TRANSISTOR Fresh Picks: August 2018

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Another month, another batch of fresh applicants thanks to our pals at SYNCR. New music is always amazing, the brand new sounds rushing over your skin like warm water, immersing you in a new experience. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of August’s hottest new prospects!

Take a look at July’s hot picks here!

Want to have your stuff considered for our Fresh Picks series? Apply here via SYNCR!

Constine

Hailing from Sweden, Hanna Lindgren performs under the name CONSTINE, taking full control of her artistic vision by self releasing her work, and also being multitalented as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

The track provided to us, NEVER, is a rich, immersive mix of sounds, producing a melancholic indie pop feeling track, sounding as if it had been written specifically to be a chart topper. There’s a lot of percussion based instruments in this song, but are used so subtly it creates a really interesting and innovative sound.

If you enjoy toeing the line between indie and pop with a slightly dreamy and psychedelic feel, CONSTINE is definitely for you. She has a rich mix of talents, all of which are on display on the singles she’s released over the last year or so.

Lower Loveday

Oh yes yes yes! This is the good stuff! The good pups! Lower Loveday are an indie four piece, and the track they threw our way, Loved You, is brilliant. Parcelling them off as an indie band feels quite unfair, as Loved You has a swaggering rock and roll feel to it.

Furthermore there’s an eclectic mix of sounds in their catalogue, with their new single Is It Right is a pacey and bassy number. Okay, indie is probably the best way to describe them, but they’re so much more than a generic four lads with Fenders and haircuts band, there’s quite an exciting feel to their sound.

The solo in Is It Right is pretty damn cool as well. It’s hard to give you a “for fans of” description. But if you enjoy a melodic four piece with some hard riffs, eclectic sounds and occasional solos, take a look!

URF

URF is the noise you make when someone pushes you over, OOH is the noise you make when you listen to psychedelic shoegazers URF. In their own words, URF “provide their listeners with a luxurious technicolour of female fronted neo-psychedelic shoegaze, that smashes through the glass ceiling of an exhausted alternative scene”.

To be honest, we couldn’t describe them better than they have. Whilst they describe themselves in that way, they back it up with their sound. Like floating through a purple sky, Say You Don’t Mind moves as quick as it needs to, immersing you in noise and covering you with their blanketing sound.

Their instruments escape from them, but are rooted firmly to the ground with a solid rhythm section, allowing the keys, guitars and vocals to slip the surly bonds of earth and rock the face of god.

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WhyNo? bottle the sweet essence of carefree youth on ‘Strawberry Sundays’

There’s something about a breezy, bouncy indie track that transports you back to your youth. Reminding you of a carefree time where your only worries were blagging warm Carling from the offy and getting invited to a few house parties, as bands like Two Door Cinema ClubBombay Bicycle Club and Any Other Indie Band With “Club” In The Name rattled out of an iPod dock in the front room.

With their new track Strawberry Sundays, Glasgow four-piece WhyNo? have clearly bottled that sweet essence of carefree youth, as Strawberry Sundays feels as if it was pulled straight out of your sweetest teenage dreams. It’s a real breezy track that’s easy to listen to and actually makes a Sunday like today as sweet and juicy as strawberries themselves. It’s a very summery track, the sort that you could enjoy a few cans in the park with, or something to make a driving playlist that little bit more relaxing.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/74xg9FD6bOXvlvHb7wrJ2C

Formed in 2017, WhyNo? class themselves as a “Surf / Indie / Punk / Garage / Slacker / Rock” band, something you can hear more of in their first release The First Ones, as Beach Babes &  Tidal Waves and T.H.C. mix in more of those influences, whereas Strawberry Sundays feels like a classic indie track. According to the band themselves, “Strawberry Sundays, released on a Sunday, fittingly enough, marks a change in the band’s sound, with a “less garagey” sound, “now akin to the likes of Hockey Dad, Skeggs and The Lapelles“, with Strawberry Sundays firing the starting pistol on an upcoming EP release.

The “Hey! Hey! Hey!”‘s on the track are also reminiscent of a brighter time. This track doesn’t re-invent the wheel in any way or introduces new concepts, it just shows you how exciting the wheel used to be. The airy feel of the track is quite nice as well, it gently dances around your head and doesn’t really go too hard on you. What it is, is a very promising indie banger from a brand new band.

From the band’s mouth itself, WhyNo? want to “bring good vibes to the Glasgow music scene”, but with Strawberry Sundays, it’s hard to see why they couldn’t take their good vibes to a wider audience. Stay tuned.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra swing effortlessly between genres on ‘Sex and Food’

words fae ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)rating 8

On their newest release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hone in on the best aspects from each of their previous projects and produce some of their best work yet. The album swings from 80s pop to the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s so effortlessly and constantly applies a modern spin to each song, whether it be from the lyrics or production. On ‘Sex and Food’ an excellent mix between a vintage sound and modern ideas if found, as UMO refine their sound and deliver a cleaner than usual selection tracks that may be some of their best yet.

One of the songs that stands out from the project, and could very well be the best song released by the band so far is ‘American Guilt’. The track is one of the heaviest sounding in all of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s discography, featuring that simple yet powerful riff and Ruban Nielson’s distorted vocals, which have become a UMO staple after the previous three releases. The song sound like a track from earlier in the band’s career on steroids, as both the delivery and production have been refined and perfected from earlier projects, as well as taking inspiration from the likes of psych rock icon, Jimi Hendrix. On the opposite end of the spectrum, ‘Honeybee’ sees Neilson calm things down and draw inspiration from artists such as Prince to deliver a beautiful song about his daughter. This track is one of the most innocent and joyous tracks from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, offering some emotional diversity to the album, as well as musical diversity with funk and soul inspired instrumentals carrying the track.

On this record UMO mastermind, Ruban Nielson speaks out on anything from world issues such as the general political distrust and uncertainty felt nowadays to some of his more personal matters such as family and his love life. It is, however, the way that he speaks about these problems and concerns that we as a society can face that makes the songwriting on this project special. Nielson puts a personal touch in his lyrics, even when speaking on a more general issue, like on ‘Ministry of Alienation’. This, combined with the way that he handles the issues, trying to see the good and bad in everything provides a fresh outlook on songwriting. This also saves the album from feeling preachy and crazily pessimistic which could be a criticism of other songwriters when talking about similar issues. Despite this, Nielson also keeps quite a hopeful feel to the album and doesn’t come off as portraying the stereotype of another millennial complaining about everything for no reason.

One criticism of the album could be that is a little bit top heavy, as there are less memorable moments towards the end of Sex and Food, but that is not to say that the tracks are worse. If anything, the latter part of the album is just more subtle and really plays into that funk and soul aspect of UMO more so than the more heavy side that is seen on tracks like American Guilt. Despite the fact that many of the best moments on the album happen within the first couple of tracks, or mid-way through, the ending still feels cohesive and offers a more introspective sound, which wraps up the record very nicely. Featuring some bittersweet lyrics of Ruban Nielson’s stories of relationships the ending tracks act as a sombre yet optimistic final touch to a great record.

The brilliant songwriting and interesting production of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sounding as good as ever with this latest project. Sex and Food sees new inspirations emerge and blend with the signature sound of UMO to continue the great track record that the band have formed since 2011. The album also finds more of a cohesive and clean sound than some of the distortion-heavy releases prior to this, which works well with the grooving baselines and beautiful melodies that can be heard throughout the project. Overall, it seems that Unknown Mortal Orchestra have matched, if not exceeded, the quality of Multi-Love, and continue to add to their already intricate and unique sound with a great album that continues to impress.

EP Review: Let’s Be Friends by Quiche

by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It can be rather heart-warming to watch a musician, or a group of them, go from rating 8fans of someone’s work to fully fledged artists in their own right: the prime contemporary example is, of course, Brockhampton whose inception came from a request thread on a Kanye West forum but that isn’t to say it’s not happening just around the corner from you.

This is when the Glasgow act Quiche enters the fray: looking at the lads’ YouTube channel, the third most viewed video there is a cover of Mac DeMarco‘s Salad Days cut Let My Baby Stay (it’s before all that happened so dinnae worry) which goes to show the admiration of, what can be assumed, a big influence on the band’s work. The second cut from Let’s Be Friends, Costa Calma radiates the aforementioned influence and kicks things off in a very chilled fashion that those of the lo-fi rock genre will find familiar but undeniably full of charm, especially considering that the band manages to keep things vocally enticing. It’s also worth bearing in mind that despite how this song, in particular, evokes a similar sound, Quiche has to be commended for delivering such a textured audio landscape on their debut EP.

 

'Let's Be Friends' Cover Art
released: 1st January 2018

The previous paragraph may imply that Quiche are lacking some oomph but that’s not the case at all: their teeth are just stuck into whoever pissed them off on intro track Hor-cha, a song that could so easily be about sites telling you what’s good and what’s not (hey is that us?) or a pandering pal who is too afraid to be themselves (okay, maybe not us). It really goes to give this EP a heap of variety, not that you’d expect an awful lot considering how compact it is at three tracks long, so for the band to chuck on their punk shoes and give us a taste of what they can achieve if you catch the other side of them, it goes a long way to leave an indent. 

As the EP draws to a close, Quiche let their collective hair down and open up to the listener, a nice touch for such an aptly titled release. Friends is this moment and it starts off with a very lonesome shoegaze-esque introduction, though more in the vein of Wolf Alice‘s Silk than anything off My Bloody Valentine discography, as the lead vocalist harks on about chemistry with someone who seems to bring the best out of any situation, regardless if there’s any tension or bad blood at any points. It’s pretty evident early on who, or what, the song is about and it’s hard not to appreciate a track that subverts your expectation while it does a solid job instrumentally with a nice job of mixing to be noted.

A blink (whatever the ear equivalent is) or you’ll miss it experience, Quiche use their roughly ten minutes with you to smack you in the face, soothe you with some lush guitars and vocals then leave you with a lovely song. It’s easy enough to forget a release as soon as it’s passed you but this Glasgow alt-rock outfit manage to leave the right kind of impression the first time around – our friend requests to them are on their way and yours soon will be too once you’ve given this a spin.

 

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Album Review: Devotion by Pale Honey

By Michaela Barton (@lowkeypigeon)

rating 9Minimalistic rock guitar-drum duo Pale Honey lay bare their innermost reflections in their new broodingly introspective album Devotion. Comprised of Tuva Lodmark (guitar/vocals/songwriter) and Nelly Daltrey (drums/principal songwriter), these friends from Sweden have formed an intense and hypnotic sound. Their newest release accounts obsession, depression, anxiety and fractured relationships – stark, harrowing and brilliant, the album guides the listener into the deepest and most tumultuous depths of the psyche. A mix of striped back alternative indie with elements of garage rock, Tuva and Nelly construct an album with scarcely any misses.

The opening track Replace Me tells of a failing relationship the protagonist feels trapped in as she wonders “Why won’t you just leave me?”. Layered unsettling guitar riffs emulate the uneasiness the relationship has fallen to. The main guitar riff stalks the light vocals creating an urgent chasing feel, like the imminent self-implosion of the relationship is getting closure and closure, an implosion that Someone’s Desire accounts the aftermath of. “Learn to leave it, let it go. This was over long ago.” Heavy and menacing, Someone’s Desire is the rejection of a past love’s obsession. With brutal lines like “I never told you why I left you. I lean in and whisper I don’t need to” followed by deep, intense riffs, there’s an undercurrent of hate as the protagonist insists “don’t lay your love here, I don’t want it.” Any past affection that may have existed has been replaced – toxic obsession causing hostile disdain.

After the intense opening, Get these Things Out of my Head bursts through as an energetic and catchy single, but despite the spirited melodies the lyrics stay true to the starkly confessional nature of the rest of the album. Depicting the struggles of living with mental illness and trying to come to terms with the never-ending confusion and strain: “All this time and still I’m not sane. All this talk and yet it hasn’t changed”, “Turned me inside out still I can’t”. Lyrics pour out of Tuva as she pleads for release from the storm in her mind, but the plummeting riffs of the bridge demonstrate her failure as she falls further into the rabbit hole.

Other livelier tracks of the album include garage rock anthem Golden and single Real Thing. Sexual obsession and a stream of innuendos make Real Thing a perkier track for the album. Excitable tin drum beats help lighten the mood while also producing a raw sound. “Pull your gun/ and knock me over” – the metaphor of a gun helps demonstrate the perils of this passionate obsession and the risks it could bring (which will be explored in later tracks), yet still the song leads off with a suggestive plea of “You should come over/ and roll me over”.

The deliberation and instrumental prowess is evident in this album, every note and inflection seems purposeful to emulate the haunting passion of the lyrics. The Heaviest of Storms is a bleak, poignant song suggesting an isolation that comes with deep introspection late at night while suffocated with depression. The storm builds to a pulsing, thunderous climax enveloping Tuva’s voice and burrowing into the listener.

As a complete contrast to The Heaviest Storm, 777 (Devotion, Pt. 2) is a truly beautiful song, with calm vocals, delicate melodies and use of harp to bring the song to a tranquil level that perfectly matches intimate lyrics. Keeping with the general theme of the album however, as affectionate as these lyrics seem, there is a touch of obsession. “I will end my heart to get that close to you … please tell me what to do. Don’t fall over to the other side, out of reach I need you in my sight.” Including the harp over these lyrics may suggest delusion as the protagonist clings so tightly to her love, she’s willing to give her life to stay at their side despite them drifting away. Sweep seems to tell the aftermath of this song. Gentle and moving but with an undercurrent of torment, Sweep describes the feeling of loneliness when love leaves but obsession continues: “You belong to them and I belong to no one. Always stuck behind, I’m stuck inside my mind. You are what I loved and all what I’ve lost.” Synths build, accompanied with drums to an overpowering climax that suffocates the guitar riff.

Why Do I Always Feel this Way is the closing track of the album and a personal favourite. A desperate introspection of a failed relationship with haunting repetitive vocals demonstrating the continuing obsession to answer why. “Was it all for her? I wished it for me. Will I never learn why you’re not for me?” shows a self-awareness of the hopeless fixation yet reveals an impossible feat in moving on. Singer Tuva has spoken of her OCD in past interviews and this song especially, along with others on the album, reveals what dating is like when living with an obsessive mind. Feeling trapped in a continuing loop of doubt, love, self-hatred and hope, never quite able to move past old feelings as they cycle constantly through the mind. Tuva’s voice drifting off as she continually repeats the same questions in an apparent loop is a saddening yet beautiful insight to the obsessive mind.

The album is a haunting masterpiece – brutally self-aware, raw and menacing but wholly human. Devotion’s strength is not only in melodies, lyrics, production or voice, but everything. It’s clear that every element of this album was meticulously thought out and crafted to perfection.

Track Review: King Krule – Dum Surfer

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

After the release of Czech One last month, the inevitable dropping of LP2 details by King Krule was hotly anticipated by fans and critics, especially after the departure from the artist’s usual sound. The Ooz is set to drop next month on October 13th but to help tide the wait, Archy Marshall has hit out with another cut from his sophomore release.

Accompanied by a music video that looks like it’s surfaced from the early 90’s, Dum Surfer feels like the complete opposite of Czech One: chucking out the tranquil beats heard from the latter, King Krule is far more aggressive on this latest cut, backed up by drowning, layered guitars that feel more akin to his earlier work.

If these two tracks are anything to go by then The Ooz is sure to be an album shaped by a jazz influence that was no doubt revived by 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. These smooth sounds juxtapose the brash instrumentals that make up the majority of the song as well as the crude lyrics from Krule, talking of crashes, screaming and trash bands, no doubt an indirect dig at the current state of rock. A stripped back bridge stands out as a personal favourite of the track, feeling broody and ominous simultaneously. 

With the only cuts from this album showing two sides of the same coin, King Krule stands to outdo himself and avoid the sophomore slump altogether.

The Ooz tracklist:

King Krule Confirms Details Of New Album <I>The OOZ</i>

1. “Biscuit Town”
2. “The Locomotive”
3. “Dum Surfer”
4. “Slush Puppy”
5. “Bermondsey Bosom (Left)”
6. “Logos”
7. “Sublunary”
8. “Lonely Blue”
9. “Cadet Limbo”
10. “Emergency Blimp”
11. “Czech One”
12. “(A Slide In) New Drugs”
13. “Visual”
14. “Bermondsey Bosom (Right)”
15. “Half Man Half Shark”
16. “The Cadet Leaps”
17. “The Ooz”
18. “Midnight 01(Deep Sea Diver)”
19. “La Lune”

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Album Review: Anna of the North – Lovers

By Michaela Barton (@lowkeypigeon) 

Soaked in lush 80’s synths and electronic beats, Anna of the North’s new album Lovers offers a relaxed indie pop similar to that of 1975. Lovers could easily be mistaken for a soundtrack to a John Hughes romantic comedy – you can almost hear the luminescent legwarmers and questionable hair.

The lyrical journey Lovers offers is that of a breakup. Each song represents another stage of separation and the torturous confusion that is paired along. The lyrics are relatively simple yet wholly relatable for anyone who has struggled moving on from a failed relationship or has suffered unrequited love.

Moving On opens with the typical breeze of synths this album is accustomed to and starts the tale of heartbreak with a supportive reassurance to the songs protagonist and the listener. Judging by the first-person narrative of the rest of the album, Moving On may represent the typical words of support from friends directed at the protagonist after a breakup. “Darling I know sometimes it’s hard to take/ believe me I know, you’re going to make it through the day” may as well be the catchphrase for anyone trying to comfort a friend after a breakup. “I’m sure she meant what she said that night” is about believing that all because the relationship is now over, it wasn’t all a failure and the feelings shared were genuine.

Someone is a standout from the album, being one of the more upbeat. Following Moving On, Someone tells the act of trying to do just that. “Two drinks down, there’s something in the water, baby/ lose control, want someone to take me home” is another universal experience of drunkenly trying anything to distract from past love, even if it is just to have someone else to hold for one night. Someone sounds more like a song that would be playing in a club while this experience plays out with a chorus of I’m only human, baby sometimes I act a little crazy being an easily catchy line to belt out with friends.

The rest of Lovers continues the journey of heartbreak. Always demonstrates the pain of unrequited love and the emotional exhaustion that comes with it: I’m tired of being in love … always in the background. Always is a slower more weary tune to mirror the hopelessness of the lyrics. Feels describes this empty feeling further, addressing the lover directly and their hold on their heart saying I remember how it felt so good with you now I’m feeling like a shadow in the room. Baby and Friends have similar themes of begging for the lover to come back or at least explain where it all went wrong.

Fire is a turning point for the protagonist as the rose-tinted glasses are finally dropped and a hint of resentment for the past lover is expressed. “Such a fool to think you changed/ never shown me love, just another drug/ someone to heal your pain” narrates the realisation that the past lover is nothing like how they seemed when on top a pedestal and now that they’ve tumbled, the protagonist can see that they are too good to be moping around. After the more subdued melodies on previous tracks, Fire is another standout as the turning point narratively is marked by a stronger, more upbeat sound that hints hope that this heartbreak may finally be over. Offering another catchy chorus to be belted out with friends, Fire has a sound of triumph that comes with starting to move on.

However, the album’s closing song All I Want may mark a stumble as the protagonist asks it don’t even matter anymore who’s wrong or right/ but can you stay the night? There’s a atmosphere of vulnerability and tentativeness in the slow, gentle melodies. The way this song drifts off at the end gives an empty feeling which may suggest the album is a loop – after staying the night again, old feelings may bubble up and the protagonist could get stuck in this never-ending cycle of heartbreak without ever really moving on.

In a way, lyrically this whole album is pretty generic. The story of a breakup is one that has been told thousands of times before and this album doesn’t add too much to the narrative. Nothing overly new or even many standout lyrics that you can not-so-subtly tweet in hopes your ex will see. Some songs are catchy but that may be down more to the repetitiveness of the lyrics – simple choruses and pre-choruses will act as the main filler for the songs, with the few verses in a song being almost identical to one another.

Lovers offers more in the musicality than the lyrics. Despite the realistic sombre story of moving on from past love, the music doesn’t often mirror the same sorrow. Lovers opts for a fun stylistic blaze of synth melodies with complimentary dreamy like vocals. With the nostalgic party feel of the sound mixed with starkly confessional lyrics, the album almost symbolises the feeling of having to put on a brave face in front of friends on a night out while trying to hide the subtext of heartbreak. It’s a nice listen, one that people suffering from heartbreak can relate to without being forced completely into a state of despair by overly miserable melodies, but also one that can be enjoyed even with a fully intact heart. For anyone who enjoys the nostalgic feel of the 80’s, there’ll be a song or two on here to enjoy.

6/10

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