I’m glad that Hatchie’s Sugar & Spice EP came into my life in the middle of a heatwave.
Tiny Glasgow venues get this hot all year round I guess, particularly when there’s a cold brewing between the bridge of your nose and the bottom of your lungs – besides, I’d have fallen for this tight-knit collection of dream-pop loveliness regardless. But these songs are of the type that sound best with the car window down, or the bedroom window open.
First single, and tonight’s opener, “Try”, is hazy slice of dream pop that sounds like summer nights, falling in love for the first time and a sort of timeless, disco bliss: an aching “I’ve been barely sleeping” turns to “we’ve been barely sleeping” with a little repetition and a secret smile. There are three guitars and a drum kit on stage, and the bit of me that takes her music writing seriously wonders how that translates into this shimmery, smoke machine haze – but the rest of me can’t get the smile off her face.
Next up is the title track to the EP and it’s perfectly named: a deceptively giddy sugar rush with dagger-tipped lyrics torn from the pages of a teenage diary. There would be something lovelorn about that “you don’t call me baby anymore” in another songwriter’s hands, but Harriette “Hatchie” Pilbeam switches from sugar to spice with a brassy, bassy riff and a smile. Sure, it hurts, but it’s worth it – and it all comes good in the end.
“Bad Guy”, Pilbeam tells us, is her favourite: a swooning, late-night diary entry of a song underpinned by a giddy melody line straight out of Dirty Dancing and the subtlest of backing vocals from guitarist/producer Joe Agius. Small venues rarely get the chance to put on a light show – but the second verse brings darkness, more smoke machine and a slowly turning disco ball, and I sorely feel a lack of somebody to kiss.
The band close their short set with “Sure”, the EP’s catchy opener – because why not – but before that comes Hatchie’s secret weapon. The deceptively-named “Sleep” is their irresistible hidden disco banger, the song you haven’t yet realised is the sound of your summer because you haven’t hit play yet. “Just come see me in my dreams,” Pilbeam sings sweetly, “no wonder I’m smiling in my sleep” – and lord knows, I’m beaming too.
Hatchie’s Heavenly Recordings labelmate Anna Burch might come from half a world away – Detroit to Pilbeam’s Brisbane, Australia – but her deceptively simple, clear-headed pop songs have been making me similarly happy since debut album Quit The Curse landed in my inbox at the start of the year. In fact, the album’s title track tonight is almost Hatchie-like in its uncynically cheerful lovelorn-ness.
(Burch and Pilbeam both have something else in common, in that I hadn’t realised I’d heard and enjoyed each of them in other bands until I actually did some bloody research for this review: Frontier Ruckus and Babaganouj respectively. Let me know if that comes up in a pub quiz, won’t you?)
It’s hard to explain how much I love Burch’s voice without making it sound patronising. It’s clear, tuneful, unshowoffy – like anecdotes in the pub from a friend you had lost touch with, but whose infinitely-more-interesting-than-yours life has been entertaining you on Facebook for years. Oh, and she happens to be dating her drug dealer: the subject of a song, right enough, and one (“Asking 4 a Friend”) with a bridge which perfectly demonstrates what I mean by that.
But it’s slacker-pop love/loathe song “2 Cool 2 Care”, with its happier-than-it-has-any-right-to-be chorus, that remains my gateway drug and keeps me coming back for more. Apt, really, given the delight the song takes in its own resignation.
Anna Burch and Hatchie will both be at The Great Escape, Brighton this coming weekend.
Hatchie has a few London dates coming up, including with our pals at Daylight Music (19th). She plays The Social (16th), Hoxton Bar & Grill (20th) and Sebright Arms (22nd). The Sugar & Spice EP is out on 25th May.