By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 2nd September 2014 at 6:00 pm
It’s the day after Labor Day here in America and all the kids are back in school, which means autumn is basically here. So it’s extra good timing for Bear in Heaven to release the promo for their song ‘Autumn’, off their fourth album ‘Time is Over One Day’ out now. The visuals are like stepping into a blurry, trippy RPG. Watch the video below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 2nd September 2014 at 12:00 pm
Subtlety was never We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ strong suit. In their debut album ‘These Four Walls’, the emphatic vocal style adopted by frontman Adam Thompson accompanied by the relentless instrumental sound of the band on ‘Quiet Little Voices’ was many fans’ first introduction to the Scottish group. (Another standout from their debut, ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’, was incidentally the first song I’d heard from them, leading me to write this Bands to Watch in August 2009.) ‘Medicine’, the first single from their 2011 album ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, followed a similar formula, with a driving rhythm and unwavering vocals. However, the latest new material to come from the WWPJ camp bears a curious title: ‘I Keep It Composed’. It follows track ‘Safety in Numbers’, which was unveiled in July.
Thompson stretches his vocal cords a bit more on this track, while also bending and holding his notes as well, giving the track a psychedelic feel at times. The bass line seems more pronounced than on their past recordings, but it remains to be seen live if it’s due to the mix and not an actual change in sound or playing on Sean Smith’s part why this is the case. And the overall sound is fuller, and this is no doubt thanks to the bringing on of a fifth band member, Stuart McGachan, who plays guitar and keyboards. Indeed, it’s McGachan’s notes that seem to provide most clarity in a wall of sound slowly buzzing and building towards the song’s eventual climax.
The problem isn’t so much the musicianship; what We Were Promised Jetpacks have created here is good. It’s just not terribly interesting or unique. Perhaps this was the point: ‘I Keep It Composed’ wasn’t recorded to be a pop masterpiece, or even to be a radio-friendly song like ‘Safety in Numbers’. (Now why wasn’t that released as a single, huh?) The title, sounding tongue in cheek, sounded like we were to expect something a bit different from these Scots, but it seems we were sorely disappointed. What will the rest of new album ‘Unravelling’ sound like? Guess we’ll have to wait for October to come to find out.
‘I Keep It Composed’ is the first single from We Were Promised Jetpacks’ forthcoming third album ‘Unravelling’. The single drops on the 22nd of September on Fat Cat Records, with the LP to follow on the 6th of October.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 6:00 pm
Broken Bells, the rock duo comprised of James Mercer and Dangermouse, released their second album ‘After the Disco’ back in February. Both their self-titled debut and this latest LP have allusions to space travel and otherworldly pursuits, so it makes sense that their latest promo for ‘After the Disco’ track ‘Control’ would have old film clips of space, crop circles and UFOs. Interestingly, that pink dodecahedron thingy on the cover of ‘Broken Bells’ also makes several appearances. Even more randomly, clips of Mercer and Burton play are included, as are computer-rendered images of the two as an ‘unknown organic compound’. Huh? (I’m also wondering if the surviving members of Joy Division will sue for the usage of what seems to be the rippling waves of the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album…) Watch the video below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 12:00 pm
Arguably, it has only been in less than the last 20 years that the dynamic hard rock duo (with minimal or no electronic intervention live, mind) has emerged not only as a potential but an entirely viable business proposition. Naturally, given the success of the now-defunct White Stripes and the currently riding high Black Keys, the media are quick – not to mention lazy – to compare Royal Blood to both. However, as easy as it would be to compare Ben and Mike to Dan and Patrick, there is one major difference.
Bass guitar vs. guitar.
You’re talking to a bass player, so there is no contest here for me. However, for the rest of you reading this who don’t share the joy and wonderment of playing bass, I will spend the rest of this review convincing you why Royal Blood’s self-titled album out this week is a major step forward for rock music in the 21st century and why you need this album. For starters, if you’re the kind of person who easily gets impatient and hates albums that seem to drag on forever, this one is predictably short. Mike Kerr (vocals / bass guitar) and Ben Thatcher (drums) aren’t the kind of guys to beat around the bush. For that reason alone, it’s a good “starter” album for those who don’t buy albums or haven’t bought an album in its entirety for a long time (*cough* pirates *cough*).
If you’ve been following the Royal Blood story for a while, three of the best tracks – ‘Out of the Black’, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Come On Over’ – will be familiar to you from their appearance on previously released EP ‘Out of the Black’. The title track of the EP will probably be best remembered by this summer’s festivalgoers for Thatcher’s machine gun-style beats that usher in the song; they partner up remarkably well to the vitriolic, man scorned lyrics: “so don’t breathe when I talk / because you haven’t been spoken to / I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it / but a trigger for a heart beating blood from an empty pocket”. Contrast this later to ‘You Can Be So Cruel’, which is also filled with angst but in a self-harming, lonely manner, while recent single ‘Figure It Out’ wades into the muddy waters of relationship-based confusion.
A lot of people avoid hard rock albums on the sole basis that they think it’ll be cacophonous chaos, as if it’s impossible for hard rock to be melodic. Kerr manages to conjure amazing things from his bass guitar as well as be an entirely commanding frontman with his voice. Throughout the album, Kerr puts his voice through its paces and comes out as a winner. On ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Little Monster’, he is the convincing bad boy ready to melt the rock girl’s heart. (Yes, there were quite a few gals at their DC show fawning over both him and Thatcher. I had to open and close my eyes a few times, wondering, am I really at a hard rock show?)
The punishing yet melodic bass guitar playing from Kerr also deserves proper credit. When I first started playing bass, my mother asked me how bass differed from guitar; my response was, “you know how drumming doesn’t have notes? Bass is like playing drums; you’re playing rhythm, but with melody.” That explanation doesn’t really hold water when you’re describing Kerr’s skill on the axe. On ‘Come On Over’, if your ears can’t discern the lower register of his bass, you’d swear it was someone like Slash ripping it on his Les Paul. The authoritative bass riff on ‘Loose Change’ doesn’t beg for your attention, it requires it as you get sucked into the groove of the song.
Interestingly, one of the standouts of the album is ‘Careless’. In the lyrics, Kerr plays around with the nuances of ‘careless’ vs. ‘care less’ and during the verses and bridge, the bass takes a quieter backseat (for Royal Blood, anyway), letting the powerful chorus speak for itself. As the album closes, you can’t help but sense that Royal Blood’s road to becoming as big (or bigger?) than Led Zeppelin seems assured. Thatcher’s thudding drums, as about as gentle as a pneumatic drill, is paired with the sexy bass line of ‘Better Strangers’ and Kerr’s pained yet mesmerising wailing. In a word, awesome. Resistance is futile, my friends.
Royal Blood‘s self-titled album is out now on Warner Brothers. If you’re quick, you can catch Kerr and Thatcher playing live for Steve Lamacq on the 29th of August in the BBC 6music kitchen (I’m being serious) here.
By Mary Chang
on Sunday, 31st August 2014 at 10:00 am
Zola Jesus now has unveiled the promo video for single ‘Dangerous Days’, the first from upcoming album ‘Taiga’, scheduled for a 7 October release. I was wondering where the title of the LP (the word for a snowy forest) was going to come into things, but that was before I laid eyes on this promo. Although the environs where the video was filmed look pretty cold, Nikita Danilova’s vocals seem warm on this tune. Watch the promo below.
Catch Danilova on tour in the UK in October and November 2014.
By Mary Chang
on Saturday, 30th August 2014 at 10:00 am
For their new single ‘True Love’ off their latest album released in the spring, ‘Ghost Stories’, Coldplay take a new slant on the story of The Ugly Duckling. It also gives the opportunity for Chris Martin (not to mention his female costar) play around with oversized fat suits. (And I can’t be the only one to think this is Martin poking at his consciously uncoupled former partner Gwyneth Paltrow’s film Shallow Hal, right?) I think their hearts were in the right place making this promo, but for some reason, it comes across as disingenuous. Watch the video below.