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Five-piece rock band To Kill a King have just announced a series of three live shows in London this May, just ahead of festival season. They also recently unveiled a dramatic new track titled ‘The Problem Of Evil’, which is set to appear on their upcoming third LP, due out later this year. You can check out the promo video for ‘The Problem of Evil’, starring Ruby Bentall, at the bottom of this page. Keyboard player Ben Jackson spoke of the newly announced shows in the context of recording the band’s forthcoming album:
For the last year we’ve been locked in small windowless rooms with nothing but each other for company. So as you can imagine we are super excited to announce these May shows. It’s been too long since we played in London, the venues are all nice intimate rooms with great sound and playing three dates means that we can do three different setlists. We’ll be unleashing our new tunes as well as playing the old favourites and we can’t fucking wait.
The first show of To Kill a King’s “London tour” will take place at Soho’s Borderline, which is currently closed for refurbishment but scheduled to reopen next month. Hackney’s Oslo will host the second show of the sequence, and the final show will be held at Omeara, a new central London venue opened late last year by Mumford and Sons‘ Ben Lovett.
Tickets for the following gigs are available now. TGTF’s past coverage of To Kill a King, including a review of their 2015 self-titled album, is right back this way.
Thursday 11th May 2017 – London Borderline
Friday 12th May 2017 – London Oslo
Saturday 13th May 2017 – London Omeara
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 17th February 2017 at 6:00 pm
It’s a big week for Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart, better known under their act name The Kills. On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, they celebrated the 15th anniversary of their first live show together by putting on a special intimate show at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City. The show as recorded as part of the ‘Live At Electric Lady Studios’ series, so the Kills are in good company: the first artist who participated in the series way back when was Patti Smith.
They’ve also unveiled a new video from sixth album ‘Ash & Ice’, which was unveiled last summer on Domino Records. ‘Whirring Eye’ was recorded on a GoPro in a 360-degree format, so it can be watched on Google Chrome, smartphone or on a mobile VR device, and you can explore the video further using your mouse or the ASWD keys on your keyboard. Watch it below. Want more of the Kills on TGTF? Use this link to read through our past coverage on the pair.
Header photo by Andrew Volk
Vancouver garage pop trio The Courtneys are back with a sophomore album that finds a way to combine ’80s girl-band pop and ’90s lo-fi grunge into a palatable package. I’m not a big fan of the slacker rock sub-genre, generally speaking, but new album ‘The Courtneys II’ keeps it on the brighter side with hooky guitar riffs and catchy bass grooves that are easily discernable amidst the general dampening and distortion.
Guitarist Courtney Loove leads the way in crafting a backdrop of fuzzy ambivalence overlaid with unapologetic pop-guitar melodies, followed closely by bassist Sydney Koke and drummer/lead singer Jen Twynn Payne. Twynn Payne’s singing voice is rather sullen and soporific, and her lyrics are somewhat less than profound, but her treble melodies fit nicely over the light, restrained powerpunk of the trio’s instrumental arrangements. (In case you’re curious, Courtney Loove is indeed a stage name; she’s explained it in this interview with The Stranger.)
The album’s opening track ‘Silver Velvet’ immediately displays the grungy guitars and bubblegum vocals that set the tone for the entire album. It’s infectious refrain, “and nothing you say / and nothing you do / could stop me from thinking about you”, is singsong simple, but that quality is probably what keeps it stuck in your head long after the song ends.
Current single ‘Minnesota’ is a bit darker and muddier, with clanging percussion that threatens to overtake Twynn Payne’s vocals. Its lyrics are more melancholy in tone (“not easy to pretend it’s / not hard to let you go / so I’ll see you in the winter snow”), and though the vocal melody doesn’t particularly address that mood, it is echoed in the guitar riff and pulsating bass of the instrumental ending.
The upbeat and frenetic energy of ‘Tour’ captures the anticipation and anxiety of a band preparing to go on the road. Twynn Payne’s lead vocal seems more forward in the mix here, and it plays to the song’s advantage with more positive, ebullient energy coming through. Putting aside the deliberate detachment of the vocals in some of the other tracks on the record, she makes a strong connection in the lyrical lines, “what you have and what you want the most / it takes a long, long, long, long time”.
One of the most memorable tunes on the record is ‘Lost Boys’, which longtime fans of The Courtneys might recognise from just after the band’s debut. Written as an homage to 1987 teen vampire film ‘The Lost Boys’, the song has been floating around the Internet as a single since 2014. The version presented on the LP is cleaned up a bit and extended at the end: rather than fading out to the final lines “you look just like you did in 1986 / and that’s why you’re / a vampire teenage boyfriend”, the album version of the song leads into a groovy 2-minute instrumental outro.
The album takes a slightly darker turn at the midway point, with the murky guitars and muffled drums of ‘Virgo’ and its bass-driven sister track ’25’. The former track conveys the all-encompassing haze of an early romance (“baby, when you are near / I lose all of my free time”), while the latter seems to be losing that initial excitement (“I doubt I would have tried / because I’m a Gemini / I’ll just change my mind”).
Sullen slacker anthem ‘Iron Deficiency’ is a track that probably could only have been written by an all-female band. Twynn Payne’s voice becomes a snarling, rebellious combination of speech and singing in the lines “my hair is breakin’ / my body’s achin’ / in the mirror, I look forsaken”. ‘Mars Attacks’ delves a bit into the weird with its singsong vocals and mindlessly repeated lyrics, but the instrumental bridge showcases a nifty guitar riff that’s not to be missed.
The Courtneys wisely save one of their strongest and most engaging pop anthems for the end of the album. ’Frankie’ starts with a vividly anticipatory intro and leads into an extended chorus at the end, maintaining the band’s characteristically grungy guitar work and a sense of light buoyancy at the same time.
While not overtly feminist in its lyrical content, ‘The Courtneys II’ bridges the gap between two typically male-dominated genres, ironic pop punk and lo-fi garage rock, intertwining the basic elements in a deliberately amorphous and distinctly feminine style. If you’re into deeply profound and poetic lyrics, ‘The Courtneys II” might not be the album for you, but fans of female voices and good guitar work won’t go wrong here.
‘The Courtneys II’ is out today on New Zealand indie label Flying Nun Records. The Courtneys will spend March and April on tour here in North America; you can find a list of their upcoming live dates on their official Facebook.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 16th February 2017 at 6:00 pm
East London’s False Heads will be unveiling a new EP next month. The ‘Gutter Press’ EP will see the light of day on the 10th of March on Libertines’ Gary Powell’s own record label 25 Hour Convenience Store. To preview next month’s release, they unleashed a new track on the unsuspecting public, and it’s already received support from Iggy Pop and Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 and Radio X. The song now has its own video, and following on from their past promos for ‘Steal and Cheat’ and ‘Thick Skin’, this new video for ‘Twenty Nothing’ shows off the same searing intensity of their live shows. Watch it below. To catch up on TGTF’s past coverage on False Heads, including Rebecca’s introduction to them as a Bands to Watch in December 2015, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 16th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
It’s good to be Stockport, Greater Manchester group Blossoms. The band have been nominated for the British Breakthrough Act at this year’s BRITs, and there’s still time to get your vote in for them (or whichever of the nominees you prefer) through here (UK residents only) before next week’s awards show. As a part of a special week at the Radio 1’s Live Lounge, as the radio station is celebrating the BRITs, they invited Blossoms in yesterday as award nominees in to play a song of their own, plus as is standard for all their Live Lounge performances, a cover.
Choosing to do a cover of 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ mashed up with Wham!’s ‘Careless Whisper’ has been controversial for their fans (if you question this, just read the comments section here from their Facebook), but what is not at all controversial is their performance of ‘Honey Sweet’, featured on their self-titled album released last summer. Watch both performances below; you can listen to the Radio 1 programme for the next 28 days via Radio 1’s Web site. ‘Blossoms’ is out now on Virgin EMI, and my review of the LP is through here. I’ve written a fair bit on the North West band here on TGTF, and you can catch up on all our past coverage on them if you head this way.
There’s no doubting that American singer/songwriter Ryan Adams is one of the more prolific songwriters around. ‘Prisoner’ will mark his sixteenth release, which is one hell of an output for one mind. Naturally, you would imagine that at some point there would be a lull in the quality. Having released such a career-defining debut, ‘Heartbreaker’ in 2001, the pressure has been on him from the start, and he really hasn’t helped himself because over the years he’s managed to churn out a solid body of work through various guises and forms. Lest we forget 2005 where he released three albums in 1 year, one of which was a double disc.
The modern day Ryan returned to us after his “retirement” back in 2009 with 2012’s ‘Ashes & Fire’, an acoustic, soul-baring album that proved his songwriting chops were still as fine as ever. 2014 gave us his self-titled album that brought a bit more life to the party and also gave birth to the sound he’s choosing to envelop himself in: a supremely vintage, eighties vibe with confidence and power ballad-esque potential. ‘Prisoner’ continues this while harking back to his earlier years (we missed you, harmonica).
The lead single from this effort came in the form of ‘Do You Still Love Me?’, which sticks close to the self-titled way of working, just with a bit more stopping and starting. The only trouble with the abruptness that careens throughout is it leaves you a bit dissatisfied. Like you’re constantly waiting for it all to culminate into one grand “fuck yeah” flourish. In terms of the chorus, there’s certainly a grabbing and encompassing melody to it. You can feel the heavy metal elements that he loves flowing through in the striking solo but lacking the ferocity that the genre usually shows, so it doesn’t hold as much sting.
Following this is the album’s title track that brings things down to a more reserved level. It’s a beautifully delicate number that brings out the rawness Adams is oh so adept at channelling into his music, especially considering the main inspiration for the album is his divorce from singer/actress Mandy Moore. The sparse and reverberant harmonica that kicks in during the outro is heartbreaking. Continuing with his mission to break open your emotions and spill them all over the floor, ‘Doomsday’ decides to just appear straight away with more harmonica, an instrument that when used right can cut you in two. Slightly more powerful than its predecessor, the post-chorus decides to try and pick you up slightly, but then the harmonica slinks back and pushes you back down and refuses to let go.
‘Haunted House’ doesn’t really differ from those before it, and in all in honesty, at this point in the record you wouldn’t expect any change. Adams is no stranger to musical experimentation, as shown from his back catalogue, but what he truly does best is tell his stories in a way that you can relate to. What listeners need to bear in mind when listening to ‘Prisoner’ is that while this may not be his strongest release, every artist makes records for a reason. This was one that he felt he needed to make, to those express dark and hurt feelings. No song shows this more than ‘Shiver and Shake’. A barren guitar, when twinned with Adams shaking vocals, is a dangerous thing, especially when you put those two ideas with lyrics such as “I’ve missed you so much I shiver and shake”. Thankfully, things pick up, only slightly, on ‘To Be Without You’. There’s a slight note of promise and hope, but ultimately it’s the lyrics that dash these ideas and leave you back in the gutter.
There’s a bit more life in following track ‘Anything I Say to You Now’. The reverberant and ghostly guitars still ultimately reign supreme, but the chorus has a melodic quality not seen since Adams’ 2003-era release ‘Love is Hell’. As his voice echoes and falls away from the musical backdrop, there’s a certain call back to the sound of The Smiths. Rain-soaked Manchester evenings have always been a central player in Adams’ more disparate sounds, thanks to his adoration for Morrissey and co., and that is more than highlighted across the entire album.
‘Breakdown’ is where Adams decides to go bare bones and builds the song up around the exposed skeleton he starts with. As the chorus hits, the bass has a run that you can’t help but follow, while the guitars glimmer in and out of its empty spaces. Its active moment comes from the middle chorus, which leads to everything falling as if down a set of stairs. Slowly. It’s brutal, and you truly feel Adams himself wasn’t too far off from “heading for a breakdown”. ‘Outbound Train’, ‘Broken Anyway’ and ‘Tightrope’ go for a majority acoustic offence, which is a nice break from the glimmering guitar sound of the rest of the album. It also allows Adams’ words and voice to take centre stage, which is where the true strength of this album lies. Oh, and the saxophone on ‘Tightrope’. That’s cool.
Finale ‘We Disappear’ is the weakest moment of the album. It doesn’t add to the depth of the story Adams is trying to tell. Nor does it add any variance musically, though it does have moments of madness that are likely the true meaning behind ‘Prisoner’. As a whole, the record does little to evolve Adams’ sound. In fact, it seems so annoyingly close to his previous album, but ultimately it’s a record he had to make for personal reasons. So, we thank you, Ryan Adams, for sharing your life.
‘Prisoner’, the sixteenth album from American singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, is out tomorrow, the 17th of February on PaxAm/Blue Note/Capitol. To catch up on TGTF’s past coverage on Ryan Adams, use this link.
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