Released September 25th, 2020
Shitkid (aka Åsa Söderqvist) is an artist that you either love, loathe, or have never heard of. Brett Dunford was in the latter category until the February 2020 Louder Than War gig list slid on his desk…
“Do you fancy any of those?” Melanie said to me.
The name Shitkid just screamed from the paper: “Meee! Pick meee!”
Two weeks later, and around the time that the first COVID-19 headlines broke in the UK, I was in the pit at Rough Trade East watching Åsa Söderqvist perform. If you are already familiar, then it will be obvious from all the gushing that her music infected my body that night more than any virus.
A little bit has happened since then. First, Asa dragged Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins into the boxing ring and spoke out on the reasons why Shitkid were dropped from their 2019 tour. Then there was the sad departure of bassist Lina Molarin Ericsson, which seemed to come like a bolt out of the blue. This has caused some of their fans to point the finger and throw out conspiratorial speculations that range from half-arsed to just plain dumb.
I’ve also seen a few users posting on unsocial media about how Shitkid is a “done project” now. In my opinion, the new album 20/20 proves to the contrary and contains perhaps some of Åsa’s most catchy and accessible songs.
From the start, this was touted as her ‘pop album’ and, being someone who adores modern pop music, this interested me a lot. Is it a pop album? Of course not. The riffs are still present on at least half of the eight tracks here, though the package is more electronic and ‘poppy’ as a whole.
But to wrap it up early, it’s a love album.
First track 885 (navy) begins on a tender note and is old school Shitkid through and through. An ode to a departed friend one that would not sound out of place on anything she’s released thus far. It retains that empty bathroom loneliness that we’ve grown to identify but the lyrics seem to be a lot more mature this time around: “I can catch a feelin’ not your brown eyes turnin’ blue tonight, but you write me sometimes…”
FARMBOY is next and the first pop-like offering. Well, more like grungy trip-hop. Let me just say right off the bat that Åsa sounds great on this with her “la-la’s” and stoned, hazy mumbles. I would not go as far to say that she’s a vocal powerhouse, yet her voice is unique and wholly suits Shitkid’s homebrew garage schtick. The girl may not be Montserrat Caballé, but she can certainly deliver the goods.
I found Cool Breeze to be sarcastically deceptive. While it’s pretty much surface-level pop tartery, the chorus surprises by ejaculating a heavy dose of space rock all over your eardrum. In fact, 20/20 has many surprises and genres layered throughout its concise 25-minute running time, but Åsa never directly ‘homages’ anything in particular. It’s all relandscaping.
My second favourite from the album, Waste of Time, was the first one to make me push away the laptop and throw old man shapes into the air. This is definitely pop, though Åsa simply cannot resist a good rock-out chorus. So catchy and dreamy. Shitkid does Everything Counts by Depeche Mode.
Probably the most accessible track on 20/20, you could play Dying To around a pop enthusiast, a rock enthusiast, a punk enthusiast, or the whole cast of the fucking Breakfast Club, and it’s odds on that they’ll find something about it to tap their feet to. It falls somewhere between ambient and pop-punk.
Dream Sequence is more Shitkid traditionalism. My assigned photographer at the Rough Trade show, Paul, inboxed me when the audio file dropped and stated how different it sounds compared to the last record. On one hand, he’s absolutely correct because it’s so shiny, polished, and bedazzles like a smacked-up discotheque. But on the other, this and 885 are probably the only true representatives of the established Shitkid sound here (and maybe the album closer, Stubborn Signs). They employ that all-familiar, minimalist guitar and galloping bass hook.
FREAK shifts the tempo up a gear temporarily. Distinct goth-like undertones here with a light grunge dusting. Åsa murmurs an amusing confession during the chorus: “My hair grows long and my clothes are clean, but underneath it all I’m a true freak”.
Far too quickly, we arrive at the finish line and on the strongest note. Stubborn Signs is so personal that I had to restart it again halfway through. I couldn’t speculate on (or possibly know) who inspired it but, yeah, beautiful. Having endured the Godzilla of partnership breakoff’s myself recently, this resonated with me and is the perfect note to close proceedings. On a slow fade out to nothingness.
20/20 is a refreshing spin on a previously established crossover. Electronica is not a new thing for Shitkid, but it’s nice to hear Åsa trying to get more creative with it. I’ve also seen online talk that it might be a little too creative. Nah, not at all. This is business as usual but on a slightly brighter, less dirty, and more ethereal plain. And given that almost all of the songs are exclusively about love, then it’s probable that this work means something deeper to her than the norm.
I think the asking price for this pint-sized gem is around €16 on vinyl, and it’s a steal to officially own such a breezy, eclectic collection of songs by a new-ish artist who is dipping her toes into diverse waters musically. And it’s on the awesome PNKSLM label, so there’s nothing to grumble about. Class.
Words by Brett Dunford. You can find more articles by him on his profile.