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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Have a listen to ‘The Chaser’ by Glaswegian rockers Twin Atlantic, and you’d swear you’d been dropped off somewhere in the excesses of the Seventies. While its promo video might be missing glitter, platforms and big hair, this song falls pretty well in line with the work of Slade and T. Rex. Except ‘The Chaser’ also has a bit more of a pop sheen to round things out, you know, for those who don’t want things going off the rails too much. Yet it’s got a killer guitar solo in the bridge to remind you this is a rock song after all.
So which way is Twin Atlantic’s fourth album ‘GLA’, out the 9th of September on Red Bull Records, going to go? We’ll have to wait and find out. Watch the video for ‘The Chaser’ below, filmed in the Glasgow bar where the band played their first-ever show. For more on the Scottish rock band on TGTF, head here.
Since his 2011 debut album ‘Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm’, Benjamin Francis Leftwich has been on somewhat of a hiatus, releasing just the four-track EP ‘In The Open’ in 2012. Shortly after the EP’s release, his father was diagnosed with cancer, causing him to cancel a North American tour that winter. His father sadly passed in April 2013, leaving Leftwich distraught: “I just needed to live outside of music”.
Two long, hard years later, Benjamin Francis Leftwich has released his long anticipated second studio album ‘After The Rain’ this month. On the new LP, Leftwich is essentially serving up his life over the past few years on a plate, as he addresses the pain and heartache he went through as he grieved the loss of his father. As a commemoration, ‘After The Rain’ is both melancholic yet optimistic in its delicate yet grand decorum.
The album opens with the previously released ‘Tilikum’, which was also his first release in 3 years. Its meandering guitar melody intro sets the scene perfectly for Leftwich’s vocals to return in the whispering falsetto previously engraved in our minds in 2011. As he paints a picture of the times shared with his father, the track continues in a delicate, ghostly fashion, the musical equivalent to a light, late afternoon autumn breeze. Each part of the song, from the female backing vocals harmonising the topline to the light brushwork on the drums, were thoroughly thought out and perfectly executed when sculpting the overall sound of the track.
Although the same elements are used throughout, third track ‘She Will Sing’ carries more of a tribal feel. With a lot more momentum, the song shows a far more exciting side to the album. The heavy use of added percussion, together with a rhythmic vocal melody, play a huge part in creating vigour within the track. Aside from these two major elements, we continue to hear a very delicate vocal tone, Leftwich’s trademark fingerpicked guitar melody that meanders around the chords and an equally as soft and simple pad sound that weaves together with the guitar.
‘After the Rain’ can be categorized instantly with a few similar artists. Twinkly guitar lines and falsetto vocals scream Bon Iver and Ben Howard, which we hear religiously throughout. This works for Leftwich, and it works well. But when we look past the obvious, specifically in tracks like ‘Kicking Roses’ with its minimalist indie electronic vibe, and the abstract sample sound used in ‘Mayflies’, the music points towards The Postal Service and James Blake. Considering Leftwich’s similarities with singer/songwriter types, these outsider influences are like a breath of fresh air. The only downside is that they don’t appear as often as one would like. An equal blend of the two separate reference groups would be perfect in pulling the whole album together, rather than an overuse of folky, easy listening elements and an underuse of the electronic ones.
‘Mayflies’ is the only song on the album in which elements from both sets of influences are utilised cohesively. A colourful, off-beat drum groove intertwined with a simple, syncopated guitar melody form the foundations of this folk-orientated track. The vocal melody has been planned carefully to allow for downtime during the verses, with longer phrases and fewer syllables, with the change to a more rhythmic melody with much sharper projection. Intriguingly, Leftwich puts focus on the aforementioned abstract sample sound, specifically throughout the end of each chorus. The use of this sample here effectively gives the track a lot more momentum, while carefully adding one more element of interest and surprise for his listeners.
Emotionally and lyrically, this is an incredible album with great use of instrumentation. It is touching and emotional in a very direct way, a window intosome of Leftwich’s very personal matters. Sonically, I feel it could take a little more work. The broadening in sounds and experimentation with influences is a well-accepted addition to the album; however, these moments come few and far between. If executed as strongly as we hear in ‘Mayflies’ or ‘Kicking Roses’, he could be onto a very unique and individual sound, and one that could be the groundwork for something bigger.
‘After The Rain’ is out now on Dirty Hit Records. Benjamin Francis Leftwich will begin a UK tour next month on the 21st of September in Norwich. This will be followed by mainland Europe and American tours in October through December. For more on TGTF’s coverage on Leftwich, go here.
Veteran Glaswegian indie pop stars Teenage Fanclub have announced a massive tour of the UK and Ireland for this November and December, following their completely sold out September UK tour and a list of October live dates in North America. The lengthy list of live shows comes in support of Teenage Fanclub’s forthcoming new album ‘Here’, which is due out on the 9th of September on the band’s own PeMa label, via Republic of Music in the UK (it’ll be out on Merge Records in America). You can watch the promo video for the album’s first single ‘I’m In Love’ just below the tour date listing.
Tickets for the following shows are available now. TGTF’s past coverage of Teenage Fanclub is gathered right back here.
Tuesday 15th November 2016 – Inverness Ironworks
Wednesday 16th November 2016 – Whitley Bay Playhouse (sold out)
Thursday 17th November 2016 – Sheffield Leadmill
Friday 18th November 2016 – Manchester Academy 2
Sunday 20th November 2016 – Leeds University
Monday 21st November 2016 – Norwich Waterfront
Tuesday 22nd November 2016 – London Electric Ballroom (sold out)
Wednesday 23rd November 2016 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Thursday 24th November 2016 – Brighton Concorde 2 (sold out)
Saturday 26th November 2016 – Birmingham Institute
Sunday 27th November 2016 – Cardiff Glee Club (sold out)
Monday 28th November 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Tuesday 29th November 2016 – Bristol Anson Rooms
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – Cambridge Junction
Friday 2nd December 2016 – Dublin Academy
Saturday 3rd December 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland (sold out)
Sunday 4th December 2016 – Glasgow ABC (sold out)
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 22nd August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Following her appearance at the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation showcase at SXSW 2016, teenage British singer/songwriter Billie Marten will be releasing her debut album next month. ‘Writing of Blues And Yellows’ will be available everywhere on the 23rd of September on Chess Club / RCA Victor (UK) and on Columbia Records (America). Late last week, she unveiled album track and current single ‘Lionhearted’ and its music video. Slow and smoky, it’s definitely one for the singer/songwriter lovers. (I’m looking in Carrie’s direction.) Watch the promo for ‘Lionhearted’ below. To read more of our back archive on Billie Marten, go here.
Scottish rock giants Biffy Clyro appeared as if they could do no wrong. Ever since the release of 2007’s ‘Puzzle’, they just kept on climbing up and into the stratosphere, where they sat perched on a throne made of solid rock gems. With such escalating expectations, it was inevitable there was going to be a slight slip. And ‘Ellipsis’, produced by Rich Costey, is just that.
Being the sixth release over a career that has seen their sound turn from jagged, raw and ferocious to mammoth, orchestrated and hard hitting, where they would go next was always a question hanging in the air. They have certainly decided that the future doesn’t involve regressing back to their earlier years and the grandiose sound that is now synonymous with the name Biffy Clyro is certainly here to stay.
Opening with ‘Wolves of Winter’, they show they certainly don’t mess around with the epic soundscapes. However, there is a certain lightheartedness once this all falls away and the instrumentation takes on an almost playful stance, especially pre-chorus. ‘Friends and Enemies’ continues this trend, though with much greater aplomb, but it’s on ‘Animal Style’ where the savage beasts return in full form. The pre-chorus of “why do you waste your time with me, I’m an animal, can you realise, my head’s a fucking carnival” is where Simon Neil’s songwriting is at its most raw and striking. This trend continues through to the chorus that is as large as the words he forcefully puts upon us to mark his territory.
“I am explosive and volatile, I’m on the turn”, Neil sings during the opening verse in later cut ‘Howl’, and nothing has ever been truer of this band. Though things certainly are feeling mildly stagnant in places, the experimentation doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s good to see them trying out new sounds in the hope that something helps lead to a higher level. But an album should have a flow or an air, and ‘Ellipsis’ just doesn’t.
Perhaps far more noticeable than the lyrics is how the complete and utter divergence from the record’s flow is obvious. A far cry from the introductory three tracks, ‘Re-arrange’, with an electronic beat and a glittering picked guitar line is the merging of two differing worlds that both leave a different taste, be it good or bad, in your mouth. This is a recurring feature of the album, with the Biffy sound alternating and experimenting with different flavours that the majority of the time just don’t work, Yet when they do work, the result is glorious. Case in point to the former, ‘Small Wishes’ is another strange pause on the album. It takes on a folk feel, but with a complete disdain for any kind of rhythm. It follows ‘On a Bang’, another ferocious and dark track that screams all that makes Biffy Clyro, making for a huge disconnect.
‘Medicine’ has a similar feel to ‘Machines’ from the aforementioned ‘Puzzle’. More of a carry-on from there musically, lyrically it’s definitely happier, which is saying something, considering this is a song about heartbreak. Biffy barraging us again, we then get into ‘Flammable’, another of the album’s stronger moments. A wonderfully melodic turn into the more modern day Biffy Clyro, it’s a perfect agglomeration of their sounds. Finale ‘People’ continues the acoustic stopgap trend that appears throughout, with piano and guitar marrying to create a beautiful sound that echoes Neil’s words of human relationships and the complexity that they can form. It’s the most emotive moment on the record, and it’s beautiful. It’s just a shame that we had to follow the chaotic flow of ‘Ellipsis’ to get here.
‘Ellipsis’ is certainly an experimental Biffy Clyro record, which, as mentioned previously, is definitely a good thing for the Scottish band. It’s a stepping stone to what could be a much stronger follow-up. Their arrangements can be orchestrated beautifully and filled with grandeur, but they can easily go into a completely savage and beastly realm, something Biffy have near perfected now. Some of these cuts could quite easily have been placed upon a separate collection or used as b-sides in the band’s search for the next step. But the mere fact they’ve chosen to use all of them on a fully-fledged studio album means they feel they can either do no wrong or they want to shake things up a bit. Either way, whatever follows ‘Ellipsis’ will certainly be interesting.
‘Ellipsis’ is out now via 14th Floor Records. Catch up on all the Biffy Clyro coverage (we have a huge back catalogue of the stuff) on TGTF here.
Welsh indie rockers The Undivided will take a trip through England near the end of October, bringing with them the sounds of their debut album ‘Satellites’. Our editor Mary was impressed impressed enough with the band’s recent single ‘Invincible’ that she made a point to catch them live earlier this year at Canadian Music Week 2016; you can read her thoughts here.
Ahead of the following October tour dates, The Undivided will appear at Manchester’s Indie Week, which runs from the 12th to the 16th of October. Tickets for the following shows, including the recently added Brighton date, are available now.
Sunday 23rd October 2016 – Brighton Latest Bar
Tuesday 25th October 2016 – London Black Heart
Wednesday 26th October 2016 – Liverpool Maguire’s
Thursday 27th October 2016 – Leicester Shed
Friday 28th October 2016 – Newport Le Pub
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