Marika Hackman – ‘Any Human Friend’

Sounds like … an open, cocky, and playful examination of all aspects of love and sex. 

London-based singer Marika Hackman has undergone several changes of persona over her musical career. Going from folky singer to badass indie rocker, to brutally honest feminist. Her third record Any Human Friend sees a liberation from all boundaries in songwriting and it does get quite sexual and real. As a women and a part of the LGBTQ+ community in an industry which has lacked representation for a long time, she has made visibility her goal. The lyrics give an intimate insight into what moves the artist by discussing all aspects of love and intimacy in detail.

The outstandingly courageous record fits well into the current rise of many queer women in the music industry. But also musically, it is a work of finesse. With the aim to write more ‘wank anthems for womenMarika Hackman wrote Hand Solo about the private pleasures of masturbation, a topic usually tabu among female artists. By invading male dominated territory, she reclaims her body and sexuality as a woman and inspires others. Throughout the album the bass is the driving force. On groovy rhythms and thrilling drumbeats Marika Hackman layers playful melodies. Resorting to the electrical guitar at most times, the album comes laden with electric power. Songs like The One make for the perfect poppy indie rock track. The singer shreds the guitar in an oversized suit with greased back hair blending the common gender roles. From All Night, which is a pretty straight forward ode to sex, to the sensitive Send My Love or the title track, Marika seems to peel back the furthest on this record. Her unhinged honesty discussing messy desires is an act of ‘sexual liberation’ pushing for more acceptance and representation for woman and queer musicians amongst other artists. Musically and lyrically, Any Human Friend is a cocky, confident, and playful record coming from a singer who has taken on an important role by inspiring many others. (Liv Toerkell)

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Electric Youth – ‘Memory Emotion’

Sounds like … a widescreen synthpop score for your own life.

In our fast paced world a five-year-gap between records can feel like a lifetime but the moment Memory Emotion starts with the cinematic The Life it feels as if Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick were never really gone. The listener immediately returns to the mellow musical microcosm of their 2014 debut LP Innerworld and – of course – their debut cult hit A Real Hero which played a crucial part in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 movie Drive. The ingredients are still the same and these two know how to mix them up in a pretty unique way. Garrick’s floating and shimmering synthpop is carried by 80s wave pop nostalgia, widescreen sensitivity and also something slightly mysterious. The sound of Electric Youth feels strangely familiar even if you listen to it for the first time and it can work like a warm blanket for the listener. Griffin’s tender vocal work is the cherry on top, delivering a Twin Peaks-esque sensuality. While their debut was more about inner reflection, Memory Emotion is an outer-world album that deals with the connections we make within our world.

Yes, the world is fucked but every burned down tree will grow again (once humanity has vanished) and that’s the overall calmness Electric Youth try to transport on this new album. ARAWA (which stands for ‘as restless as we are’) is a perfect example for that awareness as Griffin sings ‘Such a sentimental warmth in this hostile atmosphere.‘ Overall Memory Emotion is a bit more introverted than the duo’s debut. Uplifting tracks like Now Now aren’t happening that often, instead soulful ballads like Breathless and On My Own, trippy pop gems like Real Ones and nostalgic melancholia like Evergreen 143 dominate the album. It’s quite a cohesive experience that invites the listener to dive deeper and deeper into the hypnotic mindset of this album. That does make it hard to separate some of these tracks in the first place but it’s a logical move for the meditative approach of Electric Youth. It feels like a hypnotizing soundtrack to a movie nobody has shot yet, underlining the duo’s ability to create very visual sounds. When the title-track closes the album it does indeed feel like the credits were rolling and the audience is left with a glimpse of hope that everything will turn out right in the end. (Norman Fleischer)

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Tora – ‘Can’t Buy The Mood’

Sounds like … an evening spent slow-dancing in the living room.

From the first piano chords on Deviate, the opener of Tora’s new record Can’t Buy The Mood, we get the sense that something has changed. The quartet from Byron Bay has built a reputation for producing slick, head-bopping chill-pop with an introspective twist; and while much of their defining dynamic is still in play – the subtle grooves, the almost murmured multi-part vocalisations, the interweaving of analogue and synthesized instruments – they coalesce into a less playful, more thoughtful state of mind. Where Take A Rest conjured an almost tropical aesthetic and soundscape, Can’t Buy The Mood feels more like an evening in a homely living room.

Tora touch on a multitude of topics revolving around self-reflection and bed-time introspections, yet a lot is expressed not through words but through carefully considered sound design choices: as Johan Loewenthal’s falsetto hovers through Mother Forgot, the mellow thump of a bass drum reverberates through the room, with vinyl noises evoking the feeling of crackling wood in a fireplace, while much of Bring Me Down‘s wistful vibe is brought about by a slow-flowing guitar line. It is one of Tora’s most distinctive qualities to not only be writing songs, but creating spaces in which they live and breathe. And while not all of these are ultimately captivating on their own, they do draw interest to who is living in them. (Igor Franjić)

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Clairo – ‘Immunity’

Sounds like … pop dedicated to young love.

With a webcam video set in her bedroom called ‘Pretty Girl‘, Clairo quickly became a YouTube sensation – with just 17. Two years later, Claire Cottrill finally releases her first full-length album, titled Immunity. Musically, it closely follows the EP ‘diary 001‘. Produced by Rostam Batmanglij (Ex- Vampire Weekend), the album runs smoothly somewhere between Pop, R&B and indie. While the music itself is rather easy-going, the lyrics are of a more intense nature. Nearly every song – except ‘Alewife‘ focuses on relationships, longings and breakups. ‘Alewife‘ though is dedicated to a friend who saved the artist from suicide. On ‘Closer To YouClairo uses autotune to sing about a crush, while she opens up about her early queer feelings in ‘Sofia‘, a song which could easily become the indie anthem of the summer with its garage-rock riffs. ‘I Wouldn’t Ask You’ – the last track of the album – features a children’s choir and a subtle piano, both without risking to become cheesy. Immunity lets Clairo prove that she can make genuine pop music that will last longer than a click on youtube. And that despite Reddit users branding her an ‘industry plant’ because of her father working in marketing. Immunity is an ode to modern teenage love – whether it’s queer or not. (Louisa Zimmer)

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Jade Imagine – ‘Basic Love’

Sounds like … a romantic dream or a dystopian vision translated into an album. 

Jade Imagine – with that band name you just can’t help but to think of a young singer songwriter with acoustic guitar singing of her first heartbreak. But this is misleading. The Melbourne based art-rock band Jade Imagine is actually everything but cliché. Front woman Jade McInally has already been in and out of the indie rock circuits of the city for almost a decade and is now releasing her debut record Basic Love backed by her band.

The album is a very divers affair. The only constant throughout it are McInally’s almost laconic and rich vocals. Fusing simplicity with abstract instrumentation, this record jumps from mellow surf-rock vibes, to catchy pop choruses dipped in juicy synth-frosting. Remote Control is a try to escape reality into a denial ridden sweet dream. ‘It’s rush rush rush, fill your day with stuff’ McInally pokes fun at our achievement-driven society with distorted synths sounds and lo-fi pop energy. This one almost sounds like something cut from a retro sci-fi film. One highlight of the LP is Cut Me Off. The minimalistic stripped back tune relies on steely guitar strums and the smooth vocals of the singer. Until it finally peaks in a cacophonic crescendo, which slowly builds up with every second of the song. It feels like a last push, a last effort draining out all the left over energy. The slightly lethargic and hazy vocals and the fuzzy guitars working towards the peak of a high, radiate a certain sticky trance-like state. There are many other good tracks, the record really surprised me in its versatility, but I think Get Out Of Your Head is definitely worth a last mention. Over jazzy drums and subtle soulful guitar riffs, Jade McInally’s vocals draw you in like a black hole. Basic Love is a strong debut and enthralls with its dynamic essence and poetic songwriting targeting the emotional struggles of a whole generation. Somewhere between romantic dream and dystopian vision Jade Imagine take their place. (Liv Toerkell)

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