SOKO – ‘Feel Feelings’
‘You don’t need to save me baby, I can save myself’ (from Oh, To Be a Rainbow!) – Before listening to SOKO‘s third album Feel Feelings, I was expecting pure positivity because of her latest social media posts about her blissful family life and being the happiest she’s ever been. But Feel Feelings’ overall mood is rather in a line with its predecessors’ prevalence of melancholy. That’s because the album was written before the birth of her son, a time in which SOKO was celibate due to too many toxic relationships and so got to know and learned to accept herself.
Even though feelings are universal, the culture we live in heavily influences our approach to them. People who are marginalised because of deviating from the (male, white, heterosexual, …) ‘norm’, often turn to their interior life – in many cases the only accessible sphere – and then are discredited and discouraged for it (e. g. ‘irrational’, ‘self-indulgent’, ‘difficult’). Feel Feelings (and her work in general) documents SoKo embracing all of her emotions proudly and, beginning with the title, prompts you to do the same. “I wanted to show people what it looks like to be a new mom and still be creative, make a living, have a life.” – The record also brings to mind the impact of motherhood on women, a multifaceted topic which is often left out or sugar-coated in popular culture. The video to Being Sad Is Not a Crime stars SOKO and her son and shows the struggles of a working mother. Thus, the artist is connected to Sylvia Plath, Courtney Love, Amanda Palmer and many other women who overtly dealt or deal with this subject. And that’s not limited to women, of course: It’s still inspiring to see Richard Ashcroft getting angry about the quote “The enemy of art is the pram in the hallway” during Noisey’s British Masters and then turning it into “The enemy of art is any kind of preconceived idea”. Feel Feelings‘ final track Hurt Me with Your Ego includes SOKO‘s unborn baby’s heartbeat and it’s a hopeful look into the future, ‘a smile through the teardrops’. (Jessi Schmitte)
The Streets – ‘None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’
Mike Skinner’s raucous and spirited Hip Hop & Garage fusion act The Streets will forever hold a place in the heart of most UK millennials. In the early 2000’s there was genuinely nobody else out there like Skinner, fusing the best parts of British rap, jungle and garage to make something truly unique – and almost entirely from his bedroom. His unique style and lyrical content never shied away from commentary on socio-political issues, fearlessly amplifying the voice of those who were struggling through difficult times. Following five albums he abandoned the project in the early 2010s, only to reactive it two years ago with a series of standalone singles. None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive fits perfectly into the concept and although Skinner likes to describe it as mixtape it’s totally fine to embrace it as the project’s first album in almost ten years and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Obviously, there’s no shortage of people struggling right now and as if on cue, Skinner returns with what might be his most outspoken album to date.
A look through the tracklist reveals some big name collabs, drawing in the services of Tame Impala, IDLES, Hak Baker and plenty more. The reason being that the album, originally intended to be a selection of rap duets, is based on his South London club night Tonga. As a result there’s a potent mix of hazy UK hip hop as well as no shortage of club bangers. The mixtape/album starts with the melancholy of Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Better, the lead single and Tame Impala collaboration – immediately followed by the visceral collaboration with IDLES. It’s clear from the start the release is more of a mixtape of collaborations, than a linear album journey. Skinner makes a point to include a couple of tracks that reference the classic, UK grime two-step, Eskimo Ice and You Can’t Afford Me sound like they’re straight out of Wiley or D Double E’s back-catalogue. He also finishes the album with an out of nowhere, potent drum and bass anthem Take Me As I Am which clearly deserves a mention. The whole album feels like a homage to his own club night, as well as all UK underground club nights. In a society starved of club and live music events, this album’s a timely reminder of why we need it back so much. (Aidan Grant)
Julianna Barwick – ‘Healing Is A Miracle’
Julianna Barwick’s fourth solo record is only 35 minutes long but it guides the listener through it with an intensity that only enjoying the present moment can do – one might forget the time. After the pain Barwick processed on Will (2016), this record shows how healing is a never-ending story and by accepting this, it can lead to new beginnings.
Even though, Julianna Barwick doesn’t stray from her atmospheric and spatial sound, it is the first album where other creative minds feature. Mary Lattimore, a well-known harpist and regular collaborator of the Californian scene, joins Barwick on the second track Oh, Memory about the aftermath of divorce and Jónsi, singer and guitarist of Sigur Rós, vocals are layered on In Light. Another LA citizen welcomed on the record is Nosaj Thing who weaves a new texture onto the last track, Nod, by re-structuring Barwick’s melodies with electronic heartbeats. I could say: Healing Is A Miracle needs, as more and more works emerging from the neo-classic and ambient artists, a certain time and space to be heard and felt – it is just not the same listening to it at home than on a forest clearing or a wide rocky landscape. BUT I could also say: The record brings the forest, the waves or the rocks to your living room and makes life feel calmer and more peaceful, even if it’s only for a short while. (Anna-Katharina Stich)
The Beths – ‘Jump Rope Gazers‘
Quitting your day job in order to become fulltime musicians is a dream scenario for many up and coming bands and Auckland’s The Beths actually made that stop following their critically praised debut album Future Me Hates Me from 2018. With a fulltime touring schedule (remember these things called concerts?) they simply didn’t have the time anymore for day jobs, instead they opened for Pixies and Death Cab For Cutie, travelled the world and found the time to write and record a proper follow-up in-between. Jump Rope Gazers became a slightly matured yet still quite youthful piece of old-fashioned independent rock that will please fans of the debut as well as brand new ones. It starts straight with two bangers I’m Not Getting Excited and Dying To Believe which keep the pace up and invite the audience to an imaginary mosh pit, out of the lack of real ones. Songwriter Elizabeth Stokes however is even better when she and her bands head for more melodic territory. The romantic title-track and the smooth and summerly Do You Want Me Now are prime examples here, they are bursting with charm and lo-fi sweetness.
In-between there’s also room for a gentle acoustic ballad like You Are A Beam Of Light which shows a different yet fascinating facet of The Beths‘ wonderful sound. It’s open honesty these songs celebrate as they constantly wear their heart on a sleeve. “If your world collapses/I’ll be down in the rubble/I’d build you another”, Stokes sings in the shoegazey Out Of Sight and if you don’t fall for this one you really got a heart of stone. Jump Rope Gazers is the promise of endless summers, fulfilling romances and a brighter future, freed from all the cynical weariness this world tends to feel recently. It’s timeless, it’s pure, it’s simple, it doesn’t need much than these songs. This record is a charming little reminder to keep going in a world that is currently under shock although I’m pretty sure for the band this album is a less existential affair. But if you decide to let it into your life it might make your lockdown summer essentially better. (Norman Fleischer)
Sofia Portanet – ‘Freier Geist’
Sofia Portanet has been making waves not only within the German music industry but internationally, hailed as Germany’s next big international al act. Last week she finally released her debut LP Freier Geist, skipping between 70s krautrock, 80s German New Wave, and unashamed pop choruses. “Freier Geist”, meaning “free spirit” in German is exactly that and thrives on artistic freedom. The opener Free Ghost is an 80s synth heavy tribute to New Wave. Art Deco is an angry outburst of fast guitar riffs and vocal cries. The punchy beat makes this one loaded with energy. Sofia Portanet does not shriek away from crying out loud and catches the listeners attention with her unconventional vocal performance.
Freier Geist is an electrifying record from the first to the last note. Each track is like the curtains opens to a completely new stage setting, only the actress remains the same. This versatility Sofia Portanet achieves partly because she sings in English, German and French. The German tracks are clearly inspired by the Neue Deutsche Welle Music of the 70s and 80s and at the poppy choruses have dance potential. Closing on Racines, Sofia Portanet releases her inner French diva. Her vocals are rich and smooth, singing in almost orchestral style over the fuzzy distorted guitars. Freier Geist is a punchy, unapologetic, and fiercely confident debut. (Liv Toerkell)