Five Things We Liked This Week – 18/03/22

Further Listening:

5. All Signs Point To Jeanines’ New Record Being Really Good

Originally a method for Alicia Jeanine to work her way through a stressful work situation, Jeanines began back in the mid-2010s, when Alicia decided to fuse the classical music background of her youth with her love for the grittier tones of the indie-pop world. After Alicia began working with musical polymath Jed Smith, the duo released their self-titled debut back in the summer of 2019. Two years on the band are back with a brand new record, Don’t Wait For A Sign, which will see the light of day next month via Slumberland Records, and this week the band shared the album’s title track.

As with many bands over the last few years, Jeanines had to approach writing Don’t Wait For A Sign somewhat differently from their debut, with the band now separated geographically, the process and mood of their record changed, taking on a slightly darker hue than their debut. That’s evident in the title track, sure it might bound in on a bright-jangling guitar and a swinging sixties beat like the middle ground of Françoise Hardy and The Raincoats, but in the lyrics, there’s a hint of the difficulties that have touched us all over the last two years. The song seems to have an almost call and response set-up, the chorus serving as a pick-me-up to the verses troubles. Alicia sings, “tell me what brings you here, with eyes so kind but full of fear”, before almost admonishing herself for feeling down, “wash away those worry lines, you still have a lot of time, you don’t need to wait for a sign”. The old cliché goes that second albums aren’t meant to be easy, on this evidence nobody told Jeanines, they’re not just back, they’re better than ever.

Don’t Wait For A Sign is out April 22nd via Slumberland Records. For more information on Jeanines visit https://jeanines.bandcamp.com/.

4. Breakup Haircut Always Travel In Style

Back at the start of 2020, I picked Breakup Haircut as one of my bands to watch that year, like so many things over the last couple of years though, there’s been something of a delay in those hopes coming to fruition. Thankfully, this week comes the news that the London quartet, who formed to perform at First Timers Fest back in 2019, will be releasing their much-anticipated debut album, Punk Dancing For Self Defense, this Summer on Reckless Yes. Alongside the announcement, Breakup Haircut have also shared their brand new single, Out Of My Way (I’m Not Getting On The Night Bus).

Out Of My Way is a track that wears its pop-punk influences proudly on its sleeve, the rambunctious snarl of the vocal accompanied by a rapid-clatter of drums, while the guitars pummel your ear-drums with power chords. Lyrically, the track is about vocalist Ishani’s love/hate relationship with parties, “I have held the belief for a while now that the best amount of people is four or less, so this song is in the spirit of that”. So while it might take influence from the frat-boyish hijinx of the early noughties, Out Of My Way is actually in many ways the antithesis of that culture. A song for anyone who looked at Blink 182 and thought you know what I like the guitar sound, but I’d much rather be tucked up in bed with a good book and a Bright Eyes CD on my Discman, which I suspect might just be a fairly good proportion of people reading this blog.

Punk Dancing For Self Defense is out July 15th via Reckless Yes Records. For more information on Breakup Haircut visit http://breakuphaircut.bandcamp.com.

3. I Could Only Listen To Guppy If I Wanted To

A quartet of mostly self-taught musicians based out of California, Guppy formed in a “sweltering garage” back in 2017, a fact they celebrated on their debut album, In The Garage, which was recorded, yes you guessed it, in that same garage. The band followed that up with 2019’s well-received offering, In Heat, and having shared stages with the likes of Rosie Tucker and Cheekface, Guppy have become something of a fixture on the LA punk scene. Their upcoming record, the intriguingly titled, Big Man Says Slappydo, is set for release at the end of next month via Lauren Records. Recorded with producer Sarah Tudzin, best known as the songwriter behind Illuminati Hotties, the album promises to take Guppy’s music to new, ever so slightly more polished territory, as showcased this week with the release of their new single, If I Wanted To.

Described by the band as, “a mesmerizing mantra about the beauty and pain of indifference”, the lyrics of If I Wanted To are delightfully to the point, as vocalist J Lebow sings, “if I wanted to I’d care, I would care, I would care, but I don’t”. The nonchalant indifference of the vocal is married in the delightfully hazy musical accompaniment, as the almost Mariachi-like lead-guitar is contrasted by the hazy backing harmonies and steady drum tick. As the song builds towards its close, it feels like Guppy come together almost as one being, singing along in angered unison about how little they care, in fact, they care so little they wrote a song about it, as anyone who doesn’t care is bound to right? Like their tropical fish namesake, Guppy are colourful, flamboyant and ready to make a splash.

Big Man Says Slappydo is out April 22nd via Lauren Records. For more information on Guppy visit https://guppytheband.bandcamp.com/.

2. MJ Lenderman’s New Single Oh My

Based out of Asheville, North Carolina, MJ Lenderman has been a regular feature on this site in recent years courtesy of both his solo material and work as the guitarist in the fabulous Wednesday. Following on from 2021’s Ghost Of Your Guitar Solo, MJ is currently building up towards the release of his second album for Dear Life Records, Boat Songs. This week, ahead of the album’s release at the end of April, MJ has shared the latest track to be lifted from Boat Songs, in the shape of his new single, TLC Cage Match.

When recording the album at Asheville’s Drop of Sun with Alex Farrar and Colin Miller, they would project WWE matches onto the wall, and seemingly some of that has seeped into the record’s content, here reflecting on a notoriously brutal, no hold barred contest, “in this tables, ladders, and chairs match, where all things go”. While it might take its influence from the theatrical world of professional wrestling, MJ uses that as a jumping-off point for a song that casts childhood in a tinge of sepia, as he reflects on ageing and the way life brings out the serious in all of us, “I always believed you every time you said, you were gonna be like our heroes someday. Well, baby all our heroes now are dead ’cause all things go”. Perhaps even more surprising than the touching lyricism is the choice of musical accompaniment, Xandy Chelmis adding a flicker of steel-guitar to the steady tick of MJ’s acoustic, bringing to mind alt-country heroes like Gram Parsons or Jason Molina, as well as contemporaries like Friendship and Twain. The song ends on a note of friendship and sadness, “it’s hard to see you fall so flat, from so high up hard down on the matt, in this battle royale cage match, where all things go” – so yes it’s a song about wrestling, but it’s one that might just bring a tear to your eye, and it takes a pretty special songwriter to pull off that combination.

Boat Songs is out April 29th via Dear Life Records. For more information on MJ Lenderman visit https://mjlenderman.bandcamp.com/.

1. Kristine Leschper Is Going Through Her Blue Period

Discussing her new album, the first released under her own name, Kristine Leschper fka Mothers, has spoken of it as a sensation akin to “being born”. After a series of events both personal and global, Kristine set out to approach her art differently, adopting a viewpoint spurred on by, “an understanding of how to relinquish control in a big way”. The resultant record, The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door, is a huge departure for Kristine. Home-recorded it’s an album of sonic exploration, if Mothers records were documents of a writing process, here the recording process and songwriting are entwined together, Kristine discovering where the song is going as she puts it to tape. As she explains, “I thrive in those rabbit holes of texture, timbre, rhythm, which can add so much complexity to the emotionality of a composition”. After releasing the album at the start of the month, this week Kristine shared the video for the latest track to be lifted from record, Blue.

Discussing Blue, Kristine is quick to highlight the disconnect between the music and the lyrics, noting how the original demo, “sounded like a medieval funeral dirge“. While the words maintained their somewhat disarming, unsettling quality, the music has morphed entirely, becoming in Kristine’s own words a, “sexy disco track“, as she further explains, “I like the push and pull of that, it feels like the dissonance between adds a complexity to both elements“. While Mothers were never a one-dimensional prospect, moving from stripped pair moments to Maths-rock sonic explosions, the shift in style here is still somewhat arresting. Blue arrives on a shuffling bass-line and ticking drum-beat reminiscent of Matthew E. White’s work with the Spacebomb house band, contrasted by Kristine’s layered vocals, which nod to the creative pop production of The Knife or Robyn as she sings, “shapeless in the dark you pirouette up, moving towards me in the wild of outside”. This feels like a new phase for Kristine Leschper, but she’s quick to dismiss notions of linear growth, “if you zoom out far enough, everything is cyclical, everything is in a stage of transition”. Enjoy the ebbs and flows of this most intriguing of musical journeys, a circle doesn’t fit onto a line, a perfect joy doesn’t belong in an imperfect world, and Kristine Leschper isn’t here to fit into anyone’s vision except for her own.

The Opening, Or Closing Of A Door is out now via ANTI- Records. For more information on Kristine Leschper visit https://kristineleschper.com/.

Header photo is Kristine Leschper by Tyler Borchardt.

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