I interviewed the wonderful Owiny Sigoma Band for the Quietus, have a read here.
You can find a piece I wrote about the end of “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” culture for young pop musicians, over on Volteface, here.
And also read about a trip I did back to my alma mater to find out whether young people have lost their hedonistic ways at Europe’s biggest private party, for Noisey/VICE, here.
You can go read my review of Zayn’s debut album over on The Quietus, here.
While I have respect for any music project with a name based on dark (albeit dorky) grammatical jokes, this is not what is striking about Norwich duo Let’s Eat Grandma. Nor is it their admittedly impressive age – the two girls, Rosa and Jenny, are teenagers (15 and 16), and have been best friends since they were toddlers. Ultimately, it’s the music alone that is so noteworthy about the pair.
Signed to Transgressive, their single ‘Deep Six Textbook’ showcases a proclivity for sludgy, ambient, deconstructed pop music: it’s an extraordinarily put together song, all slow and strange echoey chambers that seem to play with hazy notions of psychedelia. The vocals borderline the realms of creepy – childlike, sweet, soft and innocent harmonies – and that’s exactly what’s so chillingly enticing about them. It’s ghostly.
Will be fascinated to hear more from them – this is beautiful.
There is a trembling, disarming intimacy that washes over you within the opening seconds of Content, the most recent EP from solo artist Participant. It’s a strange but pleasant feeling that endures throughout the 15 minutes it takes to listen to the four tracks all the way through. This is an EP that transports its listener to another world; slow sweeps of odd electronic sounds juddering behind pleasingly soft vocals that seem to hover over proceedings like a dream.
The second EP from Dublin’s Stephen Tiernan takes the themes and sounds explored on his 2014 debut, Bit Slow, and improves upon them. The soundscapes are a little more fully-formed – a little richer than before. Participant, fascinatingly, samples exclusively from his own recordings – repurposing and recycling to create something unique. It’s a quietly experimental approach, and the songs are striking for it. But, at times, one can’t help but wonder if he’s holding back a little bit.
Opening track ‘Your Better’ is a perfect exemplar of Tiernan’s style. At times, he is the more conventional indie singer-songwriter: guitar and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. But then, slowly, there is the ebb and flow of echoey sounds, adding a fullness that overwhelms whilst simultaneously somehow brimming quietly beneath the surface, like a subtly swelling ocean.
There’s more of an ‘80s-esque romantic spangle to ‘Sooner or Later’, with its spacey, atmospheric waltz, soaring lines of dissonant melody and the occasional pang of guttural bass line. This, all while Tiernan repeats in that distinctive, delicate voice: “Sooner or later / He’s gonna break her”.
Indeed, the verging on tremolo soft vocals on ‘A Change’ recall Devendra Banhart if he had ever gone a bit electro-ambient. This is very much a compliment: strange, indie, folky stylings and earnest vocals all paired with drum loops, echoes of strings and electronic treatment are no bad thing. It might be an interesting experiment to take things a little further though, letting the electronic sounds get just a tad more pervasive.
After the first three tracks, there’s a slight worry that the sound might wear a little thin – certainly, Tiernan is doing something that is, at times, quite beautiful, but it’s a style that might get tired in an album format. But then, closing track ‘By Default’ melds the lovelorn sweetness and ambience with occasional bursts of scuzzier guitars, and is all the better for it: a happy reminder that Participant is by no means a one trick pony. It’s a song that showcases the sound he has perfected, merged with something a bit different – something with an edge. The song crescendos quite wonderfully into a full-on ballad which is striking in its earnestness, before coming back down into rainy quietness.
For cold, sleepy, stressed-out nights, Participant has provided a comfort of sorts in this EP: a feeling of ‘Content’. For the next release, though, it’d be nice to see him more than content: to see Tiernan challenged and getting even more experimental.
“We’re Arctic Monkeys, and this is ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Don’t believe the hype.”
The year is 2006. In the past couple years, Alex Turner and his band of fellow scrawny white boys from Sheffield have already (unwittingly) changed the way the music industry works, building themselves on an entirely unprecedented foundation of CD demos, file-sharing and MySpace-induced buzz. The press hasn’t been this overwhelmingly excited since Is This It, and in 2005 it had all culminated in an astounding number one in the UK charts with ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ – the band’s first single signed to Domino Records.
It is the opening lines of the accompanying video that are quoted above, and they seem an important starting point. From nowhere, this four-piece of young lads had descended; no traditional marketing, no big advertising campaign – instead, the hype of the press and their growing fan base alone had propelled them into the bright lights. So it’s hard to know if, in saying the above, Turner was simply playing coy or if he was genuinely surprised; shy and trying to play down the startling reaction they were getting.
Either way, when the tellingly named Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not arrives, there are no more questions of whether everyone’s been getting overzealous. In 2006 – ten years ago this month – Arctic Monkeys released the debut album for a generation.
To this day, it remains the fastest-selling debut album from a band in British history – and this too, when it had already leaked. It was a cultural phenomenon, but what exactly was it about the record that struck a chord – that led to it going quintuple platinum in the UK alone?