Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

Crocodile Laboratories – 9th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

After a faltering start a couple of years ago, Amy Studt’s comeback is properly under way and in full flow now. Over the last few months, she’s unveiled a new track every six weeks from her upcoming album, The Happiest Girl in the Universe which will finally see the light of day after a long gestation and almost equally long run-up.

Building momentum after any setback is hard, and Amy’s had a protracted spell of continuous setbacks after her initial flurry of fame back in her teens. I mean it sincerely and without a hint of patronism when I write that to see her pushing through all of the sludge to emerge a stronger artist with a clear sense of self is inspiring.

Moreover, ‘Overdose’ more than delivers on the promise of an album that gives us ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’ and ‘features eleven bold, intimate and heartfelt tracks’. Amy herself describes the song as ‘one of the most personal songs on the album (also one of my favourites)’.

It’s a simple piano-led song with an intimate vibe: Amy’s vocals are close-mic and mumbled in the lower registers, but she soars and imbues every syllable, whether intelligible or not, with emotion. The difficulty in deciphering the lyrics is perhaps significant. It’s not about embarrassment, but about the difficulty of actually committing to verbalising the intensely personal, dredging through those dark places. Digging deep is a purge, and painful. But where the words aren’t clear or audible, the sentiment remains, as does the melody and the

They say that time heals all wounds, but time is a variable quantity which differs for everyone. Some find they’re never ready, never equipped. ‘Overdose’, it’s fair to say, is another document of Amy’s self-help programme, the channelling of creativity as therapy of sorts. The result is wonderful – dark, but ultimately uplifting, conveying a fragility and humanity, not to mention a sense of personal proximity that’s beyond touching, and instead offering something to cling to. And we all need something to cling to, whether we acknowledge this publicly, or even privately.

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The Minus Pool is a new project from members of Nasty Little Lonely and friends. ‘Safety In Numbness’ is their first release, inspired by TV series Peaky Blinders. And because I’m a firm fan of Nasty Little Lonely’s style of noise, my interest was instantly piqued by the prospect of another related project.

On the strength of their debut, The Minus Pool seem more restrained in comparison to NLL’s squalling barrage, instead distilling the fierceness into something dark and brooding. ‘Safety in Numbness’ is queasy and uncomfortable, built around a low-slung, repetitive bassline. Coming on like Foetus slithering around with Gallon Drunk, the atmosphere is grimy, dirty and airless. Wallow and enjoy the suffocation.

Crocodile Records – 28th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always elated to see one of my own lines quoted in a press release, but I’m actually more pleased to see that Amy’s comeback remains in the rails with the release of the third of her projected singles ahead of the release of her long-awaited album in October.

Said album is being described as ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’. I’d assumed that ‘bold’ was referring to her personal, reflective lyrics, but this offering is bold in the musical sense, going large and cinematic and revealing another facet of her artistry.

‘Sleepwalker’ still contains personal, emotionally-driven lyrics – fragments that see two separate threads intercut with one another – and is a deceptively layered composition, with xylophone and acoustic guitar riding loping drums into a chorus that’s simultaneously delicate but surging, and finds Studt stepping away from contemplative fragility, really belting it out with a force and confidence not in evidence on either of the two previous releases.

It’s a great alt-pop tune, which in context hints at an album release that’s diverse and packed with some serious growers.

Pretty Ugly Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The London synth duo follow up on last year’s debut double A-side ‘Are You Ready’ / ‘Hell Is Where the Heart Is’ with ‘Modern Witchcraft’, which according to the press release ‘sees the band explore Britain’s lost highways in their darkly psychedelic animation’.

Having spent the last few months holed up with Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy, Yassasin), Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent have been experimenting hard, and this singe is the first fruits to be revealed from the forthcoming ‘Cheer Up The Apocalypse Is Here’ EP.

Instead of lamenting the absent comma, I shall instead concentrate on focusing my energies on celebrating the taut goth-hued electropop of ‘Modern Witchcraft’. It mines a supremely retro seam of 80s bleakness, pulling together Gary Numan, The Human League, and Depeche Mode, with the warmth of analogue condensing against a chilly atmosphere and brittle, stripped-back production to evoke a sense of desolation, of isolation.

Whichever fan review suggested Sex Cells are ‘helping define the anxiety and utter dread of late-stage Capitalism’ was on the money: if it’s the sound of the 80s intensified for the post-millennial world, it’s fitting, given that the parallels between then and ow are clear – only then, we only had one clear enemy and cause of social division, and less CCTV.

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Sex Cells

Cool Thing Records – 19th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT’s eponymous debut last year revealed a very different musical facet of Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, switching savvy punky indie for something altogether darker, heavier, and more abrasive.

DLP, the first new material since Bait continues the same trajectory of socio-political antagonism delivered lean and mean. The initialism referring to Disney Land Paris (I wonder if so as to avoid hassle or even litigation, since Disney are notoriously protective of their brand, forcing obscure thrash act Bomb Disneyland to rename themselves Bomb Everything), the song addresses the pressure of life in a society where there is no longer conspicuous consumerism, only a conspicuous lack of consumerism, against the realities of living hand-to-mouth at the very limit of the ever-extending overdraft.

Apparently, we’re all worth it and deserve to be out there, living our best life and making memories to share on social media, while countless people are utterly fucked on zero-hours contracts and even healthcare professionals are reliant on food banks just to eke an existence. And this is where late capitalism has brought us: stressed and conflicted to the point of being semi-functional, alienated and trapped.

The band’s musical reference points – Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Sleaford Mods, D.A.F, NiN, John Carpenter – are all very much in evidence on this slab of electro-driven frustration-venting.

‘Hooray, hooray, it’s payday’ snarls Webster bitterly over a stark industrial backdrop of stabbing synths and a gut-churningly dirty bass grind that’s melded to a murky, mechanoid beat. It’s as hooky as hell and packs a major punch. It won’t smash capitalism, but channelling anger into a three-minute sonic assault is an ideal way to release some of the tension.

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DLP Cover

Crocodile Records – 26th April 2019

Let’s not deny it: we’re all vain to varying extents. Of course I got a buzz from Amy Studt’s sharing of my review of her last release, ‘I Was Jesus in your Veins’ on Facebook (although more than the buzz, I was genuinely touched by her level of appreciation), and to see Aural Aggravation quoted in the press release for the follow-up – well, that did give me a buzz. That isn’t to say that I crave attention and adulation, and when I say I do this for the love not the money, I mean the love of music, not love I receive for writing all this shit, because, well, it’s not how it is, and I’d kiss a lot more arse if I wanted that kind of adulation and approval.

I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. ‘Let The Music Play’ is the follow up to ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’, and is the second track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on what Amy’s PR describe as her ‘eagerly awaited new album’, which is ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’ which is set to arrive later this year.

‘Let the Music Play’ begins as an intimate acoustic song, but over its duration, layers up with warping synths and infinite incidentals that coalesce to a rich, dense sonic soup. Amy’s vocal is quavering, quiet, intimate, as she reaches upwards and soars with a joyous freedom tempered by a deep-seated melancholy. A magnificent slow-burner, it’s quite simply a great song.

With some live dates upcoming, the indications are that after some wilderness years and a false start a bit back, Amy’s finally getting her career back on track, and the signs so far for the new album are all shades of positive.

Crocodile Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought the title rang a bell when I clocked it in my inbox, and despite kicking out more or less a review a day for the last decade, and despite knocking back at least a couple of units of alcohol for each one, my memory’s not bad, and lo, Amy’s 2019 comeback single was the B-side to her 2015 comeback single ‘Different Coloured Pills’, which I reviewed for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ at the time. I was quite moved at the time, and I’m equally moved now.

In context, her halting progress is understandable: after immense major-label success aged just 16, before being subsequently being dropped before her 18th birthday, a protracted period of wilderness years plagued by mental health issues are likely attributable to the pressures of fame at a young age, but equally, can be seen as symptomatic of contemporary culture more broadly. Admittedly, it may be a shade contentious to suggest that mental health issues have become a badge of honour or a get-out clause for some, and I need to be clear that I say this as someone who is a strong advocate for bringing mental health issues into the forum of discussion – even though I’m not always the best at opening up myself. We do need to talk about mental health issues – and constructively. And via artistic media is one very positive starting point.

Amy’s slow-phased comeback is an appraisal of her experiences channelled creatively, and this time around, she’s on a different label and the release is part of a bigger project, as outlined in the press release: ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’ is the first track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on Amy’s eagerly awaited new album. A narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption, the new long player is a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs and is set to arrive later this year.’

It’s telling that the video visuals, and the artwork accompanying the single are blurred, grainy, unflattering, indicating that what we’re getting here isn’t attention-seeking woe-is-me trauma porn, but the work of an artist genuinely using their chosen medium to explore and make sense of their life experience. There’s certainly nothing glamorising suffering here.

It’s an intimate, melodic slice of quintessential indie-pop delivered with an accessible, melodic and easy-going breeziness, but there’s a dark and deeply personal undercurrent that ripples through the fractured lyrical dialogue that also conjures the constant back and forth of the internal monologue of self-doubt and questioning. And in the personal lies the universal, which makes this such a powerful and moving work.

‘I have no expectations as to how it will be received but this album is so deeply personal I feel like I achieved what I was striving for just by creating it,’ she posted n her Facebook page just ahead of release. And that’s the mark of a true artist: this is about the creation rather than the reception. And while deserving of success, it’s also worthy of immense respect. And that’s actually worth more.

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Amy Studt