Thursday, March 21, 2019

Album Review: Big Joanie - Sistahs

Big Joanie
** out of *****

The trio from London Big Joanie have a light/simple art rock touch which is influenced by 90's alternative, occasionally mixing in a bit harmonies. Stephanie Phillips (singer/guitarist), Estella Adeyeri (bass) and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums) are part of the DIY London scene and their first full length is a restrained document.

"Used To Be Friends" is a good example of this restraint, it calls out through it's lyrics shortness and style for a screaming assault with lyrics like "Now you only call me to hate me" and "I only feel hatred" but the group instead are mellow and hip swinging. The sweet harmonies and minimalist guitar are the opposite of the lyrical content for an odd mix.

That oddness continues with the disco influenced "Fall Asleep" which uses hand claps and an off putting digital break mid song before "Eyes" uses a repetitive riff and what seems like any instruments lying around the studio, recorder, wood block, etc before a mid song break that plays like a scaled down Mazzy Star moment.

Opener "New Year" continues the less is more style with a nod in the Breeders direction and the Deal sisters group are the best comparison for the trio. Odd outings like the snaking "Down Down" and quirky "Token" art piece would not be out of place on an album like Mountain Battles but where the Breeders can get angular, push up the tempo or write a killer tune, Big Joanie stays more reserved on all those fronts.   

The best tracks here are the fuzzy "Way Out" which warbles with simple distortion and the afro punk rhythms which propel "Tell A Lie" forward  while the trio get it's most 50's girl group on the rolling "How Could You Love Me" with it's excellent harmonies and layers of vocals. These tracks show a larger scale to the stripped down primitive style of production and playing. Sparseness is key with the group but when things get amplified things improve.

Putting the blame on an unsatisfactory lover colors a fun twirl through "It's You" while "Cut Your Hair" spices things up a bit with Wurlitzer played by Seth Evans, ending the album with some breathy vocals.  For a first album there are a few interesting spins on Sistahs, but the majority of the songs feel underdeveloped and tame, dour and dull as an overriding theme/mood.
Support the band, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below, and peep some video:

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