Making Circles Of Our Own
In an Irish indie-rock sphere that’s already produced its fair share of emo- or punk-adjacent excellence (hi, The Winter Passing), New Pagans might have a bit of a job on their hands. This is actually their second album, following on from an acclaimed debut in 2021, though that served more to waft their name on the breeze than really solidify it. Even with some strong names among their ranks—most notable Cahir O’Doherty, of the perpetually underrated outfits Fighting With Wire and Jetplane Landing—there’s definitely less of a swell powering New Pagans next to their contemporaries, which remains true on Making Circles Of Our Own.
‘Pleasant’ is the most optimal descriptor here, in a softer-focus approach to swirling, big-hearted indie-rock which, in turn, is a bit less explicitly powerful here. It can really feel a bit one-note at times, and even with solid bass volume at its disposal at all times, lacking in some power. That’s clearly what New Pagans are going for as well, as the quicker guitar thrums of Karin Was Not A Rebel and Bigger Homes flit around post-punk in terms of propulsion, only to sink into a more airy, floaty mix. At least it’s still a nice sound though, with some strong clarity to tidy up the rustic edges this sort of indie-rock typically bears. There’s almost a jangle-pop vibe about it, and for something to just sink into, it works fairly well.
It’s accompanied by Lyndsey McDougall’s voice to bring something of a sharper affectation overall, while still being suitably rounded by the production. Again, it’s distilled more into the isolated tones than what’s done with them, though to be fair, that’s the role that McDougall fills naturally anyway. There isn’t a tremendous range in her particular register, but the light and uplifting shimmer is definitely a worthwhile replacement, on an album about the journey to self-assurance that’s captured in mood and texture really well. It’s what New Pagans excel at in their regular form; outside of that, there’s The State Of My Love’s Desires, in which McDougall and O’Doherty come together over lonely guitar and strings for the album standout in every respect.
Granted, it’s most successful as a closer, rather than an endeavour to move consistently forwards towards. In New Pagans’ case, there’s a lot of promise in what they currently have, albeit lacking some extra oomph or flavour to hit the heights it could. Maybe Making Circles Of Our Own won’t have a longstanding impact on its own, but laying down the groundwork for more in the future is certainly a possibility. It’s just that, right now, they could afford said impact to come a bit quicker.
For fans of: The Winter Passing, Muncie Girls, Sprints
‘Making Circles Of Our Own’ by New Pagans is released on 17th February on Big Scary Monsters.
View From The Soyuz
If that sick artwork isn’t giving you at least some hint of what this sounds like, then you might want to go back and revise some basic patterns of sleeve design, son. View From The Soyuz are unquestionably metal, very much in the vein of 2000s American metal and its blend of metalcore with more classic sensibilities. Zero in even further, and you’ll find a band that could’ve spawned from Trivium themselves, such is the blend of metalcore, thrash and melodeath that’s made its way across a solid portion of that band’s output.
The results of that in View From The Soyuz’s hands aren’t bad either, if a bit beholden to their influences. There’s no real way around that though, when this is such a consciously specific weaving of musical threads that becomes more about how well it’s pulled off. The key distinction comes from frontman Masa sticking closer to ground-level metalcore in his screaming technique than any trad-metal boldness. It’s more aggro and gnarled thanks for that, as tracks like Caligula and When My World Collapses rage by without a shred of mercy. Conversely, Sky Burial and Frozen Black factor in some big melodic guitar wails among the crushing weight of everything else, offering little more than some extra spice but the inclusion is felt nevertheless.
Saying that, it’d be nice for View For The Soyuz to embrace that a bit more, if only to pinpoint some of the sharper ideas among what they’re drawing from. The opener Chronostasis has the right idea in its balance between the deluge of breakdowns and something grander, and leaving it as an instrumental to draw more attention to that is a further nice touch. It’s hardly worth docking points for though, given how tightly it’s all brought together for the thrills and aggression to be felt. Even at only five tracks (six if you count the vinyl-exclusive cut Stick In The Mud that’s more of the same again), there’s the feel of something much beefier that Immaculate benefits from greatly.
For a band still on their breakthrough wave, it’s a strong package in all the right places. It’s fittingly aggressive and crunchy, and dips into just enough flavours of variety in metal to not feel as though any more would wear out its welcome fast. For music of this stripe, that’s about all you really want, and an EP swollen with this much confidence to bring it out is a good sight indeed. Dial back on some of the hyperbole in the title and it’s a good indicator of where View From The Soyuz are setting off from—bristling with promise they’re well on course to tap.
For fans of: Trivium, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall
‘Immaculate’ by View From The Soyuz is released on 10th February on DAZE STYLE.
Borne from a period of redundancy (as in, using severance pay this EP) comes Fuzzy Heart, the new project of Modern Rituals bassist Rob Hollamby. On that briefing alone, it’s not hard to get an idea of what this sounds like—post-punk is swapped out for indie-rock, particularly the sort that leans into its ramshackle, homespun, immensely small-scale nature. In other words, the kind you’ve heard before. But don’t see that as an excuse to dismiss this on the spot, because as the project’s name suggests, the warmth and humility of a release like this feels rather high above the usual bar.
It could also be because Hollamby is a far better writer than your average indie-rock chancer. Here, he specialises in vignettes from the perspective of the workaday everyman, each loaded with the most immaculate of detail but perfectly universal at the same time. Around the central nucleus of work, WFH, Listening To Smog is about succumbing to the drudgery of unfulfilling routine, while Ernesto Plays Guitar and the title track seek to capture moments of release and passion away from it all. It’s all told in the conversational but deftly poetic style you’d expect when The Weakerthans are such a vocal influence. Especially on the closer From A Thameslink Luggage Rack—playing out as the narrator ripped from grace into redundancy contemplated on the last train home—the intricacy and poignancy are really what sells this.
That’s kind of how these projects work, at the end of the day. You don’t go into indie-rock like this not expecting straggly threads at the edges or a sound that probably started off being bashed out on an acoustic in someone’s living room; it’s just part of the deal. And despite Hollamby being a generously limited singer (and when he approaches some bigger, higher notes, it’s hard to even be generous), it all feels right. It can be surprisingly dynamic sometimes, in the ebb and flow of Full Of Stars or how the circular trundle of WFH, Listening To Smog is rather far removed sonically from anything else here. Really though, Legendary Parties is best when tapping into unfettered human emotion, on both ends of the spectrum. The title track bristles with exuberance and twinkling eyes throughout; meanwhile, From A Thameslink Luggage Rack is suitably winsome and melancholy as it drifts into the sunset.
Even for a release that feels rather commonplace in its intentions, Hollamby just has a way of going about it that sets his work significantly apart. It can be an easy sell in the right mood anyway, but genuinely excellent writing and a well-utilised sound and style gives Legendary Parties a shot of longevity that most of these don’t have. It’s not a throwaway, nor does it try to emphasise their scrabbled-together feel. Most that do end up tangled there before the music can leave any impact, and with Fuzzy Heart, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
For fans of: The Weakerthans, The Hold Steady, The Thermals
‘Legendary Parties’ by Fuzzy Heart is released on 10th February.
Words by Luke Nuttall