Way back when, I critiqued music (I still do, I guess). I cannot recall the name of this one band I gave a negative review of, but I remember what I said: ‘This is so depressing that I slit my wrists and am now bleeding out all over my desk. Seek help.’
Look, I am not proud of that line at all. It’s not witty or clever, and I can see that it is not a helpful criticism. But I am pretty sure I did not deserve the hatred I received in an online forum after the review was published. Someone said they would kill me, someone said my family were going to die, someone told me to actually slit my wrists for real. It was pretty brutal.
Yet despite this, being a music critic taught me a lot of things. One: it improved my writing. Two: it is easy to become a music snob.
These are two lessons Lauren Piper learned too. Trawling through releases from amateur bands, all the way through to Lily Allen, and the brilliant ‘Honky Tonk Bedonkadonk’, Lauren soon developed a good musical bullshit meter.
Yet despite the tsunami of mediocrity coming her way, Lauren never lost faith. Now, with influences from The Pixies, Velvet Underground and more, Lauren fronts the musical project AEIOU (which is actually pronounced ‘Vowels’).
AEIOU – it’s pronounced Vowels
For Lauren, the term ‘musical project’ is probably the most accurate, given that the lineup of Vowels changes all the time. But there is one constant to Vowels – the power of Lauren’s vulnerable, stripped-back songs.
Armed with a range of pedals and effects, Lauren/Vowels put on some powerful, hard-hitting performances of songs that run a fine line between artsy and plain weird. It’s wonderful.
On this episode, we talk about moving from Washington DC, to New York, and now to Berlin; how you can easily become a music snob; and the musical ambitions for Vowels going forward (including a bunch of collaborations).
Also on the episode: song battles, good or bad?
There are a bunch of good musicians out there. So how do we find out who is best? FIGHT!
Or is that wrong? Should musicians compete in such a way? Should the idea of song battles be re-thought?
To see what musicians today think of song battles, I went back and spoke with some of the previous guests of BPM Pod: Moves Johnson, Lisa Akuah, Iadora Johnson, and Tara C Taylor.
Their answers certainly differ, and that’s totally fine, as the issue of whether song battles are good or bad is a pretty complex one. But what do you think? Let me know!
About this episode
We talk about the superb Sharon Van Etten, who I completely recommend you listen to. And I mentioned a black and white album which I loved – and mistakenly placed as being released in 2010 – called ‘Are We There’. The best song from the album is this dreamy folk tune, ‘Afraid of Nothing‘. Go listen and cry. Seriously.
We also look at a song called ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.’ It is dreadful but, if you want to ruin your day, then give it a go, purely for some of the best lyrics ever penned:
She got it going on like Donkey Kong,
Ooh wee, shut my mouth,
Slap your grandma
Other mentions of artists in this episode include The Pixies, Velvet Underground, and someone I had never heard of called Mirah. Well I took a listen to Mirah, and I quite liked it. Here is the song that Lauren also did a cover version of, called ‘Archipelago‘
Big thanks to Moves Johnson too for allowing me to use his song ‘Skin Complexion‘ under the vox pop.
Completely unpaid promo, but thanks to Blue microphones for the new Blue Yeti Studio Pro. Brilliant service. Check out their range here.
And finally, we mentioned the band name AEIOU and how it reminded me of a song by Jim James (My Morning Jacket) called ‘State of the Art (AEIOU)’. The studio version is solid, but the live My Morning Jacket version of AEIOU is better. Saw this live in New York in 2017 with my wife, and this blew us away. Here is the actual performance from that night. Good quality audio too.