The Baltic’s biggest party has announced its line-up for this year’s May event! SOUND CITY is a staple of Liverpool music calendar, bringing together various strands of the music industry in one thrilling long weekend. Festival favourites FRIENDLY FIRES bringing a Technicolor riot to the top of the bill, their first Liverpool appearance in over a decade and their only show in the North West in 2020. The trio’s joyous funk synth sound is a perfect counter to fellow festival headliners PALE WAVES, the goth grunge stars who have had a remarkable 18 months. The two headliners represent different stands of British music, separated by a decade of great musical flux which Sound City has been around to document. Friendly Fires’ debut, self-titled LP was released in 2008, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2009; Pale Waves’ first album, My Mind Makes Noises, came out in 2018, after the Manchester-based were named in the BBC Sound Of 2018 poll.
16 stages will be crammed into the streets and venues of the Baltic Triangle between 1st and 3rd May, with Sound City’s trademark essence of discovery thoroughly baked into the line-up. One of the joys of the festival is not going who a lot of the artists are when readying to enter the fray, and coming out the other side with some great new finds. It is also a great showcase for the city’s emerging artists, who get to showcase their wares to bigger audiences and alongside the artists who they’re looking to emulate. SPQR, THE MYSTERINES, SPINN and MONKS are all artists on the up, and it will come as no surprise if any of these appear higher on the bill in future editions of the city.
Brian Christinzio’s BC CAMPLIGHT brings an edge of noir indie to proceedings, and SPECTOR make an artful return to the city. Sound City fave TIM BURGESS makes the journey down the East Lancs again, while THE BLINDERS, THE SNUTS and THE LATHUMS will bring smiles to the crowds over the Bank Holiday weekend.
With the depth of the line-up as it is, it can be too much to take in all at once. So, to make it easier for you to work out your ‘path of greatest discovery’ (tickets on sale now at soundcityuk.com) through the festival this year, here are a few of our highlights.
Multi-instrumentalist MARIKA HACKMAN rightly appears high up the bill on this year’s line-up, having released one of the albums of 2019 in Any Human Friend (Sub Pop). A daring and honest performer operating at the cutting edge of confessional indie rock, Hackman is a modern PJ Harvey for Generation X. Her strident lyricism is at times provocative and deeply touching, marking her out as a truly unique songwriter who shows little respect for genre conformity.
Working Men’s Club
WMC’s angular post-punk was one of the more thrilling things to emerge from the new wave of savvy guitar rock in the UK last year. That they did this with only two releases is pretty impressive. Bad Blood grabbed the attention with its Wire-esque buzzsaw fizz, but it was Teeth that really showed the world that Working Men’s Club were more than ‘just another guitar band’. It also showed the audiences of sweaty fans who flocked to see them that post-punk rock could also be dancefloor material.
Mr Ben And The Bens
Ben Hall is the titular Mr Ben in this Lancastrian quartet, and has been self releasing music since 2010. Along with fellow Bens (not all called Ben, sadly), he released a number of EPs and singles in 2017 and 2018, before truly hitting a stride in 2019 with the fabulous Nova Scotia single, followed by a debut album, Who Knows Jenny Jones?, on Bingo Records. Fans of Belle & Sebastian and Gorky’s will find plenty to enjoy in their knowing indie ditties – and those who aren’t yet fans will find plenty of fun in the group’s sunny, psychedelia-tinged pop.
Following in the best traditions of rollicking guitar punk from the region, COURTING bring a jagged edge to their take on post-punk fun. The freewheeling Not Yr Man contains one of the most underrated lines of the year (“Let me be your Northern Rail, I wanna let you down”), while the frantic Football pokes fun at the best of British life, all in good jest. “It’s all part of the plan, don’t you understand?”
In August 2019, Huw Stephens praised the “rise and rise of Welsh pop” on his BBC Radio 6 Music show, and SEAZOO are part of what the respected DJ is talking about. The five-piece were nominated for the Welsh Music Prize (founded by Stephens) in 2018, and have carved a reputation for themselves as an exuberant live act. They’ve taken their Yo La Tengo-meets-Grandaddy indie-pop stylings to festivals Green Man, Festival No. 6 and The Great Escape, so their appearance at Sound City this year is completing a set of sorts.
There aren’t enough harps in pop music, and DIVING STATION make a good case that there should be more. Anna McLuskie’s clàrsach (a Celtic harp) is one part of what makes the four-piece’s dream-pop sound so engaging, however, with very detailed arrangements aided by poignant and intelligent lyricism. Fans of music as disparate as Teleman, Big Thief and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart will all find something to love here.
Sound City takes place across various venues in the Baltic Triangle between 1st and 3rd May. Weekend tickets are on sale now at soundcityuk.com.