Art School Girlfriend – The Hope and Ruin, Brighton – 15th October 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

There’s a beautiful, yet muffled buzz surrounding Art School Girlfriend at the moment. Halfway between ‘the next best thing’ and intimate venues ‘best kept secret’, the Welsh singer-songwriter, now based in Margate, has proved quite the force to be reckoned with since signing to arguably the coolest indie label in the UK, Wolf Tone Records (the home of The Horrors and Glass Animals). Having just released one of the finest EP’s of the year so far in the form of Into the Blue Hour EP, Art School Girlfriend brought her brooding pop songs in a magnificent, and mesmerising, performance that knocked The Hope and Ruin off its feet.

Brighton artist, La Lune, who enjoyed a brilliant summer of playing some of the biggest festivals in the UK (Isle of Wight Festival and 2000 Trees to name but two), opened proceedings with her euphoric pop. An incredibly impressive set, featuring the likes of latest single ‘love/sick’, ‘Berlin’ and soon-to-be single ‘Grape Soda’, it was somewhat surprising to hear the artist announce that she was suffering from a cold. Boasting an exceptionally polished slice of indie pop, one can only wonder how good she could be in better health. There’s a The xx meets James Blake vibe to the artist that will surely see her pick up many more fans very quickly, especially with performances like this.

There’s an understated nature to Art School Girlfriend as she unassumingly made her way to the stage for the start of her set. Keeping chat to a minimum – apart from the odd ‘thanks’ in betweens songs – she let her music do the talking for her. Exceptionally produced, even with the limited tech The Hope and Ruin has to offer, there’s a hauntingly recognisable feeling to the commencement of set opener, ‘An Uncomfortable Month’, from debut EP Measures. Indeed, there’s a wistful nature to all of her work that flows almost indignantly together. A self-confessed perfectionist, there’s an impeccable thread running through the whole night.

Cuts from the new EP, too, are as good, if not better, than their predecessors. ‘Outside’s eerie synth line has a touch of Radiohead at their most forlorn, while the buoyant ‘Moon’ evokes indie icons Foxygen and MGMT. An incredibly diverse performer, it’s a night that tos and fros from melancholy to cheerful in an instance, before flipping on its head once again. As a stand alone gig, this was about as perfect an introduction into the psyche of Art School Girlfriend as you’re going to get. There’s no doubt about it, she left with way more loyal followers than she had started the night with.

This was another showcase of just how brilliant and diverse the Brighton music scene can be. Dark and ruminative, Art School Girlfriend is the whole package. A phenomenal vocalist as well as a clever, and sometimes witty, lyricist, Art School Girlfriend is like PJ Harvey meets Aldous Harding – and, on this display, it won’t be long before she reaches the dizzying heights of both of those artists. Make no mistake about it, The Hope and Ruin audience were looking at the next alternative pop star in the making.

Liam McMillen