Firsts Weekly featuring Gag Salon, Teeth Machine, Grocer and more.

From London to Glasgow to Philadelphia, we sink into the talented underbelly of the underground once more.

Photo: Rosie Alice Wilson | Words: Karl Johnson

Gag Salon
‘Horses’ (Blitzcat)

As debut singles go, they don’t come much more exciting that this in my humble opinion. Between the rumbling and elastic-feel bass sound and the choppy and almost tropical guitar feel, ‘Horses’ by Gag Salon certainly makes itself known. Gag Salon make the sort of jigsaw guitar music that’s hard to pigeonhole (but here we go), sidestepping the revivalist ‘post-punk’ label and riding with equine-swagger into art rock territory, ‘Horses’ is more Late of the Pier than Youth Sector – if that makes sense to you at all. You may recognise some band members from the now sadly defunct Palm Honey, whose impact over the last few years didn’t go unnoticed. Though Gag Salon may fundamentally be a pop group, ‘Horses’ moves with a collective kinetic energy, somewhat dance-fuelled, its experimental ridges perfectly semi-shackled by a love of pop structure.

Teeth Machine
‘Drive By’ (Slow Dance)

The balance of pure muscular instrumental power and an emotive vocal delivery really does the business on ‘Drive By’, the debut single by Teeth Machine released on Slow Dance. The dynamics in the track are outstanding, boasting a delicate and well-worked deep groove and pummelling drum combination, leaving the flowing vocal melodies to move into both personal and introspective space and then pushing for more euphoric territory. Shimmering guitars float in the space above the bass growl, cutting through like shards of broken glass – bringing an unsettling, colder layer to the sound, not dissimilar to the instrumental feel of early cuts by Los Angeles mainstays Warpaint. An incredibly in-depth, raw and exciting debut release.

‘Pick A Way’ (Grind Select)

Philadelphia natives Grocer are gearing up to release their sophomore album ‘Numbers Game’, the first taste is ‘Pick A Way’ – a formidable groove-led and 90’s-leaning alternative rock track that melds a unique vocal delivery with a dark and flowing instrumental undercurrent. The vocal melodies are the lifeblood of the storytelling, bouncing between punchy and off-beat in the verses to smooth and silver-tonged as the chorus arrives. The track itself moves with a seductive calm, the intermeshed bass and drums gather momentum and lock in, cementing the taut groove that underprops ‘Pick A Way’. As the song reaches its last minute Grocer let loose, guitars yelp, shake and thrust as the band’s dreamy and tropical soundscape is replaced by instrumental havoc (it’s a beautiful thing) which feels akin to being caught umbrella-less in a thunderstorm.

Stephen Durkan
‘Prayer’ (Upcycled Sounds)

Stephen Durkan’s vocal delivery and lyricism has a truly magnetic power, on new single ‘Prayer’ – cut from his upcoming debut EP ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves’ – you’ll find yourself completely immersed in the Glaswegian poet/ songwriter’s introspective inner wanderings and gut-punch storytelling. Durkan discusses life’s insecurities and challenges, opens a door to the normally unheard back and forth we have in our own heads – thoughts move from the idea of re-birth, to simulation theory, to relationships, religion and life’s meaning. It might all seem a bit deep, but Durkan has such a way with words that ‘Prayer’ evolves from a moment of having nowhere to turn and searching for a higher power, to a more casual one-to-one conversation with a oneself. Durkan has the ability to transfix the listener, ‘Prayer’ utilises an ambient electronic instrumental backdrop as a cushion to the track’s heavy subject matter.

The Reality TV

Reality TV has returned with another avant-garde banger for the dark-hearted among us, this time in collaboration with producer Magnet Thatcher and featuring new vocalist Becca Bees. Constructed with a rigid drum machine sound, shooting electronic textures and flickers of barbed guitars, ‘Prayer’ feels like an anthem from another universe. The track’s space age electronic feel, alongside the subtle and floating vocal delivery of Becca Bees, leaves the listener in a state of flux, providing a timeless out of body experience. The connection between the 80’s-inspired synth melodies and Bees’ vocal delivery is on point, as both mirror each other before setting off on their own journeys, leaving the reoccurring hooks buried just below the surface. Scratch and you will find stardust within, the Reality TV do it again.