Having released their brilliant debut album to much acclaim and playing over 100 live shows in 2019, Penelope Isles are pleased to announce that they will be back on the road again in 2021. To celebrate the announcement, the band have shared the final episode of their Penny Isles TV series, which sees them touring in the US with Wallows. As Lily Wolter expresses, “touring with Wallows was like nothing we have ever experienced. It was a real honour to play to such an amazing bunch of kids every night, with so much love to give! We love touring America, playing mini golf, eating Raising Canes and meeting new friends for life. Big love to Wallows for having us along!”
This is the season finale of Penny Isles TV Season 1, filmed across America last February. The band have since been quarantined together working on their next album and are very much looking forward to getting back on the road. Critical acclaim for Until The Tide Creeps In by Penelope Isles…
“Timeless and special… Unashamedly bight melodies that throw you into the sunlight and make the darker moments even more striking.” DIY
“A knockout album with instant charm… When Penelope Isles hit the spot they hit it with a dazzled burst of refracted light.” Metro
“An undeniably lovely melange of dream pop and gentle psychedelia.” Sunday Times
“Hard not to get hooked on from the start… elegant and catchy songwriting that springboards them in to the many sets of arms ready to welcome them.” The Line Of Best Fit
“Until The Tide… is a generous, lively dream–pop offering. They soar like Spiritualized; they shimmer like Mazzy Star. On seven–minute epic ‘Gnarbone’ they go motorik, using found sound like Public Service Broadcasting.” London In Stereo
“Sweltering guitars scorch the earth [on ‘Chlorine’]… While summery synths and keys frolic in spaces left between the drum line and spiraling vocals, the riff phrases communicate nearly as much warmth and meaning as the lyrics do.” Stereogum
“There is a grandeur to their songs, big and swelling, ebbs and flows…The whole band is seriously talented, and…seriously rock, too.” Brooklyn Vegan
“Soars towards the heavens… echoes of Pavement and Deerhunter.” DORK Magazine
“Choppy guitar and thumping percussion combine to create a markedly DIY aesthetic throughout the video’s three minutes and five seconds of scrapbooked collage visuals. Said DIY aesthetic, both sonically as well as visually, operates as a self-aware style, one that brings an element of dirty garage rock to the haze of dream-pop flushes.” Paste
“…dreamy but biting guitar pop…soaring, pastoral, highly intelligent songwriting.” Clash Music
Loneliness, isolation, alienation, the need for connection and community. The salient themes of our times resonate with a haunting, predictive and vital power on the third album from London four-piece Landshapes. Released via Bella Union on 20th November and available to preorder here, Contact is an album that digs deep into the past, looks ahead to the future and burns with vivid life in the present, where its mind-expanding soundscapes, beguiling melodies and resonating emotions exude a tremendous in-the-moment vibrancy. Landshapes have shared a first single titled “The Ring” from the album.
The title speaks clearly to the album’s themes, as intended. As Luisa Gerstein (vocals, synths) explains, “The working title for a long time was ‘Collapse’, but when we came around to naming it, and having the conversation from our respective isolation, we wanted to give it a name that was more hopeful, and about connectivity. Dan suggested ‘Contact’ and it clicked – Contact with each other; contact with the wider world amidst its unravelling; music feels like a really essential part of that right now.”
Contact took form after extensive touring for Landshapes’ second album, “Heyoon”, where the band’s shape-shifting hybrids of alt-folk, psychedelia, math-rock and more brimmed with brooding beauty. The desire to sustain the focused fluidity and elemental power of their live energy – honed from Green Man to End of the Road and beyond – compelled them to continue playing and writing together, with strict principles to light the way. As Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass, vocals) puts it, “We approached this album with the idea of creating more space, simplifying and allowing things to breathe. We also wanted to keep the songs briefer, with fewer deviations.”
A few years later, Contact sustains those principles beautifully. The sulphurous sludge-rock guitars and depth-charged synths of “Rosemary” throb with a rapt intensity: while the lyrics reflect on ancestral DNA and the memory-stimulating powers of the titular herb, the physicality of the sound embodies a sense of the past living in the present, registered deep in the gut.
Throughout, Landshapes equip their elemental intimations and exploratory themes with a palpable immediacy. “Siberia” is a psychedelic folk song of ice and fire, its forceful chants set to deliciously lopsided rhythms; direct and mysterious. Testifying to the band’s road-tested chemistry, loose grooves are executed with a limber precision. “Drama” sets its snapshot of, says Luisa, “the imbalance of emotional labour that can happen between men and women” to an alt-R&B funk drift. With Jemma Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Dan Blackett (drums) swapping instrumental roles, “The Ring” is mantric, romantic pop with a troubled heart, its seeming simplicity deceptive. “I suppose it was a love song at first,” says Heloise, “inspired by some friends getting married. For me, it evolved into a feeling of connection with the world and non-human species – a partnership upon which we tend to rely and take for granted but don’t appreciate all the time.”
Elsewhere, moods and emotions deepen and diversify. “Real Love Is Dead” sets a tale of break-ups and Tinder to a misty synthetic backdrop. The spare, future-thinking “I’m Mortal” grapples with the question of giving birth in today’s world, treated vocals throwing its core human doubts into stark relief. For Luisa, the amniotic bliss-pop of “Dizzee” frames a reflection on “the specific experience of going to a queer people of colour club night for the first time, and feeling so ecstatic that the space existed, feeling at home, whilst simultaneously wrestling the feeling of being an imposter”.
Look for evidence of the band’s live power and you will find them manifested forcefully on “Let Me Be”, an inside-out critique of white male self-entitlement set to a whirligig of organs, chants and fuzzy math-rock guitars. Born from a jam session on tour, the wordless harmonies and guitar-strafed lurches of “Just A Plug” add cathartic jolts of electricity. “It feels like a release and a chance to vent,” says Heloise, “even without lyrics the sentiment is there!” Finally, “Conductor” diverts that energy into a serene reverie on time and the body, its expansive imagery anchored in the immediacy of sensation.
After the voyages of self-discovery on their 2013 debut, “Rambutan”, and the wide-open reach of “Heyoon”, Contact pays testimony to Landshapes’ questing spirit. Recorded live at Soup Studios when it was in Limehouse, the album’s freshness reflects a strict resistance to, says Luisa, “over-cooking in the studio”. New tools helped flesh out the soundscapes, Jemma notes: “actual synths”, a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine, and fresh guitar pedals enrich the sonic palette without gratuitous studio interference. Meanwhile, storied sound wizard and producer Kwes became, says Heloise, “sort of a fifth member”, helping to take the songs “to a new realm”.
As Jemma says, “We had a strong idea of wanting to keep a raw feel to the work, and that we wanted external ears to play a guiding influence and add a new voice once we had built the foundations. The sense of previous preciousness was something we could dispose of, as we had more confidence in our ability to play and write. I think it made us bold.”
“If you have a vacancy for Favourite New Band, Pom Poko would like to apply for the role,” tweeted Tim Burgess in April, as Norway’s finest punk-pop anti-conformists revisited their joyous debut album, Birthday, for one of Tim’s mood-lifting Twitter listening parties. Pom Poko pimp their CV on all fronts with their glorious second album, Cheater, due for release 6th November via Bella Union and available to preorder here. Between the quartet’s sweet melodies, galvanic punky ructions and wild-at-art-rock eruptions, Cheater is the sound of a band celebrating the binding extremes that make them so uniquely qualified to thrill: and, like Tim’s listening party, to fulfil any need you might have for a pick-you-up.
Pom Poko have shared a first single titled “Andrew” from the album, which has just been premiered by NME.
As singer Ragnhild Fangel explains of the leap from Birthday to Cheater, “I think it’s very accurate to say that we wanted to embrace our extremes a bit more. In the production process I think we aimed more for some sort of contrast between the meticulously written and arranged songs and a more chaotic execution and recording, but also let ourselves explore the less frantic parts of the Pom Poko universe. I think both in the more extreme and painful way, and in the sweet and lovely way, this album is kind of amplified.”
Both sonically and thematically, that sense of amplification asserts itself right off the bat with the tearaway title-track. Bursting into life on the back of a blast of fractious guitar noise, a thrashing riff and a sweetly sardonic vocal, “Cheater” laces its serotonin rush with tangy lyrics about dreams and, says Ragnhild, the kind of “cheating kid who doesn’t understand why they didn’t get things exactly like they wanted on their first try”: thematic motifs that reverberate throughout the album.
From here, Pom Poko court their extremes with firecracker confidence. Its lilting melody laced with a critique of gender stereotypes and set to a Breeders-style lurch, “Like A Lady” is sharp and catchy. First single “Andrew” upholds a facility for simplicity in one of Pom Poko’s loveliest choruses, though a band such as this will never settle for the obvious: Martin Miguel Tonne’s jazzy guitars seem to do everything except what you expect them to.
Further evidence arrives in the contrast between the thrilling, think-on-its-feet thrash-pop of “My Candidacy” – made in less than three hours – and the mellifluous “Danger Baby”, a tale of irrational fears with Ragnhild’s vocal and Martin’s guitar merged in unexpected union. That love for surprise synchronicities, slanted sounds and unexpected subject matter propels “Andy Go to School”, where a tempo-tweaked guitar line accompanies a lyric extolling the pleasures of water parks and a free-flowing sonic palette. “Towards the end one of the guitar pedals made a huge BZZZ sound in a pause, but we thought it was cool and raw so we just rolled with it,” says Ragnhild. “We like to mix the feeling of a surgically produced piece of music with the random sounds that also happen when you are a band playing together.”
After its opening, almost Bolan-esque belches of guitar, “Look” extends that spirit of openness to an invitation to look outside of one’s self, before “Body Level” ends the album on a characteristically generous, unguarded – amplified – note of positivity. “Things get better,” sings Fangel, embracing directness with the same readiness as Pom Poko exult in giddy intricacy.
The sound of four distinct personalities driving in divergent directions towards one destination, the result is an evolved snapshot of the bracingly contrary chemistry forged when Fangel, Tonne, Jonas Krøvel (bass) and Ola Djupvik (drums) united to play punk during a jazz gig at a literature festival in Trondheim (the band-members studied jazz there.)Taking their name and spirit from Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli’s marvellously out-there film about raccoon-dog rebels with unfeasibly large testicles, Pom Poko showcased that convulsive individuality to exuberant effect on 2019’s Birthday. Along the way, they drew praise from NME, DIY, PopMatters, The Line Of Best Fit, The Independent and BBC Radio 6 Music, while going on to be nominated for two Norwegian Grammy Awards (Spellemannprisen) and The Nordic Music Prize. Meanwhile, a huge touring schedule included countless sold-out headline shows and a rapturously received UK jaunt with Ezra Furman.
Written in the same run that produced interim releases “Leg Day” (with its playful dance-based video) and “Praise”, and recorded/produced in cooperation with Marcus Forsgren (Jaga Jazzist, Broen, Arc Iris), Cheater does its predecessor proud on every front. Bursting with colour and wonky life from its cover art (by close collaborator Erlend Peder Kvam) outwards, it differs from Birthday primarily in that its songs did not have a chance to be road-tested before going into the studio. But you wouldn’t know it. As Ragnhild explains, “That meant we had to practice the songs in a more serious way, but it also meant the songs had more potential to change when we recorded them since we didn’t have such a clear image of what each song should/could be as the last time.”
In other words, consider that vacancy for free-thinking punk-pop adventurism in your life filled. Right, Tim?
Today, The Flaming Lips release another new song and video, “Will You Return / When You Come Down”, from their highly-anticipated new album AMERICAN HEAD set for release 11th September via Bella Union in the UK/Europe and Warner Records in the US. Once again, the video was filmed during quarantine in their home state of Oklahoma and directed by Wayne Coyne and George Salisbury for delo creative.
The Lips have also created a series of mini-documentaries highlighting songs from AMERICAN HEAD. Click here to view The Flaming Lips explain “My Religion Is You,” here to view the band talking about “You n Me Sellin’ Weed, ” and here for “Dinosaurs On the Mountain.”
AMERICAN HEAD finds The Flaming Lips basking in more reflective lyrical places as Wayne Coyne explains in a long form story about the album. Excerpt below:
“Even though The Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma we never thought of ourselves as an AMERICAN band. I know growing up (when I was like 6 or 7 years old) in Oklahoma I was never influenced by, or was very aware of any musicians from Oklahoma. We mostly listened to the Beatles and my mother loved Tom Jones (this is in the 60’s)… it wasn’t till I was about 10 or 11 that my older brothers would know a few of the local musician dudes.
So… for most of our musical life we’ve kind of thought of ourselves as coming from ‘Earth’… not really caring WHERE we were actually from. So for the first time in our musical life we began to think of ourselves as ‘AN AMERICAN BAND’… telling ourselves that it would be our identity for our next creative adventure. We had become a 7-piece ensemble and were beginning to feel more and more of a kinship with groups that have a lot of members in them. We started to think of classic American bands like The Grateful Dead and Parliament-Funkadelic and how maybe we could embrace this new vibe.
The music and songs that make up the AMERICAN HEAD album are based in a feeling. A feeling that, I think, can only be expressed through music and songs. We were, while creating it, trying to NOT hear it as sounds… but to feel it. Mother’s sacrifice, Father’s intensity, Brother’s insanity, Sister’s rebellion…I can’t quite put it into words.
Something switches and others (your brothers and sisters and mother and father…your pets) start to become more important to you…in the beginning there is only you… and your desires are all that you can care about…but… something switches.. I think all of these songs are about this little switch.”
Having last month announced news of her new album April /月音, released 9th October via Bella Union, and shared the track ‘Dandelions / Liminal’, today Emmy The Great shares a new single, “Mary”, from the LP. Of the track Emmy says: “Mary is named for a Hong Kong fortune teller I met in Kowloon, who gave me the wrong fortune when I mixed up my Cantonese words. It was written in 2017, when I wandered Hong Kong’s neon-lit streets looking to explore my relationship with the city of my birth, unaware that this was the last moment of calm before the city changed beyond recognition with the protests that began in the summer of 2019. Maybe that’s why the song is about a fortune teller who can’t tell the future. The song was later recorded in Brooklyn, with Jo Lampert, my friend and an astonishing singer who played the lead in David Byrne’s Joan of Arc, as ‘Mary’.”
“My story begins with the moon. In September 2017, I travelled to Hong Kong from New York, where I’d lived for three years, for the Mid-Autumn festival. I was planning to visit my parents and take some time off to write my fourth album. I arrived in time for the full moon – Chang-E’s moon – at a time of year when the heat breaks and the city seems alive with possibility.
That Spring, I’d visited China and accidentally become somewhat fluent in Cantonese again, though the goal had been to speak Mandarin. I was there for a music residency, and had expected to feel an instant click. Instead, I realised that Hong Kong had an identity quite separate from the Mainland, and with my mother tongue reinstated, I was beginning to come to terms with that identity being a part of mine. This was tough – I was born in Hong Kong but I’ve always felt complicated about it.
Still, that Mid-Autumn, everything felt simple. Under the guidance of the moon, I walked the city – its neon-lit alleyways, its escalators and mountain paths. For a brief, precious moment, I fell into synch with Hong Kong. I felt its complex legacy and its tangled future. I felt the sorrow, alive in the buzz of neon and the drips of air-conditioner units, of a city caught between two destinies. It was twenty years since the Handover and the beginning of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Everywhere I went, I saw people seeking to define their shared identity before it was too late. I hope some of that spirit has found its way into the songs, which were mostly written during that time.
The album was recorded over two weeks in February 2018 in the Creamery in Greenpoint. It’s the fastest record I’ve ever made, which is ironic because its release was later delayed to accommodate a year’s maternity leave. I produced it with Bea Artola and Dani Markham, who was in my US band and also played drums. Jeffrey Fettig, our guitarist, also engineered, and the rest of the players were mostly friends as well as musical collaborators. These sessions became a kind of goodbye, and I left New York for Hong Kong permanently a few weeks after they finished.
I’ll never know why the city called me back, but I know what it gave me. In return, I want to give it this album. That Mid-Autumn, nobody could have predicted what was to come, neither the atomisation that began with the anti-Extradition Law protests in June 2019, nor the struggle for democracy that continues now, through the Covid-19 pandemic. To witness your birth city in its greatest moment of need is a powerful, humbling event, and I know I watched Hong Kong’s destiny shift into something turbulent and uncertain. I’m glad I recorded what I felt there, during a precious, peaceful time, when life was so good that all I had to do was trust the moon. May it be just one small piece of witness among many, and may the voices of Hong Kong never stop speaking, and asking to be heard.”
– Emma-Lee Moss, London, July 2020
Since her third album was released in 2016, Emma-Lee Moss has worked as a critically-acclaimed composer for radio, TV, film and stage. Her credits include original songs for Starlee Kine’s groundbreaking US podcast ‘Mystery Show’; Sara Pascoe’s ‘Out of Her Mind’ for BBC2; Mia Lidofsky’s ‘Strangers’, which featured Girls’ Jemima Kirke as a singer-songwriter called ‘Emmy’. She also wrote music and libretto for Sara Pascoe’s stage adaptation of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ at the Nottingham Playhouse, and is working on HEEL, a new musical about female wrestling with the playwright Isley Lynn.
As a journalist, she contributes writing to the Guardian, Vice, British GQ, Wired and others, and presented and composed music for ‘A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea’ for BBC Radio 4, nominated for the Prix Europa in 2019.
Having recently shared a video for the track ‘Good To Be Young’ from a new studio album due for release next year, Hilang Child has today released another new track and video, “Seen The Boreal”, from the LP. Of the track Ed Riman aka Hilang Child says: “Seen The Boreal is one of the most personal and introspective songs I’ve written. It’s easy to ignore the joy of our past successes in favour of lamenting our present failures, even resenting memories of good times due to the guilty feeling that we should’ve spent that time grinding away with our work. We can fall into a cycle of comparing ourselves with others, wanting their validation whilst simultaneously feeling unworthy or envious of them. Seen The Boreal addresses this, willing us on to instead focus on appreciating the moments which have brought us joy, reminding us that anxiety is a physical feeling which will pass if we let it. The song started with the riff, which in my head I imagined as monastic chanting as if it were being sung by monks in a mountain temple. In the end it became much heavier, played on bass synth, distorted saxophone, piano and guitar, though I still enlisted some friends to sing that enchanting hum along with it – these were Paul Thomas Saunders, AK Patterson, Ellen Murphy (Balaami/El & Del/Nitework), Penelope Isles and Hannah & Zoe from Lonely Fire. The woodwinds and horns were arranged and performed by John ‘Rittipo’ Moore (Bastille, Public Service Broadcasting) and the song was co-produced by myself and JMAC (Troye Sivan, Haux, Lucy Rose).”
Ed Riman is the Eurasian songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist behind the Hilang Child moniker. His first album Years was released on Bella Union in 2018, earning plaudits from the likes of Lauren Laverne on BBC 6 Music and reviewers across including Q, MOJO, and The Line Of Best Fit. Notable tour dates when promoting Years included SXSW in Austin, TX, Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik and a run of concerts in Indonesia in collaboration with the British Council and Greenpeace. Not one for sitting still, he also regularly finds time to tour as a bandmember with other acts, spending a year singing with Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde’s new project Lost Horizons (including mainstage slots at Green Man and Bluedot Festival) and as a drummer with London collective Outlya, labelmate Dog In The Snow and Big Dada alumni Elan Tamara.
Hilang Child had been praised for the serene nature of his debut album but the intervening period has seen a brasher, more upfront aesthetic enter his songwriting. Opening his mind to more collaboration, co-writing and communal performance, a new sound is beginning to emerge from Hilang Child which displays a true evolution on Riman’s creativity. The new songs have a noticeable confidence and feeling of congregation, whether it’s massive gang vocal reprises, aggressive bass-synths and hypnotic drums, or the juxtaposition of a pumping, heavy groove with ethereal woodwind textures. Despite hold-ups owing to the global Covid-19 pandemic (Hilang Child had tours cancelled and a forced transition to completing new material remotely, unable to get back in the studio to finish what had been started), the new songs are a significant step up from what came before and will be trickling out in 2020 alongside visuals created by London collective Tough Honey.