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(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #379: Roo Panes

By on Thursday, 11th February 2016 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Dorset folk-pop singer/songwriter Roo Panes is set to release his second album, titled ‘Paperweights’, at the beginning of next month, just before he heads across the pond to Texas for an appearance at SXSW 2016.  Editor Mary recently featured the video for his newest track ‘Where I Want to Go’ right back here, and the song’s deep bass groove, perfectly matched by the reverberant depth of Panes’ singing voice, inspired us to take a deeper look into his catalogue.

Panes’ first LP, 2014’s ‘Little Giant’ was a bit more traditional than what we’ve heard so far from ‘Paperweights’, employing layered vocals, bowed strings and foundational piano figures under Panes’ rhythmically plucked acoustic guitar. One of the album’s most dynamically expansive arrangements is found in its title track, where the anticipatory bass line and drum pattern build strong dramatic tension under Panes’ exquisitely restrained vocals.

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In the press release for ‘Paperweights’, Panes presents the new songs as a very genuine sort of gift: “Here’s a bit of me, to help you understand a bit of you.”  The songwriting quality he most prides himself upon is his heartfelt authenticity, which leads him to write “material that truly connects on an emotional level.” His broadly soaring instrumental arrangements are indeed the kind that make your heart swell, even while his richly-textured vocals and redolent poetic imagery slowly seduce your imagination.

SXSW-featured track ‘The Original’ has a hint of Bon Iver in its airy introduction, but Panes doesn’t succumb to the incoherent falsetto of Justin Vernon, instead allowing his warm, rich mid-range voice to blend with the round tones of the acoustic guitar. Like many a songwriter before him, Panes explores the feminine mystique in his lyrics, reverently singing “behind that painted lady, there’s a masterpiece” in the song’s first verse and in the second, “when the sun descends, she’ll be the swan song silhouette”. He gives the vague impression that this might be a song about lost love, but it’s the kind you would expect from an older man about a woman far in his past, perhaps the one who got away. If Panes’ velvety vocal timbre seems incongruous to his relative youth, the subtle wisdom in his poetry certainly contributes to the illusion.

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Roo Panes is scheduled to play three live dates in England at the beginning of March, leading up to the release of ‘Paperweights’ on the 4th of the month. TGTF’s previous coverage of Roo Panes, including a brief preview of his trip to SXSW back in 2013 can be found here.


(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #377 and #378: Lusts and Moats

By on Wednesday, 10th February 2016 at 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Lusts and Moats are a pair of up-and-coming indie rock acts from the UK, hailing from Leicester and Biggleswade, respectively. But a five-lettered, monosyllabic name isn’t the only thing they have in common. Both channel the spirit of the shoegaze era, as well as some of the giants of new wave.

Leicester duo Lusts, brothers Andy and James Stone, released their debut album ‘Illuminations’ in 2015. These siblings got the idea to start a band together following a trip to Paris, writing their entire album in their parents’ bedroom while playing films on a projector, to “see what ideas were conjured up”. The ‘Illuminations’ LP is a dreamy mix of new wave, psychedelia and indie rock: a fine example of what 21st century music has to offer. For those who worry that music isn’t as great now as it was in the good ol’ days, Lusts might just be the band to change your mind.

The first single to be released from their debut album and the one that caused quite a stir last year is ‘Temptation’, a hazy number with tantalising drum, bass, guitar, and synth rhythms that dance together across the track, and with vocals floating amongst the music like a ghostly spirit. Similar not only in title but also in style to New Order’s ‘Temptation’, both songs portray a melancholy dreariness, albeit with Lusts’ being faster-paced and glimmering with more of a shoegaze haze. Title track ‘Illuminations’ is reminiscent of early Vaccines, especially the vocal comparison to Justin Young’s smoky baritone. Musically, it’s comparable too, particularly at the beginning of the song when the jangly guitar breaks in. I can just picture it being the perfect soundtrack for an edgy independent film about an underdog or outsider.

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The duo have been compared to Echo and The Bunnymen so often, they must be tempted to question their own creative originality. But these comparisons don’t stem from the media’s need to dilute Lusts’ captivating variety of gloom. It’s because Lusts transcend the time they’re in and have created a debut LP so put together and sure of itself. They sound like a band coming into the game with what they want to do already worked out, and it’s easy to imagine them following in the trajectory of the Vaccines, or even Arctic Monkeys, both bands whose debut albums were impressively put together and self-assured.

Moats (pictured at top) are a quartet from Biggleswade who, like Lusts, have a variety of new wave and post-punk influences. Their latest single ‘Hungry’ has been played on BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 6 and received attention on BBC Introducing’s markets in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The band has also just announced that they will be touring with Brighton band Yonaka in March. Yonaka have an edgy pop-inspired sound that will tie in well with Moats’ gritty pop-esque indie rock.

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Back in 2012, Moats released their debut LP ‘Singapore’ under a “name your price” scheme for the entire nine-track album. It was also recorded, mixed and produced independently, further showing their indie spirit. 2015 saw the album’s opening track ‘Toothache’ remastered and released on Spotify. The tune is an exciting blend of stuttering guitar rhythms, with a soothing indie pop beginning, leading to a heavier build towards the middle when the band’s Matt Duncan’s throaty growl erupts on the track. ‘Toothache’ has a similar sound to the xx, particularly with the addition of Asya Fairchild’s vocals. As the relatively under-the-radar singer/songwriter living in Brighton joins Duncan on the track, but she succeeds in acting as a gentle antidote to Duncan’s edgy drawl.

New single ‘Hungry’ begins gentle and mournful, with the soft, spooky pluck of a guitar riff teasing along the track over the gentle motion of a drumbeat. Then Duncan starts singing, his raw, sharp vocals standing out well against the melody. As the grandiose guitars break out about halfway through the track, before being fragmented by slower, quieter moments, instrumentally I’m reminded of Editors. Duncan’s lead vocals are filled with a gritty appetite, echoing a quote from a recent interview, in which the song is described as being about “craving something really badly and constantly working hard towards feeding that craving”. Imagine a dialled down Frank Carter.

Moats operate on the post-punk frequency that has done so much to shape contemporary music. Having said this, the combination of Moats’ music and Duncan’s intense, and oftentimes harrowing voice moves the band into the realm of the uncharted.

Both Lusts and Moats seem to be pushing at the edges of the genres that inspire them. The two bands have a number of dates lined up for the coming year, and both are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin.


(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #376: Formation

By on Monday, 8th February 2016 at 12:00 pm

Header photo by Elliott Kennedy

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

South London’s Formation boasts brothers Will and Matt Ritson at the helm. 2015 saw them, along with band mates Jonny Tams, Sasha Lewis and Kai Akinde-Hummel release their second EP, the pop-funk ‘Under the Tracks’. Will and Matt’s foray into music began early on, in the orchestras and concerts run by Merton council in South London. In an interview with DIY, Will and Matt cite a variety of influences on their music, including improvised genres, particularly improvised jazz. They also note the big emphasis they place creating on groove-based music, something that really comes through in their ‘Under the Tracks’ EP.

‘Under the Tracks’ is 15 minutes of steady groove and funk-based licks, glazed with all manner of sounds from electro-pop to percussion, and cowbells aplenty. It’s really an EP for both chilled out moments and getting the party started, and can be enjoyed against all manner of backdrops. ‘Love’, the first track on the EP, moves in a gentle funk direction, with an eclectic, yet well-matched variety of sounds weaving in and out of the song. The lyrics are simple yet catchy, from the proclamation of “love wins in the end”, to “brother, my friend / your pain is not the end”, and it’ll be stuck in your head for hours after first hearing it. The band has just released a live session video for ‘Love’, which was recorded at The Pool in London. The video is atmospheric and filtered through a chilled pink exposure, matching the softly trippy nature of the track.

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The opening notes of ‘All the Rest is Noise’ seems like it’s about to break into ‘Two Weeks’ by Grizzly Bear, though the comparisons end at just a couple of bars. The track gently builds into a catchy synth number with a variety of unusual samples scattered throughout. It has an infectious chorus, with the title of the song being crowed as the music swells, before returning again to the gentle tempo of the rest of the song.

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The layering of influences that reverberate throughout Formation’s songs gives them a sound all their own. Having said that, their music is similar in sound to Theme Park, a band that also employs the use of cowbells and funky synth-laced tracks. Formation also reminds me of Jungle, in particular the layering of sounds and rich texture to the music: both bands are rooted in a foundation of funk and soul. Another group Formation have been compared favourably to is LCD Soundsystem, although this comparison is mainly aimed at their first EP ‘Young Ones’. Like LCD Soundsystem, Formation’s earlier stuff has a dance-inspired vibrancy, with more of an electronic feel. Whilst similarities still remain between their debut and ‘Under the Tracks’, the latter is more of a departure away from the solid funk-based rhythms of ‘Young Ones’, moving into a more experimental, soothing sound, with a leaning towards pop hooks.

As might be expected for a hyped band, Formation already has a bunch of festival dates penned in for 2016. They are set to appear at the Lost Village Festival 2016 in Lincolnshire, Field Day Festival 2016 in London, and at Motel Mozaique 2016 in Rotterdam (a music, dance and visual arts festival in Holland). They are also scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin this March.


(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #374 and #375: Avec Sans and Plaitum

By on Thursday, 28th January 2016 at 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Avec Sans (pictured at top) and Plaitum are a pair of female-fronted synthpop duos, that are both scheduled to appear at SXSW in Austin this March. Both bands have crafted a lofty and ethereal sound, drawing comparisons to CHVRCHES and Purity Ring.

Avec Sans embody a soft, yet steady electronic spirit. The London-based duo comprised of Alice Fox and Jack St. James released two singles in 2015, ‘Resonate’, and ‘When You Go’. They have been compared to CHVRCHES on numerous occasions, and fans of CHVRCHES looking for something in a similar vein won’t be disappointed, as both bands create an addictive synth sound. Whilst the bands are similar vocally – namely by being fronted by a talented female singer – Fox’s vocals are more mature and sharper than Lauren Mayberry’s own saccharine pipes. Fox’s throaty, breathless vocals fit well with the whispering notes that almost float through the tracks.

But this doesn’t mean Avec Sans have created a sound that is limp or easy to overlook: there’s something soft and strong about their music at the same time. ‘When You Go’ and ‘Resonate’ both ooze subtle, well-crafted electronic melodies, tethered to simple, catchy choruses and hooks. ‘Hook’ is the operative word here, as both singles are memorable, grabbing you by the ear and pulling you in. ‘When You Go’ is lofty and buoyant, and really shows off Fox’s vocal range. The track is otherworldly and full of cascading sounds, which rise and fall throughout.

‘Resonate’ is equally unearthly, but is softer and gentler. The lyrics are equally gentle, with a striking sentimentality: “The sky falls away, so they come see him / in the light, holds its place / Inside of me and your heart, your heart, your heart / bears my name, to hold me now, to resonate”. It’s the kind of song that grapples with everyday occurrences such as falling in love, but takes them beyond the realm of the ordinary.

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Just as unearthly in sound are Plaitum, an electro-pop outfit rooted in Colchester. They’ve just released their eponymous EP, featuring four enticing tracks produced by superstar producer Paul Epworth. Like Avec Sans, Plaitum have created a series of unique, well-crafted tracks. Matt Canham and Abigail Dersiley, who have been friends since they were 11 years old, signed to Epworth’s own Wolf Tone record label towards the end of last year.

Like Avec Sans, Plaitum’s music includes a range of electronic influences but is better compared to Crystal Castles’ blend of eclectic synthpop than Avec Sans’ subdued melodies. Plaitum are also similar to Purity Ring (another female lead synth duo), both in musical style and make-up. And, like Purity Ring, Plaitum ventures into the realm of witch house that Crystal Castles do so well, with bewitching industrial sounds and distorted noises weaving throughout each track.

Dersiley’s throaty and guttural drawl only adds to their atmospheric aesthetic. The track that has everyone talking is ‘LMHY’ (Let Me Hold You), which begins with a gnarly scream. Being the first track on the EP, it sets the precedent for the rest of the record, which continues on in an equally unusual and captivating way. ‘LMHY’ itself is vampish and bold, densely packed with a murky ambiance that calls up all manner of ghouls and eerie shapes that might be lurking in the edges of your consciousness. For fans of Glass Animals, also signed to Wolf Tone, Plaitum will be worth a listen as both bands capture a similarly eerie quality. In particular, Glass Animals’ ‘Holiest’ featuring Tei Shi echoes Plaitum’s spectral mood.

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The ‘Plaitum’ EP has a decidedly mature sound to it, and I was surprised when I discovered that Matt and Abigail are both only 20 years old. It’s always seriously impressive when people so young can come together to produce something so vivid and different, considering the way that teens of this generation are often looked down upon. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do next.

Both acts are sure to big on the radar in 2016, melding pop, indie and electronic elements into their music. Both Avec Sans and Plaitum are scheduled to perform at SXSX 2016 in March in Austin.


(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #372 and #373: Fickle Friends and Clean Cut Kid

By on Wednesday, 27th January 2016 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

This is not a drill. I’m about to throw down the term “summer anthems”, and we’ve not even seen the back of January. But that’s exactly what Fickle Friends (pictured at top) and Clean Cut Kid have me dreaming about. These two bands tend to lean towards pop, making for fresh, easy, joyful listening from both.

Fickle Friends have created a sound that leaves you yearning for the summer. The quintet out of Brighton bring a breezy blend of synth and indie pop that’ll have you thinking about those dog days lying in the sun and chilling at festivals. Shortly after forming in 2013, Fickle Friends began to garner attention when they won Jamie’s (Jamie Oliver) Summer Jam competition, which was a battle-of-the-bands type of contest for unsigned acts. The winner was given the opportunity to perform at Big Feastival alongside Rizzle Kicks and Basement Jaxx. The festival was co-hosted with Alex James of Blur and held on the bassists’ farm in the Cotswolds.

The band announced this month the exciting news that they’ve signed a record deal with Polydor. While they are yet to confirm a release date, they’ve been tweeting candid shots of themselves working away in the studio. Over the past couple of years, Fickle Friends have released a number of solid and catchy singles, from their debut ‘Swim’(a particularly Haim-esque track), through to their latest ‘Say No More’, on which it sounds like they’ve found their groove.

‘Say No More’ is energetic, with a seriously catchy chorus, and it will have you singing along after just one listen. The track has a glistening electro rhythm and a funky, ’80s feel. Its upbeat air reminds me of The 1975, especially with its jaunty bass line and feel-good vibe that pours indie, synth and pop into a vibrant cocktail that’ll have you nodding your head along in no time.

Equally spirited and also bursting with fresh, interesting indie pop are Clean Cut Kid, who have recently announced that they will be joining Fickle Friends on some dates of the Brighton band’s forthcoming UK tour in February and March. The band, a four-piece from Liverpool, are husband and wife Mike and Evelyn Halls plus Saul Godman and Ross Higginson. Their music boasts incredible harmonies from the Halls in a series of addictive singles. Clean Cut Kid sound like a delicious melting pot of a lot of great indie pop bands. Imagine Vampire Weekend, mixed with a less gloomy Mumford and Sons, with Haim thrown in for good measure.

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‘Vitamin C’, Clean Cut Kid’s debut single released in the summer of 2015, is a catchy, quirky tune. It has a sentimental, life-affirming texture, its upbeat, spirited tempo of the song reminding me of the first time I heard Vampire Weekend’s debut album. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, it’s the sort of song that makes you want to stop and look around a bit more, and enjoy the moment you’re in, even in spite of the melancholy edge to the lyrics.

‘Runaway’, from their latest single, has a lilting and pleasing melody that belies the darker implications of the song’s title. While in ‘Vitamin C’ we hear much more of Evelyn Halls, Mike Halls’ vocals, are at the forefront of this track. His voice doesn’t match with his appearance in a way that I find oddly satisfying, in the way that with some great books that can’t be given away by their covers. With full beard and trucker hat, I was admittedly expecting a deeper vocal from Mike than the silvery, gentle tones that you hear on the track. Both singles are uplifting and catchy, and I’m excited to see where the foursome are going next.

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Fickle Friends will be touring the UK in February and March 2016, with support from Clean Cut Kid on some dates. Both bands are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.


(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #371: VANT

By on Tuesday, 26th January 2016 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

VANT are an English rock band fronted and formed by songwriter Mattie Vant in 2014. The band signed to Parlophone Records last year, releasing two singles with them, ‘Parasite’ and ‘Parking Lot’. The fact that Parlophone Records signed the band immediately after hearing their debut single ‘Parasite’, without having the benefit of hearing them perform live, really says a lot about the energy and attraction of VANT’s music.

Mattie Vant met band mates Henry Eastham (guitar) and Billy Morris (bass) early on after moving to London and working at the Dalston venue Birthdays, and in 2015 the band was joined by David Green (drums). So far, they’ve supported Royal Blood, and they have also twice received the accolade of Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World for ‘Parking Lot’ and ‘The Answer’. 2016 is set to be just as interesting for the foursome: after appearing at various festivals last summer, including Reading and Leeds and Secret Garden Party.

VANT are producing hard-hitting, punch-packing rock music that isn’t just here to sit pretty, but that is making a bold statement too. The music has an overtly political edge. In an interview with DIY, songwriter Mattie was honest and open about his preference for having “something to say, rather than going on about popping pills and dancing in a fucking club”. This drive to put a worthwhile message out there, to go along with the assertive music, reminds me of the angle towards social commentary that a lot of artists have used throughout history. This drive makes sense, as the band cites the Clash and Rage Against the Machine as influences.

Mattie’s ideas are reminiscent of those of Lennon or Dylan in the sense that he picks up on wide-reaching themes that affect the whole world rather than focusing solely on the smaller issues. Lyrics such as “100K is A-OK, it’ll all blow over, what the hell can I say? / 1000K, well, Iraq was Iraq, you know the USA will take and never give back” from ‘The Answer’ show the big ideas that the band are working with and aren’t shying away from. These intense messages are mirrored by the force and vitality of the music itself.

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The songs are well put together and has a professional finish, in the sense that they doesn’t sound thrown together or rushed: you can really feel that a lot of thought and passion has gone into the production of the music. The heavy guitar and drum rhythms don’t overpower or drown out Mattie’s vocals. The sound is distinctly punk/garage: it’s energetic, dynamic and intensely listenable, a la Queens of the Stone Age or the Strokes. Mattie Vant even looks like a young Julian Casablancas.

‘Parasite’, VANT’s first single, is a double A-side also including the ‘Do You Know Me?’, the latter racking up the most listens on the band’s’ Spotify page. ‘Do You Know Me?’ is more everyday than the politically charged ‘The Answer’. The catchy, repetitive chorus consists of Mattie screaming, “you should know me / you should know me by now”, an anthem for anyone whose ever been stuck in a rut and feeling as though they aren’t reaching their potential, and the associated feelings of frustration.

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‘Parking Lot’, released towards the end of 2015, is a loud and vigorous concoction of indie rock ‘n’ roll. At times during the song, particularly during the reiterations of “wait a minute / wait a minute” I’m reminded of the everyman ease of Chris Martin’s vocals, albeit a far edgier Martin. The track builds through the opening chorus before crashing like a wave, with trippy guitar riffs thrown in for good measure.

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VANT don’t seem likely to drop off the radar any time soon; they are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in March. If you don’t happen to be in Austin then, no worries: the band have just announced a UK headline tour for April too, with tickets to the tour on sale now.

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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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