London’s bar italia craft woozy, moody indie rock equally informed by post-punk, shoegaze, and lo-fi without ever sounding too indebted to any of these styles. Early on, the London trio was affiliated with Dean Blunt’s World Music, and releases such as 2020’s Quarrel and 2021’s Bedhead were of a piece with the label’s sludgy, hallucinatory experiments. With 2022 singles like “Banks” and 2023’s Tracey Denim, bar italia took a slightly more polished approach that didn’t sacrifice any of their volatile yet hypnotic essence.
Though bar italia kept a relatively low profile, the trio — singers/songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton — was part of London’s underground music scene in the late 2010s and early 2010s, collectively and individually: Cristante issued hazy, lo-fi pop on Blunt’s label as NINA, while Fehmi and Fenton performed as the grungy indie duo Double Virgo. bar italia’s first release on World Music, November 2020’s Angelica Pilled EP, offered murky shoegaze and featured a few songs that also appeared on the band’s debut album, Quarrel. Arriving in December 2020, the effort expanded bar italia’s horizons to include hints of folk and elliptical electronic music. In March 2021, they returned with Bedhead, a fragmented collection of vignette-like songs that emphasized their moody spontaneity and featured a cameo from Mica Levi.
In 2022, bar italia issued several singles, starting with March’s “Banks,” which was followed by May’s “Miracle Crush,” and November’s “Polly Armour.” These tracks, which reflected a more elongated and polished approach, were gathered on an EP sold at bar italia’s show with Coby Sey and other dates. Around this time, the band also played the Pitchfork Music Festival London and supported Martin Rev. Early in 2023, bar italia signed to Matador, which released their third album Tracey Denim digitally and on CD that May and on vinyl that September. Recorded and produced by the band and mixed by Marta Salogni, the album leaned into the hypnotic, bittersweet qualities of the trio’s music.
by Heather Phares