It’s a great relief to be able to welcome the messy, clunky sound of UK’s queen of DIY junk-pop officially back with the release of Never, her second album after a seemingly long three-year interval. Mica Levi, commonly known by her stage name Micachu, may not have released an “official” album since 2009’s critically acclaimed Jewellery, though she’s kept the tap running the entire time. In the three years that have passed she’s dropped the experimental orchestral album, Chopped and Screwed, as well as three mixtapes, and after all that, took the time to regroup and rough up her sound even more for a proper second album.
As is often the case with second albums by quirky and ebullient artists (see: High Places, Cornelius), Never feels a lot darker than Micachu’s previous work. While still featuring the same mad array of instruments — many of them made by Levi herself — the music on this album has a grittier feel to it, much to the contrary of the majority of the songs on Jewellery, which, despite its crazy sprawl of instrumentation and echoing vocals, had a clean and fresh feel overall. It seems unusual for a band to regress in such a way; check Best Coast’s progression from fuzzy to crisp and pristine on The Only Place for a more natural upward curve. And there are points at which the record simply sounds dingy and chaotic. But this is in no way a bad thing.
Never plays much more on Levi’s previous experience as a garage and grime MC, the influence of which is clear on songs such as “Holiday,” which swirls and spirals as if played at the wrong speed. But this, paired with Levi’s monotone and ominous vocals repeating, “cannot wait for my holiday, I’ve had my work cut out for me,” creates something so eerie that it is in fact rather beautiful. This grime influence is again apparent in “Glamour,” which features samples of teenage girls talking that sound more like they belong on a Dizzee Rascal record than one of an indie rock band. Amidst these moments of heavy sampling there are calmer tracks, like “Fall,” which, appropriately enough, rises and falls, and provides the album with a gentle interlude.
On a sonic departure like Never, Micachu still occasionally falls back into her old ways, as she does on the album’s final track, “Nowhere.” Here is the band we grew to love on their debut album — the song is relentless with raging guitars aplenty, and also what, if I’m not mistaken, sounds like a saw, which is all too likely with this band. This album is, to say the least, a ramshackle affair, but that just so happens to be where Micachu excels. Although there’s room for disagreement, Micachu makes her case for the method behind her madness.
Psychologist – Propeller EP
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
Metronomy – The English Riviera