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James Devitt

Music loving, opinion giving Barrovian

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James Devitt of Chncer brings you the very best releases of March 2022

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A surprising one this month. My two favourite albums this month have both been my artists that I have previously never heard of, which came as a shock as there was plenty released this month by artists that I am already of fan of such as Denzel Curry and Bodega. A testament to why it’s always worth the effort to get ahead of the game and dig into things that you don’t know about, because you end up finding albums that will end up accompanying you throughout the rest of the year. Albums you didn’t care for will grow on you and albums that you love at first will end up dropping away with time. It’ll be funny to look back on these at the end of the year and see how much my opinion has changed on certain things, I’m sure it will change massively just as it always does. But before that happens here are my thoughts about another handful of releases that made an impression more than the rest this month. Hopefully you find something in here that you like, enjoy.

Album Release: Nilüfer Yanya - Painless

Listen to: the dealer, midnight sun, belong with you, another you

I got a free trial of Tidal last month and as I was checking it out and exploring my way through the app i got recommended one of the first singles off Painless. I had never heard of Nilüfer Yanya before and I thought it was pretty good so I went on Bandcamp and singed up to be notified when the album came out. This ended up turning out the be a good decision and Painless ended up surprising me with how good of an album it is. Sonically the album works with the sounds of Pop and Alt-Rock, at points playing with the aesthetics of grunge and alt-rock and at other cleaning up and being surrounded by the glittering textures of indie-pop. The great thing about this however is that the songs on this album sound like a love letter to her influences or teenage loves for example I can here the dry grunge guitars of The Breeders in here very clearly at certain points and on stabilise where the guitar riff sounds straight out of a Bloc Party song. Yet at the same time, every time a song on this album hits you with its obvious influence it also blasts you with a wave of freshness of modernity and it is there where this album flourishes. Throughout Painless Nilüfer Yanya manages to re-contextualises these sounds and wield them in a way that treats them as tools to establish her own vision. There are so many acts releasing 90’s and early 2000’s influenced music at the minute due to an attempt by record companies and songwriting teams to profit from the fact that people are wearing baggy pants again. In this case however it is clear that this is the sound of a 26 year old artist taking the chance to work her influence into her own image rather than an attempt at playing with musical relevance. The biggest example of this is on belong with you. Listen to the guitar riff at the start and then the song it turns into. An American pop punk riff turns into a indie-pop verse with a saxophone over it, there’s no-one else making music like this. She essentially takes the most safe and recognisable hallmarks of mainstream alt-rock and makes them a tool for experimentation in the way that she pieces them together with the aspects of her own sound. As well has the application of the the instrumentation, Nilüfer Yanya finds a place for her vocals amongst these songs that take on a rhythmic quality, not quite talking but not belting it out either she positions herself in these songs in a way that sounds like she is perfectly moving with the song rather than commanding the hooks from up on high. Take the opener the dealer for example. The chorus isn’t really that hooky in my opinion but the rhythm of her voice working with the strum of the guitar and the drums in the verse actually have me nodding my head rather than singing along. Which is something that sticks around for the whole album, being especially apparent at the start of the very next track L/R. This is an album the has surprised me this month and if I didn’t come across that single last month on Tidal then I might have missed this thing entirely. Which is an incredible shame. Because as much as this album does the interesting things well it also features some of the best indie-pop released in a time where some of the biggest acts in the world are painting the radio with the sounds of indie and alt-pop. Listen to the song anotherlife for example. What is separating that song from the radio and more mainstream appeal? The uncomfortable answer is exposure. In a world where a band like Wetleg are playing their first gig at isle of wight festival and being promoted in times square billboards and shoved down everyones throats before their first album was even announced Nilüfer Yanya is an example of an artist suffering from being an incredible artist without the monstrous momentum of the industry behind them. Nilüfer Yanya has simultaneously created her own voice in an interesting way and also produced a couple of potential radio friendly bangers on the same album. In my opinion one of the best 2022 has to offer so far and I predict its an album that will grow on me even more throughout the year.

EP Release: Babehoven - Sunk

Listen to: Fugazi, Get Better, Twenty Dried Chillis

Different to other smaller artists I’ve featured on these lists so far this year. Sunk is probably the release I’ve listened to most this month. Ive been listening to it when I’ve been running which might sound unexpected to some people but when i’m out running I much prefer to listen to something with a chilled vibe than something pumped up. Just gets my head in the right place and increases the enjoyment and connection with being outside in my view and throughout the month of March I listened to this EP every time I went out. Clocking in at 6 songs it is longer than what you would normally expect from an EP and when the tempo slows down and is carried over a greater length there is always risk of boredom, but there has been none of that here. Soft eloquent vocals sing over a mostly strummed acoustic guitar with the lead melodies always coming from those two simple parts, only occasionally are these songs visited by outside help in the form of a snippet of flute or an electric guitar only ever being present for a few seconds. But even with this being the case the songs never seem to wash into an undefined running time, with each track doing enough to stand out from the other in terms of where they are taking your ear. This certainly isn’t an EP that requires much of the listener, there is no amount of active listening required here to get into what is enjoyable - other than maybe listening to the lyrics more closely - and I think maybe this is why i’ve loved this EP this month. Almost exclusively, I have been outside, by myself, at dusk when I’ve been listening to this and the folky, sweetly melancholic atmosphere here has suited that setting perfectly. One of the things I love about running is the meditative quality that allows me to be by myself while also being apart from myself and each time i’ve put Sunk on while doing it I have existed squarely in the centre of the space Babehoven create.

Track Release: Sports Team - R Entertainment

In my humble opinion Sports Team are one of the most exciting bands to be making music today. They’re often mocked online as being pop-punk for the middle English kids and as much as that statement is true enough to be funny, I also think it is their greatest strength. In the last few years guitar music has often been dominated by an ever ageing fan base and the target audience of some of the most relevant acts in indie and punk has been growing older. Which of course there’s nothing wrong with, but it seems the selection of bands who’s use of guitar capture the spirit and freedom of what the genre meant to me when I was younger is growing smaller. When I was a teenager I certainly wasn’t tuning into Radio 6 to here what was fresh put it that way. Even though there have been so many great bands that I have loved from the last 3 or 4 years of British music, it is hard for me to not think about what I see as a hollowing out of the Genre’s that I love. As Indie and punk in the last few years have moved more towards sports for the critics rather than music for the kids the spirit and importance of what a guitar represents in music and life has slowly started to feel the effects of that cultural shift. You won’t find anyone admitting it, but the recent huge popularity of people like Machine Gun Kelly is probably good for all of us. Im sure you’ll find some people who’ll swear they’ve been reading poetry and listening to Joni Mitchell since 14 but most of us know thats not true. This is why the comparison of Sports Team to pop-punk is such a huge complement, because if there’s one genre that is the absolute antithesis of some of inescapable seriousness of the underground scene in the uk then it is Pop-punk. Probably the un-coolest genre to like amongst the taste shaming masses of the uk indie/punk/overpriced vintage clothes scene. Sports Teams sound and huge explosion in popularity is the anti-dote. Their first album nearly went to number one only to be beat by Lady Gaga and they did it with a richness of spirit that is as bright and free as the guitar made me feel when I was a teenager. They truly are like a big spray of oust in a scene that loves to sit around smelling its own farts.

Track Release: Kate Bollinger - Who Am I But Someone / Lady In The Darkest Hour

As I was sat about trying to think of the what i’ve heard this month that won’t just be forgotten after I’ve listened to it, one of the artists that came to and was Kate Bollinger. The only problem was that she released two singles in March so what the hell it’s a double whammy. Both these singles are taken off the EP Look At It In The Light which comes out in April which will be this month when you’re reading this. And if the singles are anything to go by then it will probably be one of my favourite releases of April, unless we have a freak month full of incredible releases. On Lady In The Darkest Hour Bollinger mixes the sounds of 70’s pop and soft rock with her own modern indie stylings and creates a sound that is nostalgic, fresh and catchy all the same time. The modern production and indie pop elements mix perfectly and the chorus of this one sounds like The Carpenters were an indie-pop act. Who Am I But Someone is a much shorter song but follows the former in terms of vibe and quality, again borrowing from the sounds of the 60’s and 70’s and featuring surprisingly good production. All the parts are so interesting and well done wether its the drum sound or the warbling modulation of the guitar and keys in the background. It will be interesting to see how this EP does critically but the signs are good so far and currently Bollinger’s two singles are two of my favourite things released this month.

Album Release: Oso Oso - Sore Thumb

Listen to: because I want to, sunnyside, father tracy, nothing to do

Emo is such a funny genre and just the word itself is such a loaded term at this point. The word will prompt images of a teenage black fringed My Chemical Romance fan form one person, images of khaki pants and flannel shirts from another and from the majority of the general public the dress of any generic goth or metal head. Ever since the inception of the genre as a split from the D.C. hardcore scene in the 80’s thanks to Rites of passage the phrase ‘Emo’ has been put alongside every single trend in music since that point. Math-rock bands of the 90’s and early 2000’s are ‘Mid-west Emo’ yet Pop-Punk bands in the 2000’s such as Fall Out Boy are also Emo, yet post-hardcore screamo bands are also ‘Emo’ and nowadays thanks to acts like Juice WRLD, Lil Peep - and countless others one - of the most defining and influential genres of the last few years has been: ‘Emo-Rap’. Even outside of music the pop-culture aesthetic of the sad-boi has been moulded almost entirely by emo music. It seems like anything that has been about in the last 20 years has an emo sub genre which makes it extremely hard to narrow it down. On the guitar there are certainly emo sounds, same as there are emo hallmarks or stereotypes in an emo vocalists voice but once the genre starts to splinter and branch into the various forms that it does it gets harder and harder nail down what emo even is. For a lot of people it wold be characterised by overly emotional melodrama or an adolescent view of hardship in the lyrical content but there a various examples of this in songs that aren’t ‘emo’ and there are various hugely critical acclaimed ‘emo’ albums that aren’t this either so how do you categorise it. Juice WRLD obviously sounds fuck all like Rites of Spring. I’m not going to monologue about what I think emo is, although I have my opinions. The only reason I’m bringing this up as a discussion is because I think Sore Thumb by Oso Oso is one of the best emo albums I’ve heard in years - including all the sub-genre’s that have permeated pop-culture recently - and I have a limited way of describing why. Sonically, the sounds are familiar enough that on first listen you might have this down as another re-hash of one of the many American emo sounding bands but the more attention you give it the more you notice that this is a slight expansion of a sound that has little room to expand.

The more you read about the band the more this makes sense. In early 2021, Lilitri and Oso Oso guitarist Tavish Maloney spent a month with longtime collaborator Billy Mannino at his studio, writing and recording early ideas for a follow-up to 2019’s leap into anthemic pop, Basking in the Glow. But the would-be demos took on new weight soon after they wrapped when, less than a month later, Maloney suddenly passed away. And since his death apart from the mixing and mastering these songs apparently remain largely untouched. The result is a sound basking in the present day nostalgia of the drugs, the love and the miss-spent time with friends that is a hallmark of the genre, while retaining the expressiveness and experimentation that demos recorded between LSD trips and messing about with friends would have, before they have a chance to be ironed out by any form of stiffer creative direction. There is piano in the background, there are 60’s pop melodies being sung over brit pop guitars and countless other things happening sonically while managing not to lose the feeling of ‘emo’. However you categorise it, the nostalgic, fuck it sentiment of the genre is richer and more genuine here than it has been for a while.