Staff Picks: Huw Baines

I’ve listened to a lot of records in the last 12 months, but there are two that have refused to wear out. After the year we’ve had, it’s perhaps not much of a surprise that they’re both fuelled by politics; one by the desire to highlight the day-to-day consequences of the racist, misogynistic, heteronormative, uber capitalist soup we swim in, the other by the need to take that anger and scream it in someone’s face. Also, given that it’s me doing the listening, it’s not a surprise that they’re both scrappy punk records heavy on the hooks.

They’re Martha’s ‘Blisters in the Pit of My Heart’ and the Lippies’ self-titled debut.

I caught on to Martha a bit late. I heard ‘Courting Strong’, their first LP, a few months after its release and it swiftly became one of my favourite albums. Ever, of all time etc. So, ‘Blisters…’ had a lot to live up to.  When Christine first came out (as part of Alcopop’s ‘Sensible Record Labels 2’ comp) I wondered aloud to the Twitter void if Martha were capable of writing a bad song. MJ, who produced ‘Blisters…’, replied that it wasn’t even in the top five on the record. He was right.

Once I had a copy of it in my grubby mitts, I listened to it straight through three times, marvelling at how the hits just kept coming. Over time, the specifics of each story – from anarchist detectives to precarious employment and soul-crushing Catholicism – became clearer, along with the intricacy of their harmonies. When I interviewed JC about it, we spent a good chunk of time talking about Paul Heaton’s ability to fuse social commentary with solid gold pop songs. Martha can do that, too. They’re a special band and I’m already looking forward to their next step.

Sadly, the opposite is true of the Lippies. Six weeks after putting out their full length bow they split. I never got to see them live, don’t own a physical copy of the record and due to my all-round tardiness didn’t write anything about them. Here’s to rectifying that bit here. The Lippies were the sort of punk band that played as though a single bolt might come loose with a second’s notice and send them crashing to the kerb. They had something of ‘…And Out Come The Wolves’-era Rancid about them. Every melody, every feminist lyric begged to be yelled along to. Tonia Broucek formed the band to get things off her chest and appropriately her vocal performance here was ridiculous. There are moments where her lungs should give out, but she won’t stop. I am gutted we won’t see what might have happened to the Lippies down the line, but I really love this record. That’s enough.

On top of all that, we should all agree that Mitski’s Your Best American Girl is the song of the year and just move on with our lives. Also, see below for a big old list (in no discernible order) of other stuff I’ve really liked and head here for bits I enjoyed reading/writing. See you in 2017.

  • The Falcon – Gather Up The Chaps
  • Sheer Mag – III EP
  • Jeff Rosenstock – WORRY
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years
  • White Lung – Paradise
  • Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
  • Touché Amoré – Stage Four
  • Solange – A Seat At The Table
  • Mitski – Puberty 2
  • A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  • The Hotelier – Goodness
  • Chris Farren – Can’t Die
  • Super Unison – Auto
  • Planes Mistaken For Stars – Prey
  • Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
  • Domo Genesis – Genesis
  • PUP – The Dream Is Over
  • Kevin Devine – Instigator
  • Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
  • Joyce Manor – Cody
  • The Dirty Nil – Higher Power
  • Case/Lang/Veirs – Case/Lang/Veirs
  • Basia Bulat – Good Advice
  • Mikey Erg – Tentative Decisions
  • Mount Moriah – How To Dance
  • Andy Shauf – The Party
  • Big Eyes – Stake My Claim
  • Doe – Some Things Last Longer Than You
  • Tender Defender – Tender Defender
  • Slowcoaches – Nothing Gives
  • Swanning – Swanning EP
  • Cate Le Bon – Crab Day
  • The Thermals – We Disappear
  • Naked Hour – Always on the Weekend
  • Oathbreaker – Rheia
  • Angel Olsen – My Woman
  • Cayetana – Tired Eyes
  • Dead To Me – I Wanna Die in Los Angeles
  • Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
  • Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
  • John K. Samson – Winter Wheat
  • Beyoncé – Lemonade
  • AJJ – The Bible 2
  • Direct Hit! – Wasted Mind
  • PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
  • Camp Cope – Camp Cope
  • Vince Staples – Prima Donna
  • La Bella – Ides
  • Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp
  • Shura – Nothing’s Real
  • Happy Diving – Electric Soul Unity
  • Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gales
  • Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan – Take It, It’s Yours
  • Tancred – Out Of The Garden
  • Wussy – Forever Sounds
  • Trust Fund – We Have Always Lived In The Harolds
  • Gouge Away – , Dies
  • Savages – Adore Life
  • Sad13 – Slugger

A look ahead to…

  • That Dillinger Four record has to come out at some point, right? Right?
  • Paint It Black in the UK.
  • New Menzingers. New Captain, We’re Sinking too, maybe.

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