Review: Big Joanie’s Excellent Art-Punk LP ‘Sistahs’
For the last five years, Big Joanie have made waves around London’s indie-rock scene with a sparse sound that echoes PJ Harvey, Joy Division and the Slits, among others. Kathleen Hanna and Iggy Pop have sung their praises, and now their debut album, Sistahs, is coming out via Thurston Moore and art-book editor Eva Prinz’s new Daydream Library Series imprint. It’s their most polished recording to date, and finally you can hear the longing in frontwoman Stephanie Phillips’ lyrics, as she sings about broken friendships (the lilting “Used to Be Friends”), being a black woman with white companions who tokenize them (“Don’t think it really matters anyway,” she sings on the clanging “Token”) and feeling misunderstood (on the girl-group–influenced “How Could You Love Me”). In the past, they’ve covered songs by the Pixies and TLC, but their palate of influences sounds wider than ever on Sistahs, as they ornament lead single “Fall Asleep” and the upbeat “Tell a Lie” with electronica and disco flourishes, and get lost in a drone on the slowcore closer “Cut Your Hair.” Throughout, Phillips’ vocals are reedy and stirring — Her heartache shines through, but so does her hope — and her bandmates, bassist Estella Adeyeri and Chardine Taylor-Stone create cutting backdrops with her for her sentiments. It’s a record that’s bold, catchy and arresting.