Contender, the second album from South London four-piece Fightmilk follows on from their 2018 debut, Not With That Attitude, and could well be their breakout moment. Formed in a beer garden in 2015, Lily Rae and Alex Wisgard used the energy of relationship break-ups to fashion an indie pop soundtrack indebted more to the Britpop era, culminating in that 2018 release on the Fierce Panda label after two EPs. The DNA of the band is alt-rock with power pop riffs about the embrace of failing relationships, but with a sunny disposition.
In response to the pandemic, which put everybody on hold, vocalist/guitarist Lily speaks about her writing process: “I was inspired to write ‘I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go Into Space’ by watching someone who keeps loudly proclaiming they’re going to save humanity and change the world constantly make excuses for why they haven’t got round to it. It’s largely about emotional labour and rockets and I’m dead proud of it.”
Heavier material abounds, from “Cool Cool Girl” and “Banger #4”, to the more vulnerable “If You Had A Sister”; a trend this reviewer is noticing in recent releases is that many bands are putting out tracks that may well run less than 90 seconds. In the past such tracks would be deemed surplus or merely unnecessary filler but now, amidst the pandemic, it is more evidence of a band or performer making up for lost time by issuing an idea or riff as a matter of pride on the sequencing of an album; as more of a bridge to the next track rather than an afterthought.
From the feelgood handclaps of “Hey Annabelle” to “The Absolute State of Me”, with its personal subject matter, the album is accessible and engaging. Full of synths, guitars and group vocals, Fightmilk have created an infectious record full of pop and indie vibes, incorporating the surfer energy of California hand in hand with the latest wave of indie bands, alongside Pillow Queens and the Sonder Bombs; bands led by female vocalists who infuse their music with an energy and power that’s refreshing.