pop duo Anna of the North – was born in the summer of 1989, a few months before Taylor Swift. On debut album Lovers, she calls back to an era she couldn’t possibly remember, but her nostalgia forms part of a cultural renaissance that now merits its own chapter in pop history.

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Interview: EMA explores the boundaries of the outer ring

 

In September 2015, the Washington Post ran a feature called ‘An American Void’. It follows the day-to-day lives of the Meek family, who occasionally housed Dylann Roof in the days and weeks before he walked into Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot dead nine black attendees, an act he had hoped would spark a race war. What was most captivating about Stephanie McCrummen’s story was its focus on the peripheries of the event, the sheer ordinariness of the lives that orbited Roof’s.

This proved to be one of several cultural and political backdrops that informed Erika M. Anderson’s concept of ‘the outer ring’, the economic dead space outlined on her third album as EMAExile in the Outer Ring. (Enormously articulate and well-read, Anderson lights up when I ask her about literary influences and confesses she’s been meaning to compile a ‘reading list’ to accompany the record.) Her definition for the Quietus seemed succinct enough: “It’s the estuary between where the people who are being forced out of the cities, due to being economically disadvantaged, meet with the people who having to leave the countryside in order to get jobs.”

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Sea Change Festival 2017 @ Totnes, 24-26/08/17

As a young man growing up in Torquay, the neighbouring town of Totnes seemed like a strange kind of heaven. It was full of anarchists, hippies, socialists, crystal healers, vegans; I pilfered their book shops for esoteric publications by all of the above, picked up tomes by Terence McKenna, read the words of men pushing for an intersectional approach to psychedelics, the Abrahamic religions, and the alien civilisations who, I am led to believe, introduced both.

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Martine McCutcheon – Lost and Found

In a thousand years or so, maybe a hundred, none of this will matter. Once the nuclear tides have swept away an ocean of consumer perishables – discounted beyond belief for the greatest everything-must-go sale on earth – the balance between nature and artifice will pivot and arc back in favour of the soil, where the distinction between Olly Murs and Death Grips will be so much shattered plastic. In the meantime, Martine McCutcheon’s got a new album out, so perhaps we should assess that before we get ahead of ourselves. After all, civilisations don’t always get to choose which artefacts signal that they were once here; for all we know, ours could be Lost and Found and a cracked fidget spinner.

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Everything Everything are lost in A Fever Dream

In the seven years since Everything Everything hatched their jabbering debut Man Alive, a record that seemed destined to be filed alongside Fenech Soler and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool as curios of the period, a lot has changed. Its follow-up Arc put down a marker that they could do more than simply yelp and writhe, binding the band’s more staccato movements into something positively elegant. By the time we reached 2015’s Get to Heaven, the band were unstoppable; like an athlete at the apex of their game, their genius felt effortless, performatively cut through with cute feints and bravado. Returning with fourth album A Fever Dream, how could the Manchester four-piece possibly fail to score?

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Say No To The Yes Men: Nadine Shah Interviewed

Nadine Shah is texting me from a Wetherspoons. ‘I’m gonna duck out of this shithole and call you in 6mins. That ok?’ Half an hour later, we’re wrapping up with a discussion of their gin palace. (She’s got a double waiting inside.) Somewhere in between, we cover the Syrian refugee crisis, British nationalism, the current Tory government, immigration, gender, and revolution.

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Kesha – Rainbow

As our march toward the world’s end builds to a canter, the narratives we wrap around human tragedies both great and small remain the same: resurrection, hope not hate, the phoenix rising from the ashes. After Eagles of Death Metal survived the terrorist attack that interrupted their 2015 Bataclan show in Paris, the appropriate responses began flooding in, spearheaded by (a) a collection of largely ersatz covers of ‘I Love You All The Time’, and (b) the usual well-meaning platitudes about hope and fear. Frontman Jesse Hughes didn’t get the memo. ‘I know people will disagree with me,’ he told The Guardian a few months later, ‘but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal.’ Suddenly, it appeared the protagonists had their own complex moral code, one that didn’t necessarily fit with the scripted liberal response. The phoenix proved as unmanageable as the ashes.

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Mammút – Kinder Versions

The vocabulary of post-punk is one that shifts, but never bends. Its album reviews – certainly this side of ‘Silent Alarm’ – are littered with the kind of abrasive descriptors that suggest the album may also function as a rudimentary bandsaw: jagged, angular, serrated, combined with a mitre fence for accurate repetitive cuts. Thank heavens for Mammút then, whose fourth album ‘Kinder Versions’ is equally arch at its edges and swollen with unkempt joy in the middle.

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