Still House Plants: If I Don’t Make It, I Love U review – inspiringly fearless and free art rock

Estimated read time 2 min read

From the album title onwards, unstoppably ardent feeling fills this awe-inspiring album from the British art-rock trio, whose music swells your heart and fizzes your mind. Creeping ever further out of the underground since forming at Glasgow School of Art in 2015, you’d need a whiteboard to triangulate the various acts that come to mind listening to them – Bill Orcutt, This Heat, Tirzah, Zach Hill, Labradford; free improv, neo-soul, slowcore, post-rock, boom-bap hip-hop. But they wriggle free of comparisons, remarkable given they’re working with a simple, mostly unadorned vocals-drums-guitar setup.

Still House Plants: if I don’t make it, I love you album artworkView image in fullscreen

David Kennedy’s drumming is riveting, both finicky and louche as he sways through Dilla-time funkiness and math-rock detail. Guitarist Finlay Clark is in some ways a minimalist, repeating pretty riffs or expertly chosen chords, but there’s nothing minimal about his generous playing – he fills up the songs without lazy application of echo or reverb, and occasionally complements Kennedy with percussive playing of his own.

Most astonishing of all is Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach, singing with more power and confidence than ever before. Her luminously soulful voice is a distinctive instrument, with vibrato that makes whole songs shudder with life. From her melted-siren melody on MMM to the larynx-flexing motifs on Silver Grit Passes Thru My Teeth, she’s doing things that wouldn’t even occur to other singers; it’s gripping to hear someone put absolute faith in the power of expression without irony or fear. Still House Plants are the most vital band in Britain today, in every sense, and we will be blessed indeed if we get a better album from these shores all year.


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