We'll be at SXSW the week of 10/03/14, so if it's more quiet than usual here, that's why! Check out our Twitter
for updates from Austin.
SXSW 2014 preview coverage
| SXSW 2013 | Sound City 2013 | Great Escape 2013
Don't forget to like There Goes the Fear on Facebook
and follow us on Twitter
! ~TGTF HQ x
Since their first single release, 2011’s ‘No Rest’, Dry the River’s profile has steadily risen, culminating in last year’s album release and triumphant accompanying tour. Unwavering support from the likes of Amazing Radio is no less credit than they deserve for a punishing live schedule which has seen not a single month pass since 2011 when they haven’t played a gig.
Even more impressive then, is that they have found the time to return to the studio and completely re-record their debut album, ‘Shallow Bed’. For those who missed ‘Shallow Bed’ the first time, here follows the executive summary: a thing of both delicacy and power, ‘Shallow Bed’ channelled the burgeoning folk-rock revival whilst still maintaining an air of credibility, probably thanks to the dual virtues of well-honed material, and notable virtuoso performances from the band, in particular singer Peter Liddle’s distinctively keening vocal.
Fast forward 9 months later, and ‘Shallow Bed’ the acoustic version is upon us. The casual observer would be forgiven for imagining that this is a simple stop-gap, a melange of previously released acoustic versions and even (shock, horror!) demos, but all the evidence points to this being a full re-recording of the entire album. As such, even though the basic material is the same, this release warrants reviewing as a new piece.
The original album found itself rocking out at times, which is not the case here. Instead, drama is generated from subtle instrumentation and savoured, drawn-out lyrical delivery. This all lends itself to careful absorption and analysis of the material – which stands up ably to such scrutiny. ‘Bible Belt’, always a piece which relied more on emotional rather than instrumental impact, is slowed down even further, the guitars exiled, and simple strings and piano take their place. The ensuing tension is palpable.
In ‘History Book’, swathes of delicate harmony vocals take centre stage, with just the minutest of guitar embellishments for company, setting the lead melody free to become, if anything, even more beautiful. <a href="Emmy the Great pops up on ‘Shaker Hymns’: the female voice such a rarity on Dry the River material, it shines like a gold nugget nestling at the bottom of the eponymous dessicated bedrock, in comparison with Liddle’s unctuous delivery, where each vowel eases its way out with the gentle effort of a birthing monotreme.
Overall, the mood is misty, mournful, righteous. This album sounds wonderful, a true pleasure to listen to on a good sound system, the acoustic instruments breathing clearly in a well-constructed ambience. Its gentle sound may suit background listening, and is superb for easing children off to sleep, but it deserves just as much foreground attention as its louder forebear. There’s nothing shallow here but the name.
Dry the River’s acoustic version of ‘Shallow Bed’ is available now from RCA Victor.
Listening companions: Ryan Adams – ‘Love Is Hell’ (parts 1 and 2)
The tail end of 2012 sees London’s BRIT award-winning minimalist three-piece the xx take on a handful of UK dates in promotion of sophomore long-player ‘Coexist’, before moving on to a far more substantial tour with the unspoken objective of cracking the notoriously fickle US market. TGTF caught their show in Newcastle upon Tyne, with the agenda of assessing how their darkly atmospheric sound would be received across the pond.
Support for the UK dates comes from Ireland’s Mmoths. Jack Colleran generates ethereal swathes of synths and found sounds, unnamed voices drifting with nary a care through his delicately spun melodies. Reminiscent of Baths at his somnambulent best, tonight he is occasionally backed by a live drummer and bassist; the weight which this adds to the sound is sorely needed live, the restless crowd silently pleading for something solid to alleviate their anticipation. Mmoths’ debut EP ‘Diaries’ is out next year.
The xx are a stylish band. Clad all in black, a complex white light show enhancing their studied, aloof manner, they carefully recreate much of ‘Coexist’, with selected pickings from lauded debut xx. Immediately it’s obvious that the live show brings a sense of soul and involvement that the records can sometimes lack. Romy Madley-Croft’s soft yet assertive vocal is entirely engaging, the delicacy of ‘Angels’ allowing her voice to gently whisper sweet somethings across the hushed audience. When the band are at their best, things soar majestically, but there’s always a metaphorical distance, an unseen foot on the brake. Their considerable appeal – bear in mind this is a big venue, fully sold out – is difficult to define. Such slow-burning subtlety isn’t usually a guarantor of mainstream appeal. Whether the Mercury nod, or the fashionable Bauhaus bleakness, there is something afoot here.
Despite the knowing stylings, and the adult themes, there’s something childlike about the simplicity on show tonight. Guitar chords are eschewed for singly-plucked notes, bass is straight as a die, rarely, if ever, wandering from root. There is more space than sound. The entirety of ‘VCR’ could be a child’s TV theme tune. But absent is the glee of childhood: this is the music of care; of thinking; of the architecture of love; of autism. Only Jamie Smith reveals and revels in anything resembling the conventional transcendentiality of music: only in his superb live drum machine work and real-time mangling of the entire band’s sound does anything approaching a release of emotion occur. But just when it seems that might inspire the entire band to shift to another gear of engagement, the song draws to a close, and the stage is shrouded in darkness once again.
The xx live experience is quite unique. It is elegant, distinctive, soulful and heartfelt. Yet at the same time aloof, knowing, and, at times, hollow. Rather a mixed bag then – more for thinking than dancing, more for savouring than devouring. Whether this suits the US taste in music is an impossible quandary – they’ve chosen mostly southern states, which one might lazily think not the perfect match. However, The xx have conquered all with their subtle charms – and it seems likely the US will be the next to succumb.
Scottish art-rockers Frightened Rabbit are back with single ‘The Woodpile’, coming across all bombast and desolation. The song’s theme is that of outsiders sticking together, finally making that unique loner connection over a pile of burning logs. Damnably radio-friendly, certainly fitting the established Rabbit mould (that floor tom gets a lot of use), it couldn’t be more distinctively Scottish if it had a bagpipe intro. The spiritual successor to Runrig.
There’s also an intriguing and technically excellent single-take video, set in a place not unlike New York, whose scene-of-crime mystery builds to a fine crescendo, only to be let down by the final denouement’s unlikely outcome. [spoiler alert] A bit of life advice – before calling 999, make sure to check the casualty’s pulse first.
A sign of good things to come from forthcoming album ‘Pedestrian Verse’, out next year, along with an accompanying tour. Don’t forget your matches.
‘The Woodpile’ will feature on Frightened Rabbit’s new album ‘Pedestrian Verse’, out in February on Atlantic (their popularity has allowed them to outgrow their Fat Cat breeches). Watch the video below.
#6 on the reader-voted 10 for 2013 list here at TGTF are a band who are no stranger to our year end polls: this Kings Cliffe band landed at #8 in the 10 for 2011 poll, and judging from your enthusiasm, are set to storm the world with their new album scheduled out soon. Martin philosophises about the band in this feature…
Fenech-Soler are a surprise inclusion on the list for 2013, existing as they have since 2006. But their inspirational ability to combine indie-band verses with hard-hitting, Ibiza-worthy uplifting choruses means they are currently one of the UK’s finest dance crossover bands. One only has to experience their trademark wall-of-synth breakdowns to understand their power – 2009’s ‘Stop And Stare’ is a triumph of comedown comfort which melds uplifting vocal lines with a veritable cornucopia of synthesised pillowy goodness.
Since then they have subtly hardened their sound – 2009’s ‘The Cult of Romance’ restrains itself from the Ibiza excesses of its predecessor; its b-side ‘Airbrushed’ asserts itself via a teasing, trebly bassline before revealing its dark underbelly of confusion and, finally, redemption… Ben Duffy sounding all the while like a moonlighting Brian Molko.
2012’s ‘All I Know’ (single review here) condenses 7 years’ experience into one 3-minute blast of knowing, desperate longing, via a pounding wall of synthesis. The status quo undulates with rhythmic precision (the band if anything yet more inclined to drop from gentle groove into full-on “turn it up to 12” sound system kicking) until there’s a release into full-frequency mayhem, Duffy’s keening vocal maintaining the emotion required for such a touching narrative.
In summary, Fenech-Soler can open the way to a new horizon: that which starts with a drifting, imagined, vocal hook, and ends with pounding four-to-the-floor boogieing, seamlessly integrated with a human story. It’s all to dance for.
Band of Skulls were one of the highlights of this year’s lacklustre Evolution Festival, so an opportunity to catch the band on their final promotional tour for latest album ‘Sweet Sour’ is one not to be missed. Does their raucous blend of blues-rock and contemporary songwriting work just as well in an intimate, sweaty venue as it did on an outdoor stage? Oh yes indeed.
But first up we have Manchester six-piece Folks, whose mission is to recreate the sliver of time when 1960s flower-power psychedelia and 1970s hard rock existed simultaneously. Musically, Beach Boys three-part harmonies, synth recreations of Beatles-era mellotron, and Stones-esque riffing recreate a bygone era, whilst paisley shirts, winkle-pickers, Weller haircuts and the non-ironic appearance of a faded Mick Ronson t-shirt mean sartorially the band flirt dangerously close to self-parody: a tribute to tribute acts, if you will.
Singer Scott Anderson flourishes his tambourine like it’s coming back into fashion; his vocal style is similarly reminiscent of the younger Gallagher brother. The material shares complementary retro affectations: ‘My Mother’, lead-off track from debut ‘I See Cathedrals’, sets the tone: upbeat, crashing drums, efflusions of vocal harmonies, crunchy guitar work, and string quartet embellishment; as a contrast, ‘Skull & Bones’ is shameless in its pilfering of the thudding rhythm of ELO’s ‘Mr. Blue Sky’. If ‘Will It Blend?’ took the couple of years either side of 1970, gave them a good whizz, and poured the resulting morass onto a stage, Folks are what would happen. It’s all pretty good fun, and if you regret never being at the Marquee Club in 1969, or if you were there and want to relive those glory days, these are your Folks. Thomas Fripp’s spidery, eloquent guitar work is a particular highlight, however if you want something truly original, look elsewhere.
Look, perhaps, to Band of Skulls, who despite taking hard rock as their framework, manage to meld it into something contemporary, original, and exciting. ‘Sweet Sour’ is dispensed early, its dirty, sexy, sparsely bluesy guitar work setting the tone for what is to develop over the next hour. A true power trio in the vein of Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Skulls’ talent is to craft proper songs, relevant with emotion and meaning (check out ‘Hometowns’ for a prime example), whilst still delivering the goods with massive ROCK! riffs and finger-shredding solos from Russell Marsden. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ features both elements turned up to the requisite 11, enhanced by the boy-girl vocal throughout – the interplay between Marsden and bassist (and renowned artist) Emma Richardson the key to broadening and sexing up the sound.
BoS have a talent for attracting a crowd diverse in age and style (if not ethnicity): there’s the requisite teenage lads at the front, moshing and taking camera-phone pictures of the set list; but there’s also more mature chin-stroking musos thoughtfully observing, dolled-up girls who could just as easily fit in at one of the city’s more salubrious cocktail bars, and in some cases entire families, with pension-age mothers rocking out with their slightly embarrassed sons. As heard after the gig:
Mum: (slightly slurred) “It’s not as cold out now as it was when we went in, son.”
Son: “That’s because you’re pissed now, mother. You’re fucking 60, I thought you’d have worked that out by now. Give us a tab.”
In short, Band of Skulls give a wide demographic the opportunity to rock out in convincing style, without being remotely threatening as hard rock acts can often be – indeed the polite demeanour and posh Southampton accent from Marsden between songs is somewhat at odds with his intensity when at full tilt. The onstage presence of a rock chick widens the appeal to the aforementioned glam crowd, and the whole room is enthusiastically united in the climactic stomp of ‘Death By Diamonds and Pearls’.
That Band of Skulls are at home in a small club as on an outdoor stage is testament to the versatility of their material, and the sincerity of their delivery. They are on course for wider recognition, and rightly so – there’s not many rock bands your mother could like.
In the last couple weeks, we asked you to vote for the top 10 artists you thought would be big in 2013. Starting the list off at #10 in fine fashion are a grunge/blues band from Bath…
Kill It Kid are going to rock your world in 2013. Their astonishing revival of the blues via crunching, wall-demolishing guitars sweetened with tongue-tingling girl vocal lines means their only competition on the circuit is similarly bi-gender practitioners of homespun blues-rock Band of Skulls. Think a contemporary backyard G ‘n’ R with prominent piano and a *strong* female influence that never gives up even when faced with several channels of guitar onslaught and the usual male tendency to dominate.
In the sparse, keening intro to ‘Wild and Wasted Waters’ (video below), one is reminded how desolate and yet fulfilling the delta blues of south-west North America can be, particularly when interpreted through the body and soul of practitioners from a geographically similar region of England. There’s nothing to pick between the regions for sincerity and conviction; indeed the sentiment that Kill It Kid ply is married to that of the spiritual USA: it’s heard in the enthusiasm for minor keys, the worship of the diminished fifth, and the vintage-toned arrangements.
Theirs is the world of smoky, aromatic last-minute shows; scuffed and scraped Les Pauls hurriedly mated with ancient Twin Reverbs, frayed leads and cracked pop guards further reinforcing the intimate, heartfelt nature of the performance. ‘Feet Fall Heavy’, 2011’s seminal long-player, is a skeletal homage to Robert Johnson’s desolate accounts of the redemptive power found within the dark reaches of the heart, as liberated by six amplified strings and the sound of air deliberately split asunder.
Kill It Kid are surely the go-to band for 2013’s blues revivalists, steampunks, and grizzled old bluesmen awaiting the second coming. Await no longer… at least if the Devil can be distracted from listening to this tour de force of contemporary electric blues to attend to you. It’s a thankless task, but someone’s got to do it.