Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions looks poised to rule 2021
Author: Sam Barker
Lana Del Rey’s voice and writing as to elevate what could have been merely mediocre into something so inescapably ‘Lana Del Rey.’
Following on from last year’s two singles, ‘It Is What It Is’ and ‘Wheels Roll Home,’ ‘Solstice’ marks the third track to be released from The Antlers’ first album in seven years, Green to Gold, out March 26th. On the surface, it’s a simple track – saccharine sweet instrumentals and falsettos with a simple chorus and sunnily bright images. It feels floaty and carefree, like memories that are filtering in and out without care – images and details sharpen and blur, fade away and blend together. What becomes clear, however, is that the sunshine is somewhat strained and filtered. Peter Silberman is remembering moments of innocence and brightness and simplicity through the filter of difficulty and length and heaviness.
As the song progresses, we get the suggestion of someone scrolling absently through old pictures. They pause from time to time to remember a memory that the picture evokes, then they remember that there’s someone next to them. They turn the image towards the other person, half-smiling, and attempt to tell the story that the image brings to mind, but stop halfway through. It’s suggestive and forlorn, there’s no bitterness, and there isn’t necessarily sadness. But there’s something there, underneath the almost cloying instrumental, that lets itself be known to any listener who has also been reflective and somewhere in between okay and not okay. It’s a fitting track for these pandemic days, whether or not it was written specifically for them, as we sit inside and remember vague memories of what feels like another time. The days pass slowly and quickly all at once, and looking back at the year gone, and the year before, leads us “Winding back down the decade past.”
There’s something sunnily contemplative and delightful on the horizon, with the release of The Antlers’ first album in seven years. And they’re reminding us, without the smug superiority of so many other celebrities who have attempted to distill the idea into a pithy sound-bite, to keep “bright, bright, bright.”
‘One More Second’ is gorgeous
Until the release of this album, it was inarguable that Dua Lipa had released the best pop album of 2020 with Future Nostalgia. Then Charli XCX released this. Recorded in isolation, taking thirty-nine days from start to release, it’s one of the first high-profile pieces of pop-art, to come out that hasn’t hinged upon a specific class and economic divide between artist and audience, with the artist away from the cares and worries and trappings of everyday life, and the concerns of their audience and fans. While Gal Gadot was busy with the, quite literally, tone-deaf, celeb-filled ‘Imagine’ video, and while Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande were busy singing about how happy they were to be in isolation with their respective partners, where they didn’t have to worry about anything (‘Stuck with U’), Charli XCX made how i’m feeling now.
‘pink diamonds’ starts off the album on a professedly “antagonistic” note that scrubs at the itch everyone has felt: wanting to go out and be out and go crazy, but ultimately being stuck inside and at home: “I just wanna go real hard for days/ I just wanna feel in different ways/ Every single night kinda feels the same.” Latter track, ‘anthems,’ echoes this sentiment whilst also bringing with it, a line that defines so much about how everyone has felt trying to make sense of the world right now: “I get existential and so strange.”
‘pink diamonds’ then moves into two love songs (‘forever’ and ‘claws’) that plumb the weirdness and craziness of intimacy and love in such close quarters for some, and across such distances for others. Being so close for so klong, after being so far apart (Charli and her boyfriend had been in a long-distance relationship prior to being isolated together), has changed Charli XCX’s view on the relationship, and her feelings towards Kwong.
‘detonate’ runs in the other direction, as prolonged contact and interaction with a limited number of people has left everyone looking inwards and questioning everything. It used to be at night, when nothing else was happening, that we’d lie in bed and let our thoughts consume us. Now, with little to do during the day, and nowhere to go, it’s so much easier to get stuck in negative thoughts, regardless of how valid they may or may not be. With bubbly synths fluttering away, Charli sings, “I don’t trust myself alone/ Why should you love me?” but then admits “I’m not tryna be rude/ I’m just feelin’ confused/ My emotions get blue.” She immediately counters this, though, with “Everything will stay cool/ But I can’t promise that’s true/ ‘Cause my emotions so blue.” It pushes and pulls, fighting itself as she fights her own invasive thoughts.
‘c2.0’ starts out as unnervingly surface level, a track that focuses on Charli XCX’s “clique,” an almost boast-track that seems to have little to say. It strikes the listener, at first glance, as a fun side-track, a diversion solely there to entertain and boost moods. It changes up, with no warning and with no change in the instrumentals or delivery, as she sings “I miss them every night/ I miss them by my side,” hammering the point home as she repeats “I miss them” almost as many times as she chants “clique clique clique” earlier in the track. It’s so easy to get stuck on the narrative of missing your partner or family in isolation, but there are swathes of friends and loved persons who are missed as well.
how i’m feeling now hits every point of weirdness and heightened emotion that a global health crisis has instilled. It’s poppy, outrageous, collaborative, vulnerable, explicit, untamed, and imperfect in a most glorious way. It’s blown out and intense, riding high and frenzied, frantic and uncontrollable, hopeful and loving even as it mills the uncomfortable darkness that many of us have found in our heads as we’ve looked inwards. It’s an isolation album that refuses to try and tell us what to do, or how to feel, and instead focuses on the duality of the times: some things are nice but things also do kind of suck.
‘Ghosting’ is the fifth single from PINS’ forthcoming album, Hot Slick, due out at the end of May. With it, the Mancunian trio – singer/guitarist Faith Vern, bassist Kyoko Swan, and guitarist Lois MacDonald – cement the band’s movement towards the synth-heavy, disco-esque side of …
‘Hollywood,’ Car Seat Headrest’s latest single from their forthcoming album, Making a Door Less Open, is a curious one. From a purely instrumental standpoint, the track is infectious: guitar riffs and steady drum-beats sit alongside squiggly synth-lines and vocal processing that shudders and shrieks. Tracks …
On the 4th of March, in a tiny room reached by way of the smallest bar in Hackney, what Okay Kaya brought to Dalston was a performance that was nothing less than spectacularly beautiful, albeit incredibly short.
Opening up the whole affair was Sarah Meth, with songs that lounged back and floated dreamily about. Her sensationally powerful voice brought to mind a rough-around-the-edges Molly Burch, equally comfortable opening up and reaching up high, as well as keeping it hushed. What was particularly delightful about the whole performance, aside from the vocals, was the dynamic musical performance. With little to no compression on the lead guitar parts, the building arpeggios and barely plucked chords were given plenty of space to breathe alongside more emotionally charged passages.
For Okay Kaya’s performance, the best comparison would be to Keaton Henson; songs felt, at times, painfully pulled out of Kaya Wilkinson’s body. The vocals were murmured, almost whispered, into the microphone, yet there was still a huge emotional power to them. Even though Kaya was playing an electric guitar, accompanied by a trumpeter, the whole affair resembled an incredibly intimate acoustic gig. All of the production was stripped from the songs, the only percussion was the audible tapping of Kaya’s feet keeping time. The songs were left bare. They were handed over to the audience in a gorgeously tranquil and still way. It felt friendly and safe, like everyone was there together, a casual affair.
At times Kaya would pull faces as they played, seeming to hope to land on the right chord and smiling hugely when they did, laughing out loud when they didn’t before correcting quickly. We felt included, with little distance between the crowd and the performance. Kaya would crack disparaging jokes in between tracks, ask for advice and opinions – at one point they asked if the venue for an upcoming gig (May 13th at Hoxton Hall) was any good. Kaya trusted us and we, Kaya. They seemed tired or jet-lagged, perhaps even just overwhelmed (Okay Kaya have since cancelled a handful of upcoming show dates due to being unwell), but inside the songs they disappeared and broke our hearts ever so quietly.
With the average song length running just over two minutes (punk songs that replaced the grit and anger with emotion and openness), it was all over far too soon. The crowd left satisfied, but certainly able to deal with – even wanting to deal with – being wrung out just a little more over a few more songs.
An edited version of this article was first published at https://giglist.com/news/okay-kaya-set-dalston-march-4