Brits in Hot Weather #2: Ella Grace, Dead Naked Hippies, Annebel Allum, Strange Boy, WEN

Five songs from five new British artists to make your day a little better.

Welcome to the second edition of "Brits in Hot Weather", a regular guide to new British music with a very simple premise: Five songs from five new British artists that will make your day a little better.

I feel that, as this is the second edition, I should explain the relevance of the title of this feature. Many of you will know that it's a riff on the Fall's "British People in Hot Weather" from their 1990 album Extricate (which I got for my 14th birthday and which my girlfriend absolutely hated!) It is one of the most quintessential songs about the British character. A character that strips off to reveal it's true self when the sun comes out. ("Have a heart-to-heart with your sister / People in shorts drunk before ya").

Basically, we Brits don't do well in hot weather (or cold weather, but I'll save that for January's edition) and we still have this idea that America is bloody warm so the song and the idea of British bands being introduced to American readers fits together. However, over the last couple of weeks, Britain has moved to about three miles from the face of the sun so it doesn't really work now. Still, that's what's this feature is called and it will forever be known as such as I can't think of a better title and it's so hot that I am writing this with packets of frozen broccoli florets tied with twine to every limb.

In this edition, we have some graceful indie folk from Ella Grace, some roaring post-punk from Dead Naked Hippies, a blast of snarling indie from Annebel Allum, another superb release from PopMatters' favorite Strange Boy, and a brilliant new, ambient techno track from WEN.

Ella Grace - "Run"

On the follow up to her warmly received single "Here We Are Again", London-based indie folk singer Ella Grace manages to put a new spin on the classic singer/songwriting subject of a failed relationship. On "Run", Grace recognizes that the agony of a broken heart can push you in a wholly unexpected direction. The pain might linger but the person who emerges at the other end is often stronger, exhibiting a new-found resilience. Something that was certainly true for Grace, as she explains:

"It was a super cathartic song to write and record, it was a message to someone I loved. I wrote it during a time when I was really split between two worlds. "Run" was this promise to try and stay with somebody whilst my heart was pulling me in other directions. It was a really bittersweet time for me and I think this track captures it perfectly".

As such, Grace's smokey yet mellifluous vocals display a refreshing honesty that comes from learning one of life's most difficult lessons. With a bare-bones arrangement of lilting acoustic guitar and a steady bassline, "Run" gives Grace's voice the opportunity to shine. Never overplaying the drama, each word seems to hang in the air like smoke from a newly extinguished fire. With a chorus that gently blooms to reveal new colours, "Run" is folk music stripped to its emotional core.

Dead Naked Hippies - "Guillotine"

Since forming in 2016, Leeds trio, Dead Naked Hippies have released a slew of raw, caustic post-punk songs, barely held together by their own blood, sweat and tears. On new single "Guillotine" the band re-focus their musical attack, to craft their hookiest song to date that mixes hard-headed resolve and naked vulnerability.

Opening with understated, shimmering guitar notes, "Guillotine" soon locks into a steady groove before crashing headlong into a thrillingly scuzzy, visceral chorus. Sitting squarely in the eye of the storm are the vocals from frontwoman Lucy Jowett who fuses hope, confusion and despair into an explosive, soul-searching anthem that echoes the uncertainty and almost incapacitating ambivalence that comes after the painful dissolution of a relationship.

As Jowett explains, the subconscious clashes and confrontations that come after a break-up are at the heart of the song.

"Guillotine" is an exploration of grief" the vocalist explains,"It's the fine line between wanting to retaliate to someone who has caused you hurt, versus choosing to cut out the dead weight they have created in your life."

Annebel Allum - Beat the Birds"

"Beat the Birds", taken from Annebel Allum's second EP Sorry I'm Not Perceptible, kicks in the front door, swaggers to the bar and orders whatever the bloody hell it wants. Mixing PJ Harvey, Nadine Shah, and EMA, "Beat the Birds" is a scuzzy blast of grungey rock that percolates with bright, fizzy hooks, all coated with her incisive, trenchant wit.

The follow up to last year's All That For What EP, sees Allum continue to blast out ballsy, slacker anthems in waiting but with a little more finesse. Exhibiting a clearer understanding of songwriting dynamics, "Beat the Birds" rushes headlong into the riot of guitars and drums, building to a hooky chorus that will leave a lasting boot print.

A brash and vital song from an artist whose face should adorn the walls of anyone looking for a new rock star to believe in.

Strange Boy - "Suburbia"

We, at PopMatters, have been keeping a keen eye on Strange Boy for a while now. We had the pleasure of premiering their single "Love Remains" and since then the electronic duo have seen their profile steadily rise, even being championed by none other than her majesty, Mary Anne Hobbes. "Suburbia" is their latest release from the EP of the same name and it is another soaring, sublime track from a duo with a genuinely unique sound.

Opening with a gentle, electronic pulse, "Suburbia" eases itself in before an oncoming tremor of beats and synths that rumble to the foreground. Throughout it all sit Kieran Brunt's choral vocals, retaining a sense of calm as Matt Huxley's filmic beats swell with tension. Before becoming crushed in the stampede the track launches skywards with Brunt following suit, showing the range and potency of his voice.

Realizing that what goes up, must come down the track falls sharply back to earth to land on a comforting bed of gentle, ambient synths. After catching its breath the song veers off once more with skittering beats that shock and jar as they ricochet into the distance.

It's another brilliant song from the pair who are only going to see their stock rise still further.

WEN - "Time II Think"

WEN (aka Owen Darby) follows up last year's CARVE + GAZE EP with this track taken from his phenomenal first release for Big Dada, EPHEM:ERA. A hypnotically transient listen that celebrates passing moments of light and sound.

Centered around metallic, chiming beats like the tolling of church bells, WEN crafts a track seemingly displaced from any sense of time and place. Little surprise then that this track, as with much of the his album, was heavily influenced by 20th century architect Carlos Scarpa whose modernist approach took its inspiration from classical Venetian architecture. There is a reverential quality to the track like walking into a echoing, cavernous space with elongated synths that work like long shadows being cast against broad, lofty ceilings.

Soon scuffed beats and rising, bubbling synths bring it sharply back to the present as WEN mixes in a distant sample of a voice repeating the song title as if the listener is inadvertently eavesdropping on a conversation. WEN creates a wonderfully unhurried and atemporal track designed to make the listener ignore all distractions and just be.

I hope you enjoy all of the songs on this list. I had a blast putting it together. I say blast, I mean it'll take me about an hour to carefully un-stick myself from this chair, but it was probably worth it though. Until next time, try and stay cool.




By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.


Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.


L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.


Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.


Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.


Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.


West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.