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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 6:00 pm
Longfellow are currently in New York City for CMJ this week, but those of us who don’t happen to be in the Big Apple shouldn’t feel too downtrodden. They’ve kindly left behind the gorgeously shot video for ‘Polaroid’, which appears on their mini-album ‘Prelude’ that was released in July on Fierce Panda Records. (You can read my review of ‘Prelude’ here.) The promo, starring actress Victoria Emslie, can be watched below.
And ok, if you happen to be at CMJ (you miserable, lucky devils), you can catch Longfellow at their official CMJ showcase on Friday (the 24th of October) at Coco 66 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at 11 PM. Not to be missed!
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 2:00 pm
Header photo by Mary Chang; other photos by Martin Sharman
Many moons ago, I had seriously entertained moving to Manchester. The common question from local friends: “why would you ever leave America for some place that rains all the time?” Over the years I’ve become friends with quite a few musicians from the place and even if it weren’t for all the people I know there, there is no denying that the city is the North’s main hub for music and bands. While I’ve visited several times now over the last 8 years, I’ve only ever seen shows at the Apollo (Morrissey; Fenech-Soler supporting), the Opera House (Morrissey), Bridgewater Hall (Morrissey), Gulliver’s (City Reign) and the Deaf Institute (Dutch Uncles with Fiction supporting; the Orielles; School of Language), and I still haven’t made much of a dent on the enormous list of venues whose doors I’m still yet to pass through. Really though, there have only been two venues left I’ve been really keen in visiting for gigs: Peter Hook’s FAC251 and the Soup Kitchen. I had the opportunity 2 Saturdays ago to finally see a show there and by one of my favourite electronic artists as of late.
Located on Spear Street in the ridiculously vibrant Northern Quarter, The Soup Kitchen is smack dab in the middle of all the action. Although it’s only been open for 2 short years, it has already become a meeting place for locals not only for their amazing food. As the name suggests, they do amazing soup (among others, Johnny Marr is a fan), as well as maintain a brilliant seasonal, entirely from scratch in-house menu. But as you can imagine from me spending the time writing up this feature, they play host to some pretty fab gigs too, most often put on by local promoter legends Now Wave.
Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control, Martin and I missed the two opening bands on this particular night, but thankfully we arrived just in time to catch Cloud Boat’s full set. As often happens at the madness that is SXSW, I missed both showcases by the London trio, but as it turns out when I had a word with them after this show at Soup Kitchen, coming out to Manchester to see them was probably for the best anyhow. (I also had a lovely chat in the wee hours of the morning with Tom, Sam and Andres in Liverpool the following night, and you can expect that interview feature with them in the coming days when I’ve finally come to from this jetlag.) I’ve blathered on long enough about the venue, let’s talk about the band and the show!
Cloud Boat released their second album for R&S imprint Apollo Records in July, so it made sense that ‘Model of You’ would be well-represented on this evening. ‘Carmine’, their opening track for the evening, was the perfect start of what was mostly incredibly atmospheric, gorgeously made music. The gentle sweetness of ‘Hideaway’ also made an early appearance in their set; from that point on, I was at a loss for words. These days I feel like I don’t come across enough vocalists that make me weak in the knees. Tom Clarke possesses a gift, an often ethereal voice that seems couldn’t have come from anywhere but the heavens, and I just don’t understand how the full package of Cloud Boat isn’t more famous and popular yet.
While I was disappointed that one of my favourites from ‘Model of You’, ‘Thoughts in Mine’, didn’t make the cut in Manchester, the performance of ‘Aurelia’ more than made up for the omission, with its upbeat tempo and Clarke’s repeated refrain of “wondering if I should dive in” making for sure one of the standout moments for the night. ‘Portrait of Eyes’, with its glitchy beats and haunting vocals, proved also imposing, with the lyrics, “the first page of my map is in colour / a scrapbook for all that I love / the second page of my map is all selfish desires / and looks like the work of a child”.
I may say it too often, but I don’t really care: I think some people get the massively incorrect impression when confronted with a band that has loads upon loads of electronic equipment and gadgetry onstage that it indicates a lack of heart and a lack of talent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Us fans of any genre touched by electronics know that if anything, the true artists of this kind of music work that many times harder to prove that they’re the real deal and not reliant and are entirely unlike the manufactured pop stars of our generation. Many times, and also true of Cloud Boat as you will read in my interview with them, their musical backgrounds didn’t even start with electronics. So before you judge a band by their gear, I urge you to listen to their music with an open mind and an open heart.
Tunes from their debut ‘Book of Hours’ also made a welcome appearance. ‘Bastion’ was pure beauty in its sparseness, and being able to hear songs from both albums at the same gig shows you immediately how the band has progressed and evolved. The biggest shame of the evening was that they couldn’t have played longer; as it was a Saturday in Manchester, there was a dance night to follow after Cloud Boat’s set, which meant an early curfew. But I’m not going to complain too much. I’m really happy to have finally have seem Tom, Sam and Andres live and this show in this Northern town has whet my appetite for many future shows and hopefully many more releases from the London act. Wishing you every success, guys.
When an artist’s debut album garners a Mercury Prize nomination and two Brit Awards, following it up with a second full release must seem a monumental proposition. Undaunted by his early success with 2011’s ‘Every Kingdom’, Ben Howard has succeeded in not only fulfilling but exceeding the expectations he set forth for himself with his new release, ‘I Forget Where We Were’. Where ‘Every Kingdom’ alternated between quiet introspection and uptempo folk-pop, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ takes a darker, more dramatic turn, replacing carefully crafted hooks with broader instrumental sections and an extended sonic palette.
Produced once again by drummer Chris Bond, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ is more pared back than the lengthy ‘Every Kingdom’, but the individual songs on the new album are characteristically expansive, with 7 of the 10 tracks exceeding the 5-minute mark. Most notable among those is the epic ‘End of the Affair’. Though it appears late in the overall sequence, the early single release of this song set the tone for the album, swapping Howard’s usual warm acoustic instrumental setting for one based in the echoes of electric guitars. Which is not to say that the song lacks emotional connection; indeed Howard’s rasping vocals drip with the sad bitterness of his lyrics. Each repeat of the chorus – “living without her / living at all / seems to slow me down / living forever / hell, I don’t know / do I care, do I care / the thunder’s rumbled sound” – is more anguished building into the frenetic, breathtaking coda.
The evocatively reverberant electric guitar riff of opening track ‘Small Things’ introduces the new sound without preface, offsetting the ominous vocal line of the chorus, “has the world gone mad or is it me? / all these small things, they gather round me”. The deep angst in the closing instrumental section segues flawlessly into the driving beat of second track ‘Rivers in Your Mouth’. Title track and recent single ‘I Forget Where We Were’ is more rock than folk with its wailing guitars and crashing cymbals. The electric guitar solo in the bridge section perfectly illustrates the growing dissonance and despair of a relationship starting to unravel.
Among the howling guitars and propulsive drums, Howard weaves in hints of his signature acoustic folk sound. The rhythmic finger-picked guitar figure of ‘In Dreams’ is both ethereal and portentously energetic, matched with a moaning hum in the backing vocals and and a bowed string countermelody. ‘She Treats Me Well’ is a soulful acoustic ballad whose slight blues inflection grows stronger as its equally blues-tinged lyrics play out.
Amazingly, the songs on ‘I Forget Where We Were’ maintain their high level of intensity and focus into the second half of the album. ‘Evergreen’ pinpoints the distant wintery chill that characterises most of the record, the lyric “there in the lights you said something, but I can’t remember what” capturing the essence of memory that is fading, yet still haunting in its emotion. In standout track ‘Conrad’, Howard makes lyrical reference to Polish-English author Joseph Conrad, comparing his former lover to the breached ship in Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’ and his protagonist to the novel’s title character. Closing track ‘All is Now Harmed’ continues the theme of disillusionment, but returns to a more sensual musicality, building to a soaring instrumental dynamic with the repeated chorus “what is in your nature looms inside your blood / hold me in harm’s wake, baby, all is now harmed”.
Thematically, ‘I Forget Where We Were’ combines restrained intellect with a sense of slow-burning emotion just below the surface. It’s not as heart-on-sleeve as ‘Every Kingdom’, but musically, it has more edge, more bite. Howard has refined his songwriting to the point where every sonic choice has definite musical or emotional intent, and the concentrated tracklisting allows each song to deliver its full emotional impact. It’s rare to hear a sophomore album more powerful than its hit predecessor debut, especially one as critically acclaimed as ‘Every Kingdom’, but Howard has truly outdone himself here.
‘I Forget Where We Were’ by Ben Howard is out now on Universal/Island Records. Howard will embark on a sold out tour of the UK and Ireland in December.
Charlatans have announced a string of March tour dates to follow the January 2015 release of their 12th studio album ‘Modern Nature’. The veteran alt-rockers are pushing forward after the passing of their drummer Jon Brookes, who insisted on the completion of the new LP. In Brookes’ stead, The Verve drummer Pete Salisbury, who played on ‘Modern Nature’, will accompany the band for these live shows. Tickets go on sale this Friday, the 24th of October, at 9 AM.
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 – Bristol Academy
Thursday 5th March 2015 – Manchester Albert Hall
Saturday 7th March 2015 – Leeds Academy
Monday 9th March 2015 – Hull University Main Room
Tuesday 10th March 2015 – Glasgow Barrowland
Friday 13th March 2015 – Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Saturday 14th March 2015 – Leicester Academy
Monday 16th March 2015 – London Roundhouse
Along with their major 2015 tour announcement, Royal Blood have unveiled a new video for ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’, the next single from their recently released self-titled LP, reviewed by Mary here. The new track will be released in a 7” format on the 1st of December with the b-side ‘One Trick Pony’ and is available for pre-order at Stereo Boutique.
The video for ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ features a series of live shots of the Brighton duo playing in a deserted cave interspersed among vague but ominously threatening scenes that insinuate a love affair gone awry. The dramatic imagery and lyrics, including the opening lines “She took my heart, left me for dead, and drank my blood”, match the frenetic pace of the music to create a suspenseful mini-thriller.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 21st October 2014 at 4:00 pm
The latest promo from Geordie stalwarts Maximo Park is for ‘Give, Get, Take’, the opening track from their current album ‘Too Much Information’, released in February.
As noted by the Maximo devoted, their last video for ‘Midnight on the Hill’ didn’t feature the band at all, so this performance video in a space well loved by and truly important to the North East band is a nice change. Somehow, I felt I’d been there before, so I asked the band on Twitter if my gut feeling had any merit. (It did; turns out the venue is the famed Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, just a stone’s throw away from the main railway station in town where our Martin took me the first time I visited Newcastle last year.) Watch the video below the Twitter embed.
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