Low Hum are a band formed around the nucleus of Hawaiian guitarist Colin Desha, now based in Los Angeles. Both places are famed for their surf, so it's no surprise that Low Hum's music has its roots in surf-rock - although Desha along with Parisian drummer/producer Jules De Gasperis have a vitality and freneticism that shifts it outside of that narrow pigeonhole.
New song and video 'Strange Love' introduces Low Hum with a psychedelic swirl, chock full of unhinged humour - it was inspired by Dr. Strangelove after all. It's just the first taste of a forthcoming debut album called Room To Breathe, and delving into their previously released material suggests that Low Hum have plenty more gears and dimensions to work with beyond the ecstatic waywardness of 'Strange Love'.
Enjoy Low Hum's weird and wonderful video for 'Strange Love' below.
C Duncan has announced the follow up to 2016's The Midnight Sun; his new album Health is out on March 29th via FatCat. The new record finds him working with collaborators, including Elbow's Craig Potter on production, for the first time; “This was the biggest shift in dynamic for me,” he explains, “having always worked alone, it was a daunting prospect but one I knew I had to explore.”
He also reveals that the writing process was "very cathartic" that "helped [him] through a lot of tough times and also to celebrate the good."
In the new single shared with the album announcement, 'Invisible', we can certainly hear the effect that the additional players have had, as this is possibly the biggest-sounding song he's put out - while also being downright groovy. Even though he laments "it's impossible to tell you about how I'm feeling," in the slick chorus, the flashes of violin, wiggling guitar and insistent bass keep the song upbeat, resulting in an undoubted earworm. Check out 'Invisible' below.
Sir Babygirl is the moniker of alt-pop singer and producer Kelly Hogue, who has made waves in various DIY scenes across America, from the Bay to Chicago - although she returned to her home in New Hampshire to write and record her debut album. The first full length from Sir Babygirl is called Crush On Me and comes out on February 15th via Father/Daughter.
There's already been a string of singles from Crush On Me released (which you should find online right now), so we're playing a bit of catch up, but her new song and video 'Everyone Is A Bad Friend' is a perfect time to hop onboard the Sir Babygirl train. Beginning a stomping pop number with wavey guitars, Sir Babygirl brings a sing-song charm to the track, before making a subtle shift in tone towards darker territories. "Everyone I meet gives me great advice/ but I never give them mine," she laments, on her descent into even darker and unstoppable thoughts. Regardless of the uncomfortable ideas that come spewing from Sir Babygirl's mind, 'Everyone Is A Bad Friend' is undoubtedly uplifting, as she puts a neon sheen on her worries, picks them up and in accepting people's accusations of being a bad friend, she finds catharsis in turning that back on her accusers. In the end 'Everyone Is A Bad Friend' plays like an acceptance of everyone's shortcomings, and finds an unfiltered freedom in that realisation.
Sir Babygirl - Everyone is a Bad Friend [Official Audio] - YouTube
Sir Babygirl's debut album Crush On Me is out on February 15th through Father/Daughter (pre-order). Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
London's masked wilderpeople Snapped Ankles follow up the turbulent 'Drink and Glide' today with a new song called 'Rechargeable', the second new song to be aired from their forthcoming album Stunning Luxury (due out March 1st via The Leaf Label).
As ever, 'Rechargeable' finds Snaps quickly getting up into top gear in their rambunctious post-punk gait, marching onwards despite the professions of tiredness after an unending night of movement. Interconnecting kraut beats, modular synths and whirring undercurrents, 'Rechargeable' pushes Snapped Ankles beyond the limits of their fuel reserves, and they just keep going. "We need a pulse!" they yelp amidst hospital-like beeps, holding up their hands to block the new day's sun from their eyes as they stagger onwards through "vivid ultra-violet streets," where "the looks of commuters calcify past missing teeth." If, on this Friday morning, you're already desperate for the embrace of the weekend, Snapped Ankles' 'Rechargeable' is here to give you the final push through the long work day and then on into the wild freedom of the infinite night. Check it out below.
Snapped Ankles' second album Stunning Luxury is out on March 1st via The Leaf Label. You should try to catch their fearsome live show at one of these forthcoming gigs:
Saturday 2 February - The Smokehouse, Ipswich, UK (SOLD OUT)
Thursday 7 February - ACU, Utrecht, NETHERLANDS
Friday 8 February - Grasnapolsky Festival, Groningen, NETHERLANDS
Saturday 9 February - Grauzone Festival, The Hague, NETHERLANDS
Sunday 10 February - Merleyn, Nijmegen, NETHERLANDS
Saturday 23 February - Mutations festival, Brighton, UK
Thursday 28 February - Oslo, London, UK
Wednesday 6 March - Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK
Thursday 7 March - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK
Friday 8 March - Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool, UK
Saturday 9 March - Star & Shadow, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Sunday 10 March - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, UK (SOLD OUT)
Monday 11 March - Mono, Glasgow, UK
Thursday 14 March - The Exchange, Bristol, UK
Friday 22 March - Kantine am Berghain , Berlin, GERMANY
Saturday 23 March - La Maroquinerie, Paris, FRANCE
Staten Island-based Justy has technically been around for a while. She started writing music at the age of 12, and now at the age of 23, she's quickly proving herself to be a promising and unique artist. Take a moment to scroll through her SoundCloud and it's pretty obvious how diverse she's capable of being.
Her songs swerve between R&B and soul to straight-forward hip-hop with the occasional funk nod thrown in. Her music captures the bliss of being creatively restless and free-spirited enough to explore and experiment with creative boundaries. Her new single 'Try' is no less thrilling.
Produced by Blue Lab Beats, it sees her tapping into 90s neo-soul and jazzy rap and creating something that's downright uplifting from it. Over warm and hazy brass, faint traces of organs bubbling just beneath the surface, and a brittle bouncing beat, she switches effortlessly between singing in a hushed soulful voice and laying down solid bars, all the while encouraging a love interest with whom there's a shared chemistry to open up and take a chance on something more.
Making those kinds of moves can sometimes be nerve-wracking for obvious reasons, especially considering the risk involved. But, as she points out on the chorus, "Some things don't work/ At least we'll learn/ It doesn't hurt to." Sometimes half the thrill of taking a chance is seeing where it leads to, regardless of the outcome.
Dahlia Sleeps are a London-based four-piece who make wrought and impassioned music that harnesses the power of human connection. In their new mini-album, Love, Lost (out today), they have put together a collection of tracks that are fearlessly confidential in their lyricism, while pushing these usually-hidden emotions upwards and outwards with wide-angled production and arrangements.
The collective is twin-spearheaded by lead vocalist Lucy Hill and producer Luke Hester, who were kind enough to answer some questions from us about Dahlia Sleeps' development and process. They record in Hester's South London basement studio, which is where I thought I'd start the conversation.
It’s hard to imagine such open-armed and expansive music being recorded in a South London basement; tell us about the recording process for Love, Lost.
Luke: Open-armed and expansive...I like that, will be for sure stealing it for future descriptions.
It usually starts with Lucy sat at her piano at home or from some instrumental component that just feels good - whether that be drums or guitar or something completely abstract. To be honest that's probably about as far as I can go in regards to a process, especially with this record. Things happened very naturally, we have a start point, however that comes to exist, and then we just flow with what we think sounds right.
We really started branching out with the equipment we used: lots of old analog synthesisers and outboard FX. It’s great to have tactile pieces of gear to use when writing to keep things as outside of the computer as possible.
Lucy: This is the studio in Luke’s basement in SE London that Love, Lost was written and recorded in. Luke’s girlfriend Ruby Brown (who directed the videos for 'Storm' and 'Settle Down' alongside Leo Taylor) took the photo.
The covers of your releases up to and including Love, Lost have seemed like a series, is the continuity important to the project?
Lucy: We definitely wanted to start using consistent imagery in our artwork and with intimacy - in its many forms - being a key theme in our music, soft nudity made sense for us. The artwork for the previous EP was inspired by a very raw self-portrait by Ana Cuba, this next one followed a similar theme but features the subject of one of the songs. So it all very much ties together with the music.
In your press pictures, the Love, Lost cover, and in the lyrics, physical intimacy is a continual theme; is it a key inspiration for you?
Lucy: For sure - all of the songs on Love, Lost are about intimacy in some form. Physical closeness paired with emotional distance, unresolved feelings, the challenges we face at trying to open up – across all types of relationships. It’s probably our biggest drive to write. I’m really glad that theme comes across in all of the imagery too.
Emotional intimacy sometimes seems less easy; ‘Storm’ and ‘Love, Lost’ both deal with people who find it hard to express their true feelings – is this something you’ve had to overcome?
Lucy: Haha - well spotted. It is so very human to feel trapped inside your emotions - either because you don’t know how speak on them, or because the situation simply doesn’t allow for it. Not all of these songs are autobiographical but it is certainly true that it’s a daily challenge - which I suppose is why we write!
Lucy: This is Luke after a particularly long studio session. He dragged his mattress outside and passed out in the garden in the sun. We spent a lot of time in that garden writing lyrics, working on songs with an acoustic guitar before taking them back downstairs. It was the summer of dreams.
Do you sometimes find it easier to express a deeply felt emotion in a song than in talking?
Lucy: Absolutely. There are things that I think we both struggle to communicate - even to each other - that all comes out when we’re writing. Sometimes it won’t be until I’m sat at the piano that I know what it is that’s creating these tangles.
Luke: So much so, I'm useless at talking...I'm a real Ostrich. So I can say things in songs, and the beauty of it is everybody has their own interpretations of what you are saying - hide in the ambiguity.
How do you present such intimate and personal songs to the rest of the band? Is it ever scary?
Luke: You know it's kind of got to the stage that this is a form of therapy. Getting it all out onto a page and then hearing Lucy sing it back at me...is beyond cathartic.
Lucy: Luke and I have been handing our books of lyrics over to each other for a long time now. We are so used to existing in each other’s minds in that way. It stops being scary. It is quite an overpowering thing though - I would never let anybody but the boys pick up one of those books and I feel a lot of gratitude for what Luke is able to share with me.
What do you hope that listeners will feel or take away from listening to Love, Lost?
Luke: When I connect to music I just get so lost, I can go for hours and hours and easily just do nothing but listen and remove myself from everything else that’s going on. Nothing else can do it. If our music instils even a fraction of that I’d be so happy. And emotion wise I hope people will interpret it in their own way and possibly find some comfort in relating to it - as long as it stirs something.
Lucy: The intro track and interlude (loving you still) were both written and recorded on this piano. Both Luke and I had written a couple of verses of something very pure and we wanted these songs to exist in their un-grown form. They're probably my favourite on the record.
Sonically and emotionally I’m reminded of acts like The xx and Cigarettes After Sex; how do you feel about these comparisons?
Lucy: Very happy! Both these bands are built on pure emotion which is all we want to do in the end.
Luke: Yup, likewise, The xx and especially Jamie's production was and still continues to be a source of influence.
Are there any books, music or films that had an impact on Dahlia Sleeps that you’d like to recommend?
Luke: Musically, I am really drawn to the dark and emotive side of things. Artists that have impacted my production could be: Sorrow, Apparat (Especially the War and Peace Scores), William Basinski, Jon Hopkins, Mssingno, Couros, Lorn, Khushi…to name a few.
Lucy: Picking up poetry books by Nayyirah Waheed, Mary Oliver, Danez Smith, Yrsa Daley Ward, Audre Lorde, Kate Tempest massively fed into the writing process - I would always recommend these. Some of these writers are utterly fearless in their revelations, they say so much with so few words.
Lucy: ‘To The Water’ is about a camping trip to the lake that I took with a friend and this is a photo from that trip. We spent a lot of time by a fire the night before talking about some tricky things and then the next day we cleansed it all here.
Dahlia Sleeps’ new mini-album Love, Lost is out today on all platforms.
If this is Nili Hadida’s moment, then it’s about time. Originally hailing from Tel Aviv, Hadida found success in France as half of folk duo Lilly Wood and the Prick, releasing three albums across a decade.
While the pair found serious success across Europe via a remix to an older song in 2014, true recognition has somewhat eluded them, particularly in the States. With the project lying somewhat dormant since 2015’s Shadows, Hadida is stepping out on her own in hopes of rectifying that.
She’s brought along quite the backers, with the duo of Christian Rich and Jimmy Douglass handling producing and mixing, respectively. With credits including Björk, Kanye West, N.E.R.D, and Justin Timberlake between them, needless to say, Hadida’s self-titled debut sounds great, practically gliding from speakers to ear canals.
What’s surprising is all the personalities at play here managing to remain so restrained. Hadida herself clearly isn’t overly interested in going for easy (or “big”) pop moments, instead gravitating for low-key grooves and introspective reflection.
Unlike her chosen soundsmiths’ grander collaborators, this isn’t music meant for belting out alone in your room or sloppy parties, more suited to a pleasantly lonely chill shesh, unassuming, somewhat minimalist in its fleeting presentation.
‘401’, however, still manages to be somewhat of an anthem, Hadida strongly observing, “Every second in this space is spent with you.” By and large, though, the songs found here aren’t demanding, floating in and out of view. She can make a seemingly simple line, such as the barb of, "She smiles when she lies, and she lies all the time," on 'This Way' slice with harsh force.
‘Frank’, a tribute to Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’, is sure to please fans of both artists. It’s hardly a leap, with Hadida’s interests seeming to primarily lie in softening soul into a caressing pop mixture of her own. A stand out moment comes as she delves back into the folkier elements of her past, with the stark simplicity of ‘You Got Me’ speaking volumes.
Nili Hadida may not attract legions of pop fans, but then, it hardly feels designed to. Hadida is clearly enjoying stretching out on her own at long last, and the album plays a bit like her testing her sea legs on a maiden voyage, finding her footing, and her independent voice, as she goes. It faces stiff competition in a tough, crowded field, but as an opening salvo, it more than signals good things to come from a positive, self-assured voice.
Authenticity is an often misunderstood termed used as a means of validation in both music criticism and popular discourse. It is reductive, entirely subjective and prone to misuse. Performance and contrivance exist in all forms of art and compromise is inevitable between ideas and their resulting action. Pub chats on music up and down the land often centre on the elevation of singers or bands due to a perception of how much they “mean it,” whilst those in conversation dance gleefully on the corpse’s ashes of the latest “manufactured” pop band to wane from public affection. Yet, such ideals only exist to attribute value for the audience’s choices rather than the substance of the material they listen to. “Their” music acts as a conduit for their worth and establishes them firmly as a culturally competent consumer with taste and, by association, the use of the term “authentic” in music discussion does little more than act as a shield against criticism and, at its very essence, is a basic circle-jerk between artist and audience.
Still with me? Great.
The Twilight Sad really want you to believe they mean it, and they most likely do - but that should not in itself be enough. Anyone who has seen the band live in the last few years knows that they have grown into something of a beautiful celebration of isolation in front of an ever-larger crowd, as oxymoronic as you could wish to get. Singer James Graham has become more confident, more vivacious and simply more brilliant as a frontman, yet his on-stage theatrics often mask the fragility of the Twilight Sad’s lyrics. Their shows in the summer, including a rousing and horribly short set at The Cure’s Hyde Park extravaganza, included a cover of Frightened Rabbit’s quite brilliant ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, the band paying suitable heartfelt tribute to their friend and Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchison. Resilience and weakness have never been more beautifully and problematically aligned. It is the acceptance of these juxtapositions that separates fans of this band and those who don’t “get it.” This album won’t change people’s minds about The Twilight Sad, but it may open more ears to their triumphant melancholy.
On the band’s fifth studio album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (their first on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records), they continue to plough the same furrow as on their previous albums, yet with a little more urgency, consistency and richness that some of their earlier work lacked. There is a simplicity here, both in terms of lyrical content and musicality. The same lines or lyrics with little variation are sung over and over, their repetition serving as perfect illustrations of how separation and loneliness lead to self-doubt and recrimination. “I don’t want to be around you anymore/ I can’t stand to be around you anymore,” on ‘I/m Not Here (Missing Face)’ serves as a perfect example of this.
This is the most highly-polished Twilight Sad album to date in terms of production, and there are also elements which align them with a number of obvious influencers: the clattering drum machine and guttural bass on the ‘The Arbor’ echo fellow Scots Cocteau Twins, whilst Graham’s vocal melody and the keyboards on ‘VTr’ are reminiscent of Talk Talk. None of these aspects are so painfully obvious as to be derivative, and they arguably flesh out The Twilight Sad’s place in the pantheon of miserabilism and positive despair.
The last track here is the already released ‘Videograms’, and it is a sign of the strength of the album as a whole that this song sits at the denouement of the work. The previous ten songs, all tales of lost and dying love, frustration and ennui are wrapped up in this last track, which shows signs of positive growth and the personal development of the protagonist with the chorus of “So don’t start/ Don’t you start on me.” Here, there is less a sense of defeated resignation and more one of learning from previous mistakes. It is also of note that many of the choruses and refrains in the earlier songs seem to be very reflective, inward-looking, as moments of self-talk and personal encouragement to gain the strength needed to walk away. In these final lines, it feels as though there is some relief to the constant barrage of woe, and there is a sense of release for the listener, pride in the newfound confidence of the person whose side we are on. This doesn’t last long, however, and there is a final sting in the tale for the listener as weakness and uncertainty once again seep into the mind of the singer.
Very much like their kindred spirits The National, there is a lack of transformation, of development and of significant progression on this album, yet this only serves to reinforce the singular message of what has gone before. The Twilight Sad have not needed to reset themselves, nor have they tried to. They have simply settled into their sorrow more readily and we can all take comfort from that.
This album is filled with simple refrains, hooks and lyrical repetition that could well see The Twilight Sad take all before them at every festival that no doubt they will play in 2019, and then the backlash on their “authenticity” can inevitably be played out for every mug with an ill-informed opinion to involve themselves in.