Firsts Weekly with Bollards, Minor Conflict, Ephan and more.

Join us for a new music deep dive, expect new names and new sounds as we venture into our first Firsts section of the year.

Words: Karl Johnson | Photo: Mars Washington

January arrives with new ideas, new music and new uncertainty for many. What we know so far is, 2022 is going to be a whole lot better than last year generally speaking, it can’t be worse after all. January is the month of all the magazine showcase gigs, the month of optimistic new sounds creeping into reviews and everyone and their mother announcing their EP’s and albums for the first chapter of the year – namely Yard Act, Silverbacks, Noon Garden and Los Bitchos on the album front. Anyway, to the music..

‘Plate Up’

Like a bolt out the blue, the debut single by art rock quartet Bollards has an immediate intrigue – shimmering guitars, a buoyant synth rhythm and a deep groove that’s so easy to lose yourself in. ‘Plate Up’ is a journey of groove and momentum, each instrument patiently holds its own as the momentum builds into a funk-induced, dance-ready frenzy, before breaking down into almost silence and building again. The music video of divers, astronauts and all-around pleasure-seekers fits the track perfectly, the London quartet twist the mundane and turn it on its head. Their debut EP ‘Harbour Dance’ arrives January 28th, with a launch show at East London’s Strongrooms on the same night.

Minor Conflict
‘Office Block’ (Slow Dance)

As part of Slow Dance’s 2022′ compilation we are introduced to Minor Conflict. ‘Office Block’ moves between the eerie and the industrial, opening with a noise-based and gloriously operatic intro which fuses seamlessly into a bass-driven art rock paradise. Two vocal personalities move back to front in a call and response routine, adding to the experimental layout of the sound and bringing forth a new set of ideas to the table. Lyrically the track offers a lot of intrigue, bringing a softly-delivered poetism to the ignored world that surrounds us everyday – haunting in its most minimal moments and instrumentally combative in others, Minor Conflict bring their ‘Office Block’ alive.

‘Lottery Tickets’

Everybody is after a big win, that moment when you quit your job and tell your manager what you’ve always thought of them (by email). Ephan offer coverage of what life is like around the purchase of these very tickets, the excitement and the torment. In amongst the snaking bass grooves that wrap around your knees, angular guitar shapes cut between the groove and offer one of the hardest instrumental struts you’ll hear all week. The track isn’t just all talk either, it offers a dynamism and a velocity which is absolutely infectious, bringing a rigid post-punk backbone with an anthemic chorus to the raw nature of sound – listen closely and you might even hear a xylophone. Note to self, buy a lotto ticket.

Big Softy
‘The Big Man’

Leeds duo Big Softy are a big bag of fun (and influences), within their second-ever single ‘The Big Man’ – which lyrically positions a magnifying glass to the idea of toxic masculinity and the male ego – there’s a rigidity to the groove and a barbed nature to the driving guitar sound. The bass offers an underlying chug and ticks over bringing an internal thrust to the sound, but just over half way through and we’re pushed nose-first into a world of industrial dance/ noise where Big Softy sound incredibly comfortable – before finally bouncing back into the euphoria of the chorus. Not quite a dance-rock band, not quite a post-punk act, Big Softy tread the lines of multiple genres with ease and offer a fresh earworm for the cold months.