12 Revolutions from 2017: Patch & The Giant – All That We Had, We Stole

Angie’s trumpet flares and detonates. Nick’s bass stomps and strides. On strings, Gabe and Derek compose a dulcet roar in the background. Luke steps towards the microphone, his throat raw, his voice a tired and beautiful bark, to tell us the stories of the forgotten.

Patch & The Giant’s debut album All That We Had, We Stole is peopled by a cast of the downtrodden: Butchers and their beasts, anonymous buskers, lovers left behind, ageless mothers and crying fathers, blooded soldiers and lost sailors, heavy-browed brothers and actors without words. These are the tales of those gathered amongst the muck and the mire. It seeks them out and finds dignity and beauty in the undulations of their seemingly prosaic existence.

Local Man is a strident call to arms. The accordion stirs and sways, the strings raise us to our feet in honour of the barely visible musician in the background of our lives and his “songs of freedom/and of loneliness and joy.” We are gracefully berated for our ignorance of his humble vocation: “But if you’d ever stop to pause and listen/You’d see what is missing/But all your eyes and all your ears/Are vacant/Eluding time.”

Having lifted our spirit, the album turns and shows us a darker side. The Day You Went To Sea is a paean to family and love and to death and loss. Its warm, sepia-tinted nostalgia has an undercurrent of violence and confusion: “A song can be the best of me/A heart devoid of melody/A book that took on grass and leaves/A man could falls on bloody knees/To give you all you need.”

Flowers may be the closest thing this album contains to a love song, though whether for a lost love or a lost life, it’s never clear. We are drawn in by the intimacy of this song, the audience mouthing the words, not singing, for fear of breaking its fragile beauty. There is regret but also hope – a small flame nurtured between the lines of its evocative and elegant imagery: “Lavender blue/All that’s good I stole from you/A faceless gain/Lavender black/Shake the devil from your back/I’ll take your weight.”

Were this a decade ago – in the epicentre of the indie fold revival – Patch & The Giant would be in the vanguard, and this album would be gracing enough radio playlists to grant them the time and freedom to write and record at will. Instead, they are bringing their euphoric and delicate songs to a tiny corner of our musical consciousness. Perhaps the groundedness that comes with this is what gives them their essence, but if All That We Had, We Stole is the standard they are setting then they surely won’t stay hidden for long.

You can purchase All That We Had, We Stole direct from Patch on CD and Vinyl.


12 Revolutions of 2017: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – French Press

The rain skewers down from left to right, the wind rolling across the swollen, churning ground grappling and grasping at the last of us, shaking us numb. Up on stage at End Of The Road, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever occupy a tiny square of space, the 5 of them huddled together in almost indecent proximity, as if they can protect each other from the coming storm. Fragments of beats and chunks of guitar roar from the speakers in defiance of the weather.

The record rolls in with French Press, a glistening, airy echo of guitar, the pulsing thud of a snare and  the sweep of rhythm guitar and bass, like wheels turning on an endless stretch of wet tarmac. A melodious grumble kicks in: “I’m alright/If you asked me/But you never do/Is this thing on?/I’m coming at you.”

Across a mere 25 minutes, they come at you. Driven on by a rhythm section of perpetual motion and sharp, harmonious guitar hooks. Overburdened and overwhelmed by an excess of feeling and an increasingly desperate sense of distance, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever take shelter from the storm in these songs. There is love, lust, loss, disappointment, frustration, confusion, bemusement, anger and resentment glittering like broken glass in the corners of the opaque stories this band tell, each track a literate, lyrical journey.

Musically, they are lost in the post-punk and alt-rock of the 1980’s. Their guitar work is unabashedly similar to the Go-Betweens, a brittle blend of sugar and salt that, in lesser hands, would only sound like a pale imitation. It is their closeness, as if they were playing within each other, that gives it authenticity.

Sick Bug is the embodiment of the raucous, wild storm. We are buffeted back and forth by angular guitars and a driving rhythm until the briefest moment of calm in the middle, the eye of the storm, and then we are dragged back into the tempest.


The record rises through the storm reaching above the clouds for the closing track, Fountain of Good Fortune. Here everything is a little clearer, certainty emerging from the discord and we find a radiant jewel of alternative pop with a hard-boiled heart: “I see a problem/I’m not willing to address/And I take pleasure/In not wanting to impress/’Cos I’m drinking/From the fountain of good fortune.”


French Press is a record of beguiling ambiguity. Their lyrics are both enigmatic and sincere. Their music as disgruntled and distant as a storm on the horizon, yet as close and comfortable as a passing dream. With a debut album and a new tour on the way, they are a band to watch in 2018.

You can purchase this record from the glorious wonder that is Bandcamp.

12 Revolutions from 2017: Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

It’s difficult to talk about the Jen Cloher record without mentioning Courtney Barnett. Jen’s wife is woven through its fabric of confusion, contemplation, anger and hope. Yet, this is a natural by-product of Jen’s candid approach to song-writing rather than any attempt to replicate Courtney’s successful template.

It’s a record of shifting moods, musically and lyrically. The opening salvo Forgot Myself and Analysis Paralysis lay bare her confusion at life both personal and public. There is an aching discord in the music here, echoed lyrically, as Jen struggles to come to terms with her own thoughts and how they stand in opposition to her everyday: “Oh God, I forgot myself/ Oh god, I forgot my health/Seen it coming but it’s too late now”, she intones, the words sparse and naked and troubling.

The mood shifts and we are walking the street contemplating the quiet suburban gloss of modern Australia. There is anger on Regional Echoes (“Wealth gone to waste/The Australian dream is fading/Stolen anyway”) but it’s couched in a stoicism that extends into the record’s high point, the slight and beautiful Sensory Memory. There is loneliness here, but a realisation that this is her choice, that it’s fine as long as her lover comes home again.

The second side begins with a harsh counterpoint. The anger becomes more visceral and this is reflected in a muscular, edgy guitar sound that manages to finds the perfect balance between sweet and sour. Shoegazers, with its indignation at the music industry, has perhaps the most memorably vehement lyrical moment (“Most critics are pussies who want to look cool/Those who can, they do/Those who can’t review/What’s hot today is forgotten tomorrow”) but dig deeper and you find that Strong Woman and Kinda Biblical rail hard against the rise of the populist right and the failings of modern gender politics, while Great Australian Bite questions the cultural depths of modern society:

What makes this record complete is the final mood shift, from angry to hopeful. It’s Jen’s adoration of music which moves us here. In Loose Magic she recalls a Dirty Three concert and the sense of freedom that came with their music (if you don’t know them, start here, and then listen to everything). This is clearest in Waiting in the Wings, a stunning piano-led ode to positivity: “There’s no meaning but the meaning you create/ And no end to all the things that you can make/ To be kind/ Truly kind/ Is radical.

Jen Cloher has created an album of great balance and depth. At times this is not an easy record. Her honesty can be brutal. But it also carries a quiet grace and a tender intimacy, like a secret shared between two lovers.

You can buy this record just about everywhere but, personally, Quiff loves Bandcamp or direct from  Marathon Records.

Enter, Joy Room


The crowd sparks and fires, rising as one to the beat. The people at the periphery wheel away with childish exuberance before lunging back towards the centre, so that it looks synchronised, pre-ordained almost, like a firework going off. Up on stage, Ned is slouched low over his kit, the machine-gun fire of drumsticks eventually proving too much for the snare, which topples and rolls away from his despairing reach. Jasper’s bass weaves through the spaces between the violent, pop-tinged thrusts of Luca’s guitar like mortar between bricks. Up front, George is up on his toes, whirling like a prizefighter before a bout, dancing back and forth across that thin line between self-assurance and arrogance. It’s chaotic, up on surface, but Joy Room don’t stop.

It’s quiet outside the Green Door Store – a robust, compact little venue tucked away under the railway station, its brickwork stained almost grey by age and industrial-strength smog – but not for long. We’re sat at a broken picnic table, ashtray overflowing with dog-ends, half-drunk G&Ts leaking from plastic cups, when Joy Room bound over to meet us. These four old school friends from London are obviously comfortable in each other’s company. Their conversation is rowdy, inflated by alcohol and high spirits, laughter bursting from the sides like steam from an old locomotive. However, as we settle down to chat, beneath the veneer of wayward mayhem, we meet a group who are polite and friendly, grateful and humble in the face of the attention they receive and more than willing to discuss the inner-workings of a band on the rise.

Starting 18 months ago, from the ashes of George and Luca’s previous band, they stole Jasper from another group and started searching for a drummer:

George: We just wanted to get some songs together… We tried Ned out and we were like… He’s the best because he just had this kinda groove.

Luca: I got an old reel-to-reel tape player that my Dad gave me and we recorded to it… and it sounded so sick.

This rough, lo-fi sound is the most distinctive element of Joy Room’s early work, including their compelling catchy first single Late At Night that got them attention from BBC Introducing:

Jasper: It was funny how Late At Night came out… just us and our instruments, this kinda basement garage vibe, loadsa amps everywhere and we just smashed it out in a day.

Is this their song-writing process, helter-skelter and rough? Is their sound purposefully unsophisticated?

George: Me and Luca smack ’em up and then we smash ‘em around like a pinball machine.

Ned: Then the band come together and it’s formed.

George: I have to believe in the lyrics but other than that, it’s the musical idea that’s best that wins.

The belief in the lyrics is important. During the live set there are brief interludes where George tells us the stories that lie behind their songs. There is a naked honesty to these tales that are at the heart of the band’s relationship with the audience. These everyday recollections are also our own and this gives their music a cathartic edge:

George: Yeah, the lyrics are fun but just straight up. If I don’t really believe that, if I’m not like, this has happened to me then… I have to know that I’ve gone through it… Every lyric that I’ve written, Luca has been there beside me as I was having a beer, thinking about or crying about it, whatever it’s been. We’ve been through everything we’re singing about, you know.

This story-telling urge implies a deeper well of artistic ambition than is initially obvious. As they themselves admit, the early material wears its influences on its sleeve. There is a dash of The Strokes, a sprinkle of the Queens of The Stone Age and a fair scattering of the Kings of Leon. But, how do they grow beyond this?

Luca: We’ve slowed down our songs a bit because Jasper’s got this amazing slinky bass style and recently we’ve been finding a way to really play into his strengths.

Ned: It’s still got the older style feel but we’re breaking into something else.

Jasper: We’re still experimenting with everything, you know.

Luca: I never wanna feel comfortable, I always wanna move.

So what does this mean in terms of recording? How will they take this ambition and put it onto record?

Luca: We’ve had a bit of a weird experience with a few producers where we’d go in and record these tracks and, just like, nothing come of it.

George: Recording is so important… You can record a song and it doesn’t come off as cool, but it’s a cool song. You can record a song that’s not very cool but comes off as so cool because of the recording. It’s about getting that balance and we’re trying to figure out how to do that for ourselves.

Luca: You meet producers… A lot of them don’t keep up with the moment and they can make it all a bit naff. Like ‘Yeah, I can do The Strokes sound. You like The Strokes? I’ll do that.’ And then you’ll come out and it’ll sound like The Strokes but, it’s confused, we want it to sound like us.

This is the essence of Joy Room. There is a wide-eyed, raucousness to their approach which can hide the utter belief in their ability and the ambition not just to be another band but to be the band:

George: We hold ourselves up to our idols and our idols are really good musicians. So we always try to be the best musicians we can be and that sometimes is fucking hard for us and quite a stressful, rocky road cause we’re pushing ourselves.

Luca: It’s about having a unique feeling. Like, if I have a select emotion and attribute that with a band then I would like to be someone’s select emotion… I want to be like that kinda of band.

George: We’re checking off influences. We’re starting to get through the Kings of Leon and The Strokes. I mean, at the very end of the spectrum, we’ve got a long way to get there, there’s like Radiohead, David Bowie and Prince. If you can end up there, you’re killing it.

And with that, Joy Room bounce away, seemingly without a care in the world. They may not have outgrown their influences yet. They may roll into town shouting along to Ophelia by The Band like students on their way to a festival. They may burn the night away dancing to Faithless, Orbital and Underworld only sleeping to the first stirring of sunlight. But, their energy is infectious, stretching out to encompass passers-by who come to share their love and their anecdotes of all things Joy Room. And this energy, allied with a tireless musicality and serious ambition, marks them as group we should expect big things from.








Introducing The Family Chain

We’ve all seen bands where the band are too cool to say anything, or too cool to give a shit about anything, and I hate that. I just want to be a band that shows that we fucking want to do this.

It’s Friday evening and the street heaves and sways with anticipation. Loosely formed groups of friends and co-workers coagulate around the benches, conversation and laughter rising above the constant growl of background traffic as alcohol acts as a release valve to inhibition.

About a month ago, a stranger in a bar recommended a song called One Born Every Minute by The Family Chain, their only song it seemed, and we liked it, a lot. Intrigued, we asked if they’d be willing to chat to us over a friendly beverage.

The band were formed last year by 3 close friends – George (Vocals/Guitar), Andrew (Bass/Backing Vocals) and Sam (Guitar) – an old idea finally coming to fruition, but only finalised their line-up in February when they met Ollie (Drums), through a mixture of good luck and hard work. With the band being so new, we start by discussing how they find writing songs together and whether this leads to conflict. Does George who “writes the essence of the songsfeel put out?

George: At first, I was like this is my baby what are you doing to it? But, actually, I’ve found the best songs come through accepting others ideas and giving it a go. Because at the end of it, if it doesn’t work you’ll drop it. You wouldn’t persevere with something if it sounds shit.

Ollie: Like, it’s almost as if we’ve hit a different approach collaborating together, a different energy, I suppose.

It’s this creativity that has been the impetus for the songs The Family Chain are currently recording and plan to release alongside “some secret stuff” in early autumn. They openly admit that their set has changed dramatically and that their sound has broadened so that, while they maintain the same fundamental style, One Born Every Minute “seems like a million years ago”.

For newer fans, like us here at Quiff, this leads to a question about what you can expect when you see The Family Chain, live. While the band see clear progress in their studio work it’s when they speak about performing that they really come to life:

George: Live is where it’s more intense and there’s more feeling. I’m still learning how to put feeling and intensity into recordings, as well. Live is more vulnerable and we don’t always know what is going to happen.

Ollie: Live, when you see and hear it for what it actually organically is, it becomes 3D. We’ve definitely got a more intense approach to playing live than when we’re recording.

The band’s passion for live music is clear. On stage, it’s revealed through the intensity of their performance, which is reflected in the audience’s reaction.

George: When we’re playing, when you look at people’s faces the median reaction is confusion. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s me. I basically perform like I’m about to piss myself… After every set I’m convinced I’m gonna have some sort of breakdown because I’ve just gone too overboard. But I wouldn’t do it any other way, whether they’re freaked out or not… I want people to know that I mean it.

Ollie: I think energy does that, though. The more energy we put into it, the more energy the audience feel. You have more chance of someone coming out of that gig and wanting to discuss that with other people.

The importance of this intensity is to make a connection with the audience, to make them feel a part of The Family Chain and it means leaving nothing on the stage. This intensity, though, doesn’t transfer into ambition. That’s not to say that The Family Chain aren’t driven. Like most musicians they’d love to do what they love, full-time, for money – this is not shocking. It’s just that they want any success to be organic. It’s about focusing on their music and audience:

Ollie: A decent, strong fanbase that actually appreciates the music and then whatever that leads to from there, then great… as long as we’ve got that fanbase, and people come and see the concerts and enjoy the music.

George: My dream situation would be that we’ve got a really dedicated group of people who have gone past the confusion and actually really like the band. I’ve been doing bands for 10 years and it’s all I’m gonna do. I’m gonna be 70 and making little, shitty albums in my shed whilst my grandkids slam on the door for more biscuits. Even if in 2 years we had no deal, no management, no anything, but we had people who really loved our music, then I’d be happy.

In an age, where bands are only a few 100 likes away from stardom or 30 mediocre seconds away from being shuffled out of rotation, The Family Chain are a surprisingly old-fashioned band. They believe in not being too cool to say what you mean, in giving a shit, in spilling sweat to make a connection with people and that, through organic growth, success can be achieved. Perhaps, they’re naïve, perhaps they just measure success differently.

George: When we did that show… there was these 3 kids who came up afterwards who were from the same route as me. ‘Man we see you get on the 270 bus, every day.’ Likes and stuff, it does have a big impact but, at the same time, I’d much rather make a human connection with someone.

An evening with Spy From Moscow

“So if that’s Ireland”, his fingers trace the shape of the glass, “and there’s Dublin, and there’s Belfast, then I’m from just here, in the North, but on the border.” Declan Feenan, better known as Spy From Moscow, leans across the table and gathers the half-full pint in his hand, his smile already on the edge of laughter.

Much of our conversation with Declan is like this. He’s enthusiastic, warm and completely lacking in any kind of pretention.

We meet downstairs at The Hope & Ruin – the lower part of one of Brighton’s famous music venues, with its broken-down, higgledy-piggledy furniture and band posters pegged to washing lines strung haphazardly across the windows – to discuss all things Spy From Moscow.

“I studied English, just a generic McDonald’s degree, and then I came to London to start a band and ended up writing plays.. and just personal circumstances, I ended up, one day, just deciding I’m gonna do music again… collaborating with other musicians has been more of a thing for me the last few years than sitting in a room with a blank page.. I will get back to it.”

You get the sense from Declan that, while working alone is something he enjoys, currently he finds greater satisfaction in the collaborative process. Either way, beneath the laid-back demeanour, is someone compelled to make art. Lately, he has been working hard on his new single and video, The Priests of London Fields, which is due out in the autumn, and the city clearly has a grip on his heart.

“I landed in London to stay for 6 months and then it was 12 years later. Fell in love with it, fell out of love. Fell in love.. so I’ve stayed ever since.. don’t know if you’ve ever been to London Fields in Hackney? You should go, on a Saturday it’s an interesting place.”

I wonder whether his writing background has an impact on how he approaches music.

“When I listen to music I don’t think about lyrics, I just think about the music.. I’m really keen on capturing atmosphere in a lyric rather than a message. So it’s not what does it means, it’s how does it feel.. I kinda write androgynous lyrics.”

Declan is just back from a European tour and I ask him whether he struggles to balance his music with his day job (working for a housing charity in London).  “It’s quite easy” he responds, shrugging his shoulders. “You’ve gotta have the skills to pay the bills.”




Upstairs, The Hope & Ruin is a dark and dingy sweatbox, stripped of all excess and hungry for music. It has fantastic sound, and as Declan’s guitar roars into life, reverberating across the room, there is a rugged intimacy between artist and audience.

Tonight is a stripped back show for Spy from Moscow, so it’s just Declan with a guitar and a bunch of pedals cracking out some fucking songs – as he would put it. For 45 minutes, he is imperious, the fragile, raw beauty of his voice punctuated by surging, angry guitar noise. There is a necessary intensity to his music which is only accentuated by the location.

He’s a restless, mesmeric force, always trying to get closer to the sound he hears in his head. This isn’t about the size of the band – though he admits he’d like to have the resources to do something superbig”, but about how it feels.

 “I’m more about capturing atmosphere and a feeling than telling somebody how to vote. I think that’s a wasted journey as a musician.. There’s an emotional landscape that you can explore.”

You can buy the Little War EP by Spy From Moscow here.

And he’ll be in Brighton playing at The Gladstone on 6th July. 



Down The Rabbit Hole, Part 1

quiff2The weekend is a broken ornament, a beautiful twisted relic lying fractured on the floor, glistening in the early summer sun. I stagger as I lean down to pick through the myriad pieces – the rabbit hole; the headphone dancers; the Strang man; the sunken wreck; the land time forgot; the synthetic dream; the funfair; and the rolling stone – because I’m bewitched.

It’s early Friday evening when we stumble into the Alice in Wonderland bar, the rush of alcohol washing us down the rabbit hole and out onto the street with an awkward step. Our guides await us, a stylish mess standing in that graceful, honest way that only the young and reckless can manage, like rocks sliding down a deserted hillside.

It’s a warm evening, the air fragrant with the hypnotic scent of freshly bloomed flowers and freshly smoked marijuana. People throng around us, a clash of festivals – music and theatre – belching forth an eclectic brand of modern madness. A congregation mill around us, giant lanyards strung around their necks so that they resemble oversized children with a day pass to the theme park. A man on stilts tiptoes between them making regular, ovoid laps, his head bouncing back and forth like a jack in the box, his smile a sea of teeth. A band of brave dancers tear through the centre, headphones pinned to their ears as they swagger and sway to a song no one else can hear. Our senses buckle but hold and we are transported.

The shop, built to hold 15, already holds 50 and as the band gather behind a hastily assembled stack of speakers, more push through until we are a mass of heat and sweat and spilt lager barely a hand’s width away from the men from Madrid. The drummer, yellow cape cascading down his back, counts a beat, the guitar roars into life and we explode, a spiralling corkscrew of expectant energy. At the heart of it, one of our guides conducts the chaos, bouncing and buffeting but immovable, the room pivoting around him. The Parrots adore us as much as we adore them, their crazed brand of 60’s punk-pop psychedelia is a deafening roar overwhelming and empowering us all.

20 minutes pass as if time were racing against itself and, suddenly, we stand briefly alone and forlorn until a DJ presses the needle to a 7 inch. Beguiled, we consider asking him for the name of the song, instead reaching for our phones and then, Shazam! We are away again.

We drop anchor at a crowded bar, a swell of distracted chatter obstructing any path to the bar. In the far corner a fairly decent band are broadly ignored. Someone needs to take charge of this menagerie before momentum is lost. We need a Strang man. He emerges from the side, skinny and wilful, powering his way to the front, and we follow in his wake. There is a restless buzz to Kane Strang’s music, his artful 90’s DIY pop a mask worn to obscure the doubts and fears that are strewn within his lyrics.

Outside, we cast the stragglers onto a passing truck as it pauses to recruit. In the gathering night, glowsticks twist leaving an echo of colour in the air, bass thumps through our bodies and many are drawn away to a brighter, noisier future.

We stagger and smoke, somnambulant as we await the call. Sound reverberates from the depths, a forgotten wind whispering and whistling in the distance, the press of a single ivory rising above the quiet cacophony as if from a long forgotten piano in the bar of some sunken wreck. Our guides return to lead us by the hand, plunging downward towards the seductive melancholy until we are submerged, happy to never to return.

Matt Maltese’s vocals are dark and heady. His lyrics, visceral and harsh. His music, warm like the barrel of a fired gun. He is where we end part one.

Cobbled Together


There is a great line in Julian Barne’s The Sense of An Ending, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” In life we narrate our personal history to new friends and share it with old friends.

I tell you this because two days ago I was explaining someone about the first time that I saw Pavement, at V Festival some 22 years ago. At the time, I was young and uneducated in the ways of music and I only went to the festival to see Blur headline. I have particularly strong memories of this day as I went to the festival by myself taking a coach and spending the day wandering around with 50,000 strangers, alone but happy. It was my first, real musical odyssey.

I’d heard one Pavement song (the sly, cutting ramble of Shady Lane which I had picked up on promo from a record fare) beforehand and was aware that Graham Coxon liked them so went to see what it was all about. They played in the summer sun and, unsurprisingly in hindsight, were considerably better than Space who came on afterwards.

Except that, that verifiable sources tell me this is not true. The V festival that I went to was actually two years later, which means I wasn’t young and uneducated in the ways of music. In fact, I’d already spent a year haunting the DJ booths at university,  chasing new music and wanting to know everything about everything played in a now all-too familiar way.

Pavement wouldn’t have been a mystery to me. By this point Brighten The Corners adorned my CD collection like a badge of alternative slacker honour. It also means that there’s absolutely no way Space were at that music festival (thankfully) and it’s unlikely that it was my first musical odyssey, it’s just the one that I unclearly remember.

Still, it’s important to me because I fell in love with Pavement that day. Their loose idle, waywardness hiding a subtle brilliance in both song structure and lyrical wit. They lolled around the stage being magnificent and became the first band that I truly wanted to be in. I’d see them twice again after that but this was the moment.

So I’m blessed that tonight a number of excellent bands are gathering in Brighton to  pay homage to Pavement. If you’re  in the vicinity you should come down and check out Can Shaker Pi, Fur and The Geisha Girls. This is bound to be an evening of thrills, spills and serious musical joy.

In the meantime, join the discussion on the Skewed Quiff Facebook page where we’ll be sharing our top 3 Pavement tracks and talking to some of the bands about their favourite tracks.



Dark side of the tune

It’s not exactly profound to suggest that there is a link between the quality of art produced and the state of the world. Yes, art requires funding and support and education and people to have enough time and money to both enjoy it and pay for enjoying it. And, yes, there is a point at which art becomes basically impossible for people because they have neither the time or resources to make or enjoy it. However, it’s also true that some of the greatest art comes from some of the most difficult times. That for many artists struggle is an important part of their process. That it’s how they find their voice. Every protest needs an anthem.

In music, you can look at the folk and blues that came out of dustbowl, depression era America, or the rise of punk and new wave from the industrial meltdown of late 70’s and early 80’s England. To me, it feels like the last year has resonated in a similar way to those times.

The rise of far right, nationalistic, xenophobic politics magnified through the prism of Brexit and Trump. The never-ending crises of war, poverty and famine leading to an explosion of  refugees who are seemingly to blame for having nowhere safe to call home. The continual failings of modern capitalism to balance individual freedom with societal responsibility leaving meritocracy as a fading dream. And all this punctuated by moments of terror about which we must show no fear, because to do so would be to give the criminals that enact these horrors exactly what they want.

Meanwhile the music has got better and harder and more honest. In the States, alternate hip-hop – led by a vanguard of YG and the returning A Tribe Called Quest – has found it’s voice again. Musically, the spectrum is as broad as it’s ever been and the beats as strong. Lyrically, there is a new-found vigour. No one is going quietly into the night.

KXNG Crooked’s Alternative Facts seems almost whimsical at first. Over a lackadaisical beat you’re encouraged to lie to your girlfriend, your boss, the police and your family. And why the hell not? After all, if the President can do it, why shouldn’t you?

The message here is really important. It’s not just about what Trump does, it’s also about what he represents. What does it teach us when the ‘leader of the free world’  thinks it’s not only okay to lie, but also that it’s not a lie if enough people believe it to be true.

Mr Wise’s The Man of Orange is a menacing first person encounter with the mind of Donald Trump. The President’s own words are swallowed whole and spat out again in angry roar. As I learnt to my cost, you shouldn’t listen to this at full volume in your car,  unless you want to give people the wrong impression.

And we haven’t even touched the excellent new tracks by Joey Bada$$ and J. Cole. Maybe, another day, because I can’t get through this blog without mentioning the fantastic ‘Our First 100 Days’. 100 artists, 100 songs, one for each of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. This compilation has been providing fuel to my musical fire for months now and if you haven’t got on board with it, then you should. For a minimum donation of $30 you too can have all these tracks. Not only is this a complete bargain but all the profits go to charities fighting for LGBTQ rights, sensible climate change and immigration policies, and access to safe, objective family planning options. If you haven’t got the point yet, this project  gives me a warm, tingly feeling and that’s before we’ve talked about the music.

Adam Torres is relatively new to me but has been quietly stretching the Americana envelope for a decade now (his 2008 record Nostra Nova, in particular, is really great). Dreamers in America is melancholy and gorgeous:

Nathan Bowles is a fantastic banjo player from Virginia. His track the I In The Silence gently quakes my heart, reminding me a little of Dirty Three in their quieter moments:

I cried when I first heard the Piano Version of Julien Baker’s Good News. Her album from last year, Sprained Ankle, was pretty great but this is a wonderful, if brutal 4 minutes:

Most of these songs appear on  May’s Skewed Quiff. You should listen to it and then go and buy some music.

1 Arabesque by Pronto Mama
2 Different Now by Chastity Belt
3 Mockingbird (w/ Mimikyu) by Luupy
4 Two Of The Lucky Ones by The Droge & Summer Blend
5 Luxury Vintage Rap by Nick Grant
6 Keston Cobblers Club by Almost Home
7 Filthy Boy by Mental Conditions
8 The I In Silence by Nathan Bowles
9 Imagining My Man by Aldous Harding
10 Good News (Piano Version) by Julien Baker
11 Moonfire by Boy & Bear
12 Let The Drums Speak (Dj XS Right Thing Edit) by Bah Samba
13 Walk Don’t Run by Chimney
14 Animals by Laura Gibson
15 High For Hours by J. Cole
16 Hot Thoughts by Spoon
17 Hey Can You Come Out And Play by Megan Sue Hicks
18 Bird by Kelly Lee Owens
19 Permanent by Carla Sagan
20 Vintage Red by Jay Jay Pistolet

1 Do The Whirlwind by Architecture in Helsinki
2 Sparkle (Teck-Zilla Remix) by Camp Lo
3 The Lives Of Elevators (Findspire live session) by Orouni
4 Chance The Dog (The Song) by The Kraken Quartet
5 Predator by Will Johnson
6 The Sea by Eliza Carthy
7 Turncoat by Pickwick
8 Alternative Facts by KXNG Crooked
9 Smoke Of Dreams by Thurston Moore
10 Laminated Cat by Jeff Tweedy
11 Can’t Hold On by Black Lips
12 One More Love song by Mac Demarco
13 The Man of Orange (prod. by Team Demo) by Mister Wise
14 Modern Highway by Luke Abbott
15 Hellhound in The House by Hip Hatchet
16 Halfway Home by Broken Social Scene
17 Caramel Dreams by Blue Movies
18 Just A Dream (Alternate Take) by Bert Jansch
19 Lil Dead Eye-d by Richard Edwards
20 End Of The World by Sharon Van Etten

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