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Gemini Aaliyah artwork, Nilüfer Yanya by Molly Daniel, Sevdaliza artwork

Five on it: Sevdaliza, Nilüfer Yanya and Gemini Aaliyah are part of the WOC guitar music resurgence

Introspection, pondering, or full gurning emotion is what fuels guitar music, and always has. A round-up of new releases from Sevdaliza, Nilüfer Yanya, Gemini Aaliyah, KAINA and Griff x Sigrid.

21 Jan 2022

Rounding up Five on it is always a lot of fun. It’s similar to waking up on a Friday morning to zip straight to New Music Friday (the cult Spotify playlist of that week’s hottest releases, if you’re not acquainted), cherry-picking that week’s best bits and honourable mentions to share is a ritual that leaves me with a sense of joy and satisfaction. 

One thing that struck me when compiling my list this week is the amount of great tracks released by women of colour that are rooted in guitar music. Guitar music is so often the last bastion of the straight white male and indie, rock – you name it – is less often a shoe-in for a person of colour, nevermind a woman of colour. But just as WOC-led bands are on the rise, so too are the axe-wielding individuals – and, rest assured, their tracks are anything but landfill. 

We last waxed lyrical about Nilüfer Yanya towards the end of last year with the anticipated release of her comeback single ‘stabilise’, but new track ‘midnight sun’ switches the fluid-yet-frantic guitar work for a more molten delivery before driving headfirst into static fuzz. Her stoic introspection comes with a detached air, as if what she is now sharing with the world through her upcoming album PAINLESS is something she has long come to terms with. 

There is something about the brief adoption of this crudely amalgamated temporary limb that unlocks the door to spewing all manner of primal emotion upon your willing spectators”

Introspection, pondering, or full gurning emotion is what fuels guitar music, and always has. There is something about the brief adoption of this crudely amalgamated temporary limb that unlocks the door to spewing all manner of primal emotion upon your willing spectators. 

KAINA’s guitars are a vessel for spiky joy and breezy frivolity via her jaunty 70-inspired psychedelia. Sevdaliza’s unprecedented step away from glitchy trip-hop to a more acoustic sound feels practically buoyant in comparison to the imperious darkness of her back catalogue, opening her vocal to a pensive croon in place of intoxicating dirge. Elsewhere, ‘Moonrise’ – the latest by mysterious Leeds talent Gemini Aaliyah – practically drips in new wave, the sound so unequivocal to 80s gothic laments by the likes of The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Echo & the Bunnymen.

Last year’s renaissance of all things pop-punk ushered in WILLOW making good on her mother’s own history in heavy music, pop star Halsey brought Trent Reznor, the progenitor of industrial angst, into the fold for If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, beabadoobee took us back to soaring, scuzzy songs on her Our Extended Play EP. It is interesting to see a sub-genre most recently propelled by bands of white men now be taken back by so many solo women artists of colour. 

More than anything, the guitar resurgence proves that – whatever shade one’s emotion – there is definitely a chord for that. 

Griff x Sigrid – ‘Head On Fire’

Fuelled by not one wunderkind, but two, ‘Heart On Fire’ sees BRIT Award Rising Star winner Griff and BBC Sound of winner Sigrid team up to put their own stamp on the power of friendship. An unabashed Big Pop Banger, the track reflects being so thrown by the force of a bubbling love that “you can’t focus on anything but that one person”. 

Nilüfer Yanya – ‘midnight sun’

London wonder Nilüfer Yanya is slowly gearing up for the release of her anticipated second album PAINLESS, and new single ‘midnight sun’ is the latest to leave us champing at the bit. Last year’s comeback track ‘stabilise’ saw her tackle mundanity and self-salvation, while the lucid yet robust sound of ‘midnight sun’ sees her stubbornly double down on perseverance via “the beauty of confrontation and the necessity of rebellion”.

Sevdaliza – ‘High Alone’

Sevdaliza is an artist that has garnered a cult following with contemplative and haunting numbers such as ‘HUMAN’, and is one in constant pursuit of pushing her art to the limits of her creativity. Unexpectedly side-stepping her often murky sonic palette, ‘High Alone’ – taken from her forthcoming EP Raving Dahlia – dives into a smorgasbord of hazy guitar work, flipping trip hop for acoustic drums, yet losing none of the intoxicating vibrato of Sevdaliza’s vocal. 

KAINA – ‘Apple’

Proclaiming it as “a silly song about wanting to appreciate the way I exist in the purest form” – incidentally, an apple – KAINA’s latest single is soulful, guitar-driven pop that is sweet and tangy all at once. Drawing from elements of funk, ‘Apple’ sees the Guatemalan-American songwriter hark back to a more innocent time of her life, and reminds listeners to honor our inner child and embrace our individuality with a knowing wink.

Gemini Aaliyah – ‘Moonrise’

Following last year’s singles ‘cool kids are overrated’ and ‘RUNAWAY (a gift to you)’, mysterious entity Gemini Aaliyah drops her first outing of 2022 with ‘Moonrise’. With a prolific back catalogue of releases already to her name, the Leeds-based talent dips into hazy guitar tones that echo 80s reminiscent new wave. Describing the track as “a fucked up fairy tale where the ghetto meets the goth girl”, ‘Moonrise’ symbolises Gemini Aaliyah’s rebirth through a strong feminine energy.