Drab City share ‘Live Free & Die When It’s Cool’ visuals

With the much-anticipated debut album Good Songs For Bad People due for release this Friday, and recently described by MOJO as “The new king and queen of fever-dream-pop”, Drab City have today shared a video for current single “Live Free and Die When It’s Cool”. Of the track the band say: “Live Free and Die When It’s Cool tells the story of a young, penniless drifter who arrives in the big city searching for understanding and like-minded weirdos, only to find the wide open city has been replaced by a hyper-gentrified city of dull careerists.” The tale is told over an uncanny mix of echoey dub, 70s rock, and funky drum breaks – a sonic blend as free spirited and cool as the song’s title suggests. The video was filmed around 5am and features the band dancing around abandoned beaches and forests.

A heady air of dislocation envelops Drab City’s debut album, where songs of innocence and experience merge with dub, hip-hop, dream-pop and jazzy soundtrack vibes to intoxicating effect. Drab City are fixated on social alienation, violent revenge, and (perhaps) romantic love as salvation; topics not new in music, but listening to Drab City in 2020, one is struck by how uncommon they’ve become. Lyrically, these songs often project punkish angst and resentment. “Working For the Men” is a degraded service worker’s revenge ballad, imagining male tormenters brought to a violent end. “Hand On My Pocket” tells of a destitute, wandering youth. One night she meets a stranger on a desert road, and is told of a nearby city where a soft, rich citizenry make easy targets. Class war is palpable. Other songs are more opaque, but seem to speak of being the black sheep of the family, or being weighed down by the dullness of hometown life. Yet the casual listener might not notice the violence as the music itself is far from abrasive. Dreamy and ethereal, a foundation of flute, vibraphone, and jazzy guitar chord melody can switch to drum machines or funk-inflected girl-group pop at a moment’s notice. It’s a flurry of 20th century references, combining and recombining at such a schizophrenic pace, the overall effect is something that could only be conjured in our frenzied present. At once catchy and unfamiliar, the melodic, welcoming soundscapes are a Trojan horse for the band’s antisocial outlook.

One night fated to be slept

on the streets of Drab City

turns out lasts entire generations

We both drop dead

hungry each night

under foreign stars

Hair matted and mashed into the sidewalk glue

grime, spit, snot, olive pits, ashes, spoiled cream

We sleep huddled in the thinnest linens and dream

startlingly beautiful stuff

like ships with eight sails

and fifty canons mooring at the quay

or even just Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

When the landlord pays a visit he arrives

cheerful and singing in a flute like voice

an underdeveloped, simple and predictable tune

He wears boots like Robin Leach

And at the back of the skull

Wakes us with a kick

Then we’re off and away digging

other people’s ditches all day

We’re staring out the big window

in thisTurkish bakery

on the dirty boulevard

after sunset

blank, silent

and sucking the last of the grounds

Probably everyone around here wants us to die

Our feelings are unfashionable

Creative little groups of artists and influencers pass

carrying uniquely scented wallets

Everybody’s got nice stuff but me

I want a stereo I want a TV

Well I guess that’s everything

Avoid the authorities, live free, then die when it’s cool

Sincerely,

Drab City

Happy Release Day Modern Nature

Today, Modern Nature release their beautiful new mini-album ‘Annual’, which is a follow up to their 2019 debut ‘How To Live’.

Released in August 2019, Modern Nature’s debut album – How to Live – crossed the urban and rural into each other. Plaintive cello strains melted into motorik beats. Pastoral field recordings drifted through looping guitar figures. Rising melodies shone with reflective saxophone accents, placing the record somewhere between the subtle mediations of Talk Talk, the stirring folk of Anne Briggs and the atmospheric waves of Harmonia.

The album was met with universal acclaim and featured in a number of publication’s ‘Best Of 2019’ lists. As the group took the album out on the road, Modern Nature became something even more expansive. “It feels like there’s scope and room to grow. I want the group to feel fluid and that whoever’s playing with us can express themselves and interpret what they think this music is” says bandleader Jack Cooper.

Their new mini-album Annual, recorded in December 2019 at Gizzard Studio in London, is another step towards something more liberated and a world away from the sound of Jack Cooper’s previous bands. Will Young sits this one out, concentrating on his work with Beak, but How To Live collaborator Jeff Tobias takes a more central role, alongside percussionist Jim Wallis.

Jack explains how ‘Annual’ came about: “Towards the end of 2018, I began filling a new diary with words, observations from walks, descriptions of events, thoughts…free associative streams of just… stuff. Reading back, as the year progressed from winter to spring, the tone of the diary seemed to change as well… optimism crept in, brightness and then things began to dip as autumn approached… warmth, isolation again and into winter.”

“I split the diary into four seasons and used them as the template for the four main songs. The shorter instrumental songs on the record are meant to signify specific events and transitions from one season to the next. I figured it wouldn’t be a very long record, but to me it stands up next to ‘How To Live’ in every way.”

‘Annual’ opens with ‘Dawn’ which brings to mind the peace and space of Miles Davis’ ‘In A Silent Way’; it rises from nothing like shoots reaching for the light. “I wanted Dawn to feel like the moment you realise spring is coming, when you notice blossom on the trees or nights getting lighter.”

On lead track ‘Flourish’, it’s clear Modern Nature have moved on from the first album; as muted percussion and double-bass stirs behind Cooper’s Slint-like ambling guitar; the chorus soars into a collaged crescendo. “Flourish is like when my part of the world coming to life. I live on the edge of London between Leytonstone and Epping Forest, so the signs of spring are very apparent round here – flowers, light, people talking in their gardens.” 

“Mayday started as an outro to Flourish or ‘Spring’ as it was titled originally. The idea was a segueway into the summer section to represent the sort of collective excitement a city gets once it realises summer is here.” 

The summer of Jack’s diary inspired ‘Halo’. “Wanstead Flats where I live, change a lot in the summer; a haze descends on them instead of the spring mist and the city’s proximity is more apparent. Blue bags of empty cans and scorched grass from out of control barbeques.” Arnulf Lindner on double-bass recalls the playing of Danny Thompson with Jeff Tobias’ wonderfully lyrical saxophone referencing Pharoah Sanders. 

On ‘Harvest’ Jack takes a backseat with Kayla Cohen of Itasca singing. “All these songs are in the same key but the melody was above my range. I’d been playing the new Itasca record all the time and just reached out. The economy with which she sings is perfect.”

“The intention with the record was for it to feel like a circle, so Wynter reflects the opening. I guess having to get up and flip the record destroys the illusion so it’s a rare occasion where listening with the ability to just loop the album into another year is closer to our intention.”

‘Annual’ then acts both like a companion piece to the band’s ‘How To Live’ debut but also a pointer to the paths ahead. Cooper has already started work on the next album, his speed of output an indication of the excitement and creativity that surrounds the project. Who will be involved and what the touchstones might be are yet to be firmly established but then who would have it any other way with this most fascinatingly free-flowing and mutable of groups?

Ren Harvieu shares new viedo + B-side single

Following across-the-board rave reviews for her new album Revel In The Drama, released in April via Bella Union, Ren Harvieu has shared a b/w video for new single “This Is How You Make Me Feel”, directed by her musical partner Romeo Stodart.

Of the track and video Harvieu says: “This is How You Make Me Feel was recorded during a steamy, hot summer, a feeling we wanted to capture in the song and the recording. It’s all about the beginnings of new love where it all feels so new and exciting. I wanted it to sound like really late night / early morning with the sun coming up after a beautiful night of sexual awakenings. The video was filmed from my bedroom during lockdown.”

Additionally, Harvieu has shared a brand new track, “Revel In The Drama”, which is the B-side to the single and also the title of her album, despite not being included on the LP. 

Of the track Harvieu adds: “Revel In The Drama was inspired by the beautiful Japanese actress and singer Yoshiko Yamaguchi, who was best known as Li Xiang Lan, and seen as one of the great pop divas of 1930’s & 40’s Shanghai pop. I sampled her song Tuberose and wanted to create a new world of colour and enchantment. ‘I am real, as real as fantasy’”.

Ren also recently announced news of her rescheduled Spring UK tour, with all the shows moving to November and December… Dates/info can be found here.