Author: Becky Varley-Winter

Album | Annie Dressner – Coffee At The Corner Bar

First, a disclaimer: Annie Dressner became a good friend after I first reviewed her for For Folk’s Sake, and I took part in her music video for ‘Pretend’, made under lockdown. Coffee At The Corner Bar is a continuing evolution…

Album | Annie Dressner – Broken Into Pieces

It’s hard to convey why, when I first saw Annie Dressner play, I found her instantly compelling. Singer-songwriters with guitars often sound overly mild-mannered to me, but there was something special in the directness and purity of her voice. Her…

Album | The Mynabirds – Lovers Know

I listen to Lovers Know with some anticipation. The Mynabirds’ last album, Generals, was one of my favourites in recent years, from the punch of the title track to the hopeful ‘Body of Work’. It is fiercely original while also being tuneful, melodic, danceable; so I’m surprised to read, in the PR material…

Album | Sea of Bees – Build A Boat To The Sun

After her longing debut, Songs to the Ravens, and follow-up Orangefarben, about young love and broken-heartedness, Julie Ann Baenziger’s Build A Boat To The Sun feels mature, healed or at least healing. Opening song ‘Test Yourself’ is incredibly Californian, all surf, sun, ambient washes and the…

Album | Hop Along – Painted Shut

I first stumbled on Frances Quinlan through her song ‘Bruno Is Orange‘ back in 2006, becoming slightly obsessed with it. It felt innocent, risking tweeness, but there was an articulate strangeness to these playful yet dark lyrics and their sing-song delivery. Nine years and several releases…

Album | Bella Hardy – With the Dawn

Bella Hardy’s latest album, With the Dawn, opens with ‘The Only Thing To Do’, which pairs tense, anticipatory vocals with rumbling drums and brass. The drumbeat feels slightly ’90s, mixing heartache (“should I hide a broken heart?”) with motion. The lyrics would also work as…

Album | Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

After his debut Becoming A Jackal and the harder sounds of Awayland, Conor O’Brien’s latest offering is carefully intimate and stripped-down, recorded in his home studio. Opening song ‘Courage’ is characteristically stoical/masochistic: the knowledge that life is not always easy is framed as ‘sweet relief’.…

Album | Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now

I hadn’t heard Benjamin Clementine before this album, but it’s pretty apparent that he’s a star, often compared to Nina Simone in his compelling delivery and stage presence. At Least For Now opens with ‘Winston Churchill’s Boy’: beginning just with…

Album | Tanya Tagaq – Animism

Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq surprised many pundits by winning Canada’s Polaris Prize in 2014 ahead of a number of more established names, not least the Arcade Fire. The prize is awarded for ‘artistic integrity’ and, listening to Animism, Tagaq comes…

Album | Jib Kidder – Teaspoon to the Ocean

Jib Kidder is the pseudonym of Sean Schuster-Craig, a ‘pop collagist’ signed to Domino’s ‘Weird World’ label. A visual and video artist who describes his music as another form of collage, his playful, psychedelic sound lies somewhere between Dirty Projectors and The Flaming…