Snail Mail, Hatchie
Antisocialites – the much-anticipated follow-up to Alvvays’ 2014 self-titled debut – is set for release on September 8th. Across its 10 tracks and 33 minutes the Toronto-based group dive back into the deep end of reckless romance and altered dates. Through thoughtful consideration in basement and abroad, Alvvays has renewed its Scot-pop vows with a powerful new collection of manic emotional collage.
The album opens with the excellent strum-’n-thrummer ‘In Undertow,’ a hi-amp breakup fantasy that is both crushing and charming for its level-headedness. “You find a wave and try to hold on for as long as you can, you made a mistake you’d like to erase and I understand,” sings Rankin, her voice full longing not for another person necessarily, but for what to do next. “Meditate, play solitaire, take up self-defense,” Molly continues, laundry-listing some strategies for moving on. “What’s next for you and me? I’ll take suggestions,” she deadpans under crashing waves of feedback and Farfisa.
Replete with more songs about drinking (‘Forget About Life,’ ‘Hey’), drugging (‘Lollipop (Ode To Jim)’), and drowning (‘Already Gone’), Antisocialites is a multipolar period piece fueled by isolation and loss. Perversely enjoyable dark drama springs from Rankin’s phonetic twists, quick-sung rhymes and irreverent syllable-play. “So morose for me, seeing ghosts of me, writing oaths to me,” the self-described introvert sings on the Cocteau-pop stunner ‘Dreams Tonite,’ the song from which the album’s name is derived. “In fluorescent light, antisocialites watch a wilting flower.”
To write Antisocialites, Rankin traveled to Toronto Island — working in an abandoned classroom by day and sleeping a few feet from shore at night — to avoid a stifling heat wave in the city. “I carried a small PA on the ferry in a wheelbarrow,” she recalls. “Every morning I would listen to my favorite records on the beach, then I’d write melodies and record demos in the classroom.” After tracking with keyboardist Kerri MacLellan and bassist Brian Murphy at Kingsize in LA, Rankin and guitarist Alec O’Hanley continued recording and mixing in their Toronto basement. A few friends descended to play on the record, including Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake.
Antisocialites details a world of ice cream truck jingles and radiophonic workshop noise, where Rankin’s shining wit is refracted through crystalline counterpoint. ‘Not My Baby’ is a centerpiece, a meditation on the rapture of escape following the sadness of separation. Elsewhere, ‘Plimsoll Punks’ is the band’s answer to Television Personalities’ ‘Part-Time Punks’ and a winking surf opus indictment of the self-righteous who intend to condescend. Molly wrote the rapid-fire sugar stream ‘Lollipop (Ode to Jim)’ after singing ‘Just Like Honey’ with Jesus and Mary Chain. ‘Your Type’ is a beautiful primitive stomp about running around Paris with vomit on your feet post-Louvre ejection.
The record concludes with a movement that is at once stark and celebratory. On ‘Forget About Life,’ the apartment stands in disarray as undrinkable wine is inhaled: “When the failures of the past multiply and you trivialize the things that keep your hand from mine, did you want to forget about life with me tonite?” The resonant freaks in Rankin’s tales don’t find much resolve, but with equal doses of black humor and heartstring-tugging, Antisocialites rings a truer tone.
Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.
“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop.
Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to-your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin.
Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.
In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for the New York Times about women in punk—giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade.
The songs on Lush often come close to the five-minute mark, making them long enough to get lost in. The album’s more gauzy and meditative songs play out like ideal end-of-the-night soundtracks, the kind that might score a 3am conversation or a long drive home, from the finger-picking of “Speaking Terms” to the subtle, sweeping harmonies and French horn on “Deep Sea.” It only makes sense that Jordan wrote these songs late at night during a time when she was obsessively reading Eileen Myles and listening to a lot of slowcore and folk songwriters.
“Heat Wave” is one of the album’s most devastating moments, a song that wallows in a crumbling mid-summer relationship. “I broke it off, called out of my shift, and just cried in my bathtub and wrote this song,” Jordan recalls. “I was just so desperate to just get the way I was feeling out onto paper so that I could just have it and be done with it. It was almost kind of painful. It was like puking onto paper, and crying, ‘This girl hurt my feelings!’ Towards the end of writing the record, I became better at dealing with my emotions.”
Jordan’s personal crown jewel of the album, “Let’s Find an Out,” puts her childhood classical guitar training on display. It’s a road song of sorts, a nod to feeling young and disoriented on her first ever tour: “I’d gotten knocked around a lot by the process. I was scared. It’s sort of this love song about another person who is going through the same thing.” “You’re always coming back a little older / but it looks alright on you,” she belts over her intricate playing, on one of the album’s most pensive and gorgeous moments. Lucky for us all, she doesn’t sound scared anymore.
Hatchie is the world of Harriette Pilbeam. To hear her music is to step inside her mind; a dreamy landscape where cascading synths, jangling guitars, propulsive rhythms and white noise undulate beneath undeniable and irresistible pop melodies. Rather than focusing on the external world of her daily life in Brisbane, Pilbeam instead turns her gaze inwards, making a soundtrack out of her daydreams, setting her emotional life to song.
Take brand new single “Sure” for example. Written on a whim when a melody jumped into Pilbeam’s head, and finished swiftly in one day, the chorus plaintively unravels, setting the sorrow to shimmering synth washes, wrapping the whole thing up in a melody so gorgeous that it would fit seamlessly into The Sundays and Alvvays songbooks. “All of my songs start with singing,” Pilbeam says. “I hear the melody in my mind first and then work out the chords I’m imagining under that. I have a good ear for music, but I don’t know chord names or much music theory. I just kind of figure it out.”
This instinctual pop nous is undoubtedly on full display in “Sure”, but like all of Hatchie’s music, the track trades in shade as well as light. It’s at once accessible yet cerebral, walking a line between instant ear worm and something deeper and more oblique. “I think that’s because I’m still making up my mind,” offers Harriette. “I’m kind of jumping between, ‘Do I want to just make fun pop songs? Or do I want it to be more shoegaze and more of a band sound?’ I really love writing pop songs, but then messing them up and turning them into something else. Something darker.”
“Sure” continues the story that began with the runaway success of this year’s pop gem “Try”. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, “Try” announced Hatchie as an artist to watch. After uploading the track to Unearthed in May, the song instantly got added to radio playlists across the country. Triple J’s Nick Findlay called it, “a huge first track!” Hatchie signed management and booking deals. Her name started popping up on festival lineups. NPR debuted the clip. The track’s reach was far and wide, even winning Hatchie a fan in Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. “It’s pretty weird being social media friends with one of your heroes” laughs Pilbeam.
Things don’t seem to be slowing down any time for Hatchie either. Having already toured nationally with The Creases, there are shows supporting Ball Park Music and The Temper Trap on the horizon plus appearances at Festival Of The Sun and perhaps most impressively, South By South West in Austin next year.
Having played in her friends’ bands in Brisbane, namely Go Violets and Babaganouj, Hatchie is Pilbeam’s first foray into solo territory, something she seems undaunted by. “I feel like I’m only just beginning to really assert myself in the world and the Hatchie project has forced me to reassess and make so many positive changes,” she says. “When I look back on this period of time, I think I’ll see Hatchie as a huge evolutionary force in my life.”