FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: SHE HAS NOW
It was fitting in a week that began with International Women’s Day that Virginian Lucy Dacus finally released an established fan-favourite song, “Thumbs”; so feted that it has its own Twitter account titled Has Lucy released Thumbs yet? which, unlike the song, now has a decidedly limited shelf life. Dacus is a renowned singer-songwriter in her own right but also one-third of boygenius, the indie rock supergroup formed with kindred spirits, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, whose self-titled EP came out in October 2018. A solo release, “Thumbs” doesn’t hold back in its visceral honesty and is delivered against a sombre, restrained keyboard backdrop which makes its words carry even more sway.
Photo of Lucy Dacus by Marin Leong
Initially you feel that Lucy Dacus must be the central character, given the song’s stark, highly personal emotions set out in conversational lines. Yet it was actually written about a memory from her college days about going to a bar to meet a friend’s estranged father with her; the moral support she offers her friend gives way to immoral, murderous and even gruesome thoughts. These only serve to underline the likely true nature of the absent father which is hidden between the lines. Indeed, it’s one of those songs in which what isn’t said is as telling as what is. We hear a new album from Lucy Dacus is next on the agenda and this is an especially powerful preview.
Across the pond, though sharing some common ground with US acts like boygenius and Soccer Mommy, and with Australia’s Courtney Barnett too, comes Aderyn whose recent single “Silver Screen” was made one of Fresh on the Net’s Fresh Faves this week. The singer songwriter from South Wales describes her music as grunge pop and cites The Pixies as another influence. She arrives though with an individuality that is fully home-grown. Having previously drummed for grunge bands since she was 16, Aderyn brings a fresh, exuberant flavour to her solo work, highlighted by quirky melodic twists and confessional lyrics.
Recorded remotely in lockdown, “Silver Screen” is a sweeping tale of ‘wasting your youth, drinking in front of the TV and falling sideways in love.’ It romanticises the flaws and imperfections of teen love yet in a wise after the event manner; the words spilling out nonchalantly over waves of angular guitar and drum crashes. Vocally Aderyn’s stylised hiccups are especially effective as she delivers the song with a raw passion. With drumming for bands somewhat sidelined by Covid, she is able to focus on her solo career, guitar and singing and will be playing a virtual set at Wales Goes Pop festival, 2-4 April. Currently studying for a Masters at the University of Bristol too, Aderyn hopes to get back into the studio to record her next couple of singles soon.
Photo of Bleach Lab by Isy Townsend
Moving across the country now, we first featured South London-based indie outfit Bleach Lab back in November and it’s pleasing to report that the debut EP from the four-piece A Calm Sense of Surrounding will land next Friday, 19 March. Ahead of this, Bleach Lab has shared a further taster in the shape of the onrushing “Flood”. With an epic feel, emphasised by expansive guitar stings, the song reflects the unpredictable nature of water; one moment calm and quiet, then with waves building and crashing through the choruses.
Commenting on the track, singer Jenna Kyle expounded: “Flood is one long metaphor for being completely overwhelmed and overcome by someone and losing all sense of control within them.” She is candid about a painful personal experience in the breakdown of her long-term relationship and her slightly detached, atmospheric vocal style truly echoes this separation. Themes of grief and loss are indeed worked through the full EP as the death of bassist Josh Longman’s father is the other key signifier. To affirm the collaborative spirit within Bleach Lab, the lyrics are co-written by Kyle and Longman.
Next we journey up to Leeds where indie folk-rocker Liam Sullivan plies his trade. His recent single “Be Kind” caught my ear earlier this week. With a decade and more of experience playing in bands before stepping out in a solo guise in 2015, Sullivan comes across as a seasoned pro and a little out of his time. His honest approach to storytelling though sits well with the long hair and woolly hat, and he is in no rush to tell his tale, eschewing the radio friendly 3-minute edit for a less constrained approach.
Written during his past travels around Europe, “Be Kind” contrasts bleak, inner city landscapes with open natural places to highlight a kind of journey from dark to light. The accompanying video sees the two conflicting images side by side; a reminder that cities resolve to countryside at some point. Sullivan yearns for some space and a life away from the crowded city overload. It’s a simple wish that resolves into a message we can all relate it these days. Be kind.
Our next stop is Exeter where we find another of this week’s Fresh on the Net Fresh Faves in the shape of the truly amazing Jess McAllister whose hirsute offering, “The Bushiest Of Beards” was another standout in a strong week for new music. Her sound is decidedly eclectic, ranging from free-spirited folk to gutsy blues, rock and pop, and in this respect reminds me a little of the work of Gabby Young. Vocally she is theatrical and marvellously versatile.
This is the kind of song that hits the ground running and rarely stops, save the well-timed pause for musical effect. Madcap piano a la Vanessa Carlton drives the song along which manages to balance a denouncement of prolonged bullying with sheer fun and joie-de-vivre. The target of Jess’ ire is given a straw hat when she says she should have really hit him with a baseball bat in a goodly, rage- inspired ode to self-reliance. “The Bushiest Of Beards” seems made for a live stage. For now, we have the zingy, self-shot video but one can only hope that some guy, somewhere has just been out to buy a razor.
A DIY-ethos is carried through to our final song today with the video to “It’s Not Goodbye (To Those We Left Behind)” from Campfire Social which sees the construction of a cardboard cut-out replica band; perfect for self-isolationists. A five-piece formed around North Wales and Chester in 2016, Campfire Social purvey a brand of bright indie-pop that puts an aural arm around the shoulder. The new song continues that tradition and is a preview for an upcoming six-track EP out next Friday, titled Everything Changed. Well, it did, didn’t it.
Opening with a nicely warped guitar riff, the song shimmers along in waves of ringing guitars, keys and tight harmonies, before being elevated once more by the brass entry in the closing section. There is always something triumphant about a trumpet crescendo while the small print reveals there’s a flugelhorn in there too. Lyrically there’s a message of hope in reminiscing about good times gone by and what lessons you take from them.