English Teacher
This Could Be Texas



A few songs into this debut album, when Lily Fontaine laments her perennial inability to pick a lane and stick to it on ‘Mastermind Specialism’, you get the feeling that she’s talking to a past version of herself. There’s no question that this gloriously topsy-turvy record from Leeds band English Teacher runs all over the musical map, but that sonic wanderlust turns out to be its biggest strength. This is one of those debuts that feels disarmingly fully-formed, perhaps even more so if you were already familiar with the group’s early output, which pulsed with promise but, in places, was also constrained by a sense of self-consciousness, as they sought to carry off a delicate balancing act between nodding to peers like black midi and forging a path of their own.

On This Could Be Texas, English Teacher have thrown that equation out altogether and instead rebuilt from the ground up, trusting their instincts and bringing a palpable confidence to every genre they turn their hand to. There is intimate balladry (‘You Blister My Paint’) and there are anthemic, eyes-to-the-sky panoramas (‘Not Everybody Gets to Go to Space’), sometimes both within the same song – see the soaring closer, ‘Albert Road’. Elsewhere, the embers of the old English Teacher are stoked into an entirely new kind of fire with the spiky post-punk of ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ or a re-recorded take on ‘R&B’, on which Fontaine rails against the presumptions made about people of colour in the music industry.

And as giddily adventurous as the sound of This Could Be Texas is, Fontaine’s lyricism is its beating heart, providing plenty of substance to go with the style as she finds room for both affecting kitchen-sink realism (‘Broken Biscuits’, ‘Nearly Daffodils’) and sharply deployed metaphor, the title track being a case in point. That a track called ‘Sideboob’ is actually a moving paean to the rolling landscape of the Colne Valley she was raised in speaks to the wit with which This Could Be Texas is infused throughout.

It’s one thing for a first full record to swagger with such assurance down so many different stylistic avenues, and another entirely for it also to mark out the band’s singer as a vital new voice in an ever-more-homogenous indie rock scene. One thing is for sure; the question of identity that Fontaine agonises over on ‘Mastermind Specialism’ is surely settled. She is a born songwriter.