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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 26th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Kaiser Chiefs are readying for the release of their sixth album, their second without former primary songwriter Nick Hodgson. ‘Stay Together’ is definitely sounding intriguing, based on surprise first single ‘Parachute’ (reviewed by me here) and the LP’s latest taster. The promo video for ‘Hole in My Soul’ is another colourful entry from the veteran hitmakers, this time taking to the track for a fun day with their own special set of race cars that I hope will be auctioned off at some point for charity. (I mean, what else are you going to do with such brightly dressed Hondas, am I right?) Enjoy a day at the races with the Kaiser Chiefs below. We’re waiting patiently for ‘Stay Together’ to drop on the 14th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. In the meantime, for more of TGTF’s coverage on Kaiser Chiefs, follow this link. Check out the band live on their arena tour in the start of 2017; all the dates are listed here.
Up-and-coming American songwriter Julien Baker is currently in the midst of an extensive North American tour, and I was disappointed that I had to miss her last week when she played here in Tucson. But I’ve been consoling myself with her lovely live cover of an old favourite track of mine, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Badlands’. Performed backstage at the Newport Folk Festival for the Children’s Cancer Association charity program MyMusicRx, Baker’s solo acoustic version cuts right to the heart of the song, emphasising its message of hope and perseverance, even through the most difficult times. To see how you can get involved, visit the CCA’s JoyRX page through this link.
Baker’s debut LP ‘Sprained Ankle’ came out last year via 6131 Records, and the Memphis, Tennessee native has slowly but surely made a name for herself by playing it exhaustively on the live circuit. TGTF’s own writer Adam was quite impressed with Baker’s performance at This Must Be the Place in Leeds earlier this year; you can read his enthusiastic live review here.
Header photo by Noah Abrams
Summer road trip music seems to be in high demand recently, and 2016 has been a good year so far for producing it. For example, I recently reviewed the excellent new album from Bear’s Den, which is a perfect soundtrack for restless late night drives in the hallucinogenic glare of headlights on long, empty stretches of highway. But if a daytime drive in the carefree sunshine of late summer is more your speed, you’ll won’t do better than American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s new album ‘Stay Gold’.
The album’s upbeat title track is a perfect lead-in, with bright alt-country instrumentation and a rousing chorus that references S.E. Hinton’s classic novel ‘The Outsiders’. I’m not sure if this is “required reading” in the UK, but most Americans of a certain age will be warmly familiar with either the book or the movie adaptation from the 1980s. Like the story it refers to, the song ‘Stay Gold’ is immediately engaging from the first guitar riff, and Walker’s blue-collar, working-class lyrics are relatable without devolving into the gimmickry that often plagues mainstream country. (I can’t say the same for its promo video, which is featured below.)
Musically, the album touches on a wide variety of styles with the kind of easy proficiency that can only come from Walker’s years of experience. ‘East Coast Girl’ is an interesting combination of influences, invoking Lou Reed in the spoken prosody of the verses and pure classic Springsteen in the chorus; its repeated plea “baby, baby, baby, where are you?” fairly begs for a live singalong. The heart-racing pulse and devil-may-care chorus of New York-centered track ‘Ludlow Expectations’ are even more palpably anthemic, as Walker sings lustily of “burning down the subway / running down the alleyway / high out of our minds on love.”
By contrast, gentle duet ‘Descending’, co-written and sung with country artist Ashley Monroe, softens Walker’s rough-around-the-edges vocals with Monroe’s sweet and clear tone, providing just enough stridency to give the harmonies a sense of emotional traction. The album takes a mildly misogynist misstep in ‘Mexican Coke’, comparing an objectified love interest not to the narcotic but to the soft drink, which is sweetened with sugar rather than corn syrup in markets south of the American border. But that rather oafish moment is balanced by the clever traditional string arrangement of ‘Irish Exit’, a nimble pub rock song about escaping from the superficiality of the party scene, and the visceral emotionality of ‘Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night’.
Walker himself says of the album, “It’s been fun to listen to [‘Stay Gold’] in the car. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play my records after I do ‘em. And it’s a blast to drive down the [Pacific Coast Highway] and listen.” After spending some quality time with ‘Stay Gold’ on my own car stereo, I might be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m seriously contemplating a road trip to hear these songs live on Walker’s current North American tour. A full listing of Walker’s upcoming live dates, along with enthusiastic recaps of his recently played shows, can be found on his official Facebook.
Butch Walker’s eighth studio album ‘Stay Gold’ is due out today, the 26th of August, on Lojinx. TGTF also reviewed his previous album ’Afraid of Ghosts’ right back here.
Singer/songwriter Jake Bugg is in the midst of a massive touring cycle following the June release of his excellent new album ‘On My One’. After a busy summer of festival appearances, Bugg will spend September playing live dates in North America before returning to the UK in October and November. A full listing of Bugg’s upcoming tour dates, including shows in continental Europe, can be found on his official Web site.
Tickets for the following UK dates are available now. TGTF’s previous coverage of Jake Bugg, including editor Mary’s feature of his latest single ‘Bitter Salt’, is collected here. Just below the tour date listing, you can watch Bugg’s live performance of ‘Bitter Salt’ from The Great Escape 2016.
Tuesday 18th October 2016 – Manchester Apollo
Friday 21st October 2016 – Glasgow Academy
Saturday 22nd October 2016 – Glasgow Academy
Monday 24th October 2016 – Birmingham Academy
Tuesday 25th October 2016 – Sheffield Academy
Wednesday 26th October 2016 – Leeds Academy
Friday 28th October 2016 – Sheffield Academy
Saturday 29th October 2016 – Newcastle City Hall
Sunday 30th October 2016 – Hull City Hall
Tuesday 1st November 2016 – London Brixton Academy
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 – Bournemouth Academy
Thursday 3rd November 2016 – Cardiff University Great Hall
Saturday 5th November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Former lead singer of S.C.U.M. and now a singer/songwriter in his own right, Thomas Cohen released his debut solo album back in May. As one might imagine, the songwriting on ‘Bloom Forever’ was influenced by the sudden and tragic death of his wife Peaches Geldof in 2014. While Rebecca previously featured LP single ‘Hazy Shades’ for us here on TGTF in April ahead of the album’s release, Cohen has a new visual for us this week.
Of the song itself ‘New Morning Comes’, he says, “The song is simple really, it’s about finding new hope out of hopelessness.” Director of its accompanying promo Victor Gutierrez said he took his artistic cues from a photograph of John Lennon sat in a limousine by Kishin Shinoyama. “In the image, John is successful and alone, looking strong and sensitive at the same time. Death foreshadows the image. Still Lennon seems brave, especially for his solo work at the time that explored his emotions, his psyche, and shares his vulnerabilities.” Watch the new video for ‘New Morning Comes’ below. Cohen’s debut album ‘Bloom Forever’, recorded and finished in Iceland, is now available from Stolen Recordings.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
Following the announcement in autumn 2013 that Keane were splitting up, fans had a bit of a reprieve. Frontman Tom Chaplin, known for his singing and charismatic presence onstage and not for his own songwriting, revealed his desire to release his own solo album. After the release of ‘The Best of Keane’ in November of that year, the months and years passed. Except for a one-off cover of Stornoway’s ‘Fuel Up’ with Chaplin on vocals and bandmate and primary Keane songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley on piano in April 2015, we heard nothing. I had begun to think that this Tom Chaplin solo album was nothing but a faraway dream that would never be realised. Then in the middle of July, Tom Chaplin registered an Instagram account and started posting photos. A lot of them. As Chaplin had always been someone relatively reticent on social media, this new development meant something big was obviously afoot.
One of the first true tastes of his forthcoming debut solo album ‘The Wave’ due out mid-October is a clear indicator of the pain Chaplin suffered during the years of superstardom with Keane and after. Read this feature by Neil McCormick from the Telegraph this month, and you will be astonished by Chaplin’s honesty with his recent battles with drug use and anxiety, which he – and all of us fans for that matter – thought he’d kicked a decade ago, following treatment at The Priory in London. As a longtime appreciator of Keane, it hurts me deeply that someone I’ve looked up to, with the most precious of musical gifts – his amazing voice and his showmanship – has lived such a hidden, troubled existence. Chaplin admits that in recent years, his family had all but given up on him, his wife saying at one point, “I want to tell you that I love you because I don’t know whether I will get a chance to again.”
A quick examination of the lyrics of ‘Hardened Heart’ reveals Chaplin’s tortured soul, one grappling with depression, part and parcel of the fallout of a life ravaged by addiction. This song is written from the inside of depression looking out. When you’re depressed, the outside world seems like a strange, almost cartoony place. Everyone around is getting on with their lives, but you can’t. You’re stuck in one place. “It’s such a beautiful world”, yet you don’t see it. All that’s in front of you is filtered through grey shaded glasses, darkness. It’s a tough place and even as concerned as they are, it’s hard to explain to those on the outside.
His pronouncement that “all the people that love me / they never know if I’m up, down or round”, mirroring the Jekyll and Hyde characters described in Barry Hyde’s ‘Monster Again’ on his own debut solo album ‘Malody’ (“Who am I tonight? What am I tomorrow?”). But arguably the worst part of this form of mental illness is realising you could be close to losing everything, but feeling helpless, unable to do anything to lift yourself out of the mire. As noted in the start of the chorus, it’s part of a vicious cycle: “hurting everyone I know / bringing everybody down so low / stuck along a road of sadness with nowhere to go”. Another sinister slice of depression is apathy, coupled with the overwhelming desire to reach a place of emotional normalcy. “Oh, I know that my hardened heart is beating still / I drove it to the point of madness just to feel”, sings Chaplin expansively. Though it sounds counterintuitive, finally going from numb to feeling is important towards the transformation, on the road to recovery.
The promo video for ‘Hardened Heart’ was filmed in the Peak District, starting with Tom Chaplin’s silhouette framed by the first few snatches of daylight at dawn. The visuals effectively parallel the shifting moods contained in the track, as the misty clouds lift over the water and rolling hills. Even with the sunshine, the landscape is rough with brush and bracken. Yet Chaplin finds a dirt path, walking down it with not just a renewed faith, but with gusto as the chorus turns to uplifting, with expressive strings and driving drumbeats: “here’s hoping that the signs are real / and tomorrow with a spring in my heel / somewhere on the road of sadness lies a better deal”. After years of leaning on the artistry of bandmate Rice-Oxley, media pundits have understandably wondered if Chaplin had the talent of penning a pop hit of his own. The answer is a resounding yes. And that voice? It’s never been better.
It takes strength to return from the brink, to come back better than ever, to fight for another day. Tom Chaplin is living proof of this. This song is his way to remind others who feel lower than low that even if you don’t feel it yourself, you matter. You matter to the people who love you. Above all, you are worthy of this life. The title ‘Hardened Heart’ speaks of not only of what depression does to our most important emotional organ, but also how the heart can survive and rise above after battling mental illness.
Tom Chaplin’s debut solo album ‘The Wave’ will be released on the 14th of October on Island Records. To read TGTF’s back catalogue of posts on his old band Keane, follow this link. To read about depression and addiction from a doctor’s perspective of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, go here. The Priory have also gotten in touch with us about their mental health services. They encourage anyone reading this article to learn more about addiction and anxiety disorders on their official Web site.
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