[Words by Deri Ronan, She/Her]
Content Warning – Contains discussion of racism
Happy Spendy – You’re Doing Okay (Local Artist Review)
Happy Spendy’s new album, You’re Doing Okay, offers the listener one big synth-pop hug. Released on the 5th of June through Lost Map Records, the album is a collection of the Glasgow-based bands’ self-released EP’s since 2017.
The Happy Spendy project identify as a DIY pop band who paradoxically create sad songs to make you feel happy. It was originally founded by lead-singer Eimear Coyle from Derry, Northern Ireland. Upon Eimear’s relocation to Glasgow, the band formed its roots; and now consists of Rosie Pearse, Siobhain Ma, Connell King and Kieran Coyle (Eimear’s brother). Since the release of their EP You Look Lovely in 2017, they have been authoring their claim on the lo-fi bedroom pop scene and have supported artists such as Self Esteem, Lomelda, The Spook School, The Vaselines and Bossy Love.
In You’re Doing Okay, it is evident that Eimear perceives song-writing as a form of catharsis, as his songs navigate heartbreak, loss and growth. For example, the track Holy Smokes is palpably intimate, providing the listener with what feels like an exclusive insight into Eimear’s internal monologue as she processes the loss of her father. Skilfully, the track is kept abbreviated (only following the format of a single verse), a dynamic which only serves to intensify its authenticity. Although the bands’ self-description alludes to the difficult topics that their lyrics explore, this heavy subject-matter is comparatively enlivened by synth piano and soft beats – a favourite example of which is the track Fresh Air.
You’re Doing Okay is a brilliant project, and is testament to their claim to being pioneers of the Scottish bedroom-pop scene. Fans of their work should also check out stmartiins, Still Woozy & Local Boy.
Noname – Song 33
Although released at the beginning of summer, Song 33, Noname’s first solo single of 2020 still channels an imperative message. The song is said to be Noname’s reaction to criticism within the music industry towards her work – namely through her mention in J. Coles single Snow on Tha Bluff.
In response to the criticism she faced, Noname offers a grounding reminder that rather than bringing one another down, we all need to be collectively working towards more pressing causes – something which could not be more imperative in light of the abhorrent murder of George Floyd and the continuous, illegitimate and discriminatory use of force by members of the police force towards people of colour. She pointedly raps:
“Wow look at him go/He really ’bout to write about me while the world is in smokes?/When his people in trees, when George was begging for his mother saying he couldn’t breathe/you thought to write about me?”
Beginning as a slam poet in Chicago, Noname has gone on to release two full-length albums – Telephone (2016) & Room 25 (2018). She has also collaborated with artists such as Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Chance the Rapper and Mick Jenkins. This single emulates the artists’ commitment to social justice and activism, in addition to which she has launched a book-club which aims to promote the work of writers of colour and within the LGBTQ+ community. Musically, the track is a balanced development of the style of her previous work, which has clear influences of Lauryn Hill mixed with Noname’s unique observant, quick-witted lyricism.
Noname is a critical hip hop artist of the moment and repeated listening of her two previous albums, mentioned above, is highly justified.
Ezra Collective – Dark Side Riddim
The London five-piece Ezra Collective dropped their new single Dark Side Riddim last month. The track was released alongside their previous single Samueal L. Riddim on Spotify. The band have a unique sound which pays respect to their classical jazz roots, whilst equally welcoming undertones of afro-beats and hip-hop – best illuminated in their collaborative projects with Loyle Carner & Ty.
Their 2019 album You Can’t Steal my Joy was a stand-out project, and was followed by a spirited UK tour –which included an acclaimed performance at Oran Mor. Although the likelihood of such an event happening soon may be slim, the Dark Side Riddim instrumental makes a concession by bringing equal joy and stamina to the table.
If upon listening you are craving more of the same good energy, it is worth checking out We out Here – the 2018 collective album which includes Ezra Collective alongside other artists such as Kokoroko, Maisha & Moses Boyd.