Bat For Lashes – ‘Lost Girls’
Natasha Khan’s, aka Bat For Lashes, fourth solo record came from a rather unique source of inspiration. As a student of film the English musician has dabbled in the horror movie genre writing a script for a vampire flick. The nocturnal energies and the character and story formation are the spark behind Lost Girls. 80s-tinged the record conveys the tension of riding through neon lit streets of LA at night and draw from retro-synth-heavy pop elements.
Following her previous release The Bride, which focused on finding self-love and appreciation, 2019’s LP is a more outward directed affair. On the opener Kids In The Dark Khan tells the story of the main character of the script, Nikki, falling in love and returning to childish playfulness. The mellow verses strike up a strong contrast to the powerful euphoric chorus, which, nevertheless, comes with a hint of nostalgia. Vampires, as the title already gives away, has a strong cinematic noir vibe. The instrumental track features smooth saxophone improvisations and the layered synth beat numbs the single into what feels like a surreal supernatural or underwater world. Over dreamy arrangements transporting the listener into magical fantasies, Khan explores different facets of her personality. So Good is inspired by catchy 80s pop and glistering synth lines. ‘Why Does It Hurt So Good’ Khan croons to round up the theme of a painful love affair. The Hunger is a joyous pop anthem, contrasting the minimalistic closing track The Mountain. Bat For Lashes closes the fourth LP with a sweet vocal contemplation over piano melodies delicately spiced with little synth. Lost Girls reflects Khan’s inspirations from the 80s perfectly and fuses them with her narrative lyrics and cinematic musical dramaturgy. (Liv Toerkell)
Lower Dens – ‘The Competition’
Distracted by the temptations of consumerism and entertainment far too many people in our world still fail to see the horror that lies in front of us and the elements of a rotten system that shapes us more than we understand. Modern capitalism is fuelled by the aspect of competition, a feeling of optimizing and individualistic thinking. More and more stimuli create a feeling of overload, a decline of intimacy and the way we interact together as humans. We all sense that something is wrong and that we need to hit the breaks on this rollercoaster ride towards dystopia and Jana Hunter decided to do that via a sparkling and highly entertaining pop album. The fourth full-length of his project Lower Dens deals with the desire to “socially de-conditioning ourselves and learning how to be people” as he describes it. Lower Dens were always good in creating catchy indie tunes but The Competition takes an even bigger step towards shiny pop and especially its combination of politically and emotionally charged lyrics with slick production makes it such a listening pleasure.
Just take lead single Young Republicans, which is an irresistible tale about right-wing monsters that consume human flesh (“No spines, no tongues, no fingerprints – We’re young republicans”). In Buster Keaton the artist reflects: “I’m so sick of learning how to love – Fuck that” and it’s that charming honesty you gotta love about Hunter. He puts all these important messages and frustrations into really sweet pop gems. And in the case of tunes like Simple Life and Lucky People they even invite the audience to dance to them without forgetting the important content. “Why can’t we be with the ones we were made to love?” he sings in the powerful I Drive, calling the world to expect love and equality on all levels. The fact that Hunter was and is still undergoing a gender transition during the recording process only underlines this call. The Competition longs to connect the audience, using decades of Western pop influences to make its message more easily accessible. It’s a thoughtful yet very entertaining record and that’s a rare thing to say about a pop album, isn’t it? (Norman Fleischer)
Kindness – ‘Something Like A War’
Society has taught us that you won’t be heard until you raise your voice and are loud. Getting one’s message across doesn’t necessarily have to go hand in hand with a verbal thunder though if you are playing your cards well. Even though the ability to listen is often overseen, its quality remains to be fundamental for any exchange. Having implemented exactly this quality with their work for years, Kindness emphasizes his strength to raise their voice without the usual harshness that often accompanies any form of discontent. On their latest album Something Like A War, the first one in five years, Adam Bainbridge proclaims softness as a weapon instead and creates a sonic as well as lyrical landscape that is based on empathy and acceptance. The principle of love above everything else visibly stretches across the thirteen new songs with Kindness unfolding their thoughts and musical ideas in a pleasantly subtle way. All with Bainbridge being at the forefront leading themselves and the numerous artists collaborating on the tracks into an emotional landscape that explores vulnerability, heartbreak and pain with a sensitivity that makes Something Like A War a kind of gentle, soulful protest which allows Bainbridge to still be as emotionally direct and honest as ever.
The number of collaborations with the likes of Robyn, Jazmine Sullivan or Seinabo Sey among others make the record sound rather like a real team effort with everyone involved sharing the same sensibilities, yet exploring those in different nuances in the realms of soul, funk and R’n’B. By now, Kindness and Robyn have teamed up in various set ups. Their collaborative work on The Warning and Cry Everything is the latest proof for their unmistakeable chemistry that is highlighted by gentle grooves and an emotional depth. The line’ Wait for love, it’ll come around’ in Who Do You Give Your Heart To? almost feels like a soothing mantra. All it takes is seemingly a little patience. Luckily, we have Something Like A War as the perfect, heartfelt soundtrack to pass the time until it comes around. (Annett Bonkowski)
Girl In Red – ‘Beginnings’
Life is a like book. But is it one that you write yourself or a page-turner you cannot keep up with? Norwegian artist girl in red has created her book in the shape of an album Beginnings – or two EPs fused to a limited edition of records. She is a book wide open, speaking about intimate love affairs, teenage troubles, and openness about her sexuality. Divided in the previously released EPs Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, the two seem to tell the story of Maria Ulven hiding behind the alter ego of girl in red. Now, the young musician is gaining more and more recognition for her bedroom-produced lo-fi songs. No wonder – they are damn catchy and touchingly honest.
The fuzzy dreamy twist to indie pop marks the silver lining throughout both. In Chapter 1, however, she is focusing on her sexuality, love, and private struggles. On Summer Depression she battles the drowning force of her thought-waves on a lazy summer day. The opening track i wanna be your girlfriend is the catchiest single off number one and finds its equals on two with dead girl in the pool, a poppy sing-along. Unapologetically she sings of her sexuality in the ode to pretty girls on girls and fights hetero-normative stereotypes. ‘No this is not a phase’ she croons over the upbeat instrumentation, which might be the perfect track for a sunny day by the beach and to casually kick homophobia in the nuts. Girl in red knows what she likes and she is true to herself while encouraging other (queer) teenagers to do the same. Chapter 2 dials down on the melancholy and turns a more upbeat page, at least musically. i need to be alone sounds like a cry for help. ‘it’s getting harder to exist’ – early 20s malaise strikes everybody, good thing that girl in red is putting herself out there through her emotional lyrics proving that no one is along in their struggles. (Liv Toerkell)
Like Lovers – ‘Everything All The Time Forever’
Brewed in privacy hidden away for a long time, German producer Jan Kerscher, has finally cast light onto his solo project Like Lovers with the dynamic debut Everything All The Time Forever. Born out of the overwhelming influences we have to face on daily basis in our modern living, the album reflects this feeling of overstimulation. With a collage of sounds, Jan Kerscher takes us to the very end of the world, to floating highs, dark depths, and health advice. The opening track could not have been chosen better, Everything All The Time Forever displays the loss of orientation in our fast paced society. Alternating from slow to fast, from light to dark, it flickers from something that sounds like an electronic malfunction to sweet crooned vocals and back. The fast shifts through different styles present what is about to follow; an album weaving the ‘too-much’ of our world into music.
From dystopian songs like Health angrily professing the end of the world, to ethereal flickers of hope on ‘Gone’, the album is a well-rounded and thought-through concept of what Jan Kerscher’s vision of the future might be like. On the journey through Everything All The Time Forever we come across pop-tinged People Shaped Mirrors, epically evolving single Levitation, which works its way from calm wave-less ocean to crashing sinister storms. Before diving into the last track, Kerscher sings about our individual power to decide the path of more than just our own lives on Fall. The steady beat and the pain-ridden vocals make this one crawl underneath your skin. Smooth piano keys and a pumping electronic beat turn the single into a mysterious thought-provoking hymn. ‘It can not be undone’ Kerscher shouts over the heavy electronica exploding towards the end. Fading out on a more optimistic note he closes with ‘Alive’ – a glister of hope on the horizon of the rather darkly professed future of earth and human kind. (Liv Toerkell)