Tag Archives: kate whaite

review: The Coathangers – Parasite

a2728717029_16review by Kate Whaite
Reviewing this EP is my very first experience with The Coathangers. I don’t know how that’s possible, but I am very much in love at first listen and so excited to dip into to their back-catalogue.
Apparently while I was oblivious, The Coathangers (Julia Kugel on guitar, Meredith Franco on bass, Stephanie Luke on drums, and everybody on vocals) have been in Atlanta making cracking rock tunes for over a decade. Title track ‘Parasite’ sounds like the soundtrack of the cool kids’ Halloween party I never got invited to. I can’t think of a better way to explain it.
‘Wipe Out’ introduces a more melodic note, showing an appealing lyrical weary contempt for the vicious circle of drinking, embarrassing yourself, being hungover, getting sober, and doing it all again. Only they say it more concisely — “Wipeout, dry up, can’t stop” goes the chorus. It is probably physically impossible not to bop along to this song, and with the catchy, sing-song, call and reply of “Say you’re sorry” you’ll be singing along, too. And I haven’t even mentioned the handclaps! I love handclaps.
‘Captain’s Dead’ stands out as a tasty piece of summer garage. It’s exactly the kind of thing you want to be blasting as you pull a beer out of the cooler at a barbeque where you and all your friends are having a sundrenched endless afternoon. You should definitely wear sunglasses while you listen to this.
“Captain of a Dixie Cup/ You thought you had it all but you made it up” sounds like such an innocent insult, but cuts so deeply. They’ve made a pleasingly weird video for this tune as well.
‘Down Down’ is haunting and seductive and its energy reminds me of The Kills’ early records. Lyrics like “Don’t worry about me/ I don’t need you at all” reinforce that The Coathangers are just doing whatever they want and not really caring if you like it or not, which everyone knows is the best way to do anything. The vocals in this are particularly enchanting — raw and scratchy in such an unpretentious way as to actually let you believe in the honesty of the expression.
The closer, ‘Drifter’, is slower and a touch wistful, reminiscent of early rock and roll love songs. A little vulnerability peeks out here, with the vocalist sweetly asking “I heard you saying something/Was it all about me?” I, for one will definitely be talking to everyone I know about The Coathangers. The Parasite EP is great from start to finish. It’s got a comfy DIY feel, simple arrangements that mean nothing comes between you and the tunes, and a good sense of fun.
Go check them out at their bandcamp.
Don’t mind me, I’ll just be obsessing over this band all summer.

review: The World is Fucked – Cat Apostrophe

by kate whaite 

I’m sure I’ve seen Cat Apostrophe before, as a one-piece. Nosing around their Bandcamp, it’s ‘Open’ from ‘Gut Songs’ that I remember best. It’s a little haunting, this tune, like waking up on a bed of moss in a forest; a bit like the part in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ where Aurora dances with the forest animals but they’re all wearing a different bit of the prince’s clothes. [Why were the animals in Disney movies so much more attractive than the men? Probably because they had actual personality.] But this isn’t a Disney fairytale. The guitar’s rhythmic thumping is like a heartbeat, a reminder of the unseen danger in the dark. It’s Angela Carter.

Now, with ‘The World is Fucked’, Cat Apostrophe is bigger than it used to be. Joining Kirsty Fife are four new members, and a new musical take on things. Three songs long, the EP manages to make some concise statements about value, care, and perspective.

‘I Left My Room’ opens the EP. I like the flutter of keyboard, decorating a sparse and roughly elegant song. The chorus of voices sounds like a chant, an affirmation, almost a prayer of sacrifice. When the vocals dip towards the end of the track, the keyboard gives a comforting retro note.

Next up is ‘Roast Dinner/Comfort Eater’. It’s a simple, jaunty song, but somehow still remains quite sad. Lyrically, there’s an insistence on the importance of self-care that stays just the right side of the border between advocacy and caricature. Fife’s vocals are so melancholy as she repeats: “I want to know we’re doing okay now,” it’s hard to forget the chasm that can spring up between doing okay and feeling okay.

‘Small Things’ is the closer, and it’s a pip. Its soaring, naïve vocals remind me a bit of Belle and Sebastian, and so does the flute. It crescendoes into a beautiful, big, cobbled-together wall of sound at the end, managing to evoke satisfaction and anticipation at the same time. It’s a delight. This one is the saddest of the EP’s “three sad pop songs”, but it’s definitely the good kind of sad.

The bottom line is that you should hop on over to their Bandcamp and give them your money for these songs. Pop them on when you’ve got a minute to listen, and to feel, and to think.

[not really a review of] lemonade

by kate whaite

It’s hard to know where to start. I remember, vividly, the first time I ever saw Beyoncé. There’s not many things I first saw while watching TRL, enjoying the brief time between when school got out and I had to start my homework, that resonates with me the way No No No, Pt. 2does. Destiny’s Child were another girl group with another shiny video for an R&B song that might make a crossover hit, but what a hit it was.

That was, of course, a very long time ago, and the time between then and now has been, well, a lifetime. That single will be 20 years old in 2017, and that’s usually longer than an act lasts. But in a group or solo, Beyoncé’s never been very far away. 2013’s self-titled album was a bold step commercially and musically, but somehow she’s managed to surpass herself, and the aim for Lemonade isn’t success — it’s achieving her artistic vision.

It’s probably important for me to say now that there’s no way I could have been ready for this. It’s a piece of work that isn’t for me, as a white woman. For perspectives which are more important than mine there are many, many places to look — for a first stop, why not try Jenna Wortham’s NYT contributions on Formation, the lead single, and on the film as a whole (Beyoncé approved)? Did I forget to highlight that it’s another visual album? It’s lush, it’s beautiful, it’s a poetic bricolage whose critical reading is beyond me. After I read Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, I’m looking forward to getting started on Lemonade Syllabus: A Collection of Works Celebrating Black Womanhood, curated by Candice Benbow, so I might have a hope of a chance.

With Pray You Catch Me, the album comes to life on her breath. It’s reminiscent of the beginning of Pretty Hurts. It’s a centering, visceral connection, and the rhythm of it takes you from somewhere else, wherever else, to the beginning of this journey. The simplicity of the song belies the care and craft in it. Its harmonies and key changes are stunning, but feel organic — grown, not made. This isn’t manufactured pop, it’s coral growing into a reef. The song’s quiet repetitions build, struggle and growth creating something hard and beautiful.

  • “If I didn’t know Beyoncé had a mother, I would not be surprised to find she’d risen from the ocean whole; its tides her heartbeat, the currents driving the whisper of her blood. There is water everywhere on this album.”

Sorry, a party song/lament that feminists everywhere need, speaks of the tears of personal hurt which must be hidden from the one who hurt you.

On Freedom, an anthem of resistance, tears take on new meaning. Tears of a collective hurt that contain the potential to become the explosive foundation of a movement. Freedom sounds like a song that was supposed to be included in civil rights collections like this one, but was made too late. With a feel that is more revival than radio, the tide that waits for no man will have to stand still on her orders as Beyoncé wades in water.

With a comparatively spare piano arrangement, ballad Sandcastles references the impermanence of the plans we make with our partners in the face of the encroaching tide, while Love Drought takes a confessional-style stab at the life-giving power of love.

My favorite song on the album is Don’t Hurt Yourself. This is the statement of an artist in complete control. Where sometimes features come off as exercises in compatibility, in sales, and in novelty, Beyoncé manages to embrace the style and substance of her collaborator, to twist herself into a new being. She’s wearing a mask in order to tell the truth, though – wherever she extends, she’s still recognizably herself, unfolding, revealing new strength after new strength. Jack White working with Beyoncé comes as a surprise to me, but this gritty self-possessed song delivering the ultimate ultimatum has a presence whose genealogy can be traced back to both of them. It’s rock, and roll, and R&B, and a million other things, distilled down to perfection.

Politically — look, I’m not an expert, and I don’t want to misfire in front of my LOUD WOMEN colleagues. What I will say is that it doesn’t take a magnifying glass to find the politics of the work. Even a passing glance reveals disruptions of misogynoir (Hold Up), women’s struggle for financial independence through satisfying work (6 Inch), and statements against police brutality in the visuals accompanying Forward and Formation. It’s there, whether you’re dancing or not.

The woman can follow an ultra-modern song featuring The Weeknd with a country song stretching back to her Texas roots. What can’t she do? Just do yourself a favor. Watch the film. Listen to the album. I promise you’ll learn something, and I’d be shocked if you didn’t like something. I’m with The Read (NSFW, language) on Beyoncé. She is everything. I can’t wait for what’s next.

[not really a review of] lemonade

by kate whaite

It’s hard to know where to start. I remember, vividly, the first time I ever saw Beyoncé. There’s not many things I first saw while watching TRL, enjoying the brief time between when school got out and I had to start my homework, that resonates with me the way No No No, Pt. 2does. Destiny’s Child were another girl group with another shiny video for an R&B song that might make a crossover hit, but what a hit it was.

That was, of course, a very long time ago, and the time between then and now has been, well, a lifetime. That single will be 20 years old in 2017, and that’s usually longer than an act lasts. But in a group or solo, Beyoncé’s never been very far away. 2013’s self-titled album was a bold step commercially and musically, but somehow she’s managed to surpass herself, and the aim for Lemonade isn’t success — it’s achieving her artistic vision.

It’s probably important for me to say now that there’s no way I could have been ready for this. It’s a piece of work that isn’t for me, as a white woman. For perspectives which are more important than mine there are many, many places to look — for a first stop, why not try Jenna Wortham’s NYT contributions on Formation, the lead single, and on the film as a whole (Beyoncé approved)? Did I forget to highlight that it’s another visual album? It’s lush, it’s beautiful, it’s a poetic bricolage whose critical reading is beyond me. After I read Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, I’m looking forward to getting started on Lemonade Syllabus: A Collection of Works Celebrating Black Womanhood, curated by Candice Benbow, so I might have a hope of a chance.

With Pray You Catch Me, the album comes to life on her breath. It’s reminiscent of the beginning of Pretty Hurts. It’s a centering, visceral connection, and the rhythm of it takes you from somewhere else, wherever else, to the beginning of this journey. The simplicity of the song belies the care and craft in it. Its harmonies and key changes are stunning, but feel organic — grown, not made. This isn’t manufactured pop, it’s coral growing into a reef. The song’s quiet repetitions build, struggle and growth creating something hard and beautiful.

“If I didn’t know Beyoncé had a mother, I would not be surprised to find she’d risen from the ocean whole; its tides her heartbeat, the currents driving the whisper of her blood. There is water everywhere on this album.”

Sorry, a party song/lament that feminists everywhere need, speaks of the tears of personal hurt which must be hidden from the one who hurt you.

On Freedom, an anthem of resistance, tears take on new meaning. Tears of a collective hurt that contain the potential to become the explosive foundation of a movement. Freedom sounds like a song that was supposed to be included in civil rights collections like this one, but was made too late. With a feel that is more revival than radio, the tide that waits for no man will have to stand still on her orders as Beyoncé wades in water.

With a comparatively spare piano arrangement, ballad Sandcastles references the impermanence of the plans we make with our partners in the face of the encroaching tide, while Love Drought takes a confessional-style stab at the life-giving power of love.

My favorite song on the album is Don’t Hurt Yourself. This is the statement of an artist in complete control. Where sometimes features come off as exercises in compatibility, in sales, and in novelty, Beyoncé manages to embrace the style and substance of her collaborator, to twist herself into a new being. She’s wearing a mask in order to tell the truth, though – wherever she extends, she’s still recognizably herself, unfolding, revealing new strength after new strength. Jack White working with Beyoncé comes as a surprise to me, but this gritty self-possessed song delivering the ultimate ultimatum has a presence whose genealogy can be traced back to both of them. It’s rock, and roll, and R&B, and a million other things, distilled down to perfection.

Politically — look, I’m not an expert, and I don’t want to misfire in front of my LOUD WOMEN colleagues. What I will say is that it doesn’t take a magnifying glass to find the politics of the work. Even a passing glance reveals disruptions of misogynoir (Hold Up), women’s struggle for financial independence through satisfying work (6 Inch), and statements against police brutality in the visuals accompanying Forward and Formation. It’s there, whether you’re dancing or not.

The woman can follow an ultra-modern song featuring The Weeknd with a country song stretching back to her Texas roots. What can’t she do? Just do yourself a favor. Watch the film. Listen to the album. I promise you’ll learn something, and I’d be shocked if you didn’t like something. I’m with The Read (NSFW, language) on Beyoncé. She is everything. I can’t wait for what’s next.