Art is hard, life is harder, but that’s no secret. We got invited to Art is Hard Records 8th birthday bash, this is what we saw.
It takes certain people a lifetime to find their passion, others don’t get that lucky in finding something that they’re willing to put countless hours into without reaping any type of financial reward from, and a lucky few get to live their dream despite how long it’s taken them to work themselves into that position.
The fact is, there are certain institutions existing today that offer hope to others, they provide a platform, a purpose, and build upon the sometimes strange yet incredibly creative musical visions of others in an attempt to somewhat balance the stream of lifeless sound that occupies our radio stations, workplaces, shopping malls and in some cases our homes. Money should have no place in art, and true artistic direction shouldn’t be swayed by money, therefore art is hard.
Set to a rainy backdrop of a bank holiday weekend in London, The Victoria in Dalston provides a fitting setting for Bristol-based label Art is Hard Records eighth birthday. Chiselling against the grain of current music industry characteristics, Art is Hard started as an independent record label, and now, eight years down the line find themselves with an impressive backlog of releases and sonic ideals.
On the night in question, we were joined by some of the finest shining lights of new music, the odd and excellent Garden Centre, the true air to rough-edged indie pop Lazy Day, Lou Reed’s true bloodline The Golden Dregs, melodic-pop specialists The Death Of Pop, special guests Viewfinder and headlining on the night Penelope Isles, a true and honest musical force that have the potential to conquer the hearts of music fans over the globe.
Garden Centre offer up a beautifully distorted vision of pop, see new single Wheelie as an example of this. An air of freedom surrounds the songwriting and live stage presence of Garden Centre which isn’t offered up so liberally elsewhere in new music, fuzzy-guitarplay takes centre stage and plays off otherworldly synth-work creating a brand of wonky, guitar driven-pop that takes you out of your comfort zone and throws you into next week.
It’s no secret that we have a lot of love for Lazy Day, their recent single Weird Cool is as good a pop song as anything released this year, rough around the edges, and spearheaded with emotionally-torn vocals that leave you in a wreck. The band’s headline show at Moth Club in March was a signal of how much love people have for their sound, and an upcoming tour with south London’s Childcare should cement them as one of next year’s best new prospects.
The Golden Dregs have just released a full-length record in Lafayette, an excellent record and the project of Benjamin Woods, who cut his teeth playing live in Falmouth. Live, the band hark back to 70’s Americana and revel in ramshackle rock and roll, the deep, husky vocals that underpin the band’s sound leave you sinking into a deep red sunset somewhere off the grid, in the states forty-odd years ago, but this new take on an old sound sounds fresh, and ever so groovy.
The Death Of Pop‘s intricate brand of sun-kissed dream pop shone bright on the night, with tracks from their March EP Heads West standing out like fresh air in a summer heatwave. The crystal clear pop shock of 700 Spas, the band’s love of a psych-tinged pop groove and an incredibly overwhelming outro to their set more than matched their recorded material. This is what the charts should be full of.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the romance surrounding the music of the night’s headliners Penelope Isles, their debut record Comfortably Swell is a joyous affair, soft and touching in parts and harder-edged in others, with floating harmonies gliding over it all. Dip into their track Round for just a minute and get taken away by the magnetic soundscape they create as a band.
The Brighton-based four-piece have put in the hard yards, this is no secret, and it comes across in their live performance, they are as comfortable in the more broken down moments of their set as they are in building a wall of noise and blowing away any unsuspecting observers. As the band roll into a slow burning and hypnotic krautrock rhythm at the end of their set, you feel the full power of Penelope Isles as a band in their true prime. The sort of approach to music and personality that we should all rally behind.
The Death Of Pop – ‘Heads West’ EP – A beautifully contorted vision of pop.
The Golden Dregs – ‘Adaptation’ – Scuzzy, blues-addled art-rock with a primitive stop.
By Karl Johnson