Lydia Waller talks us through So Young Magazine’s preemptive picks for the best of 2018’s indie releases
A couple of weeks ago So Young Magazine released their 2018 Radio Playlist, to kick off the new year with the freshest sounds in indie-rock and every branch of indie-punk describable. So Young is a newly-born print publication, fully illustrated and collaboratively formed with fans and musicians. The communal publication claims to ‘root itself in fanzines from the punk era,’ which explains the heavy indie-punk opening content of their 2018 playlist. The Spotify playlist can be added to daily, yet the starting point So Young have crafted is absolutely genius, there is no better way to shake off January and February blues than blasting this dynamic set-list of new indie-punk and rock artists.
I first found out about So Young at their miniature ‘festival’ in The Old Blue Last pub, Shoreditch’s best dingy local music venue in which to experience up and coming indie and alternative artists. This playlist takes me straight back to the dusty, beer-stained charm of the miniscule moshes and jarring sounds of bands such as Hotel Luxx and Sorry. One track in particular that embodies that unpolished yet penetrating sounds of jarring guitars is ‘Friction’ by Shame. As like many of the punk-esque tracks on this list, the vocals consist of spoken narrative lyrics, carrying either a humble image of locals or political messages of the unsatisfied youth. Shame are concerned with the latter, giving their layered and complex timbre of a persistent riff and tinny sound of cymbal and beat, an element of maturity. The contrast between rhythmic narration and the violent climax of the chorus carries their acclaimed ‘post-punk’ vibes very well in their overall sound.
In contrast to this there are some tracks on the playlist that are too mimetic of well-established indie-punk artist, such as ‘Spoons’ by Lady Bird. Lady Bird are the first artists to be signed by Slaves’ new label/ platform ‘Girl Fight.’ The three-piece band from Kent sadly prove to be too influenced by their curators, as their cockney vocals and grungy simplicity of bass and drum are too close to Slaves’ own. However, the delay on both guitar sound and vocals does pay homage to their typical ‘three-day bender’ narrative and creates a vivid image of a humble stone-walled pub bathroom, adding character to their aesthetic.
Steering away from the punk theme, there are some absolute corkers that are revitalising the indie-alternative sounds of today. The Orielles ‘Blue Suitcase’ is one of these songs that absolutely lifts the playlist to the feel-good prescription it is. The bass is gorgeous and the funky interruptions of guitar sounds creates a generally simple yet wholesome and complex timbre to compliment the airy and youthful vocals. Swirly distortion from the guitar and the organic funk of the rhythm section makes this a really soulful groovy tune, with the intricacies of the feminine persona. Continuing with the feel-good groove from Orielles, we jump to ‘Lost in the Game’ by Public Access TV. Although this may be a technically simple track, the combination of saxophone holding the main melody, the Generationals/Beach Boys groove of the guitar sound and the funky bass, creates the most uplifting and grooviest tune on the list. There is a slight corny 80s aesthetic to this track, yet it is undeniably enjoyable.
Hinds also feature on the 2018 playlist, most definitely kick-starting February with feel good vibes of the summer to come. ‘New For You’ maintains the band’s typically sunny yet slightly jarred guitar sound, however the mellifluous and uplifting bass glosses this track over with a generally pleasant timbre. Hinds’ notorious childish vocals with the charm of Spanish accents instantly makes you smile, alongside their jangly strain of chords and childish choral sounds as backing vocals.
The most atmospheric track on the playlist has to be ‘Emphysema’ by Ugly. This is honestly a work of genius. The jangly reverb and delay of the guitar gives the droning nature of the vocals a narrative charm to the lyrics, while the clashy timbre of the cymbals gives the track a great dynamic bringing pacey moments in to counter the romantic drone of the lead’s persona. The prettified guitar sound in the bridge and charming lyrics of ‘Emphysema have you seen her’ gives the overall sound a brilliant, ironically romantic character.
The overall contrast of genres and sounds in the playlist works harmoniously, however in isolation some of the tracks lack the same originality and reinvention of the genres at hand as some of the above. One track being ‘Pretty Pure’ by Whenyoung, which unfortunately lacks innovation despite its intention of being a typical feminine persona juxtaposed by the texture of indie-rock. Similarly with ‘Crisis Fest’ by Sunflower Bean, the cliché nature of the lyrics and simplicity of the Beach Boys-esque bass, that hasn’t been reinvented in any way, just lacks originality. However, as an entity this playlist injects the January blues with new and exciting definitions of indie-rock and punk, to get you excited for the new art to come in the new year. Well worth a listen.