Best things we heard in February…

Fran Slater: Big Joanie – Sistahs – It’s an easy one for me this month. I may be late to the Big Joanie party given that Sistahs, their debut LP, came out in 2018 – but I have more than made up for my tardiness this month. Sistahs has been on repeat. With its post-punk power, the artist I can most closely link it to in recent years is Nadine Shah, another personal favourite. But Big Joanie are a three-piece band, rather than a solo outfit – and their sound is all the stronger for that. ‘Fall Asleep’ seems to be the song that has taken the most plaudits, but there isn’t a bad track here. ‘Way Out’, ‘How Could You Love Me’, and, in particular, ‘Token’, are probably the standouts. But give the whole thing a listen – it is one of those albums that will swoop in and replace everything else on your ‘to listen to’ list.

James Spearing: It was too hard to choose this month so I’m picking one live thing and one recorded thing. Rosie Lowe‘s gig at Yes was stunning. When her super slick band hit the first few notes of ‘Birdsong’ it was like a new drug. I could not stop smiling from then on, to the encore, and long after into the stormy night. For a contrasting mood I’m also picking ‘Start Again’ by Keeley Forsyth. Better known for her acting, she apparently made an album as part of recovery from illness. This song creates a brooding yet comforting atmosphere with its simple riff and mantra of “over and over and over”. A wonder and a surprise this month.

Nick Parker: All the editors will be ecstatic to discover that I’m picking Mount Eerie’s recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance of stuff from his new album, ‘Lost Wisdon, Pt 2’.

They will also be pleased to hear that this collaborative set of songs with Julie Doiron is just as searing and agonizing as ever. As Julie opens ‘Love without possession’ with the line: ‘What would be the use of becoming symbol of walking desolation?’ though, you can see a turn toward something about new love and hope which will break new ground for this artist, and, better still, a mix of those two things into one. ‘Even if I never get to see you again/ I’ll know that when we collided we both broke each other open’ – a fitting and delicate blend of sentiments, from such a powerful force in acoustic music.

Sam Atkins: Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Run Away With Me’ (Live at Victoria Warehouse) – No moment for me in February could possibly match the feeling of current reigning ‘queen of pop for people who don’t listen to much current pop music and are still asking for when Dancing On My Own by Robyn will get to #1’ Carly Rae Jepsen opening her show in Manchester with one of the greatest pop songs of the last decade. I screamed along to the song. I screamed along to the amazing bit before each chorus when she adds an extra ‘Oh My Baby’ bit. I mainly screamed. A life changing moment.

Matt Paul: Melt Yourself Down – ‘Every Single Day’ – There’s been a flurry of new songs from this jazz funk punk band, my favourite being ‘Every Single Day’. The band are led by the saxophonists Pete Wareham and Shabaka Hurchings, who are behind the Mercury-nominated bands The Comet is Coming and Sons of Kemet. Pretty high bars. But Melt Yourself Down has this raw raucous energy not seen in their other bands. I can’t help but want to dance. Or at least do a covert bounce in the subway. I can’t wait for them to come back to New York.

Kim Fernley: The Lucid Dream – live at The Golden Lion, Todmorden – I hadn’t planned to review The Lucid Dream’s gig, so I drank a huge amount of spiced rum. And to be honest, I can’t remember a great deal. One thing I do clearly remember is how the gig made me feel, which, arguably is more important than the specifics. As the gig went on, it escalated into a sea of euphoric, psychedelic noise that took over the whole room. The venue was perfect for the band, and the crowd was a mix of friendly locals and loyal followers who’d traveled far to see them, including all the way from Carlisle, the band’s home town. It felt like the band and the crowd gave all that they had. Seeing The Lucid Dream is definitely an experience you should try sometime.

Pete Wild: Bit of a ragbag this month – I went seeing Cage the Elephant at the rather marvellous Victoria Warehouse and so I’ve been playing Tell Me I’m Pretty a lot. I mean A LOT a lot. If you don’t know Cage the Elephant, have a quick listen – it’s like a seething rock’n’roll melting pot of Kinks/early Stones/Pixies and Chilli Peppers. Good for driving to if I can say that without coming across like a massive Jeremy Clarkson style C bomb. I’ve also been hammering the self titled Michael Kiwanuka that came out at the end of last year – also pretty damn marvellous. And when I’m not playing Cage the Elephant or Michael Kiwanuka, I’m playing New Order’s Substance. Sometimes an album resurfaces doesn’t it and makes its presence known and reminds you who you are and who you used to be in a way that is exhilarating. There’s no getting away from the fact that a lot of Barney Sumner’s lyrics are unadulterated rubbish but there’s usually a point in most New Order songs where you can go, yes, that bit, wow, yes.

Fat Roland: Mason Bee – Play Flights – Just before they’re old enough to collect pollen, baby bees go on test flights to learn their surroundings, at the same time gleefully crapping themselves because they weren’t allowed to go to the toilet in the hive. This is true: google ‘orientation flights faeces’. Benet Walsh’s debut album as Mason Bee is named after those tentative first forays, although the toilet element is no reflection of the sweetness of these gloriously melodic instrumentals. He’s a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who ekes out every last string twang and synth filter in a closely-engineered set that evokes pastoral fields, sunny afternoons in the ‘70s, and picnics in slightly-alien forests. All the while, he maintains the cheeky growl arising from his many years working with techno legends Plaid: there’s a sting in this fuzziness. He’s made something truly beautiful – and I bet he didn’t crap himself once. Dammit. Faeces again. Can people PLEASE stop mentioning toilet stuff.

Tom Burrows: Tame Impala – The Slow RushIt was a long road to The Slow Rush, Tame Impala’s fourth album – both for fans of the project, and for Kevin Parker himself. Parker is a well-known perfectionist, and the five-year wait speaks to his tendency to tweak relentlessly. His previous record, Currents, was one of my favourite albums of the 2010s – a masterwork which replaced his previous psych rock sound with an endlessly replayable cross-genre meld of pop, disco and R&B. While The Slow Rush somewhat inevitably doesn’t hit the heights of its predecessor, when it’s good, it’s fantastic. Its highlights are the middle section’s longer cuts, like the two-part ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’, the irresistible grooves of ‘Breathe Deeper’ and the stunning ode to optimism, ‘On Track’. It’s good to have him back. Oh, and as ever, the artwork is incredible.

Yasmin Duggal: Italia 90 live at Gullivers – Sabotage MCR put on a heck of a show last Friday (21st Feb), when they hosted Italia 90, Self Help and Manchester’s own Manalishi at the intimate and raucous Northern Quarter pub. From the first howl of Manalishi’s front man to the last punk slashing of Italia 90’s guitar, the night was a sparkling example of British heaviness and unadulterated rock spawning from boredom and kicking heels. After growing up in and around Brighton and now painting the streets of South London red, the Italia 90 crew has stepped straight out of This Is England, producing the most awe-inspiring, noisy punk which encapsulates – as so many inner-city bands are doing brilliantly – a sense of government-fueled despair. Well worth a watch.


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