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Live Review: HANDSOME drops an ode to self-expression and identity with 'No Cowards'

24 August 2018 | 1:58 pm | Max Lewis

Sydney artist HANDSOME has shifted to a breezy electro-pop sound on 'No Cowards', the latest taste of her upcoming 'No Hat No Play' EP.

Just shy of a year since Sydney artist HANDSOME first graced our ears, she's announced her debut EP No Hat No Play, due out September 21st, alongside her third single titled 'No Cowards'. To celebrate her debut, she's also announced a headlining tour across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney through September and October.

From the word go, Handsome has been crafting music that oozes queer empowerment, identity and self-love. Just recently, Handsome said, "Now more than ever the expression of sexuality in music is loud, proud and admired as a strength… its about time, isn’t it? I feel so privileged to write and produce music that celebrates a community I feel so grateful for." Her debut 'Late Night Ball Game' featuring Joyride introduced us to the alt-RnB sound and strong visual aesthetic that would carry on to her sophomore single 'Save Some Love'. Above all, Handsome was a reminder to the queer community that they weren't aloneas well as an unashamed celebration of queerness in all its forms. 'No Cowards' features a shift in sound, but still maintains the strong sense of love and community that makes Handsome so special.

Where 'Late Night Ball Game' and 'Save Some Love' leaned closer to the R&B camp, 'No Cowards' is a glitzy electro-pop jam that is still recognisably Handsome. It's chock full of bright synths, jazzy keys, catchy synthetic brass and snappy drums that exude a breezy, carefree vibe. Similarly the vocals are much clearer, for the most part lacking any down-tuning or vocoder effects, yet are still layered in that really unique way that treats it like an instrument. 'Late Night Ball Game' and 'Save Some Love' were lights in the darkness, but 'No Cowards' is a true celebration, a track for dancing like an idiot and not having a care in the world.

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On the new EP, Handsome said, "The title is a rule that we all grew up with in Australia, that was a playful way of reminding children of the dangers of the sun, and the damage that can be caused if you don’t cover up your skin. Not that I defy this rule - but it carries a certain agenda with it that cannot be ignored, and that is that simply older generations know better. I started HANDSOME to question this entirely, and No Hat No Play explores this in depth.”

She continues, “I feel like the world is having a moment of celebrating one’s self-expression, it is powerful at this time to be yourself and I guess this also comes at a time when I know myself better than ever. It took time for me to know who was, and now its here I want to do whatever I can to encourage and support others to be brave and proud of who they are through my music."

Handsome has always had a strong visual element to her music, and her video for 'No Cowards' is no different. Directed and edited herself, it has a colourful look that matches the music perfectly, cutting between Handsome performing the song in an alley, and a rooftop dance party. Sometimes the visuals will skip or loop in time with the music, and stylised lyric grabs occasionally flash up on the screen, giving the video this quirky vibe that fits with the music so well. 'No Cowards' is a simple track, but it proves exactly why Handsome is one of the most important Aussie artists we've seen emerge this year. Catch her EP No Hat No Play when it drops on the 21st of September!

Saturday 1st September - Rainbow Mountain, Thredbo

Tuesday 4th September - BIGSOUND, Heya Bar, Brisbane

Wednesday 5th September - Bloodhound Bar, Brisbane

Thursday 6th September - BIGSOUND, Woolly Mammoth, Mane Stage, Brisbane

Friday 12th October - Red Rattler, Sydney

Thursday 18th October - The Old Bar, Melbourne