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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
Words by Jennifer Williams
I always thought Neil Gaiman’s short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties sounded like a song that Jarvis Cocker would write. Seriously, think about it. It just makes sense. Fitting it is, then, that this week sees the release of the UK SkyArts TV series Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories. The four, 30-minute mini-films are the work of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who gave us the cinematic gem that is 20,000 Days on Earth. Along for the ride, Cocker is along for the ride too, onboard to provide the musical accompaniment to Gaiman’s imagination made flesh. Let’s be honest: there are many people that could do the job, sure. But very few should, or could take on the task with elegance, sex appeal, and yes, the creep factor. In short, Jarvis is THE person for the job, and he delivers.
Included in the press release for the EP featuring the first substantial new music from Jarvis Cocker we learn a wee bit about the project from the man himself: “Four grubby tales set in all night cafes, low rent drinking dens and doctor’s surgeries. I didn’t have to leave my comfort zone for this assignment.” Gaiman is a writer with his own take on the human condition with a balance of cold realisation and yet maintaining elements of warmth, even if it gets a bit scary sometimes. What Gaiman achieves in his literary work, Cocker strives, succeeds, and often exceeds similar in his songwriting. The evocative ‘Likely Stories’ theme comes complete with warm female backing vocals, set against a musical backdrop that is uneasy and unhinged.
It also also does have a bit of Nick Cave vibe. (‘Red Right Hand’, anyone?) While both Cave and Cocker are master storytellers, their methods do vary a bit. Where Cave leans more towards the cerebral, the Cocker approach is all about the affective laced with the intellectual. We are talking about Jarvis Cocker though, so there is no shortage of sex appeal. Cave has his sexy moments too, but they are just that: moments. Jarvis’ vocals will pretty much make text from the mundane to the murderous into a more sensuous affair. On the track ‘Foraging’ on this EP, on this EP, for example, the lyrics are comprised solely of a list of edible fungi, and yet it sounds like a proper come on.
Sex and the creep factor is a winning combination for Cocker, and this really shows through on EP track ‘Looking for the Girl’. He sounds like that guy that recites the most amazing romantic poetry, poetry that he probably penned after killing off potential rivals. ‘Poor Babes in the Woods’, the track the closes the EP out, is not even 3 minutes long, but Cocker does not need extra time to flip the fear switch in this sinister lullabye.
Fans of old school Pulp – and by old school I am talking ‘Masters of the Universe’ type stuff here – you will find much to appreciate in this new release in this new release. The final result is a score that is equally beguiling as it is haunting,, making it the perfect sonic companion for Gaiman’s narratives. Here’s to hoping the show is as good as its soundtrack.
‘Likely Stories’, a new EP from Jarvis Cocker to accompany the release of the UK SkyArts TV series of the same name, is out today, this today, Friday, the 27th of May, on Rough Trade Records. A 7″ version of the EP is available now in the UK; the American release will will follows on the 3rd of June. Watch the trailer to the TV series below.
Chichester-born singer/songwriter Tom Odell has announced a list of November tour dates to follow his highly-anticipated new album ‘Wrong Crowd’, due for release on the 10th of June via Columbia Records. Odell recently played the album’s lead single ‘Magnetised’ in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, and you can watch that performance just below the tour date listing.
The November tour will start in Dublin on the 1st of November and end at London’s Brixton Academy on the 13th of the month. Tickets for the following live shows will be available at 8 today, Friday the 27th of May. TGTF’s previous coverage of Tom Odell is collected right back here.
Tuesday 1st November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 – Belfast Limelight
Friday 4th November 2016 – Brighton Centre
Saturday 5th November 2016 – Plymouth Pavilions
Sunday 6th November 2016 – Swindon Oasis Centre
Tuesday 8th November 2016 – Leeds Academy
Wednesday 9th November 2016 – Manchester Apollo
Saturday 12th November 2016 – Birmingham Academy 1
Sunday 13th November 2016 – London Brixton Academy
Transgressive Records have just announced their recent signing of Australian alt-folkie Julia Jacklin who inspired label co-founder Toby L to remark, “Every now and then you hear a new voice and little else seems to matter. Julia Jacklin’s is one such voice”. Jacklin has a delicate, country-style croon that lilts gracefully over her witty and perceptive lyrics, as I heard for myself earlier this year at the NME / UK Trade and Investment showcase at SXSW 2016.
Transgressive marked the new signing by sharing Jacklin’s video for early single ‘Pool Party’, which despite its jovial title is a forlorn tale of substance abuse within a relationship. The accompanying video starkly illustrates the emotional distance between the involved parties, and Jacklin’s vocals wring the heartbreaking emotion out of every line, particularly the chorus lyric “my heart is heavy when you’re high / so, for me, why won’t you try?”.
Julia Jacklin is currently on tour in the UK, following a successful appearance at The Great Escape 2016. She is scheduled to play at the End of the Road Festival in Dorset on the 3rd of September and at Ireland’s Electric Picnic on the 4th of September. You can find Jacklin’s full list of live dates on her official Facebook.
We at TGTF have had our ears on Brooklyn indie rock band Big Thief since last autumn, when I saw them open for Here We Go Magic at the Valley Bar in Phoenix. Six months on from that show, Big Thief are quickly garnering fans from across the musical spectrum with songs from their genre-stretching debut album ‘Masterpiece’. An imaginary Venn diagram of the album might depict an intersection of alt-country, indie folk and psych rock, with ‘Masterpiece’ falling squarely in the centre.
Frontwoman and songwriter Adrianne Lenker has crafted a series of songs around what she describes as “the process of harnessing pain, loss, and love, while simultaneously letting them go, looking into your own eyes through someone else’s, and being okay with the inevitability of death.” Her constantly shifting character perspective keeps the quell of emotion inherent in those themes at a measured distance, and her bandmates (Buck Meek on guitar, Max Oleartchik on bass and Jason Burger on drums) create a discordant and disorienting sonic backdrop for her hazy existentialism.
The album’s eponymous track and lead single ‘Masterpiece’ is a full sonic realisation of Lenker’s artistic vision, with bold, round guitars, heavy drums, and a catchy chorus under the blunt desperation of her verses: “you whispered to a restless ear / can you get me out of here? / this place smells like piss and beer / can you get me out?”. Lenker’s singing voice, like her lyrics, isn’t exactly pretty, but its half-whispered, half-yodeled tone is both poignantly fragile and vividly evocative.
The album’s current single ‘Real Love’ was a live standout when I saw the band play on the Ground Control Touring showcase at SXSW 2016, and it’s a highlight on the full album as well. Lenker’s haunting vocal melody fluctuates between pure country (“mama got drunk and daddy went to prison”) and unadulterated realism (“riding in the back seat, watching my spit fly”), and her delicate singing is punctuated by gritty, strident rock guitar riffs.
The estranged father-daughter ballad ‘Interstate’ is somewhat lighter in texture but its sonic undertones are harshly discordant, particularly under the wistful line “you could go back in time”, which is underlaid by disorienting shifts in harmony. Lenker takes on the perspective of a sympathetic onlooker in the lyrics, “she is getting thin / you are going grey and white / and you don’t know how to tell her as you say good night”, but you get the sense throughout that she might in fact be the daughter, especially when the track fades to a child’s voice innocently chanting, “I like our truck”.
A pair of love contrasting love ballads sits at the heart of the album, the acoustic-flavoured ‘Lorraine’ and the bittersweet ‘Paul’. The former is a brief wisp of memory, perhaps of a fleeting romantic encounter that never developed into anything tangible, exemplified by the lyric “like we were hummingbirds screaming at ravens, you started to move me from fact into fable”. The latter is an edgier electric-flavoured track about another doomed love affair, this time from the opposite perspective: “I’ll be your real tough cookie with the whisky breath / I’ll be a killer and a thriller and the cause of our death.”
‘Humans’ returns to the harder, harsher tones of the earlier tracks, with a distorted bass and guitar foundation under Lenker’s slurred, mumbled verse lines “humans in the honest light / love is a cold infection, right”, while a piercing guitar riff brings the repeated chorus lyric into sharp focus. Conversely, ‘Animals’ is fuzzy and obscure throughout, with shifting harmonies and tempo keeping the listener consistently off balance. Final track ‘Parallels’ features another brilliantly written verse, “caterpillar on the floor / can you teach me to transform . . . I can’t say I’ll miss my human form much” juxtaposed with a simple, relentlessly repeated chorus.
Appropriate to the title of its closing track, ‘Masterpiece’ is an album of parallels and juxtapositions. It never attempts to come full circle or to establish a definitive direction, but Adrianne Lenker’s uniquely crafted songs and distinctive vocal style nevertheless leave a lasting impression, both in live performance and on this studio recording.
Big Thief’s debut LP ‘Masterpiece’ is due out tomorrow, Friday the 27th of May, on Saddle Creek Records. Our previous coverage of the band is back this way.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.
When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.
My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.
As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.
While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.
The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.
Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.
The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.
I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.
I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Brighton’s Fear of Men are gearing up to release second album next week. Ahead of the LP’s drop, they’ve released a new video for a track from it. From its title, ‘Trauma’ sounds like a heavy listen, but the approach used in the promo utilises what looks like black mud and two actors clearly up for getting a wee bit dirty. Watch the mess unfold in the promo video below.
‘Fall Forever’, Brighton trio Fear of Men’s sophomore full-length effort, will be available from Kanine Records on the 3rd of June. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.
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