Check out our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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(Holiday!) Video of the Moment #2758: Elbow

 
By on Friday, 15th December 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Mancunian alt-rock stalwarts Elbow have just unveiled a new video for their cover of The Beatles tune ‘Golden Slumbers’, which, if you’re on the UK side of the pond, you might already have heard in the recent John Lewis Christmas advert. Despite its obvious commercial angle, the video treatment in this promo gives a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the advert, while somehow managing not to dispel any of its cleverly-crafted holiday magic.

‘Golden Slumbers’ features on the Northern group’s new double-LP compilation ‘The Best Of’, which also contains a collection of the Manchester band’s favourite tracks from across their 20-year history. Outfitted as a bonus track on the record, ‘Golden Slumbers’ fits beautifully into Guy Garvey’s warm tenor voice, and Elbow’s rendition is a warm and comforting addition to the holiday canon.

Elbow are currently taking a holiday break from their extensive tour in support of 2017 LP ‘Little Fictions’, which was released back in February. A full listing of Elbow’s 2018 live dates can be found on their official Web site. Editor Mary’s review of their recent Washington, D.C. show is right back here, and our full previous coverage of Elbow is collected through here.

 

Video of the Moment #2757: MGMT

 
By on Thursday, 14th December 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

American synthpop band MGMT have unveiled a new teaser for their forthcoming LP, in the form of a promo video for ‘When You Die’, which is set to feature on the album. (It follows the song ‘Little Dark Age’, which made its first appearance back in October.) Musically speaking, the song is mildly quirky and twee, but those placid sonic elements offset lyrics that teeter on the verge of a murderous psychosis.

The visual treatment of ‘When You Die’, directed by Mike Burakoff and Hallie Cooper-Novack, is suitably hallucinogenic for such an unstable mental state. Along with a range of bizarre and colorful animated effects, the promo video features ‘Girls’ actor Alex Karpovsky as its necromantic protagonist, presumably to keep it current? MGMT’s new LP ‘Little Dark Age’ is due out early in 2018. TGTF’s previous coverage of MGMT is right back this way.

 

Live Gig Video: watch Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s Tiny Desk Concert at NPR

 
By on Thursday, 14th December 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

While collaborations between two established, beloved stars is nothing new, sometimes the results don’t hit the spot. When Aussie Courtney Barnett decided to join forces with American Kurt Vile, the result was stunning, in the form of album ‘Lotta Sea Lice’. Our Steven reviewed the long player, and you can read his review for TGTF through here. If you’re wondering what the pair are like live, playing off of each other, wonder no more. The two musicians recently showed up at the NPR offices in Washington, DC, to perform one of the public radio station’s now famous Tiny Desk concerts. In the video below, you can watch them perform ‘Over Everything’, ‘Continental Breakfast’, ‘Blue Cheese’ and ‘Let It Go’. Enjoy.

‘Lotta Sea Lice’ is out now on Matador Records. Learn more about the collaborating pair on their Web site. To read TGTF’s past coverage on Courtney Barnett, follow this link.

 

Live Review: Valerie June with Gill Landry at Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR – 9th December 2017

 
By on Thursday, 14th December 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Tennessee alt-country singer Valerie June recently finished a tour of the American West Coast, rounding things off with a two-night stand at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. Forgetting briefly that Portland has real winter, I travelled north from Tucson to take in her final show. Portland natives found some humour in my situation as I shivered in the queue outside the Aladdin. “At least it’s not raining”, they helpfully pointed out. Still, I was glad to get inside and find a nice spot at the front of the stage in plenty of time for the evening’s opening act, singer/songwriter Gill Landry.

Gill Landry internal

Landry has spent the end of 2017 touring his exquisite fourth album ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’, which came out in October. Having chatted with him shortly after the release, I was mildly surprised that his set list in Portland only included two of those new songs, ‘Denver Girls’ and ‘The Woman I Love’. Among his older tunes, Landry chose to play the title track from each of his first two records. The bright tone and witty lyrics to ‘Between Piety and Desire’ kept the mood in the room light, while ‘The Ballad of Lawless Soirez’ seemed to make a particularly solid impression on the audience. The limitations of playing an abbreviated support slot were apparent in Landry’s set, but his deep baritone and dry humour were more than enough to overcome them on the night.

Valerie June internal

Headliner Valerie June made a sensational entrance to the stage, attired in sparkling sequins and aqua-colored cowgirl boots, leaving no room for doubt about where her audience’s rapt attention would be focused. But her beguiling stage presence went well beyond the initial visual impression, becoming even more captivating as she switched between playing guitar and deftly plucking away at her ‘baby’ banjo. Her singing voice, while not traditionally ‘pretty’, was by turns strident and sweet, dictated by the character of her songs. June’s expressive range proved itself incredibly broad, working as easily in the slow bluesy drawl of ‘Love You Once Made’ as in the sassy, uptempo rock of ‘Shakedown’. Between songs, she waxed both poetic and philosophical, and her speaking voice was equally hypnotic as she weaved a continuous, free-flowing narrative through her set list.

For her part, June was more forthcoming with songs from her own most recent LP, ‘The Order of Time’, which was released in March. Amazingly, she touched on 9 of its 12 tracks from it in her generous set list. The only notable absence was album opener ‘Long Lonely Road’, and I’ll admit here that I was so dazzled by June’s performance that I didn’t actually miss it until I reviewed the set list after the show. About halfway through the set proper, June treated her audience to a couple of novelties. First was a song called ‘Train Fare’, which she penned for the Blind Boys of Alabama and which features on their recent LP ‘Almost Home’. Then she invited Landry back onstage to join her for a deep dive into her back catalogue, in the form of ‘Rain Dance’, pulled from 2010 EP ‘Valerie June and the Tennessee Express’.

Valerie June internal 3

From there, June lingered on tracks from her 2013 debut long player ‘Pushin’ Against a Stone’, with ‘Tennessee Time’ garnering an especially warm reception from longtime fans in the crowd. Perhaps less well-known was her cover of Velvet Underground’s ‘Oh Sweet Nuthin’, which nonetheless won a few hearts after June related her discovery that their songwriter Lou Reed had become a fan of her music in his final days.

Valerie June internal 2

June’s band, including ‘The Order of Time’ producer Matt Marinelli on bass, was in top-notch form through the entire performance, but she gave them particular time to demonstrate their chops during the encore. After slow-burning versions of ‘If And’ and ‘Astral Plane’, they dug into a cheeky soul cover, ‘I’ve Been Lonely for So Long’, before ending with June’s own gospel-style celebration, ‘Got Soul’.

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I began 2017 in Portland, hearing Gill Landry open for Bear’s Den shortly after the New Year. I ended the year in the same city, seeing Landry for a second time and discovering a new favourite artist, Valerie June, along the way. The symmetry might be superficial, but it illustrates a general process that has led me to some great music, by artists I might never otherwise have heard. I hope to share many more such happy coincidences in 2018. Stay tuned to TGTF in the New Year!

 

Video of the Moment #2756: Skepta

 
By on Wednesday, 13th December 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

North London rap artist and 2016 Mercury Prize award winner Skepta has dropped a new video for ‘Ghost Ride’, the latest track from his Halloween-released EP titled ‘Vicious’. ‘Ghost Ride’ features contributions from fellow A$AP Mob hip-hop collective members A$AP Rocky and A$AP Nast.

The video treatment below alternates between sharp street imagery and kaleidoscopic visual overlays, in a throwback sort of concept directed by AWGE. Have a listen to ‘Ghost Ride’ below, but do take note of the promo video’s initial disclaimer: “This program contains explicit and coarse language”. Meaning you should probably wait until the small children are asleep or after work hours to view or listen to this, at least without headphones. TGTF’s prior coverage of Skepta is back through here.

 

Album Review: The Staves and yMusic – The Way is Read

 
By on Wednesday, 13th December 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

The Way is Read coverIf you’re a longtime reader of TGTF, you’re surely familiar with Watford folk trio The Staves. Known offstage as Emily, Camilla and Jessica Staveley-Taylor, these close-knit sisters and their signature vocal harmonies have been featured here often over the past several years. You might be less familiar with their recent collaborators, New York instrumental ensemble yMusic, comprising violinist Rob Moose, violist Nadia Sirota, cellist Gabriel Cabezas, clarinettist Hideki Aomori, flautist Alex Sopp, and trumpeter CJ Camerieri.

yMusic have made a name for themselves by consciously overstepping the artistic boundary between classical and pop music, on projects with Ben Folds, José González and Son Lux, to name but a few. On their new album ‘The Way is Read’, The Staves and yMusic have added traditional vocal harmonies to the modern classical palette, crafting an opus beyond the simple confines of orchestrally-arranged folk songs.

Commissioned by Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires festival as a live performance piece, ‘The Way is Read’ was never intended to be a simple project. “Our aim from the outset was to truly collaborate with yMusic,” says Emily Staveley-Taylor. “We wanted to feel like instruments and join in with some of yMusic’s existing work, using our voices in ways we hadn’t previously explored. We chopped up compositions and put them together again in new ways. We took old folk songs and made them abstract.” yMusic’s Rob Moose continues: “It was as much a thrill to hear songs emerge organically over sections of intricate chamber music as it was satisfying to strip songs of the instrument that created them, whether guitar or piano, in order to craft new connective tissue.”

‘The Way is Read’ represents the first time an Eaux Claires collaboration has resulted in a full studio recording. The album is truly a large scale orchestral work, rather than a set of  discrete songs. Its individual tracks meld into each another without pause, continuously evolving both the musical ideas and the thematic concepts. Still, some the tracks work as standalone pieces and have been individually released. Following the kaleidoscopic harmony vocals of ‘Hopeless’ and the dramatic instrumental intro to ‘Take Me Home’, the gentle introspection of ‘Trouble on My Mind’ is more lyrically substantial, though hardly concrete in its narrative. It begins with the repeated title line and evolves to a chilling end: “and you know it when it holds you under a wave / cold and dying / moving in reverse, slow motion.”

The cinematic ‘All My Life’ evokes a crisp, cold winter scene, mingling sensory effects both in its lyrics (“never known the heaven in night / or the sound of the Northern Lights”) and in its dark harmonic twists. By contrast, ‘Silent Side’ is calmer and more tranquil, its refrain “you are my silent side” serving as a panacea to the album’s pervasive chill. ‘Courting is a Pleasure’ and ‘Sprig of Thyme’ are traditionally structured folk songs with fuller narratives. The former is dark and dirge-like, contrasting the pleasure of new love with the unstated pain of its inevitable end. The latter uses a clever play on words to illustrate the same idea: “time is a precious thing / and time it will go on / and time will bring all things to an end / and so does my thyme grow on”.

Eponymous and final track ‘The Way is Read’ takes a markedly sprightly tempo, juxtaposing vocal interplay and sharp instrumental counterpoint. It rounds off the record with reference to its established lyrical themes: “sailors on a frozen sea . . . under the starry sight / under the wayward night / under the Northern Lights.” The usually warm vocal harmonies of the Staveley-Taylor sisters take an ominous and icy tone here, in the context of yMusic’s sharp, wintry instrumental mix.

Though commissioned for a summer music festival, ‘The Way is Read’ is a perfect soundtrack for the cold winter days of December. Produced by Rob Moose and Jessica Stavely-Taylor, the album is available now on Nonesuch Records. The Staves and yMusic will perform on Minnesota Public Radio’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ on the 16th of December.

8/10

TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of The Staves is right through here, and our previous writing on yMusic can be found here.

 
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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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