Superstars In The Making
It's the 12th of November, 2018. I'm standing in the dark at Islington's Electrowerkz with maybe 50 other people. We're there to see Another Sky.
Within the intimacy of that gig, the sheer talent of this London four piece was obvious to see in that dry-ice-dream-sequence-of-a-venue, and watching the band progress over the past two years has been nothing short of inspiring. This is a group that balances a musical combination that so few artists even begin to attempt, but Another Sky have mastered producing excellent music with a consistently powerful message. With this quartet, not only do you hear perfectly sparse and mysterious instrumentation behind the immediately recognisable tone of lead singer Catrin Vincent, but you are also confronted by one of the most confidently potent political lyricists currently writing music in the United Kingdom.
'Brave Face' is gratifyingly not a single that bucks the trend of Vincent's desire to challenge perceptions of gender and political power imbalances in the 21st century. Much like the phenomenal 'Chillers', the excellent 'Avalanche' and the brilliant 'The Cracks', Another Sky's newest single fights against concepts of femininity and passivity, striking back at constrictive societal pressures with a viscous self-assurance that is all the more impressive considering how this young band are still yet to release their first LP.
'Brave Face' slides its listeners in with a slowly expanding sonic palette, emerging with splashes of hi-hat and rippling guitar textures, all lapping against Vincent's opening salvo:
You build upon the ground you were taken from
To be robbed again
Silence won't pay cash in hand"
The tune expands behind Max Doohan's drums, Naomi Le Dune's bass and Jack Gilbert's effects-wet guitar. This is going to be an excellent song to be in the room for, as the sparse introduction makes way for a thumping manifesto of Another Sky's musical direction. Compared to the (still fantastic) previous single 'Capable of Love', Another Sky's newest single is far more in-tune with the 'traditional' style of the band that emerged with 2018's debut EP Forget Yourself. Though 'Capable of Love' showed a much-needed flexibility to the band's sound, it is rewarding with this newest single to hear Another Sky continuing to create music close to their signature sound.
As stated in an interview with Dork, the inspiration for 'Brave Face' revolves around conceptions of 'bravery' and a 'brave face' in the context of gender performance and misguided ideas that courage is a specifically masculine activity.
'Brave face' was written for a friend, inspired by something an ex said to me about toughening up, something that loosely translated as pretending nothing was wrong. I guess he felt I shouldn't ask for help because he'd been taught not to ask himself. When I started standing up for myself more and asked for what I actually wanted, he told me I'd changed. It seemed like a big double standard. So with this song, I wanted to question the meaning of a 'brave face'. Bravery isn't acting masculine; bravery is multifaceted.
You can break down one day and put on your brave face the next, and it doesn't change who you are. You don't gain masculinity by being stoic, just like you don't lose femininity by standing up for yourself. They're not related.
The lyrical maturity that Catrin Vincent repeatedly demonstrated throughout the (already fantastic) discography of the Goldsmith's foursome exceeds many bands decades their senior. The fact that the music of Another Sky not only takes on social issues and political injustices in their songwriting, but that they reliably excel in disassembling those massive concepts is downright outstanding for such a young band. Combining serious societal messaging and commercial success is not often something we see fused together in the world of UK indie rock, and if we do see it, it is certainly not seen enough.
Vincent's lyricism is excellent from start to finish. Blasting "You were a lighthouse / Illuminating all that surrounded you" demonstrates how much creativity the frontwoman has to offer. But this songwriting isn't 'just' political thought; this is expertly crafted lyricism enveloped by brilliant music. Another Sky aren't going to be taking one single step backwards: treat this as a statement of intent before their upcoming debut album.
'Brave Face' is the best track of the month, and if this band keeps their momentum going, do not be surprised to see their first LP receiving plenty of awards from us here at Slow Motion Panic Masters over 2020. Amazing song. Amazing band.
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See them live in Cardiff at Clwb Ifor Bach on April 15
Listen to 'Brave Face' here
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Ben Wheadon is editor and founder of Slow Motion Panic Masters. He is a Welsh musician and English Literature student at King's College, London and he should be writing a dissertation instead of creating a blog.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.