Rad Releases 20 – King Hannah
It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2020 rapidly approaches and we quickly want to move away from this year- we take a personal look back on familiar names, labels, promoters, and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a challenging year for all, the one constant has been how artists and their labels have adapted and produced some of the best records of our time and it’s those releases that have the audience has depended on to get them through the year.
This year the Rad Releases special celebrates 10 years, to mark the decade-long feature we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have kept them going throughout this trying year. Telling us how they’ve adapted, if they’ve returned to a loved record and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Our next takeover comes from our favourite discovery of this year, we seriously urge everyone to checkout out King Hannah and their debut EP
Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine’ which was released at the end of November via City Slang. The Liverpool band led by the creative force of Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle are easily one of the most compelling new outfits of our time and their EP will certainly feature heavily on other end-of-year lists. We are delighted to handover to both Hannah and Craig to find out more about their year in music…
Hannah & Craig –
(In no particular order)
1. Bill Callahan – Gold Record
Probably our favourite release of the year. Callahan is up there with the very best of them, his songs always have so much truth and humour and warmth to them and Gold Record is no different. We’ve been listening to a lot of his back catalogue over lockdown as well, from Smog to the present day; he has made some of our favourite music ever.
2. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King
Jeff Tweedy is such a wonderful singer and songwriter and we actually prefer his solo efforts to those with Wilco. He manages to capture some small spark of magic in his songs, and his humanity and all of his flaws flow from every part of this record. There is a great conversation between Tweedy and the author George Saunders on YouTube that will reaffirm your love for life.
3. Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
Whole New Mess is essentially the skeletons of songs that ended up on her 2019 album All Mirrors, but I think it was recorded beforehand. I loved All Mirrors but it made me miss Olsen’s earlier records that were a lot more raw and intimate, and this album nails that. Olsen has this gift of nostalgia in her songs and voice that just breaks me.
4. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
This album has some tracks that could turn up on old classic Bruce albums and not feel out of place, which takes some doing. It’s Bruce back with the E Street Band doing what he does best. The fact it was recorded mostly live in a week or so really helps get that live energetic Springsteen sound. Long live The Boss.
5. We couldn’t decide on one to take the last place, so we’ll cheat and say we loved the latest releases by Cut Worms, Freddie Gibbs, Tenci, Jason Molina, Kevin Morby, Stephen Malkmus, Nils Frahm, Lomelda and Kurt Vile.
The best show you have played this year / gig attended (if you had the opportunity at the start of the year)
Hannah & Craig – The only artist we saw before lockdown kicked in was Angel Olsen at O2 Ritz in Manchester! She and her band were incredible. It’s so strange looking back, knowing that all of this was to come and how much has changed in such a short space of time!
Has there been any record that’s got you through this year?
Hannah – Baillie and The Boys and Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See.
Craig – Smog – Knock Knock. I love everything about this album, from the lightning bolts and cat on the front cover to the backing vocals sung by children on Hit The Ground Running. I think 2020 was the year of Callahan for me. Honourable mentions to Sun Kil Moon – Benji, and Silver Jews – The Natural Bridge.
How have you adapted with releasing/recording/promoting during this year?
Hannah & Craig – Well, we finished recording Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine in our bedrooms and finished mixing it over Zoom with Ted (Producer), which wasn’t ideal but we made it work. For example, the vocals for The Sea Has Stretch Marks and And Then Out Of Nowhere, It Rained were recorded in Craig’s bedroom as were the echoey synths on Bill Tench. We would then send these over to Ted and then we’d mix everything over Zoom together.
Regarding releasing, we’ve only ever put out Crème Brûlée in the past, so we’ve nothing to compare releasing a full EP to! I guess in normal circumstances, we’d be gigging right now, so we’ve just had to utilise social media as much as we can! It’s been good practice!
Best discovery this year?
Hannah – Baillie & The Boys! I very rarely listen to country music but I can’t stop with these guys! I love everything about them, Kathy Baillie’s timeless vocals in particular, her tone is so rare and one you just don’t hear anymore, it reminds me so much of the greats such as Joni Mitchell and Nico, it’s rich yet smooth – I just love it and I love them!
Craig – Probably If Only I Could Remember My Name, which is a solo album by David Crosby from 1971. I obviously knew of Crosby from Crosby, Stills and Nash but it wasn’t until I watched the Cameron Crowe documentary that I learned of this album. It’s got all that 1970’s Californian, drug-infused songwriting and thick and foggy guitars that I love.
As this is our 10th year of Rad Releases, we want to look back on your 10 years- has there been on standout moment/standout record of the past 10years for you?
Hannah – Standout moment without a doubt was getting signed to City Slang and releasing our very first EP! I have to say though that there was something very, very special about releasing Crème Brûlée originally, way before City Slang got in touch, the feeling of knowing that you’d done it all yourself is one that doesn’t compare to anything else and that will stick with us forever.
It’s reallyyyyy tricky to pick one album from the past 10 years as every album holds a special place and from a writing perspective, inspired several new techniques, all of which have lead to now. I do think that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s Lotta Sea Lice was pretty special, but again, that’s very recent and therefore only relevant to recenter times! So many albums have moulded me as a musician – this is a tricky question and pretty impossible to pick just one sorry!!
Craig – It’s so hard to choose just one from the last ten years! Music is strange in the sense that certain albums and artists come along when you need to hear them, so if you asked me this question five years ago, or even five months ago my answers would be very different. But right now, looking back at ten years of music, the ones that stick out our Lost In The Dream by The War on Drugs and Benji by Sun Kil Moon.
Lost In The Dream really influenced the way I thought about music and opened my eyes to what it was possible to do sonically with what are essentially very simple songs if you strip them back. I used to fall asleep listening to random Spotify playlists in bed after I finished night shifts in the bar I was working in and I remember ‘Suffering’ coming on and it was a real moment for me. I was trying to force myself to discover new music and reignite my curiosity and here was a band that sounded like Springsteen and Dylan but much more guitar driven and ambient.
Benji is one I came to years after it was released. I have a good friend called Luis who has introduced me to so many bands I never knew existed and that I now love, and this album was another of his recommendations. The stream-of-consciousness writing style and the nylon stringed guitar arrangements are beautiful and sparse and haunting. It’s essentially soul-baring poetry, nothing is off limits. Again, this album opened my eyes to what could be done within songwriting, and that you shouldn’t limit or censor yourself lyrically or musically.
Artist/Band to watch for 2021
Craig – Not sure how new or undiscovered this person has to be but I absolutely loved Tenci’s debut album, My Heart Is An Open Field and can’t wait to see what she does next.
Plans for the New Year
Hannah & Craig – We’re making an album so our aim is to make the best one we can, that’s what aaaalll our focus is going into!
Thank you both! Excited for an album but will keep the EP spinning until then.