Polythene – 2020 Vision

I was reminded of a day-job meeting that I had at the back-end of 2019. Whilst drinking copious amounts of coffee, three of us, face to face, began to put the world to rights. We looked forward to the new decade that was around the corner with optimistic zeal. The roaring twenties were going to be the years that we got our houses in order; environmental change was coming and we’d all be getting fitter as we found new social and spiritual priorities. Oh, the benefit of hindsight. The decade has not started as any of us would have imagined.

 

In his debut single, 2020 Vision, Simon Glancy, also known as Polythene, appears to be in the same place. We find Polythene in the opening gambits of the song broadly optimistic as he welcomes in the new decade. But as the song progresses so does the year; the initial positivity begins to crumble as the reality sets in. 

Sitting in a car, eating Haribo“, sings Polythene deliberately mimicking The 1975 and their much harder “Fucking in a car, shooting heroin” line from ‘Love It If We Made It’. For many of us, the height of excitement in 2020 was to sit in our vehicles eating sweets. Wild!

Musically, the stall of Polythene is clearly set out. This is a song that’s inspired and informed by the very best indie-pop music from the late 1990’s. These were the days when Mark and Lard would pluck a new guitar-wielding band and song out from obscurity and champion them on their mainstream radio breakfast show. 2020 Vision is the type of tune they’d likely be all over if the world of radio hadn’t moved on to grimier pursuits. 

An album by Polythene has been recorded. I look forward to hearing that in future months. But for now, let’s all party with a song for the year that wasn’t. 

 

Queera Nightly – The Girl Who Fell

We’re all on a journey. For some of us it’s a planned effort; we know where we want to be in five years time and have a pretty clear Gantt chart laid out in our heads for how we’re going to get there. For others (and I include myself in this camp), the journey is a little less certain. We might have some approximate, back of a cigarette packet, future aspirations but we’ll meander on the way, get distracted by other things and maybe end up at a different place than the one we first thought we might want to get to. To my mind, both journeys are valid.

 

It would appear from the accompanying press release to the wonderful track, The Girl Who Fell, Queera Nightly has been on a more demanding journey than many. All the steps travelled by the Californian based artist, musician and drag performer seem to now be bearing fruit. You get a real sense of triumph over adversity; here’s an artist in a happy place who’s keen to celebrate that fact with us all. Let me tell you more? 

Raised in a highly religious household, Queera struggled to understand their identity growing up, often wondering where they fit in. And, reading between the lines that led to a fair bit of anguish on Queera’s part. “I’ve worn different masks throughout my life: the devoted follower, the politician, the wayward soul.“, they say. “At times I felt more at ease behind a mask, safe from people’s judgement of who I really was. I thought that that would keep me safe, but it only made me feel more and more alone. I felt confined to a box of who I could be.

‘The Girl Who Fell’, the lead single and title track from Queera’s forthcoming album, explores that mask-wearing dilemma in all of its glory. With a bouncy indie-pop beat, jangling guitars and a dose of French chanson from the 1960’s, this is a tune that offers a compelling narrative flittering between social constraints and personal freedom. Past shadows are reflected upon from the current position of strength. 

And what a strong position that currently is. I ask Queera how 2021 has been so far and am struck by the overwhelming positivity. “2021 has been off to a great start!“, they say. “My partner and I have been having so much fun making art, doing photo shoots, and filming music videos and creative projects. We design and build everything ourselves. It’s a lot of work but we are growing with each project and I’m proud of the work we’ve done. My First EP is releasing in March and I’m so excited to finally be able to share it. My music has always come from a very personal place, so it can be kind of scary, but I couldn’t be happier.

Just to whet your appetites for that, I’ll bring you a bonus track today as well. Just a few days ago, Queera added to The Girl Who Fell by releasing the follow-up track. ‘First Temptation’ gives additional insight into the journey that Queera has been on. 

Where do you want to be in five years time? 

 

Sue Denim – A Covid Romance

We have the roadmap. The route out of lockdown has been set down by Boris and his henchmen, Chris and Patrick, and we can now all rejoice in the knowledge that we’ll be able to get a proper haircut whilst holidaying in self-catering accommodation by April 12th. The roadmap will no doubt have been of particular interest to fledgling daters, probably those of the online variety for ‘how else are you going to meet people nowadays’, who will have been jubilant at the news that they are now legally able to meet a stranger (just one mind you!) on a park bench from mid-March. 

You won’t be able to take the stranger home until mid-May of course but long courtships of socially-distanced hand-holding are just the thing that the moral core of the Tory party think is good for us right now. And, indeed, not jumping into bed with somebody just because you share a common love of yoga and fish on Tinder is surely no bad thing.Those benches will be busy.

The fab Sue Denim released a jaunty acoustic number back in December in which she yearns for ‘A Covid Romance’. Perhaps Sue will be locking her bike up by the bench to now find her man with ‘big brown eyes’ and ‘beautiful thighs’ or maybe she already found him back in December? The rules of dating and the roadmap out of lockdown are likely different in North Wales (where Sue resides) anyway. But that’s a different issue. 

‘A Covid Romance’ is the first track to be taken from Sue’s second solo album, ‘Lockdown Laments’. Recorded in her garage, this is, according to the press release, a collection of ‘nostalgic, indiepop lofi anthems’. ‘A Covid Romance’ is a pretty cool opening gambit, with its nods to Jonathan Richman and a smart Beatles refrain at the end. It all must seem a pretty far cry from those heady days performing as one half of Robots In Disguise and appearing in episodes of The Mighty Boosh but Sue seems pretty sanguine about things. 

2021 has been amazing so far“, she says in an E-mail exchange. “I’m just grateful to be alive, fed & clothed and write songs (seriously). I’ll probably take all my decluttering to the charity shops when the lockdown lifts, how exciting, can’t wait! Ha. You?

Just for the record, I won’t be taking my decluttering to that charity shop but I will be immersing myself in the delights of lockdown laments. Oh yeah, I wanna hold your hand. 

 

Roller Derby – Can’t See You

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast might recall that we had a little guessing game going on just before Christmas. Back then I featured two parts of a trilogy (here) from Hamburg’s finest indie poppers, Roller Derby, and mentioned that the final reveal was on its way at the end of January. 

‘Can’t See You’ came out last week. Anybody who was hoping for every loose end to be tied up in a finale of absolute clarity will be sorely disappointed. I guess that life just doesn’t work that way. Instead, we get more insight into the lives of the two characters that we’ve become familiar with so far. 

The video for ‘Can’t See You’ finds our duo initially in playful mood. On a secluded beach and in deserted waters, these are happy times. Blindfolds are used to heighten the experience, to strengthen the sensation of joy. And yet the menace of future arguments still linger. The sea here is quite calm but we get the sense that there’s choppy water ahead for this friendship. Happiness cannot be permanent. And that’s alright if the good times on the way are cherished. 

Sonically, ‘Can’t See You’ is my favourite song of the trilogy. That’s not to say that there’s a weak link in the other two but this instalment takes the best bits of I Wish and Flying High and merges them together into a dreamy whole. I still get the influence of Camera Obscura coming through strong and a healthy slab of Alvvays. This is no bad thing. 

What’s next for Roller Derby is anybody’s guess. With this trio of tunes now proudly announced to the world, their profile is rightly rocketing. A glance at the comments already secured against the video for ‘Can’t See You’ sees a healthy South American following emerging. 

‘Take your time’, sings Philine in the opening line of ‘Can’t See You’. That’s also the way that Manu ends his E-mail note to me when I mention I’ll write a piece about the song. There is no rush for Roller Derby to do anything immediate. They’ve given us much to already enjoy. 

Breathe and relax. 

Good Morning TV – Insomniac

I have laboured under the sweet misapprehension that cockerels do their ‘cock-a-doodle-doing’ at dawn. Their call doubles as an alarm clock for the jolly farmers around the world who then spring into action with clockwork ruddiness. 

The wild cock that has turned up in the vicinity of this villa hasn’t got that memo. It howls all night only seeming to keep quiet when it is actually time for most of us to begin the day. Last night (and through the night), Colin (let’s give it a name) was auditioning for a lead role in a rooster choir, such was the decibel of his doodle. Colin kept me awake for some time and under my breath I muttered that I was going to do fierce things to his neck. Then, I fell asleep and forgot my anger.

Restless nights are rarely something I struggle with. If the last year has taught us to be grateful for small mercies this is one of mine. Mostly, when I put my head onto the pillows, I’m out for the count within minutes. I have friends who are not as fortunate. They tell me about how they struggle to sleep and their insomnia truly sounds hellish. Sometimes, and largely for no apparent reason if you put the cock to one side, I find myself wide awake in the witching hour. It’s not a place I want to frequent regularly. 

Insomniac by Good Morning TV is a song for all who struggle with their sleep. This wonderful French act summon up their Gallic indie pop charms and mix in an ounce of shoegaze spirit to sweetly take us to that time when sleep won’t come. Their press release says it better when it notes that “Guided by the almost lullaby-like piano ritournelle, “Insomniac” evokes those thoughts that come troubling the mind when trying to fall asleep.”

(Ritournelle is my new word for the day)

Good Morning TV tell me that they have an album hopefully coming out in March. I’ll be eagerly waiting to have a listen to that if the quality of Insomniac is indicative. But, in the very best way, I’ll also try not to lose sleep over it. 

 

 

 

 

Sløtface – The Old Queens Head – November 20th 2019

If 2019 has taught me anything, it’s to jump when Georgie, the fab PR person from Propeller Records, sends a recommendation about anything. She promotes a fab range of music, largely from Norway. It’s never failed me yet in terms of quality.

I was going to have a Wednesday in but then got the notice that Sløtface (still pronounced Slutface) were doing a special event at The Old Queens Head. It’s a pub just down the road on the Essex Road, a little over five minutes walk away. Always looking appealing from the outside, now was my chance to see the interior.

There’s a Wednesday celebration going on downstairs at the Old Queens Head. I guess that somebody has just got married. “I said to you in the first year of uni that by the third year I’d be sucking your cock”, screams one drunken casualty. It’s 8PM and I quickly head upstairs, following the printed instruction. 

It’s quite a venue – faux square music hall with an edge of punk spirit. On Wednesday’s The Old Queens Head does cocktails for a fiver. Sadly, it takes a good fiver minutes to make each drink. That leads to queues of nonsense length at the bars. It’s a good job that it’s a midweek session. 

Sløtface are here to excitedly proclaim that their new and second album, Sorry For The Late Reply, is about to launch. The set-up for tonight is announced. We’re going to get a band Q&A with a journalist from the NME before a first listen to the new disc. To round things off, Sløtface will play a short set. The serious fans here whoosh in unified excitement.

It’s hard not to warm to Sløtface. The NME fanboy gets his notebook out and asks his prepared questions. Discussions like this are rarely fun. But, at least he steers clear of questions about the recording process. There’s little more dull than discovering about how an album was engineered. 

We learn that for Sløtface, releasing records is anti-climatic, akin to those birthdays that nobody remembers. The staunchly feminist band rally against missed merch mistakes before revealing that this new record is political but personal not preachy. It still might be categorised as indie pop punk but Sløtface show that their influences range wider; Weaves, Phoebe Bridges and Julien Baker all get nods of acknowledgement. Specific tracks are mentioned. The NME scribe believes that ‘Crying In Amsterdam’ is the album’s centrepiece but the band are less sure. All of Sløtface like ‘Stuff’ because they didn’t much like Haley’s boyfriend who it’s about. “I wanted to call it ‘anti-consumerist love song‘”, says Haley, ever so jubilantly. 

The album does sound ace. Many here must have already heard it because they get up and mingle, talking over the top. I like what I hear. There’s every indication that 2020 could be a major year for Sløtface as their difficult second record lands. 

Gigs in bright rooms put on for fans and press wonks are always odd affairs. But the four members of Sløtface make a better fist of it than most. Tracks from this new album sound impressive and stand up well against the odd old track (Nancy Drew). A break from their current tour with Pup, Sløtface are initially relaxed about our sedentary state. But, by the end, they’re urging us to our feet. Haley stage dives because it’s what she’s done on every night of this tour. Sløtface are a band that could connect with you anywhere. 

The chap from the NME visibly riles Sløtface when he suggests that their mission is to make as many enemies as friends. On tonight’s evidence, the likelihood of more friends is the certainty. 

Spearmint and Piney Gir – The Water Rats – November 14th 2019

I’m none too sure when I first heard Spearmint. It might have been when the much missed ‘Word’ magazine featured one of their tracks, the excellent ‘Scottish Pop’, on their wonderful monthly compilation CD. It could have been as a result of listening to good friend Steve and his effusive praising of the album ‘A Different Lifetime’. 

“It’s got a story running throughout that you’ll definitely relate to”, said Steve. The rise and subsequent fall of relationships was undoubtedly my thing back then. 

Whatever, I’ve been a fan of Spearmint for the best part of twenty years. And, in that time, I’ve never once seen them live. I do remember trying to get my friend Richard to book them for Summer Sundae after I found one of their CDs lurking in the submissions box. “I’ve never heard of them”, he said, promptly putting an end to that plan.

Imagine my excitement then that on a cold Thursday night in London, I’m going to see Spearmint at the Water Rats. The venue is close enough to walk to, just 15 minutes from my new property guardianship. It’s all set up perfectly. 

Water Rats is a fab, iconic venue. I’ve been here years ago but not in the last year since I’ve been living in London. A cosy bar at the front gives way to a back room complete with a decent stage, lighting desk and sound system. It seems better equipped than many of the spit and sawdust gig venues I go to; more upmarket, the place oozes confidence and class. 

Piney Gir supports Spearmint. And makes a bloody good job of it. Piney is dressed in a stylish, 60’s era, black dress with a swathe of green running through it. Her backing singer dresses in identical fashion but the green dash is replaced by red. The backing band dress with similar astuteness. It’s very mod; stylish, cute and kooky with a healthy amount of maraca shaking. “This one was written during a summer when I listened to nothing but doo-wop”, says Piney before launching into a set highlight,  ‘Peanut Butter Malt Shop Heartthrob’. 

Piney’s an engaging raconteur, a bit of a vintage witch and full of ideas about how Spearmint could improve their merch take by selling toothpaste. Most of all though, there’s a smiley joy about this set. Her final song comes with a chorus of ‘I could make you happy every day’ and by the time the song ends few are in the mood to argue. There’s a ton of grinning as we head back to the bar for refills.

 

Spearmint take to the stage on the dot of nine. They’ve got a lot to get through. Mr. Shirley Lee wears a smart dotted shirt and a skinny red leather tie. It’s almost as if he’s come straight from work. The bulk of tonight’s set draws from Spearmint’s recently released album, Are You From The Future?. And I don’t mind this at all seeing as it’s been on regular repeat since I received a copy. It’s a fine work and, in the live setting, the songs come alive even more. The electro-pop urgency of ‘St. Thomas In The Darkness’ sounds nothing like Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ but we still laugh at the observation made by an American journalist in interview. 

Of the new album tunes, ‘Fireflies’, all about the reliability of memories, really hits the spot. ‘Pick The Paper Up’ sees Spearmint firmly nail their colours to Europe and we all love them the more for that. They’re a band of vintage and they use this experience well. You can’t help but gulp in awe when the gently subtle harmonies between the band come to the fore. 

A sprinkling of older tracks are mixed in to keep the nostalgia-heads happy. I guess I’m one of them. I cannot even explain the all-encompassing joy I feel when hearing the likes of Julie Christie, Scottish Pop and The Flaming Lips played live. They are stupendous indie-pop songs. Tonight provides the perfect release from the daily grind. 

It all comes to an end far too quickly. The world would clearly be a better place if more people knew about Spearmint. 

 

HelloLisa – Hundred Lives

I’ve always enjoyed E-mail conversations with Pat. Pat is the drummer turned guitarist in HelloLisa, a French band that I featured on Sonic Breakfast (here) back in the day. 

His E-mails are warm, chatty and convivial and when he got back in touch weeks ago to enquire if I’d be interested in reviewing the new HelloLisa record, I jumped at the chance. They’re a bright and breezy indie-pop band able to write magical tunes. The release of ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ in September had passed me by, gone under this radar, and Pat told me why. 

‘The saddest thing is a catastrophic sudden death of Julien, founding member of the band and co writer, co singer of the band at age 42, on July 22 just few days after we get our boxes of this LP from the factory. This is the main reason we didnt communicate so much on the release of this new album because we were in shock and we still are. After weeks of pain and questioning, we decided to continue the band.’

I sat and read Pat’s E-mail as a cluster of thoughts swelled. I didn’t know Julien aside from his art on record and yet still a morbid sadness descended. 42 – no age, younger than me, distinctly horrible. Revealing new material for any band has to be one of the moments they live for and, yet here was an example of extreme sorrow. 

Curiosity abounded (and I didn’t like to ask Pat) so I searched the Internet. To discover that Julien had had a cardiac arrest, that he’d left a young, grieving family just made matters worse. 

If I was feeling a certain shock for this remote loss, goodness knows how people much closer must be feeling. 

Tentatively, I began to listen to the record. It’s a masterpiece, the work of a band at the very top of their game. Lyrically, there are songs that hark back to our younger days; joyous day trips when we were half our age in cars that have long since been consigned to the scrap heap in the sky. It’s an album that grabs middle-age by the scruff of the neck yet makes you all fuzzy about what used to be. 

Clumsily, I cobbled words together to let Pat know how sorry I was to hear the news. I knew I was going to feature HelloLisa again. ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ is a quite remarkable record; one that makes reference to Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy’s ‘Tonight, We Fly’ in opening track ‘First Black Bike’.

Yesterday. Pat sent me a video for ‘Hundred Lives’, one of the album’s stand-out tracks. It’s only recently been pulled together, a montage of video clips from the 1980’s featuring Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ prominently. The song, a nostalgic nod back to your early twenties when optimism is rife about what’s to follow, fits in with the images with eerie perfection. 

I feel so humbled that HelloLisa chose to share this with me. As awfully cliched as it is, life really is for living. We never know what’s around any corner and to not embrace it with every sinew seems like the most awful of cop-outs. 

It’s time to fall in love (again) with the joyful sounds of HelloLisa.  

Xuan – Sheila

I woke early yesterday. It gave me chance to write up a couple of outstanding (as in overdue) articles whilst the villa remained cool. The night had dipped below twenty degrees for the first time in months. My head, for so long a fuzzy mess in this heat, yearned for a return to routine. 

So, once the articles were done and dusted, I turned to what I know and love best. And spent most of the day scouting around for new music. I was stumbling over so much that I enjoyed. Some of it made me cry; some of it made me laugh; some of it was clearly great art but pretty unlistenable all the same. 

Before long I had a list as long as my arm of acts that I wanted to feature on Sonic Breakfast. It’s fair to say that I’d had a productive day. Music can make you feel good. Out here in this remote space where it’s entirely feasible that I won’t speak to actual live humans for days on end, music had again been my companion and friend. 

Xuan (pronounced ‘swan’ apparently) was one such act that made me smile. This young woman from Dallas, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is releasing an album, ‘Have Some Fun’, in November on Palo Santo records. On the evidence of the two tracks I’ve heard from it, there’s no misnomer here. 

Regular readers of ‘Sonic Breakfast’ will know that I’m a sucker for a bit of indie bubblegum twee. Initial single release, ‘We Were Just Talking’ ticks those boxes as it playfully sets up the tried and tested girl-meets-boy / girl-misses-boy story. Xuan’s voice, deliberately innocent, gives the sound some extra chewiness. Let go of any cynicism you might have and I’ve no doubt you’ll find charm within. 

Xuan has just released a new video for another song from the album ‘Sheila’. It’s another belter of a tune. On the surface, it appears to be about an old classic car but dig beyond that and there’s a wider metaphor at play. This is about classic friendship and fun times. 

I’ll be looking forward to more music-listening fun when I get to hear Xuan’s full album. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Joe Innes And The Cavalcade – Moscow

Imagine waking up one morning having dreamt that the love of your life is leaving you. And, they’re not leaving you because they’ve fallen in love with your best friend (which would, of course, be tough enough) but because they’re off to a cold, unfathomable place.

That’s the dream that Joe Innes emerges from in his wonderful new single, Moscow. Clearly, Joe is very much in love with the person who’s making plans to leave and yet that brings up all sorts of moral dilemmas. Do you accept their decision passively without trying to persuade them otherwise? Or do you run the risk of being labelled a controlling bully by pointing out the stupidity of their actions? 

(Click on page 2 for more about Moscow)