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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 6:00 pm
So it turns out Avi Buffalo‘s second Sub Pop album ‘At Best Cuckold’ that came out in September 2014 will be their last. RIP. In what is probably their last video ever, the ‘Think It’s Gonna Happen Again’ promo is disorientingly filled with shot after shot of what appears to be regret for the wrong choices you make in life in 20/20 hindsight, as singer/songwriter Avi Zahnner-Isenberg is a traveler, taking us from one scene to the next as he mimes the words to the song, sometimes staring straight at the viewer. But I guess this is where his journey (with Avi Buffalo, at least) ends. Watch the video below.
Want more? TGTF’s Avi Buffalo coverage is this-a way.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
In this lovely Take Away show from those French masters La Blogotheque, Pennsylvania growly indies the Districts perform two cuts from their upcoming album for Fat Possum Records, ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, which sees the light of day on the 9th of February. You’ll recognise ‘4th and Roebling’, the lead single from the upcoming LP, performed as the sun sets by a canal. ‘Suburban Smell’, performed acoustically alone by frontman Rob Grote, gets its first airing in this video as well. Watch the performances below.
Stay tuned for my review of ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, which will post soon here on TGTF. For our past coverage on the Lititz band, go here. The Districts are scheduled to perform at this year’s SXSW.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
It’s been some time since we’ve heard from Northwest American indie band Modest Mouse. The last time they released and toured a studio album – 2007’s concept album ‘We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’ – ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr was one of their full members (Marr has since gone on to his own successful solo career). 2015 will see the release of ‘Strangers to Ourselves’, Modest Mouse’s sixth studio album, which will be released in early March on Epic Records. Prior to Christmas 2014, the band revealed the LP’s first single, the all over the place ‘Lampshades on Fire’ (stream here). Just this last week, they revealed second single ‘Coyotes’, a much more understated and thoughful affair that gives clues that ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will have its introspective, melancholic moments.
The accompanying promo video for ‘Coyotes’ allows the listener to join what appears to be an urbanised coyote as he takes a light rail journey in an empty train car through Portland, Oregon. (Apparently the whole thing as reported by the Portland Mercury is a re-creation of actual events that happened on the town’s MAX Light Rail in 2002, starring what I assume is a very well-trained, Hollywood-type, coyote-looking dog.) The timing of the journey, in the wee hours of the morning, further lends a lonesome air that matches the song. After boarding, the coyote chooses to sit, then relax on a seat on the train, looking about as comfortable as any one of us might be spending a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa in front of the telly.
As you’re watching this video, you can’t help but make the connection between the surprising content in a wild animal’s face and body language to our own overwhelming complacency about our changing environment, that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with. In the suburb of Washington, DC, where I born and raised, many deer and a whole host of other wildlife regularly feed on our gardens and build homes and nests in our trees and under our lawns, much to the chagrin of homeowners. From the animals’ perspective, they have had to make do while their own natural habitat and way of life have been encroached on. Who is wrong, who is right? The song is simple, beginning with an easy guitar melody, before it heads into a sweeping chorus with staccatoed notes and backing vocals. This is more of a thinking song.
Frontman Isaac Brock’s haunting lyrics – “Coyotes tiptoe in the snow after dark / at home with the ghosts in the national parks / mankind’s behavin’ like some serial killers / giant ol’ monsters afraid of the sharks” – point squarely to this moral conflict that developers and urban dwellers are challenged with. Going further, he shows how ridiculous we are in being all too often unwilling to find real solutions for our problems: “And we say: ‘We’re in love with all of it’ / and we say: ‘We’re in love with everything’ / and we say: ‘What can we say?'” Is there a one size fits all answer to the mess we find ourselves in, to habitats being destroyed, to global warming, to the destruction of our earth? No, but Modest Mouse deserve mad props for taking to their soapbox to shame us for our own complacency.
The new Modest Mouse single ‘Coyotes’ is out now. ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will be released on Epic Records on the 2nd of March.
At TGTF we pride ourselves in specialising in new music, so this addition to our SXSW 2015 coverage is a little left-field. The Pop Group debuted in 1979 and return this year with new material after an incredible 35-year hiatus.
The album is heralded by the release of its title track, ‘Citizen Zombie’, as a single. The song initially sounds like an unlistenable mess of noise, but careful attention reveals its layers; there’s a decent groove hidden in there, a lounge-jazz interlude, and its main hook is a particularly persistent earworm. There’s occasionally even some proper lyrics (“like a bad, bad robot spinning out of control”), which reveal a darkly humourous streak pushing through all the chaos.
Ostensibly a post-punk outfit, The Pop Group were inspired by the commercial tail of punk to pursue a more eclectic sound. As contemporaries of The Clash, there’s a definite similarity in the two bands’ sounds – the white-boy funk, the ska influence, the half-spoken, heavily-accented vocals – but The Pop Group are a far more experimental and challenging listen. Perhaps that’s why they don’t share the bigger band’s legendary status of course, but then again there’s always those who prefer to cheer the underdog. The Pop Group are for them. And they’re all still alive, which helps.
As if to prove there’s nothing new under the sun, a quick trip through their back catalogue reveals a sound that at times wouldn’t be out of place being played by a bunch of teenagers from, say, Bristol. ‘Mad Truth’ has Carib-jangle rhythm guitar and a cleanly-plucked, reverbed lead line part that countless indie bands are deploying right now to good effect. But no contemporary band can match the granddads’ irreverent attitude or ability to make you feel very uncomfortable indeed.
They’re embarking on a modest U.S. tour before rocking up at SXSW. Quite how those shows will be received is anyone’s guess. A bunch of grumpy, grey-haired English blokes making a right old racket is surely not what the increasingly touristy SXSW punters have in mind when they buy their tickets. But one thing’s for sure: it’s bound to be very memorable indeed.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 6:00 pm
Longfellow have released the new promo for their latest single ‘Medic’, which was released back on the 12th of January. Considering how powerful their live action video for ‘Kiss-Hug-Makeup’ was last spring, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel with an animated one from them. There’s a definite twist at the end of this video that I never saw coming, and for that alone, it’s worth it to check out this video below.
The band have two London shows lined up for February: they’ll be at The Fix night at the Social on Little Portland Street on the 3rd of the month, followed by a headline show all their own on the 26th at the Borderline. For all our previous coverage on Longfellow, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
Words by Harry Gold
Bridging the gap between Baggy and Britpop in the early ‘90s, the Charlatans were one of many bands that rode the wave of success of the Manchester music scene that developed after the emergence of the Hacienda as a ‘superclub’ in the late ‘80s. Despite offering their own take on the psychedelic swagger of Madchester sound, the easiest way to describe the group’s 1990 debut LP ‘Some Friendly’ would be “The Stone Roses with an organ player”, offering an arguably more accessible and poppy sound. Re-emerging in 2015, The Charlatans seem to have completely remolded themselves, with vocalist Tim Burgess’ Gallagher-esque drawl having seemingly dissipated into something more versatile and wide reaching. The music also appears more expansive, sounding surprisingly cosmopolitan for a group hailing from Northwich.
Stripped down to its bare bones, ‘Modern Nature’ can be described as a record by a West Coast psychedelic rock band with electronic and acid house undertones. This, interestingly, would be also have been a fitting way to describe the band at the height of their success in the ‘90s, making ‘Modern Nature’ a massive sonic departure, but also a remoulding of old influences. While ‘Some Friendly’ was a testament to staying indoors and taking drugs at shady nightclubs, the album as a whole feels like the rediscovery of a world outside of raving and clubbing, a welcome contrast to draw with convoluted modern pop music.
Opening track ‘Talking in Tones’ marks a departure from the electronic groove-led energy of the band’s earlier material, the group appearing to be looking around and appreciating the world around them more rather than focussing exclusively on themselves and their immediate surroundings. The main musical influences are immediately noticeable, with the shadow of the Doors being omnipresent throughout the record, especially on album track ‘Let the Good Times Be Never Ending’. Paired with a drum sound reminiscent of New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’, the group’s Stephen Morris being one of the guest drummers playing on the LP, the band seamlessly merge together sounds originally created decades apart.
Recent single ‘So Oh’ hints at more contemporary psychedelic wanderings, with the thought of Tame Impala immediately springing to the fore. There are moments when such sunniness seems almost unconvincing coming from a group that have probably only experienced a heat wave once in their lives, living in an otherwise gloomy part of Britain. Beneath the vibrant exterior, the creation of ‘Modern Nature’ feels as though it has occurred alongside the daunting realization that the group has outgrown their old youthful energy and need to “grow up”. The album, as a result, feels like a result of these blind meanderings, a transitory moment for the band as songwriters and musicians, but also as people.
‘Modern Nature’ doesn’t, however, feel like a step into the future, rather a celebration of the past. After the passing of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013, The Charlatans seem to have garnered a new appreciation for life, allowing them to see not only the world around them, but also themselves, in a completely different light. Featuring members of the Verve, Dexy’s and Factory Floor, the record is a celebration of all that has come before, with musicians born generations apart pulling together, marking ‘Modern Nature’ as a key point in the groups career, encapsulating their past into one record so they can move forward into the future.
‘Modern Nature’, the Charlatans’ 12th studio album to date, is out now on BMG / Chrysalis. The band have lined up a UK tour in March, with many of the dates already sold out.
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