Category Archives: Music

2017.

I think 2017 might be the year in which I finally met my inevitable sad girl indie fate. It’s been a wild year, punctuated by two new jobs, one new house, a milestone birthday, becoming a ~published author~ and speaking to a sold-out crowd at Cheltenham Literature Festival. I did a lot of writing and got to interview some incredible artists. The singer of my all-time favourite band said one of my essays was beautiful. I swam the length of the channel over ten weeks for charity.

Whilst a truly extraordinary year, it hasn’t necessarily been an easy one, and I am fucking sleepy. As a result, I feel like my imagination was caught by music that is quietly angry and soft and forgiving in its sadness: anthems for a 30-year-old woman.

I can’t remember the last time I listened to a new hardcore record, and I’m sad about that. I’ve become reliant on my old favourites, keeping them close to my chest like old friends because I don’t need new ones. I hope that will change. If anyone wants to make me a mixtape or playlist, I’m here for it. Anyway, here’s what I did listen to this year, in no uniform order.

Paramore – After Laughter

A truth: the short moment in which Hayley Williams sings “uh” in ‘Rose Colored Boy’ – “and I have taken – uh – my glasses off” – is better than most of your faves’ entire output this year. That sharp drumbeat and Williams’ flawless melody has produced my song of 2017. The whole record served as an exploration of both crushing defeat (‘Fake Happy’) and dogged optimism (‘Caught In The Middle’, ‘26’), and I’m thankful for being able to sing along to it in my kitchen on tired nights.

The Menzingers – After The Party

I wasn’t necessarily expecting to like this record as much as I did – The Menzingers were always a band I liked rather than loved – but After The Party came out as I was waving my twenties goodbye, so it was probably a matter of good timing and better songs. In particular, the title track which captured my mood so perfectly with “Everybody wants to get famous / but you just want to dance in a basement.

Strange Ranger – Daymoon

There really is nothing I love more than a warm, discordant emo record that nods to a bygone era without being uninventive as shit. Okay, real talk, I like a lot of the uninventive stuff too, but ‘Daymoon’ is absolutely not that. ‘House Show’ is a total emo anthem that reminds me of Rainer Maria’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ and I do not throw that around lightly, my friends. This is everything I’ve wanted from ‘the revival’.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

The sheer purposefulness of every bit of this record blows my mind. Using the Fox News sample, which criticises Lamar for speaking out against police brutality at the end of opener ‘BLOOD.’ into ‘DNA.’ is an absolute takedown drenched in self-belief. After 2015’s experimental ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, this record returns to a more accessible sound, with ‘LOYALTY.’ and ‘HUMBLE.’, but loses none of its potency.

Lorde – Melodrama

2017 was the year I discovered Lorde, and I am a better person for it. Melodrama is a masterful pop record; as it suggests, full of drama, but also insight. Lyrically, the highlights are the little quips, the side notes, intentional moments constructed to sound like afterthoughts, like “awesome, right” in ‘Homemade Dynamite’ or “who cares, still the Louvre”.

Adult Mom – Soft Spots

‘Soft Spots’ made me feel calm and grounded when I listened to it, with the melodic lull of opener ‘Ephemeralness’ and its cutting comedic moments such as in ‘Full Screen’. It’s an incredibly smart and considered record and felt like a balm during the chaos of this year.

Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights

Turn Out The Lights is everything you would have expected from Baker: devastating and musically faultless. I got to interview her just before it was released, and it was probably my best piece of writing this year, so you could go and read that.

Tigers Jaw – spin

I feel like this record didn’t get the full recognition it deserved this year. That could be my perception, but ‘spin’ is one of the most impressive returns to form I can currently think of. It is everything to love about Tigers Jaw condensed. Take ‘Guardian’ or ‘Escape Plan’ for example, which stand up as the most sharply written indie-emo this year.

Princess Nokia – 1992

Princess Nokia was something we heavily needed in 2017. Her politics keen and vital, her activism extending from the stage to the subway. A new and young voice in rap standing tall, embracing identity and self-love (‘Tomboy’, ‘Kitana’) and a statement of intent from someone whose work is going to get so much better from here and they know it.

oso oso – the yunahon mixtape

I was late to the party on this, by about 11 months because that is the kind of person I am, but decided to sneak it in as a last minute addition because it is ~that~ good. It’s that kind of crisp, clean indie emo; like listening to peak Death Cab and re-watching The O.C. (a thing I did this year). I’ve listened to little else this month.

Some special mentions

Jeff Rosenstock’s ‘Worry’, which came out in autumn 2016 but was a year-defining record for me. I listened to a lot of Alex Lahey, particularly ‘Wes Anderson’ (also 2016) which made me feel the full range of human emotion in four minutes and has some of the finest “woah-ohs” going. In a similar vein (not a pun I swear) “Oh George” by Peaness was one of the catchiest tracks I danced to by myself, and the lyric “All your friends are just as bad / all your faces make me mad” is some straight-up righteous pop genius. Cardi B had the best rap single of the year with ‘Bodak Yellow’. TWIABP continue to make some of the most gorgeous and affecting music with ‘Always Foreign’ and Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Stranger in the Alps’ is a record I plan to spend a lot more time with, when I’m feeling up to it, y’know.

1987.

Favourite albums from each year I have been alive. I had at least four existential crises deciding this. Forgive me, all my faves that couldn’t be here.

1987 – Bruce Springsteen ‘Tunnel of Love’

1988 – NWA ‘Straight Outta Compton’

1989 – Pixies ‘Doolittle’

1990 – Fugazi ‘Repeater’

1991 – Nirvana ‘Nevermind’

1992 – Rage Against The Machine ’S/T’

1993 – Wu-Tang Clan ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’

1994 – Weezer ‘The Blue Album’

1995 – Mariah Carey ‘Daydream’

1996 – Texas Is The Reason ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’

1997 – Mineral ‘The Power of Failing’

1998 – Braid ‘Frame and Canvas’

1999 – The Get Up Kids ‘Something To Write Home About’

2000 – Cursive ‘Domestica’

2001 – Thursday ‘Full Collapse’

2002 – Interpol ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’

2003 – The Postal Service ‘Give Up’

2004 – Modest Mouse ‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News’

2005 – Bright Eyes ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’

2006 – Brand New ‘The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me’

2007 – This Town Needs Guns/Cats and Cats and Cats Split LP

2008 – Why ‘Alopecia’

2009 – Japandroids ‘Post-Nothing’

2010 – Kanye West ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

2011 – Joyce Manor ‘S/T’

2012 – Kendrick Lamar ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’

2013 – The Wonder Years ‘The Greatest Generation’

2014 – Joyce Manor ‘Never Hungover Again’

2015 – Julien Baker ‘Sprained Ankle’

2016 – Beyoncé ‘Lemonade’

2016 (belated)

Hello internet-dwellers,

The observant few that read my end of year lists might have noticed I didn’t do one for 2016. Sorry. It’s March now, so that’s over. But, I did start writing something, so I’m going to post it here anyway:

2016 was not a great year for many of us. From widespread political discontent, a strengthened far right, atrocities committed across the world, as well as our personal, intimate struggles. The loss of loved ones, the mourning of cultural heroes. There’s neither merit nor sense in believing adversity is good or necessary for great art – the price is far too high to pay – but the solace, hope and resistance we find in music is something I hope reached everyone this year. However, I’m not here to answer the big questions today. I’m here to talk about some records.

Beyoncé – Lemonade
Joyce Manor – Cody
Muncie Girls – From Caplan to Belsize
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
I Love Your Lifestyle – We Go Way Back
Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart
Tiny Moving Parts – Celebrate
Forth Wanderers – Slop EP
Touché Amoré – Stage 4
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

The reason I didn’t produce something ‘proper’ is that I got pretty busy at the tail end of 2016/start of 2017 with a big job change and a nasty bout of tonsillitis (ew.) Also, around that time I wrote my first piece for Track 7  an essay called ‘Why I’m no longer a punk rock ‘cool girl’‘.

The essay was something I had in my head for a long time. In fact, I had started writing it a year or two ago, with the intention of posting it on here. But, anxiety talked me out of it. I felt I couldn’t write it without being 100% open and honest, and in doing so, it would become a very personal piece. The vulnerability that came with that felt a little too much.

By pitching it, I was forcing myself to write it. Turns out that’s what I need in order to do the things that scare me.

Down to the incredibly supportive Track 7 editorial team, it ended up taking off and reaching a lot of people. For a couple of days, my phone was going off constantly with people (mostly women) who had reached out to say they had read it and identified with it. Amazing and terrifying, equally.

Among the people who reached out were 404 Ink, an independent publisher, who approached me to include it in their ‘Nasty Women‘ book – in the company of some of the most talented writers, artists and activists.

Having my work published was an absolute life-long dream, and receiving that book yesterday with my words in it made me do the most embarrassing dance in my kitchen. I’m committing all of this to a blog post, if for no other reason than to remind myself to always do the things that scare me.

Looking ahead, I’ve got a few pieces in the pipeline that I’m really excited about, as well as all of the things that have yet to manifest. Hit me up with any ideas.

Kristy x

2015.

Here’s the stuff I was into in two thousand and fifteen, in no particular order. Let’s get on with it.

Spraynard – Mable (Jade Tree)

Spraynard are up there amongst the very finest of punk bands of recent years. The kind of band that make you love your friends more, that help you accept yourself a little more, that make the anxiety subside even if just for a few songs, the band for the punk kids that struggle.

I won’t patronise anyone by saying Mable is more ‘mature’ than previous records (there’s still a reference to a burning bag of shit within five seconds) but the level of songwriting keeps getting better; it’s so packed with truly great songs that it’s almost obnoxious. There is not one single bad track. Not even an average one.

A rundown of my highlights, however, would include the impossibly catchy moments of Buried and Everywhere, the inescapable sadness in the delivery of ‘I want to see you next to me’ in Bench, and the quite literally perfect Lost Boys.

Tigers Jaw – Studio 4 Acoustic Session (Memory Music)

One of my favourite things about music is being proved wrong. Like many that have come before, I got Tigers Jaw wrong. So wrong. They were always one of those bands I just didn’t get. I enjoyed 2014’s Charmer, but in a kind of passive, non-committal way. Then one night I sat and listened, really listened, to this acoustic record and it clicked. There was a week in July where I listened to Nervous Kids hundreds of times, I swear. I still prefer this version to the original.

This newfound enthusiasm served as an excuse to go back and re-listen to 2010’s self-titled. The Sun, I Saw Water, Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine, all on fresh ears like I’d just discovered a new band and all of the excitement that comes along with that.

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven (Hopeless Records)

This is a record about death. It came out on September 4th 2015.

On September 22nd 2015, I came out of a meeting to three missed calls and a message from my Mum, asking to call her. I sat on a step on a very steep hill and she told me my uncle had been found dead in his flat.

Music is one of those things that makes you feel everything in detail. Love, sadness, excitement, grief. After September 22nd I couldn’t listen to this record. I couldn’t get through 30 seconds of Brothers without feeling utterly devastated.

I couldn’t listen to any music for weeks. I’d lost people dear to me before, but this time the shock was suffocating. Listening to the lyrics in Cardinals was like looking at myself in the mirror. Regretful.

 “I should have been there when you needed a friend.”

I regret I didn’t spend more time with him in recent years. I regret that I wasn’t around when he was struggling with his mental health (he died of natural causes, I should clarify). I regret that I couldn’t find better words to say to my cousin at the funeral.

I could have told him things about his Dad that he wouldn’t have remembered because he was too young, like when he lived with us and would always bring me home apple doughnuts from the bakery he worked at. About how we used to argue over football. About how he would listen to the same songs on repeat.

I could have said

“I want those years back.”

The ‘woah-oh’s in A Song For Patsy Cline made me feel more than some entire records have in 2015. It’s still a tough listen, but I’m really glad it’s here.

Svalbard – One Day All This Will End (Holy Roar)

So this year I started writing for Upset magazine, and this was my first review for them. You could probably go read it there. Spoiler alert: it’s great.

Carson Wells – Tread A Northern Path (so many labels)

Carson Wells are probably the most exciting emo band in the UK. For real. Following 2012’s Wonderkid, Tread A Northern Path isn’t a huge departure or a rewritten book, more so a continuation of challenging post-hardcore which avoids predictability. The driving, frantic guitars, furious and emotive in the actual meaning of the word, from stirring opener Palmistry to the standout Northern Path, Southern Lens – more delicate in tone but equal in anger and urgency. A seriously overlooked record.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath)

To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t an easy listen, and certainly isn’t enjoyable in same way the way that good kid, m.A.A.d city is. As intrinsic as the funk bassline of King Kunta, the ferocity of The Blacker the Berry, and the defiant optimism of Alright, is a detailed and personal examination of race, power, and one’s relationship with oneself, and if listening to it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, go back and listen again. A demanding record, but one that makes it almost impossible to deny that Kendrick Lamar is a genuinely peerless artist.

Lord Snow – Winterhold (Self-released)

Chicago’s Lord Snow do that classic type of chaotic, endearingly awkward screamo and asmr request is easily my favourite song of the genre in 2015. The frenetic gang vocals and crashing guitars will end you. They’re currently recording a new full-length in 2016, and I wouldn’t recommend sleeping on it.

Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter (Self-released)

This kind of fell into my lap on the internet (so 2015, right?) and became one of my great discoveries this year, getting me through many bleak commutes. Catchy indie-punk with Braid-like melodies, fucking great lyrics and probably the best Bandcamp bio ever.

Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint (Young Money/Cash Money)

(I know this came out in December 2014 but, quiet, no-one asked you.)

I could write for days about the deep personal and political reasons for my total adoration of Nicki Minaj. I’ll rein it in here, because I’m planning a 2016 zine project about her and need material for that, like, but The Pinkprint really is a masterpiece. It’s Nicki at her best, with the divide between her hardcore rap and pop identities bridged by great production, songwriting and collaborations (The Crying Game, Buy A Heart) and Only, where Nicki, much like her appearance on Kanye West’s Monster, embarrasses everyone else on the track.

Feeling Myself is my song of 2015. There’s so much to love here – not least the unabashed girl-love and mutual respect as artists between her and Beyoncé – but also the ownership of sexuality, the permission for self-love without shame, and Nicki’s razor-sharp flow. Perfection.

Sleep Kit – II (Big Scary Monsters)

It’s going to be super hard to not just write ‘This band, though’ and be done with it, but that’s the general vibe though, so settle in.

II is a triumphant follow-up from 2014’s self-titled EP from start to finish – the propulsive emo-punk of Discontent/Disconnect, to the more reflective and charming moments as seen in Foster Ghost Plan, Solsbury Chill and I’d Called You Eti, Erik. Masters of the climactic moments, Sleep Kit peak on this record, and as a band, on Piñata Beehive.

Dikembe – Ledge (Jeremy Records)

As long as Dikembe keep making records, they’ll keep appearing in my lists. Worst In The Fury was one of my favourite tracks of the year, with the EP as a whole keeping in the vein of Dikembe’s slower, more subtle sound. I could get lost in those vocals for days. I probably did.

I did some honourable mentions so we wouldn’t be here all day: Foxing – Dealer, Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, TWIABP – Harmlessness, CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye plus all the stuff I probably forgot about.

Mixtape mini-project

At the end of last year, I was thinking of ways I could keep myself out of trouble (figuratively) over the Christmas break. I thought about making things with my hands then remembered I’m not very good at that sort of thing. However, I’ve made a lot of mixtapes over the years.

I started DJ-ing when I was 18, and kind of stopped when I was around 24; the demands of my career made playing records and drinking rum until 4am impractical at best. (Although I am coming out of retirement to DJ a mate’s wedding in a few months. They started seeing each other when my old club night was big, which is lovely.)

Anyway, I’d been missing a specific part of the DJ life – not the hangovers, or the having to keep up to date with what Other People Like – but the curating music bit. Finding tracks that sound perfect next to each other, killer intros, builds, transition tracks that help you get across genres seamlessly. If there’s anything I’ve ever been good at in life, it’s that.

So I thought I’d make some mix CDs out of actual CDs (novel). The invitation was extended on Twitter – it was fun, it did keep me out of trouble, and I sort of did make things with my hands.

The track listings were printed on an amazing photo of Victoria Park in my beloved Leicester (by Tawny Photography, from a shoot we did last year). This was the one I did for @ClaudetteDoom. It gets bigger when you click it.

Zoe

CDs

I’d like to do another set of them at some point, so hit me up on here or Twitter if you want one. I’ve already been set a themed one by @SamanthaLindley (with a CHALLENGING track limit). Watch on, sports fans.

2014.

Here’s some records, EP’s and tracks that I enjoyed in 2014. (Except this first one, which came out in December 2013.) It’s in a vague chronological order, not necessarily by release date but as I recall listening to them.

It’s also my annual reminder of all the stuff I missed, or didn’t give enough time to. Feel free to let me know about those.

1. Sleep Kit – Sleep Kit (Big Scary Monsters)

I spent most of January listening to this record, early in the morning, to shake off the cold and dreary commute. I love the way this EP builds and layers with each track, from the steady grunge-punk of opener Tug of War, to the chaotic screamo of Jarred and personal favourite, the heavy-as title track, Sleep Kit.

You know how certain records just sound so right together? Like they were made to be listened to back to back? Well, I invariably listen to Sleep Kit and Sport alongside each other. It makes sense.

2. Sport – Bon Voyage (An impressively long list of labels. But huge props to Good Post Day.)

2012’s Colours was a really great breakthrough record for Lyon’s Sport; a record you could fall for on first listen and just about everyone did. And Bon Voyage managed to be even better. I mean, it opens with a Stand By Me sample, and is the best bit of spiky, melodic indie-emo you can dance to by a long stretch. Ulrike Maier was my 2014 jam.

3. Human Hands – s/t (strictly no capital letters/time as a color/cross your heart and hope to d.i.y)

Sometimes, to really ‘get’ a band, you need to see them in the room that smells like a swimming pool in Leicester’s The Shed. It all fell into place at that point. If you like your emo noisy, impassioned and thoroughly miserable in the best way, this is the record for you. One of 2014’s best lyrics, from disease:

“This is my punk rock and you’re a disease”

The temptation to yell it at people you don’t like will loom large for some time.

4. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There (Tiny Engines)

It’s been a good year for really solid, accomplished second albums. Three years and one name change later, The Hotelier followed up 2011’s It Never Goes Out and it is killer emo-punk from start to finish. From the bittersweet lyricism of Your Deep Rest, that super catchy guitar line in Among The Wildflowers and the unrelenting screams throughout Life In Drag, Home, Like Noplace Is There is deserving of every bit of hype it received.

5. Ratking – So It Goes (XL Recordings)

So It Goes from NYC’s Ratking is one of the most incredible hip hop records I’ve heard in recent years. Experimental, beautifully produced and a great summertime record; from the heavy blow of Canal, the hazy chill of Snow Beach, to the slick as anything So It Goes.

6. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love (Captured Tracks)

This is the best straight-up punk record I’ve listened to this year. It’s angry, loud and unabashedly messy. The ever-awesome Meredith Graves’ frenetic vocals throw up so many great lines. From Driver:

“Lies like ‘I will be protected’
Lies like ‘death might forget me’
Like ‘home is where I’m never invited’
Like ‘my voice provides a light’
Like ‘I can have everything I want before I die'”

Standout moments include the jangly noise-punk of Big Stars and the feedback-soaked poetry that is Interference Fits.

7. Baton Rouge – Totem (Purepainsugar/Adagio830/Bakery Outlet/Long Legs Long Arms)

I guess this completes the trifecta of excellent European emo on this particular list. Unfortunately I missed them when they were in the UK, because I was not, but Totem was kind of a surprise for me this year, it seemed to take emo in a direction I hadn’t heard from many others. Standout tracks are Côte du Py, a lovely little slice of catchy indie-mo; and the slow burn of Cours Tolstoï with those dark, crashing drums toward the end and the gorgeous Train De Nuit.

8. Tree – Probably Nu It (Scion AV)

I heard this in a changing room and it became one of my favourite songs of the summer. Try not doing body rolls all the way through it. TRY.

9. Dikembe – Mediumship (Tiny Engines)

I’ve harboured a huge soft spot for Dikembe for a while, but wasn’t sure where they would end up going with the second record. 2013’s Broad Shoulders was in itself a fair departure from their earlier output, and Mediumship changed it up again; darker, more introspective, matured.

Whilst I can’t say the Jesse Lacey comparisons aren’t still valid, Mediumship is a compounding record that, for me, sets Dikembe apart from a lot of their peers. I can get punchy, youthful music elsewhere. Give me that perfectly executed loud/quiet dynamic, those guitars that wander and wind, the dreamiest vocals in emo, and don’t skimp on the sad.

10. Dads – Chewing Ghosts (6131)

I didn’t really listen to the whole record enough to include it here, but this track charmed the hell out of me for weeks.

“We could be drunk together, we could be punk together, we could be friends again.”

11. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again (Epitaph)

This is my record of 2014. Coming in at a no-fucking-about 20 minutes, like the previous two records, Never Hungover Again has perfected the art of cramming in all of those vocal harmonies, joyfully awkward lyrics and heavy Smiths influences whilst leaving nothing (but kind of everything) out.

I didn’t think I could love a song more than Constant Headache from their 2011 s/t debut, but then I heard Falling In Love Again and now I don’t know how to feel. It sounds like falling in love, between giddy and forlorn, feeling it in the pit of your stomach. When those synths come in, my god. Other standout tracks include End of the Summer, Schley, Heart Tattoo and Catalina Fight Song, which is without doubt the most fun you can have in 65 seconds.

Okay, I knew you wanted some Beyoncé.

12. Beyonce feat. Nicki Minaj – Flawless remix (Columbia)

We talked about Flawless in my 2013 post, and the only way it could have been more perfect is by adding Nicki Minaj (like, hardlines, no fucks given Nicki.) I’m still fiercely advocating for a Watch The Throne-style collab record. Appease me.

13. Punch – They Don’t Have To Believe (Deathwish)

This year, everyone’s favourite raging feminist badass Meghan O’Neil left Punch, but thankfully with this total banger of a record. Selfish, I know, but I’m gutted I didn’t see them live, because getting to scream along to Worth More Than Your Opinion was on my list of life goals. File this with the many super important lyrics she’s written:

“Our looks, our bodies, are none of your fucking business.”

Then lose your mind to Personal Space.

14. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)

I could probably just not write anything about this record because someone on Soundcloud already nailed it (re: Blockbuster Night Part 1.)

Beat felony

The lyrical interplay between Killer Mike and El-P throughout RTJ2 is, as ever, unfuckwithable, and we covered the beats already. The first time I heard Oh My Darling Don’t Cry I had to go back and listen to the first 30 seconds about 10 times before I could continue, then got to 2:32 and had my mind completely blown.

Someone else’s blog

That time (two weeks ago) I did a thing for Is This Thing On? with a load of people way cooler than me.