Fortnightly Shortbites – March 2022 Bumper Edition
Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking: how can it be Fortnightly Shortbites if it’s covering the whole of March? Yes, yes, yes, alright. Well, it’s the OMNIBUS edition, all right?
Thanks to Trev Elkin, Bill Cummings and Max Mazonowicz once again for their excellent contributions. Lots of great stuff released in March, so hopefully we can open your eyes and ears to stuff that you may otherwise have missed…
Gorgeous, nighttime melancholic psych-folk that crackles with wood smoke and campfire light, Samana’s debut album All One Breath is the product of emergence and seeing opportunity where others don’t. The duo of Rebecca Rose Harris and Franklin Mockett left their rural Welsh Studio, filled their car with a refined selection of instruments and a tape machine and headed to France for a three-week residency in early 2020. When lockdown threatened, they chose to stay and ride out the pandemic. 60 songs, written and recorded in the old secluded wooden barn where they stayed were whittled down to what you hear now, a refined, timeless collection that sighs with the weight of stars and darkness, hills and forests, dreams and fears. Opener ‘Melancholy Heat’ sets a high bar that is sustained through ’The Glory of Love’, and ‘Patience’ right to the end. Harris’s voice is a shimmering silken thread that binds Mockett’s patchwork of Americana guitar styles, recalling Anna Calvi, Aoife Nessa Frances or Keeley Forsyth in its rich intensity. Pull the blanket up and play this softly, through headphones, just before bed. 8/10 Trev Elkin
A Philly garage rock band on a Swedish punk label is only ever going to be a successful combo. On Esoteric Hex, their first LP for PNK SLM, The Mary Veils squeeze out your brains through your ear canal and spoon it back to you like sweet rye pudding. Fans of Osees (Thee Oh Sees), New York Dolls or King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard for example, will love the air guitar-ready vibes with melodic riffs made to be pumped out loud and proud. A love letter to Philadelphia, the USA’s abandoned capital and forgotten city, the album defiantly throws itself headlong into the world. Blending scuzzy, blues and acoustic guitars, destroyed classic rock n’roll beats and psych-tinged double-octave vocal harmonies, The Mary Veils hook you with something familiar and then proceed to wrench your senses inside out with sudden searing, breakneck turns. The title, inspired by the city’s secret history of theosophy, and the occult, explains some of the pent up mystic energy that lingers in the shadowy margins of each song. Don’t look too closely though, it might stare back. 8/10 Trev Elkin
Molly Madden created her alter ego Uma Bloo years ago, inspired by Marilyn Monroe, country singers, and her own background as a burlesque performer. Don’t Drive Into The Smoke represents a career and a personal turning point and the first proper release of Uma Bloo as a fully-formed band. The album is darkly theatrical, with diverse influences from alt rock, jazz, neo-classical and grunge with Madden’s powerful tenor striding across these lengths in bold, earnest tones. Despite its intensity, there is a creaking vulnerability to Madden’s voice as she processes the sense of loss and hurt of a Catholic upbringing and the conflict of wanting a different kind of life. Don’t Drive… is at first a wild coming of age ride, but repeat listens reveal an appreciation of its intricacies and subtle dynamic shifts that bring us closer to Madden’s intensely personal lyrics as she works through the pain of growing towards being the artist and creator she is today. If you’re new to Uma Bloo, start with the swooning waltz of ‘Marguerite’s Novels’.7/10 Trev Elkin
Swedish Punk is a charming debut from this rising Danish indie pop band that sends sparks of 90s nostalgia flying in all directions. Singer-guitarist Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen clutches at high notes, pulling them innocently to her heart as she sings about the lightness of summers gone by, carefree days and unrelenting optimism. The insanely catchy singles ‘Don’t You Grow Up’ and ’Sun Is Always In My Eyes’ live up to the hype and comparisons with Alvvays, while elsewhere Kindsight branches out more tentatively with an interesting mashup of 90s jangly indie, grunge and Sugarcubes-inspired phrasing on both ‘Queen Of Cowboys’ and ‘Hi Life’. There are quieter, reflective moods too on ‘Panic Juice’ showing a darker side to Rasmussen’s voice and future potential. Closing title track ‘Swedish Punk‘ has a bit of all the above, served with a slice of Lee Ranaldo guitars and Hooky-style bass. If you are smitten on Scandi pop, Kindsight may just be your favourite discovery of 2022. 7/10 Trev Elkin
Proper. are back with a vital and ambitious concept album that could be the best they’ve ever sounded, while being an undeniably challenging listen for anyone who does not understand the queer, black, or latinx experience in today’s America. But listen and you will start to learn “our identity crises, our aimlessness and how many friends and family we know that are dead or in jail by 25” says vocalist-guitarist Erik Garlington. Garlington is joined by Natasha Johnson on bass and drummer Elijah Watson on a 50 minute odyssey through a mosh pit of emo-leaning metal, catchy post-hardcore and gentler sad pop songs. The result is an album that will certainly draw a wider audience, something that Garlington is acutely aware of and he doesn’t waste a single note trying to please, or to be something other than authentic. At times, Proper. sound like At The Drive In or Glassjaw fronted by Kele Okereke. Other times, as on the politically poignant ‘McConnell’ we get Slipknot screams next to close-mic confessionals. Garlington’s vocals necessarily reflect both the confusion inherent in the heaviest of lyrical passages as on ‘In the Van Somewhere Outside of Birmingham’, as well as bitter self-effacing humour in ‘Barbershop Interlude’. There are some truly moving, pointed moments on The Great American Novel, notably ‘Jean’ a gut-punch of a song about the death of a close friend. Not any ordinary death, and one that is all too common. The Great American Novel is a remarkable release that redefines the versatility and reach of emo and its potential to tell compelling, important stories. 9/10 Trev Elkin
BENEE’s 2020 debut was a banger filled joy, and her early 2022 follow-up mini-album – it’s seven tracks so not an EP but not a full album – is more of the same. Lychee is a lovely slice of chilled out slacker-pop. Opener ‘Beach Boy’ is an excellent slow burner, while ‘Hurt You, Gus’ is a beat heavy break-up song. It’s a slick yet homebrew set of songs from the New Zealander and well worth your time. 7/10 Max Mazonowicz
There’s a great vibe to Nilüfer Yanya’s second album, PAINLESS. Right from the first track there’s a sense of looseness to its guitar grooves but with a total rhythm applied. Switching it up with overtly guitar-y throughlines and more subtle music PAINLESS displays a real variety while sounding cohesive from start to finish. Check out the quiet contemplation of ‘Shameless’ and the electronic static centred ‘Chase Me’ for a taste of Nilüfer’s quality. There was a lot of pre-release hype to PAINLESS and on this occasion the actual album is fully deserving. Oh, and ‘try’ is a wonderful thing. 9/10Max Mazonowicz
Excitement was very high for Ferris & Sylvester’s proper debut. After a few years of EPs and standalone songs, and spending what seems like forever on the live circuit building up quite the reputation in the UK blues-folk-rock scene, Superhuman is the moment they’ve been waiting for. So it’s no surprise that they know their wheelhouse, slightly overlong folk-blues ditties. Maybe it’s just a symptom of our ever less patient world that a 49 minute running time seems excessive. Still, there’s actually loads of good stuff here. Issy (Ferris) and Archie (Sylvester) have voices that are a total dream together, a depth and range that few duos can match. And they’ve songs like ‘Golden’, which is a real beauty, and the absolutely marvellous ‘Flying Visit’. Even ‘This Is How My Voice Sounds’ which pushes six minutes is a wonderful piece of songwriting delivered impeccably by Issy. Contemporary topics and old school music do work well in the main, just a tiny touch of editing here and there would have improved things. 6/10Max Mazonowicz
One of the surprises of March is just how good Jesper Lindell’s debut album is. Not because expectations were low, but because expectations didn’t exist. The Swedish singer-songwriter just isn’t a big name. But, what an entrance he’s making with Twilights. It’s a tremendous slice of Americana straight from the heart of the Nordics, though you would have no idea from listening to it. Organ sounds weave through opener ‘Westcoast Rain’, and there are touches of classic country in the vein of Glen Campbell on ‘Leave A Light On’. There’s a star cameo from Amy Helm on the country soul leaning title track, and just a really joyous ten self-penned songs. They maybe from the outskirts of Stockholm, but they sound from the depths of Georgia (the US state not the country). 8/10 Max Mazonowicz
The Hanging Stars have their sound down pat these days, a wistful, airy Americana that conjures up panoramic images of vast mountainous canyons and scorching hot deserts, which is quite some feat for a band who call London their home, and yes, that’s London UK rather than any of the Stateside varieties. The sublime harmonies on Hollow Heart are what do it, but crucially, and perhaps surprisingly, there’s a little bit of late eighties/early nineties Ride in there here and there, dispelling any ideas of laboured pastiche. Hollow Heart is bright and breezy yet soporific enought to induce the most lucid of dreams. Truly lovely. 8/10 Loz Etheridge
Toronto based DJ Tony Price‘s new album Mark VI is based on the cassettes he found in the boot (oh ok, TRUNK, if you must) of a car he’d just bought. Some of it really works, other times not so much. You don’t really know what to expect when opening track ‘Night Time Mind‘ kicks in, as it recalls The Wonder Stuff‘s intro to ‘30 Years In The Bathroom‘ with its changing radio station static, but otherwise Mark VI has little in common with it and is steeped in old school electronica. It’s an entertaining listen anyway – just try not to dance to ‘Prime‘, I challenge you. 7/10 Loz Etheridge
Rosalia Vila Tobella is a daring enigmatic artist and her third record is an inspired collection bursting with ideas. The Catalonian artist rifles through a grab bag of influences from flamenco, to slinky r&b, to hip hop at times it sounds like a jigsaw puzzle, that won’t fit together at others it sounds extraordinary. This bricolage of found sounds and abrasive beats rattles on fearsome opener ‘Saoka‘ that is the sound of M.I.A. being turned inside out. The third track features The Weeknd and gyrates with Latin rhythms and her sugar-sweet melodies are augmented by the Weeknd’s contribution. It’s a tango of cultures that will get your hips moving. ‘Bizcocthito‘ mashes Casio keyboard beats, with infectious rhythms with catchy chants along, littered with Spanish bars, it’s an undeniable earworm. Motomani is that all too rare beast a refreshing multicoloured blurring of cultures and sounds, infused with buoyant tunes reflecting joy and pain, mixing Latin and Western sounds with such invention, it’s one of the most refreshing pop releases of the year so far. 8/10 Bill Cummings
Don Leisure returns with a brand new 25-track album Shaboo Strikes Back. A treasure trove of sound this collection of beats and pieces documents the road trip of Don’s youth – hip hop music interspersed with Asian radio station jingles of old, dedicated to Bollywood actor, Nasser ‘Shaboo’ Bharwani – Don Leisure’s late uncle. The sound of searching through your radio dial, it’s a refreshing bricolage of sound and quite tremendous.
Lead, title track ‘Egg Yolk Bun‘ is a groove-laden trawl through the mists of the 70s funk and Indian found samples. Gruff Rhys provides the vocals on the wonderful ambient ‘Neon Drizzle (Hotel Shaboo)’, whilst acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Angel Bat Dawid and Jazzman-signed harpist Amanda Whiting lend their talents to the dreamlike jazz flecked ‘All Praises Due‘. There is even a cameo appearance from his young daughter, (aka Shaboo’s great-niece!), Naima, on the chilled beats and samples of ‘Naima’s Dream‘ that could be lifted from a J Dilla record. A nostalgic trip that offers much aural delights. 8/10 Bill Cummings
Barrie is the musical moniker of New York-based singer, songwriter and producer Barrie Lindsay; her intimate, heart on her sleeve songwriting punctures the sweet spot between folktronica and synth-pop textures. Opener ‘Jersey‘ is delightful bubbling verses that give way to a blooming melodic chorus, the earworm melody teetering on the edges of happy/sad.
‘Concrete‘ meanwhile shudders and shuffles synth-pop track that pops like Four tet or Scandi pop, its airy pretty melody is underscored by more wrought feelings. “It’s about taking the time and energy to figure out who you are. Learning to take up space and be yourself unapologetically” explains Barrie.”
‘Jenny‘ is so addictive, its downtempo strums and lovelorn vocal hooks and redolent of early Phoebe Bridgers: its gorgeous chorus gathers into life-affirming.
A deeply personal record written in the wake of her father’s passing and the midst of falling in love with her now-wife, Gabby, ‘Barbara’ is the delicious sound of trying to find new beginnings, and emerging back into the world. 8/10 Bill Cummings
Andrew Eaton Lewis, a songwriter known for his work in Seafieldroad and as a member of the band Swimmer One, who released a run of impressively sophisticated synth pop records. Last year he covered ‘Find the River’ in a stately fashion for our R.E.M. compilation. His new album Tourism, his first Wee Studio Records, is a set of impressively evocative piano-led interconnected songs inspired by his move from Edinburgh to the Outer Hebrides. He says the songs are “about feeling like a tourist in someone else’s culture, about the ‘mainland’ becoming somewhere on the edge of your experience, and ultimately about whether we are all just tourists on Earth, on a brief visit from somewhere more permanent that we return to afterwards.”
That sense of being out of place bleeds through each rich song suite, Eaton-Lewis’s voice possessing a wistfulness that sails from weathered to falsetto peaks. “The winters can feel endless/but there’s beauty in the darkness” he sings on the bittersweet opener and title track. While the song cycle of ‘A guide to the western world‘ and the superlative building ‘Vahalla‘ is riven with a yearning and melancholia that’s reminiscent of some of Nick Cave‘s early solo work. The sense of clarity here of experiences lived and learnt and the acknowledgement of the fragility of life makes, this a record you should invest time in. 8/10Bill Cummings
Before you ask, no, this is not one God Is In The TV writer blowing smoke up the arse of another. The album I’m about to review is by a completely different John Clay to our resident Zoomer and contributor extraordinaire.
With that in mind, I should point out that I have known THIS John since the noughties when he managed the almighty alt. rock band Fulc, which featured his brilliant guitarist son Rik, who left this world tragically young in 2008, but still lives on in people’s hearts.
Listening to Rusty Guitar, you can hear where Rik presumably got his remarkable musical prowess from. John is a fine player. File this under ‘virtuoso’ as well as the “rock/prog/art rock” label that John himself described it to me as.
Before you’re put off by the word ‘prog’, I should point out that this record is not the ‘widdly diddly’ prog of the public school, but it is certainly steeped in some of its drama, which can sometimes render it rather Bowie-like. This is most noticeable on the seven minute ‘We Are The Gods’ which is brazenly unapologetic in its tribute to rock’s greatest chameleon. Happily though, it works tremendously and doesn’t feel like a lazy pastiche at all. This is probably partly because of the inclusion of Bowie’s piano player himself, Mike Garson, which gives the track an authentic feel rather than a bargain-basement tribute act.
The only problem is that, with that as a centrepiece, many of the other tracks are rendered not inconsequential but certainly less powerful than they may have been without it. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with those – some are reminiscent of Pink Floyd in many ways, which is no bad thing in itself. It’s just that, if you’re going to put a track from Rusty Guitar onto a mixtape for your car, you’re going to choose ‘We Are The Gods‘ every single time. 7/10 Loz Etheridge
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.