Hold On Tight, Darling: Amanda Palmer Interviewed

Photo credit: Khan & Selesnick

“I’m not gonna match you,” Amanda Palmer once sang on ‘Ampersand’, a paean to the importance of retaining your own identity, “’cause I’ll lose my voice completely.” On the 16th June 2015, the day that Donald Trump announced to the world that he would be running for US president, Palmer was already anticipating a new voice shaping the next chapter of her life. Her son would be born exactly three months later.

It wouldn’t be the last time that a major political event juxtaposed with personal events in the artist’s life; more recently, her new album ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ was recorded as the Kavanaugh trial was playing out across the world. “We were literally glued to our phones in between takes, watching this cosmic battle of the sexes play out in Washington DC,” she tells me over the phone from upstate New York. “I’ll never be able to separate those events, the way I’ll never be able to separate the arrival of my child and the arrival of Donald Trump in my life; they showed up in my life at the same time.”

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In Conversation: Calpurnia

 

“That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one…”

As the black matriarch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Calpurnia seems light years away from the four teenage kids from Vancouver who carry her name. They’re young in a modern way, as one would hope: still goofy and wild, still piecing the world together between gym class and Fortnite. Nonetheless, just as Scout becomes fascinated with the scenes beyond her housekeeper’s gaze, the band have had to negotiate the world’s obsession with their own second lives.

After bringing their first singles together with two new tracks for a debut collection titled – what else? – ‘Scout EP’, the quartet are starting to get attention for all the right reasons. They’ve been picked up by Canadian indie label Royal Mountain, with Transgressive covering distribution across the UK and Europe. Their live shows are getting hot reviews across the board. Weezer even tweeted to say how much they loved the band’s cover of ‘Say It Ain’t So’. In other words, they’re proving to be a whole lot more than a casual side-project for their lead singer, Hollywood actor and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tom Misch – Geography

Perhaps you blinked and missed it, but Tom Misch is kind of a big deal these days, already scheduled into festival slots above the likes of Flying Lotus and Mavis Staples this summer. For his debut album ‘Geography’, the 22-year-old has roped in several guest appearances, and across the duration of an LP, it becomes abundantly clear why: like fellow producer-turned- guitarist Mark Ronson, no-one’s really paying to hear him jam out Stevie Wonder covers.

Published in Clash Magazine (and online)

Storming, Thundering, Lightning: The Elemental Properties of Zola Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the year, Nika Roza Danilova was working on a new piece of music while a thunderstorm raged outside. The artist, who has just released her fifth album as Zola Jesus, has often been described in terms more befitting a mage or sorcerer: critics talk of her exorcising demons, casting spells, illuminating the nighttime that her songs invariably arrive cloaked in. On that night, it appears she channelled the elements in a more literal fashion.

“I don’t know, maybe you know more about physics and electricity than me,” she offers, incorrectly. “But I was in my house, and it was storming, thundering, lightning outside, and I was working on this piece. So I leaned over and I touched my desk, and all of a sudden my whole body got this jolt of electricity. It didn’t even just course through me, it was like my brain got shocked.” After the year she’s had, and the fulminating qualities of new record ‘Okovi’, it feels like a prescient moment.

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