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  1. (Daughters of Cain)
    The introspective singer explores identity and religion amid a backdrop of seedy Americana on this rich, haunting debut

    Like Lana Del Rey’s goth sister, Ethel Cain eulogises seedy all-American glamour over doomy, expansive pop-rock sounds. Her debut album features breathless depictions of badly behaved men (“He’s never looked more beautiful on his Harley in the parking lot, breaking into the ATMs”), grotty but idealised romantic setups, road trips filled with motels, diners and pistols, and the cold glitz of a strip club.

    Yet, as the title suggests, the album’s other preoccupation is religion. Cain’s father was a deacon, and as a teenager she was ostracised from the Southern Baptist church she grew up in after coming out as gay (she later realised she was transgender). On songs such as Family Tree, her tortured relationship with Christianity fuels the most powerful lyrics in an album jam-packed with haunting, densely layered imagery and knotty emotional heft.

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  2. The singer-songwriter answers your questions, including the live performers she’s learned the most from, her favourite grape varieties, and whether her mum is still concerned for her wellbeing

    Your music has helped me in understanding times of my life and what I thought were ineffable emotions.What records or artists were the first to make a lasting impact on you or helped to immerse you in the musical world?carolinemurray

    I started listening to a lot of classic records via my parents – the Everly Brothers, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones – but the first records that I found on my own that I connected with deeply were Elastica’s Elastica, Liz Phair’s Whip-Smart and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine. I was in junior high when I first heard them. I was a pretty angsty kid – but quietly anxious, a door-slammer – and I would blast music so loud and write in my journal. I did not know how to express myself at all, and I’m still working on it; my journals have turned into my music. Elastica was so driven and playful and sexy, Liz Phair was tough but poetic and I loved her angular guitar playing. I loved the industrial nature of Nine Inch Nails and it was definitely the epitome of teenage angst. I was just like: “Wow, maybe I am depressed? I didn’t even know!”

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  3. A favourite of John Peel and Laura Marling, Nina Nastasia gave up music as she endured a controlling partner and botched drug therapy – then even greater tragedy struck. After 12 years away, she returns with a tough, beautiful album

    • This interview contains discussions of domestic abuse and suicide

    In early April, Nina Nastasiawas preparing for her first live dates in a decade, supporting Mogwai in the US. She felt nervous, having never planned a tour alone, and overwhelmed about playing for people again. A friend reassured her that, as she was the opener, nobody would really be listening. “I was relieved,” says Nastasia. “But then I thought, ‘Well, wait a minute, nobody’s gonna listen? I want people to listen.’”

    The audience was “completely silent” for her sets, says Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. Nastasia’s friend underestimated how sorely fans wanted this beloved songwriter back. Between 2000 and 2010, her catalogue struck a hair-raising balance between hope and melancholy, elegance and earthiness – popularised by the fervent support of John Peel. Steve Albini recorded all her albums, and considers them among his proudest work. Laura Marling calls 2007’s You Follow Me “an example of how to do something so straightforward as recording a songwriter differently”, and a mysterious record that “speaks in symbols directly to the soul”.

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  4. Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood team with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner for a debut that may not be head-spinningly different, but is still exceptional

    As with any side-project or solo album by a member of a celebrated band, the first question prompted by the Smile’s debut is: why? There are plenty of reasonable stock answers: an opportunity to do something entirely different; a surfeit of material that either couldn’t be fitted into the schedule of a major band or was perhaps received with something less than enthusiasm by its other members; an invigorating chance to play with different musicians. These are categories that virtually every Radiohead offshoot thus far fits into, from Jonny Greenwood’s award-winning film scores and excursions into modern classical music to Thom Yorke’s solo albums, to Yorke and longstanding Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich’s band Atoms for Peace.

    The Smile, however, present more of a conundrum. There have been no accompanying band interviews and little in the way of advance information: Yorke, Greenwood and drummer Tom Skinner – best known as a member of jazz quartet Sons of Kemet – just appeared, playing in what looked like a cowshed during the 2021 Glastonbury livestream. To compound any questions about exactly what was going on here, where one project ends and another begins, or what made this different from Radiohead beyond the personnel, they played one song, Skrting on the Surface, which had already been performed by both Radiohead and Atoms for Peace.

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  5. The LA art-rockers have been taking stock, fuelling talk of a split. But the enforced break has brought a fresh perspective and ‘a little more warmth’, the quartet say

    Warpaint would like to clear something up: they are not – nor were they ever – on the verge of breaking up. “I don’t remember this,” bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg laughs when the subject comes up. “I don’t remember having those conversations be public.”

    “It’s, like, in our bio!” guitarist and vocalist Theresa Wayman chimes in.

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