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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson – Manchester dark electropop duo Hurts – released their third album ‘Surrender’ last month. (You can read my review of their new LP through this link.) It’s quite an interesting album, as it shows a definite evolution from their early origins with 2010’s ‘Happiness dark synthpop to a dancier, poppier, more mainstream direction. The song ‘Wings’ from the new album, however, is more in the vein of what one might consider the ‘classic’ Hurts sound: sweepingly beautiful, yet also breathy and anthemic.
I’ve chosen this video as the last video before we go on Thanksgiving break for a specific reason: as you watch the video for ‘Wings’ below, you’ll see the highs and the lows in the life of a musician, and some of their fans on YouTube I are interpreting the promo as being at least partly autobiographical about the rise and fall of Hutchcraft and Anderson’s own careers as part of Hurts. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of musicians’ lives, and more than just money and fame.
Even if you’re not a musician, there is a take home message here: stay grounded and more importantly, keep the ones you love close and treasure them. Given how our music community has been shattered because of recent events, I can’t imagine a better sentiment for right now than this. We’ll see you back here on Monday.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th November 2015 at 12:00 pm
I always feel a sense of loss when the months and years pass and I’ve heard nothing about a beloved band. Northern Irish psych band Cashier No. 9, who I met in London in 2011 the week of my birthday, fell into in this category. The last peep out of Danny Todd and his band was this free download and cover of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Moonbeam Song’, which, to be honest, left me disappointed, as it wasn’t an original song. The question in my mind was, were Cashier No. 9 finished?
While the group from Belfast appear to have disbanded permanently, the band members still standing – Todd and James Smith – have returned in a new guise, exmagician, and a debut EP. There is still that sense of whimsy that was evident in Cashier No. 9’s sound, as well as sufficiently reined in reverb and catchy melodies. Second track ‘Place Your Bets’ shows the most similarity to my favourites of 2011’s ‘To the Death of Fun’. On it, effects have been placed on Todd’s vocals, making him sound like he’s underwater, while the melody and guitars swirl and plenty of trippy oohs have been placed strategically throughout. The instrumental outro shines bright, as a trumpeter’s talents rises above the psychedelic organ.
The trumpet makes another welcome appearance on the end of EP title track ‘Kiss That Wealth Goodbye’, giving it an almost big band quality. It’s an interesting turn of events, as the tune begins and continues on a minor key progression delivered by a purposely indistinguishable marriage of scuzzy guitar and synth, one that would suggest darkness is up ahead. “Light up my face, straighten my tie / jump off the page, see your hope whizzing by / but they all like feeling alive / they all just let go of high hopes and kiss it goodbye”: Hello, is that a dig at fellow (but Southern and hugely popular) Irish band Kodaline? This also isn’t the first time Todd has pointed out musicians don’t make much money: see ‘Goldstar’. Of this new EP and direction, Todd says, “it’s the dirt under the fingernails.”
After the first two tracks showing off in your face swagger, the second half of the EP feels sleepy. ‘Smile to the Gallery’, while it shows similar psychedelic leanings, has a dreamy edge and minimal lyrics. The guitar work at the start before the words kick in are beautiful, evocative. The EP closes with ‘Tear On Let Off Some Steam’; it confused me, as it seems to have moved the duo backward in time back to the ’60s, being nowhere as inventive as the first two tracks. Make no mistake, the results sound good, but after such a promising first half, listening the second half is like listening to a completely different band. Which fork in the road will they take for the inevitable (hopefully, anyway) debut album? Let’s hope the former.
‘Kiss That Wealth Goodbye’, the debut EP from ex-Cashier No. 9 band members Danny Todd and James Smith as new artist exmagician, is out now on Bella Union.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
Lorely Rodriguez, better known under her stage name Empress Of, released her debut album ‘Me’ in September on XL Recordings / Terrible Records. Two months ago, she was showing off some incredible physical skills in the video for ‘Standard’ (watch the video in this previous Video of the Moment feature). This time around, for ‘Icon’, she splits her time between the forest and the city for a much less physically demanding promo, albeit with plenty of swagger (check out those finger snaps). Watch it below.
Empress Of’s debut LP ‘Me’ is available now on XL Recordings / Terrible Records. Want to find out more about Rodriguez on TGTF? Right this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th November 2015 at 12:00 pm
Words by Rebecca Clayton
‘Making Time’ is Jamie Woon’s second album and comes over 4 years after his debut ‘Mirrorwriting’, which was released back in 2011 to mixed reviews. So far just one single has been released from the new album, the catchy ‘Sharpness’ (Mary’s previous In the Post feature on the song here), which embodies the less is more spirit that echoes throughout the rest of the album. The singer/songwriter from London has managed to produce something difficult to place: one minute were hearing the scratchy drawl of Willy Mason on a brass-accented acoustic track, the next you’re bopping along to some smooth soul vibes and echoes of old-school r&b.
It’s mellower than his previous stuff: you won’t hear much of the electronica influence that is present on earlier songs ‘Night Air’, ‘Lady Luck’, or ‘Shoulda’. Perhaps some fans will find this disappointing, but this still feels like a step forwards: holding on to the trip hop/soul infusion of previous stuff but bringing something different and fresh to the table. That’s why this album has the air of evolution about it, drawing on much of what was great about Woon’s earlier work but smoothing out the edges a little bit. There are certain adjectives that you can’t help but use when describing the album: soulful, smooth, mellow, chilled. It’s easy listening.
But, that’s not to be confused with unexciting or dull. The opening track ‘Message’, for example, is stirring, the gentle build of the song’s opening with Woon’s vocals effortlessly fusing into the song alongside the minimalistic piano notes. ‘Skin’ also has a mesmerising opening to the track. The use of autotune brings a surprising depth to the song, paired well with the soulful oohs that reverberate throughout, like a lullaby.
Woon’s strong yet sultry vocals are predominate and hold centre stage throughout the album, complemented by the soulful undertones. The instruments are controlled and often times subtle, used to complement Woon’s voice rather than mask it. The lyrics really are quite lovely. From the opening lines of ‘Skin’ (“skin with its open agenda / rise to the top for some air”) to “light into darkness / cut on the sharpness of you” on ‘Sharpness’ (Woon’s most played song on Spotify), the lyrics have a physical feel to them, evoking nature and human connection.
It’s easy to hear echoes of Frank Ocean throughout Jamie Woon’s album, in particular the opening track ‘Message’, with Woon’s smooth voice lapping alongside the soulful music like murmuring waves. The whole album, at various times, is wonderfully reminiscent of ’90s r&b, I’m particularly thinking of R Kelly’s warbling vocals and the stripped back use of instruments in much of his music. Woon’s vocal ability lends well to the tracks. Some songs, such as ‘Celebration’ and ‘Sharpness’, are standouts. ‘Celebration’ is distinctly different to the rest of the album: it was a nice surprise to hear Willy Mason’s gravely tones on this track, paired with the bursts of brass, the jangly acoustic notes and the soft tempo of the drums marching along. On the previously mentioned ‘Sharpness’, at times throughout the song it’s easy to hear Daft Punk, Frank Ocean and Jamiroquai, and perhaps that’s why I like it so much. It sounds so familiar, while still being different, and won me round straight away.
Admittedly, a couple of songs, like ‘Lament’ and ‘Forgiven’ are pleasant enough to hear, but don’t really leave a distinct impression. But, as an overall collection, it really does work. It’s well crafted. This is an archetypal chill-out album, great for a lazy afternoon at home or to be left purring away in the background at work. The lyrics are beautiful, the melodies soulful and classic. On a couple of the tracks there’s a little something left to be desired, but, having said that, I love it, and have been playing my favourite songs non-stop. If it didn’t get me there on the first listen, but it really did on the second.
Jamie Woon’s ‘Making Time’ is out now on PMR Records; Woon will be on tour in the UK in March 2016. For all past coverage on Jamie Woon on TGTF, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 23rd November 2015 at 6:00 pm
For those of you who didn’t know, Wolf Alice started out as an acoustic duo, naming themselves after a short story retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by the late English novelist Angela Carter. So it’s not too far of a stretch of the imagination that their new video for ‘Freazy’ has a fantasy theme, the promo beginning with the band playing in what looks like a overly Technicolor alpine forest. The video morphs – literally – the visuals oozing across your screen like a bad trip. I mean, come on. Giant blocks of cheese AND giant mushrooms?
‘Freazy’ appears on Wolf Alice’s debut album on Dirty Hit Records, which was released in the summer. Watch the video below. Past coverage of Wolf Alice on TGTF is this way.
We here at TGTF first covered the elusive London quartet Arthur Beatrice ahead of their trip to America for SXSW 2014. Following a full review of their debut album ‘Working Out’ in February of that year, I attended their SXSW gig at the Harvest Records showcase, where I was more impressed with their live performance than I had been with their studio recording. I had expected that Arthur Beatrice’s cool, consciously artistic vibe would make a greater impact given the buzz surrounding them at the time, but since our Martin made quick mention of their subesquent Live at Leeds 2014 appearance…radio silence.
We haven’t heard so much as a peep from the group, who in any case were never the most attention-seeking of bands, in nearly 2 years. But out of the blue last week, they re-emerged onto the music scene with a very aptly titled new single ‘Who Returned’. The new song features a high-profile collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra, who have worked in the past with such artists as Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and recent Grammy winner Beck. The minimalist video for ‘Who Returned’ was designed and co-directed by the band, in another collaboration with boutique video production company LiveFi.
‘Who Returned’ is characteristically subtle and sophisticated, and its video is suitably composed, with a stark, minimalist design focused on the band members and the musical elements of the song itself. The song starts off feeling distant and restrained, as lead singer Ella Girardot’s dance movements visually hold the viewer at arms’ length. Musically, it then builds through the lingering anticipation of the bridge to an outburst of passion, which is expressed both through the manifestation of anguish in Girardot’s movements and the heightened dynamic created by the addition of the orchestra under the repeated vocal lines “you can never be whole if you’ve never been broken / find no strength in myself, all I have is this emotion.”
Arthur Beatrice’s new single ‘Who Returned’ is available now via Open Assembly/Polydor. In addition to the new release, the band have also announced one live date for next year, a performance with the London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists on the 18th of February 2016, at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts.
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