Festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Video of the Moment #2468: Ghostpoet

 
By on Tuesday, 7th November 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Back in the summer, Ghostpoet released his fourth album. Never shy to step into the political fray, ‘Dark Days + Canapés’ was previewed by the refugee-themed single ‘Immigrant Boogie’. His latest music video, this time for ‘Woe is Meee’, is less about what’s been repeatedly splashed across the broadsheets as of late and more on something far more personal.

The twice Mercury Prize-nominated Obaro Ejimiwe explains the new promo’s premise: “Depicting the darker, emotional response I had to the track led me to build a world around an atypical senior citizen (played by John O’Brien) who at 70, finding himself in a society openly discussing gender neutrality, chooses to address his deepest most insular struggles around sexuality and persona.” Sometimes the biggest battles are those within. Food for thought. Watch the new video below. ‘Dark Days + Canapés’ is now available from PIAS. For much more here on TGTF on Ghostpoet, use this link.

 

Single Review: BANNERS – Someone to You

 
By on Tuesday, 7th November 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

BANNERS – known to his mum back in Liverpool as Mike Nelson – has had a busy 2017. Building on the momentum of last year’s self-titled EP, he’s released a slew of singles this year, including ‘Firefly’ (which I reviewed back here) and ‘Someone to You’, a recent mainstay at SiriusXM’s Alt Nation. ‘Someone to You’ has some interesting lyrical choices, as it is alternately self-deprecating and inspiring. It comes across as genuine as the figurative ticker tape that runs in all of our hearts: feeling a host of emotions all at once, and not a singular one, is as normal and human as it gets. The song is a wonderful foot-stomper, with an incessant, irrepressible beat, and lyrics that beg to be sung along to.

The literal translation of the song’s title is the want to be important to someone else, as in the shoulder to cry on and the rock when things get tough. In conventional, straight relationships, the man is supposed to be in the role of provider and protector, the strong one. With the words in the chorus “and if the sun’s upset and the sky goes cold / then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall / I really need somebody to call my own”, he is stepping up to the plate to be that protector. However, Nelson also recognises that in a relationship, there should be reciprocal give and take. He’s ready to be vulnerable, to be led to a better place by a strong partner: “And if you feel the great dividing / I wanna be the one you’re guiding / ‘Cause I believe that you could lead the way”.

I’d like to highlight Nelson’s reliquishing of the lead role in a relationship, because it seems to be in recognition of something much bigger than the two people in a committed relationship in this song. He’s acknowledging that we’re here on this green earth not to be self-centred, selfish and completely absorbed in material things and in our own lives. We’re here to be kind, to do for others, for a greater purpose and to affect positive change even when the times get rough and to make a difference to others. Have you sensed a recent shift in how you’re feeling lately? Some of us are already actively working on this. I don’t think I need to convince you with the refugee crisis, the election of President Trump, the Brexit vote to leave the EU, the armed response to the Catalonia referendum, the numerous senseless acts of violence that have killed so many people, the list goes on and on…there are a lot of angry people and people hurting in this world right now. You need to decide if you’re going to join the movement to make this a better place or if you’re going to sit back and do nothing.

For the promo video, Nelson goes to a school and decides to engage with its misfits, guys you might not have given a second thought to before they’re too nerdy and keep only to themselves. Nelson makes it his personal mission to psych these guys up, spending time with them to boost their confidence, to get them away from behind their desks and into shape, radically changing their outlook. As someone who was painfully shy and had pretty much nonexistent self-esteem in high school due to medical problems that made me different from everyone else, I could have really used someone like BANNERS cheering me on in my corner back then. If you don’t relate at all to this, if you were hated on at school, I guess…congratulations? You’ve missed something important, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

And the ending of this video! You’ll never guess what happens at the end, so make sure you watch it all the way through. Please share it: it’s a video that is sure to raise a smile and hopefully make a difference in someone’s life.

8/10

‘Someone to You’ and the EP that it’s on, ‘Empires on Fire’, are out now on Island Records. For more on BANNERS here on TGTF, check out all of our coverage on him through here.

 

Interview: C Duncan (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 7th November 2017 at 11:00 am
 

To read the first half of my interview with C Duncan in Washington, DC, last Saturday night, use this link.

It has been well documented that C Duncan’s second album ‘The Midnight Sun’, released in 2016, was named after an episode of The Twilight Zone, an American tv show that got its start way back in the 1950s. I had guessed that he had stumbled upon it on late night Glaswegian telly, but that wasn’t the case at all. “Actually, no. It was actually the first time I ever came to America. I was about 13, I was with my best friend from school. His dad worked in Manhattan and had an apartment there, so he flew us out there, and then we went to Florida and stayed at Disney [World] and went to Universal. We’d been on the Tower of Terror. The ride’s great, but I was so intrigued with the whole history surrounding it. Just walking into the hotel, there’s a weird feeling you get once you’re there, and it’s all a bit disorientating. I just had to check the show out. I got the DVDs and went home. I have since become completely obsessed. I’m a big sci-fi, horror fan.”

Following on from a thematically suspenseful album, I ask him if that means he’s headed for a horror-themed album next. “‘C Duncan scores The Exorcist’? No…”, he replies with a laugh. Speaking of scores, he has been asked to do the score for a documentary next year. As I’m not sure if that project has been absolutely confirmed, I’ll keep the details of it to myself. Let’s just say for now that if the project does come to fruition, it’ll be another example of how the community in Glasgow takes care of its own.

I comment that he seems to be a prolific writer, releasing albums in back-to-back years. He says he tries to write every day and when that doesn’t work out, “the way I see it, if I’ve got block, you might as be well be working on your technique, you can get slightly better recording vocals, or getting slightly better working on your chords, and hopefully something good will come out of that.” Both this optimism and attention to detail are personality traits that seem to be shared amongst all the electronic artists I’ve met and interviewed over the years, including most recently Australian producer Willaris K.

Duncan admits that it wasn’t his idea to release album #2 so closely behind the first, so we might have to wait a bit longer for album #3 to surface. I have no doubt that it will be worth the wait, as everything this Scot does comes after some deep rumination. “After the Mercury thing, there wasn’t pressure for me to make another album like that, just like the first record. Of course, in the back of your mind, you think, okay, something works in that one, so why not take elements of that and upgrade it? But actually, about 5 minutes of thinking about that, I was like, fuck it. I really wanted to do something electronic and something bigger sounding as well.

“I love great, big, lush-sounding harmonies, and with synthesisers, you can get that sweeping sound. If I had a string orchestra, I would have used a string orchestra, but I didn’t have one. So I thought, a synth can do the same thing, but in a different way. Then there was The Twilight Zone influence, I liked how icy a lot of the synth sounds were, mixed with the big choral harmonies. Once I started playing around with the synths, yeah, I have to do this.” For a further example of this, check out the video for ‘Wanted to Want It Too’ below, with a nod to the creepiness of the tv show as the song itself is punctuated with stabs of synth.

In addition to his musical gifts to us, Chris is also a talented painter, chronicled beautifully in a short film by Helen Plumb and Ben Cox for Nowness. In case you hadn’t heard, the album art for both ‘Architect’ and ‘The Midnight Sun’ are his personal works. Both have great personal significance, circling back to his connection with Glasgow and his creative environment. “I did both records in my apartment. The first record, I was very conscious of where I was when I was making the record. A lot of the album has to do with escaping, in a way. Glasgow can be very bleak at times. It’s an industrial city: it’s a very beautiful industrial city, but it’s very grey and very cold. And it rains an awful lot. Our summer consists of about 2 days in May.

“I think it’s a great thing, that’s why we’re so creative, we’re indoors all the time, you know? I was very aware of where I was, so the first record has the overview of one of the main streets in Glasgow I spent a lot of time on (Byres Road, in the West End). The first record was very personal, but it was quite obscured. You can’t really hear what I’m singing a lot of the time. It was a confidence thing. I thought, okay, I’ll make music and hopefully people will listen to that and not focus too much on the words. And if they hear them, that’s great, but I sort of muffled them slightly.

The Midnight Sun large cover

“On the second record, you can hear the lyrics more and it wasn’t gibberish like the first record. And I thought, okay, so I recorded this again in my bedroom, and into another bedroom in the flat, and I’m going to make the front cover [of ‘The Midnight Sun’] the stairwell to my apartment. It’s all very geographical, location based, because where I work means a lot to me.” Although the process of music making eats up most of his time these days, Chris admits he’s “stubborn” and makes an effort every few months to paint something significant “to keep my technique up”. Sensing a theme here? I hope so. Young artists, take note. As the old American saying goes, “How you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”

C Duncan is an artist who puts in 110 percent into everything that he does. It’s paid off, in the forms of a Mercury Prize nomination, the admiration and appreciation by a massive band like Elbow who has taken him on tour in the UK and North America, plus countless fans being inspired and moved by his music. He’s the kind of artist who will continue making music his way, and I for one looking forward to the many musical chapters of C Duncan still yet to come.

Massive thanks to Chris for his time for this interview and his unexpected, but much appreciated vocal support for TGTF (!) at the Elbow show Saturday night at the 9:30. Thank you also to Rey and Sam for making this happen. He performs tonight alongside Elbow on their North American tour at Detroit’s St. Andrews Hall. Sounds appropriate for a Scottish artist, doesn’t it? Much more on C Duncan here on TGTF is follow us over here.

 

Video of the Moment #2467: Osaka Punch

 
By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

One of my favourite acts from BIGSOUND 2017, the big Australian emerging music festival in September, was Brisbane’s own Osaka Punch. Bridging the very disparate (or seemingly disparate?) genres of metal, funk and prog, they put on extremely high energy sets like the one I saw at 256 Wickham Wednesday night at BIGSOUND. This clearly bleeds over into the Aussies’ promo videos, such as their most recent one for single ‘How We Operate’, out now. If frontman Jack is to believed, the song’s lyrics were written during a stopover in Manila, during which he heard some, um, interesting noises in a hotel that was not as it seemed. Part performance, part silly story, it’s 100% enjoyable. Watch it below. For more of our coverage on Osaka Punch – they were on my list of best bets at BIGSOUND, ‘natch – go here.

 

Live Review: Elbow with C Duncan at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 4th November 2017

 
By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Elder statesmen of rock Elbow are no strangers to DC, reliably appearing in the Nation’s Capital whenever they decide to do a tour on this side of the pond. There are many reasons for their love for Washington, some more literal if you ever get the chance to ask them personally, which I encourage you to do so, as they are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. At their sold out show here Saturday night, Guy Garvey’s quip that the reason why the city got its name is because the 9:30 Club is where musicians do their washing – laundering clothes to us Americans – isn’t wrong either. The venue has become legendary among bands for their in-house washing machine, along with their massive hospitality efforts towards those who grace their stage. 9:30-branded chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times now, and ‘reliable’ is a good word to describe their live show. ‘Heartwarming’ is another good adjective for them, on which I’ll expand on later. First, I would like to point out their admirable efforts to prevent the all too frequent scourge at shows: the loud and impolite conversations that take place during support sets. In addition to this sign placed prominently near the entrance of the venue, Guy Garvey introduced C Duncan himself, appealing passionately to the audience to be quiet and pay attention during his set. No doubt Garvey remembers with much gratitude when fellow Mancunians Doves decided to take a chance, bringing along his then-unknown band to the very same venue 15 years ago.

Except to those like us here on TGTF who keep a watchful eye on things like the Mercury Prize back in the UK, C Duncan is a relative unknown here in North America at the moment. Hopefully, this support slot with Elbow will do much to change that. As you’ll read in my interview feature with him, Duncan has sensed that Elbow fans are a special breed of music fan, the kind who tend to be more open-minded about new sounds than most. If this show had been back in Britain, we would have seen him with a full band, but due to prohibitive visa costs (thanks, powers that be in America), he performed alone on the big 9:30 stage.

C Duncan Washington 2017 1

C Duncan offered up songs from his Mercury-fêted 2015 debut album ‘Architect’ and last year’s electro-driven ‘The Midnight Sun’ and with the aplomb of a seasoned performer. It’s hard to believe that a few years ago, the prospect of having to bring his complex constructions to the stage seemed daunting to him. The beautiful ‘Say’, the opening track on ‘Architect’, was a clear standout, Duncan’s wispy vocals and elegantly understated, yet superbly catchy backing proving to be a beautiful match. The icy, lush electronic orchestration of ‘Wanted to Want It Too’ – a simple, yet evocative study in longing – closed his all-too-short set. To catch up on our past coverage of C Duncan here on TGTF, head here.

C Duncan Washington 2017 2

What can be said about Elbow that hasn’t been already written? Guy Garvey is the consummate frontman: roly poly like a teddy bear and disarmingly funny, he’s the uncle who doesn’t think twice about discussing the merits of a 9:30 G&T and asking punters to stumble singing along to songs they might not know the lyrics to. And at the same show. Does this have anything to do with him and his band being from Manchester? The worker bee tattoo emblazoned on the inside of this forearm, likely inked following the Manchester Arena terror attack in May, was a silent affirmation of the love for his city.

Elbow Washington 2017 1

It’s the little things like the tattoo and Garvey’s introduction of C Duncan, they’re proof of how genuine Elbow are. So was Garvey’s earnest acknowledgment of Dennis and Lois, a music-loving couple who have been together for decades and the stars of their 2014 video for ‘New York Morning’ who just so happened to be next to me during the show. He dedicated ‘Mirrorball’ from 2008’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ to them and their love, as warm smiles spread from the stage and through the entire venue. As its title suggests, ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, the first single to their most recent album ‘Little Fictions’, was indeed magnificent. Songs that are stirring, soaring and ever tugging at the heartstrings: that’s what Elbow do best. And their fans wouldn’t want it any other way.

Elbow’s North American tour with C Duncan as support rolls on to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall tonight. The tour will continue until the 18th of November, when they hit Mexico City.

Elbow Washington 2017 2

After the cut: C Duncan and Elbow’s set lists from the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Elbow with C Duncan at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 4th November 2017

 

Interview: C Duncan (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 11:00 am
 

On paper, C Duncan – Christopher Duncan on his birth certificate – sounds like someone who might be pretty buttoned up and stoic about music. Born to classical musician parents, having been raised around classical music and having played classical piano since the tender age of 5, I prepared myself to interview someone who was as obsessive about Chopin’s adagios as my own father. “They had quartets, and they would come over to the house. When I was very young, my mum ran a music store from one of our backrooms, for sheet music. So loads of musicians were coming and going [from the house].” But he relates this story as a welcome memory of his childhood, possibly an early measure of comfort he would later have around the musically inclined.

Saturday night, he was in Washington, DC, for a support slot with Elbow at the legendary 9:30 Club. (The review of the show will post today at 2 PM BST.) I happily found out, stealing him away for a lovely chat before the show, that his journey from childhood to the musician he is today was never forcefully directed one way or another. His delight in making the music that appeals to his own interests and makes sense in his mind is obvious and infectious. The open-mindedness of his parents and even his teachers during his formative years helps to further explain how his creativity blossomed into developing something much his very own. He has honed what has now become his recognisable blend of startling beautiful composition and harmonising vocals with plenty of toe-tapping pop sensibility, such a beguiling blend that both music lovers and the critics have taken notice of.

Pop was something he’d embraced early on. “I did the typical kid thing and listened to pop music. I kind of had that rebellious thing against classical music, which was good, because it meant I could expand my interests. As I got older, I started realising that my parents were right, that classical music is good as well!” He also credits his professors at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), where he graduated with a degree in Composition, for not keeping the focus of his studies squarely on classical music, which he disclosed is an all too common occurrence at other music schools in the UK. “I was always encouraged to listen to pop music. All the composing teachers were interested in what was happening in pop music, and they were very influenced by it as well…they basically said [to us], ‘obviously, this is a contemporary classical course you’re taking. But listen to everything, get inspired by everything, do anything you want. It’s valid as music’… There wasn’t anything stuffy about it.” For more on his schooling at the Conservatoire, I dug up this interview he did with them earlier this year.

The Scottish city that Chris calls home also looms large in the C Duncan story, and in a similarly accepting way, feeling like a warm, welcoming tartan blanket that’s there to make everything okay. “Glasgow is a very open place for genre crossing. Everyone is interested in everything…In Glasgow, everyone knows a musician, or someone who’s in a band, or all your friends are in bands. And everyone talks about music and listens to each other’s music a lot. No-one is in competition with each other, for anything, which means it opens the door for people to try all sorts of different things.

“Glasgow is quite far away from the rest of the UK, we’re very far from London. I think as a result, we don’t really have anything to live up to. Glasgow can do its own thing entirely, which is really cool, and the sense of community [there] is really important. That’s how you meet [other] musicians, I would never start a band and get session musicians in from the get-go. Maybe later on when you needed more people. I like to have friends surrounding me.

“In Glasgow, you get to know so many musicians, and you become friends first. That’s really important. I like that in Glasgow, you’re in it together, you’re not by yourself, you’re in it to make music with other friends…it’s a very natural thing in Glasgow… So many people collaborate in Glasgow, I did a thing with a woman named Kathryn Joseph, you should definitely check her out.” If Joseph’s name sounds familiar: she won the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award in 2015 for ‘Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled’, the same award Duncan was nominated for the following year for his FatCat Records debut and Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Architect’. She and Duncan have also been tourmates, continuing the theme that Glasgow nurtures such relationships. Duncan also clues me on a close friend from back home having recently joined Franz Ferdinand, Julian Corrie, who also releases electronic music as producer Miaoux Miaoux. Glasgow is certainly proving to be a small world.

C Duncan circa 2014, photo taken by Warrick Beyers
Photo of C Duncan by Warrick Beyers, circa 2014,
before the release of ‘Architect’, from the artist’s Facebook

Naturally, the conversation turns to the Mercury nomination for ‘Architect’ 2 years ago. “It was very strange”, Chris says with a knowing smile. “Up to that point, we’d done lots of gigs, very small, just establishing ourselves. We had a lot of help from the BBC radio stations. That was great. But it takes a lot more than that to push things forward a lot. After that [the nomination] happened, it was just phone call after phone call, interview after interview. I was self-managed at the time, so I was trying to make do with all of that. It was great fun, but it was hectic!”

The nod turned out to be a fantasy come true for him: “I’ve always thought very highly of it. It’s becoming slightly less diverse at the moment, but I think they’re trying to branch out [in the genres]. I was always really interested in it as a kid. It [being nominated] was very surreal and really exciting… It’s been interesting, the shows we did around that time and after, the Mercury came up quite a lot. It’s real music lovers who really hone into the Mercury [shortlist]. It’s really nice, it’s any musician’s dream to appeal to true music lovers, as opposed to people who shove it on in the background. It just shows how highly people in Britain still think of music, it doesn’t matter how shit the charts are, there’s a big population really interested in music, people who are interested in that other side of music.”

It’s exactly these kind of music fans that Duncan thinks are making his support appearances with Elbow, especially here in North America, super successful. “Playing to their crowds, it’s been really fun. As the support act, generally, the pressure’s off you… Sometimes I’m very nervous, but the majority of the time, I’m just having fun, trying to give people a fun show, and something representative of my music. I know it’s not exactly the same as Elbow’s, but it’s gentle enough, and their music is gentle enough to sit well together at a gig. Some people might think, ‘ooh, that first guy was a bit weird, I’m here for Elbow, this is going to be great’, whereas some people, it’s ‘oh, actually, that’s really cool’. I think there is some crossover, and it’s been a great way to pick up fans… Elbow fans, they generally are really into music. They are music lovers, they’re not background music people, which means they want to see the whole show. That’s what I do. If I see one of my favourite bands are playing, I always go in the beginning to see who’s supporting.” A good reminder to all.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview with C Duncan, posting at the same time tomorrow. He performs tonight alongside Elbow on their North American tour at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall. Much more on C Duncan here on TGTF is through here.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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