ARTIST: HOT MILK
TITLE: ARE YOU FEELING ALIVE?
LABEL: SELF RELEASED
WORDS: JO COSGROVE
Bringing together the mainstream pop-centric sound of today with the rhythms and attitudes of the pop-punk and emo scene of the 2000s is a popular route for newer bands to go down, and a few are managing to break through and succeed, brand new and eager to make the most of the genre collaboration – enter Manchester’s own Hot Milk. Describing themselves as “emo powerpop”, Hot Milk are fresh and electric and just what the British pop-punk scene needed in 2019. Their debut EP, ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’ holds the key that unlocks their potential as a newfound collective to front the future of what the world knows as “emo”.
An aspect to their success is the double-up on the front: sharing microphone duties is Jim Shaw and Han Mee, who work together equally and almost effortlessly through the short-lived EP. The greatest example of their back-and-forth chemistry is in the first track, ‘Wide Awake’, where they take turns with taking over verses and choruses. In the case of choruses, Mee and Shaw manage to create a fun and powerful harmony together and highlight each other’s vocal talents while also encouraging each other in such a manner. ‘Wide Awake’ comes across as the best decision for an opening tune for the EP because it gives every member a moment to shine; whether it’s Mee and Shaw going voice-to-voice in the friendliest way, or early vocal accompanied by an impressive bass line (courtesy of bassist Tom Paton), or a steady drumbeat to keep everyone working in perfect rhythm together by drummer Harry Deller. It’s the best way to begin the journey through the EP, and here’s hoping the only way’s up from there.
“Hot Milk are fresh and electric, just what the British pop-punk scene needed in 2019.”
Perhaps the best track is the single ‘Take Your Jacket’. Taking on the stereotypical subject matter of getting through a breakup and wanting to move on, the fun is escalated in such a suitably ironic way. Flashing back to the earlier days of pop-punk outfits such as All Time Low and Paramore, the group show off their inspirations and influences best in this track but in the way that they also show off their confidence in this genre. Despite still making a name for themselves in the industry, they know who they are and what they’re about, and they know the course they’re taking. The certainty and the energy is always a winner, alongside the formula for the songwriting, and matches with the “powerpop” description the group gives themselves. If someone needed to hear just one Hot Milk song to become a fan, it’s ‘Take Your Jacket’.
The second half of the EP brings the listener back into the present; giving hints and sneak peeks back into what’s taking over the mainstream airwaves while staying true to what they want to create. With the title track ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’, they refuse to compromise the edge they give the world in their composes creations but include more pop and dance elements within their work. From synthesised instrumentals to distorted vocals, the “poppiness” fails to outweigh the edginess and that’s exactly what will bring Hot Milk on top in the end. As it all comes to an end however is when everyone is held at that edge and watches – listens – out for what’ll come round.
“Hot Milk know how they work and just three short years down the line are gearing up to be unforgettable”
The EP concludes with a heartfelt, fist-pumping, foot-stomping anthem that brings together personifications of music’s favourite pairing: anger and sadness. Mee and Shaw work together one last time to bring the softness of Shaw’s mellow voice and the sharpness of Mee’s dagger-like notes together to balance out the true emotion that the tune is meaning to convey.
There is a lot that can be dissected from ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’, and a lot to consider when looking at each song and each detail, every word and every chord. It’s easy to criticise a new band wanting to scream down a microphone and scratch notes from an electric guitar, but Hot Milk know how they work and just three short years down the line are gearing up to be unforgettable. Hot Milk will never go cold – don’t get burned.