Kathy Yaeji Lees’ ever more crowded live appearances have become famous, among other things, for the way in which the artist picks up the mic and sings over the tracks she is playing. It isn’t a session, nor a pop concert, but a hybrid format that, against all odds, works. The method is also applied to her recordings, in which the non-singers English and Korean whispers, rhythmic and on the edge of rap, fly over the club sounds, without ever being completely integrated into the mix. In some ways, Yaeji has tumbled upon the musical translation of a childhood that took her from the United States to South Korea, before being able to grow roots in either of the cultures. She has turned this fascinating lack of belonging into an infinite source of fascination.
The first thing that hits you in Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’s live shows is seeing their frontman coming out on stage in a flashy, impeccable suit, which he takes off as the voltage reaches boiling point, and ends up displaying all the tattoos that cover his body. In some ways, the striptease is a metaphor for the band itself, with which Carter intends to stylise the rage that he displayed with Gallows, his former band, pushing the seductive potential of his voice to the forefront, which with every new inflection announces a coreable anthem. But the energy that the vocalist and his rattlesnakes project can only be contained to a certain point, and inevitably the shirt is ripped off revealing a vein which, with its beat, sends a message to which the audience immediately responds: pogo!
Maybe things have changed so much that subversion lies in sweetness. In these times of trap, explicit lyrics and other evidence, where does silly pop stand? Well, it stands exactly where Cariño, the trio from Madrid, has left it: the right dose of naivety, lightness and optimism with a wide awake consciousness, sharpened claws and genius moments like when they bring to their own terrain the urban music new anthem Llorando en la limo by C. Tangana. “God bless silly pop, God bless Family (the Spanish band)”, they sing in this viral version that has put Cariño in the limelight with their album Movidas: a debut compilation of freshest, sweet and poisoned songs that bring back hope to the nonbelievers.
Life is what goes on between one Bon Iver album and another. Or, at least, this is what happens to Justin Vernon. His increasingly complicated relationship with fame and his ego have pushed the author of For Emma, Forever Ago towards unexplored terrains like those of Volcano Choir, The Shouting Matches and now Big Red Machine, a project that actually began years ago when doing a collaboration for a charity compilation together with his brother from another mother, Aaron Dessner from The National. Together they organise utopic festivals (Eaux Claires), create alternative models for the industry (the streaming portal PEOPLE) and they also write music, of course. They are surrounded by so many artist friends that it is surprising that the result of Big Red Machine, the album, is so spot on. It’s a dream crossover, a perfect fit of Dessner’s intimate epic and Bon Iver’s melancholic evocations, of Justin’s experimental laments and Aaron’s astounding progressions. Music as an excuse, as a way and as a purpose.
What a tricky lover the memory can be. And if the memory is about the night, about making out and wizz-fizz smooching, then it is even more likely to play tricks on us. Is it possible that Jungle have ONLY just released their second album? But we saw them in 2015 setting the Ray-Ban stage on fire with Busy Earnin’, and in 2017 we danced at their sold out shows in Barcelona and Madrid. Well, yes you friends of incredible funk, For Ever is hot off the press and it comes ready for action. They will sweet-talk you with their falsetto, they will fool around with their sonic passport (and will forge it so that California takes the place of their native London, California where they seem to belong to), and they will have you on rollerblades skating into the 70s until bang! You are drenched in sweat again, with that familiar groovy tingling between your legs and with a filter on your vision that makes all the congregation in front of the Ray-Ban (or whatever stage it is) look the most stylish and hottest on whatever side of the Atlantic. So now that you have been forewarned, you know: for the next one, don’t let them catch you out and make sure your memory records it well.
Everything in Hop Along revolves around Frances Quinlan. Because, as well as being the founder of the band, Quinlan has one of those magnetic personalities that charms you from the word go. It is said, and it is true, that she doesn’t have one voice but 10: she can carry whatever song you want sounding tough, sweet, bluesy or screaming her head off, whatever the occasion requires. She makes you to actually believe in something. Luckily her bandmates (that include her brother on drums) are a versatile and nervy combo that carries Hop Along straight to the golden era of Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel and Modest Mouse. But this is 2018 and they are in Philadelphia. So besides their indoubtable indie rock skills, they offer a wide stylistic range and an empowering feminist discourse. Get on board, this is addictive.