Category Archives: record reviews

Party Fears: OK. No Problem – single of the week

Reviewed by Tony Rounce

It’s been far too long since we had any new music from Party Fears

Exactly one year has gone by since the Berlin-based duo of Maggie Devlin and Eilis Frawley  (and their regular studio collaborator, bassist Lisa Roller) brought us the estimable ‘Dog Star’, and almost two since their eponymous debut album arrived to serve notice that PF were (and are!) much more than the sum of their parts as a band. 

Finally as 2019 draws to a close Maggie and Eilis treat us to a new offering that upholds the exceptional quality of their previous work, and that shows exactly why they are such big favourites at Loud Women Towers.

Catchy and up-tempo, with a mighty chorus and positive, upbeat feel throughout, ‘OK. No Problem’ is a shining example of PF at their finest. Like all the best pop songs it clocks in at around two and a half minutes, the final minute of which is instrumental. Given the high quality of Maggie’s singing, you might wish there was a little more of it, although the driving, wordless second half of the track IS jolly exhilarating, to be sure. She has such a terrific voice that she could probably sing the instructions on how to microwave a ready meal and make it sound vibrantly thrilling…

Maggie’s buoyant delivery of the song’s lyric – darker than might seem apparent from a first listen – and her jangly, jagged guitar playing are perfectly complemented by Eilis’ busy percussive patterns, criss crossing from traditional thumping rock bets to swishy, splashy disco with the greatest of ease. Together they bring the same irresistible drive to this highly recommended track that they bring to their far-too-infrequent UK live shows…

…And how lovely would it be for us all if Party Fears could accompany the release of this fine new offering with another tour soon?

A long time coming it might have been but ‘OK. No Problem’ is more than worth the wait.  We’re a couple of weeks late in featuring it here – but it’s out now, and you can buy it as a digital download from Maggie and Eilis’ Bandcamp.

Please also keep up with Party Fears’ adventures past, present and future on Facebook!

LEMONDAZE: NEON BALLROOM – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Reviewed by Tony Rounce

If you have seen Lemondaze live (and if you haven’t, you should) you will be accustomed to their all-embracing aural onslaught – a densely crafted audio soup, with layers and layers of rippling, swirling guitars providing the musical counterpoint to Isis De Chastelain and Rosie Heard-Edwards’ ethereal, other worldly vocals. 

More than three years on from forming in their hometown of Cambridge, North London’s finest SlightlyDelic transplants have finally released their debut single. Please believe me when I say that the wait has been more than worthwhile.

‘Neon Ballroom’ presents a huge sounding, thoroughly compelling musical landscape that puts your ears in the presence of something very special indeed.   The track gets very close to replicating the live Lemondaze experience and, while it may sound a little cleaner in the studio than it does on stage, it accurately captures a young and very exciting band on their way to many greater things in the very near future. What it lacks in instant hooks or sing-along choruses it makes up for with an audacious, in your face, wall-of-sound immediacy.  To know it is to love it is to want to play it again. And again. And again…

A fan on the group’s Facebook page hears hints of Curve, Cocteau Twins, Lush and similar in their work   (Me, I hear early Public Image and Grateful Dead, but I feel it unlikely that those comparisons really exist anywhere other than in my mind). Lemondaze themselves identify their music as ‘shoe: gaze’, but I feel they are underselling themselves a tad with this description.

Nobody will be gazing at their shoes while ‘Neon Ballroom’ is playing…

‘Neon Ballroom’ will be available via all major streaming platforms from November 15th. Lemondaze are playing a hometown gigs at the NCI Centre in Cambridge on November 26 with more planned in early 2020.  Follow them on Facebook for future developments!

The group photo is a Jack Fieldhouse/Rosie Heard-Edwards collaboration.

Despicable Zee: Atigheh – EP review and ‘Clay Grouk’ video preview

Words by Siam Hatzaw

I can’t quite put into words what Atigheh makes me feel. The opening vocals is like a call to home, pulling at something in the core of me. It asks me to be still, to listen. It asks me if it’s possible to be homesick for a place you never knew. 

Atigheh (out now on Bandcamp) is the third EP by Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani, entirely self-produced and independently released. Performing as her solo project Despicable Zee, Zahra is an Oxford-based musician and composer specialising in leftfield, electronic lo-fi-pop. She’s been creating music for over 15 years, and also drums for acts such as Lafawndah and Young Knives on their UK and European tours. Her latest project is a music video for Clay Grouk, the fourth track of the EP, which I had the pleasure of previewing – and it hasn’t left my mind since.

Atigheh is a story of the in-between. The lyrics guide you through Zahra’s experience as a second generation immigrant; her father is from Iran and her mother is from Ireland. The songs explore the search we go through as immigrants to meld two identities into one body. But identity is never binary. In each person, it exists as an amalgamation of environments, influences, and experiences… yet there’s an unspoken feeling shared by all of us who walk this tightrope. We perform a balancing act between different cultures, never fully able to embody either, which invokes a constant longing to belong. It is this chord that Atigheh manages to strike, with lines that force you to stare your liminality in the face, such as:

“Foreign mind and soul in a white-washed zone, no matter where we land we always feel alone”.

The title track Atigheh derives its name from a ballad by Persian singer Hayedeh, whose voice is sampled throughout the EP. The song was released shortly before she entered a self-imposed exile in 1978 (the year before Zahra’s own father emigrated to the UK), leaving Iran so she could continue to sing. Zahra sings “to attempt to understand why her father left and what he left behind”. Having lived in Oxford her whole life, she has never been to Iran herself. For many of us who grew up in a place where you can never fully belong, home is a loaded word. The idea of “return” is tied up in an inherent shame of being so far, so other to yourself. Yet when she first heard Hayedeh’s singing, it resonated with a deep-rooted affinity for a shared home she could envision but couldn’t touch. Although she couldn’t translate the words, Hayedeh was calling to her and her directly. Zahra’s father translated the lyrics for her, at which point she realised the parts which struck her the most were when she sings about her exile and describes a longing for Iran; when they say that music is transcendent, I like to think this is exactly what they mean. Something in Hayedeh’s voice drew out a homesickness in Zahra that she hadn’t even recognised. It’s a certain magic that music carries, transcending the boundaries of language.

Image by Helen Messenger

Zahra explains all of this to us on a sunlit Monday evening session of the Young Women’s Music Project. YWMP is an educational charity based in Oxfordshire that aims to provide a safe and supportive space for womxn to make music, collaborate, and discuss the issues facing them, whether it be mental health, sexuality, race, class, relationships, or other axes which affect their lives. As the director of the project, Zahra has seen first-hand how YWMP is a lifeline to many of us growing up in a place of “un-belonging”. The project means more to us – and to her – than I can truly express, because this isn’t just a group of womxn making music. This is sisterhood, in its purest form.

As a member of YWMP, I went to watch Zahra perform Atigheh as a solo set over summer. This was the first time I’d ever heard it, and one line lingered in my memory that I can’t shake off. Clay Grouk contains no other lyrics than the words “you force a silence in me”, over and over, which pulls at a space in my heart I never knew I had. The song samples her son Sé’s voice, and the sounds you hear are from recordings Zahra has taken from everyday motherhood: Sé at his playgroup, with a toy tractor, or from a trip to Modern Art Oxford where he played with a projector. Even the title Clay Grouk comes from Sé’s attempt to pronounce “play group”. The music video is a beautifully simple concept – we watch as Sé plays with parts of a drum kit, and dances around a pink-washed room, hiding under blankets and spinning round in circles. In all its simplicity, the video captures everything that Zahra is addressing through Atigheh. The drum kit represents her in the video, whilst the blankets he plays with are covered in Paisley – a traditional Persian pattern that was stolen and brought to England. To make the video, Zahra asked Sé to play “some form of musical statues”, achieving the candid shots of childhood lovingly captured as pockets of joy. I found it unexpectedly moving, watching in stillness from start to finish. Zahra describes the song as a reflection on “the chaos of being a parent – I’m not really with it most of the time. But there are moments. There are times when I’m travelling with Sé, and he falls asleep, and I’m holding his hand – and the noise stops. It’s the cliché thing that people say when they have kids, that it’s really hard work but it’s all worth it.”

Illustration by Forouzan Safari

The line keeps coming back to me. “You force a silence in me”. It’s exactly what happened when I first sat down to listen to Atigheh. It forced me to be still, to take it in, to let the notes ring around my room and settle in my stomach. The same thing happened when I first watched the video for Clay Grouk. I meant to take notes, to prepare for writing this up, but within the first few seconds, I stopped. I watched it through, and then again, touched by the underlying messages of motherhood that Zahra threads through the track, and wordlessly expresses through the clips of Sé. She describes the EP’s overall “sparse sound” as an “acknowledgement of the holes that displacement leaves”. And I get it. There are so many unnamed feelings that Atigheh digs up from the roots. Thoughts on belonging, on home, on heritage, and motherhood, or on the shared, silent loneliness of immigration. On what it means to be liminal. If any of these ring true to you, you need to watch Zahra perform Atigheh. It will force a silence in you, too.

You can find the video for Clay Grouk here:

Catch Despicable Zee at one of her UK tour dates:

Weds 4th Dec – SHEFFIELD – Plenty Fuss @ Hatch 

Thurs 5th Dec – NORWICH w/ Stealing Sheep @ Norwich Arts Centre

Fri 6th Dec – NOTTINGHAM – @ JT Soar 

Sat 7th Dec – LEICESTER – Amateur Pop @ The Gallery at DMU

Sun 8th Dec – LONDON – Divine Schism @ New River Studios

Mon 9th Dec – GLASGOW – Those Eyes @ The Old Hairdresser’s

Weds 11th Dec – HULL – @ The Adelphi  

Thurs 12th Dec – LIVERPOOL w/ Stealing Sheep @ Kazimier Stockroom

The Slugs: Wet – EP Review

Reviewed by Tony Rounce

Thank you, Molly Energi. Had you never mentioned The Slugs in a recent Loud Women post, I might not have checked them out on Bandcamp. And had I not become immediately smitten by the Walthamstow-based duo’s delightful songs and cheerfully shambolic approach to music making, I would not be here today to extol the virtues of their most excellent new digital EP “Wet”.  I owe you a pint at the very least, Molly…

You’ll either get the Slugs, or you won’t.  I can’t imagine there’ll be too much middle ground on drummer Phoebe and guitarist Liberty’s approach to making music. They are unlikely to be shortlisted for musicians of the year, and their singing can perhaps best be described as ‘endearingly charming’. But rather like the great Jonathan Richman in his pomp, the Slugs have an indefinable something that is immediately endearing and that makes you want to hear lots of what they have to offer.

“Wet” is the duo’s third EP in the space of 14 months, and while it doesn’t have anything on it to quite match the brilliance of ‘Snails Are Cunts’ from their 2018 debut “Open Your Lugs! Here Comes The Slugs!” there’s still plenty to put a smile on your face across its five tracks and 13 minutes.

In keeping with the title, all five selections carry an aquatic theme. If you have ever wondered to yourself “what is wet?” Phoebe and Liberty might have the answer you are looking for in track 2 – piss is indeed wet, as you will know.

It’s their sage recommendation that you “get (your) ‘Factor 50 on” when you go “swimming in the summer in the Ladies Ponds”, and that seems like sound advice from any perspective.

You don’t have to be “Happy As A Clam” to shake your shell to “Do The Mollusc”, but they make it sound like such fun that you would be a right misery guts if you didn’t want to frug with the Slugs.

Between the lively opener ‘Splash’ (kinda does what it says on the tin) and the reflective finale ‘Mint Green’ (it’s all mint to the Slugs, and I know where they are coming from) there’s bags of fun to be had. Just pick a track and get stuck in…

Not all music needs to be cerebral. The Slugs truly ARE girls who just wanna have fun. Their songs may not carry the same vital social messages that inform the work of, say, Dream Nails and/or the Menstrual Cramps, but however serious life gets (and let’s face it, it’s not a barrel of laughs at the best of times) it does all of us good to have a fling occasionally and this is the perfect record to help you turn any frown upside down…

The Slugs’ three EPs are all available digitally now via Bandcamp Phoebe and Liberty are supporting Nun Habit this coming Friday (November 1) at Dalston’s Victoria pub, and Barry the band next Thursday (7/11) at Sister Midnight Records in Deptford.  Follow The Slugs on Facebook for further news of future musical events. }

Gaptooth: Sharp Minds, Raised Fists – LP REVIEW

Reviewed by Tony Rounce

“Peer assessment”. A practice they employ at my teenage daughter’s school, where she and her classmates are called upon to mark each other’s work.  And something I now find myself doing with “Sharp Minds, Raised Fists” – the latest album from Hannah Lucy p.k.a. Gaptooth. 

Y’see, when she’s not being Gaptooth, Hannah is a fellow member of Team Loud Women. Which could’ve been a bit tricky for me, if I hadn’t liked the album. Fortunately I do. Very much so. And I suspect that I am not going to be the only one to speak of it in glowing terms this month.

In a live environment, Gaptooth is a band. But on record (well, CD and download) it’s basically all Hannah, apart from some very occasional assistance with guitar parts. You may have caught Gaptooth’s set at Loud Women 4 recently. If you did you could not have been anything other than mightily impressed with Hannah’s pithy, funny, intelligently crafted lyrics, sung in her own attractive ‘London’ voice, and the immediate ear-friendliness of her tunes. Now you can relive them in the comfort of your own home. It’s my recommendation that you do so, and as soon as possible.

The absence of ‘real’ instruments on “Sharp Minds” does not detract from the excellence of the repertoire, the high quality of Hannah’s writing, or the strength of her poptastic melodies. Its dynamic opener ‘Post-Patriarchy Disco’ raises the bar for feminism in music, while the quite brilliant near-closer ‘Why I Left You Outside Pizza Express’ will resonate with anyone who has ever felt pressured to be half of a romantic partnership, just because everyone in their circle of friends expects them to.

In between there are 8 more songs that deal with harassment (‘Red Flags’ aimed at a sleazebag who is “Toxic, And Not In The Britney Sense”), confrontation (“I’m Going To Mention The Unmentionable”) anxious self analysis (“Did I State My Case? Did I Do My Best?” worries the central character of ‘Rewind And Replay’), domestic and ethnic violence (the sample-driven ‘They Cut, We Bleed’, here in two impressive mixes) and much more besides. All of them demanding your attention, and all of them more than worthy of it.

There isn’t room to examine each song in detail, but if you want just one highlight to sell you on the album I have the very thing right here. ‘Mixtape Song’’s ultra-poignant memoir of a youthful, bygone romance literally had me reaching for the Kleenex. I would imagine most of us will have had (or will at sometime have) ‘the relationship’ that we look back on with wistfulness, and wonder how the other person’s life has progressed since.

“Though I Never See You Now
I Still Believe In Certain Bonds That Never Break
So Send Me Your Co-Ordinates
I’m Making You A Tape.”

Haven’t we all at least wanted to do that for one person at least once? Kudos (and then some) to Hannah for articulating the sentiment so beautifully.

Photo (c) Keira Anee Photography

Bright and brash, filled with songs that any of our top tunesmiths would be proud to put their names under the titles of, “Sharp Minds, Raised Fists” comes to you with the 100% emphatic endorsement of this particular Loud Woman. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately purchased a physical copy of the CD from Bandcamp, even while I was reviewing it here from the sound files there. And what’s more I fully intend to follow up by investing in as much of Gaptooth’s back catalogue as I can lay my hands on, as quickly as I possibly can.

Now that IS positive “Peer Assessment” for you….

“Sharp Minds, Raised Fists” is available via Bandcamp right now. Hannah promises that Gaptooth will be playing more gigs in early 2020 if not before. Follow them on Facebook for all upcoming Gaptooth news.

Photos courtesy of and reproduced with kind permission.

Hurtling: Future From Here – LP review

Review by Lorna Myles

At the time of writing, Hurtling remain one of alt-rock’s best-kept secrets. If you’ve been lucky enough to stumble across one of their searing sets in tiny London venues, or possibly at Loud Women Fest 2019, this album will come as a welcome reminder of the layered and intense sound these three unassuming people seemingly effortlessly forge onstage. If you’re one of the many who’ve not yet made their acquaintance, however, well. You’re in for a treat.

Each member of the band is exceptionally talented and you may have spotted one or more of them augmenting the live sound for artists like My Bloody Valentine, Graham Coxon, Charlotte Hatherley etc. But together, playing their own songs, they’re a formidable force, an actual super-group.

From the opening track, Start, with its Pavement-esque guitar riff and slightly off-kilter drums riding along in a cart behind, this record sounds like a road trip across a desert, somewhere in America, with friends driving together in a tripped out convoy, bouncing over bumps in the road, racing each other gleefully, overtaking, pulling apart, careering back together again.

The sounds across the whole album are gorgeous – rich, fuzzy guitar and bass, sometimes drenched in reverb, always warm, riffs and beats and vocals always landing just right with just the right amount of space between. And everything flows, like water through channels full of interesting edges and varied depths, burbling playfully, sometimes smooth and fast sometimes gurgling around a stone or a tree.  

 When Memory Cassette starts up it sounds like a radio hit coming over the car stereo; a slice of west coast summer punk/pop, with a tipsy riff to fall over for. Next comes the darkly intense Feel It, where singer/guitarist Jen Macro’s voice ranges from gentle and pure to a slightly stifled scream…

“so it begins / pulling out limbs / FEEL IT!”

Summer is known from live sets as the epic one with the big psychedelic rock out ending. “Let’s start on an even keel / let’s touch what we cannot feel / my heart wouldn’t even say” sings Jen and you feel your heart softly break, before the chorus lifts you up and then that big ending makes all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

But the stand out track is possibly Alone, with its beautiful guitar picking, dreamy chord modulations and, towards the end, lush harmonies. “Now here I stand in the sand drawing a line / between what’s yours now and used to be mine.” It sounds ready made for a film, for the scene with the rain pattered night-time drive home, the heroine looking sadly out of the window, etc, ad lib to fade. Surely it’s only a matter of time?

Hurtling – Future From Here will be released by Onomatopoeia on 18 Oct 2019

There’s an album launch gig at The Islington on 17 Oct 2019, where the band will be playing the album in its entirety.

Breakup Haircut: What Did You Expect? I Got it Off the Internet! – EP review

Review by Caitlin Webb

After forming at this year’s First Timers Fest – a tried-and-true training ground for DIY acts – indie-punk gang Breakup Haircut have been gathering the attention of their underground scene. Since then their hard work hasn’t stopped, with a regular run of gigs this Autumn giving them an intrigued audience just in time for their debut EP. The charming ‘What Did You Expect? I Got It Off The Internet!’ channels the subversive peppiness of early riot grrrl to bring humanity to the insecurities and worries of today’s creators.

These ideas are all found in the EP’s opening track ‘I (don’t) Wanna Do Things’. While the simple yet catchy line of the rumbling bass promises positivity, the lyrics are actually an incisive example of the group’s confessional style when it comes to songwriting. The chorus flits back and forth between motivation and defeat, as the title suggests with its uncertain parentheses. Meanwhile the verses alternate between quippy references to shows like The Office, and raw truths on the struggle to find one’s identity while feeling like a cog in the modern machine.

The confessional style of ‘What Did You Expect?…’ is unfailingly endearing. Tracks like ‘Kim Pine’, with its grunge-style heavily pedalled guitar riffs and haunting background vocals, twist earnest tracks out of the macho posturing often associated with rock and roll. There’s something very stripped down and raw about Breakup Haircut’s sound that really matches this energy, bringing out the emotions of the lyrics with painful accuracy. However, the cutesy pop culture references in the lyrics of ‘Mystery Inc’ also provide plenty of evidence for these guys knowing when to let loose and enjoy themselves.

‘Mum, I Wanna Be A Greaser’ closes the EP with an appropriately fifties-inspired guitar line and catchy chorus. There’s also the usual sprinkling of their punk energy, with both the up-tempo sound and the subversive look at topics like gender presentation reminiscent of acts like Bratmobile. As with the track before it, ‘Mystery Inc’, this song makes it clear how much love there is for the long-established culture of DIY, whether they’re breaking the rules or playing with them in their own charming way.

Find Breakup Haircut on Facebook and Bandcamp, and catch them live on Wednesday at the Fiddler’s Elbow, along with the superlovely Girls Like Us.