The Guardian Indie

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The Guardian
  1. The New Zealanders pair upbeat tunes with ‘super-depressing lyrics’ to excellent effect on their latest album

    Thanks in large part to an early 80s explosion of talent centred on Dunedin, and shared with the world via the Flying Nun label, New Zealand played a pivotal role in the evolution of indie music. The Beths, from Auckland, are the latest musical export to follow in the footsteps of the Clean, the Chills, the Verlaines et al, with a sound succinctly, and accurately, described by singer Elizabeth Stokes as “sweetly sung melodies and super-depressing lyrics”. That love of contradiction is also apparent in the video accompanying recent single Knees Deep (from their newly released third album, the excellent Expert in a Dying Field), a song about Stokes’s cowardice that features the four-piece band (completed by guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck)bungee jumping.

    Currently on tour in Australia and their homeland in support of the new album, they’re relishing the contrast with the more muted, pandemic-affected response to its predecessor, 2020’s Jump Rope Gazers. Stokes recently told Our Culture magazine that back then, “it was kind of weird putting a song out and then sitting at home, twiddling your thumbs being like, I wonder if anybody likes it”. This time around, “it’s been really nice seeing a song come out and then playing it the next day and there’s people who already know the words”.

    Expert in a Dying Fieldis out now on Carpark. The Beths will play UK dates in spring 2023

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  2. Covid and parenthood have added deep new dimensions to the telepathically entwined indie rockers latest, Here is Everything

    Juliette Jackson is describing the song that made her feel human again. “It makes you feel like you’re not a fucking weirdo,” she says. “I got messages from people who get it. You find out that you’re not the only person who has Googled: ‘Can you die of sleep deprivation?’”

    The track in question, Wide Eyes – released in July – was the first single from the Big Moon’s third album. Where the first two records from Jackson and her bandmates cocked a snook at bad men and the trials of twentysomething life (Jackson once described her aesthetic as “trying to seduce but stepping in dog poo”), the single found them in their rawest state yet. It’s the kind of slowly swelling, minor-key love song liable to make listeners’ bottom lips tremble, charting a bond that makes you ”want to dance” and “want to cry” at the same time.

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  3. The Scottish musician recalls a wild and high night in early 1991 watching Iggy, in this frank extract from his memoir Spaceships Over Glasgow

    Stuart Braithwaite interviewed: ‘It’s even easier for weirdos to find each other now than in the 90s’

    Seeing my first gig, the Jesus and Mary Chain, had a catalytic effect. My gig obsession was snowballing. As I perused the listings, there was one that I could not miss under any circumstance. The king of punk, Iggy Pop, in January 1991.

    Hearing Iggy’s first band, the Stooges, had been a life-changing moment for me. Their self-titled album was pretty much my bible. It was druggy, dumb and completely primal. I’d never heard anything quite like it and even though that band had pretty much fallen apart by the time I was born, I grew to love the three Stooges albums as much as any music I’d heard. It was my guitar teacher, Harry, who played them to me first. He played Raw Power and it floored me: “Raw Power has a healing hand / Raw Power can destroy a man!” I hadn’t the faintest idea what this Raw Power was (and still don’t) but I loved the sound of it and knew I required as much of it as possible in my life. Iggy was the living embodiment of that complete don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. The wailing guitars and primal rhythms made so much sense to me. I was enraptured by its intensity and ferocity. It was perfect.

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  4. Harry Styles’s high-end lockdown album is surprisingly of a piece with other longlisted albums by artists as distinct as Joy Crookes and Gwenno

    It was perhaps inevitable that so many records born of the last couple of years should possess a certain interiority. Tours halted, venues closed, the world on hiatus. Meanwhile Britain was in a period of self-examination: its history of slavery, its attitudes to gender, its post-Brexit reckoning and repositioning.

    Accordingly, many of the albums shortlisted for this year’s Mercury prize reflect this time: preoccupying themselves with ideas of belonging, identity, home. From Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert to Joy Crookes’ Skin, Fergus McCreadie’s Forest Floor to Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under, they have captured something of our containment and our scrutiny. They bring us south London, Cornwall, North Shields, rural Caledonia; gentrification, race, the Department for Work and Pensions. Kojey Radical winds his album down with the voice of his mother. Gwenno opens Tresor with a homely invitation: “Welcome, sit down / Fancy a cuppa?” These are songs that move close, closer, closer still.

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  5. The thrilling first single from the singer’s tenth album is an apocalyptic almost-dance track which pairs experimental techno with pulsing clarinets

    Björk’s last album, 2017’s Utopia, was a vision of paradise. Filled with birdsong and built around a 12-piece Icelandic flute section, it was one of the avant garde icon’s sweetest, quietest records, a suite of pastoral orchestration and hushed electronics that acted as an emotional counterweight to 2015’s Vulnicura, an album about her protracted, devastating divorce. In the intervening five years, during which Björk has been largely out of the public eye, it’s been easy to imagine her inhabiting some version of the world of Utopia, surrounded by lushness and beauty.

    Atopos, the first single from her forthcoming tenth album Fossora, breaks that illusion. An ominous, clattering, almost-dance track made with Indonesian experimental duo Gabber Modus Operandi, it finds Björk shattering the idealism of her last record, replacing it with a steely pragmatism: “Pursuing the light too hard is a form of hiding,” she sings. A six-piece clarinet section swells beneath her, their discordant palpitations preventing the song from ever easing into the frantic techno rhythm that Gabber Modus Operandi’s hammering beat is trying to create. Although Björk is no stranger to abrasive textures, this is one of the more dramatic left turns of her career, and it’s a thrill to hear her paint with the brutalist tones of experimental techno.

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