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The Friday Dispatch
Poppy, Angie McMahon, Hinako Omori, Petey, and the Beastie Boys
There are many definitions of the word “zigzag,” like “a line or course having abrupt alternate right and left turns” or “veering alternately to right and left.” Any artist will note the growth between album cycles, but not many can boast the same sharp, drastic shifts that Poppy does with every new release and chapter of her story.
“Zig is a continuation of exploring the unexplored for me up until the point that it was created,” she tells me. “I always lead by interests. If it's interesting to me, I want to do it. And that's where it starts and stops.” The name came first, coming to her as she was leaving her last record Flux behind. “Those titles are cousins in a way. I just love the way ‘zig’ looks on a page — it’s one side of something, a zigzag. I do write to words often. In the wild, if somebody says something or I'm reading a book and I see something and I deem it attractive. I will write it down and go from there.”
Shedding her skin and becoming something new entirely is the one constant thing fans can expect from the artist. In 2021, she became the first solo woman to be nominated for Best Metal Performance for her album I Disagree, which came out at the start of 2020. Never fearful of exploring new territories, she, again, changed things up for Flux, a year later. Her punk rock approach gave way to a new organic way of working – recording everything live, a stark contrast to the metal sounds that tied together the rest of discography. For Poppy, it’s not so much about reinventing oneself with every release but more about needing to explore every nook and cranny in her mind, write about it, and leave it behind. With that DNA woven through every album and release thus far, she’s been able to touch on different angles and styles of music — sickly sweet pop, new wave, hardcore metal, and beyond.
Zig was recorded in Los Angeles with longtime collaborator Simon Wilcox and producer Ali Payami. For the record, Poppy worked across four different journals that were organised for different ideas, something she’d lean on and revisit as a means to stay curious. Rather than writing on her Notes app or on a Word doc on her computer, writing in her journal helps her “see the ideas scratched out.” Doing so provides her with a tangible place for her to physically mark up, scratch things out, and make notes to herself as a way to “see things develop” through the recording process.
“I love really cute stationery,” she says. “Sometimes when I get a new journal, I intend for it to be about one thing but then it all kind of goes together. I try to keep it organised, but I'm constantly writing things down — stream-of-consciousness things, like thoughts and ideas. I even cut out pictures and things that make me happy and put them in my journals, sometimes they're more like a collage. I have multiple journals for different records that I hold onto.”
Zig is out on October 27. Read the full interview now over on Best Fit.
Within the first moments of conversation with Angie McMahon, she references the Chinese philosophy of yin-yang. At first, the allusion feels like a passing remark with an air of poeticism – it’s 8pm on a rainy evening in Melbourne where McMahon lives, whilst the working day has just begun in sunny London. As our conversation deepens, the philosophy of complimentary forces maintaining the harmony of the universe, and influencing everything within in, comes around time and time again.
McMahon wasn’t always a spiritual person. She reveals that she was brought up in a Catholic household, but no longer practises religion. “There’s a big gap in my life in-between me understanding that I didn’t feel good in the Catholic church, to now, where I feel like nature is God and I have so much belief in it,” she explains. “I don’t really know what I believed in – I know I believed in music, but I didn’t really have something to put my trust in.”
So how do we begin to shed light on the shadow parts of McMahon’s faith system? At what point did McMahon go from believing in music, to trusting the universe? A lot of these musings were uncovered during her late twenties, as she was experiencing her Saturn return – an astrological coming of age and period of intense transformation where you’re able to reflect and confront your past, with a deeper understanding of how this new perspective will help you navigate your future.
McMahon grew up just outside Melbourne, along the Yarra River. In her early years, she took piano and trumpet lessons, and taught herself how to play guitar. She lived next door to “free-spirited, very encouraging” neighbours who would invite her over to play with their kids, allowing her the freedom to make as much noise as her heart desired. Her tone of voice is warm and you can sense the reverie as she recalls going to group concerts around the age of four. When McMahon describes a photograph of her first ever performance – “I'm quite young, so you can't even see my head sticking out over the keyboard. You can just see my feet dangling off the chair” – she can’t help but laugh. Even if she wasn’t technically big enough at the time, McMahon was a natural.
Because of her early induction into performing music, McMahon has never seen any other route for herself. This is the next step of our foray into the levels of yin-yang, where she finds herself at the crux of two opposing ideas. Music has always been the only thing she has ever set out to do, yet her fear of failing has often been crippling. “I think I understand more now that you can’t have one without the other, as they feed each other,” she tells me. “It’s the thing that has taught me so much along the way: what it is to really love and want something.”
“I’ve just come back from L.A. a few days ago. My astral body’s just about caught up with me,” says Hinako Omori. Having played in Floating Points’ ensemble at the Hollywood Bowl days prior, the ambient artist isn’t attempting to force acclimatisation now back on British soil.
“I feel like if we don’t focus on the time that you’re supposed to be, then it becomes very fluid and just exists in the moment. But then the physical side sometimes catches up with you; it’s a small price to pay for the lovely experiences you have in your travels.”
Omori is no stranger to traversing the globe, her musical career having seen her tour in the bands of EOB, James Bay, KT Tunstall, Georgia, and Kae Tempest. Born in Japan, her family moved to South London when she was a child, with the capital being where she still resides. Each year, she makes the pilgrimage back to the family homeland to visit loved ones during the festive season and reconnect. Such an international upbringing has seen her unique perspective shaped by cultures both East and West.
Humbly soft-spoken, Omori talks to me at her studio surrounded by synthesisers, a conceptual habitat open to uprooting yet where she feels most at home. For Omori, creating music is an intrinsic necessity as opposed to mere pursuit: the creation of stillness, softness..., her latest project, has been a true exploration of self.
“When I write, the music and lyrics come separately for me, and most of the time it comes from experimenting and like a diary of how I’m feeling that day,” she explains. Writing this way and returning to her lyrics has shown Omori what she needed to address within herself. Partly written at her grandmother’s house in Japan, the seamless flow of the album’s tracks is important in showing the narration of what Omori’s brain was processing at the time, with the meaning of her creation only emerging after completion. “It became a mirror for figuring out things I needed to process, and I want to portray the fluidity between our thoughts," she tells me "Maybe then, when you uncover one thought and spend time processing it, it opens doors to other thoughts.”
Three things to get excited about this week
The finale: Next week, The Beatles are taking their final bow. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr announced on Thursday that they had completed the final Beatles track, “Now and Then,” a song started in the late 70s with a home demo by John Lennon and only recently pieced together by the two remaining members. “Now and Then” features the Lennon’s original demo vocals, given to McCartney, Harrison and Starr by his wife Yoko Ono in 1994. While the recording previously couldn’t be mixed into a full track, new technology allowed engineers to separate Lennon’s voice from the original instrumental and embed it into a new arrangement. The track will be released on November 1, accompanied by a 12-minute mini-documentary on the process of making this one last cut.
The podcast: Hosted by Open Mike Eagle, What Had Happened Was takes listeners through the lives, careers, and discographies of some of the most legendary names in rap music. The show devotes not just single episodes but whole seasons to each of its guests, taking the time to intimately dissect their catalogues and unpack their life stories in ways few other shows do. The format alone requires the show to only take on the best of the best, and it has featured to date Dante Ross, El-P, and Prince Paul. Back now for Season 4, What Had Happened Was is currently covering Questlove and his journey in The Roots.
The icon: Released a year ago Saturday, documentary film Black & Blues presents a definitive, revealing, and thought-provoking look at the career of jazz master Louis Armstrong. The film explores not just Armstrong’s insurmountable and unparalleled influence on American music and rise to stardom but also Armstrong’s place as a political leader in the Civil Rights movement. If you haven’t caught it yet, be sure to go back and catch it on the anniversary of its release.
Something Old, Something New
Every week, one of our writers or editors share their recommendations of two records they love - one from the past, one from the present. This week, Steven Loftin on Beastie Boys’ The In Sound From Way Out (1996) and Petey’s USA (2023).
When I work or write, I prefer instrumentals. Ordinarily, I turn to dance/electronic artists, but then I found Beastie Boys' compilation of composed and performed jazz/funk instrumentals. Predominantly stripped from Check Your Head and Ill Communication, The In Sound From Way Out is a collection of sweet and salty cuts, the perfect companion to any mood, putting the right amount of cheeky swagger and attitude without letting its icy-cool grip up. Showcasing the joyously playful and experimental nature of the trio, you'd be hard-pressed to find any issue bar it never quite feeling long enough. In the fleeting moments, you can hear the trio in-studio which turns this compilation into a poignant but celebratory reminder of the musical chemistry that glued Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA together. Long live the Beastie Boys, and their eternal musical output.
Have you ever wondered what a therapy session backed by bright synths, and twilight-soaked Midwest emo guitar lines would sound like? If so, here’s Petey. On his major-label debut USA, the TikTok-comedian-turned-songwriter delivers a gut-punch loaded with honest depictions of anxiety, reality, and everything in between. With a penchant for a twinkling melody that just as easily swan dives into a flurry of ferocity as it does float off into the earnest stratosphere, Petey is alarmingly adept at banging out gleefully inane references that somehow become heart-wrenching missives ("‘Cause if you never showed me Bambi / I could breathe instead of panic"). Not many releases this year have emotionally captivated me quite like USA. With each listen a new line carves its way into my heart, bolstered by Petey's stunningly proficient and effective songwriting.
Dropping at midnight every Thursday, follow our 20-track playlist for a taste of the best new music from the most exciting breaking artists.
These are the songs our editors and writers have on repeat right now, taken from the hundreds of tracks released in the last seven days. Leading the selection this week are cuts from yunè pinku, Viji, Ray Laurél, Elle Darlington, ratbag, and coverstar Lip Critic.
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