Album reviews: Tate McRae – I Used To Think I Could Fly, and Just Mustard – Heart Under

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Tate McRae (Lissyelle)
Tate McRae (Lissyelle)

Tate McRae – I Used to Think I Could Fly

★★★★☆

On her debut album, pop artist Tate McRae charts the crushing realities that surface in our teenage years. “You grow up, you lose friends, you’re suddenly scared of things you were never scared of before,” she says on a call in the intro. Then comes a heady rush of nostalgia (and irony) as the 18-year-old interpolates the vocal hook from Nelly’s “Ride With Me”, released two years before she was born.

The Canadian singer trades in the R&B and pop punk sounds that were prevalent in the Noughties, at the same time emulating the hard-hitting lyrical truths of her Gen-Z peers, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. She wields just as much star power on songs such as the grunge-to-pop curveball “What Would You Do”, flipping the theme of Wheetus’s “Teenage Dirtbag” with a similar chuggy riff. On single “She’s All I Wanna Be” she owns up to her own insecurities over careening pop-punk instrumentation. There’s angst aplenty, too, in the blunt “Go Away” and forlorn “Feel Like S***”. She sings like she’s falling apart, but the quality of the album suggests she’s got it together. ROC

Just Mustard – Heart Under

★★★★☆

People change. And bands change, too. In the space of two albums, Just Mustard have mutated. The Irish rockers return on their second record a different beast to that of their 2018 debut. Less shoegazey, perhaps. More interesting, definitely. The fact that lead singer Katie Ball has dyed her hair from blonde to black feels fitting for this new era.

The album opener “23” is hypnotic – an eerie, synth-buzzed atmosphere-setter over which Ball’s long-breathed vocals hover. The air of impending catastrophe is palpable. At various moments on Heart Under, that promise of disaster is made good: dense walls of noise conjured by guitarists David Noonan and Mete Kalyoncuoglu, whose skills apparently extend to making a guitar sound like anything but a guitar. A siren here, an engine there. But the aggression that is typically delivered by other bands with a bull-in-a-china-shop mentality is carefully considered by Just Mustard. Still feral in spirit but hard-earned. Ultimately, it’s more satisfying.

Even on lighter track – such as “Mirrors”, one of the album’s more pop-skewed outings that has surprisingly danceable backbeats – Heart Under thrums with menace; a glint of teeth always on display yet never fully bared. Heart Under is an album rooted in anticipation: Just Mustard know it’s the glimmer of danger that’s most enthralling of all. AN