Martha Hill – ‘Summer Up North’ EP review

Martha Hill shares her eagerly awaited ‘Summer Up North’ EP this weekend. The Newcastle-based musician worked remotely with producer Julien Flewon on these five songs during lockdown, recording them via Zoom. Martha says the overriding concept of these songs sums up simpler times (well, the ‘old normal’ that we’re all so desperate to return to): ‘It’s a story about summer life in Newcastle. Summer in the north east of England is a class time – a lot of parties, festivals, cycling about, walks up cow hill, hanging out on doorsteps in the west end, in and out of each others houses, eating samosas, drinking tinnies in the park, shan house parties, overdoing it, coming down, taps aff, having a laugh’.

‘Grilled Cheese’, one of the songs that soundtracked our summer, opens the EP. You’re sure to have heard it if you listen to 6 Music and it’s a boisterous, biting tale all about how something as simple as putting an onion on a grilled cheese sandwich can signal the beginning of the end of an unhealthy relationship: ‘She gets mad at me, she tells me I’m a control freak’; ‘I wish that I could feel better’. ‘Landslide’ follows with its bouncy melodies and accusations (‘Is it true that you talk about me when you’re asleep?’) and observations (‘Drip drop on my window pane, you talk like I’m insane’).

The title track is even more stripped back with Martha comparing the season to ‘a frying pan’ and battling with her conscience as she realises you can have too much of a good thing. She tells herself ‘Go easy on yourself’ and ‘Don’t you take me down this road’ as she warns off the demons that threaten to disrupt a few months of more mundane but no less rewarding activities including Rubik’s cube, cycling, walks, pot plants and television romance.

‘Headlock’ is kind of a lo-fi and leftfield art pop take on a Bond theme with Martha struggling to escape from somewhere where ‘I’m so exposed’. She tells the subject of the song that she’s ‘picking at your heart but it’s so scabbed up’ before turning her attention – and disdain – to the material things we now have: ‘I’ve got Sky Plus but I still get bored’. The closing ‘Before I Go’ has killer riffs and a bouncy bass-led rhythm section as she declares ‘I put on my dress… Man, I’m killing it’ and ‘One more cigarette for the road’. However, there’s an underlying sadness that gives the song extra emotional impact: ‘Don’t want to wake up in my own bed but I don’t want to wake up on my own’.

After listening to this EP, we guarantee you’ll want nothing more than to spend next summer up north with Martha…

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