Album Review: English Teacher – Polyawkward EP

[Nice Swan; 2022]

Wry lyricism has remained consistent across their early discography, yet Leeds indie group English Teacher have found a distinguishing sound elusive thus far. On their debut EP, Polyawkward, the band seek to pinpoint a musical direction, giving a more complete insight into their mature, shifting aesthetic.

Vocalist Lily Fontaine says of the EP: “Polyawkward is a journey of self-discovery around supermarkets, along pub crawls, through lockdowns, space, time, hooks and wonk.” It exemplifies the singer’s brand of surreal social commentary, in which one finds themselves empathising with a fish and contemplating the personified characters of Track and Trace. Fontaine adds a twist of the bizarre to our frequently nonsensical reality, enlivening and encapsulating it simultaneously.

Polyawkward sees the quartet exercising a novel sound beneath these lyrics, their mercurial nature ironically becoming their hallmark. A newfound freedom is expressed through math rock volatility, allowing tracks to flit seamlessly between styles. Haunting arpeggios lurch into a capricious mix of poetry, bass riffs and guitar stabs, making for an exhilarating 16 minutes. There are overt indie pop moments present – particularly on radio-friendly entries such as “Good Grief” – yet they are offset by darker instances in the title track and “Mental Maths”.

“Yorkshire Tapas” is the epitome of the EP’s confident, erratic sound. The Northern lilt of Fontaine’s spoken-word delivery invites one into a realm of near jangle pop as the song transitions from live show highlight to record. Post-punk staccato elements ensure it is just as danceable here as in the venues English Teacher may soon threaten to sell out.

Polyawkward is the first chance to receive the group at any great length, and doubts about cohesion are gleefully abated. A symphonic approach, where melodies and motifs return in altered states, brings the record into harmony. English Teacher are at their best when they refuse to sit still. They have always had the talent, and now they have the sound to embody it.