Porridge Radio – ‘Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky

Sounds like … all the emotions.

Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky. Porridge Radio are clearly on their way, in a transition to another place even if their chosen modes of transportation are uncommon ones. The four-piece slitters down the waterslide and jumps headfirst into a new chapter of their sound. Letting go of some of the fury that infused the noisy cathartic mantras of their previous record Every Bad, Dana Margolin and her bandmates are looking at things from a different angle on their third release.

Songs like End of Last Year and Flowers are stripped back versions of their previous sound. The band finds more nuance in this new, more vulnerable approach to songwriting. The organ also snuck into their arrangements like on Splinter. And it seems as if it is in the scratchy timber of the instrument that Dana Margolin’s raspy vocals find their match. If the last record was a shout, this one is a long exhale. A slow but not less catharsis examination of emotions, letting them exist alongside one another within songs. The music hosts excitement of going down a waterslide, the courage and fear of jumping off a diving board, and the contemplation it took to find a ladder up to the sky. “This year the taste of apples changed, and I say what I mean now”, Dana Margolin sings on Rotten. Maybe it is even more so due to the pandemic but these mundane observations are incredibly moving when Margolin recites them. Porridge Radio peel back another layer to uncover catharsis where we did not expect to find it. (Liv Toerkell)

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Lykke Li – ‘EYEEYE

Sounds like … the artist’s most extreme refusal to be a pop star so far.

Lykke Li‘s often sparse and raw songs about love and heartbreak clearly stand out against the mass of the in many ways maximal music we are regularly surrounded by. And that is by choice: “If anything I want to be seen as a singer-songwriter rather than a pop artist”. Over the course of her trilogy – 2008’s joyous debut record Youth Novels, 2011’s more melancholic Wounded Rhymes and 2014’s heart-wrenching break-up album I Never Learn – the Swedish musician’s simple approach as well as her openness were widely appreciated. This changed slightly with 2018’s often clichéd sounding so sad so sexy, Lykke Li‘s first record without long-time collaborator Björn Yttling.

On EYEYE, a stripped-down record about heartbreak created with Yttling again, the Los Angeles-based Li seems to be back on track. But there’s a new, a more meta, theme this time (reminding a bit of Florence + The Machine on Dance Fever): She wants to overcome her recurring and exhausting cycle of love and heartbreak. So she confronts her devastating longing for someone who’s already gone (No Hotel, You Don’t Go Away), her unrealistic ideas about love (5D, ü&i) and her emotional roller-coaster rides caused by loving someone (Carousel, Highway to Your Heart). Inspired by the repetitions and limits of cycles, movies, performance art and modern media, Lykke Li set strict rules for the album’s production, let ambient sounds bleed through the merging songs and created visual loops instead of videos, resulting in an audiovisual experience. This reduced context lets her raw voice and lyrics and the sparkling hooks and dreamy melodies shine even more. The 33 minutes and 33 seconds of EYEYE might leave you feeling dizzy, but Lykke Li, after freeing herself from expectations and facing her pain, seems to be a lot more empowered – a feeling she has often shared, for example as a co-founder of the all-female company YOLA Mezcal. And that’s a real cliffhanger. (Jessi Schmitte)

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Body Type – ‘Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising

Sounds like … joyously furious punk rock.

The Sydney-based quartet Body Type come in with a bang. After their acclaimed debut EP, their LP release got pushed back due to the pandemic. Everything is Dangerous but Nothing’s Surprising is not just an accurate description of current state of affairs but also a prolific debut by a band running like a well-oiled machine. Made up of Sophie McCormish, Annabel Blackman, Cecil Coleman, Georgia Wilkinson-Derums, Body Type benefit from the interplay of the multiple singers and channel their joyously raging post-punk attitude into eleven powerful songs.

The album opens with A Line, which is probably one of the strongest songs on it. Its restrained post-punk is perfected by the laconic vocal performance and screechy guitars. The band build tension that is never quite released and keeps you on edge for the entire duration of the song. The Brood and Buoyancy are more upbeat and danceable tracks loaded with riotous energy. Body Type don’t only deliver sharp edged instrumental arrangements but also flip a lyrical knife on the misogynistic structures of the industry and society on The Charm and Flight Path. Everything is Dangerous but Nothing’s Surprising is a record that combines fun, fury, and frustration while highlighting the unique musical personalities of each band member creating one cohesive collage with the power to shatter eardrums, patriarchy, and the soles of your favorite dancing shoes. (Liv Toerkell)

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SOAK – ‘If I Never Know You Like This Again

Sounds like … a melancholic contemplation of past things.

With their third record on Rough Trade, SOAK’s Bridie Monds-Watson doesn’t stray from their self-informed and bittersweet song-writing established on their Mercury-nominated debut Before We Forget How to Dream and its follow-up Grim Town. If there is one effect the pandemic has had on many artists, it is a general no-fucks-given attitude on projects created during the time spend at home. Of course, it manifests differently for each person but it seems to intensify the features they already carry and feel comfortable sharing through art. On If I Never Know You Like This Again it emerges through a heightened vulnerability and strength in lyricism. 

Immediacy competes with indifference throughout the ten tracks as if Monds-Watson is debating with themselves what might be the best way to go through life. Ultimately, they accept that a life aloof might be less painful but also less joyful. On purgatory, a charged term from someone growing up with the Irish Catholic guilt, the singer debates on fear and death: Nothing scares me like my irrelevance / Fill every silence with nonsense. The first half of the record is guitar-heavy which presents a construct seemingly built around its lyrics. By the start of the second half with guts, referencing the title, there is finally room to breathe. Maybe this is why the songwriter inhales deeply at the beginning of the record. When the instrumentals are stripped back, SOAK’s Derry accent, intonation and choice of words glow acutely as on bleach and the almost seven-minute long neptune. Here, the title’s concept is turned around: None of my new beginnings could fill up the cradle of your laugh / No one will know me like this / No one could know me like this. The questions that take centre-stage are – How well do you know yourself, who do you want to know more deeply and by whom do you allow yourself to be known with all your parts? Bridie Monds-Watson searches their way through anecdotes and life’s truths but ends on swear jar with an optimistic but partially regretful note: Where have I been all my life / Watching myself from the sidelines / Would you wake me up some time? Maybe, when there is somebody who will wake you up in moments of hurt or confusion, the pain is worth it. (Anna-Katharina Stich)

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Camel Power Club – ‘Narukanaga’

Sounds like … sitting in the sun with friends.

It’s been a couple of years since the notoriously private Camel Power Club released an album, and the latest outlet Narukanaga couldn’t have come at a better time. Post-covid liberation and the light of summer setting in seems to go hand in hand with the mood of the album – a warm honey hue of emotion, nostalgia, and reflection. Of all the sixteen tracks on Narukanaga, Ubuntu is maybe my favourite. With the feel-good formula nailed down, it offers an ode to friendship and, in the best way possible, sounds like it could easily be the catchy backdrop to a slightly cringe-worthy TV advert. Repeated lyrics and harmonies manifest an upbeat and exuberant tone, and it produces an air of nostalgia for a feeling or memory that you can’t quite place.

Every track comes comfortably after the next and still one of the most likeable things about the album, is the way it showcases and augments different musical styles and elements, creating a syncretic celebration of sounds in a fashionably retro mode. Between electronic textures, 1960s Brit rock, and folkie poetic lyrics dispersed throughout, it is really an enjoyable front-to-back listen. Singles Eigisyg (Everywhere I go I see your ghost) and Bamtak highlight the bright colour that the guitar brings to Camel Power Club’s tracks. Eigisyg holds a classic indie pop vibe, breathy vocals, and bittersweet lyrics complement each other in a longing soundscape punctuated by driving beats and deft riffs. It does feel right then that the album finishes with Berceuse – slow and instrumental, light and simple – it offers a calm close, saturated in summery light. (Elana Shapiro)

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