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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #279: Scars On 45

By on Wednesday, 18th December 2013 at 12:00 pm

Bradford’s Scars On 45 have yet to make a big splash on the UK side of the pond, but they have already found some success and radio play in America. Signed to Atlantic Chop Shop Records, which specializes in promoting new music via television placement, the band have had songs featured on CSI: New York and Grey’s Anatomy. They spent most of 2011 and 2012 on tour, both as headliner and as support for other acts, including The Fray and Joshua Radin but have been relatively quiet in 2013, presumably setting to work on their second studio album.

The band’s debut album, ‘Scars On 45’ was released way back in April 2012, preceded by two EPs, ‘Give Me Something’ (January 2011) and ‘Heart On Fire’ (October 2011). Both EPs shared titles with their corresponding singles; of those, ‘Give Me Something’ received significant radio play in America.

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The vocal contrast between lead singer/songwriter Danny Bemrose and backing vocalist Aimee Driver is certainly the outstanding element to Scars On 45’s sound. Bemrose’s plaintive singing voice is pleasant, if not particularly distinctive on its own, while Driver’s breathy, lighter-than-air soprano creates a male/female dichotomy that adds both harmonic interest and emotional tension. Driver is featured as lead vocalist on ‘Promises and Empty Words’, one of the bands’ strongest offerings appearing both on the ‘Hearts on Fire’ EP and the ‘Scars On 45’ album. The songs’ catchy choruses and cloyingly emotional lyrics might be somewhat cliché, but set to insistent rhythmic figures and clean, clear melodies in the keyboard and guitar parts, they are hard not to like in the end.

As a teaser for their upcoming album, the band have posted acoustic YouTube videos of some new tracks on their Web site, including ‘This Is Not Your Love Song’. The band have only one scheduled gig in the UK next year, at Leeds Cockpit on the 17th of January 2014, before they head off to Miami for the launch of Rock Boat XIV at the end of February. They are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2014 in March.

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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #278: Saor Patrol

By on Tuesday, 10th December 2013 at 12:00 pm

Not your typical indie five-piece, Saor Patrol has three drummers, a guitarist, and a set of bagpipes. Wait, what? Yes, this is not an indie folk band. This is a real, traditional, Scottish folk band. In fact, the band is “part of The Clanranald Trust for Scotland a recognized non-profit charity based in Kincardine, Scotland. The Trust was established in 1995 as an educational organization, […] existing to support Clanranald’s efforts”. Playing what they have dubbed ‘medieval Scottish rock’, Saor Patrol – which translates as ‘freedom guard’ in Scottish Gaelic – kicks up the amperage on other traditional folk music. Not content to stick with the 100% traditional sound, these guys add a grinding guitar to pull it just this side of modern. Completely instrumental, the combination of this driving guitar overlaid with a bagpipe melody is just different enough from traditional bagpipe bands to turn heads.

I know what you are thinking, how do they fit in with the new music-laced, hipster-heeding, sweat-bath that is SXSW? Honestly, I don’t know. I listened to some of their music, and while I enjoyed it quite a bit, after about 15 minutes the pipes grated on me. I think, however, I would love to be under a blue sky at a festival romping around with them. Because of that, I would put money on this being one of the most fun, rousing shows in Austin next year.

With both a new live album, ‘Die Krieger’, and a joint album with fellow trad folkies The Dolmen called ‘Crann Tara’, released in 2013, the band are ready to take in some new fans. Saor Patrol is not exactly the first kind of band that you think of when you conjure up an idea of a music festival like SXSW. But they are the real deal: tough looking highland men with rough hewn kilts and an authentic sound. I think they are going to kick some major Scottish arse come March.

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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #277: Bring Me the Horizon

By on Monday, 9th December 2013 at 12:00 pm

2013 was the year the gimmick that was Bring Me the Horizon wore off. They went from being a pedestal for frontman Oli Sykes’ bizarre views and various Drop Dead paraphernalia to one of the most vital bands in British metal at the moment.

How? ‘Sempiternal’.

Their fourth album is undeniably the moment where BMTH came of age. It’s such a clichéd phrase, but it’s obvious Sykes and co. have a found a sound that truly epitomizes where they are as a band on this record. On ‘Antivist’, we have a trademark display of BMTH bile and vitriol, as Sykes does his best to use the F and C bombs as frequently as he can in one song. Meanwhile, ‘Shadow Moses’ is a beast of a different order, showcasing a BMTH embracing a spot of synth, while still remaining fierce in their breakdowns.

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If there’s a British metal band who can translate domestic success in to a worldwide brand, it’s BMTH. Sykes remains the marmite frontman and their back catalogue, augmented by the phenomenal ‘Sempiternal’, is as formidable as any band gracing the dusty Texan venues come March. I was lucky enough to experience the mass carnage that was BMTH’s Reading set this year, where Sykes manipulated the crowd into one of the biggest circle pits I have ever seen. With around 2,000 boozed up teenagers roaring around the tower, I dread to think of the levels of mayhem they will cause in a small venue in Texas. SXSW 2014, look out.


(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #276: Tourist

By on Friday, 6th December 2013 at 12:00 pm

What never ceases to amaze me is the number of electronic and DJ acts that get shouts to SXSW. It makes sense though: who else will keep the bodies, in their various states of inebriation, moving, bumping and grinding into the wee hours, but these titans of technology? One such whiz is Tourist, the electronic brainchild of one Londoner William Phelps.

Having been signed late this year to 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated and fellow electro heads Disclosure, Phelps has already made waves on both sides of the Atlantic. While it might have been a no-brainer for Disclosure to have Tourist live at their Warehouse Project night in Manchester last month, Phelps’ appearance at the inaugural Mountain Oasis electronic festival this autumn in October 2013, alongside heavyweights Nine Inch Nails and Gary Numan, is no small feat. NPR recorded his performance in Asheville, North Carolina, and you can listen to it here. I guess he made a big enough impression, as he’s been invited to showcase at next year’s SXSW in Austin.

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With two EPs to his name – the ‘Placid Acid’ EP in 2012 that you can get for free from this previous MP3(s) of the Day post and this year’s ‘Tonight’ – he certainly has the talent in him to put out an entire album of new material. How to describe the music? While title track ‘Placid Acid’ on his debut EP is exactly as advertised – a gorgeously chill slow build-up of epicness – the otherworldly charms of ‘Jupiter’ and head boppiness of ‘Forgive’ prove he’s not a one-trick pony. The ‘Tonight’ EP sees Phelps taking a turn to more upbeat (handclaps!) and sounding more industrial than the debut, though for sure based on these releases alone, the kind of dancing I’m thinking you’re likely to see at Tourist shows is of the languid, fluid, beautiful creature variety. Then again, track ‘Together’ revealed from upcoming EP ‘Patterns’ seems to indicate for his next release, he’s going into higher octane, faster tempo territory. Either way, you’re in for a good show if you see him when he stops in your town. Or, if you’re lucky like us to be going to SXSW, if you have the good fortune to catch him in Texas in March.

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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #274: Kieran Leonard

By on Thursday, 5th December 2013 at 12:00 pm

The hipster literati in Austin next spring will no doubt flock to see British singer-songwriter Kieran Leonard, whose esoteric and often politically-charged folk rock challenges both emotion and intellect. His intensity may be off-putting at first, especially to a casual listener, but his entrancing singing voice and cynically provocative lyrics are worth a bit of extra attention.

The subject matter and presentation of Leonard’s work have been startlingly unique from the beginning of his career. His first EP ‘Scapegoat’ contained four songs, which were released individually on the first day of the full moon in four consecutive cycles, beginning in October 2009. In December 2010, Leonard released his debut single ‘Jerusalem’ to positive reviews, despite its stinging criticism of the Western cultural establishment. The song garnered Leonard a wider audience when film director Ridley Scott used it in his 2011 documentary ‘Life In A Day’.

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At just over 4 years into his career, Leonard might be considered a journeyman by today’s manufactured pop music standards, especially after supporting larger acts like Bob Dylan at London’s Feis Festival in 2011 and Keane at Nottingham in November 2012. Leonard’s full-length debut album ‘Out of Work Astronaut’ was released in August 2012 and included the musically ironic, lyrically sardonic single ‘Harold Pinter is Dead’. But earlier this year, in what might be seen as an abrupt shift in the evolution of his musical style, Leonard released the hypnotically groovy, decidedly not folky ‘Hipster Jesus’. Whether this sudden change of pace is a temporary deviation or a permanent stylistic transformation for Leonard remains to be seen. Perhaps his performance at SXSW 2014 will provide more insight leading into the release of his second album.

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(SXSW 2014 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #275: Pure Love

By on Thursday, 28th November 2013 at 12:00 pm

2013 may have seen Pure Love unceremoniously dumped from their label and frontman Frank Carter grow a rather unsightly and incredibly hipster ginger beard. But Pure Love are nonetheless one of easiest to recommend live acts doing the rounds at the moment. (And quite nice in person too:read my interview with Carter and musical partner Jim Carroll from last year here.)

Anybody familiar with Mr Carter knows that any live show – whether it’s The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, The Engine Shed in Lincoln or the NME tent at Reading/Leeds Festival – carries with it a warning, that warning being “at any point Frank Carter may punch you in your face and make you look like a dick”. Yeah, so he is singing songs about being “sick of all the hate”, but that won’t stop the ex-Gallows man slugging you in the chops if you act like a mug in the crowd. Add in to that equation that he spends 90% of the gig in the crowd, singing, screaming and scrapping while also having his photo taken numerous times, and it’s a pretty volatile situation.

A volatile situation, but one that is at least 99% rock and roll.

I mean, for example he got the entire drum kit in the crowd, and started a circle pit around it. That’s fucking cool.

For the epitome of a total live experience, it’s difficult to look any further than Pure Love – and in the searing heat of Austin, Texas, Jonny and Frank are going to cause the kind of sweaty catastrophe of bodies that you would only really expect to find at a really good orgy.

That’s right: a Pure Love gig is like an orgy – sort of. [The kind of orgy that might involve inflatable dingeys; watch below – Ed.]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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