Category Archives: record reviews

Marika Hackman: Any Human Friend – LP Review

Review by Gilan

Do you need something soft to gently feel your blues to? Look no further, ‘Any Human Friend’ by Marika Hackman is here!

Marika Hackman is an English singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her style can be described as a cross between dream pop and folktronica. Any Human friend is her third Album and she has described it as ‘quite sexual’ and ‘blunt but not offensive’. Let’s dive in!

The album has an excellent flow to it, and a great balance of softer and harder/more pumped up tracks. Rather than direct tragedy the tracks seem to dance somewhere between that glimmer of hope and that numb ‘post depression’ state.

The lyrics aren’t particularly vague but musically there is such an excellent arrangement, subtly experimental at times, that the tracks still have that dreamlike quality.

Firstly I would like to visit the opening and closing tracks, ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Any Human Friend’ together. They are both softer numbers, wanderlust an acoustic number with soft folky vocals and any human friend a spaced out electronica number. The first definitely sets the tone, a timeless heartache whereas the last song sounds like there could be a glimmer of hope alluded to. This dichotomy feels like the running theme.

‘Where You Are’ – this dream pop/electronica track is definitely my personal favourite. The track follows two people who are no longer on the same page because of insecurities and a hint of self-loathing – perhaps from both sides. I find it the most relatable and I think it conveys that lovesick feeling for the other person, that feeling of distress about being away from them so well, whether it be physical or emotional distance.

‘Conventional’ – this track definitely sticks out on the album as it doesn’t sound like the rest. It has a bit of a harsher edge to it both melodically and emotionally, with elements of anxiousness and a dose of resentment. Some elements of it almost sound psychedelic!

‘Hold on’ – this almost “chill step” track is getting a mention for one main reason – it has such a delicious string arrangement that I implore you to go and listen to it right now!

Overall, this album has taken me on a beautifully melancholic ride and I am so glad. Marika Hackman is explicitly candid throughout and aside from the highs and the lows swinging so beautifully, I love it when a woman sings about her sexuality so honestly with occasional jabs at the patriarchy.

Listening recommendation: lay back and let this album help you work your way through some sorrow.

Where to find her? youtube facebook instagram bandcamp

Kim Gordon: No Home Record – Album Review

Review by Temmuz from Secondhand Underpants

I remember seeing this random post online back in the day, a man holding a placard that said “Kim Gordon for president”. I think it was during the 2016 USA elections, but not sure. It made perfect sense to me that certain (probably secretly emo) Americans would want her to be the next president as she has been a figure of force, a figure that represents the activity of defying things on an unclear abstract level, without specifying what is subjected to that defying action.

I think reading Gordon’s bitter memoir Girl in a Band (be prepared for loads of name droppings from the art world, obvs.), combined with Gordon’s first solo album “No Home Record” can make these confusing sensations around her being part of Sonic Youth a bit clearer for us (I like imagining Gordon writing a satirical book called Band with a Girl, this time from the perspective of the band, “dealing with” having a girl in the band).

Being a Kim Gordon follower is something to do with attitude; it is like saying “I don’t like most music” rather than “I like all sorts of music”. It is about being cool, or rather, trying to be cool. And it is sharing this attitude that would make you obsessed with Gordon’s album “No Home Record”.

First of all, it is very electronic, not just in terms of the choice of instruments, but also Gordon’s vocals and the general vibe is electric. Most songs are made of – sometimes scattered, sometimes in order – distorted guitar and digital sounds, paralleling a strand of experimental art that values abruptness rather than progression.

I was not surprised when I read about how Gordon named this album after Chantal Akerman’s film “No Home Movie”. While Akerman’s film was the last film she made before her death, this is Gordon’s first solo album.

This type of correlative connections is more important than narrative in Gordon’s creative work. In this album, most songs use acoustic drums or/and drum machines, some disorderly digital sounds, uneasy guitars and banging bass parts that are dodgily connected, like a messy electric circuit that could end up in a fire, if you are not careful.

I love how a thing like Airbnb becomes a song topic in this album without a specific political context. Even though the song is more of an ode to Airbnb than a critique, it is expressed in a somewhat painful way; we are listening to the limits of Gordon’s vocal cords along with electric guitars that are as forced and abruptly fluctuating as Gordon’s vocals. “Airbnb could set me free”: we all know, it is the opposite.

Then the song “Paprika Pony” follows, and the song sounds like a dark lo-fi hip-hop in the form of a palimpsest where you could take the end of the song and glue it to its beginning, make a Möbius strip with it. Deliberate undecided-ness, subtlety in distortion and non-linear writing are things you find in these songs.

“Murdered out” is a sexily disturbed disco/not-really disco song with the most recognizable structure in the album in terms of approximating indie-rock; it is familiarity made weird. The continuous long high pitch of the sample used in this song and the Gordon’s not-nice vocals make the whole thing sound like she is trying to hypnotize us.

The following “Don’t Play it Back” is very similar to that feeling, another möbius strip, and we are supposed to get hypnotised, again. Gordon’s un-poetic poetic-ness and the effects used on her vocals are almost making fun of some oppressive things. Nothing is ostensibly offensive in this song, but some bullies out there who aim to take away people’s freedoms should still get offended:

“Golden vanity, you can pee in the ocean, it is free”.

While she seems to promote freedom, there is also this scary feeling in what she is vocalizing while the bossy bass sounds are fluctuating and creating an ambient sound that resembles underwater soundscape. This album sounds like it is more about the process of making art, than anything else, especially making art in an alienating space. Her followers might as well be in her way, we might as well be subjected to her dismissal.

Soccer Mommy: Color Theory – LP review

Review by Maryjo Mattea

I first met Sophie Allison (aka Soccer Mommy) at a Sofar Sounds show in New York City in late 2016. One of my bands played alongside hers in a sofa store in Chelsea. (As it happens, a sofa store is actually a great place for a concert—ample comfy seating!) My bandmates and I were all struck by her effortlessly delicate voice and poignant lyricism, so when I saw her name on a list of albums in need of reviews, I jumped at the opportunity to comment on an artist about whom I have the good fortune of saying, “I saw her before she was famous.”

I was initially struck by the length of the songs on Allison’s latest release, Color Theory. In an era in which pop songs are rarely longer than three and a half minutes, seeing five minute long songs (and even one that clocks in at 7:15) on an LP feels almost nostalgic. Consequently, my first thought was that here’s a musician who actually gives a shit about her craft and the substance of the music she’s producing and has given the proverbial middle finger to the the prevailing ethos about crafting shorter songs to yield more streaming revenue. She has essentially told that mentality that it can go straight to hell and I’m with her on that.

Then I hit “Play.” The production on this album is top notch and nothing about these songs would suggest that their author is only 22 years old. As a thirty-(indiscernible)-year-old woman, I admittedly have a tendency to write off younger artists as not having enough experience to really say anything, but thank you, Sophie Allison, for showing me otherwise. The soft timbre of the voice singing the words may very well be the only thing that gives her youth away; every word displays a wisdom far beyond her years. These songs are deep and introspective and deal with heavy subject matter (like mental health and family struggles). The darkness of the content is cleverly masked by sweetly delicate melodies. And the “softness” of Allison’s voice is not like the whispery ASMR style of Billie Eilish’s vocals; rather, the simple and inviting nature of Allison’s voice reflects vulnerability and makes her seem ingenuous and approachable.

Do you know what is missing from this record? The excessive electronic elements that permeate modern pop music. The songs on Color Theory are not only authentic in substance, but also real sounding. The effects that are used are there for very specific purposes. “I wanted the experience of listening to Color Theory to feel like finding a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time, because that’s what this album is: an expression of all the things that have slowly degraded me personally,” Allison says. “The production warps, the guitar solos occasionally glitch, the melodies can be poppy and deceptively cheerful. To me, it sounds like the music of my childhood distressed and, in some instances, decaying.” 

My favorite track is actually the opening song, “Bloodstream.” There’s something about it that reminds me of mid-90s MTV; I imagine it’d be sandwiched between Belly and Liz Phair. I’m not even sure why I’m still writing this review when I should just shut up and let you go listen to the album. Allison poured her heart and soul into it and it shows.

Soccer Mommy will be playing a show in my current city of residence, Washington, DC, on March 28th at the world-famous 9:30 Club and I, personally, can’t wait.

Color Theory is out Friday 28 Feb – pre-order here


Review by Tony Rounce

The DIY scene continues to grow at grass roots level, and each week brings impressive new bands aiming to convince you that you need to add their gigs to your Facebook events calendar.  This week it’s the turn of South London’s Boys Of The Hole to bring you a debut EP that will hopefully put them on your ‘to see’ list. Once you’ve heard it, there’s a better than good chance that it will.

If you’ve seen the delightful Bitch Hunt, Boys Of The Hole is a slightly more boisterous version thereof  – which, given that the two groups share certain members, is not too surprising. The Boys themselves say that their sound is “sometimes delicate and pretty, but mostly rowdy and fun, and they write about messy sexual experiences, Internet dating, pizza, crisps, and feelings”. Not all in the same song, of course. But they are all topics that are covered during the course of their frequently rowdy, largely fun debut E.P., released digitally at the end of January with the promise of the possibility of a limited run of a physical CD on the horizon – and hopefully coming closer by the day.

The Boys also say that their music will appeal to fans of the Breeders, Cherry Glazerr and the Pixies. I can only agree, as I like all of those artists and I like Boys Of The Hole too. There’s an agreeably abrasive quality to their songs that they share with the latter in particular, particularly in the no-punches-pulled lyrics of some of the songs – emphatically to the point at one end of the scale, where you’ll find the ‘Messy Bitch’ who ‘fell asleep in your vegan kebab’ and ‘got a chocolate egg stuck’ somewhere that probably shouldn’t be discussed in a public forum. They sound like they might be the friend from hell, but you might also wish you had the chutzpah to be them.

At the other end of the scale, ‘Flavour’ is the Boys’ playful homage to what our American cousins like to call Potato Chips. It lists all my favourite flavours and hopefully some of yours, too. Somewhere in between lies ‘Ll( a sensitive declaration of romantic rebound that says ‘I got your ‘Feelings’ right here’.  All five of the songs tell their own individual stories in a way that will not be lost on any listener, even though the balance of the audio is sometimes a little on the murky side and made it hard to hear them in places.

This though is the true sound of the DIY scene – low in fidelity, but high in aims and ambitions that are frequently firmly fulfilled across the five tracks on offer. As noted already, the mix is a bit wayward in places, but the creative process is sincere, honest and faultless. Not everything needs to sound like it came out of Abbey Road Studios and, let’s face it, most of the best music rarely does. Everything here points to a positive future, with lots more rowdiness and fun and possibly even Pickled Onion and Sour Cream & Chive crisps to add to the Boys’ flavours. A very fine debut, on the Hole…

Boys Of The Hole (the E.P.) is out now digitally, and can be streamed and/or bought via Bandcamp.  Boys Of The Hole (the band) are playing Not Your Galentines Day at South London’s Amersham Arms (near Deptford) on February 14th. You can follow them on Instagram

Eilis Frawley: Never Too Emotional – EP review

Review by Tony Rounce

As the self-appointed President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Anything To Do With Party Fears Fan Club, I received the recent news that the duo’s powerful percussionist Eilis Frawley and singer/frontsperson Maggie Devlin were going their separate ways with extreme dismay.  However, one happy bi-product of Eilis’ amicable departure means that we will all have twice as much interesting music to look forward to in the future – and ‘interesting’ is a perfectly understated word with which to describe Eilis’ debut EP ‘Never Too Emotional’, from which the dubby, claustrophobic and ever-so-slightly sinister (in a good way, if there is one!) ‘leave the house’ is the newest ‘single’…

Actually it’s much more than merely interesting, to be honest. It’s normally good to be able to offer some comparisons to existing music for reader reference, but you won’t have heard a lot like this before, however much music you’ve heard so far and however long you’ve been listening. The best I can offer you is a collation of 60s beat poetry and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, but even that isn’t really or nearly accurate.

Photo by Daniel Purvis

The combination of raw synth topped, voluminously percussive soundscapes and laconic, semi-philosophical spoken word – not rapping, exactly, more meaningful discourse – is out of the ordinary, and it does takes a bit of getting used to at first. However, once you lock into what Eilis is doing here, it’s hard not to be impressed with the outcome.  What that is cannot easily conveyed in print, so please do click on the link and see if you don’t agree that I am right.

Eilis has been releasing songs from this project on her Bandcamp page over the past few months, each new issue helping to build a big picture of what she’s aiming to do with her solo project.  Her label’s press release says that the EP  “touches on topics of social structures, feminism, mental health, creative insecurities, personal tragedies, and the psychological impacts of living abroad” (in case you didn’t know, Eilis is Australian and I believe she is still based in Berlin) and indeed it does, both acutely and obtusely. Now it can be heard as a whole thing, its potency has never been more apparent.   If it doesn’t hit you round the ears with immediate effect, please do persevere – you WILL connect with it, and vice versa, in good time. Both refreshing and provocative by turn, it brings something new and interesting to the table, and I’m sure you will thank me later for insisting that you do so. 

As well as creating these invigorating musical episodes, Eilis has also been playing her own solo shows in the UK and elsewhere recently and is due for more of the same soon. I for one am intrigued as to how this will all translate to a live medium, so I can hardly wait….

 “Never Too Emotional” is out now on Reckless Yes records and can be found on most if not all of your favourite streaming services.

Follow Eilis on Facebook for further updates!

Main photo by Kate Seabrook 

Lithics: Wendy Kraemer – Ep review

Review by Aleksandra Brzezicka

Diving into deep post-punk waters, already invaded by the likes of Captain Beefheart, Red Crayola or Gang of Four, Lithics managed not to drown. Their buzzy groove with ragged riffs and eclectic vocals kept them afloat. Two years after releasing their debut album, Mating Surfaces, Portland’s punx are back with new(ish) EP.

Wendy Kraemer, being a re-release (on Moone Records) of Lithics 2017 homemade tape, is the kind material which normally wouldn’t leave studio’s closed doors. Full of previously unheard gems, documenting recording of their sophomore LP, it lets to take a peek into bands’ intimate process of music-making. Harsh and unedited.

It’s full of shattered bits of bops like Excuse Generator or Specs and swirling straight-to-the-point sounds. Impossible to give any order to. This jazzy stream of consciousness takes you to the, so forgotten, wild paradise of spontaneity. Precious, not pretentious. Long live Freedom.

Listening to Lithics’ new mixtape makes you feel like the band is crashing your flat party to jam in the back. Aubrey’s raw, hypnotic vocals will give you goosebumps while, tight as hell, instrumental will keep your neighbours on their toes. Wendy Kraemer is a bursting with life, wine-talking girl. She flirts with half-sentences and laughs energy bullets, trying to steal you away with her clumsy charm. It works.

‘There’s more, hold on,’ says Aubrey somewhere in between bouncy drums and whizzing riffs. While Wendy is fun, she’ll do for one night. Lithics, we need some long-term material.

Out 7 Feb on Moone Records

Wendy Kraemer is out on February 7 and will be available on vinyl, streaming platforms and bands’ social media. Hurry up and get your own Wendy.

Find Lithics on Instagram Bandcamp

GHUM: CALIFORNIA – new music

Reviewed by Tony Rounce

The four women of Ghum have been on the verge of breaking out of the regular DIY scene and moving up to a higher-profile level for some time now. In the past six months they have been tipped for success by national newspapers, and feted by national radio DJs. Their gigs are getting bigger and more full, and it can surely only be a matter of time before they find a ‘name’ fan (rather in the way that Big Joanie found Thurston Moore, or vice versa) to further their cause.  Good for them, it’s not something we should begrudge any band or singer from ‘our’ scene.

In the meantime Ghum are still ‘ours’, and still working at making music that we can all enjoy while world domination awaits.  They’re kicking off their move into 2020 with a long-overdue follow up to last summer’s ‘The Coldest Fire’. Has the wait been worth it?  Oh, most certainly…

A dark, brooding headlong up-tempo rush into full-on musical exhilaration, driven by layers of echoed guitar and singer Laura’s passionate whisper-to-a-scream vocals, ‘California’ brings to mind – and I hope that Ghum or anyone else won’t be anoyed by me saying this – the sound of U2 in the “Boy” era, when that particular band were fresh, interesting and innovative rather than the rock dinosaurs they have become.  There are also hints of the early Cure sound there, but all presented in a 21st Century soundscape that confirms Ghum’s early promise is now more of a threat than ever (in the nicest possible way, of course).  It’s a glimpse into a future that’s seemingly limitless, if ‘California’ is anything to go by…

‘California’ is out now, and can be streamed and downloaded from all the usual sources, including Bandcamp and Spotify. Ghum are headlining a launch show for it at London venue Electrowerkz on January 30th and again in London at Dingwalls on March 5th. Follow them on Facebook for further gig and other general Ghum news!

 See GHUM on tour in 2020: 

30 Jan | Elektrowerkz, London

5 Mar | 6 Music Festival, London 

28 Mar | Ritual Union, Bristol

25 Apr | Are You Listening? Festival, Reading

3 May | Stag & Dagger, Glasgow

6 Aug | Haldern Pop, Rees-Haldern, DE

7 Aug | CanelaParty, Malaga, ES

GHUM – California – out now via Everything Sucks Music